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 this & that

may 15, 2000

Hot spots. Despite earlier optimistic predictions, some 232,000 sheep in Wales, Cumbria, and Scotland, downwind from the damaged nuclear power plant in Chernobyl, will remain contaminated with radiocaesium for another fifteen years. You can forget about lamb chops from the region. According to the London Independent of May 5 (www.independent.co.uk/news/World/Russia), some of the sheep carry radioactivity at twice the level considered safe for human consumption. <> The U.S. Department of Energy has discovered that, when it comes to cleaning up our own nuclear mess at Hanford, Washington, privatization isn’t the way to go. The Seattle Post-Intelligencer of May 9 (www.seattle-pi.com) reports that DOE fired the British firm BNFL Inc. for "outrageously expensive and inadequate" financing methods, which would cost the government $15.2 billion, or twice what it anticipated. The construction of a "vitrification" plant to melt radioactive waste into glass-fused logs, due to begin next year, has been postponed while DOE looks for someone else to do the job. <> In India, where the population topped 1 billion on May 11, celebratory trappings include special train tickets bearing one-family, one-child exhortations. Not everyone is enthusiastic about the bulging birthrate. The Toronto Globe and Mail (www.globeandmail.com) quotes a report from the Washington-based Worldwatch Institute, which notes that the world’s second largest country possesses a large stockpile of nuclear weapons to protect "the largest concentration of impoverished citizens on earth."

Foot-in-mouth spottings. When the Webby Awards claimed a week’s worth of squatters’ rights in Nob Hill’s Huntington Park, the Chronicle was there. Webby founder Tiffany Shlain was unapologetic about the organization’s intrusion: "It’s only fitting that we shine from the highest vista in the city." <> We can all breathe easier now. A recent communication to the Call announces, "It is an honor to tell you that you have been selected to receive a Limited Edition Republican National committee 2000 Gold Card. Please accept it with my congratulations on qualifying for membership in the RNC’s most elite group of supporters." <> In last week’s New Yorker, Philip Roth worries that serious readers (like PR) are a dying breed: "It is difficult to know what to make of literature. That’s why I say stupid things are said about it, because unless people are well trained they don't know quite what to make of it."

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The view from a distance. An entire country — all of South Africa — shut down on May 11 as 4 million workers engaged in a 24-hour strike led by the Congress of South African Trade Unions, reports the East London Daily Dispatch (http://www.dispatch.co.za). Protesting the loss of good full-time jobs, the strikers demanded that the government and private industry donate the R1.5 billion in wages they sacrificed that day to Cosatu’s Job Creation Fund. <> Writing sinceramente in a letter to the Call, Antonio Perales Fierro takes the U.S. government to task for using Puerto Rico as a bombing target: "There’s no doubt about it. The U.S. ought to get its racist white ass out of Vieques. It’s all just a reminder that an ugly racist, imperialist era is far from over!" ZNet (www.znet.org) carries regular updates of the situation.