PENANG, Malaysia (AP) — Malaysia has sent back 150 containers of plastic waste to 13 mainly rich countries since the third quarter last year, with the environment minster warning on Monday that those who want to make the country a rubbish bin of the world can “dream on.” Shipments of unwanted rubbish have been rerouted to Southeast Asia since China banned the import of plastic waste in 2018, but Malaysia and other developing countries are fighting back. Environment Minister Yeo Bee Yin said another 110 containers are expected to be sent back by the middle of this year. Yeo said the successful repatriation of a total 3,737 metric tonnes (4,120 U.S. tons) of waste followed strict enforcement at key Malaysian ports to block smuggling of waste and shuttering more than 200 illegal plastic recycling factories. Of the 150 containers, 43 were returned to France, 42 to the United Kingdom, 17 to the United States, 11 to Canada, 10 to Spain and the rest to Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore, Portugal, China, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Lithuania, her ministry said. She said the Malaysian government didn t pay a single cent, with the costs of sending back the waste fully borne by the shipping liners and companies responsible for importing and exporting the waste. Yeo said talks were ongoing with U.S. authorities to take back another 60 containers this year. Canada also has 15 more containers, Japan 14, the U.K. 9 and Belgium 8 from 110 more containers that are still being held at Malaysian ports, she said. “If people want to see us as the rubbish dump of the world, you dream on,” Yeo told reporters during inspection at a port in northern Penang state. Yeo said the government will launch an action plan on illegal plastic importation next month that will help the different agencies coordinate enforcement and speed up the process of returning the waste. “Our position is very firm. We just want to send back (the waste) and we just want to give a message that Malaysia is not the dumping site of the world,” she added. Image: Malaysia s Environment Minister Yeo Bee Yin, third from left, inspects a container with plastic waste at a port in Butterworth, Malaysia, Monday, Jan. 20, 2020. Malaysia has sent back 150 containers of plastic waste to 13 mainly rich countries since the third quarter last year, with the environment minster warning on Monday that those who want to make the country a rubbish bin of the world can “dream on.” (AP Photo/Vincent Thian)
NEW DELHI (Reuters) — The tropical Maldives may lose entire islands unless it can quickly access cheap financing to fight the impact of climate change, its foreign minister said. The archipelago s former president Mohamed Nasheed famously held a cabinet meeting underwater to draw attention to submerging land and global warming a decade ago. Yet the Maldives, best known for its white sands and palm-fringed atolls that draw luxury holiday-makers, has struggled to find money to build critical infrastructure like sea-walls. “For small states, it is not easy,” Foreign Minister Abdulla Shahid told Reuters in New Delhi. “By the time the financing is obtained, we may be underwater.” At the U.N. climate talks in Madrid in December, the Maldives and other vulnerable countries pushed for concrete progress on fresh funding to help them deal with disasters and longer-term damage linked to climate change – but failed. Shahid was hopeful the next round of talks, slated to take place in Glasgow in November, would yield better results. One of the world s lowest-lying countries, more than 80% of the Maldives land is less than one meter above mean sea levels, making its population of around 530,000 people extremely vulnerable to storm surges, sea swells and severe weather. In 2004, the Indian Ocean tsunami ravaged the Muslim-majority state, causing financial losses of around $470 million — 62% of GDP — and hitting infrastructure, including its only international airport that was shut for several days. WE NEED IT Two of the country s main industries – tourism and fishing – are heavily dependent on coastal resources, and most settlements and critical infrastructure is concentrated along the coast. In 2014, more than 100 of the archipelago s inhabited islands were already reporting erosion, and around 30 islands are identified as severely eroded. The Maldives spends around $10 million annually for coastal protection works, but will need up to $8.8 billion in total to shield all of its inhabited islands, according to a 2016 estimate by its environment ministry. “In order to protect the islands, we need to start building sea walls,” Shahid said. “It s expensive, but we need it. We can t wait until all of them are being taken away.” The United Nations has created a pot to help developing nations, called the Green Climate Fund, which has already approved nearly $24 million in funding to the Maldives, according to its website. Some individual nations have also offered help, including Japan which contributed to a sea wall round the Maldives capital Male. Shahid did not specify where his government was pushing for more funding. However, Environment Minister Hussain Rasheed Hassan said recently his country would have to turn to banks given inadequate funding elsewhere despite the fact small nations like his were paying the price for the developed world s pollution. “We have to beg some of these (big) emitters to provide money for us. Is that fair?” he said.
TEL AVIV, Israel (AP) — As Egypt marks the 150th anniversary of the opening of the Suez Canal, marine biologists are bemoaning one of the famed waterway s lesser known legacies — the invasion of hundreds of non-native species, including toxic jellyfish and aggressive lionfish. The canal, which connects the Red Sea to the Mediterranean Sea, revolutionized maritime travel by creating a direct shipping route between the East and the West. But over the years, the invasive species have driven native marine life toward extinction and altered the delicate Mediterranean ecosystem with potentially devastating consequences, scientists say. The influx has increased significantly since Egypt doubled its capacity in 2015 with the opening of the “The New Suez Canal,” raising alarm in Europe and sparking criticism from various countries along the Mediterranean basin. The sharpest criticism comes from neighboring Israel, which once battled Egypt in war alongside the 193-kilometer (120-mile)-long canal. Bella Galil, an Israeli marine biologist who has studied the Mediterranean for over three decades, said much of the ecological damage is irreversible. But with the invasive fish and crustaceans buoyed by warming water temperatures and rapidly spreading toward European shores, she argued that urgent action is needed to minimize its long-term impact. Galil, of Tel Aviv University s Steinhardt Museum of Natural History, said the continued widening and deepening of the canal had created a “moving aquarium” of species that, if unchecked, could make coastal waters inhospitable for humans. Galil said the number of invasive species, currently about 400, has more than doubled over the past 30 years, a phenomenon she called a “historic example of the dangers of unintended consequences.” Already, Israel is coping with an unprecedented wave of toxic jellyfish that has damaged coastal power plants and scared off beach-goers and tourists. Several other venomous species, including the aggressive lionfish, have established permanent colonies, creating a potential health hazard when they end up on plates of beach-side restaurants. Most worrisome has been the arrival of the Lagocephalus Sceleratus, an extremely poisonous bony fish commonly known as the silver-cheeked toadfish. Galil said half of all the Israeli fish intake — and all the crustaceans — are now of the invasive variety. With the “rolling invasion” now reaching as far as Spain, European countries are increasingly taking note. The issue is set to feature prominently at a United Nations ocean sustainability workshop this month in Venice. “These non-indigenous organisms present serious threats to the local biodiversity, at the very least comparable to those exerted by climate change, pollution and over-fishing,” Galil said. She said the new species have caused “a dramatic restructuring” of the ecosystem, endangering various local species and wiping out native mussels, prawns and red mullet. Israel s Environmental Protection Ministry said it was monitoring the process with concern since its coasts were the new species “first stop” in the Mediterranean. It stressed that Israel could not stop the phenomenon alone but is promoting regulation to protect the most vulnerable marine habitats. With Israel increasingly reliant on the Mediterranean Sea for drinking water, the ministry said protecting the country s marine environment was “now more important than ever.” Lebanese scientists at the American University of Beirut recently wrote that failing to mitigate the ecological risks associated with the expansion of the Suez Canal would place a large part of the Mediterranean ecosystem in jeopardy, an opinion shared by marine scientists across the eastern Mediterranean, from Turkey to Tunisia. A relatively simple option for damage control seems to be available in the form of the Qatari-funded desalination plants the Egyptians are building along the canal, the first of which is expected to be opened later this year. If carried out properly, Galil said the brine output of the plants could be funneled into the canal to recreate a “salinity barrier” that could stem the flow of species from south to north. The Great Bitter Lakes, about 45 kilometers (30 miles) north of Suez, once created such an obstacle. But as the canal widened and Egyptian cities and farms flushed agricultural wastewater into the lakes, that bulwark disappeared. Egypt, which signed a peace accord with Israel in 1979 and recently signed a massive deal with it to import natural gas, has largely rejected the dire warnings of the Israeli scientists as politically motivated. “Invasive species is a huge and nonspecific category,” said Moustafa Fouda, an adviser to Egypt s environment minister. “They can even be productive, replacing species that are overfished, bringing economic benefits or simply adapting to the new environment.” He estimated that less than 5% of invaders could be regarded as “disruptive” and that most of the shrimp, mollusks, puffer fish and crabs caused no harm. He said even toxic invaders, such as lionfish, were edible if their venomous spines were removed. Egyptian experts also denied the invasions resulted directly from the Suez expansion. They argue that rising water temperatures brought on by global warming and untreated ballast water discharged by cargo ships spurred the exotic arrivals. “Invasions are a global trend due to pollution and climate change, the natural result of which is every species struggling to survive and searching for its optimal environment,” said Tarek Temraz, a marine biology professor at Suez Canal University, and author of the environmental ministry s impact assessment of the canal expansion. The Suez Canal Authority, the government agency that operates the canal, claimed environmental concerns over its enlargement have been overstated. It said water volume flowing into the Mediterranean increased by 4%, creating “little impact on water flow and plankton movement.” Canal officials say they are closely monitoring species migration, imposing regulations on ships that unwittingly ferry invasive creatures and curtailing water contamination in hopes of restoring salinity to the lakes. The canal authority said a recent drive to divert agricultural wastewater away from the Bitter Lakes has successfully raised salinity there by 3% over the past years. Galil says that s not enough, insisting that salinity must increase significantly to serve as an effective barrier against newcomers. “One day we will wake up to a compete and irreversible change and know that there was something we could have done about it if only it had been done on time,” she said.
Deforestation in the Amazon rainforest in northern Brazil soared 85 percent in 2019, compared with the previous year, official data showed Tuesday. The 9,166 square kilometers (3,539 square miles) cleared was the highest number in at least five years, according to Brazil s National Institute for Space Research. In 2018, the deforested area was 4,946 square kilometers. The sharp increase overlapped the first year in office of President Jair Bolsonaro, a climate change skeptic who has eased restrictions on exploiting the Amazon s vast riches. The data was collected by the satellite-based DETER system, which monitors deforestation in real time. It comes after fires ravaged swaths of the Amazon basin last year, igniting a global outcry and diplomatic feud between Bolsonaro and European leaders. The number of fires in the rainforest rose 30 percent to 89,178 in 2019, compared with the previous year, the latest official data show. Human Rights Watch on Tuesday called on Bolsonaro to reverse his environmental policy, which the campaign group says has accelerated land clearing and encouraged attacks on forest defenders. In recent months, three indigenous people have been killed in two separate incidents in the northeastern state of Maranhao. One of them died after being ambushed by loggers. The others were killed in a drive-by shooting.
The world s oceans were the hottest in recorded history in 2019, scientists said on Tuesday, as manmade emissions warmed seas at an ever-increasing rate with potentially disastrous impacts on Earth s climate. Oceans absorb more than 90 percent of excess heat created by greenhouse gas emissions and quantifying how much they have warmed up in recent years gives scientists an accurate read on the rate of global warming. A team of experts from around the world looked at data compiled by China s Institute of Atmospheric Physics (IAP) to gain a clear picture of ocean warmth to a depth of 2,000 meters over several decades. They found that oceans last year were by far the hottest ever recorded and said that the effects of ocean warming were already being felt in the form of more extreme weather, rising sea levels and damage to marine life. The study, published in the journal Advances in Atmospheric Sciences, said that last year the ocean was 0.075 Celsius hotter than the historical average between 1981-2010. That means the world s oceans have absorbed 228 Zetta Joules (228 billion trillion Joules) of energy in recent decades. “That s a lot of zeros,” said Cheng Lijing, lead paper author and associate professor at the International Center for Climate and Environmental Sciences at the IAP. “The amount of heat we have put in the world s oceans in the past 25 years equals 3.6 billion Hiroshima atom bomb explosions.” The past five years are the five hottest years for the ocean, the study found. As well as the mid-term warming trend, the data showed that the ocean had absorbed 25 Zetta Joules of additional energy in 2019 compared with 2018 s figure. “That s roughly equivalent to everyone on the planet running a hundred hairdryers or a hundred microwaves continuously for the entire year,” Michael Mann, director of Penn State s Earth System Sciences Center, told AFP. – Centuries of warming – The 2015 Paris accord aims to limit global temperature rises to “well below” 2C, and to 1.5C if at all possible. With just 1C of warming since the pre-industrial period, Earth has experienced a cascade of droughts, superstorms, floods and wildfires made more likely by climate change. The study authors said there was a clear link between climate-related disasters — such as the bushfires that have ravaged southeastern Australia for months — and warming oceans. Warmer seas mean more evaporation, said Mann. “That means more rainfall but also it means more evaporative demand by the atmosphere,” he said. “That in turn leads to drying of the continents, a major factor that is behind the recent wildfires from the Amazon all the way to the Arctic, and including California and Australia.” Hotter oceans also expand, leading to sea level rises. The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in a landmark oceans report last year warned that tens of millions of people could be displaced from coastal areas by the end of the century because of encroaching seas. And given that the ocean has a far higher heat absorption capacity than the atmosphere, scientists believe they will continue to warm even if humanity manages to drag down its emissions in line with the Paris goals. “As long as we continue to warm up the planet with carbon emissions, we expect about 90 percent of the heating to continue to go into the oceans,” said Mann. “If we stop warming up the planet, heat will continue to diffuse down into the deep ocean for centuries, until eventually stabilizing.”
Sharqiya Governor Mamdouh Ghorab announced on Friday that 43,800 tons of waste have been removed from the city of Zagazig – specifically the areas of al-Ghar, al-Asalugy, Mubarak, and Farouq Street – and transferred to the Khattara landfill, as part of a plan to preserve the environment and protect the health of citizens. This comes to implement a protocol signed between the ministries of Military Production, Local Development, Environment, and Planning to upgrade the municipal waste management system and remove garbage accumulations, ensuring a healthy, safe and clean environment. Ghorab said that the Sharqiya governorate has to get rid of random dumps, remove the waste there and transfer it to the landfill in Khattara, in addition to intensifying the cleaning work with morning and evening shifts until the waste would be completely removed. The head of the Zagazig municipality Diaa Eddin Abu al-Azm explained that work on lifting and transporting the waste to Khattara landfill is proceeding in full swing, in cooperation with the company assigned to the task. The total volume of the waste is estimated at about 50,000 tons, al-Azm said, and that since work began up to 43,800 tons have been removed, representing a major breakthrough.
While standing next to Samsung s new softball-shaped robot Ballie at the CES tech show this week, a company spokesperson told me the personal assistant prototype may one day be able to roll over to me and call 911 if I ve fallen down. My dark-yet-immediate reaction was to wonder whether the newly-announced "artificial humans" from startup Neon a few booths over would be able to do the same. If no one else was around, could I lean on a somewhat realistic-looking avatar -- one I d built a relationship, even a friendship, with -- to know when I m in need of medical assistance? It was a bleak realization that so much of the tech I d seen at the annual electronics expo painted a dystopian picture of life alone. There was the cute robotic cat that responds to your commands and an even cuter toilet paper robot that delivers you a fresh roll when no one else is around to help. Meanwhile, the Lovot robot exists to give people hugs. Technology has cultivated a reputation of isolation over the years: There s the image of the solitary coder working late in the office, the gamer who s forgotten to get off the couch for 12 straight hours and, more relatably, the millions of people who spend far too much time checking their smartphones rather than being present with those around them. Some technology has given us a false sense of connection: Social media has encouraged us to hoard friends we ll never really engage with and covet interactions that are largely meaningless in the form of likes. For many, isolation is a real issue. According to a 2018 survey by Cigna of 20,000 people ages 18 and older in the US, nearly half said they generally feel alone (46%) and roughly the same percentage said they do not have meaningful in-person social interactions with a friend or family member each day. This reality is why companion technology has taken off as a standalone category, especially among the elderly. The AARP reports social isolation impacts more than 8 million older adults and is associated with medical issues, including depression, earlier onset of dementia and higher blood pressure. Companion technology ranges from caregiver robots and pets, including these headless cats for people who have allergies or can t fully care for one, to virtual reality getaways. For example, some senior living communities offer residents European vacations by way of VR headsets, allowing them to visit cities abroad without even standing up. Sometimes friends and family will meet up with them in the virtual world. Alexandra Hamlet, a clinical psychologist at the Child Mind Institute in New York City who specializes in mood and anxiety disorders, tells me that, from a wellness and psychology perspective, nothing beats what human interaction and connection can provide. "This has been proven biologically from a human perspective over and over," Hamlet said. "Back when there were cavemen, they looked out for each other to survive. That hasn t changed." She added: "It really only takes one connection to create that feeling of mental health and sanity." Even as technology advances, a major psychological roadblock remains in forging real relationships with robots and digital avatars. For example, there s the phenomenon called the Uncanny Valley, where people are weirded out by things that resemble humans but aren t human (see: mascots, clowns, mannequins). "While technology is getting better and looking more human and pet-like, we won t ultimately connect to those things because of the Uncanny Valley," Hamlet said. "We know something is a little bit off, so that true connection can t be made. Until robots become indistinguishable from humans in every manner, including speech, mannerisms and affect, there still won t be a better result than having a human one-on-one connection." That limitation leaves some of us with two options: setting aside technology more to reinvest in real world options or doubling down on increasingly life-life cutting-edge tech to fill the void. Based on this year s CES, many companies are betting we choose the latter.
NASA said Monday that its planet hunter satellite TESS had discovered an Earth-sized world within the habitable range of its star, which could allow the presence of liquid water. The planet, named “TOI 700 d,” is relatively close to Earth — only 100 light years away, NASA s Jet Propulsion Laboratory announced during the annual American Astronomical Society meeting in Honolulu, Hawaii. “TESS was designed and launched specifically to find Earth-sized planets orbiting nearby stars,” said Paul Hertz, NASA astrophysics division director. TESS initially misclassified the star, which meant the planets appeared larger and hotter than they actually are. But several amateur astronomers, including high school student Alton Spencer — who works with members of the TESS team — identified the error. “When we corrected the star s parameters, the sizes of its planets dropped, and we realized the outermost one was about the size of Earth and in the habitable zone,” said Emily Gilbert, a graduate student at the University of Chicago. The discovery was later confirmed by the Spitzer Space Telescope. A few other similar planets have been discovered before, notably by the former Kepler Space Telescope, but this is the first discovered by TESS, which was launched in 2018. TESS stabilizes on one area of the sky to detect whether objects — planets — pass in front of stars, which causes a temporary drop in the stars luminosity. This allows TESS to infer the presence of a planet, its size and orbit. Star TOI 700 is small, about 40 percent of our Sun s size and only about half as hot. TESS discovered three planets in orbit, named TOI 700 b, c and d. Only “d” is in the so-called habitable zone, not too far from and not too close to the star, where the temperature could allow the presence of liquid water. It is about 20 percent larger than Earth and orbits its star in 37 days. “d” receives 86 percent of the energy that Earth receives from the Sun. It remains to be seen what d is made of. Researchers have generated models based on the size and type of star in order to predict d s atmospheric composition and surface temperature. In one simulation, NASA explained, the planet is covered in oceans with a “dense, carbon-dioxide-dominated atmosphere similar to what scientists suspect surrounded Mars when it was young.” The planet is tidally locked to the star, meaning that one side always faces the star, as is the case with the Moon and Earth. This synchronous rotation meant that, in another model, one side of the planet was constantly covered in clouds. A third simulation predicted an all-land world, where winds flow from the planet s dark side to its light one. Multiple astronomers will observe the planet with other instruments, in order to obtain new data that may match one of NASA s models.
Smoke from bushfires raging across Australia reached Brazil on Tuesday, an arm of the National Institute for Space Research said on Twitter. Referring to satellite images, the agency s Department of Remote Sensing said the smoke had arrived in Brazil s southernmost state, Rio Grande do Sul. Private meteorological company MetSul also tweeted about the arrival of a smoke cloud to Porto Alegre, the capital of Rio Grande do Sul, but emphasized that “the presence of smoke from Australia in the air is almost imperceptible, despite the satellite showing smoke in the atmosphere over the great Porto Alegre.” Chile s meteorological service said Monday that smoke from the fires was visible in Chile and Argentina. That means the hazy cloud of smoke, sitting at about 6,000 meters (20,000 feet) in the air, traveled more than 12,000 kilometers (7,500 miles) to reach South America. But the drifting smoke won t negatively affect the health of the continent s inhabitants, the Chilean service said. Fires ravaging Australia since September have left 24 people dead and destroyed some eight million hectares (80,000 square kilometers) of land — an area the size of Ireland or the US state of South Carolina. After a catastrophic weekend, Australian firefighters — supported by US and Canadian forces — welcomed rain and a drop in temperatures to boost their efforts early in the week before another heat wave is expected in the coming days. Reserve troops have been deployed to help throughout the country, and the government has earmarked an initial Aus$2 billion ($1.4 billion) for a national recovery fund for devastated communities.
The Ministry of Environment is set to launch the first stage of an reforestation campaign in Heliopolis, Cairo starting with Triumph Square, following President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi s directives to replant and develop Heliopolis s infrastructure, Minister of Environment Yasmine Fouad announced Saturday. According to Fouad, the ministry will plant 2000 meters of ready-made grasses and 300 red Euphorbia plants to increase the number of green areas. The campaign aims to re-plant at least twice the number of removed trees, she said. She added that the company in charge of developing Heliopolis will use high-tech equipment to re-plant the trees. The campaign is part of the “Etahadr Lelakhdar” (Be civilized to the green) initiative which aims to spread environmental awareness, change citizen behavior and urge people to preserve the environment and its natural resources.
The Consumer Electronics Show opening Tuesday offers a chance to showcase the newest and shiniest gadgetry, looking past the turmoil engulfing the global technology industry. The annual Las Vegas gathering with more than 4,500 exhibitors brings out about 175,000 attendees searching for innovations of the future. For an industry facing unprecedented turbulence, the hope is that what happens in Vegas does not stay in Vegas after it closes on Friday, but filters into the world where consumers can adopt new technologies for health, communication, transportation, the home and lifestyles. The show opens against the backdrop of mounting concerns on how data gathered from connected devices can be exploited by marketers, governments and hackers. There has also been a wave of attacks from politicians and activists against dominant tech platforms, as well as intense trade frictions between the world s economic and technology powers, the United States and China. Roger Kay, an analyst with Endpoint Technologies Associates, said consumers are slowly coming to terms with the digital world and its privacy tradeoffs, and still appear to be driven toward new gadgetry. “People always want to see a shiny new object,” Kay said. “I think people are going to adjust to this world and adopt the technology that comes along that suits them.” CES 2020 will feature devices infused with artificial intelligence for cars, homes, smart cities and for personal health, with many gadgets embracing voice assistants from Amazon, Google and others. “We will see AI and apps being used to make people s lives easier, such as speech recognition and object recognition,” said Sarah Brown of the Consumer Technology Association, which organizes the show that includes media previews Sunday and Monday. “You will see that across the entire CES — AI embedded in all these technologies.” Trade and industry attendees will see wearables offering more precise health monitoring, for both athletes and seniors; cars with better computer vision to avoid accidents; televisions designed as smart home hubs; and robots with features to help understand or express emotion. A series of panel discussions will also explore questions around consumer privacy, the importance of 5G wireless, technology for travel and tourism, the promise of quantum computing and how lifestyles will change in “smart cities.” – Emotional issues – Some of the new CES gadgets will collect and analyze data such as facial expressions and tone of voice — creating the opportunity for more personalized services, but with risks as well. This could mean a robot might be a better personal companion for the elderly, and a vehicle may adapt to signs of driver fatigue or impairment. According to a report by the consulting firm Accenture, emotional data “is reaching a tipping point of opportunity” for firms which can decode human emotions for marketing, market research and political polling purposes. “Emotional data will challenge companies because reading people s emotions is a delicate business,” an Accenture report said. “Emotions are highly personal, and users will have concerns about privacy invasion, security breaches, emotional manipulation, and bias.” – US-China row on display – Although CES is not about politics, it takes place while US-China tensions simmer over trade, tariffs, industrial espionage and national security. But China will still represent the largest non-US delegation at CES, with hundreds of exhibitors including Huawei, the smartphone and infrastructure giant which has been blacklisted by Washington over national security concerns. “In terms of exhibit space, Chinese space is down slightly from last year, but most of the major exhibitors are returning and some even upping size of presence,” Brown said. Simon Bryant of Futuresource Consulting said Chinese firms see the show as an important opportunity to demonstrate their ability to compete globally with Silicon Valley. “Chinese firms are looking at places like Latin America and Europe, where they have enormous opportunities,” Bryant said. CES offers big Chinese tech firms like Baidu the chance to show their digital assistant that compete with those of Amazon and Google, for example. “The Chinese tech companies are very aggressive,” he said. “Their domestic market is saturated, and they need to grow outside China, but not necessarily in the US market.”
India has announced it will make another attempt to land on the moon, following a mission that ended in failure last year. At a news conference Wednesday, Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) chairman K. Sivan said that the government has approved a third lunar mission. The mission, named Chandrayaan-3 — which means "moon vehicle" in Sanskrit — will include a new propulsion module, moon lander and rover, Sivan said. The new equipment would cost around $35 million, with its launcher costing a further $51 million, an ISRO spokesman told CNN Business. If successful, India will become only the fourth country to make a soft landing on the moon, after the United States, the former Soviet Union and China. India s first lunar mission was in 2008, when it crashed an impact probe into the moon in a controlled landing — but a soft landing is a far greater technical challenge. Wednesday s announcement comes only months after India s failed Chandrayaan-2 moon landing mission, which had set out to collect mineral and chemical samples. The spacecraft entered lunar orbit in August, but as it slowly made its way toward the lunar surface in September, it lost communication with India s space agency. NASA announced that Vikram — the Chandrayaan-2 mission s lander — had a "hard landing," and its location is still unknown. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who championed the mission, later consoled the ISRO team in a televised address. "We will look back at the journey and effort with great satisfaction," Modi said. "The learnings from today will make us stronger and better. There will be a new dawn and a brighter tomorrow very soon." The lunar landing attempts form part of India s big space ambitions. The country wants to become a major space player, and put Indian astronauts in space by 2022. On Wednesday, Sivan said the agency was making "good progress" toward its first human space flight mission, and had already selected four astronauts for extensive training. Over the past decade, India has made a number of other steps toward achieving its space ambitions. In 2014, India became the first Asian nation to reach Mars, when it put the Mangalyaan probe into orbit around the red planet. In 2017, India launched a record 104 satellites in one mission. And last year, Modi announced that India had shot down one of its own satellites, in what it claimed was an anti-satellite test — making it one of four countries to have achieved that feat. Notably, all of this has been achieved on a relatively low budget. The 2014 Mars Orbiter Mission famously cost $74 million — less than the $100 million spent making the Hollywood space thriller "Gravity." "India doing this at a low cost is important because there has been some criticism over why India has been doing these missions to space when there are other areas to focus on," freelance space journalist Jonathan O Callaghan told CNN last year. "I think it s important for the country to do these missions on a relatively low budget to provide inspirations and aspiration for the general public."
An announcement that will take certain e-cigarette flavors off the US market is coming soon, President Donald Trump told reporters at Mar-a-Lago on Tuesday. "We re going to protect our families, we re going to protect our children and we re going to protect the industry," Trump said, adding some products could "very quickly" return to the market. Multiple outlets reported Tuesday the US Food and Drug Administration plans to announce a ban on the sale of cartridge-based e-cigarette flavors other than tobacco and menthol later this week. The plan was first reported by the Wall Street Journal, citing people familiar with the matter. An FDA spokeswoman told CNN the agency had no comment or information to share. The White House did not respond to CNN s request for comment. Citing administration officials, the New York Times reported the sales ban would not apply to tank vaping systems common in vape shops. Cartridge-based e-cigarettes have been popular among underage users. Juul, the leading e-cigarette maker, has previously stopped selling flavors including mint, mango, creme and cucumber. Trump administration officials announced in September the FDA would try to curb a youth vaping epidemic by stripping all flavors except tobacco from the market. US Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said at the time that flavored-product manufacturers would also have the opportunity to file for approval from the FDA, but their products would be off the market until approved. Questions and criticism have followed since then. Vaping advocates say a flavor sales ban would curtail some adult smokers efforts to quit, put small vaping companies out of business and eliminate jobs. A Trump campaign adviser previously told CNN that Trump s political aides have warned him that such a ban may not be helpful with his base and that he should reconsider. Health and anti-tobacco advocacy groups have urged the Trump administration to take all flavored products, including menthol, off the market. More than 5 million middle and high school students reported using e-cigarettes in 2019, according to data from the National Youth Tobacco Survey published in December. For the sixth year in a row, e-cigarettes were the most commonly used tobacco product among high school and middle school students. Studies published in the medical journal JAMA in November found that nearly 60% of high school students who vape use Juul, the market leader, and mint was the most popular flavor among US 10th and 12th graders. An estimated 2.4 million high school and middle school students use flavored e-cigarettes, one of the studies found. Fruit was the most commonly reported flavor category, at 66.1% for high school and 67.7% for middle school, followed by menthol or mint at 57.3% for high school and 31.1% for middle school. In a statement on Tuesday, Matthew L. Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, said the reported Trump administration policy "falls woefully short of the bold action the Administration promised." "By leaving menthol flavored e-cigarettes widely available and totally exempting liquid flavored products, this policy will not stop the youth e-cigarette epidemic. It is a capitulation to both Juul and vape shops and gives a green light to the e-cigarette industry to continue to target and addict kids with flavored products," Myers statement said in part. CNN has reached out to Juul for comment. Juul has previously noted its action to prevent youth vaping, including halting sales of flavors, implementing age verification tools and supporting legislation to bring the legal age to use tobacco to 21. Stanton Glantz, director of University of California, San Francisco s Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education, said that the reported sales ban is "better than nothing" to curb youth vaping, but likely will have less of an impact than the outright flavor ban originally promised. "It is a step forward. Although menthol is by far and away the most important flavor and what the evidence is showing is when you get rid of the other flavors, kids just go to menthol," Glantz said. Additionally, "the fact that they are exempting the tank systems is very concerning because there is even less quality control on the tank systems than the closed systems," he said, noting that tank systems are currently a "relatively small" part of the vaping market. In December, the sweeping spending bill President Donald Trump signed into law included a measure that prohibits the sale of tobacco products to anyone under the age of 21. As of last week, the FDA said on its website, "it is now illegal for a retailer to sell any tobacco product -- including cigarettes, cigars and e-cigarettes -- to anyone under 21."
Egypt s Environment Ministry on Monday announced that its “19808” hotline is available to report any attempts to trade in, illegally fish, and hunt endangered wildlife species. Environment Minister Yasmine Fouad said that the ministry will hold a series of seminars and workshops across various governorates to help raise awareness on endangered species and report any attempts to trade them. She praised the local community residents of the natural reserves, especially the St. Catherine Reserve, for their participation in monitoring and recording wildlife. One family there had observed some endangered wildlife, and contacted the St. Catherine Reserve s team to record the findings – which was confirmed through surveying the area and tracking the wild animals by specialists and experts at the reserve. This example serves to highlight the local community s importance in preserving wildlife and biological diversity, thereby ensuring the sustainable use of natural resources, she said. Fouad added that the ministry supports promoting and integrating partnerships between the Natural Reserves Department and the local community, contributing to preserving the quality of ecosystems and achieving Egypt s 2030 sustainable development strategy. The minister also thanked the employees of the Zaranik Reserve for their success in re-introducing a green turtle to its natural environment on one of the beaches of Arish city in North Sinai after its rescue and treatment with the participation of the local community, youth and faculty members of the University of Sinai, in addition to the turtle rescue team in Egypt.
Wyze Labs, which makes smart cameras and connected home gadgets, has confirmed databases holding millions of customers information were exposed to the public. The first data leak exposed customer email addresses, as well as the email addresses of those people who were given permission to view the camera feeds. A list of cameras in customers home and tokens used to connect to smartphones and personal assistants such as Alexa were also left open for public view. That database was left exposed from December 4 until December 26. The breach was disclosed on December 26 by Twelve Security and quickly confirmed by Wyze. Twelve Security said the data breach involved 2.4 million customers worldwide. Wyze said no customer passwords or financial information was contained in the database that was left unprotected. Wyze on Monday said a second database had also been exposed. It did not give details of what information is on that database, although it said it also did not include passwords or financial information. As part of the response to the original data leak, Wyze logged out their customers and required them to log in again to create new tokens. Wyze, which was started by three former Amazon employees, makes cameras that cost as little as $20, much less than the hundreds of dollars that many competing products cost. The price is one of the reasons CNN Business listed it as one of the top tech gifts of 2019. But as smart home devices, such as cameras, become more common, a growing number of hackers have sought to access them. Earlier this month, four families with Ring cameras reported that hackers had accessed their system and talked to them. One told an 8-year old girl that he was Santa Claus, and urged her to destroy the room. Ring, which is owned by Amazon (AMZN), said the system invasion was not the result of a breach or failure of Ring s security. Instead, it said the hackers had likely gained access to the family s account through weak or stolen login credentials.
The Mars 2020 rover, which sets off for the Red Planet next year, will not only search for traces of ancient life, but pave the way for future human missions, NASA scientists said Friday as they unveiled the vehicle. The rover has been constructed in a large, sterile room at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, near Los Angeles, where its driving equipment was given its first successful test last week. Shown to invited journalists on Friday, it is scheduled to leave Earth in July 2020 from Florida s Cape Canaveral, becoming the fifth US rover to land on Mars seven months later in February. “It s designed to seek the signs of life, so we re carrying a number of different instruments that will help us understand the geological and chemical context on the surface of Mars,” deputy mission leader Matt Wallace told AFP. Among the devices on board the rover are 23 cameras, two “ears” that will allow it to listen to Martian winds, and lasers used for chemical analysis. Approximately the size of a car, the rover is equipped with six wheels like its predecessor Curiosity, allowing it to traverse rocky terrain. Speed is not a priority for the vehicle, which only has to cover around 200 yards per Martian day — approximately the same as a day on Earth. Fueled by a miniature nuclear reactor, Mars 2020 has seven-foot-long articulated arms and a drill to crack open rock samples in locations scientists identify as potentially suitable for life. – Ancient life – “What we re looking for is ancient microbial life — we re talking about billions of years ago on Mars, when the planet was much more Earth-like,” said Wallace. Back then, the Red Planet had warm surface water, a thicker atmosphere and a magnetic force around it, he explained. “And so it was much more conducive to the types of simple single cell life that evolved here on Earth at that time,” Wallace said. Once collected, the samples will be hermetically sealed in tubes by the rover. The tubes will then be discarded on the planet s surface, where they will lie until a future mission can transport them back to Earth. “We are hoping to move fairly quickly. We d like to see the next mission launched in 2026, which will get to Mars and pick up the samples, put them into a rocket and propel that sample into orbit around Mars,” said Wallace. “The sample would then rendezvous with an orbiter and the orbiter would bring the sample back to the Earth.” Samples should reach Earth “in the course of a decade or so,” he added. – Human mission – To maximize its chance of unearthing traces of ancient life, Mars 2020 will land in a long dried-up delta called Jezero. The site, selected after years of scientific debate, is a crater that was once a 500-yard-deep lake. It was formerly connected to a network of rivers that flowed some 3.5 to 3.9 billion years ago. The crater measures just under 30 miles across, and experts hope it may have preserved ancient organic molecules. The Mars 2020 mission also carries hopes for an even more ambitious target — a human mission to Mars. “I think of it, really, as the first human precursor mission to Mars,” said Wallace. Equipment on board “will allow us to make oxygen” that could one day be used both for humans to breathe, and to fuel the departure from Mars “for the return trip.” The ambitions come as a new space race hots up, with Beijing increasingly vying to threaten US dominance. China on Friday launched one of the world s most powerful rockets in a major step forward for its own planned mission to Mars next year. NASA s Mars 2020 will remain active for at least one Martian year, which is around two years on Earth. But Martian rovers have frequently exceeded their intended lifespans — its predecessor Curiosity landed on Mars in 2012 and is still trundling around the planet s Mount Sharp region.
The first-ever competition to send an Egyptian astronaut to space is set to begin in January 2020, according to a recent announcement by Chairman of the Egyptian Space Agency Mohamed al-Qousy. Qousy told a delegation of the Education and Scientific Research Committee of the House of Representatives on Wednesday during their visit to the Egyptian Space Agency headquarters in the administrative capital that the qualification program will last six years and will be divided into several phases. Each phase will last between two and three years, during which qualified competitors will be selected in accordance with specific global standards. Meanwhile, agency officials told the delegation that applicants in the first stage will need to pass psychological, physical and technical tests in order to qualify for the second stage. The second stage of the program will focus on practical issues, such as living in the International Space Station, Qousy said, adding that any young man or woman can apply for the competition.
The climate summit in Madrid earlier this month did not collapse — but by almost any measure it certainly failed. Five years after the fragile UN process yielded the world s first universal climate treaty, COP25 was billed as a mopping-up session to finish guidelines for carbon markets, thus completing the Paris Agreement rulebook. Governments faced with a crescendo of deadly weather, dire alarms from science and weekly strikes by millions of young people were also expected to signal an enhanced willingness to tackle the climate crisis threatening to unravel civilization as we know it. The result? A deadlock and a dodge. The 12-day talks extended two days into overtime but still punted the carbon market conundrum to next year s COP26 in Glasgow. A non-binding pledge, meanwhile, to revisit deeply inadequate national plans for slashing greenhouse gas emissions was apparently too big an ask. The European Union was the only major emitter to step up with an ambitious mid-century target (“net zero”), and even then it was over the objection of Poland and without a crucial midway marker. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres labelled COP25 “disappointing”. Others were more blunt. “The can-do spirit that birthed the Paris Agreement feels like a distant memory,” said Helen Mountford of Washington-based think tank World Resources Institute (WRI). “The world is screaming out for climate action but this summit has responded with a whisper,” noted Chema Vera, executive director of Oxfam International. So what went wrong? At least five factors contributed to the Madrid meltdown. – Amateur hour – To an unsettling degree, the outcome of a UN climate summit — where 196 nations must sign off on every decision — depends on the savvy and skill of the host country, which acts as a facilitator. The stars were not aligned for the chaotic Copenhagen summit of 2009 and the Danish prime minister s less-than-deft maneuvering did not help. By contrast, the 2015 climate treaty was in no small measure made possible by France s diplomatic tour-de-force. This year, Chile s environment minister Carolina Schmidt wielded the hammer after the conference was moved at the last minute to Madrid due to massive protests on the streets of Santiago. From Day One, when Schmidt s mishandling of a request from the African negotiating bloc mushroomed into a diplomatic incident, veteran observers worried that she was not up to the job. For Greenpeace International executive director Jennifer Morgan, “an irresponsibly weak Chilean leadership” enabled Brazil and Saudi Arabia to push agendas destined to derail the talks. “Chile played a bad hand poorly,” noted another insider. A marginal factor, perhaps, but not a negligible one. – Fox in the henhouse – Among the nearly 30,000 diplomats, experts, activists and journalists accredited to attend the summit were hundreds of high-octane fossil fuel lobbyists. They are collectively the elephant in the room: everyone knows what causes climate change but it is considered impolitic within the UN climate bubble to point fingers. Even the Paris Agreement turns a blind eye: nowhere in its articles does one find the words oil, natural gas, coal, fossil fuels or even CO2. “We need to engage with them,” UN Climate executive secretary Patricia Espinosa told AFP when asked whether it was time to exclude such lobbyists from the room. “There is no way we will achieve this transformation without the energy industry, including oil and gas.” But the incongruity of their participation in a life-and-death struggle to wean the world from their products has become harder to ignore. “Is there no space free from greenwashing,” asked Mohamed Adow, director of climate think tank Power Shift Africa. “The UN climate negotiations should be the one place that is free from such fossil fuel interference.” – The Trump effect – On November 4, 2020 — the day after US voters will renew Donald Trump s mandate or turn him out of office — the United States is set to formally withdraw from the Paris Agreement. It will be the second time that a Republican White House has plunged a dagger in the heart of a climate treaty nurtured by the Democratic administration that preceded it — the Kyoto Protocol was the previous one. From the moment Trump was elected — on Day Two of COP22 in Marrakesh — advocates of climate action have played down the negative impact of the world s largest economy and second biggest carbon polluter pulling out of the Paris deal. But the corrosive “Trump effect” was palpable in Madrid, as was the anger at Washington for twisting arms even as it walked out the door. “There are one or two parties that seem hell-bent on ensuring any calls for ambition, action and environmental integrity are rolled back,” said Simon Stiell, Grenada s environment minister. Poor and small-island nations exposed to climate-addled weather — drought, heatwaves, super-storms, rising seas — were especially incensed at behind-the-scenes US efforts to block a separate stream of money for “loss and damage”. Rich nations have promised developing ones $100 billion (90 billion euros) annually starting next year to help them adapt to future climate impacts, but there is no provision in the 1992 bedrock climate treaty for damages already incurred. No one, it seems, imagined that climate talks would drag on for 30 years. The US withdrawal has also crippled the coalition that delivered the landmark Paris treaty, said Li Shuo, a senior policy analyst for Greenpeace East Asia. “The US-China-EU climate tricycle has had a wheel pulled off by Trump,” he told AFP. “Going into 2020, it is critical for the remaining two wheels to roll in sync.” – China at the wheel – When it comes to climate change, Beijing holds the fate of the planet in its hands. China accounts for 29 percent of global CO2 emissions, more than the next three countries — the US, Russia, India — combined, according to the Global Carbon Project. Its carbon footprint has tripled in 20 years from 3.2 to 10 billions tonnes in 2018. The core commitment of China s voluntary carbon cutting plan, annexed to the Paris treaty, is to stabilise its CO2 output by 2030. Experts agree that China could hit that mark earlier and more countries are asking Beijing — ever so gingerly — to promise it will. Granada s minster Stiell called out half-a-dozen rich and emerging economies — including China and India — for not revising their voluntary plans in line with a world in which warming does not exceed 1.5 degrees Celsius. Failure to do so, he said, “shows a lack of ambition that also undermines ours”. “China s emissions, like the rest of the world s, need to peak imminently, and then decline rapidly,” for the world to stay under 1.5C or even 2C, according to the Climate Action Tracker, a consortium that analyses climate commitments. But Beijing has been coy about its intentions. Going into Madrid, it hinted at a revised target ahead of COP26. But during the Madrid meeting, China dug in its heels and — backed by India — invoked the principle that rich countries must take the lead in addressing climate change, calling out their failure to deliver on promises made. “Ambition of Parties is measured first and foremost by the implementation of its commitments,” said a joint statement from China, India, Brazil and South Africa. The statement said commitments made by developed countries in the pre-2020 period — especially for money and technology — must be honored. China s lack of enthusiasm is also rooted in changes on the domestic front. “When an economy slows, it is more difficult to be as single-minded about leadership on climate change,” said WRI s Andrew Steer referring to China s position. China is only likely to follow with measures of its own if the European Union confirms its mid-century “net zero” goal and vows to slash emissions by at least 55 percent by 2030, several experts said. “If the EU doesn t come through, we re screwed,” said one observer with more than 20 COPs under her belt. – Spitting into the wind – Perhaps the most daunting headwind facing UN climate talks is rising nationalism, populism and economic retrenchment — all at the expense of the multilateralism. “The stalemate over carbon markets is a symptom of a more general polarization and lack of cooperation among countries,” said Sebastien Treyer of the IDDRI think tank in Paris. Street protests, meanwhile, against the rise in cost-of-living in France, Colombia, Chile, Ecuador, Egypt and more than two dozen other countries in 2019 have given governments already reluctant to invest in a low-carbon future another reason to baulk. “These cases highlight how sensitive populations are to change in the price of basic commodities like food, energy and transport,” noted Stephane Hallegatte of the World Bank. “This is the context in which most countries have committed to stabilize climate change.” Even the diplomats and activists deeply invested in the UN climate process have begun to wonder if it is fit for purpose. Negotiations are transactional by nature, and may not be suited to an emergency situation, some noted. “We are standing and watching our house on fire,” said Steer from the WRI. “I ve got a fire hose, you ve got a fire hose, but I m not going to turn mine on until you do.” But nations with the most to lose have few alternatives. “It is the only space where poor countries — who have done the least to pollute and yet are suffering first and worst from its destruction — have a voice,” said Power Shift Africa s Mohamed Adow. “But, sadly, it is proving inadequate.” The key to unlocking the diplomatic deadlock may lie within civil society, said Johan Rockstrom of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK), who wonders whether a wave of moral outrage could push governments toward more decisive action. “Are we approaching a tipping point where it will no longer be acceptable to shorten the lives of people with fossil fuel pollution?”, he asked, noting that breathing the air in the Indian capital New Delhi is like smoking 10 cigarettes a day. The Fridays for Future youth movement sparked by teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg saw millions of people spill into the streets demanding climate action. If their numbers rise to tens or hundreds of millions, maybe leaders in democratic and autocratic governments alike will begin to take note.
The end of 2019 signals the beginning of a new decade. Maybe it s being on that precipice that prompted our nostalgic pick for favorite tech gadget of the year. The Nintendo Switch Lite, which debuted in September, is a throwback to a simpler time when you could play games on the go from a dedicated handheld device. In a world of increasingly powerful smartphones that pull our attention in numerous directions at once, it s nice to have a device built solely for gaming fun. It recalls Nintendo s iconic Game Boy devices, which dominated the 90s and made gaming popular among even the most casual players. Game Boys eventually were featured in a variety of bright colors to appeal to gamers of all sensibilities. In a similar move, the Switch Lite comes in three colors: gray, turquoise and yellow. It s strictly a handheld device, unlike its predecessor the Nintendo Switch, which can be played standalone or docked to use with a TV. The Lite is also smaller, lighter and cheaper. It costs $200 whereas the Switch costs $300. The Lite can play most Switch games, as long as they re handheld compatible. The Switch Lite should bolster the already-successful Switch family of devices. The Switch was the best-selling video-game hardware platform of 2019 in the United States and the only platform showing year-over-year growth, according to Mat Piscatella, executive director of games at research firm NPD Group. "Nintendo Switch Lite has certainly helped with this performance since launching in September," said Piscatella. "It s a perfect Pokemon machine, and with the record setting launch of Pokemon Sword and Pokemon Shield in November, Switch is almost certain to finish the year as the best-selling video game hardware of the holiday season." Piscatella said the affordability of the Lite version makes it easier for multiple people in a household to own one. The other factor helping Nintendo is that Sony and Microsoft aren t set to launch their next generation of hardware until late 2020. Over Thanksgiving week, the Nintendo Switch and Switch Lite sold a combined total of more than 830,000 units in the United States, according to Bill Trinen, Nintendo of America s senior director or product marketing. It was the single best week of US sales in the history of the Nintendo Switch, which launched in 2017.
The Chamber of Diving and Water Sports (CDWS) in Egypt announced it will organize awareness training courses regarding safe practice for divers to interact with oceanic white-tip sharks, during January 2020. The dates and locations of the courses have been set in Hurghada for January 19, 2020. A statement from the CDWS said that these courses target professional dive guides, dive instructors and technical managers.
Environment Minister Yasmine Fouad in a Saturday statement said that noise pollution poses a significant problem, and that noise monitoring devices show that Cairo is the most noise-polluted city in Egypt due to its high population density. She explained that her ministry is preparing a database and map of the noise levels across Egypt, to help with establishing new facilities and major national projects such as highways, bridges, hospitals, schools and residential areas. Devising the database and the map comes within the framework of Egypt s “Vision 2030” sustainable development strategy, she said. Fouad explained that the map will be useful in implementing the plan to combat noise and in urban planning for new structures, and to reduce noise rates in existing areas. The selection of monitoring sites is carried out according to international standards, she said. The national network monitoring environmental noise has been established since March 2007 until now, Fouad explained. It consists of 30 stations for monitoring noise within Cairo, Giza, and Qalyubiya, in addition to a monitoring station on the Suez Canal in Ismailia. She added that on Saturday the ministry finalized the installation of a noise monitoring station in Damanhour in Beheira governorate, as part of the ministry s plan to develop the noise monitoring network.
A few days ago, Egypt witnessed a major historical military achievement as President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi opened the South Bernese military base, in the presence of a number of Arab and foreign heads of state and defense ministers and high-ranking diplomatic figures. The South Bernice Military Base was built in a record time, as it took only one year to build one of the giant military fortresses on the southern strat