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NPR News Special Coverage of Libya and Japan Today at 2pm

We’ll air two hours special coverage from NPR News this afternoon from 2-4pm on WFPL.

The first hour will focus on Libya, three days after a US-led coalition began its military campaign to stop the government from attacking anti-Gadhafi rebels. We’ll have updates on the extent of damage in Libya and the ability of Moammar Gadhafi to fight back against U.S. and European forces. Guests will include NPR’s David Greene from Tripoli, NPR’s Senior Foreign Editor Loren Jenkins, Rami Khouri, editor-at-large of the Beirut based Daily Star newspaper, Lisa Anderson, a Libya expert at the Council on Foreign Relations who is president of the American University in Cairo, and Marie Colvin, foreign affairs correspondent at the Sunday Times of London.

From 3-4pm, we’ll focus on the humanitarian crisis in Japan. We’ll have the latest news on the status of repair efforts at the Fukushima nuclear facility, what Japanese officials are doing to warn people about the health risks of radiation expose, and about the discovery of some food contaminated with radiation. Guests include NPR’s Rob Gifford in Mizusawa, in northern Japan, and NPR’s Science Correspondent, Nell Greenfieldboyce.

NPR’s Neal Conan will host the special coverage.

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From Kentucky to Fukushima and Back

It’s been nearly twenty years since I first heard about a part of Japan called Fukushima. And when I did, I was thrilled.

I’d just graduated from the University of Kentucky and I got a letter from the office of the Japan Exchange and Teaching Program. I’d been accepted as an Assistant English Teacher. My assignment: Three Japanese middle schools in rural Fukushima.

I remember saying the name over and over to myself like it was some exotic food I was tasting for the first time. It was hard to imagine that someplace called Foo–koo–SHEE–ma was going to be my new home. I liked it, though. I’d lived in Kentucky my whole life and I felt restless.  I wanted to test myself by going to live in a place and a circumstance different than any I’d ever known.

Fukushima was different in many ways:  Food, language, money, holidays, the way obligation in general, and work in particular dominated people’s lives.  How much drinking people did–and expected me to do.

But over the three years I spent there, I realized that not everything in Fukushima was different from what I’d known. The land around my town was mostly low, pine-covered hills that looked a lot like parts of Kentucky.  The weather and climate were virtually identical.

And while Fukushima has cities, it’s identified as a mostly rural place. There’s even a distinct accent associated with that region of Japan, an accent that urbanites from Tokyo don’t exactly consider a sign of sophistication (sound familiar, y’all?). There’s even a Japanese equivalent to words like hick or bumpkin that people from Fukushima were sensitive to: The word is imo.  It means potato. When one of my Fukushima friends told me that, I laughed and said, “Ore mo imo da.” Well, then I’m a potato, too.

It’s been twelve years and three kids since I left Japan, and I’ve lost touch with most of my friends from there. Or I had until this month. After a flurry of emails, it appears that all my closest friends are okay. Now I’m wondering about the three thousand kids I taught, all of whom would be close to thirty now. Many of them would have moved away. Probably some went to Sendai or elsewhere on the coast. I haven’t found the courage to go through the lists of confirmed and suspected victims to see if I recognize any of their names.

The town where I lived was too far inland to be hit by the tsunami, though a wave of coastal refuges has come through. Still, they’re less than fifty miles from the nuclear reactor, so everyone is nervous. Some people have left. Some people refuse to.

I want to do something, but other than donate a little money, there’s not much to do but hope and worry. I have faith in the people of Fukushima. They’re being tested in ways I can’t even imagine. It was from them that I learned how to live in a place and a circumstance different than any I’d ever known. They will too, if they have to.

After all, we potatoes don’t spoil easily.

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Edge Outreach to Demonstrate New Water Filtration System That Will Be Used in Japan, Haiti

Edge Outreach, an organization that helps provide safe drinking water for people around the world, will introduce its latest water purification technology Tuesday at the Frazier International History Museum.

The demonstration coincides with the museum’s “Water Works” exhibit, which highlights the Louisville Water Company’s history.

Edge Executive Director Mark Hogg says the new technology allows water to be pumped, purified and collected in a storage tank all in one motion. It’s being used in Haiti right now.

“We are constantly working in Haiti. We’ve been working in Haiti for years and that’s helped us be extremely effective in the earthquake. As far as Japan goes we are offering our training in networking, in connections best we can to help anyone that’s headed to Japan.” he says.

To help raise awareness about the importance of clean drinking water, the Frazier Museum will host a free World Water Day event tomorrow Tuesday from 6 to 8 pm.

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Japan/America Society of Kentucky to Raise Money for Earthquake and Tsunami Victims

The Japan/America Society of Kentucky has begun collecting donations for Japanese communities ravaged by last week’s earthquake and tsunami.

Executive Director Matt Krebs says his board of directors approved the efforts Monday, with the goal to raise money for rebuilding efforts, rather than emergency relief.

“Once the media spotlight comes off the needs of the people of Japan in another week or two from now, the remaining needs of families that have no homes and some of those long-term issues will begin to come to the foreground,” he says.

Krebs says there are at least 3,000 Japanese nationals living in Kentucky, and most of them work for Japanese manufacturing plants. Those businesses, he says, will likely not be affected by the disaster, though the employers may bring in counselors to talk with workers.

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UPDATE: NPR News Special on Japan at 2pm Today

We’ll air an NPR News Special about Japan today at 2pm. NPR’s Neal Conan will host, and although details are sketchy, we expect to hear from NPR reporters on the ground in Japan, as well as other guests. We expect NPR to focus on the developing nuclear story there, as well as the earthquake recovery efforts.

UPDATE: Conan will talk with NPR’s Doualy Xaykaothao, who is in Koriyama City, NPR’s Joe Palca, who’s covering the nuclear crisis, a member of a search and rescue team and Hawaii Public Radio News Director Bill Dorman.

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President Discusses Libya, Japan, Economy in News Conference

President Obama says he’s prepared to tap the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, if necessary, to stabilize oil prices. In his news conference, which ended a few minutes ago, Mr. Obama also said the U.S. and its allies are considering a range of options in Libya, including enforcing a no-fly zone over the country. He said Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will be meeting with member of the Libyan opposition in the next few days.

The President also called the earthquake and tsunami in Japan a potentially “catastrophic” disaster. He said the U.S. is prepared to send whatever assistance Japan needs.

You can see more coverage on NPR’s live blog of the press conference at The Two-Way. We’ll have a full report and analysis on NPR’s All Things Considered today at 4pm on WFPL.

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Three Kentucky Space Payloads Headed To Space Station

An unmanned Japanese Spacecraft will launch Saturday with three payloads from the Kentucky Space scientific association on board.

The payloads each contain a science experiment organized by a school or business. They are based on technology developed by Kentucky Space and the NanoRacks company.

The payloads will remain on the International Space Station for several months. Kentucky Space sent several experiments to the station last year, and several more are planned for this year. President Kris Kimel says each experiment benefits the commonwealth. “For us to have this kind of access to the International Space Station—which is quite rare—and to have regular flight opportunities to space station with this partnership with NanoRacks has opened up a whole new array of new research and commercial and education opportunities for Kentucky,” he says.

“We are finding information out that, in some cases in the biomedical area, that we think has the potential to be game-changing for the further development of certain kinds of drugs and even medical procedures, perhaps on the issue of tissue regeneration or things of that nature.”

The experiments launching tomorrow test, among other things, plant growth and microscopes. These and other experiments may lead to breakthroughs in life sciences.

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Daniels To Visit Asia Next Week

Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels’s office has released his travel plans for an upcoming trip to China and Japan.  Daniels and his companions will spend much of their time focusing on economic development.

As Governor, Daniels has visited China once and Japan four times. He and a group of Indiana business representatives will depart next week and spend ten days abroad. One week of the trip will be spent in China, where the group will meet with businesses that either have operations in Indiana, or that may be considering opening branches or manufacturing plants in the U.S.

Daniels’s business in Japan will be similar. The governor will spend several days meeting with business presidents, including the heads of Honda and Toyota.

Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear returned last week from a similar trip to India.

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Beshear To Visit India, Daniels To Visit China And Japan

For the first time, a sitting Kentucky governor will visit India. Governor Steve Beshear departs for Mumbai and New Delhi Friday.

Beshear’s weeklong trip is being paid for by the New Delhi-based National Association of Software and Services Companies. Economic Development Cabinet spokesperson Mandy Lambert says Beshear will meet with NASSCOM officials and the leaders of one of the six Indian companies with operations in Kentucky.

“The governor also plans to meet with companies who are actively considering future investment opportunities in the United States in an effort to encourage them to look at Kentucky as a potential location,” she says.

Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels will visit China and Japan next month on similar business. Daniels has previously visited both countries.

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Daniels Returns From Asia Trip

Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels is back from his trade mission to Japan and China, but says it’s too soon to tell if the trip will result in more jobs coming to the Hoosier State. Mitch Daniels2

Daniels led a delegation of about 50 government and business leaders to the Far East. The group returned yesterday.

The governor says he’s glad they made the trip, if only to show gratitude to the firms that have invested in Indiana.

“Indiana clearly stands apart among the midwest states now, both in terms of results and i think good relationships with the japanese business community. In the case of China, I’m very glad we went, maybe we should have gone a year or two sooner, but I don’t think we missed any opportunities,” Daniels said Thursday.

Japan has about 220 firms in Indiana that employ more than 40,000 people. China has located a handful of companies in the state.