Welcome to the Willis University. This is a site dedicated mostly to the world's natural disasters. Also some random inserts of global news from credible sources and also a mixture of opinion. Some of the opinions are not suitable for all. Please remember this is my opinion only. Thanks to all for the guidance I've been given.

October 31, 2005

Bird flu in Canada

TORONTO — Nearly three dozen wild ducks have tested positive for the H5 bird flu (search) virus in Canada, officials reported Monday, but they said it was unlikely to be the strain blamed for more than 60 human deaths in Southeast Asia. For more information click on link below.,2933,174068,00.html

October 28, 2005

Chinese Proverbs

Here are some Chinese proverbs to live by. Man who run in front of car get tired. Man who run behind car get exhausted. Man who walk through airport turnstile sideways going to Bangkok. Man with one chopstick go hungry. Man who scratch ass should not bite fingernails. Man who eat many prunes get good run for money. Baseball is wrong: man! with four balls cannot walk. Panties not best thing on earth! But next to best thing on earth. War does not determine who is right ; war determine who is left. Wife who put husband in doghouse soon find him in cat house. Man who fight with wife all day get no piece at night. It take many nails to build crib, but one screw to fill it. Man who drive like hell, bound to get there. Man who stand on toilet is high on pot. Man who live in glass house should change clothes in basement. Man who fish in other man's well often catch crabs. Man who fart in church sit in own pew. Crowded elevator smell different to midget.

Iranians Rally Against U.S. and Isreal

Friday, October 28, 2005 TEHRAN, Iran — Tens of thousands of Iranians staged anti-Israel demonstrations across the country Friday, repeating calls by their ultraconservative president for the destruction of the Jewish state. World leaders have condemned Wednesday's remarks by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (search), who repeated the words of the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini (search), leader of the Islamic revolution, by saying: "Israel must be wiped off the map." On Friday the Iranian Embassy in Moscow tried to soften the impact of Ahmadinejad's comment. "Mr. Ahmadinejad did not have any intention to speak in sharp terms and engage in a conflict," the embassy said in a statement following the international criticism. It added that Ahmadinejad "underlined the key position of Iran, based on the necessity to hold free elections on the occupied territories." The embassy statement came after Russia, a key Iranian ally, joined criticism of Ahmadinejad's statement and summoned the Iranian ambassador to ask for an explanation. Ahmadinejad joined thousands of Iranians in one of several rallies in Tehran. State-run television showed Ahmadinejad surrounded by demonstrators, many holding banners with anti-Israeli and pro-Palestinian slogans. "Death to Israel, death to America," read many of the placards. Rallies also took place in other cities such as Mashad in Iran's east. The state-organized demonstrations are part of the annual al-Quds Day (search) — or Jerusalem Day — protests, which were first held in 1979 after Shiite Muslim clerics took power in Iran. Hundreds of thousands of Iranians have attended previous rallies. Late Thursday, Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki (search) said the massive demonstrations would illustrate the anger of the Islamic world over the Jewish state's existence. "The comments expressed by the president is the declared and specific policy of the Islamic Republic of Iran," Mottaki told state-run television. "We don't recognize the Zionist regime and don't consider it legitimate." Countries from Britain to Russia denounced Ahmadinejad's comments. The United States said the Iranian leader's hostility underscored Washington's concern over Iran's nuclear program. Israel said Iran should be suspended from the United Nations. The comments were even criticized by Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat (search). "We have recognized the state of Israel and we are pursuing a peace process with Israel, and ... we do not accept the statements of the president of Iran," Erekat said. "This is unacceptable." Iran's seven state-run TV stations devoted coverage Friday to programs condemning the Jewish state and praising the Palestinian resistance since the 1948 creation of Israel. Three stations also showed live coverage of crowds of people gathering early Friday in streets throughout Tehran. One man who appeared to be in his 30s carried a placard saying: "The late Khomeini said Israel should be wiped off the map." After Khomeini toppled the pro-Western Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi (search) in 1979, he declared the last Friday of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan (search) as an international day of struggle against Israel and for the liberation of Jerusalem. The Iranian government organizes a central demonstration annually in Tehran, while other rallies demanding Israel's destruction are held around the world.

Evacuation for Beta

MANAGUA, Nicaragua — Officials evacuated hundreds of tourists and residents from the Colombian island of San Andres as Tropical Storm Beta (search) appeared on track to become the 13th hurricane of the already record-breaking Atlantic hurricane season of 23 named storms.

October 27, 2005

2,000 US deaths...what is your point of view?

The American military death toll in the Iraq war reached 2,000 with the announcements of three more deaths, including an Army sergeant who died of wounds at a military hospital in Texas and two Marines killed last week in fighting west of Baghdad. U.S. Army Lt. Col. Steve Boylan, director of the force's combined press center, described the number as an "artificial mark on the wall set by individuals or groups with specific agendas and ulterior motives." The somber milestone came amid growing doubts among the U.S. public about the Iraq conflict, launched in March 2003 to destroy Saddam Hussein's alleged weapons of mass destruction. None was ever found. FNC wants to hear from YOU — Is the 2,000th U.S. death in Iraq an "artificial mark" or a tragic milestone? E-mail us at,000th and jump into the debate! Click on link below to read othersopinionss,2933,173547,00.html

Tropical Storm Beta

Oct 27, 2005 — MIAMI (Reuters) - Tropical Storm Beta formed off the Caribbean coast of Nicaragua on Thursday and was forecast to strengthen into a hurricane and drench Central America with potentially flooding rain, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said. Storm alerts were posted for the Nicaraguan coast and the adjacent islands. Forecasters said the storm could dump 15 inches of rain on western Panama, Costa Rica and Nicaragua, with isolated amounts up to 20 inches. At 8 a.m., Beta had top sustained winds of 40 mph (65 kph) and was about 135 miles east-southeast of Bluefields, Nicaragua. The storm was moving slowly northwest at four mph (six kph) in the warm Caribbean and was expected to strengthen into a Category 1 hurricane, with top winds of at least 74 mph (119 kph), before moving over the Nicaraguan coast by Saturday. Beta was the 23rd named tropical cyclone of the unrelenting and record-breaking Atlantic-Caribbean hurricane season. No. 22, named Alpha, broke the record for the number of storms set in 1933 and made 2005 the most active hurricane season since records began 150 years ago. Weather forecasters switched to the Greek alphabet for storm names after using up their annual list of 21 names for the season with Wilma, which was at one point the most intense hurricane ever recorded in the Atlantic basin. It ravaged Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula and southern Florida and killed 28 people in Florida, the Bahamas, Haiti and Mexico. The Atlantic hurricane season runs through November 30. Thanks to for this story.

October 24, 2005

Rock, Paper, Scissors, Champion claims 7k

The World Series isn't over, but the sports world did crown a champion over the weekend. That would be Toronto lawyer Andrew Berger, who captured the World Rock Paper Scissors title on Sunday in front of a raucous hometown crowd. Berger threw paper to cover the rock of second-place finisher Stan Long, a student from California, en route to the gold medal and $7,000 first prize. That winning throw, though, only served to remind us of the game's (sorry, the "sport's") one major flaw. It makes sense that scissors cuts up paper and rock smashes scissors, but how come nobody bats an eye that paper covers rock? Thanks to CNN for this story.

The Greek Alphabet

If the predictions are right and we are supposed to see an increase in hurricanes in the next 10 years plus. We may want to get used to a new alphabet. Greek alphabet Α α Alpha Β β Beta Γ γ Gamma Δ δ Delta Ε ε Epsilon Ζ ζ Zeta Η η Eta Θ θ Theta Ι ι Iota Κ κ Kappa Λ λ Lambda Μ μ Mu Ν ν Nu Ξ ξ Xi Ο ο Omicron Π π Pi Ρ ρ Rho Σ σ Sigma Τ τ Tau Υ υ Upsilon Φ φ Phi Χ χ Chi Ψ ψ Psi Ω ω Omega

Florida takes on eighth storm in 15 months.

KEY WEST, Fla. — Hurricane Wilma crashed ashore early Monday as a strong Category 3 storm, battering southwestern Florida with 125-mph winds and pounding waves that threatened flooding in low-lying areas. Wilma made landfall at 6:30 a.m. EDT near Cape Romano (search), 22 miles south of Naples in Collier County, bringing with it a potential 19-foot storm surge, the National Hurricane Center (search) said. Hurricane-force wind of at least 74 mph extended 90 miles from the center and wind blowing at tropical storm-force reached outward 230 miles, the hurricane center said. • Click here to track Hurricane Wilma. More than 22,600 people were in shelters across the state. But in the low-lying Florida Keys, not even 10 percent of the Keys' 78,000 residents evacuated, Sheriff Richard Roth said. Thanks to foxnews for this story.

October 23, 2005

Nintendo to release Revolution in spring of 2006

Well I'm a few months behind in the news on this one, but I just heard about it today. Nintendo made big waves at its annual pre-E3 press conference by revealing new details about its highly anticipated console, code-name Revolution. Expressing a strategy designed to attract more kinds of gamers to more kinds of games, Nintendo announced that Revolution will be arriving in 2006 and promised that everyone will discover the meaning of "All-Access Gaming." Here are just a few of Revolution's key features that tantalized the crowd at the press conference: Sophisticated Design. The new console is approximately the size of three standard DVD cases stacked together, and it was displayed in a variety of prototype colors at E3. The console will come with a sleek silver stand allowing it to be displayed vertically or horizontally. Backward Compatibility. Revolution will play all of your favorite Nintendo GameCube games. An innovative self-loading media bay will play both 12-centimeter optical discs used for the new system as well as Nintendo GameCube discs. You can also equip a small, self-contained attachment to play movies and other DVD content. Huge Historic Library. Revolution will have downloadable access to 20 years of fan-favorite titles originally released for Nintendo 64, the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES) and even the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES). Big Names. Nintendo announced that new franchise properties will be added to current super-star franchises including Mario, Zelda, Super Smash Bros., Donkey Kong and Metroid. Wi-Fi Freedom. A worldwide network of Nintendo players can gather to compete in a comfortable, inviting environment using Nintendo's newly announced wireless gaming service, Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection. There's much more to Revolution that will be revealed over the coming months. Click here to read even more details about Revolution from Nintendo's official press release. For information about the redesigned controller check out this web-site.

October 22, 2005

Here is # 22!! Tropical Storm Alpha!

For the first time since hurricanes have been tracked we finally hit number 22. Alpha has formed. Is this the beginning of the end? Or is it just an overpopulated hurricane season due to global warming that will last for the next 10 years plus as predicted? Only you can decide. A hurricane watch was issued Saturday for the entire southern Florida peninsula, with heavy rain from Wilma's outer bands already causing hip-deep flooding in the Fort Lauderdale. At the same time, a record 22nd tropical storm — Alpha — formed in the Atlantic. Thanks to fox for this excerpt,2933,173085,00.html This link one goes to the public advisory warning from

Will the light bulb be replaced in the future...

Bjorn CareyLiveScience Staff WriterLiveScience.comFri Oct 21, 5:00 PM ET The main light source of the future will almost surely not be a bulb. It might be a table, a wall, or even a fork. An accidental discovery announced this week has taken LED lighting to a new level, suggesting it could soon offer a cheaper, longer-lasting alternative to the traditional light bulb. The miniature breakthrough adds to a growing trend that is likely to eventually make Thomas Edison's bright invention obsolete. LEDs are already used in traffic lights, flashlights, and architectural lighting. They are flexible and operate less expensively than traditional lighting. Happy accident Michael Bowers, a graduate student at Vanderbilt University, was just trying to make really small quantum dots, which are crystals generally only a few nanometers big. That's less than 1/1000th the width of a human hair. Quantum dots contain anywhere from 100 to 1,000 electrons. They're easily excited bundles of energy, and the smaller they are, the more excited they get. Each dot in Bower's particular batch was exceptionally small, containing only 33 or 34 pairs of atoms. When you shine a light on quantum dots or apply electricity to them, they react by producing their own light, normally a bright, vibrant color. But when Bowers shined a laser on his batch of dots, something unexpected happened. "I was surprised when a white glow covered the table," Bowers said. "The quantum dots were supposed to emit blue light, but instead they were giving off a beautiful white glow." Then Bowers and another student got the idea to stir the dots into polyurethane and coat a blue LED light bulb with the mix. The lumpy bulb wasn't pretty, but it produced white light similar to a regular light bulb. White light from Bowers' lumpy new bulb. Credit: Vanderbilt University The new device gives off a warm, yellowish-white light that shines twice as bright and lasts 50 times longer than the standard 60 watt light bulb. This work is published online in the Oct. 18 edition of the Journal of the American Chemical Society. Better than bulbs Until the last decade, LEDs could only produce green, red, and yellow light, which limited their use. Then came blue LEDs, which have since been altered to emit white light with a light-blue hue. LEDs produce twice as much light as a regular 60 watt bulb and burn for over 50,000 hours. The Department of Energy estimates LED lighting could reduce U.S. energy consumption for lighting by 29 percent by 2025. LEDs don't emit heat, so they're also more energy efficient. And they're much harder to break. Other scientists have said they expect LEDs to eventually replace standard incandescent bulbs as well as fluorescent and sodium vapor lights. If the new process can be developed into commercial production, light won't come just from newfangled bulbs. Quantum dot mixtures could be painted on just about anything and electrically excited to produce a rainbow of colors, including white. One big question remains: When a brilliant idea pops into your mind in the future, what will appear over your head? Room Lights May Boost Health New Room Lighting: Bringing a Little Sunshine into Our Lives Advanced Optics ... on Butterfly Wings Scientists Mess with the Speed of Light Image Gallery: Micromachines Visit for more daily news, views and scientific inquiry with an original, provocative point of view. LiveScience reports amazing, real world breakthroughs, made simple and stimulating for people on the go. Check out our collection of Amazing Images, Image Galleries, Interactive Features, Trivia and more. Sign up for our free daily email newsletter today! Thanks to yahoonews for this article.

October 21, 2005

Britain and Croatia confirm bird flu.

Saturday, October 22, 2005 LONDON — Britain and Croatia confirmed cases of bird flu on Friday as countries around the world scrambled to put in place measures to prevent the spread of the virus. In Croatia, the Agriculture Ministry (search) said the country's first cases of bird flu were confirmed in six swans found dead in a national park. British officials said a parrot that had been imported from South America died of bird flu in quarantine. In both cases, authorities did not know if the birds had the deadly H5N1 strain that has devastated poultry stocks across Asia and killed 60 people in the last two years. The strain has recently been found in birds in Russia, Turkey and Romania. The European Union (search) said Friday it was preparing a ban on all poultry imports from Croatia. EU officials have previously ordered restrictions on bird markets and shows and urged nations to present a program of vaccination for zoo birds as part of measures to head off the spread of the disease. The EU's executive office said Croatian veterinary authorities had told them the H5 bird flu (search) virus had been isolated in samples taken from wild swans found dead near a pond and a fish farm in the eastern part of the country. About 1,500 migratory swans arrived in the area a few days ago and a fish farmer then found about 15 of them dead, the EU said. Tests carried out by Croatian experts on samples from six of the birds led to the discovery of the virus. Croats had feared the arrival of bird flu in their country — a major migratory route for various bird species. Britain's chief veterinarian, Debby Reynolds, said Friday the diseased parrot, which had been imported from Suriname and held in a quarantine unit with a shipment of birds from Taiwan, had tested positive for a "highly pathogenic" form of bird flu. Further tests were being carried out to see if the bird carried the H5N1 (search) strain, which is easily transmitted between birds, but is hard for humans to contract. Experts are closely watching the disease, however, for fear it could mutate into a form easily transmitted between humans. The EU, which has also taken measures to restrict the import of live birds and feathers from Russia following the spread of bird flu there, said its vets were continuing to carry out tests on samples from suspect birds found in Greece (search). Norway on Friday joined other European countries in ordering poultry farmers to keep their flocks indoors as a precaution against the disease. In Latin America, meanwhile, top health officials from six Andean nations met Friday to develop a regional contingency plan to prevent the spread of bird flu, while Venezuela closed its border with Colombia over concerns about a milder strain not fatal to humans. Honduras and Panama also said Friday they were monitoring their borders, had prohibited importation of birds from affected nations and would keep an eye on migratory birds, which officials fear could carry the disease to the Americas from Asia. Special thanks to foxnews for this story.

Suspicious package found in D.C.

Friday, October 21, 2005 WASHINGTON — Hazardous materials teams "disrupted" a package in a car parked close to the U.S. Capitol Friday after two white men were taken into questioning when they claimed to have a suspicious device in their car. The detonation forced open the back driver's side door of the 2005 gray Chevy Impala and smoked floated out in what has been described as a complicated and dangerous procedure but appeared to be a very contained explosion. Before the explosion, Sgt. Jessica Gissubel, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Capitol Police (search), warned reporters that they would hear a loud noise. Gissubel added that police were interviewing the two men together. "The occupants of that vehicle made comments to our officers which arose suspicion. Our officers are now interviewing those individuals," Gissubel said. "The individuals did make statements alluding to the fact that they did have a suspicious package in their vehicle." Gissubel said a package had been spotted inside the car and a hazardous materials and hazardous response team were called to the site. Along with the U.S. Capitol Police, the U.S. Park Police (search), D.C. Fire and Rescue Services and the Metropolitan Police Department also responded to the call. "We don't know if it's an explosive device," said Brian Doyle, a spokesman for the Department of Homeland Security (search), which sent out hazardous materials teams. Police cordoned off several streets near where the car was parked on the corner of First Street and Constitution Ave., N.W., close to the Senate side of the Capitol. After the disruption, police were planning on bringing dogs to sniff out whether explosives were actually in the car. The Capitol had not been evacuated nearly two hours after the incident was first reported. Tourists still milled around and in the U.S. Capitol building. The Senate remained in session for debate on a spending bill until it adjourned for the weekend shortly before 1:00 p.m. EDT. The detonation occurred at 1:10 p.m. EDT.

October 20, 2005

Now an earthquake in turkey!!

Click on link below for more information.,2933,172950,00.html

Chinese police probe online baby auction

The Associated Press Updated: 9:36 a.m. ET Oct. 20, 2005 SHANGHAI, China - Shanghai police are investigating an online ad offering babies for sale on the Chinese subsidiary of auction Web site eBay, the company said Thursday. The ad was deleted shortly after it was placed Sunday and relevant information has been turned over to investigators, a spokesman for the Eachnet Web site said. "We took measures as soon as we received complaints from customers," said the spokesman, who gave only his surname, Tang. "Then we called the police and now they are investigating." Media reports said the ad offered baby boys for 28,000 yuan ($3,500) and girls for 13,000 yuan ($1,600), reflecting the traditional Chinese preference for males. It promised to deliver infants within 100 days of birth. "Our aim is to send good news to the thousands of couples around the country who are unable to have children," the site was quoted as saying by the Shanghai Morning Post. The newspaper said it learned of the ad from a reader. A Shanghai police spokeswoman said she had no information on the case and suggested it was being handled by a district bureau. However, no such case had been registered in Shanghai's Huangpu district, where the site has its offices, said an officer who answered the phone at that police station. Neither officer would give their name, a common practice among Chinese officials. China has an active black market in babies and young women, who are bought or abducted and sold to couples who want another child, a future bride for a son or a household servant. Chinese law allows punishments up to death for people who sell infants, along with lesser penalties for buyers and brokers. However, the law doesn't say whether an offer of such a sale alone constitutes a crime. Tang, the Eachnet spokesman, said the identity of the purported seller was unclear and it wasn't known whether the offer was serious or an attempt at fraud. "The seller is very strange. They never bought or sold anything on Eachnet before and we really don't know what their real aim is," Tang said. Shanghai Morning Post said about 50 people visited the ad before it was deleted. It wasn't known if anyone had contacted the seller. The site's parent, eBay, has a computer program that filters out ads containing key words pointing to illegal transactions, Tang said. However, since the site routinely offers items such as infant clothing, nothing in the ad tripped any alarms, he said. Eachnet employees also visually check sensitive ads, but it wasn't clear if they had seen the one placed Sunday. Special thanks to MSNBC for this story.

Wilma slowly moving in

Bird Flu in now in Taiwan

Bird flu now in Taiwan. Click on link below to read full story.,2933,172852,00.html


I'm an atheist, but sometimes, you gotta wonder. It all started last year after the Boston Red Sox won the World Series, then all hell broke loose. Patriots lost Bruschi to a stroke, and now they suck. But this isn't about sports, its about world happenings. Death is all around us, everyday, every minute. We had a record 21 storms this year, three of them, Katrina, Rita, and now Wilma ranked 4th, 3rd, and 1st respectively all-time as the strongest storms ever. Even one in Spain (tropical storm Vance). Hurricane Katrina turned New Orleans into a third world country. Wild fires rage across California. A powerful earthquake hit Pakistan where close to 80,000 died. The tsunami in the Indian Ocean affecting lives close by and ending them, the bird flu and avian flu plaguing our fragile planet, the Iraqi war is still going on, and the terrorism threats in New York and Baltimore and flooding in the New England area. It makes me think if the world is really going to end in 2012 like the Mayans have predicted. They were never wrong too... That was Steve O's View now for mine. I don't necessarily believe the Mayans theory to the full extent. I believe that we are living on borrowed time, and there is not much time left. I was raised as baptist, and do believe solely what the bible says. Now on to add to some of what The Stumper said....Teddy Bruschi is coming back...but it won't help...There has been a record tying 21 hurricanes this year and it is still counting. Along the fore mentioned story about the earthquakes and wild fires also add in the floods that have been happening in the northeast portion of the US. There have been earthquakes in the Pakistan area and just a few short days ago there was one in California and Japan. Not big but it's all in the same realm of the end of time natural disaster. We have the Iraq war, the Afghanistan war, the wars and rumors of wars. (Iran, Korea) Now if this were to be the Armageddon we first must go thru the tribulation and that according to the bible will be 7 years long. We are in 2005 and 7 years from now will be 2012. If the Mayans are correct the tribulation is just beginning....

Bird Flu hits Russia

For more on this story click on link below.,2933,172790,00.html

Wilma roars toward Cancun and Florida...

By WILL WEISSERT, Associated Press Writer 33 minutes ago Much of Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula was under a hurricane warning Thursday, as Hurricane Wilma swirled off its eastern shore. Forecasters pushed back their prediction of when the storm might hit Florida. Tourists were ordered to leave the Florida Keys, and everyone was told to evacuate the island of Isla Mujeres, near Cancun. Authorities were poised to move out thousands of others Thursday from low-lying areas in a 600-mile swath covering Cuba, Mexico, Belize, Honduras, Jamaica, Haiti and the Cayman Islands. The National Hurricane Center in Miami said Wilma, already blamed for 13 deaths, had lost some speed. "Because it is moving slower, we don't anticipate it making landfall in Florida until sometime on Sunday," a day later than previously forecast, hurricane center meteorologist Jennifer Pralgo said. Some of the estimated 70,000 tourists still in Cancun and surrounding areas were taking the warnings more seriously than others. Standing knee-deep in the ocean and drinking beer in Playa de Carmen, south of Cancun, Mike Goepfrich, of Minneapolis, said: "As long as they give me beer in the shelter, and my kids are safe, we'll be fine. We're going to ride it out here." Nearby, fisherman Rolando Ramirez, 51, was helping others pull their fishing boats from the water in preparation for Wilma's passage. "People here aren't concerned about anything," said Ramirez. "They don't know that when the hurricane comes, this will all be under water." At 5 a.m. EDT, Wilma had sustained winds of 150 mph, down from a peak of 175 mph, but forecasters said it could strengthen again. Wilma was centered 195 miles southeast of Mexico's Cozumel Island, and was moving west-northwest at 8 mph. Countries across the region prepared for the worst. Much of Central America was still recovering from Hurricane Stan, which left more than 1,500 people dead or missing. The storm was on a curving course that would carry it through the narrow channel between Cuba and Mexico on Friday, possibly within a few miles of Cancun and Cozumel. In the coastal state of Quintana Roo — which includes Cancun — officials ordered the evacuation of four low-lying islands, including Isla Mujeres, and also closed the popular cruise ship port on the island of Cozumel. "This is getting very powerful, very threatening," President Vicente Fox said. Hundreds of schools in Quintana Roo were ordered closed Thursday and Friday, and many will be used as storm shelters. Predictions differed on where the hurricane would go and how strong it would be when it reaches U.S. shores, where Florida residents began buying water, canned food and other emergency supplies. Wilma's track could take it near Punta Gorda on Florida's southwestern Gulf Coast and other areas hit by Hurricane Charley, a Category 4 storm, in August 2004. The state has seen seven hurricanes hit or pass close by since August 2004, causing more than $20 billion in estimated damage and killing nearly 150 people. "People have learned their lesson and know better how to prepare. We're not waiting until the last minute anymore," said Andrea Yerger, 48, of Port Charlotte, Fla. On Wednesday, tourists packed Cancun's airport even though skies were still partly sunny, looking for flights home or to other resorts. Mark Carara cut his family's vacation short by two days, and tried to get on a standby flight home to Colorado. "You hear it was the biggest storm on record, and yeah, that was the clincher right there," he said. "It was time for us to go." Heavy rain, high winds and rough seas pounded coastal areas of Honduras on Wednesday, knocking out power to about 20 towns, cutting off roads to four others and forcing the evacuation of coastal villages and the closure of two Caribbean ports. Four fishermen were reported missing at sea and about 500 U.S. and European tourists were moved to safe locations at hotels on Honduras' Bay Islands. The head of Haiti's civil protection agency, Maria Alta Jean-Baptiste, said that at least 12 people had died in rain and landslides there since Monday. At least 2,000 Haitian families had been forced from flooded homes. Jamaica, where heavy rains have fallen since Sunday, closed almost all schools and 350 people were living in shelters. One man died Sunday in a rain-swollen river. The storm was expected to dump up to 25 inches of rain in mountainous areas of Cuba through Friday, and up to up to 15 inches in the Caymans and Jamaica through Thursday. In Belize, a nation south of Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula, officials canceled cruise ship visits and tourists were evacuated from keys offshore. Wilma's confirmed pressure readings early Wednesday dropped to 882 millibars, the lowest minimum pressure ever measured in a hurricane in the Americas, according to the hurricane center. Lower pressure translates into higher wind speed. The strongest Atlantic storm on record, based on pressure readings, had been Hurricane Gilbert in 1988, which registered 888 millibars. Wilma is the record-tying 12th hurricane of the Atlantic season, the same number reached in 1969. Records have been kept since 1851. On Monday, Wilma became the Atlantic hurricane season's 21st named storm, tying the record set in 1933 and exhausting the list of names for this year. The six-month hurricane season does not end until Nov. 30. Any new storms would be named with letters from the Greek alphabet, starting with Alpha. ___ Associated Press writers Mitch Stacy in Punta Gorda, Florida, Vanessa Arrington in Havana, Cuba, and Jay Ehrhart in George Town, Cayman Islands, contributed to this report. ___ On the Net: National Hurricane Center:

October 19, 2005

Wilma already blamed for 12 deaths.

For more information click on link below.

2,600 birds found dead in China

Wednesday, October 19, 2005 BEIJING — Some 2,600 birds have been found dead of bird flu (search) in northern China's grasslands, the government said Wednesday. In Brussels, a European Union (search) official said there is a suspicion of bird flu in Macedonia (search). The disease has already affected birds in at least two other European countries; Romania and Greece. In Russia, hundreds of birds have died suddenly in a region south of Moscow, local media reported on Wednesday, raising fears of a new outbreak of bird flu there. If confirmed, the discovery in the Tula region, about 125 miles south of Moscow, would mark the first time that the deadly virus has appeared in European Russia, west of the Ural Mountains. The dead birds in China were found in a breeding facility in Tengjiaying, a village near Hohhot, the capital of the Inner Mongolia region, the official Xinhua news agency reported. They were infected by the deadly H5N1 strain of the virus, Xinhua said. It did not give any further details. "The epidemic is under control," Xinhua said. European Union officials said they were preparing to extend a ban on imports of pet birds and feathers from Siberia because of the bird flu. EU spokesman Philip Tod also said the EU executive would send experts to Greece to help identify bird the bird flu strain there. Health officials said they will also hold a simulation exercise of a flu pandemic by end of year to improve preparedness. Thanks to for this story.

Death toll over 79,000 and still rising

Updated: 6:50 a.m. ET Oct. 19, 2005 ISLAMABAD, Pakistan - New figures released by regional officials on Wednesday pushed the death toll in South Asia’s earthquake to more than 79,000, about half each in Pakistani-held Kashmir and the country’s North West Frontier Province. The figures are significantly higher than the official death toll of 42,000 put out each day by the central government, whose count has lagged behind the local count since the early days of the disaster. Asif Iqbal Daudzai, information minister for the North West Frontier Province, told The Associated Press that 37,958 people died in the province and at least 23,172 were injured, the vast majority of them in Mansehra district. He said the figures were based on reports from local government and hospital officials in the area. In addition, 40,000 people died in Pakistani-held Kashmir, which is not part of the North West Frontier Province. India has reported 1,360 deaths in the part of Kashmir that it controls.

Wilma now a monster.

Click on link below for more information.,2933,172680,00.html

Wilma now Cat 5 The most powerful hurricane of the year

Hurricane Wilma strengthened into a Category 5 monster early Wednesday packing 175 mph winds, and forecasters said a key reading of the storm's pressure showed it to be the most powerful of the year. Click on link below by fox news to find out more about Hurricane Wilma.,2933,172680,00.html

October 18, 2005

Terror Threat in Baltimore Over

Click on link below for more information.,2933,172594,00.html

Terror in Baltimore!!

BALTIMORE — One of two tunnels carrying traffic under Baltimore's harbor was closed Tuesday and another was partially shut down in response to what an official said was a security threat. The Baltimore Harbor Tunnel (search) was closed while the Fort McHenry Tunnel was partially closed, with one lane of traffic moving in each direction, said Lt. Col. David Franklin of the Maryland Transportation Authority Police (search). The closures were in response to a threat, a federal law enforcement official said. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue, did not provide further information about the nature of the threat. But another federal law enforcement official said the threat was phoned in to authorities by a person claiming to have information from abroad. Authorities are skeptical of the claim, but are checking it out nonetheless out of an abundance of caution, the official said. That source also spoke on condition of anonymity.

New Hurricane Tracker

Here is a new Hurrricane tracker I found on the msnbc website. You can track hurricanes from 2004-2005.

Evacuation is imminent in Mass. as dam prepares to burst

A man takes pictures on the banks of the swollen Merrimack river in Lawrence, Mass., Sunday, Oct. 16, 2005. Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney lifted the state of emergency for Massachusetts, deactivating the National Guard and sending a signal that the worst of the weather problems is over. (AP Photo/Chitose Suzuki) Taunton, Mass., Officials Say Dam Deteriorating; Downtown Closed As City Prepares for Worst By RAY HENRY The Associated Press TAUNTON, Mass. - A dam on the rain-swollen Mill River deteriorated overnight and Taunton prepared for the worst Tuesday, evacuating residents, canceling classes and closing off downtown amid fears of a wall of water up to 6 feet deep. Mayor Robert Nunes, at a hastily called news conference, said the situation at the wooden Whittenton Pond Dam upstream from the city took a turn for the worse about 2 a.m., resulting in an increase of water flow. "The city of Taunton still is in a state of emergency," Nunes said. "If the dam goes, it will create massive flooding along the Mill River and into the downtown area." Lake Sabbatia, the body of water behind the dam, had gone down about an inch overnight, Fire Chief Joseph Rose said. But rain began falling again as dawn broke. Officials were trying to relieve pressure on the dam, roughly a half-mile upstream from downtown, by tweaking the flow between it and a second dam upstream, Rose said. Officials said that if the Whittenton Pond Dam burst it could unleash a wall of water up to 6 feet high and flood neighborhoods and downtown Taunton. "I've got my fingers crossed that this thing is able to hold," Gov. Mitt Romney said Tuesday morning. "Water's going under the dam. It's going through some areas that are weakened and there's every prospect that it will give way and we'll have a very significant water event. "On the other hand, a few of us can hope that it hangs together and it ties together as long as possible and that the water is able to leak out in a relatively controlled manner," he said. "If that were the case, we'd all breathe a great sigh of relief." Dive teams were standing by if rescues proved necessary, and a shelter had been set up at the local high school, manned by the Red Cross. Nearly 2,000 people were evacuated from their homes near the river on Monday when emergency management officials warned that the dam had lost a timber column and could break within 24 hours. The National Weather Service issued a flood warning, calling the situation "extremely dangerous." Police and firefighters were going door to door, urging residents to go stay with relatives and friends or at the shelter in the fieldhouse at Taunton High School. "It's been intense," said Susan Jones, who lives a few hundred yards uphill from the dam, in an area that had not been evacuated. "We heard the helicopters all night long. I laid awake half the night waiting for someone to knock on the door." The state Highway Department closed roads leading into Taunton and the Massachusetts National Guard dispatched crews to the area to assist with any last-minute evacuations. "We're very concerned about public safety," Romney said after surveying the dam late Monday. He returned early Tuesday morning and met with the mayor at City Hall. Taunton, a former 19th-century manufacturing hub about 40 miles south of Boston, lies at the confluence of the Mill and Taunton rivers. The working-class city, which has a population of nearly 50,000, was last flooded in March 1968 when the same dam was breached. City Councilor Charles Crowley, a local historian, said there was also catastrophic flooding in February 1886 following several days of rain. The Whittenton Pond Dam is privately owned one of about 3,000 private dams in the state according to Romney. The dam was inspected two years ago and was considered in fair condition at that time, he said. Some repairs were made since then, Romney said, but "this water was more than had been expected or anticipated." Some areas of the state received more than 16 inches of rain over the past eight days, with the heaviest rainfall in the Taunton area coming Friday night and all day Saturday. Lisa Campbell, who lives near the river, said she and her children planned to stay at her sister's house on the other side of the city. "It's better to be safe than sorry," she said. "You saw how many people had to be rescued from New Orleans when they didn't leave." The newsroom of the Taunton Daily Gazette was evacuated, though several reporters stayed at the scene, publisher John Shields said. The paper is published at its sister newspaper in Fall River. "We are erring on the side of caution," Nunes said. "If the dam goes, we will have major problems in our city." Associated Press writers Denise Lavoie and Richard Lewis contributed to this report. Copyright 2005 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Copyright © 2005 ABC News Internet Ventures

Wilma's projected path

The next hurricane

Forecasters expect Atlantic season’s 21st named storm will be hurricane The Associated Press Updated: 8:40 a.m. ET Oct. 18, 2005 MIAMI - Tropical Storm Wilma stalled over the warm waters of the northwestern Caribbean early Tuesday and forecasters said it could strengthen into a hurricane before potentially menacing Florida this weekend. Wilma entered the history books Monday, becoming the Atlantic hurricane season’s 21st named storm before dawn, tying the record set in 1933 and exhausting the list of storm names. Forecasters said it could strengthen into the year’s 12th hurricane on Tuesday and become a Category 3 hurricane with wind exceeding 111 mph by Wednesday. Twelve would tie the record for the most Atlantic hurricanes in a years, set in 1969. “Wilma is expected to become an intense hurricane in the northwestern Caribbean Sea,” which has warm water and favorable wind currents, said Lixion Avila, a hurricane specialist at the National Hurricane Center. At 8 a.m. ET, Wilma’s top sustained wind speed was about 70 mph, unchanged since three hours earlier. At 74 mph, Wilma will be upgraded to a Category 1 hurricane. Meteorologists said Wilma was nearly stationary over the northwest Caribbean Sea about 245 miles south-southeast of Grand Cayman, but it was expected to gradually move toward the west and northwest. Turn towards Florida possibleNew forecast models placed the storm closer to western Cuba than Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula by Friday. The storm was forecast to then turn sharply in the Gulf of Mexico toward Florida during the weekend. “There’s no scenario now that takes it toward Louisiana or Mississippi, but that could change,” said Max Mayfield, director of the National Hurricane Center in Miami. Conditions such as warm water and favorable atmospheric winds are in place for Wilma to strengthen, possibly into a major hurricane with winds above 110 mph. “If it goes through the Yucatan Channel, there won’t be much to weaken it,” Mayfield said. New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin warned residents Monday to prepare for another evacuation if Wilma strengthened and moved toward the city. The Gulf Coast was already battered this year by Hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Dennis, while Emily hit Mexico. A hurricane watch remained in effect for the Cayman Islands, and a tropical storm warning was posted there and for the coast of Honduras. Two to 6 inches of rain is likely in the Caymans, southeastern Cuba, Haiti, Honduras and Jamaica, with up to 12 inches possible in some areas, forecasters said. Battered coastThe Gulf Coast was already battered this year by Hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Dennis, while Emily hit Mexico. Since 1995, the Atlantic has been in a period of higher hurricane activity. Scientists say the cause of the increase is a rise in ocean temperatures and a decrease in the amount of disruptive vertical wind shear that rips hurricanes apart. Some researchers argue that global warming fueled by man’s generation of greenhouse gases is the culprit. Forecasters at the hurricane center say the busy seasons are part of a natural cycle that can last for at least 20 years, and sometimes up to 40 or 50. They say the conditions are similar to those when the Atlantic was last in a period of high activity in the 1950s and 60s. It’s difficult to know whether the Atlantic was even busier at any time before record keeping began. And satellites have only been tracking tropical weather since the 1960s, so some storms that just stayed at sea or hit unpopulated areas before then could have escaped notice. The six-month hurricane season ends Nov. 30. Wilma is the last on the list of storm names for 2005; there are 21 names on the yearly list because the letters q, u, x, y and z are skipped. If any other storms form, letters from the Greek alphabet would be used, starting with Alpha. That has never happened in roughly 60 years of regularly named Atlantic storms. “We’ve got six weeks to go, so a lot of things can happen,” Mayfield said. © 2005 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. URL:

The birth of a hurricane

Click on link below for an animated look at the birth of a hurricane. Thanks to for the link.

Smoking and Sperm go hand in hand or mouth in mouth!!??

Smoking May Harm Male Fertility Monday, October 17, 2005 By Miranda Hitti Smoking may hamper a man’s fertility, according to a small study funded by cigarette company Philip Morris. Scientists at the University of Buffalo compared sperm from screened sperm donors to sperm from 18 male smokers. In lab tests, the smokers’ sperm was less likely to bind tightly to an egg -- a necessary step for fertilization. The results were presented in Montreal at the American Society of Reproductive Medicine’s annual meeting. Study: Chewing Tobacco May Harm Sperm Researcher’s Comments “Specialized testing clearly reveals a significant drop in fertility potential for men who are heavy tobacco smokers,” says researcher Lani Burkman, PhD, in a news release. Men who smoke also “should be aware that smoking can damage their sperm DNA, passing on faulty DNA to their baby. Concerned smokers should quit or be tested in a local andrology laboratory,” says Burkman. Burkman is an assistant professor of urology at the University of Buffalo’s medical school. He is also an associate professor and head of the andrology section of the university’s gynecology and obstetrics department. What Chemicals Are Lurking Inside Your Body? Study of Smokers The smokers in the study all smoked at least four cigarettes a day for two years or more. On average, they had smoked for more than 15 years. In a lab test, the sperm from each smoker was exposed to half of an egg for two or three hours. The test was also done with the donors’ sperm, using the other halves of the same eggs. To pass the test, at least 65% of a man’s sperm had to bind tightly to the egg’s outer layer. The sperm from 12 smokers (two-thirds of the smokers) failed. Their sperm wasn’t totally infertile but showed only one-quarter of normal fertilizing capacity, the researchers note. “Most of the failed cases (nine out of 12) demonstrated a severe loss in fertilizing capacity,” write Burkman and colleagues. Sperm from the other smokers showed normal function. Boxers vs. Briefs: Increasing Sperm Count Smokers’ Habits Noted The men’s smoking habits and history seemed important to the researchers. They calculated each smoker’s smoking “load” by multiplying the number of daily cigarettes by the number of years as a smoker. The load varied widely, ranging from 16 to 750. Eleven men had a high load (200 to 750). Only 18 percent of them passed the test. In comparison, 71 percent of the seven smokers with a lower smoking load (16 to 180) passed the test, the study shows. “The men who failed were smoking about twice as many cigarettes per day, an average of 19 per day, compared to the smokers who passed the [test],” says Burkman in the news release. Smoking and Sperm “Like other cells in the body, human sperm carry a receptor for nicotine, which means they recognize and respond to nicotine,” Burkman explains. In previous lab tests, the researchers had exposed sperm to nicotine. That “significantly altered” three important sperm functions, write the researchers. The topic of nicotine’s effects on sperm-fertilization function has been “controversial,” write Burkman and colleagues. Their study was funded by the Philip Morris Research Management Group. By Miranda Hitti, reviewed by Louise Chang, MD SOURCES: American Society of Reproductive Medicine’s annual meeting, Montreal, Oct. 15-19, 2005. News release, University of Buffalo.

October 17, 2005

Suspected Sporadic CJD in Idaho

Health Officials Trying to Get to Bottom of Suspected Sporadic Creutzfeldt-Jakob Cases in Idaho By REBECCA BOONE The Associated Press BOISE, Idaho - From the moment Joan Kingsford first saw her husband stagger in his welding shop, she wanted two things: His recovery and to know what made him sick. She got neither. Alvin Kingsford, 72, died recently of suspected sporadic Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, the fatal brain-wasting illness. The disease can only be conclusively diagnosed with an autopsy, which Kingsford declined to allow. State and federal health officials are trying to get to the bottom of nine reported cases of suspected sporadic CJD in Idaho this year. Sporadic, or naturally occurring, CJD differs from the permutation dubbed variant CJD, which is caused by eating mad-cow-tainted beef and has killed at least 180 people in the United Kingdom and continental Europe since the 1990s. "One thing is very clear in Idaho the number seems to be higher than the number reported in previous years," said Dr. Ermias Belay, a CJD expert with the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "So far, the investigations have not found any evidence of any exposure that might be common among the cases." Normally, sporadic CJD only strikes about one person in a million each year, with an average of just 300 cases per year in the United States, or just over one case a year in Idaho. Over the past two decades, the most cases reported in Idaho in a single year has been three. Until this year. Of the nine suspected cases reported so far in 2005, three tested positive for an infectious disease of the nervous system, though more tests are pending to determine if the fatal illness was in fact sporadic CJD. Four apparent victims were buried without autopsies. Two suspected cases tested negative. Still, federal and state health officials are stopping just short of calling the Idaho cases a "cluster," waiting for final test results from the victims who got autopsies. The best tool of investigators to pin down the diagnosis the autopsy is sometimes hard to get, said Tom Shanahan with the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare. Pathologists are often reluctant to perform the procedures, the cost of an autopsy can be high and some families are reluctant to give their consent, officials say. Joan Kingsford wanted an autopsy done on her husband, but no mortician in the area would agree to handle Alvin's body after his brain cavity had been opened. They feared they would catch the rare disease, Kingsford said. Ultimately, she opted to skip the autopsy and have a traditional funeral service. "A week before he passed away, the funeral homes said they wouldn't take the blood out" if an autopsy was done on him, she said. "They just put some embalming in him and told me I had to have a funeral in three days." CJD is transmitted through a malformed prion found primarily in the brain and spinal fluid of those infected, Belay said. Standard sterilization procedures don't eliminate the risk of infection; instead equipment must be soaked in a chemical solution for more than an hour and then heated, according to the World Health Organization. Mortuary procedures including embalming can be done safely on intact bodies of CJD victims as long as extra precautions are taken, but the World Health Organization does not recommend embalming patients who have had autopsies. Larry Whitaker, a Beaverton, Ore.-based regional salesman for the embalming chemical and equipment manufacturer Dodge Company, offers workshops to his clients on safe handling of CJD-infected bodies. "When the brain has been removed, it is an extraordinary risk," Whitaker said. "This is one time I think that cremation has to be more than mildly considered." A member of the Mormon Church, Joan Kingsford's church discourages cremation. She was thrown into making a decision about her husband's remains much sooner than she expected. "It was two and a half months before we knew what was wrong with him, and by that time he was in the hospital," she said. "I wish we could have done the autopsy, because I think people need to know about this." "We definitely have a problem in Idaho," she added. On the Net: CDC: Copyright 2005 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Copyright © 2005 ABC News Internet Ventures For more information on different types of CJD click on link below:

Bird Flu has sprung up in Greece.

A new link from on the Bird flu in Greece.

Terror Handbook

Click on link below for an animated look on how to survive terror.

US ready for Bird Flu?

U.S. Prepares, Braces for Bird Flu Outbreak Friday, October 14, 2005 As avian flu continues to spread in southeast Asia amid fears of its arrival in surrounding regions, the United States is taking steps to ensure that the country is prepared if the virus appears in North America. On a recent trip to southeast Asia, Michael Leavitt (search), the U.S. Secretary of Health & Human Services, acknowledged that a global bird flu pandemic is possible, if not likely, due to variations in standards of poultry processing. "We are worried about places where we are not seeing processing done with [a high] level and degree of quality. It only takes one spark to set this virus off." Click on the video box to the right to view a full report by FOX News' Jonathan Serrie. The U.S. government will soon release its plan for the federal response to a bird flu outbreak, but there are already some measures in place to prevent such an outbreak from ever happening. North Carolina has begun drills to practice its response to an outbreak, and Georgia has been randomly testing birds for the past few years. By some measures, such pre-emptive measures may be working. Tommy Irvin (search), Georgia's Commissioner of Agriculture, says "Some say we're real lucky. We probably are. But I think having a good program makes luck work." Others predict that if the virus does make its way to U.S., it won't have a major impact. Richard L. Lobb (search) of the National Chicken Council says that the virus isn't spread by handling or eating poultry as food. He also says that the quality of American health and processing standards would be effective in preventing the spread of any bird flu virus. "Even if we were to have it, we'll take care of it immediately and there would be no implications for food anyway. You don't get this from handling food or eating food." That said, concerns that the virus might already be in human form by the time it reaches American shores have world leaders and health organizations urging the increased production of vaccine. Current estimates are that it will take six months to gather enough of the vaccine. But by then, many fear, it may be too late.

Romanian birds killed to stop spread of Avian Flu

BUCHAREST, Romania — Authorities killed thousands of domestic fowl in eastern Romania (search) on Sunday seeking to prevent the spread of a deadly strain of bird flu that has decimated flocks and killed dozens of people in Asia. Officials said they were also awaiting test results from a British laboratory on samples from birds found dead in Maliuc, a village about 20 miles from Ceamurlia de Jos in the Danube River delta, where the H5N1 (search) virus was first detected in Romania. Authorities around the world fear the H5N1 strain could mutate into a form that can be passed among people, leading to a flu pandemic that some say could potentially kill millions. So far, most of the 60 human deaths involving H5N1 have been linked to victims' contact with birds. Experts say migrating birds have spread the disease since it appeared in Southeast Asia (search) two years ago. The strain has already appeared in Turkey, and the European Union has banned all poultry imports from Turkey and Romania. U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt, on a tour of Southeast Asia to discuss the disease, said it would be daunting to identify and contain an outbreak if the virus mutated to a form easily spread among people. It could skip across borders and oceans, killing millions and crippling entire nations. "Can we create a network of surveillance sufficient enough to find the spark when it happens, to get there fast enough?" he said before leaving Vietnam for Indonesia, where he planned to meet with officials Monday. "The chances of that happening are not good." Turkish authorities said Sunday that the H5N1 outbreak in the western village of Kiziksa had been contained, while initial lab tests conducted after about 1,000 chickens died in eastern Turkey showed no signs of bird flu. Authorities were on alert across Turkey, however, warning that migratory birds could still spread the flu. About 10,000 birds have been destroyed in that country. Romanian officials said all domestic birds in Ceamurlia de Jos were killed and the village was being disinfected, but the area would remain under quarantine for 21 days before it could be declared free of the virus. Authorities said they expected to finish culling birds in Maliuc on Sunday. Officials in protective suits sprayed disinfectant on people's yards and inside homes in both villages, including kitchens and other areas that might have come into contact with infected birds. Both Ceamurlia de Jos and Maliuc are in the quarantined eastern province of Dobrogea, which contains a large nature reserve where millions of migratory birds have been arriving from Russia on their way to Africa. All cars, trucks and trains traveling between Dobrogea and the rest of Romania are being disinfected and authorities are monitoring domestic birds in neighboring areas, Agriculture Minister Gheorghe Flutur said. The two villages were under even stricter regulations, with police restricting access. Authorities have also banned farmers in surrounding areas from leaving birds and animals outside, for fear they could come in contact with migratory birds. Flutur said anyone not keeping domestic birds confined could face fines. He said he flew over the region by helicopter and saw that some residents were not complying with the order. About three-fourths of Romania's estimated 100 million birds live on small farms, which makes it more difficult to fight bird flu, he said. Flutur said, however, that tests showed the virus had not spread. Although H5N1 is highly contagious among birds, it is difficult for humans to contract. Still, stamping out the flu outbreaks in poultry swiftly is important for human health because the further the virus is allowed to spread, the more opportunities it has to mutate, sparking a human flu pandemic. In 1918, an influenza pandemic believed to have originated in birds killed more than 40 million people around the world. Subsequent pandemics in 1957 and 1968 had lower death rates but caused disruptions. Thanks to for this story.

October 16, 2005

The 21st storm of the hurricane season has formed.

By JAY EHRHART Associated Press Writer1 hour, 36 minutes ago A tropical storm warning was in effect Sunday for the Cayman Islands as a tropical depression moved through the Atlantic on a path that could threaten the U.S. Gulf Coast later this week as a hurricane, forecasters said. The system was expected to become Tropical Storm Wilma by Monday, which would make it the 21st named storm of the season, tying the record for the most storms in an Atlantic season, the National Hurricane Center in Miami said. The only other time so many storms have formed since record keeping began 154 years ago was in 1933. At 8 p.m. EDT, the depression was centered about 150 miles southeast of Grand Cayman, forecasters said. It was moving west-northwest near 2 mph and had sustained winds near 35 mph. Depressions become tropical storms when their winds reach 39 mph. Long-term forecasts show the storm would likely move west and north, putting the storm in the Gulf of Mexico on Thursday or Friday. Forecasters said water temperature and other conditions were favorable for it to become a significant hurricane. "Once storms get into the Gulf of Mexico, I'm aware of only one storm on record that dissipated. It has almost nowhere to go except land somewhere," hurricane specialist James Franklin said in Miami. "As it enters the Gulf of Mexico, the northwest Caribbean has some of the deepest warm water in the Atlantic basin and that's fuel for tropical cyclones." The system had yet to form the well-defined core needed for significant strengthening Sunday afternoon. Dry air also appeared to be stopping the rise of warm, moist air needed for development, he said. A hurricane watch was issued for the Cayman Islands, meaning hurricane conditions could be felt there within 36 hours. A tropical storm warning, meaning tropical storm conditions within 24 hours, also was posted. The depression is expected to bring 4 to 6 inches of rain in the Cayman Islands and Jamaica, with as much as 12 inches possible in some areas, forecasters said. In Jamaica, officials issued a flash flood warning for northwestern parts of the island. Hurricane season ends Nov. 30. Wilma is the last on the list of storm names for 2005; there are 21 names on the yearly list because the letters q, u, x, y and z are skipped. If any other storms form, letters from the Greek alphabet would be used, starting with Alpha. That has never happened in roughly 60 years of regularly named Atlantic storms. ___ On the Net: National Hurricane Center:

October 13, 2005

Turkish Authorities on Alert for Bird Flu Spread

Thanks to foxnews for the following story. KIZIKSA, Turkey — Police searched cars entering this western Turkish village Thursday and warned people not to touch chickens or turkeys after the European Union confirmed that a virulent strain of bird flu had been detected in poultry there. The Turkish government said it has contained the outbreak of the H5N1 virus (search), which scientists worry might mutate into a human virus and spark a pandemic. Agriculture Minister Mehdi Eker also said authorities were on alert for any cases elsewhere in Turkey, which lies on the path of several migratory bird species. Bird flu was detected after 1,800 turkeys died on a farm in Kiziksa, 80 miles southwest of Istanbul. Authorities have culled some 8,600 turkeys and chickens in the area and placed the village under quarantine. "We have received now confirmation that the virus found in Turkey is an avian flu H5N1 virus," EU Health Commissioner Markos Kyprianou said in Brussels, Belgium. "There is a direct relationship with viruses found in Russia, Mongolia and China." The H5N1 bird flu strain does not easily infect humans, but 117 people, mostly poultry workers, have caught it over the last two years and 60 of them have died. Scientists are tracking the spread of the virus in birds because it could mutate into a dangerous human pandemic strain. Turkish authorities believe the turkeys contracted the disease from migratory birds that pass through the Manyas Bird Sanctuary just outside of the village on their way to Africa from the Ural mountains in Russia. Turkish paramilitary police set up three checkpoints outside the village, the first eight miles away. Police there stopped cars, asking people what they had inside. At a second checkpoint, a paramilitary policeman searched cars and warned people entering the village not to carry "any winged animals out of here and don't touch them." A third checkpoint was right at the perimeter of the village, but cars were not stopped. Kyprianou said the European Commission was proposing to set aside $1.2 billion to help make and distribute anti-virals and vaccines "in case of a pandemic." He advised EU countries to administer the standard flu vaccine to vulnerable populations: people over age 65, young children, those with weakened immune systems or chronic respiratory conditions and those living near the outbreak sites. There is no vaccine to protect against bird flu, but experts believe the standard flu vaccine could help. Kyprianou urged EU nations to stockpile anti-viral drugs, saying: "It's the first line of defense." Turkish authorities killed 7,600 domestic birds and disinfected 12 acres of land in the affected area, after 1,800 birds died on a farm there last week. Turkey has asked the Swiss pharmaceutical company Roche Holding AG (search) for 1 million boxes of a standard flu medicine as a precaution, said a Health Ministry official who spoke on condition of anonymity because she was not authorized to speak to the press. Each box contains 10 capsules. Elsewhere, experts confirmed that a strain of the bird flu virus has been found in samples taken from dead birds in Romania's Danube Delta (search), the agriculture minister said Thursday. The samples are being sent to Britain to identify the specific strain. So far there are no indications it is the H5N1 strain. "We hope it's a low intensity virus," said Agriculture Minister Gheorghe Flutur. "We are continuing measures to isolate the affected area." The Interior Ministry has extended a quarantine in the village of Ceamurlia de Jos, where the infected fowl was found, to people. Only authorities are allowed to enter and exit the remote village, which is located in the east of the delta, close to the Black Sea (search).

October 11, 2005

As I sit here and ponder...

As I wipe my face after finishing a microwavable taco I can't help but ponder where has has this gone? With the floods, hurricanes, wild fires, disease, and terror what is happening? It seems there are stories everyday that are making headlines and "breaking news" all across this world. With so much heartache and loss what will be next? How will America ever pay for all of this aid we have promised to others? Maybe with monopoly money or maybe with food or maybe we will come to the realization that after this aid is promised we figure out we can't help. With more money approved for the war on terror how can we help others while America is hurting? These are items that all will be answered by time. Hopefully you can find me an answer or at least a temporary solution to the current situation we are facing. Or at least another topic of disaster.

Thousands flee as New Hampshire floods and more rain coming!!

For more on this topic click on link below.,2933,171864,00.html

Fighting Nuclear Threat

Secret Government Team Fights to Negate Nuclear Threat ABC News Gets Exclusive Opportunity to Observe Teams Deployed to Detect Radioactive Material Oct. 11, 2005 If you live in a big city, chances are a secret government team has been in your neighborhood hunting for radioactive material -- even terrorist bombs. But you probably didn't even notice. ABC News' Cynthia McFadden got an exclusive, inside look at one of the most secretive units working in the war on terror -- a little-known government SWAT team called the Nuclear Emergency Support Team. "We look like normal people out there. Miniskirts and flip-flops and baseball hats," said one female NEST member, who asked not to be identified for security reasons. The unit serves as a sort of "Ghostbusters" for nuclear bombs, often scouring major events such as Super Bowls or Olympic competitions for signs of trouble. They hide their detection equipment in briefcases, knapsacks, even beer coolers, and travel in mobile labs disguised as ordinary delivery vans. They often work right out in the open, but remain hidden from the untrained eye. The woman next to you in the ballpark, the executive at the airport, the man with the golf bag -- any of them could be carrying sophisticated, well-disguised radiation detectors. Scientists, Not Soldiers NEST is made up of nuclear physicists and scientists who work in the nation's weapons labs, but when their pagers alert them, they become an investigative unit tasked with finding a terrorist's nuclear weapon before it explodes. Though they're often chasing dangerous characters, NEST members carry technical equipment rather than weapons. "That is why we are attached at the hip to law enforcement," said Debbie Wilbur, who heads NEST for the Department of Energy's Nuclear Security Administration. "They understand the risks. These guys run toward the problem. Everybody else is hightailing it out of there." To see what they do, ABC News went to Las Vegas last summer to get a rare glimpse of a NEST team in action at its headquarters at Nellis Air Force Base. Drilling for Disaster As a drill, a team of NEST investigators was asked to search the grounds of the base for a small amount of cobalt-60 -- a highly radioactive material that can be deadly if used in a dirty bomb. They piled into a NEST van packed with high-tech equipment to begin the search. The cobalt-60 had been hidden in a nearby parking lot, and the highly-sensitive detection equipment in the van began beeping soon after the search began. Background radiation from construction equipment, granite or even just the Earth can register alerts for an elevated radiation level. The challenge for the team is to determine which hit is the real threat. The parking lot was filled with more than 100 cars, and the team drove the van past each one. Every move the team made was transmitted and recorded back at the base. After 15 minutes, several beeps sounded, indicating a real hit. The hit was radioed back to the base, and the team returned to explore the area on foot. Once the correct vehicle was identified, a team member used another piece of equipment, known as an "identifier," to determine what type of material was in the car. "And it identifies this — cobalt-60," a male team member said. "Yes, there's definitely a radiation source." Searching From the Air NEST also has technology that allows the teams to detect radiation from the air. A test run at the Nevada site — considered ground zero for America's atomic bomb tests — showed how a helicopter flying at a low altitude was able to find a small amount of cesium, a rare element, in a stretch of desert. The detection methods and technology are state of the art, but some experts say it may not be good enough. Peter Zimmerman, a nuclear physicist who was formerly the chief scientist for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, pointed out that even with NEST's high-tech tools, it is very difficult to find nuclear material. "The bomb is likely to be shielded by the walls of the building, could be in a basement, could be shielded by real shielding," Zimmerman said. And background radiation that surrounds many things can create significant problems, often making it nearly impossible to detect the nuclear material in a bomb. "It's there. It masks the signal, it mimics the signal. It makes it more [difficult], I think even, than a needle in a stack of needles. I once heard it described as the drops from a glass of vodka in a thunderstorm," Zimmerman said. He noted that the helicopter experiment in the Nevada desert might not be a true example of how difficult it is to find nuclear material in a crowded city, like Los Angeles. And he said a material like cesium might send off a stronger signal that some other bomb-making materials. "Cesium's a strong gamma emitter. It's hard, it's very hard to shield it," he said. In fact, sources like cobalt or cesium, which could be used in a dirty bomb, emit strong radioactive signals and are relatively easy to detect. But plutonium and highly enriched uranium, the two fuels used in nuclear weapons, are far less radioactive even though they're potentially more dangerous. Zimmerman said uranium 235, which is used to make bombs, is a very low-emission material, making it hard to find. Its emission levels are so low that something as simple as a piece of aluminum foil could mask it. Because of this, the technology alone is unlikely to just chance upon loose nuclear material. The investigators must first know where to look. Without good intelligence information, finding threatening nuclear material is a very difficult task. "I won't say virtually impossible. Without good intelligence, it's extremely difficult," Zimmerman said. How Fast Can They Find a Bomb? In 1974, Boston police received a ransom letter that said an atomic bomb had been planted somewhere in the city. Experts were flown in to search for the device, but the response was poorly organized, and their equipment ended up at the wrong airport. The organizational failures surrounding the Boston incident led to the creation of NEST. Over the next decade, NEST responded to dozens of nuclear extortion threats. But responding to a ransom threat, which gives investigators time to search while the extortionists wait for a payoff, is far different than the threat posed by terrorists. The attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, offered a good example of the challenges faced when responding to immediate danger. After the World Trade Center collapsed, NEST investigators were stranded in Las Vegas, unable to respond for 24 hours because their specially equipped plane was grounded along with almost every other aircraft in the country. "We realized after the towers were hit, the Pentagon was hit, that we were dealing with a situation in which we didn't have the time, like an extortion event," Wilbur said. After 9/11, NEST created smaller teams that could respond faster, and they worked around the clock, going from one city to another, searching up to three cities at a time. "There are just a lot of threats out there that we never even considered before," one male team member said. Today, with close to 1,000 team members in 29 locations, two helicopters and three planes, NEST teams deploy dozens of times each year on search drills in cities designated by the FBI. They launch into action when the Homeland Security Department raises the threat level. "We keep a bag packed. Often we don't know exactly where we're going. They put us on a plane and where we land is ... is where we land," the female team member said. Tracking a Nuclear Drill ABC News for the first time observed an actual drill at Andrews Air Force base in Maryland. From the moment they were alerted, the NEST team had four hours to deploy. They loaded up water, tents, protective vests and gear that protects from chemical and biological agents, as well as detection gear and communications equipment -- anything they would need to survive in the field. The Maryland team was ready and out the door in under an hour, well ahead of schedule. It's a tough job, with very dangerous work and hectic schedules. NEST investigators are often away from home for weeks at a time, though they earn just a few extra dollars a day when they're on call. So why do they do it? "I'll tell you this. When the pager goes off and somebody says, 'The U.S. has a problem, and you're the one we've selected to go,' there's nothing that beats that feeling. That makes everything else worth it," one member of the Maryland team said. How Safe Are We? Government officials concede that the NEST operations are not foolproof, but the combination of technology, detailed intelligence and dedicated investigators working with law enforcement forms a complex network fighting to stop a terrorist bomb from killing Americans. The simple fact remains that there are literally tons of nuclear materials in more than 40 countries around the world. It only takes a few kilograms for terrorists to make a bomb and threaten lives. To ensure 100 percent safety, the government and NEST investigators would have to make sure that all of this potentially lethal material doesn't fall into the wrong hands. "You can't fight the laws of physics, but you can push as far as they'll let you go," said Ambassador Linton Brooks, head of the National Nuclear Security Administration. "We would certainly be less safe if our opponents knew that we had no capability and that there was no barrier, no equipment, no team to stop them. After all, if the bad guy knows we have NEST, he may even decide that he can't do whatever bad thing, nuclear terror, because he can't beat NEST." Copyright © 2005 ABC News Internet Ventures

NY threat was a hoax?

Click on link for more information from CNN

October 10, 2005

Just what the terrorists want to hear!!

Now that NYC has scaled down its terror alert, things should retrun to normal, but NYC will never be the same since 9-11-01. Click on link below to read this story from Foxnews.,2933,171799,00.html

October 09, 2005

Cops Caught Beating Man, Not in LA (finally)

NEW ORLEANS, Louisiana (AP) -- Three police officers in New Orleans were charged with battery late Sunday after an incident in which two repeatedly struck a 64-year-old man accused of public intoxication as another officer confronted an Associated Press Television News producer as a cameraman taped the confrontations. The three patrolmen were also suspended without pay, then released and ordered to appear in court at a later date, Capt. Marlon Defillo said. "We have great concern with what we saw this morning," Defillo said after he and about a dozen other high-ranking police department officials watched the APTN footage Sunday. "It's a troubling tape, no doubt about it. ... This department will take immediate action." The charges come as the department, long plagued by allegations of brutality and corruption, struggles with the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and the resignation last month of Police Superintendent Eddie Compass. The APTN tape shows an officer hitting the man at least four times in the head Saturday night as he stood outside a bar near Bourbon Street. The suspect, Robert Davis, appeared to resist, twisting and flailing as he was dragged to the ground by four officers. Another of the four officers then kneed Davis and punched him twice. Davis was face-down on the sidewalk with blood streaming down his arm and into the gutter. Meanwhile, a fifth officer ordered APTN producer Rich Matthews and the cameraman to stop recording. When Matthews held up his credentials and explained he was working, the officer grabbed the producer, leaned him backward over a car, jabbed him in the stomach and unleashed a profanity-laced tirade. "I've been here for six weeks trying to keep ... alive. ... Go home!" shouted the officer, who later identified himself as S.M. Smith. Defillo identified the patrolmen as Stuart Smith, Lance Schilling and Robert Evangelist. Smith is an eight-year veteran of the department, and the other officers have each been on the force for three years, he said. Police said Davis, 64, of New Orleans, was booked on public intoxication, resisting arrest, battery on a police officer and public intimidation. He was treated at a hospital and released into police custody. A mug shot of Davis, provided by a jailer, showed him with his right eye swollen shut, an apparent abrasion on the left side of his neck and a cut on his right temple. "The incidents taped by our cameraman are extremely troubling," said Mike Silverman, AP's managing editor. "We are heartened that the police department is taking them seriously and promising a thorough investigation." Davis, who is black, was subdued at the intersection of Conti and Bourbon streets. Three of the officers appeared to be white, and the other is light skinned. The officer who hit Matthews is white. Defillo said race was not an issue. Three of the five officers -- including Smith -- are New Orleans officers, and two others appeared to be federal officers. Numerous agencies have sent police to help with patrols in the aftermath of Katrina. Under normal circumstances, it takes unusually offensive behavior to trigger an arrest on Bourbon Street. But New Orleans police have been working under stressful conditions since the hurricane. Officers slept in their cars and worked 24-hour shifts after the storm. Three-quarters lost their homes and their families are scattered across the country. "Our police officers are working under some very trying times," Defillo said. "So it's a difficult time, but it doesn't excuse what our jobs are supposed to be." Many officers deserted their posts in the days after Katrina, and some were accused of joining in the looting that broke out. At least two committed suicide. Conditions have improved -- officers now have beds on a cruise ship -- but they don't have private rooms and are still working five, 12-hour days a week. Compass, the police superintendent, resigned September 27. Despite more than 10 years of reform efforts dating to before he took office, police were dogged by allegations of brutality and corruption. On Friday, state authorities said they were investigating allegations that New Orleans police broke into a dealership and made off with nearly 200 cars -- including 41 new Cadillacs -- as the storm closed in. Watch video of the arrest (1:26) Thanks to

October 08, 2005

Turkey has first case of Bird Flu

Turkey Reports First Cases of Bird Flu, Orders Destruction of All Birds in Village Where Detected By BENJAMIN HARVEY The Associated Press ISTANBUL, Turkey - Turkey's agriculture minister confirmed the country's first cases of bird flu on Saturday and ordered the destruction of all birds in the village where it was detected to prevent the disease from spreading, the Anatolia news agency said. Military police have also set up roadblocks at the village near Balikesir in western Turkey, 250 miles from Istanbul. The officers checked vehicles to make certain no birds were going in or out. The birds belonged to a turkey farmer, CNN-Turk reported, saying that 2,000 birds died. Anatolia did not cite a number, but said animals on the farm that did not die of the disease were destroyed. Cases of bird flu were also confirmed Saturday in Romania, which borders Turkey. The outbreak was confirmed by Agriculture Minister Mehdi Eker, who said that Turkish officials had been communicating with the European Union and other international organizations about the outbreak, Anatolia reported. Eker did not specify how many birds died of the disease. Anatolia, quoting officials, said the birds in Turkey died of the H5 type of bird flu but it was not immediately clear whether it is the exact strain that health officials are particularly worried about. "Unfortunately we met with bird flu," Anatolia quoted Eker as saying. "But everything is under control, every kind of precaution has been taken so that it doesn't spread." There are several strains of bird flu, but only a few are deadly. Experts are tracking a strain known as H5N1 for fear it could mutate and spawn a human flu pandemic. H5N1 has swept through poultry populations in Asia since 2003, infecting humans and killing at least 60 people, mostly poultry workers, and resulting in the deaths of more than 100 million birds. The virus does not pass from person to person easily. Health Ministry officials ordered birds in the village destroyed Saturday, saying that farmers would be compensated for their losses, Anatolia said. Stray dogs were also ordered slaughtered as a precaution, though authorities did not explain why. Eker said the flu was likely carried by birds migrating from the Ural Mountains, which divide Europe and Asia, across Turkey and into Africa. Copyright 2005 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Copyright © 2005 ABC News Internet Ventures

Plane crash in Canada carrying two viruses!! Click on link above to read story about a plane crash in Canada carrying the herpes and flu virus. Thanks to cnews on this story.

20th Tropical Storm of the season forming

MIAMI — A subtropical depression formed Saturday in the open Atlantic, prompting Bermuda (search) to issue a tropical storm watch. The system could strengthen into Tropical Storm Vince (search) later in the day, according to the National Hurricane Center (search) in Miami. Vince would be the 20th named storm in one of the busiest hurricane seasons on record. At 2 p.m. EDT, the depression's center was about 385 miles southeast of Bermuda. It was moving toward the west-northwest at about 15 mph. It had top sustained winds of about 35 mph, but was expected to strengthen even if it didn't become a tropical storm, forecasters said. Long-term forecasts showed the system either reaching the United States mainland in about five days, or curving farther out to sea after passing Bermuda. But hurricane specialist Jack Beven (search) said it appears the system might not survive if it gets closer to the U.S. because of other weather in the area. "It's really too early to say just how much of a threat this will pose to the U.S. But right now, it's not too great of a threat," he said. Thanks to for information.

7.6 Earthquake in Asia

An earthquake rated at 7.6 rocked Asia today. For more information click on link below:,2933,171646,00.html

October 06, 2005

A city on alert

New York alerted to possible subway attack 'If you see something, say something,' mayor urges city residents MSNBC staff and news service reports Updated: 6:31 p.m. ET Oct. 6, 2005 NEW YORK - New York City police and Mayor Michael Bloomberg on Thursday alerted the city's residents to a possible terror threat to the subway system. They said information on the threat, which was passed on by the FBI, originated overseas, and was being evaluated for its credibility. However, they said it was specific enough about a target and timing to warrant advising subway riders to be vigilant in coming days. "We have never had before a specific threat to our subway system," said Bloomberg. "Suffice it to say that its importance was enhanced above the normal level by the detail that was available to us from the various intelligence agencies," he told a news conference with other city officials on Thursday afternoon. Officials told NBC that the informant said attackers would try to smuggle explosives onto the New York train system — possibly in baby carriages — in an imitation of the London and Madrid attacks, several sources told NBC. Stepped-up vigilanceAuthorities had already increased security in the subway system, said police Commissioner Raymond Kelly. He urged the public to report suspicious people or activities. Police planned to start looking through bags, briefcases, baby strollers and luggage in a large-scale search of the city's mass transit system. "If you see something, say something," urged Bloomberg. "Then the professionals will make an assessment." A homeland security official tells NBC News that though the source has "doubtful" credibility, the heightened security in NY is necessary out of an abundance of caution. The source has apparently given some accurate information in the past, and some inaccurate. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter. "We have done and will continue to do everything we can to protect this city," Bloomberg said. "We will spare no resource, we will spare no expense. We have increased our police presence on our subways." New York's security level remained at orange, the second-highest. It has been at that level since Sept. 11. An estimated 4.5 million passengers ride the New York subway on an average weekday. The system has more than 468 subway stations. The Associated Press contributed to this report. URL:

New York subway bomb

NEW YORK — Authorities were increasing mass transit security after word of a credible threat of a bombing on the city's subway system, a law enforcement official said Thursday. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity in advance of an official announcement, said the threat is "specific to place, time and method." "Obviously, this is a significant threat," said Rep. Peter King (search), R-N.Y., chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee (search).

US to relinquish control of internet?

Bush administration refuses to relinquish US control of Internet By Mike Ingram A statement published by the US government last week reverses previous promises to relinquish control of the Internet’s Domain Name and Addressing System (DNS) and transfer it to an international body. The DNS is the method by which Internet addresses in mnemonic form (e.g., are converted into the equivalent numeric IP (Internet Protocol) address used by the hardware that routes all Internet traffic. The US announcement states that governments have a “legitimate interest in the management of their country code top level domains (ccTLD)”—for example, “de” for Germany, “cn” for China, etc. It goes on to assure them that “the United States is committed to working with the international community to address these concerns, bearing in mind the fundamental need to ensure the stability and security of the Internet’s DNS.” This assurance is virtually meaningless, however, considering how the DNS system works. At the heart of the Internet are 13 so-called “root servers,” 10 of which are in the US. These maintain the records allowing a domain name, such as, to be translated into an IP address pointing to a specific computer on which a web site is held, or from which email is served. Local DNS servers acquire files from the root servers, telling them the location of all the different addresses on the Internet. The root servers perform a critical role in routing traffic that ends in a top-level domain, such as a country-specific code. Of particular importance is the main server, or root server A, presently managed by Verisign Inc., a corporation listed on NASDAQ, the largest US hi-tech stock market. Root server A contains the authoritative records for all top-level domains, such as “com,” “net,” “org” and “gov,” as well as those for the top-level domains of every country in the world. Every 12 hours or so, root server A copies a file to the other 12 root servers, thereby ensuring that when a web user clicks on a link, his browser displays the correct page. All changes to DNS records are made only on root server A and are subject to approval by the US Department of Commerce, giving the American government the ability to deprive an entire country of effective use of the Internet. While some commentators have dismissed this as an unlikely scenario, some recent examples show that it is not so far-fetched: * In April 2004, Libya “disappeared” from the Internet for three days, after the “ly” domain was disabled, reportedly following a dispute between two people who each claimed to have control over the top-level domain. * A more worrying example was the handing over of the Afghanistan top-level domain to the US-backed interim authority after a letter allegedly signed by the domain’s previous administrator was produced. The “af” domain name is now referenced to servers based in New York, which are owned by the United Nations Development Programme. * During the war against Iraq in 2003, the domain records for the English-language site of the Arabic news service Aljazeera were diverted to a pro-war web site, supposedly after hackers broke into Verisign’s servers that hold the DNS records. Not surprisingly, the move by Washington to maintain its control over the routing of Internet traffic has provoked international criticism. Patrik Linden, a spokesman for the foundation that runs the Swedish national domain .se, said the US announcement was “rather confrontational” towards those who would prefer that an international body take control of the domain name system. “This kind of statement doesn’t exactly favour that discussion,” Linden said, adding, “This is perhaps what a lot of people thought [the US] had intended all along.” Masahiko Fujimoto of the data division of Japan’s Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications said, “When the Internet is being increasingly used for private use, by business and so forth, there is a societal debate about whether it is befitting to have one country maintaining checks on that.” The official response from Europe has been more muted. The Council of European National Top-Level Domain Registries, CENTR, issued a statement simply asking the Bush administration to give further consideration to international concerns. “We encourage the US to further explore, together with registry managers and other governments, the means by which the execution of these functions can be enhanced and decentralised using proven technology in order to optimise efficiency, accuracy of data, Internet stability and security,” the CENTR statement read. “This approach,” it continued, “can contribute to depoliticise the role of the root [server], and empower the relevant local Internet registries and the respective local Internet communities (including governments) to exercise local supervision of their components in the root zone. This should minimise the need for any procedural intervention by other parties.” American control of the Internet is a result of its origins as a research project set up by the US Defence Department. From 1968 to 1984, the ARPANET was managed by BBN Planet on behalf of the US government. By this time, the network had grown to include academic as well as government research facilities, and in 1984 there were about 1,000 hosts connected to the network. With the invention of the World Wide Web five years later, the Internet, as it became known, underwent an explosive growth. In 1993, the National Science Foundation, which assumed responsibility for the Internet, created InterNic, consisting of three organizations: AT&T to handle database services, Network Solutions, Inc. to handle host and domain name registration, and IP assignment and General Atomics to handle information services. Network Solutions began registration services for “com,” “net,” “org” and “gov” domains. The handing of the domain names to Network Solutions Inc. was widely regarded as the privatisation of the Internet, but the US government maintained its control through the Department of Commerce. In 1998, during the presidency of Bill Clinton, the Department of Commerce selected the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN)—a California-based non-profit organisation largely comprised of international Internet Society members—to take over the running of the domain name services. However, the Department of Commerce maintained a veto over modifications to the root server databases, which the agreement stipulated that Network Solutions would continue to manage. Though ICANN was put in place supposedly to ease international concerns over US control of the Internet, it has never been fully accepted by those responsible for country top-level domains. In 2004, Erkki Liikanen, European Commissioner for Enterprise and Information Society, gave a speech aimed at encouraging more European countries to sign up to the Country Code Names Supporting Organisation (ccNSO), which is the ICANN supporting body for different countries around the world. He called ICANN “a unique experiment in self-regulation” before stating, “The expectation among governments at the outset was that ICANN would provide a neutral platform for consensus-building.... It was also hoped that ICANN would provide a way for the US government to withdraw from its supervisory role. In this way, we could achieve a greater internationalisation and privatisation of certain key functions. It has yet to fully deliver on either of these objectives.” Liikanen said that “the absence of any clear picture” from the US about its intentions was “not helpful,” but he called for the ccTLDs (country code top level domains) to sign up anyway. Otherwise, governments would conclude that ICANN had failed. There are indications that this is also the position of the United Nations, which is due to deliver a review of Internet governance later this year. According to the Register Internet technology web site, the review team is considering calling for the handing over of elements of Internet control to a UN body, possibly the International Telecommunications Union (ITU). The New York Times on July 4 reported, “Brazil, India, Syria, China and other countries have proposed that an international body take over from ICANN. Last month, the European Union called for an ‘international consensus’ on Internet governance, without specifying the role of governments, the private sector or ICANN.” Some commentators believe it is calls for UN control that have caught the attention of the Bush administration, prompting last week’s announcement by the US government. The overtly political character of the decision was underlined in a presentation given by the assistant secretary of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, Michael Gallagher, full of tributes to the Bush administration and the president personally. It opened with a slide stating, “Thanks to the president’s policies, America’s economy is strong.” A number of other slides dealt with investment and trade opportunities in India, China and Russia and the role of the Internet and telecommunications in facilitating such opportunities. A slide entitled “Commitment to security and stability of the Internet DNS” spoke of America’s role in founding the Internet, and stated, “This historic role continues today with DoC (the US Department of Commerce) being the steward of the critical elements of the Internet’s underlying infrastructure—the domain name and addressing system (DNS).” Despite a declaration in the conclusion that the US “will work with the international community to find appropriate ways to address Internet governance issues,” the real message is clear. The Internet is considered both a major strategic resource for the US and a potential weapon against America’s rivals, over which the Bush administration does not intend to relinquish control. For more information check out these links: