(PHOTO CREDIT: YASUYOSHI CHIBA/AFP/Getty Images)
FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:
A 7.1 magnitude earthquake shook northeastern Japan today, the strongest aftershock since the massive 9.0 earthquake and tsunami that followed devastated the nation four weeks ago.
One of the big concerns of course is possible further damage to the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. The Tokyo Electric Power Company - or TEPCO which runs the plant - said there were no serious incidents as a result of the aftershock.
Or so they say...
Radioactivity from the plant has poisoned the surrounding land, air and ocean. Millions of people have been exposed. And millions more could be… as radioactivity has been picked up in food and drinking water. And detected in faraway places like California.
This week, workers plugged a crack at the plant that had been gushing contaminated water into the ocean for weeks. As a result, TEPCO says radiation levels in the water off the coast there have dropped dramatically.
Yesterday, the head of the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation said the Fukushima accident is not expected to have any serious impact to the health of the Japanese people. He said "We have seen traces of iodine in the air all over the world now, but they are much, much, much lower than traces we have seen at similar distances after Chernobyl."
But not everyone is feeling so certain.
In South Korea, more than 130 primary schools and kindergartens were closed today outside Seoul. People there are worried that windy, rainy weather could be carrying radioactive material from nearby Japan. North Korea also aired warnings on television for its people to stay indoors during the rain and to take a full shower if caught outside in a storm. Even here in the United States, some chefs are using sensors to test levels of radiation in the fish they plan to serve in restaurants.
Here’s my question to you: Do you believe you're being told the truth about the nuclear accident in Japan?
Interested to know which ones made it on air?
A rapidly unfolding story like the earthquake in Japan and the devastating tsunami and nuclear concerns that followed shows the strengths of the news media but at the same time exposes its limits.
The Japan earthquake hit about 12:45 a.m. ET last Friday morning. Internet news sites, blogs and cable television broke the story right away and stayed with it. Newspapers on the other hand scrambled to get such a late breaking story to print... and could only report so much before the presses got rolling. "Hot off the presses" wasn't so hot when it hit doorsteps across the country, so readers relied on other outlets to find out the latest.
A new report from the Pew Center's Project of Excellence in Journalism says 41 percent of Americans say they get most of their national and international news from the Internet. That's up 17 percent - more than double - from a year earlier. And that number's likely to grow. The internet not only provides up-to-the-minute news to anyone who's interested, but in the case of Japan, also puts them one-click away from humanitarian aid websites, groups that are helping loved ones find each other, and opinion blogs.
And laptops, smartphones and electronic tablets like the iPad are making the Internet easily accessible almost everywhere.
Here's my question to you: Will the internet eventually kill newspapers?
Tune in to the Situation Room at 6pm to see if Jack reads your answer on air.
And, we love to know where you’re writing from, so please include your city and state with your comment.
A masked boy walks past nearly-empty shelves at a supermarket in the Japanese city of Akita. (PHOTO CREDIT: ROSLAN RAHMAN/AFP/Getty Images)
In the wake of Japan's deadly earthquake, tsunami and nuclear power plant explosions, we have witnessed the almost indescribable chaos that follows a disaster of this magnitude: loss of life, severe injuries, homelessness, lack of water, food and proper medical care, the physical destruction of towns and cities, and a growing fear of radioactive contamination from power plants that seem beyond anyone's ability to control.
But one heart-wrenching byproduct of disasters like this one has been missing in Japan, and that’s looting and lawlessness.
Looting is something we see after almost every tragedy; for example: last year's earthquakes in Haiti and Chile, the floods in England in 2007, and of course Hurricane Katrina back in 2005. It happens when some people who've seen life as they know it get tossed out the window feel that all morality has been tossed out too. It's survival of the fittest and whatever you can get your hands on is yours, no matter who it belongs to.
But that's not happening in Japan.
Journalist and social commentator Ed West wrote in the UK Telegraph yesterday how struck he was by the Japanese culture throughout this ordeal. He observed how supermarkets cut their prices in the days following the quake and how vending machine owners were giving out free drinks as "people work together to survive." And West was most surprised by the fact that there was no looting.
Many have pointed to the popularity of Japan's distinctive Buddhist and Shinto religions as well as how the values of conformity and consensus are considered virtues in their culture. That's one explanation, but it probably has something to do with remaining true to your moral code even in the darkest hours.
Here’s my question to you: Why is there no looting in Japan?
(PHOTO CREDIT: TORU YAMANAKA/AFP/Getty Images)
Inspectors from all over the world are trying to figure out how dangerous the Japan nuclear situation actually is. It can't be good: hydrogen explosions, fuel rods exposed, reactors overheating, radioactive vapor being released into the atmosphere.
The director of the International Atomic Energy Agency said today the situation at the Fukushima Daiichi power plants is unlikely to become another Chernobyl. Really? Why is my BS detector on red alert? And what happens if a series of major aftershocks rock that region?
France's nuclear watchdog today said the situation at Fukushima is worse than Three Mile Island, the 1979 meltdown at a plant in central Pennsylvania. That was the worst nuclear accident in U.S. history so far.
No one was injured at Three Mile Island and no one died, but the situation was considered so serious that the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission ramped up safety standards after the accident and stopped the construction of new reactors for about 30 years.
But we've got growing demand for energy in this country… and nuclear power has been poised to make a sort of comeback. In the past few years a handful of power companies have applied for permits to build new reactors.
Republican Congressman Devin Nunes of California introduced a bill earlier this month that would call for the construction of 200 new nuclear reactors by the year 2040. President Obama has touted nuclear power, saying it may be part of the solution to the energy and global warming issues facing the U.S.
It all sounded good until last Friday in Japan. Now you can bet approval for new nuclear construction will be hard to come by whether the world is running out of oil or not.
Here’s my question to you: Should the Japan earthquake stop any future construction of nuclear power plants?
Jack Cafferty sounds off hourly on the Situation Room on the stories crossing his radar. Now, you can check in with Jack online to see what he's thinking and weigh in with your own comments online and on TV.
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