Friday, June 22, 2007

Rising Seas to Destroy U.S. Beaches

Rising Seas to Destroy U.S. Beaches

Andrea Thompson

LiveScience Staff Writer

Fri Jun 22, 9:55 AM ET

You may have to kiss that summer trip to the beach goodbye later this century, thanks to rising sea levels and more intense tropical storms, scientists predict.

A new study of the potential sand losses to North Carolina beaches reports that a 1-foot rise in sea level in the next 25 to 75 years (which is at the lower end of the range predicted by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) would cause the coast to move inland by 2,000 to 10,000 feet and could cost an estimated $223 million in lost recreational value by 2080 to beach-goers in that state alone.

Predicting exactly how much beaches will shrink is impossible because beach erosion rates are highly variable, even between points that are only a few miles apart. The make-up of each beach's sand, the absence or presence of jetties and other man-made structures meant to retain sand, and offshore topography (which influences wave formation), all affect erosion rates.

Sea level rise is another ominous potential eroding force, at least for beaches that are highly developed. When seas rise, undeveloped beaches can simply shift further inland, but because roads, buildings and other man-made structures act as a barrier, the sand at developed beaches cannot migrate backward. Effectively, relentless waves will wear away the sand and these beaches will shrink until there’s simply no sand left for sunbathing or seaside strolls.

“We create the [beach erosion] problem,” Pilkey said.

In fact, Pilkey says, the building of jetties and sea walls may be doing the most damage for now, because while they preserve a small portion of the shoreline near the structure, they actually result in more coastal erosion further from the structure than would have occurred naturally.

“I suspect that may be more important than sea level rise,” he told LiveScience, but that trend will eventually change later, with global warming’s forces surpassing the impact of sea walls and jetties.

For West Coast U.S. beaches, erosion from sea level rise and storms is less of a threat than on the East Coast, because the "left" coastline tends to be higher and steeper, but that doesn’t mean beach-goers there are in the clear. One of the main sources of sand for these beaches is river transport, but dams built along western rivers block this sand, which causes the beaches to erode.

More crowded beaches

With beaches slowly vanishing from the coasts, vacationers might have to find some other way to entertain themselves and soak up the sun in the summer in the coming decades.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Asia Economic recovery from crisis is uneven

Asia's recovery from crisis is uneven

AP Business Writers
Wed Jun 20, 12:02 PM ET

BANGKOK, Thailand - Ten years ago, a plunge in the Thai baht sparked a wave of recessions across Asia's high-flying economies, bankrupting entire nations, putting millions out of work and shaking markets around the world. Some feared that decade of growth would be lost.

Today, the region as a whole has bounced back from the 1997-98 crisis and is better equipped to deal with financial emergencies. Banking is more transparent, corporations are better managed, poverty rates have dropped and the region's collective economic growth has doubled.

Still, the recovery has been uneven. The three countries hit hardest by the crisis that began July 2, 1997 — Thailand, Indonesia and South Korea — have charted sharply divergent paths over the last 10 years, reflecting their differing responses to the crisis and policies since then.

South Korea, which received a humiliating $58 billion bailout arranged by the International Monetary Fund, quickly cleaned up its banking system and started reforming its heavily indebted family-owned conglomerates. The economy shrank and the jobless rate soared, but by 1999 it was robustly growing again.

The crisis, while painful, forced South Korea to make changes that paved the way for more stable long-term growth. Today, it is one of Asia's powerhouses, led by Samsung Electronics Co. — the world's biggest memory chip maker — and Hyundai Motor Co.

Indonesia, however, continues to struggle. The crisis helped bring about the downfall of former dictator Suharto and greater political freedom, but the economy remains beset by rampant corruption, a weak legal system and lackluster foreign investment. Economic growth has been ticking along at about 5.5 percent the last two years, but unemployment is rising.

Thailand hovers somewhere in between. Bangkok, where hundreds of skyscrapers froze in mid-construction when the crisis erupted, now has an elevated Skytrain, a subway, a brand new airport and dozens of glitzy malls. Japanese investment has made Thailand a major auto and electronics exporting hub.

But a rise in the baht and political uncertainty caused by a tainted election in 2006 and military coup last September has dragged on growth.

In the wake of the crisis, Thai authorities shut down dozens of insolvent financial firms, vastly improved banking supervision and updated archaic bankruptcy laws. However, it can still take years for creditors to pursue claims, and further reforms of laws governing bankruptcy and repossession of assets from recalcitrant debtors haven't gone beyond the drafting stage.

"Korea restructured its financial sector, but the problem in Thailand has been the inconsistency of reforms," says Sompop Manarangsan, a professor of economics at Bangkok's Chulalongkorn University. "This is not good for the longer term."

Investors got a flashback to the 1997 crisis in December when the Thai central bank imposed capital controls in an attempt to weaken the currency, sending stocks plummeting 15 percent in one day and rattling regional markets.

Authorities quickly exempted stocks and foreign direct investment from the rules, helping the market bounce back. Investors were also reassured to know that Thailand had $65 billion in foreign currency reserves, far more than in 1997.

Still, Thailand's bungled effort to impose capital controls underscore the lingering challenges that Asia's emerging economies face in handling international money flows in search of higher returns.

It was the dramatic outflow of funds from Thailand that forced the central bank on July 2, 1997, to finally cut the baht's peg to the dollar, causing the Thai currency to plummet, triggering the crisis.

Unlike today, many Thai companies at that time were burdened with huge dollar-denominated debts. When the local currency plunged, the value of those loans suddenly ballooned in baht terms, forcing many companies to go bankrupt.

That kindled speculative pressures that also forced currencies in Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and South Korea to fall, driving more companies out of business, including one of South Korea's largest conglomerates, the Daewoo Group.

The turmoil rippled around the world, affecting markets as far away as Brazil and Russia.

In ensuing months, the IMF orchestrated emergency loans of $17 billion for Thailand, $50 billion for Indonesia and $58 billion for South Korea — and imposed austerity measures such as raising interest rates and cutting public spending that many believe exacerbated the crisis.

Since then, Asian nations have taken steps to protect themselves by bulking up their foreign currency reserves and set up regional agreements to supply emergency funds through bilateral currency swaps.

South Korea's effective use of the IMF funds to repair banks' balance sheets and moves to improve corporate transparency set the stage for a rapid recovery. After contracting 7 percent in 1998, the economy jumped 9.5 percent in 1999.

Many of the major conglomerates survived, but not without changes. The Samsung Group streamlined its business structure, shedding its automobile unit and reforming its financial structure by reducing debt. The Daewoo Group, however, collapsed spectacularly under mountains of debt.

South Korea also responded by opening its economy wider to foreign investors, bringing changes virtually unimaginable before the crisis.

For example, U.S. private equity fund Newbridge Capital in late 1999 purchased a controlling stake in Korea First Bank, becoming the first foreign investor to acquire a South Korean financial institution.

But the outlook for Indonesia — hardest hit by the crisis — is mixed.

The turmoil accompanying Suharto's ouster in 1998 made it difficult for authorities to tackle structural problems in the economy, including bad lending practices to corruption.

Today, greater investment in factories, roads and ports is needed to achieve economic growth of more than 7 percent — the minimum level needed, experts say, to create enough jobs to put a dent in unemployment, now around 12.5 percent.

"The country is still dealing with the long-term fallout from the crisis," says Peter McCawley, an expert on the Indonesian economy at the Australian National University.

Progress on improving the investment climate has been patchy and many businesses prefer to locate factories elsewhere in Southeast Asia, where wages are lower, setting up is easier and corruption is less of a problem.

Exploration for Indonesia's vast copper, gold and zinc deposits remains dormant despite record metal prices. Companies say it is too risky investing millions when there is no certainty they will be able to mine them later. A mining law aimed at ensuring legal certainty for investors is still being debated in parliament.


Associated Press Writers Grant Peck in Bangkok, Kelly Olsen in Seoul and Chris Brummitt in Jakarta contributed to this report.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Pair Finishes Cross-Country Bike Trip For Charity

Don Schoendorfer, and co-founder Dr. Mike Bayer have completed their journey across the U.S.A for our first-ever Ride for Mobility!

The 3,000-mile trek began April 20th in New York at CBS Studios and concluded at Mariners Church on June 16th with an outdoor BBQ and closing ceremony celebration.

After hooking up with a group of supporters in Long Beach, CA, on Saturday morning, the team rode down the coast and into the parking lot of Mariners Church at about 3:00pm. They were greeted by a more than enthusiastic crowd of supporters who were being kept up to date on their location by cell phone.

Finally, they heard "THERE THEY ARE!" as the group of cyclists appeared on the main street. With hot dogs and hamburgers in hand all were invited to go indoors for a welcoming ceremony and video of some of the high points of the ride.

Jun 17, 2007 8:46 am US/Pacific

Pair Finishes Cross-Country Bike Trip For Charity
(AP) IRVINE, Calif. An Orange County pair has finished a cross-country bicycle journey that has raised enough money to buy almost 10,000 wheelchairs.

The wheelchairs will be distributed to disabled people in developing countries.

Don Schoendorfer and Mike Bayer, co-founders of Free Wheelchair Mission, completed the 3,000 mile campaign Saturday in Irvine after leaving New York on April 20.

Bayer says the journey was “worth every pedal stoke.” Schoendorfer and Bayer are still about 5,000 wheelchairs short of their goal of 15,000.

The two were met at the finish line by family, friends and supporters and celebrated with a barbecue.

(© 2007 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Secrets of Ancient Pompeii Households Revealed in Ruins Heather Whipps

Vineyards and fruit trees have been replanted in the original locations used some two thousand years ago in Pompeii. The harvest makes up some of the ingredients sold in kits to visitors with instructions to reproduce ancient recipes.

AP Photo/Pompeii Archaelogical Superintendence

Secrets of Ancient Pompeii Households Revealed in Ruins
Heather Whipps

Special to LiveScience

Fri Jun 1, 10:55 AM ET

Residents of Pompeii ate their meals on the run, just like many Americans do today, according to a new archaeological study of how households functioned in the ancient Roman city buried by volcanic ash.

Completely destroyed by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 A.D., Pompeii is one of the most famous archaeological sites in the world. Besides its risqué statues and frisky frescoes, however, few of its artifacts have been studied in depth.

Excavating a neighborhood block that includes one of Pompeii's grandest mansions, scientists have recently shed a lot more light on the day-to-day tasks undertaken by its citizens.

"I am looking at pots and pans and how houses actually functioned," said archaeologist Penelope Allison of the University of Leicester, in the United Kingdom. "I am interested in revealing the utilitarian side of life rather than its glamorous side, in slaves and servants and how they lived side by side with their masters."

Allison's complete findings are published in a new book, "The Insula of the Menander at Pompeii Volume III" (Oxford University Press, 2007).

Pompeii was destroyed quickly and thus preserved like a time capsule, so the Allison's findings may also carry over to other Roman towns from the same period, she said.

A non-gadget world

The ins and outs of domestic life—ranging from where food was cooked to who patched up cuts and scrapes—was the main focus of Allison's research. Though ancient Rome was an advanced society, it can't be assumed household units worked the same way they do today, she said.

Even simple tools that were found, such cooking vessels, could be interpreted in a number of different ways.

"Today we have hundreds of very specific gadgets," she said, "but in a non-gadget world you have a number of things used for a variety of purposes, such as pots that might have been wine dippers and spindle whorls that were used as furniture ornamentation."


People also filled a number of different roles when necessary, the findings suggest.

When a child cut their knee, it didn't mean a trip to the local medical clinic, necessarily; Pompeii may have been a town full of "Dr. Moms".

"We believe that whenever we find medical instruments, they belonged to doctors. But I think that a lot more high-level first aid went on within households," Allison said. "We have found surgical instruments in domestic contexts, and I think someone in the house was responsible for sewing up injured people."

Weaving looms found in the homes also imply that women—or perhaps even men—did much of the sewing for their own families rather than purchasing clothes ready-made, she said.

Ancient fast food?

With all the sewing—of wounds and clothes—among other daily chores, busy residents of Pompeii probably had little time left for long, relaxing meals at the dinner table.

There was an absence of formal dishware sets but an abundance of small grilling vessels (like barbecues) found in the residences studied, indicating that people were eating-and-running on the go, Allison said.

Some things don't change.

Stonehenges all around us

Stonehenges all around us
Architectural relics and modern structures show that we may not be much different than our ancestors.

By Craig Childs, CRAIG CHILDS is the author, most recently, of "House of Rain: Tracking a Vanished Civilization Across the American Southwest."

February 16, 2007

ARCHEOLOGISTS recently discovered what appears to be the other half of Stonehenge, illuminating what they believe is a much larger Neolithic complex than has long been envisioned. What is coming to the surface seems strangely familiar. Looking closely at Stonehenge and other Neolithic sites, we find the formative patterns of our modern world.

Step out of your house and you might notice your street is fixed on a cardinal grid: north, south, east, west. This pattern defines many American and European cities, as well as Neolithic sites such as Anyang in China and the Mexican city of Teotihuacan.



Stonehenge: A Feb. 16 commentary about Stonehenge stated that a megalithic structure in the Sahara dating back 6,000 years was the oldest in the world . A site in Turkey known as Gobekli Tepe dates back more than 11,000 years.


The new discovery, two miles from Stonehenge itself, is an elaborate residential compound now being excavated. It is a site where the builders of Stonehenge may have lived and where pilgrims may have stayed while attending feasts and ceremonies. Fascinating tidbits have been unearthed: a timber version of Stonehenge, evidence of different kinds of occupations in the 4,600-year-old village and a processional "road" leading to the nearby Avon River. These finds add to the picture of an enigmatic Neolithic religion, in which stone-paved roads are aligned with celestial features and great circles frame the rising and setting sun at key times of the year.

This all has an uncanny resemblance to Neolithic sites in different parts of the world. The Big Horn Medicine Wheel in Wyoming, dating back several hundred years, is a complex celestial calendar, its 28 spokes of aligned stones pointing to risings and settings of the sun and various stars. This medicine wheel, in turn, is similar to the Nonakado Stone Circle of Japan, from the 1st millennium BC, where standing stones mark important, calendrical events on the horizon.

My friend and colleague, Kim Malville, recently discovered an Egyptian Stonehenge in the Sahara dating back more than 6,000 years. Malville believes that it acted as both a calendar and a temple for people living along the edge of an ancient lake, and it is the oldest known megalithic site in the world.

My personal favorite Stonehenge look-alike — at least in concept — is in northern New Mexico, where in the 11th century, the Chaco culture built hundreds of miles of processional "roads." Rather than rings of giant standing stones, the Chacoans erected enormous masonry temples known as great houses. Many of these great houses are aligned to view celestial events through portals and windows.

Looking at the way ancient people assembled themselves, archeologists see cults and primitive, celestial religions. But how primitive were these people's beliefs, and how different from them are we?

I once ambled around the Colorado Capitol in Denver with a compass and notebook in hand. I had come to a modern landmark to apply the same questions we had been asking at ancient sites. I found that every aspect of the building's neoclassical architecture has alignments you see at many Neolithic ceremonial centers. Every bench is symmetrically arranged around the cruciform building, which is, in turn, set to cardinal directions. It lies within an array of other government buildings and open processionals, each holding to the same cardinal patterns.

At the Chaco site, certain ruins were found swept clean, while nearby buildings were loaded with trash. The same thing was just unearthed near Stonehenge: some buildings littered with broken pottery and discarded bones — what archeologists believe to be the leavings of feasts and pilgrimage — and others remarkably clean.

Julian Thomas of the University of Manchester commented that these clean rooms near Stonehenge may have belonged to special people, chiefs or priests. He also suggested that they were possibly shrines and cult centers.

That day in Denver, tens of thousands of people were gathered in an open area at the foot of the Capitol for some kind of weekend fair. The atmosphere boomed with music and smelled of food cooking in numerous tents. What was I seeing? Pilgrims, feasts and cult centers? Were the meticulously kept buildings erected for priests and chiefs?

The same kind of architecture can be seen in Washington, where countless astronomical alignments are constructed into the Capitol and its surrounding buildings and monuments. Most recently, Gerald Ford joined a long line of presidents whose bodies have lain in state inside the majestic, symmetrical Rotunda. Will future archeologists imagine the worship of ancient leaders whose bodies were kept within circular chambers before burial?

So often we see ourselves as a lonely, cultural pinnacle, superior beyond all comparison. But if recent excavations at Stonehenge offer anything, they put our era in perspective, reminding us of an unbroken lineage shared across continents and cultures. We are simply an extension of an ancient age, living now in the next lost civilization.