••can ye pass the acid test?••

ye who enter here be afraid, but do what ye must -- to defeat your fear ye must defy it.

& defeat it ye must, for only then can we begin to realize liberty & justice for all.

time bomb tick tock? nervous tic talk? war on war?

or just a blog crying in the wilderness, trying to make sense of it all, terror-fried by hate radio and FOX, the number of whose name is 666??? (coincidence?)

Saturday, September 24, 2011

algarve daily news

Six Italian scientists and a former government official are on trial for manslaughter over the earthquake in 2009 which killed 309 people.

Prosecutors allege that they gave a statement which was falsely reassuring before the earthquake hit. The seven defendants were members of a government panel, the Serious Risks Commission, tasked with assessing the risks after hundreds of low-level tremors had rattled the medieval city in the months before the earthquake struck.

The prosecutors accuse the seven of "negligence and imprudence... of having provided an approximate, generic and ineffective assessment of seismic activity risks as well as incomplete, imprecise and contradictory information".

The defence argues that there is no way to predict major earthquakes even in a seismically active area.

L’Aquila suffered a 6.3 magnitude quake which devastated the city. The week before it struck, the scientists issued a statement said there was "no reason to believe that a series of low-level tremors was a precursor to a larger event". They also stated that it was not possible to predict whether a strong quake would occur.

The defendants face up to 15 years in jail. Lawyers for civil plaintiffs - who include the local council - are seeking damages of €50m euros. The trial has been adjourned until 1 October.

china daily

CANBERRA, September 23 (Xinhua) -- The prosecution of the six Italian scientists for manslaughter over Italy's L'Aquila earthquake in 2009 is likely to silence experts from openly communicate with the public in the future, Australian experts warned on Friday.

Six leading Italian scientists and one government official are standing trial for manslaughter for alleged negligence that led to the deaths of over 300 people when a 6.3-magnitude earthquake struck the Italian city of L'Aquila in March 2009.

Dr Kevin McCue, a spokesperson for the Australian Earthquake Engineering Society, said the case does not make sense because it is not possible to predict earthquakes.

According to Professor Paul Somerville, Deputy Director of Risk Frontiers at Australia's Macquarie University, the prosecution of the scientists, especially if it is successful, is likely to imperil the very need that this incident has highlighted: for open and clear communication between the scientists and the public.

"In a further irony, no action has yet been taken against the engineers who designed modern buildings that collapsed and caused fatalities, or the government officials who were responsible for enforcing building code compliance," he told Xinhua in an email note.

"It has occurred to some observers that the local government officials may be scapegoating the scientists to avoid prosecution themselves."

The defendants in the Italian trial were members of a panel that had met six days before the April 6 quake, to assess risks after hundreds of tremors had shaken the medieval university city. At that meeting, a committee analyzed data from the low-magnitude tremors and determined that the activity was not a prelude to a major earthquake.

However, Professor Somerville defended the scientists saying that the government's objective in holding the meeting was to debunk unreliable but alarming earthquake predictions that were being made by L'Aquila resident Giampaolo Giuliani, who is not a seismologist.

"The scientists were distracted in this direction instead of focusing on information about earthquake risk that the citizens needed," he said.

"Further, it appears that the scientists found themselves answering questions (during the meeting) about deterministic prediction of earthquakes (which they acknowledge is not currently possible) instead of probabilistic forecasting of earthquakes ( which they can do)."

Dr McCue also pointed out that an Italian civil servant was sued in 1985 for advising people to leave their homes following a swarm of earthquake, and that fear of being sued could scare off seismologists from developing earthquake hazard maps and advising on building codes, unless they are indemnified by the government.

"Given the limited knowledge we do our best, but maybe that's not enough for the public. And if they are willing to sue us, then we won't be doing it at all," McCue said.

Following the announcement of the trial in May, Italy's National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology (INGV) published a letter of support for the scientists, signed by over 5,000 researchers worldwide, including 77 Australians.

The letter said the scientific community involved in earthquake science urges the Italian government, local authorities and decision makers in general, to be proactive in establishing and carrying out local and national programs to support earthquake preparedness and risk mitigation, rather than prosecuting scientists for failing to do something they cannot do yet, as to predict earthquakes.

given the enormous absurdity of prosecuting scientists for failing to do the impossible, i feel like i might be getting too picky if i quibble about a journalistic inaccuracy, but i feel i have no choice, since that has become one of the main missions of the blogosphere, so here goes:

the seventh paragraph of the otherwise excellent china daily piece contains these words: "...a committee analyzed data from the low-magnitude tremors and determined that the activity was not a prelude to a major earthquake."

the fifth paragraph of the portuguese article includes this sentence: "The week before it struck, the scientists issued a statement said there was 'no reason to believe that a series of low-level tremors was a precursor to a larger event'."

that's not the same thing. if algarve daily news has correctly quoted the scientists' statement, then the china daily interpretation is incorrect.

in fairness, i have to point out the missing word "that" after the word "statement" in the algarve sentence.

i guess neither of them is perfect. but then, nobody is.

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