So much grief

March 14, 2011 1:17:34 PM PDT
How much death and destruction and tragedy can people deal with at any one time?

It's an issue we think about all the time.

Of course, big news stories are big news stories, and we have as little control over when or in what kind of clumps they happen as we do in, say, when an earthquake followed by a tsunami hits.

But what an avalanche of news: The tragedy in Japan and the ongoing fears of a nuclear meltdown; a New York cop dies after he's pushed down the stairs of a building during a boyfriend/girlfriend domestic dispute; a plainclothes cop on Long Island dies after an MTA officer shoots him; 15 people die when their speeding tour bus flips over; an arson fire in Brooklyn injures 31 people; and, oh yeah, lots of people are still flooded out of their homes in New Jersey by rivers that once again overflowed their banks.

Is the overwhelming sense of tragedy too much for most people to cope with? Do people get so drained they simply don't want to watch any more? There was the burned-out sense of the world after the Sept. 11 attacks; just too much death and destruction.

But you can't ignore the reality. And just turning off the TV, or not reading a paper, or skipping past the news headlines on your homepage won't make the bad news go away.

The struggle is to find some sense of balance, to know that bad things will always happen, but good things happen as well, and the good, hopefully, is under your roof, and at your dining room or breakfast table, and in your arms as you walk in the front door.

And so that's how we're approaching tonight's 11 p.m. newscast. Lots of news tonight - much of it grim, but in that bleakness, some hope for the future as well.

We'll start in Japan, where hundreds of rescue workers are scouring the debris fields where the tsunami hit. But they're not finding many survivors. Our N.J. Burkett, the only New York TV reporter in Japan, is with the Red Cross tonight as aid workers tend to the homeless and injured. The death toll could eventually reach into the thousands.

There's also the very real problem of radiation leaking at Japan's nuclear power plants - and the possibility that the reactors are so badly damaged that there's a chance of a meltdown.

A couple of hours don't go by without some new nuclear scare in Japan - the latest happened this afternoon when a make-shift operation failed to pump seawater into one broken reactor. And the odds increased that more radioactive material would be involuntarily released into the air.

The nuclear energy threat in Japan has lots of people worried about Pres. Obama's plans to build new nuclear plants in the U.S. Those plans seem suddenly on hold - at least until Japan's problems are worked out. If they're worked out.

The irony is that after decades of a nuclear plant building freeze, even some critics had started to lift the lid a tad on increasing U.S. reliance on nukes. The no-nukes movement, so strong and diverse in the past 30 years, had lost a bit of steam.

No accidents, the rising price of oil, and an attempt to "go green" by not using fossil fuels - all played a role in opening the nuclear discussion.

Then Japan happened.

In New York, the Indian Point nuclear power plant, long a sore point not just for environmentalists but for anyone who lives in its shadows (which means about 20 million people), now coming under new scrutiny, post Japan.

This afternoon, officials in Westchester County are meeting to analyze safety at Indian Point.

Today, Mayor Bloomberg tried to assuage any fears, although he may have gone a bit too far in playing down any potential downside to Indian Point. "The closest nuclear plant is Indian Point, and it's far away from New York City," the Mayor said. Forty miles is not "far away" when it comes to nuclear accidents, and the City's emergency plans about Indian Point takes the potential for problems seriously. Radiation travels quickly and, oh by the way, Plutonium lasts forever.

We'll have the latest on the nuclear power threat in Japan, tonight at 11.

We're also following the tour bus accident on the New England Thruway that killed 15 people and injured many others. The bus skidded nearly a tenth of a mile after it flipped over - running into a light pole so fast and hard that the top of the bus was sheared off. The bus driver, who has a conviction for manslaughter in his past, claims he was clipped from the rear by a tractor/trailer, but there's no evidence other than his statement that it happened.

And we're taking a look at the latest trend in online banking: mobile banking. Maybe you already do it - transactions on your smart phone. Tonight, Consumer Reports looks at some of the benefits - and the security downsides.

We 'll also have any breaking news of the night, plus Lee Goldberg's AccuWeather forecast, and Rob Powers with the night's sports. I hope you can join Sade Baderinwa (in for Liz Cho) and me, tonight at 11.


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