Hundreds of Brazil’s eco-warriors at risk of assassination

  • Study marks 20 years since Mendes murder
  • Environmentalists divided over activist’s legacy

Twenty years after the killing of Chico Mendes, one of the world’s most prominent rainforest defenders, hundreds of human rights and environmental activists still face the threat of assassination in Brazil, a new study claims.

The report, compiled by Brazil’s Catholic Land Commission (CPT) and due to be released in full early next year, reveals that at least 260 people, among them a Catholic bishop, live under the threat of murder because of their fight against a coalition of loggers, farmers and cattle ranchers.

The list names Frei Henri des Rosiers, a French priest based in the Amazon town of Xinguara, as a particular target. Police are investigating claims he has a £14,000 price on his head because of his fight against slave labour. Also named are Maria José Dias da Costa, a union leader in the remote town of Rondon do Pará, and an Austrian bishop, Dom Erwin Krautler, who has been under 24-hour police guard for two years because of his battle against developers and child prostitution in his Amazonian diocese.

In February this year, Francisco da Silva, a 51-year-old leader of the landless movement in the Amazon, was killed with a single shot to the head. He had been named in a previous CPT report about rural leaders receiving death threats.

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Scientists Find Increased Methane Levels In Arctic Ocean

ScienceDaily (Dec. 18, 2008) – A team led by International Arctic Research Center scientist Igor Semiletov has found data to suggest that the carbon pool beneath the Arctic Ocean is leaking.

The results of more than 1,000 measurements of dissolved methane in the surface water from the East Siberian Arctic Shelf this summer as part of the International Siberian Shelf Study show an increased level of methane in the area. Geophysical measurements showed methane bubbles coming out of chimneys on the seafloor.

“The concentrations of the methane were the highest ever measured in the summertime in the Arctic Ocean,” Semiletov said. “We have found methane bubble clouds above the gas-charged sediment and above the chimneys going through the sediment.”

Read moreScientists Find Increased Methane Levels In Arctic Ocean

Ice storm knocks out power to 220,000 in US Midwest

NEW YORK, Dec 19 (Reuters) – Snow and ice storms across the U.S. Midwest knocked out power service to more than 220,000 homes and businesses in Illinois, Indiana and Ohio early Friday, local utilities reported.

The storm left 161,000 customers out in Indiana, 47,000 out in Illinois and 15,000 out in Ohio. The utilities said the outages would likely grow as the storm marches across the Midwest toward the Atlantic Coast.

Read moreIce storm knocks out power to 220,000 in US Midwest

Frigid Storm Closes California Freeways, Drops Snow in Malibu


Dec. 17: An ambulance rolls over and crashes in the snow in El Mirage, Calif. AP/The Sun

LOS ANGELES –  Snow snarled major mountain highways and even dusted Malibu on Wednesday as a cold storm hit parts of California. One person was killed by a wind-related helicopter crash, and an overflowing river on the U.S.-Mexico border led to the evacuation of nearly two dozen people, rescues of about 50 horses and the deaths of four others.

Styming thousands of commuters and travelers, snow shut Interstate 15 over 4,190-foot Cajon Pass east of Los Angeles and roads through the San Gabriel Mountains connecting metropolitan Los Angeles to the commuter suburbs of Palmdale and Lancaster in the high desert to the north.

Interstate 5, a major trucking and travel route connecting Southern California with the Central Valley and Northern California, stayed open over 4,144-foot Tejon Pass most of the day, with on-and-off Highway Patrol escorts, then finally was shut down in the afternoon as conditions deteriorated. Massive backups developed below all the passes.

Read moreFrigid Storm Closes California Freeways, Drops Snow in Malibu

Snowstorms cause chaos across Europe’s ski resorts

Ski resorts temporarily closed this week after heavy snowfall sparked avalanche warnings in the Alps.


Mark Wilkinson’s flat in Val d’Isere following heavy snow on Sunday night

Ski resorts across Europe were forced to close temporarily this week after snowstorms brought chaos to the region.

Almost a metre of snow fell overnight on Sunday sparking avalanche warnings in many European resorts.

In Val d’Isere, France, skiers were trapped in the resort on Monday amid fears of an avalanche on the road down to Bourg-Saint-Maurice after 80cm fell.

In Alagna, Italy, the resort was forced to close after more than a metre of fresh snow fell, while in Zermatt, Switzerland, only four ski lifts were open after 80cm of snowfall. Saas Fee was cut off for three days due to a high avalanche risk, but the road re-opened today allowing cars and supplies into the resort.

A spokesman for the Ski Club of Great Britain said that some resorts in Europe had seen the heaviest December snowfalls for at least 10 years.

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One-third of Boulder’s deer infected with chronic wasting disease

A new study shows one out of three mule deer in south Boulder suffers from chronic wasting disease – and those results mean the traditional approach of killing infected animals to fight the disease probably won’t work, researchers say.

Chronic Wasting Disease Study Results (PDF)

“Everything that’s been tried to control chronic wasting disease really fails in the face of that kind of infection rate,” said Heather Swanson, a wildlife ecologist for Boulder’s Open Space and Mountain Parks Department.

Read moreOne-third of Boulder’s deer infected with chronic wasting disease

Ice Storm cuts power to more than 1M in New England


Car and driver are stopped in Derry, N.H. on a road littered with fallen trees and wires after an overnight ice storm Friday, Dec. 12, 2008. The ice storm knocked out power to more than a half-million homes and businesses in New England and upstate New York, and authorities say it could take days for all of them to get service back. (AP Photo/Cheryl Senter)

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) – An ice storm knocked out power to more than a million homes and businesses in New England and upstate New York on Friday, and authorities say it could take days for all of them to get service back.

The storm brought rain, freezing rain, sleet and snow through the night, and in some areas, including hard-hit New Hampshire, the miserable mix was continuing Friday.

The governors of Massachusetts and New Hampshire declared states of emergency Friday morning, and schools were closed and travel disrupted across the region. New Hampshire’s court system canceled all hearings and trials for the day.

Read moreIce Storm cuts power to more than 1M in New England

Mt. Rainier puts on a show

Our little dry streak is about to come to an end. But if you looked at Mt. Rainier today, you would have known that already.

Take a look at some of these incredible clouds captured over Mt. Rainier today. The one above was taken by Tim Thompson. The one below, by David Embrey:

Those are called “lenticular clouds” They’re caused when the air flow is just right so when it flows over Mt. Rainier, the air gets pushed upward where it cools and condenses into clouds. Depending on how smooth the flow is, you can get some amazing clouds formations as we’ve seen so far today.

It’s usually a sign of rain within 24 hours because typically the moist flow that precedes a storm around here is the perfect set up for these clouds.

Read moreMt. Rainier puts on a show