Japan is marking the fifth anniversary of the meltdown of the Fukushima nuclear plant. On March 11, 2011, a massive earthquake and tsunami hit the northeast coast of Japan, killing 20,000 people. Another 160,000 then fled the radiation in Fukushima. It was the world’s worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl. At least 100,000 people from the region have not yet returned to their homes. A full cleanup of the site is expected to take at least 40 years. A representative of the families of the victims spoke during Friday’s memorial ceremony in Tokyo.
Kuniyuki Sakuma: “For those who remain, we are seized with anxieties and uncertainties that are beyond words. We spend life away from our homes. Families are divided and scattered. As our experiences continue into another year, we wonder: 'When will we be able to return to our homes? Will a day come when our families are united again?'”
The Fukushima nuclear meltdown sparked massive anti-nuclear protests across Japan and led to a four-year nationwide moratorium on nuclear plants. The moratorium was lifted, despite sweeping opposition, last August.
Meanwhile, in Florida, the Turkey Point nuclear power station appears to be leaking radiation into the waters off the coast of Miami. A recent study by scientists at the University of Miami found tritium levels up to 215 times higher than normal in the water of the Biscayne Bay. Tritium is a radioactive isotope produced by nuclear reactors. The site’s cooling canals, which are the part of the facility that appear to be leaking the radiation, are currently permitted to operate at 104 degrees—the hottest in the nation.
The four remaining Republican presidential candidates squared off in a debate in Florida Thursday night. Among the topics of debate was the war against ISIL. Candidates Texas Senator Ted Cruz, Ohio Governor John Kasich and real estate billionaire Donald Trump all said they would send additional U.S. troops to Iraq to fight ISIL militants. Trump said he’d send 20,000 to 30,000 U.S. forces to Iraq. Florida Senator Marco Rubio didn’t have a chance to answer the question, although he did join other candidates in calling for the imprisonment of ISIL fighters at Guantánamo. We’ll have more on the GOP debate after headlines.
Meanwhile, a white Donald Trump supporter who punched an African-American protester during a Trump rally in Fayetteville, North Carolina, has threatened the protester, saying next time he might kill him. Video footage shows 26-year-old protester Rakeem Jones being escorted out of the Trump rally when a white man in a cowboy hat steps toward the aisle and sucker-punches Jones in the eye. The attacker, John McGraw, has been charged with assault. Speaking to a journalist after the event, McGraw threatened the protester’s life.
Reporter: “Did you like the event?”
John McGraw: “You bet I liked it.”
Reporter: “Yeah? What did you like about it?”
John McGraw: “Knocking hell out of that big mouth. We don’t know who he is, but we know he’s not acting like an American.”
Reporter: “So he deserved it?”
John McGraw: “Every bit of it.”
Reporter: “What was that?”
John McGraw: “Yes, he deserved it. The next time we see him, we might have to kill him.”
Meanwhile, The Washington Post is receiving criticism for running a total of 16 negative stories about Bernie Sanders in only 16 hours. From Sunday, March 6, to Monday, March 7—which included the time period of the Democratic debate in Flint, Michigan—The Washington Post ran more than a dozen articles criticizing Sanders. This follows a trend of mainstream media coverage either ignoring or scorning Sanders. Data from the Tyndall Report showed that Donald Trump received up to 23 times as much coverage on mainstream media networks than Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders in 2015.
In news from Flint, Michigan, Mayor Karen Weaver has announced residents won’t receive any more water bills until the city can recalculate costs, in efforts to avoid billing residents for lead-poisoned water they can’t use. The city is in the midst of a water contamination crisis that began when Flint’s state-appointed, unelected emergency manager switched the source of the city’s drinking water to the corrosive Flint River in an apparent bid to save money. Flint’s water bills are among the highest in the country—even though the water is unusable. Last week, the state of Michigan approved a $30 million plan to help Flint residents pay a portion of their water bills. The mayor had demanded far more money from the state to replace the city’s aging lead service pipes.
United Nations investigators say dozens of companies, countries and individuals have violated an arms embargo against Libya—including at least two U.S.-based weapons companies. The U.S. companies—Turi Defense Group and Dolarian Capital—are accused of brokering an arms deal to Libya in 2011, after the U.N. Security Council’s arms embargo took effect. The U.N. report also accused countries including United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Turkey of selling military equipment to various warring factions inside Libya.
A new U.N. report accuses South Sudan’s pro-government forces of crimes against humanity and war crimes, including systematic rape of civilians. United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein called the ongoing conflict “one of the most horrendous human rights situations in the world.” Tens of thousands of people have died since 2013. The United States backed South Sudan’s independence in 2011 and the country’s president, Salva Kiir, whose troops are now accused of carrying out the majority of the crimes in the ongoing civil war.
Oil giant BP has announced it is ending its sponsorship of the Tate, London’s prestigious four art institutions, after facing massive opposition. Activists with the art collective Liberate Tate have staged a series of protests demanding the Tate end its contract with BP, which has been funding the Tate for more than 26 years. This comes amid international campaigns demanding scientific and cultural institutions cut ties with the fossil fuel industry.
In Pennsylvania, a court has ordered fracking company Cabot Oil & Gas to pay more than $4 million to families whose well water was contaminated by fracking. The landmark legal ruling comes after an eight-year battle between residents and Cabot. Filmmaker Josh Fox, who featured some of the families in his film “Gasland 2,” said the case sets a legal precedent for holding fracking companies responsible for water contamination.
And in Montana, Arch Coal has suspended its application for a major new coal mine in the Powder River Basin, following years of resistance from the Northern Cheyenne Nation and local ranchers. The move comes two months after Arch Coal declared bankruptcy amid the decline of the U.S. coal industry at large. The construction of Otter Creek mine, which would have extracted up to 20 million tons of coal, was delayed by years of legal and political opposition, which was featured in Naomi Klein and Avi Lewis’ film “This Changes Everything.” Here is a clip from the film of Cheyenne environmental organizer Vanessa Braided Hair speaking at a hearing against the mine.
Vanessa Braided Hair: “My name is Vanessa Braided Hair. I requested this informal conference on behalf of the Northern Cheyenne homesteaders. Last night, over 200 Cheyennes, Three Affiliated Tribes, the Oglala Lakota Nation, Yakama Nation gathered in Lame Deer to oppose any development of the Otter Creek and Tongue River Valley. … If you don’t want the Cheyennes to take over public meetings, then listen to us. If you don’t want anger, then hear us.”
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