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STUDY: HUMANS HAVE WIDELY FOULED OCEANS

In one of the most comprehensive looks yet at the oceans, researchers say that humans have "strongly" fouled 41 percent of the high seas with everything from shipping waste to stormwater runoff and that only small polar regions are still untouched. "Almost half of the oceans are in a fairly degraded state, based on what we found," said Benjamin Halpern, the report's lead author and a marine biologist at the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis in California. "There isn't a spot on the planet that hasn't been touched by humans." The report, being published today in the journal Science and presented at a scientific conference this week in Boston, is designed to summarize how humans are affecting the 70 percent of the planet covered by the seas. The international team of 19 researchers looked at effects from 17 human activities, including commercial fishing, runoff from development, industrial pollution, oil rigs and climate change.

PORT WENTWORTH, Ga.

Refinery fire out; eighth victim dies

Firefighters finally doused the last flames Thursday of a deadly sugar refinery blast, a week after the refinery ignited. An eighth victim badly burned in the explosion died in a hospital. At least one worker remained missing, and firefighters hoped to get inside the building to search after extinguishing the fire. Sugar dust is thought to be the cause of the Feb. 7 blast. Emergency crews were able to snuff out the fire at the plant's main building Wednesday, but the blaze persisted at the refinery's 80-foot silos.

About-face on diabetes research

A week after the medical community was stunned by research showing that aggressive lowering of blood sugar among Type 2 diabetes patients produced a higher death rate, a new analysis by a separate team of researchers has found that intensive treatment does not pose such a risk. The message from the back-to-back studies - the first led by a team of American researchers, the latest by Australians - is not one of scientific flip-flopping but one of taking a wait-and-see approach, doctors said Thursday. "To look at these studies as reasons to alter current care would not be advised," said Dr. Kenneth Hupart of Nassau University Medical Center. Interim results reported from research at the George Institute for International Health in Sydney do not suggest a higher death rate because blood sugar is intensively lowered.

Elsewhere

Final space walk: The astronauts aboard the orbiting shuttle station complex face one last space walk today to wrap up exterior work on the newly installed Columbus lab, which flight controllers expect to be producing science before Atlantis leaves next week.

Slashing death: New York detectives questioned a Pennsylvania man on Thursday about the slashing death of a New York psychologist in her office, but authorities later released him and said he is not a suspect.

Power still out: National Guard troops went door-to-door Thursday in parts of southeast Missouri, checking on residents facing a third day without power after a severe ice storm. Thousands of outages were reported around the state, and another storm was possible over the weekend.

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