• What California can learn for Israel on solving serious water shortages

    California is still counting up the damage from the 2014 drought, which resulted in more than $200 million in losses in the dairy and livestock industry and a staggering $810 million in crop production. And analysts are predicting this year to be even worse.

    But many will admit that if there is any country on earth that knows how to trump a three-year (and counting) drought cycle and convert a wasteland to oasis, it’s Israel. For thousands of years, populations have been wresting a livelihood from the desert of what is now Israel, refining the techniques that would one day result in an agricultural paradise.

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  • Beijing growing explosively, impacting weather and climate

    A new study by scientists using data from NASA's QuikScat satellite has demonstrated a novel technique to quantify urban growth based on observed changes in physical infrastructure. The researchers used the technique to study the rapid urban growth in Beijing, China, finding that its physical area quadrupled between 2000 and 2009. 

    A team led by Mark Jacobson of Stanford University, Palo Alto, California, and Son Nghiem of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, used data from QuikScat to measure the extent of infrastructure changes, such as new buildings and roads, in China's capital. They then quantified how urban growth has changed Beijing's wind patterns and pollution, using a computer model of climate and air quality developed by Jacobson. 

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  • The dangers of indoor air pollution

    Household air pollution may have caused around 4.3 million premature deaths from respiratory diseases in 2012, mainly in developing countries, according to a medical paper.

    Such pollution dramatically increases the risk of both children and adults contracting chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), says the paper, published online last month in Seminars in Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.

    The conclusions are based on an analysis of medical studies about the respiratory effects on people exposed to household air pollution.

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  • Pope Francis challenges us all on Climate Change and improving the life of the poor

    The Encyclical due to be published today by Pope Francis represents a profound religious and philosophical challenge to the mainstream narratives of our times, writes Steffen Böhm, and a major confrontation with the great corporate, economic and political powers, as it spells out the potential of a new world order rooted in love, compassion, and care for the natural world.

    Improving the lives of slum dwellers and addressing climate change is, for Pope Francis, one and the same thing. Both require tackling the structural, root causes of inequality, injustice, poverty and environmental degradation.

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  • Dogs don't like people who are not nice to their owners!

    Dogs do not like people who are mean to their owners, Japanese researchers said Friday, and will refuse food offered by people who have snubbed their master.

    The findings reveal that canines have the capacity to co-operate socially -- a characteristic found in a relatively small number of species, including humans and some other primates.

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  • Could genetically modified mosquitos prevent mosquito-borne illnesses?

    When people think of genetically modified organisms, food crops like GM corn and soybeans usually come to mind. But engineering more complex living things is now possible, and the controversy surrounding genetic modification has now spread to the lowly mosquito, which is being genetically engineered to control mosquito-borne illnesses.

    A U.K.-based company, Oxitec, has altered two genes in the Aedes aegypti mosquito so that when modified males breed with wild females, the offspring inherit a lethal gene and die in the larval stage. The state agency that controls mosquitos in the Florida Keys is awaiting approval from the federal government of a trial release of Oxitec’s genetically modified mosquitos to prevent a recurrence of a dengue fever outbreak. But some people in the Keys and elsewhere are up in arms, with more than 155,000 signing a petition opposing the trial of genetically engineered mosquitoes in a small area of 400 households next to Key West. 

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  • Meet Chernobyl's Wild Residents

    It seems like a strange place to call a wildlife park: Nearly 30 years after the most catastrophic nuclear incident in global history, Chernobyl’s exclusion zone has turned into a paradise for animals of all species and sizes. A variety of raptors, deer, big cats, foxes, bears and birds have moved into the region, taking advantage of a vast habitat with almost no humans. That habitat, though, is contaminated with radioactive materials, and scientists still hotly debate the potential costs of radiation exposure to the animals of Chernobyl, some of whom have become famous.

    Researchers have seen an explosion of wildlife at the site in recent years, with camera traps providing an opportunity to look deep into the world of the region’s animals without disturbing them. Stunning photography shows animals like wolves and bears roaming freely in the exclusion zone, unconcerned about the potential for human visitors. Perhaps most astonishingly, a population of Przeswalski’s horses, an endangered species critical to the biological and evolutionary history of modern equids, is booming in the region—which isn’t exactly what one might expect, given the radioactive contamination.

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  • A moving Mother's Day story

    Mother’s Day is a good time to reflect on the amazing lengths some moms go to to ensure the well being of their children. One such “supermom” is Debby Elnatan, a former Israeli stay-at-home mom who became a press sensation when she invented the “Upsee”, a harness that allowed her young disabled son, and other handicapped children around the world, to walk in tandem with their parents.

    When we first wrote about the Firefly Upsee harness a little over a year ago, the device was just gaining worldwide attention. A year later, NoCamels speaks to the inventor of the Upsee to hear about the future of the international company she is now heading.

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  • United Nations warns on pesticides

    The UN's International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) said Friday (20 March) that three pesticides, including the popular weed killer Roundup, were "probably" carcinogenic and two others, which have already been outlawed or restricted, were "possibly" so.

    IARC classified the herbicide glyphosate – the active ingredient in Roundup – and the insecticides malathion and diazinon as "probably carcinogenic" on the basis of "limited evidence" of cancer among humans.

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  • Social Status has Impact on Wild Animals

    High social status has its privileges ­­when it comes to aging – even in wild animals.

    In a first-of-its-kind study involving a wild species, Michigan State University researchers have shown that social and ecological factors affect animal health. The results, published in the current issue of Biology Letters, focused on spotted hyenas in Kenya.

    “High-ranking members in hyena clans reproduce more, they live longer and appear to be in better overall health,” said Nora Lewin, MSU doctoral student of zoology and co-lead author. “If you want to see the hierarchy of spotted hyenas, throw down some fresh meat near them. It’s quickly apparent who’s dominant and who’s not.”

    But Lewin wondered if long-accepted biological markers would support what she was seeing in the field. Thanks to working with fellow lead author Kay Holekamp, MSU zoologist, and her long-running hyena experiment, Lewin had access to more than 25 years of data and was able to spend a summer afield in Kenya, observing hyenas’ social structure firsthand.

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