Entries in Japan (32)


Commander of US Army Forces in Japan Suspended -- The U.S. Army suspended Maj. Gen. Michael Harrison, commander of the U.S. Army Forces in Japan from his duties for alleged failure to report or investigate at least one allegation of sexual assault.

The sexual abuse case in question took place within the last 12 months, says USA Today. While Maj. Gen. Harrison was relieved of his duties by Gen. Raymond Odierno, the Army chief of staff, he is not himself accused of any form of sexual misconduct.

The U.S. Department of Defense announced in a press release that Maj. Gen. James C. Boozer, formerly the deputy commanding general of the United States Army in Europe, will serve as the interim commander in Japan until the Army's investigation is complete.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


US Women's Soccer Wins Gold in Rematch Final Against Japan

KHALED DESOUKI/AFP/GettyImages(LONDON) -- In front of a crowd of nearly 85,000 at London's Wembley Stadium, midfielder Carli Lloyd led the U.S. women's soccer team to a gold medal in Thursday's final against Japan.

The 2-1 victory was sweet revenge for the Americans, who lost to the Japanese in a 2011 World Cup final upset, the first time they had beaten the United States in 26 games.

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The United States drew blood early, with a goal by Lloyd in the eighth minute. As they celebrated the goal, some players thought it was scored by Abby Wambach, who swung her foot at the ball at a cross by Alex Morgan as Lloyd knocked it in. Wambach cleared up the confusion with an emphatic point of the finger toward her teammate.

Lloyd struck goal again in the 54th minute, her fourth of the Olympics and the team's 16th. She dribbled a ball from Megan Rapinoe near the halfline toward the goal as Morgan and Wambach raced ahead of her. Neither were open, so rather than pass, Lloyd blasted a shot past Japanese goalkeeper Miho Fukimoto's outstretched arms and into the net's left side.

It took Japan until the 64th minute to score. Japan's Yuki Ogimi tapped a ball in that the United States defense failed to clear. Defender Christie Rampone blocked a Japanese shot, but she could not keep Ogimi's rebound out of the net.

Japan gained momentum in the second half as a previously somnolent Japanese crowd at Wembley thunderously awoke.

Confusion near the American net in the 74th minute almost gave the Japanese an equalizing second goal, but a foul called in the penalty box against Japan gave the United States relief from the threat.

The closing 15 minutes of the match were full of intense moments -- physical play that earned Wambach a yellow card and breakaways from both teams -- but the score stayed at 2-1 until the referee blew the final whistle, giving the United States the gold medal.

Despite their World Cup win, Japan came into Thursday's final at a significant disadvantage both in size and experience. History was also against them -- with the exception of the 2000 Sydney Olympics, the United States has won the gold medal in women's soccer in every Games since it became an Olympic sport in 1996.

The American reign in the sport was in doubt just three days ago, when the Canadian team nearly advanced to the final in a nail-biting semifinal. Morgan headed a cross into the net in the last minute of extra time, ending a match that some Canadian players later said was unfairly refereed.

While the women's soccer final was the marquee event Thursday, Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt cemented his status as the world's fastest man with gold medal-winning 19:32 time in the 200 meters. Fresh off a Sunday gold in the 100 meters, Bolt became the first back-to-back gold medal-winning sprinter ever.

It was a one-two-three finish for Jamaica, as Bolt's countrymen Johan Blake and Warren Weir rounded out the silver and bronze with 19:44 and 19:84 times.

Earlier in the day, U.S. middleweight boxer Claressa Shields earned the first American gold medal in women's boxing.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


70 Years Later, America Remembers Pearl Harbor

USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor. iStockphoto/Thinkstock(PEARL HARBOR, Hawaii) -- Exactly 70 years ago on Wednesday, the U.S. Navy came under attack by Japan at Pearl Harbor -- a sudden strike that catapulted the United States into WWII.

Then President Franklin D. Roosevelt called Dec. 7, 1941 "a date that will live in infamy," and vowed that "no matter how long it may take us to overcome this premeditated invasion, the American people with their righteous might, will win through to absolute victory."

In all, 2,402 American lives were lost, four battleships were sunk and close to 200 aircraft were destroyed.

To honor the fallen, President Obama has proclaimed Wednesday "National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day." In a statement, Mr. Obama said: "On National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day, we honor the more than 3,500 Americans killed or wounded during that deadly attack and pay tribute to the heroes whose courage ensured our Nation would recover from this vicious blow. Their tenacity helped define the Greatest Generation and their valor fortified all who served during World War II.  As a Nation, we look to December 7, 1941, to draw strength from the example set by these patriots and to honor all who have sacrificed for our freedoms."

The president encouraged Americans to, "observe this solemn day of remembrance and to honor our military, past and present, with appropriate ceremonies and activities," and urged them to fly their flags at half-staff.

A moment of silence will be held in Pearl Harbor Wednesday at 7:55 a.m. Hawaii time -- the time the attack began.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Japan's Tsunami Debris to Hit US Sooner Than Expected

Sankei via Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- The devastating tsunami that hit Japan in March created lasting images of houses, boats, cars and entire neighborhoods pulled out to sea. It also caused a massive sea of debris -- up to 20 million tons of it, all of it potentially toxic -- in an area estimated to be twice the size of Texas.

Now, seven months later, that floating debris is on a direct collision course with the Pacific Coast of the United States -- and it might be coming sooner than expected.

“Across the wide Pacific, the drift rate is about five to 10 miles per day,” oceanographer Curt Ebbesmeyer told ABC News.

Early computer models predicted that the debris would not hit the United States for two to three years.  But a Russian training ship, the STS Pallada, following a map of the computer models, hit an extended field of debris in mid-Pacific, close to Midway Island, a U.S. territory about 1,700 miles from Hawaii.

The ship’s encounter with the 1,000-mile-long mass of tsunami debris came in September -- 300 miles ahead of schedule, and nearly 2,000 miles from the site of the tsunami in Japan.

The ship’s crew found a battered, 20-foot fishing boat marked “Fukushima,” the same spot in Japan that was ground zero for the tsunami.

The Pallada’s crew sailed through the debris, surrounded by everything from appliances and televisions to furniture, all of it now headed straight for Hawaii.

The first of it is expected to hit Midway Atoll this winter, then Hawaii in early 2013, and the U.S. West Coast -- mainly Washington and Oregon -- in early 2014.

Experts now estimate that lighter objects will wash ashore Midway’s beaches this winter.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Radioactive Iodine Found in Washington State Milk; Levels Safe

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Government officials say radioactive iodine particles have made their way from Japan's crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant to Washington state, infiltrating milk.

Traces of radiation have been detected in samples of milk taken in the state, but the levels are low enough that they do not pose a health threat.

"It's hard to hear about radiation in milk and not be concerned but let me put it in perspective," says Dr. Richard Besser, ABC News' senior health and medical editor.  "The amount of iodine in milk from Spokane is five thousand times below the level of concern for iodine -- five thousand times -- so while it is concerning that there's radiation there, this is not a threat to health."

"The level of radioactive iodine in milk is safe," adds Besser, who says he would drink the milk and give it to his children.

Besser says although the level is safe now, "it's worth paying attention [to] to make sure the levels don't continue to rise," and the government is doing just that -- the Environmental Protection Agency and the Food and Drug Administration are stepping up their radiation monitoring.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Is the United States Earthquake Ready?

Stockbyte/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- As Japan struggles to recover from its devastating earthquake, a new report released Wednesday says Americans have been lulled into a false sense of security about seismic activity.

Robert Hamilton, a retired seismologist and chairman of the committee of experts that compiled the report, told ABC News, "The lesson in Japan and the lessons from Hurricane Katrina show that when you go from a moderate event to a larger, greater event it can cause a lot of trouble."

In 2008, an earthquake exercise in California estimated that a 7.8 magnitude quake there would result in 1,800 deaths, $113 billion in damages to buildings and $70 billion in business interruption.

The National Academy of Sciences has come up with a 20-year "road map" to build earthquake "resilience" in the United States. This doesn't mean earthquake-proofing everything, which is impossible, but taking steps to help lessen damage and hasten recovery.

The report offers 18 recommendations, which its authors believe would better prepare the United States to handle a major quake. They include additional research to help understand and predict quakes, testing and designing better building codes, updating standards to allow highways, electric grids and water systems to continue to function after an earthquake. The recommendations also call for better emergency response, including preparedness plans and exercises.

Following the road map wouldn't come cheap, though. Estimates put the first five years of the plan at $306 million a year.

Some parts of the United States are better prepared than others. California, Hamilton says, has done a lot to prepare for a major catastrophe.

"They have improved building codes that many communities, but not all, have adopted. In the Pacific Northwest and Alaska, which are the most seismic areas, some steps have been taken, but it is by no means a comprehensive approach."

As for the rest of the country, "I'd say we're pretty much unprepared," said Hamilton.

The New Madrid fault, which runs through the central Mississippi Valley, poses a major worry for seismologists. It was the site of major earthquake activity in 1811 and 1812.

And what if a large quake were to occur on the densely populated East Coast?

"Structures just aren't designed to handle earthquakes," Hamilton said. Earthquake preparedness gets "worse the further east you go."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Nuclear Crisis In Japan Will Not Slow Relicensing of U.S. Plants

Tom Brakefield/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The nuclear crisis at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi plant will not have an impact on the re-licensing of U.S. nuclear reactors, a top Nuclear Regulatory Commission official told lawmakers Tuesday.

“There’s no technical reason, that I’m aware of, that this would impact the license renewal process for the remaining plants in the U.S.,” Bill Borchardt, the NRC Executive Director for Operations, told the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

Over half of the 104 operating reactors in the U.S. have already received license renewals for an additional 20 years of operation.  The NRC expects that the other half will continue with the license extension process.

“If there was a design change necessary in order to adapt the plants to what we’re learning from Japan we would take that action absent or outside of the license-renewal, review process,” Borchardt explained. “We would take that without hesitation.”

Several lawmakers have called for a moratorium on relicensing in light of the ongoing crisis in Japan.

Peter Lyons, the acting assistant secretary for Nuclear Energy at the Department of Energy, explained that the Fukushima Daiichi plants “are in a slow recovery from the accident. However, long-term cooling of the reactors and pools is essential during this period and has not been adequately restored to date.”

Borchardt agreed. “The situation in general continues to further stabilize, although there are many hurdles that remain.”

Among those hurdles are reports of radioactive water in the basements of the turbine buildings which, according to Borchardt, is from the water that has been injected to cool the reactors.

“We believe that the water is the result of the ‘bleed and feed’ process that they have been using to keep water in the reactor cores and in the containment of the units,” Borchardt said. “The exact flow path of that leakage has not been determined.”  

As for reports of plutonium in the soil near the nuclear plant, Lyons said the news did not come as a surprise. “All operating reactors, whether they start with any plutonium in the fuel or not, build up plutonium in the course of operation. So finding plutonium that was derived from either the operating reactors or the spent fuel pools would not be regarded as a major surprise. Certainly it would be a concern if it were in significant levels,” he explained.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Trace Amounts of Japan's Radioactive Fallout Found in US Rainwater

Michael Blann/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The damage at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Japan has had a residual effect felt all the way in the U.S., with rainwater here showing trace amounts of radiation.

It seems that the very lightly contaminated rain is turning up coast-to-coast, with radiation showing up in Nevada and other Western states and as far East as North Carolina, South Carolina, Pennsylvania and Massachusetts.

One of the radioactive by-products found in U.S. rain is in iodine-131, which briefly caused Japan to institute a ban on tap water in Tokyo and other prefectures.  However, there are no such worries here, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

In fact, the risk to the public is so low that the EPA says that Americans are exposed to far more radiation when they take an international airline flight.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Search Mounts for American Teacher Missing in Japan

Family of Monty Dickson(ANCHORAGE, Alaska) -- Monty Dickson's family has been on "Japan time" since the March 11 earthquake and tsunami ravaged the city where Dickson teaches and lives.

"We sleep sporadically when we can and not much," Gloria Shriver, the mother-in-law of Dickson's sister, said.  "We're all having a very hard time."

Dickson, who is from Alaska, hasn't been heard from since the tsunami struck Japan.  He is a teacher with JET, the Japan Exchange and Teaching Program where university graduates sign contracts with local governments in Japan to teach English at Japanese schools.

"We're still looking for him and still looking for information on him," said Matthew Gillam from the New York branch of the Japan Local Government Center.

Dickson's family are among a dwindling number of Americans clinging to hope as the hunt for survivors is now nearly two weeks old and search efforts are petering out.  The State Department now says it is focusing on less than 10 cases of Americans unaccounted for in the hardest hit areas of Japan.  Those cases came to their attention from loved ones like Dickson's family.

In the days following the quake, those numbers were much higher, but as electricity was turned on and cities began to rebuild, loved ones established contact with their missing relatives.

Dickson teaches in the small fishing village called Rikuzentakata.  It's located in the Iwate Prefecture, one of the hardest hit regions.

Gloria Shriver's Anchorage, Alaska, home has become command central in the search for Dickson.  She is the mother-in-law of Dickson's sister, Shelley Frederickson.  The two, along with Dickson's brother, Ian, spend hours online searching for tips about the young man and calling officials to check in on the progress.  Relatives in Hawaii and even England are helping in the search.

Frederickson became Dickson's legal guardian when both of his parents died as a child.

The family last spoke to Dickson March 8, but his Japanese girlfriend spoke to Dickson in the hour after the 9.0 magnitude earthquake struck the island on March 11, but before the massive tsunami hit.  Dickson told her that he and his students had evacuated to the town's civic center.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


FDA Bans Milk, Vegetable, Fruits Imported from Japan after Nuclear Plant Crisis

George Doyle/Thinkstock (WASHINGTON) -- The U.S. Food and Drug Administration said Tuesday it will stop all milk products and vegetable and fruit products imported from Japan from entering the U.S. -- a response to public fears about radiation from Japan's crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant.

This announcement comes despite the agency's repeated assurances that radiation found in foods in Japan was small and posed no risk to the U.S. food supply.

Since 9/11, U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the U.S. Department of Agriculture have implemented blanket radiation screenings for nearly all U.S. imports, including food. The FDA programmed its import tracking systems to flag food shipments from Japan automatically, amid growing contamination concerns after this month's earthquake.

But the agency says it will now stop all shipments of milk products and fruits and vegetables from entering the U.S. It will not allow radiation screening of these products, according to an FDA spokesperson.

In 2010, the U.S. imported $16.5 billion worth of milk, fruits and vegetables, of which a small fraction -- $6.725 million -- came from Japan, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Most of the imported dairy products are processed foods such as casein and cheese. Imported fruits and vegetables include potatoes, frozen vegetables, citrus fruits and melons.

Japan has already placed restrictions on foods, including spinach and milk that were produced in two provinces around the Fukushima Daiichi plant. Food inspectors detected iodine and cesium in the food, two of the more dangerous radioactive byproducts that are feared to have been released from the reactors in Fukushima.

While Japanese officials said none of the produce found to be contaminated in Japan has been shipped out of the country, there might have been some contaminated produce that was not tested and could have slipped through. Many food-safety experts say that consuming food or milk that contains high radiation levels can be as dangerous as exposure to high levels in the air.

High levels of iodine that can be absorbed through the milk can accumulate in the thyroid gland and cause thyroid cancer. High levels of cesium can damage cells and put many people at higher risk of developing other kinds of cancer.

While milk, fruit, and vegetable products seem to be the highest concern for the FDA, experts say there's no need to boycott sushi or other seafood delicacies just yet. Less than four percent of food is imported to the United States from Japan, including processed and snack foods. About two percent of the seafood the United States consumes comes from Japan, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Scallops are the largest seafood import from Japan to the U.S.; in 2010, nearly $64 million worth, 3,300 metric tons, came from there.

The largest perceived danger may be around raw seafood that is used to make sushi. Tuna is the second largest seafood import from Japan, with nearly 350 metric tons and nearly $4 million worth of imports, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. But that is about a tenth of scallop imports.

Also, radiation levels become diluted in large bodies of water, so officials said seafood caught from the ocean should have only trace amounts of radiation, if any.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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