November 6th, 2010
(CNN) -- Scientists have found evidence of "dramatic" damage to deep-sea coral near the site of the Gulf oil disaster, with one biologist describing it as a shocking find that "slapped you in the face."
"This was the first time that anyone has seen a visually compelling indication of impact to deep sea animals in the vicinity of this deep-sea event," said Charles Fisher, a Penn State University biologist and the leader of a government-funded research expedition.
"We have some very compelling circumstantial evidence and that came from this expedition where we were out studying deep sea coral communities we know about, and exploring for new communities."
The research team encountered an apparently "unhealthy" colony of Madrepora -- a hard coral species -- on November 2 at a depth of 1,400 meters. While some in the coral colony appeared normal, others were covered in a "brown material" and were producing "abundant mucous," he said.
The scientists also encountered a community of soft corals nearby that also appeared to be affected. Extensive portions of the coral colonies were either recently dead or dying.
The discovery was made more than six months after an explosion aboard an oil rig sent crude spewing from a BP-owned well deep below the Gulf of Mexico. Researchers found the coral about seven miles southwest of the site of the spill.
Fisher, who called the discovery a "smoking gun," said researchers can't say for certain that the coral died from the oil, noting that dispersants could have been the culprit.
"The next step is to go back out there and look for direct evidence that the oil caused this damage. We're looking for hydrocarbons that could have been fingerprinted," Fisher said.
BP officials could not immediately be reached for comment Saturday.
Ian MacDonald, a professor of oceanography at Florida State University, said the damage is significant because "this is the first indication of just how widespread the damage is."
He wondered whether there is damage that has not yet been discovered.
November 6th, 2010
SWIEBODZIN, Poland – A gigantic statue of Jesus that Poles claim is the world's largest rose majestically above a small town on Saturday, as the grandiose dream of a local priest finally came to pass.
The white statue with outstretched arms and golden crown rising above the western Polish plains in Swiebodzin provides competition to Rio de Janiero's iconic Christ the Redeemer.
The mayor of the western Polish town, Dariusz Bekisz, claims it is now the world's tallest.
Rev. Sylwester Zawadzki, the 78-year-old priest who created the statue said it rises 108 feet, or 33 meters — one meter for every year that Jesus lived. Other members of the construction team, however, gave differing figures. One said it rises 167 feet (51 meters) if you include a mound it sits on and the crown on the head.
By comparison, the statue in Brazil's Rio is 125 feet (38 meters) tall.
While it wasn't possible to verify the exact height of the new statue, there was no doubt that "Christ the King," as the golden-crowned Polish statue is called, cut an imposing sight as it was finally completed.
It has divided Poles and underlined the deep cultural divide between a deeply Catholic population and an increasingly confident secular society — with many mocking the statue project as tacky.
But many residents in Swiebodzin welcome it. They believe it will put their town of 22,000 on the map for tourists and Roman Catholic pilgrims and bring in needed money to renovate the historic buildings in the tiny town center.
"I am extremely proud," said Danuta Gordzelewska, a 60-year-old who watched as the statue's head was lowered into place.
Gordzelewska has donated money to the statue, which was funded by contributions from as far away as Canada. "It's special to watch something being built that later generations will have."
After many delays, a crane on Saturday morning lifted the arms and shoulders and slowly placed them onto the figure's lower body. Hours later, workers hoisted on the head, which is crowned with a golden king's crown — rather than the crown of thorns favored in Christian iconography.
Hundreds of onlookers then broke into applause, and some prayed, grasping rosaries. Workers in safety helmets and neon vests gathered at the base of the statue for a group photo, and Rev. Sylwester Zawadzki, the 78-year-old priest who created the statue, waded into an adoring crowd.
"I have never been as happy as I am today," he said, beaming but clearly exhausted after seeing through the project that experienced setbacks and delays.
Zawadzki, known in town as "the builder priest" after also erecting two churches and other buildings, said he felt that he was called by Jesus to build the statue.
"This is the culmination of my life's work as a priest," he told onlookers and reporters who pressed around him.
"I felt inspired to fulfill Jesus' will, and today I give thanks to him for allowing me to fulfill his will."
The priest, wearing a dark coat over his black robe, turned to walk away and local people flocked after him, some shaking his hand. "We thank you! We thank you!" they chanted.
The project faced numerous problems along the way. A skeptical bishop put the brakes on it at one point and state officials also suspended the project for some time, fearing the size made it unsafe. The priest had a heart attack but recovered.
More recently, an attempt to finally mount the figure had to be aborted because it turned out that the crane at hand was not powerful enough to lift the arms and shoulders — weighing 30 tons (27 metric tons) — onto the standing body. A more powerful crane was obtained but further delays were caused this week by heavy winds.
Zawadzki said he kept the faith all along.
"I never had any doubts, not even for a minute," he said.
Marta Kucharska contributed to this report.
November 6th, 2010
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November 6th, 2010
Oakland police chief: Protesters 'tearing up' the city
Los Angeles, California (CNN) -- Authorities in Oakland, California, said unruly marchers were "tearing up the city" as they protested a two-year sentence for a former transit police officer convicted for killing an unarmed man.
They were throwing rocks, bottles and trash, and ripping up fences late Friday, Police Chief Anthony Batts said.
It started out as a peaceful and organized expression of grief, but by nightfall, a small number of people acted out in a violent manner, he said.
Someone ripped a gun from a police officer's holster, and another officer was hit by a car, according to Batts.
"I want to be clear that people have a right to assemble, a right to protest and a right to free speech," the police chief said.
"But people do not have a right to tear this city up. Oakland already has a lot of pain, and it's not fair. This city has been torn up too many times."
The police chief said about 150 people will be arrested by the end of the night.
They will be charged with unlawful assembly and failure to disperse, he said.
The group marched down several streets and broke an agreement on what streets to rally on, Batts said.
Batts decided to declare the march an unlawful assembly after someone ripped a gun from a police officer's holster and pointed the weapon at him. The person was taken into custody, Batts said.
Johannes Mehserle, convicted of involuntary manslaughter, will get credit for time he's already spent behind bars since he was charged in the shooting of 22-year-old Oscar Grant on a train platform on January 1, 2009, a judge ruled Friday.
Mehserle could be released from custody in about seven months, according to sentencing guidelines provided by the prosecution.
Protesters Friday broke windows and jumped on vehicles, Batts said. He estimated the crowd at between 300 and 500 people.
Mayor Ron Dellums appealed to citizens to protest in a nonviolent manner.
Grant's mother, Wanda Johnson, appeared stunned as she left the courtroom. Her family's lawyer said she was appalled. Johnson had asked the judge to sentence him to the maximum 14 years in prison. She and four other family members who spoke at the sentencing hearing called Mehserle "a murderer."
"This is a slap in the face, a punch in the stomach," said John Burris, the Grant family attorney.
Prosecutors had asked for prison time, while the defense had argued for probation.
After the July verdict, police in downtown Oakland arrested dozens of angry protesters on a variety of charges, including failure to disperse, resisting arrest, burglary, vandalism and assaulting a police officer. The city planned to have extra officers on hand Friday in case they were needed, said police spokeswoman Holly J. Joshi.
Mehserle told Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Robert Perry before sentencing Friday that he would be willing to go to prison if the sentence made his city and family safer.
"I shot a man," he said. "I killed a man. It should not have happened."
A conviction for involuntary manslaughter normally carries a four-year sentence, but the judge had the option of adding an "enhancement" that could have made the sentence 14 years because a firearm was used in commission of a crime.
Mehserle, who was on duty as a Bay Area Rapid Transit police officer when the shooting occurred, said at the trial that he intended to draw and fire his Taser rather than his gun. The jury acquitted him of the more serious charges of second-degree murder and voluntary manslaughter.
Grant family members expressed outrage after the verdict in July.
"My son was murdered. He was murdered. He was murdered. My son was murdered," Johnson said.
The shooting was captured on a bystander's cell-phone video camera, and the video was widely circulated on the Internet and on news broadcasts. It spurred several protests and riots in and around Oakland.
Mehserle is white and Grant was African-American.
Grant's mother said her son and other African-Americans have too long been the victims of police abuse and a biased judicial system.
The trial had been moved from California's Alameda County to Los Angeles because of pretrial publicity.
The former officer apologized to the public and described his memories of the moments after the shooting in a handwritten letter obtained by CNN after the verdict.
"For now, and forever, I will live, breathe, sleep, and not sleep with the memory of Mr. Grant screaming 'you shot me' and me putting my hands on the bullet wound thinking the pressure would help while I kept telling him 'you'll be okay,'" Mehserle wrote in the letter. "I tried to tell myself that maybe this shot would not be so serious, but I recall how sick I felt when Mr. Grant stopped talking, closed his eyes and seemed to change his breathing."
CNN's Stan Wilson and Phil Gast contributed to this report.
November 6th, 2010
"Please take these creepy people with you Mr. president...and leave them"