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Dramatic declines in insect numbers could see 40% of species die out in the “largest extinction event on Earth” for millions of years.

Scientists have warned of a “catastrophic collapse of nature’s ecosystems” if numbers continue to decline, as insects are key to many of the world’s natural systems and wildlife chains.

Insects provide a food source to other wildlife such as birds and mammals, and are also important for pollinating plants and recycling nutrients.

Researchers say the agricultural industry is largely to blame for declining populations, with destruction of habitat and the widespread use of pesticides having a major impact.

AYRSHIRE, SCOTLAND - MAY 27: A Great Tit pauses on a fence with an insect in its beak to feed its young, May 27, 2004 in Ayrshire, Scotland. The Royal Society For The Protection Of birds is encouraging Britons across the country to take part in an insect census to monitor numbers and species. The results will be used to calculate likely impact on the indigenous bird populations. (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)
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Many birds rely on insects for food

Other factors include disease and introduced species, as well as climate change, with rising temperatures affecting the range of places insects can live.

The Earth is currently facing its sixth mass extinction, according to another study published in the peer-reviewed journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The report found billions of animal species have been lost over the last few decades in a “biological annihilation” of wildlife.

Insect numbers are declining by 2.5% each year and a third of species are endangered, meaning many face extinction by the end of the century.

Bees are among the most affected by declining populations
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Bees are among the most affected by declining populations

They currently make up more than half of the world’s species, but research shows they are disappearing much faster than birds and mammals.

The latest study, published in the journal Biological Conservation, found butterflies, bees and dung beetles were among the worst hit.

This not only affected “specialist” species which rely on particular host plants or habitats, but more hardy types as well.

Scientists say urgent action is needed to prevent the mass extinction.

The study’s authors, Francisco Sanchez-Bayo and Kris Wyckhuys, said: “The conclusion is clear: unless we change our ways of producing food, insects as a whole will go down the path of extinction in a few decades.

Researchers say the loss of insects could be 'catastrophic'
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Researchers say the loss of insects could be ‘catastrophic’

“The repercussions this will have for the planet’s ecosystems are catastrophic to say the least, as insects are at the structural and functional base of many of the world’s ecosystems since their rise at the end of the Devonian period, almost 400 million years ago.”

They called for a dramatic reduction in the use of pesticides, habitat restoration and changes to agriculture, such as planting flowers along the margins of fields.

The chief executive of the wildlife charity Buglife called the report “gravely sobering” and also urged change.

“It is becoming increasingly obvious our planet’s ecology is breaking and there is a need for an intense and global effort to halt and reverse these dreadful trends – allowing the slow eradication of insect life to continue is not a rational option,” said Matt Shardlow.

Falling insect populations have been the subject of concern for a number of years, with a report published last year finding species in German nature reserves had declined by more than 75% during the 27-year study.

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New York City vows to end hairstyle discrimination after ‘racist stereotypes’ | US News

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New guidelines have been introduced in New York City to stop hairstyle discrimination.

Employers have been warned they could face legal action for banning styles associated with black people, such as afros, dreadlocks or corn rows, or for instructing black workers to straighten their hair.

Numerous schools until now have banned dreadlocks, afros and other hairstyles.

The legal guidance says existing human rights law protects New Yorkers’ right to “maintain natural hair or hairstyles that are closely associated with their racial, ethnic or cultural identities”.

Although the protections apply to everyone, they were prompted mainly by “racist stereotypes that black hairstyles are unprofessional”, the NYC Commission on Human Rights said.

some schools have banned dreadlocks, afros and other ways of wearing hair
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Some schools have banned dreadlocks, afros and other ways of wearing hair

The commission’s chairwoman Carmelyn P Malalis tweeted after releasing the guidelines: “Hair is a part of you. Race discrimination based on hair is illegal in NYC.”

The guidance in effect enables people to take companies and organisations to court if they have been harassed or punished in workplaces, schools or public spaces because of their hair texture or style.

However, hair nets and bands can still be required for health and safety reasons.

In December, a white referee sparked uproar when he told a black New Jersey high school wrestler to cut his dreadlocks before a match or forfeit it.



Black high school wrestler Andrew Johnson was forced to have his dreadlocks cut off by a white referee in order to compete







Black US wrestler forced to cut dreads

Although the teenager had his hair cut, many criticised the demand, including the state’s governor and an Olympic wrestler.

Last year, the Supreme Court refused to hear a discrimination case involving a black Alabama woman who said she was sacked from her job because she refused to cut her dreadlocks.

An appeal found in favour of the employer and said federal law protects people from discrimination based on “immutable characteristics, but not their cultural practices”.

New York City’s human rights law is distinct from federal anti-discrimination law.

Ms Malalis said: “There’s nothing keeping us from calling out these policies prohibiting natural hair or hairstyles most closely associated with black people.”

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Scraping for food to survive: Inside the frontline of Yemen’s devastating civil war | World News

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Yemen’s warring parties have agreed to withdraw their forces from Hodeidah – providing fresh hope for the fragile ceasefire in the city.

No timeline has been announced for the withdrawal – it was originally scheduled for last month.

But Sky News has been told by forces who are reporting daily violations that the ceasefire agreement could collapse at any time.

An agreement was reached between Yemen’s UN-recognised government and their rivals – the Houthis – at the end of last year.

A coalition soldier surveys the rotting grain in a silo that could feed 3.7 million people
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A coalition soldier surveys the rotting grain in a silo that could feed 3.7 million people

And amid this grinding war a desperate population struggling to survive is scraping in the dirt for whatever handouts they can get.

Sky News gained rare access to Hodeidah by travelling along Yemen’s west coast.

We were taken to the Red Sea Flour Mills on the edge of the city.

The front line position is now controlled by the coalition – inside the stores the grain is spoiling in the heat.

Aid agencies say although the fighting has paused they can’t cross the front lines to access the supplies.

Under the agreement of the new talks this should change and access should be allowed but confidence and trust between the two sides remains low.

Grain in a silo
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Tonnes of grain is in silos in Hodeidah but the people are unable to access it

The UN says the grain is enough to feed 3.7 million people for a month – vital food in a country where 10 million people are on the brink of famine.

Emirati forces claim it is the Houthis, who are less than a kilometre away, who are blocking distribution.

They have been accused of shelling the grain silos so that one was set alight and is still burning several weeks later.

The Houthis have meanwhile accused the coalition of violating the agreement.

A coalition soldier in Yemen
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Saudi and Emirati-led coalition soldiers are fighting Houthis in Yemen

The break in the fighting between the Iran-backed rebels and the Saudi-led coalition is the only flicker of hope for Yemen.

It is place where light no longer shines – famine and starvation stalk the population.

At a field hospital near Hodeidah the medical staff are barely coping – the place is full of sick and hungry children.

Some 13 days after she was admitted, Bashira is still struggling to breathe.

A hole in the roof of the silo shows the state of the store which could feed Yemen's people
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A hole in the roof of the silo shows the state of the store which could feed Yemen’s people

The one-year-old’s tiny lungs are weak from lack of food.

Dr Faris Ali Abdu Shami says she’s one of the lucky ones.

“The situation is so bad. And there is not enough support like drugs, food, milk that children like her need,” he says.

I ask him what happens to children like Bashira who don’t get help.

Destruction in Yemen
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More than 10,000 people have been killed so far in Yemen’s war

“They will die,” he replies.

The war erupted out of an Arab Spring uprising.

But the conflict cannot be resolved through military might – the coalition believes controlling the main commercial port will clinch victory and restore Yemen’s internationally recognised government.

The path to a political settlement will not be easy – the roads are littered with IEDs and landmines.

Coalition troops inspect recovered landmines
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Coalition troops inspect recovered landmines

Emirati forces are clearing and destroying them every day but even if the latest talks are successful the risk of further violence is great.

We were shown 1,200 anti-tank mines and 396 IEDs collected from various locations along the west coast of Yemen.

They were taken to the town of Mocha and destroyed.

But for now the stalemate remains and it is delicate.

Both sides have agreed to withdrawal measures but because the issue is so sensitive no timeline has been agreed.

Mines are destroyed
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Thousands of mines are being pulled from the ground and destroyed

If the negotiations fail, the lull in the fighting may not last much longer and the disaster of a full-scale offensive on Hodeidah may become reality.

The UK welcomed the agreement but urged all sides in the conflict to continue working together.

A Foreign and Commonwealth Office spokesperson said: “The UK welcomes progress made on agreeing redeployment of troops from Hodeidah by the government of Yemen and the Houthis this weekend.

“This encouraging progress represents a significant step forward in the political process. But more careful work remains to be done.

Yemeni forces
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The Houthis have been accused of violations but have agreed to withdraw

“The UK urges all parties to continue to work with the UN Special Envoy to rapidly finalise and implement the agreed plan.

“As the foreign secretary re-emphasised alongside UAE, US and Saudi Arabian foreign ministers at the Yemen Quad in Warsaw, a political settlement remains the only way to bring long-term stability to Yemen and to address the worsening humanitarian crisis.

“The Yemeni parties must engage constructively and in good faith to overcome obstacles and find a political solution to end the conflict.”

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Kashmir: India-Pakistan tensions flare as more soldiers are killed in gun battle | World News

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Tensions in the disputed Kashmir region have escalated further after four Indian soldiers, three suspected militants, a police official and a civilian were killed during a gun battle.

The nine deaths come after a local Kashmiri militant rammed a van fitted with explosives into a paramilitary bus on Thursday, killing at least 40 soldiers.

The suicide bombing was the worst attack against Indian government forces in Kashmir’s history.

Security officials said the latest fighting broke out after government forces surrounded a village in the region of southern Pulwama, following a tip-off that militants were hiding out there.

Residents reported troops destroying one house with explosives during the stand-off
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Residents reported troops destroying one house with explosives during the stand-off

Monday’s violence saw a senior police officer, an army officer and another three soldiers wounded.

Police said troops had come under heavy gunfire as they started conducting searches.

Residents reported troops destroying one house with explosives during the stand-off.

The bodies of two militants were recovered from the debris and a civilian was killed in the crossfire, according to police.

New Delhi has promised a 'jaw-breaking response' to the attack
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New Delhi has promised a ‘jaw-breaking response’ to the attack

Among the soldiers killed in the gun battle was an Indian army major. One of the wounded soldiers is reportedly in a critical condition.

Anti-India protests and clashes followed the fighting, with residents – mainly young people – trying to march to the site of the stand-off in solidarity with the rebels.

Government troops fired tear gas at the protesters, who were reportedly throwing stones.

Vehicles were set alight by demonstrators after the bombing on Thursday
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Vehicles were set alight by demonstrators after the bombing on Thursday

India has blamed Pakistan over Thursday’s suicide bombing as tensions continue to grow between the neighbouring nations.

New Delhi has promised a “jaw-breaking response” to the attack.

However, Pakistan has warned India not to link it with the bombing without an investigation and said it was part of New Delhi’s “known rhetoric and tactics” to divert attention from human rights violations in Kashmir.

Both India and Pakistan administer part of Kashmir but both sides claim the entire region belongs to them.

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