Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Gene Variant May Help Children Cope with 'Problem Parents' (Toxic Parents)

April 11, 2011

Picture:Parents argue to the dismay of the child.

How do some children manage to cope so well despite having “toxic parents?” They may have a gene variant that sensitizes the reward and motivation circuits in their brains. According to a new study, a group of children carrying the gene variant were significantly more likely to have better relationships with problem parents than were their siblings who lacked the variant

“The literature on social resilience has tended to focus on how aspects of the child's environment affect and support the child; but this finding [highlights] a way in which some children may influence their own environment to better support their needs,” says William Copeland, a clinical psychologist and epidemiologist at Duke University, and lead author of the study, which appearedonline in the journal Neuropsychopharmacology on Feb. 16.

Copeland and his colleagues enrolled 226 Caucasian children from a rural, impoverished part of North Carolina; determined how close each child was to his or her parent(s); and performed DNA analyses to find out whether each child carried a certain variant of the gene for the mu-opioid brain cell receptor.
Named for the addictive, plant-derived opiate drugs that stimulate them powerfully, opioid receptors are normally activated in a more moderate way by the brain’s own opiate-like neurotransmitters, including endorphins. The mu-opioid receptors are the principal opioid receptors involved in generating a sense of euphoria and pain relief from pleasant experiences or morphine-like drugs. As such, one of their key functions is to help determine the sensitivity of reward and motivation networks in the brain.

For an infant or small child, few things are as rewarding as a parent’s presence. In animal studies, the use of drugs that block the mu-opioid receptors in an infant’s brain typically makes the infant more anxious and clingy. “It’s like opiate withdrawal,” says James Curley, a researcher at Columbia University who has done experiments with monkeys in this field. By contrast, hitting mu-opioid receptors with morphine seems to produce a sense of satiety that weakens the desire for social attachment.

The pleasure-sensitive allele Copeland and his colleagues focused their analysis on a common variant of the mu-opioid gene known as A118G, or the “G allele.” The variant appears to make the mu-opioid receptor more sensitive, with the result that reward circuits hit higher highs for a given stimulus, and lower lows when it is withdrawn. A similar gene variant is linked to stronger attachment behaviors in infant monkeys, and the researchers wondered if the G allele would be associated with stronger attachment behaviors in human children too.

The children and their parents are enrolled in a larger, ongoing mental health research project, in which they were interviewed using standard psychiatric questionnaires about many aspects of their lives. From this data, Copeland and his colleagues quantified for each child/parent relationship the enjoyment of parent-child activities, frequency of arguments, and separation anxiety symptoms.
The researchers divided the children into two groups, those with parents whose availability was likely to be normal, and those with “problem parents” whose availability was probably below normal. About 60 percent of the parents were judged to be in the latter category because they reported having had at least one criminal conviction or a significant mental health problem, including substance abuse.

Copeland and his colleagues found that among the children of “non-problem” parents, those with the A118G variant did not show significantly stronger attachment to their parents than did non-A118G children. But in households with problem parents, whose availability was presumed to be lower, children without the A118G variant appeared to have much worse relations with their parents, while children with the A118G variant had correspondingly better relations—as if the situation allowed them to grab an unusually large share of a resource that would normally have been rationed more equitably. 

Social attachment as a basic pleasure

The study carries many caveats, including the fact that it didn’t measure attachment behavior directly, as is possible in animal studies; didn’t separate out child and parent contributions to each relationship; and didn’t sample parental DNA. Curley notes that the G allele in parents might also have been influencing the quality of the child-parent relationship

In a study now in press at Behavioral Neuroscience, for which Curley has written a commentary, a group led by University of Chicago researchers have found that an A118G-like allele is associated with more attachment-oriented behavior in mothers – among rhesus macaque monkeys in the wild. “Females that had the G allele showed more frequent protective restraining of their infants; in other words they more often prevented them from leaving, by pulling their tails or their legs when the infants tried to get away,” says senior author Dario Maestripieri.

The researchers also found that the mothers with the G allele had higher levels of oxytocin in their spinal fluid. “So the physiological mechanism responsible for this attachment behavior might involve oxytocin, because oxytocin has been implicated in mother-infant attachment, in both animal and human studies,” says Maestripieri. “There also are studies that suggest an interaction between the opioid and oxytocin systems

Two other recent studies in humans indicate that A118G can affect adult social relationships, by increasing the pleasure experienced from those relationships and also by increasing the pain of social rejection. “So if you put this into a broad evolutionary framework,” says Curley, “it seems that mu-opioid receptors are modulating behavior in terms of unique attachments to individuals. And it may be doing that across the lifespan both in mother-child attachments and in adult attachments

Some researchers have even speculated that A118G, which occurs more frequently in Asian populations than in Caucasian populations, and hardly at all in African populations, helps account for different degrees of social cohesion in these ethnic groups – differences that have been assumed to be cultural.

Separately, A118G is also suspected of enhancing the pleasure from drugs that hit the brain’s reward circuits, as well as pain and craving when such drugs are withdrawn – and although studies so far have been inconclusive, there are suggestions that it can make people more susceptible to addiction.

 To the extent that addiction impairs survival or fertility, A118G should have been selected against by evolution – pushing it out of the gene pool. But its effects in boosting relationships might have made up for its addiction-related drawbacks. “A study published in 2009 showed that this G allele has undergone positive selection not long ago,” says Curley, “so maybe it was promoting attachment behaviors that were important for survival in our recent evolutionary past."


Brain is an amazing thing

We've long known that the brain is an amazing thing, but did you specifically know that:

• Every person has more than 75km of nerves in their body.

• Your nerves can send messages faster than a Grand Prix car travels.

• The brain is the most complex machine in the universe - it has over 100,000,000, 000 nerve cells each with up to 150,000 connections. Each cell is connected to 25,000 others.

• If every person on the planet simultaneously made 200,000 phone calls, there would be the same total number of connections as in a single human brain in a day

• The grey cells occupy only 5% of our brains - 95% is taken up by the communication network that runs between the grey cells!

• The brain weighs about 1.5 kg in an adult human, about 1.5% of the body weight.

• Damaged brain cells do not regenerate but mental and physical functions can improve after mild or moderate brain damage with skilful rehabilitation.

• Compared to other animals, human brains are big for the body.

• The human brain is only just bigger than your two fists.

• On average, the male brain (approx 1.4kg) is slightly bigger than the female brain (approx 1.26kg).

• Each half of the brain controls the other half of your body.

• In right-handed individuals (which comprise 91% of people): the right side of the brain controls: musical talent, fantasy, imagination, dreams, drawing, and painting. The left side of the brain controls: mathematical ability, ability to solve logic problems, controls language skills, remembers names, dates, and facts.

• The grey part of the brain is folded to fit inside the skull and, if flattened, it would cover the surface of an office desk.

• The brain contains 100 billion brain cells of which, 100,000 are irretrievably lost each day.

• You can retain about seven facts at any one time in short term memory, but over the long term your brain has to forget things to make room for new memories.

Lokpal Bill: Cong rejects Anna Hazare's telecast demand



Tensions between the ruling party and civil society activists went up a notch on Monday as the Congress virtually rejected Gandhian Anna Hazare's demand for "videographing" or telecasting proceedings of the joint committee drafting the Lokpal bill. 

"Let us not allow form to take the place of substance. Please do not put conditions and pre-conditions which might obstruct the basic objective," Congress spokesperson Abhishek Singhvi said. 

"Statesmanship and maturity is required from stakeholders," the spokesperson said, adding that such conditions and preconditions could not be allowed which would inhibit candid discussions. "Transparency should not become hypocritical decision-making without candour. Therefore, balancing is important." 

The disagreement came within hours of Hazare demanding the resignation of HRD minister Kapil Sibal who said the bill would not solve all problems. "If Sibal feels that nothing will happen due to the Lokpal Bill, then he should resign from the joint committee as soon as possible," Hazare said. "Why is he wasting his and our time? He should do other things for the country. Why does he want to be in the committee?”.

Courtesy:Times of India.

CWG scam: PMO wants action in three months

HT Correspondents , Hindustan Times
New Delhi, April 12, 2011

The Prime Minister’s Office has started the process of identifying and acting against government functionaries responsible for irregularities during the Commonwealth Games.

The PMO on Monday sent the findings of the Shunglu committee probing the irregularities to the home ministry with the  mandate to decide on the action to be taken. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has given the ministry three months to file its action-taken reports.
The inquiry panel led by former comptroller and auditor general VK Shunglu took six months to produce six reports on the roles of various stakeholders in organising the 2010 Games. The reports blame government agencies for lack of oversight, mismanagement and irregularities in the conduct of the event.
But many of the findings have come under criticism for inaccurate facts or conclusions that did not appreciate the circumstances. The ministry will have to factor these in and take a call accordingly.
Delhi chief minister Sheila Dikshit was the first to go public against Shunglu’s “one-sided” report and promised to send a rebuttal by May-end. Lieutenant governor Tejendra Khanna has already pointed to holes in the panel’s facts and conclusions and the Delhi Development Authority, too, has absolved itself.

“There may have been irregularities but to be able to act against those responsible, one needs to accurately identify the factors and individuals responsible,” a government official said, explaining why three months would be needed to process reports that took less than six months to compile.
Government sources said the home ministry would not only coordinate and oversee the action to be taken against the Delhi government and bodies such as MCD and NDMC but central government departments such as sports and urban development, too.

“In case of a difference of opinion between the ministry and the department concerned on the action to be taken, the PMO will have the last word,” a ministry source said. Sources indicated the PMO initially intended to coordinate the processing of the reports. But there was a view that this may involve going in-depth into almost every charge levelled by the Shunglu committee. As the home ministry is the nodal ministry for all matters related to Delhi, it will have to shoulder this responsibility since it was not directly involved in the decision-making for various Games projects.
Courtesy:Hindustan Times

Campaign ends for April 13 south India polls

Chennai/Thiruvanthapuram, Apr 11 : A high-pitch, often acrimonious and below the belt, campaigning for the April 13 assembly polls in two southern states of Tamil Nadu and Kerala along with the Union Territory of Puducherrycame to an end Monday evening.

While electioncampaign in Tamil Nadu turned into a slanging match between Jayalalithaa's AIADMK and the ruling DMK with both parties' leaders trading personal attacks and inviting the rebuke of the Election Commission, in Kerala the presence and remarks of Rahul Gandhi provoked some sarcastic comments of the ruling communists.

In both states it is going to be a close contest, poll pundits predict.

While Tamil Nadu Deputy Chief Minister M K Stalin allegedly attacked Jayalalithaa over her single status, Jayalalithaa was pulled up by the EC earlier for alleged personal attacks on DMK leader and chief minister M Karunanidhi.

The election in Tamil Nadu was also called a mixie-grinder poll this time owing to the freebies promised by the ruling DMK and the opposition AIADMK.

They all promised voters mixie, grinder, laptop and washing machine, even fans and even goats. It rained freebies in this election in Tamil Nadu.

While both parties wooed voters with freebies they harped before media on their growth oriented election manifestos.

J Jayalalithaa said her party will garner no less than 218 seats in the 234-member Tamil Nadu assembly, claiming a tidal wave of support for her and a cyclonic storm of anger against her rival DMK led by M Karunanidhi.

“I am very confidence that our alliance will sweep the polls,” the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) leader said at a campaign trail interview recently.

She said while opinion polls have predicted 164 to 184 seats for her alliance, she will bag around 218 seats in her own assessment.

“The main issue is the all pervasive corruption indulged by Karunanidhi [Tamil Nadu chief minister and the DMK head], his family members, and the DMK,” she said, adding that people would vote against the domination of one family in the state.

She said all theories supporting DMK, reeling under the slur of 2G scam allegedly enacted by party leader A Raja, will be gone with the wind.

AIADMK is fighting the polls with alliance partners like the Left parties and the DMDK of actor-turned-politician Vijayakant.

While AIADMK has fielded candidates in 160 seats, the Desiya Murpokku Dravida Kazhagam (DMDK) is contesting in 41 seats.

Karunanidhi, on the other hand, said he would return as the chief minister. Karunanidhi-led Dravida Munnettra Kazhagam (DMK) is in alliance with Congress.

While Congress is contesting in 63 seats, DMK is contesting 121 seats, while its partners PMK is fighting in 30, VCK 10, KMK 7, IUML two and MMK one.

The total electorate in Tamil Nadu is 4.6 crore. Altogether 2,773 candidates are in the fray.

The big shots in this elections are chief minister M Karunanidhi and his sworn rival Jayalalithaa. All eyes will also be on Karunanidhi's son M K Stalin and Jaya's alliance partner DMDK leader and actor Vijayakanth.

In Kerala, the last moment campaigning turned feverish with the presence of Congress poster boy Rahul Gandhi.

Rahul, the youth face of Indian politicians, urged voters to support his party claiming that only Congress has the right mix of youth and experience.

He took a dig at the Left by pointing out the age of Kerala Chief Minister VS Achuthanandan. He said Achuthanandan would be 93 year old by next elections, sparking a war-of-words.

After Rahul commented on Achuthanandan advanced age, the veteran Left leader hit back calling the young Congress MP an ‘Amul baby’.

“Is it my fault that I am 87 and even at this age I am going on like this?.” Achuthanandan questioned Rahul.

Achuthanandan further added that by the age of 16 he was fighting the British and questioned, “Please tell me where was Rahul Gandhi (politically) before he was 40 years.”

“The Amul baby has come here to campaign for some Amul baby candidates of the Congress party,” he added.

In the 140-seat Kerala assembly polls, the ruling Left DemocraticFront (LDF)-led by the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) is pitted against the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) which did well in the last Lok Sabha polls in 2009.

The LDF currently controls a majority of 99 seats (out of the 140 seats) in the state legislative assembly.

After the 2006 polls, veteran CPI-M leader V.S. Achuthanandan is heading the LDF government in Kerala as the CM.

In Kerala a total of 971 candidates are in the fray. The total electorate is 2.31 crore.

In Puducherry, a low key union territory compared to Tamil Nadu and Kerala, the campaign came to a close Monday evening as well.

It is Congress versus a former Congress chief minister in Puducherry.

In Puducherry, ruled by the Congress, the fight is between the ruling party and its ally DMK and the alliance of AIADMK with All India N. R Congress (AINRC).

AINRC is floated by former Congress chief minister N Rangasamy that promises to "ensure an excellent government and full statehood for the Union Territory of Puducherry."

While the Congress is aiming to return to power for the third consecutive term in the 30-member Legislative Assembly, the opposition left no stone unturned to challenge them.

Rangasamy has been projected as the chief ministerial candidate of the AIADMK-AINRC combine.

Claiming that there would be no discrimination for Puducherry if they come to power, as against the theory that a small union territory like Puducherry will benefit if governed by the party at the centre, the N.R. Congress with AIADMK is taking on the Congress on the issue of 2G scam and price rise.

Congress and its chief minister V Vaithilingam on the other hand said Rangasamy during his regime had failed to procure allotted funds from the centre owing to lack of planning and initiative.

Congress also tom-toms the improved law and order situation in Puducherry in the past years.

Congress is fighting the polls in alliance with the DMK, PMK and VCK parties.

Congress is fighting in 17 constituencies and its ally DMK in 10. PMK is contesting two while VCK is fighting one.

In the rival camp, All India NR Congress is contesting 17 seats while ally AIADMK has fielded candidates in 10. CPI, CPI-M and DMDK have fielded candidates in one seat each.

Puducherry has a total electorate of 8.05 lakh.

A total of 187 candidates are in the fray this time. Of them 162 are in Puducherry district which consists of Puducherry, Mahe and Yanam. The rest are in Karaikal district.

Woman defies new ban on veil

April 11, 2011
A WOMAN was arrested at Avignon station this morning as she tried to board a train for Paris wearing the niqab [full veil] on the first day of the controversial new law on wearing the burqa and niqab.

It comes after a weekend where around 60 people were arrested in the run-up to a planned demonstration against the law in the Place de la Nation in Paris.

Most of those arrested were men. They were said to include Islamic radical Anjem Choudary, leader of the now-banned Islam4UK group in Britain. Fears of violence had prompted the Préfecture de Police to ban the protest.

The woman arrested in Avignon was heading to Paris for a TV interview on the burqa ban and said it was an “attack on my European rights, my freedom to come and go, my religious freedom”. She faces a €150 fine or a compulsory citizenship course.

Passed in October, the law against concealing your identity in a public place came into force today after a six-month delay for assimilation. It forbids the niqab full veil, which leaves only a small slit for the eyes, and the burqa, which is a full veil with a lace cover in front of the eyes. It is thought that up to 2,000 women wear the veils.

Forcing a woman to wear a burqa or niqab could lead to a penalty of 12-months’ jail and a €30,000 fine. The penalty is doubled for forcing a minor to wear the veil.

The law also bans people from wearing masks or full balaclavas, except during fetes, artistic performances or sports events.

Former presidential candidate Rachid Nekkaz, the spokesman for the group Don’t Touch my Constitution, said he planned to sell a house he owned in Choisy to pay the fines of any woman arrested for wearing the veil.

He added that he was against the present law but had supported previous plans to restrict a ban to closed public places, like banks, shopping centres, council offices and schools.

Mr Nekkaz has called for a silent vigil today on the Parvis in front of Notre-Dame cathedral in Paris.

The open wearing of religious icons and garments has been banned in French schools since 2004. It is forbidden for pupils, teachers and parents at school to wear veils, whether full or not, the Jewish kippa skullcap, large Christian crosses and Sikh turbans.

Photo: Kevin Browne-Fotolia

Quit panel if you doubt Lokpal’s effectiveness, Hazare tells Sibal

Updated on Monday, April 11, 2011, 23:31

 New Delhi: Controversy dogged the joint committee set up to draft an effective Lokpal Bill even before it starts its work with Gandhian Anna Hazare on Monday asking HRD Minister Kapil Sibal to resign from it "if he feels nothing will come" out of this institution.

His colleagues in the campaign for a strong Lokpal Bill, Kiran Bedi and Arvind Kejriwal, also slammed Sibal, who, however, denied having made any such statement and that he was with Hazare for drafting a strong anti-corruption legislation.

The 73-year-old social activist, who fought a successful battle for constitution of a 10-member committee of ministers and civil society representatives, said, "If Sibal feels that nothing will happen due to the Lokpal Bill then he should resign from the joint committee as soon as possible." 

Before leaving for his village Ralegaon Siddhi in Maharashtra, he told reporters, "Why is he (Sibal) wasting his and our time? He should do other things for the country. Why does he want to be in the committee?

"If you believe that nothing will happen, you should not be there in the joint committee, he should resign and do some other work."

The committee, chaired by senior minister Pranab Mukherjee, is to hold its first meeting on April 16 and is expected to come out with its draft of the Bill by June 30.

Sibal had yesterday told a public meeting here, "I ask this question. If a poor child does not have any means for education, then how will Lokpal Bill help? If a poor man needs help for medical services then, he will call up a politician. How will Lokpal Bill help?"

Asked about Hazare's demand, Sibal told reporters today that he was with the Gandhian and that he wanted the Bill to be drafted as early as possible and to be effective in tackling corruption everywhere.

Clarifying his yesterday's remarks, he said what he had meant was that "the scope of the Bill is different. The problems of the common man are different." 

Nation's unpreparedness ahead of disaster is blasted

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

News photo
Hasn't gone away: An elderly man observes an area devastated by the giant quake and tsunami in Kesennuma, Miyagi Prefecture, on Monday, exactly a month after the disaster. AP PHOTO
Staff writer
A month after the earthquake and tsunami obliterated cities along the Tohoku coast, Japan is struggling to limp back to some semblance of normalcy while coming to grips with the unprecedented disaster.
News photo
Family shelter: A family moves into temporary housing built for tsunami evacuees in devastated Rikuzentakata, Iwate Prefecture, on Monday.KYODO PHOTO
But critics say the country could have done more to mitigate the catastrophe.
"The tsunami and the earthquake were bigger than anything I have experienced," said Ryohei Morimoto, an honorary member of the Association for Earthquake Disaster Prevention and a retired professor of volcanology at the University of Tokyo.
But he also pointed out that March 11 wasn't the first time the northeast Pacific coast was visited by killer waves, including tsunami in 1611, 1896 and 1933. The geographical characteristics of the bays can amplify tsunami, such as the waves that hit in 1896, taking more than 22,000 lives.
"I've heard the government and Tokyo Electric Power Co. say they couldn't predict the tsunami would reach that high, but that is ridiculous," Morimoto said, noting any history book would have set them straight.
"And even if they couldn't predict the size of tsunami, they should have at least prepared for waves similar to those in the past," Morimoto said.
According to the National Police Agency, the tsunami and the magnitude 9.0 earthquake — the fifth-largest earthquake to occur on the planet since 1900 — had so far left 13,116 confirmed dead as of Monday and 14,377 missing — the first disaster since the war to claim more than 10,000 casualties in Japan.
The NPA also said 48,747 homes were destroyed, 56 bridges damaged and four breakwaters collapsed due to the events on March 11. Over 150,000 people are living in evacuation shelters throughout northeastern Japan, they added.
The extent of the damage prompted Emperor Akihito to record his first public message since the late Emperor Hirohito addressed the nation on Aug. 15, 1945, to announce Japan's surrender.
"I would like to let you know how deeply touched I am by the courage of those victims who have survived this catastrophe and who, by bracing themselves, are demonstrating their determination to live on," the Emperor said March 16 in the unprecedented TV address.
The Tohoku earthquake was one for the record books.
According to the Earthquake Research Institute at the University of Tokyo, March 11 tsunami reached as high as 37.9 meters in Taro, Iwate Prefecture. The tallest ever to hit was the 38.2-meter wave that destroyed the Iwate city of Ofunato following an 8.5-magnitude temblor in 1896.
The Japan Coast Guard also revealed last week that the seabed at the epicenter of the quake, located approximately 13 km off Miyagi Prefecture, slid 24 meters and rose up 3 meters, based on its study. In total, the quake shifted Honshu more than 2 meters eastward, according to their research.
To top off the seismic impact, a survey by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory revealed that the intense shift of the Earth's crust changed the distribution of the planet's mass. Because of the way the fault responsible for the quake slipped, the Earth now rotates faster, making a day about 1.8 microseconds shorter than before.
How a country gets back on its feet after such a cataclysm remains to be seen, even though Japan, which lays atop different layers of tectonic plates, has survived similar disasters.
The 7.9-magnitude Great Hanshin Earthquake in January 1995 resulted in the loss of 6,434 lives, destroyed more than 100,000 houses and caused an estimated ¥10 trillion in damage. The port of Kobe wasn't able to declare it had recovered from the disaster until May 1997.
Some Tohoku areas have been quick to pick up the pieces.
East Nippon Expressway Co. said March 22 it had finished emergency repairs to the region's highways that merely days before were impassable. Japan Railways is also scheduled to complete restoration and begin running trains between Tokyo and Sendai within the week.
On the other hand, restoration of basic infrastructure has only just begun. In the city of Ishinomaki in Miyagi Prefecture, where roughly 18,000 people were living in evacuation shelters, only 137 temporary homes were under construction as of April 1, and 3,145 households had already applied for the units, the city said.
One factor that differentiates the Hanshin and Tohoku disasters is the timing of the temblor.
The Hanshin quake struck just before 6 a.m., when most people were at home and in bed.
The March 11 earthquake struck at 2:46 p.m. Children were in school, parents were at work and families were separated. Miyagi Prefecture said April 1 that 16 people under age 18 were listed as having lost both parents. The number in Iwate has topped 50 and is expected to grow. The welfare ministry said last week it has already tallied 82 kids who became orphans in the disaster.
Then there is the nuclear disaster that has affected not only those living in the region but has the international community in panic mode. Due to the contamination of seawater, fish caught anywhere near Japan, even those far away from Fukushima Prefecture, have been shunned at the market.
News photo
Because of the damaged nuclear plants, Tokyo Electric Power Co. on March 14 was left to launch rolling blackouts, causing a transportation crisis in the capital and halting factory operations within the region. A week later news of Tokyo tap water being contaminated with iodine-131 broke. Bottled water flew off the shelves in supermarkets while embassies and foreigners chose to evacuate from Japan.
Yet, while many lined up at the Tokyo Immigration Bureau to prepare for departure, others gave a helping hand from overseas in times of need.
The Japan Red Cross said it had received ¥139 billion from 1.5 million donations as of April 5. In contrast, it took over a year after the Hanshin quake for donations to surpass ¥100 billion, the group said. UNICEF also began raising funds for children in Japan, something it had not done since 1964.
Over 20 countries and regions, including China, South Korea and Russia, dispatched emergency rescue teams to the Tohoku region.
But support from the United States, including Operation Tomodachi, a U.S. military relief effort, saw the unprecedented engagement of approximately 14,000 service members, many from the 7th Fleet, working to aid the people hit by the quake. The U.S. Marine Corps Chemical Biological Incident Response Force last week joined the response to the emergency at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant and is standing by at Yokota Air Base.
The list of lessons to be learned from March 11 is long. At the top, however, is being prepared and taking preventive steps against natural disasters, former University of Tokyo professor Morita said.
Seismologists agree the Tokai region could soon see a major temblor with a magnitude of around 8.0 that could cause damage similar to the Tohoku quake or the one that hit the Mino region in 1891. That earthquake over a century ago saw a fault line push the ground 6 meters higher than it was.
But Prime Minister Naoto Kan's administration appears clueless on what steps to take.
"Liquefaction was a major issue in the city of Urayasu (Chiba Prefecture) following the March 11 earthquake, which proves landfill and man-made ground are extremely vulnerable to earthquakes," Morita said.
Still, Kan on April 1 said one key reconstruction goal for the Tohoku region will be creating coastal areas with high ground for relocating neighborhoods to prevent further damage from the sea.
"It sounds like a bad idea to me," Morita said. "I feel that lessons aren't really being learned."

Events on March 11 and beyond 
March 11 Magnitude 9.0 earthquake hits off Sanriku coast, massive tsunami wreaks havoc in coastal areas in northeastern, eastern Japan.
March 12 Prime Minister Kan surveys tsunami-ravaged region from air.
March 13 Kan calls disaster postwar Japan's "most severe crisis" and mobilizes 100,000 Self-Defense Forces members for relief efforts.
March 15 National Police Agency announces over 10,000 dead or missing. March 18 Number of victims surpasses those killed in 1995 Hanshin quake, making it worst postwar natural disaster.
March 20 NPA tally shows more than 20,000 dead or missing. In Ishinomaki, Miyagi Prefecture, an 80-year-old woman and her 16-year-old grandson are rescued.
April 1 Disaster officially named Great East Japan Earthquake. Kan declares plan to establish Reconstruction Design Council involving experts, local stakeholders.
April 3 SDF, U.S. military end three-day search operation in tsunami-struck region, retrieving 78 bodies.
April 7 Government envisions first extra budget worth ¥4 trillion for reconstruction. Worst aftershock of magnitude 7.1 strikes Miyagi Prefecture, elsewhere, causes widespread blackouts.
April 10 Kan visits Miyagi to inspect disaster-stricken areas.
April 11 Tally shows over 13,100 dead, over 14,300 missing.