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Beijing to expand funding for reducing air pollution

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Beijing, March 18 : Beijing will expand funding to reduce air pollution in 2017, including phasing out thousands of automobiles and replacing coal furnaces in hundreds of villages, a media report said on Saturday.

So far in March, more than 10 days of clear, blue skies have been recorded. There were 198 such days last year and 186 in 2015, according to the Beijing Environmental Protection Bureau.

In addition, the number of days with severe air pollution mainly due to a high concentration of PM2.5-particulate matter of 2.5 microns deemed dangerous to human health-fell to 39 last year, down from 46 in 2015, 47 in 2014 and 58 in 2013, the People’s Daily said in the report.

PM2.5 is used as a major index to record the concentration of the six major airborne pollutants.

“Beijing saw its average PM2.5 level lowered to 73 micrograms per cubic meter in 2016, a year-on-year decrease of 9.9 per cent,” said the Chinese capital’s mayor, Cai Qi, giving credit to existing measures such as reducing coal consumption and the number of vehicles.

The municipal government plans to spend up to 18.2 billion yuan ($2.6 billion) this year on stronger pollution-control measures, the Beijing Finance Bureau said.

In 2014, the special allocation for air pollution was 12.9 billion yuan.

“We will crack down on air pollution with an iron fist … to meet the public expectation of blue skies,” the People’s Daily quoted Cai as saying.

Among those measures are subsidising drivers, as about 300,000 old vehicles with excessive exhaust will be banned from the roads; and helping 700 villages replace coal-fired boilers with clean energy such as electricity and gas, which would eliminate coal consumption in the downtown districts and southern regions.

“In 2017, Beijing will lower its coal consumption (including for industrial production and heating) by 30 per cent, with the total amount falling to less than 7 million metric tons,” Cai added.

Health

Birth control pills could impair women’s ability to recognise emotion

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The study showed that healthy women who use birth control pills are poorer judges of subtle facial expressions than non-users. (Representative Photo)

London, Feb 12: Despite the widespread use of oral contraceptives (OCPs) by women, many are not aware that it may impair their ability to recognise others’ emotional expressions, which may have serious consequences in interpersonal contexts, suggests a new study.

The study showed that healthy women who use birth control pills are poorer judges of subtle facial expressions than non-users.

“More than 100 million women worldwide use oral contraceptives, but remarkably little is known about their effects on emotion, cognition and behaviour,” said senior author Alexander Lischke from the University of Greifswald in Germany.

“However, coincidental findings suggest that oral contraceptives impair the ability to recognise emotional expressions of others which could affect the way users initiate and maintain intimate relationships,” said Lischke.

To investigate the effects of OCPs on women’s emotion recognition, the researchers administered a special emotion recognition task to two similar groups of healthy women: 42 OCP users and 53 non-users.

The findings, published in Frontiers in Neuroscience, showed that OCP users were nearly 10 per cent less accurate on average than non-users in deciphering the most enigmatic emotional expressions.

Though the groups were equally good at recognising easy expressions, the OCP users were less likely to correctly identify difficult expressions, results showed.

The effect held for both positive and negative expressions, and regardless of the type of OCP or the menstrual cycle phase of non-users.

“Cyclic variations of estrogen and progesterone levels are known to affect women’s emotion recognition and influence activity and connections in associated brain regions. Since oral contraceptives work by suppressing estrogen and progesterone levels, it makes sense that oral contraceptives also affect women’s emotion recognition,” said Lischke.

There is a need for further studies that replicate and extend the findings of the present study before thinking about changing current guidelines regarding the prescription of OCPs, the study noted.

IANS

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The Delhi High Court seeks Delhi government response over bike ambulance controversy

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New Delhi, Feb 11 (IANS) The Delhi High Court on Monday asked the state government to file response to a plea alleging that trained paramedics are not deployed in bike ambulance service.

On February 7, the Central Accident and Trauma Services (CATS), an entity of the state government, launched a scheme of First Responder Vehicle, popularly known as bike ambulance service, to provide timely health assistance in traffic-congested areas and small lanes.

A bench of Chief Justice Rajendra Menon and Justice V. Kameswar Rao asked the Delhi government and CATS to file response on the plea seeking direction to deploy trained, young and energetic paramedics with requisite qualification and valid licence to drive two-wheelers.

The court has listed the matter for further hearing on May 2.

The court was hearing a plea filed by advocate Satakashi Verma and Kamlesh Kumar. In the plea, the advocates said that the scheme has been launched without doing due diligence with the help of untrained manpower, who are unfit to manage existing ambulance system due to lack of technical qualification.

The scheme was launched without deploying adequately qualified and trained paramedics, they added.

In their petition, they claimed that the existing staff of Assistant Ambulance Officer was found to be unfit for operation and maintenance of the bike ambulance service.

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Researchers identify gene to treat alcoholism

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New York, Feb 9: Researchers have identified a gene that could provide a new target for developing medication to prevent and treat alcoholism, according to a new study on mice.

Researchers at Oregon National Primate Research Center (ONPRC) in the US discovered a gene that had lower expression in the brains of non-human primates which voluntarily consumed heavy amounts of alcohol compared to those that drank less.

Furthermore, the team unraveled a link between alcohol and how it modulates the levels of activity of this particular gene.

Researchers discovered that when they increased the levels of the gene encoded protein in mice, they reduced alcohol consumption by almost 50 per cent without affecting the total amount of fluid consumed or their overall well-being.

The study modified the levels of the protein encoded by a single gene known as GPR39.

The prevalence rates of co-occurring mood and alcohol use disorders are high, with individuals with alcohol use disorder being 3.7 times more likely to have major depression than those who do not abuse alcohol.

Using a commercially available substance that mimics the activity of the GPR39 protein, the researchers found that targeting this gene dramatically reduced alcohol consumption in mice, showed the findings of the study published in the journal, Neuropsychopharmacology.

“The study highlights the importance of using cross-species approaches to identify and test relevant drugs for the treatment of alcohol use disorder,” noted senior author Rita Cervera-Juanes, Research Assistant Professor at ONPRC.

IANS

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