The politics of oil and ecology have put President Obama between a rock and hard place, as he faces a decision on whether or not to permit construction of a new pipeline. The squeeze just got tighter with a new, negative environmental assessment.
The Keystone XL pipeline will give America energy independence, thousands of jobs, important industrial infrastructure and won't cost taxpayers a dime, say proponents. Many of them are Republican lawmakers.
It is dangerous, inherently filthy and must be stopped, say opponents, some of whom are Democrats who helped get the president elected.FULL STORY
Global warming has propelled Earth's climate from one of its coldest decades since the last ice age to one of its hottest - in just one century.
A heat spike like this has never happened before, at least not in the last 11,300 years, said climatologist Shaun Marcott, who worked on a new study on global temperatures going back that far.
Things are set to get much worse in the future.FULL STORY
[Update 8:55 p.m. ET] The U.S. Geological Survey revised its report of Tuesday's earthquake to magnitude 4.0, down from a preliminary magnitude of 4.6. The epicenter was pinpointed 4 miles west-southwest of Hollis Center, Maine, at a shallow depth of 4.2 miles.
Despite the downgrade, the quake was felt as far away as Boston, Massachusetts; Albany, New York, and even Waterbury, Connecticut, according to the USGS.
You can report your earthquake experience to the USGS at the above link, as well as adding your comment to the many at the end of this post.
"My entire house shook for 3 to 4 seconds. It felt like it was about to collapse," a viewer from Everett, Massachusetts, wrote to CNN affiliate WCVB in Boston.
Many Massachusetts residents felt the effects of an earthquake tonight. So far, we have no reports of injury or damage.—
Deval Patrick (@MassGovernor) October 17, 2012
so now that Maine's been in the news for a prostitution ring and an earthquake will people realize we aren't part of Canada now?—
Brett O'Kelly (@B0Kelly) October 17, 2012
[Original post] An earthquake of preliminary magnitude 4.6 hit Maine at 7:12 p.m. ET Tuesday, according to the USGS website. The earthquake happened 3 miles (5 kilometers) west of Hollis Center, Maine.
South Korea is considering hunting whales in the waters off its shores for scientific purposes, drawing condemnation from environmental groups.
Citing calls from fishermen for a resumption of limited whaling, the head of the South Korean delegation to the International Whaling Commission, Kang Joon-suk, said Wednesday that Seoul was working on a proposal to hunt minke whales migrating off the Korean Peninsula.
Korean fishermen complain that the whales are disrupting their fishing activities and eating fish stocks, Kang said at the commission's annual meeting in Panama.
Nonlethal measures are not enough to assess the whales' numbers and feeding habits, he said.
But environmental organizations are skeptical about the South Korean explanation.
"We believe this move is a thinly veiled attempt by Korea to conduct commercial whaling under the guise of scientific research, similar to hunts conducted by Japan in the Southern Ocean whale sanctuary," said Wendy Elliott, head of WWF's delegation to the whaling commission.FULL STORY
Happy Earth Day, everybody! More than a billion people in 192 countries take part in Earth Day activities, according to Earth Day network.
By the numbers:
4.43 – Pounds of "municipal solid waste" generated per person in the United States each day in 2010.
34.1 – Percent of "municipal solid waste" that ends up getting recycled.
43,271.4 – Percent change in CO2 emissions in Namibia since 1980, the highest in the world. (Not a typo!)
55.43 tonnes – CO2 emissions per capita in Qatar for 2007, the highest in the world.
5 – Percent of Americans who are vegetarian.
16,500 – Number of "Energy Star" certified buildings in the United States.
6 – Cities in California on the list of Top 25 Cities in the United States with the most "Energy Star" certified buildings.
8 – Cities in California in the Top 10 on the list of the Most Ozone-Polluted Cities in the United States.
7 – Number of different SPI Resin Identification codes for recycling on plastic goods.
39 – States with laws regulating the use of these codes on 16 oz bottles.
35 – Percent of hybrid car owners who buy another hybrid when they get a new car.
2.4 – Percent of the "new vehicle market" claimed by hybrid cars in 2011.
81 – Percent who switched regular light bulbs with energy-efficient compact fluorescent bulbs.
70 - Percent who use reusable grocery bags instead of plastic or paper bags at the store.
1.2 million – Homes in the United States that use solar power.
Did the moon and sun conspire to sink the Titanic?
In a way, yes, researchers at Texas State University say.
Donald Olson and Russell Doescher, members of the physics faculty at the university in San Marcos, teamed up with Roger Sinnott, senior contributing editor at Sky & Telescope magazine, to determine how the iceberg the liner struck late on April 14, 1912, came to be in the North Atlantic shipping lanes. More than 1,500 people died when the liner sank less than three hours after hitting the berg.
The researchers theorize that the berg that sank the ship originated in Greenland and was stuck on the coast on Labrador or Newfoundland in early January 1912. Icebergs that become stuck there usually experienced significant melting before regaining enough buoyancy to float away from the coast.
But on January 4, the moon was near full and at its closest distance to the Earth in 1,400 years. A day earlier, Earth was at perihelion, its closest distance to the sun all year. The alignment of Earth, sun and moon created an exceptionally strong "spring tide" which could have refloated icebergs grounded on the northwestern Atlantic coast, the researchers said.
It's leap day, a once-every-four-years bonus you can thank Julius Caesar and Pope Gregory XIII for.
We add a day at the end of February every four years because it takes the Earth about 365.242 days to make a full orbit around the sun. So we take those .242 days, round 'em up slightly and present the world with February 29, an extra day of, well, work for me, campaigning for the GOP presidential hopefuls or, if you fancy yourself a CNN iReporter, leaping!
We thank the Roman emperor Caesar and the 16th century pontiff for putting the day into place.
In 46 B.C., Caesar decreed that under the Julian calendar, a day would be added in any year evenly divisible by four. However, accounting for the rounding up, that got the Romans a little ahead of themselves as far as time goes, according to no less of an authority on things involving watches and calendars than timeanddate.com.
That little discrepancy, which amounted to 11 minutes every year, had added up to 10 whole days by 1582, when Pope Gregory said he had no time for inaccuracies and created the Gregorian calendar, under which we mark our days to this day. Gregory also designated February 29 as the official leap day and set up some rules so that we'd never end up 10 days ahead of ourselves again.
Here's how that works: Leap year occurs in every year that is evenly divisible by four and every century year that is divisible by 400. Hence, while 1200 and 2000 were leap years, 1700 and 1900 were not.
This also means that in the United States, leap years are presidential election years, which means we can always look forward to that extra day of campaigning.
Politicians need to be prepared for pretty much anything. Between the tabloids and reporters – every bit of what they say is scrutinized. There are always going to be moments when politicians get caught off guard by the people they expect the least. You've gotta watch what happens when kids stump politicians on the tough questions starting with an incident between Republican presidential candidate Michele Bachmann and a teenager.
Teen vs. presidential candidate - Bachmann is questioned by a high school student about her stance on same-sex marriage at a town hall meeting in Iowa. Watch the testy exchange as she just won't let up. See the full video from iReporter Anelia Dimitrova here.
It's an artistic technique that allows you to fast-forward through time and it's absolutely fascinating to watch. We're talking about time-lapse photography. This simple art of taking images every second over an extended period of time and then replaying the images in normal speed creates a feeling of moving through time. Today's Gotta Watch features some of our favorite time-lapse videos, inspired by a video we posted Tuesday that shows an incredible view of the Northern Lights in Denmark. In case you missed it, the video is at the end of this post.
Around the earth in 1 minute - Take a trip around planet Earth thanks to time-lapse video of 600 stitched-together photos from NASA's astronaut photo database. It's certainly a view that puts maps to shame.
NASA has announced that it expects a defunct satellite to tumble to Earth today, but scientists can't say exactly when or where. That's got some people worried. This isn't the first time that space junk has fallen from the sky, though. Gotta Watch brings you some of our favorites.
Three crew members from the international space station came back to Earth on Friday, touching down in their Soyuz spacecraft in Kazakhstan.
Russian Andrey Borisenko, commander of Expedition 28, and flight engineers Alexander Samokutyaev, a Russian, and Ron Garan, an American, had spent 162 days working aboard the space station.
News reports said there were some worries in mission control when radio contact with the spacecraft was lost for several minutes after it left Earth's orbit, but the three men were fine when they exited the spacecraft.
"The crew endured the descent and landing normally. The men feel fine; they are in a good mood. The weather in the landing area in Kazakhstan is normal as well," an official spokesman for Rosaviation told the Pravda news agency.
Three airplanes, 14 helicopters and seven rescue vehicles monitored the landing on the Kazakhstan steppe, Pravda reported.
Before departing the space station Thursday, Garan sent a final tweet from space, including a picture of their destination - Earth.
The departure of the trio leaves three others aboard the space station, American Commander Mike Fossum and flight engineers Sergei Volkov of Russia and Satoshi Furukawa of Japan. They've been on the space station since June and are to remain until November 22. American Dan Burbank and Russia's Anatoly Ivanishin and Anton Shkaplerov are scheduled to join them on the space station on November 16.
Three more crew - NASA's Don Pettit, Russia's Oleg Kononenko and Europe's Andre Kuipers - are expected to head to the space station on or about December 26, according to NASA.
Since NASA put the last of its space shuttles into retirement during the summer, future missions will be carried out aboard Russian spacecraft.
Key raw materials necessary for modern devices such as cell phones, laptop computers and flat-screen TVs may be found in abundance on the ocean floor, Japanese scientists report in the journal Nature Geoscience.
Yasuhiro Kato and his colleagues at the University of Tokyo say they surveyed 78 sites on the Pacific Ocean floor and found high concentrations of rare-earth elements and the metal yttrium.
"We estimate that an area of just one square kilometer, surrounding one of the sampling sites, could provide one-fifth of the current annual world consumption of these elements," the scientists report.
And, the scientists say, the rare earths might not be difficult to extract.
"We show that rare-earth elements and yttrium are readily recovered from the mud by simple acid leaching, and suggest that deep-sea mud constitutes a highly promising huge resource for these elements," they wrote.
That would be good news for the market for rare earths, 97% of which now come from China, according to media reports. Recent Chinese moves to limit exports of rare-earth minerals has caused price spikes, Mother Nature News reports.
But writing on Nature.com, journalist Nicola Jones reports that deep-ocean rare-earth mining might not be that simple. Jones quotes Gareth Hatch of Illinois-based Technology Metals Research:
"People talk about mining on the asteroids or the moon. This isn't that hard, but it's similar."
But based on what we make with these minerals (read the Mother Nature News report), it may be a task the world want to take on.
Sky gazers in much of the world will see a spectacular lunar eclipse Wednesday night. But if you're in North America, Greenland or Siberia, you'll have to view it virtually.
Lunar eclipses occur two to four times a year, when the sun, Earth and moon align. This one is special because the period of totality - when the moon is completely covered by Earth's shadow - will last for one hour, 40 minutes, considerably longer than usual, said David Dundee, astronomy program director at the Tellus Science Museum in Cartersville, Georgia.
"All lunar eclipses are cool, but in a total lunar eclipse, the moon turns a kind of a red color," he said. The middle of Earth's shadow isn't black, it's red, Dundee explained, because the light waves from the sun that are on the red end of the spectrum bend around the planet at just the right angle to bathe the moon in red light.
Beginning at 17:24 UTC (2:24 p.m. ET), the moon will appear to dim slightly as it moves into Earth's penumbral shadow, then turn shades of orange and red as the planet's full (or umbral) shadow overtakes it. NASA explains it all in an animated diagram. Distortion from Earth's atmosphere may make the edges of the moon look fuzzy, Dundee noted.
Three things you need to know today.
"Miracle on the Hudson" plane: The US Airways Airbus 320 that Capt. Chesley Sullenberger safely put down in the Hudson River in January 2009 arrives at its new home in Charlotte, North Carolina, on Friday.
The jetliner, minus its wings and tail section, was at a weigh station in Surry County, North Carolina, overnight before beginning the final leg of its journey from a warehouse in Harrison, New Jersey. It is expected to reach its new home at the Carolinas Aviation Museum in Charlotte between 11 a.m. and noon Friday, according to a museum Twitter posting.
Among those who got a chance to see the aircraft Thursday were two of the 155 passengers and crew aboard when Sullenberger set the Airbus down in the Hudson after its struck birds and lost power upon departing LaGuardia Airport on January 15, 2009, on a flight to Charlotte.
"Seeing the plane, I think it's overwhelming. Full circle. You think about all the emotions. You think about how fortunate you are," survivor Denise Lockie told CNN affiliate WFMY.
"This airplane crashing in the river and staying afloat for 23 or 24 minutes, long enough for us all to get off, is an amazing miracle." survivor Beth McHugh told the Greensboro TV station.
Sea salt satellite: NASA is set to launch a satellite Friday, starting a three-year mission to help better understand climate change.
NASA says it will launch the Aquarius/SAC-D Sea Surface Salinity satellite from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.
For the next three years, the Aquarius satellite will look back at Earth and generate monthly maps of sea salt movement, data that are crucial to the understanding of global climate change and ocean currents.
The project will give scientists the information they need to better predict El Nino and La Nina tropical climate patterns in the Pacific. Until now, such research has been limited to ship and buoy instrumentation.
Arab-American conference: The Arab-American Anti-Discrimination Committee, which bills itself as the largest Arab-American grassroots organization in the U.S., begins at three-day conference in Washington on Friday.
The conference, with the theme “Defining Our Role in a Changing World,” features speakers including consumer advocate Ralph Nader, comedians Dean Obeidallah and Ahmed Ahmed, political and academic figures and a performance by the New York Arab Orchestra.
Topics up for discussion include the current "Arab Spring" uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa, U.S. foreign policy and Arab-American identity.
The organization says the conference is the country's largest gathering of Arab-Americans.
OK, so apparently Australia's interior desert is overrun with more than a million camels that nobody owns.
Furthermore, Australia is looking for ways to reduce its agricultural greenhouse gas emissions under something known as the Carbon Farming Initiative.
How are these facts related, you say? We're glad you asked.
It seems these feral camels are known to, well, emit a lot of greenhouse gases, if you get our meaning.
In response, an Australian entrepreneur has submitted a proposal to the initiative to improve the air down under by shooting the dromedaries where they stand.
Or, as a headline on the Australian blog The Register concisely put it: FARTING DEATH CAMELS MUST DIE.
Some of the world's cleanest waterways may be in trouble for being so clean.
A species of fast-growing freshwater algae that lives in streams and rivers - sometimes called "river snot" - can alter food supplies to other aquatic life and hurt fisheries, according to a new report published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters. The study was funded by the National Science Foundation and the State of South Dakota Carbon Scientist fund.
Scientists such as P.V. Sundareshwar, associate professor of biogeochemistry, conducted their research in Rapid Creek, a clear mountain stream in the western part of South Dakota where the first strains of Didymo were found in 2002. Sundareshwar has been working on the project for the past four years.
"When you normally see a kind of green scum in a pond it's because there's runoff, or some pollutant causing that to happen from the outside of a body of water," he said. "But this is unusual because it's happening organically."
The formal name of the potentially damaging algae is Didymo for Didymosphenia geminata. It looks like thick mats of bacteria on the bottom of waterways and thrives in the Southern Hemisphere, from New Zealand to Chile.
"Didymo has become a major nuisance," he said. "It's so adaptable, it can dominate, virtually take over all other algae that (normally) provides a structure for the food chain in waterways. You're talking about affecting, or altering, an entire ecosystem."
He said that the problem has been especially bad in New Zealand where studies there have said that damages to fishery profits have run into the tens of millions.
For those of you who haven't been paying attention, it could be your last day here on Earth.
At 6 p.m. Saturday, according to radio host Harold Camping, the Day of Rapture and the start of Judgment Day begins.
At this writing there have been no reports of people being taken up into heaven, but plenty of folks are talking about it.
Jim Brenneman, a cartoonist and CNN iReporter in Marcellus, New York, said he expects to remain on Earth, but you never know.
"Although I assume that I've lived a sinful life and will probably be here on Sunday, there is a small chance that maybe I was better than I thought and might get sucked up into the heavens on Saturday with all the other self-righteous wing nuts," he said. "If that happens, feel free to have my stuff. But probably not! Let the Looting Begin! HAPPY APOCALYPSE EVERYONE!!"
Brenneman posted a cartoon envisioning himself being caught up.
Another iReporter, Greg Reese, created an entertaining – and thought-provoking – video from interviews with people on the streets of Cincinnati.
The top Twitter trend on Saturday morning was #endoftheworldconfessions. Among them:
Lord_Valdemort7: "I 'let the dogs out.' It was me."
Firenzeii: "You know your cute little bunny rabbit? The one you called Fluffy and loved more than anything else? I ate him."
BiebersNachos: "I loved, I love and I will always love this sexy badass singer called Justin Drew Bieber "
WagTheFox: "You really do look fat in those jeans. There. I said it."
CNN iReporter Jutka T. Emoke Barabas from Honolulu just isn't that into the Rapture.
"We have better things to do, like take care of our environment," the iReporter said. "Today we should reflect about what we could do that our planet would be a better and more livable place for everyone in the future and not think about the end of our planet."
She said she drew a picture of Earth covered with different trees because she was tired of hearing about all this "doomsday business." While still on the Earth, Barabas suggested, "just plant a tree."
She said she plans to do just that on Sunday for the people affected by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami in Japan.
CNN iReporter Cameron Harrelson, 16, from southern Georgia, started researching the idea of Saturday as Judgment Day after his literature teacher had students express their thoughts on the day in their class journals.
"The Bible tells us no man, not even Jesus, knows the day he will return," Harrelson said, and so those predicting the day are trying to elevate themselves to the status of God.
"I am ready if it happens tonight a 6 o'clock, but I don't think it is very likely," he said.
In today's Gotta Watch, we're looking at the awesome power of some of the planet's most active volcanoes. From the easy-to-pronounce Mount St. Helens to another whose name you best not try to utter unless you're sitting down.
Mount St. Helens - On May 18, 1980, Mount St. Helens erupted, becoming the most destructive volcano in United States history. An earthquake and subsequent landslide triggered a series of eruptions and a massive ash cloud. The blast was reportedly so powerful it was felt as far away as Canada. The eruption claimed the lives of 57 people and injured many more.
Eyjafjallajokull - Often refered to simply as "the Icelandic volcano" due to its tongue twister of a name, Eyjafjallajokull wreaked havoc for international travelers for the better part of a week back in 2010. At its peak, the crisis affected 1.2 million passengers a day and 29 percent of all global aviation, according to the International Air Transport Association, becoming the worst disruption of air traffic since the September 11 terrorist attacks back in 2001.
Merapi - The Merapi volcano's most recent eruption began on October 26, 2010. It killed hundreds of people and displaced more than 200,000. The Indonesian volcano's recent eruptions released about 140 million cubic meters of magma, the National Agency for Disaster Management said.
Mount Vesuvius - Just short of 2,000 years ago, the city of Pompeii was wiped off the map by a historic eruption that buried an entire city in ash. Pompeii is now a major tourist attraction and is considered one of Italy's most important archaeological sites.
The Kingdom of Denmark is preparing to claim ownership of the North Pole, according to a Danish media report.
In a document leaked to the Danish newspaper Information, Denmark will ask the United Nations to recognize the North Pole as a geologic extension of Greenland, the vast Arctic island that is a Danish territory. Danish Foreign Minister Lene Espersen confirmed the annexation attempt, Information reported.
The greatest show on Earth is in the skies this weekend as the Eta Aquariids meteor shower enters peak streak time.
The shower was at its spectacular best early Friday morning, but the wee hours of Saturday also hold promise, pending clear skies.
If you live in the northern United States, the stream of celestial glitter and unicorns that you’re envisioning may be a bit off the mark though.
Those who live closer to the equator will get the greatest spectacle - upward of 60 meteors per hour - but in North America, you could see about half that, according to Space.com.
Why the name Eta Aquariids? It's named for the radiant, the point in the sky where the meteors appear to originate, which is the Aquarius constellation, according to Space.com.
“Each Eta Aquarid meteoroid is a piece of Halley’s Comet doing a kamikaze death dive into the atmosphere,” said NASA astronomer Bill Cooke, quoted in Spacedex.com. “Many people have never seen this famous comet, but on the morning of May 6th they can watch bits of it leave fiery trails across the sky.”
The trails are caused by pieces of the comet burning up in our atmosphere, creating cool streaks of light.
But fear not, Americans, while it may not seem quite like a shower, the radiant will be “fairly low,” according to NASA, creating awesome “Earth grazers,” which are the long iridescent hazes you probably envision. But there still won’t be unicorns.