Category Archives: Safety

To Give Or Not To Give 50% of Earth to Wildlife

By : Robin Mckie

The orangutan is one of our planet’s most distinctive and intelligent creatures. It has been observed using primitive tools, such as the branch of a tree, to hunt food, and is capable of complex social behaviour. Orangutans also played a special role in humanity’s own intellectual history when, in the 19th century, Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace, co-developers of the theory of natural selection, used observations of them to hone their ideas about evolution.

But humanity has not repaid orangutans with kindness. The numbers of these distinctive, red-maned primates are now plummeting thanks to our destruction of their habitats and illegal hunting of the species. Last week, an international study revealed that its population in Borneo, the animal’s last main stronghold, now stands at between 70,000 and 100,000, less than half of what it was in 1995. “I expected to see a fairly steep decline, but I did not anticipate it would be this large,” said one of the study’s co-authors, Serge Wich of Liverpool John Moores University.

For good measure, conservationists say numbers are likely to fall by at least another 45,000 by 2050, thanks to the expansion of palm oil plantations, which are replacing their forest homes. One of Earth’s most spectacular creatures is heading towards oblivion, along with the vaquita dolphin, the Javan rhinoceros, the western lowland gorilla, the Amur leopard and many other species whose numbers are today declining dramatically. All of these are threatened with the fate that has already befallen the Tasmanian tiger, the dodo, the ivory-billed woodpecker and the baiji dolphin – victims of humanity’s urge to kill, exploit and cultivate.

As a result, scientists warn that humanity could soon be left increasingly isolated on a planet bereft of wildlife and inhabited only by ourselves plus domesticated animals and their parasites. This grim scenario will form the background to a key conference – Safeguarding Space for Nature and Securing Our Future – to be held in London on 27-28 February.

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Muller Indicted Over A Dozen Russian Nationals For Meddling

By: CHRIS SOMMERFELDT, DENIS SLATTERY of Daily News

Special counsel Robert Mueller’s office has charged more than a dozen Russian nationals with violating U.S. criminal laws in order to interfere with the 2016 election, the Department of Justice said on Friday.

A federal grand jury in the District of Columbia indicted 13 Russians and three Russian entities and charged them with trying to sway the election in favor of President Trump, according to court documents.

“The indictment alleges that the Russian conspirators want to promote discord in the United States and undermine public confidence in democracy,” deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein said Friday. “We must not allow them to succeed.”

The indictment was sought through Mueller, who has been tasked with investigating Moscow’s efforts to interfere in the election and any possible ties to the Trump campaign.

“Defendants’ operations included supporting the presidential campaign of then-candidate Donald J. Trump and disparaging Hillary Clinton,” according to the indictment.

Trump, despite the conclusions of the U.S. intelligence community, has repeatedly cast doubt on whether Russia attempted influence on the election.

But the efforts of the foreign “organization” in the indictment date to at least 2014.

“The defendants allegedly conducted what they called information warfare against the United States with the stated goal of spreading distrust towards the candidates and the political system in general,” Rosenstein said.

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Kentucky Gov Blames Violent Video Games For Shootings

By: Scott Wartman of Enquirer

A day after a former student opened fire at a high school in Parkland, Fla., killing 17 people, Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin called for the nation to consider restrictions on violence in video games and movies, not guns.

“We need to have an honest conversation as to what should and should not be allowed in the United States as it relates to the things being put in the hands of our young people,” Bevin said during a stop in Covington on Thursday.

What shouldn’t be put in the hands of young people? Violent video games and movies, Bevin said.

“I’m a big believer in the First Amendment and right to free speech, but there are certain things that are so graphic as it relates to violence, and things that are so pornographic on a whole another front that we allow to pass under the guise of free speech, which arguably are,” Bevin said. “But there is zero redemptive value. There is zero upside to any of this being in the public domain, let alone in the minds and hands and homes of our young people.”

As the school shootings mount, so has pressure on politicians to strengthen gun control laws.

Three weeks earlier in Bevin’s 15-year-old student at a high school in western Kentucky shot and killed two people and wounded 16.

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Who Was The Florida Shooter ?

By: John Schuppe of NBC

The young man charged with killing 17 people at his former Florida high school worried some of his classmates, talking about his guns and sharing pictures of small animals he had shot.

He had a “very disturbing” social media presence and had been expelled from school, officials said, supplying new details on the life of accused shooter, Nikolas Cruz.

Cruz, 19, has been charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder in the attack Wednesday at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, which he was expelled from last year for disciplinary reasons, officials said. The attack unfolded just before classes were dismissed for the day.

Cruz, who arrived at the scene in an Uber, confessed to the attack, telling investigators he had brought the AR-15 and several loaded magazines stuffed into a backpack and planned to leave them behind in order to blend in with fleeing students, according to a police affidavit. After the shooting, he made it to a Walmart, where he bought a drink, then continued to a McDonald’s, where he sat for a bit, Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel said at a news conference Thursday evening. Soon after leaving, Cruz was arrested,

A motive in the shooting remains unclear.

Cruz legally bought the .223 caliber rifle used in the shootings in February 2017 at Sunrise Tactical Supply, a federally licensed gun store in Coral Springs, authorities said.

Cruz’s court-appointed defense lawyer, Broward County Assistant Public Defender Melisa McNeill, called him “a broken human being” and said he was “mournful, remorseful” and “fully aware of what is going on.”

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Lead Investigator of The Illegal Ivory Trade Found Dead

By: The BBC

Esmond Bradley Martin, 75, was found in his Nairobi home on Sunday with a stab wound to his neck.

The former UN special envoy for rhino conservation was known for his undercover work investigating the black market.

The US citizen had recently returned from a research trip to Myanmar.

Bradley Martin was in the process of writing up his findings when he died, reports the BBC’s Alastair Leithead from Nairobi.

His wife found him in their house in Langata. Police are investigating the circumstances but suspect it was a botched robbery.

Our correspondent says Bradley Martin had spent decades risking his life to secretly photograph and document illegal sales of ivory and rhino horn, travelling to China, Vietnam, and Laos to pose as a buyer and establish the details of black market prices.

He first went to Kenya from the US in the 1970s when there was a surge in the number of elephants being killed for their ivory.

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Scientist Figure Solar Panel Problem Winning Another Battle Over Coal

By: CleanTechnica

Remember back when plastic was a new and exciting thing? That’s more or less where we are with that other p-word, perovskites. Legions of scientists around the world have been trying to tease a durable solar cell out of this optically-promising but fussy material, and it looks like a team from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory has put its finger on the solution.

Did we mention that perovskites are cheap and could be manufactured at high volume, too? Until recently natural gas was the main driver pushing coal out of the power generation business, but renewable energy is also becoming a force to be reckoned with, and its influence will grow stronger as the cost of photovoltaic modules continues to drop.

Another Perovskite Solar Cell Breakthrough

Perovskite is a natural occurring mineral with good optical properties, and its crystalline structure can be replicated with relative ease. NREL, for one, is a huge fan of synthetic perovskites for the low cost solar cells of the future, but the problem is that they deteriorate quickly when exposed to ambient air.

That’s quite an Achilles heel, right?

In the latest perovskite development, the NREL team seems to have solved that little thing about air. Here’s the teaser from the lab:

Researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) created an environmentally stable, high-efficiency perovskite solar cell, bringing the emerging technology a step closer to commercial deployment.

Do tell! The research team successfully tested a perovskite solar cell in ambient conditions without protection for 1,000 hours, and it retained 94% of its conversion efficiency.

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New Cancer Vaccine Has 100% Cure Rate In Mice

By: Stanford Medical Center

Injecting minute amounts of two immune-stimulating agents directly into solid tumors in mice can eliminate all traces of cancer in the animals, including distant, untreated metastases, according to a study by researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine

The approach works for many different types of cancers, including those that arise spontaneously, the study found.

The researchers believe the local application of very small amounts of the agents could serve as a rapid and relatively inexpensive cancer therapy that is unlikely to cause the adverse side effects often seen with bodywide immune stimulation.

“When we use these two agents together, we see the elimination of tumors all over the body,” said Ronald Levy, MD, professor of oncology. “This approach bypasses the need to identify tumor-specific immune targets and doesn’t require wholesale activation of the immune system or customization of a patient’s immune cells.”

One agent is currently already approved for use in humans; the other has been tested for human use in several unrelated clinical trials. A clinical trial was launched in January to test the effect of the treatment in patients with lymphoma.

Levy, who holds the Robert K. and Helen K. Summy Professorship in the School of Medicine, is the senior author of the study, which was published Jan. 31 in Science Translational Medicine. Instructor of medicine Idit Sagiv-Barfi, PhD, is the lead author.

‘Amazing, bodywide effects’

Levy is a pioneer in the field of cancer immunotherapy, in which researchers try to harness the immune system to combat cancer. Research in his laboratory led to the development of rituximab, one of the first monoclonal antibodies approved for use as an anticancer treatment in humans.

Some immunotherapy approaches rely on stimulating the immune system throughout the body. Others target naturally occurring checkpoints that limit the anti-cancer activity of immune cells. Still others, like the CAR T-cell therapy recently approved to treat some types of leukemia and lymphomas, require a patient’s immune cells to be removed from the body and genetically engineered to attack the tumor cells. Many of these approaches have been successful, but they each have downsides — from difficult-to-handle side effects to high-cost and lengthy preparation or treatment times.

“All of these immunotherapy advances are changing medical practice,” Levy said. “Our approach uses a one-time application of very small amounts of two agents to stimulate the immune cells only within the tumor itself. In the mice, we saw amazing, bodywide effects, including the elimination of tumors all over the animal.”

Cancers often exist in a strange kind of limbo with regard to the immune system. Immune cells like T cells recognize the abnormal proteins often present on cancer cells and infiltrate to attack the tumor. However, as the tumor grows, it often devises ways to suppress the activity of the T cells.

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San Francisco Begins To expunge Marijuana Misdemeanors

By: Damir Mujezinovic of Inquisitr

San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón announced that his office will retroactively apply California’s marijuana-legalization laws to past criminal cases. This means San Francisco will expunge and seal the records of misdemeanor marijuana offenders, the San Francisco Chronicle reported today.

This decision was announced by George Gascón at a news conference. The San Francisco District Attorney was joined by city supervisors, the director of the city’s Office of Cannabis, the Drug Policy Alliance reform group, and the president of the San Francisco chapter of the NAACP.

California legalized recreational marijuana in November. Voters approved Proposition 64, the LA Times reported, making California the most populous state in the nation to legalize the recreational use of marijuana. Californians who are 21 and older can possess, transport, and buy up to 28.5 grams of marijuana.

The same proposition that legalized recreational marijuana in the American coastal state allows offenders to petition for resentencing. That is, it allows it if their crime would have received a different penalty under the new law.

Proposition 64, the 2016 referendum item that legalized recreational marijuana in California, allows marijuana offenders to petition for re-sentencing if their crime would have received a different penalty, or no penalty at all, under the new law. An individual can petition a court to recall or dismiss their case, but not everyone has the money for legal feels or the time to go through the entire process.

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Bournemouth Council Labeled Shameful for Putting Metal Bars on Benches to Deter Transients From Sleeping

By: Chris Baynes of The Independent

A council has been criticised as “inhumane” after installing metal bars on benches to stop homeless people sleeping on them.

Bournemouth Borough Council has adapted seats across the town centre to deter rough sleepers.

The Conservative authority said it installed the bars “following numerous complaints by members of the public and local traders” about people lying on the benches.

But charities condemned the “hostile” move and called for the local authority to focus on helping homeless people.

Photos of the benches have also provoked anger on social media, with Facebook users branding the council ”shameful” and “heartless”.

The council’s strategy first came to wider attention after Bournemouth artist Stuart Semple posted a picture of one of the benches on Facebook. He said between 20 and 30 seats had been “retrofitted”.

“The second I saw it I knew exactly what it meant and I was really shocked and quite angry to see it in my home town,” Mr Semple told The Independent.

He added: “This kind of hostile design is really wrong. Most people will just take these things for granted and walk past them but for a homeless person I think it would be deeply upsetting to see something like that.

“I really don’t think we should be making those kind of statements in our towns and cities, we should be making inclusive places. Everybody is welcome.”

The founder of a charity which hands out food to Bournemouth’s homeless said the measure was “an utter waste of taxpayers’ money.”

Claire Matthews, whose organisation Hope For Food runs a soup kitchen in the seaside resort four nights a week, told The Independent: “All it is doing is putting a sticking plaster over the wound. If [the council] stop and think and look at what they are doing and help the homeless off the streets, they would not need all this.

“Why can’t they actually put the money into helping the homeless?”

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NSA Removes Trust And Honesty From It’s Mission Statement

By: Morgan Sung of Mashable

The National Security Agency — which as  whistleblower Edward Snowden revealed, hasn’t been truthful about how much data it collects on phone calls and internet traffic — just removed “honesty” from the core values listed on its website.

“Honesty” has been listed as a priority on the NSA’s website since at least May 3, 2016. But in an updated version on January 12, 2018, first spotted by The Intercept, the word was replaced with replaced with “Commitment to Service.”

An archived version of the NSA’s Mission & Values page says the agency recognizes that both American leaders and citizens have “placed great trust” in it, and that the NSA strives “at all times to be deserving of that trust.”

“We will be truthful with each other, and honor the public’s need for openness, balanced against national security interests,” the core values read.

But in the updated version of the page, all phrases containing “trust” and “openness” are gone. Instead, the core values now focus on reliability.

The new version reads: “Knowing that the country, our friends and allies are relying on us, we are dedicated to fulfilling our commitment to serve and to excellence in the pursuit of our critical mission.”

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