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Canada: Hunger is an Epidemic

We need an intelligent national discussion on hunger in Canada.

Let's get down to it.

Look, the number of Canadians forced to visit a food bank last March set a record, according to Food Banks Canada.

This upward trend started in 1989.

The number of Canadians who must turn to food banks to feed themselves and their families has more than doubled over two of the most prosperous decades in the country's history.

Canada's GDP was close to $1.4 trillion in 2010, more than twice what it was in 1989. Total that cumulative annual value and it amounts to more than $11 trillion.

Our collective wealth grew by more than 100 per cent at a time in which the number of people who couldn't get enough to eat was doubling.

This troubling trend should register as a warning flag that there is serious structural imbalance in Canadian society's economic ability to distribute incomes.

Instead, we get constant pleas of poverty from on high. And we get the same bleating from business, where CEOs award themselves fat increases every year while low incomes stagnate.

In fact, 30 per cent of companies that fell below the median for total shareholder return still gave management raises, according to one independent report tracking executive compensation.

Let's be clear. Last year, in March alone, 867,948 Canadians visited food banks. If these folks were classified as a province -the province of hunger -it would rank seventh in population just behind Nova Scotia and Saskatchewan. In a country so self-congratulatory about its compassion, this seems unpardonable.

Top Secret

Japan: Reveal fallout data: ex-nuke chief

Evacuees must know radiation exposure risks, expert says

© Kyodo Graphic
A former acting head of the Atomic Energy Commission called Thursday for the government to tell the public how radioactive emissions have spread from the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant in the past and to predict future radiation exposure risks according to distance for the most critical scenarios.

In a telephone interview with The Japan Times, Shunichi Tanaka, former acting chairman of the commission, said it was irresponsible for the government to force people to evacuate their homes without disclosing concrete data on the calculated exposure risks they face from wind-borne radioactive materials.

"The government has not yet said in concrete terms why evacuation is necessary to the people who have evacuated," he said.


Texas: The Beefy Crunch Burrito incident

Texas fast-food shooting
© EDWARD A. ORNELAS / SAN ANTONIO EXPRESS-NEWS NFSMembers of the SAPD SWAT team work the scene of a standoff at the Rodeway Inn.

The price of the Beefy Crunch Burrito had gone up from 99 cents to $1.49 and the man at the Rigsby Road Taco Bell drive-thru had just ordered seven.

The fast food customer was so disgruntled by the price hike he shot an air gun at the manager, displayed an assault rifle and pistol while in the restaurant's parking lot, fled as police were called, and pointed one of his weapons at three officers who pulled him over. Fleeing when they opened fire, he barricaded himself in his hotel room - all over $3.50 plus additional tax.

All three of his weapons were found to be air-powered and not firearms.

The final incident in the burrito-triggered spree happened Sunday afternoon at the Rodeway Inn on North W.W. White Road, engaging SWAT negotiators in a more than three-hour standoff, according to officials and witnesses.

Che Guevara

Tawakul Karman, a Yemeni Activist, Provides Thorn in Side for Saleh

32-year-old mother of three has faced death threats and prison, but devotion to cause has earned international acclaim

Tawakul Karman
© Yahya Arhab/EPATawakul Karman, the Yemeni human rights activist , has received death threats after refusing a government position.
Tawakul Karman, a 32-year-old mother of three, may seem an unlikely leader of the fight to overthrow the president of Yemen.

But the outspoken journalist and human rights activist has long been a thorn in Ali Abdullah Saleh's side, agitating for press freedoms and staging weekly sit-ins to demand the release of political prisoners from jail - a place she has been several times herself.

Now inspired by the uprising in Tunisia and the resignation of Hosni Mubarak in Egypt, she finds herself at the head of a popular protest movement which is shaking the Yemeni regime to its core.

"With two civil wars, an al-Qaida presence and 40% unemployment, what else is President Saleh waiting for? He should leave office now," she says, claiming that Yemen, like Tunisia and Egypt, needs an end to a dictatorship in the guise of a presidency.

"This revolution is inevitable, the people have endured dictatorship, corruption, poverty and unemployment for years and now the whole thing is exploding," she says.


Nuclear Crisis in Japan Level 6

A Japanese news report claims the nuclear power plant crisis in Fukushima prefecture is level 6 indicating a serious accident on the seven-point International Nuclear Event Scale.

Japanese news daily, Asahi Shinbun, reported Friday that the amount of iodine leaked from the power plant has reached almost thirty to 1-hundred-10 thousand tera Becquerel per hour.

The Chernobyl nuclear accident in 1986 was categorized as level 7, the worst nuclear accident ever in history, while the one occurred on Three Mile Island in the United States in 1979 was recorded as a level 5 incident.


Radiation 10,000 Times Normal in Japan Nuclear Pool

Military officers on Friday hold a blue sheet over people exposed to high levels of radiation at Japan's Fukushima Daiichi plant.
Tokyo -- Authorities in Japan raised the prospect Friday of a likely breach in the all-important containment vessel of the No. 3 reactor at the stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, a potentially ominous development in the race to prevent a large-scale release of radiation.

Contaminated water likely seeped through the containment vessel protecting the reactor's core, said Hidehiko Nishiyama of the Japan Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency.

Three men working near the No. 3 reactor Thursday stepped into water that had 10,000 times the amount of radiation typical for a nuclear plant, Nishiyama said. An analysis of the contamination suggests "some sort of leakage" from the reactor core, signaling a possible break of the containment vessel that houses the core, he said.

The workers have been hospitalized, according to the agency.

Comment: While Ian Hutchinson is 'not particularly alarmed', being safely ensconced at MIT, the Japanese Prime Minister called the country's ongoing fight to stabilize the plant "very grave and serious."

A somber Prime Minister Naoto Kan sounded a pessimistic note at a briefing hours after nuclear safety officials announced what could be a major setback in the urgent mission to stop the plant from leaking radiation, two weeks after a devastating earthquake and tsunami disabled it.

"The situation today at the Fukushima Dai-ichi power plant is still very grave and serious. We must remain vigilant," Kan said. "We are not in a position where we can be optimistic. We must treat every development with the utmost care."

So, perhaps it's time for those like Mr. Hutchinson to stop clouding the issue with denials and start to warn people of the reality of the situation so that they can take action to realistically protect themselves.

Bizarro Earth

Oldest US Nuclear Reactor: a 'Disaster' in Waiting?

oyster creek nuke plant
© n/aNuclear power plant at Oyster Creek, New Jersey.
Lacey, New Jersey - A sleepy New Jersey town has popped onto people's radar screens because it has the oldest running nuclear power plant in the United States -- and, some say, the most dangerous.

Named for a Revolutionary War general, Lacey is the kind of American town that few from outside the seaside settlement knew much about before the earthquake and tsunami in Japan triggered a nuclear crisis.

Down the road from the 1950s-style diner and across from the bridge that locals use as a fishing pier stands the Oyster Creek nuclear plant.

It uses a GE Mark I Boiling Water reactor identical to those that lost power at Japan's Fukushima plant in the March 11 earthquake and then was struck by a tsunami that knocked out its backup generators, causing reactor cooling functions to fail.

Evil Rays

Global Food Scare Widens from Japan Nuclear Plant

radiation check / Japan
© n/a
Countries across the world shunned Japanese food imports Thursday as radioactive steam leaked from a disaster-struck nuclear plant, straining nerves in Tokyo.

The grim toll of dead and missing from Japan's monster quake and tsunami on March 11 topped 26,000, as hundreds of thousands remained huddled in evacuation shelters and fears grew in the megacity of Tokyo over water safety.

The damage to the Fukushima nuclear plant from the tectonic calamity and a series of explosions has stoked global anxiety. The United States and Hong Kong have already restricted Japanese food, and France wants the EU to do the same.

Russia ordered a halt to food imports from four prefectures -- Fukushima, Gunma, Ibaraki and Tochigi -- near the stricken plant 250 kilometres (155 miles) northeast of Tokyo.

Heart - Black

Iraq - A Nation of Tears


Fire at US underground lab appears under control

Within the next 48 hours a crew is expected to enter the Soudan Underground Laboratory for the first time since a fire broke out last Thursday at the mine that houses it. The facility, which is managed by the University of Minnesota, is home to a number of high-profile physics experiments, including the MINOS neutrino detector and the detector of the Cryogenic Dark Matter Search (CDMS) experiment. The lab lies more than 700 m below ground where the rocks above shield the experiments from unwanted cosmic rays and other disturbances.

© UnknownFirefighters tackling the blaze at the Soudan Mine, Friday
According to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR), the fire was detected in the mine's main lift shaft around 9 p.m. local time on Thursday (17 March) when nobody was in the mine. By Friday the DNR had established that the fire was blazing inside the shaft between levels 23 and 25 - just two levels above the physics laboratory, which is located 60 m below on the mine's lowest level.

There were also fears that the lab could suffer flood damage after electrical systems automatically shut down, deactivating pumps that were designed to keep groundwater from entering the mine.

After fire-fighting efforts over the weekend, in which thousands of gallons of foam and water were sprayed into the mine, the Minnesota Interagency Fire Center reported on Sunday that the fire was 99% extinguished. Fire officials will only declare the blaze officially "out" once its source has been located and any smouldering ashes or embers have been extinguished.