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CIUDAD OJEDA, VENEZUELA - Five months after Venezuela nationalized dozens of oil service contractors in Zulia state, the once-bustling industrial dock on Lake Maracaibo is nearly abandoned, and the 16 red flags raised to celebrate the takeovers are already tattered and faded.

A few small groups of workers remain, hoping to get the jobs they were promised after the expropriations.

"We demand our jobs. Because we haven't gotten an answer, we're still here," said Demostenes Velasquez, who for months has lived under the scorching sun in a tent improvised from remnants of oil union election pamphlets.

Like Velasquez, many workers on the eastern shores of the lake have protested or gone on hunger strikes to demand jobs promised them after President Hugo Chavez's government expropriated 76 oil services companies on the Maracaibo Lake. The western region has a long history of oil production.

As part of his drive to install socialism in the OPEC nation, Chavez expropriated the companies contracted by state-run PDVSA, with promises of social prosperity and worker justice.

Over the months since then, protests have intensified so much the government sent troops to control the discontented workers. (Reuters)

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The Chinese drywall scandal is now nearly a year old. And while incidents of Chinese drywall being installed in homes have all but stopped, complaints of bloody noses, sinus infections and vomiting spells for pets and people, widespread corrosion and blackening of copper tubing and wiring and "rotten egg" smell continue to roll in. Last spring, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission conducted 44 investigations into consumer complaints about drywall. Few of the complainants provided evidence that their drywall came from China, but the report included no shortage of devastating medical reports, panicked letters written to government officials and photographs of corroded metal. Here are six surprising findings from the report. (Popular Mechanics)

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One day, this could all be trees … a recent scientific paper claims that turning deserts into forests is the best way forward. Photograph: Guido Cozzi/Corbis

Some talk of hoisting mirrors into space to reflect sunlight, while others want to cloud the high atmosphere with millions of tonnes of shiny sulphur dust. Now, scientists could have dreamed up the most ambitious geoengineering plan to deal with climate change yet: converting the parched Sahara desert to a lush forest. The scale of the ambition is matched only by the promised rewards – the scientists behind the plan say it could "end global warming".

The scheme has been thought up by Leonard Ornstein, a cell biologist at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York, together with Igor Aleinov and David Rind, climate modellers at Nasa. The trio have outlined their plan in a new paper published in the Journal of Climatic Change, and they modestly conclude it "probably provides the best, near-term route to complete control of greenhouse gas induced global warming".

Under the scheme, planted fields of fast growing trees such as eucalyptus would cover the deserts of the Sahara and Australian outback, watered by seawater treated by a string of coastal desalination plants and channelled through a vast irrigation network. The new blanket of tree cover would bring its own weather system and rainfall, while soaking up carbon dioxide from the world's atmosphere. The team's calculations suggest the forested deserts could draw down around 8bn tonnes of carbon a year, about the same as emitted from fossil fuels and deforestation today. Sounds expensive? The researchers say it could be more economic than planned global investment in carbon capture and storage technology (CCS). (David Adam, The Guardian)

24/02/2009 · Near The Parenthesis - A Brief Walk In The Sea ..
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