Sat, May 03, 2008 - Page 8 News List

Johnny Neihu's NewsWatch: Ma and Hu: now on the big screen

By Johnny Neihu 強尼內湖

It’s tough being stuck here in Asia’s backwater.

The world’s media is focused like a “laser beam” — as former US president Bill Clinton used to say — on China.

It’s got Tibet protests. It’s got an Olympic torch going up Mount Everest. It’s got rabid Chinese nationalists mobbing Carrefour hypermarts (actually a conspiracy hatched by Wal-Mart, but that’s another story).

Basically, the world is breathlessly focused on the Chicoms as they prepare for the most politically charged Olympic moment since the Soviet commie-fest in Moscow in 1980.

And what’s the global media reporting on in Taiwan?

“Nothing fishy about Taiwan nuke plant, snorkelers say.”

That headline — which should be punishable by law — comes courtesy of Reuters.

“As Taiwan heats up ahead of the summer, hundreds of beach bums are splashing down at a beach next to a nuclear power plant that spews cooling water straight into the ocean.”

Alarmed? You should be.

A few lines later, from the “why you shouldn’t talk to journalists because you’ll probably sound stupid, even if you’re not misquoted” department, we get this spectacularly vapid comment from a beachgoer:

“‘Taiwan people think that if you can’t see the danger, then danger basically doesn’t exist,’ said You Hui-chin, 37, as she dipped her toes in a tidal pool a few dozen meters from the cooling water outlet.”

All the article’s missing is the following:

“‘There’s no problem here,’ said Mu Tant-guy, 36, as he shoveled a local seafood specialty — irradiated skipjack — into his two mouths.”

But Reuters got the spooky details down all right:

“The brown domes of two nuclear plant towers loom in clear view of sunbathers on the white sands, while snorkelers paddle in a coral-rich inlet right next to the open, cement-sided cooling water outtake channel.”

Knuckle-tightening stuff, to be sure. Until you get to the clear statement from Taipower, at the veeerrry end of the story.

“‘Taiwan Power expels nothing radioactive, only water used to cool the reactors that produce seven percent of Taiwan’s electricity,’ said plant director Chen Pu-tsan.”

So is swimming near the reactor hazardous or not?

Er ... um ... not sure. But it made for a funny human interest story, didn’t it?

Then, in the “just when you thought the Americans couldn’t be more stupid” department, comes this gem from Agence France-Presse (AFP).

It reported that in 1958 the US Air Force was planning a nuclear strike on China, including sites in nearby Xiamen, if cross-strait conflict escalated.

Then-president Dwight D. Eisenhower insisted they change their planning, annoying the Dr Strangeloves in the Pentagon who wanted to take their tactical nuclear weapons for a test drive.

So what was poopy-pants Eisenhower so concerned about?

Says AFP: “What led the White House to change the ground rules was the recognition that atomic strikes had ‘inherent disadvantages’ — fallout would cause civilian casualties not only in China but in Taiwanese territory and the risk of nuclear escalation could present itself, the report said.”

So Washington looked at a map, basically. That allowed them to notice that their allies in Taiwan were just a few kilometers across the water in Kinmen and Matsu — and would inhale some serious second-hand smoke if the US nuked the Fujianese coast.

Gee, at least there was a time when US presidents were more intelligent than their advisers.

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