World Bulletin/News Desk
Armed police fired stun grenades to disperse the crowd of several hundred protesters, who had gathered outside the Soweto campus of the University of Johannesburg, where Obama was due to address a town hall meeting with students.
World Bulletin / News Desk
Pointing to Africa‘s crippling lack of electrical power, President Barack Obama is due to announce on Sunday a $7 billion initiative over five years to double access to power in sub-Saharan Africa.(Author’s Insert: United States gross national debt is currently more than $16 trillion and growing by more than $3 billion every day)
“We see this as the next phase in our development strategy and a real focal point in the president’s agenda going forward,” deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes told reporters traveling with the president.
The president has chosen historically resonant locations for the address, and is due to speak at the University of Cape Town after touring the prison on Robben Island. Robert F. Kennedy’s 1966 speech at the university linked the struggles against apartheid and the U.S. civil rights movement and was seen as giving encouragement to the movement, while Robben Island is where anti-apartheid icon Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for 18 of his 27 years in jail.
The president will cite South Africa‘s long struggle to defeat apartheid and the U.S. civil rights movement’s success in overcoming racial inequality as models of movements that brought about change in the face of daunting obstacles, aides said. He will call on young Africans to summon similar energy to complete the work of those movements and to firmly establish economic growth, democratic government, and stable societies across the continent.
Obama has been faulted for lacking a grand program to benefit Africa like the HIV/AIDS initiative launched by President George W. Bush or the broad reductions of trade barriers achieved by President Bill Clinton.
Many Africans have been disappointed at what they see as Obama‘s hands-off approach to the continent, noting that his first extended trip the continent has not come until his second term in office despite his African ancestry. Obama‘s father was a native of Kenya.
The president’s aides say he has been held back by the need to wind down two wars and to right the U.S. economy after the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression.
Despite severe U.S. budget constraints, the power initiative could provide Obama with just such a signature program.
DARKNESS BY NIGHT
Experts agree that the lack of electricity is a tremendous hindrance to Africa‘s advancement.
“Africa is largely a continent of darkness by night,” said an official at a multilateral agency who spoke on condition of anonymity. “Every which way you look at this, Africa is behind the curve and pays more.”
Roughly two-thirds of sub-Saharan Africa lacks power, a level that rises as high as 85 percent in rural areas, White House aide Gayle Smith said.
Lack of power inhibits business investment, prevents children from studying after dark, and makes it harder to keep vaccines from spoiling in rural areas, she said.
The United States will initially work with Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Liberia, Nigeria and Tanzania to develop electric power generation, officials said. It will also cooperate with Uganda and Mozambique on oil and gas management.
The program will draw on a range of U.S. government agencies to achieve its goals. For example, the U.S. Overseas Private Investment Corp will commit as much as $1.5 billion in finance and insurance to help U.S. companies manage the risks associated with the projects.
Similarly, the U.S. Export-Import Bank will make up to $5 billion available to support U.S. exports to develop power projects, the officials said.
The private sector will also be involved. Officials said General Electric Co has committed to power generation projects in Tanzania and Ghana, officials added.
The president’s trip has taken him to Senegal and South Africa and will wind up in Tanzania on Monday and Tuesday. Although concerns over the ailing health of anti-apartheid hero Mandela have overshadowed much of the trip, the president has sounded the theme of Africa‘s economic potential at every stop.
“It’s something other countries have done,” Rhodes said. “What we want to do is continue the kind of high-level engagement we’ve had on this trip.”
Time for threatening Istanbul earthquake approaching:
World Bulletin/News Desk
The results of a study conducted by the Kandilli Observatory and the GFZ German Geological Research Centre on a possible Istanbul earthquake have been published on the website of the Nature scientific journal.
The southern fault line is just 15 km from the city’s historic center and after the 1999 earthquake, the fracture zone reached this fault line. This fault line has been accumulating energy since the 1766earthquake.
According to the latest data from the earthquake monitoring system located on the Islands, no activity has occurred along this fault line over the last four years. This reinforces the theory that this area may be the starting point of the earthquake in Istanbul.
According to German scientist Marco Bohnhoff, these studies cannot predict an earthquake, but can help in determining the center and severity of future quakes.
The IRIS spacecraft is seen in the clean room at the Lockheed Martin Advanced Technology Center (LMSAL) in Palo Alto, Calif., where it was designed and built. (Photo: LMSAL)
NASA telescope to probe long-standing solar mystery:
World Bulletin / News Desk
A small NASA telescope was launched into orbit on Thursday on a mission to determine how the sun heats its atmosphere to millions of degrees, sending off rivers of particles that define the boundaries of the solar system.
The study is far from academic. Solar activity directly impacts Earth’s climate and the space environment beyond the planet’s atmosphere. Solar storms can knock out power grids, disrupt radio signals and interfere with communications, navigation and other satellites in orbit.
“We live in a very complex society and the sun has a role to play in it,” said physicist Alan Title, with Lockheed Martin Space Systems Advanced Technology Center in Palo Alto, California, which designed and built the telescope.
Scientists have been trying to unravel the mechanisms that drive the sun for decades but one fundamental mystery endures: How it manages to release energy from its relatively cool, 10,000 degree Fahrenheit (5,500 degree Celsius) surface into an atmosphere that can reach up to 5 million degrees Fahrenheit (2.8 million Celsius).
At its core, the sun is essentially a giant fusion engine that melds hydrogen atoms into helium. As expected, temperatures cool as energy travels outward through the layers. But then in the lower atmosphere, known as the chromosphere, temperatures heat up again.
Pictures and data relayed by the Interface Region Imaging Spectrograph, or IRIS, telescope may finally provide some answers about how that happens.
The 4-foot (1.2-meter) long, 450-pound (204-kg) observatory will be watching the sun from a vantage point about 400 miles (643 km) above Earth. It is designed to capture detailed images of light moving from the sun’s surface, known as the photosphere, into the chromosphere. Temperatures peak in the sun’s outer atmosphere, the corona.
All that energy fuels a continuous release of charged particles from the sun into what is known as the solar wind, a pressure bubble that fills and defines the boundaries of the solar system.
“Every time we look at the sun in more detail, it opens up a new window for us,” said Jeffrey Newmark, IRIS program scientist at NASA headquarters in Washington, D.C.
The telescope was launched aboard an Orbital Sciences Corp Pegasus rocket at 10:27 p.m. EDT Thursday (0227 GMT Friday). Pegasus is an air-launched system that is carried aloft by a modified L-1011 aircraft that took off from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California about 57 minutes before launch.
The rocket was released from beneath the belly of the plane at an altitude of about 39,000 feet (11,900 meters) before it ignited to carry the telescope into orbit.
IRIS, which cost about $145 million including the launch service, is designed to last for two years.
World Bulletin / News Desk
High levels of a toxic substance called strontium-90 have been found in groundwater at the devastated Fukushima nuclear power plant in Japan, the utility that operates the facility said on Wednesday.
Strontium-90 is a by-product of the fission of uranium and plutonium in nuclear reactors as well as nuclear weapons, according to the website of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
The discovery of rising levels of such radioactive material is likely to complicate efforts by the utility, Tokyo Electric Power Co, to get approval to release what it describes as water contaminated with low levels of radiation into the Pacific Ocean.
“This contaminated water should not be released to the ocean,” said Michiaki Furukawa, a nuclear chemist and professor emeritus at Nagoya University. “They have to keep it somewhere so that it can’t escape outside the plant.”
Tepco is being overwhelmed with contaminated liquids as it flushes water over the three reactors at the seaside plant that had meltdowns after an earthquake and tsunami two years ago knocked out power and cooling systems.
High levels of tritium, a less harmful substance, had also been found, Toshihiko Fukuda, a general manager at Tepco, told a news conference.
Tepco did not believe any of the strontium-90 found in groundwater tests had leaked into the ocean, Fukuda said. The company has constantly revised announcements about radiation levels and other problems at the plant since the disaster.
Explosions that rocked the plant at the height of the crisis discharged large amounts of radioactive material into the atmosphere and surrounding land and ocean.
Testing of groundwater outside the turbine building of reactor No. 2 had shown the level of strontium-90 had increased by more than 100 times between December 2012 and May this year, Fukuda said.
He said it was likely that radioactive material entered the environment after water poured over the melted fuel in unit No. 2 and leaked out via the turbine building, which is located between the reactor and the ocean.
Testing of groundwater showed the reading for strontium-90 increased from 8.6 becquerels to 1,000 becquerels per litre between Dec. 8, 2012 and May 24, Fukuda said. The elevated reading of strontium is more than 30 times the legal limit of 30 becquerels per litre.
“Tepco needs to carry out more regular testing in specific areas and disclose everything they find,” added Furukawa, the nuclear chemist.
Testing also showed 500,000 becquerels per litre of tritium on May 24, compared with the legal limit of 60,000 and 29,000 on Dec. 8, 2012. A becquerel is a measure of radioactive decay.
Tepco has struggled with the clean-up of Fukushima, the site of the world’s worst nuclear disaster in 25 years. It said in April it was running out of capacity to store the water contaminated in its still-makeshift cooling system.
Adding to its difficulties, about 400 tonnes of groundwater flow daily into the reactor buildings only to be mixed with highly contaminated water that comes from cooling the melted fuel.
It has been trying to convince sceptical local fisherman that it is safe to dump 100 tonnes of the groundwater a day into the ocean to take some of the strain off its storage facilities.
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