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New July 2013

Everest Sherpas May Go On Strike

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Over compensation in death cases.

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Japanese PM’s shrine offering stokes tensions with South Korea, China

Shinzo Abe’s offering was sent just before U.S. President Barack Obama begins a three-day visit to Japan

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BP claims mission accomplished in Gulf cleanup; Coast Guard begs to differ

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BP this week metaphorically hung a “mission accomplished” banner over the Gulf of Mexico ecosystems that it wrecked when the Deepwater Horizon oil well blew up and spewed 200 million gallons of oil in 2010. Funny thing, though: BP isn’t the commander of the cleanup operation. The Coast Guard is. And it’s calling bullshit. Here’s what BP said in a press statement on Tuesday, nearly four years after the blowout: “The U.S. Coast Guard today ended patrols and operations on the final three shoreline miles in Louisiana, bringing to a close the extensive four-year active cleanup of the Gulf Coast following the Deepwater Horizon accident. These operations ended in Florida, Alabama and Mississippi in June 2013.” Helpful though it may have seemed for BP to speak on behalf of the federal government, the Coast Guard took some umbrage. From The Washington Post: Coast Guard Capt. Thomas Sparks, the federal on-scene coordinator of the Deepwater Horizon response, sought to stress that the switch to what he called a “middle response” process “does not end cleanup operations.” “Our response posture has evolved to target re-oiling events on coastline segments that were previously cleaned,” said Sparks. “But let me be absolutely clear: This response is not over — not by a long shot.” The Gulf Restoration Network tried to explain the semantics behind BP’s deceptive statement. “When oil washes up on shore, BP is no longer automatically obliged to go out there and clean up the mess,” spokesperson Raleigh Hoke said. “Now the onus is on the public, and state and federal governments to find the oil and then call BP in.” We get why BP would wish that the cleanup were over. The efforts have already cost $14 billion — a fraction of the $42 billion that the company expects to pay out in fines, compensation claims, and other costs related to the Deepwater Horizon disaster. It’s a nightmare that we all wish were over — but wishes and rhetoric do not remove poisons from an ecosystem.Filed under: Business & Technology, Climate & Energy

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Black rainstorm leaves Festival Walk soaked and reeling from losses

<!– google_ad_section_start –> Rain-soaked stores at a glitzy Kowloon Tong shopping centre have been left counting their losses after Sunday’s freak downpour, uncertain whether insurers will compensate them. <!– google_ad_section_end –>

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U.N. climate report offers lots of bummer news plus a few dollops of encouragement

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Climate change has broken down the floodgates, pervading every corner of the globe and affecting every inhabitant. That was perhaps the clearest message from the newest report of the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change — the latest in a conga line of warnings about the need to radically and immediately reduce our use of fossil fuels. Published Sunday, it’s the second installment of the IPCC’s fifth climate report. The first installment was released last September; the third comes out next month. (If you’re wondering WTF the IPCC even is, here’s an explainer.) This latest installment catalogues climate impacts that are already being felt around the world, including floods, heat waves, rising seas, and a slowing in the growth of crop yields: IPCCClick to embiggen.As we reported when a draft of key parts of the document was leaked in November, the IPCC says current risks will only worsen – risks such as food crises and starvation, extinctions, heat waves, floods, droughts, violent protests, and wars. Natural Resources Defense Council President Frances Beinecke called the report an “S.O.S. to the world,” reminding us that failure to “sharply curb carbon pollution” will mean more “punishing rainfall, heat waves, scorching drought, and fierce storm surges,” and that the “toll on our health and economy will skyrocket.” But the report doesn’t just focus on climate change’s risks and threats – it looks at ways in which national and local governments, communities, and the private sector can work to reduce those threats. And some of the news on climate adaptation is actually, gasp, slightly encouraging! “Adaptation to climate change is transitioning from a phase of awareness to the construction of actual strategies and plans,” chapter 15 says. “The combined efforts of a broad range of international organizations, scientific reports, and media coverage have raised awareness of the importance of adaptation to climate change, fostering a growing number of adaptation responses in developed and developing countries.” Farmers are adjusting their growing times as they adapt to changing local climates, for example. Wetlands and sand dunes are being restored to protect against storm surges and flooding, drought early-warning systems are being established, and governments are turning to the traditional knowledge held by their indigenous communities for clues on how best to cope with the increasingly hostile weather. But the report highlights a depressingly unjust fissure between the world’s rich, who have caused most of the global warming but can afford to adapt to some of it, and the world’s poorest countries and communities, where countless lives can be ruined en masse by a single unseasonably powerful storm or drought. “Climate change is expected to have a relatively greater impact on the poor as a consequence of their lack of financial resources, poor quality of shelter, reliance on local ecosystem services, exposure to the elements, and limited provision of basic services and their limited resources to recover from an increasing frequency of losses through climate events,” chapter 14 says. And the report highlights the yawning gap between the amount of money that needs to be spent on climate adaptation and how much is actually being spent. Chapter 17 cites a World Bank estimate that it will cost the world $70 billion to $100 billion a year to adapt to the changing climate by 2050 (but notes that these figures are “highly preliminary”). Yet actual spending in 2012 was estimated to be around $400 million. Those high adaptation costs will be out of reach for many of the world’s poorest countries — something that IPCC delegates from the U.S. and other Western countries don’t want you to think about. The New York Times reports that the World Bank’s $100 billion figure was scrubbed from the report’s 44-page summary at the last minute under pressure from rich countries, which have been spooked by poor countries’ calls during recent negotiations for climate compensation and far-reaching adaptation assistance.Filed under: Article, Climate & Energy, Food, Politics

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How to double returns with a P2P ISA

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How P2P ISAs could double your rate of return

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Farmers and eaters: Why can’t we be friends?

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A farmer from Iowa recently told me a story about visiting the San Francisco Bay Area, where I live. He chatted up foodsellers at the Ferry Building farmers market, visited the wine country, and met a lot of nice people. But he also noticed that whenever he told anyone that he was a corn and soybean farmer, the temperature in the room seemed to drop. Oh, that kind of farmer. In the Bay Area, saying “I grow corn and soy” is the real world version of saying Voldemort. This antipathy runs both ways, of course. Visiting Iowa, I felt a similar chill at times when I revealed that I was a California food writer. Another farmer asked me how I thought we should deal with the problem of people demanding organic foods. But I truly believe that we’re natural allies. The farmer and the eater should be friends! We all want the same thing: A sustainable system, one that provides fair compensation for food producers and makes the world a more healthy, delicious, and beautiful place with every bite. We should be breaking the path toward this goal together. And yet, instead of mutual respect, there’s acrimony, suspicion, and anger. Somehow we’ve gotten ourselves stuck, like a pair of feuding siblings, in a downward spiral where every attempt at good will comes across as an insult. For years farmers have been suffering under the crushing imperative from eaters to reduce prices. Farm customers never cared if the farmer had to cut down the old woodlot, or drain the pond where generations of kids have fished, or sell out to her neighbor; all they ever saw was a price sticker with a number on it. And in the past, we’ve just searched out the lowest number we could find. Now, that’s changing. People are starting to say, “You know, we really should be paying for the true cost of food.” The response from conventional farmers: “Pay more for food? That’s elitist.” Farmers complain that eaters are wildly misinformed, and ignorant to the realities of agriculture. And that, I have to say, is often true: If we’re not savvy, the money we’re willing to spend is liable to go to the slickest marketing illusion, instead of actually paying for healthier, more environmentally friendly food. But here again, farmers and eaters are united in their goals. Farmers want their customers to truly understand what they are doing on their farms. At the same time, eaters are practically breaking down the barn doors because we’re (finally!) desperate to understand what’s going on with our food. It seems like the solution would be to throw open those doors. Or we could just go the opposite direction and ban recording on farms, because, you know, whatever. Let’s review: Foodies want to pay a fair price for food, farmers want to earn a fair price. Farmers want people to understand what they are doing, and eaters are eager to learn. What exactly was the problem here? If we can take two steps back like this, it all seems obvious. But down in the trenches it’s much more confusing. People from my part of the world tend to like farmers, we just think that the conventional ones have been brainwashed and are in the thrall of giant agricultural corporations. And, in turn, conventional farmers tend to think that organically inclined eaters are basically good people who have been duped by a gigantic advertising apparatus. I want to suggest, very gently, that both are a little bit right. There are plenty of people out there who have literally bet the farm on expensive new equipment, who now must defend their form of agriculture — in opposition, if need be, to the best evidence. And there are plenty of eaters who become fixated on one particular chemical, or on GMOs, or on a fad nutrient, instead of looking holistically at what’s best for their health and the heath of the land. Yes, there’s a giant sloshing sea of misinformation, and yes, sometimes it seems as if eaters and farmers are more interested in confirming their prejudices than actually listening to one another. The first step here is the same one you’d have to take as feuding siblings: Someone has to swallow their pride. When someone from either side asks me how they can get the other to listen to reason, I always tell them they are asking the wrong question. If you want someone to listen to you, you first have to listen to them, and listen closely. This can be hard: Farmers and eaters are separated, not just ideologically, but also geographically — and that gulf is widest between the big coast cities and the big plains farms. It’s hard to start a conversation from 1,000 miles away. But it’s not at all impossible: There are a few conduits connecting thoughtful farmers to thoughtful eaters, and you happen to be reading one now. As an eater, I want my food dollar to go to good stewards of the land, to build strong towns full of healthy people, to make a greener, more delectable future. What I’d like to know from farmers is, how can I best support you to achieve those goals? I’m listening.Filed under: Article, Business & Technology, Food, Living

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U.S. law firm plans to sue Boeing, Malaysia Airlines over missing plane

A U.S.-based law firm plans to bring the lawsuit against Boeing and Malaysia Airlines alleging the plane had crashed due to mechanical failure

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Chinese insurers start making payments for clients on Malaysia Airlines flight

<!– google_ad_section_start –> Chinese insurers have made initial payments to relatives of passengers on the missing Malaysia Airlines flight, even as Chinese officials questioned whether there was sufficient evidence to confirm the deaths. <!– google_ad_section_end –>

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China graft crackdown hits Hong Kong’s ‘Dried Seafood Street’

<!– google_ad_section_start –> In a narrow Hong Kong street filled with the tang of dried sea creatures, shopkeepers are blaming China’s recent corruption crackdown for falling sales of expensive banquet foods such as shark fin and abalone. <!– google_ad_section_end –>

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Indian officials promise swift justice in gang-rape case

<!– google_ad_section_start –> Indian officials on Monday promised swift justice over the gang-rape of a young photographer in Mumbai, as the final suspect appeared in court over the attack that sparked angry protests. <!– google_ad_section_end –>

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America, Inc. at it’s Finest

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Burberry
New July 2013