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New July 2013

Plane search ‘most challenging ever’

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The search for missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 could take weeks and is the “most challenging ever seen”, the Australian official co-ordinating the search says.

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Where Is the Humanities' Neil DeGrasse Tyson?

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Cosmos is a hit, again. Neil DeGrasse Tyson is a pop science star. Thanks to him, kids dream about expanding human knowledge of the phenomenal universe. Now: Where’s a liberal arts rockstar to make people care about human culture that much?Read more…

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Rich countries: Sure, climate change will screw poor countries, but what about us?

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The new report from the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change highlights that we are already feeling the pain of global warming across the planet. Heat waves and drought are increasingly in rhythm in every major continent, including our own, while severe flooding is more frequently becoming the business in Africa. If you don’t want to read the IPCC’s 2,500-plus page report, here’s the shorter version: Climate fuckery is not futuristic; we have been fucking up the atmosphere; it is fucking us back. But, as I wrote recently, there are certain people — particularly those with large concentrations of melanin in their skin, and smaller concentrations of money in the bank — who are suffering more of that fuckery than their less-melanated, more-resourced counterparts. The IPCC’s latest makes note of this. Disturbingly, the report’s authors wanted to keep this critical information out of the much-shorter IPCC executive summary — the part that’s supposed to be the most accessible to the public and lawmakers. From New York Times reporter Justin Gillis: The poorest people in the world, who have had virtually nothing to do with causing global warming, will be high on the list of victims as climatic disruptions intensify, the report said. It cited a World Bank estimate that poor countries need as much as $100 billion a year to try to offset the effects of climate change; they are now getting, at best, a few billion dollars a year in such aid from rich countries. The $100 billion figure, though included in the 2,500-page main report, was removed from a 48-page executive summary to be read by the world’s top political leaders. It was among the most significant changes made as the summary underwent final review during a days long editing session in Yokohama. The edit came after several rich countries, including the United States, raised questions about the language, according to several people who were in the room at the time but did not wish to be identified because the negotiations are private. The language is contentious because poor countries are expected to renew their demand for aid this September in New York at a summit meeting of world leaders, who will attempt to make headway on a new treaty to limit greenhouse gases. Many rich countries argue that $100 billion a year is an unrealistic demand; it would essentially require them to double their budgets for foreign aid, at a time of economic distress at home. That argument has fed a rising sense of outrage among the leaders of poor countries, who feel their people are paying the price for decades of profligate Western consumption. Those bolds are all mine. And before I elaborate, I have to add that it’s equally disturbing to me that this information came two-thirds of the way into Gillis’s article. Talk about burying the lede — this erasure is the story, but it was relegated to the story’s third act, meaning many people probably won’t read it. Back to the bolds, starting with the last one: Rich countries argue that $100 billion a year to shield poor countries from climate impacts is an “unrealistic demand.” I do not believe that if the World Bank said that Europe and U.S. will be destroyed without $100 billion in aid each year, that this would have been deleted from the IPCC summary. Arguing that they cannot afford to deal with the poor in the way that the world’s lead economists say they need to means rich countries do not truly understand what they’re up against. It means that they believe they will somehow be immunized from the kinds of violent uprisings over food, land, energy, and water that result when the poor — mostly people of color — are left out of the picture. It means they do not get what is already happening in Syria, the Ukraine, Taiwan, Mexico, and the Sudan, where forced massive migration and civil wars have already started over limited resources, arguably the result of climate change’s impacts. When rich countries can edit the poor out of the most important document on the gravest danger facing Earth, it means that they are not serious about addressing climate change. It means that climate mitigation funds will help protect millionaire beachfront condo owners in South Beach, but have yet to address how it will protect what’s left of Geechee families in South Carolina. Perhaps it even means that rich countries think their money is better spent on technology and “innovation” to shield themselves from climate catastrophe. And those tricks very well might shield some people from flooding, but it doesn’t shield the “poorest” from the kind of reckless capitalism that traps them in a perpetual state of vulnerability. This is an insult to nations who even with meager resources have already started making the difficult investments that their wealthier counterparts don’t have the courage to make. “Bangladesh has invested $10 billion of its own money to adapt to extreme climatic events,” said Dr. Camilla Toulmin, director of the International Institute for Environment and Development in a statement on the IPCC report. “Nepal is the first country to develop adaptation plans at the community level. It is time for the richer countries to pull their weight and do the right thing, by investing at home and abroad in actions that can reduce emissions and protect people and property from danger.” There is little today that says whiteness is supreme more than arguing that it is an “unrealistic demand” for nations with predominantly, if not exclusive, white leadership to pay what is necessary to protect the people of Africa, India, and South America from climate calamity they did not cause. The oppression, the bigotry, and the fuckery of that argument is that it allows rich countries to continue perpetuating unrealistic demands on the world’s “poorest” — those who “virtually have had nothing to do with” climate change. Chattel slavery was an unrealistic demand. Putting Latin American workers in the most dangerous farm and factory jobs, exposing them to pesticides, carcinogens, and other toxic elements so that Walmart can have “roll back” prices — these are unrealistic demands. Asking the poorest of communities to fend for themselves against unprecedented waves of heat, drought, and rising sea levels is an unrealistic demand. In my estimation, there are two things that will destroy us eventually if not resolved soon: white supremacy and climate change. These happen to both be things that the wealthy believe they can afford to ignore. It’s for this reason that the IPCC’s summary just may be their infamous last words.Filed under: Cities, Climate & Energy

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Mexican gangs learn that lime pays (also crime)

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“I could just kill for a margarita right now,” you sigh, apparently ignorant of the fact that it is March, and the consumption of an iced beverage is nothing short of an act of insanity. It’s also probably the middle of the workday, so that in itself should be cause for concern in most circles. You’re also probably unaware that someone may have actually killed – as in, committed murder – for the limes that go in your hypothetical margarita. Cartels are invading the Mexican citrus trade, hijacking trucks, and forcibly taking over farms to sell the now-valuable fruit. Another day, another ring of organized criminals making the transition from eight balls to tasty treats! NPR reports that unprecedented rainfall in the states of Michoacán, Guerrero, and Veracruz and a widespread bacterial infection in the state of Colima have resulted in minimal lime yields this year. As a result, farmers can charge a high price for their harvest, no matter the quality. The demand for delicious citrus fruit has not escaped the attention of former Mexican drug lords. Canadian CBC News reports that the Knights Templar (Caballeros Templarios) cartel, an offshoot of the defunct but infamously brutal La Familia Michoacana, has been forcing farmers in the Tierra Caliente region to pay “protection taxes” to the cartel, which drive up lime prices even further. In some cases, the Knights Templar will seize citrus farms and take over production, sometimes killing farmers in the process. And according to NPR, lime producers are starting to hire security details to protect shipments of limes from organized hijackers at the U.S.-Mexico border. The Knights Templar have been active in the region for years preceding this lime crisis, but it’s only provided further opportunity for them to profit. Organized crime in the Tierra Caliente region, which includes parts of Michoacán and Guerrero, has wreaked havoc on its agriculture. A recent evaluation by the National Chamber of Business, Services, and Tourism of Apatzingán, a central city in the Tierra Caliente valley, showed that the cost of restoring the local citrus farming industry alone would exceed $130 million (link in Spanish). Raúl Millan of Vision Import Group expressed surprise to NPR that customers are still buying up limes at prices that are double or triple what they normally are. Have you ever tried to separate the average American from her guac, Raúl? Come on. You know better.Filed under: Business & Technology, Food, Living

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Pistorius ‘had loving relationship’

The lawyer of Oscar Pistorius, the South African athlete accused of murdering his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, denies the couple were unhappy.

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Ebola explainer: A deadly killer surfaces again

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Uruguay Acts to Legalize Marijuana

Supporters said the move would remove the marijuana trade from the domain of illegal traffickers, allowing the authorities to regulate its consumption.

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China’s first-half gold consumption jumps 54pc: CGA

<!– google_ad_section_start –> China’s gold consumption jumped 54 per cent in the first half of the year to 706.36 tonnes, the China Gold Association said, as lower prices of the precious metal attracted buyers. <!– google_ad_section_end –>

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South Korea orders air-con switch off as power crisis looms

<!– google_ad_section_start –> South Korea ordered government offices to turn off their air-conditioning as two power plants stopped operations on Monday, a day after a minister warned of an imminent national energy crisis. <!– google_ad_section_end –>

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Neil Heywood’s mother calls for ‘decisiveness, compassion’ ahead of Bo Xilai’s trial

<!– google_ad_section_start –> The mother of British businessman Neil Heywood, whose 2011 murder in Chongqing caused one of the biggest political scandals in China, has called on the Chinese government to show “decisiveness and compassion” for her grandchildren ahead of the trial of disgraced Chongqing <!– google_ad_section_end –>

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China urbanisation cost could top 650b yuan a year

<!– google_ad_section_start –> The cost of settling China’s rural workers into city life in the government’s urbanisation drive could be about 650 billion yuan (HK$822 billion) a year, the equivalent of 5.5 per cent of fiscal revenue last year, a government think-tank said on Tuesday. <!– google_ad_section_end –>

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China opens pipeline to bring gas from Myanmar

<!– google_ad_section_start –> China has switched on a new pipeline bringing natural gas from Myanmar, a state company said on Monday, in a project that has raised concerns in Myanmar’s nascent civil society about whether its giant neighbour’s resource grabs will benefit local people. <!– google_ad_section_end –>

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China leaders play safe on reforms as economic growth sags

<!– google_ad_section_start –> For all the strong rhetoric, China’s latest policy actions suggest a shift in focus on the economy to mix relatively pain-free reforms that burnish Beijing’s credentials for change with measures to prop up sagging growth. <!– google_ad_section_end –>

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Rare superbug found in Hong Kong has never been detected in Asia before

<!– google_ad_section_start –> A rare superbug detected in a slaughterhouse in Sheung Shui has never before been found among livestock in Hong Kong or Asia, a University of Hong Kong study has confirmed. <!– google_ad_section_end –>

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Xi Jinping calls for deeper reforms to meet economic challenges

<!– google_ad_section_start –> China must deepen reforms to address a slew of challenges confronting it, President Xi Jinping said in comments published on Tuesday that emphasise the government’s determination to restructure the slowing economy. The official Xinhua news agency quoted Xi as saying during a trip to the central province of Hubei this week that officials must hold high the spirit of reform and innovation when managing the world’s second biggest economy to propel its sustainable and healthy development. <!– google_ad_section_end –>

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Greenpeace reveals state-owned coal plant water grab

<!– google_ad_section_start –> A major Chinese state-owned coal producer has caused “drastic drops” in groundwater near one of its projects, the environmental group Greenpeace said in a report on Tuesday. Lakes have shrunk, wells have dried up and sand dunes are spreading near a plant in Inner Mongolia run by coal conglomerate Shenhua Group, the organisation said. It called the project a “classic example of the unchecked expansion of coal-reliant industries that is in growing conflict with China’s water resources”. <!– google_ad_section_end –>

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Asian stocks mostly gain after Japan election

<!– google_ad_section_start –> BEIJING (AP) — Chinese stocks fell but other Asian markets edged up Monday after Japan’s ruling party won a majority in parliament’s upper house and a mandate to push ahead economic reforms. Oil stayed above $108 a barrel amid signs of an improving U.S. economy. Tokyo’s Nikkei 225 gained 0.1 percent to 14,609.02 following Sunday’s election. The outcome — a victory for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, whose “Abenomics” program aimed at sparking an economic revival — was widely expected and already had been factored into trading strategies. <!– google_ad_section_end –>

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America, Inc. at it’s Finest

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Chocolate Artisan Truffles by Just Chocolate

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New July 2013