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Posts Tagged ‘blamed’

La Nina blamed for weather upset, but climate link unclear

In Uncategorized on January 8, 2011 at 4:11 am

PARIS, Jan 7, 2011 (AFP) – Experts pin the floods that have ravaged northeastern Australia on a weather phenomenon known as La Nina but are cautious whether the peril could be amplified by climate change.

La Nina, or “girl child,” is the counterpart of El Nino, or “boy child,” together comprising a pendular swing of extreme weather that affects the Pacific Rim but can be disruptive as far as the coast of southern Africa.

El Nino occurs when the trade winds that circulate surface water in the tropical Pacific start to weaken.

A mass of warm water builds in the western Pacific and eventually rides over to the eastern side of the ocean.

The outcome is a major shift in rainfall, bringing floods and mudslides to usually arid countries in western South America and drought in the western Pacific, as well as a change in nutrient-rich ocean currents that lure fish.

Eventually, El Nino peters out, sometimes when a cold phase — La Nina — starts to dominate.

At that point, the reverse happens: countries in the eastern Pacific face drier weather and those on the west, such as Australia’s Queensland, get drenched.

An Army Chinook helicopter leaves Australia’s Rockhampton transporting an electricity generator to the flood disaster area of Theodore on January 6, 2011. More heavy rains were forecast for Australia’s northeast, threatening to worsen flooding after besieged Rockhampton cut supplies to “irresponsible” residents refusing to leave. AFP

“2010 began with El Nino conditions in the Pacific followed by a rapid transition into La Nina during (the southern hemisphere’s) autumn,” Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology says on its website.

“(…) By July, La Nina conditions were well established and most areas of Australia experienced very much above average rainfall. The second half of the year (July to December) was the wettest on record for Australia.”

In the 20th century, scientists identified 25 moderate or strong El Ninos and 17 episodes of La Nina. The toll to human life and property, in droughts and floods, has sometimes been huge.

The back-and-forth cycle — formally known as the El Nino/La Nina-Southern Oscillation, or ENSO — occurs every two to seven years.

Because sea temperature plays such an important role, some climate experts are keen to determine whether man-made global warming might make it more frequent or vicious.

Prudence, though, is the watchword. ENSO is a complex mechanism and reliable oceanographic data reaches back only a century or so, which is minute given that climate history spans billions of years.

“There is no consistent indication at this time of discernible changes in projected ENSO amplitude or frequency in the 21st century,” the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) crisply announced in its Fourth Assessment Report in 2007.

In an interview with AFP, Baylor Fox-Kemper, an oceanographer at the University of Colorado, explained: “Many models indicate that there is a link between El Nino and climate change, but they don’t agree as to what that change should be.

“Furthermore, El Nino is so noisy [a term meaning complex] that it takes many centuries of data to be sure that a change has occurred.

“Since we have only a limited amount of trusted real-world data, we are unable to validate which of these models is closest to the truth.”

Others say that despite the unknowns, logic dictates that global warming is bound to have an impact on ENSO.

“With a warmer world, one would expect the atmosphere to hold more moisture, so that when it does rain, it is heavier,” said New Zealand specialist Jim Salinger.

“So La Nina rainfall events are expected to be more intense… (although) at this stage, it is not known whether La Nina events will become more frequent.”

Source: SGGP

China milk powder blamed after babies develop breasts

In Uncategorized on August 9, 2010 at 11:22 am

AFP/file – File picture of a baby holding a drink outside a children’s hospital in Beijing.

BEIJING, Aug 9, 2010 (AFP) – Parents and doctors in central China fear that hormones in milk powder they fed their infant daughters have led the babies to prematurely develop breasts, state media reported Monday.

Medical tests indicated the levels of hormones in three girls, ranging in age from four to 15 months and who were fed the same baby formula, exceeded those of the average adult woman, the China Daily reported.

“The amount of hormones in the babies definitely means there’s a problem,” Yang Qin, the chief physician in the child care department at the Hubei Maternity and Children’s Hospital, was quoted as saying.

“The parents should stop using the formula to feed their children and the powder should be analysed.”

Local food safety authorities however refused a parent’s request to investigate the formula made by Synutra, based in the eastern city of Qingdao, saying they do not conduct tests at consumers’ behest, the report said.

The suspected baby formula was still being sold in the Hubei provincial capital Wuhan — at discounted prices — and was still on store shelves in Beijing despite the concerns which surfaced last month, the Global Times said.

Synutra insisted that its products were safe.

“No man-made ‘hormones’ or any illegal substances were added during production,” it said in a statement.

The infants showed unusually high levels of the hormones estradiol and prolactin, the China Daily said.

Wang Dingmian, the former chairman of the dairy association in the southern province of Guangdong, told the China Daily that the hormones could have entered the food chain when farmers reared the cattle.

“Since a regulation forbidding the use of hormones to cultivate livestock has yet to be drawn up in China, it would be lying to say nobody uses it,” Wang was quoted as saying.

Chinese dairy products were recalled worldwide in 2008 after it was revealed that melamine, which is used to make plastics, was widely and illegally added to the products to give the appearance of higher protein.

Melamine was found in the products of 22 Chinese dairy companies in a massive scandal blamed for the deaths of at least six infants and for sickening 300,000 others in China.

Source: SGGP

Taliban blamed for Afghan wedding carnage

In Uncategorized on June 10, 2010 at 10:56 am

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan (AFP) – NATO on Thursday blamed the Taliban for a suicide attack that killed at least 40 Afghan wedding guests in an area where US-led troops are massing to drive insurgents from their fiefdom.

Officials said a suicide bomber strapped with explosives had walked into Wednesday’s wedding party — which relatives said was attended by members of an anti-Taliban militia — and unleashed a deadly hail of ballbearings.

A doctor stands by the beds of people wounded after a huge explosion at wedding ceremony in Kandahar. AFP photo

The Taliban, who are leading a nearly nine-year insurgency against the Western-backed government and the estimated 142,000 foreign troops in Afghanistan, denied responsibility and blamed a NATO airstrike for the deaths.

More than 70 people were wounded when the explosion ripped through the celebrations in Arghandab district, 20 kilometres (12 miles) north of Kandahar city, local officials said.

Most of the victims were male as the explosion occurred in an area of the wedding festivities reserved for men, they said.

The groom’s brother, Mohammad Zanif, told AFP: “My brother was wounded. We don’t know what happened. There was an enormous explosion and as a result everyone there was either killed or injured.”

The groom is a policeman and his colleagues were attending the wedding, Kandahar Governor Turiyalai Wisa told a news conference Thursday.

“A suicide attack was the cause of this bloody incident,” he said.

“The casualties are massive but so far we have been able to confirm 40 people killed and another 78 wounded, which includes 14 children,” the provincial governor said.

“Our investigation is ongoing and the casualty toll might rise. Most of the wounded are in critical condition, and some of them unfortunately may lose their lives.”

NATO Lieutenant General Nick Parker said: “This ruthless violence brought to the Afghan people at what should have been a time for celebration demonstrates the Taliban’s sickening and indiscriminate tactics.”

But the Taliban, who routinely deny causing civilian casualties, blamed the bloodshed on NATO bombing and offered condolences.

“This is a disaster. We blame the foreign forces and the Afghan government for this calamity. We pray for the quick recovery of the wounded and patience for the families of those martyred,” Taliban spokesman Yousuf Ahmadi told AFP.

Kandahar is the focus of a massive build-up by US-led military forces trying to drive the Taliban from their spiritual homeland and end their bloody insurgency.

Wednesday’s explosion came during a particularly bloody week for foreign forces with 23 international soldiers killed, including four US servicemen who died when a NATO helicopter was shot down in neighbouring Helmand province.

US military chief Admiral Mike Mullen offered condolences after the wedding attack and warned that more bloodshed was expected.

“We will succeed in Afghanistan. We will prevent that country from ever becoming a safe haven again, but it will be a slow, messy and often deadly business,” he said in Washington.

US Defense Secretary Robert Gates said the military expected a “high level of violence, particularly this summer” as coalition forces move into areas controlled by the Taliban.

Relatives told AFP that the groom and other wedding guests were members of an anti-Taliban militia set up with the support of US Special Forces.

Brigadier General Ben Hodges, head of US forces in the south, told AFP that US Special Forces were helping villages organise their own protection against Taliban militants.

“There are some programmes where special forces units are out in a village stability programme where they might find a large village and then help train the locals to defend themselves,” Hodges said.

The Taliban rejected a “peace jirga” hosted by President Hamid Karzai last week with a view to coaxing militant fighters to lay down their weapons.

The jirga was marred by a rocket attack for which the Taliban claimed responsibility, prompting two of Karzai’s top security officials to resign.

US troops have been in Afghanistan since the invasion to topple the Taliban regime which gave safe haven to Al-Qaeda and refused to surrender Osama bin Laden after the September 11, 2001 attacks.

Source: SGGP

Financial crisis, swine flu blamed for tourist fall

In Vietnam Travel on September 11, 2009 at 5:46 pm

Global financial crisis and swine flu are blamed for the recession of the world tourist industry, experts said at a tourist seminar held in HCM City on Sep. 11.

Dr. Victor Wee in his presentation at the seminar. (Pphoto: Truong Son)

The seminar, “Capacity building for Vietnam’s tourism businesses against the backdrop of the global financial crisis,” was held to discuss lessons and recommendations for local tourism businesses to improve their capacity.
It welcomed presentations by various well-known and experienced lecturers from regional countries. 
The morning schedule included a seminar “Asia Pacific’s tourism trends” by Kris Lim, Associate Director of the Strategic Intelligence Center (SIC) under the Pacific Asia Travel Association.
This was followed by a discussion about innovation in product development by Dr. Victor Wee, Chairman of program Committe of the UN World Tourism Organization.
In the first presentation, Mr. Lim highlighted the case that most countries in the world have experienced a negative drop in their tourism industries since last year’s fourth quarter.
He cited the World Tourism Organization, which had reported a 1.9 percent increase in international visitor arrivals in 2008 and forecast a more than four percent contraction in 2009.
The two main suggested factors for the situation were the global financial crisis and swine flu.
Other minor reasons are believed to be the slow development of the cruise-liner and airline sectors and the impact of climate change.
However, the SIC director noted that the Asia-Pacific region had suffered less than most, with the worst drop being ten percent, compared to the Americas’ record of more than 15 percent, both in May 2009.

Discussing Vietnam in particular, the presentation reviewed a negative fluctuation since its second quarter in 2008. From 1.3 percent increase in the total arrivals in the second quarter, tourism industry quickly saw a slump at negative 9.6 percent in the third quarter, but slightly improved at negative nine percent in the last quarter of 2008.
The fluctuation continued during the first seven months of 2009, with the bottom recorded a drop of 28.6 percent. In an effort to get its head above water, the industry managed to stem the fall to 10.1 percent in June. But, in the next month, the collapse continued, with a 17.8 percent at loss. 
The two exceptions to the region’s tourism woes and have shown a rising trend are South Korea and Malaysia.
While discussing Republic of Korea, Mr. Lim proposed two main factors to help Korean tourism maintain its healthy growth, including depreciation of the Korean Won and impressive tourist packages for the Japanese market. 

Vietnam tourism industry shows strong potential to develop in the coming time, Mr. Kris Lim said at the seminar.
However, Mr. Lim did not recommend the first proposal for other countries, especially Vietnam, as he thought the idea is a two-edged sword.
In explanation, he said the number of tourists bound for Republic of Korea could be very impressive during the first four months of the year but in return, the number of Koreans leaving the country could drop, as overseas trips would become more expensive.  
Discussing the Malaysian tourism industry, Dr. Wee believed the three most-helpful actions were to research and draw the attention of countries who had either not suffered or were suffering less from the financial crisis, especially the Middle-East and Iran; diversify its markets and applying different products for different market segments; and give cut-price promotions to increase demand from both local and foreign visitors. 
Answering a question by a participant about solutions for Malaysia and whether they fit the Vietnamese situation, Dr. Wee suggested Vietnamese tourism officials to carry out more promotion packages.
He also recommended a stronger cash injection from the Government to stimulate local businesses, as “once they feel confident again, they will start to invest more in the industry.”
Malaysian tourism experts gave tips for local tourism agencies, including extensive use of technology such as the Internet, create more value-added services, consider brand extension in promotions, focus on niche products such as youth travel, music and sports, volunteer tourism, eco-tourism and gastronomic tourism, strategic alliances, using icons as a marketing strategy and celebrity endorsement.
The last tip from Dr. Wee was to solve obstacles for most foreign investors in Vietnam. He admitted that governments in most of the region’s countries have limited budgets for public services. As a result, they only provide basic infrastructures for their countries. Banks are the partners and also the agent for hesitance by most investors.
“While investors await special treatment from banks for their tourism project, most banks do not welcome such business, with loans for tourism projects quite difficult to get and interest rates for such loans being quite high. In Malaysia, the banks provide a special loan, a ‘soft loan,’ for tourism projects with the preferential rates. Vietnam should consider this method.
“In addition, the Government should clear procedural mess and make procedures more practical and easy for foreign investors,” Dr. Wee added.
The seminar will continue during the afternoon with two presentations, including “Tourism recovery – BOOST” by Chi Chuan, from the Singapore Tourism Board, and “The impact of visas on tourism and investment” by Baron Ah Moo, CEO of Indochina Land Management Vietnam.

Source: SGGP

Uneven foundation yielding blamed for bridge collapse

In Uncategorized on July 3, 2008 at 6:46 pm

Uneven yielding of the foundation of a temporary pillar was mainly responsible for the collapse of Can Tho bridge last year that killed 54 workers and injured 80 others, said a government official.

The uneven sinking of the foundation of temporary pillar T13U resulted in the breaking of bolts and crossbars, said Minister Construction Nguyen Hong Quan, head of the state commission in charge of investigating the cause of the September 26, 2007 accident, at a press briefing in Hanoi on July 2.

The minister said the cause “is considered an unfortunate occurrence that is difficult to foresee in normal designing.”

Construction of the 295 million USD bridge spanning the Hau River, a branch of the Mekong River, that will link the southern province of Vinh Long and Can Tho city, kicked off on Sept. 25, 2004.

Once completed, it will be Vietnam’s longest cable-stayed bridge with a 1 km main section and a four-lane carriageway of 26m wide.