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Monday
Warm Waters Prevent Sea Ice Formation in US Arctic Climate change has brought a difficult new reality for the U.S. Arctic. Open water -- rather than sea ice – has become normal for the Chukchi Sea in the month of November.

Researchers are studying how this “new normal” may affect coastal communities in northern Alaska.

The researchers are from the University of Washington. The group is taking its 80-meter-long ship several places and will record observations. One of those places is Utqiaġvik, the northernmost community in America.

Jim Thomson is an ocean scientist with the team. He told The Associated Press that the researchers are trying to understand changes to the fall season in the Arctic.

Each day since mid-October, sea ice in the Chukchi Sea has been the lowest on record, said Rick Thoman. He is a climate expert at the University of Alaska Fairbanks’ International Arctic Research Center.

For example, on November 7, the National Snow and Ice Data Center recorded sea ice at about one-sixth of the usual amount for that date from 1981 to 2010, Thoman said.

Less ice is a problem for people living on the coast. Communities north and south of the Bering Strait depend on coastal ice to act as a natural sea wall. The ice protects land from erosion caused by winter storms.

Sea ice also provides a place from which to catch seafood in Nome, a transportation center between villages in Kotzebue Sound. It also serves as a work area on which to kill walrus near the town of Gambell.

Sea ice is one of the most important physical elements of the Chukchi and Bering seas. The cold, salty water underneath ice creates columns that separate Arctic animals from valuable fish catches such as Pacific cod and walleye pollock. When sea ice melts, it creates conditions important for the growth of small organisms at the bottom of the food chain.

Sea ice also provides the main living space for polar bears. Female bears use ice as a place to give birth. And walrus mothers use sea ice as a resting place. They follow the ice edge south as it moves into the Bering Sea.

The formation of sea ice requires the ocean temperature to be about -1.8 Celsius, the freezing point of saltwater. Historically, ice has formed in the northernmost waters. It gets moved by currents and wind into the southern Chukchi and Bering seas, where it cools the water. This helps even more ice to form, explained Andy Mahoney. He is a sea ice physicist at the University of Alaska Fairbanks’ Geophysical Institute.

Mahoney said, “Even at the end of summer you couldn’t get enough heat into the ocean to raise the water temperature” much above freezing. “So it didn’t take much cooling to cool the ocean down to the freezing point.”

But high summer temperatures have warmed the water column in the Bering and Chukchi seas. Water temperatures from the surface to the ocean bottom remain above normal. This leads to a delay in ice formation.

“We’ve got a cold atmosphere. We’ve got a strong wind. You’d think we’d be forming ice, but there’s just too much heat left in the ocean,” Mahoney said.

The water may be warm enough to melt ice moving south from northern areas.

“I haven’t seen any direct observations where ice has been transported into the Chukchi Sea and then melted,” Mahoney said. But he says water temperature maps that he has seen are still much above zero degrees Celsius. And even if you bring ice from somewhere else, it will soon begin melting because of the water temperature, he adds.

Thomson and other scientists will look at how the changes could affect coastlines, which are already eroding. Less ice and more open water mean a big threat. Ice keeps down the size of waves. Open water increases the distance over which wave-causing winds can blow.

“We know from other projects and other work that the waves are definitely on the increase in the Arctic,” Thomson said.

That means even more erosion and greater chances of winter flooding in villages. It also means increased danger to hunters in small boats, who will have to travel longer distances to find seals and walruses.

I’m Jill Robbins. And I’m Alice Bryant.
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Tuesday
China Now Requires Facial Recognition for Mobile Phone Registration China is now requiring mobile phone users to have the image of their face captured in order to register for new service.

The facial recognition requirement went into effect on Sunday. The government says the new rule is designed to confirm a person’s identity to help prevent fraud.

China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology has not said which companies would operate the facial recognition systems for telecommunication companies.

A facial image capture will be required for anyone seeking to establish new mobile phone service. However, it is not clear how the new law would affect existing mobile service users.

The new rule is another example of how facial recognition systems are being used in China. The technology already is widely used in stores, subway systems and airports.

Chinese seller Alibaba gives its customers the choice of paying for products using their face at food stores. The company also lets some hotel guests use facial recognition to check in.

Several Chinese cities have announced they will use the technology in their subway systems. The government-owned China Daily reported such systems would be used to “classify passengers” and permit “different security check measures.”

In July, Xinhua news agency reported that government officials were planning or had already built facial recognition systems at the entrances to 59 public housing communities.

Reuters news agency reported last year on the wide use of facial recognition technology in the western Xinjiang area. Experts say more than 1 million people from Muslim minority groups have been detained in camps across Xinjiang.

China describes its detention centers as “re-education camps.” It says they are aimed at preventing Islamic extremism and separatism. But rights groups, the U.S. and other countries have condemned the camps as forms of “arbitrary” detention.

Some Chinese companies providing facial recognition systems linked to China’s treatment of Muslim minorities have faced U.S. economic restrictions. The companies were put on a list that bars them from buying materials from U.S. companies without U.S. government approval.

There are reports that some Chinese police agencies use special eyeglasses that use facial recognition technology.

China has announced plans to expand the use of facial recognition to register students for its National College Entrance Examination.

However, there have been calls for the government to consider additional rules for the systems.

The Communist Party newspaper People’s Daily recently urged the government to investigate after a reporter said he discovered that face data was being sold on the internet. The report said a collection of 5,000 faces could be bought for about $1.42.

Last week, China’s internet regulator announced new rules for the use of deepfake technology. A “deepfake” is a video created through machine learning methods that is false, but looks almost real.

I’m Bryan Lynn.
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Wednesday
Washington State Growing into a Force in Wine Industry When Craig and Vicki Leuthold opened the Maryhill Winery in 2001, there were about 100 wine producers in the American state of Washington. That number has since grown to more than 1,000 wineries this year, and that growth is likely to continue.

Maryhill Winery is part of that growth. The business makes 60 kinds of wine. It recently opened tasting rooms for its products in the cities of Spokane and Vancouver, Washington. It also is in the process of opening a tasting room just outside Seattle.

“Our timing was great,” Craig Leuthold told The Associated Press. “Washington wine has really increased in popularity.”

The state of Washington has become a force in the wine industry. It has the second-highest number of wineries in the United States, after California. But California, which has around 3,700 wineries, remains a much bigger part of the industry than any other state. It sells more than $40 billion worth of wine nationwide.

Within the United States, wines from California are the top sellers, followed by wines from Australia and Italy. Steve Warner noted that Washington finished in fourth place. Warner is president of Washington State Wine, the industry’s trade group.

“More Washington wine is sold in the United States than French wine,” he said.

The state’s wine industry earns about $2.4 billion a year and adds more than $7 billion a year to the state’s economy, Warner said.

Washington’s wines are always highly rated, he added.

“We are competing against wine regions with 28 generations of winemakers, who were doing it before America was a country.”

Warner noted most of the industry’s success comes from the state’s climate and soils. Grapes, the small round fruit used to make wine, like long sunny days and cool nights.

Grape growers in the central and eastern part of Washington enjoy those conditions. The area also gets little rainfall compared with other grape-growing regions, which is a plus, said Warner.

Thomas Henick-Kling is director of the wine studies and grape growing program at Washington State University in Pullman, Washington. He said the state still has plenty of available land at reasonable prices in wine country.

The land being set aside for wineries is expanding. Twenty years ago, there were fewer than 10,000 hectares of grapes. Today there are nearly 24,000 hectares.

Washington also has skilled farmers and winemakers, graduates of winemaking programs at several local colleges, Henick-Kling said.

Washington’s growth is no surprise, as the number of wineries and wine consumption continue to grow in the United States.

Jens Hansen retired from the U.S. Air Force, moved to the Seattle area and decided to become a winemaker.

Hansen received the 1,000th active license to operate a wine business. He now owns the Uva Furem winery in the city of Maple Valley.

“I feel like the Washington wine community is a lot like the Air Force in that everyone looks out for each other,” he said.

About 70 grape varieties are grown in the state, with the most popular red wines being cabernet sauvignon and merlot. Chardonnay and white Riesling are the most common white wines.

Most of Washington’s wineries are fairly small.

But Steve Warner said that more investors from outside the state are joining the industry. It also helps that Washington has long had a lot of wealthy people who work for companies like Boeing, Microsoft and Amazon and have money to invest.

I’m ­Pete Musto.
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Thursday
France Shuts Down As Nationwide Strike, Protests Begin The Eiffel Tower closed down and France’s high-speed trains stood still Thursday as labor unions launched nationwide strikes.

The unions are protesting the government’s plan to reform the retirement system.

Officials in Paris set up barriers around the home of France’s president and deployed 6,000 police officers as activists gathered for a march through the city. Many of the protesters wore yellow vests.

The strikes are the biggest test to the president since the yellow vest movement for economic justice was launched a year ago. Organizers hope a mass show of anger toward his reform plan will force the government to make concessions.

To Macron, the reforms are central to his effort to make France more competitive internationally. His government argues that the country’s 42 retirement systems need to be simpler and more effective.

All French retirees receive a government pension, but there are differences across the retirement systems. People working for private businesses are part of the general pension system. They make up about seven in 10 workers. But experts and professionals in many fields have a special pension plan. Some people, like railroad workers and flight crews, are permitted to take early retirement. Others, like doctors and lawyers, pay less tax.

Macron wants to replace the retirement system with a unified plan, so that all workers have the same pension rights.

While some private sector workers welcome Macron’s reform, others support the strikers.

Public sector workers fear Macron’s reform will force them to work longer than those in the private sector. They also fear it will reduce the size of their pensions. They see the strike as an effort to save France’s protections for workers.

Joseph Kakou works as an overnight security guard in western Paris. He walked an hour to get home to the eastern side of the city on Thursday morning.

He told The Associated Press,“It doesn’t please us to walk. It doesn’t please us to have to strike. But we are obliged to because we can’t work until 90 years old.”

Tourists caught in the middle

Many foreigners canceled plans to travel to one of the world’s most-visited countries because of the strike.

Unprepared tourists arrived at empty train stations Thursday, with about nine out of 10 high-speed trains canceled. Signs at Paris’ Orly Airport showed “canceled” notices, as about 20 percent of flights were grounded.

Some travelers showed support for the striking workers. Others objected, saying they were caught in the middle of someone else’s fight.

Vladimir Madeira of Chile had traveled to Paris for a vacation. He said the strike has been “a nightmare.” Madeira said he had not heard about the protest until he arrived in Paris. He had planned to travel directly from France to Switzerland on Thursday, but travel cancellations changed his plans.

Near the closed Eiffel Tower, tourists from Thailand, Canada and Spain expressed similar concerns.

Metro stations across Paris were closed, causing traffic delays and leading many people to share bicycles or use electric scooters in near-freezing temperatures.

An open-ended movement

Many workers in and around Paris worked from home or spent the day with their children. Almost 80 percent of teachers in the French capital were on strike.

In preparation for possible violence and damage on the route of the Paris march, police ordered all restaurants and other businesses along the way to close.

Police closely inspected more than 3,000 people arriving for the protest and detained 18 people even before it started. Embassies warned visitors to avoid the protest area.

Parisians are not the only ones striking. Thousands of union activists marched through French cities from Marseille on the Mediterranean to Lille in the north.

It is unknown how long the strike will last. Transport Minister Elisabeth Borne said she expects the travel difficulties to continue through Friday.

Labor unions say the protest is an open-ended movement. They hope the strike continues for at least a week, in hopes of forcing the government to change its plans.

I’m Jonathan Evans.
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Friday
Study Suggests Many People May Not Understand Their Risk for Dementia New research suggests many older Americans may incorrectly estimate their chances for developing dementia.

Almost half of adults questioned believed they were likely to develop dementia. Signs of the condition include changes in personality and memory loss. Alzheimer’s disease is one form of dementia.

The research suggests many people did not understand the link between physical health and brain health or how racial differences could affect one’s dementia risk.

A report on the study appeared in JAMA Neurology, a publication of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

The survey was based on information from the University of Michigan National Poll on Healthy Aging. One thousand adults from across the United States completed an online questionnaire in October 2018. All the men and women were 50 to 64 years of age.

Many subjects who rated their health as fair or poor thought their chances of developing dementia were low. At the same time, many who said they were in excellent health said they were likely to develop the disease.

Many said they tried at least one of four unproven memory-protecting methods, including taking dietary supplements like fish oil and ginkgo. The most popular method for keeping the mind active was doing crossword puzzles.

Keith Fargo supervises research and outreach programs at the Alzheimer’s Association, a not-for-profit group. He was not involved in the study. Fargo says there is strong evidence that activities more challenging than puzzles can help protect against dementia. He suggested activities such as playing chess, taking a class and reading about subjects not well-known to the reader.

Research has shown that regular exercise, a healthy diet, limiting alcohol and not smoking make dementia less likely. Supplements have not been shown to help.

Donovan Maust is the study’s lead author and a geriatric psychiatrist at the University of Michigan. He said researchers have not done a good job of informing the public that “there really are things you can do to lower” the risk of dementia.

The online survey asked people to estimate their likelihood of developing dementia. It also asked whether they had ever discussed ways to prevent the condition with their doctor. Few people said they had.

Maust said the survey results raise concerns because doctors can help people control high blood pressure and diabetes – two conditions often linked with dementia risk.

Among those who said their physical health was only fair or poor, close to 40% thought they were at low risk for Alzheimer’s disease or other dementia. Almost the same percentage rated their chances as likely even when they reported being in very good or excellent physical health.

In the survey, more whites than blacks or Hispanics believed they were likely to develop dementia. But only 93 blacks were questioned, making it difficult to generalize for the U.S. population. Across the country, non-whites face higher risks for dementia than whites. The Alzheimer’s group operates programs in black and Hispanic communities.

Keith Fargo said, “There’s lots of work to do ... to educate the public so they can take some actions to protect themselves.”

The Alzheimer’s Association reports that one in three older Americans die with Alzheimer’s or other dementias. There are currently no medicines or medical treatments proven to prevent the condition. But some European studies have shown that healthy lifestyles may help prevent mental decline. The Alzheimer’s Association is supporting similar research in the U.S.

I’m Kelly Jean Kelly.
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