Due to extreme heat conditions and resulting illnesses, scouts from the United States and the United Kingdom are leaving an international scouting jamboree held in South Korea’s southwest. US scouts are moving to a nearby US army base, while the UK Scout Association is relocating over 4,000 scouts to hotels. The exodus of these contingents from the World Scout Jamboree poses a setback to the event’s South Korean organizers, who are grappling with complaints about food, sanitation, and insects. South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol has ordered resources like air-conditioned buses and refrigerator trucks to aid participants, while military medical personnel have also been dispatched. The World Organization of the Scout Movement urged event organizers to consider an early closure for safety reasons. In response, the organizers will discuss whether to continue, suspend, or scale back the event. South Korea is currently experiencing its hottest summer in years, with temperatures reaching 38 degrees Celsius, leading to at least 19 heat-related deaths since May. The jamboree, which sees participation from 43,000 people worldwide, occurs every four years. (Associated Press)
At least 30 people have been killed by severe flooding in northern China, a result of torrential rain brought by Storm Doksuri, the most severe rainstorm in the region since records began 140 years ago. Ten of these deaths occurred in the city of Baoding, located about 150km from Beijing, and 18 people are still missing. By Saturday, officials reported that over 600,000 of Baoding’s 11.5 million inhabitants had been evacuated from areas at risk. The northeastern provinces bordering Russia and North Korea were particularly affected, and a red alert remains in Beijing due to potential landslides. Clean-up operations continue following the widespread damage and flooding. China’s extreme weather conditions in recent months, including heatwaves and deadly flooding, have been linked to climate change. The Ministry of Emergency Management stated that 142 out of 147 recorded deaths or disappearances in July were due to geological disasters or flooding. (Channel News Asia)
ProMED, the 30-year-old disease-alert system that first broke the news about COVID-19, is currently in a financial crisis, with more than half of its staff on strike. This free service is used by physicians and public health experts globally to share real-time information about local disease outbreaks, with tens of thousands of subscribers. However, a lack of support from its parent organization, the International Society for Infectious Diseases (ISID), has prompted a significant portion of its staff to halt work and suggest a new home for ProMED. The strike follows ISID’s revelation of ProMED’s financial troubles and its plan to implement a paid subscription model. Researchers and health workers in developing countries, who heavily rely on ProMED’s open-source announcements, fear missing crucial outbreak alerts. ISID CEO Linda MacKinnon has assured ProMED will continue to operate in a limited capacity while working with the striking staff. ProMED was established in 1994 and taken over by ISID in 1999, since when it has consistently reported first cases of various diseases, despite struggling with funding. (Science)
As artificial intelligence (AI) technology evolves rapidly, state lawmakers in the US are trying to regulate it, initially focusing on state governments before considering the private sector. Legislators aim to protect constituents from potential discrimination and other harms caused by AI, while not impeding advancements in various fields. At least 25 states, Puerto Rico, and the District of Columbia introduced AI bills this year, with 14 states and Puerto Rico having adopted resolutions or enacted legislation. Connecticut plans to inventory its government systems using AI by the end of 2023 and will require state officials to regularly review these systems for potential unlawful discrimination. Some states have formed advisory bodies to monitor AI use, while others have yet to address the issue. The European Union is leading globally in building guardrails around AI, with the US federal government making voluntary commitments with seven US companies to ensure their AI products are safe. (Associated Press)
Researchers in the Peruvian jungle are studying mercury contamination in Amazonian wildlife, with preliminary findings suggesting this is the result of illegal and unregulated mining activities. Mercury contamination can cause serious health issues and has been found in a significant number of tested animals, even in species that do not usually consume foods high in the heavy metal. The contamination is believed to have occurred due to the rapid expansion of mining over the past 15 years, particularly small-scale operations that often overlook environmental regulations. The consequences of this pollution are not yet fully known, but scientists fear it could impact animals’ ability to reproduce. The issue is not confined to Peru and is believed to be widespread across the Amazon Basin, Congo Basin, and Indonesia, raising global concerns about the impact of mercury contamination on wildlife. (Reuters)
Researchers have discovered a 508-million-year-old fossil of a jellyfish, potentially the oldest known swimming jelly paleontologist have uncovered. The creature, named Burgessomedusa phasmiformis, had an umbrella-like structure of around seven inches across, adorned with over 90 short tentacles. Found in British Columbia, the fossil provides evidence that ancient jellies floated above reefs to catch prey in the water column, similar to present-day jellyfish. The fossil was found among layers of the Burgess Shale, containing soft-bodied animal fossils from over 508 million years ago. The researchers suggest the jellyfish fossils were harder to detect because these creatures possibly lived higher in the water column, away from the mudflows that preserved seafloor communities. The study also offers insights into the Cambrian era, marking it as a significant period for jellyfish evolution. (Smithsonian)
The Loch Ness Centre in Scotland is inviting volunteers to join a large-scale search for the Loch Ness Monster, the largest such endeavor since the 1970s. Using modern technology, including drones capable of producing thermal images, the organizers aim to survey the waters in unprecedented ways. The search will take place on August 26 and 27, mirroring the efforts of the Loch Ness Investigation Bureau in 1972. The Loch Ness Monster legend, often associated with theories of plesiosaurs, giant eels, or even swimming circus elephants, has captivated the global imagination since a supposed sighting in 1933. The Centre will employ drones with infrared cameras for thermal imaging, along with a hydrophone for underwater acoustic signals. Volunteers will observe the waters for any disturbances or unusual movements, under expert guidance. Alan McKenna of Loch Ness Exploration, a voluntary research team involved in the search, hopes this event will spark a new generation of Loch Ness enthusiasts. (Associated Press)
Thanks for reading. Let’s be careful out there.
WORDS: The Biology Guy.
IMAGE CREDIT: Screenshot.