Tales from the Trail

from Environment Forum:

Appropriately enough, it’s National Tsunami Awareness Week

The U.S. government has announced this as National Tsunami Awareness Week, starting just days after a disastrous tsunami powered over Japan's northeast coast. Not that anyone necessarily needed reminding.

This week's advisory, which urges U.S. residents to be prepared for a damaging series of waves, was scheduled before the March 11 Japanese catastrophe, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. This is the second annual observance of Tsunami Awareness Week. It's too soon to tell if there might be a pattern emerging: last year's observance came not long after a giant wave hit the Chilean port of Talcahuano following an 8.8 magnitude quake along Chile's coast.

Here's how the Japanese tsunami spread its force across the Pacific:

While the United States may not seem like a prime tsunami target, the Hawaiian Islands and Alaska have long been susceptible. NOAA notes the United States has more coastline than any country on Earth and is in proximity to several major fault lines. Any coastline is potentially in a tsunami's path.

Because the danger from tsunamis can't be eliminated, NOAA is concentrating on preparedness, including its main tsunami website. President Barack Obama stressed early warning systems in a statement this week.

JAPAN-QUAKE“As we offer our assistance to those impacted by this tragedy, we also renew our commitment to ensuring preparedness along our shores,” Obama said. “Efficient warning systems and awareness in coastal communities are vital to protecting Americans in at-risk areas of the country.”

Washington Extra – Same page

Alarm over Japan’s nuclear crisis prompted a slumping stock market to slump some more in a third day of selling.

The United States and Japan weren’t quite on the same page in terms of advice to the public. The State Department recommended that Americans living within 50 miles of the Fukushima nuclear plant evacuate or stay indoors, while Japan asked residents within 18 miles to do the same.

USA-BUDGET/Republicans and Democrats are still not on the same page as far as spending cuts go, which means back to the drawing board with a three-week reprieve from the sixth stopgap spending bill expected to pass Congress by Friday. Talks will get an added kick when the latest temporary funding bill is passed, but in a divided Congress bipartisan deals become a fairly lofty goal.

Washington Extra – Fear factor

This was definitely an Ides of March to beware of.

NUCLEAR-USA/Japan faced a potential nuclear catastrophe after explosions at three reactors at a nuclear power plant sent radiation toward Tokyo. The fear factor sent shivers through world stock markets which tumbled.

Fear also reportedly prompted some Americans to buy potassium iodide tablets and Geiger counters. Good idea?

Reuters energy correspondent Tom Doggett reports that Energy Secretary Steven Chu didn’t see the necessity. “I think there’s essentially no concern in terms of the health effects on American shores. So, I think that they really shouldn’t be doing those things quite frankly, but, you know, it’s a free country,” Chu said after a hearing.

Washington Extra – Sticky situations

It is a natural instinct to review one’s own situation when a friend or neighbor is hit by a crisis.

NUCLEAR-USA/So the risk of a nuclear disaster in Japan after the earthquake and tsunami prompted the United States to look inward. The upshot is that President Barack Obama is committed to nuclear power, and “it remains a part of the president’s overall energy plan,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said.

The administration is not going to switch gears on nuclear policy while a crisis unfolds, so that type of statement is to be expected while it assesses the situation.

Well it’s nice to be in Hawaii anyway…

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton brought her diplomatic cavalcade to Honolulu, where on Tuesday she and Japanese Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada traded notes on South Pacific paradise. USA-PACIFIC/CLINTON

Clinton welcomed Okada to Hawaii, noting the state’s particularly close connection with one of its most famous sons, President Barack Obama — who recently spent his Christmas break nearby.

“He was born here. He grew up here. So we’re especially pleased to have this opportunity to be in Hawaii together,” she said at the start of their talks.

The First Draft: Obama heads for the Hill

It’s not an official State of the Union speech, but President Barack Obama’s Tuesday night address to Congress is showing all the signs of a major event. The pre-game show started late Monday, with an extraordinary free-wheeling question-and-answer session at the White House with U.S. senators and members of the House of Representatives. It continued on morning television, where Obama spokesman Robert Gibbs managed to hit ABC, NBC, CBS and CNN.

USA/

Obama plans to offer “a sober assessment about where we are and the challenges that we face,” Gibbs told ABC’s “Good Morning America.” Does Obama favor nationalizing U.S. banks? No, he told NBC’s “Today”: “Our banking system has always been private but regulated.” To all questioners, he gave some version of what he told “Today” — “We understand there are brighter days ahead.”

Before he heads for Capitol Hill for the 9 p.m. EST address, Obama has a morning meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso. The global economic crisis tops the agenda, with other key topics expected to include Afghanistan and North Korea.