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News Today Explored Monday 7th March

Flood plains and housing don't mix - preparing for the wrath of nature

Flood plain dwelling is being re-examined as heavy flooding leaves thousands homeless in many parts of Australia. The long predicted effects of climate change, combined with approvals to build on known flood plains, has led to the entirely forseen result of houses being covered in water during heavy rains.

A mitigation treatment in Grantham in Queensland saw houses relocated to higher ground, resulting in far less damage than in 2011. In the US large scale schemes are removing all dwellings from flood plains so they can perform their natural function. In Liverpool, Sydney, a voluntary scheme has purchased 30% of property to return the land to open floodplains.

Shane Stone, head of the federal governments disaster recovery agency, called for an end to flood plain development, and for homes currently affected by floods not to be rebuilt.

“Australians need to have an honest conversation about where and how people build homes. The taxpayer and the ratepayer cannot continue to pick up the bill for these huge, catastrophic damage events,” Mr Stone said, emphasising that insurance premiums would no longer cover homes in disaster prone areas in the future.

Flooding NSW and QLD

HPV Vaccine could reduce smear tests to one test a lifetime

The vacccine against cervical cancer caused by human papillomaviruses has been so effective that the current regime of testing every five years could be further reduced.

There has been a 90% reduction in cervical cancer in people who have been vaccinated, a programme rolled out to boys and girls aged between 11 and 13.

Director of the clinical trials unit at King's College London, Professor Sasieni said that based on his modelling women could be screened at 30, 45 and 55 years.

A new vaccine which offers protection against even more types of the HPV could reduce screening to even one per lifetime.

Russian invasion of Ukraine escalates while sanctions begin to bite

Russian advance into Ukraine continues unrelentingly, with troops advancing on a third nuclear power plant after taking control of two of the four plants operating in the country.

Russian troops have also taken control of Kerhson in the south and have encircled four other cities, with Ukranian forces offering fierce resistance. Heavy shelling in Mariupol, incluidng during a cease fire to allow citizens to leave, are intended to damage the country's economy by cutting it off from the Black Sea and Sea of Azoz.

Financial sanctions are having a major impact in Russia, with citizens doing all they can to withdraw money and turn roubles into assets that will retain value as the currency tanks. Sanctions have prevented Russian central banks from access to sixty percent of its foreign currency reserves.

Russian companies are desperately trying to open Chinese bank accounts to park their funds. Yet to come, is businesses demanding payment for supply chains that the government may demand be paid in roubles, which could break the econonmy.

These acts may weaken the war effort, but is not expected to stop the war.

Michael Bernstam of the Financial Times says that the West may offer to unfreeze assets as a bribe to Russia to retreat from Ukraine.

Western Australia's first biofuel blend export ship trialled for wheat growers.

A biofuel blend provided by BP, consisting of twenty percent cooking oil based fuel, has powered the vessel Edwine Oldendorff as it carried 30,000 tonnes of barley from Albany to Vietnam. The blend has achieved fourteen percent greenhouse gas reductions, while speed and engine performance of the vessel remained the same. The trial will lead to steps toward reducing the emissions of the global shipping industry which account for around three percent of overall emissions.

Bull ant venom offers hope for long term pain sufferers

Molecular Bioscience researchers, Dr Sam Robinson and David Eagles, have identified a component from bull ant venom that could be used to treat long term pain in humans. The venon is believed to have evolved as a defence against echidnas attacking the ants' nests. The molecule matches the sequence of mammalian hormones related to Epidermal Growth Factor (EGF).

“We tested the venom molecule on mammalian EGF receptors and it was very potent – this convinced us that the venom molecule was there to defend against mammals,” Dr Robinson said. EFG inhibitors used in cancer treatment have been shown to reduce long term pain, and this new molecule has exciting implications for further use in pain treatment.

Sony and Honda form electric vehicle partnership

Sony and Honda will form a joint venture to develop and sell battery powered electric vehicles, with the first models to be rolled out in 2025.

"In the joint venture, we would like to lead the mobility evolution by combining our technology and experience with Honda's long experience in mobility development and vehicle body manufacturing technologies," said Sony CEO Kenichiro Yoshida.

West Australian Government to Establish Shipping and Supply Chain Taskforce

Mark McGowan's government is establishing a taskforce to examine several areas of supply chain and interstate shipping as an alternative to road transport. This is in response to months of supply chain issues from disrupted road links, including the damage to the Trans-Australian railway line from major flooding in February this year.

Transport Minister, Rita Saffioti said that the government saw this as a national issue, adding that the WA government was keen to work with any Federal Government willing to help better strengthen their east-west supply links.

"It's important we examine other supply chain options in the event of future natural disasters and disruptions - having better access to a local shipping fleet would be one option to future-proof our freight supply chain," she said.

Minister of State Development, Jobs and Trade, Roger Cook added that

improving transport links and building more resilient supply chains was vital to diversifying WA's economy, particularly into the state's regions.

"This initiative demonstrates that once again the McGowan Government is responding to the needs of our communities and industries," he said.

Early Chinese ochre processing changes view of evolution.

Evidence of hominid activity in China has unique cultural characteristics according to Proffessor Michael Petraglia of Griffith University. The discoveries of ochre use and expedient bone tools from between 39,000 and 41,000 years ago, but lack of formal bone tools and ornaments, suggests an early colonisation by homosapiens, possibly interbreeding with Denisovan hominids.

Ir reinforces the view that traditional ideas about evolution are too simplistic. The discoveries show that human movement was complex and 'involved repeated but differential episodes of genetic and cultural exchange over large geographic areas.'

The authors of the study also believe that a mosaic pattern of the spread of innovation, the persistence of local traditions and the adoption of local innovations will emerge.

South African coal exporter suffers losses due to transport bottlenecks

South Africa's rain network, Transnet, is inflicting major economic damage and constraints on companies, including coal supplier Exxaro. Exxaro lost almost six billion Rand in lost export sales thanks to bottlenecks on Transnet rail lines. The mining industry and other major industries have been suffering from the unreliabilty of the company that is control of supply chain infrastructure including the railway network, cargo trains and boats.

Alberta, Canada reinstates policy to protect the Rocky Mountains from coal mining

A decades old policy protecting parts of the Rockies from coal development has been reinstated after it was cancelled two years ago. The ministerial order will take effect immediately and follows months of consultation in the region. Four projects will proceed, though any new proposals such as the Grassy Mountain coal project are unlikely to meet with approval. Current coal activity is allowed to continue.

Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society spokesperson Katie Morrison said that even though the move was a big step forward, she believed that the decision has been kicked down the road to the land use planning process.

"But within that land use planning process, the question of whether coal can or can't go forward in that landscape will be reopened for discussion again," she said.

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