Aug 22, 2014

Baby Boomer Health Problems will destroy what's left the Economy

Michael West CEO of BioTime Inc. says America has a huge problem headed its way with aging (living longer) from the baby boom generation. We must do something about this population's health to ensure the economy stays healthy.
Please continue reading from: Next Big Future

Aug 21, 2014

Scientists Baffled By Unknown Source of Ozone-Depleting Chemical

Scientists have found that, despite a complete ban since 2007, ozone-depleting chemicals are still being pumped into the atmosphere from some unknown source. "Carbon tetrachloride (CCl4), which was once used in applications such as dry cleaning and as a fire-extinguishing agent, was regulated in 1987 under the Montreal Protocol along with other chlorofluorocarbons that destroy ozone and contribute to the ozone hole over Antarctica. Parties to the Montreal Protocol reported zero new CCl4 emissions between 2007-2012. However, the new research shows worldwide emissions of CCl4 average 39 kilotons (about 43,000 U.S. tons) per year, approximately 30 percent of peak emissions prior to the international treaty going into effect. "We are not supposed to be seeing this at all," said Qing Liang, an atmospheric scientist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, and lead author of the study published online in the Aug. 18 issue of Geophysical Research Letters, a journal of the American Geophysical Union. "It is now apparent there are either unidentified industrial leakages, large emissions from contaminated sites, or unknown CCl4 sources."

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

China Pulls Plug On Genetically Modified Rice and Corn

China's Ministry of Agriculture has decided not to renew biosafety certificatesthat allowed research groups to grow genetically modified (GM) rice and corn. The permits, to grow two varieties of GM rice and one transgenic corn strain, expired on 17 August. The reasoning behind the move is not clear, and it has raised questions about the future of related research in China.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Aug 20, 2014

YC-Backed UPower Is Building Nuclear Batteries


Nuclear Wetlands TechCrunchDespite the promise of bountiful, cheap, and clean energy, nuclear energy didn't completely overtake fossil fuels like everyone expected in the middle of the twentieth century. Among other things, fear of radiation leaks and waste products that have to be buried for hundreds of years turned the United States away from adopting it for more than a fraction of our energy usage. Read More


Solar Plant Sets Birds On Fire As They Fly Overhead under Federal investigation

Federal investigators in California have requested that BrightSource — owner of thermal solar plants — halt the construction of more (and bigger) plantsuntil their impact on wildlife has been further investigated. "Unlike many other solar plants, the Ivanpah plant does not generate energy using photovoltaic solar panels. Instead, it has more than 300,000 mirrors, each the size of a garage door. Together, they cover 1,416 hectares. Each mirror collects and reflects solar rays, focusing and concentrating solar energy from their entire surfaces upward onto three boiler towers, each looming up to 40 stories high. The solar energy heats the water inside the towers to produce steam, which turns turbines that generate enough electricity for 140,000 homes." The concentrated solar energy chars and incinerates the feathers of passing birds. BrightSource estimates about a thousand bird die this way every year, but an environmental group claims the real number is much Please continue reading from:b Slashdot

Aug 19, 2014

Gallup Study: Forty-Five Percent of Americans Seek Out Organic Foods

Source: Gallup- Forty-Five Percent of Americans Seek Out Organic Foods 

A little less than half of Americans, 45%, actively try to include organic foods in their diets, while 15% actively avoid them. More than a third, 38%, say they "don't think either way" about organic foods.

MIT researchers propose recycling lead from old batteries to produce new solar cells

Gizmag The world of modern technology is one of out with the old, in with the new. For battery technology, that means the expected demise of lead-acid batteries and replacement by a more efficient, cheaper, and environmentally-friendly alternative. This is good news, but leaves the problem of what to do with all the lead in the batteries currently in use when the time comes to dispose of them? Researchers at MIT have an answer – use it to make solar cells... Continue Reading MIT researchers propose recycling lead from old batteries to produce new solar cells 

Aug 18, 2014

Austrian province wants Swiss Mühleberg nuclear power plant with similar design to the ill-fated Fukushima plant and is one of which is the oldest non-military reactor operating in the world.

The head of the regional Austrian People's Party (ÖVP) in Voralberg, Roland Frühstück, wants to exert pressure on the Swiss government to speed up decommissioning of its aging nuclear power reactors due to concerns over safety.

 Switzerland has four remaining active nuclear power plants, one of which is the oldest non-military reactor operating in the world.

The Swiss government decided in 2011 to shut down one of the plants, which was commissioned in 1972.  The plant, in Mühleberg, is now more than 42 years old, and has a similar design to the ill-fated Fukushima plant - although it isn't on the coast in a tectonically active region.

A similar decision has yet to be taken by Switzerland in connection with its Beznau Nuclear Power Plant, which was commissioned in 1969, making it 45 years old.

..."The increasing age of the reactors also increases the risks for a nuclear incident and significant economic and environmental damage," Haverkamp said.

Aug 16, 2014

Japan's nuclear shutdown continues to cost $35.2 billion per year and means 26% more fossil fuel

Japan's ongoing reliance on imported fossil fuels while its nuclear reactors await permission to restart continues to impact on the country's greenhouse gas emissions and trade deficit.

Japan depended on imported fossil fuels for 88% of its electricity in fiscal year 2013, compared with 62% in fiscal 2010, the last full-year before the March 2011 accident at the Fukushima Daiichi plant. With almost its entire nuclear fleet offline, Japan reliance on fossil fuels peaked in fiscal year 2012 at 92.2%.

The additional fuel costs that Japan faced in fiscal 2013 to compensate for its nuclear reactors being idled was ¥3.6 trillion ($35.2 billion). Japan reported a trade deficit of ¥11.5 trillion ($112 billion) for the year, largely directly and indirectly due to these additional fuel costs. This compares with trade deficits of ¥6.9 trillion ($68 billion) in 2012 and ¥2.6 trillion ($25 billion) in 2011, following a ¥6.6 trillion ($65 billion) surplus in 2010.

Read more at Next Big Future

Aug 14, 2014

California May Waive Environmental Rules For Tesla

SlashdotWe all know Tesla is working on its Gigafactory, and it has yet to announce officially where it will be. But the automaker did announce a shortlist of possible locations, and California wasn't on it. The state has quickly been trying to lure Tesla to get back into contention. Now the state may waive environmental rules which would normally make construction of such a large manufacturing facility more difficult. Apparently, Governor Jerry Brown's office is currently negotiating an incentive package for Tesla that would waive certain parts of the nearly half-century-old California Environmental Quality Act. Not only that, but state officials are reportedly considering letting Tesla begin construction and perform damage mitigation later, along with limiting lawsuits that could slow down the project. Let's not forget some massive tax breaks, to the tune of $500 million. Is California stepping out of bounds here?

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Apple bans two chemicals from product assembly after protests $APPL #nontoxic

Computerworld:IDG News Service - Apple is banning the use of two toxic chemicals from final assembly processes for its products, after watchdog groups demanded the company replace the substances with safer alternatives.

Earlier this year, Green America and China Labor Watch had called on Apple to eliminate the use of benzene and n-hexane from its supply chain. Both substances are known to be poisonous, but are still in use at Chinese factories, including those that build Apple products, the groups claimed.

On Thursday, Apple said it investigated 22 of its final assembly facilities and found "no widespread use of benzene or n-hexane, and no evidence of worker health and safety being put at risk," according to an online report. The investigation covered facilities that employ close to 500,000 workers.

The two chemicals, however, were still found at four of the facilities, but in low concentrations that complied with Apple's safety regulations. Following the investigation, Apple concluded that safer alternatives to benzene and n-hexane exist, and so decided to ban their use as cleaning agents in the final assembly process. The change takes effect on Sept. 1.

On Thursday, Apple for the first time released a list of substances it regulates at its suppliers.

In June, Green America along with dozens of other groups sent a letter to Apple, demanding the company be more transparent in the chemicals used at its manufacturers. The groups also asked the company to create a fund to help treat factory workers, who've become ill or injured for making Apple products. Two months before, both Green America and China Labor Watch staged a related protest outside an Apple store in New York.

Aug 13, 2014

Mercury Pollution in Oceans Has Tripled Since Industrial Revolution, Study Says

Globally, oceans contain roughly 60,000 to 80,000 tons of mercury pollution, according to a report published this week in Nature detailing the first direct calculation
Ahi tuna has very high mercury concentrations.
of mercury pollution in the world's oceans. Ocean waters shallower than about 300 feet (100 meters) have tripled in mercury concentration since the Industrial Revolution, the study found, and mercury in the oceans as a whole has increased roughly 10 percent over pre-industrial times. North Atlantic waters showed the most obvious signs of mercury pollution, since surface waters there sink to form deeper water flows. In contrast, the tropical and Northeast Pacific were relatively unaffected. "We don't know what that means for fish and marine mammals, but likely that some fish contain at least three times more mercury than 150 years ago," and possibly more, the lead researcher said. "The next 50 years could very well add the same amount we've seen in the past 150." Please continue reading from: // Yale Environment 360

Aug 12, 2014

Are BPA-Free Bottles Just As Bad?

You may have heard by now that bisphenol A, a chemical commonly-used to make hard plastic and is found in many water bottles, can have harmful health effects. Due to evidence suggesting BPA can impair brain and reproductive development and other reasons, the FDA banned its use in baby bottles two years ago. Since then, evidence increasingly suggests that the chemical that manufacturers have replaced it with, bisphenol S, may be just as bad.

Many manufacturers made the switch to BPS because researchers thought that less of the material would leak out from the plastic. But, as Scientific American reports:

Yet BPS is getting out. Nearly 81 percent of Americans have detectable levels of BPS in their urine. And once it enters the body it can affect cells in ways that parallel BPA. A 2013 study by Cheryl Watson at The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston found that even picomolar concentrations (less than one part per trillion) of BPS can disrupt a cell's normal functioning, which could potentially lead to metabolic disorders such as diabetes and obesity, asthma, birth defects or even cancer.

Other studies on BPS show that it can cause hyperactivity and abnormal neuron growth in fish, and lead to heart arrhythmias in rats. One 2012 study found that BPS mimics estrogen as effectively as BPA, which is concerning; chemicals that disrupt the activity of this sex hormone can cause altered behavioral and sexual development in animals

Obviously you're not going to immediately drop dead if you drink water from a plastic bottle. But studies suggest that using plastic in bottles may be a cause for concern and needs to be studied further. Please continue reading from: // Popular Science - New Technology, Science News, The Future Now

Gas Cooled Nuclear Reactors Shut Down In UK

EDF Energy, the British subsidiary of the French state-controlled utility, said on Monday that it was shutting down three nuclear reactors and that a reactor with a fault that has been shut down since June would remain so. The facilities, which are being investigated as a precaution, generate nearly a quarter of nuclear capacity in Britain. The British Office for Nuclear Regulation said that there had been no release of radioactive material and no injuries. Industry experts did not anticipate much effect on electricity supplies or prices in the short term. EDF said that over the next few days it would idle a second reactor at the facility, Heysham 1, in northwest England. The company said it would also shut down two other reactors of similar design at Hartlepool in northeast England to investigate whether they had the same flaws....Slashdot

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Unique polymer soaks up CO2

An illustration shows how the polymer could clean up smokestack emissions – although its r...

Hydrogen may hold promise as an alternative to fossil fuels, but there's still a huge petrol-producing infrastructure in place, and not many service stations offer hydrogen refills yet. That's why some scientists are exploring a bridging technology known as the integrated gasification combined cycle (IGCC) process, for converting fossil fuels into hydrogen. Along with hydrogen, though, carbon dioxide is also a byproduct of the IGCC process, which must be dealt with. Fortunately, scientists from the University of Liverpool have developed a polymer that soaks up that CO2 for use in other applications. .. Continue Reading Unique polymer soaks up CO2  // Gizmag Emerging Technology Magazine

Aug 11, 2014

Funky Looking Motor is Powered by Static Electricity

[Steven Dufresne] of Rimstar.org is at it again with another very functional science experiment. This week he's showing us how he made a large electrostatic motor, also known as a Corona Motor.

A Corona motor makes use of a cool
phenomenon called the Corona discharge, which is the ionization of a fluid
(in this case, air) surrounding a conductor that is energized. He's done other high voltage experiments that take advantage of this, like his Ion Wind propelled Star Trek Enterprise!corona_motor_electrostatic_atmospheric_motor_diagram

The motor works by using an even number of electrodes on the motor, each electrically charged; positive, negative, positive, negative, etc.

Because each electrode is the opposite charge, they want to repel each other — but since the cylinder is electrically insulated, the charges have no where to go — instead the cylinder begins to rotate as the charges attract back and forth — when a positive charge on the insulation meets a negatively charged electrode, the charge is removed by ionization (creating the corona effect), and the cycle continues. The direction of rotation is determined by the angle of the electrodes. The motor can get going pretty fast but doesn't have that much torque or power.


Please continue reading from: 
Funky Looking Motor is Powered by Static Electricity
// Hack a Day

Online Tool Flagged Ebola Outbreak Before Formal WHO Announcement

Nine days before the announcement from WHO regarding the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, an online tool had the incident flagged. HealthMap, a team of 45 researchers, epidemiologists and software developers at Boston Children's Hospital founded in 2006, hosting an online tool that uses algorithms to scour tens of thousands of social media sites, local news, government websites, infectious-disease physicians' social networks and other sources to detect and track disease outbreaks. Sophisticated software filters irrelevant data, classifies the relevant information, identifies diseases and maps their locations with the help of experts. The tool was introduced in 2006 with a core audience of public health specialists, but that changed as the system evolved and the public became increasingly hungry for information during the swine flu pandemic. To get a feel of how HealthMap works, in the case of the Ebola outbreak, visit the site.

Read more of this story at // b Slashdot.

Aug 10, 2014

New EPA-funded web-based CME course on healthy fish consumption

...health care practitioners know the challenges presented when trying to answer the myriad of questions surrounding fish consumption. There isn't a simple yes (wear a bike helmet) or no (don't smoke) response. Eating too little fish can deprive young children of nutrients important to their development; eating too much can expose them to harmful toxins present in nearly all seafood. The best advice a practitioner can give is to encourage patients to strike a balance.

I recently completed work on the development of a web-based CME course, Healthy Fish Choices (www.healthyfishchoices.org). The EPA-funded course is now out of the pilot stage and available at a minimal cost. Healthy Fish Choices provides practitioners with the research-based knowledge needed to authoritatively advise patients and offers guidance on how to smoothly and efficiently incorporate fish-consumption questions and advice into our practices.

As you may know, last fall, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) Committee on Health Care for Underserved Women and the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) Practice Committee issued an opinion that stated:
Reducing exposure to toxic environmental agents is a critical area of intervention for obstetricians, gynecologists, and other reproductive health care professionals. Patient exposure to toxic environmental chemicals and other stressors is ubiquitous, and preconception and prenatal exposure to toxic environmental agents can have a profound and lasting effect on reproductive health across the life course.

The Healthy Fish Choices curriculum can help address the critical task of learning more about toxic environmental agents and educating our patients on how to avoid them. 

I hope you will take a moment to visit www.healthyfishchoices.org, considering taking the course and sharing information about this curriculum with your colleagues. 

Susan Buchanan, MD, MPH
University of Illinois at Chicago

Aug 9, 2014

"Spoons make people fat" Would it be absurd to draw any conclusions from this data...

The United States is 3rd in Murders throughout the World. But if you take out Chicago , Detroit , Washington DC and New Orleans , the United States is 4th from the bottom for Murders. These 4 Cities also have the toughest Gun Control Laws in the United States . All 4 are controlled by Democrats.

Aug 8, 2014

Fukushima Reactor No. 3 meltdown occurred 4 hours earlier than thought

....In its latest findings, TEPCO also said that most of the nuclear fuel in the No. 3 reactor at the plant in Fukushima Prefecture melted through the pressure vessel and continued down to the bottom of the outer containment vessel. The finding may make it even more difficult to decommission the plant.

....record suggests it is possible that the coolant apparatus had already ceased functioning nearly seven hours before TEPCO stopped the coolant-injection device.

A new analysis of conditions inside the reactor, made on the basis of the uncovered record, led to the latest finding that the temperature in the reactor core reached the fuel's melting point of 2,200 C at around 5:30 a.m. on that day.

TEPCO has come to assume that the core meltdown was highly likely to have started in the early morning of March 13.

As the core meltdown is now believed to have started earlier than was previously thought, the amount of melted nuclear fuel that passed into the containment vessel through the pressure vessel is considered to have been greater, making it technically more difficult to extract the melted fuel and dispose of it.

Aug 7, 2014

‘Massive Environmental Disaster’ In Canada

Massive Environmental Disaster' In CanadaAs far back as 2011, concerns were raised about the tailings pond at the Mount Polley Mine. Brian Olding and Associates, an environmental consulting firm, prepared a detailed report that was submitted to the provincial Ministry of the Environment. "We looked at the pond and we thought there was monitoring required. We wanted an emergency contingency plan in place." Olding was hired jointly by the Williams Lake Indian Band, the Soda Creek Indian Band and mine owner Imperial Metals to conduct an independent review of the Mount Polley Mine 75 kilometres southeast of Quesnel and prepare a technical assessment report on the proposed discharge of water from a tailings pond. At about 3:45 a.m. on Monday the very pond he reported on was breached, sending over five million cubic metres of contaminated water and toxic slurry into Hazeltine Creek, uprooting trees with its force, and making its way toward Quesnel Lake. By late Monday on the advice of provincial authorities, the Cariboo Regional District had issued a complete ban on drinking, swimming and bathing in the waterways surrounding the mine and extended it to include Polley Lake and all the waterways near the Mount Polley Mine, including Quesnel Lake, Cariboo Creek, Hazeltine Creek and "the entire Quesnel and Cariboo Rivers systems right to the Fraser River." Residents have been told not to allow pets or livestock to drink the water. Please continue reading from: 'Massive Environmental Disaster' In Canada

India needs to expand nuclear power 16 times by 2050 and Indonesia is developing high temperature nuclear reactors with Japan

1. India has to hugely expand nuclear power along with its entire power system to bring electricity to 300 million people and move away from coal, according to a study by the International Energy Agency (IEA).

At a mere 673 kWh per year on average, per capita electricity consumption in India is less than one quarter of the global average, said the IEA, highlighting its analysis of India's electricity system published in its Energy Technology Persepctives 2014. A "first priority" for India is to raise this level of power consumption, while bringing electricity to some 300 million unconnected people.

Under the IEA's '2DS' scenario, where carbon dioxide emissions are curtailed enough to limit average global temperature increases to 2ºC, a range of renewables would provide 40% of electricity with nuclear supplying 15% by 2050. The use of carbon-intensive coal for power generation would fall from today's 80% to less than 20%.

The 2DS scenario also sees total power generation in India quadruple by 2050. But nuclear power would grow faster than the power sector as a whole, from a total capacity of 5.3 GWe today to 80 GWe in 2050 - some fifteen times more.

India's nuclear industry is characterized by its largely indigenous nature and reliance on the small pressurized heavy water units which make up 18 of its 21 units

2. A demonstration high-temperature gas-cooled reactor (HTGR) could be constructed in Indonesia following the signing of a cooperation agreement between Japan and Indonesia on developing such reactors.

Read more »// Next Big Future

Man-Made "Dead Zone" In Gulf of Mexico the Size of Connecticut

Somewhere in the Gulf of Mexico there is a man-made "Dead Zone" the size of the State of Connecticut. Inside that "Dead Zone" the water contain no oxygen, or too little, to support normal marine life, especially the bottom dwelling fish and shrimps. The "Dead Zone" measures about 5,000 Square Miles (13,000 Square Kilometer) is caused by excess nutrient runoff from farms along the Mississippi River, which empties into the Gulf. The excess nutrients feed algae growth, which consumes oxygen when it works its way to the Gulf bottom. The Gulf dead zone, which fluctuates in size but measured 5,052 square miles this summer, is exceeded only by a similar zone in the Baltic Sea around Finland. The number of dead zones worldwide currently totals more than 550 and has been increasing for decades.// b Slashdot

Aug 5, 2014

Elon Musk: believes that artificial intelligence is “potentially more dangerous than nukes,”

ExtremeTechElon Musk, the mastermind behind SpaceX and Tesla, believes that artificial intelligence is "potentially more dangerous than nukes," imploring all of humankind "to be super careful with AI," unless we want the ultimate fate of humanity to closely resemble Judgment Day from Terminator. Personally I think Musk is being a little hyperbolic — after all, we've survived more than 60 years of the threat of thermonuclear mutually assured destruction — but still, it's worth considering Musk's words in greater detail.

Musk made his comments on Twitter yesterday, after reading Superintelligence by Nick Bostrom. The book deals with the eventual creation of a machine intelligence (artificial general intelligence, AGI) that can rival the human brain, and our fate thereafter. While most experts agree that a human-level AGI is mostly inevitable by this point — it's just a matter of when — Bostrom contends that humanity still has a big advantage up its sleeve: we get to make the first move. This is what Musk is referring to when he says we need to be careful with AI: We're rapidly moving towards a Terminator-like scenario, but the actual implementation of these human-level AIs is down to us. We are the ones who will program how the AI actually works. We are the ones who can imbue the AI with a sense of ethics and morality. We are the ones who can implement safeguards, such as Asimov's three laws of robotics, to prevent an eventual robocalypse.

Worth reading Superintelligence by Bostrom. We need to be super careful with AI. Potentially more dangerous than nukes.

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) August 3, 2014

Hope we're not just the biological boot loader for digital superintelligence. Unfortunately, that is increasingly probable

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) August 3, 2014

In short, if we end up building a race of superintelligent robots, we have no one but ourselves to blame — and Musk, sadly, isn't too optimistic about humanity putting the right safeguards in place. In a second tweet, Musk says: Hope we're not just the biological boot loader for digital superintelligence. Unfortunately, that is increasingly probable." Here he's referring to humanity's role as the precursor to a human-level artificial intelligence — and after the AI is up and running, we'll be ruled superfluous to AI society and quickly erased.

All-in-one system uses plant oils to power, heat, and cool the home

Newcastle University prototype system provides cooling, heating, and electrical power usin...

A team of researchers led by Newcastle University has produced an all-in-one Biofuel Micro Trigeneration (BMT) prototype system fueled entirely by unprocessed plant oils that provides combined cooling, heating, and electrical power. This first-generation system is designed for use in homes, with the potential for up-scaling for larger commercial and industrial applications. .. Continue Reading All-in-one system uses plant oils to power, heat, and cool the home 
// Gizmag Emerging Technology Magazine

Aug 4, 2014

Toxins in Lake Eirie. . . left 500,000 people without safe drinking water

Dangerously high levels of toxins from algae on Lake Erie left 500,000 people in Toledo, Ohio, without safe drinking water on Saturday and sent many driving to other states in search of bottled water. Ohio Governor John Kasich declared a state of emergency for the region, freeing up resources for the Ohio National Guard and state workers to truck safe water to people who need it. Officials could not say when Toledo's water service can be declared safe, and boiling the water will not destroy the toxic microcystins.

Aug 3, 2014

Water facts 70 percent of world water use is for irrigation.

Earth Policy Institute

Seventy percent of world water use is for irrigation.

Each day we drink nearly 4 liters of water, but it takes some 2,000 liters of water—500 times as much—to produce the food we consume.

1,000 tons of water is used to produce 1 ton of grain.

Between 1950 and 2000, the world's irrigated area tripled to roughly 700 million acres. After several decades of rapid increase, however, the growth has slowed dramatically, expanding only 9 percent from 2000 to 2009. 

Today some 18 countries, containing half the world's people, are overpumping their aquifers. Among these are the big three grain producers—China, India, and the United States.

Saudi Arabia is the first country to publicly predict how aquifer depletion will reduce its grain harvest. It will soon be totally dependent on imports from the world market or overseas farming projects for its grain.

Many smaller rivers and lakes have disappeared entirely as water demands have increased.
Please read full and follow at: 
Earth Policy Institute

The Great Recession Probably Caused 7000 to 10000 excess suicides in the USA but saved lives by reducing car travel

In the United States, the suicide rate, which had slowly risen since 2000, jumped during and after the 2007-09 recession. A new book [The Body Economic: Why Austerity Kills] estimates that 4,750 'excess' suicides — that is, deaths above what pre-existing trends would predict — occurred from 2007 to 2010. Rates of such suicides were significantly greater in the states that experienced the greatest job losses. Deaths from suicide overtook deaths from car crashes in 2009."

Read more // Next Big Future

Another Dust Explosion in China kills 69, hurts 187 at General Motors supply plant

BEIJING (AP) - A suspected dust explosion at an automotive parts factory in eastern China that supplies General Motors killed at least 69 people and injured more than 180 others, most with severe burns, state media reported Sunday.

It was China's most serious industrial disaster since a fire at a poultry plant killed 119 people in June last year, and again highlighted workplace safety that remains a concern.

Saturday morning's explosion occurred when more than 200 workers were on the site of the factory, which is in an industrial zone in the city of Kunshan, officials from the city said at a news conference. Kunshan, in Jiangsu province, is about 1,000 kilometers (600 miles) southeast of Beijing.

State broadcaster CCTV showed footage of large plumes of thick, black smoke rising from the plant, and news websites posted photos of the dead or injured lifted onto the back of large trucks, their bodies black, presumably from burns or soot.

Some survivors sat on wooden cargo platforms on the road outside the factory or being carried into ambulances, their clothes apparently burned off and their skin exposed.

The explosion occurred at 7:37 a.m. at a workshop in the factory, which polishes wheel hubs. Rescuers pulled out 44 bodies at the site, while 25 other people died at a hospital, officials said. At least 187 people were injured.

More than 120 of the injured were sent to hospitals in Kunshan and the nearby city of Suzhou. Burn experts from a Shanghai hospital arrived in Kunshan to help, the official Xinhua News Agency reported.

A preliminary investigation showed that the blast was likely a dust explosion, Xinhua said.

A dust explosion is caused by the fast combustion of particles suspended in air in an enclosed space. The particles could include dust or powdered metals such as aluminum. They would have to come into contact with a spark, such as fire, an overheated surface or electrical discharge from machinery.

Such dust explosions have been blamed for other deadly fires. In 2012, a dust explosion in an aluminum lock polishing workshop in the eastern Chinese city of Wenzhou killed 13 people and injured another 15. Three years earlier, aluminum powder exploded in an abandoned factory being rented out as temporary housing in the city of Danyang, killing 11 people and injuring another 20.

The factory is operated by the Kunshan Zhongrong Metal Products Company, which according to its website was set up in 1998 and has registered capital of $8.8 million. Its core business is electroplating aluminum alloy wheel hubs, and it supplies GM and other companies, the website said.

In a statement, GM confirmed that Zhongrong is part of its network of suppliers. "We can confirm Zhongrong is a supplier to GM's global supplier Dicastal," the statement said.

Please continue reading from: 

Toledo, Ohio, officials warn against drinking toxic tap water

CBS News [feedly] TOLEDO, Ohio - Toxins possibly from algae on Lake Erie fouled the water supply of the state's fourth-largest city Saturday, forcing officials to issue warnings not to drink the water and the governor to declare a state of emergency as worried residents descended on stores, quickly clearing shelves of bottled water.

"It looked like Black Friday," said Aundrea Simmons, who stood in a line of about 50 people at a pharmacy before buying four cases of water. "I have children and elderly parents. They take their medication with water."

The city advised about 400,000 residents in Toledo, most of its suburbs and a few areas in southeastern Michigan not to brush their teeth with or boil the water because that would only increase the toxin's concentration.

Toledo's health department also said healthy adults could safely bathe, wash their hands and shower. But while bathing, children should be supervised by adults to prevent drinking the water accidentally, according to CBS News affiliate WTOL. Also, residents should avoid giving tap water to pets.

Toledo issued the warning just after midnight after tests at one treatment plant showed two sample readings for microsystin above the standard for consumption.

Algae blooms during the summer have become more frequent and troublesome around the western end of Lake Erie, the shallowest of the five Great Lakes.

The algae growth is fed by phosphorous mainly from farm fertilizer runoff and sewage treatment plants, leaving behind toxins that have contributed to oxygen-deprived dead zones where fish can't survive. The toxins can kill animals and sicken humans.

Scientists had predicted a significant bloom of the blue-green algae this year, but they didn't expect it to peak until early September.

Please continue reading from - CBS News
http://www.cbsnews.com/news/toledo-ohio-officials-warn-against-drinking-toxic-tap-water/

#Drought Goes From Bad To Catastrophic | via @ZeroHedge / @TimOBrien

As ZeroHedge previously commented, when scientists start using phrases such as "the worst drought" and "as bad as you can imagine" to describe what is going on in the western half of the country, you know that things are bad. However, in recent weeks the dreadful situation in California has gone from bad to catastrophic as the U.S. Drought Monitor reported that more than half of the state is now in experiencing 'exceptional' drought, the most severe category available. And most of the state – 81% – currently has one of the two most intense levels of drought.

 

h/t @TimOBrien

 

As WaPo reports,

While California's problems are particularly severe, that state is not alone in experiencing significant drought right now. There are wide swaths of moderate to severe drought stretching from Oregon to Texas, with problems impacting numerous states west of the Mississippi River.

 

Some of the most severe droughts outside of California are impacting large pockets in Oklahoma, Texas and, particularly, Nevada, where more than half of the state is currently experiencing one of the two most intense drought conditions:

 

 

*  *  *

As we concluded previously,

Most people just assume that this drought will be temporary, but experts tell us that there have been "megadroughts" throughout history in the western half of the United States that have lasted for more than 100 years.

 

If we have entered one of those eras, it is going to fundamentally change life in America.

Please read full and follow at:

Jul 30, 2014

Boom-or-Doom Riddle For Nuclear Industry

The nuclear industry remains remarkably optimistic about its future, despite evidence that it is a shrinking source of power as renewables increasingly compete to fill the energy gap. LONDON, 26 July, 2014 − The headline figures for 2014 from the nuclear industry describe a worldwide boom in progress, with 73 reactors presently being built and another 481 new ones either planned or approved. The World Nuclear Association (WNA) official website paints a rosy picture of an industry expected to expand dramatically by 2030. It says that over the period 1996 to 2013 the world retired 66 reactors, and 71 started operation. Between now and 2030, the industry expects another 74 reactors to close, but 272 new ones to come on line. This represents a much larger net increase in nuclear electricity production than the basic figures suggest because most of the newer power stations have a bigger capacity than those closing down. Pipe dream Detractors of the industry say that these projections are a pipe dream and that nuclear power will not expand at that pace, if at all, and that solar and wind power will grow much faster to fill the energy gap. 
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Jul 28, 2014

Parched West is using up underground water: Study points to grave implications for Western U.S. water supply -- @ScienceDaily

sciencedaily...new study by University of California, Irvine and NASA scientists finds more than 75 percent of the water loss in the drought-stricken Colorado River Basin since late 2004 came from underground resources. The extent of groundwater loss may pose a greater threat to the water supply of the western United States than previously thought.

This study is the first to quantify the amount that groundwater contributes to the water needs of western states. According to the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, the federal water management agency, the basin has been suffering from prolonged, severe drought since 2000 and has experienced the driest 14-year period in the last hundred years.

The research team used data from NASA's Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) satellite mission to track changes in the mass of the Colorado River Basin, which are related to changes in water amount on and below the surface. Monthly measurements in the change in water mass from December 2004 to November 2013 revealed the basin lost nearly 53 million acre feet (65 cubic kilometers) of freshwater, almost double the volume of the nation's largest reservoir, Nevada's Lake Mead. More than three-quarters of the total -- about 41 million acre feet (50 cubic kilometers) -- was from groundwater.

"We don't know exactly how much groundwater we have left, so we don't know when we're going to run out," said Stephanie Castle, a water resources specialist at UC Irvine and the study's lead author. "This is a lot of water to lose. We thought that the picture could be pretty bad, but this was shocking."

Water above ground in the basin's rivers and lakes is managed by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, and its losses are documented. Pumping from underground aquifers is regulated by individual states and is often not well documented.

"There's only one way to put together a very large-area study like this, and that is with satellites," said senior author Jay Famiglietti, senior water cycle scientist at JPL on leave from UC Irvine, where he is an Earth system science professor. "There's just not enough information available from well data to put together a consistent, basin-wide picture."

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http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/07/140724172102.htm

2500 Ground Zero responders have come down with cancer

NY Post - More than 2,500 Ground Zero rescuers and responders have come down with cancer, and a growing number are seeking compensation for their illnesses, The Post has learned.

The grim toll has skyrocketed from the 1,140 cancer cases reported last year.

In its latest tally, the World Trade Center Health Program at Mount Sinai Hospital counts 1,655 responders with cancer among the 37,000 cops, hard hats, sanitation workers, other city employees and volunteers it monitors, officials told The Post.

The tragic sum rises to 2,518 when firefighters and EMTs are added. The FDNY, which has its own WTC health program, said Friday it counts 863 members with cancers certified for 9/11-related treatment.

WTC epidemiologists say studies show that 9/11 workers have gotten certain cancers at a significantly higher rate than expected in the normal population — prostrate, thyroid, leukemia and multiple myeloma. 

Newly Discovered Virus Widespread in Human Gut

Exploring genetic material found in intestinal samples, the international team uncovered the CrAssphage virus. They say the virus could influence the behaviour of some of the most common bacteria in our gut. Researchers say the virus has the genetic fingerprint of a bacteriophage - a type of virus known to infect bacteria. Phages may work to control the behaviour of bacteria they infect - some make it easier for bacteria to inhabit in their environments while others allow bacteria to become more potent. [Study lead Dr. Robert] Edwards said: "In some way phages are like wolves in the wild, surrounded by hares and deer. "They are critical components of our gut ecosystems, helping control the growth of bacterial populations and allowing a diversity of species." According to the team, CrAssphage infects one of the most common types of bacteria in our guts.National Geographic gives some idea why a virus so common in our gut should have evaded discovery for so long, but at least CrAssphage finally has aWikipedia page of its own.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.