TVA report: Chemicals found at Tennessee plants could be a health hazard
Toxic substances at Tennessee Valley Authority plants may be leaking into water systems including the Cumberland River, The Tennessean newspaper reports.
July 26th, 2011
10:44 AM ET

TVA report: Chemicals found at Tennessee plants could be a health hazard

Groundwater contamination that could cause a health hazard has been detected at nine Tennessee Valley Authority fossil fuel power plant sites, according to a new report from the Inspector General of the TVA, a corporation that is owned by the United States government. TVA provides flood control, navigation and land management to the state's river system.

The levels of chemicals detected could possibly cause a health hazard, The Tennessean newspaper reports.

One of the power plants is located about 50 miles northwest of Nashville.

Among the chemicals found at plants: arsenic, nickel, selenium, beryllium and cadmium.

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Filed under: Environment • Tennessee
'Dangerous' heat wave creeps east
July 18th, 2011
12:01 PM ET

'Dangerous' heat wave creeps east

The "dangerous" heat wave baking the central United States is expected to extend its reach eastward in the coming week, and ultimately cover most of the eastern part of the country, the National Weather Service said Monday.

"Heat index values in the triple digits are forecast across a large portion of the Midwest today, making it feel like 100 to 110 degrees or higher during the afternoon hours," the weather service said Monday morning.

By midweek, the high pressure bringing the oppressive heat will expand eastward, bringing temperatures in the mid-90s to the Mid-Atlantic states "as early as Wednesday," the weather service warned.

"Further out, this dome of high pressure is forecast to dominate most of the eastern and central U.S. - bringing excessive heat to much of the eastern half of the country except for the Northeast and southern Florida - through the end of next week."

FULL STORY
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Filed under: Environment • U.S. • Weather
Pirates stifling climate research, scientists say
Pirates in the Indian Ocean hold the crew of the Chinese fishing vessel FV Tian hostage in 2008.
July 15th, 2011
01:38 PM ET

Pirates stifling climate research, scientists say

Pirates in the Indian Ocean are hijacking scientists' ability to collect data on climate change, researchers say.

Ann Thresher of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, in an e-mail interview Friday with CNN, said the threat of piracy has effectively shut off a critical portion of the Indian Ocean to research.

" This is affecting weather observations," Thresher said. "All data that feeds into measurements of climate change, ocean heat content, weather prediction and the prediction of ocean currents.”

FULL POST

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Filed under: Australia • Climate change • Environment • Pirates • Science • Weather
Tracking the Yellowstone oil spill
Workers try to clean up oil Wednesday along the flooded Yellowstone River near Laurel, Montana.
July 7th, 2011
11:46 AM ET

Tracking the Yellowstone oil spill

Under normal conditions, the Yellowstone River is a beautiful body of water, a postcard picture of America's West.

But now pockets of thick crude oil appear along the river's banks in Billings, Montana. Around 42,000 gallons of the stuff leaked into the river last week after an oil pipeline ruptured.

No one knows why the pipeline broke. It should have been buried under 5 to 8 feet of the riverbed, said Claire Hassett, a spokeswoman for Exxon Mobil, the pipeline's owner.

FULL POST

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Filed under: Energy • Environment • Montana
On the Radar: Yellowstone River spill, Strauss-Kahn troubles, missing student
Leaked oil floats in pools caused by recent flooding around the Yellowstone River.
July 5th, 2011
06:19 AM ET

On the Radar: Yellowstone River spill, Strauss-Kahn troubles, missing student

Three things you need to know today.

Yellowstone spill: Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer will get a close-up look Tuesday at damage done to the Yellowstone River when an ExxonMobil pipeline ruptured last week and leaked tens of thousands of gallons of oil into the river, CNN affiliate KTVQ reports.

ExxonMobil reported Monday night that more than 280 people have converged on the area near Billings to clean up the spill, including workers from the Texas-based oil company and the Clean Harbors environmental firm.

But ExxonMobil officials told the Billings Gazette that workers have yet to reach the site of the rupture and determine its exact nature.

Historically high water levels and rapid currents have made things difficult. On Saturday, for instance, levels near Billings reached their peak for the season at 13.95 feet, nearly a foot above flood stage, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

“It’s not a safe place to be right now,” ExxonMobil spokesman Alan Jeffers told the Billings newspaper.

The rupture occurred on a pipeline that brings oil from Wyoming to a refinery in Billings, the Gazette reported.

More trouble for former IMF chief: A lawyer for French writer Tristane Banon said he will file a criminal complaint Tuesday against former International Monetary Fund head Dominique Strauss-Kahn over an alleged attempted rape eight years ago.

The development comes days after charges against Strauss-Kahn in New York appeared to be on shaky ground.

In anticipation of the new claims, a Strauss-Kahn lawyer in France said he had filed a counterclaim against Banon for "false declarations" after the 32-year-old journalist and writer alleged the ex-IMF chief assaulted her.

The filing by Strauss-Kahn's lawyer was announced shortly after Banon's lawyer, David Koubbi, said he will file the criminal complaint Tuesday with prosecutors, who will determine whether there is enough evidence to file charges.

Missing student case: An autopsy Tuesday may shed some light on the case of missing Indiana University student Lauren Spierer.

The autopsy will be conducted on a decomposing female body found in a creek Monday north of Indianapolis, CNN affiliates reported.

Bloomington police have been searching for Spierer, 20, since June 2, when she was last seen leaving a sports bar in the city after a night out with friends.

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Filed under: Crime • Energy • Environment • Indiana
Crude oil leaks into Montana's Yellowstone River
July 2nd, 2011
09:54 PM ET

Crude oil leaks into Montana's Yellowstone River

An ExxonMobil pipeline leaked an undetermined amount of crude oil into the Yellowstone River near Billings, Montana, prompting a burgeoning cleanup effort, officials said Saturday.

About 80 people from a regional response team were on site Saturday and 70 additional trained individuals were en route, an ExxonMobil spokesman said.

The cause was under investigation. Spokesman Kevin Allexon said no information was available Saturday on the pipeline's age, depth under the river and its maintenance record. The spokesman said he could not speculate on whether river conditions had anything to do with the incident.

Crude leaked into the Yellowstone River, officials said.
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Filed under: Energy • Environment • Montana
On the Radar: Kabul hotel attack, wildfire near nuclear lab, teens and drugs
Flames shoot from the Inter-Continental Hotel in Kabul early Wednesday.
June 29th, 2011
07:43 AM ET

On the Radar: Kabul hotel attack, wildfire near nuclear lab, teens and drugs

Kabul hotel attack - Eight suicide attackers and 10 others were killed in an attack at a Kabul hotel popular with Westerners, journalists and politicians. President Hamid Karzai said Thursday that the attack at the Inter-Continental won't interrupt the power handover from international troops to Afghan forces. Police say the number of dead may go up as they continue to search the hotel. One guest, a student, began to write his will inside his room while he heard shooting and explosions outside his room, because people he contacted outside the hotel told him it was safer if he stayed put. The Taliban has claimed responsibility for the carnage. Stay with CNN.com for developments in this story, and check out CNN.com's Afghanistan Crossroads blog which focuses on life in Afghanistan.

Wildfire near nuclear lab - The wildfire near Santa Fe, New Mexico, is within miles of the Los Alamos National Laboratory, so the facility will remain closed at least through Thursday. Officials say the nuclear and hazardous materials at the lab are safe.

First presser since March at White House - President Barack Obama will hold his first news conference since March on Wednesday. He's expected to field questions about Afghanistan, American involvement in Libya, and the United States economy. He's also expected to address the debt ceiling crisis and present his position that the federal government should be allowed to borrow more money.

Teen drug use big problem - A new study from the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse finds 90% of people who become addicted started smoking, drinking or using other drugs before the age of 18. Columbia University, which published the study, is calling it America's top health problem.

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Filed under: Afghanistan • Drugs • Environment • Fire • Nature • New Mexico • On CNN.com today • On the Radar • Politics • Taliban • Terrorism
On the Radar: Mobster in court, wildfire in New Mexico, Giffords in Texas
Law enforcement officials announce the arrest of reputed mob boss James "Whitey" Bulger last week.
June 28th, 2011
08:26 AM ET

On the Radar: Mobster in court, wildfire in New Mexico, Giffords in Texas

Bulger goes to court - A hearing for reputed mob boss James "Whitey" Bulger is expected Tuesday afternoon in Boston. A federal judge will decide if Bulger can afford to pay for his own attorney. The U.S. attorney's office in Boston is challenging the notion that the federal government can pick up his legal tab. Investigators say they found more than $800,000 in cash hidden in the walls of his home when they arrested Bulger last week in Southern California.

New Mexico wildfire - A blaze is creeping close to the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, which will remained closed Tuesday. Thousands  of people who live nearby are being evacuated. Officials said all nuclear and hazardous materials at Los Alamos are protected. The lab in Los Alamos, a center of American nuclear science, is one of the nation's top national-security research facilities.

FULL POST

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Filed under: Arizona • Crime • Environment • Fire • New Mexico • On the Radar • Politics
June 27th, 2011
10:23 PM ET

DNA tests provide poop on bad dog owners

A New Hampshire apartment complex is mandating that residents submit pet DNA samples.

Why? To check if any of them are abandoning their dogs' waste on the property.

BioPet Vet Lab says PooPrints is currently assisting rental complexes in multiple states, with increasing interest as far away as Canada and Germany.

FULL STORY
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Filed under: Dogs • Environment • New Hampshire
June 22nd, 2011
11:32 AM ET

Gore: Obama has 'failed'

Former vice president and environmental advocate Al Gore sharply criticized President Obama's "failed" approach to global warming Wednesday.

"President Obama has thus far failed to use the bully pulpit to make the case for bold action on climate change," Gore wrote in a "Rolling Stone" article published online.

Although he acknowledged the political difficulty in taking a stand on the issue, Gore said the president has facts to back up his opinions.

FULL STORY
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Filed under: Al Gore • Barack Obama • Climate change • Politics
Beetles buried to boost breeding
An American burying beetle perches on the wing of a dead bird. This species of beetle is endangered.
June 17th, 2011
02:45 PM ET

Beetles buried to boost breeding

What do you do with one of the world's most endangered insects? Throw it in a hole with a dead animal, of course.

That's exactly what about 35 scientists, foresters and volunteers did this week with 150 pairs of American burying beetles in Ohio's Wayne National Forest, said Bob Merz, director of the Center for American Burying Beetle Conservation at the St. Louis Zoo.

FULL POST

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Filed under: Animals • Environment • Insects • Missouri • Ohio • Rhode Island • Science
On the Radar: Friday without 'Friday,' solar groundbreaking, Saudi driving
Rebecca Black's 'Friday' video had gotten more than 170 million hits on YouTube.
June 17th, 2011
06:11 AM ET

On the Radar: Friday without 'Friday,' solar groundbreaking, Saudi driving

Three things you need to know today.

Where's 'Friday'?: This will be your first Friday in, well it seems like forever, that you can't kick off with a Rebecca Black "Friday" video fix from YouTube.

Entertainment Weekly reports that the clip, which had more than 167 million views, has been pulled.

“This video is no longer available due to a copyright claim by Rebecca Black. Sorry about that” is what you'll read when you click on the link.

The website NME.com reports that the video was pulled in a dispute with Ark Music, which wrote the track's music.

Solar power plant: Friday is the official groundbreaking for what is billed as the world's largest solar energy facility.

The Blythe Solar Power Project is being constructed on 7,000 acres of public lands in the desert of Riverside County, California.

When it is completed, the solar power plant will produce electricity to power 300,000 single-family homes for a year, its backers say. Using the plant's solar-generated electricity rather than fossil fuels will also reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 2 million tons a year.

During construction, the plant is expected to create 1,066 construction jobs and almost 300 permanent jobs.

Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar joins other state and local officials for Friday's groundbreaking.

Saudi driving: Saudi women are being encouraged to challenge the status quo and get behind the wheel Friday.

Though there are no traffic laws that make it illegal for women to drive in Saudi Arabia, religious edicts are often interpreted as a ban against female drivers.

The day is expected to be a test of wills - and authority - between police and the campaign, which has been publicized by Facebook, Twitter and other social media.

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Filed under: California • Celebrity • Energy • Environment • Music • Saudi Arabia • Showbiz • YouTube
June 14th, 2011
11:11 AM ET

Arizona wildfire is state's largest ever

The Wallow Fire in Arizona has become the largest wildfire in the state's history, surpassing the 2002 Rodeo-Chediski fire, according to officials with Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest.

The amount of land burned by the fire grew to about 733 square miles, forest officials reported Tuesday. The Rodeo fire covered 732 square miles.

The blaze was about 18% contained, fire officials said Tuesday, nearly double the containment figure reported the day before, when officials reported that the northward advance of the fire had been stopped.

Meanwhile, another fire broke out Monday in southern New Mexico at Carlsbad Caverns National Park, officials said.  Hundreds of visitors were evacuated as crews tackled the 3,000-acre wildfire inside the park.

Calmer winds were helping firefighters get the upper hand on the Wallow Fire, which has been burning since late May, said Jerome MacDonald, the operations chief for the Southwest Incident Management team.

In the town of Greer, part of which was burned by the fire, work was under way to make it safe for people to return, said the town's fire chief, Mark Wade.

"Greer is not as bad as a lot of people are making it sound," he said. But he warned that there are dangerous obstacles that must be cleared and utilities to be restored before residents can be allowed back in.

Residents were already moving back to the towns of Springerville, Eagar and South Fork after authorities lifted evacuation orders on Sunday.

FULL STORY
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Filed under: Arizona • Environment • U.S.
Farting camels on carbon hit list
Camels have no natural predators in Australia.
June 9th, 2011
02:42 PM ET

Farting camels on carbon hit list

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.

FULL POST

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Filed under: Animals • Australia • Camels • Climate change • Earth • Environment
Study: Concrete jungle worsens pollution
Smog shrouds the Houston skyline on a hot Texas summer day.
June 7th, 2011
01:50 PM ET

Study: Concrete jungle worsens pollution

Proliferating pavement may be making urban air pollution worse, a U.S. study suggests.

Researchers led by the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado, focused on the air in smoggy Houston.

The research team crunched atmospheric measurements with computer simulations to examine pavement's impact on breezes. The data showed, they said, that paved surfaces keep on-land temperatures artificially high, causing a reduction in cleansing nighttime sea breezes.

Furthermore, buildings and other structures block and redirect air movement, contributing to relatively stagnant afternoon weather conditions, the researchers said.

"The developed area of Houston has a major impact on local air pollution," said NCAR scientist Fei Chen, lead author of the new study. "If the city continues to expand, it's going to make the winds even weaker in the summertime, and that will make air pollution much worse."

The article will be published this month in the Journal of Geophysical Research-Atmospheres, a publication of the American Geophysical Union. The research was funded by the U.S. Air Force Weather Agency, the U.S. Defense Threat Reduction Agency and the National Science Foundation.

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Filed under: Colorado • Environment • Science • Texas • U.S.
'River snot' could damage pristine waterways, study finds
Didymo is present at many points along Rapid Creek, South Dakota.
June 7th, 2011
01:03 PM ET

'River snot' could damage pristine waterways, study finds

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.

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Filed under: Aquaculture • Earth • Environment
Biodegradable products may be doing more harm than good, study finds
Products advertised as biodegradable may be doing harm than good to the environment, a new study finds.
May 31st, 2011
01:35 PM ET

Biodegradable products may be doing more harm than good, study finds

North Carolina researchers say products that are advertised as biodegradable are likely doing more damage to the environment in landfills than regular products.

Microorganisms break down biodegradable items, a process that produces methane which is a greenhouse gas when released into the atmosphere, according to Morton Barlaz, the head of North Carolina State Department of Civil, Construction, and Environmental Engineering. He co-authored a recently published paper detailing the unexpected findings.

The Environmental Protection Agency reports that while most city solid waste landfills convert that methane for energy or burn the methane off-site, at least 35 percent of landfills allow the methane to escape, according to the paper.

Federal Trade Commission guidelines advise that products marked as "biodegradable" to decompose within "a reasonably short period of time" after disposal. Federal regulations don't require landfills to collect methane for at least two years from the time the materials have been dumped, according to researchers.

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Filed under: Environment
May 24th, 2011
08:16 AM ET

Rare white kiwi hatched in New Zealand

Manukura is a white variant, not an albino, a ranger said. The bird was hatched earlier this month.

New Zealand's national wildlife center is crowing about the appearance of Manukura, the only all-white kiwi chick among this year's large brood of 14.

The white bird hatched on May 1 at Pukaha Mount Bruce wildlife center, the highlight of the most successful breeding season since kiwi were reintroduced into the wild there in 2003, according to the New Zealand Department of Conservation.

"As far as we know, this is the first all-white chick to be hatched in captivity," Pukaha Mount Bruce Board Chairman Bob Francis said in a news release. FULL POST

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Filed under: Animals • Birds • Environment • New Zealand
Comparisons to Chernobyl slammed as images of Japan tsunami emerge
Tokyo Electric Power Co. released images Thursday of the devastating tsunami rolling toward its nuclear plant.
May 19th, 2011
01:22 PM ET

Comparisons to Chernobyl slammed as images of Japan tsunami emerge

The Tokyo Electric Power Co. has released dramatic tsunami images on its website, as a nuclear expert slammed comparisons between the Japan nuclear disaster and Chernobyl.

The photos, which are available on TEPCO's website, show the tsunami that crippled the Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear plant barreling toward the facility before inundating it with water.

The news came as the power company continued to issue press releases reporting radiation in the groundwater and seawater around the plant. It also came two days after the company said it learned that a pressure vessel in reactor No. 1 may be leaking and that the reactor's fuel rods almost melted completely hours after the tsunami hit.

A U.S. physicist said, if accurate, the revelations would indicate a "very, very bad accident" that would be difficult to clean up.

FULL POST

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Filed under: 2011 tsunami • Earthquake • Energy • Environment • Japan • Natural Disasters • Nuclear • Tsunami • World
Gotta Watch: When volcanoes erupt
Iceland's Eyjafjallajokull volcano blackened the sky for days back in 2010.
May 18th, 2011
12:53 PM ET

Gotta Watch: When volcanoes erupt

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.

[cnn-video url="http://www.cnn.com/video/#/video/us/2011/05/18/vault.mount.st.helen.eruption.usgs"%5D

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.

[cnn-video url="http://www.cnn.com/video/#/video/world/2010/04/20/ac.tuchman.raining.ash.cnn"%5D

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.

[cnn-video url="http://www.cnn.com/video/#/video/world/2010/11/03/coren.indonesia.volcanoes.cnn"%5D

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. 

[cnn-video url="http://www.cnn.com/video/#/video/world/2011/05/18/vault.vinci.pompeii.volcano.cnn"%5D
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Filed under: Earth • Environment • Gotta Watch • History • Iceland • Indonesia • Italy • Natural Disasters • U.S. • Uncategorized • Volcano • Volcanoes
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