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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.
 
Mississippi River Floods Should Have Been Expected
The News - Natural Disasters
May 13, 2011

Last year, it was Pakistan and Russia. This spring, all talk of disasters attributable to freak weather conditions turns eyes to the U.S.

First, it was snowfalls that never seemed to end. After that came tornadoes . Now, a massive slug of water is working its way down the Mississippi River , forcing the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to deliberately flood farmland to spare riverside towns such as Cairo in Illinois, and threatening near-record water levels all the way to New Orleans. Here are the underlying causes of these extreme events, and how the surge might have been predicted. [ SA ]
 
Rich Russians Buy Bunkers on Apocalypse Angst
The News - Current Events
May 13, 2011
doomsday bunker apocalypse planning

Terrorism can be good for bunker builders. An apocalypse can be even better for business.

Danila Andreyev started building “panic rooms” three years ago, when fears of terrorist attacks and commercial disputes turning violent created demand in Russia. Now he’s selling “survival bunkers” for as much as $400,000 each to capitalize on angst over theories the world will end next year.

“I myself am not a believer in doomsday scenarios,” Andreyev, 31, whose Spetsgeoproekt company is completing 15 bunkers at hidden locations across Russia, said at his office in central Moscow. “But when you start hearing clients talking about the end of the world, it gets you thinking.”

While Russia has been a target for terrorists, with 37 people dying in a blast at Moscow’s busiest airport in January, more people are looking to protect themselves from what Andreyev calls a “global cataclysm” in 2012 based on predictions such as interpretations of the ancient Mayan calendar. [ bloom ]

 
Farmers on the Mississippi see crops washed away
The News - Climate-Environment
May 13, 2011
mississippi flooding crops wash away

With crop prices soaring, farmers along the lower Mississippi River had been expecting a big year. Maybe even a huge one.

Now, many are facing ruin, with floodwaters swallowing up corn, cotton, rice and soybean fields.

And even more farmland will be drowned in the coming days if engineers throw open a spillway for the first time in 38 years, as they are expected to do, sometime over the weekend. Unlocking the spillway would inundate Louisiana Cajun country with as much as 25 feet of water but would ease the pressure on levees downstream, averting a potentially bigger disaster in New Orleans and Baton Rouge. [ ap ]

 
The Importance of the Morganza Spillway
The News - Climate-Environment
May 12, 2011
Morganza Spillway mississippi flooding

The Mississippi is a bloated beast of a river that has already reached record stages in 21 locations along the Lower Mississippi River basin, flooded towns in parts of Mississippi and is now set to make a final surge into south-central and southeast Louisiana.

How flooding shakes out across southern Louisiana all rests upon one key component - the .  It's just a matter of time before the flood gates are opened but the decision to open the Morganza is not an easy one to make. That decision is in the hands of the Army Corps of Engineers.

When the Morganza is opened, you are purposely flooding some to save many. Yes, you may save Baton Rouge and New Orleans from waters spilling into those cities however you are creating widespread inundation of the Atchafalaya Basin. [ weather ]
 
Japan Reactor-Core Damage Worse Than Thought
The News - Current Events
May 12, 2011
japan nuclear risk higher than thought

Tokyo Electric Power Co. said one of the reactor cores at its stricken Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear plant is more seriously damaged than previously thought, setting back the utility’s plan to resolve the crisis.

Fuel rods in the core of the No. 1 reactor are fully exposed, with the water level 1 meter (3.3 feet) below the base of the fuel assembly, Junichi Matsumoto, a general manager at the utility known as Tepco, told reporters at a briefing in Tokyo. Melted fuel has dropped to the bottom of the pressure vessel and is still being cooled, Matsumoto said.

Japan is trying to contain the worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl after a quake and tsunami two months ago knocked out power and cooling systems at the Fukushima station. While authorities have previously suspected a partial meltdown at unit 1, high radiation levels had prevented workers from entering the building to check the damage until last week. [ bloom ]

 
New Report Warns Mega-Fire Risk Is Global and Growing
The News - Climate-Environment
May 12, 2011
mega fire global climate disaster

Global warming and decades of outmoded fire prevention strategies are merging to set the stage for massive "mega-fires" that scar communities' homes and pocketbooks, according to a new assessment.

Preliminary findings from the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) released this week trace the circumstances around eight mega-fires across the world in a quest to uncover clues on how best to ward them off and minimize their damage. Such fires are defined more by their impact on people and the environment than by their specific size.

"Mega-fire is more of a concept than a construct," said Robert Keane, a research ecologist at the U.S. Forest Service's Missoula Fire Sciences Laboratory who was not involved with the report. "What I interpret [mega-fire] to mean is not only is it large, but it affects a lot of people," he said. [ SA ]

 
Mississippi flood passes 1937 record level
The News - Natural Disasters
May 11, 2011
record flooding mississippi

The swollen Mississippi River broke an all-time record level at Natchez, Mississippi, on Wednesday -- 10 days before its expected crest in the southern city.

The level of the largest river in North America reached 58.37 feet at Natchez on Wednesday afternoon, according to the National Weather Service, over the record of 58.04 feet in 1937. The river is expected to crest at 64 feet on May 21.

So far, levees along the river are holding, according to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

"We're continuing to watch and wait and monitor the situation," said Jim Pogue, a Corps spokesman. "Everything is performing as we had hoped." [ yahoo ]

 
Spring 2011 Weather, by the Numbers
The News - Climate-Environment
May 11, 2011
The end of April saw a massive tornado outbreak along with some of the worst flooding along the Mississippi River in history. Here's a look at the wild month of weather, by the numbers.
 
Japan Earthquake Shifted Towns That Now Flood During Tides
The News - Natural Disasters
May 11, 2011
japan earthquake tsunami flooding
When water begins to trickle down the streets of her coastal neighborhood, Yoshiko Takahashi knows it is time to hurry home.

Twice a day, the flow steadily increases until it is knee-deep, carrying fish and debris by her front door and trapping people in their homes. Those still on the streets slosh through the sea water in rubber boots or on bicycle.

"I look out the window, and it's like our houses are in the middle of the ocean," says Takahashi, who moved in three years ago.

The March 11 earthquake that hit eastern Japan was so powerful it pulled the entire country out and down into the sea. The mostly devastated coastal communities now face regular flooding, because of their lower elevation and damage to sea walls from the massive tsunamis triggered by the quake. [ huff ]

 
UK leads space disaster charter
The News - Science-Astronomy
May 11, 2011
space disaster watch

The UK is to lead the international effort that coordinates the acquisition of satellite pictures whenever there is a natural disaster. Britain will chair the International Charter on Space and Major Disasters for the next six months.

Images taken from orbit in the event of earthquakes or floods are critical tools in helping emergency responders deal with a crisis. Satellite maps can show the extent of the damage or the areas under water.

NGOs, UN agencies and national civil protection centres will use the information to guide their aid efforts on the ground, pinpointing still-passable roads and the best locations to set up refugee camps or mobile medical units. [ bbc ]

 
Seven dead after earthquake hits Spain
The News - Natural Disasters
May 11, 2011
seven dead spain earthquake
Seven people were killed Wednesday when an earthquake struck southeastern Spain, the central government's chief representative in the region told National Spanish Radio.

The 5.3-magnitude quake occurred at 4:47 p.m. (10:47 a.m. ET) and was centered about 50 kilometers (31 miles) southwest of Murcia, near the Mediterranean coast, the U.S. Geological Survey said. That is about 350 kilometers (218 miles) south-southeast of Madrid.

It was preceded at 3:05 p.m. by a 4.5-magnitude temblor centered in the same area, the survey said.

At least one of the deaths occurred in a building collapse in the town of Lorca, state-run EFE said.

 
NASA Considers Lasers To Battle Space Junk
The News - Science-Astronomy
May 11, 2011
space debris junk orbit

“Space junk” or debris has become an increasing threat to commercial satellites along with spacecraft and the International Space Station. Now NASA scientists may have a new option for reducing debris.

Collisions with debris, and the resulting damage, have the potential for being costly and difficult to repair.

During missions, astronauts aboard the International Space Station have had to take refuge in an escape capsule because they knew they were going to have a close encounter with space debris.

NASA scientists propose using a mid-power laser that could move the objects from their collision course. Unlike lasers that have been used in the past, this new laser would not be able to vaporize debris. [ cbs ]

 
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