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 on: Jul 03, 2015, 05:14 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
Many Marine Species Remain Unidentified And Unaccounted For

July 3 2015
Alan McStravick for – Your Universe Online

A vast undertaking has been launched to catalog the life that inhabits our world´s oceans. For the first time, a comprehensive register of marine species has been compiled. This effort was part of a massive collaboration among hundreds of experts around the globe.

Findings detailed in this report claim that one-third of all species that inhabit the world´s oceans may actually still remain completely unknown to science. This is true even though more species have been identified and described in the last decade than at any other time in our history.

According to best estimates of the researchers involved, the ocean may actually contain as many as one million species in total. To date, only approximately 226,000 of those species have been identified and described. The researchers also have another 65,000 species that have been collected that are still awaiting description.

“For the first time, we can provide a very detailed overview of species richness, partitioned among all major marine groups. It is the state of the art of what we know–and perhaps do not know–about life in the ocean,” says Ward Appeltans of the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) of UNESCO.

Collaborating on the study with Appeltans was Enrique Macpherson and Xabier Turon, both of the Center for Advanced Studies of Blanes (CEAB-CSIC, Spain). Macpherson states, “Bringing together the leading taxonomists around the world to pool their information has been the great merit of this research.”

One of the primary benefits of this study is that it provides a focal point upon which to coordinate conservation efforts along with providing new estimates for future extinction rates, according to the researchers involved. They expect, over the course of this century, that almost all of the currently unknown species will be discovered. Most of those yet to be identified are found disproportionately among smaller crustaceans, mollusks, worms and sponges.

The newly created World Register of Marine Species (WoRMS) is an open-access, online database. In all, 270 experts who represent 146 institutions and 32 countries have compiled the register. They state it is 95 percent complete, thus far. However, it is continually being updated as new species are discovered.

“Building this was not as simple as it should be, because there has not been any formal way to register species,” Costello says.

One of the problems the teams ran into is a common occurrence in the marine taxonomy world. Synonymy happens quite frequently. This is when one animal is known by multiple scientific and common names. As an example, each whale or dolphin will have, on average, 14 different scientific names.

According to CSIC researcher Damia Jaume, from the Mediterranean Institute for Advanced Studies (IMEDEA, CSIC-UIB), while the species is the best known scientific moniker for an animal, synonymy will occur, and with greater variances, in animals that are either greater in size or that draw interest for different commercial purposes.

When the researchers pour over their specimen records and perform careful examination of the creatures, they fully expect that upwards of 40,000 “species” will be removed from the register, as a result of this synonymy. They do state that the loss of those species from the register will most likely be offset, however, as DNA evidence will reveal previously overlooked “cryptic” species.

Appeltans claims the importance for this register is due to the fact that, while there are fewer ocean-based species than those species that live on land, they represent a much older evolutionary lineage. This ancient lineage is fundamental to our understanding of life on Earth. Appeltans believes that WoRMS is only the start of our achieving this elevated understanding.

“This database provides an example of how other biologists could similarly collaborate to collectively produce an inventory of all life on Earth,” Appeltans says.

The findings have been published online this week in the Cell Press publication Current Biology.

 on: Jul 03, 2015, 05:13 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
Protein In Squid Skin Could Improve Biomedical Technologies

July 3, 2015
UC Irvine

Conductivity could charge up futuristic disease treatments

The common pencil squid (Loliginidae) may hold the key to a new generation of medical technologies that could communicate more directly with the human body. UC Irvine materials science researchers have discovered that reflectin, a protein in the tentacled creature’s skin, can conduct positive electrical charges, or protons, making it a promising material for building biologically inspired devices.

Currently, products such as retinal implants, nerve stimulators and pacemakers rely on electrons – particles with negative charges – to transmit diagnosis data or to treat medical conditions. Living organisms use protons, with positive charges, or ions, which are atoms that contain both electrons and protons, to send such signals. The UCI discovery could lead to better ion- or proton-conducting materials: for instance, next-generation implants that could relay electrical messages to the nervous system to monitor or interfere with the progression of disease.

Alon Gorodetsky, assistant professor of chemical engineering & materials science at The Henry Samueli School of Engineering, led the research team. “Nature is really good at doing certain things that we sometimes find incredibly difficult,” he said. “Perhaps nature has already optimized reflectin to conduct protons, so we can learn from this protein and take advantage of natural design principles.”

He and his group have been studying reflectin to discern how it enables squid to change color and reflect light. They produced the squid protein in common bacteria and used it to make thin films on a silicon substrate. Via metal electrodes that contacted the film, the researchers observed the relationship between current and voltage under various conditions. Reflectin transported protons, they found, nearly as effectively as many of the best artificial materials.

Gorodetsky believes reflectin has several advantages for biological electronics. Because it’s a soft biomaterial, reflectin can conform to flexible surfaces, and it may be less likely to be rejected by the human body. In addition, protein engineering principles could be utilized to modify reflectin for very specific purposes and to allow the protein to decompose when no longer needed.

“We plan to use reflectin as a template for the development of improved ion- and proton-conducting materials,” Gorodetsky said. “We hope to evolve this protein for optimum functionality in specific devices – such as transistors used for interfacing with neural cells – similar to how proteins evolve for specific tasks in nature.”

The research is published in the July issue of Nature Chemistry. Co-authors are David Ordinario, Long Phan, Ward Walkup, Jonah-Micah Jocson, Emil Karshalev and Nina Husken of UCI.

 on: Jul 03, 2015, 05:11 AM 
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Unraveling iridescence with the ‘Monet’ squid

July 2, 2015
Eric Hopton for – Your Universe Online

Off the US coast in the Eastern Pacific Ocean swims the technicolor squid Doryteuthis opalescens, more commonly known as the California market squid. Like many cephalopods, it uses iridescence and skin color changes for camouflage, to attract mates, and also for communication purposes. But this particular beauty has such amazing light-manipulating capabilities that biologists have likened its displays to the paintings of Monet.

Scientists have been looking for the secrets behind cephalopod light and color control and D. opalescens has helped them unravel the mysteries of iridescence.

The market squid is notable for its skill in activating, shuttering, and directing its own iridescence in multiple ways. Daniel Morse, professor emeritus in the Department of Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology (MCDB) at UC Santa Barbara (UCSB) has discovered the squid’s ability to “tune” its colors to correlate with the presence of specific sequences of reflectins, proteins unique to the light-sensing tissue of cephalopods.

The cephalopod that likes to Bragg

This research shows for the first time how reflectin protein subtype structure, localization, distribution, and relative abundance correlate with the squid’s optical output. This new work details the mechanisms of the animal’s “tunable” (adaptive) and “nontunable” (static) iridocytes. These are specialized cells found in squid skin, producing color with a process known as Bragg reflection where light is reflected in a very regular and predictable manner.

Underwater impressionist

The researchers already knew how the neurotransmitter acetylcholine triggers reflectin proteins to condense and expand deep pleats in the cell membrane through the chemical switch of “phosphorylation,” a process which turns protein enzymes on and off, altering their function and activity. This mechanism controls the brightness and color of the reflected light so that these layers, or lamellae, operate as a tunable Bragg reflector.

The innovative element of this research is the way distinct reflectin subtypes may play different roles. “It’s a very complicated system,” said lead author Daniel DeMartini, now a postdoc at UCSB.

“We found three major types of reflectins – A1 and A2, B and C – which in various combinations determine slightly different iridocyte function,” he explained. “A-type reflectins are found in static iridocytes; B are enriched in fully tunable ones, which contain A as well. We also found reflectin C, a new type that is probably important for anchoring proteins to membranes.”

Reflectin C is found in both static and tunable iridocytes, though the amounts vary. Because static iridocytes look thicker than the dynamic ones, their potential for increased membrane interface may require larger amounts of reflectin C.

The location of iridocytes could also be a factor. The most responsive iridocytes are found on the squid’s back, while the more passive ones are on its underside.

“Our new work into the cellular mechanisms of squid iridescence allows us to refine experiment design for reflectin-based adaptive photonic structures,” DeMartini said. “In the future, this could be very useful for creating synthetic optical materials that, like squid skin, can be tuned.”

 on: Jul 03, 2015, 05:10 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
Freakin’ awesome saber-tooth teeth took years to grow

July 2, 2015
Brett Smith for – @ParkstBrett

New research on the American saber-toothed cat Smilodon fatalis has revealed it developed its dagger-like canine teeth later than today’s big cats, but the signature teeth grew about twice as fast as their modern brethren.

In a report published in the journal PLOS ONE, researchers described how they used an isotopic analysis and x-ray imaging to determine that the growth rate of S. fatalis‘s upper canines was 6 millimeters per month; twice the rate of an African lion’s teeth.

“For predators such as big cats, an important determinant of an individual’s full hunting ability is the time required to grow their weapons–their teeth,” said study author Z. Jack Tseng, a postdoctoral fellow in the American Museum of Natural History’s Division of Paleontology. “This is especially crucial for understanding sabertoothed predators such as Smilodon.”

7-inch-long dagger-like teeth grow fast, mature slow

The S. fatalis roamed North and South America until they went extinct around 10,000 years ago. Close to the size of a modern tiger or lion but more sturdily built, the cat’s remains are renowned for their huge canines, which could grow to be around 7 inches long. Although S. fatalis are well studied, very little is understood on the ages at which the animals reached major developmental stages.

“Timing of development is critical for many aspects of vertebrate ecology and evolution,” study author Robert Feranec, a curator of paleontology at the New York State Museum, said in a news release. “Changes in the timing of life-history events can have major effects on an organism’s adult features and final appearance.”

“For extinct species, we can usually only determine the relative sequence of developmental events,” Feranec added. “This technique will permit the determination of absolute developmental age not only for Smilodon, but other extinct species.”

S. fatalis, like humans, had two sets of teeth in its lifetime, with the first set stopping erupting when the cub was approximately 18 months old. At the end of that period, the permanent teeth began to emerge, with approximately an 11-month period where both sets of saber teeth might be seen within a cub’s mouth. (We wonder if there’s a sabertooth fairy.)

After approximately 20 months, the cats dropped their baby canines, and the permanent ones continued to grow up until the animals were between three to three-and-a-half years old, later than in modern tigers, leopards, and lions, but not as late as could possibly be expected.

The scientists added that the method they used in the paper might be applied to a various extinct species to better comprehend the manner and rate by which various animals grew, for instance, by looking at the tusks of wooly mammoths or marine mammals.

 on: Jul 02, 2015, 09:17 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
07/02/2015 03:56 PM

Muzzling the Media: Defying the Kremlin Crackdown on Press Freedom

By Benjamin Bidder and Matthias Schepp

Against the backdrop of the bloody conflict in Ukraine, the Kremlin is seeking to harness the Russian media and increasingly clamping down on critical voices. But some journalists are refusing to deliver pro-Putin propaganda.

It takes a while to remove an article from 50,000 newspapers after they have already been printed. Seven editors of the Siberian weekly paper Novaya Buryatia spent fully three days on the project, though they were assisted by secretaries and graphic organizers, of removing page 16 from every single copy. Only then could the issue of the free paper, known for its independent editorial stance, be distributed as usual in shops, schools and offices in the province of Buryatia on Lake Baikal.

What triggered this bizarre act of self-censorship on the part of the editor-in-chief was a call from Russia's mighty domestic intelligence service, the FSB. President Vladimir Putin's security services, it seemed, deemed the article a threat to domestic security and to Russia's international reputation.

The article quoted the mother of a certain Dorzhi Batomunkuyev, lamenting the fate of the young tank gunner with Unit 46108, stationed in the provincial capital Ulan-Ude. His commanding officers had sent him to Eastern Ukraine, 5,000 kilometers away. He and his fellow soldiers fought alongside pro-Russian separatists against the forces of the central government based in Kiev. The piece was illustrated with two photos. One was of the soldier laughing, and it had been taken just before his tank exploded. The second showed him in his hospital bed, his body ravaged by severe burns, his mutilated face covered in bandages.

The article and the accompanying images are evidence that the Kremlin is lying when it maintains that no Russian soldiers are fighting in Eastern Ukraine.

New Legislation

A growing number of news outlets are being bullied by similar calls from Putin's secret services. The Russian president has a vested interest in keeping the public in the dark about the war being waged in Eastern Ukraine. He relies on the populace's sustained support for the annexation of the Black Sea peninsula of Crimea, despite the considerable political and economic consequences. For the time being, Russians are still celebrating the "return of Crimea to its native harbor" and the sense that the country is once again a fearsome super power. But although they continue to back pro-Russian separatists in Eastern Ukraine, only one in four Russians actually wants a war. The Kremlin therefore does all it can to squelch reports of coffins and injured soldiers returning from Eastern Ukraine, hampering the work of even the most independent media outlets.

The state has already pulled the plug on the popular opposition online television station Dozhd, now only a website, along with a slate of other anti-government regional broadcasters. Russian parliament also forced through a law, effective from January 1, 2016, that limits foreign ownership of Russian media companies to 20 percent stakes. Russia's best business daily Vedomosti used to be a joint venture between the Wall Street Journal, the Financial Times and the Finnish publishing group Sanoma. Earlier this year, Sanoma sold its stake.

The Kremlin is also targeting Axel Springer. A subsidiary of the German company publishes the Russian edition of the highly profitable financial magazine Forbes, seen as one of the best and most critical publications in the country. Axel Springer will now have to decide by the end of the year whether it is willing to continue operating as a minority stakeholder or whether it prefers to withdraw from the Russian market altogether.

The Kremlin believes the war in Ukraine calls for a united media on the home front. In late May, another law came into effect that bans the media from reporting on casualties among Russia troops deployed in special operations, classifying them as military secrets. "Journalists are being turned into propagandists, their pens transformed into bayonets," says the Moscow-based media expert Dmitry Kasmin. At an awards ceremony for Russian journalists in March, Defense Minister Sergei Shoygu announced that "information, words, cameras, photos and the Internet have become tools of our armed forces."

This mobilization of the media is proving effective. Although Russia's economic performance is stalling, Putin's approval ratings are at 90 percent.

"Just Doing My Job"

But not everyone is toeing the line. There are still courageous journalists who defy censorship and remain committed to their objective of denouncing regional injustices such as nepotism and corruption.

One of them is 44-year-old Arkady Sarubin. He was the one who went public with the censorship of page 16 of Novaya Buryatia, posting the revelation online. "It was no act of heroism," he says. "I was just doing my job."

To reach the mountain village of Arshan from Moscow, one must spend six hours in a plane and a further four on the road. Sarubin produces his small newspaper out of a small wooden house, halfway between Lake Baikal and the Mongolian border. Arshan has a print run of 3,000, which sounds modest but allows it to reach almost all of the 20,000 residents in the area.

Among the stories that Sarubin and his one staffer brought to light was that of the nouveau riche district head, who was awarding bridge-building contracts to companies in which he used straw men to disguise his stakes. Last fall, he documented how the candidates of two opposition parties were excluded from regional elections. The district leader had him beaten up by two men, one of whom was a former officer with a special unit now in charge of youth work in the local government. "He could have killed me," says Sarubin. "But his job was merely to intimidate me."

His assailants were tried in court and sentenced according to Article 116 of the Russian criminal code, which penalizes battery. "Unfortunately they weren't sentenced according to Article 144 on the Obstruction of the Lawful Professional Activity of Journalists," says Sarubin. "The state doesn't like to invoke that one."

In fact, Sarubin himself went on trial, accused of endangering the state with extremism because he reported on an anti-fascist demonstration. The article was illustrated with a photograph showing a swastika, and fascist symbolism is banned in Russia. In late May, Buryatia's supreme court found him guilty and Sarubin had to pay a small fine. He's now planning to appeal.

It didn't help the journalist's case that he has become something of a local celebrity since meeting President Putin a year ago. Speaking at a media conference in St. Petersburg organized by the All-Russia People's Front movement started in 2011 by Putin, Sarubin drew attention to the pressure being exerted on regional media. The president pledged to help and in record time, the government had established 300 generously-endowed awards for investigative regional journalism and founded a center offering journalists legal advice.

Return to Soviet-Era Repression

It was, however, little more than a hostile takeover in classic Kremlin style. Whenever independent parties start to make trouble, it simply starts its own opposition parties. When NGOS get annoying, it sets up pro-Kremlin puppet organizations, and squeezes out critical groups. Facing closure in the city of Voronezh in southern Russia, for example, is the private Center for the Protection of Media Rights, one of the last surviving regional groups providing support for beleaguered journalists. Last year alone, over one hundred journalists were put on trial.

Sarubin asked Putin for protection against a system Putin himself had created. The president responded by tasking the same system with solving the problem. Putin's regional media initiative signals nothing less than a slow slide back into the spirit of the Soviet-era, when the press was effectively gagged and any kind of grassroots organization was seen as inherently suspicious.

Yet it isn't even all that long ago that the Russian public was hailing the emergence of an independent media. In the mid-1980s, when Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev introduced Glasnost ("openness"), newspaper articles and TV reports were allowed to shine a light on social issues such as housing shortages and alcoholism. Then, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russia's first democratically-elected president Boris Yeltsin also encouraged the development of an independent and diverse media landscape.

But as the power of the oligarchs grew, many of them bought up all the major newspapers and television stations and used them as weapons in the battles over privatization's juiciest prizes. Putin had barely assumed office before he was not only stripping the oligarchs of their power, but also putting journalists on the state payroll or that of loyal state enterprises. Press freedoms were scaled back more and more with every passing year -- aside from a brief period of tolerance during Dmitry Medvedev's tenure as president.

Pockets of Resistance

Pavel Gusev knows about the rollercoaster ride that Russia's media has been on in recent years better than anyone. The editor-in-chief and owner of the mass circulation daily Moskovsky Komsomolets has decked out his office like a little shop of historical horrors. Perched on his desk are busts of Lenin, Hitler and Mao Tse-tung, while gracing the walls is a portrait of Joseph Stalin. The artist who painted it was jailed because he had the audacity to scrawl his signature across Stalin's coat -- an abomination amounting to sacrilege. "If a new Stalin ever appears, I want my reporters to be able to recognize him," says Gussev of his collection.

Gusev wears a pale gray suit that matches his carefully trimmed beard. Now 66, he's spent half his life as editor-in-chief of Moskovsky Komsomolets, commonly referred to as MK. Before that, he served as an official with the Communist Party youth organization of the same name. The paper started out as the organ of the organization.

The paper has a circulation of 700,000 in Moscow alone, and 2 million nationwide. MK is a force to be reckoned with -- even in Vladivostock, a nine-hour flight from Moscow on the Pacific coast, where a regional edition is published.

Moskovsky Komsomolets is the most serious tabloid in Russia. The headlines might be racy, but the articles are long and appear in relatively small print. Most of them are about politics. Gusev took charge of the paper during the Soviet era, when the censors shared the same premises. They sat in room 717, and would either approve new editions or dictate changes. "The rules of the game used to be clear," says Gusev. "Today things are more complicated. Pressure is exerted behind the scenes and all of a sudden you find you've become the enemy."

Gusev's paper is, on the whole, pro-Kremlin -- which perhaps explains why it can afford regular blasts of barbed criticism, or at least, it could until now. When harried authorities accused the opposition of having started the forest fires that laid waste to vast swathes of Siberia in April, the paper referred to the "fires in the heads" at those authorities. Then, on the 15th anniversary of Putin's first term as president, top columnist Alexander Minkin made a point of looking at the seamy side of his leadership, condemning the bloody ends to the Beslan school siege and the Moscow theater hostage crisis, which claimed the lives of over 450 hostages. In today's Russian, his swipe at the president was tantamount to lèse-majesté.

A Disease Called Freedom

Putin is no longer prepared to take it and the Kremlin is taking aim at Gusev's paper. Its stance is "explicitly anti-state," according to an article published in the pro-Kremlin paper Izvestia -- and likely placed by the presidential office. Once a beacon of the free press in the wake of Perestroika, the mass-circulation broadsheet Izvestia is now owned by Yuri Kovalchuk, a billionaire businessman and financier reputed to be Putin's personal banker and who is on the West's sanctions list. His media outlets serve as a mouthpiece for the secret services, with the Kremlin using them as pet pitbulls to stir up anger against the opposition or the US, its arch enemy.

Moskovsky Komsomolets and the liberal radio station Echo Moskvy were long permitted to voice uncomfortable truths as a vent for public criticism. But, says Gusev, "our independence is no longer welcome." The question now is: For how much longer will the paper be able to continue? The state has withdrawn subsidies and advertising -- which are now earmarked for more pliable newspapers. Moreover, the advertising market is faltering not only because of the economic crisis but because the Russian parliament has banned advertising for tobacco, alcohol and prescription medicine. Advertising revenue is down 40 percent from last year.

Given these developments, Gusev has taken to cheering himself up by glancing up at his gallery of rogues. He takes a long, hard look at a portrait of Lavrentiy Pavlovich Beria, head of the notorious Soviet security and secret police apparatus under Joseph Stalin during World War II. "We're making progress," says Gusev sarcastically. "In the past they would have shot me long ago." He has no plans to hang up his hat. "I find it hard to rid myself of this disease that befell me 25 years ago when the Soviet Union collapsed," he says. "It's called freedom."

 on: Jul 02, 2015, 08:49 AM 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad
BP to pay $18.7 billion environmental fine over 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill

02 Jul 2015 at 10:35 ET       

British Petroleum (BP) has reached a settlement agreement in the case of the catastrophic 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill, Bloomberg Businessweek reported on Thursday morning. The company will?pay $18.7 billion over the next 18 years to settle claims related to the spill.

In the years since the April 20, 2010 blowout of the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig killed 11 workers and sent oil spewing into the Gulf in the biggest oil spill in U.S. history, BP has spent a cumulative $14 billion on cleanup costs and damage claims, according to?Reuters.?

On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to consider an appeal by BP and Anadarko, (who owned 65 and 25 percent of the blown out well respectively), leaving in place a 2014 ruling by the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals that the companies are liable to pay damages under the federal Clean Water Act. $5.5 billion of the settlement deal announced Thursday is a civil penalty under the U.S. Clean Water Act,?The Wall Street Journal?reported.

?Five years ago we committed to restore the Gulf economy and environment and we have worked ever since to deliver on that promise,??BP chairman Carl-Henric Svanberg told the?Wall Street Journal. ?We have made significant progress, and with this agreement we provide a path to closure for BP and the Gulf. It resolves the company?s largest remaining legal exposures, provides clarity on costs and creates certainty of payment for all parties involved." 

 on: Jul 02, 2015, 08:37 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
Minnesota sheriff’s deputy caught on video slamming, hitting K-9 partner

Arturo Garcia
01 Jul 2015 at 18:41 ET                   

A sheriff’s deputy in Ramsay County, Minnesota was charged with animal cruelty and assault against a public safety dog after being caught slamming his K-9 partner to the ground, then striking the animal inside a casino, WCCO-TV reported.

Officials in Carlton County arrested 48-year-old Brett Arthur Berry on June 15, after security cameras at the Black Bear Casino captured the attacks earlier this month. Berry was attending a certification course in the area at the time of the incident.

“It’s something that is certainly unusual,” Carlton County Attorney Thomas Pertler told the Duluth News Tribune. “I haven’t heard of another case like it.”

The criminal complaint against Berry stated that casino security began tracking him after staff kicked him out of a lounge for making “some unwanted advances.” He also “repeatedly made obscene gestures towards security personnel” after security ordered him out of the area.

The footage shows Berry picking the dog up by its neck, then throwing it to the ground.

“The dog then appeared to be afraid of the defendant despite the relationship between the dog and the defendant as a K-9 team and would not come back to the defendant when called,” the complaint stated.

The dog can also be seen entering the casino and getting stuck in a vestibule. After catching up to the animal, authorities said, Berry began “beating it repeatedly on or about the shoulder or ribs area.”

Carlton County officials were called to the casino around 3 a.m. that evening. The complaint stated that Berry “appeared to be under the influence” on the night in question.

A veterinarian later determined that the dog showed “no obvious signs of injury were apparent that would rise to the level of substantial or great bodily harm.” Berry is due back in court on July 23. If convicted, he faces 90 days in jail and/or a $1,000 fine for each charge.

 on: Jul 02, 2015, 07:25 AM 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad
135 Years of Global Warming in 30 Seconds

Climate Central

135 Years of Global Warming in 30 Seconds

Program Summary:

This iconic NASA animation depicts how temperatures around the globe have warmed from 1880 to 2014.

Click to watch the truth:

 on: Jul 02, 2015, 06:33 AM 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad
Minority and indigenous communities turned off own land in growing numbers

Violence, persecution and quest for natural resources driving record numbers out of rural areas and into cities, claims Minority Rights Group study

Mark Anderson
Thursday 2 July 2015 11.35 BST

From the stateless Rohingya escaping oppression at the hands of Burma’s government to the Yazidis fleeing advancing Islamic State fighters in Iraq, more indigenous peoples and minority groups are being displaced from their land and pushed into cities, where they face discrimination, a study has warned.

The displacement of minority and native groups has risen over the past year, Minority Rights Group International (MRG) said in its latest report. The growing threat of violence and persecution is most vividly illustrated by the terrors the Islamic State has inflicted upon the Yazidi religious group in northern Iraq.

“The situation looks pretty dire if you look back at the last 12 or 18 months, particularly with the catastrophic situation facing religious minorities in the Middle East and the large-scale displacement of minority communities like the Yazidis out of Iraq,” said Carl Soderbergh, director of policy at MRG.

“Some of the smaller minority communities may no longer even be present in the countries where they’ve resided for millennia,” he added.

The hunt for natural resources is also fuelling the displacement of indigenous peoples, according to the study. In Colombia, people of African ancestry have been forced off their land by armed groups seeking to control gold mines, and the majority of Canada’s First Nations people now live in urban areas because they have been forced off their rural land by mining operations, the report said.

Greater monitoring of the displacement caused by natural resource extraction is needed, Soderbergh said. “There must be meaningful participation of indigenous peoples and the right to free, prior and informed consent when companies go in to extract natural resources.”

The report’s authors also criticised the failure of governments to involve communities in their policymaking processes. “Unfortunately, minorities and indigenous peoples still are not at the negotiating tables – they’re not in the rooms where decisions are taking place,” said Soderbergh.

The report highlighted countries where government persecution has threatened minority groups and indigenous peoples. In China, the government destroyed Uyghur traditional housing in Kashgar, raising the prospect of violence in the region, Soderbergh said.

Urbanisation across the world has made it harder than ever for governments, urban planners and civil society to protect the rights of minority groups and indigenous peoples in cities. Minorities who arrive in cities often live in informal settlements and can face police harassment and ghettoisation, the report warned.

Soaring populations and a lack of rural development is driving record numbers of people to urban centres. The UN has said that two-thirds of the world’s population will live in cities by 2050.

Benson Solit, 25, is a Sengwer from Kenya’s Embobut forest. He left his hometown in 2014, when the Sengwer were violently evicted from their land by forest service guards. At the time, the government said the evictions were a necessary measure to protect local water supplies.

Solit was forced to flee to Kenya’s teeming capital, Nairobi, where he now lives in an informal settlement. “I don’t really feel safe in Nairobi; we have some worries and I don’t feel comfortable,” he said, adding that he missed his home in the forest. However, he said he was enrolled in college and does odd jobs to make ends meet.

Solit’s story is similar to those of people from other groups around the world, many of whom have been forced to leave their land and, lacking other options, ventured to cities. The Kenyan government has projected that Nairobi’s population could rise from its current level of about 3.5 million people to 18.5 million by 2030 (pdf).

Resettled minority groups and indigenous peoples usually move to the slums of large cities, which are plagued by poor urban planning, a lack of infrastructure and complicated land ownership systems. “I’m particularly worried that cities like Nairobi – or any number across Asia – are growing so hugely with very little thought for the future in terms of infrastructure and secure land tenure,” Soderbergh said.

The UN has predicted that about 40 “megacities”, each with a population of 10 million-plus, will exist by 2030, with Delhi, Shanghai and Tokyo among the most populated.

If there is no proper planning, the close proximity of lots of different ethnic groups in informal settlements “can lead to any number of problems, including tensions and violence,” said Soderbergh.

Without recognised land tenure, developers are reluctant to upgrade informal settlements, opting instead to evict entire communities and buy land from private owners. “If we don’t get people secure land tenure, especially as cities grow around them, then they will remain in a very precarious situation as developers start eyeing the land that they’re living on,” Soderbergh said.

The relocation of minority groups and indigenous peoples into cities has yielded some positive outcomes, according to the report.

Soderbergh said: “In a number of cities in Oceania, building techniques, land management techniques that indigenous peoples have will be absolutely vital to tackle the effects of climate change in the very near future.”

 on: Jul 02, 2015, 06:29 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
Christian Science Monitor

NASA zeroes in on Pluto, detects frozen methane

As NASA's New Horizons makes final preparations to zoom past Pluto, the probe continues to make startling observations.

By Michelle Toh, Staff writer July 1, 2015   

As NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft closed in on Pluto’s surface, two weeks before its rendezvous with the ex-planet, it detected a substance scientists had long suspected was there: frozen methane.

Astronomers in California had first observed the chemical compound on Pluto in 1976.

But Will Grundy, the New Horizons Surface Composition team leader with the Lowell Observatory, said Tuesday’s detection was the first confirmation of their observations. “Soon we will know if there are differences in the presence of methane ice from one part of Pluto to another,” he said in a statement.
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NASA said Pluto’s methane may have always been there, “inherited from the solar nebula from which the solar system formed 4.5 billion years ago.”

The New Horizons spaceship will whiz past Pluto on July 14 “in a flyby that will give humanity its first up-close look at Pluto and its moons,” The Christian Science Monitor's Pete Spotts wrote in April.

So many questions surround the system that it presents “a scientific wonderland,” Alan Stern, lead scientist for the mission, told the Monitor.

Satellite photographs from the $700 million mission have already offered extraordinary glimpses at the dwarf planet that scientists speculate is even redder than Mars, with rivers of liquid neon flowing across the surface and a subsurface liquid-water ocean.

The latest image of Pluto and its largest moon, Charon, shows only two icy gray circles to the undiscriminating eye, but scientists have already detected new details.

“Pluto and Charon are becoming more distinct in their surface features,” Alice Bowman, the missions operations manager for New Horizons, said Tuesday in a mission update.

To ensure each instrument is in position for the historic encounter on the 14th, the spacecraft is undergoing final, minute adjustments, said mission design lead Yanping Guo of the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory. Tuesday's 23-second thruster burn kept New Horizons from arriving 20 seconds late and 114 miles off-target.

In addition, obstacles like icy debris are dealt with en route, NASA said.

"Our team has worked hard to get to this point, and we know we have just one shot to make this work," said Ms. Bowman in April. "We’ve plotted out each step of the Pluto encounter, practiced it over and over, and we’re excited the ‘real deal’ is finally here."

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