Weekly Roundup 3/12/2012

Japan’s Nuclear Energy Industry Nears Shutdown, at Least for Now
Martin Fackler, The New York Times, March 8, 2012

Nuclear Pushes On Despite Fukushima
Chester Dawson, Brian Spegele and Selina Williams, The Wall Street Journal, March 9, 2012

Synopsis: One year after the devastating accident at the Fukushima nuclear reactor, Japan’s nuclear energy industry is all but shut down, according to the Times’ Tokyo bureau chief Fackler. In the developing world, however, nuclear power is “pushing on,” according to the Wall Street Journal’s report. Sixty nuclear reactors are currently under construction, and another 163 more are on order or planned.

Takeaway: With the post-Fukushima radiation cleanup expected to last decades, many Japanese are rethinking the use of nuclear power, but the stringent conservation measures introduced to offset the power lost from the idled reactors also weigh on people’s minds. “Fukushima showed us that nuclear power is dangerous,” a fisherman told the Times correspondent, “but we still need it.”

For CQ Researcher coverage, see Marcia Clemmitt, “Nuclear Power,” June 10, 2011; and archived reports dating to the 1950s.

--Kenneth Jost, Associate Editor


Wall Street's Broken Windows
William K. Black, New Economic Perspectives, March 4, 2012

Synopsis: Several years ago, criminologist James Q. Wilson proposed the so-called "broken windows" theory of policing — which held that cracking down on vandalism and other low-level crime would ultimately reduce more serious crime as well. Now law professor Bill Black, who helped expose congressional corruption during the savings-&-loan-debacle, suggests that the broken windows approach might be more effective at controlling rampant white-collar crime than it has been at stopping street crime.

Takeaway: Wilson's "research focus in criminology was almost exclusively blue-collar crime. That was a shame because ‘broken windows’ theory is most compelling in the context of elite white-collar crime," writes Black. Wilson, who died this month, "predicted in his work on “broken windows” that tolerating widespread smaller crimes would lead to epidemic levels of larger crimes because it undermined community and social restraints. The epidemics of elite white-collar crime that have driven our recurrent, intensifying financial crises have proven this point."

For related material, see Kenneth Jost's Jan. 20, 2012, CQ Researcher report, “Financial Misconduct,” and Maryann Hagerty's May 6, 2011, report, “Business Ethics.”

--Marcia Clemmitt, Staff Writer


Adventures of a Teenage Polyglot
By John Leland, The New York Times, March 12, 2012

Synopsis: If you’re like me, you struggled with Spanish in high school, squeaked past your final exam and moved on. Then there’s 16-year-old Timothy Doner of New York City. “After studying for his bar mitzvah, he decided he wanted to learn modern Hebrew,” writes John Leland. “Then he felt drawn to learn Arabic. It took him four days to learn the alphabet, a week to read fluidly. Then he dived into Russian, Italian, Persian, Swahili, Indonesian, Hindi, Ojibwe, Pashto, Turkish, Hausa, Kurdish, Yiddish, Dutch, Croatian and German.”

Takeaway: “Hyperpolyglots have been the objects of curiosity at least since the 19th century, when Cardinal Giuseppe Mezzofanti of Bologna was said to have mastered more than 50 languages. For nearly as long, people have debated whether their ability was innate or learned. The answer, neurolinguists are now discovering, is a bit of both, said Loraine Obler, a linguist who has studied bilingualism’s effect on the brain. “ ‘There are people whose brains are set up to do language learning,’ she said, ‘the same way some people are more talented at drawing.’ Also, she added, ‘The brain’s ability to absorb increases as we know more languages.’”

For background see the following CQ Researcher reports: Kenneth Jost, “Bilingual Education vs. English Immersion,” Dec. 11, 2009, and Marcia Clemmitt, “Preventing Memory Loss,” April 4, 2008.

--Thomas J. Colin, Contributing Editor