Accident at Tokyo's Fukushima Daiichi site now level 5 rating, up from level 4 previously on 1-7 scale; engineers still racing against the clock to cool overheating nuclear reactors.
Japan has raised the incident level at a disaster-hit nuclear power reactor, the UN nuclear watchdog reported on a monitoring website on Friday.
The entry gave the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi site a level 5 rating, up from level 4 previously on a 1-7 scale. That would suggest a level of seriousness on par with the Three Mile Island accident in the United States in 1979.
The crisis at the nuclear power plant is "grave and serious", Yukiya Amano, head of the UN's nuclear watchdog, said on Friday. He went on to say that Japan is racing against the clock to cool overheating nuclear reactors.
However, no one was holding out hope that the crisis -- about to enter its second week after last Friday's 9.0-magnitude earthquake and tsunami -- could be overcome anytime soon.
Japan's nuclear agency spokesman conceded that a "Chernobyl solution" of burying the reactors in sand and concrete was in the back of the authorities' minds.
Is Japan's quake part of a cluster?
With massive earthquakes rocking many of the countries bordering the Pacific Ocean's "ring of fire," Simon Winchester, the author of "A Crack in the Edge of the World," warns that the Golden's State's San Andreas fault could rupture.
In the past year, massive earthquakes have rattled three corners of the Pacific plate — Chile, New Zealand, and Japan. Is the fourth corner of the plate — the west coast of North America — the next to go?
The possibility is getting a serious look — and air time. Journalist Simon Winchester, who often covers geological history, wrote a piece speculating about a major quake along the west coast in the March 13 issue of Newsweek and spoke about it this morning on the Today show.
According to Winchester, there is little doubt that earthquakes happen in clusters — a major event on one side of a tectonic plate is often followed weeks or months later by another major event on the far side of the plate.
"It is as though the earth becomes like a great brass bell, which when struck by an enormous hammer blow on one side sets to vibrating and ringing from all over. Now there have been catastrophic events at three corners of the Pacific Plate — one in the northwest, on Friday; one in the southwest, last month; one in the southeast, last year," he writes in Newsweek.
"That leaves just one corner unaffected — the northeast. And the fault line in the northeast of the Pacific Plate is the San Andreas Fault, underpinning the city of San Francisco."
Speaking with Meredith Vieira on the Today show, Winchester also emphasized the potential of a massive rupture on the Cascadia fault, which runs off the coast from Northern California to British Columbia. If that fault were to rupture, "it would cause not just terrifying problems on land, it would also generate a tsunami and that's a big, big problem," he said.
This is potentially bad enough but there is also the historical perspective to consider:
Regardless, he noted, that statistically speaking, faults along the west coast of North America are ripe to rupture. For example, the Cascadia fault ruptures about every 500 years. It last ruptured in 1700, an earthquake that triggered a tsunami that was felt clear across the ocean in Japan.
The last big event on the San Andreas in southern California was in 1857 and historical analyses show they occur about every 160 years, "which would lead one to think we are pretty much due for one of these magnitude 7 plus events on Carrizo Plain, which could obviously grow into a magnitude 8 if we are unlucky," Rundle said.
Examined in this light, the west coast is due for a major quake whether or not a major event on one side of a tectonic plate can trigger a major event on the other side. Rundle noted that according to his modeling, there is a correlation between the clustering activity and the periodicity of when faults rupture. "There is a definite association," he said.
Dark Days in Ghost Town of Tokyo
It is one of the great cities of the world, home to 13million and as advanced as any metropolis on the planet.
Now Tokyo, usually so full of life by day and night, has the aura of death about it.
Its lights have been cut, supermarket shelves are empty, there are queues for everything and aftershocks come every day.
'We're living in modern times. We have robots in the factories, our technology is world famous and yet we end up pouring buckets of water on a nuclear plant,' said one office worker.
'This is taking us back years. We're going to be in darkness for a long time.' Whether he meant darkness at night because of power cuts or darkness because of what lies ahead for the nation, didn't seem to matter.
It is going to be dark in Tokyo and up the coast, where hundreds of thousands shiver and cry for everyone and everything they have lost, for a very long time to come.
Five air forces set to attack Libya. Qaddafi threatens reprisals in Europe and ME
The resolution UN Security Council passed Thursday night, March 17 approved not only a no-fly zone for Libya but also "all necessary measures to protect civilians and civilian-populated areas under threat of attack" – a mandate for military steps short of invasion. It was carried by 10 votes with five nations abstaining: Russia, China, Brazil, India and Germany. Qaddafi's response: "If the world has gone crazy, we'll be crazy too."
The following article could be placed in the category of "The Demise of America"
America Slouching Towards Fiscal Armageddon
America is in grave danger. Our government's out-of-control spending and our politicians' refusal to implement meaningful budget reforms are leading us towards a fiscal crisis that can undermine our very way of life. We are spending ourselves into oblivion.
With each passing day, we are $5 billion in deficit spending closer to the edge of an abyss that can cripple our economy, destroy America's wealth, and lead to catastrophic social consequences for all current and future generations.
Yet our leaders in Washington refuse to face reality and continue to play political games while the country's budget crisis deepens and the threat grows exponentially.
In February of this year the US federal budget deficit grew by a record $224 billion; the biggest one-month increase in history.
Worse still, the 2011 US budget deficit is forecast to reach $1.5 Trillion. According to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) this annual deficit represents the largest budget gap in our country's history, equivalent to approximately 10% of America's total economic output. This follows the enormous $1.3 Trillion deficit racked up for 2010 and will be superseded by an equally disturbing $1.65 Trillion deficit forecast for 2012.
The numbers continue to astound and shock anyone who bothers to look:
With Congress unwilling to address the runaway spending, roughly half the money the federal government now spends it has to borrow. Approximately 40 cents out of every dollar in spending is financed by mortgaging our future to foreign investors, primarily China.
For 2012, the deficit spending will increase to 45 cents per dollar. Each day America will add another $4.5 billion to the $14.3 Trillion total National Debt. Sometime between now and 2012 the US debt will equal the country's Gross Domestic Product (GDP), the total market value of all the goods and services in our economy for an entire year.
The Wall Street Journal predicts that without any changes, the interest on the nation's debt will reach $900 billion annually in another 10 years. According to their forecast, those yearly interest payments will be 17% greater than our annual Medicare costs and 82% larger than "the cost of all non-security discretionary spending programs combined."
Wait - there is more:
But it gets worse. The current unfunded liabilities total (social programs like Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security which the US government has promised to pay to its citizens) is rapidly approaching $113 Trillion, about $1 million per taxpayer. That will grow to a disastrous $144 Trillion by 2015 if nothing changes.
We are on an unsustainable path of uncontrolled and wasteful spending that can devastate the United States. And what is Congress actually doing to effectively deal with this looming catastrophe?
The delusional Democrats have proposed a microscopic $4.7 billion cut for the 2012 budget.
That's a ridiculous 0.1% of the total budget for 2012. It represents exactly 25 hours of spending by the government.
The supposedly fiscally conservative Republicans in the House originally proposed a small $100 billion cut in spending. That amount was subsequently reduced during House negotiations to a measly $61 billion, representing just 1.6% of the $3.73 Trillion budget for 2012.
The bottom line:
A devastating debt crisis is coming; simple mathematics predict it. It is no longer a matter of if, but when. The time for hysterics, hyperbole, and finger-pointing is over. The time for political games, grand-standing, and partisan shenanigans is long past. This is no longer about Democrat, Republican, liberal, conservative, or progressive issues. This affects all of us. The looming danger crosses all party and ideological lines and jeopardizes all Americans, present and future generations. We're staring down a massive debt tsunami that threatens the US with a fiscal Armageddon the likes of which we've never seen.
Doom and gloom?
Perhaps. But the truth hurts sometimes and the above representation is most definitely the truth of the situation.
America is on an unsustainable course - that much we know. And very little is being done to change things while politicians on both sides of the aisle play political games.
Such is life in America in 2011.