In Japan, the Tokyo Electric Power Company has begun releasing more than 11,000 tons of radioactive water into the ocean while it attempts to find the source of radioactive leaks at the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power complex. The water being released is about 100 times more radioactive than legal limits. Meanwhile, water that is far more radioactive continues to gush into the ocean due to a large crack in a six-foot-deep pit at the nuclear plant. Over the weekend, workers at the plant used sawdust, shredded newspaper and diaper chemicals in an attempt to plug the area. Water leaking from the pit is about 10,000 times more radioactive than water normally found at a nuclear plant. Yukio Edano is Japan’s Cabinet Secretary.
Japanese Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano: “If this situation continues for a long time, the issue of accumulated radiation contamination will increase. Even if the sea does disperse the radiation, it will become a bigger problem, so we need to stop this from spreading out to sea as quickly as possible.”
In news from Ivory Coast, the International Committee of the Red Cross reports at least 800 people have been killed in the western town of Duekoue. It is not clear who the perpetrators were, but the killings took place in an area under the control of forces fighting to install the country’s internationally recognized president Alassane Ouattara. Corinne Dufka is a senior researcher in Human Rights Watch’s Africa Division.
Corinne Dufka, Human Rights Watch Africa Division: “We’re trying to understand who the victims are. Clearly it was an area that fell to the forces loyal to Ouattara, but we understand, obviously, you know, hundreds of people have been killed in that area, and we’re trying to get more information about it. We have also received reports of very serious abuses committed in the west by both sides again, but this is an area that’s pretty much of a no-go area for international human rights investigators.”
Fighting has also intensified in Ivory Coast’s main city of Abidjan, where forces loyal to Ouattara are battling loyalists of the incumbent President Laurent Gbagbo. French troops have now seized control of the city’s airport. Much of the city is facing a humanitarian crisis.
Corinne Dufka: “People are absolutely desperate. No food. Water has been cut off in many areas. And then, obviously, on top of that, they have had to deal with the tension from fighting and fears that they will be attacked from one side or the other. So, a very desperate situation indeed.”
In Afghanistan, protests against the burning of a Koran by an American pastor have entered their fourth day. On Friday, seven employees of the United Nations were killed in the northern Afghan city of Mazar-i-Sharif after local residents stormed the U.N. compound following a protest against Koran burnings. The attack shocked many Afghan observers because Mazar-i-Sharif has long been considered one of Afghanistan’s safest cities.
Staffan di Mistura, U.N. envoy to Afghanistan: “Freedom of speech does not mean freedom of offending culture, religion, traditions, especially when there are so many of us, both civilians and frankly military, in many parts of the world and particularly in Afghanistan. So I think the main blame we have is about the irresponsible gesture that was made on that case. The proof is that those who entered our building were actually furiously angry about the issue about the Koran. There was nothing political there.”
In Pakistan, at least 50 people have died after two suicide bombers attacked a Sufi shrine where hundreds had gathered for a religious ceremony.
The New York Times is reporting the Obama administration is now privately pushing for a way for Yemen’s President Ali Abdullah Saleh to be eased out of office. Saleh has ruled Yemen for over three decades and has been a close partner to the United States in counterterrorism operations. The Times reports the key to Saleh’s departure would be arranging a transfer of power that would enable U.S. counterterrorism operations in Yemen to continue. Meanwhile, the Yemeni government is continuing to use violent force to crush the anti-government protest movement. At least 12 protesters were killed earlier today in the city of Taiz when security forces opened fire. In the port city of Hodeidah, armed men in civilian clothes opened fire on protesters, wounding at least 300.
In news from Libya, there are a number of reports that the Gaddafi regime may be seeking a way out of the military conflict. Gaddafi’s deputy foreign minister has traveled to Greece to discuss a possible ceasefire. Meanwhile, the New York Times reports at least two of Gaddafi’s sons are proposing a resolution that would entail pushing their father aside to make way for a transition to a constitutional democracy under the direction of one of the sons. At least 13 Libyan rebels died Saturday in a NATO-led air strike.
In Syria, government snipers killed at least 15 people on Friday in the city of Douma. Meanwhile, Mohamed Radwan has spoken to the press after being released from a Syrian prison. Radwan is the Egyptian American man who was accused of being an Israeli spy after he was caught taking photographs at a demonstration.
Mohamed Radwan: “That day, there was nothing. It was a Friday, and I was in the Amawi mosque, and then, all of a sudden, people got up in the middle of prayers. And so, I went and stood with them. And everyone was carrying a mobile phone, so I took mine out, too, and began to take pictures. And then, all of a sudden, a man came up to me, took me aside, and told me to come with him. That’s all. I found myself in a car with him, and they took me to a place, and I wasn’t sure where I was.”
Oil giant BP has requested permission to resume offshore drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, less than one year after an oil rig the company had leased in the region exploded, killing 11 workers and resulting in the largest oil spill in U.S. history. BP is seeking to resume drilling at 10 existing wells in the Gulf in July. The request to U.S. regulators comes just one week after the U.S. Department of Justice confirmed the company was facing potential manslaughter charges and other civil and criminal penalties in connection with the explosion and the death of the workers.
Transocean, the company that owned the offshore rig that exploded last year in the Gulf of Mexico, resulting in the largest oil spill in U.S. history, has awarded its top executives bonuses for achieving what it described as the “best year in safety performance in our company’s history.” The bonus for Transocean CEO Steve Newman reached nearly $400,000.
The U.S. official unemployment rate decreased slightly last month to 8.8 percent as the U.S. economy added 216,000 jobs. While the Obama administration praised the new job numbers, many economists point out that the recent drop in the unemployment rate is largely due to people leaving the labor force. Over the past 18 months, the unemployment rate has fallen from 10.1 percent to 8.8 percent. But during that same period, the labor force participation ratio, which measures the share of the U.S. population that has a job, has not changed.
President Obama has officially launched his re-election campaign. Earlier today the Obama campaign sent a video to supporters via email and text message. Some analysts predict Obama may raise and spend an unprecedented $1 billion in the campaign.
China’s best-known artist, Ai Weiwei, remains missing more than a day after he was detained by Chinese police. Chinese authorities detained him and his wife on Sunday and seized more than 30 computers from his studio. Weiwei is best known for designing the Bird’s Nest stadium for the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing. In March, Weiwei accused the Chinese government of trying to silence dissident voices.
Ai Weiwei: “Any tiny piece of information can be a fatal blow to them. For example, someone says something about jasmine. No one even knows who the person is, they haven’t shown their face, but they can draw the support from a lot of young people.”
Mexican authorities say at least 20 people have been killed in Ciudad Juárez since Thursday. In at least three separate incidents, men armed with guns and Molotov cocktails targeted two bars and an outdoor food stand. According to Mexican police, a 10-year-old boy was among the victims of the violence. Ciudad Juárez experienced more than 3,100 homicides in 2010. The killings are largely attributed to the activity of drug cartels in the region. Meanwhile, a Mexican human rights organization claims nearly 5,400 people have gone missing since President Felipe Calderón initiated the country’s war on drugs in 2006. A U.N. report claims government security forces may have played a role in some of the disappearances.
More than 1,000 rallies and protests are being organized today as part of the “We Are One Solidarity Day of Action.” The protests are being held on the 43rd anniversary of the assassination of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. He died in Memphis, Tennessee, on April 4, 1968. He was in Memphis to support striking sanitation workers.