One of two cooling systems aboard the International Space Station is experiencing problems, but there's no imminent danger to the crew of six, NPR's Joe Palca reports.
NASA spokesman Kelly Humphries says a faulty external pump briefly stopped working on the orbital outpost and that as a precaution, the three Russians, two Americans and one Japanese crewmember aboard have shut down some minor operating systems to reduce the power load.
Humphries said the situation is not an emergency for the moment.
Palca says the cooling system is needed to dissipate heat from the station's many onboard systems.
"This has happened in the past, and without both cooling systems operating, the crew has to curtail normal operations aboard the station," Palca says. "But also in the past, with the help of engineers on the ground, the crew has been able to fix the problem."
Humphries says that those engineers are trying to figure out if the problem is a hardware or software issue.
Space.com has a diagram of the dual cooling systems here.
Update at 8:35 p.m. ET. NASA Says Pump Valve Unexpectedly Shut Down:
The Associated Press quotes NASA spokesman Bob Jacobs as saying "a valve on a pump on one of the station's two external cooling loops shut down because it was too cool."
Not all the water in the sea is seawater.
Scientists think there are vast reserves of fresh groundwater buried under the oceans — a potentially valuable resource for coastal cities that need freshwater.
A recent report in Nature estimates the amount of fresh groundwater around the world at about 120,000 cubic miles — that's 100 times more than all the groundwater that has been pumped up from wells since the 1900s. The reserves are scattered across coastal regions around the world.
Researchers drilled down at various spots and used modeling techniques to calculate how much water there is altogether. The water isn't immediately drinkable, but it's much less salty than seawater and therefore cheaper to desalinate.
The study's lead author, Vincent Post of the National Centre for Groundwater Research and Training in Australia, says scientists knew such freshwater reserves existed but thought they formed only under rare conditions, according to ScienceDaily.
"Our research shows that fresh and brackish aquifers below the seabed are actually quite a common phenomenon," Post tells the science news site. He adds, "Knowing about these reserves is great news because this volume of water could sustain some regions for decades."
Two-thirds of the world's population will be living under water stress conditions by 2025, according to estimates by the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization. In particular, coastal regions of the U.S., South America, the southern parts of Africa, Europe and Australia could see their water supply drop by 20 percent or more by 2050, according to the United Nations Environmental Program.
This isn't the first time scientists have found fresh groundwater buried in the seafloor, but the study is the first global survey of all the known undersea reserves, says Mark Person, professor of hydrology at the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology. He says scientists have made such discoveries around the world — including in coastal regions off Massachusetts, New Jersey, Florida, Indonesia and Tanzania.
"There's just been an explosion of interest in documenting all these instances of freshwater," says Person, one of the study's authors.
So how did all this water get there? Several million years ago, the sea level was a lot lower, so rainwater and runoff from glaciers filled up the water tables in these areas. Over time, sea levels rose and covered up the aquifers, which are sealed in by layers of sediment.
And why is this just coming to light? The depth of these reserves ranges from 650 to 3 miles. Person points out oil companies have to drill much deeper than that to find oil, so their instruments are not turned on at the level of these freshwater reserves.
Post tells ScienceDaily that there are two ways to get to the water: "Build a platform out at sea and drill into the seabed, or drill from the mainland or islands close to the aquifers."
That's not likely to come cheap.
While places such as Cape May, N.J., are already drilling and desalinating freshwater underground for use, getting to freshwater reserves under the oceans will probably be more expensive, says Kenneth Miller, professor of earth and planetary sciences at Rutgers University.
Miller's research has involved drilling into freshwater reserves offshore, and he says drilling three holes about 2,500 feet down cost around $13 million. And some reserves will be saltier - and need more processing — than others, depending on what kinds of sediment surrounds them. Finer grains seal in fresher water while coarser grains hold saltier water, Miller says.
"[Tapping the freshwater reserves] represents a potential alternative that may be economic," says Person, the study co-author. He notes, however, that the scientists have not yet tapped into one of these reserves and that this is a non-renewable resource.
And the study points out that water is relatively cheap now, but these reserves could be important if coastal areas have less water in the future.
In any conversation about vulnerable Senate Democrats, Mary Landrieu of Louisiana rises straight to the top of the list.
It's bad enough for the three-term senator that she must run for re-election next year in a state as red as a boiled crawdad, where President Obama got just 40.6 percent of the vote — and the best she's been able to do is 52 percent.
Her support for the Affordable Care Act has only made matters worse. The HealthCare.gov snafu and insurance policy cancellations have contributed to a drop in her poll numbers and given Republicans plenty of fodder.
The law's troubles even prompted an anti-Landrieu National Republican Senatorial Committee ad inspired by the famous 1984 Ronald Reagan bear-in-the-woods-equals-Soviet Union ad. The NRSC ad has a Louisiana swamp twist: a scary alligator paddling through dark water equals Obamacare.
How does Landrieu wrestle that particular reptile? Partly with her own ad in which she seems to take outsize credit for Obama's belated decision to let people keep insurance policies for next year that would otherwise have to be canceled for failing to meet the ACA's minimum requirements.
Landrieu's ad links her introduction of legislation to let people keep their policies to the president's decision. It uses a news bite of her: "I'm fixing it. And that's what my bill does. And I've urged the president to fix it." Near the ad's end the words "The Result" appear on-screen with a newspaper headline: "People now allowed to keep health care plans."
The Obama administration, of course, was pressured from all directions, and Landrieu was just one of many Democrats who urged the president to act.
As scientists are found of saying, correlation isn't causation. But from her campaign's perspective, Landrieu has to do something to try to flip the GOP's Obamacare script and improve her chances at a fourth term.
The police chief of Miami Gardens is resigning, weeks after allegations arose that his officers stopped and searched customers of a convenience store as a matter of routine. Charges of racial profiling and civil rights abuses were bolstered by videos that showed police frisking and arresting people.
Miami Gardens Police Chief Matthew Boyd, who is black, had planned to resign in January. He stepped down today, according to The Miami Herald, which published an expansive report on the allegations two weeks ago.
Here's some background from NPR's Greg Allen, whose report will air on Thursday's Morning Edition:
"The town just north of Miami has struggled with a string of deadly shootings in recent months.
"In response, the city began what it calls 'Zero Tolerance' operations — increasing police stops and arrests, even for misdemeanors.
"The police chief's resignation comes after a store owner and some residents filed a lawsuit against the city in federal court."
The resignation also comes one day after the NAACP asked the U.S. Justice Department to open a civil rights inquiry into what it said "may be the most pervasive, most invasive, and most unjustified pattern of police harassment in the nation."
Much of the troubling police activity centered on the Quickstop, a store whose owner had worked with police on security efforts — but who came to believe that officers were violating basic rights in searching customers and his store without a warrant, and questioning and arresting people with seemingly little or no cause.
"Some of the store's customers were questioned hundreds of times over the past four years for minor infractions, such as trespassing and violating liquor law ordinances," The Miami Herald reports. It adds that the store's owner, Alex Saleh, "was disturbed by how his customers were being treated."
The Herald highlighted an extreme example when it broke the story two weeks ago — that of Earl Sampson, a man who "has been stopped and questioned 258 times in the past four years," as Eyder reported for The Two-Way last month.
The kicker? Sampson, 28, was arrested for trespassing — but he works at the Quickstop, as a clerk. Some people were cited for minor violations as many as three times in a day, The Herald said.
The store's owner "set up a series of cameras not to protect his business from crime, but instead to capture the actions of police," Eyder wrote. "Now those videos will become the centerpiece of a federal civil rights lawsuit being filed by the store's owner."
According to The Herald's report today, "Miami Gardens is the third-largest city in Miami-Dade County and the largest predominantly black city in the state."
Boyd had been the city's first police chief, taking up the post after Miami Gardens decided to create its own police force instead of relying on Miami-Dade County officers.
The Herald also notes a racial disparity between the town's population and its police force.
"Records obtained by The Herald show that nearly all the commanders — and most of the officers in the squads — are white and Hispanic," the paper says. "The city's population is about 80 percent black. The police force is 30 percent black."
A state investigation into the Miami Gardens police force's practices is ongoing, The Herald says.
FBI agents across the country have been among the most vocal opponents of the spending cuts triggered by sequestration, warning about everything from having to abandon surveillance work to a lack of gas money.
But the FBI Agents Association, hoping to avert further cutbacks next year, is throwing its clout behind the bipartisan spending plan unveiled on Tuesday by GOP Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin and Democratic Sen. Patty Murray of Washington.
The sequestration fallout for the bureau has been significant — no new hires, empty parking lots at the training center in Quantico, Va., and damaged relationships with local and international police.
"The Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013 would help alleviate some of these budgetary pressures by lifting the threat of over $700 million in additional sequestration cuts and providing appropriators with additional funds that can be used to support the vital work of FBI Special Agents," FBI Agents Association President Reynaldo Tariche writes in a letter obtained by NPR.
Tariche thanks lawmakers for their work but expresses concern about increased pension payments for federal employees hired after Dec. 31. Agents have been working under a pay freeze that dates to 2010, and Tariche says, "we are concerned that further cuts will undermine recruitment and retention efforts." But overall, the agents association says, the deal has the agents' support.
At the headquarters of the FBI in Washington, contingency planning is already underway for as many as two weeks of unpaid furlough for employees in 2014.
A source at headquarters said no one is "anywhere near celebrating" but, if the budget compromise wins approval, it looks to "get us back to a reasonable place" that could avert furloughs.
The agency has long been among the most adept at controlling purse strings on Capitol Hill, in part because of support from senior Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md. And the budget woes have been a top priority for new FBI Director James Comey, who has mentioned them in visits to offices around the country and in sessions with reporters.