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Isolated Amazonian Tribe Contracts the Flu From Outsiders

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There are an estimated 77 Indian tribes living in isolation in the Amazon rainforest. These groups choose to steer clear of outsiders, but thanks to illegal loggers, drug traffickers, and oil workers, they are being pushed out of their land and threatened with disease. Recently, one such group emerged from the rainforest near the Brazil-Peruvian border and made contact with another indigenous community, marking the first time in recent history that such an isolated tribe set out to visit a settled population. But as a result of their expedition, at least seven of the tribe members have contacted influenza, according to Brazil’s National Indian Foundation, FUNAI. This could spell disaster for a group that lacks immunity to the bug.

“This news could hardly be more worrying—not only have these people confirmed they suffered violent attacks from outsiders in Peru, but they have apparently already caught flu,” says Stephen Corry, director of Survival International, which fights to protect groups of indigenous people.

It’s not clear who gave these tribespeople the flu—the other tribe they encountered, aid workers, or the people invading their land. FUNAI tried to clean up the mess as swiftly as possible by treating the infected and giving them flu shots. Unfortunately, they returned to the forest abruptly, presumably to join the rest of their village. Now researchers are worried the illness will spread, and for good reason. Between 1983 and 1985, nearly half of another population was eliminated due to illnesses passed from loggers.

"The uncontacted Indians now face the same genocidal risk from disease and violence which has characterized the invasion and occupation of the Americas over the last five centuries,” Corry says.

Anthropologists can only hope the sick members were treated fast enough to prevent the sickness from spreading, but as long as loggers and other outsiders continue their invasion of the rainforest, these uncontacted tribes will face huge risks. As anthropologist Robert Walker of the University of Missouri, Columbia told IBTimes, “If you think of how many loggers and narcotraffickers there are in this region, and that there could be as many as 3000 to 4000 uncontacted people there, the potential for contact is huge."

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European Space Agency Releases First High-Res Land Cover Map of Africa
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Land Cover CCI, ESA

This isn’t just any image of Africa. It represents the first of its kind: a high-resolution map of the different types of land cover that are found on the continent, released by The European Space Agency, as Travel + Leisure reports.

Land cover maps depict the different physical materials that cover the Earth, whether that material is vegetation, wetlands, concrete, or sand. They can be used to track the growth of cities, assess flooding, keep tabs on environmental issues like deforestation or desertification, and more.

The newly released land cover map of Africa shows the continent at an extremely detailed resolution. Each pixel represents just 65.6 feet (20 meters) on the ground. It’s designed to help researchers model the extent of climate change across Africa, study biodiversity and natural resources, and see how land use is changing, among other applications.

Developed as part of the Climate Change Initiative (CCI) Land Cover project, the space agency gathered a full year’s worth of data from its Sentinel-2A satellite to create the map. In total, the image is made from 90 terabytes of data—180,000 images—taken between December 2015 and December 2016.

The map is so large and detailed that the space agency created its own online viewer for it. You can dive further into the image here.

And keep watch: A better map might be close at hand. In March, the ESA launched the Sentinal-2B satellite, which it says will make a global map at a 32.8 feet-per-pixel (10 meters) resolution possible.

[h/t Travel + Leisure]

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Scientists May Have Found the Real Cause of Dyslexia—And a Way to Treat It
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Dyslexia is often described as trying to read letters as they jump around the page. Because of its connections to reading difficulties and trouble in school, the condition is often blamed on the brain. But according to a new study published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B, the so-called learning disability may actually start in the eyes.

As The Guardian reports, a team of French scientists say they've discovered a key physiological difference between the eyes of those with dyslexia and those without it. Our eyes have tiny light-receptor cells called rods and cones. The center of a region called the fovea is dominated by cones, which are also responsible for color perception.

Just as most of us have a dominant hand, most have a dominant eye too, which has more neural connections to the brain. The study of 60 people, divided evenly between those with dyslexia and those without, found that in the eyes of non-dyslexic people, the arrangement of the cones is asymmetrical: The dominant eye has a round, cone-free hole, while the other eye has an unevenly shaped hole. However, in people with dyslexia, both eyes have the same round hole. So when they're looking at something in front of them, such as a page in a book, their eyes perceive exact mirror images, which end up fighting for visual domination in the brain. This could explain why it's sometimes impossible for a dyslexic person to distinguish a "b" from a "d" or an "E" from a "3".

These results challenge previous research that connects dyslexia to cognitive abilities. In a study published earlier this year, people with the condition were found to have a harder time remembering musical notes, faces, and spoken words. In light of the new findings, it's unclear whether this is at the root of dyslexia or if growing up with vision-related reading difficulties affects brain plasticity.

If dyslexia does come down to some misarranged light-receptors in the eye, diagnosing the disorder could be as simple as giving an eye exam. The explanation could also make it easy to treat without invasive surgery. In the study, the authors describe using an LED lamp that blinks faster than the human eye can perceive to "cancel out" one of the mirror images perceived by dyslexic readers, leaving only one true image. The volunteers who read with it called it a "magic lamp." The researchers hope to further experiment with it to see see if it's a viable treatment option for the millions of people living with dyslexia.

[h/t The Guardian]

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