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Top stories: Warming worsens inequality, a brave new ‘overworld,’ and a foreign ties fiasco

Global warming may boost economic inequality

Over the past half-century, climate change has been blamed for heat waves, flooding, and rising seas. Now, researchers say warmer temperatures are widening the chasm separating richer and poorer countries, effectively boosting the economies of many wealthy polluters while dampening growth in much of the developing world. As a result, inequality between the haves and have-nots is already 25% greater than it would be in a cooler world, the paper asserts.

Into the overworld: Modified spy plane to see whether towering storms pose new threat to ozone layer

NASA is preparing a former spy plane to soar into the lower stratosphere, some 18 kilometers up, in search of a potential new threat to the ozone layer above the U.S. Great Plains. There, scientists suspect, towering summer thunderstorms are lofting water and pollutants high into the stratosphere, where they can catalyze ozone destruction. And researchers worry the problem could worsen as the planet warms.

Exclusive: Major U.S. cancer center ousts ‘Asian’ researchers after NIH flags their foreign ties

The MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas, has ousted three senior researchers after the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, Maryland, said they had committed potentially “serious” violations of agency rules on peer-review confidentiality and the disclosure of foreign ties. The new developments are linked to a sweeping NIH effort to address U.S. government fears that foreign nations, particularly China, are taking unfair advantage of federally funded research.

Just 10% of U.S. plastic gets recycled. A new kind of plastic could change that

Most plastics have a chemical history that makes starting a new life a challenge. The dyes and flame retardants that make them perfect for say, a couch cushion or a bottle of detergent, make them tough to transform into a desirable end product—one of the reasons just 10% of plastic in the United States gets recycled. Now, researchers have created a plastic with a special chemical bond that helps it separate out from those additives, turning it back into a pure, valuable product that can be reused again and again.

Emperor penguins flee unsteady ice after ‘unprecedented’ failure to breed

Antarctica’s charismatic emperor penguins are thought to be particularly vulnerable to climate change, because warming waters are melting the sea ice where they live and breed. Now, the penguins have abandoned one of their biggest colonies after breeding pairs there failed to raise almost any new chicks in 3 years. Although the move cannot directly be attributed to climate change, researchers say it is an ominous sign of things to come for the largest of penguin species.