Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Industry views: Climate Bill Envisions Future with Less Energy, Fewer Jobs, Worse Economy

Road to Serfdom: Climate Bill Envisions Future with Less Energy, Fewer Jobs, Worse Economy
Institute for Energy Research, Mar 31, 2009

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Institute for Energy Research president Thomas J. Pyle issued the following statement today after the chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee formally released a draft of legislation that seeks to affect the world’s climate by rationing Americans’ use of carbon dioxide:

“Those who would characterize this draft as a blueprint for higher energy prices, fewer jobs, and reduced economic output are unfortunately missing the whole truth. In reality, the bill introduced today is part of an agenda whose mandate extends well beyond utility bills and unemployment rolls. Quite simply, this bill envisions the wholesale reordering of American society, where those who produce are punished, those who remain idle are rewarded, and those who require affordable energy to live are forced to subsidize those who require political pull to survive.

“Today, Americans were granted a sneak peak at what that future might look like. It’s future where grids are judged ‘smart’ not by their ability to deliver low-cost, reliable electricity to consumers, but by their inability to do so; where fuels are deemed ‘acceptable’ only insofar as they don’t fuel anything; and where a company is considered a ‘success’ not by any objective standard of economic output, but by arbitrary standards of carbon output.

“The draft bill introduced today not only portends that future, it provides the tools and timetables politicians will need to deliver it. Thankfully, for the rest of us, it also advances this debate to a new stage of dialogue – one where supporters of government-imposed energy rationing are forced to account for and defend that position in terms of dollars and cents, not polar bears and butterflies. It’s a debate, frankly, that’s been a long time coming. And it’s one in which we plan to make a significant and substantive contribution as the year goes on.”

Key elements of the Waxman-Markey draft carbon legislation:
  • Cap-and-Raid: Seeks to implement a “market-based program for reducing global warming pollution” – carbon – that will force hundreds of thousands of American businesses to obtain federal permission (via carbon credit) before creating a new job or manufacturing a new product. Although the draft is silent on how the federal permit procurement process would work, analysts predict the final version will require businesses to purchase those credits directly from the federal government, resulting in the expropriation of potentially trillions of dollars from the productive sectors of the economy.
  • Low-Carbon Fuel Standard: Also known as the “Weak Fuel Mandate” or “Fuel Dillution Standards,” LCFS seeks to impose new rules on the carbon-content of fuels produced by American refiners. The upshot is the creation of a weaker fuel, with less energy content, at a higher price – both in absolute terms, and on a per/BTU basis.
  • Renewable Electricity Mandate: Less than a year removed from Congress’s rejection of a national mandate seeking to force utilities to generate 15 percent of their electricity from politically preferred sources, the Waxman bill seeks to add an additional 10 percent to that charge – envisioning a final mandate of 25 percent, and setting in motion a massive redistribution of wealth from the southeast United States to the regions along the coast.
  • Green Jobs: Requires the secretary of Education to create a grant program specifically to award colleges and universities who get their students to enroll in “green jobs” training courses. The section of the text focused on what services the government will provide to the millions of American workers who will lose their jobs as a result of this policy “remains to be provided,” according to the draft.

State Sec Clinton Remarks at The International Conference on Afghanistan

Remarks at The International Conference on Afghanistan. By Hillary Rodham Clinton, US Secretary of State
The Hague, Netherlands, March 31, 2009

Thank you very much, Minister Verhagen, and Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Special Representative Kai Eide, President Karzai, Minister Spanta, friends and colleagues, I want to thank all of you, and especially the United Nations and the Government of the Netherlands for hosting us. I also want to acknowledge the extraordinary contribution of the government and people of the Netherlands to the mission in Afghanistan.

And I want to also acknowledge President Karzai, who fills a critical leadership role in his nation, and whose government helped to shape the shared comprehensive and workable strategy that we are discussing today.

We are here to help the people of Afghanistan prevail against a ruthless enemy who poses a common threat to us all. Afghanistan has always been a crossroads of civilization, and today we find our fate converging in those plains and mountains that are so far and yet so near in this interconnected world to all of us.

Thanks to the efforts of the international community, the perpetrators of the horrific terrorist attacks of 9/11 – attacks which killed citizens from more than 90 countries – were driven from Afghanistan, and the Afghan people made a promising start toward a more secure future. But since those first hopeful moments, our collective inability to implement a clear and sustained strategy has allowed violent extremists to regain a foothold in Afghanistan and in Pakistan, and to make the area a nerve center for efforts to spread violence from London to Mumbai.

The range of countries and institutions represented here is a universal recognition that what happens in Afghanistan matters to us all. Our failure to bring peace and progress would be a setback not only to the people of Afghanistan, but to the entire enterprise of collective action in the interest of collective security. Our success, on the other hand, will not only benefit Afghanistan, Pakistan and the region, but also the blueprint for a new diplomacy powered by partnership and premised on shared interests.

So as we recommit ourselves to meet our common challenge with a new strategy, new energy, and new resources, let us be guided by an ancient Afghan proverb, “patience is bitter, but its fruit is sweet.”

The plan I outline today is the product of intensive consultations with nations that have donated troops and support; Afghanistan’s neighbors and international institutions that play a vital role in Afghanistan’s future. The results of these consultations are clear: Our strategy must address the challenge in Afghanistan and Pakistan; it must integrate military and civilian activities and support them with vigorous international diplomacy; and it must rest on the simple premise that while we can and will help, Afghanistan’s future ultimately rests with the Afghan people and their elected government. Security is the essential first step; without it, all else fails. Afghanistan’s army and police will have to take the lead, supported by the International Security Assistance Force.

President Obama has announced that the United States will deploy 17,000 more soldiers and 4,000 additional military trainers to help build up Afghan security forces. The international community will also have to help. We should provide every army and police unit in Afghanistan with an international partner that can provide training and help build capacity. Our collective goal should be standing up an army of at least 134,000 soldiers and a police force of at least 82,000 officers by 2011. These steps will provide the people of Afghanistan with an opportunity to fight and win their own battle for their nation’s future.

We must also help Afghans strengthen their economy and institutions. They know how to rebuild their country, but they need the raw material of progress – roads, public institutions, schools, hospitals, irrigation, and agriculture. The United States is supporting the Government of Afghanistan’s National Development Strategy, the National Solidarity Program, and other initiatives that help Afghans improve their lives and strengthen their own communities.

In consultation with the Afghan Government, we have also identified agriculture – which comprises 70 percent of Afghanistan’s economy – as the key for development. In the 1970s, Afghans exported food to their neighbors. They were often called the garden of Central Asia. Today, this sector lags far behind, and its problems feed the deadly malignancy of the narcotics trade. The United States is focusing its efforts on rural development in provinces near the Afghan-Pakistan border, and we hope that others gathered here will heed the United Nations’ and Afghan Government’s call for help throughout the country with job creation, technical expertise, vocational training, and investments in roads, electrical transmission lines, education, healthcare, and so much else.

As we work with the Afghan people to supply these building blocks of development, we must demand accountability from ourselves and from the Afghan Government. Corruption is a cancer as dangerous to long-term success as the Taliban or al-Qaida. A government that cannot deliver accountable services for its people is a terrorist’s best recruiting tool.

So we must work with bodies such as Afghanistan’s Independent Directorate of Local Governance to ensure that the government at all levels is responsible and transparent. The international community, gathered here, can help by providing auditors and governance experts and training a new generation of civil servants and administrators.

To earn the trust of the Afghan people, the Afghan Government must be legitimate and respected. This requires a successful election in August – one that is open, free, and fair. That can only happen with strong support from the international community. I am, therefore, pleased to announce today that to advance that goal, the United States is committing $40 million to help fund Afghanistan’s upcoming elections.

We must also support efforts by the Government of Afghanistan to separate the extremists of al-Qaida and the Taliban from those who joined their ranks not out of conviction, but out of desperation. This is, in fact, the case for a majority of those fighting with the Taliban. They should be offered an honorable form of reconciliation and reintegration into a peaceful society if they are willing to abandon violence, break with al-Qaida, and support the constitution.

Just as these problems cannot be solved without the Afghan people, they cannot be solved without the help of Afghanistan’s neighbors. Trafficking in narcotics, the spread of violent extremism, economic stagnation, water management, electrification, and irrigation are regional challenges that require regional solutions.

The United Nations has a central role in this effort to coordinate with the Government of Afghanistan and neighbors in the region to make sure that programs are properly prioritized and well focused. We are committed to working with Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and UN Special Representative Kai Eide to achieve that goal. The United States Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, Ambassador Richard Holbrooke, will lead American efforts as we move forward, and we welcome the appointment of special representatives by other countries.

If we are to succeed, we will need the help of all the nations present here. As President Obama has pointed out, “the world cannot afford the price that will come due if Afghanistan slides back into chaos.” While there is great temptation to retreat inward in these difficult economic times, it is precisely at such moments that we must redouble our effort. And as we make commitments and contributions, we must ensure they are flexible enough to respond to immediate needs and evolving opportunities. And we all must be willing to coordinate those efforts together.

The challenge we face is difficult, but the opportunity is clear if we move away from the past. All too often in the past seven years, our efforts have been undermanned, under-resourced and underfunded. This goal is achievable. We know we have made progress where we have made adequate investment and worked together.

The status of Afghanistan’s army, the lives of women and girls, the country’s education and health systems are far better today than they were in 2001. So if all of us represented here work with the government and people of Afghanistan, we will help not only to secure their future, but ours as well.

Now the principal focus of our discussions today is on Afghanistan, but we cannot hope to succeed if those who seek to reestablish a haven for violence and extremism operate from sanctuaries just across the border. For this reason, our partnership with Pakistan is critical. Together, we all must give Pakistan the tools it needs to fight extremists within its borders.

The Obama Administration has made a strong commitment through our support for legislation called the Kerry-Lugar assistance program. And in a few weeks, we will have a chance to join together in Tokyo for a meeting of the Friends of Democratic Pakistan to provide the support that the Pakistani Government and people need. I urge the nations here today in support of Afghanistan to join us in Tokyo on April 17th to help the people of Pakistan.

This effort has already required great sacrifice and it will require more. But in Afghanistan and Pakistan, we face a common threat, a common enemy, and a common task. So let us use today, this conference, to renew and reinvigorate our commitment and our involvement, and to lay a firm foundation for a safer region and a safer world. It is in the interests of all of the people who we represent as we sit around this conference table here in The Hague, and for the kind of world that we wish to help create.

Thank you very much.

PRN: 2009/T5-2

The Implications of the European Contribution to the Global Financial Crisis for the G-20 Summit

The Implications of the European Contribution to the Global Financial Crisis for the G-20 Summit. By Ted R. Bromund and Daniella Markheim
Heritage WebMemo #2369
March 30, 2009

The story that Europe is telling about the global financial crisis is untrue: The crisis is not simply the fault of the United States. European policies, on both the national and the EU levels, contributed to the buildup of systemic risk that led to the crisis. These policies reduced European competitiveness, led to high levels of leverage at European banks, helped to create property bubbles across Europe, and--through both the Euro and the broader policy of European integration--introduced moral hazard into European markets.

The basic fallacies of European policies are their emphasis on top-down control and their advocacy of a one-size-fits-all model. The policies the EU is advancing for the G-20 summit repeat these errors on a larger scale. Instead of blaming the U.S., Europe should address its lack of competitiveness and growing entitlements burden. Doubling down on centralized control will result in lower growth and a less stable world economy at a time when Europe needs to promote a sustained recovery.

The European Myth

Europe is telling a story about the origins of the global financial crisis. The story is simple: It is America's fault. The BBC reports that the European resistance to stimulus spending derives from its reluctance to go deeper into debt "to rescue the US economy, which they argue was the country that caused the crisis in the first place."[1] The Economist concluded in October that the European approach to the crisis was based in part on the "flawed" assumption that the financial system is chiefly suffering from "transatlantic contagion."

The first signs of the current global financial crisis did appear in the U.S. But the collapse of the U.S. real estate market, though important, was merely the first stone in an avalanche. As the Economist pointed out, the view that only the U.S. is to blame "fails to take account of ... slowing [European] economies ... the slumping housing markets in countries such as Spain and Ireland ... [and] European banks' dependence on wholesale funding."[2]

The origins of the global financial crash, not surprisingly, are global. Some factors affected some countries more than others, but no country has cause to claim that it was damaged solely by the actions of others. Yet it is those actions that must now face scrutiny. If there is a common theme in the crisis, it can be found in the interaction between politics and economics that created perverse and ultimately dangerous incentives.

The European Reality

In spite of the desire of the EU to pretend otherwise, the European states are very different. Thus, at the national level, the problems these states must confront are not identical. Nevertheless, four features that are present in more than one European state deserve to be highlighted:
  1. A loss of competitiveness. European states such as Ireland and Italy have lost competitiveness. In these states, public expenditure has grown faster than private sector pay and productivity. In Ireland, for instance, public spending doubled between 1997 and 2003. This caused inflation to rise two-and-a-half times faster than in the Euro zone as a whole.[3] The loss of competitiveness was the result of government policies that placed excessive burdens on productive employment.
  2. The level of leverage in European banks. Leverage is the ratio of a bank's total liabilities to shareholder equity. Higher leverage means the bank is doing more business on a relatively narrower base. Leverage can be excessive, but it is not evil--on the contrary, it is necessary for the functioning of the banking system. There is wide debate on the best way to measure leverage. But it is clear that many European banks were more highly leveraged than their American counterparts. A survey by the Centre for European Policy Studies found that the average leverage ratio of Europe's twelve largest banks as of September 2008 was 35 to 1, compared to less than 20 to 1 in the U.S. The survey described Europe's ratios as "a disaster in waiting."[4] Higher levels of leverage do make more credit available and thus reduce its cost. This was appealing in Europe, because cheaper credit fueled growth in its generally sluggish economies.
  3. The European property bubbles. But this rapid expansion of credit in Europe played an important role in the creation of European real estate bubbles. The IMF has pointed out that, in the run-up to the crisis, "credit aggregates grew extremely fast in the United Kingdom, Spain, Iceland, and several Eastern European countries. As in the U.S., these credit expansions fueled real estate booms. House prices rose rapidly in most of the Eastern and Western European countries now caught in the financial turmoil."[5] The bubbles in Europe were as unsustainable as those in the U.S.
  4. The moral hazards of the Euro and the EU. These factors speak to the same underlying cause. The years after the Cold War saw high global growth and benign conditions that "fed the build up of systemic risk." As the IMF puts it, "[l]ow interest rates, together with increasing and excessive optimism about the future, pushed up asset prices ... [in] a broad range of ... advanced countries and emerging markets." The result was a search for yield and the creation of ever-riskier assets.[6]
In Europe, the creation of the Euro was both consequence and cause of that excessive optimism. The case for the currency was always fundamentally political: that it would weld Europe closer together. But the Euro zone is not an optimal currency area. The Euro represents the triumph of politics over economics. It is a one-size-fits-all model for a continent where, in fact, one size does not fit all.

Moreover, the Euro was, in essence, a seal of approval on countries such as Spain, Portugal, and Greece. This encouraged investors to regard these markets as less risky than they in fact were. The admission of many of the now-troubled Eastern European states into the EU also created moral hazard in the market by encouraging investors to treat these states as if they ranked with the established economies of the West. This approach did not accord with reality.

The False European Solutions

In short, a series of policies--some national, some European--created a framework that encouraged risky decisions by investors and weakened the national foundations on which the resulting bubbles grew. The irony is that Europe is now proposing to double down on these failed policies in response to the crisis.

Europe's call for a global regulator with a mandate to ensure the stability and balance of the world economy would be a tremendous step toward forcing its slow growth model on the rest of the world. Its campaign against "tax havens" is another part of this effort to force other nations to adopt Europe's own anti-growth, anti-competitive tax regime.[7]

These policies are a return to the concept of one size fits all and to the belief that politicians and unelected bureaucrats on the global level can effectively manage the world's economy. Europeans should ask why, if this model works so well, it failed to stop the build-up of systemic risk in Europe. The campaign to blame the U.S. is a form of denial: By refusing to look in the mirror, Europe seeks to avoid facing the unpleasant reality of failure.

This reality includes the fact that the European states are not all alike. Nothing underlines this more effectively that the fact that Germany, having been one of the cheerleaders of European integration, is now reluctant to bear a disproportionate share of the Europe-wide costs of stabilizing that system.[8] From the national point of view, this reluctance makes sense. But it is a sign of the incoherence of European integration that its leading advocate is not willing to pay the bills for the policies it claims to wholeheartedly back.

The True Solutions

It is legitimate to discuss measures that should be taken in immediate response to the crisis. But neither these measures nor the crisis itself should divert Europe from addressing its underlying problems. These begin with its lack of competitiveness and the entitlements burden that, as in the U.S., poses what will in the long term be an unbearable burden.[9] Instead of turning--as it and its trading partners are now doing--to protectionism, Europe needs to move away from the faith in centralized control and the ability of governments to manipulate markets that has brought turmoil to the U.S. and Europe alike.[10]

Ted R. Bromund, Ph.D., is Senior Research Fellow in the Margaret Thatcher Center for Freedom, a division of the Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for International Studies, and Daniella Markheim is Jay Van Andel Senior Trade Policy Analyst in the Center for International Trade and Economics at The Heritage Foundation.

Full text w/notes here.

Activism in the Time of Cholera: Anti-GMO groups keep the poor from getting help

Activism in the Time of Cholera: Anti-GMO groups keep the poor from getting help. By Henry I. Miller
Wall Street Journal, March 29, 2009

The cholera epidemic in Zimbabwe has sickened more than 100,000 and killed at least 4,500, with more cases reported daily. The disease remains all too lethal elsewhere, too, having killed about 120,000 people in 2007, according to the World Health Organization. But thanks to a simple innovation, those kinds of statistics could soon be a relic of the past, like deaths from smallpox and polio -- if not for the interference of a few influential politicians and activist groups.

Cholera is a diarrheal disease caused by contamination of food and water by feces. For those of us who live in industrialized countries, diarrhea is little more than a nuisance, most often involving some discomfort and bloating. But in sub-Saharan Africa and parts of Latin America and Asia with poor access to health care, clean water and other resources, diarrhea is the No. 2 infectious killer of children under the age of five, accounting for two million deaths a year.

Since the 1960s, the standard of care for childhood diarrhea in the developing world has been a glucose-based, high-sodium liquid that is administered orally and is known as a "rehydration solution." This low-tech product was revolutionary. It has saved millions of lives and reduced the need for costly -- and often unavailable -- hospital stays and sterile intravenous fluids. However, this product has done nothing to lessen the severity or duration of the condition, which over time leads to malnutrition, anemia and other chronic health risks.

The answer may be an affordable innovation that combines high and low technology. It consists of adding two human proteins, lactoferrin and lysozyme, which are produced inexpensively in genetically modified (GM) rice plants, to rice-based oral rehydration solution. Studies performed in Peru show that when this is done, the duration of children's illness is cut from more than five days to three and two-thirds. The rate of recurrence also falls. This advance could save many of those who are dying in Zimbabwe and elsewhere.

What made this approach feasible was a private company's invention of a method to produce human lactoferrin and lysozyme in gene-spliced rice, a process dubbed "biopharming." This is an inexpensive way to create the proteins necessary to fortify millions of liters of rehydration solution.

Sounds like a great success, right? Not yet; maybe not ever. The company has been trying for more than six years to get the product approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which has raised no real safety concerns but has dithered over the appropriate regulatory route for approving the product. Because a panel of experts has already deemed the proteins safe, the best guess is that internal FDA politics and lobbying by NGOs and the company's competitors are causing the delays.

Virtually every biotech breakthrough brings the antitechnology, antibusiness fabulists out of the woodwork, and this one is no exception. One radical biotech opponent, Hope Shand, remonstrated, "The chance this will contaminate traditionally grown crops is great. This is a very risky business."

Nonsense. Rice is self-pollinating, so interbreeding with other rice varieties is virtually impossible. But even in the worst case, "contaminate traditionally grown crops" with what? With two human proteins normally present in tears, breast milk and saliva? The only contamination here is of public discourse, from the lies and misrepresentations of antibiotech activists.

Another miraculous product made with gene-splicing techniques, and which has also had to endure the slings and arrows of wrong-headed activists and regulators, is "Golden Rice." This collection of new rice varieties is enriched by the introduction of genes that produce beta-carotene, which the body can convert into vitamin A.

Vitamin A deficiency is epidemic among poor people in the tropics whose diet is dominated by rice (which contains neither beta-carotene nor vitamin A) or similar foods. World-wide, 200 million to 300 million children of preschool age are at risk of vitamin A deficiency, which increases susceptibility to infections such as measles and diarrheal diseases and is the leading cause of childhood blindness in developing countries. About 500,000 children become blind due to vitamin A deficiency each year, and 70% of them die within a year.

The concept is simple: Although beta-carotene is not normally found in the seeds of rice plants because of the absence of two enzymes needed to make the substance, rice plants do make it in the green portions of the plant. When GM techniques are used to introduce the two missing genes, the rice grains become capable of producing and accumulating large amounts of beta-carotene.
Like the protein additives to the rehydration solution, Golden Rice is being blocked from the market by regulatory delays -- both by unscientific, draconian requirements concocted by United Nations agencies and by regulators in several Asian countries.

Despite their vast potential to benefit humanity, and negligible likelihood of harm to human health or the environment, the gene-spliced rice varieties remain in regulatory limbo with no end in sight. Activists have spread wild tales of gene-spliced crops causing illness and baldness, and of giving rise to antibiotic-resistant bacteria. There is absolutely no evidence for such claims.

In contrast to GM plants, those constructed with older, less precise techniques for genetic improvement are subject to no government scrutiny or requirements -- or opposition from activists. As a result, companies are systematically discouraged from adopting the best technologies, and when feasible prefer to use older, inferior techniques to achieve the desired result.

In an April 2008 editorial in the journal Science, Nina Fedoroff, a plant geneticist who serves as senior scientific adviser to the U.S. secretary of state, wrote: "A new green revolution demands a global commitment to creating a modern agricultural infrastructure everywhere, adequate investment in training and modern laboratory facilities, and progress toward simplified regulatory approaches that are responsive to accumulating evidence of safety." The story of GM rice makes it clear that we do not yet have the will and the wisdom to make that happen.

Dr. Miller, a physician and fellow at Stanford University's Hoover Institution and the Competitive Enterprise Institute, headed the FDA's Office of Biotechnology from 1989 to 1993.

Daiichi Sankyo R&D Head Confident About New Blood Clot Drug

Daiichi Sankyo R&D Head Confident About New Blood Clot Drug. By Kazuhiro Shimamura
Dow Jones, Mar 31, 2009

TOKYO -(Dow Jones)- Daiichi Sankyo Co.'s (4568.TO) research and development chief said Tuesday the Tokyo-based pharmaceutical company is confident about the competitiveness of its new blood clot prevention drug currently in clinical studies.

By comparing its clinical data so far with those of rival products by Bayer HealthCare of Bayer AG and Bristol-Myers Squibb Co., Daiichi Sankyo's edoxaban, previously known as DU-176b, has shown a very favorable profile of safety as well as efficacy in a dose-dependent manner, Kazunori Hirokawa, the head of the company's R&D division said at a news conference.

Edoxaban is for preventing potentially fatal blood clots in people suffering from atrial fibrillation, a type of irregular heartbeat, and venous thromboembolism, which causes blood clotting in veins.

It is one of Daiichi Sankyo's promising new drug candidates which have a potential to become a blockbuster drug with annual sales topping $1 billion.

Edoxaban, Bayer's rivaroxaban and apixaban jointly developed by Bristol-Myers and Pfizer Inc. work by inhibiting so-called factor Xa enzime involved in the blood coagulation process.

While the two rival drugs are closer to commercialization as an atrial fibrillation treatment as long as no serious problems occur in their clinical trials, edoxaban's safety profile has been proven in a longer phase of studies in which no serious side effect is observed, he said.

Other advantages of edoxaban include the precise amount of doses already set for final use in patients, Hirokawa said.

Monday, March 30, 2009

2008 U.S. Official Development Assistance

2008 U.S. Official Development Assistance
Bureau of Public Affairsm, Office of the Spokesman
US State Dept, Washington, DC, March 30, 2009

United States Official Development Assistance (ODA) increased substantially across social and economic sectors worldwide in 2008 based on preliminary U.S. data provided to the OECD this week. Once again, the United States is the largest single donor in the world on the basis of net annual disbursements. The United States will provide final ODA data in November.

· U.S. ODA totaled $26.0 billion in calendar year 2008, a $4.2 billion, or 19 percent increase from calendar year 2007.

· Development assistance continues to be high – U.S. 2008 ODA is the second largest net level historically for any donor country, after the record U.S. level in 2005 of $27.9 billion.· U.S. ODA growth is due to expanded U.S. programs in a wide variety of areas, including global health and HIV/AIDS, humanitarian assistance, and economic development.

· U.S. ODA to the Least Developed Countries increased by over 40 percent to $6.9 billion, from $4.8 billion in 2007.

ODA is only one source of support for development; net private resource flows from the U.S. – trade, capital, remittances, and grants – dwarf global ODA. Development depends on effective, accountable governance and economic policies that stimulate private sector growth.

· The United States has both increased assistance levels and increased its effectiveness through foreign assistance reform and implementation of programs including the Millennium Challenge Account and the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief. We are committed to making bilateral and multilateral assistance effective and results-oriented, avoiding aid dependency and promoting long-term and sustainable economic growth.

PRN: 271

The G-20 London Summit 2009: Recommendations for Global Policy Coordination

The G-20 London Summit 2009: Recommendations for Global Policy Coordination
The Brookings Institution, Mar 30, 2009

Leaders of the Group of 20 (G-20), representing 85 percent of the global economy’s output, face a long list of agenda items when they gather on April 2 in London for their second summit. As the world combats a “great recession,” the leaders must address how to help stabilize financial markets and re-start economic growth, reform the global financial system, and aid developing and emerging economies.

Amidst this background of critical issues, Brookings’ global economic and development experts explore a range of recommendations for global policy coordination in advance of the summit and note which issues the leaders should address at the table—and beyond—in order to stem the crisis and avoid future ones.

Download the full report »

Industry Views: Seven Myths About Green Jobs

Seven Myths About Green Jobs. By Andrew P. Morriss, William T. Bogart, Andrew Dorchak, and Roger E. Meiners
IER, March 30, 2009

Executive Summary. [Full report here]


An aggressive push for a green economy is well underway in the United States. Policymakers now routinely assert that “green jobs” can simultaneously improve environmental quality and reduce unemployment. Our team of researchers from universities around the nation surveyed four often-cited reports (the “literature”) that were sponsored by interest groups, industry associations, and international NGOs. We analyzed their assumptions and found that the groups promoting the idea of green jobs had buried dubious assumptions and techniques within their analysis. We conclude that the massive expenditures demanded by special interest groups and politicians under the green jobs banner are not justified.

Rather than spend hundreds of billions of taxpayers’ dollars on unproven technologies chosen through a political process, we favor market processes to increase conservation of energy and other resources, a strategy proven effective by experience. New green technologies should be explored and expanded by market forces, not government mandates. Before committing massive resources to chasing the green jobs these reports suggest, the special interests advocating strategies that impose costs on every American should expose their models and calculations to peer-reviewed scrutiny, making their process transparent.

We found seven underlying myths within the literature we studied. We believe it is important that these myths be exposed so that we can debate the facts as we move forward toward investing in a more eco-friendly nation.

The Myths And The Facts

Myth 1: Everyone understands what a “green job” is.

Fact 1: No standard definition of a “green job” exists.

According to the studies most commonly quoted, green jobs pay well, are interesting to do, produce products that environmental groups prefer, and do so in a unionized workplace. Such criteria have little to do with the environmental impacts of the jobs. To build a political coalition, “green jobs” have become a mechanism to deliver something for members of many special interests in order to buy their support for a radical transformation of society. Committing hundreds of billions of dollars to promoting something lacking a transparent definition cannot be justified.

Myth 2: Creating green jobs will boost productive employment.

Fact 2: Green jobs estimates in these oft-quoted studies include huge numbers of clerical, bureaucratic, and administrative positions that do not produce goods and services for consumption.

These green jobs studies mistake any position receiving a paycheck for a position creating value. Simply hiring people to write and enforce regulations, fill-out forms, and process paperwork is not a recipe for creating wealth. Much of the promised boost in green employment turns out to be in non-productive - and expensive - positions that raise costs for consumers. These higher paying jobs that fail to create a more eco-friendly society dramatically skew the results in both number of green jobs created and salary levels of those jobs.

Myth 3: Green jobs forecasts are reliable.

Fact 3: The green jobs studies made estimates using poor economic models based on dubious assumptions.

The forecasts for green employment in these studies optimistically predict an employment boom that will take us to prosperity in a new green world. The forecasts, which are sometimes amazingly detailed, are unreliable because they are based on:
a) Questionable estimates by interest groups of tiny base numbers in employment,
b) Extrapolation of growth rates from those small base numbers, that does not take into consideration that growth rates eventually slow, plateau and even decline, and
c) A biased and highly selective optimism about which technologies will improve.

Moreover, the estimates use a technique (input-output analysis) that is inappropriate to the conditions of technological change presumed by the green jobs literature itself. This yields seemingly precise estimates that give the illusion of scientific reliability to numbers that are actually based on faulty assumptions.

Myth 4: Green jobs promote employment growth.

Fact 4: By promoting more jobs instead of more productivity, the green jobs described in the literature actually encourage low-paying jobs in less desirable conditions. Economic growth cannot be ordered by Congress or by the United Nations. Government interference in the economy - such as restricting further progress with already successful technologies in favor of speculative technologies favored by special interests - will generate stagnation.

Green jobs estimates promise greatly expanded (and pleasant and well-paid) employment. This promise is false. The green jobs model is built on promoting inefficient use of labor. The studies favor technologies that employ large numbers of people rather than those technologies that use labor efficiently. In a competitive market, the factors of production, including labor, are paid for their productivity. By focusing on low productivity jobs, the green jobs literature dooms employees to low wages in a shrinking economy. The studies also generally ignore the millions of jobs that will be destroyed by the restrictions imposed by governments on disfavored products and technologies.

Myth 5: The world economy can be remade by reducing trade and relying on local production and reduced consumption without dramatically decreasing our standard of living.

Fact 5: History shows that individual nations cannot produce everything its citizens need or desire. People and countries have talents that allow specialization in products and services that make them ever more efficient, lower-cost producers, thereby enriching all people .
The green jobs literature rejects the benefits of trade, ignores opportunity costs, specialization, and fails to include consumer surplus in its welfare calculations. This is a recipe for an economic disaster. Even the favored green technologies, such as wind turbines, require expertise and intellectual property rights largely provided by foreigners. The twentieth century saw many experiments in creating societies that did not engage in trade and did not value personal welfare. The economic and human disasters that resulted should have conclusively settled the question of whether nations can withdraw inside their borders.

Myth 6: Government mandates are a substitute for free markets.

Fact 6: Companies react more swiftly and efficiently to the demands of their customers/markets, than to cumbersome government mandates.

Green jobs supporters want to reorder society by mandating preferred technologies and expenditures through government entities. But the responses to government mandates are not the same as the responses to market incentives. We have powerful evidence that market incentives prompt the same resource conservation that green jobs advocates purport to desire. For example, the rising cost of energy is a major incentive to redesign production processes and products to use less energy. People do not want energy; they want the benefits of energy. Those who can deliver more desired goods and services by reducing the energy - and thus the cost of production - will be rewarded. On the other hand, we have no evidence to support the idea that command-and-control regimes accomplish conservation.

Myth 7: Wishing for technological progress is sufficient.

Fact 7: Some technologies preferred by the green jobs studies are not capable of efficiently reaching the scale necessary to meet today’s demands.

The green jobs literature’s preferred technologies face significant problems in scaling up to the levels they propose. These problems are well documented in readily available technical literature, yet are resolutely ignored in the green jobs reports. At the same time, existing viable technologies that fail to meet the green jobs supporters’ political criteria are simply rejected out of hand. This selective technological optimism/pessimism is not a sufficient basis for remaking society to fit the dream of planners, politicians, or special interests who think they know best, despite empirical evidence to the contrary.

Summary of Findings

As you can see in our seven myths listed above, our report finds that the analysis provided in the green jobs literature is deeply flawed. The reports rest on a series of exaggerated, inadequate, or incorrect economic, environmental, and technological assumptions. Moreover, the scale of social change that would be required to implement the proposed programs would be unprecedented.

Our key findings are:

No agreed, coherent definition of a “green job” exists in the public debate. Many of the jobs classified as “green” in these four most popular studies produce no environmental results.

Green jobs ultimately will not promote employment growth or improve production because many are concentrated by design in low productivity occupations.

Green jobs proponents rely on highly problematic assumptions about constant prices and lack of technological change that render their “multiplier effect” misleading and, therefore, useless.

Green job advocates incorrectly assume that government mandates are a substitute for free markets. Their models are based on the assumption that politicians can predict what technologies are best and what the markets will bear.

Many green jobs proposals are an effort to implement anti-trade policies and reduced consumption scenarios that would be unacceptable to most Americans.

Libertarians disagree with federal president on global warming urgency

Libertarians disagree with federal president on global warming urgency
Cato, Mar 28, 2009

"Few challenges facing America and the world are more urgent than combating climate change.The science is beyond dispute and the facts are clear."

With all due respect Mr. President, that is not true.

We, the undersigned scientists, maintain that the case for alarm regarding climate change is grossly overstated. Surface temperature changes over the past century have been episodic and modest and there has been no net global warming for over a decade now.1,2 After controlling for population growth and property values, there has been no increase in damages from severe weather-related events.3 The computer models forecasting rapid temperature change abjectly fail to explain recent climate behavior.4 Mr. President, your characterization of the scientific facts regarding climate change and the degree of certainty informing the scientific debate is simply incorrect.

See press ad here.


1 Swanson, K.L., and A. A. Tsonis. Geophysical Research Letters, in press: DOI:10.1029/2008GL037022.
2 Brohan, P., et al. Journal of Geophysical Research, 2006: DOI: 10.1029/2005JD006548. Updates at http://www.cru.uea.ac.uk/cru/data/temperature.
3 Pielke, R. A. Jr., et al. Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, 2005: DOI: 10.1175/BAMS-86-10-1481.
4 Douglass, D. H., et al. International Journal of Climatology, 2007: DOI: 10.1002/joc.1651.

Libertarian: Teacher Unions vs. Poor Kids

Teacher Unions vs. Poor Kids. By Nat Hentoff
Cato, Mar 28, 2009

The "education president" remained silent when his congressional Democrats essentially killed the Opportunity Scholarship Program (OSP) in the city where he now lives and works.
Of the 1,700 students, starting in kindergarten, in this private-school voucher program, 90 percent are black and 9 percent are Hispanic.

First the House and then the Senate inserted into the $410-billion omnibus spending bill language to eliminate the $7,500 annual scholarships for these poor children after the next school year.

A key executioner in the Senate of the OSP was Sen. Dick Durbin, Illinois Democrat. I have written admiringly of Durbin's concern for human rights abroad. But what about education rights for minority children in the nation's capital?

Andrew J. Coulson, director of the Cato Institute (where I am a senior fellow) supplied the answer when he wrote: "Because they saw it as a threat to their political power, Democrats in Washington appear willing to extinguish the dreams of a few thousand poor kids to protect their political base."

Teachers unions are a major part of that base. Among those demanding that Congress kill the voucher scholarship program was the largest teachers union, the National Education Association.

Two of the kids affected by the action, Sarah and James Parker, attend Washington's prestigious Sidwell Friends School. Their scholarships will end with the next school year. The classmates they'll be leaving will include Sasha and Malia Obama. The Obama children, of course, do not need voucher money to avoid Washington D.C.'s failing and sometimes dangerous public schools.

As New York Times columnist David Brooks noted, the congressional Democrats even refused to grandfather in the kids already in the voucher program, "so those children will be ripped away from their mentors and friends ... ." President Obama, he added, "has, in fact, been shamefully quiet about this."

Doesn't Obama at least have something to say publicly to those children and their parents when his own Secretary of Education Arne Duncan opposed the congressional shutdown of Opportunity Scholarships?

Said Duncan (New York Post, March 6): "I don't think it makes sense to take kids out of a school where they're happy and safe and satisfied and learning. I think those kids need to stay in their school."

Duncan suggests that donors provide financial assistance through graduation to those kids stripped of their Opportunity Scholarships. Perhaps our "education president," from his continuing royalties from the sale of his books such as "The Audacity of Hope," might help out.

One of the recipients of the Opportunity Scholarships, teenager Carlos Battle (VoicesOfSchoolChoice.org) said that in a D.C. public school she'd "have to think more about protecting myself than about learning."

As for the Sidwell Friends School, its headmaster, Bruce Stewart, told the Wall Street Journal that the school has welcomed the OSP students. He said that when parents get more educational choices for their children, their kids and the whole community benefit.

Virginia Walden-Ford, executive director of D.C. Parents for School Choice, offered an excellent suggestion for members of the White House press corps:

"I'd like to see a reporter stand up at one of those nationally televised press conferences and ask President Obama what he thinks about what his own party is doing to keep two innocent kids from attending the same school where he sends his?"

I wish Jay Leno had thought to ask Obama that question.

In a March 2 editorial, the Washington Post — not a conservative newspaper —summed up the Congressional Democrats' scholarship shutdown in these words: "It's about politics and the stranglehold the teachers unions have on the Democratic Party. Why else has so much time and effort gone into trying to kill off what, in the grand scheme of government spending, is a tiny program?"

US State Dept on Afghanistan Supreme Court Ruling

Afghanistan Supreme Court Ruling. By Gordon Duguid, Acting Deputy Department Spokesman, Office of the Spokesman
US State Dept, Bureau of Public Affairs, Washington, DC, March 30, 2009

The Afghan Supreme Court has endorsed the continuation after May 22 of President Karzai’s term of office until free and fair elections have been held and a duly elected successor can take office. The United States strongly supports and welcomes this ruling.
We believe that continuity of government in the critical period before elections is vital and contributes to creating stability.

We urge all Afghans to support this ruling by the Supreme Court and to focus on the elections to be held on August 22, rather than continuing to question the status of their government.

The United States calls on the Government of Afghanistan, joined by its international partners, to make every effort to ensure that the conditions are created for genuinely free and fair elections that will reflect the will of the Afghan people. For its part, the United States neither supports nor opposes any legitimate candidate and will concentrate its efforts on helping to create a level playing field for all candidates.

WSJ Editorial Page: Cap and Trade War

Cap and Trade War. WSJ Editorial
Team Obama floats a carbon tariff.
WSJ, Mar 30, 2009

One of President Obama's applause lines is that his climate tax policies will create new green jobs "that can't be outsourced." But if that's true, why is his main energy adviser floating a new carbon tariff on imports? Welcome to the coming cap and trade war.

Energy Secretary Steven Chu made the protectionist point during an underreported House hearing this month, when he said tariffs and other trade barriers could be used as a "weapon" to force countries like China and India into cutting their own CO2 emissions. "If other countries don't impose a cost on carbon, then we will be at a disadvantage," he said. So a cap-and-trade policy won't be cost-free after all. Apparently Mr. Chu did not get the White House memo about obfuscating the impact of the Administration's anticarbon policies.

The Chinese certainly heard Mr. Chu, with Xie Zhenhua, a top economic minister, immediately responding that such a policy would be a "disaster" and "an excuse to impose trade restrictions." Beijing's reaction shows that as a means of coercing international cooperation, climate tariffs are worse than pointless. China and India are never going to endanger their own economic growth -- and the chance to lift hundreds of millions out of poverty -- merely to placate the climate neuroses of affluent Americans in Silicon Valley or Cambridge, Massachusetts. And they certainly won't do it under the threat of a tariff ultimatum.

But give Mr. Chu credit for candor. He had previously told the New York Times that "The concern about cap and trade in today's economic climate is that a lot of money might flow to developing countries in a way that might not be completely politically sellable." He is admitting that one byproduct of cap and trade is "leakage," by which investment and jobs are driven to nations that have looser or nonexistent climate regimes and therefore lower costs. At greatest risk are carbon-heavy industries such as steel, aluminum, paper, cement and chemicals that are sensitive to trade and where business is won and lost on the basis of pennies per unit of product. But the damage could strike almost any industry when energy prices "necessarily skyrocket," as Mr. Obama put it last year.

So in addition to all the other economic harm, a cap-and-trade tax will make foreign companies more competitive while eroding market share for U.S. businesses. The most harm will accrue to the very U.S. manufacturing and heavy-industry jobs that Democrats and unions claim to want to keep inside the U.S. A cap-and-tax plan would be the greatest outsourcing boon in history. And it may even increase CO2 emissions overall, because the developing nations where businesses are likely to relocate -- if they don't simply close -- tend to use energy less efficiently than does the U.S.

Meanwhile, carbon trade barriers would almost certainly violate U.S. obligations in the World Trade Organization. Since carbon energy cuts across so many industries, a tariff would presumably have to hit tens of thousands of products. Any restriction the U.S. imposes on imports can also just as easily be turned around and imposed on U.S. exports, whatever their carbon content.

Run-of-the-mill protectionism is already adopting a deeper shade of green. In January, the president of the European Commission said he may slap tariffs on goods from the U.S. and other non-Kyoto Protocol nations to protect European business. After Mr. Chu's comments, the U.S. steel lobby began calling for sanctions against Chinese steelmakers if Beijing doesn't commit to its own carbon limits, knowing full well that it won't. Look for more businesses to claim green virtue to justify special-interest pleading, a la the 54-cent U.S. tariff on foreign ethanol.

Democrats are already careless about trade -- i.e., the Mexican trucking spat, the "Buy America" provisions in the stimulus, and blocking the Colombia and South Korea free-trade pacts. Now cap and nontrade may lead to a retreat from the open global markets that have done so much to boost economic growth and innovation. The closer we get to the cap-and-trade dreams of Mr. Obama and Congress, the more dangerous they look.

The Real Afghan Issue Is Pakistan

The Real Afghan Issue Is Pakistan. By Graham Allison and John Deutch
WSJ, Mar 30, 2009

In announcing his new Afghanistan and Pakistan policy, President Barack Obama articulated "a clear and focused goal: to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat al Qaeda in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and to prevent their return to either country in the future."

This is a sound conception of both the threat and U.S. interests in the region. Mr. Obama took a giant step beyond the Bush administration's "Afghanistan policy" when he named the issue "AfPak" -- Afghanistan, Pakistan and their shared, Pashtun-populated border. But this is inverted. We suggest renaming the policy "PakAf," to emphasize that, from the perspective of U.S. interests and regional stability, the heart of the problem lies in Pakistan.

The fundamental question about Afghanistan is this: What vital national interest does the U.S. have there? President George W. Bush offered an ever-expanding answer to this question. As he once put it, America's goal is "a free and peaceful Afghanistan," where "reform and democracy" would serve as "the alternatives to fanaticism, resentment and terror."

In sharp contrast, during the presidential campaign Mr. Obama declared that America has one and only one vital national interest in Afghanistan: to ensure that it "cannot be used as a base to launch attacks against the United States." To which we would add the corollary: that developments in Afghanistan not undermine Pakistan's stability and assistance in eliminating al Qaeda.

Consider a hypothetical. Had the terrorist attacks of 9/11 been planned by al Qaeda from its current headquarters in ungoverned areas of Pakistan, is it conceivable that today the U.S. would find itself with 54,000 troops and $180 billion committed to transforming medieval Afghanistan into a stable, modern nation?

For Afghanistan to become a unitary state ruled from Kabul, and to develop into a modern, prosperous, poppy-free and democratic country would be a worthy and desirable outcome. But it is not vital for American interests.

After the U.S. and NATO exit Afghanistan and reduce their presence and financial assistance to levels comparable to current efforts in the Sudan, Somalia or Bangladesh, one should expect Afghanistan to return to conditions similar to those regions. Such conditions are miserable. They are deserving of American and international development and security assistance. But, as in those countries, it is unrealistic to expect anything more than a slow, difficult evolution towards modernity.

The problem in Pakistan is more pressing and direct. There, the U.S. does have larger vital national interests. Top among these is preventing Pakistan's arsenal of nuclear weapons and materials from falling into the hands of terrorists such as Osama bin Laden. This danger is not hypothetical -- the father of Pakistan's nuclear bomb, A.Q. Khan, is now known to have been the world's first nuclear black marketer, providing nuclear weapons technology and materials to Libya, North Korea and Iran.

Protecting Pakistan's nuclear arsenal requires preventing radical Islamic extremists from taking control of the country.

Furthermore, the U.S. rightly remains committed to preventing the next 9/11 attack by eliminating global terrorist threats such as al Qaeda. This means destroying their operating headquarters and training camps, from which they can plan more deadly 9/11s.

The counterterrorism strategy in Pakistan that has emerged since last summer offers our best hope for regional stability and success in dealing a decisive blow against al Qaeda and what Vice President Joe Biden calls "incorrigible" Taliban adherents. But implementing these operations requires light U.S. footprints backed by drones and other technology that allows missile attacks on identified targets. The problem is that the U.S. government no longer seems to be capable of conducting covert operations without having them reported in the press.

This will only turn Pakistani public opinion against the U.S. Many Pakistanis see covert actions carried out inside their country as America "invading an ally." This makes it difficult for Pakistani officials to support U.S. operations while sustaining widespread popular support.

As Mr. Biden has warned: "It is hard to imagine a greater nightmare for America than the world's second-largest Muslim nation becoming a failed state in fundamentalists' hands, with an arsenal of nuclear weapons and a population larger than Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan and North Korea combined."

Avoiding this nightmare will require concentration on the essence of the challenge: Pakistan. On the peripheries, specifically Afghanistan, Mr. Obama should borrow a line from Andrew Jackson from the battle of New Orleans and order his administration to "elevate them guns a little lower."

Mr. Allison is director of the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government and author of "Nuclear Terrorism: The Ultimate Preventable Catastrophe" (Holt Paperbacks, 2005). Mr. Deutch is a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a former director of the Central Intelligence Agency under President Bill Clinton.

David Horowitz on Obama Derangement Syndrome

Obama Derangement Syndrome. By David Horowitz
FrontPageMagazine.com Monday, March 30, 2009

I have been watching an interesting phenomenon on the Right, which is beginning to cause me concern. I am referring to the over-the-top hysteria in response to the first months in office of our new president, which distinctly reminds me of the “Bush Is Hitler” crowd on the Left.

Speaking of this crowd, have you seen any “I am so sorry” postings from that quarter as Obama continues and even escalates the former president's war policy in Afghanistan and attempts to consolidate his military occupation of Iraq?

Conservatives, please. Let's not duplicate the manias of the Left as we figure out how to deal with Mr. Obama. He is not exactly the anti-Christ, although a disturbing number of people on the Right are convinced he is.

I have recently received commentaries that claim that "Obama's speeches are unlike any political speech we have heard in American history" and "never has a politician in this land had such a quasi-religious impact on so many people" and "Obama is a narcissist," which leads the author to then compare Obama to David Koresh, Charles Manson, Stalin and Saddam Hussein. Excuse me while I blow my nose.

This fellow has failed to notice that all politicians are narcissists – and that a recent American president was a world-class exponent of the imperial me. So what? Political egos are one of the reasons the Founders put checks and balances on executive power. As for serial lying, is there a politician that cannot be accused of that? And once, the same recent president set a pretty a high bar in this category, and we survived it. As for Obama's speeches, they are hardly in the Huey Long, Louie Farrakhan, Fidel Castro vein. They are in fact eloquently and cleverly centrist and sober.

So what's the panic? It is true that Obama has shown surprising ineptitude in his first months in office, but he's not a zero with no accomplishments as many conservatives seem to think – unless you regard beating the Clinton machine and winning the presidency as nothing. But in doing this you fall into the “Bush-is-an-idiot” bag of liberal miasmas.

It is also true Obama has ceded his domestic economic agenda to the House Democrats and spent a lot of money in the process. But what’s the surprise in this? After all, Bush and McCain both proposed (and in Bush's case pushed through) massive government giveaways (which amount to government takeovers as well). This is bad, but it doesn't make Obama a closet Mussolini, however deplorable the conservatives among us may regard it. Moreover, he's already run into political resistance even within his own party. Charlie Rangel has made it clear that the itemized deduction tax hike is not going through his committee – and that should tell you that the American system, the one the Founders created, is still in place.

Even as astute a conservative thinker as Mark Steyn has been swept up in the tide that thinks Obama is a “transformative” radical. But look again at his approach to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. In both cases, as noted, he is carrying out the Bush policies – the same that he once joined his fellow Democrats in condemning. And that should be reassuring to anyone concerned about where he is heading as commander-in-chief.

In other words, while it's reasonable to be unhappy with a Democratic administration and even concerned because the Democrats are now a socialist party in the European sense, we are not witnessing the coming of the anti-Christ. A good strategy for political conflicts is to understand your opponent first – not to underestimate him, but not to overestimate him either.
Once conservatives do that, they will find some silver linings in the first moves of the Obama administration. Through a combination of ineptitude and zeal, Obama has in two short months locked down the conservative and Republican base. On fetal stem-cell research, on borders (e-verification), on spending, on unions, on shutting down talk radio, Obama has flexed the leftist muscle so nakedly and unmistakably that there isn’t a conservative left who will vote Democratic in the next election (and there were many who did so in the last).

As we move forward, Obama faces increasingly tough choices in the wars against Islamic fascism in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Gaza and Iran. Hopefully, he will make the right choices, and should he do so conservatives will need to be there to support him. If he makes the wrong choices, conservatives will need to be there to oppose him. But neither our support nor our opposition should be based on hysterical responses to policies that we just don't like. Let’s leave that kind of behavior to the liberals who invented it.

David Horowitz is the founder of The David Horowitz Freedom Center and author of the new book, One Party Classroom.

The Progressive: We should stop treating our schools as businesses

Schools are not businesses. By Wayne Au, Bill Bigelow, and David Levine
We should stop treating our schools as businesses.
The Progressive, March 24, 2009

Since the early 20th century, prominent business leaders have acted on the belief that since they are good at making money, they are the most qualified people to decide how to best educate the country’s young.

Entranced by the power and efficiency of American industry, many educational leaders have looked to these businessmen for leadership and for models of operation. They have tried to govern school systems as if they were corporations, organize schools as if they were something akin to factories and orient education toward testing and tracking students toward presumed “real world” destinies.

Today’s mantra is to allow the much-ballyhooed magic of the market to solve educational problems. Thus the emphasis on consumer choice among schools through vouchers or charters or plans to pay teachers based on test-score improvements.

There are many flaws inherent in imagining that schools will work well once they adopt factory or free-market models. Perhaps most fundamental is the presumption that schools work best when they emulate business.

But schools are not businesses.

When they flourish, they are living communities defined by powerful and caring collaboration.

Students are not things to be produced. They are human beings who are learning and growing in ways that are too complex for any standardized scores to truly measure.

Nor are teachers mere robots that drill students in how to take a test. The most talented and dedicated teacher is better nourished by a supportive work culture than by narrow appeals to individual self-interest, which pit teacher against teacher.

The purposes of schooling should not be degraded into privatized preparation toward the fattest paycheck.

Clearly, schools should prepare students to earn decent livelihoods. But just as importantly, they should prepare students to look toward — and even demand — jobs that are a major source of fulfillment and creative expression.

Schools should go far beyond preparing students for work. There are many non-market (perhaps even anti-market) lessons that schools impart: They inculcate an appreciation of the arts, establish healthy habits of exercise, teach cooperation, promote citizenship and show our children how to live together peacefully.

If schools do these tasks well, students when they become adults are much more likely to participate in socially positive ways, such as creating art and music, preventing domestic violence, working for racial equality, promoting clean energy and opposing war.

We have to remember, education is a humane and human process with social values beyond the bottom line. Business leaders have no expertise in this quest, and business models do not apply.
For that matter, now that casino capitalism has imploded, isn’t it time to stop looking to the corporate elite for advice on how to run the schools? These “experts”— the bankers and corporate CEOs — couldn’t even manage the one thing they are supposed to be good at: running their own businesses.

Educators should shed their subordinate status and sense of inferiority. Schools work best when teachers — in dialogue with parents and other citizens — design the educational experience, not corporate officials.

Wayne Au, Bill Bigelow and David Levine are editors of Rethinking Schools (www.rethinkingschools.org), a quarterly magazine based in Milwaukee.

WaPo: Immigrants from the storm-ravaged Haiti should be allowed to stay in the US

Hope for Haitians? WaPo Editorial
Immigrants from the storm-ravaged island should be allowed to stay in the United States.
Monday, March 30, 2009; A16

HAITI WAS already an island of unimaginable suffering, a country ravaged by war and roving gangs where four out of five residents lived in extreme poverty. Then, in less than a month last year, four vicious storms lashed it, killing up to 800 people, leaving as many as 1 million homeless and inflicting at least $1 billion in damage -- 15 percent of the country's gross domestic product. The State Department cautions visitors that there are no "safe areas" in Haiti, and that "kidnapping, death threats, murders, drug-related shootouts, armed robberies, break-ins and carjackings are common." Yet, it is U.S. policy to deport the estimated 30,000 Haitians in this country back to this hotbed of violence and squalor. The United States grants temporary protected status (TPS) to immigrants from countries with extreme economic or political conditions; Haitian immigrants more than qualify.

Haitians in the United States are one of the few sources of stability for their home country, sending back remittances that total an estimated one-fourth of the Haiti's GDP. Deporting Haitians, and thereby diminishing millions of dollars in what is essentially foreign aid, would devastate a country that can ill afford to take more economic hits. A surge of deportees, who would arrive without either homes or jobs, would also place an impossible burden on Haiti's skeletal social services.

Critics say that granting TPS would bring a rush of Haitians to the United States in search of citizenship. But TPS would apply only to Haitians in the United States at the time the order is issued. As the Miami-Dade Board of County Commissioners in Florida wrote recently in a letter to President Obama, there was no "mass exodus" of Haitians to the United States after the Clinton administration granted a stay of deportation in 1998.

The Bush administration was consistently inflexible on the issue, turning down Haitian applications for TPS with minimal explanation. After last year's storms, the Bush administration temporarily suspended the deportations, only to resume them months later, while the country was still reeling from the disasters. The Obama administration has so far maintained the Bush administration's policy, but advocates have met with Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and were encouraged by her response.

Mr. Obama recently issued an order that allowed Liberian immigrants to stay temporarily in the United States. Immigrants from Somalia, El Salvador, Nicaragua and Honduras have also been granted TPS in recent years. Why are immigrants from a disaster-wracked country that is the poorest in the hemisphere less deserving?

WaPo on Russia: Mr. Obama isn't contemplating change solely on the part of the US

Russia's Reset. WaPo Editorial
Mr. Obama isn't contemplating change solely on the part of the United States.
WaPo, Monday, March 30, 2009; A16

WITH A FIRST presidential meeting set for this week between Barack Obama and Russia's Dmitry Medvedev, it appears that the two sides may have different ideas of what to expect from the "reset" in relations that the Obama administration has promised.

The Russian view seems to be that the resetting has to come primarily from the Americans. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov furthered that impression in an interview with the Financial Times last week. "Practically on any problematic issue which we inherited from the past eight years, I understand the Obama administration is undertaking a review which we welcome," Mr. Lavrov said. Russian officials appear to hope that such a review will mean less U.S. pressure to form a united front against Iran's development of a nuclear weapon and, above all, acceptance of a Russian "sphere of influence" over countries that were once part of the Soviet Union or the Warsaw Pact -- what Mr. Medvedev has called "a region of privileged interest."

Indications from Washington, recently reinforced by Mr. Obama, suggest that his administration does not share this view of a one-sided need for change. The administration is hoping for improved relations across a range of issues, including Iran, Afghanistan, and fighting terrorism and the spread of nuclear weapons. It will be more willing than the Bush administration to engage in arms control talks, especially to extend the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, which expires at the end of this year. But Mr. Obama has given no signs of being less alarmed than was President George W. Bush about Iran's nuclear program and certainly has shown no willingness to acquiesce in the "privileged" position that Mr. Medvedev claims over his neighbors.

On the contrary, at the same time that Vice President Biden introduced the "reset" concept, in a speech in February in Munich, he also repudiated the concept of spheres of influence. And after meeting with the secretary general of NATO last Wednesday, Mr. Obama reiterated the point. "My administration is seeking a reset of the relationship with Russia," the president said, "but . . . we are going to continue to abide by the central belief that countries who seek and aspire to join NATO are able to join NATO." The message: Georgia and Ukraine, former Soviet republics, should be free to form and join alliances as they choose, notwithstanding Russia's vitriolic objections.

The administration believes, in other words, that it can develop constructive relations with Russia without sacrificing the interests of Russia's neighbors. Whether such a reset will be acceptable to Mr. Medvedev or to Russia's de facto top ruler, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, remains to be seen.

Conservative comments on WaPo and Abu Zubaydah

The Post and Abu Zubaydah. By Marc Thiessen
The Corner/NRO, Mar 30, 2009


[The assault] on the CIA program continues with today’s front-page story about the interrogation of Abu Zubaydah: “Detainees Harsh Treatment Foiled No Plots.” The story, like so many on this program, is rife with errors and misinformation.

For example, the Post states:

“Abu Zubaida quickly told U.S. interrogators of [Khalid Sheikh] Mohammed and of others he knew to be in al-Qaeda, and he revealed the plans of the low-level operatives who fled Afghanistan with him. Some were intent on returning to target American forces with bombs; others wanted to strike on American soil again, according to military documents and law enforcement sources. Such intelligence was significant but not blockbuster material. Frustrated, the Bush administration ratcheted up the pressure — for the first time approving the use of increasingly harsh interrogations, including waterboarding.”

This is either uninformed or intentionally misleading.

In fact, what Abu Zubaydah disclosed to the CIA during this period was that the fact that KSM was the mastermind behind the 9/11 attacks and that his code name was “Muktar” – something Zubaydah thought we already knew, but in fact we did not. Intelligence officials had been trying for months to figure out who “Muktar” was. This information provided by Zubaydah was a critical piece of the puzzle that allowed them to pursue and eventually capture KSM. This fact, in and of itself, discredits the premise of the Post story – to suggest that the capture of KSM was not information that “foiled plots” to attack America is absurd on the face of it.

The Post also acknowledges that Zubaydah’s “interrogations led directly to the arrest of Jose Padilla” but dismisses Padilla as the man behind a fanciful “dirty bomb” plot and notes that Padilla was never charged in any such plot. In fact, Padilla was a hardened terrorist who had trained in al Qaeda camps in Afghanistan, and was a protégé of al Qaeda’s third in command, Mohammed Atef. And when he was captured, Padilla was being prepared for a much more sinister and realistic attack on America.

In June of 2001, Padilla met in Afghanistan with Atef, who asked him if he was willing to undertake a mission to blow up apartment buildings in the United States using natural gas. He agreed, and was sent to a training site near the Kandahar airport to prepare for the attack under close supervision of an al Qaeda explosives expert, who taught him about switches, circuits, and timers needed to carry it out. He was training in Afghanistan when Coalition forces launched Operation Enduring Freedom. Atef was killed by a Coalition airstrike, and Padilla joined the other al Qaeda operatives fleeing Afghanistan.

It was at this time that he met Abu Zubaydah, who helped arranged his passage across the Afghan-Pakistan border. At the time, Padilla told Zubaydah of his idea of a “dirty bomb” plot. Zubaydah was skeptical but sent him to see KSM, and told KSM he was free to use Padilla for his planned follow on operations in the US. Instead of the dirty bomb plot, KSM directed Padilla and an accomplice to undertake the apartment buildings operation for which he had initially trained. KSM’s right-hand man, Ammar al Baluchi, gave Padilla $10,000 in cash, travel documents, a cell phone, and an email address to be used to notify al Baluchi once Padilla arrived in America. The night before his departure, KSM, al Baluchi, and KSM’s nephew and 9/11 plotter Ramzi bin al Shibh hosted a farewell dinner for him and his accomplice. Think about that for a moment: Padilla was feted at a dinner the night of his departure for America by the mastermind of 9/11, and two of his key accomplices.

Padilla left Pakistan on April 5, 2002 bound for the US by way of Zurich. En route, he spent a month in Egypt, and then arrived in Chicago’s O’Hare airport on May 8 where he was apprehended – because, even the Post acknowledges, of the information provided by Abu Zubaydah. At the time of his apprehension, he was carrying the $10,000 given him by his al Qaeda handlers, the cell phone, and the email address for al Baluchi. (For a detailed account of Jose Padilla’s activities, see this speech by former Deputy Attorney General James Comey.
So again, the premise of the Post story, is wrong.

Since his capture, Abu Zubaydah had provided the CIA with the critical link that had identified KSM as “Muktar” and the mastermind of 9/11, as well as information that led to the capture of Padilla and the disruption of a planned attack on the American homeland. The CIA knew he had more information that could save American lives, but now he had stopped talking. So the CIA used enhanced interrogation techniques to get him talking again -- and these techniques worked.

Zubaydah soon he began to provide information on key al Qaeda operatives, including information that helped us find and capture more of those responsible for the attacks on September the 11th, including Ramzi bin al Shibh. At the time of his capture, bin al Shibh had been working in Karachi on follow-on operations against the West – including a plot to hijack passenger planes in Europe and fly them into Heathrow airport. Bin al Shibh had identified four operatives for the operation, when he was taken into custody.

Together Zubaydah and bin al Shibh provided information that helped in the planning and execution of the operation that captured KSM. KSM then provided information that led to the capture of a Southeast Asian terrorist named Zubair—an operative with the terrorist network Jemmah Islamiyah, or JI. Zubair then provided information that led to the capture of a JI terrorist leader named Hambali—KSM's partner in developing a plot to hijack passenger planes and fly them into the tallest building on the West Coast: the Library Tower in Los Angeles. Told of Hambali's capture, KSM identified Hambali's brother "Gun Gun" as his successor and provided information that led to his capture. Hambali's brother then gave us information that led us to a cell of JI operatives that were going to carry out the West Coast plot.

KSM also provided vital information that led to the disruption of an al Qaeda cell that was developing anthrax for attacks inside the United States. He gave us information that helped us capture Ammar al Baluchi. At the time of his capture, al Baluchi was working with bin al Shibh on the Heathrow plot, as well as a plot to carry out an attack against the US consulate in Karachi. According to his CIA biography, al Baluchi “was within days of completing preparations for the Karachi plot when he was captured.”

In addition, KSM and other senior terrorists helped identify individuals that al Qaeda deemed suitable for Western operations, many of whom we had never heard about before. These included terrorists who were sent to case targets inside the United States, including financial buildings in major cities on the East Coast. They painted a picture of al Qaeda's structure and financing, and communications and logistics. They identified al Qaeda's travel routes and safe havens, and explained how al Qaeda's senior leadership communicates with its operatives in places like Iraq. They provided information that allowed the CIA to make sense of documents and computer records that we have seized in terrorist raids. They identified voices in recordings of intercepted calls, and helped us understand the meaning of potentially critical terrorist communications. It is the official assessment of our intelligence community that “Were it not for this program, our intelligence community believes that al Qaeda and its allies would have succeeded in launching another attack against the American homeland.”

And the whole chain I have just described began with the interrogation of Abu Zubaydah.

The Left is desperate to discredit the efficacy of this program, and they have launched a desperate campaign to destroy it. Last week it was the leak of an ICRC document describing some of the techiques allegedly used in the program – one of the most damaging leaks of classified information since the war on terror began because it allows al Qaeda to train against the techniques. And now we have this highly uninformed front-page story in the Washington Post. All of this is incredibly damaging to the security of the United States. And if America is attacked again, those responsible for the disclosure of this information will bear much of the blame.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Nosophobia and Fear of Invisible Toxins

Nosophobia and Fear of Invisible Toxins. By Jack Dini
ACSH, March 27, 2009

“If it smells bad, it’s bad; if it smells good, it’s bad,” says Aileen Gagney, asthma and environmental health manager with the American Lung Association in Seattle. (1) Obviously then, the key to a healthy life is to have no smells around you. How unfortunate, since we are excellent smellers!

The tongue can detect sweetness at a dilution of one part in 200, saltiness at one in 400, sourness at one in 130,000, and bitterness at one in 2 million. (2) All of this pales when compared with our ability to detect extremely low levels of smells (i.e., in the range of 50 parts per trillion to 800 parts per billion. (3)

If you are inclined to agree with Ms. Gagney, perhaps you have nosophobia, the irrational fear of contracting a disease -- or perhaps I should say nose-ophobia, since we so often hear of people fearful of contracting a disease by smelling. Let’s talk about fragrances and smoking to provide some present-day examples.

Elizabeth Whelan reports, “Fragrances now join a growing list of allegedly harmful products -- plastic bottles, rubber duckies, shower curtains, Astroturf, traditional produce raised with agricultural chemicals, aspartame, acrylamide, etc. The list seems to be growing like…well, ‘toxic mold.’ Nosophobia is causing us to abandon safe, useful products of modern technology to avoid phantom risks while obscuring the real risks around us. While parents are fretting over BPA traces in baby bottles or phthalates in plastic toys, they may well be giving short shrift to the real threats to their children’s health, including failure to use seatbelts, bike helmets, smoke detectors, vaccinations, proper nutrition and exercise.” (4)

When University of Washington professor Anne Steinemann analyzed a variety of fragranced consumer products such as air fresheners, laundry supplies, personal care products and cleaners, she found 100 different volatile organic compounds (VOCs) measuring 300 micrograms/m3, or more. (5)

Wow, you say! Sounds scary! But, let’s look at concentrations. VOCs were identified from GC/MS headspace analysis. Only those with a headspace concentration of greater than 300 micrograms/m3 were reported. Average headspace concentrations of VOCs for the six products tested ranged from 1,000 micrograms/m3 to 74,000 micrograms/m3. In Steinemann’s work, 10 of the 100 volatile organic compounds identified qualified under federal rules as toxic or hazardous, and two of those; 1,4-dioxane and acetaldehyde are classified as Hazardous Air Pollutants (HAPs). (5)

What are OSHA permissible exposure limits for 1,4-dioxane and acetaldehyde? The current OSHA permissible exposure limit for dioxane is 100 ppm (350 milligrams/m3) as an 8-hour time-weighted average. Note: THIS IS 1000 TIMES THE LEVEL reported in Steinemann’s paper. A similar case can be made for acetaldehyde. The OSHA 8-hour time-weighted average for acetaldehyde is 200 ppm (360 milligrams/m3). So, for the fragrance scare we’re talking about the amounts are considerably below allowable regulations. Yet, the comment is made; “Consumers are breathing these chemicals. No one is doing anything about it.” (1) Great scare tactics!

These days scientists can find anything in any thing and as this example shows, it can lead to a problem. The minute that something is found in food, in someone’s blood, in the air, etc., some folks get very concerned and start creating a lot of fuss. The very act of being able to measure something can give the impression that if it’s quantifiable, it’s dangerous. How unfortunate, since scientists are getting more clever all the time. Folks forget the old adage that ‘the dose makes the poison,’ and act on the principle that just the fact that anything is found is cause for alarm.

Here’s another one for nosophobiasts. There is now such a thing as ‘third hand smoke.’ Dr. Jonathan Winickoff, lead author of a recent paper in Pediatrics, says the following, “If the smell of the cigarettes lingers, so does the danger. Your nose isn’t lying. If your body detects it, then it’s there,” he says. Sounds like the opening comments in this article from Aileen Gagney.

What was the scientific study, which incidentally was given great TV coverage by Dr. Nancy Snyderman of the Today Show? Dr. Winickoff and his colleagues surveyed 1,500 households across the US and asked folks if they agreed with the statements:

• Breathing air in a car today where people smoked yesterday can harm the health of babies and children.
• Breathing air in a room where people smoked yesterday can harm the health of babies and children.

Those surveyed who stated they agreed or agreed strongly were categorized as believing third hand smoke harmed the health of babies and children. This is the “evidence” that third hand smoke had been “identified” as a health danger. (6)

Think about this for a moment. You could have been called as part of this survey and had your chance to play ‘scientist’ and provide data for this analysis. You may not like third hand smoke, but is a telephone solicitation of non-scientists really scientific evidence that it is bad?

There turned out to be much more to this story. What consumers didn’t hear from reporters was that it was conducted by the National Social Climate Survey of Tobacco Control, a special interest group working to legislate bans on tobacco. The Tobacco Consortium, which sets the group’s agenda, is chaired by Dr. Winickoff of Harvard and the lead author of this paper. Makes one wonder about the review process for papers that appear in the journal Pediatrics.

For that matter, a fair number of scientists debate whether second hand smoke exposure during childhood is harmful to long-term health. Sandy Szwarc reports, “The world’s largest study ever done to examine the association between exposure to environmental tobacco smoke (ETS) and lung cancer was conducted by the International Agency for Research on Cancer in Lyon, France, and published in 1998 in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute. (7) It included lung cancer patients up to 74 years of age, and a control group, in 12 centers from seven European countries, looking at cases of lung cancer and exposures to ETS. They found ‘no association between childhood exposure and ETS and lung cancer risk.’” (8)

The authors of the Pediatrics article suggested dangers at exposure levels far below the levels of second hand smoke -- third hand smoke exposures -- even without regard to ventilation, the number of cigarettes parents smoked, or length of exposure.

Szwarc adds, “Any exposure at all, and at levels barely detectable with modern instrumentation, is now being suggested as able to cause cancer and brain damage in children. This turns everything that science knows about toxicology on its head and denies the most fundamental law: that the dose makes the poison. In other words, there is no credible medical evidence to support the suggestion that trace exposures lingering in the air or on clothing are harming children.” (8)

In an entertaining and insightful opinion piece for the Daily Mail, Tom Utley, a smoker described what scare tactics like these, that are such obvious hoaxes, actually undermine the effectiveness of efforts to reduce smoking and exposures to children. No one is arguing that smoking is a healthful habit or would encourage young people to take up smoking, but he ‘most vehemently challenged Dr. Winickoff’s right to dress up this insulting, scaremongering, palpable drivel as science.’ Utley adds, “The very last thing I want is to encourage anybody to take up my disgusting and ruinously expensive habit, which I’m sure will be the death of me. But then I hear the latest hysterical rubbish from the anti-smoking lobby and my determination to remain silent goes the same way as my annual New Year’s resolution to give up the vile weed. Why, when there are so many excellent reasons to quit, do these fanatics feel obliged to keep on inventing new and obviously bogus ones? (9)

Szwarc concludes, “This is one of the most egregious examples of the increasingly common and unethical practice of politicizing science and using a ‘study’ to advance an agenda of a biased media failing to do its job. Neither is in the interest of the facts or truth. The healthiest thing for all of us might be a helpful dose of common sense and respect for other people’s choices. Otherwise, we may next hear about the dangers of fourth hand smoke, a term coined by John Boston of the Santa Clarita Valley Signal: someone sitting next to someone who is thinking about someone else smoking. And someone will believe it and report is as news.” (8)


1. Lisa Stiffler, “Fresh scent may hide toxic secret,” seattlepi.com, July 23, 2008
2. Peter Farb amd George Armelagos, Consuming Passions, (Boston, Houghton Mifflin Company, 1980), 22
3. Herbert S. Rosenkranz and Albert R. Cunningham, “Environmental odors and health hazards,” The Science of the Total Environment, 313, 15, 2003
4. Elizabeth M. Whelan, “Toxics (from Seattle Post-Intelligencer)”, American Council on Science and Health, July 25, 2008
5. Anne C. Steinemann, “Fragranced consumer products and undisclosed ingredients,” Environ. Impact Asses. Rev., (2008), doi;10.1016/j.eiar.2008.05.002
6. Jonathan P Winickoff et al., “Beliefs About the Health Effects of ‘Third hand’ Smoke and Home Smoking Bans,” Pediatrics, 123, e74, January 1, 2009
7. B. P. Agudo et al., “Multicenter case-control study of exposure to environmental tobacco smoke and lung cancer in Europe,” J. Natl. Cancer Inst., 90, 1440, October 7, 1998
8. Sandy Szwarc, “Third hand smoke and chemtrials -- invisible toxin fears,” junkfoodscience.com, January 10, 2009
9. Tom Utley, dailymail.co.uk, January 9, 2009

Jack Dini is a scientist and science writer living in Livermore, CA.

Three Mile Island and Chernobyl: What Went Wrong and Why Today’s Reactors Are Safe

Three Mile Island and Chernobyl: What Went Wrong and Why Today’s Reactors Are Safe. By Jack Spencer and Nicolas Loris
Heritage, WebMemo #2367, March 27, 2009

This Saturday marks the 30th anniversary of the partial meltdown of the Three Mile Island (TMI) nuclear reactor. This ofccasion is a good time to consider the advances in nuclear power safety since that time and discuss the misinformation about this incident and the 1986 nuclear accident in Chernobyl, Ukraine, which is often associated with TMI.

Three Mile Island: What Happened

On March 28, 1979, a cooling circuit pump in the non-nuclear section of Three Mile Island's second station (TMI-2) malfunctioned, causing the reactor's primary coolant to heat and internal pressure to rise. Within seconds, the automated response mechanism thrust control rods into the reactor and shut down the core. An escape valve opened for 10 seconds to vent steam into a pressurizer, as it was supposed to, but it failed to close. Control room operators only saw that a "close" command was sent to the relief valve, but nothing displayed the valve's actual position.[1] With the valve open, too much steam escaped into the pressurizer, sending misinformation to operators that there was too much pressure in the coolant system. Operators then shut down the water pumps to relieve the "pressure."

Operators allowed coolant levels inside the reactor to fall, leaving the uranium core exposed, dry, and intensely hot. Even though inserting control rods halted the fission process, the TMI-2 reactor core continued to generate about 160 megawatts of "decay" heat, declining over the next three hours to 20 megawatts.[2] Approximately one-third of the TMI-2 reactor was exposed and began to melt.

By the time operators discovered what was happening, superheated and partially radioactive steam built up in auxiliary tanks, which operators then moved to waste tanks through compressors and pipes. The compressors leaked. The steam leakage released a radiation dose equivalent to that of a chest X-ray scan, about one-third of the radiation humans absorb in one year from naturally occurring background radiation.[3] No damage to any person, animal, or plant was ever found.[4]

The Outcome

The local population of 2 million people received an average estimated dose of about 1 millirem--miniscule compared to the 100-125 millirems that each person receives annually from naturally occurring background radiation in the area. Nationally, the average person receives 360 millirems per year.[5]

No significant radiation effects on humans, animals, or plants were found. In fact, thorough investigation and sample testing of air, water, milk, vegetation, and soil found that there were negligible effects and concluded that the radiation was safely contained.[6] The most recent and comprehensive study was a 13-year evaluation of 32,000 people living in the area that found no adverse health effects or links to cancer.[7]

Technological Improvements and Lessons Learned

A number of technological and procedural changes have been implemented by industry and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to considerably reduce the risk of a meltdown since the 1979 incident. These include:

  • Plant design and equipment upgrades, including fire protection, auxiliary feedwater systems, containment building isolation, and automatic plant shut down capabilities;
  • Enhanced emergency preparedness, including closer coordination between federal, state, and local agencies;
  • Integration of NRC observations, findings, and conclusions about plant performance and management into public reports;
  • Regular plant performance analysis by senior NRC managers who identify plants that require additional regulatory attention;
  • Expansion of NRC's resident inspector program, whereby at least two inspectors live nearby and work exclusively at each plant;
  • Expanded performance- and safety-oriented inspections;
  • Additional accident safety equipment to mitigate and monitor conditions during accidents; and[8]
  • Establishment of the Institute for Nuclear Power Operators, an industry-created non-profit organization that evaluates plants, promotes training and information sharing, and helps individual plants overcome technical issues.

Chernobyl: What Happened

Seven years after the incident at Three Mile Island, on April 25, 1986, a crew of engineers with little background in reactor physics began an experiment at the Chernobyl nuclear station. They sought to determine how long the plant's turbines' inertia could provide power if the main electrical supply to the station was cut. Operators chose to deactivate automatic shutdown mechanisms to carry out their experiment.[9]

The four Chernobyl reactors were known to become unstable at low power settings,[10] and the engineers' experiment caused the reactors to become exactly that. When the operators cut power and switched to the energy from turbine inertia, the coolant pump system failed, causing heat and extreme steam pressure to build inside the reactor core. The reactor experienced a power surge and exploded, blowing off the cover lid of the reactor building, and spewed radioactive gasses and flames for nine days.

The episode was exacerbated by a second design flaw: The Chernobyl reactors lacked fully enclosed containment buildings, a basic safety installation for commercial reactors in the U.S.[11]

The Outcome

Chernobyl was the result of human error and poor design. Of the approximately 50 fatalities, most were rescue workers who entered contaminated areas without being informed of the danger.

The World Heath Organization says that up to 4,000 fatalities could ultimately result from Chernobyl-related cancers. Though these could still emerge, as yet, they have not. The primary health effect was a spike in thyroid cancer among children, with 4,000-5,000 children diagnosed with the cancer between 1992 and 2002. Of these, 15 children unfortunately died. Though these deaths were unquestionably tragic, no clear evidence indicates any increase in other cancers among the most heavily affected populations.

Interestingly, the World Health Organization has also identified a condition called "paralyzing fatalism," which is caused by "persistent myths and misperceptions about the threat of radiation."[12] In other words, the propagation of ignorance by anti-nuclear activists has caused more harm to the affected populations than has the radioactive fallout from the actual accident. Residents of the area assumed a role of "chronic dependency" and developed an entitlement mentality because of the meltdown.[13]

Technology Improvements and Lessons Learned

Comparing the technology of the nuclear reactor at Chernobyl to U.S. reactors is not fair. First, the graphite-moderated, water-cooled reactor at Chernobyl maintained a high positive void coefficient. While the scientific explanation[14] of this characteristic is not important, its real-life application is. Essentially, it means that under certain conditions, coolant inefficiency can cause heightened reactivity. In other words, its reactivity can rapidly increase as its coolant heats (or is lost) resulting in more fissions, higher temperatures, and ultimately meltdown.[15]

This is in direct contrast to the light-water reactors used in the United States, which would shut down under such conditions. U.S. reactors use water to both cool and moderate the reactor. The coolant keeps the temperature from rising too much, and the moderator is used to sustain the nuclear reaction. As the nuclear reaction occurs, the water heats up and becomes a less efficient moderator (cool water facilitates fission better than hot water), thus causing the reaction to slow down and the reactor to cool. This characteristic makes light water reactors inherently safe and is why a Chernobyl-like reactor could never be licensed in the U.S.

Given the inherent problems with the Chernobyl reactor design, many technological changes and safety regulations were put in place to prevent another Chernobyl-like meltdown from occurring. Designers renovated the reactor to make it more stable at lower power, have the automatic shutdown operations activate quicker, and have automated and other safety mechanisms installed.[16]

Chernobyl also led to the formation of a number of international efforts to promote nuclear power plant safety through better training, coordination, and implantation of best practices. The World Association of Nuclear Operators is one such organization and includes every entity in the world that operates a nuclear power plant.

Myths Persist

The circumstances, causes, and conditions of the Chernobyl meltdown are far removed from the American experience. Important lessons should be taken from both accidents. Thankfully, many improvements in the technology and regulatory safety of nuclear reactors are among them.

Jack Spencer is Research Fellow in Nuclear Energy and Nicolas D. Loris is a Research Assistant in the Thomas A. Roe Institute for Economic Policy Studies at The Heritage Foundation.


[1]World Nuclear Association, "Three Mile Island: 1979," March 2001, at http://www.world-nuclear.org/info/inf36.html (March 26, 2009).
[2]Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of American History, "Three Mile Island: The Inside Story," at http://americanhistory.si.edu/tmi/tmi03.htm (March 26, 2009).
[3]American Nuclear Society, "What Happened and What Didn't in the TMI-2 Accident," at http://www.ans.org/pi/resources/sptopics/tmi/whathappened.html (March 26, 2009).
[4]U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, "Fact Sheet on the Three Mile Island Accident," http://www.nrc.gov/reading-rm/doc-collections/fact-sheets/3mile-isle.html (March 26, 2009). [5]United States Department of Energy, Office of Civilian Radioactive Waste Management, "Facts About Radiation," OCRWM Fact Sheet, January 2005, at http://www.ocrwm.doe.gov/factsheets/doeymp0403.shtml (November 6, 2008).
[6]Nuclear Regulatory Commission, "Fact Sheet on the Three Mile Island Accident."
[7]World Nuclear Association, "Three Mile Island: 1979."
[8] Fact Sheet on the Three Mile Island Accident" Nuclear Regulatory Commission at http://www.nrc.gov/reading-rm/doc-collections/fact-sheets/3mile-isle.html (June 24, 2008).
[9]For full description of what caused the accident at Chernobyl, see Richard Rhodes, Nuclear Renewal (New York: Penguin Books, 1993), ch. 5.
[10]World Nuclear Association, "Chernobyl Accident," May 2008, at http://www.world-nuclear.org/info/chernobyl/inf07.html (March 26, 2009).
[11]Simon Rippon et al., "The Chernobyl Accident," Nuclear News, June 1986, at http://www.ans.org/pi/resources/sptopics/chernobyl/docs/nn-1986-6-chernobyl-lores.pdf (March 26, 2009).
[12]Press release, "Chernobyl: The True Scale of the Accident," World Health Organization, International Atomic Energy Agency, and U.N. Development Programme, September 5, 2005, at http://www.who.int/mediacentre/news/releases/2005/pr38/en/print.html (November 6, 2008).
[13]World Nuclear Association, "Chernobyl Accident."
[14]"Neutron Kinetics of the Chernobyl Accident," ENS News, Summer 2006, at http://www.euronuclear.org/e-news/e-news-13/neutron-kinetics.htm (March 27, 2009).
[15]International Atomic Energy Agency, "The Chernobyl Accident: Updating of INSAG-1," 1992, at http://www-pub.iaea.org/MTCD/publications/PDF/Pub913e_web.pdf (August 27, 2008).