News briefs:May 21, 2010
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Today on Wikinews : Chile is hit by another aftershock from the March earthquake, Cyclone Laila lashes across India's Eastern coastline, a US scientist creates 'artificial life' and in history, The Naval Battle of Iquique was fought between Chile and Peru.
Today is Friday, May 21st, 2010. I'm Dan Harlow and I'm Mike Morales and this is Wikinews.
New earthquake hits Chile (0:31)
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A strong earthquake hit Chile at approximately at 14:52 local time on Friday. The United States Geological Survey reported that it reached a magnitude of 5.6, at a depth of 7.3 kilometers with the epicenter located 28 kilometers to the south of Pichilemu, a coastal town in the O'Higgins Region about 165km to the southwest of the capital, Santiago. The University of Chile Geological Survey reported it is most likely an aftershock to the March 11 earthquake.
Wikinews reporter Diego Grez, who was in Santa Cruz at the time of the tremor, reported that the power went out for approximately 30 minutes and people evacuated their houses quickly. In Pichilemu, the power also went out, but came back in a few minutes.
Chile's National Emergencies Office has reported no casualties or structural damage.
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Cyclone Laila (LAY-LUH) packing winds of 110 kilometers per hour closed in on the east coast of India on Thursday as tens of thousands of people evacuated their homes, fearing major storm damage.
Laila hit the state of Andhra Pradesh as heavy rain and strong gales battered the coast, state authorities said at least 30,000 people had been evacuated from low-lying areas. The armed forces were drafted in to help the evacuation efforts after Andhra Pradesh's chief minister called Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to request extra assistance.
The Indian Meteorological Department graded the cyclone as "severe", and said it was due to hit land near the city of Machilipatnam after moving from its current position 100 kilometers (62 miles) off the coast in the Bay of Bengal.
The department's latest warning said a "storm surge" of up to two meters above the regular tide was likely to inundate parts of Andhra Pradesh. It said large trees were likely to be uprooted, houses damaged and escape routes from the coast flooded. All fishermen were ordered to stay on shore due to "very rough" sea conditions, and the Asian Tribune said Reliance Industries had suspended crude oil and gas production in the Bay as a precaution.
The agency said 40,000 people had been evacuated from hundreds of coastal villages, while some air flights and train services were also affected. State disaster officials said that besides existing cyclone shelters, schools and community halls were serving as relief camps to evacuees.
However, three people were killed when a shed collapsed during heavy winds and a fisherman drowned in rough seas in the neighboring Tamil Nadu state. Local unconfirmed reports have put the total death toll at between 14 and 17.
India and Bangladesh are hit regularly by cyclones that develop in the Bay of Bengal, causing widespread damage to homes and fields. Last May, Cyclone Aila tore through southern Bangladesh killing 300 people and destroyed 4,000 kilometres of roads and river embankments, leading to major flooding.
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American biologist Craig Venter has announced that he has created the first ever "artificial life form" on Earth at the J. Craig Venter Institute, a U.S. laboratory and research center.
The breakthrough is the culmination of fifteen years of research and builds upon earlier work, research which saw the creation of a synthetic bacterial genome and the transplant of a genome from one species of bacteria into a second. This new lifeform has been nicknamed "Synthia", a name derived from synthetic life form, and is a combination of these two previous techniques.
A genome was created using synthetic chromosomes made from bottles of chemicals, the chromosomes sequenced to create a genome using as a template an existing bacterium . A bacterium from different species then had its own genome removed and the synthetic one transplanted in its place. Venter's achievement is that the new genome switched on and the new cell replicated to create new cells. A process likened to the booting of a computer with a new operating system.
Venter's achievement has been dismissed by some as falling short of a true technological breakthrough, claiming that rather than creating a new genome, that he has merely recreated the genome of an existing bacterium: "a technical tour de force" but not breakthrough science, according to Caltech geneticist David Baltimore.
Amongst the possibilities of artificial bacteria being talked about, are bacteria tailored to solve climate change by taking CO2 out of the atmosphere and to develop new vaccines. More complex organisms could include algae which would both be a source of biofuels and a CO2 remover. This is not, however, the instant solution to the Earth's major problems. Although enough is now known to duplicate a genome, there is insufficient knowledge as to what the role of individual chromosomes within the genome do. Any advances in synthetic biology to design life forms would require a much greater understanding of how the creation of proteins are coded in a genomes chromosomes.
On this day in history (6:35)
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In 1879, The Naval Battle of Iquique was fought between Chile and the alliance between Peru and Bolivia taking place off the, by then, Peruvian port of Iquique (which is currently Chilean). The battle took place during the War Of The Pacific, also known as the "Saltpeter War", which arose from disputes over the control of territory that contained substantial mineral-rich deposits.
In the battle, the Peruvian warship Huáscar, commanded by Captain Miguel Grau Seminario, managed to sink the Chilean corvette Esmeralda.
Esmerelda's commander, Arturo Prat Chacón, died when the iron clad Huáscar rammed his less powerful wooden ship, but he had stood bravely, shouting "To boarding, boys!", before a Peruvian sailor delivered a deadly axe wound to his head.
Though the Esmeralda was lost and Prat killed, the battle had destroyed many other Peruvian ships, leaving the Huáscar to fight the Chilean Navy alone and with thousands of Chilean youths inspired by Prat's bravery, Chile was reinvigorated and the battle became one of the most important factors leading to victory in the war and Prat eventually became Chile's greatest naval hero.
And those are the top headlines for Friday, May 21st, 2010
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