Cleanup crews near Fukushima Nuclear Plant dump waste in rivers

According to Japan’s Asahi Shimbun, cleanup crews working near the ruined Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, “dumped soil and leaves contaminated with radioactive fallout into rivers.”

The allegation, supported by photographs, was made in the three-part report “Crooked Cleanup,” published on Friday on the Japanese newspaper’s English-language site, Asia and Japan Watch.

A team of journalists who observed the decontamination work in the region last month added: “Water sprayed on contaminated buildings has been allowed to drain back into the environment. And supervisors have instructed workers to ignore rules on proper collection and disposal of the radioactive waste.”

Workers were apparently aware that they were breaking rules, the paper reported:

…At 13 locations in Naraha, Iitate and Tamura, workers were seen simply dumping collected soil and leaves as well as water used for cleaning rather than securing them for proper disposal. Photographs were taken at 11 of those locations.

The reporters also talked to about 20 workers who said they were following the instructions of employees of the contracted companies or their subcontractors in dumping the materials. A common response of the workers was that the decontamination work could never be completed if they adhered to the strict rules.

Heartwarming to see US municipal standards being applied around the world:

1. The contract goes to the lowest bidder – regardless of quality.

2. Getting the job done on time is more important than accomplishing the task to standard.

Om enjoys the weekend with 7 stories – ranging from the Best Pickpocket in Las Vegas to Amazing Bowling!

Happy 2013 everyone. I am starting off a new year with the promise that I will try and share interesting stories to read every weekend. This week, I am starting with some fun stuff — pickpockets and resolutions.

A pickpocket’s tale: New Yorker’s Adam Green writes about master pickpocket Apollo Robbins of Las Vegas. It is just a delightful read and it also taught me a lot about a man and his devotion to his art/craft.

Jerry Seinfeld intends to die standing: Talking about devotion to one’s craft, this profile of Jerry Seinfeld is pretty eye-opening and educational.

Pre Globalism: Kevin Kelly talks about the ease of global tourism and our shrinking world. I quite enjoyed this post by ex-Wired editor who is also one of my favorite writers/thinkers.

The most amazing bowling story: Yeah, it is the quest for perfect score and how it almost killed Bill Fong. Great piece.

How do you explain machine learning and data mining to non computer people?: Good question — and great answers on this Quora thread.

Five things you can do to succeed in keeping your New Year resolutions: Deb Lee has some good tips that are worth noting.

Me, myself and I: Olivia Laing writes about the downsides and upsides of loneliness. Being an ex-New Yorker, I know what she means.

As ever, Om Malik is eclectic, offering interesting reads.

University of Copenhagen opens a Center for Disaster Research

With climate change increasingly wreaking havoc the world over, besides traditional natural disasters such as earthquakes and tsunamis, managing natural disasters more efficiently is a priority for the future. For that reason, the University of Copenhagen has created the Copenhagen Center for Disaster Research (COPE), a hub of multidisciplinary expertise on disaster management, based on analysis and intelligence.

One of the main concepts behind COPE is the Disaster Situation Room, a place where both researchers and specialists with first-hand experience in disaster relief can meet to brainstorm and provide advice during disasters. One of the key aspects of the center’s ethos is to bring analytical skills into disaster management. This includes factoring in, for instance, cultural aspects of the populations affected, which provide clues on how to proceed more effectively. The center will collect data from each case to build a knowledge bank by monitoring relief aid activities, media coverage and political agendas.

The media will be a main focus of the center’s work, since media coverage influences how relief work is carried out and what it achieves. Despite its role in creating awareness of disasters, its focus often can do more harm than good. Peter Kjær Mackie Jensen, head of the research center, cites as an example the relief efforts after the earthquake that devastated Haiti in 2010. While people were dying in the streets, financial resources were going mainly towards digging survivors out of the rubble because the latter made for more dramatic TV.

The idea for the center was inspired by the handling of the 2004 tsunami in Asia during the Christmas holiday season. At the time, hundreds of thousands of people lost their lives. Faced with a tragedy of unprecedented scale, relief operations lacked coordination and, as a consequence, there was less collaboration between different fields of expertise than there could have been.

Given Denmark’s tradition of volunteering aid for nations around the world – no strings attached – I’m not surprised. This is the sort of venture we should see as an add-on to the work after-the-fact by FEMA in the United States, by the Red Cross and the Red Crescent around the world. Of course, don’t hold your breath waiting for Congress to fund a national effort. The Know-Nothings still don’t think that FEMA is necessary – and 67 members of the House voted against the minimal loan guarantee just passed to aid victims of Hurricane Sandy – weeks late.

Still, I can think of several universities here in the States ready and willing to take up ventures this sensible. The spirit of cooperation and humanism may not exist inside the DC Beltway; but, it’s alive and well in many institutions of higher learning.

Second arrest in NY copper cannibalism case

A lawyer claims that the arrest of a man accused of trying to pay a police officer to kidnap a Manhattan woman was done to prevent him from testifying about Internet sexual fantasies at the officer’s cannibalism-tinged trial.

Authorities say the man, Michael Vanhise, agreed to pay Officer Gilberto Valle $5,000 to kidnap the woman in New York and deliver her bound to Vanhise’s home in New Jersey, where she would be raped and killed.

Attorney Julia Gatto spoke Friday after Vanhise, 22, of Trenton, appeared briefly in U.S. District Court in Manhattan, where he was ordered held pending a bail hearing Monday on a conspiracy to commit kidnapping charge…

Gatto said Vanhise “would have exonerated our client” with testimony about his own participation in a world of Internet sexual fantasies where people could speak of unspeakable acts they would never commit. She said the arrest Friday appeared to be a tactical move by authorities to prevent testimony by Vanhise or others about Internet fantasies…

The lawyer said the government appeared to be pressuring potential defense witnesses not to take the witness stand by saying in court documents filed against Vanhise that there were other co-conspirators who had not been charged in the case…

Vanhise’s lawyer, Alice Fontier, said her client, an auto mechanic who seemed to wipe tears from his eyes during his court hearing, was “very upset,” especially because he wanted to be home after his wife gave birth to a daughter last month, one of several young children the couple has.

She said he had been in contact with the FBI since late October and there had “certainly been ongoing meetings.”

“He has not stopped cooperating,” she said, though she added: “Obviously, the relationship has changed since he was arrested.”

In court papers filed Monday, defense lawyers wrote that Valle was accused…of conspiring with others he met on a website devoted to the exploration of deviant sexual fantasies…discussed, among other things, their violent sexual fantasies of abducting, raping, murdering and cannibalizing women,” they wrote…though he never intended for any acts to be committed in the “real world.”

Um, OK. I have to wonder how well these looneys differentiated between the real world and their fantasy world. It’s not a long trip from spending your idle time planning horrendous crimes – and committing them.

Here’s a link to my post on Valle’s arrest.