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click to enlarge REUTERS/HUGH GENTRY—RTX1IXMS
  • REUTERS/Hugh Gentry—RTX1IXMS

Swiss pilots Bertrand Piccard and André Borschberg demonstrated the potential of clean technologies in July as their record-breaking solar airplane landed in Hawaii on a leg of its circumferential expedition across the world. Solar Impulse 2, the first solar airplane capable of sustaining flight at night with pilots on board, embarked on its journey in May from Abu Dhabi; it remained airborne for five days and nights, producing its own power, while flying across the Pacific toward Hawaii. Piccard and Borschberg intend to fly from continent to continent, crossing the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, spreading awareness of renewable technologies in the hope that solar energy will eventually become society's primary source of electricity.

Source: EcoWatch

In June, the Supreme Court ruled five to four against an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulation that proposes to limit emissions of mercury and other toxic pollutants from coal-fired power plants. The EPA was challenged by industry groups and 20 states arguing that the agency did not carry out any economical analyses and that the regulation costs would be too high. Justice Antonin Scalia stated for the majority that the benefits to the EPA regulations did not outweigh the billion dollar costs needed to implement them. In dissent, Justice Elena Kagan stated that "the agency acted well within its authority in declining to consider costs at the opening bell of the regulatory process given that it would do so in every round thereafter." The Court's decision did not eradicate the rule for regulation; the EPA has made moves to rewrite its proposal and consider costs. Undaunted by the changes ahead, an EPA spokeswoman, Melissa Harrison, said that the EPA was committed to protecting the public "from the significant amount of toxic emissions from coal- and oil-fired electric utilities and continue reducing the toxic pollution from these facilities."

Source: New York Times

The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reported in June that roughly 12 percent of the world's coral reefs have been bleached as water temperatures increase due to global warming. Coral reefs can only flourish in a narrow temperatures range, and when extreme warming occurs they die as they lose the ability to clean themselves of algae. Bleaching has affected every tropical ocean basin on earth within the last year; scientists have forecasted that 9,320 miles of coral reef may not recover and that losses to the world's remaining reefs would be a calamitous six percent. Scientists are uncertain of how long the bleaching will go on. Recovery of reefs may take decades, and that is only if conditions are suitable—if water temperatures and pollution levels continue to rise, coral reefs will not continue to grow.

Source: Guardian (UK)

In 2013, more than 8,200 Americans died of heroin overdoses, up from 1,800 in 2001, according to a report from the National Institute on Drug Abuse. NPR reported in July that the heroin epidemic has skyrocketed and slipped its slimy tentacles into groups that have historically had lower rates of abuse, such as women and white Americans in the 18-to-25-year-old range with incomes below $20,000. Dr. Tom Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control, says that the heroin spike has been bred out of prescription drug abuse; opioid painkillers and heroin have essentially the same active ingredient, with heroin being the cheaper and more readily available option. The changing demographics of heroin use calls for an exhaustive response—a crackdown on the use of prescription painkillers and street sales of heroin, ensuring that doctors only prescribe painkillers as necessary, providing treatment to addicted individuals, and increasing the use of naloxone, a drug that can be injected into someone experiencing a heroin overdose to reduce the risk of death.

Source: NPR

After being subjected to "Kafkaesque harassment" at airports across the world from 2006 to 2012 despite having no criminal record, Oscar-winning documentary filmmaker Laura Poitras decided in July to sue the US government. Renown for her "Citizenfour" documentary on NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, Poitras has faced controversy with the government since returning to the US from work on "My Country, My Country." Over the course of six years, Poitras was detained more than 50 times at borders, put on several "no-fly" lists, threatened with handcuffs for writing notes, and had her electronic equipment confiscated for 41 days because of her journalistic endeavors. She was placed on the Department of Homeland Security's watch list under the highest possible threat rating in 2006. Poitras has demanded that the government release all documentation on her tracking, targeting, and questioning; this follows a failed request in 2013 for freedom of information. Lawyers from the digital-rights advocacy group Electronic Frontier Foundation are representing Poitras' case with the conviction that the US government is hiding misconduct under the guise of national security. Poitras is also suing for others with lower profiles who are targeted without apparent cause.

Source: Guardian

In May 2014, the European Court of Justice ruled that Internet search engines must consider requests from individuals to remove links resulting from a search on their name; there is no such requirement for search engines in the US. Nothing may be completely removed from the Internet in any country. The Guardian divulged data in July that had been hidden in source code on Google's own transparency report that showed how 95 percent of requests made for removal of personal information from the company's searches came from regular people, with those from public figures only constituting five percent, and showed what types of requests were actually dealt with. Thus far, 280,000 people in Europe have asked Google to remove web pages with their information on them from the search engine; as of March, 46 percent of requests had been granted, 38 percent had been denied, and the rest were still pending. Private and public sector companies, however, may request removal—41 millions URLs for copyright and 2,200 unknown court and government agency requests so far. Those marked "political," "public figure," "serious crime," or "child protection" had higher rejection rates.

Source: NPR

Citrus fruits have long been lauded as a great source of vitamin C. But recent studies have found that the pulpous, tangy fruits may have a darker side. Researchers have found a potential link between citrus fruit consumption, namely orange and grapefruit, and malignant melanoma of the skin. Research on the dietary patterns and health events of 63,000 women and 41,000 men was gathered over a period of more than 20 years. The correlation discovered was that participants in the study that ate citrus two to four times a week had a 10 percent increased risk of melanoma, and those who ate more than one-and-a-half citrus fruits a day had an increased risk of 36 percent. However, the study's senior author, Dr. Abrar Qureshi, doesn't want people to stop eating citrus. The study needs to be repeated in order for its findings to be completely validated. "We are not recommending changing fruit consumption as these fruits and vegetables are important for overall health," Qureshi said. "However, until we learn more, those consuming fresh citrus fruits on a regular basis should be extra careful with sun exposure, and depending on their outdoor activities they should wear appropriate sunscreen, hats, and sun-protective clothing."

Source: Reuters

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