#1 As a Californian, I shudder to read this
10-22-2012, 02:31 PM
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- Jun 2008
Italian court convicts 7 for no quake warning
(Wonder if the folks at Cal Tech are shaking in their boots?)
L'AQUILA, Italy -
An Italian court convicted seven scientists and experts of manslaughter on Monday for failing to adequately warn citizens before an earthquake struck central Italy in 2009, killing more than 300 people.
The court in L'Aquila also sentenced the defendants to six years in prison. Each one is a member of the national Great Risks Commission.
In Italy, convictions aren't definitive until after at least one level of appeals, so it is unlikely any of the defendants would face jail immediately.
Scientists worldwide had decried the trial as ridiculous, contending that science has no reliable way of predicting earthquakes.
Among those convicted were some of Italy's most prominent and internationally respected seismologists and geological experts, including Enzo Boschi, former head of the national Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology.
`'I am dejected, desperate," Boschi said after the verdict. `'I thought I would have been acquitted. I still don't understand what I was convicted of."
The trial began in September 2011 in this Apennine town, whose devastated historic center is still largely a ghost town.
The defendants were accused in the indictment of giving `'inexact, incomplete and contradictory information" about whether small tremors felt by L'Aquila residents in the weeks and months before the April 6, 2009, quake should have constituted grounds for a quake warning.
The 6.3-magnitude quake killed 308 people in and around the medieval town and forced survivors to live in tent camps for months.
Many much smaller earth tremors had rattled the area in the months before the quake, causing frightened people to wonder if they should evacuate.
`'I consider myself innocent before God and men," said another convicted defendant, Bernardo De Bernardinis, a former official of the national Civil Protection agency.
Prosecutors had sought conviction and four-year sentences during the non-jury trial, which was led by a judge.
A defense lawyer, Filippo Dinacci, told reporters that the sentence would have `'big repercussions" on public administration since officials would be afraid to `'do anything."
Read more: http://www.myfoxdc.com/story/1988201...#ixzz2A39wTFCy
10-22-2012, 02:37 PM
I deal with meteorology, not seismology, but I still say this is absolutely fucking bullshit.
In my type of career field, I can see this happening. In the event a completely predictable event was missed by a forecaster due to negligence and people died, then I'd say it could be possible to hold them accountable. But from knowledge I have of seismology, there is no prediction, and even if there is a method, it's not one that can be used to dissemenate a warning fast enough to be actionable.
I hope these guys win their appeal, it never should have even gotten to that point.In most sports, cold-cocking an opposing player repeatedly in the face with a series of gigantic Slovakian uppercuts would get you a multi-game suspension without pay.
In hockey, it means you have to sit in the penalty box for five minutes.
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10-23-2012, 09:28 AM
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- Mar 2002
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I just saw this story this morning and I thought it was a joke or something.
If those people don't get released it's beyond tragic...May the FORCE be with you!
10-23-2012, 07:06 PM
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- Jun 2008
Well, 5 Italian officials agree with you:
5 Italian officials quit in protest over convictions tied to quake warning
ROME -- A government official and four experts from an agency that advises Italian authorities in emergencies resigned Tuesday in protest after a court convicted seven experts for failing to give sufficient warning before a devastating earthquake struck in 2009, Italian news agencies reported.
Luciano Maiani, a physicist at the head of the Major Risks Commission, said that Monday's verdict that found six scientists and a public administrator guilty of manslaughter would make it impossible for professionals to offer impartial and specialized opinions in both the prevention and handling of dangerous situations.
Maiani quit along with three other panel members, citing “the impossibility that the Major Risks Commission can work in serenity and offer highly scientific analyses to the state in these complex conditions.” An official with the government’s Department of Civil Protection also resigned, news agencies said...
...Officials of the Department of Civil Protection told Italian media that they feared the verdict would erase years of progress and expertise in disaster prevention and that the agency would return to its old job of providing relief and rescue only after the fact.
10-24-2012, 05:55 PM
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- Jun 2008
A Dark Ages day in Italy
Italy's decision to convict six scientists and an ex-official for misinterpreting the quake risk before a 2009 temblor struck is a setback for science.
Maybe the United States doesn't need to worry about an impending shortage of scientists. The ones in Italy might be happy to move here after the preposterous conviction this week of six earthquake experts who inaccurately gauged the chances of a major temblor striking a quake-prone area in that country.
In a decision more reminiscent of Dark Ages magical thinking than modern scientific understanding, a three-judge panel sentenced the experts, as well as a former government official, to six years in prison for concluding in 2009 that the risk of a catastrophic earthquake in L'Aquila was small. The region had been plagued by a series of tremors, and less than a week after the panel of scientists delivered its opinion, a 6.3-magnitude quake killed 300 people.
The government had asked the scientists, members of the Major Risks Commission, for an assessment of the risk and they gave it — including a caveat that their prediction might prove incorrect. Tragically, the caveat came true. Maybe the scientists made mistakes in their calculations. Perhaps they could have been better at their jobs and reached a more accurate assessment, or this might have been the best any seismologist could do. But if the responsibility belongs anywhere, it's with the government for treating earthquake prediction as if it were an exact science — it notably is not — and implying that the public could rely on such predictions.
Meanwhile, if there was a blame-worthy action by the experts, it was committed by one man who made the rather condescending remark that people in the quake zone should relax, preferably with a glass of wine. But flippant comments aren't, or at least shouldn't be, criminal offenses.
Had the commission come to a different conclusion and warned of impending peril, residents might have jammed the streets with cars in a frantic attempt to evacuate, which could have resulted in loss of life in collisions. And what if that prediction proved false? Would the scientists have been convicted of unnecessarily causing a panic that resulted in death?
If the Italian government wanted absolute accuracy, it would have needed to find an all-knowing authority. Experts can give their educated opinion on whether geologic events fit a dangerous-looking pattern, but the only utterly true answer that current earthquake science can deliver is: We don't know. And that's the only answer Italy will be able to expect from scientists in the future unless an appeals court overturns this case and the government drops its Inquisition-like prosecution of imperfect experts.
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