I write this in an alternating state of anger and disappointment. It’s not the first time I’ve felt this way—having this same need to do something about deadly serious stuff earlier in my life. When the Vietnam War was in full stride, Lyndon Johnson presiding, I helped set up a national group called Citizens for Kennedy/ Fulbright—the first “Dump Johnson” movement—as a way of providing an alternative to end this deadly folly. It was easier to rouse people to action in those days because the war affected everyone. It was not only Vietnamese who were dying, but our own kids, fathers, and husbands. The draft affected families throughout the nation. Few at home wanted to be called up and risk being killed, and so the daily news reports and protests were on everyone’s mind and gathered storm and momentum
How things have changed! We tolerate our military involvements in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya because nobody is drafted. The war-makers hire private contractors like Blackwater (who have outnumbered the service men in Iraq), who enhance a smaller military of people who’ve enlisted as careerists, and the only people inconvenienced are National Guardsmen who never expected to be pressed into action.
As we mark the 25th anniversary of the Chernobyl nuclear meltdown on April 26, we face a much greater threat to human life than the Vietnam War, and it’s RADIATION, which reared it’s ugly, hidden head once again, following the tsunami and the damage to Japan’s nuclear power plants. But since there is no draft or quick loss of life that keeps this in the foreground, it’s relatively easy for the energy companies, their spokesmen, their lobbyists, their minions in Congress (led by New Mexico’s Senator Pete Dominici, until he retired in 2009, as reported in my previous blog), and other representatives in government to soothe fears with deceptive statements. It’s already started to fade from the front pages of newspapers and newscasts. You don’t hear much about it on NPR, and there are few reporters who know enough about the history of the nuclear industry to want to present truth rather than perpetuate official fiction Thus, the current generation finds it relatively easy to go about their lives without questioning and demanding that we put an end to this continuing threat to life. The major focus of mainstream media are spokespeople repeating the mantra that “there is only a slight risk” of that happening here, or that “Japan was an aberration,” and discussions about “how we need this energy to sustain our economy.” Lots of dramatic footage about the destruction caused by the tsunami, but as for the nuclear meltdown the only widely covered human casualties were about a couple of workers who stepped into a pool of radioactive water and were seriously injured.
Yet during the week of April 11, The New York Times did report that the radioactive discharges coming from the nuclear plants in Japan will continue pouring millions of gallons of radioactive waste into the ocean and air for at least nine more months. It was a minor story, wasn’t picked up in any of the major TV networks or Fox News or MSNBC. Nor were there any daily follow-ups.
This attempt to soothe fears is not a new one. The IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency), set up as a proponent of nuclear energy, still claims that only 4,000 people died as a result of Chernobyl and, because of an agreement made with the World Health Organization, the WHO is not allowed to contradict the results of this claim. But Dr. Janette Sherman, from the Environmental Institute, Western Michigan University,, toxicologist and editor of Chernobyl: Consequences of the Catastrophe for People and the Environment, by Alexey V. Yablokov, Vassily B. Nesterenko and Alexey V. Nesterenko, in a recent 29 minute interview on You Tube, hosted by Karl Grossman exposed this lie. Published by the New York Academy of Sciences two years ago, this book estimates that more than one million people have died so far as a result of that 1986 explosion. Their expertise is beyond doubt (Yablokov, a scientist and prominent member of the USSR parliament, was the Environmental advisor to Boris Yeltsin, while Vassily Nesterenko, a nuclear physicist, who died in 2008, was the director of the famous Institute of Nuclear Physics in Minsk who, after Chernobyl, dedicated his life to exposing the Soviet cover up, setting up an Independent Institute for Radioprotection, BELRAD, with over 30 staff members, while devising spectrometers for body scans tracing radioactive cesium. His contribution to this book came from the data he began collecting in 1990. His son, Alexei, who worked with him took over the directorship of BELRAD after his father’s death). This video is MUST viewing, just as their book is MUST reading, though you are not likely to have heard about it or seen it discussed or reviewed in USA Today, The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post, or even the McClatchy newspaper chain, though it is surely a baseline of what can be expected from the Japanese disaster.
Three weeks ago, there was a press conference called by Friends of the Earth to hear Alexey Yablokov discuss the implications of the Fukushima meltdowns based on his research concerning Chernobyl. Many journalists from the foreign press corps attended, but none from our papers of record, The New York Times or The Washington Post. They missed hearing or reporting that Yablokov fears that deaths from radiation exposure will exceed those of Chernobyl because of the incredible population centers close to the melt-down sites in Japan.
What you are likely to read about is James B. Stewart’s new book Tangled Webs, headlined “How American Society is Drowning in Lies.”
On April 19th Stewart was interviewed on NPR’s Morning Edition, and his book is being covered everywhere: by the networks, by the newspapers, promotional tours, book readings, and book reviews. Stewart claims that he finds a surge of deliberate lying by people at the top of their fields, and says that these false statements undermine America. He writes, chiefly, about the damage caused by Barry Bonds, Martha Stewart, Scooter Libby, and Bernie Madoff: people who lied only because they thought they could get away with it. The Daily Beast, reprinting Newsweek editor Tony Dokoupil’s column, under the headline “America's Top Liars” writes that it’s “a good thing, then, that we have Stewart to play The Ethicist, retrying Bonds but also Martha Stewart, Lewis “Scooter” Libby, and Bernie Madoff—and nailing some ears to the post. “Somebody has to,” says Stewart,” with modesty, I presume.
I can readily envision James Stewart appearing on the Daily Show with Jon Stewart, or on the Colbert Report, or Diane Rehm’s Show or Chris Matthews or Rachel Maddow’s MSNBC shows. Or even on PBS or Fox News. But it’s hard to envision Karl Grossman, who has been exposing the most dangerous liars of them all—the nuclear energy advocates—for the past three decades on any of these programs. Certainly, we’ve contacted these major media bookers and producers, but none have even responded. Nor has Julie Bosman, writing about the book business in The New York Times, ever thought it was newsworthy for a publisher to give away free downloads of Grossman's Cover Up: What You Are Not Supposed To Know About Nuclear Power, though she will report all sorts of stuff about reshuffles at major publishers, launches of new imprints and, before her time, the book news reporter would cover stories about Stephen King’s free downloads of his writing.
This is not to say that word is not getting out about Cover-Up. Since the tsunami and our offering free downloads of his expose, Karl has been heard on hundreds of independent radio stations, reaching tens of thousands of listeners. We’ve had nearly a thousand hits since first reporting that Cover-Up was available for free downloading on our website, and many people and anti-nuke groups have picked it up and circulated it. Karl appeared on Bev Smith’s show on American Urban Radio Network, the largest African American owned network with over 300 affiliated stations. He’s also been interviewed at the four major Pacifica stations (KPFK in Los Angeles, WBAI in New York City, KPFT in Houston, and WPFW in Washington DC) and these programs have been passed on to Pacifica’s network of 150 affiliated community radio stations. This also happened at Earthbeat Radio, an independent show produced by the Institute for Policy Studies (at Pacifica’s and The Real News Network’s studios at WPFW FM in Washington, D.C.). Earthbound Radio is syndicated to over 60 affiliates of their own in North America.
Then, there is "The Real Deal", an internet radio program broadcast hosted by James H. Fetzer, Ph.D., McKnight Professor Emeritus, University of Minnesota Duluth, a two hour show, to be broadcast on April 27th. This three night a week show also goes out to a host of other college stations. There was another extensive interview on another college station, with Tonya Brito host of "A Public Affair" on WORT, 89.9 FM in Madison, WI, which also circulates elsewhere, covering the 25th anniversary of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, the situation at Fukushima nuclear plant, and nuclear policy in general. Tonya, as have many others who have booked Karl, mentioned that The Institute for Public Accuracy has identified him as an expert on these topics. I would say that he is THE EXPERT for this information. Karl also did a show on KGAB radio in Cheyenne, WY, whose coverage includes southern and central Wyoming, western Nebraska, northern Colorado (including the metro Denver area )and western South Dakota, with it’s programming going to more than 300 affiliated stations, as well as one with Donald Lacy, Producer/Host of “Wake Up Everybody” on KPOO 89.5 FM San Francisco.
Print coverage for Cover-Up: What You Are Not Supposed To Know About Nuclear Power, started with Publishers Weekly, which ran an excellent article on our decision to do a give-away edition of Cover Up several weeks ago, and has also hosted an ad in their online edition allowing people to click and download Karl’s book. And the IBPA’s (the Independent Book Publishers Association’s) forthcoming issue will be going out to a couple of thousand members and subscribers, covering this same news story with a link to the download (would that Dwight Garner, the excellent non-fiction book reviewer at the daily New York Times, be as interested in reviewing this vitally important virtual book as is blogger Amy Steele, who is downloading and considering it for review on her Entertainmen Realm.com site). Need I mention a host of articles in The Huffington Post and at other websites. Locally, an excellent piece appeared in the April 22 issue of Dan’s Papers by Elise D’Haene—a weekly widely read in the Hamptons and New York City—letting its readers know how to download a free copy of Karl’s book. And both Karl and I appeared on WPBB-FM (Peconic Public Broadacasting) for an interview hosted by Bonnie Grice.
Now here is the final irony of the past few weeks. Karl appeared on Iranian television (PressTV, an English language program based in Tehran, but with a recording studio in New York), taking questions, and decrying the use of nuclear plants and the Iranian government’s desire to keep producing nuclear material. Karl also had an op-ed piece in the Jerusalem Post making these same points(afterwards Benjamin Netanyahu said that he would cancel Israel's proposed nuclear plant to be built in the Negev because of the Fukushima disaster). It is quite amazing to me, that Karl’s expertise is respected abroad, but that he has not gotten any significant play in America on the Establishment media, nor from the major NPR radio programs and supposedly “progressive” television networks like MSNBC and the PBS stations. This, despite the fact that Grossman has pioneered investigative reporting and environmental journalism in a variety of media for over 30 years. The narrator and host of award-winning environmental TV documentaries and the author of three books on environmental and energy issues, his articles have appeared in The New York Times, Newsday, The Nation, Columbia Journalism Review, E, The Environmental Magazine, Covert Action Quarterly, Extra! and numerous other publications. Karl is the recipient of numerous honors, including the George Polk Award for Investigative Journalism. A full professor of journalism at the State University of New York/College at Old Westbury he teaches Investigative Reporting and Environmental Journalism. Instead, the influential Diane Rehm had Steven Chu, a nuclear power advocate for decades before becoming President Obama’s Secretary of Energy on her NPR show on April 25 to talk about nuclear power plants in view of Japan’s meltdowns. On April 26, she is having James Stewart talk abut his book Tangled Webs. That same evening Chris Matthews is also interviewing Stewart on his MSNBC Hardball show.
Forgive this analogy, but it seems to me that when Rome was burning and Nero was fiddling, mainstream media would have devoted more space to the Emperor’s violin recital than to the fires themselves. This is why any truly civilized and concerned society—and its major news sources—need to have a discussion about which issues and which liars to cast a spotlight on. Are celebrity liars at the top of the list of liars posing a threat to us? What is wrong with a country where exposing already exposed liars is “news.” A country where Karl Grossman, who knows more about the lies, past and present, that led to making the public think this form of energy was worth having, has not yet been afforded the opportunity to present his case to a significantly larger audience.
Last week I focused on some new material from Karl’s updated edition: how Obama advisors Rahm Emanuel and David Axelrod have profited from the nuclear industry, and how Energy Secretary Steven Chu came from being the director of the Lawrence Berkeley Laboratories as a forceful advocate for nuclear power, though I’ve yet to read about it in The New York Times or hear about it on national television or radio despite sending out a press release entitled “OBAMA BAMBOOZLED BY TOP AIDES,” This failure to report real news of this sort might account for why our President is still bullish on having taxpayers fund new nuclear reactors in the USA. Equally possible is that our President, who campaigned against nuclear power while running for office, is so busy raising re-election funds that he finds it necessary to cozy up to business and energy interests to show them how friendly he can be toward them. How else can one explain his appointing Jeffrey Immelt, General Electric’s CEO as chairman of this new Council on Jobs and Competitiveness? GE reported earning $14.2 billion in worldwide profits but, like Exxon, paid no taxes. Better yet, GE received a tax rebate of 3.2 billion. Additionally, since 2002, GE has laid off one-fifth of their American work force. Now this is very good for GE’s competitiveness when they pay no taxes, but very bad for job creation when all their jobs are being shipped overseas. It reminds me of the myth that Charlie Wilson, Eisenhower’s Defense Secretary propagated years ago, that “What is good for General Motors is what’s good for America.” And of course, there is still another tie here to the nuclear industry: GE has played a big part in building nuclear power plants around the world, including planning the ones in Fukushima, despite critics having opposed GE's design as far back as 1972.
I conclude this posting with testimony that has escaped memory or reportage, as cited in the first edition of Cover Up thirty years ago, which I paraphrase:
“Admiral Hyman Rickover, heralded as the ‘father’ of the nuclear navy, was also in charge of building the first nuclear power plant in the United States in Shippingport, Pennsylvania. But Rickover eventually came to realize the dangers posed by nuclear energy. In a farewell address before a committee of Congress in 1982, he said, ‘I'll be philosophical. Until about two billion years ago, it was impossible to have any life on Earth; there was so much radiation you couldn't have any life. This was from cosmic radiation around when the Earth was in the process of forming. Gradually, about two billion years ago, the amount of radiation on this planet reduced and made it possible for some form of life to begin. Now, when we go back to using nuclear power, we are creating something which nature tried to destroy to make life possible. But every time you produce radiation a horrible force is unleashed and I think the human race is going to wreck itself. We must outlaw nuclear reactors."
Again, I ask you to download Cover Up right here, if you haven’t already done so, and keep spreading-the-word…and the word is “Truth,” or “Truthiness,” as Steven Colbert would have it. Because what we need now is our own Tsunami, a better one which will wash away the biggest liars of them all and the so called “News Network” that provides cover for these Nuclear Pinocchios.
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