Midwest farm drainage key cause of Gulf of Mexico dead zones

The tile drainage systems in upper Mississippi farmlands — from southwest Minnesota to across Iowa, Illinois, Indiana and Ohio — are the biggest contributors of nitrogen runoff into the Gulf of Mexico, reports a Cornell/University of Illinois-Urbana study.

Nitrogen runoff has been identified as a major contributor to dead zones in the Gulf, where nitrogen fertilizes algae and causes it to bloom, which in turn, depletes oxygen from the water and suffocates other life forms over thousands of square miles each summer.

Tile drainage has greatly increased yields in fertile soils since the 1800s where there once were wetlands. The systems consist of burying perforated pipes under the soil and draining them into canals. When such fields are fertilized, more nitrogen runs off into the Mississippi River watershed, according to the study…

To reduce such runoff, solutions include installing wetlands in areas where tiles drain to biofilter the water and fertilizing fields in the spring instead of the fall. Also, “we know that we are losing nitrogen in the period between cash crops when nothing is growing in the field,” said Laurie Drinkwater. “If we plant winter cover crops and diversify crop rotations, nitrogen losses could be reduced quite a lot.” A 2006 study by Drinkwater’s research group found that, on average, cover crops reduced nitrogen leaching by 70 percent.

Drinkwater added that policymakers need to increase incentives that reward environmentally beneficial farming practices. Currently, direct payments to farmers focus on production outcomes and do not sufficiently emphasize environmental stewardship, she added.

Ain’t she polite?

I’d be hard-pressed to think of any avenue of money between the government and productive enterprise – agricultural, industrial or otherwise – that cared for little else other than profit.

Milestone: Nato in Afghanistan as long as Soviet Army

Mujahedeen guerrillas on a captured Russian T-55 tank, 1987

The Soviet Union couldn’t win in Afghanistan, and now the United States has something in common with that futile campaign: nine years, 50 days.

On Friday, the U.S.-led coalition will have been fighting in this South Asian country for as long as the Soviets did in their humbling attempt to build up a socialist state. The two invasions had different goals — and dramatically different body counts — but whether they have significantly different outcomes remains to be seen.

What started out as a quick war on Oct. 7, 2001, by the U.S. and its allies to wipe out al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden and the Taliban has instead turned into a long and slogging campaign. Now about 100,000 NATO troops are fighting a burgeoning insurgency while trying to support and cultivate a nascent democracy.

A Pentagon-led assessment released earlier this week described the progress made since the United States injected 30,000 more troops into Afghanistan earlier this year – as fragile.

RTFA for predictable statements from our generals. You know what you will hear from our politicians.

Generally, liberal or conservative, Democrat or Republican, our elected officials can’t pass up a good war during their administration. Or a bad one. Or one that never should have been.

Lancet study says secondhand smoke kills 600,000

Second-hand tobacco smoke kills upwards of 600,000 people every year, nearly a third of them children, according to a global assessment in The Lancet, a British medical journal.

The findings, released on Friday in the first ever global study, indicate that unlike “lifestyle” diseases, which stem largely from individual choice, the victims of passive smoking pay the ultimate price for the health-wrecking behaviour of others, especially family members.

Among non-smokers worldwide, 40 per cent of children, 35 per cent of women and 33 percent of men were exposed to second-hand smoke in 2004, the most recent year for which data was available across the 192 countries examined.

In addition to 5.1 million deaths caused by active smoking, the final death toll from tobacco for 2004 was more than 5.7 million people, the study concluded.

Nearly half of the passive-smoking deaths occurred in women, with the rest divided almost equally between children and men, according to the study.


Smokers could care less what happens to people around them. Callous, addictive behavior is the norm.

Even posting an article like this means I have to crank up the software that removes comment spam. The tobacco industry is only matched by the gun industry when it comes to trying to squash dissent and criticism.

MI6-backed phony several inches shorter than real Taliban leader

The confusion is understandable, right?

The imposter who posed as a Taliban leader to open peace negotiations with Kabul was put forward by British agents who failed to note he was several inches shorter than the man he was impersonating.

The man masquerading as Akhtar Mohammad Mansour was paid a six figure sum and was flown three times to secret meetings with Nato and Afghan representatives before he was rumbled.

Afghan intelligence agents later determined he was a shopkeeper from the Pakistani city of Quetta.

A senior aide to Hamid Karzai said the man had been recommended by the British.

Mohammad Umer Daudzai, Mr Karzai’s chief of staff, said British officials brought the impostor to meet the president in July or August, where he was spotted as a fraud. Senior American officials confirmed the impostor was “the Brits’ guy”.

The British embassy in Kabul declined to comment.

Har! What could they say?

We noted this tale earlier this week; but, accepting a ringer, paying him big bucks to “negotiate” – and failing to notice he was a shrimp compared to the real deal. Laughable.

FedEx looking for radioactive package lost in Tennessee

FedEx could learn today [Friday] what happened to a package containing radioactive materials that went missing a day before.

The company said it is searching in the Tennessee area and that the item is safe as long as nobody tampers with the protective packaging around it.

The item is a cylinder containing rods used for hospital machinery that were being sent to a person in Knoxville, Tennessee, said Sandra Munoz, a company spokeswoman. “The rods are used for quality control calibration,” Munoz said. “We have lots of experience in handling this kind of shipment.”

Munoz said the company may learn more Friday morning when two employees who handled the shipment return to work.

Uh, no one swiped the bar code in transit?

My experience, memory of screw-ups like this – unfortunately – usually ends in tragedy. Often, someone walked off with the radioactive marker source, putting themselves and their families at serious risk.

Phew! They found it. It had been double-boxed and the outer box with shipping info went to the destination. The inner box containing the radioactive rod inside a protective tube – was left aside because of no shipping info – in a FedEx terminal in Knoxville, Tennessee.

CDC says Haiti’s cholera is part of an old pandemic

Daylife/Getty Images used by permission

The cholera epidemic that has killed 1,110 people and sickened thousands in Haiti is part of a 49-year-old global pandemic and likely was brought to the Caribbean country in a single instance, scientists say…But that was all it took to set off the epidemic, with an already weak sanitation system thrown into chaos by a devastating earthquake in January…

The epidemic in the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere could easily worsen and cholera could linger there for years, they said…

CDC infectious disease specialist Dr. Scott Dowell said it may be impossible to trace how the cholera came to Haiti. An infected person, contaminated food or even a ship’s bilge water could all carry the bacteria, Dowell said.

Genetic fingerprints show the outbreak can be traced to a pandemic that started in Indonesia 49 years ago and has spread around the world, the CDC and PAHO said…

“As far as stamping it out or eliminating it from Haiti, we are not hopeful about that,” Dowell said. “We feel that Haiti is going to be dealing with cholera for several years or several months at least.”

Cholera is spread when the bacteria get into water, almost always via human waste.

Haiti had not seen cholera for 100 years but experts say conditions are ideal for its spread — lack of proper sewerage, people forced to defecate in the open, a tightly packed population, torrential rains and a lack of clean water.

A centuries-long history of political corruption, a culture constantly misled and misdirected by priests, politicians and populist hustlers – and Haiti was a Tsunami of self-destruction waiting to fall upon its people.

Within a context of American and European nations that couldn’t have cared less over time, the poor population of Haiti was always on track for this sort of disaster.

Firefighters free woman trapped in bathroom for 20 days

French firefighters have freed an elderly woman who was locked in her bathroom for nearly three weeks.

Police said the 69-year-old woman had been stuck in her windowless bathroom in the town of Epinay-sous-Senart for 20 days.

She became trapped in the bathroom when a doorknob fell off while she was inside, police said. She repeatedly banged on her door and cried for help, but the neighbors apparently thought workmen were the source of the noise.

French media reported that the woman survived her ordeal by drinking warm water from the bathroom tap.

Neighbors grew concerned and alerted authorities after going several weeks without seeing the woman.