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Cardiff, Wales, UK - 27 April 2006

Scientists at Cardiff University say they can confirm that DNA, the genetic blueprint for life, did exist in the mysterious red rain which fell over India in 2001.This may be a key to learning about possible lifeforms in outer space.

This could prove to be a key development in the work to find out whether there is any life form in outer space.
The blood-coloured rain caused a storm of controversy among the world’s scientists. When first analysed by Indian laboratories, it was suggested it contained unidentifiable biological cells that could have come from outer space.
Since, then, many theories have been put forward to explain the strange phenomenon, but the latest results, from studies carried out at Cardiff University in Britain, seem to confirm that the red colour does come from living cells, although where they came remains a mystery.


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City That Waits for its Volcano to Erupt

April 27, 2006
By night, the red glow of boiling lava lights up the sky. As if Congo did not have enough problems, one of the world's most dangerous volcanoes towers over the city of Goma.

The black cone of Mount Nyiragongo, 11,384 ft high, pumps out an immense white plume of sulphur dioxide 24 hours a day. The volcano has erupted at least 15 times since 1883 and destroyed large areas of Goma in 2002.

The next eruption, when it comes, could be the most devastating yet. Goma's population doubles every decade - at least 560,000 people now live within 10 miles of Nyiragongo's crater.

Save for the area around Mount Vesuvius in Italy, nowhere else in the world carries the same risk of volcanic disaster. Moreover, the next eruption will come from a network of fissures stretching outwards from the volcano's cone. These extend beneath Goma itself.

So lava will burst to the surface in the city's streets and incinerate anything in its path. Liquid lava, straight from the earth's mantle, flows as fast as 25 mph - too fast to outrun.

"If we have fast-flowing lava in the city and there is no evacuation, we might have the worst volcanic catastrophe in history," said Jacques Durieux, a French volcanologist in charge of a United Nations programme to reduce the risk in Goma. "It's just unbelievable that we have such a big city so close to an active volcano."


Vulcanologists say that the volcano could erupt by the end of April.

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Global Warming Might Sink America's Coasts

Cities Like New York, Miami and New Orleans Face Threat
Photo Above: Ice falls from the Perito Moreno Glacier in Santa Cruz province, Patagonian southern Argentina , some 3,200 kilometers, (2,000 miles) south of Buenos Aires, Thursday, Oct.16, 2003. A study suggests, that melting of glaciers in the Patagonian ice fields of southern Argentina and Chile has doubled in recent years, caused by higher temperatures, lower snowfall and a more rapid breaking of icebergs. (Natacha Pisarenko/ AP Photo )

April 26, 2006 Update

March 26, 2006 — With glaciers in Greenland and Antarctica melting into the ocean at up to double the speed of just a few years ago, all the water has to go somewhere — and that could mean an end to America's coastlines as we know them.
The water wouldn't come crashing down city streets the way it did in the movie, "The Day After Tomorrow." Instead, according to the new issues of the journal Science, the oceans fed by rapidly melting glaciers would rise steadily over years — a total of 13 to 20 feet by the end of this century, threatening huge chunks of American cities like New Orleans, Miami, Charleston, S.C., and New York.
In the future, storms could regularly swamp New York's subways and tunnels if barriers aren't built to hold back the rising tides, according to Vivien Gornitz, a sea level specialist for NASA. Even pricey riverfront properties in the borough of Manhattan may be under water periodically.
This is the sort of thing that happens in Venice, Italy. Each winter they have floods or high tides and have to put down temporary boardwalks as walkways to keep people out of the water.
'We've Got to Take Some Action'
In Miami, a team is trying to figure out how to keep the sea from spilling into the city's drinking water reserves.
"We know we've got to take some action," said Harvey Ruvin, who leads the team confronting the issue. "Certainly building a dike 500 miles long wouldn't work. It's too expensive. But maybe building a desalinization plant or moving our oil well fields further to the west [would work]."
Continued1. 2. NEXT»

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Arnhem Land bears brunt of Monica's wrath

Photo Above: Winnie and Jimmy Mason with the wreckage of their home in Maningrida.
April 26, 2006
Page 1 of 2
CYCLONE Monica at its fiercest thundered into the small Aboriginal community of Maningrida on the West Arnhem Land coast and pounded it with devastating force for more than 12 hours.

"It was amazing nobody was hurt," emergency services worker Olga Wrzesinska said last night.

The wind-recording instrument at the police station broke at 170 km/h early yesterday.

"The gales were much higher — it came in as a category five storm, which is very frightening," Ms Wrzesinska said. "The eye of the storm was only 10 kilometres off the coast from here."

Trees snapped and were uprooted. Sheets of iron, exhaust fans, timber and rubbish bins turned into missiles that shot through the darkness, often spearing into buildings.

As 30 people huddled together in two rooms of the high school, the roof of an adjoining building lifted off.

"I saw it with my own eyes," photographer Jake Nowakowski said. "It lifted off and then collapsed onto the rooms where the people were sheltering."

"How nobody was hurt I don't know. It was scary. Wind came in great gusts. It seemed like it would never end," he said.

Bradley Mason, 21, told how his family's home had been destroyed. "The police came and told us to get out as it wasn't safe," he said.

"I don't know what we will do now — find somewhere to sleep I guess," he said.

School teacher Kevin Rennie stood outside his damaged house and pointed to a pile of twisted trees. "There's another house behind all that," he said. "You can't see it."

Mr Rennie, formerly of Melbourne, huddled in the centre of his house as Monica's winds howled outside.

"The emergency plan worked quite well," Mr Rennie said. "People had designated houses and shelters to go to … everybody was fantastic."

About 2100 of Maningrida's 2300 residents are indigenous.

"The Aboriginal people take these things in their stride," Mr Rennie said. "When there weren't shelters their ancestors rode these things out."

Ms Wrzesinska said there was some panic among residents who were expecting a cyclone but not one of such force.

Weather forecasters said that as Monica moved slowly over the sea towards Maningrida it was the most intense cyclone ever recorded in the Top End.

The former category five cyclone significantly weakened once it made landfall.

The storm travelled further south and further inland than predicted, sparing Darwin what had been feared would be an even more destructive storm than cyclone Tracy, which devastated the city in December 1974.


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Chernobyl Nature Park
Forests and fields around
Ukraine’s damaged
Chernobyl nuclear power
plant are teeming with
wildlife 20 years after an explosion at
the facility soaked the area with
intense radiation. Scientists say there
have been some mutations due to the
radioactivity. “But the mutants never
resembled the monsters described in
the media, and all died out quickly,”
said Sergei Gashak, a Chernobyl lab
ornithologist. Rudolph Alexakhin,
director of the Agricultural Radiology
Institute in Moscow, said that
during the first yearlong phase after
the explosion of April 26, 1986,
plants and animals most affected by
the radiation died. Over the next six
years, Alexakhin says, nature slowly
“licked its wounds,” leading to the
strong comeback for wildlife that has
recently occurred in the area still offlimits
to most humans.

Flood Crest
The River Danube and its
tributaries rose to even
higher levels than the
records reached two
weeks ago. More than 160,000 people
in southeastern Europe were
threatened with further inundation.
The new wave of spring flooding
rushed from Serbia toward Bulgaria
and Romania, where authorities
deliberately blew up dikes and
flooded fields in a desperate bid to
spare towns.

Coral Sea Cyclone
Australia’s Cape York
Peninsula was drenched
as Category-3 Cyclone
Monica roared ashore
from the Coral Sea. The storm produced
winds of up to 110 mph when
it made landfall just south of Lockhart
River, a thinly populated area
with mainly Aboriginal settlements.

Sand Dump
The Chinese capital’s
eighth and worst sandstorm
of the year dropped
about 330,000 tons of
yellow sand over metropolitan Beijing
in one night, according to
weather officials. The China Meteorological
Administration said the
sand was heavier this time because
the individual grains blown in from
the Gobi Desert were much larger
than in earlier storms. The sandstorm
blanketed homes, streets and cars in
brown dust and left the skies a murky
yellow. Beijing area hospitals
reported a sharp increase in patients
with respiratory diseases, and newspapers
warned residents to wear facemasks
when venturing outdoors.

Colombian Slide Disaster
More than a dozen landslides
triggered by heavy
rains in southwestern
Colombia killed an estimated
31 people and paralyzed the
country’s main Pacific port. A massive
pre-dawn mudslide on April 12
was triggered when the rain-swollen
Dagua River overflowed its banks,
devastating an area between Cali and
the Pacific port of Buenaventura.
Nineteen people initially feared dead
in that slide walked to safety a few
days after their village of Bendiciones
was buried.

A towering volcano in the
heart of Indonesia’s
densely populated Java
island threatened to erupt
for a second week, forcing officials
to draw up plans to evacuate thousands
of nearby villagers. Mount
Merapi has erupted more than 60
times in the past 500 years.
• The first eruption of southern
Peru’s Ubinas Volcano since 1969
sent ash and steam soaring into the
Andean sky. At least 1,000 people
around the small farming town of
Querapi reported suffering respiratory
problems due to falling ash.
Crops have been destroyed, and 20
llamas died after eating grass poisoned
by the volcanic debris.

A swarm of strong
tremors rocked the western
Greek island of
Zakynthos for a third consecutive
week. The strongest quakes
have caused cracks to appear in buildings
on the island. They also dislodged
earth around the island capital’s
Venetian fortress, threatening
part of its wall with collapse.
• Earth movements were also felt
in Indonesia’s northern Sulawesi
island, eastern Taiwan, metropolitan
Tokyo and islands around Okinawa.

Lost at Sea
The search for a brown
bear last seen drifting on
a block of ice in the
Baltic Sea off Estonia
was called off after officials said they
feared the animal had most likely
drowned. A helicopter search-andrescue
operation had been launched
after the crew of a fishing boat told a
border guard that they had spotted the
bear drifting 7 miles off the island of
Ruhna. Young bears are usually
driven off by their mothers during
March and April to establish their
own territory. Wildlife official Enn
Vilbaste believes the newly independent
bear may have inadvertently gotten
trapped when the ice chunk broke
off, and was too weak to swim back
to shore. Vilbaste says brown bears
adrift on ice floes are highly unusual.

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Earth News: A Journal of the Planet

© 2006 Earth Frenzy Radio.Com-All Rights Reserved

What's behind mysterious booms?

Phenomena produce theories, but no answers
“My garage door is double steel and it weighs about 500 lbs. It was rattling back and forth like a leaf in the wind for about 3 or 4 seconds.”
– e-mail from University City resident on April 4 disturbance

April 23, 2006- CALIFORNIA
Life can serve up a good mystery every once in a while. Weird things happen that defy explanation, that make us wonder how much we really know about the world.
Something of the sort happened in San Diego County shortly before 9 a.m. Tuesday, April 4, and so far no one has come forward with an explanation
Whatever it was, it caused a woman's bed to shake in Lakeside. It created waves in a backyard pool in Carmel Valley. It set off car alarms in Kearny Mesa and rattled windows from Mission Beach to Poway to Vista. At various spots throughout the county, people reported a rumbling sound or a booming noise.
Scientists insist it wasn't an earthquake. The Federal Aviation Administration has no record of any planes producing a sonic boom by breaking the sound barrier.
Camp Pendleton officials say no activities on the Marine base could have created such a disturbance. There were no large explosions in San Diego County that day, and no meteor fireballs were reported in the sky that morning.
What was it, then?
Maybe it was the same thing that caused a strange disturbance in Mississippi on April 7, when the locals heard a loud boom that rattled windows all over Jackson County, throwing emergency workers “into a tizzy,” said Butch Loper, Jackson County's civil defense director. Authorities in that state still don't have a clue as to the cause
Nor, to this day, can anyone explain what was behind similar episodes in Maine two months ago, or Alabama three months ago, or North Carolina four months ago. In each of those cases – as well as in other incidents around the nation over the years – residents reported hearing windows rattle and feeling floors shake even though no earthquake was detected.
There's almost certainly a simple, unromantic, “Aha!”-type explanation for each of these odd occurrences, something that everyone has overlooked for whatever combination of reasons.
But who knows?
Maybe we're not being told everything. Maybe the Earth still does things that present-day humanity doesn't understand.

The morning of April 4 was cloudy in San Diego County, with rain in some areas and temperatures in the low to mid-60s. In Lakeside, Judi Mitchell, an emergency medical technician who works the night shift at a hospital, had returned to her home on Lakeshore Drive and was just about to fall asleep. It was 9 a.m., give or take a few minutes.
Suddenly, the earth started to vibrate.
“The windows shook; my bed moved,” she said. “It moved my bookcase.”
The rattling lasted a few seconds. Mitchell, 44, has lived in East County all her life and considers herself an expert at judging the size of an earthquake. She quickly guessed this one was a 4.5 on the Richter scale.
But to the astonishment of everyone, a quake wasn't the culprit. Within hours, both the U.S. Geological Survey in Pasadena and the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla issued statements saying no earthquake had been detected.
Last week, USGS spokeswoman Stephanie Hanna said the agency stands by its initial conclusion.
“No, it wasn't an earthquake,” she said. “We haven't changed our minds about that.”
By noon on the day of the incident, The San Diego Union-Tribune was being inundated with e-mails from people wondering what could have caused the strange tremors.
“My garage door is double steel and it weighs about 500 lbs.,” a man in University City wrote. “It was rattling back and forth like a leaf in the wind for about 3 or 4 seconds.”
A Mission Beach resident compared the sensation to “somewhere in between an explosion and an earthquake.” A woman in Carmel Valley noted that the rattling was very distressing to her cats.

In recent days, the Union-Tribune has tried to get to the bottom of this mystery. Our efforts haven't met with much success.
Was it a sonic boom? If so, it didn't come from any aircraft at Miramar Marine Corps Air Station, Maj. Jason Johnston said. And it didn't come from any Navy planes in San Diego, said Cmdr. Jack Hanzlik, a Coronado-based spokesman for the Naval Air Forces.
“There were no Navy aircraft operating in this area during that time capable of flying at transonic speed,” he said.
Officials with the California National Guard and several Air Force bases also insisted their planes weren't the culprit, as did a Colorado-based spokesman for the North American Aerospace Defense Command.
If a plane had been traveling over San Diego County at supersonic speeds, the Federal Aviation Administration would have picked it up on radar, said Cheryl Jones, the FAA's San Diego-based liaison to the Marine Corps.
Jones checked with FAA control centers in Palmdale and San Diego, which monitor 180,000 square miles covering Southern California, southern Nevada and western Arizona. The agency has no records of any plane, military or civilian, breaking the sound barrier on the morning of April 4, she said.
Under federal law, Jones added, the military can fly at supersonic speeds only in certain restricted areas, three of which exist in Southern California. One is 150 miles to the north of San Diego, the second is 220 miles to the east and the third is 27 miles off the coast. The odds of a plane in any of those areas creating a sonic boom that could be felt all over San Diego County are virtually nonexistent, she said.
Could some sort of rocket be the cause? A spokeswoman at Vandenberg Air Force Base, 60 miles north of Santa Barbara, said the base didn't launch any rockets that day. Neither did NASA, a spokesman for that agency said.
Was it a meteor? Unlikely, said Ed Beshore, a researcher at the University of Arizona's NASA-funded Catalina Sky Survey, which monitors asteroids and other heavenly objects.
Every few months, a meteor enters Earth's atmosphere and produces an “airburst” that can cause a disturbance on the ground, Beshore said. In one recent case, an airburst over the Mediterranean Sea broke the windows on a ship, he said. In the most extreme incident ever recorded, a 1908 airburst over Siberia flattened trees for thousands of miles.
But an airburst powerful enough to cause tremors all over San Diego County would have been noticed by scientists, Beshore said. And the American Meteor Society reported no fireball sightings over California on April 4.
A spokeswoman for Camp Pendleton scoffed at speculation that some sort of Marine mortar training exercise at the base might have caused the countywide rumbling. “It was not us,” 2nd Lt. Lori Miller stated flatly.
Miller was home in Vista on the morning of April 4 when her windows began to rattle. There is no possible way, she said, that a Pendleton training exercise could have caused a sensation like that.

Two months before the San Diego incident, Robert Higgins, the emergency management director of Somerset County, Maine, was confronted with a nearly identical set of puzzling circumstances. In February, panicked residents in a 15-mile radius reported feeling earthquakelike tremors. Authorities quickly ruled out an earthquake, explosion or industrial accident.
“I've called it the mystery of Somerset County,” Higgins said in a telephone interview last week. He still hasn't figured out the cause.
“I'm not done with it,” Higgins said. “I don't forget.”
Then there was the incident in Mobile, Ala., on Jan. 19, when residents in two counties reported hearing what sounded like an explosion and feeling “quakelike tremors,” according to news reports. To this day, no one is certain of the cause. By process of elimination, authorities have settled on the sonic-boom theory, even though no branch of the military has owned up to it.
There have been other similar unexplained events over the past few years. Something of the sort happened in Wilmington, N.C., on Dec. 20, 2005; Winston-Salem, N.C., on March 5, 2005; Charleston, S.C., on Aug. 1, 2003; and Pensacola, Fla., on Jan. 13, 2003.
“The large boom that shook walls and windows from Century to Milton on Monday remains a mystery, and probably will stay that way,” a reporter for the Pensacola News Journal wrote after the Jan. 13 episode.

On those occasions when a logical explanation is wanting, it's sometimes necessary to consult that archive of wisdom otherwise known as the Internet.
Among bloggers and Web-based conspiracy theorists, one of the leading explanations for the San Diego disturbance is that the military is testing a top-secret spy plane called the Aurora, which supposedly can travel several times the speed of sound.
“Sir, I've never even heard of that plane before,” an Air Force spokeswoman in Virginia responded when asked about the possibility.
Even UFO experts are baffled by what happened in San Diego. Asked whether a flying saucer might have caused such an event, Peter Davenport of the Seattle-based National UFO Reporting Center said, “Probably not.”
“UFOs almost never generate sonic booms or shock waves,” he added. “They accelerate so rapidly that they leave a vacuum in the sky, much the way lightning does.”
What happened in San Diego on April 4 seems destined to remain one of life's little mysteries, as inexplicable as those Bigfoot sightings in the Pacific Northwest.
Mitchell, the Lakeside hospital worker, remains convinced that an earthquake was the culprit, regardless of what the experts say. The tremors were too strong, she said, too violent to be anything else.
“The earth actually moved,” she said. “You could feel it. If it moved my bed, it moved the earth.”
If anyone out there has any answers, would you please be kind enough to share them with the rest of us? A lot of folks are really curious.

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Impact Of Rainfall Reaches To Roots Of Mountains

Toronto, Canada (SPX) Apr 21, 2006
The erosion caused by rainfall directly affects the movement of continental plates beneath mountain ranges, says a University of Toronto geophysicist - the first time science has raised the possibility that human-induced climate change could affect the deep workings of the planet.
"In geology, we have this idea that erosion's going to affect merely the surface," says Russell Pysklywec, a professor of geology who creates computer models where he can control how a range of natural processes can create and modify mountains over millions of years. Pysklywec conducts field research in the Southern Alps of New Zealand, where the mountains are high and geologically "young."

He found that when mountains are exposed to New Zealand-type rainfall (which causes one centimetre of erosion per year) compared to southern California-type rainfall (which erodes one-tenth of a centimetre or less), it profoundly changes the behaviour of the tectonic plates beneath the mountains.

"These are tiny, tiny changes on the surface, but integrating them over geologic time scales affects the roots of the mountains, as opposed to just the top of them," says Pysklywec. "It goes right down to the mantle thermal engine - the thing that's actually driving plate tectonics. It's fairly surprising - it hasn't been shown before."

It takes a supercomputer several days to run one of Pysklywec's models, which reveal the inner workings of the Earth to hundreds of kilometres below the surface, where the temperature can reach 1,500 degrees Celsius. In extreme conditions, he says, the erosion effect can even cause the underlying plate to reverse direction.

"As a concept, imagine blanketing the European Alps with a huge network of ordinary garden sprinklers. The results suggest that the subtle surface weathering caused by the light watering have the potential to shift the tectonic plates, although you would have to keep the water on for several million years."

In the long run, says Pysklywec, it raises the question of whether human activity, which is affecting climate, could ultimately influence deep Earth processes. "That's what these findings suggest," he says. "We're talking millions of years, but it's one more example of how all these natural systems are interrelated."

The study appears on the cover of the April issue of Geology and was funded by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada and Lithoprobe.

Related Links
Department of Geology - Toronto

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Former Military Air Traffic Controller Claims Comet Collision with Earth on May 25, 2006

Contact: Dr. Michael Salla of the Exopolitics Institute,

KEALAKEKUA, Hawaii, April 13 /U.S. Newswire/ -- Eric Julien, a former French military air traffic controller and senior airport manager, has completed a study of the comet 73P Schwassmann- Wachmann and declared that a fragment is highly likely to impact the Earth on or around May 25, 2006.

Comet Schwassman-Wachmann follows a five-year orbit that crosses the solar system's ecliptic plane. It has followed its five year orbit intact for centuries; but, in 1995, mysteriously fragmented. According to Julien, this is the same year that a crop circle appeared showing the inner solar system with the Earth missing from its orbit. He argues the "Missing Earth" crop circle was a message from higher intelligences warning humanity of the consequences of its destructive nuclear policies. He links this crop circle to May 25, 2006, and identifies the comet Schwassmann-Wachman as the subject of higher intelligence communications.

Using NASA simulations of the comet's path, Julien concludes that impact is likely around May 25 precisely when the comet crosses the Earth's ecliptic plane. While the first fragment will cross at approximately 10 million miles, lagging fragments threaten to collide. While astronomers have stated that the comet poses no direct threat, Julien argues that some fragments are too small to observe. Astronomers have predicted possible meteor showers indicating some cometary debris will enter the atmosphere.

Julien argues that the kinetic energy of even a 'car sized' fragment will impact the Earth with devastating effect. He concludes the May 25 event is tied in to the Bush administration's policy of preemptive use of nuclear weapons against Iran, and the effect of nuclear weapons on the realms of higher intelligences. Regarding its importance, Julien declares: "we have to save lives when we have such information to share with the public". He further claims it important "to preserve all data, historical artifacts and precious material in the event of such a collision." Julien predicts that the comet collision will occur in the Atlantic Ocean between the Equator and the Tropic of Cancer, and generates 200 meter waves. Julien concludes that "each person with this information has to take responsibility to warn potential victims."

His article, "May 25, 2006: The Day of Destiny" is available at:

Sponsored by the Exopolitics Institute:

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Spring Twisters
Another round of severe
weather in the American
Midwest and South
brought tornadoes that
killed at least 12 people in Tennessee.
The twisters around Nashville also
damaged hundreds of homes and
came less than a week after a tornado
swarm left 28 people dead in the same
• Tornadoes in western, northern
and central parts of Bangladesh killed
seven people and injured more than
1,000 others. Officials said the whirlwinds
flattened many houses and
badly damaged crops.

Flood Terror
An Australian Parks
and Wildlife ranger
was dispatched to track
down dangerous
crocodiles that may have swum into
the flooded Northern Territory town
of Katherine. The community
became inundated by the Katherine
River, following days of heavy rain
that drenched the area. One crocodile
attacked a teenage boy who had
become trapped in a tree by the floodwaters.
He sustained only minor
injuries. Ranger Patrick Carmody
said he plans to harpoon or shoot any
freshwater crocodiles, as well as any
of the more dangerous saltwater
crocodiles he finds.

Five strong tremors
rocked the western Greek
island of Zakynthos
within 24 hours. No damage
or injuries were reported, but all
schools were closed as a precaution.
• Earth movements were also felt
on the Greek island of Carpathos and
in western Iran, metropolitan New
Delhi, northern Japan, northeastern
Ethiopia and the Congo-Rwanda border

Frost-Free Gene
Australian researchers
say they have discovered
an “anti-freeze gene” that
allows grass in Antarctica
to survive to minus 22 degrees
Fahrenheit. They say they plan to use
the discovery to create frost-free
strains of plants that will prevent millions
of dollars of lost crops each year
due to wintry conditions. Professor
German Spangenberg, from La Trobe
University in Victoria state, said the
gene was found in a type of saltgrass
that had established itself on the
Antarctic Peninsula. “Now we understand
how it works, we can use this
knowledge for crop improvement —
for frost and cold tolerance,” Spangenberg
told reporters.

Authorities in Indonesia’s
densely populated Central
Java have banned mountain
climbing and mining
operations around Merapi Volcano
due to an increase in activity within
the 11,060-foot mountain. Flows of
hot lava have accompanied seismic
swarms since mid-March.
• Authorities on the Caribbean
island of Montserrat warned that the
old lava dome of the Soufriere Hills
Volcano has grown to about 820 feet.
Scientists say there is an increased
risk for a collapse of the dome, which
could lead to pyroclastic flows down
the mountain’s slopes.
• The Alaskan Peninsula’s Veniaminof
Volcano produced a small ash
emission — typical of activity in
recent years.

Deadly Sandstorm
Beijing, Seoul and other
cities across East Asia
suffered from the worst
sandstorm in years. High
winds across the Gobi Desert
whipped up a huge cloud of dust, toppling
houses, killing one person and
burying railways and roads with sand.
A train on a remote stretch of Chinese
rail had its windows broken out by the
sand-laden high winds. A haze of dust
and smog downwind in Beijing
prompted health authorities to raise
air pollution warnings to their highest
level. Officials in South Korea
warned that the sand had picked up
heavy metals and carcinogens, such
as dioxin, as it passed over Chinese
industrial regions before being blown
over the Korean peninsula and Japan.
During a weaker sandstorm last
month, the sand mixed with snow
over South Korea, causing a rare
sprinkling of yellow snow.

Monster’ Rabbit
The British town of Felton
has allowed two marksmen
to be hired to hunt
down and kill an oversized
rabbit that has been ripping up and
devouring crops. “It is a massive
thing. It is a monster,” local resident
Jeff Smith told the Northumberland
Gazette. “The first time I saw it, I said,
‘What the hell is that?’” Smith claims
to have seen the black-and-brown
rabbit, which has one ear bigger than
the other, as have other residents. The
British Rabbit Council says the sightings
are credible, and that some rabbits,
like the Continental Giant, can
grow to be 26 inches in length. Local
gardeners have hired armed guards to
protect their patches from the
ravenous rabbit.

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Distributed by: Universal Press Syndicate
Earth News: A Journal of the Planet
© 2006 Earth Frenzy Radio.Com-All Rights Reserved

U.S. Plan For Flu Pandemic Revealed

Photo: After dying of avian flu or being culled, chicken carcasses are burned at a farm in Long An province, near Ho Chi Minh City, Viet Nam.

Sunday, April 16, 2006
President Bush is expected to approve soon a national pandemic influenza response plan that identifies more than 300 specific tasks for federal agencies, including determining which frontline workers should be the first vaccinated and expanding Internet capacity to handle what would probably be a flood of people working from their home computers.
The Treasury Department is poised to sign agreements with other nations to produce currency if U.S. mints cannot operate. The Pentagon, anticipating difficulties acquiring supplies from the Far East, is considering stockpiling millions of latex gloves. And the Department of Veterans Affairs has developed a drive-through medical exam to quickly assess patients who suspect they have been infected.
The document is the first attempt to spell out in some detail how the government would detect and respond to an outbreak, and continue functioning through what could be an 18-month crisis, which in a worst-case scenario could kill 1.9 million Americans. Bush was briefed on a draft of the implementation plan on March 17. He is expected to approve the plan within the week, but it continues to evolve, said several administration officials who have been working on it.
Still reeling from the ineffectual response to Hurricane Katrina, the White House is eager to show it could manage the medical, security and economic fallout of a major outbreak. In response to questions posed to several federal agencies, White House officials offered a briefing on the near-final version of its 240-page plan. When it is issued, officials intend to announce several vaccine manufacturing contracts to jump-start an industry that has declined in the past few decades.
The background briefing and on-the-record interviews with experts in and out of government reveal that some agencies are far along in preparing for a deadly outbreak. Others have yet to resolve basic questions, such as who is designated an essential employee and how the agency would cope if that person were out of commission.
"Most of the federal government right now is as ill-prepared as any part of society," said Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota. Osterholm said the administration has made progress but is nowhere near prepared for what he compared to a worldwide "12- to 18-month blizzard."
Many critical decisions remain to be made. Administration scientists are debating how much vaccine would be needed to immunize against a new strain of avian influenza, and they are weighing data that may alter their strategy on who should have priority for antiviral drugs such as Tamiflu and Relenza.
The new analysis, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, suggests that instead of giving medicine to first responders and health-care workers, as currently planned, it might be wiser to give the drugs to every person with symptoms and others in the same household, one senior administration official said.
The approach offers "some real hope for communities to put a dent in the amount of illness and death, if we go with that strategy," a White House official said.
Each year, about 36,000 Americans die from seasonal influenza. A worldwide outbreak, or pandemic, occurs when a potent new, highly contagious strain of the virus emerges. It is a far greater threat than annual flu because everyone is susceptible, and it would take as much as six months to develop a vaccine. The 1918 pandemic flu, the worst of the 20th century, is estimated to have killed more than 50 million people worldwide.
Alarm has risen because of the emergence of the most dangerous strain to appear in decades -- the H5N1 avian flu. It has primarily struck birds, but about 200 people worldwide have contracted the disease, and half have died. Experts project that the next pandemic -- depending on severity and countermeasures -- could kill 210,000 to 1.9 million Americans.
To keep the 1.8 million federal workers healthy and productive through a pandemic, the Bush administration would tap into its secure stash of medications, cancel large gatherings, encourage schools to close and shift air traffic controllers to the busier hubs -- probably where flu had not yet struck. Retired federal employees would be summoned back to work, and National Guard troops could be dispatched to cities facing possible "insurrection," said Jeffrey W. Runge, chief medical officer at the Department of Homeland Security.
The administration hopes to help contain the first cases overseas by rushing in medical teams and supplies. "If there is a small outbreak in a country, it may behoove us to introduce travel restrictions," Runge said, "to help stamp out that spark."
However, even an effective containment effort would merely postpone the inevitable, said Ellen P. Embrey, deputy assistant secretary for force health preparedness and readiness at the Pentagon. "Unfortunately, we believe the forest fire will burn before we are able to contain it overseas, and it will arrive on our shores in multiple locations," she said.
As Katrina illustrated, a central issue would be "who is ultimately in charge and how the agencies will be coordinated," said former assistant surgeon general Susan Blumenthal. The Department of Health and Human Services would take the lead on medical aspects, but Homeland Security would have overall authority, she noted. "How are those authorities going to come together?"
Essentially, the president would be in charge, the White House official replied. Bush is expected to adopt post-Katrina recommendations that a new interagency task force coordinate the federal response and a high-level Disaster Response Group resolve disputes among agencies or states. Neither entity has been created.
Analysts at the Government Accountability Office found that earlier efforts by the administration to plan for disasters were overly broad or simply sat on a shelf.
"Our biggest concern is whether an agency has a clear idea of what it absolutely has to do, no matter what," said Linda Koontz, director of information management issues at the GAO. "Some had three and some had 400 essential functions. We raised questions about whether 400 were really essential."
In several cases, agencies never trained for or rehearsed emergency plans, she said, causing concern that when disaster strikes, "people will be sitting there with a 500-page book in front of them."
The federal government -- as well as private businesses -- should expect as much as 40 percent of its workforce to be out during a pandemic, said Bruce Gellin, director of the National Vaccine Program Office at HHS. Some will be sick or dead; others could be depressed, or caring for a loved one or staying at home to prevent spread of the virus. "The problem is, you never know which 40 percent will be out," he said.
The Agriculture Department, with 4 million square feet of office space in metropolitan Washington alone, would likely stagger shifts, close cafeterias and cancel face-to-face meetings, said Peter Thomas, the acting assistant secretary for administration.
The department has bought masks, gloves and hand sanitizers, and has hired extra nurses and compiled a list of retired employees who could be temporarily rehired, he said. A 24-hour employee hotline would provide medical advice and work updates. And as it did during Katrina, Agriculture has contingency plans for meeting the payrolls of several federal departments totaling 600,000 people.
Similarly, the Commerce Department has identified its eight priority functions, including the ability to assign emergency communication frequencies, and how those could be run with 60 percent of its normal staff.
Operating the largest health-care organization in the nation, the VA has directed its 153 hospitals to stock up on other medications, equipment, food and water, said chief public health officer Lawrence Deyton. "But it's a few days' worth, not enough to last months," he added.
Anticipating that some nurses may be home caring for family members -- and to reduce the number of patients descending on its hospitals -- the VA intends to put nurses on its toll-free hotline to help veterans decide whether they need professional medical care. At many VA hospitals, nurses and doctors would stand in the parking lots armed with thermometers and laptop computers to do drive-through exams. Modeled after its successful drive-through vaccination program last fall, the parking-lot triage is intended to keep the flow of patients moving rapidly, Deyton said.
Much of the federal government's plan relies on quick distribution of medications and vaccine. The Strategic National Stockpile has 5.1 million courses of Tamiflu on hand. The goal is to secure 21 million doses of Tamiflu and 4 million doses of Relenza by the end of this year, and a total of 51 million by late 2008.
In addition, the administration will pay one-quarter of the cost of antivirals bought by states. The Pentagon, VA, USDA and Transportation Department have their own stockpiles -- and most intend to buy more as it becomes available.
Blumenthal, the former assistant surgeon general, questioned why two years after Congress approved a $5.6 billion BioShield program to develop new drugs and vaccines, so little progress has been made.
Homeland Security's Runge has a different concern: "One of the scariest thoughts is, if this country has successfully developed a vaccine within six months of an outbreak or our supply of antivirals is greater, there may be a rush into the United States for those things."
And even if those fears do not materialize, officials have warned that the federal preparations go only so far. Much is left to the states, communities and even individuals.
"Any community that fails to prepare -- with the expectation that the federal government can come to the rescue -- will be tragically wrong," HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt said in a speech April 10. The administration is posting information on the Internet at .

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Glaciers Before and After

Images from in and around Glacier National Park, Montana reveal dramatic melting over the years.

Photo: BEFORE: Take a look at Agassiz Glacier, in this photograph taken in 1913, near Boulder Pass, Glacier National Park.

Photo: AFTER: Compare it to this 2005 photograph of Agassiz Glacier taken from the same location (near Boulder Pass, Glacier National Park) Click to enlarge.


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Global warming swells Tibetan lakes

Tibetan lake (Tibet)


LHASA, April 11 (Xinhua) -- Gesang Cering habitually wakes up at midnight to check whether his house or sheepfold is flooded again, as he has often seen water oozing, or sometimes even spouting out from ground since year 2000, particularly in winter.

He has also noticed that lake Naigri Puencog, some eight kilometers from his home village in Nagqu Prefecture, northern Tibet, often swells.

"The pasture near the lake is flooded from time to time; in winter, it's often covered with ice," the man said.

Many local herders have witnessed similar situations: in many lake areas, water springs out of formerly dry places, roads are flooded, and alkali is found no more in what used to be alkaline lakes.

Even the oldest people in the village cannot explain the abnormal phenomenon. Some say it's inauspicious and invite lamas to perform Buddhism rituals, hoping to dispel the evil spirits.

"It's actually caused by global warming," said Bendo, a senior engineer with Remote Sensing Application Research Center of the Tibet Autonomous Region.

Bendo and his colleagues have been studying the floods in Nagqusince Aug. 2005. They conducted site surveys to five lakes in the prefecture and analyzed changes in the sizes of the lakes over the past two decades with remote sensing mapping.

"We found rises in rainfall as well as in air and ground temperatures in lake areas but declines in water evaporation, exposure to sunlight, and thickness of snow and frozen earth," he said. "We therefore decided global warming caused the lakes to swell."

Bendo said the average water level in Naigri Puencog and two other inland lakes rose by 12.6 meters in the recent two decades, flooding an average 40.8 square kilometers of pasture, cropland and roads.

Despite the damages to the pastures and roads, many people say the local climate is milder than before as it gets warmer and rains more often.

"It's getting more comfortable here," said Zhang Jianhua who has been working in Nagqu for 11 years. "The once lifeless hills are covered in green. We used to wear jackets in summer but nowadays shorts and T-shirts are enough."

But experts say the impact of global warming is not always positive in Tibet. In Ngari Prefecture in western Tibet, for example, the warm but arid climate has had a negative effect on the local ecology, said Bendo.

Known as the "roof of the world", the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau is very sensitive to climate changes.

"Tibet's responses to global warming will provide valuable first-hand information to worldwide researchers on climate changes," said the expert.

Chinese scientists found in an earlier research that global warming had caused glaciers to melt fast at Mount Qomolangma, the world's highest area, threatening the balance of global water resources.

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Why did the iceman cometh?

Photo: Chunk of Ice that fell from the sky in southern Spain.
OAKLAND — April 2006. Ice falling from the sky might seem unusual, but some Spanish and American scientists say it is becoming a frequent occurrence throughout the world.
Like the estimated 200-plus-pound chunk that fell Saturday on Bushrod Park, clear ice from the sky has been reported around the world. Big and small ice-falls have happened in China, Spain, Italy, Czech Republic, Scotland, Hungary, England, India and more than half of the United States — often in summer and some recorded before aircraft were invented, scientists say.
And in each case, no one knows why.
"None of us have been able to come up with a process to determine how it is happening," said David Travis, a climatologist at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater. "We're really baffled as to what is going on here."
Travis and Madrid-based scientist Jesus Martinez-Frias have studied the phenomenon since at least 2000, when they began scouring the Internet for news stories about the incidents. They found 37 instances in which a large chunk of ice fell from clear skies. Each year, they find more reports of it happening.
The Oakland ice cube was clear and free of debris, ruling out any chance it came from an airplane bathroom, the experts said. But its large size makes it hard to believe the ice is a product of nature.
So conflicting theories abound.
Martinez-Frias speculates it is a natural phenomenon caused by global warming. According to his studies, every time such an incident occurs, it is precipitated by an unusual atmosphere in which higher altitudes are turbulent and cold. The cold helps create the ice. The turbulence helps keep it together in the sky.
As global warming continues to heat the earth, his theory goes, upper atmospheric temperatures become cooler, opening more opportunities for the ice to form. Charles Knight, a leading hail expert at the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research, told an interviewer in 2002 the "meteorological explanations just don't make sense to me" for creating giant ice balls way up in the dry stratosphere.
"I don't like to claim that anything is absolutely impossible, but this comes awfully close," Knight told Science magazine.
While Travis said he understands the global warming theory, he thinks gravity is too strong to keep that big a piece of ice in the sky.
Instead, Travis believes the ice forms on the underbelly of an airplane, maybe near the landing gear. Once the plane prepares to land, the landing gear opens, dislodging the ice.
"I know the Federal Aviation Administration will deny this has anything to do with airplanes," Travis said. "But it is very difficult to imagine any other explanation."
Representatives for Oakland and San Francisco International airports referred calls about Saturday's incident to the FAA.
In the late 1990s, when a huge, 400-pound chunk crashed through the roof of a Mercedes-Benz factory in Southern Brazil, U.S. defense scientists analyzed it for signs of cosmic origin. The water's isotopic signature indicated the ice ball was terrestrial, with the water coming from temperate latitudes. Beyond that, tests were inconclusive.
In January 2000, an ice ball dropped from a bright, blue sky through a car windshield in Spain, soon followed by several others in nearby towns.
Spanish scientists performed the most rigorous analyses yet on the ice chunks, which weighed about a kilogram, and dubbed them "megacryometeors." No planes were found overhead in two of the bombardments.
The Spanish team theorized the ice formed something like giant hail, but instead of bouncing around at the cold tops of thunderheads, these would drop from much higher, out in the frigid stratosphere — when it is especially wet and depleted in ozone.
That is how the Spanish team conjured large pieces of ice without rain, sleet or snow.
Oakland was wet and so was the air high up, but tropospheric conditions overhead Saturday were "nothing extraordinary," said Warren Blier, science officer for the National Weather Service's San Francisco regional office.
It is hard for him and others to imagine the Spanish recipe for mega-hail working at all, much less for the 200-plus-pound slab of ice that put a dent in Oakland.
"It's very, very, very unlikely. It's hard for me to conceive this would occur. There are much higher probability explanations, and aircraft are at the top of the list," he said.

The Oakland, California, solid block of ice that fell from the sky, crashed and left a 3-foot hole in the grass. The ice fell at Bushrod Park in Oakland when a homeowner was waiting to show apartments to prospective renters Saturday. No one was injured, police said. “It was totally amazing. ... I saw this flash, like a streak. Then I saw this explosion, like a big boom. I came over and it (the field) was all covered with ice." The ice was pure water, so “it didn’t come from a toilet on a plane or anything like that.” The National Weather Service said storms haven’t been violent enough to hatch a gigantic hailstone.

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Underwater Holocaust
An unprecedented die-off
of coral in the eastern
Caribbean Sea has
researchers from around
the world scrambling to nail down the
cause and the extent of the losses.
Early estimates from Puerto Rico and
the U.S. Virgin Islands indicate that
about one-third of the coral has
recently died in areas that are regularly
monitored. It’s believed that the
coral was killed by a combination of
bleaching from record hot water temperatures
and a subsequent outbreak
of a disease known as “white plague.”
Some areas of the Indian and Pacific
oceans have seen mortality rates as
high as 90 percent among coral due
to warming waters in recent years.

African Eruption
An eruption of a Tanzanian
volcano known by the local
Masai tribe as “The Mountain
of God” forced about
3,000 people to evacuate their homes.
Falling ash destroyed vegetation and
polluted water supplies. Ol Doinyo
Lengai has a near-perfect cone shape
and is located in the middle of the East
Africa savanna. The 9,482-foot
mountain produces the world’s
coolest lava and is the only active
sodium carbonite volcano. Its highly
fluid natro-carbonatite lava reaches
only 950 degrees Fahrenheit compared
to the 2,100 degrees common
elsewhere in basaltic lava. That temperature
is so low that the molten lava
appears black in sunlight. The volcano
has produced several eruptions
during recorded history.

Tropical Cyclone
Cyclone Hubert formed
just off the coast of northwestern
Australia, then
moved ashore near the
same area lashed by Category-4
Cyclone Glenda the previous week.

Tornado Outbreak
A weekend of severe
thunderstorms in the
American Midwest and
South brought a string of
tornadoes that killed at least 27 people
and destroyed thousands of
homes and businesses. Churches,
firehouses, police stations and
schools were also wrecked by the
whirlwinds. The worst hit area was
northwestern Tennessee, where
twisters roared through five counties,
killing 23 of the victims. Three deaths
were reported in neighboring Missouri,
and one person died in Illinois.

Atmospheric Trends
An international gathering
in Australia of atmospheric
researchers heard
that while the hole in
Earth’s protective ozone layer is closing,
thanks to a worldwide chemical
ban, the level of greenhouse gasses is
soaring. Paul Fraser from the Commonwealth
Scientific and Industrial
Research Organization told the meeting
in Hobart that he expects the
ozone hole to close by the year 2050.
But he warned: “The main driver of
global warming is carbon dioxide,
and that’s increasing now at a rate we
haven’t seen ever before.” He added
that increases of the nitrous oxide
greenhouse gas from deforestation
and fertilizer use are also contributing
to global warming.

European Flood Disaster
Spring flooding across
central and eastern parts
of Europe brought river
levels to their highest on
record, with Hungry, Austria and the
Czech Republic suffering the worst
inundations. The Danube in Budapest
rose well above the previous high set
during 2002. Hundreds of people
were forced to flee their homes in
Austria after two dams burst due to
excessive runoff. Rivers slowly subsided
in the Czech Republic, and
evacuees returned to muddy homes in
the wake of the country’s third flood
disaster in nine years.

The United Nations
rushed emergency relief
supplies to an area of
western Iran devastated
by a magnitude 6.0 temblor on March
31. At least 70 people were killed as
the shaking wrecked more than 300
villages in the province of Lorestan.
• At least 28 people were injured
when two moderate earthquakes
jolted Islamabad and other parts of
northern Pakistan.
• Southeastern Taiwan was
rocked by a magnitude 6.4 quake that
injured about 50 people as it cracked
structures and fractured gas lines.
• Earth movements were also felt
in central Japan’s Kanto region, New
Zealand, northwest Sumatra, western
India, the Greek island of Zakynthos
and southern Oklahoma.

Rat Plague
A population explosion
of wild rats in parts of
China is causing severe
damage to woodlands
and threatens to spread plague to the
human population, according to a
report in the China Daily. The State
Forestry Administration told the
paper that 3.5 million acres of woodland
have already been damaged so
far this year. Health officials fear that
humans who come in contact with
plague-infected rats could spread the
virus quickly across the country by
using new rail lines that are being
brought into service.

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