Mar 31, 2014

Diet drinks linked with heart disease, death (CNBC)

Women who drink the most diet sodas may also be more likely to develop heart disease and even to die, according to a new study published Saturday.

Researchers found women who drank two or more diet drinks a day were 30 percent more likely to have a heart attack or other cardiovascular "event," and 50 percent more likely to die, than women who rarely touch such drinks.

The findings, being presented at a meeting of the American College of Cardiology, don't suggest that the drinks themselves are killers. But women who toss back too many diet sodas may be trying to make up for unhealthy habits, experts say.

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The drugging of boys, 20% of all American boys will be diagnosed with ADHD and prescribed a powerful stimulant to "normalize" them.

Ryan D'Agostino, Esquire - By the time they reach high school, nearly 20 percent of all American boys will be diagnosed with ADHD. Millions of those boys will be prescribed a powerful stimulant to "normalize" them. A great many of those boys will suffer serious side effects from those drugs. The shocking truth is that many of those diagnoses are wrong, and that most of those boys are being drugged for no good reason—simply for being boys. It's time we recognize this as a crisis.

If you have a son, you have a one-in-seven chance that he has been diagnosed with ADHD. If you have a son who has been diagnosed, it's more than likely that he has been prescribed a stimulant—the most famous brand names are Ritalin and Adderall; newer ones include Vyvanse and Concerta—to deal with the symptoms of that psychiatric condition.

According to manufacturers of ADHD stimulants, they are associated with sudden death in children who have heart problems, whether those heart problems have been previously detected or not. They can bring on a bipolar condition in a child who didn't exhibit any symptoms of such a disorder before taking stimulants. They are associated with "new or worse aggressive behavior or hostility." They can cause "new psychotic symptoms (such as hearing voices and believing things that are not true) or new manic symptoms." They commonly cause noticeable weight loss and trouble sleeping. In some children, some stimulants can cause the paranoid feeling that bugs are crawling on them. Facial tics. They can cause children's eyes to glaze over, their spirits to dampen. One study reported fears of being harmed by other children and thoughts of suicide.

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California drought disaster update

San Jose Mercury News - Three years into a devastating drought, thirsty Californians are draining the precious aquifer beneath the nation's most productive farmland like never before, pitting neighbor against neighbor in a perverse race to the bottom.
Farmers have long relied on the government's engineering marvel of aqueducts to bring surface water from giant reservoirs in the north to the south. However, the federally run Central Valley Project allotted farmers only 20 percent of their share last year -- and none this year. Officials who manage the State Water Project, California's other major water system, have also said that they will not be releasing any water for farmers, a first in the system's 54-year history.

So with the drought cutting off their deliveries, farmers say they must rely on the only source left. Those who can afford the $200,000 to $600,000 price tag are digging deeper and deeper to tap into a once-unreachable aquifer. Many are taking out loans, betting on crop yields to break even....

"We're mining water that is thousands of years old to produce crops that might last a decade or two," said retired U.S. Geological Survey hydrologist Vance Kennedy, 91, who has witnessed wide expanses of grasslands in the foothills of the Sierra converted into large orchards.
It takes slightly more than a gallon of water to produce one almond, three-quarters of a gallon to grow a single pistachio and 4.9 gallons to grow a single walnut.

Mar 28, 2014

Deepwater Horizon Spill May Be Responsible For Heart Defects In Fish

Nearly 170,000 gallons of oil have spilled into Texas' Galveston Bay, threatening bird habitat and serving as a reminder of the lasting effects of such disasters. The 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill exposed all a manner of life in the Gulf of Mexico to sweet Louisiana crude, with many serious effects lasting to this day. For example, a study published in December found dolphins in the area still suffer from lung disease and low birth rates. Now, a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences has found that the spill may have led to heart defects in two species of tuna and one species of amberjack, all commercially important fish in the Gulf.

The researchers replicated conditions seen in the gulf shortly after the spill began in late April 2010, and exposing developing fish to varying levels of crude oil. Here's what they found, as reported by The Verge

The researchers found that the fish exhibited a number of heart defects including slower heart rates, fluid accumulation, and arrhythmia — a condition characterized by an irregular heartbeat. In the areas where the oil concentrations were the highest, the oil would have caused the larvae to die of heart failure, says John Incardona, research toxicologist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and co-author of the study. Fish larvae that were located further away probably survived, but if these heart defects mean that "they can't swim as fast, so they are either going to get eaten or they won't be able to eat enough," he says. "That leads to reduced survival."

Steve Murawski, a marine ecologist at the University of South Florida who was not involved in the study, told the Verge that the experiment involved "as near realistic conditions as possible."

The study shows that crude oil and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons it contains can be toxic to tissues in the developing heart. The chemicals can also cause arrythmia, likely by effecting the heart's ability to send and receive electrical signals. 

"Not only is oil toxic to fish, its effects are not limited to small fish," Jacqueline Savitz, vice president for U.S. oceans at the nonprofit group Oceana, told the Washington Post. "In fact, they extend to the largest and most commercially valuable fish we know: tuna. For a species likebluefin tuna, whose populations have crashed due to overfishing and are fighting to rebuild their former abundance, BP's oil was a shot to the heart."

The study was published yesterday, on the on the 25th anniversary of the Exxon Valdez oil spill. That spill had similar effects on fish that lay their eggs near the shore, and also killed an estimated 250,000 birds

[The VergeShared via feedly // published on Popular Science // visit site

Feds table Bill C-22 to raise Canada's nuclear liability cap from $75 million to $1 billion, in the wake of 2011′s Fukushima disaster in Japan, which led to tens of billions of dollars in civil damage claims.

The federal government has introduced legislation that will dramatically boost the civil liability ceiling for nuclear operators from $75 million to $1 billion.

Federal Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver tabled Bill C-22, the Energy Safety and Security Act on January 30, 2014. 

The new cap would be first increase to the civil liability ceiling in 40 years. The current cap has been widely viewed as outdated, particularly in the wake of 2011′s Fukushima disaster in Japan, which led to tens of billions of dollars in civil damage claims.

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Bill C-22: Nuclear Companies Win the Jackpot, bill would cap the liability of reactor operators to $1 billion after a reactor accident.

Shawn-Patrick Stensil [Huffington post] Imagine you could go to Las Vegas, and it didn't matter how much you bet, you could only lose $100. Wouldn't you take bigger risks? Of course you would. Unfortunately this is precisely the scenario facing the nuclear industry.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has proposed a new law to shield nuclear companies from responsibility in the event of an accident. If passed Bill C-22 would cap the liability of reactor operators to $1 billion after a reactor accident.

This is a pittance. It means that the event of Fukushima-scale accident, reactor operators would be responsible for less than 1 per cent of damage they cause. Canadians would cover the rest.
Worse, Bill C-22 would completely absolve companies that design or service Canada's reactors of responsibility — even if their negligence caused an accident.

The bill tells nuclear companies it's okay for them to have no skin in the game. If passed, the game will be rigged. Bill C-22 would guarantee nuclear companies always hit the jackpot no matter the risks.

Mar 27, 2014

Germany’s Homemade Nuclear Waste Disaster, Germany Weighs Options for Handling Nuclear Waste in Asse Mine

Abyss of Uncertainty: Germany's Homemade Nuclear Waste Disaster (Der Spiegel, Feb 21, 2013):

Part 1: Germany's Homemade Nuclear Waste Disaster

Some 126,000 barrels of nuclear waste have been dumped in the Asse II salt mine over the last 50 years. German politicians are pushing for a law promising their removal. But the safety, technical and financial hurdles are enormous, and experts warn that removal is more dangerous than leaving them put.

It's hot and sticky 750 meters (2,500 feet) underground, and the air smells salty. Five men are standing in front of an oversized drill. They have donned orange overalls and are wearing bulky special shoes, yellow hard hats and safety glasses. They turn on the machine, and the rod assembly slowly eats its way into a gray wall.

For over seven months now, the team has been trying to drill a hole with a diameter of eight centimeters (three inches). They are attempting to reach one of the former excavation chambers of Asse II, an old salt and potash mine near the northern German town of Remlingen, in the northwestern German state of Lower Saxony. Behind a barrier 20 meters thick, thousands of drums filled with nuclear waste have been rotting away for over three decades.

It's dangerous work. Over the years, experts warn, explosive gases may have collected in underground cavities — and one spark could trigger a disaster.Consequently, the drill head is only allowed to turn extremely slowly. After the machine has barely advanced another 10 centimeters, the men pull the drill pipe out of the hole and insert a probe. They thus manage to inch their way forward about 20 centimeters per shift.

The drilling ultimately aims to provide a glimpse of the first of 13 chambers filled with barrels of waste, and to provide information on the condition of these containers — and on what measures need to be taken to remove them from the 100-year-old maze of tunnels.

It took two years to prepare this journey into the contaminated salt. Engineers had to redevelop measuring devices, design new machines and write computer programs. The men on the drilling team have volunteered for the job. They are working in a hermetically sealed space. To prevent any radioactive dust particles from reaching the rest of the mine, a constant vacuum is maintained here. There is special vinyl flooring that can be decontaminated, and the walls are lined with custom-made tiles.

German Environment Minister Peter Altmaier was on hand for the launch of the exploratory drilling on June 1, 2012. Since none of the available garb would fit him, two seamstresses had quickly sewn a white miner's outfit for the stout politician from Chancellor Angela Merkel's center-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU). Then Altmaier pressed a red button in a neighboring tunnel to symbolically start the drill.

At that moment, Germany cast itself into one of the most technically ambitious, and thus most costly, ventures of its industrial history — a bold, perhaps foolhardy, project that will consume at least €4 billion ($5.3 billion), but more likely somewhere between €5 billion and €10 billion. It's a decontamination project that will take 30 years, or longer. And no one can say with certainty whether it will ever be completed.

Copper Oxide Thermoelectric Generator Can Light An LED

On Hackaday, we usually end up featuring projects using building blocks (components, platforms…) that can be bought on the market. We however don't show many hacks that rely on basic physics principles like the one shown in the picture above.

In the video embedded below, [nylesteiner] explains that copper oxide can be formed when heating a copper wire using a propane flame. When two oxidized wires are placed in contact with each other, an electrical current is produced when one wire is heated much hotter than the other. The trade-off is that the created thermocouple generates a small voltage but a 'high' current. However, when you cascade 16 junctions in series you can generate enough voltage to light up an LED. Even though the complete system isn't particularly efficient at converting heat into electricity, the overall result is still quite impressive in our opinion. Please continue reading Shared via feedly // published on Hack a Day // visit site

Panasonic's Power Supply Container: A solar power plant in a box

Panasonic's Power Supply Container is a self-contained solar power plant designed for deve...
In an effort to bring reliable electricity supplies to emerging regions and remote island communities, Panasonic has developed an expandable, portable, self-contained photovoltaic system. The "Power Supply Container" comes equipped with 12 of Panasonic's HIT240 solar modules on the roof and generates approximately 3 kW of electricity, with 24 lead-acid batteries capable of storing 17.2 kWh of energy used to store excess electricity... Continue Reading Panasonic's Power Supply Container: A solar power plant in a box  published on Gizmag Emerging Technology Magazine // visit site

Solar cell material that can absorb light during the day and emit light at night

When looking for the best materials with which to construct a solar cell, the obvious preference is for one that absorbs light, not emits it. But researchers from Nanyang Technological University in Singapore have discovered a material that does both. Amongst a variety of potential applications, the researchers say the material, Perovskite, opens up the possibility of mobile devices with displays that double as solar cells... Continue Reading Shared via feedly // published on Gizmag Emerging Technology Magazine // visit site

Rainwater used to generate electricity

When we complain about the rain, other people will often say "Yeah, but it's good for the plants." Well, thanks to a microturbine-based system created by three students from the Technological University of Mexico, it's now also being used to generate electricity for use in low-income homes. .. Continue Reading Rainwater used to generate electricity

Global Warming Will Not Cost the Earth, Leaked IPCC Report Admits

The economic costs of 'global warming' have been grossly overestimated, a leaked report - shortly to be published by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) - has admitted.

Previous reports - notably the hugely influential 2006 Stern Review - have put the costs to the global economy caused by 'climate change' at between 5 and 20 percent of world GDP.

But the latest estimates, to be published by Working Group II of the IPCC's Fifth Assessment Report, say that a 2.5 degrees Celsius rise in global temperatures by the end of the century will cost the world economy between just 0.2 and 2 percent of its GDP.

If the lower estimate is correct, then all it would take is an annual growth rate of 2.4 percent (currently it's around 3 percent) for the economic costs of climate change to be wiped out within a month.

This admission by the IPCC will come as a huge blow to those alarmists - notably the Stern Review's author but also including everyone from the Prince of Wales to Al Gore - who argue that costly intervention now is our only hope if we are to stave off the potentially disastrous effects of climate change.

Sir Nicholas (now Lord) Stern was commissioned by Tony Blair's Labour government to analyse the economic impacts of climate change. Stern, an economist who had never before published a paper on energy, the environment, or indeed climate change, concluded that at least two per cent of global GDP would need to be diverted to the war on global warming.

Stern's report has been widely ridiculed by economists, whose main criticism was that its improbably low discount rate placed an entirely unnecessary burden on current generations. Even if you accept the more alarmist projections of the IPCC's reports on "global warming", the fact remains that future generations will be considerably richer than our own - and therefore far more capable of mitigating the damages of climate change when or if they arise.

Evidence Finds BP Gulf Oil Disaster Causing Widespread Deformities in Fish

Eco Watch
Crude oil from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster causes severe defects in the developing hearts of bluefin and yellowfin tunas, according to a new studyby a team of National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and academic scientists.
The findings, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on the 25th anniversary of the Exxon Valdez oil spill, show how the largest marine oil spill in U.S. history may have affected tunas and other species that spawned in oiled offshore habitats in the northern Gulf of Mexico.

Mar 26, 2014

Arnold Schwarzenegger accused of profiting from #deforestation #ClimateChange #Environment

The Independent ..."The industrial-scale deforestation caused by some of the companies that Mr Schwarzenegger profits from accelerates the climate change that he wants to stop. In environmental terms, it's a weaponised contradiction," said Andrew Simms, chief analyst of Global Witness's environmental programme.

A spokesperson for DFA said they are "not aware of any companies from the Global Witness list held in Dimensional portfolios that are engaged in illegal activities related to deforestation. We expect publicly listed companies to comply with their legal and regulatory obligations.

"Anybody with information regarding possible illegal activities should report them to the appropriate legal, regulatory and judicial authorities."

Mar 25, 2014

Damning study blames BP oil spill for heart defects in fish

Last December, scientists announced that dolphins in Louisiana were experiencing lung diseases and low birthrates in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill that released more than 636 million liters of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico in 2010. Now, researchers have also found evidence of potentially lethal heart defects in two species of tuna and one species of amberjack — all economically important species for commercial fisheries. This news, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences today, comes less than a week after the announcement that BP will once again be allowed to explore the Gulf of Mexico for oil.

To study the effects of the BP oil disaster, scientists recreated the oceanic environment that yellowfin amberjack, yellowfin tuna and bluefin tuna larvae would have encountered in 2010 in the lab. They did so by introducing the larvae to Deepwater Horizon oil samples at environmental conditions that matched those of the spill. Fish are extremely vulnerable during development, so studying fish larvae is the most direct way of demonstrating the effect of noxious compounds.


The researchers found that the fish exhibited a number of heart defects including slower heart rates, fluid accumulation, and arrhythmia — a condition characterized by an irregular heartbeat. In the areas where the oil concentrations were the highest, the oil would have caused the larvae to die of heart failure, says John Incardona, research toxicologist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and co-author of the study. Fish larvae that were located further away probably survived, but if these heart defects mean that "they can't swim as fast, so they are either going to get eaten or they won't be able to eat enough," he says. "That leads to reduced survival."

What Fire and Leakage At WIPP Means For Nuclear Waste Disposal

An underground fire and a separate plutonium leak at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) has left the US with no repository for transuranic (TRU) waste--that is, radioactive elements heavier than uranium on the periodic chart, such as plutonium, americium, curium and neptunium. WIPP is a bedded salt formation in New Mexico, chosen because of its presumed long-term stability and self-sealing properties, and it currently holds, among other things, 4.9 metric tons of plutonium. Despite assurances from the DOE that the plant would soon reopen, New Mexico has cancelled WIPP's disposal permit indefinitely. Robert Alvarez, who has served as senior policy adviser to the Energy Department's secretary and as deputy assistant secretary for national security, explores what happened at WIPP, and what it means for defense nuclear waste storAge

Mar 24, 2014

America Needs a Bunker to Store Its Mountain of Toxic TVs | via @Wired

WIRED: The mountain of broken down televisions and computer screens caught fire at around 11 o'clock in the morning, sending a thick plume of grey smoke over the tiny Utah town of Parowan. Soon, about ten fire trucks from neighboring towns Paragonah and Brian joined local firefighters on the scene, and authorities shut down an entire mile of Interstate 15.

The firefighters extinguished the blaze within a few hours, but the larger danger remains. The March 2 fire was just one symptom of enormous problem that's spreading across the country. As we move to flat screen TVs and computer displays, we're discarding our big, bulky old school televisions and CRT monitors, and they're piling up in warehouses like the one that caught fire in Parowan, with nowhere to go. These discarded screens aren't just a fire hazard. They're filled with lead and other toxic materials.

In California alone, more than 100 million pounds of leaded CRT monitors glass is recovered each year, according to CalRecycle, the state's recycling agency...Environmentalists say there's no obvious solution to the problem, but that means it's time for the government to step in. At the very least, we need a place where this growing pile of glass and lead can be cleaned and stored until we know what to do with it. We need a Yucca Mountain for all our CRTs.

Billions of Pounds of Leaded Glass

If you've ever hauled one of the bulky monitors that were universal before the advent of flat panel displays, you'll know that they are remarkably heavy. That's because, behind the screen, there's a big funnel of heavy leaded glass designed to be sturdy and to protect consumers from radiation leakage. The glass is recyclable, and for awhile, U.S. recyclers were able to ship it off for reuse in other countries.

But today, there are only a handful of places that will accept this leaded glass....

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Study: U.S. Methane Pollution Far Worse Than EPA Estimates

A new landmark study in the journal Science found that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) inventory of greenhouse gases is under counting total U.S. methane emissions by roughly 50 percent. Based on atmospheric sampling, the study estimates that this missing methane amounts to 14 terra grams (Tg) of methane; that's equal to 6.4 billion pounds, or as much as the weight of 1.4 million new Ford F150 pickup trucks.

In the years immediately after it's released, methane is a potent greenhouse gas. It causes 86 times as much global warming over a 20-year period as carbon dioxide, the single largest contributor to climate change. According to our analysis at Energy Innovation, the methane missing from the EPA's inventory — in terms of the contribution to global warming over a 20-year time period — would be equivalent to the greenhouse gas emissions of 252 coal power plants.

At the same time that the scientific community is finding evidence that methane is being under counted, the newly released draft version of the U.S. EPA's national greenhouse-gas emission inventory presents data showing that methane emissions from natural gas are falling. The new draft inventory releases 2012 data for the first time, and claims that emissions from methane fell by roughly 2 percent compared to 2011. The new draft inventory also revised downward estimates for past years because of new information about reduced emission well completions (the process that gets natural gas to start flowing) and other voluntary mitigation steps received from companies.

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The Great Lakes: 'Liquid Pipeline' for World's Dirtiest Fuels?

Common Dreams 'If governments continue to allow projects like this, what are our lakes going to look like in 20 or 50 years?'

One of the most precious sources of freshwater on the planet, the Great Lakes, is at risk of becoming a "liquid pipeline" for the dirtiest forms of oil and gas available, according to a report published Monday by water champion Maude Barlow.

The report, Liquid Pipeline: Extreme Energy's Threat to the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence Seaway (pdf), details how the extraction of "extreme" new forms of energy and plans to transport those fuels—as well as waste from more traditional sources—under and across the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence River threaten these vital resources.

"We are only seeing the tip of the iceberg and only just beginning to understand the grave impacts these extreme energy projects are going to have on the Great Lakes," said Barlow. "We often see these projects approved piecemeal but we have to step back and think about how all these projects are going to affect the Lakes."

"Extreme energy" is defined as the extraction of fossil fuels by methods that grow more intensive over time and that strongly correlate with damage to both the environment and society—such as tar sands open pit mining and hydraulic fracturing (fracking) for shale oil and gas—according to the Extreme Energy Initiative, a project of the Human Rights Consortium at the University of London.

"We are only seeing the tip of the iceberg and only just beginning to understand the grave impacts these extreme energy projects are going to have on the Great Lakes."
—Maude Barlow

In the report, Barlow takes an accounting of the myriad proposals and projects in development in the Great Lakes region and their threat to the ecosystem—from spill and extraction pollution to large-scale water consumption. Further, Barlow highlights how this "frenzy" has been fueled by North American trade agreements, which often provide protection from liability for the energy and transport companies.

"Enbridge is asking that the Alberta Clipper pipeline transport 800,000 barrels of oil per day, Calumet Specialty Products wants to ship millions of barrels of oil across Lakes and TransCanada's Energy East pipeline cuts through the Great Lakes watershed," Barlow continued. "If governments continue to allow projects like this, what are our lakes going to look like in 20 or 50 years?"

The Great Lakes are the largest group of freshwater lakes in the world and hold more than 20 percent of the world's surface freshwater and 95 percent of North America's.

Mar 23, 2014

Disaster in the making: Crude oil delivered on U.S. railways increased 74% in 2013, should keep rising in 2014

The amount of crude oil delivered on U.S. railways in 2013 increased 74 percent from 2012, with U.S. railroads delivering 407,642 carloads of crude oil in 2013, up from 233,819 in 2012, according to a report from the Association of American Railroads. The increase in shipments has led to safety concerns, especially since more oil was spilled in U.S. railway accidents in 2013 than in the previous 37 years combined, and 47 people were killed in a crash in July in Quebec. 

In 2013 U.S. railways delivered 285 million barrels of crude oil, reports United Press International. "The U.S. Energy Information Administration said in its short-term market report, published earlier this week, U.S. crude oil production should reach 8.4 million barrels per day by the end of 2014, a 12 percent increase from the previous year." (Read more)

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Waste Heat Is Free Energy. So Why Aren't We Using It?

In the next few years, the stale, thick heat produced by the London underground will no longer drift uselessly into the atmosphere. Instead, some of it will warm 1,400 nearby homes, cutting heating bills by about 10 percent. Recycling heat is quite common in Europe. Denmark gets roughly half of its electricity from recycled heat, followed by Finland at 39 percent, and Russia at 31 percent. In the U.S., it's just 12 percent.

According to a report by Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and the Department of Energy, the U.S. wastes more than half of the total energy we produce—mostly as heat, but also as gas, biomass, and methane. Using that waste could reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 17 percent. "It's free energy, essentially," says Brendan Owens, vice president of LEED at the U.S. Green Building Council.

 Recycling heat is actually quite simple. For example, new buildings often have condensing water heaters, which use gas burners to warm up water (just as other heaters do) but also capture the heat in the combusted gas that's going out the flue. It happens on a larger scale, too. In 1882, when Thomas Edison built the world's first commercial power plant in Manhattan, he sold its steam to heat nearby buildings. Today, such plants are known as combined heat and power, or cogeneration, plants. Edison's old plant eventually became the massive Con Edison, whose operations today produce 19.7 billion pounds of steam a year. The ArcelorMittal steel mill in East Chicago, Indiana, is another good example. It uses extra blast furnace heat to make steam that then generates electricity for the mill, saving roughly $20 million a year and preventing 340,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions—the equivalent of taking 62,000 cars off the road.

The U.S. wastes more than half of the total energy we produce—mostly as heat, but also as gas, biomass, and methane.

So why don't we have more projects like these? 

Please continue reading by at Popular Science / by Virginia Hughes published on Popular Science // visit site

France Stands Up to Monsanto, Bans Seed Giant’s #GMO Corn via@EcoWatch

Ecowatch - France's agriculture ministry temporarily banned the sale, use and cultivation of Monsanto's MON 810 genetically engineered corn—the only variety that had been authorized in the European Union. Genetically engineered corn is facing fierce resistant from both French environmentalists and country officials. 

Nasa-funded study: industrial civilisation headed for 'irreversible collapse'

A new study sponsored by Nasa's Goddard Space Flight Center has highlighted the prospect that global industrial civilisation could collapse in coming decades due to unsustainable resource exploitation and increasingly unequal wealth distribution.

Noting that warnings of 'collapse' are often seen to be fringe or controversial, the study attempts to make sense of compelling historical data showing that "the process of rise-and-collapse is actually a recurrent cycle found throughout history." Cases of severe civilisational disruption due to "precipitous collapse - often lasting centuries - have been quite common."

The research project is based on a new cross-disciplinary 'Human And Nature DYnamical' (HANDY) model, led by applied mathematician Safa Motesharrei of the US National Science Foundation-supported National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center, in association with a team of natural and social scientists. The study based on the HANDY model has been accepted for publication in the peer-reviewed Elsevier journal, Ecological Economics.

It finds that according to the historical record even advanced, complex civilisations are susceptible to collapse, raising questions about the sustainability of modern civilisation:

"The fall of the Roman Empire, and the equally (if not more) advanced Han, Mauryan, and Gupta Empires, as well as so many advanced Mesopotamian Empires, are all testimony to the fact that advanced, sophisticated, complex, and creative civilizations can be both fragile and impermanent."

Please continue reading by Nafeez Ahmed | The Guardian

The MAIN Cause of Global Warming?

In fact – while most sources now list soot as the second most important cause of global warming – it may even be in first place.  As the Christian Science Monitor reports: "Given the uncertainties in the estimates, black-carbon soot may even outpace CO2's warming effect, according to the 232-page study published today in the Journal of Geophysical Research–Atmospheres."

Indeed, the ability of soot to melt snow and ice is so well-known that, in the 1970s, scientists – including Obama's top science adviser, John Holdren– proposed pouring soot over the arctic to melt the ice and so prevent the ice age which scientists feared.

Read more at:

Mar 21, 2014

Beef, fruits, vegetables, sugar and beverages, Prices Post Biggest Surge in a Decade - WSJ

"Beef Prices Post Biggest Surge in a Decade - Of course, it's not just beef...

...prices also are higher for fruits, vegetables, sugar and beverages, according to government data. In futures markets, coffee prices have soared so far this year more than 70%, hogs are up 42% on disease concerns and cocoa has climbed 12% on rising demand, particularly from emerging markets...

Food prices have gained 2.8%, on average, for the past 10 years, outpacing the increase in prices for all goods, which rose 2.4%, according to the government."

Mar 20, 2014

China pledges that 60 percent of cities will meet national air quality standards in 2020

China pledged on Sunday that it will make sure that 60 percent of its cities meet national pollution standards by 2020, with pressure growing to make cities liveable as hundreds of millions of migrants are expected to relocate from the countryside.

Smog may kill 2.1 million people a year, many of them in China, and people are starting to protest.

According to the State Council, 60 percent of the cities will meet national air quality standards in 2020, which it said was up from 40 percent in 2012.

However, at China's annual parliamentary session earlier this month, officials said only three of 74 major cities met the pollution standards in 2013.

The State Council plan outlined a lengthy list of policies it will implement to meet the target, including boosting renewable energy use, curbing emission-intensive industries and taking the most-polluting vehicles off the roads.

China will also set up a tiered pricing system for electricity, natural gas and water, to control rapid growth in consumption of scarce natural resources.

The government plans to roll out trading systems for carbon and air pollutant emissions, energy-saving certificates and water to provide economic incentives to reduce waste.

China has already picked seven key regions to launch pilot carbon trading schemes with the intention of setting up a national market to cut emissions per unit of GDP by 40-45 percent from 2005 levels by 2020.

In 2013, China promised to cut the pollution released by industry by almost a third by 2017, and to spend $283 billion cleaning up Beijing and the surrounding area.

China has some online reporting of pollution in cities. But in the past has given false numbers when compared to measurement at the US consulate.

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China targets new molten salt thorium nuclear reactors by 2024 with war-like pressure to accelerate solution to killer air pollution

The deadline to develop a new design for thorium nuclear power plants has been brought forward by 15 years as the central government tries to reduce the nation's reliance on smog-producing coal-fired power stations.

A team of scientists in Shanghai had originally been given 25 years to try to develop the world's first nuclear plant using the radioactive element thorium as fuel rather than uranium, but they have now been told they have 10, the researchers said.

"The problem of coal has become clear. If the average energy consumption per person doubles, this country will be choked to death by polluted air," he said. "Nuclear power provides the only solution for massive coal replacement and thorium carries much hope."

Researchers working on the project said they were under unprecedented "war-like" pressure to succeed and some of the technical challenges they faced were difficult, if not impossible to solve in such a short period.

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It Was the Worst EHS Industrial Disaster In US History — and We Learned Nothing

Forget Deepwater Horizon or Three Mile Island: The biggest industrial disaster in American history actually happened in 2008, when more than a billion gallons of coal sludge ran through the small town of Kingston, Tennessee. This story details how, five years later, nothing has been done to stop it happening again, thanks to energy industry lobbying, federal inaction, and secrecy imposed on Congress. 'It estimated that 140,000 pounds of arsenic had spilled into the Emory River, as well as huge quantities of mercury, aluminum and selenium. In fact, the single spill in Kingston released more chromium, lead, manganese, and nickel into the environment than the entire U.S. power industry spilled in 2007. ... Kingston, though, is by far the worst coal ash disaster that the industry has ever seen: 5.4 million cubic yards of coal ash, containing at least 10 known toxins, were spilled. In fact, the event ... was even bigger than the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in April 2010, which spewed approximately 1 million cubic yards of oil into the Gulf of Mexico.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

French virologists discovered viruses in 30,000-year-old Siberian permafrost that could still infect amoebae.

"Reviving an organism is a lot easier if it never quite died in the first place. In 2012, Russian researchers reported that they found seeds preserved in 32,000-year-old permafrost. Teasing out some tissue from the seeds, the researchers coaxed it to develop into a flower. Earlier this month, French virologists discovered viruses in 30,000-year-old Siberian permafrost that could still infect amoebae. In January, Dr. Weider and his colleagues reported reviving eggs from a Minnesota lake that had been buried for about 700 years. They hatched and grew to be adults."
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Major oil pipeline leaks more than 7,000 gallons of crude oil into Ohio nature preserve

Reuters: The leak, which occurred on a line operated by Mid-Valley Pipeline Co, a division of Sunoco, was discovered at 8:20 p.m. EDT on Monday (0020 GMT Tuesday). The company shut the line, which helped reduce the pressure of the leaking oil, an EPA spokeswoman said, but it was unclear if oil was still spewing from the pipe. Some oil reached a wetland a mile away and on Tuesday, clean-up crews were preparing to vacuum the wetland, located 20 miles north of Cincinnati. The oil did not appear to have...

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Mar 19, 2014

Overuse of Bioengineered Corn Gives Rise To Resistant Pests

Though warned by scientists that overuse of a variety of corn engineered to be toxic to corn rootworms would eventually breed rootworms with resistance to its engineered toxicity, the agricultural industry went ahead and overused the corn anyway with little EPA intervention. The corn was planted in 1996. The first reports of rootworm resistance were officially documented in 2011, though agricultural scientists weren't allowed by seed companies to study the engineered corn until 2010. Now, a recent study has clearly shown how the rootworms have successfully adapted to the engineered corn. The corn's continued over-use is predicted, given current trends, and as resistance eventually spreads to the whole rootworm population, farmers will be forced to start using pesticides once more, thus negating the economic benefits of the engineered corn. 'Rootworm resistance was expected from the outset, but the Bt seed industry, seeking to maximize short-term profits, ignored outside scientists.'

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Voracious Worm Evolves to Eat Biotech Corn Engineered to Kill It, the rapid evolution of corn rootworms that are resistant to Bt corn.

WiredOne of agricultural biotechnology's great success stories may become a cautionary tale of how short-sighted mismanagement can squander the benefits of genetic modification.

After years of predicting it would happen — and after years of having their suggestions largely ignored by companies, farmers and regulators — scientists have documented the rapid evolution of corn rootworms that are resistant to Bt corn.

Until Bt corn was genetically altered to be poisonous to the pests, rootworms used to cause billions of dollars in damage to U.S. crops. Named for the pesticidal toxin-producing Bacillus thuringiensis gene it contains, Bt corn now accounts for three-quarters of the U.S. corn crop. The vulnerability of this corn could be disastrous for farmers and the environment.

Mar 18, 2014

Stoners murdering their dogs where marijuana was legalized. Vets warn of THC toxicity

Salon - Cinics in Washington state say that since recreational marijuana was legalized,  they've been treating as many as 30 cases of canine THC overdoses per month. ...Vets warn that toxicity can cause seizures, a coma or worse: a dose of about 3 grams per kilogram of the animal's weight is lethal.
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Mar 17, 2014

Deadly pig virus spreads to Arizona; 27 U.S. states now affected

Deadly pig virus spreads to Arizona; 27 U.S. states now affected (Reuters, March 16, 2014):

Arizona is the latest state to confirm cases of the deadly Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea virus, a highly contagious pig disease, increasing the tally of U.S. states with confirmed cases to 27, a group of animal health researchers said.

Virginia has reported positive samples of the virus in the environment, but not yet in a hog herd, according to data released on Thursday by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Animal Health Laboratory Network.

Confirmed cases of PEDv increased by 274 in the week ending March 8, bringing the total number to 4,458 in 27 states.

While one case can represent an individual animal or an entire herd at a single site, hog industry analysts estimate PEDv has killed between 4 million and 5 million U.S. hogs since it was discovered in May 2013.

PEDv, which does not affect humans and is not a food safety risk, causes diarrhea, vomiting and severe dehydration in pigs. While older pigs have a chance of survival, 80 to 100 percent of piglets that contract it die.

"Anytime we have a disease that cuts numbers, it cuts Checkoff income," said John Parker, spokesman for the Virginia Pork Council, referring to The Pork Checkoff which funds research, including disease research, and programs to promote the U.S. pork industry. Pork producers invest 40 cents for every $100 of hogs sold to fund the Checkoff which is governed by the National Pork Board.

"And it is the worst timing in the world because you need to promote biosecurity on farms to keep the disease from spreading," Parker added.

Mar 16, 2014

The coming era of water wars, freshwater renewable capacity lagging behind humanity’s current rate of utilization,

There is a tongue-in-cheek saying in America — attributed to Mark Twain, who lived through the early phase of the California water wars — that "whiskey is for drinking and water is for fighting over."

It highlights the consequences, even if somewhat apocryphally, as ever-scarcer water resources create a parched world. California currently is suffering under its worst drought of the modern era.

Adequate availability of water, food and energy is critical to global security. Water, the sustainer of life and livelihoods, is already the world's most exploited natural resource.

With nature's freshwater renewable capacity lagging behind humanity's current rate of utilization, tomorrow's water is being used to meet today's need.

Consequently, the resources of shared rivers, aquifers and lakes have become the target of rival appropriation plans. Securing a larger portion of the shared water has fostered increasing competition between countries and provinces.

Efforts by some countries to turn transnational water resources into an instrument of power has encouraged a dam-building race and prompted growing calls for the United Nations to make water a key security concern.

More ominously, the struggle for water is exacerbating impacts on the earth's ecosystems. Humanity is altering freshwater and other ecosystems more rapidly than its own scientific understanding of the implications of such change.

Degradation of water resources has resulted in aquatic ecosystems losing half of their biodiversity since just the mid-1970s. Groundwater depletion, for its part, is affecting natural streamflows, groundwater-fed wetlands and lakes, and related ecosystems.

Please continue reading from CHELLANEY: The coming era of water wars - Washington Times | shared via feedly mobile

Tap water contaminant 'castrates' frogs -

Frogs in the experiment were exposed to amounts of the weedkiller atrazine that are comparable to the levels allowed in drinking water by the Environmental Protection Agency, says lead researcher Tyrone Hayes of the University of California-Berkeley.

The study was released Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

In Hayes' earlier studies, atrazine caused male frogs to begin growing eggs in their testes. In this experiment, 10% of the males exposed to atrazine — one of the most commonly used herbicide in the world — actually changed sex; some were able to breed and lay eggs. Nearly all of the other males had low testosterone and sperm levels, which made them unable to reproduce, Hayes says.

The experiment can't tell scientists whether atrazine affects humans in a similar way, Hayes says. But it does raise new questions about the safety of atrazine, which other studies have linked to human birth defects, low birth weight, prematurity and low sperm count.

The EPA said in October that it planned to reassess atrazine's safety, including its cancer risk. The European Union has banned the chemical.

About 75% of stream water samples and 40% of groundwater samples contain atrazine, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. The Natural Resources Defense Council, an environmental advocacy group, detected atrazine in 90% of tap water samples from 139 water systems. Inexpensive faucet-top water filters can remove the chemical, says Jennifer Sass, a scientist with the group.

Please continue reading By Liz Szabo, USA TODAY

Solar-Powered Toilet Torches Waste For Public Health #biochar

With funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation's Reinvent the Toilet challenge, [a] team has developed a toilet that uses concentrated solar power to scorch and disinfect human waste, turning feces into a useful byproduct called biochar ... a sanitary charcoal material that is good for soils and agriculture. By converting solid waste to biochar (liquid waste is diverted elsewhere, as it's easier to deal with), the toilet thus allows for sanitary waste disposal without huge infrastructure investments. The toilet itself, called the Sol-Char, is a fascinating bit of engineering. In order to sanitize waste without the help of massive treatment facilities, Linden's team instead designed the toilet to scorch waste in a chamber heated by fiber optic cables that pipe in heat from solar collectors on the toilet's roof. 'A solar concentrator has all this light focused in on one centimeter. It'd be fine if we could bring everyone's fecal waste up to that one point, like burning it with a magnifying glass,' Linden said. 'But that's not practical, so we were thinking of other ways to concentrate that light.'

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Forests Around Chernobyl Aren’t Decaying Properly #Science via @Smithsonian

SmithsonianNearly 30 years have passed since the Chernobyl plant exploded and caused an unprecedented nuclear disaster. The effects of that catastrophe, however, are still felt today. Although no people live in the extensive exclusion zones around the epicenter, animals and plants still show signs of radiation poisoning.

Birds around Chernobyl have significantly smaller brains that those living in non-radiation poisoned areas; trees there grow slower; and fewer spiders and insects—including bees, butterflies and grasshoppers—live there. Additionally, game animals such as wild boar caught outside of the exclusion zone—including some bagged as far away as Germany—continue to show abnormal and dangerous levels of radiation.

However, there are even more fundamental issues going on in the environment. According to a new study published in Oecologia, decomposers—organisms such as microbes, fungi and some types of insects that drive the process of decay—have also suffered from the contamination. These creatures are responsible for an essential component of any ecosystem: recycling organic matter back into the soil. Issues with such a basic-level process, the authors of the study think, could have compounding effects for the entire ecosystem.

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The Rich See a Different Internet Than the Poor - Scientific American

Scientific AmericanImagine an Internet where unseen hands curate your entire experience. Where third parties predetermine the news, products and prices you see—even the people you meet. A world where you think you are making choices, but in reality, your options are narrowed and refined until you are left with merely the illusion of control.

This is not far from what is happening today. Thanks to technology that enables Google, Facebook and others to gather information about us and use it to tailor the user experience to our own personal tastes, habits and income, the Internet has become a different place for the rich and for the poor. Most of us have become unwitting actors in an unfolding drama about the tale of two Internets. There is yours and mine, theirs and ours.

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Mar 15, 2014

U.S. Agrees to Allow BP Back Into Gulf Waters to Seek Oil - @NYTimes

NYTimesFour years after the Deepwater Horizon rig explosion, BP is being welcomed back to seek new oil leases in the Gulf of Mexico.

An agreement on Thursday with the Environmental Protection Agency lifts a 2012 ban that was imposed after the agency concluded that BP had not fully corrected problems that led to the well blowout in 2010 that killed 11 rig workers, spilled millions of gallons of oil and contaminated hundreds of miles of beaches.

BP had sued to have the suspension lifted, and now the agreement will mean hundreds of millions of dollars of new business for the company. But even more important, oil analysts said, it signifies an important step in the company's recovery from the accident, which has been costly to its finances and reputation.

"After a lengthy negotiation, BP is pleased to have reached this resolution, which we believe to be fair and reasonable," said John Mingé, chairman and president of BP America. "Today's agreement will allow America's largest energy investor to compete again for federal contracts and leases."

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"water quality trading" is a thing. Like carbon credits, but for the pollution that goes into rivers.

"water quality trading" is a thing. Like carbon credits, but for the pollution that goes into rivers.

"Water quality trading is a market-based approach that could enable facilities to meet permit limits using nutrient reduction credits from farmers who implement conservation practices. Many parties, such as industrial sources, farmers, and the general public, contribute to nutrient loading, which may lead to serious ecological problems. Today's transactions will produce cleaner watersheds, advance sustainability practices, and test more cost-effective regulatory compliance options."

Please continue reading at:
EPRI | EPRI Transacts First Credits in World's Largest Water Quality Trading Program

Study: Pesticides hurting French sperm [feedly]

Ecowatch - Pesticides used on agricultural land appear to be the main cause of declining sperm counts among men in France, according to a recent study published in the scientific journal Human Reproduction. Until better protections are in place, anti-pesticide experts suggest supporting organic agriculture as a method of avoiding exposure to these dangerous chemicals.

Until better protections are in place, anti-pesticide experts suggest supporting organic agriculture as a method of avoiding exposure to these dangerous chemicals.

The study, which first published its findings in 2012 and has now been refined, found that sperm counts across France had plummeted 30 percent in 16 years, and noted those living in mainly rural regions of southwest France had been most affected, reports Connexion—France's English-language newspaper. 

The affected regions, Aquitaine, Burgandy and Midi-Pyrenees, contain the highest concentration of farms in the country and subsequently rely heavily on agriculture for their economies.

The findings coincide with a recent development where the use of pesticides were blamed for variations in the quality of water in France, with rural areas again the most affected.
Please continue reading at: Ecowatch

Mar 13, 2014

#2014MatchDay Help the #hungry today by retweeting! #FF #Donate!

Just wanted to send out a quick reminder that today is Match Day!

Hunger Task Force’s social media campaign is underway, and you can out by retweeting, liking, and sharing “Match Day meme” posts throughout the day. Their phone bank is also live at 4:30am, and folks can call (414) 939 MEAL to donate!

Once again, here is the official Match Day hashtag and link for all posts:


Thank you again for all your help!