Monday, February 28, 2011

Oman and Libya

Attached are two maps - one showing where Libya is, the other where Oman is.

The maps are color coded. Dark grey countries are 1-25% Muslim. White spaces are 26-50% Muslim. Light grey is 51-100% Muslim. (The maps are from a book on the Muslim world).

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

New Zealand Earthquake 2022: Magnitude 6.3

New Zealand is an island country in the south-western Pacific Ocean comprising two main landmasses (the North Island and the South Island) and numerous smaller islands, most notably Stewart Island/Rakiura and the Chatham Islands. The indigenous Māori name for New Zealand is Aotearoa, commonly translated as land of the long white cloud. The Realm of New Zealand also includes Tokelau; the Cook Islands and Niue (self-governing but in free association); and the Ross Dependency, New Zealand's territorial claim in Antarctica.

New Zealand is notable for its geographic isolation: it is situated about 2,000 kilometres (1,200 mi) southeast of Australia across the Tasman Sea, and its closest neighbours to the north are the Pacific Islands of New Caledonia, Fiji and Tonga. The country's sharp mountain peaks owe much to the earthquakes and volcanic activity caused by the clashing Pacific and Indo-Australian Plates. The climate is mild and temperate and most of the landscape is covered by tussock grass or forests of podocarp, kauri or southern beech. During its long isolation New Zealand developed a distinctive fauna dominated by birds, a number of which became extinct after the arrival of humans and introduced mammals.

A strong earthquake shook New Zealand on Tuesday afternoon, according to reports.

The 6.3-magnitude quake, per the USGS, shook New Zealand's South Island and its largest city of Christchurch at 12:50 p.m. local time.

Scroll Down For Live Updates

The New Zealand Herald reported that the quake's epicenter was Lyttelton with a depth of 5 kilometers, though it was felt as far away as Wellington and Dunedin per Twitter reports. It shook the Canterbury region, which has a population of approximately 500,000. Radio New Zealand reports "that some people have been killed."

Radio New Zealand also noted some of the damage from the quake in Christchurch: a church collapsed, a bridge is impassible, the airport has been shut down and the mayor is urging people not to drive due to road damage.

HuffPost reader Laura Campbell submitted these photos of the damage in Christchurch. A local New Zealand media outlet posted this photo of damage to Chirstchurch's historic Christchurch Cathedral.

Videos of the quake are beginning to surface on YouTube. One video (watch below) shows shaking, presumably an aftershock, and fallen rocks among the damage outside Christchurch.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Hundreds of villagers flee as Philippine volcano belches ash and smoke

What and Where Are the Phillipines?
The Philippines, officially known as the Republic of the Philippines (Filipino: Republika ng Pilipinas), is a country in Southeast Asia in the western Pacific Ocean.

To its north across the Luzon Strait lies Taiwan. West across the South China Sea sits Vietnam. The Sulu Sea to the southwest lies between the country and the island of Borneo, and to the south the Celebes Sea separates it from other islands of Indonesia. It is bounded on the east by the Philippine Sea.

Its location on the Pacific Ring of Fire and its tropical climate make the Philippines prone to earthquakes and typhoons but have also endowed the country with natural resources and made it one of the richest areas of biodiversity in the world. An archipelago comprising 7,107 islands, the Philippines is categorized broadly into three main geographical divisions: Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao. Its capital city is Manila.

With an estimated population of about 92 million people, the Philippines is the world's 12th most populous country. An additional 11 million Filipinos live overseas. Multiple ethnicities and cultures are found throughout the islands.

Winnipeg Free Press: Hundreds of villagers flee as Philippine volcano belches ash and smoke
MANILA, Philippines - Hundreds of villagers fled to safety Monday after a restive volcano belched ash and smoke into the sky after a monthlong lull, officials said.

Despite Mount Bulusan's ash explosion, its 13th since November, there were no signs of an imminent eruption involving magma pushing out of the cone, said government chief volcanologist Renato Solidum.

The huge plume of greyish smoke shot up to more than a mile (2 kilometres) toward the blue sky, with the ash drifting southwest toward four farming towns in Sorsogon province, where about 1,200 villagers fled to emergency shelters and houses of relatives, said Benito Ramos, who heads the government's disaster-response agency.

Army trucks helped villagers move from communities hit by the ashfall and emergency teams handed out protective masks, Ramos said.

There have not been any government orders to evacuate communities near the mountain. While many scrambled to safety, residents streamed out of houses in Irosin town to gaze or take pictures of the mid-morning spectacle using their cellphones.

Still-hot debris at the peak of Bulusan, one of the country's 23 active volcanoes, came into contact with water, sparking the explosion. Such steam-driven blasts have happened since November and could continue in coming weeks, Solidum said.

Bulusan lies about 240 miles (380 kilometres) southeast of Manila.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Deadly 'day of rage' in Libya

Libya (officially the Great Socialist People's Libyan Arab Jamahiriya) is a country located in North Africa. Bordering the Mediterranean Sea to the north, Libya lies between Egypt to the east, Sudan to the southeast, Chad and Niger to the south, and Algeria and Tunisia to the west.

With an area of almost 1,800,000 square kilometres (694,984 sq mi), Libya is the fourth largest country in Africa by area, and the 17th largest in the world.[4] The capital, Tripoli, is home to 1.7 million of Libya's 6.4 million people. The three traditional parts of the country are Tripolitania, Fezzan, and Cyrenaica. Libya has the highest HDI in Africa and the fourth highest GDP (PPP) per capita in Africa as of 2009, behind Seychelles, Equatorial Guinea and Gabon. These are largely due to its large petroleum reserves and low population.

The flag of Libya consists of a green field with no other characteristics. It is the only national flag in the world with just one color and no design, insignia, or other details

Aljazeera: Deadly 'day of rage' in Libya
Libyan protesters seeking to oust longtime leader Moammar Gadhafi have defied a crackdown and taken to the streets on what activists have dubbed a "day of rage".

There are reports that more than a dozen demonstrators have been killed in clashes with pro-government groups.

Opponents of Gaddafi, communicating anonymously online or working in exile, urged people to protest on Thursday to try to emulate popular uprisings which unseated long-serving rulers in neighbouring Tunisia and Egypt.

"Today the Libyans broke the barrier or fear, it is a new dawn,'' Faiz Jibril, an opposition leader in exile, said.

Live Blog

Abdullah, an eyewitness in the country's second largest city of Benghazi, who spoke to Al Jazeera, said that he saw six unarmed protesters shot dead by police on Thursday.
Read rest of article at the link above.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Factbox: Demands of Bahrain's protesters

Reuters: Factbox: Demands of Bahrain's protesters
(Reuters) - Clashes broke out in Bahrain this week as security forces tightened their grip on Shi'ite communities in anti-government protests [nLDE71E0NE].

Bahrain, a non-OPEC oil-producer and home to the U.S. Navy's Fifth Fleet, has a Shi'ite Muslim majority population but is governed by the Sunni Muslim Al Khalifa dynasty.

King Sheikh Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa rules the island kingdom, where half of the 1.3 million people population are expatriates.

Here is a list of the opposition and protesters' demands:

* Many Bahraini Shi'ites say they face discrimination in housing, healthcare and access to government jobs, a charge the government denies. Discontent has been expressed in on-and-off unrest since the mid-1990s.
* The introduction of a new constitution and parliamentary elections a decade ago helped quell the Shi'ite unrest, but tensions have risen again in recent years as Shi'ites have been disappointed with the assembly's limited clout.
* The main Shi'ite opposition group, Wefaq, won all 18 seats it contested in parliamentary elections in October, out of a total of 40. It competes with Sunni Islamist groups and the secular group Waad in parliament.
* The Shi'ite majority want the government to stop granting Sunnis from outside Bahrain citizenship and jobs in the armed forces and national security services to try to change the demographic balance.
* Night clashes between security forces and young Shi'ite protesters burning tires and throwing petrol bombs worsened last year.

* A statement from Bahraini activists said the revolution would begin on February 14 with peaceful rallies around Bahrain and continue until their demands were met.
* They called for changes and reforms in the country's governance and administration system.

The key demands:
* Dissolving the constitution of 2002.
* Formation of a council made up of experts and people of both the Sunni and Shi'ite sects to create a new constitution.

Color Map courtesy of and used with permission

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Woods has work to do after disappointing Dubai

Woods has work to do after disappointing Dubai
There were flashes of brilliance from Tiger Woods at the Dubai Desert Classic but also plenty of signs his new swing remains a work in progress.

Woods himself has no doubts about his future. "I feel like I can still win golf tournaments," the American said. "I'm not that old. I've still got some years ahead of me."

Woods drew cheers on Thursday when he hit a 3-wood 250 yards to the 18th green for an eagle. But he had trouble finding the fairway for much of the week in Dubai, his putter ran hot and cold and even his once-dangerous short game let him down Sunday when he finished tied for 20th.

What about Dubai?
Dubai is one of the seven emirates of the United Arab Emirates (UAE). It is located south of the Persian Gulf on the Arabian Peninsula and has the largest population with the second-largest land territory by area of all the emirates, after Abu Dhabi. Dubai and Abu Dhabi are the only two emirates to have veto power over critical matters of national importance in the country's legislature.

The earliest recorded mention of Dubai is in 1095, and the earliest settlement known as Dubai town dates from 1799. Dubai was formally established in the early 19th century by the Al Abu Falasa clan of Bani Yas, and it remained under clan control when the United Kingdom assumed the protection of Dubai in 1892. Its geographical location made it an important trading hub and by the beginning of the 20th century, it was an important port. In 1966, the year oil was discovered, Dubai and the emirate of Qatar set up a new monetary unit to replace the Gulf Rupee. The oil economy led to a massive influx of foreign workers, quickly expanding the city by 300% and bringing in international oil interests.

The modern emirate of Dubai was created after the UK left the area in 1971. At this time Dubai, together with Abu Dhabi and four other emirates, formed the United Arab Emirates. The following year Ras al Khaimah joined the federation while Qatar and Bahrain chose to remain independent nations. In 1973, the monetary union with Qatar was dissolved and the UAE Dirham introduced throughout the UAE. A free trade zone was built around the Jebel Ali port in 1979, allowing foreign companies unrestricted import of labour and export capital. The Gulf War of 1990 had a negative financial effect on the city, as depositors withdrew their money and traders withdrew their trade, but subsequently the city recovered in a changing political climate and thrived.

Today, Dubai has emerged as a global city and a business hub.[6] Although Dubai's economy was built on the oil industry, currently the emirate's model of business, similar to that of Western countries, drives its economy, with the effect that its main revenues are now from tourism, real estate, and financial services. Dubai has recently attracted world attention through many innovative large construction projects and sports events. This increased attention has highlighted labour rights and human rights issues concerning its largely South Asian workforce. Dubai's property market experienced a major deterioration in 2008 and 2009 as a result of the worldwide economic downturn following the Financial crisis of 2007–2010

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Natural gas explosion in Pennsylvania kills at least three

Where is Allentown?
Allentown is a city located in Lehigh County, Pennsylvania, in the United States. It is Pennsylvania's third most populous city, after Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, and the 239th largest city in the United States. As of the 2000 census, the city had a total population of 106,632, (2008 estimate 111,025). It is also the county seat of Lehigh County.

Located on the Lehigh River, Allentown is the largest of three adjacent cities that make up a region of eastern Pennsylvania and western New Jersey known as the Lehigh Valley, with the cities of Bethlehem and Easton nearby. Allentown is 60 miles north of Philadelphia, the sixth most populous city in the United States, 80 miles east of Harrisburg, the state capital, and 90 miles west of New York City, the nation's largest city.

Natural gas explosion in Pennsylvania kills at least three
ALLENTOWN, Pa. -- A natural gas explosion rocked a downtown neighborhood overnight, leveling two houses and spawning fires that burned for hours through a row of neighboring homes. Three people were killed, including an infant, and at least two others were unaccounted for Thursday.

The victims ranged in age from 4 months to 79 years old, Fire Chief Robert Scheirer said, but city officials have not released the names of those killed or missing.

A couple in their 70s lived in a two-story row house that blew up about 10:45 p.m. Wednesday, Police Chief Roger MacClean said. Michelle Hall told The Morning Call newspaper that her in-laws, Beatrice Hall, 74, and William, 79, lived in the home.

Scheirer said 47 buildings were damaged, and eight were expected to be total losses.

The cause of the explosion was unclear. The state Public Utility Commission is investigating and looking for any violations of state or federal law, said agency spokeswoman Jennifer Kocher.

"We don't know if it was the main, we don't know if it was the service line, if it was inside the house, outside the house," Kocher said. "It's all very preliminary at this point."

The blaze was put out early Thursday, delayed by the difficulty of digging through packed layers of snow and ice to a ruptured gas line feeding the flames, Scheirer said. About 500 to 600 people who were evacuated were allowed to return home.

The day before the explosion, a routine leak-detection check of the gas main that serves the area found no problems, said Joe Swope of Reading-based UGI Utilities. The main dates to 1928. There's no history of leaks for that section of 12-inch cast-iron main, and there were no calls about gas odors before the explosion, Swope said.

Utility crews had worked to shut off the gas mains in the area. The type of main used in that area typically does not have valves that allow for simply shutting off the stream of gas, a spokesman for the utility said in an e-mail.

The utility used foam to seal the gas main on both ends of a one-block area about 3:45 a.m. Thursday. It took crews some time to cut through reinforced concrete underneath the pavement, Swope said.