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Take Five: Of underground nukes and electric cars

Faranaaz Parker

The ANCYL's website gets hacked, an electric car company wants to sue Top Gear, and Indonesia considers underground nuclear facilities.

The M&G’s Faranaaz Parker rounds up five odd things you may have missed this week.

ANCYL website hacked
It’s been an exciting week for the African National Congress Youth League (ANCYL). On Wednesday its president Julius Malema hosted the drive show on Metro FM and then it’s website caught the eye of local hackers. The self-named {Blah Blah} Protest group set up a post, claiming to be Malema and stating that he had decided to resign after bringing the ANC into “disrepute” and making “a fool out of myself”. But the Twitterverse hardly had time to guffaw over the news before it was fixed. The ANCYL has yet to comment on the issue.

New York Times pay wall comes into play
The Gray Lady is about to go behind a pay wall. From April 4, access to the New York Times website will no longer be free. Instead, the paper will adopt a pay wall. Readers will be able to access 20 articles free online but will be charged for further access at a rate of between $15 and $35. It’s not all bad news for fans. Links from Google, Facebook and Twitter will still be accessible but the paper has taken steps to make sure people don’t try to use these loopholes to get unlimited access to the site. There’s heated debate online about how the pay wall will pan out and media watchers in particular are keen to see if the Times’s solution will stem declining revenues without alienating online readers.

Indonesia mulls underground nukes
While Japan struggles to contain the growing fallout around the Fukushima nuclear plant, Indonesia is considering a novel strategy to minimise the possible fallout from a nuclear incident. New Scientist reports that the government of Indonesia has commissioned a feasibility study for the use of underground nuclear reactors. The logic is that should anything go wrong at a nuclear facility built within a bedrock of granite, operators could simply fill all access points to the plant with concrete, burying the radiation, and walk away.

Electric car company to sue Top Gear
Electric car company Tesla is to sue the creators of the popular BBC television show Top Gear for libel and malicious falsehood. A 2008 episode of the series—which is still airing in reruns—shows a Tesla Roadster running out of charge and having to be pushed back into a hangar. Tesla maintains the car never ran out of charge and that the footage was faked. The company says it’s resorting to legal action after the BBC failed to respond to its requests to set the record straight. According to the Guardian the company doesn’t anticipate much of a payout—just over £100 000 in damages—but it wants the BBC to stop airing the episode. Top Gear says it “will be vigorously defending this claim”.

UK works towards gas-free cows
The BBC reports that United Kingdom (UK) scientists are working to find ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from livestock. Gas produced by sheep, cows and goats breaking wind contributes significantly to global warming. It’s estimated that livestock accounts for about 9% of human-induced CO2 and 37% of methane emissions. Now researchers at the University of Reading and Aberystwyth University have shown that it’s possible to cut these emissions by changing the composition of livestock feed. But the UK government says implementing such changes would depend on how costly and how practical it would be to implement.

Faranaaz’s interests span science, technology and development. Read her weekly wrap on the M&G and follow her on Twitter here.


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