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BP's latest containment effort INCREASES oil leak flow


The oil is still gushing into the sea.
The US says the latest containment technique employed by BP to stop the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico may have increased the oil flow rate by up to five percent.

Speaking at a Senate Energy and Natural Resources committee hearing on Wednesday, US Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said that BP's capping tactic may have intensified the flow of gushing oil.

"The rate of increase may have been somewhere between 4 and 5 percent over what it was before," Salazar was quoted by AFP as saying.

The London-based company has managed to insert a loose-fitting containment cap over the well. But the oil still is gushing and BP says the containment operation won't be completed until it drills a relief well -- a process that is expected to last until August.

"I am still disgusted with the lack of leadership and no one stepping up to take charge and say, 'We're not going to let the oil hit the beaches,'" said Tony Kennon, mayor of Orange Beach, Alabama, who on Saturday confronted a top BP official at a news conference, CNN reported.

Cloud Lightning

US: Woman Killed by Lightning Just Before Boyfriend Was to Propose in North Carolina

© The Daily Mail
Bethany Lott was killed by lightning while hiking in North Carolina - just minutes before her boyfriend proposed
A grieving fiancé has spoken of his grief after his girlfriend was struck and killed by lightning as he was about to propose.

Richard Butler was able to slip the engagement ring on his girlfriend's finger as paramedics battled to save her life.

But they were unable to save 25-year-old Bethany Lott, who had been struck twice by bolts of lightning as she hiked with her boyfriend in the mountains of North Carolina.

Mr Butler, who suffered burns in the strike, said he had been minutes away from proposing to his girlfriend of a year when tragedy struck.

He said: 'The lightning came on quick, a matter of a minute.

'Her final words, she turned and looked at me and said: "Baby, look, isn't it so beautiful."'

Cloud Lightning

US: Man Struck by Lightning in Alabama

A man was struck by lightning in DeKalb County while working on phone lines.

Assistant General Manager of Farmers Telecommunications Chris Bryant said a technician was struck by lightning just after 11:30 Wednesday morning.

Bryant said the man was working to repair a line at 315 County Road 595.

He was taken to DeKalb Regional Medical Center where he was treated and released.

Cloud Lightning

Tornado rips central Illinois, kills 7 in Ohio

Amateur video footage:

A tornado unleashed a "war zone" of destruction, destroying homes and an emergency services building as a line of storms killed at least seven people in Ohio and damaged a swath of central Illinois.

Storms collapsed a movie theater roof in Downstate Elmwood and ripped siding off a building at a Michigan nuclear plant, forcing a shutdown. But most of the worst was reserved for a 100-yard-wide, 7-mile-long strip southeast of Toledo now littered with wrecked vehicles, splintered wood and family possessions.


BP 'manipulating search results' on Google following oil spill

BP is being accused of trying to manipulate the search results on sites like Google and Yahoo, as it attempts to salvage its battered image following the oil slick in the Gulf of Mexico.

The company is purchasing terms such as "oil spill", "Deepwater Horizon" and "Gulf of Mexico", so that when a user types these words into the search engines, the results prominently feature a "sponsored link" to BP's official page on its response to the spill.

Critics have described BP's move as unethical. Maureen Mackey, a writer on the Fiscal Times, an online news site, said: "What it effectively does is that it bumps down other legitimate news and opinion pieces that are addressing the spill... and [BP are] paying big money for that."

No Entry

BP oil spill fears hit North Sea as Norway bans drilling

Norway has banned new deepwater oil drilling in the North Sea amid in a sign that panic over BP's Gulf of Mexico spill is spreading.

As the political fall-out moved beyond America, US President Barack Obama attacked BP chief executive Tony Hayward, saying he should have been sacked for tactless comments after the spill.

Britain yesterday ruled out a moratorium "for the moment" on deep water exploration, but Norway, its North Sea neighbour, said it had sufficient concerns to halt all new drilling until a full inquiry is conducted into the cause of BP's leak.

Riis-Johansen, Norway's oil minister said: "What is happening in the Gulf of Mexico is so unique, it's gone on for such a long time, the blow-out is so big, we must gather enough information from it before we move on."

Bizarro Earth

PJ Hahn: 'BP has lied to us from day one. We could have stopped the oil'


In a special report from the marshlands of Louisiana, Michael McCarthy meets the man in charge of defending the coast

"Hell," says PJ Hahn, the man at the very tip of the sharp end of America's oil spill disaster, "we're under siege here. If somebody was breaking into your house, would you get on the phone to friends and neighbours to discuss it? You'd shoot the sonofabitch. It's that simple."

Blond-haired, blue-eyed, cowboy-booted - and very direct - PJ has what may be the toughest job of all in the Gulf of Mexico right now. He is personally responsible for preventing the oil that is pouring out of the shattered Deepwater Horizon well from devastating his Louisiana coastal community, which is smack on the front line. And his frustration with bureaucracy hindering what he judges the right aggressive response has begun to reach boiling point, for he tells me without even pausing for breath: "If I were king, I would have two offices, the department of thinking outside the box, and the department of common sense, and I would throw everyone else out of there!"

PJ is director of coastal zone management for Plaquemines parish - a parish in Louisiana being the equivalent of a county in the other American states - with Plaquemines being the area of the bottom 70 miles of the Mississippi Delta, where the mighty river flows into the Gulf. A hundred miles across, most of Plaquemines is marshland, but marshland of enormous economic and ecological importance, as it is the nursery for the fish, shrimp and oysters that sustain the state's whopping seafood industry, and is also the winter refuge for hundreds of thousands of ducks and geese that arrive from all over America. Furthermore, it is an essential protective zone for New Orleans, just to the north, when tropical storms and hurricanes blow in. It is known as "the speedbump for New Orleans"


Snakes May Be in Decline Worldwide, Study Suggests

© Getty Images
Distinct populations of snake species on three continents have crashed over the last decade, raising fears that the reptiles may be in global decline, according to a study published Wednesday.
Distinct populations of snake species on three continents have crashed over the last decade, raising fears that the reptiles may be in global decline, according to a study published Wednesday.

The pattern across the eight species monitored was alarmingly similar despite their geographical isolation, which points to a common cause such as climate change, the researchers said.

Other factors known to play a role include habitat loss, pollution, disease, lack of prey and over-exploitation, either for food or trade.

The study showed that 11 of 17 snake populations in Britain, France, Italy, Nigeria and Australia dropped off sharply over a four-year period starting in the late 1990s.

"Our data revealed an alarming trend," the authors reported in the British Royal Society journal Biology Letters.


Dolphins Use Diplomacy in Their Communication

© Bruno Díaz
A female dolphin communicates by whistling with her baby.
Until now, the scientific community had thought that whistles were the main sounds made by these mammals, and were unaware of the importance and use of burst-pulsed sounds. Researchers from the Bottlenose Dolphin Research Institute (BDRI), based in Sardinia (Italy) have now shown that these sounds are vital to the animals' social life and mirror their behaviour.

"Burst-pulsed sounds are used in the life of bottlenose dolphins to socialise and maintain their position in the social hierarchy in order to prevent physical conflict, and this also represents a significant energy saving", Bruno Díaz, lead author of the study and a researcher at the BDRI, which he also manages, tells SINC.

The study, published by the publishing house Nova Science Publishers in the book Dolphins: Anatomy, Behaviour and Threats, presents the most complete repertoire ever of these burst-pulsed sounds and whistles, gathered using bioacoustics since 2005 in the waters off Sardinia (Italy).


Crocodiles Body Surf to Hop Between Islands

© Sam Abell/National Geographic
A saltwater crocodile sits on shore during low tide on the Cape York Peninsula in Australia.
"Crocodile Hunter" Steve Irwin helped design tracking study.

Saltwater crocodiles in the South Pacific travel between islands by body surfing, according to new research designed in part by late "Crocodile Hunter" Steve Irwin.

The world's largest living reptile, the saltwater crocodile is found in brackish and freshwater habitats extending east-west from East India to Fiji and north-south from southern China to northern Australia.

Despite being found on several islands across this range, different crocodile groups haven't evolved into completely unique species - the way Darwin's finches evolved on the Galápagos Islands.

That suggests the crocodiles are somehow island hopping, keeping the overall gene pool well mixed. But until now, no one was sure just how the crocs were traveling, as they're excellent swimmers for short distances but aren't great at long, endurance swims.