Thursday, April 5, 2012

Coast Guard cannon fire sinks Japanese ghost ship

OVER THE GULF OF ALASKA (AP) — The long, lonely voyage of the Japanese ghost ship is over.
A U.S. Coast Guard cutter unleashed cannon fire on the abandoned 164-foot Ryou-Un Maru on Thursday, ending a journey that began when last year's tsunami dislodged it and set it adrift across the Pacific Ocean.
It sank into waters more than 1,000 feet deep in the Gulf of Alaska, more than 150 miles from land.
The crew pummeled the ghost ship with high explosive ammunition, and the Ryou-Un Maru soon burst into flames, and began to take on water and list, officials said.
A huge column of smoke could be seen over the gulf as a Coast Guard C-130 cargo plane, sent to observe the sinking, dropped a buoy to monitor for any possible pollution from the sunken ship.
The Coast Guard warned mariners to stay away, and aviation authorities did the same for pilots.
In about four hours, the ship vanished into the water, said Chief Petty Officer Kip Wadlow in Juneau.
Officials decided to sink the ship rather than risk the chance of it running aground or endangering other vessels in the busy shipping lanes between North America and Asia.
The ship had no lights or communications system, and its tank was able to carry more than 2,000 gallons of diesel fuel. Officials, however, didn't know how much fuel, if any, was aboard.
"It's less risky than it would be running into shore or running into (maritime) traffic," Coast Guard spokesman Paul Webb said.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency studied the problem and decided it is safer to sink the ship and let the fuel evaporate in the open water.
The ship was at Hokkaido, Japan, and destined for scrapping when a magnitude-9.0 earthquake that struck the country in March 2011 triggered a tsunami.
The waves dislodged the vessel and set it adrift. In total, about 5 million tons of debris was swept out to sea.
The boat did not have any cargo aboard, Webb said. He said he didn't know who owned the Ryou-Un Maru, which had been traveling about 1 mph in recent days.
As the Coast Guard was readying to fire on the vessel, a Canadian fishing vessel, the 62-foot Bernice C, claimed salvage rights over the ghost ship in international waters.
Plans to sink it were halted so the Canadian crew could have a chance to take the stricken ship. A Canadian official with knowledge of the situation told The Associated Press that the Bernice C was unable to tow it.
That delay, in part, prompted the cargo plane to return to Kodiak, Alaska, before the ship sank because the plane burned up fuel while circling the area monitoring the situation.
The Canadian boat left, and once it was about 6 miles from the Japanese vessel, the Coast Guard began to fire, first with 25 mm shells, then a few hours later with ammunition twice that size.
In the year since the tsunami, the debris from Japan has washed up on shores across the Pacific.
In January, a half dozen large buoys suspected to be from Japanese oyster farms appeared at the top of Alaska's panhandle and may be among the first debris from the tsunami.
State health and environmental officials have said there's little need to be worried that debris landing on Alaska shores will be contaminated by radiation.
The earthquake triggered the world's worst nuclear crisis since the Chernobyl accident in 1986.
State officials have been working with federal counterparts to gauge the danger of debris including material affected by a damaged nuclear power plant, to see if Alaska residents, seafood or wild game could be affected.
D'Oro reported from Anchorage, Alaska. Associated Press writers Rob Gillies in Toronto, Dan Joling in Anchorage and Whitney Phillips in Phoenix contributed to this report.

Urgent Action 2: Stop the Crackdown

Thursday, April 5, 2012
From Amnesty International:


Crackdown on Dissidents

The authorities have arrested 43 government critics in the province of Santiago de Cuba. This is a clear attempt to crush the emerging peaceful dissident movement in eastern Cuba.

Cuban security forces detained 43 government critics in three locations in the eastern province of Santiago de Cuba, in the afternoon of 2 April. Most of the 43 are members of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (Union Patriótica de Cuba, UNPACU). Their homes were searched and office equipment, including computers, was apparently confiscated. Among them are UNPACU coordinator José Daniel Ferrer García, a former prisoner of conscience, and his wife Belkis Cantillo Ramírez, who is a member of the protest group Ladies in White. About 100 officials from the Department of State Security and police officers arrived at their house in Palmarito de Cauto at 2pm. According to local sources, the officers reportedly broke in and arrested Jose Daniel, Belkis and four others. The same thing was seen at the house of UNPACU member Raumel Vinajera Estive in Palma de Soriano, where he and about 15 others were arrested. Others were arrested in El Caney, close to the city of Santiago de Cuba. Ten of those arrested are women, all members of the Ladies in White.

Since shortly before the Pope’s arrival in Cuba on 28 March, the telephone connections of government critics have apparently been blocked by the authorities, making it difficult to identify where the detainees are being held. Some of them are known to be held at the “Micro 9” police station in the city of Santiago de Cuba, but the whereabouts of the majority are still unknown. Amnesty International believes that those detained may be prisoners of conscience. These detentions are a clear attempt by the authorities to crush the emerging peaceful dissident movement in Santiago de Cuba and neighbouring eastern provinces.

Cuban political prisoner forcibly exiled to Spain commits suicide
Sad news has reached us from Spain. Albert Santiago Du Bouchet, a Cuban political prisoner forcibly exiled to Spain through arrangements made by the Cuban Catholic in collusion with the Castro dictatorship, committed suicide yesterday. He leaves behind his wife and a son.
Like the majority of political prisoners expelled from Cuba last year and sent to Spain, Du Bouchet suffered the emotional ravages of being kicked out of his own country and forced to live in another country with little to no economic assistance or support. With Spain's horrendous economy and skyrocketing unemployment, the Cuban dissidents exiled there have struggled to find jobs and make enough money to shelter and feed their families.
Apparently, the pressure proved too much for Du Bouchet and he took his own life. Yet another unnecessary death directly attributable to the dictatorship of the Castro brothers.
May he rest in peace.