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Pile of debt would stretch beyond stratosphere
The News - Economy
May 22, 2011
national debt

President Ronald Reagan once famously said that a stack of $1,000 bills equivalent to the U.S. government's debt would be about 67 miles high.

That was 1981. Since then, the national debt has climbed to $14.3 trillion. In $1,000 bills, it would now be more than 900 miles tall. In $1 bills, the pile would reach to the moon and back twice.

The United States hit its legal borrowing limit on Monday, and the Treasury Department has said the U.S. Congress must raise the debt ceiling by August 2 to avoid a default. The White House is trying to hammer out a deal with lawmakers to cut federal spending in exchange for a debt-limit increase.

Most people have trouble conceptualizing $14.3 trillion. [ reuters ]

 
Severe Weather : Tornado threat from Minn. to Texas
The News - Current Events
May 22, 2011
tornado threat MN to TX natural disasters

It was a busy day of severe weather on Saturday afternoon and evening. We are expecting much of the same on Sunday afternoon. There were at least 20 reports of tornadoes all congregated around far northeast Kansas.

The threat, however, has shifted farther to the east with the higher chance of tornadoes moving from northeast Kansas and northwest Missouri into southern Wisconsin, parts of Illinois, central Missouri, southeast Kansas and eastern Oklahoma.

Dr. Forbes has increased today's TOR:CON values in Wisconsin, Illinois and Arkansas. More severe weather is on the horizon for Monday. Below we have access to the latest radar, watches/warnings and forecast maps to track the storms each day. [ weather ]
 
Brace yourselves: Iceland's volcanic ash
The News - Natural Disasters
May 22, 2011
iceland volcano eruption volcanoic ash
  • Keflavik airport closed till Monday and 40 international flights cancelled
  • Residents urged to wear masks and stay indoors as ash rains down on buildings, cars and fields
  • Ash from the Grimsvotn volcano hurled 12 miles into the air
  • The volcano is Iceland's most active and has not erupted since 2004

Ash from Iceland's most active volcano could reach northern Scotland by Tuesday and the rest of the UK, France and Spain by Thursday, experts say.

The Grimsvotn volcano erupted late last night hurling steam and ash 12 miles into the sky forcing the country's main international airport to close and plunging areas into near darkness today. The ash has turned the sky black and rained down on nearby areas covering buildings, cars and fields in a thick layer of gray soot. [ dailymail ]

 
Iceland volcano: Grimsvotn eruption hits local flight
The News - Current Events
May 22, 2011
Iceland volcano Grimsvotn eruption

The Icelandic authorities have imposed a local flight ban after the country's most active volcano, Grimsvotn, began erupting. A plume of smoke has risen 20km (12 miles) into the sky from the volcano.

But Iceland's Meteorological Office says the eruption should not cause widespread disruption to air traffic.

Last year, ash clouds from another Icelandic volcano, Eyjafjallajokul, led to the closure of a large section of European airspace. Governments feared that ash particles could cause aircraft engines to fail, and the closure caused chaos to air travellers. [ bbc ]

 
When Doomsday Isn't, Believers Struggle to Cope
The News - Religion
May 21, 2011
2011 may 21 disaster armageddon apocalypse doomsday

If you're reading this, Harold Camping's predictions that the end of the world would start Saturday (May 21) failed to pan out.

That's good news for most of us, but Camping and his followers were looking forward to the end. After all, they believed that they were likely to be among the 200 million souls sent to live in paradise forever. So how do believers cope when their doomsday predictions fail?

It depends, said Lorenzo DiTommaso, a professor of religion at Concordia University in Montreal who studies the history of doomsday prediction. [ livescience ]

 
May 21, 2011 - Yet another failed doomsday prediction
The News - Current Events
May 21, 2011
may 21 failed doomsday apocalypse rapture

Christian doomsday prophet Harold Camping looks likely to be less than rapturous after his prediction that the world would end on Saturday failed to materialize.

The 89-year-old Californian preacher had prophesied that the Rapture would begin at 6pm in each of the world's time zones, with those "saved" by Jesus ascending to heaven and the non-believers being wiped out by an earthquake rolling from city to city across the planet.

But as the deadline for the Apocalypse passed in the Pacific islands, New Zealand and Australia, it became apparent that Camping's prediction of the end of the world was to end not with a bang but with a whimper.

 
End of the world May 21st? About a billion years too soon, astronomers say.
The News - Science-Astronomy
May 21, 2011
may 21 doomsday armageddon apocalypse judgement

When doomsday comes to planet Earth, it will leave the third rock from the sun a scorched, sterile cinder devoid of living organisms. Virtually everyone can agree on that.

But May 21, 2011, as the start of a five-month period that ends with an October 2011 doomsday? That's off by at least a billion years, give or take 50 million, according to a recent study by a pair of astronomers in Mexico and Britain. ("Recent" on time scales that astronomers work with, anyway.)

And the cause they cite is considerably different than the one invoked by a California minister for an October end of the world. [ csm ]

 
Big Hurricane Season Looms, NOAA Chief Calls Satellite Cuts a "Disaster"
The News - Science-Astronomy
May 20, 2011
2011 big hurricane season looms disaster

This year's Atlantic hurricane season will be "above normal," with 12 to 18 storms, thanks in part to unusually warm ocean temperatures, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said yesterday.

Six to 10 of those storms are likely to reach hurricane strength, the agency said in its initial forecast for the 2011 storm season, which begins June 1 and ends Nov. 1. NOAA forecasters expect three to six of those storms to become major hurricanes with winds reaching 111 miles per hour or greater.

"The active Atlantic hurricane era that we entered back in 1995 continues," NOAA Administrator Jane Lubchenco said. "During this period, the conditions in the oceans and the atmosphere have produced a larger number of storms and more powerful hurricanes." [ sciam ]

 
What happens if 200 Million People Go Missing Tomorrow?
The News - Religion
May 20, 2011
may 21 rapture doomsday armageddon apocalypse

According to the predictions of Christian radio broadcaster Harold Camping, May 21 will be the day of the rapture, when God calls believers to heaven to live in everlasting paradise. By Camping's estimation, that means the Earth will be 200 million souls lighter by Sunday morning.

While there's no reason to believe that Camping's doomsday predictions are more reliable than the hundreds of failed end-of-the-world predictions throughout history, the loss of 200 million people all at once would be the largest single population decrease in human history. It's safe to say the world would take notice - but the effects of such a mass disappearance would depend on where believers were concentrated.

 
Historic US flooding turns deadly
The News - Natural Disasters
May 20, 2011
historic mississippi flooding disaster

Historic flooding along the Mississippi River turned deadly Thursday when an elderly man died despite being pulled from floodwaters and resuscitated by firefighters.

The worst floods to hit the central United States in more than 70 years have swallowed up thousands of homes, farms and roads from Illinois southward to Louisiana.

Officials have erected temporary levees and opened spillways to protect towns and cities from the slow-moving floods but warn that the mighty river will remain above flood stage for weeks to come. [ yahoo ]

 
Mega Earthquake shifted the ocean floor sideways by more than 20m (65ft)
The News - Natural Disasters
May 20, 2011
japan mega earthquake disaster effects

Japan's 11 March mega-quake shifted the ocean floor sideways by more than 20m (65ft), according one instrument placed on the seabed off the nation's coast.

This direct measurement exceeds the displacement suggested by some models built only from data gathered on land.

The figure was recorded by the Japan Coast Guard which maintains underwater geodetic equipment along the fault responsible for the giant tremor. An upwards movement of 3m (10ft) was registered by the same instrument. The data underlines once again the colossal nature of the Magnitude 9.0 quake and its associated tsunami.

 
Japan earthquake study raises fears for other areas
The News - Natural Disasters
May 19, 2011
japan earthquake new fears disaster

Scientists sifting through data from the great Japan earthquake in March are uncovering surprises that may raise concerns nearby. Researchers led by Mark Simons of the California Institute of Technology are urging close monitoring of seismic activity in the Ibaraki region immediately south of the spot where the most recent quake occurred.

They are not predicting another earthquake, Simons stressed in a telephone interview. But the area where the deadly March temblor struck "was believed by many to be not likely to produce a big earthquake, and that was wrong." So that raises questions about other, similar regions, he said.

"We learned we have to be much more suspicious about what we know for sure, and more explicit about what we don't know," Simons said. Monitoring the region will give scientists clues to the movement of the undersea plates that slipped in the quake. [ msnbc ]

 
Many U.S. Nuclear Plants Ill-Prepared to Handle Simultaneous Threats
The News - Current Events
May 19, 2011
us nuclear plants threat disaster

The U.S. government finds that many U.S. nuclear plants would fail to face multiple challenges at the same time as happened at Fukushima Daiichi.

On April 26, Nuclear Regulatory Commission staff did a safety "walkdown" of the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant on southern California's coast, part of NRC inspections of all U.S. reactors that were triggered by the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant disaster in Japan.

The NRC's inspection report, released Friday, did not flag the plant's owner, Pacific Gas & Electric Co. (PG&E) for a serious violation of the rules the commission has imposed to assure the plant's safe shutdown in an anticipated emergency. But it did list more than a half-dozen issues that could jeopardize the plant if it were confronted with the kind of chain reaction of unexpected and unplanned-for calamities that struck the Fukushima nuclear complex. [ sciam ]

 
Judgment Day: The Numbers behind Harold Camping's May 21 doomsday Claim
The News - Current Events
May 19, 2011
may 21st doomsday apocalypse armageddon

Maybe you've seen the ads - on a billboard, on the subway, on the side of an RV. Maybe you've encountered the believers in person. However you found out, there's a good chance you've heard claims about something big happening Saturday, May 21.

That date, according to Christian radio broadcaster Harold Camping and his followers, is Judgment Day. This is no mere prediction, according to the Web site of Camping's Family Radio Worldwide: "The Bible guarantees it!" First will come a massive earthquake, powerful enough to throw open all graves. Then will follow a slow dying off of all nonbelievers until the end of the world in October. [ sciam ]

See also : Whoops! Failed Armageddon predictions.

 
Zombie Apocalypse Post Sends Hordes to CDC Blog
The News - Natural Disasters
May 19, 2011
zombie apocalypse armageddon disaster

First there was "Dawn of the Dead." Then there was "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies" (Quirk Books, 2009). Now, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are jumping on the zombie bandwagon.

Yes, that CDC. A post on the health agency's blog titled "Preparedness 101: Zombie Apocalypse" went viral this week, causing the blog's servers to temporarily crash. The blog normally gets 1,000 to 3,000 hits per day, said CDC spokesperson Dave Daigle. Before the page went down on Wednesday (May 18), the post had garnered 30,000 hits. As of Thursday morning, 55,000 people had clicked on the post.

"We did not anticipate this type of reaction..." [ LS ]
 
2011 Atlantic hurricane season predictions - "above normal"
The News - Natural Disasters
May 19, 2011
2011atlantic hurricane season predictions

The 2011 Atlantic hurricane season will be "above normal", spawning six to 10 hurricanes of which around half could become major, the U.S. government's weather agency forecast on Thursday.

However, as the 2010 season showed - it was very active but the U.S. coastline escaped a hit - a high frequency of storms does not always translate into more destructive landfalls.

In its first forecast for the season that begins on June 1, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) anticipated 12 to 18 named storms, a somewhat lower level of activity than the 2010 Atlantic hurricane season. Six to 10 of those storms were seen developing into hurricanes, of which three to six could become major at Category 3 or above, with winds of more than 110 miles per hour (177 km per hour), the agency said.

 
U.S. weather extremes show 'new normal' climate
The News - Climate-Environment
May 19, 2011
extreme weather climate environment
  • Global weirding" seen in violent storms
  • More frequent so-called 100-year floods
  • Global cost of natural disasters escalating

Heavy rains, deep snowfalls, monster floods and killing droughts are signs of a "new normal" of extreme U.S. weather events fueled by climate change, scientists and government planners said on Wednesday.

"It's a new normal and I really do think that global weirding is the best way to describe what we're seeing," climate scientist Katharine Hayhoe of Texas Tech University told reporters.

"We are used to certain conditions and there's a lot going on these days that is not what we're used to, that is outside our current frame of reference," Hayhoe said on a conference call with other experts, organized by the non-profit Union of Concerned Scientists. [ sciam ]

 
CDC : Prepare for 'Zombie Apocalypse'
The News - Current Events
May 19, 2011
zombie apocalypse cdc warning

Are you prepared for the impending zombie invasion?

That's the question posed by the Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention in a Monday blog posting gruesomely titled, "Preparedness 101: Zombie Apocalypse." And while it's no joke, CDC officials say it's all about emergency preparation.

"There are all kinds of emergencies out there that we can prepare for," the posting reads. "Take a zombie apocalypse for example. That's right, I said z-o-m-b-i-e a-p-o-c-a-l-y-p-s-e. You may laugh now, but when it happens you'll be happy you read this, and hey, maybe you'll even learn a thing or two about how to prepare for a real emergency."

The post, written by Assistant Surgeon General Ali Khan, instructs readers how to prepare for "flesh-eating zombies" much like how they appeared in Hollywood hits like "Night of the Living Dead" and video games like Resident Evil. Perhaps surprisingly, the same steps you'd take in preparation for an onslaught of ravenous monsters are similar to those suggested in advance of a hurricane or pandemic. [ fox ]

 
Long-feared Mississippi flood rolls toward La. bayou country
The News - Natural Disasters
May 19, 2011
mississippi gulf bayou flood disaster

The oil-and-seafood hub of Morgan City has been hit by one disaster after another, from hurricanes to the BP oil spill . The latest trouble involves a deluge of water that was diverted from the Mississippi River and is headed toward the town of about 12,000 people.

The Army Corps of Engineers, desperate to save Baton Rouge and New Orleans from flooding, opened a spigot on a spillway over the weekend, intentionally flooding this part of Cajun country, an area much less populated. But the cascade of water from the Morganza floodway is hampering the local oil industry and fishermen on the bayou.

Harry Ribardi, a shrimper, is still waiting on the check BP promised to make up for his losses last year. Now he's facing another man-made disaster. [ yahoo ]

 
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