Wednesday, May 21, 2008

BREVITAS


SAFETY IDEAS from the Naval Safety Center:
Don't prop your car up with kitchen chairs

LOCAL HEROES: THE FREEWAY BLOGGER


HOW TO MAKE A LAKE IN FOUR DAYS

NASA Within days of the magnitude 7.9 earthquake that shook China’s Sichuan Basin, floods became a hazard. The earthquake and its aftershocks sent earth and rock tumbling down mountains into rivers, creating natural dams behind which lakes quickly built up. As of May 19, 21 lakes had formed throughout the basin, said China Daily. This series of images shows the formation of one such lake (Yansai Lake) in Beichuan County. . .

Acquired on May 14, 2006, the top image shows the region under normal springtime conditions. Two tiny villages flank the river, the man-made surfaces regularly shaped and bright. The towns are connected by light-colored roads, which line the river on both sides and merge at a bridge where the river narrows on the right.

On May 15, 2008, three days after the initial earthquake, both the bridge and the roads it connected had disappeared under murky water. Some sections of the villages remained above the waterline, as did portions of the roads leading to the villages. The tops of trees, perhaps on slightly higher ground, formed tiny islands near the shores of the growing lake.

Formosat-2 took the final image on May 19, 2008. By this time, water levels in the earthquake lake had risen enough to immerse both villages and the entire road network. Tan debris floats on the surface of the water, concentrated over the locations of the villages.

Earthquake-created dams present a dual danger. Apart from the upstream floods that occur as a lake builds behind the natural dam, the piles of rubble that form the dam may be unstable. Another quake or simply the pressure of water behind it could burst the dam, sending a wall of water downstream. Downstream floods may also occur when water begins to cascade over the top of the dam. Thousands of people were evacuated from Beichuan on May 17 when one such lake threatened to burst, said China Daily.

SurveyUSA is doing a series of McCain vs. Obama head to head match-up polls in different states testing an almost mystifying number of vice presidential possibilities for each nominee. Their poll of Pennsylvania is out and the snapshot is that John Edwards is Obama's strongest pick. The real headline though is the baseline number: McCain vs. Obama without veep nominees attached. On that SurveyUSA has Obama beating McCain 48% to 40%. Talking Points Memo

The poll shows Obama neck and neck if he uses Sebelius or Hagel. Rendell is a wash, even in Pennslvania but Edwrds could bring in 2-8 more points depending on whom McCain picks for his veep.

Charlie Black, the chief campaign adviser for Republican Party Presidential aspirant John McCain, has dismissed calls that he should resign due to his many years of lobbying work for BKSH & Associates, calling the calls "complete inside-the-beltway nonsense." Move On recently launched an advertisement demanding McCain fire Black. "John McCain's chief adviser, lobbyist Charlie Black, worked for some of the world's worst dictators -- mass murderers, terrorists, and tyrants. Call McCain and tell him to fire Charlie Black," the group's website states. Black defended working for dictators -- including Ferdinand Marcos in the Philippines and Mobutu Sese Seko in Zaire -- insisting that he never worked for foreign clients "without first talking to the State Department and the White House and clearing with them that the work would be in the interest of U.S. foreign policy." - PR Watch

Unmentioned in national reporting [about Obama's Portland appearance] was the fact that Obama was preceded by a rare, 45-minute free concert by rock stars, The Decemberists. The Portland-based band has drawn rave reviews from Rolling Stone magazine, which gave their 2005 album Picaresque four and a half stars (out of five), and another four and a half stars for 2007's The Crane Wife. . . Here's how the local paper The Oregonian, which estimated the crowd at 72,000, reported the rally: "Obama was the biggest star at Sunday's gathering -- though a popular Portland band, The Decemberists, provided the warmup act. With blue skies and temperatures in the 80s, many in the crowd said Waterfront Park was simply the place to be." Newsbusters

A Virginia law banning a type of late-term abortion is still unconstitutional, even though a similar federal ban was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court, a federal appeals court ruled Tuesday. The 2-1 decision by a panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals affirms the same court's 2005 ruling striking down the law. The Supreme Court had ordered the appeals court to take another look at Virginia's statute after the ruling on the federal ban. The appeals court cited a key difference between the federal and state bans on the procedure that abortion opponents call "partial-birth abortion." The federal law protects doctors who set out to perform a legal abortion that by accident becomes the banned procedure. The Virginia statute provides no such protection. - ABC

HOW THE GOVERNMENT IS PASSING SECRET LAWS

One of the worst journalist headaches is getting someone's name wrong. Far worse is when you know and admire the person for the fine work they do, such as we inexplicably did yesterday renaming Catherine Austin Fitts by calling her Carolyn. We apologize for the appellatory anarchy.

An anti-war Democratic congressman is demanding to know why there were uniformed Defense Department personnel watching House proceedings from a public gallery Thursday, who they were and what they were doing. "If they were here on official duty, this was an abhorrent misallocation of our military resources at a time of war," Northern California Rep. Pete Stark asserted Friday in a letter to Defense Secretary Robert Gates. . . "At a time when our nation is at war, our troops are overextended, and the administration is literally asking for emergency military spending, what good to the 'war on terror' is having U.S. generals and other top-ranked officers - who were likely accompanied by staff and escorted by their chauffeurs - spending hours sitting in the gallery of the House of Representatives?" Stark asked. The query drew a stinging response from a Pentagon spokesman. "It seems that Rep. Stark issued his press release before sending his letter to Secretary Gates because we have yet to receive it, but without knowing the particulars of the incident he is inquiring about I can tell you that there is nothing unusual about military officers visiting and/or observing the workings of Congress," said spokesman Geoff Morrell. . . Stark said he didn't have a problem if the military personnel were there on their own time, but if they were there on official duty he wanted to know why. He asked Gates for an accounting by Monday of the name, rank, branch and duties of each of the officers as well as how many staff members and drivers were involved. AP

The global burden of disease is shifting from infectious diseases to non-communicable diseases, with chronic conditions such as heart disease and stroke now being the chief causes of death globally, according to a new WHO report. The shifting health trends indicate that leading infectious diseases - diarrhea, HIV, tuberculosis, neonatal infections and malaria - will become less important causes of death globally over the next 20 years. . . Maternal mortality: in developed countries, nine mothers die for every 100 000 live births, while in developing countries the death rate is 450 and in sub-Saharan Africa it is 950. . . Health-care costs: 100 million people are impoverished every year by paying out of pocket for health care.

Dylan Tweed has joined the Luxuriant Flowing Hair Club for Scientists. He says: "I started my PhD in 2005, in the field of large scale structure formation. I'm currently working on the semi-analytical galaxy formation model GalICS with the horizon-project french consortium. I don't know why girls put flowers on my head in spring."

Carbon nanotubes, one of the most exciting materials developed by the nanotechnology revolution, may be as dangerous as asbestos to those who breath in the minute structures. About 10,000 times thinner than a human hair, carbon nanotubes hold huge technological promise for revolutionizing electronics, building materials and a variety of other industries. That according to a widely reported study in the journal Nature Nanotechnology. Like asbestos, the long, thin carbon nanotubes could cause mesothelioma, a cancer of the lungs, according to animal studies. The risk would be primarily to workers, not users of products, researchers believe. The study could put a cautionary brake on the development of nanotechnology. Skeptics have for years warned that the development of tiny new materials could have new, unanticipated and undesirable consequences for human health. Daily Green

Two million British citizens have left the UK in a decade, the greatest exodus from this country in almost a century, new figures will show. . . However, 3.9 million foreigners arrived over the decade, including more than 500,000 in 2006. . . The Institute for Public Policy Research, a think-tank, has estimated that there are more than 5.5 million British citizens living abroad. Telegraph

PORTRAIT OF AN 87 YEAR OLD RADICAL

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