Thursday, March 24, 2011

Tokyo water 'unfit for babies' due to high radiation - Tokyo's tap water is unfit for babies to drink after radiation from Japan's quake-hit nuclear plant affected the capital's water supply, officials said. Radioactive iodine levels in some areas were twice the recommended safe level. People in Fukushima prefecture, where the nuclear plant is located, have been told not to eat certain vegetables because of contamination worries.
The authorities are warning people living in Tokyo not to allow babies less than a year old to drink water from the tap. Japan's health ministry has urged some residents near the plant to stop drinking tap water after samples showed elevated levels of radioactive iodine - about three times the normal level. Raised radiation levels have also been found in samples of milk and 11 green leafy vegetables, in some cases well outside the 20km exclusion zone. However, there is no suggestion that these levels of radiation pose any immediate threat to human health. The level of radioactivity found in samples of spinach would, if consumed for a year, equal the radiation received in a single CAT scan. For the milk, the figure would be much less. Experts say that safe limits for radiation in food are kept extremely low, so people should not necessarily be unduly worried by reports that they had been breached.
Hong Kong has banned a variety of food imports. The Food and Drug Administration in the US said that all milk and milk products and fresh fruits and vegetables from four Japanese prefectures - Fukushima, Ibaraki, Tochigi and Gunma - would be stopped from entering the United States.
Countries including China, Taiwan and South Korea have already been carrying out rigorous checks of Japanese food imports.
The confirmed death toll from the earthquake and tsunami has risen to 9,408, and more than 14,700 people are listed as missing. An estimated half a million people have been made homeless and some 300,000 people remain in evacuation centres or temporary housing.
Meanwhile, work was been halted at the Fukushima Daiichi plant after black smoke was seen rising from reactor 3. Radiation levels were reported to be UNUSUALLYy high before the smoke was spotted; they later fell but remain higher than in recent days. Engineers were earlier forced to halt testing of the electrical system at reactor 2 after radiation levels spiked. There is also concern about the rising temperature at reactor 1. Power cables have been connected to all six reactors, and lighting has been restored at reactor 3. The plant's operator, Tokyo Electric Power (Tepco), had hoped to try to power up water pumps to reactor 3 on Wednesday. Tepco has said restoring power to all the reactor units could take weeks or even months. Engineers' efforts have been frequently hampered by smoke and spikes in radiation.
On Tuesday, an International Atomic Energy Agency senior official said he could not confirm that the damaged reactors were "totally intact" or if they were cracked and leaking radiation. "We continue to see radiation coming from the site... and the question is where exactly is that coming from?"(map)
Emergency crews using fire engines have again aimed their high-pressure water jets at a quake-hit and charred nuclear reactor in Japan, a day after a plume of dark smoke forced them to evacuate. Workers have struggled to avert a meltdown at the Fukushima plant northeast of Tokyo that has belched radiation, forcing tens of thousands to evacuate, contaminating farm produce and drinking water, and sparking wide anxiety. White steam was seen rising from four of the six reactors in the morning. Workers had been pulled back yesterday after dark smoke rose from the number three reactor unit.
Early today the Tokyo fire department engines again aimed their powerful seawater jets at the site to top up a spent fuel pool inside the unit. The focus is on the number three reactor, of special concern since it uses volatile uranium-plutonium fuel. Retopping the containment pool aims to stop it from being exposed to air where it could release large-scale radiation. Power has been partially restored to the control room of the number three unit. Previously workers had to grope around in the dark, using flashlights, without an air-conditioning system to extract elevated radiation.

**When we are tired,
we are attacked by ideas we conquered long ago.**
Friedrich Nietzsche

This morning -

Yesterday -
3/23/11 -


Japan disaster likely to be world's costliest.
- Japan's government said the cost of the earthquake and tsunami that devastated the northeast could reach $309 billion, making it the WORLD'S MOST EXPENSIVE NATURAL DISASTER ON RECORD. The extensive damage to housing, roads, utilities and businesses across seven prefectures has resulted in direct losses of between 16 trillion yen ($198 billion) and 25 trillion yen ($309 billion). If the government's projection proves correct, it would top the losses from Hurricane Katrina. The 2005 megastorm that ravaged New Orleans and the surrounding region cost $125 billion. Japan's estimate does not include the impact of power shortages triggered by damage to a nuclear power plant, so the overall economic impact could be even higher. It also leaves out potential global repercussions.
"The aftermath of the tragic events in Japan will obviously alter the domestic economy. However, Japan's position in the global economy is such that there must also be some transmission of the shock to other parts of the world." The Cabinet Office suggested, however, that the economic hit could be softened by the expected upswing in public works and construction as the region rebuilds.
Utilities have imposed power rationing, many factories remain closed and key rail lines are impassable. The Japanese economy has been lackluster for two decades, barely managing to eke out weak growth between slowdowns. It lost its position as world's No. 2 economy to China last year and is saddled with a massive public debt that, at 200 percent of GDP, is the biggest among industrialized nations. The government plans to introduce a supplementary budget to tackle reconstruction, though Cabinet members have said additional budgets will probably be needed down the road.
The government also reportedly plans to inject public money into banks to help support lending as companies rebuild. It may finance that from a fund of 11 trillion yen ($135 billion) that is still available under a law on emergency support to banks passed after the 2008 collapse of Lehman Brothers.

Japan is a Stress Test for the Global Supply Chain - Modern global supply chains, experts say, mirror complex biological systems like the human body in many ways. They can be remarkably resilient and self-healing, yet at times quite vulnerable to some specific, seemingly small weakness — as if a tiny tear in a crucial artery were to cause someone to suffer heart failure. Day in and day out, the global flow of goods routinely adapts to all kinds of glitches and setbacks. A supply breakdown in one factory in one country, for example, is quickly replaced by added shipments from suppliers elsewhere in the network. Sometimes, the problems span whole regions and require emergency action for days or weeks. When a volcano erupted in Iceland last spring, spewing ash across northern Europe and grounding air travel, supply-chain wizards were put to a test, juggling production and shipments worldwide to keep supplies flowing. But the disaster in Japan, experts say, presents a first-of-its-kind challenge, even if much remains uncertain.
Japan is the world’s third-largest economy, and a vital supplier of parts and equipment for major industries like computers, electronics and automobiles. The worst of the damage was northeast of Tokyo, near the quake’s epicenter, though Japan’s manufacturing heartland is farther south. But greater problems will emerge if rolling electrical blackouts and transportation disruptions across the country continue for long. Throughout Japan, many plants are closed at least for days, with restart dates uncertain. Already, there are some ripple effects worldwide: for example, a General Motors truck plant in Louisiana announced on Thursday that it was shutting down temporarily for lack of Japanese-made parts. More made-in-Japan supply-chain travails are expected.
“This is going to be a huge test of global supply chains, but I don’t think it will be a mortal blow. I think that over all we’ll see how resilient and quick-learning these networks have become.” The good news for the world’s manufacturing economy is that the sectors where Japan plays a vital role are fairly mature, global industries. Consider computing and electronics. For major components, like semiconductors, production is now spread across several countries. By contrast, in the early 1990s, virtually all 486-microprocessors — the engines of the most powerful personal computers of the time — were made at a single Intel factory near Jerusalem. Japan’s importance in the semiconductor industry as a whole has receded in recent years, as more production has shifted to South Korea, Taiwan and even China. Japan accounts for less than 21 percent of total semiconductor production, down from 28 percent in 2001. Still, Japan produces a far higher share of certain important chips like the lightweight flash memory used in smartphones and tablet computers.
Apple, like all major companies these days, treats its supply-chain operations as a trade secret. But industry analysts estimate that Apple buys perhaps a third of its flash memory from Toshiba, with the rest coming mainly from South Korea. The lead time between chip orders and delivery is two months or more. A leading customer like Apple will be first in line for supplies, and it has inventories for several weeks, analysts say. So there will be little immediate impact on Apple or its customers, but even Apple will likely be hit with supply shortages of crucial components in the second quarter.
The field of buying and shipping supplies has been transformed in the last decade or two. Globalization and technology have been the driving forces. Manufacturing is outsourced around the world, with each component made in locations chosen for expertise and low costs. So today’s computer or smartphone is, figuratively, a United Nations assembly of parts. That means supply lines are longer and far more complex than in the past. The ability to manage these complex networks, experts say, has become possible because of technology - Internet communications, RFID tags and sensors attached to valued parts, and sophisticated software for tracking and orchestrating the flow of goods worldwide. That geographic and technological evolution, in theory, should make adapting to the disaster in Japan easier for corporate supply chains. Most anything can be tracked, but it takes smart technology, investment and effort to do so. And as procurement networks become more complex and supply lines grow longer — “thin strands,” as the experts call the phenomenon — the difficulty and expense of seeing deeper into the supply chain increases.
“Major companies have constant communications and deep knowledge of primary suppliers. It’s in the secondary layers of suppliers — things that are smaller, barely noticed — where the greater risk is.” Indeed, supplies of larger, more costly electronic components, like flash memory and liquid crystal displays, tend to grab the most attention. But, “there are all kinds of little specialized parts without second sources, like connectors, speakers, microphones, batteries and sensors that don’t get the love they deserve. Many are from Japan.” Big chip makers like Intel, Samsung and Toshiba typically hold inventories of silicon wafers for four to six weeks of production. “But after that, it will get tougher."
The Japan quake, some experts say, will prompt companies to re-evaluate risk in their supply chains. Perhaps, they say, there will be a shift from focusing on reducing inventories and costs, the just-in-time model, pioneered in Japan, to one that places greater emphasis on buffering risk — a just-in-case mentality. Adding inventories and backup suppliers reduces risk by increasing the redundancy in a supply system.


Japanese Tsunami Was More Than 77 Feet High At Its Peak - "A tsunami wave that hit a coastal city in Iwate Prefecture after the March 11 massive earthquake is estimated to have reached 23.6 meters in height, a government-commissioned field survey by the Port and Airport Research Institute showed Wednesday." That's 77 feet, 5 inches. Or, about the height of a six- or seven-story building. The city of Ofunat, was basically destroyed
It wasn't a record, though. "The tsunami wave measured in the city of Ofunato was lower than the domestic record of 38.2 meters [125 feet. 4 inches] marked in the 1896 Meiji Sanriku Earthquake Tsunami, and 34.9 meters [114 feet, 6 inches] logged in the wake of the 2004 earthquake off the Indonesian coast of Sumatra." (photos)

Japanese tsunami reaffirms need for mangroves - The threat of damage and destruction from tsunamis and cyclones can be minimised to a great extent if the existing mangrove forests are protected and more trees are planted along the coast. Mangrove forests not only worked as natural barriers in case of a tsunami or a cyclone but are also cheaper alternatives to the stonewalls or other man-made structures which might be effective for normal sea waves but could not withstand high tides caused by a cyclone. Japan had cultivated between 200- and 300-metre-wide coastal belts for forests which successfully buffered most of the wave energy when the tsunami hit the country. These greenbelts not only saved countless lives but will also eventually help in making recovery more efficient.
Referring to the Asian tsunami of 2004, the damage was quite less where the coasts were protected with plantations in India, Sri Lanka and Indonesia. The villages which had kept the mangrove plantations and coral reefs intact managed to survive without massive damage.
Similarly, Bangladesh planted mangrove forests and built mud dykes along the coast during the past decade after facing many cyclones over the years. Some time back when another cyclone had hit the country, it was observed that destruction due to the sea surge would have been massive had there been no mangroves and mud dykes.
The mangrove forests also work as breeding grounds for commercially important marine food species. This way not only the coastal communities involved in fishing activities were benefited but the country`s overall economy was strengthened with an increase in seafood exports. Mangroves are also one of the best carbon sinks and by planting these trees the environment would benefit.
In Pakistan, there is a need for planting more mangrove forests besides protecting the existing mangroves so that not only the sea intrusion, which also destroyed sweet subsoil water and subsequently ruined fertile agricultural land, was countered but in case of natural disasters like cyclones and tsunamis the coastal communities also suffer less. A one-mile-wide greenbelt having mangroves and other plantations should be reserved along the coast. In the existing uplift projects, the cutting of existing trees should be stopped strictly and trees be planted wherever possible.
The mangrove cover in the Indus delta region spread over 600,000 hectares in the 1950s but owing to the ruthless logging and less amount of freshwater flowing in the Indus downstream from Kotri the existing thick forest cover was only around 86,000 hectares. The floods that ravaged this country last year had wreak havoc on those areas where the tree cover was less. Had there been trees in mountains in the northern parts of the country there would have been less flash floods and there would been lesser breeches in the river dykes had the forests, which also strengthen the dykes, in the kutcha areas not been cut down ruthlessly. A tsunami hit the Pakistani coast in 1945 in which over 5,000 lives had been lost, but the loss could be many times more if such a disaster hit the coast now. Cyclones have been hitting the coast and the most recent one was Phet that had hit the Gwadar in Balochistan and Keti Bunder in Sindh.


Cyclone alert for Lau, Lomaiviti and Kadavu - A cyclone alert is now in force for the Lau and Lomaiviti group as well as Kadavu. Damaging gale force winds may be experienced in these islands as a tropical depression to the south of Fiji gains strength. According to the weather office, the depression is building and could turn into a cyclone by today. “There was a tropical depression located about 200km to the North East of Suva and it is currently moving towards the South West. By all likelihoods, it will pass very closely or over the southern parts of the Lau Group in the next 24 to 48 hours. At this stage there is an alert particularly for Lau, Lomaiviti and Kadavu for winds to possibly turn into gale force in the next 24 to 48 hours." While Viti Levu and Vanua Levu are not in the current path of the depression, heavy rains will be experienced that may cause flooding of low lying areas.

High Risk For Cyclone Development North Of New Zealand - Weather models used by are now predicting what looks to be a tropical cyclone in the coming days north east of New Zealand - and it may affect them in the first half of next week. A low has formed, called Tropical Depression 13F, and forecasters have high confidence that this will become Tropical Cyclone Bune and the Fiji Meteorological Service agrees, saying they have "moderate to high" confidence of cyclone development within 48 hours.
Despite the low being north east of New Zealand it is tracking south west towards them and some long range models show it deepening rapidly as it moves towards them on Monday and Tuesday, possibly bringing strong winds to East Cape, Gisborne, eastern Bay of Plenty and Hawkes Bay. Going by the current maps heavy rain would likely remain mostly offshore.
Last month ex-tropical cyclone Atu passed east of New Zealand on the same week as the Christchurch earthquake. The ex-cyclone was well offshore but forecasters warned the public to stay away from east coast beaches due to dangerous rips. That Friday 11 students were rescued from a dangerous rip south of Napier lucky to be alive. "Traditionally in New Zealand the news headlines tend to be around cyclones hitting us - but in reality the offshore ones can pose the same risk to life due to dangerous rips and waves. These storms don't need to affect our weather to make our beaches deadly".
In America hurricanes that are sometimes over 1000kms off the coastline can make headline news as forecasters warn of dangerous seas in an effort to avoid drownings. "This likely developing cyclone may well follow Atu's path and pass to the east of New Zealand, with some models picking it may track even closer to shore. it could bring dangerous seas for much of next week along the east coast of the North Island".


Record Snowy Winter Means More U.S. Midwest Flooding On The Way - Along With Rising Wheat Prices. All the snow the Midwest has received this year (which is consistent with other observed climatic changes) means that the region is being set up for the same devastating floods as 2009 and 2008. North Dakota, South Dakota and Minnesota all got 3 feet more snow this year than normal, with nearly 2 feet remaining on the ground now. North Dakota is the nation's larger grower of wheat. Flooding means delays in planting, which in turn means output may drop and prices rise. Currently wheat futures at the Chicago Board of Trade are 43% higher than this time last year. Almost half the U.S. has an above-average risk of flooding through April, with areas of North Dakota, South Dakota and Minnesota among the regions with the highest threat. Eastern South Dakota may experience "moderate to major flooding" next week as rising temperatures melt snow.
We are also experiencing spring creep, where the warmer than average temperatures are shortening the length of winter. For instance, we're now seeing spring runoff in the mountains in the western US starting one to three weeks earlier than 60 years ago.


Illness outbreaks spur cantaloupe, bologna recalls - Foodborne illness investigations in several states have prompted two product recalls, involving cantaloupe suspected as the cause of Salmonella infections and Lebanon bologna that may have ties to Escherichia coli O157:H7 illnesses.
Del Monte Fresh, based in Coral Gables, Fla., recalled 4,992 cartons of cantaloupes that were grown on and shipped from its farm in Asuncion Mita, Guatemala. The company said it recalled the products after an FDA notification of an investigation into 12 Salmonella enterica serotype Panama illnesses. The cantaloupe was distributed through warehouse clubs in seven western states: Alaska, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, and Washington. In 2008 a Salmonella Panama outbreak in the Netherlands sickened 33 people. Salmonella Panama is a RARE serotype that has been isolated from many foods, animals, and water. The pathogen usually causes gastroenteritis but is in a group of subtypes that have an increased likelihood of causing complications such as bacteremia and meningitis.
The focus of the bologna recall is a product made by Palmyra Bologna Co. of Palmyra, Pennsylvania. It applies to 23,000 pounds of bologna that was produced in December 2010 and sent to distribution centers in California, Colorado, Maryland, New York, and Pennsylvania. The centers distributed it to retail stores. Lebanon bologna is a fermented, semi-dry beef sausage that looks similar to salami. The products, which carry the Seltzer's Beef Lebanon Bologna brand, were packaged for consumers and retailers.

-World Variety Produce, Inc. of Los Angeles, CA is recalling Serrano Peppers, because they have the potential to be contaminated with Salmonella.