Monday, July 31, 2017

When Life on Earth Was Nearly Extinguished

We are currently emitting greenhouse gases faster than the volcanoes did during previous mass extinctions.

I suggest reading the whole article.

The source for this is at


It has been called the “Great Dying.”

The planet’s most profound catastrophe struck 252 million years ago, at the end of the Permian period, killing 90 percent of life in the ocean and 75 percent on land. The fossil record nearly goes silent and remains startlingly impoverished for millions of years: trees disappear, bacteria replace coral reefs, insects hush. What looks like fungus spikes in the fossil record, perhaps the sepulchral rot of a dying world.

It was as close as earth has ever come to being sterilized altogether, and would take 10 million years for the planet to fully recover, setting the stage for the eventual rise of the dinosaurs.

“The End-Permian mass extinction is unique in earth history,” said Seth Burgess, a geologist with the United States Geological Survey. “Nothing else is as severe, and it’s not even close.”

A growing body of evidence suggests that this ancient apocalypse was brought on, in large part, by gigantic emissions of carbon dioxide from volcanoes that erupted across a vast swath of Siberia. Today the consequence of quickly injecting huge pulses of carbon dioxide into the air is discussed as if the threat exists only in the speculative output of computer models. But, as scientists have discovered, this has happened many times before, and sometimes the results were catastrophic.

This month the journal Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology published a special issue that explores a growing body of evidence that past volcanic releases of carbon dioxide may have helped drive many of the most extreme die-offs in earth history.
Continue reading the main story

Continue reading the main story

While cautioning that there may have been other killers involved in these Armageddons, as well, the paleontologist David Bond and the geologist Stephen Grasby write in the journal that most mass extinctions were marked by “global warming, anoxia and ocean acidification, driven by changes in atmospheric CO2.” After synthesizing a vast body of literature and reviewing almost 20 global mass extinctions over the past half billion years — including the most extreme ones, the so-called Big Five — the authors concluded that “large scale volcanism is the main driver of mass extinctions” and that “most extinctions are associated with global warming and proximal killers such as marine anoxia.”


As the work of Dr. Burgess documents, when this magma started spreading into the shallow crust of Siberia, it intruded into one of the world’s largest coal basins, cooking huge deposits of carbon-rich rocks. The superheated fossil fuels then ruptured at the earth’s surface in spectacular gas explosions, as documented by a team led by the Norwegian geologist Henrik Svensen.

Though volcanoes in Siberia had already been erupting for around 300,000 years, Dr. Burgess’s work indicates that it wasn’t until the magma started burning through fossil fuels on a colossal scale that the mass extinction began. The carbon dioxide was delivered to the atmosphere just as effectively as by any coal-fired power plant or minivan muffler today.

In the resulting chaos, as temperatures rose and life died in the acidifying, oxygen-starved oceans, the planet nearly lost its pulse. I asked Dr. Burgess what a time traveler visiting the End-Permian earth would have experienced. “It would be hot and it would be terrible,” he said, laughing.

Though the asteroid that would wipe out the dinosaurs 186 million years later might get more attention, the Great Dying dwarfs that catastrophe in destruction.


Today humanity plays the role of that primeval Siberian supervolcano, burning through the world’s ancient stores of carbon, long buried underground in the form of oil, coal and natural gas. Though there were likely other killers afoot in the Great Dying — like ozone-destroying halocarbons, acid rain and a heavy dose of toxic heavy metals raining from the volcanic smog — it was the chemistry-warping pulse of carbon dioxide that has attracted the most suspicion for its role in nearly ending the world. And we have only to look at the modern ocean to see why.


The rate at which we’re injecting CO2 into the atmosphere today, according to our best estimates, is 10 times faster than it was during the End-Permian,” the paleoclimatologist Lee Kump, dean of the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences at Penn State, told me. “And rates matter. So today we’re creating a very difficult environment for life to adapt, and we’re imposing that change maybe 10 times faster than the worst events in earth’s history.”

Climate change expected to increase premature deaths from air pollution

July 31, 2017

A new study from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill estimates that future climate change, if left unaddressed, is expected to cause roughly 60,000 deaths globally in the year 2030 and 260,000 deaths in 2100 due to climate change's effect on global air pollution.

The study, to appear in the July 31 advance online issue of Nature Climate Change, adds to growing evidence that the overall health effects of a changing climate are likely to be overwhelmingly negative.


"As climate change affects air pollutant concentrations, it can have a significant impact on health worldwide, adding to the millions of people who die from air pollution each year, " said Jason West, who led the research at UNC-Chapel Hill with former graduate student and first author Raquel Silva.

Hotter temperatures speed up the chemical reactions that create air pollutants like ozone and fine particulate matter, which impact public health. Locations that get drier may also have worse air pollution because of less removal by rain, and increased fires and windblown dust. As trees respond to higher temperatures, they will also emit more organic pollutants.


In addition to exacerbating air pollution-related deaths, climate change is expected to affect health through changes in heat stress, access to clean water and food, severe storms and the spread of infectious diseases.

Informative links

All-Time Hottest Month in Miami, Salt Lake City

20 Common Things People Realize When They Quit Drinking Alcohol

Dear Homesteaders, Self-Reliance Is A Delusion
[I never heard of a homesteader going into the wilderness naked, with no tools.]

Lack of sleep leads to bigger waistlines
[People have to work so much they can't get enough sleep and exercise, then they are told they are to blame for health problems that this causes.]

Trump tells police not to worry about injuring suspects during arrests

John McCain is a fighter, no question. But can attitude affect cancer?

Scaramucci's wife files for divorce

Mike Huckabee Tweets About Scrapping the Election of Senators As US Slides Into Authoritarianism

Defense contractor frustration boils over with key Pentagon jobs left vacant, delaying contracts

Why Tax Cuts for the Rich Solve Nothing

Indiana police officer, nicknamed Teddy Bear, fatally shot while helping car-crash victims

The Largest Wind Farm in the U.S. Is Growing in Oklahoma. It’s a Sign of the Times

Friday, July 28, 2017

Wildfire Season Is Scorching the West, made worse by global warming

Andrea Thompson By Andrea Thompson

The West is ablaze as the summer wildfire season has gotten off to an intense start. More than 37,000 fires have burned more than 5.2 million acres nationally since the beginning of the year, with 47 large fires burning across nine states as of Friday.

The relatively early activity is quickly becoming the norm, with rising temperatures making the fire season longer than it used to be. The warming fueled by greenhouse gases is also helping to create more and larger fires as it dries out more vegetation that acts as fuel for fires.


A 2016 Climate Central analysis showed that the annual number of large fires has tripled since the 1970s and that the amount of land they burn is six times higher than it was four decades ago.


While multiple factors, including land use and tree disease, influence fire activity, climate change is playing a role in those trends. A study published in October found that rising temperatures accounted for nearly half of the increase in acres burned, as they helped to dry out forests and extend the length of the fire season.

The fire season is 105 days longer than it was in the 1970s, the Climate Central analysis found.

The lengthening of the fire season has become clear in California, which usually didn’t see major fires until the Santa Ana winds kicked in in the fall and vegetation had dried out over several months.

Now bouts of hot, dry weather are coming earlier and earlier, setting the stage for prime fire conditions. Southern California already has a nearly year-round fire season, Scott Stephens, a professor of fire science at the University of California, Berkeley, said.

With those hot periods likely coming earlier and earlier in spring and summer as global temperatures continue to rise, “you’re going to have a longer period where fire can ignite and move,” Stephens said.


U.S. House Hacks Away at Renewable Energy, Efficiency Programs

By Marianne Lavelle
Jul 27, 2017

The U.S. House of Representatives brushed aside Democrats' efforts to preserve federal funding for clean energy and energy efficiency as it voted to approve a large spending bill Thursday that would slash those programs by 45 percent while maintaining federal support for fossil energy research and development.

The GOP-led House tucked its $9 billion federal energy spending plan into its so-called "minibus" budget bill, a catch-all package to fund one-quarter of the federal government when the new fiscal year begins in October.

The bill, dubbed the "Making America Secure Again Act," is a long way from final approval. The Senate still must vote on its own bills to fund the Pentagon, the Department of Energy, and Veterans Affairs, and then Congress must reach an overall budget deal.

But the House made clear its priorities for shifting the nation's energy investments away from clean energy as it voted on more than 70 amendments. Although it didn't go as far as President Donald Trump's White House budget plan, which would have cut the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy by 68 percent, the House was in sync with the administration's plan for a dramatic retreat from spending on carbon-free technology for power and fuel.

In its biggest departure from the Trump administration's energy budget proposal, the House voted to preserve funding for fossil energy research and development at current levels. The White House had sought a 55 percent cut in the Office of Fossil Energy Research and Development.


Democrats proposed nine amendments, all swatted down by voice vote, to keep clean energy funding to current levels—by taking money out of the budgets for fossil energy, military or nuclear weapons spending.


Seven former heads of the office, both Democratic and Republican, had warned Congress in June that deep cuts to U.S. energy innovation would do "serious harm" to the nation's energy future. The office has helped drive research in solar panels, LED lighting and electric vehicle batteries, among other clean energy and energy efficiency advances.

The House went along with the Trump administration's request to eliminate the Advanced Research Programs Agency—Energy (ARPA-E), the seven-year-old incubator for high-impact, transformational energy technology, saving themselves $306 million. Senators on an energy appropriations subcommittee had called the elimination of ARPA-E a "short-sighted proposal" last week. Their energy package would increase funding for ARPA-E by 7 percent.

The House also approved numerous riders taking aim at specific clean energy programs. For example, the legislation would prohibit Energy Department funds from going to support the Cape Wind offshore wind energy project, even though that project currently is in limbo without the financing to proceed.


"You can't save money by gutting programs that save money, yet that's what the House is trying to do," said Kateri Callahan, president of the Alliance to Save Energy, a coalition of environmental and industry groups that support energy efficiency policy. Callahan said her group supports the Senate version of the bill, which would set funding for the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy at $1.9 billion—about a 7 percent cut from the current spending level.

The final shape of the 2018 budget won't be known until after the Senate passes its version of the spending bills and House and Senate leaders sit down to reach a deal.


A trifecta of criticism for President Trump with this message: Change your behavior

By Dan Balz Chief correspondent July 27, 2017

President Trump recorded a remarkable trifecta on Thursday. In fewer than 24 hours, he was rebuked by the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs and the chief scout executive for the Boy Scouts of America.

On a day when so many eyes and ears in Washington were riveted on the escalating feud between White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus and new White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci, no one should lose sight of the incoming fire that arrived at the White House.

It didn’t come from the hard left or the Democratic resistance. Instead, it came from people who represent communities or constituencies considered friendly to the president: the Republican Party, the military, and a civic organization known for its promotion of patriotism and traditional values.

The rebukes were carefully worded so as not to be true rebukes, but they were unmistakable in their intent. In their own ways, the messages to the president carried a common theme: They were asking him to stop behaving as he has been behaving. Trump has crossed so many lines, as a candidate and as president, that the public often is numbed to what he says and does. Not this time. Perhaps that’s because each of the rebukes was about a different transgression, all of them coming in the period of only a few days.


Informative links

Senate Rejects Slimmed-Down Obamacare Repeal as McCain Votes No

Wildfires force French Riviera evacuations

Baby dies after days 'strapped in a car seat without food'

Portugal battles raging wildfires

Pentagon spends 10 times more on erectile disfunction meds than transgender services

Maryland officer buys diapers for mother caught stealing them

Can nudity crack Hollywood's double standard?

Too much sugar could increase depression risk in men, study suggests

Pakistan police arrest 26 for allegedly ordering rape of girl

Perseid Meteor Shower 2017: When, Where & How to See It

ACA reduced disparities in health care access, report shows

Involvement of prescription opioids in fatal car crashes climbs sevenfold

Pattern of marijuana use during adolescence may impact psychosocial outcomes in adulthood

Rise in e-cigarettes linked to rise in smokers quitting, say researchers

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Driverless car bill moves quickly to House floor

Driverless car bill moves quickly to House floor
By Melanie Zanona - 07/27/2017
A driverless car bill is quickly moving through the House, as Congress races to pass the first federal legislation to address the emerging technology.

The Energy and Commerce Committee unanimously approved a legislative package Thursday that would bar states from setting certain driverless car rules and allow manufacturers to deploy up to 100,000 self-driving vehicles per year without meeting existing auto safety standards.

The bill, which comes one week after it was approved by a subcommittee, was the product of bipartisan negotiations, which were reflected in the form of a substitute amendment that dropped late Wednesday night. It is sponsored by Reps. Bob Latta (R-Ohio), Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.) and Fred Upton (R-Mich.).


The Senate is also working on similar legislation, which could be released in the coming days.


The House bill would prohibit states from imposing laws related to the design, construction or performance of self-driving cars. But local governments would still maintain traditional auto responsibilities, such as licensing, registration, insurance and law enforcement.

Democrats had been concerned that the initial draft would step on states’ abilities to protect residents, but said they were pleased with the final text, which narrowed the pre-emption language. It also clarified that state motor vehicle dealer laws would not be pre-empted.

Democrats were also happy that the NHTSA will be required to do rulemakings and set a priority safety plan under the proposal, while the industry will be required to submit Safety Assessment Certifications.

Manufacturers are also required to consider cybersecurity and consumer privacy issues during development — a major priority for Democrats and some Republicans.


Democrats secured language in the measure that requires a phase-in period for the exemptions, so they don’t all hit the roads at once. The measure also requires all exempted vehicles to be made public and requires that any crash involving an exempted vehicle must be reported.

Lawmakers have hailed driverless cars for their power to save lives, reduce traffic and enhance mobility.

To help ensure that, the bill would create an advisory committee to focus on giving seniors and the disabled community access to autonomous vehicles.

The provision was particularly meaningful for Rep. Gregg Harper (R-Miss.), who has a 28-year-old son with a disability who depends on others for rides.

“This opens up possibilities for those who have disabilities. ... This is probably the biggest challenge we have with our son,” Harper said. “We are excited about what this will do.”

Climate Change Means More Fuel for Toxic Algae Blooms

By Andrea Thompson
July 27, 2017

For two days in early August 2014, the 400,000 residents in and around Toledo, Ohio, were told not to drink, wash dishes with or bathe in the city’s water supply. A noxious, pea green algae bloom had formed over the city’s intake pipe in Lake Erie and levels of a toxin that could cause diarrhea and vomiting had reached unsafe levels.

The bloom, like the others that form in the lake each summer, was fed by the excessive amounts of fertilizer nutrients washed into local waterways from surrounding farmland by spring and summer rains. Efforts are underway around the Great Lakes ­— as well as other places plagued by blooms, like the Gulf of Mexico and Chesapeake Bay — to reduce nutrient amounts to control the blooms, which can wreak havoc on the local ecology and economy.

But new research shows that climate change is going to make those efforts more and more difficult. As warming temperatures lead to increases in precipitation, more nitrogen, one of those nutrients feeding the blooms, will be washed into the nation’s waterways, the work, detailed in the July 28 issue of the journal Science, finds.

The biggest increases in such nitrogen loading will likely come in the Midwest and Northeast, areas already seeing the biggest uptick in heavy downpours.


Solar-eclipse fever means counterfeit glasses are flooding Amazon’s market

I suggest reading the whole article.

Written by Elijah Wolfson
July 27, 2017


As August 21 nears, eclipse-chasers are realizing that if they want to see the sun disappear behind the moon, they can’t just wake up on the day of the astronomical event and step outside their homes. They’ll need solar eclipse glasses. And so, in the past few months, a cottage industry has sprung up to accommodate this market need. The problem is that many of these newly arrived sellers of solar eclipse glasses are fly-by-night manufacturers looking to turn a quick profit by selling subpar and potentially dangerous goods to unsuspecting Americans.


NASA, of course, has a website dedicated to the 2017 eclipse, and on it, they have a section dedicated to eclipse-viewing safety. The site says that eclipse-viewing glasses must meet a few basic criteria:

Have ISO 12312-2 certification (that is, having been certified as passing a particular set of tests set forth by the International Organization of Standardization)
Have the manufacturer’s name and address printed somewhere on the product
Not be older than three years, or have scratched or wrinkled lenses

NASA also names a few trustworthy lens brands: “Our partner the American Astronomical Society has verified that these five manufacturers are making eclipse glasses and handheld solar viewers that meet the ISO 12312-2 international standard for such products: American Paper Optics, Baader Planetarium (AstroSolar Silver/Gold film only), Rainbow Symphony, Thousand Oaks Optical, and TSE 17.”


But if you search for “eclipse glasses” on Amazon, Lunt’s TSE17 lenses don’t show up anywhere near the first 100 results. Those are filled, almost entirely, with sellers like Summstar, which sells HDMI splitters and lightbulbs alongside supposedly sun-safe glasses, and Habibee, which sells a bewildering mix of things like brightly colored plastic hairclips, nail polish, and men’s suspenders.

All of the NASA-approved manufacturers are specialists, making only lenses or astronomical gear. Most have also been in business for decades, and are well-known within the astronomy community and among eclipse-chasers. You can go to their websites and see where they source their parts, what companies did their certifications, and where you can find their factories. The Amazon sellers, on the other hand, typically sell a handful of random products—often recent fad items like fidget-spinners—and provide neither sourcing nor contact information.


All this has made me suspicious about my own glasses. The ones I bought have all the right words printed on them: “meets the Transmission Requirements of ISO 12312-2” they say, before going on to list a slew of other standards allegedly met. Then at the end: “Mfg. by: American Paper Optics.”

But the Amazon listing didn’t actually say American Paper Optics manufactured the lenses; it just showed up with the Tennessee-based company’s stamp on it. I ask Lunt how I could tell if what I had was the real deal or a knock-off, and he tells me to look at the earpieces. There’s a design element that’s been generic among all of cardboard glasses for years (remember those red-and-blue lensed 3D glasses?): the part of the cardboard frame that hooks over the ears has a rounded end. APO recently changed their design to have a more squared-off earpiece.

No surprise, my 10-pack all have rounded ears, the scarlet letter of phoniness.


Stealthy Google Play apps recorded calls and stole e-mails and texts

Company expels 20 advanced surveillance apps installed on ~100 devices.

Dan Goodin - 7/27/2017

Google has expelled 20 Android apps from its Play marketplace after finding they contained code for monitoring and extracting users' e-mail, text messages, locations, voice calls, and other sensitive data.

The apps, which made their way onto about 100 phones, exploited known vulnerabilities to "root" devices running older versions of Android. Root status allowed the apps to bypass security protections built into the mobile operating system. As a result, the apps were capable of surreptitiously accessing sensitive data stored, sent, or received by at least a dozen other apps, including Gmail, Hangouts, LinkedIn, and Messenger. The now-ejected apps also collected messages sent and received by Whatsapp, Telegram, and Viber, which all encrypt data in an attempt to make it harder for attackers to intercept messages while in transit.

The apps also contained functions allowing for:


To conceal their surveillance capabilities, the apps posed as utilities for cleaning unwanted files or backing up data. Google said the apps contained evidence they were developed by a cyber arms company called Equus Technologies. In April, Google officials warned of a different family of Android surveillance apps developed by a different provider of intercept tools called NSO Group Technologies. Those apps were related to the advanced iOS spyware known as Pegasus, which was used against a political dissident located in the United Arab Emirates. In that case, however, the Pegasus-related Android apps never made their way into Google Play.

Google has dubbed the new batch of surveillance apps Lipizzan.


Google's disclosure came about 12 hours before researchers from antivirus provider Sophos documented two apps on Google Play that also steal text messages. One app poses as an app store shortcut feature, and the other masquerades as an app for a "Skin Care Magazine." They worked by downloading a plug-in. Together, they had received from 100,000 to 500,000 downloads.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Informative links

American Muslims growing more liberal, survey shows

Mac malware caught silently spying on computer users

We are all made of stars: half our bodies' atoms may be 'formed beyond the Milky Way'

The health care problem Republicans didn't anticipate

So long, Flash: Adobe will kill plug-in by 2020

Britain bans gasoline and diesel cars starting in 2040

Location of libraries offering free solar eclipse glasses
Found this on

According to Harvard Psychologists, Parents Who Raise "Good" Kids do these Five Things

When Health Law Isn’t Enough, the Desperate Line Up at Tents

Got Chest Pain? This Insurer May Not Cover Your Emergency Room Visit

The White House is only telling you half of the sad story of what happened to American jobs

An Intriguing Link Between Police Shootings and Black Voter Registration

The reality of being poor and sick in America.

Number of Large Fires Rising in the West

July 26, 2017

Wildfires have burned more than 4.5 million acres in the U.S. so far in 2017. That’s 38 percent more than the average acreage burned for the year-to-date over the past decade. And it is the third largest area burned by wildfires in the last decade through late July.

The bulk of U.S. wildfires burn in the western half of the country because soils and vegetation are generally drier there in summer than in the East. As temperatures rise from the increase of greenhouse gases, evaporation rates from soils increase, which can worsen drought and dry out vegetation, creating ample fuel for fires. Hotter and drier conditions also allow wildfires to spread over large areas. Overall, the West is seeing trends toward more large wildfires burning more acres with longer fire seasons. In fact, the most active wildfire seasons are often those that are hotter and drier than average.

Wildfires can be very costly. Of the 17 years since 2000, the U.S. Forest Service has spent more than $1 billion in 12 of them to suppress fires, whereas in the last 15 years of the 1900s, the annual cost only exceeded $500 million dollars twice.


Like Exxon, Utilities Knew about Climate Change Risks Decades Ago

By John H. Cushman Jr.
July 25, 2017


Forty years ago, the documents show, industry officials told Congress that the looming problem of climate change might require the world to back away from coal-fired power—something that is only now beginning to happen.

The research presents a distinct echo of an investigation of Exxon's climate record published by InsideClimate News almost two years ago, and casts significant new light on the duration and depth of industry's climate research—and how electric companies that use fossil fuels responded to the emerging science from the 1960's onward.

The 66-page report unearths research documents and testimony published but then largely forgotten decades before the climate crisis emerged as a key public issue.

And in this episode of the nation's climate history, once again, the same industry that foresaw the ultimate end of coal as a main fuel for power generation later supported actions to cast doubt on the science and to stave off policies to address the problem, funding groups that deny the scientific consensus and joining the main industry group that opposed participation in the first climate treaty. To this day, there are few federal limits on emissions of carbon dioxide by utilities, one of the biggest sources of greenhouse gases.

"It's a story with striking parallels to the investigations into ExxonMobil's early knowledge of climate change and later efforts to deceive investors, policymakers and the public on the issue," EPI said.


By 1988, the EPI report said, the Electric Power Research Institute, supported by the industry, acknowledged "a growing consensus in the scientific community that the greenhouse effect is real."

Even so, EPI said, some in the industry joined oil and other industries in the climate-denial front group known as the Global Climate Coalition, which lobbied successfully to get the United States out of the Kyoto Protocol during the George W. Bush administration.

It is striking that specialists in the industry understood the risks of climate change early enough to expand research efforts into the problem substantially in the 1970's, about the same time Exxon launched cutting-edge research on its own.


Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Romans threatened with water rationing as Italy's heatwave drags on

Libertarians & conservatives would just let the water run out.

Angela Giuffrida in Rome and Matthew Taylor
Monday 24 July 2017 12.11 EDT

More than a million residents of Rome are facing water rationing for up to eight hours a day as the prolonged heatwave that has ravaged southern Europe takes its toll on the Italian capital.

Some businesses are already reporting sporadic disruption to their supply, while last month mayor Virginia Raggi turned off thousands of the city’s public drinking fountains in an effort to save water as the drought set in.

Officials from the Italian utility Acea, the Lazio region that contains Rome, and the environment ministry will meet this week to discuss the possibility of rationing the water supply to about half of the city’s 3 million residents.
Virginia Raggi, the mayor of Rome
Virginia Raggi, the mayor of Rome

Lazio’s governor, Nicola Zingaretti, has ordered that a ban on drawing water from drought-hit Lake Bracciano, which lies about 40km from the capital and supplies some of its water, will come into force on 28 July.


Blazes have broken out across southern Italy and Sicily, where temperatures have climbed well above 40C [104F]. Wildfires near the Calampiso seaside resort west of Palermo, the Sicilian capital, forced the evacuation by boat of more than 700 tourists earlier this month.

High temperatures compounded by strong winds have helped fires spread after months of below-average rainfall. Farm animals perished while several farms and more than 150 hectares of pine forest were destroyed in a blaze in Sicily this month.


The drought has ravaged two-thirds of agricultural land across the peninsula, causing an estimated €2bn (£1.8bn) worth of damage, according to Coldiretti, the farmers’ association.

Drought in the northern agricultural provinces of Italy prompted the government to declare states of emergency. Beppe Grillo, leader of the anti-establishment Five Star Movement, has called for a similar response to the wildfires.

In southern Italy the heatwave has sparked at least 20 wildfires, including on the slopes of Mount Vesuvius near Naples.


Deadly salmonella outbreak linked to papayas

By Debra Goldschmidt, CNN
Updated 6:00 PM ET, Fri July 21, 2017

Forty-seven people in 12 states have become infected with salmonella believed to be linked to yellow Maradol papayas, federal health officials said Friday.
Twelve people have been hospitalized, and one death has been reported, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
"Investigators are working to learn where the contamination occurred in the supply chain," the CDC said.


Symptoms of salmonella begin 12 to 72 hours after a person is infected and include diarrhea, fever and abdominal cramping. This can last about four to seven days, and most individuals recover without treatment. However, those who develop severe diarrhea may need to be hospitalized. Those who are very young, who are very old or who have compromised immune systems are most at risk for complications and severe cases of illness.

Those sickened in this outbreak range from 1 year old to 95.

The CDC has recommended that consumers not eat this type of papaya, restaurants should not serve it, and stores should not sell it. "If you aren't sure if the papaya you bought is a yellow Maradol papaya, ask the place where you bought it. When in doubt, throw it out," the CDC advised.

States reporting illnesses related to this outbreak are Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Texas, Utah, Virginia and Maryland. The one death was in New York.


Informative links

The latest brain study examined 111 former NFL players. Only one didn’t have CTE.

Sperm count in the western world is half what it was in the 1970s, says new research
[Why don't they mention exposure to pollution in our food?]

A Nebraska-Sized Area of Forest Disappeared in 2015

Five Decades of Research Confirms: Spanking Produces Similar Outcomes in Children as Physical Abuse.

People who have been denied health care because they were uninsured.
Click on the View more Answers button below the first comment to see more.

Spike in calls to poison control centers over dietary supplements

Microsoft may be quietly retiring Paint after 32 years
It's just "deprecated" for most of us, but it's already disappeared in China and India.

New Zealand storm: states of emergency declared as flooding hits South Island

Why Republicans Cannot Replace the ACA, Or Accomplish Anything Else
Republicans cannot govern because Republicans lack any respect for facts. Tilting at windmills is much easier than constructing them.

Jeb Bush calls out Republicans who criticized Obama over Russia, but have been silent on the Trump-Russia probe
[I note : Democrats are also guilty of accepting behaviour in their own people they would condemn in others, as are people in general.]

Hottest day ever in Shanghai as heat wave bakes China

Satellite Snafu Masked True Sea Level Rise for Decades

Trump Is So Rich He Thinks Health Insurance Costs $12 Per Year
[Another thing to note is that after his May statement, we would expect that he was corrected, but he then makes an even bigger mistake.]

Final New Moon Sunday Starts the Countdown to the Great American Eclipse

Whistleblower Case Shows How Trump Tries to Silence Science

The Energy Industry Is Turning School Kids Into Climate Change Skeptics

Paying People to Not Cut Down Trees Pays Off, Study Finds

Monday, July 24, 2017

Spike in calls to poison control centers over dietary supplements

By Ashley Welch CBS News July 24, 2017, 5:02 PM

New research offers a reminder that dietary supplements don't come without risks — and the problems they can cause appear to be on the rise.

A study published in the Journal of Medical Toxicology finds that U.S. Poison Control Centers receive a call every 24 minutes, on average, regarding exposures to dietary supplements.

The rate of calls increased by almost 50 percent from 2005 to 2012, the researchers found. A total of 274,998 cases were reported from 2000 through 2012.

Seventy percent of the calls involved children younger than 6 years old. The majority of exposures were unintentional, occurring when children swallowed supplements they found at home.

About 4.5 percent of the time — more than 12,300 cases — serious medical complications occurred.

"Many consumers believe dietary supplements are held to the same safety and efficacy standards as over-the-counter medications," Dr. Gary Smith, senior author of the study and director of the Center of Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children's, said in a statement. "However, dietary supplements are not considered drugs, thus they are not required to undergo clinical trials or obtain approval from the FDA prior to sale, unless the product is labeled as intended for therapeutic use."

In almost half of the cases, miscellaneous substances found in commonly used dietary supplements accounted for the calls.


Bush Beans announces product recall on 3 varieties sold in 28-ounce cans

July 24, 2017

Bush Beans has announced a voluntary recall of three of its brands of baked beans after concerns were raised about potentially defective seams on the cans.

The Bush Brothers & Company announced the recall for its 28-ounce cans of Bush's Brown Sugar Hickory Baked Beans, County Style Beans and Original Baked Beans.

The recall was announced Saturday.

According to a statement from the company, the recall was initiated by the company after internal quality-assurance checks identified an issue with potentially defective seams.


The statement notes that so far no illnesses have been associated with any of the Bush products in question.

The company is urging people who have any of the varieties of beans in question to dispose of them even if the beans do not look or smell spoiled. The company is also working with supplies to remove affected cans from the shelves.

Affected products are marked on the bottom of each with with the following codes:

BUSH'S(r) BEST BROWN SUGAR HICKORY BAKED BEANS Voluntary Recall - 28 ounce with UPC of 0 39400 01977 0 and Lot Codes 6097S GF and 6097P GF with Best By date of Jun 2019.
BUSH'S(r) BEST COUNTRY STYLE BAKED BEANS Voluntary Recall - 28 ounce with UPC of 0 39400 01974 9 and Lot Codes 6077S RR, 6077P RR, 6087S RR, 6087P RR with the Best By date of Jun 2019.
BUSH'S(r) BEST ORIGINAL BAKED BEANS Voluntary Recall - 28 ounce with UPC of 0 39400; 01614 4 and Lot Codes 6057S LC and 6057P LC with the Best By date of Jun 2019.

The company's Consumer Relations department has a switchboard open to available to answer any questions on the recall. The number is 1-800-590-3797 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Information may also be found on our website at

Rising temperatures can kill Texas prisoners. Corrections ignored that, says federal judge

BY Kamala Kelkar July 22, 2017 at 5:06 PM EDT

A federal judge in Houston ordered a geriatric prison in Texas to help inmates overcome extreme heat and rising summer temperatures, referencing climate change in a groundbreaking ruling this week.

U.S. District Judge Keith Ellison deemed it cruel and unusual that state corrections are aware of dangerous and lethal heat risks — at least 23 men in Texas prisons have died from the heat in the last 20 years — yet have failed to impose safeguards.

Ellison slammed the Texas Department of Criminal Justice for continuously violating the Eighth Amendment by subjecting inmates at the Wallace Pack Unit south of Navasota to heat indexes that regularly exceed 100 degrees in summer.


About one year ago, the court ordered corrections to provide safe drinking water for inmates at the Pack unit after tests revealed arsenic in the water at two-to-four times the standard level permitted by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.


Saturday, July 22, 2017

Trump’s Apprenticeships Are Based on a Problem That Doesn’t Exist

And apprenticeships give businesses cheap or free labor.

By Mark Thoma
June 19, 2017

Last week the Trump administration announced “a workforce training initiative focused on skill-based apprenticeship education” with a goal of creating one million apprenticeships over the next two years. The motivation behind the initiative was explained by Ivanka Trump: “The reality is that there are still Americans seeking employment despite low unemployment rates, and companies are struggling to fill vacancies for positions that require varying levels of skills and training. So the Trump administration is committed to working very closely to close the skills gap."

But is a “skills gap” really a problem in the US? If a skills gap exists, then the demand for workers exceeds the supply. That is, at the wage the industry is offering, there are job openings that cannot be filled.

One solution to this problem is for firms to increase wages to attract more workers. If there aren’t enough workers with adequate training in the local area to fill the open positions, then the higher wage offer will attract qualified workers from other regions of the country to move and take the jobs.


something they have been reluctant to do even as more and more of the income share has gone to business owners rather than workers.

Rising wages would allow workers to reclaim some of the income they have lost. So firm owners would prefer to fix the problem in another way. If the supply of qualified workers can be increased sufficiently through government supported retraining programs and increased immigration, then the upward pressure on wages will disappear.

I would not be opposed to solving a skills gap problem – if it actually existed – in part through a temporary increase in immigration. But that shouldn’t happen until there is a sustained and rapid increase in wages, evidence that there truly is a problematic shortage of US workers.

I am also not opposed to job assistance programs, but the question is the effectiveness of these programs and whether they should be paid for by the government or by individual firms. On the effectiveness, if the problem is really that skilled workers are available to take these jobs but they are mismatched occupationally and geographically, as it appears to be, then programs that help to match workers with jobs and subsidize moving expenses can be helpful. It will still require employers to increase their wage offers to make it worthwhile for people to relocate or change jobs, but government-supported programs that aid the matching process still have a role to play. Unfortunately, to help pay for his apprenticeship program, Trump has proposed large cuts to Labor Department programs that have successfully helped workers find jobs.


Heat Makes It Too Hot for Africa’s Wild Dogs to Hunt

Published: July 22nd, 2017
By Damian Carrington, The Guardian

Rising temperatures are making it too hot for African wild dogs to hunt and the number of their pups that survive is plummeting, according to a new study. The research is among the first to show a direct impact of increased heat on wildlife that appears well adapted to high temperatures.

There are only 7,000 African wild dogs left in the wild and they have lost 93 percent of their historic ranges to humans. Research earlier in July suggested that a “biological annihilation” of wildlife in recent decades means a sixth mass extinction in Earth’s history is already under way.

African wild dogs leave their young pups in dens when they set off for their early morning and late evening hunts, avoiding the worst heat of the day. The scientists found rising peak daily temperatures in Kenya, Zimbabwe and Botswana cut the time the dogs were active and the survival of the pups.

In Botswana, where the team had the longest records, they found the average number of pups surviving to a year old in each litter fell from 5.1 between 1989-2000 to 3.3 between 2001-2012, with temperatures rising 1.1°C between the two periods. In Kenya, a 1C rise in the peak temperature cut yearlings by 31 percent and in Zimbabwe 14 percent.

“When people think about climate change affecting wildlife, they mostly think about polar bears,” said Prof Rosie Woodroffe, at the Zoological Society of London and who led the new research published in the Journal of Animal Ecology. “But wild dogs are adapted to the heat — surely they’d be fine? So it is shocking and surprising that even right on the equator these effects are being seen. It illustrates the global impact of climate change.”


The dogs’ highly energetic lifestyles makes them susceptible to losses of food when it is too hot to hunt antelopes. “Wild dogs live fast and die young,” said Woodroffe. “They have these huge litters (of up to 14 pups) and then the mortality is quite high.


Here’s How Much Arctic Sea Ice Has Melted Since the ‘80s

On top of this, the depth of the ice is getting smaller.

By Andrea Thompson
July 21, 2017

Arctic sea ice has been melting at a steady clip this summer as it heads toward its annual low point. But a new chart shows that with nearly two months still left in the melt season, sea ice area is already below what would have been a yearly low in the 1980s.

The comparison shows the clear long-term decline of Arctic sea ice fueled by the global rise in heat-trapping greenhouse gases. The dramatic shrinkage of sea ice over the past few decades is driving major changes, from the loss of crucial Arctic habitat to the potential influence of weather patterns around the world.

The graph, put together by Zack Labe, a Ph.D. student at the University of California, Irvine, shows the area of the Arctic covered by sea ice right now and compares it to the averages throughout the melt seasons of the 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s. It is clear that with about 50 days of the melt season still to go, sea ice area is already below the point where it would have bottomed out for any year in the 1980s.


Arctic sea ice reflects incoming solar rays back to space, helping to regulate the planet’s temperature. But as human activities have released more and more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, the ensuing warming has caused ice to melt. That melt means more of the ocean is open and absorbs solar energy, raising temperatures more and driving more melt in a vicious cycle.

Temperatures in the Arctic are rising at twice the rate of the planet as a whole, and the accompanying ice loss means that walruses and polar bears are losing critical habitat, more of the fragile local ecosystem is being opened up to shipping, and waves from storms can more easily batter coastal settlements. The reduced amount of sea ice may also be causing heat to be released into the atmosphere that is altering wind patterns and weather over the U.S., Europe and Asia.

Informative links

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Perceiving oneself as less physically active than peers is linked to a shorter lifespan

Why sugary drinks and protein-rich meals don't go well together

Experts: 1 in 3 cases of dementia preventable, nonmedical therapies ideal for dementia

Use of cognitive abilities to care for grandkids may have driven evolution of menopause

Paying farmers not to cut down trees in Uganda helps fight climate change, new study shows

Loma Linda University researchers finds links between meal frequency and BMI

Sleep disorders may increase cognitive problems particularly in those at risk for Alzheimer's

Parents have critical role in preventing teen drinking

High-dose influenza vaccine leads to lower hospitalizations in nursing home residents

Setting the record straight: PPIs do not cause Dementia
[Don't know if this is the last word.]

In revised filing, Kushner reveals dozens of previously undisclosed assets

High-fat diet in pregnancy can cause mental health problems in offspring

Rush hour pollution may be more dangerous than you think

How physical exercise prevents dementia

Why Some Songs Make Us Cry

Depression changes structure of the brain, study suggests

New study reveals that causes of severe antisocial behavior may differ for boys and girls
the brain's prefrontal cortex - the region responsible for long-term planning, decision-making, and impulse control - is thinner in boys and girls with CD compared to typically-developing boys and girls, and that young people with more severe forms of the condition have more abnormal brain structure.

What Happened to Jane Mayer When She Wrote About the Koch Brothers

The Deep History of the Radical Right’s Stealth Plan for America

Trump’s Allies Are Taking Over the Media and Creating Their Own Reality

Anthony Scaramucci called climate science ‘irrefutable’ before he worked for Trump

Rains push Fox River past record flood level, Des Plaines also rising again

If Obamacare fails, it won't die a natural death but be 'choked' by GOP: Former Molina CEO

Takata May Need to Recall Millions of Vehicles It Already Recalled

Exxon Fined for Russia Sanctions Violations Under Tillerson

Friday, July 21, 2017

Family factors may influence a child's temperament

Public Release: 20-Jul-2017
Family factors may influence a child's temperament

A new study indicates that a child's temperament may be influenced by maternal postpartum depression, maternal sensitivity, and family functioning. Maternal depression was associated with difficult temperaments in infants when maternal sensitivity was low, but not when maternal sensitivity was high. Family functioning similarly moderated these links.

The findings suggest that family factors play a critical role in shaping the trajectory of an infant's behavioral style as it unfolds over development.

For example, even when dealing with depression, mothers who consistently and appropriately respond to their infants' needs, which are hallmarks of sensitive parenting, may more effectively teach their infants how to regulate their negative emotions than mothers who respond less sensitively. Similarly, a highly functioning family unit characterized by effective communication and high interpersonal involvement among family members may support an infant's emotion regulation even when the mother is depressed.


The Turn of the “Made in America” Claim Enforcement

July 211, 2017

It has recently be reported by Reuters that President Donald Trump is looking for ways to defend American-made products by certifying legitimate U.S. goods and aggressively going after imported products unfairly sporting the “Made in America” label, the White House said on Tuesday (July 18, 2017). President Trump announced that his administration would crack down on “predatory online sales of foreign goods” that are hurting U.S. retailers. According to a senior official, the United States loses about $300 billion a year to theft of intellectual property ranging from semiconductors to jeans. In March of this year, the President signed an executive order that gave customs officials more authority to stop pirated and counterfeit items.


An emphasis on policing the “Made in America” label claim is therefore not new. The question will be how will the Trump Administration’s “new” emphasis be enforced. As is the case for nearly all other federal agencies, the FTC is in line to have its budget cut. Under President Trump’s proposed spending plan for fiscal 2018, the FTC is to lose approximately $6 million. Additionally, the Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), Ajit Pai, reportedly wants to cede to the FTC enforcement of internet service priority pricing and net neutral practices. More responsibility for the commission with less funding.


No charges for teens who police say recorded man's drowning

Adults help to create the culture for this, producing and giving an giving an audience to shows like the Sopranos and Game of Thrones, electing and defending someone like Trump as president of our country, expressing disdain and lack of caringness to others.

Jul 21, 2017,

Five teenagers won’t face criminal charges after they recorded video of a man’s drowning and didn't intervene, a Florida police chief said.

The video, taken earlier this month in Cocoa, Florida, about 45 miles east of Orlando, shows a person's head bobbing up and down in a pond. The unidentified teenagers are laughing and joking in the video, with one of them appearing to laugh and say, "He just died!"

Cocoa Police Chief Mike Cantaloupe said in a statement Thursday the police department learned of the recording last weekend and reviewed it. Police identified and interviewed the five teens, he said.

Police have not named the juveniles.

"The State Attorney’s Office was consulted regarding what, if any criminal charges could be applied in this incident," Cantaloupe said, adding, "As horrible as this video is the laws in the State of Florida do not obligate citizens to render aid or call someone to render aid to a person in distress."

The victim, 31-year-old Jamel Dunn of Cocoa, died of drowning, the medical examiner ruled, police said, adding that they recovered his body July 14.


States of Emergency in California and British Columbia from Raging Wildfires

Bob Henson · July 20, 2017, 3:38 PM

One of the largest evacuations in British Columbia history is underway, thanks to 155 wildfires—including fifteen major wildfires that threaten populated areas—that have forced more than 45,000 people from their homes.


The fires have created suffocating smoke in British Columbia and Alberta all week, causing dangerous levels of tiny particles known as PM2.5 (less than 2.5 microns or 0.0001 inch in diameter). PM2.5 pollution causes over 80,000 premature deaths each year in the United States.


Smoke from the fires has been transported over much of Canada and the U.S. this week, including Alaska. On Thursday morning, smoke from the fires was responsible for PM2.5 levels in the red “Unhealthy” range in central Montana and much of Alberta, including the city of Edmonton. According to the EPA, if sustained for 24 hours, this “red zone” air quality will cause increased aggravation of heart or lung disease and premature mortality in persons with cardiopulmonary disease, and the elderly, and will also cause increased respiratory effects in the general population.


Detwiler Fire threatens California’s historic town of Mariposa

A state of emergency was declared on Wednesday in Mariposa County, including parts of Yosemite National Park, as the Detwiler Fire doubled in size in just one day to encompass roughly 46,000 acres on Wednesday. The fire had expanded to 70,000 acres by Thursday morning, with just 10% containment, and 45 structures had already been lost, according to CalFire. The Merced Sun-Star reported that more than 3100 firefighters were being coordinated from an incident command post at the Merced County Fairgrounds. In the crosshairs of the spreading fire on Thursday was Mariposa, a Gold Rush-era town of about 2000 residents and 4000 structures. The town was almost completely evacuated on Wednesday.

Thick smoke from the fire streamed into Yosemite, cutting visibility and raising air quality concerns. The Air Quality Index (AQI) reached “very unhealthy” levels by Wednesday night close to the fire. “Unhealthy” conditions extended northeast from the fire across the Reno, Nevada, area. An AQI in the unhealthy range can bring adverse effects to anyone, with those in sensitive groups at even greater risk.


The generous rains and mountain snows of the winter of 2017—so welcomed by people from California to Wyoming—are now proving to have been a double-edged sword. The moisture led to a growth spurt in the grasses and shrubs across rugged landscapes of the West that typically dry out in the summer. The exceptionally wet cool season has segued into a viciously hot, dry summer that’s turned the unusually lush landscape into fuel ripe for a fire.


Thursday, July 20, 2017

'Extreme And Aggressive' California Wildfires Force Thousands To Evacuate

Laurel Wamsley
July 19, 2017

A wildfire in the foothills near Yosemite National Park has consumed eight structures — and is threatening 1,500 more in tiny Mariposa, Calif.


The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, known as Cal Fire, posted on its website that "firefighters experienced extreme and aggressive fire behavior" on Tuesday. "Firefighters on the ground as well as aircraft are actively working to contain and suppress the fire."


Cal Fire spokesman Koby Johns says that the cause of the fire is unknown but that its speed is due to the region's drought being followed by heavy rains.


"Lots of tall grasses, lots of bushes, and they essentially provide like a ladder to the trees," Johns told Valley Public Radio's Ezra David Romero. "A lot of those trees are dead oak trees and then you have fire spreading from tree to tree."


In the city of Saratoga, Calif., near San Jose, the pilot of a water-dropping helicopter was forced to ground the aircraft when a drone appeared unexpectedly, Ryan Cronin of the Santa Clara County Fire Department told the Times.

"It really put them in a precarious position," he said of the drone. "We didn't appreciate that much."

Wildfires have been especially prevalent this year. Fires have burned 4.4 million acres so far in 2017, compared with 2.7 million acres over the same period in 2016, according to the National Interagency Fire Center. Large fires are currently reported in 12 states, all in the western U.S.

Wildfires Roar Across Southern Europe


Strong winds, dry weather and high temperatures: The fire season is in full swing across the Mediterranean.

In France, fires raged on Tuesday less than 10 miles from the resort city of Nice. In Croatia, fires have damaged homes in the historic city of Split. And in Montenegro, the authorities have asked NATO for assistance in dealing with fires that had forced evacuations along the coast.


Officials reported nearly 900 wildfires in Italy on Monday, with people evacuated from residential as well as touristy parts of Rome and Naples, and around Mount Vesuvius, near Naples.


No Respite For Tens Of Thousands Of Canadians Fleeing Wildfires

July 19, 2017

Tens of thousands of people who fled wildfires in western Canada were unable to return home Tuesday as the massive blazes raged on.

Officials said that 155 fires were still burning in British Columbia province, where the flames have already consumed more than 327,000 hectares (808,000 acres) of forest and uncultivated land.


Trump officially nominates climate-denying conservative talk radio host as USDA’s top scientist

Natasha Geiling
July 20, 2017

Sam Clovis, a former Trump campaign adviser and one-time conservative talk radio host, has no background in the hard sciences, nor any policy experience with food or agriculture. Still, that did not stop President Donald Trump from officially nominating Clovis to the position of the United States Department of Agriculture’s undersecretary of research, education, and economics, the agency’s top science position.

In the past, the undersecretary of research, education, and economics has brought years of experience in science, public health, or food policy. Previous undersecretaries have been biochemists, plant physiologists, or food nutrition experts. The most recent undersecretary, Catherine Woteki, came to the position from Mars, Inc., where she helped manage the company’s scientific research on health, nutrition, and public safety.

Clovis, on the other hand, comes to the position after serving as national co-chair for the Trump campaign, which he joined in 2015. Before that, Clovis was a professor of economics at Morningside College in Sioux City, Iowa. He has a doctorate in public administration, and unsuccessfully ran for the U.S. Senate in 2014.


Informative links

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Certain antibiotics during pregnancy may increase risk of birth defects

Healthy eating and exercise in pregnancy limits weight gain and lowers odds of caesarean

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Climate change may be harming the future of African wild dogs (Lycaon pictus) by impacting the survival rates of pups

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Pangolins at huge risk as study shows dramatic increases in hunting across Central Africa

Manmade aerosols identified as driver in shifting global rainfall patterns

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Record-breaking marine heatwave powered by climate change cooks Tasmania's fisheries

Mountaintop coal mining causes Appalachian rivers to run 'consistently saltier'

Climate change could mean more weight restrictions and higher costs for airlines

Ravens can plan ahead, similar to humans and great apes

Climate change to deplete some US water basins used for irrigation

Female fish prefer averagely active lovers

Russia appears to be taking Georgia's land inch by inch

Trump’s Budget Falls Far Short of Pledge to Wipe Out the Deficit: CBO

Sessions greenlights police to seize cash, property from people suspected of crimes but not charged

Tax Scammers Never Sleep: IRS Names 4 Summer Scams to Avoid

The Secret Agenda of a Facebook Quiz

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Destruction of wetlands linked to algal blooms in Great Lakes

Public Release: 19-Jul-2017
Destruction of wetlands linked to algal blooms in Great Lakes
Current protection efforts overlook role of wetlands
University of Waterloo

Canada's current wetland protection efforts have overlooked how the environment naturally protects fresh-water resources from agricultural fertilizer contaminants, researchers from the University of Waterloo have found.

In a recent study, engineering researchers at Waterloo found that small wetlands have a more significant role to play than larger ones in preventing excess nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorus from fertilizer from reaching waterbodies such as the Great Lakes.

Excess nutrients are a primary cause of algal blooms, which have a number of impacts, including impairing drinking water quality, robbing aquatic life of needed oxygen and closing beaches to swimming.


At Midway Point, 2017 Is 2nd-Hottest Year on Record

By Andrea Thompson
July 18, 2017

At the halfway point of the year, 2017 remains the second-hottest year to date — a surprise given the demise of the El Niño that helped boost temperatures to record levels last year.

The continued near-record warmth is a marker of just how much global temperatures have risen thanks to the greenhouse gases accumulating in the atmosphere from fossil fuel use.

“Personally, I wasn't expecting it to be as warm as it has been,” Ahira Sanchez-Lugo, a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration climate scientist, said in an email. “After the decline of the strong El Niño I was expecting the values to drop a bit and rank among the top five warmest years. This year has been extremely remarkable.”


Every month of the year so far, including June, has ranked in the top three hottest for that month. Overall, the first six months of the year were 1.64°F (0.91°C) above the 20th century average of 56.3°F (13.5°C), according to NOAA. They were 0.29°F (0.16°C) behind the same period in 2016, which turned out to be hottest year on record, but ahead of 2015 by 0.09°F (0.05°C).

According to NASA, the first six months were 1.64°F above the 1951-1980 average.


While there were several spots that have seen record-warm years so far — including Mexico, parts of eastern Russia and China and western Europe — the heat is fairly broadly spread around the globe.


In fact, years with La Niñas (which tend to cool global temperatures) are today warmer than El Niño years several decades ago. 2017 actually started out with a La Niña, albeit a weak one, but it is 0.38°F (0.21°C) ahead of 1998, Sanchez-Lugo, said.


Half of All Plastic That Has Ever Existed Was Made in the Past 13 Years

Sarah Zhang
Plastic production is rapidly accelerating, according to an ambitious new paper—but only 9 percent of it gets recycled.


Now, for the first time, researchers have published a sweeping, public, and in-depth accounting of all plastic that has ever been made in the entire world. The number is so big as to defy human comprehension: 8,300 million metric tons since 1950. Of this, 6,400 million metric tons has outlived its usefulness and become waste; 79 percent of that waste is sitting in landfills or the natural environment, 12 percent has been incinerated, and just 9 percent has been recycled.


Perhaps the most eye-popping statistic in the study is how quickly plastic production has been accelerating in just this millennium. The world has made as much plastic in the past 13 years it did in the previous half-century.


It’s worth considering how much the rise of plastic is tied to the rise of oil and gas. Around this time, the United States began using a lot more oil. Oil is easy to make into plastic, and and it is cheap to do so. These economic forces helped create a new category of product: the disposable, single-use plastic packaging.

Packaging is now the largest plastic market, and it’s still tied to fossil fuels. In June, The Wall Street Journal reported on how the United States’ natural gas boom was translating into cheaper plastic pellets. The Dow Chemical Company wants to send its plastic pellet to places like Brazil, where it’s betting that a rising middle class will want the convenience of single-use plastic baby-food containers. Developing countries in South America and Asia account for much of the recent growth in plastics consumption.

These economic forces also govern how plastic gets recycled—or doesn’t. It’s often cheaper just to make virgin plastics, especially if you need plastic of a certain hardness or durability. Plus, there are so many different types of plastics that need to be sorted. “Plastic recycling just suffers from poor economics,” says Geyer.


Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Globe had 2nd warmest year to date and 3rd warmest June on record, 2017

July 18, 2017


The average global temperature set in June 2017 was 1.48 degrees F above the 20th-century average of 59.9 degrees, according to scientists from NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information. This average temperature was the third highest for June in the 1880-2017 record, behind June 2015 (second) and a record-breaking June 2016. June 2017 marks the 41st consecutive June and the 390th consecutive month with temperatures at least nominally above the 20th-century average.


The average Arctic sea ice extent (coverage) for June was 7.5 percent below the 1981-2010 average, the sixth smallest for the month since satellite records began in 1979. The average Antarctic sea ice extent was 6.3 percent below average, the second smallest on record for June behind 2002.


The globally averaged land-surface temperature (fourth warmest for the month of June) and the sea-surface temperature (third warmest) ranked second highest on record for the year to date.


Africa had its warmest June on record; Europe, its second (tied with 2007); South America, its third (tied with 2005); Asia, it’s eighth; North America, its 10th; and Oceania, its 50th (tied with 1927).


You can find NOAA’s report and download related maps and images by visiting the NCEI website.