Justin Berton, San Francisco Chronicle Staff Writer, reports:

At the start of the Academy Award-winning movie “American Beauty,” a character videotapes a plastic grocery bag as it drifts into the air, an event he casts as a symbol of life’s unpredictable currents, and declares the romantic moment as a “most beautiful thing.”

To the eyes of an oceanographer, the image is pure catastrophe.

In reality, the rogue bag would float into a sewer, follow the storm drain to the ocean, then make its way to the so-called Great Pacific Garbage Patch - a heap of debris floating in the Pacific that’s twice the size of Texas, according to marine biologists.

The enormous stew of trash - which consists of 80 percent plastics and weighs some 3.5 million tons, say oceanographers - floats where few people ever travel, in a no-man’s land between San Francisco and Hawaii.

Kelly Fiveash, The Register, reports:

An Aussie bloke went on a phone mast destroying spree yesterday, on the grounds that his health had been damaged by mobile phone signals.

According to the Times, John Patterson - who previously worked at Australia’s biggest telecoms firm, Telstra - used a 15-tonne armoured personnel carrier (APC) to bring down seven phone towers.

A convoy of more than 20 police cars and onlookers, some of whom egged him on, followed Patterson across western suburbs of Sydney.

St. Louis Bay in Superior, Wis.
A sandbar rises above water level in a channel between the coal loading dock and grain elevators along St. Louis Bay in Superior, Wis. Lake Superior has 3 quadrillion gallons of water — enough to submerge North and South America in a foot of water. (Julia Cheng, AP)

Dennis Cauchon, USA TODAY, reports:

BARAGA, Mich. — “Where did the water go?” asks Ted Shalifor, manager of a marina and campground on Lake Superior’s Chippewa Indian Reservation.

The water on Lake Superior is so low that he couldn’t put his docks in the water this year. Where he used to see water, he now sees sandbars.

Lake Superior, the world’s largest freshwater lake, has dropped to its lowest level in 81 years. The water is 20 inches below average and a foot lower than just a year ago.

Lake Huron and Lake Michigan are at low levels, as well, although not quite as extreme.

Photo: Mario Blocks

Marci Piltz, Record-Courier staff writer, reports:

Five teenage girls allegedly playing a game they learned about on the Internet could face criminal charges after leaving 17 suspicious packages throughout Ravenna.

The first suspicious package was reported around 7:15 a.m. Friday when a passerby flagged down a passing officer regarding a strange box on the steps of Immaculate Conception Church, ., according to Ravenna Police Chief Randall McCoy. The box was wrapped in gold paper and had black question marks painted on the sides.

Church employees told officers they had no idea what the package was and were not aware of any packages of this nature having been left at the church before.

The Portage County Hazardous Materials Unit was contacted, along with the Portage County Sheriff’s Department Bomb Detection Unit. The HAZMAT team checked for radiation and chemical warfare agents, none of which were detected.

McCoy said at the same time agents were dealing with the situation at Immaculate Conception, more calls came in to the Ravenna Police Department that other similar packages were being found in various locations.

The BBC reports:

A US man who threw a mouse onto a pile of burning leaves could only watch in horror as it ran into his house and set the building ablaze.

Luciano Mares, 81, of Fort Sumner, New Mexico, found the mouse in his home and wanted to get rid of it.

“I had some leaves burning outside, so I threw it in the fire, and the mouse was on fire and ran back at the house,” he was quoted as saying by AP.

Though no-one was injured, the house and everything in it was destroyed.

“I’ve seen numerous house fires, but nothing as unique as this one,” Fire Department Captain Jim Lyssy said.

New Mexico has seen several major blazes after unseasonably dry and windy conditions which have destroyed 10 homes and devastated more than 53,000 acres (21,200 hectares) of land.

This image from Television shows smoke rising above the Buncefield oil terminal in Leverstock Green near Hemel Hempstead early Sunday morning Dec. 11, 2005. A series of explosions at one of Britain’s largest oil depots shook an area north of London early Sunday, shattering windows of nearby houses and sending billowing clouds of smoke and flames high into the sky. Police said the blasts appeared to be accidental. The British Broadcasting Corp. reported an unspecified number of casualties, which police and local fire brigade could not confirm. (AP Photo/Sky TV via APTN) MAGS OUT (AP)

THOMAS WAGNER, The Associated Press, reports:

HEMEL HEMPSTEAD, England — Explosions at one of Britain’s largest oil depots jolted an area north of London early Sunday, hurling multiple balls of fire into the sky, shattering windows and blanketing the area with smoke. Police said the blasts, which injured 43 people, appeared to be accidental.

Duncan Mansfield, The Associated Press, reports:

JACKSBORO, Tenn. – A student shot and killed an assistant principal and seriously wounded two other administrators at a high school today, officials said. The student was arrested.

The motive for the shooting at Campbell County High School, 30 miles from Knoxville, was not immediately known, Sheriff Ron McClellan told WVLT-TV.

“We don’t know yet. I have the individual at the hospital,” McClellan said. “These men are all fine Christian men, and I am at a loss for words.”
(more…) reports:

WASHINGTON, Nov.5 (Xinhuanet) — A US luxury cruise liner was attacked by heavily-armed pirates off the eastern African coast Saturday, US media reported.

Pirates in two armed boats approached the Miami-based Seabourn Spirit some 170 km off the coast of Somalia and fired a rocket-propelled grenade and several machine-gun shots.

While pirates tried to get onboard, the 10,000-ton cruise liner managed to change its course and outrun the boats of the pirates.

A Robotic Mouth Check
A robot was used to check the mouth of Jeffry Leon Lewis Jr. after the Army sergeant presented a note at a Tucson bank saying he had a bomb in his mouth. Lewis was handcuffed to to a fence during the procedure. No explosive device was found.

David L. Teibel and Heidi Rowley, Tucson Citizen, via BoingBoing, reports:

TUCSON - An Army sergeant based at Fort Huachuca walked into a bank Monday, his mouth covered in duct tape, and presented a note saying he had a bomb in his mouth, police said.

Sgt. Jeffry Leon Lewis Jr., 33, was arrested after the 9:30 a.m. incident at a Wells Fargo bank branch in Tucson. Police found no explosives in his mouth, backpack, vehicle or on the grounds around the bank, Tucson police Sgt. Mark Robinson said.

CNN reports:

BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) — Deaths mounted steadily in northeast Baghdad after a massive midday Shiite religious procession erupted into a chaotic stampede Wednesday, causing the drowning and trampling deaths of 965 pilgrims.

Authorities believe a rumor raced through the crowd that a suicide bomber was in their midst, and that created panic among the waves of pedestrians trying to cross the Al-A’imma bridge over the Tigris River. The throngs of Shiite faithful had been stopped by security checks and bogged down by concrete barriers.

Photo: New Orleans

Photo: ID Badge
Bullet holes are seen on the media identity cards of Waleed Khaled after he was shot in Baghdad’s Al Ghazalea district August 28, 2005.

Alastair Macdonald, Reuters, reports:

BAGHDAD, Aug 28 (Reuters) - A Reuters Television soundman was shot dead in Baghdad on Sunday and a cameraman with him was wounded and then detained by U.S. soldiers.

Iraqi police said they had been shot by U.S. forces. A U.S. military spokesman said the incident was being investigated.

Waleed Khaled, 35, was hit by a shot to the face and at least four to the chest as he drove to check a report from police sources of an incident involving police and gunmen in the Hay al-Adil district, in the west of the city.

“A team from Reuters news agency was on assignment to cover the killing of two policemen in Hay al-Adil; U.S. forces opened fire on the team from Reuters and killed Waleed Khaled, who was shot in the head, and wounded Haider Kadhem,” an Interior Ministry official quoted the police incident report as saying.

“I heard shooting, looked up and saw an American sniper on the roof of the shopping centre,” cameraman Kadhem, who was wounded in the back, told colleagues who arrived at the scene.

The only known eyewitness, he was later detained by U.S. troops and was still in custody six hours later despite Reuters’ requests that he be freed to receive medical attention. His precise whereabouts were not clear.

Image: Daily News Cover
BoingBoing reports: “The alleged subway wanker whose victim captured him on cameraphone and posted it to Flickr is on the cover of today’s New York Daily News.”


When a pervert exposed himself on a Manhattan subway last week, Thao Nguyen reached for her secret weapon - her camera phone.
The quick-thinking 22-year-old snapped a shot of the smirking sicko, took it to cops and then posted it on the Internet.

Word of her campaign to nail the flasher raced through cyberspace, and more than 45,000 people had viewed the photographic evidence by last night.


Women from near Plachimada begin their milelong trek in search of water in a region suffering from three years of scant rainfall. (Mathruboomi Daily photo by Madhuraj)

On, D. Rajeev reports:

PLACHIMADA, India - In the end it was the ‘generosity’ of Coca-Cola in distributing cadmium-laden waste sludge as ‘free fertilizer’ to the tribal aborigines who live near the beverage giant’s bottling plant in this remote Kerala village that proved to be its undoing.

On Friday, the Kerala State Pollution Control Board (KSPCB) ordered the plant shut down to the jubilation of tribal leaders and green activists who had focused more on the ‘water mining’ activities of the plant rather than its production of toxic cadmium sludge.

‘’One way or another, this plant should be shut down and the management made to pay compensation for destroying our paddy fields, fooling us with fake fertilizer and drying out our wells,'’ Paru Amma, an aboriginal woman who lives in this once lush, water-abundant area, told IPS.

Giles Tremlett in Madrid for The Guardian reports:

Forest fires raged across south-west Europe yesterday as a heatwave hit an area already parched by a severe drought that has dried up rivers and led to water restrictions in many places.

The emergency services were tackling dozens of blazes across Portugal, Spain and southern France as temperatures headed towards 45C.

The drought is the worst on record in Spain and Portugal. The Algarve region of southern Portugal has warned of water cuts.

Photo: Susan Torres
Susan Torres

Deborah Condon,, reports:

A brain-dead woman, who was kept on a life support machine for almost three months to allow her unborn child to develop, has given birth to a baby girl.

Mrs Susan Torres (26) gave birth to Susan Anne Catherine Torres on August 2 by Caesarean section in Virginia, America. The baby, who is two months premature, weighed just one pound and 13 ounces and measured 13.5 inches long.

Mrs Torres, a researcher at the American National Institutes of Health, collapsed on May 7 of this year. She was rushed to hospital where she was diagnosed with stage four melanoma (cancer) and was declared brain dead, with no hope of recovery.

RAMOLA TALWAR BADAM, Associated Press Writer, reports:

(07-27) 14:56 PDT BOMBAY, India (AP) –

India’s financial capital was paralyzed Wednesday by the strongest rains ever recorded in Indian history, with torrential downpours — 37 inches in one day — marooning drivers, forcing students to sleep at school and snapping communication lines. At least 200 people died.

At its worst, the rainfall descended in what looked like a solid wall of water, overwhelming Bombay, a crowded city long accustomed to monsoon rains.

BLT Research Team Inc., via, reports:

Photo: Crop Pattern
Close-up taken on July 19th which suggests that the herringbone pattern has been created more by an interlacing of plants than an actual weave.

On July 5, 2005 a Greene County farmer found what may be the very first crop formation of its kind in the world. The farmer, who wishes to remain anonymous, discovered an approximately 44′ x 35′ rectangle of downed wheat as he was harvesting his field, at first thinking the downed-crop area had been caused by deer. Upon closer examination he realized there was a distinct design to the manner in which the plants were bent over, resulting in a “woven” or interlaced herringbone pattern throughout the flattened crop.

MosNews, via Slashdot, reports:

Vardan Kushnir, notorious for sending spam to each and every citizen of Russia who appeared to have an e-mail, was found dead in his Moscow apartment on Sunday, Interfax reported Monday. He died after suffering repeated blows to the head.

Kushnir, 35, headed the English learning centers the Center for American English, the New York English Centre and the Centre for Spoken English, all known to have aggressive Internet advertising policies in which millions of e-mails were sent every day.

Jeremy Laurance, Health Editor, The Independent (UK) reports:

A virulent new strain of MRSA is spreading through the community and poses a particular threat to children and young adults, specialists have warned.

Two people have died from the new strain of the superbug, including a physically fit young soldier who grazed his leg while out running in Devon and a woman who caught the infection at a gym.

AP in Istanbul, via The Guardian, reports:

First one sheep jumped to its death. Then stunned Turkish shepherds, who had left the herd to graze while they had breakfast, watched as nearly 1,500 others followed, each leaping off the same cliff, Turkish media reported yesterday.
In the end, 450 animals died, the daily newspaper Aksam said.

Those which jumped later were saved as the pile got higher, cushioning the fall.

“There’s nothing we can do. They’re all wasted,” Nevzat Bayhan, a member of one of 26 families whose sheep were grazing together in the herd, told Aksam. The estimated loss to families in the town of Gevas, located in Van province in eastern Turkey, is about 100bn Turkish lira (£43,000), a significant amount in a country where average GDP per person is around £1,550.

Hainan special zone newspaper, via Xinhuanet, via Rense, reports: (babelfish translation)

The tens of thousands of only beautiful butterflies in abundance die on the east line highway, this was reporter yesterday morning “the marvelous sight” which saw with own eyes in the east line highway, but butterfly’s cause of death at present Shang Wu authoritative view.

John Vidal and Tim Radford, The Guardian (UK), reports:

One in six countries in the world face food shortages this year because of severe droughts that could become semi-permanent under climate change, UN scientists warned yesterday.

In a stark message for world leaders who meet in Gleneagles next week to discuss global warming, Wulf Killman, chairman of the UN food and agriculture organisation’s climate change group, said the droughts that have devastated crops across Africa, central America and south-east Asia in the past year are part of an emerging pattern.

A Hyalinobatrachium sp frog is shown in an herpetologist lab in this undated photo taken in Quito, Ecuador. Epibatidine — the chemical which paralyzed and killed enemies of the Indians in what is now Ecuador — has been isolated to produce a pain killer 200 times more powerful than morphine, but without that drug’s addictive and toxic side effects. (Stringer/Reuters)

Carlos Andrade, Reuters, :

“Frogs and toads are becoming extinct all over the world. It’s the same magnitude event as the extinction of the dinosaurs,” said Luis Coloma, a herpetologist, or scientist dedicated to studying reptiles and amphibians, in Ecuador — the country with the third-greatest diversity of amphibians.

The thumb-sized jungle-dwelling phantasmal poison frog is an example of amphibian good looks, despite its macabre associations. It is bright red with fluorescent green stripes.

At least two out of five of the 3,046 amphibian types in the Americas — home to 53 percent of known species — are threatened with extinction, according to a recent report titled “Disappearing Jewels” by lobby group NatureServe.


Andrew Stroehlein, The Christian Science Monitor, writes:

BRUSSELS – It’s a maxim that what people aren’t talking about is always a favorite topic of conversation. But it will make your head spin when applied to the media and the most deadly conflict in the world today. Western media generally do not cover the ongoing war in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, but a media story is currently developing around the Congo - focusing, paradoxically, on how the conflict is not a media story.

I’ve lost count of how many journalists in the recent weeks have asked me, “Why aren’t the media covering the Congo?”

With an estimated 1,000 people dying there every day as a result of hunger and disease caused by war, it is an appropriate question. But the extent of this coverage of noncoverage is reaching the absurd: print, radio, TV, Internet - they all want to know why they themselves are not writing articles and broadcasting programs about the Congo.

And it is not just me noticing this. In March, Reuters even held a seminar on “forgotten crises,” at which the Congo topped the list, and on BBC World Service the other day, I heard a newscaster ask: “Shouldn’t this be getting more attention?”

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