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Scientists Can Now Assemble Entire Genomes On Their Personal Computers In Minutes

Wed, 2021-09-15 03:02
Researchers have developed a technique for reconstructing whole genomes, including the human genome, on a personal computer. "This technique is about a hundred times faster than current state-of-the-art approaches and uses one-fifth the resources," reports Phys.Org. From the report: The study, published September 14 in the journal Cell Systems, allows for a more compact representation of genome data inspired by the way in which words, rather than letters, offer condensed building blocks for language models. [...] To approach genome assembly more efficiently than current techniques, which involve making pairwise comparisons between all possible pairs of reads, [researchers] turned to language models. Building from the concept of a de Bruijn graph, a simple, efficient data structure used for genome assembly, the researchers developed a minimizer-space de Bruin graph (mdBG), which uses short sequences of nucleotides called minimizers instead of single nucleotides. "Our minimizer-space de Bruijn graphs store only a small fraction of the total nucleotides, while preserving the overall genome structure, enabling them to be orders of magnitude more efficient than classical de Bruijn graphs," says [one of the researchers]. The researchers applied their method to assemble real HiFi data (which has almost perfect single-molecule read accuracy) for Drosophila melanogaster fruit flies, as well as human genome data provided by Pacific Biosciences (PacBio). When they evaluated the resulting genomes, [researchers] found that their mdBG-based software required about 33 times less time and 8 times less random-access memory (RAM) computing hardware than other genome assemblers. Their software performed genome assembly for the HiFi human data 81 times faster with 18 times less memory usage than the Peregrine assembler and 338 times faster with 19 times less memory usage than the hifiasm assembler. Next, [researchers] used their method to construct an index for a collection of 661,406 bacterial genomes, the largest collection of its kind to date. They found that the novel technique could search the entire collection for antimicrobial resistance genes in 13 minutes -- a process that took 7 hours using standard sequence alignment.

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Comcast Will Soon Launch Smart TVs Under Its New XClass TV Brand

Wed, 2021-09-15 02:25
Comcast is gearing up to launch its own smart TVs: The company has struck a partnership with Chinese TV manufacturer Hisense to sell two smart TV models under the XClass TV brand, Protocol reported Tuesday. From the report: A number of clues left online suggests that a launch is imminent. XClass TVs run a version of Comcast's X1 operating system, which also powers the company's set-top boxes as well as its Xfinity Flex streaming box. However, unlike those devices, XClass TVs will be available to anyone, regardless of whether they subscribe to the company's cable services. The Wall Street Journal reported earlier this summer that Comcast had struck a partnership with Walmart to sell its smart TVs; Protocol was first to report about Comcast's plans to enter the smart TV platform business a year ago. While under development for some time, Comcast's smart TV efforts have picked up steam in recent months: The company registered a trademark for "X Class TV" in February. The official XClasstv.com website remains inaccessible, but the company inadvertently left a temporary staging site accessible to the public that reveals many details about the initiative. "XClass TV is a smart TV that brings all your favorite apps, live channels, and On Demand movies and shows together in one place," that site explains in a FAQ. " XClass TV ... gives you thousands of free movies, shows, music, and more. And to find what you love faster, XClass TV comes with a voice remote that lets you control your TV and search across apps with just your voice." Among the tidbits leaked through this staging site: Hisense is making two 4K TV models, with screen sizes of 43 and 50 inches, respectively, for Comcast.

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SEC Charges App Annie With Securities Fraud in $10 Million Settlement

Wed, 2021-09-15 01:40
The Securities and Exchange Commission announced Tuesday that it's charging App Annie, the mobile app data provider, with securities fraud, accusing the company of "engaging in deceptive practices" and misrepresenting the origins of its data. From a report: App Annie will pay a $10 million settlement, according to the announcement, although the company has not admitted to any of the SEC's findings. According to the SEC, the company, which sells estimates on app downloads, usage and revenue, assured app businesses that the performance data they shared with App Annie would only be used in an anonymized way and run through an algorithm to generate performance estimates. But the SEC accuses App Annie and its former CEO and Chairman Bertrand Schmitt of reneging on that promise and using actual performance data to tweak its estimate models between 2014 and 2018. Then, the SEC alleges, the company sold that confidential data to trading firms, and misled those customers into thinking that the data was compliant with federal securities laws.

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Russia Fines Facebook, Twitter for Not Deleting Banned Content

Wed, 2021-09-15 01:01
A Russian court on Tuesday said it had fined U.S. social media companies Facebook and Twitter for failing to delete content that Moscow deems illegal, part of a wider crackdown by Russia on the internet and Big Tech. From a report: The Tagansky district court said Facebook had been handed five fines totalling 21 million roubles ($287,850). Twitter received two fines of a total 5 million roubles, it said. Popular messaging app Telegram had been fined 9 million roubles, the court said. Moscow's actions to strengthen its control of the internet have included a push to require foreign internet companies to open fully-fledged offices in Russia and to store Russians' personal data on its territory.

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Millions With Eye Conditions at Higher Risk of Dementia, Shows Research

Wed, 2021-09-15 00:20
Millions of people with eye conditions including age-related macular degeneration, cataracts and diabetes-related eye disease have an increased risk of developing dementia, new research shows. From a report: Vision impairment can be one of the first signs of the disease, which is predicted to affect more than 130 million people worldwide by 2050. Previous research has suggested there could be a link between eye conditions that cause vision impairment, and cognitive impairment. However, the incidence of these conditions increases with age, as do systemic conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, depression and stroke, which are all accepted risk factors for dementia. That meant it was unclear whether eye conditions were linked with a higher incidence of dementia independently of systemic conditions. Now researchers have found that age-related macular degeneration, cataracts and diabetes-related eye disease are independently associated with increased risk of dementia, according to a new study published in the British Journal of Ophthalmology. The research examined data from 12,364 British adults aged 55 to 73, who were taking part in the UK Biobank study. They were assessed in 2006 and again in 2010 with their health information tracked until early 2021.

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Twitter Reopens Its Account Verification Process After Another Pause

Tue, 2021-09-14 23:40
Twitter has again restarted its account verification process, the company said on Monday. TechCrunch reports: Since launching the revamped verification program this spring, Twitter had hit a few snags which have forced it to shut down verifications more than once. The most recent of these pauses was announced on August 13, when the company said it need to make improvements to both the application and review process. [...] Now, Twitter says users who are looking to be verified should keep checking their account settings screen for access to the in-app application. It didn't detail what, specifically had changed -- but hopefully the system will now remain open for good.

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Facebook's Own Research Shows Instagram Is Harmful To Teens, Report Says

Tue, 2021-09-14 23:02
In studies conducted over the past three years, Facebook researchers have found that Instagram is "harmful for a sizable percentage" of young users, particularly teenage girls, reported The Wall Street Journal on Tuesday. CNET reports: Research presented in 2019 reportedly found that Instagram makes body image issue worse for one in three teen girls. Teens also said Instagram increased rates of anxiety and depression, reported the Journal, citing internal company documents. On Tuesday, Instagram, which is owned by Facebook, said it stands by its research to understand young people's experiences on the app. "The question on many people's minds is if social media is good or bad for people," wrote Karina Newton, head of public policy at Instagram, in a blog post. "The research on this is mixed; it can be both. At Instagram, we look at the benefits and the risks of what we do." Newton added that Instagram has done "extensive work around bullying, suicide and self-injury, and eating disorders" to make the app a safe place for everyone. The company is also focused on addressing negative social comparison and body image, said Newton, and is developing ways to "jump in if we see people dwelling on certain types of content." The Instagram research is part of a "trove of internal communications" reviewed by the Journal. On Monday, the Journal reported that Facebook exempted millions of high-profile users, including celebrities and politicians, from some or all of its community standards as part of a program called XCheck. A Facebook spokesman said the program was meant to give certain Facebook pages a "second layer of review to make sure we've applied our policies correctly."

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Michelin's Airless Passenger Car Tires Get Their First Public Outing

Tue, 2021-09-14 22:25
New Atlas reports the latest development with Michelin's airless tire technology, which has been in the works for almost two decades. An anonymous Slashdot reader shares an excerpt from the report: The advantages are pretty clear: firstly, you can never be brought to a stop by a puncture or blowout -- Michelin says about 200 million tires every year hit scrapyards early thanks to these. Secondly, you don't have to look after your tire pressures; that doesn't just save you time, it also eliminates all early wear caused by underinflation. Their internal spokes are hugely tunable to meet desired performance characteristics. You can individually tune their stiffness under acceleration, braking, cornering and bump handling forces. The bump handling characteristics can even be tuned to eliminate the need for separate suspension in some types of vehicles. You can poke holes right through the tread to let water escape, potentially creating much better resistance to aquaplaning. They take less raw material and less energy to make, making them better for the environment, and Michelin has estimated they'll last up to three times as long as a regular ol' hoop. They have obviously not been easy to commercialize, though; 16 years and counting is a long and difficult birth for a product people are clearly interested in. The Tweel, which replaces the entire wheel assembly, has been available for some time for various off-road vehicles, but it's still yet to make it to the road. Michelin has teamed up with GM to design and start selling an airless tire for street use on passenger cars. Called Uptis, this product is a full-wheel solution requiring specialized rims. Michelin says it will withstand much greater impacts than a regular tire and wheel, and will have a "dramatically" longer lifespan, while adding no extra rolling resistance, not feeling any different to the driver and adding only around seven percent to the weight of the wheel -- less than existing run-flat tires do. GM will begin offering Uptis as an option on certain models "as early as 2024," and the partnership is working with US state governments on regulatory approvals for street use, as well as with the federal government. At IAA Munich recently, the Uptis airless tire got its first public outing, in which "certain lucky members of the public" had a chance to ride in a Mini Electric kitted out with a set. By all reports, the experience was about as exciting as driving on a regular set of tires -- i.e. not very interesting at all. They felt no different. But that's kind of the point here, Michelin is hoping to bring in a new and improved technology with zero change in the user experience. Hence this awkward interview with "Automotive lifestyle YouTuber Mr JWW" (James Walker).

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Online Coding School Treehouse Lays Off Most of Its Staff

Tue, 2021-09-14 21:45
Treehouse, which launched in Portland a decade ago in an ambitious effort to teach software development online, plans to lay off most of its staff by the end of the month. Oregon Live reports: CEO Ryan Carson didn't answer emailed questions about the cutbacks, but said in a brief reply Tuesday that "we are going to continue to serve our students and customers." Carson, who moved to Connecticut last month, said Treehouse is no longer based in Portland and that its remaining staff now works remotely. In an announcement sent last week over the company's internal Slack messaging channel, later viewed by The Oregonian/OregonLive, Treehouse notified employees that their jobs and benefits would end on Sept. 30, without severance. "A small team will be remaining, along with Ryan, to continue to support students," the company wrote to staff. Workers later posted an online spreadsheet with the names of 41 employees looking for new jobs. Treehouse has a geographically distributed workforce and the company's employees live in cities across the country. Treehouse attracted national attention in 2013 and 2015 with two unorthodox management strategies: The company eliminated all layers of management and it moved to a 32-hour-work week. Neither experiment worked. [...] It's not clear what triggered this week's cutbacks. Online education has been booming during the pandemic.

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Apple Watch Series 7 Delivers Larger Screens and More Durability

Tue, 2021-09-14 21:02
Earlier today at Apple's iPhone 13 launch event, Apple introduced the Apple Watch Series 7 with a new, more seamless design with larger 41mm and 45mm cases that include larger, brighter and more durable screens. There's also a variety of new colors to choose from. Engadget reports: The update takes advantage of the bigger displays, with more information and new watch faces like Contour, Modular Duo and World Timer. As for durability? Series 7 is the first Apple Watch with a dust resistance rating (IP6X), making it better-suited to mountain climbing or the beach. The screen itself is more crack-resistant thanks to a thicker new geometry, and you'll still get swim-friendly WR50 (that is, 50-meter) water resistance. You won't confuse this with a rugged watch, but you might not panic quite so much after a fall. The updates aren't quite so aggressive under the hood. You can anticipate 33 percent faster charging and fall detection during workouts. Most of the updates come through watchOS 8, which now includes detection of cycling workouts, better tracking for e-bikes and help if you fall off. You'll also get a full swipe-based keyboard, support for more workouts (Pilates and Tai Chi) and respiratory rate tracking while you sleep. Apple Watch Series 7 will arrive sometime this fall starting at $399. The Apple Watch SE and Watch Series 3 will hang around at respective prices of $299 and $199, and you can expect refreshed Nike and Hermes variants for the Series 7.

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AMD Radeon Software Can Overclock Your Ryzen CPU Now, Too

Tue, 2021-09-14 20:25
An anonymous reader quotes a report from PCWorld: The latest version of Radeon Software adds an unusual (and welcome) new twist: The ability to automatically overclock your Ryzen processor if you're rocking an all-AMD gaming desktop. Yes, your GPU software can speed up your CPU now, too -- and it can do it all with a single click. [...] The addition of Ryzen auto-overclocking in Radeon Software 21.9.1 continues the theme, and might just allow you to ditch AMD's separate Ryzen Master tool if you're running a Team Red graphics card. They'll need to be newer hardware, though, as the feature currently only supports AMD's latest Ryzen 5000 CPUs and Radeon RX 6000 GPUs. AMD's blog describes how to use the new tool: "To access this easy-to-use feature, open up Radeon Software using the hotkey 'ALT' + 'R', navigate to the 'Performance' tab found at the top of the window, and select 'Tuning' in the sub tab directly below it. If you have the latest generation of AMD Ryzen and Radeon product installed on your system, a 'Tuning Control' section should appear for your system, allowing you to select 'Auto Overclock' to increase performance on both your processor and graphics card. We also have a new tuning section for CPUs, allowing you to overclock just your CPU. When the feature is selected, the system will ask for a restart and once you are back in Windows, you will be good to go!" "Radeon Software 21.9.1 also adds official Windows 11 support and the ability for Radeon RX 5000-series GPUs to tap into Smart Access Memory," adds PCWorld. "AMD also took the time to tout FidelityFX Super Resolution's rapid uptake. The DLSS rival is now supported in 27 games, with Arkane's awesome-looking Deathloop set to launch this week with native FSR support in place." You can download these new drivers here.

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All-new iPad Mini Announced With 5G, USB-C, and Larger 8.3-inch Display

Tue, 2021-09-14 19:45
Apple has announced its all-new iPad Mini. It features a new enclosure with narrower bezels and rounded corners. From a report: The big news is that it's larger than the iPad Mini 5 with an 8.3-inch display (up from its predecessor's 7.9-inch panel), making the device even more viable as a driver for multitasking or schoolwork. Apple says the screen can reach 500 nits of brightness. The iPad Mini is currently Apple's smallest tablet, even with the bump in size. Apple was rumored to have been considering a Mini LED display on the new iPad, similar to that of its largest iPad Pro. Those appear to have missed the mark; the new Mini sports a regular Liquid Retina display. The new iPad Mini is up for preorder today and will be available next week starting at $499.

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iPhone 13 Pro and Pro Max Announced With High Refresh Rate 120Hz Displays

Tue, 2021-09-14 19:28
Apple has officially announced the high-end part of the iPhone 13 lineup: the iPhone 13 Pro and 13 Pro Max. It's got a faster A15 Bionic chip, three all-new cameras, and an improved display with up to a 120Hz ProMotion high refresh rate display that can go as bright as 1,000 nits. The iPhone 13 Pro will start at $999, while the iPhone 13 Pro Max will start at $1099. Both will be available to order on Friday, shipping on September 24th. From a report: The OLED screens on both models are the same sizes as last year at 6.1 and 6.7 inches but with slightly smaller notches that should allow for more space in the iOS status bar. Apple says the phones have an all-new three-camera system. The ultrawide should offer better low-light photography, and the telephoto now goes up to 3x zoom, enabling 6x optical zoom across the three cameras. All three cameras now have night mode, and there's a new macro mode for photographing subjects at just 2cm.

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TikTok Faces EU Data Probes Into Children's Safety, China Link

Tue, 2021-09-14 18:25
TikTok faces two investigations by the Irish data watchdog following intense scrutiny for months over concerns that children's data isn't safe on the platform. From a report: Ireland's Data Protection Commission, said on Tuesday it opened two "own volition" investigations into ByteDance's TikTok amid worries about the way it handles its users' data. The Irish regulator became TikTok's lead European Union data protection authority in December. The first probe will look into TikTok's processing of data by its underage users and whether it's in line with the EU's strict protection rules. The second follows concerns expressed by the Irish privacy chief, Helen Dixon, that some EU user data could be accessed by "maintenance and AI engineers in China."

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China Uses Anti-fraud App To Track Access To Overseas Financial News Sites

Tue, 2021-09-14 17:47
Chinese police are using a new anti-fraud app installed on more than 200m mobile phones to identify and question people who have viewed overseas financial news sites, according to individuals summoned by the authorities. From a report: The app was launched in March by the public security ministry's National Anti-Fraud Center and blocks suspicious phone calls and reports malware. Police said it was needed to combat a surge in fraud, often perpetrated by overseas operations managed by Chinese and Taiwanese nationals. The ministry recommended that the app was downloaded but numerous local government agencies made it mandatory for their employees and individuals with whom they work, such as students and tenants. One Shanghai-based user told the Financial Times he was contacted by police after accessing a US financial news service. He was also asked whether he had contacts abroad and regularly visited overseas websites. The user, who asked not to be identified, said police seemed genuinely concerned about foreign scams. "But the questions they raised about whether I have contacted foreigners made me feel like they don't want me accessing foreign websites," he added. "I deleted the app after the meeting."

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India and Singapore To Link Their Payments Systems

Tue, 2021-09-14 17:05
India and Singapore are working to link their digital payments systems to enable "instant, low-cost fund transfers," in a major push to disrupt the cross-border transactions between the two nations that amounts to over $1 billion each year. From a report: The project to link India's Unified Payments Interface (UPI) and Singapore's PayNow is targeted for operationalization by July 2022, both nation's central banks said on Tuesday. Users on either of the systems will be able to make transactions to one another without having to sign up to the second platform, the banks added.

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South Korea's Antitrust Regulator Fines Google $177 Million for Abusing Mobile Market Dominance

Tue, 2021-09-14 16:38
South Korea's competition regulator on Tuesday announced it will fine Google 207.4 billion Korean won ($176.9 million) for allegedly using its dominant market position in the mobile operating system space to stifle competition. From a report: Google's Android operating system currently holds the lion's share of the smartphone market, ahead of Apple's iOS platform. The U.S. tech giant allegedly used its market position to block smartphone makers like Samsung from using operating systems developed by rivals, according to the Korea Fair Trade Commission. Yonhap News added that the regulator, which published its decision in Korean, said the tech giant required smartphone makers to agree to an "anti-fragmentation agreement (AFA)" when signing key contracts with Google over app store licenses and early access to the operating system. That agreement prevented device makers from installing modified versions of the Android operating system, known as "Android forks," on their handsets, Yonhap reported. The regulator alleged that Google's practice stifled innovation in the development of new operating systems for smartphones, the news site added. The KFTC has asked the tech giant to stop forcing companies to sign AFAs and ordered it to take corrective steps, according to Yonhap.

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Intel Is Reducing Server Chip Pricing in Attempt To Stem the AMD Tide

Tue, 2021-09-14 15:46
Intel has pivoted on its server strategy in order to fight a supply-constrained AMD, reports DigiTimes. It's reportedly flooding the market with chips at discount pricing, rather than sticking to MSRP. From a report: While some reports point toward a relative normalization on AMD's CPU supply, AMD has two distinct disadvantages when compared to Intel: It has fewer revenue sources than its much bigger CPU rival, and AMD doesn't own the factories that produce its market-turning Zen chips. Intel, on the other hand, can leverage its vertical integration (meaning that development and manufacturing takes place in an almost entirely Intel-owned and managed supply chain), as well as its massive revenue advantage, to play with final client pricing. In other words, Intel pull a lot more levers to increase demand and (Intel hopes) attract would-be AMD clients back into the Intel fold. AMD has seemingly been making strides in server market penetration. As seen in renowned system distributor Puget Systems' statistics, AMD has risen from a 5% share in systems sold since June 2020, up to a dominating 60% as of June 2021. However, unserved demand means that companies looking to invest in their server infrastructure or who aim to deploy AMD chips in any major way sometimes can't wait for the chips to become available. And Intel is smartly making it more attractive for those companies to go back to the Intel fold, or to skip AMD in the first place.

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AI Can Estimate Corporate Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Tue, 2021-09-14 15:05
An anonymous reader shares a report: In 2015, representatives from more than 196 countries met in Le Bourget, France to sign the Paris Agreement. The legally binding treaty limits global warming to a rise of well below 2 degrees Celsius compared to preindustrial levels, preferably capping warming at 1.5 degrees. While the Paris Agreement doesn't spell out how the undersigned are expected to achieve this goal, some countries have pledged to cut their net climate emissions to zero by 2050. For these and other steps to be successful, reliable data is key. While the ability to evaluate companies' carbon footprints will be critical for countries seeking to comply with the measures, only a fraction of companies currently disclose their greenhouse gas emissions. But researchers at Bloomberg Quant Research and Amazon Web Services claim to have successfully trained a machine learning model to estimate the emissions of businesses that don't disclose their emissions. The researchers say investors could use this model to align their investments with international regulatory measures and achieve net-zero goals. Some regions, including the European Union, require investors to apply a "precautionary principle" that penalizes non-disclosing companies by overestimating their emissions. "Merely 2.27% of companies filing financial statements are disclosing their [greenhouse gas] emissions according to our environmental, social, and governance (ESG) datasets," the coauthors wrote in a paper. "In order to make a meaningful change, we need to measure who is contributing [greenhouse gases] into the atmosphere and monitor their claims to decarbonize."

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Meat Accounts For Nearly 60% of All Greenhouse Gases From Food Production, Study Finds

Tue, 2021-09-14 14:00
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Guardian: The global production of food is responsible for a third of all planet-heating gases emitted by human activity, with the use of animals for meat causing twice the pollution of producing plant-based foods, a major new study has found. The entire system of food production, such as the use of farming machinery, spraying of fertilizer and transportation of products, causes 17.3 billion metric tons of greenhouse gases a year, according to the research. This enormous release of gases that fuel the climate crisis is more than double the entire emissions of the US and represents 35% of all global emissions, researchers said. The use of cows, pigs and other animals for food, as well as livestock feed, is responsible for 57% of all food production emissions, the research found, with 29% coming from the cultivation of plant-based foods. The rest comes from other uses of land, such as for cotton or rubber. Beef alone accounts for a quarter of emissions produced by raising and growing food. Grazing animals require a lot of land, which is often cleared through the felling of forests, as well as vast tracts of additional land to grow their feed. The paper calculates that the majority of all the world's cropland is used to feed livestock, rather than people. Livestock also produce large quantities of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas. [...] The difference in emissions between meat and plant production is stark – to produce 1kg of wheat, 2.5kg of greenhouse gases are emitted. A single kilo of beef, meanwhile, creates 70kg of emissions. The researchers said that societies should be aware of this significant discrepancy when addressing the climate crisis. The researchers built a database that provided a consistent emissions profile of 171 crops and 16 animal products, drawing data from more than 200 countries. They found that South America is the region with the largest share of animal-based food emissions, followed by south and south-east Asia and then China. Food-related emissions have grown rapidly in China and India as increasing wealth and cultural changes have led more younger people in these countries to adopt meat-based diets. The paper's calculations of the climate impact of meat is higher than previous estimates -- the UN's Food and Agricultural Organization has said about 14% of all emissions come from meat and diary production. The study has been published in Nature Food.

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