Special thanks go to Magnifico for starting this venerable series.
Lead Off Story
Militant Group Says It Killed American Journalist In Syria
The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria posted a video on Tuesday that it said showed the beheading of James Foley, an American journalist who was kidnapped in Syria nearly two years ago, according to a transcript released by the SITE Intelligence Group.
Titled “A Message to America,” the video shows the journalist kneeling in a desert landscape, clad in an orange jumpsuit — an apparent reference to the uniforms worn by prisoners at the American military detention camp in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. Standing to his left is a masked ISIS fighter, who begins speaking in English, with what sounds like an East London accent. Pulling out a knife, he says that Mr. Foley’s execution is in retaliation for the recent American airstrikes ordered by President Obama against the extremist group in Iraq.
“I call on my friends, family and loved ones to rise up against my real killers — the U.S. government — for what will happen to me is only a result of their complacent criminality,” Mr. Foley says in the video, which was uploaded to the online account of the al-Furqan Media Foundation, according to SITE, an organization that follows jihadist groups. He ends saying that when American soldiers began dropping bombs on Iraq this month, “they signed my death certificate.”
Mr. Foley, 40, a freelance journalist who was working for GlobalPost, an online publication based in Boston, as well as for Agence France-Presse, disappeared in Syria on Nov. 22, 2012. He was held alongside several other Americans, whose families have asked for a news blackout.
The video concludes with the fighter threatening to kill Steven Sotloff, another American freelance journalist, who was being held alongside Mr. Foley. Mr. Sotloff is seen kneeling in the same position, in the same landscape and wearing the same style of orange-colored jumpsuit. “The life of this American citizen, Obama, depends on your next decision,” the fighter says.
Mudslides Kill 36 In Hiroshima
At least 36 people were confirmed dead and seven remained missing after torrential rain sparked flooding and landslides in the city of Hiroshima on Wednesday, according to police.
A 2-year-old boy was pronounced dead after being buried for two hours in a mudslide, while a man and a 77-year-old woman were also confirmed dead in the city, Hiroshima rescue workers said. A 53-year-old firefighter was later killed during a rescue after being caught in a landslide.
More than 100 mm of rain per hour was recorded in Hiroshima early Wednesday, triggering at least 20 reports of people buried alive or washed away in flooding.
The Hiroshima Prefectural Government has requested the aid of the Ground Self-Defense Force for rescue operations.
Facing reporters later on Wednesday in Tokyo, [Prime Minister Shinzo] Abe warned that the area could be hit by heavy rain again, and that further rainfall could potentially trigger another disaster.
Rights Groups Call On Israel To Allow Investigators Into Gaza
Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International renewed a call to Israel on Wednesday to allow the groups access to Gaza via the Israeli-controlled border, saying in a joint press release that the resumption of fighting makes it more important than ever for their investigators to monitor the situation.
“The Israeli authorities appear to have been playing bureaucratic games with us over access to Gaza, conditioning it on entirely unreasonable criteria even as the death toll mounts,” Anne FitzGerald, Amnesty International’s director of Research and Crisis Response, said in the release.
At least 2,000 Palestinians, mostly civilians, have been killed since Israel launched Operation Protective Edge on July 7. Over 10,000 Gazans have been injured and half a million internally displaced. On the Israeli side, 64 soldiers have died in combat and three civilians have been killed by rocket attacks on Israeli cities. Both sides have been accused of violating the laws of war during the most deadly conflict between Israel and the occupied Gaza Strip since Hamas took power in 2007.
[...]“The victims’ and the public’s right to know about what happened during the hostilities requires the Israeli authorities to ensure full transparency about their actions and to refrain from hindering independent and impartial research into all alleged violations,” FitzGerald said.Amnesty said it has submitted three applications for a permit to enter Gaza through the Israeli-controlled Erez Crossing to Israel’s Civil Administration since July 7. While the administration said each time that it could not process the requests because the border was closed, journalists, United Nations staff, and others with permits had entered Gaza through Erez during the same period, Amnesty reported.
The group then unsuccessfully requested assistance from Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.“The policy is that only nongovernmental organizations known by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, not only known but registered there, will be approved,” Major Guy Inbar, spokesman for the Coordinator for Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), told Al Jazeera. “Human Rights Watch and Amnesty are not known, therefore their request was denied.”aljazeera
Battle for Ukraine: An Inside View Of The Surreal Donetsk War Zone
It is a thin veneer that separates guests of the Donetsk Park Hotel from the surreal world outside. Inside, we watch BBC in English and ZDF broadcasting news in German. The hotel has electricity and Internet while air conditioning keeps out the summer heat.
OSCE observers sit at the bar drinking Lvivske, a dark Ukrainian beer, for €2.50 ($3.3) a pint, a price that is outrageous for Donetsk. Their shiny white Toyota SUVs are lined up outside, waiting to drive them through the warzone during those moments when it's not too dangerous.
This Thursday is not one of those moments. Shortly before 1 p.m., a salvo of grenades rains down. One's ear quickly gets used to the sounds of war, rapidly learning to halfway reliably tell them apart. This time, though, the detonations are unbelievably loud and very close. Only three minutes after leaving the hotel, I arrive in the midst of misery in this embattled city of Donetsk.
Since this spring, when the war in eastern Ukraine began, I have been a regular visitor to Donetsk. I remember when the clashes between pro-Russian separatists and Ukrainian troops loyal to Kiev began in Sloviansk, 120 kilometers (75 miles) from here, in April. Three people died in the initial fighting, and I went to their funerals. Then I returned to Donetsk and thought: The militant hate will never reach this booming city.
But now, the war has reached Donetsk, advancing all the way to the Uliza Artema, the main arterial through the center. I am standing in front of 58a, where a large hole can be seen in the facade on the third floor and several window panes have shattered. The street is blanketed with shards of glass and the asphalt is covered with dozens of small pits bored by grenade shrapnel.
Three people are lying on the ground in the intersection 50 meters away. One woman is bleeding heavily from her legs, while two men lie across from her. One is already dead. The other dies a short time later.
Sacramento Patient's Ebola Test Results To Come In Three Days
With no end in sight to the growing Ebola outbreak in West Africa, state public health officials Wednesday revealed that the Sacramento patient being tested for the virus had recently returned from a trip to one of the stricken African nations.
California’s “Patient Zero,” as the first potential carrier of a virus is known, remains in isolation at Kaiser Permanente South Sacramento hospital. Doctors, followinig public health protocols, on Tuesday shipped by air a sample of the unidentified patient’s blood to the Centers for Disease Control.
Results from the test for the Ebola virus should be available in three days, said Dr. Gil Chavez, a state epidemiologist for the California Department for Public Health.
The Sacramento patient is California’s first to be held in isolation and tested for the virus. Public health officials said they were not surprised that a potential Ebola case might surface in California, because the state is home to so many international travelers.
Still, officials said, the case is considered to be “low risk” for testing positive for the virus – and Californians should not be fearful of an outbreak here.
Floods Won't Affect Phoenix Drinking Water
As monsoon storms hammered north Phoenix on Tuesday, water spilled over the banks of the Skunk Creek Wash, flooding a Central Arizona Project Canal with brown, murky water, said Kathryn Sorensen, Phoenix Water Services director.
That was bad news for the Union Hills Water Treatment plant downstream of the canal.
The city was, however, able to close the intakes before the plant could be contaminated, Sorensen said.
A good thing, considering the Union Hills Water Treatment Plant is one of five plants that supply Phoenix with clean drinking water.
"City of Phoenix Water Services can be assured that the city is able to continue reliable, high quality water deliveries during this storm event," Sorensen said Tuesday.
The intakes have since been reopened, and officials are continuing to monitor the water quality but have found no problems as of Wednesday, said Victoria Welch, public information officer for Phoenix Water Services.
New Formaldehyde Report Supports EPA's Assessment That
Chemical Is 'Human Carcinogen'
The ongoing debate about the risks of formaldehyde is intensifying in light of a new report by the National Academy of Sciences that said the Environmental Protection Agency's labeling of the chemical as a "human carcinogen" is supported by research.
The report, issued earlier this month, was a reversal from the academy's 2011 study, requested by Sen. David Vitter, R-La., which found EPA's findings went beyond available evidence and "needs substantial revision."
The issue generated national attention after elevated levels of formaldehyde in FEMA trailers were linked to a variety of respiratory ailments suffered by people who lived in them after hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
The 2011 National Academy report concluded that EPA's analysis supports its conclusion that formaldehyde can irritate the eyes, nose and throat, and create lesions in the respiratory tract and that high concentrations can lead to genetic mutations. But it said the EPA failed to support its conclusions that formaldehyde causes other cancers of the respiratory tract or leukemia.
The new report found sufficient evidence of carcinogenicity in human and animal studies and "convincing relevant information" that formaldehyde induces mechanistic events associated with the development of cancer in humans." Based on these findings, the committee concluded that EPA can list formaldehyde as a "human carcinogen."
Science and Technology
What Happens When A Volcano Erupts Under A Glacier?
When Iceland’s Eyjafjallajökull volcano blew up in 2010, the relatively small eruption belched out a 30,000-foot-tall plume of ash that shut down airports throughout most of Europe for six days.
Now Iceland is warning airlines that another volcano named Bárðarbunga may be about to blow. On Monday scientists registered the area’s largest earthquake since 1996, and they’ve spotted magma welling beneath the ground, causing Iceland’s Met office to issue a code orange risk level to the aviation industry, Reuters reports. On the scale, which comes from the International Civil Aviation Organization, the only thing riskier than orange is red. Now, the Iceland Review reports that areas north of the volcano are being evacuated.
Bárðarbunga is buried beneath a glacier that averages 1300 feet thick––for now, at least. To find out what might happen if the volcano blows, we talked to Benjamin Edwards, a geologist at Dickinson College in Pennsylvania. Edwards studies what happens when lava meets water and ice. “I’ve been about as close as you can get without getting hurt,” he says. He’s visited erupting volcanoes in Russia. He’s felt steam hissing into his face from lava cooling on ice, and he’s gotten splattered with lava when mixing it with water.
Will the eruption simply explode through the glacier?
Um, unlikely. Considering the area of the volcano is about 27 square miles, and if all of that is covered by 1300 feet of ice, and each cubic foot of ice weighs 62.4 pounds ... then the weight of the glacier over Bárðarbunga is approximately 60,000,000,000,000 pounds. "A few people have made theoretical predictions about the dike fracturing up into the ice for some distance, on the order of hundreds of meters," says Edwards, "but it seems a low probability that it could fracture all the way to the top of the ice within a few seconds."
Could the eruption melt through the glacier?
Yes, depending on how much lava flows out. It’s theoretically possible for one cubic yard of lava to melt up to 10 to 14 cubic yards of ice. However, when lava cools quickly––like, for instance, when it’s hitting up against a glacier–– it doesn’t release nearly as much heat as it does when it cools slowly. Under fast-cooling conditions, a cubic yard of lava could realistically melt five to seven cubic yards of ice, says Edwards. The last time there was a big eruption under ice, it occurred at the volcano Grímsvötn (which is not far from Bárðarbunga) in 1996, and it burned through about 2000 feet of ice.
China Pulls Plug On Genetically Modified Rice And Corn
China’s Ministry of Agriculture has decided not to renew biosafety certificates that allowed research groups to grow genetically modified (GM) rice and corn. The permits, to grow two varieties of GM rice and one transgenic corn strain, expired on 17 August. The reasoning behind the move is not clear, and it has raised questions about the future of related research in China.
The ministry, with much fanfare, had approved the GM rice certificates in August 2009. The permits enabled a group at Huazhong Agricultural University in Wuhan to produce two varieties of rice carrying a gene from the Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) bacteria that provides pest resistance. At the same time, the ministry approved production of a corn strain developed by the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences' Biotechnology Research Institute in Beijing. Researchers had altered the corn so that kernels contain phytase, a livestock feed additive that boosts absorption of phosphorus, which enhances growth. All of the certificates were valid for 5 years.
Since the certificates were issued, however, public skepticism about the benefits of GM crops has grown in China. Some scientists conducting GM plant research have been attacked when giving public lectures.
Why the ministry allowed the certificates to lapse is in dispute. Some environmentalists say public worries about GM crops played a decisive role. "We believe that loopholes in assessing and monitoring [GM] research, as well as the public concern around safety issues are the most important reasons that the certifications have not been renewed," writes Wang Jing, a Greenpeace official based in Beijing, in an e-mail to ScienceInsider.
Others believe agricultural economics also influenced the decision. China has nearly reached self-sufficiency in producing rice using conventional varieties, so the ministry has decided there is no need to commercialize Bt rice in the near future, says Huang Jikun, director of the Chinese Academy of Sciences' Center for Chinese Agricultural Policy. He says that with commercialization off the table, there was no point in renewing the certifications. Huang says "rising public concerns [about the] safety of GM rice" likely also played a role.
Life Can Persist In Cold, Dark World: Life Under Antarctic Ice Explored
he first breakthrough paper to come out of a massive U.S. expedition to one of Earth's final frontiers shows that there's life and an active ecosystem one-half mile below the surface of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, specifically in a lake that hasn't seen sunlight or felt a breath of wind for millions of years.
The life is in the form of microorganisms that live beneath the enormous Antarctic ice sheet and convert ammonium and methane into the energy required for growth. Many of the microbes are single-celled organisms known as Archaea, said Montana State University professor John Priscu, the chief scientist of the U.S. project called WISSARD that sampled the sub-ice environment. He is also co-author of the MSU author-dominated paper in the Aug. 21 issue of Nature.
"We were able to prove unequivocally to the world that Antarctica is not a dead continent," Priscu said, adding that data in the Nature paper is the first direct evidence that life is present in the subglacial environment beneath the Antarctic ice sheet.
Lead author Brent Christner said, "It's the first definitive evidence that there's not only life, but active ecosystems underneath the Antarctic ice sheet, something that we have been guessing about for decades. With this paper, we pound the table and say, 'Yes, we were right.'"
Priscu said he wasn't entirely surprised that the team found life after drilling through half a mile of ice to reach Subglacial Lake Whillans in January 2013. An internationally renowned polar biologist, Priscu researches both the South and North Poles. This fall will be his 30th field season in Antarctica, and he has long predicted the discovery.
Well, that's different...
Least Competent Law Enforcement
James Jordan Sr. died in Brooklyn, New York, in 2006, but NYPD officers have barged into his family's home 12 times since then -- four in 2014 alone -- seeking him on various charges. His widow, Karen Jordan, even taped his death certificate to the front door, but that failed to deter the officers, one of whom shouted during a recent raid that they "know" Jordan is hiding inside somewhere. Karen recently filed a lawsuit against NYPD for the raids, which include "turning out drawers, looking in closets, harassing my children."
Bill Moyers and Company:
Joseph E. Stiglitz Calls for Fair Taxes for All
Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph E. Stiglitz on why America’s future prosperity depends on tax reform today.