Radiation Rising from Japanese Nuclear Plant

Levels of radioactivity have risen sharply in seawater near a tsunami-crippled nuclear plant in northern Japan, possibly signaling new leaks at the facility, the government said Saturday. The level of radioactive iodine-131 spiked to 6,500 times the legal limit, according to samples taken Friday, up from 1,100 times the limit in samples taken the day before. Levels of cesium-134 and cesium-137 rose nearly fourfold. The increased levels are still far below those recorded earlier this month before the initial leak was plugged.

The operator of Japan’s crippled nuclear plant began pumping highly radioactive water from the basement of one of its buildings to a makeshift storage area Tuesday in a crucial step toward easing the nuclear crisis. It is but one of many steps in a lengthy process to resolve the crisis. Tokyo Electric Power Co. projected in a road map released over the weekend that it would take up to nine months to reach a cold shutdown of the plant. But government officials acknowledge that setbacks could slow the timeline.

Earthquakes

Moderate earthquakes rattled parts of Australia and New Zealand on Saturday, including the devastated city of Christchurch where power was cut to thousands of homesNo major damage was reported from either quake, and no tsunami warning was issued. The magnitude-5.2 quake that struck Christchurch was far less powerful than one that leveled office blocks and homes in the New Zealand city on Feb. 22, killing at least 169 people and devastating the downtown area.

A magnitude-5.9 earthquake jolted Japan on Saturday morning. There were no immediate reports of damage from the earthquake, and there was no risk of a tsunami. Aftershocks continue to rattle Japan after the huge 9.0 earthquake last month.

  • Increased earthquake activity is a key end-time sign and will continue to escalate

Enormous Volcanic Plume under Yellowstone

Scientists using electric and magnetic sensors have mapped the size and composition of a vast plume of hot rock and briny fluid down to 200 miles below Yellowstone National Park’s surface. The giant plume of hot rock feeding the Yellowstone super-volcano may be even bigger than thought, scientists have discovered. Study leader Zhdanov cautions against misconstruing a larger plume as proof that the Yellowstone super-volcano is on the verge of erupting.

Wildfires

For weeks, Texans have watched and worried as fires of an intensity and breadth they have never seen before rage across the state, scorching prairie land and suburbs and destroying hundreds of homes. So far this season, wildfires have charred 1.65 million acres across the state, the Texas Forest Service reported. Across the state, 30 to 40 fires were actively burning and 244 homes have been destroyed. Meanwhile, four wildfires in New Mexico have consumed 52,300 acres and burned 12 structures. West Texas and New Mexico are experiencing extreme drought conditions.

Weather

Vicious storms smacked the Deep South and toppled trees like dominoes as tornadoes howled through towns Friday. Seven deaths were reported in Alabama, including a man killed when the storm tossed a mobile home nearly a quarter of a mile across a state highway. The furious storm system kicked up tornadoes, flash floods and hail as big as softballs and has claimed at least 45 lives on a rampage that began in Oklahoma, then smashed across several Southern states as it reached a new and deadly pitch in North Carolina and Virginia. Emergency crews searched for victims in hard-hit swaths of North Carolina, where 62 tornadoes were reported and 22 killed by the worst spring storm in two decades to hit the state.

Lake Mead replenished by snowfall

Six months ago, Lake Mead was turning to dust, its water levels receding so rapidly that marina operators were moving boat docks weekly. The reservoir, victim of a 10-year drought on the Colorado River, reached a historic low in November, and water users in Arizona and Nevada braced for shortages within the year. Then last week, the federal agency that operates the reservoir declared that enough water would flow down the river this spring – the most in over a decade – to raise water levels above the shortage triggers and ease the threat of rationing through at least 2016. But the snowfall melt still isn’t enough water to end the drought. Lake Mead will still finish the year about 100 feet below its high-water mark and still less than half-full.

Obama Hits Low Point in Gallup Poll

President Obama’s approval rating in the Gallup daily tracking survey is down to 41%, matching the lowest level of his presidency. Gallup notes that Obama “faces difficult challenges ahead in trying to improve the economy and get the federal budget deficit under control, and must do so with Republicans in control of the House.” His ability to navigate these challenges will help determine whether he will be elected to a second term as president,” the report added. “Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton all were similarly unpopular at this stage of their presidencies, but the latter two were able to turn things around in time to win a second term in office.”

Obama to Make Easter Prayer Breakfast an Annual Event

President Obama hosted what he called the “second annual” Easter Prayer Breakfast Tuesday, and said he wants to make it a permanent part of White House life. “I’m going to make it annual,” Obama told Christian leaders from across the country gathered in the East Room. “The Easter Egg Roll, that’s well established. The Prayer Breakfast, we started last year.” The reason: In tough times, personal or professional, faith helps. “There’s something about the resurrection of our savior Jesus Christ that puts everything else into perspective,” Obama said.

  • Now that Obama has begun campaigning for a second term, he’s trying hard to counter evangelical accusations that he’s a closet Muslim

Arizona Governor Vetoes Presidential ‘Birther’ Bill

Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer on Monday vetoed a bill that would have required President Obama and other presidential candidates to prove their U.S. citizenship before their names could appear on the state’s ballot. The bill would have made Arizona the first state to pass such a requirement. Opponents had warned the bill would give another black eye to Arizona after last year’s controversy over the state’s illegal immigration enforcement law. Brewer said in her veto letter that she was troubled that the bill empowered Arizona’s secretary of state to judge the qualifications of all candidates when they file to run for office. “I do not support designating one person as the gatekeeper to the ballot for a candidate, which could lead to arbitrary or politically motivated decisions,” said Brewer.

But there’s another birther proposal already in the works in Louisiana, House Bill 561 by Rep. Alan Seabaugh and Sen. A.G. Crowe, and there would be no veto there. If the legislature passes it, we’ll sign it,” Kyle Plotkin, press secretary to Gov. Bobby Jindal, told the New Orleans Times-Picayune.

Courts Impose Amnesty for Illegals

A coalition of sheriffs dedicated to defending the border from the illegal alien intrusion says a recent ruling from the Ninth Circuit is “judicially imposed amnesty.” The Ninth Circuit Panel recently voted 2-1 to uphold a lower court’s decision to gut the law enforcement provisions of Arizona S.B. 1070 that were designed to help state and local law enforcement officers better enforce federal immigration laws. The constitutionality of those aspects was challenged by the Obama administration shortly after the state’s governor signed the measure into law. “The court basically said that Obama administration policy trumps state law,” reports Larry Dever, fourth-term sheriff of Cochise County, Arizona and honorary co-chair of the Southwest Border Sheriff’s Project. Dever concludes that the Ninth Circuit ruling will make it more difficult for law enforcement to protect U.S. citizens from the crime of illegal immigration.

Half of Supermarket Meat May Have Staph Bug

A new report estimates that half the meat and poultry sold in the supermarket may be tainted with the staph germ. That estimate is based on 136 samples of beef, chicken, pork and turkey purchased from grocery stores in Chicago, Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., Flagstaff, Ariz. and Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Researchers found more than half contained Staphylococcus aureus, a bacteria that can make people sick. Worse, half of those contaminated samples had a form of the bacteria resistant to at least three kinds of antibiotics. Proper cooking should kill the germs. But the report suggests that consumers should be careful to wash their hands and take other steps not to spread bacteria during food preparation. The nonprofit Translational Genomics Research Institute in Arizona did the research.

2 Million Babies Stillborn Every Year

More than 2 million babies are stillborn every year worldwide and about half could be saved if their mothers had better medical care. While the vast majority of stillbirths happen in the developing world, the rates in countries including Britain, France and the U.S. have not dropped to the degree many experts had expected, as rising obesity levels among pregnant women increase the risk. Experts say providing better obstetric care, treating conditions like syphilis, high blood pressure and diabetes in mothers, among other strategies, could save more than 1 million infants every year. In developing countries, most stillbirths are caused by delivery complications, maternal infections in pregnancy, fetal growth problems and congenital abnormalities. In developed countries, the reasons are often unclear why stillbirths occur, and surveillance and autopsy data are patchy.

Porn Company Amassing 800 Numbers

Records obtained by The Associated Press show that over the past 13 years, a little-known Philadelphia company called PrimeTel Communications has quietly gained control over nearly a quarter of all the 1-800 numbers in the U.S. and Canada, often by grabbing them the moment they are relinquished by previous users. As of March, it administered more 800 numbers that any other company, including Verizon and AT&T. And many, if not most, of those 1.7 million numbers appear to be used for one thing: redirecting callers to a phone-sex service.

Budget Cuts Non-Existent

The devil is in the details, and as the much ballyhooed budget deal reached by House SpeakerJohn Boehner and President Barack Obama is dissected, an evil, despicable lie is revealed: Those “amazing” promised cuts are non-existent. A report from the Congressional Budget Office indicates the $38 billion Congress supposedly cut from the budget in a deal reached April 8 after days of brinkmanship isn’t really $38 billion. It’s actually less than one-tenth of that: $352 million. Not that $38 billion was much of a cut in the first place. It paled in comparison to the $100 billion promised by campaigning Republicans last November, which also pales next to our $15 trillion debt.

House Passes $6T Spending Cut Plan

The House on Friday passed a Republican budget blueprint proposing to fundamentally overhaul Medicare and combat out-of-control budget deficits with sharp spending cuts on social safety net programs like food stamps and Medicaid. The nonbinding plan lays out a fiscal vision cutting $6.2 trillion over the coming decade from the budget submitted by President Barack Obama. It passed 235-193 with every Democrat voting “no.” The vote sets up the Republicans’ next round of confrontation with Obama and Democrats over the country’s long-term deficit levels — a standoff likely to come to a head this summer and set the stage for 2012 elections

G-20 Aim to Avert Another Global Economic Meltdown

The world’s major economies have reached an agreement on how to measure the types of dangerous imbalances that contributed to the worst global financial downturn in seven decades. The deal was announced in a joint statement issued Friday following a day of talks among finance officials from the Group of 20 rich industrial nations and major emerging markets such as China and Brazil. The effort will monitor countries and prod them to take corrective actions when imbalances in such areas as foreign trade or government debt rise to excessive levels.

Economic News

Standard & Poor’s warned Monday that United States’ coveted AAA credit rating could fall if legislators don’t take action on the nation’s $9.7 trillion debt. The Dow Jones industrial average plunged after S&P’s rating update. Gold soared to nearly $1,500 an ounce.

Americans are paying more for food and gas, a trend that could slow economic growth in the months ahead. The Consumer Price Index rose 0.5% in March, the Labor Department said Friday. That matched February’s increase, the largest since the recession ended in June 2009. In the past 12 months, the index has increased 2.7%.Excluding the volatile food and gas categories, the so-called core index rose 0.1% and it is up 1.2% in the past year.

Builders broke ground on more new homes last month, giving the weak U.S. housing market a slight boost at the start of the spring buying season. Home construction rose 7.2% in March from February to a seasonally adjusted 549,000 units, the Commerce Department said Tuesday. Building permits, an indicator of future construction, rose 11.2% after hitting a five-decade low in February. Still, the building pace is far below the 1.2 million units a year economists consider healthy.

Libya

Heavy fighting raged Tuesday in the western Libyan city of Misrata, witnesses said, while a NATO commander complained the alliance was having trouble destroying Moammar Gadhafi’s mortars and rockets attacking rebels there and Britain said it would send senior military officers to advise the opposition in the east. NATO planes flew over Misrata while the shelling from Gadhafi forces continued. NATO Brig. Gen. Mark van Uhm cautioned that “there is a limit to what can be achieved by airpower to stop fighting in a city.” A senior Libyan official, meanwhile, ruled out the possibility of allowing foreign troops to escort humanitarian aid convoys in Libya, saying the government would view such a deployment as a military mission.

Military forces loyal to Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi have been firing into residential neighborhoods in this embattled city with heavy weapons, including cluster bombs that have been banned by much of the world and ground-to-ground rockets, according to witnesses and survivors, as well as physical evidence. Both of these so-called indiscriminate weapons, which strike large areas with a dense succession of high-explosive munitions, by their nature cannot be fired precisely. When fired into populated areas, they place civilians at grave risk. The use of such weapons in these ways could add urgency to the arguments by Britain and France that the alliance needs to step up attacks on the Qaddafi forces, to better fulfill the United Nations mandate to protect civilians.

Egypt

Protesters led by hardline Islamists in southern Egypt held their ground Monday, saying they won’t end their campaign of civil disobedience until the government removes a newly appointed Coptic Christian governor. The protesters, many from the ultraconservative Salafi trend of Islam, have been sitting on train tracks, taken over government buildings and blocked main roads in the southern city of Qena, insisting the new governor won’t properly implement Islamic law. Since the Feb. 11 ousting of President Hosni Mubarak in popular protests, Islamist groups have have been flexing their muscles and are vowing to take a more active political role,

An Egyptian court ordered the dissolving of the country’s former ruling party and the confiscation of its assets on Saturday, meeting a major demand of the protest movement that ousted President Hosni Mubarak. Activists have been pressing Egypt’s ruling military to abolish the National Democratic Party, fearing that even after the fall of Mubarak on Feb. 11 — and the arrest of many of its top leaders — remnants of the party could still try to hold power in the country. In particular, the NDP could still have been a powerful contender in the first post-Mubarak parliament elections due in September.

Syria

Syria has reportedly lifted its decade-old state of emergency Tuesday, according to its state new agency. This comes as Syria issued a stern warning to the nation to stop protesting, hours after security forces opened fire with live ammunition and tear gas on hundreds of anti-government demonstrators  However, the protests in Syria against the dictatorship of Bashar Assad have spread to several regions. The Syrian opposition includes people from both ends of the political spectrum, whether secular leftists or Islamists. More than 5,000 anti-government protesters in Syria took over the main square of the country’s third-largest city Monday, vowing to occupy the site until Assad is ousted. The Egypt-style standoff in the central city of Homs followed funeral processions by more than 10,000 mourners for some of those killed in clashes Sunday that left at least 12 people dead.

Nigeria

Burned corpses with machete wounds lay in roads and smoke rose above the city of Kaduna where rioting broke out again Tuesday among Muslim opposition supporters who were angered by the announcement that the Christian incumbent president Goodluck Jonathan had won the election. On the outskirts of Kaduna, burned out minibuses and cars littered the highways, and at least six charred bodies could be seen. Skull caps and sandals were strewn nearby, left behind by those who frantically fled amid the chaos. The Nigerian Red Cross said Tuesday that nearly 400 people had been wounded. Supporters of opposition candidate Muhammadu Buhari set fire to homes of ruling party members in several areas across the north. Police said an angry mob also engineered a prison break.

  • It’s almost always the Muslims who kill when they don’t get what they want – peaceful religion indeed.

Afghanistan

A suicide bomber disguised in an Afghan army uniform on Saturday detonated a vest packed with explosives at the entrance to a base in eastern Afghanistan, killing five coalition and four Afghan soldiers. The attacker had the Afghan security force uniform on and that gave him the opportunity to reach the entrance to the base and carry out the attack. A Taliban militant opened fire inside the Afghan Defense Ministry on Monday, killing two Afghan soldiers in the latest daring attack inside a government or military installation.

Iraq

Suicide bombers detonated two explosives-packed cars Monday outside Baghdad’s heavily fortified Green Zone, killing at least nine people and wounding 23, officials said. The blasts marked the start of a violent day in the Iraqi capital, where two more bombings left three more dead and 15 wounded. The twin suicide car bombs rattled windows across Baghdad shortly after 8 a.m. The cars blew up just outside a security checkpoint on a heavily traveled road leading into the Green Zone from Baghdad’s international airport.

Thailand

Police say suspected Muslim insurgents have set off a car bomb that killed one soldier and wounded 25 people in restive southern Thailand. The improvised explosive device was planted in a car and exploded Monday morning as a pickup truck carrying paramilitary officers passed by in the city of Yala. Yala is one of the three provinces in Thailand’s deep south where a Muslim insurgency has killed 4,300 people since 2004.

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