First News
Volume:7, Number:47
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LIVING ETCETERA
THIS WEEK

Arctic Stronghold of World’s Seeds Flooded After Permafrost Melts

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It was designed as an impregnable deep-freeze to protect the world’s most precious seeds from any global disaster and ensure humanity’s food supply forever. But the Global Seed Vault, buried in a mountain deep inside the Arctic circle, has been breached after global warming produced extraordinary temperatures over the winter, sending meltwater gushing into the entrance tunnel. The vault is on the Norwegian island of Spitsbergen and contains almost a million packets of seeds, each a variety of an important food crop. When it was opened in 2008, the deep permafrost through which the vault was sunk was expected to provide “failsafe” protection against “the challenge of natural or man-made disasters”.

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Tuscan Archives Yield Up Secrets of Leonardo’s Mystery Mother

Art historians have struggled to find information about the woman whose illegitimate son became the artistic genius who painted Mona Lisa. With only a possible first name Caterina, there has been speculation that she was a peasant or even a slave from North Africa. Now, almost six centuries later, professor Martin Kemp, emeritus professor of art history at Oxford University, has claimed that Leonardo’s mother was Caterina di Meo Lippi, a poor and vulnerable orphan, and only 15 when she was seduced by a lawyer. She had been living with her grandmother in a decrepit farmhouse, about a mile from Vinci in the Tuscan hills. Caterina had an infant stepbrother, Papo, and her grandmother died shortly before 1451, leaving them with no assets or support, apart from an uncle with a “half-ruined” house and cattle.

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'Greatest Show on Earth' Takes Its Final Bow After 146 Years

The clowns, animal acts, and acrobats of the storied Ringling Bros and Barnum & Bailey Circus took their final bow at an arena outside New York on May 21, with a space themed balancing act kicking off the farewell performance of the "Greatest Show on Earth" after nearly 150 years. Capping a legacy that stretches back to 19th century showman PT Barnum, the circus bade adieu at a series of shows this weekend at the newly refurbished Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale on New York's Long Island. Kenneth Feld, chairman and chief executive of parent Feld Entertainment Inc., said over 250 million people had seen Ringling's shows. About 250 Asian elephants are in captivity in the United States, 26 of which were born in the past 20 years at Ringling facilities.

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Mountaineers Say a Part of Mount Everest Has Collapsed

Mountaineers have confirmed that a famous rocky outcrop near the peak of Mount Everest has collapsed, potentially making the climb more dangerous. The Hillary Step, named after Sir Edmund Hillary who, along with the sherpa Tenzing Norgay, was the first person to climb the mountain in 1953, may have been destroyed during the 2015 Nepal earthquake. The 12-meterhigh rocky outcrop was a nearly vertical climb on the southeast ridge of the mountain. There had been rumors from climbers on earlier expeditions that the step had been destroyed, but snowy conditions made it difficult earlier to confirm.

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World’s Rarest Marine Mammal May Go Extinct in a Year

The world’s most endangered marine mammal - known as the ‘panda of the sea’ - may go extinct by 2018 if no action is taken to save them, warns a new report which estimates that fewer than 30 individuals may be alive today. The mammal, named vaquita porpoise, is endemic to the Upper Gulf of California. Unsustainable fishing practices and illegal wildlife trade driven by demand for the swim bladder of a critically endangered fish also endemic to the region, the totoaba, have caused the vaquita population to plummet in recent years. Wildlife Conservation at World Wildlife Fund has recommended an immediate, permanent ban on gillnets and remove and destroy ghost nets, to prevent the vaquita and other marine species from being caught.

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