The UN and other global relief agencies are gearing up to put emergency response measures into place as the giant category 5 Tropical Cyclone Pam started to rip through the island chain of Vanuatu in the South Pacific over the next 24-36 hours. Unicef says immediate “forecasts are for damaging gale force winds – up to 185 mph – very heavy rainfall and flooding. 260,000 people are at risk.”
The Sydney Morning Herald reports:
“The immediate concern is for a very high death toll but also an enormous amount of destruction and devastation,” Sune Gudnitz, head of the Pacific office at UNOCHA, the UN’s emergency relief arm, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation from nearby Fiji, which is also bracing for the impact.”
CNN reports that Tropical Cyclone Pam is the strongest storm to make landfall since the devastating Super Typhoon Haiyan hit the Philippines in 2013. It is expected to pass east of New Zealand on Sunday and into Monday and could bring heavy rainfall and power cuts to North Island, including Auckland.
* WORLD * The battle for Tikrit is continuing, with Iraqi forces expecting to push ISIS militants out of the city “within a few days,” an Iraqi security official told NBC News.
The US is considering whether to remove Cuba from the list of nations considered to be state sponsors of terrorism, ahead of a new round of talks next week aimed at moving towards a normalizing of diplomatic relations.
Nick Miroff at The Washington Post writes how Cuba’s revolution “is circling back.”
Cuba today is a place where many young people idolize the United States and display little patience for the state-run economic model that has left much of their country in ruins. There is no stigma anymore toward entrepreneurship or private business. Real estate agents in Havana’s newly liberalized housing market signal high quality with the phrase “construción capitalista,” meaning a property that was built in the pre-Revolutionary period, when people cared about aesthetics and workmanship.
* BUSINESS * There’s a fascinating new report out from Inside Higher Education, based on a Gallup survey, that indicates only 39 per cent of (US) college presidents are “confident” their institutions are financially sustainable over the next decade.
“We’ve really reached a turning point,” says Ronald Ehrenberg, a professor of industrial and labor relations and economics at Cornell and head of the Cornell Higher Education Research Institute. “The growing debt crisis and decline in family incomes after the recession has made people very cost-conscious, and institutions aren’t going to be able to increase tuition as rapidly in the future.”
Is there an algorithm that tells employers who on their staff is most likely to leave? Some big corporates are giving it some thought.
* MEDIA * Sony Pictures Television is apparently in “advanced talks” to sell reruns of Seinfeld to an online video service, the Wall Street Journal reports.
* SPORTS *
(image: New York Times/ Andrew Das)
New York City FC is set to play its first MLS home game at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx on Sunday. The club is hopeful the pitch will happily accommodate both sports, but one Yankee player isn’t so sure, even if Yankees officials say that concerts do far more damage to the playing surface.
Meanwhile, Brian Straus at Sports Illustrated reports that Minnesota United, who currently play in the NASL, are set to be one of the upcoming MLS expansion franchises.
* CULTURE * A few days after reports of “mysterious signals” from an “Earth-like planet” new research shows that “some habitable exoplanets could experience wildly unpredictable climates.” And now, might there be water beneath the crust of Jupiter’s largest moon, Ganymede?
Finally, Saturday is Pi Day – 3.14 – and no-one’s probably more anxious about it than students waiting to see whether they’ve made it into MIT.
But this year is HUGE for those who love pi, which officially goes by the mathematical, Greek-letter symbol of π. The 2015 calendar brings a special gift to π lovers: The “15″ in 2015 continues out pi’s decimal string in the constant number that is the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter.
(Mind = blown.)