Indonesia Wildfires Force Schools to Close in Singapore By Linda Lam Published Sep 26 2015 02:26 PM EDT weather.com Dangerous Smog in Singapore Meteorologist Danielle Banks talks about the dangerous smog that’s prompted school closures in Singapore and has people wearing masks to protect themselves. As wildfires blazed in nearby Indonesia, schools in Singapore were closed Friday and anti-pollution masks were distributed to the elderly and other vulnerable residents.Pollution levels on the island nation, an annual problem for Singapore, reached their highest levels of the year this week. It resembles a wintry fog, removing the skyline from sight and even seeping into homes.Caused by burning forests to clear farmland in Indonesia, repeated efforts to end the practice have been unsuccessful. As a result, residents in Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia suffer the consequences, especially children, the elderly and those with breathing difficulties.(MORE: Good News in California Wildfire Battle)The three-hour Pollutant Standards Index (PSI), which measures air pollution in the country, hit 341 on Friday morning, the highest level this year, before dipping below 300, the hazardous mark.Haze is produced when light is reflected off particles in the air. In this case, smoke and visibility is reduced.EnlargeSatellite Image of Singapore Satellite image on Sept. 24, 2015 showing the smoke plumes from Indonesia as well as the thick, smoky haze across Singapore and much of Indonesia and Malaysia. (NASA) Forest fires in portions of Indonesia and Malaysia are the origin of the smoke which has been transported to Singapore by the prevailing southwest winds.The health concern from smoke is serious as the fine particles in the smoke can aggravate respiratory systems, as well as eyes. Health problems including burning eyes, runny nose, and illnesses such as bronchitis can be a consequence, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Those with chronic health conditions are at an even bigger risk of serious consequences.The government ordered all primary and secondary schools to be shut. Also, free face masks were being distributed at community centers across the island to the vulnerable from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.. Volunteers were also expected to go house to house to give out the masks to those who were unable to come to community centers.The Straits Times reported that this was the first time schools in Singapore were closed due to the haze.The haze is also causing tensions between Singapore and Indonesia, apparently after Indonesian Vice President Jusuf Kalla commented recently that neighboring countries „already enjoy 11 months of clean fresh air from Indonesia.” He suggested that it is not a big deal if they suffer from the haze for one month, when forests are usually burned.Singapore Foreign Minister K. Shanmugam, in a Facebook post, responded by saying his government „takes the matter seriously” and Singapore is „ready to assist Indonesia in combatting the fires.””Yet, at the same time, we are hearing some shocking statements made, at senior levels, from Indonesia, with a complete disregard for our people, and their own — PSI levels in parts of Indonesia are at almost 2,000 PSI.””How is it possible for senior people in government to issue such statements, without any regard for their people, or ours, and without any embarrassment, or sense of responsibility?” he wrote.(MORE: Dujuan Moves Toward Asia)The haze has also hit hard festivities in Singapore whose multi-ethnic population celebrated the Muslim festival of Eid al-Adha on Thursday and will mark the Chinese mooncake festival on Sunday, traditionally held by farmers to celebrate their autumn harvest.”The haze is very bad, there are less people in the mosque this year. Coming to the mosque to pray used to be very nice because we would mingle around after,” said Mustafa Muhamad, 61, who had come to the Hajjah Fatimah mosque to pray.On Tuesday, Indonesia’s environment and forestry ministry said the licenses of four Indonesian plantation companies were suspended or revoked for clearing land illegally and sparking forest fires.Some 27 companies are being investigated in connection with the forest fires, Indonesian authorities said, while 140 individuals are being questioned. A Singapore-listed company is among those under investigation.The chance of showers and thunderstorms will increase slightly this weekend and into early next week, which, along with a shift in wind direction, could help to alleviate conditions. Rain could help to eliminate some of the particles in the atmosphere.However, the overall weather pattern favors persistent dry conditions for the next few weeks.Any rainfall may also help manage the forest fires that have been exacerbated by the very dry conditions much of Southeast Asia has seen this year, a common occurrence during El Nino.Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.This picture taken from a Kamov helicopter operated by Indonesia’s Disaster Mitigation Agency shows fires burning at a concession area in Pelalawan, Riau province on September 17, 2015. (ADEK BERRY/AFP/Getty Images)
Malaysia air pollution spikes due to Indonesian smoke 53 minutes agoKuala Lumpur (AFP) – Air pollution in Malaysia’s capital spiked to „very unhealthy” levels on Sunday as acrid smoke billowing from Indonesian agricultural fires intensified, in an environmental crisis that is fraying regional tempers.Related Stories
Pollution readings soared past the 200-point level Sunday morning in the Malaysian government’s hourly air-quality index, a threshold that triggers automatic school closures during weekdays.As the haze built up in Malaysia on Saturday, an airport just outside Kuala Lumpur closed temporarily in the afternoon as visibility dropped to less then 400 metres (yards).The closure forced at least 20 flights to be cancelled, according to Malaysian media reports, and followed Singapore’s shuttering of schools on Friday as air there worsened to „hazardous” levels.Parts of Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore have been shrouded for weeks in a choking smoke haze from tinder-dry parts of Indonesia’s Sumatra island.The haze crisis — the worst since mid-2013 — grips the region nearly every year during the dry season, when agricultural land is illegally cleared by burning.Firefighters attempt to extinguish fire in a vast peatland forest in Jabiren Raya district, Central …Indonesia has faced pressure from its neighbours to address the problem since it first emerged about 20 years ago.But the issue has persisted, especially as plantations have expanded, driven in large part by rising global demand for palm oil, a key ingredient in a vast range of everyday consumer products.Malaysian skies have been a smoky grey for most of the past month, and authorities on September 15 ordered schools closed in Kuala Lumpur and neighbouring states.Singapore Foreign Minister K. Shanmugam on Friday lashed out at what he called „shocking statements” by senior Indonesian officials perceived as making light of the problem.Haze levels in Singapore had improved by Sunday, dropping below the „unhealthy” mark.Indonesian authorities have indicated the problem may not clear up anytime soon.National Disaster Management Agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said Saturday that „fires continue to rage” despite a push to extinguish the blazes on farm expanses and peatlands that has included the deployment of military personnel.He said new fires were cropping up, while those that were previously extinguished had re-emerged in peatlands or had been deliberately re-ignited.He added that pollution readings in several Indonesian cities were at hazardous levels, and that nearly 168,000 people in affected areas has sought medical treatment for respiratory problems.Indonesia had earlier declared a state of emergency in Sumatra’s hard-hit Riau province.
‘Blood Moon’ seen as sign of end times by some Mormons By BRADY McCOMBS15 hours agoView photoThis Sept. 13, 2015 image provided by NASA shows the moon, left, and the Earth, top, transiting the sun together, seen from the Solar Dynamics Observatory. The edge of Earth appears fuzzy because the atmosphere blocks different amounts of light at different altitudes. This image was taken in extreme ultraviolet wavelengths, invisible to human eyes, but here colorized in gold. A total lunar eclipse will share the stage with a so-called supermoon Sunday evening, Sept. 27, 2015 as seen from the United States. That combination hasn’t been seen since 1982 and won’t happen again until 2033. (NASA/SDO via AP) SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A rare confluence of a lunar eclipse and a supermoon set to happen this weekend has prompted such widespread fear of an impending apocalypse that the Mormon Church was compelled to issue a statement cautioning the faithful to not get caught up in speculation about a major calamity.Related Stories
Sunday night’s „blood moon” and recent natural disasters and political unrest around the world have led to a rise in sales at emergency-preparedness retailers. Apocalyptic statements by a Mormon author have only heightened fears among a small number of Mormon followers about the looming end of time. The eclipse will give the moon a red tint and make it look larger than usual. It won’t happen again for 18 years.It’s unclear how many Latter-day Saints buy the theory, but Mormon leaders were worried enough that they took the rare step this week of issuing a public statement cautioning the faithful not to get carried away with visions of the apocalypse.Leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints told its 15 million worldwide members that they should be „spiritually and physically prepared for life’s ups and downs,” but they urged them not to take speculation from individual church members as doctrine and „avoid being caught up in extreme efforts to anticipate catastrophic events.”The Mormons preparing to hunker down Sunday night aren’t alone. Some from other religions also fear a doomsday scenario. A Christian pastor in Texas has written a book predicting a world-shaking event.Storing away enough food and water in case of disaster, job loss or something worse is part of the fundamental teachings of the Mormon religion. Many homes in Utah are equipped with special shelving for cans of beans, rice and wheat. The belief that regular history will someday end, bringing a second coming of Jesus, is embedded in the minds of Mormons and the church’s official name.Though most Latter-day Saints probably haven’t even heard of this latest theory tied to the blood moon, the church’s decision to address it publicly is significant and shows leaders felt the need to reassert their authority on the matter, Mormon scholars said.”For it to filter up to that level and for them to decide to send out a policy letter means that they felt there was something they needed to tamp down on,” said Patrick Mason, the Howard W. Hunter Chair of Mormon Studies at Claremont Graduate University in California Kevin Allbee, spokesman for Utah-based Emergency Essentials, said his company has seen a steady rise since June with sales up 200 to 300 percent. He attributes it to a variety of events leading to more anxiety, including the earthquake in Nepal, Russian’s intervention in the Ukraine and economic concerns in Greece and China. He said it goes well beyond Mormons in Utah. The company does most of its sales online with customers outside the state.The public pronouncement by the church comes after leaders earlier this month sent a memo to teachers in the church’s religious education system for high school and colleges telling them to be wary of Mormon author Julie Rowe’s books.Rowe writes about and speaks to audiences about a near-death experience in 2004 when she says she crossed over into the Spirit World and was shown tragic upcoming world calamities and told she would be expected to tell others in the future. „That time has come,” her website proclaims. It is believed her teachings have fueled some of the speculation.The church memo says that while Rowe is an active member of the religion, her books are not endorsed and should not be recommended as a teaching resource.Rowe’s publisher, Spring Creek Book Co. in Idaho, did not return requests for comment. She issued a statement to The Salt Lake Tribune, which reported on the rise in apocalyptic worries among some Latter-day Saints.Rowe said she doesn’t intend to make her comments church doctrine, but she chose to share her story to help people prepare for the „times we live in by increasing their faith in Christ and by looking to our prophet and church leaders for guidance.”
A Florida Woman Was Arrested on Suspicion of Riding a Sea Turtle By Jessie Schiewe6 hours agoThis is why you don’t post certain pictures on social media.These days you can’t do anything, let alone ride a sea turtle, without getting arrested. In fact, this is exactly what happened to a Florida woman who has been arrested on suspicion of doing so this July, Buzzfeed reports.The woman and her friend posted photos of themselves seated atop nesting turtles toSnapchat, but the photos quickly spread to the rest of the Internet, catching the attention of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conversation Commission. Unbeknownst to the women, there is a Marine Turtle Protection Act, which makes it illegal to harm or harass marine turtles while they are nesting in the summer months.According to the agency, there were an abnormally high number of turtles whom came out of the water to lay eggs this year, but returned to the water without nesting. “False crawls,” as they are called, usually happen when the turtles are disturbed.Stephanie Marie Moore, 20, was arrested on Saturday after a warrant was served for her arrest in regards to disturbing the turtles.
American, British Students Die While Kayaking in New Zealand; Strong Winds, Frigid Temperatures May Have Been a Factor By Sean Breslin Published Sep 26 2015 03:28 PM EDT weather.com VIDEO UNAVAILABLE DUE TO LOCATION We’re sorry, but the video you are trying to watch cannot be viewed from your current location.Two students died during a kayaking trip at New Zealand’s Lake Tekapo, and officials say poor weather conditions may have led to the tragedy.American student Daniel Thomas Hollnsteiner, 21, and British student James Robert Murphy, 20, were killed when winds picked up and their kayaks were tipped over, NBC News reported. Even though all 11 kayakers in the group were wearing life jackets, the cold water temperatures quickly became a problem.