May 21st, 2012
The Weather Channel
Farmers in northwest China are doing battle with swarms of locusts. As a pilot program 15,000 ducks will be used to try and fight the locusts by eating them.
The locusts are, apparently, still coming...in biblical proportions, and this has been going on for years...
From ABC News:
In a pernicious mass, swarms of locusta migratoria are chomping their way through the Central Asian plains, devouring vegetation and crops through swathes of Russia, China and the former Soviet republics.
A combination of drought, poverty, war and sheer neglect has seen locusts breeding unchecked on abandoned farmlands in the region resulting in the worst plague of locusts to hit the fertile Central Asian plains in 40 years.
In a desperate struggle to combat the unwelcome clouds of insects, local authorities have been using both orthodox and unorthodox means to beat the ravaging hordes.
And that includes a million-strong army of ducks.
A Quack Force
Call them quacks if you must, but authorities in the worst-affected Xinjiang province in China have recruited locust-eating ducks to combat the menace, the official Xinhua news agency has reported.
The "duck soldiers," specially trained by farmer Yang Dayuan, are capable of eating more than a pound of locusts every day. What's more, they even eat locust eggs that are laid in the marshy alkaline wastelands.
An environmentally friendly locust-crunching method, the duck soldiers add a boost to the circle of life, Yang told the British daily The Times. "The ducks will grow healthy and fat and will get a higher price on the market after they retire from pest-control duty."
Pesticides to the Rescue
But China has also been forced to employ pesticides to combat the menace. The official China Daily newspaper today reported that 2.5 million acres of land had been sprayed with pesticides.
In the southern Russian republic of Dagestan, the worst hit region in Russia, about 8,900 acres of agricultural land have been treated with chemicals, Russian Agriculture Ministry officials said today.
Petr Fomenko, a spokesman for the Agriculture Ministry, told Interfax news agency authorities estimate they have to treat at least 6 million acres to bring the situation under control.
Russia has assigned approximately $16 million this year to battle the locusts.
Poor Regions, Rich Breeding Grounds
Since most farmers in the former Soviet republics are unable to afford pesticides, they have been forced to rely on local authorities to combat the menace, a response that farmers maintain came a little too late. The slow and often haphazard official response has led to a spread of the migratory insects across national borders.
Last year China blamed lax pest-control measures in neighboring Kazakhstan for an infestation.
In April, the Taliban, the militia that controls most of Afghanistan, appealed for international aid to help combat a potential plague of locusts due to years of severe drought.
More than three years of hostilities in Chechnya has led to the loss of most of the embattled Russia republic's cattle breeders. Cattle can help contain a locust plague by stomping out locust nests.
More From ABC News
May 21st, 2012
The Daily Mail UK
Skygazers around the world excitedly gathered outside to watch the rare annular eclipse, which produces a 'ring of fire' around the sun, when it swept across Asia and the western United States on Sunday evening.
But these incredible pictures show that all those Earth-bound astronomy fans had it wrong, and that the best vantage point from which to examine the unusual phenomenon was in fact space, where the view could not be impeded by pesky obstructions such as clouds.
The photographs were taken by the Japanese-owned Hinode telescope satellite, which orbits the Earth but is constantly pointed at the Sun, allowing for permanent observation of the body at the centre of our solar system.
Along with the stunning images, a video has emerged which shows the progress of the moon across the face of the sun, captured by photographer Cory Poole who edited together 700 separate photographs taken with his telescope.
Ideal vantage point: Some of the most stunning pictures of Sunday's annular eclipse were taken from space
Satellite: These images were taken by the Japanese-owned Hinode telescope which is constantly pointed at the sun
Ring of fire: This satellite image captures the moment where the moon covered nearly the entire face of the sun
But the view wasn't too bad from Earth, as the moon slowly 'bit into' the sun, creating incredible visual effects such as a golden heart gleaming through branches in Los Angeles.
The annular eclipse, in which the moon passes in front of the sun leaving only a golden ring around its edges, created incredible visual effects around the world - and photographers let their technical imaginations run wild with 'trick' shots such as this heart-shaped sun.
The 'classic' view of an annular eclipse is as a burning ring. In the U.S., viewing parties were held at observatories in Reno, Nevada, and Oakland, California, and elsewhere.
In some areas, special camera filters for taking photographs have been sold out for weeks in anticipation of the big event.
A branch foregrounds the heart shaped sun during an annular solar eclipse seen from Los Angeles
Hikers watch an annular eclipse from Papago Park in Phoenix
A small bird rests at a powerline backgrounded by an annular solar eclipse seen from Los Angeles
Scottsdale, America: The moon is pictured as it passes between the earth and the sun briefly blocking out most of the sun's surface
A thundershower rolls through as an annular solar eclipse appears in Gardnerville, Nevada
The eclipse in Wisconsin: The 'annular eclipse' in which the moon passes in front of the sun leaving only a golden ring around its edges, was visible to wide areas across China, Japan and elsewhere in the region before moving across the Pacific to be seen in parts of the western United States
A plane flies past an annular solar eclipse from Taguig city, east of Manila, Philippines
An annular solar eclipse appears above a Ferris wheel in the sky over Yokohama near Tokyo
An annular eclipse appears at a waterfront park in Yokohama, near Tokyo
The annular eclipse is visible through binoculars in Sacramento, California
The ring of fire: the rare annular eclipse as seen from Albequerqe, New Mexico, one of the western states where it was most visible
Stunning: The unusual event stood out against the evening sky in Odessa, Texas
Partial eclipse: The moon moving between the earth and the sun, blocking out some of the light
Clear: Cloudless skies above the Grand Canyon allowed observers a great view of the astronomic event
May 21st, 2012
The Christian Science Monitor
Anniversaries of major disasters are often marked by sad remembrance of a great loss. Not so in Joplin, Mo., a town struck a year ago Tuesday by the deadliest tornado in the United States in more than a half century.
For the first anniversary, Joplin folks want to be remembered for how they responded to the giant twister, not what happened to them.
Certainly after the tornado hit last May 22, Joplin had plenty to respond to.
Swirling winds as high as 200 miles per hour cut a 13-mile path through the heart of the city, destroying 7,500 buildings, including the high school, and killing 161. Nearly a third of the city was gone.
For the anniversary events, the city wants to celebrate the unusual unity that people found in common tragedy. Like other places hit by natural disaster, Joplin discovered that its most valuable resource for rebuilding is its people working together and their spiritual bonds.
The city plans a “walk of unity” Tuesday along the path of the tornado. It also invited back the thousands of volunteers who descended on Joplin to help. President Obama will give the high school commencement speech. They will hold groundbreaking ceremonies for the building of four new schools.
This past Sunday, the city’s religious communities – Christian, Jewish, and Muslim – gathered in a ceremony to continue the strong feeling of responsibility for one another. Also, a few well-known actors, including Paul Giamatti, gave a reading of the book of Job.
This community spirit has supported the city’s rebuilding. Most of the 530 businesses hurt by the tornado have reopened. Permits have been issued for the rebuilding of two-thirds of the damaged or destroyed homes.
Joplin has replaced 20,000 felled trees, distributed free weather radios in case of another tornado, and is encouraging the construction of storm shelters. A local mental-health center provides help free of charge for those still coping with the aftermath.
The generosity from the outside was remarkable. Money from the United Arab Emirates bought every student in the high school a MacBook laptop. Singer Katy Perry provided financial support to the spring prom. The Joplin football team was allowed to use the stadium of the Kansas City Chiefs.
The city’s resiliency and comeback is just one model of how a community can recover after a major storm. New Orleans rebuilt its system of education after hurricane Katrina in 2005. The rural town of Greensburg, Kan., rebuilt itself as a “green” community after a devastating tornado in 2007.
The Joplin tornado has also pushed the National Weather Service to improve the country’s warning system. Alerts are better worded and smart-phone applications are now available to extend the reach of warning devices.
While much remains to be done in Joplin, the spirit of gratitude, hope, and listening has pervaded its recovery. City leaders were smart to take a bottom-up approach, relying heavily on private business and citizens to work together.
These sorts of “best practices” will serve other cities and towns hit by disasters – especially if they want to be known for how they respond.
May 21st, 2012
Conservative Refocus Notes: Remember, Fisker was one of Obama's projects for the stimulus, where we paid about $ 500 million, I think, for an auto manufacturer in another country to build some very pricey cars, overseas, that would stimulate our economy....we just didn't know it would be stimulation through home destruction and reconstruction, "silly we!"
U.S. safety regulators are investigating a fire in Texas that destroyed three vehicles this month, including a luxury plug-in sports car built by Fisker Automotive.
The Fisker Karma, which sells for more than $100,000, was parked in the garage of a newly built home in Sugar Land, Texas, when the fire broke out.
Fisker could not immediately be reached for a comment.
After the fire, the Karma’s lithium-ion battery was intact, suggesting it was not a “contributing factor,” Fisker said at the time, adding that the Karma was not plugged in.
The safety of electric car batteries has been in the spotlight since last year when U.S. safety regulators opened an investigation into General Motors Co.’s Chevrolet Volt after some battery packs caught fire during testing.
NHTSA closed the probe in January, saying that electric cars do not pose a greater risk of fire than gasoline-powered cars.
Fisker has faced tough questions about the reliability of the Karma after a spate of high-profile battery problems in recent months.
In March, a Karma battery failed during a test conducted by Consumer Reports magazine. Fisker recalled 239 Karma cars in December to fix a battery defect that raised the risk of a fire.
The Karma that was destroyed in the garage fire was purchased after the recall. No fires or injuries have been tied to the Karma battery, which is built by A123 Systems.
World From Reuters
(Reporting By Deepa Seetharaman in Detroit)
May 21st, 2012
Vermont police say a 33-year-old motorist was distracted while writing a text message on his cellphone when he crashed into a police car.
Vermont State Police say Jesse Clayton crashed into a Rutland police cruiser at about 1 a.m. last Friday.
Police told the Rutland Herald that Clayton came to a momentary stop at a stop sign, but wasn’t paying attention when pulling into the intersection and striking the side of the cruiser driven by Officer Edward Dumas that was also passing through the intersection.
Nobody was injured, but both vehicles sustained damages. Police say Clayton was issued several traffic citations.
Texting while driving is illegal in Vermont, punishable by a fine of $100 and two points on a driver’s license for a first offense.