Mother Nature and Quirks
Signs of the Times for Sat, 04 Feb 2006
Mother Nature and Quirks
Meteor lights Alberta sky
February 3, 2006 By KATIE SCHNEIDER, CALGARY SUN
Calgarians awoke to a fire in the sky early Wednesday morning. Alan Hildebrand, co-ordinator of the Canadian Fireball Reporting Centre, said 20 people reported seeing a fireball, an exceptionally bright meteor, streak across the sky just before 7 a.m., lasting for several seconds before breaking up into fragments. Reports were made from the Calgary area, Medicine Hat, Lethbridge, Pincher Creek and other areas, he said. "It had to be a bright one for everyone in the Calgary area to see," Hildebrand said. He estimated remnants of the meteorite landed about 400 km south of Calgary somewhere in Montana about two minutes after it appeared as a ball of fire.
Glacier break up hastened
From correspondents in London news.com.au February 04, 2006
TWO major glaciers in Greenland have recently begun to flow and break up more quickly under the onslaught of global warming, according to a new study which has raised the spectre of millions drowning from rising sea levels. The report by the University of Swansea's School of the Environment and Society said the Kangerdlugssuaq and Helheim glaciers had doubled their rate of flow to the ocean over the past two years after steady movement during the 1990s. This spurt meant that current environmental models of the rate of retreat of Greenland's giant ice sheet – which could add seven metres to the height of the world's oceans if it disappears – had underestimated the problem.
"It seems likely that other Greenland outlets will undergo similar changes, which would impact the mass balance of the ice sheet more rapidly than predicted," the study said. It said the fact that the two major outflow glaciers had shown the same sudden acceleration despite being more than 300km apart suggested the cause was not local but more likely climatic or oceanic in origin. "In both of these glaciers the acceleration and retreat has been sudden, despite the progressive nature of warming and thinning over some years," the report said. Advertisement: "The longevity of this flux increase is unknown but could be substantial," it added. The report followed a warning earlier this week from Britain's Hadley Centre for Climate Prediction and Research – a branch of the Meteorological Office – that the Greenland ice sheet could be disappearing faster than previously thought. The ice sheet contains one-tenth of the world's freshwater reserves. Scientists predict that global average temperatures will rise by between one and six degrees Celsius this century unless urgent action is taken now to cap and reduce carbon emissions. Even a rise of three degrees could result in cataclysmic species loss, melting polar icecaps raising sea levels by many metres and wholesale famine and disease. Greenland is only part of the picture, and there is also evidence of local warming and melting on the giant Western Antarctic ice sheet. Scientists said on Monday the world had to halt greenhouse gas emissions and reverse them within two decades or watch the planet spiralling towards destruction. The first phase of the global Kyoto protocol on cutting greenhouse gas emissions runs until 2012, and negotiations have only just started on finding a way of taking it beyond that. The United States, the world's biggest polluter, has rejected both the protocol in its current form and any suggestion of expanding or extending it.
USGS February 4, 2006
The latest earthquakes from around the world: Magnitude 5.4 - 2006/02/04 09:17:04 - GALAPAGOS ISLANDS, ECUADOR Magnitude 6.0 - 2006/02/03 20:34:13 - ANDAMAN ISLANDS, INDIA REGION Magnitude 5.5 - 2006/02/03 16:00:13 - TONGA Magnitude 5.1 - 2006/02/03 14:20:50 - FIJI REGION Magnitude 5.2 - 2006/02/03 06:10:06 - NEAR THE EAST COAST OF HONSHU, JAPAN Magnitude 5.4 - 2006/02/03 04:37:36 - NEAR THE EAST COAST OF HONSHU, JAPAN
Manila game show stampede kills 73
CNN Saturday, February 4, 2006
MANILA, Philippines -- A crowd of people awaiting entrance to a stadium in Manila stampeded Saturday, killing at least 73 people and injuring 322, an official said. A report carried by the Associated Press quotes the Philippine Red Cross Chairman Senator Richard Gordon as saying the toll was at least 88 people. Some of the 20,000 people who were lined up outside the arena had been waiting for days to gain access to the stadium, where a game show was to be videotaped, Philippines Congressman Robert Jaworski told CNN. At 7 a.m., five hours before the show was to begin, people were being admitted to the stadium at such a slow pace that one member of the crowd apparently decided to hasten the process, he said. "Someone shouted and and screamed that there was a bomb," Jaworski said. "It was just a prank by one of those irresponsible people who wanted to get in first. Sadly, it caused a panic. It was a down-slope road and they started running down the hill ... they just started trampling each other." Most of the casualties were women, he said.
The people in the crowd were packed so closely together that it took police and rescue workers until 9 a.m. to reach those who were hurt, resulting in a number of deaths that a faster response could have prevented, he added. "The gates were being partially opened then shut," said Myrna Britania, 42, who spoke at a hospital where the injured were being treated, AP reports. "The raffle tickets can be obtained at the gate so everyone was in a hurry. There was pushing and people in front of the gate were crushed." Britania, who had spent all night in line, said "people at the back of the line were pushing not knowing there were already people dead lying on the ground in front." Police Superintendent Gerry Galvan told AP at least 50 people died at the stadium and the rest at hospitals where they were taken. Radio DZBB reported that hospitals were overwhelmed with the scores of injured and were using parking lots to accommodate them. Gordon blamed poor organization of the event for the tragedy. "If you predict that there's going to be a huge crowd, you should be ready with ambulances and communications," AP quotes him as saying. "You should plan for the worst. We have a lot of people who wanted to help but could not get in immediately."
Without an heir, is divorce in the air for sad princess?
By David McNeill in Tokyo 04 February 2006
Princess Masako is so weighed down by the demands of imperial life that she wants a divorce, according to the Japanese press, as opposition grows against plans to allow her child, Princess Aiko, to sit on the Chrysanthemum Throne. Several magazines say that, after 13 unhappy years in the Imperial Palace, the Harvard-educated former diplomat is looking for a way out of her marriage to Emperor Akihito's son, Crown Prince Naruhito. The Imperial Household dismisses the speculation. The 42-year-old princess has spent the past two years largely out of public sight and has been diagnosed with a mental disorder that many blame on her struggle to produce a male heir.
The princess came under intense palace pressure to have another baby after giving birth to her only child, Aiko, in 2001. Her subsequent illness has sparked a succession crisis and forced the government to begin revising the Imperial House Law, which prevents females from ascending the throne. A government panel has recommended changing the law and polls suggest that the public supports the idea of an empress. But, with just over a month left before the revision is sent to parliament, the plan has run into opposition from conservatives, including members of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP). The former prime minister, Yoshio Mori, and the head of the LDP's Diet Affairs Committee, Hiroyuki Hosada, warned recently that the succession issue could "split the country" if handled badly. "Opposition is growing. The situation is precarious," Mr Hosada said. The Association of Shinto Shrines, which has traditionally harvested votes for the LDP, has warned that it will withdraw support from anyone who votes for the bill, a potentially serious threat to the Prime Minister, Junichiro Koizumi, who supports a female emperor. Opponents were galvanised on Wednesday by a Tokyo rally at which more than 170 Diet members signed a cross-party petition opposing the legislation. At least one member of the imperial family has told the government not to buck tradition. The emperor's cousin, Prince Tomohito, believes that the imperial bloodline should not be diluted by "outsiders". "There is no need to change the law," said the prince. The speculation about Masako's state of mind has gathered pace as the debate on the succession issue heats up. "There are very few people who actually say the words divorce, but they think it," said Yagi Hidetsugu, a professor at Takasaki Keizai University. "Her withdrawal from the imperial family would certainly solve a lot of problems."