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Tuesday, Jul 29th

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US sets up honey bee loss task force

honey bee taskforcehoney bee taskforceThe White House has set up a taskforce to tackle the decline of honey bees.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the agriculture department will lead the effort, which includes $8m (£4.7m) for new honey bee habitats.

Bee populations saw a 23% decline last winter, a trend blamed on the loss of genetic diversity, exposure to certain pesticides and other factors. A quarter of the food Americans eat, including apples, carrots and avocados, relies on pollination.

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Fukushima ‘ice wall’ looking more like a dirt Slurpee

Fukushima ice wall failureSkeptics of the plan to build a massive ice wall around Japan’s crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear facility didn’t have to wait particularly long for their first “I told you so.”

TEPCO, the nominal operator of the battered plant, announced Tuesday that while construction on the network of pipes, pumps, and compressors has begun on what is intended to be a huge ice barrier to prevent mountain runoff from mixing with radioactive water inside the facility, attempts to form a smaller ice wall around already-contaminated water are failing.

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The new oil crisis: Exploding trains

New oil crisisCommunities throughout the U.S. and Canada are waking up to the dark side of North America’s energy boom: Trains hauling crude oil are crashing, exploding and spilling in record numbers as a fast-growing industry outpaces the federal government’s oversight.

In the 11 months since a runaway oil train derailed in the middle of a small town in Quebec, incinerating 47 people, the rolling virtual pipelines have unleashed crude oil into an Alabama swamp, forced more than 1,000 North Dakota residents to evacuate, dangled from a bridge in Philadelphia and smashed into an industrial building near Pittsburgh. The latest serious accident was April’s fiery crash in Lynchburg, Virginia, where even the mayor had been unaware oil was rolling through his city.

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Alex Baer: Freedom's Just Another Word

FreedomSituation Report:  I steamed my eyelids open again with real coffee, a nice treat for a weekday.  This idle, schedule-less time is a gift from my era.  It is a gift from the same chunk of time that decided a long while ago that I was not only economically redundant, but execrably so, and so, I was added to the Shoals of the Doomed & Adrift -- and then expertly excreted from the highly-lauded realm of competitive, cutthroat capitalism and into the murky lagoons and mired holding ponds of Excess Capacity.

In economics, as in most other areas of America life since, oh, 1960, it's best to fog and cloud the real issues, and all-too-human effects, with cold, distancing euphemisms.  So, the Shoals of the Shredded & Damned are magically converted -- presto! -- to Excess Capacity.  Language is very much like statistics:  What is revealed is routine; what is concealed is essential.

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Earthquake Insurance Becomes Boom Industry in Oklahoma

oklahoma earthquakeAt least one industry is benefiting from the recent epidemic of tremors in the Sooner State

Just a few years ago, earthquake insurance wasn’t something many thought much about in Oklahoma. That’s changed with the outbreak of tremors that has rattled the state in recent years, which many blame on increased oil- and gas-drilling activity.

“Every time there’s a decent-size earthquake, there’s a spike in interest,” says Matthew Ramirez, an agent for Farmer’s Insurance in Edmond, which has been affected by many of the recent quakes. So far in 2014, Oklahoma has seen 200 earthquakes of magnitude 3.0 or stronger.

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Oil train fires require SWAT teams, veteran firefighters tell states

crude oil train firesA pair of Texans with decades of firefighting experience is encouraging state and local government leaders to consider establishing SWAT-like response teams for crude oil train fires.

A series of derailments of trains loaded with crude oil in the past year has exposed numerous safety vulnerabilities, including the integrity of the rail cars, the condition of the tracks and the way the trains are operated.

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In NC hamlet, residents worry over coal ash ponds

coal ashThe sweet tea served in the tidy kitchen of Joanne Thomas' antebellum home comes with an ominous warning.

"It's made with bottled water," says Thomas, a spry 71-year-old. "But the ice comes from our well."

For more than 80 years, the Thomas family has lived on a farm that abuts three pits containing 6.1 million tons of ash from the coal-fired boilers of Duke Energy's Buck Steam Station. Built in 1926, the plant towers over the Yadkin River an hour's drive from the Charlotte headquarters of the nation's largest electricity company.

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