Plastic-eating bacteria found in 'ocean desert,' scientist says
Debris such as plastic and trash, shown on a Prestwick, Scotland, beach, may contain plastic-eating bacteria, findings suggest.
March 30th, 2011
03:24 PM ET

Plastic-eating bacteria found in 'ocean desert,' scientist says

Scientists have found an organism that may be eating plastic in the ocean, according to a report in Nature News.

But whether the bug is green or mean remains to be seen, a scientist told CNN on Wednesday.

It has been proven that microbes can degrade plastic, said marine microbiologist Tracy Mincer of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts. What's significant is that the plastic is being degraded in a nutrient-poor area of the sea, an "ocean desert," Mincer said.

The bacteria, found in a region of the North Atlantic Ocean called the Sargasso Sea, is clearly breaking down the plastic, but scientists don’t know if the byproduct is environment-friendly waste or a toxin. If the bacteria - or its waste - is consumed by larger organisms, the effects could be detrimental to aquatic life.

Examining items such as a fishing line and plastic bag, Mincer discovered the living cells entrenched in the plastic, seemingly gorging on it, he told Nature News.

In any event, the findings suggest the vast "garbage patches" that have been found in parts of the world's oceans and considered largely devoid of life may be full of living communities.

"We are seeing the plastic particles as a type of artificial reef that certain types of microbes can colonize," Mincer said. "Since plastic has a much longer residence time in the water column than any other natural particle in the water column, this could be making a significant impact."

The discovery of environs that encourage plastic-eating bacteria raises larger questions about the organisms'  toll on other aquatic life, Mincer said.

"One of the questions that I am interested in is: How does this artificially introduced plastic that is heavily colonized by microbes influence the rest of the water column microbial balance?" he asked.

The part of the Sargasso Sea that scientists studied is depleted of phosphorous and other nutrients, Mincer said.

"In other words, are the plastic colonizers stealing away phosphorous from others that would normally be receiving this share?"

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Filed under: Environment • Nature • Science
Whereabouts of Libyan rape accuser unclear
Eman al-Obeidy makes rape allegations Saturday before journalists at a Tripoli hotel. She hasn't been seen publicly since then.
March 30th, 2011
01:16 PM ET

Whereabouts of Libyan rape accuser unclear

Four days after Eman al-Obeidy publicly accused members of Moammar Gadhafi's militia of raping her, the whereabouts of the 29-year-old woman remain unclear.

The Libyan government said al-Obeidy was freed after being briefly detained.

But she has not been seen publicly since she was dragged away by security men Saturday and bundled into a waiting white car outside the Rixos Hotel after revealing her accusations to journalists.

Aisha Ahmad said she has not heard from her daughter and challenged Gadhafi to air video of her on state television as proof of her well-being.

FULL STORY
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Filed under: Libya • World
Leaping sea creatures: Do we need bigger boats?
This mako shark threw itself onto a boat off Texas on Sunday.
March 30th, 2011
01:05 PM ET

Leaping sea creatures: Do we need bigger boats?

Last Friday, a 300-pound eagle ray leaps onto a boat off the Florida Keys. On Sunday, a 375-pound mako shark jumps onto a boat off Texas.

What's up with the leaping sea creatures? Has Aquaman's telepathic message been scrambled? Are the buddies of "Jaws" seeking revenge? Are we going to need bigger boats?

Actually, "many ocean animals do jump out of the water when either chasing prey or trying to elude a predator," Timothy J. Mullican, vice president of zoological operations at the Georgia Aquarium, said in an e-mail to CNN. And the eagle ray and mako shark are both known jumpers, he said.

But plopping on a boat is far from the usual result, he said.

In the Florida case, "the presence of the boat may have spooked the eagle ray, or it may just be a one-in-a-million intersection of boat and animal," Mullican said.

And off Texas, "the shark could have conceivably been accelerating through the cloud of 'chum,' broken the surface and unfortunately found a boat occupying the space where it was going to land," Mullican said.

On landbigfish.com, fishing guide Dennis Dobson also provides a few ideas why free fish - those yet to taste the hook - jump. Females may be trying to loosen eggs for spawning, he says, and both sexes may be trying to rid themselves of parasites. Or, he writes tongue in cheek,  they may be just "flipping the fin" to fishermen.

If that's the case, then some fishermen have figured them out. They count on their catch leaping aboard. The book "Fish Catching Methods of the World" describes how fishermen in several countries rely on fish behavior instead of hooks and nets.

And leaping aquatic creatures aren't only found on oceans, rivers and lakes. I know this from personal childhood trauma. That goldfish gasping for oxygen on my childhood bedroom floor didn't jump from its bowl with a death wish, my parents assured me. That was just what fish sometimes did.

And while last weekend's two incidents were obvious shockers for those on board the two boats, imagine if a great white shark plopped onto your bow. That's exactly what happened to some German tourists off South Africa a few years ago. Get their view here.

In South Africa, the great white got away. And the Florida ray was set free. But things didn't end so well for the Texas mako or my goldfish.

[cnn-video url="http://www.cnn.com/video/#/video/us/2011/03/30/vo.tx.shark.boat.khou"%5D


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Filed under: Animals • Florida • Nature • Sharks • Texas
Rare dinosaur fossil discovered in Canadian oil sand
Suncor Energy workers Michel Gratton and Shawn Funk found this rare specimen while mining oil sand in northern Canada.
March 30th, 2011
11:42 AM ET

Rare dinosaur fossil discovered in Canadian oil sand

Workers at an oil sand site in Canada have found a 110 million-year-old fossil of a dinosaur previously unknown in that area, Alberta's Royal Tyrrell Museum announced.

Employees of Suncor Energy, the parent company of Sunoco and PetroCanada, stopped work last week near Fort McMurray, Alberta, when supervisor Michel Gratton and shovel operator Shawn Funk found a large lump of dirt with an unusual texture and diamond patterns.

FULL POST

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Filed under: Animals • Canada • Dinosaurs • History • Mining • Science • World
Wednesday's Most Intriguing People: Syrian leader; 'I Need a Job!' organizer
Celebrity gossip blogger Perez Hilton is reportedly writing a book about “a child born with a shock of fabulous hair."
March 30th, 2011
11:00 AM ET

Wednesday's Most Intriguing People: Syrian leader; 'I Need a Job!' organizer

Perez Hilton

The celebrity gossip blogger announced Tuesday that he will write a children’s book with Penguin called, “The Boy with Pink Hair,” the Los Angeles Times reports. Penguin says the book is about “a child born with a shock of fabulous hair that sets him apart from his peers. While some find this difference hard to accept or understand, 'The Boy with Pink Hair' uses the opportunity to find what makes him special and share it with the world.”

Bashar al-Assad

The embattled president of Syria acknowledged in a speech Wednesday that his citizens want reform and said that the nation is "now the target of a worldwide conspiracy." He said, "We are for reform, and we are for meeting the people’s demands. But we are not in favor of chaos and destruction.” Assad's comments come after anti-government protests in Syria and a day after his Cabinet resigned.

Matthew Segal

The Ohio native and founder of the Our Time youth organization is launching its F#%K, I Need a Job! campaign  Wednesday. The movement, which features a petition, hopes to help young adults fight unemployment. “Our Time is putting names and faces to a group of workers who are being overlooked – our strength is truly in our numbers,” Segal said in a news release. “America needs a wake-up call – we are leaving our next generation behind.  And young Americans need a reality check – no one is coming to bail us out.”

Shauna Miller

The 24-year-old from Los Angeles is the creator of Penny Chic, a blog featuring styled looks from clothes bought entirely from Walmart. The site, which is not affiliated with the retailer, was started when Miller could not find a job after graduating from college. On the blog, Miller, who once worked at a Paris fashion house, wrote, "What’s more intriguing to me is the challenge of looking chic at a time when this season’s must-have Little Black Dress is no longer an option. ... And that’s when I came up with the idea to put America’s cheapest discount department store on a fashion pedestal and ditch the skinny models for me and my friends."

Gotta Watch: Plane's crash water landing, eagle ray pins woman and shark surprise
March 30th, 2011
10:45 AM ET

Gotta Watch: Plane's crash water landing, eagle ray pins woman and shark surprise

It's water, water everywhere. From a plane's incredible crash water landing to a 300-pound eagle ray that smacked a woman during a tourist boat trip, today's Gotta Watch videos are all about water. And just when you thought it couldn't get any wackier, there's a fisherman's dream: a 400-pound shark.

Plane's plunges into ocean – A plane tries to land in St. Petersburg, Florida, but hits the ocean and flips over just short of the runway. The spectacular sight is all caught on tape by two friends just trying to enjoy the day at a nearby racetrack.

[cnn-video url="http://www.cnn.com/video/#/video/us/2011/03/30/plane.crash.water.landing.wfts"%5D

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Filed under: Air travel • Animals • Gotta Watch • Nature • Plane emergency landing • Sharks • Travel
Arctic ice at winter peak is least ever measured by satellite
A graphic shows winter's maximum extent of Arctic ice on March 7. The line is the 1979-2000 average. North America is at left.
March 30th, 2011
08:57 AM ET

Arctic ice at winter peak is least ever measured by satellite

At its peak this winter, Arctic Ocean ice covered the smallest area since satellites started measuring it in 1979, researchers report.

Arctic sea ice probably reached its maximum extent for the year on March 7, at 5.65 million square miles, according to the University of Colorado-Boulder’s National Snow and Ice Data Center.

That figure was 463,000 square miles (about the size of South Africa) less than the 1979-2000 average of 6.12 million square miles, and was about the same as in the winter of 2006, the center reported.

At its end-of-summer minimum in September, Arctic sea ice extent was the third-lowest since 1979.

Sea ice extent is the primary measure for assessing the condition of the ice cover, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The NOAA website has a time-lapse video showing how sea ice fluctuates and moves during winter.

“I’m not surprised by the new data because we’ve seen a downward trend in winter sea ice extent for some time now,” National Snow and Ice Data Center scientist Walt Meier told Science Daily.

The seven lowest measurements of end-of-winter sea ice have been recorded in the last seven years, he told Science Daily.

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Filed under: Climate change • Colorado • Earth • Environment • Science
LeBron loses on Cavs' court, in Cavs' garage
Cavaliers' fans booed LeBron James every time he touched the ball Tuesday night.
March 30th, 2011
08:04 AM ET

LeBron loses on Cavs' court, in Cavs' garage

On his second visit to Cleveland Tuesday since he took his talents to South Beach, the Miami Heat's LeBron James found no place to park and no victory on the court.

The former Cavaliers star and reigning NBA MVP was booed every time he touched the ball in Quicken Loans Arena, and though he posted a triple-double - 27 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds - it was not enough to bring down the Cavs, who posted a 102-90 win.

Cavaliers' owner Dan Gilbert, who pilloried James for deserting the Cavs and Cleveland last summer, saluted the hometown fans after Tuesday's game.

"I'm in awe of the fans of Cleveland," The Plain Dealer quoted Gilbert as saying on his way out of the building. "They stood behind this team all year."

While the Cavs game James' team fits on the court, Gilbert's staff gave James fits on his way into the arena Tuesday, ESPN.com reported.

FULL POST

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Filed under: Basketball • LeBron James • NBA • Sports
Wednesday's live video events
March 30th, 2011
07:47 AM ET

Wednesday's live video events

Watch CNN.com Live for continuing coverage of the conflict in Libya and the nuclear crisis in Japan.

Today's programming highlights...

10:00 am ET - Nuclear safety hearing - The nuclear crisis in Japan is making some in the United States concerned about nuclear safety in this country.  A Senate appropriations subcommittee discusses that issue today.

FULL POST


Filed under: 2011 tsunami • Barack Obama • District of Columbia • Earthquake • Energy • Japan • Libya • Natural Disasters • Nuclear • On CNN.com today • Politics • Security • September 11 • Syria • Terrorism • Tsunami • U.S. • War • World
Syria's president says country faces 'test of our unity'
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad speaks on Wednesday.
March 30th, 2011
07:46 AM ET

Syria's president says country faces 'test of our unity'

In a televised speech Wednesday, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad blamed unrest in his country on "enemies... working daily and scientifically to undermine the stability of Syria," but said they were "stupid in choosing to target Syria."

He called the anti-government demonstrations "a test of our unity."

On Tuesday, tens of thousands of pro-government demonstrators poured onto the streets of Damascus, although state media reported a much higher national turnout.

"Millions of people around Syria rallied in the cities' main squares to express loyalty to homeland and underline its national unity," SANA reported. "Syrian people gathered on Tuesday to stress the importance of maintaining security and stability and to support the massive reform program led by President Bashar al-Assad."

Tuesday's pro-government rally followed violent clashes between protesters and security forces in the cities of Daraa and Latakia in recent days. At least 37 people have been killed since last week, according to the U.N. Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

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Filed under: Syria • World
On the Radar: Killer whale's return; the state of bridges; seeing Mercury
Tilikum will return to SeaWorld's "Believe" show on Wednesday.
March 30th, 2011
06:48 AM ET

On the Radar: Killer whale's return; the state of bridges; seeing Mercury

Killer whale's return: The SeaWorld killer whale involved in the death of a trainer more than a year ago returns to the park's "Believe" show Wednesday for the first time since the death, according to media reports.

In February 2010, Tilikum, a 12,000-pound killer whale, pulled senior trainer Dawn Brancheau, 40, underwater and killed her as horrified visitors watched at SeaWorld of Orlando's Shamu Stadium.

An autopsy showed Brancheau died of drowning and traumatic injuries to her body, including her spine, ribs and head.

The incident occurred at the conclusion of the park's "Dine With Shamu" event. Those shows resumed earlier this year.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration fined SeaWorld $75,000 for three safety violations, including one classified as willful.

SeaWorld has made safety upgrades to the killer whale stadium since Brancheau's death, CNN affiliate WESH reports.

And a park official says Tilikum is ready to return to shows.

"Participating in shows is just a portion of Tilikum’s day, but we feel it is an important component of his physical, social and mental enrichment," SeaWorld Animal Training Curator Kelly Flaherty Clark told WESH. "He has been regularly interacting with his trainers and the other whales for purposes of training, exercise and social and mental stimulation, and has enjoyed access to all of the pools in the Shamu Stadium complex."

FULL POST

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Filed under: Animals • Florida • On the Radar • Travel • Whales
First image of Mercury from orbit released
March 29th, 2011
10:57 PM ET

First image of Mercury from orbit released

NASA released an image of the planet Mercury on Tuesday, the first obtained from a spacecraft orbiting the solar system's innermost planet.

The image is the first of many expected to come from the Messenger probe, the first space mission to orbit the planet closest to the sun. The Messenger spacecraft launched on August 3, 2004, and after flybys of Earth, Venus and Mercury, started its historic orbit around Mercury on March 17.

The dominant rayed crater in the upper portion of the image is Debussy, according to NASA. The smaller crater, Matabei, with its dark rays, is visible to the west of Debussy. The bottom portion of the full image, which can be seen here,  is near Mercury's south pole and includes a region of Mercury's surface not previously seen by spacecraft.

Over the next three days, Messenger will acquire 1,185 more images in support of a phase to review spacecraft and instrument performance. The yearlong primary science phase of the mission will begin on April 4, during which it is expected to acquire more than 75,000 images.

The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory built and operates the Messenger spacecraft and manages the Discovery-class mission for NASA. Messenger stands for MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry, and Ranging.

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Filed under: Space
The day's most popular stories
The eagle ray that fell onto Jenny Hausch weighed about 300 pounds.
March 29th, 2011
10:50 PM ET

The day's most popular stories

The five most popular stories on CNN.com in the past 24 hours, according to NewsPulse.

Eagle ray pins woman in boat: An eagle ray weighing as much as 300 pounds landed on top of a woman on a boat in the Florida Keys last week, throwing her to the deck and pinning her underneath it.

Pilot finds hole in plane's fuselage: FBI investigators were working Tuesday to discover what caused a small hole in the body of a US Airways jet.

Girl, denied access to U.S., will try again: A 4-year-old U.S. citizen who was unable to enter the country this month because of a possible communications mix-up is expected to attempt the journey again on Wednesday, according to her lawyer.

American students a no-show in Acapulco: Folk musician Raymundo Oregon knows Acapulco's seasons and the tourists. He's seen the good times and the bad, and this is definitely a low point for his beloved coastal city.

Explosions in Tripoli, 'carnage' in Misrata: Forces loyal to Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi went on the attack Tuesday, pushing opposition fighters back to the outskirts of a key oil town, rebels said.

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Filed under: Immigration • Libya • Most Popular • Travel
Toobin: 'Very good day in court for Wal-Mart'
Activists supporting efforts to allow a class-action lawsuit against Wal-Mart hold signs in front of the Supreme Court on Tuesday.
March 29th, 2011
07:52 PM ET

Toobin: 'Very good day in court for Wal-Mart'

The Supreme Court's conservative majority didn't appear impressed Tuesday with plaintiffs' arguments that more than 1 million female Wal-Mart workers, past and present, should be able to accuse the retailer of discrimination in one class-action lawsuit, CNN senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin said.

Though a ruling isn't expected until late June, the justices' reactions during oral arguments might portend a defeat for six plaintiffs who want to band with employees from across the country and make their accusations in a single, massive trial, Toobin said.

"I thought it was a very good day in court for Wal-Mart, and I would not be at all surprised if the whole case were thrown out after listening to the justices today,” Toobin said on "CNN Newsroom."

FULL POST

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Filed under: Business • Courts • Justice • Lawsuit • Supreme Court
Remembering a fallen colleague in Iraq
Freelance journalist Sabah al-Bazee worked for a number of news organizations, including CNN.
March 29th, 2011
07:16 PM ET

Remembering a fallen colleague in Iraq

At least 56 people were killed Tuesday and 98 others wounded when a gang of men attacked an Iraqi government building in the northern city of Tikrit. Among those killed in the attack was Sabah al-Bazee, a freelance journalist who worked for a number of news organizations, including CNN. Producers Mohammed Tawfeeq, Yousif Bassil and Jomana Karadsheh wrote the following tribute to Sabah, who turned 30 one week ago:

Sabah al-Bazee was one of the many brave Iraqi journalists whose courage and skills made him one of the best local reporters in the deadliest war for journalists since World War II.

...

Sabah would always want to joke and make us laugh. Even when you would wait for him to pick up the phone, you would get a recorded joke. He was one of the most outgoing and proactive stringers we had. Most of the time, Sabah would call and give us the news before we’d call him asking about it.

...

Jomana remembers a trip to a U.S. military base in Tikrit in 2008, where she met up with Sabah. Because this was in his province, Sabah displayed the renowned Iraqi hospitality. After lunch, he grabbed some fruit and put it in Jomana's bag. She did not find it until hours later, when she got back to Baghdad.

While Iraq today is not the Iraq of three or four years ago, it still is a place where hundreds are killed and wounded every month. It is still a place where you can leave your home in the morning and never come back. Just like Sabah did today.

Today, we mourn a colleague and a friend - yet another one.

Read the full post on CNN's BackStory blog

Filed under: Iraq • War
Virginia Tech fined for failure to provide timely warning during shooting rampage
Virginia Tech will be fined for waiting too long to provide warnings during the 2007 shooting rampage.
March 29th, 2011
05:09 PM ET

Virginia Tech fined for failure to provide timely warning during shooting rampage

Virginia Tech will be fined $55,000 for waiting too long to provide timely warnings about a shooter on the loose during a 2007 rampage that killed 32 people, the U.S. Department of Education said Tuesday.

A report released last year on the incident found the school in violation of The Clery Act, which requires colleges and universities to disclose information about crimes on or near their campuses.

Read the department's notice to Virgina Tech

The university said it "respectfully disagrees" with the ruling and plans to appeal.

"As we noted before, neither the Department of Education nor the Clery Act defines 'timely.' The university actions on April 16 were well within the standards and practices in effect at that time," the university said in a statement.

FULL STORY
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Filed under: Crime
Sources: Hole in US Airways jet caused by bullet
This US Airways 737 was grounded in Charlotte, North Carolina, on Monday after a small hole was found in its fuselage.
March 29th, 2011
04:24 PM ET

Sources: Hole in US Airways jet caused by bullet

A hole in a US Airways jet that landed in Charlotte, North Carolina, on Monday was caused by a bullet, two government sources tell CNN.

The sources say a bullet has been recovered inside the Boeing 737-400.

The aircraft had flown to Charlotte from Philadelphia and was being prepped for another flight on Monday when the pilot discovered the hole above a passenger window toward the back of the plane, according to airline officials. The airline pulled the plane from service and called in the FBI.

"We do not believe it's terrorism related," said one of the government sources. "It appears to be a random event. We do not believe the plane was targeted."

One source told CNN that officials believe the bullet was fired in Charlotte after passengers had exited the aircraft.

FULL STORY
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Filed under: Air travel • North Carolina • Travel
50 people in 50 days: Teen missing after ride with brother's friend
Kayla Berg was last reported to have been seen in Wausau, Wisconsin, on August 11, 2009.
March 29th, 2011
03:52 PM ET

50 people in 50 days: Teen missing after ride with brother's friend

Editor's note: Nancy Grace's new show on HLN, "Nancy Grace: America's Missing," is dedicated to finding 50 people in 50 days. As part of the effort, which relies heavily on audience participation, CNN.com's news blog This Just In will feature the stories of the missing.

This is the 50th case, and it was shown Friday night on HLN.

Kayla Berg's mother remembers the last time they talked: On the phone, hours before the Wisconsin teenager’s last known sighting in August 2009.

"She had called me earlier that day," said Kayla's mother, Hope Sprenger. "[She] told me that she might possibly be going over by some friends, hanging out. If she did, she would give me a call back later.

"She told me that she loved me. I told her I loved her, too, and we would chat later. And that was the last time we heard from her."

Police say Kayla, 15, of Antigo, Wisconsin, disappeared after getting a ride from her brother’s friend on August 11, 2009.

FULL POST

U.S. nuclear plant had partial meltdown years before Three Mile Island
The Fermi 1 nuclear plant, which suffered a partial meltdown in 1966, stands on Detroit Edison property in an undated file photo.
March 29th, 2011
03:29 PM ET

U.S. nuclear plant had partial meltdown years before Three Mile Island

The news media took note of Monday's anniversary of the nuclear accident at Pennsylvania's Three Mile Island power plant, but a partial meltdown at another U.S. reactor seems to have slipped from the public memory.

Fermi 1, a small nuclear reactor south of Detroit, experienced a loss-of-coolant accident in October 1966.

Fermi 1, owned by a consortium of utilities and industrial giants, went into service on leased Detroit Edison land in 1963. It was a prototype fast breeder reactor, meaning it was designed to create more fuel than it consumed.

FULL POST

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Filed under: 2011 tsunami • Energy • History • Japan • Michigan • Nuclear • U.S.
Gotta Watch: Bedbugs, dribble contest, skinny jeans
Some Wisconsin hospitals are dealing with an influx of bedbugs carried in by patients.
March 29th, 2011
02:08 PM ET

Gotta Watch: Bedbugs, dribble contest, skinny jeans

 There's no theme for today's Gotta Watch videos. We go from the last thing you'd want in the hospital to the first guy you'd want on your team. And we wrap it all up with fashion advice about denim from one of Conan's writers.

Bedbugs bugging hospitals - Bedbugs in your bed? Maybe. But in your hospital bed? Some hospitals in Wisconsin say they're showing up in patients' rooms ... and it's the patients who are bringing them in.

FULL POST


Filed under: Bedbugs • Uncategorized
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