DAILY DOSE: Apocalyptic tragedy in Hawaii from wildfires; European governments crack down on climate activists.


The catastrophic wildfires in Maui have resulted in 36 fatalities, a substantial increase from the initial reports of six deaths, and officials fear the devastation could escalate. The western Maui community of Lahaina is one of the hardest-hit areas, with about 12,000 people affected, and over 270 structures impacted. Hundreds of families have been displaced, and some residents are still unaccounted for. Three U.S. helicopters and a federal team are aiding search and rescue efforts in the region.

The disaster has also caused significant infrastructure challenges. More than 11,000 customers, approximately 15% of the island’s population, are experiencing power outages. Power crews, including additional teams from Oahu, are working on repairs. Meanwhile, cell service is down for thousands, with officials utilizing satellite phones to coordinate restoration efforts.

Over 2,100 people have sought refuge in emergency shelters, but the governor expressed concerns about long-term living arrangements. Maui County officials are urging visitors to leave, with more than 11,000 people evacuated on Wednesday. Airlines like Alaska, Delta, United, and American have increased capacity, while Southwest has reduced fares.
Hospitals are overwhelmed with burn patients and those suffering from smoke inhalation, leading to a critical situation. Some patients require transportation to better-equipped facilities, but challenges in transportation have hindered these efforts. (CNN)


European governments are increasingly employing extensive legal powers to crack down on climate activists, amid a surge in direct action protests demanding urgent action against climate change. Thousands of activists have been affected by these legal measures, with roadblocks, protests, and disruptions sparking governmental response. In Germany and France, legal powers typically used against organized crime and extremist groups are being employed to wiretap and track activists. Preventative detention, increased surveillance, and new detention laws are being applied to suppress protests, leading to accusations of criminalizing peaceful protest. In Germany, two states are considering outlawing a prominent activist group, and Bavarian prosecutors are investigating the group as a criminal organization. In France, an anti-terrorism unit has questioned climate activists, and new surveillance laws have been passed. Despite claims by governments that these measures aim to prevent criminal activities, activists argue they are necessary due to failed conventional protest strategies, likening their civil disobedience to historical social movements. There is no established coordination between European countries, although some intelligence cooperation exists. (Reuters)

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The nearly 400-million-year-old genus of mosses, Takakia, which once lived beneath the feet of dinosaurs, is now found only on the Tibetan plateau and a few other places like Alaska and British Columbia. Researchers, including Ralf Reski from the University of Freiburg, sequenced the genome of T. lepidozioides, revealing Takakia as a rare moss with the highest number of fast-evolving genes in a plant. This genus adapted over time to extreme environmental conditions, such as higher ultraviolet radiation and lower temperatures when the Himalayan range uplifted. The moss also has special features like higher lipid amounts in its cells to resist harmful sun rays. However, Takakia is declining at an alarming rate, with climate change identified as a contributing factor, though the exact reasons for the decline are unclear. The ancient genome now serves as a crucial record, and conservation plans are being considered for this unique species. (Nature)


The profound toll COVID-19 has taken on heart health in the U.S. is emerging, with effects that may reverberate for generations. Long COVID, characterized by lingering symptoms including heart issues, is a concern for medical experts. The story highlights the case of firefighter Mike Camilleri, whose mild COVID-19 infection led to dangerous heart problems. A Washington University cardiologist diagnosed him with post-COVID heart trouble, a condition studied by a small group of patients. COVID-19 has wiped out a decade of progress in reducing heart-related deaths, even leading to a 30% increase in heart attack deaths among young adults. High blood pressure, a major risk factor for heart disease, has also risen during the pandemic. Recent research emphasizes the need to understand and address cardiac aftereffects of COVID-19, as it could result in millions suffering from cardiovascular symptoms, impacting overall national health. (Associated Press)


A spaceflight will aim to reach 53 miles above Earth, giving passengers a brief experience of weightlessness but not completing a full orbit. Jon Goodwin is one of around 800 individuals who have bought tickets for a ride on the Unity rocket, with some having waited over a decade for the opportunity. The race in space tourism is heated; Blue Origin recently beat Virgin Galactic to become the first to take paying passengers into space. Despite both companies claiming scientific advancement, criticism persists over the cost and environmental impact of space tourism. A recent competition winner, Ms Schahaff, won two seats on the flight; her daughter Anastatia will become the second-youngest person to go to space and aims to inspire others by breaking barriers. Around 100 people will celebrate the event at a party organized by Parkinson’s UK. (BBC)


The discovery of distinctive hexagon-shaped mud cracks on Mars provides compelling evidence for an Earth-like climate on the Red Planet billions of years ago. Reported in Nature, these cracks suggest that ancient Mars cycled through sustained wet and dry seasons for millions of years, conditions that could have been habitable and even given the basic chemistry of life a boost. In the 1990s, NASA satellites first captured geological features on Mars indicative of a warmer, wetter climate. The new findings by the Curiosity rover reveal that these cracks resemble patterns on Earth, formed after years of wet-dry cycling. The cracks change shape over time, shifting from sharp, T-shaped angles to characteristic hexagons. The discovery challenges the idea that early Mars only experienced sporadic warmth caused by catastrophic events like volcanic eruptions or asteroid impacts. This wet-dry cycling might have also aided the development of life, allowing the formation of polymers, essential to life. However, the findings also pose questions, such as what made the climate of early Mars so warm or why it eventually dried up. Mars’s ancient rocks could hold evidence that informs our understanding of the origin of life, potentially helping to solve one of Earth’s mysteries. (Science)

Thanks for reading. Let’s be careful out there.

WORDS: The Biology Guy.


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