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- Thu Aug 16, 2018 - Elephants Have a Secret Weapon Against Cancer
In 2012, on a whim, Vincent Lynch decided to search the genome of the African elephant to see if it had extra anti-cancer genes. Cancers happen when cells build up mutations in their DNA that allow them to grow and divide uncontrollably. Bigger animals, whose bodies comprise more cells, should therefore have a higher risk of cancer. This is true within species: On average, taller humans are more likely to develop tumors than shorter ones, and bigger dogs have a higher cancer risk than smaller ones.
But this trend breaks down when you look across species. Elephants are no more susceptible to tumors than Chihuahuas, and whales are no more likely to develop cancers than humans---if anything, their risk is lower. That's especially strange because big animals also tend to have longer life spans, giving more opportunities for each of their already abundant cells to become cancerous. They ought to be walking (or swimming) masses of tumors---but clearly they aren't. For the vast majority of
- Thu Aug 16, 2018 - In setback for TransCanada, judge orders Keystone XL pipeline review
A federal judge in Montana on Wednesday ordered the U.S. State Department to do a full environmental review of a revised route for the Keystone XL oil pipeline, possibly delaying the project's construction and dealing the latest setback for Canada's TransCanada Corp (TRP.TO).
For more than a decade, environmentalists, tribal groups, and ranchers have fought the $8-billion, 1,180-mile (1,900-km) pipeline that will carry heavy crude to Steele City, Nebraska from Canada's oilsands in Alberta.
U.S. District Court Judge Brian Morris ruled for the Indigenous Environmental Network and other plaintiffs, ordering the review of a revised pipeline route through Nebraska to supplement one the department did on the original path in 2014.
The State Department was obligated to \'analyze new information relevant to the environmental impacts of its decision\' to issue a permit for the pipeline last year, Morris said in his ruling.
Supporting the project are Canadian oil producers, who face pr
- Thu Aug 16, 2018 - Illegal fishing and Amazon deforestation operations linked with offshore tax havens
Industries linked to environmental damage including Amazon rainforest deforestation and illegal fishing are heavily involved in the shady world of offshore tax havens.
An investigation has revealed that huge quantities of money flowing into the Brazilian soy and beef sectors are funnelled through nations where taxation is low and financial transparency is lacking.
The same analysis found most fishing vessels implicated in illegal or unregulated activities were registered in tax havens.
The release of the Paradise Papers and Panama Papers has shown how businesses, politicians and global elites make use of offshore tax havens to undertake financial dealings in secret and pay minimal tax.
However, the potential environmental impacts of these activities have been largely ignored.
The authors of the new study, published in the journal Nature Ecology and Evolution, suggested that tax havens were likely to support many forms of environmental damage around the world, from illega
- Thu Aug 16, 2018 - Trump keeps trying to kill agency that investigates chemical plant disasters
On a warm morning in April, workers at a Wisconsin oil refinery were conducting a routine shutdown for maintenance. Suddenly, a gasoline cracking unit exploded, and the workers watched in horror as a huge fireball ripped through the plant. They ran for their lives, barely escaping the blast.
Debris from the explosion ruptured a tank, which spilled more than half a million gallons of hot asphalt that burst into flames and burned for nine hours. Black smoke spread over the port town of Superior. Eleven workers were injured, and about 40,000 people were evacuated from nearby homes and schools.
Within 24 hours of the explosion at the Husky Energy Inc. refinery, a small team of federal investigators arrived. Their mission, Superior Mayor Jim Paine reassured residents, was to \'find out what happened and how we prevent it in the future.\'
Earlier this month, after a three-month probe, the investigators from the U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board concluded that a fault
- Wed Aug 15, 2018 - A New Golden Age for Trophy Hunters
President Donald Trump's proposal last month to weaken the Endangered Species Act has sparked a familiar debate. Environmentalists say he's shilling for the fossil fuel and logging industries, which seek to exploit federally protected land. Those industries say environmentalists are overreacting---that loosening the law's requirements will allow economic development alongside species protection.
But one group with a big stake in the Endangered Species Act's future hasn't caught much attention. Trophy hunters---those who hunt large, often endangered or threatened wild animals in order to keep and display their carcasses---are applauding the idea of a weakened Endangered Species Act, which may make it easier to import dead leopards, giraffes, and other exotic animals to the United States.
The law, which was passed in 1973, bans the import of trophies for endangered or threatened species. The Trump administration, however, is proposing to repeal automatic protection for the latter c
- Wed Aug 15, 2018 - Worst flood in a century kills 43 in India's Kerala, more rain due
The death toll from the worst floods in nearly a century in the Indian tourist state of Kerala rose to 43 on Wednesday as rising water stranded tens of thousands of people and forced the closure of one of its main airports.
The five latest fatalities from the rain that began a week ago came when authorities in the southern state were forced to release water from 35 dangerously full dams, sending a surge into its main river.
\'Presently, 35 reservoirs in the state are releasing water. Many districts in the state are facing floods,\' the state's chief minister, Pinarayi Vijayan, said on Twitter.
The Indian Meteorological Department has forecast heavy to very heavy rain in the state until Saturday, and it has issued a \'red alert\' for 12 out of its 14 districts.
The airport in the port city of Kochi will stay shut until Saturday afternoon.
The rain and floods have destroyed and damaged hundreds of houses in the past week and caused significant losses to crops in the state know
- Wed Aug 15, 2018 - Exceptionally hot weather predicted until 2022 according to new study
Manmade global warming and a natural surge in the Earth's surface temperature will join forces to make the next five years exceptionally hot, according to a study published Tuesday.
The joint effects of climate change and so-called natural variability more than doubles the likelihood of \'extreme warm events\' in ocean surface waters, creating a dangerous breeding ground for hurricanes and typhoons, the study suggests.
\'This warm phase is reinforcing long-term climate change,\' lead author Florian Sevellec, a climate scientist at the University of Brest in France, said.
\'This particular phase is expected to continue for at least five years.\'
Earth's average surface temperature has always fluctuated.
Over the last million years, it vacillated roughly every 100,000 years between ice ages and balmy periods warmer than today.
Over the last 11,000 years, those variations have become extremely modest, allowing our species to flourish.
Manmade climate change - caused by bill
- Wed Aug 15, 2018 - With half the planet saved for nature, will we have enough to eat?
The idea of devoting half of Earth's terrestrial surface to rich, intact forms of nature has stirred conservationist imaginations in the last few years. It's an inspiring vision, simple yet powerful, a bright aspiration amidst the gloom of extinctions and extirpations.
Between the idea and the reality, though, is plenty of practical uncertainty. What would setting aside half the planet's land actually entail? Who would make the decisions? And, crucially, what would this mean for food production, which currently represents the single largest human land use?
\'Possibly the greatest trade-off embedded in the Half-Earth proposal is with agriculture,\' write researchers led by Zia Mehrabi, an agricultural sustainability specialist at the University of British Columbia, in a study published in Nature Sustainability. \'The food production costs of Half-Earth are yet to be assessed.\'
Co-authored with Navin Ramankutty, an agricultural geographer at UBC, and Erle Ellis, an environmental sc
- Tue Aug 14, 2018 - Halfway to boiling: the city at 50C
Imagine a city at 50C (122F). The pavements are empty, the parks quiet, entire neighbourhoods appear uninhabited. Nobody with a choice ventures outside during daylight hours. Only at night do the denizens emerge, HG Wells-style, into the streets -- though, in temperatures that high, even darkness no longer provides relief. Uncooled air is treated like effluent: to be flushed as quickly as possible.
School playgrounds are silent as pupils shelter inside. In the hottest hours of the day, working outdoors is banned. The only people in sight are those who do not have access to air conditioning, who have no escape from the blanket of heat: the poor, the homeless, undocumented labourers. Society is divided into the cool haves and the hot have-nots.
Those without the option of sheltering indoors can rely only on shade, or perhaps a water-soaked sheet hung in front of a fan. Construction workers, motor-rickshaw drivers and street hawkers cover up head to toe to stay cool. The wealthy, me
- Tue Aug 14, 2018 - Toxic 'red tide' algae bloom is killing Florida wildlife and menacing tourism
This year, however, 267 tons of marine life, including thousands of small fish, 72 Goliath groupers, and even a 21-ft whale shark have washed up on the beach since July -- thanks to a a disastrous \'red tide\' of toxic algae.
The algae, called Karenia brevis, began in November and has affected beaches along about 150 miles of Florida's Gulf Coast from Anna Maria Island to Naples. In Sarasota, two hours north of Sanibel, wildlife scientists recovered nine dead bottlenose dolphins last week.
\'We had groupers probably four feet and five feet up here, and all kinds of fish wash up,\' said Andrew Stone, who was taking a sunset walk on Sanibel's Lighthouse beach with his wife, Joyce Hillman. The couple comes here from Bonita Springs every year.
\'We had the binoculars and we were looking at fish bobbing up and down way out there, bigger than those buoys,\' he said, pointing about 100 meters offshore. \'And the bugs were horrific.\'
While algal blooms are common here, they are usually co