Monday, December 21, 2009

Female Reindeer Pull Santa's Sleigh

Jeanna Bryner at Live Science today points out some interesting facts about reindeer.

Mixing fact with fiction, she argues that all of the reindeer mentioned in stories about Santa Claus had to have been female. Here's why:

  • Females keep their antlers throughout the winter, but males shed theirs in early December. Illustrations of Santa's sleigh pullers uniformly show reindeer with antlers.
  • The mating season depletes males of body fat, leaving them with just 5 percent on their scrawny frames around Christmas time. Females, on the other hand, retain 50 percent of their body fat. They'd be in shape to haul Santa.
Read more....

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Major volcanic eruption feared in Philippines
"within days"

LEGAZPI, Philippines – The Philippines' most active volcano could have a huge eruption within days, officials warned Sunday after detecting a drastic surge in earthquakes and eerie rumbling sounds in surrounding foothills. Tens of thousands of villagers have been evacuated as a precaution.

Scientists raised the alert level for the Mayon volcano after 453 volcanic earthquakes were detected in a five-hour span Sunday, compared to just over 200 Saturday, said Renato Solidum, chief of the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology.

The five-step warning system was raised to level four, meaning a hazardous eruption "is possible within days." Level five is when a major eruption has begun.

Read more....

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Report: White House Security Breached 91 Times

Secret Service report reveals dozens of security breaches since 1980 surrounding U.S. presidents.

Tareq and Michaele Salahi may be the most famous party crashers after sneaking into President Obama's first state dinner last month, but they're by no means the first to elude the Secret Service and breach White House security.

A report compiled by the Secret Service reveals security surrounding the president has been breached at least 91 times since 1980, The Washington Post reported on Monday.

A summary of the secret 2003 report, along with descriptions of more recent breaches by federal homeland security officials, details scores of breaches, including a family who was mistakenly allowed onto White House grounds in a minivan, a woman allowed in despite already having falsely claimed a "special relationship" with former president Bill Clinton and a celebrity hunter who joined Harrison Ford's entourage to get near Clinton.

Read more....

Why Has Taiwan's Birthrate Dropped So Low?

In a society where the cost of living is high, the notion that kids are an unwelcome burden — taboo in many cultures — has become an accepted idea.

In a research poll administered by Kun Shan University in 2007, students interviewed 100 residents of Taiwan between the ages of 20 and 40 about their family plans. One-third didn't plan to have any children for fear of losing two precious things: money and freedom.

Balancing work and family life has proven to be a challenge for both men and women in Taiwan. According to the Swiss-based International Institute of Management Development, Taiwanese work some of the longest hours in the world, averaging nearly 44 hours a week, and Taiwan's women are very career-oriented. "Most women are afraid of losing their jobs" by taking time out to have a child, says Liu. He says Taiwan should follow the lead of European countries like Germany, where women are entitled to up to three years of maternity leave by law. Taiwan has been making progress in this area; in 2002, the government passed a law requiring companies to allow their employees two-year parental leaves without pay. This year, a policy came out that enables parents to take six months of parental leave while receiving 60% of their salary. But many say these changes only look good on paper, as most bosses discourage people from taking the time off.

Read more....

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Hip Berlin: Europe's Capital of Cool

Time Magazine - A chill wind is blowing through Mitte, the once drab district in central Berlin that is fast becoming hangout central for the world's creative types. Davide Grazioli, used to warmer climes, pulls his black woolly hat over his head and strides up Kastanien Allee — now dubbed Casting Alley because of all the wannabe film directors and actors who frequent its caf├ęs.

Germany has a lot of fine qualities, but being hip isn't usually thought to be one of them. Up-and-coming artists, especially ones from abroad, used to flock to London, Amsterdam or New York City rather than Hamburg, Munich or Cologne. As for Berlin, it hasn't been on the international cool list since Christopher Isherwood lived in the city in the early 1930s and chronicled the demise of its rambunctious culture under the Nazis.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

YouTube University

Newsweek - YouTube has built a global reputation as the place to go for video clips of singing cats, laughing babies, reckless drivers, and raucous wedding processionals. But there's more to the site than pointless entertainment; there is a growing collection of university lectures available, including one by a Harvard Business School professor talking about consumer psychology in the recession, and Cambridge University historian David Starkey discussing the history of the British monarchy. Earlier this year YouTube launched a new home for education, YouTube EDU, which started as a volunteer project by company employees seeking a better way to aggregate educational content uploaded by U.S. colleges and universities.

One need not be a student to reap the benefits of higher education anymore. In addition to YouTube EDU, Web sites like iTunes U, TED, and Academic Earth allow millions of people to download lectures by some of the world's top experts—for free. Known as open educational resources—or OER—the movement is turning education into a form of mass entertainment.

Read more....

Emotional Bunny Says: "Guess who's taking free online chemistry courses from MIT?"

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Students create countries in social studies class

World geography classes typically don't stray from the 195 established countries that circle the globe.

Some new nations, though, emerged Tuesday: Aquatopia, an underwater country off the coast of Florida; Timpatoint, an arctic nation northeast of Canada; and Marinya, an island nation near the Philippines.

Of course, the countries aren't real. Fifth-graders in Andrea Hollan's gifted class at Allen Park Elementary spent six weeks exploring forms of government, finances, culture, geography and climates of existing nations.

"We looked at what's real, and went from there," Hollan said.

Students then created their own countries, complete with a flag, currency, food and landscape. Students even developed the first steps of a new language, creating words for hello and goodbye.

Read more....

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First U.S. Tsunami Shelter Planned as Earthquake Looms

When a major earthquake triggers a giant tsunami in the U.S. Pacific Northwest, as experts predict, one coastal town will be ready. Residents of the small Oregon town of Cannon Beach are preparing to build the first tsunami-resistant shelter in the U.S. (Get tsunami facts.)

The Pacific Northwest is one of the most dangerous earthquake and tsunami zones in the world—capable of producing magnitude 9 earthquakes followed within minutes by deadly, 50-foot (15.2-meter) high waves.

The next big earthquake could happen tomorrow or in several hundreds of years—no one knows for sure.

Read more....

How Hawaii's Budget Crunch Led to Furloughed Kids

At Noelani Elementary, the small school near Honolulu where President Obama learned to read and write, the next generation of Hawaii's leaders learned a new word this week: "furlough."

The Noelani students joined nearly 170,000 other children across Hawaii whose teachers on Friday began an unprecedented state furlough program that will close classrooms 34 days over the next two years. The "furlough Fridays" are part of a controversial effort by Gov. Linda Lingle to deal with a projected budget deficit of nearly $1 billion. The cost-cutting measure has angered parents, lawmakers and children. Popular musician and Hawaii public school graduate Jack Johnson sang at a rally Friday morning at the state Capitol to protest the furloughs. During the rally, parents handed a petition bearing thousands of signatures protesting the furloughs to the governor, whose office is on the fifth floor of the state Capitol.

Read more....

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Teen sets off on round-the-world sail

SYDNEY – A 16-year-old Australian steered her bright pink yacht out of Sydney Harbor on Sunday to start her bid to become the youngest person to sail solo and unassisted around the world.

Jessica Watson's plan to make a 23,600-mile (38,000-kilometer) journey through some of the world's most treacherous waters sparked a debate in Australia about whether someone so young should be allowed to try such a potentially dangerous feat.

Watson and her family insist she is an experienced and capable sailor who has studied navigation, electronics and maritime safety procedures. Although she will sail solo and unassisted, she will be in constant contact with her support team via radio, e-mail and a blog.

Read more....

Thursday, October 15, 2009

World's Richest People: Asia Poised to Pass U.S.

As Asia's economic growth races ahead of that of the U.S., the investment portfolios of Asia's wealthiest people are picking up enough momentum to launch them past their North American counterparts.

A report released on Oct. 13 by Merrill Lynch and consulting firm Capgemini Financial Services projects that with the global recession easing, the total net worth of Asia-Pacific's wealthy — those with at least $1 million in investable assets — is set to grow at a faster pace than the holdings of rich people in other parts of the world. If this trend takes hold, the total value of assets held by Asia's rich could surpass the combined assets of North America's wealthy by 2013.

Read more....

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Will New Laws Help Russia Take Down the Mafia?

The raid looked like something out of a Hollywood action movie. On July 7, Russian special forces dropped down on ropes from a helicopter to storm a luxury yacht on the Pirogovsky reservoir outside Moscow, arresting three dozen mobsters, including the group's alleged ringleader, Tariel Oniani. But within days, nearly all of them, including Oniani, had to be set free because prosecutors couldn't charge them with anything.

Russia's laws have long been weak and unspecific when it comes to combating organized crime, part of the reason why the underworld has thrived in the country in the post-communism years. But the government may finally be getting serious about cracking down on the Mafia.

Read more....

Friday, October 9, 2009

What Is Killing South African Crocs?

Mass deaths of South Africa's Nile crocodiles puzzle biologists.

Carcasses of adult crocodiles do not usually signal the return of winter in South Africa, but mass death seems to be becoming the harbinger of the season. Rangers at the Kruger National Park have found Nile crocodiles floating in the Oli­fants River or bloated and decaying along its banks. Investigators are rushing to figure out the cause and worry that the deaths might be signaling the presence of toxins or pathogens that could threaten not only the croc population but also the livelihoods of the people living near the river.

...The first sign of croc trouble in the river came in the winter of 2008, when rangers collected 170 dead individuals, sometimes at a rate of 20 bodies a week. A survey at the end of this May showed nearly 400 crocs living in the park’s gorge, down from at least 1,000 in 2008. So far, as of Au­­gust 7, rangers and scientists have found 23 carcasses.

Read more....

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Malawian boy uses wind to power hope, electrify village

(CNN) -- William Kamkwamba dreamed of powering his village with the only resource that was freely available to him.

His native Malawi had gone through one of its worst droughts seven years ago, killing thousands. His family and others were surviving on one meal a day. The red soil in his Masitala hometown was parched, leaving his father, a farmer, without any income.

But amid all the shortages, one thing was still abundant.


"I wanted to do something to help and change things," he said. "Then I said to myself, 'If they can make electricity out of wind, I can try, too.'"

Kamkwamba was kicked out of school when he couldn't pay $80 in school fees, and he spent his days at the library, where a book with photographs of windmills caught his eye.

"I thought, this thing exists in this book, it means someone else managed to build this machine," he said.

Read more....

Qatar Prince's Renovation Plan: Far From Regal Welcome

Qatar Prince wants to renovate an $88 million historic 17th century French building with air conditioning, elevators, and underground parking.

Voltaire once called it a home fit for a king. And for a few hundred years, it was. Since the Hotel Lambert was built in 1639 on Paris's Ile Saint-Louis by architect Louis Le Vau, who also designed the Chateau de Versailles, the mansion has played host to French nobility, exiled Polish princes and members of the Rothschild family. But for Qatari Prince Hamad bin Abdullah al-Thani, who bought the property from the Rothschilds in 2007 for $88 million, the welcome has been far from regal.

The Prince's plan to restore the mansion to its 17th century glory while also adding elevators, air-conditioning and an underground parking lot has run into opposition from historical preservationists, who say the $60 million renovations would be "disastrous." But critics are even angrier that the French Ministry of Culture approved the plan in the first place, the latest example of what preservationists say is the government's disregard for the protection of France's architectural treasures.

Read more....

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Komodo Dragon Originated in Australia Tue Oct 6, 11:46 am ET

Dragons may come from the land Down Under.

Scientists now find that the world's largest living lizard species, the Komodo dragon, most likely evolved in Australia and dispersed westward to its current home in Indonesia.

In the past, researchers had suggested the Komodo dragon (Varanus komodoensis) developed from a smaller ancestor isolated on the Indonesian islands, evolving its large size as a response to lack of competition from other predators or as a specialist hunter of pygmy elephants known as Stegodon.

However, over the past three years, an international team of scientists unearthed numerous fossils from eastern Australia dated from 300,000 years ago to roughly 4 million years ago that they now know belong to the Komodo dragon.

Read more....

Monday, October 5, 2009

After a Devastating Fire, an Intense Study of Its Effects

ANGELES NATIONAL FOREST, Calif. — The Station fire, which in over a month has burned away nearly a quarter of this vast, mountainous backdrop to the Los Angeles skyline, is finally just about out, sending all but a handful of firefighters home. Now, the scientists swoop in.

And Todd M. Hoefen, a geophysicist, scooped up white and black ash as part of research to analyze “the impact of it, what blows out of these fires and what are people breathing.”

Fire, typically touched off by lightning strikes, has always been part of the life cycle of the wilderness here and elsewhere, to a large degree crucial to regenerating it. Most wildlife and landscape eventually come back.

But with the increasing frequency and size of fires — 7 of the state’s 10 largest wildfires have occurred in the last six years, and most were caused by people — scientists are intensifying study of the environmental aftermath of the changing burn pattern.

Read more....

3 Americans share 2009 Nobel medicine prize

STOCKHOLM – Americans Elizabeth H. Blackburn, Carol W. Greider and Jack W. Szostak won the 2009 Nobel Prize in medicine on Monday for discovering a key mechanism in the genetic operations of cells, an insight that has inspired new lines of research into cancer.

It was the first time two women have been among the winners of the medicine prize.

The trio solved the mystery of how chromosomes, the rod-like structures that carry DNA, protect themselves from degrading when cells divide.

The Nobel citation said the laureates found the solution in the ends of the chromosomes — features called telomeres that are often compared to the plastic tips at the end of shoe laces that keep those laces from unraveling.

Read more....

Friday, October 2, 2009

Unemployment rate identical at 9.7%: "Good" under Obama, "Bad" under Reagan

A study from the Business & Media Institute: Identical Unemployment Numbers ‘Good’ News for Obama, But ‘All’ Bad under Reagan.

Unemployment under President Barack Obama is at a 26-year-high. The last time the economy had 9.7 percent or higher unemployment was under President Ronald Reagan. But despite similar periods of rising unemployment, Obama and Reagan received almost exactly opposite treatment from the network news media.

Under Obama reporters have gone to great lengths to spin rising unemployment by finding “positive trends” in the job losses, even focusing on as few as 25 jobs being “saved” by the economic stimulus package. But when Reagan was president journalists showed unemployed families living out of their cars under a bridge in Texas and quoted Democrats or union leaders’ attacks on the president’s “wicked” and “sadistic” fiscal policies.

Read more....

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Wednesday, September 30, 2009

China's 60th anniversary of Communism: public barred from parade

Ordinary Chinese citizens hoping to come onto the streets of Beijing to watch a triumphant military parade to celebrate 60 years of Communist rule have been ordered to "stay at home" and watch the event on television.

Any thoughts that a spontaneous, flag-waving crowd might gather to cheer on the 180,000 marchers as they process through Beijing's Tiananmen Square have been scotched by security fears ahead of Thursday's anniversary.

"People who can go to watch the parade are invited guests with tickets," said Ji Lin, the vice-mayor of Beijing, "For other citizens the parade will be screened live and the citizens can watch it via TV."

Read more....
Guinea's military leader bans demonstrations

By ALHASSAN SILLAH, Associated Press Writer Alhassan Sillah, Associated Press Writer
Wed Sep 30, 4:49 pm ET

CONAKRY, Guinea – Guinea's military leader banned all gatherings and demonstrations Wednesday, as the United Nations pressed for an independent investigation into why troops opened fire on 50,000 pro-democracy protesters.

U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay condemned the soldiers' use of live ammunition against the unarmed people who gathered Monday in a stadium in Conakry, the capital, to protest against Capt. Moussa "Dadis" Camara, the country's military leader.

...Since winning independence half a century ago from France, Guinea has been pillaged by its ruling elite. Its 10 million people are among the world's poorest, even though its soil has diamonds, gold, iron and half the world's reserves of the raw material used to make aluminum.

Read more....

Stress is killing Australia's koalas

By TANALEE SMITH, Associated Press Writer Tanalee Smith, Associated Press Writer
Tue Sep 29, 1:23 pm ET

CUDLEE CREEK, Australia – The koala, Australia's star symbol, is dying of stress.

Koalas live in the rolling hills and flat plains where eucalyptus trees grow, because they need the leaves for both food and water. But as people move in, koalas are finding themselves with fewer trees, researchers say. The stress is bringing out a latent disease that infects 50 to 90 percent of the animals.

"Koalas are in diabolical trouble," says researcher Frank Carrick, who heads the Koala Study Program at the University of Queensland. "Numbers show that even in their stronghold, koala numbers are declining alarmingly."

Read more....

Strong Indonesia quake kills 200, traps thousands

JAKARTA, Indonesia – A disaster management official says at least 200 people have been killed by the powerful earthquake that struck western Indonesia. Priyadi Kardono, a spokesman for the National Disaster Management Agency, says the deaths were counted in the coastal Sumatran city of Padang, following Wednesday's 7.6 magnitude quake.

A higher death toll is expected once officials tally casualties in other areas of West Sumatra province where communications and roads have been severed.

Read more....

Warning: Homegrown Tobacco Still Deadly

Tue Sep 29, 6:31 pm ET

Across the backyards and victory gardens of America this fall, many weekend gardeners for the first time are harvesting a touch of poison amongst the squash and potatoes.

The poison, albeit all-natural and organic, is tobacco, an otherwise lovely plant with its elephantine green leaves and broad, five-petal flowers of yellow, pink or white.

Ever ingenious American smokers have turned to growing their own tobacco as the average price for smokes has climbed to over $6 a pack, a price hike largely the result of the $1.01-per-pack tax that went into effect on April 1, conveniently around planting season. Seed sales reportedly were through the roof this year.

...Part of the blame for the confusion goes to the anti-smoking movement. Its emphasis on tobacco additives has implied that natural tobacco is somehow healthier.

...Children exposed to high levels of nicotine from wet leaves often require hospitalization.

Read more....

Emotional Bunny Says: "....Don't do this to me."

(Image credit:,

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

World's Biggest Cave Found in Vietnam

James Owen

A massive cave recently uncovered in a remote Vietnamese jungle is the largest single cave passage yet found, a new survey shows.

At 262-by-262 feet (80-by-80 meters) in most places, the Son Doong cave beats out the previous world-record holder, Deer Cave in the Malaysian section of the island of Borneo.

...A local farmer, who had found the entrance to the Son Doong cave several years ago, led the joint British-Vietnamese expedition team to the cavern in April. The team found an underground river running through the first 1.6 miles (2.5 kilometers) of the limestone cavern, as well as giant stalagmites more than 230 feet (70 meters) high.

Read more....
Washington Post Slaps the Twitter Handcuffs on Its Journalists

by James Poniewozik,

"Here's something everybody should understand about journalism. The reporters, columnists and news anchors you follow almost all have opinions about the subjects they cover. There is nothing wrong with this. In fact, it is a good thing, because any person who immersed him or herself in a vital, contentious subject all day and formed no opinion about it whatsoever would be an idiot, and you do not want to get your news from idiots.

Some journalists (like me) are paid to express opinions. Others are paid to report news without regard to their opinions--and many, though not all, do an excellent job of this. And many more are required to hide their opinions by their bosses, in the belief that it builds reader confidence to maintain the illusion that the news is produced by people without opinions.

Read more....

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Monday, September 28, 2009

Top 10 Things You Didn't Know About National Parks

... 3. Explosions in the Desert

White Sands National Monument spans more than 275 sq. mi. of New Mexico desert and contains the largest gypsum dune fields in the world. But because the park lies adjacent to the country's largest military installation — a 3,200-sq.-mi. missile range — the crystalline waves are often closed to the public while the Defense Department conducts top-secret (and presumably highly dangerous) tests.

Read more....
Turkey, Armenia to restore ties

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said his country will sign a deal to establish diplomatic relations with Armenia on 10 October.

Mr Erdogan said the deal would still need parliamentary approval in Turkey and Armenia after being signed by their foreign ministers.

The two countries remain deeply divided over the fate Armenians suffered under Turkish Ottoman rule.

A roadmap for normalising relations between them was agreed in April.

Anticipation of a diplomatic breakthrough had been growing ahead of a planned visit by Armenian President Serge Sarkisian to Turkey on 14 October.

Read more....

More New Creatures Discovered Underground In Australia

Down under in Australia, down underground, scientists have found 850 previously unknown species living in subterranean water, caves and micro-caverns.

These insects, crustaceans, spiders and worms are likely only about one-fifth of the number of undiscovered species the researchers think exist underground amid the harsh conditions of the Australian outback. Two species of blind fish and two of blind eels were also uncovered.

"What we've found is that you don't have to go searching in the depths of the ocean to discover new species of invertebrate animals - you just have to look in your own backyard," said researcher Andy Austin, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Adelaide in Australia. [Scientists say only a fraction of the species of plants and animals on the planet have been discovered.]

Read more....

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Saturday, September 26, 2009

"No We Can't": Young German Voters Have Tuned Out

TIME (Saturday, Sep. 26, 2009) - ....Young, Internet-savvy Germans are feeling disenchanted with the major parties in the election, particularly in the wake of Barack Obama's startling run to the White House last year. Obama galvanized young voters with his use of the Internet and catchy slogans like "Yes We Can," but Merkel's CDU party and its main rival, the Social Democrats (SPD), have largely rejected new media in favor of safe, predictable and boring campaigning. Their candidates are void of charisma, their platforms are unimaginative and their slogans lack punch — "Our Country Can Do More," for instance, hardly excites. As a result, many young people feel as if they are being pushed away. "[The flash mobs] are an adequate response to parties that refuse to communicate," says Robin Meyer-Lucht, a Berlin-based media commentator and editor of the political website

Read more....

Friday, September 25, 2009

Canada's PM: "Every nation wants to be Canada"

PITTSBURGH (Reuters) – Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, appearing to forget that his countrymen are generally known for their modesty, declared on Friday that his nation was the envy of the world.

Harper, usually a fairly wooden performer, seized on a routine question at a news conference and used it to deliver an impassioned defense of his 33-million strong nation and how well it has coped with the global economic crisis.

"Canada remains in a very special place in the world. ... We are the one major developed country that no one thinks has any responsibility for this crisis," he said to laughter.

Read more....

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Shark Sanctuary The Size of France Created

September 25, 2009 - The world's first shark sanctuary will protect the declining fish in waters off the tiny island republic of Palau, the country's president said today.

Johnson Toriboing announced the creation of a shark haven without commercial fishing during an address before the United Nations General Assembly in New York City.

"I believe the physical well-being and beauty of sharks reflects the well-being of the ocean," Toriboing told reporters at a news conference.

"It is my honor and opportunity to tell the world to join me to protect these species, which are on the brink of extinction."

Read more....

Taiwan to block visit by exiled Uighur leader

By Ralph Jennings

TAIPEI (Reuters) - Taiwan will not allow exiled Uighur leader Rebiya Kadeer to visit the island as proposed in December, an official said on Friday, a move likely to please rival China but upset anti-China factions at home.

Kadeer, a former businesswoman who now leads exile group the World Uyghur Congress, wanted to come in December for a series of speeches at the invitation of an entertainer close to Taiwan's anti-China opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).

Questioned by legislators on Friday, Taiwan interior Minister Chiang Yih-hwa said the government had confirmed it would not allow the visit, citing safety concerns.

Read more....

California's Universities Protest Budget Crunch

By Kevin O'Leary / Los Angeles
Friday, Sep. 25, 2009
Fanged frog, other new species found in Mekong

By MICHAEL CASEY, AP Environmental Writer Michael Casey, Ap Environmental Writer
Fri Sep 25, 8:50 am ET

BANGKOK – A gecko with leopard-like spots on its body and a fanged frog that eats birds are among 163 new species discovered last year in the Mekong River region of Southeast Asia, an environmental group said Friday.

WWF International said that scientists in 2008 discovered 100 plants, 28 fish, 18 reptiles, 14 amphibians, two mammals and one bird species in the region. That works out to be about three species a week and is in addition to the 1,000 new species catalogued there from 1997 to 2007, the group said.

"After millennia in hiding these species are now finally in the spotlight, and there are clearly more waiting to be discovered," said Stuart Chapman, director of the WWF Greater Mekong Program.

Read more....

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Why New York City Is Greener Than Vermont

New Yorkers, take heart: your city is a den of dirt and grime and gluttony no more. According to David Owen, author of Green Metropolis: What the City Can Teach the Country About True Sustainability, the Big Apple is actually the greenest city in America. Residents of New York City walk more, drive less and leave a significantly smaller carbon footprint than people living anywhere else in the U.S. — even Vermont. Owen talks to TIME about the wastefulness of rural life, the reason local produce isn't environmentally friendly and the one good thing to come out of the 2008-09 recession.

How is the city greener than the country?
When we move people closer to one another and their daily destinations, they become less dependent on automobiles, and energy consumption goes down. New York City residents are by far the biggest users of public transit in the U.S.

Read more....

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Why Fall Colors Are Different in U.S. and Europe

The riot of color that erupts in forests every autumn looks different depending on which side of the ocean you're on.

While the fall foliage in North America and East Asia takes on a fiery red hue, perplexingly, autumn leaves in Europe are mostly yellow in color.

A team of researchers has a new idea as to why the autumnal colors differ between the continents, one that involved taking a step back 35 million years in time.

Read more....

Monday, September 21, 2009

AP: UN climate chief says China poised to lead

UNITED NATIONS – As the United States lags on climate legislation, China is poised to join the European Union in claiming "front-runner" status among nations battling climate change, the U.N. climate chief said Monday.

Yvo de Boer said in an Associated Press interview that China is leaping ahead of the United States with domestic plans for more energy efficiency, renewable sources of power, cuts in vehicle pollution and closures of dirty plants.

The development marks a dramatic turnabout. The United States, under former President George W. Bush's administration, long cited inaction by China and India as the reason for rejecting mandatory cuts in greenhouse gases.

Read more....

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Impact Of Renewable Energy On Our Oceans Must Be Investigated, Scientists Say

ScienceDaily (Sep. 20, 2009) — Scientists from the Universities of Exeter and Plymouth are calling for urgent research to understand the impact of renewable energy developments on marine life. The study, now published in the Journal of Applied Ecology, highlights potential environmental benefits and threats resulting from marine renewable energy, such as off-shore wind farms and wave and tidal energy conversion devices.

The research highlights the capacity for marine renewable energy devices to boost local biodiversity and benefit the wider marine environment. Man-made structures on the sea bed attract many marine organisms and sometimes become 'artifical reefs', for example, supporting a wide variety of fish. The study also points out that such devices could have negative environmental impacts, resulting from habitat loss, collision risks, noise and electromagnetic fields.

Read more....

Saturday, September 19, 2009

China's 60th Birthday: The Road to Prosperity

Sixty years ago Mao Zedong stood before a sea of people atop Tiananmen Gate proclaiming, in his high-pitched Hunan dialect, the founding of the People's Republic of China and that the "Chinese people have stood up!" The moment was marked with pride and hope. The communists' victory had vanquished the Nationalist regime, withstood the vicious onslaught of the Japanese invasion and overturned the century of foreign encroachment on China's territory. Moreover, Mao and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) came to power without significant external support — theirs was largely a homegrown revolution.

Read more....

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Journalists covering polluters threatened

Thu Sep 17, 2:50 pm ET

PARIS – Journalists face increasing threats when they report on companies and governments damaging the environment, a media rights group said Thursday, citing arrests, violence and disappearances of those who denounce deforestation, pollution and other damage.

"....In Uzbekistan, the reporters group says Solidzhon Abdurakhmanov has been summarily sentenced to 10 years prison in 2008 on dubious drug trafficking charges because he reported on the Aral Sea ecological disaster. In June of this year, two Chinese activists were charged with "divulging state secrets abroad" and "spreading rumors" for publishing information about radioactive contamination at a uranium mine..."

Read more....

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

UN marking first humanitarian day

The United Nations is holding its first ever World Humanitarian Day to honour international aid workers.

The UN hopes the event will focus attention on aid workers and increase support for their role.

Aid staff are working in increasingly dangerous environments and are frequently targets of attacks, it says.

Last year 122 international aid workers were killed, a death toll that was higher than that for UN peacekeeping troops.

Read more....

Undersea cable brings high-speed web to East Africa

A new high-speed undersea cable connecting East Africa with the rest of the world is poised to go live, Kenya's top internet official has told the BBC.

The launch of the government-backed East African Marine System (Teams) comes as providers face a backlash over slow connection speeds and high prices.

Internet providers have increased speeds and lowered costs since the Seacom cable went live in August.

But users say services still remain too expensive for most ordinary Kenyans.

Read more....

Monday, September 14, 2009

Homing Pigeon Faster Than Internet?

This week, a South African call-center business, frustrated by persistently slow Internet speeds, decided to use a carrier pigeon named Winston to transfer 4 gigabytes of data between two of its offices, just 50 miles apart.

At the same time, a computer geek pushed a button on his computer to send data the old-fashioned way, through the Internet.

Winston the pigeon won. It wasn't even close.

"Winston arrived after two hours, six minutes, and 57 seconds," says Kevin Rolfe, head of the information technology department at Unlimited Group, a call-center business based in Durban.

Read more....

Sign of the Times: Philadelphia's Public Libraries to Close

BC's Lisa Chinn reports from Washington:

The public library in Philadelphia may be closing its doors permanently. It would be the first closure of a public library in a major American city. The library is the sixth largest public library in the nation, and its precursor, the Library Company of Philadelphia, created by Benjamin Franklin, was the first public library in the United States.

Come October 2nd, all 53 library buildings throughout the city will close. Books and DVDs will no longer be available for loan. Free internet access will cease. The community programs and meetings held in the libraries will have to find another venue, and the GED and English as a Second Language educational programs will end.

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