NEW YORK – Former U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair and top leaders from around the world warned at the start of the Climate Week conference in New York that man-made climate change is a 95 percent certainty, calling for serious and urgent action to address the devastating disasters that have impacted the planet in recent times.
"This year is perhaps more critical than ever before," Blair said at the opening ceremony of the 5th annual Climate Week on Monday. "Here in the U.S., people's lives and livelihoods have been disturbed by extreme weather. The devastating floods of Colorado are a one in a thousand year event – and at the same time, 60 percent of the country is gripped in a severe drought."
Blair added that he is not pessimistic about the world's response to climate change, but is worried about the speed of progress. more >>
A massive fire broke out on the Seaside Park Boardwalk in New Jersey on Thursday afternoon around 2:30 p.m when firefighters responded to a call of flames coming from the popular Kohr Brothers Frozen Custard stand.
Seaside Heights Police Chief Thomas Boyd told reporters that the fire began at Kohr's ice cream shop around 2:30 p.m., and strong southeast winds caused the flames to quickly spread to 19 other buildings on the boardwalk. Surrounding areas are now being evacuated and business workers from that section of the boardwalk, as well as firefighters, are reportedly being treated for smoke inhalation.
Boyd told the New Jersey Star-Ledger that he couldn't comment further on the ongoing blaze, adding: "We've got everyone in the county coming. We're in trouble here. We've got major problems." Additionally, the Star-Ledger noted that firefighters were ordered to pull back from the blaze around 4:30 p.m. due to the high intensity of the fire. more >>
The United States Senate may be considering a bill that would lift the Federal Emergency Management Agency's ban on providing aid to houses of worship.
Sponsored by Democratic Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York and Republican Senator Roy Blunt of Missouri, the bill was introduced last Thursday.
"A church, synagogue, mosque, temple, or other house of worship, and an otherwise eligible private nonprofit facility operated by a religious organization, shall be eligible for contributions under paragraph (1)(B), without regard to the religious character of the facility or the primary religious use of the facility," reads the Senate bill in part. more >>
Rebecca Vitsmun, the Oklahoma tornado survivor who told CNN's Wolf Blitzer that she is an atheist, is going to be receiving tens of thousands of dollars in donations from the secular community, who decided to support her for speaking out about her non-belief.
"It's important that our community shows that we have your back when you come out publicly as an atheist," the Indiegogo Internet community Atheists Unite stated. "Let's show the world that you don't need to believe in a god to have human compassion nor does all charity fall under the banner of religion. Let's get this courageous woman and her family back in their own home."
Vitsmun managed to escape unharmed with her 19-month-old son on Monday after a tornado ripped through her home in Moore, Okla. A day later, when she was being interviewed on TV by Blitzer and asked if she was "thanking the Lord" for managing to escape on time, the mother said, "I'm actually an atheist." more >>
Why is calamity, the time we most need God's presence in pain, a time we tend to mouth off?
Why, when pain and agony are all around, do we think theological pronouncements are the best response?
Why, when displays of destruction fill the airwaves, are we given to speculate as to the ways and motives of God? more >>
[Updated 10:45 am, May 21: An earlier version said at least 91 people were dead, but an updated report in The New York Times says that spokeswoman for the Oklahoma City medical examiner Amy Elliot's figures that at least 51 people were dead and 40 more bodies were being delivered is "no longer accurate." The confirmed death toll is 24.]
As darkness fell on the tornado-ripped community of Moore, Okla., and the severely damaged areas surrounding Oklahoma City on Monday, at least 24 people, including children, were confirmed dead as the search for survivors continued. Many undamaged and secure structures, such as churches, served as emergency shelters for those whose homes were destroyed as the result of the 200 mph winds. Government-funded disaster relief teams were joined by faith-based organizations, some already mobilized from previous disaster efforts, for immediate action.
A frantic search for students, teachers and staff at the flattened Plaza Towers Elementary in Moore, which was in the storm's direct path, continued into Tuesday morning. Reports indicate that 75 third-graders were believed to have been huddled when the tornado struck, with seven now confirmed dead, a number of students showing up alive at a nearby church, and many still missing. more >>