High levels of radiation have leaked from the Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan after a third explosion at the crippled plant. The latest blast seriously damaged the Number Two reactor’s steel containment structure. In addition, a fire briefly broke out at the plant’s reactor Number Four. Officials just south of the plant reported up to 100 times the normal levels of radiation.
Japan’s Tokyo Electric Power Company said it has pulled out 800 workers from the nuclear power facility due to safety concerns. Some 70,000 residents have been forced to evacuate their homes. Another 140,000 people have been ordered not to step outside. Low levels of radiation are now floating toward Tokyo. Earlier today, Japanese Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano issued a frank warning about the crisis.
Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano: "There is no mistake that this is a level that can have an effect on humans. People within the area should not have contact with the air as much as possible, and I would like to ask people to stay indoors."
Japan is also dealing with a humanitarian crisis as millions of people in Japan’s devastated northeast are spending a fourth night without water, food or heating in near-freezing temperatures. Officials expect the death toll from Friday’s earthquake and tsunami to exceed 10,000. On Monday, more than 2,000 bodies washed up on the beaches of Miyagi Prefecture.
The nuclear crisis in Japan has sparked a debate over the future of nuclear energy across the globe. German Chancellor Angela Merkel has announced that the country’s seven nuclear reactors built before 1980 will be shut down for a three-month review of German plant safety. On Monday, Merkel suspended plans to extend the life of Germany’s 17 nuclear reactors.
In news from the Middle East, the King of Bahrain has declared a state of emergency for three months following weeks of pro-democracy protests. The King’s announcement came one day after about 1,000 Saudi troops have crossed into Bahrain to help defend Bahrain’s ruling family. Pro-democracy protesters have described the Saudi presence on the island as a declaration of war. In a statement, Bahraini opposition groups said, "We consider the entry of any soldier or military machinery into the Kingdom of Bahrain’s air, sea or land territories a blatant occupation." Bahrain is a close U.S. ally and home to the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet.
In Libya, forces loyal to Col. Muammar Gaddafi have captured the city of Zwara, west of Tripoli, and are battling under-equipped rebel fighters for control of the oil town of Brega. In recent days, Gaddafi forces have won back control of several key cities. Meanwhile, debate continues at the international level over whether the U.N. Security Council should institute a no-fly zone. On Monday, German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle expressed deep concerns about the no-fly zone.
Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle: "I have reiterated on behalf of the German government that we remain very skeptical about a military intervention in Libya. A no-fly zone is a military intervention and always has to be considered with the consequences. I do not want Germany to be drawn into a long-lasting war in North Africa."
Meanwhile, British Prime Minister David Cameron has openly backed a no-fly zone and rejected charges that it amounts to an act of war.
Prime Minister David Cameron: "I think what we’re seeing in Libya is different, in that it’s an uprising of a people against a leader. And it’s quite a condition, and no — different, and no one is talking about invasions or boots on the ground or the rest of it."
In the West Bank and Gaza, tens of thousands of Palestinians are protesting today, calling for an end to the internal Palestinian split between Hamas and Fatah. The protests were largely organized by young people.
The father of accused whistleblower U.S. Army Private Bradley Manning has spoken out for the first time since Manning was arrested for allegedly leaking classified information to WikiLeaks. Since June, Manning has been held in solitary confinement on a Marine brig in Virginia. In an interview with PBS Frontline, Brian Manning said he was shocked by the conditions under which his son was being held.
Brian Manning: "I mean this is someone that has not gone to trial or been convicted of anything. And that’s prompted me to come out and go forward. They worry about people down in a base in Cuba, but here they are, have someone at a base on our own soil, under their own control, and they’re treating him this way. You just can’t believe. It’s shocking enough that I would come out of our silence as a family and say, ‘Now then, you’ve crossed the line. This is wrong.’”
The New York Times and Los Angeles Times both published editorials today condemning the treatment of alleged whistleblower U.S. Army Private Bradley Manning. The editors of the New York Times write: "The military has been treating him abusively, in a way that conjures creepy memories of how the Bush administration used to treat terror suspects." Last Friday, then-State Department Spokesperson P.J. Crowley accused the Pentagon of being "ridiculous and counterproductive and stupid" in its treatment of Manning. Crowley was forced to resign from his post over his comments.
Former Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide has decided to return to Haiti this week ahead of Saturday’s presidential runoff election. Aristide has lived in exile in South Africa since 2004, when he was ousted in a U.S.-backed coup. On Monday, the U.S. Department of State urged Aristide to postpone his trip.
U.S. State Department Spokesperson Mark Toner : "Former President Aristide has chosen to remain outside of Haiti for seven years. To return this week could only be seen as a conscious choice to impact Haiti’s elections. We would urge former President Aristide to delay his return until after the electoral process has concluded, to permit the Haitian people to cast their ballots in a peaceful atmosphere. Return prior to the election may potentially be destabilizing to the political process."
In news from Wisconsin, Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald is claiming that the 14 Senate Democrats who fled the state to block a union-busting bill are still in contempt of the Senate even though they have returned. In a letter released Monday, Fitzgerald said the Democrats cannot vote in committee. He wrote, "They are free to attend hearings, listen to testimony, debate legislation, introduce amendments, and cast votes to signal their support/opposition, but those votes will not count, and will not be recorded." Meanwhile, Wisconsin Democrats have announced they have collected nearly half the signatures necessary to begin recalling Republican senators who backed the bill to strip most public employees of their right to collectively bargain.
In Iowa, lawmakers are considering a bill that would make it illegal for animal rights activists to go undercover and record video of farm animal abuse. Backed by Iowa’s agriculture industry, the bill would impose fines and prison sentences on anyone who seeks agricultural employment in order to capture footage. In recent years, undercover videos have revealed shocking conditions at a number of locations and have led to plant closures and meat recalls.
A group of Guatemalans who were deliberately infected with syphilis and gonorrhea in the 1940s have sued the U.S. government. The experiments were conducted without the subjects’ permission between 1946 and 1948. The Obama administration issued an apology last year about the tests, but the United States has refused to offer compensation to the victims and their families. Visit DemocracyNow.org for our interview with medical historian Susan Reverby, who uncovered the secret experiments.
Democratic Senator Al Franken of Minnesota has announced plans to introduce a bill that would criminalize violations of net neutrality. Franken has described net neutrality as the most important free speech issue of our time. On Monday, Sen. Franken spoke with the website Techcrunch.com.
Senator Al Franken: “My concern is, is that as there’s concentration in media and fewer and fewer companies own the internet service providers, there is the fear that they will do paid prioritization, have a faster lane, and essentially consumers will be getting, really, content that’s paid for by large corporations that can afford the faster lane.”
A new survey of the wealthy class in the United States has found that more than 40 percent of millionaires do not feel rich, despite their seven-figure wealth. Many said they would not feel truly wealthy until their assets hit the $7.5 million mark. The survey was conducted by Fidelity Investments.