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Number 537 • December 3, 2009 | Past Issues













1) As the World Warms: Stolen E-Mails Add More Theatrics to Climate Conflict

With ice caps melting, seas growing warmer, and coastlines shrinking, it’s apparent that the effects of global climate change can be dramatic. But who knew it could be such a soap opera?

Thanks to the well-timed release of a few hundred megabytes of e-mail hacked from a university in the United Kingdom, the debate on human-caused climate change has gone from he-said, she-said to a spectacle replete with deception, conflict, and chicanery.

The scene was set November 20, when anonymous hackers allegedly breached a server at the University of East Anglia’s Climate Research Unit (CRU) and posted the director’s e-mail and other data on the Internet, according to the initial story in the Guardian. The stolen correspondence has been interpreted by Internet commentators as everything from proof of a climate action conspiracy to nothing more than healthy, informal debate taken out of context, according to an account in the New York Times.

“It sounds incriminating, but when you look at what you’re talking about, there’s nothing there,” the Times quoted climate expert Michael Mann as saying.

An e-mail trail from CRU Director Phil Jones to and about Mann are among the most cited and damning of more than 1,000 messages, including a reference to “Mike’s trick” to hide a decline in temperatures. Jones and Mann also requested that researchers thwart freedom of information requests and blacklist a journal that challenged their take on warming, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Although the messages have not been confirmed as authentic, the flap has caused Jones to step down as CRU director, according to the Washington Post.

Regardless of the how the kerfuffle shakes up the science community, its impacts are likely to reinforce factions in an already doubting public, which sees the climate debate more as a function of politics than science, according to a Washington Post article. Political posturing surrounding the upcoming Copenhagen climate talks and a U.S. cap-and-trade bill with likely further the divide.

“It's a sad state of affairs when science becomes subject to partisan politics,” Democratic pollster Mark Mellman told the Post. “It can only be attributed to the sense that this issue has become part of a political battle.”

A Washington Post-ABC poll found that American “belief” in global warming had dropped 80 to 72 percent in the last year, according to the article. Still, many in the know say the science is there, despite a few rash communications (for a discussion of responses from the science community and a link to the cache of pilfered e-mails, check out this post on the Christian Science Monitor’s Bright Green Blog).

“Science doesn’t work because we’re all nice,” NASA climatologist Gavin A. Schmidt told the New York Times. “Newton may have been an ass, but the theory of gravity still works.”

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2) Road Home Program Took a Wrong Turn in Mid-City Restorations

A problematic program meant to help Louisianans rebuild after Hurricane Katrina doled out more than $3.2 million to refurbish houses that will soon be rubble, according to a recent article in the New Orleans Times-Picayune.

Louisiana’s Road Home program, now managed by the Louisiana Recovery Authority, has had no shortage of financial woes and missteps. The program has suffered management issues, budget shortfalls in the billions, and the faltering faith of the pubic since its inception in 2006.

The latest tumble, however, comes from a state plan to flatten 70 acres in New Orleans’ Mid-City for a hotly debated medical campus to replace the hurricane-damaged Charity Hospital and add a Veteran’s Administration hospital, according to the article. The same pot of federal housing funds that support the Road Home program would be used to buy out the freshly restored homes.

"That the state was strongly considering these sites was no secret to the public, but the final site selections for the hospitals had not been made," Louisiana Recovery Authority Spokesperson Christina Stephens told the Times-Picayune. "We simply could not deny homeowners grants if we were not sure they were in the footprint of the new hospitals."

Homeowners, it seems, did have some reason to hope that their neighborhood would eventually be spared. Opponents of the sprawling campus and historic preservationists aiming to save Charity and the Mid-City district have worked hard to keep the plan from coming to fruition. As recently as mid-November, Louisiana’s Commission on Streamlining Government recommended conducting an independent study of an alternate plan to retrofit Charity into a state-of-the-art hospital rather than rebuilding, according to another Times-Picayune article.

Despite a state budget shortage and an ongoing dispute with the Federal Emergency Management Agency on what the federal portion of replacing Charity will be, the state has begun buyout offers in the area, according to the Times-Picayune.

Meanwhile, the Road Home program has started to bounce back from some of its earlier setbacks, freeing up funds earlier this year for low-income grantees and recently making good on promises to help residents install mitigation measures, thanks to some help from FEMA’s Hazard Mitigation Grant Program.

Still, those grants that were wasted could have offset rebuilding in other areas and will now cost the state even more if it moves ahead with the hospital campus, according to Stephens.

"The state will base its buyout offerings on current appraised home values, meaning that homeowners who did rebuild their homes likely will get a higher buyout amount," she told the Times-Picayune.

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3) Keep ‘em Coming: Workshop Session Proposals Still Welcome

When it comes to great ideas, the more the merrier. The Natural Hazards Center staff hopes you’ll keep sending us session suggestions our 2010 Annual Workshop.

The 35th Annual Natural Hazards Research and Applications Workshop will be held Saturday, July 10 through Tuesday, July 13, 2010, at the Omni Interlocken Hotel in Broomfield, Colorado.

At the Workshop, hazards researchers, practitioners, and students discuss the latest issues in hazards and disasters and improving society’s response to those issues. Take a moment to fill out our online form before December 16 and let us know what you want to talk about in July.

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4) Disaster Research Takes a Holiday

‘Tis the season for taking a break—even from Disaster Research. The newsletter will be on hiatus during the holiday season, so look for Disaster Research 538 to return January 14. We’ll start the New Year with the same great disaster news you can use and you’ll start with one less thing to catch up on in your inbox.

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5) Phishing off Cape Fear: Scammers Lure Victims with Vaccination Registration

Where there’s a population concerned about the health and safety of their loved ones, there’s a population ripe for a rip off. Although charlatans have been pedaling dubious cures and safeguards since “swine flu” first appeared in the media, online scammers are now plying their trade under the banner of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The CDC announced Thursday that it had learned of an e-mail ploy to elicit personal information from recipients, commonly called phishing, by demanding people create an H1N1 Vaccination Program profile. The scheme indicates that anyone older than 18 must register with a state program regardless of vaccination status so the CDC can track “vaccinated and not-vaccinated people,” according to the CDC statement. A link provided in the e-mail takes victims to the phishers’ Web site where they unwittingly enter their information.

More information on the vaccination program racket and other scams involving the CDC can be found at

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6) Call Outs: Calls for Papers, Abstracts, Proposals, and More

Call for Applications
Harvard Fire Executive Fellowships
International Association of Fire Chiefs and others
Deadline: February 12, 2010
Senior fire executives are invited to apply for a three-week fellowship to be held at Harvard University. Two sessions will be held in June and July 2010. Executives who have significant career accomplishments, the ability to effect change, and whose organizations have not been represented at the fellowship program in the past three years are eligible. Preference will be given to applicants who have completed graduate-level coursework. More information and an application package are available online.


Call for Articles
GRIP Newsletter
Global Risk Identification Programme
Deadline: None
The Global Risk Identification Newsletter is accepting 500-800 word articles highlighting the experience and efforts of those involved in risk assessment around the world. Those interested in submitting to the quarterly newsletter can send their articles to

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7) Some New Web Resources

[Below are some new or updated Internet resources we have discovered. For an extensive list of useful Web sites dealing with hazards, see]

NIMS in Action: A Case Study of the System’s Use and Utility
The National Incident Management System aimed to standardize disaster response, but questions remain about its use and usefulness. This Natural Hazards Center Quick Response report by North Dakota State University Researcher Jessica Jensen examines NIMS use in state and a local emergency operations centers and finds NIMS can have unintended benefits, even while its implementation sometimes falls short of its goals.

Whether you’re a confused consumer or a healthcare professional, getting help with flu symptoms is but a click away, thanks to the American Medical Association’s flu help Web site. The site allows patients to get personalized advice on suspected seasonal and H1N1 flu, report symptoms, and follow up if they do have the flu. Medical professionals can get resources and direct reports on their patients using the site.


Project White Horse
When disasters and emergencies strike, people often look for someone to gallop in on a white horse to save the day—and this Web site aims to saddle up riders. Billed as a forum for exchanging ideas on decision making and leadership, the site is part e-zine, part online community, with an emphasis on building leaders prepared to respond quickly and wisely in times of crisis.


Interactive Tsunami Guide
In a wave of recent Tsunami sites, this flashy, fact-filled offering from the researchers at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution rises above the rest. The site teaches everything from tsunami science to how they’re studied to how to survive one. Interactive maps, firsthand accounts from survivors, and tsunami videos are just some of interesting and useful information you’ll find.


AlertNet Climate Change
AlertNet, the Thomson Reuters Foundation project that shines a spotlight on the humanitarian aspects of emergencies, has just dedicated a section of its site to the social impacts of climate change. The new page offers news stories, video, photography, blogs, commentary, and resources to keep visitors informed about the ways in which climate change is affecting populations worldwide.

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8) Conferences, Training, and Events

[Below are some recent announcements received by the Natural Hazards Center. For a comprehensive list of upcoming hazards-related meetings, visit our Web site at]

January 9-10, 2010
First Research Conference of World Society of Disaster Nursing
World Society of Disaster Nursing
Kobe, Japan
Cost and Registration: $400, open until filled
This conference allows participants to share disaster nursing experiences and research with the goal of advancing disaster nursing and implementing a global disaster preparedness system.


January 17-19, 2009
Asian Conference on Disaster Reduction 2010
Japan, UNISDR, and the Asian Disaster Reduction Center
Kobe, Japan
Cost and Registration: Not posted
This conference reviews progress and identifies challenges in implementing the Hyogo Framework for Action. Best practices, disaster risk reduction challenges, and lessons learned will be discussed with the aim of strengthening regional cooperation in Asia.


January 25-29, 2010
Fourth Regional Training Course on Mainstreaming Disaster Risk Reduction into Local Governance
Asian Disaster Preparedness Center
Manila, Philippines
Cost and Registration: $1540, open until filled
This course increases local authorities’ knowledge of urban development and disaster risk reduction, builds training capacity, and helps at-risk communities create safer and more sustainable development.


February 21-24, 2010
Ninth International Workshop on Seismic Microzoning and Risk Reduction
Mexican Society of Seismic Engineering and the Universidad National Autónoma de Mexico
Cuernavaca, Mexico
Cost and Registration: $400 before January 31, open until filled
This workshop discusses earthquakes, earthquake engineering, seismic hazard assessment and risk, and earthquake disaster management in urban areas.


February 22-27, 2010
Modeling Floods
Newcastle University
Newcastle, United Kingdom
Cost and Registration: $1912, open until filled
This course introduces the theory and practice of flood risk modeling using flood estimation frameworks, as well as a flood risk management context.


April 8-15, 2010
2010 Hazard Mapping and Environmental Summit
Resource Recovery Movement
Manila, Philippines
Cost and Registration: Not posted

This conference aims to improve risk mapping approaches in the Philippines and other tropical countries. Establishing necessary preparedness plans and estimating the cost of implementing safety measures will also be covered.

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9) Jobs, Jobs, Jobs

[The following job postings provided an overview of some selected openings in hazards-related fields. For more information on a particular job, please follow the links provided.]

Program Specialist, GS-11
Federal Emergency Management Agency
New York, New York
Salary: $63,397 to $82,410
Closing Date: December 11, 2009
This position provides technical emergency management assistance during disasters, develops regional support plans for all-hazard operations and national-level security events, oversees operations during an incident, and coordinates response and recovery. One year of experience at GS-10 or above is required.


Emergency Management Coordinator
DuPage County
Wheaton, Illinois
Salary: $60,000 to $65,000
Closing Date: Open until filled
This position conducts hazard analysis and mitigation planning, aids DuPage municipalities with plan development, and plans for continuity of operations. A bachelor’s degree in emergency management or a related field and three years of experience are required.


Emergency Services Director
City of San Jose
San Jose, California
Salary: $108,247 to $168,617
Closing Date: December 30, 2009
This position secures grants related to emergency services and disaster preparedness and represents San Jose in mobilizing local, regional, and community partners. A bachelor’s degree in emergency management or a related field and experience in coordinating emergency planning, response, and emergency operation center activation are required.


Climate Risk Research Scientist
CSIRO Marine and Atmospheric Research
Victoria, Australia
Salary: $109,000 to $121,000
Closing Date: December 11, 2009
This position conducts research on climate change science, risk assessment, adaptation, and vulnerability. A PhD in environmental science or a related field, a good understanding of and professional experience in climate science and risk assessment frameworks, and five years project management experience are required.


Australian Red Cross
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Salary: Not posted
Closing Date: December 14, 2009
This position advocates legal preparedness by developing partnerships, building the capacity to address legal aspects of disaster response, and implementing an international strategic plan. Post-graduate and legal experience, ability to perform legal and academic research, and international experience are required.


Research Associate
United Nations University Institute for Environment and Human Security
Bonn, Germany
Salary: Not posted
Closing Date: December 12, 2009
This position develops methodologies to assess the vulnerability of critical infrastructure to climate-related hazards, analyzes infrastructure and social vulnerability links, and develops criteria for assessing vulnerability. A degree in geography, spatial planning, engineering, or environmental sciences, experience in natural hazards research and vulnerability assessment, and fluency in English and German are required.

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Contributions of jobs, conferences, and other content to this newsletter can be sent to Please include “for Disaster Research” in the subject line.

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