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'Environmental tragedy' as Canary Islands fire out of control

Yahoo Science News feed latest items - Mon, 08/19/2019 - 08:09

Montaña Alta (Spain) (AFP) - A fire raged out of control on the Spanish holiday island of Gran Canaria on Monday, forcing evacuations as flames rose so high even water-dropping planes could not operate in what was dubbed an "environmental tragedy". The blaze, the third in 10 days in the mountainous centre of the island, has forced the evacuation of several villages, which according to the census have a combined population of 9,000, a spokeswoman for the emergency services said. The exact number of evacuees was unclear on the island that lies at the heart of the Canary archipelago off the coast of northwest Africa.


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Taxing legal pot could be good for states, but study says there’s little data to show it

Yahoo Science News feed latest items - Mon, 08/19/2019 - 08:08

The push to legalize recreational marijuana in Florida is alive and well.


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Florida's iconic palm trees threatened by invasive disease

Yahoo Science News feed latest items - Mon, 08/19/2019 - 07:43

Florida's iconic palm trees are under attack from a fatal disease that turns them to dried crisps in months, with no chance for recovery once they become ill. Spread by a rice-sized, plant-hopping insect, lethal bronzing has gone from a small infestation on Florida's Gulf Coast to a nearly statewide problem in just over a decade. Tens of thousands of palm trees have died from the bacterial disease, and the pace of its spread is increasing, adding to environmental woes of a state already struggling to save its other arboreal icon, citrus trees, from two other diseases.


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Rocket Lab launches four satellites for BlackSky, UnseenLabs and U.S. Air Force

Yahoo Science News feed latest items - Mon, 08/19/2019 - 07:24

Rocket Lab sent a foursome of satellites into orbit today for a threesome of customers, including the Seattle-based BlackSky Earth-watching venture. BlackSky's sibling subsidiary, Spaceflight, handled the prelaunch logistics for the Global-4 satellite and for a pair of experimental U.S. Air Force satellites. The fourth spacecraft in the set is the first satellite for what's destined to become a maritime surveillance constellation fielded by a French venture called UnseenLabs. Rocket Lab's Electron rocket rose from the company's launch pad on New Zealand's Mahia Peninsula at 12:12 a.m. local time Aug. 20 (5:12 a.m. PT Aug. 19). It successfully went through… Read More


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Solid Biosciences Surges on DMD Gene Therapy Study Amendments

Yahoo Science News feed latest items - Mon, 08/19/2019 - 06:58

Solid Biosciences (SLDB) amends its phase I/II gene therapy study protocol to expedite the development of its lead candidate, SGT-001, as potential treatment for DMD.


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Spanish Mountain Gold Announces Findings from Alternatives Study

Yahoo Science News feed latest items - Mon, 08/19/2019 - 06:30

Vancouver, British Columbia--(Newsfile Corp. - August 19, 2019) - Spanish Mountain Gold Ltd. (TSXV: SPA) (the "Company") is pleased to announce encouraging findings from an alternatives study for the Spanish Mountain Gold Project (the "Project") located in central British Columbia, Canada. The results highlight potential improvements to the project and provide support for the project objectives defined by the Company's management. As announced in a news release dated July 3, 2019, the Company ...


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CellMedX Corp. Receives Approval to Commence Family Practice (BC) Observational Study

Yahoo Science News feed latest items - Mon, 08/19/2019 - 06:00

Carson City, Nevada--(Newsfile Corp. - August 19, 2019) - Cell MedX Corp. (OTCQB: CMXC) (MUN: 9CX) ("Cell MedX" or the "Company"), a biotech company focusing on the discovery, development and commercialization of therapeutic and non-therapeutic products that promote general wellness, is pleased to announce that the Company has received approval from the Board of Directors to commence a Family Practice (BC) - Observational Study of its ebalance device (the "Observational Trial", or the "Study"). ...


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Climate change may damage oyster habitat up and down California, researchers say

Yahoo Science News feed latest items - Mon, 08/19/2019 - 06:00

In California, the native Olympia oyster — nearly wiped out by over-harvesting at the beginning of the 1900s — and the widely farmed Pacific oyster both call coastal estuaries their home.


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How ground-based GPS stations help weather forecasters predict heavy rain and flooding

Yahoo Science News feed latest items - Mon, 08/19/2019 - 06:00

Geodesy is the study of Earth’s shape, gravity field and rotation.


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Climate change may damage oyster habitat up and down California, researchers say

Yahoo Science News feed latest items - Mon, 08/19/2019 - 06:00

In California, the native Olympia oyster — nearly wiped out by over-harvesting at the beginning of the 1900s — and the widely farmed Pacific oyster both call coastal estuaries their home.


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Rubio on climate change: 'We should choose adaptive solutions'

Yahoo Science News feed latest items - Mon, 08/19/2019 - 04:00

Many proposed 'fixes' for climate change have been unrealistic and dangerous. Climate change is a real problem. Real problems deserve real solutions.


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As climate change hits Florida agriculture, could the future be ‘carbon farming’?

Yahoo Science News feed latest items - Mon, 08/19/2019 - 04:00

While most residents can simply turn up the AC, there is one powerful group in Florida that can’t afford to ignore troubling changes in temperature and rainfall patterns across the state: farmers.


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Gina Lopez, foe of Philippine mining industry, dies at 65

Yahoo Science News feed latest items - Mon, 08/19/2019 - 03:40

Former Philippine environment minister Gina Lopez, who led a high-profile fight against the nation's powerful mining industry, died Monday aged 65, her family's media company announced. Lopez rose to international prominence in 2016 by ordering many Philippines mines shuttered on environmental grounds, and also issued a ban on open-pit mining. The Philippines, which is one of the world's top nickel ore producers, has long faced accusations of looking the other way while major firms flout regulations.


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Feeding the future: Fixing the world's faulty food system

Yahoo Science News feed latest items - Mon, 08/19/2019 - 03:22

Feeding the future Fixing the world's faulty food system Feeding the future Fixing the world's faulty food system Nearly one billion of the world's population go hungry, while two billion eat too much, using up the planet's precious resources. Josh Wilson delves into the data exploring ways to solve the problem. This article has an estimated read time of seven minutes Fixing the world's "faulty food system" is increasingly being recognised as one of the key ways to fight climate change as well as tackle high rates of both malnutrition and obesity.  Each year 821 million people suffer from hunger – a figure that is rising despite an increase in global food production. And at the same time, around two billion people are eating too much of the wrong type of food.   The world is also facing an unprecedented climate emergency, with temperatures hurtling towards a dangerous tipping point.  Last week, a United Nations report concluded that eating less meat could help tackle the dual crisis of climate change and hunger. Switching to plant-based diets, the UN said, could both free up land and reduce carbon dioxide emissions.  With the global population set to hit almost 10 billion by 2050, the pressure to find new approaches to feed the world is not going to disappear.  Almost half the current global crop production goes to feeding livestock, however on average just 15 per cent of these calories are then passed on to humans when we consume meat. Climate change also poses a major threat to food security as increasingly common extreme weather events devastate crop land. Simultaneously, agriculture is one of the biggest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions. “At one level we don't need to grow any more, we should stop feeding our food to bloody livestock and then we've got all the calories we need,” Tim Benton, professor of population ecology at Leeds University, told The Telegraph.  “Food production, and especially livestock production, is a major driver of climate change, biodiversity loss, water  and air quality degradation and soil degradation. We have to start actually recognising that we can’t carry on as we are,” Prof Benton added.  But is the solution to such complicated challenges really as simple as changing how we eat?  One in ten suffering from chronic hunger Hunger is a part of everyday life in certain parts of the world – 11 of the 15 most undernourished countries are in Africa, with the worst rates found in the Central African Republic where three in every five people suffer malnutrition. Globally over one in ten people suffer from chronic undernourishment In Yemen, some 85,000 children are thought to have died from extreme hunger between April 2015 and October 2018 as the country struggles with civil war and military intervention from Saudi Arabia. But many countries with high levels of hunger also produce plenty of food. Pakistan was the ninth biggest producer of beef in 2013 – yet more than one in five of their population suffer from chronic undernourishment. Experts have warned that future conflicts will increasingly focus on a struggle for dwindling resources, especially food and water, unless more urgent action is taken on a global scale. “The most potent resource for any national government is access to energy, water and food, and so as the world gets more complicated these sorts of things are going to matter more and more,” said Prof Benton. Insatiable appetites for meat The livestock industry is viewed by many experts as a serious threat to food security because of its size and unsustainability, as well as the negative effects on our health of a diet overly rich in meat. Every one and a half years, more animals are slaughtered than the total number of humans who ever lived.  As countries become wealthier their eating habits shift towards more meat-based diets, fuelling a massive expansion in livestock farming and contributing some 8.1 billion tonnes of greenhouse gases in 2010. “By 2050 we're forecast to be consuming 60 per cent more meat and dairy, a staggering 1.2 trillion litres of dairy milk and 500 billion kilograms of meat per year,” said Joseph Poore, researcher at the University of Oxford, warning that such growth is unsustainable. Meat production has skyrocketed to keep up with population growth With half of global crop production already going to feed livestock such a scenario could have catastrophic consequences, warn scientists. In the UK each person consumes an average of 81.5 kg of meat each year, up from 69.2 kg in 1961, despite associated health risks such as obesity, diabetes and bowel cancer. Professor Benton said: “If you look at the UK, the amount of money that it’s costing us to make people better through the health service is around 37 per cent of all our tax revenue and that’s going up fast. “That’s partly because of an ageing population, but it’s also partly because of malnourishment in the form of obesity,” he said.  The majority of population growth will occur in less developed nations Drought causes over 80 per cent of agricultural damage Agriculture, especially livestock production, is a major driver of climate change, but it also one of the most sensitive industries to the effects of changes to weather. Extreme climate disasters such as floods, storms and droughts are on the rise, with an average of 213 such events occurring each year between 1990 and 2016. These events often devastate wide areas of delicate crop land. This harms agricultural yields, leading to food price hikes and loss of income, reducing access to food. This captures some of the complexity of the system and its highly integrated nature. It also highlights how the problem of feeding the population won't be solved by simply growing more food. There has been average of 213 extreme climate disasters per year Reports of crop damage due to climate change are becoming increasingly common, with farmers in Ghana, Tanzania and Nigeria recently describing delays to the start of the rainy season, abnormal mid-season heatwaves and high-intensity rainfall. These have all led to crop losses. Increasing water scarcity is also a serious concern as the agricultural industry accounts for 70 per cent of global water use. Groundwater has already been depleted worldwide for crop irrigation, and as these sources run dry it will increasingly limit where we can grow crops. Meanwhile, as the planet continues to warm, sea levels are predicted to rise, putting low-lying farms at considerable risk, while also restricting future expansion. Scientists have warned that any initiatives to ensure future food security must account for global climate change and seek to minimise agriculture’s contribution. Changing diets and tackling poverty key "In 20 years time we will have 10 billion people on the planet and we simply can’t sustain those numbers without changes in diet," says Simeon Van Der Molen, founder of Moving Mountains, a British manufacturer of plant-based burgers. “Cellular agriculture is the future.” Plant-based meat alternatives such as the 'Impossible Burger' have been touted as a viable and much more sustainable alternative to conventional meat. The Impossible Burger bleeds like real meat Some of these products have already started to get a run out on Britain's high streets. Greggs  achieved notable success with its vegan sausage roll and KFC recently announced it is to begin trialling a vegan Imposter Burger, featuring a bespoke Quorn fillet. Newer plant-based products such as the 'Impossible Burger' are now able to get much closer to the sensory profile and texture of meat, making it more appealing to many consumers. They have a similar nutritional profile to meat but require significantly less water and energy to produce. Insects have also been touted as a potential alternative to meat. They have the advantage of being high in protein and also have a much higher conversion rate of energy input to received calories. However, insect-based meat replacements remain a very niche consumer product and public acceptance in the West remains a long way off. But there is another major emerging food technology which has expanded rapidly in recent years and has drawn lots of interest and corporate investment, that of lab grown meat. This 'meat' is grown in special bioreactors from cells extracted harmlessly from livestock. The result is a product that is almost indistinguishable from conventionally produced meat. From petri dish to plate: how to grow a burger in a lab Leaders in the cultured meat industry are confident that their product has the edge over other meat alternatives because it has the same taste and texture profile as the real thing. “We’re pretty optimistic that as long as it really has the same taste, texture and smell, we think that most consumers will favour the product that doesn’t have all the guilt surrounding it in terms of animal welfare and environmental damage," said Sarah Lucas, head of operations at Mosa Meat, the company responsible for the first lab-grown hamburger. Lab-grown meat is still a few years from consumer availability and the technology still has some way to go - that first lab grown hamburger cost €250,000 to produce - but management consultant AT Kearney predicts that it will make up over a third of global meat supply by 2040. Meat consumption calculator However Prof Benton has warned that systemic changes to the whole agricultural system will be needed to achieve sustainable and nutritious food security. He says that tackling poverty will be key in this battle: “If people are too poor to buy a healthy diet, why does everybody leap to the conclusion that it’s the food price that’s the problem and not the poverty? “For me, the challenge of feeding 10 billion people is not how do we double agricultural production of the wrong things. It is how to do this systemic transformation so people can eat healthily in a way that doesn’t create a lot of waste and doesn’t create a lot of unsustainability.” Protect yourself and your family by learning more about Global Health Security Global Health Bulletin REFERRAL article


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How college students can bridge American divides: 'Study abroad' in Alabama or New York

Yahoo Science News feed latest items - Mon, 08/19/2019 - 03:00

Colleges should offer students chances to study in states and regions far from their comfort zones. It would be healthy for them and our democracy.


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Private jets, parties and eugenics: Jeffrey Epstein's bizarre world of scientists

Yahoo Science News feed latest items - Mon, 08/19/2019 - 00:00

The billionaire financier and convicted sex offender famously mixed with presidents, models and film stars. But he also indulged his unorthodox beliefs by cultivating top scientistsThough out of place, Jeffrey Epstein was known to surround himself with prominent scientists. Photograph: Rick Friedman/Corbis via Getty ImagesAccording to his indictment, over the course of many years Jeffrey Epstein “sexually exploited and abused dozens of minor girls at his homes in Manhattan, New York, and Palm Beach, Florida, among other locations”. It continues: “in order to maintain and increase his supply of victims, Epstein also paid certain of his victims to recruit additional girls to be similarly abused.”Some of his victims were reportedly as young as 14. Virginia Giuffre was one of those girls, claiming in newly unsealed documents that she was “recruited” at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida by socialite, heiress, and Epstein’s alleged accomplice Ghislaine Maxwell in 2000, when she was just 16. Giuffre now describes her time with Epstein as being forced to be a “sex slave”.Jeffrey Epstein attends an event in New York City with Ghislaine Maxwell in 2005. Photograph: Patrick McMullan/Patrick McMullan via Getty ImagesShortly after her sworn deposition became public Epstein was found dead in his holding cell, apparently from suicide.Epstein’s lifestyle has been well documented: he owned a private island in the US Virgin Islands and jetted around the world with rich and powerful men, including the Clintons, Trump, Woody Allen, Larry Bird and Prince Andrew.He had been indicted in 2008, when he walked away with a “sweetheart deal” that gave him minimal jail time and shielded any possible co-conspirators.From left, Donald Trump and his future wife, Melania Knauss, financier Jeffrey Epstein, and Ghislaine Maxwell pose together at Mar-a-Lago in 2000. Photograph: Davidoff Studios Photography/Getty ImagesOne aspect of Epstein’s life of luxury seems incongruously out of place though. He surrounded himself with prominent scientists, Harvard professors, multiple Nobel Prize winners, authors, almost exclusively men – Epstein kept his social gatherings stocked with some of the world’s most eminent figures in this world.He would host dinners at his Upper East side Manhattan apartment and invite a mix of leading scientists and people from the world of fashion and modeling. One scientist, who preferred to remain anonymous, told Slate that there was virtually no interaction between these two sets of guests . “Sometimes he’d turn to his left and ask some science-y questions. Then he’d turn to his right and ask the model to show him her portfolio.” Slate claimed that a young ‘female staffer’ emerged in the middle of one of these dinners to give Epstein a neck massage while he talked. When he gathered 21 physicists on his private island for a 2006 meeting about gravity, he reportedly had three to four young women in tow at all times. He also met many scientists at an annual gathering hosted by John Brockman, a literary agent who represented famous science authors such as Stephen Hawking and Jared Diamond. Nobel-winning physicist Murray Gell-Mann, who discovered the quark and was represented by Brockman, thanked Epstein for his financial support in the acknowledgments section of his 1995 book, The Quark and the Jaguar.A partial list of the biggest scientific names in Epstein’s orbit, according to the New York Times includes “the theoretical physicist and best-selling author Stephen Hawking; the paleontologist and evolutionary biologist Stephen Jay Gould; Oliver Sacks, the neurologist and best-selling author; George M Church, a molecular engineer who has worked to identify genes that could be altered to create superior humans; and the MIT theoretical physicist Frank Wilczek, a Nobel laureate”.Epstein called himself a “science philanthropist”, and donated handsomely to prestigious organizations such as Harvard, MIT, and the Santa Fe Institute. At one point, he was allegedly giving as much as $20m a year to fund scientists. Some institutions and researchers continued to take Epstein’s money even after his 2008 conviction, like MIT, according to BuzzFeed News.> Epstein called himself a 'science philanthropist' and donated handsomely to prestigiuos organizationsJoi Ito, the head of MIT’s world-famous Media Lab issued an apology last week for having accepted donations for the Media Lab and his own tech start-ups. In his open letter on the MIT Media Lab’s website, he said: “I take full responsibility for my error in judgment. I am deeply sorry to the survivors, to the Media Lab, and to the MIT community for bringing such a person into our network.“Regrettably, over the years, the Lab has received money through some of the foundations that he controlled. I also allowed him to invest in several of my funds which invest in tech startup companies outside of MIT’s.”Last month Jenna Marshall, a spokesperson for the Santa Fe Institute, said in the BuzzFeed News story that a $25,000 donation in 2010 from Epstein “prompted our leadership to decide not to accept any additional funds from Mr Epstein or related sources”. They were, she said, considering donating an equal amount to a charity working with victims of sex trafficking.Several years after his 2008 conviction, publications including Forbes, the National Review, and HuffPo all ran stories on Epstein praising him as a selfless philanthropist, “a hedge-funder with a zealous science background”, and “one of the largest backers of cutting-edge science around the world”. None of the articles mentioned his criminal history, and an investigation by the New York Times claimed they were used as part of a public relations campaign to revamp Epstein’s image. All three publications have since deleted or amended articles cited by the New York Times.By most accounts, he would engage with his guests at his science-related parties but never for very long or very deeply, often derailing conversations by abruptly changing topics or turning other people’s comments into jokes. Still, some of the scientists seemed smitten. In a 2002 profile of Epstein for New York Magazine, Martin Nowack, now a professor of biology and mathematics and head of the Program for Evolutionary Dynamics at Harvard, said that he once broke out a blackboard during dinner with Epstein and, for two hours, gave a mathematical description of how language works. “Jeffrey has the mind of a physicist. It’s like talking to a colleague in your field. Sometimes he applies what we talk about to his investments. Sometimes it’s for his own curiosity. He has changed my life. Because of his support, I feel I can do anything I want,” Nowack said.> Jeffrey has the mind of a physicist. He has changed my life. Because of his support, I feel I can do anything I want> > Martin NowackLawrence Krauss, a physicist who retired from Arizona State University, even continued defending Epstein after his 2008 conviction, telling the Daily Beast in 2011, “As a scientist I always judge things on empirical evidence and he always has women ages 19 to 23 around him, but I’ve never seen anything else, so as a scientist, my presumption is that whatever the problems were I would believe him over other people.” He added, “I don’t feel tarnished in any way by my relationship with Jeffrey; I feel raised by it.”Other scientists seem to have been drawn to the attention and spotlight that Epstein gave them. Evolutionary biologist George Church, one of the few researchers who’s apologized for having contact with Epstein, which he attributes to “nerd tunnel vision”, told STAT News that “he is used to financiers, technologists, and celebrities seeking him out, and has become a quasi-celebrity himself”.Many of the scientists and researchers began distancing themselves from Epstein after 2008 and have publicly condemned him since his arrest in July. Scoene author Steven Pinker, who was flown to a TED Conference on Epstein’s private jet in 2002, including Daniel Dennetand John Brockman, has recently refuted any suggestions that he knew, or had any relationship with Epstein. In a response published on the @evolutionistrue website, Pinker said, “The annoying irony is that I could never stand the guy, never took research funding from him, and always tried to keep my distance. I think the dislike was mutual – according to a friend, he ‘voted me off the island’.”“Given my longstanding distaste for everything Epstein, it’s galling to be publicly associated with him based on some photos and mutual associates.”He explained theprivate jet to the TED conference, in a tweet last month:> I have no relationship with Epstein & have taken no funding from him. Our circles have occasionally overlapped: In 02, my lit agent invited me to join a group of east-coast TED speakers Epstein flew to CA. In 14, Krauss seated me next to him at a lunch, & someone snapped a photo.> > — Steven Pinker (@sapinker) July 11, 2019Dennett has since said he had never heard of Epstein when he boarded the jet.But while Epstein may not have been able to contribute much to the conversations he cultivated around him, he did have sincere interest in at least some scientific topics.The New York Times did a deep dive into Epstein’s scientific beliefs in an article titled Jeffrey Epstein Hoped to Seed Human Race With His DNA. The Times’ reporters found that Epstein was apparently fixated on “transhumanism”, the belief that the human species can be deliberately advanced through technological breakthroughs, such as genetic engineering and artificial intelligence. At its most benign, transhumanism is a belief that humanity’s problems can be improved, upgraded even, through such technology as cybernetics and artificial intelligence – at its most malignant though, transhumanism lines up uncomfortably well with eugenics.Eugenics is the belief that humanity can be improved by controlled breeding, selecting for preferable traits and minimizing less desirable ones. Alan Dershowitz, professor emeritus of law at Harvard and a former lawyer of Epstein’s, said in the New York Times investigation that Epstein would at times steer conversations about how to improve the human race genetically, an idea that appalled Dershowitz because of the overlap with Nazi theories about eugenics.Epstein was allegedly fascinated with and inspired by the Repository for Germinal Choice, which was founded in Escondido, California, in 1980 by Robert K Graham, an avowed eugenicist and tycoon who got rich developing shatterproof eyeglass lenses. Graham’s goal was the “strengthening of the human gene pool”and he would accomplish this with the Repository, a sperm bank where all the donors were Nobel laureates. At least that’s how it was supposed to work: according to a 2001 story in Slate, Graham only ever convinced three or five (the stories vary) to actually contribute, and the Repository shuttered in 1999.But Epstein was apparently taken with the idea. In his version though, rather than a bunch of lettered academics, he’d be the one “strengthening the gene pool”. Starting in the early 2000s, he reportedly told multiple people that he wanted to impregnate as many women as he could to distribute his genes as widely as possible. Several acquaintances told the New York Times that Epstein mentioned using his sprawling New Mexico ranch as a base of operations, and at least one person said he planned to impregnate up to 20 women at a time. The puzzle at the heart of Epstein’s fandom is how it lasted for so long and why he managed to draw so many scientists into this circle. As Katha Pollit, writing in the Nation last week said: “What I can’t get over is how Epstein successfully weaseled his way into science at the highest level by cultivating major figures in the field socially and spreading his wealth around. Science! The very temple of the pursuit of truth. Call me insufficiently jaded, but am I wrong to expect more of those we rely on to combat all of the nonsense swirling around us?”


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Australia's Pacific role challenged in climate row

Yahoo Science News feed latest items - Sun, 08/18/2019 - 23:20

Influential Pacific island leaders have called for Australia to be ousted from the region's main regional grouping, criticising Canberra's "neo-colonial" attitudes and refusal to take urgent action on climate change. It comes after Australia was accused of muzzling leaders who wanted to use last week's Pacific Islands Forum in Tuvalu to issue a global call for action on climate change ahead of UN-sponsored talks in New York next month. Australia's Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack then added further insult when he dismissed the islanders' concerns and said they could "come here and pick our fruit" to survive.


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Iceland commemorates first glacier lost to climate change

Yahoo Science News feed latest items - Sun, 08/18/2019 - 22:52

Iceland on Sunday honoured the passing of Okjokull, its first glacier lost to climate change, as scientists warn that some 400 others on the subarctic island risk the same fate. Iceland's Prime Minister Katrin Jakobsdottir and former United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson also attended the event, as well as hundreds of scientists, journalists and members of the public who trekked to the site. "I hope this ceremony will be an inspiration not only to us here in Iceland but also for the rest of the world, because what we are seeing here is just one face of the climate crisis," Jakobsdottir told AFP.


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