Thursday, April 22, 2010

360 Degrees - The World Today

Oil Rig Survivors Back On Land; 11 Missing

Survivors of a thunderous blast aboard an oil platform off the Louisiana coast were being reunited with their families at a suburban New Orleans hotel early Thursday as the search for 11 missing workers continued.

About 100 workers had made it to a supply boat after Tuesday night's explosion, then were plucked from the Gulf of Mexico by Coast Guard rescuers. After a slow-moving trek across the waters, the workers finally made it ashore at Port Fourchon earlier Thursday where they were checked by doctors and brought to a hotel in suburban New Orleans to awaiting relatives.

The rig, where exploratory drilling was being done about 50 miles off the coast of Louisiana, exploded late Tuesday, sending workers scurrying for safety. Seventeen people were injured in the blast and taken to hospitals, four critically, in what could be one of the nation's deadliest offshore drilling accidents of the past half-century.

Coast Guard crews in two cutters have been searching around the clock for the missing, said Coast Guard Lt. Sue Kerver. The air search, which had been called off for the night, resumed Thursday morning.

The rig is owned by Transocean Ltd. and was under contract to oil giant BP.

Authorities could not say when the flames might die out on the 400-by-250-foot rig, which is roughly twice the size of a football field, according the Transocean's website. A column of boiling black smoke rose hundreds of feet over the Gulf of Mexico as fireboats shot streams of water at the blaze. Officials said the damage to the environment appeared minimal so far.

Environmentalists Mark 40th Earth Day

Pollution before the first Earth Day was not only visible, it was in your face: Cleveland's Cuyahoga River caught fire. An oil spill fouled 30 miles of Southern California beaches. And thick smog choked many cities' skies.

Not anymore.

On Thursday, 40 years after that first Earth Day in 1970, smog levels nationwide have dropped by about a quarter, and lead levels in the air are down more than 90 percent. Formerly fetid lakes and burning rivers are now open to swimmers.

The challenges to the planet today are largely invisible - and therefore tougher to tackle.

Issues such as climate change are less obvious to the naked eye. Since the first Earth Day, carbon dioxide levels in the air have increased by 19 percent, pushing the average annual world temperature up about 1 degree Fahrenheit, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Improvements took shape in the form of the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act and changes in the way businesses treat the environment. Those reforms grew out of the first Earth Day.

Hitler 'Downfall' Parodies Removed From YouTube

Adolf Hitler, for years a vessel of frustration in a popular Internet meme, has been quieted.

"Downfall," a German film released in 2004 about Hitler's last days, has been adopted for wildly popular YouTube parodies that have spanned mock rants about topics as varied as playing Xbox video games to Kanye West to Apple's new iPad.

Every spoof is from the same scene in the film: A furious, defeated Hitler, played by Bruno Ganz, unleashes an impassioned, angry speech to his remaining staff, huddled with him in his underground bunker.

The scene takes on widely different meaning when paired with English subtitles about, say, a late-season collapse by the New York Mets. Most any subject could be - and was - substituted, made even funnier by the scene's intense melodrama, artful staging and timely cutaways.

On Tuesday, the clips on YouTube, many of which had been watched by hundreds of thousands, even millions, began disappearing from the site. Constantin Films, the company that owns the rights to the film, asked for them to be removed, and YouTube complied.

Martin Moszkowicz, head of film and TV at Constantin films in Munich, said the company had been fighting copyright infringement for years. Jewish organizations have also complained about the tastefulness of the clips, he said.

Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, said the league was "delighted."

Comment About Body Odor Gets Man Punched

Police said a Cost Cutter store employee was punched in the mouth after he confronted a customer about his body odor. Police spokesman Mark Young told The Bellingham Herald that police went to the store after a report of a fight and found employees holding down a man.

The newspaper said customers apparently complained while the man was in the store Sunday, and the employee decided to discuss it with him when he returned the next day.

Young said the store employee was not going to ask him to leave the store, but only approached him to share the complaints. Young said the man snapped and threw a bunch of batteries and punched the worker, causing a minor injury.

Muslim Site Warns 'South Park' Creators

A radical Muslim group has warned the creators of "South Park" that they could face violent retribution for depicting the prophet Muhammad in a bear suit during last week's episode.

The website has since been taken down, but a cached version shows the message to "South Park" creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone. The article's author, Abu Talhah Al-Amrikee of New York, said the men "outright insulted" the religious leader.

The posting showed a gruesome picture of Theo Van Gogh, a Dutch filmmaker who was shot and stabbed to death in an Amsterdam street in 2004 by a fanatic angered by his film about Muslim women. The film was written by a Muslim woman who rejected the Prophet Muhammad as a guide for today's morality.

"We have to warn Matt and Trey that what they are doing is stupid and they will probably wind up like Theo Van Gogh for airing this show," Al-Amrikee wrote. "This is not a threat, but a warning of the reality of what will likely happen to them."

The posting listed the addresses of Comedy Central's New York office and Parker and Stone's California production office. It also linked to a Huffington Post article that described a Colorado retreat owned by the two men.

CNN, which first reported the posting, said the New York-based website is known for postings in support of Osama bin Laden and jihad, or holy war, against the West.

2 Cows Get Loose, Roam Ohio State Campus

Two cows got loose on the Ohio State University campus, leading some students to skip classes to watch a roundup that lasted more than 90 minutes.

Police say the pair of Belted Galloway cows got away Wednesday afternoon as their owner was trying to take them into the university's veterinary medical center to have their hooves trimmed.

They made their way onto a soccer field, where one of them was lassoed as students cheered "Ole!"

The other ran across traffic on a bridge and settled in under a grove of trees. It was caught after a Columbus Zoo veterinarian hit it with a tranquilizer dart.

The owner took the cows back home. A police officer was treated for a shoulder injury.

Reuters; AP; UPI; CNN; Huffinton Post; Wall Street Journal.

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