KUNITACHI, Japan (AP) — On a recent weekend, an 84-year-old survivor of the Nagasaki atomic bombing retraced his movements on a map: the inferno during his 20-kilometer (12-mile) walk home, the “black rain” of falling radioactive particles and how he felt sick days later.
His audience of eight listened intently, some asking questions and taking notes. They hope to tell his story to future generations after he is gone, to take their listeners to the scene on Aug. 9, 1945, the way Shigeyuki Katsura saw and felt it.
In a government-organized program in the western Tokyo suburb of Kunitachi, 20 trainees ranging from their 20s to their 70s are studying wartime history, taking public speech lessons from a TV anchor and hearing stories from Katsura and another Kunitachi resident who survived Hiroshima.
“It’s been 70 years since the bombings, and we survivors are getting old. Time is limited and we must hurry,” said Terumi Tanaka, the 83-year-old head of a national group, the Tokyo-based Japan Confederation of A and H Bomb Sufferers’ Organizations.
In a way, they are going backward in this digital age, learning face-to-face from their elders in order to carry on a storytelling tradition. It is not unlike Kabuki actors inheriting their seniors’ stage names and performing their signature pieces.
The same stories may be in video and text on the Internet, but organizers feel that in-person storytelling adds an invaluable human touch.
The Aug. 6, 1945, atomic bombing in Hiroshima killed about 140,000 people from injuries and immediate effects of radiation within five months, and another one dropped on Nagasaki three days later killed 73,000. The death toll linked to the attacks and their radiation effects has since risen to 460,000, with the number of survivors declining to some 183,000, according to the latest government statistics.
Most survivors live in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Katsura said about 20 survivors live in Kunitachi, but only a few, including himself, are healthy enough to make public appearances.
Tanaka, a retired engineering professor, survived Nagasaki but lost five relatives there when he was 13. He said it would be almost impossible for storytellers to describe the horrors as vividly as the survivors, but hopes their imagination, compassion and commitment to peace will make up for any shortfall.
Mika Shimizu, a 32-year-old high school teacher, hopes to do just that, by putting a survivor’s experience in language her peers and others as young as her students can relate to.
“Even if we hear the same story, the way each of us retell it would be different, because we all have different sensibilities,” she said.
Another trainee, Sachiko Matsushita, missed her chance to find out directly from her father, who hid his exposure in Nagasaki for most of his life, and largely kept the story to himself. Initially she wanted to revisit her father’s path, but now is devoted to passing on Katsura’s.
“I’d much rather hear the stories directly from people, and pass them on to people,” the 47-year-old company worker said.
Katsura was 14 when he and his schoolmates, put to work for the war effort, were delivering a cartful of weapons parts from school to a factory when the “Fat Man” plutonium bomb exploded over Nagasaki.
“Having witnessed what the man-made nuclear weapon did to humans, I must condemn it as absolutely wrong, and the mistake should never be repeated,” he said. “That’s what drives me to tell my story, and I’ll continue to do so as long as I live.”
The course in Kunitachi is modeled on one started in Hiroshima in 2012. The first group of 50 Hiroshima storytellers debuted this year, with some 150 others underway.
Kunitachi official Mamiko Ogawa said storytelling requires a deep understanding of both the historical background and the survivors’ emotions, along with a touch of the teller’s personality. That’s what makes it different from digital archives.
“I think the stories are best conveyed when told by real people,” she said. “I hope the trainees would fully absorb the survivors’ experience and feelings, so they can tell the stories using their own sensibilities.”
Follow Mari Yamaguchi at https://twitter.com/mariyamaguchi
NEW YORK (AP) — President Barack Obama will impose even steeper cuts on greenhouse gas emissions from U.S. power plants than previously expected, senior administration officials said Sunday, in what the president called the most significant step the U.S. has ever taken to fight global warming.
A year after proposing unprecedented carbon dioxide limits, the Obama administration was poised to finalize the rule at a White House event on Monday. Obama, in a video posted to Facebook, said the limits were backed up by decades of data and facts showing that without tough action, the world will face more extreme weather and escalating health problems like asthma.
“Climate change is not a problem for another generation,” Obama said. “Not anymore.”
In his initial proposal, Obama had mandated a 30 percent nationwide cut in carbon dioxide emissions by 2030, compared to 2005 levels. The final version, which follows extensive consultations with environmental groups and the energy industry, will require a 32 percent cut instead, according to Obama administration officials, who weren’t authorized to comment by name and requested anonymity.
Opponents said they would sue the government immediately. They also planned to ask the courts to put the rule on hold while legal challenges play out.
The final version also gives states an additional two years — until 2022 — to comply, officials said, yielding to complaints that the original deadline was too soon. States will also have until 2018 instead of 2017 to submit their plans for how they intend to meet their targets.
But the administration will attempt to incentivize states to take action earlier by offering credits to states that boost renewable sources like wind and solar in 2020 and 2021, officials said.
The focus on renewables marks a significant shift from the earlier version that sought to accelerate the ongoing shift from coal-fired power to natural gas, which emits far less carbon dioxide. The final rule aims to keep the share of natural gas in the nation’s power mix the same as it is now.
The stricter limits included in the final plan were certain to incense energy industry advocates who had already balked at the more lenient limits in the proposed plan. But the Obama administration said its tweaks would cut energy costs and address concerns about power grid reliability.
The Obama administration previously predicted the emissions limits will cost up to $8.8 billion annually by 2030, although it says those costs will be far outweighed by health savings from fewer asthma attacks and other benefits. The actual price won’t be clear until states decide how they’ll reach their targets, but the administration has projected the rule would raise electricity prices about 4.9 percent by 2020 and prompt coal-fired power plants to close.
In the works for years, the power plant rule forms the cornerstone of Obama’s plan to curb U.S. emissions and keep global temperatures from climbing, and its success is pivotal to the legacy Obama hopes to leave on climate change. Never before has the U.S. sought to restrict carbon dioxide from existing power plants.
By clamping down on power plant emissions, Obama is also working to increase his leverage and credibility with other nations whose commitments he’s seeking for a global climate treaty to be finalized later this year in Paris. As its contribution to that treaty, the U.S. has pledged to cut overall emissions 26 percent to 28 percent by 2025, compared to 2005. Other major polluting nations have also stepped up including China, which pledged to halt its growth in emissions by 2030 despite an economy that’s still growing.
America’s largest source of greenhouse gases, power plants account for roughly one-third of all U.S. emissions of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases blamed for global warming. Obama’s rule assigns customized targets to each state, then leaves it up to the state to determine how to meet their targets.
Even before the rule was finalized, more than a dozen states announced plans to fight it. At the urging of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, some Republican governors have declared they’ll simply refuse to comply, setting up a certain confrontation with the EPA, which by law can force its own plan on states that fail to submit implementation plans.
Yet even in many of those states, power companies and local utility authorities have started preparing plans to meet the targets. New, more efficient plants that are replacing older and dirtier ones have already pushed emissions down nearly 13 percent since 2005, putting them about halfway to meeting Obama’s goal.
In Congress, lawmakers have sought to use legislation to stop Obama’s regulation, and McConnell has tried previously to use an obscure, rarely successful maneuver under the Congressional Review Act to allow Congress to vote it down.
The more serious threat to Obama’s rule will likely come in the courts. The Electric Reliability Coordinating Council, which represents energy companies, said 20 to 30 states were poised to join with industry in suing over the rule.
The Obama administration has a mixed track record in fending off legal challenges to its climate rules. Earlier this year, a federal appeals court ruled against 15 states and a coal company that tried to block the power plant rule before it was finalized. The Supreme Court has also affirmed Obama’s authority to regulate pollution crossing state lines and to use the decades-old Clean Air Act to reduce greenhouse gases — the legal underpinning for the power plant rule.
But the high court in June ruled against his mercury emissions limits, arguing the EPA failed to properly account for costs. Federal courts have also forced Obama to redo other clean air standards that industry groups complained were too onerous.
With the end of Obama’s presidency drawing nearer, his climate efforts have become increasingly entangled in the next presidential election. The power plant rule won’t go into effect until long after Obama leaves office, putting its implementation in the hands of his successor. Among other Republican critics, 2016 candidate and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker has said he would drastically scale down the EPA if elected and shift most of its duties to state regulators.
Reach Josh Lederman on Twitter at http://twitter.com/joshledermanAP
NEW YORK (AP) — Dozens of people stopped in Manhattan intersections gazing at photos of endangered animals shining on the side of the Empire State Building.
Organizers say the Saturday night event was a first-of-its-kind live video projection.
It drew large crowds of spectators, many taking photos with their smartphones.
Images of endangered animals, including birds, tigers, bears and other creatures, shined on the south side of one of the city’s most iconic landmarks.
The event was meant to spark conversations about mass extinction.
It was organized as part of a promotion for a new Discovery Channel documentary, Racing Extinction, which is set to air in December.
DETROIT (AP) — A teenager who spent nearly 40 days in custody before a judge cleared him of throwing a dangerous snowball is suing the Detroit school district, saying his rights were violated by a malicious prosecution.
Dominique Rondeau, now 18, was accused of throwing an icy snowball that shattered the windshield of a school police car in December 2013. He denied it. Unable to come up with $2,000 bond, he spent weeks in juvenile detention until his bond was reduced.
A judge dismissed the case after officers looked at a video in court and couldn’t identify Rondeau as the person who threw the snowball, the Detroit Free Press reported Saturday (http://on.freep.com/1LWvkI4 ).
“The only evidence they had was the camera, and the camera couldn’t see anything,” said Rondeau, who was 16 at the time.
Maria Miller, a spokeswoman for prosecutors, said her office relied on the officers’ assertions that they could identify Rondeau, who is considered emotionally impaired and has had other run-ins with authorities.
Rondeau has a lawsuit pending in federal court. He says his rights were violated by the school district and the officers. The district denies any wrongdoing.
“How does it even get this far? Didn’t anybody look at the video?” said Rondeau’s attorney, Wolfgang Mueller.
Information from: Detroit Free Press, http://www.freep.com
BEIRUT (AP) — Clashes between members of al-Qaida’s branch in Syria and a rebel faction in the country’s north believed to have been trained by the U.S. government have stopped after the rebels abandoned their headquarters, activists said Saturday.
The Nusra Front meanwhile released a video showing one of the captured rebels saying that the men in the faction known as Division 30 were trained in Turkey by U.S. officers and sent back to Syria with money and weapons.
The fighting came a few days after the U.S. and Turkey announced the outlines of a deal to help rebels push the Islamic State group back from a strip of territory it controls along the Syrian-Turkish border, replacing it with more moderate rebels backed by Washington and Ankara.
Rami Abdurrahman, who heads the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said members of the Division 30 faction fled to a nearby area controlled by a Syrian Kurdish militia. Abu al-Hassan Marea, a Syrian activist who is currently in Turkey near the Syrian border, confirmed Saturday that Division 30 fighters have withdrawn from their headquarters.
Abdurrahman and Marea said Division 30 had less than 60 fighters and that on Friday alone the group lost five fighters and 18 others were wounded.
A representative of Division 30 did not respond to written questions sent to the group’s Facebook account.
On Friday night the Nusra Front said it attacked Division 30 and abducted some of its members, including its commander, because they were trained by the CIA and vowed in a statement to cut off “the arms” of the American government in Syria. During the fighting, U.S.-led coalition warplanes attacked the Nusra Front fighters according to activists.
On Saturday Nusra Front posted a video showing the operation in which several Division 30 members were captured and the aftermath of the U.S.-led coalition airstrike. Five men were seen being taken with their hands behind their heads.
One of the alleged rebels captured by Nusra Front identified himself as Zakaria Ahmad Safsouf from the northwestern village of Jbala saying he was asked by a rebel commander to go to Aleppo where he guarded a post. He said that after spending between 10 to 20 days in Aleppo, fighters were sent to Turkey for a 45-day training program that ended with each rebel being given an M16 assault rifle as well as $400 and 400 Turkish Liras ($150).
“They then send them back to Syria to fight the Nusra Front,” the man, with a light beard said while standing in front of what appeared to be sand bags in a field. “There are senior American officers and telecommunications equipment so that (rebels) communicate with the coalition.”
A masked Nusra Front fighter also appeared in the video saying his group has “cut of the hands of the West and Americans.”
A U.S. military official seemed to deny any American connection to Division 30, saying on Friday that no member of a U.S.-backed rebel faction had been abducted.
Also Saturday, Syria’s state media and the main Kurdish militia in the country said government forces and Kurdish fighters have captured the last pocket that was held by the Islamic State group five weeks after the extremists stormed the city and captured several southern neighborhoods.
“Out units were able to fully liberate the city of Hassakeh from Daesh’s mercenaries and were able to evict them from the city,” said a statement from the Kurdish People’s Protection Units, or YPG, using an Arabic acronym of the Islamic State group.
Syria’s state news agency said Syrian troops “have wiped out that last den of Daesh’s terrorists” in Hassakeh.
Hassakeh had been controlled by Syrian troops and Kurdish militia until IS fighters stormed the city in late June.
The YPG has been the main force fighting against IS in Syria under the cover of airstrikes by the U.S.-led coalition.
In central Syria, troops captured several areas and a power station they lost last year in battles with militants including Nusra Front fighters, according to the Observatory and state media. The Observatory said 27 insurgents have been killed since Friday.
Syria’s civil war, now in its fifth year, has killed more than 220,000 people and wounded more than a million.
LONDON (AP) — An aerobatic stunt plane plummeted to the ground during a routine at a car and music festival in northwest England Saturday, killing the pilot.
Video shot by an eyewitness showed one jet in a two-plane team going into a steep dive and plowing into a wooded area during the CarFest event at the Oulton Park motor-racing track. Photos showed smoke rising from a field near the site, about 200 miles (320 kilometers) northwest of London.
DJ Chris Evans, who founded CarFest, said “one of the pilots involved in a synchro display lost his life.”
He said that on the advice of police and accident investigators the weekend festival, attended by thousands of people, would continue.
The plane belonged to the Gnat Display Team, a charitable group that flies vintage Royal Air Force Gnat fighter jets.