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Seals not Columbus Brought TB to Americas

Seals and sea lions probably brought tuberculosis to the Americas centuries before Christopher Columbus first set foot there, scientists said Wednesday.

A new study challenges the theory that Europeans introduced TB to the New World, where it killed millions of indigenous Americans along with other foreign diseases like whooping cough, chicken pox and flu.

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France Fights Back Asian Hornet Invader

They slipped into southwest France 10 years ago in a pottery shipment from China and have since invaded more than half the country, which is fighting back with drones, poisoned rods and even chickens.

The Asian hornet, or vespa velutina nigrithorax, is considered a "public enemy" in parts of France where it devours native bees and, experts say, threatens biodiversity.

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Octopus Inspires New Camouflage Material

The octopus's ability to camouflage itself has inspired a new kind of thin, flexible fabric that can automatically match patterns, U.S. researchers said Tuesday.

Creatures of the ocean known as cephalopods -- including cuttlefish, squid and octopuses -- are naturally equipped with sensors in their skin that help in some way to mimic the look of their surroundings.

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U.N.: Urgent Action Needed to Tackle Sahel's Lack of Rainfal

A dearth of rainfall in the Sahel could have "severe consequences" for food and agriculture across the region, a U.N. official said Tuesday, urging urgent action to tackle droughts.

"The countries in the Sahel in general are suffering from a lack of rain this winter, the consequences of which could be severe," Coumba Mar Gadio, Mauritania's U.N. representative, warned at a meeting of regional environment ministers in Nouakchott.

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Tide Turns for Shark Fin in China

A sprawling market floor in Guangzhou was once a prime location for shark fin, one of China's most expensive delicacies. But now it lies deserted, thanks to a ban from official banquet tables and a celebrity-driven ad campaign.

One shopkeeper at the Shanhaicheng center quietly ate his lunch at a desk, flanked by four glum-looking colleagues and giant white sacks overflowing with thousands of dollars' worth of unsold grey stock.

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Mexico Loses 80 Schools after Chemical Leak

Authorities in Mexico said Monday they have closed about 80 schools after sulfuric acid leaked from a copper mine in the country's northwest and contaminated the Sonora River.

"About 5,000 students from around 80 schools will not have classes this week because of a lack of water and in some locations their proximity to the river," said the director of the Sonora state civil protection agency, Jesus Arias.

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Less Shake from Artificial Quakes, Fed Study Says

Man-made earthquakes, a side effect of some high-tech energy drilling, cause less shaking and in general are about 16 times weaker than natural earthquakes with the same magnitude, a new federal study found.

People feeling the ground move from induced quakes — those that are not natural, but triggered by injections of wastewater deep underground— report significantly less shaking than those who experience more normal earthquakes of the same magnitude, according to a study by U.S. Geological Survey geophysicist Susan Hough.

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Disquieting Times for Malaysia's 'Fish Listener'

One hand clinging to his boat's gunwale, Harun Muhammad submerges himself, eyes and ears wide open underwater as he "listens" for fish sounds emanating from the blue depths.

Harun is one of Malaysia's last "fish listeners," and he and his apprentice son Zuraini are believed to be the only active practitioners of this mysterious and dying local art.

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Elephant Killings in Africa Outpace Births

More elephants in Africa are being killed by poachers than are born each year, and the problem may be worse than previously understood, according to the most detailed assessment yet.

Using a newly refined approach to estimate elephant deaths, developed at Kenya's Samburu National Reserve, researchers said Africa's elephant population is declining at a rate of about two percent annually.

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Orbital Cargo Ship Makes Planned Re-Entry to Earth

Orbital Sciences Corporation's unmanned Cygnus cargo ship disintegrated as planned Sunday as it re-entered Earth's atmosphere after a month-long resupply mission to the International Space Station.

The spacecraft had been released from the orbiting lab on Friday at 6:40 am (1040 GMT), and then stayed in independent orbit for two days, before firing its engines and pushing into Earth's atmosphere.

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