U.S Spends Ten Times More On Fossil Fuel Subsidies Than Education.

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U.S Spends Ten Times More On Fossil Fuel Subsidies Than Education.

A new International Monetary Fund (IMF) study shows that USD$5.2 trillion was spent globally on fossil fuel subsidies in 2017. The equivalent of over 6.5% of global GDP of that year, it also represented a half-trillion dollar increase since 2015 when China ($1.4 trillion), the United States ($649 billion) and Russia ($551 billion) were the largest subsidizers.

Despite nations worldwide committing to a reduction in carbon emissions and implementing renewable energy through the Paris Agreement, the IMF’s findings expose how fossil fuels continue to receive huge amounts of taxpayer funding. The report explains that fossil fuels account for 85% of all global subsidies and that they remain largely attached to domestic policy. Had nations reduced subsidies in a way to create efficient fossil fuel pricing in 2015, the International Monetary Fund believes that it “would have lowered global carbon emissions by 28 percent and fossil fuel air pollution deaths by 46 percent, and increased government revenue by 3.8 percent of GDP.”

The study includes the negative externalities caused by fossil fuels that society has to pay for, not reflected in their actual costs. In addition to direct transfers of government money to fossil fuel companies, this includes the indirect costs of pollution, such as healthcare costs and climate change adaptation. By including these numbers, the true cost of fossil fuel use to society is reflected.

The United States is the world's second largest subsidizer of fossil fuels, after China.

Nations worldwide have continued to support the natural gas and petroleum industries. This is evident by the energy policies of the United States and Australia, who have continued to rely heavily on fossil fuels. Meanwhile the world’s largest subsidizer of fossil fuels, China has actively looked to follow efficient fossil fuel guidelines and continues to spend record-amounts on fossil fuels.

As the prices associated with fossil-fuel power generation continue to increase and become harder for utility companies to justify, the price of renewable energy has also plummeted. Along with the IMF report, the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) released its own study looking into how the renewable energy industry has grown over a similar time period. The cost of onshore wind power generation has dropped 23% since 2010, while solar electricity saw a decrease of 73%.

With renewable energy production becoming cheaper and fossil fuels following the opposite trend, it has left many industry experts asking why subsidies for the latter have increased. The IMF’s study identifies more than just direct subsidies to the fossil fuel industries but also the costs on society, public health and climate change that are caused by the coal, petroleum and natural gas sectors.

A coal barge is positioned as a backdrop behind President Donald Trump as he speaks during a rally... [+] at the Rivertowne Marina in Cincinnati. President Donald Trump personally promised to activate emergency legal authorities to keep dirty or economically uncompetitive coal plants from shutting down.

The combination of the fossil fuel industry’s investment within its sector and the high profit margins have led many companies to protect their subsidies. The fossil fuel lobby has actively worked in many countries to protect their subsidies and avoid the imposition of carbon taxes. Doing so protects their profits.

Fossil Fuel Inefficiency

Whilst cheaper renewable energy creates more competition in the energy markets, it also decreases the cost-effectiveness of fossil fuel subsidies. Simon Buckle, the head of climate change, biodiversity and water division at the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development explains: “Subsidies tend to stay in the system and they can become very costly as the cost of new technologies falls. Cost reductions like this were not envisageable even 10 years ago. They have transformed the situation and many renewables are now cost competitive in different locations with coal.”

Buckle’s analysis of the inefficiency of fossil fuel subsidies is illustrated best by the United States’ own expenditure: the $649 billion the US spent on these subsidies in 2015 is more than the country’s defense budget and 10 times the federal spending for education . When read in conjunction with a recent study showing that up to 80% of the United States could in principle be powered by renewables, the amount spent on fossil fuel subsidies seems even more indefensible.

IMF leader Christine Lagarde has noted that the investments made into fossil fuels could be better spent elsewhere, and could have far reaching positive impacts: “There would be more public spending available to build hospitals, to build roads, to build schools and to support education and health for the people. We believe that removing fossil fuel subsidies is the right way to go.”

The Nabors Alaska Drilling Inc. CDR2 AC oil drill rig is moved along a road in the North Slope in... [+] Prudhoe Bay, Alaska. Four decades after the Trans Alaska Pipeline System went live, transforming the North Slope into a modern-day Klondike, many Alaskans fear the best days have passed.

Although some nations are taking steps to reduce their reliance on fossil fuels and cutting back on investment within those industries, others are not. Domestic policies are largely responsible for the continued support for the fossil fuel industries. Yet, with the continued drop in the costs of renewable energy, private entities are taking over and ensuring that the clean energy transition continues despite the unwavering support the fossil fuel industry receives from both governments and businesses.

Renewable energy is set to overtake fossil fuels as the energy source of the future, with or without the subsidies paid out for coal, petroleum and natural gas. Fossil fuel advocates have long made the case that removing direct and indirect subsidies would be damaging to the global economy – but the IMF clearly disagrees.

Source: http://bit.ly/36xTgzY

Nine Species of Human Once Walked Earth. Now There’s Just One.

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Nine Species of Human Once Walked Earth. Now There’s Just One.

Nine human species walked the Earth 300,000 years ago. Now there is just one. The Neanderthals, Homo neanderthalensis, were stocky hunters adapted to Europe’s cold steppes.

The related Denisovans inhabited Asia, while the more primitive Homo erectus lived in Indonesia, and Homo rhodesiensis in central Africa.

Several short, small-brained species survived alongside them: Homo naledi in South Africa, Homo luzonensis in the Philippines, Homo floresiensis (“hobbits”) in Indonesia, and the mysterious Red Deer Cave People in China.

Given how quickly we’re discovering new species, more are likely waiting to be found.

By 10,000 years ago, they were all gone. The disappearance of these other species resembles a mass extinction. But there’s no obvious environmental catastrophe – volcanic eruptions, climate change, asteroid impact – driving it.

Instead, the extinctions’ timing suggests they were caused by the spread of a new species, evolving 260,000-350,000 years ago in Southern Africa: Homo sapiens.

The spread of modern humans out of Africa has caused a sixth mass extinction, a greater than 40,000-year event extending from the disappearance of Ice Age mammals to the destruction of rainforests by civilisation today. But were other humans the first casualties?

Human evolution. (Nick Longrich)Human evolution. (Nick Longrich)

We are a uniquely dangerous species. We hunted wooly mammoths, ground sloths and moas to extinction. We destroyed plains and forests for farming, modifying over half the planet’s land area. We altered the planet’s climate.

But we are most dangerous to other human populations, because we compete for resources and land.

History is full of examples of people warring, displacing and wiping out other groups over territory, from Rome’s destruction of Carthage, to the American conquest of the West and the British colonisation of Australia. There have also been recent genocides and ethnic cleansing in Bosnia, Rwanda, Iraq, Darfur and Myanmar.

Like language or tool use, a capacity for and tendency to engage in genocide is arguably an intrinsic, instinctive part of human nature. There’s little reason to think that early Homo sapiens were less territorial, less violent, less intolerant – less human.

Optimists have painted early hunter-gatherers as peaceful, noble savages, and have argued that our culture, not our nature, creates violence. But field studies, historical accounts, and archaeology all show that war in primitive cultures was intense, pervasive and lethal.

Neolithic weapons such as clubs, spears, axes and bows, combined with guerrilla tactics like raids and ambushes, were devastatingly effective. Violence was the leading cause of death among men in these societies, and wars saw higher casualty levels per person than World Wars I and II.

Old bones and artefacts show this violence is ancient. The 9,000-year-old Kennewick Man, from North America, has a spear point embedded in his pelvis. The 10,000-year-old Nataruk site in Kenya documents the brutal massacre of at least 27 men, women, and children.

It’s unlikely that the other human species were much more peaceful. The existence of cooperative violence in male chimps suggests that war predates the evolution of humans.

Neanderthal skeletons show patterns of trauma consistent with warfare. But sophisticated weapons likely gave Homo sapiens a military advantage. The arsenal of early Homo sapiens probably included projectile weapons like javelins and spear-throwers, throwing sticks and clubs.

Complex tools and culture would also have helped us efficiently harvest a wider range of animals and plants, feeding larger tribes, and giving our species a strategic advantage in numbers.

The ultimate weapon

But cave paintings, carvings, and musical instruments hint at something far more dangerous: a sophisticated capacity for abstract thought and communication. The ability to cooperate, plan, strategise, manipulate and deceive may have been our ultimate weapon.

The incompleteness of the fossil record makes it hard to test these ideas. But in Europe, the only place with a relatively complete archaeological record, fossils show that within a few thousand years of our arrival, Neanderthals vanished.

Traces of Neanderthal DNA in some Eurasian people prove we didn’t just replace them after they went extinct. We met, and we mated.

Elsewhere, DNA tells of other encounters with archaic humans. East Asian, Polynesian and Australian groups have DNA from Denisovans. DNA from another species, possibly Homo erectus, occurs in many Asian people. African genomes show traces of DNA from yet another archaic species. The fact that we interbred with these other species proves that they disappeared only after encountering us.

But why would our ancestors wipe out their relatives, causing a mass extinction – or, perhaps more accurately, a mass genocide?

The answer lies in population growth. Humans reproduce exponentially, like all species. Unchecked, we historically doubled our numbers every 25 years. And once humans became cooperative hunters, we had no predators.

Without predation controlling our numbers, and little family planning beyond delayed marriage and infanticide, populations grew to exploit the available resources.

Further growth, or food shortages caused by drought, harsh winters or overharvesting resources would inevitably lead tribes into conflict over food and foraging territory. Warfare became a check on population growth, perhaps the most important one.

Our elimination of other species probably wasn’t a planned, coordinated effort of the sort practised by civilisations, but a war of attrition. The end result, however, was just as final. Raid by raid, ambush by ambush, valley by valley, modern humans would have worn down their enemies and taken their land.

Yet the extinction of Neanderthals, at least, took a long time – thousands of years. This was partly because early Homo sapiens lacked the advantages of later conquering civilisations: large numbers, supported by farming, and epidemic diseases like smallpox, flu, and measles that devastated their opponents.

But while Neanderthals lost the war, to hold on so long they must have fought and won many battles against us, suggesting a level of intelligence close to our own.

Today we look up at the stars and wonder if we’re alone in the universe. In fantasy and science fiction, we wonder what it might be like to meet other intelligent species, like us, but not us. It’s profoundly sad to think that we once did, and now, because of it, they’re gone.

Source: http://bit.ly/2PfHxQN

Scientist who helped develop new drug for ovarian cancer donates all profits to charity.

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Scientist who helped develop new drug for ovarian cancer donates all profits to charity.

A scientist who helped to develop a new drug for ovarian cancer has donated her share of the profits to a charity.

Professor Nicola Curtin, 65, was part of a team at Newcastle University who worked for 30 years to produce Rubraca, a cancer drug that has been approved for use on the NHS.

The drug is used to treat those with the specific BRCA gene.cAlso known as the “Angelina Jolie” gene, after the actor who possesses it, the gene significantly increases the risk of ovarian and breast cancer.

The new drug works by enabling cancerous cells to repair their own DNA by killing tumour cells while leaving the healthy tissue relatively unaffected.

Professor Curtin used her £865,000 share of the funds to establish the Curtin PARP (Passionate About Realising your Potential) Fund at the Community Foundation, which will work with people to help overcome barriers in education and employment.

“It’s to help people who are at a disadvantage through no fault of their own,” she said.

“Young carers have quite a rough time, they miss out on opportunities at school because they’re busy looking after a sibling or a parent. They need a help up — so do refugees, so do all sorts of people.

“I just don’t believe that talent is restricted to white middle class people,” she said.

She added: “I’m a professor, I’m married to an engineer. We both struggle to spend what we earn, to be honest. We’ve got pretty modest lifestyles. I’m not a great one for gadgets because I don’t understand how to work them.”

Professor Curtin compared her payment to a lottery win.

She said: “I don’t think any scientist is driven by monetary considerations. What we’re driven by, largely, is finding things out. And the fact that we’ve hit gold with this drug is largely down to luck. There’s been a lot of hard work by a lot of people, but that’s true of many projects that don’t reach fruition in the same way. I could easily have been one of these people.”

Source: http://bit.ly/2PoeiKy

There are more food banks than McDonald’s in the UK.

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There are now more food banks in the UK than there are branches of fast food chains like McDonald’s, according to figures that first emerged on Twitter with six days to go before the election.

Official figures suggest there are now more than 2,000 food banks across the UK, the majority of which are run by the charity The Trussell Trust.

In the UK, there are 1,249 McDonald’s branches, with reportedly 500 Burger King branches and 2,000 branches of both Subway and Costa.

Collection points for a food bank (Image: PA)

A third Twitter user said: “The poorest and most distressed amongst us can’t even afford junk food and have to rely on food banks as the norm. Food banks are not normal !!”

The Trussell Trust, the charity which runs the majority of the UK’s food banks, said it now has a network of 1,200 food banks across the UK.

Research from the Independent Food Aid Network suggested the Trussell Trust’s centres account for roughly two-thirds of all emergency food banks, so they estimate there are “around 2,000 food banks in the UK.”

Emma Revie, chief executive of the Trussell Trust, said: “We’re seeing more and more people being pushed to food banks than ever before. People across the country, driven by compassion and a strong sense of justice, have been doing what they can to help, but we all want to see things change.

“It’s time for candidates on all sides to ensure these values are lived out in policies that anchor people from poverty.

“This General Election, all political parties must pledge to protect people from hunger by ensuring everyone has enough money for the basics.

“We want our next government to start working towards a future where no one needs a food bank by ending the five-week wait for Universal Credit; ensuring benefit payments cover the cost of living; and investing in local emergency support for people in crisis.

“Together, these three changes will put money back into the pockets of people who most need our support.

“It’s not right that anyone has to walk through the doors of a food bank in the UK. But it’s in our power as a country to end the need for food banks – this can change.”

Source: http://bit.ly/2LzYlQq

First detection of sugars in meteorites gives clues to origin of life on earth.

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An international team has found sugars essential to life in meteorites. The new discovery adds to the growing list of biologically important compounds that have been found in meteorites, supporting the hypothesis that chemical reactions in asteroids—the parent bodies of many meteorites—can make some of life’s ingredients. If correct, meteorite bombardment on ancient Earth may have assisted the origin of life with a supply of life’s .

The team discovered ribose and other bio-essential sugars including arabinose and xylose in two different meteorites that are rich in carbon, NWA 801 (type CR2) and Murchison (type CM2). Ribose is a crucial component of RNA (). In much of modern life, RNA serves as a messenger molecule, copying genetic instructions from the DNA molecule (deoxyribonucleic acid) and delivering them to molecular factories within the cell called ribosomes that read the RNA to build specific proteins needed to carry out life processes.

“Other important building blocks of life have been found in meteorites previously, including amino acids (components of proteins) and nucleobases (components of DNA and RNA), but sugars have been a missing piece among the major building blocks of life,” said Yoshihiro Furukawa of Tohoku University, Japan, lead author of the study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences November 18. “The research provides the first direct evidence of ribose in space and the delivery of the to Earth. The extraterrestrial sugar might have contributed to the formation of RNA on the prebiotic Earth which possibly led to the origin of life.”

“It is remarkable that a molecule as fragile as ribose could be detected in such ancient material,” said Jason Dworkin, a co-author of the study at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. “These results will help guide our analyses of pristine samples from primitive asteroids Ryugu and Bennu, to be returned by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s Hayabusa2 and NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft.”

An enduring mystery regarding the origin of life is how biology could have arisen from non-biological chemical processes. DNA is the template for life, carrying the instructions for how to build and operate a living organism. However, RNA also carries information, and many researchers think it evolved first and was later replaced by DNA. This is because RNA molecules have capabilities that DNA lacks. RNA can make copies of itself without “help” from other molecules, and it can also initiate or speed up chemical reactions as a catalyst. The new work gives some evidence to support the possibility that RNA coordinated the machinery of life before DNA.

“The sugar in DNA (2-deoxyribose) was not detected in any of the meteorites analyzed in this study,” said Danny Glavin, a co-author of the study at NASA Goddard. “This is important since there could have been a delivery bias of extraterrestrial ribose to the early Earth which is consistent with the hypothesis that RNA evolved first.”

The team discovered the sugars by analyzing powdered samples of the meteorites using gas chromatography mass spectrometry, which sorts and identifies molecules by their mass and electric charge. They found that the abundances of ribose and the other sugars ranged from 2.3 to 11 parts per billion in NWA 801 and from 6.7 to 180 parts per billion in Murchison.

Since Earth is awash with life, the team had to consider the possibility that the sugars in the meteorites simply came from contamination by terrestrial life. Multiple lines of evidence indicate contamination is unlikely, including isotope analysis. Isotopes are versions of an element with different mass due to the number of neutrons in the atomic nucleus. For example, life on Earth prefers to use the lighter variety of carbon (12C) over the heavier version (13C). However, the carbon in the meteorite sugars was significantly enriched in the heavy 13C, beyond the amount seen in terrestrial biology, supporting the conclusion that it came from space.

The team plans to analyze more meteorites to get a better idea of the abundance of the extraterrestrial sugars. They also plan to see if the extraterrestrial sugar molecules have a left-handed or right-handed bias. Some molecules come in two varieties that are mirror images of each other, like your hands. On Earth, life uses left-handed amino acids and right-handed sugars. Since it’s possible that the opposite would work fine—right-handed and left-handed sugars—scientists want to know where this preference came from. If some process in asteroids favors the production of one variety over the other, then maybe the supply from space via impacts made that variety more abundant on ancient Earth, which made it more likely that life would end up using it.

Source: http://bit.ly/2OTmvr0

Ethiopia elects its first woman president.

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Ethiopian members of parliament have elected Sahle-Work Zewde as the country’s first female president.

Ms Sahle-Work is an experienced diplomat who has now become Africa’s only female head of state.

Her election to the ceremonial position comes a week after Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed appointed a cabinet with half the posts taken up by women.

After being sworn in, President Sahle-Work promised to work hard to make gender equality a reality in Ethiopia.

The new president was keen to make a point about gender equality right from the start, telling MPs that if they thought she was talking too much about women, she had only just begun.

There may now be male-female parity in the new cabinet but elsewhere there is still a long way to go.

Ms Sahle-Work’s appointment has been welcomed by Ethiopians on social media with many calling it “historic”.

She has been described as Ethiopia’s first female head of state of the modern era, with some remembering Empress Zewditu who governed the country in the early part of the 20th Century.

Ms Sahle-Work was voted in after the unexpected resignation of her predecessor, Mulatu Teshome.

The prime minister’s chief of staff, Fitsum Arega, tweeted that “in a patriarchal society such as ours, the appointment of a female head of state not only sets the standard for the future but also normalises women as decision-makers in public life”.

President Sahle-Work has served as an ambassador for Ethiopia in Senegal and Djibouti. She has also held a number of UN positions, including head of peace-building in the Central African Republic (CAR).

Immediately before becoming president, Ms Sahle-Work was the UN representative at the African Union.

In the Ethiopian constitution, the post of president is ceremonial with the prime minister holding the political power.

The last African female head of state was Mauritian President Ameenah Gurib-Fakim, who resigned in March over an expenses scandal. She denied any wrong doing.

Source: https://bbc.in/354PLk8

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