Officials declare world’s first famine in six years

February 21, 2017 by  
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Officials have declared the first official famine in six years – in South Sudan. And it is entirely manmade. The United Nations and South Sudanese government said 100,000 people are already suffering, and one million more are expected to face starvation soon. Food and Agriculture Organization representative Serge Tissot said, “Our worst fears have been realized.” The United Nations said war and economic troubles are to blame for the famine, which has been officially declared in some areas of the Unity state but also threatens other parts of South Sudan. High food prices also make it harder for hungry people to obtain sufficient sustenance. Head of the World Food Programme (WFP) in South Sudan, Joyce Luma, said the famine is man-made – three years of strife has affected farmers and impacted crop production. Tissot said, “Many families have exhausted every means they have to survive.” Related: Severe drought and El Niño have put 32 million southern Africans in peril According to the WFP and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), 4.9 million people desperately need food in South Sudan – that’s over 40 percent of the entire population. But that number could rise to 5.5 million people, or 47 percent of the population, by the summer, according to the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC). IPC’s report said acute malnutrition is a public health emergency in the country, as 14 out of 23 counties show Global Acute Malnutrition around or greater than 15 percent. UNICEF representative Jeremy Hopkins said they estimate over one million children are acutely malnourished in South Sudan. The report called for assistance, saying humanitarian help in 2016 was able to bolster and even improve food security in some areas. “It is of paramount importance that assistance not only continues in 2017, but scales up in the face of mounting food insecurity across the country,” the report states. But Luma warned there’s only so much assistance can do without peace in South Sudan. Via the BBC and the United Nations Images via European Commission DG ECHO on Flickr ( 1 , 2 )

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Officials declare world’s first famine in six years

FBI investigates claims Russia has information compromising Trump

January 11, 2017 by  
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The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is investigating allegations that Russian agents possess compromising financial and personal information about President-elect Donald Trump , reports CNN . The news organization said memos providing the classified information haven’t been “independently corroborated,” but it appears the FBI was at least aware of such damaging allegations before the United States election. Trump, President Obama , and eight members of Congress reportedly received a two-page summary on the allegations that also included claims Trump surrogates exchanged information with Russian government intermediaries during Trump’s campaign. The two-page summary was compiled mainly from memos prepared by a former British intelligence agent. U.S. intelligence officials believe past work from this agent is credible. The FBI will now delve into the accuracy and credibility of the allegations from the memos, which contain information coming from Russian sources, but CNN notes “many essential details” in the memos have not yet been confirmed. Although Buzzfeed published the memos, CNN did not. Related: Trump calls for more nuclear weapons in alarming new tweet The former British agent, who during the 1990’s was posted to Russia, now operates his own private intelligence firm. CNN reports donors and groups backing Republican opposition to Trump initially funded the former agent’s investigations into the President-elect. After Trump nabbed the Republication nomination, donors and groups backing Hillary Clinton funded further investigations. It appears the FBI knew about the compromising memos during the summer; the former British agent gave memos to an FBI official in August 2016 in Rome, reports CNN. The news organization also said Senator John McCain delivered memos dated from June to December 2016 to FBI Director James Comey on December 9. FBI and Director of National Intelligence spokespersons did not comment. CNN said officials they talked with spoke off the record as the information is classified. Senior Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway said on Late Night with Seth Meyers that the memos are untrue. And predictably, Trump ranted on Twitter about “fake news.” Via CNN Images via Gage Skidmore on Flickr and Wikimedia Commons

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Former industrial district in Finland to be transformed into an eco-friendly innovation hub

January 11, 2017 by  
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The Finnish city of Tampere just declared Schauman & Norgren Architects and Mandaworks the winners of an international competition for the redesign of Hiedanranta, a former industrial district. The 250-hectare masterplan, named Hiedanranta Innovation Bay, prescribes carbon neutral development to deal with the rapidly growing population. The design will be sensitive to the site’s industrial heritage and the natural lakeshore environment. Located northwest of the city of Tampere, Hiedanranta Innovation Bay will house 25,000 new residents and 10,000 new jobs created around a circular economy . Schauman & Norgren Architects and Mandaworks organized the area around two urban grids and divided the land into six diverse and productive neighborhoods. The neighborhoods will be connected by two major corridors—a north-south “innovation corridor” and an east-west “recreation corridor”—complemented with a cohesive landscape design integrated with passive stormwater management and habitat cultivation. Major civic buildings as well as manufacturing facilities and the innovation campus will line the innovation corridor, whereas the recreation corridor is defined by water elements such as the harbor and a grand canal. Related: Reykjavik announces plans to be carbon neutral by 2040 Public transportation and non-vehicular transport are prioritized in the masterplan. Two tram lines will crisscross the development, while cycle and pedestrian routes will make it easy for residents to move between neighborhoods. The masterplan will be installed in three phases, from 2025 to 2045. “Embracing the circular economy and creative potential of Tampere, the masterplan catalyses innovation, embraces the future of smart manufacturing and creates a robust platform for public life. Hiedanranta Innovation Bay embraces the site’s industrial character and builds upon its foundation to create an urban district that supports new technologies, emerging business trends and local energy production ,” says Patrick Verhoeven, partner in charge of Mandaworks. + Schauman & Norgren Architects + Mandaworks Images via Schauman & Norgren Architects

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Former industrial district in Finland to be transformed into an eco-friendly innovation hub

German government votes to ban new combustion engine cars by 2030

October 10, 2016 by  
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Germany’s Federal Council (Bundesrat) voted to approve a ban on new combustion engine vehicles beginning in 2030. This move solidifies the opinion outlined earlier this summer to slash emissions in privately owned passenger cars. The Federal Council, which represents the nation’s federal states, approved the measure in order to cut emissions in accordance with the goals set forth in the Paris climate agreement, which Germany ratified just weeks ago. The Council has also asked the European Commission to consider implementing a ban like this across the European Union; given the long history of German policy influence, it could happen. While German lawmakers aren’t considering any proposal that would take combustion engines off the roads, the bill would govern all new vehicle registrations from 2030 forward. This will effectively force car buyers to choose an electric or hydrogen fuel cell vehicle in order to drive legally. A host of complementary proposals are under consideration to support the effort, and the Federal Council has asked the European Commission to review its taxation policies and their role in the “stimulation of emission-free mobility.” Related: All new cars in Germany must be emissions free after 2030 That could lead to additional tax breaks for buyers of green cars, or an end to tax credits for diesel cars. New registrations of diesel vehicles have already dropped in the EU as of August, according to a Forbes report , which some take as an early indication that the push toward emissions-free vehicles has more public support than realized. In order to meet the terms of the Paris agreement, Germany must cut carbon dioxide emissions nationwide by 95 percent by 2050. Targeting the transportation industry will put a huge dent in that figure, but it’s clear much more work will be necessary in other areas (hello, energy sector) to get the job done on time. Via Engadget Images via ceiling/Flickr and Wikipedia

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German government votes to ban new combustion engine cars by 2030

World’s largest radio telescope switches on to scan the heavens and "look for E.T."

September 26, 2016 by  
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For over five years, China has been building the Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical Telescope (FAST), a massive single-dish telescope that is the largest of its kind in the world. This summer they completed construction , and this past weekend, the telescope was finally switched on, manifesting China’s hopes to reemerge as a scientific world leader. FAST is larger than the Arecibo Observatory, the radio telescope in Puerto Rico that used to hold the title of world’s largest. FAST’s diameter is 1,640 feet, and the dish is comprised of 4,450 triangular panels. It possess a ” collecting area of 2.1 million square feet ” – about as much as if nearly 450 basketball courts were collecting signals from space . It reportedly cost $184 million to build, although The New York Times said that appears to be a modest figure. Around 9,000 locals had to leave their homes to make way for its construction, and some say the new homes were poorly constructed. Related: China completes world’s largest radio telescope to search for alien life China’s president Xi Jinping spoke for the occasion, referring to FAST as the country’s “eye in the sky.” He said the radio telescope will assist China as they make “major advances and breakthroughs at the frontier of science .” Although it’s fun to discuss FAST’s potential ability to probe for extraterrestrial life , listening in on alien conversations isn’t China’s primary goal for the radio telescope. Scientists could utilize FAST to map the night sky and explore further than possible with smaller telescopes. FAST could help astronomers investigate gravitational waves or determine how rapidly our universe is expanding. Still, alien hunters will be able to search for signals of extraterrestrial life. Dan Werthimer, chief scientist at the University of California, Berkeley’s SETI Research Center, told The New York Times, “We can use the telescope at the same time that they’re doing more traditional astronomy to look for E.T.” Thrilling discoveries are likely a few years out; for the first year or longer scientists will probably have to fine tune the equipment. But researchers seem hopeful. Astrophysicist Zhang Chengmin of the National Astronomical Observatories said, “Now we’re racing to catch up and want to recreate the glories of our ancestors by reviving our astronomy. China isn’t just an economic power; it is also becoming a scientific power.” Via The New York Times Images via FAST/National Astronomical Observation, Chinese Academy of Sciences

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World’s largest radio telescope switches on to scan the heavens and "look for E.T."

1.5 billion birds disappear from North Americas skies

September 16, 2016 by  
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A startling survey of North American skies reveals there are 1.5 billion less birds flying about than there were decades ago. Some species’ populations have recently become threatened , while others are projected to be nearly decimated within the next 40 years. An array of factors, mostly human-induced, are responsible for the alarming drop. “It’s the death of a thousand cuts,” stated the survey’s co-author Judith Kennedy, of Environment Canada. “We’re really getting down to the dregs of some of these populations.” Numerous government, environmental, and university-based agencies combined to conduct the most comprehensive, up-to-date Partners in Flight survey, which follows trends in continental bird populations . Related: 9 things you can do to help wild birds this summer 86 species of birds were classified as threatened by habitat loss, climate change , and plummeting population sizes. These include the Canada warbler and evening grosbeak, whose numbers have dropped 92 percent since 1970. Even the beloved snowy owl has experienced a 64 percent dip. Logging of forests, pesticides in grasslands, and an overabundance of cats – who kill an estimated 2 billion birds per year – all contribute to the downfall of the continent’s birds. Birds help human populations by gobbling up pesky insects and pollinating plants. Kennedy stresses the importance of making changes in our behaviors that affect native bird populations, stating, “It’s too late for us to worry when we’re down to the last few hundred.” Via The Star Images via Flickr , Wikipedia

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1.5 billion birds disappear from North Americas skies

Ag carbon credits go to market, just as cap and trade is questioned

August 18, 2016 by  
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The first crop-land agricultural credits were introduced to the carbon market this summer, but the biggest functioning U.S. cap and trade market — California’s — hangs in limbo.

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New NASA data confirms July 2016 was the hottest month on record

August 16, 2016 by  
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Newly released data from NASA indicates July was the hottest month on record , since scientists began tracking global temperatures in 1880. This July was 1.51 degrees Fahrenheit (0.84 degrees Celsius) warmer than the 1950-1980 global average, and a fraction of a degree hotter than the two months tied for the previous “hottest month ever” record. The conflux of climate change related to human activity and the warming effects of El Niño contributed to this summer’s soaring temperatures, and climate experts expect to see more record high temps in the future. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JK7NV2YheGk If it seems as though there have been a lot of record-breaking high temps lately, it’s because there have. July was the 10th consecutive record hot month in a row, according to NASA . The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) hasn’t yet released its temperature calculations for July, but they are expected on Wednesday of this week. NOAA uses slightly different calculations, compared to NASA, so its conclusions may not match up. (For example, NOAA’s figures count 14 consecutive monthly heat records before July, compared to NASA’s 10.) Related: February’s record high temperatures are bringing us too close to 2°C limit Despite this year’s El Niño season loosening its grip on the weather, global temperatures continue to rise. NASA looks to a number of factors when calculating its global temperatures, including surface temperatures and the extent of Arctic sea ice. Over the first six months of 2016, NASA reports temperatures were the highest average of any six-month period since record keeping began. Via Phys.org Images via Swen George/Flickr

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New NASA data confirms July 2016 was the hottest month on record

Paper artist Amy Genser’s new nature-inspired art mimics reefs, beehives, and barnacles

August 15, 2016 by  
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Although the majority of her works are similar in nature, each piece has its own personality—just like the real coral reefs living beneath the waves. The Connecticut-based artist spends hours and hours on each time-consuming paper artwork , as each individual component is cut and rolled by hand from mulberry paper. Her pieces range in size, but most have at least one measurement spanning several feet. Each intricate paper mural is inspired by the shapes of nature, and not just coral reefs . Genser also draws inspiration from beehives, and the organic forms of plants, rock formations, barnacles, and seaweed. Related: Amy Genser recreates the beauty of underwater reefs in paper Since we last featured her work, Genser was commissioned to create a custom 150-foot mural for the Nemours/Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children in Delaware , which adds an oceanic touch to the cafeteria. Her paper murals were also on display earlier this summer in London at the Affordable Art Fair . Some of her other works are currently on display at Bergdorf Goodman in New York City through Aug. 17. Via Colossal Images via Amy Genser

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Paper artist Amy Genser’s new nature-inspired art mimics reefs, beehives, and barnacles

Zombie anthrax outbreak hits Siberia after blistering heatwave

August 1, 2016 by  
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Zombie anthrax from a reindeer that has been dead for 75 years appears to have resurfaced after a recent heatwave hit Siberia, infecting 13 Yamal nomads and killing 1,500 reindeer, Washington Post reports . Governor Dmitry Kolybin of Russia’s Yamalo-Nenets autonomous district declared a state of emergency to manage the crisis, with dozens of indigenous Nenet herders and their animals under quarantine . Anthrax has long posed significant problems for public health and veterinary services in Russia, according to a study published in 1999 . “At the beginning of the century, 40–60 thousand cases of this infection were annually reported in the country in agricultural animals and about 10–20 thousand cases in people where each fourth (25%) was dying.” Related: Dangerous super-bacteria discovered in Rio waters ahead of Summer Olympics The last serious anthrax outbreak occurred in 1941 , according to NBC News, and the latest outbreak may not be the last. As temperatures climb in the arctic region, this year at least ten degrees Fahrenheit higher than usual, long-dormant anthrax spores that thrive in balmier weather are resurrected as active bacteria. This is of particular concern given swaths of dead reindeer that could unleash more anthrax outbreaks as temperatures continue to rise. Washington Post reports: “In 2011, two researchers from the Russian Academy of Sciences writing in the journal Global Health Action assessed the conditions required for anthrax to appear in Yakutia, a region to the east of Yamal that contains 200 burial grounds of cattle that died from the disease.” They estimated that anthrax can remain in the permafrost for 105 years – and the deeper the spores are buried, the longer they live. They said, “As a consequence of permafrost melting, the vectors of deadly infections of the 18th and 19th centuries may come back, especially near the cemeteries where the victims of these infections were buried.” Via Washington Post Images via X-plore Group

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