Five Best Thursday Columns

On regulating nuclear power, NPR's bias, and the limits of airpower in Libya

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Frank von Hippel on Regulating Nuclear Power  Princeton professor Frank von Hippel sheds light on several problems with the US's approach to regulating nuclear power, and suggests that the Fukushima disaster in Japan is the perfect opportunity for us to reevaluate this approach. "Nuclear power is a textbook example of the problem of 'regulatory capture'--in which an industry gains control of an agency meant to regulate it," the nuclear physicist explains in the New York Times today. "The commission has an excellent staff, what it needs is more aggressive political leadership." The Nuclear Regulatory Commission's refusal to require filtered vents that would reduce the radioactivity of released gases in the event of an emergency is one example of the industry's influence over the agency, and the detriment it can cause. "Given the influence of America's example, had the commission demanded the addition of filtered vents, they would likely have been required worldwide, including Japan." Von Hippel points out that in addition to making nuclear reactors safer, regardless of cost, it is imperative that we "strengthen the barriers to misuse of nuclear-energy technology to develop nuclear weapons." Putting uranium enrichment and plutonium efforts, key components to nuclear weapons, under international, or even multinational contol, "would make it more difficult for any one country to divert the material to military ends."

Steve Inskeep on the NPR Agenda  The host of NPR's "Morning Edition" takes to the Wall Street Journal opinion page to address accusations that NPR reports with a liberal bias. He notes that the organization recently lost an executive and its CEO as the result of James O'Keefe "selectively misquoting the executive's words, rearranging events, and other devices," and now faces losing its government funding. But, he insists, "NPR attracts a politically diverse audience of 33.7 million weekly listeners to its member stations on air." The success of NPR's member stations across middle-America shows a devotion to parts of the country that most of the media ignores. NPR also reaches conservative and liberal politicians as well as international listeners, and those who disagree with coverage are encouraged to make it known. "Most listeners understand that we're all figuring out the world together, calmly and honestly, in an atmosphere of mutual respect."

Dana Milbank on Anthony Weiner's Fight  In honor of the one-year anniversary of the health-care law, Dana Milbank uses his Washington Post Column to spotlight one Democratic lawmaker who refuses to back down from the partisan fight: Anthony Weiner. "The New York congressman, a Brooklyn-born streetfighter, held six events Wednesday to defend the law," writes Milbank, noting that while Weiner did spend much of the day shooting down Republican criticisms of the health-care law, "he also delivered a call to arms to his Democratic colleagues, who have been passive to the point of wimpy as Republicans press for repeal." Though the fight to defend the health-care law against staunch opposition seems to have exhausted most Democrats, Milbank urges them to take a tip from their fiesty colleague, writing, "Democrats would be better off if more of them acted like Weiners."

Charles Horner on Air Power's Potential in Libya  Horner, a general who commanded coalition air forces during Desert Shield and Desert Storm, points out in the Wall Street Journal today that air strikes could potentially prove sufficient in Libya and help the Libyan rebels oust Qaddafi, as in Kuwait and Kosovo, but "failure to precisely define the objectives of military operations can lead to confusion regarding the best ways and means to achieve them." Horner notes that it's unclear whether rebel forces are considered military or the same civilians the coalition purports to protect. "If they go on the offensive, do they deserve our protection (and inherent support)?" he asks. Also, he questions whether the UN's "use-of-force rules" even allow for the Qaddafi's removal. "Fortunately, because of the relative strength of the competing militaries, it may be possible to live with the current lack of focused political leadership." Still, time wasted with the coalition's confusion is time that allows Qaddafi to build up more support and strength. "The start of this war was characterized by half-measures, ill-defined thinking, and conficting political objectives. Now, to end it, we need to build on our remaining strengths."

Paul Flynn on Elizabeth Taylor's Role in the Gay Community  The Guardian's Paul Flynn reminds readers today that the late Elizabeth Taylor was not only a Hollywood legend, but a gay icon. Taylor's devotion to AIDS fundraising and awareness earned her a special place in the heart of the gay population, he writes. As opposed to other glamorous female stars with whom gay men have identified over the years, such as Judy Garland, Madonna, and Lady Gaga, "who seems a little over-hasty to appoint herself into the role as allow the actual community to annoint her," Flynn argues, Taylor earned her status as a gay icon through her sincere and genuine interest in helping the community. "Beneath the artifice, the martinis and the rhinestones, there was a human heart that many gay men just adored, quite unequivocally, and with ample reason."

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.