Ethiopia moving ahead on Nile dam

Defiant of Egypt's historic monopoly over its flow, Ethiopia is pushing ahead with a controversial plan to build a massive dam on the Nile river. Egypt and Sudan have maintained control of the Nile through a series of laws originally brokered by colonial powers in 1929. But last May, six upstream countries signed a legally binding document that dispossessed Egypt of its right to veto decisions regarding the Nile's distribution. Buoyed by President Hosni Mubarak's recent ouster, and undaunted by criticism, Ethiopia insists that it will proceed with its plan even without international support. At a recent news conference, Ethiopia's Water and Energy Minister Alemayehu Tegenu explained that construction of the dam near the Ethiopian and Sudanese border is expected to start soon, Reuters reports. This despite widespread opposition to the project, which Minister Tegenu suspects is a direct result of Egypt's campaign to prevent the dam's construction.

The Health Benefits of Fasting

Not eating for a full day has generally been associated with religious traditions such as Yom Kippur, Ramadan, Ash Wednesday, and Good Friday. Some fasts are absolute and some only require that certain types of food or drink are abstained. The act of fasting has different meanings to different groups, but is generally used for purging sins from our body or sacrificing our comfort for those who sacrificed for us. Fasting also has interesting beneficial health effects. A new study from the Intermountain Medical Center Heart Institute in Utah has demonstrated that periodic fasting is good for your health and your heart.

Hundreds of whales face slaughter as Norway’s killing season resumes

[April 1] is the official start of the whaling season in Norway. Norway is one of just three countries defying the 1986 international ban on commercial whaling. This moratorium on whaling was implemented by a qualifying majority of member states of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) in attempt to put a stop to a hunting practice which was leading to the near extinction of several whale species.

Cattle and Wolves

Cattle ranchers in southwestern Alberta have suspected it for a long time and now, GPS tracking equipment confirms it: wolf packs in the area are making cow meat a substantial part of their diets. University of Alberta researchers tracked wolves to bone yards, where ranchers dispose of dead cattle, and to sites of fresh cow kills. The study was done over two grazing seasons in 2008 and 2009. The vast study area in southwestern Alberta includes private ranchland and wooded public lands bordering the Rocky Mountains. Researchers found that during the summer months when livestock was set out to graze on public lands, cattle made up to 45 per cent of the diet for the three wolf packs in the study. This shows a seasonal switch from the wolf's usual pattern of wild prey in the non-grazing season to cattle in the grazing season.

Wildfires rage across five Southwest states

Gale force winds and drought spawned raging wildfires across five states of the parched Southwest on Sunday, damaging dozens of homes and businesses and forcing a Kansas town to evacuate, authorities said. Wildfires were reported in Colorado, Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico and Kansas. In some cases, firefighters were struggling to bring them under control amid high and shifting winds. West of Fort Collins, Colorado a fire blackened 4,500 acres, destroyed 15 homes, and residents of another 336 homes remained under evacuation orders, authorities said. The blaze, burning in mountain terrain about 65 miles northwest of Denver, is five-percent contained, Reghan Cloudman, a fire information officer with the U.S. Forest Service, told Reuters. Wind gusts in excess of 90 miles per hour fanned the flames, which grew from 20 acres Saturday to more than 4,500 acres overnight, forcing the early-morning evacuations.

Greenpeace finds milk, berries still contaminated from Chernobyl

Milk and other staples like mushrooms and berries are still contaminated in parts of Ukraine by radioactive fallout from Chernobyl, 25 years after the world's worst nuclear disaster, Greenpeace said on Sunday. The environmental group published findings of a field investigation ahead of a Ukraine-hosted international conference on Chernobyl on April 19. The meeting has taken on added significance since the nuclear crisis in Japan. Ukraine is seeking 600 million euros ($840 million) in extra funding to build a massive new shell over a reactor at the Chernobyl plant which blew up in 1986, spewing radioactive debris across neighboring Belarus and other parts of Europe. The investigation in three parts of Ukraine earlier this month focused on contamination of locally-produced food by caesium-137, a radionuclide carried around the region by wind at the time.

Maple Syrup — It’s Good For You

Researchers have identified compounds in maple syrup with similar anti-inflammatory or anti-oxidant properties as blueberries, green tea and other "superfoods." "In our laboratory research we found that several of these compounds possess anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, which have been shown to fight cancer, diabetes and bacterial illnesses," said lead researcher Navindra Seeram, assistant professor of pharmacognosy at the University of Rhode Island. Initial studies also suggest that polyphenols in the syrup may help keep blood sugar levels in check, important for diabetics, by inhibiting enzymes that are involved in the conversion of carbohydrates to sugar, he said. The discoveries of new molecules in the syrup also provide chemists with leads that could prompt synthesis of medications to fight other diseases.

EPA Rules Pennsylvania Plant Must Lower Emissions into New Jersey Air

Yesterday, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) granted a petition by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) to limit sulfur dioxide (SO2) emissions from a Pennsylvania power plant. Emissions from the coal-fired power plant, Portland Generating Station in Northampton County, have adversely impacted air quality in four northwest NJ counties: Warren, Sussex, Morris, and Hunterdon. The EPA has ordered the plant to reduce its SO2 emissions by 81 percent over a three year period.

Novel Technique Reveals How Glaciers Sculpted Their Valleys

ScienceDaily (Mar. 31, 2011) — The beautiful and distinctive U-shaped glacial valleys typical of alpine areas from Alaska to New Zealand have fascinated and frustrated geologists for centuries. While it seems obvious that glaciers scoured the bedrock for millions of years, what the landscape looked like before glaciers appeared, and how the glaciers changed that landscape over time, have remained a mystery. The glaciers erased all the evidence.

Ancient Black Coral in the Gulf of Mexico

Black corals are a group of deep water, tree-like corals related to sea anemones. Though black coral's living tissue is brilliantly colored, it takes its name from the distinctive black or dark brown color of its skeleton. For the first time, scientists have been able to validate the age of deep-sea black corals in the Gulf of Mexico. They found the Gulf is home to 2,000 year-old deep-sea black corals, many of which are only a few feet tall. These slow-growing, long-living animals thrive in very deep waters—300 meters (984 feet) and deeper—yet scientists say they are sensitive to what is happening in the surface ocean as well as on the sea floor.