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Current Chernobyl-level radiation harmful to bees: study

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Honey Bee

Bumblebees exposed to levels of radiation found within the Chernobyl exclusion zone suffered a “significant” drop in reproduction, in new research published Wednesday that scientists say should prompt a rethink of international calculations of nuclear environmental risk.

The study, published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B, set out to discover how ionising radiation affects insects, which are often thought to be more resilient than other species.

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Researchers in Scotland and Germany exposed bee colonies in a laboratory setting to a range of radiation levels found in areas of the exclusion zone around the ruined Chernobyl site, where a reactor exploded in 1986 in the world’s worst nuclear disaster.

They found that colony reproduction reduced by 30 to 45 percent at doses previously considered too low to impact insects.

“We found that at radiation levels detectable in Chernobyl, the number of new queen bees produced from the colony was significantly reduced and colony growth was delayed — meaning colonies reached their peak weight at a week later,” said the paper’s lead author Katherine Raines.

The lecturer in environmental pollution at the University of Stirling told AFP by email that researchers “anticipate that this may have an effect on pollination/ecosystem services in contaminated areas”.

The authors said they chose bumblebees both because of a lack of lab-based research into bees and because of their crucial role in pollination.

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Ionising radiation can occur either from nuclear sites or medical procedures, although the levels tested were higher than those that would likely be found in the environment from normal releases, Raines said.

But she added that the researchers were “very surprised that we could detect effects as low as we did”.

“Our research suggests insects living in the most contaminated areas at Chernobyl may suffer adverse effects, with subsequent consequences for ecosystem services such as pollination,” she added.

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The authors said if their findings could be generalised “they suggest insects suffer significant negative consequences at dose rates previously thought safe” and called revisions to the international framework for radiological protection of the environment.

People are not allowed to live near the Chernobyl power station and the abandoned settlements within the exclusion zone are surrounded by forests hosting birds, wolves, elks and lynxes.

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A giant protective dome was put in place over the destroyed fourth reactor in 2016.

© 2020 AFP


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The Arab uprisings were weakened by online fakes

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The Arab uprisings a decade ago were supercharged by online calls to join the protests -- but the internet was soon flooded with misinformation, weakening the region's cyber-activists.

When Tunisian dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali fled the country in January 2011, rumours and uncertainty created "panic and hysteria", said ex-activist and entrepreneur Houeida Anouar.

"January 14 was a horrible night, so traumatic," she said. "We heard gunfire, and a neighbour shouted 'hide yourselves, they're raping women'."

As pro-regime media pumped out misinformation, the flood of bogus news also spread to the internet, a space activists had long seen as a refuge from censorship and propaganda.

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Dr. Fauci warns of post-Thanksgiving COVID-19 surge in US

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The United States is the worst-affected country, with 266,074 Covid-19 deaths, and President Donald Trump's administration has issued conflicting messages on mask-wearing, travel and the danger posed by the virus.

"There almost certainly is going to be an uptick because of what has happened with the travel," Fauci told CNN's "State of the Union."

Travel surrounding Thursday's Thanksgiving holiday made this the busiest week in US airports since the pandemic began.

"We may see a surge upon a surge" in two or three weeks, Fauci added. "We don't want to frighten people, but that's the reality."

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Sidney Powell’s new election lawsuit cites election experts she won’t even name: legal expert

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President Donald Trump's former election lawyer, Sidney Powell, has filed her lawsuit in Georgia suing Gov. Brian Kemp (R-GA) for what she says is a fraudulent election.

But lawyer Mike Dunford explained that it doesn't exactly work that way. Reading through Powell's court document "Emergency Motion for Declaratory, Emergency, and Permanent Injunctive Relief and Memorandum in Support Thereof."

"If you want emergency relief it is very helpful to be as clear and concise as humanly possible," he explained. "Pointing the court back to your 100+ page complaint with its 29 exhibits isn't how that is best done. To put it very mildly."

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