Tuesday, 30 April 2019

Why is the US news media so bad at covering climate change?

The US news media devotes startlingly little time to climate change – how can newsrooms cover it in ways that will finally resonate with their audiences?

Last summer, during the deadliest wildfire season in California’s history, MSNBC’s Chris Hayes got into a revealing Twitter discussion about why US television doesn’t much cover climate change. Elon Green, an editor at Longform, had tweeted, “Sure would be nice if our news networks – the only outlets that can force change in this country – would cover it with commensurate urgency.” Hayes (who is an editor at large for the Nation) replied that his program had tried. Which was true: in 2016, All In With Chris Hayes spent an entire week highlighting the impact of climate change in the US as part of a look at the issues that Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump were ignoring. The problem, Hayes tweeted, was that “every single time we’ve covered [climate change] it’s been a palpable ratings killer. So the incentives are not great.”

The Twittersphere pounced. “TV used to be obligated to put on programming for the public good even if it didn’t get good ratings. What happened to that?” asked @JThomasAlbert. @GalJaya said, “Your ‘ratings killer’ argument against covering #climatechange is the reverse of that used during the 2016 primary when corporate media justified gifting Trump $5 billion in free air time because ‘it was good for ratings,’ with disastrous results for the nation.”

When @mikebaird17 urged Hayes to invite Katharine Hayhoe of Texas Tech University, one of the best climate science communicators around, on to his show, she tweeted that All In had canceled on her twice – once when “I was literally in the studio w[ith] the earpiece in my ear” – and so she wouldn’t waste any more time on it.

“Wait, we did that?” Hayes tweeted back. “I’m very very sorry that happened.”

This spring Hayes redeemed himself, airing perhaps the best coverage on American television yet of the Green New Deal. All In devoted its entire 29 March broadcast to analyzing the congressional resolution, co-sponsored by Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Senator Ed Markey, which outlines a plan to mobilize the United States to stave off climate disaster and, in the process, create millions of green jobs. In a shrewd answer to the ratings challenge, Hayes booked Ocasio-Cortez, the most charismatic US politician of the moment, for the entire hour.

Yet at a time when civilization is accelerating toward disaster, climate silence continues to reign across the bulk of the US news media. Especially on television, where most Americans still get their news, the brutal demands of ratings and money work against adequate coverage of the biggest story of our time. Many newspapers, too, are failing the climate test. Last October, the scientists of the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a landmark report, warning that humanity had a mere 12 years to radically slash greenhouse gas emissions or face a calamitous future in which hundreds of millions of people worldwide would go hungry or homeless or worse. Only 22 of the 50 biggest newspapers in the United States covered that report.

Instead of sleepwalking us toward disaster, the US news media need to remember their Paul Revere responsibilities – to awaken, inform and rouse the people to action. To that end, the Nation and CJR are launching Covering Climate Change: A New Playbook for a 1.5-Degree World, a project aimed at dramatically improving US media coverage of the climate crisis. When the IPCC scientists issued their 12-year warning, they said that limiting temperature rise to 1.5C would require radically transforming energy, agriculture, transportation, construction and other core sectors of the global economy. Our project is grounded in the conviction that the news sector must be transformed just as radically.

The project will launch on 30 April with a conference at the Columbia Journalism School – a working forum where journalists will gather to start charting a new course. We envision this event as the beginning of a conversation that America’s journalists and news organizations must have with one another, as well as with the public we are supposed to be serving, about how to cover this rapidly uncoiling emergency. Judging by the climate coverage to date, most of the US news media still don’t grasp the seriousness of this issue. There is a runaway train racing toward us, and its name is climate change. That is not alarmism; it is scientific fact. We as a civilization urgently need to slow that train down and help as many people off the tracks as possible. It’s an enormous challenge, and if we don’t get it right, nothing else will matter. The US mainstream news media, unlike major news outlets in Europe and independent media in the US, have played a big part in getting it wrong for many years. It’s past time to make amends.

 A firefighter sprays water as flames from the Camp Fire consume a home in Magalia, California, in 2018 Photograph: Noah Berger/AP

If 1.5C is the new limit for a habitable planet, how can newsrooms tell that story in ways that will finally resonate with their audiences? And given journalism’s deeply troubled business model, how can such coverage be paid for? Some preliminary suggestions. (You can read this story in its entirety at Columbia Journalism Review or The Nation.)

Don’t blame the audience, and listen to the kids. The onus is on news organizations to craft the story in ways that will demand the attention of readers and viewers. The specifics of how to do this will vary depending on whether a given outlet works in text, radio, TV or some other medium and whether it is commercially or publicly funded, but the core challenge is the same. A majority of Americans are interested in climate change and want to hear what can be done about it. This is especially true of the younger people that news organizations covet as an audience. Even most young Republicans want climate action. And no one is speaking with more clarity now than Greta Thunberg, Alexandria Villaseñor and the other teenagers who have rallied hundreds of thousands of people into the streets worldwide for the School Strike 4 Climate demonstrations.

Establish a diverse climate desk, but don’t silo climate coverage. The climate story is too important and multidimensional for a news outlet not to have a designated team covering it. That team must have members who reflect the economic, racial and gender diversity of America; if not, the coverage will miss crucial aspects of the story and fail to connect with important audiences. At the same time, climate change is so far-reaching that connections should be made when reporting on nearly every topic. For example, an economics reporter could partner with a climate reporter to cover the case for a just transition: the need to help workers and communities that have long relied on fossil fuel, such as the coal regions of Appalachia, transition to a clean-energy economy, as the Green New Deal envisions.

Learn the science. Many journalists have long had a bias toward the conceptual. But you can’t do justice to the climate crisis if you don’t understand the scientific facts, in particular how insanely late the hour is. At this point, anyone suggesting a leisurely approach to slashing emissions is not taking the science seriously. Make the time to get educated. Four recent books – McKibben’s Falter, Naomi Klein’s On Fire, David Wallace-Wells’s The Uninhabitable Earth, and Jeff Goodell’s The Water Will Come – are good places to start.

Don’t internalize the spin. Not only do most Americans care about climate change, but an overwhelming majority support a Green New Deal – 81% of registered voters said so as of last December, according to Yale climate pollsters. Trump and Fox don’t like the Green New Deal? Fine. But journalists should report that the rest of America does. Likewise, they should not buy the argument that supporting a Green New Deal is a terrible political risk that will play into the hands of Trump and the GOP; nor should the media give credence to wild assertions about what a Green New Deal would do or cost. The data simply does not support such accusations. But breaking free from this ideological trap requires another step.

Lose the Beltway mindset. It’s not just the Green New Deal that is popular with the broader public. Many of the subsidiary policies – such as Medicare for All and free daycare – are now supported by upwards of 70% of the American public, according to Pew and Reuters polls. Inside the Beltway, this fact is unknown or discounted; the assumption by journalists and the politicians they cover is that such policies are ultra-leftist political suicide. They think this because the Beltway worldview prioritizes transactional politics: what will Congress pass and the president sign into law? But what Congress and the White House do is often very different from what the American people favor, and the press should not confuse the two.

Help the heartland. Some of the places being hit hardest by climate change, such as the midwestern states flooded this spring, have little access to real climate news; instead, the denial peddled by Fox News and Rush Limbaugh dominates. Iconic TV newsman Bill Moyers has an antidote: “Suppose you formed a consortium of media that could quickly act as a strike force to show how a disaster like this is related to climate change – not just for the general media, but for agricultural media, heartland radio stations, local television outlets. A huge teachable moment could be at hand if there were a small coordinating nerve center of journalists who could energize reporting, op-eds, interviews, and so on that connect the public to the causes and not just the consequences of events like this.” Moyers added that such a team should “always have on standby a pool of the most reputable scientists who, on camera and otherwise, can connect natural disasters to the latest and most credible scientific research”.

Cover the solutions. There isn’t a more exciting time to be on the climate beat. That may sound strange, considering how much suffering lies in store from the impacts that are already locked in. But with the Green New Deal, the US government is now, for the first time, at least talking about a response that is commensurate with the scale and urgency of the problem. Reporters have a tendency to gravitate to the crime scene, to the tragedy. They have a harder time with the solutions to a problem; some even mistake it as fluff. Now, with climate change, the solution is a critical part of the story.

Don’t be afraid to point fingers. As always, journalists should shun cheerleading, but neither should we be neutral. Defusing the climate crisis is in everyone’s interest, but some entities are resolutely opposed to doing what the science says is needed, starting with the president of the United States. The press has called out Trump on many fronts – for his lying, corruption and racism – but his deliberate worsening of the climate crisis has been little mentioned, though it is arguably the most consequential of his presidential actions. Meanwhile, ExxonMobil has announced plans to keep producing large amounts of oil and gas through at least 2040; other companies have made similar declarations. If enacted, those plans guarantee catastrophe. Journalism has a responsibility to make that consequence clear to the public and to cover the companies, executives, and investors behind those plans accordingly.
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If American journalism doesn’t get the climate story right – and soon – no other story will matter. The news media’s past climate failures can be redeemed only by an immediate shift to more high-profile, inclusive and fearless coverage. Our #CoveringClimateNow project calls on all journalists and news outlets to join the conversation about how to make that happen. As the nation’s founders envisioned long ago, the role of a free press is to inform the people and hold the powerful accountable. These days, our collective survival demands nothing less.

(Source: The Guardian)

In the name of Notre Dame

In September 2016, police found a Peugeot with missing plates parked just steps away from Notre Dame; inside the car, they found seven cylinders of gas. The following week, four women—one of whom was carrying a letter declaring allegiance to ISIS and describing the planned attack as a deliberate act of terror and vengeance—were arrested and charged in connection with a plot to destroy the cathedral. As it happened, the eldest of these four women, Ornella Gilligmann, a thirty-nine-year-old mother of three, had been a close acquaintance of my wife’s from childhood, for which reason these events became especially vivid in our minds. If the women hadn’t removed the license plates, we agreed, no one would have noticed the car, and the plot might have come off without a hitch.

“Can you imagine if they got the Notre Dame,” my wife kept repeating. I understood this as a rhetorical question, posed in the same spirit we often invoked at the prospect of a Trump presidency: it was impossible precisely because it was too horrible to imagine.

The fire that nearly destroyed the eight-hundred-year-old cathedral on Monday (which French authorities are investigating as an accident) is not, of course, a catastrophe in the order of the 2016 election. But looking on from the banks of the Seine, it was hard not to experience the fire as a nontrivial data point on the timeline of a slow-motion apocalypse, which from a Western perspective stretches back (depending on whom you ask) to the 2016 elections, to the Brexit referendum, to 9/11, the paroxysms of the early twentieth century, to the intractable dependence on fossil fuels, to Napoleon’s campaigns in Europe, the Industrial Revolution and the Enlightenment—through all of which, the Notre Dame cathedral stood intact. What would it mean, at a time when civilization itself was starting to seem like a failed idea, for one of civilization’s signal achievements to burn to the ground.

HENRI MATISSE, NOTRE DAME UNE FIN D’APRÈS-MIDI, 1902

When news of the fire reached me, at quarter past seven, I was at work in the seventh arrondissement, and it was not yet clear how extensive the damage would be. By the time I went outside, at eight o’clock, the spire had just collapsed, and on the Pont Royal a crowd had gathered in silence to watch the massive tongues of flame that rose in its place, high above the rooftops about a mile upstream. Along the right bank police had cordoned off the bridges onto the Île de la Cité; cars, buses, and trucks stood hopelessly gridlocked as a thickening stream of bikes, motorcycles, and electric scooters wove its way east, and foot-traffic overran the sidewalks and spilled into the street. The smell of smoke was distinct. Endless lines of police-personnel vans nudged their way along, and inside them fresh-faced young cops pressed their noses to the glass. More than a few times, I heard people around me, astonished by the magnitude and violence of the fire, ask each other in whispers whether this could be the work of terrorists, though officials had been quick to indicate that it appeared to be an accident. In front of Hôtel de Ville, closer to the cathedral, hundreds of people had crowded onto the various tiers of the large, rectangular fountain that flanks the square, so that it seemed almost as if bleachers had been set up for the express purpose of watching the cathedral burn. Some of these people’s eyes were locked on the flames across the river; many of them held phones and cameras overhead, and many others were following the news on their screens. Some had their phones pinned to their heads, urgently describing what they could see and what they knew. Only a very few of them were crying: a man in paint-stained sneakers with his arms folded across his chest, perched on the saddle of a mountain bike, rocking himself back and forth; a woman in her twenties who let her boyfriend drag her by the hand through the crowd like a child, while she twisted herself backward in order to keep her eyes riveted to the glowing plumes of smoke. But almost without exception, their faces were graven in dismay, their mouths hung open, and their voices observed a general hush, creating a soothing walla from which could occasionally be distinguished a catch-all French expression of dismay: c’est pas possible.

The force that compels people to stand and watch a fire needs little explanation: fire, like water, draws the eye. Among the tourists, I even detected a guilty sense of good fortune that they’d planned their visits to Paris for this week of all possible weeks. I wanted to ask the locals what the cathedral had meant to them. An old man with long sideburns agreed to speak with me, but his voice came out broken and garbled and he changed his mind, turning away with his head in his hands. The same would happen a few minutes later with a young man with his hood pulled down low: after a long pause, he said he couldn’t find the words, and strode off. “It will burn until there’s nothing left,” I heard a man on his phone saying somberly as he floated by on Rollerblades.

By now, dusk had reached its deepest phase of blue, and the thick chords of water that the fire department had trained on the roof glowed red against the sky, lit by the flames from below. The iron grid of the scaffolding that had encased the upper reaches of the cathedral for the past several years smoldered, creating a bright, spectral outline of the former roof. On the Pont Louis-Philippe, news teams had assembled. A woman in a long, bright red coat working by herself for Euronews, an English-language station, set up a light stand to which she affixed an iPhone, asking her producers in the studio if they wanted the smoke rising over her left shoulder or her right. Speaking to a reporter for Russia-1, a man in a black overcoat and a periwinkle cravat explained in slow, deliberate French the great sadness that was spreading across France. “This is a historic moment,” he said. “This is a historic tragedy.” The people gathered around to listen nodded in assent.

At length, darkness fell. In the middle of the bridge, a woman in her seventies who seemed to have just arrived stood for a moment gazing up the river at what remained. She took her phone out, and after a moment of fussing turned to another elderly woman beside her for instructions on operating the camera. When she’d taken her fill of photos, I asked her where she was from and how it was she had come to be here. She introduced herself as Nicole, and explained that she was from Fontainebleau, about an hour south of Paris, but that she’d come as soon as she’d seen the news, “not to watch but rather to feel” what was happening. When I asked what the loss of Notre Dame would mean for Parisians, she cut me off: “Not for Parisians,” she said. “For the French; for Christians.” I asked if she herself was Catholic, and she straightened: “Today,” she said, “I have become a Catholic.” She looked back at the smoke rising above the rooftops, shaking her head. “C’est pas ca qu’il faut bruler,” she remarked. I understood what she’d said, but asked her to repeat herself all the same. She did: It isn’t the Notre Dame that needs to be burned. By which she meant what, exactly, I asked, caught off guard by the implication. But she was already backing away from me. “It’s just bad luck,” she said, “that it happened in the first days of Holy Week.”

Catholicism has enjoyed a fraught relationship with the Republic since the French Revolution. Nuns and monks and clergy were guillotined by the dozens along with the ruling class, until the thought that the new world would be scrubbed clean of any trace of the old became more than anyone could bear. A century (and several governments) later, the concept of laicité—France’s particularly rigorous take on secularism in government—was signed into law. The result, paradoxically, was a precarious equilibrium between church and state, wherein the latter embraced the former as a cultural institution that belonged to all of France, rather than as a religious one that belonged to Catholics alone.

All of which would be essentially harmless were it not also true that, in the past twenty years, laîcité has become a kind of ideological cover for the systemic and cultural exclusion of France’s growing Muslim population. This history seemed to inform a conversation I had sometime later with a journalist named Gladys, a woman in her thirties who held a cigarette in her teeth and who in a certain sense echoed Nicole’s remarks, though in an altogether different spirit. We were standing by the edge of the water, and by now the fire had mostly died down and the crowd in the street had thinned. In the shadows along the quay, Gladys and I stopped for a minute to take in the voices of the teenagers and twenty-somethings who were spread out on the artificial turf, passing around joints and bottles of wine, and peeling back the foil on falafel and kebab sandwiches. From the bridge and from the Île Saint-Louis, as one by one the firetrucks began to retreat to their stations, cheers and applause occasionally went up, which caused the kids around us to sneer. “There’s no villain,” one of them said, “so there has to be a hero.” Gladys grimaced.

“In the middle of Holy Week,” she said, “and in such a turbulent time, to see this enormous symbol of Catholicism burning is a striking image, and it’s very destabilizing for France. It brings to mind the passage in the Bible in which Jesus says he will destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days.”

“It’s going to take decades to restore,” Alain, a man in his fifties who has lived for twenty years in the tenth arrondissement, told me at the end of the night. Alain didn’t mention religion to me at all. Rather, in a speech that prefigured the statement President Macron would make an hour later, he described the Notre Dame as a locus of French glory: its history, its literature, its culture, its republican values. “Victor Hugo,” he said. “The Notre Dame is part of our family. It’s part of who we are.”

*

In the past few years, French society has often felt like it was coming apart at the seams. After a series of terrorist attacks, a permanent rollback of civil liberties has targeted France’s Muslim population in particular. It’s become politically unwise to challenge those laws. Meanwhile, months of gilets jaunes protests have brought Macron’s approval ratings to abysmal lows, and no political party seems quite so well poised as the Rassemblement National, the extreme-right party of Marine Le Pen. It’s a dangerous time, in other words, to be doubling down on a national identity that’s rooted too deeply in the past.

On Tuesday afternoon, a Facebook friend of mine in Bretagne would share a post by Laurent Bouvet, a professor of political theory at Université de Versailles Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines, waxing righteous on the failure of the republic to properly educate its youth, a sentiment that referred to a collection of screenshots in which young Muslims framed the burning of Notre Dame as a karmic call against debts France had incurred in the Muslim world. Monday night, though, on the banks of the Seine, as the fire finally seemed to die, no one wanted to get too specific about French history—and who could blame them. It was enough to say that the Notre Dame was a potent symbol of a long, fraught history, full of contradictions and hypocrisies, as well as a great deal of Western civilization’s greatest art, culture, and thought. If every document of civilization is a document of barbarity, as Walter Benjamin put it, it’s also true that some documents of barbarity are documents of humankind’s ability to create and preserve beauty. The Notre Dame surely belongs to this category. My phone was dead, I’d been talking to strangers for four hours, and I was tired of trying to speak French. And I hadn’t eaten, so I resolved to leave it at that.

It was only then, as I tried to remember my last meal, that it occurred to me that earlier in the day I’d had coffee with a high school friend of mine and his wife, who were stopping through Paris on the way back from their honeymoon. They asked me what it was like to live in Paris, as friends from home almost always do. I explained that I’d often heard my wife and her brother, both born and raised in the twentieth arrondissement, go so far as to call Paris an ugly city, a city that was unpleasing to the eye. This was a provocation, I said, but I also believed it was how a lot of people here feel about ninety percent of the time: the buildings are gray, the sky is gray, the damp gets in your bones. On the metro, everyone is dressed in brown and black and navy blue, and they have a special genius for being in the way. Everywhere you go, a uniquely Parisian blend of cussedness and superiority confounds you in even the simplest tasks. Still, I said, on certain days when the sun is shining and the pollen count isn’t too high, I find that the course of my day brings me past Notre Dame, and when it unexpectedly comes into view, the romance of living in Paris affects me powerfully, and I see the whole world with new eyes.

This little speech, which I’d made not for the first or even the tenth time, came back to me as, around midnight, I left the scene of the fire, and reflected that it had been exactly that sort of day: clear and bright and cool. Instead of going home, I stopped into an anglophone bar I knew to charge my phone, to get off my feet and maybe get a plate of fries. While I waited, I played back the interviews I’d conducted at random, trying to trace the threads that ran through each of them back to some common idea. But it was no use, I couldn’t hear; The Misfits were on the stereo, and a bearded Englishman in a wool watch cap was standing over me, describing himself to a group of much younger people as “aggressively heterosexual.” Around me, the entire room appeared to be in an advanced stage of drunkenness, and it wasn’t clear that anyone was even aware that the world was ending just a few blocks away. I retreated to the far corner of the room, where I got into a conversation with a Frenchman named Iron, a butcher who was born in the eighteenth and raised in the suburbs, who was distinct among the bar crowd for being visibly distraught by the appearance Macron was making on the television above the door. Macron’s words appeared in closed captions translated into English, and even as they invoked the restoration of the Notre Dame as France’s destiny, they conformed to Macron’s general fixation on a sense of France’s global relevance that was centuries out of date. Finally Iron turned away. He’d been down at the fire all night as well, and, making a huge circle around the Île de la Cité, he said it had become clear to him how purposefully the entire city of Paris had been built out around the cathedral; likewise the very idea of Frenchness. And what had it come to? As if the cathedral were at the heart of a centuries-old belief that he inherited as a Parisian: that the city of his birth was the center of the world. The story of Ornella appeared in my mind, and I played for him my interview with Nicole. Iron agreed: she was looking for someone to blame.

Blame for what, someone near us asked. This was a young woman from Detroit named Dominique, an international relations major in her junior year at the American University of Paris. She lived behind the cathedral in the sixth, and she’d been watching the fire all night as well. How could it be, she wondered, that in 2019 a government with France’s resources couldn’t keep an eight-hundred-year-old cathedral from going up in flames?

“Exactly,” Iron said.

For a while we batted these thoughts around. On the other side of the room, the aggressively heterosexual man held forth. The TV screen had gone blank; it claimed the signal was lost. There were no fries to be had; rather, we took turns buying each other drinks. The burning of the Notre Dame was just one example in a long series, we decided, of institutions we’d been led to believe were competent, in order to equip us with a stable, continuous sense of reality, to transmit the past into the future, where it was supposed to be of use. In the course of our lifetimes, one impossibly horrible thing after another had come to pass before our eyes, and yet the architecture had remained unchanged. So where did that leave us, I wanted to know. What happens when you burn it down and start from scratch? A catastrophe like this could be an occasion for retrogression and retrenchment, or it could be the point of departure for something new. This is where the Democratic primary, and the new progressivism that has been building since Trump took office, has been headed. The world needs to be rebuilt. How much of the past will we discard and how much will we keep?

(Source: The Paris Review)

Monday, 29 April 2019

Antarctica: Thousands of emperor penguin chicks wiped out

Thousands of emperor penguin chicks drowned when the sea-ice on which they were being raised was destroyed in severe weather.

The catastrophe occurred in 2016 in Antarctica's Weddell Sea.

Scientists say the colony at the edge of the Brunt Ice Shelf has collapsed with adult birds showing no sign of trying to re-establish the population.

And it would probably be pointless for them to try as a giant iceberg is about to disrupt the site.

The dramatic loss of the young emperor birds is reported by a team from the British Antarctic Survey (BAS).

The developing chasm in the Brunt Ice Shelf may have doomed the colony anyway
Drs Peter Fretwell and Phil Trathan noticed the disappearance of the so-called Halley Bay colony in satellite pictures.

It is possible even from 800km up to spot the animals' excrement, or guano, on the white ice and then to estimate the likely size of any gathering.

But the Brunt population, which had sustained an average of 14,000 to 25,000 breeding pairs for several decades (5-9% of the global population), essentially disappeared overnight.

Emperors are the tallest and heaviest of the penguin species and need reliable patches of sea-ice on which to breed, and this icy platform must persist from April, when the birds arrive, until December, when their chicks fledge.

If the sea-ice breaks up too early, the young birds will not have the right feathers to start swimming.

This appears to have been what happened in 2016.

Emperor penguins need a reliable and stable platform of sea-ice

Strong winds hollowed out the sea-ice that had stuck hard to the side of the thicker Brunt shelf in its creeks, and never properly reformed. Not in 2017, nor in 2018.

Dr Fretwell said: "The sea-ice that's formed since 2016 hasn't been as strong. Storm events that occur in October and November will now blow it out early. So there's been some sort of regime change. Sea-ice that was previously stable and reliable is now just untenable."

The BAS team believes many adults have either avoided breeding in these later years or moved to new breeding sites across the Weddell Sea. A colony some 50km away, close to the Dawson-Lambton Glacier, has seen a big rise in its numbers.

Quite why the sea-ice platform on the edge of the Brunt shelf has failed to regenerate is unclear. There is no obvious climate signal to point to in this case; atmospheric and ocean observations in the vicinity of the Brunt reveal little in the way of change.

But the sensitivity of this colony to shifting sea-ice trends does illustrate, says the team, the impact that future warming in Antarctica could have on emperor penguins in particular.

Research suggests the species might lose anywhere between 50% and 70% of its global population by the end of this century, if sea-ice is reduced to the extent that computer models envisage.

This would have consequences beyond just the emperors themselves, commented Dr Michelle LaRue, an ecologist at the University of Canterbury, New Zealand.

"They're an important part of the food web; they're what we call a mesopredator. They're both prey for animals like leopard seals but they also prey themselves on fish and krill species. So, they do play an important role in the ecosystem," she told BBC News.

2018: The Dawson-Lambton colony has increased its numbers
Dr Trathan said: "What's interesting for me is not that colonies move or that we can have major breeding failures - we know that. It's that we are talking here about the deep embayment of the Weddell Sea, which is potentially one of the climate change refugia for those cold-adapted species like emperor penguins.

"And so if we see major disturbances in these refugia - where we haven't previously seen changes in 60 years - that's an important signal."

Whether the Halley Bay colony specifically really had a future is a moot point.

The Brunt Ice Shelf is being split apart by a developing crack.
Emperors are the tallest and heaviest of the penguin species
This chasm will eventually calve an iceberg the size of Greater London into the Weddell Sea, and any sea-ice stuck to the berg's edge may break up in the process.

The colony could have been doomed regardless of what happened in 2016.

Drs Peter Fretwell and Phil Trathan report their investigation in the journal Antarctic Science.

(Source: BBC)

Milkmen are returning to London as millennials order glass milk bottles in a bid to slash plastic waste

The catalyst for the surge in millennials using glass bottles is David Attenborough's Blue Planet II, according to one milkman

Milkmen and milkwomen are making a comeback in London as millennials have started using glass milk bottles in a bid to cut down plastic waste.

Dairies in the capital told of a "phenomenal" upsurge in interest from younger customers at the start of the year amid growing public upset over plastic waste.

Both UK-wide company milk&more and east London dairy Parker Dairies have seen increased demand for glass bottles in 2018, citing David Attenborough's Blue Planet II as the "catalyst" for the new uptake.

The firms said younger consumers and families seem willing to pay more for the service in a bid to help the environment.

It comes amid conflicting reports of a resurgence in glass doorstep deliveries in the UK.

While it was reported there was a 25 per cent hike in the number of deliveries in the UK over the last two years, Dairy UK told the Standard it could not confirm the figure.

The industry body said figures showed doorstep deliveries make up 3 per cent of milk sales in the UK – around 1 million pints per day – and glass milk bottles make up 3 per cent of all milk sales.

But depot manager of Parker Dairies Paul Lough said interest of late in glass bottles has been “absolutely phenomenal”.

Parker Dairies: the east London dairy has a fleet of 25 electric milk floats (Parker Dairies)
He said the dairy, which has a fleet of 25 electric milk floats covering all of east London, the city and the West End, has gained 382 new customers since the beginning of the year.

Of these new calls, 95 per cent are having milk delivered in glass bottles.

Mr Lough said: “Before Christmas we were taking 30 calls a month, and since New Year we are getting 30 calls a week.”

The dairy has seen a 4 per cent increase in sales since December, with an extra 1800 pints being sold each week.

Mr Lough attributed the new interest to the "regeneration" of the East End since the Olympics.

"People are much more environmentally conscious and so they are asking if we do glass,” he said.

And the dairy has attracted a younger clientele, Mr Lough said, meaning the firm has expanded its product line to cater to the new demographic.

“Without a doubt [they are younger],” he said. “That is why we are trying to change our product list.

“We do sourdough and honeys… we sell 250 loaves a week to new customers.”

Glass milk bottles can be reused up to 25 times before they are recycled into new bottles (Parker Dairies)
Meanwhile, UK company milk&more said it has gained more than 2,500 new customers in the last month – the equivalent of five new milk rounds.

And some 90 per cent of these customers across the country are ordering in the iconic glass bottles.

In London, milk&more has added the equivalent of a whole new round, the company said.

The company – which occupies Hanworth Dairy in south west London - was bought by dairy giant Müller from Dairy Crest in 2016, which pledged to save glass milk bottle doorstep delivery and boost the service.

Dairy Crest had planned to shut down the dairy and review milk&more in light of declining interest in milk deliveries, with plans to phase out glass bottles.

But Müller said it wanted to reverse the plans and “rejuvenate and expand” milk&more.

Milkman Ian Beardwell has been doing the same round in Wimbledon for Hanworth Dairy for 27 years.

He said: “Since Blue Planet that has been the catalyst of the revival in glass.

Dairies offer locally sourced produced such as sourdough bread alongside milk
“I used to do 550 calls before and in four weeks I’ve gained another 35 to 40 calls – 90 per cent glass.

“The trend for new customers has always been to come on board with plastic. But I have always done glass. I think they forgot that I do glass… people just didn’t realise.

“One lady has just come back to me in the last four weeks. I hadn’t been delivering to her for the last 10 years. She told me she just got lazy.”

Patrick Müller, managing director of milk&more, said: “The glass bottle is an exciting product… we think that it has a future.

“We believe the tradition of the milkman has some fantastic elements that are relevant now. They are a reliable presence for pre-breakfast delivery, they offer an exciting product range including locally sourced produce, and can be a part of the community.

“We just have to make them relevant for the modern consumer.” 

He said new customers were aged around 35 years old, coming from young families with a double income.

Mr Muller added: “It’s popular with families, so people that care about the local community and local produce.

“They want the story behind their produce but they don’t have the time to get it.

“We talked with customers and they said they enjoy the experience of the glass bottle - the childhood memories - and they want to reduce their plastic wastage.”

(Source: Evening Standard)

Runaway Saudi sisters call on Google and Apple to pull 'inhuman' woman-monitoring app

Maha and Wafa al-Subaie called say Absher, which supports male guardianship system, gives men control over women

Two runaway Saudi sisters on Wednesday urged Apple and Google to pull an “inhuman” app allowing men to monitor and control female relatives’ travel as it helped trap girls in abusive families.

Maha and Wafa al-Subaie, who are seeking asylum in Georgia after fleeing their family, said Absher – a government e-services app – was bad for women as it supported Saudi Arabia’s strict male guardian system.

“It gives men control over women,” said Wafa, 25. “They have to remove it,” she added, referring to Google and Apple.

Absher, which is available in the Saudi version of Google and Apple online stores, allows men to update or withdraw permissions for female relatives to travel abroad and to get SMS updates if their passports are used, according to researchers.

Neither company was immediately available to comment. Apple’s chief executive Tim Cook said in February that he had not heard of Absher but pledged to “take a look at it”.

A free tool created by the interior ministry, Absher allows Saudis to access a wide range of government services, such as renewing passports, making appointments and viewing traffic violations.
 Saudi sisters Maha and Wafa al-Subaie fled Saudi Arabia and now live in Georgia. Photograph: Twitter/ Maha & Wafa al-Subaie

Saudi women must have permission from a male relative to work, marry and travel under the ultra-conservative Islamic kingdom’s guardianship system, which has faced scrutiny following recent cases of Saudi women seeking refuge overseas.

The al-Subaie sisters, who stole their father’s phone to get themselves passports and authorisation to fly to Istanbul, said they knew of dozens of other young women who were looking to escape abusive families.

Tech giants could help bring about change in Saudi Arabia if they pulled Absher or insisted that it allows women to organise travel independently – which would significantly hamper the guardianship system - they said.

“If [they] remove this application, maybe the government will do something,” Wafa said.

The sisters’ plea added to growing calls from rights groups, diplomats and US and European politicians for the app to be removed from online stores.

United Nations human rights chief Michelle Bachelet said on Wednesday that she had asked tech companies in Silicon Valley “tough questions” this month about the “threats” posed by apps like Absher.

“Technology can, and should, be all about progress. But the hugely invasive powers that are being unleashed may do incalculable damage if there are not sufficient checks in place to respect human rights,” she said in a statement.

A Saudi teen received global attention and ultimately an offer of asylum in Canada when she refused to leave a Thai airport hotel in January to escape her family. Two other Saudi sisters who hid in Hong Kong for six months were granted visas in March to travel to a third country.

“Increasing cases of women fleeing the country are indicative of the situation of women in Saudi Arabia,” said Lynn Maalouf, Middle East research director for rights group Amnesty International.

“Despite some limited reforms, [they] are inadequately protected against domestic violence and abuse and, more generally, are discriminated against.”

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has introduced reforms, such as lifting the driving ban for women, and indicated last year that he favoured ending the guardianship system. But he has stopped short of backing its annulment.

Western criticism of the kingdom has sharpened with the trial of 11 women activists who said last month that they had been tortured while in detention on charges related to human rights work and contacts with foreign journalists and diplomats.

The public prosecutor has denied the torture allegations and said the women had been arrested on suspicion of harming Saudi interests and offering support to hostile elements abroad.

(Source: The Guardian)

Notre-Dame fire: Has too much money been given to rebuild it?

Since the fire that tore through Notre-Dame cathedral in Paris last week, donations have been pouring in from across the world to restore the structure to its former glory.

Ordinary people and billionaires have pledged at least €750m (£650m; $835m) in the 10 days after the main spire and roof of the building collapsed in a huge fire on 15 April.

One early estimate by French construction economists suggests that the donations may far surpass the cost of repairs.


Amid the wave of goodwill and generosity, critics have argued that the money could have been better spent elsewhere.

But those collecting money for the repairs are urging people to keep donating, saying a price cannot yet be put on the work.

"We should not tell people to stop donating as we still don't know how much it is going to cost," said Laurence Lévy of French heritage group Fondation du Patrimoine.

What will it cost?
Untec, the national union representing construction economists in France, has estimated that the repair and restoration work on the Notre-Dame will cost a maximum of €600 million, excluding VAT.

"The cost is [a minimum of] around €300 million and the high level is around €600 million but we need to have two or three months to have the right cost," Untec president Pascal Asselin told the BBC.

The figures reached by the group included the cost of securing the structure; replacing the roof and framework; employing expert stonemasons and completing intricate restoration works, according to French news channel BFM TV.

An official estimate is yet to be put on the cost of the extensive work.

Because the cathedral is owned by the state, insurance money will not fund the work as the state is its own insurer. Some of the relics and artworks inside Notre-Dame were insured, as were contractors working on the building before the fire broke out.


Could it be higher?
Experts contacted by the BBC were reluctant to speculate on how much the repairs may be.

"How do you price the unpriceable?" said Richard Woolf, an architect and expert in historic building conservation.

Alan Davies, another architect specialising in the conservation of historic buildings, said that while there were not many projects that would come close to the figure raised by donors, the complex restoration work would require the highest level of expertise.

"It costs whatever it costs… there can't be any cutting corners," he said.

Robert Read, head of art at London insurer Hiscox, has predicted the cost might go "north of €1bn", although insists it is far too early to give an accurate estimate without knowing what complications might arise.

Ms Lévy of Fondation du Patrimoine said people "should not rely on estimates made by people who haven't been inside the cathedral and haven't seen the damage."

"We haven't collected too much money as we don't know how much money will be needed," she said. "No figure has been confirmed yet. We are talking about art and handcraft."

Who raised the money?
Notre-Dame de Paris was built 850 years ago and has played a role in key moments of French history as well as capturing the imagination of millions around the world.

France's mega-rich have stumped up huge sums to restore the gothic architecture, with billionaires Bernard Arnault and Francois-Henri Pinault among the biggest donors.

"The amount of money that people have pledged is a reflection of the way people feel about historic buildings as fixed points in the landscape," said Alan Davies. "Notre-Dame is of national and international standing."

Others have donated more modest amounts.

"I heard about the Notre-Dame fire and wanted to help. I know it's not much but every bit helps," a nine-year-old British girl called Caitlyn wrote in a letter accompanying her donation of a few euros.


There are four French groups raising the money: Catholic charity Fondation Notre-Dame, Fondation du Patrimoine, Fondation de France and the National monuments centre.

Some estimates suggest as much as €1bn has been raised but a French official said late on Wednesday that €750m had been confirmed.

Better spent elsewhere?
The level of donations has sparked criticism that the money could have been better spent elsewhere.

Actress Pamela Anderson said she had attended a gala raising money for "children suffering in Marseille" this week when a "big surprise auction item" came up raising funds to rebuild the Notre-Dame.
"I hope they will reconsider and give to where it is needed," she added.

At the weekend, yellow-vest demonstrators complained at the ease with which corporations and wealthy individuals had raised money for a building but had ignored months of protests against the high cost of living.

Others have complained that the billionaire donors benefit from a 60% tax deduction in France.

Markus Renner, a Swiss-based marketing and brand reputation expert, said that companies had pledged too much too soon.

Gilets jaunes protesters on Saturday complained that they too could burn, just like Notre-Dame
 "I would not say that there is not a good intention behind it, but maybe they should have thought twice. How do they know how much is needed?" he said.

"I used to work within companies and my advice would always be to send a message that you're willing to donate, but depending on how much money is needed, not overreacting the way they did.

"It is a building, nobody died."

For others, however, the generosity shown towards the Notre-Dame was befitting of its history and status within French society.

"What happened to Notre-Dame was horrific but seeing the generosity that poured in from all over the world and from people of all religions was overwhelming," said Ms Lévy.

(Source: BBC)

The vagina is self-cleaning – so why does the 'feminine hygiene' industry exist?

From talcum powder to jade eggs and douches, an industry has grown up to sell products – some of which are harmful – that play on women’s fears about being dirty or smelly

Which of the following should go nowhere near your vagina: a penis, a finger, a tampon or talcum powder? According to a jury in Missouri in July, it is the talc: the court found in favour of 22 women who claimed their ovarian cancer had been caused by their use of Johnson & Johnson baby talc, because it contained asbestos. The women were awarded $4.14bn in punitive damages.

This is not the first time a court case has found in favour of a woman claiming talc is carcinogenic: a California court did so last year, although the decision, also against J&J, was overturned on appeal and a new trial granted. According to a spokesperson, J&J “remains confident that its products do not contain asbestos and do not cause ovarian cancer and intends to pursue all available appellate remedies”.
‘Show me a sanitary pad or a tampon campaign that does not use the word “fresh” and I will swallow a bottle of vinegar douche.’ Illustration: Bárbara Malagoli

Talc consists mostly of the mineral silica. However, because silica and asbestos are often mined near each other, talc could be contaminated with asbestos. The claimants’ lawyers in the Missouri case presented evidence that microscopic asbestos fibres had been found in many of the women’s ovarian tissues. “J&J sells the same powders in a marvellously safe corn starch variety,” said Mark Lanier, the lead lawyer, after the verdict. “If J&J insists on continuing to sell talc, they should mark it with a serious warning.” Six of the 22 women are already dead.

 'You smell' is one of the most powerful playground taunts: it​ is the accusation we fear most and the hardest to protest
Deathly baby powder sounds like something Q would make for 007, but the idea that talc could be linked to cancer has been percolating for decades, although conclusions are still debated vigorously. Some studies have found a slightly increased risk; others have not. An NHS analysis in 2016 said it was “plausible that talc could work its way up into the upper genital tract and have some type of biological impact”; Ovacome, a charity that works to reduce ovarian cancer, does not believe a link has been proved. It says: “We still do not know what really causes ovarian cancer. But it is likely to be a combination of many different inherited and environmental factors, rather than one cause such as talc.”

So, while assertions and evidence continue to be thrown around, here is another question: why is any woman putting talc inside her vagina or on her vulva? (The vagina is a tube of muscle that joins the cervix and the vaginal opening; the vulva is the exterior genitalia.)

The vagina is an amazing organ. It is lined with a mucous membrane that protects against infection (necessary in any part of the body that opens to the outside world), as well as a clever, complex mix of bacteria – also known as vaginal flora – that does the same thing (only the bowel has more bacteria than the vagina). Together, they keep the vagina healthy. It is self-cleaning, too, keeping itself safe and hygienic with secretions. (One day, I will get used to gynaecologists referring to my vagina as “a self-cleaning oven”.)

All women have a DIY vagina-vulva-wash of mucus, which can vary in appearance and volume throughout the menstrual cycle. It is mostly highly effective, except in the case of infection, including STIs, which can be signalled by a change in colour, thickness or odour. (Odour can become slightly muskier due to exercise or sex; if anything is noticeably different, or you itch, get a medical professional to check it.) But you would not know about our natural powerwash from the size and value of the industry that has grown up to tell women we smell.

 ‘The idea that talc could be linked to cancer has been percolating for decades, although conclusions are still debated vigorously.’ Photograph: Alamy
Of course, we all like to feel fresh and clean, particularly when we are bleeding. But for decades what is called the “feminine hygiene” industry has worked hard to increase our fears that we are not. Seventy years ago, women were being sold Kotex products that would make them feel “tangy”. Nothing has changed. Show me a sanitary pad or a tampon campaign that does not use the word “fresh” and I will swallow a bottle of vinegar douche. For every mention of “fresh”, look for the fear at which it is aiming: fear that we smell of period blood or are leaking; fear that we smell in general; fear that our sexual partners will mock or reject us because of what our vaginas and vulvas look or smell like. The jingle for baby talc was “a sprinkle a day keeps the odour away”. There is a reason that “you smell” is one of the most powerful playground taunts: it is the accusation we fear most and the hardest to protest. We all fear fishy.

The odds are your vagina and vulva look and smell normal, because, when it comes to genitalia, normal is a very big category. In a paper studying the range of female genital appearance, researchers at the Elizabeth Garrett Anderson hospital in London found that “women vary widely in genital dimensions”, but that “detailed accurate representations of female genitals are rare ... although representations of female nudity are common”. Rates for cosmetic genital surgery are soaring above rates of genital disease diagnosis. Something is deformed, but it is women’s thoughts, not their genitals.

To ensure cleanliness, the vulva needs nothing fancier than water, mild soap and a gentle pat dry (do not rub). The vagina does not need vajazzle, internal glitter bombs or leech therapy, a treatment touted as detoxifying by some eastern European beauty clinics (it is not). Jade eggs, which you insert in the vagina, are also a terrible idea, according to the gynaecologist Jen Gunter: “Jade is porous, which could allow bacteria to get inside and so the egg could act like a fomite … It could be a risk factor for bacterial vaginosis or even the potentially deadly toxic shock syndrome.” The mucous membrane that lines the vagina is also very porous. This makes the vagina an efficient route for absorbing medication and pathogens. Vaginal steaming – popularised by Gwyneth Paltrow, who supposedly sits herself over steaming herbal potions to improve her vulval and vaginal health – is not good for your vaginal wellbeing.

The outlandish stuff is one thing. But even a simple solution of vinegar and water sprayed up the vagina is a bad idea. Douching, as this is called, is done by one in five American women aged 15 to 44. Commercial douches can contain antiseptics, as well as potentially hazardous chemicals such as parabens, along with fragrances that are unknown: because these are cosmetic products, the US’s Food and Drug Administration requires only that manufacturers do not include anything “deleterious” in their products and trusts manufacturers to comply – it does not require any testing of products before they are launched. In short, products you are putting in close quarters with a highly porous part of your body are less stringently regulated than cough sweets. In the UK, they are regulated as general products, not medical devices; it is up to the manufacturer and seller to make them safe.
 ‘Vaginal steaming – popularised by Gwyneth Paltrow – is not good for your vaginal wellbeing.’ Photograph: Rex/Shutterstock

Anything introduced to the vagina risks upsetting the careful balance of bacteria, particularly if a woman is buying products because she thinks something is wrong. Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh found that the more women douched, the greater their risk of getting bacterial vaginosis, a mild infection that can cause itching and discharge (and therefore lead women to douche even more). If the women surveyed douched once a week, their risk doubled.

Douching has been linked to greater rates of bacterial vaginosis, premature births and cervical cancer. One study of 40,000 women in Puerto Rico and the US found douching doubled the risk of ovarian cancer. There were caveats, as an NHS article pointed out: the women, who did not have cancer, were followed over six and a half years to see whether they developed cancer and whether they douched. Forty women who reported douching their vaginas developed cancer. The researchers concluded a link; the NHS was more circumspect. Perhaps women with poor vaginal health are more likely to douche. The researchers did not enquire about risk factors such as a family history of ovarian cancer or whether the woman smoked.

“It’s a myth that the vagina needs extensive cleaning with perfumed soaps or feminine hygiene products,” says Vanessa Mackay, a spokeswoman for the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists. “It’s a good idea to avoid perfumed soaps, gels and antiseptics, as these can affect the healthy balance of bacteria and pH levels in the vagina and cause irritation. Women are advised to use plain, unperfumed soaps to wash the area around the vagina (the vulva) – not inside it – gently every day. During a woman’s period, washing more than once a day may be helpful.”

I wonder if such statements would be necessary if “vulva” were as conversational as “sex”. If we discussed our fears about vulvas and vaginas – conversationally, with GPs or health professionals and with our partners – as easily as we seek help for a headache, the aisles of feminine washes, sprays, douches and wet wipes, all those sticking plasters on our fears and embarrassment, would vanish. “If nature had intended the vagina to smell like roses or lavender, it would have made the vagina smell like roses or lavender,” said Ronnie Lamont, an RCOG spokesman, in an interview for the NHS website. If we were more outspoken about genital matters, women’s health and confidence would be vastly improved, even if we might smell less fragrant.

(Source: The Guardian)

Sunday, 28 April 2019

In the Brexit era, Britain is more Mr Bean than James Bond

If there’s any film character Tory Brexiteers identify with it’s tool of empire Bond. In reality, they’re more slapstick than sexy

We spend far too much time getting down about the state of the country – the whole international laughing-stock, spinning manically out of control and generally going nowhere thing is pretty draining. Yet hardly any effort is spent crudely shoehorning in film references to explain our political plight. This is a real shame, because for the Tory Brexiteers who valiantly yelled “Charge!”, then promptly led us off a cliff, the story of the past three years has fundamentally been a clash between self-perception and reality.

 Our macho superhero will gloriously defend a country whose government has wet itself while everyone else was watching
If there’s any film character with whom they identify, I’d plump for James Bond. Tough, no-nonsense, doesn’t play by the rules – he’s menaced by sinister European foes but always takes them down in the end against all the odds. A chauvinist who belongs to another era but considers that a plus, because moving with the times is for wimps. The tragedy for them – and, I feel, at this point, for the nation as a whole – is that they’re more like Mr Bean, a petulant, self-absorbed slapstick caricature who excels in screwing up the most basic of tasks.

Rowan Atkinson in The Story of Bean … ‘a petulant, self-absorbed caricature who excels in screwing up the most basic of tasks’. Photograph: taken from picture library

Bond 25 (there’s still no name announced, just the rumoured Shatterhand, which sounds like an unpleasant toilet-related accident) will be the first 007 film of the Brexit era. Our macho superhero will be sent out to gloriously defend a country whose government has wet itself while everyone else was watching. His boss will be Gavin Williamson, a man whose idea of tackling Russian malfeasance was to tell them in his big-boy voice to “go away and shut up”. How is anyone going to take it seriously?

To be a po-faced leftie, James Bond was traditionally cold war propaganda, basically a misogynist trying to make British imperialism look sexy, although it’s more recently taken some interesting detours. In Quantum of Solace, comrade Bond joins the anti-imperialist resistance and tries to stop a multinational corporation in alliance with the CIA from staging a coup d’etat to privatise Bolivia’s water supply. Under pressure from the Bourne franchise, he’s even shown hints of emotional vulnerability.

Indeed, for those who saw Brexit as a cultural counter-revolution – basically to tell those PC lefties, the party’s over, we’re bringing back blue passports and unapologetic racism – there are signs that they’re even losing James Bond to the culture war. The decision to hire Phoebe Waller-Bridge, one of the funniest people on Earth and also a proud feminist, has sent insecure rightwing men into paroxysms of rage: one viral YouTube video screeches, “Feminist Attack on James Bond – MeToo Takes Down 007”, while alt-right Twitter claims that James Bond has been “cucked”.

Perhaps it is for the best that James Bond is not to be updated to represent the spirit of our times. Nobody wants to watch a dribbling, embarrassing mess ordering a martini.

(Source: The Guardian)

Gagandeep Kang is the first Indian woman scientist to be elected Royal Society Fellow in 360 years

The UK Royal Society elected 51 eminent scientists as Fellows of the Royal Society on Tuesday, which included India's first woman scientist to become a Royal Fellow Gagandeep Kang, as well as five other Indian scientists.

Fifty-one eminent scientists were elected as Fellows of the Royal Society on April 16, along with 10 new Foreign Members and one Honorary Fellow for their exceptional contributions to science. Among the 2019 intakes is Dr Gagandeep Kang, who is purportedly the first woman scientist from India to have received this honour, while Mumbai-born Padma Bhushan awardee Dr Yusuf Hamied was elected as Honorary Fellow.

The Fellowship of the Society is an incredible honour in the scientific world, and Gagandeep Kang, along with the other new Indian Royal Fellows have now joined the ranks of Isaac Newton (1672), Charles Darwin (1839), Michael Faraday (1824), Ernest Rutherford (1903), Albert Einstein (1921), Dorothy Hodgkin (1947), Alan Turing (1951) and Francis Crick (1959) -- brilliant scientific minds who created history with their scientific work.

Apart from Padma Bhushan awardee Dr Yusuf Hamied Dr Gagandeep Kang, four other Indian scientists were elected Royal Society Fellows (Photo: Youtube/InfosysPrize)
Parsi-born Ardaseer Cursetjee Wadia, an Indian shipbuilder and engineer belonging to the Wadia ship building family, was the first Indian to be elected a Royal Society Fellow, way back in 1841.
Since then, there have been a few male scientists from India to follow the line, notably Srinivasa Ramanujan (1918) and Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar (1944), but sadly, no female scientist.

Founded on November 28, 1660, the Council and Fellows of the Royal Society of London for Improving Natural Knowledge, commonly known as the Royal Society, is the oldest scientific academy the world which has been working continuously for 360 years.

The Twitter handle of the Principal Scientific Adviser to Government of India, currently headed by professor K VijayRaghavan, posted a tweet congratulating the Indian scientists elected Royals Society Fellows, and said "Kang is the first woman Fellow from India, if I am not mistaken."
Women scientists are typically not easily recognised, especially because the number of women working in STEM fields is still very less compared to the number of male researchers and scientists. Kang herself points out the problem in an article she had written for the Economic times last year.
Raghunath Anant Mashelkar, the former director general of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research, and the president of the Indian National Science Academy also tweeted his congratulations.
Who is Gagandeep Kang?
Gagandeep Kang is the executive director of Translational Health Science and Technology Institute (THSTI), Faridabad. It is an autonomous institute of the Department of Biotechnology, Ministry of Science and Technology, Government of India.

Kang is a leading scientist in India and her main research focus is on viral infections in children, and the testing of rotaviral vaccines. With over 300 scientific research papers, she serves on the editorial boards for several journals.

She is also a member of several review committees for national and international research funding agencies, and on advisory committees which are mainly related to vaccines.

Since 2015, Kang also chairs the WHO SEAR's Regional Immunisation Technical Advisory Group.
Kang was awarded the Infosys Prize in 2016
In 2016, the prestigious Infosys Science Foundation awarded Gagandeep Kang in the Life Sciences category for her pioneering contributions to understanding the natural history of rotavirus and other infectious diseases that are important both globally and in India.

Some other awards received by Gagandeep Kang:

  • 2006: Woman Bioscientist of the Year
  • 2008: Fellow, Royal College of Pathologists, London
  • 2009: Abbott Oration Award, Indian Society for Gastroenterology
  • 2010: Fellow, American Academy of Microbiology
  • 2011: Fellow, Indian Academy of Sciences
  • 2011: Dr. YS Narayana Rao Oration Award, Indian Council of Medical Research
  • 2013: Fellow, National Academy of Sciences
  • 2014: Ranbaxy Research Award 2013 for Medical Research (link)
  • 2015: Dr. SC Parija Oration Award, Indian Academy of Tropical Parasitology
  • 2016: Fellow, Indian National Science Academy

Venkatraman "Venki" Ramakrishnan, the Indian scientist who shared the Nobel Prize in Chemistry with Thomas A Steitz and Ada Yonath in 2009, and is the current president of the Royal Society, announced the fellowships of the distinguished scientists. ,

"Over the course of the Royal Society's vast history, it is our Fellowship that has remained a constant thread and the substance from which our purpose has been realised: to use science for the benefit of humanity," said Ramakrishnan, as per the official website.

"This year's newly elected Fellows and Foreign Members of the Royal Society embody this, being drawn from diverse fields of enquiry - epidemiology, geometry, climatology - at once disparate, but also aligned in their pursuit and contributions of knowledge about the world in which we live, and it is with great honour that I welcome them as Fellows of the Royal Society," he added.

Dr Yusuf Hamied named Honorary Fellow of Royal Society
Padma Bhushan awardee and chairman of Indian pharmaceutical major Cipla Dr Yusuf Hamied was announced among the 2019 scientists being elected into the Royal Society for his work in producing low-cost drugs to treat diseases such as diabetes, cancer and others.



Other Indian scientists elected Royal Society Fellows in 2019
Gurdyal Besra: Bardrick Professor of Microbial Physiology and Chemistry, Institute of Microbiology and Infection, School of Biosciences, University of Birmingham

Manjul Bhargava: R Brandon Fradd Professor of Mathematics, Department of Mathematics, Princeton University

Anant Parekh: Professor of Physiology, Department of Physiology, Anatomy and Genetics, University of Oxford

Akshay Venkatesh: Professor, School of Mathematics, Institute for Advanced Study, US

Here are the main statistics from the Royal Fellow website about this year's intake:

  • 13 of this year's intake of Fellows (10) and Foreign Members (3) are women
  • 15 newly elected Fellows and 7 Foreign Members are primarily affiliated with US-based institutions
  • Newly elected Fellows and Foreign Members are from across the UK and Commonwealth, as well as international institutions in Argentina, Israel, and the Netherlands



(Source: India Today)

Should the colour of plasters match skin tones?

Who knew something as mundane as using a plaster could provoke such an emotional and lively debate about racial identity?

That's what happened after Dom Apollon, 45, cut his finger at home in Oakland, California.

On attaching the dark brown plaster, Dom who works for a non-profit racial awareness organisation, was overcome with emotions as he realised how it perfectly matched his own skin colour.

Dom Apollon used a dark brown plaster, or band aid as they are called in the US, for a cut on his finger
Posting a picture on Twitter he wrote: ''It's taken me 45 trips around the sun, but for the first time in my life I know what it feels like to have a band-aid in my own skin tone," he said, referring to the plaster.

''You can barely even spot it in the first image. For real I'm holding back tears.''
In a heartfelt series of tweets, which have been shared 96,000 times, Dom expressed how the simple household item provoked questions about his own racial identity.

''Not like I didn't know these strips existed. But I definitely didn't expect the complex emotions that would swirl as I watched it just ... blend in.

''This felt like belonging. Like feeling valued. Sadness for my younger self and millions of kids of colour, especially black kids.

''Like a reminder of countless spaces where my skin is still not welcomed. Feared. Hated.

''Like, why am I really thinking all this 'bout an effing band-aid?" he posted.

The thread which has been liked half a million times caught the attention of actor John Boyega, who posted his own experience of "nude" plaster usage while on the set of Star Wars.

''An average day in an action film like Star Wars comes with jumps, falls, crashes and explosions etc. We patch up and keep it moving,'' he posted.

Author Malorie Blackman also weighed in on the conversation. Her novel Noughts and Crosses is set in a world divided by race, where black people (Crosses) are the rulers and white people (Noughts) are the underclass.
Plasters for different skin tones are available to buy, but many social media users admitted they were unaware they could purchase any other shade but the standard "nude" colour.

''Future teacher here! Adding these to my list of essential classroom supplies!'' posted one Twitter user.

Others responded with their own examples of every day items they felt had in the past failed to represent them.

''Oh, man. The "flesh" crayon confused me so much when I was a kid, & my mom tried her best to help me find the crayon that matched me the best, but I remember being upset that nothing really worked,'' another user wrote.

Another posted: ''I feel the same way about naming conventions for a variety of things: nude pantyhose, nude sandals, nude pumps, nude bras, you get the point.''

Others did not quite understand the point of the conversation.

''Um... it's just a bandage, man. When I was a kid I never really cared what colour it was. '' posted one Twitter user.

Although items such as toys, tights, and crayons are available in different skin tones, some independent businesses are increasingly catering for people of different skin colours.





In 2014 Ade Hassan founded Nubian Skin a range of lingerie and hosiery for women of colour.

"I could never find simple things like tights in my skin colour, and having something so simple like nude not represent you, can feel very exclusive, like you are an afterthought," she told the BBC.

Similarly a range of ballet pump in different shades of bronze have also been created in the UK for the first time.

Ballet Black, whose dancers are all of black and Asian descent, have worked alongside shoe manufacturer Freed to create the new shoes.

Dancer Cira Robinson described what it meant to her to dance in ballet shoes that matched her skin colour: ''To have a shoe that I can just put on and go, I never thought that'd happen.''

(Source: BBC)

Artist turns a piece of racist graffiti into something a lot more positive

Racism of any kind is appalling and completely indefensible.

In the past two years in the US and the UK, we've noticed an unprecedented rise in racist incidents - some of which are based around people getting irate about others not talking English.

Considering that it's nearly 2019 and we live in a rich and culturally diverse society, this archaic take on language is completely bemusing and illogical.


Yet it persists, as evident by a recent act of vandalism in Walthamstow, north London, where a 'cultured' person thought it was appropriate to detail what was the predominant language that was spoken in the area.

However, local artist Chris Walker wasn't going to stand for this and decided to finish off the 'masterpiece' himself, via Photoshop.
After Walker shared his perfect takedown of the graffiti on Twitter is began to attract a lot of positive attention and praise.
There was a small typo in the work, but we can blame the Walthamstow Forest website for that.
This was done in response to a string of racist graffiti that had popped up in the area and was retweeted by local Labour MP Stella Creasy.
Speaking to indy100, Chris told us a little bit about how his small protest came about.
I saw it via a tweet from Stella Creasy. My first response was 'how vile'.

Whoever was responsible clearly has no idea where they are living, I was born in Walthamstow and have lived here on and off for 40 years, it has always been a vastly multicultural community and that's what makes it so great.

I saw they'd left me quite a bit of space around their 'artwork' so I thought I'd fill in the blanks.

As demonstrated by the above tweets there have been a string on similar incidents, all reportedly by the same culprit but judging by the response on Twitter, this isn't indicative of the residents of the area.
I seem to have captured some spirit! Some people thought it was real though, so I've had a few grumbles from those who didn't realise it was a photoshop job.

I can't please everyone, so I had a lot of requests for all the languages I've missed out!

Also, apologies for the misspelling of 'Punjabi', but you can blame the Waltham Forest website for that as it was a cut and paste from that site.

Although this is only a small response to racism, Chris hopes that the good spirits that is has inspired can reassure people from other cultures that Walthamstow is a welcoming place to live.
I'm not sure my little protest can stop things like this happening, but the response to it has, I hoped, brought the community together in speaking out and served to reassure that this is a minority view and that everyone is welcome in E17 and always will be.

Chris is a digital designer, digital art-worker and multidisciplinary illustrator living and working in London.

He has also illustrated two children's books about Walthamstow titled 'Yellow Man - A Walthamstory' and 'ABCDE17.'

(Source: Independent)