Chernobyl: Thirty Years Later

On April 26, 1986, a systems test started at reactor four at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in the city of Pripyat, Ukraine near the border of Belarus. A power surge happened and after a failed attempt to enable an emergency shut down, a reactor vessel burst and caused a series of steam explosions, igniting an exposed moderator.

International Nuclear Event Scale
The International Nuclear Event Scale ranks nuclear accidents on a scale of one to seven. Chernobyl and one other nuclear accident are the only ones to have reached the seventh scale

The explosions and fires caused more than 350,000 people in both countries evacuated from their homes and resettled into different communities.

Thirty plant employees died from either in the fire or from Acute Radiation Sickness after the event was over.

Today, on April 26, 2016, the effects of the Chernobyl disaster can still be felt by the countries and the people who live in them.

The areas affected by the nuclear accident were classified into four zones: three of those zones had to be evacuated, and citizens had to be resettled elsewhere and were not allowed to return. In the fourth zone, the villages still exist and the people still live in them.

Until fairly recently, people who still lived in the fourth zone were able to seek help from medical professionals about their consistent exposure to radiation.  But the Ukrainian economy had been suffering from the war goin on in the east and from Russia’s annexation of Crimea. The country had also taken loans of billions of dollars from the United States, the United Kingdom, and the World Bank itself.

Ukraine has eliminated the school lunch program for children who live in the fourth zone, and it has caused an outraged since parents have made the argument that the school lunch was the only meal children would be able to eat during the school days and school weeks without any type of radiation in it.

According to an exclusive report by the Associated Press, nuts, berries, and mushrooms have radiation levels that are two to fives more than what is considered safe, according to Ukraine’s Institute of Agricultural Radiology.

Animals are also affected by the Chernobyl disaster. For farm animals, dairy products can still possess levels of radiation in them.

For the wildlife in the abandoned 1,600 square miles, National Geographic reveals the reality of this bittersweet environmental success.

Despite the still high levels of radiation in the area, large mammals in the area have been repopulating. After the relocation of towns and villages, the animals were given a chance to breed and raise offspring without being hunted by nearby people.

A picture of a group of Przewalski's horses.
Przewalski’s horses were on on the verge of going extinct. As part of an effort to increase the population, they were introduced into the abandoned area of Chernobyl, where they have thrived.

A study that was released Monday revealed that population of animals increased especially on the Belarus size of the exclusion zone. The study found there to be “no evidence [that] suggest … their distributions were suppressed in highly contaminated areas.”

Today, the plant and the exploded reactor still stand. Ukraine is making a $2.25 billion shelter to put over the reactor for a long period of time so the government can start working on removing the structure and the radioactive waste inside of it.

The final death toll from the nuclear disaster runs between the number of 9,000 to 90,000. The World health Organization predicts that in due time, people will die from Chernobyl related cancers and leukemia, which is a similar result from the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

With the growing push for cleaner energy and a push to stay awat from nuclear energy and waste, Chernobyl is a lesson in the importance of clean energy and waste and the lengths we must go to protect humans from tragic accidents.


The UK, Northern Ireland and Reproductive Rights

In the center of the picture, a woman holds a piece of cardboard that says, "I have this pill I am taking now!" Behind her, other protestors hold similar signs with prochoice words and slogans.

The topic of abortion is often touchy in the United States, as we talked about in my Ethnicity and Social Movements class last week. In my recitation on Friday, my teaching assistant shared a story about a woman in Indiana who was sentenced to 20 years in feticide.

According to NBC News, she “is the first woman in the U.S. to be charged, convicted, and sentenced on a feticide charge.”

Earlier in the week, I heard something similar that I thought my teaching assistant has been referring to but instead it took place in Northern Ireland.

According to the BBC, a woman in Belfast bought drugs online to terminate her pregnancy. In Northern Ireland, as there is absolutely no abortion access for women.

At the time the Belfast woman terminated her pregnancy, she was 19 years old. Now almost twy years later at 21, she has been given a suspended prison sentence.

Some people who read this at first might be confused. In public education in the United States, I was taught Ireland was part of the U.K. Some other students who were in American public education may also tell you that.

However, some students who were educated in the U.S., may be able to tell you that the land we know is Ireland is split into two separate locations: the Republic of Ireland, which is the sovereign nation mainstream American might be most exposed to; and Norther Ireland, which could potentially be less heard of outside of history or geography classes, is part of the U.K.

In 1967, the U.K. legalized abortions and registered practicioners and regulated the practice through the National Health Service.

So why does Northern Ireland not follow this law the same way England, Scotland, and Wales do?

It’s because the law never applied to the country to begin with. In Northern Ireland, abortion is illegal unless it is “to save the life of the mother” or carrying the pregnancy to term would put the women in danger either physically or mentally.

Even though this law is in place, the woman is still guilty of her miscarriage under The Offences against the Person Act 1981, which is a list of crimes that can be considered offenses of violence on a person.

Another story by the BBC about this situation says that women who live in Northern Ireland travel to other countries in the United Kingdom in order to receive legal and safe abortions.

In England, Scotland and Wales, women can legally have an abortion up to 24 weeks (168 days). After that, abortion can be legal beyond that limit in cases where the mother’s health is  being threatened or if there is a substantial risk the baby will have serious disabilities.

It is interesting that two similar situations are happening in what are supposed to be two of the most developed countries in the world are still fighting over what women should do about their own bodies.

The difference in these two stories is that the procedure was available to the woman in Belfast, but since she personally did have the resources to access it on her own, she had to use other resources that are otherwise seen as taboo to other societies.

The woman in Indiana claims to have given birth to a stillborn, but prosecutors are insisting the baby was alive when she gave birth and she neglected to get help. But activists are on her side, saying the conviction is “punishment for having a miscarraige and then seeking medical care…something that no woman should worry would lead to jail time.

Reproductive rights are more than just wanting to terminate pregnancies and wanting contraception. It is also about giving medical and psychological support to women whose pregnancies are physically tolling or traumatic experiences.

I’m curious as to see how these to stories, which is are opposite sides of a body of water play out. I hope to keep you updated.


Ireland Celebrates Centennial of the Easter Uprising

A photo of Ireland's president, Michael Higgins after he lays down a wreath in Dublin for the anniversary of the Easter Rising

In some countries, such as Australia the Republic of Ireland, celebrate Easter on the Monday after Easter Sunday, which is called exactly what you think it is–Easter Monday.

This Easter Monday, the Irish have more to celebrate than the arrival of the Easter Bunny and the resurrection of Jesus.

This year, the Irish celebrated their 100 year anniversary of the Easter Rising.

The Easter Rising was a rebellion created by Irish republicans to overthrow Great Britain’s rule and establish themselves on their own, paving the way for Ireland to declare their independence and become a republic on Easter Monday in 1949.

A thousand Irish citizens took over prominent buildings in the city center that day, sparking a fight that lasted throughout the rest of Easter Week and ended on the 29 of April. Presently, almost 500 people were killed and thousands were injured, most of the casualties being civilians.

Thousands of people took to the streets in Dublin to remember the rebellion, starting with a military parade by the Irish Army, followed by the Irish Air Corps participating in a flyover. A member of the military read from the 1916 Proclamation during a reenactment of the creation of the declaration during the revolt.

The most notable thing about this rebellion outside of historical significance to the Irish Republic is the timing of it all.

The rebellion came at a time when Great Britain and the rest of the United Kingdom were so focused on the war against Germany. They were putting all their time and resources into taking out Germany that they were completely unaware of the Irish’s plans.

And lots of Dublin citizens in the present day see the uprising as an act of treason, since (whether they liked it or not), Ireland was indeed with Britain fighting against German forces as well.

But the Irish are celebrating this Easter Week, 100 years later, knowing that without the Easter Rising, their road to independence would have been longer.

Argentina in hot waters with China over illegal fishing boat

While it seems like the United States and the rest of the world are impressed by Argentina’s willingness to become part of the nation’s leading powers again, China may end up thinking differently.

The Daily Mail in the United Kingdom reported earlier this week that the Argentine coast guard announced that it sank an illegal fishing boat that was displaying China’s flag.

The coast was ordered to sink the boat after detecting it fishing illegally. The Argentine coast guard, in an effort to protect the resources, went out on the waters to confront the ship.

The coast guard said in a statement they fired warning shots after the vessel denied requests from them in both English and Spanish.

The Chinese vessel refused these orders by turning off its lights and tried to crash into a coast guard boat on purpose.

Following the attempted crash, the coast guard decided to open fire on the illegal fishing boat, sinking it.

According to CNN, the coast guard managed to rescue four members that were on board–one captain and three mates–but the 28 other people who were on the ship were rescued by other Chinese vessels nearby.

China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs is demanding an official investigation be held, claiming Argentina’s coast guard chased the boat for hours before firing at it.

Though this may not seem like a big issue on the surface to those unfamiliar with Argentina, I believe this incident may be costly in their slightly stable relationship with the country.

A lot of Argentina’s relationships with other countries suffered under the ruling of Cristina Fernández de Kirchner and her late husband and predecessor, Néstor, but their relationship with China did not.

They established diplomatic ties in 1972 and have embassies for each other in their respective nations. Argentina is also China’s third largest trading partner and has the third largest economy in Latin America.

In 2014, former president Kirchner and Chinese president Xi Jinping signed more than 20 trade deals, including deals on raw materials, something China desires greatly and something Argentina and easily give to them.

Given the countries signed more than 20 trade deals two years ago, I find it hard to think or believe there isn’t anything Argentina is keeping from China they don’t already have themselves.

I also find it upsetting the Chinese vessels were in exclusive Argentine waters to start, unless they were unaware of the zones at the time of they either entered the water or were approached by the coast guard.

The investigation should be conducted in collaboration by both countries, that way there is no grounds for one country to say that the other held an unfair investigation.

China and Argentina do not have the same or similar tensions in their relationship the way same way the US does with China. Argentina’s eagerness to work with the U.S. also reflects their willingness to (to say in unprofessionally) “be friends with everyone” regardless of governmental and political structures.

It will interesting to see how this plays out in the upcoming weeks, especially since Obama is still set to visit Argentina next week.

Argentina should consider accepting refugees, tend to citizens first

French President François Hollande is currently on a tour of South America, and visited the country of Argentina yesterday, according to an article by the Associated Press*.

President Hollande made a remark at a press conference, suggesting new Argentine President Mauricio Macri should accept  refugees from Syrian and Jordanian camps.

The comment was conveyed via translator and President Macri did not seem to make any visible facial reactions to the comment.

The two men signed many agreements today on issues such as terrorism, but the receiving of refugees was not part of it.

However, I agree with Hollande when he says Argentina should take in refugees.

Argentina has gone through a lot since Macri was sworn in December.

Since he has taken office, he has gone through lengths to hold his country responsible for their issues with the international market that started in 2001. Now he will look to make amends with some of the people his predecessors have upset.

President Obama also announced recently that he will visit the country after his historic visit to Cuba next month, showing that President Macri is serious about helping Argentina rebuild its relationship with the United States.

If Argentina did decide to receive Syrian refugees, it would not be anything new to the country. For one, they have accepted refugees in the past.

Argentina also has the second highest Syrian population in South America, with the first being Brazil. The migration of Syrians peaked in the 20th century, because of wars happening in the Middle East. Coincidentally, I learned in my Ethnicity and Social Movements class this week, that one of the biggest reasons immigration is war.

I am in no way saying the Argentine government should take refugees this very moment.

Along with their money issues, workers are going on strike to protest multiple firings that have occurred. He needs to tend to his own people before he can take in others.

President Macri should not turn away from the idea of placing refugees in the country. He can always plan ahead of time as governments and agreements are made and change and then act how he sees fit.

*The link redirects to the Washington Post’s electronic publishing of the article, but it was written by and for the Associated Press