Environmentalists Becoming Hysterical As “Climate Change” Scam Falls Apart

(Refreshing News) The “Climate Change/Global Warming” crowd is reaching the point of hysteria. Fewer and fewer people are taking them seriously anymore.

Their drastic, proposed global regulations are being rejected by many countries around the world.
And, many of their dire predictions just haven’t come true – the computer models upon which they base their alarmism have proven to be false.
All of this rejection is making them more desperate and looney.

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U.S. sicker than rest of developed world—nutrition industry speaks out

(New Hope 360) A new report released last month found that Americans are unhealthier than 16 other developed countries.

The report, which was compiled by the National Research Council and the Institutes of Medicine, found that, despite the fact that Americans spend the most money per year on healthcare, we’re not healthier or living longer than other countries.

Several factors contribute to U.S. debility, such as a large uninsured population, high consumption of calories, high drug abuse, less use of seatbelts, high levels of poverty, high reliance on cars and low physical activity. No single factor explains the overall status of American health.

Of the health areas studied, Americans ranked worse than other countries in nine categories, including, among others, drug abuse, heart disease, obesity and diabetes, and lung disease.

The study found that U.S. men live the shortest lives of all 16 countries at 76 years, and U.S. women ranked second-to-last at just under 81 years. Americans are more likely to die younger because of illnesses like obesity and heart disease.

“I don’t think most parents know that, on average, infants, children, and adolescents in the U.S. die younger and have greater rates of illness and injury than youth in other countries,” said Dr. Steven Woolf, chair of the panel and of the department of family medicine at Virginia Commonwealth University, according to NBC News.

But there is a silver lining. Americans who live to the age of 75 are expected to live longer than those in the other countries. Not to mention people in the U.S. control blood pressure and cholesterol better and have a lower death rate from cancer.

Does industry have the answer?

The nutrition industry is concerned with the results of this study because of its implications for the world of consumer health and the industry’s interest in improving the well-being and health of the country.

Industry experts Mark LeDoux, chairman and CEO at Natural Alternative International, Inc.; Steve Mister, president and CEO of the Council for Responsible Nutrition; and Robert Craven, CEO of FoodState, commented on the findings of this study.

LeDoux: It’s ‘sick care’ not ‘healthcare’

Mark LeDoux, chairman and CEO, Natural AlternativesInternational: The first obvious issue that arises from this report is that the “healthcare” system in America is a misnomer. We don’t provide healthcare, we provide sick care. Many of the commondiseases that lead to our mortality rates being high are directly linked to what we affectionately call “high-risk behaviors.”

If we look at food choices in the family from an early age, we see that convenience plays a role in generating unhealthy choices. Getting a frozen dinner and plopping oneself in front of the television while eating retards the development of proper social family time. When children go off to public school, they are often fed by institutional food service programs that are big on quantity, but not necessarily up on freshness or quality. It never ceases to amaze me that people will order 1,200 calories of fat laden foods at fast food restaurants, and then order a super sized diet soft drink, thinking that simply by ordering a diet beverage they are somehow redeeming the poor choices of food that accompany the beverage. Unfortunately, when it comes to healthcare in America we have seen the enemy, and he looks an awful lot like us.

Supplements can and should play a vital role in securing appropriate nutrient densities in our tissues and organ systems, but failure to be mobile leads to a whole set of other negative consequences. Gluttony leads to obesity, and that condition takes a toll on overall health—putting undue burdens on the ‘sick care’ system in America to hopefully alleviate the symptoms of self-wrought misery. It would seem self-evident that Americans may be the most overfed and undernourished people in the developed world.

Mister: We can deliberately defy unhealthy culture

Steve Mister, president and CEO, Council for Responsible Nutrition: This report is certainly troubling. At the same time, maybe it illuminates some opportunities for potential growth in the U.S. supplement marketplace. As the researchers noted, it’s not any one factor, but rather a whole collection of health-related behaviors that contributes to the U.S.’s health score.

As individuals we all need to be more conscious of the small daily behaviors that collectively contribute to a longer, more healthy life—everything from easing up on the accelerator, to taking a daily jog, to passing on the second piece of chocolate cake. When we think about health as a constellation of lifestyle choices rather than “I need to lower my cholesterol orI need to lose weight,” we can start to understand how all these things work together. Our bodies are not a collection of unconnected parts, they are integrated holistic systems all working together. So what we eat, the supplements we take, the exercise we get, all impact our entire bodies and life outlook—not just our blood pressure, or just our mood or just our alertness, but everything. Supplements are just one of those behaviors, but because they are easily incorporated into a daily regimen, they can be a daily reminder to do other healthy things too.

Daily supplement regimens have direct effects on health, but just the act of taking a supplement can also serve as a reminder to engage in other healthy behaviors. It gives us a feeling of autonomy and empowerment over our health which in turns makes us more conscious of our health and more invested in protecting it. Marketers ofsupplements could move the needle toward a healthier U.S. if they rebrand the routine of taking supplements as a brave, deliberate act of defying the unhealthy culture around us.

Craven: Let’s lead by example

Robert Craven, CEO, Food State (MegaFood): Like Mark, I am convinced that new legislation will do very little – although I was in favor of the super-size soft drink ban in NYC. I got into a Facebook fight on this one as some of my friends started saying that this was taking away “freedom” and “liberty” and I made the point that if your liberty and freedom starts costing me money it ceases to be your freedom. But I digress.

I believe our industry has a real opportunity to take a leadership position here—not from a legislative perspective, but from one that is much more aspirational. What if our industry was the healthiest industry in the nation? What if we could prove it? What if our industry did more for turning around disease directly—meaning we had more of an impact than any doctor or legislator or health insurer ever could? What if we could prove we were healthier with real data? I think this would do more for our positive stature in the world than anything else we could ever do. It’s walking all the talk.

What if the leaders in our industry got together and did nothing else but decide that all of our employees would be healthy? Has anyone ever taken a count of how many people that would represent (employees of natural and supplement companies and their families)? Has to be in the millions…

If we did nothing else but decide that we (our industry) were going to set an example by being healthy, that as CEOs we were going to lead the charge and set the example—being healthy ourselves; creating systems and support that truly promoted health within our own companies; leading the conversation with other CEOs in our communities; ringing the bell for wellness right where we live—wouldn’t this one act, if we had enough great companies on board and bought into the vision, do more for solving the U.S. health crisis than any other act? Especially given that our employees and customers are the most willing participants.

I can’t think of any other answer. In the end, there may not be enough of us out there to ultimately solve the problem—regardless, as for me and my company, we are going to try.

The Truth About Red Tide’s Manmade Causes and Health Effects

(greenmedinfo.com) If you consult the websites of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission or the Mote Marine Laboratory, both considered authorities on marine environmental issues in the state of Florida, red tide outbreaks associated with Karenia brevis are “natural phenomena,” ‘beyond our ability to control,’ and explicitly not fed by nutrient pollution or causally linked to land-based, human activities.  And yet, longtime residents of the Florida Gulf coast (the author included) can tell you from first-hand experience that the blooms have been getting progressively worse, closer to shore, and persisting for a greater length of time, indicating that if it is an entirely natural cycle, it has undergone concerning changes of late.

The reality is that authorities who deny the involvement of land-based activities and algae blooms are conveniently ignoring the science, which is peer reviewed and published, that instructs us on what is feeding red tide near shore. Florida has only so many industries that sustain its fragile economy, many of which would have to enact substantial, and costly reforms in order to improve the environmental situation. The tourism and real estate industries also have a vested interest in minimizing and/or denying the extent of the problem, at least in the short term. The long term outlook, however, is dismal for these industries, who failing to act, would see the primary attractor for tourists or potential buyers of real estate — the Gulf of Mexico — transformed into a Petri dish. It is for this reason that the truth about red tide must gain a wider audience, and we hope, widespread acceptance.

How Red Tide Is Measured and Misleadingly Contextualized For the Public

Since late September last year, the Southwest Florida Gulf Coast has been under siege by laboratory-verified blooms [see Status Maps], growing to its present state of significant outbreaks of a million cells per liter or higher, and stretching all the way from Manatee County to the Florida Keys. This is one of the worst red tide outbreaks in recorded history.[i]

Karenia brevis levels are measured by state environmental authorities using the cells/liter scale as follows:

  • Not Present – Background (0-1000)
  • Very Low (>1,000 to 10,000)
  • Low (>10,000 to 100,000)
  • Medium (>100,000 – 1,000,000)
  • High (>1,000,000)

These figures, however, are quite misleading.  Using colloquial expressions such as “Very Low” to describe concentrations of Karenia brevis of 1,000 to 10,000 cells per liter does the public a disservice, as they are serious enough to lead to acute symptoms of respiratory irritation and shellfish harvesting closures.

So-called “Low” levels, or 10,000 to 100,000 cells per liter, can cause fish kills.  Once you get to “Medium” and “High” red tide represents a serious health threat to exposed populations, keeping in mind that one does not have to be “at the beach” to be affected, as red tide brevetoxins are aerosolized (made airborne) via wave action, and can be carried on the wind many miles inshore.  In fact, at so-called “Low” levels >50,000 cells/liter the saturation of Karenia brevis is already significant enough that it can be detected by satellite.

At present, levels along the affected Southwest Florida Gulf Coast have reached “High” in several areas, including off the coast of Lee County where I am presently reporting from. I can speak directly from experience that this is a particularly noxious outbreak. For instance, I had a bronchial asthma attack for the first time in 20 years and have found myself, my family, and the local community I serve to be at greatly increased susceptibility to prolonged cold and flu bouts, over the past five months.

Another important consideration is that red tide sampling occurs primarily in surface water (80% surface sampling; 20% bottom sampling). The problem is that Karenia brevis blooms have been found to penetrate coastal waters along the bottom without surface expression until nearshore. This means that “negative” surface findings do not necessarily indicate the absence of a problem.

So, What Is The Real Cause of Prolonged, Near-To-Shore Red Tide Outbreaks?

So, back to the question: are these outbreaks entirely natural phenomena, as many health authorities, and certainly folks within the mainstream media, tourist and real estate industry, often maintain?

The answer is a resolute and resounding NO.  In April, 2009, the journal Aquatic Microbial Ecology published a groundbreaking study titled, “Grazing by Karenia brevis on Synechococcus enhances its growth rate and may help to sustain blooms,” which provided the missing link in how red tide is directly fed by human, land-based activities.  Here is the study abstract:

ABSTRACT: Grazing rates of Karenia brevis Clones CCMP2228 and CCMP2229 were determined in laboratory experiments using Synechococcus sp. Clone CCMP1768 as food. Grazing by K. brevis thus enhances the range of nutritional substrates available to meet its growth requirements, and may play a substantial role in sustaining natural populations in inorganic N-poor waters. With evidence that blooms of Synechococcus can be enhanced due to anthropogenic nutrients, the poten­tial importance of this particulate nutrient source for sustaining red tide blooms in situ is large and may help to resolve the current uncertainty as to how K. brevis blooms are maintained. It can now be hypothesized that as cyanobacterial blooms increase, so too does the potential forKarenia brevis growth to be enhanced and for blooms to be sus­tained through grazing, especially under the low light conditions associated with bloom self-shading. Recog­nition of this pathway is at least one step toward recon­ciling the long-term reported increase in K. brevis blooms (e.g. Brand & Compton 2007) and the tendency for blooms of this species to develop offshore in seem­ingly oligotrophic waters (e.g. Vargo et al. 2004, 2008)

What this research essentially proves is that the runoff from land-based applications of urea nitrogen fertilizers such as commonly used in lawn care, as well as additional sources of nitrogen urea from septic tanks, sewage spills and close-to-water sewage treatment effluent, result in Synachoccus blooms, which is a harmless, green slime algae (have you noticed the green slime at your beach?). Karenia brevis (red tide) uses the green slime as an energy source. The more Synachoccus the more red tide; simple cause and effect.

At the root of the problem are nitrogen urea fertilizers, which are overused in Florida lawn care practices, as well as in Florida agriculture (more on this later). According to a Sierra Club report linking fertilizers to Red Tide blooms, residential fertilizer use in the state of Florida increased by 153,533.95 tons or 45% from 2003 to 2006 alone.[ii] One might ask the question to Floridians: is the “health” of your lawns (read: aesthetic appearance) more important than the health of the Gulf of Mexico (and by implication, your own health)?

Ironically, plants need primarily magnesium (for chlorophyll) and potassium, and not nearly as much nitrogen, which is presently being used at up to 5 times higher levels than required. In fact, excess nitrogen leads to plasmolysis in plants, causing excess water to leave the plant entering the soil, resulting in wilting. The excess nitrogen, of course, leaches into the soil and eventually a portion of its causes water pollution.

The obvious solution to the accelerating red tide problem is to reduce land-based applications of urea nitrogen, especially in the summer months. As the green slime is reduced, the red tide will have no additional energy source and will die out.

How Red Tide Adversely Affects Human Health

In order to understand how red tide affects human health, one must first understand brevetoxins, the primary “poisons” produced by this organism.

There are at least 9, and as many as 14, brevetoxins divided into two classes: Brevetoxin A and Brevetoxin B, with 3 subtypes characterized among Brevetoxin A and 4 subtypes among Brevetoxin B.

Brevetoxins are extremely toxic.  The brevetoxin B subtype, PB-TX2, for instance, has an oral LD50 (the acutely lethal dose that kills 50% of the test group) equivalent to cyanide (6 mg/kg) at 6.6 mg/kg in the 24 mouse model of acute exposure. No one truly knows the extent of the synergistic toxicity associated with exposure to all 9-14 brevetoxins simultaneously, which is what may occur in real-world exposure, because it has not (to my knowledge) been researched.

Brevetoxins are known primarily as a neurotoxic. They bind to voltage-gated sodium channels in nerve cells, leading to disruption of nerve transmission and in some cases nerve cell death.  Animal research indicates that as little as 2 days of subacute exposure to the Brevetoxin B, PbTx-3, is sufficient to induce neuronal degeneration in a discrete reason of the mouse cerebral cortex.[iii]

In humans, a condition known as Neurotoxic Shellfish Poisoning (NSP) caused by the consumption of shellfish contaminated by brevetoxins has been identified. Symptoms include vomiting and nausea and a variety of neurological symptoms such as slurred speech.[iv] Of course, lower concentrations, especially in more susceptible populations already suffering from neurological issues, likely contribute to these symptoms, as well as headache, myalgias (muscle soreness), and related aches and pains that would be hard to attribute to such an invisible toxin, whose health threat is generally downplayed by the media and medical establishment.

Neurotoxicity, however, is only the tip of the iceberg. A 2004 study, published in the Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health, found that the immune system, and not the nervous system, is the primary target of brevetoxins.[v] Animals exposed to brevetoxin saw a more than 70% suppression of humoral immunity.  A 2005 study confirmed this finding.[vi]

Then, in 2011, it was found that brevetoxin A inhalation worsens the pulmonary response to influenza A in the male rat. [vii] The study authors concluded: “These results suggest that repeated inhalation exposure to brevetoxin may delay virus particle clearance and recovery from influenza A infection in the rat lung.”

This finding indicates that Red Tide blooms may therefore worsen the seasonal flu epidemics that commonly afflict the Southwest Florida, especially when the bloom persists into the fall and winter months, as is the present case.

It is already well known that hospital verified cases of respiratory issues can increase by over 50% during sustained Red Tide outbreaks.[viii]

Considering that much of the mortality associated with influenza infection is associated with pneumonia complications, reducing Red Tide outbreaks via fertilizer use reductions should be considered a top priority by health authorities.

But the adverse health effects do not end with neurotoxicity and immunotoxicity, as serious gastrointestinal complaints may also follow from Red Tide exposure.  A 2010 study examined whether the presence of a Florida red tide bloom affected the rates of admission for a gastrointestinal diagnosis to a hospital emergency room in Sarasota, FL.[ix]  According to the study:

The rates of gastrointestinal diagnoses admissions were compared for a 3-month time period in 2001 when Florida red tide bloom was present onshore to the same 3-month period in 2002 when no Florida red tide bloom occurred. A significant 40% increase in the total number of gastrointestinal emergency room admissions for the Florida red tide bloom period was found compared to the non red tide period.

We can therefore add gastrointestinal issues to the growing list of Red Tide associated health issues. Other potential health effects that have been noted in the biomedical literature include:

So What Can Be Done?

1) REDUCE EXPOSURE: First, if you live in South Florida, remember to monitor your area’s levels by visiting the Status Maps. Please keep in mind that proximity is not the only factor in exposure, due to the well known aerosolization of these toxins and the inability of surface water testing to fully reveal its presence.

Next, visit the site WindMaps.com, to see if the winds are moving inshore, or going offshore. This simple step may enable you to reduce exposure, by reducing time outside, and certainly keeping off the beach, on days that aerosolized Red Tide brevetoxins may be moving inshore. Also, consider that if you are driving, keep the air circulating within the cabin. Unfortunately, there is nothing you can do if your AC unit is continually pulling air from outside inside your home, but you could reduce your AC usage on these days. Eating cooling foods, and wear lighter clothing, for instance.

2) REDUCE TOXIC EFFECTS: The primary mechanism through which brevetoxins cause respiratory harm is through IgE-independent mast cell activation.[x] Mast cells are immune cells which if over-activated can produce a wide range of potentially harmful substances, such as:

  • Histamine (inflammatory)
  • Thromboxane (vasoconstrictive)
  • Prostaglandin D2 (brochoconstrive)
  • Leukotriene C4 (bronchoconstrictive)

Keeping this in mind, preventing mast-cell degranulation with safe, non-drug alternatives such as nettle’s extract may be an ideal approach to the problem. Several companies provide extracts which concentrate the compounds within nettle’s that inhibit mast cell degranulation, e.g. New Chapter’s Histamine Take Care, V!ah‘s “Allerblock.”  While we do not endorse any product, as this runs counter to our mission statement (you will see no ads on GreenMedInfo.com for any dietary supplement) we feel compelled to inform our readers that alternatives to antihistamine drugs like Benadryl do exist. Also, please remember to do your own research in tandem with consulting a licensed health care practitioner before embarking on a path of self-care. Other potential histamine-blocking compounds that have been researched can be found on our histamine antagonist page: Histamine Antagonist

3) CONTRIBUTE TO THE LONG TERM SOLUTION: The long-term solution is to reduce the use of nitrogen urea fertilizers in both lawn and agricultural applications. There is no question that nitrogen urea rich agricultural runoff, primarily from the sugarcane and citrus industries, are sizable contributors to the overall nitrogen burden in the Gulf of Mexico. Much of Big Sugar’s agricultural runoff ends up in Lake Okeechobee, which eventually empties into the Gulf of Mexico.

A 2006 study published in the journal Biogeochemistry titled, “Escalating worldwide use of urea – a global change contributing to coastal eutrophication,” indicates worldwide use of urea as a nitrogen fertilizer and feed additive has increased more than 100-fold in the past 4 decades. The study pointed out:

Long thought to be retained in soils, new data are suggestive of significant overland transport of urea to sensitive coastal waters. Urea concentrations in coastal and estuarine waters can be substantially elevated and can represent a large fraction of the total dissolved organic nitrogen pool. Urea is used as a nitrogen substrate by many coastal phytoplankton and is increasingly found to be important in the nitrogenous nutrition of some harmful algal bloom (HAB) species.

They also noted that “the global increase from 1970 to 2000 in documented incidences of paralytic shellfish poisoning, caused by several HAB species, is similar to the global increase in urea use over the same 3 decades.”

The reality is that these agricultural practices have been a long time in the making, and will take considerable time, energy and political clout to change. The good news is that you can make changes at the local level, from the bottom up, as it were, by starting with your own lawn. You can also organize at a county level to enact ordinances that restrict fertilizer use, as Ed Rosenthal, founder of the non-profit organization Advocate the Precautionary Principle, has done with great success in Sarasota county. These results are encouraging, and indicate that we can build a grassroots movement with an end goal to enact stricter regulations at the state level.



Russians take fresh samples from Antarctica’s hidden Lake Vostok

 Russian researchers say they have brought up fresh samples of clear ice from Antarctica’s Lake Vostok, a huge reservoir of freshwater more than 2 miles (3.2 kilometers) beneath the surface.

(NBCNews) Lake Vostok could contain water and perhaps living organisms that have been sitting undisturbed in the deep dark for up to 20 million years. The drilling operation also could set a precedent for far more ambitious efforts to find life beneath the ice of the Jovian moon Europa or the Saturnian moon Enceladus.

Because of the potential for contamination, scientists have been taking extreme care at Lake Vostok, which is situated 800 miles (1,300 kilometers) east of the South Pole. A year ago, the Russian drilling team reached the lake and brought up water samples. Some of the water was even served to Vladimir Putin, who was then Russia’s prime minister and is now the country’s president. But it wasn’t clear whether those samples were actually from the lake or from the glacier above the lake, the Russian news service RIA Novosti reported.

This year’s drilling operation is aimed at bringing up samples that can be linked more definitively to the lake itself.

“The first core of transparent lake ice, 2 meters long, was obtained on Jan. 10 at a depth of 3,406 meters,” Russia’s Arctic and Antarctic Research Institute said in a statement. “Inside it was a vertical channel filled with white bubble-rich ice.”

The institute said that drilling operations would be extended another 24 meters with the existing cables, and that new cables were being delivered to the Vostok research station. The core samples were to be subjected to chemical and biological analysis.

Lake Vostok is about 160 miles (250 kilometers) long and 30 miles (50 kilometers) wide, making it the largest of Antarctica’s nearly 400 subglacial lakes. Last year’s drilling operation drew up samples from a depth of 12,366 feet (2.34 miles, or 3,769 meters). In October, Russian team members reported finding no native life within those samples. They said the only microbes they detected were traced to contaminants from the drilling oil.

The lake could serve as a laboratory for studying what Antarctica’s climate and ecosystem was like millions of years ago. It may contain creatures unlike any that exist today. And as ambitious as all that sounds, the Vostok operation is seen as a mere warmup for future sampling missions to Europa, Enceladus and perhaps other icy moons in the solar system.

Planetary scientists see ample evidence that liquid water exists on those worlds, miles beneath the icy surface, and astrobiologists have theorized that internal heat may provide enough energy for organisms living within those hidden oceans.

Eight US Sailors Sue Japan’s TEPCO For Lying About Fukushima Radiation

(ZeroHedge) -It was only a matter of time before Japan’s criminal lying about the radioactive exposure in the aftermath of the Fukushima catastrophe caught up with it. What is surprising is that those holding Japan accountable are not its citizens but eight US sailors who have just filed a suit against semi-nationalized energy operator TEPCO - the company which repeatedly ignored internal warnings about the ability of the Fukushima NPP to withstand an earthquake/tsunami - seeking $110 million in damages.

As Kyodo reports:


Eight U.S. sailors have filed a damages suit against Tokyo Electric Power Co., claiming they were exposed to radiation and face health threats as the utility did not provide appropriate information about the Fukushima nuclear disaster while they engaged in rescue operations on board an aircraft carrier, U.S. media reported.


The plaintiffs who filed the suit at the U.S. federal court in San Diego — seeking a total of $110 million, or 9.4 billion yen, in damages — were aboard the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan when it was involved in “Operation Tomodachi,” a disaster relief effort shortly after a big earthquake and tsunami triggered the worst nuclear accident in decades, the reports said.”

What is sad is that while everyone in the alternative media was repeatedly warning about the radiation exposure being misrepresented by both TEPCO and various Japanese ministries, it was the mainstream media that was constantly complicit in disseminating official and unofficial lies that there is nothing to fear. Which begs the question: shouldn’t the lawsuit stretch to everyone who - without inquiring deeper and merely serving as a mouthpiece to a lying government and utility - gave the “all clear” even as radiation levels were approaching, and in many occasions, passing critical levels?

But hey: they were merely following orders, and were worried about keeping their jobs if they stepped out of line and questioned the line of propaganda command. Luckily, this will be the first time in world history this excuse will have been used.

Mayan Apocalypse Is Unlike Other Doomsdays

Illustration showing Earth amageddon
CREDIT: sdecoret | Shutterstock

(LiveScience) Doomsday predictions seem as regular as the tides. UFO cults and evangelical preachers alike have claimed to know the true date of the end of the world. But the Mayan apocalypse is unlike most any doomsday to come before.

That’s because the Mayan apocalypse is an entirely grassroots doomsday, religion experts say. Most apocalyptic groups center around an apocalyptic leader, who passes along predictions, often claiming divine inspiration. The belief that the world will end on Dec. 21, 2012, on the other hand, has popped up almost entirely online, giving rise to a plethora of dueling predictions.

“This was almost an evolutionary process, in that certain ideas seem to stick for some reason, and many didn’t, but what you ended up with is the current 2012 phenomenon,” said Stephen Kent, a sociologist at the University of Alberta who studies new religious movements.

Nevertheless, apocalypse experts say, the current doomsday predictions have much in common with previous versions in that they assume the world to be in hopeless decline and beyond saving. [Full Coverage: The Mayan Not-Apocalypse]

A brief history of the end of the world

Apocalyptic viewpoints are thousands of years old. In Western civilization, they get their start with the ancient Persians, said Allen Kerkeslager, a religious studies professor at Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia. The Persian religion, called Zoroastrianism, included beliefs in an epic struggle between good and evil that would culminate in the end of the world, Kerkeslager told LiveScience.

In 539 B.C., the Persians conquered the ancient Jews, whom they would rule for the next 200 years. Prior to coming under Persian rules, Jewish thinkers had given little attention to the apocalypse. But as the cultures collided, apocalyptic thinking began to percolate into their writings, including the Dead Sea Scrolls. These end-of-the-world stories would later get integrated into early Christianity.

“These end-of-the-world predictions, a lot of it Christianity gets directly from Judaism, and Judaism gets it really almost directly from Zoroastrianism,” Kerkeslager said.

Failed apocalypses occurred with regularity in the first millennium; unsurprisingly, nice round dates like A.D. 500 and A.D. 1000 attracted particular attention. At other times, doomsday predictors looked to the skies. For example, in 1524, astrologers predicted a planetary alignment would bring the end of the world. The failure of this prophecy resulted in a revised date to 1528 and then to 1624. [Oops! 11 Failed Doomsday Predictions]

Modern Doomsdays

In the modern era, many doomsday prophets continue to preach versions of the Christian doomsday, with its judgment and rapture. One prominent example is radio preacher Harold Camping, who captured nationwide attention in 2011 after buying up billboard space to warn of Judgment Day on May 21 of that year. The end of the world was expected to follow in October. (Camping is currently out of the business of predicting the end.)

Others have combined the Western cultural fascination of doomsday with new religious movements. In 1954, late Chicago housewife Dorothy Martin and a group of her followers predicted a global flood on Dec. 21 of that year. The cult believed that a UFO would come and rescue them, as true believers, on the night of the flood.

The case became famous thanks to sociologists embedded with the cult, who reported the group’s reaction as the flood and UFO failed to materialize in the book “When Prophecy Fails” (Harper-Torchbooks, 1956). The group rationalized the failure by explaining that they themselves had turned back God’s plans for doomsday with their faith.

The Mayan apocalypse

The Mayan apocalypse myths are similar to prophecies like Martins’ in that they take a non-Biblical view of the end of the world. Mayan apocalypse believers get their inspiration from the Mayan Long Count Calendar, which consists of 144,000-day-long cycles called b’ak’tuns. (There are also longer units of time, such as piktuns, which are made of 20 b’ak’tuns.) Dec. 21, 2012 marks the end of the 13th b’ak’tun, which would have been seen as a completed full cycle of creation by the ancient Maya. However, there were no apocalyptic predictions associated with this day.

The driving belief behind the Mayan apocalypse is likely the same as any other doomsday, said Lorenzo DiTommaso, a professor of religion at Concordia University in Montreal.

Believers are motivated by “a general dissatisfaction with the world and a sense that its problems cannot be overcome by human intellect and engineering,” DiTommaso told LiveScience.

However, unlike other doomsday predictions made by charismatic leaders, people come to the Mayan apocalypse for all sorts of different reasons, DiTommaso said.

“It’s in some ways a Rorschach test, because you impose as much on it as it imposes on you,” he said. “You’ve got a problem with the environment? Maybe it’s 2012, and the planet is trying to tell you something.”

Fracking’s Lure, Trap and Endless Damage

(Ralph Nader) -Say what you will about Yoko Ono’s art, there is no denying that she is unique. Who else will put several $100,000 full-page notices in The New York Times displaying only the word “Peace” or “Imagine Peace” in small type with the rest of the page blank? No elaboration, no examples of the ravages of war or mention of people “waging peace” around the country and world. Inscrutable, yes. Effective, who knows, except maybe Yoko Ono?
(Click for full image)
Well, in the December 10th issue of the Times there appeared a most un-Yoko type message. And this one wasted no space with the headline “Governor Cuomo: Imagine there’s no fracking.” The ad, commissioned by her and her son Sean Lennon, contained a graphic case against fracking designed to get New Yorkers to urge the governor to ban fracking and make permanent the moratorium first established by former N.Y. Governor David Paterson. The moratorium was in place pending further scientific studies regarding the environmental and health impact of drilling deep into the Marcellus Shale deposits underneath a large portion of the state.

The gas companies are putting heavy pressure on Gov. Cuomo to join Pennsylvania, which is already suffering the ravages of fracking. Landowners in Pennsylvania and in other permitted states now realize that their water was contaminated by chemicals used in the fracking process and leaked natural gas from fractured shale deposits.

There also exists a formidable coalition of government officials, physicians, scientists at Cornell, civic groups, farmers and other diverse opponents fighting against this hydrofracking. The relentlessly-factual Walter Hang, President of Toxics Targeting in Ithaca, New York, is one of the most effective environmentalists opposing fracking.

Of course, on the other side are the oil and gas industries pursuing profits, landowners seeking royalties (though the fine print contracts may rise up to bite them), and upstate laborers hoping for employment. The gas industry publicists, who exaggerate the benefits to the local economies, ignore the short-term nature of most of the jobs and the costly toxic air, water and land destruction fracking leaves behind.

The fight against fracking in New York is like the recurrent struggle put on by the taxpayer-subsidized fossil fuel and nuclear industries that want to dominate energy policies in government and push the safer alternatives out of the way because energy efficiency and renewable energy don’t make profits for them. As Yoko and Sean point out, through their new group Artists Against Fracking, by insulating buildings, for example, they could “save far more energy and create far more jobs than fracking can produce, plus save consumers money forever.”

Industry engineering manuals portray the immense complexity of fracturing technology, the huge amount of water used per well, the pipelines and compressor stations, the congested truck traffic, the dozens of chemicals needed in the water to draw out the gas vertically and horizontally under the surface of the land. These materials leave out the emerging, grim reality which is memorably portrayed in the documentary “Gasland” by Josh Fox.

Hydrofracking, whose side effects haven’t been fully vetted, is a new industrial way of obtaining natural gas. Instead of seeking these deposits, alternative energy sources should be pursued. Think of solar energy, dutifully, naturally providing most of the energy needed, from absolute zero, to make the Earth habitable. The rest is up to Homo sapiens – a species that must be giving Mother Sun the fits over not adapting its energy for efficient, safe daily uses.

We need to remember Ben Franklin, our frugal forebear who coined the phrase “a penny saved is a penny earned.” Today he would say “a trillion BTUs saved is a trillion BTUs earned.” The problem is that reducing waste – and despite progress, we are far less energy efficient than Western Europe or Japan – is not encouraged by present perverse market and regulatory incentives.

Germany is way ahead of us in both energy conservation and renewable energy. There, nuclear power is being phased out. And, price is used to discourage use of fossil fuels. There is also growing support for a carbon tax in this country including some leading corporate chieftains, but the message hasn’t reached the lawmakers in Congress. Too many of them are marinated in oil.

Your tax dollars helped develop fracturing technology which, if not stopped, will unleash its furies all over the world. There are hydrocarbons everywhere. Methane, among other gases, will be released in excess, which is many times worse a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. The regulators are not keeping up.

But the sun is everywhere in many forms – solar thermal, solar photovoltaic, passive solar architecture, wind power, wave power, non-corn biomass that doesn’t compete with food supplies and raise food prices. As I said years ago, “If Exxon owned the sun, we’d have solar energy very quickly.”

Therein is the rub. What is best for a planet with a decentralized, job-producing, safe, efficient, inexhaustible form of energy (at least for 3 billion more years) does not yet have the political muscle to go to the top of the U.S.’s energy priority ladder. The concentrated profits and the limited energy infrastructure are in the grip of the Chevrons and the Peabody Coals.

But history is not on their side. Countries with minimal fossils fuels are leading the way with renewables. Post the Fukushima disaster, Japan is upping the ante on conservation and renewables. Climate changes and natural disasters will wake up the rest of the world. Let’s act to make it sooner rather than later.

The latest bulletin (toxicstargeting.com/Marcellus_Shale) from the indefatigable Walter Hang alerts people to protest that the State Department of Health review is now “being conducted in total secrecy without any public participation.” He believes Mr. Cuomo will make his decision within three months and urges you to call the Governor’s office at 518.474.8390 or 212.681.4580.

UN Climate Conference: International Carbon Taxes Will Fix Global Economy

(Occupy Corporatism) -The International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) claims that the UN Climate Change Conference is staling out as global rules and regulations on governing greenhouse gases are becoming a touchy subject with regard to instilling global carbon taxing on all developing nations.

The UN wants to have unilateral control over how countries integrate reduction of CO2 emissions in businesses, cities and all other areas where emissions are relevant.

Global economic conditions may fall under the reign of the UN with the inception of international mandates on carbon taxing. Economics have forced efforts to reduce dependence on fossil fuels in nations like Europe.

The ICC conducted a survey that expressed the dire conditions of the world’s economy and the inevitable global debt-crisis that is overcoming sovereign nations.

At the UNCCC, businesses are being given the appearance of strategizing with the UN committee on collective ideas to give the illusion of collaboration. However, the UNCCC retains full control over the topic of discussion and the proposed remedies.

Alarmists are holding fast to the claim that the planet’s temperature will have increased 5 degrees Celcius which will result in population and societal collapse.

In concert, the global carbon emissions levels are allegedly rising exponentially. This assertion is coming for the Global Carbon Project (GCP).

The GCP believes that as the world becomes “carbon neutral”, the impact of CO2 emissions will offset the damage caused and balance out in the end.

According to their report entitled “Carbon Reductions and Offsets” governments, corporations and individuals can “participate in this voluntary market” and adhere to their recommendations for legally binding policies.

Profit driven business with regard to climate change demands” reductions [that are] outpacing the wider introduction of low-carbon technologies in transport, energy production and manufacturing.” Carbon offsets can provide this by being purchased ahead of projected measures to discover future innovations for eliminating carbon emissions.

The GCP recommends:

  • Purchasing carbon credits to offset transportation, heating and cooling
  • Develop a culture of responsibility for carbon emissions
  • Imbue into the social meme the philosophy of being “carbon neutral”
  • Set limits on corporate operations under guidelines of CO2 emissions
  • Focus on reducing all humans carbon footprints
  • Purchasing 100% renewable energy
  • Invest in carbon credits
  • Focus on reforestation and allocate separate land for those projects
  • Becoming a global “zero net carbon emissions” society

The European Union Emission Trading Scheme (EU ETS) is the biggest scheme for carbon credits across the world. It originated in 2005 to become a focal point for the European Union’s claims to reduce CO2 emissions because they are responsible for an estimated 40% of all emissions. The EU ETS governs matching buyers of carbon credits with sellers as any other financial instrument operates as well as oversees that relevant reductions are achieved.

Al Gore, co-founder of the Generation Investment Management LLP (GIM), a carbon selling corporation that assess a corporation’s value based on summations of long-term performance as determined by GIM, says that “integrating issues such as climate change into investment analysis is simply common sense.” There is an expectation that within the next 25 years “sustainable development will be a primary driver of industrial and economic change.”

Gore affirms that investing with GIM will maximize corporation’s “financial return by strategically managing their performance in this new economic, social, environmental and ethical context.”

Insurance corporations like PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC) in a recent report, are developing plans to sell to clients that are focusing on integrating climate change into their policies to assess enterprise risk. Last month PWC held a webcast conference wherein they elaborated on the “landscape of rapid change, extreme weather events, global operations, and resource scarcity. We will examine the business impacts of environmental and social risks, and share steps for thinking proactively with a broader view of risk.”

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is pushing for $100 billion per year from developed nations such as the US, Russia and China to pay for the fight against global Warming. Ban explains: “This is a matter of credibility for member states. This will be crucially important in facilitating the promotion of a legally-binding agreement by 2015.”

Ban threatens that our dependence on energy, food, water and modern conveniences will be destroyed unless the governments of the world contribute monetarily to sustainable development. Regional and national strategies must be adhered to in order for the world to work together to combat global warming.

Ban also asserted that extreme weather is the “new normal” and that human activity would continue to cause this threat. He stated: “The abnormal is the new normal from the United States to India, from Ukraine to Brazil, drought (has) decimated essential global crops”.

Action toward technological advancement is being facilitated by the Technology Mechanism wherein climate change is the focal point. Proposals for this agency of the UN can become quite profitable in the future as nations are expected to purchase UN approved technology for combating climate change.

Philippines typhoon death toll rises to 280 – officials

(RT) -Typhoon Bopha recently swept across the southern Philippines, leaving a death toll of around 280, officials reported. More than 56,000 people were displaced by the devastating storm, and more are feared dead as rescuers continue to retrieve bodies.

­At least 43 villagers and soldiers have drowned in the town of New Bataan, while in nearby Davao Oriental province, 51 people were swept away by floods.

At least three children were buried by a wall of mud and boulders that plunged down a mountain in Marapat village as six more villagers have drowned in floods in Montevista town, AP reports.

Philippines President Benigno Aquino warned residents in the areas affected by the typhoon to take the disaster seriously: “It could be the strongest to hit the country this year. But we can minimize the damage and loss of lives if we help each other.”

Some 80 domestic flights were grounded and more than 3,000 ferry passengers were stranded after the country’s coast guard ordered vessels to stay in port, AFP quoted the civil defense office as saying.

Residents brave heavy rains next to a tilted electric post after Typhoon Bophal hit the city of Tagum, Davao del Norter province, in southern island of Mindanao on December 4, 2012 (AFP Photo)

Residents watch as a river rises near their homes due to heavy rains brought about by Typhoon Bophal in Cagayan de Oro City, southern island of Mindanao on December 4, 2012 (AFP Photo)

­Philippines police forcibly evacuated people from low-lying areas after they refused to join an estimated 25,000 others who had sought refuge at government shelters, Cagayan de Oro city Mayor Vicente Emano said in an interview with ABS-CBN television

Forecasters reported that the storm, moving northwest, is slightly weakened at the moment. Bopha is expected to reach the country’s southern island of Negros, bringing heavy rains.

A similar disaster hit the same region in 2011, killing 1,500 and affecting around 10 percent of Philippines residents.

The country is hit by about 20 typhoons a year, with another storm expected around Christmas.

This latest typhoon comes almost a year after a storm killed more than 1,200 Mindanao residents.

Gore Demands Cooperation of Global CO2 Taxing to Boost His Own Profits

(OccupyCorporatism) Al Gore justifies his extravagant lifestyle by purchasing carbon credits to offset his CO2 emissions in an attempt to appear to be living “carbon neutral”. Gore owns a corporation called Generation Investment Management, LLP (GIM) that is chaired and partially owned by Gore. However, Gore simply invests in his own carbon tax investment firm to maintain profits and claim carbon credits purchased.

GIM states that they are “dedicated to long-term investing, integrated sustainability research and client alignment.”

Gore and David Blood created GIM, which represents 16 nations and influences sustainable research through employed “investment analysts and leaders.” By pushing sustainable development, GIM uses studies to assess a corporation’s value based on summations of long-term performance as determined by GIM. The challenges of sustainability are devised by international factors, costs and externalities that are “interlinked with climate change crisis and poverty, pandemics and demographics, water scarcity and migration/urbanization.”

In order to hock their fear-mongering on greenhouse emissions, GIM asserts that capital markets and capitalism must “transition from a high-carbon to low-carbon economy” so that eco-fascists are assured the power in a premeditated new Industrial Revolution. Stressing this “fact”, the GIM believes that “sustainable solutions will be the primary driver of industrial and economic development for the coming decades.”

Gore says that “integrating issues such as climate change into investment analysis is simply common sense.” There is an expectation that within the next 25 years “sustainable development will be a primary driver of industrial and economic change.” Gore affirms that investing with GIM will maximize corporation’s “financial return by strategically managing their performance in this new economic, social, environmental and ethical context.”

The GIM sees “long term environmental, socioeconomic and governance challenges” can be quelled with the control of a corporation’s ability to contribute to the profitability of sustainability. GIM can focus attention to global markets through the allocation of corporations that support their schemes.

According to the GIM’s report entitled “Thematic Research Highlights”, published in 2007 outlines how by claiming that man-made climate change is real, and carbon markets are the answer to staving off the effects of this hoax, sustainability can be implanted into the psyche of governmental leaders, corporate heads and individual citizens to create viable investment opportunities for profitability for the GIM and aligned corporations.

The GIM is furthered by the efforts of The Generation Foundation who is supported by:

• World Resources Institute
• Natural Resource Defense Council
• The Climate Reality Project
• Global Impact Investing Network

The Generation Foundation also works with:

  • The Carbon Disclosure Project who “provides a secretariat for the world’s largest institutional investor collaboration on the business implications of climate change, now representing $31 trillion of assets under management.”
  • The European Social Investment Forum that endeavors to “encourage and develop sustainable and responsible investment and better corporate governance.”
  • The International Corporate Governance Network that is investor-driven and who demands that they be an authority on “corporate governance” and issues that affect international control.
  • The UN Global Compact who is comprised of international corporations that have “citizenship” as a network of private sector corporations and social actors to “advance corporate citizenship and universal social and environmental principles to meet the challenges of globalization.”

Alarmist scientists continue to conduct studies that claim the ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica are melting 3 times faster than was previously expected 20 years ago. The most recent study used data provided by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). In turn, the IPCC used this study to prove that the ice sheet melt is proof that man-made climate change is real.

At the UN Climate Change Conference (UNCCC), there is an urgency to expedite global governance over greenhouse emissions with a new international mandate to be written by 2015 and implemented by 2020. Their plans include instilling a new version of the Kyoto Protocol, within a climate treaty that is legally enforceable under the working title of the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Long-term Cooperative Action (LCA).

Ruth Davis, chief policy advisor for Greenpeace, affirms that: “Developing countries need sustained investment to help them make the transition to a low carbon economy and adapt to the impacts of climate change: and the cost will rise, the more we delay action to cut emissions. Countries must agree a specific commitment now to provide 60 billion U.S. dollars over the next three years.”

Earlier this month, Gore said that Obama should step up his push for carbon taxes as an answer to the “fiscal cliff” and current budget crisis occurring in the US. Gore said: “I think all who look at these circumstances should agree that president Obama does have a mandate, should he choose to use it, to act boldly to solve the climate crisis, to begin solving it. He has the mandate. He has the opportunity, and he has the inherent ability to provide the leadership needed. I really hope that he will, and I will respectfully ask him to do exactly that.”

After his re-selection, Obama recently announced his commitment to “tackle the issue of climate change.”

Obama continued to say that: “. . . we can’t attribute any particular weather event to climate change. What we do know is the temperature around the globe is increasing faster than was predicted even 10 years ago. We do know that the Arctic ice cap is melting faster than was predicted even five years ago. We do know that there have been extraordinarily — there have been an extraordinarily large number of severe weather events here in North America, but also around the globe. And I am a firm believer that climate change is real, that it is impacted by human behavior and carbon emissions. And as a consequence, I think we’ve got an obligation to future generations to do something about it.”

In his victory rally speech, Obama explained that he did not believe it was fair to “burden” our children to live in a world that is “threatened by the destructive power of a warming planet.”

The day after Obama was declared Commander-in-Communism, he asserted that instilling carbon taxes would “help cut the US budget deficit.”


Why Is the Media Ignoring the Mass Sinkholes Popping Up Around the Country?

Have you heard of the massive sinkholes popping up around the nation? Flammable craters spanning acres wide and leaking radiation, monster sinkholes described as ‘apocalyptic’ have forced residents out of homes, expelled radiation into the environment, and are now ushering in concerns about serious Earth changes in the near future. If you’ve heard of these sinkholes, chances are it has been from the alternative media.

It’s a hot issue on forums, some social networking sectors, and certain alternative talk radio programs. Sure, it has come up in some mainstream reports here and there, but there are virtually no in-depth pieces tying everything together. And they often fail to mention the scale of these sinkholes, behemoth anomalies that can swallow up 100 foot trees, houses, with the latest Ohio sinkhole devouring 4 football fields of land. Events that are sending residents scrambling.

Fracking, Drilling, Mining Responsible for Sinkhole Changing Earth Events?
A more serious issue, even beyond the dangers posed by these radiation-leaking sinkholes, is how man-made processes like fracking and excessive drilling are changing the planet on a larger scale. Bloomberg reports that fracking is a likely cause for a dramatic rise (sixfold) in earthquake activity from 2000 to 2011. Not to mention contamination of the water and food supply.

Extreme mining practices by Texas Brine and others are also responsible for triggering the sinkholes.

So are these actions ‘waking up’ the New Madrid fault line? In case you’re not familiar, the New Madrid fault line was responsible for the legendary 1811-1812 earthquakes dubbed the ‘New Madrid’ earthquakes. Extremely powerful and devastating earthquakes that are the most significant earthquakes to hit the United States in all of recorded history. As Investment Watch explains, the research indicating fracking and excessive mining in the expansion of earthquakes along the Madrid line reveals a concerning and plausible reality.

It is important to note that the New Madrid fault line includes areas within Illinois, Indiana, Missouri, Arkansas, Kentucky, Tennessee and Mississippi. In the event of a large (8.0 or higher) earthquake along the fault line, however, a much greater area would likely be affected.

Outside of the repercussions of the sinkholes, such as the radiation issue and major possibility of implosion or massive disruption in the area, what are the larger consequences of invasive fracking? Could a massive disaster be the result of greedy corporations endangering the entire nation? Furthermore, why is the mainstream media shying away from the issue completely?


“Missing” global heat may hide in deep oceans

A fisherman carries a fish near Chitthu Island at Ngwesaung Beach February 14, 2010. REUTERS/Soe Zeya Tun(Reuters) - The mystery of Earth’s missing heat may have been solved: it could lurk deep in oceans, temporarily masking the climate-warming effects of greenhouse gas emissions, researchers reported on Sunday.

Climate scientists have long wondered where this so-called missing heat was going, especially over the last decade, when greenhouse emissions kept increasing but world air temperatures did not rise correspondingly.

The build-up of energy and heat in Earth’s system is important to track because of its bearing on current weather and future climate.

The temperatures were still high — the decade between 2000 and 2010 was Earth’s warmest in more than a century — but the single-year mark for warmest global temperature was stuck at 1998, until 2010 matched it.

The world temperature should have risen more than it did, scientists at the National Center for Atmospheric Research reckoned.

They knew greenhouse gas emissions were rising during the decade and satellites showed there was a growing gap between how much sunlight was coming in and how much radiation was going out. Some heat was coming to Earth but not leaving, and yet temperatures were not going up as much as projected.

So where did the missing heat go?

Computer simulations suggest most of it was trapped in layers of oceans deeper than 1,000 feet during periods like the last decade when air temperatures failed to warm as much as they might have.

This could happen for years at a time, and it could happen periodically this century, even as the overall warming trend continues, the researchers reported in the journal Nature Climate Change.

“This study suggests the missing energy has indeed been buried in the ocean,” NCAR’s Kevin Trenberth, a co-author of the study, said in a statement. “The heat has not disappeared and so it cannot be ignored. It must have consequences.”

Trenberth and the other researchers ran five computer simulations of global temperatures, taking into account the interactions between the atmosphere, land, oceans and sea ice, and basing the simulations on projected human-generated greenhouse gas emissions.

These simulations all indicated global temperature would rise several degrees this century. But all of them also showed periods when temperatures would stabilize before rising. During these periods, the extra heat moved into deep ocean water due to changes in ocean circulation, the scientists said.

Hurricane Sandy: Seaside Heights Gives Victims 15 Day Notice on Demolitions; Threatens Fines

(Tomsrivernjoline)-This weekend, Vice President Joe Biden visited Seaside Heights, a Jersey Shore community hit hard, not only by Hurricane Sandy.    After the storm hit, many borough residents found their cars missing and had to deal with price gouging from the the town’s only authorized towing service, APK Towing of Toms River.

This weekend, Joe Biden visited this oceanfront community in Ocean County, but local residents, some who saw their homes for the first time, were also greeted by demolition notices.

Dated November 13th, one noticed by a resident who wishes to remain anonymous, stated “Your structure has possible structural of footing failures.”

It went on to say the structure would be demolished by November 30, 2012, just 17 days from the notice.   The order allowed the residents to request a hearing, but also threatened by fines of up to $2,000 per week if they did not comply with the order and fix their homes before the 30th.

To date, homeowners have been allowed to hire contractors for damage assessments, quotes, winterizations and insurance inspections, but no plans have yet been made for any reconstruction, leaving homeowners in a difficult position with very little time to decide what to do before their homes are demolished by the township.

Phone Carriers To FCC: You Can’t Tell Us What To Do

(Crooks and Liars) -Susan Crawford, a former Obama science, technology and innovation policy staffer, has written a rather stunning piece for Bloomberg.com on why we can’t really count on cell phones in an emergency. I was reading about this a few weeks ago, and an expat who now lives in China described how after an earthquake or flood, portable towers are immediately moved into the area and, he said, the service was better than ever.

But more importantly, the phone companies want to claim free speech rights that will exempt them from any kind of government oversight. Business is now the state religion here:

After Hurricane Sandy, survivors needed, in addition to safety and power, the ability to communicate. Yet in parts of New York City, mobile communications services were knocked out for days.

The problem? The companies that provide them had successfully resisted Federal Communications Commission calls to make emergency preparations, leaving New Yorkers to rely on the carriers’ voluntary efforts.

We have so far heard few details about why the companies made the particular business choices they did on backup power and what the consequences of those choices were, because the FCC has been blocked from asking — even though about a third of people rely on mobile service as their only voice-communications connection.

Americans might assume that the U.S. government exercises enough authority over communications networks to ensure that they are responsibly run, reliable and available to all at reasonable rates. In reality, after a decade of steady deregulation, during which communications companies asserted that new wires required new rules, the companies are in charge of themselves.

What’s more, those that sell network connections in the U.S. are trying to claim a constitutional right to operate without any federal oversight.

At the moment, in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, Verizon Communications Inc. (VZ) is attempting to legally bar Congress and the FCC from exerting any authority over its networks, claiming that the First Amendment protects the company’s “editorial discretion.” (I am among a large group of current and former government officials who this week filed a brief opposing that startling argument.)

The sweeping economic and social implications of Verizon’s assertions are deeply troubling. High-speed Internet has become vital to communications in the U.S. Yet Verizon wants network operators to possess the same free-speech rights that newspaper publishers have to control the contents of their editorial pages. This could preclude Congress from making any law that inhibits a company’s business choices, whether to inflict harm on a competitor or to suppress or ignore points of view of which it disapproves. Verizon certainly has the constitutional right to make this argument. The country needs to understand, however, that what it’s asking for is to privilege its own speech over that of more than 300 million Americans.

Because any communications company’s job is to transmit speech, not to determine its content, the court should decide that Verizon is not, in a legal sense, a “speaker.”

This particular lawsuit is just one push in a longer effort by Verizon and the other high-speed Internet-access providers to get immunity from oversight. AT&T Inc., just last week, filed a petition with the FCC seeking wholesale deregulation of its wires. According to Harold Feld of the consumer advocacy group Public Knowledge, this would make the company immune to all laws promoting consumer protection, competition and universal affordable communications. California became the most recent of more than 20 states to eliminate its authority over digital networks.

California became the most recent of more than 20 states to eliminate its authority over digital networks.

And consider why the FCC now is unable even to ask communications companies about their contingency plans for responding to a loss of power caused by a hurricane or other natural disaster. Five years ago the FCC, responding to findings that communications companies had supplied too little backup power during and after Hurricane Katrina, moved to adopt rules requiring the companies to have emergency energy sources. In response, the companies sued, claiming that the commission had no authority over them. Before that case could be resolved, the George W. Bush administration’s Office of Management and Budget determined that such rules would require the companies to incur undue costs to gather the needed information, and the commission withdrew its effort altogether.

Biden tours Sandy recovery as New York plans to tear down homes

A worker removes debris from the destroyed boardwalk in the Rockaways on Saturday. Photograph: Eric Thayer/Reuters

(Guardian)- Hundreds of New York homes hit by superstorm Sandy have been earmarked for demolition after being deemed to be a public health risk, it was reported Sunday.

An article in the New York times claims that 200 properties in badly affected parts of Queens, Staten Island and Brooklyn will be bulldozed in the coming weeks, adding to the 200 that have already been partially or completed destroyed already.

It comes as state officials prepare to ask for more than $30bn in federal disaster aid to help it recover from Sandy’s destructive winds and storm surges. Around $1.65bn of that is needed to rebuild homes, it has been reported.

The superstorm resulted in the deaths of more than 100 people as it tore through the US on 29 October, adding to scores of victims in the Caribbean.

Power outages in the immediate aftermath of the freak weather event left more around 8.5 million customers across the eastern states.

New York was amongst the worst hit. The state-owned Long Island Power Company said 1 million of its 1.1 million customers suffered blackouts. Meanwhile utilities giants ConEd and the National Grid reported millions more homes and businesses affected.

Cold weather forced thousands to New Yorkers to seek warm shelters in the days after the storm. Some were not allowed to return home, with the city’s building department initially ruling that 891 buildings were unsafe, the New York Times reported.

Of those, at least 200 have now been condemned. Nearly 500 others are still being checked to see if they can be repaired, according to the newspaper.

News of the demolitions were reported as vice-president Joe Biden toured areas in New Jersey that were likewise badly hit by the storm.

“How many of you guys are out of your homes right now?” he asked during a site visit of Seaside Heights in Ocean County.

Most of those present raised their hands.

FEMA sold off emergency shelters as the East Coast braced for Sandy

(RT) A handwritten FEMA sign drips in the rain where people were waiting on line to receive 1,500 donated coats from New York Cares in the Far Rockaway neighborhood on November 13, 2012 in the Queens borough of New York City. (Mario Tama/Getty Images/AFP)
The Federal Emergency Management Agency was praised by President Obama for its handling of Superstorm Sandy, but not all East Coast residents ravaged by Mother Nature last month would agree.

Those unhappy with the handling of the Sandy aftermath may have just found another reason to be upset with FEMA. In the months and weeks leading up to the colossal frankenstorm that caused tens of billions of dollars in damage along the Atlantic Coast, the federally-managed FEMA agency practically threw away emergency shelters as millions were in grave danger of a storm eventually caused over 100 confirmed deaths. As recently October 22 — the very day that the National Weather Service upgraded the tropical depression to a near-hurricane named Sandy — FEMA was selling disaster trailers to be used in the event of a major emergency.

According to a report by the Washington Examiner this week, FEMA sold 886 of those prefabricated trailers since 2009, with around a quarter of those sales happening just this year. The Examiner investigation found that 46 of those bunkers were bought by residents of New York State, where Sandy stripped down power lines and made a disaster area out of the Big Apple.

FEMA may have been offering assistance in the days before Sandy, but at a price. Those trailers, the General Services Administration notes, were purchased by the government for around $25,000 a piece, only to be auctioned off at as low as one-fifth of that.

“I don’t know what was the driving force behind auctioning off or selling these units at a significantly reduced rate.But I can tell you temporary housing is going to be a critical issue in New Jersey and New York as they try to recover,” Mississippi Emergency Management Agency Executive Director Robert Latham tells the Examiner.

“To be honest, I didn’t expect they would be selling them,” Schoharie County, NY Sheriff Tony Desmond adds to the outlet. “If they were serviceable, they might be taken to the next site of a disaster where they would need housing,” Desmond said. “But they were selling them.”
In the immediate aftermath of Sandy, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg hailed US President Barack Obama for a job well done in getting aid to the region with the help of FEMA. On his part, the president called the response“aggressive and strong and fast and robust.”

The millions of residents that have been without power, some for as long as two weeks after the storm struck, have critiqued that praise, though. As recently as this week, more than 50,000 customers of the New York State-owned Long Island Power Authority were without electricity, and the company’s chief operating officer said some clients could be left out in the dark — literally — for quite a while until LIPA could get everything up and running, a process complicated by the feds’ lack of assistance in clearing downed trees and providing assistance for citizens trapped from Sandy.
When FEMA first dispatched workers to the New York region to provide aid, emergency centers set up for the sole purpose of hazard recovery closed its doors to victims citing bad weather as a reason for not being able to stay open.

“Really? You’re telling Staten Island people that sorry, we’re closed due to the weather?”Staten Island resident MaryAnne Alessio told Neil Cavuto. “These are people walking the streets that don’t have no homes, no electricity, no life, no place to go. They’re put out of their houses. And then they go to the FEMA center and they’re closed due to the weather. I think it’s a disgrace.” 

In a follow-up story RT published earlier this week, activists with the Occupy Wall Street offshoot “Occupy Sandy” were photographed providing food and drink to FEMA workers, providing care for the supposed care-givers.

Climate Change Link to Mayan Civilization’s Collapse Discovered

(TreeHugger) The myriad reasons for the collapse of the Mayan civilization, which seems to have fallen in a mere 80 years, all have a underpinning in climatic changes, new research published in Science shows.

The final collapse may have happened rather quickly, ending around 1100 CE, but for nearly a millennia prior to that the Mayan’s fate rose and fell with changes in the climate.

Using oxygen isotope dating on stalagmites taken from caves near various Mayan sites, scientists were able to determine precipitation levels in the area, and correlate these with known political records taken from Mayan stele and hieroglyphics.

They found, quoting materials supplied by UC Davis:

Periods of high and increasing rainfall coincided with a rise in population and political centers between A.D. 300 and 660. A climate reversal and drying trend between A.D. 660 and 1000 triggered political competition, increased warfare, overall sociopolitical instability, and finally, political collapse. This was followed by an extended drought between A.D. 1020 and 1100 that likely corresponded with crop failures, death, famine, migration and, ultimately, the collapse of the Maya population.


Commenting on the finds from Central America, Bruce Winterhalder, from UC Davis’ Native American Studies, bridges the centuries: “It’s a cautionary tale about how fragile our political structure might be. Are we in danger in the same way the Classic Maya were in danger? I don’t know. But I suspect that just before their rapid descent and disappearance, Maya political elites were quite confident about their achievements.”

New Jersey: Old General Motors Plant Being Converted to an Active FEMA Camp Now

As you are reading this a massive FEMA camp “tent city” is being erected north of Woodbridge, military guards are present and reports of black helicopters circulate throughout the town.

By Shepard Ambellas
November 11, 2012

NEW JERSEY — According to local reports, near the Linden Airport north of Woodbridge a massive FEMA camp is being constructed in plain sight as military guards and officials downplay the activity as normal.

Inside the camps perimeter there are water tanker trucks, tents, building supplies, and portable shower/sanitation facilities causing concern to say the least.

It was reported by the Woodbridge Patch that a few of the guards admitted the new construction on the site was indeed a FEMA project.

FEMA spokesman Scott Sanders denied that the project was in anyway connected to FEMA stating in a report by Deborah Bell, ”We might provide provisions, but we don’t run shelters,” when asked if the tents were to be used for people displaced by Hurricane Sandy.

Across the Arthur Kill from Woodbridge, Staten Island residents who were devastated by last week’s hurricane and storm surge are still homeless.

The report goes on to read;

Officials in Staten Island have been looking at several possible sites to house Sandy victims, including reopening an old prison facility, according to the Staten Island Advance.

Sanders pointed to the Red Cross as a source for finding out what the tent city is for; the Red Cross did not return repeated phone calls.

A spokesman in the office of Linden Mayor Richard Gerbounka said the tents were to be used for utility workers from out of state who had flooded New Jersey after the hurricane hit.

It is true that many utility workers were working in the central New Jersey area to restore power since last week. But in a conference call Friday, the last one of the Hurricane Sandy media updates, PSEG President Ralph LaRossa said that he expected the workers to begin leaving by Sunday or Monday.

The tent city was put up only in the past few days, so it wouldn’t seem to be needed for out-of-state utility workers whose emergency work here was largely completed.

The Union County Office of Emergency Management also said the tents were to house utility workers, but they, too, had nothing to do with it, according to spokesman Sebastian D’elia. As of Friday, “ten percent of the county still doesn’t have power,” he said, so he wasn’t anxious to see the utility workers leave before electrical service was restored.

The camp appears to be for an overflow of Staten Island residents that have been displaced from the storm, signifying the possibility that FEMA plans on relocating displaced victims out-of-state.

However, a Linden police officer stated that it is for utility workers, but yes, FEMA is in charge of the camp facility.

Long Island residents protest power outages

(PressTV) On Saturday, hundreds of residents protested outside the headquarters of the Long Island Power Authority (LIPA) for the second consecutive day.
The protesters lashed out at the LIPA over its slow performance in power restoration compared with the other storm-hit areas, and called for bringing criminal charges against the CEO and the executive board of the company for failure to fulfill their obligations.
Meanwhile, travel chaos and long lines for gasoline continue across New York and New Jersey.

Around 130,000 blacked-out homes and businesses may not have electricity until the end of Tuesday, the power company says.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has called for a probe into the causes of LIPA’s delayed reaction.
On Friday, two congressmen from Long Island asked for the Federal government’s assistance to restore power in the area.
“It is a totally disorganized effort, and LIPA unfortunately seems to have lost control of the situation and that’s why you see so many people becoming so angry,” said lawmaker Peter King.
Over a quarter of a million Americans are without electricity; more than 170,000 of them are Long Island residents.
Superstorm Sandy smashed into the US East Coast on October 29, killing at least 120 people and causing an estimated 50 billion dollars in damage or economic losses.

Desperate for shelters, New York considers turning jail cells into homes

(RT) With nowhere else to go, New Yorkers displaced by Hurricane Sandy may have no choice but to sleep in jails. As hundreds of thousands remain without power, a Staten Island prison may serve as a temporary home for storm victims.
­About 100,000 homes and businesses will remain without power for the next several months, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said Friday in a news conference. About 434,140 homes are currently still without power in the region that was in Hurricane Sandy’s path – mostly in New York and New Jersey. The second storm, a nor’easter that hit the region last week, brought snow and frigid temperatures to a city already devastated by the effects of the first storm.

With the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) having only provided housing to two dozen of 5,200 applicants, thousands remain without a home as the winter months approach. As many as 40,000 New Yorkers are in need of shelter from extreme weather and rapidly decreasing temperatures, the city estimates.

The city is in desperate need for shelter – so desperate that even a desolate jail is being considered a possibility, the New York Post reports. The Arthur Kill Correction Facility on Staten Island may serve as a temporary home for up to 900 displaced victims of the storm. The medium-security prison was closed last December and with some fixing up, it could once again be fully functional.

“It’s empty. They might as well use it,” 39-year-old Rob Conigatti, who lost his home and is living with family, told the Post. The prison currently lacks boilers and a working wastewater system, but would be repaired, probably with generators installed, before serving as housing.

The problem with the emergency housing facility is the stigma associated with sleeping in a prison. Some people refuse to sleep in a jail cell because of what it once was. Some – especially senior citizens – are afraid of sleeping next to homeless people and substance abusers who are also likely to check into the free housing facilities.

“I lost everything, but I still have my pride,” said 44-year-old Wally Martinez. “We don’t have to stay in a prison. My brother was once in that very prison, and my mother used to visit him regularly. She used to tell me how miserable he looked and how filthy and disgusting that prison was.”

There are currently 2,700 evacuees living in emergency city shelters. While New York City officials have not made a decision on the use of the prison, and the Staten Island Borough President is strongly opposed to it, Councilman James Oddo supports the initiative.

“We have not got into the discussion of longer-term transitional housing,” he said. “If there is no other viable option, it shouldn’t be taken off the table because of a quote-unquote stigma. Between being cold and having people dry, in a warm, secure place, I know what my choice is.”

Staten Island Senator Andrew Lanza also said the prison was being considered as a possible transitional site, even though newly appointed press liaison Peter Spencer said Tuesday that the facility “is not on the table” as a temporary shelter.

As lawmakers and city officials weigh the need for housing against the situation and the options, the prison could very soon undergo repairs and be turned into a place to live.

100,000 homes, business face months without power

Long-term housing facilities like the Staten Island prison may be crucial in the months ahead: New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said some properties are so damaged that it will be a long time before electrical service is restored. Although power has returned to 96 percent of the region, about 100,000 customers will likely go several months without power.

“You have people without power for a very long time,” he said. “It’s gotten cold. It’s uncomfortable.”

Mayor Michael Bloomberg on Friday estimated that as many as 30,000 people in damaged homes will need temporary housing to survive the winter.

Most of the severely damaged homes are on Long Island’s South Shore, on Staten Island and the Rockaways district of New York City’s Queens department.

“You have some people who have buildings and have homes that you cannot turn on the power until that building or home is repaired or replaced,” Cuomo said. “Those are going to be the most difficult situations.”

FEMA will pay for expedited repairs in damaged homes starting November 13. The Empire State Relief Fund, put together by Cuomo, will also distribute cash for rebuilding homes. But until the thousands of displaced New Yorkers are able to return to heated homes, they will be forced to find alternate housing, and those with nowhere to go may choose to spend the night in jail.

Bitter cold inside a disaster shelter

(APP)As he lights up a Marlboro and takes a slow drag before exhaling, Brian Sotelo is a man who has finally reached his breaking point.

Anger drips from every word as he peers out at the tops of the white tents rising over the trees in the distance. The depth of despair in his eyes is difficult to fathom.

And he makes it clear he’s was not going down without a fight.

We stood and talked in the cool morning air a short distance up the road after security at the front gate threatened to have our cars removed outside the entrance to what Sotelo’s identification tag calls “Camp Freedom,” even though it more closely resembles a prison camp.

A Seaside Heights resident who was at Pine Belt Arena in Toms River with his wife and three kids a half-hour before the shelter opened as superstorm Sandy approached last week, Sotelo was part of a contingent shifted on Wednesday to this makeshift tent city in the parking lot across Oceanport Avenue from Monmouth Park.

“Sitting there last night you could see your breath,” said Sotelo. “At (Pine Belt) the Red Cross made an announcement that they were sending us to permanent structures up here that had just been redone, that had washing machines and hot showers and steady electric, and they sent us to tent city. We got (expletive).

“The elections are over and here we are. There were Blackhawk helicopters flying over all day and night. They have heavy equipment moving past the tents all night.”

Welcome to the part of the disaster where people start falling through the cracks.

No media is allowed inside the fenced complex, which houses operations for JCP&L’s army of workers from out of the area. The FEMA website indicated on Monday that there had been a shelter for first responders, utility and construction workers to take a break, although the compound now contains a full-time shelter operated by the state Department of Human Services.

Sotelo scrolls through the photos he took inside the facility as his wife, Renee, huddles for warmth inside a late-model Toyota Corolla stuffed with possessions, having to drive out through the snow and slush to tell their story. The images on the small screen include lines of outdoor portable toilets, of snow and ice breaching the bottom of the tent and an elderly woman sitting up, huddled in blankets.

All the while, a black car with tinted windows crests the hill and cruises by, as if to check on the proceedings.

As Sotelo tells it, when it became clear that the residents were less than enamored with their new accommodations Wednesday night and were letting the outside world know about it, officials tried to stop them from taking pictures, turned off the WiFi and said they couldn’t charge their smart phones because there wasn’t enough power.

“My 6-year-old daughter Angie was a premie and has a problem regulating her body temperature,” Sotelo noted. “Until 11 (Wednesday) night they had no medical personnel at all here, not even a nurse. After everyone started complaining and they found out we were contacting the press, they brought people in. Every time we plugged in an iPhone or something, the cops would come and unplug them. Yet when they moved us in they laid out cable on the table and the electricians told us they were setting up charging stations. But suddenly there wasn’t enough power.”

All of this is merely the last straw for a 46-year-old on disability, with two rods and 22 staples in his back.

“The staff at the micro-city are providing for the needs of all the evacuees,” said Nicole Brossoie, spokeswoman for the Department of Human Services. “Each day there is transportation to the pharmacy for prescription medications, if needed. There are ADA (handicapped-accessible) toilets and showers on site.

“There were concerns with the heat when evacuees first arrived. Those issues were resolved within a couple of hours by adding more heaters.”

Sotelo’s seen the home he rents on Kearney Avenue even though residents have yet to be allowed back, having been enlisted as a driver for the Red Cross.

He was on the barrier islands the day after the storm, as a matter of fact. There had been a foot of water in his place. That’s it. And now he’s left to wonder why he’s still not allowed back.

Even without gas or electric, he figures it has to be better than this place.

“Everybody is angry over here. It’s like being prison,” said Sotelo, who grew up in Wayne. “I’ve been working since I was 10. I’ve been on my own since I was 16. And for things to be so bad that it’s pissing me off, that tells you something.”

After a night of restless sleep in which his cot actually broke at one point, landing him on the floor, what Sotelo wants are answers and action. He wants to go home, and until that happens he wants a little respect.

Finally, he tosses his cigarette butt aside and sidles back into the driver’s seat of his car, ready to head back through the gates of the encampment, as confused and frustrated as ever about his future.

NYPD Officer: Looting ‘Is Acceptable If You’re Looting for Your Baby or Your Family’

(The Blaze) Instances of Looting reached epidemic proportions in New York City after the city was ravaged by Superstorm Sandy then hit again by a nor’easter that plunged the city right back into darkness.

Surprisingly, at least one New York City police officer told The Guardian that looting is “acceptable” in certain situations, like feeding your family. The issue has been discussed in ethics classes for decades, but it is still shocking to hear a police officer openly excusing looting, a crime.

“It’s snow, it’s cold. People are fending for themselves,” NYPD officer Anthony DiCarlo said. “Looting, to me, is acceptable if you’re looting for your baby or your family,” but looting a 60 inch flat-screen TV is not acceptable.

The situation in New York is still dire. On Thursday, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and officials on Long Island have decided to start rationing gasoline.

Gasoline will be available to drivers with license plate numbers ending in an odd number starting Friday morning. Drivers with plate numbers ending in an even number can gas up on Saturday.

Parts of New Jersey implemented the same strategy last week.

Record Snow as 200,000 More Power Outages Strike Northeast US – FEMA Centers Remain Closed

Severe weather cripples the Northeastern US in what some say was a geoengineered super storm.












By Shepard Ambellas

November 8, 2012

Parts of the Northeastern US were hit hard by Hurricane Sandy in the last week, causing widespread damage and knocking power out for upwards of 10 days.

Now, residents are battling a new storm front that has brought record early snowfall, extreme winds, and temperatures.

As many as 200,000 homes reportedly lost power Thursday morning as a result of the storm.

Residents along the coastline of New York and New Jersey were evacuated. No one knows for sure how many more will be displaced.

This is a massive Nor’ Easter storm that has struck before the usual season, differing from the normal weather patterns that we usually see.

NBC reported record snowfall totals that were recorded across the area:

  • New York’s Central Park received 4.4 inches of snow on Wednesday — a record for a Nov. 7 and the earliest 4-inch total in the park’s history, NBCNewYork.com reported. By Thursday morning the total had reached 4.7 inches.
  • A record snowfall of 2 inches was set at Newark, N.J., breaking the old record of a trace amount set in 1981.
  • Bridgeport, Conn., received 3.5 inches of snow, beating the Nov. 7 record of 2 inches set in 1953.

Some areas inland got 12 to 13 inches of snow.

In New York, the situation remains tense, with FEMA Centers actually closed due to the bad weather.

The WSJ reported. “The Long Island Power Authority was reporting that nearly 40,000 of its customers had lost power in the new storm. At least another 11,000 Con Edison customers had been knocked out in the new round of bad weather, with the worst damage in Westchester County.”

These are very tough times for citizens all across the Northeast and the fact that FEMA is so incompetent that they can’t keep their centers open during a storm is furthering the suffering of citizens throughout the storm ravaged area.

DNAinfo.com reported;

Because the FEMA centers were located with food distribution and warming services, some residents who arrived there were confused by the closed centers.

The city’s food distribution centers, a lifeline for the thousands left without power, heat and water for more than a week, would only be operating until noon Wednesday, Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced.

And the National Guard, which was handing out food and water in Coney Island also shut down at 1:30 p.m. because of the weather, but continued handing out water to the line of approximately 30 people.

A spokemsan for the New York National Guard, Eric Durr, said that he could not comment on that specific instance but “we instructed our troops to pay attention to the weather and don’t take unecessary risks.”

Still, he said the guard would continue to provide relief as long as was needed.

In Staten Island, a printed paper sign taped to the front door of on the center at 6581 Hylan Blvd. at 10:30 a.m. read “FEMA Center Closed Due to Weather.”

The front doors of the disaster recovery center, which is housed inside the Mount Lorretto Catholic Youth Organization, were unlocked, but there was no staff anywhere in sight for at least a half an hour.

And a set of buses which served as a pair of warming centers at the site for the past several days were missing, according to non-FEMA volunteers who continued to hand out supplies from a nearby building despite the storm.

Still as of Thursday morning many FEMA Centers remain closed.

Guatemala 7.4 quake kills at least 48

(RT) At least 48 people have been killed and hundreds remain missing after a powerful earthquake struck off the Pacific coast of Guatemala, where a tsunami warning has now been issued.

About 125,000 people were without power as a result of the quake.

The 7.4-magnitude earthquake centered about 160km southwest of Guatemala City. It is the strongest to hit the country since a deadly 1976 quake that killed 23,000.

The death toll is feared to rise as survivors report widespread landslides and people trapped under the rubble.

The quake was so powerful that it made crossways from Guatemala City to neighboring Mexico City. The US Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said there was a possibility of a local tsunami, within 320km of the epicenter.

Local radio reports widespread power outages and cuts in telephone service.

The mountain village of San Marcos, 130km from the epicenter, has suffered extensive damage with some 30 homes destroyed. More than 2,000 soldiers have been sent to help with the relief effort.

Guatemalan President Otto Perez Molina has asked people not to travel on motorways, as several highways in the west of the country have been cut off by landslides.

Hotmail takes on election duties as servers crash in New Jersey

(Wired) In an effort to accommodate voters displaced by Hurricane Sandy, New Jersey decided to allow voters this year to request ballots by e-mail and submit them via e-mail and fax.

But that solution has turned out to be a disaster after e-mail servers used to send and receive election ballots in at least two major counties got clogged or crashed on Tuesday under the weight of voter traffic.

At least one official in Essex County, which has 451,000 registered voters, decided to solve the problem by inviting voters to send their ballot request to his personal Hotmail e-mail address.

“Per Essex County Clerk Christopher J. Durkin: Displaced voters can email a request for a ballot at [email protected]…,” according to a post on the Facebook page for West Orange, NJ.

Not exactly a secure option, as security researcher Ashkan Soltani notes. Apparently Durkin uses his mother’s maiden name as the “password recovery” question for his account.

This, along with other problems New Jersey has experienced, prompted harsh words from one prominent election advocate.

“There’s just one word to describe the experience in New Jersey and that is catastrophe,” said Barbara Arnwine, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law in a press conference. “The county servers have crashed. Exxex and Hudson counties are emailed backlogged, and have announced they will not be able to process requests to vote online today.”

She also noted that as of 9 a.m. Eastern, polling places in New Jersey had not yet opened and multiple polling places did not have ballots.

New Jersey decided to allow voters to cast ballots by e-mail and fax, after so many voters had to abandon their homes and neighborhoods as a result of Hurricane Sandy, and polling places had to be moved or closed due to electrical outages and flooding.

Voters were told to send an e-mail to county election offices to request a ballot, after which they could scan the ballot and e-mail it back to officials. But problems occurred when voters sent the large ballot image files back to the e-mail accounts, and overloaded them. Traffic slowed as a result, and only became exacerbated as more voters tried to send repeated e-mail requests to obtain ballots or mail in completed ballots.

“If they don’t get a response right away, they’re sending another request, so it ends up being multiple, multiple requests, and the server just came down, it was overwhelmed,” says Pam Smith, President of Verified Voting. “The state’s e-mail accounts were full.”

Smith noted that the problem occurred with the e-mail server, not the vote-counting server.

New Jersey is requiring voters who submit ballots by e-mail to also mail in their paper ballot, in response to concern from voting activists that e-mail could be intercepted and altered or spoofed. Voters in New Jersey who have been displaced are also being allowed to cast provisional paper ballots at any polling place in the state, instead of being limited to their neighborhood polling place.

Election problems throughout the country are being monitored by the Election Protection Network, a coalition of about 150 legal and civil rights groups from around the country, who have stationed election legal experts in problematic polling places in Ohio, Florida, and other locations, and have also set up a toll-free hotline to answer questions from voting and collect reports about problems.

The group’s voter hotline number, 1-866-OUR-VOTE (866-687-8683), had received more than 30,000 calls by 9 a.m. PST on Tuesday.


FEMA Fuel AWOL For Sandy Survivors

 After superstorm Sandy receded, the Federal Emergency Management Agency contracted for 24 million gallons of fuel, and has sent 230 fuel trucks into New York and New Jersey to be distributed at National Guard armories.

But why fuel shortages still exist is a mystery — and not just to furious motorists. Never mind filling up — just getting a couple of gallons is proving to be an ordeal even six days after the storm.

At FEMA headquarters in Washington, spokeswoman Elaine Kelley said the agency could not say where the fuel has gone, and directed inquiries to the Defense Logistics Agency, headquartered at Fort Belvoir, Va.

A spokesman for the DLA, Douglas Ide, told The Huffington Post Sunday that the agency is delivering FEMA fuel to National Guard armories in Freehold, West Orange, Teaneck, Jersey City and Plainfield, N.J., and to armories in Brooklyn, Staten Island, Queens, the Bronx and Freeport in New York. The DLA contractor is Foster Fuels of Brookneal, Va., where an operator who answered the phone Sunday said she had no information about emergency fuel shipments and that no one else was working at headquarters on a Sunday.

In New York, premature announcements that free fuel would be available apparently caused an explosion of demand that on Saturday morning quickly drained those fuel trucks that did arrive. No fuel ever did get to the Freeport armory. At each of the three others, a pair of fuel trucks arrived with more than 10,000 gallons. But those fuel points were jammed with thousands of people spurred by public reports that free gas would be available, and the fuel ran out.

Eric Durr, a spokesman for the New York National Guard, said Sunday that the Guard is out of gas and waiting for more FEMA fuel deliveries.

In New Jersey, the National Guard is not providing gas to the public, but is using 17 HEMTT trucks to deliver gas to firemen, police and other first responders.

No timeline for restarting New Jersey nuclear reactor after high wave took out 5 of 6 water intake pumps during Sandy

Public Service Enterprise Group Inc’s provided no timeline for its Salem 1 nuclear plant to fully start-up after it shut down from superstorm Sandy.

PSEG had not yet connected the plant to the regional grid, but “grid stability is not an issue at this time,” Joe Delmar, a PSEG spokesman said on Saturday. (Read more)