March 2011 Archives

The workers from the Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan have gained a lot of attention for their heroic efforts to save Japan from nuclear reactor meltdown.
Known as the "Fukushima 50," the nearly 250 workers of the Fukushima nuclear plant have been staying at the plant in rotations of 50 workers at a time to limit their exposure to radiation. While they are at the plant, they have been living in conditions the size of an average living room with limited food and supplies, as reported by the Calgary Herald.
Even if the workers do succeed in protecting the plant and survive, they face many unknown consequences from the radiation they have been exposed to thus far. Leukemia, cataracts and sickness are among the risks involved in their work, said David Richardson, a professor of epidemiology at the University of North Carolina, in an interview for BBC news. "The workers in 20 or 30 minutes are being exposed to radiation levels that a typical worker at a nuclear facility would accrue over an entire career" Richardson added in the interview.
It isn't entirely clear how much radiation the workers are being exposed to, reported ABC News. The amount of radiation a worker is legally allowed to be exposed to changes in emergency situations. Many times radiation related illnesses take 30-40 years to set in, said the same article.
It has been common practice to ask older workers to volunteer at nuclear plants in emergency situations because they are considered to be past their reproductive age in life, said an article for ABC News.
Despite massive amounts of radiation exposure, not all experts believe the workers will face deadly consequences, ""These guys are not necessarily laying down their lives for their country and friends. We have a good understanding of what we can actually expose ourselves to. NHK said this morning that the workers are allowed to go in for a very short period of time, make an adjustment on a fuel generator or a pump or a valve, maybe take some data from a gage, and then they go back out," said Jere Jenkins, the director of Radiation Laboratories at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Ind. in an article for ABC News.

A 21-year-old Blaine man has been arrested in connection with a group drug overdose that left Trevor Robinson, 19, dead and sent 10 others to the hospital on Thursday.
Robinson, who is from Coon Rapids, died Thursday at Unity Hospital in Fridley after overdosing on 2C-E at a party. There were 10 other hospitalizations for overdose symptoms stemming from the same party, as reported by The Twin Cities Pioneer Press. Robinson was the father of a 5-month-old baby, reported ABC News.
Timothy Richard Lamere, 21, of Blaine is being held on suspicion of murder in the third-degree and charges that he allegedly supplied the group with the drug 2 C-E, as reported by the Star Tribune.
2C-E is an unregulated synthetic hallucinogen that can be legally bought over the internet. It is also commonly referred to as "Europa," reports ABC News. Synthetic hallucinogens are widely available, coming from countries such as China and Thailand where there is little regulation or monitoring of the production of chemicals, said the Drug Enforcement Administration in a article for ABC News.
Lawmakers have been working hard with drug enforcement agencies to decrease the availability of synthetic drugs to the public, reported ABC News. Last month in Minnesota, the state House approved a bill to ban synthetic marijuana. Most websites market 2C-E as a "research chemical."
Paul Sommer of the Anoka County Sheriff's Office said in a news conference Thursday that he had never seen anyone die from an overdose of 2C-E, adding that, "Today, that's no longer the case," reported the Star Tribune.

College students forced to return home from Japan.

Students from Gustavus Adolphus College and The University of Minnesota are being asked to return home from Japan in wake of the recent 8.9 magnitude earthquake.
Seven students from the University of Minnesota and six from Gustavus Adolphus College have been asked to return home from their study abroad trips in a response to the U.S. Department of State's travel warning for Japan, as reported by The Star Tribune.
The inconsistent availability of power and resources such as transportation are among the reasons behind the University of Minnesota's decision to bring home students, said U of M spokesperson Dan Wolter in an interview for Minnesota Public Radio.
There are also growing concerns over a nuclear meltdown and additional aftershocks and earthquakes, which could all end up damaging student housing and international universities, reports The Minnesota Daily.
The decision to bring students home was not an easy choice--In an interview for the Star Tribune, Gustavus Dean of College, David Fienen said, "We recognize the richness of the academic experience for our students in Japan. At the same time, however, their safety is our highest priority."

A new study has found that our Minnesota streams are full of potentially dangerous chemicals.

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency has come out with a new study that suggests our water is filled with residual chemicals from anti-depressants, antibiotics and attention deficit medications, as reported by City Pages (http://blogs.citypages.com/blotter/2011/03/minnesota_strea.php).

Minnesota Public Radio (http://minnesota.publicradio.org/display/web/2011/03/11/wastewater-pharmaceuticals-streams/) reported that scientists found chemicals at more than 90 percent of the locations they sampled and chemical traces at all locations, according to a study by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. While some of the locations only had traces in parts per billion or trillion, the report claims it can still have an effect on the local animal and plant life.

The study leaves many questions unanswered, such as how the chemicals have effected the fish, plants and wildlife that live in and drink the dirty waters. More research is necessary to tell how much the hormone-acting chemicals have effected the fish,"More and more results are coming out that show that these compounds can have pretty profound hormonal effects or estrogenic effects even at those concentrations." said scientist Mark Ferrey in an interview with Minnesota Public Radio.

The cause of the chemical spread is uncertain, since traces were found from both up and downstream from chemical treatment plants. Scientists are now interested in doing a study that tests whether or not the chemical spread has reached a level where it is in our rain, reports Minnesota Public Radio.

The University of Minnesota closed Morril Hall for a brief period Thursday due to the discovery of a suspicious package in a mail room.

A postal worker is said to have called University of Minnesota police Thursday afternoon after he heard beeping noises coming from a package left at the mailboxes for Morril Hall, said the Minnesota Daily (http://www.mndaily.com/2011/03/10/suspicious-package-closes-morrill-hall-church-street)

Morril Hall is where the office of the school's president is located, among other administrative offices, as reported by Fox 9 News (http://www.myfoxtwincities.com/dpp/news/minnesota/morrill-hall-evacuated-umn-mar-10-2011). According to Fox 9 News, alerts were sent out by text message to students and other faculty, but an "all clear" message was sent only a half-hour later.

The package in question was discovered to contain a cell phone after the Minneapolis Bomb Squad was called to the scene, says The Minnesota Daily.

University spokeswoman Patty Mattern told the Minnesota Daily that she didn't know if President Bob Bruininks at the building during the evacuation.

Thousands of protestors gathered in Madison on Saturday to protest an anti-union bill that Governor Scott Walker signed into law.

The law will affect over 300,000 state employees by removing their rights to collective bargaining, according to Duluth News Tribune (http://www.duluthnewstribune.com/event/article/id/193743/). The law will also change the take-home pay amounts for many state employees.

Also in attendance at the rally were the 13 of the 14 Wisconsin Democrats that fled the state earlier in the year to prevent a vote on the bill. According to CBS News (http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2011/03/12/national/main20042464.shtml?tag=cbsnewsLeadStoriesAreaMain;cbsnewsLeadStoriesHeadlines), they were greeted with cheers and crowds yelled, "Fab 14, our heroes!"

As reported by CBS News, in an interview Friday with The Associated Press, Walker called the law "progressive," and said he had no doubt public support for the measure would grow as people experience "more efficient" government."

Democratic Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk filed a lawsuit after Walker signed the bill Friday morning claiming that the bill was passed illegally. Protestors plan to continue their fight despite passing of the law by Walker on Friday. As reported by Duluth News tribune, Madison police officer Kevin Lingmeier said, "(The protesters) have inspired us. They have created a new dynamic in this state," he said. "This is going to be a battle for the future of the state of Wisconsin."

On Friday night around 10 p.m., a floating restaurant called Jeff Ruby's took off down the Ohio River after it broke free from its dockside mooring and took off 100 yards downriver.

High water levels are believed to be the reason behind the incident. The river was said to be in a mild flood stage after recent winter storms, according to Fox News. (http://www.foxnews.com/us/2011/03/12/83-rescued-floating-restaurant-breaks-loose/). Diners at the popular river restaurant called emergency authorities for help after the restaurant moved and broke away from its dock.

The restaurant came to a halt after it reached a bridge that links Cincinnati with northern Kentucky. Jeff Ruby's is one of several waterfront restaurants along the Ohio river.

Popular former Cincinnati Bengals star and Sunday Night Football commentator Cris Collinsworth was said to be among the 83 diners that were rescued from the floating restaurant, as reported by The New York Daily News (http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/2011/03/12/2011-03-12_83_diners_including_cris_collingsworth_rescued_after_restaurant_breaks_free_of_d.html?r=news/national).

Emergency crews used a combination of ropes and ladders in a rescue effort that took over an hour, said The New York Daily News.

Jeff Ruby's is scheduled to be moved by tugboat to a new location at Covington Landing starting on Sunday. There were no incident-related injuries reported.

Earthquake sends powerful shockwaves through Japan.

After the most powerful earthquake in Japan's history hits the north-east coast, people across the country are dealing with power outages, evacuations and a constantly-rising death toll.

The death toll in Japan is expected to rapidly rise from the currently estimated 350. As BBC News reported, "In one ward alone in Sendai, a port city in Miyagi prefecture, 200 to 300 bodies were found." (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-pacific-12709598).

According to a Japanese coast guard official, the search for a ship that carried 80 dock workers is currently underway after the tsunami swept it away from shore, as CBS News reported. (http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2011/03/10/501364/main20041987.shtml).

Efforts to locate the over 500 people that have been reported as missing may be halted by the power outages and evacuations near nuclear power plants. A state of emergency has been declared at one nuclear power plant, where the normal cooling systems have failed, according to BBC News. Thousands of people from miles around the plant have been ordered to evacuate the area immediately.

While power outages and debris have made it difficult to accurately account for how many lives have been lost, as CBS News reported, "The most serious earthquake of the past several decades struck near Kobe in January 1995, killing more than 6,000 people and measured only a 6.8." The recent earthquake in Japan was magnitude 8.9 and had over 50 aftershocks, many of which were over magnitude 6.0.

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