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Europe Launches Two Navigation Satellites

Two satellites for Europe's rival to GPS were lifted into space on Friday to boost the Galileo constellation to six orbiters of a final 30, the European Space Agency (ESA) said.

The launch of satellites Doresa and Milena, the first with full operational capability, brought the system a step closer to becoming fully functional.

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Famed Galapagos Tortoise 'Pepe the Missionary' Dies

"Pepe the Missionary," a giant tortoise who rose to fame as one of the most photographed animals on Ecuador's Galapagos Islands, has died at age 60, officials said Friday.

Pepe, who lived in a corral at the Galapagos National Park's Interpretation Center, died of natural causes, said the park's ecosystems director, Victor Carrion.

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Arianespace: Galileo Satellites Not on Right Orbit

Two European Galileo satellites launched by a Russian-built rocket on Friday from French Guiana have not reached their intended orbit, launch firm Arianespace said Saturday. 

"Observations taken after the separation of the satellites from the Soyuz VS09 (rocket) for the Galileo Mission show a gap between the orbit achieved and that which was planned," the company said in a statement.

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Study: Australian Spider Grows Bigger in City

Australian spiders may live happily in the bush, but a new study has found that at least one species also thrives on city life and grows bigger in urban areas.

The University of Sydney's Elizabeth Lowe said while research showed invertebrates were sensitive to urbanization, not all species were negatively affected by living in cities.

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Oil Thieves Cause Pipeline Leak, Pollute Mexico River

Thieves who tapped an oil pipeline in northern Mexico caused a spill that contaminated the San Juan River, a key irrigation source for farmers, authorities said Thursday.

The crude from the Madero-Cadereyta pipeline polluted a 23-kilometer (14-mile) stretch of the river in Nuevo Leon state, said federal environmental protection agency Profepa.

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Coal Gas Boom in China Holds Climate Change Risks

Deep in the hilly grasslands of remote Inner Mongolia, twin smoke stacks rise more than 200 feet into the sky, their steam and sulfur billowing over herds of sheep and cattle. Both day and night, the rumble of this power plant echoes across the ancient steppe, and its acrid stench travels dozens of miles away.

This is the first of more than 60 coal-to-gas plants China wants to build, mostly in remote parts of the country where ethnic minorities have farmed and herded for centuries. Fired up in December, the multibillion-dollar plant bombards millions of tons of coal with water and heat to produce methane, which is piped to Beijing to generate electricity.

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Russia Holds Japan Whaling Research Vessel

A Japanese whaling vessel and its crew were being held in Russia on Friday after the ship entered Russian territorial waters without permission, Tokyo said.

The 712-tonne Shonan-maru No.2 was ordered into a Russian port on August 15 after sailing through the Sea of Okhotsk off Sakhalin island, an official from Japan's Fisheries Agency said.

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GPS Measures Western U.S. Drought, Finds Earth Rising

Scientists using GPS technology to study the extent of the western U.S. drought said Thursday the water shortage is causing parts of the Earth's crust to rise.

Some 62 trillion gallons -- equivalent to a six-inch (15-centimeter) layer of water -- have been lost since 2013, causing a slight upward lift across the region, according to the study in the journal Science.

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Almanac Predicts Colder Winter, Hotter Summer

The Old Farmer's Almanac, the familiar, 223-year-old chronicler of climate, folksy advice and fun facts, is predicting a colder winter and warmer summer for much of the nation.

Published Wednesday, the New Hampshire-based almanac predicts a "super-cold" winter in the eastern two-thirds of the country. The west will remain a little bit warmer than normal.

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Humans, Neanderthals Shared Europe for Millennia

Neanderthals shared Europe with modern humans for as long as five millennia until they died out 40,000 years ago -- "ample time" for cultural exchanges and interbreeding, researchers said on Wednesday.

While there is no evidence that the two groups lived closely together, they did co-exist for anything from 25 to 250 generations, depending on the region, according to a paper published in the journal Nature.

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