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Monday, October 14, 2013

Fatal Pilgrimage Stampede

A bridge spanning the Sindh River on the way to Ratangarh temple in the Datia district of central India was the site of a fatal stampede of pilgrims which left more than 100 people dead and a similar number injured. According to police sources, more than a half million people had traveled to the temple and roughly 20,000 people were on the bridge, when some thought the bridge was collapsing and began a rush to escape the structure. Deputy inspector general of police D.K. Arya worried, “Many people are feared to have fallen into the river and are unaccounted for.”

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh released a statement saying, “On this day of festivities, our hearts and prayers are with the victims and their families.” The government has promised 150,000 rupees ($,2450) in compensation.

IAEA Visits Fukushima As World Cools on Nuclear Power

International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) experts met with Japanese officials today at the onset of their nine-day fact-finding mission regarding the damaged Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant. The 16-person IAEA team will be conducting surveys and tests on the areas surrounding the plant, which has been plagued by a number of radiation leaks since it was damaged in 2011. The administration of Prime Minister Shinzō Abe enthusiastically welcomed the IAEA as part of an effort to reach out to foreign advisors in light of repeated failures to contain and clean up the nuclear mess, by the Tokyo Electric Power Company (which is partially government-owned). Just days ago, the Secretary General of Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority, Katsuhiko Ikeda, publicly castigated Tepco’s management. “We have to say that it seems that the management ability at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant is degrading. It seems that you are unable to perform basic management on site.”

Japan’s nuclear woes seem to have brought a critical lens to the idea of nuclear energy the world over. South Korea, a country that was once quite bullish on the idea, has since reigned in its dependence on the controversial fuel, while experts in New York held a summit to denounce the Indian Point reactor. Nuclear engineer Arnie Gundersen noted, “The Japanese were the best at emergency planning in the world. They really took emergency planning seriously. They had an entire emergency-planning system collapse.” But he noted how much more dire the potential situation at Indian Point could be, “Indian Point has five times as much spent fuel in its spent-fuel pool than Dai-ichi.”

Hotel Bombing in Myanmar

A car bomb exploded outside of the Traders Hotel in Yangon, Myanmar, injuring one person. According to a police officer at the scene, “an American woman who was staying inside the room was injured during the blast.” This blast may be a part of a string of mysterious explosions which have left a number of people injured and at least two dead. Bombings were fairly common under the military junta that ruled Myanmar until 2011. Their sudden resurgence comes at time where the quasi-democratic government has made peace with many long-standing separatist movements.

Before this most recent blast, Lieutenant General Min Aung of the Myanmar Police Force’s intelligence and security department told AFP, “We cannot say who is responsible for these acts. We’re still investigating. The system they used is the same in all the cases. We think an organization or a person planted them all.”

Lost Hunter Ate Rodents to Survive

Gene Penaflor was found this weekend by a hunting party who heard him yelling for help at the bottom of a canyon in the Yuki Wilderness area in Medocino National Forest. The 72-year old, Penaflor had been missing for 19 days, when he fell and hit his head while hunting. Authorities sought the man unsucessfuly and finally called the search off after four days, “due to no clues being found to suggest the whereabouts of Gene and due to a significant incoming storm.”

Though it snowed several times since Penaflor got lost, according to a sheriff’s report, “He was able to make a fire and warm himself with leaves and grasses that he packed around his body.” The report went on, “He was able to kill and eat several squirrels in the area, and there was plenty of water in a nearby drainage to sustain himself.”

NSA Steals Buddy Lists

According to a late breaking report by the Washington Post, the National Security Agency has been harvesting the personal contacts lists from email and instant messaging account from around the world. Documents released by Edward Snowden suggest that each day the NSA collects and collates contacts from a half a million new people. A spokesperson for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence told the Post this NSA program “is focused on discovering and developing intelligence about valid foreign intelligence targets like terrorists, human traffickers and drug smugglers. We are not interested in personal information about ordinary Americans.” U.S. administration and NSA officials have repeatedly denied spying on Americans, but such claims are no longer credulous, given the myriad revelations that have occurred since Snowden began releasing documentation earlier this year.

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