View Gallery‘Super typhoon’ strikes PhilippinesView PhotoA house is engulfed by the storm surge brought about by powerful typhoon Haiyan that …Play VideoTyphoon Haiyan hits central PhilippinesReuters Videos 0:58MANILA, Philippines – One of the strongest storms on record slammed into the central Philippines on Friday, killing at least four people, forcing hundreds of thousands from their homes and knocking out power and communications in several provinces. But the nation appeared to avoid a major disaster because the rapidly moving typhoon blew away before wreaking more damage, officials said.Huge Typhoon Haiyan raced across a string of islands from east to west — Samar, Leyte, Cebu and Panay— and lashed beach communities with over 200 kilometre (124 mile) per hour winds. Nearly 750,000 people were forced to flee their homes.Due to cut-off communications, it was impossible to know the full extent of casualties and damage. At least two people were electrocuted in storm-related accidents, one person was killed by a fallen tree and another was struck by lightning, official reports said.Weather officials said Haiyan had sustained winds of 235 kph (147 mph) with gusts of 275 kph (170 mph) when it made landfall. That makes it the world’s strongest typhoon this year, said Aldczar Aurelio of the government’s weather bureau.Southern Leyte Gov. Roger Mercado said the typhoon triggered landslides that blocked roads, uprooted trees and ripped roofs off houses around his residence.The dense clouds and heavy rains made the day seem almost as dark as night, he said.”When you’re faced with such a scenario, you can only pray, and pray and pray,” Mercado told The Associated Press by telephone, adding that mayors in the province had not called in to report any major damage.”I hope that means they were spared and not the other way around,” he said. „My worst fear is there will be massive loss of lives and property.”Eduardo del Rosario, head of the disaster response agency, said a powerful typhoon that also hit the central Philippines in 1990 killed 508 people and left 246 missing, but this time authorities had ordered pre-emptive evacuation and other measures to minimize casualties.He said the speed at which the typhoon sliced through the central islands — 40 kph (25 mph) — helped prevent its 600-kilometre (375-mile) band of rain clouds from dumping enough of their load to overflow waterways. Flooding from heavy rains is often the main cause of deaths from typhoons.”It has helped that the typhoon blew very fast in terms of preventing lots of casualties,” regional military commander Lt. Gen. Roy Deveraturda said. He said the massive evacuation of villagers before the storm also saved many lives.The Philippines, which is hit by about 20 typhoons and storms a year, has in recent years become more serious about preparations to reduce deaths. Public service announcements are frequent, as are warnings by the president and high-ranking officials that are regularly carried on radio and TV and social networking sites.Provincial governors and mayors have taken a hands-on approach during crises, supervising evacuations, inspecting shelters and efforts to stockpile food and relief supplies.President Benigno Aquino III assured the public of war-like preparations, with three C-130 air force cargo planes and 32 military helicopters and planes on standby, along with 20 navy ships.Among the evacuees were thousands of residents of Bohol who had been camped in tents and other makeshift shelters since a magnitude-7.2 earthquake hit the island province last month.From Samar, the typhoon battered Leyte, then the northern part of Cebu and nearby islands before lashing Panay — islands with some of the best beach resorts in the Philippines.As of 8 p.m., the typhoon was north of Palawan province, 320 kilometres (200 miles) southwest of Manila, and had weakened a bit with sustained winds of 215 kph (134 mph).Forecasters said the storm was expected to move out of the country and into the South China Sea on Saturday morning, where it was likely to pick up renewed strength on its way toward Vietnam.Dozens of flights in the central and southern Philippines were cancelled. A storm surge estimated at 5 metres (15 feet) damaged a seaside airport in Leyte’s Tacloban city. Airport workers moved to the tower and were safe but no other details had been reported because communications were cut by the typhoon, aviation official John Andrews said.”They’ve been incommunicado. The last message we got from them was that the airport was ruined,” Andrews said.Andrews said the typhoon also damaged the airport in Kalibo town in Aklan.The U.S. Navy’s Joint Typhoon Warning Center said shortly before the typhoon made landfall that its maximum sustained winds were 314 kph (195 mph) with gusts up to 379 kph (235 mph). Those measurements are different from local weather data because the U.S. Navy centre measures the average wind speed for 1 minute while local forecasters measure the average for 10 minutes.That is the strongest a tropical cyclone has ever been when it made landfall anywhere on Earth, beating out Hurricane Camille, which had wind speeds of 305 kph (190 mph) at landfall in the southeast United States 1969, said Jeff Masters, a former hurricane meteorologist who is meteorology director at the private company Weather Underground.There have been three instances of storms with higher winds, but all were at sea when the winds were measured and they were more than 50 years ago when measurement accuracy was an issue, Masters said. He said the record was Super Typhoon Nancy in 1961.”195 mph winds, there aren’t too many buildings constructed that can withstand that kind of wind,” Masters told The Associated Press.___Associated Press writers Jim Gomez in Manila and Seth Borenstein in Washington, D.C., contributed to this report.
Year’s strongest typhoon blasts PhilippinesBy OLIVER TEVES and TERESA CEROJANO 2 hours agoView galleryA man walks past a tree uprooted by strong winds brought by super Typhoon Haiyan that hit Cebu city, central Philippines November 8, 2013. Typhoon Haiyan, the strongest typhoon in the world this year and possibly the most powerful ever to hit land battered the central Philippines on Friday, forcing millions of people to flee to safer ground, cutting power lines and blowing apart houses. Haiyan, a category-5 super typhoon, bore down on the northern tip of Cebu Province, a popular tourist destination with the country’s second-largest city, after lashing the islands of Leyte and Samar with 275 kph (170 mph) wind gusts and 5-6 meter (15-19 ft) waves. REUTERS/Zander Casas (PHILIPPINES – Tags: DISASTER ENVIRONMENT)MANILA, Philippines (AP) — The strongest typhoon this year slammed into the central Philippines on Friday, setting off landslides and knocking out power and communication lines in several provinces. At least four people died.Huge, fast-paced Typhoon Haiyan raced across a string of islands from east to west — Samar, Leyte, Cebu and Panay— and lashed beach communities with over 200 kilometer (125 mile) per hour winds. Nearly 720,000 people were forced to evacuate their homes.Due to cut-off communications, it was impossible to know the full extent of casualties and damage. At least two people were electrocuted in storm-related accidents, one person was killed by a fallen tree and another was struck by lightning, official reports said.Southern Leyte Gov. Roger Mercado said the super typhoon triggered landslides that blocked roads, uprooted trees and ripped roofs off houses around his residence.The dense clouds and heavy rains made the day seem almost as dark as night, he said.”When you’re faced with such a scenario, you can only pray, and pray and pray,” Mercado told The Associated Press by telephone, adding that mayors in the province had not called in to report any major damage.”I hope that means they were spared and not the other way around,” he said. „My worst fear is there will be massive loss of lives and property.”Weather officials said Haiyan had sustained winds of 235 kph (147 mph) with gusts of 275 kph (170 mph) when it made landfall. That makes it the strongest typhoon this year, said Aldczar Aurelio of the government’s weather bureau.Eduardo del Rosario, head of the disaster response agency, said a typhoon of similar strength that hit the Philippines in 1990 killed 508 people and left 246 missing, but this time authorities had taken pre-emptive evacuation and other measures to minimize casualties.The Philippines, which is hit by about 20 typhoons and storms a year, has in recent years become more serious about preparations to reduce deaths. Public service announcements are more frequent as are warnings issued by the president and high-ranking officials, regularly carried on radio and TV and social networking sites.Provincial governors and mayors have taken a hands-on approach during crises, supervising evacuations, inspecting shelters and efforts to stockpile food and relief supplies.By 5 p.m. Friday, the typhoon — one of the strongest storms ever — was centered to the west of Aklan province on Panay Island, 320 kilometers (200 miles) south of Manila, after blasting the island resort of Boracay.Forecasters said it was expected to move out over water south of Mindoro island Friday evening and into the South China Sea on Saturday, heading toward Vietnam.Among the evacuees were thousands of residents of Bohol who had been camped in tents and other makeshift shelters after a magnitude-7.2 earthquake hit the island province last month.Jeff Masters, a former hurricane meteorologist who is meteorology director at the private company Weather Underground, said the storm was poised to be the strongest tropical cyclone ever recorded at landfall. He warned of „catastrophic damage.”But he said the Philippines might get a small break because the storm is so fast moving that flooding from heavy rains — usually the cause of most deaths from typhoons in the Philippines — may not be as bad.The U.S. Navy’s Joint Typhoon Warning Center said shortly before the typhoon made landfall that its maximum sustained winds were 314 kph (195 mph), with gusts up to 379 kph (235 mph). Those measurements are different than local weather data because the U.S. Navy center measures the average wind speed for 1 minute while local forecasters measure the average for 10 minutes.Hurricane Camille, a powerful 1969 storm, had wind speeds that reached 305 kph (190 mph) at landfall in the United States, Masters said.President Benigno Aquino III assured the public of war-like preparations, with three C-130 air force cargo planes and 32 military helicopters and planes on standby, along with 20 navy ships.___Associated Press writers Jim Gomez in Manila, Philippines, and Seth Borenstein in Washington contributed to this report.
Super Typhoon Haiyan: Philippines Islands Heavily Damaged, Several Dead Published: Nov 8, 2013, 9:22 AM EST weather.com
This animated image from NOAA shows Super Typhoon Haiyan hours before it made landfall in the Philippines.Jennings said that his family was boarded up in a solid concrete building, with a generator and plenty of water, but that he feared the worst for those who weren’t so fortunate.”The poor, if they’re lucky, have metal roofs that aren’t even held together with nails; they’re held together with tires,” said Jennings. „If we get 90 mph winds, if we get strong sustained winds, they’re done.”Dr. Jeff Masters, meteorology director at Weather Underground, part of the Weather Company family, said the storm had been poised to be the strongest tropical cyclone ever recorded at landfall. He warned of „catastrophic damage.”(MORE: Where Will Haiyan Go Next?)But he said the Philippines might get a small break because the storm is so fast moving that flooding from heavy rains – usually the cause of most deaths from typhoons in the Philippines – may not be as bad.The U.S. Navy’s Joint Typhoon Warning Center said shortly before the typhoon made landfall that its maximum sustained winds were 195 mph, with gusts up to 235 mph. Those measurements are different than local weather data because the U.S. Navy center measures the average wind speed for 1 minute while local forecasters measure average for 10 minutes.Hurricane Camille, a powerful 1969 storm, had wind speeds that reached 190 mph at landfall in the United States, Masters said.President Benigno Aquino III assured the public of war-like preparations, with three C-130 air force cargo planes and 32 military helicopters and planes on standby, along with 20 navy ships.1 / 74Debris litter the road by the coastal village in Legazpi city following a storm surge brought about by powerful Typhoon Haiyan in Albay province, Nov. 8, 2013, about 325 miles south of Manila, Philippines. (AP Photo/Nelson Salting) 12/74
EU to start negotiating law on removing CO2 permitsBy Barbara Lewis and Michael Szabo 2 hours agoBy Barbara Lewis and Michael Szabo BRUSSELS/LONDON (Reuters) – EU diplomats on Friday agreed to begin talks on a legal text to slash permit supply and prop up carbon prices in the bloc’s Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS), marking a big step forward for the divisive proposal.EU president Lithuania said member state officials would start negotiations with the European Parliament and the executive European Commission over the „backloading” plan, which seeks to delay the sale of 900 million carbon permits until later this decade.”Common sense prevailed. Almost unanimous support from member states. (We’re) moving toward a stronger ETS,” EU Climate Action Commissioner Connie Hedegaard tweeted.The Commission wants to raise the price of allowances in the EU ETS, now below 5 euros per ton, to incentivize companies to cut their greenhouse gas emissions.Sources at Friday’s meeting in Brussels said the majority of countries supported advancing the text to so-called trialogue talks after it had been stalled for months due to indecision by a handful of governments.”A number of countries said they could support, (and there were) no abstentions. The presidency asked who could not agree and stated at the end there was a qualified majority for the trialogue,” one diplomat said, on condition of anonymity.Another diplomat, also asking not to be named because they were not authorized to speak to the media, said: „The mandate was given very quickly. Only Poland and Cyprus not supporting … Only one trialogue should be needed. There is no date, but it should be very soon.”Trialogue talks could conclude next week and, if agreed there, the final text would then go to the parliament’s environment committee before being sent to the full parliament for a final vote, tentatively scheduled for December 10.Member states in the EU Council of ministers would also need formally to approve the final text, likely either in their next Environment Council meeting on December 13 or at full EU Council talks on December 18 or 19.(Additional reporting by Ben Garside in London; Editing by Dale Hudson)
Removal of fuel rods from Fukushima plant REUTERS/Kyodo 2 hours ago
View PhotoA Palestinian girl holds her sister as they sit outside their dwelling in al-Mugraga …PARIS (Reuters) – UNESCO has suspended the voting rights of the United States and Israel, two years after both countries stopped paying dues to the U.N.’s cultural arm in protest over its granting full membership to the Palestinians.The U.S. decision to cancel its funding in October 2011 was blamed on U.S. laws that prohibit funding to any U.N. agency that implies recognition of the Palestinians’ demands for their own state.Israel also pulled its funding, objecting to what it called unilateral attempts by the Palestinians to gain recognition of statehood.Both countries missed a 1100 GMT Friday deadline to provide an official justification for non-payment and a plan to pay back missed dues, a UNESCO source told Reuters. That automatically triggered suspension of their voting rights.Asked for his reaction, the U.S. Ambassador to UNESCO, David Killion, said Washington considers UNESCO a „critical partner in creating a better future.””We intend to continue our engagement with UNESCO in every possible way,” Killion said.UNESCO, the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization, is responsible for designating World Heritage sites, promoting global education and supporting press freedom, among other tasks.FUNDING CRISIS-The withdrawal of U.S. funding – which totalled about $240 million (£149,737,958.57), or some 22 percent of UNESCO’s budget – has plunged it into a funding crisis and forced it to cut programs.UNESCO made no comment on the matter. The list of countries whose voting rights are suspended will be announced at a UNESCO meeting on Saturday, after which Director-General Irina Bokova is expected to issue a statement.The body’s 15-day general conference, which unites member state representatives every two years, began on Tuesday in Paris.The U.S. loss of voting rights comes as Washington tries to keep peace negotiations between Israel and Palestinians afloat.Both parties have signalled poor progress in the talks, which were revived in July after a three-year hiatus but recently became stymied over Israeli plans to continue building Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem.U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has warned Israel that it could face a third Palestinian uprising if the talks fail.The Palestinians have so far failed in their bid to become a full member of the U.N., but their UNESCO membership is seen as a potential first step towards U.N. recognition of statehood.The United States has characterized UNESCO’s move as a misguided attempt to bypass the two-decade old peace process. Washington says only a resumption of peace talks ending in a treaty with Israel can result in Palestinian statehood.(Reporting by Alexandria Sage and Marine Pennetier; editing by Mark John and Mark Trevelyan)
BANGKOK – Seizures of crystal meth and methamphetamine pills reached record highs in East and Southeast Asia in 2012, with Myanmar retaining its status as a major supplier of the illicit drugs, the United Nations said Friday.In its annual report on amphetamine-type stimulants in the region, the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime said that methamphetamines were the primary or secondary drug of choice in 13 of the 15 Asia-Pacific countries surveyed.A total of 227 million methamphetamine pills were seized in the region last year — a 59 per cent increase from 142 million a year earlier, the report said. It marked a more than seven-fold increase from 2008.Many of the pills were seized in China (102.2 million), followed by Thailand (95.3 million) and Myanmar (18.2 million), the UNODC report said. In Thailand, the haul was nearly double the amount seized in 2011 and the second-largest ever recorded.”Methamphetamine remains the top illicit drug threat in East and Southeast Asia,” said the report, covering a region that includes China and South Korea to Southeast Asia and Australia. „Seizures of methamphetamine in both pill and crystalline forms reached record highs there in 2012.”The 11.6 tons of crystal meth seized across the region was the highest in a decade and a 12 per cent increase from the year before. It included record hauls in Indonesia, Thailand, Singapore, Cambodia and Brunei.”Myanmar remains the primary source of methamphetamine pills found in the region,” said the report, adding Myanmar continues to be „a major source” of the region’s crystal meth, opium and heroin. Myanmar is also the world’s second-largest producer of opium, after Afghanistan, accounting for about 10 per cent of global production.The upsurge comes despite Myanmar’s progress toward democratic reform since 2011, when the long-ruling military junta ceded power. The country’s drug-producing hub is in eastern Shan State, a remote region near China and Thailand, where ethnic rebels have waged wars for decades and the government still has little control.Myanmar’s neighbours are its main markets. Up to 90 per cent of the crystal meth seized last year in Thailand — and an estimated 90 per cent of meth pills seized in China — came from Myanmar, the report said.China is also the destination for most of Myanmar’s heroin, the report said. Myanmar’s cultivation of illegal opium increased for a sixth consecutive year in 2012. It rose by 17 per cent to 51,000 hectares (126,000 acres), up from about 40,000 hectares (100,000 acres) in 2011.Trafficking of amphetamines is dominated by regional syndicates, but organized crime gangs from Africa and Iran have continued to smuggle such drugs into the region, the agency said.The report said there was a resurgence of ecstasy use in several Asian countries, with the number of ecstasy pills seized in 2012 more than tripling to 5.4 million pills, compared to 1.6 million in 2011.
View PhotoIn this Thursday, Nov. 7, 2013 photo, residents living near the slopes of Mayon volcano …MANILA, Philippines – One of the most powerful typhoons ever recorded slammed into the Philippines on Friday, cutting communications and blocking roads in the centre of the country amid worries of serious damage and casualties.Telephone lines appeared down as it was difficult to get through to the landfall site 650 kilometres southeast of Manila where typhoon Haiyan slammed into a rural area of the country.Weather officials said that Haiyan had sustained winds at 235 kilometres per hour, with gusts of 275 km/h when it made landfall at Eastern Samar province’s Guiuan township.The local weather bureau makes estimates based on longer periods of time than others, such as the U.S. navy’s Joint Typhoon Warning Center, which said shortly before the typhoon made landfall that its maximum sustained winds were 314 km/h, with gusts up to 379 km/h.”195-mile-per-hour (314 km/h) winds, there aren’t too many buildings constructed that can withstand that kind of wind,” said Jeff Masters, a former hurricane meteorologist who is meteorology director at the private firm Weather Underground.Masters said the storm had been poised to be the strongest tropical cyclone ever recorded at landfall. He warned of „catastrophic damage.”Haiyan’s wind strength at landfall had been expected to beat out hurricane Camille, which was 305 km/h at landfall in the United States in 1969, Masters said.Already authorities reported having trouble reaching colleagues in the landfall area, with forecaster Mario Palafox of the national weather bureau saying contact had been lost with staff in the landfall area.More than 125,000 people had been evacuated from towns and villages in the typhoon’s path, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council said. Among them were thousands of residents of Bohol who had been camped in tents and other makeshift shelters after a magnitude 7.2 earthquake devastated many towns on the island province.Masters said the Philippines might get a small break because the storm is so fast moving that flooding from heavy rains — usually the cause of most deaths from typhoons in the Philippines — may not be as bad.After hitting Guiuan on the southern tip of Samar island, the typhoon pummeled nearby Leyte island.”I think this is the strongest so far since the 1960s,” Southern Leyte Gov. Roger Mercado said on ABS-CBN television. „This is really a wallop. All roads are impassable due to fallen trees.”A reporter for the network in the Tacloban city was drenched in the pounding rain and said he was wearing a helmet as protection against flying debris. Visibility was so poor that only his silhouette could be seen through the thick curtain of water.Television images showed a street under knee-deep floodwater carrying debris that had been blown down by the fierce winds. Tin roofing sheets ripped from buildings were flying above the street.Weather forecaster Gener Quitlong said the typhoon was not losing much of its strength because there is no large land mass to slow it down since the region is comprised of islands with no tall mountains.Officials in Cebu province have shut down electric service to the northern part of the province to avoid electrocutions in case power pylons are toppled, said assistant regional civil defence chief Flor Gaviola.President Benigno Aquino assured the public of war-like preparations, with three C-130 air force cargo planes and 32 military helicopters and planes on standby, along with 20 navy ships.The typhoon — the 24th serious storm to hit the Philippines this year — is forecast to barrel through the Philippines’ central region Friday and Saturday before blowing toward the South China Sea over the weekend, heading toward Vietnam.
View PhotoFILE – In this Nov. 30, 2011 file photo, Japan’s anti-nuclear activist actor Taro …TOKYO – A novice Japanese lawmaker who wanted to draw attention to the Fukushima nuclear crisis has caused an uproar by doing something taboo: handing a letter to the emperor.The ruckus began at an annual autumn Imperial Palace garden party last week. As Emperor Akihito and his wife, Michiko, greeted a line of guests, outspoken actor-turned-lawmaker Taro Yamamoto gave the emperor the letter — a gesture considered both impolite and inappropriate.Video of the encounter, repeatedly aired on television, shows the 79-year-old emperor calmly taking the letter, written on a folded „washi” paper with ink and brush, and briefly talking with Yamamoto. An apparently wary Empress Michiko gently pulled her husband’s elbow from behind. The chief steward, who was standing next to Akihito, grabbed the letter the instant the emperor turned to him.Yamamoto’s action drew criticism from both ends of the ideological spectrum and left many Japanese baffled by what they consider to be a major breach of protocol: reaching out to the emperor in an unscripted act.The controversy shows how the role of Japan’s emperor remains a sensitive issue, nearly 70 years after Akihito’s father, Emperor Hirohito, renounced his divinity following Japan’s defeat in World War II and became a symbol of the state.Many conservatives still consider the emperor and his family divine („the people above the clouds”) and believe a commoner shouldn’t even talk to him. Decades ago, commoners were not even allowed to directly look at the emperor, but today Akihito does meet with ordinary people, including those in disaster-hit areas in northern Japan.There is no specific law, but people are not supposed to talk freely to the emperor, touch him or hand him something without permission. Taking a cellphone picture of the emperor or his family also is considered impolite.Upper house president Masaaki Yamazaki summoned Yamamoto on Friday and reprimanded him verbally. He also barred him from future palace events, after a house committee determined the disciplinary steps earlier in the day.The decision did not specify what exactly Yamamoto did wrong, leaving the debate somewhat murky. It will be formally announced at a full meeting of the upper house next week.The 38-year-old lawmaker, who was elected in July as an independent, has apologized for troubling the emperor but rejected calls to step down.Yamamoto, an anti-nuclear activist, said he wanted to make an appeal to the emperor about the crisis in Fukushima and its possible health impact on residents and workers cleaning up the power plant, which suffered three meltdowns after it was devastated by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami.Neither Yamamoto nor the palace has released the letter’s contents. If Yamamoto sought the emperor’s assistance, he may have violated a law requiring Cabinet approval for such requests.Yamamoto denied any intention to use the emperor for political purposes — a possible infringement of the postwar Constitution, which relegates the emperor to a non-political, ceremonial role.”My behaviour was indiscreet for a place like the garden party,” Yamamoto said at a news conference Tuesday. „I just wanted the emperor to know the reality. I was frustrated by not being able to achieve any of my campaign promises yet.”Liberals criticize Yamamoto for turning to the emperor for help rather than upholding democratic principles as an elected lawmaker. Some worry that Yamamoto’s ploy reinforced the idea that the emperor is Japan’s most trusted public figure, and fear that could play into conservative efforts to give the emperor more powers.Others criticize Yamamoto as an amateur and populist politician who has set back the anti-nuclear movement, said Koichi Nakano, a political scientist at Sophia University in Tokyo.The emperor speaks publicly only at formal ceremonies and rare news conferences. The Imperial Household Agency vice chief said Tuesday that Yamamoto’s action was „inappropriate,” and that the incident could affect operation of future palace public events. He said the agency has the letter, and Akihito hasn’t read it.Yamamoto’s anti-nuclear stance makes him a target for conservatives in the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, which is pushing for a return to nuclear power. Education Minister Hakubun Shimomura called for Yamamoto’s resignation.A few people, including commentators and Yamamoto’s sympathizers, liken him to Shozo Tanaka, a lawmaker seen as a hero for his 1901 appeal to Emperor Meiji, Akihito’s great-grandfather, over copper mine pollution. Tanaka quit as lawmaker and divorced his wife beforehand to keep her out of trouble. He was detained but quickly freed.Nakano said Yamamoto has at least drawn some public attention to the potential health risks faced by children from the Fukushima area and plant workers.”After all, he might have achieved part of his goals,” Nakano said.
Pig-Like Beast Leads the Way to Ancient Cave DrawingsBy by Megan Gannon, News Editor | LiveScience.com – 33 minutes agoView PhotoResearchers surveying pig-like animals called peccaries in Brazil discovered inadvertently …View PhotoA wide array of animals were depicted in the cave drawings found in Brazil’s Cerrado …White-lipped peccaries may not be glamorous-looking, but like their truffle-sniffing cousins, they sometimes turn up treasure.On the trail of the pig-like creatures in Brazil, researchers made an unexpected and rare discovery: cave drawings showing armadillos, birds and reptiles, etched into stone thousands of years ago.Archaeologists who examined the rock art say hunter-gatherers likely created the drawings between 4,000 and 10,000 years ago. [Photos of Amazing Cave Art] Researchers with the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) made the find while surveying white-lipped peccaries in Brazil’s Cerrado plateau, a vast savanna region, in 2009. The animals, which travel long distances, are considered environmental indicators of healthy forests.”Since we often work in remote locations, we sometimes make surprising discoveries, in this case, one that appears to be important for our understanding of human cultural history in the region,” Alexine Keuroghlian, a researcher with WCS’s Brazil program, said in a statement.The researchers encountered a series of sandstone formations with caves containing the artwork while tracking the peccaries near the remote city of Corguinho, in the Brazilian state of Mato Grosso do Sul.Archaeologists say the style of the drawings is more diverse than expected. While some resemble ancient art from the central Brazilian plateau, others, surprisingly, seem etched in the artistic tradition of northeastern Brazil, the researchers said. In addition to human figures and geometric shapes, many different kinds of animals were represented, from big cats and armadillos to birds and reptiles, but alas, no peccaries. The cave art is described (in Portuguese) in the journal Revista Clio Arqueológica.”These discoveries of cave drawings emphasize the importance of protecting the Cerrado and Pantanal ecosystems, both for their cultural and natural heritage,” Julie Kunen, director of WCS’s Latin America and the Caribbean program, said in a statement. „We hope to partner with local landowners to protect these cave sites, as well as the forests that surround them, so that the cultural heritage and wildlife depicted in the drawings are preserved for future generations.”The white-lipped peccary, whose scientific name is Tayassu pecari, is listed as a vulnerable species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the world’s main authority for the conservation status of wildlife. The animal’s range extends from southern Mexico to northern Argentina. It faces threats in the wild, including deforestation and hunting.Follow Megan Gannon on Twitter and Google+. Follow us @livescience, Facebook & Google+. Original article on LiveScience.
View PhotoMaps show how scientists will narrow the field of impact in the weeks approaching …WASHINGTON – Scientists studying the terrifying meteor that exploded without warning over a Russian city last winter say the threat of space rocks smashing into Earth is bigger than they thought.Meteors about the size of the one that streaked through the sky at 67,600 kilometres an hour and burst over Chelyabinsk in February — and ones even larger and more dangerous — are probably four, five or even seven times more likely to hit the planet than scientists believed before the fireball, according to three studies published Wednesday in the journals Nature and Science.That means about 20 million space rocks the size of the Chelyabinsk one may be zipping around the solar system, instead of three million, NASA scientist Paul Chodas said at a news conference.Until Chelyabinsk, NASA had looked only for space rocks about 30 metres wide and bigger, figuring there was little danger below that.This meteor was only 19 metres across but burst with the force of 40 Hiroshima-type atom bombs, scientists say. Its shock wave shattered thousands of windows, and its flash temporarily blinded 70 people and caused dozens of skin-peeling sunburns just after dawn in icy Russia. More than 1,600 people in all were injured.Up until then, scientists had figured a meteor causing an airburst like that was a once-in-150-years event, based on how many space rocks have been identified in orbit. But one of the studies now says it is likely to happen once every 30 years or so, based on how often these things are actually hitting.By readjusting how often these rocks strike and how damaging even small ones can be, „those two things together can increase the risk by an order of magnitude,” said Mark Boslough, a Sandia National Lab physicist, co-author of one of the studies.Lindley Johnson, manager of NASA’s Near Earth Object program, which scans the heavens for dangerous objects, said the space agency is reassessing what size rocks to look for and how often they are likely to hit. It also looking into how the government should react if an asteroid is headed for Earth.In addition, NASA this fall reactivated a dormant orbiting telescope called WISE specifically to hunt for asteroids, Johnson said. And the agency is expanding ground-based sky searches that might give a few extra days’ notice of smaller meteors like the Russian one.At the same time, NASA and the Federal Emergency Management Agency are looking into the need for evacuations in the case of an immediate threat and how to keep the public informed without scaring people.Those issues came up after the two agencies quietly held a disaster drill last spring in Washington that was meant to simulate what would happen if a space rock slightly bigger than the Chelyabinsk one threatened the East Coast.During the drill, when it looked as if the meteor would hit just outside the U.S. capital, experts predicted 78,000 people could die. But when the mock meteor ended up in the ocean, the fake damage featured a 15-metre tsunami and shortages of supplies along the East Coast, according to an after-action report obtained by The Associated Press.The exercise and the studies show there’s a risk from smaller space rocks that strike before they are detected — not just from the giant, long-seen-in-advance ones like in the movie „Armageddon,” said Bill Ailor, a space debris expert at the Aerospace Corporation who helped co-ordinate the drill.”The biggest hazard from asteroids right now is the city-busting airbursts, not the civilization-busting impacts from 1-kilometre-diameter objects that has so far been the target of most astronomical surveys,” Purdue University astronomer Jay Melosh, who wasn’t part of the studies, wrote in an email.”Old-fashioned civil defence, not Bruce Willis and his atom bombs, might be the best insurance against hazards of this kind.”Chodas said the Chelyabinsk rock surprised astronomers because it was coming from the direction of the sun and was not detectable. Telescopes can see some space rocks that are as small as one metre wide, but some are simply too dark to spot, he said.Scientists said a 1908 giant blast over Siberia, a 1963 airborne explosion off the coast of South Africa, and others were of the type that is supposed to happen less than once a century, or in the case of Siberia, once every 8,000 years, yet they all occurred in a 105-year timespan.Because more than two-thirds of Earth is covered with water and other vast expanses are uninhabited deserts and ice, other past fireballs could have gone unnoticed.Just this week, NASA got a wake-up call on those bigger space rocks that astronomers thought they had a handle on, discovering two 20-kilometre-wide asteroids and a two-kilometre-wide one that had escaped their notice until this month. However, NASA said the three objects won’t hit Earth.Asteroids are space rocks that circle the sun as leftovers of failed attempts to form planets billions of years ago. When asteroids enter Earth’s atmosphere, they become meteors. (When they hit the ground, they are called meteorites.)The studies said the Chelyabinsk meteor probably split off from a much bigger space rock.What happened in the Russian city of one million people is altering how astronomers look at a space rocks. With first-of-its-kind video, photos, satellite imagery and the broken-up rock, scientists have been able to piece together the best picture yet of what happens when an asteroid careens into Earth’s atmosphere. It’s not pretty.”I certainly never expected to see something of this scale or this magnitude,” said University of Western Ontario physicist Peter Brown, lead author of one study. „It’s certainly scary.”Scientists said the unusually shallow entry of the space rock spread out its powerful explosion, limiting its worst damage but making a wider area feel the effects. When it burst it released 500 kilotons of energy, scientists calculated.”We were lucky. This could have easily gone the other way. It was really dangerous,” said NASA meteor astronomer Peter Jenniskens, co-author of one of the papers. „This was clearly extraordinary. Just stunning.”
View PhotoIn this image made from video provided by NASA, cosmonaut Fyodor Yurchikhin, International …MOSCOW – A Russian rocket soared into the cosmos Thursday carrying the Sochi Olympic torch and three astronauts to the International Space Station ahead of the first-ever spacewalk for the symbol of peace.Video streamed by the U.S. space agency NASA reported a flawless docking with the space station about six hours after the craft blasted off from Russia’s manned space facility in Baikonur, Kazakhstan.The unlit torch for the 2014 Winter Olympics in the Russian city of Sochi is to be taken on a spacewalk Saturday, then return to Earth on Monday (late Sunday EST) with three departing space station astronauts.The arriving crew members Thursday were Russia’s Mikhail Tyurin, American Rick Mastracchio and Koichi Wakata of Japan.Now that the newcomers have entered the space station following a long hatch-opening process, the orbiting lab has nine people aboard for the first time since 2009. Fyodor Yurchikhin of Russia, NASA’s Karen Nyberg, and Italian Luca Parmitano are the crew scheduled to return to Earth with the torch via a Monday landing on the steppes of Kazakhstan.The Olympic torch will not burn onboard the space outpost because lighting it would consume precious oxygen and pose a threat to the crew. The crew will carry the unlit torch around the station’s numerous modules before taking it out on a spacewalk.The Olympic torch was taken aboard the U.S. space shuttle Atlantis in 1996 for the Atlanta Summer Olympics, but this is the first it time it will be taken outside a spacecraft.”It’s a great pleasure and responsibility getting to work with this symbol of peace,” Tyurin told journalists on Wednesday before the launch.Russians Oleg Kotov and Sergei Ryazanskiy will take the torch out of the space station on Saturday while American Michael Hopkins remains inside.The four-month Sochi torch relay, which started in Moscow on Oct. 7, is the longest in the history of the Olympics. For most of the 65,000-kilometre (39,000-mile) route across Russia, it will travel by plane, train, car and even reindeer sleigh.Some 14,000 torch bearers are taking part in the relay that stops at more than 130 cities and towns.Last month, the Olympic flame travelled to the North Pole on a Russian nuclear-powered icebreaker. Later this month it will sink to the bottom of the world’s deepest lake, Lake Baikal. In early February, it will reach the peak of Mount Elbrus, at 5,642 metres (18,510 feet) the highest mountain in Russia and Europe.The torch will be used to light the Olympic flame at Sochi’s stadium on Feb. 7, marking the start of the 2014 Winter Games that run until Feb. 23.___Jim Heintz in Moscow contributed to this report.
Fukushima Nuclear Disaster: Water Tanks Flawed, Workers Say Mari Yamaguchi Published: Nov 8, 2013, 8:45 AM EST Associated PressDebris is scattered before the sixth reactor building of stricken Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO) Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant in Fukushima prefecture, northern Japan. (Yoshikazu Tsuno/AFP/Getty
- TOKYO — When tons of radioactive water leaked from a storage tank at Fukushima’s crippled nuclear power plant and other containers hurriedly put up by the operator encountered problems, Yoshitatsu Uechi was not surprised. He wonders if one of the tanks he built will be next.
He’s an auto mechanic. He was a tour-bus driver for a while. He had no experience building tanks or working at a nuclear plant, but for six months last year, he was part of the team frantically trying to create new places for contaminated water to go.
Uechi and co-workers were under such pressure to build tanks quickly that they did not wait for dry conditions to apply anti-rust coating over bolts and around seams as they were supposed to; they did the work even in rain or snow. Sometimes the concrete foundation they laid for the tanks came out bumpy. Sometimes the workers saw tanks being used to store water before they were even finished.
„I must say our tank assembly was slipshod work. I’m sure that’s why tanks are leaking already,” Uechi, 48, told The Associated Press from his hometown on Japan’s southern island of Okinawa. „I feel nervous every time an earthquake shakes the area.”
Nuclear Waste Reactor?
Officials and experts and two other workers interviewed by the AP say the quality of the tanks and their foundations suffered because of haste – haste that was unavoidable because there is so much contaminated water leaking from the wrecked reactors and mixed with ground water inflow.
„We were in an emergency and just had to build as many tanks as quickly as possible, and their quality is at bare minimum,” said Teruaki Kobayashi, an official in charge of facility control for the plant operator, Tokyo Electric Power Co.
Leaks and other flaws found in several tanks have raised concerns about further and more damaging failures, particularly if another big earthquake, tsunami or typhoon hits. The plant suffered a triple meltdown after Japan’s devastating 2011 earthquake and tsunami.
The plant has substantially stabilized, but decommissioning is expected to take decades, and TEPCO has suffered what Industry Minister Toshimitsu Motegi has described as a „whack-a-mole” succession of mishaps.
The environmental effects of radioactive water pouring in the sea are unclear, though scientists generally agree that the impact so far has been minimal. With years of work ahead, TEPCO is trying to contain as much contaminated material as possible.
Kobayashi acknowledged the need to improve the design of tanks and their foundations when they are replaced with more durable welded-seam tanks.
The plant has more than 1,000 tanks and other containers storing 370,000 tons of partially treated but still highly contaminated water. About one-third of the containers are easy-to-assemble steel tanks with rubber-sponge seams tightened with bolts; they were always considered a stopgap measure. The other tanks are considered sturdier.
The company is in the process of replacing rubber-seam tanks with larger, more permanent welded tanks, and expects to phase out the temporary tanks by March 2016. It intends not only to replace tanks intended for temporary use but to increase storage capacity to 800,000 tons.
TEPCO has recently accelerated its construction of more reliable tanks, but announced Friday that the pace will continue to be stepped up. „The worst scenario is we run out of space, and we must avoid that,” TEPCO President Naomi Hirose said at a news conference.
The company also announced emergency water management plans that also include additional tank maintenance. „I have never thought we needed so many people to take care of these tanks until two months ago,” Hirose said.
The tank problems have captured international attention, especially since August, when a 1,000-ton tank lost nearly one-third of its toxic content. A month earlier, TEPCO acknowledged that larger amounts of contaminated underground water have been leaking into the Pacific.
TEPCO has dismantled and examined the tank that leaked, but found no obvious design or assembly flaw. Experts say that only widens the scope of the problem. The plant has to live with an imminent risk of more leaks that could spread contamination farther into groundwater and the sea.
„We should assume any tank could leak sooner or later,” said Toyoshi Fuketa, a Nuclear Regulation Authority commissioner and nuclear fuel expert.
Massive amounts of contaminated water distract the plant and its workers from their primary task of reactor cooling and decommissioning preparation. Some of the water became contaminated because it was used to cool melted reactors, but some simply leaked into the wrecked plant, with portions escaping into the sea.
TEPCO will have to keep storing water for years, until the plant can create an air-cooling system for the ruined reactors or remove molten fuel out of them, and develop advanced units that can remove radioactive material from water and make it safe enough to release.
TEPCO hopes to limit the amount of water it must store and treat. It plans to pump away ground water before it reaches the reactor area, then release it untainted into the sea. But tank problems threaten those plans because the pump-out wells are downstream from the containers; leaks would contaminate the water before it could be diverted.
The plant’s still-high radiation levels, particularly around the reactors and in tank areas, play a role in the quality of tank construction. Crews must work quickly to avoid prolonged exposure, and nuclear-plant veterans usually face radiation only to conduct highly skilled work, so jobs such as tank assembly typically go to contract workers who often come from low-tier subcontractors.
A worker who has been at the plant since the early days of the crisis said many senior workers have quit after their exposures have reached limits, and others are seeking better-paying jobs outside the plant. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he feared his employer could punish him for talking to a reporter.
In October 2012, Uechi was told to climb to the top of the 10-meter-high (30-foot-high) tanks and replace temporary covers for hose-insertion openings with disc-shaped steel covers, each the size of a dinner plate. He found that the temporary covers were nothing but masking tape that a worker could have easily stepped through.
Tales of slapdash construction are not limited to workers. A nuclear regulator, Shinji Kinjo, said water-tightness tests were sometimes held in the rain when there was no way of telling the leak from the rainwater.
The August leak led TEPCO to reveal that it had an earlier tank-yard foundation problem: The tank that leaked had been relocated two years earlier, after the ground underneath it collapsed during a water-tightness test. The company has since taken down two other tanks that were near the collapse area.
In October, when radioactive water overflowed from another tank, TEPCO said that vessel and four others connected to each other were built on a slope slightly tilting to the ocean. The tank that leaked was built without a water gauge and alarm that could have alerted workers.
The company has said that other tanks exceed its self-imposed 1-degree tilt limit. It also said the tanks are not anchored to the ground, but sit on a 20-centimeter-thick (8-inch-thick) layer of cement on top of a wire-mesh panel.
Tetsuro Tsusui, a former industrial plant engineer and a member of a civil group of scientists, said TEPCO’s foundation work is insufficient. He said building tanks on slopes is „unthinkable,” and that the flaws suggest „a systematic problem of quality and safety control.”
Taisei Corp., Japan’s leading construction company and one of the primary tank builders, declined to comment.
The maker of the tanks, TKK Co. said tank assembly is „like making a plastic model” and determines the vessels’ quality. It said TKK tanks are „a temporary, emergency step to prevent crisis.”
TEPCO ultimately needs to rely on tanks that can last up to 40 years, said Kobayashi, the company official. „The current situation may be the toughest, transitional phase,” he said.