Author: CTV

Fossil of world’s earliest fungus unearthed in Canadian Arctic

Scientists have unearthed fossilized fungi dating back up to one billion years, in a discovery that could reshape our understanding of how life on land evolved, research showed Wednesday.

For decades, the earliest known fungi — organisms such as mushrooms, mould and yeast — was thought to have appeared on earth around half a billion years ago.

But recent fossil specimens unearthed in Canada and analysed using the latest dating technology appear to push back fungi's arrival to the earliest reaches of life on land.

Corentin Loron, a PhD student from the University of Liege, Belgium, and colleagues examined the microfossils to determine the chemical composition of their cells.

They found the presence of chitin — a fibrous substance that forms on fungal cell walls — and examined the age of the rock the fossils were found in by its ratio of radioactive elements.

They concluded the microfossils were between 900 million and one billion years old.

Loron said the finding wa..

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Panasonic joins firms stepping away from Huawei after U.S. ban

Japan's Panasonic on Thursday said it would stop supplying some components to Huawei, joining a growing list of firms distancing themselves from the Chinese telecoms giant after a U.S. ban over security concerns.

The announcement came a day after four major Japanese and British mobile carriers said they would delay releasing new Huawei handsets.

“We've stopped all business transactions with Huawei and its 68 group companies… that are subject to the U.S. government ban,” Panasonic spokesman Joe Flynn told AFP.

“Yesterday an internal instruction to fully enforce that rule was issued,” he added.

Flynn said Panasonic's business with Huawei includes the supply of “electronic parts,” but declined to provide further details.

Washington's restrictions affect products made fully or partially in the United States, where Panasonic manufactures some of the components it supplies to Huawei, the Japanese firm said.

A Panasonic official declined to comment on what bu..

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Is Siri sexist? UN cautions against biased voice assistants

NEW YORK — Are the female voices behind Apple's Siri and Amazon's Alexa amplifying gender bias around the world?

The United Nations thinks so.

A report released Wednesday by the UN's culture and science organization raises concerns about what it describes as the “hardwired subservience” built into default female-voiced assistants operated by Apple, Amazon, Google and Microsoft.

The report is called “I'd Blush If I Could.” It's a reference to an answer Apple's Siri gives after hearing sexist insults from users. It says it's a problem that millions of people are getting accustomed to commanding female-voiced assistants that are “servile, obedient and unfailingly polite,” even when confronted with harassment from humans.

The agency recommends tech companies stop making digital assistants female by default and program them to discourage gender-based insults and abusive language.

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Last slave ship from Africa ID’d on Alabama coast: officials

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Researchers working in the murky waters of the northern Gulf Coast have located the wreck of the last ship known to bring enslaved people from Africa to the United States, historical officials said Wednesday.

Remains of the Gulf schooner Clotilda were identified and verified near Mobile after months of assessment, a statement by the Alabama Historical Commission said.

The wooden vessel was scuttled the year before the Civil War to hide evidence of its illegal trip and hasn't been seen since.

“The discovery of the Clotilda is an extraordinary archaeological find,” said Lisa Demetropoulos Jones, executive director of the commission. She said the ship's journey “represented one of the darkest eras of modern history,” and the wreck provides “tangible evidence of slavery.”

In 1860, the wooden ship illegally transported 110 people from what is now the west African nation of Benin to Mobile, Alabama. The Clotilda was then taken into delta waters north of ..

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U.K. government moves to ban plastic straws, other single-use plastic in England

U.K. Secretary of the Environment Michael Gove confirmed a ban on single use plastic such as straws, drink stir sticks and cotton ear buds today that will come into effect in England in April 2020.

Only plastic drink stir sticks will be totally banned –a government report estimates 316 million are used a year in England.

In a statement published today, the U.K. government said it recognizes that “there are instances where using plastic straws is necessary for medical reasons” and therefore will make sure some are available to those who need them.

Shops including grocery stores will no longer be allowed to sell plastic straws, but they will be available to purchase from registered pharmacies and online.

It is estimated that England uses 4.7 billion plastic straws annually.

Cotton ear buds with plastic stems will be available for use in laboratories and by forensic scientists but will be restricted from general sale to the public.

An estimated 10 per cent of plastic-stemmed c..

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