Tag Archives: disaster

Climate Change Is Shaping Up As an Utter Disaster for Much of America's Bird Life

Climate Change Is Shaping Up As an Utter Disaster for Much of America's Bird LifeTwo thirds of American bird species are at risk, according to a new report



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Fukushima Nuclear Disaster Verdict Leads to Angry Fallout

Fukushima Nuclear Disaster Verdict Leads to Angry FalloutChristopher FurlongTOKYO—Three executives of Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) who ignored repeated warnings of a potential tidal wave that could result in a nuclear disaster, which did in fact take place, were found not guilty of criminal negligence resulting in death and injury by a Tokyo Court on Thursday. Many feel justice was poorly served. However, a former prosecutor says that the verdict was to be expected. * * *The Four-Hour Verdict* * *The Tokyo District Court ruled former executives of TEPCO were not guilty of criminal negligence, in the only criminal prosecution to come out of the 2011 nuclear disaster in Fukushima Prefecture, Japan.The cataclysm at the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant in March of 2011 resulted in over 100,000 people losing their homes, wide-spread radioactive pollution, injuries, and the deaths of patients who had to be evacuated. The disaster, on the scale of Chernobyl, raised alarms around the world about nuclear energy and atomic safety. The disaster area has not been cleaned up entirely and is essentially a nuclear accident still in progress, requiring constant cooling. Radioactive water stored at the TEPCO facilities is likely to be dumped into the ocean next year—probably after the Olympics. The three former executives of TEPCO who were indicted on charges of professional negligence resulting in injury and death were: Tsunehisa Katsumata, 79, chairman of TEPCO at the time of the accident, and two former vice presidents—Sakae Muto, 69, and Ichiro Takekuro, 73. The trial centered on whether these three could be held criminally responsible for what the Japanese Parliament’s Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission called “a man-made disaster.” How the Earth Is Reclaiming Fukushima, the Ninth Ward, and Staten IslandThe central issue at stake could be summarized as this:  Did the TEPCO officials know about the possibility of a nuclear-meltdown-inducing tidal wave, when did they know, and what did they do—or not do about it? TEPCO’s six-reactor plant, located on the Pacific coast, was disabled after tsunamis triggered by the massive earthquake of March 11, 2011 flooded power supply facilities, which were unprotected, and crippled reactor cooling systems. Some reactors suffered fuel meltdowns, while hydrogen explosions damaged others.  The indictment blamed the three former executives for injuries to more than 10 people from hydrogen explosions at the plant, as well as the deaths of 44 patients forced to evacuate from nearby hospitals. As early as 2002, TEPCO and the Japanese government were aware of a potentially disastrous earthquake and tidal wave causing a nuclear accident. The prosecutors argued, and the court also acknowledged that several times between February 2008 and March 2009 the TEPCO executives were warned of the risk of a tidal wave 14 meters (45 feet) high or higher hitting the power plant and causing a potential nuclear disaster. On March 11, tidal waves between 11.5 and 15.5 meters (50 feet) did hit the power plant, knocking out the power grid and, yes, as predicted for years, triggering the nuclear disaster. There were also independent reports that suggested the earthquake's tremors caused a nuclear meltdown in the 40-year-old Reactor One even before the waves hit, but those allegations were not considered by the court.The verdict, which took several hours for the judges to finish reading out loud—starting at 1:15 p.m. and ending around 4:30 p.m. with a short break—concluded that while the TEPCO executives did receive several warnings of a tidal wave large enough to cause a nuclear accident, they were justified in taking no safety measures for a number of reasons:1) If they had taken the warnings seriously and tried to take countermeasures it would have required them to close the plant down temporarily, which was considered prohibitively expensive. 2) There were questions as to how seriously to take the data about tsunamis.3) Even if the TEPCO executives had acted on the warnings, they probably wouldn’t have completed safety countermeasures in time. In reaching the decision, the court stated that tsunami forecast information was vague, and that the three could not have “realistically” foreseen a disaster on such a grand scale. It took the judges so long to read out the explanation for their ruling because as ex-prosecutor Nobuo Gohara explains, “Legally the judgment made sense but on an emotional level, gut instinct level—it all seems wrong and the judges must know that. They wanted to convince people their judgment makes sense.”  Residents of Fukushima Prefecture took the judgment less gracefully. “It’s a disgrace. It’s a slap in the face and it shows that the courts here always value profits over people,” said a 67 year old farmer from the area who had come to hear the verdict himself this afternoon. Former prosecutor Gohara noted, “There are limits to the Japanese justice system and I have said from the start that it was unlikely the individuals would be found guilty. What you have in the Fukushima Nuclear disaster is a failure of policy and of the entire organization. Japan does not have a legal mechanism for holding a corporation responsible for criminal behavior, and in this case the charges were criminal negligence—on an individual level. The hurdle is very high to prove that.” * * *The Trial That Almost Never Took Place* * *The trial of TEPCO executives almost never took place at all.In June of 2012 residents of Fukushima Prefecture submitted criminal complaints against TEPCO executives and central government officials to try to make sure someone was found responsible for the nuclear accident. As noted, the Japanese Parliament’s Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission called it “a man-made disaster," so it would seem to follow that men should be help accountable.However, the Tokyo District Public Prosecutor's Office decided not to indict anyone named in those complaints. In typical Tokyo Prosecutor's Office fashion, they deliberately tried to bury the story at first by leaking their decision not to prosecute on the day Japan won the bid for the 2020 Olympics.Despite the best efforts of the prosecutors not to serve the public interest, a prosecutorial review board decided on two separate occasions that the former executives should be indicted and made to stand trial. The Prosecutorial Review Board system was introduced in May of 2009 as part of judicial reforms in Japan that included the introduction of a modified jury system. If eight of 11 citizens chosen for the board agree that the prosecutors have failed to do their job, and that indeed an indictment is warranted—on two separate occasions—the individual named must stand trial. The court designates civilian lawyers to act as prosecutors, who then indict the individual. In February of 2016, the three former executives were indicted formally. The trial began in June of 2017. All of the former executives pled not guilty. The prosecution asked for five years in prison. * * *Jokyo Kokumi* * *It should be noted that even after the TEPCO executives were indicted, they were not jailed, although the charges were very serious and involved loss of life. In Japan, suspects in criminal cases typically are arrested and held for up to 23 days. But the executives of TEPCO, who are politically connected, belong to what the Japanese public now angrily refer to as Jokyu Kokumi (upper-class citizens who are above the law) so they remained at large during the entire trial. Carlos Ghosn, the former Chairman of Nissan charged with far lesser crimes, but a foreigner, spent months in detention without bail while prosecutors tried to extract a confession. Miwa Chiwaki, a 49-year old woman who was living in a small village in Fukushima Prefecture at the time of the meltdown, was outraged by the verdict. She is the spokesperson for a group of citizens supporting the pursuit of criminal justice in the Fukushima nuclear disaster. She told The Daily Beast,  “It’s as if the Japanese courts said that there is no one responsible at all. The argument that TEPCO executives would have had to shut down the power plant to put safety measures into place, therefore they had reason not to do it, makes no sense. It is the same as saying corporate profits matter more than people. The Japanese courts care more about the well-being of a company than a person. At least the case established that they knew of the danger…and did nothing.”The Real Fukushima Fallout Isn't RadiationThe designated prosecutors in the case may appeal and demand a second trial. In Japan, prosecutors do have the right to appeal a case. Not guilty verdicts are rare and occur in less than one percent of all criminal cases. In general, prosecutors almost always appeal when losing the first round, but the prosecutors in this case are civilian lawyers. It is not clear what will happen next, or if anything will happen at all. Nuclear power plant operators in Japan have faced charges of criminal negligence resulting in death in the past and were found guilty. In April 2003, the Mito District Court found six of employees of JCO guilty over a fatal nuclear accident. They ruled that the company had allowed workers to use buckets to pour uranium solution into a processing tank, causing a nuclear fission chain reaction that resulted in the deaths of workers. The guilty were given suspended sentences and served no time in jail.Hiroyuki Kawai, a lawyer who represents the 5,700 Fukushima residents who filed the original criminal complaint, said in a press conference, “It’s a terrible verdict. Yet, if there had been no indictment, the evidence would have never seen the light of day. In that sense, [the trial] has a historical significance.” Read more at The Daily Beast.Get our top stories in your inbox every day. Sign up now!Daily Beast Membership: Beast Inside goes deeper on the stories that matter to you. Learn more.



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‘We are preparing for the worst’: Storm Area 51 event could be disaster, locals fear

‘We are preparing for the worst’: Storm Area 51 event could be disaster, locals fearLocal residents are "preparing for the worst" as fans of the viral Storm Area 51 Facebook event descend on a town near the secretive military base.The event could become a disaster as people struggle with the difficult conditions in Nevada without proper preparation, they have warned.



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'The Worst Natural Disaster I've Ever Seen.' U.S. Search and Rescue Team Describes Hurricane Dorian's Impact on the Bahamas

'The Worst Natural Disaster I've Ever Seen.' U.S. Search and Rescue Team Describes Hurricane Dorian's Impact on the BahamasAfter spending a week recovering bodyes, a U.S. search and rescue team describes Dorian's impact on the Bahamas



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Criminal probe underway in fiery California boat disaster

Criminal probe underway in fiery California boat disasterU.S. authorities are conducting a criminal investigation into the fiery dive boat disaster that killed 34 people off the coast of California, the FBI said Monday. The FBI, Coast Guard and U.S. attorney in Los Angeles are participating in the investigation with other agencies, officials said. FBI spokeswoman Laura Eimiller said no criminal charges have been filed.



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33 bodies recovered after California dive boat disaster

33 bodies recovered after California dive boat disasterRescue workers have recovered a total of 33 bodies from a scuba-diving boat disaster off the coast of California, authorities said Wednesday, adding that one person remains missing. Divers have since recovered 13 other bodies, according to the Santa Barbara County sheriff’s department, which is in charge of the investigation. The boat had been on a diving excursion around Santa Cruz Island, just west of Santa Barbara in southern California.



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Fallout from Russia's mysterious missile disaster suggests a nuclear reactor blew up

Fallout from Russia's mysterious missile disaster suggests a nuclear reactor blew upAn explosion at a Russian weapons testing site in August released radioactive isotopes that almost certainly came from a nuclear reactor, experts say.



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Mueller’s Testimony: A Complete Disaster for Liberals

Mueller’s Testimony: A Complete Disaster for LiberalsIf Democrats believed that Robert Mueller would provide them with additional ammunition for an impeachment inquiry, they made an extraordinary miscalculation.Not only was Mueller often flustered and unprepared to talk about his own report—we now have to wonder to what extent he was even involved in the day-to-day work of the investigation—but he was needlessly evasive. In the end, he seriously undermined the central case for impeachment of President Donald Trump.The very first Republican to question him, House Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Rep. Doug Collins, forced Mueller to correct his own opening statement. In it, the former FBI director had asserted that the independent counsel “did not address collusion, which is not a legal term.”Stressing the difference between the criminal conspiracy and the colloquial “collusion” is a popular way of obscuring the fact that the central conspiracy pushed by Democrats, one that plunged the nation into two years of hysterics and fantasy, had been debunked by Mueller.Moreover, as Collins pointed out, Mueller’s own report stated that “collusion” and criminal conspiracy were basically “largely synonymous.”When asked to explain this contradiction, Mueller stammered for a few minutes before saying he would “leave it with the report.” Collins pointed out that, yes, the report stated that the terms “collusion” and “conspiracy” were synonymous, Mueller was forced to admit, “Yes.”It didn’t get better from there. Mueller didn’t know where some of the most infamous quotes in his own report had emanated. He claimed to be unfamiliar with Fusion GPS and Christopher Steele, the Clinton—and DNC—funded contractors who originated and then propelled the Trump-Russian collusion theory.



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California’s Sanctuary City Nightmare: 6 Reasons This Policy Is a Disaster

California’s Sanctuary City Nightmare: 6 Reasons This Policy Is a DisasterIllegal immigrants released by local police in California after their arrests for minor offenses go on to be charged with more serious crimes such as murder, rape, and assault, according to a new government report.Those crimes could have been prevented if these sanctuary jurisdictions had turned over those accused to federal immigration officials for deportation, the report suggests.In one case, police in San Francisco arrested an illegal immigrant from Honduras again and again over nine months as he repeatedly was released and then booked again for more offenses rather than turned over to federal officials.The cases are documented in the newly published quarterly Declined Detainer Report from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement covering January, February, and March 2018. The report focuses solely on California jurisdictions, although most large municipalities across the country adopted “sanctuary” policies that prohibit local law enforcement from assisting federal immigration authorities. California is a sanctuary state.   When ICE determines an illegal immigrant accused of a criminal offense is in police custody, the agency issues a detainer. The paperwork is supposed to ensure the alleged offender will be transferred to federal authorities at the conclusion of his or her time in the local jail, instead of being released. But sanctuary jurisdictions—as a matter of policy—ignore the detainers, which in some cases means the criminal illegal immigrants are released and able to commit new crimes rather than be deported. The report says:



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The Trump-Netanyahu relationship is sowing disaster for both countries

The Trump-Netanyahu relationship is sowing disaster for both countriesBy catering to the right, the leaders are harming Palestinians, making Israel less safe and further damaging America’s reputation‘The Trump administration needs to realize that it is playing with fire in its approach to Israel.’ Photograph: Carlos Barría/ReutersIn the run-up to the Israeli elections, Donald Trump and Benjamin Netanyahu took a series of irresponsible steps to help the Israeli prime minister’s electoral prospects: Trump announced support for Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, Netanyahu said he would annex parts of the West Bank and claimed he had US support, and Trump designated Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps a terrorist organization, a move for which Netanyahu immediately took credit.Though Netanyahu may be the apparent winner of the Israeli election, Trump and Netanyahu should be careful what they wish for. While pleasing their rightwing supporters, the two leaders are doing severe damage to the interests of both countries.Trump and Netanyahu have forged an overtly political relationship. Even before the most recent election, Trump had taken unprecedented steps that support Netanyahu’s agenda, from moving the US embassy to Jerusalem to cutting all US funding for the United Nations agency that supports Palestinians to closing the Palestinian office in Washington DC.Netanyahu takes the blank check from Trump and cashes it in for more extreme policies. Marking a new level of recklessness in a pre-election gambit to get more rightwing votes, Netanyahu suggested that he would annex parts of the West Bank, an outrageous move that would destroy the progress Israelis and Palestinians have made over the decades, risk violence and garner widespread international condemnation.If in the past US policy has been criticized for being one-sided in favor of Israel, Trump has abandoned of any semblance of even-handedness. And if previous Israeli governments have preserved space to pursue peace with the Palestinians, Netanyahu is implementing policies that could make a two-state solution all but impossible.If these trends continue, everyone will suffer.The Palestinian people will bear the brunt of the pain. With the United States cutting off its funding for the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) – which provides Palestinian refugees with healthcare, education, and food – countless Palestinians could be hurt.> The embrace between rightwing counterparts in the United States and Israel is driving the relationship into an unsustainable placeIsrael will be less safe. Pulling funding from the Palestinian Authority will disrupt counter-terrorism cooperation with Palestinian security services. That’s why many Israelis believe the move endangers Israeli security, as the retired Israel defense forces lieutenant colonel Peter Lerner made clear: “These abrupt steps will only empower the radicals … hardballing the Palestinian[s] is likely to blow up on Israel’s doorstep.”Israeli democracy will continue eroding. The Israeli government discriminates against Arab Israelis, evidenced by a new measure giving Jews special status under the law. Members of Netanyahu’s party took cameras into polling places in Arab neighborhoods to intimidate voters during this week’s elections. All of this is in addition to Israel’s repression of millions of Palestinians in the occupied West Bank. The undermining of Israel’s democratic norms will affect its moral stature and its relationships with countries that support the country not only as the homeland of the Jewish people and a strategic partner but also as a democracy.The US-Israel relationship will deteriorate. The embrace between rightwing counterparts in the United States and the rightwing Israeli government is driving the US-Israel relationship into an unsustainable place. The more the United States embraces extreme Israeli policies, the more Americans will refuse to back Israel as long as it denies rights to Palestinians, eschews diplomacy, and undermines the very nature of Israeli democracy.To the world, America will look more like a villain. Trump’s disregard for Palestinian interests is yet another reaffirmation for many that Trump’s America is racist; it will further alienate America from global partners and publics.Chances for a two-state solution will become even more remote. While the prospects for peace right now are very low – and the Palestinians’ lack of leadership and Hamas’s violence and repression in Gaza deserve significant blame – Trump and Netanyahu are creating more roadblocks to peace while ensuring the Palestinians stay away from the negotiating table. Jared Kushner might as well scrap whatever peace plan he’s working on.For America to play a constructive role in supporting peace, a reasonable discussion over US policy is necessary. But Trump is poisoning the debate in the United States by politicizing the relationship and stoking antisemitism. Out of one side of his mouth, Trump claims he is a champion of Israel – which he defines as supporting Netanyahu’s agenda and siding with Israel against its neighbors in disputes – while accusing Democrats of being “anti-Israel” and “anti-Jewish”. Out of the other side of his mouth, Trump gives license to white supremacists and fuels antisemitism.America’s debate over Israel needs a serious realignment. It is possible to be “pro-Israel” and not slavishly support everything Netanyahu wants. It is possible to be critical of Israeli policies without succumbing to demonization that spills over into outright antisemitism. And it is certainly possible to be both “pro-Israeli” and “pro-Palestinian”.Furthermore, US impartiality is not necessary for the US to support diplomacy. The special US relationship with Israel provides the United States with the unique ability to have difficult conversations about the need for Israel to compromise in pursuit of peace. Only this kind of friend can play a key brokering role in peace talks.Right now, Israel needs to hear sobering advice from its friends in America about the dangerous path the country is on. And the Trump administration needs to realize that it is playing with fire in its approach to Israel.



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