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Phuket Gazette World News: Fukushima radiation spikes; Nazi trial; Rodman returns to N Korea; Suez ship attacks; 64yo makes Cuba-Florida swim

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Phuket Gazette World News: Fukushima radiation spikes; Nazi trial; Rodman returns to N Korea; Suez ship attacks; 64yo makes Cuba-Florida swim | The Thaiger
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PHUKET MEDIA WATCH
– World news compiled by Gazette editors for Phuket’s international community

High radiation spreads at ruined Fukushima plant, Japan vows aid
Reuters / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: High radiation levels are spreading at the ruined Fukushima nuclear plant, its operator said on Monday, and the Japanese government prepared to offer more funding and oversight to try to contain the crisis.

Japanese authorities were seeking to address criticism that Tokyo Electric Power Co has bungled the response to the world’s worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl.

“Tokyo Electric has been playing a game of whack-a-mole with problems at the site,” Trade and Economy Minister Toshimitsu Motegi said in a televised interview.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe vowed to “step forward and implement all necessary policies” to deal with the flood of radioactive waste building up at Fukushima since the March 2011 reactor meltdown at Fukushima.

The government will present a package of measures as soon as Tuesday to a task force dealing with the contaminated water problem, officials said. The steps will include using existing budgetary funds to help with the clean-up.

Tokyo Electric said on Monday patrolling workers came across a new area of high radiation near storage tanks hastily built to house water that was used to cool Fukushima before becoming contaminated in the 2011 earthquake that wrecked the complex.

Tepco has been pumping water into the reactors to keep the damaged cores and stored fuel from overheating. But that emergency step has created a secondary crisis of how to manage the contaminated water that is pumped back out.

Workers had no found no signs of fresh radiation leaks.

Still, Tepco said a radiation reading on the ground near the newly found hot spot would expose a worker in just one hour to the safety limit Japan has set for exposure over five years.

No precise reading was given since workers were using instruments that only recorded radiation up to 100 millisieverts. Tepco said the reading exceeded that level.

Tepco said last week radiation near a different tank spiked to 18 times the initial reading, a level that could kill an unprotected person in four hours.

As much as 300 tonnes of highly radioactive water was found to have leaked from another tank last month.

In early August, officials said large amounts of contaminated water were flowing into the Pacific Ocean from the coastal facility 230 km (140 miles) northeast of Tokyo.

Despite the evidence of multiple leaks, officials say radiation in seawater near the plant had only been detected in the immediate harbour area. Officials said there was no evidence of a broader threat to marine life or water quality.

Abenomic growth plans

Japan’s nuclear industry, which once provided a third of its energy, has ground nearly to a halt since the earthquake, causing reactor meltdowns. Restarting Japan’s idled reactors, and reducing its reliance on foreign energy supplies, is a central element of Abe’s economic growth plans.

Japanese officials also fear that international attention to the Fukushima crisis could threaten Tokyo’s bid to host the 2020 Olympics, a decision set to be made by the International Olympic Committee on Saturday in Buenos Aires.

Yasuhisa Shiozaki, deputy policy chief of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party and head of its project team on nuclear regulation, called for the creation of a “decommissioning agency” that could resemble Britain’s National Decommissioning Authority, a public body charged with managing the dismantling of the nation’s atomic power and research stations.

“It is an urgent task to promptly restructure our overall nuclear power policies under a resolute system and revive domestic and international trust,” Shiozaki said in comments posted on his website.

But other officials, including Motegi, say responsibility for decommissioning Fukushima – a job expected to take decades – should remain the primary responsibility of the utility.

Tepco last year received a 1 trillion yen ($10.2 billion) injection of taxpayer money in exchange for giving the government a de facto controlling stake, but management has been left to the company. The firm also receives public funds to help compensate residents forced to flee after the 2011 disaster.

Motegi also said dismantling Tokyo Electric as some critics have urged was not an option since that could disrupt the electric supply to the 45 million customers that rely on it for power in the Tokyo area.

The governor of Niigata prefecture, home to the utility’s halted Kashiwazaki Kariwa plant, recently called for the company to be completely dismantled.

“Even if you let Tokyo Electric go bankrupt, it would not solve the decommissioning and the water problem. Of course, the government will become fully involved, but Tepco still has to fulfil its responsibility,” said Motegi.

Shippers brace for more Suez turmoil after vessel attack
Reuters / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: An attack by assailants on a container ship in the Suez canal has heightened risks for merchant shipping using the vital waterway, with further threats considered likely as political turmoil continues in Egypt.

On Sunday an army source said three people had been arrested after opening fire with machine guns on a Chinese-owned container ship passing through the canal, a big source of revenue for Egypt, playing down what the Suez Canal Authority’s chief had described earlier as a terrorist attack.

This is the first incident confirmed by officials involving a ship in Suez. In July the army said it had investigated reports of an explosion near the canal but found no evidence.

Egypt is currently governed under a state of emergency after the army deposed the country’s first freely elected president, Mohamed Mursi, two months ago, in response to huge street protests against his rule.

At least 900 people, most of them Islamist supporters of Mursi, have been killed since the army took over and cleared protest camps calling for his reinstatement.

Any major attack on the canal would further hammer Egypt’s economy, which benefits from about $5 billion a year in tolls for using the 192-kilometre (120 mile) waterway, the quickest sea route between Asia and Europe.

“The transit of vessels through Suez has long been of concern to many. The proximity to land throughout much of the transit makes it an attractive target,” said David Welch, of bomb disposal and counter-terrorism specialists Ramora UK.

“I would suggest that an attack on any primary sea line of communication or critical port would be high on the agenda of many terrorist groups. Imagine the chaos if they managed to disable or sink a large vessel across the canal.”

An Egyptian security source told Reuters on Monday the attack on the ship appeared to be down to individuals, rather than an organisation.

“We do not have information on the existence of an organisation that is targeting the movement of ships in the Suez canal,” the source said. “The available information confirms that some elements … were aiming to target the Suez canal as it is a vital and international facility and any incident there would have a large impact internationally.”

Growing threats

The Egyptian source said such an incident could happen again despite intense security along the canal, adding that residential are

— Phuket Gazette Editors

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Archiving articles from the Phuket Gazette circa 1998 - 2017. View the Phuket Gazette online archive and Digital Gazette PDF Prints.

Coronavirus (Covid-19)

Covid19 – US infections “balloon”, world case total surpasses 40 million

The Thaiger

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Covid19 – US infections “balloon”, world case total surpasses 40 million | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Ipsos

“We were really hoping to crater the cases in preparation for a bad winter. We’ve done basically the opposite.”

New Covid-19 cases are again surging in many countries. Globally, the number of infected people exceeded 40 million as of last night with new infections starting to accelerate again. Today the total number of confirmed cases around the world is 40,323,461. The number of total deaths remains at 1,118,826 and recovered patients at 30,135,040 (as of 4pm Thai time).

Covid19 - US infections

Notably, the death rate from Covid-19 is not rising as treatment for complicated cases continues to rapidly improve. The US, India, Russia, Brazil, the rest of South America, and parts of Europe and the UK, are the current ‘hot spots’ (below).

Regionally, the surge of cases in Myanmar is causing headaches for Thai border officials in the north west of the country. The Governor of Tak decided to close the border checkpoints this morning. But the 2,000 kilometre long land border between Thailand and Myanmar has many unofficial “Natural” crossing points.

In the US, the nation’s top infectious disease doctor, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, says following public health measures is the way out of the crisis that has hobbled the economy, claimed thousands of lives and sickened millions.

“The predicted fall surge is here, and rising cases across the US appear to bear that out.”

The US is averaging more than 55,000 new cases a day, and 10 states reported their highest single-day cases counts last Friday. As of this morning, US time, there were more than 8.5 million cases and 219,674 coronavirus deaths, according to Worldometers.info

“The Covid-19 crisis would have to be ‘really, really bad’ to implement a national lockdown. Despite the climbing totals, a nationwide lockdown is not the way forward unless the pandemic gets “really, really bad.”

Tara Smith, a professor of epidemiology at Kent State University says the worst fears of rising cases, leading into winter, are being realised.

“We were really hoping to crater the cases in preparation for a bad winter. We’ve done basically the opposite.”

After hitting an all-time high in July, cases did drop significantly, but the US never reached a level where the public health system could truly get a handle on the outbreak or describe it as ‘contained’.

Now infections are on the rise again, driven by ballooning outbreaks across the country’s interior, especially in the Midwest, the Great Plains and the West.

Contributing to the rise is the return of students to schools and campuses across the country, puzzling resistance to social distancing and mask wearing recommendations, and more people spending time in restaurants and other indoor settings as the weather starts to cool down.

SOURCE: worldometers.info | nor.org

Covid19 - US infections

TABLE: worldometers.com

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

2 Covid vaccine trials halted in phase 3 over safety concerns

Maya Taylor

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2 Covid vaccine trials halted in phase 3 over safety concerns | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Medical Xpress

After Johnson & Johnson paused phase 3 of its Covid vaccine trials due to safety concerns, a second pharmaceutical company has followed suit. Eli Lilly has halted phase 3 trials of a lab-produced antibody treatment, 24 hours after the Johnson & Johnson decision. The Bangkok Post reports that an unspecified incident led Eli Lilly to call a temporary halt to the trials. The day before, Johnson & Johnson paused its phase 3 trials after a participant fell ill. A spokesperson for J&J says the hiatus is temporary.

The 2 delays follow a similar incident with phase 3 trials of a vaccine being jointly worked on by Oxford University and Astra Zeneca, which was briefly delayed last month due to an unexplained illness in one participant. Trials of that vaccine have now resumed globally, with the exception of the US, for reasons unknown. Such snags are par for the course in the final phase testing of vaccine development, particularly as the number of participants is increased significantly to see if very rare side-effects are presented.

A spokesperson for Eli Lilly says the company backs the Data Safety and Monitoring Board in calling a temporary halt to phase 3 trials.

“Lilly is supportive of the decision by the independent DSMB to cautiously ensure the safety of the patients participating in this study.”

Eli Lilly’s trial began in August, aimed at recruiting 10,000 participants, across 50 sites, including the US, Denmark and Singapore, using a lab-produced antibody treatment, similar to that developed by Regeneron and used to treat US President Donald Trump recently. Eli Lilly has not given any further information about the safety concern which has paused phase 3.

Meanwhile, a J&J spokesman says such breaks are to be expected in large-scale trials and that reported illnesses or side-effects may be unrelated to the vaccine.

“It’s not at all unusual for unexpected illnesses in large studies over their duration. In some cases, serious adverse events may have something or nothing to do with the drug or vaccine being investigated.”

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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Crime

Thai police to verify “Boss” whereabouts with UAE embassy

Maya Taylor

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Thai police to verify “Boss” whereabouts with UAE embassy | The Thaiger
FILE PHOTO

Following recent reports that the elusive Red Bull heir, Vorayuth “Boss” Yoovidhya, is living in Dubai, Thai police say they’re writing to the UAE embassy to verify the claims (the embassy is in Witthayu road… we can send you the address if you need so you can ‘drop in’ and have a chat).

Boss is wanted in relation to a 2012 hit-and-run incident that claimed the life of Wichian Klanprasert, a 47 year old Bangkok policeman. Wichian died after his bike was dragged 100 metres by a Ferrari which then fled the scene. The vehicle was allegedly being driven by Boss.

Incredibly, Boss managed to flee Thailand in 2017. Charges that were initially dropped against him in July this year have recently been re-instated following an independent inquiry. Recently, rumours began circulating that due to Covid-19 travel restrictions, the wanted Red Bull heir is currently living in Dubai. Assistant National Police Chief Jaruwat Waisaya says Thai police are submitting a letter to the embassy of the United Arab Emirates to enquire as to his whereabouts.

“We want to confirm with the local authorities whether he is in the UAE or not. If he is, we will coordinate with them to extradite him to Thailand so he can face trial.”

A red Interpol notice has been issued for Boss, meaning if he enters a country that is a member of Interpol, officials should inform the Royal Thai Police. However, enforcement of the notice is at the discretion of individual countries. The United Arab Emirates is an Interpol member country.

SOURCE: Nation Thailand

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