SNEAK LEAK: Oil and gas are leaking from BP's blown-out oil well again, both from its new containment cap and from the sea floor nearby. But these new "seeps" are small and insignificant, according to BP and the U.S. Coast Guard, and don't foreshadow the kind of catastrophic, rock-rupturing superleak that officials have warned might occur if too much pressure builds up in the capped well. So the cap will remain in place for now, National Incident Commander Thad Allen (pictured) told reporters Monday afternoon, and could even stay put until relief wells are completed next month. "It's the collective opinion of folks that these small seepages do not indicate there is any threat to the well bore," Allen said at Monday's press briefing in Washington, D.C. A gas seep that was discovered Sunday about two miles from the well has now been deemed natural and unrelated to the cap, and three others closer to the well and in the cap itself are not necessarily a sign of dangerous pressure buildup, Allen said. In fact, not only might the cap stay on until August, but BP has even proposed trying a variation of its failed "top kill" maneuver from late May. The top kill involved pumping heavy drilling mud into the gushing well to plug it, but the oil was flowing with too much force back then for the tactic to work. Now, however, with the cap keeping a lid on things, engineers say they could try a "static kill," in which the same heavy mud would be pumped into the capped well, forcing oil and gas back down into the reservoir. "The static kill does give us a new option," said Kent Wells, a senior BP vice president, at a briefing in Houston Monday. A decision on the procedure will come in the next several days, he said. (Sources: Associated Press, New York Times, Washington Post, New Orleans Times-Picayune)
CARP COURT: They've already been shot down twice by the U.S. Supreme Court, but five Great Lakes states are still forging ahead this week in their struggle to fend off invasive Asian carp, suing both Chicago and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for their roles in the slow-motion invasion. Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin filed the suit Monday in northern Illinois' U.S. District Court, arguing that their situation has grown more urgent since a live bighead carp was found last month beyond an electric barrier designed to keep it out of Lake Michigan. "Asian carp will kill jobs and ruin our way of life," Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox said in a statement. "We cannot afford more bureaucratic delays — every action must be taken to protect the Great Lakes." Asian carp first escaped from Arkansas and Louisiana fish farms in the 1960s and '70s, eventually dominating much of the [skipwords]Mississippi[/skipwords] River Basin as they swam north toward the Great Lakes. They've made it through Chicago's system of manmade shipping canals, and now many people across the region are worried they may also be making it through their last line of defense: the electric barrier. "Based on what we've seen, it's pretty clear that carp are getting beyond the barrier, and that has simply not been good enough," said Cox, who has spearheaded efforts to close Chicago's canals, shutting out Asian carp for good. "These fish are a clear and present danger to the Great Lakes." On top of closing the canals, the suit calls for nets, physical barriers and poison to be used in controlling the carps' travels. But many in Chicago argue closing the canals is unnecessary — a member of the Illinois Chamber of Commerce tells the Chicago Tribune that Asian carp are "under control," and calls the new lawsuit "politically motivated." (Sources: AP, TIME, Chicago Tribune)
ALL FROGS GO TO HEAVEN: A mysterious, frog-killing fungus is sweeping through Central America, and in at least one Panamanian national park, it's taking out entire species as quickly as scientists can discover them. The Batrochochytrium dendrobatidi fungus causes a disease known as "chytridiomycosis," which already is threatening to obliterate more than 2,800 amphibian species around the planet. The disease attacks amphibians' skin, thickening it so much that they have trouble breathing and absorbing electrolytes. With the moisture-loving fungus now marching across humid Panama, researchers have spent the last decade surveying the country's Omar Torrijos National Park, hoping to document its biodiversity before the invasive fungus destroys it. Published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, their findings include 11 newly discovered species of frogs — as well as the sobering news that five of them are already extinct. The research team had counted a total of 74 species since beginning their survey in 1998, but a few months after the chytrid fungus arrived in 2004, 30 of those species had vanished, including the five newly discovered ones. The rate of extinctions is troubling, experts say, especially considering that frogs are the oldest remaining group of four-legged vertebrates, having first evolved some 300 million years ago. "Part of what's so alarming," a chytrid expert tells Nature News, "is that these long-term survivors are dropping off the face of the Earth right now." (Sources: Wired, Nature News)
MONKEYS IN THE MIDDLE: Police in Mexico have arrested a man for trying to smuggle 18 small monkeys into the country, discovering the primates hidden in a girdle strapped around his waist as he passed through airport security. Roberto Sol Cabrera, a Mexican citizen, was stopped at Mexico City's international airport after arriving from Lima because he was behaving "nervously," according to a police statement. Upon searching him, officers quickly noticed 18 titi monkeys hidden under his clothing. Cabrera eventually confessed that he had intially packed the animals into his luggage, but moved them to a more intimate location "to protect them from X-rays" as he passed through customs. But the 6-inch-long monkeys had been placed inside socks, police said, and two were already dead when they were confiscated. Cabrera reportedly told police he paid $30 each for the monkeys in Peru, and according to the BBC, he could have sold them for anywhere from $775 to $1,550 in Mexico. Animal trafficking is a major problem in Mexico, an expert in the wildlife trade tells the BBC, both because of its location and its history. "The reasons are two," he says. "One, because Mexico is an important route for those who want to smuggle animals into the U.S., and the other, because, as in other countries of Latin America, there is a deep-rooted tradition of having wild animals as pets." (Source: BBC News)
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Photo (Thad Allen on July 19): Alex Brandon/AP
Photo (jumping silver carp): U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Photo (ghost glass frog in Panama): ZUMA Press
Photo (two titi monkeys): wenn.com
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