Daily Archives: January 28, 2016

NYC hurricane expert: “Sandy wasn’t the Big One”

By Greg Hanscom on 22 Oct 2013

sandy

Hurricane SandyNASA GOES Project

One year ago today, Superstorm Sandy was just a twinkle in meteorologists’ eyes. The storm, which kicked up from a low-pressure area in the Caribbean Sea on Oct. 22, wouldn’t become an official hurricane for two days still. Even after it gained official hurricane status, raking across Jamaica and Cuba and soaking the Bahamas, U.S. weather models predicted that it would spin off into the North Atlantic and peter out, as most such storms do.

But Sandy did something different. After briefly losing steam, it rolled northward along the Eastern Seaboard and then veered left like a car that had just lost a wheel, barreling into the Jersey Shore and pushing storm tides through the streets of New York City. When the skies finally cleared and Wall Street opened back up, at least 159 people were dead, and the storm had caused $65 billion in damages and relocated the city’s rat population.

It was a shocking turn of events. Hurricane Irene had given New York a good scare (and New England a thorough drubbing) in August 2011, but the last time a major hurricane had hit the city was 1938. That storm killed 600 people, according to a New York Times report. But after decades of relative quiet, many New Yorkers doubted it would happen again. It’s easy, in those canyons of concrete and brick, to imagine that nothing will change.

There was one man, however, who saw Sandy coming. Nicholas K. Coch, a professor of coastal geology at Queens College, had been warning for almost two decades that a major hurricane could take out New York. The habit earned Coch the nickname “Dr. Doom” — a sobriquet that he didn’t take kindly to. (“No serious scientist wants to be called Dr. Doom,” he says.)

…(read more).

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WHO to consider declaring international emergency over Zika virus


PBS NewsHour

Published on Jan 28, 2016

The World Health Organization offered a powerful new warning about the rapid spread of the Zika virus, which apparently causes birth defects such as microcephaly and neurological problems. Officials estimate that there could be 3 to 4 million cases in the Americas over the next year alone. In some countries, officials have urged women to avoid getting pregnant. Judy Woodruff reports.

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The Zika virus foreshadows our dystopian climate future | Bill McKibben

A home in El Salvador being fumigated to prevent the spread of the Zika virus. Photograph: Marvin Recinos/AFP/Getty Images

The mosquito-borne disease shows that pushing the limits of the planet’s ecology has become dangerous in novel ways

Monday 25 January 2016 07.30 EST

@billmckibben

I’ve spent much of my life chronicling the ongoing tragedies stemming from global warming: the floods and droughts and storms, the failed harvests and forced migrations. But no single item on the list seems any more horrible than the emerging news from South America about the newly prominent Zika disease.

Spread by mosquitoes whose range inexorably expands as the climate warms, Zika causes mild flu-like symptoms. But pregnant women bitten by the wrong mosquito are liable to give birth to babies with shrunken heads. Brazil last year recorded 4,000 cases of this “microcephaly”. As of today, authorities in Brazil, Colombia, Jamaica, El Salvador and Venezuela were urging women to avoid getting pregnant.

Think about that. Women should avoid the most essential and beautiful of human tasks. It is unthinkable. Or rather, it is something out of a science fiction story, the absolute core of a dystopian future. “It is recommended that women postpone – to the extent possible – the decision to become pregnant until the country can move out of the epidemic phase of the Zika virus,” the Colombian health authorities said, adding that those living in low altitude areas should move higher if possible, out of the easy range of mosquitoes.

Zika virus may be linked to rare nerve condition

Now think about the women who are already pregnant, and who will spend the next months in a quiet panic about whether their lives will be turned upside down. Try to imagine what that feels like – the anger, the guilt, the pervasive anxiety at the moment when you most want to be calm and serene.

And now think about the larger, less intimate consequences: this is one more step in the division of the world into relative safe and dangerous zones, an emerging epidemiological apartheid. The CDC has already told those Americans thinking of becoming pregnant to avoid travel to 20 Latin American and Caribbean nations.

Eventually, of course, the disease will reach these shores – at least 10 Americans have come back from overseas with the infection, and one microcephalic baby has already been born in Hawaii to a mother exposed in Brazil early in her pregnancy. But America is rich enough to avoid the worst of the mess its fossil fuel habits have helped create.

…(read more).

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Why We Need More Films About Slavery – The Root

The buzz around Nate Parker’s slave-rebellion flick, The Birth of a Nation, has some people saying, “Enough with the slave movies.” I say keep them coming.

By: Demetria Lucas D’Oyley

Posted: Jan. 28 2016 3:33 PM

Nate Parker in The Birth of a Nation

Elliot Davis

I was prepared to dislike Kara Brown’s Jezebel article, “I’m So Damn Tired of Slave Movies,”

based on the title alone. That sentiment has been popular lately, given all the attention garnered at the Sundance Film Festival for actor-turned-director-producer-screenwriter Nate Parker’s upcoming film, The Birth of a Nation. Reports from Utah say the movie—a biography of Nat Turner’s life and the slave revolt he led through Southampton County, Va., in 1831—received a standing ovation after its debut screening. Fox Searchlight quickly snatched up the film for $17.5 million, a new sales record for the festival.

But it seems for every person like me, who anticipates showing up to a Magic Johnson theater (because you know they’re showing it) on opening night, there’s another person asking, “Really? Another slave film?”

I actually don’t think there are enough films about slavery. I mean, it was a roughly 245-year stretch of American history (indeed, older than the formation of the country itself). Considering the length of time, all the people involved, all their varied stories and how deeply embedded the “peculiar institution” is in America’s history (and present), there should be way more films than those that currently exist. We’re just now getting a mainstream film about Nat Turner. Do we want to throw in the towel before we get a theatrical release about Harriet Tubman or the Haitian revolution?

…(read more).

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The New Dust Bowl – TechKnow


Al Jazeera America

Published on Jan 28, 2016

On this episode of “TechKnow,” Phil Torres and Shini Somara head out West to see how the drought is impacting the state of California.

Phil teams up with scientists at NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory who are using satellites and airborne flying laborators to track and measure the amount of available water in the Sierra Nevada snow pack. The goal is to give water managers an accurate assessment of much water they can expect to come from the mountain region during California’s ongoing drought

On the ground, Shini Somara ventures to the Central Valley to explore a new technology: solar desalination. A start-up company called Water FX is using solar thermal troughs to provide freshwater to farmers.

For more TechKnow: http://america.aljazeera.com/watch/sh…

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The Surge of Zika Virus – Scientific American

January 26, 2016

The mosquito-borne disease is spreading across the globe and has been linked to alarming birth defects and an autoimmune disease that can cause paralysis. Scientific American has been tracking the dengue-like illness since fall 2015

…(read more).

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The new global menace: Property developers – Owen Jones


The Guardian

Published on Dec 10, 2014

They’re shamelessly greedy, they’re tearing apart communities and they’re one of the main drivers of exploding levels of inequality.

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