Feb 15 - 21 Weekly News

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Shell says it is past peak oil production

The oil company Shell has passed its peak production. Its production peaked in 2019. Production is falling, a year ahead of Shell's forecasts. In 2015, it predicted peak demand would be in 2020. The company expects a drop of two per cent per year. Shell will also cut the number of its oil refineries from 14 to six. This means the loss of around 9,000 jobs or more than 10 per cent of its workforce.

Shell will shift to renewables and reducing its carbon footprint. It wants to have net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. It will diversify into providing energy. It will explore green technologies such as carbon capture and electric vehicle charging stations. Shell's CEO wants to give customers the products and services they want, that have the lowest environmental impact. He said: "We will grow in markets where demand for cleaner products is strongest."

https://breakingnewsenglish.com/2102/210215-oil-production-4.html

 

IKEA starts selling furniture for gamers

IKEA has made a range of gaming furniture. Gamers can buy desks, chairs and other items to get comfortable when they play computer games. IKEA made more than 30 products. There is an accessory that is like a big wooden hand to hold your headset. There is also a pillow with pockets to keep your hands warm. IKEA spent many years designing the furniture. It got help by teaming up with the gaming laptop maker Republic of Gamers.

IKEA said furniture for gamers was a "natural step". It wants to get millions of gamers to its stores. The company said it created, "beautiful and affordable products and complete gaming solutions". It added: "The needs of billions of gamers around the globe are very diverse." It said: "Now we take the first step on our gaming journey, and we do it by presenting affordable products that we hope reflect people's personalities and taste."

https://breakingnewsenglish.com/2102/210217-gaming-furniture-1.html

 

University staff asked not to say 'mother' and 'father'

A university department asked staff to stop using certain words related to gender. It issued a list of replacements for words like 'mother' and 'father'. This is to encourage more gender-neutral language. The list includes the term 'gestational parent' instead of 'mother,' and 'non-birthing parent' in place of 'father'. The department says the words 'mother' and 'father' exclude non-binary people, who identify as being neither male nor female.

The department said using gender terms to describe parenthood excludes those who do not identify as male or female. It said non-gendered language is important in discussions about parenthood. The university said the handbook was just a guide to help with inclusiveness and diversity and not an official policy. A UK university asked staff to use the word 'chestfeeding' for 'breastfeeding'.

https://breakingnewsenglish.com/2102/210219-gender-neutral-language-4.html

 

Global Warming Causes Earlier Pollen Season

Since 1990, pollen season across the United States and Canada has been starting about 20 days earlier. However, pollen loads, the amount of pollen released by plants, are 21 per cent higher now. The main reason for this, a new study found, is global warming. The study says the warmer the Earth gets, the earlier spring starts for animals and plants, especially plants that release pollen. Additionally, trees and plants produce more pollen when they get carbon dioxide.

Bill Anderegg is the lead writer of the study. He said, “climate change is here and it’s in every breath we take.” “This is clearly warming temperatures and more carbon dioxide putting more pollen in the air.” Amir Sapkota, The University of Maryland scientist said the pollen is a risk for other diseases including asthma. She told, “Asthma costs the U.S. economy an estimated $80 billion per year in terms of treatment and loss of productivity.” So, a longer pollen season is a threat to both “individuals suffering from allergies as well as the U.S. economy.”

https://learningenglish.voanews.com/a/global-warming-causes-earlier-pollen-season/5773028.html

 

Mekong River Drops to ‘Worrying’ Levels

An intergovernmental organization says water levels in the Mekong River have dropped to “worrying levels” since the start of 2021. The drop was partly caused by a restriction on flows from a hydropower plant in China’s Yunnan province, the Mekong River Commission (MRC) said in a recent statement. The MRC includes Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam. The important waterway has turned blue along the Thai-Laos border – from its usual cloudy brown colour – signaling lower water and reduced levels of sediment. Lower levels of sediment could be the result of outflow restrictions from China’s Jinghong hydropower station, the organization said.

The statement said other reasons for the drop were lower rainfall, flow changes upstream and hydropower operations in Mekong tributaries. “There have been sudden rises and falls in water levels immediately downstream of Jinghong and further down to Vientiane,” said Winai Wongpimool. He is the director of the MRC’s Technical Support Division. Such changes can affect fish migration, agriculture and transportation that nearly 70 million people depend on for financial support and food security.

https://learningenglish.voanews.com/a/mekong-river-drops-to-worrying-levels/5778880.html

 

Machine Learning Used to Predict Where New Coronaviruses Might Develop Next

Researchers have used artificial intelligence (AI) methods in an effort to predict which animals might develop new kinds of coronaviruses that affect humans. Scientists believe the new coronavirus spreading around the world, which causes the disease COVID-19, likely started in bats. One way to prevent new pandemics is for experts to identify which animals in different parts of the world are more likely to develop coronaviruses. Researchers involved in the study say one way new coronaviruses form is when two different versions of the virus infect one animal.

The research involved a computer algorithm that examined data about the genetic structure of coronaviruses and information about different mammals. The new study identifies a large number of mammals that could be future carriers of coronaviruses, which can infect both animals and humans. The machine learning system examined 411 different coronavirus versions and 876 possible mammal species. The results suggested there are about 11 times more links between mammal species and coronavirus versions than had been identified in the past.

https://learningenglish.voanews.com/a/machine-learning-used-to-predict-where-new-coronaviruses-might-develop-next/5782252.html

 

NASA Explorer Successfully Lands on Mars

The American space agency’s Mars explorer, Perseverance, landed successfully on the Red Planet Thursday after a seven-month trip. The six-wheeled explorer, or rover, is on a NASA mission to collect Martian soil and rocks as part of the search for signs of ancient life. Ground controllers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in California cheered after receiving confirmation of the landing on Mars. It took 11-and-one-half minutes for the confirmation signal to reach Earth. Moments later, controllers received the rover’s first pictures of Mars.

Perseverance landed in an area of Mars called Jezero Crater, just north of the planet’s equator. The area contains a large ancient lakebed. NASA considers the area a promising place to find possible signs of microbial life. Scientists believe if life ever existed on Mars, it would have been present 3 to 4 billion years ago when water flowed on the planet. Perseverance is NASA’s fifth rover to explore Mars. It is NASA’s largest, heaviest and most technology-loaded vehicle ever sent to Mars. It has 19 cameras, two microphones and a two-meter-long robotic arm.

https://learningenglish.voanews.com/a/nasa-explorer-successfully-lands-on-mars/5784030.html

 

Thousands of Sea Turtles Rescued on Texas Island Town

A Texas town on the Gulf of Mexico has been experiencing a record-breaking winter storm. The people there are facing difficulties that come with such extreme weather -- power outages and shortages of food, water, and gas. But the people of South Padre Island are also facing another difficulty – cold-stunned sea turtles in the surrounding waters. Cold-stunned sea turtles float to the surface, where they can forget to breathe and drown. They are unable to avoid harm from boats or other dangers such as hungry animal predators.

For the past several days, wildlife experts and South Padre Island locals have rescued nearly 5,000 sea turtles from the icy cold conditions. Wendy Knight, the executive director of Sea Turtle Inc. told, “So, this is the largest recorded cold stunning event in history. This non-profit organization is responsible for a large part of South Padre Island’s coastline. The organization has been helping to treat the majority of the cold-stunned sea turtles, with much help from the community.

https://learningenglish.voanews.com/a/thousands-of-sea-turtles-rescued-on-texas-island-town/5785297.html

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