Monday, March 14, 2011

Tsunami and earthquake in Japan: latest pictures

Japan: New footage shows tsunami swamp Kamaishi, Kesennuma, Noda





Japan nuclear threat: families flee again as meltdown risk increases

In the empty and silent city centre, I could distantly hear the blast, even though it was almost 25 miles away. Soon afterwards, a mild panic started.

The hotel's fire alarm went off. A receptionist banged on my door. "Very sorry," he said. "You have to leave now. There is an emergency. You have to leave right now."

At the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, the problems for engineers fighting to prevent a serious meltdown had just doubled – and, by the end of the day, were set to treble. A huge explosion had taken place at a second reactor, two days after the first one set the whole country on edge. A third reactor appeared to be heading the same way, with its cooling system failing and its nuclear fuel rods partly exposed.

I and others, some of them already refugees from the plant's 12-mile evacuation zone, found ourselves fleeing again from a danger which seems to keep changing shape: first bad, then better, then worse again and now, it seems, more alarming still.

Officials insist that no reactor's casing has actually been breached, and any radioactive releases have been small. But if they grow larger, Koriyama is probably the first big place they would reach. Here on the front line, the official message of comfort is heard with growing scepticism. (read more)

BREAKING NEWS: Japan stock market (Nikkei 225) plummets another 600 points as nuclear disaster unfolds

Japanese stocks tumbled 6% early Tuesday, the second straight session of huge declines, as the nation continues to cope with the aftermath of last week's earthquake.

The Nikkei 225 index, the most prominent measure of Tokyo market stocks, dropped 615 points, or 6.4%, within the first two hours of the session. That was on top of a 6.2% drop Monday, the first full trading day after the quake. In all, the index has fallen nearly 12% in the two days.

The Tokyo market opened shortly after the owner of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in northeastern Japan reported an "explosive impact" at the plant's No. 2 reactor, a day after a hydrogen explosion rocked another reactor.

The plant was among the many structures damaged or destroyed by the 9.0-magnitude earthquake and subsequent tsunami.

The confirmed death toll is 1,897, but the Kyodo News Agency said that doesn't take into account reports of thousands of bodies in one northeastern prefecture. Thousands more are missing and 450,000 people are reported homeless. (read more)

Alternate Inflation Charts: Real US Inflation Approaching 10%

The CPI-U (consumer price index) is the broadest measure of consumer price inflation for goods and services published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

While the headline number usually is the seasonally-adjusted month-to-month change, the formal CPI is reported on a not-seasonally-adjusted basis, with annual inflation measured in terms of year-to-year percent change in the price index.

Here we show the annual percent change (year-to-year) in both the CPI-U and the SGS-Alternate CPI. (Source and more info here)

Alternate Unemployment Charts: Real US Unemployment Approaching 25%

The seasonally-adjusted SGS Alternate Unemployment Rate reflects current unemployment reporting methodology adjusted for SGS-estimated long-term discouraged workers, who were defined out of official existence in 1994. That estimate is added to the BLS estimate of U-6 unemployment, which includes short-term discouraged workers.

The U-3 unemployment rate is the monthly headline number. The U-6 unemployment rate is the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ (BLS) broadest unemployment measure, including short-term discouraged and other marginally-attached workers as well as those forced to work part-time because they cannot find full-time employment. (Source and more info here)

US: Michigan law bill would impose "financial martial law", called "an assault on democracy"

Michigan lawmakers are on the verge of approving a bill that would enable the governor to appoint "emergency managers" -- officials with unilateral power to make sweeping changes to cities facing financial troubles.

Under the legislation, the Michigan Messenger reports, the governor could declare a "financial emergency" in towns or school districts. He could then appoint a manager to fire local elected officials, break contracts, seize and sell assets, eliminate services - and even eliminate whole cities or school districts without any public input.

The measure passed in the state Senate this week; the House passed its own version earlier. The two versions of the bill are expected to be reconciled next week, and Republican Gov. Rick Snyder has said he will sign the bill the bill into law.

Democrats and their allies are decrying the legislation as a power grab and say it's part of a wider effort taking place in several states, such as Wisconsin, to weaken labor unions.

"It takes every decision in a city or school district and puts it in the hands of the manager, from when the streets get plowed to who plows them and how much they are paid," said Mark Gaffney, president of the Michigan State AFL-CIO. "This is a takeover by the right wing and it's an assault on democracy like I've never seen." (read more)

Der Spiegel: Japan Nuclear Disaster 'Will Have Political Impact as Great as 9/11'

The nuclear disaster in Fukushima makes it hard to ignore the vulnurabilities of the technology. It could spell the end of nuclear power, German commentators argue on Monday. The government in Berlin may now cave in to mounting pressure to suspend its 12-year extension of reactor lifetimes, they say.

The nuclear accident at Japan's Fukushima plant following Friday's earthquake and tsunami has led to anxious questions in Germany about the safety of its own nuclear reactors and is putting the government under intense pressure to rethink its decision to extend plant lifetimes by an average of 12 years.

German media commentators across the political spectrum are saying the accident in a highly developed nation such as Japan is further evidence that nuclear power isn't safe. One commentator in the conservative Die Welt went as far as to liken the global impact of the Fukushima explosions to that of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. (read more)

Germany: Lufthansa scans Japan flights for radioactivity

"This is a precautionary measure for us," a Lufthansa spokesman told news agency AFP.

Aircraft that flew to Lufthansa hubs in Frankfurt and Munich were checked by airport fire services but no radioactivity has been detected so far, he added.

A spokesman for the Frankfurt airport said that only Lufthansa had taken the measure so far.

"As far as I know Japanese airlines have not" asked that their planes be checked as well, and "no official directive" has been issued regarding the measure, the airport spokesman said.

A US aircraft carrier deployed off tsunami-hit Japan for relief efforts has repositioned after detecting low-level radiation from malfunctioning nuclear power plants, a US statement said Monday.

"The source of this airborne radioactivity is a radioactive plume released from the Fukushima Dai-Ichi Nuclear Power Plant," said the US statement.

The ship was operating at sea about 160 kilometres (100 miles) northeast of the power plant at the time, but it is not known how high or how far the plume had spread. (Source)

The People Prepare: Wisconsin's Governor Wins, but Is He Now Dead Man Walker?

The Wisconsin State Capitol had taken on an eerie quiet by late Friday. Gone were the throngs of protesters who had occupied its marble floors like it were a summer campground. The midnight honking of cars circling the white building had ceased. The chalk outlines around fake dead bodies etched with Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker's name remained in dismembered parts, not yet completely washed away by hoses. It was the governor, however, who had walked away the legislative victor in the showdown.

On Friday, as angry protesters chanted "Shame" and blew horns and vuvuzelas, Walker took up a dozen pens, one at a time, to sign into law a bill that not only takes away the ability of unions to bargain collectively over pensions and health care but also limits pay raises of public employees to the rate of inflation and ends automatic union dues collection by the state. It also requires public unions to recertify annually. It was a coup by Wisconsin Republicans against the labor movement in one of its strongholds. (read more)

BREAKING NEWS: NHK (Japan National News) reports new blast at nuclear reactor



A new explosion rocked the earthquake-damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in northeastern Japan early Tuesday from a reactor that workers had struggled to keep under control since a blast at a neighboring unit, the plant's owner announced.

The "explosive impact" took place shortly after 6 a.m. Tuesday (5 p.m. Monday ET) inside the housing of the plant's No. 2 reactor, and pressure readings indicated some damage to the reactor's containment structure, officials of the Tokyo Electric Power Company reported at a news conference. No further details were immediately released, but TEPCO said some of its workers were evacuated following the blast due to elevated radiation levels.

Workers have been trying to keep sea water pouring into the No. 2 reactor since Monday, when a hydrogen explosion at reactor No. 3 damaged the cooling system at unit 2 and injured 11 people, Japanese authorities said. A similar hydrogen explosion on Saturday blew the roof off the containment structure around the No. 1 reactor.

Japan's Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency said Tuesday that up to 2.7 meters (8.8 feet) of the No. 2 reactor's control rods -- about half -- have been uncovered. And Yukio Edano, Japan's chief Cabinet secretary, said he could not rule out the possibility of a meltdown at all three troubled reactors at the plant. (read more)

Tide of bodies overwhelms quake-hit Japan -- "Punishment from heaven for being greedy" -- body bags, coffins running out

A tide of bodies washed up along Japan's coastline Monday, overwhelming crematoriums, exhausting supplies of body bags and adding to the spiraling humanitarian, economic and nuclear crisis after the massive earthquake and tsunami.

Millions of people faced a fourth night without water, food or heating in near-freezing temperatures along the northeast coast devastated by Friday's disasters. Meanwhile, a third reactor at a nuclear power plant lost its cooling capacity and its fuel rods were fully exposed, raising fears of a meltdown. The stock market plunged over the likelihood of huge losses by Japanese industries including big names such as Toyota and Honda.

On the coastline of Miyagi prefecture, which took the full force of the tsunami, a Japanese police official said 1,000 bodies were found scattered across the coastline. Kyodo, the Japanese news agency, reported that 2,000 bodies washed up on two shorelines in Miyagi.

In one town in a neighboring prefecture, the crematorium was unable to handle the large number of bodies being brought in for funerals.

"We have already begun cremations, but we can only handle 18 bodies a day. We are overwhelmed and are asking other cites to help us deal with bodies. We only have one crematorium in town," Katsuhiko Abe, an official in Soma, told The Associated Press.

While the official death toll rose to nearly 1,900, the discovery of the washed-up bodies and other reports of deaths suggest the true number is much higher. In Miyagi, the police chief has said 10,000 people are estimated to have died in his province alone.

The outspoken governor of Tokyo, Shintaro Ishihara, told reporters Monday that the disaster was "punishment from heaven" because Japanese have become greedy. (read more)

Japan: Tokyo Electric embarks on power rationing, to last through April

Tokyo Electric Power Co. started rationing electricity in areas near Tokyo on Monday to avoid massive blackouts in its service area in the wake of Friday's powerful earthquake, but region-wide energy-saving efforts allowed the company to delay the measure which was initially set to start in the early morning.

The unprecedented move, aimed at preventing eastern Japan from falling into a serious power shortage after the crippling of some nuclear power plants, is expected to last until at least the end of April, affecting train operations, economic activity and various other aspects of people's everyday lives.

The first day stirred confusion among the public, with TEPCO periodically changing the schedule of rationing and failing to issue correct information in advance to the media regarding which areas would be subject to temporary suspensions of electricity supply.

The outages that resulted from the rationing even affected some evacuation centers in Chiba and Ibaraki prefectures where hundreds of quake victims huddled, leading the utility company to promise that it will consider the situation of the victims as much as possible from Tuesday. (read more)

Japan, Hell on Earth: "I've seen 20 wars... but nothing prepared me for the sight of a town reduced to splintered wood... where 10,000 have died"

Japan: Toyota says to halt all production in Japan until March 16

Toyota Motor Co (7203.T) said on Monday that it plans to suspend all production in Japan at least until March 16 following Friday's massive earthquake in northeastern Japan.

The automaker said that the planned production halt from March 14 to March 16 would reduce output by 40,000 vehicles.

Toyota has said it halted production at all of its 12 factories in Japan after the devastating earthquake and tsunami that struck the northeast coast of Japan.

Toyota made 234,045 vehicles in January in Japan, where it produces 38 percent of its cars. (read more)

Gonzalo Lira: Likely Economic Effects of the Japanese Earthquake

Living in Chile, I experienced the February 2010 earthquake. That puppy measured 8.8 on the Richter scale at its epicenter. In Santiago, the earthquake registered about an 8.2—and I was on a 15th floor when it happened. Believe me, it was quite the experience. I wrote a first person account of the earthquake here.

I bring this up in relation to the Sendai earthquake that rocked Japan this past Friday: It was an 8.9 (Richter), and wrought tremendous devastation. As I write, there is as yet no clear accounting as to lives lost, though it is likely in the tens of thousands. At least two nuclear reactor sites have been severely damaged; the Fukushima reactor #1 is close to melting down, and #3 isn’t in much better shape. Hundreds of thousands of people have been evacuated from the area, and further tens of thousands of people are homeless, following the tsunami. And millions of people are without electricity or running water.

This is a tragedy for the Japanese people—the worst crisis since the end of the Second World War.

To those of us untouched by the direct effects of this tragedy, we should thank our lucky stars. But rather than gawk at the lurid images coming through the media, it would be smart for us at this time to analyze the likely effects of this disaster on the rest of the world’s economy. (read more)

BBC Photo Gallery: Japan Earthquake Destruction in Pictures

Wicked world weather onslaught continues: Thousands left homeless by Brazil rains

Two people died and more than 8,000 others were left homeless in southern Brazil as heavy rains pelted the area since Friday, the state-run Agencia Brasil news agency reported Monday, citing civil defense officials.

The two fatalities were buried in a mudslide caused by the rain in Parana state.

More than 21,000 people were affected by the rains, and at least 8,090 people were left homeless, civil defense officials said. There were more than 6,500 homes destroyed by the weather, the agency said.

Mudslides blocked some major highways in the state, but authorities managed to clear some by Sunday night, Agencia Brasil reported. (read more)

G8 leaders consider Libya no-fly zone

Foreign ministers from the Group of Eight major world powers are meeting in Paris to consider whether to back calls for a no-fly zone over Libya.

Britain and France are spearheading moves to prevent further air attacks on rebels by forces loyal to Col Gaddafi.

The Arab League supports a UN mandate but Russia has so far opposed military intervention and the US, Italy and Germany have also voiced reservations.

The UN Security Council is expected to consult on the proposal later.

Rebel leaders have appealed for international help in limiting Col Gaddafi's resources as his forces maintain their onslaught on rebel positions in the east of Libya.

But diplomatic sources have told the BBC that no UN resolution is on the table yet and discussions will centre on a "broad range" of issues that might be part of a new security council resolution, not just a no-fly zone.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was due to meet French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe in Paris late on Monday afternoon. (read more)

Nuclear worries continue: Japan has begun distributing iodine to evacuation centres -- IAEA

Japan has provided 230,000 units of stable iodine to evacuation centres as a precautioary measure in the country's nuclear emergency, the U.N. atomic watchdog said on Monday.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), citing information it had received from Japanese authorities, said about 185,000 residents in areas near nuclear power plants affected by Friday's quake had been evacuated by March 13.

Iodine can be used to help protect against thyroid cancer in the case of radioactive exposure in a nuclear accident.

"Japan has distributed 230,000 units of stable iodine to evacuation centres from the area around Fukushima Daiichi and Fukushima Daini nuclear power plants, according to officials," the IAEA said in a statement on its Facebook page.

"The iodine has not yet been administered to residents; the distribution is a precautionary measure in the event that this is determined to be necessary," it said. (read more)

JAPAN UPDATE: Japan's nightmare gets even WORSE: All THREE damaged nuclear reactors now in 'meltdown' at tsunami-hit power station

The Japanese nuclear reactor hit by the tsunami went into 'meltdown' today, as officials admitted that fuel rods appear to be melting inside three damaged reactors.

That means there is a risk that molten nuclear fuel can melt through the reactor's safety barriers and cause a serious radiation leak.

There have already been explosions inside two over-heating reactors at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant, and the fuel rods inside a third were partially exposed as engineers desperately fight to keep them under control after the tsunami knocked out emergency cooling systems.

Japanese chief cabinet secretary Yukio Edano said it was 'highly likely' that the fuel rods inside all three stricken reactors are melting.

Some experts class that a partial meltdown of the reactor, but others would only use that term for when molten nuclear fuel melts through a reactor's inner chamber - but not through the outer containment shell.

As fuel rods melt, they form an extremely hot molten pool at the bottom of the reactor that can melt through even the toughest of containment barriers.

Japan is fighting to avoid a nuclear catastrophe after the tsunami. There was a hydrogen explosion at the reactor in Unit Three of the power station earlier today, in which eleven workers were hurt by the blast that was felt 25 miles away. (read more)

Japan Asks US To Help Stop Reactor Meltdown - Are things worse than they're telling us? - 14th Mar 2011



Japan has asked the US for help to stop a quake-damaged nuclear reactor plunging into uncontrollable meltdown.

The plea comes after a second hydrogen explosion occurred at a nuclear plant where officials warned that three nuclear rods in a cooling-starved reactor appeared to be melting.

Plumes of grey smoke billowed into the air after the blast at the Fukushima Daiichi plant's number 3 unit, injuring 11 people.

Japan's chief cabinet secretary Yukio Edano confirmed the fear of rods melting inside all three of the site's most troubled reactors.

"Although we cannot directly check it, it's highly likely happening," he said.

Officials insist the inner reactor's container remains intact - but concern was raised when number 2 unit's fuel rods were left fully exposed by a falling cooling water level. Read More

Japan Earthquake Update: Japan faces 'SECOND monster quake and tsunami' as thousands of bodies wash up on beaches


  • Second 'monster' quake could measure almost 8 on the Richter scale
  • Terrible tide of at least 2,000 bodies wash up on the coastline
  • Crews fight to bring reactor at nuclear power plant under control
  • Millions left without food and power and hospitals have no medicine

Devastated Japan today faced the prospect of a second massive earthquake and tsunami even as millions of citizen struggled to come to terms with its biggest ever natural disaster.

On Friday, a quake measuring 9.0 on the Richter scale caused widespread fatalities and damage, also triggering a huge wave, which prompted the death toll to spiral into many thousands.

At least 2,000 bodies have now washed up on the country's decimated coastline, crematoriums were overflowing with the dead and rescue workers ran out of body bags as the nation faced the reality of its mounting crisis.

Millions were facing a fourth night without water, food or heating in near-freezing temperatures in the devastated north-east.

Meanwhile, a third reactor at a nuclear power plant lost its cooling capacity and the fuel rods at another were at least briefly fully exposed, raising fears of a meltdown.

The stock market plunged over the likelihood of huge losses by Japanese industries including big names such as Toyota and Honda. (read more)


Japan Earthquake: Tokyo now under pressure as food, fuel runs out while fears linger

Tokyo is now feeling the effects of Friday's major earthquake and tsunami in the north of Japan, as power outages are scheduled to sweep huge areas of the capital, food and fuel supplies run low and the transportation network begins to seize up.

Here are the latest reports on Tokyo's travel and communication situation.

At a glance

  • Many train services affected and/or canceled. For train schedule updates in English, check this volunteer-run blog.
  • Airports open, but check with airlines/travel agents for your specific flight status
  • Powercuts scheduled across the city, government calls to conserve power
  • Google launches people finder tool
  • Skype announces free Wi-Fi and credit for Japan users
  • Groupon to match aid donations up to ¥100 million (US$1.2 million)

Updates -- Monday, March 14

Narita Express has shut down trains to the airport.

International flights to and from Narita and Haneda airports have resumed, but airlines are dealing with a substantial backlog of passengers. Transport to the airports is also a problem.

Passengers should check airline websites and their travel agents for further information. Many travelers in Tokyo face days of delay as airlines resume flights.

Power cuts

The rolling power outages announced for much of Tokyo's suburbs mean other trains are also affected. Many services have been canceled.

Japan's government has advised people not to travel to work, yet many stations have been crowded since early morning with would-be commuters seeking transportation.

Many of the scheduled morning powercuts have been suspended, as supply has managed to keep pace with demand. Warnings of outages remain in place, however. (read more)

Japan is a sign of things to come: Nature, human crises combine to create total chaos

One can only watch with heartbreak as Naoto Kan, the prime minister of Japan, and his emergency response team struggle to address the potential for a nuclear meltdown at plants north of Tokyo. The government's reported use of seawater to cool the nuclear reactors and distribution of iodine tablets to minimize the absorption of radioactivity by local residents illustrate just how desperate the crisis is.

Add to the potential nuclear catastrophe hundreds of large-scale aftershocks and yet another tsunami warning nearly three days into the crisis, and it is clear that Japan is still very much in the midst of a nightmare.

The media have focused on what the failure of the plant cooling systems and the explosion at the Fukushima plant mean for the immediate health and safety of the surrounding populations.

Many are also beginning to question how this situation may affect the world's use of nuclear power in the future: In Japan alone, one-third of the population relies on nuclear energy. When the unimaginable becomes a reality in a country generally considered to be one of the more precautionary in the world, particularly as it relates to natural disasters, one can only wonder, "How safe is safe enough?"

Crises, traditionally seen as either natural, man-made or environmental, are now interfacing with each other in new and often surprising ways, calling for multifold response efforts. (read more)

The total cost of Japan's quake and tsunami devestation in one word: brutal -- Bank of Japan pumps $146 billion into markets to stave off crash

Japan: Stock market plunge lead by falling stock values in Toyota, Toshiba, Nissan, Honda -- compounds Japan's economic misery

Japan quake may be world's costliest disaster



The devastating earthquake and tsunami in Japan will rank among the costliest natural disasters on record, experts predict.

Japan's central bank announced plans Monday to inject a record 15 trillion yen ($183 billion) into the economy to reassure global investors in the stability of Japanese financial markets and banks. The Bank of Japan also earmarked an additional 5 trillion yen ($61 billion) in aid for risky assets in an effort to bolster market confidence shaken by the disaster.

Still, Japanese markets dropped sharply on Monday, the first trading day since the disaster. The benchmark Nikkei 225 was down more than 6.2%.

The drop was the largest single day fall since December 2008 during the financial crisis.

The disaster comes at a difficult time for the fragile Japanese economy, which slipped to the world's third largest behind China in 2010. Japan's export-driven business was hit by the financial crisis and a strong yen, which hurt profits from sales abroad.

The rebuilding from the quake also will add to Japan's towering load of public debt; it is nearly twice the size of its total GDP and the highest in the developed world. S&P downgraded Japan's long-term credit ratings in January, citing its high fiscal deficits. (read more)

Saudis send troops into Bahrain: Protesters call move by neighbouring Arab state an 'occupation'

A military force from Saudi Arabia and other Gulf nations moved into Bahrain Monday to shore up the nation's Sunni rulers in the face of escalating Shia-led protests seeking to break the monarchy's hold on power.

Bahrain's main opposition groups immediately denounced the outside intervention as an "occupation" that pushed the tiny Gulf kingdom dangerously close to a state of war.

It also marks the first cross-border military operations to try to quell unrest since the Arab world's rebellions began in December and underscores the Gulf leaders' worries about their own standing and fears that instability in Bahrain could give a foothold for Shia powerhouse Iran.

The strife in Bahrain began to dramatically escalate over the weekened just as the U.S. defense secretary arrived to urge its leaders — who are key Washington allies — to heed at least some of the demands for change.

A Saudi security official said the Gulf units dispatched to Bahrain come from a special force within the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council. He did not give details on the size or national breakdown of the force, estimated in some reports at about 1,000 strong, but said they were deployed by air and road and will help protect key buildings in the strategic nation, which hosts the U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet. (read more)

Bahrain Foreign Minister: Outside security forces in country as protests continue



Gulf Cooperation Council security forces are in Bahrain, the strategically important kingdom's foreign minister said on Twitter Monday.

The announcement by Khalid al-Khalifa follows a day of clashes between protesters and security forces that resulted in more than 1,000 people hospitalized, human rights activists said.

The foreign minister gave no other details on Twitter, advising journalists to wait for an official announcement. The Cooperation Council is a group of six Gulf states -- Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the UAE, Oman, and Qatar -- that encourages cooperation among members in a number of areas including economic and security cooperation.

Also on Monday, a key part of the capital was taken over by protesters, a Human Rights Watch official told CNN. (read more)

Anxiety in Japan grows as rescue workers find more bodies



In a nation already besieged with grief over mounting casualties, fears of possible radiation and the threat of more earthquakes, the nightmare grew for Japanese residents Monday as thousands of bodies reportedly were found and crews struggled to keep damaged nuclear plants under control.

Friday's 8.9 earthquake and ensuing tsunami killed thousands, based on official and Japanese media reports, but an exact accounting of the disaster remains hidden beneath widespread damage that rescuers are only beginning to penetrate.

The official death toll, rising every few hours, reached 1,833 on Monday. But that didn't account for thousands of bodies Japan's Kyodo News said had been found in the hard-hit Miyagi Prefecture on Japan's northeast coast.

At least 2,369 people were missing on Monday, the National Police Agency said, and the number of dead is expected to go up as rescuers reach more hard-hit areas. (read more)

Dolphin deaths investigated on SC coast - 14th Mar 2011

CHARLESTON --

The carcasses have been floating in for nearly two weeks now, bloated and decomposing. What's left of the dolphins has been found in the Stono and Kiawah rivers, on the Isle of Palms, Fripp Island and Waites Island.

When the call came in, Wayne McFee was having one of those days. His only permanent staff member and two others were out on a boat in the South Edisto River, looking for the remains of the sixth dead bottlenose dolphin spotted in the past nine days. Meanwhile, another carcass had washed up, this one on Folly Beach.

McFee is the National Ocean Service's marine mammal stranding program scientist for the region. His job is necropsy, the autopsy work on ocean animals that end up in the tidal wash. He is the "CSI" guy who goes out when the big bodies float in.

"They eat fish; we eat fish. They can be a good indication of what's going on in the ocean, tell us something we might be concerned with for our own health," he said.

"They are sentinels of health for the ecosystem," said Rob Young, the Coastal Carolina University marine science professor Read More

A £60bn blow to the world economy as Japanese markets plunge 6.18 per cent - 14th Mar 2011


  • Nikkei falls 633 points in first full day of trading after tsunami

Stock markets in Japan plunged by 6.18 per cent today in response to the devastation of the world’s third-largest economy.

Traders are braced for a stormy start to the week as the latest estimates put the global insurance bill for the earthquake at £31.7billion.

The eye-watering figure, worked out by Lloyd’s of London, is almost double the initial estimate made on Friday. Equcat, a risk consultancy, estimated that the total economic losses – insurance costs as well as lost productivity – would add up to more than £62billion. Read More

Total Annihilation: Video of wall of water completely destroying Japanese city - 14th Mar 2011

BREAKING NEWS: Meltdown alert at THIRD Japan nuclear reactor

Technicians are battling to stabilise a third reactor at a quake-stricken Japanese nuclear plant, which has been rocked by a second blast in three days.

The Fukushima Daiichi plant's operators have resumed pumping seawater into reactor 2 after a cooling system broke.

They warned of a possible meltdown when the fuel rods became exposed after the pump stopped as its fuel ran out.

A cooling system breakdown preceded explosions at the plant's reactor 3 on Monday and reactor 1 on Saturday.

The latest hydrogen blast injured 11 people, one of them seriously. It was felt 40km (25 miles) away and sent a huge column of smoke into the air.

The outer building around the reactor was largely destroyed.

But as with the first explosion, Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco) said the thick containment walls shielding the reactor cores remained intact. It also said radiation levels outside were still within legal limits. (read more)

Tide of 1,000 bodies overwhelms quake-hit Japan - 14th Mar 2011


TAKAJO, Japan – A tide of bodies washed up along Japan's coastline, crematoriums were overwhelmed and rescue workers ran out of body bags as the nation faced the grim reality of a mounting humanitarian, economic and nuclear crisis Monday after a calamitous tsunami.

Millions of people were facing a fourth night without water, food or heating in near-freezing temperatures in the northeast devastated by an earthquake and the wave it spawned. Meanwhile, a third reactor at a nuclear power plant lost its cooling capacity and the fuel rods at another were at least briefly fully exposed, raising fears of a meltdown. The stock market plunged over the likelihood of huge losses by Japanese industries including big names such as Toyota and Honda.

A Japanese police official said 1,000 washed up bodies were found scattered Monday across the coastline of Miyagi prefecture. The official declined to be named, citing department policy. Read More

Massive 20ft sinkhole swallows two cars after water main burst in Milwaukee - 14th Mar 2011


A road collapsed after a large water main broke in a busy city, swallowing cars which fell into a crater up to 20ft deep.

The sinkhole in Milwaukee appeared on Saturday evening, shortly after a 42inch water main broke.

Around 90 minutes after it is thought to have broken, as residents noticed low water pressure, Witi-TV in the city reported that the road apparently began to crack. Read More

Advance on Benghazi: Gaddafi's men take another key oil town on road to rebel HQ - 14th Mar 2011


Colonel Gaddafi’s forces moved closer to the Libyan rebel capital of Benghazi yesterday after taking another key oil town.

Al Brega fell after a fierce bombardment from land, sea and air.

I watched rebel forces stream back along the desert coast road, after failing to stem the regime’s recent rapid counter- offensive. Morale is low, a huge volte face from the euphoria of a week ago.

Libyan state television declared that Al Brega had been ‘cleansed from armed gangs’. Over the weekend Gaddafi loyalists also recaptured the oil port of Ras Lanuf, 100 miles to the west.

Now Ajdabiya is the only large town between the loyalist tanks and Benghazi, 100 miles further north. If Ajdabiya falls it would allow the regime forces to drive through the desert to the rebel-held port of Tobruk, cutting off Benghazi and the rest of Libya from the Egyptian border. Read More

'UK could arm Libyan rebels', Hague hints as he says: 'We must make a decision soon' - 14th Mar 2011


  • Arming the rebels is one option being considered, hints Foreign Secretary
  • France is pushing for a no-fly zone over the country

William Hague today said the international community is approaching a 'point of decision' on military intervention in Libya.

The Foreign Secretary, who is meeting fellow G8 foreign ministers in Paris tonight, also hinted the Government may consider arming rebels.

'We are now reaching a point of decision, very clearly, on what happens next,' he told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme.

'Clearly a no-fly zone is one of the leading propositions. It isn't the answer to everything but it has been called for by the Arab League and is something which the international community must now consider. Read More

Radioactive contamination found on 17 U.S. Navy crewmembers in Japan - 14th Mar 2011

Seventeen U.S. Navy crew members have been contaminated with low-levels of radiation during disaster relief missions in Japan, military officials said Monday.

The radioactivity was detected when the service members returned to the aircraft carrier Ronald Reagan aboard three helicopters. They were treated with soap and water and their clothes were discarded.

"No further contamination was detected," the military said.

The helicopters were also decontaminated.

The U.S. 7th Fleet, positioned about 100 miles northeast of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant to deliver aid to Japan's coastal region, moved its ships further away due to "airborne radioactivity" and contamination found on its planes.

The military noted, however, that the level of contamination was very low, and the ship movement was merely a precaution. Read More

Japan Disaster - The Aftermath - 14th Mar 2011

The image at the top is an aerial photo of Fujitsuka near Sendai before the quake.

The tsunami that followed destroyed almost everything in its path, with many homes flattened, as the bottom photo shows. Source

Japanese Shares Suffer Economic Shock Wave - 14th Mar 2011

Japanese shares have tumbled on the first business day since the country was hit by a devastating earthquake and tsunami.

The Nikkei index shed over 6% on Monday, taking the stock market to its lowest level in four months.

Leading global firms such as Toyota and Toshiba suffered large losses in their share prices as markets reopened in the wake of the crisis.

The three biggest motor manufacturers - Nissan, Honda and Toyota - are halting production at almost all of their domestic plants.

Even in unaffected areas, deaths and the safety of their workers have made factory shutdowns inevitable, with Sony and Panasonic amongst those caught up.

The only share price gains came in industrial and materials companies, which are likely to be key to Japan's rebuilding efforts. Read More

Satelite images of Japan - 14th Mar 2011



Live Bullets Fired In Yemen Protest Clashes - 13th Mar 2011

Up to 100 people have been wounded in Yemen's capital Sanaa after police fired live bullets and tear gas at anti-government protesters, reports said.

In the latest clashes between security forces and demonstrators, at least one person was in a critical condition after being shot and more than 20 suffered gas inhalation.

Hospital reports also claimed protesters had been attacked by police and regime-supporters wielding clubs and machetes.

At least seven people have been killed in two days, including a teenage boy, in the escalating violence across the country.

In Sanaa, fighting broke out on Saturday when police moved in on a camp occupied by protesters near the city's university.

Officers fired live bullets, tear gas and water cannons while the crowds responded with a hail of rocks.

The demonstrators want president Ali Abdullah Saleh, who has been in power for 32 years, to step down.

Doctors in Sanaa claimed the tear gas used against the protesters was toxic as it appeared to affect the nervous system. Read More

Cooling system fails in another reactor at Japanese nuclear plant -14th Mar 2011



Tokyo (CNN) -- Another reactor at Japan's Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant lost its cooling capabilities Monday, a government official said.

The problem was detected in the plant's No. 2 reactor Monday afternoon, just hours after an explosion rocked the bulding containing the plant's No. 3 reactor, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano told reporters.

Water levels were falling and pressure was building up inside the No. 2 reactor, he said, and officials were working on a plan to release gas and also inject seawater into that reactor.

Workers have been injecting seawater in a last-ditch effort to cool down fuel rods and prevent a full meltdown at two other reactors at the plant -- No. 1 and No. 3 -- after an 8.9-magnitude earthquake and ensuing tsunami Friday knocked out the reactors' cooling systems. Read More

Day the Earth moved: How the earthquake tilted the world's axis by 25cm (and could even cost us a microsecond a day) - 14th Mar 2011

The earthquake that struck Japan on Friday was so powerful that it actually moved the whole planet by 25cm, experts say.

According to Italy's National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology the 9.0 magnitude 'quake was so powerful it shifted the axis around which the Earth rotates.

And the U.S. Geological Survey reported that the main island of Japan has been shifted 2.4 metres by the force of the disaster.

The shift to the Earth's tilt will have profound, if subtle effects on the length of the day and the passage of the seasons.

Like a figure skater drawing in her arms during a pirouette, the speed of the planet's rotation will change as the globe's mass has been redistributed.

But Canadian geologists say that the 'very, very tiny' changes won't be seen for centuries.

'Ten inches [25cm] sounds like quite a lot when you hold a ruler in front of you. But if you think of it in terms of the earth as a whole, it's absolutely tiny; it's minute,' University of Toronto professor Andrew Miall told Postmedia News. Read More

Fact or Fiction - Has the real lost city of Atlantis finally been found... buried under mud flats in Spain? - 14th Mar 2011

It has remained a tantalising mystery for thousands of years, but now a U.S. led research team believes it has found the legendary lost city of Atlantis.

They claim to have pinpointed the exact location of the metropolis under mud flats in southern Spain.

The team of archaeologists and geologists are convinced that Atlantis -swamped by a tsunami - is submerged just north of Cadiz.

Professor Richard Freund of the University of Hartford, Connecticut, who lead the international team, said: 'This is the power of tsunamis.

'It is just so hard to understand that it can wipe out 60 miles inland, and that's pretty much what we're talking about.'

The team used a satellite photo of a suspected submerged city to find the site then surveyed it with a combination of deep-ground radar, digital mapping, and underwater technology.

Buried in the vast marshlands of the Dona Ana Park they found a strange series of 'memorial cities,' built in Atlantis' image by the refugees who fled the destructive tsunami. Read More

As US fiscal conservatives cut food programmes for poor children, military aid for Israel is left untouched

Once upon a time, social security was considered the "third rail" of American politics. The "third rail" is the train track that carries the high-voltage power; touching it means instant death.

The "third rail" metaphor has for decades been applied to social security, a government program so popular with the American public that proposing any changes in it would mean political death to the politician.

No more. Although social security is as popular as ever, politicians routinely propose changes in the program — including privatisation and means testing. While the proposals usually go nowhere, and rightly so, the politicians who support them live to fight another day. Today, with those massive deficits and the astronomical national debt, not even social security is sacrosanct.

Few, if any, government programs are.

But US aid to Israel is. In fact, the $3bn Israel aid package is the new third rail of American politics: touch it and die. It is also the one program that liberals, conservatives, Democrats, Republicans and tea partiers all agree should not sustain even a dollar in cuts.

Actually, that is something of a mis-statement. These various parties and factions do not agree that the $3bn Israel aid package is sacred. They just say that they do because a powerful lobby, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), makes clear to them that touching the aid package will mean big trouble for them in the next election. (read more)

People Of Earth: Prepare For Economic Disaster

It is not just the United States that is headed for an economic collapse. The truth is that the entire world is heading for a massive economic meltdown and the people of earth need to be warned about the coming economic disaster that is going to sweep the globe. The current world financial system is based on debt, and there are alarming signs that the gigantic global debt bubble is getting ready to burst.

In addition, global prices for the key resources that the major economies of the planet depend on are rising very rapidly. Despite all of our advanced technology, the truth is that human civilization simply cannot function without oil and food. But now the price of oil and the price of food are both increasing dramatically. So how is the current global economy supposed to keep functioning properly if it soon costs much more to ship products between continents? How are the billions of people that are just barely surviving today supposed to feed themselves if the price of food goes up another 30 or 40 percent? For decades, most of the major economies around the globe have been able to take for granted that massive amounts of cheap oil and massive amounts of cheap food will always be there. So what happens when that paradigm changes?

At last check, the price of U.S. crude was over 104 dollars a barrel and the price of Brent crude was over 115 dollars a barrel. Many analysts fear that if the crisis in Libya escalates or if the chaos in the Middle East spreads that we could see the all-time record of 147 dollars a barrel broken by the end of the year. That would be absolutely disastrous for the global economy. (read more)

Citizens of western nations beware: Hidden debt makes governments insolvent

As we prepare for the two-year anniversary of the March 9 lows for stock markets, investors are confronted with a number of worries that make it difficult to celebrate the near 100 percent jump in equities since then.

Oil prices are soaring off the back of unrest in the Middle East, there is talk of rate hikes from European Central Bank President Jean-Claude Trichet and unemployment remains stubbornly high despite some better news from the US on Friday.

On top of these, a mountain of debt is growing but because it is off governments' balance sheets it has been so far ignored, one man who worries perhaps more than most, Albert Edwards from the global strategy team at Societe Generale, said.

One of the world's most famous bears, Edwards is adamant the global economy and financial markets are not in a good place.

"The global economy is critically ill. The fact that it has just risen from its sick-bed to perform a frenetic Irish jig is more a function of the financial morphine and steroids that have been pumped into its emaciated body than any miracle cure," he wrote in a recent piece of research.

"You don't have to be Dr Doom to expect the patient to collapse back into a deep coma after the stimulus has worn off," Edwards added.

His biggest worry is government debt and unfunded liabilities and he is convinced that default is on the cards across the developed world. (read more)

Scientists warn of 'dangerous over-reliance' on GPS

Developed nations have become "dangerously over-reliant" on satellite navigation systems such as GPS, which could break down or be attacked with devastating results, British engineers said Tuesday.

The Royal Academy of Engineering said the application of the technology was now so broad -- from car sat-navs to the time stamp on financial transactions -- that without adequate backup, any disruption could have a major impact.

It cited a recent European Commission study showing that six to seven percent of economic growth in western countries -- about 800 billion euros ($1,100 billion) in the EU -- is already dependent on such navigation.

"Society may already be dangerously over-reliant on satellite radio navigation systems like GPS (the US's Global Positioning System)," it said.

Disruption could come from technological problems or from deliberate interference, by criminals using small-scale jammers to avoid road tolls or block the tracking of cargo, or terrorists seeking to attack entire systems. (read more)

"Prepare for holy wars"

On the margins of the dramatic events worldwide, we saw a small, seemingly insignificant news story about the Pope exonerating the Jews of killing Jesus. On the face of it, this is a rather unspectacular story in the midst of a Middle Eastern storm, with regimes collapsing and the world changing right before our eyes. The preoccupation with who’s at fault for the death of Jesus appears archaic, academic and detached. Nonetheless, this headline is especially significant precisely at this time.

The formation of Islam in the 7th Century changed the world to a situation whereby two major religions exist – Christianity and Islam. Judaism remained a small religion in terms of numbers but nonetheless important and central for other faiths too, as in their view it was their source and root.

Much has happened since then, and Jewish blood was spilled in Europe and elsewhere in the world. Some 1,300 years have passed since Islam’s emergence, and the world has shifted to political and national entities. However, global events in recent years that pertain to Islam and to

Muslim states are taking us back in many ways to the Middle Ages.The world at the time was made up of religious frameworks to a greater extent than national and political ones. Identity and belonging were mostly religious rather than geographic and territorial. The global discourse was religious and so was the tension. The wars were holy wars. (read more)

Hell on Earth: I've seen 20 wars. But nothing prepared me for this -14th Mar 2011


  • Channel 4 News journalist only Western reporter to make it to the shattered coastal town of Minami Sanriku
  • Scene is 'reminiscent of the photographs of Nagasaki or Hiroshima after the A bombs were dropped'
The first thing you notice is the silence which seems to hang over the place. There is no sound as we approach this once-thriving coastal town.

Driving round the final bend in the mountain road before making the descent into Minami Sanriku, nothing can quite prepare you for the sight of such destruction.

In my 30 years as a war correspondent I have covered more than 20 conflicts and several major earthquakes, but I have never seen anything on this scale. Read More

Super earthquake No2 alert in Japan - 14th Mar 2011

SHATTERED Japan is braced for a fresh quake nightmare - with a mega aftershock likely to hit at any moment.

The alert was issued as millions who survived the tsunami that devastated the hi-tech superpower spent a third day without food and water - let alone electricity.

Japan's world-renowned centre for earthquake prediction said there was a seven-in-ten chance of a tremor with a magnitude of seven or more hitting "within the next three days".

Early today there was a hydrogen blast inside No3 reactor at the stricken Fukushima nuclear plant.

Tokyo Electric Power Company said three workers were injured and seven are missing after the explosion.

The plant's operator said radiation levels at the reactor were still within legal limits. Read More

Tsunami turns Airport into Island - 14th Mar 2011