Hurricane Florence: North Carolina fears possible environmental disaster | World news
Hurricane Florence could cause an environmental disaster in North Carolina, where waste from hog manure pits, coal ash dumps and other industrial sites could wash into homes and threaten drinking water supplies.
Preparations are also being made at half a dozen nuclear power plants that stand in the path of the 500-mile-wide hurricane, which is barreling toward the US east coast, expected to make landfall on Thursday night. More than 1.4 million residents across North and South Carolina have been ordered to evacuate.
Hurricane Florence: Trump says government ‘absolutely, totally prepared’ Read more
“Preparations to protect life and property should be rushed to completion,” the National Hurricane Center warned on Wednesday morning.
Donald Trump has declared that his administration was “absolutely, totally prepared” to deal with the storm, despite warnings from the National Weather Service that Florence “will likely be the storm of a lifetime for portions of the Carolina coast”.
Play Video 1:38 ‘We’re as ready as anyone has ever been’ ahead of Hurricane Florence, says Trump – video
The president insisted on Wednesday that – despite widespread criticism – his government had done an “under-appreciated great job” handling Hurricane Maria last year in Puerto Rico, which killed nearly 3,000 people.
interactive Georgia on Wednesday joined North and South Carolina and Virginia in declaring a state of emergency ahead of the storm making landfall.
In North Carolina , computer models predict more than 3ft of rain in the eastern part of the state – and fears were exacerbated by the many environmental hazards lying in the path of the storm.
There are 16 nuclear reactors in North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia, the states expected to suffer the most damage from Florence.
Duke Energy, which runs reactors at six sites, has said operators would begin shutting down nuclear plants at least two hours before hurricane-force winds arrive.
Brunswick nuclear plant, located south of Wilmington near the mouth of the Cape Fear river, was identified in 2014 by Huffpost and Weather.com as one of the nuclear facilities most at risk from rising sea levels and resulting floods.
The Brunswick plant’s two reactors are of the same design as those in Fukushima , Japan, that exploded and leaked radiation following a 2011 earthquake and tsunami. Following that disaster, federal regulators required all US nuclear plants to perform upgrades to better withstand earthquakes and flooding.
Duke Energy did not respond to requests for information about specific changes made at Brunswick, other than to say emergency generators and pumps will remove stormwater at the plant if it floods. The company issued assurances this week that it is ready for Florence, which is predicted to pack winds of up to 140mph and a 13ft storm surge.
“They were safe then. They are even safer now,” said Kathryn Green, a Duke spokeswoman, referring to the post-Fukushima improvements. “We have backups for backups for backups.”
The area in the path of the storm in eastern North Carolina is a fertile low-lying plain veined by brackish rivers with a propensity for escaping their banks. Longtime locals don’t have to strain their imaginations to foresee what rain at the level predicted from Florence can do. It’s happened before.
In September 1999, Hurricane Floyd came ashore near Cape Fear as a category 2 storm that dumped about 2ft of water on a region already soaked days earlier by Hurricane Dennis. The result was the worst natural disaster in state history, a flood that killed dozens of people and left whole towns underwater, with residents stranded on rooftops.
Facebook Twitter Pinterest Murphy Family Farms employees float dead pigs down a flooded road near Beulaville, North Carolina, on 24 September 1999, following Hurricane Floyd. Photograph: Alan Marler/AP
The bloated carcasses of hundreds of thousands of hogs, chickens and other drowned livestock bobbed in a nose-stinging soup of fecal matter, pesticides, fertilizer and gasoline so toxic that fish flopped helplessly on the surface to escape it. Rescue workers smeared Vick’s VapoRub under their noses to try to numb their senses against the stench.
Florence is forecast to make landfall in the same region as a much stronger storm.
“This one is pretty scary,” said Jamie Kruse, director of the Center for Natural Hazards Research at East Carolina University. “The environmental impacts will be from concentrated animal feeding operations and coal ash pits. Until the system gets flushed out, there’s going to be a lot of junk in the water.”
North Carolina has roughly 2,100 industrial-scale pork farms containing more than 9 million hogs typically housed in long metal sheds with grated floors designed to allow the animals’ urine and feces to fall through and flow into nearby open-air pits containing millions of gallons of untreated sewage.
During Floyd, dozens of these lagoons either breached or were inundated by flood waters, spilling the contents. State taxpayers ended up buying out and closing 43 farms located in floodplains.
To prepare for Florence, the North Carolina Pork Council says its members have pumped down lagoon levels to absorb at least 2ft of rain. Low-lying farms have been moving their hogs to higher ground.
The Environmental Protection Agency said on Tuesday that it would be monitoring nine toxic waste cleanup sites near the Carolinas coast for potential flooding. More than a dozen such Superfund sites in and around Houston flooded last year in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, with spills of potentially hazardous materials reported at two.
North Carolina didn’t like science on sea levels … so passed a law against it Read more
Also of concern are more than two dozen massive coal ash pits operated by Duke Energy. The gray ash that remains after coal is burned contains potentially harmful amounts of mercury, arsenic and lead.
Since power plants need vast amounts of water to generate steam, their unlined waste pits are located along lakes and rivers. Some of the pits were inundated during past storms, including during Floyd and Hurricane Matthew in 2016.
After a 2014 spill at a Duke plant that coated 70 miles of the Dan river in toxic gray sludge, state regulators forced the Charlotte-based company to begin phasing out its coal ash pits by 2029. Because that work was already under way, wastewater levels inside the ash ponds have been falling, a Duke Energy spokesman, Bill Norton, said on Tuesday.
“We’re more prepared than ever,” said Norton, adding that crews will be monitoring water levels at the pits throughout the storm.
Animal Crossing for Switch Coming in 2019 – IGN News
13 Sep 2018 3:38 PM PDT Animal Crossing for Nintendo Switch Announced Share. By Jonathon Dornbush
After months and months of hoping from fans, Nintendo has finally confirmed Animal Crossing is coming to Nintendo Switch. It will be released in 2019.
Nintendo initially faked out fans during the Nintendo Direct with an introduction video from Isabelle from the franchise, which led to the announcement that Isabelle will be a fighter in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate . The Direct then segued to a message from Tom Nook, showing his support for Isabelle’s fighting career. Exit Theatre Mode
But more than that, the announcement trailer made sure to note that Tom had to make sure everyone had a place to return to after all the fighting and camping from Smash and Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp.
The trailer offers no other information from Nook, who will likely be looking for plenty more bells, other than a logo for Animal Crossing for Switch (working title) and a 2019 release window. Animal Crossing for Switch
There are no other details about what new additions the Switch’s Animal Crossing entry will make to the franchise and what it will retain from prior entries.
This mainline entry is the first since Animal Crossing: New Leaf debuted in 2013 for the Nintendo 3DS. IGN gave Animal Crossing: New Leaf a 9.6 , calling it “a whole new world full of lovable characters and insurmountable charm.”Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp brought the series to mobile devices last year, offering a new spin on the series, as well.
The DIrect was packed with other information about upcoming Nintendo Switch releases, including a Luigi’s Mansion 3 announcement , a Super Smash Bros. Ultimate Switch hardware bundle , and a new look at Yoshi’s Crafted World . Yoshi’s Crafted World Screenshots
Govt bans Saridon, 327 other combination drugs | India News
The health ministry has banned the manufacture, sale and distribution of 328 fixed dose combinations (FDCs) of drugs with immediate effect and restricted another six. This brings to an end a protracted legal battle between manufacturers of these combination drugs and the ministry, which has been working since 2016 to get these “irrational” and “unsafe” drugs banned.
Among the roughly 6,000 brands estimated to be affected by the ban are popular drugs like the painkiller Saridon, the skin cream Panderm, combination diabetes drug Gluconorm PG, antibiotic Lupidiclox and antibacterial Taxim AZ.
The government had banned 344 FDCs on March 10, 2016 and later added five more to this list. However, manufacturers of these drugs contested the ban in various high courts and the Supreme Court. The SC on December 15, 2017 asked for the matter to be examined by the Drugs Technical Advisory Board. DTAB concluded in its report that there was no therapeutic justification for the ingredients in 328 FDCs and that these could be a risk to people. The board recommended banning them.
In the case of six other FDCs, the board recommended restricted manufacture and sale subject to certain conditions based on their therapeutic justification. The SC ruled that the government could not use the DTAB report to prohibit 15 of the 344 drugs in the original list as these have been manufactured in India since before 1988. This exception covered several popular cough syrups, painkillers and cold medication with sales amounting to over Rs 740 crore annually. However, the court told the ministry that it could still look into the safety of these 15 drugs by initiating a fresh investigation if it wanted to ban them.
The All India Drug Action Network, a civil society group working on safety and access to medicines which was one of the petitioners in the Supreme Court case, welcomed the ban and sought swift action from the government on the 15 excluded FDCs. “The banned FDCs account for about Rs 2,500 crore and represent only the tip of the iceberg . In our estimate, the market for unsafe, problematic FDCs in India is at least one-fourth of the total pharma market which is valued at Rs 1.3 trillion,” said AIDAN in a statement. It also sought a review of all FDCs in the market in the interest of patient safety as recommended by the Kokate Committee, constituted by the health ministry to examine FDCs.
Meanwhile, many large drug companies have claimed that over the last couple of years they have either phased out such drugs or changed the combination. The FDCs in question are less than 2%, they claim.
Trump disputes Puerto Rico hurricane death toll – BBC News
Trump disputes Puerto Rico hurricane death toll 13 September 2018 These are external links and will open in a new window Close share panel Image copyright AFP/Getty Image caption The US territory has asked Congress for $139bn in recovery funds US President Donald Trump is disputing official findings that nearly 3,000 people died in Puerto Rico as a result of last year’s storms.
“3000 people did not die in the two hurricanes that hit Puerto Rico,” Mr Trump wrote on Twitter, without offering evidence for the claim.
He accused Democrats of inflating the official death toll to “make me look as bad as possible”.
The official figure was released last month after an independent study.
On Thursday, Mr Trump tweeted that Democrats were attacking him “when I was successfully raising Billions of Dollars to help rebuild Puerto Rico”. Media playback is unsupported on your device Media caption Months after Maria, many on this US island still suffered in the dark
The Republican president suggested the hurricane death toll was artificially boosted by adding those who had passed away from natural causes such as old age.
“Bad politics. I love Puerto Rico!” he tweeted.
Mr Trump’s tweets came as Hurricane Florence – a category two storm projected to bring catastrophic flooding – bore down on the US East Coast. Skip Twitter post by @realDonaldTrump 3000 people did not die in the two hurricanes that hit Puerto Rico. When I left the Island, AFTER the storm had hit, they had anywhere from 6 to 18 deaths. As time went by it did not go up by much. Then, a long time later, they started to report really large numbers, like 3000… Skip Twitter post 2 by @realDonaldTrump This was done by the Democrats in order to make me look as bad as possible when I was successfully raising Billions of Dollars to help rebuild Puerto Rico. If a person died for any reason, like old age, just add them onto the list. Bad politics. I love Puerto Rico! End of Twitter post 2 by @realDonaldTrump Where does the official death toll come from?
A George Washington University study in July found that 2,975 people died in Puerto Rico as a result of Hurricane Maria, which struck the island territory in September 2017.
The governor of Puerto Rico, who commissioned that research, said he accepted the estimate as official.
The study concluded the initial death toll of 64 only included those killed directly by hurricanes Maria and Irma – either by drowning, flying debris or building collapse.
George Washington University also counted those who died in the six months following the storm as a result of poor healthcare provision and a lack of electricity and clean water. Anger at Trump Puerto Rico ‘success’ claim
Repeated power cuts also led to an increased number of deaths from diabetes and sepsis.
Last May, Harvard University public health researchers published a study that estimated the death toll was even higher.
They said about 4,600 people died in Puerto Rico in the aftermath of the hurricane from delayed medical care. A political storm
Analysis by Anthony Zurcher, BBC Washington
Donald Trump simply can’t abide criticism of his performance as president. How else to explain his decision, as a hurricane looms off the US coast, to call adjusted Puerto Rican death-toll figures from Hurricane Maria a Democratic-inspired plot against him?
The politics of the Thursday-morning tweets are rough. The president has guaranteed coverage of the government response to Florence will be intermixed with talk of his feud with Puerto Rico officials and questions about the veracity of his assertions.
Mr Trump’s dismissive attitude toward the loss of life also risks the ire of the tens of thousands of Puerto Ricans who have relocated to Florida and can cast ballots in that state’s key races in November’s mid-term elections.
The president, with some justification, has said the situation in Puerto Rico after Maria was exacerbated by the island’s remote location and pre-existing infrastructure issues, such as an antiquated power grid.
That could have been a reason to do more to help these American citizens. Instead, the recovery effort has devolved into a political tug-of-war that now includes debate over “legitimate” deaths from this tragedy. What have Puerto Rican officials said?
In response, the Mayor of Puerto Rico’s capital San Juan, Carmen Yulin Cruz, tweeted: “Mr Trump you can try and bully us with your tweets BUT WE KNOW OUR LIVES MATTER.”
“You will never take away our self respect. Shame on you!”
Earlier this week, Mr Trump hailed the US response in Puerto Rico as “an incredible, unsung success”.
Ms Cruz then shot back: “If he thinks the death of 3,000 people is a success God help us all.”
Last month she described Mr Trump’s handling of Maria as a “stain on his presidency”. Image copyright Getty Images Image caption Mountainous communities and fishing villages in Puerto Rico are still suffering one year later
Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rosello said in a statement this week that Maria was “the worst natural disaster in our modern history”.
Puerto Rico, an unincorporated territory of the US, is home to some 3.3 million people. What’s the US political reaction?
Even a few of Mr Trump’s fellow Republicans have spoken out against him.
Florida Republican Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, who is retiring from Congress, called the president’s tweets “mind-boggling”.
She said it is a “warped-mind that would turn this statistic into ‘fake news'”, and it “may be a new low” for the president.
Florida Governor Rick Scott, who is currently running for the US Senate, tweeted: “I’ve been to Puerto Rico 7 times & saw devastation firsthand. The loss of any life is tragic.”
Republican Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, who is also retiring, said: “There is no reason to dispute these numbers.
“This is a devastating storm that hit an isolated island. And that’s really no one’s fault. It’s just what happened.”
Democratic lawmakers were scathing. Skip Twitter post by @SenMarkey Only Donald Trump could see the tragedy in Puerto Rico and conclude that he is the victim. May God bless the souls of the nearly 3,000 Americans that died in Puerto Rico and may he take pity on your soul Mr. President.
How Facebook ‘became a beast’ in Myanmar – BBC News
The country where Facebook posts whipped up hate BBC Trending Going in-depth on social media 12 September 2018 These are external links and will open in a new window Close share panel Image copyright Getty Images Image caption More than 700,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled Myanmar Decades of ethnic and religious tensions, a sudden explosion of internet access, and a company that had trouble identifying and removing the most hateful posts.
It all added up to a perfect storm in Myanmar, where the United Nations says Facebook had a “determining role” in whipping up anger against the Rohingya minority.
“I’m afraid that Facebook has now turned into a beast, and not what it originally intended,” Yanghee Lee, UN special rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar, said in March .
The company admits failures and has moved to address the problems. But how did Facebook’s dream of a more open and connected world go wrong in one south-east Asian country? Enter Facebook
“Nowadays, everyone can use the internet,” says Thet Swei Win, director of Synergy, an organisation that works to promote social harmony between ethnic groups in Myanmar.
That wasn’t the case in Myanmar five years ago.
Outside influence had been kept to a minimum during the decades when the military dominated the country. But with the release of Aung San Suu Kyi, and her election as Myanmar’s de facto leader, the government began to liberalise business – including, crucially, the telecoms sector.
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The effect was dramatic, according to Elizabeth Mearns of BBC Media Action, the BBC’s international development charity.
“A SIM card was about $200 [before the changes],” she says. “In 2013, they opened up access to other telecom companies and the SIM cards dropped to $2. Suddenly it became incredibly accessible.” Image copyright Getty Images Image caption For many in Myanmar, Facebook is synonymous with the internet
And after they bought an inexpensive phone and a cheap SIM card, there was one app that everybody in Myanmar wanted: Facebook. The reason? Google and some of the other big online portals didn’t support Burmese text, but Facebook did.
“People were immediately buying internet accessible smart phones and they wouldn’t leave the shop unless the Facebook app had been downloaded onto their phones,” Mearns says.
Thet Swei Win believes that because the bulk of the population had little prior internet experience, they were especially vulnerable to propaganda and misinformation.
“We have no internet literacy,” he told Trending. “We have no proper education on how to use the internet, how to filter the news, how to use the internet effectively. We did not have that kind of knowledge.” Ethnic tensions
Out of a population of about 50 million, around 18 million in Myanmar are regular Facebook users.
But Facebook and the telecoms companies which gave millions their first access to the internet do not appear to have been ready to grapple with the ethnic and religious tensions inside the country.
The enmity goes deep. Rohingyas are denied Burmese citizenship. Many in the Buddhist ruling class do not even consider them a distinct ethnic group – instead they refer to them as “Bengalis”, a term that deliberately emphasises their separateness from the rest of the country.
Last year’s military operation in the north-west Rakhine state was designed, the government says, to root out militants. It resulted in more than 700,000 people fleeing for neighbouring Bangladesh – something that the United Nations calls the world’s fastest growing refugee crisis.
A UN report has said top military figures in Myanmar must be investigated for genocide in Rakhine state and crimes against humanity in other areas. But the government of Myanmar has rejected those allegations . Facebook ‘weaponised’
The combination of ethnic tensions and a booming social media market was toxic. Since the beginning of mass internet use in Myanmar, inflammatory posts against Rohingya have regularly appeared on Facebook,
Thet Swei Win said he was horrified by the anti-Rohingya material he has seen being shared. “Facebook is being weaponised,” he told BBC Trending. Image copyright Reuters The BBC Trending podcast , from the BBC World Service
In August, a Reuters investigation found more than 1,000 Burmese posts, comments and pornographic images attacking the Rohingya and other Muslims.
“To be honest I thought we might find at best a couple of hundred examples I thought that would make the point,” says Reuters investigative reporter Steve Stecklow, who worked with Burmese-speaking colleagues on the story.
Stecklow says some of the material was extremely violent and graphic.
“It was sickening to read and I had to keep saying to people ‘Are you OK? Do you want to take a break?'” Image copyright Reuters Image caption Some posts on Facebook expressed the hope that fleeing Rohingya refugees would drown at sea
“When I sent it to Facebook, I put a warning on the email saying I just want you to know these are very disturbing things,” he says. “What was so remarkable was that [some of] this had been on Facebook for five years and it wasn’t until we notified them in August that it was removed.”
Several of the posts catalogued by Stecklow and his team described Rohingyas as dogs or pigs.
“This is a way of dehumanising a group,” Stecklow says. “Then when things like genocide happen, potentially there may not be a public uproar or outcry as people don’t even view these people as people.” Lack of staff
The material that the Reuters team found clearly contravened Facebook’s community guidelines, the rules that dictate what is and is not allowed on the platform. All of the posts were removed after the investigation, although the BBC has since found similar material still live on the site. ‘They problematic’: The view from Yangon
So why did the social network fail to grasp how it was being used to spread propaganda?
One reason, according to Mearns, Stecklow and others, was that the company had difficulty with interpreting certain words.
For example, one particular racial slur – “kalar” – can be a highly derogatory term used against Muslims, or have a much more innocent meaning: “chickpea”.
In 2017, Stecklow says, the company banned the term, but later revoked the ban because of the word’s dual meaning.
There were also software problems which meant that many mobile phone users in Myanmar had difficulties reading Facebook’s instructions for how to report worrying material.
But there was also a much more fundamental issue – the lack of Burmese-speaking content monitors. According to the Reuters report, the company had just one such employee in 2014, a number that had increased to four the following year.
The company now has 60 and hopes to have around 100 Burmese speakers by the end of this year. Multiple warnings
Following the explosion in Facebook use in Myanmar, the company did receive multiple warnings from individuals about how the platform was being used to spread anti-Rohingya hate speech.
In 2013, Australian documentary maker Aela Callan raised concerns with a senior Facebook manager. The next year a doctoral student named Matt Schissler has a series of interactions with employees, which resulted in some content being removed.
And in 2015, tech entrepreneur David Madden travelled to Facebook’s headquarters in California to give managers a presentation on how he had seen the platform used to stir up hate in Myanmar.
“They were warned so many times,” Madden told Reuters. “It couldn’t have been presented to them more clearly, and they didn’t take the necessary steps.” Accounts removed
Facebook did not respond to requests for comment on this story.
Since last year, the company has taken some action. In August, Facebook removed 18 accounts and 52 pages linked to Burmese officials. One account on Instagram, which Facebook owns, was also closed. The company said it “found evidence that many of these individuals and organizations committed or enabled serious human rights abuses in the country.” Image copyright Facebook screengrab Image caption Radical Buddhist monk Wirathu’s Facebook page was removed earlier this year
Between them, the accounts and pages were followed by almost 12 million people.
In January this year, Facebook also removed the account of Ashin Wirathu, a radical monk famed for his angry speeches which stoking fears against Muslims. ‘Too slow’
In a statement, Facebook has admitted that in Myanmar it was “too slow to prevent misinformation and hate”, and acknowledged that countries that are new to the internet and social media are susceptible to the spreading of hate.
The subject of hate speech on the platform came up in early September, when Facebook’s chief operating officer, Sheryl Sandberg, testified in front of a US Senate committee. Image copyright Drew Angerer Image caption Sheryl Sandberg says Facebook is committed to tackling hate speech
“Hate is against our policies and we take strong measures to take it down. We also publish publicly what our hate-speech standards are,” she said. “We care tremendously about civil rights.”
When Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg appeared in front of Congress in April, he was asked specifically about events in Myanmar, and said that in addition to hiring more Burmese speakers, the company was also working with local groups to identify “specific hate figures” and creating a team that would help identify similar issues in Myanmar and other countries in the future.
Elizabeth Mearns from BBC Media Action, believes that while it is Facebook’s role in Myanmar that is currently under scrutiny, the situation is just one example of a far wider issue.
“We are definitely now in a situation where content on social media is directly affecting people’s real life. It’s affecting the way people vote. It’s affecting the way people behave towards each other, and it’s creating violence and conflict,” she says.
“The international community understands now, I think, that it needs to step up and understand technology. And understand what’s happening on social media in their countries or in other countries.” Interactive How the village of Thit Tone Nar Gwa Son was erased 13 February 2018
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