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Fri, 29 Sep 2023
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Japan Weighs Entombing Nuclear Plant on Chain Reaction Risk

Japan is considering pouring concrete into its crippled Fukushima atomic plant as the United Nations's nuclear watchdog agency warned that a potential uncontrolled chain reaction could cause further radiation leaks.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano yesterday ruled out the possibility that the two undamaged reactors at Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s six-unit Dai-Ichi plant would be salvaged. Units 1 through 4 suffered from explosions, presumed meltdowns and corrosion from seawater sprayed on radioactive fuel rods after a March 11 earthquake and tsunami cut power to cooling systems.

Workers have averted the threat of a total meltdown by injecting water into the damaged reactors for the past two weeks. The complex's six units are connected with the power grid and two are using temporary motor-driven pumps. Work to repair the plant's monitoring and cooling systems has been hampered by discoveries of hazardous radioactive water.

The risk to workers might be greater than previously thought because melted fuel in the No. 1 reactor building may be causing isolated, uncontrolled nuclear chain reactions, Denis Flory, nuclear safety director for the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency, said at a press conference in Vienna.


US: NYPD officer's family upset by 9/11 death probe

City medical officials declined to sign off on a police officer's death certificate this week after a hospice doctor declared that his fatal stomach cancer was caused by World Trade Center toxins, then angered his family by asking to examine his body on the day of the wake.

George Wong, who retired from the New York Police Department in 2006, was 48 when he died on March 24. His wake was about to get under way Monday when his family received a call from the office of the city medical examiner asking for permission to do an autopsy.

Normally, the city doesn't investigate cancer deaths, but it got involved after health department workers noticed that a doctor who had provided end-of-life care for Wong, Lyla Correoso, had filled out paperwork attributing his cancer to toxic exposure in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

Heart - Black

Fears of Radioactive Contagion: Evacuees Turned Away From Shelters

© Reuters
A man sits inside a bar in central Fukushima. The situation at the Fukushima plant remains critical.

Hundreds of people evacuated from towns and villages close to the stricken Fukushima nuclear plant are being turned away by medical institutions and emergency shelters as fears of radioactive contagion catch on.

Hospitals and temporary refuges are demanding that evacuees provide them with certificates confirming that they have not been exposed to radiation before they are admitted.

The situation at the plant remains critical, with the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency yesterday that radioactive iodine-131 at more than 3,350 times permitted levels has been found in a sample of seawater taken from near the facility.

The water is the most highly contaminated sample taken from the sea and indicates that radiation from the core of one or more of the reactors, where fuel rods have partly melted, is leaking into the Pacific Ocean.


Tainted seafood fears spread as Japan plant leaks

Japan's Emperor Akihito ,Empress Michiko
© Reuters/Issei Kato
Japan's Emperor Akihito (L) and Empress Michiko (2nd L) talk with evacuees at Tokyo Budoh-kan.

Tokyo - Fears about contaminated seafood spread Wednesday despite reassurances that radiation in the waters off Japan's troubled atomic plant pose no health risk, as the country's respected emperor consoled evacuees from the tsunami and nuclear emergency zone.

While experts say radioactive particles are unlikely to build up significantly in fish, the seafood concerns in the country that gave the world sushi are yet another blemish for Brand Japan. It has already been hit by contamination of milk, vegetables and water, plus shortages of auto and tech parts after a massive quake and tsunami disabled a coastal nuclear power plant.

Setbacks at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear complex mounted Wednesday, as the plant's operator, Tokyo Power Electric Co., announced that its president was hospitalized. Masataka Shimizu has not been seen since a news conference two days after the March 11 quake that spawned the destructive wave. His absence fueled speculation that he had suffered a breakdown.

Alarm Clock

The Cannibalization of Charlie Sheen

Conventional wisdom tells us that the rich and famous have it easy, that they get away with murder, that they can buy and charm their way out of all the social traps the rest of us face. But in fact, people love to see a fall from grace, and they love to kick the fallen when they're down. When the mass media target a celebrity for character destruction, the ostracism and witch-hunts are typically more relentless than when a commoner is in the crosshairs. There is no privacy. There is no escape. The entire media class, from Hollywood to Manhattan, lines up to cannibalize one of their own with gratuitous relish.

That Charlie Sheen has been the biggest national story, while the Arab world is aflame with revolution and the U.S. marches toward ever more war and economic disaster, is not the most remarkable thing. What is most striking is how easily so many line up behind a consensus that someone ought to be the butt of all jokes and the focus of everyone's mockery and outrage. Why is the public so obsessed? Does the public's obsession fuel the media's, or is it the other way around?

Indeed, the main mystery is why so many entertainers have jumped on the bandwagon to belittle the actor. Why are so many glitterati pointing their fingers and laughing, judging, and psychoanalyzing Sheen from afar? And even if it was kind of funny the first time to compare his eccentric quips to the ranting of the dictator Qadafi, isn't it a bit unseemly for so many to be piling on with such insults?


Dutch Girl, 12, Gives Birth on School Trip

A 12-year-old Dutch girl gave birth while on a school trip, sparking a police search Wednesday for the father of the child.

The girl, from Groningen, 114 miles northeast of Amsterdam, complained of stomach pains March 22, during a day out with classmates.

Teachers realized the girl was in labor and called an ambulance. Medics rushed to the scene, and the 12 year old delivered a healthy baby girl in a nearby building. The young mother was then taken to the hospital but has refused to name the father.

Family members said that the schoolgirl's father previously sexually abused another older daughter and served two years in jail for the sex crime, according to the Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf.

The girl was living with her father and brother after he won custody following a divorce from their mother, who was originally from Suriname, a former Dutch colony in South America.


Facebook shuts pro-Palestinian page

© unknown
US-based social networking website Facebook has obliterated a page that advocated a 'third Intifada (uprising)' in reaction to Israel's persisting measures to trample on the rights of the Palestinian people.

The Tuesday move came after 350,000 people endorsed the campaign by 'liking' the page and many of its entries received thousands of comments, reported Ynetnews, the website for the Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronoth.

The move came after Israel's Minister of Diplomacy and Diaspora Affairs Yuli Edelstein addressed Facebook's creator Mark Zuckerberg in a letter, pleading with him to remove the page.

The Facebook campaign had stated that "Palestine will be freed and we will free it," advocating the uprising against Tel Aviv's occupation of the Palestinian lands and its continued suppression of the Palestinian population.

Evil Rays

Japan to scrap 4 stricken reactors at Fukushima


Scrambling hard to tackle its worst atomic crisis, Japan said on Wednesday it will scrap four stricken reactors at the quake-hit Fukushima nuclear facility, as radiation seeping into seawater reached its highest level yet and the President of the troubled plant's operator hospitalised.

Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), the plant's operator, said that it will decommission the four reactors at the plant, more than two weeks after the monster magnitude-9 quake and tsunami struck Japan's northeast leaving nearly 30,000 people dead or unaccounted for.

"We have no choice but to scrap reactors 1 to 4 if we look at their conditions objectively," Tsunehisa Katsumata, the company's Chairman, said at a press conference.


Toxic Plutonium Seeping from Japan's Nuclear Plant

Tokyo - Highly toxic plutonium is seeping from the damaged nuclear power plant in Japan's tsunami disaster zone into the soil outside, officials said Tuesday, as the government grew frustrated by missteps in the effort to stabilize the overheated facility.

Safety officials said the small amounts of plutonium found at several spots outside the complex were not a risk to humans but support suspicions that dangerously radioactive water is leaking from damaged nuclear fuel rods -- a worrying development in the race to bring the power plant under control.

"The situation is very grave," Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano told reporters Tuesday. "We are doing our utmost efforts to contain the damage."

A tsunami spawned by a magnitude-9.0 earthquake March 11 destroyed the power systems needed to cool the nuclear fuel rods at the Fukushima Dai-ichi complex, 140 miles (220 kilometers) northeast of Tokyo.

Since then, three of the plant's six reactors are believed to have partially melted down, and emergency crews have grappled with everything from malfunctioning pumps to dangerous spikes in radiation that have sent workers fleeing.

Arrow Down

UK: Care Home Costs Hit 80,000 More as Those Being Denied Council-Funded Places Soar

Tens of thousands more elderly people are being forced to pay for their care compared with this time last year, a report has found.

elderly person
© Alamy
Counting the cost: More elderly people are having to fund their own care as council funds dry up
The number being denied a council-funded place in a care home or help from a carer in their own house has risen by 80,000 in the last 12 months amid public spending cuts.

The report revealed that 1.7million elderly people received some form of free care in 2010/09, down from 1.78 million in 2009/08 - a drop of five per cent.

The fall will prompt fears that cash-strapped councils are becoming increasingly reluctant to provide free care for the elderly, many of whom have dementia or have suffered strokes and need round-the-clock help.

The report, by the Care Quality Commission watchdog, also revealed that the number of hospital beds on geriatric wards has fallen by more than 15 per cent in the last five years.

There are now just under 21,000 geriatric beds across all NHS trusts in England and Wales - down from 24,700 in 2005/06 - despite the fact that the elderly population is increasing.

Recent reports have already highlighted how the needs of the elderly are being increasingly sidelined by the NHS and local authorities.