Category Archives: Science

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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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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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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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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Scientist Successfully Remove HIV From Lab Mice 

By:Mia De Graaf of Dailymail

Scientists have cured living animals of HIV using CRISPR gene-editing, a new study claims. 

The virus remains elusive due to the its ability to hide away in latent reservoirs. 

But now, in new research published this week, US scientists showed they could completely remove HIV DNA from human cells implanted into mice – preventing further infection.

It is the first time scientists have ever achieved complete elimination in animal models – paving the way to a human clinical trial.

Most exciting, the study by at the Lewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple University and the University of Pittsburgh involved a ‘humanized’ model in which mice were transplanted with human immune cells and infected with the virus.  

The new work, led by Dr Wenhui Hu at LKSOM, builds on the same team’s previous research, in which they managed to delete HIV-1 from the genome of most tissues.

A year later, they have been able to eliminate the virus from every tissue.  

‘Our new study is more comprehensive,’ Dr. Hu said. 

‘We confirmed the data from our previous work and have improved the efficiency of our gene editing strategy. We also show that the strategy is effective in two additional mouse models, one representing acute infection in mouse cells and the other representing chronic, or latent, infection in human cells.’

The team tested three groups of mice.

In the first, they infected mice with HIV-1.

In the second, they infected mice with a severe case of EcoHIV (the mouse equivalent of human HIV-1).

The third used a ‘humanized’ mouse model, engrafted with human immune cells, that was infected with HIV-1.  

Treating the first group, they managed to genetically inactivate HIV-1, reducing the RNA expression of viral genes by up to 95 percent, confirming their earlier findings.

The second group has an added challenge: the virus is more prone to vociferously spread and multiply. 

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Chemical Attack In Syria Kills over 100

Compliments of ITV

A hundred people have been killed and 400 injured in an apparent chemical attack in the rebel-held town of Idlib in Syria.

The fumes caused many people to choke and pictures and video emerged showing people limping, struggling to breathe and even foaming at the mouth.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) revised the death toll which they said was caused by a warplane releasing “toxic gas” in a residential area in the early hours of Tuesday.
They confirmed 11 children were among the dead and at least 160 were injured.
A short time later, a hospital in the town where doctors were treating the victims was bombed.
The entrance to the building was hit, bringing down rubble on top of medics who were earlier seen helping wash away chemical residue on patients.
Theresa May said she was “appalled” by the apparent chemical attack and called for an urgent investigation.

The Prime Minister, currently on a trade and security visit to the Middle East, said: “We condemn the use of chemical weapons in all circumstances. If proven [to be a chemical attack] it is further evidence of the barbarism of the Syrian regime.
“The UK has led international efforts to call to account the Syrian regime and Daesh and the use of chemical weapons.
“I am very clear there can be no future for Assad in a stable Syria, and I call on all parties involved to ensure we have a transition away from Assad.
“We cannot allow this suffering to continue”.
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Male Contraceptive Has Everything The Female One Does Minus A Vendor  

By: Compliments of Bloomgerg

Doctors are on the cusp of launching the first new male contraceptive in more than a century. But rather than a Big Pharma lab, the breakthrough is emerging from a university startup in the heart of rural India.
Years of human trials on the injectable, sperm-zapping product are coming to an end, and researchers are preparing to submit it for regulatory approval. Results so far show it’s safe, effective and easy to use-but gaining little traction with drugmakers. That’s frustrating its inventor, who says his technique could play a crucial role in condom-averse populations.
A new birth control method for men has the potential to win as much as half the $10 billion market for female contraceptives worldwide and cut into the $3.2 billion of annual condom sales, businesses dominated by pharmaceutical giants Bayer AG, Pfizer Inc. and Merck & Co., according to estimates from the last major drug company to explore the area. India’s reversible procedure could cost as little as $10 in poor countries, and may provide males with years-long fertility control, overcoming compliance problems and avoiding ongoing costs associated with condoms and the female birth-control pill, which is usually taken daily.
It could also ease the burden on the 225 million women in developing countries, who the World Health Organization says have an unmet need for contraception. Yet so far only a U.S. non-profit has taken up development of the technology abroad.
For Sujoy Guha, 76, the biomedical engineer who invented the product, the challenge is to find a company that wants to sell it. But male contraception is an area Big Pharma has so far shown little interest in.

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Major Brands Implicated in Destruction Of Natuaral Animal Habitats 

By: Laurel Sutherlin of Post

A Rainforest Action Network field investigation team has documented new evidence of large-scale, illegal rainforest destruction within habitat critical to the survival of the Sumatran elephant, tiger and orangutan. RAN’s research has uncovered supply chain connections that link the rogue palm oil company responsible for the deforestation to major global brands through their shared supplier, Wilmar. The companies implicated include PepsiCo, McDonalds, Nestle, Unilever and Procter and Gamble.

This forest clearance is taking place in direct breach of the Indonesian government moratorium on the clearance of rainforests for palm oil plantations announced last April, as well as the no-deforestation policies announced by palm oil giant Wilmar and other brands that commit the companies to eliminate conflict palm oil such as this from their products.

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Space X Makes History

By: Loren Grush of The Verge

After more than two years of landing its rockets after launch, SpaceX finally sent one of its used Falcon 9s back into space. The rocket took off from Cape Canaveral, Florida, this evening, sending a communications satellite into orbit, and then landed on one of SpaceX’s drone ships floating in the Atlantic Ocean. It was round two for this particular rocket, which already launched and landed during a mission in April of last year. But the Falcon 9’s relaunch marks the first time an orbital rocket has launched to space for a second time.
SpaceX CEO Elon Musk appeared on the company’s live stream shortly after the landing and spoke about the accomplishment. “It means you can fly and refly an orbital class booster, which is the most expensive part of the rocket. This is going to be, ultimately, a huge revolution in spaceflight,” he said.

After more than two years of landing its rockets after launch, SpaceX finally sent one of its used Falcon 9s back into space. The rocket took off from Cape Canaveral, Florida, this evening, sending a communications satellite into orbit, and then landed on one of SpaceX’s drone ships floating in the Atlantic Ocean. It was round two for this particular rocket, which already launched and landed during a mission in April of last year. But the Falcon 9’s relaunch marks the first time an orbital rocket has launched to space for a second time.
SpaceX CEO Elon Musk appeared on the company’s live stream shortly after the landing and spoke about the accomplishment. “It means you can fly and refly an orbital class booster, which is the most expensive part of the rocket. This is going to be, ultimately, a huge revolution in spaceflight,” he said.
THIS EVENING’S MISSION WAS A CRITICAL MILESTONE FOR SPACEX

This evening’s mission was a critical milestone for SpaceX, which has been working to make its rockets partially reusable since as early as 2011. Up until now, practically all orbital rockets have been expendable, so they’re basically thrown away once they launch into space. That means an entirely new rocket — which can cost tens to hundreds of millions of dollars to make — has to be built for each mission to orbit. SpaceX’s strategy has been to land its rockets after launch in an effort to fly them again and again. That way the company can partially save on manufacturing costs for each mission.

SpaceX doesn’t save the entire Falcon 9 rocket after each launch though. It saves the first stage — the 14-story core of the Falcon 9 that contains the main engines and most of the fuel needed for launch. About a few minutes after takeoff, the first stage separates from the top of the rocket and makes a controlled descent back to Earth — either landing on solid ground or on one of the company’s autonomous drone ships in the ocean. Prior to tonight’s launch, SpaceX had attempted 13 of these rocket landings and eight vehicles had successfully stuck the touchdown. But as SpaceX slowly acquired a growing stockpile of recovered rockets these last two years, the company had yet to actually reuse one of these vehicles.

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