We still do not know what the full death toll will be from Japan's record 8.9 magnitude earthquake last night, and the extraordinary tsunami which followed it. (See videos in our breaking coverage last night here. See extraordinary TPM slide-show here.) Current reports estimate the number of deaths to exceed 1,000 and even that seems very conservative at this hour.
But one thing is clear: Japan's "Big Government Tyranny" --- the type Republicans in DC are trying to kill, as opposed to the type they are maniacally expanding in Wisconsin --- saved hundreds of thousands, if not millions of lives last night.
Thanks to some of the strictest government regulations, building codes, and tsunami monitor and warning systems in the world, Japan averted what would likely have been an even far worse catastrophe, as the New York Times noted earlier today...
Had any other populous country suffered the 8.9 magnitude earthquake that shook Japan on Friday, tens of thousands of people might already be counted among the dead. So far, Japan’s death toll is in the hundreds, although it is certain to rise.
Over the years, Japan has spent billions of dollars developing the most advanced technology against earthquakes and tsunamis.
Here is some extraordinary video of high-rise buildings during last night's quake, built to those strict and tyrannically job-crushing government regulations, swaying as they are designed to, saving the lives of the occupants in the middle of the work day, rather than collapsing, as they might have elsewhere...
And yes, as Slate's Dave Weigel points out today, part of the GOP's proposed spending cuts are to our nation's disaster monitoring and relief systems which, of course, steal the freedom and liberty of our citizens to needlessly die...
The CR is here. According to the House Appropriation Committee's summary of the bill, the CR funds Operations, Research and Facilities for the National Oceanic Atmospheric Association with $454.3 million less than it got in FY2010; this represents a $450.3 million cut from what the president's never-passed FY2011 budget was requesting. The National Weather Service, of course, is part of NOAA --- its funding drops by $126 million. The CR also reduces funding for FEMA management by $24.3 million off of the FY2010 budget, and reduces that appropriation by $783.3 million for FEMA state and local programs.
Democrats did attempt to add more money to NOAA's budget. Rep. Dan Lipinski, D-Ill., offered an amendment to the CR that would have directed "no less than $710,641,000 to the National Weather Service Local Warnings and Forecasts." The amendment was one of several Democratic spending proposals that was found to be out of order, and not voted on.
CBS reports: "The GOP budget plan that passed through the House last month aimed to cut funding for a tsunami warning center that issued a slew of warnings around Japan's devastating earthquake."
As to the nuclear plants the GOP (and Obama) are pushing in this country, we'll just hope the "small radiation leak from a nuclear reactor whose cooling system was knocked by Friday's massive earthquake" is as "small" as Reuters is currently reporting. The U.S. Air Force has reportedly delivered "coolant" to the plant today.
Four nuclear plants were taken off line last night following the quake. "Nuclear emergencies" were declared for two of them, with little more information given. The one of major concern right now is the Fukushima plant, 150 miles north of Tokyo where, last night, officials were cryptically saying that attempts to cool the plant were "not going as planned".
Nuclear Energy for America: What Could Possibly Go Wrong?
UPDATE 12:41pm PT: More details here on the "Nuclear Crisis at Fukushima". The article is already outdated, however, as the 2km evacuation has just now been expanded to 10km by the Japanese Prime Minister, according to tweets from VOA's Asian Bureau Chief Steve Herman who adds: "Officials now saying radiation at Fukushima nuke plant 1,000X normal level." (BBC report on levels.)
Herman adds Kyodo is reporting "This suggests radioactive steam could spread around the facility."
Really not good.
UPDATE 6:24pm PT: Okay, this seems to be getting bad enough, as new news has come in throughout the day, that the nuclear emergency here clearly deserves its own item. I've moved the previous UPDATES on this item, and new ones beyond it, to this article devoted to the nuke developments.