Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Nuclear incident as bad as Chernobyl

In this Sunday, April 10, 2011 photo released on Monday, April 11, 2011 by Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO), workers in protective suits watch monitors as they operate remote-controlled rubble removing equipment to clear debris in the compound of the tsunami-crippled Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant in Okuma town, Fukushima Prefecture, northeastern Japan. (AP Photo/Tokyo Electric Power Co.)  

Japan raises severity level at the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant, matching history's worst.

Japan equates nuclear crisis severity to Chernobyl

TOKYO – Japan ranked its nuclear crisis at the highest possible severity on an international scale — the same level as the 1986 Chernobyl disaster — even as it insisted Tuesday that radiation leaks are declining at its tsunami-crippled nuclear plant.
The higher rating is an open acknowledgement of what was widely understood already: The nuclear accident at the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant is the second-worst in history. It does not signal a worsening of the plant's status in recent days or any new health dangers.
Still, people living nearby who have endured a month of spewing radiation and frequent earthquakes said the change in status added to their unease despite government efforts to play down any notion that the crisis poses immediate health risks.
Miyuki Ichisawa closed her coffee shop this week when the government added her community, Iitate village, and four others to places people should leave to avoid long-term radiation exposure. The additions expanded the 12-mile (20-kilometer) zone where people had already been ordered to evacuate soon after the March 11 tsunami swamped the plant.
"And now the government is officially telling us this accident is at the same level of Chernobyl," Ichisawa said. "It's very shocking to me."
Japanese nuclear regulators said the severity rating was raised from 5 to 7 on an international scale overseen by the International Atomic Energy Agency due to new assessments of the overall radiation leaks from the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant.
According to the Vienna-based atomic energy agency, the new ranking signifies a major accident that includes widespread effects on the environment and people's health. The scale, designed by experts convened by the IAEA and other groups in 1989, is meant to help the public, the technical community and the media understand the public safety implications of nuclear events.
The International Atomic Energy Agency said Japan's decision did not mean the disaster had been downplayed previously.

Creepy and abandoned mansions

Mudhouse mansion (Robert Batina)  

Ghastly rumors and notorious former owners haunt these empty, once-regal U.S. estates.

 Creepy Abandoned Mansions 

By the time Thomas Brennan and Mary Alice Shallow bought their 5,000-square-foot farmhouse from Union State Bank, it had sat abandoned for nine months. At a paltry going price of $275,000, the Putnam County, N.Y. abode was nearly 60% cheaper than the other neighborhood homes, thanks to a foreclosure discount and years of neglect.
The property needed repairs, with some the worst damage having been inflicted by squatters, looters and vandals in the nine months leading up to Brennan and Shallow's purchase.
"The copper plumbing had been stolen out of the house, the windows were busted, the front door broken down," says Brennan. "Kids were inside vandalizing the house, and other people were stealing the antique furniture."
In Pictures: Nine Creepy Abandoned MansionsIn Pictures: Kate Middleton's Home
Homes across the U.S. sit abandoned, empty and vulnerable to vandalism, due in large part to the ongoing housing crisis. The U.S. Census Bureau reported that the national homeowner vacancy rate for the fourth quarter of 2010 was 2.7%. That represents more than 2 million empty homes--including some mansions.
A quick search on real estate listing sites like Realtor.com and Trulia.com shows thousands of palatial estates deserted and patiently awaiting sale, as pools turn green and dust settles on granite countertops. Some of these abodes belong to owners who have listed the properties and relocated. Many more face foreclosure or are already bank-owned.
"What's different about this foreclosure cycle is it has taken houses out of every aspect of the housing market," explains Rick Sharga, senior vice president at RealtyTrac, an Irvine, Calif., foreclosure listing site. "You rarely saw mansions in foreclosure [until recently], and now you are seeing much more expensive types of properties in foreclosure."
RealtyTrac has seen an unprecedented level of default activity in some of America's ritziest neighborhoods. For example, Beverly Hills, the sixth-most-expensive ZIP code in the country, had a 700% increase in foreclosures of homes $2 million and up over the last three years.
We compiled a list of creepy abandoned mansions. They've all been empty for years. In a few cases, the homes have recently been sold to buyers willing restore them. Some are foreclosures; some the targets of longstanding legal battles; some are still actively owned from afar.
What do we mean by creepy? We confined our search to homes decaying into the ground, boasting spooky legends or tragic murders, or serving as sites for sordid illegal activities. Many of them are for sale: Boxer Mike Tyson's deserted former Southington, Ohio, manor is listed for $1.3 million, and the allegedly haunted New Hampshire castle once inhabited by railroad tycoon Benjamin Ames Kimball can be had for a steeply discounted $880,000.
Unfortunately there is no easy answer for what to do with empty structures, whether they're mansions, more typical single-family residences or unfinished developments.
Here are five of the creepiest, abandoned mansions:
Mudhouse Mansion
4730 Mudhouse Rd., Lancaster, OH
Across the U.S. sprawling estates sit empty and abandoned. Fairfield County’s Mudhouse Mansion is one eerie example. This 19th-century red brick building has not housed a regular occupant since the 1930s, despite having an owner who still pays the property taxes. The once regal structure has fallen victim to fires, vandalism and rumors of ghastly hauntings.
Mudhouse Mansion in Lancaster, OH
Photo: Robert Batina

Vacant Mansion
3737 State Route 534, Southington, OH
The vacant manse was home to boxer Mike Tyson in the 1990s. The current asking price is $1.3 million, despite overgrown lawns and a moss-colored pool.

BYU asks star to quit attending classes

Jimmer Fredette #32 of the Brigham Young Cougars (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)  

 Jimmer Fredette, college basketball's player of the year, is doing all of his coursework online.

Why BYU has asked Jimmer Fredette to stop attending classes

Whereas other NBA prospects often drop out of school during spring semester in order to focus all their attention on preparing for the upcoming draft, Jimmer Fredette has stopped attending classes for a different reason.
BYU actually requested it.
College basketball's consensus national player of the year is doing all his schoolwork online this semester because his presence had become a distraction in class. Al Fredette told the Glens Falls Post-Star that starstruck students were approaching his son during lectures for autographs and photographs.

Photos capture little-seen side of Civil War

Soldier's family in Civil War camp. (Apic – Getty Images)  

Rare glimpses of life between battles offer surprising — and sometimes unsettling — revelations.

Rare Civil War photos document life between battles

America's Civil War, whose 150th anniversary is marked on Tuesday, is so often described in battles — the Battle of Gettysburg, the Battle of Bull Run, the Battle of Fort Sumter — that it may be easy to forget that the soldiers who fought in the four-year war had a lot of time between fighting. The rare photos seen below document just that — the time soldiers spent waiting, preparing, recovering or just living.
Click image to view rare Civil War photos
Apic — Getty Images
"We wanted to show more of the daily life of these people and remind people that they were living their lives in the middle of this horrible war and there was a lot of daily living going on," says Kelly Knauer, editor of "TIME The Civil War: An Illustrated History."