Daily news for Monday and Tuesday. Lots of environmental stuff as usual, plus a WOOPS Halliburton and an OH NO Lockheed Martin.
Whale Deaths Since 1970s Mostly Human-Caused, Study Finds
Early Sunday (Oct. 7), a 50-foot fin whale was spotted belly-up in Boston Harbor. Biologists are still investigating the cause of death, but some scientists on the scene said they saw a lot of bruising and pressure lines on the whale’s body, according to WCBV-TV. Such markings could indicate the whale got tangled or wrapped in something, which might not come as a surprise. A report out this month found that humans might be to blame for most large whale deaths over the past 40 years in the northwest Atlantic Ocean, with entanglement in fishing gear the No. 1 killer. The study looked at 1,762 known deaths and likely fatal injuries from 1970 to 2009 among eight species of big whales in the region, including the endangered fin whales, which reach up to 90 feet (27 meters) in length, making them the second-largest living mammals after blue whales. A cause of death had been determined in 750 of the cases (around 42 percent), and of those, nearly 67 percent of the fatalities were human related.
Halliburton’s Radioactive Rod Found Alongside Texas Highway After Going Missing
Holy frack that was close! Public relations people and top-level executives at Halliburton, one of the world’s largest oilfield services companies, are likely breathing a sigh of relief after the oilfield services company found a radioactive rod that it lost last month, the Guardian reports. The seven-inch rod of americium-241/beryllium was found alongside a Texas highway some miles away from where it was being used to locate oil and gas deposits eligible for fracking. Previously, members of the FBI, the Texas National Guard and Halliburton had been searching for the radioactive tool that is classified as a “category 3” source of radiation and could prove fatal if held for an extended period of time. It is the first incident of a lost radioactive tool of its kind in the past five years, according to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Bloomberg reports.
Arctic Methane Leak Research Looks for Signs of Accelerating Climate Change
It’s been called the Methane Bomb — a stash of gas buried under the Arctic seafloor whose heat-trapping power is much greater, molecule for molecule, than the carbon dioxide people usually worry about. As climate change forces the Arctic to warm, experts warn that methane could escape, speeding global warming. They can’t predict when the great escape might begin, however, or how fast it might proceed. They can’t even rule out the possibility that it might have already started. So they’ve been cruising Arctic waters to get a better handle on where things stand.
International Coal Group Enters Agreement Over Clean Water Act Violations
Government regulators, environmental groups and International Coal Group have reached a proposed agreement to resolve a dispute over Clean Water Act violations. Franklin County Circuit Judge Phillip Shepherd still has to approve the deal that requires ICG to pay $575,000 in penalties. Under the agreement, ICG would pay $335,000 to the PRIDE environmental initiative to help stop Kentucky residents from piping sewage directly into streams and $240,000 to the Department for Natural Resources to pay for a water study.
Borneo Expedition Uncovers More than 160 New Species
A recent expedition to Borneo was more than fruitful for a team of forty explorers from Naturalis Biodiversity Center in the Netherlands and Sabah Parks, a conservation group in Malaysia. The bio-hunt turned up more than 160 new species previously unrecorded by scientists. “It has been a successful expedition,” expedition leader Menno Schilthuizen said in a statement. “A lot of material has been collected and close collaborations have been established between the Malaysian and Dutch researchers. Now the next phase will start, namely DNA research into the relationships.”
Lockheed Martin CEO Cited for Cutting Trees Along the Potomac
The priciest real estate in one of the region’s wealthiest enclaves can be a dangerous place to be a tree. Late last month, Montgomery County issued a $1,000 fine to Robert J. Stevens, the chief executive of Lockheed Martin. Federal park police have opened a criminal investigation into whether the tree-cutting in the Merry-Go-Round Farm community also violated a federal easement designed to protect the canal, the river and scenic vistas.
North Korea Warns US on Missiles after South Deal
North Korea says it has missiles that can hit the US mainland, in a statement two days after South Korea unveiled a missile deal with the US. The statement said US bases in “Japan, Guam and the US mainland” were within its “scope of strike”. It follows Seoul’s announcement on Sunday that it would almost triple the range of its own missile system. Pyongyang is thought to be working on a long-range missile, but two recent rocket tests ended in failure.
New Dinosaur was a Small, Fanged Vegetarian
A small, fanged dinosaur called Pegomastax africanus was identified this week, more than half a century after its skeleton was dug up in South Africa. The dinosaur looked like a fierce cross between a chicken and a porcupine, and had long fangs which it used to eat plants and compete for mates. Pegomastax was a diminutive beast, standing less than two feet tall and weighing no more than a small house cat.