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TORONTO — In its 35-year history, Air Canada Vacations has never had a year like 2016. The tour operator has accomplished the most growth this year than ever before, with new routes, increased frequencies and capacity and more exclusive properties driving its expansion.

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I’ve been doing a lot of thinking these days about what corner of the world I might want to move to should the unthinkable happen this coming Election Day. My wife and I have given some thought to Greenland. I, however, have had an allergic reaction to whale blubber since childhood. We considered Mongolia before I realized that yak milk is pink and I made a devout promise to myself years ago to never drink anything the color of baby clothes. New Zealand was on our radar for a bit, but since being traumatized by a Haka dance as a child it would be all I could do to not bite the head off an emu.

So, in our never-ending search to find a Trump-free utopia, we find ourselves this week in San Miguel Allende, Mexico. This is a city unique in many ways. To begin with it’s in the mountains, so while the beach towns of Puerto Vallarta and Acapulco hover somewhere around the “broil” mark temperature-wise, San Miguel is at 6,000 feet altitude, where the days are warm and the nights require a comforter or at the very least, a large dog.

The other unique thing about this quaint Mexican artist’s town is that ex-pat Americans seem to outnumber the Mexican population about dos to uno. This in itself is enough for us to reconsider Greenland.

Tonight, we look forward to experiencing a true Mexican tradition. Hamburger Night at a restaurant called — are you ready? — The Restaurant. It’s OK. When I was a kid there was a highly successful commercial campaign, which touted Tuesday as Red’s Tamale Night. Well, it was big in our house. Red has long since left the building. Rumor has it he’s pushing hamburgers Thursday nights at The Restaurant in San Miguel Allende. Hopefully they’re better than his tamales.

It’s easy to spot the ex-pats in this town. They’re the ones wearing the serapes and Indian jewelry and speaking a form of Spanish wherein if the word can’t be properly pronounced, say it louder. The locals speak perfect English.

The fact is, this place was on Conde Nast’s top 10 list of where in the entire world to visit. And with good reason. It’s a place you don’t just happen by. It’s an hour and a half from the closest airport and as a result it doesn’t have the frenetic pace and hysteric energy of its coastal cousins. There aren’t a dozen guys who look like they’ve just come from the Running of the Bulls accosting you to invest in time-shares as you leave the airport.

The locals here are sincerely proud of their city and I don’t think we’ve been asked to buy a single wicker tote by a street peddler or been touted on a “great” taco place just up the street.

The taxi drivers are polite and helpful, the merchants are welcoming without being overbearing, the bartenders and waiters are efficient and friendly, and you get a heck of a lot of bang for your pesos.

As my mother used to say, “What’s not to like?”

Our search for desirable living should the ridiculous happen this November has been narrowed. We’re down to staying put in Sausalito or crossing the border before the wall’s built and settling in San Miguel Allende. Two things can sway our decision: the election — and Hamburger Night.

100Barry Tompkins is a longtime sports broadcaster who lives in Marin. Reach the author at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Bay Area sportscaster Barry Tompkins, seen on Monday, Aug. 22, 2011, in Fairfax, Calif., began his career in San Francisco in 1965 and has worked for HBO and Fox Sports Net. He is known for his work as a boxing commentator, but has covered football and other sports. He lives nearby in Ross. IJ photo/Frankie Frost

 

 

 

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Construction on the Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical Telescope, or FAST, began in 2011. Workers installed the last of 4,450 panels on Sunday and operations are scheduled to begin in September.

The Chinese government has finished building the world’s largest radio telescope — a $180 million monster that will be used in the search for extraterrestrial life.

The last of the 4,450 panels that make up the telescope’s reflector, which is some 30 football fields in size, was hoisted into position Sunday morning, according to a press release from the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

The Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical Telescope, or FAST, is located in the country’s southwestern province of Guizhou. Its completion comes just months after authorities announced plans to relocate 9,110 people from their homes to make way for the giant.

“As the world’s largest single aperture telescope located at an extremely radio-quiet site, its scientific impact on astronomy will be extraordinary, and it will certainly revolutionize other areas of the natural sciences,” Nan Rendong, the project’s chief scientist, told China’s state-owned Xinhua News Agency.

Unlike optical telescopes, which gather and focus light, radio telescopes detect radio frequencies, including those from pulsars, or rotating neutron stars, and active galaxies. With a diameter of about 1,640 feet, FAST dwarfs Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico, the previous record holder with a diameter of about 1,000 feet.

Tim O’Brien, a professor of astrophysics at the University of Manchester in the United Kingdom, told New Scientist that the telescope’s size is key to its potential impact on scientific exploration.

FAST will allow astronomers to “survey hydrogen in very distant galaxies, detect molecules in space, search for natural radio wave emissions from planets orbiting other stars and help in the search for radio signals” from alien civilizations, O’Brien told the publication.

Construction work on FAST began in 2011, and operations are expected to start in September.

“FAST’s potential to discover an alien civilization will be 5 to 10 times that of current equipment, as it can see farther and darker planets,” Peng Bo, of the National Astronomical Observation, told Xinhua.

If E.T. phones home, FAST will be listening.

Workers lift the last panel to install into the center of a Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical Telescope (FAST) on July 3.

 

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GetImage1

#11 Seed Piotr Kantor/Bartosz Losiak of Poland start off the night session with a Pool B match against #14 seed Markus Bockermann/Lars Fluggen of Germany in the Olympic debut for all four players.

Head to Head

The two teams have split their four meetings on the FIVB World Tour with Bockermann/Fluggen winning the first two meetings and Kantor/Losiak claiming victory in the last two. The Germans were forced to forfeit their only meeting in 2016 in the Bronze Medal Match at the Qatar Open in April. The other three meeting have all been in the round of 16 and have all needed a third set with Kantor/Losiak winning 18-21, 28-26, and 15-10 in one hour in Antalya in October, 2015 and Bockermann/Fluggen claiming the other two, 21-15, 20-22, and 15-10 in 57 minutes in Puerto Vallarta in October, 2015 and 23-25, 21-16, and 15-12 in Rio in September, 2015.

Historically the #11 seed has won three of the four meetings in the Olympic Games, including the last three. Two of the three wins were in straight sets with Cuba's Juan Rossell/Francisco Alvarez pushing Germany's Christoph Dieckmann/Andreas Scheuerpflug to the tie-breaking set in Athens, 21-19, 19-21, and 15-10 in 64 minutes. In Sydney, Russia's Sergey Ermishin/Mikhail Kouchnerev upset Argentina's Mariano Baracetti/Jose Salema, 15-4 in 30 minutes.

Piotr Kantor/Bartosz Losiak, Poland, Seed #11, Pool B, Qualified 11th with 5,180 Points in the 2015-16 Olympic qualification period
• Piotr: May 3, 1992 (24y3m3d), 200 cm (6'7"), 90 kg (200 lbs.), Hometown Sosnowiec, 56th FIVB World Tour event, one gold medal, $182,775 career winnings
• Bartosz: May 14, 1992 (24y2m23d), 190 cm (6'3"), 86 kg (191 lbs.), Hometown Jastrzebie Zdroj, 57th FIVB World Tour event, one gold medal, $194,775 career winnings
• Piotr and Bartosz have been playing together since 2009. They are playing in their 56th FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour tournament together (ranks 48th), one gold medal, $365,550 career winnings (ranks 51st).
• Piotr has played in six FIVB World Tour final fours with one gold, one silver, and four bronze medals.
• Bartosz has played in seven FIVB World Tour final fours with one gold, one silver, four bronze medals and one 4th place finish.
• Piotr and Bartosz have played in five Final Fours in 2015-2016 (Silver Stavanger Major 2015, Bronze Kish Island Open 2016, Gold Rio de Janeiro Grand Slam 2016, Bronze Doha Open 2016, Bronze Moscow Grand Slam 2016).
• Piotr and Bartosz finished 17th in the FIVB World Championships in 2013 (Stare Jablonki).
• Piotr and Bartosz are currently ranked 4th in FIVB World Tour points in 2016 with 4,760 points and 6th in winnings with $139,750.
• Piotr and Losiak have a career 124-95 (56.6%) match record in FIVB World Tour Events and a 83-48 (63.4%) record in the 2015-16 Olympic qualification period.
• Piotr and Bartosz won the gold medal at the U19 World Championships in 2010 (Porto, Portugal).
• Piotr and Bartosz won the silver medal at the U21 World Championships in 2011 (Halifax, Canada) and the gold medal in 2012 (Halifax, Canada).
• Piotr and Bartosz won the gold medal at the U23 World Championships in 2013 (Myslowice, Poland).

Markus Bockermann/Lars Fluggen, Germany, Seed #14, Pool B, Qualified 15th with 4,850 Points in the 2015-16 Olympic qualification period
• Markus: January 14, 1986 (30y6m23d), 198 cm (6'6"), 95 kg (211 lbs.), Hometown Hamburg, 68th FIVB World Tour event, two gold medals, $147,800 career winnings
• Lars: May 24, 1990 (26y2m13d), 192 cm (6'4"), 80 kg (178 lbs.), Hometown Berlin, 36th FIVB World Tour event, two gold medals, $113,475 career winnings
• Markus and Lars have been playing together since 2015. They are playing in their 24th FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour tournament together, two gold medals, $151,750 career winnings.
• Markus has played in seven FIVB World Tour final fours with two gold, three silver medals and two 4th place finishes.
• Lars has played in eight FIVB World Tour final fours with two gold, four silver medals and two 4th place finishes.
• Markus and Lars have played in seven Final Fours in 2015-2016 (Gold Fuzhou Open 2015, Silver Rio de Janeiro Open 2015, Silver Xiamen Open 2015, 4th Puerto Vallarta Open 2015-16, Gold Doha Open 2015-16, 4th Doha Open 2016, Silver Antalya Open 2016).
• Markus finished 9th in the FIVB World Championships with Mischa Urbatzka in 2013 (Stare Jablonki).
• Markus and Lars are currently ranked 13th in FIVB World Tour points in 2016 with 3,930 points and 19th in winnings with $81,750.
• Markus and Lars have a career 78-46 (62.9%) match record in FIVB World Tour Events, all in the 2015-16 Olympic qualification period.
• Markus won the silver medal at the European (CEV) Baden Masters with Mischa Urbatzka in 2013 (Baden, Austria).
• Lars won the silver medal at the CEV Novi Sad Masters with Alexander Walkenhorst in 2013 (Novi Sad, Serbia).
• Lars had knee surgery in April forcing him to miss several FIVB World Tour events

 

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A decade ago, there was a conspiracy theory going round the internet, about a secret superhighway that was going to be built from Mexico to Canada. Now it is finally happening; At the recent meeting of Prime Minister Trudeau, President Obama and President Enrique Pena Nieto they agreed to build a highway – for butterflies. Is this the thin edge of the wedge?

Ron Paul described the highway a decade ago:

This superhighway would connect Mexico, the United States, and Canada, cutting a wide swath through the middle of Texas and up through Kansas City. Proponents envision a ten-lane colossus the width of several football fields, with freight and rail lines, fiber-optic cable lines, and oil and natural gas pipelines running alongside.
Paul thought the highway was the thin edge of a bigger wedge of full integration of the three countries. What they are building is an even thinner wedge; President Obama calls it a “wildlife corridor.” According to an earlier report in The Verge,

 

A wildlife corridor is a habitat that connects populations cut off by human activities. The White House plans to allow the Department of Transportation and the Fish and Wildlife Service to rehabilitate the land and vegetation along the highway, allocating resources to educate "target audiences" about conservation efforts, while also working with the Mexican and Canadian governments on broader strategies that cross borders.

 

There has been significant progress already, according to Mexico's President Enrique Peña Nieto. The transcript:

 

I would like to use an example to describe our level of integration. The preservation of the monarch butterfly conservation — this is a species that, in its pilgrimage, we can see how our countries are intertwined.

And back in our last summit, we agreed that we would take care of this species and make sure that in its journey, the monarch butterfly from Canada, flying through the United States all the way down to Mexico, and the figures speak for itself. In the year 2014, in our country, the area where butterflies reach — that eventually reached only covered less than one hectare, .6 hectares.

Due to the efforts made by our trilateral task force created for that purpose last year, this year, the surface in my country now extends to 4.1 hectares and we are in route that by 2018, this figure would grow to six hectares and eventually, that would be our goal for the monarch butterfly reserve in — in Mexico. And by that, we will be making sure the migration of this species is the symbol of the relationship that Canada, the United States and Mexico has.

Obama liked this comment, responding:

 

By the way, Enrique, I love the story about monarch butterflies. They're not just any species — they are spectacular and we want to make sure that our children, our grandchildren can see them as well. — Obama on the trio's plan to take steps to further protect Monarch butterfly habitats.

 

This is all wonderful news for the butterflies. But is it also the thin edge of the Agenda 21 wedge – a highway, re-wilding of the countryside, re-education, statements like “our countries are intertwined.” Just thinking....

 

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Surfing and skateboarding are among sports that will debut in Tokyo.

After two years of vetting extreme sports for the Olympics, the International Olympic Committee on Wednesday formally approved the inclusion of surfing, skateboarding, karate, rock climbing, baseball and softball for the 2020 summer games in Tokyo.

The new sports, according to a press release, were chosen in hopes of attracting a younger crowd.

“We want to take sport to the youth,” Thomas Bach, IOC president, said in the release. “With the many options that young people have, we cannot expect any more that they will come automatically to us. We have to go to them.”

It makes sense, then, that some of the world’s most notoriously “cool” sports ― surfing and skateboarding, in particular ― made the cut.

But some athletes have mixed feelings about their sport entering one of the world’s most visible arenas.

Surfing, perhaps one of the most difficult sports to assimilate into the Olympics, because it relies on unpredictable ocean conditions and will take place at a beach (not an artificial wave pool) during the Tokyo games. It will only include shortboard surfing, Surfer Magazine reports.

”It definitely puts surfing on another level,” said three-time women’s world champion of surfing Carissa Moore.

“Winning a gold medal in the Olympics is the epitome of sports, as I see it,” Moore told The Huffington Post. “I’m just really excited that more of the world will get to share in such a cool sport that I love.”

Jamie Owens, the editor-in-chief of Transworld Skateboarding Magazine, wasn’t as thrilled to see skateboarding on the Olympic list.

“It’s not a big deal to us at the mag,” Owens told GrindTV. “They need skateboarding more than we need them. They just want to make money off of something we love and live for.”

Although most of the new sports are making their Olympic debut (baseball was included in previous Olympic games), this announcement only secures their spot in the Tokyo games and does not guarantee inclusion in future games.

We’ll just have to wait four years to see how these extreme sports hold up in the world of Olympians.

 

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Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.- There’s a big geopolitical imbalance in the new clean energy agreement reached this week by the presidents of the United States, Canada, and Mexico. Although Canada already far exceeds the trilateral pledge to generate half of North America’s electricity from non–carbon-based sources by 2025 and the United States has a clear path forward, Mexico faces major hurdles. Experts say that new laws will improve its chances of holding up its end of the agreement. But the Mexican government also needs to tighten enforcement of those laws and resolve conflicts over building renewable energy projects on indigenous land.

The three countries signing the new agreement now generate 37% of their electricity from clean power sources, with Canada at 75% thanks to abundant hydropower and the United States at 33%, more than half of which comes from nuclear power plants. (The United States also consumes more than 80% of the total amount of electricity used by the continent’s 500 million residents.)

Mexico trails the pack with only 22% of its electricity from non–fossil fuels, and the two reactors at its only nuclear power plant generate just 4% of the country’s electricity. Although the government is planning to build several new nuclear plants, most of the immediate action will likely be focused on renewables like solar and wind, experts say.

“It’s good to have such an ambitious goal,” says Juan Bezaury-Creel in Mexico City, an expert on Mexican policy at The Nature Conservancy. “I think it’s doable.”

Mexico had already pledged that 35% of its electricity would come from clean sources by 2024, as part of a climate change law passed in 2012. And the new continent-wide commitment comes shortly after the Mexican government completed a controversial energy reform that opened up the nationalized oil industry to foreign investments. The reform will make regulating the energy sector more complex. “You used to have two actors, Pemex [the state oil company] and the Federal Electricity Commission [CFE]. Now, you’re going to have a multitude of actors,” Bezaury-Creel says. “Enforcement is going to have to be upgraded.”

Some of those new actors are likely to be smaller, decentralized renewable energy providers that will provide some welcome competition for CFE, says Marcela López-Vallejo, a political scientist at the Center for Economic Research and Teaching, an economics research center in Mexico City. Last December Congress required that companies in Mexico obtain a minimum threshold of their energy from clean sources (the exact amount hasn’t yet been defined). In order to exceed its allotment of fossil fuel energy, a company has to buy “clean energy certificates” from the government, which will invest that money in developing additional clean energy projects. In practice, it’s similar to a carbon cap-and-trade system, López-Vallejo says. “With this law at least we have the legal framework and the incentives in place to [meet clean energy goals].”

Gustavo Alanís-Ortega, president of the Mexican Center for Environmental Rights in Mexico City, supports the new law but worries about enforcement. “We’re a country that is always ratifying international treaties and legislating national laws, but then the implementation is very poor.”

As part of the North America pact, Mexico also pledged to cut methane emissions from its oil and gas industry by 40% to 45% by 2025. “I see that one as a bit harder” to achieve, López-Vallejo says. “Our oil industry is pretty dirty … I think that one is going to depend on the support, whether it be financial or technological, of the North American partners.” The government says its energy reforms will make that kind of foreign investment easier.

Hydropower now makes up 70% of renewable energy in Mexico, with wind at only 15%. But last year the government committed to tripling the country’s wind energy capacity to 9.8 gigawatts by 2018. The Isthmus of Tehuantepec in the state of Oaxaca in Mexico—the thin strip of land between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans—is one of the windiest places in the world and already hosts about 1600 turbines, generating 90% of the country’s output. The majority of future wind development is planned for this region, but several ambitious projects there have been delayed or canceled by conflicts with indigenous communities over land rights.

“The problem isn’t that they don’t want wind power. The problem is that they are not consulted,” says Alanís-Ortega, whose organization has supported the communities’ challenges. “They feel invaded, marginalized, and exploited. No one is taking them into account.”

Most wind development projects in Oaxaca are led by Spanish companies, and residents have complained that they have been misled into signing over their land rights for rock-bottom rates with little or no profit-sharing. Some farmers say they were shocked by the size of the wind turbines and the fact that they couldn’t plant crops near them.

Conflict continues to roil Eólica del Sur, which would be the largest wind project in Latin America with 132 turbines generating 396 megawatts. The same investors and developers had previously planned a similar wind park in a different part of the isthmus under the name Mareña Renovables. That project was canceled because of community opposition. Late last year the indigenous community of Juchitán de Zaragoza sued to halt the new Eólica del Sur project, saying they had not been adequately consulted. On 9 June, a judge ruled against the community and allowed the project to continue.

 

 

Wade 

Lizzie Wade
Lizzie is a contributing correspondent for Science. She covers Latin America for the magazine from her home in Mexico City. After graduating from Barnard College in 2008 with a degree in comparative literature, she studied translation theory at the National Autonomous University of Mexico as a Fulbright scholar. Along the way, she stumbled into an internship in the Fermilab communications office and discovered a passion for science writing.

After returning from the Fulbright, Lizzie was a fellow at Wired and an intern at Science. She headed back to Mexico as a correspondent in 2013. Her work has appeared in Aeon, Slate, and the California Sunday Magazine, among others. She is also a regular contributor to Wired

 

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dino print

A team of paleontologists found a fossilized footprint measuring 1.15 meters – about 3 feet, 9 inches – of a bipedal, carnivorous dinosaur that lived in what is now southern Bolivia about 80 million years ago.

It is the largest such footprint ever found to date in the landlocked South American nation, the scientists said.

The Abelisaurus footprint – which was found in the Maragua zone, about 40 miles from city of Sucre – could be one of the largest footprints of this species ever found anywhere in the world, paleontologist Omar Medina, of the Bolivian Paleontology Network, told EFE.

Medina said that the footprint is 78-80 million years old and emphasized the importance of Maragua for paleontology, given that thousands of other footprints and tracks of other dinosaurs – both carnivores and herbivores - have been found nearby.

Argentine paleontologist Sebastian Apestiguia, who verified the find, told the daily La Razón that the print "is much larger" than others of the same species that had been found to date.

He added that the dinosaur could have measured more than 39 in length, while other carnivorous dinosaurs from the end of the Cretaceous Period in South America normally attained a maximum size of about 29.5 feet, meaning that the recently-found print would set "a record."

The most complete Tyrannosaurus Rex skeleton ever found, housed at the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago, measures 40 feet in length.

Paleontological guide Grover Marquina found the Abelisaurus footprint about two weeks ago while exploring the zone to design a tourist route at the behest of the Sucre city administration, a project in which Medina participated as part of the Viceministry of Science and Technology.

More than 10,000 dinosaur footprints have been found in the Cal Orck'o region in the Sucre municipality.

 

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Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.- Is “The Shallows” – Blake Lively’s new flick about a surfer trying to survive a shark attack – simply a girl power exercise wrapped in a sandy bikini? Yes.

Still, it gets as much right as it does wrong.

Lively plays Nancy, a med student alone on a secluded, secret beach in Mexico. She’s here to be alone, to mourn, to surf. As the local drops her off on the beach and refuses her offer of cash, he asks how she plans to get back to town.

Excellent question.

There’s a great deal of convenient idiocy in this screenplay, but director Jaume Collet-Serra – who is no comrade of subtlety – actually handles most of these items deftly. After a few middling horror efforts, Collet-Serra made his name with a string of Liam Neeson films, so he knows a little something about a solitary figure fighting deadly odds.

Lively does a fine job in what is essentially a one-surfer-show. Nancy is smart. Not smart enough to avoid surfing alone in an isolated area of a foreign land, but a different kind of smart. MacGyver smart. And it’s with a balance of delicacy and grit that she just about makes you believe the ludicrous.

“The Shallows” is gorgeously filmed – and not just Lively. Yes, the camera hugs her form more closely than a wet suit, but Collet-Serra treats the surf, sky and sand with as much ardor. A generous reviewer might even say he’s creating a parallel – something about breathtaking beauty that belies serious ferocity. I am not generous enough to buy that theory, but I am generous enough to throw it out there.

For stretches, “The Shallows” will have you believing you’re watching a tense, thoughtful survival drama. Eventually the shark becomes a vengeful-mythical-beast-warrior-machine-monster, and any hint of credibility is lost at sea. This is the age of “Sharknado” – maybe Collet-Serra didn’t think he could keep his audience’s attention until the shark tried to scale something with his teeth?

Whatever the case, it’s a wild mashup of efforts: equal parts empowerment and ogling, survival thriller and Sharkasaurus Rex

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download1This marks the 14th consecutive month of record-breaking global temperatures.

The heat wave continues.

Last month was the hottest June ever recorded, according to both NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). This marks the 14th month in a row that global heat records have been broken. It’s the longest streak of record-breaking temperatures since reporting began in 1880.

Global average temperatures in June were 0.9 degrees Celsius hotter than the average for the 20th century. These temps broke the previous record, set last year, by 0.02 degrees Celsius.

The planet is well on track to surpass 2015 as the hottest year ever recorded.

“2016 has really blown that out of the water,” said Gavin Schmidt, director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, per NPR.

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NASA/GODDARD INSTITUTE FOR SPACE STUDIES

The scorching temperatures of the past several months were partly fueled by this year’s powerful El Niño. However, these effects have been fading in strength, clearly revealing the impact of global warming.

“While the El Niño event in the tropical Pacific this winter gave a boost to global temperatures from October onwards, it is the underlying trend which is producing these record numbers,” Schmidt said in a statement this week.

NASA noted that rising global temperatures were further exacerbated by extreme regional warming in the Arctic.

“It has been a record year so far for global temperatures, but the record high temperatures in the Arctic over the past six months have been even more extreme,” Walt Meier, a sea ice scientist at the agency, said. “This warmth as well as unusual weather patterns have led to the record low sea ice extents so far this year.”

Arctic sea ice now covers 40 percent less of the Earth than it did in the 1980s, NASA said.

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Scientists have expressed concern at the rate of warming.

“I’m just in shock,” Astrid Caldas, climate scientist with the Union of Concerned Scientists, told HuffPost in May. “I think most climate scientists are surprised at the speed that it’s happening. But at the same time, with emissions peaking again last year... everything was pointing to an increased temperature. It’s the amount by which the records are being broken, not the fact that the record’s being broken, that’s really striking.”

 

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Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.- The U.N. Human Rights Council agreed on Thursday to appoint an independent investigator to help protect homosexuals and transgender people worldwide from violence and discrimination.

After a heated debate lasting almost four hours, the 47-member state forum overcame strong objections by Saudi Arabia and Muslim countries to adopt a Western-backed resolution by a vote of 23 states in favour and 18 against with six abstentions.

The United Nations expert, still to be named, will have a three-year mandate.

Mexico, which led Latin American states that were the main sponsors of the text, said that thousands of people are exposed to violence and discrimination due to their sexual orientation and gender identity.

"Remember Orlando," Mexican Ambassador Jorge Lomónaco told delegates, referring to the massacre of 49 people at a gay club in Florida on June 12. "Let us give hope to millions."

The United States and major European countries backed the resolution, while China, Russia and 16 African and predominantly Muslim states rejected it. India, South Africa and the Philippines were among the abstainers.

"This Council regularly - and rightly - passes resolutions on racism, women and children. Yet, on this issue, we often hear of culture and tradition as reasons to justify violence against individuals based on their sexual orientation and gender identity," British Ambassador Julian Braithwaite said in debate.

"This affects people in this room, and people in my team who are LGBT. Are you saying it is okay to discriminate against them based on their sexual orientation and gender identity? To hit, torture, or possibly kill them? Because that is what you are supporting, if you vote against this resolution."

Early in the session, Saudi Ambassador Faisal Trad brought a "no-action motion" to quash any debate on the resolution, but his move was defeated.

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