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Fri, 02 Dec 2022
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Earth Changes

Bizarro Earth

Nyamulagira Volcano erupts in eastern Congo

© AP Photo/Congolese Wildlife Authority, Virunga National Park, HO
In this photo released by the Congolese Wildlife Authority, Virunga National Park, showing the scene as the Nyamulagira volcano erupts early Saturday, Jan. 2, 2010.
Kinshasa - A government official says a volcano has erupted in eastern Congo, sending lava toward a national park.

Feller Lutahichirwa said Saturday that the Nyamulagira volcano had erupted at dawn. While the area where the lava was headed is sparsely populated, wildlife officials say it is home to about 40 endangered chimpanzees.

Lutahichirwa says government observers are monitoring the situation with help from U.N. helicopters.

The director of Virunga National Park says the eruption is "of great concern" and that rangers have been deployed to monitor the lava flow.

Bizarro Earth

Brazil Mudslides, Floods Kill 44 After Heavy Rain

© Bruno Domingos/Reuters
An aerial view of Pousada Sankay hotel buried by a mudslide in Angra dos Reis, Rio de Janeiro state January 1, 2010.
Mudslides and flooding killed at least 44 people in Brazil's Rio de Janeiro state and authorities said on Friday that the death toll could climb with more heavy rains in the forecast.

Twenty-two people were found dead on Friday after a small hotel and surrounding homes collapsed in the beach resort of Angra dos Reis, one of Brazil's most exclusive tourism destinations, the Rio de Janeiro state's civil defense said.

Television footage showed the Sankay hotel and a number of homes in Angra buried under a mountain of mud. Rescue teams, aided by helicopters and navy boats, were struggling to reach the area where the hotel collapsed, Pedro Machado, head of the firefighters' corps, told GloboNews television.

Civil defense authorities said about 40 people were registered at the hotel. They told Reuters heavy rains forecast for the coming days could make rescue work harder and trigger more mudslides.

Bizarro Earth

Heavy Fog Causes Flight Delays at Los Angeles Airport

Heavy fog caused flight delays at the Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) on Friday, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said.

A check with several airlines serving LAX showed northbound flights were delayed by about 35 minutes at mid-morning, but southbound flights appeared to be on schedule, said the FAA.

Aircraft flying into San Francisco International Airport at mid-morning were delayed an average of 51 minutes, with many planes kept idling on the ground before departing for the Bay Area, the FAA said.

Air travel to and from the rest of the nation appeared to be moving smoothly, the FAA's Web site said.


Flow: How privatization is accelerating the world's water crisis

Irena Salina's award-winning documentary investigation into what experts label the most important political and environmental issue of the 21st Century - The World Water Crisis.

Salina builds a case against the growing privatization of the world's dwindling fresh water supply with an unflinching focus on politics, pollution, human rights, and the emergence of a domineering world water cartel.

Interviews with scientists and activists intelligently reveal the rapidly building crisis, at both the global and human scale, and the film introduces many of the governmental and corporate culprits behind the water grab, while begging the question "CAN ANYONE REALLY OWN WATER?"

Beyond identifying the problem, FLOW also gives viewers a look at the people and institutions providing practical solutions to the water crisis and those developing new technologies, which are fast becoming blueprints for a successful global and economic turnaround.


Frog embryos listen for bad vibrations to avoid snakes

To escape being a snake's lunch, tree frog embryos listen out for bad vibrations.

The jelly-coated eggs of the Central American red-eyed tree frog are laid on vegetation overhanging ponds and can hatch up to three days early if they sense that a snake is approaching. Michael Caldwell at Boston University and colleagues wanted to know how they distinguished between predators and false alarms like torrential rain.


Scientists Find Details of Tumors Killing Off Tasmanian Devils

Tasmanian Devil
© Cameron Wells, Walter and Eliza Hall Institute
This Tasmanian devil, photographed at Healesville Sanctuary, is part of the Save the Devil program that has been established to help protect Australia's Tasmanian devils which are at risk of extinction from devil facial tumor disease.
The facial cancers that are devastating populations of Tasmanian devils in Australia are a nerve tumor that escaped its original host and became a parasite of the cultural icon, passing from one devil to the next by bites when the animals are fighting or mating, researchers reported Thursday.

A genetic analysis of tumors from Tasmanian devils widely separated geographically shows that all the tumors are virtually identical and distinct from the animals' own genomes, researchers in the United States and Australia reported in the journal Science. The tumors probably arose from Schwann cells, which normally play a role in protecting and cushioning nerves.

The analysis provides clues to a way to diagnose the disease early and represents a major step toward the development of a vaccine that could protect the remaining animals in the wild, said biologist Elizabeth P. Murchison of the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in Cold Spring Harbor, N.Y., and the Australian National University in Canberra, lead author of the paper.

Light Sabers

China's stonewalling at Copenhagen: Is its leadership aware that the planet is actually cooling?

Snow fell as temperatures plummeted outside the conference halls
There were 45,000 people at the Copenhagen summit and more than 100 world leaders, but in the end it came down to an extraordinary personal showdown between the leaders of the world's two superpowers and biggest greenhouse gas emitting countries, China and the US.

The deal itself was anything but historic. But the implications of how the Chinese handled this negotiation well might be.

In a disastrous result for the world's environment and for 19 years of difficult and painstaking environmental diplomacy, China undoubtedly won.

Chinese chief negotiator Xie Zhenhua said China was leaving Copenhagen "happy", before walking out of the Bella conference centre late on Friday night with his clearly cheerful team .

In a statement, Xie, who is also vice-chairman with China's National Development and Reform Commission, said Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao was also happy with the agreement.


Famous San Francisco Sea Lions Leave in Droves

© AP Photo/Ben Margot
Tourists watch sea lions on boat docks at Pier 39 in San Francisco.
Two mysteries surround a huge herd of sea lions that were hanging out on a pier in San Francisco Bay: Why did so many show up, and why did so many leave at once?

Just last month, Pier 39, famous in San Francisco for its sea lions and the throngs of tourists they attract, was groaning under the weight of more than 1,500 of the animals. The record number delighted tourists and baffled experts.

Marine experts suspect the sea lions came and stayed for the food, then left largely for the same reason.

"Most likely, they left chasing a food source," said Jeff Boehm, executive director of the Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito, which runs an information center and gift shop at Pier 39. "It's probably what kept them here in the first place."

Bizarro Earth

5.5 Earthquake Jolts Northeast India

An earthquake of moderate intensity, measuring 5.5 on the Richter scale, jolted parts of India's North-East today.

This was the second quake in the region in the past three days, after a tremor, measuring 5.5 on the Richter scale, had rocked some parts of the North-East on December 29.

The India Meteorological Department (IMD) said today's quake was felt at 1527 hours and had its epicentre at latitude 27.3 N and longitude 91.4 E in Bhutan at a depth of seven km below the earth's surface.

There were no reports of damage to life or property.


To a Mosquito, Matchmaking Means "Singing" in Perfect Harmony

Researchers have new insight into the sex lives of the much-maligned mosquitoes that are responsible for the vast majority of malaria deaths, according to a report published online on December 31st in Current Biology, a Cell Press publication. In finding a partner of the right species type, male and female mosquitoes depend on their ability to "sing" in perfect harmony. Those tones are produced and varied based on the frequency of their wing beats in flight.

"Everyone must be familiar with the maddening whine a mosquito makes as it hones in for a bite," said Gabriella Gibson of the University of Greenwich at Medway. "There's no doubt many of us have wondered why it makes its presence so obvious - surely, after all of these centuries of blood-feeding, selection should have favored a more stealthy approach that would leave mosquitoes less vulnerable to the defensive attacks of its unsettled host. Our findings suggest that mosquitoes rely on the sounds they make to attract a mate of the right species, a behavior that is far more vulnerable to selection than avoiding the risk of being squashed by the rare host that is still awake at feeding time."

The Anopheles gambiae mosquitoes in fact include a considerable amount of genetic diversity, representing a complex of seven species and several chromosomal forms. And that diversity comes with real consequences for humans, explained Gibson and Ian Russell of the University of Sussex. The complexity of malaria epidemiology and control is due in part to the mosquito's remarkable genetic plasticity, enabling its adaptation to a widening range of human-influenced habitats.