TEPCO has released tense footage from their video live-link between the Tokyo headquarters and Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant.
When an earthquake and tsunami hit northeastern Japan last March, panicked managers at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant called their bosses at the Tokyo Electric Power Company over the company's emergency videoconferencing system. They kept the link up for days, in constant -- and often tense -- contact as the nuclear crisis escalated into disaster.
TEPCO, under intense public pressure over its lack of transparency regarding the crisis and its close ties to the Japanese government, has now released 150 hours of footage. Or, rather, they've released 90 minute "digest" of their video (to watch it, go here, click on the right-most tab, then the top video), and have allowed some journalists (not me) to watch and take notes on 150 edited hours of footage. A 4 minute and 42 second digest of the digest is above. The five frames show TEPCO's Tokyo boardroom, the Fukushima Daiichi plant, the off-site Fukushima disaster management office, and TEPCO's two other nuclear plants, in Fukushima Daini and Kashiwazaki Kariwa.
It's a small step forward for the nuclear energy behemoth, and for Japan's famously closed corporate cultures, but it's not quite full transparency, either. The company still tightly restricted even the reporters who were shown the fuller videos. "Give them what they think they want, and they just might not ask for more. Controlled transparency is the new opacity," laments a skeptical New Statesman article. The first three hours of the Fukushima crisis were never recorded, TEPCO says, and the first 30 have no sound. There's also no sound, apparently, in the scene where Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan bursts into the company's Tokyo boardroom. TEPCO says it's mostly cut the audio to protect mid- and low-level employees.
The video above may not especially illuminate the March 2011 nuclear crisis or TEPCO's big-picture handling of it, but it does show the remarkable tension permeating both Tokyo and Fukushima, which is plainly visible despite the poor video quality and audible even if, like me, you don't speak a word of Japanese.
Masao Yoshida, the manager of the Fukushima Daiichi plant, is a big presence in the videos. "I'd like to report that employees are in a state of shock after not being able to prevent the two explosions. We are feeling down, all of us. We do what we can, but morale is hurt pretty badly," he tells Tokyo, according to a Wall Street Journaltranslation. "We appreciate that people are working in such difficult circumstances. Hang in there for the moment," an executive answered."
Later, when the Fukushima workers report a heavy vibration that they anxiously describe as feeling more like an explosion than another earthquake, the executives in Tokyo begin to panic. "Evacuate the workers from the site," TEPCO's managing director order. The company's since-resigned president, Masataka Shimizu, shouts, "Report it to the relevant authorities immediately!" The managing director agree, urging, "Report it to the prime minister's office and the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency!" The Fukushima frame, meanwhile, is in chaos, workers shouting over another and scrambling to contain a nuclear crisis that would last the better part of a week.
The video is a reminder that TEPCO and the Fukushima crews averted the worst-case scenarios of full nuclear meltdown, as its release is likely intended to do, but it's also another scary sign of how close Japan came to utter disaster.
Three Atlantic staffers discuss “Beyond the Wall,” the sixth episode of the seventh season.
Every week for the seventh season of Game of Thrones, three Atlantic staffers will discuss new episodes of the HBO drama. Because no screeners were made available to critics in advance this year, we'll be posting our thoughts in installments.
The cartoonist defended the president in a podcast debate with Sam Harris. The portrait he painted of Trump supporters was not flattering.
Sam Harris, the atheist philosopher and neuroscientist, has recently been using his popular Waking Up podcast to discuss Donald Trump, whom he abhors, with an ideologically diverse series of guests, all of whom believe that the president is a vile huckster.
This began to wear on some of his listeners. Wasn’t Harris always warning against echo chambers? Didn’t he believe in rigorous debate with a position’s strongest proponents? At their urging, he extended an invitation to a person that many of those listeners regard as President Trump’s most formidable defender: Scott Adams, the creator of the cartoon Dilbert, who believes that Trump is “a master persuader.”
Their conversation was posted online late last month. It is one of the most peculiar debates about a president I have ever encountered. And it left me marveling that parts of Trump’s base think well of Adams when his views imply such negative things about them.
“Seeing a partial eclipse bears the same relation to seeing a total eclipse as kissing a man does to marrying him.”
Ever since it was first published in 1982, readers—including this one—have thrilled to “Total Eclipse,” Annie Dillard’s masterpiece of literary nonfiction, which describes her personal experience of a solar eclipse in Washington State. It first appeared in Dillard’s landmark collection, Teaching a Stone to Talk, and was recently republished in The Abundance, a new anthology of her work. The Atlantic is pleased to offer the essay in full, here, until the day after the ‘Great American Eclipse’ on August 21.
It had been like dying, that sliding down the mountain pass. It had been like the death of someone, irrational, that sliding down the mountain pass and into the region of dread. It was like slipping into fever, or falling down that hole in sleep from which you wake yourself whimpering. We had crossed the mountains that day, and now we were in a strange place—a hotel in central Washington, in a town near Yakima. The eclipse we had traveled here to see would occur early in the next morning.
The scientists are all talking like it’s a sure thing.
On August 21, the “moon” will pass between the Earth and the sun, obscuring the light of the latter. The government agency NASA says this will result in “one of nature’s most awe-inspiring sights.” The astronomers there claim to have calculated down to the minute exactly when and where this will happen, and for how long. They have reportedly known about this eclipse for years, just by virtue of some sort of complex math.
This seems extremely unlikely. I can’t even find these eclipse calculations on their website to check them for myself.
Meanwhile the scientists tell us we can’t look at it without special glasses because “looking directly at the sun is unsafe.”
More comfortable online than out partying, post-Millennials are safer, physically, than adolescents have ever been. But they’re on the brink of a mental-health crisis.
One day last summer, around noon, I called Athena, a 13-year-old who lives in Houston, Texas. She answered her phone—she’s had an iPhone since she was 11—sounding as if she’d just woken up. We chatted about her favorite songs and TV shows, and I asked her what she likes to do with her friends. “We go to the mall,” she said. “Do your parents drop you off?,” I asked, recalling my own middle-school days, in the 1980s, when I’d enjoy a few parent-free hours shopping with my friends. “No—I go with my family,” she replied. “We’ll go with my mom and brothers and walk a little behind them. I just have to tell my mom where we’re going. I have to check in every hour or every 30 minutes.”
Those mall trips are infrequent—about once a month. More often, Athena and her friends spend time together on their phones, unchaperoned. Unlike the teens of my generation, who might have spent an evening tying up the family landline with gossip, they talk on Snapchat, the smartphone app that allows users to send pictures and videos that quickly disappear. They make sure to keep up their Snapstreaks, which show how many days in a row they have Snapchatted with each other. Sometimes they save screenshots of particularly ridiculous pictures of friends. “It’s good blackmail,” Athena said. (Because she’s a minor, I’m not using her real name.) She told me she’d spent most of the summer hanging out alone in her room with her phone. That’s just the way her generation is, she said. “We didn’t have a choice to know any life without iPads or iPhones. I think we like our phones more than we like actual people.”
A tour of the solar eclipse’s path reveals a nation that fought to maintain a different sort of totality.
Totality is everything, say those who chase solar eclipses. When the moon fully obscures the sun and casts its shadow on Earth, the result is like nothing you’ve seen before—not even a partial eclipse. A merely partial eclipse does not flip day to night, because the sun is bright enough to light our fields of vision with only a tiny fraction of its power. But when the sun and moon align just so, a little piece of Earth goes dark in the middle of the day. In this path of totality, night comes suddenly and one can see the shape of the moon as a circle darker than black, marked by the faint backlight of the sun’s corona. Astronomers and eclipse chasers chart carefully to be sure that they can watch from exactly the right place at the right time. They know that you cannot compromise with the sun. For a dark sky, the sun must be banished altogether.
The country’s exceptionally thin safety net prompts residents—especially those with less-steady employment—to view partnership in more economic terms.
Over the last several decades, the proportion of Americans who get married has greatly diminished—a development known as well to those who lament marriage’s decline as those who take issue with it as an institution. But a development that’s much newer is that the demographic now leading the shift away from tradition is Americans without college degrees—who just a few decades ago were much more likely to be married by the age of 30 than college graduates were.
Today, though, just over half of women in their early 40s with a high-school degree or less education are married, compared to three-quarters of women with a bachelor’s degree; in the 1970s, there was barely a difference. The marriage gap for men has changed less over the years, but there the trend lines have flipped too: Twenty-five percent of men with high-school degrees or less education have never married, compared to 23 percent of men with bachelor’s degrees and 14 percent of those with advanced degrees. Meanwhile, divorce rates have continued to rise among the less educated, while staying more or less steady for college graduates in recent decades.
The Republican majorities in Congress gambled they could ignore Trump's misdeeds, and still get him to sign their bills—but it’s not working out as they expected.
Devil’s Bargain is the title of the best-selling book by Joshua Green about the relationship between Donald Trump and Steve Bannon—a relationship, of course, newly altered. But the Trump-Bannon relationship is not the only, or even the most important, devil’s bargain surrounding Trump—that distinction goes to the odd, strained, and curious relationship between Trump and Republicans in Congress.
It is no secret that the overwhelming majority of Republicans in the House and Senate did not want Trump to be their party’s nominee—he had the fewest endorsements from his party’s members of Congress before the race was settled than any nominee in modern memory. And a large number of GOP legislators were privately appalled as the general election campaign went on. When the Access Hollywood tape emerged, private unease became more public—one of the most vivid examples was Representative Jason Chaffetz of Utah, who told a Utah television station, “I can no longer in good conscience endorse this person for president. It is some of the most abhorrent and offensive comments that you can possibly imagine. My wife and I, we have a 15-year-old daughter, and if I can’t look her in the eye and tell her these things, I can’t endorse this person.”
The nation’s current post-truth moment is the ultimate expression of mind-sets that have made America exceptional throughout its history.
When did America become untethered from reality?
I first noticed our national lurch toward fantasy in 2004, after President George W. Bush’s political mastermind, Karl Rove, came up with the remarkable phrase reality-based community. People in “the reality-based community,” he told a reporter, “believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality … That’s not the way the world really works anymore.” A year later, The Colbert Report went on the air. In the first few minutes of the first episode, Stephen Colbert, playing his right-wing-populist commentator character, performed a feature called “The Word.” His first selection: truthiness. “Now, I’m sure some of the ‘word police,’ the ‘wordinistas’ over at Webster’s, are gonna say, ‘Hey, that’s not a word!’ Well, anybody who knows me knows that I’m no fan of dictionaries or reference books.
Jen Hatmaker says the “days of silence are over” in polite evangelical culture.
By her own estimation, Jen Hatmaker is “low-grade Christian famous.” She has written 12 books, starred in an HGTV series with her family, built a large social-media following, and gone on tour with other prominent female Christian writers.
In some circles, Hatmaker is also controversial. Last fall, she told the writer Jonathan Merritt she thinks LGBT relationships can be holy. LifeWay, a large Christian retailer, pulled her books from their stores. Some of her followers were “angry or shocked or confused,” she said, and her interview set off a round of debate on the authority of evangelical women in ministry. This spring, Hatmaker wrote on her blog that she has “[become] painfully aware of the machine, the Christian Machine.”