7/30/10  #583
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Who can it be knocking at my door? Make no sound...tip-toe across the floor. If he hears, I'll be stuck all day.  I'll be trapped, and here I'll have to stay.   That's OK, because you'll have this weeks exciting issue of strange conspiracies, UFOs and the paranormal - Conspiracy Journal!  So tell those pesky intelligence operatives that you don't have time for another mind-control session, because Conspiracy Journal is here and demanding to be read.

This week Conspiracy Journal has such tendon-snapping stories as:

- Massive Asteroid Could Hit Earth in 2182 -
- Curse of the Men-In-Black -
-  Google, CIA Invest in ‘Future’ of Web Monitoring -
Mars Site May Hold 'Buried Life' -
AND: Women Living Near the Cerne Abbas Giant are More Fertile

All these exciting stories and MORE in this week's issue of

~ And Now, On With The Show! ~





As one distressed UFO researcher put it, Ever since organized flying saucer research began, a disturbing number of serious investigators have suffered personal harassment, unusual accidents and even mysterious deaths. In some cases, sinister voices have whispered threats over the telephone and warned certain researchers to terminate specific projects they were focused on.

Recently, an increasing number of civilian UFOlogists have been visited by ominous strangers who have made it physically clear that their orders to discontinue all investigations would be enforced. Official disclaimers have only served to intensify the mystery of the bizarre incidents currently seeding chaos within the rank of civilian UFO investigators and instilling fear among those who witness flying saucer activity.


Featured on the History Channel's UFO Hunters and on Coast to Coast AM, eminent investigator Tim Beckley details dozens of additional bone chilling encounters with the MIB who have become a curse on the rank and file members of the UFO community.

++ Shadowy "Grim Reaper" like figures stalk the streets of a north Iowa town. What are they concealing in the bags they go about hiding in the woods?

++ Radio Talk Show host is ordered by metallic voice over phone (unlisted number!) to "meet them on the Mount". . .known as a haunted place and the site of a number of mysterious deaths and disappearances.

++ A large floating platform the size of 3 football fields hovers near a nuclear power plant. Witnesses observe several small bald headed aliens accompanied by 9 foot giants. Trying to leave the area, their car refuses to start. They are surrounded by military personnel and their vehicle is ransacked. They are told never to speak of the incident OR ELSE!

++ In the cemetery where Charles Fort is buried ominous black vehicles disappear down side roads never to be seen again. They pass by on the gravel pavement going over grates without the sound of tires. The cemetery is also haunted by a big black dog and a couple who fly over the tombstones at dusk in their pajamas!

Are these sinister sindividuals simply government agents gone amuck in their harassment of witnesses and investigators who have dedicated their lives delving into the unexplainable? Or are they something far more sinister as evidence in this volume indicates? Perhaps the MIB are representatives of an extraterrestrial "police force," whose job is to keep the gates to a parallel universe closed tightly behind them.


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Massive Asteroid Could Hit Earth in 2182

A massive asteroid might crash into Earth in the year 2182, scientists have warned.

The asteroid, called 1999 RQ36, has a 1-in-1,000 chance of actually hitting the Earth at some point before the year 2200, but is most likely to hit us on 24th September 2182.

It was first discovered in 1999 and is more than 1,800 feet across. If an asteroid of this size hit the Earth it would cause widespread devastation and possible mass extinction.

And scientists say that any attempt to try and divert the asteroid will have to take place more than 100 years before it is due to hit to have any chance of success.

f the asteroid had not been spotted until after 2080 it would be impossible to divert it from its target, they warned in a new research paper.

While the odds may seem long, they are far shorter than that of the asteroid Apophis, which currently has a 1 in 250,000 chance of striking Earth in 2036.

A competition was launched in 2008 by the Planetary Society for designs for a space probe to land on Apophis and monitor its progress.

Maria Eugenia Sansaturio and scientists from the Universidad de Valladolid in Spain have used mathematical models to calculate the risk of the asteroid hitting the Earth anytime between now and the year 2200.

And they were shocked to discover that there are two potential opportunities for the asteroid to hit Earth in the year 2182.

‘The total impact probability of asteroid '(101955) 1999 RQ36' can be estimated in 0.00092 –approximately one-in-a-thousand chance-, but what is most surprising is that over half of this chance (0.00054) corresponds to 2182,’ Sansaturio said.

The asteroid is now behind the Sun and will next be observable only in the spring of 2011.

Scientists have estimated and monitored the potential impacts for this asteroid between now and 2200 using two different mathematical models.

Between now and 2060, the chances of Earth impacts from 1999 RQ36 are remote.

But the researchers discovered that the odds increase fourfold by 2080 as the asteroid's orbit brings it swinging back towards Earth.

The odds then drop before rising again in 2162 and 2182.

Asteroid 1999 RQ36 is part of the Potentially Hazardous Asteroids (PHA) group, which all have the possibility of hitting the Earth due to their orbits and are all considered likely to cause damage.

Even though the asteroid’s orbit is well-known thanks to 290 different observations by telescopes and 13 radar measurements there is uncertainty about its path because of the so-called Yarkovsky effect.

This effect, first discovered in 2003 and named after a Russian engineer, is produced by the way an asteroid absorbs energy from the sun and re-radiates it into space as heat. This can subtly alter the asteroid’s flight path.

The research, which has been published in Icarus journal, predicts what could happen in the upcoming years considering this effect.

Sansaturio said: ‘The consequence of this complex dynamic is not just the likelihood of a comparatively large impact, but also that a realistic deflection procedure (path deviation) could only be made before the impact in 2080, and more easily, before 2060.'

She added: ‘If this object had been discovered after 2080, the deflection would require a technology that is not currently available.

‘Therefore, this example suggests that impact monitoring, which up to date does not cover more than 80 or 100 years, may need to encompass more than one century.

‘Thus, the efforts to deviate this type of objects could be conducted with moderate resources, from a technological and financial point of view.’

The impact from the asteroid that created the famous Chicxulub crater in Mexico would have caused 'mega-tsunamis' many thousands of feet high.

It is believed that this asteroid led to the extinction of the dinosaurs.

Scientists around the world have long been discussing ways of deflecting potentially hazardous asteroids to prevent them hitting Earth.

One of the more popular methods is to detonate a nuclear warhead on an approaching asteroid to deflect it from its orbital path.

Last month physicist David Dearborn of the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in the US argued that nuclear weapons could be the best strategy for avoiding an asteroid impact - especially for large asteroids and with little warning time.

Source: The Daily Mail (UK)


Curse of the Men-In-Black
Excerpts from Tim Beckley's new book

Since the early days of modern UFO sightings, many investigators have been visited by strange men (and sometimes women) who warn of impending doom in regards to certain UFO cases. Some feel the MIB might well be working for the economic industrial complex or at least are in agreement to squelch any evidence that would bring great advancement to our planet. It could well be that the MIBs are cronies of the darkest elements of our society who would like to keep enlightenment away from earth's general populace.

However you want to look at it, the Men-In-Black (MIB), are not fairy tales or the product of deranged minds. They are very real and obviously very powerful. Here are a couple of examples from Tim Beckley's new book "Curse of the Men-In-Black" now available at the Conspiracy Journal Bookshop, Amazon.com, and other book sellers.

The state of Arizona has always been a hotbed (pardon the expression) of UFO activity. Maybe it has something to do with Wendelle Stevens living there (only kidding Wendelle), but nevertheless I can remember a handful of MIB reports being handed to me.

Take for example the case of a Tucson newsboy, Warren Weisman who was delivering the Daily Star on Feb 19, 1979 at around 6 AM when he saw an odd looking object crash into a parked car at the side of the road.

According to a newspaper account this is his story:

"I was on Winstel Blvd when I saw this 'falling star' come from the sky. It was traveling at great speed and landed about a block away. It smashed the back of a white Volkswagen, throwing off its right rear wheel, rolled off the car and knocked over a mailbox on a post nearby."

The ten year old fifth grader said the object was about the size of a microwave oven, was black, shiny, and had lots of "lava-like" holes all around it. Weisman said the object was smoking when he walked over to it.

As he bent over to examine his unusual find a brown pulled up and says the witness, "A skinny man in a brown suit and white shirt got out of the car. He was an FBI-type. He told me, "Why don't you go ahead and deliver the rest of the papers?"

As he stood talking to the man, what Warren thinks was a Pima County Sheriff's car pulled up along side the brown car. "I was afraid that the man in the brown suit was going to pull a gun," Warren said. He quickly departed from home to tell his mother about what had happened.

Twenty minutes later, he returned to the scene of the "crash" with his mother.

"All we found was the tire and the broken mailbox." The smashed car and the smoking object had totally vanished without a trace. Interviewed later, the boy claimed he had put a small chip from the object into his pocket while looking it over. However, when he got hom a little while later it was gone.

"I don't know what happened to it," he confessed. "I didn't have any holes in my pocket from which it could have fallen to the ground."

What at first might seem to be a tale story fabricated by a highly imaginative youth has additional verification in that there were other witnesses to the event.

The Arizona Daily Star says that "three counselors who patrol the area while children deliver newspapers saw it fall but didn't see where it hat the ground."

The woman who lives in the house where the mailbox was knocked down, said she and her family assumed someone had hit it with a car. Margaret Pierce said she hadn't heard anything unusual that morning, but around the time Warren usually delivers the paper to their house "our dogs just started barking and we couldn't calm them down. They were really upset and that's not like them at all."

At the time the UFO group APRO was still active in Tucson and were called upon to make an investigation. As far as is known they never issued a report, and in the meanwhile Warren Weisman remained one frightened individual due to a possible visit by an MIB.

Another interesting case occurred in Greenland, Long Island, New York, sometime in October 1967.

Awakened by the sounds of his dogs barking Joseph Henslik looked outside and was surprised to see a strange circular object circling over the post office building near his house. Reacting quickly he grabbed his camera and ran to the patio. He took several photos of the luminous disc-shaped object that appeared to have a turret on top on which he could see several lighted windows.

Two days after once he had obtained the negatives two strange men visited Henslik at his home. After returning home at about 0300A that morning he noticed that two men were waiting for him.

He described them as being of medium height, black hair and very tanned skin. Both wore very tight-fitting black slacks; black turtle necked sweaters and what appeared to be a black "smoking" jacket. One of the men approached Henslik and in a strange Scandinavian sounding accent he told him that they were representatives of the government and that they needed to speak to him.

They refused to show him any credentials since they claimed to belong to a "top secret government agency".

The stranger told him, "We know that you took some photographs that can be considered authentic and in the name of your family, the government and the world (!) We request you give those to us".

Henslik told them that he did not have the photos yet, the men then left promising to return the next day. Precisely at the same time the next day Henslik received another visit, this time from three similarly dressed strangers, totally dressed in black.

Afraid Henslik gave them the negatives, which they examined closely with a flashlight, then, warned him not to tell anyone about the photos and walked away into the darkness. Henslik was surprised since he did not see a vehicle or any other mode of transportation in the area.

Source: Tim Beckley's Curse of the Men-In-Black


Google, CIA Invest in ‘Future’ of Web Monitoring

The investment arms of the CIA and Google are both backing a company that monitors the web in real time — and says it uses that information to predict the future.

The company is called Recorded Future, and it scours tens of thousands of websites, blogs and Twitter accounts to find the relationships between people, organizations, actions and incidents — both present and still-to-come. In a white paper, the company says its temporal analytics engine “goes beyond search” by “looking at the ‘invisible links’ between documents that talk about the same, or related, entities and events.”

The idea is to figure out for each incident who was involved, where it happened and when it might go down. Recorded Future then plots that chatter, showing online “momentum” for any given event.

“The cool thing is, you can actually predict the curve, in many cases,” says company CEO Christopher Ahlberg, a former Swedish Army Ranger with a PhD in computer science.

Which naturally makes the 16-person Cambridge, Massachusetts, firm attractive to Google Ventures, the search giant’s investment division, and to In-Q-Tel, which handles similar duties for the CIA and the wider intelligence community.

It’s not the very first time Google has done business with America’s spy agencies. Long before it reportedly enlisted the help of the National Security Agency to secure its networks, Google sold equipment to the secret signals-intelligence group. In-Q-Tel backed the mapping firm Keyhole, which was bought by Google in 2004 — and then became the backbone for Google Earth.

This appears to be the first time, however, that the intelligence community and Google have funded the same startup, at the same time. No one is accusing Google of directly collaborating with the CIA. But the investments are bound to be fodder for critics of Google, who already see the search giant as overly cozy with the U.S. government, and worry that the company is starting to forget its “don’t be evil” mantra.

America’s spy services have become increasingly interested in mining “open source intelligence” — information that’s publicly available, but often hidden in the daily avalanche of TV shows, newspaper articles, blog posts, online videos and radio reports.

“Secret information isn’t always the brass ring in our profession,” then CIA-director General Michael Hayden told a conference in 2008. “In fact, there’s a real satisfaction in solving a problem or answering a tough question with information that someone was dumb enough to leave out in the open.”

U.S. spy agencies, through In-Q-Tel, have invested in a number of firms to help them better find that information. Visible Technologies crawls over half a million web 2.0 sites a day, scraping more than a million posts and conversations taking place on blogs, YouTube, Twitter and Amazon. Attensity applies the rules of grammar to the so-called “unstructured text” of the web to make it more easily digestible by government databases. Keyhole (now Google Earth) is a staple of the targeting cells in military-intelligence units.

Recorded Future strips from web pages the people, places and activities they mention. The company examines when and where these events happened (“spatial and temporal analysis”) and the tone of the document (“sentiment analysis”). Then it applies some artificial-intelligence algorithms to tease out connections between the players. Recorded Future maintains an index with more than 100 million events, hosted on Amazon.com servers. The analysis, however, is on the living web.

“We’re right there as it happens,” Ahlberg told Danger Room as he clicked through a demonstration. “We can assemble actual real-time dossiers on people.”

Recorded Future certainly has the potential to spot events and trends early. Take the case of Hezbollah’s long-range missiles. On March 21, Israeli President Shimon Peres leveled the allegation that the terror group had Scud-like weapons. Scouring Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah’s past statements, Recorded Future found corroborating evidence from a month prior that appeared to back up Peres’ accusations.

That’s one of several hypothetical cases Recorded Future runs in its blog devoted to intelligence analysis. But it’s safe to assume that the company already has at least one spy agency’s attention. In-Q-Tel doesn’t make investments in firms without an “end customer” ready to test out that company’s products.

Both Google Ventures and In-Q-Tel made their investments in 2009, shortly after the company was founded. The exact amounts weren’t disclosed, but were under $10 million each. Google’s investment came to light earlier this year online. In-Q-Tel, which often announces its new holdings in press releases, quietly uploaded a brief mention of its investment a few weeks ago.

Both In-Q-Tel and Google Ventures have seats on Recorded Future’s board. Ahlberg says those board members have been “very helpful,” providing business and technology advice, as well as introducing him to potential customers. Both organizations, it’s safe to say, will profit handsomely if Recorded Future is ever sold or taken public. Ahlberg’s last company, the corporate intelligence firm Spotfire, was acquired in 2007 for $195 million in cash.

Google Ventures did not return requests to comment for this article. In-Q-Tel Chief of Staff Lisbeth Poulos e-mailed a one-line statement: “We are pleased that Recorded Future is now part of IQT’s portfolio of innovative startup companies who support the mission of the U.S. Intelligence Community.”

Just because Google and In-Q-Tel have both invested in Recorded Future doesn’t mean Google is suddenly in bed with the government. Of course, to Google’s critics — including conservative legal groups, and Republican congressmen — the Obama Administration and the Mountain View, California, company slipped between the sheets a long time ago.

Google CEO Eric Schmidt hosted a town hall at company headquarters in the early days of Obama’s presidential campaign. Senior White House officials like economic chief Larry Summers give speeches at the New America Foundation, the left-of-center think tank chaired by Schmidt. Former Google public policy chief Andrew McLaughlin is now the White House’s deputy CTO, and was publicly (if mildly) reprimanded by the administration for continuing to hash out issues with his former colleagues.

In some corners, the scrutiny of the company’s political ties have dovetailed with concerns about how Google collects and uses its enormous storehouse of search data, e-mail, maps and online documents. Google, as we all know, keeps a titanic amount of information about every aspect of our online lives. Customers largely have trusted the company so far, because of the quality of their products, and because of Google’s pledges not to misuse the information still ring true to many.

But unease has been growing. Thirty seven state Attorneys General are demanding answers from the company after Google hoovered up 600 gigabytes of data from open Wi-Fi networks as it snapped pictures for its Street View project. (The company swears the incident was an accident.)

“Assurances from the likes of Google that the company can be trusted to respect consumers’ privacy because its corporate motto is ‘don’t be evil’ have been shown by recent events such as the ‘Wi-Spy’ debacle to be unwarranted,” long-time corporate gadfly John M. Simpson told a Congressional hearing in a prepared statement. Any business dealings with the CIA’s investment arm are unlikely to make critics like him more comfortable.

But Steven Aftergood, a critical observer of the intelligence community from his perch at the Federation of American Scientists, isn’t worried about the Recorded Future deal. Yet.

“To me, whether this is troublesome or not depends on the degree of transparency involved. If everything is aboveboard — from contracts to deliverables — I don’t see a problem with it,” he told Danger Room by e-mail. “But if there are blank spots in the record, then they will be filled with public skepticism or worse, both here and abroad, and not without reason.”

Source: Wired


Mars Site May Hold 'Buried Life'

Researchers have identified rocks that they say could contain the fossilised remains of life on early Mars.

The team made their discovery in the ancient rocks of Nili Fossae.

Their work has revealed that this trench on Mars is a "dead ringer" for a region in Australia where some of the earliest evidence of life on Earth has been buried and preserved in mineral form.

They report the findings in the journal Earth and Planetary Science Letters.

The team, led by a scientist from the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence Institute (Seti) in California, believes that the same "hydrothermal" processes that preserved these markers of life on Earth could have taken place on Mars at Nili Fossae.

The rocks there are up to four billion years old, which means they have been around for three-quarters of the history of Mars.

When, in 2008, scientists first discovered carbonate in those rocks the Mars science community reacted with great excitement; carbonate had long been sought as definitive evidence that the Red planet was habitable - that life could have existed there.

Carbonate is what life - or at least the mineral portion of a living organism - turns into, in many cases, when it is buried. The white cliffs of Dover, for example, are white because they contain limestone, or calcium carbonate.

The mineral comes from the fossilised remains shells and bones and provides a way to investigate the ancient life that existed on early Earth.

In this new research, scientists have taken the identification of carbonate on Mars a step further.

Adrian Brown from the Seti Institute, who led the research, used an instrument aboard Nasa's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter called Crism to study the Nilae Fossae rocks with infrared light.

Then he and his team used exactly the same technique to study rocks in an area in north-west Australia called the Pilbara.

"The Pilbara is very cool," Dr Brown told BBC News. "It's part of the Earth that has managed to stay at the surface for around 3.5 billion years - so about three quarters of the history of the Earth."

"It allows us a little window into what was happening on the Earth at its very early stages."

And all those billions of years ago, scientists believe that microbes formed some distinctive features in the Pilbara rocks - features called "stromatolites" that can be seen and studied today.

"Life made these features. We can tell that by the fact that only life could make those shapes; no geological process could."

This latest study has revealed that the rocks at Nili Fossae are very similar to the Pilbara rocks - in terms of the minerals they contain.

And Dr Brown and his colleagues believe that this shows that the remnants of life on early Mars could be buried at this site.

"If there was enough life to make layers, to make corals or some sort of microbial homes, and if it was buried on Mars, the same physics that took place on Earth could have happened there," he said. That, he suggests, is why the two sites are such a close match.
'Geological olympics'

Dr Brown and many other scientists had hoped that they would soon have the opportunity to get much closer to these rocks. Nili Fossae was put forward as a potential landing site for Nasa'a ambitious new rover, the Mars Science Laboratory, which will be launched in 2011.

The site was championed by other geologists, including John Mustard from Brown University in Rhode Island, whose team made the case to Nasa to have it included in the landing site shortlist for MSL.

But Nilae Fossae was eventually deemed too dangerous a landing site and it was finally removed from the list in June of this year.

"The rover is being landed remotely - so there's no human pilot involved; it's all up to the robot. And [that's] a very dangerous thing," said Dr Brown. "You need 20km of smooth terrain and unfortunately at this site it is pretty rocky - those ancient rocks are pretty weathered and the surface is rocky and uneven."

"It will be visiting another interesting site when it lands, but this is the place that we should be checking out for life on early Mars."

John Grant, a scientist from the Smithsonian Institution in Washington DC, and a member of the planetary sciences panel that advises Nasa on the MSL mission, spoke to BBC News earlier this year about the choice of landing site.

He said that the objective of mission was a search for "habitability". It was not, he said, a life detection mission.

"[It] entails looking at geologic environments that may not only have been habitable but where signals associated with that habitability have been preserved," he told BBC News in February.

But that does not alleviate the disappointment that many feel over having Nili Fossae and all its secrets taken off the table for the mission.

And what makes Mars Science Laboratory even more of a crucial mission for scientists is the fact that it will be the last rover to explore the surface of Mars until 2018 - partly because funding the mission has been so extraordinarily expensive.

Dr Brown described the experience of having his favoured landing site removed from the shortlist as the geological equivalent of having "your city's Olympic bid rejected".

MSL will be lowered onto Mars with a landing system called a sky crane

"I also see a race happening here," he said. "It might take us a couple of decades to build our capability to land [unmanned] rovers somewhere geologically interesting on Mars.

"And in those decades, human space flight capabilities are going to develop and we could have the capability to send humans to Mars."

So in this race of the human versus the robots, which will win?

"It's my personal belief," said Dr Brown, "that by the time real human geologists get to go to Mars, the question of whether there is life on Mars will still be open."

Source: BBC


Deep Underground, Miles of Hidden Wildfires Rage

Three blistering fires are blazing through Wyoming's scenic Powder River Basin, but firefighters aren't paying any attention. Other than a faint hint of acrid odors and a single ribbon of smoke rising from a tiny crack beyond the nearby Tongue River, a long look across the region's serene grassland shows no sign of trouble.

That's what makes the three infernos, and the toxins they spew, so sinister. Their flames are concealed deep underground, in coal seams and oxygen-rich fissures, which makes containment near impossible. Shielded from fire hoses and aerial assaults, the flames are chewing through coal seams 20 feet thick, spanning 22 acres. They're also belching greenhouse gases and contaminants, contributing to an out-of-sight, out-of-mind environmental hazard that extends far beyond Wyoming's borders. "Every coal basin in the world has fires sending up organic compounds that are not good for you," says Mark Engle, a geologist with the U.S. Geological Survey who studies the Powder River Basin, "but unless you live close to them you probably never see them." See TIME's photoessay "Wildfires Burn Across California."

A surprising number of us live close to them. According to a review by the Department of Interior's Office of Surface Mining Enforcement and Reclamation, more than 100 fires are burning beneath nine states, most of them in Colorado, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Utah and West Virginia. But geologists say many fires go unreported, driving the actual number of them closer to 200 across 21 states. Most have burned for years, if not decades. Pennsylvania's three dozen underground fires include America's most notorious subterranean blaze, a 48-year-old fire in Centralia, whose noxious emissions sickened residents and eventually prompted the federal government in the late 1980s and early '90s to evict homeowners and pay them a collective $40 million for what is now a virtual ghost town.

Internationally, thousands of underground coal fires are burning on every continent except Antarctica. Anupma Prakash, a University of Alaska at Fairbanks geologist who maps the fires, calls them "a worldwide catastrophe with no geographic territory, and if we don't take care of them they're going to take a toll on us." The problem is most acute in industrializing, coal-rich nations such as China, where underground fires are consuming at least 10 million tons of coal annually — and some estimates multiply that amount twentyfold. In India, 68 fires are burning beneath a 58-square-mile region of the Jhairia coalfield near Dhanbad, showering residents in airborne toxins. "Go there and within 24 hours you're spitting out mucous with coal particles," Prakash says. "It's bad, worse than any city, anywhere."

Quantifying the amount of pollution that underground fires create is as difficult as spotting them. The smoke escaping through vents contains carbon dioxide, methane, mercury and at least 40 toxic compounds — "a whole soup of nasty stuff," according to Glenn Stracher, a geologist at East Georgia College in Swainsboro, Ga., who studies the emissions. But that soup's ingredients vary from hour to hour, even vent to vent, and some of the gases also escape through adjacent soil. "It's not like the oil well in the Gulf, where you measure how much is coming out per unit of time," Stracher says. "Making calculations is a tricky business." He and other researchers readily admit that global coal fire emission estimates — 40 tons of mercury spewing into the atmosphere annually, and 3% of the world's annual CO2 emissions — are imprecise. But the negative implications for human health and global warming, they say, are clear. See TIME's photoessay "American Inferno."

With that in mind, some countries are investigating whether snuffing the fires could help them earn carbon credits under the Kyoto Protocol, and are stepping up prevention awareness. Though geologic records show evidence of underground coal fires dating to the Pleistocene era, modern-day coal fires are often an unintended side effect of mining operations that open coal seams to oxygen. Once exposed, the coal undergoes a chemical reaction that releases heat. In some climate conditions the coal spontaneously combusts. Otherwise, lightning, wildfires or an ill-placed spark can trigger the blaze. The flames rip inside the buried coal seams at temperatures exceeding 1,000°F, sometimes fed by oxygen trapped in the microscopic spaces between dirt particles. They're also assisted by a process known as subsidence: as the burning coal turns to ash, it causes the overlying ground to crack and collapse, supplying the fire with fresh air. (See TIME's photoessay "Fire in the Heartland.")

Extinguishing a fire amounts to a frustrating, expensive version of whack-a-mole. "You put one down, then 300 feet later another one picks up," says Engle. Firefighters can dig up the burning coal or form a break around it, and they sometimes pump ignited seams with cryogenic liquids that absorb enough heat to prevent burning. But large coal deposits can span several miles at 90 feet deep and 100 feet thick, creating a honeycomb of pores that always leaves a few pockets of fire-fanning oxygen. That means the same fire can later reignite — and fighting underground fires doesn't come cheap. The U.S has already spent more than $1 billion battling underground coal fires, according to the Office of Surface Mining. Officials gave up hopes of dousing the extensive Centralia, Pa., fire because the job would have cost more than $600 million — and that was in 1983.

Less expensive alternatives are beginning to hit the market, from special heat-resistant grouts to a fire-smothering nitrogen foam, and other innovative solutions are on the way. "Look, tornadoes and earthquakes are here and gone," Stracher explains, "but these fires will burn for hundreds of years if we don't do something about them." It seems that where there's smoke there is indeed fire, whether we can see the hidden flames or not.

Source: Time


Women Living Near the Cerne Abbas Giant are More Fertile

Women living near an ancient fertility symbol produce the most babies in the country, according to new figures.

The naked 180ft Cerne Abbas Giant - thought to be thousands of years old - is carved out in the chalk downs in North Dorset.

Women living near the carving have an average of three children in their lifetime - a national record.

They are the highest birth-per female figures in Britain for more than 40 years.

Locals think the giant could be having an inspirational effect on couples in the area.

Nursery manager Katie Raine said the increasing number of children at the Archway Nursery in Pimperne - which is in sight of the Giant - were living proof of the findings.

"We can take 73 children in any one day and we're absolutely chock-a-block," she said.

"We have a baby unit for five infants, and that's booked until next year, so there's definitely a baby-boom on."

The findings, from a survey of 10,000 North Dorset women aged between 15 and 44, placed the district at the top of the charts, leaving the London borough of Westminster at the bottom, with just 1.16 children per woman.

Samantha Beadman, deputy manager of Winterbournes Day Nursery in Winterbourne Kingston, said news of the area's chart-topping fertility rate came as a surprise.

The new figures are based on research conducted last year. The findings showed a drop in the fertility rate for the first time since 2001.

Birth rates had been rising steadily since the millennium, reaching 1.97 per woman in 2008, from a base line of 1.65 in 2000.

North Dorset's survey-topping fertility rate beats the highest recorded national average, when figures recorded in 1964 revealed women were likely to produce 2.93 children in a lifetime.

Source: Telegraph (UK)

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