Monday, February 26, 2007

The Case Of The Vanishing Bees

(CBS) In spite of all the advances in agriculture, honeybees remain indispensable. By moving pollen from flower to flower, bees are the only efficient way for many crops to pollinate, CBS News correspondent John Blackstone reports.

As growing season begins in California's Central Valley, there is nothing quite as busy as a beekeeper. Farmers pay them to put their hives in their fields and orchards.

"It means the difference between profit and loss for them," says beekeeper Lance Sundberg.

But beekeepers like Sundberg have a mystery in their hives this year. Bees are disappearing at an alarming rate.

"Colonies are going down. The bees aren't dead in the box or aren't out front," says Jerry Bromenshenk, a bee researcher at the University of Montana. "They've just disappeared. Just vanished."

Bromenshenk is leading a team of bee researchers looking for a cause. He's even listening to hives for signs of distress. Beekeepers in 22 states have reported bees dying in huge numbers.

Jeff Pettis of the U.S. Department of Agriculture says parasites and disease have killed bees in the past, but never anything like this.

"We went through multiple hives and we couldn't find anything that I would even call a beehive, so it was depressing," Pettis says.

Part of the mystery is that colonies can go from active and healthy to dead and gone within days. For beekeepers, that's a loss that stings.

They "just disappeared," says beekeeper Louise Rossberg. "There's nothing there. There's no bees on the ground anywhere. There's just a completely empty hive."

In just a few weeks, Rossberg has seen hundreds of her hives go empty. "I don't know what to do," she says. "And I'm not alone."

For now, plenty of beekeepers are stacking up silent and empty hives. But scientists are working hard to find the cause and a cure for what's ailing the bees. After all bees do for us, it's the least we can do for them.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Music Industry Sues Augusta Man

In its running legal battle against unauthorized downloaders, five recording companies have sued an Augusta man in federal court claiming he illegally pirated and shared copyrighted music.

Scott Hinds, 23, is a defendant in one of a number of lawsuits by Recording Industry of America affiliates seeking to halt illegal sharing of copyrighted songs -- a once-widespread practice some maintain was "fair use," encouraged by certain computer software.

As artists attempt to regain control of their music -- and reap profits from sales -- recording industry spokeswoman Amanda Hunter said 18,000 individuals have been sued in similar lawsuits since September 2003, but Hinds is one of only six defendants in Maine.

Hinds said he is not yet represented by a lawyer.

Monday, he wondered: "Why choose me?"

"Every single person has done this," he said, saying he doesn't listen to music online presently.

The lawsuit, filed last week in U.S. District Court for the District of Maine, alleges Hinds illegally downloaded:

n "Automobile" by NWA, Priority Records, LLC;

n "All Over You" by LIve, UMG Recordings Inc.;

n "Fast Car" by Tracy Chapman, Elektra Entertainment Group;

n "Don't Know Why" by Norah Jones, Capitol Records Inc.; and

n "What Would You Say" by Dave Matthews Band, BMG Music.

The allegation is that Hinds used an "online media distribution system" to download tunes, then distributed the copyrighted material to others.

The lawsuit doesn't identify the download service Hinds allegedly used, nor does it identify individual users who allegedly obtained the copyrighted music from Hinds.

According to the association, "online investigators searched for copyrighted recordings made available by individuals on peer-to-peer networks."

They then filed a lawsuit against Internet service providers prompting them to identify individuals who allegedly shared music files.

Hinds faces a minimum civil penalty of $750 per song. There can be criminal penalties as well.

If guilty, Hinds would hardly be the first person found downloading music on the Internet; the Internet has been chockablock with sites offering free music almost since there have been browsers and bandwidth.

The most well-known site -- Napster, founded in 1999 by 18-year-old college dropout Shawn Fanning -- signed up 25 million users in its first year.

In 2000, the Recording Industry Association of America sued Napster, charging "tributary copyright infringement" -- an allegation that Napster was not violating copyright itself, but was contributing to and facilitating other people's infringement.

The premise of the civil lawsuit against Hinds is a December 2005 decision in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit, and the U.S. Supreme Court's 2004 opinion in MGM Studios, Inc., v. Grokster Ltd.

In the latter case, the court found "that a distributed file-sharing system is engaged in contributory copyright infringement when its principal object is the dissemination of copyrighted material.

"The foundation of this holding is a belief that people who post or download music files are primary infringers."

The US vs John Lennon

This is the first 38 mins of the documentary. Must see....

Friday, February 02, 2007

A Ring of Debris Is Forming in Orbit Around the Earth

Can we say dur? Does not take a genius to tell you that any type of debri in orbit would form a ring. Notice the debris of rock around Saturn? It is a ring huh? The earth is very big and though you may not realize it, it is spinning very fast. How ignorant it was of them to do that. We are monkey's with technology....

China's Space-Weapon Test Could Endanger Astronauts and Satellites. Engineers Say Ring of Debris Is Forming in Orbit, and a Marble-Sized Piece Could be Dangerous

Feb. 1, 2007 — - When the Chinese government destroyed one of its weather satellites in a military test last month, it sent a chill through the U.S. military.

And engineers say it had a serious side effect -- it increased the amount of orbiting space junk by about 10 percent.

That could mean danger -- to other satellites, and even, possibly, to astronauts on the International Space Station and future space shuttle flights.

"There's a lot of stuff up there in low-Earth orbit," said T.S. Kelso, a veteran space-surveillance analyst who is now at the Center for Space Standards and Innovation in Colorado Springs, Colo. "While we can't tell them that 'five months from now, you're at risk for being hit,' it's not unreasonable to expect that it's going to affect a lot of stuff in orbit."

500 Pieces of Debris, Possibly Thousands More
The Chinese test, carried out on Jan. 11, was at once complex and very simple. An old weather satellite, passing 537 miles overhead, was targeted by a missile launched from a Chinese military base.

The missile hit the satellite with deadly precision. The missile carried no bomb because it didn't need one. The satellite was pulverized by the impact.

But what followed was chaos in space. As of today, Kelso reports that American radar is tracking at least 525 pieces of debris from the collision -- each at least the size of a baseball.

There are probably hundreds, if not thousands, of smaller ones.

The pieces are gradually spreading out in a ring around the Earth, creating a vast area where spacecraft face increased danger of being hit.

"We've already seen in the range of 500 to 600 events where some piece of debris from this one event was coming within 5 kilometers [about 3 miles] of some payload," said Kelso.

Space 'Pollution'
It's a growing problem. The U.S. Air Force was already tracking almost 14,000 objects in orbit.

Three times in the last 15 years, U.S. satellites have reportedly been disabled or damaged by collisions with space junk. NASA is worried enough about the problem that each shuttle crew now spends the entire day before landing taking pictures of its ship's heat shield tiles, just in case there's been a small but potentially fatal impact.

If a shuttle crew ever does find damage, the astronauts would have to seek safe haven on the International Space Station, and wait for a second shuttle to get them. Such an accident, NASA's administator, Michael Griffin, has said, would probably mean the end of the shuttle program.

The Chinese weather satellite, designated Fen Yung-IC, was in an orbit that took it over the North and South poles. It's an orbit that's popular for weather, reconnaissance and Earth-science satellites because it allows daily pictures of virtually every part of the planet below.

"There are about 125 or 130 satellites in that same orbit," said Theresa Hitchens, head of the Center for Defense Information, a Washington-based group that provides information on national defense and aerospace isues. "It's a highly used orbit, and it's an orbit that's already fairly polluted."

Shuttles travel in a very different path; all but one of the remaining 13 missions is scheduled for assembly of the space station, about 220 miles high. But the ring of debris from the Chinese debris has already spread out enough that the station passes through it twice on every 90-minute orbit of the earth.

How great is the danger? They don't call it "space" for nothing; there is a lot of empty void in the realm where most spacecraft orbit. NASA has said it's not worried.

But the debris from the Chinese test has added to the small chance of a big catastrophe.

"We can't see it, we can't track it," said Hitchens, "and something as small as a marble can shatter a satellite."

Texas Requires Cancer Vaccine for Girls

Drug companies will get there way...drugs made mandatory that you pay for which will make them even richer. If it truly is needed for health reasons then shouldn't the Government make sure you get it for free? It is a scam. The law is lobbied by the drug companies. The ones who profit from the law. Think about that crap....

Texas Requires Cancer Vaccine for Girls
Associated Press Writer

AUSTIN (AP) -- Gov. Rick Perry ordered Friday that schoolgirls in Texas must be vaccinated against the sexually transmitted virus that causes cervical cancer, making Texas the first state to require the shots.
The girls will have to get Merck & Co.'s new vaccine against strains of the human papillomavirus, or HPV, that are responsible for most cases of cervical cancer.

Merck is bankrolling efforts to pass laws in state legislatures across the country mandating it Gardasil vaccine for girls as young as 11 or 12. It doubled its lobbying budget in Texas and has funneled money through Women in Government, an advocacy group made up of female state legislators around the country.

Details of the order were not immediately available, but the governor's office confirmed to The Associated Press that he was signing the order and he would comment Friday afternoon.

Perry has several ties to Merck and Women in Government. One of the drug company's three lobbyists in Texas is Mike Toomey, his former chief of staff. His current chief of staff's mother-in-law, Texas Republican state Rep. Dianne White Delisi, is a state director for Women in Government.

Toomey was expected to be able to woo conservative legislators concerned about the requirement stepping on parent's rights and about signaling tacit approval of sexual activity to young girls. Delisi, as head of the House public health committee, which likely would have considered legislation filed by a Democratic member, also would have helped ease conservative opposition.

Perry also received $6,000 from Merck's political action committee during his re-election campaign.

It wasn't immediately clear how long the order would last and whether the legislation was still necessary. However it could have been difficult to muster support from lawmakers who champion abstinence education and parents' rights.

Perry, a conservative Christian who opposes abortion rights and stem- cell research using embryonic cells, counts on the religious right for his political base.

But he has said the cervical cancer vaccine is no different than the one that protects children against polio.

"If there are diseases in our society that are going to cost us large amounts of money, it just makes good economic sense, not to mention the health and well being of these individuals to have those vaccines available," he said.

Texas allows parents to opt out of inoculations by filing an affidavit stating that he or she objected to the vaccine for religious or philosophical reasons.

Even with such provisions, however, conservative groups say mandates take away parents' rights to be the primary medical decision maker for their children.

The federal government approved Gardasil in June, and a government advisory panel has recommended that all girls get the shots at 11 and 12, before they are likely to be sexually active.

The New Jersey-based drug company could generate billions in sales if Gardasil _ at $360 for the three-shot regimen _ were made mandatory across the country. Most insurance companies now cover the vaccine, which has been shown to have no serious side effects.

Merck spokeswoman Janet Skidmore would not say how much the company is spending on lobbyists or how much it has donated to Women in Government. Susan Crosby, the group's president, also declined to specify how much the drug company gave.

A top official from Merck's vaccine division sits on Women in Government's business council, and many of the bills around the country have been introduced by members of Women in Government.

Orange Smelly Snow is Falling in Russia

Russia probes smelly orange snow...

Russia has flown a team of chemical experts to a Siberian region to find out why smelly, coloured snow has been falling over several towns.

Oily yellow and orange snowflakes fell over an area of more than 1,500sq km (570sq miles) in the Omsk region on Wednesday, Russian officials said.

Chemical tests were under way to determine the cause, they said.

Residents have been advised not to use the snow for household tasks or let animals graze on it.

"So far we cannot explain the snow, which is oily to the touch and has a pronounced rotten smell," said Omsk environmental prosecutor Anton German, quoted by the Russian news agency Itar-Tass on Thursday.

The origin of the orange effect is still a mystery (pic: Russian TV)
"We are waiting for the results of a thorough test on samples."

But Vladimir Gurzhey, an official with the civil defence ministry in Omsk, told the Russia TV channel that the snow had four times the normal levels of iron in it.

The TV also reported that coloured snow had fallen in the neighbouring regions of Tomsk and Tyumen.

Omsk, in western Siberia, is a centre of Russia's oil industry. About 27,000 people live in the areas affected by the snow, Russian officials said.