Today's Coming Crisis Movie

Thursday, March 17, 2011

BREAKING NEWS: War imminent -- Libya: UN approves no-fly zone as British troops prepare for action -- attacks could begin within hours

Western forces could launch bombing raids against the Libyan regime as early as Friday after the UN backed international military action.

The first raids, possibly conducted by unmanned drones, could happen within hours if Colonel Gaddafi acts on his threat to "show no mercy" to rebels in Benghazi.

The RAF could become involved in any operation by this evening, according to British sources. However, the raids may be spearheaded by an Arab nation such as Qatar or the UAE.

Last night, Col Gaddafi threatened to launch retaliation attacks against passenger aircraft in the Mediterranean if foreign countries launch air strikes against Libya.

The Libyan regime said that "any foreign military act" would expose "all air and maritime traffic in the Mediterranean Sea" as targets for a counter attack.

The warning was sounded within hours of the American Government formally backing a joint British and French initiative for a no-fly zone and other military action to be taken against Col Gaddafi's regime. (read more)

Obama: Nuke crisis poses 'substantial risk'

President Barack Obama said Thursday the damage to the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant posed ''a substantial risk'' to people nearby, while stressing the U.S. government had no immediate plan to expand the scope of its evacuation order beyond an 80-kilometer radius of the troubled plant in northeastern Japan.

Speaking at the White House, Obama said that a U.S. decision to ask American citizens living within the 80-km radius of the quake-hit nuclear plant in Fukushima Prefecture to evacuate as a precautionary measure was ''based upon a careful scientific evaluation.''

While urging U.S. citizens in Japan to continue to monitor the situation, Obama assured the safety of the United States, saying, ''We do not expect harmful levels of radiation to reach the United States, whether it's the West Coast, Hawaii, Alaska, or U.S. territories in the Pacific.''

''That is the judgment of our nuclear regulatory commission and many other experts,'' he said, adding Washington will keep U.S. citizens abroad fully updated about the situation.

Obama also revealed his administration asked the nuclear regulatory commission to review the safety of nuclear reactors at home, following the disaster in Japan. (read more)

Update: Japan nuclear plant: exposed to the elements - nuclear fuel in meltdown; radiation levels rising

Open to the elements after its walls were blown away, this is the dried-up storage pool where overheating fuel rods are threatening a nuclear meltdown at Japan's stricken Fukushima power plant.

Close-up pictures of the devastated No 4 reactor building show the gaping hole through which radiation is escaping into the atmosphere as the rods break down.

Last night, the UN's nuclear safety body said it was "too early to say" whether desperate attempts to cool them by spraying water into the building had been a success.

The Foreign Office issued an urgent statement advising any Britons within 50 miles of the plant to leave the area immediately, and arranged charter flights to get British citizens out of the country. (read more)

Radiation levels 20 miles from the plant – well outside Japan's official 12-mile evacuation zone – came close to double the safety limit normally allowed for nuclear workers.

Despite assurances that other countries were not at risk of harmful levels of radiation, growing alarm led to panic-buying of radiation-blocking drugs in places thousands of miles from Japan.

Japan nuclear fears prompt panic-buying around world

As nuclear panic began to spread around the world, supermarkets and pharmacies thousands of miles from Japan ran out of anything and everything rumoured to prevent radiation poisoning.

Russia saw a run on red wine and seaweed; in China people were buying massive amounts of salt, and chemists as far away as Bulgaria reported shortages of iodine tablets.

No matter how many scientists were wheeled out to reassure people that radiation levels outside Japan would not pose a threat to health, widespread distrust of official advice meant thousands placed more faith in rumours and old wives’ tales.

In China, the government called for calm after shoppers bought up huge quantities of salt in the mistaken belief that it contains enough iodine to block radiation.

Potassium iodide tablets, which prevent the body from absorbing radiation, have been handed out in Japan to those living near the stricken Fukushima power plant, and in China iodine is added to salt to help prevent iodine deficiency disorders. (read more)

The mere mention of the word iodine was enough to prompt panic-buying of salt amid fears that a change in the wind direction could blow a radioactive cloud across China from its near neighbour.

Part of Big Sur, California highway falls into ocean -- signs of things to come?

A section of highway 1, near Big Sur, California is shut down indefinitely. Police say a 40-foot section of the two-lane highway crumbled into the sea and fell hundreds of feet down a cliff.

"One of the things that is certain is that we have to keep this entire area blocked off," said William Perlstein with the California Highway Patrol.

It'll be blocked off for weeks, even months. It's a reality for people who travel down this road daily to come to grasp with.

Residents and travelers trying to get through were forced to turn around. Some of them just parked their car on the side and just walked right on through just to get home. (Source)

In face of government shutdown, it’s still party time: 150+ fundraising parties underway

Despite the looming possibility of a government shutdown, federal layoffs and furloughs, there’s at least one thing members of Congress from both political parties can readily agree on these days: partying.

Morning, noon and night, more than 150 fundraising parties are scheduled all over Washington this week for Democratic and Republican politicians in bars, restaurants and private town houses and at sporting events — even to watch the woeful Washington Wizards play. Other lawmakers are gearing up for March Madness, the upcoming NCAA basketball tournament, with luxury suites for fundraising at the Verizon Center.

The flurry of fundraising comes as the end of the first quarter for reporting election contributions comes up. Also, Congress will be adjourning next week, so politicians might be scurrying to raise money in Washington while they still can.

“It’s an every-three-months tradition where we tend to see an uptick,” said Nancy Watzman of the nonpartisan Sunlight Foundation, which tracks fundraising parties by members of Congress. “With the March 31 deadline approaching, there are a lot of parties with people looking to pump up their numbers.”

Fifty-seven fundraising parties were scheduled for Wednesday alone, according to Sunlight, which points out that the group still doesn’t know about all of the events going on across town. Last week was busy, too. (read more)

U.S. Seeks Range of Strikes on Libya at U.N.

The Obama administration is seeking a U.N. Security Council resolution that would authorize a wide range of possible military strikes against the forces of Libyan leader Col. Moammar Gadhafi, aimed at preventing them from overrunning rebels and civilians in the country's east, officials said.

In discussions with other U.N. Security Council members, the Obama administration is making the case that a no-fly zone alone would be "insufficient" to save the rebel capital of Benghazi, in eastern Libya.

The Obama administration is seeking a broad U.N. authorization for strikes aimed at holding back Libyan ground and air forces with the aim of protecting Benghazi and avoiding a humanitarian crisis there. Military operations could include a no-fly zone but would not be limited to that, officials said.

A no-fly zone alone would have limited effectiveness because Col. Gadhafi could strike the city with ground forces, officials said.

The Obama administration doesn't plan to send any American ground troops to Libya, and wants any strikes to be conducted as part of a broad, U.N.-backed coalition.

"The U.S. doesn't want a war," an Obama administration official said. "But we want to prevent a slaughter."

The Security Council could vote Thursday afternoon on a draft resolution aimed at preventing Col. Gadhafi from using military force against his own people. (read more)

Listen to March 3, 2011 Hatsushima Japan Earthquake from under the water

To listen to the earthquake, click on this link, then click on the index picture and choose "quakes" in the subsequent menu.

Video: Japan's calm and orderliness ebbing away: Panic hoarding, drivers refusing to deliver supplies in affected areas, rescues that never come

"They're leaving us to die."

As engineers race to avert a nuclear catastrophe at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant, the government has declared a 20km (12-mile) evacuation zone around it.

The BBC has obtained footage from a local Japanese television crew who wanted to tell the story of those trapped inside the exclusion zone.

Watch the BBC Report here

U.S. officials “alarmed” by Japan’s handling of crisis

Now I’m really confused. All day long, from congressional testimony to a televised appearance on CNN to interviews with print reporters, U.S. nuclear chief Gregory Jaczko has insisted that radiation levels at the plant are “extremely high.” Not only that, but he reaffirmed for ABC tonight that his staffers on the ground at Fukushima say there’s no water left in the cooling pools for spent fuel rods at reactor four, which means there should be a constant dose of radiation spewing out at the plant. In fact, he went this far earlier:

On Wednesday night, Mr. Jaczko reiterated his earlier statement and added that commission representatives in Tokyo have confirmed that the pool is empty. He said Tokyo Electric and other officials in Japan have confirmed that, and also stressed that high radiation fields are going to make it very difficult to continue having people work at the plant…

While radiation levels at the plant have varied tremendously, Mr. Jaczko said that the peak levels reported there “would be lethal within a fairly short period of time.” He added that another spent fuel pool, at Reactor No. 3, may also be losing water and could soon be in the same condition. Japanese efforts to pour in water by dumping it from helicopters were suspended, for fear that the helicopter crews would receive too large a dose of radiation. (read more)

Deteriorating situation: Japan visitors urged by their countries to flee

Visitors to Japan are being urged to flee and avoid non-essential travel as the country struggles amid a nuclear crisis following last week's earthquake and tsunami.

Countries including Britain, the United States, South Korea, Australia and Germany have advised their citizens to leave Japan due to the fear of radiation from damaged nuclear reactors.

South Korea has set up areas at international airports to test passengers for radiation, the Yonhap news agency reported. Those returning on ferries will also be tested, according to Kim Chang-kyung, vice science minister.

Canada's government warned its citizens in Japan Wednesday to evacuate farther from the site of a potential nuclear meltdown. Anyone within 80 kilometres of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant was urged move to a safer location. (read more)

China rumblings: Tibetan monk's self-immolation 'sparks protests'

A group campaigning for self-rule in Tibet says hundreds of people have held protests in western China after a Tibetan monk burned himself to death.

The London-based International Campaign for Tibet says the young monk set fire to himself in Aba, in Sichuan province.

China's state news agency said the monk died after protesters prevented him getting hospital treatment.

The reported unrest came three years after Tibet's most serious uprising against Chinese rule in two decades.

The BBC has not been able to independently verify these accounts, and local officials could not be reached for comment.

It is believed to be the second self-immolation since the violent demonstrations in March 2008.

The monk identified as Phuntsog, aged in his early 20s, set himself alight on Wednesday.

Tibetan rights groups reported that witnesses saw police put out the flames, then beat the monk to death, after which monks retrieved the dead body. (read more)

Is a bank holiday imminent due to world catastrophe?

Reuters reports that Tokyo Stock Exchange firms are seeking market closure as the markets are too volatile. We agree. This means we may get the first post September 11 bank holiday as early as tonight. If so, keep an eye on the USDJPY. "Some foreign financial institutions are calling for Japan's stock market to halt trading, while the Tokyo Stock Exchange and Japanese financial regulators are planning to keep markets open, news agency Nikkei reported.

The news agency said officials from more than 10 non-Japanese financial firms held a conference call Tuesday afternoon, with some firms calling for the market to be closed immediately, Nikkei reported, citing people familiar with the discussion. Some participants argued that the market was too volatile to continue trading, according to the report." And if Japan closes, watch for rolling market shutdowns westward as the sun rises over each individual stock market.

From Reuters:

The TSE's rules allow it to shut down trading if it is possible that brokerages accounting for more than 20 percent of volume cannot do business, Nikkei reported. The prime minister can also halt trading if there's a change of "harm to the public good or investor protections," Nikkei reported.

Japanese stocks plunged following an earthquake and tsunami, which subsequently caused a nuclear reactor disaster. Some foreign bank employees have fled the country as chaos erupted, leaving trading desks understaffed.

The Nikkei report said TSE President Atsushi Saito wasn't prepared to shut the exchange down yet.

Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup, HSBC, Barclays, Credit Suisse, Wells Fargo and UBS did not immediately provide comment on the situation. (read more)

BREAKING NEWS: U.N. Security Council approves no-fly zone in Libya

The U.N. Security Council voted Thursday evening to impose a no-fly zone and other measures to try to halt Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi's rapid advances against rebel positions in his country.

Diplomats warned that action was needed before Gadhafi reached the opposition stronghold of Benghazi and crush the movement.

"We should not arrive too late," French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said.

The resolution was approved with 10 votes. China, Russia, Germany, India and Brazil abstained.

A draft included language stating that "all necessary means" could be used to prevent the "slaughter of civilians," a diplomat said.

Opposition leaders wanted U.N. action because of recent gains made by Gadhafi forces and the imminent offensive against Benghazi.

"We're hoping and praying that the United Nations will come up with a very firm and very fast resolution and they will enforce it immediately," said Ahmed El-Gallal, a senior opposition coordinator. (read more)

Japan death toll rises to 5,692, approximately 3000 injured and 10000 missing; Miyagi hit worst

The death toll in Japan from last Friday's 9.0 magnitude earthquake and tsunami has risen to 5,692, according to the National Police Agency of Japan Thursday.

The agency said 9,522 people remain missing, and that 2,409 are listed as injured. The area with the highest confirmed death toll remains Japan's Miyagi prefecture with 3,158 dead. (Source)

US backing for world currency stuns markets

The dollar plunged instantly against the euro, yen, and sterling as the comments flashed across trading screens. David Bloom, currency chief at HSBC, said the apparent policy shift amounts to an earthquake in geo-finance.

"The mere fact that the US Treasury Secretary is even entertaining thoughts that the dollar may cease being the anchor of the global monetary system has caused consternation," he said.

Mr Geithner later qualified his remarks, insisting that the dollar would remain the "world's dominant reserve currency ... for a long period of time" but the seeds of doubt have been sown.

The markets appear baffled by the confused statements emanating from Washington. President Barack Obama told a new conference hours earlier that there was no threat to the reserve status of the dollar.

"I don't believe that there is a need for a global currency. The reason the dollar is strong right now is because investors consider the United States the strongest economy in the world with the most stable political system in the world," he said. (read more)

Jim Berkland - A Major Earthquake in North America Imminent (He accurately predicted 1989 San Fran quake)

Scientists project path of radiation plume -- UN projections place it arriving in US within 24 hours

A United Nations forecast of the possible movement of the radioactive plume coming from crippled Japanese reactors shows it churning across the Pacific, and touching the Aleutian Islands on Thursday before hitting Southern California late Friday.

Health and nuclear experts emphasize that radiation in the plume will be diluted as it travels and, at worst, would have extremely minor health consequences in the United States, even if hints of it are ultimately detectable. In a similar way, radiation from the Chernobyl disaster in 1986 spread around the globe and reached the West Coast of the United States in 10 days, its levels measurable but minuscule.

The projection, by the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization, an arm of the United Nations in Vienna, gives no information about actual radiation levels but only shows how a radioactive plume would probably move and disperse.

The forecast, calculated Tuesday, is based on patterns of Pacific winds at that time and the predicted path is likely to change as weather patterns shift. (read more)

Chinese scramble to buy iodized salt as radiation fears grow

Chinese shoppers in Beijing and Shanghai cleared salt from supermarkets shelves on Thursday morning amid fears of a potential radiation crisis from Japan's Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant.

Government officials and experts attempted to calm fears by emphasizing that radiation levels in 41 cities across China remain normal.

Staff from multiple branches of the French supermarket chain Carrefour reported that their supplies of salt have been sold out since Thursday morning in Beijing.

A Shanghai branch reported the same.

Small, local and independently-run grocery stores in Beijing told CNN they have also run out of salt supplies for the first time in recent memory.

One customer in the eastern city of Ningbo told the nation's CCTV that she had purchased a five-year supply to placate her family's fears of radiation.

Iodide tablets were also snapped up at many pharmacies in Beijing and Shanghai as of Thursday morning, according to state-run China Daily. (read more)

U.S., Other Countries Advise Evacuations of Japan

Shortages of food and gasoline were being felt in parts of Japan on Thursday nearly a week after a deadly earthquake and tsunami, as people hoarded basic items fearing that supplies would soon dry up.

The official government toll from the magnitude 9.0 quake and resultant tsunami was increased to more than 5,300 people Thursday, but was expected to climb to well over 10,000.

NPR reporters in northern and central Japan said staple foods were hard to come by and in some areas gasoline was scarce.

Shoppers in the Tokyo metro area, 150 miles from the crippled Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear power plant, had cleaned some supermarket shelves of items such as rice, bread and yogurt.

Store managers in Aomori, on the northern tip of Japan's main Honshu island, told NPR that the area had been hit by a combination of hoarding by shoppers and a breakdown of the supply chain. That chain normally is fed by ports, roads and railways, many of which are now heavily damaged in wake of last week's disaster.

In Ofunato, not far from the epicenter of the quake, Yuko Niuma looked out over the harbor, where trawlers were heeled over on their sides by the power of the tsunami.

"There is enough food, but no fuel or gasoline," Niuma, 46, told The Associated Press. (read more)

Misinformation and mishandling over the disaster: Shock begins to turn to anger In Japan

Shock among survivors of Japan's earthquake and tsunami turned to anger Wednesday as nearly a half-million people displaced by the disaster and resulting nuclear crisis remained crammed in makeshift evacuation centers, many with few basic necessities and even less information.

The governor of northeastern Fukushima prefecture, the site of a badly damaged nuclear power plant, fumed over what he saw as poor government communication and coordination.

"The anxiety and anger being felt by people in Fukushima have reached a boiling point," Gov. Yuhei Sato told broadcaster NHK. He said shelters do not even have enough hot meals and basic necessities for those living near the plant who have already been relocated.

In a rare address to the nation, Japan's Emperor Akihito called the nuclear crisis "unprecedented in scale" and urged the country to pull together in the aftermath of the earthquake and tsunami.

"Nobody knows how many people will die," the 77-year-old emperor said, "but I fervently hope that we can save as many survivors as possible." (read more)

Global stakes of Mideast turmoil: Political unrest in oil-rich region threatens to double-dip the worldwide recession

Political turmoil in the Middle East has powerful economic and financial implications, particularly as it increases the risk of stagflation, a lethal combination of slowing growth and sharply rising inflation. Indeed, should stagflation emerge, there is a serious risk of a double-dip recession for a global economy that has barely emerged from its worst crisis in decades.

Severe unrest in the Middle East has historically been a source of oil-price spikes, which in turn have triggered three of the last five global recessions. The Yom Kippur War in 1973 caused a sharp increase in oil prices, leading to the global stagflation of 1974-1975. The Iranian revolution in 1979 led to a similar stagflationary increase in oil prices, which culminated in the recession of 1980-1981. And Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait in August 1990 led to a spike in oil prices at a time when a US banking crisis was already tipping America into recession.

Oil prices also played a role in the recent finance-driven global recession. By the summer of 2008, just before the collapse of Lehman Brothers, oil prices had doubled over the previous 12 months, reaching a peak of $148 a barrel - and delivering the coup de grĂ¢ce to an already frail and struggling global economy buffeted by financial shocks.

We don’t know yet whether political contagion in the Middle East will spread to other countries. The turmoil may yet be contained and recede, sending oil prices back to lower levels. But there is a serious chance that the uprisings will spread, destabilizing Bahrain, Algeria, Oman, Jordan, Yemen, and eventually even Saudi Arabia.

Even before the recent Middle East political shocks, oil prices had risen above $80-$90 a barrel, an increase driven not only by energy-thirsty emerging-market economies, but also by non-fundamental factors: a wall of liquidity chasing assets and commodities in emerging markets, owing to near-zero interest rates and quantitative easing in advanced economies; momentum and herding behavior; and limited and inelastic oil supplies. If the threat of supply disruptions spreads beyond Libya, even the mere risk of lower output may sharply increase the “fear premium” via precautionary stockpiling of oil by investors and final users.

The latest increases in oil prices - and the related increases in other commodity prices, especially food - imply several unfortunate consequences (even leaving aside the risk of severe civil unrest). (read more)

BREAKING NEWS: Pentagon clears exit of some military family members from Japan

The Defense Department authorized the voluntary departure Thursday of some family members of U.S. military service members stationed in Japan.

The potential number of evacuees is "in the thousands," Pentagon spokesman Col. Dave Lapan said.

Lapan said the authorization applies only to family members living on the island of Honshu -- site of the damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant -- and will not cover those who are simply visiting.

The Pentagon has suspended all military family travel to Honshu. Families already on the island, which is also called the mainland, can be reimbursed for their travel home, Lapan said.

No military families will be allowed to travel to the island until the voluntary evacuation order is lifted. (read more)

Gaddafi Warns Of 'No Mercy' In Rebel City

Colonel Muammar Gaddafi has vowed to retake the main rebel stronghold of Benghazi and warned there would be no mercy for those who do not put down their weapons.

n a radio address, the Libyan leader told residents in the country's second city that unarmed people have nothing to fear from the army, but every home will be searched.

Col Gaddafi promised to pardon rebels who surrender, saying his forces would not pursue those who drop their weapons and flee.

But he said "for those who resist there will be no mercy or compassion".

He also said his forces would rescue the Benghazi people "from traitors" and warned them not to support the opposition.

It comes as his forces reportedly carried out air strikes on the outskirts of the city, which is home to a million people.

Residents and rebels said there were at least three raids, including at the airport and another one further south.

The Libyan army has said it would halt its operations on Sunday to give the opposition fighters a chance to surrender, Al Arabiya television reported.

But a rebel spokesman in the western city of Misratah, 130 miles from the capital Tripoli, said anti-Gaddafi forces could not trust any truce offer from the regime.

He said: "He (Gaddafi) will not allow anybody to leave peacefully and we do not want to leave. We will die on the battlefield." (read more)

Temple University Japan Campus evacuating all students, advises them to leave Japan

From the campus advisory:

To All TUJ US students,

The official notification below has been issued by the US Government. We encourage all TUJ US students to leave. We are now making arrangements with the main campus to facilitate your leaving the country and will be back in touch with you soon on the details.

For those of you who wish to leave independently, please inform us that you are doing so.

There have been questions about completing the academic semester and the main campus and TUJ will undertake all efforts to insure that your academic program will be completed.

Read the advisory and other important and developing campus bulletins here.

Nuclear crisis sparks worry over safety of Japanese food

Governments are taking precautions and conducting thorough inspections of Japanese food, which is popular worldwide and available at high-end stores around Asia, and specialty shops in Europe and the United States.

Hong Kong's Center for Food Safety has conducted radiation tests on at least 34 samples of fresh vegetables, meat and fish from Japan. The center reports all test results were satisfactory.

"As far as radiation is concerned, I think the most at-risk articles are those fresh products, perhaps dairy products, fresh fruits and vegetables," Dr. York Chow, Hong Kong's Secretary for Food and Health, said earlier this week.

"In case we detect anything, of course, we will ban those products from Hong Kong."

Thailand's government is focusing on Japanese imports of meat, milk, fish and seaweed.

A radiation physicist from the Office of Atoms for Peace has told CNN the agency will work with Thailand's health ministry to do random checks of imported food from Japan.

India on Tuesday also ordered radiation tests of Japanese food at its ports and airports. Only food originating from Japan after March 11 will be tested. (read more)

Germany, Austria moves embassies from Tokyo to Osaka over nuclear concerns

Austria says it is moving its embassy from Tokyo to Osaka amid concerns that dangerous levels of radiation leaking from a crippled nuclear plant might reach the Japanese capital.

The foreign ministry announced the move after Japan's government said radiation had spread from the four stricken reactors of the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant along Japan's northeastern coast.

Tokyo reported slightly elevated radiation levels Tuesday but officials said the increase was too small to threaten the 39 million people in and around the capital, about 170 miles (270 kilometres) away.

Japan's northeast was shattered by Friday's 9.0-magnitude earthquake and the ensuing tsunami that is believed to have killed more than 10,000 people. (Source)

U.S. Debt Jumped $72 Billion Same Day U.S. House Voted to Cut Spending $6 Billion

The national debt jumped by $72 billion on Tuesday even as the Republican-led U.S. House of Representatives passed a continuing resolution to fund the government for just three weeks that will cut $6 billion from government spending.

If Congress were to cut $6 billion every three weeks for the next 36 weeks, it would manage to save between now and late November as much money as the Treasury added to the nation’s net debt during just the business hours of Tuesday, March 15.

At the close of business on Monday, according to the Treasury Department’s Bureau of the Public Debt, the total national debt stood at $14.166 trillion ($14,166,030,787,779.80). At the close of business Tuesday, the debt stood at $14.237 trillion ($14,237,952,276,898.69), an increase of $71.9 billion ($71,921,489,118.89).

Since the beginning of fiscal year 2011--which began on Oct. 1, 2010--the national debt has climbed from $13.5616 trillion ($13,561,623,030,891.79) to $14.2379 trillion ($14,237,952,276,898.69) an increase of $676.3 billion ($676,329,246,006.90).

Congress would need to cut spending by $6 billion every three weeks for approximately the next six and a half years (338 weeks) just to equal the $676.3 billion the debt has increased thus far this fiscal year. (Source)

Japanese government blacking out radiation levels at Fukushima

The Japanese government's radiation report for the country's 47 prefectures Wednesday had a notable omission: Fukushima, ground zero in Japan's nuclear crisis. Measurements from Ibaraki, just south of Fukushima, were also blanked out.

Radiation experts in the USA say that the lack of information about radioactivity released from the smoldering reactors makes it impossible to gauge the current danger, project how bad a potential meltdown might be or calculate how much fallout might reach the USA.

Japanese nuclear experts are hard at work gathering information, said Fred Mettler, the U.S. representative for the United Nation's committee on the health effects of radiation. "They're monitoring and evaluating and watching the meteorology," he said. "They need to know what the dose rates are in various places, what direction the (radiation is) moving in and what's causing it."

Conflicting accounts of the radiation levels emerged in Tokyo and on Capitol Hill. Japan's Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency said Wednesday that the radiation detected at the Fukushima plant had fallen steadily over the past 12 hours. But U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) chief Gregory Jaczko told a House energy subcommittee earlier in the day that radiation levels at the Fukushima plant were "extremely high." (read more)

Feds deploy more radiation monitors in western US

More radiation monitors are being deployed in the western United States and Pacific territories, as officials seek to mollify public concern over exposure from damaged nuclear plants in Japan, federal environmental regulators said.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency already monitors radiation throughout the area as part of its RadNet system, which measures levels in air, drinking water, milk and rain.

The additional monitors are being deployed in response to the ongoing nuclear crisis in Japan, where emergency workers are attempting to cool overheated reactors damaged by last week's magnitude-9.0 earthquake and tsunami.

Officials with the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission said they do not expect harmful radiation levels to reach the U.S. from Japan.

"The agency decided out of an abundance of caution to send these deployable monitors in order to get some monitors on the ground closer to Japan," said Jonathan Edwards, director of EPA's radiation protection division.

California already has 12 monitoring stations scattered throughout the state that test the air for radiation levels. EPA also has 40 so-called "deployable" monitors that can be moved around in cases of emergency.

EPA told The Associated Press it is adding two more stations in Hawaii and two in Guam. In Alaska, officials are setting up three new monitors in Dutch Harbor, Nome and Juneau. (read more)

Has Radiation from Stricken Japanese Plant Reached Alaska?

Radiation from the Fukishima Daiichi nuclear power plant disaster may soon reach Alaska, according to the state commissioner of health and social services in that state. He said the state could detect a “very small increase in radiation levels – well below levels that would be a health concern.”

The KTVA article headline reports “Radiation Levels In AK Elevated But Not Harmful” and the article then states that radiation has yet to reach the state, a clear contradiction. We are trying to obtain clarification from state authorities in Alaska on whether radiation has reached Alaska or just if it could reach Alaska. (read more)

Monitor radiation levels across the United States in real time

Welcome to, home of the National Radiation Map, depicting environmental radiation levels across the USA, updated in real time every minute. This is the first web site where the average citizen (or anyone in the world) can see what radiation levels are anywhere in the USA at any time (see Disclaimer below).

How the Map Works:

A growing number of Radiation Monitoring Stations across the country, using various models of Digital GeigerCounters, upload their Radiation Count data in real time to their computer using a Data Cable, and then over the Internet to this web site, all of this accomplished through GeigerGraph for Networks software. (Access the map here)

Saudi presence 'fuels' strife fears: deployment of more than 1,000 Saudi troops to Bahrain could increase the Sunni-Shia divide

Monday's arrival of more than 1000 Saudi and hundreds of Emirati security forces with a mandate from the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) to support King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa's regime in Sunni- ruled, Shia-majority Bahrain only stokes sectarian conflict and fuels the regional power politics between US-Saudi hegemony and an increasingly influential Shia-led Iran, analysts argue.

"Although it is clearly too early to know the outcome of this decision, or perhaps even the purpose - to crack down on the protesters? to intimidate the opposition into joining the national dialogue? - I will hazard to predict that the impact will be negative, even on the stability they hope to preserve," said Kristin Diwan, an expert on the Arab Gulf at the American University.

The highest-ranking member of Bahrain's Shia religious establishment, Sheik Isa Qassim, criticised al-Khalifa's claims that the mobilisation of GCC troops is a broader effort to ensure regional stability, rather than what Qassim considers to be Sunni entrenchment and a veiled challenge to Shia representation in the government.

"[T]he narrative of preserving order will be insufficient," Diwan said. "Sectarian tensions are already on the rise in the Gulf since the Iraq intervention, with Shia populations throughout the Gulf facing the rising influence of anti-Shia Salafi Islamist movements. Inflaming these communal tensions hardly qualifies as a recipe for stability." (read more)

Britain's Jobless Total At 17-Year High

The latest unemployment figures contain mixed news for the Government - unemployment rising to a 17-year high but fewer claims for Jobseeker's Allowance.

The official figures show an increase of 27,000 out of work in the three months to the end of January.

It takes the unemployment total to 2.53 million.

John Salt, director of, said the figures were "in line with our prediction that unemployment won't peak until late in the third quarter of 2011".

He added: "Private sector recovery has... been more sluggish than expected."

The statistics also show youth unemployment hitting a new record level.

Those seeking work between the ages of 18 and 24 was at its highest since records began in 1992 - at 18.3%. (read more)

U.S. millionaires population expanded by 8% in 2010 -- while the rest of us get poorer

What recession? The millionaire population jumped in the U.S. by 8% last year, fueled by the stock market recovery, according to an industry report on Wednesday.

The number of U.S. households worth at least $1 million rose to 8.4 million in 2010, compared to 7.8 million the prior year, according to a report by Spectrem Group.

"The affluent market grew in 2010 due primarily to the stock market rebound, but despite their growing portfolios, attitudes remain significantly different than in 2007," the report said.

"The size of the affluent market increased in 2010 but did not reach the highs obtained in 2007," the year that the recession began, according to the report.

Last year marked the second consecutive year of increases, the group said, following a 16% surge in the millionaire population in 2009.

"The millionaire comeback continues," said George H. Walper Jr., president of Spectrem Group. (read more)

Qaddafi Forces Vow to 'Cleanse' Rebel-Held City of 'Armed Gangs' -- Saif al-Qaddafi says civil war will be over in 48 hours

The Libyan Army appeared on state television on Wednesday to set a deadline for residents to leave Benghazi by midnight local time ahead a planned operation to "cleanse" the city, Sky News reports.

"The army is coming to cleanse your city of armed gangs," the Libyan army said in the statement.

Qaddafi's son says the rebel stronghold will fall to government forces within 48 hours.

"All the armed forces in the eastern area who have not joined the traitors are called upon to join the forces as they advance towards Benghazi," the message said, according to Reuters.

Saif al-Qaddafi told France-based Euronews Wednesday that any decision taken by the United Nations would come "too late," according to Sky News.

The U.N. Security Council reached an agreement late Wednesday on the text of a draft resolution on Libya, which will be up for vote Thursday. (read more)

Rebellion on the brink: Gadhafi forces bombing Benghazi, rebel stronghold -- Rebels, forces still battling for opposition-held Ajdabiya

Moammar Gadhafi's air force bombed the airport in the Libyan opposition's main stronghold on Thursday after the rebels used seized planes and helicopters to launch attacks on the government's advancing troops, witnesses and rebel officials said.

Two planes bombed Benina airport just outside the city of Benghazi, one witness told The Associated Press. The extent of the damage was not immediately clear.

The rebels were using three of their own planes and some helicopters to attack Gadhafi's troops outside the city of Ajdabiya, the gateway to Benghazi and surrounding opposition-held territory, said Mustafa Gheriani, an opposition spokesman in Benghazi.

Witnesses and rebels said Gadhafi's forces had surrounded Ajdabiya, seizing positions on all sides of the rebels, who are hoping for help from the U.N. Security Council before government troops move in. (read more)

Rebels Claim To Drive Back Gaddafi Troops - 17th Mar 2011

Anti-Gaddafi forces say they are pushing back government troops in the eastern town of Ajdabiyah, despite claims on Libyan state television that the territory is now under government control.

But with phone lines down, and Sky News’ contacts in Ajdabiyah unreachable, there is no way of confirming the claims of either side.

The town of almost 140,000 people is the final obstacle preventing Gaddafi’s forces sweeping across the last remaining rebel territory to the east.

There are claims on Al Arabiya TV that recent fighting near the town has claimed the lives of at least 30 women, children and elderly men.

Two roads lead out of Ajdabiyah, one to the rebel stronghold of Benghazi, the other to the eastern town of Tobruk, close to the Egyptian border.

The fall of Ajdabiyah would leave both vulnerable to attack within days. Read More

Japan Admits Nuclear Problem Is 'Severe' - 17th Mar 2011

A spokesman for the tsunami-hit Fukushima nuclear power plant in Japan has admitted the situation is now considered to be "severe".

"This is a severe incident that is occurring right now," the spokesman said at a Thursday evening news conference.

"We have vented and used seawater as cooling, followed the accident management plan but this is a very severe operation."

The admission comes as plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co (Tepco) continues attempts to stop the six-reactor Fukushima 1 complex from going into nuclear meltdown.

"We have to keep cooling the fuel so it doesn't reach criticality," the Tepco spokesman said, adding that radiation levels have barely fallen at the site. Read More

30 Whales stranded at Bruny Island, Tazmania - 17th Mar 2011

A POD of about 30 pilot whales have become stranded on Bruny Island, south of the Tasmanian state capital Hobart, wildlife authorities say.

Department of Parks and Wildlife spokeswoman Liz Wren told the Hobart Mercury newspaper that 12 of the whales were still alive with people on the beach trying to move them back into the water.

"Preliminary reports indicate around 30 whales have stranded with some believed to be still alive," a statement from the department said.

Initial reports indicated they were pilot whales.

Whale strandings happen periodically in Tasmania, but scientists do not know why they happen. Source

Note: New Zealand and Japan both had whales stranded a couple of days before the large earthquakes hit the region.

Radiation found on Japan passengers to Taiwan, South Korea - 17th Mar 2011

(Reuters) - About 25 passengers arriving in Taiwan from Japan

were observed with levels of slightly higher exposure to radiation, a government official said on Thursday.

Authorities in South Korea had earlier reported unusually high radiation levels on three passengers arriving from Japan.

The Taiwan official, part of the government's atomic energy council, told Reuters by telephone that the 25 passengers had arrived from various Japanese cities and had "slightly higher" levels than normal.

The official provided no further details. He said the government had set up monitoring posts to subject arriving passengers to tests. No further measures were planned. Read More

Can a Pill Save You From Radiation Poisoning? 15th Mar 2011

Faster than merchants can keep it stocked, potassium iodide (KI), the so-called “anti-radiation” pill, is flying off drugstore shelves in the U.S., especially along the West Coast. One supplier,, reportedly sold out its entire supply of 250,000 pills over the weekend and has back-ordered another 1 million pills. The KI was purchased by pharmacies, corporations, hospitals and nuclear labs serving Americans who, in spite of assurances by the U.S. government that its citizens are safe, fear that radiation from the damaged Japanese nuclear reactors will travel across the Pacific Ocean and contaminate them and their families. A company spokesman told the Wall Street Journal that Nukepills has donated 50,000 pills to Japan.

What is potassium iodide (KI)?
Actually a salt of stable iodine—a substance our bodies need in order to produce thyroid hormones—KI is a tablet or liquid medicine that protects the thyroid from absorbing radioactive iodine, which is released into the air following a nuclear event. It is able to block radioactive iodine because the thyroid recognizes both KI and radioactive iodine as the same substance. KI “fills up” the organ with its daily iodine quota, thus blocking the radioactive version from being absorbed. For this reason, Read More

Breaking News Water Cannon Removed from n 3 Reactor Fukushima - 17th Mar 2011

(Reuters) - Emergency crews temporarily withdrew a water cannon from Japan's quake-stricken nuclear power plant on Thursday because of high radiation levels, broadcaster NHK said.

The water cannon had been called in to spray the Fukushima Daiichi complex's No.3 reactor, which contains plutonium fuel and has been the top priority for authorities. Source

Fact or Fiction - March 19: Is ‘super moon’ a myth or science? - 17th Mar 2011

On March 19, 2011, the moon will be 3,56,577km away from the earth, its closest in 18 years. The average distance of a normal lunar perigee (moon's closest point to earth) is 364,397 kilometers. In other words, compared to its distance on other lunar perigees, the moon will be 7,600 kilometers closer to the earth on March 19. Moreover, the moon will appear about 14% larger than normal in size when the full moon rises in the sky. It is because of its large size that it is called the 'Super Moon'.

Though Super Moons are natural phenomenon, many people, including astrologers, link their occurrence to natural disasters such as earthquakes, tsunami and hurricanes. The recent quake in Japan that was followed by a powerful tsunami has once again sparked a debate on the role of the 'Super Moon' in causing disasters. To find out more about the celestial phenomenon, DNA spoke to Dr Narendra Bhandari, who was Senior Professor at Physical Research Laboratory in Ahmedabad for almost 40 years.

He is currently Honorary Scientist of INSA, Delhi. Read More

Libyan embassy rooftop protest in Knightsbridge ongoing - 17th Mar 2011

Four protesters who scaled the Libyan embassy in central London remain on the roof more than 30 hours after their demonstration began, police have said.

Five men climbed on to the roof at 0250 GMT on Wednesday and removed Col Muammar Gaddafi's green flag.

Demonstrators replaced it with a pre-Gaddafi era flag used by Libyan rebels.

A man, 24, was arrested on suspicion of trespassing on diplomatic premises and conspiracy to cause criminal damage when he climbed down at about 2100 GMT.

The man remains in custody, a Metropolitan Police spokesman said.

Officers remain at the scene, he said.

Two other men, 25 and 26, were arrested on Wednesday morning as they tried to join the group on the roof. Read More

Japan earthquake: Survivors fear they are being left to die - 17th Mar 2011

People living near the stricken Fukushima nuclear plant said they had received no information or help.

The mayor of the town of Minamasoma – just 20km (12 miles) from the complex which has seen three explosions – said: ‘They are leaving us to die.’

He added: ‘We weren’t told when the first reactor exploded – we only heard about it on the TV. The government doesn’t tell us anything.’

The 200,000 people nearest the plant have been moved from the area. Evacuee Mitsuru Fujita, 65 said: ‘The government told us it was safe. Now, I feel angry with myself for ever having believed them.’

More than 452,000 people are staying in schools and other shelters, as supplies of fuel, medicine and other necessities run out.

It emerged this morning that Britons affected by the Japanese disaster will be flown home to the UK free of charge on charter planes from Tokyo.

Those who wish to leave the stricken country can fly to Hong Kong and onwards to Britain, the Foreign Office (FO) announced. Read More

Japanese yen surged to record high against dollar as Nikkei erases some post-quake gains - 17th Mar 2011

BANGKOK — The yen hit a record high against the dollar and Japanese stocks regained some of their fortitude after drooping earlier Thursday, energizing stocks in Europe and pushing U.S. futures higher even as Japan struggled to avert a post-earthquake nuclear catastrophe.

Japan’s benchmark Nikkei 225 lost 1.4 percent to close at 8,962.67, but that was a recovery from a 3.6 percent drop upon opening. Oil prices rose above $99 a barrel in Asia as traders mulled whether damage to nuclear power plants in Japan will eventually boost demand for crude.

The dollar was hovering just above 79 yen in Asia — well below its previous all-time low of 79.75 yen set in April 1995 after plunging to 76.53 yen in the morning

European shares were higher after the Nikkei moderated its losses and the Bank of Japan showed its determination to save the economy by injecting huge amounts of cash into the money markets. Read More

Hawaii Volcano Causes Wildfire - 16th Mar 2011

Fires started from the Kamoamoa eruption of Kilauea Volcano burned more than 1,166 acres over two days, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park said today.

Gusty winds today pushed the fires southwest toward Holei Pali, park officials said in a news release.

Park firefighters are holding the blaze to the east and north of Chain of Craters Road, which remains closed at Mau Loa O Mauna Ulu.

California firefighters are expected Friday as reinforcements.

The lava-ignited fire is moving through and area of uluhe fern and ohia that has burned at least twice due to lava flows, the park said. Source

Radiation risks: who says what - 17th Mar 2011

The US is recommending a no-go zone of 80 kilometres - four times the size of the 20-kilometre exclusion zone set up by Japanese authorities around Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.

Jacques Repussard, head of France's Institute for Radiological Protection and Nuclear Safety (IRSN), said a radioactive plume would extend from "several dozen kilometres" around the plant to several hundred kilometres "in the coming days".

But he said the plume would have no consequences for health in Tokyo, 250 kilometres to the south-east.

Britain's Chief Scientific Officer, Professor John Beddington, told the British embassy in Tokyo that even in the worst-case scenario, an explosion following a meltdown would only be serious for the local area.

During the meltdown, the nuclear material would fall to the bottom of the containment structure and react with the concrete and other materials.

A man holds his dog as they wait to be scanned for radiation exposure at a temporary scanning centre for residents living close to the quake-damaged Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant.

"In this reasonable worst case you get an explosion. You get some radioactive material going up to about 500 metres up into the air. Now, that's really serious, but it's serious again for the local area. It's not serious for elsewhere. Even if you get a combination of that explosion it would only have nuclear material going in to the air up to about 500 metres.

"If you then couple that with the worst possible weather situation [that is] prevailing weather taking radioactive material in the direction of Greater Tokyo and you had maybe rainfall, which would bring the radioactive material down, [the question is] do we have a problem? The answer is unequivocally no. Absolutely no issue. The problems are within 30 kilometres of the reactor."

When Chernobyl exploded in 1986, it sent dangerous materials into the upper atmosphere for a long period of time. Source

SURVIVED - smashes into 60mph truck (but flies again after making miraculous recovery) - 17th Mar 2011

With its head stuck through a windscreen after being hit by a truck at 60mph, nobody gave the young bald eagle much of a chance of survival.

But the bird nicknamed Wiegle - short for 'Window Eagle' - has made a miraculous recovery and is flying high again in the wilds of Bear Lake, Idaho.

The eagle's battle for life began after it was hit while feeding on a dead deer on the road and flew in the wrong direction as the semi approached.

Amazingly the young female suffered no broken bones, but had internal bleeding. First it was taken to Idaho Fish and Game in Pocatello before being driven toTeton Raptor Center in Wilson, Wyoming.

There it was nursed back to health for a month before Wiegle proved she was ready to be released as she flew, ate on her own, and was able to navigate and land. Read More

The gentle giant: Scientists discover plant-eating dinosaur that made even the T-Rex look small - 17th Mar 2011

Scientists in Angola claim they have unearthed one of the largest ever dinosaurs to walk the planet.

Although they have only found the first fossil, it is believed the creature was a long-necked plant eater.

It has been dubbed the Angolatitan adamastor - or Angolan giant.

The international team claims unique skeletal characteristics of the fossilised forelimb bone mean it is part of a previously unknown dinosaur.

The remarkable archaeological find is the first in Angola since the 1960s after years of war came to an end.

It was discovered in an area that would have been underwater when the dinosaur was alive 90million years ago.

It is thought the remains, found with fish and shark teeth, might have been washed into the sea and torn apart by ancient sharks.

Matthew Bonnan, a sauropod expert at Western Illinois University, said he believes the team's claim to have discovered a new dinosaur is genuine. Read More

Weird - Is it a chicken or a turkey? No, it's a churkey - 17th Mar 2011

Its naked neck has long ruffled feathers among both scientists and poultry fanciers.

Is it there because this fowl is a hybrid of a turkey and a chicken? Many once mistakenly believed that to be true, with the result the bird is sometimes still called a 'turken'.

In fact, the Transylvanian Naked Neck, to use its proper name, is a chicken.

But the reason for its mysterious bald patch has continued to intrigue, with home-spun theories abounding.

Some like to think it is Mother Nature's way of giving us something easier to pluck than the average bird. Others have archly speculated (bearing in mind the province the bird is named after) it is to give vampires easier access.

Now, at last, the heated debate over its curious appearance can cease. For a DNA study by scientists at a British university has discovered the bird developed its distinctive look to stay cool. Read More

As Britons are warned to leave Bahrain, Whitehall lays on evacuation flights... but charges everyone £260 for a seat - 17th Mar 2011

Commercial flights available tomorrow 18th Mar 2011 for people to leave on
  • Prime Minister calls on King of Bahrain to end violent suppression
  • Witnesses see helicopters firing on homes and attacking doctors treating the wounded

The Government says it will help evacuate British citizens wanting to flee the deteriorating situation in Bahrain - but will charge them for a seat on the flight.

The Foreign Office has urged people, if possible, to leave the stricken Gulf State on commercial flights today.

Those who cannot get a ticket will be evacuated on an FCO-chartered flight - but will have to pay £260.

The advice comes as running battles were once again fought on Bahraini streets.

Soldiers and riot police used tear gas and armoured vehicles to clear protesters from Pearl Square, which has been the focus of demonstrations in the capital Manama. Read More

Desperate families left to forage for scraps in the snow in world's third richest country - 17th Mar 2011

Homeless, desperate people clambered over snow-covered debris where their villages had once stood, gathering armloads of firewood as Japan's humanitarian crisis escalated yesterday.

In scenes more befitting a poverty-stricken Third World country than the world's third-richest nation, hungry people wrapped themselves in odd scraps of clothing in a futile attempt to keep out the cold in temperatures only just above freezing.

One of the most heartbreaking images to emerge was of a woman breaking down as found her dead mother's hand among the rubble of her destroyed home.

Yoshie Murakami cried in anguish as she said her final goodbyes and held her mother's hand and that was discovered after five days of agonising searching in in the tsunami-hit city of Rikuzentakata.

She is now praying that her missing 23-year-old daughter will be found alive.

Similar scenes unfolded throughout the country as rescuers sifted though the rubble and families prayed that their loved ones were safe and well.

Some residents made homeless by the tragedy foraged for food, crying out with delight when they found an undamaged can of food here, a still-edible packet of noodles there. Read More

Thousands of seabirds on remote islands near Hawaii killed by Pacific tsunami - 17th Mar 2011

Thousands of seabirds have been killed when the tsunami generated by last week's massive earthquake off Japan flooded a remote atoll near Hawaii.

At least 1,000 adult and adolescent Laysan albatross, along with thousands of chicks, perished as waves reaching 5ft-tall rolled over the low-lying Midway islands about four hours after the magnitude 9.0 earthquake struck on Friday.

Many drowned or were buried under debris, said Barry W. Stieglitz, the project leader for the Hawaiian and Pacific Islands National Wildlife Refuges.

The white-and-black feathered Laysan albatross is not in danger of becoming extinct.

About one million of the birds live at Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge about 1,300 miles north-west of Honolulu, making it the largest Laysan albatross colony in the world.

But Mr Stieglitz said the deaths could account for a significant share of Laysan albatross chicks hatched during the current season.

'We may see just a slight decline in breeding birds next year, next year and the year after that,' he said. Read More

U.S. working to move citizens from affected areas in Japan - 17th Mar 2011

Washington (CNN)
-- The State Department announced late Wednesday that it has approved the departure of family members of U.S. government personnel from certain areas of Japan in the aftermath of the earthquake, the tsunami and the nuclear power plant crisis.

Charter flights will be made available to the approximately 600 people, according to Under Secretary of State Patrick Kennedy.

"When we do a voluntary authorized departure, the State Department bears the expense of the transportation," Kennedy said.

"There are still commercial seats available out of Tokyo," he said. "However, because we do not wish to consume large numbers of seats that others might need, Read More