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Saturday, May 5, 2012

Preparing for Natural and Man-Made Disasters [infographic]

I’m not sure if you have noticed, but central Texas has been on fire for most of the summer. We have been berated by constant threats of flare-ups and extreme fire warnings. Barbeques across the state have been wrapped in caution tape, soccer moms would yell at you for lighting a cigarette and a constant smokestack billowed from the horizon, but finally it seems the fires are dying down. Unfortunately they have left a scar that all of central Texas feels. One of our post popular parks, The Bastrop State Park, has had its 6000 acres described as a ‘moonscape’. This park was beautiful, and it wasn’t just some park in Texas, it was THE park.
Everybody from Austin camps in Bastrop. Lost Pines, which is part of Bastrop State Park (and mostly for the Boyscouts) is rumored to be completely gone. I’ve been to camp there, I’ve had friends who have worked there and now it is gone. Almost everyone I grew up with has had some moment of their life at this place and some areas of the park are said to never recover from the fire.
In Austin multiple fires have burned in Northwest Austin, where I grew up. A few houses were burned down in an upper-middle class suburban neighborhood, luckily the firefighters were able to save 300 of those homes. Even a fire started a mile down the road from my house in San Marcos, Tx. It only gew to 15 acres mostly because of the rapid response of emergency personal. There were planes, helicopters and over 3 different county fire departments fighting the blaze. Only 2 houses had to evacuate and both were saved.
It is weird seeing a natural disaster get so close to home compared to watching the hurricanes and floods across the nation on TV. If you’d like to help out, head over to the Texas Wildfire Relief Fund. [Via]
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Pinoys in Austria to join protest vs China

AUSTRIA – Concerned Filipinos in Austria Against Chinese Incursion will join the chorus of protest against the bullying tactics employed by China on Philippine territories in a rally-demonstration on Friday, May 11, in front of the Chinese Embassy in Austria.
In its open letter distributed to Filipinos in Austria, the initiator of the move, Volet SB Gerstl said that “it is deplorable that China willfully ignores well established facts.”
Gerstl maintained that archaeological and geological evidence make clear that the islands, reefs and shoal under dispute have been used and maintained by Filipino inhabitants since prehistoric times.
“Within the 200-nautical mile, the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) has exclusively defined the place as a economic zone (EEZ).The said Convention entered into force on November 16, 1994, and established an international framework for law over all ocean space, its uses and resources,” Gerstl added.
It has been reported in Philippine media that China’s increasing incursions in Philippine territory particularly in the Spratly Islands, Recto Reed and Panatag (Scarborough) shoal are defiant violations of international law.
The organizers of the protest rally called for the resolution of this issue within the framework of the 2002 Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea, without US meddling.
“What we need now is to enjoin the leaders of our country and other signatories to move forward by establishing mechanisms to implement the intent of the declaration,” one of the organizers told ABS-CBN News.
“With one heart and one voice, by the whole Filipino people with the support of peace-loving peoples of the world, let us defend ourselves decisively against all foreign enemies and protect Philippine sovereignty and dignity! We should pursue all legal remedies to assert our right,” Gerstl said.

Bulls need to dig deep now

It's not enough that the Bulls are losing in the playoffs to a bad team. It's insulting, in fact. Especially when Coach Tom Thibodeau still insists on saying "we have more than enough to win" after Friday night's Game 3 loss to the Sixers. 

But, to add another devastating injury to the mix is utterly disheartening.

Joakim Noah left the game in the third quarter with a sprained left ankle. He tried to return to game action and played briefly but hobbled so badly it was brutal to watch. It will go down as either the gutsiest moment of the playoffs or the dumbest move ever as he risked further injury to the ankle.

It's just the latest blow to the Bulls who have dealt with one bad injury after another this season. If Derrick Rose is the soul of the team, Noah is it's heart. Now, down 2-1 in the series, the Bulls resemble characters from the "Wizard of Oz."

The entire team seems to be looking for courage and heart to somehow fight their way back in this series. But they don't need to go all the way to Oz. Maybe they need only look to the other end of the floor. The Sixers seem to have stolen much of the strength and will to win that have been a familiar part of the Bulls modus operandi, but seems to have completely disappeared.

Thibodeau is the brains behind the team. The Wizard has nothing on Thibs who won Coach of the Year honors last season and finished runner-up in the voting this year. Why, then, didn't he know better than to put Noah back in the game, and why can't he find the right rotation in the fourth quarter to close it out?

Nobody wants to be Dorothy here. Nobody wants to go home after Round 1.

With this latest collapse and the injury to Noah, I can't help but think there's a wicked witch out there messing with the Bulls' playoff hopes. Like Glinda advises in 'Oz, you have to find it within yourself to get what you want. The Bulls need to dig deep now, follow the yellow brick road or risk staying on this path that leads them nowhere.

How does getting rewarded through sharing sounds like to you? Join #phchurpchurp today and bring more friends to the community!

How does getting rewarded through sharing sounds like to you? Join #phchurpchurp today and bring more friends to the community!

Biggest Supermoon of 2012 due Sunday

Filipinos can expect the moon to appear at its largest Sunday, as it becomes full and reaches its closest point to Earth.

The moon will appear as a giant ball in the sky during this time, according to a report on dzBB radio early Saturday.

But the report said the Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) sought to allay fears the supermoon may cause calamities, saying there is no evidence to back such fears.

A separate article on said the moon will officially become full at 11:35 p.m. EDT Saturday (11:35 a.m. in Manila).

"The moon will swing in 221,802 miles (356,955 kilometers) from our planet, offering skywatchers a spectacular view of an extra-big, extra-bright moon, nicknamed a supermoon," it said.

It added this month's perigee is the closest of any perigee in 2012 – perigees vary by about three percent since the moon's orbit is not perfectly circular.

"The result will be a 16 percent brighter-than-average full moon accompanied by unusually high and low tides this weekend and into the new week," said— LBG, GMA News

Cancer Worldwide [infographic]

I just finished participating in my first Relay for Life tonight and it was beautiful. It was so heartbreaking yet so inspiring to see such a large group of people who are so passionate about preventing a disease that stole their loved ones. I heard many stories of hope and sadness from survivors and fighters. I have such respect for those and their families for battling such a tough illness.
Today’s infogrgaphic from the World Health Organization gives an over view of the leading types of cancer around the world and their death rate.  I have been fortunate and am so thankful to have to not have experienced cancer myself or in my family. I will surely follow this infographic’s advice and invest in a healthy, smoke-free lifestyle to prevent cancer. [via]

One-of-a-kind theme parks: From 'Angry Birds' to Ferraris

If you think theme parks are all about castles, thrill rides, and roller coasters. Think again.

Apparently, there are amusement parks with one-of-a-kind themes -- from the popular mobile game "Angry Birds" to the iconic sports car "Ferrari."
Angry Birds Land
Finland (Estimated number of Filipinos: 2,111*)
According to a report of the news site CNN Go, Angry Birds Land will be the first official park of the famous mobile game franchise "Angry Birds."
The theme park already had  a soft launch last week but will still ‘migrate’ other birds in the following months to come to complete the experience, Miikka Sepälä, CEO of Särkänniem, said.
The park will initially have 12 rides and attractions including an adventure course, a shop, snack and food stands in the area which is located in a half-hectare perimeter inside Särkänniemi. Tickets cost €19-€35 (around P1000-P2000).
Incheon Robot Land
South Korea (Estimated number of Filipinos: 82,359*)

CNN Go said Incheon Robot Land showcases South Korea's prowess in robotics.
Set to open this year, the Robot Land will be composed of factories, fun parks, hotels, and even residential areas.

There will also be a special hall for a Las Vegas-style show created by the producers of shows for Universal Studios -- the Landmark Entertainment Group.
‘Robot Land’ hopes to attract top robotics developers and engineers worldwide aside from robot nerds and kids.
Ferrari World
United Arab Emirates (Estimated number of Filipinos: 636,154*)
Ever wanted to experience the thrill of riding a Ferrari? Don’t fret.

In Ferrari World in the United Arab Emirates, all park rides are modeled after Ferrari racing cars.
These are bump cars, carousel, and even a roller coaster with a speed of 240 kilometers per hour.
Ticket prices range from AED 225 – AED 795 (around P2500 – P9000)
France (Estimated number of Filipinos: 50,144*)

Futuroscope or "Parc du Futuroscope" is based upon multimedia, cinematographic, and audio-visual techniques.

Along with several attractions, Futuroscope has 3D and 4D cinemas featuring shows such as "Arthur the 4D adventure," "The Little Prince," and others.
Depending on the packages, prices are generally from EUR 11 to EUR 143 (around P600 – P7900).
United States (Estimated number of Filipinos: 3,166,529*)

Established in 1949 by Owen Godwin, Gatorland is a 110-acre theme park that is home to various reptiles, wildlife and of course – alligators.
This park is a good alternative for nature lovers.
Some of the attractions are Alligator Island, Express Railroad, Flamingo Lagoon, Swamp Walk and the ‘Screamin’’ Gator zip line where you get to glide above a pool filled with alligators.
Prices range from $13.99 - $99.99 (around P591 - P4,229)
- VVP, GMA News

Millions of Facebook users share 'way too much', says web security firm

As many as 13 million Facebook users in the United States may not be aware of or are not using their privacy controls, security firm Sophos said citing a survey by Consumer Reports which showed Facebook doesn't make it all that easy.
Among the findings are:
- 39.3 million identified a family member in a profile
- 20.4 million included their birth date and year in their profile
- 7.7 million "liked" a Facebook page pertaining to a religious affiliation
- 4.6 million discussed their love life on their wall
- 2.6 million discussed their recreational use of alcohol on their wall
- 2.3 million "liked" a page regarding sexual orientation
Sophos said CR surveyed 2,002 members of its interactive consumer online panel who were over 18 and had a home Internet connection.
"CR found that some people are sharing way too much, including an estimated 4.8 million who've potentially tipped off burglars where and when they're going on given days and 4.7 million who've 'liked' Facebook pages about health conditions that can be used against them by insurers," it noted.
It quoted CR as saying that while some privacy or security issues arise from poor choices Facebook users themselves make, "other problems can stem from the ways the company collects data, how it manages and packages its privacy controls, and the fact that users' data can wind up with people or companies with whom they did not intend to share."
Also, CR said some users might be surprised to know that Facebook gets a report every time they visit a site with a "Like" button, regardless of whether or not they click on that button, have a Facebook account, or are even logged in.
"Those factors, taken together, have created a privacy free-for-all where users publish all manner of personal data from which can be extrapolated religious affiliation, sexual orientation, alcohol usage proclivities and more," Sophos quoted CR as saying.
Restricted to friends
Sophos said the privacy situation is bad even for those of us who restrict information to be seen only by friends, "given that friends using Facebook apps can allow our data to be transferred to a third party without our knowledge."
It said the CR survey showed privacy-related problems caused by Facebook are on the rise: 11 percent of households using Facebook reported trouble on the site last year, ranging from someone using a log-in without permission to being harassed or threatened.
"That percentage projects to some 7 million households - 30 percent above figures from last year's State of the Net report," it said.
CR acknowledged Facebook's claims that it takes privacy and safety issues seriously, including CEO Mark Zuckerberg's assertion that the company checks privacy access tens of billions of times every day.
Facebook had also pledged to offer users greater access to records of their Facebook activity.
Hard to understand
Sophos said Facebook's commitment to privacy may not be enough, as Facebook's privacy controls are too hairy for many people to understand.
It said CR referenced a recent study from consultants Siegel+Gale that finds that Facebook's and Google's privacy policies "are tougher to comprehend than the typical bank credit card agreement."
Also, it said US online privacy laws are feeble in comparison to those of Europe.
"To address all these issues, CR has put out a call for a national privacy law, asked Facebook to fix what it sees as a security weakness around passwords, as well as a collection of tips to help users understand and use Facebook's privacy tools," it said.
Better protection
Sophos said Consumers Union, the advocacy arm of Consumer Reports, wants a national privacy law that holds all companies to the same privacy standards and lets consumers tell companies not to track them online.
It also supports the Obama administration's effort to bring industry and privacy groups together to set clear rules for how personal data is collected and used.
Also, Consumers Union launched a petition urging Facebook to improve privacy controls and address concerns about sharing practices.
CR also wants password security lapses fixed, noting Facebook could fix a security lapse that permits users to set up weak passwords including some six-letter dictionary words.
"And it could help users avoid inadvertently sharing status updates with the public, either by alerting them more prominently when they are about to do so or by changing the default audience for posts to the user's preferred audience," it said.
Other tips include:
- "UnPublic" the wall. Set the audience for all previous wall posts to just friends.
- Turn off Tag Suggest. If users would rather not have Facebook automatically recognize their face in photos, they could disable that feature in their privacy settings. The information will be deleted.
- Block apps and sites that snoop. Unless users intercede, friends can share personal information about them with apps. To block that, they should use controls to limit the info apps can see.
- Keep wall posts from friends. Users don't have to share every wall post with every friend. They can also keep certain people from viewing specific items in their profile.
- When all else fails, deactivate.
CR also advised users to think before typing, saying even if a user deletes his/her account, some information can remain in Facebook's computers for up to 90 days.
Users should also check out how their page looks to others and review individual privacy settings if necessary. — ELR, GMA News

Fort Santiago one of Asia's 10 most endangered architectural sites - experts

NEW YORK - Asia's architectural treasures, from a Buddhist monastery in Afghanistan, an ancient city in China and other historical sites are in danger of vanishing under a tide of economic expansion, war and tourism, experts said Thursday.
The Global Heritage Fund named 10 sites as the most in danger of "irreparable loss and destruction."

"These 10 sites represent merely a fragment of the endangered treasures across Asia and the rest of the developing world," the fund's executive director Jeff Morgan said in presenting a report.
The architectural gems from across Asia's ancient and sophisticated cultures are struggling in the face of economic expansion, sudden floods of tourists and areas of lawlessness and war.
"We're looking at these millennial civilizations leapfrogging into the 21st century at a kind of pace that is unheard of, unprecedented," said Vishakha Desai, president of the Asia Society, which hosted a conference based on the report.
Experts said that architectural preservation has nowhere near the financial and political backing that nature conservancy enjoys.
"Heritage is being dramatically undervalued. Thus, the reinvestment and the focus on heritage is lacking today," Morgan said, warning that the endangered sites were doomed without quick help.
"We're going to lose them on our watch in the next 10 years."
Shirley Young, head of the US-China Cultural Institute, stressed that it was "not really just about beautiful buildings, beautiful sites."
"I think we'd agree," she said, "that a world without history is a world without soul."
The top 10 endangered sites, according to the Global Heritage Fund, are:
1. Ayutthaya in Thailand, a former Siamese capital known as the "Venice of the East."
2. Fort Santiago in the Philippines.
3. Kashgar, one of the last preserved Silk Road cities in China.
4. Mahasthangarh, one of South Asia's earliest archeological sites in Bangladesh.
5. Mes Aynak, an Afghan Buddhist monastery complex on the Silk Road.
6. Myauk-U, capital of the first Arakanese kingdom in Myanmar.
7. Plain of Jars, a mysterious megalithic site in Laos.
8. Preah Vihear, a Khmer architectural masterpiece in Cambodia.
9. Rakhigarhi, one of the biggest, ancient Indus civilization sites in India.
10. Taxila, an ancient economic crossroads in Pakistan. 

Friday, May 4, 2012

Shark Week: Shark Facts [infographic]

Ah, Shark Week has once again come to a close. Besides the plethora of replayed specials, Shark Week still holds a place in my heart. I do think that it is getting a little bit old though.
Soon Shark Week will be 25 years old. Once Discovery Channel reaches this landmark they should switch to a different animal. How about Whale Week, or Snake Week? Nothing really has the allure that sharks do. [Via]

#nokiaphilippines Stay social with the new Nokia Asha 302! Chat, FB & Tweet with a fast 1GHz processor.

#nokiaphilippines Stay social with the new Nokia Asha 302! Chat, FB & Tweet with a fast 1GHz processor.

'Green bullet' innovations aim to feed world of 9 billion

LONDON (AlertNet) - In flood-hit fields in the Philippines, farmers are testing a hardy new variety of rice that can survive completely submerged for more than two weeks.
In Kenya's Kibera slum, poor urban families are turning around their diets and incomes just by learning to grow vegetables in sack gardens outside their doors.
And in India, a push to help marginalized rural communities gain title to their land is leading to a significant drop in hunger.
These are just a few of the kinds of innovations and intitiatives that experts say will be critical if the world is to feed itself over coming decades as the population soars, cities sprawl and climate change takes its toll.
By 2050, the planet will need at least 70 percent more food than it does today to meet both an expected rise in population to 9 billion from 7 billion and changing appetites as many poor people grow richer, experts say.
"Can we feed a world of 9 billion? I would say the answer is yes," said Robert Watson, chief scientific adviser to Britain's Department of Environment and Rural Affairs and a former chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
But doing so will require fundamental changes to unsustainable but well-entrenched policies and practices, from eating so much meat to spending trillions on agriculture and fuel subsidies, he said.
In the meantime, many hunger fighters say the answer lies in clever alterations to the way food is planted, watered, harvested, stored, transported, sold, owned and shared.
Many of those changes are already being tested in the world's farms and fields, in laboratories and government offices, in factories and markets. Some are even speaking of the beginnings of a 21st century food revolution.
Myriad 'green bullets'
Unlike the last century's agricultural "Green Revolution", which dramatically boosted world food production with new high-yielding crop varieties and more irrigation, this revolution must rely on myriad "green bullets" to tackle hunger.
They range from persuading farmers in Africa's drought zones to switch from water-hungry rice to hardier crops like sorghum or millet, to helping them build pest-proof grain silos that allow food to be stored longer or sold when prices are higher.
With 70 percent of the world's people expected to live in cities by 2050, finding ways to help city dwellers grow food in small urban plots or roof gardens, or group together to buy food at cheaper prices, is a major focus.
In California's East Palo Alto, for instance, older inner-city residents - who are particularly vulnerable to high food prices - are learning growing techniques for the first time and producing food for themselves and a neighbourhood market.
Other urban areas are turning to vertical hydroponic gardens clinging to the edge of skyscrapers.
Women - who grow at least 40 percent of food in Africa and Asia - will need improved land rights and better access to information, something being made much easier by the spread of mobile phone technology, experts say.
Rural women in India's Andhra Pradesh state now use advance drought warnings, relayed by Internet and mobile phone, to switch to more drought-tolerant crops -- a move that has saved harvests and helped stem the usual wave of migration to cities in drought times.
Changing farming practices by adopting more water-conserving drip irrigation or planting crops amid fertilizing trees, as is now happening throughout Africa, will also be key.
So will cutting the at least 30 percent of the world's food supply eaten by pests, spoiled on the way to market or thrown away unused from plates and supermarkets.
Simply getting supermarkets to stop offering two-for-one specials - which can encourage people to overbuy - would be a start, some anti-hunger activists say, as would improving roads in regions like South Asia and Africa where transport delays mean produce often rots on the way to market.
Solutions to the threat of worsening hunger will vary by region, by country, sometimes even from one farm or village or apartment building to the next, experts say. Not all ideas will succeed, and scaling up those that do prove to work, as quickly as possible, will be essential.
In a world where an estimated 900 million people are already hungry today, curbing surging consumption in rich nations and those fast getting rich, especially India and China, will be particularly important, experts say.
"If we look at the graph of (rising) human consumption, that's the one to worry about," said Phil Bloomer, director of campaigns and policy for Oxfam Great Britain. "That is a graph that should strike panic in our hearts."
Persuading rich people to eat less meat and fewer milk products, which take a lot of grain to produce, would go a long way toward curbing ever-rising demand for grain.
'No normal to go back to'
Many innovations focus on easing the adverse effects of climate change on food production.
While warmer weather and growing levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere could spur plant growth and food production in some regions -- and open a few northern reaches of the world to farming -- many more regions are expected to see worsening losses from droughts, floods, storms, rising sea levels and higher temperatures that can cause crop yields to drop.
"It used to be there was an extreme weather event here or there but we knew that in a year or so things would go back to normal," said Lester Brown, a food security and sustainability expert, and president of the U.S.-based Earth Policy Institute.
"Now there is no normal to go back to."
That's why scientists from Bangladesh to Tanzania are developing new resilient varieties of maize, wheat, rice and other crops that can survive underwater, or with very little rain, or even both extremes in the same season, and still produce a reliable crop.
Other innovators are focusing on the effects of growing water scarcity.
"A substantial amount of our food production worldwide comes from non-renewable groundwater sources, and in the long run that is not sustainable," said Peter Gleick, a leading water expert and head of the U.S.-based Pacific Institute for Studies in Development, Environment and Security.
In villages where glacier-fed streams are set to become more irregular or disappear in the years ahead, or where flooding from heavy rain is quickly followed by drought, communities are learning to harvest and store water to ensure supplies throughout the year.
They are also developing water-conserving irrigation methods to make what they have available last.
Will all such innovations be enough to feed 9 billion people by 2050? Possibly, say experts, but success will depend on making enough key changes fast enough.
In addition to on-the-ground solutions, those changes will need to include major policy shifts -- including potentially a ban on turning grain into biofuel or limits on food speculation.
"Food insecurity and climate change are already inhibiting human well-being and economic growth throughout the world, and these problems are poised to accelerate," said John Beddington, Britain's chief science adviser, in a March report by the International Commission on Sustainable Agriculture and Climate Change.
"Decisive policy action is required if we are to preserve the planet's capacity to produce adequate food in the future." — Reuters