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Two Years After the Tsunami, Fukushima Residents Courageously Seek Justice

The Fukushima nuclear disaster shows how strong and determined people can be when faced with the loss of everything they know and love.


The people I've met in Japan in the two years since the devastating tsunami and Fukushima nuclear disaster have shown me once again how strong and determined people can be when faced with the loss of everything they know and love.

I am talking about the evacuees who have been forced to abandon their homes, jobs, and communities. The disaster forced hundreds of thousands of people to flee the area to escape the radiation contamination following the March 2011 earthquake.

As we approach the two year anniversary of the disaster, little has changed.

Radiation levels are still too high for most evacuees to return home and this is unlikely to change anytime soon. The few that have returned do so with the knowledge they are likely facing health risks.

This is the reality of nuclear power: a meltdown may not have an immediate radiation-related death toll, but as time progresses the true costs to physical, mental and societal health start to unfold.

Once tight-knit communities are fragmenting. Terms like 'Fukushima divorce' are creeping into the vocabulary and after two years of living in temporary housing, people are losing hope.

They cannot move on and start building new lives because they are not being properly compensated. How can you afford to begin a new life when you are still paying the mortgage for a house that is contaminated and unsafe to live in?

Hope is disappearing. But the determination to move forward and fight for what is right is growing.

Tired of waiting for the government to provide clear information, proper compensation, clean neighborhoods and safe food, the people of Fukushima are taking matters into their own hands.

They are launching class action suits and seeking damages from TEPCO, the operator of the Fukushima nuclear plant, they are working together to ensure their foods are safe and they are seeking their own news and advice instead of relying on the government’s lackluster information.

Some people have been especially outspoken about these problems.

One of them, Kenta Sato, started using social media soon after the disaster to pressure the government into releasing accurate information about his village of Litate.


"The accident at the Fukushima nuclear power plant is not only Japan’s problem, so I would like people in other countries to keep looking closely at what’s happening as this hasn’t ended yet," Kenta warns.

Another resident, Toru Anzai, a rice farmer from Litate, is very concerned about the decontamination operation started by the authorities six months ago and the mayor’s plan to send people back to the village.

[youtube]http://youtu.be/MxZlcmlVrHY

"No matter how much decontamination work is conducted, it’ll soon return to the current state. 75 percent of the village consists of mountainous area. Even if the residential area and the agricultural land were decontaminated, the polluted water and particles coming from the mountains would jeopardize the work and effort," he says.

The children of Litate village have now started asking whether they’ll be able to have children when they become adults. "That’s the hardest thing I have to bear," he adds.

While they are struggling to get fair compensation, under the current liability system, TEPCO will pay only a fraction of the costs and its suppliers—GE, Hitachi and Toshiba that designed, built and serviced the reactors—are not required to pay anything for the damages.

As TEPCO was nationalized, ultimately it will be Japanese taxpayers, including evacuees, who pay the bulk of the disaster costs.

Worldwide, nuclear companies are not accountable for the risks they create or the full cost of a disaster because industry regulations were set up to protect the companies. So ultimately, the industry profits and the people end up paying.

But the Fukushima people are standing up and fighting for their rights and this in turn hardens my own determination to support them and also to work towards a future where no one has to suffer through a nuclear disaster ever again.

Kenta Sato is right, this is "not only Japan’s problem". We can change this. Together we can make the polluters pay. Check out our call to action and sign the petition.

Aslihan Tumer, Greenpeace International nuclear campaigner

Add demanding nuclear companies pay for the damage their reactors caused in the Fukushima disaster to you to-do list here.

Articles

Looking back, the year 1995 seems like such an innocent time. America was in the midst of its longest streak of peace and prosperity. September 11, 2001 was six years away, and the internet didn't seem like much more than a passing fad.

Twenty-four years ago, 18 million U.S. homes had modem-equipped computers, 7 million more than the year before. Most logged in through America Online where they got their email or communicated with random strangers in chat rooms.

According to a Pew Research study that year, only 32% of those who go online say they would miss it "a lot" if no longer available.

Imagine what those poll numbers would look like if the question was asked today.

RELATED: Bill and Melinda Gates had a surprising answer when asked about a 70 percent tax on the wealthiest Americans

"Few see online activities as essential to them, and no single online feature, with the exception of E-Mail, is used with any regularity," the Pew article said. "Consumers have yet to begin purchasing goods and services online, and there is little indication that online news features are changing traditional news consumption patterns."

"Late Night" host David Letterman had Microsoft founder and, at that time the richest man in the world, on his show for an interview in '95 to discuss the "the big new thing."

During the interview Letterman chided Gates about the usefulness of the new technology, comparing it to radio and tape recorders.

Gates seems excited by the internet because it will soon allow people to listen to a baseball game on their computer. To which Letterman smugly replies, "Does radio ring a bell?" to laughter from the crowd.

But Gates presses Letterman saying that the new technology allows you to listen to the game "whenever you want," to which Letterman responds, "Do tape recorders ring a bell?"

Gates then tells Letterman he can keep up with the latest in his favorite hobbies such as cigar smoking or race cars through the internet. Letterman shuts him down saying that he reads about his interests in magazines.

RELATED: Bill Gates has five books he thinks you should read this summer.

The discussion ends with the two laughing over meeting like-minded people in "troubled loner chat room on the internet."

The clip brings to mind a 1994 segment on "The Today Show" where host Bryant Gumbel and Katie Couric have a similar discussion.

"What is internet anyway?" an exasperated Gumball asks. "What do you write to it like mail?"

"It's a computer billboard but it's nationwide and it's several universities all joined together and it's getting bigger and bigger all the time," a producer explains from off-stage.





Culture
via The Howard Stern Show / YouTube

Former Secretary of State, first lady, and winner of the popular vote in the 2016 presidential election, Hillary Clinton, sat own for an epic, two-and-a--half hour interview with Howard Stern on his SiriusXM show Wednesday.

She was there to promote "The Book of Gutsy Women," a book about heroic women co-written with her daughter, Chelsea Clinton.

In the far-reaching conversation, Clinton and the self-proclaimed "King of All Media" and, without a doubt, the best interviewer in America discussed everything from Donald Trump's inauguration to her sexuality.

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Politics

The healthcare systems in the United States and the United Kingdom couldn't be more different.

The UK's National Health Service is the largest government-run healthcare system in the world and the US's is largest private sector system.

Almost all essential health services in the UK are free, whereas in America cost can vary wildly based on insurance, co pays and what the hospitals and physicians choose to charge.

A medical bill in the US

One of the largest differences is cost. The average person in the UK spends £2,989 ($3915) per year on healthcare (most of which is collected through taxes), whereas the average American spends around $10,739 a year.

So Americans should obviously be getting better care, right? Well, the average life expectancy in the UK is higher and infant mortality rate is lower than that in the US.

RELATED: The World Health Organization declares war on the out of control price of insulin

Plus, in the U.S., only 84% of people are covered by private insurance, Medicare or Medicaid. Sixteen percent of the population are forced to pay out of pocket.

In the UK, everyone is covered unless they are visiting the country or an undocumented resident.

Prescription drugs can cost Americans an arm and a leg, but in the UK, prescriptions or either free or capped at £8.60 ($11.27).

via Wikimedia Commons

The one drawback to the NHS system is responsiveness. In the UK people tend to wait longer for inessential surgeries, doctor's appointments, and in emergency rooms. Whereas, the US is ranked as the most responsive country in the world.

RELATED: Alarmingly high insulin prices are forcing Americans to flock to Canada to buy the drug

The New York Times printed a fair evaluation of the UK's system:

The service is known for its simplicity: It is free at the point of use to anyone who needs it. Paperwork is minimal, and most patients never see a bill. … No one needs to delay medical treatment until he or she can afford it, and virtually everyone is covered. …

According to data from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the United States spent 17.2 percent of its economic output on health care in 2016, compared with 9.7 percent in Britain. Yet Britain has a higher life expectancy at birth and lower infant mortality.

Citizens in each country have an interesting perspective on each other's healthcare systems. UK citizens think it's inhumane for Americans have to pay through the nose when they're sick or injured. While Americans are skeptical of socialist medicine.

A reporter from Politics Joe hit the streets of London and asked everyday people what they think Americans pay for healthcare and they were completely shocked.

Health