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Nuclear Legacy The number of insects and other invertebrates around the Chernobyl nuclear disaster site is still dramatically lower than normal nearly 22 years after the facility exploded. The finding contradicts statements from Ukraine officials that the local wildlife has rebounded. Anders Moller of the University of ParisSud said his team compared animal populations in radioactive areas around the nuclear power plant with those in less contaminated areas. “What we found was the same basic pattern throughout these areas — the numbers of organisms declined with increasing contamination,” Moller wrote in the journal Biology Letters. He and colleague Timothy Mousseau had earlier found that brightly colored birds were some of the hardest hit animals after the plant exploded in 1986. Many surviving animals are deformed.

A Knock-Out Rescue Marine mammal experts rescued a North Atlantic right whale that had become snared in fishing gear by sedating it so rescuers could remove most of the entanglement. It was the first time such a method had ever been used with whales, according to those who helped develop it at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. Team members on four boats, assisted by an aerial survey plane, worked for two days to free the animal. They eventually succeeded in

injecting the 40-foot, 40,000pound whale with sedatives that allowed them to cut away the gear wrapped around its head. The new sedation delivery system uses a 12-inch needle and a syringe driven by compressed air, which injects the drug into the whale’s muscle.

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Queensland Spill Nearly 40 miles of Australian beaches were blackened with oil that spilled from a cargo ship caught in stormy seas churned up by last week’s Typhoon Hamish. More than 600 tons of ammonium nitrate fertilizer also spilled from the Pacific Adventurer’s deck, sinking to the ocean floor in one of coastal Queensland’s worst-ever environmental disasters. State Premier Anna Bligh declared the stretch of polluted coast a disaster zone as a navy mine-hunting ship searched for the 31 containers of lost chemicals. The cargo of the potentially dangerous fertilizer was lost near a marine sanctuary. Some environmental experts warned that if the nutrient-rich chemical is released into the sea, it could feed a huge algae bloom that could cause a marine life catastrophe.

South Seas Cyclone The second tropical cyclone to form near the Cook Islands in as many weeks was dubbed Ken as the storm gained strength to the southwest of Rarotonga.

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Week Ending March 20, 2009

• Cyclone Ilsa formed over the Indian Ocean between Java and Australia’s northwest coast.

Earthquakes Indonesian islands between Sulawesi and the southern Philippines were jolted by a strong tremor that appeared to be an aftershock of a 7.4 magnitude quake on Feb. 12, which injured dozens of people and wrecked hundreds of buildings. No damage was reported from the latest quake. • Earth movements were also felt in central Argentina, the Oklahoma City area, interior Alaska and metropolitan Melbourne, Australia.

Volcanic Rumblings A spectacular undersea eruption was clearly

visible to residents on the Tongan island of Tongatapu on Wednesday morning, with steam soaring thousands of feet into the sky above the South Pacific. The eruption occurred in a cluster of 36 known undersea volcanoes. • Vulcanologists in Alaska briefly raised the alert status for the state’s rumbling Redoubt volcano to orange after the mountain spewed steam and generated a swarm of tremors.

Mosquito Defense System Technology emerging from the 1980s U.S. “Star Wars” defense system research now promises to help prevent the spread of malaria by zapping mosquitoes with lasers. Dubbed a “weapon of mosquito destruction,” the laser fires at an individual mosquito once it

detects the audio frequency created by the beating of the insect’s wings. Lead scientist on the project, Dr. Jordin Kare, claims the laser will be able to toast millions of mosquitoes within a few minutes. The developers hope the technology might one day be used to create a laser “barrier” around a house or village by killing or blinding the insects. By fine-tuning the laser’s strength, it could provide just enough killing power to smoke the mosquitoes without harming other insects or humans, the developers say. In the fight against malaria, the laser could be adjusted to kill only female mosquitoes, since they are the only ones that can spread the parasite. cs by steve newman, universal press syndicate

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