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Earth Changes


Foreigners threaten Afghan snow leopards

KABUL - Afghanistan's snow leopards have barely survived three decades of war. But now the few remaining mountain leopards left in Afghanistan face another threat -- foreigners involved in rebuilding the war-torn country.

Despite a complete hunting ban across Afghanistan since 2002, snow leopard furs regularly end up for sale on international military bases and at tourist bazaars in the capital. Foreigners have ready cash to buy the pelts as souvenirs and impoverished Afghans break poaching laws to supply them.

snow leopards
©REUTERS/Rupak De Chowdhuri
A female snow leopard with its cub is seen inside its enclosure at a zoological park in Darjeeling, about 80 km (50 miles) north from the northeastern Indian city of Siliguri June 21, 2007.

Tucked between souvenir stores on Chicken Street, Kabul's main tourist trap, several shops sell fur coats and pelts taken from many of Afghanistan's threatened and endangered animals.

"This one is only $300," one shopkeeper told Reuters, producing a snow leopard pelt from the back of his shop.

"It was shot several times," he said pointing to the patches of fur sewn together. "The better ones are only shot once. The skin remains intact," he says as his assistant brings out a larger pelt, this time with no patches. "This one is $900."


US: Levee breaks, threatening eastern Missouri homes

WINFIELD. - A corner of an earthen levee broke Friday, releasing Mississippi River waters that officials predicted would "ultimately inundate" part of a Lincoln County town.

©AP Photo/Jeff Roberson
Rick Yeomans walks atop a massive wall of sandbags holding back floodwaters from the Mississippi River as he checks pumps along the wall Thursday, June 26, 2008, in Clarksville, Mo.

The National Weather Service said in a flash flood warning issued at 5:55 a.m. that it was unknown how fast the water was moving. It was also uncertain about the condition of the rest of the Pin Oak Levee at Winfield, about 45 miles northwest of St. Louis.

The surrounding rural area is also expected to flood.

Andy Binder, spokesman for Lincoln County emergency management operations, had said Thursday that the Pin Oak levee was holding but showing signs of strain. It was protecting about 100 homes in Winfield, numerous businesses and thousands of farm acres.


Magnitude 6.1 Earthquake - Tonga

Magnitude 6.1 [link]


Two Magnitude 6+ Earthquakes Off the Coast of India

Magnitude 6.7 [link]

Magnitude 6.1 [link]

Bizarro Earth

Bee disappearances could get worse, House panel told

Washington - A record 36 percent of U.S. commercial bee colonies have been lost to mysterious causes so far this year and worse may be yet to come, experts told a congressional panel Thursday.

The year's bee colony losses are about twice the usual seen following a typical winter, scientists warn. Despite ambitious new research efforts, the causes remain a mystery.

"We need results," pleaded California beekeeper Steve Godlin. "We need a unified effort by all."

The escalating campaign against what's generically called colony collapse disorder includes more state, federal and private funding for research. Publicity efforts are getting louder -- a costumed Mr. Bee was seen wandering around Capitol Hill this week -- and lawmakers are becoming mobilized.

Comment: A flippant tone is used in the article that masks just how serious this issue is. See: To Bee or not to Be

Better Earth

US: Increase in wild bee swarms in New Jersey

Seth Belson remembers getting a phone call last month asking him to remove a bee swarm the size of a Volkswagen from a man's front yard in Merchantville, New Jersey.

The beekeeper found a mass of bees towering 50 feet (15 meters) above the ground. There was nothing he could do but wait for them to move on, he said.


Video posted by federal agency captures wolf-bear interaction in Montana park

HELENA - A video posted on the Web site of the U.S. Geological Survey captures remarkable interaction between a wolf and a family of 3 grizzly bears in Montana's Glacier National Park.

The wolf draws close to the cubs, only to be chased away by the youngsters and, more seriously, by their mother. But the wolf is not deterred, returning repeatedly for another run at the cubs in what looks like a tease.


Heatwave Scorches the Balkans

Belgrade, Sarajevo, Zagreb, Skopje - Two people have died and hundreds have sought medical assistance as a summer heat wave grips the western Balkans.

A period of extremely warm temperatures started as of this weekend and will last at least three weeks, meteorologists in the region said. They warned that temperatures - even above 40 degrees Celsius - may be set creating temperature highs not seen in the last 100 years.

Better Earth

Greece to start water shipments to drought-stricken Cyprus next week

Cyprus will start importing water from Greece next week to help ease a drought, officials said Thursday.

Agriculture Minister Andreas Polynikis said Greece has agreed to sell 8 million cubic meters (282.5 million cubic feet) of water to Cyprus. He provided no financial details.

A dry winter has reduced Cyprus' water reserves in the island's dams to 7.5 percent of capacity - a third of last year's amount. In March, authorities imposed household water supply cuts.

Bizarro Earth

Fire under the ice: Gigantic volcanic eruption discovered under the Arctic

An international team of researchers was able to provide evidence of explosive volcanism in the deeps of the ice-covered Arctic Ocean for the first time. Researchers from an expedition to the Gakkel Ridge, led by the American Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI), report in the current issue of the journal Nature that they discovered, with a specially developed camera, extensive layers of volcanic ash on the seafloor, which indicates a gigantic volcanic eruption.

Gakel Ridge Volcano
©Helmholtz Association of German Research Centres
Bathymetric chart of the Gakkel Ridge at 85°E. Photographic bottom surveys were conducted along profiles shown as thin, black lines. The photo showing volcanic ashes on the sea bed were taken at the site, which is marked with a red star and the letter a.