573 deaths certified as nuclear-crisis-related in Japan

Posted Feb. 05, 2012, at 8:11 p.m.

TOKYO — A total of 573 deaths in Japan have been certified as “disaster-related” by 13 municipalities affected by the crisis at the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, according to a Yomiuri Shimbun survey.

This number could rise because certification for 29 people remains pending while further checks are conducted.

The 13 municipalities are three cities — Minami-Soma, Tamura and Iwaki — eight towns and villages in Futaba County —Namie, Futaba, Okuma, Tomioka, Naraha, Hirono, Katsurao and Kawauchi — and Kawamata and Iitate, all in Fukushima Prefecture.

These municipalities are in the no-entry, emergency evacuation preparation or expanded evacuation zones around the nuclear plant, which suffered meltdowns soon after the March 11 disaster.

A disaster-related death certificate is issued when a death is not directly caused by a tragedy, but by fatigue or the aggravation of a chronic disease due to the disaster. If a municipality certifies the cause of death is directly associated to a disaster, a condolence grant is paid to the victim’s family. If the person was a breadwinner, 5 million yen (US$65,625) is paid.

Applications for certification have been filed for 748 people, and 634 of them have been cleared to undergo screening.

Of the 634, 573 deaths were certified as disaster-related, 28 applications were rejected, four cases had to reapply because of flawed paperwork, and 29 remain pending.

Just a bluff? Fears grow of Israeli attack on Iran

JERUSALEM — For the first time in nearly two decades of escalating tensions over Iran’s nuclear program, world leaders are genuinely concerned that an Israeli military attack on the Islamic Republic could be imminent — an action that many fear might trigger a wider war, terrorism and global economic havoc.

High-level foreign dignitaries, including the U.N. chief and the head of the American military, have stopped in Israel in recent weeks, urging leaders to give the diplomatic process more time to work. Israel seems unmoved, and U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has reportedly concluded that an Israeli attack on Iran is likely in the coming months.

U.S. President Barack Obama said Sunday he does not think Israel has decided whether to attack Iran, telling NBC News in an interview that the United States was “going to be sure that we work in lockstep as we proceed to try to solve this — hopefully diplomatically.”

Despite harsh economic sanctions and international pressure, Iran is refusing to abandon its nuclear program, which it insists is purely civilian, and threatening Israel and the West.

Civilian deaths rise 8 percent in Afghanistan in last year

KABUL — Afghan civilian casualties have reached a grim new milestone, with a record 3,021 noncombatants killed in wartime violence last year, the United Nations said in a report released Saturday.

The toll for 2011 represented an 8 percent increase from the previous year, and marked the fifth year in a row that the number of civilian deaths and injuries has risen. Insurgents were blamed for nearly four-fifths of the deaths.

“For much too long, Afghan civilians have paid the highest price of war,” said Jan Kubis, head of the U.N. mission in Afghanistan. He called on all parties to the conflict to take urgent steps to protect civilians.

The rising civilian toll calls into question Western military assertions that overall violence is declining across Afghanistan. Last year saw a drop in the number of NATO troop fatalities, which hit a wartime high in 2010.

Roadside bombs were the biggest killer of civilians, the report says, a deadly scourge that make travel on rural roads particularly perilous.

On Sunday, a powerful car bomb detonated outside a police station in the southern city of Kandahar killed seven people, including five police officers and a child, Afghan provincial officials said.

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