UK diplomatic cables shed light on Cuba ‘sonic attacks’ scare

FoI release shows how embassy and FCO staff sought to make sense of mystery illnesses Official emails and diplomatic telegrams marked as sensitive reveal for the first time how the British government scrambled to understand a series of alleged sonic attacks on US diplomats who became ill in mysterious circumstances while on duty in Cuba. The US government ordered all non-essential staff at its embassy in Havana to return home after dozens of diplomats and family members developed headaches, dizziness and problems with balance, concentration and sleeping in a wave of illness that struck between 2016 and 2018. Many reported falling ill in their homes or hotels after hearing penetrating sounds, described variously as grinding, buffeting or cicada-like chirps. The …

Is America a democracy? If so, why does it deny millions the vote?

Voter suppression from strict ID laws to closing polling places to purging voter rolls is deliberately making it hard to exercise the democratic franchise Martin Luther King Jr marched from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama,in 1965 in protest of attempts by white legislators across the south to prevent African Americans from voting. At the time, black people outnumbered white people in Selma but comprisedonly 2% of the voting rolls. Over 50 years later, Kings cousin, Christine Jordan, then 92 years old, showed up at her polling station in Atlanta, Georgia, to vote in the 2018 midterm election, just as she had in elections for the previous 50 years. But she was told there was no record of her voter registration. Its …

‘There are no excuses left’: why climate science deniers are running out of rope

Guardian environment correspondent Fiona Harvey recalls being heckled at the House of Commons, and explains how attitudes to climate have shifted in the last decade The shouted words rang out across the packed parliamentary corridor: Fiona Harvey is the worst journalist there is. Shes the worst journalist of them all, because she should know better. They were the words of Lord Lawson, former UK chancellor of the exchequer, turned climate denier and now the 97% of the worlds climate scientists whose work shows human responsibility for global heating, and failure to give equal weight to the tiny number of dissenters. As the science of climate chaos has become vastly clearer in the past two decades, and the warnings more stark, …

How vested interests tried to turn the world against climate science

For decades fossil fuel majors tried to fight the consensus just as big tobacco once disputed that smoking kills In 1998 a public relations consultant called Joe Walker wrote to the American Petroleum Institute (API), a trade association representing major fossil fuel companies, with a proposed solution to a big problem. In December the previous year, the UN had adopted the Kyoto protocol, an international treaty that committed signatory countries to reducing their greenhouse gas emissions in order to avert catastrophic climate breakdown. Reducing emissions represented a direct threat to the profits of fossil fuel companies and the API was working on an industry response. As promised, attached is the Global Climate Science Communications Plan that we developed during our …

Trump administration’s war on science has hit ‘crisis point’, experts warn

Nonpartisan taskforce of ex-government officials reports almost weekly violations of norms meant to safeguard objective research The treatment of science by the Trump administration has hit a crisis point where research findings are manipulated for political gain, special interests are given improper influence and scientists are targeted for ideological reasons, a nonpartisan taskforce of former government officials has warned. Safeguards meant to ensure that government research is objective and fully available to the public have been steadily weakening under recent administrations and are now at a nadir under Trump, recent sharpiegate scandal, in which Trump erroneously claimed a hurricane would hit Alabama, subsequently holding up a doctored map. Officials at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration were reportedly pressured to …

Elon Musk unveils Starship designed to take crew on round-trips to Mars

SpaceX spacecraft would carry passengers anywhere in solar system and land back on Earth perpendicularly Elon Musk has unveiled a SpaceX spacecraft designed to carry crew and cargo to the moon, Mars or anywhere else in the solar system and land back on Earth perpendicularly. In a live-streamed speech from SpaceXs launch facility near the southern tip of Texas, Musk said on Saturday that the space ventures Starship is expected to take off for the first time in about one or two months and reach 19,800 meters (65,000ft) before returning to Earth and landing. He said it was essential for the viability of space travel to be able to reuse spacecraft, adding it was important to take steps to extend …

Jeffrey Epstein’s influence in the science world is a symptom of larger problems | Kate Darling

In a system stacked against women, we must direct our harshest judgment at people and institutions who remain silent Many of us are reeling from the recent news that MITs Media Lab, where I work as a researcher, took funding from Jeffrey Epstein, the late financier who faced federal sex-trafficking charges. For me, the Epstein connections dont stop there: Epstein had close ties to John Brockman, the founder of the heavy-hitting science literary agency that recently sold my first book. The Epstein web can appear inescapable, and for those entangled in it, theres a temptation to break out and cut all ties with his enablers. While I understand and respect that decision, Ive made a different one. I will not …

The physics professor who says online extremists act like curdled milk

Hate may be less like a cancer and more like bubbles, says Neil Johnson, who applies physics theory to human behavior Lone wolves. Terrorist cells. Bad apples. Viral infections. The language we use to discuss violent extremism is rife with metaphors from the natural world. As we seek to understand why some humans behave so utterly inhumanely, we rely on comparisons to biology, ecology and medicine. But what if weve been working in the wrong scientific discipline? What if the spread of hate is less like the spread of cancer through the proverbial body politic and more like the formation of bubbles in a boiling pot of water? That is the contention of Neil Johnson, a professor of physics at …

Trump administration weakens protections for animals near extinction

Changes to how Endangered Species Act is implemented come as world scientists warn biodiversity crisis will put humanity at risk The Trump administration is scaling back the US governments latitude to protect species nearing extinction, as world scientists warn that a biodiversity crisis will soon put humanity at risk. The 1,600 species are considered officially at risk in the US. A United Nations report this spring found humans are disrupting the natural world and putting North American wolverine, a species that depends on a cooler climate to survive. The 3ft-long creature, which resembles a small bear with a bushy tail, hunts across a vast range. But if temperatures rise at the expected rate, wolverines could lose a third of their …

He, she, or … ? Gender-neutral pronouns reduce biases study

Researchers find usage boosts positive feelings towards women and LGBT people More than 100 failures litter the battleground that is the hunt for an English gender-neutral singular pronoun. From thon, ip and hiser to hem, ons and lers, the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, those who used gender-neutral pronouns for the cartoon task were more likely to use non-male names in their short story. The gender-neutral pronoun also appeared to improve positive feelings towards LGBT people. The word hen, the researchers believe, helped to combat mental biases that favoured men, and raise awareness of other genders. Sabine Sczesny, a professor of social psychology at the University of Bern, said the research was further evidence that gender-inclusive language could …

What I learned writing about climate change and the US south for a year

I crisscrossed a region my own that is mired in a culture of denial and delay. The conversation on the climate crisis has not changed fast enough Its 96 degrees in downtown Beaufort, North Carolina, a place where I spent much of my childhood. The sidewalk is too hot for dogs to walk on. The iconic wild horses, visible on Shackleford Banks, wade in the marsh, munching cordgrass. Ive been watching the horses since I was in elementary school, and now Im sharing them with my elementary school-aged daughters on summer vacation. My girls love them, as I did. The legend is that the horses swam to safety from an old Spanish shipwreck. Its moving to watch the small, strong …

Marianne Williamson: the ‘leftwing Trump’ preaching the Politics of Love

As 20 candidates prepare for todays second Democratic presidential debate, Stefanie Marsh meets the celebrity self-help guru accused of being a dangerous wacko who just wants the United States to harness love The left-wing version of Marianne Williamson was written off as a joke until last month when, almost 30 minutes into the televised Democratic debate, as if emerging from a pupa of deep meditation, she calmly blindsided Joe Biden, Tony Robbins or Laura Dern in her 20s, Williamson had transformed herself into Hollywoods spiritual darling by her mid-30s. Shes unique among the Democratic candidates in having been both Oprah Winfreys spiritual adviser and the officiator at Elizabeth Taylors eighth and final wedding at Neverland (where Michael Jackson was best …

War on science: Trump administration muzzles climate experts, critics say

Whistleblowers and groups tracking agency decisions say administration is ignoring science and censoring expertise The Trump administration is disregarding science and expertise across a wide range of government work, as documented by whistleblowers and groups tracking agency decisions. Trump officials are censoring warnings about the climate crisis, moving critical agencies out of Washington and enacting far-reaching changes in what facts regulators can consider when they choose between industry and the public good. The White House and its agencies have kept their own experts from explaining how pollution from power plants and cars is increasing global temperatures, threatening both lives and economies. One former climate scientist for the National Park Service, Maria Caffrey, filed a whistleblower complaint this week and testified …

Inside Trump’s DC hotel, where allies and lobbyists flock to peddle their interests

Fossil fuel interests, pro-gun groups, foreign delegations and all manner of allies stay at the Trump International Hotel to cozy up to the administration, say watchdogs On 25 July, the conservative Heartland Institute is slated to host a one-day meeting at the Trump International Hotel, just a few blocks from the White House. It will feature leading climate science deniers who will discuss issues like the benefits of ending the Democrats war on fossil fuels, according to the institute. Last month, as Donald Trump was kicking off his 2020 campaign and boasting again of draining the swamp of Washingtons powerful lobbyists and elites, a couple of dozen oil and gas executives with the Domestic Energy Producers Alliance were checking into …

Largest earthquake in decades hits southern California

No serious damage or injuries reported after 6.4 magnitude earthquake, the most powerful to strike region since 1994 The largest earthquake to hit southern California in decades rumbled across the region on Thursday morning, striking a remote part of the state with a magnitude of 6.4 on the Richter scale. The earthquakes center was near the small city of Ridgecrest, near Death Valley national park and about 100 miles (160km) from Los Angeles. There were reports of people in Las Vegas and Los Angeles feeling the tremors. There were no immediate reports of serious damage or injuries after the earthquake struck at 10.33am. A series of small aftershocks followed. It was the most powerful earthquake to strike the region since …

Science institute that advised EU and UN ‘actually industry lobby group’

International Life Sciences Institute used by corporate backers to counter public health policies, says study An institute whose experts have occupied key positions on EU and UN regulatory panels is, in reality, an industry lobby group that masquerades as a scientific health charity, according to a peer-reviewed study. The Washington-based a 2015 email copied to ILSIs then director, Suzanne Harris, and executives from firms such as Coca-Cola and Monsanto, ILSIs founder Alex Malaspina, a former Coca-Cola vice-president, complained bitterly about new describes as a longtime scientific and regulatory affairs leader said he expected many nations to follow the new guidelines, adding: We have to consider how to become ready to mount a strong defence. According to ILSIs declared mandatory principles, …