Category: Bacteria

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Undersea warfare: Viruses hijack deep-sea bacteria at hydrothermal vents

May 1, 2014
National Science Foundation
More than a mile beneath the ocean’s surface, as dark clouds of mineral-rich water billow from seafloor hot springs called hydrothermal vents, unseen armies of viruses and bacteria wage war.


Credit: NOAA

[Click to enlarge image]

More than a mile beneath the ocean’s surface, as dark clouds of mineral-rich water billow from seafloor hot springs called hydrothermal vents, unseen armies of viruses and bacteria wage war.

Like pirates boarding a treasure-laden ship, the viruses infect bacterial cells to get the loot: tiny globules of elemental sulfur stored inside the bacterial cells.

Instead of absconding with their prize, the viruses force the bacteria to burn their valuable sulfur reserves, then use the unleashed energy to replicate.

“Our findings suggest that viruses in the dark oceans indirectly access vast energy sources in the form of elemental sulfur,” said University of Michigan marine microbiologist and oceanographer Gregory Dick, whose team collected DNA from deep-sea microbes in seawater samples from hydrothermal vents in the Western Pacific Ocean and the Gulf of California.

“We suspect that these viruses are essentially hijacking bacterial cells and getting them to consume elemental sulfur so the viruses can propagate themselves,” said Karthik Anantharaman of the University of Michigan, first author of a paper on the findings published this week in the journal Science Express.

Similar microbial interactions have been observed in shallow ocean waters between photosynthetic bacteria and the viruses that prey upon them.

But this is the first time such a relationship has been seen in a chemosynthetic system, one in which the microbes rely solely on inorganic compounds, rather than sunlight, as their energy source.

“Viruses play a cardinal role in biogeochemical processes in ocean shallows,” said David Garrison, a program director in the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Division of Ocean Sciences, which funded the research. “They may have similar importance in deep-sea thermal vent environments.”


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Pathogenic plant virus jumps to honeybees

by Staff Writers
Washington DC (SPX) Jan 24, 2014

Toxic viral cocktails appear to have a strong link with honey bee Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), a mysterious malady that abruptly wiped out entire hives across the United States and was first reported in 2006. Israel Acute Paralysis Virus (IAPV), Acute Bee Paralysis Virus (ABPV), Chronic Paralysis Virus (CPV), Kashmir Bee Virus (KBV), Deformed Wing Bee Virus (DWV), Black Queen Cell Virus (BQCV) and Sacbrood Virus (SBV) are other known causes of honeybee viral disease.

Researchers working in the U.S. and Beijing, China report their findings in mBio, the online open-access journal of the American Society for Microbiology.

The routine screening of bees for frequent and rare viruses “resulted in the serendipitous detection of Tobacco Ringspot Virus, or TRSV, and prompted an investigation into whether this plant-infecting virus could also cause systemic infection in the bees,” says Yan Ping Chen from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS) laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland, an author on the study.

“The results of our study provide the first evidence that honeybees exposed to virus-contaminated pollen can also be infected and that the infection becomes widespread in their bodies,” says lead author Ji Lian Li, at the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Science in Beijing.

“We already know that honeybees, Apis melllifera, can transmit TRSV when they move from flower to flower, likely spreading the virus from one plant to another,” Chen adds.

Notably, about 5% of known plant viruses are pollen-transmitted and thus potential sources of host-jumping viruses. RNA viruses tend to be particularly dangerous because they lack the 3′-5′ proofreading function which edits out errors in replicated genomes. As a result, viruses such as TRSV generate a flood of variant copies with differing infective properties.

One consequence of such high replication rates are populations of RNA viruses thought to exist as “quasispecies,” clouds of genetically related variants that appear to work together to determine the pathology of their hosts. These sources of genetic diversity, coupled with large population sizes, further facilitate the adaption of RNA viruses to new selective conditions such as those imposed by novel hosts. “Thus, RNA viruses are a likely source of emerging and reemerging infectious diseases,” explain these researchers.

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Bee Deaths May Stem From Virus, Study Says

The mysterious mass die-offs of honeybees that have wiped out roughly a third of commercial colonies each year since 2006 may be linked to a rapidly mutating virus that jumped from tobacco plants to soy plants to bees, according to a new study.

The research, reported Tuesday in the online version of the academic journal mBio, found that the increase in honeybee deaths that generally starts in autumn and peaks in winter was correlated with increasing infections by a variant of the tobacco ringspot virus.

The virus is found in pollen that bees pick up while foraging, and it may be spread as the bees mix saliva and nectar with pollen to make “bee bread” for larvae to eat. Mites that feed on the bees may also be involved in transmitting the virus, the researchers said.

Among the study’s authors are leading researchers investigating the bee deaths at the Agriculture Department’s laboratories in Beltsville, Md., as well as experts at American universities and at the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences in Beijing.

Their research offers one explanation for the phenomenon known as colony collapse disorder, in which bees have died at more than twice the usual rate since it was identified seven years ago. But most researchers, including the study’s authors, suspect that a host of viruses, parasites and, perhaps, other factors like pesticides are working in combination to weaken colonies and increase the death rate.

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Desert Rose Creations / Family Survival Protocol  2013


Bet You Didn’t Know: Vinegar Keeps Coffee Fresh, Gets Rid of Sweat Stains and Has 17 Other Magical Uses

You cook with it, but do you clean with it, too? Check out these inspired ways to use vinegar

That humble, no-frills bottle of vinegar in your pantry isn’t just a salad staple; it’s an effective household cleaning agent. Here, 20 practical (but surprising!) uses for the acidic wonder.

1. Keep your morning cup of coffee fresh.
Mix two cups of water with one cup of undiluted white vinegar. Run it through your coffee maker and repeat the process two to three times before brewing a fresh pot.

2. Disinfect household sponges.
Soak sponges in undiluted white vinegar overnight, and let air-dry before reuse.

3. Dissolve crayon marks from the walls.
Moisten a toothbrush with undiluted white vinegar, lightly scrub the scribble and voila — your walls no longer resemble giant pages out of your kid’s coloring book.

4. Eliminate hard-water rings in flower vases.
Pour undiluted white vinegar slightly past the dirty line. Cover the opening with a cloth, swish the liquid around and let it sit overnight. Dump, and rinse with warm water to remove any remaining remnants.

5. Prevent germapalooza from happening on your cutting board.
Dampen a clean cloth with undiluted white vinegar and wipe the board down after each use.

6. Make a quick substitute for gum remover.
Scrape off as much of the wad as you can from the fabric (e.g. pants, carpet, etc.). Heat up undiluted white vinegar in a microwave-safe container. Soak the head of a toothbrush in the solution, and scrub at the remaining gum until it’s gone.

7. Turn finished holiday ornaments into clear, trendy bulbs.
Mix baking soda and water to form a paste. Using a paper towel, rub the paste onto the outside of the bulbs until the finishing starts peeling off. Fill the insides with undiluted white vinegar, and swish around until the inside coating wears away.

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Crossroads News : Changes In The World Around Us And Our Place In It

Environmental  –  Seas / Oceans :  Bacteria – Adaptation

Freshwater Flows Into the Arctic and Southern Oceans Appear to Determine the Composition of Microbial Populations

by Staff Writers
Washington DC (SPX)

illustration only

Differing contributions of freshwater from glaciers and streams to the Arctic and Southern oceans appear to be responsible for the fact that the majority of microbial communities that thrive near the surface at the Poles share few common members, according to an international team of researchers, some of whom were supported by the National Science Foundation (NSF).

In a paper published in the Oct. 8 edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), the researchers report that only 25 percent of the taxonomic groups identified by genetic sequencing that are found at the surface of these waters are common between the two polar oceans. The differences were not as pronounced among microbes deeper in the oceans, with a 40 percent commonality for those populations.

The findings were produced by research supported by NSF during the International Polar Year 2007-2009 (IPY), a global scientific deployment that involved scientists from more than 60 nations. NSF was the lead U.S. agency for the IPY.

“Some of the DNA samples were collected during “Oden Southern Ocean 2007-2008,” a unique collaborative effort between NSF’s Office of Polar Programs and the Swedish Polar Research Secretariat to perform oceanographic research in the difficult-to-reach and poorly studied Amundsen Sea,” said Patricia Yager, a researcher at the University of Georgia and a co-author on the paper.

The Oden cruise was among the first IPY deployments. In addition, some of the samples used in the research were gathered as part of NSF’s Life in Extreme Environments Program.

The Polar regions often are described as being, in many ways, mirror images of one another–the Arctic being a ocean surrounded by continental landmasses, while Antarctica is a continent surrounded by an ocean–but the new findings add a biological nuance to those comparisons.

“We believe that differences in environmental conditions at the poles and different selection mechanisms were at play in controlling surface and deep ocean community structure between polar oceans,” said Alison Murray of the Desert Research Institute in Reno, Nev., and a co-author on the PNAS paper. “Not surprisingly, the Southern and Arctic oceans are nearest neighbors to each other when compared with communities from lower latitude oceans.”

One of the most notable differences in environmental conditions between the two polar oceans is freshwater input. In the Southern Ocean, glacial melt water accounts for most of the freshwater that flows into the systems. In contrast, the Arctic Ocean receives much bigger pulses of freshwater from several large river systems with huge continental drainage basins, in addition to glacial melt water.

The group found that the differences between the poles were most pronounced in the microbial communities sampled from the coastal regions. “This likely is a result of the significant differences in freshwater sourcing to the two polar oceans,” said Jean-Francois Ghiglione, lead author of the article and professor at the Observatoire Oceanologique in Banyuls-Sur-Mer, France.

While the surface microbial communities appear to be dominated by environmental selection, such as through the freshwater inputs, the deep communities are more constrained by historical events and connected through oceanic circulation, providing evidence for biogeographically defined communities in the global ocean, according to the authors.

The team compared 20 samples from the Southern Ocean and 24 from the Arctic from both surface and deep waters. They also included an additional 48 samples from lower latitudes to investigate the polar signal in global marine bacterial biogeography.

The researchers specifically compared samples from coastal and open oceans and between winter and summer, to test whether or how environmental conditions and dispersal patterns shape communities in the polar oceans. Samples were processed and analyzed using an identical approach, based on a special technique of DNA sequencing called pyrosequencing, involving more than 800,000 sequences from the 92 samples.

“Our analyses identified a number of key organisms in both poles in the surface and deep ocean waters that are important in driving the differences between the communities,” Murray said. “Further research is needed to address the ecological and evolutionary processes underlying these patterns.”

The collaborative research was the result of an international effort coordinated by Murray, that involved national polar research programs from six countries–Canada, France, New Zealand, Spain, Sweden and the United States. Support for the work also came from the Sloan Foundation’s Census of Marine Life program, which stimulated field efforts at both poles and a separate program targeting marine microbes, the International Census of Marine Microbes, that developed the approach and conducted the sequencing effort.

“The collective energies required to bring this study to fruition were remarkable,” Murray said. “Through using similar strategies and technologies from sample collection through next- generation sequencing, we have a highly comparable, unprecedented dataset that for the first time has really allowed us to look in depth across a relatively large number of samples into the similarities of the microbial communities between the two polar oceans.”


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Unusual Symbiosis Discovered in Marine Microorganisms

National Science Foundation 


Confocal microscope images of the symbiosis. (Niculina Musat & Cristina Moraru)

Confocal microscope images of the symbiosis. (Niculina Musat & Cristina Moraru)

Scientists have discovered an unusual symbiosis between tiny single-celled algae and highly specialized bacteria in the ocean.

The partnership plays an important role in fertilizing the oceans by taking nitrogen from the atmosphere and “fixing” it into a form that other organisms can use.

Details of the finding, published in this week’s issue of the journal Science, emerged from the investigation of a mysterious nitrogen-fixing microbe that has a very small genome.

First detected in 1998 by Jonathan Zehr, a marine scientist at the University of California, Santa Cruz (UCSC), the microbe now appears to be the most widespread nitrogen-fixing organism in the oceans.

It belongs to a group of photosynthetic bacteria known as cyanobacteria, but it lacks the genes needed to carry out photosynthesis.

Apparently its association with the algae makes those genes unnecessary.

“The cyanobacterium is a nitrogen-fixer, so it provides nitrogen to the host cell [the algae], and the host cell provides needed carbon to the cyanobacterium, which is lacking the machinery to get its own,” says Anne Thompson, a lead author of the paper and researcher at UCSC. Rachel Foster of the Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology is the other lead author.

The finding has uncovered a symbiosis between two types of microorganisms that had remained hidden until now, says Matt Kane, program director in the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Division of Environmental Biology, which funded the research along with NSF’s Division of Ocean Sciences.

In previous work, Zehr’s team had studied the cyanobacteria in samples processed at sea and brought back to the lab.

Seawater sampling during an oceanographic research cruise to the southeast Pacific Ocean. (Daniel Vaulot)

Seawater sampling during an oceanographic research cruise to the southeast Pacific Ocean. (Daniel Vaulot)

The researchers were able to sequence the microbe’s complete genome. They discovered that it’s missing the genes for several key metabolic pathways, suggesting that it might live in association with another organism.

The scientists were only able to see the symbiotic partners together when they sorted freshly collected seawater samples on board a research vessel.

“Our collaborators at the University of Hawaii, Dave Karl and Ken Doggett, put a cell sorter into a portable laboratory—a lab in a box—so now we can take the machine to sea and sort cells that minutes before were in their natural environment,” says Thompson. “That’s how we found the association.”

Zehr noted that it’s difficult to estimate the contribution of this symbiosis to global carbon and nitrogen cycles.

Other algae are more abundant and may be more important in terms of the ocean’s carbon cycle than the algae hosts in this symbiosis, he says. But the cyanobacteria partners likely make this a significant contribution to global nitrogen fixation in the oceans.

“Planktonic symbioses are very difficult to study,” says Foster. “The associations are often fragile. Here we used multiple tools to identify one of the first examples of this kind of partnership in plankton.”

In addition to Thompson, Zehr and Foster, the co-authors of the paper include Andreas Krupke, Niculina Musat and Marcel Kuypers of the Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology; Brandon Carter of UCSC; and Daniel Vaulot of the Station Biologique de Roscoff and the Pierre and Marie Curie University in Paris.

The research was also funded by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation and the Max Planck Society.

Scientists Define New Limits of Microbial Life in Undersea Volcanoes


by Staff Writers
Washington DC (SPX)

Alvin extends its mechanical arm to a high-temperature black smoker at Endeavor Segment. Credit: Bruce Strickrott/WHOI.

By some estimates, a third of Earth’s organisms live in our planet’s rocks and sediments, yet their lives are almost a complete mystery. This week, the work of microbiologist James Holden of the University of Massachusetts-Amherst and colleagues shines a light into this dark world. In the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), they report the first detailed data on methane-exhaling microbes that live deep in the cracks of hot undersea volcanoes.

“Evidence has built that there’s an incredible amount of biomass in the Earth’s subsurface, in the crust and marine sediments, perhaps as much as all the plants and animals on the surface,” says Holden.

“We’re interested in the microbes in the deep rock, and the best place to study them is at hydrothermal vents at undersea volcanoes. Warm water there brings the nutrient and energy sources these microbes need.”

Just as biologists studied the habitats and life requirements of giraffes and penguins when they were new to science, Holden says, “for the first time we’re studying these subsurface microorganisms, defining their habitat requirements and determining how they differ among species.”

The result will advance scientists’ comprehension of biogeochemical cycles in the deep ocean, he and co-authors believe.

“Studies such as this add greatly to our understanding of microbial processes in the still poorly-known deep biosphere,” says David Garrison, program director in the National Science Foundation’s Division of Ocean Sciences, which funded the research.

The project also addresses such questions as what metabolic processes may have looked like on Earth three billion years ago, and what alien microbial life might look like on other planets.

Because the study involves methanogens–microbes that inhale hydrogen and carbon dioxide to produce methane as waste–it may also shed light on natural gas formation on Earth.

One major goal was to test results of predictive computer models and to establish the first environmental hydrogen threshold for hyperthermophilic (super-heat-loving), methanogenic (methane-producing) microbes in hydrothermal vent fluids.

“Models have predicted the ‘habitability’ of the rocky environments we’re most interested in, but we wanted to ground-truth these models and refine them,” Holden says.

In a two-liter bioreactor at UMass Amherst where the scientists could control hydrogen levels, they grew pure cultures of hyperthermophilic methanogens from their study site alongside a commercially available hyperthermophilic methanogen species.

The researchers found that growth measurements for the organisms were about the same. All grew at the same rate when given equal amounts of hydrogen and had the same minimum growth requirements.

Holden and Helene Ver Eecke at UMass Amherst used culturing techniques to look for organisms in nature and then study their growth in the lab.

Co-investigators Julie Huber at the Marine Biological Laboratory on Cape Cod provided molecular analyses of the microbes, while David Butterfield and Marvin Lilley at the University of Washington contributed geochemical fluid analyses.

Using the research submarine Alvin, they collected samples of hydrothermal fluids flowing from black smokers up to 350 degrees C (662 degrees F), and from ocean floor cracks with lower temperatures.

Samples were taken from Axial Volcano and the Endeavour Segment, both long-term observatory sites along an undersea mountain range about 200 miles off the coast of Washington and Oregon and more than a mile below the ocean’s surface.

“We used specialized sampling instruments to measure both the chemical and microbial composition of hydrothermal fluids,” says Butterfield.

“This was an effort to understand the biological and chemical factors that determine microbial community structure and growth rates.”

A happy twist awaited the researchers as they pieced together a picture of how the methanogens live and work.

At the low-hydrogen Endeavour site, they found that a few hyperthermophilic methanogens eke out a living by feeding on the hydrogen waste produced by other hyperthermophiles.

“This was extremely exciting,” says Holden. “We’ve described a methanogen ecosystem that includes a symbiotic relationship between microbes.”

The research was also supported by the NASA Astrobiology Institute and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.


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Generation X is surprisingly unconcerned about climate change

by Staff Writers
Ann Arbor, MI (SPX)

File image.

As the nation suffers through a summer of record-shattering heat, a University of Michigan report finds that Generation X is lukewarm about climate change-uninformed about the causes and unconcerned about the potential dangers. “Most Generation Xers are surprisingly disengaged, dismissive or doubtful about whether global climate change is happening and they don’t spend much time worrying about it,” said Jon D. Miller, author of “The Generation X Report.”

The new report, the fourth in a continuing series, compares Gen X attitudes about climate change in 2009 and 2011, and describes the levels of concern Gen Xers have about different aspects of climate change, as well as their sources of information on the subject.

“We found a small but statistically significant decline between 2009 and 2011 in the level of attention and concern Generation X adults expressed about climate change,” Miller said. “In 2009, about 22 percent said they followed the issue of climate change very or moderately closely. In 2011, only 16 percent said they did so.”

Miller directs the Longitudinal Study of American Youth at the U-M Institute for Social Research. The study, funded by the National Science Foundation since 1986, now includes responses from approximately 4,000 Gen Xers-those born between 1961 and 1981, and now between 32 and 52 years of age.

Only about 5 percent of those surveyed in 2011 were alarmed about climate change, and another 18 percent said they were concerned about it. But 66 percent said they aren’t sure that global warming is happening, and about 10 percent said they don’t believe global warming is actually happening.

“This is an interesting and unexpected profile,” Miller said. “Few issues engage a solid majority of adults in our busy and pluralistic society, but the climate issue appears to attract fewer committed activists-on either side-than I would have expected.”

Because climate change is such a complex issue, education and scientific knowledge are important factors in explaining levels of concern, Miller said. Adults with more education are more likely to be alarmed and concerned about climate change, he found. And those who scored 90 or above on a 100-point Index of Civic Scientific Literacy also were significantly more likely to be alarmed or concerned than less knowledgeable adults.

Still, 12 percent of those who were highly literate scientifically were either dismissive or doubtful about climate change, Miller found. He also found that partisan affiliations predicted attitudes, with nearly half of liberal Democrats alarmed or concerned compared with zero percent of conservative Republicans.

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Scientists connect seawater chemistry with climate change and evolution

by Staff Writers
Toronto, Canada (SPX)

This is a satellite view of the Zagros mountain belt in western Iran. The range forms part of the most extensive belt of water-soluble gypsum on Earth, stretching from Oman to Pakistan, and well into Western India. Scientists suggest that the dissolution of ancient salt deposits caused drastic changes in seawater chemistry, which may have triggered long-term global cooling. Credit: US Geological Survey/Center for Earth Resources Observation and Science.

Humans get most of the blame for climate change, with little attention paid to the contribution of other natural forces. Now, scientists from the University of Toronto and the University of California Santa Cruz are shedding light on one potential cause of the cooling trend of the past 45 million years that has everything to do with the chemistry of the world’s oceans.

“Seawater chemistry is characterized by long phases of stability, which are interrupted by short intervals of rapid change,” says Professor Ulrich Wortmann in the Department of Earth Sciences at the University of Toronto, lead author of a study to be published in Science this week.

“We’ve established a new framework that helps us better interpret evolutionary trends and climate change over long periods of time. The study focuses on the past 130 million years, but similar interactions have likely occurred through the past 500 million years.”

Wortmann and co-author Adina Paytan of the Institute of Marine Sciences at the University of California Santa Cruz point to the collision between India and Eurasia approximately 50 million years ago as one example of an interval of rapid change.

This collision enhanced dissolution of the most extensive belt of water-soluble gypsum on Earth, stretching from Oman to Pakistan, and well into Western India – remnants of which are well exposed in the Zagros mountains.

The authors suggest that the dissolution or creation of such massive gyspum deposits will change the sulfate content of the ocean, and that this will affect the amount of sulfate aerosols in the atmosphere and thus climate.

“We propose that times of high sulfate concentrations in ocean water correlate with global cooling, just as times of low concentration correspond with greenhouse periods,” says Paytan.

“When India and Eurasia collided, it caused dissolution of ancient salt deposits which resulted in drastic changes in seawater chemistry,” Paytan continues. “This may have led to the demise of the Eocene epoch – the warmest period of the modern-day Cenozoic era – and the transition from a greenhouse to icehouse climate, culminating in the beginning of the rapid expansion of the Antarctic ice sheet.”

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Think Pink! Success of pink bacteria in oceans of the world

by Staff Writers
Leibniz, Germany (SPX)

Marine bacteria Roseobacter clade.

Marine bacteria of the Roseobacter clade are found to be spread widely throughout the oceans of this planet from the tropics to as far as Antarctica. They live freely in the water, in sediments and as symbiotic partners of algae. Special photosynthetic pigments are responsible for their pink colour. Marine bacteria distinguish themselves through an unusually diverse metabolism, which opens interesting opportunities for biotechnological applications.

A reconstruction of their evolutionary development will provide a key for scientists to understand the secret for their ecological success. Researchers at the DSMZ have now discovered that, through plasmids, representatives of the Roseobacter group may exchange such important genetic characteristics as the capability to perform photosynthesis.

This type of horizontal gene transfer across the species boundary might make it possible for bacteria of the Roseobacter clade to quickly and effectively conquer new ecological niches. The results of experiments have been published in the magazine Environmental Microbiology and are already available online.

Since 2010, scientists of the Leibniz-Institut DSMZ-Deutsche Sammlung von Mikroorganismen und Zellkulturen GmbH (Leibniz Institute DSMZ German Collection of Microorganisms and Cell Cultures) have been working together with marine microbiologists, ecologists, biochemists, geneticists and information technologists in the Transregio 51 Roseobacter collaborative research centre.

The goal of this collaborative research group is to understand the evolutionary, genetic and physiological principles which are responsible for the success of this group of bacteria that have not yet been the object of very extensive research to date. What special genetic features do these bacteria have to enable them to adapt to the most varied of natural habitats?

The DSMZ researchers in the team of Dr. Jorn Petersen, Private Lecturer and Dr. Silke Pradella have now found a clue leading to an important point of reference. The scientists examined the evolution and importance of so-called “plasmids” within the Roseobacter clade which are to be found there in great numbers and varieties.

“Plasmids are usually ring-shaped DNA molecules with a size of up to 1 million base pairs which can duplicate themselves independently of the bacterial chromosome. Natural plasmids encode such useful properties as nitrogen fixation. However, they are also responsible for the development of multiresistant hospital pathogens”, the geneticist and evolutionary biologist Dr. Jorn Petersen explains.

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Buddha tree alive and healthy at age 2,500

by Staff Writers
Bodh Gaya, India (UPI)

disclaimer: image is for illustration purposes only

The 2,500-year-old tree under which Gautama Buddha is believed to have attained enlightenment is alive and healthy, Indian scientists said Thursday.

The Bodhi tree, a large Sacred Fig (Ficus religiosa,) is in Bodh Gaya in India’s eastern state of Bihar, about 60 miles from the state capital of Patna.

“The Bodhi tree is fully healthy,” Subhash Nautiyal of the Forest Research Institute in India’s northern state of Uttarakhand said.

Nautiyal and colleagues examined the tree after removing the cement slabs around its base, China’s Xinhua News Agency reported.

“It will help the tree to receive water and nutrition in its roots,” the scientists said.

The 1,500-year-old temple behind the sacred tree is visited by large numbers of tourists from all over the world, particularly from Japan.

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Fools’ Gold Found to Regulate Oxygen

by Staff Writers
Rehovot, Israel (SPX)

File image.

As sulfur cycles through Earth’s atmosphere, oceans and land, it undergoes chemical changes that are often coupled to changes in other such elements as carbon and oxygen. Although this affects the concentration of free oxygen, sulfur has traditionally been portrayed as a secondary factor in regulating atmospheric oxygen, with most of the heavy lifting done by carbon. However, new findings that appeared this week in Science suggest that sulfur’s role may have been underestimated.

Drs. Itay Halevy of the Weizmann Institute’s Environmental Science and Energy Research Department (Faculty of Chemistry), Shanan Peters of the University of Wisconsin and Woodward Fischer of the California Institute of Technology, were interested in better understanding the global sulfur cycle over the last 550 million years – roughly the period in which oxygen has been at its present atmospheric level of around 20%.

They used a database developed and maintained by Peters at the University of Wisconsin, called Macrostrat, which contains detailed information on thousands of rock units in North America and beyond.

The researchers used the database to trace one of the ways in which sulfur exits ocean water into the underlying sediments – the formation of so-called sulfate evaporite minerals. These sulfur-bearing minerals, such as gypsum, settle to the bottom of shallow seas as seawater evaporates.

The team found that the formation and burial of sulfate evaporites were highly variable over the last 550 million years, due to changes in shallow sea area, the latitude of ancient continents and sea level.

More surprising to Halevy and colleagues was the discovery that only a relatively small fraction of the sulfur cycling through the oceans has exited seawater in this way. Their research showed that the formation and burial of a second sulfur-bearing mineral – pyrite – has apparently been much more important.

Pyrite is an iron-sulfur mineral (also known as fools’ gold), which forms when microbes in seafloor sediments use the sulfur dissolved in seawater to digest organic matter. The microbes take up sulfur in the form of sulfate (bound to four oxygen atoms) and release it as sulfide (with no oxygen).

Oxygen is released during this process, thus making it a source of oxygen in the air. But because this part of the sulfur cycle was thought be minor in comparison to sulfate evaporite burial (which does not release oxygen), its effect on oxygen levels was also thought to be unimportant.

In testing various theoretical models of the sulfur cycle against the Macrostrat data, the team realized that the production and burial of pyrite has been much more significant than previously thought, accounting for more than 80% of all sulfur removed from the ocean (rather than the 30-40% in prior estimates). As opposed to the variability they saw for sulfate evaporite burial, pyrite burial has been relatively stable throughout the period.

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Cyber Space

Talk Tech To Me: MegaUpload Vindicated?

Published on Jul 27, 2012 by

Alright it’s Thursday, which means that it’s time to talk some tech. First, a report on the Music Industry’s global anti-piracy strategy was leaked and put up on Torrent Freak. And let’s just say it tells us a thing or two about the MegaUpload case. Then, something good actually came of out Washington DC. The Police Chief reminded officers that they actually have to respect citizens constructional rights. And can Twitter predict when people will get sick? And if so, what’s next? Global weather trends? Maybe even Armageddon? Here to give us some details on all of it and Talk Tech To Me is RT Web Producer Andrew Blake.




Microsoft mum on whether it can tap Skype phone calls

EFF says if you want to make secure calls, don’t use Skype

By , Network World

Microsoft may or may not have the ability to tap Skype phone calls, but the company just won’t say, and it’s not clear why.

Asked a yes/no question whether it can intercept encrypted calls made over the peer-to-peer voice and video service, the company says it tries to help out with legal eavesdropping as much as it can, but won’t say exactly what that means.

BACKGROUND: Microsoft patent may ruin Skype, may make VoIP spy and pry easy for gov’t

“Skype co-operates with law enforcement agencies as much as is legally and technically possible,” a company spokesperson says in an email response to questions about the capability. It’s an answer that begs the question of whether it actually has the ability to tap calls as law enforcement agencies might request under the U.S. Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act (CALEA).

Asked why the company won’t give a simple answer, the spokesperson responds: “It’s the company position. You have our statements. That’s all I can say. ”

Suspicion that Skype might have means to eavesdrop on calls built in cropped up when Microsoft was issued a patent earlier this year on lawful intercept, aspects of which “relate to silently recording communications.” This is done by modifying call requests so the communications path that is set up includes a node with a recording mechanism.

Beyond the issue of a built-in eavesdropping technology, the effectiveness of Skype security is also being questioned. Before Microsoft bought it last year for $8.5 billion, Skype was known for being secure through obscurity. The company would reveal nothing about the encryption it used, and governments demanded that Skype make it possible for them to listen in on the encrypted calls, and that is the current situation.

A report last year says the Egyptian government had the ability to eavesdrop on Skype calls made by dissidents during the uprisings there in 2010. It’s not clear whether the government broke Skype’s security or whether it had installed malware on Skype endpoint computers to capture calls as they were being played unencrypted on speakers or picked up by microphones


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YouTube asks nicely if commenters will use real names

But they probably won’t.

By Open Source Com…

If the internet were a city, the comment sections of some of even the most popular websites would be the dregs, where parents wouldn’t dare bring their children and even the most optimistic would feel hopeless. Racism, sexism, and outright bullying of absolute strangers – to the extent of encouraging suicide – isn’t uncommon, and those who contribute to it protect themselves from retribution by denying their identity.

Lately, though, some of the internet’s heavy hitters have made some attempts at instilling some accountability in internet dialogue. Their efforts might make for good PR, but will accomplish little more than that.

RELATED: Trolls be warned: Court ruling could unmask internet trolls everywhere

The Best Tweets in Response to LinkedIn’s Password Leak

YouTube has long been one of the roughest sites on the web in terms of internet commenting, which should come as no surprise. Given its size and the ability it grants to anyone who wants to submit a video they’d made, YouTube has unintentionally become sort of a massive, never-ending high school talent show where the hecklers are allowed to hurl whatever insults they want and the consequences are felt only by those performing.

With that in mind, YouTube has begun moving ahead on its promise made at last month’s Google I/O conference.

First announced in a June 29th blog post, YouTube has begun prompting its users and commenters to use their real names by linking to the Google+ accounts that the comapny apparently assumes they all have.

An option to comment without using your real name is still available, although Google is not intent on permitting it without giving users the run-around. As BetaBeat’s Jessica Roy described it yesterday, the site “basically guilts you into agreeing.”

If you still insist on remaining anonymous, you have to tell Google why: “My channel is for a show or character” or “My channel name is well-known for other reasons” are two options. “I want to remain anonymous,” is–unsurprisingly–not one.

However, YouTube’s blog post does make it clear that anonymous commenting is still an option.

We realize that using your full name isn’t for everyone. Maybe people know you by your YouTube username. Perhaps you don’t want your name publicly associated with your channel. To continue using your YouTube username, just click “I don’t want to use my full name” when you see the prompt.

Though the ability to opt-out does take a little air out of this movement’s tires, it’s still a commendable admission by YouTube that it needs to clean up its streets. It also isn’t the only recent sign of an impending War on Trolls, either.


Read Full Article Here



Online Privacy: Americans Want It, and They Want It Now. So Why Can’t They Get It?

A new survey by Truste claims 94 percent of people care deeply about online privacy. Unfortunately, none of them are in the online advertising industry.

By Dan Tynan, ITworld

Tis the season for surveys. Last week I noted a survey by PwC about what personal data consumers are willing to give up, and what they want in return for it. The respondents to that survey were quite concerned about their privacy and understood their data had real monetary value.

Online Privacy: Americans Want It, and They Want It Now. So Why Can't They Get It?Today’s topic is another recent survey, this one commissioned by Truste, an organization that offers a Good Housekeeping-style seal of approval for corporate privacy practices. As with PwC, Truste’s survey suggests that consumer concern about online and mobile privacy is on the rise, and people are much more sophisticated about the issues than the ad industry might have you believe.

According to the survey, a whopping 94 percent of the 1000+ people surveyed consider privacy issues “really important” or “somewhat important,” and six out of ten are more concerned about it than they were a year ago.

More than a third claim they’ve stopped visiting a Web site or doing business with a company because they were concerned for their privacy, and 83 percent are aware of behavioral (ie, targeted) ads, up from 70 percent last year.

Admittedly, asking people questions like these often inspires them to answer in the way they think they’re supposed to, not necessarily in the way they actually act when not taking an online survey.

(“Do you floss after every single meal to ensure cleaner teeth and a whiter smile? Why, yes, I’m doing it right now.”)

For example: In this survey, 40 percent of people claim to read a Web site’s privacy policy often or most of the time. I think that number is off by a factor of ten. Even I don’t read privacy policies most of the time, and I do this for a living. Likewise for things like refusing to allow third parties to share information (76 percent) or opting out of online ads (50 percent). I suspect there’s a bit of self delusion at play here (though not as much as this guy seems to believe).

Still, because Truste asked the same questions last year, you can draw the conclusion that all the public debate over mobile privacy, GPS tracking, and Do Not Track legislation has had an impact. People are more aware of the issues, and they’re taking more steps to protect themselves. That’s all good, and I’ll happily take all the credit for it.


Read Full Article Here





Microsoft-Skype Snooping Accusations Push All the Paranoia Buttons


Hold the phone, Internet, before deciding whether Microsoft has engineered a backdoor to allow Skype wiretaps.


By Robert X. Cringely, Infoworld


Has Microsoft has figured out a way to bug Skype calls? A report published in Slate late last week suggests this might maybe possibly be theoretically true — cue the InterWeb’s full-blown paranoia party.


In a blog post titled “Skype won’t say whether it can eavesdrop on your conversations,” Slate’s Ryan Gallagher determined through dogged questioning that Microsoft will neither confirm nor deny that it has built a backdoor into Skype that would allow the government to wiretap VoIP calls.


From this he naturally concludes that Microsoft really is eavesdropping on our conversations and is trying to keep it a big fat secret:


… when I repeatedly questioned the company on Wednesday whether it could currently facilitate wiretap requests, a clear answer was not forthcoming. Citing “company policy,” Skype PR man Chaim Haas wouldn’t confirm or deny, telling me only that the chat service “co-operates with law enforcement agencies as much as is legally and technically possible.”


Shares of Reynolds Wrap aluminum foil just went up 17 percent on the news.


Gallagher’s other “proof”? In June 2011, one month after Microsoft announced its acquisition of Skype, it received a patent for technology that would allow it to “silently copy communication transmitted via the communication session.”


Sounds scary, don’t it? The problem with that theory is a) Microsoft applied for this “Legal Intercept” patent two years before it acquired Skype, and 2) the patent doesn’t really say much about how the technology would actually work, let alone bust through Skype’s 256-bit AES end-to-end encryption.


Gallagher also relied on a story by another Forbes blogger, Anthony Wing Kosner, which quoted from an ExtremeTech story by Tim Verry about claims made a hacker who goes by the handle Alien Nesby, who says Microsoft added “backdoors for government” to Skype after the acquisition was final.


Nesby made his claim based on a 43-word comment posted three months ago on Hacker News, but he wrote it in FULL CAPS, so you know it must be true.


Microsoft directly denied the claims made in Verry’s post, noting it did recently overhaul its Skype network, but the changes were made to increase quality of service and security, not for spying. But that didn’t stop Forbes blogger Eric Jackson from jumping right on the paranoia pony and riding it to the finish line. In a blog post titled “It’s terrifying and sickening that Microsoft can listen in on all my Skype calls,” Eric proves he has 1) a rather delicate constitution, and b) clearly been taking courses in how to write traffic-magnet blog headlines.



Read Full Article Here


Survival / Sustainability


Week 15 of 52: Emergency Medical Supply (List 3)

Tess Pennington
Ready Nutrition

Last week, my 5-year old slammed her finger in the door so hard that we thought it was broken for sure. Immediately, her finger began swelling and my husband and I were about to bolt out to the door to take her for an X-ray. She was terrified and crying, and all we wanted was to take her pain away. I grabbed an instant ice pack out of our medical supplies for her finger and decided to wait 30 minutes to see if the swelling changed. I laid her on my bed and cuddled with her while ensuring her fingers were in between the ice pack. When I checked her finger, the swelling had begun to subside and I breathed a sigh of relief. You never know when a medical emergency will arise, but you are always hoping that when it does, you will be ready for it.

As I previously mentioned, to be fully prepared for a medical disaster, you need to have a well-rounded medical supply. Since there are so many different types of medical supplies to store, I have broken them up to make the list more affordable. Click to see List 1 and List 2.

Because medical emergencies can occur suddenly and without warning, your medical supplies should be diverse and unique to your family’s needs. Situations may arise and getting to the store or the emergency room may not be a viable option. Therefore, having a wide array of medical supplies at your home can help diffuse an alarming situation.

When creating a medical supply, think about which medical issues will most likely occur and prepare accordingly for them. Also, have some supplies on hand for any family members who have pre-existing conditions would make a prolonged disaster more comfortable.

In 2006, The National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey (NHAMCS) released a 2006 Emergency Department Summary that gathered statistics of emergency department use, including the most common reasons adults and children sought medical care and treatment. Having medical supplies that could assist in these common medical emergencies would be proactive on your part.

  •  Children Fever
  • Childhood Earaches
  • Various injuries such as sprains, strains, broken bones
  • Chest Pain
  • Abdominal Pain
  • Back Pain
  • Shortness of Breath

It is very important to have vitamins in your medical supplies. Vitamins are essential in regulating body functions and also help in the healing process. Storing the right types of food that have the highest amounts of vitamins would be one way of ensuring that your diet is vitamin packed. Therefore, prepare by having first hand knowledge on what vitamins the body needs on a daily basis.  Storing multivitamins such as, Centrum multivitamins or Centrum Silver multivitamins are great options.


Read Full Article Here



Are You Ready Series: Storing Medical Supplies To Be Ready

Tess Pennington
Ready Nutrition

Storing medical supplies in the home for a possible disaster could save some one’s life if they need immediate medical assistance.  In the event of a major disaster, such as a hurricane or earthquake, if someone in the home is injured, emergency responders cannot always get to the injured victims in time.  Experts suggest having a well stocked arsenal of  medical supplies in this instance.

Suggested Home Medical Supplies

The idea of having medical supplies in the home is to be prepared for any given situation that could arise.   In the long run, if supplies are adequately organized and ready to go, the person administering medical assistance will have everything in place and be ready to act.  Making an inventory list of everything that is needed for all family members (include children’s needs as well as family members with special needs) as well as items that have already been purchased can help with organizing the supplies for storage.

  • Antacids
  • Anti-diarrheal
  • pain reliever
  • Children’s pain reliever
  • First aid book
  • Prescription medications (keep copies for records)
  • Cold/flu medicines
  • Vitamins
  • Blood clotting
  • Sterile gauze
  • Dressing bandages
  • Dressing rolls
  • Medical tape
  • Bandages of all sizes
  • Alcohol wipes
  • Hydrogen peroxide
  • Eye flushing solution
  • Anesthetic solution
  • Hypodermic needles (for the antiseptic solution)
  • Electrolyte tablets
  • Benadryl
  • Scissors
  • Tweezers
  • Cold Packs
  • Warm Blankets
  • Antibiotic ointment
  • Thermometers
  • Skin irritation creams
  • Gloves
  • Mask
  • Suture needles/string
  • List of medical contact phone numbers
  • Medical history file (if needed)

Animals and house pets can often fall victim to an injury as well.  Having medicine and first aid supplies for them will ensure their health and safety.


Read  Full Article Here




Are You Ready Series: Hurricane Preparedness

Tess Pennington
Ready Nutrition

It seems that natural storms have become more severe in recent years.  No one takes hurricanes lightly anymore due to the shock and awe that hurricane Katrina caused when she came ashore.  These monster storms are so violent and have the capacity to level an entire town.

Hurricanes are serious tropical storms with winds that exceed 74 mph and have a tendency to cause structural damage to homes and commercial businesses.  Inland flooding is also a concern for many who live on the coasts because a hurricane can dump dozens of inches of water in a matter of days.  The extent of the damage done by a hurricane depends on the category that is has been assigned.  The categories range from 1 (minimal damage) to 5 (severe damage).  Plans and preparations should be made prior to the possibility of a hurricane threat.

Those that live in the coastal areas know that hurricanes are always lurking around the corner.  Therefore, it is only logical to have a disaster plan in place in the case this is the year the hurricane will hit.

Make a Plan

A disaster plan is one of the most important aspects of preparedness.   A decisive plan of action should take into account the pros and cons of any given situation.  The basic premise of having a disaster plan is to know what your Plan A, Plan B, and Plan C is before the disaster strikes.  Your main priorities are shelter, fire, and water, and food.   When preparing a disaster plan, keep all the information together in a binder called the G.O.O.D Manual.  This will keep vital information, emergency plans, contact information, etc organized and ready in the case someone needs it in a pinch.  It would be wise to write down a main contact of someone outside of the hurricane area that you can use as a communication hub to relay pertinent information to other members of the family or friends.  This is important because 1. You do not want to be on the phone the entire time calling people with updates, and 2. Phone lines are going to be maxed out.  It will be hard to get through multiple times.

If you plan on bugging out or evacuating, get the evuaction plan in order, needed items together and try and leave before the mass exodus.  No one wants to be caught in idle traffic for hours.  Also, having extra gallons of gasoline would also be beneficial.  In the past, many refugees who did not have extra gas and ran out of gas ended up having to abandon their cars on the highway.  Bottom line is plan ahead and try and leave as early as possible.

Calling one person will minimize the time of the phone, and you can concentrate your effort on other important things.  Additionally, contact a friend or relative to see if you would be able to stay with them (if you plan on getting out of the storms path).

Learn about your community emergency response plan, as well as the national weather radio stations prior to the threat of a storm.  The National Hurricane Center is also a good source for information regarding approaching hurricanes and tropical storms.

Plan For The Worst Scenario and Get Emergency Supplies Now

Typically, when a hurricane watch or warning is issued, there is a mass flock to the stores to gather items.  People tend to buy the exact same thing (canned goods, water, infant formula, etc), and these are the items that run out the fastest.  Those who wait to gather supplies until the last minute are typically the ones who will either end up waiting in long lines, or go home empty handed because all the stores have sold our of supplies.

The most important item to have on hand besides a plan, is water.   Multiple disaster organizations suggest having 1 gallon of water per person per day.  This suggestion is for drinking purposes only.  If a person wants to flush their toilet or clean dirty dishes, they will need to have extra water on hand.  Having a water filter or micropur tablets is a good idea to have on hand in the case that city water is interrupted or a person’s well has become contaminated.  Here are some additional suggestions for having extra water on hand:

  • Properly clean and bleach a bath tub.  Caulk the drain hold and allow it to dry.  Fill it with water.
  • Freeze zip loc bags filled with water.
  • Use emtpy juice containers (cleaned thoroughly) and fill them with water.
  • Fill buckets with water to use for flushing the toilet.

Gathering foods for a short term disaster can be relatively inexpensive.  It is a good idea to plan for the worst case scenario so that everything can be prepared for.  Since electicity going out is typically a problem with hurricanes, purchase foods that can be stored without refrigeration.  Furthermore, plan meals to meet a 1500-2000 calorie diet that are high in nutrients so that individuals in the home can keep up their energy levels up.  Keep in mind any members of the family that are on special diets (including pets).

Other supplies such as flashlights, batteries, a battery operated or solar radio, first aid kit and a good can opener are some other additional items one may need if a hurricane hits.  Gasoline will also be in an extremely high demand.  Especially if a person is using a generator to power a home.  Having a ready supply of fuel will help make the experience of bugging in a little less of a burden and more of a minor inconvenience.


Read Full Article Here



Are You Ready Series: Earthquake Preparedness

Tess Pennington
Ready Nutrition

The sudden strike of an earthquake can catch many off guard.  For those that live in earthquake prone areas, preparing ahead of time will keep a person as safe as possible during the turmoil that the earthquake brings.

Develop an Emergency Plan

When an unexpected event happens, many are confused and do not know what to do. Having a set disaster plan in place can help members of the family get to safety.

 Do research on local emergency management (American Red Cross, City Disaster Services, etc) systems and know what their disaster protocols are. 

Teach children about the different communication sources  available such as 9-1-1, and how to work a battery operated radio in order to listen for emergency information.  Additionally, all family members should know how to turn off the home utilities (emergency, gas and water).

Have an emergency plan in place.  This will help family members know exactly where to go and what to do.  The emergency plan should have a meeting place designated in the event that family members are separated.  Additionally, having a central contact outside of the disaster area that can relay messages can help a family stay in touch if separated.

Look for any hazards in the home.  Do as much preparation as possible to the home in order to secure the area as much as possible.

  • Place heavy or bulkier items on lower shelves.
  • Cabinets and pantries where breakable items are stores should have latches on them.  Additionally, any poisonous material, such as fertilizers or pesticides should be stored in a locked area as well.
  • Secure shelves to walls.
  • Brace overhead light fixtures.
  • Repair any defective electrical wiring or leaking gas connections. If there are damages done to the ceiling or foundation, get an expert opinion about any structural defects.
  • Secure the water heater by strapping it to wall studs.
  • Avoid hanging pictures and heavy mirrors over beds, couches or where people tend to sit.

Disaster Food Supplies

Water and Food

Store 3-days worth of potable water in plastic containers.   Potable water is water safe for human consumption.  It is free of disease causing microorganisms, poisonous substances, minerals, organic matter, chemical, biological and radioactive substances.  Another method is to freeze water in plastic soda containers.  FEMA recommends that a person should have 1-gallon of water per person for at least 3 days.

Stockpile a 3 day supply of non-perishable items such as canned goods, dehydrated foods, high energy foods such as granola bars, power bars, trail mix and cereals.  Try and find foods that does not require much water to prepare them.  Enure that certain foods are stored away for family members with special needs.

Medical Supplies

Keeping a well stocked medical supply can come in handy if someone has a injury.  First aid kits can be assembled at home and include all of the basic first aid items that may be needed.  A list of complete first aid items can be seen here.

Disaster Tools

Your preparedness tools are your life line during emergencies. The tools you choose should be ones that you can depend on to assist in meeting your basic survival needs. Without them, you could be ill-equipped in a survival situation. Ensure that disaster tools are stored in a centralized location in order for you to get to them during a time sensitive manner. Some suggested emergency tools are:

  • Flash lights
  • Batteries
  • Propane stove
  • Fire extinguisher (ABC variety)
  • Battery operated radio
  • Can opener (non electric)
  • Duct tape
  • Multipurpose tool
  • Waterproof matches
  • Tube tent or emergency shelter
  • Extra cash
  • Trash bags
  • Signal flare
  • Wrench to turn off gas appliances and water
  • Pliers
  • Map
  • Survival manual
  • Whistle
  • Compass
  • Signal Flare


Read Full Article Here


Whistle Blowers

Ecua-doors Open: New hope for Assange in embassy diplomatic shift

Published on Jul 27, 2012 by

There’s a glimmer of hope for whistleblower Julian Assange as Ecuadorian embassy in London, where he’s currently taking refuge, says Swedish authorities are welcome to come over to question Assange over sex crime allegations. Ecuador says it will decide on whether to grant asylum after the London Olympics, which end on August 12th. Michael Ratner, a legal advisor to both Julian Assange and Wikileaks says Ecuador does offer hope to Assange.





Whistleblowers in armed forces must be protected, says MP Angus Robertson

Angus Robertson MP for MorayAngus Robertson MP for Moray

By Paul Ward

Whistleblowers in the armed forces should be given the same protection as civilian employees, according to a senior SNP MP.

Armed forces personnel are forbidden from discussing their work with MPs, MEPs or members of devolved legislatures (MDLs) such as the Scottish or Welsh parliaments without the approval of UK government ministers.

SNP defence spokesman Angus Robertson, the party’s leader at Westminster, has questioned “what the MoD has to hide”.

He insisted that “scandals” such as kit shortages, maintenance shortcuts and “the many MoD procurement bungles” would not have been revealed without whistleblowers.

Mr Robertson has circulated MoD instructions on contact with parliamentarians, obtained through a freedom of information request, informing forces personnel they are “accountable to ministers” and “not accountable to parliament”.

The document is marked “unclassified” but with instructions that it is “not to be communicated to anyone outside HM Service without authority”.

It says there should “be no need for contact between Crown servants, irrespective of seniority, and parliamentarians unless specifically authorised by the Secretary of State or a delegated minister”.

Personnel are also instructed to inform ministers of any unexpected or unsolicited contact with parliamentarians or their staff.

UK government guidance says employers cannot prevent employees from reporting improper, illegal or negligent behaviour as part of their employment contract or any other agreement.


Read Full Article Here



Whistleblowers to Corrupt ATF Head: Don’t Threaten Us

Katie Pavlich
News Editor, Townhall


Late Wednesday evening, Chairman of the House Oversight Committee Darrell Issa and Senator Chuck Grassley sent a letter to Acting ATF Director Todd Jones asking him to clarify the following remarks:

“… if you make poor choices, that if you don’t abide by the rules, that if you don’t respect the chain of command, if you don’t find the appropriate way to raise your concerns to your leadership, there will be consequences. …”

“Disciplinary process.”


Issa and Grassley aren’t impressed. From the letter they sent him:

If courageous whistleblowers within the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF/Agency) had  not come forward to Congress, the tactics used in Operation Fast and Furious might never have come to light. By providing Congress key information about the shortcomings of Fast and Furious, these whistleblowers put their careers on the line to prevent reckless operational tactics from ever being employed again and to make sure the family of murdered Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry got the whole truth about their son’s death. On numerous occasions, we have stressed to ATF and the Department of Justice the importance of protecting whistleblower disclosures and preventing retaliation against whistleblowers.

We recently reviewed a video message you sent to ATF employees on July 9, 2012. In this message, entitled “ChangeCase #8: Choices and Consequences,” you stress to ATF employees that “if you make poor choices, that if you don’t abide by the rules, that if you don’t respect the chain of command, if you don’t find the appropriate way to raise your concerns to your leadership, there will be consequences…” The essence of whistleblowing is reporting problems outside of an employee’s chain of command when the chain of command has failed to address them. In fact, for a disclosure to be legally protected, it is often necessary for the employee to report the wrongdoing to someone other than his or her supervisor.

Your ominous message–which could be interpreted as a threat–is likely to have a major chilling effect on ATF employees exercising their rights to Contact Congress. Therefore, it needs to be clarified.

You must remind ATF employees about their right to talk to Congress and provide Congress with information free and clear of agency interference or retaliation.

ATF whistleblowers Jay Dobyns and Vince Cefalu are also hitting back against Jones’ remarks. Both Dobyns and Cefalu, agents with more than 20 years of experience in the bureau, expressed concerns about unethical behavior to their superiors and nothing was done. Cefalu founded back in 2009 in order to give ATF agents across the country an anonymous place to expose corruption within ATF without fear of retaliation. His website is where Operation Fast and Furious was first exposed. Dobyns worked undercover for two years within the Hells Angel gang, risking his life for ATF, and is now being punished by the bureau for speaking out against supervisors who ignored death threats against himself and his family.

“Many ATF agents have confronted the corruption and abuses for years. We provided documentary evidence to the Attorney General, Office of the Inspector General, Office of Special Counsel and members of Congress in writing. We were ignored until people died. We are still being ignored by Mr. Jones and a handful of his executive staff. Most, if not all of the agency’s failures could have and should have been prevented. It’s a sad day for the future of a great bureau,” Cefalu tells Townhall.


Read Full Article Here




Whistleblowers say Lodge retaliated against them

Foys says Campbell Lodge Boys Home board removed

Written by  Jim Hannah

COLD SPRING — The bishop for Diocese of Covington removed the 15-member board of the troubled Campbell Lodge Boys’ Home the same day four former employees filed a lawsuit claiming they were retaliated against for exposing neglect at the nonprofit.

“My very first concern is for the residents of the (lodge), for their safety and well-being,” Bishop Roger Foys wrote in a statement to The Enquirer. “It is my hope that they will find a safe haven and be treated with the dignity and respect due every person.

“After having reviewed the investigative reports I believe it is necessary to have a fresh set of eyes evaluate what future the Home may have in our Diocese.”

The bishop appoints the board members and has the power to remove them at will, according to the home’s 1958 articles of incorporation. The home receives about $1.2 million – or 76 percent of its budget – from tax dollars annually. The nonprofit’s tax returns show it receives virtually no money from the diocese.

The lawsuit was filed Thursday in Campbell Circuit Court by the home’s former therapists Jennifer Rush and Shane Donohue, along with the director of equine-assisted services, Mary Oldiges, and equine specialist Regina Bach.

The defendants named in the suit are the home, fired executive director Barry Jones and the former board members.

Diocese spokesman Tim Fitzgerald said the diocese would announce the new board members soon.

The new board is expected to hold their first board meeting in mid-September, Fitzgerald said.

The home’s attorney, Ben Dusing, and Jones’ attorney, Walter Hornbeck, both confirmed they were aware of the lawsuit but declined to comment on it.

The future of the 54-year-old home remains uncertain.

The children at the home, licensed to care for 24 at a time, were removed after the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services investigated the whistleblowers’ claims. The home then laid off about 50 employees and fired Jones, who earned $96,652 per year.

The suit echoes the findings of the state investigation. The home had a dangerous practice of improperly dispensing psychotropic medications and narcotics to the children. When the children acted out, the staff then handled them roughly.


Read Full Article Here





Saudi clashes video: Police fire live rounds on Shiite protesters in Qatif

Published on Jul 27, 2012 by

Several demonstrators have been wounded in Saudi Arabia’s eastern district of Qatif after security forces opened fire on protesters. MORE INFO & PHOTOS:




‘America geared up for war’

Published on Jul 27, 2012 by

In as many days, police and residents of Anaheim have clashed over the police shooting of an unarmed man: In total, 2 men have been killed, 5 for the year, on record, enraging the mostly black and Latino population of Anaheim, a city known for Disneyland, but now described as a powder keg ready to explode.


Psy – Ops

The Porter Report: Israel, the Bulgaria Bombings and Iran

Published on Jul 27, 2012 by

Gareth Porter: Netanyahu accuses Iran, and Iran accuses Israel, of being behind terrorist attack


Articles of Interest

Illegal Cloning? ‘Dumped fetuses could be half human, half engineered’

Published on Jul 27, 2012 by

Hundreds of human fetuses, found in a forest in central Russia, may have been removed from a local medical university. Police are questioning a researcher, who was fired last year and could have taken the material she was working on with her. However, some doctors say the dumped fetuses could even be the product of cloning.


[In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit, for research and/or educational purposes. This constitutes ‘FAIR USE’ of any such copyrighted material.]

Fools’ Gold Found to Regulate Oxygen


by Staff Writers
Rehovot, Israel (SPX)

File image.

As sulfur cycles through Earth’s atmosphere, oceans and land, it undergoes chemical changes that are often coupled to changes in other such elements as carbon and oxygen. Although this affects the concentration of free oxygen, sulfur has traditionally been portrayed as a secondary factor in regulating atmospheric oxygen, with most of the heavy lifting done by carbon. However, new findings that appeared this week in Science suggest that sulfur’s role may have been underestimated.

Drs. Itay Halevy of the Weizmann Institute’s Environmental Science and Energy Research Department (Faculty of Chemistry), Shanan Peters of the University of Wisconsin and Woodward Fischer of the California Institute of Technology, were interested in better understanding the global sulfur cycle over the last 550 million years – roughly the period in which oxygen has been at its present atmospheric level of around 20%.

They used a database developed and maintained by Peters at the University of Wisconsin, called Macrostrat, which contains detailed information on thousands of rock units in North America and beyond.

The researchers used the database to trace one of the ways in which sulfur exits ocean water into the underlying sediments – the formation of so-called sulfate evaporite minerals. These sulfur-bearing minerals, such as gypsum, settle to the bottom of shallow seas as seawater evaporates.

The team found that the formation and burial of sulfate evaporites were highly variable over the last 550 million years, due to changes in shallow sea area, the latitude of ancient continents and sea level.

More surprising to Halevy and colleagues was the discovery that only a relatively small fraction of the sulfur cycling through the oceans has exited seawater in this way. Their research showed that the formation and burial of a second sulfur-bearing mineral – pyrite – has apparently been much more important.

Pyrite is an iron-sulfur mineral (also known as fools’ gold), which forms when microbes in seafloor sediments use the sulfur dissolved in seawater to digest organic matter. The microbes take up sulfur in the form of sulfate (bound to four oxygen atoms) and release it as sulfide (with no oxygen).

Oxygen is released during this process, thus making it a source of oxygen in the air. But because this part of the sulfur cycle was thought be minor in comparison to sulfate evaporite burial (which does not release oxygen), its effect on oxygen levels was also thought to be unimportant.

In testing various theoretical models of the sulfur cycle against the Macrostrat data, the team realized that the production and burial of pyrite has been much more significant than previously thought, accounting for more than 80% of all sulfur removed from the ocean (rather than the 30-40% in prior estimates). As opposed to the variability they saw for sulfate evaporite burial, pyrite burial has been relatively stable throughout the period.

The analysis also revealed that most of the sulfur entering the ocean washed in from the weathering of pyrite exposed on land. In other words, there is a balance between pyrite formation and burial, which releases oxygen, and the weathering of pyrite on land, which consumes it. The implication of these findings is that the sulfur cycle regulates the atmospheric concentration of oxygen more strongly than previously appreciated.

“This is the first use of Macrostrat to quantify chemical fluxes in the Earth system,” said Peters. “I met my coauthors at a lecture I gave at Caltech, and we immediately began discussing how we might apply Macrostrat to understanding biogeochemical cycling. I think this study will open the door to many more uses of Macrostrat for constraining biogeochemical cycles.”

“For me, the truly surprising result is that pyrite weathering and burial appear to be such important processes in the sulfur cycle throughout all of Earth’s history. The carbon cycle is recognized as the central hub controlling redox processes on Earth, but our work suggests that nearly as many electrons are shuttled through the sulfur cycle,” said Fischer.

Halevy: “These findings, in addition to shedding new light on the role of sulfur in regulating oxygen levels in the atmosphere, represent an important step forward in developing a quantitative, mechanistic understanding of the processes governing the global sulfur cycle.”

These findings appeared this week in Science.


Related Links
Weizmann Institute
The Air We Breathe at

BP oil spill partially to blame for high dolphin deaths in the Gulf of Mexico


© Steve Shippee, UCF
For the past two years, scientists have been trying to figure out why there were a high number of dolphin deaths, part of what’s called an “unusual mortality event” along the northern Gulf of Mexico. What they found was a perfect storm.

The largest oil spill on open water to date and other environmental factors led to the historically high number of dolphin deaths in the Gulf of Mexico, concludes a two-year scientific study released today. A team of biologists from several Gulf of Mexico institutions and the University of Central Florida in Orlando published their findings in the journal PLoS ONE. For the past two years, scientists have been trying to figure out why there were a high number of dolphin deaths, part of what’s called an “unusual mortality event” along the northern Gulf of Mexico. Most troubling to scientists was the exceptionally high number of young dolphins that made up close to half of the 186 dolphins that washed ashore from Louisiana to western Florida from January to April 2010.

The number of “perinatal” (near birth) dolphins stranded during this four-month period was six times higher than the average number of perinatal strandings in the region since 2003 and nearly double the historical percentage of all strandings. “Unfortunately it was a ‘perfect storm’ that led to the dolphin deaths,” said Graham Worthy, a UCF provosts distinguished professor of biology and co-author of the study. “The oil spill and cold winter of 2010 had already put significant stress on their food resources, resulting in poor body condition and depressed immune response. It appears the high volumes of cold freshwater coming from snowmelt water that pushed through Mobile Bay and Mississippi Sound in 2011 was the final blow.”

The cold winter of 2010 was followed by the historic BP Deepwater Horizon disaster in April 2011, which dumped millions of gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, likely disrupting the food chain. This was in the middle of the dolphins’ breeding season. A sudden entry of high volumes of cold freshwater from Mobile Bay in 2011 imposed additional stress on the ecosystem and specifically on dolphins that were already in poor body condition.

“When we put the pieces together, it appears that the dolphins were likely weakened by depleted food resources, bacteria, or other factors as a result of the 2010 cold winter or oil spill, which made them susceptible to assault by the high volumes of cold freshwater coming from land in 2011 and resulted in distinct patterns in when and where they washed ashore,” said Ruth Carmichael, a senior marine scientist at the Dauphin Island Sea Lab, an assistant professor of Marine Sciences at the University of South Alabama and the lead author of the study. The majority of perinatal strandings were centered on the Mississippi-Alabama coast, adjacent to Mobile Bay, the 4th largest freshwater drainage in the U.S.

The onshore movement of surface currents during the same period resulted in animals washing ashore along the stretch of coastline where freshwater discharge was most intense. Others who contributed to the study include: William M. Graham and Stephan Howden from the University of Southern Mississippi, Stennis Space Center and Allen Aven from the Dauphin Island Sea Lab and the University of South Alabama. Worthy is the Hubbs Professor of Marine Mammalogy. He received his PhD in 1986 from the University of Guelph in Canada and then completed post-doctoral training at the University of California at Santa Cruz, where he studied elephant seals, bottlenose dolphins and California sea lions. He spent 11 years as a faculty member in the Department of Marine Biology at Texas A&M University at Galveston and served as the State Coordinator for the Texas Marine Mammal Stranding Network.

Worthy and his team at UCF have been studying dolphin populations in the Pensacola and Choctawhatchee bays for years.

Journal reference: PLoS ONE search and more info website Provided by University of Central Florida search and more info website

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Uploaded by on Oct 28, 2010


International Common Law Copy Rights by Michael Edward and the World Vision Portal at


Green grabs: The dark side of the green economy

by Staff Writers
London, UK (SPX)

If sustainable development is genuinely to be pursued at Rio+20 and beyond, we need to recapture nature from the market’s grasp, nurturing and legitimising more interconnected human-ecological relationships and understandings, along with tried-and-tested forms of local ecosystem stewardship based on them.

‘Green grabbing’ – the rapidly-growing appropriation of land and resources in the name of ‘green ‘ biofuels, carbon offsetting schemes, conservation efforts and eco-tourism initiatives – is forcing people from their homelands and increasing poverty, new research has found.

Ecosystems being ‘asset-stripped’ for profit is likely to cause dispossession and further poverty amongst already-poor land and resource users, according to a set of 17 new research case studies from Africa, Asia and Latin America, published in a special issue of the Journal of Peasant Studies.

“Green grabs are the dark side of the green economy,” said Professor Melissa Leach, director of the ESRC STEPS Centre. “If market-based mechanisms are to contribute to sustainable development and the building of economies that are not only green but also fair, then fostering an agenda focused on distribution, equity and justice in green market arrangements is vital.”

This means including meaningful local engagement and consultation based on transparency, accountability and free, prior informed consent. Yet green markets cannot do it all. In the rush to repair a damaged nature through trading and offset schemes, the political-economic structures that caused the damage in the first place must not be neglected.

Responsibility for tackling unsustainable practices in wealthy industrialised settings should not be offloaded by financialising ecosystems in other parts of the world.

And if sustainable development is genuinely to be pursued at Rio+20 and beyond, we need to recapture nature from the market’s grasp, nurturing and legitimising more interconnected human-ecological relationships and understandings, along with tried-and-tested forms of local ecosystem stewardship based on them.

Examples of green grabs include: in Guatemala, conservation agencies, ecotourism companies and the military are ‘protecting’ the Guatemalan Maya Biosphere Reserve as a ‘Maya-themed vacationland’, violently excluding local people.

In Eastern and Southern Africa, businesses are revaluing soil systems and farming practices for ‘biochar’, dispossessing farmers and pastoralists from land and resources important for their livelihoods.

Meanwhile evidence is mounting that some Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD and REDD+) schemes are dispossessing local forest users of vital resource access.

Related Links
Institute of Development Studies
Farming Today – Suppliers and Technology

Scientists develop first satellite deforestation tracker for whole of Latin America

by Staff Writers
London UK (SPX)

This shows deforestation around the dry Chaco of Paraguay from 2004-2011. Credit: Argote/Louis Reymondin.

An international team of researchers in Colombia, the UK, USA and Switzerland have developed the first ever system to monitor deforestation across Latin America in near real-time using satellite data. Preliminary results from the new system reveal that in parts of Colombia, deforestation has increased by 340 per cent since 2004; and over a million hectares of forest have been lost in the Gran Chaco region of Paraguay.

The new satellite system, known as Terra-i, is being launched this week in time for the Rio+20 UN environment conference, and is soon to be expanded to cover all tropical regions. Although Brazil has had a sophisticated near real-time deforestation monitoring system in place since 2008, until now there has been no equivalent for the rest of Latin America.

Terra-i has been developed to monitor changes land cover every 16 days and for every 250 metres on the ground, in order to help national governments, conservation organisations and those implementing climate-related policy to assess recent trends in deforestation and emerging hotspots of change.

The system uses data supplied by NASA’s MODIS satellite sensor and is the result of collaboration between the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) in Colombia, The Nature Conservancy (TNC) in the USA and South America, the School of Engineering and Management of Vaud (HEIG-VD) in Switzerland and King’s College London.

Deforestation can lead to widespread loss of biodiversity and also impacts the ‘ecosystem services’ that foster a stable climate and secure freshwater supplies. However, in many parts of the world the scale and pattern of deforestation is infrequently and inconsistently monitored and this makes management of change very difficult.

Huge volumes of data need to be processed to detect land cover change at a 250m spatial resolution every 16 days. Moreover, separating real human-induced changes, such as deforestation, from changes brought about by natural seasonality and by droughts, floods or persistent cloud cover, has made the development of an operational monitoring system a real challenge.

The availability of MODIS imagery means that assessment of land cover change can be made in a geographically consistent manner between countries and also updated frequently.

The development of the Terra-i system was led Louis Reymondin, PhD student in the Department of Geography at King’s College London, supervised by Dr Mark Mulligan, in collaboration with CIAT and HEIG-VD and funded by TNC.

‘We developed a computational neural network and ‘trained’ it with data from 2000-2004 to recognise the normal changes in vegetation greenness due to seasonal variation in rainfall in different areas,’ said Dr Mulligan, who is attending the Rio+20 conference this week.

‘The network now recognises where and when greenness suddenly changes well beyond these normal limits as a result of deforestation. The system runs on data for every 250 square metres of land from Mexico to Argentina shortly after the data comes in from MODIS and highlights every 16 days the pixels that significantly change, writing these results to Google Maps for easy visualisation,’ he said.

Preliminary data from Terra-i show that in Caqueta, Colombia for example, deforestation grew from around 4,880 hectares in 2004 to 21,440 in 2011, up by 340 per cent. Deforestation has grown significantly in the buffer zones of the Chiribiquete National Park where deforestation rates increased by 196 per cent from 2010 to 2011.

The Gran Chaco in Paraguay is the second largest forested area in South America. Terra-i found that between 2004 and 2010, over a million hectares of this area was deforested with a peak in 2009 of 454,700 hectares.

‘As we approach Rio+20 in which the world will define the targets that will guide us along the road to a more sustainable development, it is critical that we deploy the appropriate tools to carefully monitor and manage our landscapes,’ said Dr Mulligan.

‘We need to ensure that we maintain enough farmland to feed the nine billion to come but we must also have protected natural landscapes that provide clean water, a stable climate, a refuge for biodiversity and space for increasingly urbanised populations to experience and appreciate the wonders of nature.

‘Achieving the right balance between intelligently intensive agriculture and protected natural environments across the world will be fundamental to achieving truly sustainable development and requires sophisticated, geographically detailed and timely tools such as Terra-i to support appropriate policy and decision-making’.

Related Links
King’s College London
Forestry News – Global and Local News, Science and Application

Researchers search for viruses to save honeybees

by Staff Writers
San Francisco CA (SPX)

File image.

In an effort to save the dwindling honeybee population researchers at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas are looking to viruses to help treat one of the most destructive and widespread bee brood diseases in the United States. They report their findings at the 2012 General Meeting of the American Society for Microbiology.

“Our food supply depends on the actions of millions of insects such as the common honeybee. Due to the importance of honeybees a pollinators in the agriculture of the United States and therefore the current and future food supply, honeybee health is of great concern,” says Diane Yost, a researcher on the study.

American Foulbrood Disease (AFD) is the most widespread and destructive brood disease affecting honeybees. It is caused by a bacterial pathogen, Paenibacillus larvae. Young honeybee larvae become infected when they ingest the bacterial spores in their food. Infected larvae normally die after their cells are sealed. The bacteria eventually die as well but not before producing millions of spores.

While there are some chemical treatments that can be used to hold AFD in check they must be continued indefinitely. Once the treatment is suspended the American foulbrood spores germinate successfully again leading to a disease outbreak. Because the spores can survive up to 40 years, many states require diseased hives to be burned completely.

Yost and her colleagues are researching an alternative treatment for AFD. They are focusing on using bacteriophages, viruses that infect and kill specific bacteria, to target the bacteria responsible for AFD and eventually treat the disease.

“If an effective remedy for the disease could be developed, hives that are infected with the pathogen could be treated rather than burned, which is currently the only effective treatment,” says Yost.

The researchers conducted an extensive search for phage from environmental sources including samples from desert and garden soils, beehives, flowers, compost and cosmetics containing beeswax.

Nearly 100 samples were tested for the presence of phages. A total of 31 phages were isolated and each were subsequently tested against 8 different strains of the AFD pathogen. The researchers identified 3 phages that had activity against all 8 strains of the bacteria.

“These results demonstrate that bacteriophages capable of infecting P. larvae are present in the natural environment, and these phages may represent the first step in developing a potential treatment for AFD,” says Yost.

Related Links
American Society for Microbiology
Farming Today – Suppliers and Technology

UCSB scientists compile first study of potential for tsunamis in northwestern California

by Staff Writers
Santa Barbara CA (SPX)

File image.

Using studies that span the last three decades, scientists at UC Santa Barbara have compiled the first evidence-based comprehensive study of the potential for tsunamis in Northwestern California. The paper, “Paleoseismicity of the Southern End of the Cascadia Subduction Zone, Northwestern California,” was co-written by professors Edward Keller and Alexander Simms from UCSB’s Department of Earth Science, and published in a recent issue of the Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America.

The paper is based on the Ph.D. dissertation of David Valentine, a research programmer at the Spatial Information Systems Laboratory at UC San Diego. Valentine, Keller’s former student, completed his doctorate at UCSB in 2002 and is first author of the paper.

The region has long been known to experience large earthquakes, and scientific studies of seismic activity in the southern end of the Cascadia Subduction Zone (CSZ) – which stretches northward from the area of Mendocino, Calif. – have previously appeared in grey literature and in guidebooks. However, comprehensive, reviewed evidence-based work has been lacking, according to Keller.

“Science goes on evidence,” he said, adding that in light of the recent earthquakes in Japan and Chile, the study of the same potential closer to home is “timely.” The authors studied sedimentation patterns in salt marshes, floodplains, and estuaries in the northwestern corner of California for signs of seismic events that could lead to tsunami activity. They combined this with information gathered from numerous studies conducted over nearly 30 years by researchers at Humboldt State University

During an earthquake, the researchers say, there is a tendency for the coastal wetlands to become submerged, with coastal sediments depositing over plants and animals that live there. These become a fossilized record of sea-level change in the area.

The process has preserved a sequence of marsh surfaces and forest soils. Analysis of structure, texture, and organic content, as well as the use of radiocarbon dating to identify the age of the materials, revealed evidence of smaller strong-to-major earthquakes in the area (magnitude 6.5 to 7.2). Larger quakes (greater than magnitude 8.2) that involved the regional subduction zone, were also in evidence.

According to the study, the local California section has experienced three major earthquakes over the last 2000 years, and accompanying local sea-level changes at roughly 300- to 400-year intervals, with the last one occurring 500 to 600 years ago. The researchers also found that the entire CSZ erupted, causing local submergence at least three times in roughly 500- to 600- year intervals, the last activity taking place in 1700 AD.

“It’s not a matter of if, but when,” said Keller, of the potential for the next major earthquake/tsunami event in the region – a great earthquake that would impact not only the Northwest, but also send waves to Japan and Hawaii. The evidence, he said, is leading to far more foresight and planning along the impact areas in the region to avoid catastrophes on a level with the Japan earthquake of 2011 or the Indian Ocean quake of 2004.

Other researchers contributing to the study include Gary Carver, a professor emeritus at Humboldt State University; Wen Hao Li from Northrup Grummond Co. in Redondo Beach; and Christine Manhart from Environmental Services and Consulting in Blacksburg, Va.

Related Links
University of California – Santa Barbara
Bringing Order To A World Of Disasters
When the Earth Quakes
A world of storm and tempest

Bulgaria passes new waste law in bid to dodge EU fines

by Staff Writers
Sofia (AFP)


Bulgaria’s parliament passed a new waste management law Thursday meant to bring the country into line with European Union rules and avoid the looming threat of non-compliance fines.

The law had been stalled in parliament for a year because of strong opposition from recycled metal dealers.

Bulgaria has more than 2,000 scrap-metal buyers who are rarely forced to show the required “certificate of origin” for their wares — enabling a thriving trade in stolen rails, road signs and electric lines.

Local media often carry reports of youths, mainly Roma, who die stealing high-voltage power lines.

Under the new law, recycled metal dealers must apply for new licenses and set up shop in locations authorised and monitored by local authorities. Only electronic payment will be allowed.

The law also requires towns to recycle at least 50 percent of household waste by 2020, a big change for a country that recycles little of its rubbish other than metals.

Environment Minister Nona Karadjova said she was confident the law would allow Bulgaria to escape European Commission fines despite being adopted well after the EU’s December 2010 deadline for countries to comply with new waste management regulations.

The EU rules require countries to legislate regulations such as the “polluter pays” principle and implement policies to reduce, reuse and recycle much of their waste.

Related Links
Our Polluted World and Cleaning It Up

Cyber Space

check to see of your computer is infected here

300,000 Infected Computers to Go Offline Monday

By Gregg Keizer, Computerworld    Jul 6, 2012 7:03 am

As many as 300,000 PCs and Macs will drop off the Internet in about 65 hours unless their owners heed last-minute calls to scrub their machines of malware.

According to a group of security experts formed to combat DNSChanger, between a quarter-million and 300,000 computers, perhaps many more, were still infected as of July 2.

DNSChanger hijacked users’ clicks by modifying their computers’ domain name system (DNS) settings to send URL requests to the criminals’ own servers, a tactic that shunted victims to hacker-created sites that resembled real domains.

At one point, as many as 4 million PCs and Macs were infected with the malware, which earned its makers $14 million, U.S. federal authorities have said.

Infected machines will lose their link to the Internet at 12:01 a.m. ET Monday, July 9, when replacement DNS servers go dark.

The servers, which have been maintained under a federal court order by Internet Systems Consortium (ISC), the non-profit group that maintains the popular BIND DNS open-source software, were deployed last year after the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) seized more than 100 command-and-control (C&C) systems during the take-down of the hacker gang responsible for DNSChanger.

The FBI’s “Operation Ghost Click” ended with arrests of six Estonian men — a seventh, a Russian, remains at large — the C&C seizures, and the substitution of the replacement servers. Without the substitutes, DNSChanger-infected systems would have been immediately knocked off the Internet.

Originally, the stand-in servers were to be turned off March 8, but a federal judge extended the deadline to July 9.

It’s not just consumer PCs and Macs — DNSChanger was equal-opportunity malware — that remain infected, but also corporate computers and systems at government agencies, said Tacoma, Wash.-based Internet Identity (IID), which has been monitoring cleanup efforts.

Last week, IID said that its scans showed 12% of Fortune 500 firms, or about one out of every eight, harbored DNSChanger-compromised computers or routers. And two out of 55 scanned U.S. government departments or agencies — or 3.6% — also had failed to scrub all their PCs and Macs.

The newest numbers were down from earlier scans by IID. In March, for example, the company pegged the Fortune 500 DNSChanger infection rate at 19% and the government agency rate at 9%.

In January, both groups’ rate was an amazing 50%.

Read Full Article Here

MegaUpload Founder Seeks Compensation for Illegal Search

By Sim Ahmed, Computerworld-New-Zealand-Online

MegaUpload founder Kim Dotcom’s lawyers appeared in Auckland High Court this week, seeking relief and reparation from the government over what has been deemed an illegal search and seizure of Dotcom’s property.

Last week chief High Court judge Justice Helen Winkelmann ruled that the police search of Dotcom’s rented Auckland mansion and the seizure of property there, including data shipped offshore to the U.S., was illegal.

Davison says the amount of the compensation being sought has not been discussed yet, but adds that his client wants access to the data and computers seized to assist his defense.

Justice Winkelmann clarified for the court that Dotcom is not seeking to exclude evidence seized from future proceedings.

Dotcom and co-accused Finn Batato and Mathias Ortmann were present in court.

Meanwhile The New Zealand Herald has reported that Dotcom is claiming that the shutdown of MegaUpload was ordered by the White House after Hollywood studio executives met with U.S. vice president Joe Biden. Publicly available White House logs show Biden met with a number of Hollywood executives and the Motion Picture Association’s Asia Pacific managing director Mike Ellis.

According to the report, Ellis met with former New Zealand justice minister Simon Power in March last year.

Read Full Article Here

British Airways Faces Privacy Backlash for Googling Passengers

By Jared Newman, PCWorld

We’ve all Googled ourselves from time to time, but British Airways has crossed the creepy line for looking up its own passengers on Google Image Search.

The airline is rolling out a new program, called “Know Me,” that tries to improve passenger recognition through Google search and other methods. British Airways will create “dossiers” on passengers, and will use the profile data to offer 4500 “personal recognition messages” by the end of the year, the London Evening Standard reports.

For instance, flight attendants may reference Google image results to greet a high-profile, first class passenger when he or she boards the plane. British Airways will also dig into its own passenger data, so if a regular customer experienced a delay on a previous flight, airline staff can offer a personal apology.

Not surprisingly, some privacy advocates are upset. “Since when has buying a flight ticket meant giving your airline permission to start hunting for information about you on the Internet?” Nick Pickles, director of Big Brother Watch, told the Standard.

Read Full Article Here


Survival / Sustainability

Intruder Defense Bag : IDB

Uploaded by on Aug 10, 2009

Protecting yourself from a Burgler or Home invasion begins with a little planning. Having what you need ahead out time could save your life.

SHTF Lighting Ideas!

Published on Jun 12, 2012 by

Some of the back up lighting products I have in case of SHTF!

Bug In or Bug Out ?? making decisions

Uploaded by on Aug 18, 2009

Identifying the threat of the emergency is key, desiding which plan to follow and how to carry it out, is where planning comes in.



Twitter Ruling Disappoints, but Doesn’t Surprise Privacy Advocates

By Jaikumar Vijayan, Computerworld

Privacy advocates this week said they are dismayed, but not surprised about a New York Criminal Court judge’s decision ordering Twitter to hand over all the data it has on an Occupy Wall Street protester being investigated for disorderly conduct.

In an 11-page ruling, Judge Matthew Sciarrino denied Twitter’s motion to quash a subpoena from New York City prosecutors seeking the deleted tweets, email addresses, IP address and other information of Twitter user Malcolm Harris, who was arrested last year in connection with the New York OWS protests.

The ruling marked the second time the same court has rejected arguments that the data being sought by prosecutors is constitutionally protected and can only be obtained via a search warrant. Harris had earlier sought to quash the subpoena.

The court rejected Harris’ claims because the data sought by prosecutors belonged to Twitter, not him. The court asserted that Harris therefore had no standing to challenge the subpoena.

In filing its motion to quash the subpoena, Twitter contended that under its terms of service, the data belonged to Harris.

Twitter argued that taking away Harris’ ability to challenge the subpoena unfairly puts the onus on Twitter to legally defend its users rights.

Twitter and Harris both contended the data being sought was protected under Fourth Amendment prohibition of unreasonable search and seizure. Thus, Twitter maintained that prosecutors needed to obtain a search warrant before they could ask for the data to be handed over.

In dismissing the arguments, Judge Sciarrino held that the Fourth Amendment didn’t apply in this case because there would be no physical intrusion into Harris’ Twitter account.

“If you post a tweet, just like if you scream it out the window, there is no reasonable expectation of privacy. There is no proprietary interest in your tweets, which you have now gifted to the world,” he wrote.

Tweeting is very different from a private mail, private chat or other forms of private online communications, Sciarrino wrote.

“Those private dialogues would require a warrant based on probable cause in order to access the relevant information. ” The same is not true of public tweets, he noted.

The ruling elicited predictable groans from privacy rights groups. “We think the judge missed the point on the privacy analysis,” said Marc Rotenberg, executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC).

“It’s one thing for the police to overhear a person shout an incriminating statement. We agree there would be no expectation of privacy” in those situations, Rotenberg said. “But when the police go to a communications service provider and demand that the company turn over records of a customer, that is a very different scenario.”

Read Full Article Here

[In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit, for research and/or educational purposes. This constitutes ‘FAIR USE’ of any such copyrighted material.]


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