Thursday, April 18, 2013

Japanese island hit by series of quakes - A strong 6.2 earthquake and about 20 smaller temblors struck the small volcanic Miyake Island south of Tokyo on Wednesday, slightly injuring three people but causing no danger of a tsunami.
The strongest quake left three people with minor injuries. A man in his 40s suffered cuts from broken pieces of glass, and two elderly people at a nursing home sustained bruises from falling. The quake also knocked down a concrete wall at a house and triggered several small landslides around the island. "We've had moderate shakings repeatedly since this morning, and the one in the evening was surprisingly strong. Some things fell to the floor."
The Meteorological Agency said it detected no significant elevation in the island's volcanic activity. The volcano, located 180 kilometers south of Tokyo, most recently erupted in 2000, forcing all 3,000 of the island's residents to evacuate for five years. A magnitude-5.8 quake struck Wednesday night off the coast of Miyagi in northern Japan, shaking large parts of the area devastated by the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami. There were no immediate reports of injuries or damage from the quake in the north. No abnormalities were reported at nuclear power plants in the region, including the crippled Fukushima Dai-ichi plant.

**People who think they know everything
are a great annoyance to those of us who do.**
Isaac Asimov


Live Seismograms - Worldwide (update every 30 minutes)

This morning -
None 5.0 or higher.

Yesterday -
4/17/13 -

Earthquake of magnitude 5.1 hits China, 9 injured - A 5.1-magnitude earthquake jolted southwest China's Yunnan Province on Wednesday, leaving nine persons injured. The quake struck the Dali Bai Autonomous Prefecture in the province at 9:45 am.

Seventh earthquake reported Tuesday in Oklahoma - Aftershocks continued Tuesday afternoon, with a 3.0 magnitude earthquake reported by the U.S. Geological Survey about 11:45 a.m., bringing the Tuesday total to at least seven. The quake was centered near Luther.

India infrastructure for earthquake response is scanty - With the abnormal growth of the cities, with rampant unplanned construction, are India's metro cities sitting ducks in case a large earthquake struck one of them?

Volcano Webcams


No current tropical storms.


Locusts invasions in central and southern regions of Madagascar - Swarms of locusts have invaded Madagascar. The central and southern regions are the most affected, hampering the already fragile recovery efforts from the effects of cyclone “Haruna” of February 2013.
This invasion by the locusts has brought about a new humanitarian crisis in the country. Over 60% of the country is currently infested and “locust infestations, if untreated, could wipe out food crops and livestock grazing lands – and with it a family’s ability to provide for itself…, [it is therefore crucial to act fast] . Timely and adequate support not only saves livelihoods, but also millions of dollars in humanitarian assistance that would be needed to restore crop and livestock production later on.”
The communities most affected are those in Tuliara I and Toliara II. These are the communities that experienced cyclone “Haruna”, with significant damage to their agriculture crops and infrastructure. The peripheral regions that survived the floods are severely affected by locusts which are eating up every green plant negatively impacting on food supply. In Toliara, the crops that survived the floods are under attack making the food security situation even precarious. Early recovery efforts are threatened as locusts eat any new plants and also destroy a potential harvest before the dry season.
To minimize the impact, immediate needs consist of direct food supply, and recovery efforts through supplying locust resistant seeds for tuber crops like cassava and potatoes. Many people already affected by cyclone “Haruna” also still need psychosocial support. At national level the government is coordinating logistics to contain and eradicate the locusts by spraying pesticides and mobilizing resources together with support from some international organizations. The food security cluster led by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation is working in the affected area and has intensified the livelihood activities to help the cyclone victims endure the recovery period compounded by the plague of locusts.
The main planned activities in response to the locusts are: addressing food security by providing food, and seeds for tuber crops including agriculture tools. There are no funds available, and the requested amount for intervention will be about USD 300,000.00. The main constraint faced by government currently is lack of adequate equipment and chemicals to effectively combat the locusts as the affected areas have to be hand-sprayed on foot. The government also lacks aerial means to spray the pesticides.


The UK government should suspend the use of a number of pesticides linked to the deaths of bees, a committee of MPs has said. Members of the Commons Environmental Audit Committee are calling for a moratorium on the use of sprays containing neonicotinoids. Britain has refused to back an EU ban on these chemicals saying their impact on bees is unclear. But MPs say this is an "extraordinarily complacent" approach.
Wild species such as honey bees are said by researchers to be responsible for pollinating around one-third of the world's crop production. Two-thirds of these species have suffered population declines in the UK. A "growing body of peer-reviewed research" points the finger at a group of pesticides called neonicotinoids.
Neonicotinoid pesticides are new nicotine-like chemicals and act on the nervous systems of insects with a lower threat to mammals and the environment than many older sprays. Pesticides made in this way are water soluble which means they can be applied to the soil and taken up by the whole plant - they are called "systemic", meaning they turn the plant itself into a poison factory with toxins coming from roots, leaves, stems and pollen. Neonicotinoids are often applied as seed treatments which means coating the seeds before planting.
"We believe the weight of scientific evidence now warrants precautionary action. So we are calling for a moratorium on pesticides linked to bee decline to be introduced by 1 January next year." Following on from research published in January by the European Food Safety Authority that suggested these chemicals posed an "unacceptable" threat to bees, the European Commission proposed that neonicotinoid sprays be restricted to crops not attractive to pollinators. There are already some restrictions in place in France, Germany, Italy and Slovenia. But the idea of a two-year ban did not attract enough support after the UK and Germany both abstained.
"If farmers had to pollinate fruit and vegetables without the help of insects it would costs hundreds of millions of pounds and we would all be stung by rising food prices." But the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs says that a ban is not justified at present. "Neonicotinoids will kill bees, let me be absolutely clear about that. It is what numbers do they kill and whether it affects populations - the question is whether banning them in any way would be proportional and at the moment the balance of evidence suggests it wouldn't be."
There have been a number of studies showing that the chemicals, made by Bayer and Syngenta, do have negative impacts on both honey and bumblebees. One study suggested that neonicotinoids affected the abilities of hives to produce queen bees. More recent research indicated that the pesticides damaged their brains. But Defra argues that these studies were mainly conducted in the laboratory and do not accurately reflect field conditions. It has published its own work showing that in the field, these chemicals had little effect on bee health, although Defra acknowledges the study lacks statistical power.
They are also calling on the European Commission to agree to a major new field study that would settle the debate. "That will allow informed decision-making, rather than rushing into a knee-jerk ban based on inconclusive studies," said a Defra spokesman. Despite being used for 20 years, there has been no satisfactory answer to the key question: what effect are these chemicals having on pollinators in the field? Given the finely balanced state of the science he says that other factors such as the costs to farmers have to be considered in the decision to keep using these pesticides.
"It is a very difficult analysis to do, we really don't have full data - but it does suggest that the cost-benefit trade-off at the moment is weighted to retaining neonicotinoids because if you just cost this in financial terms then you move in the direction of having a significant financial cost to take them out of the system." But the Commons Environmental Audit Commission rejects this approach, saying that "economic considerations should not form part of environmental risk management decision-making". The committee also asks for more openness from the chemical manufacturers who should publish their own research on the safety of these products.
In the UK, bees are one of a number of pollinators in decline The committee of MPs says the government's lack of action is in marked contrast to the efforts of the UK's largest garden chains. B&Q, Wickes and Homebase have withdrawn non-professional plant protection products that contain neonicotinoid chemicals. The report has been welcomed by many campaigners. The issue is unlikely to disappear anytime soon. The European Commission said that it would continue to press forward with plans for a moratorium. A spokesman said they were planning to appeal against the recently rejected ban.
In the US, the Environmental Protection Agency is being sued by beekeepers and environmental groups over its "failure" to protect pollinators from neonicotinoids.


H7N9 sickens 5 more in China; family cluster suspected - The number of people infected with H7N9 influenza in China grew by fiveWednesday, with Shanghai and Zhejiang province reporting fresh cases, and news reports described an H7N9 family cluster apparently linked to one of the outbreak's first confirmed cases.

Ricin suspected in letter sent to Obama - Federal authorities said yesterday that a letter addressed to President Obama contained a substance that initially tested positive for the deadly toxin ricin, amid investigations of suspicious mail sent to at least three senators.