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Six-and-a-half billion reasons to be cheerful

BERLIN - JANUARY 23: A snowman is pictured wit...

Matt Ridley, author of The Rational Optimist, believes that eco-catastrophists are wrong about humans and our impact on the planet. (spiked) Do you find this argument believable? I think that arguing from precedent that we can be sanguine about global warming is a straw man argument. Spiked‘s ‘don’t worry be happy’ polemics are tiresomely undiscriminating.

Fungal Disease Spreads Through Pacific Northwest

C. gatti“Climate change may be responsible for the spread of a virulent new strain of a mysterious fungal disease. First found on Vancouver Island, B.C., 11 years ago, Cryptococcus gattii is spreading south through Washington and Oregon, and several dozen people have died.” (NPR)

Huge Garbage Patch Found in Atlantic Too

The Atlantic Ocean.

‘Billions of bits of plastic are accumulating in a massive garbage patch in the Atlantic Ocean—a lesser known cousin to the Texas-size trash vortex in the Pacific, scientists say.

“Many people have heard of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch,” said Kara Lavender Law, an oceanographer at the Sea Education Association in Woods Hole, Massachusetts. “But this issue has essentially been ignored in the Atlantic.”

The newly described garbage patch sits hundreds of miles off the North American coast. Although its east-west span is unknown, the patch covers a region between 22 and 38 degrees north latitude—roughly the distance from Cuba to Virginia…’ (National Geographic)

In case you thought V-Day was just about hearts and flowers

NEW ORLEANS - APRIL 12: Playwright Eve Ensler ...

V-Day is a global movement [founded by writer and performance artist Eve Ensler] to stop violence against women and girls. V-Day is a catalyst that promotes creative events to increase awareness, raise money and revitalize the spirit of existing anti-violence organizations. V-Day generates broader attention for the fight to stop violence against women and girls, including rape, battery, incest, female genital mutilation FGM and sexual slavery.Through V-Day campaigns, local volunteers and college students produce annual benefit performances of The Vagina Monologues, A Memory, A Monologue, A Rant and A Prayer, and screenings of V-Day’s documentary Until The Violence Stops, to raise awareness and funds for anti-violence groups within their own communities. 2009 V-Day events had the option to introduce a new V-Day theatrical event, Any One Of Us: Words From Prison, which reveals the connection between women in prison and the violence that often brings them there. This new event brings forth raw voices of fierceness and honesty written by women from prisons across the nation and performed by local women. In 2009, over 4200 V-Day benefit events took place produced by volunteer activists in the U.S. and around the world, educating millions of people about the reality of violence against women and girls.

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Marburg Fever Survivor Puzzles Scientists

This negative stained transmission electron mi...

“The Marburg virus had never before reached North America, as far as experts know. It is a close relative of Ebola, and the diseases these viruses cause are among the world’s most dreaded, because they can have horrific symptoms and high death rates and are easily transmitted by bodily fluids. There is no vaccine, cure or even specific treatment.

Infectious disease experts had warned for years that someday an infected person might board a plane and carry one of these deadly viruses halfway around the world, potentially exposing countless others along the way. Now it had happened.

But Ms. Barnes survived, and no one else became infected, even though epidemiologists calculated that 260 people — hospital and lab workers, friends and family — had potentially been exposed.” (New York Times )

Ezekiel’s Wheel Over Norway?

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“This morning in arctic Norway, onlookers were stunned when a gigantic luminous spiral formed in the northern sky. “We are used to seeing lots of auroras here in Norway, but this was different,” says Nick Banbury of Harstad who witnessed the phenomenon on his way to work “between 7:50 and 8:00 a.m. local time.” Onlooker Jan Petter Jorgensen took this photo:

The first reaction of many readers when they see this picture is Photoshop! Surely this must be a fake. But no, many independent observers witnessed and phtotographed the apparition. It is real.

Banbury continues: “It consisted initially of a green beam of light similar in color to the aurora with a mysterious rotating spiral at one end. This spiral then got bigger and bigger until it turned into a huge halo in the sky with the green beam extending down to Earth. According to press reports, this could be seen all over northern Norway and must therefore have been very high up in the atmosphere to be seen hundreds of km apart.”

UPDATE: Circumstantial evidence is mounting that the phenomenon was caused by a malfunctioning rocket, possibly an ICBM launched from a Russian submarine. A Navtex no-fly alert was issued for the White Sea on Dec. 9th, and photographers appear to have recorded the initial boost phase of a launch below the spiral (see inset). A rocket motor spinning out of control could indeed explain the spiral pattern, so this explanation seems plausible, although it has not yet been confirmed.” (SpaceWeather.com via julia)