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NASA-funded astrobiology research has changed the fundamental knowledge about what comprises all known life on Earth.

Researchers conducting tests in the harsh environment of Mono Lake in California have discovered the first known microorganism on Earth able to thrive and reproduce using the toxic chemical arsenic. The microorganism substitutes arsenic for phosphorus in its cell components.

“The definition of life has just expanded,” said Ed Weiler, NASA’s associate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate at the agency’s Headquarters in Washington. “As we pursue our efforts to seek signs of life in the solar system, we have to think more broadly, more diversely and consider life as we do not know it.”

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Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed a law banning smoking in public places.

The law will take effect in two stages. Beginning in June, the law will ban smoking in some public places, including subways and schools. A year later, the ban will go into effect in other areas, including cafes and restaurants.

The ban will also restrict cigarette advertising.

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Interpol and the United Nations have joined forces to launch an initiative to tackle global forest crime.

Project Leaf will target criminals involved in illegal logging and timber trafficking.

The scheme will also provide support to enforcement agencies in countries with the biggest problems, Interpol said.

It is estimated that more than a quarter of the world’s population relies on forests for their livelihoods, fuel, food and medicines.

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A new study says the world’s tropical coastal forests store more planet-warming carbon dioxide than almost any other ecosystem.

But rapid loss of these forests – known as mangroves – is releasing substantial and previously unrecognized quantities of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.

Mangroves provide rich breeding grounds for fish, and they help buffer coastal areas from storm surges. But their role in trapping climate-warming carbon dioxide has not been studied much.

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The Paris Agreement will leave activists demanding direct action on fossil fuels and energy market reform, says Sydney University research associate Rebecca Pearse.

A global climate agreement was adopted in Paris on Saturday evening, but it will leave activists demanding direct action on fossil fuels and energy market reform.

Before the Paris talks even began there were activists arguing that the negotiations would not deliver what they want. The Climate Justice Action network said that the COP21 will continue a 20 years of ineffective climate policy, demonstrated by a 65 per cent rise in fossil fuel emissions since 1990.

Meanwhile, Saturday’s protests were about saying campaigns for climate justice will continue.

Has activist pessimism about the agreement been justified?

The Paris Agreement doesn’t stack up

Klein argues that there is some “good language” in the agreement. The Paris text recognises the need to cap temperature rises at 1.5℃. However, the language doesn’t match national pledges for action. These pledges are so weak that a dangerous 3 or 4 degrees warming is likely.
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China’s spending to develop renewable energy may total 1.8 trillion yuan ($294 billion) in the five years through 2015 as part of the nation’s efforts to counter climate change, according to a government official.

China may invest another 2.3 trillion yuan in key energy-saving and emission-reducing projects, Xie Zhenhua, vice chairman of the National Development and Reform Commission, said today at a conference in Beijing. China stands by its pledge to cut carbon emissions per unit of economic output by as much as 45 percent before 2020 from 2005 levels, he said.

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German authorities are giving parking violators in one city an unexpected break by issuing tickets without fines.

The tickets, put on carelessly parked cars in Potsdam, include a fine of 0 euros and the cheerful message “Glück gehabt!!!” (Lucky you!!!). The new approach is designed to admonish motorists without hitting them in the wallet.

“The tickets serve as a warning to parking offenders,” said Regina Thielemann, a city of Potsdam spokeswoman. “They’re issued when the driver isn’t around. So they’re given written notice when they’d ordinarily only get a verbal warning.”Potsdam, the state capital of Brandenburg just outside Berlin, earned around 1.2 million euros from parking fines in 2011, she said. Around 120,000 parking fines were issued last year.

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A day before Haitians head to the polls to vote for a new president, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged them to “take full advantage of this historic opportunity to shape the future of their country.”

The former first lady Mirlande Manigat and the popular musician Michel Martelly are contesting tomorrow’s run-off round of presidential elections, four months after the first round was staged. Legislative elections are also being held tomorrow.

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As public debate on air pollution heats up, many are increasingly looking to the Chinese capital’s skies to cool rapid urbanization with more greenery. The Beijing municipal government has already announced plans to improve the quality of the city’s air by covering 100,000 sq m of roofs with greenery by the end of this year. “Plants and water have been proven to be one of the most effective measures to degrade and dilute PM2.5,” says Tan Tianying, president of Beijing Green Roof Association, referring to fine particulate matter with a diameter of 2.5 micrometers or less that are small enough to enter the smallest airways.

“If the city can make better use of building facades and rooftops for greening the environment, or add to the vertical landscape, carbon dioxide can also be greatly reduced.”

Greening rooftops in cities, or maintaining “living roofs”, includes partially or completely covering them with vegetation planted over a waterproofing membrane. Similarly, the vertical landscape, designed to be modular, involves cultivating a garden that grows on walls.

Both methods can filter pollutants and carbon dioxide from the air. This can help people suffering from related afflictions such as asthma.

There are nearly 140 million sq m of bare roofs and walls that are not used for vertical landscaping in Beijing, Tan says.

The exposed spaces not only mar the beauty of the city, but also can add to an unhealthy environment.

“Vertical landscaping and green rooftops hold great potential in urban areas,” Tan says. “They benefit more than just their owners.”

If each person in Beijing grows just 1 sq m of green area, he says, the capital will be guaranteed with another 20 million sq m of greenery, equivalent to the park area of “dozens of Summer Palaces”.

Rooftop plants can also alleviate the urban “heat island effect”, Tan says. A layer of plants and earth can cut the rate of heat absorption through the roof in summer by 84 percent, he says. The greenery becomes a great way to stay cool.

Beijing also started to convert 13,000 hectares of land along its 6th Ring Road into forest this month. The green moves are part of a major development program under the capital’s 12th Five-Year Plan (2011-15), which has set a target of afforesting 67,000 hectares of land.

Wang Xianmin, secretary-general of the World Green Roof Association, says that 13,000 hectares of trees can absorb 1.5 million tons of carbon dioxide and release 1.09 million tons of oxygen every year.

“The recently announced afforestation and roof greening projects are some of the greatest moves I have seen in 60 years since I’ve been living in Beijing,” he says.

“Rooftop greening is one of the most effective ways to reduce the concentration of PM2.5.”

Wang offers Canada’s rooftop greening efforts as an example for Beijing.

Canada is a heavily forested country, with a total forest coverage of 44 percent, but it still promotes rooftop greening and vertical landscaping in its cities’ downtown areas.

Only 3 to 5 percent of negative ions of oxygen – which are beneficial to humans – can reach the downtown areas from forest regions near cities like Toronto, Wang says.

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JAKARTA, Oct 19 (Bernama) — Indonesia is ready to have talks with Malaysia on bilateral trade in timber amid increased allegations that the neigbouring state had been receiving Indonesian timber from illegal logging, Antara news agency cited Forestry Minister Zulkifli Hasan as saying.

“I have met with the Malaysian authorities and they said `zero tolerance’ to timbers from illegal logging and smuggling. Hopefully, we will sign a memorandum of understanding with them (on the issue),” said Minister Hasan.

He added that illegal logging had caused Indonesia huge financial losses as well as deforestation.

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East London life will be celebrated and enhanced in the run up to the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games after Queen Mary, University of London successfully secured two funding awards.

Senior Drama Lecturer Ali Campbell was awarded £18,000, while Mile End Films received £5,000 from the High Street 2012 Heritage Culture and Community grants programme.

The grants will be used for local projects benefiting the high street route from Aldgate to the Olympic Park at Stratford.

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On Tuesday night, Peru’s Congress unanimously approved a ‘historic’ new law that guarantees indigenous people’s right to free, prior and informed consent to any projects affecting them and their lands.

President Ollanta Humala says he supports consultation, and now has 15 days to sign the bill into law. It is a significant step away from the policies of former Peruvian President Alan Garcia, who vetoed a similar bill.

The ‘Prior Consultation Law’ complies with commitments set out in ILO Convention 169, the only international law designed to protect tribal people’s rights.

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