Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Millions of GMO mosquitoes may be released in Florida neighborhood

Reuters / Ricardo Rojas
RT | Jan 26, 2015

Pointing to climate change and the rise of tropical diseases, British researchers hope to sell their idea of releasing millions of genetically modified mosquitoes in the Florida Keys. Almost 140,000 people have signed a petition against the plan.

For many years, the neighborhoods of the Florida Keys have been sprayed with insecticides to ward off a host of bugs, including perhaps the mother of all pests, the mosquito. Over time, however, Aedes aegypti, a mosquito that can spread the dengue fever, chikungunya, and yellow fever viruses has built up resistance to many of the insecticides used to kill them.

The rising risk of a mosquito infestation and disease outbreak presents an opportunity for one British firm, Oxitec, which has developed a method for breeding Aedes aegypti that kills mosquito larvae, AP reported.
According to Oxitec’s website, the process involves injecting a “lethal gene” into either the male sperm or female egg that eventually kills the offspring., the world’s largest petition platform, presented some of the unintended consequences of releasing millions of mutant mosquitos into the Florida Keys. For example, would the more virulent Asian tiger mosquito, which is also a carrier of dengue, “fill the void” left by a drop in Aedes aegypti populations? Or will the dengue virus mutate and become even more deadly?


The group calls efforts to introduce genetically modified mosquitos a “radical approach” since dengue fever has been absent from Key West since 2010. The group says this “indicates the current methods of control and public education are working.”

Oxitec says only non-biting male mosquitoes would be released, while attempting to assure the public that no genetically modified DNA would enter the bloodstream in the event of a bite from an overlooked female specimen.

Experts, however, question the claims.

"I think the science is fine, they definitely can kill mosquitoes, but the GMO issue still sticks as something of a thorny issue for the general public," Phil Lounibos, a researcher at the Florida Medical Entomology Laboratory, told AP.

"I'm on their side, in that consequences are highly unlikely. But to say that there's no genetically modified DNA that might get into a human, that's kind of a gray matter."

Oxitec spokeswoman Chris Creese said the experiment will be similar in size to one held in 2012 in the Cayman Islands, where 3.3 million genetically modified mosquitoes were set loose over a six- month period, resulting in the elimination of 96 percent of the targeted insects, AP quoted.

Critics say the British firm failed to notify residents about the possibility of being bitten by a few females overlooked by the researchers.

As more people question anything genetically modified, especially something that has the potential to suck their blood, resistance to the idea is growing. Already, almost 140,000 people have signed a petition to halt the experiment.

FDA spokeswoman Theresa Eisenman said no experiments with the modified bugs will be permitted until the agency has "thoroughly reviewed all the necessary information."

Marilyn Smith, a Florida Keys resident, wasn't sold on the plan following Oxitec's presentation at a public meeting. Smith asked "why are we being used as the experiment, the guinea pigs, just to see what happens," AP quoted her as saying.

Oxitec has a laboratory in Marathon, a Key West town of just over 10,000 people, and hopes to start releasing mosquitoes in the Key West region this spring.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Cuba’s Harvest of Surprises

Cornucopia | Jan 22, 2015 | Christopher D. Cook
Source: Thomas Münter
"Flanked by a lush, dark-green eruption of chard and fava beans at a tiny eighth-of-an-acre garden plot in Berkeley, Altieri scribbles numbers on a notepad, producing some compelling calculations: Applying agroecology methods on 1200 acres of public lands, the city of Oakland could produce 25,000 tons of food annually—enough to feed at least 400,000 people—without any pesticides or genetically engineered “super plants.” Such a change would be huge, Altieri argues, since the Bay Area imports 6,000 tons of food each day, which lean heavily on fossil fuel. But for a host of reasons, it’s not likely, he says."
In the fall of 1989, a full quarter-century before President Obama normalized US relations with Cuba, the Berlin Wall came tumbling to the ground in a flurry of sledgehammers and concrete dust. Meanwhile, an economic tsunami was brewing on the small Caribbean island. The Soviet Bloc was crumbling fast, sending shock waves across the globe that would plunge Cuba’s food and farming into years of austerity, hunger, and radical overhaul.

Earlier that year, the international socialist market terminated Cuba’s favorable trade rates—abruptly curtailing 85 percent of the tiny nation’s trade. Imports of wheat and other grains dropped by more than half; food rationing set in, and hunger widened. Soviet aid, a pillar of Cuba’s economy, evaporated as U.S. economic sanctions tightened.

Economic collapse led swiftly to agricultural crisis. Cuba’s industrialized farming system, fueled, literally, by Soviet tractors and petrochemicals, ground to a halt. Oil imports fell by 53 percent, and the supply of pesticides and fertilizers fell by 80 percent. Launching an era of austerity and reform known as the “Special Period in Time of Peace,” the Castro government “instituted drastic measures such as planned blackouts, the use of bicycles for mass transportation, and the use of animals in the place of tractors” to meet the unfolding crisis, according to a report by Food First, a U.S.-based think tank focused on food justice issues.

Read more..

Sunday, January 25, 2015

2015: Al Gore Ends Global Warming - Following the Trail of Propaganda Hypocrites

Next News Network | Jan 25, 2015

As big as five football fields: Massive asteroid to be visible from Earth in just a day

Reuters / NASA
RT | Jan 24, 2015

An asteroid the size five football fields is approaching Earth and is expected to pass by on Monday. It will be visible through strong binoculars – definitely worth getting; the next time such an asteroid could be this close again will be in 2027.

At the closest point to the Earth, asteroid 2004 BL86 will be at a distance of 1.2 million kilometers which – approximately three times the distance from the Earth to the moon. Estimated to be 0.5 km in diameter, it is classified by scientists as potentially dangerous.

A space object is considered “potentially dangerous” if it crosses the Earth's orbit at a distance of less than 0.05 AU (approximately 19.5 distances from the Earth to the Moon), and if its diameter exceeds 100-150 meters. Objects of this size are large enough to cause unprecedented destruction, or generate a tsunami in case they fall into the ocean.

This graphic depicts the passage of asteroid 2004 BL86. (Image credit:NASA/JPL-Caltech)

However, according to astronomers, there is no threat of the object colliding with our planet this time.

“While it poses no threat to Earth for the foreseeable future, it’s a relatively close approach by a relatively large asteroid, so it provides us a unique opportunity to observe and learn more,” Don Yeomans from NASA's Near Earth Object Program at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory said in a statement.

It is very rare that such a huge space body comes this close to Earth. The next time an asteroid might be passing by will be in 2027, when 1999 AN10 flies past Earth. As for 2004 BL86 itself, it can be monitored from Earth for another 200 years.

Astronomers strongly recommend trying to catch this unique opportunity to spot an asteroid in the sky. It will be possible on January 26 between 11:07 pm and 11:52 pm ET (04:07 and 04:52 GMT).

It will be best seen in the Americas, Europe, and Africa. Amateur astronomers will be able to observe it with small telescopes and even strong binoculars.

“I may grab my favorite binoculars and give it a shot myself,” Yeomans said in the statement.  “Asteroids are something special. Not only did asteroids provide Earth with the building blocks of life and much of its water, but in the future, they will become valuable resources for mineral ores and other vital natural resources.”

Numerous observatories all over the world will use this opportunity to learn something new about 2004 BL86. NASA's Deep Space Network antenna at Goldstone, California, and the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico will try to procure scientific data and radar-generated images of the asteroid while it is in its closest position to the Earth.

“When we get our radar data back the day after the flyby, we will have the first detailed images,” radar astronomer Lance Benne said. “At present, we know almost nothing about the asteroid, so there are bound to be surprises.”

2004 BL86 was discovered on January 30, 2004, by the Lincoln Near-Earth Asteroid Research (LINEAR), responsible for the majority of asteroid discoveries from 1998 until 2005, when it was overtaken by the Catalina Sky Survey (CSS). The asteroid orbits the Sun every 1.84 years.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

New Mexico Nuclear Waste Dump Shows Extended Stuctural Failure

Daboo777 | Jan 23, 2015

Dept. of Energy, Jan 21, 2015 (emphasis added): Roof Separation Highlights Bolting Priority — January 15 [we] discovered that a portion of the ceiling in the Panel 3 access drift had fallen… The roof fall… was estimated to be approximately 8’ long by 8’wide and 24” thick… no WIPP personnel were present at the time of the fall. The area where the fall occurred is also known to contain low levels of radioactive contamination… WIPP geotechnical inspections conducted in November 2014 identified seven areas… where access was restricted due to significant bolt loss… The area where the roof fall occurred was one of the seven locations…

North Dakota pipeline leaks crude oil, 3mn gallons of fracking byproduct

Clean-up efforts continue about 15 miles outside Williston,
North Dakota January 22, 2015 (Reuters / Andrew Cullen)
RT | Jan 23, 2015

Nearly 3 million gallons of saltwater and an as yet unknown amount of crude oil have leaked from a northwest North Dakota pipeline into a creek that feeds into the Missouri River. Officials have called the leak the largest of its kind in state history.

The leak in the 4-inch saltwater collection line, owned by Summit Midstream Partners LP and operated by subsidiary Meadowlark Midstream Co., was discovered earlier this month and was reported to the state on January 7, according to Reuters.

The pipeline, about 15 miles north of Williston, will be out of commission for an undetermined amount of time, Summit said.

Although Williston residents receive drinking water that comes from the Missouri River, the leak does not threaten supplies, according to the North Dakota Department of Health. However, the city has the ability to shut off collection valves to avoid harmful water, Reuters reported.

Yet some of the brine made it to the Missouri River, the Williston Herald reported, and the state found "high readings" of contamination at the confluence of the Little Muddy and Missouri Rivers southeast of Williston, according to Karl Rockeman, the director of water quality at the Department of Health.

Williston sits in the middle of North Dakota’s oil boom, and the saltwater is said to be a byproduct of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.

To unleash oil or natural gas, fracking requires blasting large volumes of highly pressurized water, sand, and other chemicals into layers of rock. The contents of fracking fluid include chemicals that the energy industry and many government officials will not name, yet they insist the chemicals do not endanger human health, contradicting findings by scientists and environmentalists. Once used, toxic fracking wastewater is then either stored in deep underground wells, disposed of in open pits for evaporation, sprayed into waste fields or used over again.

Fracking has been linked to groundwater contamination, an uptick in earthquakes in other states, exacerbation of drought conditions and a host of health concerns for humans and the local environment.

Summit is working with the state to find the cause of the spill before it repairs the saltwater line, spokesman Jonathan Morgan said.

Monitored by the state's Department of Health, Summit has sent environmental contractors to address the spill, though cleanup will be more difficult given the ice covering much of the area.

Reuters reported that about 2 million gallons of water has been taken from the affected streams, yet it is unclear if that amount was mostly saltwater or the creeks’ normal water.

The North Dakota Department of Mineral Resources is inspecting Summit’s pipeline network, according to officials, which mostly transports natural gas.

Summit recently announced it had agreed with an ExxonMobil subsidiary, XTO Energy, to develop a 'natural gas gathering system' in southeastern Ohio’s Utica Shale. XTO was fined in 2013 for spilling 50,000 gallons of fracking wastewater into Pennsylvania waterways.

Summit also operates in North Dakota’s Bakken shale, where the current leak is located, and the DJ Niobrara Shale in Colorado.

The Bakken region has seen other chemical accidents, including train derailments, amid the area’s energy boom. In McKenzie County, a blown-out well leaked a massive amount of fracking wastewater in February 2014. Other states, including California and Colorado, have struggled to adequately address safe wastewater storage.

Disposal of fracking wastewater is underregulated, according to Hannah Wiseman, a law professor at Florida State University.

A typical well can spit about 1,000 gallons a day,” Wiseman told Marketplace. “Some of the water is recycled back into fracking, stored in pits or used to de-ice roads. It’s also injected deep underground, which has been known to cause earthquakes.”

In October, a report was released that detailed how a number of US oil companies are taking advantage of the so-called “Halliburton Loophole” to circumvent federal legislation regulating diesel-based fluids in fracking, to dump even more toxic chemicals into the environment.

Meanwhile, the cleanup continues in Montana, where a breached oil pipeline spilled as many as 50,000 gallons of crude oil in and around the Yellowstone River last week, threatening drinking water in the Glendive area.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Kansas Officials Admit "Strong Correlation" Between Quakes & Fracking

Zero Hedge | Jan 21, 2015 | Tyler Durden

“If the government and the Kansas Corporation Commission care about the people of Kansas and the damages, they will order a moratorium,” exclaims Joe Spease, chairman of the Kansas Sierra Club's fracking committee following a report from Kansas officials, who have been reluctant to link the mysterious earthquakes in south central Kansas to fracking, admitted last week that "we can say there is a strong correlation between the disposal of saltwater and the earthquakes."

As LJWorld reports, it's the first time state officials have so clearly stated the likely cause of the earthquakes, which are afflicting a region where fracking is widely used, as Rick Miller, a geophysicist and senior scientist for the Kansas Geological Survey, said he believes the injection of fracking chemicals into the earth has been a catalyst for the quakes.
During hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking” for short, operators use a mixture of saltwater and chemicals to break tight underground rock formations to release oil and gas. To get rid of the water after the fracking process, operators inject the water deep into disposal wells.

Naming the cause of the earthquakes is, in part, a matter of semantics. Questions have long been raised about whether fracking activity is causing the earthquakes, and officials in other states have concluded that it has. But Kansas officials consider the waste water disposal a separate process, and so have not considered the fracking itself to be the key factor in the quakes.

At issue now is what, if any, action to take. The state’s Sierra Club chapter wants Kansas to follow in the steps of New York, New Hampshire, Maryland and numerous local governments nationwide and call a moratorium on fracking. Others, including Lawrence Rep. Tom Sloan, ask where the nation will get energy if the option is off limits.


“He is not being sincere,” said Joe Spease, chairman of the Kansas Sierra Club's fracking committee and owner of a renewable energy company in Overland Park.

“It is so ridiculous, this issue of semantics,” Spease said. “There are millions of dollars in property damages happening, and we have our scientists playing word games.”

The Kansas Sierra Club supports a bill, not yet introduced, to impose a moratorium on fracking to give the oil and gas industry time to develop a solution to the saltwater disposal issue, Spease said.

“If the government and the Kansas Corporation Commission care about the people of Kansas and the damages, they will order a moratorium,” Spease said. “If they only care about the profits of the oil and gas (industry), it will be business as usual. I hope that is not the case.”
As RT reports, this is not the first linkage...
According to a team of scientists working under Duke University geochemistry professor Avner Vengosh, wastewater associated with fracking sites contains large amounts of ammonium and iodide, which may in turn encourage the formation of certain carcinogenic byproducts.

“We were not aware that they existed in oil and gas waste products,” Vengosh told ThinkProgress. “Until now, no one was aware — no one was monitoring for those contaminants.

“The relatively high frequency of spills associated with the intensity of shale gas development and reports of an overall increase of the salinity in watersheds associated with hydraulic fracturing activities, combined with data presented in this study, suggest that the release of [oil and gas wastewater] to the environment is one of the major risks associated with the development of hydraulic fracturing,” the study reads. “Our findings indicate that discharge and accidental spills of [oil and gas wastewater] to waterways pose risks to both human health and the environment.”

As RT reported previously, a separate study published earlier this month determined that fracking in an Ohio community caused 77 earthquakes during a span of just a few days last March.
Ironically, two days after the paper published its report, four small quakes occurred in the southern part of the state and through neighboring Oklahoma.

Of course - only one thing matters...
State Rep. Tom Sloan, a Lawrence Republican who has served on several Federal Energy Regulatory Commission committees and task forces, said a moratorium would hurt the economy.

“How do you draw the line?” he asked.

“If you don’t allow fracking, you will shut down the entire industry,” he said.
*  *  *

Industry Waste: Unknown grey goo kills over 200 San Francisco Bay birds, officials stumped

A bird is cleaned at the International Bird
Rescue in Fairfield, California January 20, 2015.

(Reuters/Robert Galbraith)
RT | Jan 22, 2015 

California officials are unable to identify a grey, goo-like substance that has been found coating the feathers of hundreds of birds. More than 200 seabirds have been found dead along the coast, while more than 300 have been rescued so far.

The strange, gooey substance degrades the water-repellent properties in the birds’ feathers, causing hypothermia from extended stays in the water.

The seabirds – Surf Scoters, Buffleheads, Goldeneyes, and Horned Grebes – have been turning up dead or in need of rescue along 20 miles of coastline in the San Francisco Bay area over the past week. If they react quickly, rescuers can treat the birds for hypothermia and then wash off the goo with baking soda, vinegar and a chemical agent, then soap and water. Others are not so fortunate.

The birds tend to come into care needing hydration and medical stabilization, and we have a mandatory 24-hour stabilization process before cleaning,” spokeswoman Barbara Callahan of International Bird Rescue told CNN.

Officials know the gooey substance is not oil because it would be far harder to treat, and officials think whatever the substance is, it was probably dumped.

“It’s some material that we nor the wildlife center has ever seen before,” Andrew Hughan, a spokesman for the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, told the Los Angeles Times. “It’s a real mystery.”

Hughan said the material is not a public health hazard; the birds died because they froze to death from loss of body heat – not because they were poisoned.

The birds tend to come into care needing hydration and medical stabilization, and we have a mandatory 24-hour stabilization process before cleaning,” spokeswoman Barbara Callahan of International Bird Rescue told CNN.

Officials know the gooey substance is not oil because it would be far harder to treat, and officials think whatever the substance is, it was probably dumped.

It’s some material that we nor the wildlife center has ever seen before,” Andrew Hughan, a spokesman for the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, told the Los Angeles Times. “It’s a real mystery.”

Workers at International Bird Rescue have spent the week cleaning and reviving the birds affected.

Just like if it were an oil spill, it degrades their waterproofing,” Callahan told AP. They’re all seabirds; they live on top of the water all year long. So as soon as they find that their waterproofing has been breached, they put themselves on the beach.”

She said the rescue effort has cost the center some $8,000 a day.

Nobody’s paying because they don’t know what it is and they don’t have a responsible party. We’re footing the bill on our own,” Callahan said.

There have been no reports or evidence of an oil spill. Tests are being conducted to try to identify what the substance is and where it might have come from.

Initial thoughts were that the substance might be similar to the synthetic rubber fuel additive polyisobutylene (PBI), which was found to have led to the deaths of 4,000 seabirds in England in 2013. But officials said tests have ruled PBI out.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

New views of dwarf planet Ceres released by NASA

This processed image, taken Jan. 13, 2015,
shows the dwarf planet Ceres as seen
from the Dawn spacecraft.

RT | Jan 22, 2015

Impressive new images of the dwarf planet Ceres, captured by NASA’s Dawn spacecraft, have revealed crater-like structures on the frozen, icy surface. The images arrived as the probe became due to enter Ceres’ orbit.

The images will help the Dawn spacecraft as it navigates its way towards Ceres. It is scheduled to enter the dwarf planet’s orbit around March 6 to begin a 16-month study.

Dawn’s arrival at Ceres will mark the first time a spacecraft has visited the planet, and the probe will able to linger in its orbit for in-depth exploration. NASA’s interest in the planet is that its surface contains vast portions of ice, and the agency has previously detected water vapor – a potential signal that Ceres may harbor life.

We know so much about the solar system and yet so little about … Ceres. Now, Dawn is about to change that,” Mark Rayman, Dawn’s chief engineer and mission director, said in a release from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

Ceres apparently formed far enough from the sun under conditions cool enough for it to hang on to water molecules. Indeed, scientists have good reason to believe that water (mostly in the form of ice) may make up an astonishing 30 percent of its mass. Ceres may contain more water than Mars or any other body in the inner solar system except Earth,” Rayman wrote in his NASA dawnblog.  

Read more..

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Supernova mystery found at the bottom of the sea

© Discovery News
SOTT | Jan 20, 2015 | Ian O'Neill

One of the least likely places you might think astronomers would learn about ancient supernovae is at the bottom of the ocean, but in new research scientists have done just that.

Through the careful analysis of ocean sediment, tiny particles that originated from deep space have settled on the seabed, locking the chemical secrets to supernova processes that would have otherwise remained a mystery.

"Small amounts of debris from these distant explosions fall on the earth as it travels through the galaxy," said lead researcher Anton Wallner, of the Australian National University.

"We've analyzed galactic dust from the last 25 million years that has settled on the ocean and found there is much less of the heavy elements such as plutonium and uranium than we expected."

Supernovae are powerful explosions triggered when massive stars reach the ends of their lives. During these powerful events, many elements are forged, including elements that are essential for life to thrive - such as iron, potassium and iodine.

However, as pointed out by an Australian National University press release, even heavier elements like lead, gold and radioactive elements like uranium and plutonium can be created. But it appears that the formation processes for the heaviest elements are at odds with current astrophysical theory.

Wallner and his team studied samples of sediment from the bottom of a stable area at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean. But when measuring the quantities of plutonium-244, a radioisotope that is produced by supernovae, they found something strange in their results - there was 100 time less plutonium-244 than predicted.

Plutonium-244 has a half-life of 81 million years, making it an excellent indicator of the number of supernovae that have exploded nearby in recent galactic history. "So any plutonium-244 that we find on earth must have been created in explosive events that have occurred more recently, in the last few hundred million years," said Wallner.

But the fact that there is less recent deposition of the heaviest of elements, despite the fact that we know supernovae have erupted nearby, suggests a different formation mechanism may be responsible for plutonium-244 and elements like it.

"It seems that these heaviest elements may not be formed in standard supernovae after all," concludes Wallner. "It may require rarer and more explosive events such as the merging of two neutron stars to make them."

This research has been published in Nature Communications.

Source: Discovery News