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Widespread flooding forces state of emergency in Marshall Islands

Marshall Islands
© Unknown
A state of emergency was declared in the Marshall Islands late Christmas Eve as widespread flooding displaced hundreds of islanders, damaged dozens of homes and threatened public health.

Government officials said Wednesday the flooding showed how vulnerable the western Pacific atoll nation is to very small changes in weather conditions.

The islands have been pounded three times in the past two weeks by powerful waves caused by storm surges that coincided with high tides, swamping the main urban centres of Majuro and Ebeye that are less than a metre above sea level.

Houses and roads were damaged but the torrent also destroyed cemeteries, "contributing to the already alarming sanitary conditions with the widespread debris caused by the high wave action," President Litokwa Tomeing said.

Bizarro Earth

Critical load on tiny wings

Bee on flower
© John McKay, Times
Honey isn't the only thing we'd miss if bees completely disappeared.

"Bees are a profound part of the ecosystem, much more than we ever thought," said Rowan Jacobsen, whose chilling new book, The Fruitless Fall: The Collapse of the Honey Bee and the Coming Agricultural Crisis (Bloomsbury), gives us a taste of a world without honey, not to mention other goodies bees make possible. The tall, lanky 40-year-old author talked with me at a new East Village restaurant fittingly called Apiary while promoting his book in New York.

Fruitless Fall details the recent rise of colony collapse disorder. Bees, around for the past 100 million years, have been mysteriously dying in droves -- about 30 billion worldwide last year alone.


Strong earthquake jolts southern Philippines

A strong earthquake jolted the southern Philippines on Thursday, the U.S. Geological Survey said.

The 6.2 magnitude quake struck at 11:20 a.m. local time (10:20 p.m. ET).

There were no immediate reports of injuries and a tsunami warning was not issued, said Jane Punongbayan of the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology.

"That was enough to cause panic in some people," Punongbayan said. "Some people in the mall ran out of the mall, but according to initial reports it was not strong enough to cause damage."


Travelers hunker down for Christmas Eve at airport

Chicago - With airports across the country recovering from a blast of snow and ice storms, some unlucky holiday travelers stranded for the second night in a row prepared to wake up Christmas morning at the nation's second busiest airport.

Newlyweds Tommy and Siobhan Costello were at O'Hare International Airport on Wednesday for the second night en route to their honeymoon in San Diego.


US: More snow, ice vexes travelers in northern states

stranded passengers
© AP/Rick Bowmer
Travelers surround the ticket windows at Portland International Airport Tuesday, Dec. 23, 2008, in Portland, Oregon.
Chicago - Hundreds of holiday travelers spent the night in the nation's second busiest airport and others faced delayed or canceled flights and highways choked by snow and ice as storms kept up their assault on northern states.

More snow fell Wednesday in the Midwest, where the National Weather Service said up to 4 inches was possible in Chicago. The Northwest faced more snow and sleet early Wednesday, with up to 20 inches possible in the Cascade range. And more snow and ice spread over the Northeast.

"We're seeing quite a bit of messiness out there," said weather service meteorologist Ed Shimon, who's been at work at the agency's Lincoln, Ill., office for six straight days, a period when the state has seen snow, ice and subzero temperatures. "It's something different every day - never a dull moment."


Old man winter pays Northwest a visit -- literally!

Just looking outside and you can tell Old Man Winter paid us a visit, but in Lake Stevens, it looks like he put in a personal appearance! This icicle was found hanging from Jeremy Olden's home.


Beijing's coldest December day in 57 years

Winter truly arrived in Beijing yesterday with the highest temperature of the day down to minus 8.8 ℃. Media reports say it was "the coldest day in December in the last 57 years."

Strong wind ripped off part of the metal roof of a university's gymnasium and the thermal insulation layer of a hotel in Beijing. It also blew away a man who was mending his own roof in Shijingshan District. The man landed on the top of a 15 meter-high tree and was rescued by firefighters.


Moderate earthquake rattles Taiwan

Taiwanese authorities say a moderate earthquake has struck the southern part of the island. There were no immediate reports of casualties or damage.

The Central Weather says the 5.6 magnitude quake struck at 8:04 a.m. Tuesday in rural Kaohsiung county, about 28 miles (45 kilometers) southeast of the city of Tainan.

The United States Geological Survey puts the quake's strength at 5.4.


Deep freeze, heavy snows blast US; holiday travel snarled

Mother nature vented her wintry fury on much of the United States and Canada Tuesday as arctic blasts and blizzards sparked deadly crashes, snarled air traffic and closed highways in one of the busiest travel weeks of the year.

The US National Weather Service (NWS) issued winter weather advisories and winter storm watches for large swathes of the United States including in the Chicago area in the midwest which has been in the grips of an extreme cold snap for nearly a week, with temperatures plunging to below zero (negative 17 degrees Celsius).

Dozens of delays or cancellations were reported Tuesday at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport, the country's second busiest, where hundreds of flights have been cancelled over the past week as the city was slammed by blizzard conditions.

Agony for holiday travelers was also reported at several other airports as the storms in the Northwest and Midwest caused a ripple effect across much of the rest of the country, snarling holiday air traffic at major airports in San Francisco; Houston, Texas; Boston, Massachusetts; New Jersey and New York, officials said.

Cow Skull

Bison Are Back, But Can They Survive?

© AP
Bison walk toward the corral during the recent annual roundup at The Nature Conservancy's Tallgrass Prairie Preserve in Pawhuska, Okla.
An estimated 60 million bison roamed the prairie when Columbus arrived in the New World in 1492. By 1900, only hundreds were left after herds were slaughtered for meat, pelts and sport. Although there are now half a million bison in the United States, researchers have discovered that most of them carry cattle genes - placing the animals at risk.

In the Oklahoma Flint Hills, an autumn moon set on The Nature Conservancy's Tallgrass Prairie Preserve as scientists and cowboys gathered at dawn recently for the annual bison roundup. Instead of horses, wranglers climb aboard trucks. They rumble toward a herd of 2,600 bison standing quietly in a nearby pasture. They drive part of the herd into a tight group, and then stampede them into a holding trap.

The shaggy beasts' heaving breath swirls through the corral into a thick, white fog. Over the next 10 hours, ranch hands use plastic paddles to spank the bison through a maze of alleys and corrals toward their annual physical.

© AP
Over the next 10 hours, ranch hands use plastic paddles to move part of a herd of 2,600 bison through a maze of alleys and corrals toward their annual physical.
In turns, each bison slams into the examination chute. A brace closes around its neck and heavy grates squeeze it still. A bull is checked for injuries, given a shot and weighed. He stands 6 feet at the shoulder and weighs almost 2,000 pounds.

The huge bison huffs with anxiety. Up close, he seems prehistoric - his shaggy brown head hangs low beneath a humped spine, curved horns showing bits of blood. Preserve director Bob Hamilton says he may look like a bison, act like a bison and even smell like one - but he's a cattle hybrid. And if he carries maternal cattle DNA, that could impair his metabolism and his offspring.