Oct 1, 2014
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"If half the animals died in London zoo next week it would be front page news," said Professor Ken Norris, ZSL's director of science. "But that is happening in the great outdoors. This damage is not inevitable but a consequence of the way we choose to live." He said nature, which provides food and clean water and air, was essential for human wellbeing.
"We have lost one half of the animal population and knowing this is driven by human consumption, this is clearly a call to arms and we must act now," said Mike Barratt, director of science and policy at WWF. He said more of the Earth must be protected from development and deforestation, while food and energy had to be produced sustainably.
The outdated Clean Water Act fails to regulate all chemicals, Timothy Cama reports for The Hill. The report "said the agency uses the Clean Water Act to regulate only 126 toxic chemicals that could flow to sewage plants, leaving about 300 chemicals that are considered hazardous under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act."
"Auditors also found that the EPA may not be consistently enforcing the requirement that industrial polluters file reports on the chemicals they discharge to sewage plants," Cama writes. "The OIG found regional variations in the chemicals that industries had to report to the EPA or states and that programs to monitor chemical treatments and permitting sometimes do not coordinate."
"Auditors suggested that the EPA reevaluate which chemicals it regulates in sewage systems," Cama writes. "They also recommended that the agency improve communications internally and externally and boost its compliance monitoring, among other changes." (Read more)
At EPA audit says agency not taking enough action to protect water sources from hazardous materials
Sep 30, 2014
The U.S. Army in Asia, 2030-2040
Source: RAND Corporation
For the next 20 or more years, the U.S. relationship with China will be the fulcrum on which the East Asian security order balances. As a result, U.S. policy should seek to prevent the emergence of an overtly hostile U.S.-China relationship while hedging against the possibility that one could nonetheless emerge. Such a strategy must balance between protecting U.S. interests in East Asia, where clashes with China's preferences are most likely, and cooperating with Beijing globally where the two sides have common objectives. Crafting and sustaining such a strategy will be a major challenge. It must have clear and realistic goals flowing from larger U.S. interests and strategy in the region, take into account the need for U.S.-China cooperation on a host of global security and economic matters, be flexible and responsive to Chinese moves, seek to channel Chinese conduct in favorable directions, and reflect the new realities of Asia resulting from China's increased military and economic power. The U.S. Army will have an important role to play in supporting U.S. strategy in the Asia-Pacific, primarily by providing training and support to allies and partners; helping to defend key facilities from enemy ground, air, and missile attack; providing key enabling support to the joint force; projecting expeditionary combat forces into the theater; contributing to new conventional deterrent options; and helping to encourage China's participation in cooperative military-to-military engagements.
Although harvest of many crops isn't complete, production is sure to fall.
Rice: Growers planted 140,000 fewer acres than last year, a drop of 25 percent.
Almonds: Crop estimated at 1.9 billion pounds, down from 2 billion last year.
Corn: Production down by an estimated 45 percent.
Cotton: Acres planted shrank by 23 percent.
Oranges: Crop expected to decline 4 percent.
Grapes: Production expected to fall as much as 9 percent.
Wheat: Expected to fall 40 percent.
Sep 29, 2014
Officials at the Victor Valley Wastewater Reclamation Authority expect the system to operate independent of the power grid by 2015, diverting more than 1,400 tons of waste from the trash heap.
"Why would we not want to recover the inherent energy in our waste to power this facility so that we're out of that Edison cycle of 'Well, here's your rate increase, here's your rate increase' every year?" Logan Olds, general manager of the high desert city, told the Daily Press. "It's a demonstration project and has not been done anywhere else. There are currently no other installations of this technology in the U.S."
Called the Omnivore Biogas Renewable Energy Project, the system uses co-digestion technology provided by Ontario, Canada–based energy group Anaergia, which was able to retrofit three older digesters already on the plant.
The new system mixes high solids (such as solid food) with sludge (sewage) and uses anaerobic digestion technology to convert the waste into biogas. That biogas, which used to be burned and released into the atmosphere, is harnessed and turned into low-carbon fuel.
Integrated Molten Salt Reactor should demonstrate the lowest lifetime cost of energy any known technology
Low cost and accessible energy supply is linked to living standards and quality of life. Higher standards of living make appliances and devices more affordable; emerging nations are craving all the gadgets and conveniences of the developed world. Per capita electricity consumption in the most developed nations, the countries of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the OECD, is 4½ times greater than in the rest of the world. In Canada, our per capita electricity consumption is over double the OECD average and 9½ times the non-OECD world. There are over 5.7 billion people who want to close that gap.
Read more » at Next Big Future
Tim Berners-Lee, a computer scientist who invented the web 25 years ago, called for a bill of rights that would guarantee the independence of the internet and ensure users' privacy.
"If a company can control your access to the internet, if they can control which websites they go to, then they have tremendous control over your life," Berners-Lee said at the London "Web We Want" festival on the future of the internet.
"If a Government can block you going to, for example, the opposition's political pages, then they can give you a blinkered view of reality to keep themselves in power."
"Suddenly the power to abuse the open internet has become so tempting both for government and big companies."
He called for an internet version of the "Magna Carta", the 13th century English charter credited with guaranteeing basic rights and freedoms.
... "There have been lots of times that it has been abused, so now the Magna Carta is about saying...I want a web where I'm not spied on, where there's no censorship," Berners-Lee said.
The scientist added that in order to be a "neutral medium", the internet had to reflect all of humanity, including "some ghastly stuff".
"Now some things are of course just illegal, child pornography, fraud, telling someone how to rob a bank, that's illegal before the web and it's illegal after the web," Berners-Lee added.
Sep 28, 2014
Sep 27, 2014
Income inequality remained historically high. The share of the nation's income going to the bottom fifth of households remained at 3.2 percent, tied for the lowest level on record with data back to 1967. The ratio of the median income of the top fifth of households to that of the bottom fifth topped 12 to 1 for the first time on record, with data back to 1967.
Read more of this story at Slashdot.
Sep 26, 2014
Sustainablog: As we've seen in many cases, what happens to your old computer, or used cell phone, or other electronics you hand over to a recycler is just what you expect: it gets torn down for useful parts and components, or refurbished into a new version of the same product. But, unfortunately, there's still about a quarter of American electronic waste that gets shipped overseas, where very poor people pick through it – without any kind of safety equipment, protective clothing, and the like – for materials that they can sell in exchange for the most basic needs. The documentary film TERRA BLIGHT walks its viewers through this whole lifecycle, and counterposes US consumption of electronics with "recycling" of the remnants in places like Ghana.
While some places in the developing world are building proper facilities for disassembling electronics and removing valuable elements safely, Agbogbloshie, an e-waste dump near Accra, Ghana, is still an example of what's often found in the world's poorest places. Adults and children smash monitors and computer cases with rocks to expose wires; in doing so, they often release lead and mercury into the air. If these workers don't breathe these toxins in, they work their way into the soil, and eventually the water, of the area where the disassembly occurs. Other developed countries ban this export of these toxic materials to the developing world, but not the United States.
Please read full and follow at: What Really Happens to that Old Computer You've "Recycled?"
Sep 25, 2014
Nanoflowcell has developed the world's first saltwater-powered electric car – the Quant e-Sportlimousine – it just received approval for testing in Europe! The futuristic gull-winged vehicle runs on a special type of gasoline that is made from salt water, and it's now street-legal on public roads in Germany. According to Nanoflowcell, the Quant e-Sportlimousine can accelerate from 0-62 mph in a blazing 2.8 seconds and it has a driving range of up to 373 miles.
Sep 24, 2014
Here is a brief excerpt from The New England Journal of Medicine article published yesterday -NEJM Sept 2014
We estimate that, at the current rate of increase, assuming no changes in control efforts, the cumulative number of confirmed and probable cases by November 2 (the end of week 44 of the epidemic) will be 5740 in Guinea, 9890 in Liberia, and 5000 in Sierra Leone, exceeding 20,000 cases in total (Figure 4 and Table S8 in Supplementary Appendix 2). The true case load, including suspected cases and undetected cases, will be higher still.
Although the current epidemic of EVD in West Africa is unprecedented in scale, the clinical course of infection and the transmissibility of the virus are similar to those in previous EVD outbreaks. The incubation period, duration of illness, case fatality rate, and R0 are all within the ranges reported for previous EVD epidemics.7,13-18 Our estimates of R0 are similar to other recent estimates for this West Africa epidemic.19-23 The combination of signs and symptoms recorded between symptom onset and clinical presentation is also similar to that in other reports
"We infer that the present epidemic is exceptionally large, not principally because of the biologic characteristics of the virus, but rather because of the attributes of the affected populations and because control efforts have been insufficient to halt the spread of infection" - NEJM Sept 2014
"...control efforts have been insufficient to halt the spread..."
Understatement of the day.
Tests on Cullaby Lake, near the northwest Oregon coast, confirmed high levels of microsystin, making waters unsafe for people and their pets, Oregon Health Authority spokesman Jonathan Modie said.
The warning marked the third such caution in less than a week in the Pacific Northwest state, after similar toxic scum was detected last week in Portland's Willamette River and at the Wikiup Reservoir in central Oregon.
"These algae have been around for millions of years," Modie said. "But this summer has been a particularly warm one, and that is good for algae."
Dangerous algae levels have also been found at five other Oregon lakes and ponds since June, although most are in areas not frequented by large populations. Advisories have been lifted at two lakes but remain in place elsewhere.
Toxic blue-green algae is dangerous to touch, drink or inhale. Swallowing or inhaling water contaminated by the algae can cause numbness, digestive distress or fainting, and skin contact can cause a rash.
Filtering the water will not make it safe, and fish or shellfish from the river could be dangerous to eat, the health authority said. Dogs are particularly vulnerable, according to the agency.
Please read more by Source: http://planetark.org/wen/72239
Author: Courtney Sherwood
(Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Peter Cooney)
IBM Research and Switzerland-based Airlight Energy today announced a new parabolic dish that increases the sun's radiation by 2,000 times while also producing fresh water and air conditioning.
The new Concentrator PhotoVoltaics (CPV) system uses a dense array of water-cooled solar chips that can convert 80% of the sun's radiation into useful energy. Please read full and follow at: Computerworld
A Digby County tidal energy developer is teaming up with an Ontario company to make a 1.95-megawatt tidal project — and possibly more tidal projects — a reality. ... The company's other COMFIT approvals include 500 kilowatt projects in Grand Passage, between Brier Island and Long Island, and in Petit Passage, between Long Island and Digby Neck. They have two more in Cape Breton, a 500 kilowatt project in Great Bras d'Or Channel and one for 100 kilowatts in Barra Strait.
Canada's CBC also has an article on tidal power testing programs in the Bay of Fundy - Bay of Fundy FORCE study looking at tidal power turbine potential.
Understanding the environmental conditions and strength of the current in the Bay of Fundy is important for four consortia — European companies partnered with local Nova Scotia companies — who have committed to spend $9 million on four berths to test their turbines at the demonstration site.
In 2009, OpenHydro of France tried unsuccessfully to deploy a 10-tonne turbine in the Bay of Fundy, but the ultra-strong tidal flows destroyed the machinery within three weeks. Current speeds have been clocked between 10 and 12 knots.
Instead of waiting months for collected data to be retrieved and processed, the new testing platform is connected to an onshore computer at FORCE in Parrsboro via a three-kilometre-long fibre-optic cable that transmits data in real-time.
Please read full and follow at: Peak Energy
Yet another set of ominous projections about the Ebola epidemic in West Africa was released Tuesday, in a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that gave worst- and best-case estimates for Liberia and Sierra Leone based on computer modeling. In the worst-case scenario, Liberia and Sierra Leone could have21,000 cases of Ebola by Sept. 30 and 1.4 million cases by Jan. 20 if the disease keeps spreading without effective methods to contain it. These figures take into account the fact that many cases go undetected, and estimate that there are actually 2.5 times as many as reported. ... In the best-case model — which assumes that the dead are buried safely and that 70 percent of patients are treated in settings that reduce the risk of transmission — the epidemic in both countries would be 'almost ended' by Jan. 20, the report said.
Read more of this story at Slashdot.
Sep 23, 2014
First Water-Based Nuclear Battery Can Be Used to Generate Electrical Energy for decades with betavoltaics breakthrough
The battery uses a radioactive isotope called strontium-90 that boosts electrochemcial energy in a water-based solution. A nanostructured titanium dioxide electrode (the common element found in sunscreens and UV blockers) with a platinum coating collects and effectively converts energy into electrons.
"Water acts as a buffer and surface plasmons created in the device turned out to be very useful in increasing its efficiency," Kwon said. "The ionic solution is not easily frozen at very low temperatures and could work in a wide variety of applications including car batteries and, if packaged properly, perhaps spacecraft."
The maximum energy conversion efficiency of the MU battery was approximately estimated to be 53.88%. This is an astonishing number for a first trial design. Strontium 90 has a half life of 28.79 years
H/T to New Energy and Fuel
Nature Scientific Reports - Plasmon-assisted radiolytic energy conversion in aqueous solutions
Read more » from Next Big Future
Late last week, meteorologists in St. Louis noticed a cloud acting peculiarly: It was beating a path toward Mexico while changing into a variety of odd shapes. Was it a radar glitch? The debris signature of a south-moving tornado?
The answer was more heartening—and bizarre. After analyzing the reflections,the National Weather Service concluded they showed an immense swarm of Monarch butterflies migrating to their winter home in the Mexican mountains:
Here's how it technically arrived at that conclusion, for the weather geeks out there:
Keen observers of our radar data probably noticed some fairly high returns moving south over southern Illinois and central Missouri. High differential reflectivity values as well as low correlation coefficient values indicate these are most likely biological targets. High differential reflectivity indicates these are oblate targets, and low correlation coefficient means the targets are changing shape. We think these targets are Monarch butterflies. A Monarch in flight would look oblate to the radar, and flapping wings would account for the changing shape! NWS St. Louis wishes good luck and a safe journey to these amazing little creatures on their long journey south!
North America's Monarch population has been in decline, reaching record-low numbers in the past couple of years due to habitat loss and perhaps extreme weather. These radar shots provide a spot of good news in that, while struggling, the Monarchs aren't extinct quite yet. Indeed, people on the weather service's Facebook page have reported seeing them fluttering around the region. "They are flying over my Missouri home today," says one. Adds another: "I have been seeing some coming thru OKC in the last week or so. They are beautiful."
Also beautiful—and strange—is that the shape of the swarm itself resembles a giant butterfly. The last time that sort of radar coincidence happened may have been in 2011, when thousands of birds formed into a bird shape above Beebe, Arkansas, right before falling out of the sky, dead.
Sep 22, 2014
Read more of this story at Slashdot.
breitbart: The World Bank has issued a report warning against a "catastrophic" economic impact on the West African countries of Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone's already fragile economies if they do not put a stop to the spread of the deadly Ebola virus.
Please read full and follow at:
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Inhabitat: Wildpoldsried, a Bavarian village of about 2,600 residents, is leading the way in Germany's extraordinary renewable energy transformation. Over the past 17 years, the village has invested in a holistic range of renewable energy projects that include 4,983 kWp of photovoltaics, five biogas facilities, 11 wind turbines and a hydropower system. As a result, the village has gone beyond energy independence – and it now produces 500% more energy than it needs and profits from sales of the surplus power back to the grid.
Please read full and follow at: Inhabitat
This process, known as metastasis, can cause cancer to spread with deadly effect.
"The majority of patients who succumb to cancer fall prey to metastatic forms of the disease," said Jennifer Cochran, an associate professor of bioengineering who describes a new therapeutic approach in Nature Chemical Biology.
Today doctors try to slow or stop metastasis with chemotherapy, but these treatments are unfortunately not very effective and have severe side effects.
The Stanford team seeks to stop metastasis, without side effects, by preventing two proteins – Axl and Gas6 – from interacting to initiate the spread of cancer.
Nature Chemical Biology - An engineered Axl 'decoy receptor' effectively silences the Gas6-Axl signaling axis
Read more from Next Big Future
These are two new milestones in Russia's 'Proryv', or Breakthrough, project to enable a closed nuclear fuel cycle. The ultimate aim is to eliminate production of radioactive waste from nuclear power generation.
Read more at Next Big Future
Sep 21, 2014
One of the persistent questions regarding antibiotic use in meat production, and its effect on the health of humans who live far away from production farms, is: How do the resistant bacteria that result get from one place to another? That is: Most people accept by now that using antibiotics in livestock-raising causes drug resistance […]
Please continue reading post Via Farmworkers, Superbugs Find a Route Away from Drug-Using Farms at WIRED.
Sep 19, 2014
In what is becoming a macabre "Comedy of Errors," TEPCO officials are again beset with problems at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant. This time, they are blaming the accidental dumping of 200 tons of radioactive water into the wrong place on four pumps. The blame for the accidental dumping of 200 tons of highly radioactive water into a group of buildings used to house the central waste processing facilities last Friday is being blamed on four pumps that were not supposed to be used, but were mysteriously "turned on" by a party or parties unknown. What is really interesting about this story is the fact that the accident was first noticed on Thursday, April 10, but the pumps were not turned off until two days later, on April 13. Recreating the incident, TEPCO officials said the water used for cooling down the molten reactors becomes highly radioactive. The water was supposed to be directed to a storage building used for that purpose, where it is then transferred to a facility for decontamination at a later date. But on April 10, workers noticed that the water level in the buildings that should have been having water pumped out of them was going up, instead of down. Two days later, on April 12, it was finally discovered that the four pumps, supposedly not being used were turned on. Right here, there should be an investigation into why the pumps were still on-line, especially if they were not in use. All four pumps were turned off around 5 p.m. of the 13th. By that time, 200 tons of radioactive water had flooded the wrong buildings. TEPCO reported the incident to the Nuclear Regulatory Authority at that time. The NRA instructed TEPCO to start monitoring the situation so that no leakage would escape the buildings or the facility. Just to make things even more interesting, TEPCO reported another, separate incident on April 13, when one ton of treated radioactive water escaped a leaking storage tank. TEPCO officials said none of the water escaped into the sea. Local authorities have repeatedly asked that TEPCO pinpoint the causes for the numerous problems at the disabled power plant, but TEPCO officials have said very little about any of the problems. In February, over 100 tons of contaminated water leaked from a storage tank due to a deliberately opened valve. According to TEPCO officials, over 100 workers have been interviewed, and so far, no one knows exactly what happened.
Mother Jones: On Tuesday, the White House officially announced that it would be sending US troops to Liberia to fight the Ebola outbreak. The military has already requested to use $500 million from its Overseas Contingency Operations budget to deal with Ebola in West Africa and ISIS in Iraq, and plans to request another $500 million to combat the epidemic, which United Nations officials have said is needed to keep the number of cases in the "tens of thousands." (So far, the World Health Organization is aware of about 5,000 people who it believes have been infected in Liberia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone, although it says the actual toll is probably much higher.)
More MoJo coverage of the Ebola crisis.
But as the military heads to Liberia, concerns over the region's stability—and to what degree US troops will be involved in maintaining it—still hover over the entire operation.
The core of the military's 3,000-troop mission in Liberia will be medical—building treatment centers and training medical staff by the hundreds to run them. But the outbreak and resulting panic have caused other problems, some of which the military will deal with, and others that they may try to avoid. One major problem is a food crisis: Liberia imports about two-thirds of its grain supply, but as its neighbors have closed their borders to prevent the disease from spreading and shipping into the country has slowed, food has become scarcer, and prices have increased. To ease this situation, the US operation will help to distribute food aid in the country.
Please read full and follow at: Mother Jones
"We're now in a position where we're supplying Burlington residents with sources that are renewable," said Ken Nolan, manager of power resources for Burlington Electric Department, earlier this month. "The prices are not tied to fossil fuels — they're stable prices — and they provide us with the flexibility, from an environmental standpoint, to really react to any regulation or changes to environmental standards that come in the future."
According to Nolan, the utility will get about one-third of its power from the Joseph C. McNeil Generating Station, one-third from wind energy contracts, and one-third from the hydroelectric stations Winooski One and Hydro-Québec. The McNeil power station is a biomass facility that primarily uses wood chips from logging residue leftover from the harvesting of wood for other products.
Sep 18, 2014
Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation on Tuesday overhauling the state's management of its groundwater supply, bringing it in line with other states that have long regulated their wells.
Groundwater makes up nearly 60 percent of California's water use during dry years. But it is not monitored and managed the same way as water from reservoirs and rivers.
Supporters of the legislation say the worst drought in a generation inspired them to rethink the state's hands-off approach to tapping wells, which has led to sinking land and billions of dollars in damage to aquifers, roads and canals.
'This is a big deal,' Brown said at the signing ceremony in his office. 'It has been known about for decades that underground water has to be managed and regulated in some way.'
The package signed into law requires some local governments and water districts to begin managing their wells, and it authorizes state water agencies to intervene if necessary. It also allows for water metering and fines to monitor and enforce restrictions.
SB1168, SB1319 and AB1739 by Assemblyman Roger Dickinson, D-Sacramento, and Sen. Fran Pavley, D-Agoura Hills, passed in the final days of the legislative session over objections from Republican lawmakers and Central Valley Democrats.
The opposition was driven by agricultural interests that are increasingly dependent on pumping from wells as reservoirs dry up and government water allocations plunge in the drought. They say the legislation was rushed and punishes well-managed agencies while infringing on property rights.
'While there is legitimate concern about the over-drafting of some groundwater basins, this massive expansion of state authority will not solve the problem,' said Assembly Minority Leader Connie Conway, R-Tulare.
Brown said in a signing message he would push for legislation next year to streamline resolutions in disputes over groundwater rights.
Unlike other states that treat groundwater as a shared resource, California property owners have been entitled to tap water beneath their land since the Gold Rush days.
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