The week that was | The Jackal

19 Mar 2011

The week that was

Aftershocks 11th to 16th

On March the 11th at 05:46 UTC, a massive magnitude 9 Earthquake just off the East coast of Japan triggered tsunamis up to 10 metres which breached defenses and traveled many kilometres inland. There's over 3,000 confirmed dead and petrol, food and water is now in short supply in many parts of the northeast.

Hundreds of thousands have been evacuated with 60,000 buildings destroyed or damaged, as well as 704 roads, 26 bridges and eight railways. Transportation remained paralysed, and around 371,800 people are now housed in government-established shelters. A major fire at Chiba refinery 25 miles east of Tokyo, ignited after the earthquake continues to burn. Power blackouts will affect 5 million households across Japan. Scientists believe that the Earthquake caused the Earth’s mass to shift, resulting in a small change in the planet’s wobble and rotation.

The Earthquake and tsunami caused major damage to the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant and three Reactor Units have since exploded and partially melted down with another having a serious fire in its spent fuel containment area. Japan's top nuclear regulator raised its rating of the incident on a seven-level international nuclear severity scale to five from four. However Governments around the world are criticizing Tokyo for downplaying the danger. Reports released by WikiLeaks suggest that the Japanese government has under performed in dealing with the safety of the country’s nuclear plants and their ability to survive earthquakes. The Swedish Defence Research Institute has warned radioactive fallout from Fukushima would cover the northern hemisphere in due time. So far only low levels of radiation have been reported in Canada and the United States, the two countries that will be most effected.

In America, all 31 Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce Committee declined on Tuesday to vote in favour of a series of amendments acknowledging the scientific consensus around climate change. The Amendment stated that: Congress accepts the scientific finding that 'warming of the climate system is unequivocal' and that the scientific evidence regarding climate change "is compelling" and that "human-caused climate change is a threat to public health and welfare." Republicans, who have strongly opposed Obama’s administration efforts to regulate greenhouse gasses, have been pushing to strip the EPA of its regulatory power. The party also blocked Democratic efforts last year to pass climate change legislation. Scientists recently condemned the US as their emissions of greenhouse gases hit a record high. The US produces 16% of the Worlds greenhouse gas emissions and is one of the largest contributors to climate change.

The United Nations imposed a no-fly zone on Libya, five days after it was first discussed and after Gaddafi has regrouped and reclaimed much of the territory taken by Libyan freedom fighters. It’s reported that Gaddafi’s army has been brutal in trying to quell the uprising. Britain, France and NATO held emergency meetings on Friday to enforce the no-fly zone.  The freedom fighters have requested that the West does not invade but appreciates the no-fly zone because it has no aircraft of its own. President Barack Obama has demanded that Muammar Gaddafi halt all military attacks against civilians and said that if the Libyan leader did not stand down the United States would join in military action against him. As a missing reporter was found, Gaddafi declared a ceasefire. The uprising against Gaddafi is only one of many struggles being played out in the region. Protests in Tunisia and Egypt have led to the fall of autocratic regimes and there have been demonstrations in Yemen, Jordan and Bahrain. Protests erupted in at least three parts of Syria on Friday.

Act's Hillary Calvert expressed bigoted sentiments when debating the controversial Marine and Coastal Area (Takutai Moana) Bill, which approached its final reading. Te Ururoa Flavell briefly responded to the Maori-bashing and Tariana Turia described Calvert's language as racist.