Video - Interconnected World at Risk from Global Shocks, OECD Warns

submitted by Joyce Fedeczko

The interconnectedness of the global economy makes it more vulnerable to major shocks. In the wake of the 2008 financial meltdown, global leaders are acutely aware of the threats another such crisis would pose to economic recovery, social cohesion and political stability. How can governments and business prepare for and respond to such unanticipated events?

The OECD presented the findings of a two-year "Future Global Shocks" project at the OECD on Monday 27 June 2011.

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OECD - Project on Future Global Shocks

submitted by Joyce Fedeczko

Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) - January 17, 2011

                                                     

In this project, public and private experts explore how to increase resilience to Future Global Shocks. The Project will generate options for governments to enhance capacity to identify, anticipate, control, contain and/or mitigate large disasters. It recognises that shocks can provide opportunities for progress, not just negative consequences. Amongst the inputs from which the final report will draw are six background papers and case studies on the following themes: Systemic Financial Risk; Pandemics; Cyber Risks; Geomagnetic Storms; Social Unrest and Anticipating Extreme Events.

http://www.oecd.org/department/0,3355,en_2649_33707_1_1_1_1_1,00.html

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Can Americans share? You bet! Especially for a fee.


Alex Wong/Getty Images:  Bicycles from the Capital Bikeshare program.

That question hung over the rows of identical fire-red bicycles lined up last week for the start of Capital Bikeshare in Washington, the nation’s largest bike-sharing program.

U. S. Drought Monitor

    

Current U. S. Drought Monitor

NOTE: To view regional drought conditions, click on map. State maps can be accessed from regional maps.

http://droughtmonitor.unl.edu/

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Averting Bridge Disasters: New Sensors Could Save Hundreds of Lives

submitted by Samuel Bendett

Homeland Security Newswire - August 1, 2011

                              

Sensor mounted to bridge member // Source: gizmag.com

One of every four U.S. highway bridges has known structural problems or exceeded its intended life-span. Most only get inspected once every one or two years; University of Maryland researcher has developed a new sensor that measures indicators of a bridge's structural health, such as strain, vibration, flexibility, and development of metal cracks; the sensors are expected to last more than a decade, with each costing about $20

Millions of U.S. drivers cross faulty or obsolete bridges every day, highway statistics show, but it is too costly to fix all these spans or adequately monitor their safety, says a University of Maryland researcher who has developed a new, affordable early warning system.

This wireless technology could avert the kind of bridge collapse that killed thirteen and injured 145 along Minneapolis’ I-35W on 1 August 2007, he says — and do so at one-one-hundredth the cost of current wired systems.

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As Heat Soars, New Yorkers Warned to Stay Out of Rivers

msnbc.com - July 22, 2011

A warning by the Hudson River near West 90th Street on Thursday. Millions of gallons of untreated waste spilled into the river - Monika Graff for The New York Times

New Yorkers have been warned to stay out of the Hudson and Harlem Rivers on one of the hottest weekends of the year after millions of gallons of untreated sewage discharged from Manhattan into the waterways because of a four-alarm fire that shut down one of the city’s largest sewage treatment plants.

The city's drinking water has not been impacted, officials said, but people have been cautioned not to swim or kayak on the waterways through at least Monday.

The New York City health department also declared large parts of the East River and the Kill Van Kull unfit for swimming through the weekend.

Local authorities did not expect any beaches in the area to be closed because of the spill.

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Software Uses Twitter To Track Dengue Outbreaks In Brazil

submitted by Mary Suzanne Kivlighan

Kaiser Family Foundation - July 19, 2011

The New Scientist reports on a software program that is being used "to identify a high correlation between the time and place where people tweet they have dengue and the official statistics for where the disease appears each season."

Researchers at two Brazilian National Institutes of Science and Technology worked together to create the software, which filters tweets containing the word "dengue" and user location details. "Dengue outbreaks occur every year in Brazil, but exactly where varies every season. It can take weeks for medical notifications to be centrally analyzed, creating a headache for health authorities planning where to concentrate resources," the publication notes. Using Twitter could speed up response time, according to Wagner Meira, a computer scientist at the Federal University of Minus Gerais who led the study (Corbyn, 7/18).

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Communicating With the Public During Emergencies: An Update on Federal Alert & Warning Efforts

submitted by Mike Kraft

                                                

Testimony of Damon Penn, Assistant Administrator, National Continuity Programs, Before the House Committee on Homeland Security, "Communicating With the Public During Emergencies: An Update on Federal Alert & Warning Efforts"

dhs.gov - Release Date: July 8, 2011 - Washington, D.C.

Introduction

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Upper Midwest Braces for Dangerous and Long Heat Wave

Reuters - July 15, 2011

(Reuters) - A heat wave hovering in the central and southern states is expanding north to states not accustomed to intense and prolonged heat.

"This is going to be especially bad in the upper Midwest," said Chris Vaccaro, a spokesman for the National Weather Service.

Temperatures will be in the 90's and possibly hit 100 degrees in some places. When humidity is factored in, the heat index could reach 115 degrees.

These soaring mercury levels are unusual for states like North and South Dakota, Minnesota and Wisconsin, Vaccaro said, which makes this heat wave particularly dangerous in those places. In Minneapolis alone highs could reach 15 degrees above normal.

The heat was apparently to blame for the death of a 72-year-old man in South Memphis, Tennessee.

The man died Wednesday, according to the Shelby County Health Department.

The air conditioning in his home was malfunctioning and blowing hot air. And while a fan was in use, the windows were closed, the agency reported.

Traces of Radiation Found in 2 Whales Off Japan

submitted by Luis Kun

by Mari Yamaguchi, Associated Press - June 15, 2011

In this Monday, June 13, 2011 photo released by Tokyo Electric Power Co., a machine collects radioactive substances in the air for sampling at the Unit 3 of the crippled Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant in Okuma, Fukushima prefecture, northeastern Japan. (AP Photo/Tokyo Electric Power Co.) EDITORIAL USE ONLY

TOKYO (AP) — Japanese whalers caught two animals along the northern coast that had traces of radiation, presumably from leaks at a damaged nuclear power plant, officials said Wednesday.

Two of 17 minke whales caught off the Pacific coast of Hokkaido showed traces of radioactive cesium, both about one-twentieth of the legal limit, fisheries officials said.

They are the first whales thought to have been affected by radiation leaked from the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant since it was hit by a March 11 earthquake and tsunami.

"The levels are far below the limit, and the meat from the catch is safe for consumption," Fisheries Agency official Kosei Takekoshi said.

World Bank Is Opening Its Treasure Chest of Data

World Bank - Washington D.C.

 . . . "the most valuable currency of the World Bank isn’t its money — it is its information" . . .

 . . . "The bank, he says, is essentially widening the circle of people it can brainstorm with." . . .

 . . . "Having created models for open-sourcing and crowd-sourcing, the bank is now moving toward mash-ups. A new Mapping for Results program offers interactive maps pinpointing locations of almost 3,000 bank projects in more than 16,000 places worldwide. Links open up pages with information about each project, and users can add overlays that show, say, where infant mortality is highest to see whether the bank’s work in those areas matches the need.

The program is sensitive because it involves releasing data provided by client governments and others, but the hope is that it will prompt these parties to link their own data on economic and social development to the site or otherwise make it available." . . .

World Bank Is Opening Its Treasure Chest of Data

HeraldTribune.com - Stephanie Strom - July 3, 2011

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EPA Fracking Study To Focus On 5 States, But Not Wyoming

The Huffington Post - June 26, 2011

by ProPublica's Abrahm Lustgarten

The Environmental Protection Agency will focus its national study of hydraulic fracturing on seven areas in five states, but will exclude the two Wyoming gas fields where agency researchers have already collected some of the most in-depth data on drilling's environmental impacts.

The study – which was announced last March, without specifics on research sites – will investigate alleged water contamination from drilling in five areas in Texas, Colorado, North Dakota and Pennsylvania. It also will encompass cradle-to-grave research projects in Pennsylvania and Louisiana, where the agency will track drilling's effects on water quality from before the drill bit hits the ground to after hydraulic fracturing has been performed.

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Why a Hyper-Personalized Web is Bad for You (Q&A)

submitted by Joyce Fedeczko

CNET News - May 17, 2011

We all like having things tailored to our specific needs and interests. But Eli Pariser thinks we should beware of the substantial risks inherent in the increasing personalization of the Internet.

Better known (so far) as the executive director of the progressive political action committee MoveOn.org, Eli Pariser is making noise these days as the author of "The Filter Bubble: What the Internet is Hiding from You." His new book, which was released yesterday, argues that the latest tools being implemented by the likes of Google and Facebook for making our Internet experiences as individual as possible are taking us down some very unsavory paths.

First, of course, Pariser explains the dynamic we all face online today: that no two people's Web searches, even on the same topics, return the same results. That's because search engines and other sites are basing what they send back on our previous searches, the sites we visit, ads we click on, preferences we indicate, and much more. Not to mention the fact that we are more and more shielded from viewpoints counter to our own.

Week's Quote by Michael Chertoff: On the Importance of Open Source Data

 

"When you're dealing with a large social phenomenon, there is a huge 
amount of open-source data out there. If you can marry that together 
with sophisticated analytic tools and subject matter expertise, you can 
see a lot about trends and things that are developing that you're not 
going to get in an intelligence report."

http://gigaom.com/cloud/big-data-analysis-can-thwart-combat-threats/

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The Nation: Russia's Federal Atomic Energy Agency Claims a Near Catastrophic Meltdown of the Fort Calhoun Nuclear Power Plant in Nebraska

 This unusual story from Pakistan's "The Nation" claims that there has been a cover up of a near catastrophic meltdown for the Fort Calhoun nuclear power plant near Omaha, Nebraska.  Evidence from the nuclear power plant and U.S. regulators indicate that the Pakistani story and Russian claims are significantly over-reaching.  The flooding that caused a Fukushima reactor 4-like spent fuel rod cooling pond interruption of power led to a 90 minute interruption of power, but the temperature of the cooling pond and the water coverage of the spent fuel rods did not approach circumstances that would cause a meltdown, according to U.S. officials. 

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