Sunday, August 31, 2014

A New Frontier for Fracking: The Arctic Circle

A Conoco-Phillips shale oil fracking site in the Sahtu region of Canada's Northwest Territories

Hydraulic fracturing is about to move into the Canadian Arctic, with companies exploring the region's rich shale oil deposits. But many indigenous people and conservationists have serious concerns about the impact of fracking in more fragile northern environments.

Among the dozens of rivers that flow unfettered through the Canadian North, the Natla and the Keele may be the most picturesque and culturally important. They are especially significant to the Dene people of the Sahtu region, which straddles the Arctic Circle in the Northwest Territories. Both of the rivers flow crystal clear out of the Mackenzie Mountains along the Yukon/Northwest Territories border before coming together in their final course to the Mackenzie River.

For hundreds — if not thousands — of years, the Mountain Dene people have been traveling upstream to salt licks that draw caribou, moose, and mountain sheep down from the high country in the early fall. For the Dene, it is the best opportunity to stock up on wild game, fish, and berries for the long winter.

Many Dene people living in Sahtu and in other parts of the Canadian North are concerned that this way of life will be at risk now that two energy companies have been given the go-ahead to begin horizontal fracking in a region just south of the Arctic Circle. Conoco-Phillips has already fracked two test wells in the Sahtu, and the company has plans to frack several more in the future.
With several other companies ready with plans of their own, the stakes are high. No one knows yet exactly how much shale oil and gas there is in the Yukon, the Northwest Territories, and the territory of Nunavut. But the government of the Northwest Territories estimates that the Canol Shale underground deposit, which extends from the mountains along the Yukon border several hundred miles east towards Colville and Great Bear lakes, contains 2 to 3 billion barrels of recoverable oil, as much or more than in the highly productive Bakken formation in North Dakota.

Such potential reserves have drawn significant interest and mark the first time that hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, for oil and gas has moved this close to the Arctic Circle in Canada.

Critics fear that fracking could pollute groundwater and trigger gas releases and seismic activity. Scientists say that many sensitive ecosystems of northern Canada —which include tundra, peat bogs, fens, and permafrost zones — may be especially vulnerable to the large-scale disturbances that occur in areas of high fracking activity. Deborah Simmons, executive director of the Sahtu Renewable Resource Board, has expressed concerns about cleaning up oil and chemical spills in the region’s many wetlands.

Some also worry about the so-called “boomtown effect” that comes with rapid development in remote and unpopulated areas — a phenomenon that is swiftly changing parts of North Dakota, Pennsylvania, and other U.S. states affected by so-called “unconventional” drilling for oil and gas.

And residents of the Yukon and Northwest Territories residents fear, as a recent study has suggested, that these remote and sparsely populated territories have neither the governmental expertise nor the infrastructure to evaluate fracking initiatives or deal with the consequences.

Location of Canol Shale

Jim Tredger, a former high school principal who represents the largely aboriginal community of Mayo-Tatchun in the Yukon legislature, describes the future of fracking as a “defining moment in our history.” He and others successfully called for a moratorium on shallow fracking in the Yukon so that a full public review could assess the health and environmental risks. But the Northwest Territories is moving more swiftly to embrace fracking.
Conventional drilling for oil in the Sahtu region is nothing new; Imperial Oil, the Canadian subsidiary of ExxonMobil, has been extracting oil from the Mackenzie River for nearly 70 years.

But energy exploration has accelerated dramatically in recent years, in part because fracking has made it easier for companies to tap into reserves that were previously too difficult to exploit. To date, active licences in the Canol shale region cover 1.35 million hectares of wilderness.

John Hogg, vice-president of exploration and operations at Calgary-based MGM Energy Corp, recently told the Financial Post newspaper in Canada that this shale oil play is as big as any in Canada. In testimony before a Yukon select committee on fracking, Hogg said that shale resources can be exploited in a responsible manner provided environmental regulations are in place. Shale oil and gas, he suggested, may be the key to the Yukon attaining energy self-sufficiency.

An oil pipeline corridor that is already along the Mackenzie River could theoretically send this newfound energy south in the future. The National Energy Board, the chief regulator in Canada, has also approved plans by Trans Canada — the company behind the controversial Keystone XL pipeline in the U.S. — to build a $16 billion natural gas pipeline from the Arctic coast to Alberta. Low natural gas prices and increased U.S. production have put that project on hold.

Husky Energy Inc., MGM Energy, and Shell Canada are also in the Sahtu region, building roads and conducting vertical tests in the oil-rich area. In June 2013, the Sahtu Land and Water Board reversed previous decisions that required a full environmental impact assessment for exploratory wells. One of the latest studies on hydraulic fracturing, published in the journal Science last year suggests that the environmental risks associated with fracking can be managed, but only if understanding of the fate and transport of contaminants is improved and if long-term monitoring and data dissemination is increased ( bullshit).  For both the Northwest Territories and the Yukon this would be difficult to do. Unlike many regions in the south, groundwater aquifers have not been mapped.
Opposition in northern Canada — which comes from aboriginal groups, environmental organizations, and a Parliament of Elders in the Northwest Territories — has recently called for a moratorium on fracking in the Northwest Territories. These actions come on the heels of a Council of Canadian Academies expert panel report that points to unassessed risks  and unknown impacts stemming from this controversial form of drilling.
The Council of Yukon First Nations has also vowed that they will not allow fracking on lands they control. In the face of this opposition, Conoco-Phillips and Husky have taken a pause for a year to address the concerns and questions that have been put forward.
“Fracking has the potential to affect everyone across the North,” says Doug Yallee, a Sahtu trapper, and former councilor for the local government in the Sahtu town of Tulita. “It is a new technique in the Northwest Territories and we do not have enough information about it. We know it is banned in many places around the world because of concerns similar to ours.”

Hydraulic fracturing has proven to be more controversial in Canada than in the United States, which has undergone a fracking boom in recent years. The government of Quebec has already banned fracking because of concerns about groundwater. The government of New Brunswick recently introduced regulations that put limits on the kind of water that fracking operations can use. Hydraulic fracturing involves the injection of sand, water and chemicals at high pressure into shale formations deep underground, shattering the rock and allowing small pockets of natural gas or oil to escape from the shale. Depending on geology and how deep a frack must be, several million gallons of water can be used to frack a single well. In many cases, energy companies inject the wastewater back into aquifers.

Scientists such as the University of Alberta’s Karlis Muehlenbachs, a geochemist, have pointed out that boreholes can and do leak when industry doesn’t follow the best practices or when cement casings fail. A 2011 study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences showed “systematic evidence” of methane contamination of drinking water in aquifers in northeastern Pennsylvania and upstate New York associated with shale-gas extraction. Fears that groundwater and rivers like the Natla and the Keele may be polluted have been reinforced by fracking efforts that recently went wrong in Alberta. It took Canadian Natural Resources $50 million and more than nine months to cap a continuing series of spills that were caused by a form of fracking — steam injection in this case — at one of its wells last year. More than 12,000 barrels of bitumen seeped through to the surface in what has turned out to be the fourth largest spill in Alberta history.
Bob Bromley, who represents a district from Yellowknife in the government of the Northwest Territories, is calling for a transparent public review on fracking like the one currently underway in the Yukon. He and others have pointed out that the government may have violated its own legislation by failing to call for an environmental assessment before approvals were given to Conoco-Phillips and Husky.
“People from all across the Northwest Territories have contacted me expressing their concerns about what’s going on,” he said. “There’s a real fear for groundwater, for the health and safety of people who live in the region, and for how this will contribute to global greenhouse gas emissions.” 
The Yukon government’s all-party committee on fracking has for the last 14 months heard from economists, toxicologists, medical experts, petroleum engineers, First Nations leaders, environmental organizations and industry experts.

The government of the Northwest Territories has made it clear that it intends to stay the course on fracking. “(Fracking) is not without risk,” concedes Michael Miltenberger, the Northwest Territories’ Minister of Finance, Environment, and Natural Resources, who has championed water issues for more than a decade. “That’s absolutely clear. The issue is whether we can manage this … I think we can protect the environment while expanding our economic base. ” (more bullshit)

Mark Jaccard, an environmental economist at Simon Fraser University, says that the local economic benefits of fracking in the Yukon could outweigh the environmental risks. But that can only happen, he says, if the government establishes tough environmental regulations from the start, which has yet to be done.
"Better that industry not get started rather than make a mess," he told the Yukon select committee on fracking. He said what most concerns him is that Canadian energy developments, including Alberta’s tar sands, are proceeding rapidly without consideration for how emissions from these new fuel sources will affect the global climate. ( at least this guy has some concern).
Wake up Canada. Once you let fracking get rolling in the north, there will be no controlling it's growth. The ecology in those territories is fragile, at best, with the effects from global warming. Put a stop to this before petroleum conglomerates from all over the world steamroll right over the indigenous people and the habitats they are trying to protect. The Arctic is the only, relatively undefiled, territory left to us and we are entrusted with the protection of the people and wildlife there.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

The Rainbow Eucalyptus tree

The most colorful tree in the world: The Rainbow Eucalyptus tree (Eucalyptus deglupta).
The Rainbow Eucalyptus (Eucalyptus deglupta) or 'MINDANAO GUM' looks almost like it's been spray painted, but the up to 70-m tall tree is colored this way completely naturally. Its bark can take on a yellow, green, orange and even purple shading.

If you want to spot a Rainbow Eucalyptus tree live and in all its glory, you’ll have to travel to Indonesia, Papua New Guinea or Philippines where the tree grows natively. However, it has been introduced worldwide as an exotic wood in South America, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, China and other countries.

courtesy of :I fucking love science

Teacher Arrested at JFK

I fucking love science's photo.

Friday, August 29, 2014


Hmmmm....I'm already re-thinking that

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Ask Maxy

Dear Maxy ,
I am a single  mother of  four  and  my  15-year-old  is out of  control . He lives with my  mother, has  been arrested  twice  in the past year  and is  currently  on probation for  a year. My  mother  does  not  discipline  him nor  does  she  make  him do  any chores . He is  hanging  out  with the  wrong  crowd   and every time  he  gets into trouble  I am the one to the  rescue . I am  getting tired  because I have  three other  children that  need  my attention . I need  my  mom to help raise  my son  because I really need  help  with him . Please  help .
Confused  and  Worried  Mom
Dear  Confused  and  Worried  Mom ,
You have  gotten yourself  into an unmanageable situation  for which  you are responsible  . After  all, you are the  mom to all these  children  . Since  your  mother  is not providing  enough guidance based  on  your  son's  needs,  you have  to make  a shift . Find  out  if  your  mother  would  feel more comfortable  helping  you take care  of one or two of  your younger children . She obviously cannot handle or discipline your son. Perhaps  the other children are less volatile  and would be  easier  for her  to manage.
I recommend that you talk honestly  with your  mother  about  your  predicament . And then bring  your  son home  so that you can actively  parent  him .  That is what he has needed all along. Use every moment  that  you can  to talk to  him  about his  choices  and encourage  him to make  smarter  ones . Do your  best  to get him into activities  that will keep him off  the streets  and away  from bad  influences . He needs emotional support and a firm guiding hand from his mother. Don't be shy about getting help from a professional who specializes in juvenile counseling. Ask your family doctor to refer you to one.

Dear  Maxy ,
I don't like my friend's boyfriend because we were involved romantically, briefly, several years ago ago and it  did not end well . She  keeps  gushing  about  him  and telling  me intimate details of their  relationship and sex life . I'm happy that she's  happy and I would  love to hear  all about  their  romance  if the  guy  was  anyone  else . Is there  any way  that I can  indicate  that I don't  want to hear  all of the  details  without  coming off  as unsupportive  or  jealous ?
Hard to Cosign
Dear Hard  to Cosign,
First of  all,  you do not have  to listen to  intimate  details of  anyone's sex life, even if the person is  your  best friend . Certain  information should be very private and most people keep it that way. I am going to assume  that your  friend  does  not  know that you once dated  this  guy . You do not  necessarily  have to tell her, especially  since it is long  over . You  most certainly, should  not spoil  her  fun either, by being  a Debbie  Downer . You can  change the  subject when she  goes  into details, making  it impossible  for  her to go on recounting intimacies. If she does not pick up on your hints, you may have to directly tell her  that  you  do  not want  to hear so much detail . It is usually the best way and  if she is a real friend, it won't affect your relationship.

Dear  Maxy,
We are  perplexed  as to  the actions of our  grown children . We are  not  perfect parents, but  consider  ourselves  to have  been pretty  good . Our  kids  grew up in a nice home where their  friends were welcome  and they were  involved  in church  and extracurricular  activities . Now that  they have their  own homes, my  wife  and I continue to help by  babysitting  and  lending  a hand  when needed .  But  as  we find  ourselves  aging  and occasionally  needing  help  from them, no help is forthcoming . Why ? What  makes adult  children  tune out the needs of aging  parents ? We  feel hurt  by their  lack of  caring,
Confused  Mom and  Dad
Dear Mom and Dad,
Have  you asked  your  children  for  specific  help ? Sometimes  parents  expect  the  children  to know  what they  need, but the  kids can be oblivious. They go on assuming  their parents  are as  competent  and capable  as they always  have  been . Also, some  parents  expect  children, who have family obligations of their own,  to do chores  that consume a lot of the weekends, rightly belonging to their own kids.  Often times the parents  are perfectly  able to hire someone to do the  work. Kids can come to resent this attitude of entitlement.
So, please  be direct . Say, ( for example )"we  are  finding  it  difficult  to change the  light  bulbs in our  house  because  we are unsteady on the  step-ladder  . Could  you come by one  day this week  and take  care of it  for us ? We'd truly  appreciate  it."  If you are specific,  kids will generally, gladly comply when asked .

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Brazil dismantles 'biggest destroyer' of Amazon rainforest

Man-made fires clear land for cattle or crops in Sao Felix Do Xingu Municipality, Para, Brazil, 12/08/2008 

The group is accused of logging and burning large areas of public land in the Amazon  

The authorities in Brazil say they have dismantled a criminal organization they believe was the "biggest destroyer" of the Amazon rainforest. The gang is accused of invading, logging and burning large areas of public land and selling these illegally for farming and grazing.
In a statement, Brazilian Federal Police said the group committed crimes worth more than $220m. A federal judge has issued 14 arrest warrants for alleged gang members. Twenty-two search warrants were also issued and four suspects are being called in for questioning.

The police operation covers four Brazilian states, including Sao Paulo. Five men and a woman have already been arrested in Para state in the north of the country, Globo news reported.  The correspondent also reported from Rio de Janeiro that details are still sketchy, partly because the police operation is focused on one of the most remote and inaccessible parts of the Amazon region.
Political and police corruption is still rife in Brazil's interior, the correspondent added. That problem coupled with alleged ineptitude on the part of the federal government means that loggers and illegal miners are able to operate with impunity, he says.

The Amazon rainforest on June 15, 2012, near Altamira, Brazil.
  The Amazon rainforest is home to half of the planet's remaining tropical forests

The police announced the operation in a statement: "The Federal Police carried out today Operation Chestnut Tree designed to dismantle a criminal organization specializing in land grabbing and environmental crimes in the city of Novo Progresso, in the south-western region of Para.

Brazil says Amazon deforestation rose 28% in a year

Last year, the Brazilian government said the rate of deforestation in the Amazon increased by 28% between August 2012 and July 2013, after years of decline. It made a commitment in 2009 to reduce Amazon deforestation by 80% by the year 2020. Brazil is home to the biggest area of Amazon rainforest, a vast region where one in 10 known species on Earth and half of the planet's remaining tropical forests are found, according to the leading conservation organization, WWF.

Brazil Environment minister Izabella Teixeira 
Minister Izabella Teixeira says she will tackle the problem with local authorities

The government is working to reverse this "crime", Environment Minister Izabella Teixeira said.
Activists and environmentalists have blamed the increase in destruction on a controversial reform to Brazil's forest protection law in 2012. The changes reduced protected areas around farms and declared an amnesty for areas destroyed before 2008. The reform also made it easier for the land grabbing and environmental crimes in the city of  Novo Progresso, as it opened up loopholes in the laws.
The 28% rise interrupts a period of declining deforestation which began in 2009. The worst year on record was 2004, when 27,000 sq km of forest was destroyed.

Aerial photograph of a tract of jungle cleared by loggers in the Xingu Indigenous Park on 19 November 2012 
Huge swathes of rainforest in the Brazilian Amazon have been cleared by loggers

Global forest loss
Global map of forest change
  • The Earth lost 2.3 million sq km of tree cover in 2000-12, because of logging, fire, disease or storms
  • But the planet also gained 800,000 sq km of new forest, meaning a net loss of 1.5 million sq km, an area the size of Mongolia.
  • Brazil showed the best improvement of any country, cutting annual forest loss in half between 2003-04 and 2010-11

The reform, a long-standing demand of the country's farmers' lobby, known as the ruralists, was passed after several vetoes by President Dilma Rousseff.
"If you sleep with the ruralist lobby, you wake up with deforestation," Amazon expert Paulo Adario from Greenpeace wrote on Twitter.
Ms Teixeira said the destruction rate was "unacceptable" but denied President Dilma Rousseff's administration were to blame.
"This swing is not related to any federal government fund cuts for law enforcement," she told reporters, adding that around 4,000 criminal actions have been taken against deforesters in the past year.
The majority of Brazil's greenhouse gas emissions, believed to be one of the main causes of global warming, stem from deforestation.

9 Year Old Girl Accidentally Kills Shooting Instructor

 A 9 year old girl accidentally killed her shooting instructor with an Uzi.  Charles Vacca, a father and army veteran, was assisting the little girl at a shooting range just south of Las Vegas on Monday morning. She pulled the trigger of an automatic Uzi and the recoil sent the gun over her head, shooting Vacca. He was airlifted to hospital but died on Monday evening.
The original screen grab shows the split second before the nine-year-old girl shoots Charles Vacca in the head. In the frame, the girl can clearly be seen to have lost her double handed grip on the Uzi as it recoils after firing. Her left hand is prized free as bullets fire (seen hitting behind the target circled in red). The gun is in her right hand and is clearly moving towards Vacca.  Recorded at the Last Stop shooting range in White Hills, Arizona. The shocking recording was taken by the girl's parents and released by police . His last words to the girl are: 'Alright, full auto.'
Why are American children being taught to handle and fire assault weapons ? Please explain.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Ukraine Crisis Hits Three of Russia's Richest Men in the Pocket

Businessman Gennady Timchenko attends a session of the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum 2014 (SPIEF 2014) in St. Petersburg May 24, 2014. REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin (RUSSIA - Tags: BUSINESS HEADSHOT)

Reuters/REUTERS - Businessman Gennady Timchenko attends a session of the St. Petersburg
International Economic Forum 2014 (SPIEF 2014) in St. Petersburg May 24, 2014.

Reuters: While Russian President Vladimir Putin continues his staring contest with the international community over Ukraine, the conflict has laid havoc to the country’s natural-resource driven economy and the Russian tycoons who hang their fortunes on it. All in all, the civil unrest and Western sanctions have cost three of Mother Russia’s captains of industry a combined US$1.8 billion according to Wealth-X, and ultra-high net worth intelligence firm.

At the top of the losers list sits Gennady Timchenko, the billionaire owner of private investment firm Volga Group. The oil magnate lost $1 billion between March and mid-August putting his net worth at US$12.2 billion. Despite his lightened pocket book, Timchenko refuses to push back against Putin telling Russian news network ITAR TASS: “In any situation Putin is guided by the interests of Russia. Period. There can be no compromise about it.”
German Khan, fellow big banker and partner at Alfa Group, Russia’s biggest financial and industrial investment group, has lost half a billion dollars from his personal coffers bringing him to a net worth of $11.3 billion. As of mid-August, Viktor Vekselberg, owner and president of Russian conglomerate Renova Group, has lost $300 million since the Ukraine crisis started but still holds strong as the country’s second richest person.

But while International Monetary Fund expects Ukraine's debt to exceed 62 per cent of its GDP by 2015, the rest of Russia’s 10 richest tycoons have added $3 billion to their personal fortunes since the crisis escalated in March.
America’s richest are also making gains despite the fighting over in Ukraine. According to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, America’s 64 wealthiest have collectively pocketed $56.5 billion since the conflict started.
Even as Putin sits down for talks with Ukranian President Petro Poroshenk amongst Ukraine’s dissolved parliament, the Russian strongman and former KGB Colonel doesn’t seem to be drawing much flack in Russia for his bad behavior. His popularity has hit a near record of 86 per cent , according to Moscow’s Levada Center, Bloomberg reports.
As for sanctions, Putin still shrugs them off like a Russian bear. He is a tough guy and he wants the world to understand that. But this p***ing contest is more  personal than that. He  wants to know how soft President Obama is and how far he can  be pushed. Putin is simply a bully.

Premiers Harp on Harper

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper stands on the bow of the HMCS Kingston on Sunday.
Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper stands on the bow of the HMCS Kingston on Sunday.

Russia and China are pressing their interest in the resource rich Arctic lands that traditionally belong to Canada. There are grumblings that they will try to claim some of that territory. Both  countries have sent surveillance vessels into the area. And recently Chinese state sponsored agencies hacked into our government computer systems.
While Harper is away visiting in Canada's Arctic trying to demonstrate and emphasize our sovereignty over our northern-most lands by his presence, the boys and gals on the provincial back benches of parliament are getting together to hash out issues and grievances.
Another premiers' meeting, another opportunity for provincial leaders to vent about Stephen Harper.
Canada's premiers are meeting in Prince Edward Island this week for their annual summer retreat – dubbed the Council of the Federation – to talk trade, energy and missing and murdered women.

It's a given from the outset that Harper doesn't come to these confabs. In fact, he hasn't called a first ministers' meeting in about five years. He believes that they become a political gong show, giving premiers a platform to bellyache as a means to win votes back home.
Every year that stance becomes a source of consternation for premiers who openly criticize the prime minister for his absence. This year is no different. The first salvo was launched by Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne:
"The fact that the federal government has refused, that Stephen Harper has refused to come and meet with the premiers, I think is a very big problem," Wynne told reporters.
"It's a big problem in terms of international trade. It's a big problem in terms of internal trade. It's a problem in terms of national interest, like a Canadian energy strategy, or like infrastructure investment. It would be better if the federal government were at the table with us."

This time, the Harper government is fighting back with vim and vigour. Finance Minister Joe Oliver claims that Wynne's attack isn't at all sincere.
"The premier is trying to divert attention from her government's own difficulties by picking fights with the federal government," Oliver told Yahoo Canada News through a spokesperson.
"Instead she should focus on dealing with her real challenges ... she should stop saddling future generations with ever more debt and follow our lead by returning to balanced budgets."
"We are always ready to work constructively with her government to achieve our overarching goal of jobs, growth and long-term prosperity for Ontarians and all Canadians."

During the Mulroney and Chretien eras, first ministers' conferences were commonplace as Ottawa sought provincial input on a host of matters including national unity, health care, infrastructure and energy. Harper has opted instead to meet with premiers on a one-on-one basis and having his cabinet minister meet regularly with their counterparts. In July, for example, Minister of Employment and Social Development Jason Kenney met with provincial ministers in Charlottetown.

The opposition parties however, hearken back to the days of Mulroney and Chretien. Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau has said that as prime minister, he would meet regularly with the premiers while NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair would take it a step further.
"Mr. Mulcair has been saying for some time that an NDP government would hold two council of the federation meetings per year – one in Ottawa and one in a province or territory on a rotating basis," George Smith, spokesperson for Mulcair, told Yahoo.
"Mr. Mulcair has said that perhaps it's because he comes from provincial politics but, unlike Harper, he is not afraid to sit down and talk with the provinces."

Monday, August 25, 2014

Michael Brown 'no angel' controversy

A painting of Michael Brown is displayed in front of his coffin during his funeral on 25 August.

 The New York Times is under fire for its profile of Michael Brown, the unarmed black teenager who was shot to death by police in Ferguson, Missouri, on 9 August. The article, which was published on Sunday, the day before Mr Brown's funeral, paints an intimate portrait of his life. It also reveals some of the personal struggles he faced in the days leading up to his death.
"Michael Brown, 18, due to be buried on Monday, was no angel, with public records and interviews with friends and family revealing both problems and promise in his young life," writes John Eligon for the New York Times.
Although the piece by Eligon, who is black, is largely sympathetic to the family and memory of Mr Brown, the words "no angel" have stirred up a media frenzy, with some questioning and castigating the New York Times for using the expression.
"So I suppose that, when an undercover officer came upon me and two friends smoking cigarettes and drinking beer on a park bench that night, he could have shot us dead, and then the Times could have reported that we were no angels," writes Matthew Yglesias for Vox, recounting a story of his own teenage indiscretions.
Some critics consider Mr Brown's illicit activities a normal part of being a teenager, and not an indictment on his character.
"Teenagers, white and black, rich and poor, are often emotionally volatile, dabble with drugs, listen to rap, attempt to rap and commit petty crimes. Does that mean they deserve to be shot?" asks Christopher Massie for the Columbia Journalism Review. If that's the case, the argument goes, the use of the term 'no angel' takes on racial overtones.
"As with most mainstream media, when it comes to victims of colour, they continue to be victimized and criminalized even in their death," writes Yesha Callahan for the Root.
The controversy echoes remarks by New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani following the 2000 police shooting of Patrick Dorismond, who was killed outside of a nightclub after shoving undercover officers. The mayor said the 26-year-old security guard was "no alter boy". It turned out that Dorismond had, in fact, been an alter boy.
A frequent topic of debate is how the use of the term "no angel" plays into cultural stereotypes perpetuated by the media.
"It's as if a black person must be a perfect victim to escape being thuggified, an angel with an unblemished history in order to warrant justice," writes author Toure for the Washington Post.
"The burden of the perfect victim suggests that only impeccable resumes may qualify for protection under the law and the support of the community."

When asked about the "no angel" debacle, New York Times editor Alison Mitchell told the Washington Post: "I think, actually, we have a nuanced story about the young man and if it had been a white young man in the same exact situation....if that's where our reporting took us....we would have written it in the same way."
But after the hashtag #noangel had garnered nearly 3,000 mentions in less than a day, New York Times public editor Margaret Sullivan weighed in.
"In my view, the timing of the article (on the day of Mr Brown's funeral) was not ideal," she wrote on Monday afternoon. "And 'no angel' was a blunder." Sullivan added that reporting, even in the aftermath of someone's death, should not hide details of someone's life.
[Eligon] said he thought it was important to address parts of Mr Brown's background that are less positive, especially because doing so allowed those close to him to comment," Sullivan writes. "I came away from the profile with a deeper sense of who Michael Brown was, and an even greater sense of sorrow at the circumstances of his death."

Check Out Why We Get Sinkholes

What causes sinkholes to suddenly form, collapse and destroy human lives and property?
Acids in underground water slowly dissolve the limestone bedrock underneath the surface of the ground, leaving a network of underground holes.

Above the pockmarked limestone are varying layers of sand, clay and soil. These layers are usually strong enough to support the structures and roads we build. If the holes are too close to the surface, or grow in size, the surface layers can suddenly collapse.

Even heavy rain can impact the top layers making them too heavy. When underground water sources are tapped due to drought or excessive use, the holes dry up and can often no longer support the weight of the layers above.

Florida is made up of what geologists call a landscape of karst topography, which means the surface landscape has been shaped by the soluable bedrock underneath, usually limestone, but can also be gypsum or dolomite. The incidents of sinkholes collapsing in Florida are quite common. Recently, a man's bedroom in Florida was sucked down into a sinkhole, taking his life and destroying the house.

Some types of sinkholes happen suddenly and without warning, but experts say there are some tell tales signs that a sink hole might be ready to collapse. Some indicators of sinkhole activity include cracks in the pavement or building foundation, doors or windows not closing properly, or a circular pattern of cracks in the ground surface.  The concern is that they seem to be happening with greater frequency. What is that telling us about the surface of the earth?

Whole thymus 'grown' in world medical first


A thymus is necessary for a healthy immune system

A whole functional organ has been grown from scratch inside an animal for the first time, say researchers in Scotland. A group of cells developed into a thymus - a critical part of the immune system - when transplanted into mice.

The findings, published in Nature Cell Biology, could pave the way to alternatives to organ transplantation. The thymus is found near the heart and produces a component of the immune system, called T-cells, which fight infection.
Grow your own
Scientists at the Medical Research Council centre for regenerative medicine at the University of Edinburgh started with cells from a mouse embryo.These cells were genetically "reprogrammed" and started to transform into a type of cell found in the thymus.These were mixed with other support-role cells and placed inside mice. Once inside, the bunch of cells developed into a functional thymus.
It is similar to a feat last year, when lab-grown human brains reached the same level of development as a nine-week-old foetus. The thymus is a much simpler organ and in these experiments became fully functional. Structurally it contained the two main regions - the cortex and medulla - and it also produced T-cells.

The thymus produces T-cells, a part of the immune system

Prof Clare Blackburn, part of the research team, said it was "tremendously exciting" when the team realized what they had achieved.
"This was a complete surprise to us, that we were really being able to generate a fully functional and fully organized organ starting with reprogrammed cells in really a very straightforward way".
"This is a very exciting advance and it's also very tantalizing in terms of the wider field of regenerative medicine."
Patients who need a bone marrow transplant and children who are born without a functioning thymus could all benefit. Ways of boosting the thymus could also help elderly people. The organ shrinks with age and leads to a weaker immune system.
However, there are a number of obstacles to overcome before this research moves from animal studies to hospital therapies. The current technique uses embryos. This means the developing thymus would not be a tissue match for the patient. Researchers also need to be sure that the transplant cells do not pose a cancer risk by growing uncontrollably.

Scientists at the Institute of Molecular Biotechnology of the Austrian Academy of Sciences were able to grow mini human brains termed cerebral organoids

Prof Robin Lovell-Badge, from the National Institute for Medical Research, said: "This appears to be an excellent study".

"This is an important achievement both for demonstrating how to make an organ, albeit a relatively simple one, and because of the critical role of the thymus in developing a proper functioning immune system."
The field of regenerative medicine has developed rapidly. There are already patients with lab-grown blood vessels, windpipes and bladders. These have been made by "seeding" a patient's cells into a scaffold which is then implanted. The thymus just required an injection of cells.
Dr Paolo de Coppi, who pioneers regenerative therapies at Great Ormond Street Hospital, said: "Research such as this demonstrates that organ engineering could, in the future, be a substitute for transplantation."

"Engineering of relatively simple organs has already been adopted for a small number of patients and it is possible that within the next five years more complex organs will be engineered for patients using specialized cells derived from stem cells in a similar way as outlined in this paper."

"It remains to be seen whether, in the long term, cells generated using direct reprogramming will be able to maintain their specialized form and avoid problems such as tumor formation."

Theo Curtis...American Journalist Realeased From Captivity in Syria

Theo Curtis is seen in an undated video

REUTERS: American journalist Theo Curtis has been released after being held captive by al-Nusra militants in Syria since 2012, the US announced. US Secretary of State John Kerry said he was "relieved and grateful that Theo is coming home".
He added that the US had worked with more than two dozen countries to help secure his release.
Last week, another kidnapped US journalist, James Foley was killed by the Islamic State (IS) group in Syria.
IS published a video of the moments before and after the beheading of Mr Foley, 40, who was seized in 2012. UK secret services are reportedly close to identifying a suspected British jihadist from the footage of the killing.
On Sunday, Mr Kerry welcomed the news of Mr Curtis' release "particularly after a week marked by unspeakable tragedy".

"Over these last two years, the United States reached out to more than two dozen countries asking for urgent help from anyone who might have tools, influence, or leverage to help secure Theo's release and the release of any Americans held hostage in Syria," he said.
Mr Curtis, from the state of Massachusetts, was reportedly abducted in Turkey on his way to Syria.
The United Nations confirmed that it had facilitated his release. It said the journalist was handed over to UN peacekeepers in the Golan Heights. After an initial health check, he was then transferred to US government representatives.

James Foley 
US journalist, James Foley
In a statement, Mr Curtis' mother thanked the governments of America and Qatar for their help in securing her son's freedom.
"We are so relieved that Theo is healthy and safe and that he is finally headed home after his ordeal, but we are also deeply saddened by the terrible, unjustified killing last week of his fellow journalist, Jim Foley, at the hands of the Islamic State," Nancy Curtis said.
"My entire focus right now is on helping the other families of those still being held in Syria, and on taking care of my son."
The church was "completely packed" for the James Foley memorial. The news of Mr Curtis' release came as a memorial service was being held for Mr Foley in his hometown of Rochester in New Hampshire. The Mass was attended by his parents, John and Diane Foley, and hundreds of others.
The bishop read out a letter from the Vatican extending the condolences of Pope Francis. Mr Foley was abducted in November 2012. He had reported across the Middle East, working for US publication GlobalPost and other media outlets.

The Irish Redhead Convention takes place in County Cork

People with red hair have gathered in southern Ireland for the Irish Redhead Convention. Held over three days the celebrations include crowning the ginger King and Queen, competitions for the best red eyebrows and most freckles per square inch.
Red hair is the rarest of hair colours, and accounts for only 2% of the world's population. The highest percentage of natural redheads in the world live in Scotland, with 13%. Ireland comes in second at 10%.
The festival was the brainchild of redhead brother and sister Joleen and Denis Cronin.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Earthquake Strikes Napa Valley

An earthquake with a magnitude of 6.0 has shaken northern California, causing injuries and extensive damage to buildings. The USGS said it struck at 03:20 local time, four miles (6km) north-west of the town of American Canyon, at a depth of 6.7 miles. At least 87 people have been taken to hospital in the Napa area, with three of them seriously injured.

California Governor Jerry Brown has declared a state of emergency in order to deal with the effects of the quake. Officials in Napa said in a statement that the quake had destroyed four mobile homes and made 16 buildings "uninhabitable", as well as causing "approximately 50" gas main breaks and around 30 leaks from water mains.
Three historic buildings in the town had been hit and two commercial buildings "severely damaged", the statement went on. More than 10,000 households were without power in Napa, about six miles from the earthquake's epicentre, and the surrounding area, the Pacific Gas and Electric Company said.
A Red Cross evacuation centre has been set up in a church in the city. The California Highway Patrol in the San Francisco Bay area tweeted that it was "checking over crossings and bridges for obvious signs of structural integrity", and asked residents to report any signs of problems.

A Napa Valley resident surveys her home, destroyed by fire after the earthquake
Several fires were sparked after the earthquake causing gas mains to break

Nicholas George looks under a buckled highway just outside Napa, California
Several streets had to be closed after buckling under the impact of the quake

People walk past a fallen mannequin and broken storefront window in Napa
Several stores and supermarkets suffered damage in Napa

The site of the earthquake was 51 miles from Sacramento and about 30 miles north-east of San Francisco, where many Twitter users say the earthquake woke them up.
Sarah McLellan tweeted: "On 6th floor entire building swaying, shaking", while Matt Dyar said:
"Major shaker. Stuff off shelves. Broken glass. No house damage that is obvious."
Another Twitter user said: "I haven't felt one that big since the Northridge quake in the early 90s."
Numerous small aftershocks were also reported on Sunday.
California lies on the San Andreas Fault, which forms the tectonic boundary between the Pacific Plate and the North American Plate, two of the large moving plates that form the Earth's crust.
The San Francisco earthquake of 1906 and subsequent fires devastated the city. In 1989, a powerful earthquake struck San Francisco, killing more than 60 people and injuring hundreds.
It wasn't the 'big one', which refers to the massive earthquake that scientists feel will occur one day at the San Andreas Fault Line, but it was bad enough and has left people without power and water and a huge clean-up. And there are some experts who feel there may yet be more tremors before this crisis passes.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Iceland Volcano Now at Red Alert

REYKJAVIK, Iceland (AP) — Iceland's Bardarbunga volcano burst forth with a small eruption Saturday beneath the ice of Europe's largest glacier, scientists said, prompting the country to close airspace over the area. Thousands of small earthquakes have rattled the volcano, located deep beneath the Vatnajokull glacier, in the last week. Icelandic Meteorological Office vulcanologist Melissa Pfeffer said Saturday that seismic data indicated that an eruption had begun, with magma from the volcano melting ice within the glacier's Dyngjujokull icecap,
The remote area, 200 miles (320 kilometers) east of the capital of Reykjavik, is uninhabited. The Civil Protection Department said scientists flew over the ice cap Saturday afternoon but saw no visible signs of the eruption on the surface of the ice.
Still, authorities have raised the country's aviation alert to red — the highest level on a five-point scale — indicating the threat of "significant emission of ash into the atmosphere." Icelandic authorities declared a no-fly zone of 100 nautical miles by 140 nautical miles around the eruption as a precaution, but did not shut down air space over most of the island nation in the North Atlantic
A 2010 eruption of Iceland's Eyjafjallajokul volcano produced an ash cloud that caused a week of international aviation chaos, with more than 100,000 flights cancelled.
Pfeffer said it was not clear when, or if, the eruption would melt through the ice — which is between 100 to 400 meters (330 to 1,300 feet) thick — and fling steam and ash into the air. She said it could take up to a day for the ice to melt — or the eruption, possibly, might remain contained beneath Europe's largest glacier.
Scientists were monitoring a hydrological station downstream from the volcano, built for flooding, a common result of volcanic eruptions in Iceland. Pfeffer said the amount of ash produced by the new eruption would depend on the thickness of the ice.
"The thicker the ice, the more water there is, the more explosive it will be and the more ash-rich the eruption will be," she said.
Iceland sits on a volcanic hot spot in the Atlantic's mid-oceanic ridge and eruptions occur frequently, triggered when the Earth's plates move and when magma from deep underground pushes its way to the surface.
Well-practiced emergency procedures mean eruptions in Iceland usually do not cause deaths. Authorities evacuated several hundred people, mostly hikers, earlier this week from the highlands north of the Vatnajokull glacier as a precaution.
But the impact of the tiny island's volcanoes has been felt around the world.
Millions of people were stranded in April 2010, when aviation officials closed Europe's air space for five days out of fear that ash from Eyjafjallajokul could harm jet engines. A 2011 eruption of Iceland's Grimsvotn volcano was far more powerful than Eyjafjallajokul but cause much less disruption to aviation.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Teen "Fire Challenges" Spark Emergency Warning From NJ Officials

NBC10's Ted Greenberg explains the dangerous challenge spreading across the country that leads to hospitalization for some teens.
Officials with the New Jersey Division of Fire Safety have issued a statewide emergency bulletin about a dangerous "fire challenge" teens are taking. They are dousing their bare skin in flammable liquids, like alcohol, and lighting it on fire. The teens are recording the acts and posting the videos on YouTube and Facebook. But the stunt has already resulted in serious injuries across the nation.
Derrick Robinson, an 11-year-old from the Miami-area, had to be hospitalized in a regional burn center after trying the challenge. He suffered burns to his torso, chest and shoulder and has to undergo weekly hospital visits as he heals.
“Do not do the burn challenge!” Robinson told our sister station NBC6 South Florida.
In Arkansas, a 14-year-old girl suffered second degree burns to 27 percent of her body after pouring nail polish remover on her skin and igniting it.
"I saw a lot of people do it, and I never saw anyone die from it," the girl, Monica Hamilton, told the NBC affiliate in Little Rock, Arkansas, as she discussed her motivation.
A mother in Charlotte, North Carolina, was arrested after police said she helped her 16-year-old son undertake the dangerous act.
While there haven't been any reported injuries to New Jersey teens, officials want everyone to be aware of how dangerous lighting yourself on fire is.
"I have seen some people who have died from burns. It's just devastating," said Frank Primavera, an official with the Hamilton Township, New Jersey, Fire Department. Officials say that teens taking the challenge risk burns not only to their skin but also to their respiratory system, since they are inhaling the ignited vapors.
Primavera is hoping parents will talk with their kids to help put an end to the risky challenge.
"The adults need to speak with their teenagers and find out why they would even want to do something like this and explain to them how devastating burns can be. They're forever," he said.

Russian convoy to Ukraine prompts Western anger

Russia's decision to send more than 100 aid trucks into war-torn eastern Ukraine without permission has been widely condemned in the West. The EU and the US called for them to be withdrawn, saying their presence violated Ukraine's sovereignty. Nato said the move would fuel the crisis. But Russia said further delays were unacceptable - and also denied that its troops and artillery were in Ukraine.
The first trucks have now reached the besieged rebel-held city of Luhansk. Russia's huge aid convoy for east Ukraine was always thought to be destined primarily for Luhansk, a city under siege from government forces. What all the trucks contain is a matter of conjecture ( the ones that were examined and cleared contain humanitarian  supplies) but all aimed at supporting separatist, pro-Russian forces.
The UN has held an emergency meeting to discuss the convoy's entry, which Ukraine has described as an "invasion". Meanwhile, Lithuania - a fierce critic of Russia's actions in Ukraine - has said its honorary consul in Luhansk has been murdered "by terrorists", a term routinely used by Ukraine for pro-Russian separatists.

A local resident holds a Russian national flag as lorries, part of a Russian humanitarian convoy, cross the Ukrainian border on 22 August 2014 
Russia said it had run out of patience as some of the trucks had perishable goods for distribution

A pro-Russian gunman holds a piece of shrapnel from a rocket after shelling in Donetsk on 22 August 2014
Russia denies accusations that it arms and trains the rebels in Luhansk and Donetsk

In a strong statement, Nato chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen said Friday's developments were "even more worrying as they coincide with a major escalation in Russian military involvement in eastern Ukraine since mid-August, including the use of Russian forces".
Nato's condemnation of the entry of Russia's aid convoy marks a significant hardening of its tone. The statement speaks of "a major escalation in Russian military involvement in eastern Ukraine since mid-August, including the use of Russian forces".
Indeed Nato goes further, insisting that Russian artillery is being used against Ukrainian forces, with the fire coming both from across the border in Russia, and from within Ukraine itself. Western military sources speak of "substantial" Russian military deployments inside Ukraine with battalion-size elements on the ground.
All this, taken with what Nato describes as the transfer of "large quantities of advanced weapons" to separatist groups in eastern Ukraine, suggests a concerted effort by Moscow to prop up the defences of Luhansk and Donetsk. Russia has consistently denied such charges but Russian armour has been seen crossing into Ukraine and marshalled near the border.

In other reactions to the convoy:

  • The White House warned Russia would face more economic sanctions if it failed to withdraw
  • The UK's UN ambassador, Sir Mark Lyall Grant, said it was a provocative act that had "nothing to do with humanitarianism"
  • German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who is travelling to Kiev on Saturday for talks, said she was "deeply concerned" by the developments
  • The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said it was not part of it "in any way.
But speaking after the UN Security Council meeting, Russia's UN ambassador Vitaly Churkin accused Western powers of distorting reality.

"Sometimes it reminded me of the kingdom of crooked mirrors because some members of the Council were not concerned about the fact hundreds of civilians are dying."

BBC map 
Earlier he said that Russia had lost patience with Ukraine's chain of command and had had to act to save perishable goods and he hoped the ICRC would help now distribute the aid.

Mr Churkin rebuffed Nato's accusations of military support for the Ukrainian separatist forces, saying the body had no proof - adding there were no Russian troops or artillery on Ukrainian soil.

He also accused Lithuania's UN delegation of "torpedoing all productive, constructive initiatives we've had in the Security Council", in particular Russia's proposal calling for a ceasefire.

Russia's aid convoy inside Ukraine, 22 August
Russia's aid convoy heads through Ukraine towards Luhansk

A Ukrainian military helicopter over Kramatorsk, Donetsk region, 22 August
The Ukrainian army continued operations in neighbouring Donetsk region on Friday

People take water from a well in the town of Avdiivka, Donetsk region - 22 August 2014
People in Avdiivka town are having to collect water from a well because supplies have been cut during the fighting

His Ukrainian counterpart, Oleksandr Pavlichenko, said border guards had begun inspecting of some of the trucks on Thursday afternoon, but the Russians had decided to go ahead without waiting for them all to be cleared. Foreign journalists were allowed to look into many of the Russian trucks earlier this week, and found they contained humanitarian supplies such as baby food and cereals.
Reporters at the scene saw rebel fighters in front of the convoy as it crossed the border near the town of Kamensk-Shakhtinsky. Four months of fighting in eastern Ukraine have left more than 2,000 people dead and caused more than 330,000 people to flee their homes.

hitchBOT (the hitchhiking robot) Arrives at his Destination

Drivers in Canada have had loads of fun helping an unusual hitchhiker travel from east coast to west this summer. But this was no ordinary traveller thumbing for a lift - it was a two-foot tall talking robot.
As the intelligent robot, created in Ontario by communications researchers from four Canadian universities, says: "Robots cannot get driver's licences yet", which is why it has had to rely on the generosity of others for its epic adventure.
 One of the robot's inventors, Dr David Smith, said the aim of the project was to see how comfortable humans are when they are travelling with robots.
During its journey hitchBOT has posted photos and videos of the places it has been and the people its met, as well as using Twitter to tell followers how it is getting on.

HitchBOT travelled with a car seat already installed, so that it could be easily strapped in when it was picked up for a lift.
It also had a GPS system so that people could track its movements, although it was left up to drivers to decide where to take hitchBOT and where to drop it off.
But most amazingly hitchBOT came with speech recognition software and was able to answer simple questions and have a conversation while it was on its journey.
When hitchBOT starts to get tired, it can ask the driver to plug it in to a car cigarette lighter or another power outlet.
During the journey the robot has driven with families, Canadian rock band The Wild and Belgian tourists, and also took a ride on a boat.
Matthew Berry, from Alberta, even took hitchBOT to his friend's wedding, where it enjoyed a dance with the bride.
With co-operation from Canadians coast to coast, hitchBOT successfully traversed the country from the Atlantic to the Pacific. hitchBOT is due to arrive at its destination of Victoria, British Columbia, later today. Thanks for all the fun hitchBOT.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Ask Maxy

Dear Maxy ,
I have  fibromyalgia  and other  medical  problems  and needs  counseling for  depression . I an on disability , so my income  is  limited  and I am unable  to drive . I was wondering  whether  you could  help me .
Dear H .,
Please  try one of these organizations  : the National Fibromyalgia Association  ( ); The  American Chronic Pain Association ( ); United  way , YMCA  and  YWCA; the Samaritan Institute  ( );  and  Recovery International  at ( ) . You can also find  low-cost or  free counseling  through  your local  hosiptals  and  university psychology  and graduate-school  counseling  departments .

Dear Maxy ,
I have  a former  intern  who reached  out to  me  recently  to ask  if I would  give her  a recommendation  for  a job . The  job she wants  to get is  one that I  doubt  she  can do . She was  not  attentive  while  she worked  with me, she was  a strong  writer  and she  was  a poor  communicator . The  job  she applied  for is  in the  communications  field . I do not  want ot badmouth this  young  lady but  at the same time, I do not want to lie . If I misrepresent her, she will likely  fail on the  job  and my  credibility  will come  into  question . How should I handle  this ?
Wanting to  help
Dear Wanting  to Help ,
Contact  your intern  directly  and request  a meeting  ...  face to face  if possible . Be honest with her : Tell her that during  her tenure  with you, she did not  demonstrate  skills  that would  suggest  that she would be  proficient  at the  job in question . Ask her  what she has done  since then to strengthen  her abilities . Ask her  if she has  worked  for  anyone  who can  vouch  for her in that capacity . That person  should be  her reference .
Tell her  you care  about her  and her  well-being  . To that end, you cannot in good  conscience, recommend her  for something  for which  you believe  she is unprepared  . If  you can , suggest  a line of  work  for which  she  may be  better  suited .

Dear  Maxy,
My neighbor's  tree hangs  15  feet over  my property line  and shades  my crabapple  tree . When I asked "Ralph"  to trim his  tree  so that mine could get  some sunlight he  went  ballistic  and refused .
Whenever  Ralph  and his wife  go on vacation , I water their  dozens of  plants  and take in their mail . I no longer  want to do either of these  things, because they obviously  don't  appreciate  it . I  once  asked   them to watch my dog  when I needed to  go to the emergency  room  and they wouldn't  do it .
Ralph  got into a fistfight  with the  neighbor  on the other  side  when the  man wanted  to install a  fence  on his property  . He  once  physically  pushed  the  cable installers   when they tried  to lay down  cable . All I want  is for  Ralph  to trim  his  tree  so mine  can survive  . Do you think I should water  his plants  and take in his  mail  ?
Unhappy Neighbor
Dear Unhappy Neighbor ,
Ralph sounds  like  a loose cannon . It's  your decision  whether  or  not  to take  care of his mail  and plants . You are  not obligated   and he  certainly  does not  reciprocate  .
But  about the tree : In most cases  it is  legal for  you  to trim  the branches  that hang over  your  property  line , provided  you do not  harm the tree .
However, I recommend  you confront Ralph  directly  with this because  he is  so volatile  . Do you have a neighborhood  association  that can help  mediate  the issue ?  Would his wife intercede ? As a last resort  you can take  Ralph to  court .

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Iceland's Bardarbunga is About to Explode

19 hours ago

When  Iceland's Eyjafjallajokul erupted in 2010, it caused travel chaos, grounding flights due to a plume of ash it sent flying thousands of kilometres away causing havoc in Europe. Flights were cancelled as far away as Newfoundland.
Another mammoth Icelandic volcano, Bardarbunga, is ready to erupt. This one could dwarf the Eyjafjallajokull glacier volcano. That's the word that's streaming out of the northern island nation as geophysicists around the globe hold their breaths to see what will happen next.
The Eyjafjallajokull eruption galvanized Europe and stunned the world with its unrelenting ferocity. It caused billions of dollars in loss, paralyzed European air travel and caused food and other commodities to spike upwards. Worried experts warn that this eruption could be much, much worse.

University of Iceland geophysicists have warned of a significant rise in seismic activity in the area of Vatnaj√∂kull, the largest of Iceland's glaciers. A swarm of earthquakes has erupted signaling the likely eruption of Bardarbunga, Iceland's second biggest volcano and one that sits directly above a major lava conduit. Bardarbunga, a stratovolcano towering 6,600 feet, is part of the island nation's largest volcanic system. The huge volcano's crater covers 43 square miles and is completely encased under glacial ice.                   
Bardarbunga's last major eruption was horrendous. It changed the weather pattern in northern Europe and darkened the skies for months during 1477. That gigantic eruption generated the largest lava flow in 10,000 years and significantly expanded Iceland's land mass.

Grim experts concede that if the volcano's current activity culminates in an eruption equal to that of 1477, all of Scandinavia and much of northern Russia and Europe will be left reeling. The UK will be slammed by choking volcanic dust, grit and poisonous superheated gases. Commerce will grind to a halt, the skies will blacken for weeks, perhaps months, and agriculture would be severely affected.

Amnesty International Deploys to Ferguson....A First in America

Police detain a demonstrator during a protest against the shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson Missouri August 18, 2014. (Photo: Reuters)

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"Our delegation traveled to Missouri to let the authorities in Ferguson know that the world is watching," said Amnesty International's executive director.
Amnesty International sent a team of human rights observers to Ferguson, Missouri last week, the first time ever the organization has taken such an action within the United States. The human rights organization made the unprecendented decision on Aug. 14 after expressing concern over the fatal shooting of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown and the way the police were handling protests.
"Law enforcement, from the FBI to state and local police, are obligated to respect and uphold the human rights of our communities. The United States cannot continue to allow those obligated and duty-bound to protect to become those who their community fears most," said Amnesty International USA's Executive Director Steven W. Hawkins.
After the Aug 9 shooting of 18-year-old Brown by a white police officer, the St. Louis suburb has been embroiled by an ongoing standoff between local residents protesting in the streets and police. Missouri Governor Jay Nixon declared a state of emergency Saturday and ordered a 5-hour curfew between the hours of midnight and 5 a.m. Amnesty's Hawkins criticized the move, suggesting that if similar actions were taken in other countries that it would prompt strong rebukes from Washington.​
“We criticize dictators for quelling dissent and silencing protestors with tactics like curfews, we’ll certainly speak out when it’s happening in our own backyard,” said Hawkins. “The people of Ferguson have the right to protest peacefully the lack of accountability for Michael Brown’s shooting.”
The 12-person human rights delegation is monitoring and documenting events in Ferguson and recording testimonies from local activists, residents and officials.
Jasmine Heiss, a senior campaigner with Amnesty and member of the delegation said on Sunday that police were obstructing the team's ability to monitor the situation on Saturday night. 
Amnesty International USA in a statement released on Sunday called for: a thorough investigation into the shooting and prosecution if warranted; investigations into policing of protests and accountability for any illegal activity; and a review of use of force policies. 

James Foley's Parents Speak Out

BAGHDAD/BEIRUT (Reuters) - Islamic State's beheading of a U.S. journalist and its threat to "destroy the American cross" suggests it has gained enough confidence seizing large areas of Iraq and Syria to take aim at American targets despite the risks.
On Tuesday night, Islamic State released a video of its fighters beheading James Foley, who was kidnapped in Syria nearly two years ago. The black-clad executioner, who spoke English with a British accent, also produced another American journalist and said his fate depends on President  Obama's next move.
Islamic State had previously seemed focused on proclaiming a caliphate in the parts of Iraq and Syria it controls, marching on Baghdad and redrawing the map of the Middle East. But in several telephone conversations with a Reuters reporter over the past few months, Islamic State fighters had indicated that their leader, Iraqi Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, had several surprises in store for the West. They hinted that attacks on American interests or even U.S. soil were possible through sleeper cells in Europe and the United States.“The West are idiots and fools. They think we are waiting for them to give us visas to go and attack them or that we will attack with our beards or even Islamic outfits," said one.
"They think they can distinguish us these days – they are fools, and, more than that, they don’t know we can play their game in intelligence. They infiltrated us with those who pretend to be Muslims and we have also penetrated them with those who look like them."
Another Islamic State militant said the group had practical reasons for taking on the United States.
“The stronger the war against the States gets, the better this will help hesitant brothers to join us.
America will send its rockets, and we will send our bombs. Our land will not be attacked while their land is safe.”
Unlike al Qaeda, Islamic State did not at first seem bent on spectacular attacks on the West: it used fear to tighten its grip on the towns it seized in northern Iraq after facing little resistance from the U.S.-trained Iraqi army and Kurdish peshmerga fighters who held parts of the area.
But a series of videos it released recently, culminating with the one that showed Foley's death, resembled footage that al-Qaeda produced while killing U.S. soldiers, beheading Americans and slaughtering Shi'ites during the U.S. occupation.

ISIL Beheads American Photojournalist