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World in brief: Blasts relieve pressure on lake

Wed., June 11, 2008

Water churned through a drainage channel and engulfed empty towns Tuesday after Chinese soldiers blasted away the debris that kept an earthquake-formed lake threatening more than a million people downstream.

Sichuan province’s Communist Party chief, Liu Qibao, declared “decisive victory” after more than half the 66 billion gallons of water drained off by early evening, easing pressure on a dam formed when the quake triggered a landslide of mud, rocks and other debris, the official Xinhua News Agency reported.

More than 250,000 people had already moved to high ground due to concerns that the barrier holding back Tangjiashan lake could break. About 1.3 million people live downstream.

Towns downstream remained on alert for possible flooding in case the water breached unstable banks.


U.N. atlas shows effects of warming

The United Nations environment agency unveiled a new atlas Tuesday that shows what the agency says are the dramatic effects of climate change on Africa.

The nearly 400-page publication features over 300 satellite images taken in every African country. The before and after photographs, some of which span a 35-year period, appear to show striking environmental changes across the continent.

“The atlas clearly demonstrates the vulnerability of people in the region to forces often outside their control,” Achim Steiner, executive director for the United Nations Environment Program, said at a meeting of African environmental ministers in Johannesburg. “It is an indication of how serious the situation has become.”

Although Africa produces only 4 percent of the world’s total carbon dioxide emissions, its inhabitants are expected by some officials to suffer most from the consequences of climate change.

According to the atlas, Africa is losing nearly 10 million acres of forest every year – twice the world’s average deforestation rate – and some areas of the continent are losing over 55.12 tons of soil per 2.5 acres each year.

The atlas also appears to illustrate that erosion as well as chemical and physical damage have degraded about 65 percent of the continent’s farmlands. The migration of refugees is causing further pressure on the environment, the atlas says.


World’s fattest man has stand-up goal

Manuel Uribe, who once weighed more than half a ton but has slimmed down to about 700 pounds, celebrates his 43rd birthday today with a simple wish for the coming year: to be able to stand on his own two feet to get married.

Interviewed at his home in northern Mexico, where he can do little more than sit up on a bed, Uribe said more than two years of steady dieting have helped him drop about 550 pounds from his Guinness record weight of 1,235 pounds.

He hopes Guinness representatives will confirm in July that he holds a second title: The world’s greatest loser of weight.

But Uribe is still unable to walk his fiancee, Claudia Solis, down the aisle.

“It frustrates me a little, because it is not easy to get out,” said Uribe, who has not been able to leave bed for the last six years.

His most recent attempt to escape the house – to attend Solis’ 38th birthday party in March – fell through when a flatbed tow truck brought to transport his reinforced bed got caught beneath an underpass.

But Uribe vowed not to be deterred: “We are in love, and this year my birthday wish is to be able to stand when we get married,” he said.

Uribe said he met Solis, a 38-year-old hairdresser, four years ago. They have been together for the last two.


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