Florida scientists induce spawning of Atlantic coral in lab for first time

Robie de Guzman   •   August 23, 2019   •   1819

(Courtesy: Florida Aquarium)

Scientists in Florida have artificially induced reproductive spawning of an endangered Atlantic coral species for the first time in an aquarium setting, a breakthrough they say holds great promise in efforts to restore depleted reefs in the wild.

The achievement, announced this week at the Florida Aquarium in Apollo Beach near Tampa, borrowed from lab techniques developed at the London-based Horniman Museum and Gardens and used previously to induce spawning of 18 species of Pacific coral, officials said.

Scientists plan to use their newly acquired expertise to breed new coral colonies that can one day repopulate the beleaguered Florida reef system, one of the largest in the world and one decimated by climate change, pollution and disease in recent decades.

The newly cultivated corals should make for even stronger populations than existing colonies because each individual will be bred with characteristics that may be better able to withstand damage, Keri O’Neil, senior coral scientist at the Florida Aquarium told Reuters.

Inducing corals to release their eggs and sperm in aquarium tanks involves controlling their artificial settings to mimic their natural ocean habitat over the course of a yearlong reproduction cycle.

That means carefully regulating water temperature changes from summer to winter, and using special lighting to imitate sunrise, sunset and even lunar cycles that serve as biological cues for the coral in preparing to spawn.

Collaboration between the Florida and London facilities on the project began in 2017 as the situation facing Florida’s reefs grew more dire because of the spread of a new coral affliction dubbed Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease.

Atlantic pillar coral, which grows in colonies resembling finger- or column-like structures, has been particularly susceptible to the disease and is already classified as virtually extinct in the wild because remaining male and female colonies are too scattered to reproduce.

Corals are a type of marine invertebrate animal, typically living in colonies of tiny sac-like polyps that feed by filtering seawater through a set of tentacles surrounding a central mouth opening.

Corals are sensitive to major changes in water temperature, and the Florida Reef Tract, like other major reefs around the world, has been under pressure from climate change for years as the sea grows steadily warmer. (Reuters)

Iraqis defy tear gas, upcoming curfew as protests stretch on

Robie de Guzman   •   October 29, 2019

 Iraqi protesters react after police fired tear gas at them during a protest at al-Tahrir square, central Baghdad, Iraq, 28 October 2019. EPA-EFE/MURTAJA LATEEF

Thousands of people in Baghdad continued their protests at Tahrir Square in central Baghdad on Monday (October 28), defying a curfew scheduled to be imposed from midnight until 6am (2100GMT to 0300 GMT).

Protesters took to the streets for a fourth day, despite having endured bloody clashes over the weekend and an overnight raid by security forces seeking to disperse them.

At least 74 Iraqis were killed and hundreds wounded across the country on Friday (October 25) and Saturday (October 26) as demonstrators clashed with security forces and militia groups in the second wave of this month’s protests against Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi’s government.

More than 200 people have been killed in October so far.

Iraqi security forces on Monday fired tear gas at school and university students who defied a warning from the prime minister and joined anti-government protests.

A spokesman for Abdul Mahdi, whose position is increasingly precarious as he faces the largest challenge since he came to power a year ago, said on Sunday (October 27) that anyone disrupting work or school days would be severely punished.

Mass street protests in Baghdad and other cities in the southern Shi’te heartland against economic hardship began at the start of the month and resumed on Friday after a pause of about two weeks. (Reuters)

READ: DFA cautions Filipinos against travel to Iraq

(Production: Haider Kadhim, Mohammed Al-Ramahi, Mohammed Katfan, Hannah Ellison)

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US Military: No footage on Baghdadi’s death will be released

Robie de Guzman   •   October 29, 2019

US President Donald J. Trump answers a reporter’s question as he participates in a briefing with senior military leaders in the Cabinet Room of the White House in Washington, DC, USA, on 07 October 2019. At right is United States Army General Mark A. Milley, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. EPA-EFE/Ron Sachs

Islamic State (IS) leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s remains had been disposed of and there were no plans to share footage on his death, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley announced on Monday.

U.S. President Donald Trump said on Sunday that al-Baghdadi had been killed in a U.S. military operation in Syria.

Trump said earlier that part of the footage on the operation would be released, but military sources said that the footage might expose some confidential information about the U.S. military, adding that the footage should go through strict checks before it is published.

The Associated Press on Monday released footage taken by a witness when the U.S. military launched a raid in northwestern Syria — but the authenticity of the footage has not been verified.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov on Monday expressed “prudent welcome” to Baghdadi’s death, saying the U.S. has made a big contribution to fighting terrorism “if confirmed”.

The Russian Defense Ministry said on Sunday that it does not have reliable information about the U.S. operation in the Idlib de-escalation zone in Syria that allegedly killed IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Abbas Mousavi on Monday stressed that the extremist ideology and the support for it still exist in the Middle East, and the death of Baghdadi was a “creature” killed by the U.S.

On the same day, Iranian government Spokesman Ali Rabiee said al-Baghdadi’s death is the end of a symbol of “destructive terrorism,” and the U.S. should end its interventions in the Middle East. (Reuters)

Tokyo 2020 gymnastics, boccia venue unveiled

Robie de Guzman   •   October 29, 2019

The Tokyo Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (Tokyo 2020) on Tuesday (October 29) unveiled the new Ariake Gymnastics Centre, which will host Gymnastic and Boccia events during the Tokyo 2020 Games.

The 12,000-seat, 30-meter height venue, whose construction was completed on 25 October, has no pillar in the performance area.

The central element of the architecture is a 90-meter spanned, local larch wood roof that arches over the building’s core.

Timbers of Larch were all domestically sourced including from Hokkaido, Nagano and Miyazaki prefectures to name a few.

The venue, located in the Ariake district of the Japanese capital that will host many other Olympic events, will be also used as an exhibition center when the Games are over.

One of the Tokyo 2020 officials at a press viewing of the venue, Koichi Fukui, told reporters that wood materials would eventually be used as partitions at exhibitions and all the bench boards would be recycled into shoe shelves for schools.

The venue will host the 34th FIG Trampoline Gymnastics World Championships in November. (Reuters)

(Production: Akira Tomoshige, Yoko Kono)

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