Science & Environment

spaminator

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Scientists unlock secrets of Earth's wickedly hot innermost realm
Author of the article:Reuters
Reuters
Will Dunham
Published Feb 21, 2023 • 3 minute read

WASHINGTON — In Jules Verne’s classic 1864 novel Journey to the Center of the Earth, adventurers descend through an Icelandic volcano into a vast underground world populated by prehistoric creatures as they explore our planet’s interior. The actual centre of the Earth is nothing like this fanciful depiction – and in some ways is even more dramatic.


Researchers on Tuesday said an intensive study of Earth’s deep interior, based on the behaviour of seismic waves from large earthquakes, confirmed the existence of a distinct structure inside our planet’s inner core – a wickedly hot innermost solid ball of iron and nickel about 1,350 kilometres wide.


Earth’s diameter is about 12,750 km. The planet’s internal structure comprises four layers: a rocky crust on the outside, then a rocky mantle, an outer core made of magma and a solid inner core. This metallic inner core, about 2,440 km wide, was discovered in the 1930s, also based on seismic waves traveling through Earth.

Scientists in 2002 proposed that lurking within this inner core was an innermost section separate from the rest, akin to a Russian Matryoshka nesting doll. The increasing sophistication of seismic monitoring enabled this to be confirmed.


Earthquakes unleash seismic waves that travel through the planet and can reveal the contours of its interior structure based on the changing shape of the waves. Until now, scientists were able to detect these waves bouncing up to twice, from one side of Earth to the other and then back. The new research studied waves from 200 quakes with magnitudes above 6.0 ricocheting like ping pong balls up to five times within the planet.

“We may know more about the surface of other distant celestial bodies than the deep interior of our planet,” said observational seismologist Thanh-Son Pham of the Australian National University in Canberra, lead author of the study published in the journal Nature Communications.

“We analyzed digital records of ground motion, known as seismograms, from large earthquakes in the last decade. Our study becomes possible thanks to the unprecedented expansion of the global seismic networks, particularly the dense networks in the contiguous U.S., the Alaskan peninsula and over the European Alps,” Pham added.


The inner core’s outer shell and its newly confirmed innermost sphere both are hot enough to be molten but are a solid iron-nickel alloy because the incredible pressure at the centre of the Earth renders it a solid state.

“I like to think about the inner core as a planet within the planet. Indeed, it is a solid ball, approximately the size of Pluto and a bit smaller than the moon,” said Australian National University geophysicist and study co-author Hrvoje Tkalcic.

“If we were somehow able to dismantle the Earth by removing its mantle and the liquid outer core, the inner core would appear shining like a star. Its temperature is estimated to be about 5,500-6,000 degrees (Celsius/9,930-10,830 Fahrenheit), similar to the sun’s surface temperature,” Tkalcic said.

The transition from the outer part of the inner core to the innermost sphere appears to be gradual rather than a sharp boundary, Pham said. The researchers were able to differentiate the two regions because the seismic waves acted differently between them.

“It could be caused by different arrangements of iron atoms at high temperatures and pressures or the preferred alignment of growing crystals,” Pham said.

The inner core is slowly growing in size at the expense of the outer core by solidifying molten materials as Earth gradually cools – as it has done since its birth about 4.5 billion years ago.

“The latent heat released from solidifying the Earth’s inner core drives the convection in the liquid outer core, generating Earth’s geomagnetic field,” Pham said. “Life on Earth is protected from harmful cosmic rays and would not be possible without such a magnetic field.”
 

spaminator

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Hong Kong Revokes Visa of Scientist Who Gene Edited Babies, Reports Say
Author of the article:Bloomberg News
Bloomberg News
Bloomberg News
Published Feb 21, 2023 • 2 minute read

(Bloomberg) — Hong Kong revoked the visa of a man identified by local media as the disgraced Chinese scientist who created the world’s first genetically altered babies, hours after he announced he was headed to the territory to work on gene therapies.


He Jiankui, a researcher who drew international condemnation when he revealed his experiment in 2018, was granted the work permit in early February under Hong Kong’s new Top Talent Pass Scheme, which is intended to attract more highly-skilled workers to Hong Kong.


Without naming He, a Hong Kong government spokesperson said that the city’s Immigration Department had reviewed a “relevant application” in response to media reports about a pass holder who “had been imprisoned for illegal medical practice” and now declared this person’s pass invalid.

The person involved was He, local media including the South China Morning Post reported.

“After reviewing the relevant application, the Immigration Department suspects that someone has obtained a visa/entry permit with false statements,” the statement said. “The director of Immigration has declared this person’s visa/entry permit invalid in accordance with the law and will conduct criminal investigation for follow-up.”


The reports about the high-profile doctor securing a talent pass come at an awkward time for Hong Kong, which is trying to reverse a worker exodus prompted by strict coronavirus restrictions and border controls.

Those limits were lifted and the city announced its program “to attract top talents with rich work experience and good academic qualifications from all over the world to explore opportunities in Hong Kong,” according to the Immigration Department website.

Lifelong Ban

At a press briefing Tuesday in Beijing, He said he planned to explore potential opportunities to work in Hong Kong on gene therapies for rare diseases.

“I am currently contacting Hong Kong’s universities, research institutions and companies,” He said. “If there’s confirmed, suitable opportunities, I will consider coming to work in Hong Kong.”


In 2019, He was sentenced to three years in prison. He received a lifelong ban on working in reproductive technology and a 3 million yuan ($436,380) fine by a Chinese court for “illegal medical practice.”

His previous work, when he edited the genes of embryos to create babies that were resistant to the virus that causes AIDS, was sharply criticized by the international scientific community. It was denounced as an abuse of the newly emerging gene-engineering tools and methods that still aren’t fully understood.

He recruited couples with HIV who didn’t want to pass the virus to their offspring. Two women became pregnant and three gene-edited babies were born.

Hong Kong’s Secretary for Labor and Welfare, Chris Sun, told reporters that applicants under the Top Talent program currently aren’t required to provide their criminal records. On Tuesday night, authorities announced they would change the application process Wednesday and mandate applicants declare any criminal convictions.

—With assistance from Iain Marlow.
 

spaminator

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Raining fish not as rare a phenomenon as you might think
A small community in the Australian outback has seen it 'rain' fish several times in the last 50 years

Author of the article:Liz Braun
Published Feb 22, 2023 • Last updated 1 day ago • 1 minute read

It rained fish in a remote community in the Australian outback this week.


And it’s not the first time the strange seafood shower has happened in the area.


The New York Post reports that Lajamanu, on the northern edge of the Tanami Desert in the Northern Territory, has had this fishy phenomenon during big storms on several occasions in the last 50 years.

“We’ve seen a big storm heading up to my community and we thought it was just rain,” said Central Desert councillor Andrew Johnson Japanangka, speaking to ABC News.

“But when the rain started falling we’ve seen fish falling down as well.”

The fish that fell were still alive and about four inches long. Some survived in local pools of water, and others were plucked up and taken home as pets to be kept in jars of water by local children.

Small fish can be swept up by strong wind storms (such as tornadoes) and dropped elsewhere, say ichthyologists.

According to All Things Nature.org, the unusual meteorological phenomenon is believed to be the result of strong air disturbances lifting water and fish — and frogs and crabs too — up into the air.

When the air disturbance weakens and loses the strength to keep things aloft, it begins to “rain” fish.
 

spaminator

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Toronto the Canadian leader of UFO sightings with 263 since 1998
Author of the article:Jane Stevenson
Published Feb 22, 2023 • Last updated 21 hours ago • 2 minute read

Toronto, take me to your leader.


Apparently, Toronto has been crowned the top UFO hotspot in Canada, according to data from the experts at BonusFinder Canada.


The company, which bills itself as “the No. 1 source for online gambling bonuses in Canada,” set out to find which Canadian province has the highest chance of spotting a UFO by analyzing data, gathered since 1998, from the National UFO Reporting Centre State Report Index.

Ontario had the highest number of alleged UFO sightings in Canada at 2,416, each of which lasted an average of 14.42 minutes.

Most sightings were people seeing bright or flashing lights in the sky, but a Scarborough resident reported two objects flying together at high speed on the July 6, 2022, while in Toronto in 2021, there were sightings of an orange-red circle flying north to south over the city.


Speaking of Toronto, BonusFinder Canada found the city had the highest count of UFO sightings at 263, with each sighting lasting an average of 16.33 minutes.



Most people saw lights, spherical or cylindrical shapes, but one recorded sighting was of an oval light with an orange centre fading to yellow/white flying faster than an airplane from northwest to southeast.

Ottawa was next up with 131 UFO sightings, with each sighting lasting an average of 12.71 minutes.

Witnesses reported seeing UFOs as triangles, light and spheres, although one person saw a fast-moving light stop and then shoot “up” into the sky.


Third and fourth place, respectively, in Ontario were London (77 UFO sightings) and Hamilton (64 UFO sightings).

Provincially, B.C. ranked second (1,163 UFO sightings), Alberta third (665 UFO sightings), Quebec fourth (305 UFO sightings) and Manitoba fifth (241 UFO sightings).

“This comprehensive new information paints a fascinating picture of the modern UFO mystery, at a time when the subject is making the news all around the world,” said Nick Pope, who investigated UFOs for the British Government, in a statement.

“The new data will be of interest to anyone intrigued about UFOs, and might even assist NASA, the Department of Defense, and the U.S. intelligence community, who are all working on UFO studies where identifying possible hotspots could be useful.”

Pope was referring to the recent four UFO’s that were shot down over or near Canada and the U.S. earlier this month.
 

petros

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Low Earth Orbit
Toronto the Canadian leader of UFO sightings with 263 since 1998
Author of the article:Jane Stevenson
Published Feb 22, 2023 • Last updated 21 hours ago • 2 minute read

Toronto, take me to your leader.


Apparently, Toronto has been crowned the top UFO hotspot in Canada, according to data from the experts at BonusFinder Canada.


The company, which bills itself as “the No. 1 source for online gambling bonuses in Canada,” set out to find which Canadian province has the highest chance of spotting a UFO by analyzing data, gathered since 1998, from the National UFO Reporting Centre State Report Index.

Ontario had the highest number of alleged UFO sightings in Canada at 2,416, each of which lasted an average of 14.42 minutes.

Most sightings were people seeing bright or flashing lights in the sky, but a Scarborough resident reported two objects flying together at high speed on the July 6, 2022, while in Toronto in 2021, there were sightings of an orange-red circle flying north to south over the city.


Speaking of Toronto, BonusFinder Canada found the city had the highest count of UFO sightings at 263, with each sighting lasting an average of 16.33 minutes.



Most people saw lights, spherical or cylindrical shapes, but one recorded sighting was of an oval light with an orange centre fading to yellow/white flying faster than an airplane from northwest to southeast.

Ottawa was next up with 131 UFO sightings, with each sighting lasting an average of 12.71 minutes.

Witnesses reported seeing UFOs as triangles, light and spheres, although one person saw a fast-moving light stop and then shoot “up” into the sky.


Third and fourth place, respectively, in Ontario were London (77 UFO sightings) and Hamilton (64 UFO sightings).

Provincially, B.C. ranked second (1,163 UFO sightings), Alberta third (665 UFO sightings), Quebec fourth (305 UFO sightings) and Manitoba fifth (241 UFO sightings).

“This comprehensive new information paints a fascinating picture of the modern UFO mystery, at a time when the subject is making the news all around the world,” said Nick Pope, who investigated UFOs for the British Government, in a statement.

“The new data will be of interest to anyone intrigued about UFOs, and might even assist NASA, the Department of Defense, and the U.S. intelligence community, who are all working on UFO studies where identifying possible hotspots could be useful.”

Pope was referring to the recent four UFO’s that were shot down over or near Canada and the U.S. earlier this month.
What does MUFON say? I only trust MUFON stats.
 

spaminator

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Scientists dissect 3,500-year-old bear discovered in Siberian permafrost
Author of the article:Reuters
Reuters
Published Feb 23, 2023 • 2 minute read

YAKUTSK — A brown bear that lay almost perfectly preserved in the frozen wilds of eastern Siberia for 3,500 years has undergone a necropsy by a team of scientists after it was discovered by reindeer herders on a desolate island in the Arctic.


“This find is absolutely unique: the complete carcass of an ancient brown bear,” said Maxim Cheprasov, laboratory chief at the Lazarev Mammoth Museum Laboratory at the North-Eastern Federal University in Yakutsk, eastern Siberia.


The female bear was found by reindeer herders in 2020 jutting out of the permafrost on Bolshoy Lyakhovsky Island, part of the New Siberian archipelago around 4,600 km east of Moscow.

Because it was found just east of the Bolshoy Etherican River, it has been named the Etherican brown bear.

The extreme temperatures helped preserve the bear’s soft tissue for 3,460 years, as well as remains of its final repasts – bird feathers and plants. The bear is described as being 1.55 metres (5.09 ft) tall and weighing nearly 78 kg (12 stone).


“For the first time, a carcass with soft tissues has fallen into the hands of scientists, giving us the opportunity to study the internal organs and examine the brain,” said Cheprasov.

The scientific team in Siberia cut through the bear’s tough hide, allowing scientists to examine its brain, internal organs and carry out a host of cellular, microbiological, virological and genetic studies.

The pink tissue and yellow fat of the bear was clearly visible as the team dissected the ancient beast.

They also sawed through its skull, using a vacuum cleaner to suck up the skull bone dust, before extracting its brain.

“Genetic analysis has shown that the bear does not differ in mitochondrial DNA from the modern bear from the north-east of Russia – Yakutia and Chukotka,” Cheprasov said.

He said the bear was probably aged about 2-3 years. It died from an injury to its spinal column.

It is, though, unclear how the bear came to be on the island, which is now divided from the mainland by a 50 km strait. It may have crossed over ice, it might have swum over, or the island might still have been part of the mainland.

The Lyakhovsky islands contain some of the richest palaeontological treasures in the world, attracting both scientists and ivory traders hunting for wooly mammoths.
RUSSIA-PERMAFROST_BEAR-scaled-e1677159914275[1].jpg
 
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Ron in Regina

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MMMmmm. . . 3500-year-old bear.
Might not be bad as far as carnivores go. I’d slit & stuff with rice (like a trout) to pull out some of the greasiness….& again fall back on SPIKE & Garlic & Onions to tame the gaminess….& then once ready (like with trout) I’d feed that rice to the dogs.

As long as it stayed frozen & not a bunch or Freeze/Thaw cycles, I’d try it.
 

spaminator

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New research warns against too little salt in diet
A new U.S. study suggests very low sodium intake does heart patients no good, and in fact may increase their risk of death.

Author of the article:Liz Braun
Published Feb 24, 2023 • Last updated 1 day ago • 1 minute read

Salt may no longer be the enemy.


Heart patients told to limit sodium intake will want to know about a new study from researchers at the Creighton University School of Medicine in Omaha, Nebraska, that shows limiting salt too much can be detrimental.


The American College of Cardiology notes in a new release that a low-sodium diet is recommended to heart failure patients as a way to lower blood pressure and avoid fluid build-up and similar symptoms.

However, it is now believed that lowering sodium intake to a level below the recommended maximum of about 2.3 grams per day is not beneficial — and may in fact increase the risk of death.

Those are the findings recently presented at the American College of Cardiology’s Annual Scientific Session Together With the World Congress of Cardiology. The study was done between 2008 and 2022 and involved some 3500 heart failure patients.


According to the release, Anirudh Palicherla, MD, an internal medicine resident at Creighton University School of Medicine in Omaha, Nebraska, and the study’s lead author, said, “Our findings showed that restricting dietary sodium to less than the usual recommendation was counterproductive in the management of heart failure.

“This was in line with a recent randomized controlled trial suggesting that restricting sodium more than what we do now doesn’t necessarily lead to better outcomes.”

The dietary recommendation of 2.3 grams of salt a day is equivalent to about half a teaspoon. Most Americans eat 3.4 grams of sodium a day, closer to a teaspoon-full.

Researchers found that heart patients on diets with less than 2.5 grams of salt per day were 80% more likely to die compared to those following a diet with a target of 2.5 grams per day or more.

“Limiting sodium is still the way to go to help manage heart failure, but the amount of restriction has been up for debate,” Palicherla said.

“This study shows that the focus should be on establishing a safe level of sodium consumption instead of overly restricting sodium.”
 

spaminator

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Be afraid. Be very afraid of the avian flu
Author of the article:Liz Braun
Published Feb 26, 2023 • Last updated 1 day ago • 2 minute read
Scientists are sounding the alarm as avian flu spreads to mammals and potentially next to humans.

The alarm bells are ringing globally over H5N1 — avian flu — and experts advise that the time to prepare is now.


Scientists have been watching avian flu carefully for at least 20 years, as it poses an obvious threat.


Thus far, human infection is rare, but often fatal; according to a recent New York Times story, avian flu kills 56% of those who contract it.

Standing between us and a new global pandemic is the fact that avian flu does not seem to spread easily from person to person — yet.

However, its recent jump to mammals is hugely concerning. Many consider this the next step in an inexorable spread to humans.

In early February, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the head of the World Health Organization (WHO), warned that the world had to prepare for a possible bird-flu pandemic.

The usual soothing noises were made about how there really isn’t much to worry about, as transmission from birds to mammals to humans is still rare.


That was all before last week’s news about the 11-year-old girl who died of H5N1 bird flu in Cambodia.

All the animals at her house — 22 chickens and 3 ducks — had recently died, Dutch newswire service BNO reported.

Her father is also now infected, although whether that’s from the birds they kept or from his daughter remains unknown.

Another child in Ecuador tested positive for H5N1 in January, a first for South America, and was hospitalized but has recovered.

The H5N1 current variant has caused bird outbreaks around the world for about 15 months. Some 50 million birds in Europe and 58 million in North America have been culled.

The discovery that mammals, including mink, foxes, skunks, raccoons, bobcats and seals, are now dying of H5N1 raises the spectre of a new variant developing that could lead to human-to-human transmission.


The first major global red flag was an outbreak on a mink farm in northwestern Spain last fall. Avian flu tore through the cages and decimated the minks, suggesting some mutation had happened to aid mammal-to-mammal spread, as reported in a recent science.org article.

Mink are singled out because their upper respiratory system is similar enough to humans’ to facilitate that jump in avian flu from animals to humans.

Virologist Tom Peacock dubbed the mink situation “incredibly concerning,” and, “a clear mechanism for an H5 pandemic to start,” according to the science.org article.

H5N1 was first detected at a goose farm in China in 1996, and a year later, a poultry outbreak in Hong Kong caused human deaths and kickstarted the fear of a new pandemic.

By 2005, migratory birds were affected.

The WHO documented more than 870 human cases in the last 20 years and at least 450 deaths.

The time to move on pandemic prevention is now, and quickly. As the New York Times reports, there are concerns that global influenza surveillance networks are not working well enough or fast enough given the current threat level.

The little bit of good news in all this is that there are antivirals and vaccines available that will work against avian flu, although it would take several months to manufacture a reasonable supply.

Preparedness and production need to ramp up now.
 

spaminator

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Swarm of earthquakes at Alaska volcano could mean eruption coming
Author of the article:Associated Press
Associated Press
Mark Thiessen
Published Mar 08, 2023 • 2 minute read
In this photo provided by the Alaska Volcano Observatory/U.S. Geological Survey the Tanaga Volcano is seen near Adak, Alaska, May 23, 2021.
In this photo provided by the Alaska Volcano Observatory/U.S. Geological Survey the Tanaga Volcano is seen near Adak, Alaska, May 23, 2021. PHOTO BY MATT LOEWEN / ALASKA VOLCANO OBSERVATORY / U.S. GEOLOGICAL SURVEY / FILES /THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
ANCHORAGE, Alaska — A swarm of earthquakes occurring over the past few weeks has intensified at a remote Alaska volcano dormant for over a century, a possible indication of an impending eruption.


The Alaska Volcano Observatory raised the alert level to advisory status for Tanaga Volcano late Tuesday after the quakes became very vigorous.


“We started seeing a whole lot of earthquakes occurring, one after the other, several per minute,” said John Power, a research geophysicist with the U.S. Geological Survey stationed in Anchorage at the Alaska Volcano Observatory.

There have been hundreds of small earthquakes, none larger than magnitude 2.75, but they are concentrated beneath the summit of the volcano, he said.

“That indicates that we’re seeing significant unrest at the volcano,” Power said.

“Whether or not this will lead to an eruption is something we can’t say at this point in time,” he said. “But we are concerned about it enough that we have gone and elevated the warning level.”




While the increase causes concern, he said many times earthquake activity will drop off with no eruption.

“It’s anybody’s guess as to where this particular round of earthquake activity may end up,” he said.

The volcano is on an uninhabited island in the western Aleutians, about 1,250 miles (2,012 kilometres) southwest of Anchorage. There are no communities or structures there, but Adak, a city of about 170 residents on another island, is about 65 miles (105 kilometres) away and could see ashfall.

If the volcano were to erupt, the biggest threat would be to aircraft. The Aleutians are below the routes that jets fly between North America and Asia. Volcanic ash is angular and sharp and can cause an airplane engine to shut down. Previous eruptions had both ash clouds and viscous lava that moves very slowly away from the mountain, much like what happened at Mount St. Helens in Washington state in 1980.


“It’s very different than what you would see, for example, in Hawaii, Kilauea or Mauna Loa, where you see these beautiful red rivers of lava flowing down the side of the volcano,” Power said.

Tanaga is actually part of a three-volcano complex on the island. It’s the tallest of the three at 5,925 feet (1,806 metres). It sits in the middle, with Sajaka, a 4,443-foot volcano to its west. Sajaka had an older cone that collapsed into the North Pacific Ocean with a new cone that has emerged.

To the east of Tanaga is Takawangha, a 4,754-foot (1,449-metre) volcano that is mostly ice-covered except for four craters, the Alaska Volcano Observatory says.

The last known eruption for Tanaga was in 1914. It erupted twice in the late 1700s and again in 1829.

The observatory in a release said there are no known eruptions of Takawangha or Sajaka. However, field work has indicated that eruptions may have occurred from those volcanos and were attributed to Tanaga.
1678498828887.png
 

spaminator

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Indonesia's Merapi volcano spews hot clouds in new eruption
Author of the article:Associated Press
Associated Press
Slamet Riyadi
Published Mar 11, 2023 • 1 minute read

MOUNT MERAPI, Indonesia — Indonesia’s Mount Merapi erupted Saturday with avalanches of searing gas clouds and lava, forcing authorities to halt tourism and mining activities on the slopes of the country’s most active volcano.


Merapi, on the densely populated island of Java, unleashed clouds of hot ash and a mixture of rock, lava and gas that traveled up to 7 kilometres down its slopes. A column of hot clouds rose 100 metres into the air, said the National Disaster Management Agency’s spokesperson Abdul Muhari.


The eruption throughout the day blocked out the sun and blanketed several villages with falling ash. No casualties have been reported.

It was Merapi’s biggest lava flow since authorities raised the alert level to the second-highest in November 2020, said Hanik Humaida, the head of Yogyakarta’s Volcanology and Geological Hazard Mitigation Center.

She said residents living on Merapi’s slopes were advised to stay 7 kilometres away from the crater’s mouth and be aware of the danger posed by lava.


Tourism and mining activities were halted.

The 2,968-metre (9,737-foot) mountain is about 30 kilometres from Yogyakarta, an ancient center of Javanese culture and the seat of royal dynasties going back centuries. About a quarter million people live within 10 kilometres of the volcano.

Merapi is the most active of more than 120 active volcanoes in Indonesia and has repeatedly erupted with lava and gas clouds recently. Its last major eruption in 2010 killed 347 people and displaced 20,000 villagers.

Indonesia, an archipelago of 270 million people, is prone to earthquakes and volcanic activity because it sits along the “Ring of Fire,” a horseshoe-shaped series of seismic fault lines around the Pacific Ocean.

An eruption in December 2021 of Mount Semeru, the highest volcano on Java island, left 48 people dead and 36 missing.
 

spaminator

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Nature group wants reviews of genetically engineered animals strengthened
Author of the article:Canadian Press
Canadian Press
Mia Rabson
Published Mar 12, 2023 • 4 minute read

OTTAWA — A national biodiversity group says Canada needs to keep genetically engineered animals out of the wild, after the federal government recently rejected several attempts to strengthen its existing laws.


Canada hasn’t had any accidents with the technology, but Nature Canada senior adviser Mark Butler said we need to prevent wild animals from being exposed to engineered cousins that could breed with them, prey on them or compete with them for food.


“Now is the time to act,” he said.

The federal government is in the midst of updating the Canadian Environmental Protection Act for the first time in 22 years. The act, usually known as CEPA, governs the management of toxic chemicals and new genetically modified or engineered organisms.

An update that was introduced in legislation last year is almost entirely focused on toxic chemicals. The Senate tried to change the bill to include mandatory public consultations on genetically modified organisms, and ensure the risk to wild animals is considered in all assessments.


The government removed almost all the Senate’s amendments in February.

This week, Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault could decide whether to approve an application for a genetically modified fruit fly. The EntoEngine, a creation of the Edmonton firm Future Fields, is a fruit fly designed to be a natural bioreactor and to grow cell proteins that can be used to make vaccines, medicines or lab-grown meat products.

Nature Canada has asked the government to pause that process – and all similar reviews – until the consultation process is improved.

Future Fields submitted the application in November. The public consultation lasted 30 days, ending Jan. 28, and included 17 submissions. A decision is due March 17, though Guilbeault could delay it up to four months.


Jalene Anderson-Baron, co-founder of Future Fields, said in a written statement in response to questions from The Canadian Press that the process balances the need to identify potential risks against the need to allow new innovations.

“We believe biotechnology has the potential for immense positive benefit on people and the planet, and new innovations in synthetic biology will be a key tool in our fight against climate change,” she said.

“With that being said, we fully support the rigorous assessment of new organisms by Health Canada and Environment Canada to ensure the safety of Canadians and the natural environment.”

Butler, however, said public consultation for the EntoEngine was based on two paragraphs of information that includes a claim the product “poses no known risks to either humans or animals” with no scientific evidence to back that up.


It’s up to the public to produce evidence there is a risk, without any access to the company’s data, within 30 days.

The consultation is also entirely voluntary.

“Imagine if there was a highway or pipeline proposal and there was two paragraphs for an environment assessment, and it’s entirely voluntary, and up to the proponent,” said Butler.

Butler said Brazil has already seen the risks posed by genetic modification. Last year, it became the first country to discover genetically modified fish breeding in the wild.

Trademarked GloFish, the creatures are zebrafish endowed with genes from fluorescent jellyfish to make them glow in the dark. They were initially thought to be infertile, until GloFish were found multiplying rapidly in Brazil’s Atlantic Forest creeks, where they have no natural predators.


Canada has authorized 17 versions of GloFish using a relatively new, voluntary public consultation process.

The risk to wild species here is low, because the fish’s tropical nature isn’t a good fit with Canadian winters, but Butler said Brazil’s issue should be a wake-up call.

“Genetic engineering is a big, complicated topic,” he said. “We’re not trying to shut it down. We’re trying to get ahead of this technology and put some regulations and safeguards in place to protect nature, because nature is on the ropes and doesn’t need a new a new risk or threat.”

The voluntary review process used for the EntoEngine and GloFish began in 2018, a year after the House environment committee made 87 recommendations to update CEPA.


None of the recommendations dealing with genetic engineering were included in the government’s update legislation.

In a written statement, Guilbeault’s office said it plans to address the concerns at a later date. It launched a new round of consultations on the issue in the fall, which will inform any future amendments to the act.

NDP environment critic Laurel Collins said that is “really disappointing.”

“We have very little faith in the government’s comments that we’ll be able to do a second round of CEPA amendments, given that it’s been 22 years since the last one,” she said.

In its submission to the Senate in June, the Assembly of First Nations said the assessment process for genetically modified animals is “deeply flawed.”


It said there is no requirement for First Nations to be notified about a potential new organism, or to be involved in the assessment. The AFN said when Canada approved the genetically modified AquaAdvantage salmon in 2018, “the decision was made based on narrow considerations without consultation with First Nations.”

In December, the Atlantic Salmon Federation told the environment committee the review process was “neither accessible nor transparent.”

The consultation lasted 29 days and was launched with little notice. The federation said the decision ignored any risks posed to wild salmon if the modified salmon escaped or were accidentally released.

So far the company has been diligent to contain the fish, but the federation warned, “we are only a small error away from potentially dire situation for wild Atlantic Salmon.”

That particular salmon will not be bred in Canada any longer. The company behind it said last month it was switching its production facility in Prince Edward Island over to make non-GMO salmon eggs, which are in higher demand.
 

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Scientists discover how see-through ghost catfish gets its rainbow shimmer
Author of the article:Associated Press
Associated Press
Maddie Burakoff
Published Mar 13, 2023 • 2 minute read
A transparent fish glass catfish is pictured in blue water in this file photo.
A transparent fish glass catfish is pictured in blue water in this file photo. PHOTO BY GETTY IMAGES /file photo
NEW YORK — You can see right through this little aquarium fish from Thailand: Its skin is almost completely transparent. But when the light hits it just right, its body flickers with shimmering rainbow colours.


Now, scientists have figured out how this fish — called the ghost catfish — creates its iridescent glow.


That glow comes from within, according to a study published Monday in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. As light passes through the fish’s skin, it hits tiny structures in the muscle that turn the light into a colourful spectrum.

The ghost catfish — sometimes known as the glass catfish — is a small species native to rivers in Thailand, averaging just a few inches (centimetres) long. It’s sold around the world as an aquarium fish.

Other creatures are also iridescent, creating the shimmering rainbow effect where colours shift as you move. Usually, they have shiny outer surfaces that reflect the light — like a hummingbird’s feathers or a butterfly’s wings, explained Arizona State University biologist Ron Rutowski, who was not involved with the research.


But the ghost catfish has no scales, said senior author Qibin Zhao, a physicist at China’s Shanghai Jiao Tong University, who became fascinated by the fish after seeing it in an aquarium store.

Instead, it has tightly packed structures in the muscles that can bend light into rainbow hues, which researchers found after shining different lights and lasers onto its body in the lab. As the ghost catfish swims, those muscles relax and tighten, sending off a glinting range of colours.

And the very see-through skin, which lets in around 90% of outside light, is essential: “We wouldn’t be able to see the colours if the skin of the fish is not so transparent,” Zhao said in an email.

Some species use their iridescence to attract mates or give off warning signals, but it’s not clear whether the ghost catfish’s colours serve a purpose, Rutowski said.

— The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Science and Educational Media Group. The AP is solely responsible for all content.
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spaminator

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Oldest fossils of remarkable marine reptiles found in Arctic
Author of the article:Reuters
Reuters
Will Dunham
Published Mar 14, 2023 • 3 minute read
A computed tomography image and cross-section shows the internal bone structure of vertebrae from the earliest-known Ichthyosaur in this undated handout image obtained by Reuters on March 14, 2023.
A computed tomography image and cross-section shows the internal bone structure of vertebrae from the earliest-known Ichthyosaur in this undated handout image obtained by Reuters on March 14, 2023. PHOTO BY OYVIND HAMMER AND JORN HURUM /Handout via REUTERS
WASHINGTON — Ichthyosaurs were a successful group of marine reptiles that prospered during the age of dinosaurs, some reaching up to around 70 feet (21 metres) long – exceeded in size in the history of Earth’s oceans only by the largest of the whales.


But their origins have been a bit mysterious. Fossils dating to about 250 million years ago unearthed in a harsh and remote locale – Norway’s Arctic island of Spitsbergen – are now providing surprising insight into the rise of ichthyosaurs.


Researchers said they found remains of the earliest-known ichthyosaur, which lived approximately 2 million years after Earth’s worst mass extinction that ended the Permian Period, wiping out roughly 90% of the planet’s species amid massive Siberian volcanism. The 11 tail vertebrae discovered indicate that the animal was about 10 feet (3 metres) long, making it a top predator.

An artist’s reconstruction shows the earliest-known Ichthyosaur, along with other marine creatures in the 250-million-year-old ecosystem found on the remote Arctic island of Spitsbergen, Norway, in this undated handout image obtained by Reuters on March 14, 2023.
An artist’s reconstruction shows the earliest-known Ichthyosaur, along with other marine creatures in the 250-million-year-old ecosystem found on the remote Arctic island of Spitsbergen, Norway, in this undated handout image obtained by Reuters on March 14, 2023. PHOTO BY ESTHER VAN HULSEN /Handout via REUTERS
Like whales, which are mammals, and the various other reptile lineages that have inhabited Earth’s oceans, ichthyosaurs evolved from ancestors that walked on land and underwent a land-to-sea transition.


The researchers had thought any ichthyosaur living 250 million years ago would have been a primitive form, not far removed from its land-living forerunners. The fossils showed this one, which has not yet been given a scientific name, was quite advanced anatomically.

“The real surprise was that after a suite of geochemical, computerized micro-tomographic and bone microstructural analyzes, the vertebrae turned out to be from a highly advanced, fast-growing, probably warm-blooded, large-bodied at around 3 metres long, and fully oceanic ichthyosaur,” said Benjamin Kear, curator of vertebrate paleontology at Uppsala University’s Museum of Evolution in Sweden and lead author of the research published in the journal Current Biology.


“The implications of this discovery are manifold, but most importantly indicate that the long-anticipated transitional ichthyosaur ancestor must have appeared much earlier than previously suspected,” Kear added.

In light of this discovery, it may be that ichthyosaur origins predated the mass extinction event by up to perhaps 20 million years, Kear said. The Triassic Period that followed the mass extinction was the opening act of the age of dinosaurs, though the oldest-known dinosaurs did not appear until about 230 million years ago.

The site where the fossils were found is a classic Arctic landscape with high snow-capped mountains along the coast of a deep fjord. The fossils were exposed along a river channel fed by snow melt that cuts through rock layers that were once mud at the bottom of the sea. While today there are polar bears and beluga whales at Spitsbergen, 250 million years ago the sea there would have been teeming with fish, sharks, shelled squid-like ammonoids and crocodile-like marine amphibians called temnospondyls.


The mass extinction shook up land and marine ecosystems and opened opportunities for new species to fill ecological roles vacated by extinct creatures. Ichthyosaurs quickly became dominant and endured until about 90 million years ago.

Many ichthyosaurs looked like dolphins, except with vertical rather than horizontal tail flukes. Others resembled large whales. The biggest included Shastasaurus, at about 70 feet (21 metres). They ate fish and squid. Fossils show ichthyosaurs giving live birth to their young.

Until now, the oldest-known member of the ichthyosaur lineage was a 16-inch-long (40-cm-long) creature called Cartorhynchus that lived 248 million years ago in China.

Researchers in recent decades have identified the earliest forms of whales, including one called Ambulocetus, dubbed the “walking whale” because it retained limbs that enabled it to still move around on land.

“Most excitingly, the mysterious ‘walking’ ichthyosaur ancestor is undoubtedly still out there waiting to be uncovered,” Kear said. “Only now we will have to start looking in even older rocks, which is exactly what we will be doing on our next fossil-hunting trip to Spitsbergen this summer.”
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spaminator

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Ottawa woman contracted rare but increasingly common Powassan virus
More than a year and a half after a tick bite, MaryAnn Harris still breathes with a ventilator and remains nearly paralyzed.

Author of the article:Blair Crawford
Published Mar 17, 2023 • Last updated 1 day ago • 6 minute read

It was Labour Day 2021 when MaryAnn Harris told her husband she was feeling tired and needed to go upstairs to lie down.


A few hours later she was feeling nauseous. She complained of double vision. Her husband, Charles de Lint, immediately called Telehealth Ontario, when the nurse told them to go straight to the emergency department.


Overnight she got encephalitis, a swelling of her brain. By the next morning, MarryAnn was in the ICU on life support, breathing with a ventilator.

“They didn’t know what was wrong,” said Charles, a popular author of fantasy novels, a three-time Aurora Award winner, and a member of Canada’s Science Fiction Writers Hall of Fame. “They assumed it was a virus of some sort. It looked like they had 70 little machines feeding her different kinds of antibiotics.”

Today, more than a year and a half after falling ill, MaryAnn hasn’t been back home. She still breathes with a ventilator and remains nearly paralyzed.


The culprit? A tick bite that transmitted the rare but increasingly common Powassan virus, a potentially deadly pathogen that caused encephalitis.

“We were never aware of the bite. We never even saw the tick,” Charles said. MaryAnn fell ill during the lockdown and the couple hadn’t travelled anywhere.

They figure she picked up the tick bite either in the yard of their Alta Vista area home or during one of their frequent walks around the community gardens in Pleasant Park. And it’s hardly the only question that can never be answered.

“If she was going to get sick,” Charles asks, “why did it have to be something so rare?”

Powassan virus was first identified in 1958 when it infected and killed a young boy in Powassan, Ont., on the outskirts of North Bay, 200 km northwest of Ottawa. Until 1998, there had been only 27 cases in all of North America. Since then, the numbers have been rising: 5-10 cases a year in the U.S. from 2010 to 2015; and 25-30 a year since. Since 2017, there have been 21 cases in Canada. Most infections occur in the northeastern U.S., Eastern Canada and the Great Lakes region.


In 2019, North Carolina Senator Kay Hagan died of Powassan virus several years after being bitten by a tick.

The virus is usually transmitted by Ixodes scapularis, commonly known as the deer or black-legged tick, the same vector for Lyme disease. While it takes 24 to 48 hours for a tick to transfer the bacteria that causes Lyme disease to its human host, a person can be infected with Powassan virus in as little as 15 minutes after the tick attaches.

Powassan symptoms appear between one and five weeks later. In most cases, the person doesn’t even know they’re infected, passing it off as a mild flu. But for an unfortunate few, the sickness can be severe. About half develop encephalitis or meningitis, leading to lifelong neurological disorders.


“There’s been a slow and steady increase in the number of cases reported,” said Saravanan Thangamani, director of the Center for Vector-Born Diseases at the State University of New York in Syracuse. “This is a rare virus. However, it is a dangerous virus. It can be fatal and those that survive can have long-term neurological consequences for the rest of their lives.”


MaryAnn’s symptoms were classic Powassan: fever, headaches, vomiting, weakness, tremors, seizures and paralysis.

The disease is fatal in 10-15 per cent of cases. There is no cure, nor is there an established treatment beyond normal recuperative therapy.

Still, Charles doesn’t dwell on the disease or how MaryAnn caught it. He’s focused on the road ahead.


“Ok. She got bit by a tick. She has Powassan. She got encephalitis,” he said. “For me, I’m more interested in what’s happening now, not what happened before.”

MaryAnn’s recovery now depends on physiotherapy, but that’s been hampered by fluids that build up and constantly have to be suctioned out of her throat. Even before she got Powassan virus, she had immune problems and suffered from a build-up of fluids.

“It’s constantly in her throat and esophagus. She’s stuck on a ventilator and she’s constantly in need of being suctioned,” Charles said. “It’s an exhausting process so we’re not making a whole lot of headway with other stuff. We do exercises every day and she’s really good about it. Even when she’s exhausted she’ll still do it. But it’s just not going very fast because of these secretions.”


The couple — Charles is 71 and MaryAnn is 70 — have been together for 47 years and married for 42. With their guitar and banjo, they are well-known in Ottawa’s folk and bluegrass music scene.


Charles’s novels, many of them set in the fantasy city of Newford, have a worldwide following. MaryAnn is his business manager, editor and illustrator. Her illness has left Charles with little time to write since he now spends five hours a day at Saint-Vincent Hospital, six days a week. He pays for a caregiver on the seventh.

Friends, family and fans have rallied around the couple. Musicians have visited the hospital to play for MaryAnn. A GoFundMe started to help pay for the many expenses they now face has topped $90,000. Fans have also subscribed to Charles’s Patreon account to help support his writing.


One fan, Julie Bartel, manages the GoFundMe and posts regular updates on MaryAnn’s progress on social media. Bartel, 52, grew up in tiny Orem, Utah, and as a teenager immersed herself in Charles’s fantasy novels.

“There was nothing in Orem but apple orchards and Mormons. You couldn’t even buy a coffee,” she said.

“I read Charles’s books all the way through high school. It’s not an exaggeration to say that they were a lifeline for me. That theme of estrangement — of being an outsider.”

Bartel met Charles and MaryAnn at a literary conference in Salt Lake City two decades ago and the fan turned into a friend. She’s visited them in Ottawa and together they’ve taken road trips across the U.S., guitars and banjos strapped to the roof, Charles dutifully writing on desert mornings.


“We immediately bonded over our mutual love of Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” Bartel jokes.

With MaryAnn in hospital, Bartel has pitched in to help proofread some of Charles’s writing. She’s collecting “sweet thoughts” that fans email for Charles to share with MaryAnn.

“It’s hard being friends and being so far away. I’m so grateful that I can give back in some way,” said Bartel. “At least she’s able to talk now.”

She describes MaryAnn as “a rock star” who faithfully does her exercises every day, determined to get better even if her progress has been glacially slow. She marvels at Charles’s dedication and devotion to MaryAnn’s care.

“They really are the most wonderful people. It’s an amazing love story.”

Meanwhile, MaryAnn bides her time in hospital. Charles manages her care, carefully protecting her from stresses that might trigger anxiety. Unable to move herself, she uses Siri to do what she can on her iPhone.


“She’s very stoic about it, but it’s really hard,” Charles said. “There’s just not a whole lot she can do. She can listen to audiobooks and podcasts, but that’s about all. Her vision is not doubled anymore, but it’s still not great so she can’t read. She has no real movement in her limbs, so she can’t operate her phone or her iPad.

“As helpful as those items are, they aren’t as handy as one might think. MaryAnn can use Siri on her phone to listen to music or start an audiobook, for example, but she can’t necessarily make it stop: Siri can’t hear her when the music is playing.”

Through a friend, the couple was put in touch with another woman who contracted Powassan virus four years before MaryAnn and has mostly recovered. It’s a glimmer of hope.

“She’s not fully recovered, but she walks around and she’s able to garden. She’s an artist — like MaryAnn — so she can paint again. She can play her piano again, at least to some degree,” Charles said.

“Ultimately, our hopes are for a full recovery — to get her moving and get her back home. With Powassan, there’s so little known about it, it’s hard to know what’s going to happen.”
 

Tecumsehsbones

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Washington DC
A tick bite? Clearly a Chinese bio-weapon. You can tell by the delivery system. "Tick," as in "tick tock," as in Tik Tok.

Thus do I demonstrate, by pure conservative logic, that it's Hunter Biden's fault.
 
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spaminator

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Dead Brampton waterfowl test positive for bird flu
The city said the likelihood of avian flu spreading to humans is rare

Author of the article:Kevin Connor
Published Mar 21, 2023 • Last updated 1 day ago • 1 minute read

Birds found dead in Brampton have tested positive for avian influenza.


On Tuesday, city officials said the waterfowl were found in the areas of Professor’s Lake and Duncan Valley Foster South.


The Canadian Wildlife Health Cooperative tested the birds and conformed they died of bird flu.

The city said it is monitoring the situation and “working with all government partners.”

The likelihood of avian flu spreading to humans is rare, officials noted.

The locations where the dead waterfowl were discovered remain open and the city is adding signage to caution the public that waterfowl could have avian flu.

Anyone who finds dead waterfowl is asked to report it to 311.

Avian influenza has been found in Ontario since March 2022.

kconnor@postmedia.com
 

spaminator

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Toronto is bed-bug capital of Canada
Author of the article:Kevin Connor
Published Mar 21, 2023 • 1 minute read

Toronto is the worst place in Canada for bed bug infestations, according to Orkin Canada.


Toronto took the title for being the country’s bed-buggiest city in 2022 — topping the list for the fourth year in a row.


Next city on the list was Vancouver, followed by Sudbury, Oshawa, Ottawa, Scarborough, Sault Ste. Marie, London, St. John’s, and Hamilton.

“Bed bugs are known to live where there is a steady supply of food, and move from room to room through clothing, personal belongings, vacuum cleaners and infested furniture, making homes, hotels and businesses ideal spots,” Orkin said in a release.

“As Canadians begin to plan their 2023 adventures, Orkin Canada wants to remind travellers how to recognize signs and traces of bed bugs, so that you can avoid bringing any unwanted hitchhikers back home.”

The Orkin findings of the buggiest cities are based on the number of commercial and residential bed bug treatments done by the company in 2022.