Wednesday Reads: China, North Korea, France and Solomon Islands

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Last night a strong earthquake hit the Solomon Islands, triggering a tsunami.  This is the latest information at the time of this writing, according to the Sydney Morning Herald the tsunami warning was cancelled:

Tsunami Fear After Quake Off Solomons

Residents of islands from the South Pacific to Australia were preparing Wednesday for the possible effects of a tsunami set off by an 8.0-magnitude earthquake off the Solomon Islands, according to scientists and news reports from the area.

“Sea level readings indicate a tsunami was generated,” the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said on its Web site.

The earthquake struck around 11 a.m. Australian time in the Santa Cruz Islands, part of the Solomon chain.The center said the tsunami warning was limited to the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Nauru, Papua New Guinea, Tuvalu, New Caledonia, Kosrae, Fiji, Kiribati, Wallis and Futuna.

Earthquake near Solomon Islands, Tsunami Alert Cancelled

A major earthquake registering at magnitude 8 has hit near the Solomon Islands, with early reports of villages destroyed.

A tsunami measuring 91 centimetres in height was recorded at Lata Wharf in Santa Cruz Islands, near the epicenter, and an 11-centimetre wave was recorded in Luganville, Vanuatu.

[…]

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre said the tsunami may have been destructive along coasts near the earthquake centre.

The quake struck at a depth of 5.8km at 11.07am AEDT on Wednesday, near the Santa Cruz Islands, which are part of the Solomon Islands nation.

The director at Lata Hospital on the main Santa Cruz island of Ndende said it was believed villages had been destroyed by the quake.

“The information we are getting is that some villages west and south of Lata along the coast have been destroyed, although we cannot confirm this yet,’’ the director said.

I will post updates in the comments.
There has been some wild news out of North Korea, check out the latest propoganda, which was posted on Youtube: North Korea video shows city resembling New York under missile attack
The video is shot as a dream sequence, with a young man seeing himself on board a North Korean space shuttle launched into orbit by the same type of rocket Pyongyang successfully tested in December.As the shuttle circles the globe — to the tune of “We Are the World” — the video zooms in on countries below, including a joyfully re-unified Korea.In contrast, the focus then switches to a city — shrouded in the US flag — under apparent missile attack with its skyscrapers, including what appears to be the Empire State Building, either on fire or in ruins.“Somewhere in the United States, black clouds of smoke are billowing,” runs the caption across the screen.“It seems that the nest of wickedness is ablaze with the fire started by itself,” it added.The video ends with the young man concluding that his dream will “surely come true”.

“Despite all kinds of attempts by imperialists to isolate and crush us… never will anyone be able to stop the people marching toward a final victory,” it said.

Video is at the link.

There are more calls from the UN regarding investigations of human rights in North Korea: UN Official Urges Human Rights Probe of North Korea

A report by a special U.N. investigator is calling for the United Nations to open an inquiry into North Korea for possible crimes against humanity.

In his report Tuesday, U.N. special rapporteur Marzuki Darusmanwants the Human Rights Council to authorize a probe into North Korea’s “grave, widespread and systematic” human rights violations.

He said an inquiry by the Geneva-based body should examine the responsibility of government and individuals in alleged abuses.

North Korea denounced the report before it was made public.

Meanwhile, a court decision is making headlines, this time a ruling in a Chinese Court that has granted an American woman a divorce….In China, a victory for women’s rights and the power of social media

Kim Lee, an American woman who used social media to go public with accusations of domestic violence against her wealthy and famous husband, Li Yang, has just scored a major victory for women’s rights and the rule of law in China.

As reported by Didi Kirsten Tatlow at the New York Times, Lee made history this weekend after a Beijing court granted her divorce on the grounds of abuse and issued a three-month protection order against her ex-husband, a first in the nation’s capital.

“It’s a very important case. All of society was paying attention,” Guo Jianmei, a lawyer, told the Times. “We’ve been waiting for this for a long time.”

And although censorship remains widespread in China, Lee’s court victory is also a testament to the growing power of social media to share information and avoid direct control by government censors. After Lee posted photos and an account of her experience of domestic violence on Sina Weibo, a microblogging service similar to Twitter, it quickly went viral.

Sticking with world news a bit longer, BBC news is reporting: France: Hundreds of Islamist militants killed in Mali

“Several hundred” Islamist militants have been killed since France launched an offensive in Mali last month, the French defence minister has said.

Jean-Yves Le Drian said they had been killed in airstrikes and direct combat with French troops.

Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius has said that France may begin pulling out of Mali as early as March.

Back in the US, Anti-Abortion Ideology Trumped Science In Weld County Decision To Stop Providing ‘Morning After’ Pill

When Weld County commissioners decided to stop providing emergency contraception to county patients, concerns rooted in anti-abortion politics trumped scientific facts and testimony provided by the county’s medical chief, according to documents obtained by The Colorado Independent.

Board meeting minutes from the summer of 2010 detail how members led by Commissioner William Garcia were concerned that the popular “Plan B” contraception drugs dispensed at the county’s low-income Title X family-planning clinics prevented pregnancy by destroying fertilized eggs, or inducing abortions, as they put it. Garcia cited reports he found on the Internet to bolster his case and, echoing rhetoric made popular over the last four years by abortion opponents battling health-care reform, he said the board should eliminate Plan B from the county’s services because the law of the land bars tax funding for abortions.

Same old crap…yes? “Reports on the internet.”

Dr. Mark Wallace, who directs the county’s health department, explained to commissioners on at least three separate occasions that summer that Plan B contraception can not abort a fertilized egg. He recommended Weld County continue to dispense Plan B, and he objected to Garcia’s proposal to include any language in the county’s Title X contract that would suggest Plan B was an abortion drug.

“Dr Wallace stated he has a strong professional opinion that Plan B does not disrupt established pregnancies,” the record of the July 12 meeting reads (pdf). “[Wallace] stated the language placed in the agreement regarding Plan B should be medically accurate and should not refer to [PlanB] as an abortive agent.”

Commissioner Barbara Kirkmeyer–the only woman on the five-member board–was concerned that Garcia’s proposals would put funding at risk and bring popular county family-planning services to an end.

Here it comes…

An anti-abortion Republican, Kirkmeyer was sympathetic to her colleagues’ concerns, but she felt the research cited to support Garcia’s proposals was unproven.

“Plan B is basically a high-dose birth control pill,” she argued, according to the minutes from a May 24 meeting (pdf). “Why is there concern with [Plan B] and not standard forms [of birth control]?

“A lot of women have and will benefit from this type of counseling,” she said.

Despite Wallace’s testimony and initial pushback from Commissioner Kirkmeyer, Garcia’s motion carried unanimously. After roughly a decade providing emergency contraception, Weld County’s clinics stopped dispensing Plan B pills. Conservative Weld and El Paso are the only two counties in Colorado where official policy is to not offer Plan B. Instead, the counties refer patients asking for emergency contraception to other low-cost providers, mainly to Planned Parenthood.

Then the next step is to defund Planned Parenthood, as they have in Texas.

MoJo has an article about the mass shootings of late, What We Still Don’t Know About Mass Shootings

Late last week Megan McArdle of the Daily Beast posted an online interview she did with criminologist James Alan Fox, in part taking issue with our mass shootings investigation at Mother Jones. I was glad to see McArdle continue the conversation with Fox; as he and I agreed in a recent exchange, mass shootings deserve continuing inquiry.

Give that a read.

A new study is out, Mentally Ill Smoke 30% of All Cigarettes.

Federal survey results indicate that smoking intensities as well as smoking rates are dramatically higher in the mentally ill compared with other Americans, officials said Tuesday.

A joint “Vital Signs” report from the CDC and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) indicated that, among adults who reported symptoms consistent with a recognized mental illness, 36.1% were current smokers, compared with 21.4% of the rest of the population.

The report, based on data from the 2009-2011 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, also found that 30.9% of all cigarettes consumed in the U.S. were smoked by the mentally ill. In part, this disproportion reflects heavier smoking in the mentally ill, with an average of 331 cigarettes per month compared with 310 in the rest of the smoking population.

Individuals classified as mentally ill in the study represented 19.9% of the sample surveyed after weighing to reflect the general population’s demographics.

I wonder if the subject of this next and last article link would be able to smell a smoker from 100 feet. Evidence moles can smell in stereo

Most mammals, including humans, see in stereo and hear in stereo. But whether they can also smell in stereo is the subject of a long-standing scientific controversy.

Now, a new study shows definitively that the common mole (Scalopus aquaticus) – the same critter that disrupts the lawns and gardens of homeowners throughout the eastern United States, Canada and Mexico – relies on stereo sniffing to locate its prey. The paper that describes this research, “Stereo and Serial Sniffing Guide Navigation to an Odor Source in a Mammals,” was published on Feb. 5 in the journal Nature Communications.

“I came at this as a skeptic. I thought the moles’ nostrils were too close together to effectively detect odor gradients,” said Kenneth Catania, the Stevenson Professor of Biological Sciences at Vanderbilt University, who conducted the research.

What he found turned his assumptions upside down and opened new areas for potential future research. “The fact that moles use stereo odor cues to locate food suggests other mammals that rely heavily on their sense of smell, like dogs and pigs might also have this ability,” Catania said.

Catania describes how he did it…

He created a radial arena with food wells spaced around a 180-degree circle with the entrance for the mole located at the center. He then ran a number of trials with the food (pieces of earthworm) placed randomly in different wells. The chamber was temporarily sealed so he could detect each time the mole sniffed by the change in air pressure.

“It was amazing. They found the food in less than five seconds and went directly to the right food well almost every time,” Catania said. “They have a hyper-sensitive sense of smell.”

That is a good start for this Wednesday morning, what are you up to today?