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The Lesson of the Cherry Blossom - NPR's Morning Edition

Cherry blossoms are blooming in Washington D.C. They will be at their peak around the end of this month. The cherry trees around the Tidal Basin in Washington D.C. were first planted in 1912 after the people of Japan gave them to the U.S. as a gift of friendship, according to the National Park Service.

The flowering cherry tree, or "Sakura," is an exalted flowering plant in Japan. It symbolizes the Buddhist notion of impermanence in life.

NPR's Linda Wertheimer visited with James Ulak, senior curator of Japanese art at the Freer Gallery and the Sackler Gallery in Washington, D.C.

Ulak visits Japan regularly for his work. He was there just days before the disaster struck.

Ulak spoke with Wertheimer about the symbolism of the cherry tree to the Japanese people and about the artwork at the museum. Artwork that depicts the Matsushima region, a place of great beauty and a place that inspires the Japanese people.

Ulak says the devastation of this area would be comparable to the United States losing the Grand Canyon. From NPR.org:

The bay has been long known as one of the most beautiful places in Japan. Its views of blue water, craggy rocks and twisted pine trees have attracted visitors and artists for centuries.

The Liquidator - WUNC's The Story

The disaster unfolding at the Fukushima nuclear reactors in Japan have a lot of people looking back at the worst nuclear disaster in history - Chernobyl in 1986.

Rebecca Williams caught this episode of The Story on her way home from work.

She found the interview fascinating because she'd been thinking about the safety and the fate of the workers at the Fukushima reactors. And here was a man who had been called in to help clean up after the Chernobyl disaster.

Sergei Belyakov sacrificed his safety to help contain the disaster, and later found that his sacrifices, and those of others in his unit, were not appreciated.

Belyakov says it was "the strangest and the most eerie thing I had experienced in my life" when he discovered that people in the region didn't see them as heroes, they saw them as pariahs.

From The Story:

The overall danger of the problems at the Fukushima nuclear reactor is still not well known, but one thing is certain. Someone is going to have to clean the mess up. During the summer of 1986, Sergei Belyakov was a 30-year-old Soviet army reservist who became a Chernobyl 'liquidator,' spending 40 days at the contaminated reactor during the dangerous clean-up efforts.

You can listen to the episode here:


Surprisingly, Belyakov thinks nuclear power is our best option for creating clean power for future generations.

The Magic of Harry Houdini - On Point

If you were Googling yesterday, you likely saw Google's tribute to Harry Houdini.

Google's 'doodle' marked Houdini's 137th Birthday. Tom Ashbrook talked with his guests on On Point about Harry Houdini and his life. This from Ashbrook:

Harry Houdini was the greatest escape artist of his time, maybe any time. A century ago, Americans and Europeans flocked to see him shackled, chained, handcuffed, locked in a box, a jail, a water tank, hanging upside down in a straight jacket from a skyscraper, impossibly bound, nearly drowned, then, magically, free. His magic tricks are legend. His life is quite a story, too. He was born in Budapest and raised in Wisconsin and New York. His big break was in Omaha. His fame was worldwide. And his death was on Halloween, in Detroit.

Houdini died in Detroit on Halloween 1926 after suffering from acute appendicitis. He was in Detroit to perform a show at the Garrick Theater.

Mark Brush was the station's Digital Media Director. He succumbed to a year-long battle with glioblastoma, an aggressive brain cancer, in March 2018. He was 49 years old.
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