Earth ChangesS

Red Flag

Potentially devastating wheat rust spreads

Since the 1950s, resistance genes bred into wheat varieties have held truly devastating stem rust epidemics in check. However, a new race of the rust, Ug99, has overcome many of those resistance genes and is marching east through southern Asia.

Ug99 first appeared in Uganda wheat in 1999 and spread to Kenya and Ethiopia during the next few years.

"At that point, many international scientists said, 'This is something we need to check because this new race can overcome many of the effective resistances,'" said David Marshall, research leader with the USDA-ARS in North Carolina last spring.

"And that included the resistances that are in the international germ plasm out of the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center near Mexico City. That's alarming and this rust has become a front-burner issue."

Bizarro Earth

Crazytalk: Scientist says dolphin deaths look like a mass suicide

The dolphins that died after becoming beached in Cornwall had ingested debris and mud, leading one of the scientists who examined some of the corpses to compare their deaths to a "mass suicide".

Vic Simpson, who has been involved in the postmortem examinations of some of the 26 dolphins that died, said yesterday: "On the face of it, it looks like some sort of mass suicide - but the question is why?

"The dolphins had swallowed and inhaled big chunks of mud from the estuary. Their lungs and stomachs were full of it. That is very bizarre indeed."

Simpson, who founded the Wildlife Veterinary Investigation Centre in Truro and is examining the dolphins on behalf of the Zoological Society of London, added: "We have seen strandings on beaches, sometimes with five to seven dolphins, but never on a scale like this."

Comment: See: What terrified the dolphins? Cause of mass dolphin deaths in U.K. may have been fear
and UK Dolphin update: Royal Navy exercises and an "unexplained explosion"


Update: 4 dead, 40 injured as tornado hits Boy Scout camp

BLENCOE, Iowa - A tornado slammed a Boy Scout camp in the remote hills of western Iowa late Wednesday, killing at least four people, injuring 40 and setting off a frantic search for others who could be trapped in the piles of debris and downed trees.


Water Scarcity: The Real Food Crisis

After decades in the doldrums, food prices have been soaring this year, causing more misery for the world's poor than any credit crunch. The geopolitical shockwaves have spread round the world, with food riots in Haiti, strikes over rice shortages in Bangladesh, tortilla wars in Mexico, and protests over bread prices in Egypt.

The immediate cause is declining grain stocks, which have encouraged speculators, hoarders, and panic-buyers. But what are the underlying trends that have sown the seeds for this perfect food storm?


Iowa: Reports of injuries as tornado strikes Boy Scout camp

DES MOINES - The National Weather Service has received reports of injuries and possibly fatalities from an apparent tornado that struck a Boy Scout camp in western Iowa.


What terrified the dolphins? Cause of mass dolphin deaths in U.K. may have been fear

Post mortems on dolphins found beached along the Cornish coast in southwest England, failed to establish a concrete reason for their deaths, but environmentalists said Wednesday they may have been "scared ashore."

At least 26 dolphins died or had to be put down after becoming stranded in shallow water in the Percuil River near Falmouth on Monday, the largest number for 25 years in the U.K.

A spokesman for the British Divers Marine Life Rescue (BDMLR) said the animals had no food in their stomachs, indicating that they could have panicked and headed for shore. He said that there was no "evidence" they were feeding prior to death.

The Royal Navy has confirmed it was conducting a live firing exercise with submarines and warships several hours before the stranding. The exercise also included shooting practice.

Comment: As the following article indicates,
"Investigators are exploring several possible causes, including the theory that the dolphins had become distressed by naval sonar equipment or were frightened by an unexplained explosion several residents reported hearing late on Sunday.
Naval exercises became an unfortunate reality for the marine life. Many suffer the consequences as loss of orientation, but there are no known cases of dolphins being "scared ashore." So is it possible that this unexplained explosion is the reason for dolphins panic? And if it is so, is it possible that the explosion was caused by a meteorite?


Dozens of homes burn in N. California wildfires

Fires fed by raging winds raced across parts of Northern California on Tuesday, destroying dozens of homes, threatening hundreds of others and leaving a firefighter severely burned.

The fires were concentrated in areas north and south of the state capital, while separate blazes burned near the coast.

A 2.5-square mile wildfire destroyed 21 homes and about 30 other structures in Palermo, a town of about 5,000 residents, said Joshpae White, a California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection spokesman. It was about 50 percent contained Tuesday night.

The community about 60 miles north of Sacramento was evacuated temporarily while at least 350 firefighters fought to protect homes. About 50 residents planned to spend the night at an evacuation center.

©AP Photo/Steve Yeater
A Stockton firefighter pulls a hose around the back of a home destroyed by a fast wind driven fire in Stockton calif., on Tuesday, June 10, 2008. The fire ignited in a corridor along Interstate 5 and destroyed at least 30 homes and slightly injured two firefighters on Tuesday, a city spokeswoman said.

Cloud Lightning

Rain threatens reservoirs in quake-hit China

BEIJING - Heavy rain hit south and east China on Wednesday, threatening reservoirs a day after a dangerous "quake lake" drained to safety in the southwest, state media said.

Water levels in at least five reservoirs in eastern Zhejiang province had risen above warning levels, Xinhua news agency said, after days of rain devastated southern Guangdong province and hit record levels in neighboring Hong Kong.

Soldiers build a temporary dam against possible flooding at Quhe River in Suining, Sichuan province, June 11, 2008.

About 1,880 structures collapsed in Zhejiang and the southern Guangxi autonomous region.


Mercury Contamination Found In Stranded Victorian Dolphins

Monash University research into heavy metal contaminant levels in dolphins from Port Phillip Bay and the Gippsland Lakes has revealed high mercury levels may be a contributing factor to dolphin deaths.

Researchers from the School of Biological Sciences have confirmed levels of mercury found in the dolphins were within a range considered to cause negative health and mental effects and were higher than mercury levels found in populations around the world.

Cloud Lightning

Quake lake pours through devastated Chinese town

A torrent of muddy, brown water from a breached quake lake poured through the deserted Chinese town of Beichuan on Tuesday, sealing the fate of the already doomed community's destruction.

Surging rapids from Tangjiashan lake gushed into the centre of Beichuan and spilled down side streets as previously evacuated locals watched from ridges surrounding the town.

"It's really hard for me to take, our city was so good and beautiful but now there's nothing left. My heart aches," said Zhu Yunyou, a 54-year-old farmer who lost his house in the May 12 earthquake.

quake lake
Flood water flow along Jian Jiang River, after a controlled drainage operation on the Tangjiashan quake lake, in the worst earthquake-hit area of Beichuan county, in China's southwestern province of Sichuan on June 10, 2008. Muddy, brown water from a quake lake in southwest China was pouring into the flattened town of Beichuan June 10, piling new woes on its tormented population.