TIME animals

Why Elephant Advocates Crushed A Ton of Ivory In Times Square

ivory trade
Justin Worland Hundreds of ivory trinkets sit on display in New York's Times Square before their destruction.

'We're not only crushing ivory, we're crushing the ivory market'

Correction appended: June 21

More than a ton of ivory taken from poached animals was crushed in New York’s Times Square on Friday to highlight the threat of the ivory trade to the African elephant. Environmental activists say the ivory crushing gathering, which featured lawmakers, wildlife advocates and celebrities, will show that the illegal ivory trade can’t continue.

“Today’s ivory crush will send a message to the world,” U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell told a crowd of lawmakers, wildlife advocates and celebrities. “We’re not only crushing ivory, we’re crushing the ivory market.”

When the speeches concluded, a 25-ton rock crusher buzzed to life and began grinding the first of hundreds of seized ivory pieces into a sand-like pulp. The hundreds of wildlife supporters gathered to watch broke out in applause as shards of ivory flew from the machine. The destroyed ivory, along with six tons that were destroyed in 2013, will be used to create an elephant memorial.

Read More: How DNA Could Help Catch Elephant Poachers

The event comes the week before the U.S. is expected to issue new regulations prohibiting the ivory trade, and weeks after the Chinese government said it would plan to do the same. Wildlife activists say such actions have never been more urgent. The prevalence of elephant poaching has increased in recent years, largely as a result of increased demand for ivory in China, and as a result, elephant populations have dwindled. Fewer than 500,000 elephants roam Africa today, and poachers kill 50,000 more each year.

Destroying ivory that has been traded illegally may seem like a no-brainer, but the practice has drawn criticism from a variety of groups, including some who support the conservation of wildlife. Some say that ivory contains evidence that could be used against traders. Others argue that ivory crushes reduce the supply and increases the likelihood that poachers will hunt for elephants, they say.

But the groups behind the ivory crushing say the public awareness of the event far outweighs the reduction in supply that destroying ivory may cause.

“I had no idea that the U.S. was one of the largest ivory markets in the world,” said Food Network star Katie Lee, who works with conservation group 96 Elephants. “Every time I tell someone the statistics, they’re shocked. The more people that hear about this, the more change that can take place.”

Jeffrey Flocken, who leads the International Fund for Animal Welfare’s North American branch, described the one ton load as “a drop in the ocean” when it comes to satisfying “infinite demand.” Still, he said, crushing the ivory sends a clear message that the illegal trade won’t be tolerated.

(An earlier version of this article mischaracterized Jeffrey Flocken’s statement.)

TIME A Year In Space

See 2 Dramatic Views of Space Travel

International Space Station Scott Kelly
Scott Kelly—NASA

A pair of pictures tell a powerful tale

A trip to the International Space Station starts and ends with fire, but in between, there is only a sweet, shimmery drift. That’s a fact of your work life if you’re one of the tiny handful of people who fly those missions, but for the rest of us, it’s nice to have a little photographic evidence now and again. For that reason, this is a good week to offer a hat tip to astronaut Scott Kelly who can be found 251 mi. (404 km) above the Earth, where he’ll be until his year in space mission ends next March; and to NASA photographer Bill Ingalls, who can be found, well, pretty much anywhere on the planet his history-capturing services are needed. As the pictures above and below prove, both men have been doing their jobs exceptionally well.

Kelly’s picture was part of his “Good night from the International Space Station” series, a regular image he posts on his Twitter, Facebook and Instagram feeds before bunking down for the night—which easily qualifies him as having a much, much more interesting Twitter, Instagram and Facebook feed than you do.

MORE: See The Trailer for TIME’s Unprecedented New Series: A Year In Space

In the foreground of the image is one of the station’s many projecting limbs of hardware. In the background is the rainbow-hued onion skin of Earth’s atmosphere and the spine of the Milky Way, ranging in all directions.

Expedition 43 Soyuz TMA-15M Landing
Bill Ingalls—NASAThe Soyuz TMA-15M spacecraft lands with Expedition 43 commander Terry Virts of NASA, cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov of the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos), and Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti from European Space Agency (ESA) near Zhezkazgan, Kazakhstan on June 11, 2015.

Ingalls’ picture was taken on June 11, from the open hatch of helicopter 28, as it hovered over the Kazakhstan steppes when the Soyuz spacecraft carrying NASA astronaut Terri Virts, Russian cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov and Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti returned to Earth. As a Soyuz makes its final approach, it is moving at a parachute-controlled 24 ft. per sec (8.5 m/sec), which is a whole lot slower than the speed it was traveling during its blistering plunge through the atmosphere, but still way too fast for a safe landing. So one second before impact, two small clusters of engines ignite, braking the spacecraft to just 5 ft. per sec (1.5 m/sec). That’s a speed that you’ll easily survive but you won’t remotely enjoy, as any crewmember who has ever experienced the teeth-rattling impact of hitting the Kazakh deck will tell you.

But never mind. Virts, Shkaplerov and Cristoforetti returned home safely, Kelly logged another busy day aboard the station, and the rest of us rode along in our own small way, thanks to the people who capture the images of the otherworldly places humanity goes.

TIME Innovation

See Why NASA Is Dying to Visit Jupiter’s Moon Europa

"The time has come to seek answers"

A new mission to see if water or life exists beneath the icy surface of Jupiter’s moon Europa has moved from concept to development, NASA announced this week.

“Observations of Europa have provided us with tantalizing clues over the last two decades, and the time has come to seek answers to one of humanity’s most profound questions,” John Grunsfeld, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, said in a public statement.

An observational spacecraft is slated to launch by the late 2020’s. After several years, the craft will enter Jupiter’s orbit, offering upwards of 45 opportunities to fly within shutter range of Europa, collecting images of the planet’s surface and possibly “tasting” spumes from massive geysers erupting into space. However, the craft won’t actually land on the Europa’s surface.

The spacecraft will have to take only a glancing look, given the intense levels of radiation. “Any mission that goes in the vicinity of Europa gets cooked pretty quickly,” says Europa mission project scientist Robert Pappalardo.

Europa first captivated NASA scientists in the late 1990’s, when the Hubble telescope returned images of the planet’s icy crust. Scientists theorized that an ocean might lay beneath the crust, holding twice as much water as large as all of Earth’s oceans combined. NASA hopes to gain a deep enough understanding of the water’s composition to see if it contains signs of life or life-sustaining nutrients.

“That would mean the origin of life must be pretty easy throughout the galaxy and beyond,” Pappalardo says.

TIME Environment

The Surprising Link Between Trans Fat and Deforestation

palm oil deforestration Nutella
Saeed Khan—AFP/Getty Images A tree stands alone in a logged area prepared for palm oil plantation near Lapok in Malaysia's Sarawak State in 2009.

The ban will likely lead to an increase in palm oil cultivation

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) banned trans fat this week in a move hailed as major step forward in the fight against heart disease. But the move may have some unfortunate environmental consequences. The increased demand for palm oil—the leading replacement for trans fat—will likely lead to deforestation as wooded areas in the tropics are cleared to make way for palm oil plantations.

“It’s the single greatest immediate threat to tropical forests and wildlife,” said David Wilcove, Princeton University professor of public affairs and ecology and evolutionary biology, about palm oil. “It is the leading cause of deforestation and has been for a number of years.”

When the trans fat ban takes effect in three years, experts say that palm oil will be the clear alternative for food producers. In 2006, the FDA enacted a rule that manufacturers label trans fat on food products—and palm oil imports the United States jumped by 60%. The number will be much larger this time around, experts say.

“The labeling rule gives us a pretty clear indication that actually banning trans fats is going to further increase U.S. imports of palm oil,” said Jeff Conant, who leads the international forests program at the Friends of the Earth environmental group.

But with the new demand for palm oil also comes an opportunity to advocate for creating better regulations for the product, Conant said. Many manufacturers already prohibit their suppliers from cutting down new forest and instead ask that they rely on land that was already cleared. The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil develops these standards and monitors the production of palm oil. Conant says the FDA rule provides the perfect opportunity to encode standards like these into law.

“Until now we’ve been saying avoid products that use palm oil but now that’s not really possible,” he said. “Now that we have mandatory rules for eliminating trans fat from our diets, we need mandatory rules to protect rain forests.”

TIME weather

Earth Just Had Its Warmest Spring on Record

People gather in in Central Park as temperatures in Manhattan hit 90 degrees F (32C) for the first time in 2015, in New York City on June 11, 2015.
Kena Betancur—AFP/Getty Images People gather in in Central Park as temperatures in Manhattan hit 90 degrees F (32C) for the first time in 2015, in New York City on June 11, 2015.

It was officially the warmest May ever, too

This year is shaping up to be a hot one—literally.

This past May was officially the warmest on record, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said in a new report. What’s more, researchers say Earth experienced the warmed spring and first five months of the year on record, too. Land and sea temperatures across the globe were higher than the agency has ever recorded in more than 130 years.

Last month was 1.57 degrees Fahrenheit above the average worldwide of 58.6 degrees, the agency said. And the spring averaged 1.53 degrees above the the typical temperature. In the U.S., May turned out to be the country’s wettest month on record.

TIME Family

How Parents’ Expectations Mess With Kids’ Grades

Bad news? Blame your folks
JEFF PACHOUD; AFP/Getty Images Bad news? Blame your folks

When Mom and Dad expect one child to perform better than the other, that's often exactly what happens

Never mind how long you think it’s been since you got your last report card, if you’re a parent, you get them all the time. Your son’s D in history despite the many times you told him to sit down and study already? That’s your D too. And as for all those As your no-nonsense, hardworking daughter keeps getting? Well, don’t get too full of yourself, but you own a piece of those as well.

That, at least, is one implication of a new—and faintly unsettling—study published in the Journal of Family Psychology. The report’s takeaway: your kids get the grades you expect them to get.

Parental expectations have long been an under-appreciated factor in the childrearing game. Kids are smart, the research suggests, especially when it comes to divining what mom and dad think of them. A child who is expected to underachieve will often live down to that prediction. A child expected to thrive will not necessarily become an academic, athletic or social superstar, but will have a much better shot at it.

To test how this dynamic plays out in the case of scholastic performance, Alexander Jensen of Brigham Young University and Susan McHale of Penn State assembled a sample group of 388 two-parent families with at least two children, and focused on the first- and second-borns of the brood. The sibling dyads—or pairs—were selected to represent all four possible age and gender combinations: two brothers, two sisters, an older brother and younger sister and an older sister and younger brother.

The parents were asked a handful of questions about how their children are similar or different when it comes to school work, which of the two is a better student, and how great, on a five-point scale, that difference in performance is. Simple stuff, but it produced surprising results.

On the whole, parents tended to believe that their older child was the better student, though the previous year’s report cards and grade point average often showed that that wasn’t the case. Parents exhibited a gender bias too, typically believing that a daughter was a better student than a son—which on average was true—even when the daughter was the younger child.

All those beliefs, founded in fact or not, had their effect on kids. When the researchers controlled for all of the reasons one child might have performed even a little bit better than the other in the previous school year, they found that the biggest factor determining how the kids would perform the following year was the parents’ belief in who the better student was. On average, the sibling the parents expected to outperform the other one did, by an average GPA bump of 0.21 points. That’s hardly an inconsequential margin, especially when it makes the kind of symbolic difference bringing home a 2.79 versus a 3.0 does.

But while parental expectations had a powerful impact on the kids performance, the reverse was not often true. Even when the child who was thought to be the lesser student did better than the other one, parents’ beliefs remained fixed; the golden child will always be seen as the golden child, never mind any academic tarnish that may accumulate over time.

The study was by no means a perfect one. Some parents surely do a worse job of hiding their expectations than others; some may even make it a point not to hide them, in the why-can’t-you-study-like-your-sister-does way. A sample group of 388 families might have 388 different ways of managing that dynamic.

Then too there is the chicken-egg problem. A question and answer survey of parents and a statistical core sample of just a year or two of grades does not remotely capture an entire childhood’s worth of experiences in which kids’ academic performance may be changing all the time and parents are forever having to tack into those winds.

“At younger ages, differences between siblings may shape parents’ beliefs,” the authors conceded, “and a direction for research is to determine how parents’ ideas about similarities and differences between their children emerge and develop over time.”

Still, if there’s one thing kids have always had it’s an uncannily good radar for what their parents think of them. And if there’s one thing parents often lack, it’s a good defense against that. Mom and Dad may never be able to hide their expectations about their kids completely, but they could, at least, do a better job of adjusting them as circumstances warrant. The kids themselves—to say nothing of their GPAs—will thank them for it.

TIME archeology

The Mystery of a 8,000-Year-Old Skeleton Has Been Solved

KENNEWICK MAN SKULL
Elaine Thompson—AP A plastic casting of a controversial 9,200-year-old skull sits in the basement of archaeologist James Chatter's home July 24, 1997 in Richland, Wash.

He may have lived a simple life back then, but Kennewick Man’s remains have sparked controversy and legal battles that the latest scientific investigation may finally put to rest

Finding a human skull doesn’t happen often, but the skull that two college students stumbled upon in the Columbia River in 1996 proved rarer still. It happened to belong to an ancestor that roamed North America nearly 8500 years ago. Near the skull were remains of practically an entire skeleton belonging to a male who was likely buried along the riverbank by his people in Kennewick, Washington.

Kennewick Man, as he is known, quickly became the subject of a custody battle between scientists eager to study his remains, which are among the oldest and most complete of a human ancestor in North America, and a group of five Native American tribes who claimed the bones as the Ancient One, one of their own forebears. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which manages the land on which the remains were found, intended to return the ancient bones to the Native Americans. The archeologists sued for the right to study them, and in 2004, a judge ruled that the fossils should be studied further.

MORE: Ice Age Infant’s Genes Show That Native Americans First Came From Asia

The results of that analysis were published in a popular book that detailed the lifestyle that Kennewick Man likely led, but since then, advances in genetic sequencing made it possible to do a complete genome study of his DNA. And those results, published in the journal Nature, resolve a long-standing dispute over where Kennewick Man came from — Europe or Asia, or whether he was, as the Native American tribes claimed, an early ancestor who gave rise to some of the Native American populations that subsequently resided in North America.

His genes show that Kennewick Man was more closely related to Native Americans than to European or Asian populations. “It’s very clear the genome sequence shows that he is most closely related to contemporary Native Americans,” says Eske Willerslev, from the Center for GeoGenetics at the University of Copenhagen, who led the analysis.

MORE: A Tale Told by Ancient Bones

Hints of these results first leaked in January, when emails obtained from a Freedom of Information Act request by reporters at the Seattle Times revealed that Willerslev’s group shared some of their early findings with the Army Corps of Engineers to update them on the genetic analysis, which was done in Copenhagen. And presumably, it puts to rest any lingering questions about Kennewick Man’s origins.

Those began when the first archeologist to evaluate the skull’s anatomical features declared it to be more Caucasian than Native American, and continued when Douglas Owsley, a physical anthropologist at the Smithsonian Institution who is considered the expert on North American human remains, agreed with that conclusion. Owsley pointed out that the prominent forehead of Kennewick Man and thinner brain case made him more like Japanese Ainu or Polynesians rather than Native Americans.

His genes tell a different story, however, and when Willerslev’s group also compared Kennewick Man’s DNA to that of the Ainu, Polynesians and Europeans, they found that it did not share the same similarities as it did with those of the contemporary Colville, a Native American tribe from the Columbia River area that agreed to provide DNA samples. No other Native American groups provided genetic material, so it’s possible that other tribes have an even closer connection to the ancient remains than the Colville.

The results do not show that Kennewick Man was a direct ancestor of any tribe living today, says Willerslev. It’s not known whether, for example, an older population of Native Americans living in North America then split into a branch that led to Kennewick Man, and another to the contemporary tribes such as the Colville, or whether Kennewick Man is the ancestor of the Colville and other modern Native Americans.

The genetic analysis does little to change archeologists’ current theories about the first North Americans. The first people to spread into the Americas likely came 5,000 to 6,000 years before Kennewick Man’s time, probably from Siberia via a now non-existent land bridge that allowed them to traverse the Bering Strait.

As for Kennewick Man’s future, Willerslev says that he has been in contact with several members of the Colville throughout the analysis and says that “To me, they seemed pretty excited, and found it interesting.” Whether the remains will now go back to the Native American groups under the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act isn’t clear. But Willerslev acknowledges the irony in the findings. “The reason why we came to this conclusion scientifically speaking is because the remains were almost kept out of science,” he says.

TIME animals

How DNA Could Help Catch Elephant Poachers

male elephants
Getty Images

Poachers kill 50,000 elephants each year. New forensic technology could stop them

Every year criminals around the world trade billions of dollars in products derived from wildlife. The elephant trade in particular has rankled government officials around the world with tens of thousands of the large mammals killed in Africa every year—a conservation threat, given the dwindling numbers of elephants in the wild.

Now, scientists say that they may be able to use DNA from government seizes of illegal ivory tusks to trace elephants’ origins, a potentially groundbreaking method for law enforcement. Large-scale poaching, which accounts for more than 70% of the ivory trade, may be confined to just two areas, according to an analysis of the DNA tests published in the journal Science.

“By being able to say that these came from just a couple of areas means that we can target those areas much more efficiently with law enforcement,” said study author Sam Wasser, on a conference call for journalists.

Wasser, a research professor at the University of Washington, and his co-authors first analyzed samples of more than 1,300 elephants in 71 locations across the African continent. They then compared the DNA of living elephants to DNA found in seized ivory. More than 85% of ivory from forest elephants came from a protected reserve that includes land in Gabon, Cameroon and Republic of Congo, and more than 85% of ivory from savanna elephants came from two reserves in Tanzania and Mozambique.

The network of major ivory traders is the world’s fourth largest international organized crime network, according to the paper, and Wasser says that focusing on the locations in his paper could help bring down that network. The findings should also force countries to stop playing down the prevalence of the trade in their country, he said.

Read More: These Countries Are At The Center of The Illegal Wildlife Trade

Scientists estimate that fewer than 500,000 elephants live in Africa today, and poachers kill up to 50,000 of the animal each year to sell their tusks on the black market around the world.

“Their loss is already causing major ecological, and economic damage in Africa, threatening national security,” said study author Sam Wasser, on a conference call for journalists. “If we do not curb the killings we are really going to cause serious problems throughout Africa.”

TIME Environment

Greenpeace Says It’s Ok to Eat Nutella

Environmentalists approve of the way the choclate spread makers use palm oil

Nutella may prove to be the unlikely source of a rift between Ségolène Royal, France’s ecology minister, and prominent environmental agency Greenpeace.

In an interview on French television network Canal+ Monday night, Royal took her stand against the popular chocolate-hazelnut spread. ““We have to replant a lot of trees because there is massive deforestation that also leads to global warming,” she said. “We should stop eating Nutella, for example, because it’s made with palm oil.”

Palm oil has contributed to deforestation in recent years and scientists have linked it to climate change. Nutella, however, has taken steps to minimize the environmental impact of its plantations, which likely explains why Greenpeace was willing to jump to the defense of the Italian company that manufactures it, Ferrero.

In a statement to Quartz, the organization said it does not support a ban because “a blanket boycott of this agricultural crop will not solve problems in its production,” adding that Greenpeace “consider Ferrero to be one of the more progressive consumer-facing companies with regards to palm oil sourcing.”

[QZ]

TIME space

Astronomers Name Newly Discovered Galaxy After Cristiano Ronaldo

Portugal player Cristiano Ronaldo gestures during the UEFA EURO 2016 Qualifying - Group I soccer match against Armenia held at Republican Stadium in Yerevan, Armenia on June 13, 2015.
Hugo Delgado—EPA Portugal player Cristiano Ronaldo gestures during the UEFA EURO 2016 Qualifying - Group I soccer match against Armenia held at Republican Stadium in Yerevan, Armenia on June 13, 2015.

The soccer fans call it CR7

It pays to be an astronomer when you can name newly discovered galaxies after your favorite sports heroes.

A group of scientists has dubbed a recently discovered galaxy COSMOS Redshift 7, or CR7. That’s also the nickname of Real Madrid star Cristiano Ronaldo, who wears No. 7 on his jersey, and the inspiration for a Nike cleat dubbed CR7. The lead astronomer, who hails from Ronaldo’s native Portugal, cited Ronaldo as inspiration for the galaxy’s name, the European Southern Observatory said in a statement on Wednesday.

It was described as “an exceptionally rare object, by far the brightest galaxy ever observed at this stage in the Universe.” The name is also a measure of the galaxy’s place in terms of cosmic time.

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