Category Archives: Educational

Charity In A Big Way 

By: Lorraine Chow of Eco News 

Norwegian businessman Kjell Inge Røkke is not someone usually admired for environmental stewardship. Described by Forbes as a “ruthless corporate raider,” Røkke made his billions as the majority stakeholder in shipping and offshore drilling conglomerate, Aker.

The twist to this story? Røkke has decided to give “the lion’s share” of his estimated $2.7 billion fortune towards building a 596-foot marine research vessel, the Research Expedition Vessel (REV), that’s also designed to scoop up a major oceanic threat—plastic pollution.

The REV, a collaboration with Norway’s World Wildlife Fund (WWF), will be able to suck up to 5 tons of plastic a day from the waters and melt it down, Norway’s Aftenposten newspaper reported.

“I want to give back to society the bulk of what I’ve earned,” Røkke told the publication. “This ship is a part of that.”

According to Business Insider, the mega-yacht—which will be the world’s largest once built—can carry 60 scientists and 40 crew. The REV will be equipped with modern laboratories, an auditorium, two helipads, a hangar for a remote operated vehicle, an autonomous underwater vehicle as a multifunctional cargo deck aft of the ship, and high-tech equipment for monitoring and surveying marine areas. It is also available for private charters for up to 36 guests and 54 crew, which will help generate extra funding for research.
Røkke, a former fisherman, said the oceans “have provided significant value for society” and directly to him and his family.

“However,” he noted, “the oceans are also under greater pressure than ever before from overfishing, coastal pollution, habitat destruction, climate change and ocean acidification, and one of the most pressing challenges of all, plasticization of the ocean. The need for knowledge and solutions is pressing.”

While onboard, the researchers will attempt to answer some of the most pressing questions facing our seas:

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Special Apointee To Investigate Trump ties To Russia 

By: Joseph Tanfani, Noah Bierman and Brian Bennett Of L.A Times 

The Justice Department on Wednesday named a special counsel, former FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III, to take over the investigation of Russian meddling in the 2016 election and possible collusion between Russian agents and associates of President Trump.
The move heightened the legal and political stakes for the president and his young administration. It came after days of allegations against Trump raised new questions about whether administration officials could oversee an inquiry that has the president at its center.
“My decision is not a finding that crimes have been committed or that prosecution is warranted,” Deputy Atty. Gen. Rod Rosenstein said in announcing the appointment. “I have made no such determination.”
But, he said, a special counsel is necessary in order for the “American people to have full confidence in the outcome” of the investigation.
“The public interest requires me to place this investigation under the authority of a person who exercises a degree of independence from the normal chain of command,” Rosenstein wrote.
The president, in a statement, reiterated his insistence that he is innocent of wrongdoing. 
“As I have stated many times, a thorough investigation will confirm what we already know – there was no collusion between my campaign and any foreign entity,” Trump said.
“I look forward to this matter concluding quickly. In the meantime, I will never stop fighting for the people and the issues that matter most to the future of our country.”
Rosenstein, who is overseeing the Russia investigation because Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions recused himself, did not inform either the White House or Sessions about the decision until after he had signed the order appointing Mueller, according to a Justice Department spokesperson who spoke on condition of anonymity.

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A Cable Survey Shows Majority Of Americans Prefer Net Neutrality 

By: Joe Brodkin of Ars Technica

As US cable companies push to eliminate or change net neutrality rules, the industry’s primary lobby group today released the results of a survey that it says shows “strong bipartisan consensus that the government should let the Internet flourish without imposing burdensome regulations.”
But proponents of keeping the current rules can find plenty to like in the survey conducted by NCTA—The Internet & Television Association. A strong majority of the 2,194 registered American voters in the survey support the current net neutrality rules that prohibit ISPs from blocking, throttling, or prioritizing online content in exchange for payment. While most opposed price regulation, a majority supported an approach in which regulators take action against ISPs on a case-by-case basis when consumers are harmed—the exact same approach the Federal Communications Commission uses under its existing net neutrality regime.

About 61 percent of respondents either “strongly” or “somewhat” support net neutrality rules that say ISPs “cannot block, throttle, or prioritize certain content on the Internet.” Only 18 percent oppose net neutrality, as the rest don’t know what it is or had no opinion.

Technically, this doesn’t contradict the official position of major cable companies like Comcast and Charter. These companies say they support the core net neutrality rules, while merely opposing the FCC’s use of its common carrier authority under Title II of the Communications Act to enforce them. But the net neutrality rules imposed in 2015 depend on Title II because of a 2014 court decision that prevented the FCC from enforcing the rules without reclassifying ISPs as Title II common carriers.
Support for protecting consumers
The first slide in the NCTA survey results trumpets broad support for “light touch” regulation. But instead of signaling broad opposition to Title II, the wording of the question shows that Americans support an approach that’s consistent with the one taken by the FCC’s then-Democratic leadership in 2015 (and which the FCC’s current Republican leadership wants to overturn).
The survey asked, “When it comes to the role of the federal government in regulating access to the Internet, which of the following comes closest to your view, even if none are exactly right?” Just 12 percent answered that “the government should have the ability to set specific prices, terms, and conditions for Internet access,” while 53 percent said, “the government should have a light-touch approach to the Internet that allows regulators to monitor the marketplace and take action if consumers are harmed.” The only other option people could choose was, “the government should not regulate the Internet at all.”

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Trump Claims It Was His Right To Divulge Sensitive Information To Russia 

By: the BBC

US media reports said he had shared material that was passed on by a partner that had not given permission.

The White House refused to comment on reports that Israel was the source.

Though not illegal, Mr Trump’s alleged gaffe is seen as a breach of trust by many in the intelligence community.

Mr Trump met Sergei Lavrov last week in the Oval Office, out of view of the US media.

Leading Republicans and Democrats have voiced concerns over what was said, with top Senate Democrat leader Chuck Schumer calling for the transcripts to be released by the White House.

The US Senate Intelligence Committee has also asked for copies of any notes taken in the meeting. CIA Director Mike Pompeo is due to brief the committee later.

Mr Trump’s alleged disclosures are not illegal, as the US president has the authority to declassify information.

What was the president’s defence?

Mr Trump tweeted: “As President I wanted to share with Russia (at an openly scheduled W.H. meeting) which I have the absolute right to do, facts pertaining to terrorism and airline flight safety.

“Humanitarian reasons, plus I want Russia to greatly step up their fight against [IS] & terrorism.”

It is not clear if Mr Trump was acknowledging having shared intelligence secrets with the Russian officials, thus contradicting White House statements, or whether he was simply trying to explain what had been discussed.

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Turns Out The Location Of The Asteroid Was What Ended The Dinosaurs. 

By: The BBC

The researchers recovered rocks from under the Gulf of Mexico that were hit by an asteroid 66 million years ago.

The nature of this material records the details of the event.

It is becoming clear that the 15km-wide asteroid could not have hit a worse place on Earth.

The shallow sea covering the target site meant colossal volumes of sulphur (from the mineral gypsum) were injected into the atmosphere, extending the “global winter” period that followed the immediate firestorm.

Had the asteroid struck a different location, the outcome might have been very different.

“This is where we get to the great irony of the story – because in the end it wasn’t the size of the asteroid, the scale of blast, or even its global reach that made dinosaurs extinct – it was where the impact happened,” said Ben Garrod, who presents The Day The Dinosaurs Died with Alice Roberts.

“Had the asteroid struck a few moments earlier or later, rather than hitting shallow coastal waters it might have hit deep ocean.

“An impact in the nearby Atlantic or Pacific oceans would have meant much less vapourised rock – including the deadly gypsum. The cloud would have been less dense and sunlight could still have reached the planet’s surface, meaning what happened next might have been avoided.

“In this cold, dark world food ran out of the oceans within a week and shortly after on land. With nothing to eat anywhere on the planet, the mighty dinosaurs stood little chance of survival.”

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German Soldier Caught In Plotting False Flag Attempt 

By: The BBC

The man, a soldier, is accused of conspiring with another army officer who had falsely registered as a Syrian refugee, and a student.

The suspected right-wing extremists wanted to frame refugees for the attack, say prosecutors.

Their alleged targets included former German president Joachim Gauck and Justice Minister Heiko Maas.

The affair has sparked a national debate about right-wing extremism in Germany’s armed forces.

On Sunday, inspections were ordered at every army barracks after Nazi-era memorabilia were found at two of them.

But last week German Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen provoked anger after using the alleged plot to accuse the army of an attitude problem.

politician flanked by military peopleImage copyrightEPA

Image caption

Last week German Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen (C) toured the barracks in France where the two arrested men were stationed together

German authorities have made another arrest linked to an alleged plot to murder a senior public figure.

The man, a soldier, is accused of conspiring with another army officer who had falsely registered as a Syrian refugee, and a student.

The suspected right-wing extremists wanted to frame refugees for the attack, say prosecutors.

Their alleged targets included former German president Joachim Gauck and Justice Minister Heiko Maas.

The affair has sparked a national debate about right-wing extremism in Germany’s armed forces.

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On Sunday, inspections were ordered at every army barracks after Nazi-era memorabilia were found at two of them.

But last week German Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen provoked anger after using the alleged plot to accuse the army of an attitude problem.

Germany hate crime: Nearly 10 attacks a day on migrants in 2016

German defence minister von der Leyen under fire for criticising army

On Tuesday, German police detained 27-year-old “Maximilian T” in Kehl, across the Rhine river from the French city of Strasbourg.

“The accused is strongly suspected of planning a severe act of violence against the state out of a right-wing extremist conviction,” the prosecutor’s office said in a statement.

‘Failed policy’

The man was stationed at a barracks in France, alongside another man who was arrested in April, 28-year-old “Franco A”.

He was arrested in April, after police discovered he had registered as a Syrian refugee at a shelter in central Germany in December 2015 and later officially requested political asylum in Bavaria.

A student, 24, named as “Mathias F” has also been arrested.

The three “planned an attack against a high-ranking politician or public figure who was supportive of what the accused saw as the failed immigration and refugee affairs policies”, prosecutors said.

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EPA Removes Scientific Board And Seeks To Replace Them With Industry Minded Individual 

By: Oliver Milman of The Guardian 

The Environmental Protection Agency has “eviscerated” a key scientific review board by removing half its members and seeking to replace them with industry-aligned figures, according to the board’s chair.

Scott Pruitt, the EPA administrator, has chosen not to renew the terms of nine of the 18-member board of scientific counselors, which advises the EPA on the quality and accuracy of the science it produces. The group, largely made up of academics, is set to be replaced by representatives from industries that the EPA regulates.

Deborah Swackhamer, chair of the board, said that with other planned departures, the panel was left with five members, including her, in the midst of an EPA hiring freeze.
“The committee has been eviscerated,” she told the Guardian. “We assumed these people would be renewed and there was no reason or indication they wouldn’t be. These people aren’t Obama appointees, they are scientific appointees. To have a political decision to get rid of them was a shock.”

The nine departing members – who worked on matters including toxic water pollution, climate change and chemical safety – all completed three-year terms. The decision to not renew those terms has opened the way for the Trump administration to refashion the scientific board in line with its industry-friendly agenda that has sought to strip away various pollution rules in the name of “regulatory certainty”.

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Asian Influenza Virus Has The Potential Of Being The Next Global Pandemic

By: The CDC ( Center Of Disease Control )

Human infections with an Asian lineage avian influenza A (H7N9) virus (“Asian H7N9”) were first reported in China in March 2013. Annual epidemics of sporadic human infections with Asian H7N9 viruses in China have been reported since that time. China is currently experiencing its 5th epidemic of Asian H7N9 human infections. This is the largest annual epidemic to date. As of May 1, 2017, the World Health Organization (WHO) has reported 623 human infections with Asian H7N9 virus during the 5th epidemic, making it the largest annual epidemic to date. This brings the total cumulative number of human infections with Asian lineage H7N9 reported by WHO to 1,421. Additional infections have been reported, but not yet publically announced by WHO. During epidemics one through four, about 40 percent of people confirmed with Asian H7N9 virus infection died.
Epidemiology
Most human infections with avian influenza viruses, including Asian H7N9 virus, have occurred after exposure to poultry; Asian H7N9 viruses continue to circulate in poultry in China. Most reported patients with H7N9 virus infection have had severe respiratory illness (e.g., pneumonia). Rare instances of limited person-to-person spread of this virus have been identified in China, but there is no evidence of sustained person-to-person spread. Some human infections with Asian H7N9 have been reported outside of mainland China, but most of these infections have occurred among people who had traveled to mainland China before becoming ill. Asian H7N9 viruses have not been detected in people or birds in the United States.
CDC Risk Assessment
While the current risk to the public’s health posed by Asian H7N9 virus is low, the pandemic potential of this virus is concerning. Influenza viruses constantly change and it is possible that this virus could gain the ability to spread easily and sustainably among people, triggering a global outbreak of disease (i.e., a pandemic). In fact, of the novel influenza A viruses that are of special concern to public health, Asian lineage H7N9 virus is rated by the Influenza Risk Assessment Tool (IRAT) as having the greatest potential to cause a pandemic, as well as potentially posing the greatest risk to severely impact public health.
It is likely that sporadic human infections with Asian H7N9 virus associated with poultry exposure will continue to occur in China. There is also a possibility of Asian H7N9 virus spreading to poultry in neighboring countries and human infections associated with poultry exposure may be detected in neighboring countries. Asian H7N9 infections may continue to be detected among travelers returning from countries where this virus is present. However, as long as there is no evidence of ongoing, sustained person-to-person spread, the public health risk assessment would not change substantially.

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Philippines To Impeach Duterte

By:Llanesca T Panti of Manila Times

Impeachment proceedings against President Rodrigo Duterte are expected to start on May 15 but numbers in the House of Representatives are not yet enough to impeach him, an opposition lawmaker said yesterday.

Rep. Gary Alejano of Magdalo party-list made the admission pending referral of his impeachment complaint to the House Committee on Justice.

Alejano accused Duterte of betrayal of public trust and culpable violation of the Constitution in connection with the allegedly over 7,000 killings committed during the administration’s eight-month long anti-drug war, failure to assert sovereign rights of the country in the South China Sea and ownership of undeclared wealth of P2bn, among others.

“Our impeachment complaint should be referred to the appropriate committee first, and copies (of the complaint) are to be secured for the members of the justice committee. What I have heard around is that the hearing will start on May 15,” Alejano said in a radio interview.

“As of this point, I must be honest, we don’t have the numbers. There are those who expressed their support, and there were lots of them, but it all boils down to how many of them will stand up for their support,” he added.

Under the Philippine Constitution, a verified complaint for impeachment – meaning anything filed by a member of the House of Representatives or by any citizen upon a resolution of endorsement by a House member – should be included in the Order of Business within 10 session days, and referred to the House justice panel within three session days thereafter.

The same Constitution provides that the justice panel, “after hearing and by a majority vote of all its members, will then submit its report to the House within 60 session days from such referral, together with the corresponding resolution. The resolution shall be calendared for consideration by the House within 10 session days from receipt thereof.”

But if at least 98 or one-third of the members of the House would support the impeachment complaint, the respondent, in this case the president, will outrightly face trial before the Senate impeachment court even without conducting committee hearings similar to what happened in the case of then-Chief Justice Renato Corona in 2012.

If the House justice committee finds Alejano’s complaint insufficient in form and substance, all will not be lost for him since majority of the lawmakers, in a plenary vote, must uphold the committee report dismissing the impeachment complaint for the complaint to be officially junked.

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Flint Threatening Over 8.000 With Foreclosure Over Unpaid Water Bills

By: BEN DANDRIDGE-LEMCO of The Fader

More than 8,000 homeowners in Flint, Michigan are at risk of foreclosure over unpaid water bills, a local NBC affiliate reports.

The City of Flint began issuing water shut off notices to residents with unpaid bills in March, and the tax lien warnings, sent out to homeowners who had not paid their water bill in six months or more, are the most recent measures by a local government strapped for revenue. If residents put on notice don’t pay, laws present in all 50 states allow city governments to move forward with foreclosure, as Huffington Post points out via the National Consumer Law Center.

“We have to have revenue coming in, so we can’t…give people water at the tap and not get revenue coming in to pay those bills,” Al Mooney, a spokesperson for Flint’s treasury department, told NBC 25 on Tuesday. Mooney said that recent shut offs have led to Flint collecting $3 million for water in April, up from March’s total of $2.1 million.

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