Monday, January 31, 2011

Active Japanese Volcano Forces Residents to Flee

Interestingly, there are five volcanos on Kyushu, but this article doesn't identify which one is erupting!

Aira Caldera
Mount Aso
Mount Unzen

NTD Television: Active Japanese Volcano Forces Residents to Flee

Residents on Japan's southern island of Kyushu were urged to evacuate Monday after a volcano spewed out more hot ash for the sixth day.

An evacuation advisory issued late Sunday night kept the alert level at three, but expanded the off-limit area to about two miles or three kilometers.

[Yukio Edano, Chief Cabinet Secretary]:
"There are concerns that streams of heated rocks and volcanic ash may reach up to a three-kilometer radius when an explosive eruption occurs."

As a result, more than one thousand people in the town of Takaharu, located at the foot of the volcano, were forced to stay at nearby gymnasiums and community centers.

Residents are worried about an impending eruption.

"There was a large rattle on the roof which made me very scared, so I fled here."

"The real problems are yet to come. I'm really worried about how long it will last."

There has been no report of injuries, but reports say some farms have been affected by thick layers of ash.

Two of the four schools here are still open, but students have to be driven to school and wear facial masks for protection.

[School Teacher]:
"Safety is the number one priority for everyone today. First of all, nobody is allowed to go outside. No playing in the playground today."

A Japanese meteorological official says the last time this volcano showed similar levels of activity was three centuries ago.

U.S. Begins Evacuation Flights From Cairo

CAIRO — The State Department began a voluntary evacuation of hundreds of American citizens from Egypt on specially chartered flights to “safe havens” on Monday as unrest continued to roil the country.

Cairo International Airport on Monday was a chaotic scene, overflowing with tourists and Egyptians desperate to get on an outbound commercial flight. Outside Terminal 1 more than 1,000 people — mostly Egyptians — sat on sidewalks and in the airport parking lot, surrounded by luggage.

Tempers boiled over at times as travelers struggled to get seats on the limited number of commercial flights still operating. At one point the airport stopped posting flight times on its departure board, The Associated Press reported, in an attempt to ease tensions. But the move served only to stoke anger over delays and cancellations.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Two reported shot dead as protests erupt in Albania

Two reported shot dead as protests erupt in Albania
TIRANA (Reuters) – Two people were reported shot dead as protesters fought police outside Albanian Prime Minister Sali Berisha's office on Friday during a rally to demand the government resign over corruption allegations.

"We have two dead civilians. The signs show they were shot from close range with a small caliber pistol. They were dead when they came here," Sami Koceku, a surgeon at Tirana's Military Hospital, told Albanian television.

There were large bloodstains on the road and police said several of its officers had been injured.

Supporters of the opposition Socialist Party had earlier rallied outside the prime minister's office and some had pelted the building and police with stones, sticks and umbrellas.

Police responded with tear gas, rubber bullets, water cannon and stun grenades. Smoke billowed from burning cars, some of them police vehicles.

The length of the main boulevard was packed with protesters, and witnesses said the crowd numbered around 20,000. Some chanted "Victory" and "He's gone." Police warned the crowd not to enter the government building but a few ventured inside.

After some three hours of clashes police in riot gear dispersed the crowd and took control of the boulevard. Live television pictures showed police chasing stray lone protesters and beating them with truncheons.

Berisha, who had been due to visit a town in northern Albania on Friday afternoon, had no immediate comment. A few hours after the unrest his staff said he was in his office and would talk to reporters at 1830 GMT.

The border between the US and Canada

Can you name the northern states that border the US and Canada.

Consulting my handy-dandy globe:

From West to East:
Washinton State
North Dakota
New York

Now, what Canadian provinces do they border?

Washington State, Idaho and a bit of Montana border British Columbia.

Montana also borders Alberta.

Montana also borders Saskatchewan, as does North Dakota.

North Dakota also borders Manitoba.

Minnesota borders a bit of Manitoba and a bit of Ontario.

Wisconsin doesn't border Ontario, although it does border some of the Great Lakes: Superior and Lake Michigan.

Michigan also borders these great lakes, as well Ontario.

New York borders a bit of Ontario and a bit of Quebec.

Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine also border Quebec.

Maine also borders New Brunswick.

Future posts will cover each state at a time. Take a look at your globe (you do have a globe, don't you???) or atlas to get an idea in your mind of the provinces and states.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Georgia starts new wave of refugee evictions

Just what is Georgia?
Georgia is a sovereign state in the Caucasus region of Eurasia. Situated at the juncture of Eastern Europe and Western Asia, it is bounded to the west by the Black Sea, to the north by Russia, to the southwest by Turkey, to the south by Armenia, and to the southeast by Azerbaijan. Georgia covers a territory of 69,700 km² and its population is almost 4.5 million. Georgia's constitution is that of a representative democracy, organized as a unitary, semi-presidential republic. It is currently a member of the United Nations, the Council of Europe, the World Trade Organization, the Organization of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the Community of Democratic Choice, the GUAM Organization for Democracy and Economic Development, and the Asian Development Bank. The country aspires to join NATO and the European Union.

TBILISI (Reuters) – Georgia on Thursday embarked on a new wave of evictions of hundreds of people displaced by war from state-owned buildings the government hopes to privatize.

The evictions, which started in August, reflect an effort to tackle a massive refugee problem stemming from conflicts in the early 1990s in the rebel Abkhazia and South Ossetia regions and again in 2008 when Russia and Georgia fought a five-day war.

The Georgian government says there are around 1,500 Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) who need be resettled.

But the IDPs to be evicted reject alternative accommodation in rural areas close to rebel regions, saying that resettlement there would leave them without sources of income and new housing options lack livelihood opportunities.

Police sealed off a temporary refugee shelter in the outskirts of the capital Tbilisi on Thursday and detained several activists who were trying to block the way of trucks and buses taking IDPs to villages.

"Georgia might be the only country in the world that has a ministry for refugees. This ministry has been created to destroy and humiliate the Georgian people," Malkhaz Kordzaia, a refugee from Abkhazia, told reporters at the scene.

Those from Abkhazia have lived in Tbilisi and its outskirts -- many in old hospitals, barracks, institutes and kindergartens -- for 17 years after over 200,000 fled the rebel Black Sea region as it threw off Georgian rule with the collapse of the Soviet Union.

There have been a series of small street rallies in the past few weeks protesting against expected evictions.

Some opposition activists arrived at the scene of evictions on Thursday, promising more protests.

"We will fight with every drop of our blood against this government," opposition activist Kakha Kukava said.

Georgia's Ministry for IDPs from Occupied Territories, Accommodation and Refugees rejected the criticism.

"These buildings were occupied illegally ... All IDPs were warned in advance and will move to new houses," said ministry chief administrator Valery Kopaleishvili.

According to the ministry, about 10,000 families displaced from Abkhazia in the early 1990s were granted houses in Tbilisi but there were not enough resources in the capital to provide everyone with dwelling space.

The United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) expressed concern last summer that the evictions "have not been undertaken with the necessary transparency or circulation of information," but said progress was being made to improve procedures.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

15 Jan, 2011, Sat, South Sudan ends independence vote, awaits statehood

The whole of Sudan. Note the countries surrounding it.

South Sudan. The part of the country with all the oil.

South Sudan ends independence vote, awaits statehood
JUBA, Sudan (Reuters) – South Sudan's polling centers closed their doors on Saturday after a week-long vote on independence from the north that could end a vicious cycle of civil war with the creation of the world's newest state.

Former President Jimmy Carter, leading a mission observing the vote, said turnout could reach 90 percent and that it seemed likely the south had voted for independence.

Exhausted polling staff processed a straggle of voters on the final day in the southern capital Juba. Some officials were so tired they were sleeping behind their dusty stalls.

"I feel relieved as this is what we've been fighting for 21 years," said southerner Ayen Deng. "We're waiting for the official results but we will be celebrating tonight."

Final results are due before February 15 but could be announced as early as the beginning of next month. "Of course there will be independence, we can smell it," said Santino Riek.

The vote caps a 2005 peace agreement that ended decades of civil war between the mostly Muslim north and the south, where most follow Christianity and traditional beliefs.

Northern officials have appeared increasingly resigned to losing the oil-producing south -- which makes up a quarter of the country's land -- allaying fears conflict could reignite.


Carter, leading one of the largest observation missions, told reporters in Khartoum a handful of centers had reported 100 percent turnout and were already tallying the results.

"We already know that in the south there's been about an average of 90 percent (participation) from the stations we've observed and I think they are representative," Carter said.

In the few centers where he had seen counting under way, he said, the votes "were practically unanimous in favor of separation with only a few ballots to the contrary.

"It's highly likely that the referendum result will be in favor of separation," Carter said, but added that no one should prejudge the outcome.

At least 60 percent of registered voters needed to take part for the result to be binding. That point was reached just four days into the vote, according to the organizing commission.

Carter also said the vote had probably met international standards and Khartoum said it would recognize the result, meaning all southerners must do now is wait to celebrate their independence day, likely on July 9.

The former U.S. president played down threats of popular protests in the north following the vote.

"My hope is that the opposition parties in the north will be brought into consultations with President (Omar Hassan al-) Bashir's party and that they will prepare for modifications for the constitution," he said.

Students clashed with police in Khartoum and two northern towns on Wednesday and Thursday in protests over rising prices, part of an economic crisis that has been exacerbated by fears of the impact of losing the south.

Southern independence campaigners have described the vote as a chance to throw off decades of perceived northern repression.

Bashir said in a speech in Khartoum state that neither the north nor Muslims had ever oppressed the south, but rather the divisions were the legacy of the ex-colonial power, Britain.

"The south has been a burden on Sudan from independence until today," he said on state television.

More than 182,000 exiled southerners have returned to the south since the end of October, according to U.N. figures, many of them fearing repercussions in the north after the vote.

South Sudan's government believes that figure could rise to as much as half a million by the beginning of July, said the U.N.'s deputy humanitarian coordinator in Sudan, Lise Grande.

"Services are already overstretched. With more people coming back there will be tremendous pressures on agencies," she said.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Tunisian President Leaves Country Amid Unrest

Voice of America: Tunisian President Leaves Country Amid Unrest
Tunisian President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali has left the country, amid the worst unrest there in decades. The Arabic language network al-Jazeera says the speaker of parliament is temporarily in charge.

The president was reported to have boarded a flight out of the country Friday evening local time. The military had sealed off the airport and closed Tunisian airspace a short time beforehand.

A state of emergency was also declared earlier Friday, with public gatherings banned and security forces authorized to shoot violators.

Dozens of people have been killed in rioting over unemployment and high food prices, with many protesters demanding Mr. Ben Ali resign. The exact death toll is not clear.

The president had earlier dismissed his government and called for early elections.

Police fired tear gas at protesters in the capital Tunis, and reporters saw officers beating and chasing demonstrators. Witnesses also said shots were heard Friday near the interior ministry.

Hospital officials said 13 people were killed late Thursday - the same day that President Ben Ali announced concessions to try to stop deadly riots.

About Tunis
Tunisia, officially the Tunisian Republic (al-Jumhūriyya at-Tūnisiyya), is the northernmost country in Africa. It is a Maghreb country and is bordered by Algeria to the west, Libya to the southeast, and the Mediterranean Sea to the north and east. Its area is almost 165,000 km², with an estimated population of just over 10.3 million. Its name is derived from the capital Tunis located in the north-east.

A Maghreb country refers generally to five countries located in North Africa, although it is most commonly used for French North Africa (Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia). It is an Arabic word, literally meaning "place of sunset" or "the west" (from an Arabian perspective). The term is generally now used, mainly by Arabs, to refer collectively to the African countries of:

and the disputed territory of Western Sahara.

However, before the establishment of modern nation states in the region in the 20th century, "Maghreb" signified the smaller area that lies between the high ranges of the Atlas Mountains in the south, and the Mediterranean Sea in the north, thus excluding most of Libya and all of current Mauritania. Sometimes, after Islam entered the region, the term has included the previously Muslim Andalusia, Sicily, and Malta.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Sharks in the streets of Brisbane

I doubt if there are sharks in the streets of Brisbane...but: The bull shark, Carcharhinus leucas, also known as Zambezi shark or unofficially known as Zambi in Africa and Nicaragua shark in Nicaragua, is a shark common worldwide in warm, shallow waters along coasts and in rivers. The bull shark is well known for its unpredictable, often aggressive behavior. Since bull sharks often dwell in shallow waters, they may be more dangerous to humans than any other species of shark, and, along with tiger sharks and great white sharks, are among the three shark species most likely to attack humans. Sharks in the streets of Brisbane
The flood-ravaged Australian state of Queensland is in the grip of a "very serious natural disaster", its leaders told the world yesterday - with reports of bull sharks now inhabiting its flooded streets.

The state capital of Brisbane is facing its worst devastation in more than 100 years as high tides and heavy rain combine to leave some streets under 15ft of water.

Residents woke up to the worst of the devastation yesterday as emergency services battled to bring under control a situation which has already claimed 21 lives in Queensland.

Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard called the disaster's scale "mind-boggling" and warned that the death toll will rise.

Queensland's premier Anna Bligh warned: "We are now in the grip of a very serious natural disaster.

"We are now seeing thousands of homes inundated with water up to the roof. Many, many more are expected to see significant water damage."

She said 20,000 to 30,000 people would be affected in Brisbane.

Although the flood peak could be below the 1974 level, Ms Bligh added: "This is still a major event. The city is much bigger, much more populated and has many parts underwater."

Unprecedented rainfall over much of the north-east Australian state has already devastated scores of towns and cities.

The surging waters in Brisbane's empty city centre reached the tops of traffic lights and have left at least 20,000 homes in danger of being inundated.

A little about Brisbane:
Brisbane is the capital and most populous city in the Australian state of Queensland and the third most populous city in Australia. Brisbane's metropolitan area has an approximate population of 2 million. A resident of Brisbane is commonly known as a "Brisbanite.

Brisbane as it was before the flooding:

New England digs out from winter storm

Yahoo News: New England digs out from winter stormBOSTON –
New Englanders dug out from under more than 2 feet of snow and children in hundreds of communities enjoyed a second day off from school Thursday as power companies worked to restore energy to homes and businesses darkened by the region's third snowstorm in three weeks.

The winter storm that crippled the South earlier this week joined forces with a system from the Midwest as it moved over the Northeast on Wednesday. The storms announced their arrival in New England with claps of thunder and record amounts of snowfall in some cities. Observers in the Berkshires in western Massachusetts reported as much as 3 feet of snow.

Just what, and where, is "New England"?

New England is a region in the northeastern corner of the United States consisting of the six states of (from North to South, east to west):
New Hampshire
Rhode Island

New England is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean, Canada, and the State of New York.

And the Berkshires?
The Berkshires, located in the western parts of Massachusetts and Connecticut, is both a specific highland geologic region and a broader associated cultural region. The region is also referred to as the Berkshire Hills, Berkshire Mountains, and, with regard to its physiography, Berkshire Plateau. Tourism is a principal industry, relying heavily on cultural art attractions and recreation.

Brazil slides toll up, survivors tell of horrors

Yahoo News: Brazil slides toll up, survivors tell of horrors
TERESOPOLIS, Brazil – Walls of earth and water swept away homes in the mountains north of Rio de Janeiro, wiping out families and leaving survivors scrambling Thursday to reach still-trapped neighbors.

At least 350 people died in three towns after the slides hit at about 3 a.m. Wednesday, and 50 or more were still missing, according to officials and reliable local news reports.

TERESOPOLIS, the red dot, shows its location in the Brazilian state of Rio de Janeiro, which is located on the southeast coast of the country.

Acid-laden tanker capsizes on Rhine in Germany

Acid-laden tanker capsizes on Rhine in Germany
BERLIN – A tanker loaded with sulfuric acid capsized early Thursday on the Rhine river in Germany and two crew members were missing, authorities said.

There was no immediate word on why the ship capsized, the shipping office in Bingen said. The other two crew members were rescued.

The ship, which overturned near St. Goarshausen, in western Germany, was carrying 2,400 tons of sulfuric acid. Initial measurements carried out downstream from the scene showed no abnormalities and there were no indications that the load was leaking, the shipping office said.

Authorities closed the river to shipping. They were working to secure the 360-foot (110-meter) long tanker, which was floating on its side, and to find the two missing crew members.

The German-owned ship was on its way from Ludwigshafen in southwestern Germany to Antwerp, Belgium.

The accident happened on a picturesque stretch of the Rhine near the famed Loreley cliff.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Hezbollah and allies resign, toppling Lebanon government

Hezbollah and allies resign, toppling Lebanon government
BEIRUT (Reuters) – Ministers from Hezbollah and its Lebanese allies resigned on Wednesday, toppling the government of Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri before expected indictments against the Shi'ite group over the killing of Hariri's father.

Lebanese politicians had said on Tuesday that Saudi Arabia and Syria failed to reach a deal to contain tensions over the U.N.-backed tribunal, which is expected to issue draft indictments soon over the 2005 assassination of Rafik al-Hariri.

The ministers resigned as Saad al-Hariri was meeting U.S. President Barack Obama, and the White House later released a statement criticizing Hezbollah's moves and warning against any "threats or action" that could destabilize Lebanon.

Hariri's office said he left Washington after the talks, heading for Paris to meet President Nicolas Sarkozy on Thursday.

Analysts said the resignations could set the stage for protracted political turmoil in Lebanon.

They played down prospects of a repeat of the violence of May 2008, when gunmen took over Beirut after government moves against Hezbollah. But Sunni power Saudi Arabia, which backs Hariri, warned the resignations "will cause clashes once again."

The Shi'ite Hezbollah has denied any role in the 2005 killing. Its leader, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, has attacked the tribunal as an "Israeli project" and urged Hariri to renounce it. The Sunni Muslim premier has resisted Hezbollah's demand.

Announcing the resignations, Christian government minister Gebran Bassil blamed Washington for obstructing the Saudi-Syrian efforts and called on Lebanon's president to "take the required steps for forming a new government."

The Dominican Republic -which shares Hispaniola with Hait

A bit of history of this country, which unlike its neighbor Haiti has the "second largest economy in the Caribbean and Central American region."

The Dominican Republic is a nation on the island of Hispaniola, part of the Greater Antilles archipelago in the Caribbean region. The western third of the island is occupied by the nation of Haiti, making Hispaniola one of two Caribbean islands that are shared by two countries. Both by area and population, the Dominican Republic is the second largest Caribbean nation (after Cuba), with 48,444 square kilometres (18,704 sq mi) and an estimated 11 million people.

Inhabited by Taínos since the 7th century, the territory of the Dominican Republic was reached by Christopher Columbus in 1492 and became the site of the first permanent European settlement in the Americas, namely Santo Domingo, the country's capital and Spain's first capital in the New World. In Santo Domingo stand, among other firsts in the Americas, the first university, cathedral, and castle, the latter two in the Ciudad Colonial area, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

After three centuries of Spanish rule, with French and Haitian interludes, the country became independent in 1821 but was quickly taken over by Haiti. Victorious in the Dominican War of Independence in 1844, Dominicans experienced mostly internal strife, and also a brief return to Spanish rule, over the next 72 years. The United States occupation of 1916–1924, and a subsequent, calm and prosperous six-year period under Horacio Vásquez Lajara, were followed by the dictatorship of Rafael Leonidas Trujillo Molina until 1961. The civil war of 1965, the country's last, was ended by a U.S.-led intervention, and was followed by the authoritarian rule of Joaquín Balaguer, 1966–1978. Since then, the Dominican Republic has moved toward representative democracy, and has been led by Leonel Fernández for most of the time after 1996.

The Dominican Republic has the second largest economy in the Caribbean and Central American region. Though long known for sugar production, the economy is now dominated by services. The country's economic progress is exemplified by its advanced telecommunication system. Nevertheless, unemployment,[1] government corruption, and inconsistent electric service remain major Dominican problems. The country also has "marked income inequality".

A year later, Haiti celebrates life, mourns its dead

A year later, Haiti celebrates life, mourns its dead
PORT -- AU--PRINCE -- Some people here are marking this painful day in bed, the hurt too much to bear.

By the early hours of the first anniversary of the deadly earthquake that rocked Haiti, Haitians had visited individual tombstones and passed by mass graves, where hundreds of tiny wooden crosses mark the spot where tens of thousands of Haitians are buried.

Many united in prayer.

On the Champs de Mars survivor camp, thousands of Protestants gathered as pastor after pastor exhorted worshipers to ``celebrate life'' amid praises of ``hallelujah.''

A year ago Wednesday, a 7.0 earthquake killed a city's worth of people; the government here estimates as many as 300,000. Their names have not been logged, and some are still under rubble.

About 810,000 people they left behind still are homeless from that day's devastation. But on Wednesday, Haiti's 10 million survivors declared a national holiday to take the time to remember, to say goodbye to the ones they lost and thank you for the lives they still have.

A variety of activities were planned, including an appearance by former U.S. President Bill Clinton.

As a political commentary.... why are these people still homeless? Billions of dollars in aid were donated to this country in the last year (to say nothing of the billions of dollars that have been spent on them in the last decade). Perhaps its time to stop praying to a god who never answers, and start doing some work.

Anyway, where's Haiti:

Note that Haiti shares the same overarcing island of Hispaniola with the Dominican Republic.

Haiti is situated on the western part of Hispaniola, the second largest island in the Greater Antilles. Haiti is the third largest country in the Caribbean behind Cuba and the Dominican Republic (the latter shares a 224 mile border with Haiti). Haiti at its closest point is only about 45 nautical miles (52 mi) away from Cuba and has the second longest coastline (1,100 mi) in the Greater Antilles, Cuba having the longest. Haiti's terrain consists mainly of rugged mountains interspersed with small coastal plains and river valleys.

The northern region consists of the Massif du Nord (Northern Massif) and the Plaine du Nord (Northern Plain). The Massif du Nord is an extension of the Cordillera Central in the Dominican Republic. It begins at Haiti's eastern border, north of the Guayamouc River, and extends to the northwest through the northern peninsula. The lowlands of the Plaine du Nord lie along the northern border with the Dominican Republic, between the Massif du Nord and the North Atlantic Ocean. The central region consists of two plains and two sets of mountain ranges.

The Plateau Central (Central Plateau) extends along both sides of the Guayamouc River, south of the Massif du Nord. It runs from the southeast to the northwest. To the southwest of the Plateau Central are the Montagnes Noires, whose most northwestern part merges with the Massif du Nord. Its westernmost point is known as Cap Carcasse.

The southern region consists of the Plaine du Cul-de-Sac (the southeast) and the mountainous southern peninsula (also known as the Tiburon Peninsula). The Plaine du Cul-de-Sac is a natural depression that harbors the country's saline lakes, such as Trou Caïman and Haiti's largest lake, Lac Azuei. The Chaîne de la Selle mountain range – an extension of the southern mountain chain of the Dominican Republic (the Sierra de Baoruco) – extends from the Massif de la Selle in the east to the Massif de la Hotte in the west. This mountain range harbors Pic la Selle, the highest point in Haiti at 8,793 ft.

The country's most important valley in terms of crops is the Plaine de l'Artibonite, which is oriented south of the Montagnes Noires. This region supports the country's (also Hispaniola's) longest river, the Riviere l'Artibonite, which begins in the western region of the Dominican Republic and continues most of its length through central Haiti and onward where it empties into the Golfe de la Gonâve. The eastern and central region of the island is a large elevated plateau. Haiti also includes various offshore islands.

The historically famous island of Tortuga (Île de la Tortue) is located off the coast of northern Haiti. The arrondissement of La Gonâve is located on the island of the same name, in the Golfe de la Gonâve. Gonâve Island is moderately populated by rural villagers. Île à Vache (Cow Island), a lush island with many beautiful sights, is located off the tip of southwestern Haiti. Also part of Haiti are the Cayemites and Île d' Anacaona.

A bit of history>Haiti (pronounced Hay-tee]), officially the Republic of Haiti is a Caribbean country which occupies the western, smaller portion of the island of Hispaniola, in the Greater Antillean archipelago, which it shares with the Dominican Republic. Ayiti (land of high mountains) was the indigenous Taíno or Amerindian name for the mountainous western side of the island. The country's highest point is Pic la Selle, at 8,793 ft. The total area of Haiti is 10,714 sq mi and its capital is Port-au-Prince. French and Haitian Creole are the official languages.

Haiti's regional, historical, and ethnolinguistic position is unique for several reasons. It was the first independent nation in Latin America and the first black-led republic in the world when it gained independence as part of a successful slave rebellion in 1804. Despite having common cultural links with its Hispano-Caribbean neighbors, Haiti is the only predominantly Francophone independent nation in the Americas. It is one of only two independent nations in the Americas (along with Canada) that designate French as an official language; the other French-speaking areas are all overseas départements, or collectivités, of France.

Haiti is the poorest country in the Americas as per the Human Development Index. It has experienced political violence throughout its history. Most recently, in February 2004, an armed rebellion forced the resignation and exile of previous President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, and a provisional government took control with security provided by the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH). Rene Preval, the current president, was elected in the Haitian general election, 2006.

On January 12, 2010, a 7.0 magnitude earthquake struck Haiti and devastated the capital city, Port-au-Prince. Although the exact number was difficult to determine, reportedly more than 230,000 people were killed. The Presidential palace, Parliament and many other important structures were destroyed, along with countless homes and businesses, leaving many homeless.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Aid workers rush to help Ivory Coast refugees flooding into Liberia

Monrovia, Liberia
Aid workers are rushing to accommodate the more than 22,000 refugees who have fled Ivory Coast for neighboring Liberia since a disputed election on Nov. 28 left the country on the brink of civil war.

Concerns about Ivory Coast election prompt unexpectedly strong foreign response Ivorians have been streaming across the Liberian border at a rate of roughly 500 per day since Dec. 1, according to the UNHCR, the UN refugee agency that is leading the effort to build a camp to house them. Nearly two thirds of the registered refugees are under the age of 18.

For the past eight weeks, villagers in eastern Liberia have taken in the refugees, squeezing them into their homes and sharing their provisions. But with so many extra mouths to feed, supplies of food and water are running short, UNHCR spokeswoman Fatoumata Lejeune-Kaba said.

Liberia is located to the west of the Ivory Coast.

Where is the Ivory Coast (Cote d'Ivoire)?

History of trhe Ivory Coast
The Republic of Côte d'Ivoire, commonly known in English as Ivory Coast, is a country in West Africa. It has an area of 322,462 km2, and borders the countries of Liberia, Guinea, Mali, Burkina Faso and Ghana; its southern boundary is along the Gulf of Guinea. The country's population was 15,366,672 in 1998, and was estimated to be 20,617,068 in 2009.

Prior to its colonization by Europeans, Côte d'Ivoire was home to several states, including Gyaaman, the Kong Empire, and Baoulé. There were two Anyi kingdoms, Indénié and Sanwi, which attempted to retain their separate identity through the French colonial period and after Côte d'Ivoire's independence. An 1843–1844 treaty made Côte d'Ivoire a "protectorate" of France and in 1893, it became a French colony as part of the European scramble for Africa.

Côte d'Ivoire became independent on 7 August 1960. From 1960 to 1993, the country was led by Félix Houphouët-Boigny. It maintained close political and economic association with its West African neighbours, while at the same time maintaining close ties to the West, especially to France.

Since the end of Houphouët-Boigny's rule, Côte d'Ivoire has experienced one coup d’état, in 1999, and a civil war, which broke out in 2002. A political agreement between the government and the rebels brought a return to peace. Côte d'Ivoire is a republic with a strong executive power invested in the President. Its de jure capital is Yamoussoukro and the biggest city is the port city of Abidjan. The country is divided into 19 regions and 81 departments. It is a member of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference, African Union, La Francophonie, Latin Union, Economic Community of West African States and South Atlantic Peace and Cooperation Zone.

The official language is French, although many of the local languages are widely used, including Baoulé, Dioula, Dan, Anyin and Cebaara Senufo. The main religions are Islam, Christianity (primarily Roman Catholic) and various indigenous religions.

10 Dead, 78 Missing in Australian Flash Floods

Australia is a big continent, and hopefully everyone knows where it is, but exactly where are these flash floods taking place?
BRISBANE, Australia -- Greg Kowald was driving through the center of Toowoomba when a terrifying, tsunami-like wall of water roared through the streets of the northeast Australian city.

Office windows exploded, cars careened into trees and bobbed in the churning brown water like corks. The deluge washed away bridges and sidewalks; people desperately clung to power poles to survive. Before it was over, the flash flood left at least 10 dead and 78 missing.

"The water was literally leaping, six or 10 feet into the air, through creeks and over bridges and into parks," Kowald, a 53-year-old musician, told The Associated Press on Tuesday. "There was nowhere to escape, even if there had been warnings. There was just a sea of water about a kilometer (half a mile) wide."

The violent surge in Toowoomba brought the overall death toll from weeks of flooding in Queensland state to 20, a sudden acceleration in a crisis that had been unfolding gradually with swollen rivers overflowing their banks and inundating towns while moving toward the ocean. Queensland Premier Anna Bligh said there were "grave fears" for at least 18 of those missing.

So, where's Queensland?
It's the area in orange in the map below:

Queensland, a state of Australia, occupies the north-eastern section of the mainland continent. It is bordered by the Northern Territory to the west, South Australia to the south-west and New South Wales to the south. To the east, Queensland is bordered by the Coral Sea and Pacific Ocean. The state is Australia's second largest by area, following Western Australia, and the country's third most populous after New South Wales and Victoria.

As you can see from the map below, Towoomba is located in the southeast corner of the state.