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Heat Wave Causes Massive Melt of Greenland Ice Sheet 

Greenland’s ice sheet has experienced a “massive melting event” during a heat wave that has seen temperatures more than 10 degrees above seasonal norms, according to Danish researchers.Since Wednesday, the ice sheet covering the vast Arctic territory has melted by about 8 billion tons a day, twice its normal average rate during summer, reported the Polar Portal website, which is run by Danish researchers.The Danish Meteorological Institute reported temperatures of more than 20 degrees Celsius (68 Fahrenheit), more than twice the normal average summer temperature, in northern Greenland.And Nerlerit Inaat airport in the northeast of the territory recorded 23.4 degrees C (74.1 F) on Thursday — the highest recorded there since records began.With the heat wave affecting most of Greenland that day, the Polar Portal website reported a “massive melting event” involving enough water “to cover Florida with two inches of water” (five centimeters).The largest melt of the Greenland ice sheet still dates to the summer of 2019.The area where the melting took place this time, though, is larger than two years ago, the website added.The Greenland ice sheet is the second-largest mass of freshwater ice on the planet with nearly 1.8 million square kilometers (695,000 square miles), second only to Antarctica.The melting of the ice sheets started in 1990 and has accelerated since 2000. The mass loss in recent years is approximately four times greater than it was before 2000, according to the researchers at Polar Portal.One European study published in January said ocean levels would rise between 10 and 18 centimeters by 2100 — or 60 percent faster than previously estimated — at the rate at which the Greenland ice sheet was now melting.The Greenland ice sheet, if completely melted, would raise the ocean levels by six to seven meters.But with a relatively cool start to the Greenland summer, with snowfalls and rains, the retreat of the ice sheet so far for 2021 remains within the historical norm, according to Polar Portal. The melting period extends from June to early September.

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WHO Chief: ‘Pandemic Will End When World Chooses’

“The pandemic will end when the world chooses to end it,” World Health Organization Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said Friday in Geneva about the global COVID-19 outbreak that is now being driven by the delta variant of the coronavirus. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the delta variant is as contagious as chickenpox and that infections in vaccinated people may be as transmissible as those in the unvaccinated.“WHO’s goal remains to support every country to vaccinate at least 10% of its population by the end of September, at least 40% by the end of this year, and 70% by the middle of next year,” the WHO chief said, but added that the realization of the goals is “a long way off.”“So far, just over half of countries have fully vaccinated 10% of their population, less than a quarter of countries have vaccinated 40%, and only three countries have vaccinated 70%,” Tedros said.He recalled that WHO had earlier “warned of the risk that the world’s poor would be trampled in the stampede for vaccines” and that “the world was on the verge of a catastrophic moral failure” because of vaccine inequity.“And yet the global distribution of vaccines remains unjust,” Tedros said. “All regions are at risk, but none more so than Africa.”“Many African countries have prepared well to roll out vaccines, but the vaccines have not arrived,” he said. “Less than 2% of all doses administered globally have been in Africa,” with only 1.5% of the continent’s population fully vaccinated.The WHO chief said his organization was “issuing an urgent call” for $7.7 billion for the launching of the Rapid ACT-Accelerator Delta Response, or RADAR, a response to the delta surge that would provide tests, treatments and vaccines.He also said COVAX; which provides vaccines to lower-income countries, needs additional funding.“The question is not whether the world can afford to make these investments,” Tedros said, “it’s whether it can afford not to.”U.S. President Joe Biden announced Thursday that civilian federal government employees must be vaccinated or submit to regular testing and wear masks.On Friday, a reporter asked Biden as he was leaving the White House whether Americans should expect more guidelines and restrictions related to the coronavirus. “In all probability,” he said.Passengers wearing face masks to help curb the spread of the coronavirus board a westbound bullet train at Tokyo Station in Tokyo, July 31, 2021.Biden also noted that on Thursday almost a million Americans received COVID-19 vaccinations and said, “I am hopeful that people are beginning to realize how essential it is to move” in response to the coronavirus threat.The White House said the average number of people getting their first shot of the coronavirus vaccines this week was up 30% over last week.Also Friday, Walmart joined a growing number of U.S. companies issuing mandates for its workers to be vaccinated, saying the policy would apply to all employees at its headquarters along with managers who travel within the United States.The Broadway League said Friday that audiences will be required to show proof of vaccination to watch Broadway performances and will be required to wear masks.Australia’s third-largest city of Brisbane said it would begin a COVID lockdown on Saturday amid rising case numbers. Neighboring areas will also be subject to the stay-at-home orders.Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Friday that 80% of adults must be vaccinated before the country will consider reopening its border.In Israel, health officials began administering coronavirus booster shots Friday to people older than 60 who have been fully vaccinated in an effort to stop a recent spike in cases.Italy’s Health Institute announced Friday that the delta variant accounted for almost all new COVID-19 cases in the country at nearly 95% of cases as of July 20.German officials announced Friday that unvaccinated travelers arriving in the country will need to present a negative COVID-19 test result.The Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center on Saturday reported there have been more than 197 million global COVID-19 infections.  

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COVID-19 Spreads in China, Australia as WHO Sounds Alarm on Delta

Mushrooming outbreaks of the highly contagious delta variant prompted China and Australia to impose stricter COVID-19 restrictions on Saturday as the WHO urged the world to quickly contain the mutation before it turns into something deadlier and draws out the pandemic.China’s most serious surge of coronavirus infections in months spread to two more areas Saturday — Fujian province and the sprawling megacity of Chongqing.More than 200 cases have been linked to a delta cluster in Nanjing city where nine cleaners at an international airport tested positive, with the outbreak spanning Beijing, Chongqing and five provinces as of Saturday.The nation where the disease first emerged has rushed to prevent the highly transmissible strain from taking root by putting more than 1 million people under lockdown and reinstituting mass testing campaigns.Worldwide, coronavirus infections are once again on the upswing, with the World Health Organization announcing an 80% average increase over the past four weeks in five of the health agency’s six regions, a jump largely fueled by the delta variant.First detected in India, it has now reached 132 countries and territories.”Delta is a warning: it’s a warning that the virus is evolving but it is also a call to action that we need to move now before more dangerous variants emerge,” the WHO’s emergencies director Michael Ryan told a press conference.He stressed that the “game plan” still works, namely physical distancing, wearing masks, hand hygiene and vaccination.But both high- and low-income countries are struggling to gain the upper hand against delta, with the vastly unequal sprint for shots leaving plenty of room for variants to wreak havoc and further evolve.In Australia, where only about 14% of the population is vaccinated, the third-largest city of Brisbane and other parts of Queensland state were to enter a snap COVID-19 lockdown Saturday as a cluster of the delta variant bubbled into six new cases.”The only way to beat the delta strain is to move quickly, to be fast and to be strong,” Queensland’s Deputy Premier Steven Miles said while informing millions they will be under three days of strict stay-at-home orders.’The war has changed’The race for vaccines to triumph over variants appeared to suffer a blow as the U.S. Centers for Disease Control released an analysis that found fully immunized people with so-called breakthrough infections of the delta variant can spread the disease as easily as unvaccinated people.While the jabs remain effective against severe disease and death, the U.S. government agency said in a leaked internal CDC document “the war has changed” as a result of delta.An analysis of a superspreading event in the northeastern state of Massachusetts found three-quarters of the people sickened were vaccinated, according to a report the CDC published Friday.The outbreak related to July 4 festivities, with the latest number of people infected swelling to 900, according to local reports. The findings were used to justify a return to masks for vaccinated people in high-risk areas.”As a vaccinated person, if you have one of these breakthrough infections, you may have mild symptoms, you may have no symptoms, but based on what we’re seeing here you could be contagious to other people,” Celine Gounder, an infectious diseases physician and professor at New York University, told AFP.According to the leaked CDC document, a review of findings from other countries showed that while the original SARS-CoV-2 was as contagious as the common cold, each person with delta infects on average eight others, making it as transmissible as chickenpox but still less than measles.Reports from Canada, Scotland and Singapore suggest delta infections may also be more severe, resulting in more hospitalizations.Asked if Americans should expect new recommendations from health authorities or new restrictive measures, U.S. President Joe Biden responded, “in all probability,” before leaving the White House by helicopter for the weekend.He did not specify what steps could be taken.

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Evictions Looming in US as Congress Fails to Extend Ban

A nationwide eviction moratorium is set to expire Saturday after President Joe Biden and Democrats in Congress worked furiously but ultimately failed to align on a long-shot strategy to prevent millions of Americans from being forced from their homes during a COVID-19 surge.More than 3.6 million Americans are at risk of eviction, some in a matter of days, as nearly $47 billion in federal housing aid to the states during the pandemic has been slow to make it into the hands of renters and landlords owed payments.Tensions mounted late Friday as it became clear there would be no resolution in sight. Hours before the ban was set to expire, Biden called on local governments to “take all possible steps” to immediately disburse the funds. Evictions could begin as soon as Monday.”There can be no excuse for any state or locality not accelerating funds to landlords and tenants that have been hurt during this pandemic,” Biden said in a statement.”Every state and local government must get these funds out to ensure we prevent every eviction we can,” he said.The stunning outcome, as the White House and Congress each expected the other to act, exposed a rare divide between the president and his allies on Capitol Hill, and one that could have lasting impact as the nation’s renters face widespread evictions.Biden set off the scramble by announcing he would allow the eviction ban to expire, rather than challenge a recent Supreme Court ruling signaling this would be the last deadline. He called on Congress on Thursday to swiftly pass legislation to extend the date.Racing to respond, Democrats strained to rally the votes early Friday. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi implored colleagues to pass legislation extending the deadline, calling it a “moral imperative,” to protect renters and also the landlords who are owed compensation.But after hours of behind-the-scenes wrangling throughout the day, Democratic lawmakers had questions and could not muster support to extend the ban even a few months. An attempt to simply approve an extension by consent, without a formal vote, was objected to by House Republicans. The Senate may try again Saturday.Lawmakers were livid at prospect of evictions in the middle of a surging pandemic.Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., the Financial Services Committee chair who wrote the emergency bill, said House leaders should have held the vote, even if it failed, to show Americans they were trying to solve the problem.”Is it emergency enough that you’re going to stop families from being put on the street?” Waters testified at a hastily called hearing early Friday morning urging her colleagues to act.But Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington, the top Republican on another panel handling the issue, said the Democrats’ bill was rushed.”This is not the way to legislate,” she said.The ban was initially put in place to prevent further spread of COVID-19 by people put out on the streets and into shelters.Congress pushed nearly $47 billion to the states earlier in the COVID-19 crisis to shore up landlords and renters as workplaces shut down and many people were suddenly out of work.But lawmakers said state governments have been slow to distribute the money. On Friday, they said only about $3 billion has been spent.By the end of March, 6.4 million American households were behind on their rent, according to the Department of Housing and Urban Development. As of July 5, roughly 3.6 million people in the U.S. said they faced eviction in the next two months, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s Household Pulse Survey.Some places are likely to see spikes in evictions starting Monday, while other jurisdictions will see an increase in court filings that will lead to evictions over several months.Biden said Thursday that the administration’s hands are tied after the Supreme Court signaled the moratorium would only be extended until the end of the month. 

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Argentina Lakes Turn Pink, but Outlook Not Rosy, Environmentalists Say

Two lakes in a far-flung coastal region of Patagonia, in Argentina, have turned fluorescent pink, an as-of-yet unexplained phenomena that local environmentalists fear could be harmful and caused by industrial contamination.The lakes, located near an industrial park on the outskirts of the Argentine city of Trelew, sprawl across a dusty, desertlike plain and are largely undeveloped. Officials with the municipality of Trelew recently discovered a truck dumping waste in the watershed, according to posts made by the city on social media.Authorities gave conflicting views to local media, however, on whether the sudden change in color of the lakes was harmful. Environmentalists were more concerned.Local activist Pablo Lada, a member of Argentina’s National Ecological Network (RENACE), told Reuters in an interview that the pink color could potentially be the result of a dye typically used to give prawns raised nearby their typically rose-colored hue.”I think that the pink lagoon uncovered a … lack of treatment of this waste that has become a big problem,” Lada said.Local and regional environmental officials are investigating the cause and potential damage to the lakes but have yet to arrive at any conclusions. 

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Arts & Entertainment/Economy & business
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Storytelling Celebrated at Virtual Summer Literary Festival

This year’s 1455 Summer Literary Festival — an annual free 3-day virtual program sponsored by a group of universities in Virginia — featured over 200 authors, poets, and creative artists sharing their insights into the art of storytelling. Maxim Moskalkov has the story. Camera: Mike Maisuradze   
 

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