Thursday, June 9, 2011

Fukushima Reactor Number One MORE radioactive than ever - At the stricken Fukushima nuclear power plant, a robot sent into the building housing Reactor No. 1 on Saturday detected THE HIGHEST LEVELS OF RADIATION MEASURED SINCE THE CRISIS BEGAN on March 11. The Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) reported that radiation levels in the air around Reactor 1 were at 4000 millisieverts per hour, an exposure level equivalent to approximately 40,000 chest x-rays. TEPCO says it has no plans to send workers into the area because of its dangerously high radioactivity.
On Friday, a spokesman for TEPCO announced that steam was rising from underneath the reactor building. That afternoon, Japanese national television carried blurry footage of smoke rising from an opening in the floor.
Underneath the reactor, an estimated 40,000 tons of "highly contaminated" radioactive water have collected in what is known as the pressure suppression containment vessel, and it's this water that is believed to be producing the steam. TEPCO officials warn that the water will begin to overflow from the storage vessel by June 20 as it reaches its maximum capacity, sooner if there are heavy rains.
Massive tanks to contain the water are being sent from nearby Tochigi Prefecture. An estimated 370 will be needed for the job. The tanks each hold 100 tons of water and will continue to arrive at the plant through August. Workers have been fighting to keep the crisis from escalating in an ongoing struggle that officials say they hope to have under control by January. Critics of TEPCO and the Japanese government say that this estimate is overly optimistic.
Exposure to nuclear radiation leads to an increase in male births relative to female births, according to a new study. Increases in male births relative to female births occurred in Europe and the US between 1964-1975 and are likely a consequence of the globally emitted and dispersed atmospheric atomic bomb test fallout, prior to the test ban in 1963, that affected large human populations overall after a certain delay. There was a significant jump of sex odds in Europe in the year 1987 following Chernobyl, whereas no such similar effect was seen in the US, which was less exposed to the consequences of the catastrophe. Among populations living in the proximity of nuclear facilities in Germany and Switzerland (within 35km or 22 miles), the sex odds also increased significantly during the running periods of those facilities.
Taken together these findings show a long-term, dose-dependent impact of radiation exposure on human sex odds. What is less clear is whether this increase in male births relative to female births is the result of a reduced frequency of female births or an increased number of male births. The authors estimate that the deficit of births and the number of stillborn or impaired children after the global releases of ionizing radiation amount to several millions globally. "Our results contribute to disproving the established and prevailing belief that radiation-induced hereditary effects have yet to be detected in human populations. We find strong evidence of an enhanced impairment of humankind's genetic pool by artificial ionizing radiation."

**The opportunity to secure ourselves against defeat
lies in our own hands,
but the opportunity of defeating the enemy
is provided by the enemy himself.**
Sun Tzu

This morning -
None 5.0 or higher.

Yesterday -
6/8/11 -


CHILE - A vast cloud of ash spewing from the Chilean volcano disrupted air travel on Wednesday across much of South America, as heavy rains around the eruption site prompted fears of mudslides. Air traffic was sharply curtailed on the continent.




Above-average Atlantic hurricane season means U.S. East Coast 'havoc' a possibility - Forecasters are predicting an above-average hurricane season and are warning residents to be extra vigilant this summer. A possible land-falling hurricane could "wreak havoc." The chances for a hurricane making a direct landfall along the Jersey Shore are pretty low, but with 14 to 18 storms expected this summer, there is a strong possibility a tropical storm will find its way up the East Coast. "It's about as good of a chance as we get up here in a given year." Hurricane season is recognized as June through November.
Researchers at Colorado State University are predicting 16 named storms in the Atlantic Ocean this summer, with nine of those storms expected to turn into hurricanes. Five of the hurricanes are forecast to be major, with a category 3 or above and sustained winds of 111 mph or higher. The seasonal average is 11 named storms, including six hurricanes, two of them major. The researchers also estimate a 72% PROBABILITY THAT ONE OF THE MAJOR HURRICANES WILL HIT THE U.S. COASTLINE. Storms are more frequent this year - increasing the chance one will travel up the East Coast - because of a weakened La Nina effect, a cooling of Pacific Ocean waters that creates long duration storms. As weather patterns move out of La Nina into neutral territory before the El Nino effect, a warming of Pacific waters, the oceans will be less likely to "suppress hurricane development."
In 1955, Hurricane Diane ravaged properties along the Delaware River, causing $1 billion in damage and killing about 200 people. Seventeen years later, Hurricane Agnes hit northeastern Pennsylvania hard, especially the Wilkes-Barre area. The storm left about 100,000 people homeless and destroyed $2 billion worth of property.
Recently, remnants of Hurricane Ivan - a category 5 hurricane - struck much of the area in 2004. The storm caused $7 million in damage in New Jersey. Nationally, the storm cost $7 billion. It was to blame for one of three major floods that inundated stretches of both counties and the Lehigh Valley during the last decade.
Given the unpredictable nature of tropical storms, meteorologists find it difficult to predict if a storm will just crash into North Carolina and stop or press on to Pennsylvania or New Jersey again


Floods swamp earthquake-ravaged Haiti, killing 23. - Torrential rains lashed Haiti on Tuesday, flooding shanty towns, swamping the squalid camps erected after a 2010 earthquake and killing at least 23 people. The worst rains to hit the impoverished country this year - at the start of the hurricane season - paralyzed the capital, where most of the deaths took place.
Thunderstorms were pounding several north Caribbean islands early Tuesday, but there was little chance of the large low pressure area developing into a hurricane, according to the US-based National Hurricane Center. Several days of rain had already swelled rivers, however, and the NHC warned of "flash floods and mudslides over portions of Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Jamaica and Cuba." Haiti was most at risk of devastation from the wet weather, due to its crumbling infrastructure and ramshackle shelters for tens of thousands left homeless after the catastrophic 7.0 magnitude earthquake in January 2010. Health officials here also fear an uptick in fatalities from a cholera outbreak that erupted last October. The diarrheal illness thrives in crowded areas where people rely on contaminated water. The death toll in Haiti included two people who died as waters rose in the tent camp near the ruined presidential palace and two children who were buried when their home collapsed. 13 people were killed in the upscale suburb of Petionville, "most when their houses collapsed or were swept away in mudslides."
The rains brought the city to a standstill, with waters coursing through the streets and cars jammed up in long lines, some abandoned by their owners. The floodwater was reportedly four feet (1.2 meters) deep in some camps. The rain let up during the day, but the forecast called for another downpour overnight and into Wednesday, raising fears that mud slides could sweep away entire camps perched on the bare slopes around larger cities. In the Dominican Republic, which shares the island of Hispaniola with Haiti, more than 8,000 people have been evacuated in recent days and authorities have put several regions on high alert for severe flooding. In Jamaica, the national meteorological service issued flash flood warnings for low-lying areas, parts of Kingston and surrounding towns.


Winds Keep Arizona Fire Growing Toward Record Size - Officials warned the Wallow fire could reach power transmission lines by Friday and force rolling blackouts across New Mexico and Texas.The Wallow wildfire, now the size of Phoenix, continued to spread Wednesday across Eastern Arizona, driven by southwest winds, forcing several communities to evacuate as thousands of firefighters continue battling the blaze.
The air near Springerville, Arizona, was a sickly yellow color Wednesoday, thick with acrid smoke from the second largest fire in the state's history. The so-called Wallow blaze is now the size of Phoenix, and spreading fast. More than 600 square miles of ponderosa pine forest have burned since the fire burst to life on May 29, likely from an unattended campfire. High winds and high temperatures have fanned the flames. More than 2,500 firefighters from as far away as New York are struggling just to keep it away from small towns.
The fire was just two miles outside Springerville and neighboring Eagar, where at least half the 4,000 residents had to flee. The fire also forced evacuations and warnings in towns just across the border in New Mexico. To the south, two smaller wildfires are also burning in Arizona. So far, they have destroyed several cabins and outbuildings. But, to this point, there have been no injuries in any of the fires. In the meantime, haze from all the smoke now stretches across Colorado and even as far east as Iowa.
"We just got back from the front lines. We were taken out there on a tour -- and ITS ABOUT AS BAD AS YOU CAN GET, quite honestly. You can -- your eyes are burning. Your throat hurts. You're plugged up. The wind is just howling out there. It's blowing... out there... it is just furious wind, big plumes going up, trees on the mountainside going up kind of like candles, Roman candles, you know, a lot of firefighters in there. Once it comes down, if it comes down, out of this mountain area, it's going to hit a flatland, a grassland, and they hope to maybe, if it gets down to that point, make their stand there."
"It's incredibly rugged. It's some of Arizona's most pristine country, some of the highest country. It's in a forest that is THE LARGEST PONDEROSA PINE STAND IN THE ENTIRE WORLD, spanning New Mexico and Arizona....Residents all had about 12 to 24 hours of warning. For the most part, they have responded well. There's some anger up here that more wasn't done to, you know, thin out the forest. You know, you're hearing a lot of that. But, you know, for what they're going through, they're -- they're - honestly, they're taking it pretty well. They don't know if they will even have - have a home to go back to."
What makes it so difficult? "The wind. It's absolutely a wind-driven fire. It -- you know, strong winds, 40, 45 miles an hour for the past three or four days. It gets into these canyons and makes runs through these mountain areas. It's almost impossible to stop. The fire is more than a week old. It's zero contained. It's, I would say, in excess now of 400,000 acres, second largest, certainly right now, in state history. And there's every chance it could become the biggest fire the state has ever had."

FLORIDA - Currently, slightly more than 90% of the state is seeing abnormally dry conditions, 56.5% of Florida is under a severe drought and 31% is under an extreme drought. These extreme drought conditions exist throughout the entire Panhandle.


Solar Flare Sparks BIGGEST ERUPTION EVER SEEN ON SUN - Enormous ejection of particles into space shocks scientists. A mushroom of cooled plasma popped and rained onto the surface of the sun Tuesday - shooting perhaps the largest amount of solar material into space ever seen, scientists say. Space observatories in the past year recorded about 70 similar moderate solar flares. Each was roughly ten times weaker than "extreme" flares, of which only two have occurred since 2007. What shocked scientists was the UNUSUAL amount of material that lofted up, expanded, and fell back down over roughly half the surface area of the sun. "This totally caught us by surprise. There wasn't much going on with this spot, but as it came from behind the sun, all of the sudden there was a flare and huge ejection of particles. We've never seen a CME this enormous."
It will take some time to calculate the energy and mass of electrons and protons blasted into space. But the volume occupied a space hundreds of times bigger than a single Earth. The ejection of particles burst from the right limb of the sun and sprayed into space, so the blast will miss Earth — though the explosion may brighten auroras near Earth's poles. But space-weather experts are concerned about future solar events. The sun's 11-year cycle of activity, driven by tangled surface magnetic fields, will hit its maximum in late 2013 or early 2014. "We'll probably see [extreme] flares every couple of months instead of years." If one of these powerful flares — and its coronal mass ejection — faces Earth, the particles will pound satellite components with charged particles, short some out, and potentially cripple them.
On the planet's surface, extra currents of solar particles drive extra electric current through power lines and heat them up. A solar storm in 1859, for example, caused telegraph lines to burst into flames. Power companies distribute loads to avoid such a disaster, but energetic solar storms could still blow transformers and lead to power outages, especially during heat waves like the one sweeping the eastern U.S. this week. "Despite great countermeasures, the power grid is still vulnerable. We could be in for some serious problems."


CUCUMBERS are back on the radar of German health authorities as the possible cause of an E coli outbreak in Europe that has killed at least 26 people and sickened more than 2700 others.
Two weeks ago, investigators blamed cucumbers from Spain for the deadly outbreak and then later ruled them out as the source. Then, the focus shifted to sprouts from northern Germany, but none that were tested turned out to be contaminated with the bacteria strain blamed for the outbreak.
Now, suspicions have fallen on a cucumber of an unknown country origin that sickened a family in eastern Germany. The cucumber - the first food found to be contaminated with the strain that has sickened thousands - was in the family's compost, but there is no conclusive evidence that it's the source. "It's unclear whether the cucumber infected the people, or the people the cucumber." The mother was admitted to hospital for several days and the 22-year-old daughter is among about 700 people across Europe with a severe complication that can lead to kidney failure. She has been in hospital for almost two weeks. "The family was sick. So, they could have contaminated the cucumber instead of the other way round."
There has been no reported evidence of humans contaminating vegetables, but the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment maintained that "the finding does not allow any conclusions" because the cucumber had been lying in the compost between May 19 and May 30. Laboratory tests on other samples taken from their house and from shops where they usually buy their vegetables all tested negative for the bacteria. Consumers across Europe are shunning fruit and vegetables, and the German warning against eating cucumbers, tomatoes, lettuce and sprouts is still in place. EU farmers claim losses up to 417 million euros ($572.61 million) a week as ripe produce rots in fields and warehouses. The EU therefore increased its offer of compensation to farmers for the E coli outbreak to 210 million euros ($288.36 million).
Outside health experts and German politicians have strongly criticised the investigation in Germany, saying the infections should have been spotted much sooner and having state-by-state probes was hurting the search for a cause. After authorities in Hamburg state had blamed Spanish cucumbers, Lower Saxony turned on sprouts which officials there say "is still the best lead we have". But more tests came back negative on Wednesday on sprout samples from an organic farm in the northern town of Bienenbuettel but the farm is still considered a possible source for the outbreak. Eight clusters of patients - more than 50 infected people - can now be tracked to that farm.

Hedge funds 'grabbing land' in Africa - Foreign firms are snapping up farming land in Africa, a new report says. Hedge funds and other foreign firms have acquired large swathes of African land, often without proper contracts. The acquisitions have displaced millions of small farmers. Foreign firms farm the land to consolidate their hold over global food markets. They also use land to "make room" for export commodities such as biofuels and cut flowers. "This is creating insecurity in the global food system that could be a much bigger threat than terrorism."
The Oakland Institute released its findings after studying land deals in Ethiopia, Tanzania, South Sudan, Sierra Leone, Mali and Mozambique. It said hedge funds and other speculators had, in 2009 alone, bought or leased nearly 60m hectares of land in Africa - an area the size of France. In rural Sierra Leone men are hoeing thousands of hectares of farmland owned by Addax, a Swiss-based bio-energy company. They are growing sugarcane to produce biofuels. Campaigners say this contributes to food insecurity, but many people here welcome Addax's presence. One worker on the farm, says: "We thank God for Addax. I am gainfully employed and I receive about $70 a month. Before, I spent a whole year without getting $50." Villagers are unaware of the controversy surrounding biofuels.
"The same financial firms that drove us into a global recession by inflating the real estate bubble through risky financial manoeuvres are now doing the same with the world's food supply," the report said. It added that some firms obtained land after deals with gullible traditional leaders or corrupt government officials. "The research exposed investors who said it is easy to make a deal - that they could usually get what they wanted in exchange for giving a poor tribal chief a bottle of Johnnie Walker [whisky]. When these investors promise progress and jobs to local chiefs it sounds great, but they don't deliver." The report said the contracts also gave investors a range of incentives, from unlimited water rights to tax waivers. "No one should believe that these investors are there to feed starving Africans. These deals only lead to dollars in the pockets of corrupt leaders and foreign investors."

New study finds arsenic in chicken - The Food and Drug Administration says the traces are very small and there is no immediate health risk. But one environmental health expert says finding any trace of arsenic in food is worrisome. The FDA says the arsenic is coming from an ingredient in chicken feed manufactured by Pfizer. The ingredient is called Roxarsone. It's used to reduce the number of intestinal parasites in chicken - and it's been used since the 1950's. Previous studies showed the arsenic in this ingredient was eliminated in chicken waste, but now it appears some small traces may be left in the chicken.
While the FDA says it's still safe to eat chicken, "we don't know enough just how dangerous it is to eat chickens that have been exposed to this chemical." The traces found in chickens from Roxarsone are inorganic arsenic, which is the dangerous kind. The FDA says Pfizer has suspended sales of chicken feed made with this ingredient, and they will no longer use it. Again, the FDA saying there is no immediate health risk - but alerting the public about these findings.

-Kashi is recalling approximately 11,000 cases of frozen pizzas, including Mediterranean Thin Crust Pizza, Roasted Vegetable Thin Crust Pizza, and Mushroom Trio and Spinach Thin Crust Pizza due to possible plastic fragments in an ingredient in the pizza crusts.
-MGA Entertainment of Van Nuys, CA is recalling 6,200 units of the Bratz Makeup Design Sketch Book. This product has the potential to be contaminated with Staphylococcus warneri and Staphylococcus intermedius.
-Simply Thick, LLC is announcing a voluntary recall of its SimplyThick® thickening gel products manufactured at a food processing plant located in Stone Mountain, Georgia since June 1, 2009. This plant is currently owned and operated by Thermo Pac, LLC.