The Amazon is starting to ‘self-destruct,’ scientists warn

Only a major reforestation will save the Amazon rain forest from a complete ecosystem death, warns the leading scientific journal Science Advances. In an editorial, researchers Thomas Lovejoy and Carlos Nobre wrote that forest fires and deforestation are rapidly depleting the ecosystem’s ability to sustain itself, to the point where massive human intervention will be needed to save it.

“Although 2019 was not the worst year for fire or deforestation in the Amazon, it was the year when the extent of fires and deforestation in the region garnered full global attention,” the authors wrote. “The precious Amazon is teetering on the edge of functional destruction and, with it, so are we.”

The authors noted that the Amazon is a vital link to the global water cycle and provides crucial storage of enormous amounts of carbon dioxide. As the rain forest disappears, much of its stored water and carbon dioxide are released to the atmosphere. The carbon release further exacerbates climate change worldwide, and every country in South America except Chile would lose substantial amounts of freshwater, the authors said.

Deforestation now affects around 17% of the Amazon basin. The basin has historically been able to produce its own rainfall, due to the dense tree and foliage cover. But widespread forest depletion within the eastern and southern Amazon, in particular, hamper rainfall production for the entire basin, according to the authors. The added that human-caused global warming is already reducing rainfall throughout the region.

The basin is responding by changing in fundamental ways, they wrote: lengthier and hotter dry seasons, and the trees increasingly being replaced by tree species that favor drier climates.


Rocket attack in Iraq kills U.S. defense contractor

A U.S. defense contractor died Friday in northern Iraq from a rocket attack that also injured several U.S. troops and Iraqi personnel, the Pentagon said. The statement did not specify how many were injured or how serious the injuries were, but it said that the attack occurred on an Iraqi military base in Kirkuk.

Up to 30 rockets were fired at the facility, which hosts both U.S. and coalition troops. The U.S. personnel are among the approximately 5,000 U.S. troops that are still stationed in Iraq.

A statement from Operation Inherent Resolve, the name of the U.S.-led mission against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, said that Iraqi security forces are leading the response and investigation. According to Reuters, security forces have found a launchpad for Katyusha rockets inside an abandoned vehicle near the base.

The U.S. military does not reveal the names of contractors killed in Iraq.

Iraq has witnessed increased violence since October, when mass protests broke out against government corruption, unemployment, and inadequate public services. Many civilian protesters died in subsequent clashes with government forces.

A series of attacks against Iraqi military bases occurred earlier this month, as well. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo blamed these attacks on Iranian proxies and warned against any further violence against U.S. or coalition forces.

“We must also use this opportunity to remind Iran’s leaders that any attacks by them, or their proxies of any identity, that harm Americans, our allies, or our interests will be answered with a decisive U.S. response,” Pompeo said on Dec. 13.

No group has yet claimed responsibility for the Kirkuk attack.



The Best Travel Apps, Period

Yes, there is an app for too many things to count, indeed, just about anything! And since we’ve been talking about travel, decided to dig around in a few easy applications to help you with sleeping over, flying, dining, navigating and safety. We noted which apps require pay, so if we don’t mention it, it’s free and available to iOS or Android users, unless otherwise noted.

• Dealray
It’s $9.99 per month that will help you find inexpensive flight deals, alerts you to big price decreases, sales and error fares. Sorry, this one is iOS, but no Android.

• Freebird
Once you record your flight on this site, they will alert you if the flight is delayed by four or more hours or canceled. You can also book a new flight on any airline; one-way fees start at $19.

• Skiplagged
This is a fun app that helps you find one-way tickets with a stopover. The fun starts at the stop over location because you aren’t returning to the plane for your original destination. This is an option usually less expensive than a non-stop flight.

• Grab
Who has these good ideas? This app looks at restaurant menus inside the airport, map them for you and in some cases, even helps you order in advance so you can grab and go on your race to the gate. Today, it lists over 170 restaurants at 17 US airports.

• HappyCow
If you’re a vegan or vegetarian and you enjoy travel you must download this app! It will find restaurants for you in over 10,000 world cities. London, New York City, and Moldova and they provide very brief menu descriptions as well as customer reviews. There is a cost of $3.99.

• Velocity
Velocity tells you where all the hot restaurants are located, and you can also pay your bill or share it with your dining partner. They are working on adding the most popular spots for an exciting nightlife in Gstaad and Verbier in Switzerland as well as Aspen, Colorado.

• AsYouStay
This app helps ease some of the pressures of making sure you check in by 3 pm and out by noon. The app owners have partnered with over 50 properties in New York City and about a dozen more in South Beach, Miami. Coming soon, Chicago and San Francisco.

• Chatnbook
iOS is available today, and Android is still in testing, but this app lets you load your travel details and once you do the app will deliver properties which meet your specifications. If you tap on the right symbol (green thumbs up), your chosen hotel will contact you directly with their best rates.

If you have an extended layover, this app helps you book a room for just a few hours so you can grab a hot shower, nap or just clean up a tad. Their 3,000 hotels usually offer as much as 75 percent off standard nightly rates.

• Hostelworld
The purpose of this a is to bring single travelers together in either boozy events, private rooms or having fun at communal activities.

• Oasis
Oasis offers a variety of luxury short term apartment rentals in about two dozen locations. Rio, Miami, and Milan to name a few and you will have 24/7 concierge service to help with tour bookings, restaurant and theater tickets.

• Roomer
Substantial discounts on hotel rooms from other travelers who have had to unexpectedly had to cancel their trips. You can expect discounts of about 30 to 80 percent. And if this has happened to you, sell your reservation here as well.

• TripHappy
And happy is what you’ll be when this app finishes dissecting 37 million pieces of data and spits out the best places and hoods for you to stay in during your travels. Then you can sort your results by rating or price.

• Cool Cousin
We don’t know about you guys, but none of our cousins are very cool. LOL. But this application sure is cool! Collections of “off-the-beaten-path” recommendations from residents in 14 destinations. A mixologist in London and an artist in Paris are two fun examples. You can expect to see some trendy suggestions here!

• Sidekix
While it may not be the shortest route, this app will give you the best walking instructions that will meet your preferences and interests. It is currently prepared for us in over 100 prime cities, and more are being added every week.


• Rideways
By entering your trip destinations and times, you can schedule a “rideway,” which is owned by Priceline to book a taxi, train or bus in over 500 worldwide cities. It’s a more cost-effective way to travel.

• Turo
This app lets you rent automobiles from owners. You may have known it as RelayRides; it’s prior name. It’s available for both US and Canadian users. You can search for any desired vehicle and likely find it for a much lower rate than a rental agency. Europe has recently been added to their service area.

• Wingz
Book your travel methods here in over a dozen metropolitan US cities. You know in advance the cost, the name of your driver and if you have a favorite, you can request him or her. All drivers have been checked out via their DMV records.

Health and safety
• Binaural
Who knew there was an app to help us fight jet lag? This app uses binaural beats, which are sounds that many cultures have relied upon for hundreds of years to relax. These repeated “beats” can improve learning and focus, reduce anxiety and relax your mind.

• Geosure
For whatever area you are in, the app can report a personal safety score, environmental threats, health risks, political threats and information about thefts and assaults in the area via crowdsourcing. It is a location-sensitive app.

• My Panda
This app tells you the level of security via GPS. It was founded shortly after the Paris terror attacks in 2015. In some locations, it will also direct you to the nearest police station and a one click option to call them.


Best Small Towns For Big Vacations *Finish

While we know the some of the bigger cities to visit, sometimes we want a bit of down-home culture. Take a look at some small town spots in the country.

Gatlinburg, Tennessee

Here’s a spot located in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Gatlinburg. It’s a nice family getaway that has shops with taffy, moonshine, and you can even see a 360-degree view from the Gatlinburg Space Needle (40 stories above town) . You can also zip-line from the highest point of a mountain in the new Anakeesta theme park.

Taos, New Mexico

Taos is home to Taos Pueblo, an UNESCO site that is among the most seasoned ceaselessly occupied networks in the United States. Visitors can ski at Ski Taos, get some culture by  acquiring some legitimate Native American arts and crafts, and take a look at the museum.

Fredericksburg, Texas

If you’re looking to be here on the fall, take a stop to go to the Oktoberfest. The scenery is beautiful with the bluebonnets blooming in the spring. Imagine this is as you go to the local winery. Also, you can learn about the United States’ 36th president at the Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park.

Chatham, Massachusetts

Chatham is a nice ocean side town to help you relax and get some adventure. Go kayaking or swimming on the lakes. Get a bit of nightlife with the shops, cafes, and Chatham Bandstand on your Friday summer evenings.

Tallahassee, Florida

Get some delicious food, such as Ernestine Fryson’s famous catfish and hushpuppies. Take a listen of some quality music at the Bradfordville Blues Club. If you enjoy crisp water, take a swim at the beautiful Edward Ball Wakulla Springs State Park.

Durango, Colorado

Not only does this place make for a nice family getaway, but it’s definitely a spot to be physically active. Enjoy some street biking, kayaking and even climbing at the San Juan Mountains. Enjoy Purgatory Resort with your special spouse.

Cody, Wyoming

Here’s a famous town named after Buffalo Bill Cody for his Wild West history. Also, take in some of the history, Western guns and workmanship.


G24 INSTA TSC_Global Politics

Overloaded bus plunges into gorge, kills at least 48 people

Officials on Sunday said at least 48 people were killed when an overloaded bus plunged off a mountain road into a narrow valley in northern India. Authorities said the 28-seat bus was carrying about 60 people.


Trivendra Rawat, the chief Minister of Uttarakhand, said the bus fell into a 700-foot-deep gorge in the Himalayan foothills. He added that about a dozen other people were injured and hospitalized, while at least seven of the injured were in critical condition. “People were packed like sardines” said another police officer Jagat Ram Joshi.


Police official Manoj Kumar said rescuers recovered 48 bodies from the accident site.


Senior police official Sanjay Gunjiyal said, earlier, rescue and retrieval work was hampered by bad weather.


It was not clear what caused the crash, however Gunjiyal said bad weather could have caused the bus to skid off the road.


Mr. Gunjiyal added ‘’ it is raining (in the area) since morning. Two days back there was a landslide in that area ‘’, he said, adding that resident were the first to reach the site and help the victims.

Gunjiya said the terrain was inhospitable and communications were poor.

India has the world’s deadliest roads, with more than 110,000 people killed annually. Most crashes are blamed on reckless driving, poorly maintained roads and aging vehicles.

G24 INSTA TSC_Global Politics

Dozens of illegal immigrants abandoned by smugglers in the Arizona desert

Almost five dozen illegal immigrants who traveled from Central America to the U.S. were reportedly rescued by Border Patrol agents last week after their smugglers allegedly abandoned them during a heatwave in the Arizona desert, west of Lukeville, which also has a Port of Entry.

In a news release, agents from the Tuscon Sector of the U.S.-Mexico border said they responded to a call from someone within the group who called Mexican authorities for help.

The caller said the group of 57 people had crossed the border illegally and needed help.

Rescue agents who responded to the distress call said they found 21 adults and 36 minors, 17 of whom were unaccompanied in the area with a 108 degrees temperature.

Most of the illegal immigrants appeared to be dehydrated, while only one person needed further medical assistance.

All of them were given food and water and brought to the Ajo Station for processing. The pregnant woman who was part of the group was given intravenous fluids and taken to a hospital for treatment.

“Regardless of the unscrupulous and ill regard for human life attitude by smugglers, Border Patrol Agents work tirelessly to ensure not only the safety and security of our nation but also the safety of those who they come in contact with,” the agency said.

G24 INSTA NWT_Animals Research

Tortoise beats the hare every time in race of life, study says

“The fable of ‘The Tortoise and the Hare’ is a metaphor about life, not a story about a race,” said Adrian Bejan, a Duke University professor who led a recent study on animal speed. “We see in animal life two starkly different lifestyles—one with nearly steady feeding and daily sleep and another with short bursts of intermittent feeding interspersed with day-long siestas. Both of these patterns are the rhythms of living that Aesop taught.”

Bejan examined the reported speeds of animals based on air, water, and land data. The results reveal that some of the fastest animals in the world are actually the slowest in terms of average speed throughout their lifetime.

And apparently, this result is also reflected in the aviation industry, where the general pattern is that speed and size increase hand-in-hand.

The only exception is the jet fighter, which although faster than others in short bursts, spends most of its time on the ground. And across their lifetime, they are very slow compared to transport models.

The study was created following a previous paper that utilized Bejan’s constructal theory to show that animals’ speed tends to rise with body mass.

“When I would give speeches on this topic, somebody would always bring up outliers to this principle such as the cheetah as counterexamples,” Bejan said. “But this study shows that these ‘outliers’ are to be expected and, when looked at over their lifetimes, are not so different from their lumbering cousins after all.”

The findings were published in Scientific Reports.

G24 INSTA NWT_Animals NWT_Biology Research SCI TECH

Study suggests narwhals and beluga whales experience menopause

A team of scientists discovered that narwhals and beluga whales experience menopause, which brings the total number of species known to experience the process to five. Humans aside, the species known to experience menopause all belong to the toothed whale parvorder.

“For menopause to make sense in evolutionary terms, a species needs both a reason to stop reproducing and a reason to live on afterwards,” said Sam Ellis of the University of Exeter, first author of the study. “In killer whales, the reason to stop comes because both male and female offspring stay with their mothers for life—so as a female ages, her group contains more and more of her children and grandchildren.”

“This increasing relatedness means that, if she keeps having young, they compete with her own direct descendants for resources such as food,” he added.

“The reason to continue living is that older females are of great benefit to their offspring and grand-offspring. For example, their knowledge of where to find food helps groups survive.”

More than four decades of intense study has documented the existence of menopause in killer whales.

“It’s hard to study human behaviour in the modern world because it’s so far removed from the conditions our ancestors lived in,” said Darren Croft, senior author of the study. “Looking at other species like these toothed whales can help us establish how this unusual reproductive strategy has evolved.”

Despite the fact that many individuals in various species fail to reproduce later in life, the team looked for evidence that suggested an “evolved strategy” where females had a post-reproductive lifespan.

The findings were published in Scientific Reports.

G24 HEALTH HND_Disease INSTA Research SCI

Sleeping five hours or less connected to doubled risk of heart disease, study says

A new study suggests that men in middle age who sleep five hours or less each night have twice the risk of developing a major cardiovascular event in the two decades following compared to men who sleep seven to eight hours a night.

“For people with busy lives, sleeping may feel like a waste of time but our study suggests that short sleep could be linked with future cardiovascular disease,” said study author Moa Bengtsson, of the University of Gothenburg, Sweden.

Previous data provide conflicting evidence as to whether short sleep is connected to a great chance of a future cardiovascular event. The new study appears to solidify the connection.

Not only that, the new data suggests that men who sleep five or fewer hours per night are more likely to have diabetes, obesity, low physical activity, high blood pressure, and poor sleep quality compared to those who get seven to eight hours per night.

“Men with the shortest sleep duration at the age of 50 were twice as likely to have had a cardiovascular event by age 71 than those who slept a normal amount, even when other risk factors were taken into account,” Bengtsson said.

“In our study, the magnitude of increased cardiovascular risk associated with insufficient sleep is similar to that of smoking or having diabetes at age 50,” she added. “This was an observational study so based on our findings we cannot conclude that short sleep causes cardiovascular disease, or say definitively that sleeping more will reduce risk. However, the findings do suggest that sleep is important—and that should be a wake-up call to all of us.”

Archaeology G24 INSTA NWT_Animals SCI

Researchers just discovered a fossilized turtle with no shell

Researchers just discovered a turtle fossil from 228 million years ago that doesn’t have a shell. Interestingly, the unique new species did possess a toothless break, which is a key turtle characteristic.

The new species is named Eorhynchochelys sinensis, which means “dawn beak turtle from China,” since it’s believed to be the first turtle with a beak. It also possesses a body in the shape of a Frisbee with wide ribs. However, these ribs did not contribute to the formation of the shell common in modern turtles.

“This creature was over six feet long, it had a strange disc-like body and a long tail, and the anterior part of its jaws developed into this strange beak,” said Olivier Rieppel, co-author of the study. “It probably lived in shallow water and dug in the mud for food.”

And since it was able to develop a beak prior to other turtles, the species is an example of mosaic evolution, which is when traits evolve independently and at different times.

“This impressively large fossil is a very exciting discovery, giving us another piece in the puzzle of turtle evolution,” said Nick Fraser, co-author of the study. “It shows that early turtle evolution was not a straightforward, step-by-step accumulation of unique traits but was a much more complex series of events that we are only just beginning to unravel.”

“With Eorhynchochelys’s diapsid skull, we know that turtles are not related to the early anapsid reptiles, but are instead related to evolutionarily more advanced diapsid reptiles. This is cemented, the debate is over,” Rieppel said. “Eorhynchochelys makes the turtle family tree make sense. Until I saw this fossil, I didn’t buy some of its relatives as turtles. Now, I do.”