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Scientists question rush to build Nicaragua canal

By Brooks Hays   |   March 4, 2015 at 2:01 PM
Lake Cocibolca, also called Lake Nicaragua, seen in southwest Nicaragua via Google Maps.
HOUSTON, March 4 (UPI) -- An international consortium of environmental scientists -- featuring leading researchers from 18 institutions in the United States and Central and South America -- have voiced their opposition to the Nicaragua Interoceanic Grand Canal and the haste with which the project has been initiated.

Late last year, the Hong Kong-based HKND Group announced it had begun construction on the Nicaragua Interoceanic Grand Canal in Rivas, Nicaragua, despite controversy and criticism surrounding the project.

The scientists say the rush to construct the canal, which developers hope will connect the Caribbean Sea (and the Atlantic Ocean) with the Pacific, is putting the ecological health of Lake Cocibolca at risk. The canal will intersect the lake, which serves as the main freshwater reservoir for Central America. Lake Cocibolca, also called Lake Nicaragua, is the largest freshwater body in Central America and the ninth largest in the Americas.

In addition to providing Central Americans with drinking and cooking water, it is also home many of the region's most fragile ecosystems -- an epicenter of biodiversity.

"The biggest environmental challenge is to build and operate the canal without catastrophic impacts to this sensitive ecosystem," Pedro Alvarez, Rice University environmental engineer, said in a press release.

Some 5,100 ships are estimated to pass through the canal every year. Alvarez and his colleagues say that traffic could result in devastating oil spills and the introduction of invasive species.

Additionally, Alvarez say the construction, including major dredging operations, will impact aquatic life "through alterations in turbidity and hypoxia, triggered by resuspension of nutrients and organic matter that exert a relatively high biochemical oxygen demand."

This is the first time Alvarez has spoken out against the project.

Earlier this year, Alvarez joined scientists Jorge Alberto Huete-Pérez and Axel Meyer in penning a critical editorial in the journal Science.

"It is incumbent upon scientists, human rights advocates, nongovernmental organizations and wildlife protection organizations to share knowledge, voice concerns, provide guidance and demand a greater role for science in the design and construction of this massive project," the wrote.

In the new critique, scientists argue that Nicaragua should publish a more detailed cost-benefit analysis that addresses both the economic and environmental impacts.

The latest paper was published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology.

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Surprise, men are more narcissistic than women

The study authors say it's likely gender gaps in levels of narcissism can be explained by gender stereotypes and societal expectations.
By Brooks Hays   |   March 4, 2015 at 12:23 PM
BUFFALO, N.Y., March 4 (UPI) -- Men love themselves more than women do. That's the takeaway from a new study by researchers at the University of Buffalo that claims men are consistently more narcissistic than their female counterparts.

Scientists compiled psychological and personality test data from some 31 years of narcissism research, finding that men's scores consistently surpass women's in the art of self-obsession.

Researchers gleaned info from some 355 journal articles, surveys, dissertations and manuscripts, teasing out gender differences in narcissism. Authors of the new comprehensive survey divided the derived info into three categories, or three types of narcissism -- extreme self-interest as it relates to leadership and authority, to grandiosity and exhibitionism, and to entitlement.

The largest gender gap was found in the entitlement category, suggesting men have few qualms about exploiting others and helping themselves to the advantages of male privilege.

"Narcissism is associated with various interpersonal dysfunctions, including an inability to maintain healthy long-term relationships, unethical behavior and aggression," lead author Emily Grijalva, an assistant professor at Buffalo's School of Management, explained in a press release.

"At the same time, narcissism is shown to boost self-esteem, emotional stability and the tendency to emerge as a leader," Grijalva added. "By examining gender differences in narcissism, we may be able to explain gender disparities in these important outcomes."

Researchers point out that these differences in attitude and personality aren't proof that men are naturally predisposed to narcissism. It's likely that such gender gaps can be explained by gender stereotypes and societal expectations.

"Individuals tend to observe and learn gender roles from a young age, and may face backlash for deviating from society's expectations," Grijalva said. "In particular, women often receive harsh criticism for being aggressive or authoritative, which creates pressure for women, more so than for men, to suppress displays of narcissistic behavior."

The new research was published in the journal Psychological Bulletin.

© 2015 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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