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Sep 2, 2015

Odd ancient lizard-like reptile called earliest-known turtle

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – It was a creature that one scientist said resembled “a strange, gluttonous lizard that swallowed a small Frisbee.”

But a sophisticated skull analysis showed that this reptile called Eunotosaurus africanus that lived in southern Africa 260 million years ago is actually the earliest-known turtle, even though it had no shell, researchers said on Wednesday.

Sep 2, 2015

Earth has 3 trillion trees but they’re falling at alarming rate

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Earth is home to just over 3 trillion trees – the redwoods of California, the olive trees of Tunisia, the cherry trees of Japan, the eucalyptus of Australia and so many more – but they are being lost at an alarming rate because of human activities.

Those are the findings of researchers who on Wednesday unveiled the most comprehensive assessment of global tree populations ever conducted, using data including satellite imagery and ground-based tree density estimates from more than 400,000 locations worldwide.

Sep 1, 2015

King of clubs: intriguing tale of the ‘tank’ dinosaur’s tail

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – One of the most impressive weapons to appear during the dinosaur arms race of the Cretaceous Period was the big bony tail club wielded by some members of a group of tank-like plant-eaters.

A new study provides a step-by-step account of the evolution of this distinctive feature possessed by the heavily armored dinosaur Ankylosaurus and its cousins, a bludgeon that may have given even the ferocious Tyrannosaurus rex reason to worry.

Sep 1, 2015

Primordial sea beast resembled ancient Greek warship

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – One of the earliest big predators to prowl Earth’s primordial waters was a sea scorpion nearly 6 feet (1.7 meters) long whose body looked a bit like an ancient Greek warship.

Scientists on Tuesday announced the discovery in northeastern Iowa of fossils of a large, active hunter called Pentecopterus decorahensis that lived 467 million years ago during the Ordovician Period.

Aug 15, 2015

Despite White House lobbying, Senator Flake opposes Iran nuclear deal

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Senator Jeff Flake announced his opposition on Saturday to the nuclear deal with Iran despite White House lobbying to try to convince the Arizona Republican to break from others in his party and back the accord when U.S. lawmakers vote on it.

The agreement that Iran reached with the United States and other world powers on July 14 “does contain benefits in terms of limiting Iran’s ability to produce sufficient fissile material for a nuclear weapon for a period of time, particularly at its known nuclear facilities,” Flake said in a statement.

Aug 13, 2015

Scientists use bioengineered yeast instead of poppies to make opioids

WASHINGTON, Aug 13 (Reuters) – Scientists have invented a
speedy method to make potent painkilling opioids using
bioengineered baker’s yeast instead of poppies, but need to
fine-tune the process to make it commercially viable, according
to a study published on Thursday.

The new method, if it can be made more efficient, could
significantly change the multibillion-dollar pain medication
manufacturing business, but raises concerns about aggravating
the growing problem of opioid abuse.

Aug 12, 2015

Armed and dangerous: octopus genetic secrets unveiled

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Scientists have unlocked the genetic secrets of one of Earth’s underwater wonders – the octopus – whose eight sucker-studded arms bestow an otherworldly appearance and large brain place it among the smartest invertebrates.

Researchers on Wednesday unveiled the first complete genome of an octopus or any species of cephalopod, the class of mollusks also including squid, cuttlefish and nautiluses.

Jul 30, 2015

Earth’s ‘magnetic personality’ much older than previously thought

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Earth’s magnetic field has been a life preserver, protecting against relentless solar winds, streams of charged particles rushing from the Sun, that otherwise could strip away the planet’s atmosphere and water.

“It would be a pretty barren planet without it,” said University of Rochester geophysicist John Tarduno.

Jul 30, 2015

When is a jackal not a jackal? When it’s really a ‘golden wolf’

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – They look alike, act alike and long have been considered to be the same species. But, in the case of the golden jackals found across parts of Africa, the Middle East, Asia and Europe, it turns out that appearances can be deceiving.

Scientists said on Thursday a comprehensive genetic analysis found that these populations are made up of two entirely distinct species, with those in Africa different from the others.

Jul 29, 2015

Democratic congressman charged in political corruption case

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Democratic U.S. Congressman Chaka Fattah of Pennsylvania and four associates were charged on Wednesday in a political corruption case with bribery and misusing hundreds of thousands of dollars of federal, charitable and campaign funds.

Fattah, 58, who has represented Philadelphia in the U.S. House of Representatives for two decades and is one of the senior black lawmakers in Congress, and the others were indicted by a federal grand jury on 29 counts in an alleged racketeering conspiracy, the U.S. Department of Justice said.