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."

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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.

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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."

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.]

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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

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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.

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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."

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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..."

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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.

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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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Sunday, September 13, 2009

Killer Whales Strain to "Talk" Over Ship Noise?

Christine Dell'Amore in Friday Harbor, Washington

National Geographic News
September 10, 2009

Killer whales raise their voices to be heard over boat noise, and the effort may be wearing the whales out as they try to find food amid dwindling numbers of salmon, new research says.

The killer whales of Puget Sound make more calls and clicks while foraging than while traveling, suggesting that such mealtime conservations are key to coordinating hunts, the work reveals.

Several types of vessels, from small whale-watching boats to large cruise ships, also traverse the coastal waters off Washington State and neighboring British Columbia, Canada.

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Saturday, September 12, 2009

Lost World Found in Papua New Guinea Volcano

( -- A BBC expedition exploring inside the crater of an extinct volcano in Papua New Guinea (PNG) has discovered a lost world of dozens of weird new species and rare animals, including new frogs, a giant rat, many new insects and spiders, giant caterpillars, and a new bat species.

Steve Greenwood, producer of "Lost Land of the Volcano" said the expedition to Mount Bosavi for the series follows on from expeditions to remote rainforests in Borneo for "Expedition Borneo" and Guyana for "Lost Land of the Jaguar".

The Mount Bosavi crater is 2.5 miles wide and over 3,300 feet high, and is located in the remote and mountainous southern highlands of . The mountain and its pristine, extinct crater are so inaccessible that even the few people in the Kasua tribe who live in nearby villages rarely enter the area.

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Friday, September 11, 2009

9/11 Scare: 'Shots' Reported Fired by Coast Guard

Coast Guard Admits it Was Having Training Exercise -- Right Near Pentagon Memorial

Washington, D.C., residents mourning the victims of the Sept. 11 attacks this morning heard an eerie echo just an hour later -- reports that a Coast Guard vessel had fired shots at a boat in the Potomac River near the Pentagon.

But after half-an-hour of anxiety, the Coast Guard and local police said the whole thing was a training exercise, and no shots were fired at all.

Before the Coast Guard announcement, departures from Washington's Reagan National Airport were halted from 10:08 a.m. to 10:29 a.m., delaying 17 departures, and FBI agents scrambled to the scene near the river. A law enforcement official, asking not to be identified, told the Associated Press the local FBI office had not been told ahead of time about the exercise.

Network news programs broke into regular morning shows to report the incident, and cable networks went to blanket coverage.

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Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Flash floods slam Istanbul, kill at least 20

By IBRAHIM USTA, Associated Press Writer Ibrahim Usta, Associated Press Writer Wed Sep 9, 2:52 pm ET

ISTANBUL – The heaviest rainfall in at least eight decades sent flash floods barreling across a major highway and into busy business districts in Turkey's largest city on Wednesday, trapping factory workers and truck drivers in their vehicles and drowning at least 20 people.

Waters six feet (2 meters) high in some places flooded hundreds of homes and offices and cut off the TEM highway, which connects central Istanbul to the sprawling city's main airport and goes on to Greece and Bulgaria.

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Monday, September 7, 2009

Australian business confidence near six-year high

SYDNEY (AFP) – Australian business confidence has surged to its highest level in almost six years as expectations rise that an economic recovery is underway, a monthly survey showed Tuesday.

Confidence rose from +10 in July to +18 in August, the highest reading since October 2003, the National Australia Bank (NAB) study found. A positive reading indicates optimists outnumber pessimists among the 405 firms surveyed.

"The further significant improvement in business confidence is quite remarkable," NAB chief economist Alan Oster said.

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Tuzki Bunny Emoticon

Emotional Bunny Says: "Does anyone else feel a sudden desire to go to university in economically golden Australia....?"

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Early Warning Signals Of Change: 'Tipping Points' Identified Where Sudden Shifts To New Conditions Occur

ScienceDaily (Sep. 5, 2009) — What do abrupt changes in ocean circulation and Earth's climate, shifts in wildlife populations and ecosystems, the global finance market and its system-wide crashes, and asthma attacks and epileptic seizures have in common?According to a paper published this week in the journal Nature, all share generic early-warning signals that indicate a critical threshold of change dead ahead.

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Friday, September 4, 2009

What Are They Dumping on Wildfires?

It's practically a rite of the season: as dependably as long sleeves come out of the closet and candy corn appears on store shelves, parts of the west go up in flames this time of year. Thousands of firefighters are battling a major blaze in southern California that has charred more than 130,000 acres, filling TV news reports with footage of hulking airplanes showering a bright red powder onto smoking forests below.

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Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Siberian Wolf Cam

Here's a wolf cam that you can view live at 15:00 GMT, and runs for 5 hours or more. The previous day's coverage can also be viewed the next morning at 8:00 GMT. Wolves in Siberia!

website with cam:
Great Barrier Reef under serious threat

SYDNEY (AFP) – Australia's Great Barrier Reef is in serious jeopardy as global warming and chemical runoff threaten to kill marine species and cause serious outbreaks of disease, a report warned Wednesday.

The World Heritage-listed reef was already showing the impacts of climate change, with two episodes of mass coral bleaching in the past 10 years, the Marine Park Authority's inaugural reef outlook report said.

"While populations of almost all marine species are intact and there are no records of extinctions, some ecologically important species, such as dugongs, marine turtles, seabirds, black teatfish and some sharks, have declined significantly," the authority wrote.

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Freed reporters say they were dragged into NKorea

SAN FRANCISCO – Two American television reporters imprisoned in North Korea for months say communist soldiers "violently dragged" them back when they returned to Chinese soil after briefly crossing into the reclusive country.

In an article posted Tuesday on Current TV's Web site, Laura Ling and Euna Lee said they hesitantly followed their guide when he beckoned them across a frozen river into the North and were "firmly back" on the Chinese side when North Korean border guards grabbed them on March 17.

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