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End Time News Updated 2 Sept 2014 - 4 stories
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earthquake headlines             6.0 quakes            7.0 quakes            quakes in diverse places          quake map

China earthquake kills hundreds in Yunnan province

Howard Zhang from the BBC Chinese Service says rescue teams are working in difficult terrain to help people trapped under rubble

At least 367 people have been killed and some 1,300 injured by a magnitude 6.1 earthquake in south-west China, state news agency Xinhua says.

The US Geological Survey said the quake struck about 11km (seven miles) north-west of Wenping in Yunnan province at 16:30 local time (08:30 GMT).

A major rescue and relief operation is under way.

State broadcaster CCTV said the earthquake was the strongest to hit the province in 14 years.

The USGS said the quake struck at a depth of about 10km in a remote mountainous area in Yunnan province.

The tremor was also felt in the neighbouring provinces of Guizhou and Sichuan.

Chinese state broadcaster footage shows the moment the quake strikes

Xinhua said about 12,000 homes had collapsed in Ludian, a county of some 439,000 people, north-east of Yunnan province's capital, Kunming.

All of the casualties reported so far are in Qiaojia County of the Zhaotong region, which appeared to be the hardest hit.

Ma Liya, a resident of Zhaotong, told Xinhua that the streets there were like "battlefield after bombardment", adding her neighbour's house, a new two-storey building, had collapsed.

The government is sending 2,000 tents, 3,000 folding beds, 3,000 quilts and 3,000 coats to the disaster zone, the report said.

The USGS said the quake struck at a depth of about 10km in a remote mountainous area in Yunnan province.

The tremor was also felt in the neighbouring provinces of Guizhou and Sichuan.

Chinese state broadcaster footage shows the moment the quake strikes

Xinhua said about 12,000 homes had collapsed in Ludian, a county of some 439,000 people, north-east of Yunnan province's capital, Kunming.

All of the casualties reported so far are in Qiaojia County of the Zhaotong region, which appeared to be the hardest hit.

Ma Liya, a resident of Zhaotong, told Xinhua that the streets there were like "battlefield after bombardment", adding her neighbour's house, a new two-storey building, had collapsed.

The government is sending 2,000 tents, 3,000 folding beds, 3,000 quilts and 3,000 coats to the disaster zone, the report said.

After initial reports of a death toll of 26, the numbers of casualties rose sharply, passing 150 before Xinhua reported a figure of 367 killed.

The news agency says the epicentre of the earthquake was in Longtoushan in Yunnan's Ludian county.

Chen Guoyong, the head of Longtoushan township, told Xinhua that many houses had fallen and rescuers had been sent to the epicentre.

Many people rushed out of buildings onto the street after the quake hit, electricity supplies were cut and at least one school collapsed, Xinhua reports.

Communications have also been seriously affected.

South-west China lies in an area that is prone to earthquakes.

An earthquake in Sichuan in 2008 killed tens of thousands of people.

And in 1970, a magnitude 7.7 quake in Yunnan killed at least 15,000 people.

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Wars and Rumors of Wars

Putin: Russia wants no war, but continues building up armed forces

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday arrived in the Tver region for the 10th All-Russian Youth Forum "Seliger 2014". During the forum, the head of state answered a number of questions related to the internal structure of the country and its foreign policy, and, as expected, touched upon the issue of the crisis in Ukraine. However, the president did not say anything on yesterday's statement from Ukrainian President Poroshenko about the alleged invasion of Russian troops on the territory of the neighboring country.

Putin said that the current events in Ukraine are a "huge tragedy." Estimating the actions of the Ukrainian military in south-eastern Ukraine, Putin drew a parallel with the tactics of fascist forces in the Soviet Union during Second World War. "Sadly, it reminds me of events of World War II, when Nazi troops surrounded our cities, for example, Leningrad, and shelled those settlements and their inhabitants," Putin said. "You see, what we have come to? This is awful, this is a catastrophe," he said.

According to the president, both small towns, and big cities are surrounded by the Ukrainian army, which directly attacks civilian areas and shells them to destroy infrastructure and suppress the will of resistance.

The Russian president also explained the meaning of the military and humanitarian operations carried out by representatives of the People's Republics of Donetsk and Luhansk. "I can well understand the militia of the south-east, of Donbass, Luhansk. They attempted - this is why they call this operation a military and humanitarian one - to move Ukrainian artillery and multiple rocket launchers from large cities, so that they do kill people," said Putin.

Commenting on the actions of the Ukrainian command, Putin said that they lead to great human losses. In particular, according to the President, Kiev refuses to use the humanitarian corridor, which at his request, representatives of Novorossiya agreed to provide to allow Ukrainian troops exit encirclement.

"The latest information is as follows: the leadership and command of the Ukrainian army decided not to let them out of the mousetrap, but to attempt to push the militia forces and exit fighting," said Putin. "I think this is a huge mistake that will lead to great human losses," said the president.

The Russian president called on the West to realize that the Ukrainian authorities are unable to restore order in the country. Putin called upon Western leaders to begin negotiations with the south-east of Ukraine. "The position of our partners is clear for me, - Putin said. - Yes, one must sit down at the negotiating table, but still, one needs to let the Ukrainian troops shoot a bit more - maybe they will put things in order there quickly."

According to Putin, "it does not work, one needs to realize that." "One needs to make the Ukrainian authorities start negotiations, not on technical issues, which is extremely important, of course, but substantively - in essence."

One needs to discuss what rights the people of Donbass, Luhansk will have within the framework of modern civilized rules, and all this must be embodied in legal rights. "That's what one must talk about," said the president of Russia.

Putin believes that once such agreements are achieved, it will be relatively easy to address issues related to borders, security and so on. "It is important to agree in substance, but they do not want to agree on substance - that's the problem," complained the Russian president.

Putin said that he agreed with Ukrainian President Poroshenko that the Russian military men, who were arrested on the territory of Ukraine, would be released. The agreement was reached during his personal meeting with Poroshenko in Minsk, he added.

According to Putin, Poroshenko assured him that the servicemen would be delivered to the Russian side.

The President reminded once again, that Ukrainian soldiers had repeatedly crossed the border with Russia as well. "Once, there were 450 people came out, at another time - 60, just recently - another 60, and many were armed. There were incidents, when they would enter our territory and say that they got lost driving their armored vehicles," said the president.

He also expressed his opinion on how the Russian soldiers found themselves on the territory of Ukraine. Putin supported the version of Russian military officials, who said that it was an incidental violation of the state border. "In fact, that's true. I seriously believe that they were lost, because there is no marked border over there," said Putin.

He expressed a hope that the Ukrainian side will treat the Russian military in a decent way, because that;s what Russia does in relation to Ukrainian military men. "We provided medical care to them (the Ukrainian military), we treated them at our hospitals, so there is every reason to hope that we will be mutually correct at this point," said Putin.

The Russian president expressed bewilderment over the fears of the Ukrainian authorities on the possibility of federalization of the country. He said that in Russia, federalization will continue to develop. "Our Ukrainian partners, for some reason, are so afraid of federalization, it's their choice, but of course, we will never interfere. But there are plenty of federative countries in the world," Putin said.

"The idea is to give peoples living in different areas, the peoples who have their own peculiarities, an opportunity to live their life fully," said the president. He reminded that federal structure exists in countries such as the USA, Brazil, Germany, etc.

The President noted that the institute of federalism in Russia would be strengthened. Putin, in particular, believes that it is possible to relocate a part of federal authorities to Siberia. "Let's suppose, Krasnoyarsk - this is avery good, in my opinion, place for this."

"Krasnoyarsk is the geographical center of our country, a large city with developed infrastructure." There is a good airport there, beautiful nature and wonderful people," he said.

Putin paid attention to large Russian companies. "Why are they all sitting in Moscow? Let them work for territories too, and income for regional and local budgets will grow. They got simply stuck to Moscow. This has been formed traditionally, and it will be hard to squeeze them out from Moscow streets, but we will be working in this direction," the head of state said.

Putin said that after Russia reunited with the Crimea, the geographical center of Russia has "changed a little." However, he does not consider it possible to relocate the capital of Russia from Moscow to Siberia. "In the life and history of every nation, there are certain symbols that unite people. Moscow is one of these symbols," Putin said.

Speaking about the situation in Russia, Putin could not answer the question of whether the foundation of the political system has been laid in Russia. "God knows," he said with a smile. Speaking seriously, the president said that the answer to this question will be given through the practice of laws and regulations.

At the same time, the president expressed his disagreement with allegations saying that in Russia, there is no real political opposition. In Russia, "there are parliamentary parties, and they behave quite rigidly during election campaigns, when they feel that they have a chance." As an example, the president referred to the election campaign in 2012. "Was it some kind of a game of giveaway? Of course not," said the president. "An unbiased observer could easily see the tough inter-party struggle," Putin said.

"There four well-established parliamentary parties, they have their own point of view on the development of economy, social sphere and the state as a whole," he said.

Russia is far from getting involved in large-scale conflicts, but the country is ready to repel any aggression, Putin said. According to him, the country needs military potential for security, rather than for threats.

According to the President, Russia intends to continue to build up military and nuclear capabilities. This is required for security, not for attacks, he said. "We continue to build up the potential and we will continue doing so, but not to threaten anyone. We will do it to feel safe and be able to implement plans for the development of economy and social sphere," Putin said. "We strengthen our armed forces. They do become more compact and more efficient, they do become more sophisticated in terms of modern defense systems," he said.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said that Russia did not annex the Crimea, but protected it. "We gave people an opportunity to express their position and we treated it with respect," said the president, speaking at Seliger-2014 forum. Otherwise, the Crimea would have been engulfed in the war that currently continues in the southeast of Ukraine, he added.

The youth forum "Seliger" is held annually since 2005 near Seliger Lake, near the town of Ostashkov in the Tver region. In 2014, about 20 thousand people from Russia and more than 140 countries took part in the work of the forum. Putin visits the forum for the fifth time.


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Second American with Ebola to return Tuesday
Natalie DiBlasio and John Bacon, USA TODAY

A second American stricken with the Ebola virus is expected to return to the USA Tuesday, three days after a doctor being treated for the disease arrived at an Atlanta hospital for intensive care.

Nancy Writebol, a medical missionary aiding in the treatment of Ebola victims in Liberia, is scheduled to leave that African nation around 1 a.m. Tuesday on a specially equipped medical evacuation plane, Liberian Information Minister Lewis Brown said, according to the Associated Press.

Kent Brantly, the American doctor transported to Atlanta Saturday, "seems to be improving," the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Sunday.

Brantly is being treated in a special isolation unit at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta after arriving Saturday at Dobbins Air Reserve Base in Georgia. It's the first time anyone infected with the deadly virus has been brought into the country.

"We're hoping he'll continue to improve," Dr. Tom Frieden told CBS' Face the Nation. "But Ebola is such a scary disease because it's so deadly. I can't predict the future for individual patients."

Brantly and Writebol were serving in Liberia as medical missionaries when they became infected with the virus, which has killed 729 people and sickened more than 1,300 the West African nations of Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone.

Frieden has said his agency received "nasty" e-mails and at least 100 calls from people questioning why the sick aid workers should be let into the USA. Physicians are confident, however, that the two Americans can be treated without putting the public in danger.

The virus is spread through direct contact with blood, urine, saliva and other bodily fluids from an infected person. It is not spread through the air.

"I don't think it's in the cards that we would have widespread Ebola," Frieden said. He said the virus spreads in African hospitals where there isn't infection control and in burial rituals where people touch the bodies of Ebola victims. That won't happen here, he said.

"So it's not going to spread widely in the U.S. Could we have another person here, could we have a case or two? Not impossible," Frieden said. "We say in medicine never say never. But we know how to stop it here. But to really protect ourselves, the single most important thing we can do is stop it at the source in Africa. That's going to protect them and protect us."

Emory's infectious diseases unit was created 12 years ago to handle doctors who get sick at the CDC. It is one of about four in the country equipped with everything necessary to test, treat and contain people exposed to very dangerous viruses.

In 2005, it handled patients with severe acute respiratory syndromeSARS, which unlike Ebola can spread when an infected person coughs or sneezes.

In fact, the nature of Ebola which is spread by close contact with bodily fluids and blood means that any modern hospital using standard, rigorous infection-control measures should be able to handle it.

On Saturday, Amber Brantly expressed her happiness in having her husband back in the USA.

"It was a relief to welcome Kent home today," she said in a statement. "I spoke with him, and he is glad to be back in the U.S. I am thankful to God for his safe transport and for giving him the strength to walk into the hospital."

Brantly, 33, of Fort Worth, had been working in Liberia for Samaritan's Purse overseeing an Ebola treatment center. Writebol, of Charlotte, was working at the center on behalf of the faith group Service in Mission. Samaritan's Purse is paying for their evacuation and medical care.

There's no specific treatment for Ebola so doctors try to ease symptoms, including fever, headache, vomiting and diarrhea. Some victims suffer severe bleeding.

Michael Stulman, a regional information officer in West and Central Africa for Catholic Relief Services, said Sunday that doctors and nurses there "are working in a particularly high-risk environment. They are typically are under-resourced. They're working 15- and even 20-hour days. Despite all their incredible efforts, sometimes mistakes happen and this is why we're seeing a fairly high number of Ebola-positive cases with nurses."

Treatment centers "are reaching full capacity soon after they are set up," he said in an e-mail. "Some of the observation units are not fully staffed. The cross-border nature of the outbreak and the accessibility of transport to major towns have made this outbreak particularly difficult to contain."

Among the main challenges in containing the outbreak, he said, were several circulating myths, including one that said doctors at hospitals "will give you injections that kill you" instead of treating the illness. "As a result of these myths, some families who have sought care are discharging confirmed patients from the hospital and bringing them home before they are recovered. Other people who have Ebola never go to the hospital and instead choose to stay at home with their family, which puts their family at risk of contracting the disease when caring for them."

Contributing: WXIA-TV in Atlanta; Doug Stanglin; the Associated Press


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California drought: Santa Cruz pushes the limit with the state's toughest water rationing laws
by Paul Rogers

SANTA CRUZ -- In most California cities, if you see neighbors on the sidewalk this summer, they're probably jogging or walking their dogs.

But in Santa Cruz, there's a new pastime: people lifting up the cement covers in front of their houses to read the water meter.

This coastal city best known for its surfers, redwood trees and historic boardwalk amusement park has put in place some of the toughest rules in the state to conserve water during the drought -- mandatory water rationing for every home, with hefty fines and "Water School" for violators. There's even a ban on filling hot tubs.

And if California doesn't receive a healthy soaking of rain this winter after three years of historic drought, dozens of other cities may soon be following suit, experts say.

Nik Martinelli, a water conservation representative for the city of Santa Cruz, looks at water run-off from a plant irrigation system at an office park in Santa Cruz, Calif., Tuesday, July 29, 2014. This coastal city best known for surfers and its boardwalk amusement park has put in place what may be the toughest rules in the state to conserve water during the drought. (Patrick Tehan/Bay Area News Group) ( Patrick Tehan )

"Statewide we are facing a truly emergency condition," said Tim Quinn, executive director of the Association of California Water Agencies. "We need the urban areas to start acting like that. Santa Cruz is the canary in California's coal mine."

Across the San Francisco Bay Area and Southern California, hundreds of communities have adopted rules asking people to conserve water, but often with no fines or penalties for violators. Santa Cruz is much different.

Since May 1, every residential property has been allotted a monthly ration: 10 units of water, or 7,480 gallons, for a family of four, to cover all uses, including lawn watering. Each unit averages about $3. But for people who go much above the limit, the cost skyrockets to $50 per unit, meaning monthly water bills can easily top $500 for families who don't conserve.

"It is a large deterrent," said Toby Goddard, administrative services manager for the Santa Cruz Water Department.

"But people are responding well," he said. "They are getting by. It's not like there's been a dramatic quality-of-life drop. People understand we're in a drought and things have been very dry."

The goal is to make sure the city has enough water next year in case the drought drags on, he said.

So far the tough rules appear to be working. Lawns everywhere are brown, and 92 percent of households lived within their rationed amount the first month.

When the Santa Cruz City Council approved the plan this spring, the goal was a 25 percent overall reduction in city water use, compared with the 2012-13 average. In July, citywide water use was down 26 percent. By comparison, Gov. Jerry Brown asked all Californians in January to cut water use 20 percent when he declared a drought emergency, but in May statewide use was actually up 1 percent.

"What they are doing in Santa Cruz is pretty cool," said Felicia Marcus, chairwoman of the State Water Resources Control Board. "I'm impressed."

Yet the strict rules in a city famous for its laid-back lifestyle have caused some headaches.

One man went to Hawaii on vacation for eight days, not realizing the flapper in his toilet tank was leaking. When he came back, he had a $4,000 water bill. Others have similar takes of hydrologic horror.

"If our water bill goes much higher we'll have to take away our kids' cell phones," joked Nancy Alsip, who is trying to teach her family to conserve more after being hit with a $225 penalty.

Most businesses have been exempt from the rationing, in an effort to boost the economy. But golf courses have been cut back nearly 50 percent. Property owners who rent beach houses to vacationers are worried that they, too, could be hit with big bills.

Even the hot tub, the most Californian of accessories, is not untouched. The city's drought ordinance bans the filling of swimming pools and hot tubs. Dealers say people who use hot tubs take fewer showers.

"It's irrational. We're the wrong target," said Lynda Sisk, vice president of Hot Springs Spas.

Some small communities in California have tough rationing rules, such as Avalon, a community of 4,000 people on Catalina Island that gets most of its water from desalination, or Cambria, near Hearst Castle, which has a long history of water shortages. Pleasanton required property owners to cut water use 25 percent from last year or face fines, although penalties aren't as large as in Santa Cruz.

Santa Cruz has the strict rules for three reasons. First, it's isolated. Because of the Santa Cruz Mountains, it's one of only a few counties in the state that imports none of its water. Second, the community has a long history of environmental activism, and politically the water department hasn't faced much pushback. And third, the city, which gets most of its water from the San Lorenzo River and nearby streams, has done very little to expand supply.

Over the decades, activists and city leaders have turned down numerous water projects, most recently plans to build a desalination plant.

"I'm not going to second-guess what the locals chose to do," Quinn said. "That's their choice, and I respect that. But there is a consequence to your choice. And the consequence is what they are experiencing now."

Water use is already 96 gallons per capita per day in Santa Cruz, which is half the state average of 196.

The Santa Cruz Water Department, which serves 94,000 residents from UC Santa Cruz to parts of Capitola and the unincorporated community of Live Oak, is seeking more conservation. The department gives away free shower heads and shower timers.

It pays people to remove lawns, like other towns. It has two "water cops" who write tickets for irrigating during the daytime or hosing down pavement. And this year, the department set up a "Water School," similar to traffic school, where people who receive penalties on their monthly bills can get them waived once if they complete a two-hour class on water conservation. There's a one-month waiting list.

"We'd like to take longer showers and have a full-scale vegetable garden," said resident Jim Ryan, mulching his yard this week. "But I understand why they are doing it. I've lived here for 60 years. I've got buckets in the shower and rain barrels. I've seen droughts before."

Paul Rogers covers resources and environmental issues. Contact him at 408-920-5045. Follow him at Twitter.com/PaulRogersSJMN


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