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The operator of Japan’s tsunami-damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant says it has plugged a leak of radioactive water into the Pacific Ocean. Japanese Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano made the announcement earlier today.
Yukio Edano: “We have received reports that this morning at around 5:38 a.m., the leak at the cable pit of reactor No. 2 stopped. We are still checking to see if it has stopped completely. Just because this leak has stopped, we still need to see how the other areas are doing. We have received reports that this is being investigated thoroughly.”
Disaster workers are preparing to inject nitrogen into a reactor containment vessel at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power facility to prevent stored-up hydrogen from causing an explosion at the plant’s No. 1 reactor. As the nuclear crisis continues to unfold, it has been revealed that the owner of the stricken plant, Tokyo Electric Power Co., proposed building two new reactors at Fukushima just as the crisis spiraled out of control late last month. The proposal was submitted to local officials on March 26 — just two weeks after a massive tsunami set off the world’s worst nuclear crisis in 25 years. Tokyo Electric Power says the proposal was drawn up before the disaster and that company officials forgot to withdraw it.
Libyan rebels are criticizing the NATO force for what they say has been a failed attempt to stop attacks by Gaddafi regime forces. The head of the rebel forces, Abdel Fattah Younes, said NATO has been to slow to prevent Gaddafi’s advance on the town of Misurata.
Abdel Fattah Younes: “Children are dying every day, men and women are dying every day, because of this bombing. If NATO waited for another week, Misurata would have been finished, and there would be no civilians. It’s people who are dying, and the international community would bear the responsibility of such a crime. Who is NATO? What are they doing? The United Nations has imposed NATO on our heads, but they haven’t done anything.”
Fighters loyal to Ivory Coast leader Alassane Ouattara have stormed the residences of incumbent President Laurent Gbagbo in what could be the final stage of a months-long conflict over disputed elections. Ouattara is recognized by the international community as the winner, but Gbagbo has refused to step down. Conflicting reports emerged Tuesday after Gbagbo was thought to be close to surrender but then defiantly vowed to remain in office. In addition to Ouattara’s forces, Gbagbo’s soldiers have also come under attack from United Nations and French troops operating under a U.N. Security Council mandate.
More than 1,500 people are believed to have died in the violence so far in the Ivory Coast. On Tuesday, the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, said he would seek an investigation of Gbagbo for war crimes.
Luis Moreno-Ocampo: “So, what we are doing now is collecting information in order to open an investigation there. We are concerned about the recent information on massive atrocities committed in the western part of Côte d’Ivoire. We’re trying to define exactly what happened there. And we’re working.”
Democratic and Republican leaders remain at an impasse in talks over approving a new budget and avoiding the first government shutdown in 15 years. On Tuesday, House Speaker John Boehner said Republicans might now seek up to $40 billion in cuts — around $7 billion more than both sides had discussed over the past week. Failure to agree on a budget would lead to a federal government shutdown beginning Friday at midnight. At the White House, President Obama rejected a short-term Republican proposal to cut spending by $12 billion in return for another week of government funding. Obama also criticized Republicans for targeting education and medical research.
President Obama: “Given the fiscal situation that we’re in, everybody has got to make some sacrifices. Everybody has got to take a haircut. And we’ve been willing to do that. But what we’re not willing to do is to go out there and say we’re going to cut another 60,000 head slot starts — Head Start slots. We’re not going to be willing to go out there and say that we’re going to cut medical research. We’re not going to cut those things that we think are absolutely vital to the growth of the American economy and putting people back to work.”
Republicans have unveiled a budget proposal for 2012 that cuts more than $5.8 trillion in government spending over the next decade, while gutting the nation’s Medicare and Medicaid programs. The plan also calls for reducing the top corporate and individual tax rates to 25 percent. House Budget Committee Chair Paul Ryan of Wisconsin unveiled the plan.
Rep. Paul Ryan: “[Obama] offers no reforms to save our vital health and retirement security programs, and no leadership. Our budget charts a different course. It’s very different than what the President has offered. For starters, we proposed to cut $6.2 trillion in spending over the next 10 years from the President’s budget. We reduced the debt as a percent of the economy. We put the nation on the path to actually pay off our national debt. Our goal here is to leave our children and our grandchildren with a debt-free nation.”
In Wisconsin, a statewide judicial election, seen by many as a referendum on Gov. Scott Walker’s anti-union agenda, remains too close to call. With 98 percent of precincts reporting, Republican-backed incumbent State Supreme Court Justice David Prosser holds a narrow lead over challenger JoAnne Kloppenburg, an assistant attorney general backed by the state’s unions. State Republicans, meanwhile, have announced they may try to pass their anti-union bill a second time if the original measure remains tied up in court.
The U.S.-led occupation force in Afghanistan is being accused of killing six civilians in a northern Afghan province. Local officials say the victims were fatally shot when foreign troops raided their home at night. According to the United Nations, at least 80 Afghan civilians were killed in U.S.-led nighttime raids last year.
The Yemeni government continues a violent crackdown on protesters seeking the ouster of President Ali Abdullah Saleh. On Tuesday, pro-Saleh forces opened fire on a crowd in the city of Taiz, wounding at least 20 people. The Obama administration has shifted its stance from supporting Saleh to quietly pushing for his departure. Pentagon spokesperson Geoff Morrell called for a transition in Yemen “as quickly as possible.”
Geoff Morrell: “Obviously, the situation right now is a difficult one. The longer it festers, the more difficult it becomes. That is why this government has been urging a negotiated transition as quickly as possible. And hopefully, as that takes place, we will be able to better collectively go after this threat that exists in Yemen.”
Human rights workers in Syria have increased their estimate of the number of people killed in the Syrian government’s crackdown on a wave of popular protests. The Syrian group, INSAN, says at least 173 people have died since demonstrations began last month.
The U.S. ambassador in Ecuador has been expelled over comments made in a diplomatic cable released by the online whistleblower WikiLeaks. In a July 2009 message, U.S. Ambassador Heather Hodges said the United States should revoke the visa of Ecuador’s national police commander for his alleged ties to extortion, theft and human trafficking. Hodges also suggested President Rafael Correa knew of the police commander’s alleged corruption but appointed him anyway. In Washington, State Department spokesperson Mark Toner criticized Hodges’ expulsion.
Mark Toner: “The Ecuadorean government has declared Ambassador Heather Hodges persona non grata. Ambassador Hodges is one our most experienced and talented diplomats, and the Department considers her expulsion unjustified, and we deeply regret the Ecuadorean government took it. The Department will examine its options to respond to this Ecuadorean action.”
National Public Radio is reporting the head of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, General David Petraeus, is in the running to be named the next director of the CIA. The current CIA chief, Leon Panetta, is rumored to have hopes of replacing U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates when Gates steps down later this year.
The Democratic National Committee has tapped Florida Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz as its new chair following the resignation of Tim Kaine. Kaine stepped down Tuesday to announce his bid for a Virginia senate seat.
The U.S. Supreme Court has stayed the execution of a Texas death row prisoner just hours before he was scheduled to be killed by a controversial new procedure for lethal injection. The prisoner, Cleve Foster, was sentenced for killing a Fort Worth woman in 2002. On Tuesday, the Supreme Court agreed to reconsider an earlier order rejecting Foster’s appeal.
The Texas State House has approved a measure that would require public post-secondary schools with LGBT resource centers to spend an equal amount of money to promote heterosexual activity. The proposal would force schools to ensure taxpayer money spent on LGBT-center initiatives would be equal to education on “family and traditional values.” The measure now goes to the Texas State Senate. Another amendment that would have required school districts to report incidents of bullying and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity was defeated in the same session.
A new study says inequality between African Americans and white Americans has grown since last year. In its 35th annual “State of Black America” report, the National Urban League says blacks now have less access to healthcare and less wealth than whites compared to 2010.
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