Unpacking for a Disaster

Source: Tom Dispatch

The first American responses to the triple calamity in Japan were deeply empathetic and then, as news of the Fukushima nuclear complex’s leaking radiation spread, a lot of people began to freak out about their own safety, and pretty soon you couldn’t find potassium iodide pills anywhere in San Francisco.  You couldn’t even — so a friend tells me — find them in Brooklyn.

The catastrophes were in Japan and remain that country’s tragedy, so we need to keep our own anxieties in check. Or harness them to make constructive changes in preparation for our own future disasters (without losing our compassion for those killed, orphaned, widowed, displaced — and contaminated — in northeastern Japan). But last week saw a deluge of bad information and free-floating fear in this country. read more

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Bolivia After the Storm

Source: Americas Program

At the end of December, the first popular uprising in the region against a government of the left took place in Bolivia. It was caused by an excessive increase in the price of fuels. The event demonstrates the difficulties of entering into a truly alternative mode of development, but it also reveals the limits of the Bolivian government’s stated effort to re-establish and decolonize the state.

The Ipsos Institute released a survey showing that the popularity of President Evo Morales fell from 84% in 2007 to 36% in January of 2011. The results are worse for Vice President Alvaro García Linera whose level of approval fell from 46% in November of 2010 to 29%. read more

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Libya intervention threatens the Arab spring

Source: Al Jazeera

Western air and naval strikes against Libya are threatening the Arab Spring.

Ironically, one of the reasons many people supported the call for a no-fly zone was the fear that if Gaddafi managed to crush the Libyan people’s uprising and remain in power, it would send a devastating message to other Arab dictators: Use enough military force and you will keep your job.

Instead, it turns out that just the opposite may be the result: It was after the UN passed its no-fly zone and use-of-force resolution, and just as US, British, French and other warplanes and warships launched their attacks against Libya, that other Arab regimes escalated their crack-down on their own democratic movements. read more