Bird’s Eye: This should have been the headline in every newspaper in the world: Tepco (who ran Fukushima) admits they knew the nuclear power plant needed more protection, but they didn’t improve safety for fear it would lend support to anti-nuclear groups. That leads naturally into a zombie mask (it should lead to a firing squad, but.) The Guardian’s editorial notes the disaster that is Afghanistan, and we have two followups on drug issues, both legal and otherwise. The closing graph, which shows how anti-drug spending has had zero effect on drug use, is a keeper.
The company at the centre of Japan’s worst nuclear crisis has acknowledged for the first time that it could have avoided the disaster that crippled the Fukushima Daiichi power plant last year.
In a reversal of its insistence that nothing could have protected the plant against the earthquake and tsunami that killed almost 20,000 people on 11 March, Tokyo Electric Power (Tepco) said it had known safety improvements were needed before the disaster, but had failed to implement them.
….In a rare moment of introspection, an internal task force set up to reform the embattled utility said the firm feared that improvements in safety would highlight the risks to nuclear power plants and encourage the anti-nuclear lobby. “There was a worry that if the company were to implement a severe-accident response plan, it would spur anxiety throughout the country and in the communities near where nuclear plants are sited, and lend momentum to the anti-nuclear movement,” the report said.
* Afghanistan: Beating A Retreat Editorial from The Guardian
As western forces eye the emergency exit in Afghanistan, not a month goes by without someone in charge lowering expectations. Last week,Nato’s secretary-general, Anders Fogh Rasmussen told this newspaper that the retreat could come sooner than expected in 2014, as morale had been sapped by insider killings. A day later, Sir Richard Stagg, Britain’s ambassador in Kabul, said the west had done enough “hand-holding” and Kabul should be left to get on with running the country. They are not moving the goalposts. They are walking off with them.
Remember the old trope about conditions on the ground dictating the pace of Nato’s withdrawal? It comes as no surprise to learn that conditions are, on some counts, worsening. The much-vaunted drop in civilian casualties may just have been a result of record snowfalls. August this year became the second deadliest month on record. TheTaliban have not just weathered the US troop surge – the coalition forces, or Isaf as they are known, have been unable to dislodge them from the south and east. Next year’s spring offensive promises to be the deadliest yet, spurred on by the imminence of withdrawal and elections.
Targeted killings of government officials and politicians have tripled. Three elections are to come as the Taliban press home their advantage – provincial councils in 2013, the presidency in 2014 and parliament in 2015, so the opportunity for mayhem is unbounded.
* Speed And The City: Meet The Adderall-Addled Adults Of New York Arwa Mahdawi The Guardian
New Yorkers, it’s fair to say, have something of a reputation. They’re brusque and they’re brash and they will trample you with their ambition. But it’s not something in the water that makes them like this; it’s something a lot of them are swallowing with expensive bottles of Smartwater. It’s Adderall.
Adderall is the brand name for a cocktail of amphetamines packaged up by big pharma for the treatment of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). This being a disorder that presents with extraordinary frequency in the US, particularly amongst the offspring of pushy parents. Type A-sorts intent on their kids getting straights As, even if it means putting them on Class As. Because, here’s the thing: Adderall is basically legalized speed. And here’s the other thing: Adderall works. Or rather, it makes you work. It makes you alert and focused and able to concentrate for hours on end.
Adderall works so well, in fact, that some doctors are advocating its use in schools, whether the kids have ADHD or not. This week the New York Times published an article about a Dr Michael Anderson, who prescribes Adderall to low-income schoolchildren struggling with their studies. Dr Anderson doesn’t even believe ADHD is a legitimate illness, but he does believe that taking Adderall can help disadvantaged children compete with their more privileged peers. “We’ve decided as a society that it’s too expensive to modify the kid’s environment,” he explains. “So we have to modify the kid.”
There has been some justifiable outrage about Dr Anderson’s standpoint. After all, doling out hardcore drugs to kids who aren’t even legally able to buy a beer is deeply weird. But then again, so is America’s attitude to drugs. This is a country that has spent 40 years and $1 trillion warring against drugs – or, rather, the “wrong” sort of drugs. This is a country that shuts its borders to anyone who has been convicted of taking a Class C drug. And yet this is a country that not only tolerates certain Class A-type drugs, it actively embraces them.