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Posts Tagged ‘earthquake

“Results aside, the ability to have complete faith in another human being is one of the finest qualities a person can possess”*…

 

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Downtown San Francisco ablaze after the 1906 earthquake, from the slope of Nob Hill

 

Amadeo Peter Giannini was born in San Jose, California in 1870. The son of Italian immigrants had an outsized personality and unlimited faith in the American dream.

Giannini began by selling fruits and vegetables from a horse-drawn wagon. But he was made for bigger things. At age 34, he launched a small bank in the Italian neighborhood of North Beach, San Francisco. At the time, big banks lent only to large businesses, handled deposits of the wealthy, and frowned on aggressive advertising.

The novice financier knocked on doors and buttonholed people on the street. He persuaded “unbanked” immigrants that gold and silver coins were safer in vaults than under mattresses. Moreover, the money would earn interest at his “Bank of Italy.”

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On the morning of April 18, 1906, a massive earthquake hit San Francisco. The ensuing fires burned down the large banks. Their superheated metal vaults could not be opened for weeks—lest the cash and paper records catch fire when oxygen rushed in.

As flames threatened his one-room bank, Giannini spirited $80,000 in coins out of town. He hid the precious metal under crates of oranges and steered his wagons past gangs of thugs and looters in the streets.

As other banks struggled to recover, Giannini made headlines by setting up a makeshift bank on a North Beach wharf. He extended loans to beleaguered residents “on a handshake” and helped revive the city.

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The innovative bank welcomed small borrowers who might otherwise have to use high-cost loan sharks. Most banks at the time regarded people with modest incomes as credit risks not worth the paperwork. But experience had taught Giannini otherwise: that working class people were no less likely to pay their debts than the wealthy.

Seeking more customers, the former produce salesman returned to his old haunts—the fertile valleys of California. He “walked in rows beside farmers engaged in plowing” to explain how bank branches make credit cheaper and more reliable. Town by town, he built the first statewide branching system in the nation.

On November 1, 1930, the Bank of Italy in San Francisco changed its name to Bank of America. The bank today has the same national bank charter number as Giannini’s old bank— #13044.

When A.P. Giannini died in 1949, the former single-teller office in North Beach claimed more than 500 branches and $6 billion in assets. It was then the largest bank in the world…

How a humane response to a community tragedy launched what became the biggest bank in the world: “Bank of America: The Humble Beginnings of a Large Bank.”

* Haruki Murakami, The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle

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As we learn from our elders, we might recall that it was on this date in 2006 that the first news stories based on the Panama Papers were published.  A cache of 11.5 million leaked documents that detailed financial and attorney–client information for more than 214,488 offshore entities, all from Panamanian law firm and corporate service provider Mossack Fonseca, the Panama Papers chronicled tax evasion, money laundering and fraud involving 12 current or former world leaders; 128 other public officials and politicians; and hundreds of celebrities, businessmen, and other wealthy individuals from over 200 countries.

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An online chat between Süddeutsche Zeitung reporter Bastian Obermayer and anonymous source John Doe

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“There’s no big apocalypse. Just an endless procession of little ones”*…

 

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Humanity is facing multiple possible apocalypses, with narratives that often miss an important point: The apocalypse probably won’t be quick or final. It will be an environment, not an event or an end point for humanity. The apocalypse is more likely to bring misery than catharsis or salvation. Although worst-case scenarios theoretically make it easier to prevent dire outcomes, in the case of slow-moving apocalypses such as climate change, it’s difficult for humans to envision the scale of the problem and to imagine how we will actually experience it…

Via Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, Jamias Cascio argues that we’d be well served to face up to the deeply dramatic– if not melodramatic– realities that we face: “The apocalypse: It’s not the end of the world.” [free access until January 1, 2020]

* Neil Gaiman, Signal to Noise

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As we take care, we might we might recall that it was on this date (coincidentally, now Chicken Soup of the Soul Day) in 1952 that 9.0 Mw earthquake centered at Severo-Kurilsk in the Kamchatka Peninsula triggered a major tsunami.  the majority of the Severo-Kurilsk citizens fled to the surrounding hills, where they escaped the first wave.  But most of them returned to the town and were killed by the second wave.  According to the authorities, out of a population of 6,000 people, 2,336 died; the survivors were evacuated to continental Russia.  The settlement was then rebuilt in another location.

The tsunami caused flooding as far away as Hawaii, almost 3400 miles way.  Midway Island (over 1800 miles away) was inundated with water, flooding streets and buildings.  On the Hawaiian Islands the waves destroyed boats, knocked down telephone lines, destroyed piers, scoured beaches, and flooded lawns.  In Honolulu Harbor a cement barge was thrown into a freighter. In Hilo Bay a small bridge connecting Coconut Island to the shore was destroyed by a wave when it lifted off its foundation and then smashed down.

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Midway Island after the tsunami

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Written by LW

November 12, 2019 at 1:01 am

“Disasters are called natural, as if nature were the executioner and not the victim”*…

 

The United States is an enormous country, spanning mountains, deserts, forests, prairie, tundra, and more. This varied terrain is also home to many natural hazards spawned by air, water, fire, and forces beneath the Earth’s surface.

Some of these threats are dramatic; the United States and its territories have the greatest number of active volcanoes of any country except Indonesia, as well as the most tornadoes. Other hazards, like heat waves, are less flashy but can still kill you.

Different regions of the country face very different hazards. But which part of the United States is the most dangerous? It turns out there’s no simple answer, although the south does have a particularly generous share of hazards…

See how the country’s natural menaces differ by geography at “Where in the United States is nature most likely to kill you?

* Eduardo Galeano

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As we calculate our odds, we might recall that it was on this date in 1899 that New Richmond Tornado– an estimated F5 storm, formed in the early evening, and went on to tear a 45-mile long path of destruction through St. Croix, Polk and Barron counties in west-central Wisconsin, leaving 117 people dead, twice as many injured, and hundreds homeless.  The worst devastation wrought by the tornado was at the city of New Richmond, Wisconsin, which took a direct hit from the storm.  In all, more than $300,000 ($8,825,000 in today’s dollars) in damage was reported.  Still, it ranks as only the ninth deadliest tornado in United States history.

The ruins of New Richmond Methodist Church after the tornado

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Written by LW

June 12, 2018 at 1:01 am

Out of harm’s way?…

The online real-estate service Trulia has crunched federal-disaster data to create a series of local maps and a collection of national maps showing the worst cities to live in for weatherphobes and quake-haters – stay out of California metropolises if you fear having your home burnt down, for instance, and Oklahoma City is a terrible place to hunker if you don’t want EF-4 twisters knocking at your door. The Trulia team warns:

Most metros were high risk for at least one of the five natural disasters [hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, forest fires and earthquakes], even though no metro area is high risk for everything. Earthquakes and wildfires tend to go hand-in-hand, with California and other parts of the West at high risk for both. Hurricanes and flooding also tend to strike the same places, particularly in Florida and along the Gulf Coast. Tornadoes affect much of the south-central U.S. What parts of the country are left? Not the Northeast coastal cities, which – as we all know after Hurricane Sandy – face hurricane and flood risk. Instead, the metros at medium-to-low risk for all five disasters span Ohio (Cleveland, Akron, and Dayton), upstate New York (Syracuse and Buffalo), and other parts of the Northeast and Midwest, away from the coasts…

Where should one head to avoid the next great storm? Here are the top 10 large housing markets in America that are most removed from “nature’s wrath,” according to the company’s risk assessment (the prices refer to the average home-asking price per square foot):

  1. Syracuse, New York* ($89)
  2. Cleveland ($80)
  3. Akron, Ohio ($81)
  4. Buffalo ($93)
  5. Bethesda-Rockville-Frederick, Maryland ($174)
  6. Dayton, Ohio ($72)
  7. Allentown, Pennsylvania-New Jersey ($109)
  8. Chicago ($113)
  9. Denver ($129)
  10. Warren-Troy-Farmington Hills, Michigan ($94)

* Syracuse: Trulia says the “data on flood risk, which comes from the Federal Emergency Management Agency [FEMA], is incomplete for Syracuse and for several other metros not on the ten lower-risk list.”

Read the whole story at “These U.S. Cities Are the Safest Refuges From Natural Disasters“; and explore the Trulia maps here.

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As we dream of Oz, we might recall that it was on this date in 1834 that Mt. Vesuvius erupted. Again.

Vesuvius famously erupted in 79 CE, destroying Pompeii and Herculaneum; but the volcano had erupted many times before, and has again, many times since.

The last major eruption was in March 1944. It destroyed the villages of San Sebastiano al Vesuvio, Massa di Somma, Ottaviano, and part of San Giorgio a Cremano.  At the time of the eruption, the United States Army Air Forces 340th Bombardment Group was based at Pompeii Airfield near Terzigno, Italy, just a few kilometers from the eastern base of the mountain. Tephra (rock fragments ejected by the eruption) and hot ash damaged the fuselages, the engines, the Plexiglas windshields, and the gun turrets of the 340th’s B-25 Mitchell bombers; estimates were that 78 to 88 aircraft were completely destroyed.

Vesuvius from Portici by Joseph Wright of Derby

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Written by LW

August 18, 2013 at 1:01 am

Chile today, hot tamale!…

 

In 2007, the Naga Bhut Joloki or “Ghost chile” was named the hottest pepper on earth. Then in 2010 the Naga Viper stole the title. And in 2012 the Trinidad Scorpion Moruga Blend moved into the lead. And for good reason.

The Scorpion ranks at round 2 million heat units on the Scoville scale. (For comparison, tabasco sauce has 2,500–5,000 Scoville heat units or SHU.) What exactly does that mean? When the scale was invented in 1912 by pharmacist Wilbur Scoville in search of a heat-producing ointment, it was based on human taste buds. The idea was to dilute an alcohol-based extract made with the given pepper until it no longer tasted hot to a group of taste testers. The degree of dilution translates to the SHU. In other words, according to the Scoville scale, you would need as many as 5,000 cups of water to dilute 1 cup of tobacco sauce enough to no longer taste the heat.

And while the Scoville scale is still widely used, says Dr. Paul Bosland, professor of horticulture at New Mexico State University and author or several books on chile peppers, it no longer relies on the fallible human taste bud…

For the reason “Ghost chile” is so named– and for more about the valiant folks who ponder peppers for our protection, the techniques they use, and links to the Chile Pepper Institute (at New Mexico State University), where readers can acquire a nifty chile tasting wheel— see “How Hot is That Pepper? Unpacking the Scoville Scale.”

[photo: “WhisperToMe“]

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As we remind ourselves that water doesn’t quell the heat, it spreads it, we might recall that it was on this date in 1556 that the deadliest earthquake in history (and the third deadliest natural disaster in history) occurred in Shaanxi Province, China; it killed an estimated 830,000 people.  Modern estimates, based on geological data, give the earthquake a magnitude of approximately 7.9-8 on the moment magnitude scale (the successor to the Richter scale).  Its epicenter was in the Wei River Valley, near the cities of Huaxian, Weinan and Huayin.  In Huaxian, every single building and home was demolished, killing more than half the residents of the city.

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Written by LW

January 23, 2013 at 1:01 am

It’s not too early…

 

… to begin the ruminations on 2011, a year that will live, if not in infamy, then firmly sandwiched between 2010 and 2012.

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Dave Pell’s nifty Next Draft offer a jump-start on the process:

Big Lists of Everything

– Atlantic Magazine’s 2011 Year in Review.

– NY Mag’s Year in Culture (movies, exhibitions, music, etc)

– Time’s Top Ten of Everything (and they sort of mean everything).

– AOL (with HuffPo) presents this year’s Best of the Best (in every category you can think of).

– LA Times Year in Review (lots of unique lists here, from memorable quotes to best Google Doodles).

– E! Online’s List of Everything Entertainment, Celebrity and Royal.

MTV’s Best of 2011 (Movie Animals, Biggest Breakups, Photo Leaks, etc.)

Books and Articles to Read

– NY Times Notable Books of 2011.

– Slate’s Best Books of 2011.

– Salon: Writers Choose Their Favorite Books of 2011.

– Atlantic Editors Choose the Best Book I Read This Year.

– LongForm’s Best Articles of the Year.

– Give Me Something to Read’s 2011 Highlights.

Photos To Look At

– Atlantic’s InFocus Year in Photos: Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3.

– Reuters Photos of the Year.

– BuzzFeed’s 45 Most Powerful Images of 2011.

– Time picks the Top 10 Photos of 2011.

– Buzzfeed’s 50 Best Animal Photos of 2011.

Things to Watch on a Screen

– Rolling Stone’s Best TV Moments of 2011.

– Daily Beast presents the Top Viral Videos of the Year.

– New Yorker’s 26 Best Films of 2011.

– Salon’s 10 Best Movies of 2011.

– Atlantic’s Best TV of 2011.

– Good Magazine’s Most Memorable Video Moments (in 1:34).

– AdWeek’s 10 Best Commercials of 2011.

Music to Crank

– NPR’s Year in Music.

– Rolling Stone’s 50 Best Singles.

– Pitchfork’s Top Tracks, Videos, Photos and more.

– NPR’s 5 Best Cover Songs of 2011.

Items for Purchase

– GQ’s Best Stuff of the Year.

– Wired’s Wish List.

News, Memes, and Oddities to Ponder

– NPR’s Top Ten News Memes.

– Atlantic’s Top Ten Politics Stories of 2011.

– Buzzfeed’s 40 Best Memes.

– WaPo’s Best Editorial Cartoons of the Year.

– Buzzfeed’s 16 Most WTF Moments of 2011.

– Atlantic’s Most Important Tech Stories of the Year.

– Buzzfeed’s 45 Things We Should Forget About 2011.

– Rolling Stone’s Top Ten Memes of 2011.

– Buzzfeed’s Top Ten Protest Signs of 2011.

– The 2011 Year’s News in Lego.

– Top 10 Geeky Marriage Proposals of 2011.

– Funny or Die’s Winners of 2011 in categories such as: Most Women Forcibly Bedded By a Guy You Never Heard Of Before This Year, But Almost Became Our President.

– And of course, the Onion’s Year in Review.

 

As we reminisce and assess, we might recall that it was exactly 200 years ago– on this date in 1811– in the Mississippi River Valley near New Madrid, Missouri, that the largest series of earthquakes in U.S. history began; by the time it was complete, it had raised and lowered parts of the Mississippi Valley by as much as 15 feet and changed the course of the Mississippi River.  The earthquakes– measuring as high as 8.6 magnitude on the Richter scale– were felt strongly over roughly 50,000 sq. mi., and moderately across nearly 1 million sq. mi.  The 1906 San Francisco earthquake, by comparison, was felt moderately over roughly 6,200 sq. mi.

“The Great Earthquake at New Madrid.” a nineteenth-century woodcut from Devens’ Our First Century (1877) source

Written by LW

December 16, 2011 at 1:01 am

It’s later than you think…

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The earthquake that killed more than 700 people in Chile on Feb. 27 probably shifted the Earth’s axis and shortened the day, a National Aeronautics and Space Administration scientist said.

Earthquakes can involve shifting hundreds of kilometers of rock by several meters, changing the distribution of mass on the planet. This affects the Earth’s rotation, said Richard Gross, a geophysicist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, who uses a computer model to calculate the effects.

“The length of the day should have gotten shorter by 1.26 microseconds (millionths of a second),” Gross, said today in an e-mailed reply to questions. “The axis about which the Earth’s mass is balanced should have moved by 2.7 milliarcseconds (about 8 centimeters or 3 inches).”

“It’s what we call the ice-skater effect,” David Kerridge, head of Earth hazards and systems at the British Geological Survey in Edinburgh, said today in a telephone interview. “As the ice skater puts when she’s going around in a circle, and she pulls her arms in, she gets faster and faster. It’s the same idea with the Earth going around if you change the distribution of mass, the rotation rate changes.”

Read the whole story in this Bloomberg filing reprinted on BusinessWeek.com.

As we re-synchronize our watches, we might recall that it was on this date in 1977 that the rings around Uranus were discovered.  In fact, in 1789 William Herschel had discussed possible rings around the seventh planet.  But it was only 23 years ago that, using the Kuiper Airbourne Observatory, the rings– 13 bands of extremely dark particles, varying in size from micrometers to a fraction of a meter– were definitively observed.

Hubble Space Telescope photo of Uranus, its rings, and its moons

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