Boing Boing 

No one harmed in Whac-a-Mole/Rock-a-Fire band warehouse explosion

Thankfully, no humans were harmed by last week's explosion in Aaron Fechter's warehouse in Orlando, FL, but it did leave "robots scattered around burning rubble."

Fechter invented both the Whac-a-Mole machine and the animatronic, coin-operated Rock-A-Fire robot musicians who delighted audiences in Chuck-E-Cheeses around the world. Lately, he had been experimenting with carbohydrillium, a cleaner-burning alternative to propane, which was apparently the culprit in yesterday's explosion. His warehouse was described by one witness as a "Joker's lair," and a video tour posted to YouTube shows it full of computer models, animatronic creatures, and carbohydrillium gear.

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Airplane collides with car

2012 was a terrifying year for Russian dashcam videos, but the badness reaches its peak on Dec 29, with this footage of a plane disintegrating crosswise to busy highway traffic.

Shopping mall shark-tank ruptures


Shanghai's Orient shopping centre experienced disaster on Dec 18 when a huge aquarium filled with lemon-sharks, turtles and fish ruptured, hurting 16 people and killing three sharks and "dozens of turtles and small fish." The tank's failure was blamed on a combination of cold temperatures and substandard materials.

Aquarium bursts in shopping centre in Shanghai (via JWZ)

BP will admit crimes, pay $4.5 billion in Gulf spill settlement

British oil company BP today announced it will pay $4.5 billion "in fines and other payments to the government," and plead guilty to 14 criminal charges resulting from the giant oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico two years ago. How much of that do you imagine will make it to the poor and working-class families whose homes, bodies, and lives were damaged or destroyed by the toxic disaster?

Here is BP's statement. Coverage here in the New York Times, and here in the LA Times.

Via @meghangordon, an interesting footnote: The National Academy of Sciences gets $350 million of the BP settlement to study human health and environmental protection in the Gulf of Mexico.

Boing Boing's BP spill archives are here.

Image, via NYT: The explosion on the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig in the Gulf of Mexico that was connected to a well owned by BP killed 11 workers and spilled millions of barrels of oil. (photo: US Coast Guard)

Can Sandy victims sue power companies for extended outages?

Short version: yes, but it's not easy. "To win, New York ratepayers have to show that their power company was not just slow or inefficient. Instead, Kreppein said, under a 1985 New York Court of Appeals ruling called Strauss v. Belle Realty, electric company customers must establish that the utility was grossly negligent — that its conduct was way outside the bounds of reasonableness." Alison Frankel at Reuters.

I still love New York, the t-shirt

"I Still Love NY" shirt by Sebastian Errazuriz. Available at Grey Area. 100% of proceeds go to Sandy Relief. Photo by Clayton Cubitt.

After Sandy, on election day: photographs by Kate Black

Belle Harbor, Rockaway, November 6th, 2012. Kate Black.

Kate Black has been volunteering in post-Sandy recovery efforts in the Rockaways and other areas surrounding NYC where people lost power, homes, and belongings in the storm. She has also been photographing the people and places she encounters. Above, one of many images captured on Election Day.

Portraits of devastation in Rockaways after Hurricane Sandy: Charles le Brigand

Stéphane Missier, aka Charles le Brigand, has been photographing people and scenes in and around New York City in the week following Hurricane Sandy.

Engineers warned of storm surge threat to NYC in 2009

“Scientists and engineers were saying years before Katrina happened, ‘Hey, it’s going to happen, folks. Stop putting your head in the sand.” —Malcolm Bowman, professor of oceanography at the State University at Stony Brook. In 2009, he and other experts convened at a meeting in NYC of the American Society of Civil Engineers, and issued warnings that surge barriers or tide gates would help protect. Read more in James Glanz and Mireya Navarro's NYT report.

In post-Sandy "dewatering" mission, Army engineers drain one Olympic-sized pool's worth of water per minute

In an Army Corps of Engineers press release, details on the astounding rate at which workers are draining water from New York's subway and transit tunnels: "To date, the USACE has used about 50 pumps of various sizes to remove 64 million gallons of water from the New York City mass transit system. Operations are ongoing at six sites, with pumps removing about 116,000 gallons per minute. The 696,000 gallons the pumps are draining each minute exceeds the amount of water in one Olympic-size swimming pool (660,000 gallons). There were roughly 600 million gallons in the tunnels when pumping operations began on Thursday, Nov. 1." (via Noah Shachtman).

NOLA to New York

Andy Kopsa created the "Nola to New York" tumblr during Hurricane Sandy. The idea: Katrina survivors talk to New Yorkers suffering after the storm.

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Energy emergency: Sandy profiteers sell gas, generators at predatory prices on post-apocalypse Craigslist

Gas supplies remain extremely limited in New York and New Jersey, nearly a week after hurricane Sandy, and the power's still out for many in those states and others, such as nearby Connecticut.

New Jersey governor Chris Christie signed an executive order announcing a state of energy emergency and instituting gas rationing for the purchase of fuel by motorists in 12 counties, starting today at noon.

Make way for price-gouging entrepreneurs!

Try this, to get a taste of how bad it is: search for "gasoline," "gas," or "generator" on NY Craigslist right now. Gas sales I've found on Craigslist range from $5 to $20 a gallon, but there are probably ads at higher prices. My favorite was the 55-gallon drum of gas for a thousand bucks. Unleaded! Cash only, folks.

Not only is this exploitative, it's explosive. A black market of gasoline reselling, without appropriate safety measures, seems to me like a recipe for tragedy.

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How Victoria's Secret saved the National Guard from Hurricane Sandy

Why do we love Noah Shachtman and Wired's Danger Room blog? Because they break very important stories like this:

On Monday night, Hurricane Sandy hit the armory of the New York Army National Guard’s 69th Infantry Regiment, leaving the soldiers without power, hot water, or anything but the most rudimentary means of communicating with the outside world. So the next morning, the Regiment’s officers made an emergency plea — to the producers of the Victoria’s Secret fashion show.

As they had done for the last three years running, the lingerie company was holding its annual television event at the Regiment’s historic armory, located at 25th street and Lexington Avenue in Manhattan. For the show, the producers had hauled in eight massive 500 kilowatt generators. Of course, the producers said, we’d be happy to help. Hours later, the lights flashed back on.

“We were dead in the water until Victoria’s Secret showed up,” says Capt. Brendan Gendron, the Regiment’s operations officer.

You'll want to read the rest at Wired.com.

Gasoline shortage makes Sandy recovery harder for NYC

Snip from a New York Times update on the Sandy recovery in New York and New Jersey, and the impact of limited gas supplies on rescue and emergency services:

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Downtown After Sandy: Walking 3 miles in blacked-out NYC, the night after the storm

Boing Boing pal Joe Sabia, who collaborates with us on the Boing Boing Virgin America in-flight TV channel and is a talented director—and a resident of New York's Little Italy neighborhood!—shot and edited this amazing video.

"Walking 3 miles from Mulberry Street to Grand Central on the night after Hurricane Sandy," Joe explains. "Everything south of 38th street was dark."

Observations:

1) People used pay phones.

2) Lone cops would stand on corners keeping an eye out on things.

3) A few bars would have candle-lit drinking hours. Which reminded me of NYC in the 1700s, if I was alive then

I just watched Amadeus yesterday. That's why Mozart is scoring this video.

NYC's 911 system overloaded during Hurricane Sandy

The "Superstorm" that wallopped the Northeast US this week serves as another reminder of how easily overwhelmed New York City’s 911 phone system is. So much so that Mayor Mike Bloomberg again and again urged citizens not to use it to report anything but the most immediate life-threatening emergencies. "The city said it was receiving 10,000 calls per half hour—10 times the normal level—as the storm pounded the city late Monday," reports The Wall Street Journal.

Fake Hurricane Sandy shark photo migrates to Chinese web

A Weibo user identified “the U.S. hurricane” as the source of the "shark swimming in New Jersey streets" photo, which has been proven to be fake (we could totally tell by the pixels). He added of the shark, “In China, it would’ve been cooked already.” More at WaPo.

East Coast US residents try to get back to normal after Sandy

22 deaths reported in NYC alone. 7 million still without power. Traffic and transit are a mess. Airports slowly re-opening. Damage estimates range as high as $15 billion in insured property losses, and an additional $20 billion in lost economic activity. As you might imagine, the NY Times' coverage is the gold standard on this story. Good roundup at The Atlantic Wire, too.

Google's Superstorm Sandy crisis map includes eyewitness video

That Superstorm Sandy Google crisis map we blogged about earlier this week has been updated with tons of videos and webcam spots. Fascinating way to get a sense of which areas and populations are impacted, and how.

Google's Hurricane Sandy crisis map

Here's an excellent resource to link and re-tweet: a crisis/storm-tracking map from Google, with shelter information, and updated data on Sandy's expected course.

Japan: record high radiation levels found in Fukushima fish, more than a year after nuclear accident

Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) in Japan said Tuesday its monitoring efforts have recorded record high radiation levels in local seafood: 25,800 becquerels per kilogram of radioactive cesium in fish sampled within a 20-kilometer range of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.

The photo shows fish caught Aug. 1, 2012 within 20 kilometers of the crippled nuclear power plant. The findings indicate that radioactive contamination remains at unsafe levels in the area's food supply more than a year after the nuclear crisis.

From Kyodo News:

The level of cesium found in greenling is 258 times that deemed safe for consumption by the Japanese government, suggesting that radioactive contamination remains serious more than a year after the nuclear crisis.

Fishing in the sea off Fukushima Prefecture is voluntarily restricted except for trial fishing of certain octopuses.

CNN has more.

Earthquake and bombs in Italy: An eyewitness report from Jasmina Tesanovic


[Video Link.]

A weekend of fear and mourning in Italy.

Early this Sunday morning, an earthquake struck near Bologna: at least six killed (ceramic workers, and a hundred year old person), and big material damage in the region. The US Geological Survey heard the tremor: a magnitude-6.0 quake struck at 4:04 a.m. Sunday between Modena and Mantova, about 35 kilometers north-northwest of Bologna. Civil defence says that the quake was the strongest in the region since the 1300s. And the damaged building are valuable historical sites. In Italy such loss goes without saying.

We felt the earthquake in Torino, 260 kilometers from Modena at dawn. The apartment building shook and the late-night party people yelped with alarm in the streets. As I write this we hear the building crack and we tremble: I am checking on twitter. Yes, it' s an aftershock at 15.19.

Not unusual for Italy to deal with deadly earthquakes, but what comes afterward can be nearly as troublesome: state neglect and real estate speculation. Those who are not under earth may have the skies as a roof forever! The last big earthquake in Aquila in 2009 speaks about that.

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Shocking new photos from BP disaster unearthed by Greenpeace

Kate Sheppard at Mother Jones writes about a trove of new photographs documenting the aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon disaster, which released nearly 5 million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico two years ago.

In the midst of the disaster, BP and its contractors did everything they could to keep people from seeing the scale of the disaster. But new photos released Monday offer some new insight to just how grim the Gulf became for sea life.The images were released in response to a Freedom of Information Act Request that Greenpeace filed back in August 2010, asking for any communication related to endangered and threatened Gulf species. Now, many months later, Greenpeace received a response from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) that included more than 100 photos from the spill, including many of critically endangered Kemp's Ridley sea turtles dead and covered in oil.

More photos and more about what they reveal at Mother Jones.

DHS explains how to protect your pet fish in a disaster

The Disaster Preparedness Plan prepared by the local DHS for Union County NC explains what steps you should take if you have to evacuate and take your pet fish: "Your name and where you will be located should be on an ID tag and taped to the fish bowl. This should include your description of all your fish and pictures of them with you in the pictures for identification purposes."

Disaster Preparedness (Thanks, Kkennedy!)

(Image: Fishbowl cat quilt27, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from lenore-m's photostream)

Haunting photos from Fukushima, one year later: "Invisible You," by Satoru Niwa

Japanese photographer Satoru Niwa, whose work I blogged in a previous Boing Boing post, has a new series from Fukushima marking the one-year anniversary of the March 11 disaster: Invisible You. Again, beautiful, evocative work. Above: a shot from the town of Namie, which is some 40 miles from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. View the full gallery here (warning: Flash).

Judge okays exclusion of damaging emails from BP oil spill trial

A judge has granted requests from defendants in the BP oil disaster case to exclude various emails from trial. The details of the emails are an interesting read. For instance: At Halliburton's request, the court will not include an email from a BP geologist to a colleague in February 2010 which offered "thanks for the shitty cement job." (Reuters)

Inside the Fukushima exclusion zone: the photography of Satoru Niwa

Among the recent projects of London/Tokyo-based photojournalist Satoru Niwa is this stunning series of images captured near the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant in Japan, just days after the March 11, 2011 quake, tsunami, and ensuing nuclear disaster.

Above: a policeman wearing protective gear to guard against radiation, 15 miles from the plant, on March 25, 2011. Below, a family's photograph found in the tsunami mud, 5km from the plant in the now-abandoned town of Futaba.

Link to photo gallery: SILENCE/Fukushima.

Related works on his site include this equally powerful series of moonlit photos taken in the tsunami-devastated town of Miyagi, just two weeks after the disaster.

You can follow him on Twitter.

(via Miles O'Brien)

Titanic Tales: The Costa Concordia

Photo: An oil removal ship is seen next to the Costa Concordia cruise ship as it ran aground off the west coast of Italy at Giglio island, January 16, 2012. Over-reliance on electronic navigation systems and a failure of judgement by the captain are seen as possible reasons for one of the worst cruise liner disasters of all time, maritime specialists say. (REUTERS/ Max Rossi)

When I read hastily the headlines on Jan 14—a shipwreck in Italy, seventy missing, three known dead—I immediately thought: it must be the Africans again. The refugees, the clandestine, the invisible, the nameless, the unwanted… Those "less-than-human" people coming from all over the world to the Italian coast, looking for a safe haven from dictatorships, from hunger.

My Somali Italian friend Suad, who works with her community In Italy now, urges her people in Somalia NOT to take that dangerous ride: even if you survive the trip, what waits for you in Italy can be fatal. Italy is in deep economic crisis today, on the verge of bankruptcy and social disorder. The new government struggling to remain a G8 power while the euro and United Europe are at stake. Italy also struggles to overcome a big moral value crisis after twenty years of Berlusconi's reign of sexism, racism, indolence and corruption.

But I was wrong about the Africans. It was a fancy cruise ship full of wealthy foreigners that wrecked unexpectedly near the island of Giglio.

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A brief history of the apocalypse

A good soul named Chris Nelson has taken the time to catalog some of history's greatest end-of-the-world predictions and arrange them in a handy timeline format. Use A Brief History of the Apocalypse as a fascinating way to explain why you are pretty certain the world won't end on x date. Or, use it to help plan your 2012 End of the World-themed parties.

7.2 earthquake hits Turkey, more than a thousand feared dead

A man carries an injured girl after an earthquake in Tabanli village. REUTERS/Abdurrahman Antakyali/Anadolu Agency.

Turkey's Kandilli Observatory estimates that 1,000 or more people were killed today in a powerful earthquake in southeast Turkey's Van province.

Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Besir Atalay told reporters some 10 buildings had collapsed in Van city and around 25-30 buildings collapsed in the nearby district of Ercis.

The USGS estimates the quake magnitude at 7.2, with a depth of 20 km (12.4 miles), 17 km (10 miles) NNE (32°) from the city of Van.

More immediate coverage: Reuters, AP, CNN.

Turkey's Hürriyet daily newspaper has coverage. For those interested in viewing local broadcasts, TRT-TV is the transmission to try and find via satellite or online re-streaming services.

More photos below.

Rescue workers try to save people trapped under debris after an earthquake in Tabanli village. REUTERS.

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