LA fires force evacuations
Event date: 2008-10-14
Two huge wildfires driven by strong Santa Ana winds burned into neighbourhoods near Los Angeles on Monday, forcing frantic evacuations on smoke- and traffic-choked highways, destroying homes and causing at least two deaths. More than 1 000 firefighters and nine water-dropping aircraft battled the 1 900h Marek Fire at the northeast end of the San Fernando Valley, and the 2 000h Sesnon Fire at the west end. Winds blew up to 72km/h with gusts reaching 113km/h at midday. They were forecast to diminish in the evening before roaring over 97km/h after 23:00. “This fire has the real potential of moving from where it is now … as far as Pacific Coast (Highway),” said Los Angles County Fire Chief P Michael Freeman. Residents downwind were warned to remain alert into the night. “It can go from here to the ocean in a matter of two to three hours,” said Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky. Authorities confirmed more than three-dozen mobile homes burned at the Marek Fire and TV news helicopter crews counted about 10 homes destroyed by the Sesnon Fire. Both fires also consumed commercial sites.

Lebanon files hummus lawsuit against Israel
Event date: 2008-10-15
The cultural conflicts in the Middle East are now being brought to the dinner table. The president of the Lebanese Industrialists Association, Fadi Abboud, recently announced plans to bring a lawsuit against Israel for falsely marketing hummus as their own. Although the exact origin of this tasty chickpea spread is unknown, it is generally believed to be Arab in origin, with both the Lebanese and Palestinians laying claim to the dish’s creation, and the integral role it plays in their cultural cuisines. Lebanese businessmen have taken issue with Israel’s exportation of Lebanese dishes and practice of marketing them as Israeli in origin, filing numerous complaints with the Lebanese Industrialist Association. For Abboud, this is one more Israeli affront to Lebanese culture and nationhood: “It is not enough that they (Israelis) are stealing our land. They are also stealing our civilization and our cuisine.” The Lebanese Industrialists Association is endeavoring first to trademark hummus as Lebanese property, giving it a Lebanese brand that will enable them to sue Israel for falsely marketing registered products. In addition to hummus, the lawsuit will address property rights over baba ghanouj and tabbouleh.

Cape Town’s Robben Island: temporary closure
Event date: 2008-10-15
The Robben Island museum will be closed from November 1 to 16 while authorities cull a colony of rabbits that has invaded the site where Nelson Mandela was jailed. Authorities said on Tuesday the museum, popular with tourists wanting to see the former president’s cell, would be temporarily closed while the rabbits were killed to protect plant life and historical buildings at the World Heritage site. “The current population is so large that it threatens to permanently damage the island’s sensitive vegetation, and poses a serious threat to other fauna species,” Seelan Naidoo, the museum’s acting chief executive said in a statement. He said the exact number of rabbits was unknown. The culling would be followed by a sterilisation programme to sustain a small, manageable rabbit population.

Omar strengthens into hurricane in Caribbean
Event date: 2008-10-16
Omar hit hurricane strength on Tuesday as it headed toward Puerto Rico and the small islands of the northeastern Caribbean, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said. Omar, which grew quickly from a tropical storm, had sustained winds of 120 kph as it churned about 315 miles 505 km southwest of Puerto Rico, the Miami-based hurricane center said. In Venezuela, the storm stopped tankers from loading crude oil at refinery facilities and knocked out power at the OPEC nation’s 200,000 barrel-per-day Puerto La Cruz refinery, officials said. Omar, the 15th tropical storm of the Atlantic season, formed north of the Netherlands Antilles island of Curacao and revved up over warm Caribbean waters. It could be a Category 2 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson intensity scale, with winds of at least 155 kph, by the time it reaches the northern islands, forecasters said. Hurricane alerts were posted for Puerto Rico, the U.S. and British Virgin Islands and other islands including Antigua and Barbuda, Anguilla, St. Kitts and Nevis, Saba, St. Eustatius, St. Martin and St. Barthelemy.

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