November 15, 2012

    Photo: Nrcphotos/Flickr

Missy Franklin to Swim for Cal

Olympian signs letter of intent

Five-time Olympic medalist Missy Franklin will swim for University of California, Berkeley, the school announced this week. Franklin, of Centennial, Colorado, signed a letter of intent to compete for the school on Wednesday. The 17-year-old swimmer, who won four gold medals at the London Games, plans to join the collegiate team for two years and turn pro before the 2016 Rio Games, but will finish her degree. Franklin will be working with a familiar face at Cal: the Golden Bears' head coach, Teri McKeever, also headed up the U.S. women's swim team at the London Olympics. "Does Missy Franklin have the ability to make millions? Yes, I think she does," McKeever said. "If she earns a degree and broadens her 17-year-old person, she's going to be more marketable and make a bigger difference in the world."

Via ESPN

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Canada Puts Bounty on Grey Seals

Scientists say it will hurt fish

A planned multimillion-dollar grey seal cull in Canada is being met with resistance from scientists, who say there is no evidence that it would help the recovery of depleted fish populations.

In October, the Canadian Senate approved a proposal that would pay bounty hunters to kill 70,000 grey seals in the Gulf of Saint Lawrence. The cull is designed to revive the Atlantic cod population, which collapsed in the early '90s due to overfishing and has failed to recover despite a near ban on fishing them. The justification is that the burgeoning seal population—up from a few thousand in the '70s to 400,000 today—is to blame.

But in an open letter to the government last week, a group of scientists in Halifax, Nova Scotia, said there is "no credible evidence" to support that theory. "Seals are being used as a scapegoat, just like whales were once blamed for fishery declines," said Hal Whitehead, a marine biologist and one of the letter's signators. "I don't like the idea of slaughtering all these animals for no reason." They also maintain that cod aren’t fatty enough to consist of a substantial portion of a seal diet and that other fish are the biggest predators in the ecosystem, not marine mammals.

Only a few hundred grey seals have been killed since 2009, and legislators have yet to determine the bounty that would make hunting the species worthwhile. Canadian government officials said that the cull legislation is currently under review.

Via The Guardian

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    Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Rat Poison to Be Dropped on Galapagos

Attempt to eradicate invasive rodent

In an effort to preserve the native species of the Galapagos Islands, Ecuadorean authorities are preparing to drop roughly 22 tons of poison to kill hundreds of millions of rats.

The invasive rodents, thought to have arrived along with whalers and buccaneers in the 17th century, feed on the eggs and young of the Galapagos’ many native residents, including giant tortoises, lava lizards, snakes, and iguanas. The rats are also known to feed on the plants that make up their food supply. “It's one of the worst problems the Galapagos have,” said Juan Carlos Gonzalez, a specialist with the Nature Conservancy. “[Rats] reproduce every three months and eat everything.”

The specially-designed poison, developed by Bell Laboratories in the Unites States, comes in the form of a one-centimeter-square cube that attracts rats but repulses the other species on the islands. The poison also contains a special anti-coagulant that will dry out the rat’s corpse and disintegrate it in a matter of days without a stench.

Park officials have begun trapping animals in order to keep them from eating the poisoned rats during the cull. They will be released again in early January.

Via NBC News

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Deepwater Horizon oil spill

Oil from the Deepwater Horizon spill in 2010.     Photo: lagohsep/Flickr

BP Agrees to Record $4.5B Settlement

Largest criminal payment in history

On Thursday, oil giant British Petroleum announced that it would pay a $4.5 billion settlement to the U.S. government; federal officials also released an indictment that charged two BP employees with manslaughter. The settlement includes $1.3 billion in criminal fines, the largest such payment in U.S. history. As part of the settlement, BP admitted to felony misconduct and lying to Congress. The company is still subject to other claims, including charges related to damage to natural resources, claims from local governments, and losses related to the government's moratorium on drilling after the spill. A presidential commision in 2011 found that the Gulf spill was the result of reckless time-saving and cost-cutting measures. Before Thursday, the only individual to be charged was a BP engineer who was arrested in April for deleting text messages that proved a company cover-up of the extent of the disaster.

Via Associated Press

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