Satellites Detect California Cow Burps, a Major Methane Source, From Space

Satellites have detected methane emissions from belching cows at a California feedlot, marking the first time emissions from livestock – a major component of agricultural methane – could be measured from space. Environmental data firm GHGSat this month analyzed data from its satellites and pinpointed the methane source from a feedlot in the agricultural Joaquin Valley near Bakersfield, California in February. This is significant, according to GHGSat, because agricultural methane emissions are hard to measure, and accurate measurement is needed to set enforceable reduction targets for the beef-production industry. GHGSat said the amount of methane it detected from that single feedlot would result in 5,116 tons of methane emissions if sustained for a year. If that methane were captured, it could power over 15,000 homes, it said. Agriculture contributes 9.6% to U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and about 36% of methane emissions, mostly from livestock. The Biden administration late last year announced its plan to crack down on methane emissions from the U.S. economy. The EPA unveiled its first rules aimed at reducing methane from existing oil and gas sources that require companies to detect and repair methane leaks. The Agriculture Department rolled out a voluntary incentive program for farmers. At last year’s climate talks, more than 100 countries pledged to cut methane emissions by 30% and to halt and reverse deforestation by 2030. Much of this reduction would need to come from the livestock industry, according to the U.N. food agency, which said …

India, Pakistan Reeling From Pre-Monsoon Season Heat Wave

Meteorologists warn the extreme heat gripping India and Pakistan is likely to have many cascading effects on human health, ecosystems, agriculture, water, energy, and the economy.  For the past few days, hundreds of millions of people have been sweltering under temperatures of more than 40 degrees Celsius in widespread areas of India and Pakistan. The intense heat is predicted to continue until May 2 and then subside. The World Meteorological Organization says both India and Pakistan regularly experience excessively high temperatures in the pre-monsoon period, especially in May. While heatwaves do occur in April, it says they are less common. WMO spokeswoman Clare Nullis said national meteorological and hydrological departments in both countries are implementing measures that have been successful in saving lives in the past few years. “A lot of work has been taken on heat health action plans specifically and in particular to protect the most vulnerable, and the most vulnerable in urban areas where the impact of the heat tends to be magnified,” she said. “So, we do hope that mortality from this ongoing event will be limited.” Nullis said large swaths of Pakistan are experiencing daytime temperatures between five and eight degrees Celsius above normal for this time of year. She said the extreme heat will have a punishing impact on Pakistan’s mountainous regions of Gilgit-Baltistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. “The Pakistan Meteorological Department is warning that the unusual heat has the risk of speeding up the melting of snow and ice, and this might trigger what …

Beijing Tightens COVID Restrictions as Long Holiday Begins

Beijing residents will need clear COVID tests to enter public spaces, officials said Saturday, announcing fresh virus controls at the start of a Labor Day holiday muted by creeping infections in the capital. The five-day break is typically one of China’s busiest travel periods, but the country’s worst COVID resurgence since early in the pandemic is expected to keep people home. Faced with the highly transmissible omicron variant, Chinese officials have doubled down on their zero-COVID policy, quashing virus clusters through mass testing and lockdowns. Despite mounting economic costs and public frustration, the capital city announced it would further restrict access to public spaces after the holiday period. Starting May 5, a negative COVID test taken within the past week will be needed to enter “all kinds of public areas and to take public transport,” according to a notice on the city’s official WeChat page. For activities such as sporting events and group travel, participants will also need to show a negative COVID test taken within 48 hours, along with proof of “full vaccination,” according to the new rules. China reported more than 10,700 domestic COVID cases on Saturday, with most in economic engine Shanghai. The eastern metropolis has been sealed off for around a month after becoming the epicenter of the latest outbreak. Cases are trending downwards, yet frustration and anger is boiling in the city of 25 million where many have been ordered to stay at home for several weeks. Shanghai officials said on Saturday that its new …

Foreign Businesses Consider Leaving China Amid Lockdowns

Chris Mei has been stuck in his Shanghai flat for a month save for PCR testing and occasional volunteer work delivering food to neighbors. That will change in a couple of days when he boards his flight for a long-scheduled trip home to Portland, Oregon. He uses Zoom to do factory inspections for his 2-year-old import-export firm, Shanghai Fanyi Industry, but he can’t complete all the orders for clients overseas. He’s locked down like most of the 26 million people in the city, along with some of the factories where he normally sources goods, such as artificial plants and solar lights. “In terms of how’s business, it’s definitely affected us,” Mei said. “Clients abroad always have deadlines, especially for some of our products.” He continued, “For example, for a shipment that recently went out, we had a portion of the order canceled due to the fact that the factory, they were on lockdown as well, so we basically could only produce what they could, and then the remaining part of the order basically passed the client’s deadline in South America.” Leaving a city in lockdown has become an expensive, multistep process. Mei, a U.S. citizen, applied for permission to leave Shanghai by getting a pass from his neighborhood committee. He then found a driver with special permission to take him to the airport during lockdown – for about six times the usual price of that ride. Shanghai’s residents have been ordered to stay home since early April in response to …

For Kenya’s Birds of Prey, Power Lines Are a Deadly Enemy

A blindfold calms the large black and white augur buzzard as two men glue a prosthetic leg into an insert on her body to replace the one that she lost. The female is one of many injured birds of prey that turn up at Simon Thomsett’s Kenyan rehabilitation center, most of which, like her, have been crippled by electrocution. The problem has progressively grown as Kenya has upgraded its electricity network, replacing wooden poles with steel-reinforced concrete, which can be conductive, and hanging inadequately insulated power lines between them, conservationists say. That and the lack of deterrent markers along the cables are pushing Kenya’s already dwindling bird of prey populations closer to disappearance. “Thirty years ago, the birds were coming in being hit by cars, diseased… or hitting things like clothes lines or …windows,” said Thomsett before/after helping to fit the prosthetic. “Now we … the vast majority is electrocution.” Many are killed outright by the shock, both via direct collision with power lines or from perching. Kenya’s population of augur buzzards, historically one of its most common birds of prey has plunged 91% over 40 years due to electrocution, habitat loss, and poisoning, according to a February study by Thomsett and others published in Biological Conservation. Over the same period, hooded vulture are down 88% and long-crested eagles by 94%, the study said. The government-run Kenya Power and Lighting Company did not respond to requests for comment. In some parts of South Africa, bird flight diverters have successfully been …

California Group Working to Help Ukraine With Low-Cost Incubators 

A San Francisco area-based nonprofit is working to send easily operated, simply maintained and low-cost incubators to Ukraine.  After learning that 260,000 women in Ukraine are pregnant, with many now giving birth in bomb shelters or without access to modern medical care, Embrace Global is working to send 3,000 of its incubators to war ravaged areas of the country. Co-founder and CEO Jane Chen launched the initiative at the recent TED 2022 conference in Vancouver.  The company was already sending 200 incubators with UNICEF. While traditional incubators require continuous electricity, these devices, which look like small sleeping bags, can be charged like a cellphone with electricity or a heater that works off hot water. The charge lasts up to eight hours. “The core technology is a pouch of a waxlike substance called a phase change material,” Chen said. “And so this, once melted, can maintain the exact same temperature of 98 degrees, human body temperature, for up to eight hours at a stretch, and it can be reheated thousands of times.” Far less expensive Each device costs $300 to $400, substantially cheaper than the $20,000 cost of a basic traditional incubator, which also requires continuous electricity and trained personnel. The low-cost incubators require virtually no training and are designed to be very simple to use. Chen developed the device while attending Stanford University and after then spending four years in India, where the devices have been distributed to 12 states.  She said the war in Ukraine was creating a new …

First US Case of H5N1 Bird Flu in Human Confirmed in Colorado

A Colorado prison inmate who worked at a poultry farm culling infected birds has become the first person in the U.S. to test positive for the H5N1 strain of bird flu. The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment confirmed the case Thursday. H5N1 has been spreading rapidly among birds in the U.S. since February but does not appear to pose a significant threat to people because humans need to be in close contact with infected birds. The virus has been seen among commercial birds in 29 states and among wild birds in 34 states. More than 35 million chickens and turkeys have been destroyed in an attempt to curb the spread of the virus. The infected man, who is younger than 40, reported fatigue for several days and made a full recovery. “The inmate was part of a prison work crew composed of inmates nearing release, which had been working at the farm before a case of bird flu was confirmed there on April 19,” said Lisa Wiley, a spokeswoman for the Colorado Department of Corrections. In December 2021, a British man with 20 pet ducks was infected with the virus. …

China, N.Korea Halt Border Rail Crossing Over COVID Fears

China has suspended cross-border freight train services with North Korea following consultations after COVID-19 infections in its border city of Dandong, the foreign ministry said Friday. The suspension came within four months after North Korea eased border lockdowns enforced early in 2020 against the coronavirus, measures global aid groups have blamed for its worsening economic woes and risks to food supplies for millions. “Due to the COVID situation in Dandong, after friendly consultation between both sides, China has decided to suspend freight services from Dandong to Sinuiju,” foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian told a daily briefing in Beijing. South Korea’s Yonhap news agency said authorities in Dandong had acted on a request from North Korea, citing unidentified sources. Authorities in Seoul, the capital of neighboring South Korea, said they were keeping watch on the situation. The Chinese city of Dandong has been fighting a COVID-19 outbreak since late April, reporting 220 infections from April 24-27. By Wednesday, authorities had locked down 77 residential compounds, while people elsewhere were asked to keep to designated areas. North Korea has not officially reported any COVID-19 infections since the pandemic began but adopted border curbs among its anti-virus measures. …

New NASA Spacecraft Nearly Ready for Asteroid Mission

After years of preparation and testing, a new NASA spacecraft is almost ready for its mission to an asteroid orbiting between Mars and Jupiter. Scientists hope the journey will uncover clues into the origins of Earth. For VOA, Villafañe visited NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, to see the spacecraft and speak with mission investigators. …

Google Adds Ways to Keep Personal Info Private in Searches

Google has expanded options for keeping personal information private from online searches. The company said Friday it will let people request that more types of content such as personal contact information like phone numbers, email and physical addresses be removed from search results. The new policy also allows the removal of other information that may pose a risk for identity theft, such as confidential log-in credentials. The company said in a statement that open access to information is vital, “but so is empowering people with the tools they need to protect themselves and keep their sensitive, personally identifiable information private.” “Privacy and online safety go hand in hand. And when you’re using the internet, it’s important to have control over how your sensitive, personally identifiable information can be found,” it said. Google Search earlier had permitted people to request that highly personal content that could cause direct harm be removed. That includes information removed due to doxxing and personal details like bank account or credit card numbers that could be used for fraud. But information increasing pops up in unexpected places and is used in new ways, so policies need to evolve, the company said. Having personal contact information openly available online also can pose a threat and Google said it had received requests for the option to remove that content, too. It said that when it receives such requests it will study all the content on the web page to avoid limiting availability of useful information or of content …