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Showing posts from June 1, 2017

Scientists suggest early warning system for forest fires (downtoearth)

A team of Indian scientists has proposed a new strategy to tackle forest fires, the numbers of which are on the rise in recent years in the wake of climate change.

The strategy involves providing for greater involvement of local communities and use of modern tools of communication technologies such as mobile apps. The aim is to put together a mechanism for an early warning system and cover a much larger area than at present.

Techniques are available for detecting forest fires even now. However, their utility is largely confined to big fires of long durations. Their efficiency remains in doubt for detecting small fires of short duration, which are as important. For instance, during last year, when there was a continuous increase in air temperature from late January 2016 and no or minimal rainfall since October 2015 in Uttarakhand, fires started erupting from February and reached their zenith in April and May with fresh leaf litter on the forest floor adding fuel to the flames. In all,…

Your cigarette continues to harm environment long after it is extinguished (downtoearth)

There is no such thing as an environment-friendly or environment-neutral tobacco industry, especially when you know that tobacco kills more than seven million people a year and is currently the world’s single biggest cause of preventable death. In case you don’t know, about 560 cigarette manufacturing facilities in the world produce more than six trillion cigarettes every year.

“Growing tobacco and manufacturing tobacco products have severe environmental consequences, including deforestation, the use of fossil fuels and the dumping or leaking of waste products,“ says Oleg Chestnov, WHO Assistant Director-General.

Life cycle of tobacco – from cultivation to consumer waste. Credit: WHO
Life cycle of tobacco – from cultivation to consumer waste. Credit: WHO

On the occasion of World No Tobacco Day, we bring to you the highlights of the latest WHO report titled “Tobacco and its environmental impact: an overview”.

What does it do to soil and forests?

Tobacco is often grown without rotation…

Climate change will cost cities twice as much as rest of the world (downtoearth)

A study by an international team of researchers has found that cities bear at least twice the cost of climate change compared the rest of the world due to the “urban heat island effect”. This is the first time that the potential of combined impact of global and local climate change on urban economies has been quantified.

The study, published in the journal Nature Climate Change, analyses 1,692 cities around the world and shows that the collective economic burden of climate change for cities over this century could be 2.6 times higher, when the effects of concentrated pools of heat or “heat islands” that form in heavily built-up areas are taken into account. While the global average of the losses could amount to about 5.6 per cent of the GDP by the end of the century, for the worst-affected cities, this figure is likely to be much higher, even up to 10.9 per cent of the GDP.

Heat islands form when natural vegetation is replaced by heat-capturing surfaces such as concrete, asphalt and …

To withdraw from climate deal is to reject the idea of global cooperation (downtoearth)

According to a flurry of reports based on anonymous White House sources, US President Donald Trump has made up his mind to withdraw the US from the Paris Agreement on Climate Change. While the White House press secretary declined to go into the decision making process, Trump, a fan of grand unveilings and big announcements, declared via Twitter late on Wednesday (May 31) that he will make his decision public on Thursday afternoon.

The reports of Trump’s plans to withdraw came in thick and fast earlier this week, following the conclusion of his first foreign trip in his four-month old presidency during which the American leader failed to endorse global efforts to tackle climate change. The Paris Agreement was signed in late 2015 during the 21st Conference of Parties (COP 21) climate summit. The agreement entered into force in record time, within a year after signing, following ratification by all major emitters including the United States under Barrack Obama.

In September 2016, the th…

Unrelated donor transplants to aid thalassemics (hindu )

A study carried out at Chennai’s Apollo Speciality Cancer Hospital now gives hope to children who have no related donors.

Transplantation of a special kind of stem cells found in the bone marrow has been the only curative option for patients with thalassemia major (genetic inability to produce normal, adult haemoglobin leading to severe anaemia). Since only 30-35% of such patients have a suitable tissue-matched donor in the family, a majority of them rely on regular blood transfusions.

A study at Chennai’s Apollo Speciality Cancer Hospital now gives hope to children who have no related donors. Of the 25 thalassemia major patients, who underwent stem cell transplantation (from December 2012 to November 2016) from tissue-matched unrelated donors, none rejected the donated cells.

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The median age of the patients was five years (between one to 14.5 years). The results of the study were published in Pediatric Hematology Oncology Journal.

Even when there is perfect tissue match b…

Donald Trump may quit Paris climate accord (hindu )

Mr. Trump has repeatedly expressed doubts about climate change, at times calling it a hoax to weaken U.S. industry.

U.S. President Donald Trump is expected to withdraw the United States from the Paris climate accord, a White House official said on Wednesday, confirming a move certain to anger allies that spent years negotiating the landmark agreement to reduce carbon emissions.

But there may be “caveats in the language” that Mr. Trump uses to announce the withdrawal, leaving open the possibility that the decision isn’t final, according to the official, who insisted on anonymity in order to discuss the decision before the official announcement.

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Mr. Trump tweeted on Wednesday morning: “I will be announcing my decision on the Paris Accord over the next few days. MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!”

Nearly 200 nations, including the United States under President Barack Obama’s administration, agreed in 2015 to voluntarily reduce their greenhouse gas emissions in an effort to combat cli…

Genetic secrets of ancient Egypt unwrapped (hindu,)

Scientists study DNA from mummies found at a burial site

DNA from mummies found at a site once known for its cult to the Egyptian god of the afterlife is unwrapping intriguing insight into the people of ancient Egypt, including a surprise discovery that they had scant genetic ties to sub-Saharan Africa.

Scientists on Tuesday said they examined genome data from 90 mummies from the Abusir el-Malek archaeological site, located about 115 km south of Cairo, in the most sophisticated genetic study of ancient Egyptians ever conducted.

The DNA was extracted from the teeth and bones of mummies from a burial ground associated with the god Osiris. The oldest were from about 1,388 BC during the New Kingdom, a high point in ancient Egyptian influence and culture. The most recent were from about 426 AD, centuries after Egypt had become a Roman Empire province.

“There has been much discussion about the genetic ancestry of ancient Egyptians,” said archeogeneticist Johannes Krause of the Max Planck I…

NASA to fly spacecraft right into sun’s atmosphere in 2018 (hindu)

The purpose is to study the sun’s outer atmosphere and better understand how stars like ours work.

A NASA spacecraft will aim straight for the sun next year.

The space agency announced the red-hot mission on May 31, 2017 at the University of Chicago. Scheduled to launch in summer 2018, the Solar Probe Plus will fly within 6.4 million km of the sun’s surface right into the solar atmosphere. It will be subjected to brutal heat and radiation like no other man-made structure before.

The announcement came during a ceremony honouring astrophysicist Eugene Parker, professor emeritus at the University of Chicago.

The ‘nightwatchman’ is in for a long innings (hindu )

The CoA finds itself in a bind, provoked incessantly by the BCCI, and forced to re-define its role as it goes along

The hierarchy of responsibility in Indian cricket administration is affecting transition, causing delays in the enforcement of the Supreme Court’s orders.

State associations look for directions from the Board of Control for Cricket in India; the BCCI looks to the Committee of Administrators; the CoA is cautious and awaits the Supreme Court’s word. And there are sixty thousand cases pending in the Supreme Court.

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Justice Lodha, whose recommendations the Supreme Court accepted while attempting to cleanse the cricket board, suggests that the CoA might be micro-managing. “Management and governance should not be mixed up,” he has said.

Perhaps he has a point. The CoA, like the Lodha Committee earlier, is not expected to be involved in the day-to-day running of the sport. Yet it is forced to act as a super-board because the BCCI itself is lacking in leadership and …

This time for Africa: On sustained India-Japan cooperation in the region (hindu)

Sustained India-Japan cooperation in Africa can match China's substantial outreach

India-Africa engagement is getting stronger with the active involvement of political and business leaders of both sides. This was reflected in deliberations at the annual meeting of the African Development Bank (AfDB) recently. The AfDB’s decision to hold its meeting here in Gandhinagar, Gujarat, demonstrated its confidence in recent achievements and future prospects of the Indian economy. It also confirmed Africa’s growing interest in connecting more extensively with India Inc. AfDB president Akinwumi Adesina called India “a developing beacon for the rest of the world”, adding that the time was right for India and Africa to forge “winning partnerships”.

This conference came against the backdrop of the historic third India-Africa Forum Summit in October 2015 when all 54 African nations had sent their representatives, 41 of them at the level of head of state or government. African governments have a…

Uncertain times: on the security situation in Afghanistan (hindu)

The major terror strike in Kabul underlines a rapidly deteriorating security situation

Afghanistan is no stranger to terror attacks. Even so, the repeated strikes in the most fortified areas with mounting casualties demonstrate a steadily deteriorating security situation. In April, the Taliban had targeted an army base in Mazar-e-Sharif, killing over 100 soldiers. Now, at least 90 people, mostly civilians, have been massacred in a suspected truck bomb blast in Kabul. The Wazir Akbar Khan area where the blast occurred is one of the most secured places in the city, given its proximity to the presidential palace and embassies, including India’s. Still, a terrorist managed to drive in with a vehicle full of explosives and detonate it. It is not immediately clear who is behind the attack. The Taliban have denied any role, saying they don’t kill civilians. Afghanistan’s jihadist landscape has been diversified. There are multiple Taliban splinter groups that do not accept the current leader…