14 Million Tonnes Of Microplastics On Sea Floor: Study
[Sydney] --- The world's sea floor is littered with an estimated 14 million tonnes of microplastics, broken down from the masses of rubbish entering the oceans every year, according to Australia's national science agency.
The quantity of the tiny pollutants was 25 times greater than previous localised studies had shown, the agency said, calling it the first global estimate of sea-floor microplastics.
Researchers at the agency, known as CSIRO, used a robotic submarine to collect samples from sites up to 3,000 metres (9,850 feet) deep, off the South Australian coast.
"Our research found that the deep ocean is a sink for microplastics," principal research scientist Denise Hardesty said.
"We were surprised to observe high microplastic loads in such a remote location."
The scientists, who published their findings in peer-reviewed journal Frontiers in Marine Science, said areas with more floating rubbish generally had more microplastic fragments on the sea floor.
"Plastic pollution that ends up in the ocean deteriorates and breaks down, ending up as microplastics," study lead Justine Barrett said.
"The results show microplastics are indeed sinking to the ocean floor."
Hardesty called for urgent action to find solutions to marine plastic pollution, which affects ecosystems, wildlife and human health.
"Government, industry and the community need to work together to significantly reduce the amount of litter we see along our beaches and in our oceans," she said.
2020 Saw Hottest September On Record Globally, Shows Data
[Paris] --- Earth's surface was warmer last month than during any September on record, with temperatures since January tracking those of the hottest ever calendar year in 2016, the European Union's Earth Observation Programme said Wednesday.
This year has now seen three months of record warmth -- January, May and September -- with June and April virtually tied for first, the Copernicus Climate Change Service reported.
"There is currently little difference between 2020 and 2016 for the year-to-date," Copernicus senior scientist Freja Vambourg told AFP.
For the 12-month period through September, the planet was nearly 1.3 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.
That is alarmingly close to the 1.5C threshold for severe impacts detailed in a major 2018 report by the UN's climate science advisory panel, the IPCC.
The Paris Agreement has enjoined nations to cap global warming at "well below" 2C, and 1.5C if feasible.
So far, Earth has warmed on average by one degree, enough to boost the intensity of deadly heatwaves, droughts and tropical storms made more destructive by rising seas.
Climate change driven by greenhouse gas emissions from burning fossil fuels has picked up pace in recent decades.
Nineteen of the 20 last years are the warmest since accurate readings began in the late 19th century.
Since the late 1970s, the global thermometer has crept up 0.2C every decade, according to EU data.
Temperatures in September were "exceptionally high" over northern Siberia, which -- along with much of the Arctic Circle -- has seen freakishly warm weather for months.
September was brutal in the Middle East, with new high temperatures reported in Turkey, Israel and Jordan.
Fire and ice
Parts of North Africa and Tibet were also scorching hot, while maximum daytime values reached 49C in Los Angeles County early in the month.
Across California, five of the state's six biggest wildfires in history were still burning at the end of the month.
"September was warmer by 0.05C than September 2019, the previous warmest September," the Copernicus report said.
Last month's global record for heat was all the more remarkable because of the regional cooling effect of a naturally occurring La Nina weather event over the tropical Pacific.
Arctic sea ice, meanwhile, shrank to its second lowest extent last month, slipping below four million square kilometres (1.5 million square miles) for only the second time since satellite records began in 1978, according to C3S.
The Arctic ice cap floats on ocean water around the North Pole, and thus does not contribute directly to sea level rise when it melts.
But it does accelerate global warming.
Freshly fallen snow reflects 80 percent of the Sun's radiative force back into space.
But when that mirror-like surface is replaced by deep blue water, about the same percentage of Earth-heating energy is absorbed instead.
Climate change has also disrupted regional weather patterns, resulting in more sunshine beating down on the Greenland ice sheet, which is melting -- and shedding mass into the ocean -- more quickly than at any time in the last 12,000 years, according to a study last week.
In 2019, the ice sheet -- which holds enough frozen water to lift global oceans seven metres (23 feet) -- shed more than half-a-trillion tonnes, roughly equivalent to three million tonnes of water every day, or six Olympic pools every second.
Coronavirus Can Spread Indoors In Air Beyond 6 Feet: Top US Health Body
US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Monday said COVID-19 can spread through virus lingering in the air, sometimes for hours, acknowledging concerns widely voiced by public health experts about airborne transmission of the virus.
The CDC guidance comes weeks after the agency published - and then took down - a similar warning, sparking debate over how the virus spreads.
In Monday's guidance, CDC said there was evidence that people with COVID-19 possibly infected others who were more than 6 feet away, within enclosed spaces with poor ventilation.
Under such circumstances, CDC said scientists believe the amount of infectious smaller droplet and particles, or aerosols, produced by the people with COVID-19 become concentrated enough to spread the virus.
The CDC has long warned of transmission through small droplets that shoot through the air and generally fall to the ground, which resulted in the six-feet social distancing rule. Aerosol droplets are much smaller still, and can remain suspended in the air, like smoke.
While CDC stresses close-contact transmission is more common than through air, a group of U.S. scientists warned in an unrelated open letter published in medical journal Science on Monday that aerosols lingering in the air could be a major source of COVID-19 transmission.
"The reality is airborne transmission is the main way that transmission happens at close range with prolonged contact," the researchers said in a press call.
Viruses in aerosols can remain in the air for seconds to hours, travel more than two meters and accumulate in poorly ventilated indoor air, leading to superspreading events, the researchers said.
Since individuals with COVID-19 release thousands of virus-laden aerosols and far fewer droplets while breathing and talking, the scientists said the focus must be on protecting against airborne transmission.
They also said that public health officials should clearly differentiate between droplets ejected by coughing or sneezing and aerosols that can carry the virus to greater distances.
Public health officials must highlight the importance of moving activities outdoors and improving indoor air, along with wearing mask and social distancing, the letter said.
HIV Treatment Has No Benefit For Hospitalised COVID-19 Patients: Study
[London] --- A combination of antiviral drugs usually used to treat HIV has no beneficial effect in patients hospitalised with COVID-19, a peer-reviewed study said on Monday, confirming the initial results of a large-scale randomised trial of the drug.
British scientists running the RECOVERY trial at the University of Oxford in June said interim results had convincingly ruled out any meaningful benefit of lopinavir-ritonavir in lowering mortality among hospitalised patients.
Publishing the full findings of the study in The Lancet medical journal, the scientists said that 23% of those given the drugs died within 28 days of treatment beginning, compared to 22% of those given usual care.
The treatment also did not reduce the length of a patient's hospital stay or the chances they would be put on a ventilator.
"Results from this trial show that it is not an effective treatment for patients admitted to hospital with COVID-19," said Professor Martin Landray from the Nuffield Department of Population Health at the University of Oxford, who co-leads the RECOVERY trial.
AbbVie Inc's Kaletra is a combination of the drugs lopinavir and ritonavir, used together to fight HIV. The company had increased its supplies while it was determining whether it can be used to treat COVID-19.
The World Health Organization (WHO) in July discontinued its trial of lopinavir-ritonavir after it failed to reduce mortality.
The lopinavir-ritonavir arm of the RECOVERY trial involved 1,616 patients receiving the drugs, and 3,424 receiving usual care alone.
The Oxford-based RECOVERY trial has been examining the effectiveness of a range of possible COVID-19 treatments, enrolling 13,000 patients in all.
The arm of the trial studying dexamethasone, a steroid, found it reduced the death rate of patients that required oxygen. Another arm found the malaria drug hydroxychloroquine, touted by U.S. President Donald Trump, had no benefit as a treatment.
New Zealand PM Jacinda Ardern Says 'We Beat The Virus Again'
[Wellington] --- Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern declared on Monday New Zealand "beat the virus again" and announced restrictions in the country's largest city would be eased, after a second Covid-19 wave was contained.
The virus was believed to have been eradicated in late May after a strict national lockdown led to New Zealanders enjoying 102 days without community transmission.
But a new cluster emerged in Auckland in August, forcing the city of 1.5 million into lockdown for almost three weeks.
With no new confirmed cases in Auckland for 12 days, Ardern said Monday the virus was now under control and congratulated residents for enduring the second lockdown.
"It felt longer and dragged on in what was already starting to feel like a very long year," she said.
"But despite this, Aucklanders and New Zealanders stuck to the plan that has worked twice now, and beat the virus again."
Ardern said from late Wednesday Auckland would join the rest of New Zealand on level one, the lowest rating on the government's four-tier virus alert system.
Under the change, there are no restrictions on social gatherings, allowing the second Bledisloe Cup Test in Auckland on October 18 to be played in front of a full stadium at Eden Park.
"This is positive news that (Auckland fans) will be able to enjoy Test match rugby," New Zealand Rugby said in a statement.
New Zealand has recorded just 25 Covid-19 deaths in a population of five million, with 40 active cases in the country on Monday.
But Ardern, who faces a general election on October 17, warned success could not be taken for granted.
She pointed to a decline in the use of the official Covid-19 tracing app and falling virus test numbers.
"A resurgence of the virus is not our only worry, resurgence of complacency is right up there too," Ardern said.
Ready To Take China-Bangladesh Strategic Partnership To New Heights: Xi Jinping
[Beijing] --- Chinese President Xi Jinping said he stands ready with Bangladesh leaders to better align the two countries' strategies and jointly promote the construction of his multi-billion dollar Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) to take the strategic partnership of the two countries to new heights.
Xi made the remarks in an exchange of congratulatory messages with his Bangladesh counterpart, Mohammad Abdul Hamid, on the 45th anniversary of the establishment of the bilateral diplomatic relationship on Sunday.
In his message, Xi hailed the steady and long-term friendship saying he is ready to work with Hamid to better align development strategies with Bangladesh, step up cooperation under the framework of the BRI and push forward the China-Bangladesh strategic, cooperative partnership to a new level, official media reported.
With over USD 26 billion Chinese investments and USD 38 billion dollars funding commitments, Bangladesh is one of the largest recipients of China's massive infrastructure project.
China has also offered zero-tariff treatment to 97 per cent of Bangladesh's exports by adding 5,161 more items to the existing list of 3,095 duty-free products.
The BRI seeks to build rail, maritime and road links from Asia to Europe and Africa in a revival of ancient Silk Road trading routes.
The issues related to BRI, earlier known as One Belt One Road (OBOR), has been a major bone of contention between India and China as one portion of the corridor passes through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.
Besides Pakistan, where China initiated over USD 60 billion as part of the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), China has stepped up its huge infrastructure investments in Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Maldives rising concerns of its growing influence in India's immediate neighbourhood.
The BRI is President Xi's top priority initiative, which aims firm up China's global influence.
The initiative has, however, attracted allegations, especially from the US, of debt-diplomacy after Sri Lanka handed over its Hambantota Port to a state-run Chinese firm in 2017 for a 99 years' lease in a debt swap amounting to USD 1.2 billion. Malaysia has also deferred several projects under the BRI, citing cost revaluation.
Xi, in his message to Hamid, also said the two countries had worked jointly to fight against COVID-19.
Earlier, China had sent medical team to Bangladesh to share its experience of handling coronavirus, which had emerged first in Wuhan in December last year.
Bangladesh also is among over a dozen countries where the final phase of clinical trials of Chinese vaccine is being conducted.
In his message, Hamid said the Bangladesh-China relationship is developing rapidly and has covered cooperation in key areas, to which Dhaka attached great importance, state-run Xinhua news agency reported.
He expressed his deep appreciation for China's continuous support for Bangladesh in its socio-economic development progress, adding that he believes the close and friendly relationship between the two countries will continue to deepen in the future.
Also on Sunday, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang exchanged congratulatory messages with Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.
Li said in his message that China is willing to deepen practical cooperation with Bangladesh in various fields and promote the steady and sustainable development of the China-Bangladesh strategic partnership of cooperation to better benefit the two countries and their people.
For her part, Hasina said the strategic partnership of cooperation between Bangladesh and China has been developed from the two countries' time-tested friendship and cooperation.
The strengthened Bangladesh-China cooperation has unleashed enormous potential in maintaining peace, security and stability in the region and even around the world, Hasina said according to Xinhua News.
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