Thursday, May 15, 2008

China earthquake tragedy...

I remember reading something about the potential of the Three Gorges Dam, some years ago, to create siesmic havoc. With the aid of the internet, here is the article reproduced forthwith..
In a project reminiscent of the Great Wall, the Chinese are building another of the world's largest structures. When they finish the Three Gorges Dam, the Chinese will have built a wall across the third largest river in the world, created a reservoir almost 300 miles long, and tapped an electrical source equal to 18 nuclear power plants.
Water held by the dam also may trigger earthquakes that could threaten millions of people. Two scientists at the Geophysical Institute are working together to help the Chinese assess the earthquake risk of Three Gorges Dam. Born in the mountains of the Tibetan Plateau, the Yangtzi River flows almost 4,000 miles to the ocean, making it the third longest river in the world after the Nile and the Amazon (the Yukon is half the length of the Yangtzi). Hoping to harness the power of the river, the Chinese government began building the dam a few years ago, expecting to finish by 2009. When the mile-wide, 600-foot high dam is complete, the flooding upstream will begin. As the water rises, it will drown more than 1,400 rural towns and villages abandoned earlier by government decree. The water rising behind the dam will power 26 huge turbines to provide electricity, and will allow people to control a river that has killed 300,000 people by flooding during the 20th century.
No one knows how local seismic faults will react to the incredible mass of water behind Three Gorges Dam. Like heavy snow on an overloaded roof, the weight of water blocked by dams can cause existing cracks in Earth's crust to slip, resulting in earthquakes. Faults tend to slip more often when a nearby giant reservoir is filled with water. The largest was a magnitude 6.5 triggered by the Konya reservoir in Turkey. That earthquake killed 200 people in December 1967.
NASA funded Jeff Freymueller and Shusun Li of the Geophysical Institute to help the Chinese determine the seismic risk of Three Gorges Dam. Millions of people downstream from the dam are at risk should an earthquake damage or destroy it. "A catastrophic failure of the dam would be perhaps the single most destructive event in human history," said Freymueller, a professor of geophysics. He added that the chances of the dam being destroyed by an earthquake are small, but because the consequences are so severe any seismic activity induced by the reservoir has to be taken seriously.
Freymueller and Li will study movement of Earth's crust around the dam site before and after the dam is built. Freymueller will use global positioning satellites, the same tool he used to determine that Seward and Homer are creeping in opposite directions by a few centimeters a year. GPS receivers placed at various points in the Yangtzi River basin by Chinese scientists will tell Freymueller how much the ground has subsided due to the weight of the reservoir. Li, a professor of remote sensing, will use a different type of satellite to view the river basin. A synthetic aperture radar satellite sends radio pulses to the ground and records the time it takes them to return. The satellite will allow scientists to get a wider view than that allowed by the GPS receivers on the ground. Combining the technologies may allow Freymueller and Li to measure the sinkage of the new river basin, which will probably be less than 20 centimeters, about the length of a man's hand.
Both researchers hope their findings on ground subsidence around the dam will allow an accurate assessment of how seismic faults will react to the load of water. Li has added incentive to find the seismic effects of the Three Gorges Dam. His hometown, Shanghai, is downriver.

Human Vermin behaviour.

The world is certainly in a rather sad way, as we, the dominating and all destructive species on the planet, keep treating all that gives us life, as something similar to one of those dingy toilets, in a less than salubrious part of town.
This would be of course where them queer blokes meet up, for, well social activities, and macrame sessions....
Read on!
The world's rubbish dump: a garbage tip that stretches from Hawaii to Japan
By Kathy Marks, Asia-Pacific Correspondent, and Daniel HowdenTuesday, 5 February 2008

A "plastic soup" of waste floating in the Pacific Ocean is growing at an alarming rate and now covers an area twice the size of the continental United States, scientists have said.
The vast expanse of debris – in effect the world's largest rubbish dump – is held in place by swirling underwater currents. This drifting "soup" stretches from about 500 nautical miles off the Californian coast, across the northern Pacific, past Hawaii and almost as far as Japan.
Charles Moore, an American oceanographer who discovered the "Great Pacific Garbage Patch" or "trash vortex", believes that about 100 million tons of flotsam are circulating in the region. Marcus Eriksen, a research director of the US-based Algalita Marine Research Foundation, which Mr Moore founded, said yesterday: "The original idea that people had was that it was an island of plastic garbage that you could almost walk on. It is not quite like that. It is almost like a plastic soup. It is endless for an area that is maybe twice the size as continental United States."
Curtis Ebbesmeyer, an oceanographer and leading authority on flotsam, has tracked the build-up of plastics in the seas for more than 15 years and compares the trash vortex to a living entity: "It moves around like a big animal without a leash." When that animal comes close to land, as it does at the Hawaiian archipelago, the results are dramatic. "The garbage patch barfs, and you get a beach covered with this confetti of plastic," he added.
The "soup" is actually two linked areas, either side of the islands of Hawaii, known as the Western and Eastern Pacific Garbage Patches. About one-fifth of the junk – which includes everything from footballs and kayaks to Lego blocks and carrier bags – is thrown off ships or oil platforms. The rest comes from land.
Mr Moore, a former sailor, came across the sea of waste by chance in 1997, while taking a short cut home from a Los Angeles to Hawaii yacht race. He had steered his craft into the "North Pacific gyre" – a vortex where the ocean circulates slowly because of little wind and extreme high pressure systems. Usually sailors avoid it.
He was astonished to find himself surrounded by rubbish, day after day, thousands of miles from land. "Every time I came on deck, there was trash floating by," he said in an interview. "How could we have fouled such a huge area? How could this go on for a week?"
Mr Moore, the heir to a family fortune from the oil industry, subsequently sold his business interests and became an environmental activist. He warned yesterday that unless consumers cut back on their use of disposable plastics, the plastic stew would double in size over the next decade.
Professor David Karl, an oceanographer at the University of Hawaii, said more research was needed to establish the size and nature of the plastic soup but that there was "no reason to doubt" Algalita's findings.
"After all, the plastic trash is going somewhere and it is about time we get a full accounting of the distribution of plastic in the marine ecosystem and especially its fate and impact on marine ecosystems."
Professor Karl is co-ordinating an expedition with Algalita in search of the garbage patch later this year and believes the expanse of junk actually represents a new habitat. Historically, rubbish that ends up in oceanic gyres has biodegraded. But modern plastics are so durable that objects half-a-century old have been found in the north Pacific dump. "Every little piece of plastic manufactured in the past 50 years that made it into the ocean is still out there somewhere," said Tony Andrady, a chemist with the US-based Research Triangle Institute.
Mr Moore said that because the sea of rubbish is translucent and lies just below the water's surface, it is not detectable in satellite photographs. "You only see it from the bows of ships," he said.
According to the UN Environment Programme, plastic debris causes the deaths of more than a million seabirds every year, as well as more than 100,000 marine mammals. Syringes, cigarette lighters and toothbrushes have been found inside the stomachs of dead seabirds, which mistake them for food.
Plastic is believed to constitute 90 per cent of all rubbish floating in the oceans. The UN Environment Programme estimated in 2006 that every square mile of ocean contains 46,000 pieces of floating plastic,
Dr Eriksen said the slowly rotating mass of rubbish-laden water poses a risk to human health, too. Hundreds of millions of tiny plastic pellets, or nurdles – the raw materials for the plastic industry – are lost or spilled every year, working their way into the sea. These pollutants act as chemical sponges attracting man-made chemicals such as hydrocarbons and the pesticide DDT. They then enter the food chain. "What goes into the ocean goes into these animals and onto your dinner plate. It's that simple," said Dr Eriksen.

Banks are barstards... dont we all know!

Here is a well written, and informed article, about the scumbag behaviour of banks, and their greedy behaviour.
Having been a victim of NAB in the past, and their absolute greed, and ruthlessness in recovering a percieved debt...."Yes sir, you failed in your card security by daring to go to the shop for 15 minutes, and allowing thieving mongrels to raid your house" type stuff, I think the banks suck.
With a passion forthwith.
So, choke on your endless lust for greed, and profits, you pack of human vermin, you.....
As small banks innovate, the big four salivate
When I first joined St George, the biggest building society in the late '80s, it was a strange place to work. People smiled, everyone wore name badges, and you were just as likely to chat with the managing director in the lift as the mailroom manager. The company mascot was a big lizard who danced with a cabaret singer … and this was a place to invest your money?
There were two important people you had to impress to get any proposal through - the managing director and Betty Blacktown. I never met Betty; she was a fictional embodiment of our customers. The branch staff were more loyal to their regulars than to any head office directive.
And they still are.
St George and mid-tier banks such as Advance Bank are important to banking. They had to innovate to overcome the price advantage the big four held. For instance, St George was among the first to extend branch opening hours, and launch ATMs, the Visa debit card and a call centre that approved personal loans. It introduced Home Loan Centres, Sunday trading and split-rate loans. Its pensioner account surpassed anything the others reluctantly offered.
Reverse mortgages were available at Advance in the early '90s; line-of-credit equity loans were introduced by Citibank before renovating became a ratings winner. State Bank's All-In account was the best transaction account ever. And smiling John Symonds had them coming with mortgages to your home.
At St George we looked at what Advance and State Bank were doing for motivation and overseas for inspiration. The big four were only a source of disgruntled customers.
When the treasurer Paul Keating stepped forward to protect the four monolithic pillars, NAB started to circle. It set up the mid-tiers as appetisers, and St George was an attractive target. It had a major market share of home loans in NSW. And although the high level of training and service meant its staff-to-cost ratio was ridiculously high, profits kept climbing.
It seemed only market analysts didn't value service, although people did. In customer service ratings, Advance and St George were about 20points ahead of the fatuous four, and we laughed when ANZ had to offer people money to prove they could be served while still standing.
They were heady times as the CEO, a banking pugilist, Jim Sweeney, fought tooth and nail to protect Julie and the Dragon from disappearing. NAB's CEO Don Argus wouldn't return his calls, and the reality of survival meant merging with Advance Bank.
Changes affect a corporation's culture. When St George converted to a bank, Betty died a quiet death. Mediocre middle managers pursued fee income instead of efficiency. After the merge with Advance, staff ratios were driven down; new ideas were carefully costed and had to go past a committee of financial scrutineers, who would ask, "No one else is doing this. Why are we?"
Branches were closed, Julie took her singing to the clubs and Happy Dragon now works for the footy team. St George acted like a big bank; they were just so much nicer about it, and a lot of that comes back to its customer-driven ethic.
If you look over the banking landscape of the last decade, it is hard to find new products, but you won't be surprised at their source: no-deposit loans came from St George, low-doc loans came from mortgage brokers, reverse mortgages were popularised by Bluestone.
The big guys' focus has been on innovating with channels (read: websites) and their wealth creation arms (read: financial planning) who only talk to those with a few hundred thousand in assets. Competition now comes from new players, like ING and BankWest.
Of the big four, Westpac is the best placed to handle banking's happy dragon land.
The Commonwealth produces innovative ads and little else. ANZ's innovative claim is to reopen the branches they once closed. NAB has managed to slip from first to second seamlessly, and their culture was described as arrogant and deceptive during the Forex trading fiasco. They once looked to St George with a view to ruthlessly cutting its costs, although some say it was because they wanted to learn how the dragon did it.
I doubt Mrs Kelly would be splurging on a strong brand to gut it back to its bones. Shareholders will be bigger winners than customers, but that is the way for banking these days. Branches will surely close once computer systems are integrated, and many HR bunnies will go once some retrenching is done, as well as the usual overlapping back room functions.
From experience, Westpac has a similarly family-friendly culture to the old dragon, and it didn't take long for Mrs Kelly to see the profit in combining strength with its customer-friendly ways.
The question is whether Westpac milks it, or mines it. With good service in short supply let's hope it's the latter. Even shareholders like a smile.
Con Nats worked at St George from 1989 to 1996. He is a freelance marketing and finance writer

Yet more local hornbags for ye to enjoy, and delight in theroff

As can be seen, the streets continue to be filled with lots of sights, and views, to gladden the heart, and pulse of the average bloke.

Life need not end, when one goes away from the trackside, the station platform, or one's well thumbed, and slightly grubby railway magazine collection.

So, become aware of the joys out one's door, and down the street, forthwith!