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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 ]

 
'Rapture Parties' Planned to Celebrate Doomsday Saturday May 21
The News - Religion
May 19, 2011
harold camping rapture may 21 2011

With the end of the world looming this Saturday (May 21st), non-believers are planning "Rapture parties" to poke a little fun at the Doomsday prediction and also raise awareness for other causes.

Harold Camping, 89-year-old leader of the ministry Family Radio Worldwide, has predicted that a five-month destruction of humanity will commence Saturday with a Rapture, in which believers will ascend to heaven. "Whereas this five-month period will be an enormous horror story for those who have not been raptured, it will be a time of great joy and wonder for those who are raptured," according to the Family Radio website.

Camping uses a mathematical formula linked to prophecies in the Bible. He once predicted Sept. 6, 1994 as Judgment Day, but that math didn't quite work out . This time around, Camping's organization took out an ad in Reader's Digest, stating: "The Bible guarantees the end of the world will begin with Judgment Day May 21, 2011."

 
Species Extinction Rates Grossly Overestimated
The News - Current Events
May 18, 2011
species extinction rate

A group of researchers agrees that Earth is facing a mass extinction event, but they are daring to overturn dogma on how fast species are disappearing. The researchers say they have discovered why current estimates are overblown, and they recommend a different way to calculate the rates.

"We need to go back to revisit ... how those numbers are derived," Fangliang He, of Sun Yat-sen University in Guangzhou, China, said in a press briefing with fellow study researcher Stephen Hubbell of the University of California at Los Angeles.

We don't even know how many species actually exist, though it is known that biodiversity is declining drastically. Previously estimated extinction rates — some experts thought half the world's plant and animal species would be gone by 2000 — haven't matched what's actually been observed. Other researchers have claimed the difference originates from the lag time between when a species' habitat becomes unsustainable and when the species begins to disappear. [ livescience ]

 
Japan Earthquake Was 'In the Air' Days Before
The News - Natural Disasters
May 18, 2011
japan earthquake was 'in the air' days before

The atmosphere above the epicenter of the March 11 earthquake in Japan underwent unusual changes in the days leading up to the disaster, according to preliminary data.

The research has not yet been published in an academic journal or reviewed by other scientists, but it could offer an intriguing possibility for earthquake prediction — though the day scientists are able to forecast earthquakes is still "far away," said study researcher Dimitar Ouzounov, a professor of earth sciences at Chapman University in California.

Looking to the sky in hopes of predicting an earthquake is not a new idea. The theory, which in science circles is called "Lithosphere-Atmosphere-Ionosphere Coupling mechanism," goes like this: Right before an earthquake, the stressed fault releases more gases, especially the colorless, odorless radon gas. Once in the upper-atmosphere ionosphere, the radon gas strips air molecules of their electrons, splitting them into negatively charged particles (the free electrons) and positively charged particles. These charged particles, called ions, attract condensed water in a process that releases heat. [ livescience ]
 
Medvedev warns West of new Cold War over missile deal
The News - War-Draft
May 18, 2011
medvedev cold war ww3 nuclear weapons
President Dmitry Medvedev warned Wednesday Russia could pull out a new nuclear disarmament treaty and enter a new Cold War with the West if the two sides failed to agree on a new missile defence shield.

Medvedev told reporters that the United States' decision to push ahead with the European shield despite Russia's objections will force Moscow "to take response measures -- something that we would very much rather not do."

"We would then be talking about developing the offensive potential of our nuclear capabilities. This would be a very bad scenario." [ yahoo ]

 
Tepco Misleading Public Over Nuclear Crisis
The News - Current Events
May 18, 2011
tepco lies fukushima natural disaster

Tokyo Electric Power Co. has made misleading statements about when it will stabilize its nuclear reactors crippled by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, said Tetsuo Ito, head of the Atomic Energy Research Institute at Kinki University in western Japan.

The company, known as Tepco, yesterday reiterated the schedule on its so-called road map announced a month ago to achieve cold shutdown of the three radiation-leaking reactors as early as October. Setting a timetable without knowing the condition of the reactor cores doesn’t make sense, Ito said in a phone interview from Osaka.

“Only after understanding what’s going on inside the buildings and reactors, will it be clear what parts of the timetable are achievable,” Ito said. “Devising a road map without that will give the public a false sense of security.” [ bloomberg ]

 
Mississippi River Flooding: Two Towns, Divided By A River
The News - Natural Disasters
May 18, 2011
mississippi flooding disaster

Traffic has been swift for weeks along the majestic steel bridge that connects this low-lying river town to its sister city across the Mississippi River.

Moving vans filled with furniture, tractors and combines from cotton and corn fields, and truckloads of office supplies all head toward Natchez, Miss., the hilltop town less than a mile across the river that is quickly becoming an expatriate community for hundreds seeking higher ground.

As floodwaters and tensions rise in this scenic stretch of the Mississippi Valley, an informal exodus takes place in Vidalia, as neighborhoods empty and businesses relocate to higher ground on the opposite side of the river. [ huffpo ]

 
Amazing Pictures - Volcanoes up close
The News - Natural Disasters
May 17, 2011
volcano picture up close

Dicing with death around fountains of 1,000C glowing lava wouldn't be everyone's idea of the perfect day. But for daredevil photographer Skarphedinn Thrainsson, teetering around the world's deadliest volcanoes is nothing but another thrilling day at the office.

Despite being lucky not to be injured or killed by chunks of volcanic ash crashing into the ground around him, his resulting images are stunning. [ DailyMail ]

 
The Draw of Doomsday: Why People Look Forward to the End
The News - Religion
May 17, 2011
doomsday armageddon apocalypse

Most people go through their daily lives assuming that tomorrow will be a lot like today. No pits of fire will open up, society won't collapse, and the world, most likely, won't end.

But for others, doom has a certain appeal.

The most famous example these days is Harold Camping, a California-based Christian radio broadcaster who believes that May 21, 2011, will mark Judgment Day, ushering in five months of torment for the unsaved until the universe finally ends on Oct. 21.  Camping has bought billboards and dispatched caravans of believers around the country, warning the world of its fate.

"It's going to be a wonderful, wonderful day," Camping told a San Francisco Chronicle reporter last June.

Camping has made this prediction before, in 1994 — it didn't pan out — but the thousands of failed doomsday predictions throughout history are no match for what Lorenzo DiTommaso, a professor of religion at Concordia University in Montreal, calls the "apocalyptic worldview."

 
Fukushima - "The situation is essentially out of control"
The News - Current Events
May 17, 2011

The situation at the Fukushima plant is currently out of control, says Professor Christopher Busby from the European Committee on Radiation Risks, who gave RT his insight into the recent developments in Japan.

“Of course, it’s time for the Japanese government to take control. But having said that, it’s very hard to know how you could take control of the situation. The situation is essentially out of control,” Busby stressed. [ rt ]
 
Growing threat from solar storms
The News - Science-Astronomy
May 17, 2011
solar storm growing threat

A senior official at the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says solar storms pose a growing threat to criticial infrastructure such as satellite communications, navigation systems and electrical transmission equipment.

NOAA Assistant Secretary Kathryn Sullivan says the intensity of solar storms is expected to peak in 2013 and countries should prepare for "potentially devastating effects."

Solar storms release particles that can temporarily disable or permanently destroy fragile computer circuits.

Sullivan, a former NASA astronaut who in 1984 became the first woman to walk in space, told a U.N. weather conference in Geneva on Tuesday that "it is not a question of if, but really a matter of when a major solar event could hit our planet." [ ap ]

 
Fukushima nuclear plant not built to take megaquake
The News - Natural Disasters
May 17, 2011
fukushima earthquake disaster

The magnitude 9 earthquake that struck a Japanese nuclear plant in March hit with almost 30 percent more intensity than it had been designed to withstand, raising withstand, raising the possibility that key systems were compromised even before a massive tsunami hit.

Embattled operator Tokyo Electric Power said Monday that partial data recovered from the crippled Fukushima Daiichi plant showed the ground acceleration during the quake exceeded its design specifications at three of the six reactors.

"This was clearly a larger earthquake than we had forecast," said Junichi Matsumoto, a Tepco spokesman for nuclear issues. "It would have been hard to anticipate this."

The March 11 quake and the nearly 15-meter (50-ft) tsunami that followed devastated Japan's northeastern coast and killed more than 15,000 people. Another 9,500 are still missing. he disaster also unleashed the worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl. Some 80,000 residents around the plant some 240 km (150 miles) north of Tokyo have been evacuated because of the risk from radiation. [ yahoo ]

 
May 21 - Another Doomsday Upon Us?
The News - Religion
May 17, 2011
may 21 doomsday armageddon apocalypse

Doomsday prophets are often depicted in cartoons as bearded, robed men standing on street corners with signs reading, "The End is Now" or "Repent!" It's a cute caricature, but very dated. These days harbingers of the apocalypse - especially Christian fundamentalists - are getting their message out via Twitter, Facebook, pamphlets, radio shows and billboards.

It's not clear what, exactly, the public is supposed to do with this information. Most people perhaps respond with a shrug, assuming that it's another failed religious doomsday prediction. Others may assume that that if the world really is going to end soon, there's not much point in worrying about it.

Though mainstream churches have typically shied away from predicting that Armageddon is imminent (or its date even knowable), plenty of self-styled prophets believe they know the real truth. One of them is Harold Camping, the 89-year-old leader of the ministry Family Radio Worldwide, whose study of the Bible has convinced him and his followers that the world will end on May 21, 2011. Actually, the complete destruction may take up to six months, but certainly no one should make plans for Thanksgiving or Christmas.

 
Japanese nuke co. admits meltdown occurred 16 hours after quake
The News - Current Events
May 16, 2011
japan nuclear meltdown earthquake

Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) admitted for the first time on May 15 that most of the fuel in one of its nuclear reactors at the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant had melted only about 16 hours after the March 11 earthquake struck a wide swath of northeastern Japan and triggered a devastating tsunami.

According to TEPCO, the operator of the crippled nuclear power plant, the emergency condenser designed to cool the steam inside the pressure vessel of the No. 1 reactor was working properly shortly after the magnitude-9.0 earthquake, but it lost its functions around 3:30 p.m. on March 11 when tsunami waves hit the reactor.

Based on provisional analysis of data on the reactor, the utility concluded that the water level in the pressure vessel began to drop rapidly immediately after the tsunami, and the top of the fuel began to be exposed above the water around 6 p.m. Around 7:30 p.m., the fuel was fully exposed above the water surface and overheated for more than 10 hours. At about 9 p.m., the temperature in the reactor core rose to 2,800 degrees Celsius, the melting point for fuel. At approximately 7:50 p.m., the upper part of the fuel started melting, and at around 6:50 a.m. on March 12, a meltdown occurred.

 
Earthquakes 'could rupture glacial lakes'
The News - Natural Disasters
May 16, 2011
glacial lake earthquake threat

Glacial lakes in the Himalayas could pose a major hazard to population centres if they are ruptured by earthquakes, scientists say.

The true risk to settlements and infrastructure downstream in the Hindu-Kush-Himalayas region is difficult to assess.

But the Himalayan region is dotted with glacial lakes and is in a seismically active zone.

Experts say that, on the basis of past records, a large quake in the region is overdue.

 
Century of disasters - Meltdowns , floods , tornadoes , oil spills - oh my!
The News - Current Events
May 15, 2011
disasters of the  century

This will be the century of disasters. Meltdowns , floods , tornadoes , oil spills , grid crashes - are more things going wrong?

In the same way that the 20th century was the century of world wars, genocide, and grinding ideological conflict, the 21st will be the century of natural disasters and technological crises and unholy combinations of the two. It'll be the century when the things that we count on to go right will, for whatever reason, go wrong.

Late last month, as the Mississippi River rose in what is destined to be the worst flood in decades , and as the residents of Alabama and other states rummaged through the debris of a historic tornado outbreak, physicists at a meeting in Anaheim, Calif., had a discussion about the dangers posed by the sun.

Solar flares , scientists believe, are a disaster waiting to happen. Thus one of the sessions at the American Physical Society's annual meeting was devoted to discussing the hazard of electromagnetic pulses (EMPs) caused by solar flares or terrorist attacks. Such pulses could fry transformers and knock out the electrical grid over much of the nation. Last year the Oak Ridge National Laboratory released a study saying the damage might take years to fix and cost trillions of dollars. [ msnbc ]

 
Israel-Palestinian violence erupts on borders
The News - War-Draft
May 15, 2011
Israeli troops shot Palestinian protesters who surged towards its frontiers with Syria, Lebanon and Gaza on Sunday, killing up to 13 people on the day Palestinians mourn the creation of Israel.

Israeli forces opened fire in three separate locations to prevent crowds of demonstrators from crossing frontier lines, in the deadliest such confrontation in years.

The Lebanese army on the Lebanese frontier said 10 Palestinians died when Israeli forces shot at rock-throwing protesters to prevent them from entering the Jewish State. [ dailystar ]

 
Key facilities in Fukushima plant could have collapsed before tsunami
The News - Current Events
May 15, 2011

Key facilities at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power may have been damaged by the quake itself that day rather than tsunami-caused power loss that failed the reactor's cooling function, Kyodo News quoted a utility source said Saturday.

Data taken by workers entering the No. 1 reactor building at the crippled plant on the night of March 11 showing the radiation level was as high as 300 millisieverts per hour suggest a large amount of radioactive materials from nuclear fuel in the reactor was already released.

The findings may call for a review of preparedness against quakes at various nuclear power stations in Japan as they have primarily focused on securing auxiliary power supplies and embankment enhancement against tsunami after the Fukushima plant crisis, assuming that reactor facilities at the plant were unscathed by trembling. [ xinhuanet ]

 
The Great Flood of 2011
The News - Natural Disasters
May 14, 2011
great mississippi flood 2011

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal says federal officials have been given approval to open a Louisiana spillway as early as Saturday to avert a Mississippi River disaster in places like Baton Rouge and New Orleans.

Jindal said Friday that the Army Corps of Engineers had received permission to open the Morganza spillway for the first time in 38 years to relieve pressure on river levees. The corps says it will open the spillway when the river flow reaches a certain point, but an exact timing wasn't known. However, that flow rate is expected
to happen Saturday.

Sheriffs and National Guardsmen will warn people in a door-to-door sweep through the area, Jindal said. In addition to the 2,500 people living inside the spillway, there are 22,500 people and 11,000 structures in the backwater areas that could be flooded.
 
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