September 23, 2014

Somalian pirates surrender to HMS Cumberland's Royal Marines boarding team in the Gulf of Aden, February 2009. Moore had been in Somalia researching for a book on pirates when he was kidnapped in 2012.     Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Michael Scott Moore Freed After Kidnapping

Held in Somalia for two years

After nearly three years in captivity in Somalia, German-America journalist Michael Scott Moore has been released, the German Foreign Ministry announced Tuesday. 

Moore, who wrote Sweetness and Blood: How Surfing Spread from Hawaii and California to the Rest of the World, With Some Unexpected Results was researching a new book on piracy when he was kidnapped in January of 2012. The Associated Press has reported that Moore was released after a ransom was paid. Officials say Moore is in good shape, all things considered, and has been taken to Nairobi, the Kenya's capital, for medical evaluation.


Andreas Meissner was operating a Phantom 2 unmanned aircraft when he crashed it into the marina at Lake Yellowstone in July.     Photo: Sam Beebe/Flickr

Drone Pilot Banned from Yellowstone

German man crashed Phantom 2 into park lake

In the first application of the National Park Service’s anti-drone regulations, a German citizen named Andreas Meissner has pleaded guilty to several charges related to an ill-fated drone flight in Yellowstone National Park in July. He was sentenced to a one-year ban from the park, a year of unsupervised probation, and more than $1,600 in fines, according to a report by KUSA, Denver’s NBC affiliate.

While visiting from Germany, Meissner was using his drone and a GoPro camera to capture footage documenting a bicycle tour for a charity called Run and Ride for Reading. The drone crashed into Yellowstone Lake shortly after takeoff on July 18; it was recovered by a diver working for the park service 10 days later. Meissner was caught when he reached out to the park service to recover his drone.

Drones, which have been showing up in all kinds of outdoor areas in the past couple years, were banned in all national parks in June. According to KUSA, two other drone pilots, including a man who crashed his drone into Yellowstone’s Grand Prismatic Spring, have been charged under the new law.


Ignoring rising seas, melting glaciers, and ocean acidification: Not a solution to climate change.     Photo: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center/Flickr

Oceans Forgotten at UN Climate Summit

Two-thirds of planet absent from program

The largest-ever global summit on climate change, hosted today by the United Nations in New York City, has been accused of ignoring one of the biggest keys to stemming global warming: the oceans.

“Over two-thirds of the planet is completely absent from the programme,” write David Miliband, José María Figueres, and Trevor Manuel, co-chairs of the Global Ocean Commission, in an editorial for the Guardian.

The major venues through which summit attendees plan to discuss policy are the four thematic sessions, in which representatives will share country-specific solutions, and eight action areas, those industries and regions the UN has deemed most essential to monitor in curtailing temperature increases. While representatives from oceanography institutes are listed as session panelists, the oceans and related issues aren’t explicitly mentioned as topics of discussion.

“The ocean appears to have been relegated to the status of an afterthought, something to bring up occasionally in the context of other, apparently more essential, concerns,” write Miliband and his co-chairs.

The disregard for the oceans’ connection with climate change is in stark contrast to reports made this year by groups like the World Meteorological Organization and the UN’s own Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Oceans, collectively, are the world’s largest active carbon sink, sequestering a quarter of all greenhouse gas emissions. But by storing excess heat, the oceans themselves warm up and affect weather patterns around the globe. Additionally, higher temperatures are leading to rising sea levels as well as increasing ocean acidity, threatening life both on land and in the sea.

Manuel and National Geographic explorer in residence Sylvia Earle delivered a petition calling for marine protections to Jan Eliasson, the UN’s deputy secretary general, at an OceanElders event Monday evening.

The UN Climate Summit serves as a place for leaders from 193 member countries to discuss, rather than negotiate, agreements. Policies for reducing greenhouse gasses after 2020 will be formalized next year when UN Framework Convention on Climate Change signatories meet in Paris.


Day of the living car. Spooky.     Photo: Roman Boed/Flickr

Google Nabs Lion's Share of Driverless Car Testing Permits

Mercedes, Audi pick up the rest

Last Tuesday, the California Department of Motor Vehicles issued the first official permits for testing self-driving cars on public roads. A Reuters article published late last week reported that the department had issued 29 permits, 25 of which went to local Internet behemoth Google; Mercedes-Benz and Audi received two permits apiece.

While the testing of autonomous vehicles has been underway in California for several years, the state only recently outlined the requirements necessary for companies to test their driverless prototypes. The newly formed Autonomous Vehicle Regulations mandate that car manufacturers maintain a $5 million insurance or surety bond to cover potential damages and that every self-driving vehicle have a test driver sitting in the driver’s seat to take over in case of emergency.

In an official press release, California DMV director Jean Shimoto sounded confident that driverless cars are the way forward: “Autonomous vehicles are the future of transportation. The potential safety and mobility benefits are enormous. Testing on public roads is one step to developing this technology, and the DMV is excited in facilitating the advancement of autonomous vehicles in California.”