Saturday, October 30, 2010

October 2010 News Roundup & Blog Updates

There is so much to report this month. Lets start with some…

At 9:55 pm on October 14, 69 days after he became trapped underground, the last of the 33 Chilean miners emerged safely from the nearly 1/2 mile long rescue tunnel. In a rare moment of unity, the whole world celebrated.

Google announced results of its experiments with self-driving cars. Never unmanned, the automated cars used video cameras, a radar sensor, and a laser range finder to “see” other traffic as well as detailed maps to navigate. In the over 140,000 miles logged, the only reported accident was one of the Google cars being rear-ended while stopped at a traffic light. This initial success bodes well for a future with fewer traffic deaths and less energy consumption, not to mention time saved on driving that can be used in more productive ways.

The theme Times are Strange (7/16) continues with natural disasters and intense storms around the world. Indonesia was hit with three natural disasters: a 7.7 magnitude earthquake on October 25 that launched a tsunami on the Mentawai island chain killing over 400 (303 missing and 13,000 displaced into makeshift camps as of October 29) and, less than 24 hours later, the eruption of volcanic Mount Merapi on the island of Java. Mt. Merapi has since erupted a second time. The warning system put in place after the devastating 2004 tsunami is reported to have failed because it was not properly maintained. Scientists at the Earth Observatory of Singapore consider the October 25 quake an aftershock of the 8.4-magnitude quake of September 12, 2007 and continue to anticipate that a massive 8.8-magnitude quake will occur somewhere along the west coast of Sumatra sometime within the next 30 minutes to 30 years.
Hurricane Richard, the 10th hurricane (and 17th named storm) of the 2010 Atlantic season, slammed into Belize as a Category 1 hurricane on October 25, causing millions of dollars of property damage and massive power outages, but no deaths were reported. A weak tropical storm Shary is heading toward Bermuda. Tomás, taking aim on the Lesser Antilles Islands, became the 19th named tropical storm of the 2010 Atlantic season. This means that 2010 is now tied for 3rd place for the most named storms in a single year.Tomás is a very scary storm and may well intensify into a major hurricane over the Central Caribbean by early next week.  Check out Jeff Masters’s Weather Underground blog for more info and updates.

A gigantic storm raced through the American Midwest on October 26 and 27, carrying with it rain and wind gusts up to 81 mph, and spawning numerous tornadoes. The  storm brought heavy snow and blustery winds to the Dakotas for two days in a row.

Manmade Disasters:
Toxic red/pink sludge which burst through a reservoir at an alumina plant in western Hungary flooded seven towns southwest of Budapest. Nine people died and hundreds were hospitalized after some 184 million gallons of caustic by-product burst from a storage reservoir in Ajka. As an aside, two years ago a researcher in Canada became interested in the possibility of using this caustic chemical soup to “catalyze chemical reactions and upgrade bio oil [derived from plants and very acidic] …into something usable.”

Diseases in the News:
Cholera has claimed over 300 lives in Haiti: nearly 5,000 have been infected in the first outbreak of the disease on the island for 100 years. All this in one week! The first case was confirmed on October 22. The disease is caused by bacteria transmitted through contaminated water or food. Poor sanitary conditions in the slums and refugee camps set up since the earthquake in January make these places vulnerable to the disease. The World Health Organization has warned that Haiti should prepare for the disease to hit the capital of Port-au-Prince. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has set up and staffed an Emergency Operations Center on the island and is developing training materials to lower case and death rates. 

According to college classmate Charles Aker, rain from Hurricane Richard exacerbated an outbreak of Leptospirosis (a water-born bacterial infection spread by water contaminated by the urine of domestic and wild animals) in western Nicaragua. As of October 21, sixteen people had died, and hundreds had been infected.

Be sure to get out and vote on Election Day this coming Tuesday, November 2. A number of races are very tight. Check out this interactive Google graphic for an update on what is happening in your state.

Propositions as well as candidates fill the airwaves in California where the Giants were the clear winners in the first two games of the World Series. Once again voters in this trend-setting state are considering some controversial and potentially life-changing propositions. Proposition 19 would legalize and tax marijuana. (Even if it passes, the Attorney General says the Justice Department will still enforce federal drug laws. This should be interesting.) Proposition 23 would repeal the Global Warming Solutions Act which California enacted in 2007. James Cameron and Gov. Schwarzenegger have something to say about that. 

Spider Chronicles 3 (10.2) The image we captured was of the last web of the season. It was gone without a trace the very next morning.

Elm City Market, scheduled to open in February, 2011, has nearly reached its goal of 300 “founding members.” As of October 26, over 250 people have signed on.

On October 20, Phoenix Press (The Possible Dream 6/5) announced that it was one of two organizations nationwide to receive a Green Power Leadership Award from the EPA for the on-site generation of green power.

WORK Photo by Chris Randall
Act|New Haven (10/10/10:’s Global Work Day 10/6) organized “WORK New Haven,” one of 7,347 actions in 188 countries October 10, the largest climate action in history. Check out their site for a report of the day’s events.

Recycling Update (9/11 post) The City of New Haven reports great success with the pilot program in the Westville/Beaver Hills area. Personal observation tells me we still have a long way to go. 

My Meatless Monday (maybe) post of 10.16 became a guest blog at the Connecticut Food Bank site. My blog’s page views have gone from 3339 on 9/27 to 4501 on 10/28! And, just so you know, my own personal page views are not counted. Thanks everyone.

Vampire Power. Vampire power is the electricity consumed by devices that are plugged in but not in use. According to the Department of Energy, this costs American homeowners $4 billion a year and accounts for 5 to 10 percent of all residential energy use. Consumers can cut down on waste by manually unplugging appliances (such as cell phone chargers) from the wall or using power strips that can cut the supply of power to devices when they are not in use. But more substantial energy savings may be on the way. Check out Green, an online blog at The New York Times to learn more.

Happy Halloween. There's still time to send an Ecard from the WWF.

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