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NASA team creates satellite-run system aimed at slowing deforestation – dpa international

DUBLIN — A NASA-led research team has developed a “unique” satellite-based deforestation tracking system they hope could avert a “tipping point” for the world’s shrinking jungles. The plan is for the new “tropical vulnerability index” to enhance “early warning” about rainforests facing destruction. According to Sassan Saatchi of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, “frequent droughts, higher temperature and longer dry seasons, along with increasing pressures from deforestation and degradation in the last two decades, have pushed the tropical rainforests to the verge of a tipping point.”

For big populations, rapid coronavirus tests work better than PCR – dpa international

Outdoor dining in Dublin, the capital of Ireland, where the government has been reluctant to use antigen testing as part of its coronavirus measure (Simon Roughneen)

DUBLIN — Rapid antigen tests for coronavirus likely work better for larger populations than slower but more sensitive polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests, Indian scientists have found. A “computational analysis” comparing testing regimes and results across India, which was recently hit hard by a virus surge, suggests “the amount of testing matters more than the sensitivity of the tests.” The findings hint that lower- and middle-income countries “might be able to achieve optimal outcomes by concentrating on ramping up testing using less sensitive tests which provide immediate results.”

Coronavirus antibodies last at least 9 months after infection – dpa international

Outside a Dublin hospital (Simon Roighneen)

DUBLIN — Coronavirus antibodies last “at least” nine months after infection, according to Imperial College London and the University of Padua. Antibody levels “remain high” whether or not the infected person developed symptoms of Covid-19, the disease sometimes caused by the virus, the researchers found, after testing patients in northern Italy, one of the hardest hit regions at the outset of the pandemic. “The great majority of SARS-CoV-2 (coronavirus) infections, irrespective of symptom onset, develop antibodies,” according to the research, which was published on Monday in the journal Nature Communications.

Irish government’s pub reopening plan criticised as “discriminatory” – dpa international

Outdoor drinking on a June Sunday afternoon in Galway (Simon Roughneen)

DUBLIN — Pubs in Ireland’s capital Dublin have slammed government plans to have them screen customers for proof of coronavirus vaccination as “discriminatory” and likely to spark conflict. The Licensed Vintners Association (LVA) on Tuesday said the measures, which would apply nationwide as part of a plan to reopen indoor service in restaurants and pubs, “will lead to flashpoints between hospitality staff and potential customers.” “Our members are already reporting there is real anger about this,” according to LVA chief Donall O’Keefe, who said there are “major question marks” about enforcement of the proposed rules, which would also cover customers with proof of previous coronavirus infection. However the LVA believes it has “no option” but “to go along” with plan due to the government’s threat to otherwise retain Europe’s sole remaining ban on indoor drinking and dining until at least September.

Germ resistance to antibiotics driven partly by money – dpa international

Waiting area inside the traditional Chinese medicine section of Tung Shin Hospital in Kuala Lumpur (Simon Roughneen)

DUBLIN — Antimicrobial or antibiotic resistance could prove “the death knell for modern medicine” and lead to an “antibiotic apocalypse,” according to England’s former chief medical officer. Ahead of this week’s European Congress on Clinical Microbiology & Infectious Diseases, speaker Sally Davies warned of scant progress in curbing bacterial resistance to antibiotics, a growing danger that has been widely flagged in recent years. “Compared to 8 billion dollars of profit for cancer drugs, the 100 million loss for antimicrobials means that our medicine cabinets are becoming emptier – because of bankruptcies, not lack of scientific brainpower,” Davies said.

Littering makes smoking a drag on the environment- dpa international

Cigarette butts discarded on a Dublin street (Simon Roughneen)

DUBLIN — The world’s 1.3 billion smokers “improperly dispose of” an estimated 4.5 trillion cigarettes each year, making the butts “the most littered item on the planet,” according to STOP, an anti-tobacco organization. But even that deluge is “only a portion of the environmental harm caused by the tobacco industry,” STOP said, as tobacco is not only “grown on deforested lands” but its production “degrades soil and pollutes air, land and water.” Billions of trees are chopped down each year to make cigarettes, accounting for 5 per cent of global deforestation, according to STOP, which said cigarette butts make up around 20 per cent of debris gathered during ocean clean-ups.

Majority in most resource-rich countries set to remain poor – dpa international

DUBLIN — Despite often living in some of the world’s most resource-rich lands, people in many developing countries face continued poverty due to reliance on commodity exports, according to the UN. In a report published on Wednesday, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) said many of the world’s poorer nations depend too much on exporting natural resources and are seemingly “locked into this undesirable state.” A “commodity-dependent” economy gets 60 per cent of merchandise export revenues from sales of goods such as coffee, gas, metals and oil, according to UNCTAD – trade which is “strongly associated with low levels of technology” and “low levels of labour productivity, low productivity growth.” In 2019, two-thirds of developing countries were commodity-dependent, compared to 13 per cent of wealthy or developed economies.

Humans were sheltered from ancient Toba eruption, according to scientists – dpa international

DUBLIN — It was the world’s biggest volcanic blast for at least the last 2 million years, but when Mount Toba in Indonesia exploded around 74,000 years ago, humans were not as badly affected as previously thought, according to research published by the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) in the US. While the blast “likely caused severe global climate disruption,” early humans “were sheltered from the worst effects,” according to the NAS study. Overall, the scientists said, “the impacts [of the eruption] on climate and human evolution remain unclear.” Other scientists have in the past blamed Toba for causing a decade-long volcanic winter, leading to a millennium of global cooling and then an ice age.

Scientists say plastic pollution impact could be irreversible – dpa international

vRubbish disposal and recycling facility in the west of Ireland (Simon Roughneen)

DUBLIN — Global plastic pollution is heading for an “irreversible tipping point,” according to a study published on Friday in the journal Science. Despite worldwide alarm triggered by shocking images of rivers and seas deluged with plastic rubbish, the problem may be already beyond repair, the researchers warned, saying that “rates of plastic emissions globally may trigger effects that we will not be able to reverse.” Lead author Matthew MacLeod of Stockholm University said plastic “leaks out into the environment everywhere,” including in countries “with good waste-handling infrastructure.” Even then, recycling has “many limitations,” according to co-author Mine Tekman of the Alfred Wegener Institute in Germany, as wealthy nations ship rubbish “to countries with worse facilities.”

Tourism collapse could cut 4 trillion dollars from global economy – dpa international

Galway in the west of Ireland is a popular with visitors to the island (Simon Roughneen)

DUBLIN — The global economy is facing losses of up to 4 trillion dollars due to the collapse of international travel, according to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD). The coronavirus pandemic and ensuing containment measures have caused a “crisis with devastating effects on developing countries, especially those dependent on tourism,” UNCTAD said on Wednesday.” The worst affected region is likely to be Central America, where gross domestic product (GDP) could shrink by almost 12 per cent by the end of the year in a worst-case scenario.