Tax Breaks for Corporations. Many have seen the CBS Reports sting operation in which a fake corrupt billionaire from Africa made the rounds of NYC lawyers to seek their help for illegal tax evasion. Most were eager to teach him how to create fake anonymous shell companies. Now the story breaks that European regulators want Apple Inc. to cough up $14.5 billion in back taxes. This is because Apple made a deal with Ireland that it would move subsidiaries there in return for paying no taxes. So from 2003 to 2014, Apple paid almost no taxes at all ($50 taxes for every $1 million in profit). Starbucks, Amazon, and McDonalds are doing the same thing. But don’t feel sorry for Apple. They made $230 billion last year. USC law school professor Edward Kleinbard observes that US companies are the grandmasters of tax avoidance. He says that they put as much energy into tax avoidance policies as they did into industrial design.
NFL Stadiums a rip-off for Vegas and San Diego. Michael Hiltzik writes that corporate welfare is on full display as obscenely rich corporations squeeze the public for free handouts. Case in point: Sheldon Adelson net worth $28.7 billion partnered with the Oakland Raiders and wants to raise taxes to pay for moving the team to a public-financed stadium in Las Vegas. Meanwhile, billionaire Alex Spanos wants San Diego to do the same thing to and give his Chargers a new stadium. The issue will be a ballot measure in November.
The Disaster at Fukushima Gets Worse. Just as we are about to start building the San Onofre Nuclear Waste Dump (also called the Darrell Issa Nuclear Waste Dump), news trickles out about the failure of the $320 million high tech ice wall at Fukushima which was supposed to contain 800,000 tons of radioactive water. The one mile long ice dam 100 feet deep consumes enormous amounts of power, uses a highly corrosive brine solution which can crack/break the cooling pipes, and sections switched on 4 months ago have yet to freeze. The system also does not contain Tritium (radioactive hydrogen) and TEPCO has no idea what to do about water contaminated with tritium. 40,000 gallons of ground water continue to pour into the contaminated reactors every day with nowhere to go (just like San Onofre nuclear waste has nowhere to go). Five robots have been sent into the reactor buildings and all failed to return. The government is in panic mode because Prime Minister Abe promised that Fukushima contamination will be under control by 2020 when Japan hosts the Olympics.
Nuclear Disasters Here in the US. Turning to our own nuclear disasters, the LAT recently ran a front page lead story about the fires and explosions at the nation’s only nuclear waste repository. The deep underground explosions from plutonium drums at the WIPP (Waste Isolation Pilot Plant) in Carlsbad, NM on Feb. 14, 2014 caused massive long term damage to the facility. The DOE initially trivialized the incident but what is now leaking out (in addition to radiation) is that the accident was much worse than previously disclosed. This follows the same pattern of lies about every nuclear incident (Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, Fukushima, etc.). The WIPP incident is among the most costly nuclear accident in US history. The current tab is $ 2 billion and still running. The facility is crucial for the military because it is the final resting place for nuclear weapons waste going back to World War II. It was supposed to be accepting 277,000 drums of nuclear waste from Hanford and the Idaho National Laboratory but now it cannot do so. It costs about $200 million/year to operate the dump but it was never designed to operate in a contaminated state. Designers assumed there would never be an accident. Spokesmen have suggested that the dump might never be able to resume full operations. This mirrors the current plight of civilian nuclear waste from nuclear power plants: it is all in temporary storage on site with no place to take it.
Don’t Forget Old Nuclear Disasters. A few months ago the NYT rehashed the Jan 17, 1966 refueling accident which caused a B-52 bomber to drop 4 H-bomb on a Spanish town. They did not explode but they covered the countryside with plutonium dust. The US rushed 1600 airmen in to dig up and cart away the contaminated soil. The US denied there was a nuclear accident and lied about the radiation dangers not only to the villagers but also to the airmen. They did not want the airmen to use protective gear because that might lead people to think that something was dangerous. They forced the soldiers to eat tomatoes from the contaminated farms to prove that there was nothing to worry about. They delayed an investigation, then botched it and destroyed evidence, then cancelled a program to treat the soldiers that got cancer. As more and more of them die of cancer, the US still refuses to treat them claiming lack of evidence. The official way to deal with radiation disasters remains simple: lie about it. The public was routinely deceived about the atomic bomb tests, the downwinders, the Human Radiation Experiments, Three Mile Island and contamination at hundreds of places like Rocky Flats, Santa Susana, Uravan, Rancho Seco and Hanford. It is pretty clear that all future radiation disasters will be handled the same way.
Does Living Near a Nuclear Power Plant Increase Cancer Risks? We may never know. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission recently blocked a scientific research study that the National Academy of Sciences wanted to do in the 31 mile radius around San Onofre. For details about this, go back to In the News for Summer of 2016. To protest, sign the petition to restart this research.
How Do the Chinese Deal with Radioactive Threats? Here is a modern morality play, a truly inspirational saga coming from Lianyungang, China, a coastal town north of Shanghai. In two reports in August, the NYT covered the massive protests that went on as citizens took to the streets to oppose a nuclear waste plant that the government wanted to build with Areva. Thousands of residents including families and children confronted police and gathered at the city center chanting “Oppose Nuclear Waste” and “Defend Our Home.” A survey of 1,616 residents found that 84% said they “worried about improper handling of nuclear waste.” Officials warned that the government will strike hard against lawbreakers and those spreading rumors about the dangers of nuclear waste. Citizens protested not only in person but on the internet with symbols such as the radiation sign with a red X across it. “The people of Lianyungnag don’t want radiation!”
Guess what? After days of passionate street protests, the government backed down and announced on Aug. 10 that it will halt any plans to build a nuclear plant in Lianyungage. Put this in perspective: The residents of this Chinese town are very well-informed about nuclear issues. They strongly oppose nuclear waste plants. They are willing to engage in massive protests in the streets. They stand up to authority.
Now compare this with cities and towns in Orange and San Diego counties where most people are ill-informed about nuclear waste, show little interest or concern, and are quite willing to accept what they are told by the government and the nuclear industry. Except for a relatively small number of activists, most people are compliant and would never think of protesting. The net result: A huge nuclear waste dump (several thousand tons of uranium and plutonium) is now being crammed down the throat of the residents of southern California. The Chinese would never stand for this but apparently the Americans will.
Protests against nuke waste in China: