Russians’ interest in World War Two on the rise, poll shows

The majority of Russians remember the date on which Nazi Germany attacked the Soviet Union and about a third can quote stories from relatives who took part in WWII, according to a recent poll.

The state-run public opinion research center VTSIOM released the results of their latest study concerning the history and legacy of WWII on Friday, June 22. The date is marked in Russia as the nationwide Day of Memory and Grief because on this day in 1941 Nazi Germany attacked the Soviet Union and started, what is known in Russia as, the Great Patriotic War.

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© Neil Clark

According to the poll, 69 percent of Russians remember the date when the war started and about 35 percent can recall the war stories that they had heard from their relatives and close ones. 55 percent of Russians said that they knew that some of their relatives had been killed in action or went missing, but could not recall any details.

Over the past few years the Russian citizens’ attention to the Great Patriotic War has noticeably increased. 45 percent of the poll participants said that they had attended meetings with veterans, 61 percent visited military museums and memorial sites, 88 percent of citizens watched the war-themed films. The only category where researchers registered a decrease in popularity were books about the war – only 23 percent of respondents said they had read such works, compared to 30 percent in 2014.

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Victory Day fireworks at Poklonnaya Hill in Moscow © Vladimir Astapkovich

Other research, conducted by the independent agency Levada earlier this week, showed that Russians had become less prone to blame the huge casualties and material losses suffered by the Soviet Union during the war on mistakes and methods of Joseph Stalin and other top Soviet officials of the period.

In particular, the share of Russians who hold that Stalin and other Bolshevik leaders did not take into consideration the casualties when making and executing their strategies – fell from 36 percent in 1991 to just 9 percent today.

36 percent of respondents said that the huge Soviet losses should be explained by the fact that the Nazis attacked suddenly and caught the Soviets unprepared, 29 percent said the technical superiority of the Germans was the major factor and 10 percent explained the situation by the sheer cruelty of the Nazi troops.

In the same poll, 58 percent of respondents said that they personally had family members who were killed or went missing during the war.

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Antarctica still losing ice despite big rise in snowfall

A fluffy Adelie Penguin chick covered in snow during a snow storm in Antarctica.

Jason Edwards/Getty

Snowfall in Antarctica has increased by 10 per cent since 1800, an analysis of ice cores from Antarctica has revealed.

An increase in snowfall has long been predicted as a result of global warming. “A warming atmosphere is wetter, producing more precipitation,” says team leader Liz Thomas of the British Antarctic Survey, who presented the findings today at a meeting of the European Geosciences Union in Vienna, Austria.

In fact, it used to be thought that increased snowfall in the Antarctica would more than counter any ice loss due to warming. Early IPCC reports forecast that the ice sheets of Antarctica would grow over the 21 century. But gravity-measuring satellites have shown that the continent’s ice sheets have been losing mass since at least 2002.

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These vast ice sheets are made of the snow that has fallen in Antarctica over the past million years or so. As the snow builds up, it is gradually compressed and turned into ice.

To find out how snowfall has changed recently, Thomas and her colleagues analysed 79 ice cores from across the Antarctic, most of which went back at least 200 years. For the whole of Antarctica, they found that 10 per cent more snow falls now than 200 years ago, an average difference per decade of 272 gigatonnes of water, says Thomas. Her team has already published some of the results, with more to follow soon.

Losing ice

The greatest increase in snowfall has been over the Antarctic Peninsula, where the mass of snow per decade has risen by 123 gigatonnes in 200 years. “Sea ice around the peninsula is reducing, so you have more ocean water to increase moisture,” Thomas says. Changes in ocean currents are also lead to upwelling of warm water, which also increases evaporation – and thus snow.

The increase in snow means that global sea level has risen very slightly less – just a fifth of a millimetre – than it would have otherwise. “If it had fallen elsewhere not as snow but as rain, it would have contributed to sea level rise,” says Thomas.

Unfortunately, the increase in snowfall – and thus in ice accumulation – is being more than outweighed by the increase in ice loss, which is mainly due to the speeding up of the glaciers that flow from the ice sheets into the sea. A 2016 study shocked researchers by forecasting that ice loss from the Antarctic alone could add a metre to global sea level by 2100.

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New Scientist – Earth

The rise and fall of Bitcoin

THE great Sir Isaac Newton may have revolutionised our knowledge of the world but he still had his blind spots. He was sucked into the great mania of his day, the South Sea Bubble (pictured) and lost a lot of money. “I can calculate the motion of heavenly bodies but not the madness of people,” he ruefully reflected. In retrospect, he should have pondered the popular saying that was used to define his law of gravity: “What goes up, must come down.”

Investors in Bitcoin are learning this old truth. The price of the cryptocurrency peaked last month at somewhere over $ 19,000 (there is a very wide spread, a problem in itself) but, at the time of writing (around 11am GMT), some exchanges now show a price below $ 10,000. 

Perhaps the best way of understanding Bitcoin is through a model of how bubbles operate. The classic model, developed by Hyman Minsky and elaborated by Charles Kindleberger, a historian who studied bubbles, has five…Continue reading

Business and finance

Spectacular light pillars rise up in frozen North America

light pillars

Sophie Melanson

THERE is a colourful upside to the freezing temperatures sweeping across parts of North America this week. These light pillars – captured here in Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada – are more usual in polar regions, but have been seen as far south as Ohio in recent weeks.

Light pillars are an optical illusion that results from very cold air causing flat ice crystals, normally found only in high clouds, to occur much closer to the ground. Illumination from street lamps reflects off the crystals and creates the impression of an ascending rod of light.

The polar air plunging unusually far south also brought reports of frozen sharks washed up on the US East Coast and frostbite warnings from doctors in Montreal, Canada. Meanwhile, Omaha, Nebraska, saw its lowest temperature for more than 130 years when the mercury fell to -29°C. Then came a weather bomb – a rapidly deepening cyclonic

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New Scientist – Earth

Even a small cut in global warming will help slow sea level rise

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Prairie Pictures/Getty

When it comes to avoiding dangerous rises in sea level, every little bit of global warming we can avoid will make a difference.

In Paris in December 2015, world leaders agreed to try to limit warming to 2 °C above pre-industrial levels, and if possible keep it within 1.5 °C.

While a 2 °C limit would be easier politically, it turns out that sticking to 1.5 °C makes quite a difference when it comes to sea level rise.

Klaus Bitterman of Tufts University in Massachusetts and his colleagues simulated sea level rise under different amounts of

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New Scientist – Earth

If the sea floor is sinking, are we safe from sea level rise?

Spouts carry meltwater from the surface of the Austfonna Ice Cap

Meltwater adds to sea level rise

Ira Block/National Geographic/Getty

“We’ve measured sea level rise wrong for 20 years – and it’s higher than previously thought.” Well, no, not really. This is just one of the misleading headlines about the first study to try to work out how much the ocean floor is sinking under the weight of all the extra water pouring into it.

What’s more, climate deniers twisted the findings beyond all recognition, claiming “climate alarmists” were using the sinking sea floor as an excuse for why sea level isn’t rising as fast as predicted (it is and they aren’t).

So what is the actual story? Researchers have known for many decades that Earth’s crust is elastic and sinks in response to increased weight. “We are really sure about this,” says Thomas Frederikse of the Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands.

We also know that

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New Scientist – Earth

GE, energy shares drag Wall Street lower; bond proxies rise

NEW YORK (Reuters) – U.S. stock indexes fell on Tuesday as General Electric shares plunged for a second straight day and a drop in crude oil prices hit energy stocks.

Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, U.S., November 8, 2017. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

GE fell 5.9 percent to $ 17.90 in the largest daily volume in two years as investors wondered if a massive overhaul of the company by new Chief Executive John Flannery will be enough to revive the industrial conglomerate.

The stock touched $ 17.46, its lowest in nearly six years.

Energy was the largest decliner among the 11 S&P 500 sectors as oil prices fell the most in a month. The International Energy Agency forecast rising U.S. crude output and had a gloomy outlook for global demand growth. [O/R]

Exxon fell 0.8 percent and ConocoPhillips was down 2.5 percent, while the S&P 500 energy sector fell 1.5 percent, the most in more than four months.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 30.23 points, or 0.13 percent, to end at 23,409.47, the S&P 500 lost 5.97 points, or 0.23 percent, to 2,578.87 and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 19.72 points, or 0.29 percent, to 6,737.87.

Stocks favored by investors seeking yield, the so-called bond proxies, were the best performers as the yield curve, or the gap between short- and long-term U.S. government bond yields, remained near its flattest in a decade.

Utilities and consumer staples, sectors that pay relatively high dividends, were the best performers on the day. Utilities rose 1.2 percent for a 2.4 percent gain since Friday’s close, the largest two-day percentage gain since late February.

“People are looking for yield across the globe so potentially there’s foreign flows going into bond proxies,” said Paul Zemsky, chief investment officer, Multi-Asset Strategies and Solutions at Voya Investment Management in New York.

He said the outperformance of stocks in the utilities and consumer staples sectors could also be due to investors getting more defensive “after growth sectors and the overall market have been doing so well this year.”

The S&P 500 fell for the third session in the last four, but it remains within 1 percent of a record closing high hit last week.

TV streaming device maker Roku snapped a three-day winning streak after hitting a record high of $ 48.80, ending down 13.5 percent at $ 36.95.

Advance Auto Parts soared 16.3 percent to $ 95.72 after it affirmed its full-year profit forecast and beat quarterly profit estimates.

Declining issues outnumbered advancing ones on the NYSE by a 1.47-to-1 ratio; on Nasdaq, a 1.23-to-1 ratio favored decliners.

The S&P 500 posted 45 new 52-week highs and 11 new lows; the Nasdaq Composite recorded 64 new highs and 87 new lows.

About 6.73 billion shares changed hands in U.S. exchanges, roughly in line with the daily average over the last 20 sessions.

Reporting by Rodrigo Campos; Editing by James Dalgleish

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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Wall Street ticks up as dividend payers rise, GE slashes payout

NEW YORK (Reuters) – U.S. stock indexes rose on Monday as a sharp drop in General Electric shares was more than offset by gains in high dividend-paying sectors including consumer staples and utilities.

Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, U.S., November 8, 2017. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

General Electric (GE.N) slashed its dividend by 50 percent and cut its profit forecast while unveiling a plan that narrowed its focus on aviation, power and healthcare.

Shares of the industrial conglomerate fell 7.2 percent to $ 19.02 after touching a more than five-year low of $ 18.75.

“People who were in GE for their dividend may be looking for a better place to put their money,” said Kim Forrest, senior equity research analyst at Fort Pitt Capital Group in Pittsburgh.

Utilities .SPLRCU and consumer staples .SPLRCS rank among the sectors with the highest dividend yield on the S&P 500. They were also the largest percentage winning sectors on Monday.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average .DJI rose 17.49 points, or 0.07 percent, to 23,439.7, the S&P 500 .SPX gained 2.54 points, or 0.10 percent, to 2,584.84 and the Nasdaq Composite .IXIC added 6.66 points, or 0.1 percent, to 6,757.60.

Investors are closely tracking developments around the tax bill after U.S. Senate Republicans last week unveiled a new plan that differed from the House of Representatives’ version.

Some relief for investors did come from the regulatory side, and shares of regional banks rose after the Wall Street Journal reported a bipartisan group of Senate lawmakers reached a tentative agreement to ease some regulations on the sector.

The KBW Regional Banking Index .KRX gapped lower at the open but turned positive mid-session and ended up 1.3 percent after steadily climbing in afternoon trading.

Toymaker Mattel (MAT.O) jumped 20.7 percent to $ 17.64 after a report that rival Hasbro (HAS.O) made an approach to acquire the company. Hasbro rose 5.9 percent to $ 96.84.

Qualcomm (QCOM.O) gained 3.0 percent to $ 66.49 after the chipmaker rejected rival Broadcom’s (AVGO.O) $ 103-billion takeover bid, saying the offer “dramatically” undervalued the company.

Tyson Foods (TSN.N) shares climbed 2.0 percent to $ 75.59 after the meat processor said low prices for livestock feed will help boost results again next year. Shares touched their highest since September 2016.

Roku (ROKU.O) shares continued to rally, up 28.5 percent on Monday to $ 42.71, more than doubling since the company reported earnings last week. The stock debuted at $ 15.78 on Sept. 28 after having priced its initial public offering at $ 14.

Declining issues outnumbered advancing ones on the NYSE by a 1.27-to-1 ratio; on Nasdaq, a 1.02-to-1 ratio favored decliners.

The S&P 500 posted 40 new 52-week highs and nine new lows; the Nasdaq Composite recorded 67 new highs and 81 new lows.

About 6.18 billion shares changed hands in U.S. exchanges, fewer than the 6.67 billion daily average over the last 20 sessions.

Reporting by Rodrigo Campos; Additional reporting by Sinead Carew and David K. Randall; Editing by James Dalgleish

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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