[ futurism.com ] Melting Permafrost Threatens The “Doomsday” Seed Bunker

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Melting Permafrost Threatens The “Doomsday” Seed Bunker

Not So Permafrost

It’s a sad state of affairs when a structure designed to withstand the apocalypse can’t handle the current condition of our planet. The Svalbard Global Seed Vault is supposed to withstand end of the world-caliber events, but it seems that the Earth’s current condition is already too much for it to handle as water from melting permafrost spilled into the entrance tunnel last week.

Doomsday Vault: The World’s Seed Bank Backup
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The flooding did not reach any of the seeds stored for safekeeping, so the vault has passed that major test. Cary Fowler, a figure instrumental in the creation of the seed vault, is confident in its ability to withstand this threat. He told Popular Science, “If there was a worst case scenario where there was so much water, or the pumping systems failed, that it made its way uphill to the seed vault, then it would encounter minus 18 [degrees celsius] and freeze again. Then there’s another barrier [the ice] for entry into the seed vault.”

The vault has already proven its usefulness when researchers in the Middle East made the first withdrawal from the backups stored at Svalbard back in 2015. They would traditionally retrieve their needed specimens from a facility in Aleppo, but instability in the city made those seeds impossible to extract. The vault provided the researchers with 116,000 samples so they could continue their research on drought-resistant crops.

Apocalypse Now

Science has been warning of the dangers of global climate change for decades, and we are beginning to see the widespread results of years of inaction. Last year was the hottest on record, and 2017 looks like it will also be one for the record books.

The area housing the doomsday vault is particularly vulnerable. As Ketil Isaksen from Norway’s Meteorological Institute told Norwegian newspaper Dagbladet, “The Arctic and especially Svalbard warms up faster than the rest of the world. The climate is changing dramatically, and we are all amazed at how quickly it is going.”

Image credit: Global Crop Diversity Trust/Flickr
Image credit: Global Crop Diversity Trust/Flickr

Truly, this breach says more about the state of the planet than it does the vault’s construction. The structure is meant to be a stronghold to protect plant life in their seed form to ensure the survival of crop diversity, and even it can’t keep up with global warming.

To mitigate these effects, Norway is working on making some improvements to the area surrounding the vault to ensure proper drainage away from it. As Åsmund Asdal at the Nordic Genetic Resource Centre told The Guardian, “We have to find solutions. It is a big responsibility and we take it very seriously. We are doing this for the world. This is supposed to last for eternity.”

Systemic changes across the entire globe are the only real way to not only ensure the safety of the stored seeds but also lessen the probability that we’ll need to call upon the vault’s services.

The post Melting Permafrost Threatens The “Doomsday” Seed Bunker appeared first on Futurism.

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[ futurism.com ] Almost 700 Positions Remain Unfilled at the CDC Due to Hiring Freeze

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Almost 700 Positions Remain Unfilled at the CDC Due to Hiring Freeze

The Rudderless CDC

Almost 700 jobs at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta are vacant due to the recent federal government hiring freeze. This same issue is causing a variety of problems at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The hiring freeze was technically lifted last month, but because the agencies have been charged with reorganizing and reducing their workforces, the practical effect has been a continued freeze.

The Story of How Vaccines Changed the World
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The Washington Post reports that researchers and officials at the CDC say the vacancies are affecting “programs supporting local and state public health emergency readiness, infectious disease control and chronic disease prevention.” An unnamed senior CDC official (who spoke to The Washington Post anonymously) told the organization that critical public health analysts, scientists, and advisers are among the unfilled positions. These are the people who help ensure that scientists working in labs and the field all over the country have sufficient equipment and support to remain operational.

The CDC’s problems are made even worse, the senior official said, because the agency is operating without a director. The former permanent director, Tom Frieden, resigned in January from the position, which is one of the most important roles in the fight against infectious diseases in the U.S. and everywhere else in the world. Since that time, the CDC has essentially been rudderless, trying to cope with a difficult transition without the benefit of leadership.

According to the Sierra Club, whose Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request yielded the data on the results of the hiring freeze, the frozen jobs remaining open at the CDC are mostly medical experts and scientists (26 percent of positions) and policy experts (19 percent). In other words, the freeze is not affecting “bureaucratic” jobs and is instead preventing the CDC from hiring chemists, economists, epidemiologists, microbiologists, statisticians, and other high-level professionals.

Image Credit: James Gathany/Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Image Credit: James Gathany/Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

The CDC isn’t the only agency feeling the impact of these policies. HHS is facing the same problem and is trying to get by without dozens of people who help the department respond to public health and cybersecurity emergencies. Meanwhile, NIH staff indicate that the vacancies are causing patient care, clinical work, and recruitment to suffer.

A doctor at the National Cancer Institute, who spoke to The Washington Post anonymously to avoid funding retaliation, has been unable to replace a key assistant because the agency’s human resources department “was overwhelmed by the demand and could not process recruiting actions.” The physician added that “it’s complicated to get exceptions granted” for an open senior laboratory position at the institute.

Public Health Services

In January, the White House ordered a hiring freeze in support of President Trump’s new budgetary goals. In March, the administration released its “skinny budget,” which proposed major cuts to several agencies, including the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and HHS. Since that time, Congress pushed through a compromise budget with fewer cuts. However, it is only in place until October.

In the Footsteps of Zika: The Next Critter-Borne Viruses [INFOGRAPHIC]
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In the meantime, the White House and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) have directed all federal agencies to submit plans by June 30 reflecting how they will reduce their civilian workforces. The administration will soon release its new budget, which is expected to be in line with its previously stated goals.

The impact of these agencies extend far beyond their cost, however. The Washington Post reports that multiple positions remaining vacant are in the Office of Public Health Preparedness and Response (PHPR), the body that maintains the country’s store of emergency medical countermeasures and regulates some of the most dangerous viruses and bacteria in the world. Jobs in the infectious disease offices also remain open, as do positions in the office for noncommunicable diseases, injury, and environmental health.

Liz Perera, the public health policy director of the Sierra Club, told The Washington Post that the administration’s “thoughtless freeze on hiring public servants prevented the CDC from filling critical roles at programs essential to preventing chronic and infectious diseases, advancing immunization, and safeguarding environmental health.”

Drastic budget cuts to science and public health have serious consequences that are worrying professionals who work in these areas. Furthermore, experts argue that research affects more than our understanding of the world. It also supports local economies and fosters new industries. Now, at the dawn of the age of automation, this is more important than ever.

In any case, slow, considerate changes in policies that affect public health are essential to ensuring health is safeguarded. They also make good fiscal sense. Former CDC director Dr. David Satcher touts the importance of investing in public health in order to prevent disease and promote health — and save money. Prevention “is consistent with a conservative approach,” because it brings down the cost of healthcare, Satcher told the Georgia Health News in January. “The business argument for the CDC is a good one,” he added.

The post Almost 700 Positions Remain Unfilled at the CDC Due to Hiring Freeze appeared first on Futurism.

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[ gsmarena.com ] Moto G5 Plus preview: A closer look

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Moto G5 Plus preview: A closer look

Last month we took a look at the Moto G5, one of the two Moto G models released this year. What we saw left us a bit unimpressed; while it was definitely a budget phone, it lacked the level of performance and no-compromise experience that the brand stood for.
Today we have with us the Moto G5 Plus, evidently the more premium model. The Plus makes fewer cutbacks across the board, by having a superior set of hardware and build quality.

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[ gsmarena.com ] Redmi 4 to go on sale in India tomorrow at noon

[ mukeshbalani.com ] “You heard it here first…if you haven’t already heard it elsewhere”…

Redmi 4 to go on sale in India tomorrow at noon

We announced last week that the Xiaomi Redmi 4 will be going on sale in India. The phone is set to go on sale exclusively on Amazon India, and will be available starting 12 noon.

The phone will be available in two variants, the 2GB/16GB model for INR 6,999 ($109) and 3GB/32GB model for INR 8,999 ($139). The 4/64GB model will be available towards the end of June.

Customers will also get 45GB of 4G data for 5 months on Vodafone on buying a 1GB or greater data pack. YES Bank customers will get INR 500 cash back upon purchase with a YES Bank credit or debit card. Additional offers…

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[ gsmarena.com ] Samsung G9298 flip phone gets certified by the FCC and Wi-Fi Alliance

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Samsung G9298 flip phone gets certified by the FCC and Wi-Fi Alliance

Believe it or not, Samsung still makes flip phones. Not only that, but they are actually flip smartphones. Oh, and the company has maintained not one but two different lines of such devices over the past few years, offering them in specific Asian markets only. One of those lines comprises the Wxxxx handsets, the latest of which is the W2017 announced in November of last year.

But there have also been Gxxxx flip phones manufactured by the company. We’re talking about the G9098 from 2014, and its successor, the G9198 from 2015. After not releasing a new G-series clamshell last year,…

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[ futurism.com ] Should Robots Pay Taxes?

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Should Robots Pay Taxes?

Jane Kim, a San Francisco politician, has started exploring a tax on automated workers to combat inequality.

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[ futurism.com ] India Is Scraping a Major Coal Project in Favor of Renewables

[ mukeshbalani.com ] “You heard it here first…if you haven’t already heard it elsewhere”…

India Is Scraping a Major Coal Project in Favor of Renewables

Canceling Coal

The Indian government has abandoned plans to build a second coal power station, choosing to focus on renewable energy instead in the state of Gujarat. Chimanbhai Sapariya, the country’s energy minister, said in an interview with the Business Standard that 4,000 Megawat ultra-mega power project (UMPP) was rejected because “Gujarat had proposed the UMPP last year but we now feel we do not need more […] We already have more than sufficient generation capacity.” The region already has one such plant existence.

India One Solar Thermal Power Plant. Image Credit: Bkwcreator, Wikimedia
India One Solar Thermal Power Plant. Image Credit: Bkwcreator/Wikimedia

Sapariya also said in the interview that, “Our focus is now on renewable energy. The government will encourage solar power.”

India agreed at the Paris climate change conference in 2005 to derive a much higher percentage of its power from green sources by 2030. This transition could have a global impact, as the Hindustan Times reported in 2016 that India was the fourth biggest polluter worldwide.

India agreed to extract 40 percent of its energy from non-fossil fuels, and planned to do this by producing one terawatt of energy through solar power — this is four times the worldwide total currently produced. In addition, the country aims to become a nation that only uses electric cars by 2030.

The Indian government has been extremely successful in pursuing these aims. Recently, the price of solar-produced energy dropped below the price of energy produced by fossil fuels, the Kumuthis power plant has shown that it can produce as much energy as most coal and nuclear plants, and the country is exceeding its predictions by three-and-a-half years — on track to produce 60 percent of energy through green sources by 2027.

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