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Risk From Spent Nuclear Reactor Fuel Is Greater in U.S. Than in Japan, Study Says

Spent nuclear fuel pool
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Spent nuclear fuel pool
The threat of a catastrophic release of radioactive materials from a spent fuel pool at Japan's Fukushima Daiichi plant is dwarfed by the risk posed by such pools in the United States, which are typically filled with far more radioactive material, according to a study released on Tuesday by a nonprofit institute.

The report, from the Institute for Policy Studies, recommends that the United States transfer most of the nation's spent nuclear fuel from pools filled with cooling water to dry sealed steel casks to limit the risk of an accident resulting from an earthquake, terrorism or other event.

"The largest concentrations of radioactivity on the planet will remain in storage at U.S. reactor sites for the indefinite future," the report's author, Robert Alvarez, a senior scholar at the institute, wrote. "In protecting America from nuclear catastrophe, safely securing the spent fuel by eliminating highly radioactive, crowded pools should be a public safety priority of the highest degree."


Nuclear Insanity

Dr. Vandana Shiva
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Dr. Vandana Shiva
Fukushima has raised, once again, the perennial questions about human fallibility and human frailty, about human hubris and man's arrogance in thinking he can control nature. The earthquakes, the tsunami, the meltdown at Japan's nuclear power plant are nature's reminders of her power.

The scientific and industrial revolution was based on the idea that nature is dead, and the earth inert matter. The tragedy in Japan is a wakeup call from Mother Nature - an alarm to tell us she is alive and powerful, and that humans are powerless in her path. The ruined harbours, villages and towns, the ships, aeroplanes and cars tossed away by the angry waves as if they were tiny toys are reminders that should correct the assumption that man can dominate over nature - with technology, tools and industrial infrastructure.

The Fukushima disaster invites us to revisit the human-nature relationship. It also raises questions about the so-called "nuclear renaissance" as an answer to the climate and energy crisis. President of the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research, Arjun Makhijani, speaking at Public Interest Environmental Law Conference, said that "nuclear renaissance" would need 300 reactors every week and two-three uranium enrichment plants every year. The spent fuel would contain 90,000 bombs of plutonium per year if separated. Water required would be 10-20 million litres per day.


US: Accused Tucson Shooter Due in Court for Competency Hearing

© euters/U.S. Marshals Service/Handout
Tuscon shooting rampage suspect Jared Lee Loughner is pictured in this undated booking photograph released by the U.S. Marshals Service on February 22, 2011.
Accused Tucson shooting suspect Jared Loughner will appear in federal court in Arizona on Wednesday for a hearing to determine whether he is mentally competent to stand trial.

Loughner is charged with opening fire at a political event outside a Tucson grocery store on January 8, killing six people and wounding 13 others, including Democratic Representative Gabrielle Giffords, who was shot through the head.

U.S. District Judge Larry Burns ordered the hearing in March to determine if Loughner understood the legal proceedings against him and could assist in his own defense. His own legal team has described him as "gravely mentally ill."

The 22-year-old college dropout spent five weeks in Missouri where he underwent mental competency examinations at a federal prison hospital. A report by Dr. Christina Pietz and Dr. Matthew Carroll was lodged with the court.

In a possible sign that he will be found not competent to stand trial, prosecutors and defense attorneys agreed in papers filed last week that their reports were sufficient to reach a conclusion, and that neither Pietz nor Carroll need testify.

Heart - Black

US: Elizabeth Smart to Address Kidnapper at Sentencing

Elizabeth Smart
© Reuters/Michael Brandy
Elizabeth Smart talks to the media after Brian David Mitchell, a homeless street preacher, was found guilty of kidnapping then teenager Smart in June 2002, outside federal court in Salt Lake City, Utah, in this December 10, 2010 file photo.
Kidnapping victim Elizabeth Smart will directly address the homeless street preacher convicted of abducting her nine years ago at his sentencing, her father told Reuters on Tuesday.

Ed Smart said his daughter, who is now 23, considered it important to confront Brian David Mitchell in court on Wednesday before he is sent to prison for her June 5, 2002, kidnapping and subsequent nine-month ordeal -- a crime that gripped much of America.

Elizabeth Smart, who was 14 when Mitchell snatched her at knifepoint from her upscale Salt Lake City home, testified during the self-styled prophet's six-week trial in federal court but did not directly address him.

Mitchell, 57, was ejected from the courtroom daily, including during Smart's testimony, for disrupting the proceedings with loud singing.

Smart returned to Utah two weeks ago after completing a religious mission in Paris, France, for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.


Why is the media still giving this attention? Harold Camping issues new apocalypse date

The predicted doomsday was publicised worldwide. Now why was that?
The evangelical broadcaster who left followers crestfallen by his failed prediction that last Saturday would be Judgement Day says he miscalculated.

Harold Camping said it had "dawned" on him that God would spare humanity "hell on Earth for five months" and the apocalypse would happen on 21 October.

Mr Camping said he felt "terrible" about his mistake.

But he said he could not give financial advice to those who spent their life savings in the belief the end was nigh.

Mr Camping had predicted that on 21 May, true believers would be swept up to heaven while a giant earthquake would bring destruction for those left behind.

Comment: Religion May Cause Brain Atrophy

Bad Guys

US: Utah Woman Accused of Trying to Sell Girl's Virginity

stop sexual exploitation
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A Salt Lake City woman has been charged with offering her 13-year-old daughter's virginity to a man for $10,000.

The 32-year-old woman was charged Monday in Utah's 3rd District Court with two first-degree felony counts of aggravated sex abuse of a child and two second-degree felony counts of sexual exploitation of a minor.

If convicted, the woman faces a lifetime prison sentence for each first-degree felony and a zero to 15 year sentence for each second-degree felony.

In court papers, prosecutors allege that the woman had discussed letting her daughter perform oral sex and other sex acts with an adult male. The negotiated offer and an arrangement to exchange the teen's virginity for money were detailed in a string of text messages which were seen by the woman's boyfriend, who called police, court papers say.


Marmite Made Illegal in Denmark

A jar of Marmite
© Jeff Gilbert
A jar of Marmite
According to the marketing slogan it is a taste that you either love or hate. But Danes will no longer get the chance to make up their own minds on Marmite after the British delicacy was banned under food safety laws.

The strongly flavoured dark brown spread made from brewer's yeast has joined Rice Crispies, Shreddies, Horlicks and Ovaltine prohibited in Denmark under legislation forbidding the sale of food products with added vitamins as threat to public health.

Many well known breakfast cereal and drink brands have already been banned or taken off supermarket shelves after Danish legislation in 2004 restricted foods fortified with extra vitamins or minerals.

But Marmite had escaped notice as an exotic import for a small number of ex-pats until the Danish Veterinary and Food Administration telephoned Abigail's, a Copenhagen shop selling British food, to ban the famous yeast spread.


Ireland: Ryanair flies plane through Icelandic volcano ash cloud

Ryanair called for restrictions on airlines to be lifted after it claimed to have flown a plane safely though the thickest part of the volcanic ash cloud.

The airline said it strongly objected to the disruption under orders from the Irish Aviation Authority which saw flights cancelled at Glasgow, Edinburgh and Aberdeen.


Egypt: Hosni Mubarak and sons to be tried over deaths


Hosni Mubarak is being held in a military hospital in Sharm el-Sheikh after reporting heart problems
Egypt's ousted President Hosni Mubarak and his two sons are to be tried over the deaths of anti-government protesters, judicial officials say.

Mr Mubarak, who was ousted in February, is being detained at a hospital in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh.

He and his wife also face allegations of illegally acquiring wealth while they were in power for 30 years.


Germany: Sales Staff Snorted Salt Not Drugs?

Munich Re unit Ergo said on Tuesday sales agents photographed snorting white powder at a company-sponsored party were inhaling salt rather than drugs, just as the insurer struggles to shake a tarnished image.

The unit was responding to a report in German tabloid Bild, that published photographs showing sales agents snorting white powder from a table-top at an employee motivation party held in the holiday resort of Mallorca last September.

"The pictures published in Bild show a drinking game with salt, Tequila and lemon juice," the company said in a statement

Tequila shots, slices of lime and a salt shaker were visible on the photographs, items used in a drinking maneuver known as "tequila suicide," which requires drinkers to snort salt, drink tequila and to squeeze lime into their eyes.

"The snorting of salt up the nose is part of the game. The activities of the persons shown in the pictures published by Bild do not deal with cocaine consumption," it added.