Travel: UNESCO names new World Heritage sites

Fiji and Qatar get first-ever designation; Mt. Fuji, Mt. Etna also added


Fujisan is one of the newest World Heritage sites. Photo courtesy UNESCO and Policy Planning Office, Minobu Town.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — The fact that the world’s cultural and natural heritage transcends national boundaries is perhaps best reflected each year when UNESCO designates new World Heritage sites, and this year was no exception.

At its recent meeting in Cambodia, UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee added volcanoes in Asia and Europe, historic forts in Ukraine and Qatar and a Basque whaling station in Canada.

There was one new area added in North America — El Pinacate and Gran Desierto de Altar Biosphere Reserve in Mexico, with its distinctive dormant volcanic Pinacate Shield of black and red lava flows and desert pavements to the east, and, in the west, the Gran Altar Desert with its ever changing and varied sand dunes that can reach a height of 200 meters. Continue reading

Sen. Udall keeps pushing for release of torture report

Sen. Mark Udall (D-CO).

Sen. Mark Udall (D-CO).

Vice President Joe Biden says secret congressional report should be released

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — While many Americans may have a vague idea of some of the atrocities committed against prisoners and detainees in the war on terror, Congress knows much more, and most of the information is included in a still-secret report compiled by the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.

Along with a few allies, Sen. Mark Udall (D-CO) has been pushing the Obama administration to declassify the report and to make it public, and Udall said recent remarks from Vice President Joe Biden are encouraging.

In a policy forum with Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain, Biden said very clearly that the report should be made public, and McCain left no doubt that the United States violated international law and broke treaty commitments when the CIA and its private contractors tortured detainees. You can watch the discussion on YouTube (the discussion starts at minute 40). Continue reading

Dinosaur-killing asteroid triggered a global firestorm

Chicxulub crater NASA earth observatory

The Chicxulub Crater on the Yucatan Peninusla, where an asteroid impact 66 million years ago led to the extinction of most life on Earth. Learn more at this NASA Earth Observatory website.

CU Boulder study suggests fallout from collision super-heated the sky to broil the Earth’s surface

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — A giant asteroid that rammed Earth and killed of the dinosaurs may have broiled the entire surface of the planet by super-heating the atmosphere, according to a new study by CU Boulder scientists.

Using computer models to simulate the collision, the researchers with the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences said the blast vaporized huge amounts of rock that were blown high above Earth’s atmosphere.

The re-entering  material would have heated the upper atmosphere enough to glow red for several hours at roughly 2,700 degrees Fahrenheit — about the temperature of an oven broiler element and hot enough to trigger a global firestorm that would have burned every twig, bush and tree on Earth, killing any organism not sheltered underground or underwater. Continue reading

Newly discovered magma layer may help answer some long-standing questions about plate tectonics


Research off the coast of Nicaragua led researchers to discover a previously unknown layer of magma that may help explain tectonic movements in the Earth’s crust and mantle.

Findings could lead to better understanding of earthquake dynamics

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — While the observation-based scientific understanding of plate tectonics is well advanced, researchers have long debated the exact mechanics that drive the movement of the Earth’s crust.

New findings based on research conducted off the Nicaragua coastline may help answer some of those questions, as scientists say they’ve discovered a layer of liquified molten rock in Earth’s mantle that may be responsible for the sliding motions of the planet’s massive tectonic plates. Continue reading

U.S. Geological Survey study eyes growing earthquake toll


Structural damage in San Francisco resulting from the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake. Photo courtesy USGS.

Increasing population in seismically active areas means death toll could double in 21st century

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Growing populations in earthquake-prone areas are setting the stage for an uptick in catastrophic quakes in the 21st century, according to a new study by U.S. Geological Survey scientists who evaluated historical earthquake data back to about 1500 AD against projected population increases.

Based on the data, the researchers concluded that there will be more individual earthquakes with very large death tolls as well as more people dying during earthquakes than ever before.

The study projects that about 21 catastrophic earthquakes will occur in the 21st century, triple the number during the 20th century. They also predict that total deaths in the century could more than double to approximately 3.5 million people if world population grows to 10.1 billion by 2100 from 6.1 billion in 2000. Continue reading

Senate committee gains more access to drone documents


The U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence will get more access to documents describing the Obama adminstration’s legal rational for using drones to kill American citizens.

Sen. Mark Udall: “We need to understand what the administration believes the limits on its authorities are.”

SUMMIT COUNTY — Just ahead of voting on the confirmation of John Brennan as head of the CIA, the Obama administration has said it will release additional documents on the targeted killing of Americans by drones.

Sen. Mark Udal (D-Colo.) has long advocated more transparency on the administration’s legal rationale for the drone strikes. Udall announced this week that the administration has agreed to give the committee ongoing access to the Office of the Legal Counsel opinions on targeted killings of Americans. Continue reading

Global warming: Geographers eye future Arctic shipping routes


The fastest navigation routes for ships seeking to cross the Arctic Ocean by mid-century include the Northwest Passage (on the left) and over the North Pole (center), in addition to the Northern Sea Route (on the right).

New study looks at Arctic sea ice projections and also explores geopolitical issues

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — A new study helps quantify some of recent speculation about shipping routes through the Arctic, indicating that, in 40 years, normal seagoing vessels will be able to  navigate previously inaccessible parts of the Arctic Ocean without the help of icebreakers.

The Arctic ice sheet is expected to thin to the point that polar icebreakers will be able to navigate between the Pacific and Atlantic oceans by making a straight shot over the North Pole, according to UCLA geographers Laurence C. Smith and Scott R. Stephenson. Continue reading


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