Saturday, October 24, 2009

Students create countries in social studies class

World geography classes typically don't stray from the 195 established countries that circle the globe.

Some new nations, though, emerged Tuesday: Aquatopia, an underwater country off the coast of Florida; Timpatoint, an arctic nation northeast of Canada; and Marinya, an island nation near the Philippines.

Of course, the countries aren't real. Fifth-graders in Andrea Hollan's gifted class at Allen Park Elementary spent six weeks exploring forms of government, finances, culture, geography and climates of existing nations.

"We looked at what's real, and went from there," Hollan said.

Students then created their own countries, complete with a flag, currency, food and landscape. Students even developed the first steps of a new language, creating words for hello and goodbye.

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First U.S. Tsunami Shelter Planned as Earthquake Looms

When a major earthquake triggers a giant tsunami in the U.S. Pacific Northwest, as experts predict, one coastal town will be ready. Residents of the small Oregon town of Cannon Beach are preparing to build the first tsunami-resistant shelter in the U.S. (Get tsunami facts.)

The Pacific Northwest is one of the most dangerous earthquake and tsunami zones in the world—capable of producing magnitude 9 earthquakes followed within minutes by deadly, 50-foot (15.2-meter) high waves.

The next big earthquake could happen tomorrow or in several hundreds of years—no one knows for sure.

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How Hawaii's Budget Crunch Led to Furloughed Kids

At Noelani Elementary, the small school near Honolulu where President Obama learned to read and write, the next generation of Hawaii's leaders learned a new word this week: "furlough."

The Noelani students joined nearly 170,000 other children across Hawaii whose teachers on Friday began an unprecedented state furlough program that will close classrooms 34 days over the next two years. The "furlough Fridays" are part of a controversial effort by Gov. Linda Lingle to deal with a projected budget deficit of nearly $1 billion. The cost-cutting measure has angered parents, lawmakers and children. Popular musician and Hawaii public school graduate Jack Johnson sang at a rally Friday morning at the state Capitol to protest the furloughs. During the rally, parents handed a petition bearing thousands of signatures protesting the furloughs to the governor, whose office is on the fifth floor of the state Capitol.

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Sunday, October 18, 2009

Teen sets off on round-the-world sail

SYDNEY – A 16-year-old Australian steered her bright pink yacht out of Sydney Harbor on Sunday to start her bid to become the youngest person to sail solo and unassisted around the world.

Jessica Watson's plan to make a 23,600-mile (38,000-kilometer) journey through some of the world's most treacherous waters sparked a debate in Australia about whether someone so young should be allowed to try such a potentially dangerous feat.

Watson and her family insist she is an experienced and capable sailor who has studied navigation, electronics and maritime safety procedures. Although she will sail solo and unassisted, she will be in constant contact with her support team via radio, e-mail and a blog.

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Thursday, October 15, 2009

World's Richest People: Asia Poised to Pass U.S.

As Asia's economic growth races ahead of that of the U.S., the investment portfolios of Asia's wealthiest people are picking up enough momentum to launch them past their North American counterparts.

A report released on Oct. 13 by Merrill Lynch and consulting firm Capgemini Financial Services projects that with the global recession easing, the total net worth of Asia-Pacific's wealthy — those with at least $1 million in investable assets — is set to grow at a faster pace than the holdings of rich people in other parts of the world. If this trend takes hold, the total value of assets held by Asia's rich could surpass the combined assets of North America's wealthy by 2013.

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Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Will New Laws Help Russia Take Down the Mafia?

The raid looked like something out of a Hollywood action movie. On July 7, Russian special forces dropped down on ropes from a helicopter to storm a luxury yacht on the Pirogovsky reservoir outside Moscow, arresting three dozen mobsters, including the group's alleged ringleader, Tariel Oniani. But within days, nearly all of them, including Oniani, had to be set free because prosecutors couldn't charge them with anything.

Russia's laws have long been weak and unspecific when it comes to combating organized crime, part of the reason why the underworld has thrived in the country in the post-communism years. But the government may finally be getting serious about cracking down on the Mafia.

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Friday, October 9, 2009

What Is Killing South African Crocs?

Mass deaths of South Africa's Nile crocodiles puzzle biologists.

Carcasses of adult crocodiles do not usually signal the return of winter in South Africa, but mass death seems to be becoming the harbinger of the season. Rangers at the Kruger National Park have found Nile crocodiles floating in the Oli­fants River or bloated and decaying along its banks. Investigators are rushing to figure out the cause and worry that the deaths might be signaling the presence of toxins or pathogens that could threaten not only the croc population but also the livelihoods of the people living near the river.

...The first sign of croc trouble in the river came in the winter of 2008, when rangers collected 170 dead individuals, sometimes at a rate of 20 bodies a week. A survey at the end of this May showed nearly 400 crocs living in the park’s gorge, down from at least 1,000 in 2008. So far, as of Au­­gust 7, rangers and scientists have found 23 carcasses.

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Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Malawian boy uses wind to power hope, electrify village

(CNN) -- William Kamkwamba dreamed of powering his village with the only resource that was freely available to him.

His native Malawi had gone through one of its worst droughts seven years ago, killing thousands. His family and others were surviving on one meal a day. The red soil in his Masitala hometown was parched, leaving his father, a farmer, without any income.

But amid all the shortages, one thing was still abundant.


"I wanted to do something to help and change things," he said. "Then I said to myself, 'If they can make electricity out of wind, I can try, too.'"

Kamkwamba was kicked out of school when he couldn't pay $80 in school fees, and he spent his days at the library, where a book with photographs of windmills caught his eye.

"I thought, this thing exists in this book, it means someone else managed to build this machine," he said.

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Qatar Prince's Renovation Plan: Far From Regal Welcome

Qatar Prince wants to renovate an $88 million historic 17th century French building with air conditioning, elevators, and underground parking.

Voltaire once called it a home fit for a king. And for a few hundred years, it was. Since the Hotel Lambert was built in 1639 on Paris's Ile Saint-Louis by architect Louis Le Vau, who also designed the Chateau de Versailles, the mansion has played host to French nobility, exiled Polish princes and members of the Rothschild family. But for Qatari Prince Hamad bin Abdullah al-Thani, who bought the property from the Rothschilds in 2007 for $88 million, the welcome has been far from regal.

The Prince's plan to restore the mansion to its 17th century glory while also adding elevators, air-conditioning and an underground parking lot has run into opposition from historical preservationists, who say the $60 million renovations would be "disastrous." But critics are even angrier that the French Ministry of Culture approved the plan in the first place, the latest example of what preservationists say is the government's disregard for the protection of France's architectural treasures.

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Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Komodo Dragon Originated in Australia Tue Oct 6, 11:46 am ET

Dragons may come from the land Down Under.

Scientists now find that the world's largest living lizard species, the Komodo dragon, most likely evolved in Australia and dispersed westward to its current home in Indonesia.

In the past, researchers had suggested the Komodo dragon (Varanus komodoensis) developed from a smaller ancestor isolated on the Indonesian islands, evolving its large size as a response to lack of competition from other predators or as a specialist hunter of pygmy elephants known as Stegodon.

However, over the past three years, an international team of scientists unearthed numerous fossils from eastern Australia dated from 300,000 years ago to roughly 4 million years ago that they now know belong to the Komodo dragon.

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Monday, October 5, 2009

After a Devastating Fire, an Intense Study of Its Effects

ANGELES NATIONAL FOREST, Calif. — The Station fire, which in over a month has burned away nearly a quarter of this vast, mountainous backdrop to the Los Angeles skyline, is finally just about out, sending all but a handful of firefighters home. Now, the scientists swoop in.

And Todd M. Hoefen, a geophysicist, scooped up white and black ash as part of research to analyze “the impact of it, what blows out of these fires and what are people breathing.”

Fire, typically touched off by lightning strikes, has always been part of the life cycle of the wilderness here and elsewhere, to a large degree crucial to regenerating it. Most wildlife and landscape eventually come back.

But with the increasing frequency and size of fires — 7 of the state’s 10 largest wildfires have occurred in the last six years, and most were caused by people — scientists are intensifying study of the environmental aftermath of the changing burn pattern.

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3 Americans share 2009 Nobel medicine prize

STOCKHOLM – Americans Elizabeth H. Blackburn, Carol W. Greider and Jack W. Szostak won the 2009 Nobel Prize in medicine on Monday for discovering a key mechanism in the genetic operations of cells, an insight that has inspired new lines of research into cancer.

It was the first time two women have been among the winners of the medicine prize.

The trio solved the mystery of how chromosomes, the rod-like structures that carry DNA, protect themselves from degrading when cells divide.

The Nobel citation said the laureates found the solution in the ends of the chromosomes — features called telomeres that are often compared to the plastic tips at the end of shoe laces that keep those laces from unraveling.

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Friday, October 2, 2009

Unemployment rate identical at 9.7%: "Good" under Obama, "Bad" under Reagan

A study from the Business & Media Institute: Identical Unemployment Numbers ‘Good’ News for Obama, But ‘All’ Bad under Reagan.

Unemployment under President Barack Obama is at a 26-year-high. The last time the economy had 9.7 percent or higher unemployment was under President Ronald Reagan. But despite similar periods of rising unemployment, Obama and Reagan received almost exactly opposite treatment from the network news media.

Under Obama reporters have gone to great lengths to spin rising unemployment by finding “positive trends” in the job losses, even focusing on as few as 25 jobs being “saved” by the economic stimulus package. But when Reagan was president journalists showed unemployed families living out of their cars under a bridge in Texas and quoted Democrats or union leaders’ attacks on the president’s “wicked” and “sadistic” fiscal policies.

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