View Full Version : Int'l Issues Scientists indicted for not warning the upcoming earthqaake

05-27-2011, 07:35 AM
ROME Seven scientists and other experts were indicted on manslaughter charges Wednesday for allegedly failing to sufficiently warn residents before a devastating earthquake that killed more than 300 people in central Italy in 2009.

Defense lawyers condemned the charges, saying it's impossible to predict earthquakes. Seismologists have long concurred, saying the technology doesn't exist to predict a quake and that no major temblor has ever been foretold.

Judge Giuseppe Romano Gargarella ordered the members of the national government's Great Risks commission, which evaluates potential for natural disasters, to go on trial in L'Aquila on Sept. 20.

Italian media quoted the judge as saying the defendants "gave inexact, incomplete and contradictory information" about whether smaller tremors felt by L'Aquila residents in the six months before the April 6, 2009 quake should have constituted grounds for a quake warning.

Specifically, prosecutors focused on a memo issued after a March 31, 2009 meeting of the Great Risks commission which was called because of mounting concerns about the months of seismic activity in the region.

According to the commission's memo issued one week before the big quake the experts concluded that it was "improbable" that there would be a major quake though it added that one couldn't be excluded.

Afterward, members of the commission gave reassuring interviews to local media stressing the impossibility of predicting quakes and that even six months worth of low-magnitude temblors was not unusual in the highly seismic region and didn't mean a big one was coming.

In one now-infamous interview included in the prosecutors' case, commission member Bernardo De Bernardis of the national civil protection department responded to a question about whether residents should just sit back and relax with a glass of wine.

"Absolutely, absolutely a Montepulciano doc," he responded, referring to a high-end red. "This seems important."

Such a reassuring verdict by commission members "persuaded the victims to stay at home," La Repubblica newspaper quoted the indictment as saying.

The 6.3-magnitude quake killed 308 people in and around the medieval town, which was largely reduced to rubble. Thousands of survivors lived in tent camps or temporary housing for months.

Defense lawyers contend that since quakes can't be predicted, the accusations that the scientists and civil protection experts on the commission should have sounded an alarm that a big quake was coming make no sense.

"As we all know, quakes aren't predictable," said Marcello Melandri, defense lawyer for defendant Enzo Boschi, a scientist who heads the National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology. In any case, Melandri contended, the panel "never said, 'stay calm, there is no risk.'"

Although earthquakes can't be predicted, experts said after Japan's recent devastating quake that an early warning system in place there to detect the Earth's rumblings before they can be felt helped save countless lives in that country.

But, as recently as this month, Italy's national geophysics institute went to great lengths to insist that earthquakes can't be predicted in a bid to dispel a widely reported prediction of a huge temblor that was due to strike Rome on May 11. No such quake occurred.

The U.S. Geological Survey takes pains to insist the technology doesn't exist to predict quakes and won't exist for a long time but that seismologists can calculate probabilities of future quakes. Rather than focusing on predictions, the USGS like the Italian geophysics institute focuses on raising awareness to improve construction standards in quake zones.

Boschi could not immediately be reached for comment, but Italian media reports quoted him as saying he had properly carried out his duties.

Many of the structures that collapsed in the 2009 quake were not properly built to standards for a quake-prone area like the central Apennine region of Abruzzo. Among the buildings which cracked and crumbled was L'Aquila's hospital, just as it was struggling to treat about 1,500 injured.

Nobody inside the hospital, which was built in the 1970s, was killed or injured in the quake.

Manslaughter charges are not unusual in Italy for natural disasters such as quakes, but they have previously focused on violations of building codes in seismic regions.

In 2009, for example, an appeals court convicted five people in the 2002 quake-triggered collapse of a school in southern San Giuliano di Puglia that killed 27 children including the town's entire first-grade class and a teacher. Prosecutors had alleged that shoddy construction contributed to the collapse of the school.

As one of the comments put it nicely: "Shouldn't they sue the Pope? With his direct line to God, he should have been able to warn the town."

Link: http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20110525/ap_on_re_eu/eu_italy_quake_indictments_5

05-27-2011, 07:41 AM

05-27-2011, 11:37 AM
How stoopid!

05-27-2011, 12:21 PM
Ain't nobody ever indicting teedubya, I'll tell you that much.

05-27-2011, 01:01 PM
Ain't nobody ever indicting teedubya, I'll tell you that much.


05-27-2011, 01:19 PM
This introduces interesting possibilites with global warming predictions.

05-27-2011, 01:27 PM
Senate Report Finds Billions in Waste on Science Foundation Studies

Published May 26, 2011 | FoxNews.com

Scientific studies conducted in the public interest appear to have veered off course, according to a new report that documents government-sponsored research gems such as having shrimp walk on tiny treadmills to measure the impact of sickness on crustaceans.

While the exercises may be adorable to watch, Sen. Tom Coburn says he's not so sure it advances the cause of science.

The Oklahoma Republican issued a new report Thursday (http://coburn.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?a=Files.Serve&File_id=f6cd2052-b088-44c3-b146-5baa5c01552a) that concludes the National Science Foundation has misspent $3 billion on "waste, fraud, duplication and mismanagement." It offers a list of research projects that could have been left as questions for the universe.

Among them, $2 million to analyze 38 million photos on Flickr and cross-reference them against the site's social networking service. Turns out, researchers concluded, that friends generally post photos on the Internet depicting the same place at the same time.

Some other beauties: A $315,000 NSF-funded study on whether playing Facebook's FarmVille can help adults develop relationships; $80,000 to examine why the same teams always end up leading March Madness (http://www.foxnews.com/topics/ncaa/basketball/march-madness.htm#r_src=ramp); and a $1.5 million grant for scientists to design a robot that can fold laundry -- at a rate of one towel every 25 minutes.

Coburn said he's concerned the 50-year-old NSF -- the independent government agency tasked with managing research grants for America's higher education institutions -- may have strayed from its core scientific mission.

"There is no question NSF serves an important -- and legitimate -- purpose in our society and has contributed to scientific discovery," Coburn said in a statement. "Unfortunately, in some ways NSF has undermined its core mission through mismanagement and misplaced priorities."

The foundation, which had a $6.9 billion budget in 2010, vigorously defended itself in a statement released Thursday in response to the study.

The foundation is "renowned for its gold-standard approach to peer review," said Public Affairs Director Dana Topousis, and its discoveries have "advanced the frontiers of science and engineering, improved Americans' lives, and provided the foundations for countless new industries and jobs."

Where the foundation fell short, Topousis said, the organization has tried to police itself.

"While no agency is without flaws, NSF has been diligent about addressing concerns from members of Congress about workforce and grant management issues, and NSF's excellent record of tracking down waste and prosecuting wrongdoing is apparent from Sen. Coburn's report. We believe that no other funding agency in the world comes close to NSF for giving taxpayers the best return on their investment," Topousis said.

Aside from the questionable science, Coburn's report documented numerous instances where the NSF funded potentially illicit behavior.

In one instance, two "romantically involved" workers went on 47 trips during the course of more than two years, at a cost of $144,000 to NSF. Other entities were forced to return hefty grants after misusing the funds on everything from alcohol to video games (http://www.foxnews.com/topics/entertainment/video-games/video-games.htm#r_src=ramp). The inspector general's office had investigated several of those cases.

The report documented one instance where employees were caught Jell-O wrestling at NSF's Antarctica research station. The organizer was fired over the incident.

At the same time as Coburn's report, another report released by the Government Accountability Office (http://www.foxnews.com/topics/politics/government-accountability-office.htm#r_src=ramp) documented costly duplication of services occurring across the federal government. GAO found that in 2009, the government spent $4 billion on improving teacher quality, without a strategy for reducing overlap. The study found 47 federal programs for employment and training, with 44 of them overlapping with "at least one other program."

Similarly, Coburn's report claimed the NSF was duplicating the work of several other government agencies dedicated to research and development.

The report recommends new guidelines for what constitutes a worthy study. It also calls for the elimination of the foundation's social sciences arm and a mandate that NSF use its funding or return it. The report said NSF sat on $1.7 billion worth of unspent funds located in "expired" grant accounts.

Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2011/05/26/senate-report-finds-billions-waste-science-foundation-studies/#ixzz1NaBCUf78

05-27-2011, 02:09 PM
The report documented one instance where employees were caught Jell-O wrestling at NSF's Antarctica research station.

What else do you expect them to do when it has been dark for months on end?

Dave Lane
05-27-2011, 05:37 PM
There are republicans in Italy now?