Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Superstorm Sandy's hurricane-force winds snap tree trunks like matchsticks in New York


Titanic replica to be built in China

An Australian billionaire has announced plans to build a replica of the RMS Titanic, 100 years after the original ship sank.

 Clive Palmer, who already owns a luxury holiday resort and is reportedly Australia’s fifth-richest person, expects the vessel – named Titanic II – to make its maiden voyage in 2016, sailing from Britain to New York.
“It will be every bit as luxurious as the original Titanic, but will have state-of-the-art 21st-century technology and the latest navigation and safety systems,” said Mr Palmer. He described the project as “a tribute to the spirit of the men and women who worked on the original Titanic.”
Mr Palmer said he has commissioned the state-owned Chinese company CSC Jinling Shipyard to build the replica, as well as three other luxury cruise ships. He added that he is working with a team of historical researchers to ensure the ship’s design is as close as possible to the original.
The diesel-powered vessel will have four funnels, although they will be purely decorative. There will be 840 cabins, nine decks and it will measure 270 metres long and 53 metres high.
“Titanic II will be the ultimate in comfort and luxury with on-board gymnasiums and swimming pools, libraries, high-class restaurants and luxury cabins,” added Mr Palmer.
Changes will be made below the waterline, however. It will use welding and not riveting, and will have a more fuel-efficient design and an enlarged rudder for greater manoeuvrability. Construction is due to begin next year.

Titanic safety officer warned ship needed '50 per cent more lifeboats'

The safety officer on the Titanic warned the ship needed '50 per cent more lifeboats' but his fears were suppressed, a newly uncovered document reveals.

Titanic safety officer warned ship needed '50 per cent more lifeboats'
Chief officer Henry Wilde, back row, second left, caried out the lifeboat check with Maurice Clarke Photo: BNPS

Civil servant Maurice Clarke inspected the liner for lifeboats and safety equipment five hours before she left on her doomed maiden voyage 100 years ago.
He made handwritten notes at the time in which he clearly stated the vessel did not have enough lifeboats.
But he wrote that if he made the recommendation official his job would be threatened as Titanic's owners had pressured his superiors into giving the fated ship the all clear.
The revelation of a cover-up have come to light for the first time in a century after Mr Clarke's 'smoking gun' documents were made available for sale at auction.
They show he boarded the vessel at 8am on April 10, 1912 to carry out his checks before granting Titanic a certificate to allow her to carry emigrant passengers.

Under the heading 'boats', he acknowledged it was not possible to double the number of lifeboats from 20 to 40 to cover 'all hands' due to cost and extra manning.
         The Carpathia carrying rescued lifeboats from the Titanic after the disaster (BNPS

But Mr Clarke, the emigration officer for the government's Board of Trade, wrote: "I suggest 50 per cent more."
He stated that an increase of 50 per cent would mean 30 lifeboats that would carry 1,767 people in an emergency.
He wrote: "This permits of all persons being transferred to another ship in one return, not 3.
"A sufficiency of boats would allay a panic."
But he added, tellingly: "To deviate...would leave me without support. I might be shifted as suggest to me by owners if I enforced my views as to efficiency."
His notes also reveal that Titanic only had six life buoys on board, which equated to one per 370 people.
In the event, the Titanic left Southampton for New York with the legal minimum 20 lifeboats that had a capacity for 1,178 people.  Only 706 passengers and crew made it into the boats and 1,522 people died after the Titanic struck an iceberg and sank on April 15, 1912.  Despite his concerns, Mr Clarke toed the company line when he later gave evidence at the official inquiry into the disaster and did not repeat his views. When asked whether Titanic was in a proper order to go to sea as an emigrant ship he replied: "Undoubtedly."
His documents are to be sold at auction by Henry Aldridge and Son of Devizes, Wilts. Andrew Aldridge said: "This has to be the most controversial document relating to the Titanic that has emerged in the last 100 years.
"This is clear evidence that a company, namely White Star Line, had sufficient influence to gag a government employee.
"Maurice Clarke felt the number of lifeboats on Titanic was inadequate and he wanted 50 per cent more.
"But he was told, or he was under the impression, that he would be moved from his position if he proceeded with this course of action.
"He felt he could not go go public or make his views known to the powers that be because the owners had made it clear that he wasn't allowed to.
"Had he done so, in his words he would have been shifted, which I think would mean moved position or demoted.
"This statement implies that the Board of Trade officials in charge of clearing Titanic had been pressurised by White Star Line with regard to the subject of insufficient lifeboats.
"This is a fact that has never been known before. It was a judgement which had calamitous results only five days later when Titanic sunk.
"If his recommendations for 30 lifeboats been accepted then potentially more than 1,000 out of the 1,500 people who died could have been saved.
"In hindsight, there was a very strong case to bring charges of corporate manslaughter against White Star Line over the disaster.
"If that had happened, then this document would have been the smoking-gun piece of evidence that would have helped convict them.
"Yet when Maurice Clarke gave his evidence to the official enquiry he played it with a very straight bat and toed the party line."
The documents were obtained by a solicitor more than 50 years ago and it is his son who is now selling them with a pre-sale estimate of £30,000.  They also include a typed statement from Mr Clarke to the Board of Trade in response to receiving a list of questions he was likely to be asked at the enquiry.

Sandy Uproots Historic Oak Tree to Reveal Skeleton

A tent protects the skeletal remains of at least two individuals which were unearthed when a 100-year-old oak tree fell on the Green in New Haven, Connecticut after Hurricane Sandy hit the area October 31, 2012. REUTERS/Michelle McLoughlin

A Connecticut town got an unexpected history lesson after fierce winds from monster storm Sandy toppled a 103-year-old oak tree and exposed skeletal remains below it, officials said on Wednesday.
The remains likely belonged to a victim of yellow fever or smallpox who might have been buried on the New Haven town green between 1799 and 1821, police spokesman David Hartman said.
Headstones for those buried below the green were moved to a local cemetery in 1821, but the bodies of potentially thousands of residents were never relocated, he said.

This week's storm brought 40 to 70 mile per hour winds to New Haven, knocking out power, downing trees and causing some flooding to properties, Hartman said. Sandy's force overturned a well-known oak that was planted on the town green in 1909 in honor of the 100th anniversary of President Abraham Lincoln's birth. A passerby looking at the fallen oak on Tuesday spotted human bones in its roots and alerted authorities, Hartman said.

News of the discovery drew a crowd to the green, where people offered historical information and wild theories about the origins of the skeleton, he said.
"It was a great deal of fun, with no disrespect intended to the dead of course," Hartman said. "It was good Halloween stuff."

An investigator from the medical examiner's office and a research associate from Yale University's Department of Anthropology are collecting the remains. The city is discussing how to properly bury them after they are studied, Hartman said. Given the likely history of the skeleton, no criminal investigation is planned, he said. ( Reuters)

Aftermath of Sandy

US counts cost as Sandy recedes

At least 40 people have been killed, millions are without power and transport across the north-eastern US has been severely disrupted as storm Sandy heads north for Canada.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Arctic Sea Ice Vanishes — and the Oil Rigs Move In

 Time Magazine

NASA Arctic Sea ice
This visualization shows the extent of Arctic sea ice on Aug. 26, 2012, the day the sea ice dipped to its smallest extent ever recorded in more than three decades of satellite measurements, according to scientists from NASA and the National Snow and Ice Data Center.

The state of the Arctic, which is bad, may have just made the dreaded jump to worse. This summer, the sea ice that caps the Arctic Ocean melted to the lowest level since at least 1979, when satellites first began keeping track of ice over the North Pole. By the end of August, the National Snow Ice and Data Center (NSIDC) reported that Arctic ice had fallen to 1.54 million sq. miles (4 million sq. km). That’s nearly six times the size of Texas, but it’s still 45% less than the average for August throughout the 1980s and 90s — and as of now the ice is still shrinking.
Nor is 2012 an anomaly — the ice cap has been shrinking over the years as temperatures have increased, and now some scientists believe the total volume of Arctic ice is only a quarter of what it was 30 years ago.
Environmental activists agree the news of the Arctic melt is evidence that climate change is happening in real time — and even faster than scientists had predicted. If the threat of an ice-free Arctic in a couple of decades doesn’t get the public’s attention, nothing will. But here’s the real irony: the most immediate impact of climate change-related Arctic ice melting will likely be the opening of vast new drilling territory for a thirsty oil industry.
According to the U.S. Geological Survey, there may be more than 90 billion barrels of recoverable oil buried in the Arctic — about 13% of the world’s estimated undiscovered reserves. So as climate change — due chiefly to the burning of fossil fuels like oil — melts the Arctic ice, it becomes easier for oil companies to send their drilling ships northward and produce more oil for us to burn, thus warming the climate even further. That’s pretty much the definition of a positive feedback cycle—and it could be bad news for both the climate and the Arctic.
The process is already underway. On September 9 — four years after it paid $2.8 billion for federal leases — Shell began drilling an exploratory well 70 miles off the northwest coast of Alaska in the Chukchi Sea. It’s the first drilling to be done in the Chukchi in more than two decades, and it comes after years of debate with the Interior Department, which finally gave Shell its permit on August 30. That approval came over the criticisms of environmental groups and some residents of Alaska’s North Shore, who worry that a spill in the icy Arctic waters could prove impossible to clean up. “There’s nothing we can do now but I worry about the weather and the animals we depend on for our survival,” Steve Oomittuk, the mayor of the Alaskan Arctic village of Port Hope, told CNN. “If Shell finds what it thinks is down there then many other companies are going to come and then it will only be a matter of time before something happens out there.”
Shell — which notes that its Chukchi wells will be drilled in water that’s only 130 ft. (40 m) deep, and should be easier to close in the event of a BP-style blowout — will have just a few weeks to drill before the cold forces operations to stop for the long Arctic winter. (Shell is petitioning the government to extend the drilling season past the September 24 deadline because the Arctic water is likely to remain ice free for weeks longer than normal — again due to climate change.) Even with the Obama Administration’s conditional green light, it will likely be years before Shell’s wells produce significant oil, and the enormous challenges of drilling and transporting oil even in a warmer Arctic won’t be easy to overcome. (Shell actually had to halt drilling temporarily on September 10, just a day after it began, because sea ice had moved into the area.) That could mean that the Arctic oil rush could unfold more slowly than energy companies want and environmentalists fear, as Ed Crooks and Guy Chazan wrote recently in the Financial Times:
The lack of infrastructure and logistic challenges meant oilfields in the offshore Arctic would have to be big – with 500 million to 1 billion barrels of recoverable crude in a single accumulation – to be economically viable … But of the more than 400 discoveries made in Alaska, only 60 have been in excess of 500 million barrels equivalent, and only 12 of those 60 were oil; the rest were gas.
Still, President Obama has signaled that he is largely unwilling to put much of the Arctic off-limits to drilling, even after the disaster that was the BP oil spill. That’s a risky move. It’s worth remembering that the Macondo blowout — which resulted in the release of nearly 5 million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico — happened in the nerve center of the U.S. oil industry, allowing ships and clean-up crews to converge rapidly on the spill site. The Chukchi Sea, by contrast, is more than a thousand miles away from the nearest Coast Guard station. And if Mitt Romney wins in November, we can expect Arctic drilling to scale up even faster. The high price of oil is showing no signs of peaking, pushing energy companies  into ever more expensive and challenging territory. Shell’s drill ship — the Noble Discoverer — won’t be the last rig to ply Arctic waters. And if we remain addicted to burning that oil, the Arctic as we’ve known it could be gone for good, melted before our eyes.

Halloween Decorations....Inspired Home Owners

Perhaps some of them went a wee bit over the top.
You think??

Live Tweets on Hurricane Sandy

    Hurricane Sandy, has pounded the north-eastern US, leaving at least 32 people dead and more than 8m homes without power
  • New York and New Jersey have been declared "major disaster" zones, amid serious flooding fuelled by record tidal surges
  • A week before the US election, President Obama and Republican rival Mitt Romney have suspended campaigning. All times EDT
Live Text

  1. The BBC's Helena Merriman
    tweets: Now driving through snow in West Pennsylvania

  2. 1616:
    New York radio host John Hockenberry, says that the radio has become the only consistent source of information to New Yorkers without power and internet connections. He says water is still standing in parts of Brooklyn and Lower Manhattan and that the sheer ferocity of the storm has "humbled" New Yorkers.

  3. 1615:
    Water Street and Plymouth, in Brooklyn, New York, was completely underwater when Rondell Meeks took this picture on Tuesday morning.

  4. Flooded street in Brooklyn

  5. 1606:
    Sara Misenas, pictured here in front of an uprooted tree in Mohegan Lake, New York, told the BBC: "This morning was windy and the fire department were closing roads and attending to live wires caused by the high winds."
    Sara Misenas in front of an uprooted tree in Mohegan Lake, New York

  6. 1602:
    President Obama at the Red Cross headquarters. On Tuesday, he also held a conference call with state governors and city mayors responding to the storm aftermath, and he is scheduled to survey storm damage in New Jersey on Wednesday.

  7. President Barack Obama at the Red Cross HQ

  8. 1559:
    In Little Ferry, New Jersey rescue crews have been using boats to reach stranded citizens:

  9. Crews use boats to rescue people stranded in Little Ferry, New Jersey

  10. 1548:
    A jet bridge dangles over floodwaters at New York's LaGuardia Airport, in this image tweeted by US airline JetBlue:

  11. An airport boarding gate in flood waters at LaGuardia Airport, New York

  12. Neil, in Little Silver, New Jersey,
    emails: I'm a Brit in New Jersey without power. We've been told that we could be without until 5 November. I am stunned that very few people here (in public office or the general public) question the unfit for purpose nature of a network of overhead power lines serving the majority of one of the most affluent regions in the US.

  13. Tim Tyler, Morristown, New Jersey
    emails: We are lucky to be in one of the few communities in north-west New Jersey where significant numbers of businesses have electricity. So many people in the area are coming here to get out of the cold and find something to eat. Trees are down everywhere, but at least there's no flooding here this time, unlike Hurricane Irene.

  14. 1520:
    Weird! This boat was found washed up by the storm on railway track near Ossining, New York state, this morning:

  15. A boat on the Metro-North tracks north of New York City

  16. 1515:
    Another remarkable story of emergency workers' response to the storm: Emily Rahimi, a woman who has spent seven years with the New York Fire Department, single-handedly manned the department's Twitter feed all night long, co-ordinating with dispatchers on behalf of stranded residents, as well as providing advice and moral support online.

  17. 1512:
    It's worth noting that Governor Christie is a valued surrogate for Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, although he is widely seen as a possible contender himself for a White House run in 2016, should Mr Obama win a second term in next week's election. Gov Christie's generous praise of President Obama's storm response as "wonderful", "outstanding" and "excellent" has set tongues wagging among the political classes in the Beltway.

  18. 1507:
    President Obama is going to visit the state of New Jersey tomorrow to survey the damage. He is expected to meet the state's Republican Governor, Chris Christie, while he is there, speak to residents and thank emergency responders.

  19. 1503:
    In his visit to the American Red Cross HQ in Washington DC, President Obama sent a strong message to federal agencies, telling them he did not want bureaucracy and red tape to get in the way of delivering an effective response to areas hit by the storm.

  20. Jack Cooke in Staten Island, New York
    emails: I feel lucky to have power, although there is spotty cellphone service and web access. I lived in Florida for several years, and experienced several hurricanes, but have never seen such devastion.

  21. 1450:
    President Obama has issued new warnings about the possibility of more flooding and damage in the aftermath of Sandy. In a visit to the HQ of the American Red Cross, he warned the storm is "not yet over", and pledged to keep up the government's response over the coming weeks.

  22. 1448:
    Chris, a photographer for the Coastal Point newspaper on Fenwick Island, Delaware, said: "Daylight brought the views of boats taken off lifts, broken off mooring lines, washing up in people's yards; roofing has come off houses. We still have absurdly high tides and until they recede, we won't have a clear perspective of the damage that has occurred."

  23. 1442:
    The Washington Post reports that schools in the US capital will re-open on Wednesday.

    Enterprise shuttle
    Laura Trevelyan BBC News, New York
    has been out on the streets of New York. She says:
    It's a post-apocalyptic scene in lower Manhattan today. The streets are deserted, there is no electricity and there is debris everywhere - mattresses, sandbags swept away by the superstorm, tree branches.

  2. 1418:
    The death toll is now thought to have risen to 38, according to the Associated Press. Earlier reports said there had been 32 fatalities across the US.

  3. 1402:
    The French transport ministry has said that at least six French citizens boating in the Caribbean are still missing after they disappeared during Hurricane Sandy's storm swell. Officials told the Sipa news agency that the group disappeared between the islands of Martinique and Dominica on Sunday.

  4. Troy Graham reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer
    tweets this picture of boats piled on shore: Boats piled up everywhere. #sandyinphilly

  5. New York Times
    tweets: Blizzard conditions have spread over parts of Tennessee, W. Virginia, Maryland, Virginia & N. Carolina:
    The White House says the president was updated through the night as Hurricane Sandy carved its way up the coast, signing two declarations of disaster in the small hours. He's earned praise from one leading Republican, the governor of New Jersey Chris Christie - he said the president had been outstanding and deserved great credit.

  7. Stephen Jordan in New Jersey
    emails: I live in the Rockaway area of New York. I'm staying in New Jersey and we are safe. But the pictures from Rockaway are horrific. I can't get back in as bridges are closed. Friends there say they can't find their cars.

  8. 1336:
    New York City engineers and fire department inspectors are planning to climb 74 flights of stairs to inspect a Manhattan construction crane that's dangling from a luxury high-rise building, Associated Press reports.

  9. Davey Davis in New York
    took this picture of half-submerged cars near Goldman Sachs' building in New York City after Sandy.
    Cars half-submerged in Manhattan Photo: Davey Davis
    He said: "I think the cars must have been parked in an underground car park that then got flooded. The cars then seemed to have floated up and crashed into each other."

  10. New Jersey governor Chris Christie
    tweets: The NJ_TRANSIT system has experienced unprecedented devastation. Service will not resume until it's repaired, safe, & secure. #Sandy

  11. Shahnaz Hussain, Manhattan, New York
    emails: I live not too far from One57 - the building a crane is dangling from - and it is not a pretty picture. Window panes were flying off buildings in the area and were striking my apartment building. At first I thought it was very large hail.

  12. 1320:
    More than 100,000 have been left without power in the DC metro area, according to the Washington Times.

  13. NYC Mayor's Office tweets: Alternate side parking and meter regulations are suspended citywide tomorrow. #Sandy

  14. 1314: Jaimie Buchanan, Preston, UK
    emails: My mum and stepdad live in the Breezy Point area of Queens, New York, along with my stepdad's 95-year-old mother who has Alzheimers. They evacuated to Manhattan on Saturday. Breezy Point has been badly affected, with homes destroyed by fires and flooding... The evacuations were pretty late and badly organised, with many people having nowhere to go.

  15. 1312:
    The New York Stock Exchange is due to reopen on Wednesday after Wall Street was shut down for the last two days.

  16. 1253:
    Morgan Groarke, an Irish electrician who lives in Hasbrouck Heights, New Jersey, emails: "We lost power at 7:00pm yesterday. There are a lot of trees down and we witnessed transformers blowing out. For commuters using NJ transit, we have no idea when we will be able to commute into NYC. The wind was as strong as you would get during a storm back in Ireland, but over here the key differences are the wooden-structure homes (our house swayed over and back last night), basements prone to flooding, huge oak trees in your back garden (not suitable for suburbia), and densely populated areas in proximity to water. I'm getting many calls today, mainly to help hook up generators."

  17. 1245:
    Sandy, still classified as a post-tropical cyclone, is expected to turn north and track back into New York state tonight, before heading into Canada on Wednesday, the National Hurricane Center says.

  18. 1246:
    Sandy is gradually weakening as it heads west across the state of Pennsylvania. Winds are down to 45mph (72km/h), the National Hurricane Center says. But high-wind warnings are still in place for the central and southern portions of the Appalachian mountains and the Finger Lakes region. Winter weather advisories are also in place for the eastern Tennessee, eastern Kentucky and western North Carolina.

Live coverage of Sandy


Monday, October 29, 2012

A Follow-up In Depth Look at the Lady who Grew up With Monkeys

The extraordinary story of the woman who was kidnapped as a child, left to fend for herself in the Colombian rainforest - and later married a church organist in Yorkshire.

Tree woman: Marina Chapman was kidnapped as a child in Colombia and left to fend for herself alongside monkeys in the rainforest
Tree woman: Marina Chapman was kidnapped as a child in Colombia and left to fend for herself alongside monkeys in the rainforest

Nancy Forero Eusse’s first memory of the little girl was seeing her perched on top of a mango tree near the canal that ran past their homes in the Colombian border city of Cúcuta. “It was such a curious thing,” recalls Miss Forero Eusse, who was about five at the time. “She would hang out in that tree. Not just in the branches, but high up, right at the top.”
The new arrival was as nervous as she was agile, slow to speak, and with a sadness in her eyes. She was a street child, she said, who had been taken in by a local family, only to be forced to work all day and sleep under the stove on the kitchen floor. Only after she was rescued from her abusers and adopted by the Eusse family did the girl – who thought she was about 10 years old, and asked to be called Luz Marina – begin recounting remarkable snippets about her life.
“She started to talk about what had happened before,” says Miss Forero Eusse, 57. “It was incredible.”
An extraordinary story slowly emerged: Marina had been abducted as a small child, then abandoned in the jungle where she lived alongside colonies of monkeys, foraging for food and sheltering in trees. Even after she was found by hunters and brought into Cúcuta, her ordeal continued. She initially lived rough in a park with other homeless children. She was then taken in by an abusive family who treated her like a slave.
But her odyssey did not end with her adoption by Nancy’s family. For the little girl up the mango tree is now Marina Chapman, a Yorkshire housewife, married to a church organist, mother and grandmother, volunteer and enthusiastic cook of South American cuisine.

It is an inspiring life-story but one that Mrs Chapman has long been reluctant to share beyond her closest family. She is now, however, going public with a memoir, to be published next year to raise funds for a street-children’s charity, and which has already been sold to seven countries after a scramble by publishers to obtain the rights.

The Sunday Telegraph tracked down her relatives there, visited her childhood homes in Cúcuta and Bogotá, and travelled to the Catatumbo jungle, a rebel stronghold where her family believe she probably spent her time in the wild.

The dramatic narrative reads like a real-life version of the fictional adventures of Tarzan, the baby brought up by apes in the Edgar Rice Burroughs classic, and Mowgli, the feral child raised by wolves in Rudyard Kipling’s Jungle Book stories.

Piecing together what they know, Mrs Chapman and the Eusse family believe she was born in about 1950, which would make her 62. Colombia had yet to plunge into its bloody civil war, but abductions for ransom were common and children were snatched by kidnap gangs. That appears to be what happened to Marina, but the abduction was botched, says Carlos Velásquez, her adoptive cousin who remains close to her.

In an interview at his textile company near Bogotá, he recalls what she told him. “Her memory is that she was kidnapped when she was three or four and put in the boot of a car. The gang who took her drove and drove, but for whatever reason, they left her by the road and she walked into the jungle.
“She was living near monkeys and she learned from them. In order to survive, she would imitate them and eat what they ate. She learned to find berries, bananas, other fruits, even roots.
“She ended up near an Indian village, but they didn’t treat her well and threw stones at her if she came close during the day. So she waited until dark, then scavenged rice and leftovers from the village and took it back to the jungle to eat. She lived in a hollow in a tree trunk. She was all black and dirty and had long filthy hair and long nails.”

Marina has no real idea how long she spent in the jungle, but it was apparently at least a year or two. Then one day, she saw a group hunting for wild birds and parrots.
“She ran towards them. One of them was a woman and she clung to her leg,” says Mr Velásquez. “The woman looked down at her and seemed to be thinking, what is this thing with a dirty black face. Marina probably looked like a monkey.
“Then she realized it was a girl and said, 'Put her in the back of the truck’ with the crates of birds. They were driving back to Cúcuta but when she got near the city, Marina was scared by all the lights and jumped out of the truck and ran away.”

The account of her life with the monkeys is so incredible that it understandably prompts questions about its accuracy. But she had relayed similar details to Nancy soon after her adoption by the family.
“She told us that she had been kidnapped when she was very young, then abandoned. She’d lived in the jungle, lived with monkeys, and said there were bad men who had not treated her well. She always said she was scared of men in high boots. We don’t know if they were hunters or soldiers or the men who took her. She was very frightened about those days and didn’t want to discuss it much then. We were just kids at the time.”

Both Mr Velásquez and Miss Forero Eusse, who had not coordinated their stories before this newspaper approached them, separately noted that the young Marina showed both great agility, demonstrated in particular by her penchant for tree-climbing, and strength, despite her small physique, after her years in the jungle and on the street.
“I think she just tried to suppress the memories of those experiences for a long time,” says Mr Velásquez. “But Luz Marina was never the sort to invent things; she’s very straightforward and honest. If she had not been such a strong child, it would be more surprising. But when I looked back, she even seemed to move like a monkey at times.”

To investigate her story further, The Sunday Telegraph visited Catatumbo, a sweeping blanket of lush foliage ringed by mountains straddling Colombia’s border with Venezuela. Based on her recollections and its proximity to Cúcuta, it is here that her family think she lived after her abduction.
What was immediately evident was how challenging it would be for anyone to survive beneath its soaring canopy, never mind a girl of just three or four. It is an area of breathtaking beauty but also contains deep dangers, both from nature and man.

Much of the jungle is still what Colombians call a “red zone”, controlled by the Marxist guerrillas who have waged Latin America’s longest-running insurgency. The country’s notorious cocaine cartels also use the cover of the rainforest to conduct their narco-trafficking operations.
And there are plenty of threats from the animal kingdom, too, as Antonio Ramirez Rodriguez, chief biologist and Catatumbo veteran, explains from his state environmental agency outpost. “The predators include eagles, snakes, tigers and wildcats. In this place, either you eat or you’re eaten.”
So could a small girl have survived in the jungle, learning how to scavenge for food from Catatumbo’s colonies of small carablanca monkeys? Known for their intelligence as well as their distinctive white faces, the carablancas grow to a maximum size of 22 inches. “If the monkeys didn’t see her as threatening or competing, if she didn’t behave in an aggressive manner, then yes, it is possible,” says Mr Ramirez.
“They are omnivores who eat anything, from fruits and vegetables to insects, lizards and rats. They organise hunting parties, have social structures, they protect, help each other and follow a group leader. It’s possible that a child could have adapted to those structures.”

But while there are recorded cases of abandoned children who have been brought up by larger primates in Africa, it would be a first in South America where the monkeys are notably smaller.
Nonetheless, the young girl did manage to survive, only for another dangerous phase to then begin in her life as a child on the streets. In her memoir, she will tell how she ran a children’s crime gang during those days. It was from here that the first unnamed family took her in, probably when she was about eight, treating her as a domestic slave. She would at times seek temporary refuge by scampering out of reach up the tree where her saviours from the Eusse family first saw her.
The Sunday Telegraph last week visited the Eusse family home in Cúcuta in a working-class neighbourhood of small, pastel-coloured dwellings with red-tile roofs. A single-storey yellow house, which has been owned by the family since the 1950s, is home to Alberto Eusse, Marina’s uncle and a local musician who still gives guitar lessons and plays on Sunday nights at a popular outdoor restaurant despite his age.

It was here that Maruja Eusse, the family matriarch and grandmother of Nancy Forera Eusse and Carlos Velásquez Eusse, took pity on Marina when she came pleading for help. Mrs Eusse helped the girl escape and sent her to Bogotá to live with her daughter, Maria, and son-in-law Amadeo Forero, who soon adopted Marina as one of their own, alongside their five natural children. Life was already tough for the family, as Nancy Forero Eusse recounts outside their old home in the poor Bogotá barrio of Bosa. The floors were dirt and there were no roads, only tracks in those days. Her father, Amadeo, was a taxi driver and then a manager at his cousin’s textile business. “We were poor, struggling for money.”

Her mother Maria, a frail 86-year-old who spends most of her days surrounded by relatives in a wicker rocking chair, and her father Amadeo, 83, and in failing health, treasure the memories of the little girl they took in as one of their own. “Luz Marina was a lovely, well-behaved girl who always helped me with the chores,” says Mrs Forero Eusse. “She was happy and honest and always wanted to be of use. She was a pleasure to have in the house,” says her adoptive mother.

Her sister Elena had meanwhile married Pedro Velásquez, a textile trader. And when Marina was in her mid-teens, they offered her a job as a housekeeper and nanny for Carlos and their other children.
“Marina worked for us for about 10 years in Bogotá,” says Mr Velásquez. “Then my Dad’s textile business went bankrupt and he decided the family should move to Yorkshire. He always loved England and he had already sent two of my sisters to study at university in Bradford, and then sent me to study English there, too. Marina was part of the family and he asked her to come to look after the children and she accepted.”

The textile industry was still flourishing in Bradford at the time. Mr Velásquez looked for work while his children studied, and Marina – with no formal education and little grasp of the English language – stayed at home to help cook and clean.  Despite Colombia’s strong Catholic roots, the deeply religious family worshipped at the newly-formed evangelical Abundant Life church in Bradford, a short distance from their four-bedroom home in Shipley.  They had hoped to start a new life and settle in England, but within months, the family were beset by more financial troubles as Mr Velásquez failed to find work in the textile business. He returned to Colombia with his wife Elena and some of their children, but others stayed in England to finish their studies. Two daughters soon married British husbands.

Luz Marina also had other plans. She had fallen in love with the church organist, John Chapman, a quiet, 28-year-old bacteriologist, even though neither of them spoke the other’s language. Their wedding in 1979 was an intimate ceremony at the church, though some members of her adoptive family attended. The Chapmans began married life in the sleepy town of Wilsden, where they had their first daughter Joanna in 1980 and their second, Vanessa, three years later. Marina began slowly learning the language and the culture, but made sure not to forget her own, teaching Spanish to the girls and recounting stories from her childhood. According to her publishers at Mainstream, that included showing them how she could scale trees and catch wild birds and rabbits with her bare hands.
She later worked as a cook at the National Media Museum before making the decision to work with children, in part to make up for missing out on much of her own childhood. She took a childcare course through the Rathbone charity in Bradford while working part-time at a nursery where her daughter Joanna was manager. She also became heavily involved in fund-raising for her church, and supported the charity, Substitute Families for Abandoned Children. Rachel Knox, a Rathbone childcare training adviser, remembers Mrs Chapman as a sensitive figure who had a natural affinity with children.
“When I met her I thought she was incredible. I was amazed at what she’d been through, her life story is like a TV drama,” says Miss Knox.
“I couldn’t believe it when she said she’d never been to school. Marina is such an inspiration. She shows what can be achieved with determination and hard work when it seems the odds are stacked against you.”

Former neighbours meanwhile recounted how she had fitted in to the community, despite her struggles with the language. “It’s hard to reconcile what she must have gone through as a child with the confident woman everyone knew,” said Janet Robson. “She was always the beautiful, exotic-looking woman who brightened up the street. She was a doting mother to her two baby girls and would always be cooking for everyone, which made her very popular.”
In Allerton, where the Chapmans now live, her neighbours have no idea of her past, other than that she grew up in rural Colombia. It was her daughter Vanessa James, 28, a composer, who persuaded her mother to turn her story in a book. The Girl With No Name will be published in April.

But in Bradford, she is better known for once cooking a quiche at a local fair for the Duke of Kent, who apparently declared it the best he had ever had. Indeed, she recently started her own business called Marina Latina Food.
“Marina has been cooking since she was tall enough to reach a cooker!” she writes on its Facebook page. “You’ll never forget your first 'Marina’ experience. Mama Mia!”
For a woman who once had to forage in the jungle with monkeys simply to survive day-by-day, it is perhaps no surprise that food is such a passion.

Philip Sherwell, Cucta Colombia

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Sandy is Almost Here... Affected States Begin Shutdown

A service announcement explains public transportation closures at Penn Station in New York, 28 October 2012 Schools have been closed and many travel services cancelled ahead of Sandy's arrival

President Obama has warned citizens to take Hurricane Sandy seriously as authorities started shutting down the Eastern Seaboard ahead of its arrival. Several states have declared emergencies, with tens of millions of people affected as schools are closed and transport services suspended. Experts fear Sandy may become a super-storm when it makes landfall later.
Some election rallies have been called off, with Mr Obama warning affected citizens to hunker down.
Hurricane Sandy, dubbed "Frankenstorm", is set to hit several states key to the 6 November presidential election. At 20:00 EDT (00:00 GMT on Monday), the eye of the storm was about 485 miles (780km) south of New York City, according to the National Hurricane Center.

With winds of 75mph, it was expected to bring a "life-threatening" surge flood to the Mid-Atlantic coast, including Long Island Sound and New York Harbour.

Visitors with the Statue of Liberty in the background, 29 Oct
  Visitors to New York, sitting on sandbags...The Statue of Liberty is closed for the duration

The winds are expected to strengthen when Sandy makes landfall anywhere between Virginia and southern New England on Monday. The prospect of merging with a wintry storm coming from the west during a full moon has many fearing dangerous high tides. The storm is some 520 miles (835km) across. It is also very slow, moving north-east at just 15mph, and could linger over as many as 12 states for 24-36 hours, bringing up to 25cm of rain, 60cm of snow, extreme storm surges and power cuts.

States of emergency have been declared in Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Washington DC and a coastal county in North Carolina. The two presidential election contenders have modified their campaign engagements, with Mitt Romney pulling out of an event in Virginia and Mr Obama cancelling rallies in Virginia and Colorado.

The president has pulled out of a Monday event in Ohio - considered a key swing state - in order to return to Washington monitor the storm - although he is still set to attend a rally with former President Bill Clinton in Florida earlier on Monday.

Visiting the Federal Emergency Management Agency (Fema) in Washington on Sunday, Mr Obama vowed his government would "respond big and respond fast" after Sandy had passed. Amtrak has started suspending passenger train services across the north-eastern US and air travel has been badly hit, with some 6,800 flights cancelled. Air France, British Airways and Virgin Atlantic grounded Monday's transatlantic flights to and from East Coast cities including New York, Baltimore, Newark, Washington, Boston and Philadelphia.

New York City's subway, bus and train services were suspended from 19:00 (23:00 GMT) on Sunday, and schools will be shut on Monday. With predicted storm surges of up to 11ft, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg ordered 375,000 people in the city's vulnerable low-lying areas to leave their homes.
"If you don't evacuate you're not just putting your own life in danger, you are also endangering lives of our first responders who would have to rescue you," he said.

Hurricane Sandy forecast

The Statue of Liberty was reopened on Sunday after a year of renovation, but only a group of army cadets got a tour before it was shut again until at least Wednesday. Some 200 National Guardsmen will patrol Manhattan and 300 more will be deployed in Long Island. The New York Stock Exchange's trading floor will be closed on Monday, although electronic transactions will still be possible.

Similar precautions were taken last year as Hurricane Irene approached the East Coast. It killed more than 40 people from North Carolina to Maine and caused an estimated $10bn (£6bn) worth of damage. Fema has warned the threat extends well inland from the coast, and has issued safety tips for how to cope with the hurricane.

Blustery winds were already being felt in New York on Sunday night and the anxiety felt on the streets indicated that residents were taking city orders seriously and with haste. In New Jersey, Governor Chris Christie confirmed a swathe of mandatory evacuations, told civil servants to stay at home on Monday and said the casinos in Atlantic City had closed.
"The weather will turn ugly [on Monday] and we want everyone off the roads," he said.
"Don't be stupid. Get out. Don't try to be a hero and act as if nothing is going on here."

New Jersey authorities expect very significant flooding, with three increasingly high tides on Monday, possibly creating surges of 13-14ft - the worst since 1903, authorities said. Sandy has already killed 60 people in the Caribbean during the past week.

Map of projected path

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Fukushima Fish Still Contaminated


Fish in Tokyo market
Levels of radioactive contamination in fish caught off the east coast of Japan remain raised, official data shows. It is a sign that the Dai-ichi power plant continues to be a source of pollution more than a year after the nuclear accident. About 40% of fish caught close to Fukushima itself are regarded as unfit for humans under Japanese regulations.

The respected US marine chemist Ken Buesseler has reviewed the data in this week's Science journal.
He says there are probably two sources of lingering contamination.
"There is the on-going leakage into the ocean of polluted ground water from under Fukushima, and there is the contamination that's already in the sediments just offshore," .
"It all points to this issue being long-term and one that will need monitoring for decades into the future."

Prof Buesseler is affiliated to the US Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI). His evaluation covers a year's worth of data gathered by the Japanese Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF). Its' monthly records detail the levels of radioactive caesium found in fish and other seafood products from shortly after the March 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami - the double disaster that triggered the Fukushima crisis. The caesium-134 and 137 isotopes can be traced directly to releases from the crippled power station.

MAFF uses the information to decide whether certain fisheries along five east-coast prefectures, including Fukushima, should be opened or closed (it is not a measure of contamination in actual market fish). The caesium does not normally stay in the tissues of saltwater fish for very long; a few percent per day on average should flow back into the ocean water. So, the fact that these animals continue to display elevated contamination strongly suggests the pollution source has not yet been completely shut off.

He notes that although caesium levels in any fish type and on any day can be highly variable, it is the bottom-dwelling species off Fukushima that consistently show the highest caesium counts. For
the WHOI researcher, this points to the seafloor being a major reservoir for the caesium pollution.
"It looks to me like the bottom fish, the fish that are eating, you know, crabs and shellfish, the kinds of things that are particle feeders - they seem to be increasing their accumulation of the caesium isotopes because of their habitat on the seafloor," he explained.

Prof Buesseler stresses however that the vast majority of fish caught off the northeast coast of Japan are fit for human consumption. And while the 40% figure for unsafe catch in the Fukushima prefecture may sound alarming, the bald number is slightly misleading.

Last April, the Japanese authorities tried to instil greater market confidence by lowering the maximum permitted concentration of radioactivity in fish and fish products from 500 becquerels per kilogram of wet weight to 100 Bq/kg wet. This tightening of the threshold immediately re-classified fish previously deemed fit as unfit, even though their actual contamination count had not changed.

It is also worth comparing the Japanese limit with international standards. In the US, for example, the threshold is set at 1,200 Bq/kg wet - significantly more lenient than even the pre-April Japanese requirement. And Prof Buesseler makes the point that some naturally occurring radionuclides, such as potassium-40, appear in fish at similar or even higher levels than the radioactive caesium.
Nonetheless, the contamination question is a pertinent one in the Asian nation simply because its people consume far more fish per head than in most other countries.
"At one level, there shouldn't be any surprises here but on another, people need to come to grips with the fact that for some species and for some areas this is going to be a long-term issue; and with these results it's hard to predict for how long some fisheries might have to be closed," said the WHOI scientist.

Prof Buesseler, with Japanese colleagues, is organizing a scientific symposium in Tokyo on 12/13 November to present the latest thinking on Fukushima and its impacts on the ocean. The information will then be shared with the public in a free colloquium on 14 November.

The World's Rarest Dog

Ethiopian wolf: BBC Nature

Populations of the world's rarest dog, the Ethiopian wolf, are genetically fragmenting, scientists say.
Fewer than 500 of Africa's only wolf species are thought to survive. Now a 12-year study of Ethiopian wolves living in the Ethiopian highlands has found there is little gene flow between the small remaining populations. That places the wolves at greater risk of extinction from disease, or habitat degradation.

In a study published in the journal Animal Conservation, Dada Gottelli of the Zoological Society of London and colleagues in Oxford, UK and Berlin, Germany, quantified the genetic diversity, population structure and patterns of gene flow among 72 wild-living Ethiopian wolves.

Ethiopian wolf: BBC Nature
The team sampled wolves living within six of the remaining seven remnant populations, as well as from one population at Mount Choke, that has since become extinct.

They found that genetic diversity was relatively high for a species that has declined to fewer than 500 individuals.  That may be because discrete populations of wolves survived in Africa after the last glaciation period, which ended 18,000 years ago, and a number of rare gene types became fixed and maintained in these separate groups. However, this isolation is now working against the wolves.

Researchers studied gene types at 14 separate locations on the wolf genome. They found that there is now weak gene flow between the Ethiopian wolf groups. That could be because, like other canids such as grey wolves and red foxes, Ethiopian wolves prefer very specific habitats and are unlikely to travel long distances.

That makes it unlikely that the wolves will join other groups, which would provide an opportunity to mix their genes.  More worryingly, the researchers also found that sub-populations within each population are also isolated. The Ethiopian wolf separated from its wolf-like ancestor 100,000 years ago when it colonized the Ethiopian highlands.

Today it is adapted to life above altitudes of 3,000m, where it preys almost exclusively on high-altitude rodents. But only six populations survive, with a further three having become extinct over the past century.

Ethiopian wolves are particularly vulnerable to outbreaks of rabies, a fatal disease that has reduced some populations by up to 75% within a few months. Another major threat to their future comes from habitat loss and fragmentation, which may be accelerated by climate change.

The concern raised by the study is that the limited gene flow between Ethiopian wolves makes them increasingly vulnerable, as they might not have the genetic diversity needed to fight off disease or adapt to new habitats. The limited migration of wolves also increases the risk of inbreeding.

The scientists say that efforts must be made to reconnect these isolated populations, by creating habitat corridors linking them.
"It may be necessary in the near future to artificially increase population size and restore gene flow between nearby populations," the researchers write. That could mean moving male wolves between populations to trigger fresh breeding.

Studies on other species of wolf have showed that moving just one or two males in this way can dramatically increase genetic diversity.

Italy ex-PM Berlusconi threatens to topple Monti government


Italian ex-PM Silvio Berlusconi has threatened to bring down the government of technocrats led by Mario Monti. Mr Berlusconi said the cabinet was leading Italy into a "spiral of recession" and that his centre-right PDL party would decide in the coming days whether it would end its support. It is the largest party in parliament and the move could trigger early polls.

Mr Berlusconi was forced to step down last year. His comments come a day after he was found guilty of tax fraud. He is expected to appeal against the four-year-jail sentence - reduced to one - on charges of inflating the price of distribution rights bought by his Mediaset group to avoid paying taxes.
Mr Berlusconi was speaking as thousands of protesters marched through Rome in a demonstration against austerity measures launched by the Monti government.

Anti-Monti protest in Rome, 37 October
Demonstrators protested against the Monti government's austerity measures
The former prime minister accused the Monti government of "fiscal extortion".
"We have to recognize the fact that the initiative of this government is a continuation of a spiral of recession for our economy," Mr Berlusconi said.
"Together with my collaborators we will decide in the next few days whether it is better to immediately withdraw our confidence in this government or keep it, given the elections that are scheduled."

The last election was held in 2008 and the next is due in 2013. Mr Monti was appointed last November, when Italy's credit rating was affected by the eurozone debt crisis.His government has since pushed through tax rises, spending cuts and an overhaul of the pension system.

 Mr Berlusconi, a combative politician, is unlikely to lie down and was puffing with anger as he was addressing journalists. Earlier on Saturday, Mr Berlusconi said that despite his conviction he felt "obliged" to stay in politics.  He said he wanted to "reform the justice system so that what happened to me doesn't happen to other citizens".
"Ours is not a democracy but a dictatorship of the judges," he told TG5, one of the TV channels owned by Mediaset. However he confirmed he did not want to stand for prime minister.

Mr Berlusconi has faced a number of trials. He has in the past either been cleared, or cases have run beyond the judicial time limit. In 1997 he received a suspended sentence for false book-keeping but that conviction was reversed on appeal.

This week's jail term, and a five-year ban from holding office, will only take effect if it is upheld by a higher court. In February a court threw out a corruption case against him after the statute of limitations had expired.

He is also currently on trial charged with paying for sex with an underage girl and trying to cover it up. He denies any wrongdoing.

Silvio Berlusconi's trials

  • Accused of having paid for sex with an underage prostitute and of abuse of power for asking police to release her when she was arrested for theft
  • Convicted of tax fraud in case focusing on the purchase of the TV rights to US films by his company, Mediaset
  • Two other corruption cases - involving alleged tax evasion by his Mediaset company and the
  • alleged bribing of British lawyer - expired under statute of limitations

Spain austerity: Thousands join new budget cuts protest


Thousands of people flocked to Spain's parliament building, chanting anti-austerity slogans

Thousands of people have joined fresh protests in the Spanish capital, Madrid, angered by budget cuts and calling on the government to quit.Demonstrators held a minute's silence with their backs to parliament, then shouted "resign" with fists clenched.  Parliament was guarded by hundreds of police officers.

PM Mariano Rajoy's government plans spending cuts of about 40bn (£32bn) euros for next year as it tries to prevent the need for an EU bailout.  The Spanish government has found itself in financial difficulty since the 2008 global financial crisis caused a big crash in the country's over-heated property market. New figures this week showed about a quarter of working-age people in Spain were now unemployed.

Saturday's protesters came from all over the country and were met by vans of riot police. Just hours earlier 300 police had staged their own protest in the capital, setting off fire crackers and blowing police whistles over the same issue - budget cuts.  One banner read: "The police can't take it any more."

Austerity protests also took place in Barcelona, Valencia and other cities. One protester in Madrid, Sabine Alberdi, told Agence France-Presse: "I came to demonstrate because they're taking everything away, our health, our education, our houses." Mr Rajoy's programme will require spending cuts of 150bn euros between 2012 and 2014.

Having spent almost a year in office, Mr Rajoy has tried to head off a full-blown EU bailout by introducing tax increases, labour reforms and public sector cuts. However, output has now contracted for five quarters in a row.

Update on Sandy....State of Emergency - Eastern Seaboard

Coastal Florida has already experienced high winds

Satellite Image of Hurricane Sandy

People along the East Coast of the US are preparing for Hurricane Sandy, which has killed nearly 60 people across the Caribbean.

States of emergency have been declared in Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Washington DC and a coastal county in North Carolina. Sandy currently has maximum sustained winds of 75mph (120km/h) and is moving north at 11mph.

It is expected to make landfall along the eastern US coast late on Monday. At 14:00 EDT (18:00 GMT), the eye of the storm was about 335 miles (539km) south-east of Charleston in South Carolina, according to the National Hurricane Center.

Tropical storm warnings are in effect in both South and North Carolina, as well as Pamlico and Albemarle Sounds. Sandy is expected to move along the US eastern seaboard, bringing a rise of coastal flooding.

Gale-force winds are expected to arrive along parts of the mid-Atlantic coast by Sunday evening, reaching Long Island and southern New England by Monday.

The NHC said further strengthening was possible on Sunday, before Sandy touches down anywhere between Virginia and southern New England late on Monday or early Tuesday.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Sandy Poses Serious Threat to Northeast US and Atlantic Provinces

This morning, U.S. forecasters are predicting a convergence of Hurricane Sandy; an early winter storm in the west and a cold arctic blast from the north which would make for some very messy and expensive weather over the Northeast US and Atlantic provinces for the first half of next week.
"It'll be a rough couple days from Hatteras up to Cape Cod," said Jim Cisco, a forecaster with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). "We don't have many modern precedents for what the models are suggesting. Forecasting the weather 4 or 5 days before it happens is difficult because so much can change in that time. However, it's also difficult to dismiss the results when every piece of guidance you use starts pointing towards the same thing, with even greater certainty, each time you update your forecast.
That's what's happening right now."

The computer models forecasters use for guidance in making their forecasts showed the first indications of the merger of these weather systems, and the results of each subsequent model have made it more and more likely. Even computer models that didn't show the merger to start with began to fall in line with the ones that did.
To make matters worse, the full moon occurs on Monday, which will make tides near their peak, due to the combined tidal forces of the Moon and the Sun. This will increase the severity of any flooding the coast experiences due to Sandy.

Sandy is set to make landfall very late on Monday night or early on Tuesday morning, but it could make landfall anywhere between Delaware and Maine, which will be a big factor in where the majority of the precipitation ends up. With this kind of hybrid storm, and the potential damage it could do, sounding the warning bell a little bit earlier than usual isn't a bad thing. There could be several inches of snow or rain in the mid-Atlantic states, depending on where Sandy makes landfall, and up in the mountains the snowfall amounts could be measured in feet instead of inches. Also, with the powerful winds from Sandy combined with this potential for snow there is a greater chance of power lines being snapped by overloaded branches, and some forecasters are saying that power outages could last well into the following week.

There has been some comparison to the so-called 'Perfect Storm' that hit New England in 1991, but according to Cisco that storm is not comparable to what this hybrid storm could do. The Perfect Storm only did $200 million of damage. This storm will be much worse.

With all these projections for what could happen along the U.S. Atlantic coast and New England, residents of Canada's East Coast should be keeping an eye on this as well. If the forecasts for this hybrid storm turn out to be correct, and it turns into a major snowstorm that buries New England, it's not likely to spare the Atlantic provinces a similar dose of winter weather as it passes through.
The Canadian Hurricane Centre isn't reporting on Hurricane Sandy yet, because it's still too far away, however, you can be sure that the forecasters there are keeping a close watch on it.