There's a mystery in West Africa that's puzzled scientists for years. Strange circles of bare soil appear in grassland; they're commonly called "fairy circles." These naturally occurring shapes last for decades, until the grass eventually takes over and the circles fade.
Now German scientists think they have an explanation — a horde of insects seems to be bioengineering thousands of miles of desert.
A worker stands on top of a storage bin on July 27, 2011, at a drilling operation in Claysville, Pa. The dust is from powder mixed with water for hydraulic fracturing.
Credit Steve Karnowski / AP
Dust blows off a pile of fracking sand at a mine near Chippewa Falls, Wis., on Dec. 15, 2011. Some of the air samples the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health experts collected at fracking sites had such high levels of silica that the respirators typically worn by workers wouldn't offer enough protection, according to NIOSH standards.
Credit Keith Srakocic / AP
A local contractor closes the valve on his tanker truck on July 27, 2011, after watering the roads to help keep down dust at a hydraulic fracturing operation in Claysville, Pa.
When workplace safety expert Eric Esswein got a chance to see fracking in action not too long ago, what he noticed was all the dust.
It was coming off big machines used to haul around huge loads of sand. The sand is a critical part of the hydraulic fracturing method of oil and gas extraction. After workers drill down into rock, they create fractures in that rock by pumping in a mixture of water, chemicals and sand. The sand keeps the cracks propped open so that oil and gas are released.
Chief Almir of Brazil's Surui tribe attends a press conference with Google representatives in Rio de Janeiro last year. Chief Almir has brought technology to his previously isolated people, who now use smartphones to send photos of illegal logging in the Amazon.
Credit Juan Forero for NPR
Chief Almir still knows how to handle a bow and arrow, the traditional weapon of choice of the Surui people.
Originally published on Thu March 28, 2013 2:30 pm
President Obama has established a new bipartisan commission on election administration, something he promised to do in his Feb. 12 State of the Union address. He signed an executive order Thursday making it official.
Originally published on Thu March 28, 2013 5:47 pm
During a Holy Thursday ritual, Pope Francis continued to break the traditions at the Vatican.
Pope Francis washed and kissed the feet of 12 young people at a youth prison. Among them were two women and two Muslims. The act was a break with tradition. As The Guardian reports, all modern popes have partaken in the ritual by washing the feet of fellow priests at either St Peter's or the Basilica of St John in Lateran.
A police car is posted outside the Women's Medical Society in Philadelphia, on Jan. 20, 2011. Dr. Kermit Gosnell, accused of murder, performed abortions in the clinic.
An undated photo of Gosnell released by the Philadelphia District Attorney's office. Gosnell, who catered to minorities, immigrants and poor women at the Women's Medical Society, was charged with murder in the deaths of a patient and seven babies.
A Philadelphia doctor who performed abortions is on trial for murder. Kermit Gosnell, 72, is accused in the deaths of a female patient and seven babies who the prosecutor says were born alive. District Attorney R. Seth Williams laid out the case in disturbing detail in a grand jury report last year.
When authorities raided Gosnell's clinic in 2010 they found squalid conditions: blood on the floor, the stench of urine and a flea-infested cat wandering through the facility.
Originally published on Thu March 28, 2013 3:27 pm
One day while he was watching TV, farmer Emmanuel Tshiteta saw a news segment about people digging.
With shovels and picks, they forged deep holes, then packed the rocks they uncovered into plastic mesh bags. They carried the bags to a river to wash away the dirt, revealing handfuls of aqua-colored ore. The next day, they sold the ore for quick cash.
A woman views a Mitt Romney campaign ad in September, a month after the launch of an online government database that is supposed to make it easier for the public to see what political ads air in big markets, and how much is spent on them.