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Updated: 10/15/02

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Tuesday, 15 October, 2002

I've been reading about the horror that was inflicted upon Bali in the club bombings over the weekend. And while it pains me to think of that charming, magical island as the site of such a chaotic scene, the real impact is in Australia. There are 30 Aussies confirmed dead, more than 200 injured and 160 still unaccounted for. And while that may not seem like a huge number, remember - Australia's population is only 18 million.

In relative terms, this was the size of the World Trade Center loss.

For the past year, I have been a faithful reader of Tim Blair, a blogger from Australia. His weblog is listed in the links to the left - the last one on the list. During the terrible times following 9/11 (or S11 as they call it down under), Tim was a staunch supporter of the United States, blasting the waffling, left-wing press in Australia for their criticism of the effort to fight terrorism.

As good as his writing has been, this week's has been incredible, and very helpful in my understanding about the size and scope of this tragedy in a land with massive geography and few people.

[Highly recommended reading, in case you didn't get the point.]

Normally, this sort of terrorist act might make me think twice about my dive holiday next year to that part of the world. Ah, but there are better things to worry about in PNG:

Britain's New Scientist magazine has warned that PNG's Mount Pago volcano was showing signs of a catastrophic eruption that could threaten tens of thousands of lives.

But Scientists in Papua New Guinea today played down fears of a volcanic eruption.

Up to 15,000 villagers have been evacuated since Mount Pago erupted in August, spewing ash and lava onto croplands in PNG's West New Britain Province. Mount Pago has erupted at least eight times in the past 500 years, most recently in 1933.

But local scientists said there was not enough data to say whether ongoing rumblings would lead to a major eruption.

I think it's exaggerating at this stage to say it's showing signs of a catastrophic eruption," Port Moresby Geophysical Observatory spokesman Chris McKee said.

"When you have virtually no ground information data, you just can't say that." McKee said it could take months to assess the true status of the volcano because ground sensors had only recently been installed.

"The thing's erupting and there's some ground movements, but my real feeling is we just don't have enough data to say what course the eruptions are likely to take," he said.

McKee said the area around the volcano had been well cleared of local people, many of whom are being looked after in makeshift shelters. The eruptions destroyed local food gardens, water sources, oil palm plantations and other vegetation.

Mount Pago is the active vent, or safety valve, for a caldera, one of the most dangerous types of volcano. That volcano, Witori, had erupted more than 10 times in the past 5,600 years, sometimes spewing up to four times as much debris as the 1991 eruption of Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines, New Scientist said.

"A large explosion could send flows of hot ash and debris up to 50 kilometres away, endangering up to 30,000 people and would temporarily change the Earth's climate," the magazine said.

Now before you get all excited, Mom, it's not like that's an area that I would be going to.

Oh, wait, actually, it is EXACTLY where I would be going. The airport that we fly into to get to the dive boat, Hoskins, is CLOSED indefinitely, because of falling ash. They are trying to get a new runway finished on the other side of the peninsula so that they can have air access again, but things are a little unsettled there to say the least. The nice thing is - dive boats can move, so if that area is having problems next year, they will likely move the boat to a different - safer - area.

Well, after all that, I think we need something a bit more unbeat. It's been a while since I've written about cows and/or PETA, so...

Aberdeen, Scotland -- POLICE had to break up an animal rights protest yesterday when schoolchildren in Aberdeen pelted activists with cartons of milk.

Sean Gifford of PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) and an unidentified man in a cow-suit had planned a peaceful protest at the gates of the Grammar School to let pupils know about the claimed hazards in milk.

But they had to be rescued by two female police officers when the teenage pupils launched a violent protest of their own. About 100 children, shouting "milk for the masses" and carrying banners, surrounded Mr Gifford and his "cow" partner and drenched them both in milk for about ten minutes. The police eventually intervened and escorted the PETA members back to their car.

Mr Gifford said: "I have travelled all over the UK with this protest and I have never seen anything like this before. It must be something to do with children in Aberdeen. I think they just got a bit over-excited. I’m sure they will still go home and think about our message."

Yesterday’s protest was the latest in PETA’s nationwide drive to publicise what it claims are dangers in drinking milk. They have been handing out cards with cartoon pictures of characters suffering from wind, spots and obesity as a result of dairy products. The cards tell kids to "give cows a break" and "be kind to animals and your butt and your gut" by avoiding milk.

But one pupil, Alan Smith, 16, said: "This is a stupid idea. We should be encouraged to drink milk and I certainly won’t stop drinking milk just because a man has dressed up as a cow outside my school."


~ ~ ~

Quote du jour:

"Things are seldom what they seem,/
Skim milk masquerades as cream."

-- William Gilbert (1836 - 1911) English dramatist

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