Snow kills 8 in Japan, including family in car By Associated Press – 30 mins ago
View Photo Stranded vehicles are buried under …TOKYO (AP) — Heavy snow that fell in northern Japan over the weekend killed eight people on Hokkaido island, including a family whose car became buried.Kazuyo Miyashita, 40, her two daughters Misa, 17, and Sayo, 14, and her son Daiki, 11, died at a hospital Saturday night of carbon-monoxide poisoning after their vehicle got buried in the snow, according to Kyodo news service.Separately, Haruna Kitagawa, 23, froze to death after leaving her car, stuck in the snow. A 53-year-old man died Sunday after getting buried in the snow, although his 9-year-old daughter found with him was recovering, Kyodo said.Also over the weekend, a 54-year-old man and a 76-year-old man were found collapsed in the snow in another part of Hokkaido, and both were confirmed dead, it said.The storm caused two-meter-high (six-and-a-half-feet) drifts and was blamed for derailing a bullet train in Akita prefecture, south of Hokkaido, on Saturday afternoon. Kyodo said the passenger train was moving slowly because of the heavy snow on the tracks, and the derailment caused no injuries.
Budget cuts force Yellowstone to delay opening By Ruffin Prevost | Reuters – Sat, Mar 2, 2013 5:01 PM EST
View PhotoA car travels the newly plowed east entrance road over Sylvan Pass in Yellowstone National Park shortly …
View PhotoCrews work to plow Sylvan Pass, the highest point along the east entrance road into Yellowstone National …CODY, Wyoming (Reuters) – During the first full week of March every year, the mountain passes of Yellowstone National Park rumble with the sounds of hulking snow plows operated by two dozen, mostly seasonal workers. This month, the plows will be silent.The costly and complex road-clearing operation that was scheduled to start on Monday will be postponed this year because of the U.S. government’s across-the-board budget cuts known as the “sequester,” which took effect on Friday.Park managers have to trim $1.75 million from Yellowstone’s $35 million annual budget, which will delay the opening of most entrances to America’s first national park by two weeks. Park managers will give more details on Monday.Local tourism industry leaders are not happy with the decision. A delay in the park’s traditional early May opening and other service reductions could mean millions of dollars in lost tourism and tax revenues for small, rural towns in Montana and Wyoming.”I think it’s counterproductive, and I expect a lot of people to be raising hell,” said Mike Darby, whose family owns the Irma Hotel in downtown Cody, Wyoming, at the east gate of Yellowstone.Built in 1902 by frontier showman Buffalo Bill Cody, the hotel is decorated with bison heads and hunting rifles. The business survives the lean winter months by drawing local customers to its restaurant and Silver Saddle Lounge, where cowboys meet for a beer on weekends.A two-week delay in Yellowstone’s opening means Cody will miss out on more than 150,000 visitors spending an estimated $2.3 million, according to figures released by the Cody Country Chamber of Commerce. Similar shortfalls in four other gateway towns around the park could put total losses from a two-week delayed opening at more than $10 million.Beyond Yellowstone, the National Parks Conservation Association has warned that a $110 million cut to the National Park Service budget will result in job losses and reduced services at the country’s 398 national parks.For example, the U.S. spending cuts could lead to a 20 percent reduction in spring student education programs at Gettysburg National Military Park in Pennsylvania, affecting 2,400 students; a two-week delay in the reopening of Glacier National Park’s Going-to-the-Sun Road, which could cost $1 million in lost revenue daily to surrounding communities and concessions; and a delay in the opening of the Grand Canyon National Park’s East and West Rim Drives, according to the NPCA.”It’s alarming that this very avoidable threat could become a reality. From Yellowstone to Cape Cod, the Grand Canyon and Great Smoky Mountains, our national heritage and local economies are at risk,” NPCA President Tom Kiernan said in a statement on Thursday.GRIZZLY BEARS–Yellowstone and neighboring Grand Teton National Park each attracts roughly 3 million annual visitors who come to see grizzly bears, geysers and wide-open spaces. The two parks generated a total of $766 million in tourism spending in 2011, supporting 11,438 jobs, according to a Michigan State University analysis released last month.If the budget cuts roll on through the summer, local business owners fear that families may decide to vacation elsewhere, which could mean disastrous losses in local tax collections for gas, food, lodging and merchandise.”They could end up losing more in taxes over the season than what they saved with budget cuts,” Darby said. “It’s ridiculous.”Some tourism leaders in Wyoming are working on their own plans to raise money to plow the roads at Yellowstone, in an effort to honor the spring opening dates that many families have already planned their vacations around.With a budget focused largely on fixed costs like fuel and salaries for key employees, there are no easy cuts to be made in Yellowstone’s operating expenses.”We really do have very few places that we can go” to cut costs, said Yellowstone spokesman Al Nash. “Our workforce is made up of a lot of seasonal employees, so that’s certainly a major area where we can make changes.”Plowing more than 300 miles of high-altitude paved roads in Yellowstone takes weeks, and burns through as much as $10,000 worth of diesel fuel each day.Waiting for warmer weather to help clear some of that snow is expected save about $250,000 in plowing costs, Superintendent Dan Wenk told Darby and other gateway community business leaders this week in a conference call to outline planned cuts.A further $1 million in savings will come from not hiring replacements for some departing permanent workers. Wenk expects to save an additional $500,000 by reducing the seasonal workforce and through travel and training reductions.In Jackson, Wyoming, at the southern boundary of Grand Teton National Park, business owners are pushing to get the word out that the parks and surrounding areas will be open for business this summer, despite the cuts.But budget cuts mean that three popular visitor centers in Grand Teton will not open at all this summer, said park spokeswoman Jackie Skaggs.Since many maintenance workers and other seasonal employees carry out double duties as on-call firefighters, paramedics or search-and-rescue workers, payroll reductions will mean fewer emergency responders in the park this summer.”We will do our best not to allow those reductions to impact the safety of our visitors and employees,” Skaggs said. “But the reality is our response capabilities will be reduced.”In staunchly conservative Wyoming — where legislators just cut most state agency budgets by 6.5 percent despite virtually no state debt and more than $15 billion in savings — the across-the-board federal cuts are raising questions.Residents who depend on tourism for a living are already complaining to the state’s all-Republican congressional delegation, which is on record as supporting the cuts if it means the alternative is raising taxes.”I’m sorry, but in how this is affecting us, it doesn’t seem to me like it’s fiscally responsible,” Darby said. “Somebody needs to refigure this, or we need to get better advocates.”(Editing by Barbara Goldberg, Tiffany Wu and Peter Cooney)
Tamed Dragon supply ship arrives at space station By MARCIA DUNN | Associated Press – 8 hours agoView PhotoThis frame grab made available by NASA TV shows a view of the SpaceX Dragon capsule on the end of the …View PhotoThis frame grab made available by NASA TV shows a view of the SpaceX Dragon anchoring to the International …CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) — A private Earth-to-orbit delivery service made good on its latest shipment to the International Space Station on Sunday, overcoming mechanical difficulty and delivering a ton of supplies with high-flying finesse.To NASA’s relief, the SpaceX company’s Dragon capsule pulled up to the orbiting lab with all of its systems in perfect order. Station astronauts used a hefty robot arm to snare the unmanned Dragon, and three hours later, it was bolted into place.The Dragon’s arrival couldn’t have been sweeter — and not because of the fresh fruit on board for the six-man station crew. Coming a full day late, the 250-mile-high linkup above Ukraine culminated a two-day chase that got off to a shaky, almost dead-ending start.Moments after the Dragon reached orbit Friday, a clogged pressure line or stuck valve prevented the timely release of the solar panels and the crucial firing of small maneuvering rockets. SpaceX flight controllers struggled for several hours before gaining control of the capsule and salvaging the mission.”As they say, it’s not where you start, but where you finish that counts,” space station commander Kevin Ford said after capturing the Dragon, “and you guys really finished this one on the mark.”He added: “We’ve got lots of science on there to bring aboard and get done. So congratulations to all of you.”Among the items on board: 640 seeds of a flowering weed used for research, mouse stem cells, food and clothes for the six men on board the space station, trash bags, computer equipment, air purifiers, spacewalking tools and batteries. The company also tucked away apples and other fresh treats from an employee’s family orchard.The Dragon will remain at the space station for most of March before returning to Earth with science samples, empty food containers and old equipment.The California-based SpaceX run by billionaire Elon Musk has a $1.6 billion contract with NASA to keep the station well stocked. The contract calls for 12 supply runs; this was the second in that series.This is the third time, however, that a Dragon has visited the space station. The previous capsules had no trouble reaching their destination. Company officials promise a thorough investigation into what went wrong this time; if the maneuvering thrusters had not been activated, the capsule would have been lost.Ford said everything about Sunday’s rendezvous ended up being “fantastic.””There sure were some big smiles all around here,” NASA’s Mission Control replied from Houston.Proclaimed SpaceX on its web site: “Happy Berth Day.”In a tweet following Friday’s nerve-racking drama, Musk said, “Just want to say thanks to (at)NASA for being the world’s coolest customer. Looking forward to delivering the goods!”Musk, who helped create PayPal, acknowledged Friday that the problem — the first ever for an orbiting Dragon — was “frightening.” But he believed it was a one-time glitch and nothing so serious as to imperil future missions. The 41-year-old entrepreneur, who also runs the electric car maker Tesla, oversaw the entire operation from Hawthorne, Calif., home to SpaceX and the company’s Mission Control.The Dragon’s splashdown in the Pacific, off the Southern California coast, remains on schedule for March 25.NASA is counting on the commercial sector to supply the space station for the rest of this decade; it’s supposed to keep running until at least 2020. Russia, Europe and Japan are doing their part, periodically launching their own cargo ships. But none of those craft can return items like the Dragon can; they burn up on re-entry.Russia also is providing rides for astronauts — the only game in town since the retirement of NASA’s space shuttles in 2011.SpaceX, or more formally Space Exploration Technologies Corp., leads the commercial pack that is working toward launching astronauts in another few years. Musk said he can have people flying on a modified Dragon by 2015.NASA’s shuttles used to be the main haulers for the space station. At the White House direction, the space agency opted out of the Earth-to-orbit transportation business in order to focus on deep space exploration. Mars is the ultimate destination._Online: NASA: http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/structure/launch/index.html SpaceX: http://www.spacex.com/
Weather could hurt Ohio maple syrup production
Photographer: WEWSBy: Associated PressWILLOUGHBY, Ohio – Ohio’s maple syrup experts are concerned that above-average temperatures and the delay in seasonal weather could result in statewide production that would be lower than the 100,000 gallons or more reported each of the past two years.The Willoughby News-Herald reports that experts in the field are concerned that this year’s total could mirror the 65,000 gallons produced in 2010. Production statewide rose to 125,000 gallons in 2011 and reached 100,000 gallons last year.An agent with Ohio State University’s Geauga County Extension Service says more production might not occur until well into March. But he doesn’t expect lower production to result in higher costs for syrup in the state. He says about half of what is sold in Ohio is imported from New England and other areas.Read more: http://www.newsnet5.com/dpp/news/local_news/oh_lake/weather-could-hurt-ohio-maple-syrup-production#ixzz2MXYjuBY0
Can Climate-Change Denier Ken Cuccinelli Win a Swing State? By Coral Davenport | National Journal – 6 hrs ago
The Virginia governor’s race is the next front in the escalating war over global warming.The leading Republican candidate, state Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, is an unapologetically partisan firebrand who has drawn the national spotlight for his crusade against the science of climate change. He launched a two-year investigation of University of Virginia climate scientist Michael Mann—which the Virginia Supreme Court eventually shut down. He has sued to block theEnvironmental Protection Agency from regulating the fossil-fuel pollution that causes global warming. In his new book, The Last Line of Defense: The New Fight for American Liberty, Cuccinelli ramped up his attack on EPA’s climate rules, warning that they’ll slow the U.S. economy and force Americans to live in a future of brownouts and endless gas-station lines.His likely opponent, former Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe, is planning to attack Cuccinelli for his hard-right views on climate change as part of a broader effort to paint the Republican as an extremist on a range of hot-button issues, including abortion, gay rights, and immigration, the McAuliffe campaign says.But Cuccinelli’s climate crusade, in particular, will resonate with his party’s base nationally as well as with conservative Virginians. The race is kicking into gear just as President Obama declared, in his State of the Union and inaugural speeches, that he plans to aggressively fight climate change—a cause the president sees as a legacy issue. And Obama’s climate agenda is almost certain to lead to more of the EPA regulations that Cuccinelli has warred against.That clash of views will erupt this year in a purple state that’s become a crucial battleground in presidential politics. Environmentalists and the coal industry expect to invest heavily to influence the race. Green groups will train their fire on Cuccinelli in hopes of sending a message to the Republican Party that denying climate change could cost them elections.“Cuccinelli is one of the most high-profile climate deniers in the country, and it’s an opportunity to put that extreme view to the question,” said Navin Nayak, senior vice president for campaigns at the League of Conservation Voters, which raised $14 million to back pro-environment candidates in the 2012 elections. “People in D.C. will feel the ripple effects of this race, and we want to make sure they see being a climate denier is really bad politics.”The American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, a powerful Washington organization that lobbies for the interests of the coal industry and which spent heavily to support Republican candidates last year, is keying its sponsorship of NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. to the contest. Earnhardt races later this year in Richmond, “where I expect we will be heavily recruiting supporters to our Power Army,” wrote the coal group’s spokeswoman, Lisa Camooso Miller, in an e-mail, referencing the group’s thousands of volunteers who fan out to do everything from pressing candidates on energy policy at town-hall meetings to waving pro-coal signs at campaign rallies.The battle will play out across a landscape that is a concentrated microcosm of the environmental and economic dilemmas facing policymakers. Virginia’s Eastern Shore is among the regions most vulnerable to severe physical and economic disruption from climate change. Several scientific studies have named Norfolk as one of the three U.S. cities most at risk of damage from extreme storms and flooding exacerbated by climate change. A study of the impact of global warming on the coastal region of Hampton Roads, home to the world’s largest naval base, the only U.S. shipyard that builds nuclear submarines, and the tourist mecca of Virginia Beach, found that rising sea levels could wreak up to $25 billion of economic havoc over time.But in the state’s poor and rural Appalachian south and west, where coal mining is a cornerstone of the economy, EPA rules curbing coal burning could deliver an economic wallop. Coal-fired power plants are the biggest U.S. source of the greenhouse-gas pollution that causes global warming. There’s no question that Cuccinelli’s stance will play well there. However, appealing to that small portion of the state—which Mitt Romney did in 2012—won’t be enough to win the Governor’s Mansion. The majority of Virginia’s voters live in the Tidewater region, Richmond, and the moderate-to-liberal enclave of Northern Virginia.Still, Larry Sabato, a professor of political science at the University of Virginia, said Cuccinelli could have better luck with an anti-EPA message than Romney did. “This is something that excites Cuccinelli’s constituency. It wouldn’t play well in a presidential year,” he says, “but in non-presidential years, turnout is low, and conservatives have done quite well.” But Sabato added, “Maybe that’s changing because of what’s happening in Norfolk…. Maybe this will be the watershed election where this becomes a major issue, at least for Tidewater.”Meanwhile, Cuccinelli’s other hard-right views are causing quiet heartburn among some in his party, prompting speculation that another, more moderate Republican—Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling—could run. He has declined to endorse Cuccinelli and is openly considering an independent bid. And another leading Virginia Republican is remaining noncommittal in the race: retired Sen. John Warner. Before leaving the Senate in 2009, the former Navy secretary coauthored major bipartisan legislation to tackle global warming, telling colleagues that as a military man he viewed climate change as a pressing national security threat.Warner is disappointed in the political debate over the issue. “I think climate change will reemerge. But the words ‘climate change’ are not in the political vocabulary, unfortunately,” he said in an interview. As for whom he will support for governor, he said, “There comes a time when you ought to step out. In this case, it will come down to how I vote.”
Will There Be Enough Water? By Scientific American – 13 hrs ago Some 2.5 billion gallons of water are used to frack oil or gaswells in the U.S. Every day. Nearly all of that water is lost, either in the fracking or by disposing it down a borehole. And industry’s water consumption is dwarfed by agriculture, responsible for more than 80 percent of this country’s enormous water use.With climate change beginning to affect water supplies, what can be done?A panel at the recent Advanced Research Projects Agency for Energy summit attempted to answer that question. In agriculture, it will take both better breeding—for more water efficient crops—andsmarter irrigation. Our power plants could send less steam into the sky with hybrid air-and-water cooling systems. And local, state and federal governments could begin to reform an often hidebound water rights system. Not to mention that we’d all better get comfortable with the idea of reusing water over and over again.On the other hand, as a new $1 billion facility rising on the California coast may prove, maybe we just need to increase the water supply. The Poseidon desalination plant aims to turn seawater into hundreds of thousands of gallons of freshwater annually. The only problem is: it’s expensive and it requires a lot of energy. And producing energy requires water, which requires energy to clean, which, well, lather, rinse, repeat.—David Biello Follow Scientific American on Twitter @SciAm and @SciamBlogs. Visit ScientificAmerican.com for the latest in science, health and technology news.© 2013 ScientificAmerican.com. All rights reserved.
Satellite Spies Unusual Antarctic Sea Ice By Becky Oskin, OurAmazingPlanet Staff Writer | LiveScience.com
View PhotoSea ice is pushing farther north …Strong winds make for strange sea ice patterns in the Southern Hemisphere.In the Weddell Sea along the coast of Antarctica, the sea ice stretched 124 to 186 miles (200 to 300 kilometers) north of its typical extent in January and February, according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC).A satellite image snapped Feb. 22 by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra satellite shows Antarctic sea ice tightly packed in the Weddell Sea, next to the Larsen C Ice Shelf. Ice to the north appears thin, diffuse and broken up, Walt Meier, a scientist at the NSIDC, told NASA’s Earth Observatory. Though the ice is thin, the region north of the Weddell Sea typically has little or no ice at all this time of year, the Earth Observatory reported.Cold winds driven by a persistent region of high pressure west of the Weddell Sea are responsible for the unusual ice pattern, according to the NSIDC. The high pressure means winds blow from east to north, pushing ice to the north. The wind pattern also brings cold air from the continent across the ice, keeping it from melting as it moves northward into warmer latitudes, the Earth Observatory wrote online.Reach Becky Oskin at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @beckyoskin. Follow OurAmazingPlanet on Twitter @OAPlanet. We’re also on Facebook and Google+.