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Facebook is drawing back the veil to show what data it collects on users. Many may not like what they see. A feature in settings called Off-Facebook Activity will show all the apps and websites that send information about you to Facebook, which is then used to target ads more effectively. You will also be able to clear your history and prevent your future off-app behaviour being tapped. But one expert said the move was unlikely to have a big impact on the firm s profits. For now, it is rolling out very slowly, with only Ireland, South Korea and Spain getting access. But the goal is to eventually offer it globally. The initiative comes at a time when Apple and Mozilla have already taken steps to prevent Facebook and other services from tracking users from one online platform to another via their browsers. In addition, Germany s competition regulator had told the firm it needed to substantially restrict the way it collected and combined data about its members unless it sought more explicit consent than it had done. Shared interests Facebook collects data from beyond its platform either because you have opted to use the social media site to log in to an app or, more likely, because a website uses something called Facebook Pixel to track your activities. This is why when you browse a website for new shoes, you find an ad popping up in your Facebook Newsfeed half-an-hour later telling you about that nifty pair of boots you ve just been looking at. The Off-Facebook Activity setting will let you drill down into exactly what data various apps or sites are sharing about you - Facebook says the average smartphone user has 80 apps and uses 40 of them every month, so the list could be long. You will then be able to disconnect the data from your Facebook profile - either the whole lot or singling out individual sources. If you take advantage of this, it should mean that those shoe ads stop following you across the internet in quite such a persistent fashion. It is important to stress that Facebook will still collect the data, but it will be anonymised - they may know that lots of people have been looking at those boots but they won t know that they include you. Off-Facebook Activity has been more than a year in the making and fulfils a pledge made by Mark Zuckerberg at last year s F8 developer conference to give users greater control over how their data is used. But how will users react to this feature - and what will it mean for Facebook s advertising business? I suspect that those people who do use it will be pretty horrified. It is one thing to know that in principle you are being tracked, quite another to see it in black and white. "This is how much of the internet works," says Facebook rather defensively in a blog about the new tool. And in a briefing Stephanie Max, the product manager behind it, made the unlikely claim that the reason it collected the data was to help users "discover businesses they care about." If millions of users do investigate this new setting and then decide to disconnect the data, then that in theory could prove damaging to advertisers and to Facebook s bottom line. How much impact would there be, we asked Stephanie Max, if say 20% of users shut down the link between this stream of data and their Facebook profiles? "We didn t do any modelling of that," she replied, going on to say that there was a lot of evidence that users valued having a personalised experience and that was intertwined with the way Facebook works currently. It would seem bizarre that Facebook would not have worked out in advance what impact this new transparency might have on its revenues, but the company may be right to be pretty relaxed. For one thing, it looks likely that finding and then acting on the Off-Facebook tool will be a very niche activity. For another, an expert on Facebook s advertising business says it is changing in ways that make the precise targeting of users less important. Mat Morrison, planning director at marketing agency Digital Whiskey, says advertisers are gradually waking up to the idea that targeting 23 year old men in High Wycombe who like mountain-biking and sushi is not that useful. "Agencies are trying to tell clients to calm down about nano-targeting," he explained. "When we began using Facebook data we could easily create nano-target audiences - only 20 people. Of course, this turns out to be a waste of everyone s time and money." The story a few years ago was that the hugely expensive ad break in ITV s Coronation Street, which delivered a broad if poorly-defined audience, was being superseded by the precise targeting offered by social media ads. Now, says Morrison, the pendulum is swinging again and Facebook advertising is being valued for delivering a wide swathe of the population. "Creating a broad consensus in the audience is what advertising has always been about," he says. So even if some of the Facebook population revolts against the constant tracking of their wider online activities - and remember the social media site will still have lots of data about them - it is unlikely that advertisers will desert what has become the prime destination for their messages. It is worth noting that two of the countries where the new setting is making its debut are in the European Union. The tech giant can show EU regulators that it is giving users more control over their data, without doing any damage to its ad revenues. Job done...
Scientists working on an audacious mission to the ocean world of Europa can proceed with the final design and construction of the spacecraft, Nasa says. The Europa Clipper mission will target the ice-encrusted moon of Jupiter, which is considered a prime target in the search for life beyond Earth. Below its icy shell, Europa is thought to hold a 170km-deep body of water. This could have the right conditions for biology. Due to launch in 2025, the Europa Clipper mission has now passed a stage called Key Decision Point C, a crucial marker on the road to the launch pad. "We are all excited about the decision that moves the Europa Clipper mission one key step closer to unlocking the mysteries of this ocean world," said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for Nasa s science mission directorate. Europa Clipper will carry out an in-depth investigation of the watery world, including whether it can support life in its subsurface ocean. Gravitational interactions with Jupiter generate tidal forces and heat, which keeps Europa s ocean liquid. The heating may even drive volcanic vents on the seafloor; on Earth, such vent systems support a wide array of life forms. But it has taken decades to bring a dedicated mission this far, in part because of cost considerations and the challenges posed by the space environment around Jupiter. Europa s orbital path takes it deep into belts of intense radiation that surround the giant planet. This radiation fries spacecraft electronics, which limits the durations of prospective missions to months or even weeks. So rather than orbiting Europa, Clipper will make repeated close flybys of the moon, to reduce its exposure to the energetic particles trapped by Jupiter s magnetic field. The spacecraft will carry nine science instruments, including cameras and spectrometers to produce high-resolution images of the moon s surface, a magnetometer to measure the strength and direction of its magnetic field (providing clues to the ocean s depth and salinity) and an ice-penetrating radar to determine the thickness of the icy crust above the ocean. The ice shell could be tens of kilometres thick. Luckily, scientists think there are several ways for ocean water to get up to Europa s surface. In recent years, the Hubble Space Telescope has made tentative observations of plumes of water-ice erupting from beneath Europa, much as they do on Saturn s ice moon Enceladus, which also has a subsurface ocean. The first concepts for missions to explore Europa were drawn up in the 1990s, around the time that data from the Galileo spacecraft helped build evidence for a subsurface ocean. Since then, however, one proposal after another has been thwarted, including an ambitious US-European mission along the lines of the Cassini-Huygens mission. But Clipper has had a key champion on Capitol Hill, in the form of Republican legislator John Culberson who, as chairman of the US House of Representatives appropriations committee that funds Nasa, channelled money to the mission. But last year, Culberson, who had become known for his advocacy on Europa exploration, was unseated in Texas 7th congressional district by Democrat Lizzie Pannill Fletcher. During the campaign, a pro-Democrat political action committee ran an ad saying: "For Houston, Lizzie Fletcher will invest in humans, not aliens." A follow-up mission to go and land on Europa has also been proposed. But the most recent federal budget request included no funding for the lander.
The Egyptian Antiquities Ministry s head of the Islamic, Coptic, and Jewish Antiquities Sector, Gamal Mostafa, denied social media speculation claiming that the interior features of the Baron Empain Palace in Heliopolis would be changed during restoration work. During a phone-call with the al-Hekaya (The Story) TV show on Sunday Mostafa slammed the rumors, saying “What is being said about the removal of the drawings in the ceilings and the demolition of the internal columns, is inconceivable and illogical.” Controversy first spread on social media following the circulation of palace restoration work photos showing the bricks being repainted into a reddish-brown color. “This color was studied, and is the original color of the palace,” he said, stressing that the restoration work is done according to previous studies conducted on the palace s history. Mostafa added that a team from the Antiquities Ministry is carefully following the restoration work on a daily basis, approving all details. The Arab Contractors Company, commissioned by the Engineering Corps of the Armed Forces in cooperation with the Ministry of Antiquities, began work on the development and restoration of the Baron Empain Palace in July 2017. The initial renovation work cost was set at LE113.738 million, funded by the Egyptian government. The Baron Empain Palace is a unique architectural masterpiece built by Belgian millionaire Edouard Louis Joseph, the Baron Empain, who came to Egypt from India at the end of the 19th century. The palace is located in the heart of Heliopolis in Cairo, and lays on an area of about 12.5 thousand meters. The palace is carefully designed so the sun can enter the rooms from all sides. The Baron s room includes a detailed painting depicting the wine making process. The Baron Empain s inspiration for the palace came from the Angkor Wat Temple in Cambodia and the Hindu Orissa temples. Completed in 1911, it was designed by French architect Alexandre Marcel and decorated by Georges Louis Claude.
Iceland on Sunday honors the passing of Okjokull, its first glacier lost to climate change, as scientists warn that some 400 others on the subarctic island risk the same fate. A bronze plaque will be unveiled in a ceremony starting around 1400 GMT to mark Okjokull — which translates to “Ok glacier” — in the west of Iceland, in the presence of local researchers and their peers at Rice University in the United States, who initiated the project. Iceland s Prime Minister Katrin Jakobsdottir, Environment Minister Gudmundur Ingi Gudbrandsson, and the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson are also due to attend the event. “This will be the first monument to a glacier lost to climate change anywhere in the world,” Cymene Howe, associate professor of anthropology at Rice University, said in July. The plaque bears the inscription “A letter to the future,” and is intended to raise awareness about the decline of glaciers and the effects of climate change. “In the next 200 years all our glaciers are expected to follow the same path. This monument is to acknowledge that we know what is happening and what needs to be done. Only you know if we did it,” the plaque reads. It is also labelled “415 ppm CO2,” referring to the record level of carbon dioxide measured in the atmosphere last May. “Memorials everywhere stand for either human accomplishments, like the deeds of historic figures, or the losses and deaths we recognize as important,” researcher Howe said. “By memorializing a fallen glacier, we want to emphasize what is being lost — or dying — the world over, and also draw attention to the fact that this is something that humans have accomplished , although it is not something we should be proud of.” Howe noted that the conversation about climate change can be abstract, with many dire statistics and sophisticated scientific models that can feel incomprehensible. “Perhaps a monument to a lost glacier is a better way to fully grasp what we now face,” she said, highlighting “the power of symbols and ceremony to provoke feelings”. Iceland loses about 11 billion tonnes of ice per year, and scientists fear all of the island country s 400-plus glaciers will be gone by 2200, according to Howe and her Rice University colleague Dominic Boyer. Stripped in 2014 Glaciologists stripped Okjokull of its glacier status in 2014, a first for Iceland. In 1890, the glacier ice covered 16 square kilometres (6.2 square miles) but by 2012, it measured just 0.7 square kilometers, according to a report from the University of Iceland from 2017. In 2014, “we made the decision that this was no longer a living glacier, it was only dead ice, it was not moving,” Oddur Sigurdsson, a glaciologist with the Icelandic Meteorological Office, told AFP. To have the status of a glacier, the mass of ice and snow must be thick enough to move by its own weight. For that to happen the mass must be approximately 40 to 50 metres (130 to 165 feet) thick, he said. According to a study published by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)in April, nearly half of the world s heritage sites could lose their glaciers by 2100 if greenhouse gas emissions continue at the current rate. Sigurdsson said he feared “that nothing can be done to stop it.” “The inertia of the climate system is such that, even if we could stop introducing greenhouse gases into the atmosphere right now, it will keep on warming for century and a half or two centuries before it reaches equilibrium.” Iceland s Vatnajokull National Park, which was added to UNESCO s World Heritage List in early July, is home to, and named after, the largest ice cap in Europe. Image: NASA/AFP / – The Okjokull glacier in Iceland has melted away due to climate changea
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has reviewed the Dabaa project s safety measures in Egypt, said an official source with the Nuclear Power Plants Authority, adding that Dabaa has the safest design of its kind in the world. The source added that Egypt is particularly keen to secure safety measures for the plant, and that s why it selected the third generation developed reactors, the latest in the world. Egypt and Russia are cooperating with the IAEA, which monitors nuclear projects and ensures their compliance with international standards, the source said. According to the source, IAEA experts visited Egypt last January upon the invitation of the Egyptian Nuclear and Radiological Regulatory Authority and provided support in reviewing the Dabaa project documents, especially with regard to the site assessment and the project s radiological impact on the environment. Karim al-Adham, Professor at the Egyptian Nuclear and Radiation Control Authority, said that there is no legitimate fear of a nuclear explosion similar to that which occurred recently due to missile tests in the Russian city of Severodvinsk, pointing out that the technology used at Dabaa is the safest of its kind in the world. “It can withstand a seismic acceleration of up to 0.3 and a tsunami of up to 14 meters, as well as its ability to spontaneously turn off safely without human intervention”, the government issued a Facebook statement on Tuesday. The Dabaa plant is also equipped with a reactor trap to contain it once it melts, an incident that never exceeds one in 10 million reactors per year, the statement said. The government statement stressed that the Dabaa plant is also equipped with various other safety means, adding that the concerns raised by social media users regarding the Russian incident are misplaced and exaggerated. In December, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi signed a contract to begin work on El Dabaa Nuclear Power Plant. Construction is expected to provisionally start in 2020, according to Alexei Likhachev, Chief Executive Officer of Russia s state nuclear corporation Rosatom. The plant is expected to be fully-built by 2022. Russia will loan Egypt $25 billion to finance building and operating the plant. Egypt will pay an interest rate of 3 percent annually. Installment payments will begin on October 15, 2029.
Fossils in New Zealand have led to the discovery of a new species of giant penguin that could grow up to 1.6 meters tall. The penguin s closest relative is another giant penguin that was found in Antarctica. Scientists on Wednesday said the fossilized remains of a giant human-sized penguin have been found on New Zealand s South Island. The huge seabird was up to 1.6 meters (63 inches) tall and weighed up to 80 kilograms, some four times heavier and 40 centimeters taller than the modern-day Emperor penguin, researchers said. After the remains were discovered by an amateur paleontologist in 2018, a team from the Canterbury Museum and the Senckenberg Natural History Museum in Frankfurt, Germany, analyzed the bones and found they belonged to the previously unknown penguin species Crossvallia waiparensis. The penguin hunted off New Zealand s coast in the Paleocene era, 66-56 million years ago. The research identifying the new species was published this week in Alcheringa: An Australasian Journal of Palaeontology. The closest known relative of the new species is the Crossvallia unienwillia, which lived around the same time and was identified from a fossilized partial skeleton found in the Cross Valley in Antarctica in 2000. Canterbury Museum curator Paul Scofield said finding closely related birds in New Zealand and Antarctica showed the country s close connection to the icy continent. "When the Crossvallia species were alive, New Zealand and Antarctica were very different from today — Antarctica was covered in forest and both had much warmer climates," Scofield said. A researcher at the museum, Vanesa De Pietri, said it was the second giant penguin from the Paleocene era found in the area. "It further reinforces our theory that penguins attained great size early in their evolution," she said. Scientists have raised the possibility that the mega-penguins died out due to the emergence of other large marine predators such as seals and toothed whales. New Zealand is known for having once been home to other large extinct birds, including the flightless moa, which was up to 3.6 meters tall, and Haast s eagle, which had a wingspan of 3 meters. Last week, the Canterbury Museum announced the discovery of a prodigious parrot that was 1 meter tall and lived about 19 million years ago.
LONDON (Reuters) – Scientists are a step closer to finding the first effective treatments for the deadly Ebola hemorrhagic fever after two potential drugs showed survival rate of as much as 90 percent in a clinical trial in Congo. Two experimental drugs – Regeneron s (REGN.O) REGN-EB3 and a monoclonal antibody called mAb114 – were both developed using antibodies harvested from survivors of Ebola infection. The treatments are now going to be offered to all patients in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), according to U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. They showed “clearly better” results in patients in a trial of four potential treatments being conducted during the world s second largest Ebola outbreak in history, now entering its second year in DRC. The drugs improved survival rates from the disease more than two other treatments being tested – ZMapp, made by Mapp Biopharmaceutical, and Remdesivir, made by Gilead Sciences (GILD.O) – and those products will be now dropped, said Anthony Fauci, one of the researchers co-leading the trial. The agency said 49 percent of the patients on ZMapp and 53 percent on remdesivir died in the study. In comparison, 29 percent of the patients on REGN-EB3 and 34 percent on mAb-114 died. Fauci, director of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told reporters in a telebriefing the results were “very good news” for the fight against Ebola. “What this means is that we do now have what look like (two) treatments for a disease for which not long ago we really had no approach at all,” he said. The agency said of the patients who were brought into treatment centers with low levels of virus detected in their blood, 94 percent who got REGN-EB3 and 89 percent on mAb114 survived. In comparison, two-third of the patients who got remdesivir and nearly three-fourth on ZMapp survived. Ebola has been spreading in eastern Congo since August 2018 in an outbreak that has now become the second largest, killing at least 1,800 people. Efforts to control it have been hampered by militia violence and some local resistance to outside help. A vast Ebola outbreak in West Africa become the world s largest ever when it spread through Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone from 2013 to 2016 and killed more than 11,300 people. The Congo treatment trial, which began in November last year, is being carried out by an international research group coordinated by the World Health Organization (WHO). Mike Ryan, head of the WHO s emergencies program, said the trial s positive findings were encouraging but would not be enough on their own to bring the epidemic to an end. “The news today is fantastic. It gives us a new tool in our toolbox against Ebola, but it will not in itself stop Ebola,” he told reporters. Jeremy Farrar, director of the Wellcome Trust global health charity, also hailed the success of the trial s findings, saying they would “undoubtedly save lives”. “The more we learn about these two treatments, …the closer we can get to turning Ebola from a terrifying disease to one that is preventable and treatable,” he said in a statement. “We won t ever get rid of Ebola but we should be able to stop these outbreaks from turning into major national and regional epidemics.” Some 681 patients at four separate treatment centers in Congo have already been enrolled in the Congo treatment clinical trial, Fauci said. The study aims to enroll a total of 725. The decision to drop two of the trial drugs was based on data from almost 500 patients, he said, which showed that those who got REGN-EB3 or mAb114 “had a greater chance of survival compared to those participants in the other two arms”. Reporting by Kate Kelland, additional reporting by Ankur Banerjee and Manojna Maddipatla ; Editing by Deepa Babington, Mark Heinrich and Arun Koyyur Image: FILE PHOTO: A health worker fills a syringe with Ebola vaccine before injecting it to a patient, in Goma, Democratic Republic of Congo, August 5, 2019. REUTERS/Baz Ratner
The Perseid meteor shower is as regular as clockwork. It peaks August 12, same as last year. This time we can expect to see twice as many shooting stars, perhaps even a "double peak." But there s loads we don t know. You could almost set your watch by it. The Perseid meteor shower is an annual event, about as regular as Christmas. The precise dates can vary depending on the relative positions of the Earth and the sun or if it s a leap year, but it s reliable. So we re as certain as science that the Perseid meteor shower peaks on August 12, and for more than a week we can expect to see spectacular things like bright lights and shooting stars in the northern night sky. These shooting stars, as magical as they may appear to be, are caused when the Earth passes through a stream of dust and rocks - meteoroids - left behind by the comet Swift-Tuttle as it orbits the sun. When you see a shooting star, you re seeing a meteoroid clash with the Earth s atmosphere and then burning up. This causes a short-lived trail of light called a meteor. The lucky ones survive our atmosphere and land to become meteorites. It fascinates us year in, year out. "The Perseids have a large number of bright meteors, many of which leave persistent trains," says Dr John Mason of the British Astronomical Association, "and people like to watch it on a warm summer s evening." This year we may even witness a "double peak." "The Earth is expected to pass through a number of dense filaments from the comet the night before the usual maximum. So we should get a short-lived outburst from late evening on August 11 to dawn on Friday , and then the main maximum the following night, Friday night into Saturday morning," says Mason. It s also predicted we will see twice as many shooting stars as usual during the peak. But Detlef Koschny, a member of the European Space Agency s Meteor Research Group and Near-Earth Objects expert, is not convinced. "I m curious to see whether that really turns out to be true," says Koschny. "If you ask: How many there are in absolute terms?… that s a problem." What we know Comet Swift-Tuttle is known formally as 109P/Swift-Tuttle. It was discovered in 1862 and has an orbital period of around 130 years. The last time it flew past the Earth was in 1992. When the comet passes, it lays down dense filaments of dust on its orbit. Each layer holds a wealth of knowledge about the universe. "We learn about the comet itself, about the evolution of dust in the solar system," says Mason. "The dust from comets is important [as] it s some of the most primitive material in the solar system." We know, for instance, that interplanetary dust particles can be rich in sodium. It is even possible to date the dust using computer models. "[They model] the comet as it evolves over thousands of years and work out the precise position of each dust filament laid down every 130 years. And then they look at how the planets perturb those dust particles, and they can work out when we will pass through those particular dust trails," Mason says. Scientists say the comet created the Perseids meteor shower because it appears to originate from the Perseus constellation of stars in the northern sky. The meteor stream is more than a million kilometers across, and the tiny dust grains that make it travel at about 60 kilometers per second. This is why they produce so much energy - they move so fast - and burn so bright when they hit the Earth s atmosphere. Why we need to know more So we know a fair bit about the Perseids, and yet there is more we need to know. First, it s basic science. Meteoroids come from comets, and comets - and other celestial objects like them - are about the closest we ll ever get to the big bang. "If we find traces of organic material in a meteoroid, then we can understand a bit better how life came on Earth," says Koschny. But we also need to understand more about the distribution of dust in the solar system because these tiny objects pose a threat to our spacecraft. "When one of these particles hits a spacecraft, it can generate an electric charge, a little plasma cloud, and that can shortout a satellite," says Koschny. "[Satellites] are very sensitive and not grounded like all the equipment on Earth. So a change in the electrical potential can do damage." Then there s that matter of absolute numbers. It s only been the past five to 10 years that scientists have tried to predict the numbers of particles, to estimate how many shooting stars we see. But it s still very "relative," says Koschny. "A model may predict [...] 200 per hour and then people go out and see 50 per hour, or the other way around," says Koschny. "So that s what everyone is working on now, what we call the flux density." Koschny is currently working on a paper he hopes will provide new answers. And not just so we know how great the annual spectacle will be. "It s very relevant for this impact threat to satellites," he says. "The spacecraft operators want to know whether there s a chance of being hit once a year or once every 10 years." How space-based observation could help Speaking of satellites raises the question why so much observation is done from Earth. If we need to learn more about meteoroids, shouldn t we get to them before they burn up? "For a long time, we ve been trying to get cameras into space that observe meteors too," says Koschny. "Even better would be a camera permanently recording the sky, looking down, say, from a space station. And if I add a spectrograph, an objective grating in front of my camera, I get a spectrum, and I can ascertain the chemical composition of the object, and that tells us what it is made of." All you would need is a "simple" video camera, recording at 25 frames per second to pick up movement, and a two-dimensional sensor. John Mason agrees there are advantages to space-based observation, but he has reservations. "What we can t do from the ground is collect the dust grains and analyze them before they reach the atmosphere, as opposed to observing the luminous trails in the atmosphere from above," says Mason. "But you wouldn t need a camera to do that. There are lots of dust particle detectors that have flown on many other cometary missions, which would do the job very well."
The only hint that something extraordinary lay inside the plain wooden drawer in an unassuming office behind Nairobi National Museum was a handwritten note stuck to the front: “Pull Carefully”. Inside, a monstrous jawbone with colossal fangs grinned from a bed of tattered foam — the only known remains of a prehistoric mega-carnivore, larger than a polar bear, that researchers only this year declared a new species. “This is one-of-a-kind,” said Kenyan paleontologist Job Kibii, holding up the 23-million-year-old bones of the newly-discovered giant, Simbakubwa kutokaafrika, whose unveiling made headlines around the world. But the remarkable fossils were not unearthed this year, or even this decade. They weren t even found this century. For nearly 40 years, the specimens — proof of the existence of Africa s largest-ever predator, a 1,500 kilogram (3,300-pound) meat eater that dwarfed later hunters like lions — lived in a nondescript drawer in downtown Nairobi. Museum staff knew the bones were something special — they just didn t know what exactly. A source of intrigue, dusted off on occasion for guests, Simbakubwa lay in wait, largely forgotten. How did these fossils, first excavated on a dig in western Kenya in the early 1980s, go unrecognised for so long? Kibii — who presides over the National Museums of Kenya s paleontology department, a collection unrivalled in East Africa and one of the world s great fossil treasuries — has a pretty good idea. “We have tonnes and tonnes of specimens… that haven t been analysed,” he told AFP. “Definitely there are things waiting to be discovered.” Out of space The main wing has changed little since legendary paleoanthropologist Louis Leakey first started stockpiling his finds there in the early 1960s. A card-based filing system is still used to find a specific fossil among the trove, the entries written by hand. But the collection has grown exponentially, faster than Kibii and his team can keep up. “We ve run out of space,” said Kibii, pausing between dusty archival shelves crammed floor to ceiling with finds, dating back more than half a century. “In this section alone, we have more than a million specimens.” Gigantic skulls of ancient crocodiles compete for space with a bygone species of horned giraffe. Nearby, the behemoth tusks of an early African elephant take up valuable real estate. Even the windowsills are littered with the petrified remains of all manner of weird and wonderful creatures. Between 7,000 and 10,000 new fossils arrive at the lab every year, Kibii says, overwhelming his 15 staff who must painstakingly clean and log each specimen. By law, fossils uncovered in Kenya must go to the museum for “accessioning” — the process of labelling, recording and storing for future generations. The backlog is enormous. Chipping away In a dark room, a lone staffer in a protective mask blasts away rock from fossil using an air-powered brush, as Kenyan pop tunes crackle through an old radio. Outside the door, metal chests sent from dig sites filled to the brim await his magic touch — literally years of work stretching before him. If a specific expert is not on hand to identify a specimen, things can get wrongly categorised or waylaid. In some cases, they re sent to the dreaded “waiting area”, where faded cardboard boxes, sagging with unknown and abandoned fossils, gather dust. “We have fossils from the 1980s that have not been accessioned,” said collections manager Francis Muchemi, chipping away at a giant elephant molar. Cradle of humanity Simbakubwa met a similar fate. Thought to be a type of hyena, it was filed away in a backroom and unstudied for decades, until stumbled upon by American researchers. Specific finds unearthed at one of Kenya s many digs by researchers writing academic papers are given priority and fast-tracked for assessment by the museum. Even today though, the museum lacks specialists and resources. Kibii is one of just seven paleontologists in Kenya. He trained in South Africa because there was no course available at home. “It s important because Kenya is the cradle of human evolution,” said Muchemi, who learned his skills on the job. “We have very few Kenyans doing this job. Ninety-nine percent of the people who work here are foreign.” Kibii said paleontology was considered a lower priority than conserving Africa s endangered wildlife. “This one has been in the ground for millions of years. What are you saving it from?” he said, of the prevailing attitude to the science. He hopes to acquire collapsable shelves to create space in the collection. Even better, a micro-CT scanner — a powerful tool driving breakthroughs in the world of paleontology — would allow a fresh look at the museum s most-forgotten corners. “I always wonder what lies in there on some of these shelves,” Kibii said. “Simbakubwa is telling a new story. What if, among these thousands, we have 10, 20, new stories that are lying, waiting to be told? That s always the mystery.”
The social network has said it "failed" its users after sharing data with advertisers without permission. The company says it has launched an investigation into who may have been impacted. Twitter said on Tuesday it may have shared user data with advertisers without permission. The social media giant said it found issues "where your settings choices may not have worked as intended." The company said "certain data" of mobile users such as country code may have been shared with advertising partners since May 2018 "even if you didn t give us permission to do so." Twitter also said since September 2018 it may have shown ads "based on inferences" made about users devices, without consent. A statement on the company s website insisted the data in question "stayed within Twitter and did not contain passwords or email accounts." The issues were "fixed on August 5" and Twitter says it is conducting an investigation into who may have been impacted.
Minister of Environment Yasmine Fouad announced that the Ministry is currently implementing a huge project aimed at reducing Egypt s pollution, achieving cleaner production through the use of agricultural and municipal waste as an alternate fuel for industrial purposes or through energy efficiency projects. The Ministry plans to focus on the Nile River and air pollution, she said. The project is funded by the European Investment Bank, the French Agency, the European Union and the KfW, provided that the National Bank of Egypt will bear the burden of repaying all loans, she added. The Minister expects that the project will pay off next year, and benefit large, medium, and small industrial facilities within the private and public sectors. The budget, allocated by donors from international organizations working in Egypt in 2019/2020 in coordination with the United Nations Development Program is expected to reach about US$56.6 million, with an increase of about $23 million from last year equal to about 68 percent. Yasmine pointed out that the expected results for this project are to adjust the conditions of industrial establishments and reduce pollution load by more than 75 percent, besides increasing the size of environmental financing programs, and providing soft financing packages for industries.
The reddish-yellow color observed in the sky on Monday is a phenomenon that occurred in some countries of North Africa (including Egypt) and parts of Saudi Arabia, Chairman of the Egyptian Meteorological Authority Ahmed Abdelaal said. During a telephone call with hosts Ahmed Khairy and Maha Bahansawi on TEN TV channel, Abdelaal explained that the phenomenon occurred because of impurities in the upper atmosphere that led to the reflection of sunlight, causing the sky to appear red. Abdelaal added that the phenomenon rarely occurs, and that this was the first time it occurred in Egypt. It is a natural phenomenon that poses no risks, he pointed out. The remarkable change in the sky color at sunset sparked controversy on social networking websites, with many users taking pictures of the sky at sunset, wondering about an explanation for the unusual color.
The Grand Egyptian Museum was swarmed with 30 local and international channels and 20 video cameras from press correspondents as they filmed the restoration work for the golden-plated coffin of Tutankhamun, the first since its discovery 1922. Archaeologists had transferred the coffin from tomb #62 in Luxor s Valley of the Kings to the museum in July 2018, in preparation to display the coffin and Tutankhamun s treasures in the Grand Egyptian Museum. General Director of Archaeological Affairs at the Grand Egyptian Museum al-Tayeb Abass told state-run Middle East News Agency (MENA) on Sunday that the three golden coffins of Tutankhamun and the treasured collection of Tutankhamun s tomb will be displayed in the Grand Egyptian Museum once it opens in 2020. The Director General of the Preliminary Restoration and Antiquities Transfer at the Grand Egyptian Museum Issa Zidan pointed out that the maintenance and restoration works of the coffin will continue for eight months as the coffin suffered from various types of damage in the layers of gilded plasters, and general weakness in gilding layers. In addition to Tutankhamun s coffin, the Grand Museum received 181 artifacts from the Tahrir Museum on Thursday amid high security measures from the Tourism and Antiquities Police, and under the supervision of the General Supervisor of the Grand Museum Project Atef Muftah. Abbas said that these artifacts contained a sandstone statue of King Akhenaten holding a scepter, which dates back to the New Kingdom and was discovered in Luxor s eastern bank.
A Japanese researcher is set to become the first scientist to develop live animals that contain human organs. Hiromitsu Nakauchi plans to insert human stem cells into rats and then transfer the cells into other animals. Experts at the Science Ministry approved a proposal by University of Tokyo researcher Hiromitsu Nakauchi to grow human stem cells in mouse, rat and pig embryos and then transplant those cells into another animal, according to Nature magazine. Nakauchi hopes to eventually create animals with complete human organs that could be transferred into a human body. In March, Japan lifted a ban on developing human-animal embryos beyond 14 days or bringing them to term. The ban also forbade scientists from transplanting organs developed in animal embryos to other animals. Human cells have been grown in animal embryos in other countries. However, none of those embryos were brought to term. Genetic distance a problem Bioethicists say the research could have unintended consequences if some of the human cells were transferred to the animal s brain. Nakauchi told Nature, however, that the interventions are designed to only affect the organ that he plans to grow. In 2017, the researcher effectively cured a diabetic mouse by growing a healthy mouse pancreas in a rat embryo before transplanting it into the sick mouse. Mice, rats and pigs are not the best hosts for the development of human organs because of the "genetic distance" between their cells and human cells. Nakauchi hopes that his experiments will help scientists better understand the problem. Japan s Science Ministry is expected to give the project its final approval in August.
Egypt s Minister of Environment Yasmin Fouad met on Tuesday the Governor of South Sinai Khaled Foda to discuss the ministry s plan to develop South Sinai s nature reserves, especially the Blue Hole and Ras Abu Galoum protectorates. Fouad said that the ministry supports the governorate s initiative to transform Sharm el-Sheikh into a sustainable, green, eco-friendly city in cooperation with the United Nations Development Program (UNDP). She also affirmed the ministry s support for the governorate initiative to transform Gharqana village in Napq Protected area into the eco-friendly village. Back in 2018, the projects spearheaded to make Sharm el-Sheikh a green city included waste recycling, the use of environmentally friendly technology for renewable energies, and the reuse of water. The budget for the project was US$5 million provided by UNDP.
For some it s a joke, for others it s as serious as it gets: 1.9 million people have announced on Facebook that they will storm the US military compound Area 51 in Nevada on September 20, 2019. Many are absolutely convinced that the US government is hiding UFOs or aliens there. It was not until 2013 that the American secret service officially confirmed the existence of the military zone Area 51. Local residents and visitors had reported seeing mysterious flying objects at the site and speculated they were UFOs. The US military has been working on new spy planes on the site for decades, which could have been the reason for the mysterious sightings.
Ethiopia has planted more than 350 million trees in a day, officials say, in what they believe is a world record. Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed is leading the project, which aims to counter the effects of deforestation and climate change in the drought-prone country. Some public offices have been shut down to allow civil servants to take part. The UN says Ethiopia s forest coverage declined from 35% of total land in the early 20th Century to a little above 4% in the 2000s. Mr Abiy launched the tree-planting exercise as part of his Green Legacy Initiative, which is taking place in 1,000 sites across the country. Officials were assigned to count the seedlings being planted by volunteers, reports BBC s Kalkidan Yibeltal in the capital, Addis Ababa. Ethiopia s Minister of Innovation and Technology Getahun Mekuria tweeted that more than 350 million trees were planted in 12 hours: The aim is to plant a total of four billion indigenous trees. Promotional videos have run on state media urging the public to plant and care for trees, our reporter says. Staff from the United Nations, African Union and foreign embassies in Ethiopia have also been taking part in the exercise. The current World Record for planting trees in a single day is held by India, which used 800,000 volunteers to plant more than 50 million trees in 2016. Critics of Mr Abiy say he is using the campaign to distract the public from the challenges his government is facing, including ethnic conflicts which have forced some 2.5 million people from their homes.
Nordic countries are experiencing searing temperatures as Europe s record-breaking heatwave moves north, with Norway on Saturday equaling its 1970 record, and many areas recording “tropical nights”. Laksfors in northern Norway on Saturday recorded a temperature of 35.6 degrees Celsius (96 degrees Fahrenheit), equaling the national record set in Nesbyen in 1970, the country s meteorology service said on Twitter, adding however that the Meteorological Institute needed to “double check” that the measuring station was operating properly. The Norwegian Meteorological Institute also said it had recorded “tropical nights” in 20 different locations in southern Norway, meaning that temperatures stayed above 20 degrees throughout the night. The tropical heat was also felt around other parts of the Nordics and in neighboring Sweden, with most extreme heat in the country s far north. On Friday the small town of Markusvinsa in the far north recorded a temperature of 34.8 degrees Celsius. “That s the hottest temperature in the far north since 1945 and the third highest temperature on record,” Jon Jorpeland, meteorologist at the Swedish Meteorological and Hydrological Institute (SMHI), told AFP. Earlier in the week several places in Sweden also experienced “tropical nights”. According to Jorpeland, temperatures in the south of Sweden haven t been as extreme and it s not unusual that the mercury reaches 30 degrees a few days a year in the country, even though current temperatures are above average. SMHI has also issued warnings of potential water shortages in August in 15 of the country s 21 counties. Heat warnings have been issued in Sweden, Norway and Finland and earlier this week Finnish police even warned motorists to be mindful of moose, who were increasingly crossing roads in search of water to quench their thirst. The World Meteorological Organization on Thursday said forecasts indicated that atmospheric flows would transport the heat from Europe to Greenland “resulting in high temperatures and consequently enhanced melting”. Current predictions indicate the resulting melting of ice could approach the record losses recorded in 2012, the organization said, citing scientists from the Danish Meteorological Institute.
A long time ago, a galaxy not so far away merged with our own in a massive cosmic collision, scientists have discovered. The Milky Way s mass grew by over a quarter after the crash, speeding-up the formation of stars. Around 10 billion years ago, the Milky Way merged with a galaxy one quarter of its mass in a major cosmic crash, according to new research published in the journal Nature Astronomy on Monday. The results help solve a major piece of the puzzle behind the birth of our galaxy. Previous studies had shown that the Milky Way contained two different sets of stars, but the timeline of the collision remained unclear. The crash between the Milky Way and a dwarf galaxy dubbed Gaia-Enceladus not only expanded the size of our galaxy, but also sped up the formation of stars in a period lasting between 2 to 4 billion years. "Yes, indeed it was a pivotal moment," astronomer Carme Gallart, the lead author of the study, told Reuters news agency. Slow-moving crash A team of researchers at the Instituto de Astrofisica de Canarias (IAC) used data gathered by the Gaia space telescope to determine the position, brightness and distance of stars located 6,500 light years away from our sun. The information helped them identify stars that were present before the merger and those that formed afterwards. Although the merger between the galaxies was dramatic and helped shape the Milky Way, researchers said it did not cause massive, star-destroying damage and took place over a long period of time. "This crash was big in cosmic terms, but if it was happening now, we could probably not even notice at a human or solar system level," Gallart said. She explained that the distance between the stars in a galaxy is so large, that they don t often collide with each other or impact the planetary systems attached to them. The spiral-shaped Milky Way includes 100 to 400 billion stars, including our sun which formed 4.5 billion years ago — far after the merger with the smaller galaxy.
Trains were slowed down and holidaymakers flocked to swimming pools, beaches and lakes in western Europe on Wednesday as another heatwave set new temperature records. A host of French cities saw their highest levels since records began on Tuesday, with wine capital Bordeaux recording 41.2 degrees Celsius (106.16 Fahrenheit), beating the previous high of 40.7C registered in August 2003, weather service Meteo-France said. Forecasters predicted new temperature highs in neighboring countries Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany and the Netherlands, where the mercury could beat the previous record of 38.6 degrees Celsius on Wednesday, according to the Dutch weather office. Many Dutch farmers are leaving their cows outside to sleep, rather than bringing them in at night, while some kindergartens have closed their doors because of the risks for young children. Britain s Met Office has said there is a chance that the UK temperature record of 38.5 degrees Celsius, which was recorded in Faversham, Kent, in August 2004, will also be exceeded on Thursday at the peak of the heat. The operator of the British rail network, Network Rail, said it was slowing down trains in response to the extreme weather, which comes only weeks after another record-breaking heatwave in Europe in June. “Extreme heat can cause overhead wires to sag and become damaged by fast trains. We slow down services to keep passengers safe when this happens,” the company said on Twitter. Across the area affected by the unusually high heat, stretching from France up to Norway in the north, people sought out ways to cool off in lakes and rivers, leading to an increase in drowning incidents. In London, police were searching for three people who have gone missing in the River Thames while swimming. Animal ice-cream France s weather office said the scorching conditions “require particular care, notably for vulnerable or exposed people” with almost the entire country under an orange-level weather alert, the second highest level. Local authorities have placed restrictions on water usage in many areas due to drought-like conditions that have seen ground and river water levels fall dramatically. “At the moment, it s tricky but under control, but we need to be very vigilant,” junior environment minister Emmanuelle Wargon said of national water levels on Tuesday, calling on people to show “civic responsibility” to avoid wastage. Water restrictions are in place in 73 out of 96 departments in mainland France, with the worst affected areas in the Loire area of central France, as well as the south west and the south east. While the heat spelt misery for some in sweaty homes and offices, it was a boon for millions of holidaymakers at the beach for their summer holidays, as well as ice-cream makers who are enjoying a stellar summer for sales. Animals in zoos in many countries are being fed food caked in ice or even frozen blood to keep them cool. Lions at the Fitilieu wildlife park in western France have been given chicken sorbet. Climate change The second heatwave in two months has amplified concerns in Europe that human activity is heating the planet at a dangerous rate. The June 26-28 heatwave in France was four degrees Celsius (7.2 Fahrenheit) hotter than an equally rare June heatwave would have been in 1900, the World Weather Attribution (WWA) team said this month. One study by the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology said the deadly, weeks-long heatwave across northern Europe in 2018 would have been statistically impossible without climate change. Swedish teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg, who has highlighted the problem of global warming through school strikes, told MPs at French parliament of dire consequences if “business as usual” continued until 2030. “We will likely be in a position where we may pass a number of tipping points and we will be unable to undo the irreversible breakdown,” she said on Tuesday during a visit to the French parliament. Many conservative figures on the French right have criticized the invitation, dismissing her as a “prophetess in shorts” and the “Justin Bieber of ecology” and refused to attend the speech.
I admit I was not surprised or shocked when the Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir admitted in court that he had received $ 90 million from the Prince Crown Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia, among the 113 million dollars that were found in the house of Bashir at the time of his arrest. These presidents always emphasize the cleanliness of their hands and show their honesty and honor, and take pride in fighting c