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Less than half of US teenagers today are sexually active, far fewer than in the late 1980s, a US government report said Wednesday.

The findings are based on survey data spanning 1988 to 2013, called the National Survey of Family Growth, offering a glimpse at national estimates of sexual activity, contraceptive use and childbearing among teenagers aged 15–19.

"In 2011–2013, 44 percent of female teenagers and 47 percent of male teenagers aged 15–19 had experienced sexual intercourse," said the report by the National Center for Health Statistics.

"The percentage has declined significantly, by 14 percent for female and 22 percent for male teenagers, over the past 25 years."

In 1988, 60 percent of teenage boys and 51 percent of teenage girls were sexually active.

The lowest points were seen in the 2006-2010 range for females, with 43 percent saying they had had sex at least once.

For males, the lowest number was 46 percent in 2002.

When researchers separated the data by age, they found that 15-year-olds were the least likely to have had sex (about 15 percent).

The likelihood of sexual activity increased over time. Almost two in three 19-year-olds have experienced intercourse at least once, the report said.

The declining rates of sexually active youth coincide with previous research that has found a big drop in the teen birth rate.

 

 

 

New York's Empire State Building was lit in green late Friday to celebrate the Eid al-Fitr holiday that marks the end of Ramadan.

The green light will shine until the famous skyscraper closes to the public at 2:00 am (0600 GMT), when the building traditionally turns out its lights.

The skyscraper has carried out the tradition "for several years now -- it is an annual lighting," a building spokeswoman told AFP.

The Empire State Building famously shines specific colors for a number of religious holidays -- pastel shades for Easter, blue and white for Hanukkah, and red and green for Christmas.

It also has marked a number of events -- red, white and blue for the US women's World Cup victory, rainbow colors for gay Pride Week, and blue, white and purple for World Oceans Day on June 8.

 

 

 

Copenhagen says it is on track to become the world's first carbon neutral capital by 2025, but even after emissions fell more than expected some critics dismiss the plan as a vanity project.

The Scandinavian city launched its carbon neutrality scheme in 2009, when it hosted the UN Climate Change Conference.

Visitors to the Danish capital quickly become aware of its clean energy credentials: one of the first things seen while flying into the airport is an offshore wind farm.

After they have landed, one of Europe's newest and most modern metro systems takes tourists into the city centre, and once there, many of them come dangerously close to a cyclist hurtling down one of Copenhagen's many cycling lanes.

While the 2009 climate meeting ended in failure, Copenhagen has so far managed to cut emissions more than expected.

Carbon emissions were to have fallen by 20 percent in 2015 from the 2005 level. But by 2014 they were already down by 31 percent, and this despite the city's population growing by 15 percent in the same period.

Some of those gains were due to a series of unusually mild winters, meaning people used less energy for heating. There were also more windy days than projected, resulting in more energy from the city's wind turbines.

"The big changes will take place between 2016 and 2018. That's when our power stations will be converted from traditional fuel to fossil free fuel," said Morten Kabell, the city's mayor for technical and environmental affairs.

Around three quarters of the emission cuts will come from switching to green energy. Out of the total reduction, 43 percent will come from burning waste and biomass -- mostly from wood -- instead of coal in power plants. Another 42 percent will come from adding more wind turbines to the power grid.

 

- Criticism -

 

Both measures have been criticised by experts.

Biomass made from wood is considered to be carbon neutral by the EU since the new trees that are planted will eventually absorb the carbon emissions that came from burning the ones that were cut down.

However burning wood is only carbon neutral if the land is reforested, and even then there is a time lag of up to 100 years before the carbon "debt" has been neutralised by new trees.

In the meantime they contribute to rising carbon dioxide emissions. If the wood is shaped into pellets and shipped overseas its carbon footprint grows further.

To claim biomass was carbon neutral amounted to "a falsification of the accounts," said Klaus Illum, an energy consultant a vocal critic of Copenhagen's 2025 target.

Kabell said that he was personally against using biomass to reach the 2025 target, but added that the city had taken steps to ensure it only used sustainably sourced wood.

The other major component of Copenhagen's switch to clean energy involves erecting more than 100 wind turbines in and outside the city, which on windy days would produce enough energy to sell surplus power to other parts of Denmark.

That will help the capital offset its remaining carbon emissions, but once all of Denmark's heating and electricity needs are met from renewable sources in 2035, it will have to look abroad to get credits to be able to claim it is carbon neutral.

 

Two Russians and an American in orbit commemorated Wednesday the 40th anniversary of the Apollo-Soyuz mission, when a "handshake in space" brought the two Cold War rivals closer together.

The three delivered a video address to mark the 1975 event as they floated side by side in the International Space Station (ISS), a show of fellowship at a low point in US-Russian relations today.

Bilateral ties are at their lowest ebb in decades, and space remains one of the few areas of dialogue.

Astronaut Scott Kelly and cosmonauts Gennady Padalka and Mikhail Kornienko took turns hailing the historic mission, which saw two rockets blast off in the United States and Soviet Union on July 15, 1975.

Two days later they docked in space and the three Americans and two Soviets exchanged gifts and hugs in the first symbolic step away from decades of rivalry.

It was "the first real cooperation in space of -- at that time -- two irreconcilable enemies," Padalka, the current commander of the ISS, said in the video. It can be viewed on the Russian space agency's YouTube page:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uqKtFAAARwY#t=162.

 

The Silk Road trading centre of Kashgar has been Muslim for centuries, but despite hordes of people thronging the main bazaar, Gulnur's headscarf shop had barely any customers.

As violence increased last year in China's far western region of Xinjiang, home to mostly Muslim Uighurs, authorities banned veils and other Islamic coverings -- wreaking havoc on her business.

"We're all branded as terrorists because of a few bad people," said Gulnur, who is Uighur. "The Chinese don't understand that we're not all the same.

"Regulations like this will only alienate people," she added.

It is an example of the challenges Beijing faces pacifying the region, where Uighurs accuse the Chinese government of discrimination and restrictions on language, culture and religion.

Xinjiang shares a border with Afghanistan and Pakistan and is culturally closer to Central Asia than China's Han heartland.

Authorities blame the violence -- which has increased in intensity and spread beyond the region in recent years, with more than 200 people killed in 2014 -- on Islamist separatists.

In the past year many forms of Islamic dress have been banned and beards ruled out for young and middle-aged men as Beijing works to root out what it calls "religious extremism".

Posters throughout the region list the prohibited "five abnormal appearances": face veils, burqas, young women in tight headscarves, the beard restrictions, and any clothing with a crescent moon and star logo akin to the Turkish flag.

 

 

 

 

Pope Francis on Monday joked that he did not have to "take drugs" when questioned by a journalist as to the secret of his energy during a whirlwind tour of three Latin American countries.

The 78-year-old pontiff delivered about two dozen speeches and said several masses during a weeklong trip to Ecuador, Bolivia and Paraguay.

"You would like to say that I take drugs!" he said in jest, speaking in the plane flying him back to Rome from Asuncion, Paraguay's capital.

"Mate is what helps me," he said, referring to a traditional caffeine-infused beverage popular in the pope's native land Argentina.

"I have never tried coca. That should be made clear," he said, smilingly after Bolivian authorities said they did not exclude him chewing coca leaves to deal with the altitude in La Paz, perched 3,600 metres (11,800 feet) above sea level.

 

 

 

The historic vineyards, wine cellars and champagne houses where the world's most famous sparkling wines are produced were listed as a world heritage site by UNESCO on Saturday.

In a double victory for French wine, corks were also popping in Burgundy after its vineyards were crowned with the same prestigious distinction by the UN cultural body in the German city of Bonn.

It picked out the Avenue de Champagne in Epernay, where the grand houses sit atop miles of cavernous cellars where millions of bottles of bubbly are aged.

There was special mention too of the village of Hautvilliers, in whose abbey as legend has it the monk Dom Perignon first invented the double fermentation technique that gives champagne its fizz. UNESCO said the champagne world heritage status covers "the places sparkling wine was developed using a second fermentation method in the bottle from the beginning of the 17th century until its early industrialisation in the 19th century."

 

 

The rolling hills of the northern French Champagne region, where the grapes for the sought-after wine are grown, already contain some of the most expensive agricultural land in Europe.

But inclusion on UNESCO's vaunted list can bring further economic benefits, because as well as being a powerful tourist draw, world heritage sites are eligible for financial assistance towards preservation.

In Burgundy, UNESCO recognised the uniqueness of the vineyards of the Cote de Nuits and the Cote de Beaune south of the city Dijon which produce some of the finest red wines in the world made from pinot noir and chardonnay grapes.

 

Billionaire and philanthropist Bill Gates, who spends millions of dollars on AIDS drug development, said Friday he hoped for a vaccine against the disease within the next decade as a cure remains far off.

"Probably the top priority is a vaccine. If we had a vaccine that can protect people, we can stop the epidemic," the Microsoft mogul said on the sidelines of an anti-AIDS-themed concert in Paris which he backs.

Since 1981, about 78 million people have been infected by HIV, which destroys immune cells and leaves the body exposed to tuberculosis, pneumonia and other opportunistic diseases.

Thirty-nine million have died, according to UN estimates, and about 35 million are living with the immune system-destroying virus today, overwhelmingly in poor countries.

Gates said the quest for an AIDS vaccine has taken longer than expected, with many disappointments along the way.

His charitable Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation spends about $400 million a year on AIDS drug research, he told journalists, and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future.

 

 

French authorities are looking into how a lamb genetically modified with jellyfish protein was sold as meat to an unknown customer, a judicial source told AFP on Tuesday.

The jellyfish-lamb, called "Rubis", was sent to an abattoir from the National Institute for Agricultural Research in Paris late last year and somehow ended up on a butcher's slab.

"A female lamb born to a sheep that was genetically modified as part of a medical research programme was sold to a person in the Parisian region in October 2014," said the National Institute for Agricultural Research in a statement, confirming a story first reported by Le Parisien newspaper.

"Although this ovine does not present any risk to humans or the environment, the institute has just informed local prosecutors about this breach of environmental regulations," it added.

The case has been taken up by a public health court in Paris, a judicial source told AFP.

Rubis "found itself on a plate! Who ate it? No one knows," exclaimed Le Parisien on Tuesday.

 

 

The Jarosch Bakery has been supplying goodies for more than 50 years, winning special renown for its butter cream frosting and for butter cookies with an extra tender texture.

But those treats and an array of lip-smacking others face an uncertain future after US regulators this week announced a ban on partially hydrogenated oils (PHOs), or trans fats, a key ingredient in shortening used for many confections.

"It will certainly cost us some money to reformulate," said Kenneth Jarosch, who plans to scour his suppliers for shortenings made with alternative oils before the ban takes effect in 2018.

But Jarosch, whose grandfather and father started the business in 1959, also fears customers will not like the change.

"It will have an effect on the taste and texture and that's what we're all about," Jarosch told AFP by telephone from suburban Chicago.

"And that's what distinguishes us from Walmart and Costco and, if that goes down the drain, we're going to be in a world of hurt."

On Tuesday the US Food and Drug Administration, in a long-telegraphed move, announced that PHOs, the main source of industrially produced trans fat, would be barred from the US food supply starting in June 2018, saying the shift would save thousands of lives.

 

 

PHOs are not "generally recognized as safe" due to their role in heart disease, the FDA said.

FDA officials say even very small quantities of trans fats can add up to dangerous levels and will not permit the ingredient without an exemption.

The food industry like PHOs, which are made in an industrial process by adding hydrogen to vegetable oil.

Trans fats allow foods to remain solid at higher temperatures, provide texture to icings and other foods and have distinctive flavors that are desirable in fried foods. They can also increase the shelf life of baked goods.

- No substitutes -

But after extensive research, the FDA said it was banning a dangerous ingredient which carries no health benefits.

 

Food manufacturers were required starting in 2006 to include trans fat information on nutrition labels, a move credited with cutting US trans fat consumption by nearly 80 percent.

After the FDA released a preliminary version of the PHO ban in 2013, they came under heavy fire from the processed food industry, including the Popcorn Institute, the National Frozen Pizza Institute and the International Chewing Gum Association, which called the plan "misguided and overly broad."

Some commentators said the ban would boost use of likewise unhealthy substitutes high in saturated fats. And critics link the production of one PHO substitute, palm oil, to deforestation.

General Mills, ConAgra and others sought unsuccessfully to persuade the FDA to impose very low caps on PHOs, rather than a total ban.

General Mills cited "significant technical challenges" in replacing PHOs for certain items "for which there are few or no suitable alternatives," such as tailored shortenings used in pastries, cakes and icings.