Giant Pumice Raft Floating Towards Australia Could Help Replenish Great Barrier Reef

NASA’s Terra satellite captured the mass of floating pumice rock on August 13.

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NASA

A massive raft made of pumice stones is floating towards Australia, carrying marine organisms that scientists say could help replenish Australia’s Great Barrier Reef.

Some of the stones are as large as basketballs, and have formed a giant sheet stretching about 58 square miles — nearly the size of Washington, D.C.

An explosion from an underwater volcano near the tiny island nation of Tonga is thought to have produced the raft, according to NASA.

Michael Hoult and Larissa Brill, an Australian couple that was sailing to Fiji on a catamaran, posted to Facebook about the pumice sheet on August 17th.

They had heard the previous day of “pumice fields,” and in a Facebook post, they reported they encountered a “faint but distinct smell of sulfur” when they were near a location “charted as area of volcanic activity.”

Later, the couple wrote they “entered a total rock rubble slick made up of pumice stones from marble to basketball size … The rubble slick went as far as we could see in the moonlight and with our spotlight.”

Shannon Lenz posted this video on YouTube, writing, “On August 9, 2019, we sailed through a pumice field for 6-8 hours, much of the time there was no visible water. It was like ploughing through a field. We figured the pumice was at least 6″ thick.”


Shannon Lenz
YouTube

Volcanoes have “a lot of dramatic ways to announce their presence,” according to NASA, including plumes of ash and steam, lakes of lava, mud flows and earthquakes, and the sudden rising of an island above a water’s surface.

“One of the more subtle and rarely observed displays is the pumice raft,” according to NASA. “Many of the world’s volcanoes are shrouded by the waters of the oceans. When they erupt, they can discolor the ocean surface with gases and debris. They also can spew masses of lava that are lighter than water. Such pumice rocks are full of holes and cavities, and they easily float.”

Scott Bryan, an associate professor at Queensland University of Technology, told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation the raft is floating towards Australia, and will hit the coast in about seven to 12 months. He says by that time, the raft will be “covered in a whole range of organisms of algae and barnacles and corals and crabs and snails and worms.”

“Each piece of pumice is a rafting vehicle. It’s a home and a vehicle for marine organisms to attach and hitch a ride across the deep ocean to get to Australia,” Bryan told The Guardian.

Bryan said the organisms will help regenerate the Great Barrier Reef’s corals, half of which have been destroyed by climate change.

A raft of rock, the size of 20,000 football fields is floating towards Queensland. The pumice was created when an underwater volcano erupted off Tonga. Scientists say it’ll bring millions of new coral to the Great Barrier Reef. @ErinEdwards7 @QUT #7NEWS pic.twitter.com/W7pKdowYw2

— 7NEWS Gold Coast (@7NewsGoldCoast) August 24, 2019

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‘Hair Love’ Uses Animation To Bring A Story Of Natural Hair In Black Families To Life

The new animated short Hair Love, follows the story of an African American father trying to do his daughter’s hair.

Courtesy of Sony Animation


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If you are heading to the movies to see The Angry Birds Movie 2, then you are in for a double treat. Playing before that feature is an animated short called Hair Love.

Conceived and directed by Matthew Cherry, it follows the story of an African American father — Stephen — and his daughter, Zuri. Stephen is trying to learn how to do young Zuri’s glorious natural hair, and, well, it’s not so easy.

To help fund the project, Cherry went to Kickstarter and began a campaign as he previously did for his two indie films. He says these campaigns aren’t just about financing the projects, but about building a fan base and allowing “people who may want to be involved or kind of see the project through to help out.”

As audiences have been introduced to Zuri and Stephen, they’ve seen the father’s struggle in trying to groom his daughter’s hair and have been able to relate. Cherry says the one of the biggest things he has heard in response from those who have seen the short is about the representation it provides.

“When we did this campaign two years ago, there wasn’t a lot of representation in animated projects,” Cherry says. “You know, oftentimes they would cast actors of color but, you know, they’d be playing inanimate objects or animals. And, you know, it was rarely, like, actually seeing a family dynamic in animation.”

He notes that there are films like Disney’s Princess and the Frog and Home, which features Rihanna, but Cherry says he wanted to give audiences an animated black family.

“I think it does also a lot for young people’s confidence when they see themselves represented,” Cherry says. “You know, media is so powerful. And when you grow up and see magazine covers and TV shows and movies and you don’t see yourself represented, but you see every other type of hairstyle represented, that can really affect your self-confidence.”

Cherry says he’s heard from both young boys and girls, as well as fathers, mothers and parents who aren’t African American — all of whom have connected with the short.

Though he isn’t a father himself, Cherry says it was important to him to show a black man in a loving, tender role.

“We really get a bad rap in mainstream media, particularly black fathers,” he says. “There’s always the stereotype that we’re not present or deadbeats. … and while obviously those situations do exist, it feels very much so that it’s just like disproportionately represented in that way.”

But that’s not the kind of fathers his friends are, so Cherry channeled their experiences when creating Hair Love.

“I have a lot of friends that are young fathers, and they’re all willing to do whatever it takes for their young girls,” he says. “This was just kind of me put[ting] myself in their shoes and kind of representing and also really being inspired by all these viral videos of dads doing their daughter’s hair and people just really being fascinated by that.”

Prior to Hair Love, Cherry worked as an executive producer on Spike Lee’s BlacKkKlansman. He also worked on commercials and music videos, and before that, he played in the NFL.

While creating the Hair Love book and short, Cherry kept in mind his own experience with natural hair during his time in the NFL.

“I had my hair long enough to where it could be braided,” he says. “Every week I’d have to go and get it worked on and stuff. So, you know, I think for both men and women it’s definitely something that’s a big part of our life.”

NPR’s Gemma Watters and Tinbete Ermyas produced and edited this story for broadcast. Wynne Davis adapted it for the Web.

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Trump Walks Back Statements On China; White House Walks Them Forward

French President Emmanuel Macron, left, and President Donald Trump, right, participate in a G-7 Working Session. Trump is in Biarritz, France, for the G-7 summit of the world’s biggest economic powers.

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President Trump is meeting with his counterparts at the G-7 summit in France, where he walked back previous statements on trade with China.

On Friday Trump hiked tariffs on Chinese imports, and threatened to invoke a 1977 act authorizing the president emergency powers to force U.S. businesses out of China.

On Sunday in Biarritz, Trump affirmed that he has the right to force American companies out of China, but said, “I have no plan right now. Actually, we’re getting along very well with China right now. We’re talking.”

Asked if he had second thoughts about tariffs on Chinese goods, Trump said, “Yeah, sure, why not? Might as well. Might as well. I have second thoughts about everything.”

He also told reporters that allies were not pressuring him on trade with China. “I think they respect the trade war,” Trump said. “I can’t say what they’ve been doing to the U.K. and to other places, but from the standpoint of the United States, what [China] has done is outrageous.”

About five hours after Trump’s statements, White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham said reporters were misinterpreting them.

“This morning in the bilat with the UK, the President was asked if he had ‘any second thought on escalating the trade war with China’. His answer has been greatly misinterpreted. President Trump responded in the affirmative – because he regrets not raising the tariffs higher,” Grisham said in a statement emailed to reporters.

The G-7 summit is a meeting of the world’s biggest economic powers, including the United States, Germany, France, Japan, Italy, Canada and the United Kingdom.

Trump met Sunday with Britain’s new prime minister, Boris Johnson, who says he will withdraw Britain from the European Union by the scheduled date of Oct. 31, with or without an agreement with the EU.

A trade deal with the U.S. would replace weakening trade ties with the EU, and attempt to shore up Britain’s economy. Trump called Johnson “the right man” to deliver Brexit, and said he planned to form “a very big trade deal” with Britain.

On Sunday Trump also said he is working on “a very big deal” with Japan, saying, “It will be one of the biggest deals we’ve ever made with Japan.”

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif arrived in Biarritz on Sunday, but his spokesman said he did not plan to meet with U.S. officials. NPR’s Jake Cigainero reports that French officials say Zarif was invited to meet with his French counterpart Jean-Yves Le Drian, after meeting with President Emmanuel Macron in Paris just days ago.

Macron has tried to take the diplomatic lead in saving the 2015 Iran nuclear agreement, which Trump pulled the US out of in 2018. Tensions between the U.S. and Iran have risen in recent years over Iran’s nuclear program, and its role in Syria and other conflicts in the Middle East.

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Former Congressman And Talk Radio Host Joe Walsh Announces Trump Primary Challenge

Former U.S. Rep. Joe Walsh, R-Ill., gestures during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. Walsh, a former Illinois congressman, says he’ll challenge President Donald Trump for the Republican nomination in 2020. The Tea Party favorite argues that Trump is unfit for the White House.

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Joe Walsh, conservative talk radio show host and former Tea Party congressman, is launching a long-shot primary challenge to President Trump. He’s the second Republican to officially announce a run against Trump, who has a strong approval rating among his party’s base.

Walsh, 57, supported Trump during his 2016 campaign but in recent months has been offering a bitter critique of the president, calling Trump a liar, bully and unfit for office. Walsh has also attacked Trump from the right.

“Mr. Trump isn’t a conservative. He’s reckless on fiscal issues; he’s incompetent on the border; he’s clueless on trade; he misunderstands executive power; and he subverts the rule of law. It’s his poor record that makes him most worthy of a primary challenge,” Walsh wrote in a New York Times op-ed this month.

On the Democratic side, meanwhile, 21 candidates are vying for the White House in 2020. But there are far fewer Republicans attempting to deny Trump a second term. Former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld is the only other person so far to announce he’ll try to unseat Trump, whose support among Republicans usually polls in the 80s, making him a formidable party incumbent.

“We can’t take four more years of Donald Trump. And that’s why I’m running for President,” Walsh tweeted on Sunday. “It won’t be easy, but bravery is never easy.”

When asked by Politico if he could raise enough money to pose a legitimate challenge to Trump, Walsh responded: “Abso-freaking-lutely. There’s a drumbeat from a lot of people out there for somebody who wants to take this on.”

Walsh has a history of controversial, incendiary and offensive comments.

In October 2016, Walsh said on Twitter that he was backing Trump for president, saying: “On November 9th, if Trump loses, I’m grabbing my musket. You in?”

Walsh was pulled off the air from his radio show in 2014 following his use of racial slurs in a discussion over the controversy around the Washington Redskins. He later tweeted that: “I’m trying to have an honest, adult conversations about words without resorting to alphabet soup phrases(C-word, N-word, etc)”

In a video posted to his website, the former one-term Illinois Congressman says “these are not conventional times. These are urgent times. Let’s be real, these are scary times.”

He goes on: “We’re tired of a president waking up every morning and tweeting ugly insults at ordinary Americans. “We’re tired of a president who sides with Putin against our own intelligence community. We’re tired of a president who thinks he’s above the law. We’re tired of a president who’s tweeting this country into a recession.”

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‘The Warehouse’ Is Scary Because It’s Plausible

Rob Hart’s The Warehouse is an entertaining read as a slightly dystopian cyberthriller. But start looking at how plausible it is, notice all the ways in which the things Hart describes — awful healthcare, limited employment opportunities, and global monopolies — are already here, and it becomes a horrific cautionary tale that makes you wonder if we’re already too far into a disastrous future, or if there’s still some hope for humanity.

Cloud is the biggest company in the world. With more than 30 million employees, it is the place everyone uses to get everything they need. Cloud uses drones for fast delivery, and in an increasingly dangerous world, the ability to shop without leaving the house is something no one passes up. However – surprise, surprise — not everything about it is as amazing as it seems. Cloud has built a series of company towns, and they’re places where working hard comes before anything else. Security is lax, racism is as present as it’s always been, supervisors can harass employees without consequences, and living conditions are a few steps above those of a prison. Unfortunately, working for Cloud is the only option for most people, and the company takes full advantage of that.

Paxton invented a product, but Cloud managed to run him out of business, and we meet him as he’s moving into one of their facilities to work for them. Zinnia earns a living infiltrating companies, and Cloud is her latest assignment, but this ruler of the American economy is threatening to swallow her before she can get the job done. Once the two cross paths, their lives become entwined in interesting ways as both try to navigate the unjust, shady world of Cloud.

The Warehouse is told from different points of view, giving readers different versions of the same truth. Besides Zinnia and Paxton, the most important, and the most interesting, is that of Gibson, the man who created Cloud. His rags-to-riches story is amazing, but his practices are Machiavellian — even though he presents them as grounded in fair, logical thinking. His employees are stressed, overworked, and underpaid, but he thinks that makes them stronger and helps everyone:

I’m giving my employees the tools they need to be masters of their own destiny. And that train runs two ways. A one-star employee doesn’t just bring down the average, they’re in a position they’re not suited for. You wouldn’t take a physicist and as them to blow glass. Or a butcher and ask them to program a website. People have different skill sets and talents. Yes, Cloud is a big employer, but maybe you’re not the right fit for us.

Sadly, there are almost no jobs that aren’t with Cloud.

Gibson, who resembles Donald Trump in many ways — including his references to “fake news” — is just one of many elements that make The Warehouse an outstanding read. Then there’s Hart’s attention to detail: Cloud’s facilities are like prisons in terms of restrictions on residents, but their aesthetic is that of a large mall. Everything is available, but nothing feels authentic. Hart, who wrote a collection of short crime narratives revolving around food, uses food here to show the effects of homogenization:

The ramen was okay. All the parts were there, but it lacked the alchemy of place. That special touch that came from someone who studied the dish like it was a passion, rather than the reality of it: a small white woman in a hairnet and a green polo scooping out a premeasured portion into a bowl and sticking it in the microwave.

Between violence, abuse, crooked security guards, fights, espionage, and a problem with drug contraband and overdoses, Hart’s love for crime fiction is ever-present, but The Warehouse has a level of social critique that goes above and beyond his previous work to take on all of corporate America. Cloud allows racism to occur in its streets, but its official discourse checks every box in terms of getting it right:

Our mission at Cloud is to promote an enriching and supportive atmosphere that allows everyone to thrive and succeed. We provide a comprehensive approach to inclusivity, access, and equality, through collaborative, deliberate efforts within our community.

The Warehouse is a fun, fast-paced read full of well-developed characters and a plot that builds to an explosive finale. It treads known dystopian ground, but the story’s so close to our reality that it walks a fine line between a near-future thriller and a smart satire. Comparisons to Amazon are easy to make, and that’s precisely what should worry us the most. It’s also where things get meta because that’s where most readers will buy the book. Nicely played, Mr. Hart.

Gabino Iglesias is an author, book reviewer and professor living in Austin, Texas. Find him on Twitter at @Gabino_Iglesias.

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‘Painting’ The Ghost Forests Of The Mid-Atlantic Coast

A stand of trees — some dead, some still clinging to their leaves — in Blackwater Wildlife Refuge on the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland.

Claire Harbage/NPR


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Massive stands of silvery trees rise skeletally out of saltwater marshes at the edges of the Chesapeake and Delaware bays, a significant part of the coastlines of Virginia, Maryland, Delaware and New Jersey. A few dead or dying leaves cling to the trees’ branches, but mostly, they are bare.

In contrast, lush forests spread out behind them, trees robed in green leaves and pine needles, still brown with bark, coated with their elegant summer colors.

The ghostly forests of dead trees along the Mid-Atlantic shores are one indicator of a changing climate. Rising sea levels, brought on, in part, by glacial melt, cause saltwater to move into forested areas where it hadn’t reached before. The trees aren’t able to drink in water with such high salt content and are starved of necessary nutrients.

In the Chesapeake Bay, over 150 square miles of forests have died since the mid-1800s because of salt intrusion, according to a recent article in Nature Climate Change. It’s not a new phenomenon, but it is one that scientists are recognizing the importance of now. These ghost forests will continue to grow as the sea level is expected to increase another 1.3 feet to 3.9 feet by 2100.

Deep in a forested area along the Delaware Bay just off Jakes Landing Road in Dennis, N.J., there is evidence of dying trees and spreading saltwater marshes.

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Claire Harbage/NPR

After reading about the ghost forests in Popular Science, I was haunted by the image of the dying forests — one of the most powerful visual indicators of climate change on the East Coast. As a photographer, I reached for my camera as a way to explore the issue, but I also wondered how the changing landscape affects how we, and future generations, envision the world through representations we capture in photographs and in art.

The images I made here combine photography and watercolor painting, a reference to the long history of watercolor artists who have painted the landscape. The tradition of landscape painting is often thought of as capturing a sense of the beauty of nature, an idyllic scene.

Here, in the vast dead forests that are continuing to spread, the idyllic landscape doesn’t exist. I wanted to include the realities of this new coastal landscape as one small part of a watercolor tradition.

A dead tree stands in a saltwater marsh in the Delaware Bay near Cape May in New Jersey.

Claire Harbage/NPR


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Claire Harbage/NPR

In this process, gum bichromate, watercolor paints are sensitized to light by mixing them with chemicals. The mixture is then painted onto a sheet of paper, which is placed under a negative and exposed to light. This process can be repeated multiple times on the same image, using different colors.

I’m not a watercolorist by any means, but the movement of the brushstrokes, emphasizing the blues representing the rising water and the silver of the forests, emerged as I processed the images. Gum bichromate is one of the few photographic processes in which the creator can evoke a sense of painterliness, and yet the descriptive detail of the photograph still shows through.

Just outside the Blackwater Wildlife Refuge, on the Chesapeake Bay, a large swath of dying trees sits on the edge of a saltwater marsh.

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Claire Harbage/NPR

At the end of the process, the exposed paper sits in a water bath. Any particles of watercolor paint that weren’t exposed to light slowly wash away and the image remains.

And much like the gum bichromate process, as sea levels continue to rise and the trees along the coastline continue to die, we will watch these parts of our image of the world wash away, unsure of what will remain.

In the Delaware Bay, forests are giving way to saltwater marshes, many of which are filled with the common reed, an invasive species.

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