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Archive for January 2011

Those fracking companies injecting diesel into the ground

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The probe of diesel use in hydraulic fracturing, a practice that has allowed drillers to tap abundant shale gas, found that oil services firms such as Halliburton and BJ Services, which was bought by Baker Hughes Inc, injected millions of gallons of fluids containing the fuel into wells between 2005 and 2009. A total of 12 companies were cited in the probe for using diesel without proper permits.

Critics say the chemicals used in the process, called “fracking,” can contaminate drinking water.

In 2003, the Environmental Protection Agency entered into a voluntary agreement with Halliburton, BJ Services and Schlumberger to eliminate the use of diesel fuel in hydraulic fracturing fluids injected into coalbed methane wells.

In addition, a 2005 energy law exempted hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, from regulation under the Safe Drinking Water Act, except when diesel is used…

Democrats who sponsored the probe in the House of Representatives urged the EPA to look into this matter…

The fracking probe was initiated by House of Representatives’ Energy and Commerce Committee last year when it was headed by Waxman…

Some lawmakers have called for federal regulation of the practice beyond the use of diesel fuel, but with Republicans now in control of House such legislative action appears unlikely.

Wow, there’s a surprise.

The Republicans will probably [1] forgive the pollution retroactively; and [2] appoint a new commission to be headed by Dick Cheney and charged with reducing environmental restraints on any and all new extraction processes the Oil Patch Boys come up with.

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Written by Ed Campbell

January 31, 2011 at 10:00 pm

Khartoum accepts results of secession referendum

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Waiting in line to vote

Ali Osman Mohamed Taha, Sudan’s vice president, has said that he accepts the oil-producing south’s split after the first official results showed a 99 per cent vote for independence in a referendum hoping to end a bitter cycle of civil war.

“We announce our agreement and our acceptance of the result of the referendum announced yesterday.

“We wish our brothers in the south good luck and a fruitful future in organising the issues surrounding the new country.” said Taha on Monday.

The comments end speculation that hard-line elements in the Khartoum government would delay recognition of the referendum to garner leverage ahead of talks on how to divide the country’s assets and liabilities.

Taha negotiated the 2005 accord with southern rebel leader John Garang who died three weeks after taking office in the coalition government formed under the deal.

The south is now looking to the international community to recognise its independence, which will likely happen once the final results are confirmed next month…

The vote for separation was 99.57 per cent,” Chan Reek Madut, the deputy head of the commission organising the vote, told cheering crowds on Sunday in the first official announcement of preliminary results…

Madut said voter turnout in the south was also 99 per cent. He said more than 60 per cent of eligible voters turned out in the country’s north, 58 per cent of whom voted for secession.

Bravo. Decades overdue.

Written by Ed Campbell

January 31, 2011 at 6:00 pm

African National Congress criticizes sushi on models

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South Africa’s governing party has pronounced that eating sushi off the body of a model in a bikini is politically incorrect.

A statement on Monday from the African National Congress secretary general Gwede Mantashe is unequivocal: “This act is anti-ANC and antirevolutionary. This act is defamatory, insensitive and undermining of woman’s integrity.”

The fish-on-flesh question has raged in South African media in recent months following reports of the practice at parties of wealthy businessmen and socialites. Earlier on Monday, Johannesburg newspapers reported an ANC politician had attended such a party over the weekend.

The ANC is not into nightclubs or partying, but it is a revolutionary movement.”

Over the number of years in my youth that I was properly termed a “revolutionary” I guess I belonged to the wrong tendency of the whichever sect – or something like that. I spent a reasonable amount of time in nightclubs, particularly jazz clubs, and partying was a regular part of my life.

Consuming sushi from the bodies of nubile young women, I admit, never occurred to me. But, raspberries and whipped cream rocked!

Written by Ed Campbell

January 31, 2011 at 3:00 pm

Bloomberg’s undercover agents expose useless US gun laws

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New York’s mayor, Michael Bloomberg, sent a team of undercover agents to the Crossroads of the West gun show in Phoenix, Arizona, just 120 miles away from the scene of the Tucson shooting. There, on 23 January, they bought a Glock 9mm pistol of the kind wielded by Jared Loughner when he killed six people and wounded 13, including the US congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, at a public meeting in Tucson.

The agents filmed the gun sales using hidden cameras…

Under current federal law, that sale was legal because of the so-called “gun show loophole” that allows occasional gun sellers to trade weapons without carrying out a background check to ensure that the purchaser is not mentally ill, a criminal, or a drug abuser. Such “private” sales are responsible for 40% of all gun sales in the US.

Of less certain legality was the purchase that the New York investigators went on to make of a SIG-Sauer SIG Pro 9mm pistol for $500, and a Smith & Wesson for $450. In both cases, the undercover agent admitted to the seller that they “probably couldn’t pass a background check“…

The seller demands only the production of an ID card to go ahead with the purchase, and the investigator then says: “So, no background check?”

The seller replies: “No.”

Investigator: “That’s good because I probably couldn’t pass one, you know what I mean?”

The undercover operation was a repeat of a sting that New York carried out on gun shows in Nevada, Tennessee and Ohio in 2009. That exercise found that 63% of the gun sellers approached were in breach of federal law by willingly selling guns to people who admitted they probably wouldn’t pass a background check.

Same old, same old. NRA voters will vote the same rigid pattern they always vote regardless of politicians standing up for sensible gun laws. Doesn’t matter.

Between payoffs and cowardice, our leading members of Congress provide about as much leadership as the Easter Bunny.

Written by Ed Campbell

January 31, 2011 at 12:00 pm

Updated federal dietary guidelines target salt, saturated fats

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The federal government plans to unveil new dietary guidelines…that urge people to eat less salt…

The guidelines, which are updated every five years, recommended that those over age 51, African-Americans and people with a history of hypertension, diabetes or kidney problems limit their salt intake to a little over a half-teaspoon. For everyone else, the daily recommendation remains at 2,300 milligrams — about one teaspoon of salt.

The guidelines form the basis for the food pyramid, which [supposedly] guides Americans in their daily eating habits.

The guidelines also recommended that Americans consume less than 10% of calories from saturated fatty acids, replacing them with monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids. And they also suggested people limit their dietary cholesterol to 300 mg or less.

The guidelines also recommended that people should reduce their intake of calories from solid fats and added sugars and cut down on foods that contain refined grains, especially refined grain foods that contain solid fats, added sugars, and sodium.

And if people drink, the guidelines state that alcohol should be kept to one drink a day [disagree]

“The policy document assists policy makers, nutrition professionals, food-assistance program administrators, the food industry, scientists and academics and the nutrition-focused media with a consistent, science-based foundation for their nutrition efforts.”

It is ignored by virtually all American citizens other than that small portion of parents of young children who read English above a 6th-grade level. The parents, that is.

Written by Ed Campbell

January 31, 2011 at 9:00 am

Glaswegian found alive and standing after 1,000ft fall

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A climber who fell 1,000ft down the face of a Scottish mountain was found by a rescue helicopter, standing up and studying a map and suffering only cuts and bruises.

The 36-year-old man, who has been named as Adam Potter, from Glasgow, was in a group of four climbers who reached the 3,589ft summit of Sgurr Choinnich Mor, about five miles from Ben Nevis, early yesterday afternoon, when he lost his footing and fell. He was kept overnight at the Southern General hospital, in Glasgow, for observation for injuries that were said to be “non life-threatening”.

Police said Potter was happy for his name to be released but would not be giving any interviews. They described him as “the very fortunate climber”.

His first piece of good fortune was that a Royal Navy Sea King helicopter was already in the air on a training exercise and arrived at the scene only 35 minutes later…

When they spotted somebody standing far below at 792.5 metres and beneath three high craggy outcrops, they assumed it must be the wrong man and flew back to the summit, where they saw bits of Potter’s kit scattered in a vertical line down the face of the mountain…

“We honestly thought it couldn’t have been him as he was on his feet, reading a map,” Lieutenant Tim Barker, the observer for the crew from HMS Gannet, based in Prestwick, Ayrshire, said. “It was quite incredible. He must have literally glanced off the outcrops as he fell, almost flying…”

Barker said: “He is lucky to be alive. It’s hard to believe that someone could have fallen that distance on that terrain and been able to stand up at the end of it, let alone chat to us in the helicopter on the way to the hospital. I have to say that, when we got the call and realised the details of where he’d fallen, we did expect to arrive on scene to find the worst-case scenario.”

Sometimes you’re lucky. Sometimes you aren’t. There’s a very detailed relation of Adam Potter’s fall and survival over here.

I’ve had the good fortune to stand atop Sgurr Choinnich Mor. Tired; but, enjoying a very special view. A few years later I attended the funeral of one of the best climbers I knew. He died on Ben Nevis.

Written by Ed Campbell

January 31, 2011 at 6:00 am

What do Pandas eat when they don’t feel like going out?

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Probably should have had someone bring takeout home.

Written by Ed Campbell

January 31, 2011 at 2:00 am

New hybrid airships prepare to take flight

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If you thought airships were old hat, think again. A new breed of hybrid airships are preparing to take off raising hopes that a 21st century fleet can finally succeed the zeppelins of yesteryear.

The difference is radical says Michael Stewart, chief executive of World SkyCat Ltd, a British company which has designed a new air vehicle, the SkyLiner. “The breakthrough is to combine the airplane with the airship, creating a hybrid,” Stewart said. Marrying the lift provided by the (lighter-than-air) helium with the aerodynamic lift of an airplane transforms everything, he says…

“An airship of our kind, carrying let’s say 200 tons or more, with its air-cushioned landing system is able to land without any runways — on tundra and semi-rough ground,” Stewart said…

“Unquestionably, the big market will be in cargo. One is regular freight, where you’re essentially competing with 747s. And there are other markets to exploit where there is no alternative to the hybrid,” he said…

Steve Prince, publisher of Air Cargo World, says these new types of hybrid airship could find a place in the air cargo market in the years to come, but not as a regularly scheduled operation.

Its future is in charter and ad hoc type of operations for special projects that require the cargo to be delivered to areas that are not easily accessible, if they are accessible at all — areas where airports don’t exist or roadways cannot support the project’s development,” Prince said.

Makes sense to me. Though I don’t need to be reminded of all the profound sociological and philosophical questions I had to examine day-in and day-out through the years I spent in Traffic Management.

Like – “What do you mean it didn’t clear customs, yet?”

Written by Ed Campbell

January 30, 2011 at 10:00 pm

Grow Your Own [Security]

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The next hydrangea you grow could literally save your life. With the help of the Department of Defense, a biologist at Colorado State University has taught plant proteins how to detect explosives. Never let it be said that horticulture can’t fight terrorism…

It only took a small engineering nudge to deputize a plant’s natural, evolutionary self-defense mechanisms for threat detection. “Plants can’t run and hide,” says June Medford, the biologist who’s spent the last seven years figuring out how to deputize plants for counterterrorism. “If a bug comes by, it has to respond to it. And it already has the infrastructure to respond.”

That would be the “receptor” proteins in its DNA, which respond naturally to threatening stimuli. If a bug chews on a leaf, for instance, the plant releases a series of chemical signals called terpenoids — “a cavalry call,” Medford says, that thickens the leaf cuticle in defense…

It all started in 2003 with a DARPA program to grow circuitry. Back then, Medford heard about a program from the far-out Pentagon research arm called Biological Input/Output Systems, geared to produce “rational design and engineering of genetic regulatory circuits, signal-transduction pathways and metabolism.”

The program was essentially a call for computer-designed receptors. “I was a plant biologist,” Medford recalls, “I thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be cool if we put it all together, like Reese’s peanut butter and chocolate.’”

That led to a $2 million grant from Darpa, with the Office of Naval Research kicking in another million. But by far the biggest benefactor to Medford’s research is the Defense Threat Reduction Agency, which last year gave her a $7.9 million grant to get the bomb-sniffing ferns from the lab to the real world…

Eventually, Medford expects to bring the bomb-detecting plants to market through genetically modified seedlings. Whatever it costs, it’s got to be less than the $100,000 to $200,000 that a backscatter “junk scanner” can run.

Since it appears any green plant can be modified to suit the purpose, eventually – consider the potential for mutual support between anti-terror aspidistra and medical marijuana! The possibilities are endless. If not vegan.

Written by Ed Campbell

January 30, 2011 at 6:00 pm

Last Bloody Sunday march takes place in Derry

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Daylife/Reuters Pictures used by permission

Thousands of people have marched in what is intended to be the last Bloody Sunday march in Londonderry.

The marchers started from the Creggan area walking behind a banner carried by the families which read “vindicated”.

They completed the route begun in 1972 – the march usually stops at Free Derry Corner, but instead went all the way to the Guildhall. Organisers said they believe the annual event should come to an end following the publication of the Saville Report.

A statement said the protest was no longer necessary after the inquiry exonerated those who died in the 1972 Bloody Sunday shootings.

It was signed by the majority of the victims’ families.

Some relatives of the victims have called the proposal premature. They broke off from the parade at William Street and finished their march at Free Derry corner.

Earlier, hundreds gathered at the monument for the wreath-laying on the first Bloody Sunday anniversary since the publication of the Saville Report…

Fourteen people lost their lives on 30 January 1972 when British paratroopers opened fire on a civil rights march in Derry’s Bogside area…

Tony Doherty, whose father Paddy was…killed on Bloody Sunday, said he supported the ending of the march.

He added: “The vast majority of the families felt that what we had brought about, what we had achieved on 15 June, with the Saville Report as an exoneration, with the words of David Cameron, with apology and accepting political responsibility for the atrocity of Bloody Sunday, that it was now time for us all to consider moving on.”

Perhaps it’s time for some of the newspapers that supported the lies of various British governments over the years to declare remorse for their complicity. The way in which society as a whole learns of political events depends so much on the ideology of the owners of the media.

Whether some crass clown like Berlusconi is warping the news to support his quest for power – or Murdoch and Ailes are marching along on their merry dance in praise of 19th Century robber barons – too many people are willing to settle for a short answer and an aphorism from the Old Testament.

Collaboration is still a crime.

Written by Ed Campbell

January 30, 2011 at 3:00 pm

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