Global News Blog
A week after a German Bank of America intern was found dead in London after allegedly working for 72 hours straight, the tragedy has prompted scrutiny of what many say is a culture of chronic overwork of young employees in the global finance industry, as well as the increasingly rigorous demands placed on interns in many fields.
London police discovered the body of 21-year-old Moritz Erhardt on Aug. 15 at his East London accommodation, where he reportedly collapsed in the shower after working through three straight nights until 6 a.m.
Although the cause of his death is still unknown, Mr. Erhardt had been nearing the end of a grinding summer internship at BOA’s Merrill Lynch investment banking unit in downtown London, where fellow interns and industry experts say 15-hour days are the expected dues for earning a full-time job down the line, and all-nighters are not uncommon.
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As Kevin Roose, who is working on a book about young Wall Street bankers, explains in New York magazine, that kind of bruising schedule has come to be seen as simply “part of the basic bargain” of working your way up the financial career ladder.
Inside a bank, "staffers" routinely assign complicated projects to young analysts at all hours, and a second shift often begins for young analysts around 7 p.m., when senior bankers leave for the day. Part of this scheduling springs from necessity – a bank's clients will often demand overnight changes to a pitch book or an Excel model, and that work falls to the lowest workers on the food chain. But it's also about career advancement. Work ethic is currency on Wall Street, and young workers are rewarded for being available, at all hours, to do any task assigned to them. That goes double for summer interns, who are locked in a ten-week competition for a limited number of full-time slots.
But critics say that interns, who are young, ambitious, and often unfamiliar with their rights and responsibilities as workers, are easy targets for exploitative employers the world over.
"For reasons related to an individual's ambition or the current employment market, people are pretty desperate to get jobs," Chris Roebuck, a British economist who has held top posts at several international banks, told The Financial Times. "Some employers are exploiting that fact, pushing people past the point where it makes sense for their health or from a business perspective."
Meanwhile, The Independent, a British newspaper, dubbed the banking internship culture “Slavery in the City,” and quoted a doctor who treated bankers as saying they received “inhumane treatment” at the hands of their employers.
However, there remains at least one major difference between investment banking interns and the truly enslaved: salary. In exchange for more than 100 hours of tedium and exhaustion each week, interns at top banks often take home more than $6,000 each month, and many are hired on after graduation for jobs that pay more than $80,000 annually.
For its part, Bank of America has so far distanced itself from Erhardt’s death, while offering condolences to his family.
"The whole point about internships is to give students a positive experience and to get to know our firm, and us to know them well, so we can work out who would be the best fit to join the company full-time after they graduate," said John McIvor, head of international communications at Merrill Lynch, reports NBC.
Mr. McIvor refused to comment on whether or not it was common for interns to work all night at the bank, reports the London Evening Standard. But he noted that the workplace culture was necessarily demanding.
“Do people in investment banking sometimes work long hours? Yes they do,” he said.
Even beyond the high-stakes, high-paying realm of finance, internship culture has come under significant scrutiny globally in recent years as internships have become the gateway position for employment in many fields. Across much of Western Europe, high youth unemployment has brought an uptick in the number of educated young people working as interns or short-term contract workers, rather than in full-time salaried positions. As The New York Times reported last year,
This is a “floating generation,” made worse by the euro crisis, and its plight is widely seen as a failure of the system: an elitist educational tradition that does not integrate graduates into the work force, a rigid labor market that is hard to enter, and a tax system that makes it expensive for companies to hire full-time employees and both difficult and expensive to lay them off.
The result, analysts and officials agree, is a new and growing sector of educated unemployed, whose lives are delayed and whose inability to find good jobs damages tax receipts, pension programs and the property market. There are no separate figures kept for them, but when added to the large number of unemployed young people who have little education or training, there is a growing sense that France and other countries in Western Europe risk losing a generation, further damaging prospects for sustainable economic growth.
Meanwhile, in the United States a blast of recent lawsuits have challenged the widespread practice of unpaid internships, arguing that young people are frequently being forced to do work with no educational value for no pay. That’s not only unethical and exploitative, they argue, it’s illegal, too.
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A new hope for legacy media?
Why did Amazon.com chief Jeff Bezos buy The Washington Post with $250 million of his own money? That’s the question many have asked Henry Blodget, editor of The Business Insider, a prominent blog that has Mr. Bezos among its investors. Mr. Blodget does not claim to have any inside information on Bezos’s decision, but writes with the insight of having worked with him for many years.
According to Blodget, Bezos loves the long game. He invests in projects that interest him, not ones that will turn a quick profit. With a reported net worth of $25 billion, Bezos can afford to throw around a lot of cash – and he does. He poured $42 million into a massive atomic clock designed to keep time for 10,000 years. He funded a mission to find and recover Apollo 11’s engines from the bottom of the ocean. He regularly invests Amazon’s profits into new long-term ventures, such as the Kindle e-book reader or the company’s new TV and movie studio.
“So, anyone rooting for the Washington Post to transform into a successful digital business should be thrilled that Jeff Bezos is buying it,” he writes. “Anyone hoping the Washington Post will never change, meanwhile, should find some other status quo to cling to. The status quo at the Post is dying with or without Bezos.”
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That’s a language pet peeve, literally
Bob Garfield hates when people misuse the word “literally.” On the Lexicon Valley podcast, he griped to cohost Mike Vuolo that people often use the word to mean its exact opposite – and this literally makes his brain explode.
Mr. Garfield assumed that this is a modern corruption of language, something that metastasized within his lifetime. But as Mr. Vuolo points out, people have used “literally” in a metaphorical or hyperbolic way for more than 150 years. Charles Dickens’s book “Nicholas Nickleby,” published in 1839, contains the line: “ ‘Lift him out,’ said Squeers, after he had literally feasted his eyes in silence upon the culprit.” Similar usages appear in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby” and James Joyce’s “Dubliners.”
The rest of the episode explores why language pet peeves bother people so – and why the joke may be on them.
Bionic eyewear offers superhero vision
Telescopic vision may now be within reach. An international team of researchers have designed a contact lens that can switch between normal sight and 2.8-power magnification. The US military’s research division funded the project, hoping to equip soldiers with superhuman sight. But the scientists behind the technology say in their journal article that it could also help people with vision problems. At this stage, the “lens doesn’t work on its own,” writes Amanda Kooser on CNET. “It needs to be paired with a modified set of 3D television glasses. A polarizing filter allows the switch between telescopic and regular vision.”
How will you escape?
In San Francisco, 11 people were trapped in a room for an hour, clawing at the walls for a way out. This wasn’t a crisis situation – it was a game. A Japanese company named Scrap has introduced one of America’s first “real escape games.” Volunteers lock themselves inside a 30-by-30-foot room littered with clues and logic puzzles. Participants must upend furniture, find hints, crack codes, and hunt for a way to escape before the timer runs out.
“The good news: The game is a blast,” writes Sara Breselor in Wired’s print magazine. “The bad news: It’s almost impossible. A whiteboard in the foyer outside our room displays the number of teams that have been locked inside (293) and the number that have escaped (7).”
Innovation at Taco Bell
As Taco Bell’s 50th anniversary approached, chief executive Greg Creed challenged his employees: Make the company seem young again by reinventing the crunchy taco. The result, writes Austin Carr in Fast Company’s print magazine, became a fast-food phenomenon.
Taco Bell’s team of “food innovation experts” conceived of a taco dusted with the same powder that gives Doritos chips their unique flavor. The munchy mega-brands united, and Taco Bell’s young-male demographic went wild. The company credits its Doritos Locos Taco with generating 450 million taco sales, boosting company sales by 13 percent, and pushing the chain to hire 15,000 new employees.
But the quest for binge-food perfection took years to complete. “In April 2009, this crazy idea began with a trip to Home Depot, where staffers bought a paint-spray gun to blast Doritos flavoring onto a taco,” writes Mr. Carr. The initial recipe flopped. “For the first group of testers, the combination of Doritos with Taco Bell’s shells was neither punchy nor zesty; it was just a displeasing taste mush.” Food engineers worked day and night before they eventually nailed the manufacturing process.
Taco Bell’s next food experiment: breakfast waffle tacos.
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Both Russian officials and independent experts in Moscow heaped doubts today on the veracity of reports that Syrian strongman Bashar al-Assad killed more than 1,000 people using poison gas in an attack on rebels in a Damascus suburb Wednesday.
"Russia isn't persuaded by any of these reports. Nobody in Moscow believes Assad would use chemical weapons, especially now that he's winning without them, and he'd be crazy to do so on the very day that UN inspectors are visiting Damascus to look into reports of chemical weapon use," says Sergei Markov, a frequent adviser to President Vladimir Putin.
"It's obvious to us that we're looking at a well-prepared provocation, possibly staged by Qatar or Saudi Arabian intelligence, aimed at whipping up emotions in the West and triggering an armed intervention to aid the rebels. It's clear the rebels can't hope to win without such assistance from outside, so they are the only ones who have any stake in creating an example like this. Russia is not going to support any moves in that direction," he adds.
Public opinion has been deeply shocked by videos that allegedly show the victims of the attack, including rows of bodies with no signs of physical violence upon them as well as survivors gasping for air and staring with vacant eyes.
Experts say that Moscow is alarmed by what it perceives as a changed tone of conversation in the West in the wake of the reports, including French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius' remark that, if proven, the attacks would warrant a "reaction of force."
Russian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Alexander Lukashevich told journalists Wednesday that Moscow believes the reports are a sophisticated effort to derail the planned Geneva-2 peace conference, which Russia and the US have been trying, so far with fading success, to organize.
The rebels and their Persian Gulf sponsors want to "create a pretext at any cost for demanding that the UN Security Council stand on the side of the opponents of the regime, and in this way undermine the chances of convening the Geneva conference," Mr. Lukashevich said.
"We have long agreed with Russia that a conference in Geneva is the best vehicle for moving towards a political solution," Ms. Psaki said. "We all agree the talks cannot become a stalling tactic, and Secretary Kerry has been very clear on this point with the Russians."
The Russian position, in a nutshell, is that Moscow supports a proper investigation of the alleged poison gas event, but will never back any UN resolution that authorizes outside intercession in the spiraling civil war that has already killed over 100,000 Syrians. Russia has already vetoed two such moves in the UN Security Council, aimed at pressuring Mr. Assad to leave, and continues to insist that the only viable road to peace is for the big powers, Russia and the US, to bring their clients to the negotiating table to hammer out a settlement.
Though authorities in Damascus have so far denied the UN delegation permission to travel to the site of Wednesday's alleged poison gas attack, Russian experts say this is not Moscow's doing.
The UN team, which arrived in Damascus over the weekend with permission to visit three other alleged chemical weapons sites, had full approval from Moscow, says Sergei Strokan, foreign affairs columnist with the pro-business Moscow daily Kommersant.
"I read in the Western media that Russia acted to 'water down' the UN Security Council statement on the attacks, and I don't know what this means," he says.
"You know, any decision taken in the Security Council is the result of bargaining and infighting, and it's not at all clear what's going on. There are no official details yet, but I don't think Russia is against investigating such events on principle. Of course, there is a clash of opinions over who's responsible. Russia thinks the rebels and their Arab sponsors are behind this, the West wants to blame Assad. Obviously there will be struggle over the mandate of any investigation, the composition of the team and the shape of their final report. That's how things work at the UN," he says.
Russia's view that the alleged gas attack was a fabricated propaganda attempt to swing Western support behind the rebels is on full display in a series of columns and interviews with dissenting Western analysts posted on the website of the Kremlin-funded English-language TV network Russia Today, which prefers to be called RT. Examples can be found here, here, and here.
"As for the poison gas story, how can we know anything for sure at this point?" says Georgy Mirsky, an expert with the official Institute of World Economy and International Relations in Moscow.
"Both sides could have used it, both sides are capable of it, but it does look like such an episode would be more beneficial to the rebels. Civil wars are terrible. They are started by decent people, but in the course of the conflict these decent people become monsters. We've seen all this before, the atrocities pile up as in no other kind of war. Meanwhile, no one is asking the Syrian people what they want."
The renegade oligarch Boris Berezovsky was a thorn in the Kremlin's side from the time he fell out with President Vladimir Putin and was driven into exile almost a decade-and-a-half ago until his death in March.
Now Russian authorities, pursuing Mr. Berezovsky beyond the grave, have reportedly located more than a quarter of a billion dollars worth of the secretive tycoon's assets allegedly squirreled away in the unlikeliest of places – Serbia – and have taken steps to get them back.
"I was informed yesterday that the High Court in Belgrade seized seven enterprises of Berezovsky valued at approximately 9 billion rubles [$273 million] at our request," Russian Deputy Prosecutor General Alexander Zvyagintsev, who heads the ongoing Russian investigation into Berezovsky, told journalists Tuesday.
It would be ironic if Berezovsky left some of his juiciest bits of hidden property in Serbia, one of the few European jurisdictions inclined to cooperate with Russian authorities when it comes to controversial matters involving expatriate Russian oligarchs.
"Russian authorities have probably been sending demands for the confiscation of Berezovsky' s assets to the entire world for a couple of years now," says Vladimir Pribylovsky, president of Panorama, an independent Moscow think tank.
"The bureaucratic machine works slowly but surely. Usually demands made by the Russian prosecutor's office are denied [in the West] because they are often without substance. But Serbia might be inclined to be more responsive to such claims," he adds.
However, some Serbian news reports suggest that the decision to seize the seven companies in favor of the Russian claims may not be final.
Berezovsky, who died in March in an apparent suicide, has been widely thought to have been insolvent. At the time of his death, he reportedly owed about $150 million in unpaid British taxes.
His heirs, squabbling over the remains of his estate, have been using British lawyers and courts to track down whatever assets he may have left behind from amid his tangled business empire, so far without much reported success.
"As the Russian Criminal Code stipulates confiscation of property [as punishment] for setting up and participating in a criminal group, the Russian Prosecutor General's Office will continue its legal action aimed at bringing back to Russia the assets that Berezovsky and his accomplices illegally acquired and legalized abroad," deputy prosecutor Mr. Zvyagintsev told the official RIA-Novosti agency this past March.
Russian media quoted Berezovsky's lawyer, Andrey Borovkov as saying he knew nothing of the Serbian assets, which allegedly included majority ownership in two dairies, a soft drink maker, and a chocolate producer, as well as significant stakes in several other companies.
Berezovsky made his once-vast fortune in the freewheeling 1990s by manipulating Kremlin contacts, defrauding investors, and outright extortion, according to the best expert on the subject, Russian-American journalist Paul Klebnikov. Mr. Klebnikov was gunned down on a Moscow street in 2004 under circumstances that remain unexplained.
But after fleeing to Britain in 2000, Berezovsky's wealth began to dribble away. Some experts say he failed to make the transition to Western-style business practices, and continued financing ill-advised political schemes to unseat his nemesis, Mr. Putin, from power.
He became the Kremlin's favorite bete noir, and was blamed by Russian media for many controversial and still-unsolved crimes, including the 2006 assassination of investigative journalist Anna Politkovskaya and the bizarre murder-by-radiation of exiled dissident Russian security officer Alexander Litvinenko later the same year.
The biggest blow to Berezovsky's financial status was self-inflicted. Last year he lost a bitter, $6.5-billion lawsuit against his former partner and fellow oligarch, Roman Abramovich, in a London court.
The trial proved a goldmine of information for journalists and historians interested in the machinations and financial depredations of Russia's 1990s tycoons, who spun vast empires from the ruins of the former Soviet economy, often using outright criminal methods.
Berezovsky was virtually destroyed in a damning verdict that rejected his claims "in their entirety." The judge in the case also appended the scathing personal indictment that Berezovsky as a witness was "vague, internally inconsistent, exaggerated and, at times, incredible."
Some Russian experts say the race to uncover Berezovsky's remaining hidden assets is probably not political anymore.
"Russian authorities want a piece of Berezovsky' s legacy. I don't think this is about revenge anymore, just business," says Andrei Piontkovsky, an expert with the official Institute for Systems Analysis and a long time Kremlin critic.
Two British women formally charged with attempting to smuggle cocaine out of Peru face grim prison conditions for months, or even years, as they await trial.
But their plight could reach far beyond the fate of two individuals, if this turns into another “Florence Cassez” affair.
Ms. Cassez, a French woman accused of participating in a kidnapping ring in Mexico, languished for years in Mexican prison – an incident that turned into a major diplomatic row between France and Mexico.
Two narratives clashed: Was she the innocent victim of a corrupt system, or an opportunistic foreigner aggravating criminality and impunity abroad?
Cassez was convicted seven years ago in Mexico City with her Mexican boyfriend, who allegedly headed a gang responsible for a dozen kidnappings; Cassez, who was arrested at a ranch near Mexico City where many abductees were found, always claimed she had no idea what her boyfriend did, saying she thought he was a car salesman.
She was given 96 years in jail, later reduced to 60.
Former French president Nicolas Sarkozy lobbied for her release, calling her the victim of a corrupt and incompetent judicial system.
"We will not leave this young woman in prison for another 60 years," Mr. Sarkozy said when her sentence was upheld in 2011. He then called for a year-long celebration of Mexican culture in 11 cities throughout France to be dedicated to Cassez’s fate; Mexico, in a fury, canceled the entire event, some 350 events in all.
Cassez was finally set free in January and was given a national welcome when she returned to French soil. French President François Hollande called for normalizing relations with Mexico.
“I want to recognize the Mexican justice system because it put the law first,” Mr. Hollande said in a statement. “That was the trust we put in it. And today we can say that between France and Mexico, we have the best relations it is possible to have.”
But doubts, and rifts, linger. The Mexican Supreme Court decided three to two that Cassez should be released because procedural rules were violated, reported The Washington Post. That included police staging her arrest in 2005 for television crews.
But while the case showed deep flaws in Mexican justice, it didn’t answer the question of her innocence.
“We will never know whether Florence is guilty or innocent, but we know for certain there are specific people who violated due process,” Luis Gonzalez Placencia, president of the Mexico City Human Rights Commission, told the Associated Press.
Now, two European women face years in another notoriously complex judicial system.
The BBC reports that Michaella McCollum, of Dungannon in Northern Ireland, and Melissa Reid, of Lenzie near Glasgow, are accused of trying to smuggle cocaine valued at $2.3 million out of Peru.
Their arrest comes as the drug trade between Latin America and Europe grows.
Lawyer Peter Madden, representing Ms. McCollum, said both women would plead not guilty.
According to the Irish Times, the two women were arrested Aug. 6 in Lima with 24 pounds of cocaine in their suitcases.
Already two different narratives are unfolding, just as they did in the Cassez case.
Mr. Madden, the lawyer, said the women were “confused and frightened.” They claim they were threatened at gunpoint on the resort island of Ibiza, in Spain, where they were working. They say they were forced to smuggle the drugs to Peru, he said.
Spanish and Peruvian sources have doubted those claims, according to Global Post:
“In my experience, I don't think these two girls were forced to do this because – particularly when you go to South America – you need to pass several controls," said First Sergeant Alberto Arian Barilla, according to the Independent.
“The first thing you do is go to the passport control and say 'listen, this is what is happening to me'. The policeman will react so I don't think they were forced," he added.
Drive by Montreal's massive Mount Royal Park and you might see a drum circle or the local Jimi Hendrix impersonator out perfecting his moves. Enter the city’s extensive metro, and chances are there’ll be a musician waiting for your spare change. And just ask residents where to find Leonard Cohen – many can point you to his favorite bar.
In almost every corner of this city, there’s a sense of creating art for the love of art – or as they say in Montreal, “l’art pour l’art.”
Because much of the art world is driven by Canadian government funding, it has allowed many performers to take their craft professional and buoyed the local arts scene. While much of the world's art world took hits because of global economic distress, Canada's has remained vibrant.
Of course, it also helps to have history on your side. Just as actors move to Los Angeles hoping for their great discovery in the isles of the local grocery store, and musicians move to Nashville with dreams of the Grand Ole Opry, performers migrate to Montréal after being dazzled by Cirque du Soleil.
Established in 1984, the renowned Quebecois stage show is now based in Montreal, drawing acrobats from around Canada and the world who are eager to flip, twist, and sometimes swim, their way to fame.
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“A lot of acrobats live up here, because the headquarters are here,” says Eric San, the DJ and turntablist better known as Kid Koala. Having lived in the city for more than a decade, he’s seen evidence of performance in nearly every neighborhood.
“I was in the video store, and I saw these people glide along, and realized they’re riding unicycles in the video store,” he recounts, laughing at the memory. “They’re looking for videos, but they’re practicing at the same time."
Performers Isabelle Kirouac and Elise Lessard-Mercier are currently performing as “ladies of a certain age,” perched on balconies constructed around their stilts. They have trained and worked professionally in gymnastics and theater, respectively.
Having toured with troupes internationally, they both say that not having to scrounge to make ends meet makes all the difference. Many here performers receive government assistance. Within the city of Montreal, The Conseil Des Arts De Montreal annually supports more than 350 cultural organizations.
“Canada is really good for funding the arts, especially Quebec,” says Ms. Kirouac.
“In Quebec, Montréal is the best,” Ms. Lessard-Mercier chimes in, grinning through layers of old woman face paint. “I am sure of that. Many things we can participate in. We cannot work on stilts in small cities.”
All this funding pays off. Inundated with art, the crowd seems trained to appreciation performance in a considerate, engaged way. Wanderson Damaceno and Michel Gionet, who perform as two oversized flamingos – Les Deux Flamants – and have worked festivals and streets both at home in Montréal and Brazil, see the difference.
“People pose for pictures with us,” says Mr. Damaceno, mulling over his recent experience at the city's famous jazz festival in July. “Not just kids. Grown men, women, [they say] ‘It’s beautiful can I take a picture?’ It’s new for us. It’s not just for kids.”
But it’s not just the crowd that enjoys the interaction. The admiration flows both directions, says Félix Imbault, a performer who wandered the streets on stilts in a heavy coat and top hat as flirty Steampunk character “Professeur Anachronic” during the jazz festival.
“I really try to animate people who seem a bit lonely, and seem to be alone and don’t have any friends around them,” he says. “I try to go and see them and greet them, to have a personal impact on people who could be alone.”
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Japan’s watchdog Nuclear Regulation Authority announced Wednesday that a radioactive water leak at the crippled Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear power plant was magnitudes more severe than previously thought, further eroding faith in the capacity of the plant owners and government to deal with safety breaches in the aftermath of a disaster there two years ago.
The NRA increased the severity level of the crisis – which began when a leak was discovered in a storage tank Monday – from a level 1 “anomaly” to a level 3 “serious incident” on the International Nuclear and Radiological Event Scale. Each number on the scale represents a 10-fold increase in severity, with a level 3 event signaling exposure that exceeds ten times the limit for workers, according to the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency.
"I don't know if describing it this way is appropriate, but [Fukushima] is like a haunted house and, as I've said, mishaps keep happening one after the other," NRA Chairman Shunichi Tanaka said to reporters, according to Reuters. "We have to look into how we can reduce the risks and how to prevent it from becoming a fatal or serious incident."
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The announcement came as workers at the plant frantically hauled sandbags to the site of the leak to stem the flow of contaminated water. But Tokyo Electric Power, or Tepco, which runs the hobbled plant, acknowledged to The New York Times that much of the leaked water had already found its way into the surrounding soil, and could eventually reach the ocean.
This is the latest in a series of major crises that have befallen Fukushima since March 2011, when an earthquake and tsunami caused a nuclear meltdown at the plant – the worst disaster of its kind since the 1986 incident at Chernobyl.
Last month, the NRA declared an emergency at the plant after it was discovered that hundreds of tons of radioactive groundwater were leaking into the ocean from the plant each day. And last week, the plant announced that 10 workers had been unwittingly sprayed with a mist – used to cool parts of the building – that had high levels of radiation.
Tepco has been repeatedly criticized for its bungled handling of these crises, and many observers worry the latest leak is a harbinger of further disasters to come. As the Times reports,
Tepco had assumed the tanks would last at least five years. But the tank that leaked could have been in place no more than two, and workers previously found smaller leaks from similar tanks at least four times. And Hiroshi Miyano, an expert in nuclear system design at Hosei University in Tokyo, said that the tanks would be vulnerable to earthquake or tsunami, with the potential for a huge spill.
Meanwhile, the company has not yet identified the precise source of Monday’s leak, which was uncovered when workers found large puddles near a 1,000 ton tank. By the time they identified the problem, some 300 tons of water had already spilled out.
As Fox News reports, the spill will contribute to a cleanup effort that is already projected to take decades, and that has left the area around the plant devastated.
The Japanese government recently allowed international media to travel inside the uninhabited zone around the plant, on the nation's northeastern coast. Villages appear frozen in time, deserted, with everything left as it was when residents were evacuated. The crippled nuclear plant, whose reactors have still not cooled, is situated on a hill overlooking what were once beautiful beaches now littered with vehicles and debris from the tsunami.
Former residents are allowed to visit sometimes their former homes, but can't stay long and face a vigorous radiation checking procedure every time they leave. The sea, was once famous across Japan for the fish it provided, is bereft of fishing boats.
Recent tests of water from wells in the area show that radioactivity is still hundreds of times above safe drinking levels.
Women across Sweden are donning headscarves in protest.
But these are not Muslim immigrants fighting to protect their cultural norms. Rather, they are politicians and TV personalities staging a “hijab outcry” to show solidarity with Muslim women across the country, reports the BBC.
The protest comes after a pregnant woman wearing a veil was assaulted over the weekend in Sweden. An attacker reportedly tore off her head scarf and slammed her head against a car, shouting racial insults. The solidarity protest comes at an important moment – for both Sweden and Europe at large.
In May, the suburbs of Stockholm were rocked by days of youth riots, after a fatal police shooting in the suburb of Husby, which has a large proportion of first and second generation immigrants. As The Christian Science Monitor reported at the time, “Sweden's international image as a bastion of egalitarianism, harmony, and prosperity took a shocking hit as youths rioted in the suburbs of Stockholm.”
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“The riots laid bare the social isolation growing in some of Stockholm's suburbs," our correspondent noted. "But Swedes are divided over the root cause of the riots, with some insisting they are a result of failed integration of immigrants and others pointing to socio-economic marginalization.”
In France, issues over the veil continue to cause tensions. Riots broke out in Trappes, outside of Paris, in July after a routine police check on a woman who was asked to remove her face veil (as is required under French law).
The riots were brought under control in three days, but, as the Economist notes, “the French are keenly aware that a toxic mix of Islamism, joblessness and grievance can ignite copycat violence in the heavily immigrant banlieues. In 2005 weeks of rioting and car burning spread across the country’s banlieues, or outer-city housing estates, after the accidental deaths of two youths. The protests ended only after the government imposed a state of emergency."
In France, officials of all political stripes defend France’s secular law – called the burqa ban – which prohibits women from covering their entire face in public spaces. After the incident in Trappes, Interior Minister Manuel Valls said that the 2010 law “must be enforced everywhere,” according to the Economist because it’s in the "interests of women.”
Conflict over race, religion, and socio-economic divides extend beyond Europe’s Muslim populations.
Cecile Kyenge, Italy’s first black government minister, has undertaken her job amid racial slurs. This summer a lawmaker from Italy’s anti-immigrant Northern League provoked outrage in a comment comparing Ms. Kyenge to an orangutan. He said he loves "tigers, bears, monkeys, all of them, but when I see pictures of Kyenge I cannot but think of the features of an orangutan." Later, at a political rally held by Kyenge, a spectator threw bananas at the stage.
Kyenge, who originally came to Italy from Congo on a student visa, told NPR that she believes Italians have not been prepared to accept the immigrants who entering the country in increasing numbers.
"There has been a failure of education. Italians were not helped in learning about others, people with different skin color and facial characteristics," she says. "Migrants are not seen as diversity that can enrich but diversity which instills fear."
Even Oprah Winfrey has been the subject of racial tension in Europe. She said recently that on a trip in Switzerland, a clerk at a boutique refused to show her a $38,000 handbag, saying she wouldn’t be able to afford it. The incident elicited a response from Swiss tourism officials.
"We are very sorry for what happened to her, of course, because we think all of our guests and clients should be treated respectfully, in a professional way," Daniela Baer, a spokeswoman for the Swiss tourism office, told the Associated Press.
But in Sweden, many women worry that Muslim women are not being treated respectfully and fairly – and say they want to stop the "march of fascism." So women there have posted photos of themselves in hijabs across Twitter and other outlets. Campaigners include lawmakers Asa Romson and Veronica Palm, and TV host Gina Dirawi, reports the BBC.
The campaigners said they wanted to draw attention to the "discrimination that affects Muslim women" in Sweden. "We believe that's reason enough in a country where the number of reported hate crimes against Muslims is on the rise – and where women tie their headscarves extra tight so that it won't get ripped off – for the prime minister and other politicians to take action to stop the march of fascism," they wrote in the Aftonbladet newspaper.
Sweden's justice minister has agreed to meet with the campaigners Tuesday.
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In his first television interview since the birth of Prince George Alexander Louis last month, William described the intricacies of royal fatherhood in the 21st century, from learning to change a diaper to deciding that he would drive his wife and son home from the hospital rather than having their chauffeur take the wheel.
“We’ve all grown up differently to other generations [of royals],” he told CNN’s Max Foster. “And I very much feel if I can do it myself: I want to do it myself.”
In excerpts from the interview – which will be broadcast in full on Sept. 15 – William described the ways that fatherhood had already unsettled his views on the world, saying it had been “just a very different emotional experience, something I never thought I would feel myself.… it's only been a short period, but a lot of things affect me differently now."
Of course, the challenges of fatherhood are magnified when the entire world seems to be watching your every move. William, his wife, Kate Middleton, and their son have been the subjects of intense public fascination since Kate became pregnant last year, and when Prince George was born on July 22, London erupted in celebration.
But in the weeks since, the royal couple has largely kept a low profile. After all, as William explained in the CNN interview, they have had their hands full.
“He kind of, he wriggles around quite a lot,” William said. “And he doesn’t want to go to sleep that much, which is a little bit of a problem.”
He also described being given the job of changing the young prince’s first diaper – with his wife and the royal midwives hovering nearby to make sure he was up to the task.
But although he espoused a new and hands-on style of royal fatherhood, William also admitted in the interview that he was eager to return to work as Royal Air Force helicopter pilot after two weeks of paternity leave.
“As a few fathers might know, I’m actually quite looking forward to going back to work [to] get some sleep,” he said. “I’m just hoping the first few shifts I go back on don’t have any night jobs.”
When asked by Mr. Foster if he was getting up at night with the fussy baby, William said that wasn’t really his job.
“‘A little bit,” he said. “Not as much as Catherine. But you know, she’s doing a fantastic job [she’s doing] very well.”
Only days after the Indian Navy celebrated one of its proudest achievements, it is now mourning one of its greatest losses.
Last night, an explosion took place aboard an Indian submarine docked at port in Mumbai, killing 18 crew members. The blast occurred shortly after the launch of India’s first ever domestically-built aircraft carrier, widely hailed as one of the Navy’s greatest accomplishments. However, the submarine’s loss has had a sobering effect, drawing attention to the country’s aging fleet in dire need of modernization.
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Firefighters rushed to the scene of the explosion to put out the fire, which took two hours to extinguish. According to the Associated Press, all 18 sailors trapped aboard the INS Sindhurakshak have been confirmed dead.
The explosion, which occurred early Wednesday morning, took place in the submarine’s torpedo compartment, reports Reuters.
"Lot of things are in very close proximity, there is fuel, there is hydrogen, there is oxygen, there are weapons with high explosives on board," said retired Indian navy chief Arun Prakash.
"So a slightest mistake or slightest accident can trigger off a huge accident. The question of sabotage – I mean, all possibilities have to be considered – but sabotage is probably the last possibility."
The INS Sindhurakshak, built by and purchased from Russia in 1997, has had a turbulent history, according to the BBC. In February 2010, a fire broke out on board, killing one crew member. India subsequently sent it to Russia for a refit, which was only completed in June 2012, and which cost $80 million.
Nor is the submarine the Navy’s only vessel to experience accidents, writes the Hindu. In 2008, another submarine barreled into a merchant vessel during naval exercises. And in 2011, a warship collided with yet another merchant boat, causing a fire to break out.
The tragedy aboard the INS Sindhurakshak has damped the convivial mood among India’s Navy after the launch of its first domestically built aircraft carrier. As The Christian Science Monitor reports, the launch of the INS Vikrant was a watershed moment for India, a demonstration of its success and influence both regionally and globally.
By enabling countries to deploy air power far from their own shores, carriers have become the unit by which modern navies are measured. Only a handful of countries have them and can build them, with the majority of such vessels in the hands of the US Navy.
So it's no small thing that India today launched its first domestically built carrier. With the first-phase launch of what will eventually be named the INS Vikrant, India joins an elite club of countries that have built their own carriers: Only the United States, Russia, France, and Britain have done the same.
But the destruction of INS Sindhurkshak has gravely handicapped the Navy’s fleet, which is already old and needs to be upgraded to modern standards, according to Reuters. Efforts to refurbish the Indian fleet have been held back by corruption scandals.
In an interview with The Wall Street Journal, retired Rear Admiral Pradeep Kaushiva explained the impact the submarine explosion has on the Navy:
The fleet is far more aged then we would have liked. The number of submarines that are operational, because of those that are undergoing repairs, is less than was planned. There is a rolling plan for re-stocking the fleet and this hasn’t been met because production of new vessels has been deferred. And because the fleet is already small if one or two are out of action, that makes a big difference. It’s like having a fleet of 10 cars and six are very old, so your operational capacity is reduced.
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