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Member since: Tue Feb 10, 2004, 12:08 PM
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Environmental Scientist

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Alabama has no money. A lottery might be its last hope.

By Jeff Guo

Alabama might be the next to break down and start a lottery. For years, it has used loans, savings and one-time windfalls to balance its budget. Now it faces an intractable $200-300 million shortfall — a $700 million shortfall if all the borrowed money is thrown into the calculation.

“We knew this day was going to come. We knew this crisis was going to take place, and it’s here,” Gov. Robert Bentley (R ) said in a speech Monday morning.

Bentley has drawn criticism from his own party over his proposal for a $541 million tax increase, largely paid for by increases in the cigarette tax and the auto sales tax. So far, the Republican-controlled legislature has resisted his demands for new revenue. They are asking state agencies to submit plans for budget cuts in the vicinity of 15 to 30 percent.

Democrats in the state have come up with a third solution. A lottery, argues Rep. Craig Ford (D), could put a huge dent in the state’s budget problems — bringing in perhaps $280 million a year. Alabama Democrats have been proposing lottery legislation for years, but this time is different. The situation in Alabama is dire enough that a top Republican has added his name to the bill as well.


Koch-backed law seeks to block GMO labeling

Written by Lisa Neff,

Koch Industries’ favorite congressman recently introduced a bill to restrict the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s ability to mandate GMO labeling and block states from requiring labels for genetically engineered food.

Proponents of labeling call the measure introduced by U.S. Rep. Mike Pompeo of Kansas the “Deny Americans the Right to Know Act,” aka the “DARK Act.”

Pompeo, a Republican, received more contributions in recent elections from the energy giant Koch Industries than any other congressional member, according to the environmental advocacy group Friends of the Earth.

The lawmaker said he reintroduced the Keep Food Safe and Affordable Act with co-sponsorship from eight Democrats and nine Republicans. The measure contains a new provision to allow food-producers to voluntarily label products as GMO-free through a USDA-accredited certification process.

But Lisa Archer, food and technology program director of Friends of the Earth, called the measure a “chemical and junk food industry dream bill.”

She said the legislation would “set in stone the current, voluntary labeling system that has failed consumers and would replace strong, independent, non-GMO certification with a weak federal program, adding more confusion for consumers who have a right to know what’s in their food.”


Ceres' bright spots return to view in new Dawn spacecraft images from NASA

The two brightest spots on the dwarf planet Ceres, which have fascinated scientists for months, are back in view in the newest images from NASA's Dawn spacecraft. Dawn took these images on April 14 and 15 from a vantage point 14,000 miles (22,000 kilometers) above Ceres’ north pole.

From NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory:

The images show the brightest spot and its companion clearly standing out against their darker surroundings, but their composition and sources are still unknown. Scientists also see other interesting features, including heavy cratering. As Dawn gets closer to Ceres, surface features will continue to emerge at increasingly better resolution.

Dawn has now finished delivering the images that have helped mission planners maneuver the spacecraft to its first science orbit and prepare for subsequent observations. All of the approach operations have executed flawlessly and kept Dawn on course and on schedule. Beginning April 23, Dawn will spend about three weeks in a near-circular orbit around Ceres, taking observations from 8,400 miles (13,500 kilometers) above the surface. On May 9, Dawn will begin to make its way to lower orbits to improve the view and provide higher-resolution observations.

"The approach imaging campaign has completed successfully by giving us a preliminary, tantalizing view of the world Dawn is about to start exploring in detail. It has allowed us to start asking some new and intriguing questions," said Marc Rayman, Dawn's mission director and chief engineer, based at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California.



New species of frog found in Costa Rica looks just like Kermit

Someone should let Kermit know he has a new relative.

A new species of frog called the Hyalinobatrachium dianae has been found in Costa Rica. Similar to the glass frog, the lime-colored amphibian has translucent skin on its underside and has eyes that make it look like the famous Muppet, Kermit.

The frog's translucent belly makes its internal organs easy to see, but its those big, white eyes with perfect black centers that give a distinctive, Muppet-like look.

The frog was photographed by Dr. Brian Kubicki, who detailed the new species in a study with zoologist Stanley Salazar and Robert Puschendorf. Dr. Kubicki named the creature after his mother, Janet Diana Kubicki, according to the Costa Rican Amphibian Research Center.



Michael Brown's memorial tree 'cut down' after one night in Ferguson

Source: Mashable

One day after a Michael Brown memorial tree was planted in Ferguson, Missouri, someone appears to have slashed it in half.

A memorial stone placed at the foot of the tree is also missing, according to a local news channel, which was planted by members of the Black Caucus of the American Library Association.

Caucus members had planted the tree in January Wabash Memorial Park on Saturday. But just one day later, community members found it cut. Police say they have no idea who desecrated the memorial.

Residents of the city were shocked.

Read more: http://mashable.com/2015/04/20/michael-brown-tree/

5 things you could do on 420, if marijuana were legal in your state

As it stands, only three states in the U.S. allow for the legal recreational use of marijuana. That means that the other 47 states are going to have to spend their 420 a little, well, high and dry.

If you don't live in Colorado, Washington or Alaska (or D.C.), and weren't feeling pangs of FOMO already, here are five things you could be doing to celebrate this unofficial stoner holiday, if your state legalized marijuana. (Oregonians, you can save these ideas for when recreational marijuana is legal on the next 420.)

1. Visit a fancy cannabis grow house

One of the leading companies in Colorado's emerging marijuana market is Silverpeak Apothecary, whose High Valley Farm has some of the most beautiful cannabis plants you will ever see. Besides the impeccably clean conditions, High Valley Farm is dedicated to upholding state regulations on cannabis growing. "The big thing about compliance is, we're into it. We support it," says Mike Woods, COO of Silverpeak Apothecary. "If Colorado trips, it's a setback."

2. Join a private smoke club

You would think that people would smoke wherever they want in a state that legalized recreational marijuana use, but that is far from reality. State laws do not allow public cannabis consumption, which makes it tricky when you want to get high with your friends. As a result, private smoke clubs have started to pop up, which allow smokers to socialize in a private setting.

3. Get a cannabis-infused facial



Norway to Become First Country to Switch Off FM Radio in 2017

In what will likely be the first of a global transition to digital radio, Norway has announced it will switch off its FM band, becoming the first country to do so. Norway will start turning off FM radio on January 11, 2017, and plans to stop transmission of the last FM signal to the country's northernmost regions by Dec. 13 of that year.

The announcement, made by their Ministry of Culture, makes Norway the first country to do away entirely with FM radio. The move is intended to save money and allow a full transition to digital radio, which Norway argues will give listeners "access to more diverse and pluralistic radio content and enjoy better sound quality and new functionality."

In its statement, the Norwegian government said the cost of transmitting national radio channels through the FM network is eight times higher than via the Digital Audio Broadcasting (DAB) system, the standard digital radio technology used across Europe. By shutting off FM, Norway's national radio channels will save more than $25 million a year, according to official figures "releasing funds for investment in radio content," argued minister of culture Thorhild Widvey.

"This is an important day for everyone who loves radio," said Thor Gjermund Eriksen, head of public broadcasting network NRK, in a statement. "The minister's decision allows us to concentrate our resources even more upon what is most important, namely to create high-quality and diverse radio content to our listeners."

This Day in 1999: Colombine happened

16 years ago

McDonald’s starts testing all-day breakfast on 4/20

Devotees of the McDonald’s breakfast menu celebrated in March when it was announced that the fast food chain would extend breakfast beyond the standard 10.30am cut-off time.

The first US state to pilot the plan has chosen a conspicuous date on which to start: 4/20, the annual celebration of cannabis culture.

San Diego's all-day breakfast menu, which starts on Monday April 20, is limited to nine items and McCafé drinks. Customers can get egg McMuffin, sausage McMuffin with egg, sausage burrito, sausage McMuffin, hash brown and hotcakes, oatmeal and yoghurt all day. McGriddles, cakes and steak, egg and cheese bagels have been left off the menu.


US Congress bill could protect Israel from boycotts

Proposed legislation seeks to impose counter-measures on countries, organizations, companies or individuals who boycott Israel.
Yitzhak Benhorin, Michal Margalit

The US Congress is preparing a counter offensive to the tsunami of boycotts against Israel, with legislators pushing a bill giving Israel a unique economic status and protection from sanctions.

The proposed legislation constitutes a threat of an American counter-boycott against countries, UN organizations and private companies who boycott Israeli products, political or cultural institutions, or scholars.

The bill proposal is led by Republican House representative Peter Roskam from Illinois and has garnered wide support from both Republicans and Democrats in the House.

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