Clem’s Chronicles: Nuclear Power/Taliban CEO captured/Hamas Official Assassinated

By Clem Lane

Feb 16, 2010 9:34pm

Howdy folks-Tuesday night's news round-up follows…..

NUCLEAR POWER/”AND THIS IS ONLY THE BEGINNING”-President Obama announced today some $8 billion in loan guarantees for the construction of the first new nuclear power plant to be green-lit in the United States in over 30 years. “Investing in nuclear energy remains a necessary step,” the president said today at the IBEW Local Headquarters in Lanham, Maryland, “What I hope is that, with this announcement, we're underscoring both our seriousness in meeting the energy challenge and our willingness to look at this challenge, not as a partisan issue , but as a matter that's far more important than politics because the choices we make will affect not just the next generation but many generations to come.” 
The President also made clear that today was no one-off announcement.“This is only the beginning," Obama said in designating the new federal financial backing for a pair of reactors in Burke County, Ga., to be built by Atlanta-based Southern Co. Obama's budget would triple – to $54.5 billion – loan guarantees available for new nuclear construction.
Reporting on WORLD NEWS, Jake Tapper noted the energy savings envisioned in this plan-“the power generated from the plant’s two new nuclear reactors would provide energy for 550 thousand homes…2200 megawatts worth of energy that would offset about 30 million barrels of oil.” The President himself said “that’s like taking 3.5 million cars off the road”. Oh and the jobs created-Tapper: “The company says the new reactors would mean 3500 onsite construction jobs and 800 permanent operations jobs.”
Of course there’s that whole safety issue thing that Americans might remember-Tapper reminds “the panic caused by the 1979 severe core meltdown at the Three Mile Island plant in Pennsylvania”. Listening to Jim Riccio, a Greenpeace nuclear policy analyst featured in Tapper’s WORLD NEWS piece, it’s obvious that some believe that nuclear power isn’t safe: “Never has been. Never will be. Splitting atoms is an inherently dangerous activity and should be treated that way.” President Obama addressed that safety issue today saying “That's why we've asked a bipartisan group of leaders and nuclear experts to examine this challenge. And these plants also have to be held to the highest and strictest safety standards to answer the legitimate concerns of Americans who live near and far from those facilities.” Proponents of nuclear energy seem to think the stronger standards are already there-Tapper: “Since (the Three Mile Island incident) plant design and equipment requirements have been upgraded. Plants are now required to be able to shut down automatically.” One unlikely nuclear energy proponent is Dr. Patrick Moore, a founder of Greenpeace, who Tapper talked to via Skype this afternoon: “We made the mistake of lumping nuclear weapons with nuclear energy. If you look at the actual figures, you’d have to accept that nuclear energy is generally one of the safest industries that we have.” Dr. Moore is not alone in his change of heart-Tapper tells us “In a recent ABC NEWS poll, 52 percent of the American people expressed support for building more nuclear plants” a dramatic change from the 78% opposed to nuclear power after the 1986 Chernobyl disaster. With a majority of Republicans supporting new nuclear plant construction and a majority of Democrats opposing same, Tapper also notes that “the White House says this is an example of the President reaching across the aisle, and on Capitol Hill today, many Republicans expressed support for today’s announcement.”

MULLAH BARADAR-More details surfaced today concerning the capture of Mullah Baradar, the Taliban’s top military commander. Diane Sawyer noted on WORLD NEWS that “officials say Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar is the real deal, chief architect of the Taliban in Afghanistan” and the sources Martha Raddatz talked to concurred: “He is really the man behind everything to do with the Taliban, though there are no pictures that exist of him at all. But one official described him to me as the chief executive officer.” Martha gave a partial list of just some of the things Baradar was believed to be behind- “military operations. When raids against Americans would be conducted, what weapons would be distributed. Overseeing Taliban training-Where and when that would happen and what kind of training and financing. Funneling all the money to Taliban fighters. This is a huge loss for the Taliban.”
As for what Baradar may be sharing with authorities, Raddatz notes “He is talking, but one official said, I wouldn't describe it as cooperating. He hasn't given them any actionable intelligence yet.”
Another positive in Baradar’s capture is that Baradar was taken in Pakistan with the help of the Pakistani government, showing apparent increased cooperation between US and Pakistani intelligence officials. Raddatz told Diane Sawyer “that's a real turning point. Pakistan is now cooperating with the United States, going after targets that hurt America, not just Pakistan.”

CAUGHT ON TAPE:  The assassination of a Hamas military commander in Dubai last month was carried out by an 11-member hit squad.   How it was carried out looks like something out of a spy novel andBrian Ross tells us:  “It was all caught on surveillance tapes, showing step by step, the anatomy of a hit. The target a top Hamas military commander suspected of helping ship arms from Iran to Gaza.”  Less than 24 hours later, Mahmoud al Mabhouh was dead and the crack hit squad had left town.   International arrest warrants have been issued but former CIA intelligence officer Robert Baer says there’s one thing for certain:  “It has all the earmarks of an Israeli assassination.”  Brian Ross says the assassination played out in a five-star hotel, the al Bustan Rotana: “The hotel's security cameras show a bald headed man police call the team leader arriving, traveling on a fake Irish passport under the name of Kevin Daveron.  Next to check in, the one woman on the hit squad.  She has dark hair, but she had arrived at the airport with blonde hair, also travelling on a fake Irish passport under the name Gail Folliard.  Cameras at shopping malls and other hotels in Dubai caught the remaining members of the team arriving in small groups on the first day.”  Fast forward to the day of the hit, Brian: “Team leader Kevin is seen going into a hotel bathroom with a suitcase. When he comes out he is wearing a wig and a pair of glasses. As the target arrives at the hotel, the Hamas military commander Mahmoud al Mabhouh, he is surrounded on both sides of the counter by members of the hit team. Next, as the Hamas commander is escorted to his room, two men with tennis rackets rush to catch the elevator.  They are part of the hit team, police say. When the Hamas commander gets off on the second floor, so do the tennis players, and one follows, easily able to figure out in which room their target is staying, room 230.” A day later, al Mabhouh’s body was found in room 230 and the cause was said to be suffocation.  Police say his murderers used an electric shock taser, tortured him with a lit cigarette and smothered him with a pillow – all in ten minutes. (thanks to Ed Bailey for this entry)
ASPIRIN & BREAST CANCER:  A new study released today suggests that aspirin could reduce the chances of breast cancer death in women already diagnosed with the disease.  Dr. Richard Besser provided details on the study for WORLD NEWS: “It’s a pretty exciting finding.  This study has followed more than 4,000 nurses who have breast cancer since 1976…women who were taking aspiring just once a week, no benefit.  But if you were taking it two to five times a week, there was a 71 percent reduction in dying from a return of the cancer, and if you took it six to seven times a week a 63 percent reduction.”  Dr. Besser explains that “aspirin dampens the inflammation and may be cutting off the blood supply to these tumors and in that way, preventing cancer.”  So does this mean women should start taking aspirin to prevent cancer?  Dr. Besser says not so fast: “It’s a very exciting study, but this nurses’ health study in the past – they’ve done studies on vitamin E, hormones in heart disease that haven’t panned out when they did larger trials.  The next step is to do those trials.  The American Cancer Society says [it’s] not ready for prime time, not ready to start taking these medications.  If you are on chemotherapy, definitely don’t start taking aspirin because it can be very dangerous.  But it gives hope in the prevention of a recurrence.” (thanks to Marisa Bramwell for this entry)

TACKLING THE DEFICIT/OBAMA THURSDAY ANNOUNCEMENT-From Jake Tapper: “A White House official tells ABC NEWS that President Obama on Thursday will sign an executive order establishing the bipartisan National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform.
The commission will be co-chaired by former President Bill Clinton’s former White House Chief of Staff Erskine Bowles and former Sen. Alan Simpson, R-Wyoming, the former Senate Republican Whip.
Bowles is currently President of the University of North Carolina.  As Clinton’s chief of staff from 1996 through 1998, he was credited with having brokered the last significant bipartisan budget agreement, the Balanced Budget Act of 1997.
Simpson was a US Senator from Wyoming from 1979 to 1997. He currently practices law with his two sons in Cody, Wyoming, is a co-chair of Americans for Campaign Reform and served on the Iraq Study group.”

TOYOTA RECALL-What did they know and when did they know it? Joseph Rhee and Mark Schone report: “The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has demanded documents from Toyota to determine if the company acted quickly enough in three recent major car recalls affecting nearly 6 million vehicles.
‘Safety recalls are very serious matters and automakers are required to quickly report defects,’ said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.
Regulators asked for the documents as part of an investigation into how and when the automaker discovered alleged problems with sticky gas pedals and floor mats, and whether the defects were identified via consumer complaint or factory testing. According to federal law, car makers must notify the government within five days of finding a safety defect.” For the full story on The Blotter, go to

WINTER OLYMPICS:   Snow and heavy fog postponed several Olympic events in Vancouver today.  In Whistler an overnight snow storm forced officials to postpone the men's super-combined race and call off women's downhill training.  On Cypress Mountain the fog and heavy rain delayed the women’s snowboarding competition by an hour, and organizers cancelled 20,000 standing room tickets for this weekend’s snowboarding competition, calling the snowboard stadium “unsafe” thanks to the rain-soaked ground. 
For WORLD NEWS, David Muir took a look at the older athletes making a run for the gold: “In just the first three days of the Olympics already 14 medals to athletes in their 30’s – a full quarter of all the medals won.  So is there something to this? Olympics analysts say yes…”  David Wallechinsky, author of  “The Complete Book of the Winter Olympics” tells ABC News competing well includes athletic strength and mental capability: “When you’re young, an athlete’s 20 or 22, they’re dealing with fame, dealing with success.  And suddenly they get into their 20’s, they have a family, they calm down a bit…they can deal with the sport in a more intelligent way.”
Wednesday highlights include women’s downhill, men’s half pipe and speed skating.  (thanks to Marisa Bramwell for this entry)

MT. ST. HELENS’ HIKER-Bad news on Mt. St. Helens. The body of a veteran climber who fell 1,500 feet into the crater atop Mount St. Helens was recovered Tuesday after he spent more than a day in the snow, authorities said. Clouds and wind had hampered efforts to reach Joseph Bohlig, 52, who was posing for a picture Monday on the rim of the dormant crater when a snow overhang gave way and he fell into the volcano. "We're sorry that he's gone, that he didn't make it," said Richard Bohlig, the climber's 84-year-old father. "He was doing
something he enjoyed very much. That's all I can say." (Associated Press)
SEAN BELL- Federal prosecutors have decided against pressing a civil rights case in the 2006 New York City police shooting of Sean Bell. Bell was gunned down outside a Queens strip club on his wedding day. Four police officers were acquitted of manslaughter in the death.

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