Scientists have wondered what more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere will mean for food crops, and a new report answering that question has experts worried.
In a new study published in Nature, researchers shared findings from recent experiments on crops conducted around the world. NPR reports that scientists put carbon dioxide jets in open fields, releasing 500 parts per million of C02, the amount estimated to be in the air in 40 to 60 years (currently, carbon dioxide reaches roughly 400 parts per million). Researchers grew rice, wheat, and peas, and discovered that while crops grew faster and had yields increase by 10 percent, there was also a 5-10 percent reduction in nutrients like protein, zinc, and iron.
"If elevated CO2 or other climate change processes are working against us, we're going to have to work even harder to raise those levels," Michael Grusak, a researcher with the USDA's Children's Nutrition Research Center, told NPR. Scientists are not sure why this happens, but believe it could be that as plants produce more food, trace nutrients become diluted.
Zinc and iron deficiencies are already affecting two billion people around the world, with serious consequences: A lack of zinc prevents a child's immune system from working properly, and insufficient iron intake lowers the IQ of children, NPR says. As it is, many of the most popular crops in the world, particularly rice and corn, already don't have much iron or zinc; they are staples mainly because they are inexpensive. An international effort is now underway to create new varieties of crops through plant breeding, shooting for higher levels of these nutrients. --Catherine Garcia
A cargo train derailed and exploded in Hitrino, Bulgaria, early Saturday morning after train tanks carrying propane-butane and propylene hit an electricity line. So far, five people have died and 25 more are injured, with some suffering burns on up to 90 percent of their bodies. The death toll is expected to rise.
— Balkan Newsbeat (@BalkanNewsbeat) December 10, 2016
The accident also damaged or demolished about 20 buildings near the crash, and 150 firemen are working to find survivors at the scene. Bulgarian Prime Minister Boiko Borisov promptly traveled to the northeastern village and encouraged Bulgarians to give blood to help the victims. Bonnie Kristian
The Senate approved a short-term measure to fund the federal government until April 28 with a Friday evening vote that avoided a shutdown deadline by less than an hour. The bill passed 63-36 after Senate Democrats from coal-heavy states dropped an objection pertaining to health care for retired miners.
President Obama signed the funding measure early Saturday morning, completing the Senate's major business for 2016. Also early on Saturday, the Senate passed a water bill providing $170 million in aid to Flint, Michigan, which has suffered seriously contaminated tap water for nearly two years.
The close of this year's legislative season marks the end of Sen. Mitch McConnell's first term as Senate majority leader, which McConnell (R-Ky.) referenced before the funding vote. "This Congress, the Senate has passed nearly 300 bills, and nearly 200 of those are now law," he said. "But what really matters isn't the number of bills passed. It's what we can achieve on behalf of the American people. And by that standard, I'm incredibly proud of what we've been able to accomplish for our country." Bonnie Kristian
The Trump transition team forcibly repudiated reports late Friday evening that the CIA has concluded with "high confidence" Russia interfered with the U.S. election to help President-elect Donald Trump win.
"These are the same people that said Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction," the Trump camp said in an unsigned statement slamming the CIA. "The election ended a long time ago in one of the biggest Electoral College victories in history. It's now time to move on and 'Make America Great Again.'"
Trump himself likewise rejected suggestions of Russian manipulation earlier this week in his "Person of the Year" interview with Time. "I don't believe it. I don't believe they interfered," he said, postulating that intelligence agents who say otherwise are politically motivated. Bonnie Kristian
The CIA has concluded with "high confidence" that Russia interfered in the American presidential election not only to promote public distrust of U.S. institutions, as was originally suspected this fall, but to sway the outcome in favor of President-elect Donald Trump, a senior intelligence official said in a Washington Post report published late Friday evening.
"It is the assessment of the intelligence community that Russia's goal here was to favor one candidate over the other, to help Trump get elected," the official said, referring to a secret CIA assessment shared with congressional leaders in a closed-door briefing last week. The CIA also believes Moscow hacked the Republican Party, much as it did the Democratic Party, but did not leak the information it obtained from the GOP. However, the agency did not say it believes Russian efforts successfully altered electoral outcomes.
Earlier on Friday, President Obama ordered a "full review" of reports of hacking during the presidential election to be completed before Trump's inauguration on Jan. 20, 2017. The White House did not specify whether the results of that review would be made public. Bonnie Kristian
About 75 percent of companies plan to give their workers year-end bonuses this year, up from 67 percent last year, according to a survey of 500 HR executives at firms of various sizes. The average bonus is expected to be 25 percent larger than last year's offerings — about $1,081, up from $858 in 2015. The quarter of firms who said they aren't giving out holiday bonuses "had financial performance issues or were concerned about the U.S. economic outlook," The Wall Street Journal reports, but about half of that group still said they hope to give out other morale-boosting gifts like extra paid time off.
After two years without a new Taylor Swift single, the drought is finally over. The pop star surprised fans late Thursday night by releasing a single with former One Direction member Zayn Malik. Swift shared the news with her fans in this cryptic post:
— Taylor Swift (@taylorswift13) December 9, 2016
The collaboration marked Swift's first new release since her Grammy-winning album 1989 dropped in the fall of 2014. Swift and Malik's song, "I Don't Wanna Live Forever," will be featured in the movie Fifty Shades Darker, the second installment in the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy. The film is due out early next year.
BBC described the song as a "yearning, sultry ballad" that "finds the couple pulling at the unraveling threads of a relationship." After it popped up on the U.S. iTunes store shortly before 12 a.m. ET Friday, the tune soared to the top of the charts within an hour. It is available on iTunes and Apple Music. Becca Stanek
This year, Amazon is adding 120,000 temporary workers at its U.S. warehouses for the holiday season, expanding its workforce by about 40 percent. The e-tail giant is also dramatically speeding up its orientation process, The Wall Street Journal reports. While conventional warehouse jobs usually require up to six weeks of training, the company has been using technology such as touchscreens, robots, and scanners to get new hires up to speed in as little as two days. While Amazon's newest warehouses are extremely automated and filled to the brim with robots that do much of the heavy lifting, "the greater efficiency allows them to process even more orders, a task that still requires humans."
A shorter training period saves Amazon a lot of money and could potentially allow the company to pay employees more during these hectic winter months — a crucial lure Amazon needs as it competes with rivals like Walmart and package delivery services like UPS who are also looking for seasonal help. Amazon's holiday temps typically make more than minimum wage. Kelly Gonsalves