Category Archives: World News
Fukushima disaster, today.
Reminder, how it happened
For those who already forgot, in March 2011, the nuclear plant of Fukushima was hit by an enormous tsunami and a series of dramatic earthquakes. The damage caused equipment failures, and three nuclear meltdowns leading to releases of radioactive materials. Sure, we all heard about it a lot when it happened, but what about today ?
Rumours of Tepco (Tokyo Electric Power Company) falsifying official radiation figures have been confirmed for a while, and the Japanese government is still trying to maintain a sense of security, even though the situation is so dire.
To make matters worse, most media have stopped covering the events, as the initial buzz has passed.
Fukushima current state
Utilizing “cosmic ray muon radiography with nuclear emulsion”, researchers looked inside the reactors at Fukushima. They found out that the fuel in one of the reactors was missing : “The researchers say further analyses are needed to determine whether molten fuel penetrated the reactor and fell down”. In short, researchers do not yet know if the molten fuel has penetrated the base beyond the containment vessel, going below the ground.
High-level nuclear waste is incredibly poisonous. If leaked and not contained, it could spread and make large areas uninhabitable for over a century.
Probably the biggest issue of Fukushima is the water flowing through the nuclear infected zone. As shown in this graph, after all these years, they still cannot contain this much water. This has been leading to extreme pollution of the ocean near Fukushima, and currents have been spreading this water all over the pacific ocean.
Present impact on environment
While direct impact on most human food has not been observed, researchers have found that species in a 1000 km area consume irradiated food. “Wildlife has probably been damaged even at relatively low doses of radiation, and our research showed that sensitivity varies among individuals within a species,” says Professor Joji Otaki, one of the researchers.
According to research, butterflies are the most affected by the newly radioactive plants.
All in all, human food is safe for consumption for now, but as the leaks continue, the effect on wildlife may become bad enough to impact humans.
Though the effect of radiation has been greatly dispersed due to the strong currents in the pacific, fish with traces of radiation poisoning have been observed recently. For now, it seems that the poisoning is minor but some species have shown unusual mutations. The rate the water is leaking from the powerplant is a growing concern, and with the Japanese government in denial, ocean life in the Pacific is extremely at risk.
Future impact on society
Experts believe we will see a rise in cancer development all over Japan in the coming years, but the reality is that we really don’t know. Low radiation exposure hasn’t been observed enough to predict precisely what’ll happen. But if the Japanese government continues to refuse help and denies the danger of the situation, the consequences could be irreversible.
Thanksgiving fun facts !
You’ve probably all heard about Thanksgiving, the American national feast. But I’m pretty sure that you don’t about know these fun facts yet!
What kind of threat does the Islamic State pose?
Where does it come from?
The origins of IS can be traced back to the terrorist group named “al-Qaeda in Iraq” (AQI) which was created a year after the US invasion of Iraq and was pledged to Ben Laden. After its leader (Abu Musab al-Zarqawi) died in 2006 it became the Islamic State in Iraq (ISI) but began a slow decline.
In 2010, Ibrahim Awad Ibrahim Ali al-Badri al-Samarrai (better known as Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi) became the leader of ISI and started rebuilding its assets. In 2013 it was very much renewed and started new fronts such as al-Nustra against Bashar al-Asad in Syria.
In April 2013, the group reunited its forces in Iraq and Syria into the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in a move that was condemned by its brother organisations al-Nostra and al-Qaeda. ISIL was on a rise however and many fighters left other armed forces for it.
Between December 2013 and June 2014, ISIL captured vast portions of Iraq and Syria, including the important town of Mosul in June. That is when Baghdadi announced the creation of a caliphate and changed the name of his group to Islamic State.
What are its motivations?
IS wants to create a caliphate (a Muslim state led by an all-powerful caliph who is a descendant of Mahomet) in Iraq and Syria, but also Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine and more.
Its partisans want to impose the strict Sunni interpretation of Islam to the whole area. They believe they are the only true believers, thus targeting non-Muslims and non-Sunni Muslims alike.
What are its methods?
IS uses footmen from all around the world, attracted by their expansive online “advertising” methods, and claims of purification. Many European Muslim extremists have already travelled to the Middle-East to join the ranks of this terrorist organisation. The western world has of yet not found an effective counter to this recruitment campaign.
The group reportedly has $2bn (£1.2bn) worth of resources at the moment, initially from private funds and now fuelled by the oil they have captured. This allows them to “import” and equip their fighter with light and heavy weaponry. They even have tanks captured from the Iraqi and Syrian armies. The number of ground troops it has deployed may be as high as 31.000 according to US intelligence.
Because of their extremist belief in Sunni Islam, they have beheaded, crucified and organised mass shootings in the different regions under their control. Muslims all over the world have denounced them, to the point that al-Nostra and al-Qaeda, have warned them against such acts of brutality.
Where is the conflict now?
Right now the conflict is concentrated in Iraq and Syria. The Kurds have organised a resistance in Kobani, near the Turkish border, and have been resisting for over a month now with little help from the Western countries and none from the Turkish troops. The Iraqi army is defending Baghdad and its surroundings but has been pushed back in many towns leading to the capital.
Millions of refugees are on the road or in neighbouring countries, having been thrown for their homes by the advance of the armed group.
To this day western countries have carried out many airstrikes against key objectives, but have yet to decide to send ground troops in order protect what is left of IS-free territory in Iraq and Syria. They have however raised their alarm level to maximum after IS promised bombing attacks against many countries, including France, the UK, the US and Australia.
Sources : BBC, the Guardian, CBS, NYTimes, CNN
When journalism meets sensationalism
Have you ever heard of Bitcoin ?
It’s a digital currency created in 2009 by either man or group -nobody knows- akaed “Satoshi Nakamoto”. This man-group’s real identity is still unknown, but there have been some studies trying to determine who he was. There are some -more or less- serious theories, but none of it could be proven. Among those, someone wondered if this name was a reference to SAmsung TOSHIba NAKAmichi MOTOrola, the top four tech companies. But in March 2014, the American weekly news magazine Newsweek claimed it had discovered “the face behind Bitcoin”.
His name ? Dorian Prentice Satoshi Nakamoto,
Dorian Nakamoto was trained as a physicist, but worked as a systems engineer on classified defense projects and as a computer engineer for technology and financial information services companies. Journalist Leah McGrath Goodman conducted a very thorough investigation. She studied his life, interviewed him, his family, his friends. But truth is, her theory relies on two (very arguable) main things :
-Mr. Nakamoto turned libertarian in the early 90s
-During an interview, he was asked a question about Bitcoin and replied : “I am no longer involved in that and I cannot discuss it.
It’s been turned over to other people. They are in charge of it now. I no longer have any connection.”
BUT, later in the same interview he said that he had misunderstood the question, and he had never heard about Bitoin before.
Here is an interesting fact : the day the article was published, Nakamoto’s pseudonymous P2P Fundation came out of its 5-years silence by posting “I am not Dorian Nakamoto.”
As you can see, this was almost nothing. However, the article was very oriented, and presented Dorian Nakamoto not as Bitcoin’s likely inventor, but as THE true Bitcoin’s inventor. But there were no facts, only hypothesis over hypothesis. This article was disturbing, but harmless. What was harmful was the media frenzy engendered. Right after, Mr. Nakamoto’s life became a true ordeal. There were reporters camping outside his home, he would be followed by cars while on his way to interviews. His private relations became very complicated.
The most surprising is that Newsweek defends its theory, despite the numerous flaws in the article, and the proofs presented. These are, to my mind, the biggest incoherences :
-Judging by his work, Satoshi Nakamoto is very smart. He has a deep understanding about security, the connected world, networks, internet and its dangers, etc…
He has also a deep knowledge about the latest cryptographic processes, and he is way better than the average coder. According to Newsweek, someone like this is likely to put his real name carelessly while developing a world-size project based on anonymity.
Because the starting point of their investigation relies on a list of people all named “Satoshi Nakamoto”.
-Satoshi Nakamoto is very rich. The exact amount of money he has is unknown, but so far, every study has agreed that he earned millions of dollars in bitcoins.
Dorian Nakamoto lives in a modest house. As he’s unemployed, he strives to take care of basic needs for himself and his 93-year-old mother.
Some people got moved by his story, and a fundraising campaign was set up. Overall, it raised about $23,000 to help Dorian. However, a few weeks ago, Mr.Nakamoto took the initiative of starting another fundraising campaign. He wants to use the money collected to sue Newsweek for their article.
To be followed…
Midterms Elections: a huge defeat for Obama
On 4 November, the midterm elections were held in the USA. The midterms are elections that are held two years after the election of the president, right in the middle of the president’s four-year term.
Federal offices that are up for election during the midterms are members of the United States Congress, including all 435 seats in the US House of Representatives, and about a third of the 100 seats in the US Senate (36 this year) and eventually some state governors.
Before the elections, 45 seats were controlled by the Republicans in Senate while 53 were held by the Democrats. Republicans needed to win 6 more seats to have the majority. Republicans already got control of the House of Representatives in 2010. But they sought victory in the Senate which would give them more leverage to oppose Obama’s reforms.
The elections were indeed a large victory for the Republicans. In all, the Democrats lost 13 seats in the House of Representatives and 7 seats in the senate which is now controlled by the Republicans. A true landslide for the Democrats, a ‘red tuesday’ for Obama’s party. This is the first time in 10 years that the Republicans have gained control of the Senate.
Barack Obama’s defeat is one of the worst defeat ever a president has ever faced in midterm elections. We need to go back as far as Harry Truman to find worse midterm results. But Obama shouldn’t take it too personally. The only candidate who managed not to make his party lose seats in a midterm election, whatever the party was…Bill Clinton!
This huge defeat can be explained by a number of hot issues that American citizens are blaming the president for not handling properly such as gun control, legalization of marijuana, immigration, infrastructure and particularly the healthcare reform.
Another key factor in this election was also the low turnout as is generally the case with the midterm elctions. Noone votes in the midterms! It has been the same old story since the 1840s The young, the minorities, the female voters that generally tend to vote Democrat did not make it to the ballot-box while the older whiter men did. And they usually vote Republican.
The Congress now looks nothing like the Congress Obama started with in 2008. Within the house of Representatives, 244 seats are controlled by the Republicans and 186 by the Democrats. As for the Senate, 53 seats are controlled by the Republicans and 44 by the Democrats (plus 2 seats for the Independent party)
What options are left to President Obama? Well, not many, obviously. The president still has the possibility to bypass Congress through executive orders, he can still veto the laws Republicans will eventually pass. But he could end up being blocked by the Senate, even challenged to court. Time has probably come for compromise. But whatever the political options Obama will opt for, the next two years might get a little…tense?!
The origin of 2014 Hong Kong protests
The recent protests in Honk Hong have been creating turmoil for the past few weeks. While its potential impact on Chinese society is yet to be seen, this movement of passive resistance, also called the “Umbrella revolution”, has caught the attention of the international stage. The government of Honk Kong is, of course, especially concerned with this matter. But what exactly triggered this chain of events, and why Honk Kong in particular, and not any other region of China?