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UPI NewsTrack Science and Technology News

June 14, 2012 at 6:31 PM   |   Comments

Warm U.S. months a century apart studied

COLUMBIA, Mo., June 14 (UPI) -- The two warmest winter months in U.S. Midwest history, separated by more than a century, may be linked to important climate phenomena, researchers say.

This past March was the second-warmest winter month ever recorded in the Midwest, with temperatures 15 degrees above average; the only other winter month that was warmer was December 1889, with temperatures 18 degrees above average, University of Missouri-Columbia researchers reported Thursday.

Now, they said, they've discovered why the weather patterns during these two winter months, separated by 123 years, were so similar, and the answer could help scientists develop more accurate weather prediction models.

The preceding months for both years were also dry and warm, as well as the previous summers, leading researchers to conclude both 2012 and 1889 were La Nina years, researcher Tony Lupo said.

"During a period of La Nina the sea surface temperatures across the equatorial Eastern Central Pacific Ocean are lower than normal by 3 to 6 degrees," Lupo said. "This typically directs the jet stream from the Pacific on a northeastern path over Canada. Rain storms follow the jet stream, leaving the central and south-central states dry, while blocking air from moving south into the Midwest, resulting in higher temperatures."

Also, 2012 and 1889 both featured strong Arctic Oscillations, a pattern of air pressure that wraps itself around the North Pole and traps and keeps cold air in the arctic, the researchers said.


Geneticists condemn 'racial purity' test

BRUSSELS, June 14 (UPI) -- European geneticists have condemned the use of genetic testing by a Hungarian politician intended to establish his "racial purity."

The European Society of Human Genetics, which promotes research in basic and applied human and medical genetics, said the use by a member of Parliament from the Hungarian far-right Jobbik Party of a genetic test to attempt to prove his "ethnic purity" was ethically unacceptable.

"This is a gross distortion of the values of genetic testing, which is intended to be used to diagnose disease rather than to claim racial purity," Joerg Schmidtke, president of ESHG, said in a release from the society.

Hungarian company Nagy Gen scanned 18 positions in the MP's genome for variants it said were characteristic of Roma and Jewish ethnic groups and concluded Roma and Jewish ancestry could be ruled out.

"The test proves nothing," Schmidtke said. "It is impossible to deduce someone's origins from testing so few places in the genome.

"I am sure that clinical geneticists worldwide will join me in condemning this scandalous abuse of a technology that was developed to help the sick, rather than to promote hatred."


New MacBook Pro called unrepairable

SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif., June 14 (UPI) -- The newest MacBook Pro with Retina display merits a 1 on a 10-point repair scale and is nearly impossible to fix or upgrade, a popular tech Web site says.

Electronics do-it-yourself Web site iFixit found the $2,799 laptop "virtually non-upgradeable," eWeek.com reported Wednesday.

Tearing down the next-generation MacBook, the iFixit team said they found it to be the least repairable or upgradable laptop they have ever taken apart.

The laptop's RAM is soldered to the logic board, the solid-state drive isn't upgradeable, the lithium-polymer battery is glued rather than screwed into the case and even the screws that hold the unit together are a proprietary design requiring a special screwdriver, they said.

"Apple has packed all the things we hate into one beautiful little package," iFixit's Kyle Wiens wrote in a blog post.

"Laptops are expensive. It's critical that consumers have the option to repair things that go wrong, as well as upgrade their own hardware to keep it relevant as new technologies roll out," Wiens wrote.

"On top of being glued together, the new MacBook Pro is virtually non-upgradeable -- making it the first MacBook Pro that will be unable to adapt to future advances in memory and storage technology."


Study: 'Green' economies have a dark side

LONDON, June 14 (UPI) -- "Green grabbing," the appropriation of land for biofuels, carbon-offsetting schemes and conservation, is forcing people from their homelands, a report says.

Research studies from Africa, Asia and Latin America published in the Journal of Peasant Studies indicate ecosystems being "asset-stripped" for profit is likely to cause dispossession and further poverty among already-poor land and resource users, the Institute of Development Studies in England reported Thursday.

"Green grabs are the dark side of the green economy," said Melissa Leach of the STEPS Center, which is funded by the Economic and Social Research Council.

As an example of "green grabs," researchers point to Guatemala, where conservation agencies, ecotourism companies and the military are "protecting" the Guatemalan Maya Biosphere Reserve as a "Maya-themed vacationland," allegedly violently excluding local people.

"If market-based mechanisms are to contribute to sustainable development and the building of economies that are not only green but also fair, then fostering an agenda focused on distribution, equity and justice in green market arrangements is vital," Leach said.

That must included meaningful local engagement and consultation based on transparency, accountability and free, prior informed consent, the researchers said.

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