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The hole in Earth's ozone layer is healing, first-of-its kind study shows
19 January 2018 - Efforts to heal the hole in Earth's ozone layer over Antarctica appear to be paying off, according to a new, first-of-its-kind study that looked directly at ozone-destroying chemicals in the atmosphere. Earth's ozone layer protects the planet's surface from some of the sun's more harmful rays that can cause cancer and cataracts in humans, and damage plant life, according to NASA. In the mid-1980s, researchers identified a massive hole in the ozone layer over Antarctica and determined that it had been caused largely by human-produced chemicals called chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs). (more)

Award-winning Nepalese farmers grow bananas to avert floods
19 January 2018 - Simpalpani and neighbouring villages -- which sit on a geological faultline -- have been struck by 16 massive landslides over the last 50 years, aid workers said. Rising global temperatures have shrunk Nepal's glaciers, with meltwater forming lakes that flood regularly, causing widespread destruction. But farmers clearing forests for agriculture are also to blame, experts say. Since 2010, the charity [National Disaster Risk Reduction Centre Nepal] has been teaching 14,000 families in 28 villages in the Banganga basin, a river of religious significance for Hindus in Nepal and home to an important wetland, to change their farming habits. Mapping data shows that slash and burn farming in the area has fallen by 80 percent since the project began, [executive director Dhruba Gautam] said. Farmers have persuaded each other to adopt practices that protect forests, soil, rivers, and wetlands, as well as earning a better living. (more)

Down to business: Drought-hit Kenyan women trade their way out of poverty
19 January 2018 - Widow Ahatho Turuga lost 20 of her goats to drought early last year, but the shopkeeper is planning to reinvest in her herd once she has saved enough money. ... Turuga is finding it easier to cope since taking part in a rural entrepreneurship programme run by The BOMA Project, a non-profit helping women in Kenya's dry northern areas beat extreme poverty and adapt to climate change. The U.S. and Kenya-based organization provides two years of business and life-skills training, as well as mentorship. Groups of three women are each given a start-up grant of 20,000 Kenyan shillings ($194.55) and a progress grant of 10,000 shillings to set up a business. After graduating, they carry on operating their businesses -- mainly small shops selling groceries and household goods -- either together or on their own. (more)

Stuart Wenham: scientists pay tribute to 'Einstein of solar world'
19 January 2018 - Australia's scientific community has paid tribute to Prof Stuart Wenham, a solar energy pioneer described as the 'Einstein of the solar industry', whose research increased the efficiency of solar cells a hundredfold. He was the director of the Centre of Excellence for Advanced Photovoltaics and Photonics at the University of New South Wales. Colleagues and friends remembered him as a brilliant scientist and kind mentor whose work revolutionised the affordability of solar energy around the world. (more)

Blood test to detect 8 cancers early gives promising results
18 January 2018 - Scientists are reporting progress on a blood test to detect many types of cancer at an early stage, including some of the most deadly ones that lack screening tools now. Many groups are working on liquid biopsy tests, which look for DNA and other things that tumors shed into blood, to try to find cancer before it spreads, when chances of cure are best. In a study Thursday (18 January) in the journal Science, Johns Hopkins University scientists looked to see how well their experimental test detected cancer in people already known to have the disease. The blood tests found about 70 percent of eight common types of cancer in the 1,005 patients. In many cases, the test narrowed the possible origin of the cancer to one or two places . . . (more)

Rival Koreas agree to form first unified Olympic team
17 January 2018 - The rival Koreas agreed Wednesday (17 January) to form their first unified Olympic team and have their athletes parade together for the first time in 11 years during the opening ceremony of next month's Winter Olympics in South Korea, officials said. The agreements still require approval from the International Olympic Committee. But they are the most prominent steps toward rapprochement achieved by the Koreas since they recently began exploring cooperation during the Olympics following a year of heightened tension over the North's nuclear weapons program. (more)

French startup launches hydrogen-powered bicyles
17 January 2018 - A French start-up has become the first company to start factory production of hydrogen-powered bicycles for use in corporate or municipal fleets. Pragma Industries, which is based in Biarritz, France and makes fuel cells for military use, has sold some 60 hydrogen-powered bikes to French municipalities including Saint Lo, Cherbourg, Chambery, and Bayonne. (more)

London's January air quality 'best in 10 years'
17 January 2018 - London's air quality is within legal limits in mid-January for the first time in 10 years, City Hall has said. Mayor Sadiq Khan attributes the cleaner air in part to the introduction of Low Emission Bus Zones and the T-Charge for dirtier cars in central London. (more)

UK: Most new cars must be electric by 2030, ministers told
17 January 2018 - Three-fifths of new cars must be electric by 2030 to meet greenhouse gas targets, ministers have been warned. Homes also need to be built to a higher standard, the Committee on Climate Change -- the official watchdog -- says. The government says the UK is cutting emissions faster than any other G7 nation -- and the committee agrees there has been a big shift under [Prime Minister] Theresa May. (more)

US: Hidden cameras help scientists study elusive wildlife
17 January 2018 - Some charismatic critters caught by motion-detecting wildlife cameras seem to know how to strike a pose. But it's not just show business. As these devices get ever smaller, cheaper, and more reliable, scientists across the U.S. are using them to document elusive creatures like never before. 'There's no doubt -- it is an incredible tool to acquire data on wildlife,' said Grant Harris, a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service wildlife biologist based in Albuquerque, New Mexico. (more)

Hubble scores unique close-up view of distant galaxy
16 January 2018 - The Hubble telescope has bagged an unprecedented close-up view of one of the Universe's oldest known galaxies. Astronomers were lucky when the orbiting observatory captured the image of a galaxy that existed just 500 million years after the Big Bang. The image was stretched and amplified by the natural phenomenon of gravitational lensing, unlocking unprecedented detail. (more)

Singing 'speeds up' recovery from post-natal depression
16 January 2018 - Singing could help mothers recover from post-natal depression more quickly, a study suggests. The study, published in the British Journal of Psychiatry, looked at 134 mothers with post-natal depression. Early recovery is seen to be crucial to limit effects on mother and baby. Previous studies have indicated singing can help improve the mental health of older people and those with dementia, but this is the first controlled study of its effect on post-natal depression. (more)

Ancient statues looted in Lebanese war returned decades later
12 January 2018 - A marble bull's head made 2,400 years ago for a Phoenician temple and looted during Lebanon's civil war arrived in Beirut on Friday (12 January) after American officials found it in the United States and sent it home. Located on the east coast of the Mediterranean, Lebanon was an important part of the classical world, home to the Phoenician civilization ... (more)

US: Michigan State University effort to help low-income science students
12 January 2018 - Michigan State University says it's rolling out scholarships over the next several years for low-income students who studied natural science at community colleges. The East Lansing school says it aims to boost the quantity and quality of such students studying science, technology, engineering, and math, and completing four-year degrees. Program officials say it is 'essential' to broaden participation in the STEM fields and diversify the workforce. Money for the scholarships comes from a $4.9 million grant from the National Science Foundation. (more)

Solar steam powers homes - and new jobs - in South Africa
11 January 2018 - South Africa may still get most of its energy from coal, but in the country's sunny Northern Cape province, a different electricity source is taking hold: solar steam. A Spanish renewable energy company has opened three thermal solar plants -- which use the sun's heat to turn water into steam -- in the province. The steam is then used to drive turbines to produce electricity -- enough to provide electrical power to just short of a million people, or almost the province's entire population, according its operators. (more)

British Prime Minister Theresa May proposes plastic-free supermarket aisles in green strategy
11 January 2018 - Theresa May has announced a war on plastic waste, with proposed policies including plastics-free aisles in supermarkets and a tax on takeaway containers. The Prime Minister set out her ambition to eliminate all avoidable plastic waste within 25 years in a speech on Thursday (11 January) in which she promised the UK would lead internationally on environmental issues. (more)

Time with grandparents may impact how kids view the elderly
11 January 2018 - Children and teens who spend a lot of time with their grandparents may be less likely than peers who don't to have negative and stereotypical ideas about the elderly, a recent study suggests. Researchers in Belgium asked 1,151 youth ranging in age from 7 to 16 years about the time they spent with grandparents as well as their opinions about aging and the elderly. Growing evidence also suggests that contact between grandchildren and grandparents can be good for both, said Dominic Abrams, a psychology researcher at the University of Kent, in the UK. 'More time that is enjoyable and positive really makes the biggest difference. I think there are several ways that this works,' Abrams, who wasn't involved in the study, said by email. (more)

North Korea to join Olympics in South Korea as tensions ease
9 January 2018 - The rival Koreas took steps toward reducing their bitter animosity during rare talks Tuesday, as North Korea agreed to send a delegation to next month's Winter Olympics in South Korea and reopen a military hotline. (more)

A small uptick in inter-Korean ties follows a tense year
9 January 2018 - What a difference a year makes. North and South Korea sat down to talk Tuesday (9 January) after a year of mounting tensions ... The seemingly intractable differences suddenly eased over the past week -- though just a tad -- in a series of developments that followed a suggestion by North Korea's leader that he might send a delegation to the upcoming Winter Olympics in South Korea. A look at the buildup and easing of tensions: (more)

Clean energy sources manage to cut electricity bill in Chile
9 January 2018 - A 75 per cent drop in electricity rates, thanks to a quadrupled clean generation capacity, is one of the legacies to be left in Chile by the administration of Michelle Bachelet, who steps down in March. The Atacama desert in northern Chile has the highest solar radiation on the planet, one of the country's advantages when it comes to developing solar energy. (more)

Plastic microbeads ban enters force in UK
9 January 2018 - Plastic microbeads can no longer be used in cosmetics and personal care products in the UK, after a long-promised ban came into effect on Tuesday. The ban initially bars the manufacture of such products and a ban on sales will follow in July. Pressure is now mounting for action on plastic bottles. (more)

AP Explains: What to expect from North-South Korean talks
8 January 2018 - North Korea's recent abrupt push to improve ties with South Korea wasn't totally unexpected, as the country has a history of launching provocations and then pursuing dialogue with rivals Seoul and Washington in an attempt to win concessions. Still, Tuesday's planned talks between the Koreas, the first in about two years, have raised hopes of at least a temporary easing of tensions over North Korea's recent nuclear and missile tests, which have ignited fears of a possible war. A look at how the Korean talks were arranged and what to expect from them: (more)

Apple investors urge action to curb child gadget addiction
8 January 2018 - Two major Apple investors have urged the iPhone maker to take action to curb growing smartphone addiction among children, highlighting growing concern about the effects of gadgets and social media on youngsters. New York-based Jana Partners LLC and the California State Teachers' Retirement System, or CalSTRS, said Monday [8 January] in open letter to Apple that the company must offer more choices and tools to help children fight addiction to its devices. 'Apple can play a defining role in signaling to the industry that paying special attention to the health and development of the next generation is both good business and the right thing to do,' the letter said. (more)

Regulations proposed to end use of asbestos in Canada
8 January 2018 - Activists in Sarnia, a city in Southwestern Ontario, Canada, deserve much of the credit for the federal government's long-awaited move to ban asbestos and asbestos-containing products in Canada, says a veteran workplace health researcher. 'This is something so long overdue, it's not funny,' researcher Jim Brophy said about proposed regulations Science Minister Kirsty Duncan and other federal cabinet ministers announced recently to meet the government's promise to enact a ban by 2018. (more)

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