Society's ChildS

Evil Rays

Fatal Radiation Level Found at Japanese Plant

Tokyo - The operator of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant said Monday that it measured the highest radiation levels within the plant since it was crippled by a devastating earthquake. However, it said the discovery would not slow continuing efforts to bring the plant's damaged reactors under control.

The operator, Tokyo Electric Power, said that workers on Monday afternoon had found an area near Reactors No. 1 and 2, where radiation levels exceeded their measuring device's maximum reading of 10 sieverts per hour - a fatal dose for humans.

The company said the reading was taken near a ventilation tower, suggesting that the contamination happened in the days immediately after the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, when workers desperately tried to release flammable hydrogen gas that was then building up inside the reactor buildings. The release, known as venting, failed to prevent crippling explosions that destroyed the reactor buildings.

Bizarro Earth

Virginia, US: Woodpecker-Saving Daughter Costs Mom $500, Possible Jail Time

Fredericksburg - Eleven-year-old aspiring veterinarian, Skylar Capo, sprang into action the second she learned that a baby woodpecker in her Dad's backyard was about to be eaten by the family cat.

"I've just always loved animals," said Skylar Capo. "I couldn't stand to watch it be eaten."

Skylar couldn't find the woodpecker's mother, so she brought it to her own mother, Alison Capo, who agreed to take it home.

"She was just going to take care of it for a day or two, make sure it was safe and uninjured, and then she was going to let it go," said Capo.


Japan: People Power! Protesters Rally in Fukushima Against Nuclear Power

An estimated 1,700 people gathered to call for an end to nuclear energy on Sunday in the regional capital of Fukushima, where a nuclear power plant that was crippled by a March 11 earthquake and tsunami continues to cause concern.


Japan: Fukushima Teacher Muzzled Over Radiation

As temperatures soared above 37 degrees on a recent July morning, schoolchildren in Fukushima Prefecture were taking off their masks and running around playgrounds in T-shirts, exposing themselves to a similar amount of annual radiation as a nuclear power plant worker.

Toshinori Shishido, a Japanese literature teacher of 25 years, warned his students two months ago to wear surgical masks and keep their skin covered with long-sleeved shirts. His advice went unheeded, not because of the weather but because his school told him not to alarm students. Shishido quit last week.

"I want to get away from this situation where I'm not even allowed to alert children about radiation exposure," said Shishido, 48, who taught at Fukushima Nishi High School. "Now I'm free to talk about the risks."


Disaster payments from BP being taken from those who owe child support

Baton Rouge, Louisiana -- Disaster payments from the BP oil spill are being intercepted by the state from those who are behind in their child support.

The Advocate reported Monday that $5.5 million has been seized so far. Lisa Andry of the Department of Children and Family Services, said that names of about 9,400 people owing $101 million in child support have been found among those applying for BP disaster payments.

Andry says there have been very few complaints among parents who saw their disaster payments diverted. The largest individual seizure was just over $33,000.

So far, the Gulf Coast Claims Facility has paid more than $5 billion to individuals. Louisiana has a backlog of $1.2 billion in unpaid child support.


US: Rhode Island's Central Falls Files for Bankruptcy

© Brian Snyder/ReutersA sign calling Central Falls, Rhode Island a "City of Dreams" marks the town's boundary on Higgingson Avenue.
Central Falls, Rhode Island, one of a handful of U.S. cities and counties facing fiscal collapse in the wake of the economic recession, filed for a rare Chapter 9 bankruptcy on Monday.

The bankruptcy filing, a risky and potentially expensive move that could freeze the city out of the U.S. municipal bond market, marks a symbolic blow as state and local governments struggle to pull themselves out of the recession.

The smallest city in the smallest U.S. state made the filing as it grappled with an $80 million unfunded pension and retiree health benefit liability that is nearly quadruple its annual budget of $17 million.

"This is a wake-up call for other struggling towns," said Eileen Norcross, a senior research fellow at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University. "States should be looking at Rhode Island and saying, 'How can we avoid this?"

Chart Pie

The Weather Channel rides out the storm with its highest numbers ever

flood rescue
© Weather ChannelA rescue during flooding in Missouri was fodder for the Weather Channel's "Storm Stories."
It's been the worst year for extreme weather since Noah had to build an ark - unless you've invested in the Weather Channel.

Tornadoes, droughts, subzero temperatures and heat waves have already brought boffo numbers to the cable outlet, with hurricane season right around the corner.

"It's all about extremes," said meteorologist Stephanie Abrams, who co-hosts a morning show with Al Roker.

Nearly 46 million people followed the network's coverage on TV or online during the freeze that covered a third of the country on Groundhog Day, and nearly 50 million relied on its services when tornadoes devastated Joplin, Missouri.

It wasn't long ago when the Weather Channel didn't go anywhere beyond the coffee room in its Georgia-based studio. When it was launched in 1982, coverage was limited to maps and radar screens, with anchors ticking off temperatures as if they were reading stock market numbers. Today, top personalities hopscotch around the world, trying to get to locations right before storms hit.


Budget cuts mean fewer firefighter to fight California wildfires

California Wildfire
© Unknown
Just north of Highway 180 in Fresno County, a wildfire in mid-June ate through thick grass, burning into oak woodlands and roaring up steep hills.

For firefighters, it appeared to be a routine event. Six engine teams, including five from Cal Fire and one from Fresno County, attacked from two sides. Firefighters carrying heavy, 300-foot hose extensions ascended the rocky terrain. They doubled back for additional hose, stretching their water lines and attempted to circle the fire before it leaped a ridge.

But, under state budget cuts, Cal Fire was battling the blaze with three firefighters per engine instead of the normal four-man crews used in the wildfire season. They couldn't get water around the fire in time. It jumped the ridge and devoured the next canyon.

The incident on what one fire captain called "a standard wildfire" stoked fear over whether staffing cuts are affecting first-strike capabilities of firefighters to stave off severe wildland events.


Tepco Says Highest Radiation Detected at Fukushima Dai-Ichi, 10+ Sieverts An Hour

Dead zone: Earth 2011
(Updates with company comment from second paragraph.)

Tokyo Electric Power Co., operator of Japan's crippled Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear plant, said it detected the highest radiation to date at the site.

Geiger counters, used to detect radioactivity, registered more than 10 sieverts an hour, the highest reading the devices are able to record, Junichi Matsumoto, a general manager at the utility, said today. The measurements were taken at the base of the main ventilation stack for reactors No. 1 and No. 2.

The Fukushima plant, about 220 kilometers (137 miles) north of Tokyo, had three reactor meltdowns after the March 11 magnitude-9 earthquake and tsunami knocked out power and backup generators. Radiation leaks displaced 160,000 people and contaminated marine life and agricultural products.

The utility, known as Tepco, tried to vent steam and gas the day after the earthquake as pressure in reactor No. 1 exceeded designed limits. A buildup of hydrogen gas subsequently caused an explosion that blew out part of the reactor building.


Bitcoin: A New Kind of Money That's Beyond the Reach of Bankers, Wall St. and Regulators?


The Internet's creative hive mind is charting the future of commerce -- the bitcoin phenomenon shows what online currencies are capable of.

This July a computer developer who goes by the handle Doctor Nefario landed at the Seattle-Tacoma airport from China for a two-month mind-meld with various U.S. developers, which he planned to mostly fund using the increasingly popular decentralized digital currency bitcoin. After explaining to suspicious Customs and Border Protection agents that he had $600 in cash in his possession and another $1,500 to exchange in bitcoin -- plenty for a two-month visit, he insisted -- Nefario, founder of the Global Bitcoin Stock Exchange, was promptly sent back to China after agents spent hours trying to wrap their heads around the concept of real money that exists only in virtual reality.

"Avoid any mention of bitcoin," Nefario advised in a blog post recounting the tragicomic affair. "They don't like it at all."

Good luck with that. Founded in 2009 from a self-published 2008 white paper by developer Satoshi Nakamoto, whose actual identity still remains a mystery, bitcoin's peer-to-peer virtual currency has gone viral, from WikiLeaks to Google and beyond. It's a fascinating experiment in economic evolution, where goods and services can be exchanged using an opensourced mobile currency mostly outside the reach of regulators, speculators and central bankers. There are over six million in existence, pegged between $14-$17 per unit -- although their actual price can fluctuate wildly in a given day -- with a tentative cap of 21 million. Bitcoins are stored in a digital wallet, and can be used in any country to barter with a massive and growing list of sites that accept them.