Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Nuclear crisis shifts German politics

Nuclear crisis shifts German politics
By Jack Ewing, NYT

The elections in Baden-Wurttemberg on Sunday were transformed by the events in Japan.

An election in a comfortable and prosperous corner of Germany, half a world away from a radiation-spewing nuclear plant and ruined villages in northeastern Japan, was a political tsunami of sorts for Europe’s most populous country and its most powerful economy.

Economists have played down the effects that the earthquake and nuclear emergency in Japan will have on global growth. But the elections in the state of Baden-Württemberg on Sunday were transformed by the events there. After a contest that became largely a referendum on atomic energy, voters swept aside the Christian Democratic Union, the party of Chancellor Angela Merkel that had governed the state for 58 years, and set the stage for the first German state government led by the Green Party, longtime opponents of nuclear power.

The vote is all the more astonishing because Baden-Württemberg is a conservative, wealthy state that exemplifies both the post-1945 birth, and the renaissance of Germany’s export-driven economy. Stuttgart, the state capital, is the headquarters of Daimler and Porsche. The medium-sized firms that are the backbone of German export success flourish, while the Black Forest embodies a very German reverence of nature.

Curb on speed

Now the Greens, led by a former Communist, will be in charge. They want speed limits on the autobahns where those Daimlers and Porsches roam free. Their party platform refers to cars as “the most inefficient form of mobility.”

The most direct affect of the vote on Sunday will be to push Germany away from nuclear power, which today provides 23 per cent of its electricity.

Merkel, whose belated conversion to nuclear power critic did not win over voters, conceded as much on Monday. “In view of the incident in Japan and the shape of things in Fukushima, we simply can’t go back to business as usual,” she said in Berlin.

The vote signalled that the categories that have defined politics here since World War II have eroded. For decades, the center-right Christian Democrats and the center-left Social Democrats dominated, with the Free Democrats playing a supporting role.

The Greens emerged in the 1970s, from an era of protest untypical of orderly West Germany. Now the Greens are in a position to lead a German state for the first time — with the Social Democrats as minority partner.

The Greens espouse many political positions that would be considered left-wing in America, but behind the progressive image lurks a strain of conservativism that was key to success on Sunday. The party has in effect become a new political entity, liberal on social issues but wary of much of modern life.

The Green Party is skeptical of digital technology and its potential to be used to gather information on citizens. Its emphasis on preserving the environment was in step with conservatives’ desire to preserve the traditional character of Baden-Württemberg, exemplified by vine-covered hillsides and tidy Black Forest villages.

The party also channeled popular outrage against a costly expansion of the Stuttgart train station that had been supported by the Christian Democrats.

Winfried Kretschmann, the 62-year old former teacher who leads the state’s Green party, was a communist organiser as a university student but said on his website that his radicalism back then was a “fundamental political error.” Instead, Kretschmann emphasised his Catholic roots.

The website of the Green Party reassured voters that its leaders do not plan to tamper with the region’s economic success, built around big manufacturers like Bosch and mid-sized engineering and machinery companies. At 4.5 per cent, Baden-Württemberg has the lowest jobless rate in Germany.

That contrasts with other protest parties in Europe, many of which lean rightward, embrace nationalism and mistrust immigrants.

Kretschmann will face difficult tests of party principles against economic reality, choices that may determine whether the vote in Baden-Württemberg marks a permanent political shift or just a short-term reaction to catastrophic events far away.

The state is 45 per cent owner of Energie Baden-Württemberg, or EnBW, which generates about half of its electricity from nuclear power plants. In its election platform, the Green party promised to shut down one plant immediately and the other in 2012. Both have been shut down temporarily because of a moratorium declared by Merkel after the disaster in Japan.

It is unclear where the replacement power will come from, said Georg Zachmann, an energy specialist at Bruegel, a research organisation in Brussels.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Obama Shakes Hands With Libya's Qaddafi

Obama Shakes Hands With Libya's Qaddafi

Published July 09, 2009

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Singapore’s super techie taxi driver

Singapore's super-duper Wi-FI, 3G taxi.

Singapore’s super techie taxi driver
By Xavier Lur
Thu, Mar 10, 2011

Imagine surfing the web on a laptop, charging your mobile phone, or even printing important documents — all during your taxi ride from home to work. This fascination is however, a reality on Mohammed Rafee Bin Naina Mohd's Comfort DelGro taxi.

The 49-year-old tech-savvy cabbie has installed a black and white printer that allows passengers to print their documents on the go, a VoIP phone that can be used to call friends or spouse anywhere in the world for free, and a digital video camera mounted next to his rear mirror.

Need to surf the web, but don't have a mobile data plan? No worries. His taxi is also equipped with a laptop with Wi-Fi connection so commuters can easily fire up Yahoo! Singapore on the browser and catch up with the latest news.

There are even two 30-volt power points and a host of phone chargers for passengers to charge their electronic devices. This is particularly useful for those who need a quick boost in their phone's battery life.

It's uncommon for taxi drivers here to install GPS systems in their cab, but Rafee's cab has one to help him home in on deserted locations he is unsure of.

The total amount of money he has spent so far on the equipment is $2,000. He doesn't charge his passengers for using his equipment, but he receives at least $10 in tips every day.

"I have regulars too, instead of driving around and looking for passengers for 10 hours, I rather have one passenger who's sitting inside for ten hours," Rafee told CNNGo. "I find it more worthwhile to have more regulars. So I don't charge them anything for my services."

38-year-old Comfort DelGro taxi driver Tan Beng Huat, however, thinks installing such electronic devices is redundant and could pose a potential target for car thieves.

"Singapore is a small country, thus travelling from destination A to B requires an average of just 10-15 minutes. I don't see a need to put in place such devices in my taxi," he told Yahoo! Singapore.

In New York, taxis are equipped with touch-screen monitors that let passengers watch TV, pay with credit cards and even check their location on GPS.

Meanwhile, Japanese mobile phone giant NTT Docomo and Tokyo taxi service Tokyo Musen have partnered to provide free Wi-Fi connectivity in taxis. And 100 of these taxis also have PSP Go devices on board so that passengers can indulge in games while on their ride.

The writer is a 16-year-old technology blogger who loves social media and gadgets. He is also Singapore's No. 1 Twitter user, with 180,000 followers.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Uzumaki whirlpool Japan tsunami

Uzumaki whirlpool Japan tsunami [HD]

Japan Tsunami Earthquake East Hachinohe

Moment of Japan earthquake caught on cameras triggering 10m tsunami

Japan earthquake: CCTV video of tsunami wave hitting Sendai airport

Fresh footage of huge tsunami waves smashing town in Japan

Japan Earthquake: Helicopter aerial view video of giant tsunami waves

Aerial video from town closest to Japan's mega-quake epicentre

Satellite images before & after Japan tsunami; aerial, ground video of aftermath

Video of Japan town wiped out by monster quake-tsunami

Video of cars, ships wrecked by tsunami waves after Japan earthquake

Warning system worked but tsunami was too powerful

Warning system worked but tsunami was too powerful
by Tryst Williams, Western Mail

Mar 16 2011

The devastating impact of the Japanese tsunami has highlighted the need for a review of the response to warning systems, says Professor Simon Haslett of the University of Wales

TSUNAMIS are unpredictable hazards, yet for many years geographers like myself have been attempting to educate residents of tsunami-prone areas with what to do if warned that the arrival of a tsunami is imminent.

The standard advice for coastal residents that feel an earthquake or who have been issued with a tsunami warning is to get up high. Preferably this should be interpreted as meaning get to higher ground, but on coastal lowlands the advice is to go into the upper floors of buildings.

In some countries, such as Nicaragua, the advice has even been to adopt a palm tree and climb to the top of it to get above the flow of the tsunami. Indeed, a similar tactic served one Japanese man well when he is reported to have shimmied to the top of a pole and just managed to keep his head above water as the tsunami made landfall last Friday.

One shouldn’t try to escape inland unless the ground rises quickly as tsunami can penetrate many kilometres inland on coastal lowlands travelling at the speed of a 30mph car – it’s difficult to outrun if roads are jammed with traffic or debris from any preceding earthquake. In the Indian Ocean tsunami of December 26, 2004 this advice to get up high served well in many places away from the earthquake epicentre with even hotels located on the beach surviving the tsunami strike and people who managed to get upstairs on the whole were OK; it was people who were stranded on beaches or in streets, or on coastal plains adjacent to the earthquake epicentre, such as Banda Aceh on the Indonesian island of Sumatra, that sadly made up the majority of the 250,000 victims. Friday’s magnitude 9.0 earthquake and tsunami in Japan made most of this advice almost useless. Eyewitnesses have reported that tsunami warning sirens sounded within a minute of the earthquake, so the warning system worked well. But what were residents supposed to do in response?

The earthquake occurred at 2.46pm local time, with most adult inhabitants out at work, children in schools and colleges, and many of the elderly in their homes. At first the quake was estimated to have a magnitude of 8.8, but then through the day it rose to 8.9, and then just before I gave an interview on the 6 o’clock news on BBC News Channel it was revised upwards to magnitude 9.0 by the United States Geological Survey, which I was able to tell viewers around the world.

Due to the close proximity of the coast to the earthquake’s epicentre, within a few 10s of minutes to an hour and a half, the tsunami quickly mounted the coastal lowlands near the city of Sendai in north-east Japan. The areas worst affected included the Miyagi and Fukushima Prefectures, from Sendai in the south then north to the city of Kesennuma.

High ground is many kilometres inland in some areas in this region so the only survival tactic available to many residents was to go into the higher floors of buildings. However, the height, speed and power of the tsunami was so great that it demolished many buildings in its path. It has been estimated that the wave was up to 10m high in places and resembled a gigantic river flowing from the sea.

Each building the tsunami destroyed contributed to the debris it had armed itself with as it progressed inland from the shore. So with boats, shipping containers, cars and building debris, the tsunami effectively became a bulldozer flattening all in its path. Only a few tall buildings, such as the five-storey hospital in Shizugawa, remained standing, but even here staff evacuated patients from the lower floors up into the third floor only for the tsunami to submerge that floor and the fourth floor above. Only the fifth floor and roof top stayed above the torrent. Fleeing inland was also difficult as the tsunami apparently penetrated around 10km inland in some places.

Then as soon as the tsunami wave inundated the land it withdrew – in what is termed the backwash – back out to sea, taking with it some of the debris it collected and also people caught up in the wave. Indeed, one man was found 9km out at sea marooned on a floating rooftop. Many “before and after” photographs that are emerging on the internet clearly show that new channels have been created on the coast by the tsunami backwash draining the floodwater back into the sea.

But it may not all be over yet. The Japanese Meteorological Agency, the national organisation responsible for monitoring natural hazards, has said that there is a 70% chance of an earthquake in the magnitude of 7 or greater within the three days starting from 10am last Sunday, and a 50% within three days starting 10am today. A lethal tsunami is usually only generated by an earthquake of 7.5 magnitude or more, so unless another earthquake surpasses that then we hopefully won’t see another devastating tsunami.

What advice can coastal scientists give to residents living in such areas as north-east Japan and Banda Aceh?

Building high and sturdy refuge platforms may be an option, as have been built elsewhere, but even these may not have withstood the force of Friday’s tsunami. Scientists now need to think long and hard about how we might be able to better prepare, educate and protect people who live in coastal lowland areas like Sendai who face considerable risk from such an unstoppable tsunami.

Simon Haslett is Professor of Physical geography and Dean of the School of STEM at the University of Wales, and he is author of Coastal Systems (2008, Routledge)

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

A collection of kisses

Brawn GP Formula One driver Rubens Barrichello of Brazil kisses the TV camera on podium after the Italian F1 Grand Prix in Monza September 13, 2009. Barrichello won the race ahead of his team mate Jenson Button of Britian and Ferrari's driver kimi Raikkonen of Finland. (REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini) #

A couple dance during the qualifying rounds of the 7th Tango Dance World Championship in Buenos Aires, Monday, Aug. 24, 2009. (AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko) #

A student kisses his mother on the sidelines of the making of the film "Abel" at a school being used as a movie set in Aguascalientes, Mexico, Friday, Aug. 28, 2009. (AP Photo/Marco Ugarte) #

Angie Heusinger, firefighter Jonathan Croom's mother, kisses his casket after speaking during a funeral mass for her son at St. Joseph Cathedral in Buffalo, N.Y., Friday, Aug. 28, 2009. Croom was one of two Buffalo firefighters who died Monday, Aug. 24, 2009 after falling through the floor and into the basement of a burning convenience store while searching for a victim who was reported trapped. (AP Photo/Harry B. Scull, J.R.) #

This picture taken on July 8, 2009, shows Aksentije, 14, a Serbian youth with Downs Syndrome being kissed by his father Sasa as he attends a community center in the southwestern Serbian town Aleksandrovac. Aksentije plays a leading role in a film highlighting the difficulties of disabled persons being accepted into society, and how they strive to triumph over adversity. (ALEXA STANKOVIC/AFP/Getty Images) #

Heath Slocum kisses his 20 month-old daughter Stella, as he celebrates his win at The Barclays golf tournament at Liberty National Golf Club Sunday, Aug. 30, 2009, in Jersey City, N.J. (AP Photo/Mel Evans) #

A couple kiss as they set up at the Climate Camp on Blackheath, in south London, on August 26, 2009. Around 1,000 activists descended Wednesday on a stretch of open land in London after the location of the week-long Climate Camp was finally revealed. Protesters arrived from several areas of the capital to Blackheath in south east London, setting up the camp on a hill overlooking Docklands and Canary Wharf. (Leon Neal/AFP/Getty Images) #

Son of Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, Piersilvio and his fiancee Silvia Toffanin kiss as they arrive at the Venice film festival on September 2, 2009. (FILIPPO MONTEFORTE/AFP/Getty Images) #

ruben barrichello,Brazil, grand prix,reuters,ferrari, kisses,kiss, finland,camelia, camelia camy, camy, ecofren, ecofren globe community, ecofrenbeauty, ecofrenglobecommunity, ecofrenhealth,tango,buenos aires,st joseph cathedral,angie heusinger,downs syndrome,serbian,aleksandrovac,blackheath,climate camp,london,Prime Minister,venice,silvio berlusconi,silvia,I love you,

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Cruise ship option for W.Cup quake city: PM

Cruise ship option for W.Cup quake city: PM

CHRISTCHURCH, New Zealand — New Zealand was looking at using cruise ships to house World Cup fans in quake-hit Christchurch if it no longer had enough hotels for the event, Prime Minister John Key said Wednesday.

Key, who was raised in Christchurch, said he remained optimistic the devastated city could still host matches at the September-October tournament but warned a final decision was "months, not weeks" away.

Christchurch's AMI Stadium was damaged when last week's 6.3-magnitude quake reduced swathes of the city to rubble, killing hundreds of people, and is closed until March 15 as operators check if it will be ready for the World Cup.

Even if it is given the all clear, tournament organisers must consider other factors, such as whether the shattered city has enough hotel accommodation to host tens of thousands of rugby fans.

Key said the government wanted the city to participate in the largest event ever staged in the country and was willing to offset some of the cost of using cruise ships to house the fans, including England's "Barmy Army".

"We've already made inquiries about cruise ships and that's entirely possible, and that's not a bad place to stay if you're the Barmy Army," he told reporters.

"Even if it costs a bit more, we might be prepared to accommodate that cost if it means holding the cup in Christchurch."

Christchurch is one of the Cup's main venues, slated to host seven matches, including two quarter-finals.

The tournament's September 9 kick-off is in little more than six months but Key said a decision on whether the matches went ahead as planned would take time.

"There's a series of different boxes that will need to be ticked before we can say yes or no," he said.

"My strong preference is to hold the Cup in Christchurch if we can because I think it sends a very strong international message that Christchurch is going through a rebuilding phase," he said.

"Equally, if we don't, sadly the message is it's not."

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World Hunger

There are 925 million undernourished people in the world today. That means one in seven people do not get enough food to be healthy and lead an active life. Hunger and malnutrition are in fact the number one risk to the health worldwide — greater than AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis combined.

Among the key causes of hunger are natural disasters, conflict, poverty, poor agricultural infrastructure and over-exploitation of the environment. Recently, financial and economic

crises have pushed more people into hunger.

As well as the obvious sort of hunger resulting from an empty stomach, there is also the hidden hunger of micronutrient deficiencies which make people susceptible to infectious diseases, impair physical and mental development, reduce their labour productivity and increase the risk of premature death.

Hunger does not only weigh on the individual. It also imposes a crushing economic burden on the developing world. Economists estimate that every child whose physical and mental development is

stunted by hunger and malnutrition stands to lose 5-10 percent in lifetime earnings.

Among the Millennium Development Goals which the United Nations has set for the 21st century, halving the proportion of hungry people in the world is top of the list. Whereas good progress was made in reducing chronic hunger in the 1980s and the first half of the 1990s, hunger has been slowly but steadily rising for the past decade.

What causes hunger?

Food has never before existed in such abundance, so why are 925 million people in the world going hungry?

In purely quantitative terms, there is enough food available to feed the entire global population of 6.7 billion people. And yet, one in nearly seven people is going hungry. One in three children is underweight. Why does hunger exist?


Natural disasters such as floods, tropical storms and long periods of drought are on the increase -- with calamitous consequences for food security in poor, developing countries.

Drought is now the single most common cause of food shortages in the world. In 2006, recurrent drought caused crop failures and heavy livestock losses in parts of Ethiopia, Somalia and Kenya.

In many countries, climate change is exacerbating already adverse natural conditions.For example, poor farmers in Ethiopia or Guatemala traditionally deal with rain failure by selling off livestock to cover their losses and pay for food. But successive years of drought, increasingly common in the Horn of Africa and Central America, are exhausting their resources.


Since 1992, the proportion of short and long-term food crises that can be attributed to human causes has more than doubled, rising from 15 percent to more than 35 percent. All too often, these emergencies are triggered by conflicts.

From Asia to Africa to Latin America, fighting displaces millions of people from their homes, leading to some of the world's worst hunger emergencies. Since 2004, conflict in the Darfur region of Sudan has uprooted more than a million people, precipitating a major food crisis -- in an area that had generally enjoyed good rains and crops.

In war, food sometimes becomes a weapon. Soldiers will starve opponents into submission by seizing or destroying food and livestock and systematically wrecking local markets. Fields and water wells are often mined or contaminated, forcing farmers to abandon their land.

When conflict threw Central Africa into confusion in the 1990s, the proportion of hungry people rose from 53 percent to 58 percent. By comparision, malnutrition is on the retreat in more peaceful parts of Africa such as Ghana and Malawi.

Poverty Trap

In developing countries, farmers often cannot afford seed to plant the crops that would provide for their families. Craftsmen lack the means to pay for the tools to ply their trade. Others have no land or water or education to lay the foundations for a secure future.

The poverty-stricken do not have enough money to buy or produce enough food for themselves and their families. In turn, they tend to be weaker and cannot produce enough to buy more food.

In short, the poor are hungry and their hunger traps them in poverty.

Agricultural infrastructure

In the long-term, improved agricultural output offers the quickest fix for poverty and hunger.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) 2004 Food Insecurity Report, all the countries that are on track to reach the first Millennium Development Goal have something in common -- significantly better than average agricultural growth.

Yet too many developing countries lack key agricultural infrastructure, such as enough roads, warehouses and irrigation. The results are high transport costs, lack of storage facilities and unreliable water supplies.

All conspire to limit agricultural yields and access to food.

But, although the majority of developing countries depend on agriculture, their governments economic planning often emphasises urban development.

Over-exploitation of environment

Poor farming practices, deforestation, overcropping and overgrazing are exhausting the Earth's fertility and spreading the roots of hunger.

Increasingly, the world's fertile farmland is under threat from erosion, salination and desertification.