The week at a glance ... United States
McMinnville, Ore. Football team stricken: Two dozen members of the McMinnville High School football team were rushed to a local hospital this week, after a grueling workout left them with a mysterious swelling in their limbs. The boys had been lifting weights in a room in which the temperature hit 115 degrees, according to a doctor who treated some of the boys. Doctors said the players showed elevated levels of creatine kinase, a chemical produced when muscle tissue breaks down. Untreated exposure to the chemical can lead to kidney failure. Three players underwent surgery for compartment syndrome, which occurs when muscle, nerves, and blood vessels are compressed in a tightly enclosed space. School officials said they didn’t believe coach Jeff Kearin overworked the players.
HoustonNature cleans up: Millions of gallons of oil in the Gulf of Mexico have dispersed much faster than scientists expected, according to a report issued this week by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. Oil-eating bacteria that thrive in the cold waters 4,000 feet below the surface, including some newly discovered species, have been breaking down hydrocarbons in a 10-mile-long underwater plume that issued from the damaged Deepwater Horizon well. Chemical oil dispersants also contributed to the rapid breakdown of the plume, researchers said. Meanwhile, the region’s seafood got a boost from a study commissioned by TheDailyBeast.com. Independent scientists supported the federal government’s finding that shrimp, grouper, and crab from the Gulf are as safe as Atlantic seafood, containing no measurable traces of oil and dispersants.
New OrleansNew levees, old doubts: Five years after New Orleans levees failed during Hurricane Katrina, the Army Corps of Engineers is nearing completion of a $15 billion, 350-mile-long system of levees, flood walls, gates, and pumps designed to protect the city. The centerpiece of the new system, which is expected to be completed in 2011, is a two-mile-long battlement that engineers say can contain all but the most severe flooding. “As far as design goes, it’s the best humans can do at this time,” says project manager Vic Zillmer. But some residents blame the Corps for the 2005 disaster and remain skeptical that the agency’s efforts will keep New Orleans dry. “How can I trust somebody who makes that big of an error?” said Beverly Crais of Jefferson Parish.
Galt, IowaMassive egg recall: Some 550 million eggs distributed in 18 states were recalled after a salmonella outbreak sickened thousands of people across the country. The episode has revived worries about the nation’s food safety and prompted an investigation of two giant egg producers. The Food and Drug Administration is looking into two Iowa companies, Hillandale Farms and Wright County Eggs, whose facilities were linked to the salmonella outbreak. Both companies have previously tangled with state and federal regulators over environmental and labor-law violations. The FDA recently announced new rules designed to prevent egg-borne salmonella contamination, which can cause cramps, vomiting, and diarrhea.
ChicagoRiver gators: For the second time in as many weeks, an alligator was captured in the Chicago River. Authorities say the 3-foot-long reptile was likely a pet that had been released by its owner. “He’s too clean, too perfect, to have been living in this river long,” said a volunteer alligator wrangler at the Chicago Herpetological Society who goes by the name “Alligator Bob.” He captured the alligator with a net after two days of trying. In early August, another, slightly smaller alligator was captured in the river.
Washington, D.C.Sherrod declines job: Shirley Sherrod, who lost her job with the U.S. Agriculture Department in June after a firestorm erupted over remarks she had made in a widely circulated video, has declined an offer to return to the department. Speaking after a meeting with Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, Sherrod said the firing had left a sour taste and she no longer trusted the department. She said she might later resume “some kind of relationship” with the department, possibly as a consultant on racial issues. Sherrod was forced out of her job after conservative blogger Andrew Breitbart circulated an edited video in which Sherrod appeared to recount an unwillingness to help a white farmer threatened with foreclosure. An unedited tape of her remarks showed Sherrod actually discussing her commitment to helping the farmer.