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New July 2013

Student’s mother pleads for release

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The mother of a London student who is to be deported to her native Mauritius pleads with MPs to release her from Yarl’s Wood immigration centre.

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Bids invited to operate schools at five sites

<!– google_ad_section_start –> Two vacant schools and three new sites are being offered for the development of non-profit international schools. Bids are being invited for use of the sites as part of government measures to boost the number of international school places in Hong Kong. The Education Bureau estimates that the exercise could provide more than 3,300 extra places. <!– google_ad_section_end –>

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Doubts cast on doctor’s ability to manage celebrity couple’s baby

<!– google_ad_section_start –> A paediatrician whose newborn charge, the son of a celebrity couple, died a day after birth in 2005 was incapable of handling the baby, the chairwoman of a medical disciplinary panel said. <!– google_ad_section_end –>

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District councillors slam plan to rezone Stanley sites for luxury flats

<!– google_ad_section_start –> District councillors have criticised the government’s plan to rezone two green-belt sites in Stanley for luxury flats as selling public resources to the wealthy. <!– google_ad_section_end –>

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‘Baby hatches’ are no substitute for a social welfare system

<!– google_ad_section_start –> A controversy is raging over the growing phenomenon of “baby hatches” on the mainland amid Guangzhou’s abrupt suspension of its new facility after being overwhelmed by abandoned babies. <!– google_ad_section_end –>

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Insider trading suspect Xiao Hui wants extradition case delayed

<!– google_ad_section_start –> A mainland businessman accused of 104 insider-trading offences in Australia yesterday urged a court to adjourn his extradition hearing to allow him to pursue a claim for asylum in Hong Kong. <!– google_ad_section_end –>

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A ‘wake-up call’ on global warming

<!– google_ad_section_start –> The hail and rain on Sunday was a wake-up call for Hongkongers about the fast-changing climate that could disrupt lives and businesses within moments, a veteran meteorologist says. <!– google_ad_section_end –>

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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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Justice chief eyes quick deal with Macau over transfer of fugitives

<!– google_ad_section_start –> The government will act “expeditiously” to make arrangements for the transfer of fugitives between Hong Kong and Macau, Secretary for Justice Rimsky Yuen Kwok-keung said. <!– google_ad_section_end –>

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Baoding ready for Beijing overflow

<!– google_ad_section_start –> Baoding, a city just outside Beijing, in Hebei province will create 34 districts to absorb branches of institutes and companies based in the overcrowded capital, authorities say. <!– google_ad_section_end –>

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Xi wins EU pledge to weigh free-trade deal

<!– google_ad_section_start –> President Xi Jinping won a promise from the European Union yesterday to consider a multibillion-dollar free-trade deal with his country, a long-held goal for Beijing which divides Europe. <!– google_ad_section_end –>

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Harassment of rights lawyers rising, say attorneys

<!– google_ad_section_start –> Human rights lawyers on the mainland fear they may be facing increased persecution and violence after four of their profession were detained – and at least one beaten – when they tried to help members of the banned spiritual movement Falun Gong last month. <!– google_ad_section_end –>

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What the U.N.’s new climate report says about North America

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Global warming is a global crisis, but the effects of climate change are being felt differently in different corners of the globe. The latest report from the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warns of a world wracked by hunger, violence, and extinctions. But the IPCC also dedicates chapters to impacts that are underway and anticipated in individual regions and continents. For North America, the report states there is “high confidence” of links between climate change and rising temperatures, ravaging downpours, and declining water supplies. Even if temperatures are allowed to rise by just 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit (2 C), which is the goal of current international climate negotiations (a goal that won’t be met unless everybody gets a lot more serious about curbing greenhouse gas pollution), such severe weather is going to get a lot worse. North America’s coastal regions will continue to face a particularly long list of hazards, with climate change bringing growing risks of “sea-level rise, warming, ocean acidification, extratropical cyclones, altered upwelling, and hurricanes and other storms.” Here are some highlights from the North American chapter of the IPCC’s new report: Observed climate trends in North America include an increased occurrence of severe hot weather events over much of the US, decreases in frost days, and increases in heavy precipitation over much of North America … Global warming of approximately 2°C (above the pre-industrial baseline) is very likely to lead to more frequent extreme heat events and daily precipitation extremes over most areas of North America, more frequent low snow years, and shifts towards earlier snowmelt runoff over much of the western US and Canada. Together with climate hazards such as higher sea levels and associated storm surges, more intense droughts, and increased precipitation variability, these changes are projected to lead to increased stresses to water, agriculture, economic activities and urban and rural settlements. The following figure from the report shows how temperatures have already risen — and how they are expected to continue to rise in different parts of the continent under relatively low (“RCP2.6″) and high (“RCP8.5″) greenhouse gas pollution scenarios: IPCCClick to embiggen.And this figure shows that rain and snow are falling more heavily in parts of central and eastern U.S., but that the changes are more mixed in the West: IPCCClick to embiggen.Care about other parts of the world? Good for you! So do we. Here are links to chapters on other regions, along with our brief summaries of their findings: Africa. This already overheated continent can expect to experience faster warming than other parts of the world – we’re talking about as much as 11 degrees F of warming by the end of the century. Couple that with worsening water shortages in many areas and more severe floods, and many Africans are staring down a hellish long-term weather forecast. Europe. Worse floods and droughts, peppered with brutal winter winds over Central and Northern Europe. Asia. A bento box of impacts varying widely across the region. Water shortages and rising seas are among the big worries. Farmers in some countries might benefit, but rice growers will generally find it more difficult to feed Asia. “There are a number of regions that are already near the heat stress limits for rice,” the chapter states. Australasia. Crikey, them cyclones are gonna hit Down Under harder than a ‘roo on a bonnet. And that’s not all. Fires, heat waves, and flooding will continue to get worse in many areas of Australia and New Zealand. Central and South America. Temperatures will continue to rise, and rain and snow will fall harder in some places but grow scarcer in others. The Andes will continue to lose snow. Polar Regions. As the poles melt and grow more balmy, new biomes will appear. The report notes that the “tree line has moved northward and upward in many, but not all, Arctic areas … and significant increases in tall shrubs and grasses have been observed in many places.” Which sounds like a good thing, except that the melting permafrost is unleashing climate-changing methane. Small islands. Those island bits that remain above sea level will be buffeted by salty floods, which will make freshwater harder to come by. The coral reefs that foster the ecosystems that support the livelihoods of islanders will continue to bleach and die. The ocean. Three words: acidic rising seas.Filed under: Article, Climate & Energy

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Mystery of missing US$50m diamond

<!– google_ad_section_start –> Swiss authorities are investigating the disappearance of a huge pink diamond estimated to be worth around US$50 million from a reputable storage firm. <!– 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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Two Koreas trade hundreds of rounds of artillery fire across disputed maritime border

<!– google_ad_section_start –> The two Koreas traded hundreds of rounds of artillery fire across their disputed maritime border yesterday, forcing South Korean islanders to take shelter a day after the North drove up tensions by threatening a new nuclear test. <!– google_ad_section_end –>

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Insurers face US$450m bill for MH370

<!– google_ad_section_start –> Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak will visit Perth to observe the search for flight MH370, the government said last night, as Standard & Poor’s warned that insurers faced paying out up to US$450 million. <!– google_ad_section_end –>

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Festival Walk slammed for poor maintenance after flooding

<!– google_ad_section_start –> Festival Walk shopping mall came under fire yesterday, accused of poor maintenance and a slow response to Sunday’s flood, as shopkeepers mopped up. The criticism came as the Observatory warned that heavy rain and squally thunderstorms would continue to affect Hong Kong and the region. <!– google_ad_section_end –>

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Pro-Beijing camp woo pan-democrats with ‘exclusive’ talks for Shanghai visit

<!– google_ad_section_start –> Pressure is growing on pan-democrat lawmakers to join a trip to Shanghai after pro-government figures said they would find a way for them to have an exclusive meeting with Beijing officials. <!– google_ad_section_end –>

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Senior party officials at start of trial of ‘mafia’ tycoon Liu Han in Xianning, Hubei

<!– google_ad_section_start –> More than 150 top Communist Party officials arrived in Xianning, Hubei province, yesterday to oversee the highly anticipated trial of Sichuan mining tycoon Liu Han for alleged mafia-style crimes. <!– google_ad_section_end –>

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