Why Are 96,000,000 Black Balls On This Reservoir?

Why Are 96,000,000 Black Balls On This Reservoir?

I took a boat through 96 million black plastic balls on the Los Angeles reservoir to find out why they're there. The first time I heard about shade balls the claim was they reduce evaporation. But it turns out this isn't the reason they were introduced.

Are Electric Cars Actually Any Better For The Environment Than Regular Cars?

Are Electric Cars Actually Any Better For The Environment Than Regular Cars?

Electric cars are charged on the grid — so aren't they still powered by fossil fuels? And isn't lithium mining terrible for the environment?

McDonald’s Ditches Plastic Straws In UK And Is Preparing To Bring Paper Straws To The US

McDonald’s Ditches Plastic Straws In UK And Is Preparing To Bring Paper Straws To The US


London, United Kingdom, May 27, 2012 : McDonald's yellow and red drive-thru logo advertising sign placed on a pole with a clear blue sky

Paper or plastic? You may soon not have a choice in what your straw you use to sip you McDonald’s milkshake. McDonald’s has plans to replace plastic straws with paper straws in the U.K. and Ireland very soon and the move could be coming to the U.S. as well. On Thursday, McDonald’s announced that they are making the switch to more environmentally friendly paper straws in the U.K. starting in September of this year.

“Reflecting the broader public debate, our customers told us they wanted to see a move on straws but to do so without compromising their overall experience when visiting our restaurants,” said McDonald’s U.K. and Ireland CEO Paul Pomroy. “Over the past few months we’ve been working closely with supplier partners to find a solution that works both for our customers, and that the supply is there given the size of our business.”

The move by the fast-food giant comes weeks after the European Union proposed a law that would ban one-time use utensils such as plastic forks, spoons knives, straws, drinks stirrers and cotton buds. Under the proposed law it bans all of these plastic utensils across Europe by 2019.


“The government’s ambitious plans, combined with strong customer opinion, has helped to accelerate the move away from plastic and I’m proud that we’ve been able to play our part in helping to achieve this societal change,” Pomroy said. McDonald’s is said to use 1.8 million straws a day in the U.K. alone.

The complete switch to paper straws is only happening in the 1,361 McDonald’s restaurants in the U.K. and Ireland for now, but McDonald’s is testing non-plastic straw alternatives in Belgium. Later this year, McDonald’s will begin trials of more environmentally friendly drinking straws in France, Malaysia, Norway, Sweden, and the United States. It is estimated that the U.S. uses 500 million plastic straws every day.

Though plastic straws are recyclable, they are often not recycled because they are too small and get into the environment. Straws can get into the ocean where marine animals eat them because they they think it is food. It is estimated that each year 100,000 marine animals and over 1 million seabirds die from ingesting plastic. Most straws are made from plastics that take hundreds of years to decompose. McDonald’s said the new straws will use paper from sustainable sources.

In 2015, an 8-minute cringe-worthy video of a plastic straw being removed from a sea turtle’s nose in Costa Rica went viral, and now has over 27 million views on YouTube.

How Nestle Makes Billions Bottling Free Water

How Nestle Makes Billions Bottling Free Water

Nestle, the world’s largest food and beverage company, bottles Michigan’s water for next to nothing and sells it at great profit. And the state has just approved its request to pump even more, despite the failed promise of jobs and 80,000 public comments against Nestle. Meanwhile, just two hours away, Flint still doesn't have clean water. AJ+'s Dena Takruri meets those who have a stake in this fight, including local environmentalists, a tribal citizen, ordinary residents and a Nestle spokeswoman.

Mussels Off The Coast Of Seattle Test Positive For Opioids

Mussels Off The Coast Of Seattle Test Positive For Opioids

As more and more American communities grapple with opioid addiction, the human toll of the epidemic has grown in both scope and severity. And now, scientists at the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife have found evidence that drug's impact has literally flowed downstream to affect marine life, as well.

Specifically, they used mussels as a barometer of pollution in the waters off Seattle, and discovered that oxycodone is now present enough in the marine environment there for shellfish to test positive.

Since mussels are "filter feeders," they absorb contaminants from their environment into their tissues in a concentrated way. Scientists used cages to transplant clean mussels from an aquaculture source on Whidbey Island to 18 urbanized locations around Puget Sound. Several months later, they pulled those previously uncontaminated mussels back out of the urban waters and, together with the Puget Sound Institute, tested them again.

In three of the 18 locations, the mussels then tested positive for trace amounts of oxycodone. How, you ask?

When humans ingest opioids like oxycodone, they ultimately end up excreting traces of the drugs into the toilet. Those chemicals then end up in wastewater. And while many contaminants are filtered out of wastewater before it's released into the oceans, wastewater management systems can't entirely filter out drugs. Thus, opioids, antidepressants, the common chemotherapy drug Melphalan -- the mussels tested positive for all of them.

"What we eat and what we excrete goes into the Puget Sound," Jennifer Lanksbury, a biologist at the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, told CBS Seattle affiliate KIRO. "It's telling me there's a lot of people taking oxycodone in the Puget Sound area."

While mussels likely don't metabolize drugs like oxycodone, and thus wouldn't necessarily be physically harmed by the presence of it in their tissues, studies show that fish are not so lucky. In fact, scientists at the University of Utah recently discovered that, if given the opportunity, zebrafish will willingly dose themselves with opioids. Scientists say salmon and other fish might have a similar response.

The Puget Sound Institute notes that the amounts of opioids detected were thousands of times smaller than a typical human dose. And none of the mussels tested are near any commercial shellfish beds.

Still, the discovery of opioid-positive shellfish in Puget Sound is a stark new milestone in the epidemic, showing that enough humans are hooked on these life-altering drugs for the trace chemicals they excrete to register in other species in our coastal waters.

Solution To Plastic Pollution Isn't A 'Sexy' One

Solution To Plastic Pollution Isn't A 'Sexy' One

You want big picture? National Geographic provides it on the issue of plastic choking the world's waterways. Invented in the late 19th century, plastic didn't truly take off in terms of production until around 1950, when scientists began making it out of petroleum in earnest. Now, we have 9.2 billion tons of it on the planet, of which 6.9 billion tons are waste. The real problem? The vast majority of that waste—6.3 billion tons—has not made it into recycling bins. Instead, much of it is in our oceans and waterways, often broken down in hard-to-see smaller particles. One alarming stat in the story is that on some beaches in Hawaii, about 15% of what appears to be sand is actually tiny grains of microplastic. You want small picture? The story includes an incredible photo of a seahorse clinging to a plastic cotton swab as it rides the current off Indonesia.







The problem is about more than aesthetics. "I don't think we should be waiting for a key finding of whether or not fish are hazardous to eat," says one researcher. "We have enough evidence to act." That will take a global initiative, however. By one estimate, about half of improperly discarded plastic comes from the five Asian nations of China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam, and Sri Lanka. So what to do? A shift to more biodegradable products would help, along with a rethinking of the cost-benefits of plastics use, and, crucially, better recycling. "Everyone wants a sexy answer," says one economist. "The reality is, we need to just collect the trash." He floats the idea of a tax of one penny for every pound of plastic resin made, with proceeds used to improve garbage collection in developing nations. Read the full story.


World's Biggest Underwater 'Dead Zone' Is A Very Bad Sign

World's Biggest Underwater 'Dead Zone' Is A Very Bad Sign

Robots have found the world's biggest underwater "dead zone" in the Gulf of Oman—yet another sign that such oxygen-depleted regions are only increasing worldwide, ZME Science reports. Scientists sent the remote-controlled submarines underwater for eight months and uncovered roughly 63,000 square miles with little to no oxygen in waters that link the Persian Gulf to the Arabian Sea. "Our research shows that the situation is actually worse than feared—and that the area of dead zone is vast and growing," research leader Bastien Queste says in a statement. "The ocean is suffocating. Of course all fish, marine plants and other animals need oxygen, so they can’t survive there." Such dead zones can happen naturally, the CBC notes, but they're becoming bigger and more common, mostly due to wastewater and chemical fertilizers.

The run-off feeds algae blooms that suck up much-needed underwater oxygen. They also clog the gills of fish, which drain more oxygen when the fish decay and die. Climate change plays a role too, Queste says, because "warmer waters hold less oxygen." The Weather Network explains that warmer water floats on top of colder water, so the layers can't mix and allow oxygen from the air to reach down below. The latest find only adds to alarming data that the number of coastline dead zones has gone from 50 to 500 since 1950. Large dead zones are also hard to fix, and Queste doesn't sound too optimistic. "It's a real environmental problem, with dire consequences for humans too who rely on the oceans for food and employment," he says.

Terrifying Reason North Korea Stopped Nuclear Testing

Terrifying Reason North Korea Stopped Nuclear Testing

A new study has revealed why North Korea halted all nuclear testing and well… it’s not exactly gonna give you a great feeling. If anything, it’s going to ruin your entire week, depending on how nihilistic or apathetic you are. That’s life!

The news comes less than a week after the rogue nation’s leader Kim Jong-un announced it would immediately suspend nuclear and missile tests as well as abandoning its testing site in the lead-up to meetings with the United States and South Korea.

However, some geologists at the University of Science and Technology of China have different reasons, IFL Science! reports.

The geologists wrote in an upcoming issue of  Geophysical Research Letters:

Our study reveals that the seismic event eight-and-a-half minutes after the nuclear test is an onsite collapse toward the nuclear test center, while the later events are an earthquake swarm occurring in similar locations.

The onsite collapse calls for continued close monitoring of any leaks of radioactive materials from the nuclear test site. The occurrence of the collapse should deem the underground infrastructure beneath mountain Mantap not be used for any future nuclear tests.

Given the history of the nuclear tests North Korea performed beneath this mountain, a nuclear test of a similar yield would produce collapses in an even larger scale creating an environmental catastrophe.

They added:

The triggered earthquake swarm indicates that North Korea’s past tests have altered the tectonic stress in the region to the extent that previously inactive tectonic faults in the region have reached their state of critical failure.

Any further disturbance from a future test could generate earthquakes that may be damaging by their own force or crack the nuclear test sites of the past or the present.

The study ties in with Kim Jong-un and Moon Jae-in agreeing to ‘rid the peninsula of nuclear weapons’.


The leaders of North and South Korea made a joint statement following talks at the border.

They have also agreed to ‘push towards’ a peace treaty later this year.

It comes after Kim became the first North Korean leader to step foot in South Korea since the end of the Korean War in 1953.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in and Kim Jong-un shook hands at the border, with the North Korean leader saying he hoped to have a ‘frank’ discussion.

Audiences watched as the pair stepped across the demarcation line into North Korea, and stepping back into South Korea, while holding hands.


According to reports Moon said there were ‘high expectations’ they could produce an agreement which will be a ‘big gift to the entire Korean nation and every peace loving person in the world’.

The White House said it was ‘hopeful’ the talks between the two leaders would make ‘progress toward peace and prosperity’.

As well as discussing Pyongyang’s nuclear ambitions, the two leaders are expected to discuss a path to peace between the two countries.

It’s early days for a relationship to build but this hopefully is one step in the right direction, despite any nuclear oopsy-daisies that might be going on across the North Korean border.

Why Europe's Insecticide Ban Is Big News For Bees

Why Europe's Insecticide Ban Is Big News For Bees

The European Union plans to ban the world’s most widely used insecticides in an effort to protect bees and other valuable pollinator insects.

The ban, approved by member countries Friday, targets insecticide compounds known as neonicotinoids (also called neonics for short). The ban is expected to come into force by the end of the year and will prohibit outdoor use of the chemicals (they may still be used inside greenhouses).

Neonics were introduced in the late 1980s as a safer alternative to older insecticides that are more toxic. Yet a growing body of research has pointed to environmental problems with their use.

Neonics are very effective at destroying the nerve cells of insects that ingest them. Most corn, soy, and wheat seeds planted today are coated with neonics. But if a bird eats the seeds, they could be at risk, EPA science shows. As the crops grow, the plants incorporate the neonics into their tissues, making them poisonous to any insect that nibbles on them. Pollen, nectar, sap, and even dead leaves contain neonics.

So does the soil, and because neonics readily mix with water, they're washed into streams, ponds, rivers, and possibly coastal zones, according to an international scientific assessment called Task Force on Systemic Pesticides.

“Neonics are 5,000 to 10,000 times more toxic than DDT,” said Jean-Marc Bonmatin of The National Centre for Scientific Research in France.


Not only have these insecticides been linked to dramatic declines in bees and other pollinators, they’re also suspected in declines in many other insect species, along with insect-eating birds and bats. Even important creatures like earthworms are being damaged by neonics, a four-year investigation by the task force found.

The EU had previously banned use of neonics on flowering crops that are known to specifically attract bees, noting that an estimated three quarters of important food crops may be pollinated by bees.

These insecticides are used everywhere: in homes, gardens, farms, greenhouses, orchards, parks, and forests. If a product says it will kill insects there’s a good chance it contains one of seven neonicotinoids: acetamiprid, clothianidin, imidacloprid, nitenpyram, nithiazine, thiacloprid, and thiamethoxam. (A list of products containing neonicotinoids can be found on the website for the U.S. Center for Food Safety.)

The U.S. EPA is currently re-evaluating the neonicotinoid family of pesticides, and temporarily halted the approval of new outdoor uses.

Gay Rights Lawyer Burns Himself To Death In Protest Against Fossil Fuels

Gay Rights Lawyer Burns Himself To Death In Protest Against Fossil Fuels

A well-known gay rights lawyer and environmental advocate has burned himself to death in a grisly protest against ecological destruction.

Police say the charred remains of 60-year-old David Buckel were found early Saturday in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park.

The Daily News reports that Buckel left a suicide note saying he had used fossil fuel to burn himself as a metaphor for the destruction of the planet. He added that he hoped his death was “honorable” and “might serve others.”

Buckel was the lead attorney in a lawsuit involving Brandon Teena, a transgender man who was murdered in Nebraska. Hilary Swank won an Academy Award for her portrayal of Teena in the 1999 movie “Boys Don’t Cry.”

Buckel also the strategist behind same-sex marriage cases in New Jersey and Iowa.

Is Your Weed Killing The Environment?

Is Your Weed Killing The Environment?

Most of the conversation surrounding the legalization of marijuana centers on the business aspect and the personal freedom aspect. We don’t tend to talk about the ways in which massive pot farms are affecting the environment. In northern California’s Emerald Triangle, the nation’s epicenter of marijuana farming, scientists have discovered a link between extremely dangerous pesticides and spotted owls, an endangered species.


Are Plastics Too Strong?

Are Plastics Too Strong?

The same chemistry that makes plastic tough, light and flexible also makes it nearly impossible to get rid of, because it’s hard to break those resilient chemical bonds.

What If Everyone In The World Was Vegan?

What If Everyone In The World Was Vegan?


Some People Believe Having Sex With Nature Could Save It

Some People Believe Having Sex With Nature Could Save It


Young woman kissing tree, side view

Since we’re killing earth more and more every single day, other people are doing their best to save it. And while those people are taking the usual routes by recycling and saving energy, the gals in this story are all about having sex with nature. Literally.

According to Vice, there is something called the “ecosexual bathhouse,” taking place at the Syndey LiveWorks Festival of experimental art. Essentially the bathhouse is an “interactive installation created by artists Loren Kronemyer and Ian Sinclair of Pony Express, who described the as a ‘no-holds-barred extravaganza meant to dissolve the barriers between species as we descend into oblivion’ as the result of our global environmental crisis.” So what does that mean? People are really, really going to get close to nature.




And the number of folks who are all about getting all touchy with nature has increased recently, at least according to PhD candidate in sociology at the University of Nevada, Jennifer Reed.


Amanda Morgan, a faculty member at the UNLV School of Community Health Sciences who is involved in the ecosexual movement, says that ecosexuality could be measured in a sense not unlike the Kinsey Scale: On one end, it encompasses people who try to use sustainable sex products, or who enjoy skinny dipping and naked hiking. On the other are “people who roll around in the dirt having an orgasm covered in potting soil,” she said. “There are people who fuck trees, or masturbate under a waterfall.”

You read that last quote correctly. Remember when people used to hook up with pies? Ah, simpler times.

And these horny nature folks can thank Bay Area performance artists, activists and especially couple Annie Sprinkle and Elizabeth Stephens, who have made ecosexuality a personal crusade.

I’m all about improving the earth, but I’m not sure my personal crusade involves me dropping my pants in the woods.

The 17 Most Alarming Effects Of Your Everyday Actions

The 17 Most Alarming Effects Of Your Everyday Actions

We'll start out with an apology, because after reading this list on the most alarming effects of everyday actions, you may lose trust in every label, marketing scheme, environmentalist, and activist out there. You might become a compulsive fact-checker or a conspiracy theorist, constantly wondering what good things are actually bad things, rarely leaving the house but always looking over your shoulders when you do. You'll probably start using incognito windows for every Internet search to make sure the government isn't onto you. So, like we said, we're sorry.

But the world is getting crazy out there - everyday we're put in situations that compromise our health and sanity, and most of the time, the world around us is encouraging this behavior. If we're constantly competing against social norms, trends, media, Hollywood, moral obligations, taboos, etc., how the heck will we ever know wrong from right? From the war on drugs to chemicals on our produce, humans are forced to treat life like a murder mystery, constantly sniffing out what's harmful, what's immoral, and what's detrimental to our planet.

So to help you out, we've created a list of common, everyday actions that have direct negative effects on you or other people. Fortunately and unfortunately, many of these items will probably make you reconsider the way you're spending your time and money. So read through this list of alarming everyday effects, and brace yourself for some disturbing game changers on life as you know it.

Takeout Creates A Lot Of Trash - It Doesn't Have To

Takeout Creates A Lot Of Trash - It Doesn't Have To


Our single-use items aren't helping the fight against climate change but there are easy hacks to reduce and reuse.


Turning Gas Guzzlers Into Clean Cars

Turning Gas Guzzlers Into Clean Cars -

In Mexico City, more than 3.5 million cars navigate the streets, plazas and avenues of North America’s most populous urban area. That makes for a ton of exhaust, but luckily, there’s a solution to this environmental problem. Enter engineer/auto mechanic Alvaro de la Paz and computer scientist Hector Ruiz. Together, they’re transforming old gasoline-fueled automobiles into electric cars. Over the past decade, the pair has converted more than two dozen vehicles into zero-emissions automobiles. While that may seem like a small dent in an enormous cloud of exhaust, the pair hopes that their project will inspire younger generations to work for a brighter, cleaner future.

10 Mind-Blowing Things That Happened Last Week

10 Mind-Blowing Things That Happened Last Week

Keeping up with the news is hard. So hard, in fact, that we’ve decided to save you the hassle by rounding up the most significant, unusual, or just plain old mind-blowing stories each week.

This was the week that two long-running scandals in American life suddenly went supernova. The sexual harassment storm triggered by the Harvey Weinstein revelations claimed more scalps both in the States and across the Atlantic in Britain. At the same time, the inquiry into Russian interference in the 2016 election finally made its first indictments. Was there other mind-blowing stuff happening around all this? You bet.

10 Harassment Allegations Continued to Sweep The Media And Hit The UK Parliament

Photo credit: vulture.com

Something big is happening in fall 2017. After the Harvey Weinstein allegations, the media has exploded with accusations against powerful men. This week, Hollywood saw three more actors and directors hit with damaging revelations.

Kevin Spacey was the first to fall. The star of House of Cards was accused of sexually harassing two teenage boys (aged 14 and 16) and groping a man in a bar. A stage actor additionally alleged that Spacey had used his position as creative director at London’s Old Vic to harass dozens of young men. While Spacey denies the charges, the fallout has already seen production suspended on House of Cards.

The director Brett Ratner (Rush Hour series) was next, with five accusations made against him. Now Dustin Hoffman has also been accused, though only one victim has so far come forward.

But the biggest story may have come from the UK. After accusations of harassment against government ministers, Defense Secretary Michael Fallon was forced to fall on his sword. UK papers have indicated that he may just be the first.[1] With Theresa May’s Conservatives barely clinging to power, there’s a chance the scandal could bring down the British government.

9 The Catalan President Fled Spain For Belgium

Photo credit: The Independent

Just like the harassment scandal in the US and UK, the Catalonia crisis in Spain still shows no signs of abating. After calling what Madrid said was an illegal independence referendum, former Catalan president Carles Puigdemont was sacked on Friday after declaring an independent republic.

This week, he fled to Belgium, leaving other independence leaders to face the wrath of the Spanish courts.[2] The move threatens to create a tense standoff in the heart of the European Union.

The problem arose last week when Belgium’s migration minister, Theo Francken, effectively invited Puigdemont to seek asylum in the country. Brussels quickly retracted that offer, but the damage had been done. Puigdemont left Catalonia for Belgium, although he declined to say if he was claiming asylum there.

On the other hand, Spain threatened to issue an arrest warrant if Puigdemont didn’t turn up for a court hearing this Thursday. (He didn’t.) By the time you read this, Brussels and Madrid may be involved in the mother of diplomatic spats. Expect this story to keep running for the foreseeable future.

8 Japan Caught One Of Its Worst Serial Killers In Years

Photo credit: scmp.com

Japan has one of the lowest rates of violent crime in the world. So when murders do happen, they hit the news in a big way. Especially when the victims are women who have been dismembered and left to rot inside a quiet apartment in suburban Tokyo.

On Tuesday, police uncovered such a crime when they arrested 27-year-old Takahiro Shiraishi. He admitted to killing eight women and one man by luring suicidal people to his house of horrors.[3]

His case is eerily reminiscent of that of Hiroshi Maeue, the “Suicide Website Murderer” who killed women he met in online suicide clubs in the mid-2000s. But even Maeue has nothing on Shiraishi. The severed heads of Shiraishi’s victims had been stuffed in a bin and covered with kitty litter, while other body parts were hidden around his home.

Maeue isn’t the worst killer Japan has ever seen. Just last year, Satoshi Uematsu murdered 19 disabled people in a care home, an act he later blamed on President Trump and ISIS controlling his mind. It was the worst atrocity committed on Japanese soil since World War II.

7 Australia Closed Its Grim Manus Detention Facility

Photo credit: BBC

For several years, it has been Australian policy to confine newly arrived asylum seekers in grim offshore camps where abuse is rife. The grimmest of these may have been Manus Island, a men-only facility hosted by Papua New Guinea (PNG) where suicide rates were stratospheric.

Recently, PNG’s supreme court ruled that the center was unconstitutional and must be closed down. This week, Australia complied. The camp’s closure sparked a whole new wave of problems.

Neither PNG nor Australia has claimed responsibility for the refugees still housed there. Australia says they can integrate into PNG life (or accept a transfer to Australia’s Nauru center), while PNG says it’s up to Australia to protect them.

This is a salient point as PNG locals have previously attacked Manus Island inmates with rocks and machetes. Afraid of mob violence, up to 600 inmates have refused to leave the decommissioned facility.[4]

Perhaps saddest of all is that there is already a solution staring both countries in the face. New Zealand has offered to take up to 150 Manus Island refugees. Both PNG and Australia have refused to take New Zealand up on the offer.

6 We Smashed CO2 Atmospheric Records

When we humans set our minds to something, we really go all out. This week, it was revealed that we’d smashed previous records for pumping CO2 into the atmosphere in 2016. The World Meteorological Organization revealed on Monday that we now have the highest carbon dioxide levels in our atmosphere in the past 800,000 years.

For this, you can blame a combination of human perfidy toward our planet and an exceptionally strong El Nino weather event.[5]

El Nino is a recurring weather system that essentially makes life miserable for millions, bringing drought to Colombia, bleaching Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, and just generally acting like Mother Nature’s jerkiest son. It also blocks trees from doing their CO2-eating duty, while simultaneously triggering massive forest fires that put yet more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

To be clear, this new level isn’t a sign of impending catastrophe. It’s just a reminder that CO2 levels are still creeping upward, now faster than ever.

5 Terrorism Returned To NYC

Photo credit: The Guardian

The last time terrorists successfully struck New York City, it was the morning of September 11, 2001. Nearly 3,000 people died in the collapse of the World Trade Center.

This week, the city suffered yet another attack, though thankfully one with a much lower death toll. An Uzbek immigrant inspired by ISIS drove a truck at high speed along a cycle path, deliberately crashing into people. By the time he smashed into a school bus, eight people were dead.

Although the attack took place in New York City, the worst affected country was by far Argentina. Five Argentine nationals were among those killed, alongside one Belgian and two Americans.[6] Had the attacker not crashed when he did, the death toll would have likely been much higher.

The attack confirms that vehicle rammings are the new weapon of choice for Islamist terrorists, likely thanks to the enormous death toll of the 2016 Bastille Day truck attack.

While such attacks are harder to stop, they aren’t impossible to defend against. The 2016 Berlin Christmas market attack killed far fewer than intended because the truck’s automatic braking system locked after the first impact.

4 A Pakistani Poisoner Accidentally Killed 17 Relatives

Photo credit: The Independent

Forced marriages are an unfortunate fact of life for many women in Pakistan. Understandably, being forced into life with a man you have no attraction to can cause resentment.

This week, that resentment resulted in tragedy for one family in Multan, a Punjabi city with a population of 4.5 million. A bride in an unhappy forced marriage tried to kill her husband by poisoning his milk. Instead, she managed to kill 17 others.[7]

The accident came about when her husband didn’t drink his milk as usual, and the bride’s mother-in-law used it to make lassi, a yogurt drink, which she served to the entire extended family. Twenty-seven people were hospitalized, with 10 still in serious condition. Among the dead were some of the bride’s immediate relatives.

This case isn’t the worst mass poisoning to hit Multan. Just last year, poisoned sweets managed to kill 33, including five children.

3 Eritrea Was Rocked By Once-In-A-Lifetime Protests

Photo credit: BBC

Eritrea’s nickname is “the African North Korea.” That alone should give you some idea of how unlikely protests are in this small, impoverished country. So this week’s news is simultaneously unusual and interesting. On Tuesday, student demonstrators took to the streets in the capital, Asmara. The resulting violence may have seen as many as 28 killed and 100 wounded.[8]

We say “may have” because getting accurate information from Eritrea is, frankly, a fool’s errand. The press is so unfree that there are probably journalists in Pyongyang who have a better track record for independence.

The above figures were supplied to the Western press by the opposition, so the information should be treated with a pinch of salt. Still, any protest in Eritrea, however large or small, is inherently an intriguing occurrence. Most dissenters go to prison, disappear, or are taken away to endure forced labor.

The protest kicked off over government plans to close an Islamic school. If the protests grow into a general uprising, it’s possible that we may be about to witness Eritrea joining the Arab Spring seven years late.

2 We Discovered A Whole New Mystery To The Pyramids

Photo credit: BBC

For lumps of rock over 4,000 years old, the pyramids have sure managed to keep a whole lot of secrets. Before we unearthed Tutankhamen, for example, we had no idea that he had even existed. This week, scientists may have added a new layer of mystery to Egypt’s most enigmatic monuments. Using a technique called muography, they discovered a giant void in the heart of the Great Pyramid at Giza.

The void is exactly that: a big, empty space right in the middle of otherwise solid rock. No one really knows what it’s doing there or why the Egyptians might have built it.

One theory is that it’s meant to relieve pressure from the pyramid’s own weight on the narrow Grand Gallery, staving off a possible collapse. However, other researchers have disputed whether this is a feasible explanation given the sheer size of the void.[9]

At the moment, the team that discovered the void is hoping to send a small, camera-equipped robot inside in the near future to get a better look. Until then, expect conspiracy theories about the pyramids to only deepen.

1 The Russia Investigation Finally Claimed Its First Scalp

Photo credit: bostonglobe.com

Now, this is getting interesting.

After a summer where nothing much happened, Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation roared back to life Monday with three dramatic indictments. First, Paul Manafort and his associate Richard Gates were charged with 12 violations, including conspiracy against the United States and money laundering. Only hours later, it was revealed that ex–Trump aide George Papadopoulos had struck a plea bargain on a charge of lying to federal agents.

The charges are serious, and it’s possible that all three men will end up behind bars. However, it should be noted that all charges against Manafort and Gates predate their work with the Trump campaign and relate to work undertaken in Ukraine.[10]

On the other hand, the Papadopoulos charge is intimately related to his time working as an aide to the president. However, Papadopoulos does not appear to have been charged at this time with violating any laws connected to the work he did for the Trump presidential campaign. Instead, he is charged with lying to the FBI when questioned about it.

Papadopoulos may have puffed up his resume as well. Richard Farkas, a Russian politics professor at DePaul University, explained, “We knew his expertise was virtually nonexistent. It was thin and embellished. Lots of young people, when they aspire to get close to a campaign, exaggerate their experience. George did that in spades, and it was the talk of the department here.”

Where things go from here, no one really knows. Some think that Papadopoulos has dirt on the Trump campaign and will accept a plea bargain to rat out aides like Jared Kushner or Donald Trump Jr. Others think this is overblown and Papadopoulos’s role in the campaign was peripheral at best.

One thing’s for certain: This investigation is gonna keep dragging on for a long time yet.

Activists Want Pacific Ocean Garbage Patch To Be A New Country

Activists Want Pacific Ocean Garbage Patch To Be A New Country


Campaigners want a vast area of floating garbage in the ocean to be the world's newest country—and they've already got more would-be citizens than some real countries.

Al Gore is on board as the first honorary citizen of the "Trash Isles," which is what activists are calling the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a huge part of the Pacific Ocean inundated with floating plastic trash, Reuters reports.

"We want to shrink this nation. We don't want any more plastic added," Gore says. "The oceans are crucial to our survival and we need to protect them." More than 100,000 other people have signed a petition to become "citizens" and pressure the United Nations to accept the Trash Isles as the world's 196th country.

The petition, which says garbage clogs an area the size of France, states that nationhood would cause the Trash Isles to be covered by the UN's Environmental Charter, meaning other nations would be obliged to help clean it up, Quartz reports.

The lead campaigners, two advertising professionals who have partnered with publisher LADBible and the Plastic Oceans Foundation nonprofit, have created a flag, passports, and even a Trash Isles currency, reports AdWeek.

The currency, called "Debris," features seabirds, turtles, and other animals affected by what campaigners call an ongoing "environmental catastrophe." (Researchers say there are at least 5 trillion pieces of plastic in the world's oceans.)

This article originally appeared on Newser: Al Gore Is the First Citizen of the 'Trash Isles'