Want a Frog Species Named After You? Just Be the Highest Bidder
There is a wasp named after William Shakespeare, a horse fly named after Beyoncé and a lichen named after Dolly Parton.
In trying to make sense of the 1.3 million species that humans have identified, scientists have a long tradition of bestowing new discoveries with a scientific name. Think Tyrannosaurus rex or Felis silvestris catus.
The privilege of naming a new species typically lies with the person who discovered it. Only in the past few decades have researchers started to delegate that task to someone else: the highest bidder.
On Saturday, Rainforest Trust, a conservation nonprofit based in the United States, will complete its auction of the rights to name 12 newly discovered plant and animal species from South America. The winners can name them after their mother, their pet dog, a car company — pretty much anything. The group says the money will be used to buy land where that species lives in an effort to save it from extinction.
But some scientists chafe at the idea of selling the rights to name a species, and see it as the latest example of Westerners co-opting developing countries’ biodiversity. Others worry it will turn species exploration into a cutthroat commercial endeavor.
“If we leap into something and don’t anticipate what can go wrong, then we’re leaving ourselves vulnerable,” said Douglas Yanega, an entomologist and taxonomist based in California. “There are so many possible ways that it can go badly.”
Up for auction are four frogs of varying shades, four species of orchid and a reddish ant with a trap-jaw. There’s also a gray forest mouse with impressively long whiskers, a wormlike amphibian and a burnt-orange salamander with tiny legs.
Paul Salaman, the chief executive of Rainforest Trust, is familiar with the objections to species-naming auctions. In the early 1990s, these auctions were a new concept when Dr. Salaman, a field biologist, sold the rights to name a species of songbird he discovered in Colombia. There were some conservationists who were outraged at the idea of giving companies the chance to impose their brand on the natural world, he said.
Dr. Salaman’s counterargument is that the threats to these species posed by climate change and industrial blights, like logging, are far more pressing than the threat of artificial names.
“The name itself doesn’t really matter,” Dr. Salaman said. “The key is the funding to save the species.”
When someone discovers a new species of plant or animal, the protocol is to publish a peer-reviewed paper in a scientific journal that establishes the evidence behind the discovery and unveils the name to the world.
Dr. Lim, a taxonomist in Singapore, said it bothered her that bidding on these auctions seemed to be driven by the attractiveness of the species, perpetuating disproportionate funding shortages for research on species that are less pleasing to the human eye.
Dr. Salaman said that in the current auction, the species considered to be more attractive, like the Ecuadorean frog, were estimated to close at higher prices.
“The highest-selling names are the adorable creatures or the lovely flowers,” Dr. Lim said. “But the groups that are most under threat aren’t particularly lovely. Like the worms.”
She is also skeptical about Westerners spending tens of thousands of dollars for the opportunity to name a species that is part of another country’s ecosystem and culture. She said her uneasiness stemmed, in part, from the long history of white European expeditioners claiming the biodiversity of other continents as their own.
Dr. Salaman countered that many of the species on the auction block were discovered, in part, by scientists native to that home country who want to fend off extinction.
Juan Guayasamin, an evolutionary biologist specializing in amphibians, said that as long as the money raised by the auction was going to a noble cause — like funding conservation — then he would not be bothered by foreigners naming species native to Ecuador, his home country.
“What we gain is far more important,” said Dr. Guayasamin, who is with the Universidad San Francisco de Quito. “Finding funds is really a problem we struggle with a lot.”
Most taxonomists agree that funding for their work has been increasingly elusive, and that the scope of their mission — cataloging the world’s species — is unbelievably vast.
But Dr. Yanega, who is also a commissioner with the nomenclature commission, fears that if species-naming auctions go mainstream, they have the potential to do more harm than good to scientists’ collective project of describing the world’s species. For one, Dr. Yanega said, turning species naming into a profitable endeavor could encourage fraudulent taxonomists to churn out discoveries to make themselves money unless scientists can develop safeguards.
And in a community that relies on collaboration, making species naming a lucrative practice could make scientists secretive about their work and covetous of their own specimens, which are usually shared liberally with other researchers, Dr. Yanega said.
“It could become cutthroat,” he said. “Every man for himself.”
December 06, 2018
Sources: New York Times
ect skull shape and brain size even today. What that means for human behavior is a mystery. </p><p>People who sign up for genetic testing from companies like 23andMe can find out how much of their DNA comes from Neanderthals. For those whose ancestry lies outside Africa, that number usually falls somewhere between 1 percent and 2 percent.</p><p>“This study is surely a milestone,” said Emiliano Bruner, a paleoanthropologist researcher at Spain’s National Research Center on Human Evolution, who was not involved in the research.</p><p>Neanderthals and modern humans are evolutionary cousins whose ancestors diverged about 530,000 years ago, possibly somewhere in Africa. Neanderthals left Africa long before modern humans, and their bones were found across Europe, the Near East, and even Siberia.</p><p>Before they disappeared about 40,000 years ago, Neanderthals left behind signs of sophistication: spears used to hunt big game, for instance, and jewelry made of shells and eagle talons. </p><p>Yet scientists still wonder just how much like us these cousins were. Did they speak a full-blown language? Did they think in symbols?</p><p>One thing is clear: They were not short on brains. By measuring the volume inside Neanderthal skulls, researchers have found that their brains were as big as ours, on average, perhaps bigger.</p><p>But their brains did not mimic ours. “We have roundish brains,” said Philipp Gunz, a paleoanthropologist at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany. “All other human species have elongated brain cases.”</p><p>Dr. Gunz and his colleagues study CT scans of fossil skulls to track brain evolution. As it turns out, the oldest skulls of modern humans, dating back 300,000 years, held elongated brains — more like those of Neanderthals than our own.</p><p>But there’s a gap in the fossil record after that period; the next oldest skulls that Dr. Gunz and his colleagues have studied are just 36,000 years old. These have the distinctive roundedness of living humans.</p><p>Modern human skulls got rounder because certain regions of the brain changed size. At the back of the brain, for example, a part called the cerebellum dramatically expanded.</p><p>As they left Africa, modern humans encountered and mated with Neanderthals, producing healthy children who inherited a set of chromosomes from each parent. Neanderthal DNA has persisted through the generations in people of non-African descent.</p><p>Did Neanderthal genes affect the shape of modern human brains? The effect of any one gene would be exquisitely subtle, and so Dr. Gunz and his colleagues needed to compare a lot of brains to find it.</p><p>Fortunately, a number of scientific teams had already begun building databases of brain scans and DNA from volunteers.</p><p>Dr. Gunz’s team studied 4,468 people in the Netherlands and Germany. They searched the DNA of the volunteers for over 50,000 common genetic markers inherited from ancient Neanderthals.</p><p>Then the researchers compared the shapes of people’s brains to see whether any Neanderthal gene variants were associated. Two genetic markers jumped out: People who carry them have unusual patterns of gene activity in their brains.</p><p>One marker is linked to a gene called PHLPP1. It’s unusually active in the cerebellum of people who carry the Neanderthal version. This gene controls the production of an insulating sleeve that wraps around neurons. Known as myelin, it is crucial for long-range communication in the brain.</p><p>The other marked is linked to a gene called UBR4, which in carriers is less active in a region deep in the brain called the putamen. UBR4 helps neurons divide in the brains of children.</p><p>These findings suggest that PHLPP1 and UBR4 evolved to work differently in modern human brains. The modern human version of PHLPP1 may have produced extra myelin in the cerebellum. And our version of UBR4 may have made neurons grow faster in the putamen.</p><p>Why these changes? Simon Fisher, a co-author of the new study at the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics in the Netherlands, speculated that modern humans evolved more sophisticated powers of language. They may have also become better at making tools.</p><p>“Things like tool use and speech articulation are hugely dependent on motor circuitry,” said Dr. Fisher. </p><p>Both require the brain to send fast, precise commands to muscles. And it may be no coincidence that the cerebellum and putamen are crucial parts of our motor circuitry — the very regions that helped change the overall shape of the modern human brain.</p><p>What does this research mean for people who carry the Neanderthal versions of these brain-shaping genes? There are limits to what genetics can tell us, said John Anthony Capra, an evolutionary biologist at Vanderbilt University who was not involved in the study. </p><p>It’s very hard to predict people’s behavior from their genes, he noted — let alone try to account for a few Neanderthal genes. To learn what they are doing in the brain will require that scientists discern very faint signals amid the noise of the human genome.</p><p>“That’s a long way off, if ever possible,” Dr. Capra said.</p>
ritten, or redistributed. ©2018 FOX News Network, LLC. All rights reserved. All market data delayed 20 minutes. </p><p>If you see a small, green ball glowing in the sky this holiday season, it’s not Santa getting ready to deliver gifts but Comet 46P/Wirtanen.</p><p>Here’s everything to know about the comet and how to see it.</p><p>It is considered to be in the “Jupiter family” of comets.</p><p>In the coming years, the comet is expected to be nudged further and further away from Earth, according to Space.com.</p><p>“Thus, we can be certain that there can be no very close approach to the Earth ever again. So take full advantage of this upcoming very close encounter!” the site recommends.</p><p>Researchers have said it should be bright enough to view with the naked eye at night on Dec. 16 – although a telescope or binoculars would undoubtedly help. But EarthSky.org warns it “likely will not evolve into a spectacular sight.” Be on the lookout for a “large, diffuse, dim object,” the site adds.</p><p>This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. ©2018 FOX News Network, LLC. All rights reserved. All market data delayed 20 minutes.</p>
s of his life into a one-day event. He was just being economical.</p><p>Mr. Romer, who was until January the chief economist of the World Bank in Washington, was married Monday to Caroline Weber, an author and full professor of French Literature at Barnard College, Columbia, in a celebration ceremony at the Anglican Episcopal Church of St. Peter and St. Sigfrid in Stockholm.</p><p>The bride, radiant in an aqua-colored caftan by Oscar de la Renta, and groom, stately in white tie and tails, exchanged ceremonial vows before the Rev. Nicholas Howe, an Anglican priest, and 16 family members, including the couple’s parents, as well as five of Mr. Romer’s six siblings and both of his children.</p><p>“This came as a total surprise,” said Mr. Romer, 63, who learned he had won the coveted award in the quiet of an October morning at the Greenwich Village apartment he shares with Ms. Weber, 49, who was sound asleep when the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences called with the news.</p><p>“It was a once-in-a-lifetime moment,” Ms. Weber said. “I was absolutely thrilled for him.”</p><p>According to the Swedish Academy, Mr. Romer earned his Nobel, more specifically, “for integrating technological innovations into long-run macroeconomic analysis.” (Mr. Nordhaus won “for integrating climate change into long-run macroeconomic analysis.”)</p><p>“On a personal level, one of the most interesting things about winning the Nobel is how happy it made so many people I know,” said Mr. Romer, who is currently on a leave of absence from N.Y.U., where he is a University Professor of Economics.</p><p>“From colleagues at N.Y.U., to the woman who runs the dry cleaner’s where I take my clothes, to the doorman down the street who always gives my dogs’ treats, everyone just seemed so thrilled for me,” he said. “That was something I didn’t anticipate.”</p><p>“She helped me discover a side of myself that was hidden,” he said. “And she has exposed me to a part of intellectual life that I’ve had little professional exposure to.”</p><p>On Dec. 18, they are to be legally married at the Manhattan Marriage Bureau, which seemed unlikely given the circumstances of their first official meeting five-and-a-half years ago.</p><p>For Ms. Weber, whose first marriage had ended in divorce, it wasn’t quite love at first sight.</p><p>“I had the distinct feeling I had met Paul before,” she said. “I just couldn’t figure out when or where I had seen him.”</p><p>Nevertheless, they hit it off, and after dessert, Mr. Romer was walking Ms. Weber to her home in Greenwich Village, when he turned to her and said, “Thanks for being so discreet about how I had asked you out before.”</p><p>Ms. Weber was initially taken aback, but then it all started coming back. She soon remembered having met Mr. Romer three months earlier at a pizzeria-restaurant in Manhattan.</p><p>“We were both sitting at the bar, late-night, grading papers,” she said. “We started chatting, and I thought he was very handsome, but I was dating someone at that time.”</p><p>Before leaving that night, Mr. Romer asked Ms. Weber for her email address for the purpose of sending her information about a public lecture he was scheduled to give at N.Y.U.</p><p>“I thought she was very attractive, very outgoing and ferociously smart,” Mr. Romer said. “But I remember looking into her eyes as she handed me her email address and thinking, ‘She’s never going to contact me.’”</p><p>His instincts were correct, as Ms. Weber had decided to move on, but through some quirk of fate, they were back in each other’s orbit just three months later, with the Marrons joining them for dinner to help lighten the atmosphere.</p><p>By reintroducing Mr. Romer to Ms. Weber, who was now unattached, Mr. Marron gave him more than just another gift.</p><p>“He gave me a miracle,” said Mr. Romer, who still has the scrap of paper on which Ms. Weber scrawled her email address. “Who gets two chances at the same miracle?”</p><p>They began dating immediately, each fascinated by the other’s credentials in an arts meets science kind of way.</p><p>His father, 90, once served as governor of Colorado, and was also head of the Democratic National Committee when Bill Clinton was president. He later became the superintendent of the Los Angeles Unified School District and a consultant to the College Board, based in Washington.</p><p>“I had never been interested in or particularly savvy about economics,” she said. “I had briefly worked on Wall Street after college as a very unhappy and unsuccessful investment banker at Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan, but I had never really followed the economy.</p><p>“Yet I was really struck by how fluent Paul was in making the economic issues that are of interest to him relevant to contemporary considerations, and relevant to history and to human technological and human cultural development.”</p><p>The more she spoke of him, the softer her voice became, her tone drifting from scholarly to lovingly.</p><p>“He was also a very kind, very decent, incredibly principled person whose moral compass was front and center,” she said. “He was someone who completely accepted me for who I am, with all my quirks and foibles.”</p><p>Mr. Romer was equally impressed with Ms. Weber, the only daughter of Carol C. Weber and Russell J. Weber of Charlottesville, Va., whose parents are both retired professors of organizational behavior at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business.</p><p>Mr. Romer, whose first two marriages ended in divorce, said that Ms. Weber “helped me discover things about myself that I didn’t know.”</p><p>“She taught me that I had more of a sense of humor than I had really known, and that I also I have this love of words that I really didn’t know was there.”</p><p>“I’m mildly dyslexic and I’ve always had trouble spelling,” he said. “I never thought of myself as a word person, or a writer, I was always more comfortable with mathematics, but Caroline helped me appreciate words through verbal interactions, and now I love words, I love the shadings that can generate humor and I love a well-crafted phrase, that was the side of myself that had been hidden.”</p><p>In September 2013, four months after they had reconnected, Mr. Romer and Ms. Weber journeyed together to N.Y.U.’s campus in Shanghai, China, where Mr. Romer had agreed to teach economics for a semester.</p><p>“That was one of our big adventures early on,” said Ms. Weber, who went on a sabbatical to be with him. “It was also a big test of our relationship as we were living in a country where neither of us spoke the language, which made some things difficult, but I’m grateful to have had that experience.”</p><p>Three years later, a more painful experience during a long-distance period in their lives brought them closer together.</p><p>In November 2016, just a few weeks after Mr. Romer had gone to the World Bank in Washington, Ms. Weber was walking their three dogs — they now have four — when two of the bigger ones began pulling her in the direction of another dog.</p><p>“Just as this is happening, a bicycle comes flying by,” Ms. Weber said. “It was just a perfect storm of awfulness that resulted in me tearing all the ligaments in both of my knees.”</p><p>Mr. Romer rushed back to New York by train, and found Ms. Weber in a hospital emergency room, still in much pain.</p><p>“Poor thing,” he said, “it was really tough to see her in that position.”</p><p>He began commuting from Washington every weekend to be by her side, and she has since recovered after two full years of physical therapy, just in time to celebrate two of the biggest days of her life, which, like his, happened on the same day.</p><p>“On our way to pick up Paul’s Nobel Prize, we’re stopping off to get married,” said Ms. Weber, laughing as she spoke, just before heading to Sweden.</p>
ritten, or redistributed. ©2018 FOX News Network, LLC. All rights reserved. All market data delayed 20 minutes. </p><p>If the megalodon didn't cause itself to go extinct, it may have been the work of an ancient exploding star, a shocking new study theorizes.</p><p>"We find that the radiation dose from the muons will exceed the total present surface dose from all sources at depths up to 1 [kilometer] and will persist for at least the lifetime of marine megafauna," the study's abstract reads. "It is reasonable to hypothesize that this increase in radiation load may have contributed to a newly documented marine megafaunal extinction at that time."</p><p>“All of the historical supernovae that we know about over the last couple thousand years were much further away, so the effects would be tiny compared to this,” Melott told the news outlet.</p><p>Melott added that the muon spike could have caused mutations and cancers, especially for larger creatures not used to the levels of radiation from the accompanying supernova blast.</p><p>“Normally below a few meters [of the ocean surface], water really shields a lot of radiation but it wouldn’t shield the muons," Melott said. “Creatures that are used to being almost isolated from radiation would suddenly get a whole lot. They would be unlikely to have as good of a defense against radiation as land creatures would.”</p><p>There is evidence of the supernova, according to a number of research papers. In the aforementioned statement, Melott said he was even told as far back as the 1990s to be on the lookout for iron-60 isotopes, which are remnants of a supernova explosion.</p><p>“As far back as the mid-1990s, people said, ‘Hey, look for iron-60. It’s a telltale because there’s no other way for it to get to Earth but from a supernova.’ Because iron-60 is radioactive, if it was formed with the Earth it would be long gone by now," Melott said in the statement. "So, it had to have been rained down on us. There’s some debate about whether there was only one supernova really nearby or a whole chain of them. I kind of favor a combo of the two — a big chain with one that was unusually powerful and close. If you look at iron-60 residue, there’s a huge spike 2.6 million years ago, but there’s excess scattered clear back 10 million years.”</p><p>“There really hasn’t been any good explanation for the marine megafaunal extinction,” Melott said. “This could be one. It’s this paradigm change — we know something happened and when it happened, so for the first time we can really dig in and look for things in a definite way. We now can get really definite about what the effects of radiation would be in a way that wasn’t possible before.”</p><p>Earlier this week, another group of researchers theorized that the megalodon may have caused itself to go extinct.</p><p>The scientists suggested that its high body temperature (when compared to modern day sharks and a "cooling of ocean temperatures during the Pliocene would have constrained the species to lower latitudes where ocean temperatures were warmer, whilst its preferred prey (e.g., whales) evolved traits to adapt to cooler temperatures of the higher latitudes."</p><p>This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. ©2018 FOX News Network, LLC. All rights reserved. All market data delayed 20 minutes.</p>
ritten, or redistributed. ©2018 FOX News Network, LLC. All rights reserved. All market data delayed 20 minutes. </p><p>The shattered skull of a hunter who lived about 8,000 years ago isn’t evidence of cannibalism, as scientists previously thought. Rather, the hunter died in a grisly murder, new research suggests.</p><p>Although the ancient skull, found in what is now Poland, is severely damaged, a new analysis revealed that the skull showed signs of healing, meaning that the man likely lived a little more than a week after his injury.</p><p>Researchers originally discovered the Stone Age skull nearly 50 years ago on the banks of the Narew River, in Wieliszew, a district in east-central Poland. In addition, in the late 1950s, archaeologists also found an ancient burned human bone nearby, as well as flint tools, which suggested that the man was a hunter. These artifacts dated to the Mesolithic, the period that followed the last ice age.</p><p>Because the bone was burned and the skull had obviously been dealt a strong blow, the researchers concluded that the man had been cannibalized.</p><p>The analysis showed a long, horizontal incision on the center of the man's forehead, Tomczyk told Live Science in an email. "Despite the fragmentation of the skull, the edges of the incisions are regular, not ragged," as they would be right after an injury, he said. A closer look at these edges revealed a "subtle callous formation bridging several bone fragments," indicating that the wound was just starting to heal.</p><p>As for the bone, it's possible it was burned in a funerary ritual, as people during the Mesolithic both burned and buried corpses.</p><p>The research has been submitted to a peer-reviewed research journal, but it is not yet published.</p><p>This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. ©2018 FOX News Network, LLC. All rights reserved. All market data delayed 20 minutes.</p>
ritten, or redistributed. ©2018 FOX News Network, LLC. All rights reserved. All market data delayed 20 minutes. </p><p>Richard Branson made a bold claim that his Virgin Galactic will send passengers to space by Christmas.</p><p>Virgin Galactic is set to send its tourism rocket to the edge of space during a major test flight on Thursday.</p><p>If successful, the test will be a major step toward the long-delayed dream of commercial space tourism.</p><p>Two pilots will take Virgin Space Ship Unity high above California's Mojave Desert Thursday. CEO George Whitesides said Wednesday they will try to exceed an altitude of 50 miles, which Virgin Galactic considers the boundary of space. Whiteside said that's the standard used by the U.S. Air Force and other U.S. agencies.</p><p>That differs from a long-held view that places the boundary at 62 miles. But Whitesides cited new research that favors the lower altitude and said that as a U.S. company it will use the U.S. standard.</p><p>Virgin Galactic tweeted that SpaceShipTwo will be carrying NASA payloads during the test, putting the spacecraft close to an approximate commercial weight</p><p>"It's a day that we've been waiting for for a long time," Whitesides said.</p><p>The spaceship isn't launched from the ground but is carried beneath a special plane to an altitude of around 50,000 feet. It then detaches from the plane, ignites its rocket engine and climbs. The rocket is shut down and the craft coasts to the top of its climb — and then begins a descent slowed and stabilized by unique "feathering" technology. The twin tails temporarily rotate upward to increase drag, then return to a normal flying configuration before the craft glides to a landing on a runway.</p><p>This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. ©2018 FOX News Network, LLC. All rights reserved. All market data delayed 20 minutes.</p>
ritten, or redistributed. ©2018 FOX News Network, LLC. All rights reserved. All market data delayed 20 minutes. </p><p>This year, scientists announced an incredible discovery by looking at poop stains in satellite images — 1.5 million Adélie penguins were living and thriving on a little patch in Antarctica surrounded by treacherous sea ice called the Danger Islands.</p><p>"We, I think, had missed it in part because we hadn't expected to find them there," Lynch said. They had previously surveyed one of the islands of the group, but not all of them.</p><p>The Danger Islands are not easy to get to, as they are "so-called because they're almost always covered by a thick layer of sea ice all around that precludes regular censuses in this area," Lynch said.</p><p>Even so, spurred by the poop stains, Lynch's colleagues journeyed to the islands for a full survey, where they counted — physically on the ground and with drones — just how populated by this seabird they were. "In this area that's so small that it doesn't even appear on most maps of the Antarctic," live more Adélie penguins than the rest of Antarctica combined, Lynch said. She stayed at Stony Brook University and managed satellite images to help them avoid sea ice.</p><p>But some of the team's new findings suggest that although 1.5 million seems like a big number, it's not as large as it once might have been. After their initial analyses of recent satellite imagery, the team decided to look at past satellite images that date back to 1982.</p><p>They found that the Adélie penguin populations likely peaked in the late 1990s and "has been on a slow but steady decline ever since," Lynch said. The decline "is not catastrophic," but rather on the order of a 10 to 20 percent decline, she later added.</p><p>And "now that we have discovered this hotspot of Adélie abundance here in the Danger Islands, we want to be able to protect it, and that involves trying to understand why the populations may have changed," Lynch said.</p><p>This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. ©2018 FOX News Network, LLC. All rights reserved. All market data delayed 20 minutes.</p>
he plan that was pushing for the changes all along: the nation’s oil industry.</p><p>The campaign’s main argument for significantly easing fuel efficiency standards — that the United States is so awash in oil it no longer needs to worry about energy conservation — clashed with decades of federal energy and environmental policy.</p><p>The industry had reason to urge the rollback of higher fuel efficiency standards proposed by former President Barack Obama. A quarter of the world’s oil is used to power cars, and less-thirsty vehicles mean lower gasoline sales.</p><p>Gary R. Heminger, Marathon’s chairman and chief executive, said in a statement that the company supported “sound fuel economy standards” and wanted to “help ensure they are achievable and based on existing technology.” </p><p>He added, “We appreciate the administration’s willingness to conduct a thorough review in order to ensure future standards are achievable and will actually benefit American consumers.”</p><p>A spokesman for Koch Industries, the energy conglomerate led by Mr. Koch, said the company had “a long, consistent track record of opposing all forms of corporate welfare, including all subsidies, mandates and other handouts that rig the system.”</p><p>The standards that the Trump administration seeks to weaken required automakers to roughly double the fuel economy of new cars, SUVs and pickup trucks by 2025. Instead, the Trump plan would freeze the standards at 2020 levels. Carmakers, for their part, had sought more flexibility in meeting the original 2025 standards, not a categorical rollback.</p><p>The energy industry’s efforts also help explain the Trump administration’s confrontational stance toward California, which, under federal law, has a unique authority to write its own clean-air rules and to mandate more zero-emissions vehicles.</p><p>California has pledged to stick to the stricter standards, together with 13 other states that follow its lead. But President Trump’s plan challenges California’s rule-writing power, setting up a legal battle that threatens to split the American auto market in two. </p><p>“However, you have another side who doesn’t want to pivot away” from the stricter rules, Mr. Heminger said. “So we have a lot of work to do to keep this momentum going.”</p><p>“Our CEO, Gary Heminger, would be very glad for an opportunity to visit with the Administrator,” a Marathon lobbyist wrote in an email to Mr. Trump’s transition team on May 8, 2017. “I believe this would be a constructive dialogue.” The E.P.A. helps oversee fuel economy rules along with the Transportation Department.</p><p>A Marathon spokesman, Chuck Rice, said Mr. Heminger did not discuss auto-efficiency rollbacks with Mr. Pruitt. An E.P.A. official did not respond to a question about whether the auto rules were discussed.</p><p>Mr. Rice of Marathon said the company did not write the letter, and the company declined to say who did. It did not offer an explanation for Mr. Birsic’s digital fingerprint on the document file.</p><p>Nineteen lawmakers from the delegations of Indiana, West Virginia and Pennsylvania sent letters to the Transportation Department that included exact phrases and reasoning from the industry letter. The lawmakers’ letters, sent in June and July, all make the point that oil scarcity is no longer a concern.</p><p>Representatives from the three state delegations either declined to comment or did not respond to requests. </p><p>Senator Tom Carper of Delaware, the top Democrat on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, criticized the industry’s campaign. “It appears as though oil interests are cynically trying to gin up support in Congress for the weakest possible standards to ensure that cars and SUVs have to rely on even more oil,” he said. </p><p>“If this attempt is successful, the outcome will be a blow to the auto industry, consumers, and our environment.”</p><p>More than 3,300 of the 12,000 public comments that D.O.T. has made public contain language identical to that petition, an analysis of the files showed.</p><p>Derrick Morgan, a senior vice president at AFPM, said the group “regularly works with policymakers, coalition groups and individuals to promote shared goals,” and also will “lead and join groups like Energy4US.”</p><p>The Department of Transportation said it was “generally aware” that there were groups urging the public to make comments through online campaigns, but said it does not regulate them.</p><p>In Dearborn, Mich., at a September meeting on the Trump fuel-efficiency rollbacks, Annie Patnaude of Americans for Prosperity, a Koch-funded group, spoke in favor. “This is a step in the right direction to protect consumers and workers against government mandates that would limit choice,” she said. </p><p>But Americans for Prosperity said fights like these get to the heart of its free-market philosophy. “We believe in a level playing field so all Americans have the equal opportunity to succeed,” said Bill Riggs, a spokesman for the group, in a statement. The organization will keep fighting “mandates that unfairly pick winners and losers in any industry,” he said. </p><p>“It’s a relic,” the memo said, particularly at a time when the United States was “poised to become the largest oil producer in the world.” </p><p>Emails obtained by the Times show that Marathon has been working with members of the legislative exchange council to build support for the Trump fuel-efficiency rollback in state legislatures and to denounce California’s power to write its own rules for cars. The emails were made public under Wisconsin’s open records law to Documented, a watchdog group that tracks corporate influence in public policy. </p><p>California’s special authority could effectively split the American auto market in two, since 13 other states — representing roughly 35 percent of nationwide car sales — have agreed to follow California’s stricter rules. That means automakers might find themselves making cars to two competing standards.</p><p>“Who should decide what cars and trucks consumers should buy, consumers themselves or unelected bureaucrats in Sacramento, California or Washington, D.C.?” the memo sent by Marathon said.</p><p>In a statement, Bill Meierling of the legislative exchange council said that mandating fuel economy was a rule that “many state legislators believe doesn’t make sense for working Americans.” </p><p>Just days after the emails between Marathon and the Wisconsin lawmaker, some 1,500 state legislators and other officials from across the country gathered in New Orleans to cheer on Elaine Chao, the Secretary of Transportation, at the legislative exchange council’s annual convention. Marathon sponsored the event.</p>
ritten, or redistributed. ©2018 FOX News Network, LLC. All rights reserved. All market data delayed 20 minutes. </p><p>NASA's Parker Solar Probe has made the closest-ever approach to a star (the sun) and shared an image of the sun's atmosphere on Twitter on Wednesday.</p><p>NASA's image, captured Nov. 8, shows the corona, which is the sun's outer atmosphere, when the spacecraft was just 16.9 million miles from the star.</p><p>The Parker Solar Probe's WISPR instrument took the photo, in which Jupiter is seen as the bright object, according to NASA.</p><p>Scientists gathered Wednesday at the American Geophysical Union meeting in Washington, D.C., to speak about the data, the report said.</p><p>“What we are looking at now is completely brand new,” solar physicist Nour Raouafi said at a news conference, according to Science News.</p><p>“Nobody looked at this before,” said Raouafi, who also works at Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab.</p><p>The spacecraft launched Aug. 12 and will make 24 close passes by the sun over the next seven years, Science News reported.</p><p>The mission's goal is to help solve the mystery of why the corona is about 300 times as hot as the sun's surface, the report said.</p><p>"We need to go into this region to be able to sample the new plasma, the newly formed material, to be able to see what processes, what physics, is taking place in there," said Nicola Fox, director of the Heliophysics Division at NASA in Washington D.C., according to the BBC.</p><p>Raouafi also said of the Parker Space Probe that, "We are almost certain we'll make new discoveries."</p><p>This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. ©2018 FOX News Network, LLC. All rights reserved. All market data delayed 20 minutes.</p>
ritten, or redistributed. ©2018 FOX News Network, LLC. All rights reserved. All market data delayed 20 minutes. </p><p>Russian spacewalkers have cut samples of material around a mysterious hole in a spacecraft docked on the International Space Station (ISS) that’s been at the center of sinister rumors and conspiracy theories.</p><p>Roscosmos space agency said the aim was to discover whether the “small but dangerous” hole had been made on Earth or in space.</p><p>The two-millimeter cavity on the Russian Soyuz spaceship docked at the ISS was discovered on August 30 after an air leak was detected two months after the craft’s last voyage.</p><p>Rumors the hole could be the work of a saboteur began after Roscosmos chief Dmitry Rogozin ruled out a manufacturing error and failed to exclude the possibility of “deliberate interference in space”.</p><p>One theory reported in Russian media is that US astronauts deliberately drilled the hole to get a sick colleague sent back home.</p><p>Until Tuesday, astronauts had only been able to examine the hole from inside the spacecraft.</p><p>During the seven hour, 45 minute spacewalk, veteran cosmonauts Oleg Kononenko and Sergei Prokopyev struggled, but eventually succeeded, in cutting away the insulation covering the hole and taking out a sample to analyze.</p><p>What made it especially hard is that the Soyuz spacecraft, unlike the ISS, was not designed to be repaired in spacewalks and has no outside railings for astronauts to hold onto.</p><p>“There’s nothing, that’s the problem,” Kononenko said ahead of the outing.</p><p>Mr. Rogozin said in October that an investigation had ruled out a manufacturing error. He had said earlier that Russia did not exclude “deliberate interference in space”.</p><p>Russian media reported the investigation was probing the possibility US astronauts deliberately drilled the hole to get a sick colleague sent back home.</p><p>The discovery of the hole was followed in October by the failure of a manned Soyuz launch, although the Russian and US astronauts returned safely to Earth.</p><p>The samples will be sent to Earth to “get at the truth” of the cavity’s origins, the space agency said.</p><p>The cosmonauts also took photographs and filmed video before putting new insulation over the area.</p><p>The spacewalk was the fourth for Kononenko and the second for Prokopyev.</p><p>Mr. Rogozin called the mission “unprecedented in its complexity” on Twitter and Roscosmos said it would “enter the history of space exploration”.</p><p>The Soyuz spacecraft is used to ferry astronauts to and from the ISS. The hole is in a section that will not be used for the return journey to Earth on December 20.</p><p>The ISS is one of the few areas of Russia-US co-operation that remains unaffected by the slump in relations and Washington’s sanctions.</p><p>This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. ©2018 FOX News Network, LLC. All rights reserved. All market data delayed 20 minutes.</p>