Tuesday, March 15, 2011

LPPNEWS FrontLine Results...

Japan radiation fears

Japan suspends work at stricken nuclear plant

Rain spell might bring further woes to Japan Play Video AFP  – Rain spell might bring further woes to Japan
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Japan Ground Self-Defense Force soldiers, mobilized to wash away radioactive material emitted from a nuclear power plant damaged by Friday's earthquak
AP – Japan Ground Self-Defense Force soldiers, mobilized to wash away radioactive material emitted from a …

FUKUSHIMA, Japan – Japan ordered emergency workers to withdraw from its stricken nuclear power complex Wednesday amid a surge in radiation, temporarily suspending efforts to cool overheating reactors.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano said the workers, who were dousing the reactors with seawater in a frantic effort to stabilize their temperatures, had no choice except to withdraw.
"The workers cannot carry out even minimal work at the plant now," Edano said. "Because of the radiation risk we are on standby."
Radiation levels had gone down by later Wednesday, but it was not immediately clear if the workers had been allowed back in.
The nuclear crisis has triggered international alarm and partly overshadowed the human tragedy caused by Friday's earthquake and tsunami, which pulverized Japan's northeastern coastline. Officials believe at least 10,000 people were killed, and possibly many more.
Since then, authorities have been struggling to avert an environmental catastrophe at the coastal Fukushima Dai-ichi complex, 140 miles (220 kilometers) north Tokyo.
Wednesday's radiation spike was apparently the result of a release of pressure that had built up in one of the reactors, officials said, though it was not immediately clear which one. Steam and pressure build up in the reactors as workers try to cool the fuel rods, leading to controlled pressure releases through vents — as well as uncontrolled explosions.
Officials had originally planned use helicopters and fire trucks to spray water in a desperate effort to prevent further radiation leaks and to cool down the reactors.
"It's not so simple that everything will be resolved by pouring in water. We are trying to avoid creating other problems," Edano said.
"We are actually supplying water from the ground, but supplying water from above involves pumping lots of water and that involves risk. We also have to consider the safety of the helicopters above," he said.
A U.S. nuclear expert said he feared the worst.
"It's more of a surrender," said David Lochbaum, a nuclear engineer who now heads the nuclear safety program for the Union of Concerned Scientists, an activist group. "It's not like you wait 10 days and the radiation goes away. In that 10 days things are going to get worse."
"It's basically a sign that there's nothing left to do but throw in the towel," Lochbaum said.
Edano said the government expects to ask the U.S. military for help, though he did not elaborate. He said the government is still considering whether to accept offers of help from other countries.
The government has ordered some 140,000 people in the vicinity to stay indoors. A little radiation was also detected in Tokyo, triggering panic buying of food and water.
There are six reactors at the plant. Units 1, 2 and 3, which were operating last week, shut down automatically when the quake hit. Since then, all three have been rocked by explosions. Compounding the problems, on Tuesday a fire broke out in Unit 4's fuel storage pond, an area where used nuclear fuel is kept cool, causing radioactivity to be released into the atmosphere.
Units 4, 5 and 6 were shut at the time of the quake, but even offline reactors have nuclear fuel — either inside the reactors or in storage ponds — that need to be kept cool.
Meanwhile, the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency estimated that 70 percent of the rods have been damaged at the No. 1 reactor.
Japan's national news agency, Kyodo, said that 33 percent of the fuel rods at the No. 2 reactor were damaged and that the cores of both reactors were believed to have partially melted.
"We don't know the nature of the damage," said Minoru Ohgoda, spokesman for the country's nuclear safety agency. "It could be either melting, or there might be some holes in them."
Meanwhile, the outer housing of the containment vessel at the No. 4 unit erupted in flames early Wednesday, said Hajimi Motujuku, a spokesman for the plant's operator, Tokyo Electric Power Co.
Japan's nuclear safety agency said fire and smoke could no longer be seen at Unit 4, but that it was unable to confirm that the blaze had been put out.
Yuasa reported from Tokyo. Associated Press writers Elaine Kurtenbach in Tokyo and David Stringer in Ofunato contributed to this report.

How to Free Alan Gross

Tuesday, March 15, 2011
From the Wall Street Journal's Editorial Board:

Gross Injustice
How to free Cuba's American hostage.
Over the weekend a sham Cuban court sentenced Alan Gross, an American citizen, to 15 years in prison for bringing computer equipment to the politically sealed island. The American government should be doing more to secure Mr. Gross's release.
A 61-year-old contractor for the U.S. Agency for International Development, Mr. Gross has been held since 2009. His crime was working on a democracy-promotion mission to bring Internet access to dissidents.

The State Department put out a statement saying that "We deplore this ruling... We call on the Government of Cuba to immediately and unconditionally release him." White House national security spokesman Tommy Vietor chimed in to say that Mr. Gross "has already spent too many days in detention and should not spend one more."

Such foot-stomping did not avert Mr. Gross's prison term, so a harsher response is overdue. A good place to start would be for the Administration to reconsider its recent bid for rapprochement with Havana, which included lifting certain restrictions on travel and remittances to the island. Conditioning future visas and Cuba's economic lifeline on Mr. Gross's release is the only message that the Castro brothers and their government will heed.

At the Mercy of Draconian Laws

From Amnesty International:

Repression of Cuban dissidents persists despite releases

The Cuban authorities are continuing to stifle freedom of expression on the island in spite of the much-publicised recent wave of releases of prominent dissidents, Amnesty International warned today on the eighth anniversary of a crackdown on activists.

Hundreds of pro-democracy activists have suffered harassment, intimidation and arbitrary arrest in recent weeks as the Cuban government employs new tactics to stamp out dissent.
Of 75 activists arrested in a crackdown around 18 March 2003, only three remain in jail after 50 releases since last June, with most of the freed activists currently exiled in Spain. Amnesty International has called for the remaining prisoners to be released immediately and unconditionally.

"The release of those detained in the 2003 crackdown is a hugely positive step but it tells only one side of the story facing Cuban human rights activists," said Gerardo Ducos, Cuba researcher at Amnesty International.

"Those living on the island are still being targeted for their work, especially through short-term detentions, while repressive laws give the Cuban authorities a free rein to punish anyone who criticises them."
"Meanwhile, three of the prisoners detained eight years ago still languish in prison and must be freed immediately."

In one recent crackdown the authorities detained over one hundred people in one day in a pre-emptive strike designed to stop activists marking the death of activist Orlando Zapata Tamayo, who died following a prolonged hunger strike while in detention.

On 23 February, the one-year anniversary of Tamayo's death, according to the Cuban Commission of Human Rights and National Reconciliation, the authorities placed over 50 people under house arrest before freeing them hours later.

Activist Nestor Rodri­guez Lobaina, was recently named a prisoner of conscience by Amnesty International after being detained without trial for over three months.
The president of the Cuban Youth Movement for Democracy was arrested after organizing an activists' meeting inside his own home.

"Cubans are still at the mercy of draconian laws that class activism as a crime and anyone who dares to criticise the authorities is at risk of detention," said Gerardo Ducos.
"In addition to releasing long-term prisoners of conscience, to properly realize freedom of expression the Cuban government also has to change its laws."

Seventy-five people were jailed in a massive crackdown against the dissident movement around 18 March 2003 for the peaceful exercise of their right to freedom of expression. Most of them were charged with crimes including acts against the independence of the state because they allegedly received funds and/or materials from US-based NGOs financed by the US government.

They were sentenced to between six and 28 years in prison after speedy and unfair trials for engaging in activities the authorities perceived as subversive and damaging to Cuba.

These activities included publishing articles or giving interviews to US-funded media, communicating with international human rights organizations and having contact with entities or individuals viewed to be hostile to Cuba.
S: Capitol Hill Cubans 

Cuba’s cynical maneuver

 OUR OPINION: No improvement in U.S.-Cuba relations until Alan Gross is free
The 15-year verdict handed down by a Cuban “court” against U.S. citizen Alan Gross is the deeply unjust result of events that bear no relationship to due process in an impartial legal system. Let’s call this cynical maneuver what it really is — blackmail.
The 61-year-old Mr. Gross is not a criminal of any sort. He’s a chess piece manipulated by the Cuban regime in the relentless war against its own people. The Castro brothers want to stop ordinary Cubans from obtaining the slightest bit of information from the outside world from any independent source. Punishing this envoy from a private U.S. company financed by a grant from the U.S. Agency for International Development is a convenient way to deter further efforts to circumvent Cuba’s extensive system of communications surveillance.
Satellite phones are increasingly common instruments used to make calls around the world. But not in the Orwellian world run by Fidel and Raúl Castro and their paranoid minions. In Cuba, a satellite phone like the one Mr. Gross is accused of carrying for use by the island’s tiny and impoverished Jewish community is deemed a dangerous weapon in an alleged “cyber war” being waged by the U.S. government to bolster a web of spies plotting to bring down the government.
In most any other country, a violation of customs regulations might result in a stiff fine and possible expulsion from the country. In Cuba, where the state controls all information outlets, violations that threaten the state’s hegemony are seen as crimes that endanger the security of the state.
The real target of this mock-judicial charade is the “pro-democracy” funding from USAID designed to promote Cuba’s budding civil society movement. People who can think for themselves, talk to each other and learn from each other without government intrusion represent a danger to the state’s tyrannical masters, which practice various forms of mind control designed to snuff out any kind of independent action.
At a minimum, the punitive actions against Mr. Gross should throw a splash of cold water on what some call the warming in relations between Washington and Havana. He should be released unconditionally and immediately. As long as Alan Gross remains in jail, there can be no improvement in U.S.-Cuba relations.
President Obama came to office saying his administration would respond positively to an unclenched fist from previously hostile governments. We doubt that the mistreatment of Alan Gross by the Cuban government is what he had in mind as an appropriate response.
Oscar Elías Biscet, a longtime dissident, was released by the Cuban government last week after enduring years of suffering following an arrest in 2003 for the crime of speaking out against the government. His release is gratifying to his many admirers in and out of Cuba, but it doesn’t change the fact that the physician should never have been imprisoned to begin with.
On Monday, the courageous Mr. Biscet called the Castro regime a “total dictatorship” that fears an informed citizenry. The actions against Alan Gross prove his point.