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Apple and Microsoft Take Different Approaches to Japan Relief

If you were trying to solicit donations for earthquake victims in Japan, what approach would you take? Take a look at how technology rivals Microsoft and Apple decided to handle this delicate situation.

First up, Microsoft. The company tweeted a plea on its Bing search engine Twitter account, offering to donate up to $100,000 for earthquake victims, but under one condition: that users would retweet the message, which would result in Microsoft increasing its donations by one dollar per retweet:

It’s straightforward enough, and sounds a lot like an offer we told you about yesterday from the nonprofit Explore.org, offering to contribute $1 for each Facebook “Like” of its “Dog Bless You” Facebook fundraising page received. That seemed to go smoothly yesterday, where we heard a few complaints but overall the reaction was positive.

Microsoft’s idea was not so well-received. Shortly after the company initiated its fundraiser, a backlash began, where some called the scheme a crass marketing attempt, and comedian Michael Ian Black told his 1.6 million Twitter followers in no uncertain terms that Microsoft should “stop using tragedy as a f***ing marketing opportunity.” The company soon withdrew the deal, offering instead to simply donate the $100K:

Next up, Apple. Instead of offering to contribute anything to the earthquake victims, Apple set up a special place(iTunes link) in its iTunes store, promising to deliver 100% of any donations to the Red Cross to benefit Japan. Apple’s iTunes donation page makes it as easy to help earthquake victims as it is to buy iTunes music, where as you can see, the suggested donations are in amounts of $5, $10, $25, $50, $100 and $200:

So that’s Apple’s technique — not to actually donate money, but to encourage everyone else to stop by the iTunes Store (and perhaps buy something else while they’re there), and help the poor souls laid low by the tragic quake and its ominous nuclear aftermath. Of course, Apple is donating something with this deal, because it’s not free to move boatloads of cash from one place to another.

What do you think of this, commenters? Should multibillion dollar corporations simply donate to these causes, should they try to get us involved, or should they just facilitate our donations? Are these crass attempts at capitalizing on horrific tragedy? Do nonprofits get a pass, as long as it doesn’t look like they’re self-promoting too much? Where do you draw the line?

*Source: Mashabe

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Strong chance of a 7.0 earthquake: Japan agency

While relief efforts continued Monday for survivors of the earthquake and tsunami that devastated Japan’s northeast, the country’s meteorological agency warned of the possibility of a 7.0 or higher magnitude temblor in the coming days.

According to the agency, there is a 70 per cent chance of another quake in the next three days and a 50 per cent chance of another hitting three days after that because of high tectonic activity.

Meanwhile, the country is racing to prevent a humanitarian disaster as rescue workers struggle to reach tens of thousands of people left homeless by the 9.0 earthquake and tsunami.

Japanese officials raised the estimated death toll to more than 10,000 Sunday, as hundreds of thousands of survivors salvaged what belongings they could and sought food and water at emergency centres.

Friday’s quake and tsunami damaged key nuclear plants and left entire cities demolished in their wake. Police in the northeastern Miyagi prefecture, one of the worst affected by the disaster, estimated Sunday that more than 10,000 people had been killed in the region, which is home to about 2.3 million people.

So far, the number of confirmed dead is 1,800, which includes about 200 bodies that were found along the coast on Sunday. But thousands more are still missing.

Hundreds of thousands of survivors have sought refuge at emergency centres, which quickly ran low on food, water and other supplies. An estimated 1.4 million households were still without water Sunday, and at least 1.9 million homes did not have electricity.

Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan called the disaster the worst crisis since World War II, and appealed in a television address for the Japanese people to come together to rebuild.

“This is Japan’s most severe crisis since the war ended 65 years ago,” Kan said.

While the official death toll may not be known for days, or weeks, CTV’s Tom Walters, speaking from Narita, Japan, said locals on the ground have little doubt that the death toll is much higher than the estimates being released by officials.

“There really is so much destruction, so many areas of debris that are difficult to search, so many areas were we are told rescuers have yet to reach,” Walters told CTV News Channel on Sunday. “I don’t think there is any confidence here on a full accounting for the human toll of this disaster.”

In the town of Minamisanrikucho, about 10,000 people, or two-thirds of the population, have not been heard from since the tsunami buried the town. Images shown on state broadcaster NHK showed only a handful of tall structures still standing in the town, including the local hospital.

In the port city of Sendai, firefighters sifted through the rubble, recovering bodies. Survivors in the town sought shelter in local community centres, schools and at city hall.

Outside the city, a large refinery remained on fire, with 30-metre flames shooting into the air. Plumes of smoke hovered over the town.

Explosion at Japan Nuclear Plant

(CNN) — A second explosion has hit the nuclear plant in Japan that was damaged in Friday’s earthquake, but officials said it had resisted the blast.

TV footage showed smoke rising from Fukushima plant’s reactor 3, a day after an explosion hit reactor 1.

Japan’s nuclear safety agency said the blast was believed to have been caused by the build-up of hydrogen.

Officials said the reactor core was still intact, and that radiation levels were below legal limits.

Technicians have been battling to cool three reactors at the Fukushima 1 plant since Friday, when the quake and tsunami combined to knock out the cooling system.

The government said an operation pumping seawater into the reactors to help lower the temperature was still going on despite the explosion.

Evacuations

The natural disaster killed hundreds and left thousands missing, sparking a huge rescue operation.

The BBC’s Rachel Harvey in the port town of Minami Sanriku describes it as a scene of utter devastation, with the landscape strewn with debris.

She says everything has been flattened until about 2km inland, and says it looks unlikely that many survivors will be found.

Japanese police have so far confirmed 1,597 deaths, but the final toll is expected to be much higher.

Kyodo news agency reported that 2,000 bodies had been found on the shores of Miyagi prefecture on Monday, but the claims could not be verified.

Tens of thousands of people have been evacuated from the area around Fukushima nuclear plant.

At least 22 people are now said to be being treated for the effects of exposure to radiation.

Government spokesman Yukio Edano said there was a low possibility of radioactive contamination from the latest explosion at the plant.

He said the reactor’s containment vessel had resisted the explosion.

The operators of the Fukushima plant said seven people were missing and three were injured by the blast.

Experts say a disaster on the scale of Chernobyl in the 1980s is highly unlikely because the reactors are built to a much higher standard and have much more rigorous safety measures.

Powerful aftershocks

Earlier, Prime Minister Naoto Kan said the situation at the nuclear plan was alarming, and the earthquake had thrown Japan into “the most severe crisis since World War II”.

He announced that the country would have to endure rolling power cuts from Monday.

But later, the government announced that the planned blackouts had been postponed, saying they may not be needed if people can conserve energy.

The government advised people not to go to work or school on Monday because the transport network could not deal with demand.

The capital is also still experiencing regular aftershocks, amid warnings that another powerful earthquake is likely to strike very soon.

Meanwhile, tens of thousands of relief workers, soldiers and police have been deployed to the disaster area.

Rescue workers have found scenes of total devastation in isolated coastal towns north-east of the main port city of Sendai, which was itself partially destroyed by the waves.

Preliminary estimates put repair costs from the earthquake and tsunami in the tens of billions of dollars, a huge blow for the Japanese economy that – while the world’s third largest – has been ailing for two decades.

The government announced it was pumping 15 trillion yen ($182bn; £113bn) into the economy to prop up the markets – which slumped on opening.

Map

Photo: Japan Disaster – The Aftermath

Blast rocks building at Japanese nuclear plant

(CNN) — White smoke rose again over a nuclear plant in northeastern Japan Monday after an explosion at a building housing a reactor there.

A buildup of hydrogen in the Fukushima Daiichi plant’s No. 3 reactor building likely caused the blast, authorities said, which injured six people. But the explosion did not damage the reactor or result in significant radiation leakage, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano told reporters.

The No. 3 reactor is one of two at the plant where workers have been injecting seawater in a last-ditch effort to cool down fuel rods and prevent a full meltdown after an 8.9-magnitude earthquake and the resulting tsunami Friday disabled cooling systems.

“There is no massive radioactive leakage,” Edano said after Monday’s blast.

The explosion blew away the roof and walls of the building housing the reactor, Japan’s Kyodo News reported. A similar blast occurred Saturday at the plant’s No. 1 reactor.

On Sunday, Edano warned that the same sort of explosion could occur in the No. 3 building.

After Monday’s blast, authorities ordered at least 500 residents remaining within 20 kilometers (12 miles) of the plant to stay inside, Edano said. About 200,000 people evacuated the area over the weekend after a government order.

Japanese officials have said that they are operating under the presumption that there may be a partial meltdown in the No. 3 and No. 1 nuclear reactors at the Daiichi plant. Authorities have not yet been able to confirm a meltdown, because it is too hot inside the affected reactors to check.

The Tokyo Electric Power Company, which runs the plant, said in a news release late Sunday that radiation levels outside that plant remained high.

Kyodo, citing the same company, said that there were measurements of 751 microsieverts and 650 microsieverts of radiation early Monday. Both are above the legal limit, albeit less than one reading recorded Sunday.

A microsievert is an internationally recognized unit measuring radiation dosage, with people typically exposed during an entire year to a total of about 1,000 microsieverts.

Authorities early Sunday noted high radiation levels at another plant, located 135 kilometers (85 miles) away in Onagawa. The International Atomic Energy Agency later said that Japanese officials reported that levels had returned to “normal.” It also said the increase detected earlier “may have been due to a release of radioactive material from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.”

Most experts aren’t expecting a reprise of the 1986 Chernobyl meltdown, which killed 32 plant workers and firefighters in the former Soviet Union and at least 4,000 others from cancers tied to radioactive material released by the plant.

Analysts said Japan’s crisis is unique.

“This is unprecedented,” said Stephanie Cooke, the author of “In Mortal Hands: A Cautionary History of the Nuclear Age.” “You’ve never had a situation with multiple reactors at risk.”

Japan’s 54 nuclear reactors provide about 30% of the country’s electricity, according to the World Nuclear Association.

Daiichi’s No. 1 reactor — the oldest of six boiling-water units at the site, according to the nuclear association — began commercial operation in March 1971. The No. 3 reactor began commerical operation five years later.

“Nuclear facilities in Japan … were built to withstand earthquakes — but not an 8.9 earthquake,” said James Walsh, a CNN contributor and research associate at MIT’s security studies program.

The crisis has stoked fears of a full-on nuclear meltdown, a catastrophic failure of the reactor core that has the potential for widespread release of radiation.

Officials are working to prevent such a calamity by injecting seawater and boron into the affected reactors — even though salt and boron will corrode the reactors, rendering the Daiichi plant inoperable.

“Essentially, they are waving the white flag and saying, ‘This plant is done,'” Walsh said. “This is a last-ditch mechanism to try to prevent overheating and to prevent a partial or full meltdown.”

The situation — part of what Prime Minister Naoto Kan called the “toughest and most difficult crisis for Japan” since the end of World War II — has national and global repercussions as authorities and scientists debate the dangers of nuclear power.

Cooke said that it may take years to fully assess the damage at Japan’s worst-hit reactors, much less to get them working again. And authorities may never definitively determine how much radiation was emitted, or how many got sick because of it.

If the effort to cool the nuclear fuel inside the reactor fails completely — a scenario that experts who have spoken to CNN say is unlikely — radiation could be released into the atmosphere or water. That could lead to widespread cancer and other health problems, experts say.

Authorities have downplayed such a scenario, insisting the situation appears under control and that radiation levels in the air are not dangerous.

The Daiichi plant has a containment vessel, which theoretically would capture radioactive material if a full meltdown occurs.

Edano has said there have been no leaks of radioactive material at any plants. Radioactive steam has been released intentionally to lessen growing pressure in the two Daiichi reactors — in an amount authorities have described as minimal.

Monitoring of the Daiichi plant has detected several signs that at least a partial meltdown may be occuring, according to Japan’s nuclear safety agency, including high levels of hydrogen inside reactor buildings and radioactive cesium detected outside the plant. This could be caused by the melting of fuel rods inside the reactor, experts said.

Despite such evidence, Noriyuki Shikata, a spokesman for Japan’s prime minister, said Sunday that he would not describe what was occurring in the reactors as a “meltdown,” adding that the situation was “under control.”

But Cooke, also editor of Nuclear Intelligence Weekly for the atomic-energy community, said she’s not convinced.

“The more they say they’re in control, the more I sense things may be out of control,” she said.

Japan Quake and Tsunami: 7 ways to Help

While the devastating Japan earthquake and tsunami have passed, the recovery and mourning have just begun. The disaster could become the most expensive earthquake in history. The crisis could get even worse, depending on what happens next at the Fukushima nuclear power plant.

Now, more than ever, the Japanese people need our help and support to get through this crisis.

You don’t need to pack your bags and fly out to Japan to help, though. There are plenty of ways you can help online, whether it’s with your wallet or simply with your Twitter account. New technologies make it possible to lend a helping hand with your texts or even with virtual crops.

Every little bit counts. Here are a few ways you can help the victims of the Japan earthquake and tsunami:


1. Text to Donate


The American Red Cross has once again launched a texting campaign to raise money for relief efforts in the Pacific region. Last year, the Red Cross was able to raise over $20 million for Haiti relief through simple text donations.

If you would like to donate to the American Red Cross for Japan Earthquake Relief, just text REDCROSS to 90999. Each text will provide $10 towards the Red Cross’s humanitarian efforts.


2. Donate via Facebook


The Red Cross has also launched a campaign on Causes to raise at least $25,000 for relief efforts. By logging in to Facebook, you can donate anywhere from $10 to $500 to help Tsunami victims and their families.

As of publishing time, the Causes campaign has raised over $40,000 from over 1,000 donors and 3,000 promoters.


3. Buy Virtual Goods


Virtual sweet potatoes and the Japanese Tsunami may not seem related, but buying digital crops could help children affected by the earthquake.

Zynga, known for its effective social good campaigns, has partnered with Save the Children’s Japan Earthquake Tsunami Emergency Fund to get its users to donate money through the purchase of virtual goods in CityVille, FrontierVille, FarmVille and its other games.

100% of the proceeds from the purchase of sweet potatoes in CityVille, radishes in FarmVille or kobe cows in FrontierVille will go towards Save the Children’s efforts to provide relief in the Pacific. The world’s largest social gaming company is shooting to raise $2 million for relief efforts.

Zynga has raised millions of dollars over the last few years with these types of social good campaigns, most notably for the relief efforts in Haiti.


4. Embed Some Code


If you run a website and want to get your customers or users involved in relief efforts, all you need to do is embed a simple snippet of code.

The Hello Bar places a simple message at the top of your website with just a few lines of code. The service, which is in private beta, has decided to open its doors to anybody willing to help the victims of the crisis in Japan.

Simply sign up with the invite code “helpjapan” and you can quickly get the code snippet you need to embed a customized Hello Bar that will drive donations. Check out our full article for more instructions on how to add the donation bar to the top of your website.


5. “Like” a Facebook Page


The people over at Explore.org are donating $1 for every “Like” of the “Dog Bless You” Facebook page, up to $100,000.

Explore.org founder Charlie Weingarten delivered the challenge at South by Southwest yesterday. “Search and rescue dogs are a critical resource for emergency situations,” he told the audience.


6. Ways to Help on Twitter


Harness the power of your Twitter account to do some good for the people of Japan.

Earlier this morning, Twitter published a blog post detailing ways you can help with the relief efforts. Not only have they updated Japan’s mobile website with the latest information on the disaster, but they have also published a list of hashtags to tweet and/or follow related to the crisis.

Here are some key hashtags to remember:

  • #Jishin: focuses around general earthquake information
  • #Anpi: a hashtag for the confirmation of the safety of individuals or places
  • #Hinan: Evacuation information
  • #311care: a hashtag regarding medical information for the victims
  • #PrayforJapan: A general hashtag for support and best wishes for victims of the crisis

7. Donate via iTunes


Apple is also dedicating resources to the crisis in Japan. They have created a simple donation page in iTunes [iTunes link] that makes it simple to donate anywhere from $5 to $200 to the Red Cross with just a few clicks. — Source: Mashable

Military Crew Said to Be Exposed to Radiation

The Pentagon was expected to announce that the aircraft carrier Ronald Reagan, which is sailing in the Pacific, passed through a radioactive cloud from stricken nuclear reactors in Japan, causing crew members on deck to receive a month’s worth of radiation in about an hour, government officials said Sunday.

The officials added that American helicopters flying missions about 60 miles north of the damaged reactors became coated with particulate radiation that had to be washed off.

There was no indication that any of the military personnel had experienced ill effects from the exposure. (Everyone is exposed to a small amount of natural background radiation.)

But the episodes showed that the prevailing winds were picking up radioactive material from crippled reactors in northeastern Japan. Ever since an earthquake struck Japan on Friday, the authorities worldwide have been laying plans to map where radioactive plumes might blow and determine what, if any, danger they could pose to people.

Blogs were churning with alarm. But officials insisted that unless the quake-damaged nuclear plants deteriorated into full meltdown, any radiation that reached the United States would be too weak to do any harm.

Washington had “hypothetical plots” for worst-case plume dispersal within hours of the start of the crisis, a senior official said Sunday. The aim, the official added, was “more to help Japan” than the United States, since few experts foresaw high levels of radiation reaching the West Coast.

For now, the prevailing winds over Japan were blowing eastward across the Pacific. If they continue to do so, international stations for radioactive tracking at Wake or Midway Islands might detect radiation later this week, said Annika Thunborg, a spokeswoman for an arm of the United Nations in Vienna that monitors the planet for spikes in radioactivity.

“At this point, we have not picked up anything” in detectors midway between Japan and Hawaii, Ms. Thunborg said in an interview on Sunday. “We’re talking a couple of days — nothing before Tuesday — in terms of picking something up.”

Agencies involved in the tracking efforts include the World Meteorological Organization, the International Atomic Energy Agency and the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization, which runs a global network of more than 60 stations that sniff the air for radiation spikes.

In the United States, the Departments of Defense and Energy maintain large facilities and cadres of specialists for tracking airborne releases of radiation, both civilian and military.

On Sunday, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission said it expected no “harmful levels of radioactivity” to move on the winds to Hawaii, Alaska or the West Coast from the reactors in Japan, “given the thousands of miles between the two countries.”

In interviews, some private nuclear experts called a windborne threat unlikely. Others urged caution.

“We’re all worrying about it,” said Robert Alvarez, a nuclear expert who, from 1993 to 1999, was a policy adviser to the secretary of energy, who runs the nation’s nuclear complex.

“It’s going to be very important,” he added, “for the Japanese and U.S. authorities to inform the public about the nature of the plumes and any need for precautionary measures.”

The plume issue has arisen before. In 1986, radiation spewing from the Chernobyl disaster in Ukraine was spread around the globe on winds and reached the West Coast in 10 days. It was judged more of a curiosity than a threat.

Since then, scientists have refined their abilities to monitor such atmospheric releases. The advances are rooted in the development of new networks of radiation detectors, flotillas of imaging satellites and the advent of supercomputers that can model the subtle complexities of the wind to draw up advanced forecasts.

With the Japanese crisis, popular apprehension has also soared.

“Concern has been raised about a massive radioactive cloud escaping and sweeping over the West Coast,” said a recent blog, recommending whole grains and health foods for fighting radiation poisoning.