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SKYE on AOL

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    Frost will threaten gardens in the Midwest and Northeast for the start of the week.

    Chilly air that started off Mother's Day weekend will continue through Monday night bringing March-like frost and freezes to some locations.

    Saturday night and early Mother's Day morning, temperatures dropped to around freezing in northern Michigan, allowing for some morning snow.

    Temperatures on Sunday were held to more than 15 degrees below normal in the Great Lakes with a northerly breeze making the temperature feel even colder.

    However, the breeze diminished by Sunday night allowing for areas of frost across the Midwest and into parts of the Northeast. This will be the case Monday night across much of New England and the mid-Atlantic as this cold air shifts eastward.

    Late last week, expert senior meteorologist Alex Sosnowski warned that "near-freezing temperatures will have some agricultural interests taking precautions to reduce the risk of damage to orchards, vineyards and berry farms."

    RELATED:
    Warmest Days of 2013 in the West
    Growing Season Outlook (Issued in March)
    AccuWeather.com's 2013 Summer Forecast


    Homeowners who have already planted their warm-season plants across these areas should take precautions to cover and protect them.

    After the first few nights of the week, temperatures will rebound as a storm system moving across southern Canada brings warmer temperatures to the Great Lakes Tuesday and to the Northeast Wednesday.

    RELATED ON SKYE: 22 People More Sick of Winter Than You Are

     

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    YouTube/AP

    Dear Commander Hadfield,

    After many months in space, you're finally heading home. So, rather than a love letter from an earthbound human, consider this a thank-you note. Thank you for making me fall in love with space again, and for reigniting some of the fascination my generation felt for space thanks to the moon landing. Thank you for bringing us music, an unexpected gift, from the stars. How fitting that you should play us out with "Space Oddity." And how right that you should make your version of the song hopeful, about going home. Thank you for all of your 140 character poems from the sky. And thank you for tweeting at me. I'm now the proud recipient of a tiny bit of stardust.

    During your time at the International Space Station, you've brought the heart of a poet to the way you talk about your experiences in space and you've brought the eye of an artist to your photos. Your recent picture of Ireland, Wales and Mann took my breath away. I was overwhelmed by the light and the curve of the planet. Looking at it, I was able to imagine the whole big blue marble suspended in inky blackness. But space is no longer a frightening void - thanks to your work, the way you've shared your experiences with us, space is now the ocean that holds us.

    RELATED ON SKYE: Earlier 'Dear Commander Hadfield' Letters


    I just reread a short story by Italo Calvino called "The Distance of the Moon." It's a magical tale based on the premise that once, the moon was much closer to us than it is now. "Climb up on the Moon?" Calvino writes. "Of course we did. All you had to do was row out to it in a boat and, when you were underneath, prop a ladder against her and scramble up." Over the course of the story, the moon moves so far away from Earth that these visits are no longer possible. But we're closer to space now that we've been in decades, and that's thanks to you.

    I'm sure I'm not the only one that will miss having you at the ISS. Carl Sagan once said, "We are made of star stuff." There is no better way to remind us of that than to take us there, into space. Thank you doing just that, and for making us look once again toward the stars.

    Your loyal, earthbound fan,

    Pam Mandel
    @nerdseyeview

    RELATED ON SKYE: 25 Amazing Photos of the International Space Station
    International Space Station, Shuttle

     

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    A storm lights up the sky above the Yangon River on May 13, 2013. (Ye Aung Thu/AFP/Getty Images)

    YANGON, Myanmar (AP) - Amid concerns about a possible disaster, Myanmar state television said Monday that thousands of people displaced by communal violence last year have been evacuated from makeshift camps to safer ground ahead of a cyclone expected later this week.


    The report said authorities have moved 5,158 people from low-lying camps in the Rakhine state capital, Sittwe, to safer shelter. It said displaced people were also moved in 10 other township in western Myanmar where communal violence flared last year between Muslims and Buddhists, taking hundreds of lives and leaving more than 100,000 people homeless. It did not give the number of people evacuated in those locations.

    The United Nations estimates that nearly 70,000 of those displaced are in low-lying areas along the coast that are highly susceptible to tidal surges and flooding.

    In 2008, Cyclone Nargis killed more than 130,000 people in Myanmar.

    Cyclone Mahasen is expected to hit neighboring Bangladesh on Thursday or Friday. Spillover rain could cause landslides and flooding in Myanmar.

    Aid groups have issued warnings for weeks that annual monsoon rains could wreak havoc for displaced people in their camps and spark disease outbreaks.

    "The government has been repeatedly warned to make appropriate arrangements for those displaced in Rakhine state. Now thousands of lives are at stake unless targeted action is taken immediately to assist those most at risk," Isabelle Arradon, Amnesty International's deputy Asia Pacific director, said in a statement Monday.

    The group acknowledged reports of some evacuations but said "several of the identified evacuation sites are within already established camps for internally displaced persons or fail to have adequate storm-ready structures, and storm warnings have not been provided to all at-risk displaced communities" outside of Sittwe.

    "We need to be prepared for the worst," the United Nations' resident and humanitarian coordinator for Myanmar, Ashok Nigam, said Saturday.

    RELATED ON SKYE: 50 Must-See Weather Photos from 2012

     

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    This blend of two images taken by NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory shows a solar eruption that occurred on May 12, 2013. One image shows light in the 171-angstrom wavelength, the other in 131 angstroms. (AP Photo/NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory)

    LOS ANGELES (AP) - The sun has fired off a massive flare, the strongest solar eruption this year.

    The powerful flare occurred Sunday and erupted on the side of the sun that was not facing Earth. While the planet was not hit with radiation, space weather forecasters say the solar blast briefly disrupted high-frequency radio signals.

    Solar outbursts that are directed at Earth can affect communications systems and power grids and also produce colorful auroras.

    NASA says radiation from the latest flare may stream toward two of its spacecraft, including the Spitzer Space Telescope. Engineers have the option to put them in safe mode to protect instruments from getting fried.

    The side of the sun where Sunday's eruption occurred will rotate into Earth's view soon, allowing scientists to study the active region.

     

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    Monday, May 13, 2013

    Expedition 35 Commander Chris Hadfield of the Canadian Space Agency (CSA), left, Russian Flight Engineer Roman Romanenko of the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos), center, and NASA Flight Engineer Tom Marshburn sit in chairs outside the Soyuz Capsule just minutes after they landed in a remote area outside the town of Dzhezkazgan, Kazakhstan, on Tuesday, May 14, 2013. (NASA/Carla Cioffi)

    MOSCOW (AP) - A Soyuz space capsule carrying a three-man crew returning from a five-month mission to the International Space Station landed safely Tuesday on the steppes of Kazakhstan.

    Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield, American Thomas Marshburn, and Russian Roman Romanenko landed as planned southeast of the town of Dzhezkazgan at 8:31 a.m. local time Tuesday (10:31 p.m. EDT Monday night).

    Live footage on NASA TV showed the Soyuz TMA-07M capsule slowly descending by parachute onto the sun-drenched steppes under clear skies. Russian search and rescue helicopters hovered over the landing site for a quick recovery effort.

    Rescue teams moved quickly to help the crew in their bulky spacesuits exit through the narrow hatch of the capsule. They were then put into reclining chairs to start adjusting to Earth's gravity after 146 days in space.

    The three astronauts smiled as they chatted with space agency officials and doctors who were checking their condition. Hadfield, who served as the space station's commander, gave a thumbs-up sign. They then made quick phone calls to family members and friends.

    NASA spokesman Josh Byerly said by telephone from the landing site that the three returning astronauts were doing very well.

    Hadfield, 53, an engineer and former test pilot from Milton, Ontario, was Canada's first professional astronaut to live aboard the space station and became the first Canadian in charge of a spacecraft. He relinquished command of the space station on Sunday.

    "It's just been an extremely fulfilling and amazing experience end to end," Hadfield told Mission Control on Monday. "From this Canadian to all the rest of them, I offer an enormous debt of thanks." He was referring to all those in the Canadian Space Agency who helped make his flight possible.

    Hadfield bowed out of orbit by posting a music video on YouTube on Sunday - his own custom version of David Bowie's "Space Oddity." It's believed to be the first music video made in space, according to NASA.

    "With deference to the genius of David Bowie, here's Space Oddity, recorded on Station. A last glimpse of the World," Hadfield said via Twitter.

    Hadfield sang often in orbit, using a guitar already aboard the complex, and even took part in a live, Canadian coast-to-coast concert in February that included the Barenaked Ladies' Ed Robertson and a youth choir.

    The five-minute video posted Sunday drew a salute from Bowie's official Facebook page: "It's possibly the most poignant version of the song ever created."

    A three-man U.S.-Russian crew is staying on the space station and will be joined in two weeks by the next trio of astronauts.

     

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    Buddhist monks and other passengers wait for a ferry to cross Yangon river before a cyclone is scheduled to hit, Monday, May 13, 2013, in Yangon, Myanmar. (AP Photo/Khin Maung Win)

    SITTWE, Myanmar (AP) - Several overcrowded boats carrying more than 100 Rohingya Muslims trying to escape an approaching cyclone capsized off the coast of western Myanmar, and only 42 were known to have survived, the United Nations said Tuesday.

    Eight bodies have been found so far, and more than 50 other people who were aboard are feared dead, said James Munn, an official with the U.N.'s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

    The Rohingya, a long-suffering minority, had been living in camps in Myanmar's Rakhine state after fleeing sectarian violence last year. They crowded into as many as five boats that left Pauktaw township late Monday, said Munn. Reports indicated that one of the boats was towing the others and hit a rock, causing all to capsize overnight.

    The accident came amid a wider evacuation ahead of Cyclone Mahasen, which the U.N. says could swamp makeshift housing camps sheltering tens of thousands of Rohingya.

    Myanmar state television reported Monday that 5,158 people were relocated from low-lying camps in Rakhine state to safer shelters. But far more people are considered vulnerable.

    Around 140,000 people - mostly Rohingya - are living in flimsy tents and makeshift shelters in the region after two outbreaks of Buddhist-Muslim violence there last year, according to the U.N. humanitarian affairs office.

    Ashok Nigam, the United Nations' resident and humanitarian coordinator, said this week that nearly 70,000 of those displaced should be moved to higher ground. They are in low-lying areas along the coast that are highly susceptible to tidal surges and flooding.

    Cyclone Mahasen is expected to make landfall late Thursday or early Friday. It is heading toward Chittagong, Bangladesh, but could shift northeast and deliver a more direct hit to Rakhine state, according to Myanmar's Meteorology Department. Heavy rains and strong winds are expected to batter Rakhine in any case.

    Aid groups have issued warnings for weeks that annual monsoon rains could cause flooding and spark disease outbreaks, wreaking havoc on displaced people in their camps and spark disease outbreaks.

    Myanmar's southern delta was devastated in 2008 by Cyclone Nargis, which swept away entire farming villages and killed more than 130,000 people.

     

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    In this file photo, a health official sorts mosquitos according to species and gender before testing them at a the county mosquito lab in Dallas. (AP Photo/LM Otero)

    NEW YORK (AP) - U.S. health officials say last year was the worst ever for West Nile virus deaths.

    The final tally reported Monday was 286 deaths - or two more than the record set in 2002.

    But there were far fewer illnesses overall, and fewer serious cases than in previous years.

    The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had predicted it would be a bad year because of weather conditions that promote breeding of the mosquitoes that spread the virus to people.

    The CDC report Monday showed Texas had nearly a third of the serious cases, and about a third of the deaths.

    West Nile virus was first diagnosed in Uganda in 1937, but no cases were reported in the U.S. until 1999 in New York. It gradually spread to the West Coast.

     

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    A wind turbine farm owned by PacifiCorp stands near Glenrock, Wyo., Monday, May 6, 2013. (AP Photo/Matt Young)

    CONVERSE COUNTY, Wyo. (AP) - It happens about once a month here, on the barren foothills of one of America's green-energy boomtowns: A soaring golden eagle slams into a wind farm's spinning turbine and falls, mangled and lifeless, to the ground.

    Killing these iconic birds is not just an irreplaceable loss for a vulnerable species. It's also a federal crime, a charge that the Obama administration has used to prosecute oil companies when birds drown in their waste pits and power companies when birds are electrocuted by their power lines.

    But the administration has never fined or prosecuted a wind-energy company, even those that flout the law repeatedly. Instead, the government is shielding the industry from liability and helping keep the scope of the deaths secret.

    Wind power, a pollution-free energy intended to ease global warming, is a cornerstone of President Barack Obama's energy plan. His administration has championed a $1 billion-a-year tax break to the industry that has nearly doubled the amount of wind power in his first term.

    But like the oil industry under President George W. Bush, lobbyists and executives have used their favored status to help steer U.S. energy policy.

    The result is a green industry that's allowed to do not-so-green things. It kills protected species with impunity and conceals the environmental consequences of sprawling wind farms.

    More than 573,000 birds are killed by the country's wind farms each year, including 83,000 hunting birds such as hawks, falcons and eagles, according to an estimate published in March in the peer-reviewed Wildlife Society Bulletin.

    Getting precise figures is impossible because many companies aren't required to disclose how many birds they kill. And when they do, experts say, the data can be unreliable.

    When companies voluntarily report deaths, the Obama administration in many cases refuses to make the information public, saying it belongs to the energy companies or that revealing it would expose trade secrets or implicate ongoing enforcement investigations.

    Nearly all the birds being killed are protected under federal environmental laws, which prosecutors have used to generate tens of millions of dollars in fines and settlements from businesses, including oil and gas companies, over the past five years.

    "We are all responsible for protecting our wildlife, even the largest of corporations," Colorado U.S. Attorney David M. Gaouette said in 2009 when announcing Exxon Mobil had pleaded guilty and would pay $600,000 for killing 85 birds in five states, including Wyoming.

    The large death toll at wind farms shows how the renewable energy rush comes with its own environmental consequences, trade-offs the Obama administration is willing to make in the name of cleaner energy.

    "It is the rationale that we have to get off of carbon, we have to get off of fossil fuels, that allows them to justify this," said Tom Dougherty, a long-time environmentalist who worked for nearly 20 years for the National Wildlife Federation in the West, until his retirement in 2008. "But at what cost? In this case, the cost is too high."

    The Obama administration has refused to accept that cost when the fossil-fuel industry is to blame. The BP oil company was fined $100 million for killing and harming migratory birds during the 2010 Gulf oil spill. And PacifiCorp, which operates coal plants in Wyoming, paid more than $10.5 million in 2009 for electrocuting 232 eagles along power lines and at its substations.

    But PacifiCorp also operates wind farms in the state, where at least 20 eagles have been found dead in recent years, according to corporate surveys submitted to the federal government and obtained by The Associated Press. They've neither been fined nor prosecuted. A spokesman for PacifiCorp, which is a subsidiary of MidAmerican Energy Holdings Co. of Des Moines, Iowa, said that's because its turbines may not be to blame.

    "What it boils down to is this: If you electrocute an eagle, that is bad, but if you chop it to pieces, that is OK," said Tim Eicher, a former U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service enforcement agent based in Cody, who helped prosecute the PacifiCorp power line case.

    By not enforcing the law, the administration provides little incentive for companies to build wind farms where there are fewer birds. And while companies already operating turbines are supposed to avoid killing birds, in reality there's little they can do once the windmills are spinning.

    Wind farms are clusters of turbines as tall as 30-story buildings, with spinning rotors the size of jetliners. Though the blades appear to move slowly, they can reach speeds up to 170 mph at the tips, creating tornado-like vortexes.

    Flying eagles behave like drivers texting on their cellphones; they don't look up. As they scan for food, they don't notice the industrial turbine blades until it's too late.

    The rehabilitation coordinator for the Rocky Mountain Raptor Program, Michael Tincher, said he euthanized two golden eagles found starving and near death near wind farms. Both had injuries he'd never seen before: One of their wings appeared to be twisted off.

    "There is nothing in the evolution of eagles that would come near to describing a wind turbine. There has never been an opportunity to adapt to that sort of threat," said Grainger Hunt, an eagle expert who researches the U.S. wind-power industry's deadliest location, a northern California area known as Altamont Pass. Wind farms built there decades ago kill more than 60 per year.

    Eagle deaths have forced the Obama administration into a difficult choice between its unbridled support for wind energy and enforcing environmental laws that could slow the industry's growth.

    Former Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, in an interview with the AP before his departure, denied any preferential treatment for wind. Interior Department officials said that criminal prosecution, regardless of the industry, is always a "last resort."

    "There's still additional work to be done with eagles and other avian species, but we are working on it very hard," Salazar said. "We will get to the right balance."

    Meanwhile, the Obama administration has proposed a rule that would give wind-energy companies potentially decades of shelter from prosecution for killing eagles. The regulation is currently under review at the White House.

    The proposal, made at the urging of the wind-energy industry, would allow companies to apply for 30-year permits to kill a set number of bald or golden eagles. Previously, companies were only eligible for five-year permits.

    In exchange for the longer timetable, companies agree that if they kill more eagles than allowed, the government could require them to make changes. But the administration recently said it would cap how much a company could be forced to spend on finding ways to reduce the number of eagles its facility is killing.

    The Obama administration said the longer permit was needed to "facilitate responsible development of renewable energy" while "continuing to protect eagles."

    That's because without a long-term authorization to kill eagles, investors are less likely to finance an industry that's violating the law.

    Typically, the government would be forced to study the environmental effects of such a regulation before implementing it. In this case, though, the Obama administration avoided a full review, saying the policy was nothing more than an "administrative change."

    "It's basically guaranteeing a black box for 30 years, and they're saying 'trust us for oversight.' This is not the path forward," said Katie Umekubo, a renewable energy attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council and a former lawyer for the Fish and Wildlife Service. In private meetings with industry and government leaders in recent months, environmental groups have argued that the 30-year permit needed an in-depth environmental review.

    The tactics have created an unexpected rift between the administration and major environmental groups favoring green energy that, until the eagle rule, had often been on the same side as the wind industry.

    Those conservation groups that have been critical of the administration's stance from the start, such as the American Bird Conservancy, have often been cut out of the behind-the-scenes discussions and struggled to obtain information on bird deaths at wind farms.

    "There are no seats at the exclusive decision-making table for groups that want the wind industry to be held accountable for the birds it kills," said Kelly Fuller, who works on wind issues for the group.

    The eagle rule is not the first time the administration has made concessions for the wind-energy industry.

    Last year, over objections from some of its own wildlife investigators and biologists, the Interior Department updated its guidelines and provided more cover for wind companies that violate the law.

    The administration and some environmentalists say that was the only way to exact some oversight over an industry that operates almost exclusively on private land and generates no pollution, and therefore is exposed to little environmental regulation.

    Under both the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act, the death of a single bird without a permit is illegal.

    But under the Obama administration's new guidelines, wind-energy companies - and only wind-energy companies - are held to a different standard. Their facilities don't face additional scrutiny until they have a "significant adverse impact" on wildlife or habitat. But under both bird protection laws, any impact has to be addressed.

    The rare exception for one industry substantially weakened the government's ability to enforce the law and ignited controversy inside the Interior Department.

    "U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service does not do this for the electric utility industry or other industries," Kevin Kritz, a government wildlife biologist in the Rocky Mountain region wrote in government records in September 2011. "Other industries will want to be judged on a similar standard."

    Experts working for the agency in California and Nevada wrote in government records in June 2011 that the new federal guidelines should be considered as though they were put together by corporations, since they "accommodate the renewable energy industry's proposals, without due accountability."

    The Obama administration, however, repeatedly overruled its experts at the Fish and Wildlife Service. In the end, the wind-energy industry, which was part of the committee that drafted and edited the guidelines, got almost everything it wanted.

    "Clearly, there was a bias to wind energy in their favor because they are a renewable source of energy, and justifiably so," said Rob Manes, who runs the Kansas office for The Nature Conservancy and who served on the committee. "We need renewable energy in this country."

    The government also declared that senior officials in Washington, many of whom are political appointees, must approve any wind-farm prosecution. Normally, law-enforcement agents in the field have the authority to file charges with federal attorneys.

    While all big cases are typically cleared through headquarters, such a blanket policy has never been applied to an entire industry, former officials said.

    "It's over," Eicher said. "You'll never see a prosecution now."

    Not so, says the Fish and Wildlife Service. It said it is investigating 18 bird-death cases involving wind-power facilities, and seven have been referred to the Justice Department. A spokesman for the Justice Department declined to discuss the status of those cases.

    Dan Ashe, the Fish and Wildlife Service's director, in an interview Monday with The Associated Press said his agency always made it clear to wind companies that if they kill birds they would still be liable.

    "We are not allowing them to do it. They do it," he said of the bird deaths. "And we will successfully prosecute wind companies if they are in significant noncompliance."

    But officials acknowledge that their priority is cooperating with companies before wind farms are built to encourage them to be put where they won't harm birds. Once they are built, there is little companies can do except shut down turbines or remove them - and that means reducing the amount of electricity they generate and violating deals struck with companies purchasing their electricity.

    By contrast, there are easy fixes for oil companies and companies operating power lines to stop killing birds. The government often requests companies take such steps before it decides to prosecute.

    "We just can't be bringing a criminal case against a company that is up and running if there is not a solution," said Jill Birchell, head of the Fish and Wildlife Service law enforcement office in California and Nevada. "We can fine them, but that doesn't help eagles."

    In the meantime, birds continue to die. The golden eagle population in the West, prior to the wind energy boom, was declining so much that the government's conservation goal in 2009 was not to allow the eagle population to decrease by a single bird.

    The reason boils down to biology. Eagles take five years to reach the age when they can reproduce, and often they only produce one chick a year.

    In its defense, the wind-energy industry points out that more eagles are killed each year by cars, electrocutions and poisoning than by turbines.

    Ashe noted that the government doesn't require other industrial facilities to disclose the numbers of birds they kill.

    Documents and emails obtained by the AP offer glimpses of the problem: 14 deaths at seven facilities in California, five each in New Mexico and Oregon, one in Washington state and another in Nevada, where an eagle was found with a hole in its neck, exposing the bone.

    Unlike the estimates, these are hard numbers, proof of deaths, the beginnings of a mosaic revealing the problem.

    One of the deadliest places in the country for golden eagles is Wyoming, where federal officials said wind farms have killed more than four dozen golden eagles since 2009, predominantly in the southeastern part of the state. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to disclose the figures.

    The Interior Department recently approved construction of the nation's largest wind farm in Wyoming, with what would be 1,000 turbines. The federal government predicts that project, which was analyzed because it was on federal land, would kill 46 to 64 eagles each year.

    At a different facility, Duke Energy's Top of the World wind farm, a 17,000-acre site with 110 turbines located about 35 miles east of Casper, 10 eagles have been killed in the first two years of operation. It is the deadliest of Duke's 15 wind power plants for eagles.

    The company's environmental director for renewable energy, Tim Hayes, said Duke is doing all it can, not only because it wants to fix the problem but because it could reduce the company's liability. Two of the company's wind farms in Wyoming - Top of the World and Campbell Hill - are under investigation by the federal government for the deaths of golden eagles and other birds, according to a report the company filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission last week. The report was filed after the AP visited a Duke facility in Wyoming and asked senior executives about the deaths.

    Duke encourages workers to drive slower so as not to scare eagles from their roosts. They remove dead animals that eagles eat. And they've removed rock piles where the bird's prey lives. They also keep internal data on every dead bird in order to determine whether these efforts are working. The company is also testing radar technology to detect eagles and is considering blaring loud noises to prevent the birds from flying into danger.

    The only other option is shutting off the turbines when eagles approach. And even that method hasn't been scientifically proven to work.

    At Top of the World, Duke shut down 13 turbines for a week in March, often the deadliest time for eagles. The experiment, the company says, paid off. Not a single eagle was killed that month.

    Hayes says the company has repeatedly sought a permit from the federal government to kill eagles legally, but was told it was killing too many to qualify.

    When an eagle is killed, Duke employees are also prohibited by law from removing the carcass.

    Each death is a tiny crime scene. So workers walk out underneath the spinning rotors and cover the dead bird with a tarp. It lies there, protected from scavengers but decaying underneath its shroud, until someone from the government comes to get it.

     

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    Updated Tuesday, May 14, 2013, 3:54 p.m. ET
    Seaside Heights Roller Coaster, Hurricane Sandy
    The claw of a crane tears through the structure of the Jet Star Roller Coaster, Tuesday, May 14, 2013, in Seaside Heights, N.J. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

    SEASIDE HEIGHTS, N.J. (AP) - Riding the Jet Star roller coaster as a girl vacationing at the Jersey shore, Nicole Jones said there was always that one breath-catching moment when the passenger cars swerved toward the ocean, as if threatening to dump riders into the surf.

    When Superstorm Sandy hit last October, it was the roller coaster itself that plunged into the waves off the amusement pier where it had been anchored for decades.

    Work crews, making better progress on Tuesday than anticipated, began tearing down the remains of the roller coaster and placing them on a huge storage barge, which was expected to carry away the last remnants of the beloved ride within 48 hours. About half of it was gone by mid-afternoon.

    The image of the Jet Star, sitting in the ocean, was perhaps the most famous and enduring image of Superstorm Sandy. It appeared hundreds of times in media accounts and graced T-shirts, hoodies and car magnets, sold by the numerous charities raising money for storm victims.

    "It was always a thrill. It didn't matter how many times you went on it," said Jones, now 21, who grew up in northern New Jersey but recently moved to the shore, where she was a regular visitor during the summers from the time she was 5. "It was that scary moment when it went around the curve at the top, and you felt like maybe you were going to fall in the ocean. But then somehow you never did.

    "It's heartbreaking to see it like this," she added.

    The ride is privately owned by Casino Pier, one of two amusement piers in Seaside Heights that were devastated by the Oct. 29 storm. Funtown Pier, at the southern end of the boardwalk, was so badly damaged it cannot open this summer, but will be back in 2014.

    Casino Pier is being rebuilt and will include at least 18 rides this summer, including a new pendulum ride called The Superstorm, in defiance of Sandy.

    The coaster's removal was delayed for months while the company wrangled with insurers and contractors over a rare engineering feat: Exactly how DO you snag a roller coaster out of the sea?

    In the end, they came up with a fairly simple solution. The company hired Weeks Marine, an experienced maritime contractor, to bring a barge bearing a giant crane with the same sort of grasping claw featured in miniature in so many Seaside Heights arcades, where contestants maneuver the device and try to capture a stuffed animal or sports jersey as a prize.

    Tuesday morning, shortly after Great Britain's Price Harry had wrapped up a brief visit to the boardwalk as part of a U.S. tour, the crane roared to life and began grasping and wrenching loose twisted sections of metal track, dropping them onto the barge for later removal.

    Seaside Heights Mayor Bill Akers said the wind and weather had to be just right for the job - and were expected to be over the next 48 to 72 hours. Work would progress around the clock until the last of the coaster is gone.

    The project also will remove three other rides that fell from the pier and into the ocean during the storm, but have been submerged and out of view since then, said Toby Wolf, a spokeswoman for the pier's owners. The Stillwalk Manor (a haunted house-type ride), The Centrifuge and the Log Flume all plunged off the pier and into the waves.

    A fifth ride that fell from the pier, the Music Express, landed on the beach and was salvaged a few days after the storm, Wolf said.

    The boardwalk itself is nearing completion, and the mayor promises it will be done by Memorial Day weekend. The section of boardwalk upon which Prince Harry walked on Tuesday was just finished over the weekend by workers hastening to prepare for his visit.

    RELATED ON SKYE: 25 Indelible Images from Superstorm Sandy

     

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    It felt more like late March than mid-May across the Midwest and the interior mid-Atlantic on Sunday and Monday as cold Canadian air penetrated the United States once again this spring.

    This cold snap began early on Saturday afternoon when a cold front pushed through the Great Lakes. Cold air filtered in behind this front and was accompanied by rain and snow showers that lasted into Sunday morning across Michigan and Wisconsin.

    While temperatures fell to below 40 as far south as Arkansas and as far east as New York, snow through Sunday morning accumulated up to 5.5 inches in Sault Ste. Marie, Mich.

    RELATED:
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    These cold temperatures pushed eastward on Mother's Day with highs in the Ohio Valley running 15 degrees below normal. High temperatures ran as cold as 10 degrees below normal around this area from Minnesota through Mississippi and up into Pennsylvania.

    With a mainly clear sky and low winds on Sunday night, record lows were set from Illinois to Tennessee and into Virginia with another night of sub-40 temperatures.

    Kenton, Mich., dropped as low as 17 degrees F on Monday morning, while Silver Bay, Minn., plummeted to 18 degrees F on Monday morning.

    This record-challenging cold continued through Monday with the coldest air being centered over central Pennsylvania and southwestern New York.

    With temperatures forecast to dip to or below freezing both on Monday and Monday night, farmers and homeowners were forced to take extra precautions to ensure that their plants do not get harmed from the freezing temperatures.

    The good news is that relief from these unseasonably cold temperatures is on the way.

    A warm front will lift through the Midwest today allowing hot air from the southern Plains to move into the region. Temperatures will rebound to around normal across the Ohio Valley and above normal west of Indiana.

    With this front taking aim at the Northeast on Wednesday, the cold temperatures will be forced to retreat into New England.

    RELATED ON SKYE: 22 People More Sick of Winter Than You Are

     

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    Above average temperatures will continue through this week across much of the Southwest while some cooling occurs in the Northwest.

    After a sizzling hot day on Monday, temperatures will once again climb into the lower 90s in California's Sacramento Valley and into the upper 90s in the San Joaquin Valley.

    Temperatures will top out in the low 100s from Palm Springs, Calif. for the fourth day in a row, as well as much of southwestern Arizona.

    High temperatures rising into the 90s will be found into eastern Utah and central Nevada, though some cooling will begin to invade the northern Rockies.

    These above-normal temperatures are due to an upper-level zone of high pressure that had slowly been strengthening over the Southwest since Friday.

    This area of high pressure will actually continue to break down into Tuesday causing the cooling in the northern Rockies.

    Just a day after Boise, Bozeman and Billings rose into the upper 80s, highs on Tuesday will struggle to reach the 70-degree mark.

    A system will move through the northern Rockies into Tuesday, allowing for that cooler Pacific air to invade the region.

    RELATED:
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    As temperatures cool in the Northern Rockies, temperatures will be on the rise elsewhere. The ridge of high pressure over the Southwest will shift eastward Tuesday, bringing another day of record-challenging warmth from the Front Range of the Rockies and into the central Plains. Temperatures will also warm into the 80s all the way into Chicago.

    Further cooling of the West is expected on Wednesday as a dip in the jet stream moves into the area. High temperatures will fall about 3-5 degrees across much of the Southwest, though they will still remain above normal for this time of year.

    RELATED ON SKYE: 20 Tips for Surviving a Heat Wave

     

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    Pavlof, Pavlov Sister, Volcano
    Pavlof and Pavlov Sister volcanoes as seen from Cold Bay area, Alaska Peninsula. (NOAA/Second Mate Michael Theberge, SS Coastal Navigator)

    ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) - Another volcano in Alaska is heating up, with seismic instruments signaling a possible eruption, scientists said Monday.

    Tremors were detected at Pavlof Volcano, 625 miles southwest of Anchorage, according to the Alaska Volcano Observatory. Satellite imagery showed the mountain was "very, very hot," said John Power, the U.S. Geological Survey scientist in charge at the observatory.

    The aviation alert level for Pavlof was raised from "yellow" to "orange." A major ash emission could threaten international flights.

    Pavlof is 37 miles from the community of Cold Bay, which was notified of the new activity that began about 8 a.m. Monday. Because of clouds, the volcano was not visible to the village of 100.

    The volcano last erupted in 2007, but residents there said that eruption had no impact on Cold Bay, likely because the winds blew any ash fall away. Ash clouds were visible to residents, however.

    "It was prominent," said Mike Tickle, manager of the local fuel terminal. "You could see it from all over the place."

    Pavlof is the second Alaska volcano to rumble this month.

    Cleveland Volcano, on an uninhabited island in the Aleutian Islands, experienced a low-level eruption in early May. Satellite imagery shows the volcano continues to discharge steam, gas and heat, although no ash clouds have been detected in the past week, Power said.

    Cleveland is not monitored with seismic instruments. Its alert level remains at orange.

    Pavlof's 2007 eruption lasted 29 days. It emitted mud flows and erupting lava, as well as ash clouds up to 18,000 feet high, Power said. At night, the 8,262-foot volcano glowed.

    Typically, Pavlof eruptions are gas-rich fountains of lava that can shoot up to a few thousand feet. But its ash clouds are usually less dense than plumes of more explosive volcanoes that pose a greater hazard to aircraft, said volcanologist Game McGimsey.

    No ash clouds were immediately detected Monday, and local air traffic controller Craig Jackson said there were no flight interruptions.

    Pavlof is among the most active volcanoes in the Aleutian arc, with nearly 40 known eruptions, according to the observatory.

    Cleveland is a 5,675-foot peak on a remote island 940 miles southwest of Anchorage. The volcano's most recent significant eruption began in February 2001 and sent ash clouds as high 39,000 feet above sea level. It also produced a rubbly lava flow and hot debris that reached the sea.

    The most recent minor ash emissions from Cleveland were observed last November.

    RELATED ON SKYE: What Would Happen if You Fell into a Volcano?
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    Mount Everest is the second peak from the left. (Pavel Novak)

    Earth's global thaw has reached Mount Everest, the world's tallest peak, researchers said today (May 14) at the Meeting of the Americas in Cancun, Mexico.

    Glaciers in the Mount Everest region have shrunk by 13 percent in the last 50 years and the snowline has shifted upward by 590 feet, Sudeep Thakuri, a graduate student at the University of Milan in Italy, said in a statement. Located in the Himalaya Mountains on the border between China and Nepal, Everest's summit is 29,029 feet above sea level.

    Thakuri and his colleagues tracked changes to glaciers, temperatures and precipitation at Everest and the surrounding Sagarmatha National Park. There, glaciers have retreated an average of 1,300 feet since 1962, the team found. More recently, precipitation (both snow and rain) has dropped by 3.9 inches and temperatures have risen 1 degree Fahrenheit since 1992.

    The researchers suspect that the glacial melting in the Everest region is due to global warming, but they have not yet established a firm connection between the mountains' changes and climate change, Thakuri said in the statement.

    While Everest isn't the only Himalayan region seeing the effects of climate change, not all of the region's glaciers are melting. The Karakoram Mountains, on the China-India-Pakistan border, are holding steady and may even be growing. But shrinking glaciers in the rest of the Himalayas have drawn significant global attention, because the glaciers provide water and power for roughly 1.5 billion people.

    Email Becky Oskin or follow her @beckyoskin. Follow LiveScience @livescience, Facebook & Google+. Original article on LiveScience.com.

    Copyright 2013 LiveScience, a TechMediaNetwork company. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

    RELATED ON SKYE: 10 Amazing Mount Everest Survival Stories
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    Tropical Cyclone, India, Bangladesh, Myanmar

    Tropical Cyclone Mahasen (01B), which is now centered to the northeast of Sri Lanka, or several hundred miles south of Calcutta, India, will bring impacts to areas from eastern India to Bangladesh and Myanmar over the next few days.

    On Monday and Tuesday, heavy rainfall associated with Mahasen fell across parts of Sri Lanka. Rainfall totaled 5.76 inches in Ratnapura and 4.45 inches in Kurunegala during this time. The Sri Lankan Disaster Management Centre reported that at least seven people have died due to flooding from the cyclone.

    Multiple boats carrying more than 100 evacuees from Myanmar capsized on Monday after the lead boat crashed into rocks, according to the United Nations. More than 50 people aboard the boats are feared dead.

    Related at AccuWeather: Eastern Pacific Hurricane Season May Start Out Active

    A satellite image from Tuesday shows clouds associated with Tropical Cyclone Mahasen to the north of Sri Lanka.

    Mahasen is expected to take a northeastward track over the next few days. This track should bring the storm into an area of warm sea surface temperatures and lower wind shear allowing it to become better organized.

    With this track, Tropical Cyclone Mahasen could bring life-threatening conditions to millions of people from northeastern India and into Bangladesh and even Myanmar.

    The storm is expected to approach Bangladesh Wednesday night into Thursday morning. During that time. it is expected to reach a peak intensity of 75 mph (120 km/h). Mahasen may weaken somewhat prior to making landfall on Thursday afternoon, but the primary threat from the storm will be heavy rainfall throughout the region.

    An additional concern is that parts of Bangladesh and northeast India have received over 12 inches of rain during the past two weeks, which is a normal total for the entire month of May. In particular, the coastal Bangladesh city of Chittagong, a city of 2.5 million people, received more than 15 inches of rain between May 3 and May 11. As a result, additional heavy rainfall from a tropical cyclone would likely produce widespread flooding of both coastal and inland areas and possible mudslides.

    Related at AccuWeather: Arguments for and Against Climate Change

    Farther west, rainfall amounts will be considerably lighter as compared to Bangladesh and coastal Myanmar. Calcutta (Kolkata), India, a city of more than 5 million people, will be very close to the western side of the storm system. At this point in time, it appears that they will have just a few showers and thunderstorms while the worst of the storm passes to their east. However, if the storm tracks a little farther west, there is the potential for a steadier and heavier period of rain on Thursday which could total a few inches.

    Cyclones that have hit these areas in the past have been some of the most deadly across the globe. In 2008, Tropical Cyclone Nargis devastated parts of Myanmar with some estimates of more than 100,000 people killed by the storm. A tropical cyclone that hit Bangladesh in 1991 reportedly killed more than 100,000 people as well.

    Even though this storm is not expected to be as powerful as either of these, it shows how much damage can be done by a tropical cyclone in this part of the world.

    Meteorologists Rob Miller, Eric Wanenchak, Mark Paquette and Anthony Sagliani contributed to this story.

     

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    Internally displaced Rohingya girl walks with a sibling in rain at a makeshift camp for Rohingya people in Sittwe, northwestern Rakhine State, Myanmar, ahead of the arrival of Cyclone Mahasen, Tuesday, May 14, 2013. (AP Photo/Gemunu Amarasinghe)

    SITTWE, Myanmar (AP) - A massive evacuation to clear low-lying camps ahead of a cyclone has run into a potentially deadly snag: Many members of the displaced Rohingya minority living there have refused to leave because they don't trust Myanmar authorities.

    Around 140,000 people - mostly Rohingya - have been living in cramped tents and makeshift shelters in Rakhine state since last year, when two outbreaks of sectarian violence between the Muslim minority and ethnic Rahkine Buddhists forced many Rohingya from their homes. Nearly half those displaced are in coastal areas considered highly vulnerable to storm surges and flooding from Cyclone Mahasen, which is expected to make landfall early Friday.

    Outside the state capital of Sittwe on Wednesday, one community of several hundred Rohingya refused to budge, despite coaxing from soldiers.

    "When we told them the storm was coming, they didn't believe us," said army Lt. Lin Lin. "They're still refusing to move."

    Inside the camp, cycle rickshaw driver U Kyaung Wa said his people were tired of being ordered around by Myanmar authorities. First, he said, they were moved into the camps because their houses were destroyed after last year's violence.

    "Now they say, 'You have to move because of the storm,'" he said. "We keep refusing to go. ... If they point guns at us, only then will we move."

    The cyclone churning through the Indian Ocean appears to have weakened but could still bring "life-threatening" conditions to more than 8 million people in coastal parts of India, Bangladesh and Myanmar, the U.N. said Wednesday.

    Mahasen has been downgraded to a Category 1 storm, said the U.N.'s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

    Heavy rains and flooding in Sri Lanka were blamed for eight deaths earlier this week, said Sarath Lal Kumara, spokesman for Sri Lanka's disaster management center.

    The brunt of the cyclone was barreling toward Chittagong, Bangladesh, but could, "depending on its final trajectory, bring life-threatening conditions for 8.2 million people in northeast India, Bangladesh and Myanmar," the U.N. office said in a storm update issued Friday.

    There was no wind or rain in Chittagong by Wednesday afternoon, but about 170 factories close to the Bay of Bengal were closed in anticipation of the storm.

    In Myanmar at least eight people fleeing the cyclone, and possibly many more, were killed when overcrowded boats carrying more than 100 Rohingya capsized. Only 42 people had been rescued as of Wednesday, and the search continued for more than 50 Rohingya still missing, said Deputy Information Minister Ye Htut.

    Much attention was focused on western Myanmar because of fears that heavy rains will swamp low-lying Rohingya camps.

    Myanmar's government had planned to relocate 38,000 people within Rakhine state by Tuesday but "it is unclear how many people have been relocated," the U.N. office said, adding that Muslim leaders in the country have called on people to cooperate with the government's evacuation.

    The issue has been complicated by widespread anti-Muslim sentiment in Rakine. Rohingya have suffered decades of discrimination in largely Buddhist Myanmar, which does not consider them citizens.

    Tensions are still running high in Rakhine state nearly a year after unrest that killed at least 192 people and left hundreds of Rohingya homes in ruins. The violence has largely segregated Rakhine state along religious lines, with prominent Buddhists - including monks - urging people to boycott Muslim businesses.

    International rights and aid agencies urged that the evacuations be stepped up.

    "If the government fails to evacuate those at risk, any disaster that results will not be natural, but man-made," said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch.

    Weather experts have warned that the storm could shift and change in intensity before hitting land.

    Myanmar's southern delta was devastated in 2008 by Cyclone Nargis, which swept away entire farming villages and killed more than 130,000 people. Two days before hitting Myanmar, Nargis weakened to a Category 1 cyclone before strengthening to a Category 4 storm.

     

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    New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, center left, walks with Britain's Prince Harry, center, while visiting the area hit by Superstorm Sandy, Tuesday, May 14, 2013, in Seaside Heights, N.J. (AP Photo/Mel Evans, Pool)

    SEASIDE HEIGHTS, New Jersey (AP) - Britain's Prince Harry toured two New Jersey shore communities devastated by Superstorm Sandy, shaking hands with emergency personnel and construction workers before spending Tuesday afternoon in New York City at events promoting tourism, entrepreneurism and philanthropy. He even got a chance to play a little baseball.

    In Seaside Heights, where the MTV reality show "Jersey Shore" was made, Harry and his tour guide, Gov. Chris Christie, also took part in a game of chance along the boardwalk, throwing plastic balls into holes for prizes, which they handed over to children.

    The prince suggested to a girl partnered with him, Allie Cirigliano, 7, that she pick a blue penguin as a prize. But she didn't want it. "Don't listen to me," he said with a laugh. She chose a Hello Kitty doll instead.

    The prince came within sight of the surf-washed Jet Star Roller Coaster, which became a defining image of the October storm when it blew off an amusement pier into the Atlantic Ocean. A crane later began tearing the ride apart. Harry also greeted construction workers who have been working on rebuilding Seaside Heights' boardwalk, now about two-thirds complete.

    At a morning stop in Mantoloking, residents flew Union Jack flags. Christie showed the prince a spot where the sea had cut the town in half, taking out a bridge and houses. The channel has since been filled in. Every one of the wealthy town's 521 homes was damaged or destroyed. Scores remain as piles of rubble.

    "This used to be a house?" Harry asked at one barren spot.

    One handwritten sign read: "Prince Harry please come back when we're restored."

    The prince said he was impressed to see "everyone getting together and making things right."

    At both his New Jersey stops, girls and young women jostled for position to get a good look, take pictures and fantasize about marriage proposals.

    "He is so cute. He came in with that white shirt and red hair, and he just exceeded all my expectations," said Brianna Marchal, 19, of Manahawkin, during his second stop. "The crowd literally grew three inches when he came by because everyone was on their tip toes, trying to get a picture. We had four devices going at the same time, trying to get pictures of him."

    Her sister, Taylor, 21, said she has been following Harry for years.

    "It's the whole fairy tale thing," she said. "He's a real live prince, here in New Jersey. We both want to marry him."

    The prince paused for a group photo with 10 members of the Bowden family, which lost a summer house in the storm.

    Camilla Bowden, 17, said she had visited London and studied royal history but came to see Harry for one reason: "'Cause he's my future husband."

    "We appreciate Harry showing care and support during such a difficult time for our family and community," said her aunt, Becky Guenther.

    Christie posted on his Twitter account that he greeted Harry in Sea Girt, where the prince arrived by helicopter, by handing him a "Royal Fleece" - a joking reference to the blue fleece jacket the governor wore everywhere in the weeks after Sandy.

    The prince spent about a half hour each in the two shore towns.

    As his motorcade passed the Lavalette Elementary School, dozens of schoolchildren stood on the sidewalk waving American and British flags.

    From Seaside Heights, the prince headed to New York City, where he climbed aboard a red double-decker bus with British Prime Minister David Cameron as part of a campaign to promote England as a tourist destination.

    Cameron, who spent the morning in Boston at a memorial to the marathon bombing victims, spoke to about 100 entrepreneurs at a Manhattan design studio, saying American and British companies would have to compete in the new world economy on the basis of "our brains, our brilliance, our inventiveness, our creativity.:

    Later, the prince visited a baseball diamond in East Harlem, where a royal foundation is involved in a youth baseball program.

    While dozens of kids cheered him on, the prince briefly took batting practice from New York Yankee Mark Teixeira, making contact with all three pitches he saw.

    "He's a great athlete. I just said keep your eye on the ball," Teixeira said afterward.

    Harry also got some advice from the kids on hitting.

    "We were teaching him how to bat," said Rossalyn Arencidia, 9. She said the prince listened and nodded. "I got to say really it was the best thing that ever happened to me."

    Fabiola Torres, 11, counted herself among the prince's admirers.

    "He's really cute," she said, adding that he was "respectful, but I would expect that from a prince."

    In the evening, Harry was scheduled to attend a Manhattan fundraiser for the Royal Foundation of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry, which does philanthropy in the name of the prince, his brother Prince William and sister-in-law, Kate.

    Before leaving the country, Prince Harry travels Wednesday to Greenwich, Connecticut, to captain a polo team as part of the Sentebale Polo Cup.

    The prince began a weeklong visit to the U.S. on May 9.

    New Jersey sustained about $37 billion worth of damage from the storm. Mantoloking and Seaside Heights took the worst pummeling by Sandy's storm surge. About 360,000 homes or apartment units in New Jersey were damaged by the storm.

     

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