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Brazil mourns as flood toll tops 600

January 17, 2011 Comments off

BRAZIL has declared three days of mourning for at least 610 people killed near Rio de Janeiro in the country’s worst flood disaster.

Emergency workers in the disaster zone, in the Serrana region just north of Rio, were overwhelmed by the body count. Refrigerator trucks were brought in to store corpses.

Workers transporting bodies said they feared the death toll from last Wednesday’s floods and mudslides could top 1000 as rescuers reached outlying hamlets.

An estimated 14,000 people were assisted by rescue workers or lost their homes in the Serrana area towns hardest hit about 100 kilometres from coastal Rio, civil defence figures showed.

The hardest-hit town was Nova Friburgo, where 274 people were killed. Nearby Teresopolis had 263 dead, 55 were killed in Petropolis and 18 lost their lives in Sumidouro, officials said.

Workers transporting bodies said they feared the death toll could more than double. President Dilma Rousseff declared three days of mourning, government news agency Agencia Brasil reported. Rio de Janeiro state authorities said their state would observe a week of mourning. ”I think in the end we’ll see more than 1000 bodies,” a funeral worker said.

Authorities made an urgent appeal for blood, bottled water, food and medicine.

At least four refrigerated trucks were outside an overflowing makeshift morgue inside a church in Teresopolis.

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Categories: Brazil Tags: , ,

Flooding, Avalanche Threat Continues Across Northwest

January 17, 2011 1 comment

Drenching rainfall from the latest in a series of storms will continue to cause flooding across parts of the Pacific Northwest today.

Another 1 to 3 inches of rain will fall today along the Pacific coast and in the valleys of western Washington and Oregon, including Seattle and Portland. Heavy rain will also douse areas well to the east of the Cascades, across parts of western Washington and Oregon, as well as parts of Idaho.

The rain will fall heaviest during the morning hours before becoming more showery-in-nature by tonight.

Regardless of intensity, any additional rainfall will only exasperate ongoing flooding, which could make for slow travel along the I-5 corridor south to Medford. Motorists should always avoid driving through areas where water is ponding.

Higher rainfall totals are likely in the upslope areas of the Cascades. River flooding is already ongoing along rivers flowing off the mountains, including the Cowlitz, Nisqually and Puyallup Rivers. Read more…

Chinese President Hu Disses the Dollar; Says U.S. System is a ‘Product of the Past’

January 17, 2011 Comments off

Dec. 31, 2010: Chinese President Hu Jintao delivers a New Year's address in Beijing.

“The current international currency system is the product of the past,” Hu noted in answers to questions submitted to his foreign ministry office by The Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post.

BEIJING—Chinese President Hu Jintao emphasized the need for cooperation with the U.S. in areas from new energy to space ahead of his visit to Washington this week, but he called the present U.S. dollar-dominated currency system a “product of the past” and highlighted moves to turn the yuan into a global currency.

“We both stand to gain from a sound China-U.S. relationship, and lose from confrontation,” Hu said in written answers to questions from The Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post.

Hu acknowledged “some differences and sensitive issues between us,” but his tone was generally compromising, and he avoided specific mention of some of the controversial issues that have dogged relations with the U.S. over the past year or so—including U.S. arms sales to Taiwan that led to a freeze in military relations between the world’s sole superpower and its rising Asian rival. Read more…

World is ‘one poor harvest’ from chaos, new book warns

January 17, 2011 1 comment

Like many environmentalists, Lester Brown is worried. In his new book “World on the Edge,” released this week, Brown says mankind has pushed civilization to the brink of collapse by bleeding aquifers dry and overplowing land to feed an ever-growing population, while overloading the atmosphere with carbon dioxide.

If we continue to sap Earth’s natural resources, “civilizational collapse is no longer a matter of whether but when,” Brown, the founder of Worldwatch and the Earth Policy Institute, which both seek to create a sustainable society, told AFP.

What distinguishes “World on the Edge” from his dozens of other books is “the sense of urgency,” Brown told AFP. “Things could start unraveling at any time now and it’s likely to start on the food front.

“We’ve got to get our act together quickly. We don’t have generations or even decades — we’re one poor harvest away from chaos,” he said.

“We have been talking for decades about saving the planet, but the question now is, can we save civilization?”

In “World on the Edge”, Brown points to warning signs and lays out arguments for why he believes the cause of the chaos will be the unsustainable way that mankind is going about producing more and more food. Read more…

Obama’s Push for China Currency Changes Could Cost U.S. Consumers

January 17, 2011 Comments off

When President Obama meets with Chinese President Hu Jintao this week, one of the top items on the agenda will be resolving a dispute over how China sets the value of its currency. If Obama gets his way, it could spur U.S. exports, but it could also mean higher prices for American consumers.

For over a decade, China has held down the value of its currency, the Yuan, in relation to the dollar. That helps keep the cost of the goods Americans buy from China low and the price of American goods sold in China high. The cheap Chinese currency has helped open a wide trade imbalance between the two countries. In 2010, China’s trade advantage with the U.S. was more than $252 billion.

The Obama administration has made stopping China’s currency manipulation a central focus of the president’s push to increase American exports.

“China still closely manages the level of its exchange rate and restricts the ability of capital to move in and out of the country,” Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said is a speech last week. “As the [International Monetary Fund] has said consistently, these policies have the effect of keeping the Chinese currency substantially undervalued.”

On the surface, it’s a positive for Read more…

Categories: America, China Tags: , , , , ,

WikiLeaks: Iran developing nuclear bomb with help of more than 30 countries

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The Norwegian newspaper Aftenposten quotes U.S. diplomatic cables as saying that Iran is racing to achieve nuclear bomb before its economy collapses due to sanctions.

Iran has been developing contacts in more than 30 countries to acquire technology, equipment and raw materials needed to build a nuclear bomb, a Norwegian newspaper said on Sunday, citing U.S. diplomatic cables.

Aftenposten said that according to the cables, obtained by WikiLeaks, more than 350 Iranian companies and organizations were involved in the pursuit of nuclear and missile technology between 2006 and 2010.

Iran nuclear plant in Bushehr, AP

Technicians measuring parts of Iran's Bushehr nuclear power plant in this undated photo.

Photo by: AP

Iran says its nuclear program has purely peaceful aims but the West suspects is designed to develop a weapons capability.

“For years, Iran has been working systematically to acquire the parts, equipment and technology needed for developing such weapons, in violation of UN sanctions against the country Read more…

The sun rises two days early in Greenland, sparking fears that climate change is accelerating

January 17, 2011 Comments off

The sun over Greenland has risen two days early, baffling scientists and sparking fears that Arctic icecaps are melting faster than previously thought.

Experts say the sun should have risen over the Arctic nation’s most westerly town, Ilulissat, yesterday, ending a month-and-a-half of winter darkness.

But for the first time in history light began creeping over the horizon at around 1pm on Tuesday – 48 hours ahead of the usual date of 13 January.

The mysterious sunrise has confused scientists, although it is believed the most likely explanation is that it is down to the lower height of melting icecaps allowing the sun’s light to penetrate through earlier.

Climate change? The sun rose in Ilulissat, Greenland, two days early on Tuesday, ending a month-and-a-half of winter darkness. One theory is that melting ice caps have lowered the horizon allowing the sun to shine through earlierClimate change? The sun rose in Ilulissat, Greenland, two days early on Tuesday, ending a month-and-a-half of winter darkness. One theory is that melting ice caps have lowered the horizon allowing the sun to shine Read more…