Monday, April 18, 2011

Japan plant radiation 'too high for repair crews': Clean up plan now put in doubt -- is Japan rushing headlong towards even bigger nuclear disaster?

A pair of thin robots on treads sent to explore buildings inside Japan's crippled nuclear reactor have returned with disheartening news: radiation levels are far too high for repair crews to go inside.

Nevertheless, Japanese officials remained hopeful on Monday they could stick to their freshly minted "road map" for cleaning up the radiation leak and stabilising the plant by year's end so they could begin returning tens of thousands of evacuees to their homes.

"Even I had expected high radioactivity in those areas. I'm sure [Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO), operators of the Fukushima Daiichi power station] and other experts have factored in those figures when they compiled the 'road map'," Yukio Edano, Japan's chief cabinet secretary, said.

Officials said on Monday that radiation had jumped in a water tank in Unit 2 and contaminated water was discovered in other areas of the plant, underscoring the growing list of challenges facing TEPCO in cleaning up and containing the radiation. They also described in more detail the damage to fuel in three troubled reactors, saying pellets had melted.

Workers have not been able to enter the reactor buildings at the plant since the first days after the cooling systems were wrecked by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami that left more than 27,000 people dead or missing in Japan's northeastern coast. (read more)

Did Sarah Palin break election laws? 'Chilling expose' on Palin to be released suggests so, and more bad behavior

Simon & Schuster is set to release a tell-all book by a former aide to Sarah Palin that the mega publishing house is promising will provide an "explosive, up-close view" of the former Alaska governor.

The upcoming book, by former aide Frank Bailey, will be released May 24 and promises to be a "chilling expose," according to Howard Books, the imprint of Simon & Schuster that is publishing the book.

Called "Blind Allegiance to Sarah Palin," the book will detail Bailey's observations of the governor from the time he joined her political team in 2006 until she resigned her governorship three years later.

Excerpts of the preliminary draft of the book was leaked to the Anchorage Daily News in February and reportedly included charges by Bailey that Palin despised her job as governor and may have broken campaign election laws in 2006.

The 500-page manuscript also reportedly described a Palin deeply exasperated with her political opponents and the heightened attacks she faced after being tapped to be the GOP vice presidential nominee in 2008. Palin resigned as governor in July of 2009. (read more)

Gulf states call on UN to halt Iran 'interference'

Gulf Arab states on Sunday called on the international community and UN Security Council to "make flagrant Iranian interference and provocations" in Gulf affairs cease after unrest in Bahrain.

Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states, after a meeting in the Saudi capital Riyadh, called in a statement for "necessary measures" against the Islamic republic to prevent it from sowing regional discord.

The six-nation GCC called on "the international community and the Security Council to take the necessary measures to make flagrant Iranian interference and provocations aimed at sowing discord and destruction" among GCC states.

It said the GCC -- Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates -- "categorically rejects all foreign interference in its affairs... and invites the Iranian regime to stop its provocations."

The statement also slammed "aggression" against Saudi diplomats in Iran.

Earlier on Sunday, Riyadh threatened to recall its diplomats from Tehran unless they were better protected.

"I hope we won't be obliged to withdraw our diplomatic mission from Tehran if Iran fails to take the necessary measures to protect it," deputy foreign minister Prince Turki bin Mohammed told reporters. (read more)

Marc Faber: The Dollar's Value In The Future Will Be Zero


Dr. Marc Faber spoke with CNBC this morning about currency markets, notably the recent movements in the euro, global long-term position in the dollar, and the rise of gold and silver.

Earlier, Faber spoke about his view of the U.S. deficit situation. He expects the U.S. government to raise the debt ceiling, but doesn't seem Republicans and Democrats building a budget plan in which taxes are raised and spending cut, the real recipe for deficit reduction.

Faber also encouraged individuals, in a separate conversation, to be their own central bank and buy gold. He warns, however, not to hold it in the U.S., as the government might buy it like they did in the early 1900s.

  • 2:30 We're in a contest for the ugliest currency; I don't think people are heavily position in euros. Most people still have 70-80% of their money in USD. Huge overhang of U.S. dollars globally. If people could sell their dollars and move into something they would believe in, they would. Gold and silver are the best currencies.
  • 5:10 Right now, the U.S. dollar may rebound. The U.S. dollar will be in the future precisely its intrinsic value, namely zero. (Read and see more)

Nasa posts thousands of incredible space images on the internet

You'll go starry-eyed at Nasa’s latest mission success - because the space agency has uploaded thousands of amazing space snaps onto the internet, including shots of previously unseen galaxies, stars and asteroids.

The colossal gallery – available to anyone with a connection to the web - was taken by Nasa’s super hi-tech sky-mapping telescope.

It took a staggering two and a half million pictures of the universe, which include 33,000 new asteroids found floating between Mars and Jupiter – and 20 comets.

Since 2009 the £200million infrared telescope, called the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, or WISE, has been scanning the cosmos with the most sophisticated cameras ever deployed in space. (read more)

WikiLeaks reports secret U.S. funding for Syrian opposition

The State Department has been secretly financing opponents of Syrian President Bashar Assad, the Washington Post reported, citing previously undisclosed diplomatic documents provided to the newspaper by the WikiLeaks website.

One of the outfits funded by the U.S. is Barada TV, a London-based satellite channel that broadcasts anti-government news into Syria, the Post reported Sunday. Barada's chief editor, Malik al-Abdeh, is a cofounder of the Syrian exile group Movement for Justice and Development.

The leaked documents show that the U.S. has provided at least $6 million to Barada TV and other opposition groups inside Syria, the newspaper said. (read more)

Fears over mental impact of Japan disaster

The forbearance shown by survivors of Japan's quake-tsunami has been lauded in the West, but psychologists worry not talking about the hurt could be doing long-term damage.

Commentators have heaped praise on the emotional resilience of people who have lost everything, but, say some, the surface calm masks deep undercurrents of emotion.

"To be honest I really feel like breaking down and crying -- because I'm sad," said evacuee Kenichi Endo, 45, briefly screwing his eyes shut.

"I've lost my father, my pet, my car, my savings. I've lost everything. But, everyone here is the same. If I cry, everyone else will, so I can't," he told AFP in a shelter in Onagawa town, clenching his fists into tight balls.

Unbearable tragedy was heaped on Japan on March 11 when a 9.0 magnitude quake unleashed a gigantic wave on the country's northeast, killing more than 13,500 people and leaving over 14,000 missing.

More than five weeks on and tens of thousands of evacuees are still living in school gymnasiums and other public buildings, sharing their sleeping space with dozens -- sometimes hundreds -- of other people.

Under these conditions, emotion remains tightly regulated.

Instead, grief appears at unexpected times -- while sleeping, listening to music or even while eating.

"The one thing I really want now is privacy," said Ken Hiraaki, an evacuee in another shelter. "At night I hear people groaning in their dreams. But sometimes my wife wakes me up because I am groaning too." (read more)

Saudis Slash Oil Output, Say Market Oversupplied -- Despite Crushing Prices at the Gas Pump

Saudi Arabia's oil minister said on Sunday the kingdom had slashed output by 800,000 barrels per day in March due to oversupply, sending the strongest signal yet that OPEC will not act to quell soaring prices.

Consumers have urged the exporters' group to pump more crude to put a cap on oil, which surged to more than $127 a barrel this month, its highest level in 2 1/2 years amid unrest in North Africa and the Middle East.

Oil Ministers from Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates echoed Saudi Arabia's Ali al-Naimi's concerns about oversupply and said rocketing crude prices were out of the hands of OPEC, which next meets in June.

"The market is overbalanced ... Our production in February was 9.125 million barrels per day (bpd), in March it was 8.292 million bpd. In April we don't know yet, probably a little higher than March. The reason I gave you these numbers is
to show you that the market is oversupplied," Naimi told reporters.

Two Saudi-based industry sources told Reuters last week the kingdom had cut output due to poor demand, prompting selling by traders who saw it as a sign of a well-supplied market. (read more)

"Technology can't replace God": Pope

Pope Benedict led Roman Catholics into Holy Week celebrations, telling a Palm Sunday crowd that man will pay the price for his pride if he believes technology can give him the powers of God.

Under a splendid Roman sun, the German pope presided at a colorful celebration where tens of thousands of people waved palm and olive branches to commemorate Jesus' entry into Jerusalem the week before he was crucified.

The pope, who turned 84 on Saturday, wove his sermon around the theme of man's relationship with God and how it can sometimes be threatened by technology.

"From the beginning men and women have been filled -- and this is as true today as ever -- with a desire to 'be like God', to attain the heights of God by their own powers," he said, wearing resplendent red and gold vestments.

"Mankind has managed to accomplish so many things: we can fly! We can see, hear and speak to one another from the farthest ends of the earth. And yet the force of gravity which draws us down is powerful," he said.

While the great advances of technology have improved life for man, the pope said, they have also increased possibilities for evil, and recent natural disasters were a reminder, if any were needed, that mankind is not all-powerful.

If man wanted a relationship with God he had to first "abandon the pride of wanting to become God," said the pope, celebrating his sixth Easter season as the leader of the world's some 1.2 billion Roman Catholics. (read more)

Marketing gadget that tracks brainwaves as you watch TV -- as if they aren't already intrusive in your life

Would you feel comfortable if market researchers could know your every thought?

A headband designed by San Francisco firm EmSense can sense your brainwaves as you have reactions to watching something and then record the data for researchers.

The process of measuring your reaction to something is known as ‘quantitative neurometrics’ and it can be carried out as you watch a computer or television screen.

The firm is launching its ‘in-home’ research panel employing the EmBand monitoring technology in an attempt to get better feedback on emotional responses.

The EmBand can also measure how much attention you are paying, or your ‘cognitive engagement’, by measuring brainwave activity, reported technology site Venture Beat. (read more)

14 US states now reporting high radiation levels; radiation 20 times normal in air and drinking water

Spike in iodine levels may signal new leak at Japan reactor: Samples 6,500 times over limit; Zeolite dumped in sea

The government on Saturday said that levels of radioactivity in seawater near the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant had risen significantly in recent days, according to samples taken Friday.

Hidehiko Nishiyama of the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency said the level of radioactive iodine-131 spiked to 6,500 times the legal limit, up from 1,100 times over the limit the day before. Levels of cesium-134 and cesium-137 rose nearly fourfold.

The rise could have been caused by the installation Thursday of steel panels intended to contain the radiation, which may have stirred up stagnant waste in the area, Nishiyama said, adding the increase in iodine, which has a relatively short eight-day half-life, could signal a possible new leak.

"We want to determine the origin and contain the leak, but I must admit that tracking it down is difficult," he said.

Tokyo Electric Power Co. also began dumping sandbags filled with zeolite, a mineral that absorbs radioactive cesium, into the sea in areas heavily contaminated with radiation to reduce the spread of contaminants.

Tepco released three 100-kg bags of zeolite and sand into the sea near the Fukushima plant and additional bags will be released, Nishiyama said. (read more)

Gold-Shortage Threat Drives Texas Schools Hoarding 664,000 Ounces at HSBC

Dallas hedge-fund manager J. Kyle Bass helped advise the University of Texas Investment Management Co. on taking delivery of 6,643 gold bars, worth $987 million on April 15, now stored in a bank warehouse in New York.

Bass, who made $500 million with 2006 bets on a U.S. subprime-mortgage market collapse, said managers of the endowment, known as UTIMCO, sought board approval to convert its gold investments into bullion this year. A board member, Bass, 41, said he was asked to help with that process.

While Bass, a managing partner at Hayman Capital Management LP, said in an April 16 e-mail that “the decision to purchase and take delivery of the physical gold” was made by endowment staff members, “I helped where I could.” Gold futures touched a record $1,489.10 an ounce April 15 in New York before closing at $1,486. (read more)

SHAWN TYSON, 16 year old killer of 25 Year old James Cooper and 24 Year old James Kouzaris - 18th Apr 2011

Florida police have named the 16-year-old arrested for the murder of two British men who were shot dead while on holiday.

Sarasota Police confirmed a boy named Shawn Tyson was in custody accused of shooting dead James Cooper, 25 and 24-year-old James Kouzaris.

The bodies of the two young men were found in the early hours of Saturday morning in a rundown neighbourhood in the city, which is situated on the south-western coast of Florida.

The friends, who are former University of Sheffield students, were discovered by officers who were called to a residential street in the north of the city at around 3am.

Neighbours had reported hearing what sounded like machine gun fire.

One man was found lying on the ground outside a government-assisted housing block covered in blood.

The second victim was discovered moments later, lying 50ft away on the other side of the road.

Both men were pronounced dead at the scene from gunshot wounds, a Sarasota Police spokesman said. Read More

Fact or Fiction - Why Free Will may be an Illusion - 18th Apr 2011

Dead Sperm Whale found washed ashore on North Uist beach, Scotland -

30-metre long mammal - believed to be a female sperm whale - found on Baleshare shore.

A dead whale has been found washed ashore on a scenic beach in North Uist.

The 10.5-metre long mammal was found on Baleshare shore, on the west side of North Uist, on Sunday morning. It is believed to be a female sperm whale.

The dead creature was spotted by local artist Jac Volbeda who operates the nearby Bagh Aluinn B& B in the village.

He said: "I think it came from another beach because the lower jaw is missing and it has been dead for a while and it wasn't on Baleshare beach on Saturday evening."

It is likely the whale was swept into shore by the extremely high spring tides which gave a maximum four metre difference between high and low water on the north west seaboard of Uist.

From Tuesday the chances of the whale being washed out to sea decreases as the incoming tides will not reach so far up the shoreline.

Western Isles Council has the responsibility of dealing with the carcass. If it is deemed to cause an environmental hazard it may be forced to crane it onto a lorry and ship it via ferry to the landfill site in Stornoway. Alternatively, it may be left to decompose naturally. Read More

Sardines, anchovies dying in Ventura Harbor - 18th Apr 2011

At least 1,000 anchovies and sardines have died in the Ventura Harbor from what officials believe is a lack of oxygen.

The fish were first seen dead or dying about 6 a.m. today, with some belly up in the water and others struggling to survive. Sea lions, along with hundreds of sea gulls and pelicans were swooping in to eat the fish.

"There are quite a bit that are dead," said Pat Hummer, a senior officer with the Ventura Harbor Patrol.

Hummer said there have been large amounts of bait fish in the harbor for about a week, and officials were wondering if this would happen. He suspects the cause is too little oxygen for too many fish.

High tide is expected at 10:30 a.m. and harbor officials hope the tide will wash out most of the fish.

The fish kill, however, doesn't appear to be as severe as others in the past and not nearly as bad as one in Redondo Beach's King Harbor earlier this year, when 175 tons of sardines died.

Larry Bases, who lives on his boat in the Ventura West Marina, said that between the time he got up this morning and the time he left for work, scores had died around his boat.

"They are all over the place," he said, "thousands of them." Read More

Schoolgirl, 16, leaps off 220ft Golden Gate Bridge... and SURVIVES - 2nd Teenager to jump and Survive in a month - 18th Apr 2011

A teenage girl has survived a 220ft jump from the Golden Gate Bridge in what is being described as a second miracle at the world's most popular suicide spot in just a month.

The 16-year-old-girl is the second teenager to survive the plunge since March when a 17-year-old boy leapt of the iconic bridge and walked away with nothing more than a few bruises.

Rescuers said the girl was in the icy water for 20 minutes on Sunday before being pulled to safety.

There were concerns that despite surviving the impact, that the girl could drown in the strong currents and freezing temperatures.

Around 1,400 people have leapt from the bridge since it opened in 1937, and 98 per cent of them have died. Only a handful have ever walked again.

The U.S. Coast Guard and San Francisco fire and police departments were called after someone reported that a person had hit the water after falling or jumping from the bridge at 10:55am.

Rescuers said the girl was ‘conscious and responsive when she was pulled from the water.

The Coast Guard said the girl had been kept afloat by a ‘Good Samaritan’ who was already in the water.

The young woman was taken to Marin General Hospital but condition is not known.

It has not been confirmed if the girl jumped or fell.

In March, a 17-year-old boy survived after leaping from the bridge. Read More

'What about burning poppies?': Despair over justice system that fined Muslim who mocked fallen troops... but JAILS man who set Koran alight -18th Apr

A man has been jailed for 70 days today after he burnt a copy of the Koran just over a month after a Muslim got away with a paltry £50 fine for a similar offence.

Andrew Ryan, 32, stole a copy of the holy book from Carlisle Library then set it on fire by a monument in the city of Carlisle.

Last month Emdadur Choudhury was fined after he burned a poppy outside the Royal Albert Hall in London on Remembrance Day while shouting 'British soldiers burn in hell'.

As he was led down to the cells, Ryan shouted at the judge at Carlisle Magistrates' Court today: 'What about burning poppies?'.

Police arrested Ryan shortly the Koran burning in English Street on January 19.

Sentencing him at Carlisle Magistrates' Court, District Judge Gerald Chalk said: 'This is a case of theatrical bigotry. It was pre-planned by you as you stole the book deliberately. You went out to cause maximum publicity and to cause distress.'

He told Ryan that people were entitled to protest but not in the manner he chose. The court heard the defendant had six public order convictions between 2002 and 2010 including racial chanting at a football match and assault with intent to resist arrest. Read More

BREAKING NEWS: 6.6 Magnitude Earthquake SOUTH OF THE KERMADEC ISLANDS - 18th Apr 2011

The 6.6 -magnitude earthquake SOUTH OF THE KERMADEC ISLANDS
The quake struck at 13:03 UTC - 527 km (327 miles) from Gisborne, New Zealand. Its epicenter was located with a depth of 90.7 km (56.4 miles).

No damage or casualties were as yet and no tsunami alert was issued at this time.

Was Jesus Christ's Last Supper 'on a Wednesday', contrary to doctrine?

Christians mark Jesus Christ's Last Supper on Maundy Thursday, but new research suggests it took place on the Wednesday before his crucifixion.

Colin Humphreys of Cambridge University says discrepancies in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke as compared with John arose because they used an older calendar than the official Jewish one.

He concluded the date was 1 April AD33.

This could also mean Jesus' arrest, interrogation and separate trials did not all take place on one night only.

Prof Humphreys believes his findings could present a case for finally fixing Easter Day to the first Sunday in April. (read more)

Is rift forming in Iranian government?

A rumored rift between Iran's two most powerful leaders surfaced Sunday when Ayatollah Ali Khamenei overruled President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's acceptance of the resignation of the country's intelligence minister.

The Fars semiofficial state news agency reported that Ahmadinejad had accepted the resignation of Heydar Moslehi as the intelligence minister, who oversees the crackdown on anti-government protests in Iran. A later Fars report said Moslehi was reinstated by Khamenei "because the supreme leader opposed his removal from his post."

"Following the reports in news websites belonging to the government that said Moslehi's resignation had been accepted by the president, he will remain in his post because the supreme leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, opposed the resignation," according to Fars.

Under Iranian political tradition, the supreme leader appoints or approves the appointments of the ministers of intelligence, interior, defense and foreign affairs.

The first indications of a rift between Khamenei and Ahmadinejad came in 2009, when Khamenei forced the president to remove his first vice president, who also is the father of Ahmadinejad's daughter-in-law. (read more)

200 homes in Mexico flooded after sewage canal cracks from heavy rainfall



At least 200 homes in the colony of San Isidro and La Providencia, in the Mexican state of Mexico, remained flooded Sunday because a crack in an area sewage canal caused water to overflow into the city, authorities said.

There were no fatalities reported among the roughly 500 residents in the affected area, but three minors were reported injured, according to the local fire department. One youth was slightly injured when he tried to flee his house, while another two minors were admitted to the hospital with symptoms of hypothermia.

The crack in the wall of the Canal de la Compania is about 30 meters long, staffers at the National Water Commission (Conagua) told state-run news agency Notimex. The crack, located at the 27.5 kilometer marker of Puebla Highway, is allowing the output of about 6,000 cubic meters per second of raw sewage, Notimex said.

The crack was caused by heavy rains overnight, newspaper El Milienio reported.

The first calls about the flooding came about 2 a.m. Sunday, according to the local fire department. (read more)

Nigeria election: Riots over Goodluck Jonathan win -- more instability in the oil markets coming?

The BBC's Komla Dumor in Abuja said the election had not been totally incident free

Riots have broken out across northern Nigeria as presidential poll results show Goodluck Jonathan is set to win.

Homes of supporters of Mr Jonathan, the incumbent, were attacked in the cities of Kano and Kaduna.

Young supporters of Muhammadu Buhari, who is popular in the north, have been clashing with police and military.

They feel that the elections have been rigged in some areas of the south where there is a discrepancy between turnout and results.

With nearly all the votes counted, Mr Jonathan - a Christian from the oil-producing Niger Delta - has almost twice the number of his main rival. (read more)

Death toll from Japan quake, tsunami rises to 13,843

The death toll from Japan's historic earthquake and tsunami rose to 13,843 on Monday, police reported.

As of 10 a.m. (9 p.m. ET), another 14,030 remained missing, according to Japan's National Police Agency. Japanese police and troops are still combing the ruins of coastal villages in search of more bodies.

According to the agency, 136,481 have been displaced by the disasters. (Source)

Prairie flood picture worsens: Canada

Manitoba officials were working quickly Monday to build higher dikes along the Assiniboine River, while their counterparts in Saskatchewan warned that flooding will remain a threat for the rest of the month.

For the past week, much of the Prairie provinces has been flooded or in danger of being so, with parts of the region seeing the highest water levels in 150 years.

About 700 people in Manitoba have already been forced from their homes, dozens of roads have been closed, and officials are urging more vigilance.

"Many of the crests are some time off," Emergency Measures Minister Steve Ashton said on Sunday. "We're not even necessarily at the end of the beginning of the spring flood stage."

Dikes along the Assiniboine upstream of Winnipeg were built to withstand water levels seen in 1976, the worst year on record. But the river was ice-free that year, and officials worry that ice jams this year will make water levels worse than they would otherwise be. (read more)

Plants’ earlier bloom times hurting some creatures

Cristol Fleming has gone out hunting for the first wildflower blooms of spring for close to four decades. She knows where every tiny bluish clump of rare phacelia can be found, where every fragile yellow trout lily grows.

And in the definitive guide she co-authored on finding Washington area wildflowers, she writes that mid- to late April is the best time to see the forests and riverbanks carpeted with a riot of these delicate blooms.

So it was with some consternation that the local field botanist found two of her favorite early flowers — sprigs of white and purple “harbinger of spring” no higher than an inch and graceful white twinleaf — in full bloom in the chill of late March.

Fleming was expecting to see some “spring beauty,” one of the earliest bloomers of the area, and perhaps a few of the weedier species. But she found, among others, “Dutchman’s breeches,” the funny little white flower that looks like long underwear hanging upside down, and cut-leaved toothwort.

“I was surprised to see that,” she said. “That’s something I would have expected two weeks later.” (read more)

Record Depletion of Arctic Ozone Layer Causing Increased UV Radiation in Scandinavia

Over the past few days ozone-depleted air masses extended from the north pole to southern Scandinavia leading to higher than normal levels of ultraviolet (UV) radiation during sunny days in southern Finland. These air masses will move east over the next few days, covering parts of Russia and perhaps extend as far south as the Chinese/Russian border. Such excursions of ozone-depleted air may also occur over Central Europe and could reach as far south as the Mediterranean.

At an international press conference by the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) in Vienna April 5, atmospheric researcher Dr. Markus Rex from Germany´s Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research in the Helmholtz Association (AWI) pointed out that the current situation in the Arctic ozone layer is unparalleled.

"Such massive ozone loss has so far never occurred in the northern hemisphere, which is densely populated even at high latitudes," AWI researcher Markus Rex describes the situation. The ozone layer protects life on Earth's surface from harmful solar ultraviolet radiation. Because of the low inclination angle of the sun, exposure to ultraviolet radiation is not normally a public health concern at high northern latitudes. However, if ozone-depleted air masses drift further south over Central Europe, south Canada, the US, or over Central Asiatic Russia, for example, the surface intensity of UV radiation could lead to sunburn within minutes for sensitive persons, even in April. (read more)

Geoengineering: Scientists Debate Risks Of Sun-Blocking And Other Climate Tweaks To Fight Warming

To the quiet green solitude of an English country estate they retreated, to think the unthinkable.

Scientists of earth, sea and sky, scholars of law, politics and philosophy: In three intense days cloistered behind Chicheley Hall's old brick walls, four dozen thinkers pondered the planet's fate as it grows warmer, weighed the idea of reflecting the sun to cool the atmosphere and debated the question of who would make the decision to interfere with nature to try to save the planet.

The unknown risks of "geoengineering" – in this case, tweaking Earth's climate by dimming the skies – left many uneasy.

"If we could experiment with the atmosphere and literally play God, it's very tempting to a scientist," said Kenyan earth scientist Richard Odingo. "But I worry."

Arrayed against that worry is the worry that global warming – in 20 years? 50 years? – may abruptly upend the world we know, by melting much of Greenland into the sea, by shifting India's life-giving monsoon, by killing off marine life. (read more)

Deteriorating Oil and Gas Wells Threaten Drinking Water, Homes Across the Country: US

In the last 150 years, prospectors and energy companies have drilled as many as 12 million holes across the United States in search of oil and gas. Many of those holes were plugged after they dried up. But hundreds of thousands were simply abandoned and forgotten, often leaving no records of their existence.

Government reports have warned for decades that abandoned wells can provide pathways for oil, gas or brine-laden water to contaminate groundwater supplies or to travel up to the surface. Abandoned wells have polluted the drinking water source for Fort Knox, Ky., and leaked oil into water wells in Ohio and Michigan. Similar problems have occurred in Texas, New York, Colorado and other states where drilling has occurred.

In 2008, gas from an abandoned well leaked into a septic system in Pennsylvania and exploded when someone tried to light a candle in a bathroom, killing the person, according to a 2009 draft report by the state's Department of Environmental Protection. That report also documented at least two dozen other cases of gas seeping from old wells, including three where the drilling of new wells "communicated" with old wells, leaking gas into water supplies and forcing the evacuation of a home.

In February, methane from an old well made its way into the basement of a house in West Mifflin, Pa., triggering a small explosion. Two families were evacuated and have not yet returned home. (read more)

Marbella University MBA course: 'blind pursuit of profit is destroying the planet'

Let's play a little game. Please read the following quote and try to guess who said it:

Lies, cheat, deceit, distortion, hype, and a blind pursuit of profit have poisoned the business world. The price of this has been the destruction of the planet, its ecosystems and the alienation of humans from their soul and genuine inner needs. Pollution, contamination, climate change, poverty, rising sea level, unemployment, financial crisis, social unrest, war, and a general lack of trust has taken over as a result.

Strong stuff. I'm fairly confident that you currently have the image of an angry environmental campaigner in your head. Or, perhaps, a far-left politician waving their fist at the world's multiple injustices.

Well, these are both wrong: the right answer is these words come from the press release of a new MBA course now being offered at Marbella University in southern Spain. Yes, an MBA course: that rarefied habitat that has long been the butt of jokes due to the air of self-importance and unworldliness nurtured within. (The same is often said of the environmental movement, of course!)

Perhaps this common perception is unfair, but MBA courses are not usually associated with environmental tub-thumping. Rather, they are often seen as little more than finishing schools for the "corporate leaders" who will go on to pillage the earth in the name of "shareholder dividends" and "quarterly results". So it comes as something of a shock to see an MBA course being advertised in such a way. (read more)

BREAKING NEWS: U.S. stocks sink after Standard & Poor's lowers its outlook for U.S. long-term credit rating from "stable" to "negative"

The US has been warned that the credit rating on its government debt could be cut by Standard & Poor's.

S&P is concerned that Democrats and Republicans will not be able to agree a plan to reduce the growing US deficit.

The agency has downgraded its outlook from stable to negative, increasing the likelihood that the rating could be cut within the next two years.

The US Treasury responded that S&P had underestimated its ability to tackle the national debt.

The surprise move sent US and European stocks lower. The S&P 500 fell the most in a month, and the US dollar dropped against the euro and Swiss franc. Oil was also sharply lower.

In Europe, UK, German and French stocks all fell by at least 2%. Shares in Milan plunged more than 3%.

The US federal deficit currently stands at $1.4tn (£858bn) and is expected to reach $1.5tn in the current fiscal year. (read more)

Climate change is melting Arctic coastlines by 30 metres each year, scientists claim - 18th Apr 2011

Arctic coastlines are crumbling away and retreating at the rate of up to 30 metres a year due to the effects of climate change, it was claimed today.

The rapid rate of coastal erosion poses a major threat to local communities and ecosystems, according to a new report by more than 30 scientists from ten countries.

Two-thirds of Arctic coasts consist of frozen soil - or permafrost - rather than rock, and are highly sensitive to erosion by wind and waves.

Rising temperatures are melting protective sea ice fringing the coastlines and leaving them more exposed to the elements, the researchers claimed.

According to the report, State Of The Arctic Coast 2010, ten-year average rates of coastal retreat are 'typically in the one to two metres per year range, but vary up to ten to 30 metres per year in some locations'.

Worst-hit areas include the Beaufort Sea, the East Siberian Sea and the Laptev Sea, the said.

The study, led by scientists from the Helmholtz Association of German Research Centres and the International Arctic Science Committee (IASC), is published online and in the journal Estuaries and Coasts.

Information on more than 100,000kms of Arctic coastline - around a quarter of the total - was collected for the report. Read More

South Korean Robotic "super gun" packs hi-tech killing power - 14th Feb 2011

Chernobyl Todays Nuclear Ghost Town - 17th Apr 2011

Residence told you can come back home in a few weeks, 25 years later still too dangerous to return.

Azerbaijan: Young Girl Held In Demo Crackdown - 18th Apr 2011

A young girl who shouted "freedom" was among dozens of people arrested as police in Azerbaijan snuffed out protests against the rule of president Ilham Aliyev.

Officials said 25 of those detained were later released following demonstrations in the capital Baku.

It was the latest abortive attempt by the opposition in the ex-Soviet republic to emulate recent uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa.

Reporters saw at least a dozen people bundled into police vans at a square in the city, including two Swedish journalists and a woman walking with her young child.

An opposition spokesman said several hundred had been arrested in various parts of Baku.

Flyers were scattered on the ground calling on hardline leader Aliyev to resign and for an "End to Dictatorship".

Small protests over the past several weeks have been given short shrift by authorities in the mainly Muslim country of nine million people, with more than 100 detained in April and March. Read More

Lacey Elizabeth Taylor, 8, Becomes the latest Victim of the Deadly Storms after being swept from a Bridge During Flood - 18th Apr 2011

Rescue crews recovered the body of an eight-year-old as the U.S. struggled to come to terms with the devastation wreaked by three days of violent storms across the southern states which killed at least 45 people.

Lacy Elizabeth Taylor was swept from a bridge she was crossing with two companions in Waynesboro, Virginia, and her corpse found than a half mile away.

She is the latest victim of the reported 241 tornadoes which have destroyed hundreds of buildings, blocked roads and took down power lines.

One companion, a nine-year-old boy, was rescued by a passer-by, but the other, Tina Marie Allen, 41, drowned after being swept away by the floodwaters.

Six people are so far reported to have died in Virginia as a result of the storms as flash floods and hailstones the size of grapefruit added to the devastation.

North Carolina accounted for the bulk of casualties and property losses, with 22 people killed and more than 80 others injured in a string of tornadoes that ripped through the state Saturday night.

Houses were flattened, cars and trucks tossed like matchsticks and planes blown off the tarmac at a local airport. Some 62 twisters were reported which uprooted trees, poles and snapped power lines, cutting electricity to more than 200,000 people in the state. Read More

Jonathan Ellison, Vulnerable and Alone, beaten to death received 'worst injuries police had ever seen' - 18th Apr 2011

A 'vulnerable' man beaten around the head with a blunt instrument had the 'worst injuries police had ever seen'.

Two people were being questioned today after Jonathan Ellison, 48, was discovered by friends on Friday at his ground-floor flat in Brighton city centre.

Officers said the 'peaceful' man, known as Jon, received some of the 'worst deliberate injuries' they had come across.

A 32-year-old man and a 33-year-old woman were arrested on suspicion of murder on Saturday night in a multi-storey car park in Winchester, Hampshire. They were being questioned by officers from Sussex Police.

A post-mortem examination revealed Mr Ellison died from several horrific head injuries. He also had wounds on his hands where he had tried to fight off his attacker.

Detective Chief Inspector Trevor Bowles, who is leading the investigation into Mr Ellison's death, described the attack as 'vicious'.

'Jon was by every account a peaceful and vulnerable man and it is terrible that his life has been taken in this brutal way. Read More

27th July 1999 Swedish Military Search for Fallen UFO in Lake - Most Famous Unexplained UFO / USO Cases

What was it that crashed down into the 13-metre-deep Lake Backsjön north of Arvika in Värmland? An object with small wings, say the witnesses. Nothing at all, say the military who searched for many weeks. It was well after midday on the 27th of July 1999, at least four people around Lake Backsjön outside Gunnarskog saw how an oblong object plunged down from the sky.

Some of the witnesses said they'd also seen small wings sticking out from the 5 metre long and 1,5 metre wide body. The object crashed down with a splash and water was thrown into the air. One of the witnesses contacted the rescue station in Arvika which in turn contacted the police, who sent a report to FO 52 - area defence in Kristinehamn - it finally reached operations command at milostaben in Strängnäs.

We interviewed the witnesses who had all seen the object come down, said chief of staff Stellan Jansson, who was responsible for the search.

During late August many test dives were made in the lake, and the military worked with the security police and the rescue station, evaluating the reliability of the witnesses. The conclusion was that the witnesses were reliable and that a greater and more costly effort was needed. On the 13th of September they renewed the investigation around the 2 kilometre long and 800 metre wide lake under the code name "Operation Sea Find". There were 14 men, eight of whom were divers, along with Sweden's most sophisticated sonar equipment and an under-water camera. Personnel from operations command in StrÉngÉs were also present. When the military began showing interest in the lake at the beginning of August, the public were presented with a completely different story. Arvika Nyheter's newsreporter Kjell Emanuelsson received the reply that it was a home defence practice, whilst Anne-Marie Gundahl who lives at Lake Backsjön heard that the divers were training to make bridges!

We got to know that it could be something which was dangerous if it ended up in foreign hands, says Birgitta Jakobsson from the nearby community of Gunnarskog.

Confusion as to what the military were up to at the lake was great. According to Stellan Jansson, it was all due to a break-in at a mobilisation supply depot in the area some weeks earlier. Home guardsmen were responsible for guarding the area whilst repairs were carried out, at the same time as checks were made to see if anything had been stolen. Read More











Robot in Japanese reactors detects high radiation - 18th Apr 2011

Readings Monday from a robot that entered two crippled buildings at Japan's tsunami-flooded nuclear plant for the first time in more than a month displayed a harsh environment still too radioactive for workers to enter.

Nuclear officials said the radiation readings for Unit 1 and Unit 3 at the tsunami-flooded Fukushima Dai-ichi plant do not alter plans for stabilizing the complex by year's end under a "road map" released by the plant operator Sunday.

With the public growing increasingly frustrated at the slow response to the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear crises, parliament grilled Prime Minister Naoto Kan and officials from plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co.

"You should be bowing your head in apology. You clearly have no leadership at all," Masashi Waki, a lawmaker from the opposition Liberal Democratic Party, shouted at Kan.

"I am sincerely apologizing for what has happened," Kan said, stressing that the government was doing all it could to handle the unprecedented disasters.

TEPCO's president, Masataka Shimizu, looked visibly ill at ease as lawmakers heckled and taunted him.

Workers have not gone inside the two reactor buildings since the first days after the plant's cooling systems were wrecked by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami. Hydrogen explosions in both buildings in the first few days destroyed their roofs and littered them with radioactive debris.

A U.S.-made robot that looks like a drafting lamp on treads haltingly entered the two buildings Sunday and took readings for temperature, pressure and radioactivity. More data must be collected and radioactivity must be further reduced before workers are allowed inside, said Hidehiko Nishiyama of Japan's Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency.

"It's a harsh environment for humans to work inside," Nishiyama said. Read More

Top-secret data accidentally published online by three government departments - 18th Apr 2011

Secret information has been mistakenly published online by officials in at least three government departments, it has been revealed.

Confidential details about nuclear submarines were accidentally posted on the internet.

Although the information was blacked out by Ministry of Defence workers, anyone who pasted the text into another document could read the 'redacted' data.

The file - which revealed how much structural damage would need to be caused to a sub's nuclear reactor before it went into meltdown - was hastily taken down after the mistake was pointed out.

But the blunders risk sparking a diplomatic row with the U.S., as the report - written in 2009 - revealed how American submarines deal with disasters.

Last night it emerged officials in the Department of Health and Department of Communities and Local Government have also failed to properly withhold confidential information when publishing documents under Freedom of Information laws. Read More

China's Cyber Hackers Target Western Firms - 18th Apr 2011

Sky News has learnt of the growing threat Western governments and corporations are under from hackers based in China.

Cyber crime costs the UK tens of billions of pounds every year.

The attacks cannot be traced but I have gained access to some of the country's growing number of hackers to discover just how big a risk they pose:

The man I meet is 21, he has no technical training and has moved to Beijing from a small town in southern China.

But within minutes of our meeting, he's shown me how he can hack into my email account.

A few more clicks of his mouse, and he's stolen my credit card details as I make an online purchase.

He says he's a "cyber security expert" - not a hacker - but we can't use his name and he refuses to show his face.

I ask him whether he could successfully hack into more carefully guarded computer systems: those of government officials and top companies in the West.

"Even the strongest security systems have holes," he tells me. "Everyone knows that those people haven't realised that there are hackers who can attack them. They probably think they have the best security possible."

Last year, cyber attacks cost Britain £27bn. The global hub for targeted attacks is China. An estimated 1.6 billion attacks are launched from the country each month. Read More

Security forces kill 7 in Syria, an opposition source says - 18th Apr 2011

In separate incidents, Syrian security forces opened fire on protesters in Homs and mourners at a funeral in Talbisa Sunday, killing seven people and injuring more than 50, an opposition source told CNN.

In Homs, the source said thousands of protesters demanding reform were surrounded by security forces. They attacked demonstrators, firing live ammunition and tear gas into the crowds, the source said. He said three people were killed and 13 others injured in the clash.

In the nearby town of Talbisa, the source said four people were killed and more than 40 wounded when security forces opened fire on mourners at a funeral.

A second opposition source told CNN three people died in Talbisa and two others in Homs, when clashes broke out between police and protesters who were trying to get to Talbisa.

It was not immediately clear whether the two opposition sources reported the same deaths or whether they were talking about separate incidents. CNN could not independently confirm the accounts. Read More

Witnesses: Dozens wounded at Yemen Protests - 17th Apr 2011

Dozens of protesters were injured Sunday by Yemeni security forces as thousands packed into anti-government demonstrations, witnesses and medical personnel said.

Witnesses said some others were arrested, but officials said they were released within hours.

In Sanaa's Change Square, Yemeni security forces shot live ammunition at protesters, injuring 11, witnesses and field medical teams said.

All 11 had gunshot wounds, witnesses said. Two of the injured are in serious condition, medical staff at the square said.

"We were being shot at directly," said protester Abdullah Kulaibi. "Security forces were trying to kill us and not disperse us."

Yemeni officials have repeatedly denied accusations of targeting peaceful protesters. Read More


Official: Arrest made in connection with Texas wildfire - 18th Apr 2011

Texas authorities have made an arrest in connection with one of hundreds of blazes scorching the state in what a forest service official called the "perfect storm for wildfires."

A man has been arrested and charged with reckless endangerment, which is a felony under Texas law, Austin Fire Department Battalion Chief Palmer Buck said early Monday. The man, who authorities have not yet identified, is being held under a $50,000 bond.

According to Buck, the man started a campfire at a homeless camp in a remote area, which got out of control and prompted evacuations. The fire has burned about 60 acres and raised concerns as it crept near 100 homes, 10 businesses and Austin Community College.

Firefighters are battling some of the driest conditions Texas has seen in nearly a century. Read More

Gasoline spill likely killed thousands of Goldstream River salmon - 17th Apr 2011

(Image: this is a picture taken of Goldstream River in January 2011)

Thousands of salmon are expected to have been killed by a large gasoline spill that poured into Goldstream River during the weekend.

A Columbia Fuels truck smashed into the rock face and rolled, damaging the cab and one of the two tanks the engine was pulling.

About 40,000 litres of gasoline are estimated to have been spilled and much of that flowed into the river at the side of the highway. The truck hit the rock wall beside a small waterfall that flows across the road to the river, and that helped move the gas.

“Gasoline is very toxic to aquatic life,” said Graham Knox, the Ministry of Environment’s manager of environmental emergencies.

Ministry biologists, an oiled-wildlife specialist and staff from Environment Canada were on the scene Sunday conducting an assessment of the site. There was little apparent damage at the site itself, but as they moved downstream toward the estuary, they saw “hundreds” of dead fish in the water, Knox said.

With that many visible to the eye, the number killed will be significantly higher, he said — likely in the thousands.

“It is a significant amount of fish that have been killed,” he said. Read More

Joseph Nasso, 77. 'Double initial' serial killer suspect 'had boxes of notes detailing grisly plans to torture and kill women' - 18th Apr 2011

A potential serial killer, charged last week with four murders, kept boxes of grisly notes on how he wanted to torture and kill women, it has emerged.

Joseph Naso, 77, a professional photographer, has gained international attention for the alleged killings after the victims all had similar double initials.

Margaret Prisco, who lived upstairs from Naso in San Francisco with her then boyfriend, Thaddeus Iorizzo, in the 1980s was number 10 on a hit list found in the suspect's home, according to a detective who contacted the couple last year.

He said the man had written in graphic detail about torturing the then 23-year-old Prisco.

'It's disconcerting. When you're that age, living in San Francisco, you don't have your guard up and thinking that someone is after you,' Prisco, 53, said from her home in New York.

'It never occurred that someone was stalking me,' she added.

Iorizzo, also, 53, said: 'Well, I knew he was a whack job, but imagine someone wanting to kill your soul mate?'

The couple said Detective William Thurston of the Nevada State Police told them Naso - whom they called 'Crazy Joe' - had apparently filled three notebooks describing how he wanted to torment Prisco. Read More

Six racehorses burned to death after driver flicks a cigarette into their trailer - 18th Apr 2011

Six racehorses burned to death after a driver flicked a cigarette into their trailer as they were being driven to their first start of the season.

The young thoroughbreds desperately tried to escape but were trapped in their box when the hay around them caught on fire.

As smoke started billowing from the New York bound-trailer its drivers pulled over and tried to put out the fire but they unable to save the animals.

One of the drivers sustained burns while trying to haul them out.

Police said that the cause of the blaze was a passing motorist who flicked his still-lit cigarette out of the window and into the horse box.

One of the horses is said to have belonged to Barry Schwartz, the childhood friend of Calvin Klein who co-founded his fashion empire.

Other equines belonged to well-known trainers like Rudy Rodriguez and Mike Hushion. Read More

Kipp Rusty Walker, 19, Stabs himself to Death on Stage at Open Mic Night - 18th Apr 2011

A troubled 19-year-old stabbed himself to death on stage at an open mic night after playing a song called Sorry For All the Mess.

Kipp Rusty Walker repeatedly plunged the six-inch blade into his chest as the audience clapped and cheered in the mistaken belief it was piece of performance art.

But when he collapsed in a pool of his own blood they started screaming in horror and rushed to help him, but his wounds were too severe and he died soon after.

The bizarre suicide has left the community of Bend in Oregon stunned and wondering why he would end his life in such a public way.

But questions will be asked of mental health authorities after it emerged that Walker had told friends of his plan and had threatened to kill himself before.

On that occasion he had been taken in for treatment but was released back into the community.

Walker took his own life at the Strictly Organic Coffee Company in front of around 15 people during its open mic night.

He got up on stage and performed the number on the keyboard before killing himself.

He was taken to hospital but died shortly after. Read More

What a headache: Astronauts find paracetamol doesn't work in space - 18th Apr 2011

Astronauts on space missions may not be able to take paracetamol to treat a headache or antibiotic drugs to fight infection, a study has found.

Scientists have shown that medicines lose their potency more rapidly in outer space.

The peculiar conditions away from the earth - including weaker gravity and higher radiation - could be to blame, according to the research by NASA’s Johnson Space Center.

On earth, medication is typically designed to be stored for a couple years from the manufacture date.

But they always need to be kept in precise conditions to retain their effectiveness, such as away from direct sunlight or in a cool, dry space.

The authors of the study said longer space missions have increased the need for astronauts to take medicines.

So they investigated whether the unique environment of space - including radiation, vibrations, microgravity, a carbon dioxide rich environment and variations in humidity and temperature - affected drugs’ effectiveness. Read More