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Bubble of methane triggered oil rig blast
The News - Current Events
May 08, 2010

The deadly blowout of an oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico was triggered by a bubble of methane gas that escaped from the well and shot up the drill column, expanding quickly as it burst through several seals and barriers before exploding, according to interviews with rig workers conducted during BP's internal investigation.

While the cause of the explosion is still under investigation, the sequence of events described in the interviews provides the most detailed account of the April 20 blast that killed 11 workers and touched off the underwater gusher that has poured more than 3 million gallons of crude into the Gulf.

Portions of the interviews, two written and one taped, were described in detail to an Associated Press reporter by Robert Bea, a University of California Berkeley engineering professor who serves on a National Academy of Engineering panel on oil pipeline safety and worked for BP PLC (BP) as a risk assessment consultant during the 1990s. He received them from industry friends seeking his expert opinion.

Transatlantic flights divert to avoid ash cloud
The News - Current Events
May 08, 2010
volcanic ash cloud flights

A mammoth cloud of volcanic ash stretching 1,250 miles across the North Atlantic is forcing most flights between North America and Europe to divert into a sky-high traffic jam, Irish and European air authorities said Friday.

Forecasters warned that the rapidly spreading cloud of ash from Iceland's Eyjafjallajokul (pronounced ay-yah-FYAH-lah-yer-kuhl) volcano was projected to reach southern Greenland and the northwest tip of Spain by today. The obstacle was already forcing about 600 daily flights operated by more than 40 airlines to carry extra fuel, because the diversions were lengthening flights by up to two hours.

Air safety officials stressed that the cloud does not pose any immediate threat to shut airports or ground aircraft once again. But they said the expanding obstacle would force transatlantic flights into air corridors that run unusually south into Spanish air space or north into the Arctic.

Cyber Attack : "Electronic Pearl Harbor"
The News - War-Draft
May 08, 2010

Richard Clarke claims that America's lack of preparation for the annexing of its computer system by terrorists could lead to an "electronic Pearl Harbor".

In his warning, Mr Clarke paints a doomsday scenario in which the problems start with the collapse of one of Pentagon's computer networks. Soon internet service providers are in meltdown. Reports come in of large refinery fires and explosions in Philadelphia and Houston. Chemical plants malfunction, releasing lethal clouds of chlorine. Air traffic controllers report several mid-air collisions, while subway trains crash in New York, Washington and Los Angeles. More than 150 cities are suddenly blacked out. Tens of thousands of Americans die in an attack comparable to a nuclear bomb in its devastation.

Yet it would take no more than 15 minutes and involve not a single terrorist or soldier setting foot in the United States. The scenario is contained the pages of his book, Cyber War: The Next National Security Threat, written with Robert Knake.

Gulf Oil Spill Could Threaten Human Health
The News - Climate-Environment
May 07, 2010
The massive oil slick menacing the Gulf of Mexico and now some barrier islands off the coast of Louisiana could prove devastating to the environment while posing risks to public health, experts say.

Some people along the coast are already reporting headaches, nausea, coughing and throat irritation, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), an environmental action group.

"There are significant health risks associated with this oil spill and the risks aren't just to wildlife, they are also to humans," said Dr. Gina Solomon, senior scientist with the NRDC. "The risks include acute health effects from the air pollution from the oil itself. It also includes health effects from burning the oil and it also includes contamination of the food chain which can result in a long-term health concerns."

Robert Emery, vice president for safety, health, environment and risk management at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, said, "Certainly uncontrolled exposure to crude oil could be potentially hazardous." [ YAHOO NEWS ] - [ Underwater robots position giant Dome ]

Iceland volcano to emit large new cloud
The News - Current Events
May 06, 2010
Eyjafjallajokull volcano new eruption
An Icelandic volcano which caused havoc to European aviation after erupting last month is to emit a large new ash cloud after surging back to life, meteorologists said Thursday.

A plume of ash measuring up to seven kilometers (more than four miles) high had been detected at the Eyjafjoll volcano, said a statement from the Icelandic Met Office and Institute of Earth Science.

"The eruption has changed back to an explosive eruption, lava has stopped flowing and most of the magma gets scattered due to explosions in the crater," said the statement in English. "The ash plume rises high above the crater (4-7 km) and considerable ash fall can be expected in wind direction. [ SOURCE ]

Huge asteroid Pallas visible from Earth
The News - Science-Astronomy
May 06, 2010
This week, the huge asteroid Pallas reaches opposition, being opposite to the sun in Earth's sky, making it a prime target for avid skywatchers with telescopes.

Asteroids are not as well behaved as planets, and their orbits are often far from the plane of the ecliptic. This is clearly the case with Pallas, because it reaches opposition in the unlikely constellation of Serpens Caput, very close to Corona Borealis, the Northern Crown. This is a pretty circlet of stars just to the left of Arcturus in northern hemisphere skies.

To spot Pallas tonight, look for the brightest star, called either Alphecca or Gemma, in Corona Borealis. Pallas is an 8th magnitude object just south of this star. [ How to spot Pallas ] - [ MSNBC News ]

Black Holes Can Kill Entire Galaxies
The News - Science-Astronomy
May 05, 2010
supermassive black holes eat galaxies

Black holes might kill entire galaxies with blazing energy, dooming embryonic stars before they can get born and condemning the remaining stars to a slow death, scientists have found.

Although nothing can escape from a black hole, before matter falls into one, it swirls around to form a disk that heats up as it packs together, radiating energy.

Supermassive black holes are thought to reside at the center of almost every galaxy, with some growing to billions of times the mass of our sun. To see what impact these monsters might have , researchers relied on data from the Hubble Space Telescope and the Chandra X-ray Observatory, looking for galaxies with very high X-ray emissions, a classic signature of black holes devouring gas and dust.

Halley's Comet meteor shower hits peak, Eta Aquarid
The News - Science-Astronomy
May 05, 2010
halley's comet eta aquarid meteor shower
It's been 24 years since Halley's Comet last passed through the inner solar system, but remnants from the icy wanderer are lighting up the dawn sky this week in the Eta Aquarid meteorshower.

The meteor shower is predicted to peak early Thursday morning. Under ideal conditions (a dark, moonless sky) about 40 of these very swift meteorscan be seen per hour.

The shower traditionally appears at about one-quarter peak strength for about three or four days before and after May 6.  The famous Halley's Comet takes roughly 76 years to circle the sun and last passed through our cosmic neighborhood in 1986. Halley's orbit closely approaches Earth's orbit in two spots, offering two chances each year to see meteor showersleft over from the comet's cosmic "litter." One point is in the middle to latter part of October, producing a meteor display known as the Orionids. The other point comes in the early part of May, producing the Eta Aquarids. 

Oil may be wreaking havoc deep beneath the Gulf
The News - Current Events
May 05, 2010
oil spill update
The oil you can't see could be as bad as the oil you can.While people anxiously wait for the slick in the Gulf of Mexico to wash up along the coast, globules of oil are already falling to the bottom of the sea, where they threaten virtually every link in the ocean food chain, from plankton to fish that are on dinner tables everywhere.

"The threat to the deep-sea habitat is already a done deal - it is happening now," said Paul Montagna, a marine scientist at the Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi. Hail-size gobs of oil the consistency of tar or asphalt will roll around the bottom, while other bits will get trapped hundreds of feet below the surface and move with the current, said Robert S. Carney, a Louisiana State University oceanographer.

Oil has been gushing into the Gulf of Mexico at a rate of at least 200,000 gallons a day since an offshore drilling rig exploded last month and killed 11 people. On Wednesday, workers loaded a 100-ton, concrete-and-steel box the size of a four-story building onto a boat and hope to lower it to the bottom of the sea by week's end to capture some of the oil. Crews also set fires at the worst spots on the surface Wednesday to burn off oil. Scientists say bacteria, plankton and other tiny, bottom-feeding creatures will consume oil, and will then be eaten by small fish, crabs and shrimp. They, in turn, will be eaten by bigger fish, such as red snapper, and marine mammals like dolphins. The petroleum substances that concentrate in the sea creatures could kill them or render them unsafe for eating, scientists say. [ YAHOO NEWS ]

Hurricane Season Could Halt Oil Spill Cleanup
The News - Natural Disasters
May 05, 2010

Emergency rescue crews in the Gulf of Mexico are in a race against nature to complete oil spill cleanup operations before the start of hurricane season , which begins June 1.

"This [oil leak] could go on for 60 to 90 days or more," said Doug Helton, coordinator of incident operations for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). "There's a lot of things that could go on in that time period that would greatly impact our model, like the fact that hurricane season is starting in a month."

The effects a hurricane could have on the spreading oil spill are impossible to predict, but one thing is certain: Cleanup efforts would have to halt completely in the face of a big storm, said Dennis Feltgen, a spokesperson for the National Hurricane Center.

Path of oil spill - Waiting, watching, predictions
The News - Climate-Environment
May 04, 2010
oil spill predictions

BP Plc engineers desperately explored options on Sunday to control oil gushing from a ruptured well deep under the Gulf of Mexico after a setback with a huge undersea containment dome fueled fears of a prolonged and growing environmental disaster.

The spill is spreading west, further from Florida but toward the important shipping channels and rich seafood areas of the Louisiana shoreline, where fishing, shrimping and oyster harvesting bans have been widened.

A state of emergency was declared in Lafourche Parish, Louisiana, with sheen, the leading edge of the oil slick, forecast to come ashore near Port Fourchon within days.


Cleanup and containment of a massive oil slick resumed Tuesday as winds eased in the Gulf of Mexico and people along beaches and bayous waited to find out just how badly it might damage the delicate coast.

So far only sheens have reached some coastal waters. The oil has lingered in the Gulf for two weeks, despite an uncapped seafloor gusher. The slow movement has given crews and volunteers time to lay boom in front of shorelines, an effort stymied by choppy seas over the weekend.

Rig operator BP PLC (BP.) continued to try to cap one of the smaller of three leaks, which if successful, could make it easier to install a containment system over the well.

Tennessee flooding update
The News - Natural Disasters
May 04, 2010
tennessee flooding
Rescuers feared even more bodies would emerge as muddy flood waters ebb from torrential weekend rains that swamped Nashville, much of Tennessee and two neighboring states, leaving at least 29 dead.

The devastating floodwaters that hit much of the mid-state claimed a life in Montgomery County Monday night.

At about 9 p.m., police said a woman in her early 60s was driving along Palmyra Road in Clarksville when her car somehow ended up in the rising floodwaters.Rescue crews tied a rope to her vehicle and pulled it out of the water. Once the car was out of the water, rescue officials broke the driver's side window and pulled the woman out.She was taken by LifeFlight helicopter to Gateway Medical Center, where she died.Investigators still aren't sure if the woman was swept into the floodwaters or if she drove off the pavement into them.Her identity has not been released. This is the first flood-related death in Montgomery County.There are now 18 confirmed flooding deaths in middle Tennessee, including 10 in Nashville. [ WSMV.com ]
US to unveil size of nuclear stockpile
The News - War-Draft
May 03, 2010
nuclear war aresnal
After a debate within the administration lasting several months, it has been decided to declassify the numbers.

The move would be seen as an attempt to encourage openness from other states by demonstrating America's progress in reducing its Cold War nuclear arsenal . The announcement could be made as early as Monday when Hillary Clinton, the Secretary of State, speaks at the UN meeting to review the progress of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, according to The Washington Post.

Arms-control groups estimate the US nuclear arsenal contains 9,000 weapons, roughly 5,000 of them active and the rest in line for disassembly. 

Explosion on the Sun
The News - Current Events
May 03, 2010
coronal mass ejection sun explosion
Something exploded on the sun this morning, hurling a coronal mass ejection (CME) into space. The source of the blast is not yet known. The cloud, however, does not appear to be heading toward Earth. Stay tuned for updates.

A coronal mass ejection (CME) is an ejection of material from the solar corona, usually observed with a white-light coronagraph.

The ejected material is a plasma consisting primarily of electrons and protons (in addition to small quantities of heavier elements such as helium, oxygen, and iron), plus the entraining coronal magnetic field. Click for larger image! [ Spaceweather.com ]

Lightning Kills 17 people in Bangladesh
The News - Natural Disasters
May 02, 2010
lightning kills 17 people
At least 17 people were killed and scores injured by lightning as a series of minor tropical storms and heavy rains swept across Bangladesh, police said Sunday.

Six people were killed in the northeastern district of Habiganj, 75 miles (120 kilometres) from capital Dhaka, and four more died in the southern district of Bagerhat after being struck by lightning during a tropical storm.

"Most of the dead were farmers who were cutting their rice paddy fields when they were hit by lightning," Habiganj police constable Shiblu Majumder told AFP.

The Oil Spill, How Bad?
The News - Climate-Environment
May 02, 2010
Independent scientists estimate that the renegade wellhead at the bottom of the Gulf could be spewing up to 25,000 barrels a day. If chokeholds on the riser pipe break down further, up to 50,000 barrels a day could be released, according to a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration memo obtained by the Mobile, Ala., Press-Register.

CNN quotes the lead government official responding to the spill - the commandant of the Coast Guard, Admiral Thad Allen - as stating:

If we lost a total well head, it could be 100,000 barrels or more a day. [ WashingtonsBlog.com ]

Bee catastrophe : The world may be on the brink of biological disaster
The News - Current Events
May 02, 2010
bees dying off economy
Disturbing evidence that honeybees are in terminal decline has emerged from the United States where, for the fourth year in a row, more than a third of colonies have failed to survive the winter.

The decline of the country's estimated 2.4 million beehives began in 2006, when a phenomenon dubbed colony collapse disorder (CCD) led to the disappearance of hundreds of thousands of colonies. Since then more than three million colonies in the US and billions of honeybees worldwide have died and scientists are no nearer to knowing what is causing the catastrophic fall in numbers.

The number of managed honeybee colonies in the US fell by 33.8% last winter, according to the annual survey by the Apiary Inspectors of America and the US government's Agricultural Research Service (ARS). The collapse in the global honeybee population is a major threat to crops. It is estimated that a third of everything we eat depends upon honeybee pollination, which means that bees contribute some £26bn to the global economy.

Gulf of Mexico Oil Slick Forecast Maps
The News - Current Events
May 02, 2010
BP's chairman defended his company's safety record and said Sunday that "a failed piece of equipment" was to blame for a massive oil spill along the Gulf Coast, where President Barack Obama was headed for a firsthand update on the slick creeping toward American shores
 May 2nd
gulf of mexico oil path
 May 3rd
gulf of mexico oil slick path
 May 4th
gulf of mexico oil spill path forecast
Tennessee Flooding leaves 5 dead
The News - Natural Disasters
May 02, 2010
tennessee flooding 2010
At least five people died and hundreds were being evacuated Saturday as heavy rains pounded Tennessee, causing widespread flooding across the state. The forecast called for more rain through the weekend.

The five deaths were storm related, but the exact causes were not yet known, Jeremy Heidt, spokesman for the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency, said Saturday evening. Hundreds of homes had been evacuated and shelters were being opened across the state for people stranded due to flooded roads. Heidt said crews were called out for swift-water rescues from Nashville to Memphis.

"It's so widespread, it's a very serious concern," he said. The deaths were in reported in Stewart, Davidson, Williamson and Carroll counties, he said. The southwestern part of the state was extremely hard hit, with several Memphis-area streets declared impassable. Memphis received 10 inches or more of rain during the day and officials were warning that 4 to 8 more inches could fall overnight and into Sunday.

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