A major United Nations climate change summit will take place in Glasgow. The UK has won the bid to host the 26th Conference of the Parties, known as COP26, following a partnership with Italy. Up to 30,000 delegates are expected to attend the event at Glasgow s Scottish Events Campus (SEC) at the end of next year. It is designed to produce an international response to the climate emergency. The UK will host the main COP summit while Italy will host preparatory events and a significant youth event, as part of the agreement. Claire Perry, UK nominated president for COP26, said: "In 2020, world leaders will come together to discuss how to tackle climate change on a global scale - and where better to do so than Glasgow, one of the UK s most sustainable cities with a great track record for hosting high-profile international events." The Scottish government s Climate Change Secretary Roseanna Cunningham said the decision to host COP26 in Scotland was right "given our leadership on climate action". She continued: "Scotland was one of the first countries in the world to acknowledge the global climate emergency and the Scottish government has introduced the toughest targets in the UK to ensure our action matches the scale of our climate ambitions. "We look forward to working collaboratively with partners to deliver an ambitious and effective conference that ensures Scotland plays a leading role to help promote the increased global effort to tackle climate change." Vote of confidence Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said the announcement was a "vote of confidence" from the UK s international partners. He added: "The UK is leading the world in tackling climate change. We re the first major economy to pass laws to end the UK s contribution to global warming. "Since 1990 the UK has reduced its emissions by over 40% while growing the economy by over two thirds." The UK government said it had cut greenhouse gas emissions by 16 million tonnes in the last eight years. Secretary of State for Scotland Alister Jack said: "The UK government is showing great leadership on this vital issue - becoming the first major economy to pass new laws to reduce emissions to net zero by 2050." The conference has been described as the most important gathering on climate change since the Paris agreement was signed in 2015. Lasting for two weeks, it would be the largest summit the UK has ever hosted, with up to 200 world leaders expected to attend for the final weekend. 2020 s conference is seen as a major crossroads in the battle against global climate change. It will likely be held just after the next US presidential election. It will also be the year in which governments are due to review their promises to cut carbon emissions in line with the latest science. The stark photo highlighting Greenland s ice loss UK government to commit to 2050 target EU leaders face pressure to deliver on climate change Campaigners have said the event will give the UK the chance to set the tone for the world s future. Climate campaigner Greta Thunberg appeared at the 2018 conference in Poland. It is expected to pose major security challenges for the Scottish government and police. Sources have told BBC Scotland that police will seek additional funding from the Scottish and UK governments. Deputy chief constable Malcolm Graham said: "Police Scotland has an enviable reputation for successfully and safely policing major events. "We will now start the detailed process of planning, with partners, for what will be a complex and expensive policing operation to support COP26 and to ensure a safe and secure event." Analysis by BBC News Science Editor David Shukman Intense, overcrowded and bewildering - a few impressions from UN climate conferences I ve reported from over the years. They re a rare chance for the world to get together to tackle climate change but because the stakes are high the atmosphere is always tense. The negotiations are complicated - with long arguments over phrases or even individual words. They regularly drag through the night leaving delegates exhausted. In Montreal back in 2005, at dawn on the final day, the then British environment secretary Margaret Beckett wept with relief when a deal was reached. In Copenhagen in 2009, some environmental campaigners were so frustrated with the lack of progress that they walked out - while at the same time other campaigners, who had staged a march outside the conference centre, battled with police in an effort to get inside. The gathering in Paris in 2015 was one of the smoothest, clever French diplomacy navigating towards a landmark deal, what s called the Paris Agreement. A system of voluntary cuts in carbon emissions, it formally comes into effect next year. The Whitehall view is that this is an extraordinary opportunity. But it also means there s a huge responsibility now on British shoulders.
NASA is developing a new technique to forecast malaria outbreaks in Myanmar from space, as the emergence of new drug-resistant strains in Southeast Asia threatens efforts to wipe out the deadly disease globally. The goal of worldwide malaria eradication within a generation, by 2050, is “bold but attainable”, a report released this week in The Lancet argued. Malaria cases and deaths plummeted by more than 90 percent in Myanmar between 2010 and 2017, World Health Organization (WHO) figures show, a success largely credited to better rural health services and wider use of treated bednets. But the country still has a higher prevalence than its neighbors in the Mekong region. Several drug-resistant strains are taking hold across Southeast Asia and it is feared these could migrate to Africa where more than 90 percent of cases globally occur. To counter this threat, NASA is deploying “cutting edge” spatial technology to tackle malaria outbreaks before they happen, scientist Tatiana Loboda told AFP. She is applying her expertise in geo-spatial and risk modelling — coupled with a background in predicting wildfire outbreaks in the US — to identify potential hotspots so medicines and health workers can be mobilized in advance. “A lot of people use a little spatial modelling… but not to the same depth and capabilities as we re doing here,” said Loboda, a professor at Maryland University. The satellites provide meteorological data, including land surface temperatures, atmospheric water content and information about land cover, including forest, shrubland, settlements or water. These are then combined with socio-economic data gathered by teams of researchers carrying out in-depth surveys with sample populations in the field. The project is only in its third year but Loboda s team has already seen a high correlation between the rate of deforestation and the disease. One unproven theory is that these areas — often dotted with logging sites, mines and plantations — are host to a disproportionate number of migrant or seasonal workers, bringing with them new strains of the parasite. The Maryland University team is working closely with local government and military scientists, collecting data from civilians and troops respectively. But that brings challenges in a country where the armed forces keep their operations shrouded in mystery. “We re not allowed to ask where they go,” Loboda told AFP in Yangon, describing it as “like working blindfolded”. This is coupled with a lack of access to Myanmar s myriad conflict areas. “I m used to working with big data,” Loboda bemoaned. “I want to blanket the whole country with random locations… but I can t.” The project is not immune to geopolitics either. The state of US-Myanmar relations can complicate meetings with the military in the capital Naypyidaw. “Sometimes I can go, sometimes I can t,” Loboda said.
Egypt s President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi held a meeting on Sunday with Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouli and Minister of Electricity and Renewable Energy Mohammed Shaker to discuss the developments on the establishment of the Dabaa Nuclear Power Plant, said presidential spokesperson Bassam Radi. Shaker clarified that the pre-construction works are underway, including site preparation, design activities, the completion of infrastructure facilities and the preparation of equipment necessary for the construction of the plants, added Radi. Radi noted that Sisi asked that the necessary technical and legal measures be taken to commence the construction in accordance with the highest standards of nuclear safety and security. Sisi asserted that the energy produced by the Dabaa plant will provide the necessary power for the country s economic and social development plans as well as for the current and future needs of its people. In December 2017, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi signed a contract to begin work on the Dabaa Nuclear Power Plant. Construction is expected to 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 three percent annually. Installment payments will begin on October 15, 2029.
India s space programme suffered a huge setback Saturday after losing contact with an unmanned spacecraft moments before it was due to make a historic soft landing on the Moon. Prime Minister Narendra Modi sought to comfort glum scientists and a stunned nation from mission control in Bangalore, saying India was still “proud” and clasping the visibly emotional space agency head in a lengthy hug. Blasting off in July, the emerging Asian giant had hoped to become just the fourth country after the United States, Russia and regional rival China to make a successful Moon landing, and the first on the lunar South Pole. But in the early hours of Saturday local time, as Modi looked on and millions watched nationwide with bated breath, the Vikram lander — named after the father of India s space programme — went silent just 2.1 kilometers (1.3 miles) above the lunar surface. Its descent had been going “as planned and normal performance was observed”, Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) chairman Kailasavadivoo Sivan said. “Subsequently the communication from the lander to the ground station was lost,” he said after initial applause turned to bewilderment at the operations room. “The data is being analysed.” The Chandrayaan-2 (“Moon Vehicle 2”) orbiter, which will circle and study the Moon remotely for a year, is however “healthy, intact, functioning normally and safely in the lunar orbit”, the ISRO said. Consoler-in-chief Freshly re-elected Modi had hoped to bask in the glory of a successful mission, but on Saturday he deftly turned consoler-in-chief in a speech at mission control broadcast live on television and to his 50 million Twitter followers. “Sisters and brothers of India, resilience and tenacity are central to India s ethos. In our glorious history of thousands of years, we have faced moments that may have slowed us, but they have never crushed our spirit,” he said. “We have bounced back again,” he added. “When it comes to our space programme, the best is yet to come.” Other Indians also took to Twitter to offer words of encouragement. “The important thing is we took off and had the Hope and Belief we can,” said Bollywood star Shah Rukh Khan. Indian media offered succor by quoting a NASA factsheet that said out of 109 lunar missions in the past six decades, 48 have failed. Chandrayaan-2 took off on July 22 carrying an orbiter, lander and rover almost entirely designed and made in India — the mission cost a relatively modest $140 million — a week after an initial launch was halted just before blast-off. ISRO had acknowledged before the soft landing that it was a complex maneuver, which Sivan called “15 minutes of terror”. It was carrying rover Pragyan — “wisdom” in Sanskrit — which was due to emerge several hours after touchdown to scour the Moon s surface, including for water. According to Mathieu Weiss, a representative in India for France s space agency CNES, this is vital to determining whether humans could spend extended periods on the Moon. That would mean the Moon being used one day as a pitstop on the way to Mars — the next objective of governments and private spacefaring programs such as Elon Musk s Space X. Space superpower In March Modi hailed India as a “space superpower” after it shot down a low-orbiting satellite, a move prompting criticism for the amount of “space junk” created. Asia s third-largest economy also hopes to tap into the commercial possibilities of space. China in January became the first to land a rover on the far side of the Moon. In April, Israel s attempt failed at the last minute when its craft apparently crashed onto the lunar surface. India is also preparing Gaganyaan, its first manned space mission, and wants to land a probe on Mars. In 2014, it became only the fourth nation to put a satellite into orbit around the Red Planet, and in 2017 India s space agency launched 104 satellites in a single mission. The country s principal scientific adviser, K Vijay Raghavan, described Chandrayaan-2 as “very complex, and a significant technological leap from previous missions of ISRO” in a series of tweets on Saturday. Raghavan said the orbiter will help India better understand the Moon s evolution, mapping minerals and water molecules “using its eight state-of-the-art scientific instruments”. “After a moment of despondency, it is back to work!! It is inspirational to see this characteristic of science in collective action. Kudos to ISRO,” he added.
Seven months after Huang Yu s pet cat Garlic died, the British shorthair was given a 10th life. Born on July 21, the new Garlic was created by Chinese firm Sinogene, becoming the Beijing-based company s first successfully copied cat. The pet-cloning outfit has made more than 40 pet dogs — a procedure that costs a hefty 380,000 yuan ($53,000), while the price for a cat comes in at 250,000 yuan ($35,000). Mi Jidong, the company s chief executive officer, told AFP that despite the high price tag, not all clients were high earners. “In fact, a large proportion of customers are young people who have only graduated in the last few years,” he said. “Whatever the origin of pets, owners will see them as part of the family. Pet cloning meets the emotional needs of young generations.” Huang, 23, was overjoyed on first seeing Garlic s second incarnation, saying the “similarity between the two cats is more than 90 percent”. “When Garlic died, I was very sad,” said Huang. “I couldn t face the facts because it was a sudden death. I blame myself for not taking him to the hospital in time, which led to his death.” The happy owner says he hopes the personality of the new Garlic is as similar to his old white-and-grey cat as its appearance. With a growing pet market in China, and a huge appetite among their owners for spending, Mi thinks the market for pet cloning is also set to rocket. According to a report by Pet Fair Asia and pet website Goumin.com, pet-related spending in China reached 170.8 bn yuan ($23.7 billion) in 2018. And the country s scientists have big aspirations for their next cloning challenge, working on the theory that if cats can be cloned, so can pandas. Chen Dayuan — an expert at the Chinese Academy of Sciences who has been researching giant panda cloning for 20 years — said there could even be scope for cats to give birth to cloned baby pandas, which are smaller than baby cats despite their large size when fully grown. Pet cloning is illegal in many countries but approved in countries including South Korea and the US, where singer Barbra Streisand announced last year she had cloned her dog. The first major success in animal cloning was Dolly the sheep, born in Britain in 1996 as the first mammal cloned from an adult cell. In 2005, researchers in South Korea cloned the first dog. The Sooam Biotech Research Foundation in Seoul says it has cloned some 800 pets and charges $100,000 each.
An artificial-intelligence app that allows users to insert their faces in place of film and TV characters has caused controversy in China. Zao has sparked privacy fears and suggestions it could be used to defeat systems using facial recognition. It appeared in China on 29 August and has proven wildly popular. But it has led to developers Momo apologising for its end-user agreement, which stripped users of the rights to their images. And as the app went viral, Zao s owners aired fears users were devouring its expensively purchased server capacity. Its popularity has also lead to assurances from Alipay, part of the Chinese web giant Alibaba, saying that it s impossible for so-called deepfake videos created by the app to be used to cheat its Smile to Pay facial-recognition system. What s Zao and why is it so controversial? Zao is a face-swapping app that uses clips from films and TV shows, convincingly changing a character s face by using selfies from the user s phone. But some users had noted the app s terms and conditions "gave the developers the global right to permanently use any image created on the app for free", Hong Kong s South China Morning Post reported. "Moreover, the developers had the right to transfer this authorisation to any third party without further permission from the user," the paper said, adding experts believed this broke Chinese law. Momo had subsequently deleted the controversial clause and issued an apology, saying its app would not store users biometric information nor "excessively collect user information", Shanghai-based The Paper said. But popular social media platform WeChat quickly banned users from uploading Zao videos via its platform, citing "security risks". The app may also be a victim of its own success, with Zao saying, on its Sina Weibo social media account, it had used up a third of its monthly server capacity, budgeted at 7m yuan (£805,000), on its first night. And the following day, as users complained of a slow service, it said, "with a heavy heart", servers were at fully capacity. Could Zao be used to defraud banks? Alipay, the world s largest mobile payment platform, with over 870 million users, has assured its users videos created in Zao cannot be used to defraud its systems. Many Alipay users take advantage of its Smile to Pay system, which allows payment verification by the user looking into a camera at a shop or restaurant s point-of-sale. Alibaba, which owns Alipay, says it uses sophisticated anti-spoofing algorithms to make sure it isn t fooled by still photographs or deepfake videos. "There is a lot of online face-changing software - but no matter how realistic, it is impossible to break through the facial payment system", the company said on its Weibo account. Even before the system attempts to match the face, it detects whether the presented image is a still, video or software simulation. "This avoids fraud caused by face-changing technology," Alibaba said. Dangerous AI offers to write fake news Fake news is reinforced by false memories Instagram has a plan to tackle fake news Momo also moved to calm fears Zao could be used for fraud, clarifying Alipay s point it only used and adapted still photographs for its deepfake videos. "The facial payment security threshold is extremely high, and face-changing technology realised by only one photo can t break through the security system," the developers said. It was "completely impossible" for deepfakes of this kind to threaten payment security, Momo told The Paper. And last year, academic Pan Helin told China Daily Alipay s facial recognition was "theoretically a more secure and convenient method than the conventional use of passwords". What s the reaction been? Concerns over the app reached state-run Chinese press. Global Times said it was another example of "concerning" AI-powered apps "which could be used maliciously". China was already considering tightening regulations governing AI face-stitching technology, the paper said. And lawyer Zhang Xinnian told it the laws governing phone apps terms and conditions needed to be tightened. Zao s initial terms "violated user privacy and once personal information is leaked and abused it could lead to criminal incidents", he added. Meanwhile, law professor Zhu Wei told state news agency Xinhua: "People are using a mobile client that involves information about personal identity, property, scan codes and mobile payments and they can t see exactly what information is obtained by the app, so it is very dangerous." A commentary in the Beijing News even asked whether the app could become "a threat to national security". With genuine concerns about national and personal security from Zao and future deepfake services, "it is necessary to regulate them as soon as possible with clear legal provisions", it added. A Guangzhou Daily editorial said: "Changing-face videos is fun but the potential security risks cannot be ignored." And The Paper said while Zao s popularity would be short-lived, its arrival had made it easier for dark actors to take advantage of face-changing technology. BBC Monitoring reports and analyses news from TV, radio, web and print media around the world. You can follow BBC Monitoring on Twitter and Facebook.
An engineer has discovered prototype code in Facebook s Android app which suggests it might test hiding the number of likes a post receives. Jane Manchun Wong found the code, which has not been activated. Instagram, which is also owned by Facebook, is conducting a similar test in seven countries including Canada and Brazil, where only the account holder in the trial can see the number of likes they attract. Facebook declined to comment. Some studies have suggested the pressures of social media popularity can affect mental health, particularly in young people. Are we addicted to the like button? Ms Wong wrote a blog post about her discovery, in which she emphasised that she does not work for the tech giant. "It takes time to develop, observe, research and release experimental features like this," she said. "Experimental features could come and go. But I am certain hiding the public like counts will be beneficial to the digital wellbeing of a large chunk of users." Venture capitalist Ellen Pao tweeted that the change - if it happens - is overdue. "Social platforms have known as early as 2014 that social media impacts mental health and only now is Facebook starting to hide like counts," she said. Instagram said it was not yet ready to share the results of its experiment. "We hope this test will remove the pressure of how many likes a post will receive, so you can focus on sharing the things you love," Mia Garlick, Facebook Australia and New Zealand director of policy, said in a statement when the Instagram trial was announced.
The Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics (CAPMAS) revealed on August 29 figures about waste recycling in Egypt during the year 2017 in a report detailing statistics from the Egyptian governorates with the top five highest recycling rates. Gharbiya governorate came in first place with 97.9 percent, and Beheira came in second place with 97.5 percent. The three governorates Kafr al-Sheikh (92.3 percent), Qalyubiya (72.3 percent) and Daqahlia (0.5 percent) occupied the following three rankings. Last May, Egypt s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi ordered concerned officials to design a new solid waste management system for overpopulated areas, aiming to enhance citizens lives on various levels, a prior statement by the presidential spokesperson said. In light of the new project, Sisi called for coordination between diverse ministries to secure the success of the solid waste management system, underscoring the importance of using accurately researched studies as well as prominent foreign expertise while working on it. Solutions for two major issues faced by Egyptian society, water and air pollution, are included in the new system s strategic plan, according to the same official statement. A meeting led by Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly followed up on the plan s implementation. During the meeting, he unveiled its three main programs and vowed that they would be launched as soon as possible. The first program s main goal is to establish eight trash sorting facilities in five of Egypt s governorates including Cairo, Daqahlia, Sharqiya, Fayoum, and Luxor. Another 15 will also be installed in the seven Egyptian governorates Qalyubiya, Damietta, Cairo, Ismailia, Beheira, Matrouh, and Beni Suef during 2019-2020. The second program will focus on financially supporting garbage services for waste collection, street cleaning and more. The third program will launch awareness campaigns across all the governorates and support the recycling sector.
Google will pay $150-200 million to settle allegations YouTube violated a children s privacy law while gathering data to better target its adverts, US media reports said Friday. The US Federal Trade Commission agreed the amount of the settlement against YouTube parent Google, which if approved by the Justice Department would be the largest settlement in a case involving children s privacy, the New York Times reported. The allegations against YouTube were made by privacy groups who said the platform had violated laws protecting children s privacy by gathering data on users under the age of 13 without obtaining permission from parents, Politico reported. The FTC is expected to announce its decision on the settlement in September, the New York Times said. US regulators have long argued Google fails to protect children from harmful content and data collection on its YouTube platform. Advocacy group The Center for Digital Democracy said in a statement that the proposed settlement would be “woefully low” given Google s size and revenue, and called on the FTC to “enjoin Google from committing further violations” of children s privacy law. Google remains the money-making engine for parent company Alphabet, with most of its revenue coming from digital ads, which accounted for $116 billion of the $136 billion the Silicon Valley-based company took in last year. In January, France s CNIL data watchdog slapped Google with a record 50-million-euro fine for failing to meet the EU s tough General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which came into force early last year. Google is appealing the fine. Fellow US tech giant Facebook recently settled a record $5 billion fine with the US Federal Trade Commission for misusing users private data.
The Ministry of Environment is set to implement a new regulation plan on Egypt s natural resources, which includes applying a visiting fee according to a decision revealed by the Official Gazette. Many of Egypt s natural sites such beaches and waterfalls have seen a significant flow of visitors and trips, prompting Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly to assign the concerned ministries as well as governorates to put these newly issued administrative decisions into practice. The plan includes the application of a US$5 fee for foreigners and LE25 for Egyptians during the day, to be doubled during the night while car entry fees are set at $5 for small cars and $10 for big cars. The Ministry of Environment s Natural Reserves Sector is set to launch the fee service in the Red Sea as well Sinai natural sites, to be imposed on entries and various activities. These fees will include yachts, varying from $10 to $60 depending on their sizes. No further details were revealed regarding which particular sites would be affected.
The G7 has agreed to spend 20 million euros ($22 million) on the Amazon, mainly to send fire-fighting aircraft to tackle the huge blazes engulfing many parts of the world s biggest rainforest, the presidents of France and Chile announced Monday. The G7 club — comprising Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States — has also agreed to support a medium-term reforestation plan which will be unveiled at the UN in September, France s Emmanuel Macron and Chile s Sebastian Pinera said at the G7 summit in southwest France. Brazil would have to agree to any reforestation plan, as would indigenous communities living in the Amazon. The initiative was announced after G7 leaders meeting in the resort of Biarritz held talks on the environment, focusing on the record number of fires destroying chunks of the Amazon. Macron had declared the situation in the Amazon region an “international crisis” and made it one of the summit s priorities. He has threatened to block a huge new trade deal between the EU and Latin America unless Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, a climate change skceptic, takes serious steps to protect the forest from logging and mining. “We must respond to the call of the forest which is burning today in the Amazon,” Macron said Monday. Nearly 80,000 forest fires have been detected in Brazil since the beginning of the year, a little over half in the massive Amazon basin. Bolsonaro has lashed out at Macron over his criticism and suggested that NGOs could be setting the fires to embarrass him — without giving any evidence to back the claim. But at the weekend he finally caved into international pressure to save a region crucial for maintaining a stable global climate, deploying two aircraft to douse the fires and authorising the army to help tackle the blazes. Speaking in Biarritz, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said new planting was needed “to preserve this universal heritage, which is absolutely essential for the well-being of the world s population.” He said that the issue would be discussed during the UN General Assembly in New York in September.
Skimming low over the gleaming white glaciers on Greenland s coast in a modified 1940s plane, three NASA scientists, led by an Elvis-impersonating oceanographer, waited to drop a probe into the water beneath them. They are part of Oceans Melting Greenland — or OMG —- a mission that has flown around the vast island for four summers, dropping probes to collect data on how oceans contribute to the rapid melt of Greenland s ice. Dressed in a blue jumpsuit and with thick sideburns that give a hint of his occasional pastime impersonating Elvis, Joshua Willis, 44, is the oceanographer from NASA s Jet Propulsion Laboratory behind the project — and, along with his wife, its name. “We re looking at probably meters of sea level rise in the next hundred years and that s a huge threat to hundreds of millions of people around the world, so a bit of alarm and OMG is probably warranted,” he said. Passing over rocky fjords, dazzling glaciers and icebergs, some dozens of meters (feet) high looming out of the water, Willis and the crew took turns dropping the 1.5-metre cylindrical probes and watching as the data came in showing the ocean s temperature and salinity. Ice cube under a hair dryer Willis is investigating how warmer layers of water off the coast come into contact with glaciers and how this effects how quickly they melt. “A lot of people think of the ice here as melting from the air warming, sort of like an ice cube under a hair dryer, but in fact the oceans are also eating away at the ice s edges,” Willis said. OMG surveys Greenlandic glaciers in the winter, comparing it with the data they collect about the oceans in the summer over a five-year period, which Willis hopes will allow researchers to better predict sea-level rise. The island has three quarters bordering the Arctic ocean and is 85 percent covered in ice — if this ice sheet were to disappear completely, it would raise the ocean level by seven meters (23 feet). The Arctic region has warmed twice as fast as the global average, and Greenland, a resource-rich Danish possession, has become a focal point for climate research — as well an object of desire for US President Donald Trump, who scrapped a trip to Denmark over its dismissal of his attempts to buy the autonomous territory. Greenland a challenge NASA — best know for the moon landings and space travel — started to study the earth s climate in greater depth from the 1970s when its inter-planetary exploration budget was reduced, using its satellites to look at the earth. Today it has more than a dozen satellites in orbit monitoring earth s seas, ice, land and atmosphere, along with missions like OMG, which Willis hopes will provide data to give better predictions of sea-level rise around the globe. At the rear of the refitted DC3, built in 1942 for the Canadian air force during World War II, project manager Ian McCubbin took his turn by a chute holding the plastic probe, waiting for the order to drop it. Sucked out into the cold air below, the four-foot cylinder parachuted into the water and after a nervous wait, started transmitting data to the team on the plane. With 20 years experience flying with the JPL, McCubbin also organizes the mission s logistics from the remote airfields it flies out of during the summer. “Dealing with Greenland s remoteness is a unique challenge,” McCubbin said on a break between dropping probes, a baseball cap pulled down over his eyes. Limited communications and transport links and the island s unpredictable weather all make keeping the mission in the air more complicated, but McCubbin said he was happy to put up with the difficulties. “The relevance of this project makes it exciting to work on, given the importance to our society, our children, our children s children,” he said. Tough decisions ahead Ian Fenty, an investigator with OMG, sat in front of a laptop and a bank of electronics receiving the signals from the probes. After each probe hit the water, data started to upload almost immediately onto the small screen on the laptop on the tray table in front of Fenty. “The data we re collecting are super valuable because they re allowing us for the very first time to quantitatively relate ocean temperature changes with the melting of the ice sheet,” he said. After two hours in the air along the coast of eastern Greenland, the plane turned and headed back to base at the remote village of Kulusuk, flying low over icebergs and pods of whales in the sea below. After the flight, Willis, wearing Ray Bans, a leather jacket with the collar turned up and a guitar, gave a performance of his Elvis-inspired “Climate Rock” to diners and visiting journalists in the village s hotel, explaining the difference between the weather and climate. For Willis, the song, like his work with OMG, are all part of trying to get his message about climate change and sea-level rise across. “I feel like as a climate scientist I have a responsibility to explain what we re finding to the world,” he said. “We have some tough decisions ahead of us if we want to avoid the worst parts of climate change.”
An unmanned spacecraft carrying Russia s first humanoid robot to be sent into orbit failed to dock automatically at the International Space Station on Saturday, in a new setback for Moscow. “Russian cosmonauts issued a command to abort the automated approach of an uncrewed Russian Soyuz spacecraft to the International Space Station,” the US space agency NASA said in a statement. “The craft was unable to lock onto its target at the station,” and “backed a safe distance away from the orbital complex while the Russian flight controllers assess the next steps,” NASA said. Russian flight controllers had told the ISS crew it appeared the problem that prevented automated docking was in the station and not the Soyuz spacecraft, NASA added. Moscow news agencies quoted the flight center control as saying the Soyuz craft had to retreat to a “secure distance” from the ISS. The docking had been scheduled for 0530 GMT but a live broadcast of the event on the website of the Russian space agency Roscosmos was interrupted when the Soyuz approached to about 100 meters (100 yards) off the ISS. “The Soyuz is on a safe trajectory above and behind the space station that will bring it in the vicinity of the orbital complex again in 24 hours and 48 hours,” NASA said. “Russian flight controllers have indicated the next earliest docking attempt could be Monday morning.” TASS news agency quoted the head of the Russian side of ISS, Vladimir Soloviov saying “telemetry analysis showed there were failings with radio equipment” on the station. “It can be corrected,” he said, adding that part of the equipment would be replaced and another attempt at docking made between 0500 GMT and 0600 GMT on Monday. “There is no threat to the station and its crew,” a Roscosmos statement said. Russia s space industry has suffered a series of setbacks from accidents and corruption scandals in recent years. Let s go, let s go Last October, a Soyuz rocket carrying an American and a Russian had to make an emergency landing shortly after lift-off — it was the first failure in the history of manned Russian flights. The life-size robot named Fedor, short for Final Experimental Demonstration Object Research, is the first ever sent up by Russia. Fedor blasted off Thursday in a Soyuz MS-14 spacecraft from Russia s Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan and was to stay on the ISS until September 7 learning to assist astronauts in the space station. Soyuz ships are normally manned on such trips, but this time no humans were travelling in order to test a new emergency rescue system. Instead of cosmonauts, Fedor, also known as Skybot F850, was strapped into a specially adapted pilot s seat, with a small Russian flag in its hand. “Let s go. Let s go,” the robot was heard saying during launch, repeating the famous phrase used by the first man in space Yuri Gagarin. The silvery anthropomorphic robot stands 180 centimetres (6 feet) tall and weighs 160 kilogrammes (350 pounds). Fedor has Instagram and Twitter accounts with posts saying it is learning new skills, such as opening a bottle of water. It was to trial those manual skills in very low gravity inside the space station. “The first stage of in-flight experiments went according to the flight plan,” the robot tweeted after reaching orbit. Fedor copies human movements, a key skill that allows it to remotely help astronauts — or even people on Earth — to carry out tasks while the humans are strapped into an exoskeleton. Fedor is not the first robot to go into space. In 2011, NASA sent up Robonaut 2, a humanoid developed with General Motors that had a similar aim of working in high-risk environments. It was flown back to Earth in 2018 after experiencing technical problems. In 2013, Japan sent up a small robot called Kirobo along with the ISS s first Japanese space commander. Developed with Toyota, it was able to hold conversations — albeit only in Japanese.
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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
Our Coptic churches in Egypt and other countries of the Diaspora celebrate the feast of Martyrs (Nayrouz ) which comes on August 11 of each year. It is also known as the Egyptian New Year in the Middle Ages during the Mamluk rule. It is known that Christianity introduced many saints and millions of martyrs and confessors as a result of their persecution from the early Christian times in the first centuries to the fo