Short Takes: News From All Over

The Oil + Water Project
By The Biofuels Education Coalition
In defiance of the old adage that oil and water don’t mix, professional kayakers Seth Warren and Tyler Bradt have planned the ultimate road trip — or more accurately, the ultimate road + river trip. In their Oil + Water Project, the kayaking duo-turned-alternative-energy-advocates will travel from one set of rapids to the next via a converted fire truck powered solely from biofuel refined by an on-board veggie press and processing system. In the tour’s first leg, spanning the 16,000-mile stretch between Alaska and Chile, Warren and Bradt hope to bring their grassroots biofuel demonstrations to young students and the developing world, while kayaking some serious whitewater along the way. — Evan Noetzel

Fuel Choices Pressure Stations
By John Gartner, Wired Blogs’ Autopia (on an Associated Press piece)
‘Bio-diesel’ and ‘ethanol’ are sharing signage with ‘unleaded’ and ‘leaded’ as gas stations begin to offer these gasoline alternatives. A San Diego gas station offers the aforementioned along with the normal petrol fare. That’s great for green-minded drivers, but a little shaky for gas station owners. The San Diego station hasn’t turned a profit yet, and such suppliers jumping onto the alt-fuel bandwagon will likely have to eat the costs of equipping themselves to handle higher-volume fuels. With demand for these options still only tentative, owners risk jumping the gun or being left in the dust. — Rachel Anderson

Click This
By Kara Ashe, Dragonfire
Why settle for tried-and-true vacation spots when a few mouse clicks can reveal a cache of alternative tourist destinations? From locating women-only adventure tours to supernatural haunts, the web is your portal to the world. GoNOMAD’s first-hand accounts by culture-sensitive bloggers will inspire you to abandon the beaten track (and the accompanying fast-food chains), in favor of treks through snow-capped mountains. Prefer traveling on wheels? Check out Cycle Events to plan a tour through Thailand’s ancient ruins or Tasmania’s lush national parks. Or, just for fun, visit Fabulous Travel’s ‘Weird Wandering to explore the spooky (stay with a ghostly companion at New Mexico’s Taos Inn) or kitsch (don’t miss the world’s only salt and pepper shaker museum) sights nearest you. — Kristen Mueller

Zach Pine, Rock Balancer
By Chris Dodge,
There’s something about the urge to create a cairn, to balance rocks until a tower topples, playing with nature. A short profile in The East Bay Monthly describes the rock-balancing beach play of Zach Pine, a Berkeley-based man who creates ephemeral sculpture with stone, sand, sticks, flower caps, and other natural things. A look at Pine’s online gallery may remind you of the work of Andy Goldsworthy or artists recently profiled in Utne magazine’s ‘Elemental Art’ section (May/June 2006). Thanks to artistic rubber stamp creator and Utne reader Leavenworth Jackson for recognizing a kindred spirit and sending this article our direction.

Pentagon Sets Its Sights On Social Networking Websites
By Paul Marks,
It’s not what you know — or whom you may be calling — it’s who you’re friends with on MySpace that could someday find you in trouble with the NSA. The same Pentagon organization that’s been diligently tracing Americans’ phone calls is now throwing down cash to research the creation of a World Wide Web where data is easily collected and compiled into a spreadsheet-like format. This ‘semantic web’ will make it easier to link people based on common interests, be they as benign as liking the same bands or as illicit as belonging to the same terrorist organization. — Kristen Mueller

Unusual Livestock Deaths Blamed on Bt Cotton
By Uma Sudhir, NDTV
A dramatic increase in animal mortality in the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh has spurred the government to investigate the toxicity of Bt cotton, so called for the Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) protein that’s been added to fend off pests. A number of sheep and goats that feed on fields of this common genetically modified crop are suffering symptoms from listlessness to mouth lesions, and sometimes death. Monsanto, a major player in worldwide seed distribution, dismisses the link, saying their Bt cotton seeds were deemed safe during tests. But critics say the company’s studies failed to trace the effects of toxins in Bt cotton leaves, which are frequently ingested during grazing. (Thanks, Organic Consumers Association.) — Kristen Mueller

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