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A 12,000-year-old Turkish city is about to disappear underwater. Residents are moving ancestors' bones to dry land.

Tue, 09/24/2019 - 06:49

The Turkish government has called for the evacuation of a 12,000-year-old city, which is about to get flooded with water from the Tigris River.

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Trump Administration Threatens to Cut U.S. Highway Funds From California

Tue, 09/24/2019 - 06:10

WASHINGTON -- The political war between California and the Trump administration escalated Monday with a letter from Andrew Wheeler, the head of the Environmental Protection Agency, warning that Washington would withhold federal highway funds from the state if it did not rapidly address a decades-long backlog of state-level pollution control plans.The letter is the latest parry between President Donald Trump and the liberal West Coast state that he appears to relish antagonizing. California's recent actions on clean air and climate change policy have blindsided and enraged him, according to two people familiar with the matter.While California has angered Trump with its efforts to adhere to stricter state standards on climate change pollution from vehicles even as Trump has sought to roll back such standards nationally, Wheeler's new letter to the state offers a twist on the narrative.It states that California "has the worst air quality in the United States," including 82 areas within the state with air quality that does not meet federal law. It says that by law, the state is required to submit plans for reducing that pollution, but that California has a backlog of about 130 incomplete or inactive plans, "many dating back decades."The letter notes that California has more than 34 million people living in areas that do not meet federal air pollution standards for pollutants like soot and smog -- "more than twice as many people as any other state in the country."Wheeler says in the letter that he is calling attention to California's backlog as part of a broader effort to "dramatically reduce" such backlogs nationally.He says that California's failure to address the backlogged plans may result in penalties such as the withholding of federal highway funds, or the implementation of federal plans.The letter requests a response from the state by Oct. 10.The letter, made public Monday but dated Sept. 24, was first reported by The Sacramento Bee. California officials said Monday night that they had only just received it, and they declined to respond until they had time to review it. A spokesman for the White House referred questions to the EPA, and a spokesman for the agency did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment.The letter follows Trump's announcement last week that his administration would revoke California's legal authority to set its own stringent state-level regulations on planet-warming pollution from vehicle tailpipes. On Friday, California and more than 20 other states retaliated by filing a sweeping lawsuit expected to be resolved only before the Supreme Court, accusing Trump of trampling on both states' rights and on major efforts to fight climate change.In fact, one of the key legal arguments made by the California lawsuit last week is that those tailpipe standards are required for the state to control emissions of the other pollutants, like soot and smog, at levels required to meet even federal standards."We need the extra clean cars to meet the standards set by the federal government," Mary Nichols, California's top clean air regulator, said at a news conference last week. "If this prevails, millions of people in California will breathe dirty air. There will be more pollution, more asthma, more hospitalizations, more premature deaths."Trump's move to revoke California's authority to set climate standards from vehicle pollution came after an announcement in July that four automakers that opposed Trump's plan to roll back the national vehicle tailpipe pollution standard signed a deal with California to comply with tighter emissions standards if the broader rollback goes through.Trump, who was surprised and angered by that announcement, according to two people familiar with the matter, has since sought to push policies that would punish California.Earlier this month, the Justice Department opened an investigation into whether the automakers' deal with California violates antitrust laws, although a person familiar with the investigation said that it was not started at the request of Trump or any administration officials.This article originally appeared in The New York Times.(C) 2019 The New York Times Company

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You Might Not Want to Eat Bugs. But Would You Eat Meat That Ate Bugs?

Tue, 09/24/2019 - 06:07

At an insect farm in Cape Town, the bugs are hungry.More than 8 billion flies being raised in South Africa by the startup company AgriProtein gobble 250 metric tons of food and farm waste, like corn stalks, potato peelings and damaged vegetables, every day."There's actually no such thing as waste. It's just stuff in the wrong place. Our flies think it is wonderful to eat," the firm's chief executive, Jason Drew, said on the phone recently from the airport in Johannesburg.AgriProtein is among a small number of startups that are using insect larvae to produce protein-rich ingredients for animal feed. This nascent industry could help feed a growing human population in a way that's less damaging to the environment.Currently, most animal feed comes from soybeans and fish meal, and producing it contributes to a range of problems linked to industrial agriculture, including greenhouse gas emissions, deforestation, land degradation and overfishing. Animal feed production uses about one-third of the world's cropland, and it consumes 12% of the fish produced, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.Insect farming has long been promoted as the solution to these problems, in large part because bugs are very efficient at turning organic material into digestible proteins. The black soldier fly larvae favored by the "insect protein" industry can become 200 times bigger after eating organic waste for 10 days.Producers say that breeding larvae requires less water and land than growing soybeans, and no chemical fertilizers or pesticides.And bugs are nutritious. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization, insect meal could replace from 25% to 100% of soybean meal or fish meal used in animal feed with no adverse effects.While convincing people in Western nations to eat wriggly worms instead of juicy steaks would be an enormous challenge, using insect protein to feed animals instead of soy and fish may not be that hard.Protix opened one of the world's largest insect farms in June in the Netherlands, while other producers, including Enviroflight, Ynsect and AgriProtein, are building large facilities to turn billions of insects into animal protein every month. Large farming companies like Cargill and Wilbur-Ellis are also investing in this sector.By breeding insects in vertical farms, these companies can produce large amounts of feed in less space than traditional farms, their proponents say."Having these vertical indoor farms is a way to control all parameters and increase overall efficiency. It's much easier to monitor and control risks in an indoor farm than an outdoor farm," said Antoine Hubert, the chief executive and co-founder of Ynsect, which breeds mealworm in an automated plant in eastern France.And these insects are essentially recyclers that can turn huge amounts of organic waste into protein."I've been to facilities that can digest 100 tons a day of waste with these insects. That's 100 tons of waste that won't go into a landfill. A hundred tons of waste that won't produce greenhouse gases. A hundred tons of waste that won't potentially pollute the soils with pathogens," said Jeffery Tomberlin, an entomologist at Texas A&M University who has been studying the black soldier fly for over two decades.The beauty of the industry, Tomberlin said, is that black soldier fly larvae can also be reared in small farms, allowing agricultural areas to turn their organic waste into a valuable product."You can grow these insects anywhere in the world, in developed nations and using robotics, as well as is in second- and third-world locations, using wood scraps and chicken wire from your backyard," he said.Proponents say this industry makes sense from a biological standpoint because insects are part of the natural diet of many animals, especially chicken and fish."The high-protein ingredient we produce is being targeted toward aquaculture. I think the big end goal of this industry is to try to offset some of the needs for wild-harvested fish to produce fish meal," said Liz Koutsos, the chief executive of Enviroflight, which opened what it says is the first commercial-scale insect rearing facility in the United States last November.Aquaculture is the world's fastest-growing food industry, and one that requires large amounts of wild fish. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization, from 1995 to 2015, the production of industrial aquaculture feeds increased sixfold, from 8 to 48 million metric tons a year.Despite the possibilities, the insect protein industry faces many challenges.Regulatory hurdles have hampered its growth in Europe and the United States, where black soldier fly products can be used to feed poultry and some fish species but not other animals, and there is no regulatory approval for the use of other insect species for this purpose.But companies are confident that regulators in the United States will lift those restrictions soon."Regulators from the EU, the U.S. and Asia are quickly understanding that this is a natural process," said Drew, whose company plans to open facilities in California, the Netherlands, Singapore and South Korea. "Regulators tend to support this type of industry rather than hamper it because it has immense environmental benefits."But to scale up operations, these companies also need to diversify their product portfolio, optimize production methods and raise large amounts of capital.Koutsos said that insect protein companies are like chicken farmers in the 1920s, a time when chicken rearing was mostly a backyard operation and not the large-scale industry it is now."The beautiful thing is that with a 50-day life cycle from birth to breeding, which is a very short life cycle, our 1920s model will evolve much more rapidly than with longer-lived animals," Koutsos said. "So we will make great strides in this industry and its ability to have an impact on the environment very, very quickly."This article originally appeared in The New York Times.(C) 2019 The New York Times Company

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A-Alpha Bio raises $2.8M for genetically engineered drug discovery platform

Tue, 09/24/2019 - 06:00

A Seattle startup that took root at the University of Washington has closed a $2.8 million seed round for a drug discovery platform that can sort through millions of protein interactions at once. "We expect that we can go considerably further than that," said David Younger, the co-founder and CEO of A-Alpha Bio. A-Alpha Bio's genetically engineered protein analysis technology, known as AlphaSeq, has the potential to speed up the process of evaluating drug candidates. That's what attracted interest from investors including OS Fund, which led the seed round, plus AME Cloud Ventures, Boom Capital, Madrona Venture Group, Sahsen Ventures,… Read More

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Burt's Bees and National Geographic want you to make a change for the planet

Tue, 09/24/2019 - 03:01

Beauty brand Burt's Bees has teamed up with National Geographic on an initiative to draw attention to the issue of climate change. The US beauty label and the media giant have announced a social media blackout dubbed #NatureBlackout, timed to coincide with the UN Climate Summit. "As a brand founded to connect people to nature, we must protect it," said Paula Alexander, Director of Sustainable Business and Innovation at Burt's Bees, in a statement.

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Climate Change Created Today’s Large Crocodiles

Mon, 09/23/2019 - 23:00

When is bigger better?

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NASA’s Orion spacecraft program gets a multibillion-dollar vote of support

Mon, 09/23/2019 - 20:58

NASA says it's ordering three more Orion spacecraft for missions to the moon, at a cost of $2.7 billion — and plans to order as many as nine more by 2030. Today's announcement signals NASA's long-term commitment to its Artemis program for lunar exploration and settlement, with a crewed lunar landing planned for as early as 2024. The Orion spacecraft for that mission, known as Artemis 3, is included in the newly announced order, along with the spacecraft for Artemis 4 and 5. “This contract secures Orion production through the next decade, demonstrating NASA’s commitment to establishing a sustainable presence… Read More

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NASA science chief says NEO Surveillance Mission will seek out threatening asteroids

Mon, 09/23/2019 - 20:24

The head of NASA's science operations says the space agency intends to develop a new space-based infrared telescope to hunt down near-Earth objects — not primarily for science's sake, but to ensure that potentially threatening space rocks are identified before they hit us. NASA's NEO Surveillance Mission will make use of technologies developed for a proposed telescope known as NEOCam, Thomas Zurbuchen, the agency's associate administrator for science, said today during a meeting of NASA's Planetary Science Advisory Committee in Washington, D.C. NEOCam has long been considered as a candidate science mission under NASA's Discovery Program. But today, Zurbuchen said… Read More

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Russia says it won’t tell NASA why a hole appeared in the International Space Station

Mon, 09/23/2019 - 16:04

The mystery of why a small hole appeared in a Russian Soyuz spacecraft attached to the International Space Station last year is now somehow even more bizarre than it already was. The hole, which was detected by the crew and patched in space, sparked investigations by Russia's Roscosmos and NASA, with both agencies vowing to get to the bottom of how such a thing could have happened.Now, after months of silence, Roscosmos boss Dmitry Rogozin says he knows how it happened, but that NASA will never find out. It's a bizarre state of affairs that highlights the odd tension that has been building between NASA and the Russian space agency for some time.Initially thought to be the result of a tiny space rock or other debris slamming into the space station at high speeds, it later became clear that the hole had been drilled into the side of the spacecraft. Russia set out to determine when the hole was created, and since it was clear that it wasn't drilled in space, figuring out who drilled the hole back on Earth was a top priority.Early reports out of Russia claimed that a culprit had been determined, but nothing really came of those reports and we never learned of anyone being charged with sabotaging the mission. Had it been merely an accident, it could have been easily explained, but Russia refuses to reveal what actually happened.This is sadly not surprising. Roscosmos has been increasingly moody as of late, and with NASA no longer wanting to pay for seats aboard the Soyuz crew launches to the ISS, and planning on using SpaceX's Crew Dragon and Boeing's Starliner in the near future, the Russian space program appears to be taking it personally."What happened is clear to us, but we won't tell you anything," Rogozin said in an interview with the state-run news outlet RIA Novosti.This sounds pretty sketchy, but it fits perfectly with Russia's well-documented inferiority complex. The country has long demonstrated a complete inability to admit when something doesn't go according to plan. The decades-old disaster at Chernobyl is obviously the most glaring example, but it's clearly still happening today.Earlier this summer, Russia refused to provide information about a missile explosion that killed at least five scientists, instead choosing to downplay the severity of the incident. With that in mind, holding on to secrets about a hole that mysteriously appeared on the side of a space station used by scientists from Russia, the United States, and several other countries seems perfectly mundane by comparison.In all likelihood, Roscosmos discovered the cause of the damage and, because the truth will make the agency look foolish and incompetent, Rogozin would rather just pretend that it never happened.

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Can a new space race connect the world to the internet?

Mon, 09/23/2019 - 16:02

It's a 21st century space race: Amazon, SpaceX and others are competing to get into orbit and provide internet to the Earth's most remote places. More than a dozen companies have asked U.S. regulators for permission to operate constellations of satellites that provide internet service. "The goal here is broadband everywhere," Amazon founder Jeff Bezos said at a conference in June.

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Hawaii coral show signs of stress amid record-setting heat

Mon, 09/23/2019 - 13:45

At the edge of an ancient lava flow where jagged black rocks meet the Pacific, small off-the-grid homes overlook the calm blue waters of Papa Bay on Hawaii's Big Island — no tourists or hotels in sight. Here, one of the islands' most abundant and vibrant coral reefs thrives just below the surface. Just four years after a major marine heat wave killed nearly half of this coastline's coral, federal researchers are predicting another round of hot water will cause some of the worst coral bleaching the region has ever experienced.

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UN chief urges action to make Earth carbon neutral by 2050

Mon, 09/23/2019 - 12:03

Leader after leader told the United Nations on Monday that they will do more to prevent a warming world from reaching even more dangerous levels. Sixty-six countries have promised to have more ambitious climate goals and 30 swore to be carbon neutral by midcentury, said Chilean President Sebastian Pinera Echenique, who is hosting the next climate negotiations later this year. U.S. President Donald Trump dropped by, listened to German Chancellor Angela Merkel make detailed pledges, including going coal-free, and left without saying anything.

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Are dogs conscious? How about computers? Brain scientist Christof Koch takes on deep questions

Mon, 09/23/2019 - 10:30

Do animals possess consciousness? Can consciousness be uploaded into a computer? Can we measure objectively whether someone is conscious or not? Those may sound like deep, imponderable questions — but in a newly published book, "The Feeling of Life Itself," neuroscientist Christof Koch actually lays out some answers: Yes, no … and yes, scientists are already testing a method for measuring consciousness, with eerie implications. Along the way, Koch addresses brain-teasing concepts ranging from the Vulcan mind melds seen on "Star Trek" to the kind of brain-computer interface that billionaire Elon Musk is backing through his Neuralink venture. Koch has… Read More

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Can a new space race connect the world to the internet?

Mon, 09/23/2019 - 09:43

It's a 21st century space race: Amazon, SpaceX and others are competing to get into orbit and provide internet to the earth's most remote places. More than a dozen companies have asked U.S. regulators for permission to operate constellations of satellites that provide internet service. "The goal here is broadband everywhere," Amazon founder Jeff Bezos said at a conference in June.

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Trump at UN: Tensions loom on Ukraine scandal, climate change and Iran

Mon, 09/23/2019 - 07:42

As Donald Trump arrives at the UN, he faces a litany of potential tensions over issues such as the Ukraine scandal, climate change, Iran and China.

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Pacific heat wave threatens Hawaii's iconic coral reefs

Mon, 09/23/2019 - 07:38

At the edge of an ancient lava flow where jagged black rocks meet the Pacific, small off-the-grid homes overlook the calm blue waters of Papa Bay on Hawaii's Big Island — no tourists or hotels in sight. Here, one of the islands' most abundant and vibrant coral reefs thrives just below the surface. Just four years after a major marine heat wave killed nearly half of this coastline's coral, federal researchers are predicting another round of hot water will cause some of the worst coral bleaching the region has ever experienced.

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China Claims It Can Make Stealth Fighters Even More Stealth

Mon, 09/23/2019 - 01:24

Chinese scientists claim they have developed a new kind of material for making aircraft less detectable by radar. But the development probably is not the breakthrough that some observers claim it is.

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U.S. Air Force is Prototyping a Replacement for the Stealth F-35

Mon, 09/23/2019 - 01:18

And it could be revolutionary.

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Paris fashion week braces for climate protests, absent star

Sun, 09/22/2019 - 23:17

Paris women's fashion week is bracing itself for climate change and animals rights protests as it starts Monday, with one of its biggest stars -- Virgil Abloh -- missing. Extinction Rebellion activists had called for London fashion week to be cancelled entirely because of the "climate emergency" and laid down their own bleeding red carpet to highlight the environmental damage done by the industry. Animal rights group PETA also took to the streets in London to denounce fashion's love affair with leather, saying tanneries were among the world's worst polluters.

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What Should Young Children Drink? Mostly Milk and Water, Scientists Say

Sun, 09/22/2019 - 13:12

A panel of scientists issued new nutritional guidelines for children on Wednesday, describing in detail what they should be allowed to drink in the first years of life. The recommendations, among the most comprehensive and restrictive to date, may startle some parents.Babies should receive only breast milk or formula, the panel said. Water may be added to the diet at 6 months; infants receiving formula may be switched to cow's milk at 12 months. For the first five years, children should drink mostly milk and water, according to the guidelines.Children aged 5 and under should not be given any drink with sugar or other sweeteners, including low-calorie or artificially sweetened beverages, chocolate milk or other flavored milk, caffeinated drinks and toddler formulas.Plant-based beverages, like almond, rice or oat milk, also should be avoided. (Soy milk is the preferred alternative for parents who want an alternative to cow's milk.)In what may come as a shock to parents with pantries full of juice boxes, the panel also said that young children should drink less than a cup of 100% juice per day -- and that none at all is a better choice.The new guidelines were produced by Healthy Eating Research, a nutrition advocacy group, and funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The recommendations are likely to be influential, as they were developed by the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the American Heart Association and the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry.The cautions against sweetened beverages arrive amid persistent concerns about childhood obesity, which can set the stage for lifelong chronic illness. About 19% of children in the United States are obese."Close to half of all 2- to 5-year-olds in the U.S. drink sugary drinks every day, which we know increases their risk of obesity, diabetes and other health problems," said Megan Lott, deputy director of Healthy Eating Research."These recommendations simplify everything for parents -- water, milk and limited amounts of 100% fruit juice," she added.Children do not need juice and are better off eating fruit, the panel said. Excessive juice consumption can lead to dental decay and weight gain, and is linked to overall poor nutrition."When we talk about empty calories that are consumed through beverages and the number of calories people get from sugar-sweetened drinks, we're not just talking about soda," said Dr. Richard Besser, president and chief executive of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. "Juice is another source of calories that nutritionally aren't terrific."Recommendations to limit juice are not new: The pediatrics academy has long advised that babies not be given juice till they are a year old, and that the amount of juice be limited to 4 ounces per day for children between ages 1 and 3.Plant-based milk beverages like almond, oat and rice milk often contain added sweeteners or artificial flavorings, and are less nutritious than cow's milk, a glass of which contains 8 grams of protein along with nutrients such as calcium.With the exception of soy milk, plant-based milks are poor in protein. Though they are often fortified, scientists do not know whether people are able to absorb these nutrients as efficiently as those naturally present in other foods.Formulas marketed for toddlers are usually unnecessary, since most toddlers eat solid food; the products tend to be expensive and often contain added sugars, Lott said.There is no rigorous data from studies of children about the safety of artificially sweetened drinks and other low-calorie sweetened beverages, she said, and the products can condition a child to prefer sweet drinks generally.A spokesman for the American Beverage Association, William Dermody, said beverage companies agree that "it's important for families to moderate sugar consumption to ensure a balanced, healthy lifestyle, and this is especially true for young children."A spokesman for the Juice Products Association, however, said that for children with limited access to fresh produce, juice can help improve fruit intake. Federal dietary guidelines recognize three-quarters of a cup of 100% juice as equivalent to three-quarters of a cup of fruit.But many products that appear to contain natural juice may actually contain only a small amount of real juice, experts cautioned, saying parents must read labels carefully.Children develop preferences for foods and beverages at a young age, and the recommendations are made with an eye to shaping a healthy palate.About a third of children and adolescents in the United States are overweight or obese, conditions that increase the risk of developing chronic illnesses, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, sleep apnea, Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke and some cancers."The hope is that through this approach, you'll help your child develop a taste for what's good for them," Besser said. Though the occasional glass of 100% juice is not going to be harmful, "what you want your children as they grow older to be drinking primarily is water."The new recommendations are broken down by age group:Birth to six months: Infants should drink only breast milk or infant formula. They should not drink juice, milk, flavored milk, so-called transition or weaning formulas (also called toddler milks, growing-up milks or follow-up formula), low-calorie sweetened beverages (diet or "light" drinks, or those sweetened with Stevia or Sucralose).These children also should not receive plant-based and nondairy "milks," caffeinated beverages (soda, coffee, tea, energy drinks) or sugar-sweetened beverages (soda, fruit drinks and fruit-flavored drinks, sports drinks, energy drinks, sweetened water, and sweetened coffee or tea).6 to 12 months: Babies should still rely on breast milk or infant formula. Once they have begun eating solid food, they can start sipping water. Parents should avoid juice, milk, flavored milk, transition formulas, low-calorie sweetened beverages, plant-based and nondairy milks, caffeinated beverages, and sugar-sweetened beverages.12 to 24 months: Children should drink one to four cups of water daily, and they can start drinking plain pasteurized whole milk. They should have no more than 4 ounces of 100% fruit juice per day; the juice may be watered down. Parents should avoid other drinks (flavored milk, transition formulas, caffeinated drinks, plant-based and nondairy milks, sugar-sweetened beverages and low-calorie sweetened beverages).2 to 3 years old: Toddlers should drink one to four cups of water daily and transition to fat-free or low-fat (1% fat) milk. They should drink no more than 4 ounces of 100% juice and should not be given other drinks.4 to 5 years old: These toddlers should drink 1.5 to five cups of water a day, skim or low-fat milk, and no more than 4 to 6 ounces of 100% fruit juice. They should not be given other drinks.This article originally appeared in The New York Times.(C) 2019 The New York Times Company

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