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Environment
11:56 am
Wed May 9, 2012

Study: Plastic in Pacific Ocean increased 100-fold in 40 years

An insect known as a "sea skater." Scientists say the abundance of floating plastic has led to an increase of these creatures.
Scripp Institution of Oceanography

Originally published on Wed May 9, 2012 11:31 am

The amount of plastic debris in the part of the Pacific Ocean known as the "Great Pacific Garbage Patch" has grown 100-fold in the past 40 years.

In a paper published today by the journal Biology Letters, scientists from Scripps Institution of Oceanography report that most of that plastic has degraded into pieces no bigger than a fingernail. But that wasn't the major finding the scientists are reporting.

The scientists have found that all those pieces of plastic have provided ample opportunity for insects called "sea skaters" to breed.

The AP reports:

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Education
5:01 pm
Tue May 8, 2012

Northwest Universities Garner Nuclear Energy Grants

Washington State University’s nuclear reactor in Pullman is surrounded by the school’s golf course. Photo courtesy of Donald Wall

Originally published on Tue May 8, 2012 3:58 pm

The nuclear industry faces a generation gap. A lot of the people who run nuclear power plants are nearing retirement. Now the Obama Administration has awarded $6.3 million to Northwest universities to help train the next generation of nuclear leaders.

Donald Wall directs Washington State University’s Nuclear Radiation Center in Pullman. The reactor is surrounded by the university’s golf course.

“I like to joke that WSU features probably the only golf course in the world that has a nuclear hazard.”

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Health
5:00 pm
Tue May 8, 2012

Northwest Hospitals Battle Prescription Pain Overdoses

Matt Harp describes his former addiction to prescription painkillers during a news conference at Salem Hospital. Photo by Chris Lehman

Originally published on Tue May 8, 2012 3:49 pm

SALEM, Ore. – More people are dying from overdoses of prescription painkillers. Some Northwest hospitals say they're combating the problem by drastically reducing the amount of prescriptions they write for the medications. Salem Hospital is the latest.

Experts say many users become addicted after initially taking painkillers for legitimate medical reasons. That's what happened to Matt Harp. He hurt his back playing college baseball. His doctor realized Harp was becoming addicted, but the Oregon man told a Salem news conference he simply visited different doctors and hospitals.

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Environment
4:56 pm
Tue May 8, 2012

Personal care products, pharmaceutical toxics found in Columbia River

The Dalles Dam on the Columbia River near the west end of the Columbia River Gorge. Photo courtesy of USGS

Originally published on Tue May 8, 2012 6:21 pm

RICHLAND, Wash. – Giant smoke stacks and industrial dump sites are no longer the only water quality problem on the Columbia River. A recent study has found that our day-to-day life has a major impact as well.

U.S. Geological Survey researchers looked at nine cities along the river, from Wenatchee to Longview, Wash. They detected hundreds of contaminants flowing from wastewater treatment plants and stormwater runoff.

Hydrologist Jennifer Morace says the toxic contaminants included things like shampoo and pharmaceuticals.

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Mountain visits
4:28 pm
Tue May 8, 2012

Coldwater Ridge Center at Mount St. Helens reopens with new mission

View of Mount St. Helens from Coldwater Ridge. Photo by Tom Banse

Originally published on Tue May 8, 2012 4:16 pm

Just in time for another anniversary of the catastrophic Mount St. Helens eruption, the U.S. Forest Service is reopening an architecturally-striking visitor center. The Coldwater Ridge facility has been closed for the last four seasons. The center reopens next week with a new mission and purpose.

Coldwater Ridge was the first visitor center to open close to the volcano in the blast zone. That was in 1993. It was later eclipsed when another Forest Service visitor center -- Johnston Ridge Observatory -- opened even closer to the Mount St. Helens crater.

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The Two-Way
12:58 pm
Tue May 8, 2012

GOP Senators Block Democrats' Student Loan Bill

Originally published on Tue May 8, 2012 12:22 pm

Senate Republicans gave a thumbs down to a Democratic plan that would have frozen interest rates for 7.4 million students taking out new federally subsidized Stafford loans.

The vote was 52-45. Sixty votes were needed to avoid a certain Republican filibuster and to move the bill toward debate.

From the Republican perspective, it wasn't the idea of keeping the rate at 3.4 percent rather than letting it double starting in July. The impasse was over how to fund the one-year rate freeze, which would cost the government $6 billion, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

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The Two-Way
9:41 am
Tue May 8, 2012

Maurice Sendak, author of 'Where The Wild Things Are', dies

Maurice Sendak stands with a character from his book "Where the Wild Things Are," in 2002.
Spencer Platt Getty Images

Originally published on Tue May 8, 2012 6:33 am

Award-winning children's author and illustrator Maurice Sendak has died at 83. He shot to fame in 1963 with his picture book 'Where The Wild Things Are'. He published several more books, including 'In The Night Kitchen', 'Outside Over There' and most recently, 'Bumble-Ardy'.

Family friend Lynn Ceprio confirmed his death. The New York Times reports his cause of death was complications from a stroke he'd recently suffered.

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DSHS
9:29 am
Tue May 8, 2012

Morale at Washington's biggest state agency plummets

A survey shows that employee satisfaction at Washington's Department of Social and Health Services has plummeted over the past couple of years.

Originally published on Mon May 7, 2012 5:22 pm

OLYMPIA, Wash. – The Great Recession has taken its toll on morale at Washington’s largest state agency. Employee satisfaction at the Department of Social and Health Services has plummeted over the past couple of years. That’s according to a new employee survey.

DSHS is not only a large agency, it deals with some of Washington’s most vulnerable populations: abused and neglected children, the mentally ill and the elderly.

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The Two-Way
4:30 pm
Mon May 7, 2012

Scientists Estimate Dinosaurs Passed Enough Gas To Warm Up The Planet

An artist's impression of a group of Yutyrannus. The 30-foot-long dinosaurs were covered with downy feathers — likely to keep the animals warm.
Dr. Brian Choo Nature

Originally published on Mon May 7, 2012 2:16 pm

The early reporting of the story had a undeniably alluring narrative: Scientists say dinosaurs passed so much gas, they affected climate enough to cause their demise. That's how Fox News and the Daily Mail, one of the first to move the story, framed this latest research.

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Health
4:10 pm
Mon May 7, 2012

Don't curse the rain, it depresses allergens

Pollen from a variety of common plants. The image is magnified by about 500x, so the bean shaped grain in the bottom left corner is about 50 μm long. Photo by Dartmouth Electron Microscope Facility, Dartmouth College

Originally published on Mon May 7, 2012 3:15 pm

Here in the Northwest, you hear lots of complaints about the abundant rain. But this year's cool March weather and above normal rainfall in April may have eased the suffering of people with pollen allergies.

Washington State Climatologist Nick Bond had a personal reason to investigate the correlation between rainfall and pollen.

"I suffer from allergies to alder and birch," he says. "I noticed that when I am usually sneezing and sniffling in mid to late March, there wasn't much of that this year."

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Transportation
10:07 am
Mon May 7, 2012

Early report: U.S. highway deaths fall to lowest number since 1949

Skid marks left by a van are visible on a highway after a van plunged over both the concrete and iron railing, killing three generations of a Bronx family, in New York.
Louis Lanzano AP

Originally published on Mon May 7, 2012 9:59 am

If a preliminary report holds true, the number of road deaths fell again in 2011. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimated that 32,310 people died on highways last year, down almost 2 percent from the 32,885 people who died in 2010.

The Detroit News reports:

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NPR Science
5:49 pm
Sun May 6, 2012

The Dinosaurs' Nemeses: Giant, Jurassic Fleas

An illustration of the Chinese Jurassic "pseudo-flea," which lived in the Middle Jurassic in northeastern China.
Wang Cheng Current Biology

Originally published on Sun May 6, 2012 8:38 am

Fossil-hunting scientists are coming to grips with a new discovery that could change forever how we think of dinosaurs. What they've found is that dinosaurs may well have been tortured by large, flealike bloodsucking insects.

Yes, it appears that the greatest predators that ever roamed Earth suffered just as we mammals did — and as we still do. Fleas were thought to have evolved along with mammals — they like our soft skins and a diet of warm blood.

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Hanford Nuclear Reservation
8:34 am
Sun May 6, 2012

Hanford whistleblower may not get jury trial

Walt Tamosaitis and his wife outside the federal courthouse in Yakima, Wash. Thursday. By Anna King.

Originally published on Thu May 3, 2012 10:00 pm

YAKIMA, Wash. – A Hanford whistleblower lawsuit is underway in federal court in Yakima. A former high-level manager on a nuclear treatment project is asking for a jury trial, but the judge hearing the case said Thursday that’s unlikely.

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NPR tech news
8:09 am
Sat May 5, 2012

A Panda's inseminal moment, tweet-by-tweet

"Here's Mei right now," tweeted the National Zoo just before the procedure. "Volunteers are watching her from our research station as we prepare."
Smithsonian's National Zoo

Originally published on Mon May 7, 2012 4:37 am

You can't predict the turns new technology takes.

The Internet, originally developed for scientists in southern California to bandy information back and forth with scientists in northern California, has also become the prime means of sending naughty jokes instantaneously around the world.

This week Twitter, the social media service famed for carrying the messages of pro-democracy dissidents in Iran, Egypt and other places, featured something a little difficult to conceive: live tweeting of the artificial insemination of a giant panda at the National Zoo.

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Health
2:51 pm
Fri May 4, 2012

Study: Chemicals In Great-Grandma’s Life May Promote Disease In You

Dr. Michael Skinner. Courtesy Washington State University.

Originally published on Thu May 3, 2012 9:56 pm

The chance of a woman getting ovarian disease may be tied to the toxic chemicals her great-grandmother was exposed to. That’s according to a new study by researchers at Washington State University. The study could help explain the role of environmental factors in inherited diseases.

Here’s how it works. Picture your great-grandmother. Now let’s say, while pregnant with your future grandparent, she was exposed to some toxic chemical. Pesticides, phthalates -- that stuff in plastic -- or maybe jet fuel. Those are some of the things the researchers looked at.

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