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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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Iceland unveils memorial plaque for lost glacier

Sun, 08/18/2019 - 21:29

Iceland unveiled a plaque to its Okjokull ice sheet on Sunday, the first of the country's hundreds of glaciers to melt away due to climate change. Scientists see the shrinking of glaciers as one of many warning signs that the earth's climate is lurching toward dangerous tipping points. A ceremony to unveil the plaque was attended by scientists and locals at the glacier in west-central Iceland, which in 2014 no longer fulfilled the criteria to be classified as a glacier after melting throughout the 20th century.

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Victim-blamers have empathy, but it's mostly for perpetrators

Sun, 08/18/2019 - 21:07

You may have seen it among your own friends: a high-profile #MeToo case triggers responses that assign some or all the blame on a victim of sexual harassment, with men more likely than women to side with an accused male. New research published Sunday in the Psychology of Women Quarterly suggests it is men's empathy for other men, rather than their lack of empathy for women, that may be more important in explaining this effect. "Men are accused of not being empathic enough -- I would say they are as empathic as women, they just might have a different focus," Renata Bongiorno, who led the research, at the University of Exeter told AFP.

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War Machine?: Why You Don't Want to Battle the Air Force's X-37B Space Plane

Sun, 08/18/2019 - 21:00

The Air Force denies that the X-37B has ever carried weapons. Overtly arming a spacecraft would be a violation of the 1967 Outer Space Treaty.A Dutch skywatcher achieved a rare feat in late June and early July 2019. Using a 10-inch-diameter telescope fitted with a camera, Ralf Vandebergh photographed the U.S. Air Force's secretive X-37B space plane in mid-mission 210 miles over Earth’s surface."We can recognize a bit of the nose, payload bay and tail of this mini-shuttle, with even a sign of some smaller detail," Vandebergh told had been hunting for the robotic spacecraft for months and finally managed to track it down in May 2019, according to reporter Leonard David. But it took a few more weeks to actually photograph the roughly 29-feet-long robotic shuttle."When I tried to observe it again [in] mid-June, it didn't meet the predicted time and path," Vandebergh told David. "It turned out to have maneuvered to another orbit. Thanks to the amateur satellite observers' network, it was rapidly found in orbit again, and I was able to take some images on June 30 and July 2, [2019]."Boeing built at least two X-37Bs for the Air Force in the mid-2000s reportedly at a cost of around a billion dollars apiece. While it looks like a miniature version of NASA’s Space Shuttle, which retired from service in 2011, the X-37B essentially is a small, reusable and maneuverable satellite with a shorter per-mission endurance compared to single-use satellites.The Air Force describes the X-37B as an “orbital test vehicle,” or OTV.(This first appeared earlier in the month.)The X-37B blasted off for its first mission on a United Launch Alliance Atlas rocket in April 2010. Where many satellites can function for up to a decade in orbit, the X-37B’s longest mission as of early 2018 was its fourth, beginning in May 2015. It lasted 717 days.The X-37B that Vandebergh photographed launched atop a SpaceX Falcon rocket in September 2017. Each X-37B mission reportedly costs around $200 million.The current mission is the X-37B’s fifth. The X-37B Vandebergh spotted is carrying a so-called Advanced Structurally Embedded Thermal Spreader built by the Air Force Research Laboratory.According to the Air Force, the spreader will help to “test experimental electronics and oscillating heat pipe technologies in the long-duration space environment.” The X-37B itself, with its longer and longer missions, is driving demand in the United States for spacecraft components that can survive for years at a time in orbit.“The fifth OTV mission continues to advance the X-37B’s performance and flexibility as a space technology demonstrator and host platform for experimental payloads,” the Air Force stated.As the Air Force continues to refine the X-37B’s operations, it’s possible the current mission could set a new record for the type. “It sips power and fuel like a Prius,” in the words of one government space insider who spoke on the condition of anonymity.In the past, the Air Force was cagey about exactly which payloads the X-37B carried into orbit—and that encouraged wide-ranging speculation by space experts. “You can put sensors in there, satellites in there,” Eric Sterner, from the George C. Marshall Institute in Virginia, said of the X-37B. “You could stick munitions in there, provided they exist.”The Air Force denies that the X-37B has ever carried weapons. Overtly arming a spacecraft would be a violation of the 1967 Outer Space Treaty.In pushing for a separate military branch for space operations and promising a new generation of orbital systems including missile-defenses, the administration of U.S. president Donald Trump could begin to challenge the decades-old ban on space-based weaponry.But it would be perfectly legal, and unsurprising, for the X-37B to function as a kind of reusable spy satellite—and it could do so without necessarily jeopardizing its other, scientific missions.Indeed, the Air Force acknowledged that testing the heat-spreader isn’t the X-37B’s only current task. The reusable spacecraft is also pioneering new orbital pathways for the type.“The fifth OTV mission will also be launched into, and landed from, a higher inclination orbit than prior missions to further expand the X-37B’s orbital envelope,” the Air Force explained.A spacecraft’s orbital inclination is equal to the highest north-south latitude it passes over. The X-37B previously flew between 37 and 43 degrees, according to Brian Weeden, a space expert with the Secure World Foundation in Colorado.Extending the X-37B’s inclination expands “what it can collect information on, assuming that’s its mission,” Weeden told The Daily Beast. It’s worth noting that almost all of Russia lies north of the X-37B’s previous inclination range.The fifth and latest X-37B mission could send the mini-shuttle over large portions of Russian territory for the first time.David Axe serves as Defense Editor of the National Interest. He is the author of the graphic novels  War Fix, War Is Boring and Machete Squad.

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Dutch families join 'people's farm' to counter climate change

Sun, 08/18/2019 - 20:48

Chickens roam the orchards, cows chew the cud and pigs roll in the mud on a warm day on a Dutch farm -- but the pastoral scene is not as traditional as it seems. The farm is owned and run by a cooperative of hundreds of local consumers and aims to change habits in a low-lying country engaged in an existential fight against climate change. "The main aim of the members is to eat natural products, produced near to where they live, in a more sustainable way," said Douwe Korting, co-leader of the Boxtel cooperative, in the southern Netherlands.

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Iceland unveils memorial plaque for lost glacier

Sun, 08/18/2019 - 13:46

Iceland unveiled a plaque to its Okjokull ice sheet on Sunday, the first of the country's hundreds of glaciers to melt away due to climate change. Scientists see the shrinking of glaciers as one of many warning signs that the earth's climate is lurching toward dangerous tipping points. A ceremony to unveil the plaque was attended by scientists and locals at the glacier in west-central Iceland, which in 2014 no longer fulfilled the criteria to be classified as a glacier after melting throughout the 20th century.

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San Francisco bison named Brunhilda dies

Sun, 08/18/2019 - 13:04

An 8-year-old female American bison living in Golden Gate Park's famous paddock has died after suffering severe kidney disease. The San Francisco Zoo and Gardens, which cares for the bison herd, announced Brunhilda's death Friday after a necropsy, according to The San Francisco Chronicle . Brunhilda was one of six in the park's current herd.

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Funeral for lost ice: Iceland bids farewell to glacier

Sun, 08/18/2019 - 12:34

It was a funeral for ice. With poetry, moments of silence and political speeches about the urgent need to fight climate change, Icelandic officials, activists and others bade goodbye to what once was a glacier. The glacier used to stretch six square miles (15 square kilometers), Sigurdsson said.

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The Israeli spacecraft that crashed on the moon spilled microscopic 'water bears' that can live in space

Sun, 08/18/2019 - 12:24

Beresheet spilled tardigrades, invisible tiny critters that are capable of living in extreme conditions ⁠— including space.

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Social media can make children more likely to have eating disorders because it makes them more impulsive, study finds

Sun, 08/18/2019 - 12:10

Banner: Duty of Care Social media can make children more likely to have eating disorders or try drugs because it makes them more impulsive, a new study suggests.  Too much social media - which includes Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, YouTube, Instagram and SnapChat - makes them more impulsive, often leading to bad decisions that will affect them for the rest of their lives, warn scientists. Children spending a significant amount of time looking at screens, and not getting enough sleep, are most vulnerable, the study found. Lead author Dr Michelle Guerrero, a paediatrican at the University of Ottawa, said: "Impulsive behaviour is associated with numerous mental health and addiction problems, including eating disorders, behavioural addictions and substance abuse." Her team analysed more than 4,500 eight to 11 year olds. Those who used smartphones more than two hours a day and slept less than nine hours a night were more impulsive. The results were based on the participants' self reported scores on eight traits such as perserverance, seeking out thrills, setting goals, being sensitive and acting rashly. How to promote healthy social media use | for teens and tweens Dr Guerrero said the findings reinforces the importance of the Canadian 24-Hour Movement Guidelines for Children and Youth. These advise five to 17 year olds get at least 60 minutes a day moderate to vigorous exercise, have a maximum two hours of recreational screen time and manage nine to 11 hours uninterrupted sleep every night. Meeting all three pillars of the recommendations was associated with more favourable outcomes. Dr Guerrero said: "Impulsive behaviour is associated with numerous mental health and addiction problems, including eating disorders, behavioural addictions and substance abuse. "This study shows the importance of especially paying attention to sleep and recreational screen time. "When kids follow these recommendations, they are more likely to make better decisions and act less rashly than those who do not meet the guidelines." In one of the first studies of its kind her team looked specifically at the link between screen time and behaviour in adolescents. How to break your addiction to your phone Dr Guerrero said: "We were looking at how excessive screen time leads to impulsive behaviour." Impulsivity was defined as acting "without realising the risk involved or the consequences involved with the behaviour." The characteristic is often connected to mental health issues and is a key component of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Dr Guerrero said: "When we don't think before we act, it has huge impacts on our lives." A key discovery was how easily preventable it is, as as it involves a minor life adjustment - including less screen time and more sleep. Dr Guerrero said: "The behaviours we looked at in our study are modifiable. They can be changed right now, today." It adds to increasing evidence that screens are harming children's mental health, she said. Exercise was also found to lead to less impulsive youngsters. What is more, the benefit of a full night's sleep is a major factor. Dr Guerrero said: "When people don't sleep long enough, their behaviour is more impulsive." The research is the first set of data from the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development Study, which plans to follow the participants for 10 years. Future feedback will shed fresh light on how physical activity, screen time and sleep relate to children's impulsivity, Dr Guerrero added.

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Singapore to bolster coastal defences against rising sea levels: PM

Sun, 08/18/2019 - 12:07

Singapore needs at least $72 billion to build defences against rising sea levels, its leader said Sunday as the low-lying city-state gears up against the impact of climate change. Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong described climate change as "one of the gravest challenges facing humankind" and said the Southeast Asian country is already feeling the impact through a hotter weather and heavier rainstorms. "Because we are a low-lying island, Singapore is especially vulnerable to one grave threat, and that is rising sea levels," he warned.

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Turkey pianist performs against cyanide gold mine deforestation

Sun, 08/18/2019 - 11:24

Çanakkale (Turkey) (AFP) - Hundreds of Turks on Sunday attended a piano recital by composer Fazil Say in protest at deforestation for the construction of a cyanide gold mine in northwestern Turkey. Canadian mining firm Alamos Gold Inc., which has bought the site near the town of Kirazli in the Canakkale province, has faced strong resistance from activists over the last two weeks.

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Zumwalt: The Stealth Destroyer That Could Become the Ultimate Killer

Sun, 08/18/2019 - 10:00

Also, the launchers are especially designed with software such that it can accommodate a wide range of weapons; the launchers can house one SM-2, SM-3 or SM-6, ASROCs and up to four ESSMs due to the missile’s smaller diameter, Raytheon developers explain.Navy developers of the new high-tech, stealthy USS Zumwalt destroyer are widening the mission envelope for the ship, exploring new ammunition for its guns and preparing to fire its first missiles next year.The US Navy’s stealthy destroyer will fire an Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile and SM-2 in 2019 from its Mk 57 Vertical Launch Systems, marking the first time the new ship will fire weapons as part of its ongoing combat activation process.The Navy is exploring a new range of weapons for its stealthy USS Zumwalt destroyer to better prepare the ship for future warfare against technically advanced enemies.Recommended: North Korea’s Most Lethal Weapon Isn’t Nukes. Recommended: 5 Worst Guns Ever Made.Recommended: The World’s Most Secretive Nuclear Weapons Program.“The Navy is in the process of updating required documents to support new surface strike requirements,” according to Navy statements briefed at the service’s Sea Air and Space Annual Symposium by Zumwalt program manager Capt. Kevin Smith.(This first appeared several years ago.)The new ship, engineered with a sleek, radar-evading design, was initially conceived of in terms of primarily engineering a shallow-water land attack platform. While the ship was envisioned as a multi-mission platform at its inception, current emerging threats and new technology have led Navy strategists to scope a wider strategic view for the ship.In particular, given the rapid evolution of targeting technology and advanced long-range precision weaponry, particularly those being developed by near-peer adversaries, the strategic calculus informing maritime warfare is changing quickly.Long-range strike technology, coupled with advanced seekers, electromagnetic weapons and higher-resolution sensors, quite naturally, create the need for greater stand-off ranges; such a technical phenomenon is a key element of the Navy’s current “distributed lethality” strategy designed to better prepare the Navy for modern, open blue-water combat operations against a technologically advanced adversary.Part of the initial vision for this ship, which is still very much part of its equation, is to engineer a ship able to detect mines. For this reason, the ship has been architected with a shallow draft, enabling it to operate closer to shore than most deep water surface ships.At the same time, threat assessment experts, strategists and Navy weapons developers also heavily emphasize the growing need for the ship to succeed in the event of major nation-state force-on-force maritime warfare.In preparation for all of this, the ship is now going through combat activation in San Diego, Calif., to pave the way toward preparing the weapons systems for the ship’s planned move to operational status in 2020, Navy officials say.This process will also carefully refine many of the ship’s other technologies, such as its advanced Integrated Power System and Total Ship Computing Environment, multi-function, volume-search SPY-3 radar and sonar systems.The activation process for USS Zumwalt development includes many technology assessments, such as calm and heavy weather examinations to further verify the ship’s stability.Many of the weapons systems are being assessed and refined on board a specially configured unmanned test ship. The remote- controlled vessel continues to be involved in integration testing with the SM-2 and other weapons.The USS Zumwalt is built with a high-tech, long-range, BAE-built Advanced Gun System designed to find and hit targets with precision from much farther ranges than existing deck-mounted ship guns.Most deck mounted 5-inch guns currently on Navy ships are limited to firing roughly 8-to-10 miles at targets within the horizon or what’s called line of sight. The Advanced Gun System, however, is being developed to fire rounds beyond-the-horizon at targets more than three times that distance.The Navy had been planning to have the gun fire a Long-Range Land Attack Projectile, but is now exploring different ammunition options for, among other things, cost issues, Navy leaders said.The Navy is also currently evaluating potential SM-6 integration for the USS Zumwalt. The SM-6 has been a fast-evolving weapon for the Navy – as it has expanded its mission envelope to include air-defense, ballistic missile defense and even offensive use as an anti-ship surface attack weapon.In addition, utilizing its active seeker, the SM-6 is a key part of Naval Integrated Fire Control – Counter Air, or NIFC-CA; NIFC-CA uses fire-control technology to link Aegis radar with an airborne relay sensor to detect and destroy approaching enemy threats from beyond the horizon.With an active, dual-mode seeker able to send an electromagnetic “ping” forward from the missile itself, the SM-6 is able to better adjust to moving targets, according to Raytheon developers.Giving commanders more decision-making time to effectively utilize layered ship defenses when under attack is an integral part of the rationale for NIFC-CA.The ship also fires Vertical Launch Anti-Submarine Rockets, or ASROCs. ASROCs are 16-feet long with a 14-inch diameter; a rocket delivers the torpedo at very high speeds to a specific point in the water at which point it turns on its sensors and searches for an enemy submarine. Wade Knudson, DDG 1000 program manager, Raytheon, has told Warrior in recent years through the course of several interviews.The ship is also built with Mk 57 a vertical launch tubes which are engineered into the hull near the perimeter of the ship.Called Peripheral Vertical Launch System, the tubes are integrated with the hull around the ship’s periphery in order to ensure that weapons can keep firing in the event of damage. Instead of having all of the launch tubes in succession or near one another, the DDG 1000 has spread them out in order to mitigate risk in the event of attack, developers said.In total, there are 80 launch tubes built into the hull of the DDG 1000; the Peripheral Vertical Launch System involves a collaborative effort between Raytheon and BAE Systems.Also, the launchers are especially designed with software such that it can accommodate a wide range of weapons; the launchers can house one SM-2, SM-3 or SM-6, ASROCs and up to four ESSMs due to the missile’s smaller diameter, Raytheon developers explain.In 2016, the new ship was formally delivered to the Navy at Bath Iron Works in Portland, Maine. The ship was formally commissioned in October of that year.This first appeared in Warrior Maven here.

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CO2 row over climate activist Thunberg's yacht trip to New York

Sun, 08/18/2019 - 09:02

The team behind teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg's yacht voyage to New York on Sunday fended off claims that her trip will create carbon emissions because team members will take transatlantic flights. The 16-year-old Swede, whose school strikes have inspired children across the world to protest against global warming, refuses to fly because of the carbon emissions caused by planes. The paper estimated that in fact Thunberg's boat trip would end up being more polluting than if she and her companions had just taken flights to New York themselves.

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