Sunday, September 15, 2019

How a volcanic eruption set off a phytoplankton bloom

14 September, 2019

HAWAII — The eruption last year of the Kilauea volcano in Hawaii produced the equivalent of 320,000 Olympic-size swimming pools of lava. Much of it ended up flowing into the Pacific Ocean, creating plumes of acidic, glassy steam in the process.

The eruption also unexpectedly coincided with an explosion in the population of phytoplankton, a diverse array of sea surface-dwelling, sunlight-drinking microscopic organisms. This massive bloom began just three days after lava from Kilauea first touched the sea.

It expanded rapidly, stretching nearly 100 miles offshore in just two weeks. When the eruption dwindled and the lava stopped flowing seaward, the bloom quickly disappeared.

Scientists were initially baffled as to how 2,100-degree Fahrenheit, life-annihilating lava could trigger a biological bloom. A study published Thursday in Science reveals that it came down to a volcanic sleight of hand: As the lava tumbled to the ocean’s depths, it heated the deeper, nutrient-rich waters, allowing them to bubble up to the nutrient-starved surface. This provided a grand banquet for the phytoplankton, leading to their rapid proliferation.

Playing video games with robots – just one way that technology is reshaping elderly healthcare in China

15 September, 2019

SHANGHAI — Ms Wang Lingmei is sitting in front of a rehab training machine in an elderly care centre in China and playing an electronic game.

Using a machine that looks a bit like an electronic piano with a TV screen attached instead of a music score, the 84-year-old is reaching out to touch virtual fruits by moving a handle as part of a daily exercise routine to recover mobility after fracturing her right arm and leg in a fall a year ago.

“The game is interesting and makes me feel happy,” she says in a Shanghai dialect. “We have a therapist to monitor our condition while using it, so I am not afraid of this technology and machine. After all, it’s a new thing for me.”

Friday, September 13, 2019

Hong Kong protesters, without an anthem to sing, create one online

13 September, 2019

HONG KONG — More than ever before, many Hong Kong soccer fans were in no mood to hear the Chinese national anthem.

Thousands of people in Hong Kong Stadium on Tuesday (Sept 10) turned their backs on the field as the Chinese anthem played before a World Cup qualifying match against Iran, drowning out the song with boos. Many Hong Kongers say they have never felt pride hearing the song — the semiautonomous territory does not have its own anthem — and they certainly do not now, as mass pro-democracy protests continue into a fourth month.

But in the stadium’s stands and concourses Tuesday, hordes of fans repeatedly sang a song created less than three weeks before, which some protesters have billed as their equivalent of a national anthem. And over the next two days, more than a dozen singalongs took place at shopping malls across the city, some attracting thousands of people.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Malaysian Politics: The Challenge for Pakatan Harapan

Seven things Pakatan Harapan must and mustn’t do

By Munir Majid

The PH government led by Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad has to define with clarity what it means by a multiracial Malaysia, says the author.

Malay Mail

11 September, 2019

If Pakatan Harapan (PH) wants to be returned to power in Malaysia's next election, it must show it is in charge of issues which are falling about all over the place.

First, it must show, even now, that it wants to win the next election. And not lose it by taking the long view or the short-sighted one that it still has 3½ years to put things together.

Air conditioning for all? Hotter world faces risk of 'cooling poverty'

Air conditioners use 20 times as much power as running a fan and their growing popularity could fuel demand for fossil fuel-based electricity that exacerbates climate change.

11 September, 2019

OXFORD — As climate change brings more frequent and extreme heatwaves around the world, demand for air conditioners is soaring, with 10 new units sold every second on average — but the poor may be left to swelter, said a University of Oxford researcher.

By 2050, energy use for cooling is projected to triple, while in hot countries like India, China, Brazil and Indonesia, it is expected to grow five-fold, the World Bank has said.

"By the end of the century, global energy demand for cooling will be more than it is for heating,” said Ms Radhika Khosla, who leads an Oxford Martin School programme on future cooling.

But not everyone will be able to afford to beat the heat.

“Traditionally, energy poverty has been defined as people not having heating. Now that is potentially going to shift, and we could have cooling poverty,” Ms Khosla warned on the sidelines of a conference on efforts to slash planet-warming emissions.

Rising heat is having a huge impact on health — deaths and hospital admissions jump in heatwaves — but also on productivity as workers struggle to cope, climate scientists say.

A 2018 report from Sustainable Energy for All, a UN-backed organisation, said more than 1.1 billion people globally faced immediate risks from lack of access to cooling.

On a warming planet, cooling is not a luxury but "essential for everyday life", said the organisation's CEO Rachel Kyte.

Monday, September 9, 2019

Exclusive: 'If I have a choice, the first thing is to quit' – Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam – transcript

03 September, 2019

HONG KONG - This is a transcript of a talk given last week by Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam to a group of businesspeople in the city. The transcript is taken from an audio recording of Lam's remarks that was obtained by Reuters.

People who attended the talk say she spoke for about a half hour. The recording, which runs 24 minutes, captures the bulk of the event. Reuters has redacted the transcript in a few spots to remove the names of individuals mentioned by Lam, as well as details related to the meeting. The transcript does not include a short question and answer session after her talk.


In the last two years, one of the policy areas that I have spent most time in is innovation and technology. Now, I actually personally chair the steering committee.

In less than three months' time, Hong Kong has been turned upside down, and my life has been turned upside down. But this is not the moment for self-pitifulness, although [name redacted] nowadays it's extremely difficult for me to go out. I have not been on the streets, not in the shopping malls, can't go to a hair salon, can't do anything because my whereabouts will be spread around the social media, the Telegram, the LIHKG, and you could expect a big crowd of black T-shirts and black-masked young people waiting for me.

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Gaps in law should be plugged for self-employed workers who are not protected and ‘underpriced’, say MPs

By Janice Lim

03 September, 2019

SINGAPORE — Members of Parliament (MPs) have backed a new law that better protect injured workers, but a handful of them are saying that there is still a lack of protection for those who are self-employed.

Self-employed persons are not covered by the Work Injury Compensation Act (Wica) whether now or under the amended law, because they are considered to be under a contract of service with an employer. Changes to the Act, which include allowing for injured employees to get faster and higher insurance payouts, were passed on Tuesday (Sept 3) in Parliament. The changes will take effect September next year.