BOLT FROM THE BLUE: Google unveiled Google Earth 5.0 today, which includes, among other features, the ability to dive into the ocean and explore the sea floor. Long symbolized by a blue, impenetrable suggestion of water, Google Earth's oceans are now a ... well, a sea of information. You can pan over the Great Barrier Reef one minute and follow the tracked path of a Carolina bluefin tuna the next. There are videos from National Geographic, Planet Earth and Jacques Cousteau; you can check profiles of beaches, surfing spots and oil rigs. Aside from the oceanic unveiling, the new Google Earth also lets you watch landscapes and human development change over time and record virtual tours of your excursions. (Sources: Google, The New York Times)
THE SLUDGE REPORT: East Tennessee's surface water shows high levels of arsenic and other toxic metals in and around the site of December's coal-ash spill, according to preliminary tests by three environmental watchdog groups. The samples were taken at 22 locations over six days in the weeks following the billion-gallon spill, and show contamination that exceeds federal limits. The groups are calling for immediate follow-up testing, compete removal of all the sludge and new coal-ash regulations. The high levels of toxins were just found in river water, not in private wells. (Sources: The Knoxville News Sentinel, The Associated Press)
"NOAH'S ARK": Conservationists have discovered 10 new species of amphibians and a wealth of other biodiversity in the mountains of Colombia, calling the region "a true Noah's Ark." Researchers from Conservation International found three kinds of poisonous frogs, three "glass" frogs, two rain frogs, a harlequin frog and one kind of salamander, in addition to peccaries, an endangered tapir and four species of monkeys. (Source: Reuters)
IBEX TO NOTHING: The Pyrenean ibex went extinct in 2000, but scientists have successfully cloned the mountain-goat subspecies using a skin sample they had saved from its last surviving individual, a 13-year-old female named Celia. Workers at a Spanish lab used Celia's DNA to create more than 1,000 embryos, 30 of which were implanted into five domesticated goats. Only one came to term and was born, and while it survived just a few seconds — it had malformed lungs, a common cloning problem — it proved Celia's cells are viable, and offered hope for reviving extinct animals using DNA samples. Other endangered animal species, such as the mountain gorilla, are now so rare that scientists have already begun freezing DNA for an expected extinction. (Source: New Scientist, Discover, Year of the Gorilla 2009, The Frozen Ark)
ON THE ROAD AGAIN: Automakers take their show on the road this week to the 67th annual Washington Auto Show, which for GM and Chrysler will be an even more overt overture to U.S. lawmakers than last month's Detroit auto show was. While that event drew just one legislator, Washington's will be a direct sales pitch to a skeptical Congress. Not long after the show's over, GM and Chrysler will be at Capitol Hill updating lawmakers on their plans to become viable and sustainable. Failure to impress could doom the struggling companies. (Source: The Washington Post)
AQUAMONIOUS: The ongoing quasi-violence in Antarctic waters is escalating toward actual violence, as Japanese whalers are now retaliating against pestering conservationists by spraying them with a water cannon. Some of the conservationists — who have been following the whaling ships for months to thwart their hunts — said they were also hit by hunks of metal and golf balls, and that the whalers tried to use a "military grade" noise weapon, but Japanese officials say they only fired water. Activists from the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society have been throwing rancid butter, paint and ropes at the whalers' ships. (Source: AP)
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