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Apr 29, 2017, 03:55 AM
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 on: Apr 27, 2017, 05:20 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
New study: global warming keeps on keeping on

A new paper finds no statistical evidence that global warming slowed down in recent years or that it’s sped up just yet

John Abraham
Thursday 27 April 2017 11.00 BST

As humans continue to dump heat-trapping gases like carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, the Earth continues to warm. In fact, it has been warming for decades and we now routinely hit temperatures that are 1°C (about 2°F) above the temperatures from 100 years ago.

But despite what we may expect, temperatures across the globe don’t rise little by little each year in a straight line. Rather, temperature changes are a bit bumpy. They go up and they go down somewhat randomly as they increase. Think of a wiggly line superimposed on a straight rising line.

A great depiction of the behavior is seen from the NASA data, shown below. Each black mark is the Earth’s temperature for a given year. The red line is calculated from 5-year averages of the black data marks and is much smoother than the black line. As you move from left to right, you pass from the year 1880 to the most recent year (2016), which is shown in the very upper right corner.

Careful observation of the graph shows that the last three years (2014, 2015, and 2016) were all record-breakers. It makes you wonder, what the chances are that global warming has sped up?
Annual global average surface temperatures with a 5-year smoothing.

Well this is a question that can be tested with statistics, and a new paper out in Environmental Research Letters did just that. In the study, the authors ask a few important questions. First, can the latest three years, all of which were record-setting, tell us whether the rate of warming has changed? Also, can the years that preceded those (which were cooler than the trend) tell us whether the rate of warming had slowed?

With respect to whether surface warming has sped up or slowed down, the authors of this study made a testable hypothesis. They started out assuming that the Earth was warming at a constant rate but superimposed on this warming was a random short-term variability. Then they looked at the temperature measurements (like those shown in the figure above) and ran statistical tests to see whether those temperatures would be unlikely to occur given their hypothesis. A simple way to state this is, do you get temperature results like that above with the simple assumption of constant warming with natural year-to-year fluctuations?

Using what is called a Monte Carlo method where you let your statistics tool give you a large population of possible temperatures by running many random trials, the authors found that using the NASA temperatures, the likelihood of seeing a trend as low as, or even lower than what was observed during the 2001–2014 period was 74%. The likelihood of seeing the actual 2000–2012 temperatures was 96%. In other words, it’s very likely that a time period with a trend as low as observed would occur just by chance, given a constant warming rate.

They repeated the analysis for another climate dataset (HadCRUT4) and found again, it’s not unusual to expect the temperatures we actually saw over these periods. The figure below shows five different sets of temperature data; they are all telling this same story of uninterrupted rise over the past four decades or so.

What was incredibly powerful is that the authors show that it would have been statistically significant to have not found an interval with as a slow warming as actually measured.

What this analysis shows us is that the Earth continues to warm apace. Furthermore, we shouldn’t get excited about any given year that is cold or warm, or think it’s showing that global warming is slowing down or speeding up. Rather, this paper reminds us that long-term trends are what matters. And the long-term trends are speaking loudly. This latest study is just another nail in the coffin of the lie that global warming ended.

 on: Apr 27, 2017, 05:17 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
Cobalt gems luminous in the bright light

Sandy, Bedfordshire Two kingfishers, with daggers of beaks and undercarriages of deep orange, were engaged in a chase

Derek Niemann
Thursday 27 April 2017 05.30 BST

In the days before we gave names to storms, an anonymous blow laid low a riverside tree. Years later, leafless and lifeless, its branches bare of bark, the tree still lay across the water, an antlered jetty.

That gale had heaved the tree over, root plate and all, taking a giant’s bite out of the riverbank. The tree’s sheared and weathered anchors stuck out like pirates’ bones from the caked soil at the base of the trunk. A long-ago flood had wrapped a silt-stained shred of black plastic around one of the protruding roots.

I was wondering about climbing down into this earthy hollow in search of archaeological treasure – a clay pipe or a lodged penny, perhaps – when a peeping commotion sounded from downstream.

Two kingfishers were engaged in a mazy beak-to-tail chase.

The birds were luminous in the bright light, cobalt gems that glittered but did not sparkle, as if they had stolen the sun’s rays and refused to give them back. They followed the twisting contours of the river as a train might hold to the tracks, keeping a steady course, a couple of metres above the water. One suddenly turned in front of a willow and doubled back, its follower still in close pursuit.

I leapt at the possibility of seeing the chasing kingfishers from swan’s eye level and jumped into the pit, scuffing nettles with my shins as I tumbled down. Crouched in the dugout, out of sight and expectant, I heard the loud peeps grew louder and then there were the birds almost directly overhead. I caught an impression of white flashes and undercarriages of deep orange, dulled in the shade.

Most of all, these birds drew my eyes to the front – to those disproportionate daggers of beaks, a clear line dividing mandibles that might snap on a fish later the same day. And behind those formidable weapons, a dark, dispassionate eye that guided them at a speed greater than conscious thought.

For a split second I was reminded of fighter jets, and once they had shot past I found myself standing up in admiration.

 on: Apr 27, 2017, 05:16 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
United Airlines 'saddened' by death of giant rabbit after transatlantic flight

Airline launches investigation after rabbit expected to be the world’s biggest found dead after travelling from London to Chicago

Jamie Grierson and Peter J Walker
Wednesday 26 April 2017 19.38 BST

United Airlines has said a potentially record-breaking giant rabbit died in its care, but only after the transatlantic flight it was travelling on had landed.

The 3ft (90cm) continental giant rabbit, which was 10 months old and named Simon, died while travelling from London Heathrow to O’Hare airport in Chicago.

The airline revealed it had offered the customer compensation and, contrary to previous reports, clarified that the animal was alive when it was taken off the flight.

United’s spokesman Charles Hobart said the animal had appeared healthy and shown no signs of distress upon landing.

About 30 minutes later, he said, the rabbit was sleeping in a pet facility run by the company, and shortly afterwards an employee opened its cage to find it dead.

It comes three weeks after a video showing a passenger being dragged off a United flight sparked widespread outrage.

“We won’t know the cause of death because we offered to perform a necropsy free of charge – that’s standard procedure – but the customer didn’t want us to perform a necropsy, and we understand,” said Hobart.

Owner Annette Edwards, a breeder from Worcestershire, told the Sun that Simon had been expected to grow to be the world’s biggest rabbit after his father Darius grew to 4ft 4in (1.32 metres). She said his buyer was famous.

She told the Associated Press: “Simon had his vet check just before getting on the plane. He was fit as a fiddle.”

United says it is investigating the incident and a spokesperson said: “We were saddened to hear this news. The safety and wellbeing of all the animals that travel with us is of the utmost importance to United Airlines and our PetSafe team.”

This month David Dao, 69, from Kentucky, was seen with a bloodied face after being forcibly taken off a plane by Chicago airport officers who had been summoned by United employees when he would not give up his seat.

Speaking after that incident, United’s chief executive, Oscar Munoz, said: “The truly horrific event that occurred on this flight has elicited many responses from all of us: outrage, anger, disappointment. I share all of those sentiments and one above all: my deepest apologies for what happened.

“Like you, I continue to be disturbed by what happened on this flight and I deeply apologise to the customer forcibly removed and to all the customers aboard. No one should ever be mistreated this way.”

The most recent figures from the US Department of Transportation – dating from 2015 but released this February – show 35 animal deaths occurred during transit across 17 carriers in the US.

United accounted for 14 animal deaths in that period, with a further nine reported injured among the nearly 100,000 animals carried by the company.

Edwards also told the Sun: “Something very strange has happened and I want to know what. I’ve sent rabbits all around the world and nothing like this has happened before. The client who bought Simon is very famous. He’s upset.”

 on: Apr 27, 2017, 05:13 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
Anger after farm worker who admitted animal cruelty is not jailed

Animal rights activists criticise suspended sentence given to apprentice Owen Nichol who was filmed attacking cow and calves

Steven Morris
Wednesday 26 April 2017 14.10 BST

Animal rights activists have criticised a decision not to jail a farm apprentice who was secretly filmed hitting, stamping on and throwing newborn calves at a Somerset farm.

Owen Nichol, 18, who attacked the calves and a cow and repeatedly swore at the animals, was given a suspended prison sentence.

He was caught on film by the organisation Animal Equality after it received a tip-off from a neighbour about what was happening at Pyrland Farm in Taunton.

During a four-minute clip, Nichol is seen kicking a cow who had just given birth, slapping her and slamming a gate on her. He throws her calf six times, kicks its body and face and slaps it. Nichol then kicks and stamps on another calf seven times.

Nichol, who was dismissed from his job as soon as the footage was released, told RSPCA investigators: “I just flipped.”

The teenager admitted two charges of causing unnecessary suffering to the animals contrary to the Animal Welfare Act 2006.

Peter Reed, the chair of the bench at Taunton magistrates, sentenced Nichol to 12 weeks in prison suspended for one year, and 150 hours of unpaid work.

“Your behaviour in the incident was absolutely unacceptable,” Reed told Nichol. “The offence was deliberate, it was sustained.”

Reed said the offences passed the custody threshold but Nichol would be given a suspended sentence because of his age, lack of previous convictions and circumstances at the time of the incident.

“You were working under pressure, you were working beyond your capabilities,” Reed said. Nichol was also disqualified from owning, keeping and participating in keeping animals for two years.

Dr Toni Shephard, Animal Equality’s UK director, expressed concern at the sentence. He said: “We are extremely disappointed that this dairy farm worker has not been sent to prison for the disgusting attacks on vulnerable cows and calves revealed by our investigation. Anything less than a custodial sentence is a wholly inadequate punishment for these disturbing acts of cruelty.

“This case highlights the dangerous lack of oversight and complete absence of independent, unannounced inspections which leave all farmed animals at risk of abuse and suffering. Without our investigation, this worker would still be beating those poor animals today.”

In a report for the RSPCA, Andrew Biggs, a past president of the British Cattle Veterinary Association, said: “This is the worst example of abusive behaviour I have seen in the 35 years I have been a veterinary surgeon.”

At the time of the filming, Nichol had been working at the farm for a year. He told officers his grandmother had been in hospital and he had separated from his girlfriend.

Nichol, who has a flock of sheep, said he had “very little sleep” as he had been working for his father as well as nights at the farm.

The farm has undergone a number of inspections since the incident and staff have received training, the court heard.

In mitigation, Martin Winter said Nichol had been working alone and unsupervised. Nichol now plans to work on an arable farm, the court heard.

 on: Apr 27, 2017, 05:09 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
Can the Shitstain president shrink – or even eliminate – national monuments?

President Trump's latest executive order opens the door to reducing or revoking two dozen national monuments, including Bears Ears in Utah. It's far from clear, however, that the president has the legal authority to do so.   

Amanda Paulson
CS Monitor

April 26, 2017 Boulder, Colo.—If Western Republicans have had one focus in their anger over federal land management in recent years, it’s been national monument designations.

The ability to withdraw large tracts of land from development with the stroke of a pen, under the authority of the 1906 Antiquities Act, is one of the broadest executive powers that a president has. And it’s been a power many presidents have wielded expansively as they consider their legacy.

Now the permanence of that legacy is being called into question.

In an unprecedented move, President Trump on Wednesday signed an executive order directing Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to review all presidential monument designations greater than 100,000 acres within the past 21 years – at least 24 monuments established under Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama – and recommend changes or modifications.

“Today, we are putting the states back in charge,” Trump said Wednesday at his signing ceremony at the Interior Department. He said that his order would “end another egregious abuse of federal power, and … give that power back to the states and to the people, where it belongs.”
Can you identify these US National Parks from their photos? Take our quiz.

The monuments Secretary Zinke will be reviewing are bookended by two controversial ones in Utah: Grand Staircase-Escalante (1.7 million acres, established in 1996 by Mr. Clinton) and Bears Ears (1.35 million acres, established late last year by Mr. Obama). And, as Trump acknowledged in his remarks, Utah lawmakers, particularly incensed over Bears Ears, have led the charge in asking Trump to review the designations.

But while Congress could certainly take action based on Zinke's recommendations, it’s far from clear that a president actually has the power to rescind a national monument designation of a previous president, or even to reduce its size.

Legal precedent – or lack thereof

While there is no judicial decision on the issue, several opinions by attorneys general and solicitors “strongly suggest the president doesn’t have this authority to rescind” a national monument designation, says Robert Keiter, a law professor at the University of Utah and director of the Wallace Stegner Center for Land, Resources, and the Environment. “Most legal scholars that have looked at it have concluded the same.”

Some presidents have reduced the size of monuments: President Wilson cut the Mount Olympus National Monument (now a national park) by nearly half; President Eisenhower reduced the Great Sand Dunes (also now a national park) by 25 percent; and President Taft reduced the Navajo National Monument, which he himself had established just three years earlier, by nearly 90 percent.

But, legal scholars note, none of those reductions were ever challenged in court, so there is no legal opinion on whether presidents actually had the power to make them. And all of them occurred prior to the Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976, which some experts believe more explicitly limits presidential powers to revoke or change monuments. Moreover, many of those earlier readjustments were based on new information. Taft, for instance, reduced the Navajo monument once better mapping showed exactly where the threats to cliff dwellings and other Native American antiquities existed, says Professor Keiter.

Some conservative theorists disagree, and the American Enterprise Institute last month published a paper by John Yoo and Todd Gaziano outlining legal arguments for presidential authorities to rescind or reduce monuments.

“We are confident that, pursuant to this power to designate, a president has the corresponding power to revoke prior national monument designations, although there is no controlling judicial authority on this question,” the authors wrote, adding that they were even more confident that he can reduce the size of a monument.

157 monuments since 1906

Since Congress passed the Antiquities Act in 1906, under President Theodore Roosevelt, it’s been used by 16 presidents to establish 157 monuments. Many of those monuments went on to become national parks – and nearly half of America's current national parks were first designated monuments, including iconic parks like the Grand Canyon, Grand Teton, Arches, and Zion.

From the beginning, many of those designations have been controversial, and some have been challenged, unsuccessfully, in court (controversies over monuments in Wyoming and Alaska did lead to the only two modifications to the Antiquities Act, exempting Wyoming from further presidential monument designations and requiring Congressional approval for any monument in Alaska greater than 5,000 acres).

In a press briefing Tuesday night, Zinke emphasized that this order “does not strip any monument of a designation” or “loosen any environmental or conservation regulation on any land or marine areas,” and he promised to go into the review with an open mind.

“I just want to make a firm judgment based on the facts on the ground and giving people a voice,” said Zinke. He said that he will make a recommendation on Bears Ears – by far the biggest flash point in the current debate – within 45 days and will have a final recommendation on all the monuments within 120 days.

In explaining the need for the review, Zinke cited the limits put in place in many monuments on industries such as mining, oil and gas exploration, and timber harvest, and noted that “in some cases, the designation of the monuments may have resulted in loss of jobs, reduced wages and reduced public access.”

But many conservation advocates note that, however controversial they were at the time, most monuments become a significant economic boost for local communities, and often become highly popular.
Utah's 'mighty five'

Four of Utah’s “mighty five” national parks, now the bedrock of its strong tourism industry, started as monuments, and even the controversial Grand Staircase-Escalante monument has had a positive impact on the local economy.

“It’s important to look at national monuments over the arc of history,” says Kate Kelly, public lands director at the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank. “Often when places were established there was controversy about locking up resources. In each case they’ve stood the test of time.”

When Headwaters Economics, an independent nonprofit that works to improve community-development and land-management decisions in the West, twice analyzed the economies of communities adjacent to significant national monuments, they found that the economies surrounding all 17 monuments they studied expanded following the monuments’ creation.

“Nearby national monuments help communities to diversify economically while increasing quality of life and recreational opportunities that assist communities to become more attractive for new residents, businesses, and investment,” said Chris Mehl, policy director for Headwaters Economics, in a statement Wednesday.

And for all its controversy, Keiter notes that Bears Ears is the first monument to be explicitly proposed by Native Americans – it was proposed by a coalition of five tribes, and would also be the first monument jointly managed by the tribes and the federal government – in order to protect important tribal lands and artifacts. Protecting that heritage was the primary reason the Antiquities Act was originally created.

Rob Bishop, a Republican congressman from Utah, the House National Resource Chairman, and one of the biggest critics of both Bears Ears and the reach of the Antiquities Act, has already promised to push legislation overhauling the act.

He and other critics contend that the size of monument designations has grown, and now goes far past what the original law intended: to reserve “the smallest area compatible with the proper care and management of the objects to be protected.”

But while the last two presidents designated huge amounts of acreage, most of that acreage was in marine areas. And plenty of early monuments, including the Grand Canyon, Glacier Bay, and Death Valley, were also large.

As Bishop and other conservative lawmakers cheered Trump’s executive order Wednesday as the first step in rolling back monument designations, others promised a strong pushback, not just from environmental groups, but from a public that tends to see public lands very favorably.

“If Zinke comes back from this review with recommendations that are anything but ‘keep the monuments as they are,’ this is going to face legal challenges and huge resistance from the American public,” says Ms. Kelly of the Center for American Progress. “The Antiquities Act has been used by presidents over the past 100-plus years to protect some of our nation’s most stunning places… This executive order is an attempt to undermine one of the nation’s most important conservation tools. We think this is an attack on national parks and public lands writ large.


Montana Senator Introduces Bill to Ban Gold Mining Near Yellowstone National Park


U.S. Sen. Jon Tester introduced legislation on Tuesday to protect more than 30,000 acres of public land bordering Yellowstone National Park. These public lands in Montana's Park County are the targets of two industrial scale gold mine proposals, which would threaten the national park, the clean water of the Yellowstone River, wildlife and the local economy. The legislation does not affect any recreational use of the land, including hunting or fishing.

Sen. Tester's legislation followed actions made in the fall of 2016, when U.S. Departments of Interior and Agriculture began a two-year time-out on gold exploration and mining, on the public land near Yellowstone National Park.

"The people in Park County are standing together and saying industrial gold mining doesn't make sense on the doorsteps of Yellowstone. Our river, our wild lands and our wildlife are too valuable to gamble," said Michelle Uberuaga, executive director of the Park County Environmental Council.

"Our local elected officials and the county commission are standing with us and we're grateful to have Sen. Tester's leadership in Washington, DC. Now we need to see this to the finish line," she added.

More than 300 local businesses of the bipartisan Yellowstone Gateway Business Coalition asked for the action, citing risks to their livelihoods and to the strong regional economy. The local calls for action were echoed on a national level, for the potential impacts to the world's first national park and surrounding wildlife habitat, as well the Yellowstone River and its world-famous fishery.

"National Parks Conservation Association applauds Sen. Tester for taking the next step in opposing industrial gold mines next to Yellowstone," commented Stephanie Adams, Yellowstone program manager for the National Parks Conservation Association.

"Concerns over the threats to Yellowstone and its nearby communities and waterways have been echoed by Interior Sec. Ryan Zinke, Montana Gov. Steve Bullock and Sen. Steve Daines. It is time for our elected officials at all levels to stand together in forever protecting these priceless lands."

Sen. Tester's legislation protects private property rights while enacting a permanent withdrawal on the public lands.

"Legislation is needed to permanently prevent private corporations from industrializing public lands in the heart of the Yellowstone ecosystem," said Jenny Harbine, attorney for Earthjustice.

"The introduction of legislation is a crucial first step and now we must all fight for Congressional approval of this critical protection for some of our nation's most-prized wild lands."


Mayors Take Bold Step Toward 100% Clean Energy


Mayors from across the nation joined with the Sierra Club's Ready for 100 campaign Wednesday to announce a new effort to engage and recruit mayors to endorse a goal of transitioning to 100 percent renewable energy.

Ahead of the U.S. Conference of Mayors annual meeting in Miami Beach in June, the launch of Mayors for 100% Clean Energy aims to demonstrate bold local leadership and showcase the depth and breadth of support from city leaders for a transition to 100 percent renewable energy.

The new initiative is co-chaired by Mayor Philip Levine of Miami Beach, Mayor Jackie Biskupski of Salt Lake City, Mayor Kevin Faulconer of San Diego and Mayor Stephen K. Benjamin of Columbia, South Carolina. Benjamin is also a vice president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors.

"We have already taken steps to expand renewable energy and we will continue to improve our infrastructure and innovate clean energy solutions for a stronger Miami Beach," said Mayor Levine. "Climate change may be the challenge of our generation, but it is also the opportunity of a lifetime. The transition to clean and renewable energy will both help Miami Beach confront climate change and strengthen our local economy."

Mayor Biskupski noted that cities contribute about 75 percent of human greenhouse gas emissions, and said Salt Lake City is warming at a rate twice as fast as the global average.

"We can't ignore climate change because climate change is not ignoring us," she said. "Among many other risks, we face water shortages, decreased snowpack and threats to our $1 billion ski industry. Cities must adapt to cope with these threats, and that's also why we must take action to mitigate them."

Noting that San Diego has become a leading city for solar energy capacity, Mayor Faulconer said that business and environmental groups are cooperating to achieve a mutually beneficial goal of 100 percent renewable energy.

"Clean energy isn't just the right thing to do, it's the smart thing to do," he emphasized. "We're going green not only because it supports clean air and water, but because it supports our 21st century economy."

Mayoral leadership has been a powerful driver of city-wide action on climate change and clean energy in municipalities across the country. The Mayors National Climate Action Agenda (Climate Mayors) founded by Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, former Houston Mayor Annise Parker and former Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter, recently released an electric vehicle request for information to demonstrate demand to automakers for nearly 115,00 vehicles that could be electrified in 30 cities.

Now the co-chairs of Mayors for 100% Clean Energy, a number of whom are Climate Mayors, are further demonstrating their commitment to lead nationally on the shared challenge of reducing climate pollution and contributing to Climate Mayors' framework of local leadership and action.

"Mayors can lead our nation toward a healthier, stronger and more prosperous country by championing a vision of 100 percent clean, renewable energy in their communities," said Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune. "Cities don't need to wait for Washington, DC to act in order to move the ball forward on clean energy."

Twenty-six cities across the U.S. have now committed to transition to 100 percent clean and renewable energy. This growing list of cities most recently includes South Lake Tahoe, California, which last week unanimously voted to transition entirely to renewable energy by 2032. Other big cities including Los Angeles and Denver are studying pathways to 100 percent clean energy. Earlier this month, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced a commitment to transition Chicago municipal buildings and operations to 100 percent clean and renewable energy by 2025.


PennEast Pipeline 'Would Cause Massive Increase in Climate Pollution'


A study released Wednesday found that, if built, the controversial PennEast Pipeline for fracked gas could contribute as much greenhouse gas pollution as 14 coal-fired power plants or 10 million passenger vehicles—some 49 million metric tons per year.

The analysis, conducted by Oil Change International, showed that federal regulators are poised to rubber-stamp the PennEast Pipeline based on a woefully inadequate climate review that ignores the significant impact of methane leaks and wrongly assumes that gas supplied by the project will replace coal.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) is facing a growing backlash across the country over its routine approval of gas pipeline projects that endanger communities and the climate. Today's study comes on the heels of a federal court hearing in which a judge slammed FERC's shallow and dismissive review of the climate impact of the Sabal Trail gas pipeline in the Southeast.

The new analysis counters FERC's final environmental impact statement for the PennEast project released in early April. It applies a methodology recently developed by Oil Change International to calculate the climate impact of gas pipelines from the Appalachian Basin. In contrast to FERC, the Oil Change methodology reflects the evolving analysis of methane leakage and the full lifecycle of pollution that pipelines cause from fracking well to smokestack.

"Our analysis shows that the PennEast Pipeline would cause a massive increase in climate pollution," said Lorne Stockman, lead author of the study and Oil Change International senior research analyst. "The only way FERC can conclude otherwise is by ignoring both science and economics. The PennEast pipeline is not needed, communities don't want it and it will deepen reliance on fossil fuels that we can't afford to burn."

The PennEast Pipeline, backed by a consortium of gas companies, would run roughly 120 miles from northeastern Pennsylvania to Mercer County, New Jersey, carrying up to 1.1 billion cubic feet of gas per day. The New Jersey Rate Counsel has concluded that New Jersey consumers do not need the gas. The project is facing stiff opposition from landowners and community and environmental groups along its route.

The Oil Change analysis found that the pipeline would be responsible for over 49 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions by adding up the pollution from gas extraction and processing, pipeline operation, gas combustion at power plants and methane leaked across the gas supply chain.

The study found three major faults in FERC's review:

• FERC fails to acknowledge that methane leakage makes gas as dirty or dirtier than coal, wiping out any potential benefits of switching from coal to gas;

• FERC ignores the market reality that new gas production is likely to compete directly with clean energy and energy efficiency, especially in New Jersey, which has already phased out coal-fired generation;

• FERC fails to count upstream emissions from fracking operations.

Advocates from the region reacted to the study with concern and reiterated their commitment to stopping the pipeline, which has yet to receive key permits from the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection and the Delaware River Basin Commission:

"It is unseemly that the public and nonprofit organizations are having to invest time and money in doing the work FERC should be undertaking," said Maya van Rossum, the Delaware Riverkeeper. "This report demonstrates, yet again, that the PennEast pipeline will help push our nation and world over the climate change cliff. FERC is not only legally required to do the kind of analysis included in this report, but is morally responsible."

Tom Gilbert, campaign director for Rethink Energy NJ and NJ Conservation Foundation, agreed. "It cannot be ignored that New Jersey's greenhouse gas emissions are going up, not down, driven by increased emissions from gas-fired electric plants," he said.

"This report shows that the PennEast pipeline would only further move the state in the wrong direction by increasing carbon emissions and methane leaks, putting public health and safety at risk."


The Republicans who care about climate change: 'They are done with the denial'

As despair intensifies over Trump’s agenda, the bipartisan Climate Solutions Caucus brings Democrats and Republicans together to break the deadlock

Oliver Milman
Thursday 27 April 2017 11.00 BST

The failure of American politics to deal with, or even coherently discuss, climate change was perhaps best illustrated when James Inhofe, a Republican from Oklahoma, took to the floor of the US senate with a ziploc bag and a mischievous grin in February 2015.

“We keep hearing 2014 has been the warmest year on record,” Inhofe said, pulling a snowball from the bag. “You know what this is? It’s a snowball, just from outside here. It’s very, very cold out, very unseasonal.” Inhofe, apparently content that 150 years of global warming research had been swatted away as nonsense, playfully tossed the snowball at the senate president.

Two years later – both of which set new global records for heat – at least half a dozen former aides to Inhofe, the fiercest critic of mainstream climate science in Congress, have been hired to top positions at the White House and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Scott Pruitt, the administrator of the EPA who has an erstwhile Inhofe aid as his chief of staff, recently erred by denying that carbon dioxide was a primary driver of global warming.

Donald Trump, meanwhile, has vacillated on the issue but has previously called climate science “bullshit” and a “hoax”. His actions since becoming president perhaps speak loudest: he has set about dismantling the Clean Power Plan, thrown open federal lands to coal mining, ordered the revision of clean air regulations and halted new vehicle emissions standards.

But amid climate activists’ despair, there are fresh shoots of hope that, as a party, Republicans’ climate intransigence is shifting. A growing group of Republicans in Congress are newly emboldened and are speaking out in favor of finally addressing a crisis that is starting to bite their constituents.

The Climate Solutions Caucus, set up just last year, now has 38 members, half of them Republicans. The Congressional group, which is crafting bipartisan action on climate change, is bolstered by a new chorus of big business, faith groups and young college-based Republicans that are demanding that the GOP drops the climate skepticism that has become a key part of its tribal identity over the past decade.

    If you want to join as a Democrat, you have to bring a Republican. It’s a Noah’s Ark approach, which is appropriate
    Ted Deutch, a Florida Democrat

“The vast majority of Republicans in private buy the science – the likes of Inhofe are in the minority,” said Danny Richter, legislative director of the Citizens’ Climate Lobby, a non-profit group that painstakingly helped put together the caucus.

“What Republicans needed was safe passage to talk about climate action in public, to not be the the first one to walk down that rickety bridge. There’s now a group who can see their constituents are genuinely concerned about climate change.

“They are done with the denial. That should really shift something fundamental in American politics.”

The standard bearer in Congress is Carlos Curbelo, whose district includes the Florida Keys, an area in dire peril from the advancing seas. Curbelo, the son of Cuban migrants, said his generally moderate views and age – he’s 37 – make him “both an old school Republican and also a new young Republican.”

Curbelo was the first Republican to join the Climate Solutions Caucus and co-chairs it alongside Ted Deutch, a Florida Democrat. In a bid to get beyond partisanship, members of the group are evenly split. “If you want to join as a Democrat, you have to bring along a Republican,” said Deutch. “It’s a Noah’s Ark sort of approach, which is appropriate given the subject matter. We don’t argue about the science. It’s all very respectful.”

The wretched polarization of climate politics in the US showed signs of shifting last year when a group of 17 Republicans put their name to a resolution that called for “meaningful and responsible action” to the heatwaves, storms, floods and rising sea levels wrought by climate change. After surviving last year’s election despite committing what was thought to be a party heresy, this group is now attempting to break their colleague’s collective fever over climate.

“There are a lot of Republicans who understand this is a real challenge and the caucus is giving them a place where they can explore ideas,” Curbelo told Guardian US. “It was assumed that Republicans would take a position of denial, but that’s not the case. One of our main goals is to depoliticize environmental policy in the US.”

Curbelo admitted it is “labour intensive” to get some of his fellow Republicans on board but the success of the small but expanding caucus is “spreading like wildfire. A lot of colleagues are now contacting us and wanting to learn more.”

Many Republicans were put off the climate issue by former vice-president turned activist Al Gore, according to Curbelo. The warming temperature of the planet has rarely ever been seen as an urgent issue by the party and the forceful campaigning by Gore and green groups was met with Republican hostility, almost as a reflex.

“Al Gore did all that without a Republican partner, so we got to a state of affairs where Republicans automatically oppose anything to do with the environment,” Curbelo said. “I don’t really blame Al Gore for that but there’s a lesson there. We need a proper, sober discussion on this issue.”
Despite Trump’s rhetoric, says Carlos Curbelo, ‘there are a lot of Republicans who understand this is a real challenge.’

Trump’s aggressive rollback of Barack Obama’s climate agenda casts a long shadow but nagging forces are buffeting Republicans’ position on climate change. Polling shows hearty public support for the science and the need to cut greenhouse gases, while the position of fossil fuel companies – often viewed as the dastardly puppet masters of denial – has evolved to the point where Shell and BP can write to the president to demand that he stay within the Paris climate agreement.

“There are Republicans who can now say ‘I am conservative and care about conservation’ and that is an important signal to the base, that they can go back to the tradition of Teddy Roosevelt and the party that passed the Clean Air Act,” said Richter.

“The problem we are now facing is that the Republican party hasn’t exercized its muscles on this issue in a long time. The more they do that, the easier it will be.”

Agreeing on the need for action is easier than settling upon what that action should be. Curbelo said that the caucus is an “ideas factory” but there are no consensus solutions to go with the group’s name. Republicans remain largely opposed to federal regulation in the shape of the Clean Power Plan, and while imposing a tax on carbon and letting the market sort it out has some heavyweight Republican support, it too is a very hard sell.

    All of this will require both sides breaking free of a destructive cycle that has made climate change a partisan cudgel

“I’m not for any sort of carbon fee, I like incentives more than being punished,” Scott Taylor, a Republican whose coastal Virginia district is slowly sinking into a rising Atlantic Ocean, told Guardian US. “I think it’s pompous to think man can stop an ice age. That’s ridiculous.

“That said, there are issues with sea level rise and how to defend against that. That is something Republicans are willing to debate now.”

Curbelo has called Pruitt “reckless” for his dismissal of climate science and the Climate Solutions Caucus has written to Trump to urge him to stick with the Paris deal. But with the administration dismantling measures to lower emissions, a replacement plan is needed soon if the US isn’t to abandon the challenge in a practical sense whether it stays in the agreement or not.

“The more real it gets the harder it gets,” said Richter. “But if we are able to get to the point where Republicans in Congress can pass something, it would be very difficult for Trump to veto that.

“There’s a strong economic and jobs narrative there. Republicans won’t want the Silicon Valley for solar, wind and battery storage to be outside the US.”

Richter said environmental groups also need to move beyond their entrenched position of attacking Republicans and instead applaud and encourage those willing to speak out on climate change. All of this will require both sides breaking free of a destructive cycle that has resulted in climate change becoming a partisan cudgel rather than an urgent cause for co-operation.

“The American people by and large want to see their leaders address the challenges of the 21st century and ignoring climate change is dangerous,” Curbelo said.

“Are we going to be short sighted or are we going to be honest and build a sustainable country for future generations?”

 on: Apr 27, 2017, 04:52 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
Despite recovery, humpback whales still suffer from ship strikes

The mammals have recovered from endangered-species status, but a new study puts an asterisk on their progress.
Patrick Reilly
CS Monitor   

April 26, 2017 —Decades after most countries retired their harpoons, whales still face threats from fishermen, ships, and coastal pollution. But one species that seemed to have overcome these challenges was Megaptera novaeangliae, better known as the humpback whale.

Heavily hunted by the early 20th century, an international whaling moratorium and protection under the US Endangered Species Act (ESA) gave humpbacks the breathing space they needed to recover.

From 1986 to 2008, the whales’ numbers rose to 60,000 worldwide, and their status on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s “Red List” improved from “Endangered” to “Least Concern.” By last September, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announced that nine of the 14 distinct humpback populations no longer warranted ESA protection. Last year, one was even spotted in the Hudson River.

But a study published Tuesday in the journal Marine Mammal Science puts an asterisk on this progress. Close to shore, ship collisions threaten several species of whales, and these strikes may be greatly underreported for one humpback population in the Gulf of Maine.

“There are a lot of whales getting hit by small vessels, and there may very well need to be some management actions around high-density whale areas,” Scott Kraus, chief scientist for marine mammals at the New England Aquarium, told CBS.

Ship strikes can either kill whales outright or leave them with debilitating scars. In US waters, the federal government advises mariners that “any whale accidentally struck ... should be reported immediately to the Coast Guard.”

Humpbacks, which summer in the waters off New England, weren’t figuring prominently in these reports. In their report, the researchers noted that “between 2004 and 2013, NOAA's Northeast Region's Office of Law Enforcement had only received one report of a vessel strike (initially reported as harassment) involving a humpback whale.”

But rather than rely on captains’ reports, the researchers instead focused on the telltale scars that propellers and ship hulls leave on whales that survive a strike, compiling more than 210,000 photos of 624 individual whales sighted in the Gulf of Maine’s Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary between 2004 and 2013. Tracing individuals’ gashes, they concluded that “at least 14.7 percent of southern Gulf of Maine humpback whales showed evidence of at least one injury consistent with a vessel strike.”

In a sobering turn for the humpback’s recovery, this finding likely means that whale strikes have been underreported. Given the wide variety of vessels – fishing trawlers, yachts, commercial whale-watching boats – that ply these waters, the study’s authors recommend further research to determine which vessel classes are the worst offenders.

More data, in turn, could help curb the number of strikes. In 2014, The Christian Science Monitor’s Noelle Swan reported that “new research suggests that small adjustments to shipping lanes approaching San Francisco and Los Angeles could vastly improve the long-term survival” for the blue whale.

Closer to the humpback’s New England summer home, in 2008 the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) aimed to protect the North Atlantic right whale by requiring all vessels 65 feet or longer to reduce speed in designated “seasonal management areas.” The following years saw no right whale strikes in the area, a result that, according to biologists, suggests that “the rule has been effective at reducing right whale deaths.”

Those measures haven’t been much help to the humpbacks, but Alex Hill, the study’s lead author and a scientist with Whale and Dolphin Conservation, sees a similar impact for her research. “Long term studies can help us figure out if our outreach programs to boaters are effective,” she told CBS, “what kind of management actions are needed and help to assess the health of the population.”

 on: Apr 27, 2017, 04:50 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
Could these mysterious mastodon bones rewrite the history of the Americas?

Researchers say they've found evidence that some species of human lived in the Americas about 130,000 years ago – nearly 10 times earlier than commonly thought. Is the evidence compelling enough to rewrite the prehistory books?   
Eva Botkin-Kowacki
CS Monitor   

April 26, 2017 —American history may have begun more than 100,000 years earlier than previously thought.

At least that's what a team of scientists suggest in a paper published Wednesday in the journal Nature.

The paper's authors point to an assemblage of broken mastodon bones and chipped rocks unearthed in southern California as evidence that a stone tool-wielding people snacked on the meat and marrow, or perhaps shaped tools out of the massive animal's skeleton, when it died some 130,000 years ago.

Such a megafauna-human interaction from that period wouldn't have been shocking to find almost anywhere else in the world, as various archaic human species had already spread across much of the globe. But humans are thought to have first settled the Americas around 15,000 years ago, give or take a thousand years, not 100,000.

Rewriting history is not an easy thing to do. The researchers' findings have been met with widespread skepticism, highlighting just how hard it is to reframe historical narratives.
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"It's an extraordinary claim. It would rewrite the prehistory of the Americas, and the prehistory of human migrations around the world," says Jon Erlandson, an archaeologist at the University of Oregon. Still, he says, "Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, and I didn't find it here."

But Thomas Deméré, a paleontologist at the San Diego Natural History Museum and one of the paper's authors, disagrees. "Of course extraordinary claims like this require extraordinary evidence and we feel that [this site] preserves such evidence," he said in a press conference.

Skeptics largely suggest that the evidence for a hominin presence could too easily be explained away. For example, the authors point to spiral fractures in the bones as being key evidence of a hominin smashing the bones with hammerstones, which matches behavior thought to be associated with prehistoric humans in Africa at the time, and even tried smashing elephant bones themselves as a proxy. But Joseph Ferraro, an anthropologist at Baylor University who studies archaeological and paleontological materials across humanity’s history in East Africa, suggests that there may be another explanation.

The research team ruled out another carnivore chewing or bashing the bones, but Dr. Ferraro says that proboscideans, a group that includes elephants, mammoths, mastodons, and other tusked megafauna, are known to have tussled, using their tusks and whacking each other's flanks. "It's not uncommon to get broken ribs, not uncommon to get broken legs, and so forth," he says. "That could easily result in a fracture, and if it results in the death of an individual, there's not going to be any signs of any healing," much like the breaks found on the mastodon that is the focus of this study.

"You can spin so many different equally or more plausible stories about how and why this assemblage formed, without having to invoke any sort of hominin activity whatsoever," Ferraro says.

So just what would it take for this discovery to revise the prehistory of the Americas?

Although cutmarks and flaked stone tools would make this site more compelling, Ferraro says, all that is really needed would be one human fossil. If you had an unquestionably well-dated Homo erectus, or Neanderthal, or Denisovan, or even Homo sapiens bone, he says, then the prehistory books would certainly need to be rewritten. But, he says, "This is not that."

The prehistory of the Americas has actually been rewritten before. For decades, archaeologists thought they knew exactly how and when humans first spread across the Americas.

The story, called the Clovis-first model, had the Clovis people as the first population to spread south into the Americas from the region near the Bering land bridge when an ice-free corridor opened up through the middle of Canada, around 13,500 years ago at the earliest. As this model reigned, older archaeological sites, like an underwater 14,500-year-old site in Florida or a 15,000-year-old site in Chile, were dismissed as insufficient evidence. The thinking was that anything dating before the distinctive Clovis spearpoints showed up in the archaeological record couldn't possibly be evidence of a human presence.

But as fresh evidence poured in from sites across the Americas, including genetic analysis, the Clovis-first model was eventually discarded and the history books were rewritten.

Tom Dillehay, an anthropologist at Vanderbilt University, helped lead efforts countering the Clovis-first narrative through his work at the Monte Verde archaeological site in Chile. But, he says, although the San Diego site is a "classic early site" made up of bones and stones, the Monte Verde site also had other evidence pointing to a human presence, such as burned wood, knotted reeds, chunks of hide and meat, and even footprints.

Dr. Dillehay advises that it's best to try to disprove any potentially history-shattering claims, rather than trying to prove them, saying it's a stronger way to rule out all the other possible explanations for the evidence.

In the case of debunking the Clovis-first model, more archaeological sites bolstered the claim, and the same could help support Deméré and his colleagues' claim, too.

There have been previous suggestions of such shockingly early human occupation of the Americas, similar to the current claim, Dr. Erlandson says. Items suggested to be artifacts of particularly ancient human settlements have been described from other sites in southern California, for example. But when this was proposed before, scientists went out looking for more evidence, Erlandson says, "And they never came up with anything convincing."

Erlandson himself looked for evidence of human-caused fire, but was unable to find evidence that old scorched materials were the result of anything other than wildfires.

Still, Steven Holen, lead author on the new paper, said in the press conference that he has already been looking for similar fractures in megafauna bones, which may have been overlooked by paleontologists who wouldn't have even considered a human impact at the time. Dr. Holen says evidence may have fallen through the cracks between archaeology and paleontology, as archaeologists wouldn't have been looking at materials this old before and paleontologists wouldn't have been considering a human factor when they examined the bones.

But Ferraro says such an assertion isn't giving the experts enough credit. "There's a big literature out there on bone damage," he says. Paleontologists who devote their lives to studying bone damage can even identify something as specific as which species of termite once munched an old bone, he says, so he suspects paleontologists wouldn't have missed something as significant as evidence of human activity.

Skeptics are also concerned about the bigger-picture implications of shifting the story of human occupation in the Americas so dramatically.

"As scientists we're supposed to keep an open mind, but this discovery is hard to wrap my mind around because it falls so far beyond the realm of accepted knowledge," Erlandson says. "I'm not opposed to controversial theories," he says, "but if it's really 130,000 years ago, it just raises so many questions": for example, who those people were, where they came from, how they got there, and what happened in the subsequent 100,000 years.

To answer that last question, the authors did suggest in the press conference that, like any other population of animals, this group of humans may have died out and therefore not left a trace in the years before the ancestors of today's Native Americans trekked across the land bridge from Siberia and spread across the region.

Filling in the other gaps of the background story implied by Deméré, Holen, and colleagues' claim would require other extraordinary claims, Ferraro says. To explain how humans got to southern California would require a scenario such as one in which Homo erectus, Denisovans, or another archaic human species would have had to have been making boats in Siberia and following the coastline east, then down the western coast of the Americas, for example.

And each detail needed to support such a tale, from whether they possessed boating technology to which archaic human species made the journey, would be an additional extraordinary claim in its own right, he says, which would in turn require its own set of extraordinary evidence.

"It just requires so many individual extraordinary claims," Ferraro says. "It's not just one claim, but the whole argument is resting on a very shaky foundation."

Perhaps eventually the prehistory books of the Americas will need to be revised to include a human presence 130,000 years ago, but first, Dillehay says, all other possible explanations need to be ruled out. "In other words," he says, the question must be asked: "Are we being fooled in this case once again?"

 on: Apr 27, 2017, 04:46 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
This plastic bag, an artificial womb, could some day save extreme preemies

By Travis M. Andrews
April 27 2017
WA Post

Each year in the United States, about 30,000 babies are born before gestating for 26 weeks, which is considered “critically preterm.” The resulting health problems are vast. Half don’t survive, and those who do face a 90 percent risk of lasting health problems.

Such premature births are responsible one-third of infant deaths and half of the cerebral palsy cases in the country.

“The first health challenges the very preterm babies face is actually surviving,” said Kevin Dysart, a neonatologist at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. “Among those that survive, the challenges are things we all take for granted, like walking, talking, seeing, hearing.”

Emily Partridge, a researcher at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, said in a video: “Just looking at them, it is immediately clear that they shouldn’t be here yet. They’re not ready.”

Modern medicine doesn’t have a good handle on caring for such extreme preemies.

That could change in the coming decade. As outlined in a preclinical study published Tuesday in the journal Nature Communications, researchers at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia have made great strides in creating an artificial womb for critically preterm babies that could allow them to continue to develop naturally outside of their mothers’ uteruses.

Currently, these babies — sometimes so small they fit comfortably in an adult human hand — are placed in incubators, where they are fed through tubes and delivered oxygen via ventilators.

The problem with this setup, though, is they aren’t ready for gestation to end. In the womb, their mothers delivered oxygen via blood through their umbilical cords. If they are out of the womb, a breath of air stunts lung development.

“These infants are desperate for solutions and for innovation,” Partridge said. Desperately needed is a stopgap to help certain developments, such as lung development.

The team decided to focus on a new solution.

Rather than treat the preemies as though they were fully developed, ready to be in an open-air world, the team focused on creating the environment of a human womb. It’s one in which the baby would be suspended in fluid and receive oxygen through its umbilical cord, rather than a breathing tube. This would allow gestation to continue for another month and potentially curb developmental problems.

“These infants have an urgent need for a bridge between the mother’s womb and the outside world,” said Alan Flake, a fetal surgeon and study leader. “If we can develop an extrauterine system to support growth and organ maturation for only a few weeks, we can dramatically improve outcomes for extremely premature babies.”

They developed an artificial womb — essentially a polyethylene bag filled with artificial amniotic fluid — that the child would immediately be placed into after being removed from its mother via C-section.

They would be given a drug to prevent them from breathing while being transported from their mother to the device, which “allows the fetus to swallow and breathe amniotic fluid, like it’s supposed to during development,” Flake said.

The artificial womb also includes a circulatory system to deliver oxygen to the baby. Two tubes are connected to the baby via its umbilical cord. One tube carries blood from the child into an oxygenator, where the blood is infused with oxygen. The second tube then carries the oxygenated blood to the child. The device is powered by the baby’s heartbeat.

Researchers successfully tested the device on eight lamb fetuses that were 105 to 115 days old, which is similar in development to a 23-week-old human fetus.

“Most of what know about human fetal development is from the lamb. All of the physiological research over the past 50 to 60 years that has told us about fetal circulation, about developmental events, most of it has been from the lamb,” Flake said.

The lambs developed naturally for four weeks after being placed in the device, opening their eyes and growing wool.

The same lamb fetus pictured at the beginning and end of four weeks in the device. (Nature Communications)

The team hopes to soon begin testing on humans.

“We’re in the process of interacting with the FDA, so it’s not inconceivable that we could be talking about a clinical trial one to two years from now,” Flake said.

That’s fairly impressive, given that when the researchers first thought of the artificial womb about three years ago, still thinking of it as “science fiction,” they didn’t yet have a grant — much less advanced equipment. The first few prototypes were built with “plumbing piping,” purchased from Home Depot, eBay and beer stores.

“Sir Thomas Edison said, ‘To be an inventor, all you need is an imagination and a pile of junk,’ ” said Marcus Davey, a researcher at the hospital. “And essentially that is the story of this system.”

 on: Apr 27, 2017, 04:41 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
Uber unveils ambitious plans for a fleet of flying taxis

by Chuck Bednar
Red Orbit

Several months after an Uber executive first revealed that the transportation network company was exploring the potential use of flying car technology, the firm has officially announced their plans to test vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) vehicles within the next three years.

According to Slashgear, the announcement came during a press event held in Dallas on Tuesday, and Uber officials confirmed that the tests would take place in both the Texas and Dubai regions. They added that they had entered into third-party partnerships in order to make the tests a reality.
Among the San Francisco-based company’s new partnerships, Bloomberg explained, are several aircraft manufacturers, a handful of real estate firms, and ChargePoint, a California company that will be in charge of establishing a network of electric vehicle charging stations for the vehicles.

Setting a goal of testing flying car technology by 2020 is an ambitious one for a company which has struggled with even its ground-based operations in recent months, the media outlets correctly point out. The business is losing money and is facing an investigation over its business practices, Bloomberg noted, and it is also investing in the development of self-driving cars.

“This isn't going to be easy,” Uber’s chief product officer Jeff Holden admitted during the event, according to Popular Mechanics. But, he added, “it’s natural for Uber to turn our eyes to the air. ... We like to make big bold bets. If you're not planting the seeds five to ten years out, you won’t have a company in five or ten years.”

Cars would reportedly go 100 mph, get 200 miles per gallon

The ambitious plans are part of Uber’s goal of addressing increasingly congested roads and long travel times, which can not only irritate drivers but is also harmful to the environment, according to Slashgear and CNN.  They hope to have a full fleet of flying cars functional by 2023.

Previously, the company has said that it hopes to use VTOL vehicles that are capable of traveling at speeds of at least 100 mph, that use electric motors to reduce noise and that can go at least 200 passenger-miles on a single gallon of fuel, Slashgear said. The development of such vehicles will require next-gen batteries that are long-lasting and lightweight, Popular Mechanics added.

“Sharing airspace is another challenge, and one that will depend on government partners,” they added. Also speaking at the event, NASA and Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) officials vowed that Uber’s initiative would dovetail with drone and other new airspace regulations.

According to BBC News, Uber believes that the flying car service will ultimately cost roughly the same as its standard, ground-based travel service. They hope to be ready in time to host the first public demonstration of their VTOL vehicle during the 2020 World Expo in Dubai.

Uber’s announcement comes just days after reports surfaced that Google co-founder Larry Page had successfully tested a flying-car prototype – or, to be precise, an open-seated vehicle that had eight batteries, room for just one person and which reportedly sounded like a speedboat, at a lake nearly 100 miles north of San Francisco.

 on: Apr 27, 2017, 04:35 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
Wild boars kill three ISIS fighters in Iraq

26 Apr 2017 at 17:05 ET  

Three militants loyal to the Islamic State group (ISIS) have been killed by wild boars as they planned to ambush Iraqi tribesmen opposed to the group, according to a local anti-ISIS leader.

At least eight ISIS fighters had reportedly taken cover among dense reeds in Iraq's al-Rashad region, about 55 miles southwest of Kirkuk, in preparation for a surprise attack on local anti-ISIS tribesman when a herd of wild boars attacked the jihadists on Sunday, killing three. The militants likely disturbed the notoriously short-tempered animals, said Sheikh Anwar al-Assi, a chief of the local Ubaid tribe and head of the group of local tribesmen who took up arms after ISIS took control of the nearby town of Hawija.

“It is likely their movement disturbed a herd of wild pigs, which inhabit the area as well as the nearby cornfields. The area is dense with reeds, which are good for hiding in,” Assi told The Times.

The event was corroborated by local Kurdish fighters who have joined Iran-backed Shiite Muslim militias in attempting to oust ISIS from nearby Hawija. The jihadists' mutilated bodies were reportedly discovered by refugees fleeing the violence that has beset the war-torn nation. An alliance consisting of Iraqi military, majority Shiite Muslim militias (called Al-Hashd Al-Shaabi), U.S.-led coalition forces and Kurdish units (known as peshmerga) are seeking to drive ISIS out of Iraq, according to Brigadier Azad Jelal, the deputy head of the Kurdish intelligence service in Kirkuk.

“Three fighters from ISIL were near the Peshmerga checkpoint in al-Rashad. They met some feral boars and the boars killed the three fighters,” Jelal told The Telegraph, using an alternative acronym for ISIS.

“Some refugees saw the bodies on the edge of a farm when they were fleeing and they told us. A few days later ISIL started to kill pigs around the area," he added.

The news first appeared on the local Iraqi news site Al-Sumeria, which quoted unidentified local sources, and later gained attention on social media as officials confirmed the event. While fatalities caused by wild boars are relatively uncommon in the region, the animals are known for their relentless, ferocious attacks that can result in death, according to a 2006 article titled "Death by attack from a wild boar" published in the Journal of Forensic Medicine.

"The boar has a typical method of attack wherein it steadily rushes forward, pointing the tusks towards the animal to be attacked and inflicts the injuries. It goes back, takes position and attacks the victim again. This repeated nature of attack continues till the victim is completely incapacitated due to multiple penetrating injuries, which can have a fatal consequence," the authors wrote.

Sunday's incident reportedly came after ISIS massacred at least 25 local civilians attempting to escape areas under the jihadists' control. As pro-government forces close in, ISIS's territory, which is down to less than seven percent of the nation from 45 percent in 2014, has been largely reduced to the northwestern city of Mosul, where a months-long battle has been waged by the Iraqi military and its allies to defeat the jihadists. The militants still maintain small pockets of control in southern Kirkuk.  

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