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  The Untold Story Of India'S FloodsAugust 29, 2008 08:56 The humanitarian needs created by the worst floods in the eastern Indian state of Bihar for 50 years are outstripping government and agencies' ability to cope, aid workers say.

A week ago, the Kosi river in neighbouring Nepal burst its banks and forged a new course through Bihar, submerging hundreds of villages in the five districts of Supaul, Madhepura, Sharsa, Madhubani and Bhagalpur. According to the latest estimates, over 2 million people have been displaced and a quarter of a million homes have been destroyed.

With their crops and food supplies gone, most of those affected are in desperate need of food aid. While the government has set up four basic camps for some of the displaced, there is also a pressing need for shelter, clean drinking water and sanitation.

Heywood Hadfield, emergency programme co-ordinator at HelpAge International, is working with partner HelpAge India to help assess the needs during the early stages of the rescue and relief effort.

"It's an incredibly serious situation," he says. "The information is scanty, but they feel it's at least as serious as the floods last year."

While other parts of India are prepared for the high waters brought by the annual monsoon, this sudden emergency took government and aid agencies by surprise. "It's an area that's not used to flooding. It's not flooded for at least 50 years, so people are not prepared for it," Hadfield says.
  After 4,500 Whale Killings, Japanese Publish Their ResearchAugust 27, 2008 21:52 Environmentalists have been all over Japan’s “scientific” whaling for years, with some organizations saying the program is unnecessary or little more than commercial whale hunting in disguise. But now Japanese scientists have published new research in Popular Polar Biology, and their findings aren’t good: whales are getting skinnier, and global warming might be at fault.

The scientists measured the amount of blubber in minke whales captured since the 1980s and found that the level has dropped off precipitously since then. Why are they pointing the finger at global warming? Because krill, the tiny crustacean at the base of the food chain, have declined in Antarctic areas by 80 percent since the 1970s. Part of the problem is warming waters, but over-fishing for krill to use at fish farms and the ozone layer hole have contributed to the drop as well.

Intuitively, one might think that eating less and losing a little fat might make it easier for whales to survive in a warming world. But not so, the scientists say—the whales’ 9 percent loss of blubber has outpaced any rise in ocean temperature. And with less protection for the cold waters of the Antarctic, researchers say, the whales could have more trouble reproducing.

Despite the troubling finding, this study’s methods have garnered attention, too—the scientists studied more than 4,500 whales slaughtered in the last two-plus decades. The paper itself spells out how vicious whaling can be—many of the whales killed didn’t die instantly, and others couldn’t be studied because the harpoons or rifles had simply caused them too much damage. Two journals passed on the research before Popular Biology picked it up, perhaps because of the grisly manner in which the science was obtained.
  Japan to Waste Whale MeatAugust 27, 2008 21:50 Whale meat worth about $1.6 million sitting in warehouses waiting for import into Japan may be thrown away because the importer hasn't applied for a permit, Greenpeace International said.

As much as 80 tonnes of meat from fin whales, an endangered species, and 5 tonnes of minke whale have been in storage for more than two months, Greenpeace said. Under Japanese law, perishable goods can be discarded if they are stored for more than three months without the right permits, the environmental group said.

Australia, the U.S., New Zealand and other countries, along with environmental groups including Greenpeace, are trying to stop all slaughter of whales, setting themselves against Iceland and Norway, the exporters of the meat, and Japan, which has the world's biggest whaling program.

``This pointless import only serves to increase criticism of Japan,'' Wakao Hanaoka, Greenpeace Japan's oceans campaigner, said in the statement. ``The whale meat should be returned to its senders at their own expense.''

Tsuyoshi Iwata, an official of the Far Seas Fisheries division of Japan's Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, said the shipment won't be discarded because frozen whale meat can last for about 10 years.

Greenpeace's claims are ``nonsense,'' Iwata said, adding that he didn't know the name of the importer. Greenpeace named the company last month as Tokyo-based Asia Trading Ltd., a company established two weeks before the meat was shipped.
  Musharraf Resignation AcceptedAugust 18, 2008 15:15 Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, facing possible impeachment, announced his resignation Monday and lawmakers immediately accepted it.

The former army chief, who came to power in 1999 after deposing Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in a military coup, said in a televised address to the nation he was stepping down in the best interest of the country, the state-run Associated Press of Pakistan reported.

Musharraf, who had seen his popularity crumble following his party's disastrous election defeat earlier this year, had faced the possibility of impeachment, and multiple charges of misconduct and violations of the constitution. Until Monday he had indicated he would not step down but fight any effort to remove him from office.

There was no immediate word on what Musharraf planned to do in the future or whether he will stay in Pakistan after leaving office.
  Olympic Girl Seen But Not HeardAugust 12, 2008 09:36 Having just been to China, this story is just one of many insidious indications that I, personally, would not like to live in their totalitarian state...

A little girl and her song captivated millions of viewers during the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics. But what they saw was not what they heard.

Games organizers confirm that Lin Miaoke, who performed "Ode to the Motherland" as China's flag was paraded Friday into Beijing's National Stadium, was not singing at all.

Lin was lip-syncing to the sound of another girl, 7-year-old Yang Peiyi, who was heard but not seen, apparently because she was deemed not cute enough.

"The reason was for the national interest," said Chen Qigang, the ceremony's musical director, in a state radio interview. "The child on camera should be flawless in image, internal feeling and expression. ... Lin Miaoke is excellent in those aspects."

The decision was made at the highest levels, Chen said.

"We had to do it," he said. "We'd been through several inspections. They're all very strict. When we rehearsed at the spot, there were several spectators from various divisions, especially leaders from the Politburo, who gave the opinion it must change."

Few who watched the Olympic ceremony realized the deception. "Tiny singer wins heart of nation," read the headline in Tuesday's China Daily newspaper.

"Lin Miaoke might be only 9 years old but she is well on her way to becoming a star, thanks to her heartwarming performance," the article gushed -- without mentioning she never sang a note.

But as word has gotten out on the Internet, some Chinese bloggers are outraged.

"If you're not good-looking, no matter how well you sing, you'll not be onstage. Do you know you're twisting a whole generation?" read one comment.