John Wilcock column header


The Column of Lasting Insignificance: April 23, 2011

John Wilcock


Innocent Questions
about Nuclear Power
by a naïve ignoramus


If it’s well-established that the end results of nuclear power are “spent” nuclear rods that will be lethal for a million years to anybody who comes near them, why are we still creating them?

Why hasn’t it been possible for anybody to figure out how to make these by-products harmless?

Maybe somebody has. How have the French and other countries — who have relied on nuclear power for years — handled the problem?

If these lethal rods are still so powerful, why are they “spent”, and couldn’t their energy still be used for other purposes?




PRESSURE FOR FREEDOM of expression is growing declares Aung San Suu Kyi, the rightful ruler of Burma, helped by the growth of mobile phones, satellite TV, Facebook, and bloggers providing new information and differences of opinion. “I think that more and more people are expressing differences,” she told the Smithsonian. “This is the kind of change that cannot be turned back, cannot be stemmed, and if you try to put up a barrier, people will go around it.” Admired worldwide for her tenacity despite being forbidden to take office and kept under house arrest for decades by Burma’s brutal dictator General Than Shwe, 89, Suu Kyi enjoys support from what the mag terms “Myanmar’s free thinkers,” the New Zero Gallery and Art Studio whose leader, Ay Ko, 47, spent four years in jail after the 1988 student uprising and who represents “a new generation of Burmese (who are) testing the limits of government repressing, experimenting with new ways of defying the dictatorship.”

IF HE CAN FREEZE Qaddafi’s family assets, then why doesn’t President Obama treat other “dirty dictators” the same way? asks Dubai’s Khaleej Times instead of allowing men like Equatorial Guinea’s Teodorin Obiang to travel to and from the US at will. The White House knows full well that Obiang (who maintains a $35m oceanfront mansion in Malibu) has been plundering state funds, laundering them through dummy corporations in this country, the paper charges, while sharing none of his oil wealth with his 700,000 subjects who live on less than $2 a day.

THE NO BABY BOOM is the subject of Details’ treatise on how much easier life is without children and how such a choice is getting more popular. The writer, Brian Frazer, recounts what he believes is a common tale, about how discussions between him and his wife veered from uncertainty to guilt to a final resolve to remain childless. The expense and the huge amount of time and attention required were cited as reasons for that decision. “In the past,” he writes, “married couples in America had two choices: have a child like everyone else or be shunned (or worse, pitied) by the community. But today, regardless of where you live you can connect with thousands of others who feel the same way,” The mag says that between 1976 and 2008, there has been an 89% increase in women between 40 and 44 who have never given birth.

MADONNA’S MALAWI DISASTER tells the sorry tale of how the Material Girl’s invested millions intended to finance a girls’ school in that African country somehow disappeared through mismanagement, inattention to details, and some obvious fraud. Most of the troubles seemed to stem from too-close involvement with the spurious Kabbalah Centre and its near-criminal operators who apparently used the vast sums to finance a luxurious lifestyle. The tale is told in the somewhat more interesting new Newsweek, now edited by onetime wonder kid Tina Brown.

FAKE BLUEBERRIES are what you’re most likely to get when you’re expecting to find the real thing in cakes, pies, and pastries. According to Natural News, even some of the most famous companies pass off as ‘blueberries’ a concoction made of modified corn starch, sugar, corn cereal, vegetable oil, artificial flavor, salt, and cellulose gum. “A lot of products that imply they’re made with blueberries actually contain no blueberries at all,” the mag reveals. “Consumers don’t realize they’re actually buying blue coloring chemicals mixed with hydrogenated oils and liquid sugars.”

WIKIPEDIA’S BENEVOLENT DICTATOR is how the New Statesman describes Jimmy Wales, 44, the former Chicago futures and options trader who with Larry Sanger founded everybody’s favorite reference files in 2001. With more than 14 billion page views from 400 million visitors each month, the site is curated by 80,000 active editors who remain alert for — but flexible to — changes, that flow in constantly. “A Wikipedia article is a process, not a product, and as a result is never finished,” wrote Clay Shirky in his book about the subject.

BECOMING A MOLL for a drug dealer is a smart career move for young Colombian maidens reports the Atlantic. “A traqueto match was a ticket out of poverty in a country with few opportunities for women,” the mag explains, traqueto being the slang term for a drug seller. One of the country’s top TV series — Without Tits There Is No Paradise — is a soap opera about a flat-chested teenager who seeks to sell her virginity for a pair of implants.

HEMP GROWS FAST and costs next to nothing and it’s turning up in more and more products, among them the new Kestrel car whose hemp and polymer resin composite is as strong as fiberglass but is only two-thirds the weight of a comparably sized Ford. Motive Industries’ Nathan Armstrong plans to have the $25,000 car on the road by the end of the year.

THE WILCOCK WEB: It will always be hard to take seriously any religion whose adherents kill each other over different interpretations of the same belief…. Now with 115 billionaires, China is still calling itself Communist, whatever that means…. In a new experiment to eliminate dengue fever, scientists in Australia’s Queensland have released hundreds of thousands of genetically treated mosquitoes which will render the ones they mate with immune to the disease and thus harmless to humans. Vietnam is the target for May….New models of reusable 3D glasses look stylish but coming from companies such as Gunmar, Polaroid, Marchan, and Vizio cost anywhere from $30 to $150 a pair…. Aiming to beat the world speed record for the fastest-moving furniture (92mph by a mechanized sofa), England’s Terry Watkins has combined a car and a fully laid dinner table….The Economist reports that its recent poll, in collaboration with You/Gov, shows a huge majority of Americans in every age group favor the legalization of marihuana “and it can only be a matter of time before laws start to change”….As sales of sodas continue to fall, Coca-Cola’s recent acquisition of companies such as Honest Tea is becoming more typical writes Steven Pearlstein in the Washington Post, “to provide useful cover for soda pop giants accused of being perpetrators of obesity”….


Coincident with the giant Kraft company’s acquisition of the last of Britain’s beloved giant confectioners (Fry, Terry, Rowntree, and Mackintosh had already been absorbed by Nestle and Kraft) Cadbury’s is the subject of Chocolate Wars, a history by Deborah Cadbury, a descendant of the Quaker family who founded the company as a supplied of health drinks early on the 19th century.


Texas congressman Michael McCaul, tired of egotistical politicians naming things after themselves, managed to get an amendment, Monuments for Me, passed, which hopefully will ban the practice…. And on a world list of billionaires, media mogul John Malone (with a mere $4.5bn) comes in 235th — twice as rich as Ted Turner (564th). Both own more than two million acres and are America’s biggest landowners ….“In politics,” declared Samuel Taylor Coleridge, “what begins in fear usually ends in folly”… This week will be when the Nation announces the winner of its competition for a new crossword puzzle editor. Five contestants competed to fill the role of the late Frank W. Lewis who had held the post (he died last year) since 1947 when he won a similar contest….. “The man who makes no mistakes,” mused Theodore Roosevelt, “does not make anything” …. America’s policy of spending $6bn annually to promote ethanol production is “truly irresponsible,” writes Bjorn Lomborg in Slate, causing one-sixth of the world’s corn supply — enough to feed 350 million people for a year—to get pumped into cars…. Campbell Sylvester explains that a committee is a group of people who individually could do nothing, but collectively decide that nothing can be done….K-HAY is the call signal for Ventura’s country and western station….“Suburbia is where the developer bulldozes out the trees, then names the streets after them,” quipped Bill Vaughan….Whether Charlie Sheen returns to Two and a Half Men or not, the biggest mystery is why so many people think this feeble show is funny… And speaking of humor, you wouldn’t be thinking of Will Ferrell, the lackluster replacement for Steve Carell in The Office…. China is about to start exporting a popular national delicacy: eggs hardboiled in children’s urine. “Good for brain power,” the Chinese claim…. “It is easier to run a revolution than a government.” — Ferdinand Marcos (1917-89)

{ Next week: Reporting from Havana }