Heat Wave Causes Massive Melt of Greenland Ice Sheet 

Greenland’s ice sheet has experienced a “massive melting event” during a heat wave that has seen temperatures more than 10 degrees above seasonal norms, according to Danish researchers.Since Wednesday, the ice sheet covering the vast Arctic territory has melted by about 8 billion tons a day, twice its normal average rate during summer, reported the Polar Portal website, which is run by Danish researchers.The Danish Meteorological Institute reported temperatures of more than 20 degrees Celsius (68 Fahrenheit), more than twice the normal average summer temperature, in northern Greenland.And Nerlerit Inaat airport in the northeast of the territory recorded 23.4 degrees C (74.1 F) on Thursday — the highest recorded there since records began.With the heat wave affecting most of Greenland that day, the Polar Portal website reported a “massive melting event” involving enough water “to cover Florida with two inches of water” (five centimeters).The largest melt of the Greenland ice sheet still dates to the summer of 2019.The area where the melting took place this time, though, is larger than two years ago, the website added.The Greenland ice sheet is the second-largest mass of freshwater ice on the planet with nearly 1.8 million square kilometers (695,000 square miles), second only to Antarctica.The melting of the ice sheets started in 1990 and has accelerated since 2000. The mass loss in recent years is approximately four times greater than it was before 2000, according to the researchers at Polar Portal.One European study published in January said ocean levels would rise between 10 …

WHO Chief: ‘Pandemic Will End When World Chooses’

“The pandemic will end when the world chooses to end it,” World Health Organization Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said Friday in Geneva about the global COVID-19 outbreak that is now being driven by the delta variant of the coronavirus. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the delta variant is as contagious as chickenpox and that infections in vaccinated people may be as transmissible as those in the unvaccinated.“WHO’s goal remains to support every country to vaccinate at least 10% of its population by the end of September, at least 40% by the end of this year, and 70% by the middle of next year,” the WHO chief said, but added that the realization of the goals is “a long way off.”“So far, just over half of countries have fully vaccinated 10% of their population, less than a quarter of countries have vaccinated 40%, and only three countries have vaccinated 70%,” Tedros said.He recalled that WHO had earlier “warned of the risk that the world’s poor would be trampled in the stampede for vaccines” and that “the world was on the verge of a catastrophic moral failure” because of vaccine inequity.“And yet the global distribution of vaccines remains unjust,” Tedros said. “All regions are at risk, but none more so than Africa.”“Many African countries have prepared well to roll out vaccines, but the vaccines have not arrived,” he said. “Less than 2% of all doses administered globally have been in Africa,” with only 1.5% of the continent’s …

COVID-19 Spreads in China, Australia as WHO Sounds Alarm on Delta

Mushrooming outbreaks of the highly contagious delta variant prompted China and Australia to impose stricter COVID-19 restrictions on Saturday as the WHO urged the world to quickly contain the mutation before it turns into something deadlier and draws out the pandemic.China’s most serious surge of coronavirus infections in months spread to two more areas Saturday — Fujian province and the sprawling megacity of Chongqing.More than 200 cases have been linked to a delta cluster in Nanjing city where nine cleaners at an international airport tested positive, with the outbreak spanning Beijing, Chongqing and five provinces as of Saturday.The nation where the disease first emerged has rushed to prevent the highly transmissible strain from taking root by putting more than 1 million people under lockdown and reinstituting mass testing campaigns.Worldwide, coronavirus infections are once again on the upswing, with the World Health Organization announcing an 80% average increase over the past four weeks in five of the health agency’s six regions, a jump largely fueled by the delta variant.First detected in India, it has now reached 132 countries and territories.”Delta is a warning: it’s a warning that the virus is evolving but it is also a call to action that we need to move now before more dangerous variants emerge,” the WHO’s emergencies director Michael Ryan told a press conference.He stressed that the “game plan” still works, namely physical distancing, wearing masks, hand hygiene and vaccination.But both high- and low-income countries are struggling to gain the upper hand against delta, with …

Evictions Looming in US as Congress Fails to Extend Ban

A nationwide eviction moratorium is set to expire Saturday after President Joe Biden and Democrats in Congress worked furiously but ultimately failed to align on a long-shot strategy to prevent millions of Americans from being forced from their homes during a COVID-19 surge.More than 3.6 million Americans are at risk of eviction, some in a matter of days, as nearly $47 billion in federal housing aid to the states during the pandemic has been slow to make it into the hands of renters and landlords owed payments.Tensions mounted late Friday as it became clear there would be no resolution in sight. Hours before the ban was set to expire, Biden called on local governments to “take all possible steps” to immediately disburse the funds. Evictions could begin as soon as Monday.”There can be no excuse for any state or locality not accelerating funds to landlords and tenants that have been hurt during this pandemic,” Biden said in a statement.”Every state and local government must get these funds out to ensure we prevent every eviction we can,” he said.The stunning outcome, as the White House and Congress each expected the other to act, exposed a rare divide between the president and his allies on Capitol Hill, and one that could have lasting impact as the nation’s renters face widespread evictions.Biden set off the scramble by announcing he would allow the eviction ban to expire, rather than challenge a recent Supreme Court ruling signaling this would be the last deadline. He called …

Argentina Lakes Turn Pink, but Outlook Not Rosy, Environmentalists Say

Two lakes in a far-flung coastal region of Patagonia, in Argentina, have turned fluorescent pink, an as-of-yet unexplained phenomena that local environmentalists fear could be harmful and caused by industrial contamination.The lakes, located near an industrial park on the outskirts of the Argentine city of Trelew, sprawl across a dusty, desertlike plain and are largely undeveloped. Officials with the municipality of Trelew recently discovered a truck dumping waste in the watershed, according to posts made by the city on social media.Authorities gave conflicting views to local media, however, on whether the sudden change in color of the lakes was harmful. Environmentalists were more concerned.Local activist Pablo Lada, a member of Argentina’s National Ecological Network (RENACE), told Reuters in an interview that the pink color could potentially be the result of a dye typically used to give prawns raised nearby their typically rose-colored hue.”I think that the pink lagoon uncovered a … lack of treatment of this waste that has become a big problem,” Lada said.Local and regional environmental officials are investigating the cause and potential damage to the lakes but have yet to arrive at any conclusions.  …

Amazon Hit With Record EU Data Privacy Fine

Amazon.com Inc has been hit with a record $886.6 million (746 million euros) European Union fine for processing personal data in violation of the bloc’s GDPR rules, as privacy regulators take a more aggressive position on enforcement.The Luxembourg National Commission for Data Protection (CNPD) imposed the fine on Amazon in a July 16 decision, the company disclosed in a regulatory filing on Friday.Amazon will appeal the fine, according to a company spokesperson. The e-commerce giant said in the filing it believed CNPD’s decision was without merit.CNPD did not immediately respond to a request for comment.EU’s General Data Protection Regulation, or GDPR, requires companies to seek people’s consent before using their personal data or face steep fines.Globally, regulatory scrutiny of tech giants has been increasing following a string of scandals over privacy and misinformation, as well as complaints from some businesses that they abuse their market power.Alphabet’s Google, Facebook Inc, Apple Inc and Microsoft Corp have drawn heightened scrutiny in Europe.In December, France’s data privacy watchdog handed out its biggest ever fine of 100 million euros ($118.82 million) to Google for breaching the nation’s rules on online advertising trackers. …

Russia Blames Its Software for Repositioning Space Station

Russian space officials said Friday that a software malfunction had caused the unexpected firing of thrusters on a newly arrived module, moving the International Space Station out of its intended attitude.The incident occurred Thursday, hours after the long-delayed Russian laboratory module, known as Nauka, docked with the ISS.  It took mission controllers nearly an hour to reposition the ISS, which had been bumped 45 degrees out of alignment.  Ground controllers fired Russian thrusters on other Russian elements at the station to fix the positioning.In a statement Friday, ISS Russian segment flight director Vladimir Solovyov said the software failure had prompted a direct command to turn on the module’s engines.Communications between the ground and the crew went out twice for several minutes, but in a statement, the U.S. space agency NASA said the ISS crew was never in danger.On Twitter Friday, Russian cosmonaut Oleg Novitsky said not to worry and the work to integrate the new module into the ISS was continuing as scheduled.The Russian unmanned, 20-ton, nearly 13-meter-long Nauka module — also known as the Multipurpose Laboratory Module — docked with the ISS following a long and, at times, uncertain journey.Nauka is now the first new module in the Russian segment of the station since 2010.The troubled trip to the orbiting space station followed years of problems getting the module off the ground. Nauka — designed to provide more room for scientific experiments and space for the crew — was initially scheduled to launch in 2007 but was repeatedly delayed because of …

WHO: Japan Doing its Best to Control COVID During Games

The WHO said Friday that Japan was doing its best to minimize the risk of Covid-19 spreading during the Tokyo Olympics but stressed there was no such thing as zero risk.The World Health Organization’s warning came as Japan extended a virus state of emergency in Tokyo and expanded the measure to four more regions as it battles a record surge in infections a week into the pandemic-postponed Games.”There is no zero risk. There could be less or more risk. And then, for things to happen with low risk, you try your best,” WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a virtual press conference from the UN health agency’s Geneva headquarters.Japan and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) “did their best to minimise risk, because nobody should expect zero risk”, he said.World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, center, arrives for the opening ceremony of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, at the Olympic Stadium in Tokyo, on July 23, 2021.”I know that they have done their best, and we have supported them all along.”Across Japan, new virus cases topped 10,000 for the first time on Thursday, and a string of government officials and health experts have warned that the more contagious Delta variant is fuelling a dangerous surge.Tedros went to the Olympics opening ceremony and also addressed the IOC in Tokyo.On Friday he called on the world to draw on the Olympic spirit of unity to bring the pandemic to an end, and said his IOC speech was aimed at using the Games …