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Bizarro Earth

US: Illinois levee buckles under rising waters



Image
©AFP
Workers examine the closed memorial bridge as water crosses it from the flooding Mississippi River June 18, 2008 in Quincy, Illinois. Rising waters burst through an overtaxed levee on the Mississippi River Tuesday, sending gushing torrents into an Illinois town as the sodden US midwest reeled from days of epic flooding. The levee break left Highway 34 at Gulfport, on the Illinois side of the Mississippi River, under water, prompting officials to close a bridge to the neighboring town of Burlington and creating havoc for commuters.

Chicago -- Rising waters burst through an overtaxed levee on the Mississippi River Tuesday, sending gushing torrents into an Illinois town as the sodden US midwest reeled from days of epic flooding.

The levee break left Highway 34 at Gulfport, on the Illinois side of the Mississippi River, under water, prompting officials to close a bridge to the neighboring town of Burlington and creating havoc for commuters.

More than 1,000 Illinois National Guard troops were working alongside hundreds of inmates from the state's prisons to shore up levees throughout the state, a spokeswoman with the Illinois Emergency Management Agency told CNN.

The New York Times said people in dozens of Mississippi towns facing flooding were working Tuesday to shore up about 30 levees.

Cloud Lightning

Rainy season halts quake search in Japan

TOKYO -- The search for people still missing after a deadly earthquake in northern Japan was halted Thursday amid fears of mudslides as a rain front moved in, officials said.

Eleven people are still unaccounted for in the northern part of Japan's main Honshu island, which was hit on Saturday by a powerful 7.2 Richter-scale earthquake that also killed 11 people.

The Japan Meteorological Agency said the rainy season was believed to have started in the region, raising concerns that small dams formed naturally by the quake would break and trigger mudslides. The region has experienced very little heavy rain since the disaster.

Rescuers searching for the missing had to pull out before sunset due to worries over mudslides, said a local official in the hard-hit town of Kurihara. "It started drizzling shortly after noon today (Thursday)," said the official. "We have to carefully study the weather forecast to decide what we can do tomorrow."

No Entry

Japan police arrest Greenpeace members over whale meat

TOKYO -- Japanese police on Friday arrested two Greenpeace activists on allegations of stealing whale meat as part of the environmentalists' campaign against whaling.

Police raided five places including the environmental group's Japan headquarters in Tokyo's bustling Shinjuku district, officials said.

Police arrested Junichi Sato, 31, a prominent voice in the media against whaling, and fellow Greenpeace member Toru Suzuki, 41, a police spokesman said.

Greenpeace, along with Western countries led by Australia, is strongly opposed to Japan's whaling programme, which kills some 1,000 of the ocean giants a year.

The Japanese government, which says whaling is part of the culture, carries out the hunt using a loophole in a 1986 international moratorium that allows "lethal research" on whales.

Bizarro Earth

Active Submarine Volcanoes Found Near Fiji

Several huge active submarine volcanoes, spreading ridges and rift zones have been discovered northeast of Fiji by a team of Australian and American scientists aboard the Marine National Facility Research Vessel, Southern Surveyor.

Image
©Richard Arculus, Australian National University
A multibeam sonar three-dimensional image of the recently discovered volcano named Lobster.

On the hunt for subsea volcanic and hot-spring activity, the team of geologists located the volcanoes while mapping previously uncharted areas. Using high-tech multi-beam sonar mapping equipment, digital images of the seafloor revealed the formerly unknown features.

The summits of two of the volcanoes, named 'Dugong', and 'Lobster', are dominated by large calderas at depths of 1100 and 1500 metres.

During the six-week research expedition in the Pacific Ocean, scientists from The Australian National University (ANU), CSIRO Exploration & Mining and the USA, collaborated to survey the topography of the seafloor, analysing rock types and formation, and monitoring deep-sea hot spring activity around an area known as the North Lau Basin, 400 kilometres northeast of Fiji.

Cloud Lightning

Dust envelops UAE, reducing visibility and triggering breathing problems



Image
©Ravindranath/Gulf News
Dust engulfed most parts of the Gulf, including Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain and parts of Saudi Arabia.

Al Ain: A layer of fine dust has enveloped the emirates and parts of the Arabian Gulf, reducing visibility and creating problem for people with breathing difficulty.

The condition may last for two more days, said weathermen.

The dust has been coming from Iraq and the eastern Saudi Arabian deserts. Sand and dust storms in Iraq have laden the winds with dust that is now pushing across the Gulf.

Dust engulfed most parts of the Gulf, including Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain and parts of Saudi Arabia.

Roses

Desert plant may hold key to surviving food shortage

The plant, Kalanchoe fedtschenkoi, is unique because, unlike normal plants, it captures most of its carbon dioxide at night when the air is cooler and more humid, making it 10 times more water-efficient than major crops such as wheat. Scientists will use the latest next-generation DNA sequencing to analyse the plant's genetic code and understand how these plants function at night.

The project will generate a genome sequence database that will be used as an Internet resource for plant biologists throughout the world.

The research comes at a time when farmland across the globe normally used for growing food such as rice and wheat is being taken over by bio-fuel crops used for bioethanol production as a petrol substitute. Scientists believe that the novel genes found in Kalanchoe could provide a model of how bio-fuel plants could be grown on un-utilised desert and semi-arid lands, rather than on fertile farmland needed for producing food.

Comment: Although the current food shortage due to expanding bioethanol production is nothing but a fraud, this research and discovery of Kalanchoe's properties may become useful when human population will have to withstand harsh environmental conditions as a result of Comet bombardment or dusting in the atmosphere.


Attention

US: Southeast Va. 2,700-acre fire could burn for weeks

Thick smoke rose out of the smoldering floor of the Great Dismal Swamp yesterday and drifted across the dirt road where firefighters were trying to stop the blaze.

Wayne Johnson, an information officer for the U.S. Forest Service, warned that the woods were full of snags -- burned-out trees that fell on the unwary long after the fire had passed. As he spoke, a big tree hidden in the smoke hit the earth with a crash.

Johnson is one of more than 360 firefighters trying to hem in the South One fire, a 2,700-acre blaze in the remote swamp between Lake Drummond and the North Carolina line. Over the past two weeks, shifting winds have sent the fire's smoke for hundreds of miles in every direction.

Stop

Millions displaced after east Indian floods

More than two million people have been left homeless after floods swept across eastern India over the past week, national radio reported on Thursday.

Unexpected heavy rain began lashing the area last Thursday, nearly two weeks ahead of the monsoon season, which usually occurs in the country from early July to September.

Bulb

High hormone levels in seabird chicks prepare them to kill their siblings

The Nazca booby, a Galápagos Island seabird, emerges from its shell ready to kill its brother or sister. Wake Forest University biologists and their colleagues have linked the murderous behavior to high levels of testosterone and other male hormones found in the hatchlings.

The study appears in the June 18 edition of the online journal PLoS ONE available here.

The elevated levels of male hormones, called androgens, increase aggression in both male and female chicks and prepare the birds to fight to the death as soon as they hatch, said David J. Anderson, professor of biology at Wake Forest and project leader.

Image
©Wake Forest University
Adult Nazca booby.

Phoenix

US: Hundreds urged to evacuate due to California wildfire

A stubborn central California wildfire that has burned more than 65 square miles of wilderness has destroyed several homes and led to evacuation warnings for dozens of residents.

About 50 people living near the Los Padres National Forest in Monterey County received voluntary evacuation notices Wednesday. Another 500 were told to prepare for a possible evacuation.