Sunscreen contributing to decline of coral reefs, according to study

The Guardian reports:

A chemical in sunscreen is damaging coral, according to new study. Image credit: artur84 at freedigitalphotos.net

A chemical in sunscreen is damaging coral, according to new study.
Image credit: artur84 at freedigitalphotos.net

A common ingredient found in sunscreen is toxic to coral and contributing to the decline of reefs around the world, according to new research.

Oxybenzone, a UV-filtering chemical compound found in 3,500 brands of sunscreen worldwide, can be fatal to baby coral and damaging to adults in high concentrations, according to the study published on Tuesday in the Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology.

The international research team that conducted the study, led by Craig Downs, found the highest concentrations of oxybenzone around coral reefs popular with tourists, particularly those in Hawaii and the Caribbean.

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Beijing warns US over South China Sea dispute

Sky News Australia reports:

China has stated that it will "firmly oppose" infringement of its sovereignty after indications that US warships may soon be sent close to its artificial islands in the South China Sea. Washington has claimed that China's island-building project threatens freedom of navigation in that area. Image credit: jannoon028 on freedigitalphotos.net

China has stated that it will “firmly oppose” infringement of its sovereignty after indications that US warships may soon be sent close to its artificial islands in the South China Sea.
Washington has claimed that China’s island-building project threatens freedom of navigation in that area.
Image credit: jannoon028 on freedigitalphotos.net

Beijing has warned that it will ‘firmly oppose’ infringement of its sovereignty after indications Washington will soon send warships close to its artificial islands in the South China Sea.

Tensions have mounted since China transformed reefs in the area – also claimed by several neighbouring countries – into small islands capable of supporting military facilities, a move that the US says threatens freedom of navigation.

Senior officials in Washington have signalled that the US military could sail close by the islands in the coming days or weeks to demonstrate that Washington does not recognise a Chinese claim to territorial waters around them.

Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying on Thursday said that the country respected freedom of navigation and overflight in the South China Sea, but would ‘firmly oppose infringement of sovereignty under that pretext’.

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Singapore will close schools on Friday due to pollution

The Daily Mail reports:

Singapore has announced that it will close all of its primary and secondary schools in response to worsening air pollution caused by slash-and-burn agriculture in neighbouring Indonesia. Image by taesmileland.

Singapore has announced that it will close all of its primary and secondary schools in response to worsening air pollution caused by slash-and-burn agriculture in neighbouring Indonesia.
Image by taesmileland.

“Singapore will close all primary and secondary schools on Friday as worsening pollution causes air quality to deteriorate, the Ministry of Education said late on Thursday.

Slash-and-burn agriculture in neighbouring Indonesia has blanketed Singapore in a choking haze for weeks, and the air quality has worsened since Wednesday night.

The three-hour Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) reading climbed to 314 and the 24-hour figure rose to 223-275 at 10 p.m. local time (1400 GMT). Anything over 300 indicates “hazardous” air quality and 201-300 is “very unhealthy”, Singapore’s National Environment Agency says on its website.”

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Arctic Ice Reaches Its Fourth-Lowest Point on Record

Time reports:

Ice levels in the Arctic have declined to the fourth-lowest point on record, according to new research. Image by porbital.

Ice levels in the Arctic have declined to the fourth-lowest point on record, according to new research.
Image by porbital.

“Ice levels in the Arctic have declined to the fourth-lowest point on record, according to new research. The analysis comes in advance of an expected rise in ice levels during the cool fall and winter months.

The research, published by the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC), suggests that the area of Arctic sea ice dropped to 4.41 million square kilometers (1.7 million square miles) late last week. That’s a decline of 620,000 square kilometers (240,000 square miles) from the lowest point in 2014. (For perspective, that’s more land area than the entirety of California).

Despite ups and downs, ice levels in the Arctic have continued a general downward trajectory since satellites first measured the area of ice in 1979. Nine of the ten years with the lowest minimum ice levels have occurred in the last decade, according to the report.”

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Migrants killed as boat capsizes off Malaysian coast

The Sydney Morning Herald reports:

“A boat carrying dozens of migrants has sunk in rough seas in the Malacca Strait off Malaysia, killing at least 14 people, according to Malaysian rescuers.

The tragedy has reignited fears about a new wave of Rohingyas making a perilous journey in unsafe boats across the Bay of Bengal to flee persecution in Myanmar.

In May, Thailand cracked down on human trafficking networks as several thousand Rohingyas and Bangladeshi boat people landed in Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand after being abandoned by smugglers.

Mass graves of more than 200 others who had been murdered by traffickers were found in remote areas of Thailand and Malaysia.”

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Zimbabwe Heading for Social and Political Instability, Say Analysts

VOA Zimbabwe reports:

Zimbabwe is heading for political and social instability if economic and political issues in the country are not addressed soon, according to analysts. Image by zdviv.

Zimbabwe is heading for political and social instability if economic and political issues in the country are not addressed soon, according to analysts.
Image by zdviv.

“Economic and political analysts say Zimbabwe is headed for social and political instability unless the government speedily addresses the worsening economic situation.

A snap informal survey on the streets of Harare found that the majority of the people on the street consider the current economic situation in Zimbabwe as “very bad” and it is not surprising as the economy continues to plummet.

The country’s economy has been plunging since 2013 with more than 4,000 companies closing down and thousands of workers losing their jobs.

In the last three weeks alone, more than 20,000 workers have been thrown on the streets following a Supreme Court ruling allowing employers to fire workers on three months’ notice.

More people are getting poorer with the middle class no longer in existence and the situation is getting dire. Analysts say the situation, if not properly managed, could lead to a disaster and instability.”

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Evidence of species loss in the Amazon

Phys.org reports:

“Researchers studying plants, ants, birds, dung beetles and orchid bees in the Brazilian Amazon have found clear evidence that deforestation causes drastic loss of tropical forest biodiversity.

Publishing this week in Ecology Letters, researchers highlighted how remaining areas of undisturbed and recovering forest provided the last refuge for many species unable to withstand the impact of human activity.

As one of the most comprehensive surveys of the impacts of disturbance on tropical forest biodiversity ever conducted, the international team, including Lancaster University, conducted a detailed analysis of nearly 2,000 species of plants, birds, beetles, ants and bees that were found across more than 300 diverse sites in the Brazilian Amazon.

They found, where forests had been cleared for cattle ranching and agriculture, plant and animal life was impoverished and remaining species invariably consisted of the same subset of the original flora and fauna.

Researchers say this is “irrefutable” evidence that biodiversity is declining across the tropics.”

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Sea level rise “very likely to get worse” say NASA experts

The Sydney Morning Herald reports:

“NASA is undertaking an “intensive research effort” into the problem of rising seas brought on by global warming, the agency announced Wednesday. And it will include satellite mounted tools so accurate that “if they were mounted on a commercial jetliner, flying at 12,192 metres, they could detect the bump caused by a dime lying flat on the ground,” as agency earth science director Mike Freilich put it Wednesday.

The focus reflects the growing urgency of the topic. Recent scientific reports have documented apparently accelerating ice loss from Greenland, and potential destabilisation of parts of the West Antarctic ice sheet.

The agency says that we’ve seen 7.6 cm of global sea level increase since the year 1992 — with large regional variation — and a further rise of 91.44 cm has likely been “locked in” by warming that has already occurred. Other scientists have recently suggested that we may be about to unleash considerably more than that.”

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China’s central bank cuts interest rates due to market slump

The BBC reports:

The People's Bank of China has cut interest rates in an effort to boost growth in its economy. Image by: David Castillo Dominici

The People’s Bank of China has cut interest rates in an effort to boost growth in its economy.
Image by: David Castillo Dominici

“The People’s Bank of China cut its key lending rate by 0.25 percentage points to 4.6% in an effort to calm stock markets after two days of turmoil.

It is the fifth interest rate cut since November and will take effect on Wednesday.

The move has boosted global share prices further, with London’s FTSE 100 jumping 3%, while Germany’s Dax gained 5% and the Paris Cac rose by 4.1%.

Other European markets, including Lisbon, Madrid, Moscow and Milan, all closed sharply higher.

But Wall Street bucked the trend. Having initially surged all three main stock indexes in the US reversed sharply in the final hour of trading.”

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No sign of end to Korea talks

Australian Financial Review reports:

“Talks between North Korea and South Korea on how to lower tensions continued into the early hours of Monday, as Kim Jong Un stepped up the mobilisation of his forces.

Neither side showed any indication of when the meeting between Kim’s top military aide Hwang Pyong So and South Korean President Park Geun Hye’s chief security adviser Kim Kwan Jin, which began at 3:30 p.m. on Sunday, might end. It follows a 10-hour session between the officials earlier in the weekend.

As the dialogue went on at the border village of Panmunjom, a South Korean military official said North Korea had dispatched more than two thirds of its submarines from ports and doubled its front-line artillery forces.”

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