Tokyo children’s playground closed over nuclear radiation

Workers of Tokyo's Toshima ward office carry away a container after it was dug up from the ground near playground equipment at a park in Toshima ward, Tokyo. Photo: TORU HANAI

From AFP news agency:

Tokyo children’s park closed over radiation

April 24, 2015

Tokyo: Extremely high levels of radiation have been discovered in a playground in Tokyo, officials said on Friday, fanning fears for the health of children in the area.

Soil underneath a slide at the park in the north-west of the Japanese capital showed radiation readings of up to 480 microsieverts per hour, the local administrative office said.

Anyone directly exposed to this level would absorb in two hours the maximum dose of radiation Japan recommends in a year.

“Many children play in the park daily, so the ward office should explain the situation,” Kyodo News quoted a 62-year-old local woman as saying.

The radiation level is over 2000 times that at which the national government requires soil cleaning in areas around the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, where reactors melted down after the March 2011 tsunami.

That standard, however, is for measurements taken at 0.5 to 1.0 metres above ground, while officials in Tokyo’s Toshima ward checked the ground itself.

Officials were made aware of the contamination after a local resident reported it on Monday and say they do not think it is connected to the disaster at Fukushima.

“Because the area in which we detect radioactivity is very limited, and readings in surrounding parts are normal, we suspect radioactive materials of some kind are buried there,” local mayor Yukio Takano said in a statement.

The park was built in 2013, two years after the Fukushima nuclear crisis, a local official said, on what was previously a parking lot for Tokyo’s sanitation department.

Top soil at the lot was replaced before the land was turned into a park, said the Toshima official.

The park has been sealed.

Freddie Gray killed in Baltimore, USA

This video, by Photography is Not a Crime in the USA, says about itself:

Baltimore police kill Freddie Gray

19 April 2015

By Evan Blake in the USA:

More than one thousand protest police killing in Baltimore, Maryland

22 April 2015

Protests in Baltimore, Maryland that began Monday following news of the death of Freddie Gray at the hands of police continued over the course of Tuesday afternoon and into the evening. At times during the protest, the crowd is estimated to have reached between one and two thousand people, with hundreds staying late into the evening.

This video from the USA says about itself:

#FreddieGray Rally at the Baltimore Police Station 4.19.15

19 April 2015

Freddie Gray is said to have been running from 4 bike cops in Baltimore on April 12th.

The following is the Office Statement by the Gray family attorney

Statement from attorney William “Billy” Murphy, Jr.:

Freddie Gray dies a week after being injured during arrest

“On last Sunday morning at about 8am, the police chased Freddie Gray, a 27 year old healthy man, without any evidence he had committed a crime. His take-down and arrest without probable cause occurred under a police video camera, which taped everything including the police dragging and throwing Freddy into a police vehicle while he screamed in pain.

While in police custody, his spine was 80 percent severed at his neck. He lapsed into a coma, died, was resuscitated, stayed in a coma and on Monday, underwent extensive surgery at Shock Trauma to save his life. He clung to life for seven days and died today at approximately 7am. We believe the police are keeping the circumstances of Freddie’s death secret until they develop a version of events that will absolve them of all responsibility. However, his family and the citizens of Baltimore deserve to know the real truth; and we will not stop until we get justice for Freddie.”

The Evan Blake article continues:

Also on Tuesday, the Justice Department announced that it would begin their own civil rights investigation into the death of Gray.

Marches were conducted in the neighborhoods surrounding the site where Gray was beaten and arrested, with pickets later centered in front of the Baltimore police station. Despite the peaceful character of the protests, one protester was arrested for crossing the barricades set up by police in front of their station. Gray’s parents participated in the marches, and at one point his mother collapsed as she was overcome with grief.

Tuesday’s protests came hours after the release of the names of the six officers involved in the arrest and subsequent death of Gray: Lt. Brian Rice, Sgt. Alicia White, and Officers Caesar Goodson, William Porter, Edward Nero and Garrett Miller. All six officers have been suspended with pay during the investigation into Gray’s death.

Chanting “Hell no, we won’t go!” and “No justice! No peace!” the protesters demanded that all six officers responsible for the death of Gray be arrested and charged with first degree murder. Protests are scheduled to continue in the coming days, with plans to occupy City Hall starting on Thursday until protesters’ demands are met.

The circumstances of Gray’s arrest, subsequent injuries and death remain murky, due to an intentional cover up by local authorities. So far, police have only released a brief timeline of events, claiming that the altercation began when Gray ran away after making eye contact with one officer.

Officers then chased and tackled Gray, and claim that they found a switchblade in his pocket, which prompted them to arrest him. The Gray family’s attorney, William Murphy, asserts that Gray was carrying a “pocket knife of legal size.” Numerous witnesses to the arrest claim that Gray was beaten prior to his arrest, and that officers violently contorted his body.

Video footage of Gray’s arrest shows police dragging him into the back of a police van, clearly unable to use his legs and screaming in pain, prompting one bystander to shout, “His legs are broken!”

This is a 21 April 2015 CNN video, called Freddie Gray dies in Baltimore police custody.

After initially being driven back and forth across Baltimore, Gray was finally taken to the police station roughly half an hour after his initial arrest, despite pleading for medical assistance multiple times during this prolonged car ride.

After arriving at the police station, an ambulance finally took him to the hospital, where Gray slipped into a coma less than half an hour later, before dying last Sunday. The police have yet to release an official autopsy, but Gray’s family plans to conduct an independent autopsy once Baltimore police return Gray’s body to them. The family’s attorney has publicly stated that he died from three fractured vertebrae in his neck that severed 80 percent of his spinal cord below the neck, that he suffered a crushed voice box, and that he was in perfect health before police chased and ultimately arrested him.

Speaking on CNN, Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, a Democrat, admitted that while he was in police custody, Gray “requested medical attention” between one to three times, which was in turn “not requested for him” by police. Rawlings-Blake also admitted that the officers involved have yet to be comprehensively interviewed about what took place before, during and after Gray’s arrest. She defended this obscene situation by saying that “because of our Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights, we have yet to fully engage those officers, and we will get to the bottom of it.”

One of the people who recorded the widely-viewed footage of the police arresting Gray claims that he began filming immediately after he witnessed police using excessive force against Gray. Speaking anonymously, he told CNN that “they had Freddie Gray up into what I would like to call a pretzel type of move, where they had the heels of his feet to his back, and then he was still in handcuffs, and they had his knee to the back of his neck.”

Protester Harold Perry, 73, told a local news station that the arrest took place near his home, and that he heard Gray scream “You’re hurting me! Get your knee off my back.” He also heard Gray tell police “I’m an asthmatic.”

The Justice Department’s investigation will likely seek to whitewash the police killing, in the same manner as the investigation into Darren Wilson’s killing of Michael Brown last year, which concluded that there were no grounds to bring federal charges against Wilson despite over a dozen witnesses claiming that Michael Brown was attempting to surrender when he was gunned down.

Protests over the police killing of 25-year-old Freddie Gray in Baltimore, Maryland continued on Wednesday, with hundreds demonstrating in front of the Western District police station where Gray was taken following his arrest on April 12. Hundreds of people also marched to nearby City Hall, where thousands are expected to protest Thursday evening. Demonstrations are also planned for Saturday: here.

Maryland Governor Larry Hogan announced Thursday he would dispatch 32 state troopers to Baltimore in advance of what is expected to be a large protest Saturday against the police killing of 25-year-old Freddie Gray. Protests have been held daily since Gray died on April 19, seven days after his spinal cord was nearly severed while he was in police custody: here.

Judge acquits Chicago police officer who fatally shot unarmed woman in 2012: here.

Orlando de Guzman is no stranger to conflict. Born in the Philippines, he covered conflicts in Malaysia and Indonesia as a journalist. But he says nothing prepared him for what he saw when he arrived in Ferguson, Missouri, to make a film. The documentary, called “Ferguson: A Report from Occupied Territory,” borrows its subtitle from an essay written by James Baldwin during race riots in Harlem in 1966: here.

Michael Brown’s family to sue Ferguson, Missouri. Family of unarmed black teenager killed by police to launch legal action: here.

Saudi air force stops killing Yemeni civilians

This video from the USA says about itself:

Saudi Arabia Bombing Yemen, Still Our Ally

13 April 2015

Sheila Carapico, professor of politics science and international studies at the University of Richmond in Virginia, and author of the recently written piece: A Call to Resist Saudi and US Aggression in Yemen, joins David to discuss Saudi military action in Yemen, and the hypocrisy of the US alliance with Saudi Arabia.

By Niles Williamson:

Saudi-led coalition halts air assault in Yemen

22 April 2015

Saudi Arabia announced Tuesday that it was ending the nearly one-month-old air assault it spearheaded against the Houthi rebels and their supporters throughout Yemen. …

Saudi Arabia and its coalition partners, backed by the US, have been dropping bombs on targets throughout Yemen for the last four weeks with the aim of defeating the Houthi rebels, who have taken control of most of the country’s western provinces.

The United States government facilitated the continuous assault by providing the coalition with logistical and intelligence support, approving possible targets and refueling jet fighters after bombing raids. The Saudi monarchy and the US government have been expressly seeking the reinstatement of President Hadi, who fled the country for Riyadh in the face of a Houthi assault at the end of last month. …

According to an official estimate from the United Nations, the Saudi air campaign, in addition to fighting on the ground, killed at least 944 people and wounded a further 3,487 between March 19 and April 17. Many of the casualties have been civilians, including women and children, killed when air strikes in residential areas destroyed their homes.

Two air strikes on Tuesday killed approximately 40 people, mostly civilians. A strike on a bridge in Ibb province killed at least 20 people, while an air strike in the northern city of Haradah killed 13 civilians and seven soldiers. The death toll from the bombing of a weapons depot that flattened a residential neighborhood in Sanaa on Monday was raised to 38. The Houthi-controlled Interior Ministry reported that in all 84 people were killed by air strikes throughout the country Monday. …

As the Saudi-led operations entered a new phase Tuesday, the World Health Organization (WHO) released a statement warning that Yemen, already deeply impoverished prior to the Saudi assault, faces the “imminent collapse” of its health care system.

Fighting on the ground, as well as a naval blockade being enforced by the Saudi-led coalition and the US, has resulted in a serious shortage of medical supplies, clean drinking water and fuel. Aid flights have been limited by a no-fly zone enforced by coalition warplanes over the country, creating the conditions for a potential health catastrophe.

Vital power infrastructure throughout the country, necessary for pumping clean water from underground aquifers, has been knocked out, contributing to a deepening of the shortage of clean drinking water in the country.

Dr. Ahmed Shadoul, the WHO Representative for Yemen, stated that over the last four weeks the number of cases of bloody diarrhea in children under the age of five had doubled due to a lack of access to clean drinking water. He also reported that there had been an increase in cases of measles and malaria, in addition to heightened rates of malnutrition among women and young children.

The WHO statement warned that power cuts threaten the country’s blood banks and vaccine stockpiles. The loss of Yemen’s vaccine stockpile would increase the risk of the widespread outbreak of communicable diseases such as measles and polio.

The lack of electricity or fuel for generators has severely hindered the maintenance of crucial hospital operations throughout Yemen. According to the WHO, without the return of consistent power, kidney dialysis as well as cardiac and cancer treatment programs are threatened with complete collapse.

SAUDIS STOPS YEMEN BOMBING CAMPAIGN: “Saudi Arabia said Tuesday that it was halting a nearly month-old bombing campaign against a rebel group in neighboring Yemen that has touched off a devastating humanitarian crisis and threatened to ignite a broader regional conflict. The announcement followed what American officials said was pressure applied by the Obama administration for the Saudis and other Sunni Arab nations to end the airstrikes.” [NYT]

Translated from Dutch NOS TV correspondent Sander van Hoorn today:

The Saudi bombings did not have any results, except many victims.

Soul singer Percy Sledge dies

This music video from the USA is called Percy Sledge – When a Man Loves a Woman.

From the BBC today:

Soul singer Percy Sledge dies aged 73

US soul singer Percy Sledge, famed for his song When a Man Loves a Woman, has died aged 73.

Steve Green from talent agency Artists International Management Inc confirmed to the BBC that he died at his home in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, on Tuesday.

“He was one of my first acts, he was a terrific person and you don’t find that in this business very often,” said Green. “He was truly a standout.”

Sledge had surgery for liver cancer in January 2014 but soon resumed touring.

Sledge’s debut single When a Man Loves a Woman reached the top 10 twice in the UK and topped the US Billboard chart for two weeks in 1966, when it also got to number four in the UK chart.

During an interview for the the 2013 documentary Muscle Shoals, he recalled his first recording of it.

“When I came into the studio, I was shaking like a leaf. I was scared,” he said, adding that it was the “same melody that I sang when I was out in the fields. I just wailed out in the woods and let the echo come back to me”
‘Signed away the rights’

He told BBC Radio 6 Music‘s Craig Charles in a 2011 interview that he came up with the melody for When A Man Loves A Woman, but signed away the rights of the song to Calvin Lewis and Andrew Wright, because “I didn’t know any better”.

“I had the melody in my mind so I gave that song to them,” he said, adding they then created the lyrics.

Sledge did not contest the agreement, saying: “I felt like if God fixed it in my mouth to give it to them I won’t change anything about it.

“I’m satisfied with what I wrote but I cut my kids out of so much because I gave it to someone else – I just wasn’t thinking.”

BBC Radio 2 DJ Tony Blackburn was among those paying tribute on Twitter, and said: “Sad to hear that Percy Sledge has died. I wonder how many times I’ve played When A Man Loves A Woman. RIP.”

Musician Bootsy Collins paid tribute on his Facebook page with the words: “Just lost another legend funkateers, Mr Percy Sledge.”

Paul Gambacini told the BBC that When a Man Loves a Woman was “one of the all time classic songs”.

“This was the essence of soul, dripping with feeling. It never had a time, it was in a world of its own, so it was timeless,” he added.

The track reached number two when it was re-released in the UK in 1987 after appearing in Oliver Stone’s film Platoon, and was featured in several other films such as The Big Chill, The Crying Game and a 1994 Meg Ryan drama named after the song itself. It was also the soundtrack to a Levis advert in 1987.

‘Transcendent moment’

It was the first US number one recorded at Alabama’s Muscle Shoals studio, where Aretha Franklin and the Rolling Stones would later record.

The track also scored a first gold disc for Atlantic Records, whose executive Jerry Wexler called the song “a transcendent moment” and “a holy love hymn.”

It remained Sledge’s biggest hit and helped sustain a long touring career in the US, Europe and South Africa, averaging 100 performances a year. His other chart successes included Warm and Tender Love, It Tears Me Up and Take Time to Know Her.

The song found new life in 1991 when Michael Bolton’s cover of the song topped the Billboard chart.

Before his music career, Sledge worked in the cotton fields around his hometown of Leighton in northwest Alabama, before taking a job as a hospital nurse in the early 1960s.

A patient heard him singing while he worked and recommended him to record producer Quin Ivy.

The singer was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2005 and was a member of the Alabama Music Hall of Fame and the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame.

He is survived by his wife and children.

See also here.