Friday, May 27, 2011

53% of Young People Would Rather Lose Sense of Smell Than Social Networks

A McCann survey of 6,000 people aged 16 to 30 found that 53 percent of respondents would rather forfeit the ability to smell than lose access to social networking websites. BizReport.com says that the study "identified three key factors motivating today's youngsters -- the need for connections and community, social or personal justice, and authenticity." To put things in perspective, 67 percent of people polled said they would willfully have their genitals removed for a Klondike Bar.

Laura Simpson, Global IQ Director for McCann Worldgroup, said that, "Young people utilize technology as a kind of super-sense which connects them to infinite knowledge, friends and entertainment opportunities." In 2011, pictures from Myrtle Beach spring break count as "infinite knowledge."

Considering that it's summer in New York and the sidewalks are about to turn into dog-shit hibachi grills, we'd give up sense of smell for just about anything. Even MySpace. (read more)

Global Economic Rebound Weakens on Quake, Oil Price, European Debt Crisis

The world economy is losing strength halfway through the year as high oil prices and fallout from Japan’s natural disaster and Europe’s debt woes take their toll.

Goldman Sachs Group Inc. now expects global economic growth of 4.3 percent in 2011, compared with its 4.8 percent estimate in mid-April, while UBS AG has cut its projection to 3.6 percent from 3.9 percent in January. Downside risks also include a shift to tighter monetary policy in emerging markets.

“The world economy has entered a softer patch with the incoming growth data mostly disappointing,” said Andrew Cates, an economist at UBS in Singapore. “We suspect this soft patch will endure for longer.”

Data this week backed that outlook as reports showed Chinese manufacturing expanding at the slowest pace in 10 months, orders for U.S. durable goods dropping the most since October and confidence among European executive and consumers sliding for the third straight month. Investors are tuning in, pushing the MSCI World Index of stocks in advanced economies down 4.2 percent this month.

Goldman Sachs economists led by Dominic Wilson and Jan Hatzius said in a May 25 report they now expect “less upside in equities” with their colleagues reducing price targets for most of the major regions even though they still anticipate another 10 percent gain in developed markets this year. (read more)

Yemen on brink of civil war as fighting worsens

Yemeni tribesmen said they wrested a military compound from elite troops loyal to President Ali Abdullah Saleh outside the capital Sanaa on Friday as increased fighting threatened to tip the country into civil war.

Yemeni fighter jets could be heard breaking the sound barrier as they swooped over the capital, the scene of fighting between forces loyal to Saleh and the rival Hashed tribe led by Sadeq al-Ahmar, close to the Islamist opposition party Islah.

Tribes outside the capital said they were also fighting government troops at two other military bases.

In Sanaa, tens of thousands of people gathered after Friday prayers for what they said would be a "Friday of Peaceful Revolution" against Saleh, releasing white doves and carrying the coffins of about 30 people killed in clashes this week.

But the turnout for the rally, inspired by the Egyptian and Tunisian revolutions, was less than previous weeks with many people fleeing Sanaa and the government closing roads around the capital to keep out tribes trying to reinforce the Ahmars.

Machinegun fire rattled across Sanaa and sporadic explosions were heard near a protest site where thousands of people demanding Saleh's departure are still camped. (read more)

Horse herpes outbreak forces rodeo queens to ride stick ponies

While the state has yet to officially cancel any events involving horses that might have been exposed to a local recent equine herpes outbreak, owners and arenas are taking precautions.

Because of the outbreak, contestants at the Davis County Sheriff's Mounted Posse Junior Queen Contest had to cowgirl up Thursday night without their mares.

Instead of competing on horses, as is typically the case, contestants were asked to trot around the arena with stick horses as their show ponies.

"It's kind of weird, but you can't really help that the disease is going around," said former queen Savanna Steed. She said the stick horses will test the riders' knowledge of whether they know the routine, rather than letting the horse do all the work.

Utah has 13 suspected and seven confirmed cases of equine herpes virus after horses at a regional cutting horse competition at the Golden Spike Arena in Ogden first showed symptoms of the illness.

Horse herpes is not sexually transmitted and is not considered a danger for humans, but it is highly contagious among horses and other animals of the equine family. The most common way for the virus to spread is by direct horse-to-horse contact, but it can also spread through the air, contaminated equipment, clothing and hands.

The disease can be fatal to horses and is incurable. (read more)

Patriot Act clears House, Senate -- after being signed into effect by a machine

Capping a week of political bickering and parliamentary delays, the House joined the Senate on Thursday to pass a four-year extension of key provisions of the Patriot Act that was set to expire at midnight.

Because President Barack Obama was traveling in Europe, he signed the bill into law using an autopen, a machine that replicates the president’s signature.

The House voted 250-153 to renew three parts of the counter-terrorism surveillance law. Thirty-one House Republicans joined most Democrats in opposing the extension, while 54 Democrats supported it.

Hours earlier, the bill cleared the Senate on a 72-23 vote, with 19 Democrats and four Republicans voting no, mostly over concerns the Patriot Act violates personal privacy and civil liberties. (read more)

US Home Sales Plunge, Reaching Seven-Month Low

Pending sales of existing U.S. homes dropped far more than expected in April to touch a seven-month low, a trade group said on Friday, dealing a blow to hopes of a recovery in the housing market.

The National Association of Realtors Pending Home Sales Index dropped 11.6 percent to 81.9 in April, the lowest since September. Pending home sales lead existing home sales by a month or two.

Economists, who had expected pending home sales to fall 1.0 percent last month, said bad weather in some parts of the country might have affected home shopping.

"There may some temporary factors like bad weather in the South," said Gus Faucher, director of macroeconomics at Moody's Analytics in West Chester, Pennsylvania.

"Higher gasoline may be making potential home buyers a bit cautious. It is signaling further weakness in housing, but we do expect housing to turn around later this year. It just hasn't happened yet."

Pending home sales in the South, which was ravaged by tornadoes, dropped 17.2 percent. Sales were also down in the Midwest and the West. (read more)

Young and restless in Spain as jobless rate soars

The first thing Silvia Huelves was told when she started studying architecture was that she should take up Chinese or Japanese - she was not going to build anything in Spain any time soon.

It wasn't criticism of her skills but a reflection on the state of the country, where the jobless rate among 16- to 24-year-olds is a staggering 45 percent and a construction sector slump caused nearly two years of recession.

Now the young people are protesting, roughing it out in improvised camps in the hearts of Spain's main cities to bring attention to their plight. Riot police clashed with protesters in Barcelona while trying to clear a plaza of people so it could be cleaned up, injuring dozens, according to news reports.

The protesters were allowed to move back in later. While the Spaniards demonstrating across the country are angry about lots of things, bleak job prospects and having to live with mom and mad well into adulthood are high on the list.

Huelves, a 19-year-old with a big smile, said her professors make no secret of the dire state of things.

"You go in and the first thing they say is 'forget about it, you are never going to build buildings,'" she said. "They say 'Architecture is really cool and well-rounded and useful for a lot of things, but you are not going to build buildings.'" (read more)

Spanish police clash with protesters, 121 hurt - 27th May 2011

BARCELONA, Spain -- Riot police firing blanks and wielding truncheons clashed Friday with protesters as authorities cleared away a makeshift camp set up as part of a Spain-wide demonstration against the country's economic problems. More than 100 people were injured.

The trouble started when police tried to clear the protesters from a main square in Barcelona so sanitation workers could clean it up before possible celebrations after a soccer match Saturday night.

Many of the protesters, who are angry about high unemployment, anti-austerity measures and politicians' handling of the economy, refused to move. Television images showed officers beating the demonstrators and dragging them on the ground. Some wound up with bloodied hands and heads, or broken limbs.

Catalonia regional Interior Ministry spokesman Felip Puig said 84 protesters and 37 police were injured. Officers were seen hauling people away, but Puig did not say how many had been arrested and he didn't say how serious the injuries were. He did say one protester had a broken arm.

The protesters were allowed to return to the plaza, which has been occupied by protesters for nearly two weeks, after it was cleaned. Protesters have been camped out there for nearly two weeks. Puig justified the authorities' action by saying the plaza had to be cleaned because soccer fans will gather there Saturday night after the Champions League final between Barcelona and Manchester United in London.

Scuffles also broke out between authorities and protesters in the city of Lleida, west of Barcelona. Two people were arrested, according to the Europa Press news agency. Source

What spending cuts? PM splashes out £680k of YOUR money on Downing Street - 27th May 2011

The country is toiling under the heaviest ever public spending cuts, but that didn’t stop David Cameron deciding the time was right to lavish £653,192.34 of taxpayers’ money on Downing Street, including £30,000 on No11.

The results of the work he’s had done in the past year were there for all to see this week when through-the-keyhole pictures emerged of the PM and his wife Samantha hosting the Obamas.

However, some may question whether it was right for so much money to be spent on renovation work at a time when the public purse strings have been yanked so tightly shut.

The overall spending figures were seen by The Guardian, which anaylsed the government's official spending records.

They are freely available to members of the public at www.data.gov.uk.

All Prime Ministers are entitled to a £30,000 grant for accommodation, and much of the Cameron's went on a new kitchen.

Samantha Cameron is said to have despaired at the old dark, poky kitchen – which has now, as the world has seen, been transformed into a modern, airy space, with top-of-the-range accessories and gleaming pans.

Some of the remainder went on less visible modernising work such as plumbing and energy efficiency, as well as internal and external renovation work to Downing Street offices.

No10, though, refused to reveal any more information about how the full £653,192.34 was spent.

In a statement to The Guardian, a spokeswoman was keen to point out that ‘no public money was spent on furniture, fittings or accessories’.

However, Tom Watson, the Labour MP for West Bromwich East, who has been a prominent voice in the fight for greater government transparency, argued that the PM was falling far short of expectations. Read More

First images from Great Pyramid's chamber of secrets - 25th May 2011

THEY might be ancient graffiti tags left by a worker or symbols of religious significance. A robot has sent back the first images of markings on the wall of a tiny chamber in the Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt that have not been seen for 4500 years. It has also helped settle the controversy about the only metal known to exist in the pyramid, and shows a "door" that could lead to another hidden chamber.

The pyramid is thought to have been built as a tomb for the pharaoh Khufu, and is the last of the seven wonders of the ancient world still standing. It contains three main chambers: the Queen's Chamber, the Grand Gallery and the King's Chamber, which has two air shafts connecting it with the outside world. Strangely, though, there are two tunnels, about 20 centimetres by 20 centimetres, that extend from the north and south walls of the Queen's Chamber and stop at stone doors before they reach the outside of the pyramid (see diagram).

The function of these tunnels and doors is unknown, but some believe that one or both could lead to a secret chamber. Zahi Hawass, Egypt's Minister of State for Antiquities Affairs, describes the doors as the last great mystery of the pyramid.

Several attempts have been made to explore the tunnels using robots. In 1993, a robot crawled some 63 metres up the tunnel in the south wall and discovered what appeared to be a small stone door set with metal pins. Metal is not part of any other known structure in the pyramid, and the discovery ignited speculation that the pins were door handles, keys or even parts of a power supply constructed by aliens.

Then in 2002 another robot drilled through the stone block and filmed a small chamber backed by a large blocking stone, but little else. Now a robot designed by engineer Rob Richardson from the University of Leeds, UK, and colleagues, and named Djedi after the magician that Khufu consulted when he planned his tomb, has crawled up the tunnel carrying a bendy "micro snake" camera that can see around corners. Read More

Mystery Mersey ‘monster’ baffles marine life experts - 25th May 2011


A MYSTERY sea creature spotted in the Mersey has experts baffled.

The “monster” was snapped off Seacombe Ferry at 9am yesterday by photographer Mark Harrison.

Paul Renolds, from the Blue Planet Aquarium, who studied the photos, said: “It is virtually impossible to actually identify, but this is the time of year when large numbers of basking sharks, the second largest shark species in the world after whale sharks, head towards waters off the Isle of Man.”

He added: “If it is not a basking shark, it could be a smaller species of whale or a dolphin because there are around 23 different species in UK waters.” Source

Yemeni jets bomb opposition tribal forces - 27th May 2011



In an escalation of Yemen's crisis, air force combat jets bombed tribal forces opposed to embattled President Ali Abdullah Saleh, a senior defense official said.

At least seven air force bombers were deployed east of Sanaa to the district of Nehm, where two military compounds had been overtaken earlier by tribal fighters, said the official, who was not identified because he is not authorized to speak to the media.

Ahmed Soufi, a senior advisor to Saleh, said 18 people were killed in the fighting.

Witnesses in Nehm said the airstrikes were carried out in several areas of the province northeast of Sanaa, including Al-Fartha Thoma and Beni Shokan.

The fighting started earlier Friday between the Nehm tribesmen and soldiers of the Yemeni Republican Guard. Read More

Jose Guerena a Iraq War Vet who was Shot 70 times by a SWAT team, DID NOT Open Fire according to the Report - 27th May 2011

A U.S. Marine who was killed when he was gunned down in his home near Tucson, Arizona, never fired on the SWAT team that stormed his house firing 70 times in a hail of bullets, a report has revealed.

The revelation came as dramatic footage of the shooting was released, showing the armed team pounding down the door of Jose Guerena's home and opening fire.

The father-of-two, who had served twice in Iraq, died on May 5 after the SWAT team descended on his home believing it was one of four houses associated with a drug smuggling operation.

The terrifying footage shows the uniformed team pulling up outside Jose Guerena's home, sounding their sirens and banging on the door before kicking it in.

The sound of bullets then rings out as they open fire shortly after entering the home. Read More

Some of the officers said they believed that Guerena fired on them, but the investigation showed that no shots were fired from the weapon and it was never taken off the safety position.


Scores of protesters killed as government troops retaliate with bullets and stun grenades in Yemen and Syria after Friday prayers - 27th May 2011

Anti-government protesters in Yemen stormed a military base today sparking battles that left dozens dead and prompted the embattled president to defend the assault with airstrikes.

The attack came as Syrian security forces killed at least four people when they opened fire on thousands of demonstrators who took to the streets despite the near-certainty they will face gunfire, tear gas and stun guns.

Street battles have raged in Yemen's capital Sanaa for the last five days as tribesmen attempt to oust President Ali Abdullah Saleh.

At least 109 people have been killed by this week's street battles in Sanaa between security forces loyal to Saleh and fighters from Yemen's largest tribe, the Hashid, which has joined the popular uprising against the longtime ruler.

The fighting has hiked fears the country could be thrown into civil war as Saleh clings to power in the face of months of peaceful protests demanding his ouster.

Today's assault on the base in the el-Fardha Nehem region was the most significant escalation yet outside the capital.

Tribal fighters stormed the camp, 50 miles northeast of Sanaa, and killed dozens of troops - including the base commander - in the fighting, said Sheik Ali Saif, a leader from the Hashid tribe.

After the Hashid fighters captured the camp, government airplanes bombed them and other forces clashed with them on the ground, he said. At least 12 tribesmen were killed, Saif said. Read More

Survived: Is this the worst case of animal cruelty ever? Dog shot 40 times in head, tied up and buried alive... but survives - 27th May 2011

The discovery of a dog that was buried alive up to its nose after being shot in the head 40 times has led to calls for Malta to reform its animal welfare laws.

The crossbreed mongrel, which was named Star by her rescuers, was found near the city of Birzebbuga by animal welfare officers investigating an unrelated case.

After hearing whimpering coming from beneath a wooden board with a tree stump placed on top of it to weigh it down, officers were confronted with the distressing sight of a dog's face buried in the dirt.

But worse was to follow. When Star was dug out of the ground they discovered all four limbs had all been tied together and that she had been repeatedly shot with a pellet gun.

Miraculously, after doctors removed 40 pellets from her skull during emergency surgery at the Ta' Qali hospital, Star survived.

The case has caused outrage in Malta where, regardless of the nature of the act, the maximum sentence one can face for animal cruelty is a one-year jail sentence, or a maximum fine of 46,500 euros.

A pending change in legislation will raise the maximum fine to 50,000 euros but the one-year jail maximum will remain.

Animal lovers are holding a silent protest in Valetta next week to express their disgust. Read More


Wayne Steven Bishop a Burglar who claimed jail sentence infringed his children's human rights is freed - 27th May 2011

A burglar was freed from jail today - after judges ruled his five children would suffer as much as he would if he remained behind bars.

Wayne Steven Bishop, 33, was serving an eight-month sentence, imposed at Nottingham Crown Court in April after he admitted burglary and dangerous driving.

But he is the sole carer of his five children - aged between five and 13 - for five nights a week and claims it was not in their 'best interests' that he stay in prison.

His ex-partner looks after them the remaining two days.

His QC, Ian Wise, told Mr Justice Maddison and Mr Justice Sweeney at the Court of Appeal that the court had not properly taken into account the effect on the children.

Since his incarceration, they have been cared for by his sister during the week and his ex-partner, but the situation has been difficult for all parties.

The sister is a single parent with seven children to look after already - five of them her own - and she lives seven miles from the schools which her nieces and nephews attend. Read More

Baby P was Failed by the System, now the System rewards Sharon Shoesmith: 'I'm over the moon' Baby P scandal boss set for £1 M payout- 27th May 2011

Sharon Shoesmith is set for an estimated £400,000 payout after the Court of Appeal ruled she was unlawfully sacked over the Baby P scandal.

Ms Shoesmith, 58, challenged a High Court ruling that cleared regulator Ofsted, former children's secretary Ed Balls and Haringey Council of acting unlawfully.

Speaking after the hearing in central London, Ms Shoesmith smiled and said: 'I'm over the moon. Absolutely thrilled.'

Her lawyers argued that she was the victim of 'procedural unfairness' when she lost her £133,000-a-year post as director of children's services at Haringey Council in north London.

She will now return to the High Court for a compensation hearing and is claiming her right to a full salary and pension payments from the day she was sacked in 2008 to the present day.

Speaking at the G8 summit in France, Prime Minister David Cameron said the Department For Education would launch an appeal.

'We all remember the absolutely appalling case of Baby P and how, as a country, we've got to do right and make sure we are accountable for the terrible mistakes and errors that were made,' he said. Read More

Update: Philip Henson, head of employment at City law firm Bargate Murray, said Ms Shoesmith was likely to receive compensation "approaching, or hitting, the £1m mark, taking into consideration reinstatement of her pension rights."

Horror at the zoo: Pair of lions tear apart escaped cuddly baby bearcat in front of terrified children - 27th May 2011

A family day out turned into a nightmare for zoo visitors after they witnessed a bearcat cub being ripped apart by a pair of lions.

The horror unfolded at the Chessington World of Adventure in Surrey after a pair of the cute mammals - also known as binturongs - climbed a tree before dropping from some overhanging branches and landing in the neighbouring lion enclosure.

One of the cubs was immediately set upon by the lions, who made short work of killing it in front of shocked spectators.

The second cub was heard shrieking as it hurried into the undergrowth and out of view. It died of fright shortly afterwards.

Jason Harcombe, who had taken his two-year-old son to the zoo, told The Sun: 'The poor animal didn't stand a chance. The lions jumped on it straight away and killed it.

A zoo spokesman said: 'Before it was discovered the young binturong had escaped, they had ventured into the Asiatic lions' enclosure.

'This is an unfortunate incident which Chessington is taking very seriously. Our Zoo team, particularly the keepers concerned, are very distressed by the events.

'We are very sorry for any visitors who may have been upset by witnessing the incident.'

The zoo was home to a single family of bearcats consisting of two adults and three cubs. The parents and remaining single cub have now been moved to a different area of the zoo. An investigation into the incident is being carried out. Source

Google Wallet: 'That was our idea!' eBay and PayPal sue Google for 'stealing mobile payment trade secrets' - 27th May 2011

Google is being sued by internet payment firm PayPal over claims the web giant stole technology allowing smartphones to buy things in shops.

PayPal allege that former executives Osama Bedier and Stephanie Tilenius defected and used trade secrets to help their new company create Google Wallet.

The lawsuit was filed just hours after Mr Bedier, who was hired just five months ago, launched the product in New York, where it will be tested this summer.

PayPal, which is owned by eBay, have not released such a system, which allows users to swipe their phone on a scanner and make an instant payment.

But they say they says it spent three years trying to secure a deal under which it would create an NFC system for Android, only for Google to end the talks by muscling in with a rival product.

The firm also claims in its lawsuit that Mr Bedier was in job talks with Google at the same time as he was leading negotiations to make PayPal a payment option on Google’s Android software. Read More

'Don't touch': School bans pupils from handshakes, high-fives and hugs... to beat bullying - 27th May 2011

Bad example: Children at The Quest Academy have been banned from copying David Cameron and Barack Obama's high-fiving antics.

When Barack Obama and David Cameron were pictured back-slapping and congratulating each other over a game of table tennis this week, it was an image that went around the world.

It showed that two of the most powerful men in the world had a deep respect and understanding, with a hint of competitiveness, for each other.

But pupils at a London school have been stopped from showing similar camaraderie - because handshakes, high-fives and hugs have all been banned in a bid to beat bullying.

The Quest Academy, in Croydon, London, is putting children into detention for flouting the dictat which parents have slammed as 'extreme' and 'ludicrous'.

Anita Chong, whose 15-year-old daughter Dayna was given a detention for cuddling a female friend, said she had 'never heard of anything so crazy in my life'.

The 33-year-old, from nearby New Addington, told The Sun: 'If the kids can't even hug each other at school some of them will never learn how to be socially interactive. Read More

Major food alert as two people in Britain diagnosed with E.coli strain from cucumber that has killed two in Germany - 27th May 2011

Two people have been diagnosed in Britain with the killer E.coli strain that has already claimed two lives in Germany.

At least 300 people are in hospital in the northern part of the country clustered around the port of Hamburg.

Another 500 people are being tested for the infection as hospitals brace themselves for a new wave of admissions.

'Killer cucumbers' from the Almeria and Malaga provinces in Spain are now thought to be the cause of the infections. But other salad items such as tomatoes and lettuce may also be the source of the bug.

The two UK victims are Germans who travelled from their homeland and fell ill after entering Britain. There is a third suspected case but it has yet to be confirmed.

Although the infection can be passed person-to-person through hand-to-mouth contact the Health Protection Agency said there was no evidence of any secondary infections.

A spokesman added: 'The Food Standards agency is monitoring the situation closely and stress there is currently no evidence that any affected organic cucumbers from the sources identified have been distributed to the UK.'

They said the outbreak is mainly affecting adults - almost 70 per cent of whom are women. Read More

Sovereign Debt, The Biggest Bubble of Them All

This week we turn from the crisis brewing in the US to the one that is coming to a slow boil in Europe. We visit our old friends Greece and Ireland and ponder how this will end. It is all well and good to kick the can down the road, but what happens when you come to the end of the road? The European answer seems to be to haul in the heavy equipment and extend the road.

I am asked all the time what my biggest worry is, and I quickly answer, the European Sovereign Debt Crisis. Of course, then we have to think about the Japanese Sovereign Debt Crisis, followed by the one in the US; but today we will focus on Europe. The biggest bubble in history is the bubble of government debt. It is a bubble in a world full of pins. It will take a great deal of luck and crisis management to keep it afloat, without wreaking havoc on the financial system and markets of the world.

The rumors have been flying all this week. Greek is going to leave the euro. No, it won't. Germans are demanding debt restructuring, and then they say no. A German newspaper is reporting that the EU, IMF, and Germany want a Greek debt extension, while the ECB (holders of Greek debt) and France oppose it. Greek two-year bonds are now paying 25% if you care to buy them in the open market, which is effectively the market voting for some type of debt restructuring or outright default.

I sat down this week and read two lengthy reports on how Greek debt could be restructured in an orderly manner. One was from HSBC and the other from Roubini Global Economics. There are ways it can be done. But the costs of the various options may be more than the affected parties want to bear. It is not a matter of pain or no pain; it is a decision as to who will bear the pain. (read more)

Chasing the Mogollon Monster: Is there a "Bigfoot" living among us? -- Fact or fiction?

From UFOs to the Loch Ness monster, the mysterious and inexplicable phenomena across the globe which claim just as many believers as skeptics have a hold on many here in Arizona.

Here's the story of a monster living among us.

They seem like unbelievable stories fit for the campfire, but these guys have seen the signs and heard the sounds.

"The fur was clean and shiny it was a brownish red," says Alex Hearn, crypto zoologist.

"They're very intelligent they are the masters of the forest the rulers of the night," says Mitchell Waite, a Mogollon Monster hunter. "Whistling... they'll do that."

But have you ever heard the tale of the Mogollon Monster? Arizona's very own Bigfoot creature wandering the wilderness of the Tonto National Forest?

We spoke with the locals in and around Globe who not only believe such a creature could exist, some have even seen him!

"I passed it off as being a bear but I don't know it was black or very dark and it was trailing some horses," says believer Gene Center.

Natural Gas Revolution Is Overblown, Study Says

A veritable explosion in the number of natural gas wells in the United States in the late 2000's resulted in only modest gains in production, a new study finds, suggesting that the promise of natural gas as a bountiful and economical domestic fuel source has been wildly oversold.

The findings, part of a broader analysis of natural gas published Thursday by the Post Carbon Institute, an energy and climate research organization in California, is one of a growing number of studies to undermine a natural gas catechism that has united industry, environmental groups and even the Obama White House in recent years.

It also comes on the heels of another study, published Monday, lending credence to claims that modern natural gas drilling techniques are contributing to methane contamination of drinking water wells in surrounding communities.

According to the author of Thursday's study, David Hughes, a geoscientist and fellow at the institute, the bedrock assumptions of the natural gas revolution -- that new drilling techniques have cracked open deep layers of shale and made available a 100-year supply of clean, domestic energy that could displace dirty coal and oil -- are simply not true. (read more)

Deadly diet of marine plastic kills seabirds

FOR years a remote patch of the North Pacific has served as a benchmark of global marine plastic pollution - and now it appears we have our own.

Seabirds which forage in the Tasman Sea are mistaking plastic for food, eating it and perishing on Lord Howe Island.

''The problem is here - in our backyard,'' a zoologist, Jennifer Lavers, said.

Large amounts of plastic are being recovered from flesh-footed shearwaters on Lord Howe. In the latest survey, one bird's stomach contained more than 200 pieces and others held more than 50.

The sharp-edged fragments tear internal organs and toxic substances bind to the plastic. Mercury, which is toxic to birds at four parts per million, was found in the shearwaters at up to 30,000 ppm, according to Dr Lavers.

The bird's numbers are plummeting on Lord Howe, once an Australian stronghold. Dr Lavers, of the Tasmanian Museum, said in last month's survey 95 per cent of nesting shearwaters had some plastic in their stomachs and it was hard to find living chicks.

Other seabird deaths linked to plastic are also emerging around our coastline as the UN Environment Program calls for intensified research on its impacts and Birds Australia warns it must be treated as a serious threat.

The first clear evidence of the scale of the problem came with the discovery of the ''North Pacific garbage patch'' - a gyre, or giant circular current, north of Hawaii where Asian and North American plastics gather. (read more)

Lethal Hendra Virus Outbreaks May Be Caused by Man

That the lethal Hendra virus could jump from Australia’s flying foxes to its humans might seem like nothing more than bad luck, an unfortunate but inevitable consequence of contact with animals.

Instead, it seems that people are partly responsible for the outbreak. Flying foxes are vectors, but human alteration of their ecology may have changed how Hendra moves through the animals.

By making flying-fox populations sedentary, stressed and fragmented, development might have also made them prone to viral spikes. Hendra’s spread in people may be, in a sense, a man-made disaster.

“We’re now seeing more evidence that human-induced environmental changes may be driving this disease,” said Raina Plowright, a disease ecologist at Pennsylvania State University. “That’s something that’s been proposed many times, but few people have been able to show a mechanism. Here’s a mechanism.”

Plowright is the lead author of a study of the Hendra virus May 11 in Proceedings of the Royal Society B. In September 1994, the virus killed 14 horses and their trainer in a suburb of Brisbane.

Thirteen more outbreaks have occurred since then, each involving transmission from a flying fox to a horse; of those, five resulted in transmission from horse to human. Fortunately, Hendra doesn’t seem to spread between people, but it’s still scary enough to merit Biosafety level 4 treatment. When researchers study it, they do so wearing moon suits, in high-security labs sealed with multiple airlocks. (read more)

Passengers and crew on board doomed Air France jet endured terrifying THREE MINUTE plunge into the ocean after engines failed - 27th May 2011

Hundreds of passengers on board an Air France jet endured a three-and-a-half minute plunge to their deaths after its engines stalled while the pilot was resting, it emerged today.

The terrifying end of Flight 447 came after it malfunctioned in a heavy storm en route from Rio de Janeiro to Paris two years ago.

All 228 people on board, including crew, died after it hit the Atlantic at a speed of 180 feet a second.

Details of the worst crash in Air France's history emerged in Paris where experts have analysed the data from the plane's recently retrieved black box flight recorders.

France's accident investigation office, the Bureau d'EnquĂȘtes et d'Analyses (BEA), unveiled startling details which appeared to show that junior pilots ended up trying to save the plane.

The pilot, Marc Dubois, had been taking a break when, four hours into the flight, a co-pilot aged 32 reported heavy turbulence, announcing the problem to crew and getting passengers to fasten seatbelts. Another co-pilot, aged 37, was also assisting.

Mr Dubois returned to the cockpit less than two minutes after the autopilot cut out in a growing storm.

However, recorded conversations show that he never actually returned to his seat, or took over the controls - instead leaving the flying to his assistants.

He had clocked up 11,000 flying hours over his airline career, while his more junior counterparts had 6,500 and 2,900 hours respectively. Read More

Activity Increases At Costa Rica's Poas Volcano - 27th May 2011

Activity at the Volcano Poas is increasing rapidly, while at the same time drying up the lagoon, say experts, a team of geologists and volcanologists from the seismological network of the Universidad de Costa Rica (UCR).

The team visited the colossus on Wednesday where the recorded 18 "phreatic eruptions" in a three hour period, when normal is 1 or 2 per day.

The temperature of the crater is also increasing, which is causing the lagoon to dry up and possibly disappear.

Experts warn that this could bring more acid rain and ash in the area around the volcano.

However, the activity of Poas is not a d
Linkanger to tourists and the national park will continue open.

A phreatic eruption, also called a phreatic explosion or ultravulcanian eruption, occurs when rising magma makes contact with ground or surface water.

The extreme temperature of the magma (anywhere from 600 to 1,170 °C (1,112 to 2,138 °F)) causes near-instantaneous evaporation to steam resulting in an explosion of steam, water, ash, rock, and volcanic bombs.

At Mount St. Helens, hundreds of steam explosions preceded a 1980 plinian eruption of the volcano.A less intense geothermal event may result in a mud volcano. In 1949, Thomas Jaggar described this type of activity as a steam-blast eruption. Read More

Fire breaks out at another Japan nuke plant - 27th May 2011

A fire has broken out at a second nuclear plant in the Japanese prefecture of Fukushima.

The fire broke out in a power distribution board in the basement of the No. 1 reactor of the Fukushima Daini plant, which is just 10 kilometres from the crippled Fukushima Daiichi facility.

Both plants are operated by the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), which says workers immediately put out the fire.

A company spokesman says there are no reports of injuries or of any leakage of radiation.

Fukushima Daini's four reactors were put in a state of cold shutdown after the March earthquake and tsunami.

The March 11 disaster killed about 14,800 people and knocked out all the cooling systems at the Daiichi power plant facility, leading to the greatest leak of radiation since the 1986 Chernobyl disaster. Source

Public Warning: Measles Outbreak Strikes Across UK - 27th May 2011

Britain is facing a measles outbreak with nearly more cases reported in the first three months of this year than the whole of 2010.

The rise has sparked health officials to urge eveyone to ensure they are immunised against the potentially deadly infection.

Data from the Health Protection Agency (HPA) revealed 334 confirmed cases of measles to the end of April in England and Wales - compared with 374 in all of last year.

London was the worst affected area, with 104 cases, while the North East of England and Wales fared best with no cases reported.

Small outbreaks have been noted in universities, schools and within individual families while some people caught the disease abroad as Europe faced a surge in measles cases.

In mid-April, the World Health Organisation (WHO) warned of more than 6,500 cases of measles in 33 countries, with France being worst-hit with almost 5,000 cases.

In England and Wales, the under-25s were most affected in the first three months of the year. The vast majority had not had the vaccine against the disease.

Dr Mary Ramsay, head of the HPA's immunisation department, said immunisation was important.

"Although MMR coverage has improved over the last few years, we cannot stress enough that measles is serious and, in some cases, it can be fatal," she said. Read More

'Gulf spill killed 153 dolphins in 2011' - 27th May 2011

Over 150 dolphins have been found dead so far this year in the Gulf of Mexico as a result of last year's BP oil spill and chemical dispersants deployed to break up the oil on the surface and deep underwater.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, 153 dolphins, 65 of them babies, have been found dead in 2011, AFP reported.

Since the devastating British Petroleum oil spill in April 2010, the total number of dolphins found dead has reached 300, and environmentalists believe that the intelligent animal's death toll is actually 50 times what washes up to the shores; "the tip of the iceberg" as it is called.

In a study on the effects of the spill, marine expert Graham Worthy of the University of Central Florida, along with 26 other experts, said the dolphins were found in a part of the Gulf that saw nearly five million barrels of crude leak in the worst oil spill in US history.

"I suspect what we might be seeing are several things coming together to form a perfect storm," Worthy said.

"If oil and the dispersants have disrupted the food chain, this may have prevented the mother dolphins from getting adequate nutrition and building up the insulating blubber they needed to withstand the cold."

BP last month pledged $1 billion to jump-start projects aimed at restoring the US Gulf Coast by rebuilding damaged coastal marshes, replenishing soiled beaches, and conserving ocean habitat to help injured wildlife recover.

By the time the well was capped 87 days later, 4.9 million barrels (206 million gallons) of oil had gushed out of the runaway well 5,000 feet (1,500 meters) below the surface of the Gulf of Mexico.

Over a million gallons of dispersants were also deployed to break up the oil on the surface and deep underwater, and the environmentalists cautioned that their use was also a health hazard to animals and plant life in the Gulf, in some cases forcing large amounts of the oil to simply sink and clump together.

Hundreds of miles of fragile coastal wetlands and beaches were contaminated, a third of the Gulf's rich US waters were closed to fishing, and the economic costs have hit tens of billions of dollars. Source