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News Article | May 18, 2017
Site: www.sciencemag.org

Last week molecular biologist Juan Ramirez-Lugo put all his coral samples in the freezer, locked the door of his lab, and told his six undergraduate assistants to stay home the next day. The assistant professor of biology at the University of Puerto Rico (UPR) in San Juan wasn’t happy about yet another disruption to his research on seasonal variations in how corals respond to thermal stress and his efforts to give undergraduates “authentic research experiences.” But he felt he had no choice. Ramirez-Lugo’s campus has been shut down since late March, when students began a peaceful protest against proposed massive cuts to the territory’s flagship university as part of a slew of austerity measures to address the territory’s fiscal crisis. On 10 May the strikers voted to ignore a judge’s order to end their protest, raising concerns about possible violence if the authorities tried to enforce the court ruling. That didn’t happen, and the next day Ramirez-Lugo was able to return to work. However, he and the rest of the UPR faculty remain pawns in a larger battle over the U.S. territory. The fate of its 3.6 million residents rests in the hands of a federal judge who this week began hearing testimony from the government and those owed some $74 billion in bonds. (Puerto Rico also has $49 billion in unfunded pension obligations.) This isn’t the first student strike at UPR. But this time faculty members have been issued special research IDs for access to their labs, a concession by strike organizers to avoid the havoc wreaked when a 2010 student strike shut down the campus for 3 months. Still, Ramirez-Lugo and other faculty members say the current protest has been very disruptive. Classes have been canceled, and Ramirez-Lugo says work on his federal training grant from the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration has also been compromised. “Some students are coming into the lab, but the ones most active in the strike are not,” he says. For UPR neuroscientist Carmen Maldonado-Vlaar, the strike has temporarily cut off her supply of lab rats. “The purchasing office isn’t open, so you need to arrange alternative deliveries,” she explains. “But no UPS or FedEx trucks can enter the campus, and the protocol doesn’t allow me to pick them up and transport them myself.” The strike has also complicated the annual progress report that Maldonado-Vlaar must file next month on her training grant from the National Institutes of Health. “You want to comply, but the truth is that we’ve had to delay some of these projects,” she says. A few fortunate students work at the medical school in San Juan, which is not affected by the strike. But for the rest, she says, their education has been hit-and-miss for the past 6 weeks. It’s an unprecedented situation for federal agencies, says neuroscientist Gladys Escalona, the acting vice president for research at UPR. “When I talk to program officers at the National Science Foundation and other agencies, no one has ever heard of such a pervasive and long-standing disruption to research,” Escalona says. “But they have been very understanding. They realize the situation is completely beyond our control.” UPR may not be in the top tier of U.S. universities in terms of the amount of research it conducts—it stood 232nd in the National Science Foundation’s most recent ranking. But over its 110-year history it has been a major player in training the island’s workforce, fueling economic development, and providing social and cultural leadership across Latin America. It also has an outsized influence in fostering diversity within the U.S. scientific workforce: Its two research campuses, Río Piedras and Mayagüez, rank first and second in launching the next generation of Hispanic Ph.D. scientists and engineers. That includes Escalona, who entered UPR in 1959 at the tender age of 15 and essentially never left. In addition to earning her undergraduate and graduate degrees from UPR, she has been a faculty member, department chair, dean, and ultimately chancellor of UPR before returning to the faculty and taking her current position. Her vast experience gives her a perspective she thinks is lacking among members of a presidentially appointed outside board created last year under a 2016 law designed to resolve the financial crisis. “I don’t think the [Financial Oversight and Management Board] really understands the role that the university has played over the years in both transforming Puerto Rican society and in being a source of new knowledge,” she says, referring to the presidentially appointed body. “And there’s been little dialogue on the possibility of exchanging views and reaching some type of compromise that recognizes the value of the university.” Right now the university’s value seems to be at a low point. On 1 July the government’s contribution to the university will plunge by almost 20%, a cut of $149 million from current levels. And government support has been frozen at that level for 4 years as part of previous austerity budgets. That cut precedes the latest massive retrenchment in all public-sector spending aimed at lifting Puerto Rico out of a decade-long recession. For UPR, the looming reduction is in the range of a half-billion dollars, although its actual size and over what period of time is yet to be determined. “So it’s going from bad to worse,” Escalona says. Faculty hiring has ground to a halt, she adds. No new positions have been advertised for 3 years, and she says a handful of promising young researchers with federal grants have left UPR in the past year because of the dismal financial outlook. The specter of major cuts is what triggered the current student strike. Protesters have also questioned the rationale for those cuts and proposed sources of revenue to obviate the need for cuts. A more immediate problem for Escalona is the uncertainty over the school calendar—specifically, when school officials will declare an end to the academic year and the start of the shorter summer session. That’s a critical decision for UPR faculty whose summer salaries are paid from research grants. Some 400 of the 700 faculty members conduct research over the summer, she estimates, but they can’t tap those funds until the registrar certifies that summer has begun. Resolving how the current academic year will be recorded could also affect hundreds of undergraduates planning to do summer research internships at institutions around the country. “It may be hard for them to get those internships” if their transcripts show they haven’t finished the semester,” Ramirez-Lugo says. Those internships are a stepping stone into graduate school, he notes, and disrupting that flow could jeopardize UPR’s status as the top feeder school for Hispanic Ph.D. students. Maldonado-Vlaar doesn’t expect the crisis to be resolved anytime soon. And despite all the current bad news, she hopes that the strike will strengthen the university in the long run. “It’s a social movement about issues that affect the entire country,” she says about the student protests. “And sooner or later those issues must be addressed.”


TOMS RIVER, NJ, May 22, 2017-- Marquis Who's Who, the world's premier publisher of biographical profiles, is proud to name Michael J. Kennish a Lifetime Achiever. An accomplished listee, Dr. Kennish celebrates many years' experience in his professional network, and has been noted for achievements, leadership qualities, and the credentials and successes he has accrued in his field. As in all Marquis Who's Who biographical volumes, individuals profiled are selected on the basis of current reference value. Factors such as position, noteworthy accomplishments, visibility, and prominence in a field are all taken into account during the selection process.Dr. Kennish is a research professor in the Department of Marine and Coastal Sciences at Rutgers University, as well as a member of the Institute of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences in the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences at Rutgers. He is well known for the study of human impacts on the environment, and has conducted extensive research on estuarine, coastal ocean, and deep-sea environments while teaching marine science classes at Rutgers for the last 25 years. As a member of the Climate Institute at Rutgers, Dr. Kennish has also studied the alteration of the New Jersey coast due to climate change. He is the author or editor of 14 scholarly books, and has published numerous articles in peer-reviewed scientific journals. An important component of his work is the outreach of science to coastal communities and their school systems.Born in Vineland, New Jersey to John W. and Ida M. Kennish, Dr. Kennish began his collegiate career studying geology to further an interest in ancient environments. He earned BA, MS, and PhD degrees in geology from Rutgers. During the 1970s and 1980s, Dr. Kennish developed an increasing interest in modern environments, coastal marine studies, and pollution, focusing on those areas of research concerning human impacts on biotic communities and habitats of rivers, estuaries, and coastal marine waters.In 1988, Dr. Kennish was named a visiting professor at Rutgers and later was appointed a research professor in the Institute of Marine and Coastal Sciences. In 2000, he also became the research coordinator of the Jacques Cousteau National Estuarine Research Reserve in Tuckerton, New Jersey. These positions would launch many years of teaching and scientific investigation for Dr. Kennish, who is considered a world-class estuarine scientist. He has been most active in leading research teams investigating coastal and marine environments of New Jersey, and documenting the effects of human activities on these environments. Subjects of study have included the effects of watershed development, climate change, wastewater discharges, habitat loss, hypoxia and anoxia, organic pollution, chemical contaminants, sea-level rise, overfishing, invasive species, watercraft effects, dredging and dredged material disposal, freshwater diversions, calefaction of estuarine waters, and entrainment and impingement of electric generating stations. He has also studied the biology and geology of mid-ocean ridge and deep-sea hydrothermal vent systems with the Center for Deep-Sea Ecology and Biotechnology at Rutgers.Dr. Kennish's work is documented in a number of publications, notably the "Encyclopedia of Estuaries" in 2015. Other works include "Ecology of Estuaries: Anthropogenic Effects" and "Pollution Impacts on Marine Biotic Communities." He is also the editor of such seminal works as the "Practical Handbook of Marine Science" and the "Practical Handbook of Estuarine and Marine Pollution." Dr. Kennish is a member of Sigma Xi, the American Geophysical Union, the Coastal & Estuarine Research Federation, the Atlantic Estuarine Research Society, the American Fisheries Society - Mid-Atlantic Chapter, and the New Jersey Academy of Science.Numerous institutions have funded Dr. Kennish's work with research grants, including the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the U.S. EPA National Estuary Program, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, New Jersey Sea Grant, the New England Interstate Water Pollution Control Commission, and Rutgers University. He is the recipient of many awards, notably the 2013 Frank Oliver Award presented by the New Jersey Environmental Lobby, as well as the 2011 Pearl S. Schwartz Environmental Award from the League of Women Voters, the 2010 Sierra Club Award for Outstanding Environmental Accomplishments, the 2010 Graham Macmillan Award of the American Littoral Society, the 2009 NOAA/National Estuarine Research Reserve System National Award, and the 2008 Guardian of the Barnegat Bay Award.For stalwart environmentalism and dedication to the oceanographic sciences, Dr. Kennish was selected for inclusion in four volumes of Who's Who in America from 2011 to 2016, three volumes of Who's Who in the East from 2014 to 2016, three volumes of Who's Who in the World from 2013 to 2015, and the 1998 to 1999 volumes of Who's Who in Science and Engineering. To find out more about Dr. Kennish, please visit https://marine.rutgers.edu/main/mike-kennish In recognition of outstanding contributions to his profession and the Marquis Who's Who community, Dr. Kennish has been featured on the Marquis Who's Who Lifetime Achievers website. Please visit www.ltachievers.com for more information about this honor.About Marquis Who's Who :Since 1899, when A. N. Marquis printed the First Edition of Who's Who in America , Marquis Who's Who has chronicled the lives of the most accomplished individuals and innovators from every significant field of endeavor, including politics, business, medicine, law, education, art, religion and entertainment. Today, Who's Who in America remains an essential biographical source for thousands of researchers, journalists, librarians and executive search firms around the world. Marquis publications may be visited at the official Marquis Who's Who website at www.marquiswhoswho.com Contact:Fred Marks844-394-6946


News Article | May 19, 2017
Site: www.24-7pressrelease.com

COLLEGE STATION, TX, May 19, 2017-- Troy Holcombe has been included in various Marquis Who's Who volumes. As in all Marquis Who's Who biographical volumes, individuals profiled are selected on the basis of current reference value. Factors such as position, noteworthy accomplishments, visibility, and prominence in a field are all taken into account during the selection process.A marine geologist with more than five decades of professional experience, Dr. Holcombe demonstrates excellence as a research scientist affiliated with the department of oceanography, Texas A&M University, a role that he has held since joining the department in 2002. Regarded for his work ethic and his passion for his line of work, he came to prominence early in his career working for the U.S. Naval Oceanographic Office as a research oceanographer. Additional noteworthy roles include head of the geology branch at the Naval Ocean Research and Development Laboratory of the Naval Research Laboratories, chief of the marine geology and geophysics division of the National Geophysical Data Center of the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, and research associate for the Cooperative Institute of Research and Environmental Sciences at the University of Colorado. In recognition of his professional excellence in his career, Dr. Holcombe was selected for inclusion in Who's Who in America, Who's Who in Science and Engineering, Who's Who in the West, Who's Who in the World, and Who's Who of Emerging Leaders in America.To prepare for a career in marine geology, Dr. Holcombe attended Hardin-Simmons University, where he earned a Bachelor of Arts in 1961. Thereafter, he achieved a Master of Arts in geology at the University of Missouri, and a Ph.D. in marine geology from Columbia University in 1972. He has remained at the top of his career by affiliating with a number of professional organizations including the American Association of Petroleum Geologists, the Geological Society of America and the International Association of Great Lakes Research. Considered an expert in his work, Dr. Holcombe has taken on various civic projects in his career that have allowed him to share his insights and experiences with other likeminded professionals. Included in this work was the publication of a number of book chapters and professional articles. Among Dr. Holcombe's more noteworthy achievements includes leading a long-term multi-agency program resulting in Bathymetric Charts of the Great Lakes; and his work on the editorial boards of the IOC (Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission) International Bathymetric Charts of the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean, the Western Indian Ocean, the Central Eastern Atlantic and the Mediterranean. He also co-authored a landmark paper on the geology of the Caribbean, entitled "Evidence for Sea-Floor Spreading in theCayman Trough." Dr. Holcombe also co-authored the "Geologic-Tectonic Map of the Caribbean Region," published by the U. S. Geological Survey, and he contributed the Caribbean portion of the "Geologic Map of North America," compiled by the Geological Society of America and also published by the U. S. Geological Survey. Looking ahead to the future, Dr. Holcombe intends to continue with several projects working with professors and students in the department of oceanography at Texas A&M University, primarily on aspects of the geology of the northwestern Gulf of Mexico.About Marquis Who's Who :Since 1899, when A. N. Marquis printed the First Edition of Who's Who in America , Marquis Who's Who has chronicled the lives of the most accomplished individuals and innovators from every significant field of endeavor, including politics, business, medicine, law, education, art, religion and entertainment. Today, Who's Who in America remains an essential biographical source for thousands of researchers, journalists, librarians and executive search firms around the world. Marquis now publishes many Who's Who titles, including Who's Who in America , Who's Who in the World , Who's Who in American Law , Who's Who in Medicine and Healthcare , Who's Who in Science and Engineering , and Who's Who in Asia . Marquis publications may be visited at the official Marquis Who's Who website at www.marquiswhoswho.com Contact:Fred Marks844-394-6946


TOMS RIVER, NJ, May 22, 2017-- Marquis Who's Who, the world's premier publisher of biographical profiles, is proud to name Michael J. Kennish a Lifetime Achiever. An accomplished listee, Dr. Kennish celebrates many years' experience in his professional network, and has been noted for achievements, leadership qualities, and the credentials and successes he has accrued in his field. As in all Marquis Who's Who biographical volumes, individuals profiled are selected on the basis of current reference value. Factors such as position, noteworthy accomplishments, visibility, and prominence in a field are all taken into account during the selection process.Dr. Kennish is a research professor in the Department of Marine and Coastal Sciences at Rutgers University, as well as a member of the Institute of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences in the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences at Rutgers. He is well known for the study of human impacts on the environment, and has conducted extensive research on estuarine, coastal ocean, and deep-sea environments while teaching marine science classes at Rutgers for the last 25 years. As a member of the Climate Institute at Rutgers, Dr. Kennish has also studied the alteration of the New Jersey coast due to climate change. He is the author or editor of 14 scholarly books, and has published numerous articles in peer-reviewed scientific journals. An important component of his work is the outreach of science to coastal communities and their school systems.Born in Vineland, New Jersey to John W. and Ida M. Kennish, Dr. Kennish began his collegiate career studying geology to further an interest in ancient environments. He earned BA, MS, and PhD degrees in geology from Rutgers. During the 1970s and 1980s, Dr. Kennish developed an increasing interest in modern environments, coastal marine studies, and pollution, focusing on those areas of research concerning human impacts on biotic communities and habitats of rivers, estuaries, and coastal marine waters.In 1988, Dr. Kennish was named a visiting professor at Rutgers and later was appointed a research professor in the Institute of Marine and Coastal Sciences. In 2000, he also became the research coordinator of the Jacques Cousteau National Estuarine Research Reserve in Tuckerton, New Jersey. These positions would launch many years of teaching and scientific investigation for Dr. Kennish, who is considered a world-class estuarine scientist. He has been most active in leading research teams investigating coastal and marine environments of New Jersey, and documenting the effects of human activities on these environments. Subjects of study have included the effects of watershed development, climate change, wastewater discharges, habitat loss, hypoxia and anoxia, organic pollution, chemical contaminants, sea-level rise, overfishing, invasive species, watercraft effects, dredging and dredged material disposal, freshwater diversions, calefaction of estuarine waters, and entrainment and impingement of electric generating stations. He has also studied the biology and geology of mid-ocean ridge and deep-sea hydrothermal vent systems with the Center for Deep-Sea Ecology and Biotechnology at Rutgers.Dr. Kennish's work is documented in a number of publications, notably the "Encyclopedia of Estuaries" in 2015. Other works include "Ecology of Estuaries: Anthropogenic Effects" and "Pollution Impacts on Marine Biotic Communities." He is also the editor of such seminal works as the "Practical Handbook of Marine Science" and the "Practical Handbook of Estuarine and Marine Pollution." Dr. Kennish is a member of Sigma Xi, the American Geophysical Union, the Coastal & Estuarine Research Federation, the Atlantic Estuarine Research Society, the American Fisheries Society - Mid-Atlantic Chapter, and the New Jersey Academy of Science.Numerous institutions have funded Dr. Kennish's work with research grants, including the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the U.S. EPA National Estuary Program, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, New Jersey Sea Grant, the New England Interstate Water Pollution Control Commission, and Rutgers University. He is the recipient of many awards, notably the 2013 Frank Oliver Award presented by the New Jersey Environmental Lobby, as well as the 2011 Pearl S. Schwartz Environmental Award from the League of Women Voters, the 2010 Sierra Club Award for Outstanding Environmental Accomplishments, the 2010 Graham Macmillan Award of the American Littoral Society, the 2009 NOAA/National Estuarine Research Reserve System National Award, and the 2008 Guardian of the Barnegat Bay Award.For stalwart environmentalism and dedication to the oceanographic sciences, Dr. Kennish was selected for inclusion in four volumes of Who's Who in America from 2011 to 2016, three volumes of Who's Who in the East from 2014 to 2016, three volumes of Who's Who in the World from 2013 to 2015, and the 1998 to 1999 volumes of Who's Who in Science and Engineering. To find out more about Dr. Kennish, please visit https://marine.rutgers.edu/main/mike-kennish In recognition of outstanding contributions to his profession and the Marquis Who's Who community, Dr. Kennish has been featured on the Marquis Who's Who Lifetime Achievers website. Please visit www.ltachievers.com for more information about this honor.About Marquis Who's Who :Since 1899, when A. N. Marquis printed the First Edition of Who's Who in America , Marquis Who's Who has chronicled the lives of the most accomplished individuals and innovators from every significant field of endeavor, including politics, business, medicine, law, education, art, religion and entertainment. Today, Who's Who in America remains an essential biographical source for thousands of researchers, journalists, librarians and executive search firms around the world. Marquis publications may be visited at the official Marquis Who's Who website at www.marquiswhoswho.com Contact:Fred Marks844-394-6946


News Article | May 12, 2017
Site: news.yahoo.com

NAVAL BASE GUAM (AP) — Military drills on Guam in which four countries were to practice amphibious landings and moving their troops have been postponed indefinitely after a French landing craft ran aground Friday. The weeklong exercises involving the U.S., U.K., France and Japan were intended to show support for the free passage of vessels in international waters amid concerns China may restrict access to the South China Sea. The French landing craft ran aground just offshore and didn't hit coral or spill any fuel, said Jeff Landis, a spokesman for Naval Base Guam. No one was injured. Friday's landing was meant to be a rehearsal for a drill at Tinian island on Saturday, Landis said. U.S. Navy Capt. Jeff Grimes, chief of staff for Joint Region Marianas, said the authorities involved were working to assess the situation and didn't know when the drills would resume. "I have directed that we stop all operations associated with this exercise until we conduct a further assessment of the situation as we gather all the facts," Grimes said. "NOAA in Honolulu is aware and is collecting information about the incident," said Michael Tosatto, administrator of a National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration regional office. The drills around Guam and Tinian islands were scheduled to include amphibious landings, delivering forces by helicopter and urban patrols. Two French ships on a four-month deployment to the Indian and Pacific oceans were to be involved. Joining were Japanese forces, U.K. helicopters and 70 U.K. troops deployed with the French amphibious assault ship FS Mistral. Parts of the exercise were to feature British helicopters taking U.S. Marines ashore from a French vessel. China claims virtually the entire South China Sea and has tried to fortify those claims by building islands — some with runways, radars and weapons systems — on seven mostly submerged reefs. The reclamation work is opposed by other governments that claim the atolls and by the United States, which insists on freedom of navigation in international waters. China says its work is intended to improve safety for ships and meet other civilian purposes. It has said it won't interfere with freedom of navigation or overflight, although questions remain on whether that includes military ships and aircraft. This week members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee expressed concern that the U.S. hasn't conducted freedom-of-navigation operations since October. Republican Bob Corker, Democrat Ben Cardin and five other senators wrote the letter to President Donald Trump, saying they supported a recent U.S. military assessment that China is militarizing the South China Sea and is continuing a "methodical strategy" to control it. The letter, dated Wednesday and obtained by The Associated Press, urged the administration to "routinely exercise" freedom of navigation and overflight. Japan, which sent 50 soldiers and 160 sailors and landing craft, has been investing in amphibious training so it can defend its own islands. Japan controls a group of rocky, uninhabited outcrops in the East China Sea that Beijing also claims. Japan calls the islands Senkaku while China calls them Diaoyu. Japanese defense officials said they were waiting for further details, including what happens to the rest of the exercise in Guam, from the U.S. side. The four militaries were to move to the Tinian islands for more training next week. Guam and Tinian are about 1,500 miles (2,400 kilometers) south of Tokyo and about the same distance to the east from Manila, Philippines. This story has been corrected to describe the French vessel as a landing unit, instead of a twin-float catamaran. McAvoy reported from Honolulu. Associated Press writer Matthew Pennington in Washington and Mari Yamaguchi in Tokyo contributed to this report..


News Article | May 12, 2017
Site: news.yahoo.com

French Navy ships sit in port at Naval Base Guam, Friday, May 12, 2017. Joint Region Marianas Chief of Staff Capt. Jeff Grimes announced Friday that joint exercises involving the U.S., U.K., France and Japan at the U.S. Pacific island of Guam have been indefinitely postponed after a French landing craft ran aground. The exercises, expected to begin Friday, were designed to show support for the free passage of vessels in international waters, an issue that has come to the fore amid concerns China will restrict access to the South China Sea. (AP Photo/Haven Daley) NAVAL BASE GUAM (AP) -- Multinational military drills on Guam designed to show support for the free passage of vessels in international waters amid concerns China may restrict access to the South China Sea have been indefinitely postponed after a French landing craft ran aground Friday. U.S. Navy Capt. Jeff Grimes, chief of staff for Joint Region Marianas, told reporters he didn't know when the drills would resume. "Currently we are working with our partners to include the Coast Guard, the Guam Environmental Protection Agency, the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration and other federal and local agencies and stakeholders to further assess the situation," Grimes said. "Finally, I have directed that we stop all operations associated with this exercise until we conduct a further assessment of the situation as we gather all the facts." A French catamaran landing craft ran aground just offshore, said Jeff Landis, a spokesman for Naval Base Guam. The vessel didn't hit coral or spill any fuel, he said. No one was injured. Friday's landing was meant to be a rehearsal for a drill at Tinian island on Saturday, Landis said. The exercises involving the U.S., U.K., France and Japan were expected to begin Friday and last a week. The drills around Guam and Tinian islands were scheduled to include amphibious landings, delivering forces by helicopter and urban patrols. Two French ships on a four-month deployment to the Indian and Pacific oceans were to be featured in the drills. Joining were Japanese forces, U.K. helicopters and 70 U.K. troops deployed with the French amphibious assault ship FS Mistral. Parts of the exercise were to feature British helicopters taking U.S. Marines ashore from a French vessel. "The message we want to send is that we're always ready to train and we're always ready for the next crisis and humanitarian disaster wherever that may be," U.S. Marine Corps Lt. Col Kemper Jones, the commander of the 3rd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, said before the exercises were to begin. About 100 Marines from Jones' unit were expected to be part of the drills slated for this weekend and next week. China claims virtually the entire South China Sea and has aggressively tried to fortify its foothold in recent years by transforming seven mostly submerged reefs into island outposts, some with runways and radars and — more recently — weapons systems. The work is opposed by the other claimants to the atolls and the United States, which insists on freedom of navigation in international waters. Critics fear China's actions could restrict movement in a key waterway for world trade and rich fishing grounds. China says its island construction is mainly for civilian purposes, particularly to increase safety for ships. It has said it won't interfere with freedom of navigation or overflight, although questions remain on whether that includes military ships and aircraft. Mira Rapp-Hooper of the Center for New American Security, a Washington think tank, said the exercises will send a strong message in support of a "rules-based order in Asia" at a time when China's actions have raised questions about this. "A reminder in this exercise is that lots of other countries besides the United States have an interest in that international order," said Rapp-Hooper, who is a senior fellow with the center's Asia-Pacific Security Program. Meanwhile, this week the top Republican and Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee wrote President Donald Trump to express concern that the U.S. hasn't conducted freedom of navigation operations since October. The letter from Republican Sen. Bob Corker, Democrat Sen. Ben Cardin and five other senators supported a recent assessment by the commander of U.S. forces in the Pacific that China is militarizing the South China Sea and is continuing a "methodical strategy" to control it. The letter, dated Wednesday and obtained by The Associated Press, urged the administration to "routinely exercise" freedom of navigation and overflight. The senators described the South China Sea as critical to U.S. national security interests and to peace in the Asia-Pacific. The Guam exercises come amid modestly growing European interest in the South China Sea, said David Santoro, a senior fellow for nuclear policy at Pacific Forum CSIS, a Honolulu think tank.


News Article | February 15, 2017
Site: www.theguardian.com

The man tipped as frontrunner for the role of science adviser to Donald Trump has described climate scientists as “a glassy-eyed cult” in the throes of a form of collective madness. William Happer, an eminent physicist at Princeton University, met with Trump last month to discuss the post and says that if he were offered the job he would take it. Happer is highly regarded in the academic community, but many would view his appointment as a further blow to the prospects of concerted international action on climate change. “There’s a whole area of climate so-called science that is really more like a cult,” Happer told the Guardian. “It’s like Hare Krishna or something like that. They’re glassy-eyed and they chant. It will potentially harm the image of all science.” Trump has previously described global warming as “very expensive … bullshit” and has signalled a continued hardline stance since taking power. He has nominated the former Texas governor Rick Perry, a staunch climate sceptic, as secretary of energy and hopes to put the Environment Protection Agency (EPA) under the leadership of Scott Pruitt, the Oklahoma attorney general, who has been one of the agency’s most hostile critics. John Holdren, Barack Obama’s science adviser, said Happer’s outspoken opinions would be a “substantial handicap” for a job that has traditionally involved delivering mainstream scientific opinion to the heart of policy-making. “Every national academy of science agrees that the science is solid, that climate change is real,” he said. “To call this a cult is absurd and ... an insult to the people who have done this work.” Happer also supports a controversial crackdown on the freedom of federal agency scientists to speak out about their findings, arguing that mixed messages on issues such as whether butter or margarine is healthier, have led to people disregarding all public health information. “So many people are fed up of listening to the government lie to them about margarine and climate change that when something is actually true and beneficial they don’t listen,” he said, citing childhood vaccines as an example. “The government should have a reputation of being completely reliable about facts – real facts.” Happer dismissed concerns that Trump is “anti-science”, saying he had a positive impression of the president during their January meeting. “He asked good questions – he was very attentive, actually,” he said. Climate change was mentioned but was not the main focus of discussions, according to Happer, who revealed that Trump had expressed support for solar energy in areas like Arizona “where it makes sense”. “His comments were that of a technically literate person,” he said. “He wasn’t ideologically opposed to renewables; he wasn’t ideologically in favour of them either.” Unlike many of his scientific peers, Happer is in favour of contentious legislation aimed at reining in the ability of federal agency staff to hold press conferences, give television interviews and promote their findings on official websites. The “Secret Science Reform Bill”, which is being pushed by the Texas Republican Lamar Smith, chairman of the House science, space and technology Committee, would require federal agencies to publish all the raw data underpinning any proposed regulations and for new findings to be scrutinised extensively by outside experts before being announced. However, critics view the bill as an attempt to strip federal agencies of autonomy and reduce their regulatory powers. “There is this special need for government science to be especially clean and without fault,” said Happer. “It’s OK to have press conferences, but before you do that you should have the findings carefully vetted.” When asked for examples of where the current vetting process has failed, Happer cited a recent controversy surrounding a high-profile paper published by National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) scientists showing that global surface temperatures had risen again after temporarily levelling off. Earlier this month, a retired NOAA scientist, Robert Bates, accused his former colleagues of rushing out the paper ahead of the UN conference, prioritising political impact over scientific rigour – although Bates later clarified that he had an issue with timing and transparency rather than “tampering with data”. “This disappearance of the hiatus in global warming, which was trotted out just before the [UN] Paris conference ... it was clearly just a political fanfare,” said Happer. “We shouldn’t be doing that. They were fiddling with the temperature records to make the hiatus go away.” Happer argues that climate monitoring, such as the collection of CO2 and atmospheric temperature data, is valuable and should be continued. However, he claims that the overall threat posed by global warming has been overplayed by scientists swayed by a political agenda and power-hungry civil servants. “There’s a huge amount of money that we spend on saving the planet,” he said. “If it turns out that the planet doesn’t need saving as much as we thought, well, there are other ways you could spend the money. “When you talk about fossil fuel companies being motivated, well, there’s nobody more motivated than the people working for the federal government,” he added. “You can’t rise in the American bureaucracy without some threat to address.” However, Holdren said that the evidence that human activity is causing global warming – a view supported by 97% of active climate researchers – is compelling. “It is clear beyond a shadow of a doubt that humans are causing climate change,” he added. Happer said he began to question the emerging consensus view on climate change while working as director of research at the Department of Energy as part of the George W Bush administration. Climate scientists would “grudgingly” present their work to administrators, he claims, while those in other fields would share their results with enthusiasm. “I would ask questions but they were evasive and wouldn’t answer,” he said. “This experience really soured me on the community. I started reading up and I realised why they weren’t answering the questions: because they didn’t have good answers. It was really at that point that I began to get seriously worried about climate as a science.” Concerns about the Trump administration’s apparent disregard for mainstream scientific thinking on climate change has triggered a wave of activism, including plans for a science march in various cities. However, Happer said that the public, who may view scientists as part of a privileged elite, may be less sympathetic. “There’s a potential downside [to the march] of them being seen as a greedy bunch of spoiled people,” he said. “I don’t think they’re that way myself, but it could be easily twisted into that kind of narrative.” David Gerlenter, a Yale computer scientist who has also questioned the reality of manmade climate change, is also reported to in the running for the role of science adviser, but was not available for interview.


News Article | December 14, 2016
Site: www.scientificamerican.com

Last Thursday, I attended an energy and climate policy summit at the Heritage Foundation, a leading conservative think tank. The event, co-hosted by the Texas Public Policy Foundation, convened Republican congressional leaders, conservative think tank analysts, and a niche group of controversial climate scientists to cast doubt on the relationship between manmade emissions and climate change, and lay out the energy and climate policy agenda of the 115th Congress. The event featured a who’s who of lawmakers known for their activism against policies related to climate change, including Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX), Chairman of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee that recently tweeted a false article disputing global warming, and Chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK), who famously threw a snowball on the Senate floor to dispute global warming. Rep. Pete Olson (R-TX), Chairman of the House Energy and Power Subcommittee, Rep. Gary Palmer (R-AL), and Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) also spoke. The lawmakers laid out a multipronged legislative strategy to undermine climate science and roll back regulations on greenhouse gases. The following sections review the main policy levers that will be used by Republicans in Congress, and argues the environmental movement should shift its message to preserving regulations on greenhouse gas emissions to stay relevant. Casting Doubt on the Legitimacy of Climate Science Rep. Lamar Smith opened the event with a speech boasting that under his leadership the House Science, Space, and Technology committee issued a record 25 subpoenas soliciting records and information from former National Weather Service staff, the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and a myriad of environmental organizations. Smith argued that the goal of the subpoenas is to bring transparency to climate science, but the nature of his requests — like his subpoena of NOAA scientists’ emails following their publication of a study in Science showing that the global warming hiatus touted by climate change skeptics never happened — demonstrates a clear agenda to undermine the findings of independent experts. Smith laid out plans to continue his efforts to investigate and undermine the conventional role of science in regulation and policymaking in the next Congress. He touted his “Secret Science Reform Act” bill, saying it will be a “key priority for the Science Committee in the next Congress.” The bill would subject EPA’s scientific methods and findings to judicial review that the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) says would “[mire] the agency in litigation and [take] the review of scientific studies out of the hands of the scientific community and [place] that responsibility into the hands of a judge and jury.” Smith argues the bill is necessary because “regulations should be based on sound science, not science fiction.” Beyond the efforts to dispute the scientific consensus on climate change, conservatives are lining up a suite of policy levers to undermine regulations related to greenhouse gas emissions. A principal goal mentioned by multiple panelists at the summit is to overturn the “Endangerment Finding,” a court decision ruling that greenhouse gas emissions can be regulated under the 1963 Clean Air Act. To overturn the finding, Director of the Cato Institute Center for the Study of Science Patrick J. Michaels argued that the problem lies “within science itself” and that there is a need to “take down those [climate] models” in order to overturn court findings on the risks of greenhouse gas emissions. Others argued that Congress should use its authority under a Trump presidency to amend the Clean Air Act and specifically exclude carbon dioxide as a pollutant — an action that could have policy ripple effects for decades to come. On top of efforts to dispute EPA’s authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions, a number of tools to undermine executive regulatory authority were mentioned, including the Congressional Review Act, the proposed REINS Act, and the proposed Regulation Freedom Amendment, all of which give Congress the authority to reject regulations established by executive agencies. Congressional Republicans hope to use the Congressional Review Act, which allows Congress to reject regulations within 60 legislative days, to dismantle recent Obama administration regulations such as the rule regulating natural gas supply chain methane emissions, which can eliminate the climate benefits of natural gas over coal if left unchecked, and the Stream Protection Rule that regulates the impacts of coal surface mining on local waterways. An Opportunity for the Environmental Movement to Shift Its Message For the majority of Americans concerned about a changing climate, the conservative agenda to undermine climate science and gut emissions regulations is alarming. But the incoming Congress also presents a unique opportunity for the U.S. environmental movement to shift its focus. During President Obama’s tenure, portions of the environmental movement took a sharp turn toward “keep it in the ground” advocacy, which aims to prevent the development of fossil fuel resources outright. While “keep it in the ground” fits nicely on a bumper sticker, experts in energy and environmental policy will tell you that stopping climate change is a lot more complicated than that. Dramatic protests over pipelines and other fossil fuel infrastructure play well with the environmental community and liberals, but they alienate moderates and conservatives — and likely do little to actually mitigate climate change. In short, the environmental movement needs a new message. With a radical new energy and climate agenda in Congress, the environmental movement has an opportunity to embrace mainstream positions in support of basic regulations on greenhouse gas emissions that a huge majority of Americans support. If the environmental movement can bring mainstream American voters into the fold and present a united front against those that would gut climate change regulations, they might just have a chance at victory. Update (12/16/2016): full-length videos and presentations from the summit are now available online.


News Article | March 23, 2016
Site: motherboard.vice.com

Of all the environments on our planet, the deep ocean is still pretty much unknown. Scientists like to say that we’ve mapped more of the Moon than we have of our ocean floor. But there’s a growing need to monitor the ocean’s abyss, which is warming in response to climate change, just like everywhere else, creating consequences we can’t fully predict. On Tuesday, a meeting of scientists from around the world—including Canada, the US, and France—kicked off in Yokohama, Japan to discuss Argo, a global array of roughly 3,000 free-floating ocean probes that measure changes in temperature and salinity. These battery-powered devices can dip down 2,000 meters (1.25 miles), and versions of them have been drifting through the oceans for over a decade, gathering data. Now, scientists hope to deploy a heftier version of the probe, Deep Argo, that could reach an astonishing 6,000m down. That’s over 19,600 feet, a place so inhospitable—there’s few nutrients, extreme pressure, and no sunlight that deep—that not many creatures can survive there. With enough Deep Argos moving through the water, scientists would have a way to monitor places they’ve never really managed to reach. A researcher works on Deep SOLO, part of the Deep Argo program. Image: Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UC San Diego Before Argo, the best thing oceanographers had to go on was surveys done by ship, said Denis Gilbert, the past director of Argo Canada, who’s based at the Institut Maurice-Lamontagne in Mont-Joli, Quebec. But those aren’t repeated often enough to be very useful. (Another creative scheme involved gluing satellite tags onto elephant seals, to pick up data about ocean conditions while they swim.) “Argo has changed the standards of global monitoring for the oceans,” Gilbert said. In the southern hemisphere, floats collect more data—every single year—than what was gathered in over six decades of oceanography, before the program came into being. Argo floats help scientists learn about ocean currents, too, because they travel by riding them, Gregory Johnson, a Seattle-based oceanographer with the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, told me. According to him, floats sink to a depth of 1,000m, then drift along for nearly two weeks before lowering to 2,000m, and come back up. “As they rise, they collect data on temperature, salinity, and pressure,” he said. “They surface and phone home,” transmitting data back to centers in Monterey, Calif. and Brest, France. Within 24 hours of transmission, the data is ready for anyone to use. Unlike the Argo floats, which are aluminum and cylinder-shaped, Deep Argo prototypes are glass spheres designed to withstand the deep ocean’s crushing pressures. Johnson calls the glass sphere a “venerable oceanographic flotation device,” stuffed full of scientific instruments. A few have already been deployed, but scientists like Johnson hope to see many more. “We’d need about 1,200 globally,” he estimated. According to a report in Nature, the NOAA is spending about $1 million annually to get Deep Argo off the ground. With a network of robotic Deep Argo probes diving down to 6,000m, scientists will be able to measure “almost 99 per cent of the ocean volume,” Johnson said—basically everything short of what’s inside the deepest ocean trenches. (The deepest point on Earth, at the bottom of the Mariana Trench, is over 10,000m below the surface.) Once the meeting in Yokohama wraps up, on Thursday, we can hope they’ll be more news about Deep Argo. It’s critical. As our planet warms up, our oceans act like a giant sponge, absorbing more than 90 per cent of the excess heat, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. What happens in the deep ocean, still the most mysterious and little-understood of all environments, will affect us deeply.


News Article | October 26, 2016
Site: www.bbc.co.uk

Scores of spectacular and rare under sea species have been found by expeditions this year to some of the deepest trenches in the Pacific Ocean. They include strange purple orbs, "mud monsters" and a bizarre swimming sea cucumber reminiscent of a flying Mary Poppins. Another voyage found around 500 new undersea methane vents off the US west coast. This doubles the number of known seeps, bubbling up a powerful greenhouse gas. The gas vents were found by an expedition mounted by Dr Robert Ballard, the man who first located the wreck of the Titanic. In his ship, the Nautilus, the Ballard team found new vents which were discovered off Washington, Oregon and California. Little is known about the amount of methane that is coming out from these vents and how much is entering the atmosphere. But researchers say the new discoveries may better inform global estimates of these emissions. "Methane seeps were basically unknown 20 years ago," said Prof Jesse Ausubel, from the Rockefeller University, part of the Nautilus team. "At first people thought they were incredibly rare and now, thanks to these expeditions, these seeps may be very widespread, so the (methane) budgets may have to be recalculated, that's why the exploration is important." One of this year's key expeditions mounted by the US National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), was a 59 day exploration of the Marianas Trench, the world's deepest underwater canyons. As well as discovering three new "black smoker" hydrothermal vents stretching up to 30 metres in height, the voyage also revealed some rarely seen, mysterious creatures. "I think it's always surprising what we find," said Dr Nicole Raineault, director of science operations at the Ocean Exploration Trust, which organised the expedition. "We've looked in the Mediterranean, the Gulf of Mexico, the Caribbean and now the eastern Pacific Ocean with these remotely operated vehicles to get images of the sea floor, and we are continually surprised with the variety of life that we find." "It just underscores how little we know about the ocean and how much more there is to discover our there." Follow Matt on Twitter @mattmcgrathBBC and on Facebook.

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