SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) – A powerful earthquake has struck off the Solomon Islands, and generated a tsunami of up to 1.5 metres that damaged dozens of homes in the South Pacific island chain, but authorities cancelled warnings for tsunamis on more distant coasts.
The US Geological Survey said the magnitude 8.0 quake struck at 01:12 GMT on Wednesday near the Santa Cruz Islands, part of the Solomon Islands nation, which have been hit by a series of strong tremors over the past week.
"No tsunami threat exists for other coastal areas although some may experience small sea level changes," the Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre said.
Solomons officials reported two 1.5-metre waves hit the western side of Santa Cruz Island, damaging around 50 homes and properties, said George Herming, a spokesperson for the prime minister.
There were no reports of injuries or deaths. Villagers were heading for higher ground as a precaution, Herming said.
The region has a population of around 30,000 people.
The centre said a tsunami of about a metre was measured in Lata wharf, in the Solomon Islands, and that an 11-centimetre wave was observed in neighbouring Vanuatu.
The centre cancelled earlier warnings for tsunami waves further away.
In Honiara, the warnings had prompted residents to flee for higher ground.
"People are still standing on the hills outside of Honiara just looking out over the water, trying to observe if there is a wave coming in," Herming said.
So far, he had received no reports that a wave had been spotted in Honiara.
Atenia Tahu, who works for the Solomon Islands Broadcasting Corporation in Honiara, said most people were remaining calm.
"People around the coast and in the capital are ringing in and trying to get information from us and the National Disaster Office and are slowly moving up to higher ground," Tahu said. "But panic? No, no, no, people are not panicking."
An official at the disaster management office in Vanuatu said there were no reports of damage or injuries there.
More than 50 people were killed and thousands lost their homes in April 2007 when a magnitude 8.1 quake hit the western Solomon Islands, sending waves crashing into coastal villages.
The Solomons comprise more than 200 islands with a population of about 552,000 people. They lie on the "Ring of Fire" - an arc of earthquake and volcanic zones that stretches around the Pacific Rim and where about 90 percent of the world's quakes occur.
The US Geological Survey said the quake struck 81km west of Lata, at a depth of 5.8km. The warning area does not include Hawaii and North and South America.-www.shfaqna.com/English
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) -- Television coverage was more than widespread. Confused and hurried reports from the scene. President Barack Obama making an emotional, heartfelt statement about it. That was an unforgettable moment – a politician reacting by natural instinct, representing what many people were feeling.
It’s true that it was reported by various outlets that the killer was allowed to freely enter the school. Also that his mother worked at the school and that he had an agitated encounter with school officials the day before, and that he used two pistols in the shooting. None of this was true, and there were other inaccuracies. Mind you, much of the incorrect information came from the police and other authorities who were scrambling to gather information.
The attacks on the media at such times amount to attacking the messenger. It’s a fact that television news performs poorly when faced with a circumstance such as the massacre in Newtown. On all-news channels, there is an obsession with dwelling on the story endlessly, even as the facts are unclear. It’s also a fact that bits of information are repeated over and over and that a handful of images that might convey the situation is also recycled ceaselessly.
But this is human nature. The news anchors, their producers and the reporters are only human and reacting, in the main, as most people would. It’s also a fact that the style and mythology of news reporting on TV is not dreamed up by predatory, unthinking media bosses. The style and methods tend to emerge from consultation with the viewer – through focus groups and other tools of research about what viewers want to see.
At a time when people are horrified and confused, what unfolds on TV can be horrifying and confusing. It is not the mandated role of the medium to ignore the horror and wait until everything is clearly, verifiably known. It is, in fact, the sense of confusion and horror that has emphatic impact and leads to change.
The best and worst of television is on display in such circumstances. The worst can be the idle speculation as pundits are rushed on-air and begin pontificating. On Fox News on Friday, a gruff former New York police detective began ranting about David Berkowitz, the Son of Sam killer. He said he had interviewed Berkowitz and asked him for his motive. The ex-detective said the stated motive was, “My mother put me up for adoption.” The Fox anchor and the pundit then began heaping scorn on the idea that early-childhood trauma might form an adult killer.
The day of a massacre, when few facts are known, is not the time to discuss mental illness on TV. It’s absurd, but it is also a reflection of how viewers are struggling to comprehend what is happening. Sometimes the worst of television is the worst of us.
The best of TV news in these circumstances can simply be its role in reminding us that horror erupts, that terrible, mind-numbing deeds are done. Only by acquainting ourselves with horror can we learn from it, can we learn how to try to prevent it from happening again.
At the same time, it is not just TV news that needs to hesitate, to calm down and consider the events. We do too. Given the multiplicity of news-information sources – from mainstream TV to social media – we live in a time of outrageous confusion, speculation, spite and easy condemnation. We seem to like it that way. Carefully assembled, clear reportage comes later. That’s a fact, for us and the media we feed and feed on. Don’t blame TV. Instead, examine what we want and why we want it.
The Iranian Americans (PBS, 9 p.m.) is a new documentary that is mainly about 25 Iranians who were uprooted from their home country and heritage after the revolution in Iran in 1979, and had to rebuild their lives in the United States. In some cases, they helped to create a new community and in other instances, they went their own way. The doc dwells on the culture they brought with them and the tensions between the individual and the community.
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) – A newly uncovered clandestine computer network, known as the ‘One System,’ can reportedly share children’s personal details across different UK agencies, including age, sex, address and their school behavior records – all without parents ever knowing.
One of Britain’s biggest government contractors has created a database containing the personal details of 8 million children, the Sunday Times revealed.
The database was created by Capita – a company specializing in IT systems – and includes information on a child’s sex, age, exam results, if they have special needs, bad behavior like absenteeism and how many minutes late they are to lessons.
This information can then be shared with numerous agencies, including the police, the NHS and child protection units and charities, all without parental consent.
Teachers collect data on all children, not just ones deemed to be at risk. This includes recording how many minutes late they are for class.
“While information is absolutely essential to protect children, you need to collect information about children who are at risk and not every child,” Nick Pickles from privacy advocate group Big Brother Watch told RT.
The One System is already employed by about 100 local authorities, and was created two years after Contact Point – a similar database which was set up by the then-Labour government, but scrapped by the current coalition because of security concerns.
Documents obtained by the Sunday Times revealed that classroom information is gathered by teachers and submitted to the One System up to six times a day to provide a “golden thread of data” that can be accessed by anyone working with children.
In an Orwellian twist, the firm hires photographers to take pictures of schoolchildren, which they then offer for sale to their parents before uploading them onto the database.
“The only reason they’ve designed this is about profit, it’s not about keeping children safe,” Pickles said.
Capita has been providing school management databases for local councils, called ‘Sims,’ for several years. Those councils can now upload data from Sims onto the One Database. The records, if required, could be integrated into a larger centralized database.
In Swindon, a large town in southern England, records on 48,000 pupils are stored on the Capita One database and have been shared with health officials at local NHS hospitals, and with teams that work with young offenders.
Capita children’s services, which designed the system, told the Sunday Times that it could be used to identify vulnerable children who may need support from social workers.
Pickles disagrees: “Child protection can not be delegated to an algorithm without local or individual knowledge of that child. Databases and computers remove human judgment.”
Pickles argued that one of the main problems with the One System is that it’s not a centralized government system, and is therefore inconsistent across schools.
This compartmentalization also makes it harder to share information effectively and quickly. In the past, children were not necessarily endangered by a lack of information, but by professionals whose job it is to protect them not sharing information that already exists. This is allegedly what happened in the 2002 Soham murders, where 13-year-old Jessica Chapman and Holly Wells were killed by Ian Huntley, their school’s caretaker.— www.shafaqna.com/English
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association)– A major police operation deploying more than 1,000 officers has begun in a series of pre-dawn arrests Thursday, reportedly targeting suspects linked to the Hells Angels and Montreal’s West End gang.
The suspects were involved in large-scale drug trafficking, mostly cocaine, police said.
The crackdown was a co-ordinated effort by law-enforcement agents in Quebec, Ontario and British Columbia.
Quebec’s provincial police, the Montreal police, the RCMP and joint anti-organized crime regional squads were involved, said a Sûreté du Québec spokesman.
Dozens were arrested in 30 municipalities across Quebec.
La Presse reported that those arrested in the morning darkness included a full-patch Hells Angel biker from B.C. and a major figure of the West End gang.
The West End gang is group of of Quebec mobsters, mostly of Irish ancestry, which past court cases have described as having conspired with bikers to import drugs through the port of Montreal.
The SQ is expected to release more details at a press conference at its Parthenay headquarters in Montreal at 2 p.m.
Police said Thursday’s raids were on the same scale as major sweeps such as Operation Springtime in 2001, which ended the violent reign of the Nomads chapter of the Hells Angels, and Operation SharQC in 2009, which netted 111 other suspects affiliated with the Quebec Angels whose mega-trial is still pending.
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) — A massive Idaho wildfire forced hundreds of people from their homes on Sunday as high winds pushed the blaze to within miles of two communities.
Managers of the 260,000-acre Mustang Complex fire, ignited by lightning in July in mountainous pine forests dissected by steep, narrow canyons in the Salmon-Challis National Forest, prepared to defend threatened houses along a strategic stretch of highway near the two towns in east-central Idaho.
Fire trucks from a number of Idaho cities took up positions near the tiny towns of North Fork and Gibbonsville, which sit within a 21-mile stretch of U.S. Highway 93, near the Montana border.
"It's going to test us," fire information officer Bill Swartley said of the wildfire. "We will defend homes. But if it becomes a safety hazard to fire personnel, we will step aside and let the fire pass."
The Mustang Complex is one of several large fires burning mostly unchecked across the U.S. West in a destructive fire season that has already seen record-breaking fires in Colorado, New Mexico and Oregon.
A cold front bringing winds predicted to gust up to 45 miles per hour sparked the latest round of Idaho evacuations, centered on an estimated 400 residences and vacation homes. Authorities last week advised some residents to leave and others to be prepared to evacuate at a moment's notice.
Fire engines were stationed at many properties. Houses with just one access road were to be guarded by hundreds of firefighters. Those crews were assigned to activate the gas-powered pumps of sprinkler systems when needed and then depart.
But not all were heeding the order to evacuate. Jon Cummings, co-owner of 100 Acre Wood Lodge, an upscale resort in North Fork, chose not to leave, and said he was slightly unnerved when authorities warned that emergency services may not be provided and asked him to identify his next of kin.
"It's possible that embers from the fire could rain down on us like who knows what, but we're keeping everything watered down," he said.
A firefighter was taken to a local hospital on Saturday but the extent of his injuries and his condition were unclear on Sunday. The blaze, manned by more than 1,100 fire personnel, is near a 2003 fire northwest of Salmon that overran and killed two young firefighters.
Many residents displaced by the Mustang Complex sought temporary housing with family and friends in Salmon, where the local Red Cross has opened a shelter.
On Sunday, Dorene and Bob Johnson scrambled to pack up belongings at the home north of Salmon they had been forced to flee last week. Dorene Johnson, a nurse, said the trip amid smoke and flames was harrowing.
"It was really traumatic for me to see the fire burning in our neighborhood," she said.
Source: Press TV
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) — There could be a similar amount of methane stored beneath Antarctica’s vast ice sheets as there is trapped in the Arctic permafrost, researchers have discovered.
If the white continent’s ice sheets continue to thin as the climate warms, stores of the potent greenhouse gas could be released to the atmosphere. This would lead to faster rises in temperature causing even more methane to be released, in a situation scientists call positive feedback.
The fact that the poles are the fastest-warming regions of the planet could make the problem even worse.
So far, researchers have focussed their attention on the fate of methane reserves trapped in the northern hemisphere in places like the Arctic permafrost. But recent research has revealed that beneath its ice sheets, Antarctica harbours micro-organisms and carbon left over from ancient marine sediments and other biomes that existed on the continent before the ice sheet grew 30 million years ago.
Not just that, but the low-oxygen conditions likely beneath the Antarctic ice sheets means it could well be home to micro-organisms that generate methane.
Professor Jemma Wadham from the University of Bristol is lead author of the study, published in Nature on August 30. He said:
People didn’t think there was life beneath Antarctica until around the 1990s. But over the last 10 years, researchers have discovered that there are microbes and organic carbon. And it’s remote from the atmosphere, so it’s a perfect place for methane-generating microbes to live.
In this latest study, Wadham together with UK, US and Canadian colleagues, set about testing the idea that methane could be produced beneath Antarctica’s ice sheets.
Their experiments revealed that such sub-ice environments are almost certainly biologically active. This means this organic carbon may have been metabolised by oxygen-deprived microbes, turning it into carbon dioxide and methane over tens of millions of years.
They calculate that 50 per cent of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS) and 25 per cent of the East Antarctic Ice Sheet (EAIS) sits on top of ancient sedimentary basins, which contains an estimated 21,000 billion tonnes of carbon. The ice sheet formed on top of these deep layers of organic carbon. Wadham said:
This is an immense amount of organic carbon, more than ten times the size of carbon stocks in northern permafrost regions.
The researchers add that the carbon is buried in sediments several kilometres underneath the ice sheet.
Their experiment also revealed that there could be methane hydrates – an ice-like mixture of water and methane – just a few hundred metres below both ice sheets. Methane hydrate is stable at low temperatures and high pressure, but their relatively shallow depth in the Antarctic makes them more susceptible to changes in temperature resulting from climate change than other methane reserves in places like the Arctic or Siberia. Wadham said:
There’s a lot of uncertainty about how much methane hydrate is there and where it’s located. We’d like to do some detailed modelling at specific sites in Antarctica to get a better idea about where these methane stores are. It would also be good to get sample from shallow sub-ice sheet sediments to analyse them for methane. The 10-year plan would be to drill deeper in to sedimentary basins, but the technology to do this just isn’t there right now.—www.shafaqna.com/English
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) — Thousands of students have rallied against tuition fee hikes in Quebec, an action organizers have trumpeted as a renewal of the protest movement.
The demonstrators marched through downtown Montreal on Wednesday ahead of Quebec’s general election that will be held on September 4th.The voting will decide whether Premier Jean Charest’s Liberal Party is reelected – who’ve run on a plan to drastically increase tuition fees to US$ 1,794 over seven years, a hike of 82 percent.
While the numbers of protesters were smaller than the hundreds of thousands seen last spring – according to the Montreal Gazette – organizers of Wednesday’s protest said it was the largest planned demonstration seen during an electoral campaign and that it signaled the revitalization of the protest movement.
"We already have far more than seen in the summer protests held on the 22nd of each month which drew about 10,000 people," Jeremie Bedard-Wien, spokesman for CLASSE, the largest and most militant of the student groups, said, according to the paper. "The mobilization is starting up again."
Student associations FEUQ and FECQ called for students to vote en masse to oust the Liberal government that introduced the fee hikes.
Despite many students taking decision to return to class, some intend to remain on strike, protesting the planned tuition hike and controversial Bill 78 – an emergency law that restricted demonstrations and introduced enormous fines.
"The strike is continuing in many faculties and many departments and universities and it will continue afterwards," Bedard-Wien said as quoted by The Canadian Press. "What we've put forward for students is this idea of popular mobilization."
The spokesman for CLASSE believes that the current election – and the avoidance of student issues – explains why many of the protesters distrust the traditional political parties.
"We recognize that the three main parties that can cease power haven't made much of a case in support of education," Bedard-Wien said. "They haven't supported us much during the strike and we don't expect much from them at all — and that is why we argue for sustained mobilization."
Many opposition parties, such as Parti Québécois, Québec solidaire, Option Nationale, and workers unions, have voiced their support of the student protest movement.
Politician Marie Malavoy, from center-left Parti Québécois, urged students not to pay their fees for the semester. Her party promises to scrap Charest’s planned tuition fee increase if they get elected.
Premier Jean Charest had called on students to go to classes and said that he hopes the issue will be resolved by September’s elections.—www.shafaqna.com/english
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) —Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei has called for an enthusiastic participation in demonstrations marking International Quds Day.
During a meeting with hundreds of veterans from the Iraq-Iran war on Wednesday, Ayatollah Khamenei said that a high turnout on Quds Day would give a crushing response to the enemies of Islam and Palestinians.
He described the occupation of the Palestinian territories and the formation of the Israeli regime as the root of evil in the Middle East.
“Had this conspiracy not taken place, these wars, divisions, and interventions by colonialists and oppressors would not have occurred,” the Leader stated.
Ayatollah Khamenei urged Muslims to counter attempts made by Israel and its allies to push the issue of Palestine into oblivion, describing the Islamic Revolution in Iran as a major “historical obstacle” against the enemy plot to smother the Palestinian cause.
The Leader condemned enemy schemes to create sectarian divisions among Muslims as part of the effort to avert attention from the West’s silence and support for the decades-long occupation of the Palestinian territories.
Ayatollah Khamenei noted that liberating Palestine from the grip of Israel and its allies is a religious duty for all Muslims across the world.
In August 1979, late founder of the Islamic Republic Grand Ayatollah Rouhollah Khomeini declared the last Friday of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan as International Quds Day, and called on Muslims across the world to mark the annual occasion by holding street rallies.
Millions of people around the world pour into the streets on this day in a show of support for the people of Palestine, and to call for an end to Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories. —www.shafaqna.com/english
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) — Power has returned to much of north India after a massive blackout for a second straight day caused major transport disruption and traffic chaos in several cities.
Hundreds of millions of people across India were left without power on Tuesday in one of the world's worst blackouts, trapping miners, stranding train travellers and plunging hospitals into darkness.
The blackout comes a day after a mass outage left eight states without power for much of the day.
Shailendre Dubey, an official at the Uttar Pradesh Power Corp, said the northern grid collapsed at about 1:05pm (07:35 GMT) on Tuesday.
VK Agrawal, the general manager of the grid, confirmed the outage.
"We are busy with the revival right now... Both the northern and eastern grids have collapsed. Please allow us to address the problem," Agrawal told the AFP news agency.
Al Jazeera's Nilanjan Chowdhury, reporting from New Delhi, said the outage had knocked out the capital's metro system, as well as its traffic lights. Traffic policemen were filling in, but the blackout had resulted in widespread traffic jams.
"The reason is the same [as for Monday's outage]: apparently there was overloading of the grid, and this has happened at a location about 100km from Delhi, in Agra."
Chowdhury said that outages then spread as demand collapsed the northern and eastern grids.
He also said that while power remains out in the business centres, the VIP areas that house ministers are now receiving power.
About 400 trains were affected by the power outage, a spokesman for the railways told AFP.
SK Mohanty, a power official in the eastern state of Orissa, confirmed that the eastern grid had also been knocked out. He said the fault could take several hours to resolve.
Power was also cut in the main eastern city of Kolkata, and in most parts of West Bengal state, a local official said.
The eastern grid covers five states, including West Bengal, Bihar, Jharkhand, Sikkim and Orissa.
RN Rayak, the chairman of the Power Grid Corporation of India, told reporters at a press conference late on Tuesday afternoon that he expected power to be restored to all areas by 7:00pm local time (13:30 GMT).
Hundreds of coal miners, meanwhile, were trapped in West Bengal because the power cut left them unable to operate their lifts.
"We are trying to rescue the coal miners. All efforts are on to resume power supplies," Mamata Banerjee, the chief minister of West Bengal, told reporters in the state capital Kolkata.
"You need power supplies to run the lifts in the underground mines."
She said that hundreds of miners were trapped in Burdwan, about 180km northwest of Kolkata.
"Over 200 miners are stuck in several coal mines. They cannot come out till the power service is restored," said Niladri Roy, general manager at Eastern Coalfields in Kolkata.
Roy said that the miners were "in no danger", as they were in a well-ventilated area.
Power Minister Sushilkumar Shinde blamed the system's collapse on some states drawing more than their share of electricity from the over-burdened grid.
"Everyone overdraws from the grid. Just this morning I held a meeting with power officials from the states and I gave directions that states that overdraw should be punished," he told reporters.
"We have given instructions that their power supply could be cut."
Indians took to social networking sites to ridicule the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government, in part for promoting Shinde to Home Minister on Tuesday despite the power cuts.
On Monday, the northern grid collapsed for six hours shortly after 2:00am (20:30 GMT Sunday), causing travel chaos and widespread inconvenience in nine states and the capital New Delhi.
Major hospitals and airports in the region were able to function normally on emergency back-up power on both days, but train services were severely disrupted.
Industrial lobby groups say the power outages underline the government's inability to address India's acute electricity shortfall.
"The increasing gap between electricity supply and demand has long been a matter of concern," said Chandrajit Banerjee, director general of the Confederation of Indian Industry.
The CII, Banerjee said, has "consistently highlighted" the need for urgent steps to improve supplies of coal to thermal power plants and reforming state distribution utilities.
"This latest outage is just an urgent reminder for addressing these issues as a priority," he added.
India's demand for electricity has soared along with its economy in recent years, but it has been unable to meet growing energy needs.
The Central Electricity Authority reported power deficits of more than eight per cent in recent months.
The power deficit was worsened by a weak monsoon that lowered hydroelectric generation and kept temperatures higher, further increasing electricity usage as people seek to cool off.
Even connection to the grid, however, remains a luxury for many. One-third of India's households do not have electricity to power a light bulb, according to last year's census.—www.shafaqna.com/english