Friday, December 21, 2012

The projected end of the world has come around with surprising regularity throughout history. Each time a group of believers has been left bewildered at the absence of all-consuming death and devastation. If they've taking the warnings seriously enough, they will have sold their homes, abandoned earthly civilisation's material trappings and braced themselves for the arrival of a new era.
The latest date to herald widespread alarm is today, 21 December, which marks the conclusion of the 5,125-year "Long Count" Mayan calendar. The 2012 phenomenon is essentially an accounting problem; a misinterpretation of some very ancient book keeping. It is based on the Maya calendar, which counts the days since a date in the mythical past. This count reset after the last creation (on or about 11 August, 3114BC).
Around the world, precautions are being taken. Panic-buying of candles has been reported in China's Sichuan province. Survival pods have built in Hebei province, China. In Russia, where sales of tinned goods and matches have surged, the Prime Minister has urged his countryfolk to remain calm. Authorities in the French Pyrenees are preparing for an influx of believers to the mountain Pic de Bugarach, where rumours have spread that UFOs will rescue human gatherers.
If precedent is any guide, however, 21 December is likely to prove an anti-climax. Since the dawn of civilisation, humans have often been gripped by certainty that the world was about to end. The Romans panicked at predictions their city would be destroyed in 634 BC. Millennial fears gripped Europe ahead of the year 1000 AD. During the English Civil War, groups like the Fifth Monarchists believed the end was nigh.
More recent apocalypses have panned out in much the same way. Followers of Nostradamus braced themselves for the arrival of the "King of Terror" in "1999 and seven months". US television evangelist Pat Robertson forecast that "something like" a nuclear attack would occur in late 2007. The California radio preacher Harold Camping set a date for the end of the world no fewer than six times, settling on 22 October 2011 - a day which, historians may recall, was distinguished by an absence of fire and brimstone.
For those who paid heed to their dire warnings, learning that life will in fact carry on as normal might be expected to be a deeply traumatic experience. Surprisingly, however, groups which predict the end of the world have quite a good record of carrying on after the world is supposed to have ended. "The vast majority seem to shrug off the failure of prophecy fairly well." Indeed, many have gone on to flourish. The most crucial trait necessary to keep a group together after a failed apocalypse - a strong sense of community. "If the group itself has been pretty cohesive, it's been free of schism and dissent, they can get through." Also important, is the presence of a decisive leadership who can offer a swift explanation. "If rationalisation comes quickly, the group can withstand ridicule from outside."
The appeal of leaders preaching the impending apocalypse down the ages has always been about far more than the specifics of their prophecies. "It's a kind of rejection of the order of the world as it is. It's to do with imagining something far better. After it becomes apparent that the new order isn't going to come, there are ways of adjusting the message." For true believers, the saga is only just beginning when the clock hands reach 12.

**Do not wait for the last judgment. It comes every day.**
Albert Camus

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Russian volcano eruption to continue for two weeks - The Plosky Tolbachik volcano is in an ongoing eruption with consistent intensity. The eruption in Russia's far eastern Kamchatka peninsula will continue for at least two more weeks, a leading scientist said.

Risk of volcanic eruption in Turkey - There is a risk of volcanic eruption in Turkish province of Mugla close to Marmaris, CNN Turk TV channel said on Thursday. This was stated by 12 scientists after carrying out research in the coastal Mediterranean area for several months. They found that there is a risk of an underwater volcano eruption as a result of numerous earthquakes in the area. A crater was also found at a depth of 25 metres under water.
Turkey is located in a seismically active zone. The most powerful vibrations of the earth's crust in this country occurred in the Marmara Sea in 1999. The magnitude of the tremors was 7.4. About 18,000 people were killed in the earthquake.

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Tropical Cyclone Evan was located approximately 115 nm northwest of of Pago Pago, American Samoa.


Snowstorm leaves four dead as winter hits US - At least four people have died as the first major snowstorm of the season crosses the US Midwest. Two people died in a car crash in Wisconsin, one was killed in a 25-vehicle crash in Iowa, and a woman died in Utah after becoming stuck in snow.
Blizzard conditions and as much as 1ft (30cm) of snow are expected from Kansas to Wisconsin, with the Rocky Mountains already blanketed. Officials said the storm could bring temperatures below -17C (0F). The severe weather could disrupt pre-Christmas travel, they have also warned.
Nearly 1ft of snow fell in Des Moines, Iowa, and winds as high as 53mph (85 km/h) were recorded in the south-western part of the state. In Utah, rescuers found a woman dead after she tried to walk to find help after her car became stuck in snow. In Wisconsin on Wednesday, a man lost control of his car and he and his passenger became trapped in the vehicle, killing them both. The National Weather Service warned those in the path of the storm to stay off roads because of poor visibility.
Chicago's busy O'Hare airport reported more than 90 flight cancellations. Flights into Chicago were being delayed at their place of departure. Some flights were being delayed by more than two hours. Interstate 29 in Missouri was shut down on early Thursday and Interstate 80 in Nebraska remained closed due to blowing snow. On the southern edge of the storm system, high winds have damaged homes and downed trees in Arkansas and Alabama. Tornado warnings remained for parts of Mississippi, Louisiana and Alabama on Thursday.


Attack rate in fungal meningitis outbreak estimated at 4.4% - Researchers estimate from preliminary data that 4.4% of patients who were exposed to contaminated steroid drugs from a Massachusetts compounding pharmacy contracted fungal meningitis or other fungal infections.