Thursday, March 24, 2011

Worst Texas Drought in 44 Years Damaging Wheat Crop, Reducing Cattle Herds

The worst Texas drought in 44 years is damaging the state’s wheat crop and forcing ranchers to reduce cattle herds, as rising demand for U.S. food sends grain and meat prices higher.

Texas, the biggest U.S. cattle producer and second-largest winter-wheat grower, got just 4.7 inches (12 centimeters) of rain on average in the five months through February, the least for the period since 1967, State Climatologist John Nielsen- Gammon said. More than half the wheat fields and pastures were rated in poor or very poor condition on March 20.

Dry conditions extending to Oklahoma, Kansas and Colorado may cut crop yields in the U.S., the world’s largest exporter, as too much moisture threatens fields in North Dakota and in Canada. Wheat futures in Chicago are up 50 percent in the past year, after drought in Russia and floods in Australia hurt output and sent global food prices surging. Wholesale beef reached a record this week, and the U.S. cattle herd in January was the smallest since 1958.

“We’re probably already seeing some damage, but in the next couple of weeks, we’ll surely go downhill major if we don’t get some rain,” said David Cleavinger, who is irrigating 75 percent of his 1,000 acres (405 hectares) of wheat in Wildorado, Texas. “With the prices we’re seeing, we’re trying to hold on, but there’s nothing that takes the place of a rainstorm.” (read more)

Ten Economists Call Deficit a 'Severe Threat' to US

The budget deficit is so serious an issue that it can no longer be ignored by splits in government, a group of former members of the President’s Council of Economic Advisers wrote in an open letter in The Politico magazine Thursday.

In a letter to Congress and the president, 10 ex-chairman and chairwoman called for intense negotiations between both parties to take place in the wake of a report by the bipartisan National Commission of Fiscal Responsibility and Reform entitled "The Moment of Truth," issued in December.

The report, by co-chairmen Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson, argues that the long-run federal budget deficit will pose a serious threat to the long-term recovery of the economy.

It was supported by 11 out of a panel of 18 Democrats and Republicans.

The group argues that despite tentative signs of a recovery in the US economy, long-term issues such as an aging population and rapidly rising health-care costs threaten to derail the recovery.

While the budget deficit is likely to shrink over the coming years as the economy recovers, the growing gap between spending and revenue will take a toll on private investment and economic growth.

These combined factors will encourage bond markets to turn against the US threatening an even larger financial crisis than in 2008.

"The Moment of Truth" report documents that the “problem is real and the solution will be painful,” and the group said that cutting wasteful government spending and raising taxes will not solve the situation. (read more)

New US census milestone: Hispanics to hit 50 million

In a surprising show of growth, Hispanics accounted for more than half of the U.S. population increase over the last decade, exceeding estimates in most states. Pulled by migration to the Sun Belt, America's population center edged westward on a historic path to leave the Midwest.

The Census Bureau on Thursday will release its first set of national-level findings from the 2010 count on race and migration, detailing a decade in which rapid minority growth, aging whites and increased suburbanization were the predominant story lines. Geographers estimate that the nation's population center will move southwest about 30 miles and be placed in or near the village of Plato in Texas County, Mo.

"There is excitement," said Brad Gentry, 48, of Houston, Mo., who publishes the weekly paper in Texas County, noting that the U.S. population center typically carries symbolic meaning as the nation's heartland. "It is putting a spotlight on a corner of the world that doesn't get much attention. Most residents are proud of our region and like the idea that others will learn our story through this recognition."

Racial and ethnic minorities are expected to make up an unprecedented 90 percent of the total U.S. growth since 2000, due to immigration and higher birth rates for Latinos. (read more)

Euro's Collapse Is Not 'Unthinkable': Warren Buffett

Warren Buffett told CNBC Thursday that the collapse of the euro zone's single currency is far from "unthinkable."

"I know some people think it's unthinkable...I don't think it's unthinkable," Buffett said in an interview.

Still, Buffett said he believes there will be "huge efforts" put forth to preserve the euro. In the meantime, struggling peripheral countries like Portugal must find a way to resolve fiscal crises.

"You can't have three or four or five countries that are in effect free-riding on the other countries. That won't work over time—they have to get their fiscal houses in reasonable harmony," he said.

The widely-watched investor spoke as yields on Portuguese bonds soared to new highs and markets remained alert for a potential European Union bailout of the troubled nation. Late Wednesday, Portugal's prime minister stepped down after the country's parliament rejected a fiscal austerity plan proposed by his government. (read more)

Unsafe Science: Sperm grown in laboratory, raising hopes of male infertility treatments (and likely many problems)

Scientists have grown sperm in the laboratory in a landmark study that could help preserve the fertility of cancer patients and shed fresh light on male reproductive problems.

Fertility experts called the work a "crucial experimental advance" towards the use of lab-grown sperm in the clinic and a stepping stone to the routine creation of human sperm for men who cannot make the cells normally.

Though the procedure would be illegal in Britain under current legislation, sperm grown in the laboratory, if proven safe, could be used to help infertile men have children through standard IVF treatments.

The procedure could also benefit boys with cancer who are too young to produce sperm but are at risk of being made infertile by radio- or chemotherapy.

While men can have their sperm frozen before cancer treatment, the latest research suggests boys could have testicular tissue removed and kept in cold storage for use in later life.

Japanese researchers cultivated small pieces of tissue from the testes of baby mice on a gel bathed in nutrients. After several weeks they collected viable sperm from the tissue. (read more)

Welcome to America: Video shows bikini brawl in Panama City Beach Burger King



A cell phone camera captured the action in the Panama City Beach Burger King on Front Beach Road Saturday, as a crowd of tourists nearly rioted at the restaurant.

Employees dialed 9-1-1 for help, as one bikini-clad woman, later identified as Kimesia Smith of Montgomery, Ala., jumped up on the counter and threw a charity coin jug at employees, and 3 of Smith's friends also began throwing napkins, utensils, and trays throughout the location.

The woman in the bikini, who became concerned about the whereabouts of her two children after Panama City Beach Police placed her in handcuffs, was taken to the Bay County Jail on charges of simple battery, in part because of allegations she pulled a Burger King employee's hair. Beach police contacted a friend of the woman, who told police she would take care of Smith's children. (read more)

Surprise: Iran's Ahmadinejad about to be impeached by parliament?

Iranian lawmakers—including former supporters—have moved to impeach President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for law violations that could land him in prison. Reza Aslan reports on the bombastic leader’s flagrant missteps.

There is a joke one hears a lot in Iran these days. A foreign journalist hops into a cab. As the car careens through Tehran's streets, they come to a clogged intersection where a brand new highway is being built. The journalist asks the driver, “What is the name of this new highway?” The cab driver proudly responds, “This is Shaheed Ahmadinejad highway,” meaning literally, “Ahmadinejad the Martyr” highway.

Of course, the bombastic president of Iran is still very much alive. But from the moment in which Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was sworn into office last year, Iranians have been placing bets on just how long into his second term he will last.

It is not just a matter of the stolen election that returned Ahmadinejad to power, or the massive, months-long demonstration that followed. It is a sense among most Iranians—even among Ahmadinejad’s allies—that with the protests having died down and the “Green Movement” having been (for the moment) contained, the alliance of convenience that had formed among Iran’s feuding conservative factions would fracture, taking Ahmadinejad down with it. (read more)

Israeli Defense Force tanks strike Gaza after Hamas launches 4 rockets

Palestinian sources: one injured as building catches fire; IAF hits rocket-launching terrorists, smuggling tunnels along Gaza-Egypt border and Hamas training camp; action follows rocket attacks in Beersheba, Ashkelon.

IDF tanks shot into Gaza on Thursday, injuring one man, according to Palestinian sources, following four Kassam rockets launched from Gaza into Israel.

The strike came after the IAF struck four targets in Gaza Strip in the early morning, after Palestinians fired about a dozen rockets and mortars across the border, striking deep into Israel.

The tanks were aimed at a Hamas facility in Gaza City, which reportedly burst into flames.

Earlier Thursday, the IAF bombed terrorists that were attempting to shoot rockets into Israel.

Hamas said Israel targeted smuggling tunnels along the Gaza-Egypt border, as well as one of its training camps in central Gaza.

A third strike hit a power transformer, causing blackouts in the area, witnesses said. Medical workers said no one was injured in the strikes.

The IDF confirmed that the IAF strikes were carried out in Gaza in response to earlier rocket attacks and that direct hits on multiple targets were recorded. (read more)

Thousands shout for freedom in southern Syria

Thousands called for liberty Thursday in the southern Syrian city of Daraa, defying a deadly government crackdown as they took to the streets in funeral marches for protesters killed by police gunfire, an activist said.

Media access to the marches was restricted but an Associated Press reporter heard sporadic bursts of gunfire echoing through the city in the afternoon. Almost all shops were shuttered, the streets were virtually empty and soldiers and anti-terrorism police stopped people at checkpoints and manned many intersections - the heaviest security presence since the unrest began.

Security troops were in total control of the area around al-Omari mosque, where protesters had been holed up earlier and where most of Wednesday's fighting occurred. Syrian officials escorted a small group of photographers to the mosque to show they were now in control. (read more)

Hundreds of Jordanians set up protest in capital

Hundreds of Jordanians set up a protest camp in a main square in the capital on Thursday to press demands for the ouster of the prime minister and wider public freedoms.

The 500 protesters appeared to be mostly university students or unemployed graduates unaffiliated with any political party. Many said they met through Facebook last month to launch a group called the Jordanian Youth Movement.

Group spokesman Ziad al-Khawaldeh said protesters would remain outdoors until Prime Minister Marouf al-Bakhit departs. Other demands include dissolving what is widely seen as a docile parliament, dismantling the largely feared intelligence department and giving greater powers to the people.

The group changed its name Thursday to "Youth of March 24" — marking what members said was the start of an open-ended demonstration.

"Today is the dawning of the Jordanian revolution," said group spokesman Ziad al-Khawaldeh, 23.

"We will not move an inch from here until our demands are met," he said under pouring rain at the Interior Ministry Circle in the heart of the Jordanian capital. The district houses the Interior Ministry and police, financial and other government offices as well as Western hotels.

Protesters waved banners that called for a "new Jordan, clean of corruption and corrupt officials."

"Intelligence Department, we want your hands off politics!" they chanted.

Al-Khawaldeh said the protesters want Prime Minister Marouf al-Bakhit to be "instantly replaced with a liberal government that would quickly implement reforms." (read more)

World's wind and waves have been rising for decades - 24th Mar 2011

Wind speeds and wave heights over the world's oceans have been rising for the past quarter-century. It's unclear if this is a short-term trend, or a symptom of longer-term climatic change. Either way, more frequent hurricanes and cyclones could be on the horizon.

Ian Young at the Australian National University in Canberra and colleagues analysed satellite data from 1985 to 2008 to calculate wave heights and wind speeds over the world's oceans. They found that winds had strengthened – speeding up over most of the world's oceans by 0.25 to 0.5 per cent, on average, each year. Overall, wind speeds were 5 to 10 per cent faster than they had been 20 years earlier.

The trend was most pronounced for the strongest winds. For instance, the very fastest 1 per cent of winds were getting stronger by 0.75 per cent per year, says Young.

Average wave height was also on the rise, but less so; and the highest waves showed the strongest trend. Read More

BREAKING NEWS - BP's $16 billion Deal With Rosneft Is Halted - 24th Mar 2011

Oil firm BP has been dealt a fresh blow as its planned $16bn tie-up with Russia's Rosneft has been halted.

An arbitration panel in Stockholm ruled on the case after Russian investors won a temporary injunction from a London court against the deal.

BP and Rosneft hailed the tie-up as a major step forward for the two companies as it would see them explore for oil in the Arctic offshore.

The UK-based company said it was "disappointed that these agreements, which are important for Russia, for Rosneft and for BP, cannot for now go ahead in the form intended".

BP has said it hopes the deal can proceed in some way. Read More

Portugal edges toward bailout after govt quits

Portugal's financial collapse appeared inevitable on Thursday, as markets took the government's resignation as proof the debt-heavy country will lose its year-long battle to avoid a bailout.

Investors pushed the interest rate on Portugal's 10-year bonds to a euro-era record of 7.71 percent - an unsustainable financial burden that could soon force the country to ask for a rescue like Greece and Ireland did last year. Analysts estimate a bailout would amount to euro80 billion ($113.02 billion).

The Socialist government quit late Wednesday after opposition parties rejected its latest debt-reduction plan, generating new market jitters and likely shortening the time the country can hold out before asking for help.

Portugal's outgoing minister for the Cabinet, Pedro Silva Pereira, said the Socialist Party will continue to resist a rescue that would frighten away investors and could delay recovery for years. (read more)

US Effort in Libya Costs Hundreds of Millions So Far

Stretched thin by two wars, the U.S. military is spending upward of $1 billion in an international assault to destroy Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi's air defenses and save rebels from likely defeat, according to analysts and a rough calculation of the military operation so far.

Missiles fired from submarines in the Mediterranean, bombs dropped by B-2 stealth bombers and an array of warplanes launching airstrikes over the northern portion of Libya easily total hundreds of millions of dollars. The campaign entered its fifth day on Wednesday.

The Obama administration isn't talking overall cost, but the magnitude of the military campaign, the warships and aircraft deployed and the munitions used provide some information to estimate the growing price tag.

As of Tuesday, the coalition had fired at least 162 sea-launched Tomahawk missiles priced at $1 million to $1.5 million apiece and dispatched B-2 stealth bombers - round-trip from Missouri - to drop 2,000-pound bombs on Libyan sites.

Total flying time: 25 hours. Operating cost for one hour: at least $10,000.

Yet those numbers only provide part of the costs. The B-2 bombers require expensive fuel - and rely on air tankers to refuel in flight - and probably needed parts replaced upon their return to Whiteman Air Force Base. The pilots most certainly will get combat pay.

A contingent of U.S. warplanes; 11 ships steaming in the Mediterranean, including three submarines, two destroyers and two amphibious ships; and one F-15 fighter jet that crashed, costing $75 million or more - it all adds up to numbers that unnerve budget-conscious lawmakers. (read more)

Aisha, Gaddafi's only daughter: The lesser known Gaddafi

Aisha Gaddafi lives up to her reputation in the Arab press of being the “Claudia Schiffer of North Africa”, says Cassandra Jardine.

You would think that Aisha Gaddafi had nothing else to think about these days apart from shaping her eyebrows. While her elder brother Saif looks dishevelled and sounds almost as crazed as his father, she stands amid the crowd in her father’s compound, Bab al-Azizia, looking immaculate. Apart from the fact that she has stopped dying her hair blonde and now wears a veil, she lives up to her reputation in the Arab press of being the “Claudia Schiffer of North Africa”.

Given her glamour and Gaddafi’s need to present an attractive face to the world, his favourite child and only daughter should be as familiar an inhabitant of the pages of Hello as Queen Rania of Jordan. In January there was a brief and tantalising rumour that she had had an affair with Silvio Berlusconi which turned out to be no more than flippant speculation by an Italian newspaper. But apart from one widely reproduced picture in which she sports acres of tumbling blonde locks and a trout pout, she rarely ventures into the public eye.

The glamour shot was taken before 2006 when she married Ahmed al-Gaddafi al-Qahsi, a cousin and Army colonel and became a mother of three. Since then she has maintained a low profile, despite heading up Wa’tassimu, Libya’s largest charity group, and her role (terminated last month) as a UN Goodwill Ambassador. Princess of Peace, a 92-page biography of Ms Gaddafi by a Tunisian, is sadly not available in translation.

She gave her only interview to the Sunday Telegraph, last October, when the Western world was still sucking up to her father, not shooting at him. It took place on a mermaid-shaped sofa in her vast villa in the suburbs of Tripoli. When asked how people react when they discover who she is, she said that they “generally gasp, and then they become very friendly, and take the chance to send greeting to my father. No-one has ever reacted badly." (read more)

Inflation could hit 5pc within months, says Bank of England

The Bank of England has warned that inflation is in danger of rocketing above 5pc in the coming months, piling more pressure on policymakers to raise interest rates.

Its warning will ratchet up fears that inflation is spiralling out of control, fuelled by a step-change in the Bank’s position in less than a month.

In the February Inflation Report, it forecast inflation peaking at 4.5pc in the three months to September. Minutes for this month’s Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) meeting, however, warned of “a significant risk that inflation would exceed 5pc in the near term”.

Concerns about escalating inflation appear to be persuading more members of the nine-strong MPC that it is time to raise rates. The minutes showed that the same three members voted for a rate hike as in February but suggested others are now more ready to join them.

Markets already expect at least two rate rises before the end of the year and the Bank’s own forecasts are based on a rate rise by June.

Referring to the five members who voted for policy to be left unchanged this month, the minutes said: “Others thought that, given further upwards revisions to the near-term outlook for inflation, the case for an increase in Bank Rate had strengthened in recent months." (read more)

Could Obama be Impeached over Libya? Let's ask Biden

Canada: Storm surges the new normal, P.E.I. warned

Coastal communities along P.E.I.'s North Shore need to prepare themselves for the impacts from climate change, a watershed management group was told Tuesday night.

About two dozen residents gathered at the North Rustico Lions Club to hear a panel of experts discuss how climate change will hit North Shore communities.

Flooding from storm surges, a combination of high tides and water driven on shore by strong winds, was a major focus of the meeting.

"We're going to see bigger storm surges and they're going to occur more frequently," said Erin Taylor, climate change coordinator for the provincial Department of Environment.

Taylor said storm surges like the one the North Shore saw on Dec. 21, in the 3.6-metre range, currently come about once every 20 years. By the 2050s, they are expected to happen once every two years.

"I think with some of the recent storms we have had people living around the coast are noticing big changes in erosion," said Taylor.

"They've seen flooding in areas perhaps they haven't seen flooding before, and we heard that tonight. So those are some of the issues that they're dealing with." The encroaching sea is also affecting local wells, with salt water creeping in.

Jim Newson, who operates an organic farm and bed and breakfast in New Glasgow, said he's worried about how his property will stand up to more storm surges and soil erosion in the future.

"I do have a bank that's fairly high, 20 to 30 feet. And at the bottom of that bank there's some of the actual bank that's eroding away," said Newson. "It's a concern." (read more)

Killed by pollution: Hundreds of pieces of plastic found inside stomach of sea turtle - 24th Mar 2011

This collection of junk may resemble the rubbish scraped from the bottom of a toolbox - but it is in fact the man-made debris found inside a dead turtle.

The hundreds of shards of plastic were taken from the digestive system of a young turtle who is thought to have died from pollution poisoning before washing up off the coast of Argentina.

The find highlights the problem of masses of non-biodegradable materials blighting our seas and their inhabitants.

Ocean currents keep the plastic in the sea in giant rubbish dumps, which are fatal to sea life.

When plastic is in the sea for a long time it photodegrades into smaller and smaller pieces until it is small enough to be ingested by organisms near the surface - thus entering the food chain.

Fish and sea birds eat the debris thinking it is food, and it is likely this unfortunate turtle mistook the plastic for jellyfish or another type of food.

The jagged pieces of plastic can cause deadly internal damage by perforating organs and causing a blockage in the bowels. Read More

Libya in flames: French fighter jets shoot down Gaddafi warplane in battle for Misratah - 24th Mar 2011

Allied planes have bombed Libya for a fifth night, targeting military sites as reports emerged a French fighter jet had shot down a Gaddafi warplane in breach of the no-fly zone.

However, Colonel Muammar Gaddafi's regime attempted a propaganda coup by parading the charred bodies of what they claim are civilian casualties.

Despite U.S. denials of any deaths of civilians, Gaddafi's officials took journalists to a Tripoli hospital earlier today to show the bodies of 18 military personnel and residents they said were killed by Western warplanes or missiles overnight.

The allied forces have hit Libya for five consecutive nights, and footage was broadcast which claimed to show burning rubble and armoured vehicles in a Libyan government compound after allied bomb attacks on Tripoli. Read More

BREAKING NEWS: 6.8 Magnitude Earthquake N of Chiang Rai, Thailand - 24th Mar 2011


BANGKOK — A strong earthquake struck eastern Myanmar Thursday, the US Geological Survey said, as Thai police reported at least one death and shaking was felt in several countries across southeast Asia.

The quake was felt as far away as Bangkok, almost 800 kilometres (500 miles) south of the epicentre, Hanoi and the Myanmar capital Naypyidaw, and was initially put at magnitude-7.0, before being revised slightly downwards to 6.8.

The epicentre, in the hills of Myanmar close to the borders with Thailand and Laos, was only 10 kilometres (six miles) deep.

It was located 90 kilometres (56 miles) north of Chiang Rai in Thailand and 235 kilometres (146 miles) north-north-east of Chiang Mai, Thailand's second city and a popular tourist destination.

No tsunami warning was issued, with US seismologists saying the tremor was too far inland to generate a devastating wave in the Indian Ocean.

Police in Thailand's Mae Sai district, the northernmost area on the border with Myanmar, said a 52-year-old woman was killed after a wall of her house collapsed during the quake. Read More

Suspicious Package Reported at Miami International Airport after explosion and fire rips through fuel tank: Evacuation and Lockdown at Terminal 5

Hours after a massive fire ripped through a fuel tank at Miami International Airport, a suspicious package caused an evacuation of a terminal Thursday morning.

Concourse J at Terminal 5 was evacuated and locked down shortly before 8 a.m. after a suspicious bag was found on a baggage carousel.

A bomb squad was called in as authorities investigated. The area was cleared by 9 a.m. and passengers were being allowed back into the concourse.

The fire was reported in a fuel tank around 11 p.m. Wednesday, and took firefighters a couple hours to extinguish. No one was injured. (Source)

Source of latest Gulf oil spill determined, and NO its not Algae - 23rd Mar 2011

Just hours after a new sizable oil slick was discovered in the Gulf of Mexico off the Louisiana coast, a Houston-based energy company came forward to claim responsibility for the latest round of crude tainting the area.

Anglo-Suisse Offshore Partners issued a statement last night expressing "surprise" that what it claimed was a minor leak from a well that's been out of use for some time could have produced miles-long slicks that garnered national media attention. The company has been in the process of permanently plugging the well -- located in a shallow area about 30 miles southeast of Grand Isle, La. Anglo-Suisse owned a cluster of five platforms in that area that were destroyed by Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

According to the Times-Picayune's David Hammer, Anglo-Suisse has filed three incident reports with the Coast Guard since last Friday. In those documents, Hammer reports, the company explained that as it used a remotely operated submarine to plug the well, some oil had been discharged into the Gulf. Read More

NOTE: "Scientists at a Cocodrie marine-research center say a miles-long discolored patch on the Gulf originally feared to be oil may actually be a huge algae bloom (Source)" --and they wonder why we question everything and believe nothing.

Two passenger jets landed without controller assistance at Reagan National Airport , Washington DC , 24th Mar 2011

WASHINGTON – Air traffic safety is under increased scrutiny by federal authorities following an incident in which two passenger jets landed without controller assistance at Reagan National Airport because no one could be reached in the airport tower.

An aviation official said that an air traffic supervisor — the lone controller on duty around midnight on Tuesday when the incident occurred — had fallen asleep. The official, who spoke on grounds of anonymity because an investigation is ensuing, said the incident has led the Federal Aviation Administration to launch a nationwide inquiry into airport tower staffing issues.

Peter Knudson, a spokesman for the National Transportation Safety Board said Wednesday that the pilots of the two planes were in contact with controllers at a regional Federal Aviation Administration facility about 40 miles away in Warrenton, Va.

He said that after pilots were unable to raise the airport tower at Reagan by radio, they asked controllers in Warrenton to call the tower. Repeated calls from the regional facility to the tower went unanswered, Knudson added. Read More

European Commission announces that it was hit by targeted attack, as cyber espionage campaign continues - 24th Mar 2011

The European Commission was hacked into yesterday just hours before a summit of EU leaders debating the military campaign in Libya, the Euro debt crisis and nuclear safety.

A spokesperson for the EC told AFP that all staff were warned that remote access to emails was no longer operational. They also confirmed that pages from European Union websites, notably those from the European External Action Service, which handles diplomatic relations for the 27 EU states around the world, were also closed down.

A commission spokesman Antony Gravili was unable to say whether police had been called in, saying only that an ‘in-house security team' was probing. He blamed the ‘serious attack' on malware rather than any attempt to unearth secret documents relating to summit issues. “I have no information at all linking the attack to the summit, we don't only suffer attacks at these times,” he said. Read More

Hundreds of dead starfish wash up on Talybont beach - 24th Mar 2011

Several hundred dead starfish have been found washed up on a north Wales beach.

It comes following the discovery at Talybont, between Harlech and Barmouth in Gwynedd.

Council maritime officer Barry Davies said it is common for starfish to be washed ashore during spring tides but it was not clear why they had migrated so far up the shoreline.

Barmouth harbour committee chairman said an inquiry is needed.

Councillor Trefor Roberts said: "What I would like is a full scientist report on what caused the deaths of these starfish."

Mr Davies said he did not think anything suspicious has led to the deaths of the starfish. Read More

NOTE: Less than 2 weeks ago reported on the 13th March 2011 thousands of dead starfish over a 5 mile stretch of beach in Kent was reported, I am sure they cant blame that on Spring tides.

Article:

For five miles they stretched along the beaches, a gruesome line of dead starfish.

Fishermen and bird-watchers at Pegwell Bay near Sandwich, Kent, discovered a "carpet" of thousands of the creatures lying on the sand just above the water line.

And on the beach at nearby Sandwich Bay, thousands more were photographed by Tony Flashman.

"The dead starfish stretched as far as you could see in both directions," said Mr Flashman, of Kingsdown, Deal.

Environment Agency officials are investigating what could have killed the starfish, which had been feeding on mussel beds.

They do not believe the deaths were linked to the recent storms because they were first reported to them last week.

They have also ruled out pollution or anything to do with climate change as the cause.

The agency said officials would investigate if the starfish were discarded by fishermen after the mussel beds were dredged. Read More

More U.S. states find traces of radiation from Japan - 24th Mar 2011

Colorado and Oregon have joined several other Western states in reporting trace amounts of radioactive particles that have likely drifted about 5,000 miles from a quake and tsunami-damaged nuclear power plant in Japan, officials say.

But, on a portion of its website dedicated to tracking such radiation, the Environmental Protection Agency noted Wednesday that these and other readings "show typical fluctuation in background radiation levels" and -- thus far -- "are far below levels of concern."

Sampling from a monitor in Colorado -- part of a national network of stations on the lookout for radioactivity -- detected miniscule amounts of iodine-131, a radioactive form of iodine, the state's public health and environmental department said Wednesday in a press release.

On the same day in Portland, Oregon, tiny quantities of iodine-131 were also detected by an Environmental Protection Agency air monitor, Oregon public health officials said. Read More

Swans hit by severe winter - 24th Mar 2011

More than 150 of the Queen’s mute swans have died on the Thames since the beginning of the year and experts say the extreme cold pushed up the sad total.

Around 20 of the dead birds found by Swan Lifeline and Her Majesty’s representatives were on the Caversham stretch of the river.

Post mortem examinations revealed the swans were killed by the necrotic enteritis, duck virus enteritis and aspergillosis infections.

It is thought the severe weather and shortage of food led to more victims than other years. And kind-hearted people throwing the swans more white bread than usual, because it was so cold, may have been in the wrong.

Necrotic enteritis is made worse by the swan eating large quantities of high-carbohydrate foods.

David Barber, swan marker to Her Majesty, said: “There is anecdotal evidence of this affecting swans in other parts of Britain but the River Thames at Windsor has been particularly affected.

“Quite a few breeding pairs there have died and there will be fewer cygnets as a result. Read More

Winter Fish Kill reported at Swan Lake , Iowa - 23rd Mar 2011

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources is reporting that melting ice across Iowa waters is revealing some Winter Fish Kills. Numerous reports of dead fish in lakes and ponds are being reported to the DNR as ice is melting.

One of the five lakes reporting the winter fish kill is Swan Lake in Carroll. Winter kills happen when a combination of ice and snow blocks sunlight from reaching oxygen producing aquatic plants.

Chief of the fisheries bureau for the Iowa DNR Joe Larscheid says that this is a natural phenomenon and has been occurring in lakes, ponds and river backwaters throughout history and on the positive side winter kills create a surplus of food that allows the remaining fish to experience rapid growth over the following year or two. The DNR is checking on the bodies of water to make sure some other factor is not to blame. Source

Ravenna Lake suffers massive fish kill - 24th Mar 2011



Experts call it a winter-kill. Onlookers call it devastating. Thousands of fish - much more than originally thought - are now dead in Ravenna Lake.

Game and Parks officials said the extended ice and snow coverage this year blocked the sun and killed aquatic plants. Without plants producing enough oxygen an estimated 3800 fish suffocated.

The massive amount of algae you see may also have been a factor.
Nebraska Game and Parks Commissioners said they'll decide what to do next in April.

"We'll have to first start with a sample of the fish population to determine how complete the kill was, we suspect it's pretty significant, and based on that survey we'll probably recommend fish stocking - probably largemouth bass, bluegill and channel catfish which were the main species in the lake," said Brad Newcomb, Nebraska Game and Parks.

Newcomb said it could take two to three years to replenish the fish population in the lake.

Meantime, with the cooler temperatures it could take a month before the dead fish decompose. Source

Dreaded Fish Killing alga bloom may be headed for Lake Whitney - 24th Mar 2011

LAKE WHITNEY – A toxic golden alga bloom that has killed over 80,000 fish in Lake Granbury since the first week of January appears to be headed down the Brazos River toward Lake Whitney, according to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.

The TPWD Kills and Spills team and the Brazos River Authority have been conducting weekly fish kill investigations since early January. At the beginning of the month, the estimated number of dead fish due to the kill was 82,418.

TPWD reports that around 82 percent of the fish were non-game species. Affected species have been freshwater drum, channel catfish, flathead catfish, white crappie, white bass, largemouth bass, striped bass, various sunfish species, gar, gizzard shad, threadfin shad and others.

On March 5, Somervell County Game Warden Joni Kuykendall was notified of a fish kill on the Brazos River below Lake Granbury. An investigation into that fish kill has begun.

It is suspected that the toxic golden alga bloom is now in the Brazos River, affecting some 50 miles of river between Lake Granbury and Lake Whitney. Results are pending a water sample taken to check for the presence and toxicity of golden alga in the river.

An official estimate of dead fish in the river has not yet been completed; however, biologists believe the number of fish killed in the Brazos River may very well surpass the estimated number of fish killed in Lake Granbury over the past two months.

According to TPWD, fish kills due to toxic golden alga in Texas seem to be increasing in duration and location. In February 2005, the largest known one-day total of dead fish occurred at Lake Whitney when an estimated 4.9 million were killed. Read More

What Killed the Fish? - 24th Mar 2011

YORK — A citizen report of a large number of dead fish at the Beaver Creek spillway near the tennis courts in Harrison Park led to photos and an inquiry to Daryl Bauer of the Game and Parks Commission. Bauer, a trained fisheries biologist, said, “Those fish have been dead for awhile. I would guess they probably died during the winter. If they wintered in the creek,” he said, “they might have run out of oxygen underneath the ice, or if the water is not deep enough they can actually freeze out.”

Bauer said "at this stage it would be difficult if not impossible to determine what killed the fish, all of which appear to be carp".

“This time of year when the ice melts it is common to find at least a few dead fish on just about every body of water. Winter is a hard time on all living critters,” Bauer said.
Read More

Three of the Fukushima Fifty rushed to hospital with radiation poisoning as panicked Tokyo residents clear shop shelves of bottled water - 24th Mar

Three of the Fukushima Fifty have been rushed to hospital with radiation poisoning as they battle to save Japan's crippled power plant from nuclear meltdown.

Fumio Matsuda, a spokesman for the nuclear safety agency, said the three workers, two in their 20s and one in his 30s, came face to face with the danger they had all feared when contaminated water came into contact with their skin at the Fukushima Dai-chi plant.

Officials said they were standing in irradiated water in the No.3 reactor when it somehow seeped through their protective gear, causing them to be contaminated with a level of radiation almost twice as high as the accepted 'safe' limit. Read More

Jerusalem Bus Bomb: British Death Confirmed - 24th Mar 2011

The Foreign Office has confirmed the only fatality from a bomb blast in central Jerusalem was a British woman.

Officials earlier said they were "urgently investigating" Israeli radio reports the victim was from the UK.

Hospital workers also told Sky News the items found on the woman indicated her nationality.

The Briton - believed to be in her late 50s - was the only person killed by the bomb, and her family have been informed.

At least 30 other people were injured after the blast near a bus stop in the centre of the city on Wednesday.

Israel's minister of public security Yitzhak Aharonovich said the 1kg device was in a bag on the pavement by the stop.

The explosion shook buildings hundreds of metres away and blew out the windows of two buses, witnesses said. Read More

Libya: Nato Refuses Military Ops Command - 24th Mar 2011

Nato has again refused to take over command of military operations in Libya, with objections from Turkey frustrating US efforts to hand over control.

America wants to give up its lead role in the war-torn country in a "matter of days" and has requested that Nato plays a key role in a new power structure.

But details of that structure are still under discussion, with the necessary consensus still to be reached between member countries.

A senior aide to US President Barack Obama said: "I think this is going to be a matter of days in which you see a movement toward the transition with regard to command and control." Read More

Thailand declares 333 districts as drought disaster zones - 24th Mar 2011

BANGKOK (Commodity Online): Thailand is undergoing the pangs of drought with Thailand’s Department of Disaster Prevention and Mitigation declaring 333 districts under 45 provinces across the country as drought disaster zones, Thursday.

A total of 6 million people in 21,888 villages have been affected and 1,726,737 rai of farmland has been scorched.

According to Bangkok Post, in the North Province, Kampangpetch, Chiang Rai, Lamphun, Phayao, Uttaradit, Lampang, Nan, Nakhon Sawan, Phrae, Sukhothai, Tak, Petchabun, Uthai Thani, Phitsanulok, Chiang Mai, Mae Hong Son and Phichit have been affected.

In the Northeast province, Udon Thani, Loei, Nong Khai, Ubon Ratchathani, Mukdaharn, Nong Bua Lamphu, Khon Kaen, Mahasarakam, Sakon Nakhon, Si Sa Ket, Surin, Chaiyaphum and Amnart Charoen have been affected.

Central Plain drought affected regions: Prachuap Khiri Khan, Petchaburi, Sara Buri, Samut Prakan and Kanchanaburi.

Eastern Thailand drought affected regions: Chachoengsao, Trat, Chantaburi, Sa Kaeo, Rayong, Chonburi and Nakhon Nayok are affected. Source

BREAKING NEWS: 6.1 Magnitude Earthquake NEAR THE EAST COAST OF HONSHU, Japan - 24th Mar 2011

A strong earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of 6.1 jolted Miyagi Prefecture and its vicinity on Thursday, the Japan Meteorological Agency said. A change in the sea level may occur following the 5:21 p.m. quake but no damage is expected, the agency said.

The quake measured lower 5 on the Japanese seismic intensity scale of 7 in central Miyagi Prefecture and 4 in several locations in Iwate, Miyagi and Akita prefectures, according to the agency.

Coastal areas of Miyagi were devastated by a massive tsunami following a magnitude 9.0 earthquake on March 11. Source

Depth 36.8 km (22.9 Miles)

Columnar Basalts - Most Amazing Natural Phenomenon In The World - 24th Mar 2011

Columnar Basalts are rock formations resulting from the quick cooling of lava flow. Fractures form in a random cellular network (similar to soap bubbles, organic cells, etc.), though the average distribution of sides is six, giving the hexagonal structures an eerie man-made appearance. Source

New Treaty Would Ban Space Weapons for Earthlings and Extra Terrestrial's - 11th Mar 2011

It's a good thing the outer space battles in "Star Wars" happened a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away -- because under a new space-based weapons treaty drafted by aerospace and military experts, humans and aliens alike would be barred from waging war above Earth.

The carefully prepared treaty invites all U.N. member nations to be signatories -- and all "cosmic cultures" to become parties -- in a plan to create a framework "that will assure and verify that space is and will remain a neutral realm from which all classes of space-based weapons are banned in perpetuity."

Carol Rosin, an acclaimed aerospace consultant and founder of the Institute for Security and Cooperation in Outer Space, is the driving force behind the Outer Space Security and Development Treaty of 2011.

Among the many items listed in the treaty are clear references to extraterrestrials, where the treaty asks all signing parties to:
Acknowledge that we are not alone in the universes, that there are cosmic cultures that will be important allies for our security and development, and that our national and international policies must reflect this reality... Read More

Officials remain baffled over source of oil slick as Louisiana coastline is oiled again - 22nd Mar 2011

Days after observers spotted a massive oil slick in the Gulf of Mexico, no one in a position of power seems to yet know where it's coming from. So far, official reports are sketchy and contradictory, as New Orleans Time-Picayune reporter Mark Schleifstein notes in reviewing a statement from the U.S. Coast Guard:

"At this point, the dark substance is believed to be caused by a tremendous amount of sediment being carried down the Mississippi River due to high water, possibly further agitated by dredging operations," the Coast Guard release said.

A spokesman for the Army Corps of Engineers, however, said none of the three dredges operating near the mouth of the Mississippi River has reported any oil in the material they're removing from the river bottom to keep the channel deep enough for ocean-going ships.

But as Louisiana officials and the Coast Guard conduct tests to determine the source, an all-too-familiar scene is developing over a 30-mile stretch of coast: Oil and oil byproducts such as tarballs have come rolling in. And teams of workers are rolling out a containment boom—the fencelike structures designed to keep oil from washing ashore—as oil-skimming vessels try to intercept the oil on the water's surface. And where the oil has landed, cleanup crews are scouring up the petroleum mess. Read More

Protest Fears Force UK Staff Out Of Yemen - 24th Mar 2011

Britain is withdrawing its embassy team from Yemen amid increasing security fears ahead of further anti-government protests.

The UK Foreign Office said the temporary measure was imposed because Friday's expected demonstrations in the capital Sanaa may become violent.

A statement said a small core staff would remain in place.

It came as Yemen's president Ali Abdullah Saleh offered to step down by the end of the year in a bid to appease opposition groups.

His overtures did little to quell protesters' efforts to force him out after 32 years in power.

Concerns are growing among Western governments that the Arab state could descend into chaos. Read More

The Japanese road repaired SIX days after it was destroyed by quake - 24th Mar 2011

The picture of gaping chasms in a Japanese highway demonstrated the power of the March 11 earthquake.

Now the astonishing speed of reconstruction is being used to highlight the nation’s ability to get back on its feet.

Work began on March 17 and six days later the cratered section of the Great Kanto Highway in Naka was as good as new. It was ready to re-open to traffic last night.

Many workers returned to their jobs the day after the quake and subsequent tsunami and some businesses in the worst-hit regions have already reopened.

The Japanese recovery has prompted some investors, including American Warren Buffett, one of the world’s richest men, to declare that the disaster which has left 23,000 dead or missing represents a ‘buying opportunity’ in the money markets.

Meanwhile, mothers in Tokyo were warned yesterday not to give tap water to their babies. Read More

Libyan expats plot revenge terror attacks on UK streets over Gaddafi bombing raids - 24th Mar 2011

MI5 has warned that Libyan expats are plotting terrorist attacks in Britain in revenge for bombing raids on Colonel Gaddafi’s regime.

The threat was exposed after intelligence officers monitored hundreds of conversations between Libyans in the UK who have ‘maintained connections with Tripoli’.

It raises the spectre of a new atrocity such as the 1988 Lockerbie bombing which was ordered by Gaddafi after U.S. air raids on his palace, launched from air bases in Britain in 1986.

MI5 sent a dossier to its allies on Friday just hours before the first bombs were dropped on Libya. It warns that Islamic extremists could be bankrolled as terrorists by wealthy and respected Libyan businessmen living in the UK.

One suspected plotter was overheard saying: ‘Wherever we are, we’ll do it. We have to fight. We must be dedicated to give support.’ Read More

Chemicals in plastics linked to early onset menopause (not to mention a zillion other illnesses)

Man-made chemicals found in a variety of everyday products – from food containers to clothes – may be causing early menopause in women, say scientists.

A study of almost 26,000 – the largest of its kind – found those with high levels of PFCs (perfluorocarbons) were more likely to have gone through the change of life prematurely.

Dr Sarah Knox, of the West Virginia University School of Medicine, said: "There is no doubt that there is an association between exposure to PFCs and onset of menopause, but the causality is unclear.

"Part of the explanation could be that women in these age groups have higher PFC levels because they are no longer losing PFCs with menstrual blood anymore.

"But it is still clinically disturbing because it would imply that increased PFC exposure is the natural result of menopause."

The study to be published in The Endocrine Society's Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism found higher levels of PFCs were associated with increased odds of having experienced menopause in women between 42 to 64.

Women in this age group with more PFCs also had much less of the sex hormone oestrogen compared to those who had low levels which are also found in furniture, carpets and paints.

Their broad use has led to widespread circulation in water, air, soil, plant life, animals and humans – even in remote parts of the world. (read more)

The only reality show Americans *don't* care about -- Fewer Americans worry about climate change: poll

The number of Americans who are worried about global warming has fallen to nearly the historic low reached in 1998, a poll released Monday showed.

Just 51 percent of Americans -- or one percentage point more than in 1998 -- said they worry a great deal or fair amount about climate change, Gallup's annual environment poll says.

In 2008, a year after former US vice president Al Gore and the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change won the Nobel Peace Prize, two-thirds of Americans were concerned about climate change.

The rate of concern among Americans has fallen steadily since then to 60 percent in 2009 and 52 percent last year.

The poll also found that for the first time since the late 1990s, a minority of Americans -- 49 percent -- believe global warming has already begun to impact the planet, down sharply from more than six in 10 Americans who three years ago said climate change was already impacting the globe.

"The reasons for the decline in concern are not obvious, though the economic downturn could be a factor," Gallup analysts say, citing a poll from two years ago that shows that in the minds of Americans, economy takes precedence over environment. (read more)

Effects of Global Warning? Forest could replace much of Alaska's tundra by 2100

An arboreal invasion of the Far North is imminent, according to a new study, with vast swaths of Alaska tundra almost certainly yielding to trees and shrubs during coming decades, as human-triggered climate change slowly lengthens growing seasons across the region.

The findings, reported in a paper to be published soon in the journal Climate Dynamics, predict a dramatic reorganization of the ecology and plant cover throughout the Arctic, from Alaska's North Slope and the Canadian islands to Siberia and northern Europe.

"Imagine the vast, empty tundra in Alaska and Canada giving way to trees, shrubs and plants typical of more southerly climates," says a story describing the research, which has been posted by hundreds of web sites over the past week. "Imagine similar changes in large parts of Eastern Europe, northern Asia and Scandinavia, as needle-leaf and broadleaf forests push northward into areas once unable to support them. Imagine part of Greenland's ice cover, once thought permanent, receding and leaving new tundra in its wake."

Over the next 90 years, Arctic tundra will shrink 33 to 44 percent, "while temperate climate types that support coniferous forests and needle-leaf trees (will) push northward into the breach," the study reported.

This shift in vegetation will in turn darken the surface of the Earth, absorbing far more solar energy than the reflective and grassy tundra. The result? The newly forested Arctic will grow warmer still. (read more)