Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Afghan hotel attacked

Los Angeles Times: Afghan hotel attacked
Reporting from Kabul, Afghanistan— A team of gunmen and suicide bombers struck a landmark hotel in the Afghan capital on Tuesday evening, police said, the latest in a series of attacks that underscore the insurgents' ability to penetrate even Kabul's most heavily guarded installations.

It was not immediately known how many people were killed or wounded.

The sound of gunfire and explosions echoed past midnight across the city's western edge, where the Intercontinental Hotel perches on a hilltop, visible from a considerable distance. It is approached by a winding road punctuated by police checkpoints.

The unusual nighttime strike was the most high-profile attack in some months inside Kabul. The hotel has a large foreign clientele and is frequently a venue for official conferences and events.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack in an emailed statement. However, many strikes in the capital have been carried out by the Haqqani network, a Taliban offshoot that operates mainly in the eastern part of the country.

The head of criminal investigation for the Kabul police, Gen. Mohammed Zahir, said it was believed that up to six attackers had managed to make their way into the hotel, and at least one was thought to have detonated a vest laden with explosives.

Police sealed off streets leading to the scene, and helicopters could be heard overhead. The five-story building was plunged into darkness as either the attackers or the authorities cut off the power. Some patrons had been dining in the hotel restaurant when the attack began, according to witnesses quoted in Afghan media accounts.

Kabul has only a few four- and five-star hotels, and all are tightly secured. A luxury hotel popular with foreigners, the Serena, was the target of a 2008 strike that left eight people dead.

The Intercontinental, which opened in the late 1960s, has mirrored Kabul's fortunes. It was a symbol of the cosmopolitan lifestyle that briefly flourished in the Afghan capital in the 1970s, and then was battered by fighting during the civil war in the early- to mid-1990s.

After the Taliban takeover in 1996, the fundamentalist movement targeted its still-considerable liquor stocks. Following the U.S.-led invasion that toppled the Taliban, foreign journalists were its primary customers. The hallways reeked because of the lack of running water in most rooms.

Although shabbier now than in its heyday, the hotel still draws a clientele consisting mainly of expatriates and the Afghan elite. International groups have sometimes used it as a headquarters, including large numbers of election monitors who ensconced themselves during the contentious 2009 presidential elections.

Kabul is considered one of the more secure parts of the country, but attackers in April struck the Defense Ministry and in May hit the country's largest military hospital. Insurgents have stepped up a campaign of violence in advance of a planned transfer of seven areas around the country from Western to Afghan security control.

Monday, June 27, 2011

1,561.72: Souris crest sets record four feet higher

Minot (pronunciation: my-not) is a city located in north central North Dakota in the United States. It was named by Departures Magazine to be the best place to raise a family in 2010. It is also known for the large and extensive Air Force base located approximately 15 miles north of the city. With a population of 40,888 at the 2010 census, Minot is the fourth largest city in the state. The city is the county seat of Ward County and is a trading center for a large portion of northern North Dakota, southwestern Manitoba, and southeastern Saskatchewan. Founded in 1886 during the construction of the Great Northern Railway, Minot is also known as "Magic City", commemorating its remarkable growth in size over a short time.

Minot is the principal city of the Minot Micropolitan Statistical Area, a micropolitan area that covers McHenry, Renville, and Ward counties and had a combined population of 69,540 at the 2010 census.

Minot Daily News: 1,561.72: Souris crest sets record four feet higher
The swollen Souris River, the dirty rotten scoundrel that has overwhelmed and punished this city in recent days, was backing off from its merciless work Sunday. Apparently satisfied that enough is enough, sort of, and having pushed citizens of this city far beyond any other watery test in history, the long-awaited crest was believed to have passed through Minot during the early hours Sunday.

By late Sunday afternoon Minot Mayor Curt Zimbelman was confident enough to say "we believe the crest has passed." Zimbelman was referring to a river peak of 1,561.72 feet, nearly four feet higher than the city's all-time mark of 1,558 feet set in 1881 and nearly six and one-half feet over the fearful flood of 1969. The Souris reading at Minot's Broadway Bridge was 1,561.5 feet late Sunday afternoon and was forecast by the National Weather Service to continue dropping.

Therein lies a problem, however. The river has no intention of running out of town nearly as fast as it arrived. Flows exceeding the all-time record can be expected at least into next weekend. Still, any decline was worthy of notice by beleagured citizens weary of worrying about their vacated homes and wondering when they might be given the okay to return.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers provided some insight into that timetable Sunday, saying that flows out of Lake Darling Dam had been reduced from 24,000 to 23,000 cubic feet per second Sunday. Further decreases of 1,000 to 2,000 cfs per day can be expected over the next 14 days.

The Souris at Sherwood was flowing at slightly less than 20,000 cfs Sunday, still a remarkably high flow by historic standards but a lower number nevertheless. The elevation of Lake Darling was just under 1,601 feet late Sunday with indications that a decline was underway. Peak elevation there is 1,601.8 feet.

In the days ahead, while the water remains well over flood stage and a continuing threat to the city, all effort will be required to maintain and protect the integrity of dikes protecting infrastructure and at least one neighborhood within Minot. A large portion of northeast Minot remains remarkably dry, courtesy of a massive dike built primary along Fourth Avenue for the purpose of keeping any flood waters from inundating North Broadway.

While extreme vigilance will be required in Minot in the coming days, the main burden of the river's powerful swing through the state now descends on points downstream - Logan, Sawyer and Velva among them. Unwilling to say goodbye without coiling to strike a few additional communities, the Souris Sunday remained almost two feet lower than what it was expected to reach at Velva sometime today.

When the waters of the Souris finally do leave the state, the river will have left behind a record breaking performance the likes of which, seemingly, cannot be equaled. Some say it was the work of Mother Nature. Others point to the fact that it was stored water that roared down the Souris, picking off one town at a time. Most agree that, at the very least, historic changes in reservoir operation and flood protection are sure to result.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

US Capitol Cities: Honolulu, Hawaii

From Wikipedia:
Honolulu is the capital and the most populous city of the U.S. state of Hawaii. Honolulu is the southernmost major U.S. city.

Although the name "Honolulu" refers to the urban area on the southeastern shore of the island of Oahu, the city and county government are consolidated as the City and County of Honolulu which covers the entire island. For statistical purposes, the U.S. Census Bureau recognizes the urban part of Honolulu as a census-designated place.

Honolulu is a major financial center of the islands of the Pacific Ocean. The population of the Census-designated place was 371,657 at the 2000 census, while the population of the city and county was 909,863.

Honolulu is the most populous state capital relative to state population. In the Hawaiian language, Honolulu means "sheltered bay" or "place of shelter". Honolulu has been the capital of the Hawaiian islands since 1845 and gained historical recognition following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor near the city on December 7, 1941. It is also the birthplace of Barack Obama, the 44th President of the United States.

Evidence of the first settlement of Honolulu by the original Polynesian migrants to the archipelago comes from oral histories and artifacts. These indicate that there was a settlement where Honolulu now stands in the 11th century. However, after Kamehameha I conquered Oʻahu in the Battle of Nuʻuanu at Nuʻuanu Pali, he moved his royal court from the Island of Hawaiʻi to Waikīkī in 1804. His court relocated in 1809 to what is now downtown Honolulu. The capital was moved back to Kailua-Kona in 1812.

In 1794, Captain William Brown of Great Britain was the first foreigner to sail into what is now Honolulu Harbor.[5] More foreign ships followed, making the port of Honolulu a focal point for merchant ships traveling between North America and Asia.

In 1845, Kamehameha III moved the permanent capital of the Hawaiian Kingdom from Lahaina on Maui to Honolulu. He and the kings that followed him transformed Honolulu into a modern capital, erecting buildings such as St. Andrew's Cathedral, ʻIolani Palace, and Aliʻiōlani Hale. At the same time, Honolulu became the center of commerce in the islands, with descendants of American missionaries establishing major businesses in downtown Honolulu.

Despite the turbulent history of the late 19th century and early 20th century, such as the overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy in 1893, Hawaiʻi's subsequent annexation by the United States in 1898, followed by a large fire in 1900, and the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, Honolulu remained the capital, largest city, and main airport and seaport of the Hawaiian Islands.

An economic and tourism boom following statehood brought rapid economic growth to Honolulu and Hawaiʻi. Modern air travel brings, as of 2007, 7.6 million visitors annually to the islands, with 62.3% entering at Honolulu International Airport. Today, Honolulu is a modern city with numerous high-rise buildings, and Waikīkī is the center of the tourism industry in Hawaiʻi, with thousands of hotel rooms. The UK consulting firm Mercer, in a 2009 assessment "conducted to help governments and major companies place employees on international assignments", ranked Honolulu 29th worldwide in quality of living; the survey factored in political stability, personal freedom, sanitation, crime, housing, the natural environment, recreation, banking facilities, availability of consumer goods, education, and public services including transportation.

According to the United States Census Bureau, the CDP has a total area of 105.1 sq mi (272 km2). 85.7 sq mi (222 km2) of it is land and 19.4 sq mi (50 km2) of it (18.42%) is water.

The closest location on the mainland to Honolulu is the Point Arena, California Lighthouse, at 2,045 nautical miles (3,787 km). (Nautical vessels require some additional distance to circumnavigate Makapu'u Point.) However, part of the Aleutian Islands of Alaska are slightly closer than California.

Completed in 1928, Honolulu Hale is the city and county seatThe municipal offices of the City and County of Honolulu, including Honolulu Hale, the seat of the city and county, are located in the census-designated place. The Hawaii state government buildings are also located in the CDP.

The Honolulu District is located on the southeast coast of Oahu between Makapuu and Halawa. The district boundary follows the Koolau crestline, so Makapuu Beach is in the Koolaupoko District. On the west, the district boundary follows Halawa Stream, then crosses Red Hill and runs just west of Aliamanu Crater, so that Aloha Stadium, Pearl Harbor (with the USS Arizona Memorial), and Hickam Air Force Base are actually all located in the island's Ewa District.

The Hawaii Department of Public Safety operates the Oahu Community Correctional Center, the jail for the island of Oahu, in Honolulu CDP.

The United States Postal Service operates post offices in Honolulu CDP. The main Honolulu Post Office is located by the international airport at 3600 Aolele Street. Federal Detention Center, Honolulu, operated by the Federal Bureau of Prisons, is in the CDP.

Neighborhoods and Districts
--Downtown Honolulu is the financial, commercial, and governmental center of Hawaii. On the waterfront is Aloha Tower, which for many years was the tallest building in Hawaii. Currently the tallest building is the 438-foot (134 m)-tall First Hawaiian Center, located on King and Bishop Streets. The downtown campus of Hawaii Pacific University is also located there.
--The Arts District Honolulu in downtown/Chinatown is on the eastern edge of Chinatown. It is a 12-block area bounded by Bethel & Smith Streets and Nimitz Highway and Beretania Street - home to numerous arts and cultural institutions. It is located within the Chinatown Historic District, which includes the former Hotel Street Vice District.
--The Capitol District is the eastern part of Downtown Honolulu. It is the current and historic center of Hawaii's state government, incorporating the Hawaii State Capitol, Iolani Palace, Honolulu Hale (City Hall), State Library, and the statue of King Kamehameha I, along with numerous government buildings.
--Kakaʻako is a light-industrial district between Downtown and Waikīkī that has seen a large-scale redevelopment effort in the past decade. It is home to two major shopping areas, Ward Warehouse and Ward Centre. The John A. Burns School of Medicine, part of the University of Hawaiʻi at Manoa is also located there. A Memorial to the Ehime Maru Incident victims is built at Kakaako Waterfront Park.
--Ala Moana is a district between Kakaʻako and Waikīkī and the home of Ala Moana Center, the "World's largest open air shopping center" and the largest shopping mall in Hawaii. Ala Moana Center boasts over 300 tenants and is a very popular location among tourists. Also in Ala Moana is the Honolulu Design Center and Ala Moana Beach Park, the second largest park in Honolulu.
--Waikīkī is the tourist district of Honolulu, located between the Ala Wai Canal and the Pacific Ocean next to Diamond Head. Numerous hotels, shops, and nightlife opportunities are located along Kalakaua and Kuhio Avenues. It is a popular location for visitors and locals alike and attracts millions of visitors every year. A majority of the hotel rooms on Oahu are located in Waikīkī. Unfortunately now, it is filled with homeless people.
--Manoa and Makiki are residential neighborhoods located in adjacent valleys just inland of downtown and Waikīkī. Manoa Valley is home to the main campus of the University of Hawaiʻi. President Barack Obama lived in Makiki with his maternal grandparents until graduating from Punahou School, apart from four years in Indonesia with his mother and stepfather.
--Nuʻuanu and Pauoa are upper-middle-class residential districts located inland of downtown Honolulu. The National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific is located in Punchbowl Crater fronting Pauoa Valley.
--Palolo and Kaimuki are neighborhoods east of Manoa and Makiki, inland from Diamond Head. Palolo Valley parallels Manoa and is a residential neighborhood. Kaimuki is primarily a residential neighborhood with a commercial strip centered on Waialae Avenue running behind Diamond Head. Chaminade University is located in Kaimuki.
--Waialae and Kahala are upper-class districts of Honolulu located directly east of Diamond Head, where there are many high-priced homes. Also found in these neighborhoods are the Waialae Country Club and the five-star Kahala Hotel & Resort.
--East Honolulu includes the residential communities of ʻĀina Haina, Niu Valley, and Hawaiʻi Kai. These are considered upper-middle-class neighborhoods. The upscale gated communities of Waiʻalae ʻiki and Hawaiʻi Loa Ridge are also located here.
--Kalihi and Palama are working-class neighborhoods with a number of government housing developments. Lower Kalihi, toward the ocean, is a light-industrial district.
--Salt Lake and Aliamanu are (mostly) residential areas built in extinct tuff cones along the western end of the Honolulu District, not far from the Honolulu International Airport.
--Moanalua is two neighborhoods and a valley at the western end of Honolulu, and home to Tripler Army Medical Center.

As of the census of 2000, there were 371,657 people, 140,337 households, and 87,429 families residing in the CDP. The population density was 4,336.6 people per square mile (1,674.4/km2). There were 158,663 housing units at an average density of 1,851.3 per square mile (714.8/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 29.7% White, 20.6% Black or African American, 0.2% Native American, 55.6% Asian, 8.9% Pacific Islander, 0.9% from other races; and 24.7% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 3.4% of the population.

There were 140,337 households out of which 23.7% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 45.5% were married couples living together, 12.1% had a female householder with no husband present, and 37.7% were non-families. 29.7% of all households were made up of individuals and 10.0% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.57 and the average family size is 3.23.

In the CDP the population was spread out with 19.2% under the age of 18, 8.9% from 18 to 24, 29.9% from 25 to 44, 24.1% from 45 to 64, and 17.8% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 40 years. For every 100 females there were 96.6 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 94.5 males.

The median income for a household in the CDP was $45,112, and the median income for a family was $56,311. Males had a median income of $36,631 versus $29,930 for females. The per capita income for the CDP was $24,191. About 7.9% of families and 11.8% of the population were below the poverty line, including 14.6% of those under the age of 18 and 8.5% of those 65 and older.

According to the 2006–2008 American Community Survey, the racial composition of Honolulu was:

White: 33.4%
Black or African American: 23.0%
Native American: 0.2%
Asian: 50.6%
Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander: 10.2%
Some other race: 0.8%
Two or more races: 24.1%
Hispanic or Latino (of any race): 2.8%

The largest city and airport in the Hawaiian Islands, Honolulu acts as a natural gateway to the islands' large tourism industry, which brings millions of visitors and contributes $10 billion annually to the local economy. Honolulu's location in the Pacific also makes it a large business and trading hub, particularly between the East and the West. Other important aspects of the city's economy include military defense, research and development, and manufacturing.

Among the companies based in Honolulu are:

Alexander & Baldwin
Bank of Hawaii
Central Pacific Bank
First Hawaiian Bank
Hawaii Medical Service Association
Hawaii Pacific Health
Hawaiian Electric Industries
The Queen's Health Systems
Go! Mokulele, Hawaiian Airlines, Island Air, and Aloha Air Cargo are headquartered in the CDP. Prior to its dissolution, Aloha Airlines was headquartered in the CDP.

Since the housing collapse, Honolulu has faced a decrease in its rent of about 3.4%, but has recently evened out. This stands in relation with the national average of a 4% decrease in rent.

Since no national bank chains have any branches in Hawaii, many visitors and new residents have to use different banks. Many Bank of America customers will switch to/use the Bank of Hawaii, as it is a local affiliate to the national bank chain. Many however, have decided to switch to the First Hawaiian Bank, the largest and oldest bank in Hawaii. Their headquarters is the First Hawaiian Center, the tallest building in Hawaii.

Friday, June 24, 2011

US Capitol Cities: Juneau, Alaska

The City and Borough of Juneau ( /ˈdʒuːnoʊ/) is a unified municipality located on the Gastineau Channel in the panhandle of the U.S. state of Alaska. It has been the capital of Alaska since 1906, when the government of the then-District of Alaska was moved from Sitka as dictated by the U.S. Congress in 1900. The municipality unified in 1970 when the city of Juneau merged with the city of Douglas and the surrounding Greater Juneau Borough to form the current home rule municipality.

The area of Juneau is larger than that of Rhode Island and Delaware individually and almost as large as the two states combined. Downtown Juneau 58°18′07″N 134°25′11″W / 58.30194°N 134.41972°W / 58.30194; -134.41972 is nestled at the base of Mount Juneau and across the channel from Douglas Island. As of the 2000 census, the City and Borough had a population of 30,711. The U.S. Census Bureau's 2008 population estimate for the City and Borough was 30,988.

Juneau is named after gold prospector Joe Juneau, though the place was for a time called Rockwell and then Harrisburg (after Juneau's co-prospector, Richard Harris). The Tlingit name of the town is Dzántik'i Héeni ("river where the flounders gather"), and Auke Bay just north of Juneau proper is called Aak'w ("little lake") in Tlingit. The Taku River, just south of Juneau, was named after the cold t'aakh wind, which occasionally blows down from the mountains.

Downtown Juneau sits at sea level, with tides averaging 16 feet (5 m), below steep mountains about 3,500 feet (1,100 m) to 4,000 feet (1,200 m) high. Atop these mountains is the Juneau Icefield, a large ice mass from which about 30 glaciers flow; two of these, the Mendenhall Glacier and the Lemon Creek Glacier, are visible from the local road system; the Mendenhall glacier has been generally retreating; its front face is declining both in width and height.

The Alaska State Capitol in downtown Juneau was originally built as the Federal and Territorial Building in 1931. Prior to statehood, it housed federal government offices, the federal courthouse and a post office. It also housed the territorial legislature and many other territorial offices, including that of the governor. Today, it is still the home of the state legislature and the offices of the governor and lieutenant governor. Other executive branch offices have largely moved elsewhere, in Juneau or elsewhere in the state, in the ongoing battle between branches for space in the building, as well as the decades-long capital move issue. Recent discussion has been focused between relocating the seat of state government outside of Juneau and building a new capitol building in Juneau. Neither position has advanced very far. The Alaska Committee, a local community advocacy group, has led efforts to thus far keep the capital in Juneau.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Rain helps crews fighting east Texas wildfire

Reuters: Rain helps crews fighting east Texas wildfire

(Reuters) - Heavy rains over east Texas early on Wednesday gave firefighters some relief in battling a devastating wildfire that has displaced 1,800 people and destroyed dozens of homes, authorities said on Wednesday.

Up to two inches of rain fell overnight soaking a swath of Texas from San Antonio to the Louisiana border -- only a temporary reprieve given the drought conditions in the area, but welcome nonetheless.

"We're very grateful for it, and these guys are hopefully going to get some rest today, and work on some equipment, and catch up," Richard Reuse of the Texas Forest Service told Reuters.

He said rainfall helped shrink the Dyer Mill Fire, which has been burning an hour outside Houston since Sunday, to 5,280 acres.

The fire has displaced some 1,800 people and charred 35 homes, and was 30 percent contained on Wednesday.

The story was different in drought-parched West Texas, which saw no rain as the largest wildfire burning in the state grew by about 50 percent overnight.

The White Hat fire, an hour's drive from Abilene, had charred some 62,000 acres by early Wednesday. Fire crews had only managed to contain about 45 percent of its perimeter, authorities said.

Nature provided some relief on Wednesday to firefighters battling blazes in the parched Southwest.

Lighter winds continued to help crews in eastern Arizona gain the upper hand fighting the nation's largest active blaze -- the Wallow Fire in the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest.

That blaze has consumed nearly 528,000 acres, or 825 square miles, of mostly ponderosa pine forest in Arizona's White Mountains area near the New Mexico border.

Investigators say it was likely caused by an unattended campfire late last month.

Authorities said the last remaining evacuees, around 200 residents of Luna, New Mexico, just east of the Arizona border, were allowed home at midnight on Tuesday.

"Winds are going to be favorable for the firefighters today. They are coming out of the west and not very strong," said Kelly Wood, a spokesman for the fire team tackling the blaze.

Easing winds also helped crews battling a fire burning a few miles from Santa Fe in New Mexico, which had torched nearly 5,000 acres and remained just 5 percent contained early Wednesday.

Four hundred firefighters and nine helicopters have been strengthening fire lines along the southern portion of the Pacheco Fire.

"If the winds come back, we're not sure we can hold the line," New Mexico Fire Information Officer Lorie Cook told Reuters on Wednesday.

"It's supposed to be abnormally warm today, higher highs than normal, so you never know what can happen."

The cause of the Pacheco fire is still unknown.

Monday, June 20, 2011

175 killed from China floods; more than 1.6 million evacuated

China's Three Gorges Dam:
The Three Gorges Dam is a hydroelectric dam that spans the Yangtze River by the town of Sandouping, located in the Yiling District of Yichang, in Hubei province, China. The Three Gorges Dam is the world’s largest power station in terms of installed capacity (18,200 MW) but is second to Itaipu Dam with regards to the generation of electricity annually.

The dam body was completed in 2006. Except for a ship lift, the originally planned components of the project were completed on October 30, 2008, when the 26th turbine in the shore plant began commercial operation. Each turbine has a capacity of 700 MW.[2][3] Six additional turbines in the underground power plant are not expected to become fully operational until mid-2011. Coupling the dam's thirty-two main turbines with two smaller generators (50 MW each) to power the plant itself, the total electric generating capacity of the dam will eventually reach 22,500 MW.

As well as producing electricity, the dam increases the Yangtze River's shipping capacity, and reduces the potential for floods downstream by providing flood storage space. The Chinese government regards the project as a historic engineering, social and economic success, with the design of state-of-the-art large turbines, and a move toward limiting greenhouse gas emissions.

However, the dam flooded archaeological and cultural sites and displaced some 1.3 million people, and is causing significant ecological changes, including an increased risk of landslides. The dam has been a controversial topic both in China and abroad.

CNN: 175 killed from China floods; more than 1.6 million evacuated
Beijing (CNN) -- At least 175 people have died from flooding this month in southern and eastern China, the country's Ministry of Civil Affairs said Monday.

Another 86 people are missing from the flooding that began with rainfall on June 3. The ministry said 13 provinces have been affected, more than 1.6 million people have been evacuated, and the direct economic losses has reached 32.02 billion yuan ($4.9 billion).

The flooding has destroyed at least 8,400 houses in Zhejiang province alone, a provincial agency said.

More than 4.4 million have been affected by the flooding in Zhejiang of Monday morning, according to the Zhejiang Flood Control Office. About 292,000 have been evacuated, according to the agency's website.

The direct economic loss in Zhejiang has reached 7.69 billion yuan ($1.18 billion), the agency said.

Zhao Fayuan, director of the Zhejiang Flood Control Office, said rain continued falling in the province on Monday, though it was not as heavy as the rainfall over the weekend. He said the areas around the Qiantang and Dongtiao rivers are the most severely affected.

At least 171,000 hectares (422,550 acres) of crops have been destroyed by flooding, China's state-run Xinhua news agency reported, citing data from local officials.

The southern province of Jiangxi is grappling with the worst flooding on record there. At least 40,000 people have been evacuated from flooding over the weekend.

"The farmlands are severely affected by the flood," said Qiu Qiyong of the Jiangxi Flood Control and Drought Relief Office. He said the economic loss over two days reached 0.836 billion yuan ($129 million).

Residents in Jiangxi may get a respite Monday, as rainfall stopped and water levels decreased. Some of those evacuated returned to their homes.

Hubei province -- where the Three Gorges Dam is located -- has suffered significant flooding, according to Xinhua. And the rains caused water levels in dozens of reservoirs in neighboring Hunan province "to exceed alarming levels," the news agency said.

The flooding ended the worst drought to hit southern China in 50 years.

It came a month after the Chinese government acknowledged that Three Gorges Dam -- the world's largest hydropower plant -- was having "urgent problems" and warned of environmental, construction and migration "disasters."

The dam was originally touted for its ability to control the impact of flooding that threatens the Yangtze River Delta each summer.

But more than 1,000 towns and villages were flooded during the digging and construction of the dam's giant concrete barrier. And landslides and pollution have plagued the areas near the dam since it was built.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Kizimen, Karymsky volcanoes spew ash in Russia

Russia's Kamchatka Peninsula: The Kamchatka Peninsula (Russian: полуо́стров Камча́тка, poluostrov Kamchatka) is a 1,250-kilometre (780 mi) peninsula in the Russian Far East, with an area of 472,300 km2 (182,400 sq mi). It lies between the Pacific Ocean to the east and the Sea of Okhotsk to the west.[1] Immediately offshore along the Pacific coast of the peninsula runs the 10,500-metre (34,400 ft) deep Kuril-Kamchatka Trench.

[Although the peninsula of Kamchatka angles away from the US State of Alaska, if you sailed east from Kamchatka you would end up in Alaska. Take a look at your own globe and see.]

The Kamchatka Peninsula, the Commander Islands, and Karaginsky Island constitute the Kamchatka Krai of the Russian Federation. The majority of the 402,500 inhabitants are Russians, but there are also about 13,000 Koryaks. More than half of the population lives in Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky (198,028 people) and nearby Yelizovo (41,533).

The Kamchatka peninsula contains the Volcanoes of Kamchatka, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

List of volcanoes from north to southVolcanoes of the central range
Lettunup, 1340 m, 58°24′N 161°05′E / 58.40°N 161.08°E / 58.40; 161.08 (Iettunup)
Voyampolsky, 1225 m, 58°22′N 160°37′E / 58.37°N 160.62°E / 58.37; 160.62 (Voyampolsky)
Severny, 1936 m, 58°17′N 160°52′E / 58.28°N 160.87°E / 58.28; 160.87 (Severny)
Snegovoy, 2169 m, 58°12′N 160°58′E / 58.20°N 160.97°E / 58.20; 160.97 (Snegovoy)
Ostry, 2552 m, 58°11′N 160°49′E / 58.18°N 160.82°E / 58.18; 160.82 (Ostry)
Spokoyny (volcano), 2171 m, 58°08′N 160°49′E / 58.13°N 160.82°E / 58.13; 160.82 (Spokoiny)
Iktunup, 2300 m, 58°05′N 160°46′E / 58.08°N 160.77°E / 58.08; 160.77 (Iktunup)
Snezhny, 2169 m, 58°01′N 160°45′E / 58.02°N 160.75°E / 58.02; 160.75 (Snezhniy)
Atlasova or Nylgimelkin, 1764 m, 57°58′N 160°39′E / 57.97°N 160.65°E / 57.97; 160.65 (Atlasova)
Bely, 2080 m, 57°53′N 160°32′E / 57.88°N 160.53°E / 57.88; 160.53 (Bely)
Alngey, 1853 m, 57°42′N 160°24′E / 57.70°N 160.40°E / 57.70; 160.40 (Alngey)
Uka, 1643 m, 57°42′N 160°35′E / 57.70°N 160.58°E / 57.70; 160.58 (Uka)
Yelovsky, 1381 m, 57°32′N 160°32′E / 57.53°N 160.53°E / 57.53; 160.53 (Yelovsky)
Shishel, 2525 m, 57°27′N 160°22′E / 57.45°N 160.37°E / 57.45; 160.37 (Shishel)
Mezhdusopochny, 1641 m, 57°28′N 160°15′E / 57.47°N 160.25°E / 57.47; 160.25 (Mezhdusopochny)
Titila, 1559 m, 57°24′N 160°06′E / 57.40°N 160.10°E / 57.40; 160.10 (Titila)
Gorny Institute, 2125 m, 57°20′N 160°12′E / 57.33°N 160.20°E / 57.33; 160.20 (Gorny Institute)
Tuzovsky, 1533 m
Leutongey, 1333 m,
Sedankinsky, 1241 m
Fedotych, 965 m,
Kebeney, 1527 m,
Kizimen, 2376 m,

Kluchevskaya group
Klyuchevskaya Sopka

Avachinskaya group

Kamchatka receives up to 2,700 mm (110 in) of precipitation per year. The summers are moderately cool, and the winters tend to be rather stormy with rare amounts of lightning

UPI.com: Kizimen, Karymsky volcanoes spew ash in Russia
MOSCOW, June 17 (UPI) -- The Kizimen and Karymsky volcanoes on Russia's Kamchatka Peninsula spewed ash and gas, accompanied by earth tremors, a Russian science agency said Friday.

A spokesman for the Geophysical Service of the Russian Academy of Sciences said as many as 400 tremors have been registered, ITAR-Tass reported Friday.

The "orange" aviation alert code was activated, warning of the danger volcanic dust and emitted gases can pose to aircraft, officials said.

Rising to an altitude of 7,795 feet, the Kizimen volcano is about 265 kilometers from Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky. Geologists estimate the volcano formed about 12,000 years ago.

One of 29 active volcanoes on the Kamchatka peninsula, Kizimen was violent in 1928 and 1929. It began to exhibit activity again in 2009.

The 4,875-foot Karymsky is the most active volcano of Kamchatka's eastern volcanic zone and a symmetrical stratovolcano, the academy spokesman said. Its activity increased dramatically in 1996 and still erupts periodically.

Around Africa: Mali

From Wikipedia
Mali (Mall-lee), officially the Republic of Mali, is a landlocked country in Western Africa. Mali borders Algeria on the north, Niger on the east, Burkina Faso and the Côte d'Ivoire on the south, Guinea on the south-west, and Senegal and Mauritania on the west. Its size is just over 1,240,000 km² with a population of 14.5 million. Its capital is Bamako. Mali consists of eight regions and its borders on the north reach deep into the middle of the Sahara, while the country's southern region, where the majority of inhabitants live, features the Niger and Sénégal rivers. The country's economic structure centers around agriculture and fishing. Some of Mali's natural resources include gold, uranium, and salt.

Present-day Mali was once part of three West African empires that controlled trans-Saharan trade: the Ghana Empire, the Mali Empire (from which Mali is named), and the Songhai Empire. In the late 19th century, during the Scramble for Africa, France seized control of Mali making it a part of French Sudan. French Sudan (then known as the Sudanese Republic) gained independence in 1959 with Senegal, as the Mali Federation. A year later, following Senegal's withdrawal from the federation, the Sudanese Republic declared itself the independent Republic of Mali. After a long period of one-party rule, a 1991 coup led to the writing of a new constitution and the establishment of Mali as a democratic, multi-party state. About half the population live below the international poverty line of US$1.25 a day

Mali was once part of three famed West African empires which controlled trans-Saharan trade in gold, salt, slaves, and other precious commodities. These Sahelian kingdoms had neither rigid geopolitical boundaries nor rigid ethnic identities. The earliest of these empires was the Ghana Empire, which was dominated by the Soninke, a Mande-speaking people. The nation expanded throughout West Africa from the 8th century until 1078, when it was conquered by the Almoravids.

The Mali Empire later formed on the upper Niger River, and reached the height of power in the 14th century. Under the Mali Empire, the ancient cities of Djenné and Timbuktu were centers of both trade and Islamic learning. The empire later declined as a result of internal intrigue, ultimately being supplanted by the Songhai Empire. The Songhai people originated in current northwestern Nigeria. The Songhai had long been a major power in West Africa subject to the Mali Empire's rule.

In the late 14th century, the Songhai gradually gained independence from the Mali Empire and expanded, ultimately subsuming the entire eastern portion of the Mali Empire.[7] The Songhai Empire's eventual collapse was largely the result of a Moroccan invasion in 1591, under the command of Judar Pasha. The fall of the Songhai Empire marked the end of the region's role as a trading crossroads. Following the establishment of sea routes by the European powers, the trans-Saharan trade routes lost significance.

One of the worst famines in the region's recorded history occurred in the 18th century. According to John Iliffe, "The worst crises were in the 1680s, when famine extended from the Senegambian coast to the Upper Nile and 'many sold themselves for slaves, only to get a sustenance', and especially in 1738–56, when West Africa's greatest recorded subsistence crisis, due to drought and locusts, reportedly killed half the population of Timbuktu."

In the colonial era, Mali fell under the control of the French beginning in the late 19th century. By 1905, most of the area was under firm French control as a part of French Sudan. In early 1959, French Sudan (which changed its name to the Sudanese Republic) and Senegal united to become the Mali Federation. The Mali Federation gained independence from France on June 20, 1960. Senegal withdrew from the federation in August 1960, which allowed the Sudanese Republic to become the independent Republic of Mali on September 22, 1960. Modibo Keïta was elected the first president. Keïta quickly established a one-party state, adopted an independent African and socialist orientation with close ties to the East, and implemented extensive nationalization of economic resources.

In November 1968, following progressive economic decline, the Keïta regime was overthrown in a bloodless military coup led by Moussa Traoré. The subsequent military-led regime, with Traoré as president, attempted to reform the economy. However, his efforts were frustrated by political turmoil and a devastating drought between 1968 to 1974,[9] which killed thousands of people from famine. The Traoré regime faced student unrest beginning in the late 1970s and three coup attempts. However, the Traoré regime repressed all dissenters until the late 1980s.

The government continued to attempt economic reforms, and the populace became increasingly dissatisfied. In response to growing demands for multi-party democracy, the Traoré regime allowed some limited political liberalization, but refused to usher in a full-fledged democratic system. In 1990, cohesive opposition movements began to emerge, and was complicated by the turbulent rise of ethnic violence in the north following the return of many Tuaregs to Mali.

Anti-government protests in 1991 led to a coup, a transitional government, and a new constitution. In 1992, Alpha Oumar Konaré won Mali's first democratic, multi-party presidential election. Upon his reelection in 1997, President Konaré pushed through political and economic reforms and fought corruption. In 2002, he was succeeded in democratic elections by Amadou Toumani Touré, a retired general, who had been the leader of the military aspect of the 1991 democratic uprising.

Today, Mali is one of the most politically and socially stable countries in Africa

Mali is a landlocked nation in West Africa, located southwest of Algeria. It lies between latitudes 10° and 25°N, and longitudes 13°W and 5°E.

At 1,240,000 square kilometres (479,000 sq mi), Mali is the world's 24th-largest country and is comparable in size to South Africa or Angola. Most of the country lies in the southern Sahara, which produces a hot, dust-laden Sudanian savanna zone. Mali is mostly flat, rising to rolling northern plains covered by sand. The Adrar des Ifoghas lies in the northeast.

The country's climate ranges from tropical in the south to arid in the north. Most of the country receives negligible rainfall; droughts are frequent. Late June to early December is the rainy season. During this time, flooding of the Niger River is common, creating the Inner Niger Delta. The nation has considerable natural resources, with gold, uranium, phosphates, kaolinite, salt and limestone being most widely exploited. Mali faces numerous environmental challenges, including desertification, deforestation, soil erosion, and inadequate supplies of potable water.

Mali is one of the poorest countries in the world. The average worker's annual salary is approximately US$1,500. Between 1992 and 1995, Mali implemented an economic adjustment program that resulted in economic growth and a reduction in financial imbalances. The program increased social and economic conditions, and led to Mali joining the World Trade Organization on May 31, 1995. The gross domestic product (GDP) has risen since. In 2002, the GDP amounted to US$3.4 billion, and increased to US$5.8 billion in 2005, which amounts to an approximately 17.6% annual growth rate.

Mali's key industry is agriculture. Cotton is the country's largest crop export and is exported west throughout Senegal and the Ivory Coast. During 2002, 620,000 tons of cotton were produced in Mali but cotton prices declined significantly in 2003. In addition to cotton, Mali produces rice, millet, corn, vegetables, tobacco, and tree crops. Gold, livestock and agriculture amount to eighty percent of Mali's exports. Eighty percent of Malian workers are employed in agriculture while fifteen percent work in the service sector. However, seasonal variations lead to regular temporary unemployment of agricultural workers. Mali's resource in livestock consists of millions of cattle, sheep, and goats. Approximately 40% of Mali's herds were lost during the Sahel drought in 1972-74.

In 1991, with the assistance of the International Development Association, Mali relaxed the enforcement of mining codes which led to renewed foreign interest and investment in the mining industry. Gold is mined in the southern region and Mali has the third highest gold production in Africa (after South Africa and Ghana). The emergence of gold as Mali’s leading export product since 1999 has helped mitigate some of the negative impact of the cotton and Côte d’Ivoire crises. Other natural resources include kaolin, salt, phosphate, and limestone.

Electricity and water are maintained by the Energie du Mali, or EDM, and textiles are generated by Industry Textile du Mali, or ITEMA. Mali has made efficient use of hydroelectricity, consisting of over half of Mali's electrical power. In 2002, 700 GWh of hydroelectric power were produced in Mali.

The Malian government participates in foreign involvement, concerning commerce and privatization. Mali underwent economic reform, beginning in 1988 by signing agreements with the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. During 1988 to 1996, Mali's government largely reformed public enterprises. Since the agreement, sixteen enterprises were privatized, twelve partially privatized, and twenty liquidated. In 2005, the Malian government conceded a railroad company to the Savage Corporation. Two major companies, Societé de Telecommunications du Mali (SOTELMA) and the Cotton Ginning Company (CMDT), are expected to be privatized in 2008.

Mali is a member of the Organization for the Harmonization of Business Law in Africa (OHADA).

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Around Africa: Mauritania

Mauritania, officially the Islamic Republic of Mauritania, is a country in the Maghreb and West Africa. It is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean in the west, by Western Sahara in the north, by Algeria in the northeast, by Mali in the east and southeast, and by Senegal in the southwest. It is named after the Roman province of Mauretania, even though the modern state covers a territory far to the southwest of the old province. The capital and largest city is Nouakchott, located on the Atlantic coast.

The civilian government of Mauritania was overthrown on 6 August 2008, in a military coup d'état led by General Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz. On 16 April 2009, General Aziz resigned from the military to run for president in the 19 July elections, which he won. In Mauritania about 20% of the population live on less than US $1.25 per day.

Ancient history

The Bafours were primarily agriculturalist, and among the first Saharan people to abandon their historically nomadic lifestyle. With the gradual desiccation of the Sahara, they headed south.

Following them came a migration of not only Central Saharans into West Africa, but in 1076, Moorish Islamic warrior monks (Almoravid or Al Murabitun) attacked and conquered the ancient Ghana Empire. Over the next 500 years, Arabs overcame fierce resistance from the local population (Berber and non-Berber alike) and came to dominate Mauritania. The Mauritanian Thirty-Year War (1644–74) was the unsuccessful final effort to repel the Yemeni Maqil Arab invaders led by the Beni Hassan tribe.

The descendants of the Beni Hassan warriors became the upper stratum of Moorish society. Berbers retained influence by producing the majority of the region's Marabouts—those who preserve and teach Islamic tradition. Many of the Berber tribes claimed Yemeni (and sometimes other Arab) origin: there is little evidence to suggest this, though some studies do make a connection between the two. Hassaniya, a Berber-influenced Arabic dialect that derives its name from the Beni Hassan, became the dominant language among the largely nomadic population.

Modern history
Imperial France gradually absorbed the territories of present-day Mauritania from the Senegal river area and upwards, starting in the late 19th century. In 1901, Xavier Coppolani took charge of the imperial mission. Through a combination of strategic alliances with Zawiya tribes, and military pressure on the Hassane warrior nomads, he managed to extend French rule over the Mauritanian emirates: Trarza, Brakna and Tagant quickly submitted to treaties with the colonial power (1903–04), but the northern emirate of Adrar held out longer, aided by the anticolonial rebellion (or jihad) of shaykh Maa al-Aynayn. It was finally defeated militarily in 1912, and incorporated into the territory of Mauritania, which had been drawn up in 1904. Mauritania would subsequently form part of French West Africa, from 1920.

French rule brought legal prohibitions against slavery, and an end to interclan warfare. During the colonial period, the population remained nomadic, but many sedentary peoples, whose ancestors had been expelled centuries earlier, began to trickle back into Mauritania. As the country gained independence in 1960, the capital city Nouakchott was founded at the site of a small colonial village, the Ksar, while 90% of the population was still nomadic.

The great Sahel droughts of the early 1970s caused massive problems in Mauritania. With independence, larger numbers of indigenous Sub-Saharan African peoples (Haalpulaar, Soninke, and Wolof) entered Mauritania, moving into the area north of the Senegal River. Educated in French language and customs, many of these recent arrivals became clerks, soldiers, and administrators in the new state. This occurred as France militarily suppressed the most intransigent Hassane tribes of the Moorish north, shifting old balances of power, and creating new cause for conflict between the southern populations and Moors.

Between these groups stood the Haratin, a very large population of Arabized slaves of black African origins, who lived within Moorish society, integrated into a low-caste social position. Modern day slavery is still a common practice in this country.[8] According to some estimates, up to 600,000 Mauritanians, or 20% of the population, are still enslaved. This social discrimination concerns mainly the "black Moors" (Haratin) in the northern part of the country, where tribal elites among “white Moors” (Beidane) hold sway, but low-caste groups within the black African communities of the south are also affected by similar practices.

Nouakchott is the capital and the largest city of Mauritania. It is one of the largest cities in the SaharaMoors reacted to the change, and to Arab nationalist calls from abroad, by increasing pressure to Arabize many aspects of Mauritanian life, such as law and language. A schism developed between those Moors who consider Mauritania to be an Arab country and those who seek a dominant role for the non-Moorish peoples, with various models for containing the country's cultural diversity suggested, but none implemented successfully.

This ethnic discord was evident during intercommunal violence that broke out in April 1989 (the “1989 Events” and “Mauritania-Senegal Border War”), but has since subsided. Some 70,000 black African Mauritanians were expelled from Mauritania in the late 1980s. The ethnic tension and the sensitive issue of slavery – past and, in some areas, present – is still a powerful theme in the country's political debate. A significant number from all groups, however, seek a more diverse, pluralistic society.

The government bureaucracy is composed of traditional ministries, special agencies, and parastatal companies. The Ministry of Interior spearheads a system of regional governors and prefects modeled on the French system of local administration. Under this system, Mauritania is divided into thirteen regions (wilaya), including the capital district, Nouakchott. Control is tightly concentrated in the executive branch of the central government, but a series of national and municipal elections since 1992 have produced limited decentralization.

Mauritania, along with Morocco, annexed the territory of Western Sahara in 1976, with Mauritania taking the lower one-third at the request of former imperial power Spain. After several military losses to the Polisario – heavily armed and supported by Algeria, the local hegemon and rival to Morocco – Mauritania retreated in 1979, and its claims were taken over by Morocco.

Due to economic weakness, Mauritania has been a negligible player in the territorial dispute, with its official position being that it wishes for an expedient solution that is mutually agreeable to all parties. While most of Western Sahara has been occupied by Morocco, the UN still considers the Western Sahara a territory that needs to express its wishes with respect to statehood: a referendum is still supposed to be held sometime in the future, under UN auspices, to determine whether or not the indigenous Sahrawis wish to be independent as the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic, or to be part of Morocco. The Moroccan Government has thus far blocked such a referendum from taking place.

Ould Daddah era (1960–78)
After independence, President Moktar Ould Daddah, originally installed by the French, formalized Mauritania into a one-party state in 1964 with a new constitution, which set up an authoritarian presidential regime. Daddah's own Parti du Peuple Mauritanien (PPM) became the ruling organization in a single-party system. The President justified this decision on the grounds that he considered Mauritania unready for western-style multi-party democracy.

Under this one-party constitution, Daddah was reelected in uncontested elections in 1966, 1971 and 1976. He was ousted in a bloodless coup on 10 July 1978, after bringing the country to near-collapse through a disastrous war to annex the southern part of Western Sahara, in an attempt to create a “Greater Mauritania”.

CMRN and CMSN military governments (1978–1984)

Col. Mustafa Ould Salek's CMRN junta proved incapable of either establishing a strong base of power or extracting the country from its destabilizing conflict with the Sahrawi resistance movement, the Polisario Front. It quickly fell to be replaced by another military government, the CMSN. The energetic Col. Mohamed Khouna Ould Haidallah soon emerged as its main strongman, and by giving up all claims to Western Sahara, he found peace with the Polisario and improved relations with its main backer, Algeria – but relations with the other party to the conflict, Morocco, and its European ally France, deteriorated. Instability continued, and Haidallah's ambitious reform attempts foundered.

Not only was his regime plagued by attempted coups and intrigue within the military establishment, but it also became increasingly contested because of his harsh and uncompromising line against opponents and political and military dissidents, of whom many were jailed and some were executed.

In 1984 he was deposed by Col. Maaouya Ould Sid'Ahmed Taya, who relaxed the political climate somewhat, without relinquishing military control. Ould Taya moderated Mauritania's previous pro-Algerian stance, and reconnected with Morocco during the late 1980s. Relations with Morocco deepened during the late 1990s and early first decade of the 21st century, as part of Mauritania's drive to attract support from Western states and Western-aligned Arab states. However, Mauritania has not rescinded its recognition of Polisario's Western Saharan exile government, remaining on good terms with Algeria. Its position on the Western Sahara conflict is, since the 1980s, one of strict neutrality.

Ould Taya’s rule (1984–2005)

The Parti Républicain Démocratique et Social (PRDS), formerly led by President Maaouya Ould Sid'Ahmed Taya, dominated Mauritanian politics following the country's first multi-party elections in April 1992 following the approval by referendum of the current constitution in July 1991. President Taya, who won elections in 1992 and 1997, first became chief of state through a 12 December 1984 bloodless coup which made him chairman of the committee of military officers that governed Mauritania from July 1978 to April 1992.

Political parties, illegal during the military period, were legalized again in 1991. By April 1992, as civilian rule returned, 16 major political parties had been recognized; 12 major political parties were active in 2004. Most opposition parties boycotted the first legislative election in 1992, and for nearly a decade the parliament was dominated by the PRDS. The opposition participated in municipal elections in January–February 1994 and subsequent Senate elections, most recently in April 2004, and gained representation at the local level as well as three seats in the Senate.

A group of current and former Army officers launched a bloody but unsuccessful coup attempt on 8 June 2003. The leaders of the attempted coup were never caught.

Mauritania's presidential election, its third since adopting the democratic process in 1992, took place on 7 November 2003. Six candidates, including Mauritania's first female and first Haratine (former slave family) candidates, represented a wide variety of political goals and backgrounds. Incumbent President Maaouya Ould Sid'Ahmed Taya won reelection with 67.02% of the popular vote, according to the official figures, with Mohamed Khouna Ould Haidalla finishing second.

During the late 1980s, Ould Taya had established a close co-operation with Iraq, and pursued a strongly Arab nationalist line. At the same time, bloody clashes erupted with Senegal in 1989, during which both countries expelled ethnic minorities to the other country. Mauritania grew increasingly isolated internationally, and tensions with Western countries grew dramatically after it took a pro-Iraqi position during the 1991 Gulf War. During the mid-to late 1990s, Mauritania shifted its foreign policy to one of increased co-operation with the US and Europe, and was rewarded with diplomatic relaxation and aid projects.

In 1999, Mauritanian Foreign Minister Ahmed Sid’Ahmed and his Israeli counterpart David Levy signed an agreement in Washington DC, USA, on 28 October, establishing full diplomatic relations with Mauritania. The signing ceremony was held at the U.S. State Department in the presence of U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. Mauritania thereby joined Egypt, Palestine, and Jordan as the only members of the Arab League to officially recognize Israel. Ould Taya also started co-operating with the United States in antiterrorism activities, which was criticized by human rights NGOs, who talked of an exaggeration and instrumentation of alleged terrorist activities for geopolitical aims.

August 2005 military coup
On 3 August 2005, a military coup led by Colonel Ely Ould Mohamed Vall ended Maaouya Ould Sid'Ahmed Taya's twenty-one years of rule.

On 3 August, the Mauritanian military, including members of the presidential guard, seized control of key points in the capital of Nouakchott. They took advantage of President Taya's attendance at the funeral of Saudi King Fahd to organize the coup, which took place without loss of life. The officers, calling themselves the Military Council for Justice and Democracy, released the following statement:

"The national armed forces and security forces have unanimously decided to put a definitive end to the oppressive activities of the defunct authority, which our people have suffered from during the past years."

The Military Council later issued another statement naming Colonel Vall as president and director of the national police force, the Sûreté Nationale. Sixteen other officers were listed as members. Colonel Vall was once regarded as a firm ally of the now-ousted president, even aiding him in the original coup that brought him to power, and later serving as his security chief.

Applauded by the Mauritanian people, but cautiously watched by the international community, the coup has since been generally accepted, while the military junta has organized elections within the promised two-year timeline. In a referendum on 26 June 2006, Mauritanians overwhelmingly (97%) approved a new constitution which limited the duration of a president's stay in office. The leader of the junta, Col. Vall, promised to abide by the referendum and relinquish power peacefully. Mauritania's establishment of relations with Israel – it was one of only three Arab states to recognize Israel – was maintained by the new regime, despite widespread criticism from the opposition, who viewed it as a legacy of the Taya regime's attempts to curry favor with the West.

Parliamentary and municipal elections in Mauritania took place on 19 November and the 3 December 2006.

2007 Presidential election
The first fully democratic Presidential election since 1960 occurred on 11 March 2007. The election effected the final transfer from military to civilian rule following the military coup in 2005. This was the first time that the president had been selected in a multi-candidate election in the country's post-independence history.

The election was won in a second round of voting by Sidi Ould Cheikh Abdallahi, with Ahmed Ould Daddah a close second.

2008 military coup
The head of the Presidential Guards took over the president's palace and units of the army surrounded a key state building in the capital Nouakchott on 6 August 2008, a day after 48 lawmakers from the ruling party resigned. The army surrounded the state television building after the president fired two senior officers, including the head of the presidential guards. The president, the prime minister and the minister of internal affairs were arrested.

The coup was organized by General Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, former chief of staff of the Mauritanian army and head of the Presidential Guard, whom the president had just dismissed. Mauritania's presidential spokesman, Abdoulaye Mamadouba, said President Sidi Ould Cheikh Abdallahi, Prime Minister Yahya Ould Ahmed Waghf and the interior minister, were arrested by renegade Senior Mauritanian army officers, unknown troops and a group of generals, and were held under house arrest at the presidential palace in Nouakchott.

In the apparently successful and bloodless coup d'état, Abdallahi's daughter, Amal Mint Cheikh Abdallahi, said: "The security agents of the BASEP (Presidential Security Battalion) came to our home and took away my father." The coup plotters, all dismissed in a presidential decree shortly beforehand, included General Muhammad Ould ‘Abd Al-‘Aziz, General Muhammad Ould Al-Ghazwani, General Philippe Swikri, and Brigadier General (Aqid) Ahmad Ould Bakri.

[edit] After the coupA Mauritanian lawmaker, Mohammed Al Mukhtar, announced that "many of the country's people were supporting the takeover attempt and the government was "an authoritarian regime" and that the president had "marginalized the majority in parliament." The coup was also backed by Abdellahi's rival in the 2007 election, Ahmed Ould Daddah. However, Ould `Abd Al-`Aziz's regime was isolated internationally and punished by diplomatic sanctions and the cancellation of some aid projects.

It found few supporters, among them Morocco, Libya and Iran, while Algeria, the United States, France and other European countries criticized the coup, and continued to refer to Abdellahi as the legitimate president of Mauritania. A group of parties also coalesced around Abdellahi to continue to protest the coup, causing the junta to ban demonstration and crack down on opposition activists. International and internal pressure eventually forced the release of Abdellahi, who was instead placed in house arrest in his home village. The new government broke off relations with Israel. In March 2010 Mauritania's female foreign minister Naha Mint Hamdi Ould Mouknass announced that Mauritania had cut ties with Israel in a "complete and definitive way."

`Abd Al-`Aziz had since the coup insisted on organizing new presidential elections to replace Abdellahi, but was forced to reschedule them due to internal and international opposition. However, during the spring of 2009, the junta negotiated an understanding with some opposition figures as well as international parties, which dramatically changed the situation. Abdellahi formally resigned, under protest, as it became clear that some opposition forces had defected from him and most international players, notably including France and Algeria, now lined up behind `Abd Al-`Aziz. The United States continued to criticize the coup, but did not actively oppose the elections.

Abdellahi's resignation paved the way for the election of military strongman Muhammad Ould `Abd Al-`Aziz as civilian president, on 18 July, by a 52% majority. Many of Abdellahi's former supporters criticized this as a political ploy and refused to recognize the results. They argued that the election had been falsified due to junta control, and complained that the international community had let down the opposition. Despite marginal complaints, the elections were almost unanimously accepted by Western, Arab and African countries, which lifted sanctions and resumed cooperation with Mauritania.

By late summer, `Abd Al-`Aziz appeared to have secured his position and to have garnered widespread international and internal support, although several influential parties and political personalities, notably Senate chairman Messaoud Ould Boulkheir, continued to refuse the new order and call for `Abd Al-`Aziz's resignation.

In February 2011, the waves of 2010–2011 Middle East and North Africa protests spread to Mauritania, where hundreds of people took to the streets of Nouakchott

Mauritania has one of the lowest GDP rates in Africa, despite being rich in natural resources. However, a majority of the population still depends on agriculture and livestock for a livelihood, even though most of the nomads and many subsistence farmers were forced into the cities by recurrent droughts in the 1970s and 1980s. Mauritania has extensive deposits of iron ore, which account for almost 50% of total exports. With the current rises in metal prices, gold and copper mining companies are opening mines in the interior. The nation's coastal waters are among the richest fishing areas in the world, but over-exploitation by foreigners threatens this key source of revenue.[citation needed] The country's first deep water port opened near Nouakchott in 1986. In recent years, drought and economic mismanagement have resulted in a buildup of foreign debt. In March 1999, the government signed an agreement with a joint World Bank-IMF mission on a $54 million enhanced structural adjustment facility (ESAF).

The economic objectives have been set for 1999-2002. Privatization remains one of the key issues. Mauritania is unlikely to meet ESAF's annual GDP growth objectives of 4%-5%.

Oil was discovered in Mauritania in 2001 in the offshore Chinguetti deposit. Although potentially significant for the Mauritanian economy, it remains to be seen how much it will help the country. Mauritania has been described as a "desperately poor desert nation, which straddles the Arab and African worlds and is Africa's newest, if small-scale, oil producer." There may be additional oil reserves inland in the Taoudeni basin, although the harsh environment will make extraction expensive.

The Government's main problem is currently privatizing the economy.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Army restores security in Syria's northern town: report

Syria, officially the Syrian Arab Republic, is a country in Western Asia, bordering Lebanon and the Mediterranean Sea to the West, Turkey to the north, Iraq to the east, Jordan to the south, and Israel to the southwest.

The name Syria formerly comprised the entire region of the Levant, while the modern state encompasses the site of several ancient kingdoms and empires, including the Eblan civilization of the third millennium BC. In the Islamic era, its capital city, Damascus, one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, was the seat of the Umayyad Caliphate and a provincial capital of the Mamluk Sultanate of Egypt.

The population of Syria is 74% Sunni Muslim, with a 13% Shia and Alawite Muslim population, 10% Christian and 3% Druze. Since the 1960s, Alawite military officers have tended to dominate the country's politics. Some 90% of the population is Muslim, which includes Arabs, Kurds, Circassians, and others, while some 10% are Christians, which includes Arabs, Assyrians/Syriacs, and Armenians. Ethnic minorities include Kurdish, Assyrian/Syriac, Armenian, Turkmen, and Circassian populations.

The modern Syrian state was established as a French mandate and attained independence in April 1946, as a parliamentary republic. The post-independence period was tumultuous, and a large number of military coups and coup attempts shook the country in the period 1949-1970. Syria was under Emergency Law from 1962–2011, effectively suspending most constitutional protections for citizens, and its system of government is considered non-democratic. Bashar al-Assad is the current president, and is preceded by his father Hafez al-Assad, who was in office since 1971. Syria is currently facing mass protests as part of the Arab Spring.

Xinhaunet.comEnglishNews: Army restores security in Syria's northern town: report

DAMASCUS, June 14 (Xinhua) -- A military source said Tuesday that security has returned to the violence-hit town of Jisr al- Shughour in north Syria and the residents are gradually returning to their homes, the official news agency SANA reported.

The army is still hunting down remnants of the armed groups in the mountains and forests surrounding Jisr al-Shughour, said the source.

SANA said Sunday that Jisr al-Shughour was under full control of the Syrian army, adding that one soldier was killed and four others wounded during confrontations with gunmen in the city.

The Syrian TV on Monday showed photos of a mass grave, which was uncovered by the army, containing the remains of 12 policemen and security agents allegedly killed by "armed terrorist groups" in the same area.

The photos showed mutilated bodies, most of them decapitated by machetes and with marks of wounds from gunshots.

The TV also broadcasted confessions by a member of the armed groups Anwar Al-Doush, who gave full details about the events of what the TV described as a "criminal massacre" committed against the police forces.

The private Al-Watan newspaper said earlier the army reseized Jisr al-Shughour after a "very delicate" operation and reported no casualties among civilians. It said the army arrested a big number of gunmen while others fled towards the Turkish borders to join their families there.

Residents welcomed the deployment of the army in the area and showered them with rice and flowers upon their arrival, the paper said.

Jisr al-Shughour has witnessed the fiercest clashes in the Syria since the eruption of protests in mid March.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Nabro Volcano, and Eritraa

Elevation 2,218 m (7,277 ft)
Type Stratovolcano

The Nabro Volcano is a stratovolcano located in the Northern Red Sea Region of Eritrea. It is located in the Danakil Depression.

Part of the Afar Triangle, the Nabro Volcano is one of many volcanic caldera complexes in the northeasternmost part of the East African Rift valley region. The twin calderas likely formed about during an eruption of about 20 to 100 cubic kilometres consisting of ignimbrite, although the date of their formation is unknown. The subaerial volume of volcanic material within the Nabro Volcanic Range mantle plume is likely on the order of 550 km3.

2011 eruption
Despite having undergone no eruptions in recent history, the Nabro Volcano likely erupted shortly after midnight on June 13, 2011 local time, after a series of earthquakes in the Eritrea-Ethiopia border region, ranging up to magnitude 5.7. The ash plume was observed on satellite drifting to the west-northwest along the border, and spanned about 50 km wide and several hundred kilometres across in the hours immediately following the reported eruption. The ash plume reportedly reached 8 miles (15km) high.

Eritrea, officially the State of Eritrea, is a country in the Horn of Africa. The capital is Asmara. It is bordered by Sudan in the west, Ethiopia in the south, and Djibouti in the southeast. The northeast and east of the country have an extensive coastline on the Red Sea, directly across from Saudi Arabia and Yemen. The Dahlak Archipelago and several of the Hanish Islands are part of Eritrea. Eritrea's size is approximately 117,600 km2 (45,406 sq mi) with an estimated population of 5 million.

Together with northern Somalia, Djibouti, and the Red Sea coast of Sudan, Eritrea is considered the most likely location of the land known to the ancient Egyptians as Punt (or "Ta Netjeru," meaning god's land), whose first mention dates to the 25th century BC. The ancient Puntites were a nation of people that had close relations with Pharaonic Egypt during the times of Pharaoh Sahure and Queen Hatshepsut.

D'mt was a kingdom located in Eritrea and northern Ethiopia that existed during the 8th and 7th centuries BC. With its capital at Yeha, the kingdom developed irrigation schemes, used plows, grew millet, and made iron tools and weapons. After the fall of Dʿmt in the 5th century BC, the plateau came to be dominated by smaller successor kingdoms, until the rise of one of these polities, the Aksumite Kingdom during the first century, which was able to reunite the area.[8]

The history of Eritrea is tied to its strategic position on the Red Sea littoral, with a coastline that extends more than 1,000 km. Many scientists believe that it is from this area that anatomically modern humans first expanded out of Africa.[9] From across the seas came various invaders and colonizers, such as the South Arabians hailing from the present-day Yemen area, as well as the Ottoman Turks, the Portuguese from Goa (India), the Egyptians, the British and, in the 19th century, the Italians. Over the centuries, invaders also came from the neighboring countries in East Africa, like Sudan to the west. However, present-day Eritrea was largely affected by the Italian invaders of the 19th century.

In the period following the opening of the Suez canal in 1869, when European powers scrambled for territory in Africa and tried to establish coaling stations for their ships, Italy invaded Ethiopia and occupied Eritrea. On January 1, 1890, Eritrea officially became a colony of Italy. In 1936, it became a province of Italian East Africa (Africa Orientale Italiana), along with Ethiopia and Italian Somaliland. By 1941 Eritrea had about 760,000 inhabitants, including 70,000 Italians.

The Ethiopian armed forces along with British reinforcements expelled those of Italy in 1941 and took over the administration of the country which had been set up by the Italians. The British continued to administer the territory under a UN Mandate until 1951 when Eritrea was federated with Ethiopia as per UN resolution 390(A) under the prompting of the United States adopted in December 1950.

The strategic importance of Eritrea, due to its Red Sea coastline and mineral resources, along with their shared history, was the main cause for the federation with Ethiopia, which in turn led to Eritrea's annexation as Ethiopia's 14th province in 1952. This was the culmination of a gradual process of takeover by the Ethiopian authorities, a process which included a 1959 edict establishing the compulsory teaching of Amharic, the main language of Ethiopia, in all Eritrean schools. The lack of regard for the Eritrean population led to the formation of an independence movement in the early 1960s (1961), which erupted into a 30-year war against successive Ethiopian governments that ended in 1991. Following a UN-supervised referendum in Eritrea (dubbed UNOVER) in which the Eritrean people overwhelmingly voted for independence, Eritrea declared its independence and gained international recognition in 1993.

The de facto predominant languages are Tigrinya and Arabic, both of which belong to the Semitic branch of the Afro-Asiatic family. English is used in the government's international communication and is the language of instruction in all formal education beyond the fifth grade.

Eritrea is a single-party state. Though its constitution, adopted in 1997, stipulates that the state is a presidential republic with a unicameral parliamentary democracy, it has yet to be implemented. In 1998 a border dispute with Ethiopia led to the Eritrean-Ethiopian War. The war resulted in the death of as many as 100,000 Ethiopian and Eritrean soldiers, although specific casualty estimates are varied.

Politics and government
Eritrea is run by the People's Front for Democracy and Justice (PFDJ).[15] Other political groups are not allowed to organize, although the unimplemented Constitution of 1997 provides for the existence of multi-party politics. The National Assembly has 150 seats, of which 75 are occupied by the PFDJ. National elections have been periodically scheduled and cancelled; none have ever been held in the country.

Independent local sources of political information on Eritrean domestic politics are scarce; in September 2001 the government closed down all of the nation's privately owned print media, and outspoken critics of the government have been arrested and held without trial, according to various international observers, including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International. In 2004 the U.S. State Department declared Eritrea a Country of Particular Concern (CPC) for its record of religious persecution

Relations with the West
Eritrea's relationship with the United States has a short yet complex history. Although the two nations have a close working relationship regarding the on-going war on terror, there has been a growing tension in other areas. Relations worsened in October 2008 when U.S. Assistant Secretary of State, Jendayi Frazer, called the nation a 'state sponsor of terrorism' and stated that the U.S. government might add Eritrea to its list of rogue states, along with Iran and Sudan. The stated reason for this was the presence of Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys, an exiled Somali Islamist leader, whom the U.S. suspects of having links to Al Qaeda, at a Somali opposition conference in Asmara.[

Eritrea's relationship with Italy and the EU is still reasonably strong and does not seem to be as strained as is its relationship with the U.S. On 27 January 2009, the Netherlands Ambassador Yoka Brandt, Director General of International Development Cooperation, paid an official visit to the country for bilateral talks with President Isaias' government, which were held in Massawa.

During the week of August 2, 2009, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton claimed that Eritrea is supplying weapons to the Somali militant group al-Shabab. Although Eritrea denied this accusation in a public statement the following day, the United Nations, with the backing of the African Union, imposed sanctions and an arms embargo on Eritrea under Resolution 1907 for its alleged role in Somalia and refusal to withdraw troops from the border with Djibouti.

Like the economies of many other African nations, the economy is largely based on subsistence agriculture, with 80% of the population involved in farming and herding. Drought has often created trouble in the farming areas.

The Real GDP (2009 est.): $1.87 billion, and the annual growth rate (2009 est.): 3.6%.

The Eritrean-Ethiopian War severely hurt Eritrea's economy. GDP growth in 1999 fell to less than 1%, and GDP decreased by 8.2% in 2000. In May 2000, the war resulted in some $600 million in property damage and loss, including losses of $225 million in livestock and 55,000 homes. The war also prevented the planting of crops in Eritrea's most productive region, causing food production to drop by 62%.[44][45]

Even during the war, Eritrea developed its transportation infrastructure by asphalting new roads, improving its ports, and repairing war-damaged roads and bridges as a part of the Warsay Yika'alo Program. The most significant of these projects was the building of a coastal highway of more than 500 km connecting Massawa with Asseb as well as the rehabilitation of the Eritrean Railway. The rail line now runs between the Port of Massawa and the capital Asmara.

US Capitol Cities: Carson City, Nevada

The Consolidated Municipality of Carson City is the capital of the state of Nevada. The population was 52,457 at the 2000 census.

The first European Americans to arrive in what is known as Eagle Valley were John C. Fremont and his exploration party in January 1843. Fremont named the river flowing through the valley Carson River in honor of Christopher "Kit" Carson, the mountain man and scout he had hired for his expedition. Prior to the Fremont expedition, only Washoe Indians inhabited the valley and surrounding areas. Settlers named the area Washoe in reference to the tribe.

By 1851 the Eagle Station ranch located along the Carson River served as a trading post and stopover for travelers on the California Trail's Carson Branch which ran through Eagle Valley. The valley and trading post received their name from a bald eagle that was hunted and killed by one of the early settlers and was featured on a wall inside the post.

As the area was part of the Utah Territory, it was governed from Salt Lake City, where the territorial government was headquartered. Early settlers bristled at the control exterted by Mormon-influenced officials and desired the creation of the Nevada territory. A vigilante group of influential settlers, headed by Abraham Curry, sought a site for a capital city for the envisioned territory.

In 1858, Abraham Curry bought Eagle Station and thereafter renamed the settlement Carson City. As Curry and several other partners had Eagle Valley surveyed for development. Curry had decided for himself that Carson City would someday serve as the capital city and left a 10-acre (40,000 m2) plot open in the center of town for a future capitol building.

Following the discovery of gold and silver in 1859 on the nearby Comstock Lode, Carson City's population began to rise. Curry built the Warm Springs Hotel a mile to the east of the center of town. As predicted, Carson City was selected as the territorial capital, besting Virginia City and American Flat. Curry loaned the Warm Springs Hotel to the territorial Legislature as a meeting hall. The Legislature named Carson City to be the seat of Ormsby County and selected the hotel as the territorial prison with Curry serving as its first warden. Today the property still serves as part of the state prison.

When Nevada became a state in 1864 during the Civil War, Carson City was confirmed as Nevada's permanent capital. Carson City's development was no longer dependent on the mining industry and instead became a thriving commercial center. The Virginia & Truckee Railroad was built between Virginia City and Carson City. A wooden flume was also built from the Sierra Nevadas into Carson City. The current capitol building was constructed from 1870–71. The United States Mint operated a branch mint in Carson City between the years 1870 and 1893, which struck gold and silver coins.

Carson City's population and transportation traffic decreased when the Southern Pacific Railroad built a line through Donner Pass, too far to the north to benefit Carson City. The city was slightly revitalized with the mining booms in Tonopah and Goldfield. The US federal building (now renamed the Paul Laxalt Building) was completed in 1890 as was the Stewart Indian School. Carson City resigned itself to small city status, advertising itself as "America's smallest capital."

20th-century revitalization and growth

The city slowly grew; by 1960 it had reached its 1880, boom-time population. Portions of Ormsby County had been given over to neighboring counties and by this time the county was not much larger than the city itself. In 1969 Ormsby County was officially dissolved and Carson City took over all municipal services with an independent city status. With this consolidation, Carson City absorbed former town sites such as Empire City, which had grown up in the 1860s as a milling center along the Carson River and current US 50. Carson City could now advertise itself as one of America's largest state capitals with its 146 square miles (380 km2) of city limits.

In 1991, the city adopted a downtown master plan, specifying that no building within 500 feet (152 m) of the capitol would surpass it in height. This plan prohibited future high-rise development in the center of downtown.[6] The Ormsby House is currently the tallest building in downtown Carson City, at a height of 117 feet. The structure was completed in 1972.

Carson City is the smallest of the United States' 363 Metropolitan Statistical Areas.

As of the 2010 census there are 55,274 people, 20,171 households, and 13,252 families residing in the city. The population density is 366 people per square mile (141/km²). There are 21,283 housing units at an average density of 148/sq mi (57/km²). The racial makeup of the city is 81.1% White, 1.9% Black or African American, 2.4% Native American, 2.1% Asian, 0.2% Pacific Islander, 9.4% from other races, and 2.9% from two or more races. 21% of the population are Hispanic or Latino of any race.

The following is a list of the top employers in Carson City:

State of Nevada
Department of Transportation
Department of Corrections
Department of Motor Vehicles
Department of Defense
Carson City School District
Carson-Tahoe Hospital
Carson City
Western Nevada Community College
Chromalloy Nevada
Casino Fandango
Legislative Counsel Bureau
Carson Nugget
Click Bond, Inc.
Gold Dust West

Government and politics
Carson City is governed via the mayor-council system. The mayor is elected in a citywide vote to a four year term. The city council is called the Board of Supervisors and has four members. Members are elected from single member wards. Nevada's capital is generally considered a Republican stronghold, often voting for Republicans by wide margins. In 2004, George Bush defeated John Kerry 57-40%. In 2008 however Barack Obama became the first Democrat since 1964 to win Carson City, defeating John McCain 49% to 48%, by 204 votes, a margin of under 1%.[

The Carson City School District operates ten schools in Carson City. The six elementary schools are Bordewich-Bray Elementary School, Empire Elementary School, Fremont Elementary School, Fritsch Elementary School, Mark Twain Elementary School, and Al Seeliger Elementary School. The two middle schools are Carson Middle School and Eagle Valley Middle School. Carson High School and the alternative Pioneer High School serve high school students. Carson High is on Saliman Road.

Western Nevada College (WNC) is a regionally accredited, two year and four year institution which is part of the Nevada System of Higher Education. It has an education program. The school also offers associate of arts, associate of science.

Sports and Recreation
Carson City has never hosted any professional team sports. However, a variety of sports are offered a parks and recreation. Many neighborhood parks offers a wide variety of features, including picnic tables, beaches, restrooms, fishing, softball, basketball, pond, tennis, and volleyball. The largest park is the Mill park, which has a total of 51 acres (0.21 km2) of land. While there are no ski slopes within Carson City, the city is located close to Heavenly Mountain Resort, Diamond Peak and Mount Rose skiing areas.

Points of Interest

MuseumsNevada State Capitol – original capitol still housing the governor's offices with museum exhibits
Nevada State Museum – former state mint featuring rock, mining and prehistoric exhibits, and a recreated Wild West village
Nevada State Railroad Museum – featuring the Inyo locomotive and relocated Wabuska Railroad Station
Stewart Indian School – museum collection includes items from former faculty, students and school
Foreman-Roberts House Museum – Gothic Revival architecture, tours available.
Sears-Ferris House (not open to public) - home of George Ferris, inventor of the Ferris wheel

Open land
Silver Saddle Ranch
Mexican Dam – 1860's stone dam across the Carson River
Prison Hill – California Trail historic markers, location of the Stewart "S"
Carson Aquatic Trail
Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest (Carson Ranger District)
Kings Canyon Falls
Snow Valley Peak – 9,214 ft (2,808 m) – highest point within Carson City
Tahoe Rim Trail
Lake Tahoe – Nevada State Park – three beaches lie within or near the city limits
Chimney Beach
Secret Harbor
Skunk Harbor
Washoe Lake State Park – borders city to the north
"C Hill" – hill featuring the Carson City "C" and giant American Flag

Saturday, June 11, 2011

US Capitol Cities: Boise, Idaho

From Wikipedia:
Boise (Boy-zee) is the capital and most populous city of the U.S. state of Idaho as well as the county seat of Ada County. Located on the Boise River, this is the most populated city of the Boise City-Nampa metropolitan area and the largest city between Salt Lake City, Utah and Portland, Oregon. As of the 2010 Census Bureau, Boise's city population was 205,671, making it the fourth largest city in the American Pacific Northwest. The Boise metropolitan area is estimated to have 616,500 inhabitants, by far the most populous metropolitan area in Idaho. It is also the 104th largest U.S. city by population.

The area was called Boise long before establishment of Fort Boise. The original Fort Boise was 40 miles (64 km) west near Parma, down the Boise River near its confluence with the Snake River at the Oregon border. This defense was erected by the Hudson's Bay Company in the 1830s. It was abandoned in the 1850s, but massacres along the Oregon Trail prompted the U.S. Army to re-establish a fort in the area in 1863 during the U.S. Civil War.

The new location was selected because it was near the intersection of the Oregon Trail with a major road connecting the Boise Basin (Idaho City) and the Owyhee (Silver City) mining areas, both of which were booming at the time. During the mid-1860s, Idaho City was the largest city in the Northwest, and as a staging area, Fort Boise grew rapidly; Boise was incorporated as a city in 1864. The first capital of the Idaho Territory was Lewiston in north Idaho, which in 1863 was the largest community, exceeding the populations of Olympia and Seattle, Washington Territory and Portland, Oregon combined. The original territory was larger than Texas. But following the creation of Montana Territory, Boise was made the territorial capital of a much reduced Idaho in a contentious decision which overturned a district court ruling via a one vote margin in the territorial supreme court along geographic lines in 1866.

Designed by Alfred B. Mullett, the U.S. Assay Office at 210 Main Street was built in 1871, and is today a National Historic Landmark.

Boise is located at 43°36′49″N 116°14′16″W / 43.61361°N 116.23778°W / 43.61361; -116.23778 (43.613739, −116.237651),[4] in western Idaho, approximately 41 miles (66 km) east of the Oregon border, and 110 miles (177 km) north of the Nevada border. The downtown sits at an elevation of 2,704 feet (824 m) above sea level.

Most of the metropolitan area lies on a broad, relatively flat plain, descending to the west. Mountains rise up to the northeast, stretching from the far southeastern tip of the Boise city limits to nearby Eagle. These mountains are known to locals as the Boise foothills and are sometimes described as the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. About 34 miles (55 km) southwest of Boise, and about 26 miles (42 km) southwest of Nampa, the Owyhee Mountains lie entirely in neighboring Owyhee County.

According to the census bureau, the city has a total area of 64.0 square miles (166 km2), with 63.8 square miles (165 km2) of land and 0.2 square miles (0.52 km2) (0.33%) of water. The city is drained by the Boise River.

Parts of the city
The Idaho State Capitol is the 3rd tallest building in BoiseBoise occupies a large area — 64 sq mi (170 km2) according to the United States Census Bureau. Like most major metropolitan areas, it is divided into several neighborhoods. These include the Bench, the North End, West Boise and Downtown, among others.

Downtown Boise
Downtown Boise is Boise's cultural center and home to many small businesses and several high-rises. The area has an array of shopping and dining choices. Centrally, 8th Street contains a pedestrian zone with streetside cafes and restaurants. The neighborhood is home to many local restaurants, bars and boutiques and supports a lively night life.

Downtown Boise's economy was threatened in the late 1990s by extensive growth around the Boise Towne Square Mall (away from the city center) and an increasing number of shopping centers which have sprung up around new housing developments. Events such as Alive-after-Five and First Thursday have been created to combat this trend.

North End
The North End, which contains many of Boise's older homes, is known for its tree-lined drives such as Harrison Boulevard, and for its quiet neighborhoods near the downtown area. Downtown Boise is visible from Camel's Back Park. On 13th Street, Hyde Park is home to four small restaurants and other businesses. The North End also hosts events such as the annual Hyde Park Street Fair. In 2008, the American Planning Association (APA) designated Boise's North End one of 10 Great Neighborhoods.

Southwest Boise
Lakeharbor on Silver LakeSouthwest Boise contains sparsely populated neighborhoods built from the 1960s to the early 1980s. Many include acre-sized plots and the occasional farmhouse and pasture. Growth in the area was limited in the 1980s to prevent of urban sprawl. Since this has been lifted there has been widespread growth of new homes and neighborhoods. The area lies fairly close to Interstate 84, theaters, shopping, the airport, golf and the Boise Bench area.

Northwest Boise
Northwest Boise lies against the Boise Foothills to the north, State Street to the south, the city of Eagle to the west, and downtown Boise to the east. It contains a mix of old and new neighborhoods, including Lakeharbor, which features the private Silver Lake, a reclaimed quarry. Northwest Boise has some pockets of older homes with a similar aesthetic to the North End. Downtown is minutes away, as is Veteran's Memorial Park[16] and easy access to the Boise Greenbelt. Across the river sits the Boise Bench and to the west is fast access to the bedroom communities of Eagle, Star, and Middleton.

Warm Springs
Warm Springs is centered around the tree-lined Warm Springs Avenue and contains some of Boise's largest and most expensive homes (many of which were erected by wealthy miners and businessmen around the turn of the 20th century; Victorian styles feature prominently). The area gets its name from the natural hot springs that flow from Boise's fault line and warm many of the homes in the area.

East End
The far east end of Warm Springs was once known as Barber Town, featuring a hotel with hot springs nestled into the foothills. It now has some new residential developments, with easy access to Highway 21, which leads to the south-central Idaho mountains, the Boise River, the Boise Foothills, and the Idaho Shakespeare Festival.

Southeast Boise
Southeast Boise spans from Boise State University to Micron Technology – all areas between Federal Way and the Boise River. The older area just south of the University can be described as a cross between the North End and the Boise bench. The rest of Southeast Boise was developed in the last thirty years with suburban style homes. Unlike the more typical flat suburban sprawl, residents of Southeast Boise are reminded of their city's natural beauty as they catch a close view of Table Rock, or drive along the winding Parkcenter Blvd. along the Boise River.

Many people consider this end of Boise a hidden gem as just about everything is about 15 minutes from home: the river, greenbelt, the mountains, lakes, snow, high mountain desert, and more.

Columbia Village subdivision and the older Oregon Trail Heights, were the first major planned communities in Southeast Boise with an elementary and middle school all within walking distance from all homes. The subdivision is located at the intersections of Interstate 84, Idaho 21, and Federal Way (former U.S. Highway), which are all major arteries to get anywhere in Boise. The subdivision was developed around the Simplot Sports complex (with over 20 fields), as well as a baseball complex, swimming pools, and the has a stunning view of the valley. The fields are built over an old landfill/dump and the fields and gravel parking lot allow radon gases to escape through the ground. Columbia Village Homes are not built over the dump.

TrailWind Elementary School, built in 1997, is in the middle of the subdivision and is the largest population elementary school in the Boise School District. It has an extremely active parent teacher association and a high level of parental involvement. Les Bois Junior High is also located in the center of the subdivision, having relocated from its previous home at Apple and Boise Avenue. After an upgrade and expansion, the former junior high became Timberline High School.

Surprise Valley is another large subdivision located on the bench above the river. Its homes are much higher end than the Columbia Village and Oregon Trail Heights subdivisions. Two churches are located within its borders: Eastwind Fellowship and Trinity Presbyterian, which relocated in 2002 from an older SE Boise location on Apple Street.

The Boise Bench
The Boise Bench is south of Downtown Boise and is raised in elevation approximately 60 feet (18 m). The bench is named such because the sudden rise in elevation gives the prominent appearance of a step, or bench. The Bench (or Benches, there are three actual benches throughout the Boise Valley) was created as an ancient shoreline to the old river channel. The Bench is home to the old Boise Train Depot and extensive residential neighborhoods. Due south of the Boise Bench is the Boise Airport.

West Boise
West Boise is home to Boise Towne Square Mall, the largest in the state, as well as numerous restaurants, strip malls, and residential developments ranging from new subdivisions to apartment complexes. The Ada County jail and Hewlett Packard's Printing Division are also located here. It is relatively the flattest section of Boise, with sweeping views of the Boise Front

Boise is the headquarters for several major companies, such as Boise Cascade LLC, New Albertsons Inc., Albertsons LLC, J.R. Simplot Company, Idaho Pacific Lumber Company, Idaho Timber, WinCo Foods, Bodybuilding.com, and Clearwater Analytics. Other major industries are headquartered in Boise or have large manufacturing facilities present. The state government is also one of the city's largest employers.

The area's largest private employer publicly traded and headquartered company in Boise is Micron Technology (NYSE: MU). Others include IDACORP, Inc. (NYSE: ida), the parent company of Idaho Power, Idaho Bancorp (NYSE: IDA), Boise, Inc. (NYSE: BZ), American Ecology Corp. (NASDAQ: ECOL), PCS Edventures.com Inc. (NASDAQ: PCSV) and Syringa Bancorp.

Technology investment and the high-tech industry have become increasingly important to the city, with businesses including Healthwise, Bodybuilding.com, Crucial.com, MobileDataForce, MarkMonitor, Sybase, Balihoo.com, Wire-stone.com and Microsoft. The call center industry is also a major source of employment; there are over 20 call centers in the city employing more than 7,000 people, including WDSGlobal, EDS, Teleperformance, DIRECTV and T-Mobile.[25]

Varney Air Service, founded by Walter Varney, was formed in Boise, though headquarted at Pasco, Washington. The original air mail contract was from Pasco to Elko, Nevada with stops in Boise in both directions. The company is the root of present day United Airlines, which still serves the city at the newly renovated and upgraded Boise Airport.

The Boise School District includes 31 elementary schools, eight junior high schools, five high schools and two specialty schools. Part of the Meridian School District (the largest district in Idaho) overlaps into Boise city limits, and the city is therefore home to six public high schools: Boise High School, Borah High School, Capital High School, Timberline High School as well as Meridian School District's Centennial High School and the alternative Frank Church High School. Boise's private schools include the Catholic Bishop Kelly High School, Foothills School of Arts and Sciences and the International Baccalaureate-accredited Riverstone International School.

Post-secondary educational options in Boise include Boise State University as well as a wide range of technical schools. University of Idaho (UI) and Idaho State University each maintain a satellite campus in Boise. As of 2009, the city did not have any law schools.[26] UI plans to open a third-year law program in 2010 and Concordia University plans to open the Concordia University School of Law in 2011 in the city.[26] Boise is home to Boise Bible College, an undergraduate degree-granting college that exists to train leaders for churches as well as missionaries for the world.

The Basque Block

Numbering about 15,000, Boise's ethnic Basque community is the second largest such community in the United States after Bakersfield, California and the fifth largest in the world outside Mexico, Argentina, Chile and the Basque Country in Spain and France. A large Basque festival known as Jaialdi is held once every five years (next in 2015). Downtown Boise features a vibrant section known as the "Basque Block". Boise's mayor, David H. Bieter, is of Basque descent. Boise is also a sister region of the Basque communities.

Boise is also a regional hub for jazz and theater. The Gene Harris Jazz Festival is hosted in Boise each spring. The city is also home to a number of museums, including the Boise Art Museum, Idaho Historical Museum, the Basque Museum and Cultural Center, Idaho Black History Museum, Boise WaterShed and the Discovery Center of Idaho. Several theater groups operate in the city, including the Idaho Shakespeare Festival, Boise Little Theatre, Boise Contemporary Theater, and Prairie Dog Productions. On the first Thursday of each month, a gallery stroll is hosted in the city's core business district by the Downtown Boise Association. The city also has the Egyptian Theatre as a renovated venue. In the fall, Downtown Boise hosts a film festival called Idaho International Film Festival.

Boise also has a thriving performing arts community. The Boise Philharmonic,[28] now in its 49th season, under the leadership of Music Director and Conductor Robert Franz continues to grow musically, and introduces world-class guest artists and composers year after year. The dance community is represented by the resurgent Ballet Idaho under artistic director Peter Anastos, and the nationally known and critically acclaimed Trey McIntyre Project[31] also make their home in Boise. Rounding out the classical performing arts is Opera Idaho under the direction of Mark Junkert, who bring grand Opera to various venues throughout the Treasure Valley.

The Boise Centre on the Grove is an 85,000-square-foot (7,900 m2) convention center that hosts a variety of events, including international, national, and regional conventions, conferences, banquets, and consumer shows. It is located in the heart of downtown Boise and borders the Grove Plaza, which hosts numerous outdoor functions throughout the year.

The Morrison-Knudsen Nature Center offers water features and wildlife experiences just east of downtown. It is located adjacent to Municipal Park. It features live fish and wildlife exhibits, viewing areas into the water, bird and butterfly gardens, waterfalls and a free visitor's center.

Boise has diverse and vibrant religious communities. The Jewish community's Ahavath Beth Israel Temple, completed 1896, is the nation's oldest continually-used temple west of the Mississippi. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints dedicated a temple there in 1984 and the Boise Hare Krishna Temple opened in August 1999.

Boise (along with Valley and Boise Counties) hosted the 2009 Special Olympics World Winter Games. More than 2,500 athletes from over 85 countries participated

Major attractions
A number of recreational opportunities are available in Boise, including extensive hiking and biking in the foothills to the immediate north of downtown. Much of this trail network is part of Hull's Gulch and can be accessed by 8th street. An extensive urban trail system called the Boise River Greenbelt runs along the river. The Boise River itself is a common destination for fishing, swimming and rafting.

In Julia Davis Park is Zoo Boise, which has over 200 animals representing over 80 species from around the world. An Africa exhibit, completed in 2008, is the most recent addition.

The Bogus Basin ski area opened in 1942 and hosts multiple winter activities, primarily alpine skiing and snowboarding, but also cross-country skiing and snow tubing. "Bogus" is 16 miles (26 km) from the city limits (less than an hour drive from downtown) on a twisty paved road which climbs 3400 vertical feet (1036 m) through sagebrush and forest.

Professional sports teams in Boise include the Boise Hawks of the short-season Class A Northwest League (minor league baseball), the Idaho Steelheads of the ECHL (minor league hockey), the Idaho Stampede of the NBA Development League (minor league basketball), and the Treasure Valley Spartans (semi-pro football) of the (Rocky Mountain Football League). An arenafootball2 franchise, the Boise Burn, began play in 2007 but is now defunct.

On the sports entertainment front, Boise is home to an all-female, DIY, flat track roller derby league, the Treasure Valley Rollergirls, which on Labor Day Weekend 2010 hosted an international, two-day, double elimination tournament, the first Spudtown Knockdown, featuring eight teams from throughout the American West and Canada.

The Boise Buccaneers of the Professional Developmental Football League began play in 2009. The team provides a platform for former collegiate athletes and other talented players to continue playing at high level, while trying to extend their career. Games are during the spring and summer and are located at Simplot Stadium in Caldwell ID.

The Boise State University campus is home to Velma V. Morrison Center for the Performing Arts, which hosts local and national fine arts performances; Bronco Stadium, the 32,000 seat football and track stadium known for its blue Field Turf field; and Taco Bell Arena, a 12,000 seat basketball and entertainment venue which opened in 1982 as the BSU Pavilion. Boise State University is known primarily for the recent successes of its football team, although it is also a fairly well regarded commuter school for undergraduate students.

The Roady's Humanitarian Bowl football game (formerly known as the Humanitarian Bowl and later the MPC Computers Bowl) is held in late December each year, and pairs a team from the Western Athletic Conference with a Mid-American Conference team.

The World Center for Birds of Prey is located just outside city limits, and is a key part of the re-establishment of the Peregrine Falcon and the subsequent removal from the Endangered Species list. The center is currently breeding the very rare California condor, among many other rare and endangered species.

The city has been cited by publications like Forbes, Fortune and Sunset for its quality of life.

The cornerstone mall in Boise, Boise Towne Square Mall, is also a major shopping attraction for Boise, Nampa, Caldwell, and surrounding areas and has recently been through an upgrade along with adding new retailers.

The state's largest giant sequoia can be found near St. Lukes Hospital.