North Korea tests another ICBM

In an apparent challenge to President Trump and the international community, North Korea fired off another intercontinental ballistic missile early Wednesday morning local time.

In an apparent challenge to President Trump and the international community, North Korea fired off another intercontinental ballistic missile early Wednesday morning local time.

The missile reached a height of up to 4,500 kilometers (2,800 miles) before crashing into waters about 210 kilometers (130 miles) west of Japan’s Aomori prefecture, a report by CNN said. The missile spent about 53 minutes aloft.

In remarks made hours after the launch, the president told reporters that the U.S. “will handle” the situation. Defense Secretary James Mattis said that the test missile went “higher, frankly, than any previous shot they have taken.”

Republican Sen. Lindsay Graham of South Carolina, who sits on the Armed Services Committee, raised the specter of war.

“If we have to go to war to stop this, we will,” Graham told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer. “If there’s a war with North Korea it will be because North Korea brought it on itself, and we’re headed to a war if things don’t change.”

A North Korea official repeated Wednesday that Pyongyang would not engage in diplomacy until the country had achieved its goal of testing a long-range ICBM capable of reaching the U.S.

“Before we can engage in diplomacy with the Trump administration, we want to sent a clear message that the DPRK has a reliable defense and offensive capacity to county any aggression from the United States,” the official said, as reported by CNN.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe issued a warning from Tokyo, saying that this latest action by North Korea “significantly undermines the strong determination of the international community’s peaceful resolution of the issue.”

Small snailfish is world’s deepest fish

A new species called the Mariana snailfish, or Pseudoliparis swirei, has been found thriving at ocean depths of up to 8,000 meters (26,200 feet) along the Mariana Trench near Guam.

A new species called the Mariana snailfish, or Pseudoliparis swirei, has been found thriving at ocean depths of up to 8,000 meters (26,200 feet) along the Mariana Trench near Guam.

The discovery is detailed in the journal Zootaxa.

“This is the deepest fish that’s been collected from the ocean floor, and we’re very excited to have an official name,” said lead author Mackenzie Gerringer, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Washington’s Friday Harbor Laboratories, in a statement. “They don’t look very robust or strong for living in such an extreme environment, but they are extremely successful.”

Mariana snailfish are small, scaleless, and translucent. They congregate in groups and dine on tiny crustaceans and shrimp.

Scientists collected 37 specimens of the new snailfish during research trips to the Mariana Trench in 2014 and 2017. Genetic analysis and 3-D scanning told them they had discovered a new species.

Not much is known about how these small fish can withstand the intense water pressure, which is similar to an elephant standing on your thumb, researchers say.

“Snailfishes have adapted to go deeper than other fish and can live in the deep trenches,” says co-author Thomas Linley of Newcastle University. “There are lots of invertebrate prey and the snailfish are the top predator. They are active and look very well-fed.”

Video from the 2014 research voyage will be presented on the BBC’s “Blue Planet II” series, which is currently airing in the UK.

Post-NAFTA Mexico lags behind other emerging markets

Mexico’s economy has languished for the past two decades, despite increased trade under NAFTA. Bloomberg analysts anticipate significant implications for Mexico-U.S. relations and for the Mexican presidential election next year.

When Mexican officials signed the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) with Canadian and U.S. counterparts, they expected that increased trade under the agreement would boost all three nations’ economies. Bloomberg analysts find that the exact opposite has happened, with Mexican wage growth and economic growth no better today than they were pre-NAFTA.

“The main idea was to promote convergence in wages and standards of living,’’ said Gerardo Esquivel, an economics professor at the Colegio de Mexico, told Bloomberg. “That has not been achieved.’’ And what meager growth there’s been, Esquivel added, has mostly gone to “the upper part of the distribution.’’

And income inequality has remained consistent since the mid-1990s. More than half of Mexicans still live below the poverty level.

Mexico’s economy has grown 2.5% a year since 1994, less than half the developing world’s average. Iran, Egypt, and Turkey all achieved more economic growth than Mexico in that time period, according to the International Monetary Fund. This was despite Egypt and Turkey’s own internal strife and the sanctions that have shut Iran out from most of the global economy.

Mexican policy analysts disagree on NAFTA’s role in economic troubles. But Esquivel blames the Mexican government for doing too little post-NAFTA to promote domestic drivers of economic growth, such as raising labor income, boosting government spending, and expanding private businesses’ access to credit.

Bloomberg analysts warn that continued economic stagnation will fuel more illegal immigration into the United States. It may also reshape the Mexican presidential elections next year, in which the frontrunner, leftist Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, promises to usher in a “new economic model” if he wins.

Amish have rare anti-aging gene

Researchers studying members of an Amish community found a rare genetic mutation that appears to raise the human life span. The researchers hope that this gene could guide the development of medical interventions that reverse the aging process.

A gene mutation that lowers diabetes risk, boosts metabolism, and enables longer lifespans appears to be present in a large swath of the Amish community, according to a new study published in Science Advances. The study authors suggest that more research into this gene could be a key to greater longevity for all of humanity.

“It is a remarkable natural experiment,” said Dr. Douglas Vaughan, a Northwestern University’s School of Medicine cardiologist and a coauthor of the study, said. “It gives us a glimpse into new approaches to reduce aging-related illnesses and perhaps extend the healthy lifespan of humans.”

Vaughan and his team ran genetic analyses of 177 members of the Berne Amish Community in Indiana. The researchers zeroed in on each subject’s copy of the SERPINE1 gene, a gene that codes for a protein called PAI-1.

PAI-1 is one of a number of proteins that the human body’s cells produce in growing amounts over time as the body ages. Measuring these proteins is one way to measure the progression of aging.

In their analyses, Vaughan and his team found that 43 of their Amish subjects exhibited a nonfunctional SERPINE1 gene. And these individuals were living an average of 10 years longer than their neighbors. They also showed no incidence whatsoever of diabetes, whereas 7% of their community’s general population was diabetic. In addition, they had relatively lower levels of fasting insulin, which gave them a heightened ability to metabolize food and nutrients.

This gene mutation is rare in the general human population, but Vaughan said that future researchers could make anti-aging interventions based on the gene for the rest of us. Clinical trials are already under way in Japan for a PA-1 blocker, for example.

Strange booming sounds in Colorado baffle experts

Speculation about the source of the booms include a supersonic aircraft that broke the sound barrier or, possibly, a meteor from the Leonid meteor shower, which peaked on Nov. 17 and 18.

An enormous booming sound that shook parts of Colorado on Monday night has left experts scratching their heads.

The noise was so loud that some witnesses said their houses and windows shook and posters fell from the walls, according to a report by Tech Times.

“It was just like boom and the trailer shook, and I thought, ‘What the heck was that?’” said Ray Armijo. “It kind of scared me a bit.” Armijo added that the sound seemed to come from the air, not the ground.

Lochbuie Police Chief, Tracy McCoy, said he contacted the Federal Aviation Administration and the Buckley Air Force Base, but they informed him that no operations were being carried out at the time of the explosion.

Booms have been heard in other parts of the United States as well, with residents in New Jersey, Alabama, Idaho, and Michigan also reporting the loud explosion-like sounds.

Speculation about the source of the booms include a supersonic aircraft that broke the sound barrier or, possibly, a meteor from the Leonid meteor shower, which peaked on Nov. 17 and 18.

The U.S. Geological Survey near Centreville, Alabama, also registered a booming sound, but said seismic data showed it was not related to an earthquake.

“We do not see anything indicating large fire/smoke on radar or satellite, nothing on USGS indicating an earthquake,” the USGS wrote on Twitter. “We don’t have an answer, and can only hypothesize with you. 1) sonic boom from aircraft; 2) meteorite w/current Leonid shower?”

Authorities continue to investigate the source of the booms.

Galapagos finches observed becoming new species

Researchers following the population of finches on a small Galapagos island have discovered them in the process of becoming a new species.

Researchers following the population of finches on a small Galapagos island have discovered them in the process of becoming a new species, according to report by BBC News.

The study is published in the journal Science.

Charles Darwin revealed the process of evolution by natural selection by studying the group of finch species in the Galapagos, collectively known as Darwin’s finches.

Researchers, who have been tracking Darwin’s finches for many years, noticed the arrival in 1981 of a non-native species, called the large cactus finch. This male mated with a local species, a medium ground finch, and produced fertile offspring.

Forty years later, the descendants of the original mating number about 30 birds.

“It’s an extreme case of something we’re coming to realize more generally over the years,” said Prof. Rogen Butlin, a speciation expert not involved in the study, in the BBC News report. “Evolution in general can happen very quickly.”

The new “big bird” population differs sufficiently in morphology and habits to native Galapagos finches to be labeled a new species and birds from the different populations do not interbreed.

Co-authors Peter and Rosemary Grant teamed up with Prof. Leif Andersson of Uppsala University in Sweden to confirm that the new finch population is genetically distinct.

“We tend not to argue about what defines a species anymore, because that doesn’t get you anywhere,” Butlin said, adding, “If you just wait for mutations causing one change at a time, then it would make it more difficult to raise a new species that way. But hybridization may be more effective than mutation.”

Terrorist attack on Egyptian mosque kills 235

A mosque in the Sinai region of Egypt suffered a terrorist attack Friday that left 235 worshipers dead and 109 wounded. The incident is one of the worst terrorist attacks in Egypt’s history.

Egypt suffered one of the deadliest terrorist attacks in its history Friday when militants armed with assault rifles and explosives broke into a mosque near the town of El-Arish in the northern Sinai, killing 235 people and wounding 109 others. Attacks on mosques are rare, according to Egyptian officials, who said the attack was unlike any that they have seen in recent years.

“This is a shift in the tactics of the terrorists,” said Hossam El-Rifai, a member of parliament for northern Sinai. “An attack on civilians at Friday prayers is not something we have been used to seeing.”

The mosque’s congregation included many Sufi Muslims, a sect that jihadist movements such as the Islamic State deem to be heretics. No group has claimed responsibility for Friday’s attack, but the Sinai region has been the site of frequent violence by militant groups that align with the Islamic State. The groups have killed hundreds of soldiers and police officers in the last several years and have more recently been targeting Christian churches and other locations packed with civilians.

Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi convened a meeting of his security committee after the attack and made a televised vow to restore stability and avenge the dead with “brutal force.” He also said that anyone who supported, financed, or incited the attack would face justice.

President Trump extended his sympathies, calling the attack “horrible and cowardly” in a Twitter posting.

The last comparably sized attack was in 2015, when Islamic State affiliates bombed a Russian passenger plan departing from the Red Sea resort of Sharm El-Sheikh. That incident killed 224 people.

 

Global light pollution is steadily rising each year, study reports

New research shows that light pollution continues to grow in all areas of the world.

A group of scientists from the GFZ German Research Center for Geosciences have discovered that light pollution is higher than ever, and it shows no signs of slowing down.

In their research, the scientists discovered that Earth’s artificially lit nighttime surface is steadily growing in both size and brightness across most countries.

From 2012 to 2016, artificially lit outdoor areas grew by 2.2 percent per year. In addition, some 79 nations — mainly in South America, Asia, and Africa — saw a growth in nighttime brightness during those years. In contrast, only 16 witnessed a decrease in light during that time, and 39 stayed about the same.

Increases in nighttime light pollution occurred on all different continents, but some of the largest increases came in previously unlit regions. That means the fastest rates of increase tend to occur in places that had not been strongly affected by light pollution in the past.

Researchers made this discovery by using images from one of the USA’s polar-orbiting satellites to track the changes in nighttime light over time. They then compared images from October 2012 with those from October 2016.

While researchers initially believed energy efficient lighting would decrease global light usage, that has not been the case. Rather, it appears the use of artificial lighting is expanding rapidly, regardless of the technologies used.

This is a large issue because nighttime light affects ecosystems across the world. It has many ecological and evolutionary implications for a wide range of organisms, and may reshape entire social ecological systems. The extra light affects humans as well.

“Artificial light is an environmental pollutant that threatens nocturnal animals and affects plants and microorganisms,” the researchers wrote in their study, according to USA Today.

While there is no set plan to combat rising light pollution, the team in the study has a few ideas. They believe avoiding glaring lamps and using more efficient ways to illuminate places like parking lots or city streets could go a long way. This is because dim, closely spaced lights tend to provide better visibility than bright lights that are more spread out.

“In city centers, we need to completely rethink the way we light by putting people at the center and not cars, which have their own lights,” said lead author Christopher Kyba, the GFZ German Research Center for Geosciences, according to CNN. “We shouldn’t have streetlights anymore. We should have lighting for pedestrians and for the people riding bikes.”

The new study is published in the journal Science Advances

Bowhead whales migrate north to exfoliate their skin

Researchers have found that bowhead whales travel to Cumberland Sound in order to clean their skin.

Scientists have discovered that one of the main reasons bowhead whales travel all the way to Cumberland Sound, Nunavut during the summer is to exfoliate their skin, a new study published in PLOS One reports.

People have recorded bowhead whales rubbing their backs on rocks since the 19th century. However, though most researchers are aware of this behavior, nobody has been able to discern the reason behind it.

To shed light on the puzzling display, a team of international researchers studied the different behaviors of the massive creatures. They hoped constantly monitoring the mammals would give them an explanation why they rub up against rocks.

In the study, the team used drones to follow and observe the whales. That revealed that the aquatic creatures were scratching against the rocks in order to get rid of dead or old skin. The finding took the team by surprise because they did not initially set out to solve the mystery behind the whale’s exfoliation. Rather, they wanted to observe how the whale’s feeding behavior has been affected by climate change.

“This was an incidental observation,” explained lead author Sarah Fortune, a researcher at Colombia University, in a statement. “We were there to document their prey and feeding behavior, but we noticed some strange behavior near the shore.”

This research shows the area of Cumberland Sound is not just a feeding ground. It also gives insight into whale behavior and helps scientists better understand their migrations. The team next plans to expand on their research to see what else the behavior can tell them about how whales deal with dead skin.

“We now know that Cumberland Sound serves as a habitat for feeding and molting,” added Fortune, according to Tech Times. “Very little is known about molting in any of the large whale species.”

Researchers are not yet sure why the mammals choose Cumberland Sound for their exfoliation. However, they think it is because the relatively warm water there makes it easier for the whales to remove dead skin. Only further study will tell.

Galapagos finches reveal mechanisms behind rapid evolution

An analysis of Darwin’s finches show that a new animal species can be created in as quickly as two generations.

In a new look at rapid evolution, researchers from both Princeton and Uppsala University have discovered that Darwin’s iconic finches can develop into a new species within two generations, recent research published in journal Science reports.

The finches on the Galapagos Islands — collectively known as “Darwin’s finches” — represent a range of different species. That diversity, coupled with the fact that they are completely cut off from the outside world, makes them a perfect way to study evolution.

The team in the study took advantage of that by analyzing birds on the small Galapagos island of Daphne Major. During the research, scientists noted that a bird from another island came to Daphne Major roughly 36 years ago. Researchers took blood samples from the specimen, which was larger and had a different song than native species, and identified it as a large cactus finch.

Once on the island, the finch mated with native birds and created hybrid fledglings that then mated with each other. Despite the large amounts of inbreeding, the process created a genetically distinct species that was completely different from the medium ground finches that call Daphne Major home, Newsweek reports.

This event is surprising because evolution typically comes from gradual changes that take millennia to form. In this case, the shifts were quick, and came from one foreign bird.

“It’s an extreme case of something we’re coming to realize more generally over the years. Evolution in general can happen very quickly,” said Roger Butlin, a speciation expert who was not involved in the study, according to BBC News.

This is not the first time researchers have noted a species forming from hybridization. In fact, many animals today are the result of genetic hybridizing — where certain species “borrowed” genes from similar ones to form new populations.

What makes this case special is that the secluded nature of the Galapagos islands made it so the cactus finch could not fly home. That geography also isolated the offspring and, because their songs were different than the native birds, they mated with each other instead of seeking out native sexual partners. Those specific circumstances then created a new finch in a relatively short amount of time.

The research is important because it reveals that evolution can occur quite quickly if the conditions are right. It also gives new insight into changes in isolated populations and could one day shed light on the differences between fast evolving and slow evolving populations.

“The novelty of this study is that we can follow the emergence of new species in the wild,” said study co-author B. Rosemary Grant, a senior research biologist, emeritus, and a senior biologist in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Princeton University, according to Phys.org. “Through our work on Daphne Major, we were able to observe the pairing up of two birds from different species and then follow what happened to see how speciation occurred.”