As your faithful scribe, I welcome you all to another edition of Overnight News Digest.
I am most pleased to share this platform with jlms qkw, maggiejean, wader, rfall, JLM9999 and side pocket. Additionally, I wish to recognize our alumni editors palantir, Bentliberal, Oke, Interceptor7, and ScottyUrb along with annetteboardman as our guest editor.
Neon Vincent is our editor-in-chief.
Special thanks go to Magnifico for starting this venerable series.
Lead Off Story
Toxic Algae Blooms May Be Longer, More Intense Due To Climate Change
Toxic algae blooms appear to be increasing in frequency and intensity around the country, but the full range of their causes -- and their health effects -- remains far from clear. Some experts, meanwhile, are suggesting that lakes, rivers and ponds that breed such blooms are becoming more hazardous thanks in part to a warming planet.
Green Lake, a popular local recreation destination, is no exception. Nearly every morning, Garet Munger and his little black dog, Charlie, make the 3-mile trek around the lake -- which is currently more than living up to its name.
In the latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, released last week, researchers project that wet places will generally get wetter and dry places drier, with an increase in extreme weather such as heavy rainfall and heatwaves. In the Pacific Northwest, experts warn of a perfect storm: wetter winters and springs, followed by drier summers. Downpours can flush fertilizers and other favorite foods of toxic algae into lakes and rivers. After the influx of nutrients, a long scorching summer can allow the green slime plenty of time to feed, proliferate, concentrate and out-compete more benign freshwater dwellers that don't grow as well at higher temperatures.
"Blooms are going to be longer and more intense," said Hans Paerl, professor of marine and environmental sciences at the University of North Carolina. "It's all part of the price we're paying for climate change."
Shuanghui Completes Purchase of Smithfield Foods
Meat processor Shuanghui International Holdings said on September 26 it had completed the acquisition of U.S. pork producer Smithfield Foods.
The deal is worth US$ 7.1 billion, of which US$ 4 billion came from an eight-member consortium led by Bank of China (BOC). It is the most expensive acquisition by a non-state Chinese company overseas and also the largest Chinese investment in the United States.
Chen Siqing, vice president of the BOC, said the loans are a classic example of the bank utilizing its global network and multi-service platform to serve the national strategy of encouraging Chinese companies to "go out," or make investments abroad.
The bank's subsidiaries, BOC International (China) Ltd. and Bank of China (Hong Kong) Ltd., participated in the deal as well.
Volcanism in New York: The Syracuse University Lava Project
Last week I was able to attend one of the coolest science/art experiments in the country — the Syracuse University Lava Project. Bob Wysocki and Jeff Karson are co-directors of the facility — the former is in the Department of Visual and Performing Arts, the latter in the Department of Earth Sciences at Syracuse. This project is a mix of artistic expression in the form of molten basalt being poured onto various surface and a geologic experiment in, well, exactly the same form! This mini-man-made volcano in upstate New York (interestingly, right down the road from University of Buffalo’s explosive equivalent) is one of the few places on the planet were researchers/artists generate their own lava on a scale this large. Most experiments looking at magma use very small volumes, sometimes down to the size of an aspirin, but at the Lava Project, hundreds of kilograms of basalt are melted and then used to make synthetic lava flows next to the Comstock Art Facility in Syracuse. A perfect after-class activity, to say the least.
However, it isn’t just fun and games — this facility has produced real, scientific research. Ben Edwards at Dickinson College recently published an article in Geology that used data collected during an experiment of pour this lava onto ice to look at how lava and ice interact — think of a micro-version of the Veniaminof eruption from this summer. They have been able to experiment with different compositions of basalt with varying amounts of dissolved gases to make more and less vesicular (bubble-rich) lava. They’re thrown everything from steel ball bearings to olivine crystals into the lava to see how it might effect the viscosity and thus, how the lava behaves when it flows. They’ve generated pele’s hair and pelee’s tears from the lava pours that are similar to what you find in Hawaiian-style volcanic eruptions. They’re changed the surface on which the lava flows, the angle it flows, the rate it is fed into the flow to try to mimic natural lava flows in different terranes. It is like having your own volcano where you can actually control the properties of the lavas and conditions of the land surface on which they are erupted.
Science and Technology
Addressing Upper Mississippi River Pollution
And The Gulf of Mexico ‘Dead Zone' (Photos)
Two months ago the “Star Tribune” ran an article announcing that the Mississippi River was the healthiest it had been in a generation. One month earlier a report indicated that the Dead Zone in the Gulf of Mexico also had reduced in size and toxicity. While no one was claiming that the ecology war had been won, pollution of the country’s largest river system seemed to be declining.
But speakers Cynthia Parthou (Executive Director-Gulf Restoration Network), Trevor Russell, (Watershed Program Director-Friends of the Mississippi) and Lark Weller (Community Planner at National Park Service-Mississippi National River & Recreation Area) warned everybody at Environment Minnesota's Green Ideas and Ham breakfast Tuesday morning not to feel so self-assured. All of the states in the upper Mississippi River valley experienced drought which resulted in far fewer nutrients running into the watershed.
Finding a solution is more than simply getting legislators to act. Powerful economic forces are involved, too. Regarding nitrate pollution, Weller pointed out that “the lion’s share is mostly agricultural,” but the lack of standards in upper Midwest states favors big agriculture’s bottom line. The trick is to convince farmers big and small that restoring barriers such as wetland areas works to everyone’s benefit by creating economical natural filters for nutrient run-off while also blunting the soil erosion from storms like Hurricane Katrina.
While speakers and audience members acknowledged that progress had been made, more work is needed because a dead zone the size of Rhode Island and Connecticut combined still exists out in the Gulf. Individual efforts like raking up yard waste and picking up after one’s pet are important, but most effective is establishing environmental standards that promote accountability and profitability. As Cynthia Parthou wryly observed, the water from Lake Itasca has gone through eight people and treatment systems by the time it reaches New Orleans, nevertheless “I have to drink what you put into that river.”
Shell's Niger Delta Pollution This week’s ruling by a Dutch court in a case brought by four Nigerian farmers against the oil company Shell for pollution damage represents a small victory – but also underlines the real-world challenges facing victims of pollution and human rights abuses involving multinational companies.
While sabotage of oil pipelines in the Niger Delta is one cause of pollution, it’s not nearly such a major issue as Shell’s public relations machine likes to make out. Many spills are caused by leaks from pipelines that are old and poorly maintained, and Shell’s claims about the extent to which sabotage causes pollution have been strongly challenged by communities and NGOs, including Amnesty International.
This week’s ruling means Shell can no longer point to sabotage as if the company has no responsibility for this problem, and it should have wider ramifications for Shell’s Nigeria operations. The extent to which the company has acted to prevent sabotage must now be closely monitored, with particular scrutiny given when oil spills are attributed to sabotage.
The court ruling was, however, a blow for the three farmers whose claims were dismissed, and exposes the formidable obstacles facing the people of the Niger Delta in their ongoing struggle to get justice after more than half a century of pollution.
Society and Culture
'Modern diplomacy is bringing civil society together through music and culture'
In this Idea Exchange, German Ambassador Michael Steiner talks about why Kashmir should be proud of the Zubin Mehta concert, says it was a legitimate diplomatic exercise, explains the reason he hosted Modi and wishes India does not squander its economic chances. The session was moderated by Editor, Express News Service, Pranab Dhal Samanta
Pranab Dhal Samanta: Tell us about the Srinagar concert—you were saying it was quite a nightmare getting it organised through the Indian system. Also about your country, which is having its elections and is the one bright spot in Europe currently. At times, it feels that a lot of responsibilities have been thrust on Germany, more than what Germany wants to take on at times.
This concert was of course a huge logistical undertaking for an embassy. I was under pressure for whether I could guarantee security. I was pretty sure we would have the security, but that was the priority. The world was in a position to see it, because it was shown everywhere. The only critique I have is that you didn't see what really happened at Shalimar Bagh. What really happened was that you had, of course, the VIPs, musicians, officials, but a huge majority of normal Kashmiris sitting on the lawns. Boat owners, shopkeepers and students, even former stone-pelters...
Of course music-wise it was fantastic, especially the Kashmiri song... You think it's five minutes. In reality what happened was that we wanted the Bavarian State Orchestra to present a Kasmiri song together with the Kashmiris. But the problem was all the traditional Kashmiri songs were never put into note, there was never an arrangement, and the musicians did not speak English. They had never heard about the orchestra, and the same was true for the orchestra. So what we did with the help of the Internet and e-mails was that young Sopori (Abhay) trained with 15 musicians in Srinagar, and at the same time in Munich, the Bavarian State Orchestra trained for this one song... So musicians here had to learn to play together with an orchestra that they had never seen and had two days to train, and they did it... 7,000 km apart. It was perfect, just perfect.
Do We Need Women in Combat? “The Pentagon unveiled plans [...] for fully integrating women into front-line and special combat roles, including elite forces such as Army Rangers and Navy SEALs.”
So ran the lead on the CNN story. And why are we doing this?
Did the young officers leading troops in battle in Afghanistan and Iraq, returning with casualties, say they needed women to enhance the fighting efficiency of their combat units and the survival rate of their soldiers?
No. This decision to put women in combat represents a capitulation of the military brass, a surrender to the spirit of our age, the Pentagon’s salute to feminist ideology.
Well, that's different...
Can't Possibly Be True Dana Carter's debut as principal of Calimesa Elementary School in California's San Bernardino County was quite inauspicious, as parents quickly objected to his August policy of requiring kids to drop to one knee when addressing him. One parent said her daughter was forced to kneel while awaiting his attention and then to rise only when he lifted his arms. Carter said he would discontinue the policy and insisted he had instituted it for "safety" and not because he imagined himself as royalty.
Bill Moyers and Company:
Greenpeace International Executive Director
(Saving the Earth from Ourselves)