Gulf oil slick breaks up rapidly and begins to slip below waves
Deepwater spill will soon be invisible but could linger beneath the surface for decades
Suzanne Goldenberg, US environment correspondent
Images from the Gulf of Mexico suggest a once vast expanse of oil is breaking up so rapidly it may soon be invisible to satellite photography. But scientists warned today that underwater plumes of oil could linger for a year or even decades.
One hundred days after the explosion aboard the Deepwater Horizon, the US moved into a new phase in its response to the country’s worst environmental disaster today.
John Amos, president of SkyTruth, an environmental satellite organisation, said the slick was “breaking up in more isolated patches. In the next few days, if there are no new oil leaks, we expect those patches to break down so that we can’t see them in satellite images.”
The dead sea: Global warming blamed for 40 per cent decline in the ocean’s phytoplankton
Microscopic life crucial to the marine food chain is dying out. The consequences could be catastrophic
By Steve Connor, Science Editor Thursday, 29 July 2010
The microscopic plants that support all life in the oceans are dying off at a dramatic rate, according to a study that has documented for the first time a disturbing and unprecedented change at the base of the marine food web.
Scientists have discovered that the phytoplankton of the oceans has declined by about 40 per cent over the past century, with much of the loss occurring since the 1950s. They believe the change is linked with rising sea temperatures and global warming.
As Desert Deaths Soar, a Morgue Grows Crowded
By JAMES C. McKINLEY Jr.
Published: July 28, 2010
TUCSON – Dr. Bruce Parks unzips a white body bag on a steel gurney and gingerly lifts out a human skull and mandible, turning them over in his hands and examining the few teeth still in their sockets.
The body bag, coated with dust, also contains a broken pelvis, a femur and a few smaller bones found in the desert in June, along with a pair of white sneakers.
“These are people who are probably not going to be identified,” said Dr. Parks, the chief medical examiner for Pima County. There are eight other body bags crowded on the gurney.
White House proposal would ease FBI access to records of Internet activity
By Ellen Nakashima
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, July 29, 2010
The Obama administration is seeking to make it easier for the FBI to compel companies to turn over records of an individual’s Internet activity without a court order if agents deem the information relevant to a terrorism or intelligence investigation.
The administration wants to add just four words — “electronic communication transactional records” — to a list of items that the law says the FBI may demand without a judge’s approval.
Catalonia votes to ban all forms of bullfighting in nationalist move
Animal rights groups are celebrating, but fans say the ruling is nothing but a desire to be un-Spanish
By Anita Brooks Thursday, 29 July 2010
In a tense, historic vote, Catalonia’s regional parliament yesterday banned Spain’s “national fiesta” – bullfighting, handing a victory to animal rights activists, who predicted the start of a bloodless era across the country.
As of 1 January 2012, the choreographed estocada de muerte – or death knell – will be history throughout the wealthy, independent-minded region and the fighting bull – toro bravo – will receive protection under Catalonia’s animal rights laws.
Russian court blocks YouTube
A court in Russia has blocked access to YouTube after the website was accused of hosting extremist propaganda.
By Ben Leach
Published: 7:15AM BST 29 Jul 2010
The decision came after a video entitled “Russia for Russians,” a Russian extremist slogan, was allegedly posted on the video sharing site.
The court, in the city of Komsomolsk-on-Amur, also ordered the local internet services provider, to block four other websites.
The other sites were blocked for containing excerpts of Adolf Hitler’s book Mein Kampf, which was banned by the Russian Prosecutor General’s Office in March after it was found in violation of laws against extremism.
The court ordered the internet provider RA RTS Rosnet to block access to the five websites. The provider says it has appealed the July 16 ruling.
Baghdad revisited: the Chalabi family’s return from exile
Tamara Chalabi, daughter of the controversial Iraqi politician Ahmed Chalabi, tells the story of her family’s life in Baghdad before and after Saddam
By Janine di Giovanni
Published: 9:00AM BST 29 Jul 2010
When Tamara Chalabi, a 36-year-old historian, decided that she wanted to write a story of modern Iraq set against the background of four generations of her family, she faced two major challenges. The first was telling the tale of a complicated, deeply troubled country from the time of the Ottoman Empire to today’s post-war reconstruction period. The second was how to write about a family that occupied positions of honour stretching back a century without focusing solely on her father, the often controversial, always charismatic Iraqi political leader Ahmed Chalabi.
Deep undercurrents stir in the Middle East
By Victor Kotsev
On the surface, the Middle East is so still it is almost unbelievable. Not that nothing is happening, on the contrary, but the comparison with just a few weeks ago is enough to raise an eyebrow. Back then, amid military maneuvers and loud threats, every other analyst (including this one, though with some caution  was predicting an imminent flare-up.
So far, not only has the cataclysm not happened, but the voices have quieted down somewhat. “Plainly I was wrong,” writes Bret Stephens for the Wall Street Journal, discussing his earlier prediction of an Israeli strike on Iran .
Floods wash barrels of chemicals into China river
Rescue teams in northeast China are working to retrieve 3,000 barrels of chemicals washed into a major river, state media says.
The BBC 29 July 2010
Severe floods washed the barrels, from two chemical storage facilities, into the Songhua river in Jilin city.
Around 400 barrels have been recovered so far by workers at eight stations on the river.
Water quality was being checked and no chemicals had yet been found in the water, state media said.
Several parts of China have been hit by flooding in recent weeks, amid the worst seasonal rains in a decade.
Plan B for Afghanistan
By Brian M Downing
It is becoming increasingly clear that US and North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) efforts to develop a stable political system and growing economy in Afghanistan are failing. The government of President Hamid Karzai has little support in or out of the country. The Taliban have recovered from their sudden ouster in late 2001 and now control or have a strong presence in much of the Pashtun regions of the south and east.
One option would be for the US and its allies to withdraw from the Pashtun regions and concentrate on political and economic development in the northern areas, where the insurgency is weak and anti-Taliban sentiment is strong.
Photo and letter stir speculation on missing Mexico political figure
The mystery over the whereabouts of a former Mexican presidential candidate deepened when a photograph and letter purportedly written by him showed up on Twitter and then all over the Mexican media.
By Ken Ellingwood, Los Angeles Times
Reporting from Mexico City – The man is naked above the waist, blindfolded with a wide band of fabric. His bearded face appears to match that of the politician on the cover of the magazine he holds up for the camera.
Is “Don Diego” alive?
The 2-month-old mystery over the whereabouts of former Mexican presidential candidate Diego Fernandez de Cevallos deepened this week when a photograph and letter purportedly written by him weeks ago showed up on Twitter and then all over the Mexican media.