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New July 2013

How Hamilton found edge again over Rosberg

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Third consecutive win for 2008 champion cannot have failed to make an impression on team-mate, writes Andrew Benson

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How BP turned a whole community into an endangered species

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Shawn EscofferyOystermen of Plaquemines Parish, La.Whether you live in Seattle, Baltimore, or Schenectady, N.Y., if you’ve had an oyster dish, chances are the shelled delicacies came from the Gulf of Mexico, most likely off the Louisiana coast, which produces a third of the nation’s oysters. Crabs? Hate to break it to you, but those luscious “Baltimore” crab cakes — yep, those are from Louisiana too. This has been a fact for a long time, but it might soon become an artifact. The reason: the BP oil spill disaster of 2010, which dumped over 205 million gallons of oil and another 2 million gallons of possibly toxic dispersants into the Gulf, devastating the area that’s responsible for 40 percent of the seafood sold commercially across the U.S. For the end user, this just means Maryland chefs actually using Maryland crabs again. But on the supply side, this means that whole communities of fishers along the Gulf Coast have been put out of business, their livelihoods ruined. Oystermen have fared among the worst in that bunch, notably the African-American oystermen who live and work in Plaquemines Parish, on the lowest end tip of Louisiana. They used to harvest a great deal of the shellfish that eventually adorned our restaurant plates, but the impacts of the BP disaster have proven too difficult to rebound from. They’re now facing “zero population” of oysters, as one seafood distributor put it. For too long, these black oystermen have been invisible not only to the nation they serve but also to the state they live in. The new documentary Vanishing Pearls from first-time filmmaker Nailah Jefferson hopes to raise the oystermen’s visibility and also our awareness of their value in our national economy and environment. Nailah JeffersonJefferson, a New Orleans resident, began making the film shortly after the BP disaster, based off a friend’s tip. She followed that tip down to Pointe à la Hache, on the east bank of the Mississippi River, where a small community of black fishers live and have subsisted off the bays there for decades. (You can read more about them in this story I reported shortly after the spill.) After meeting them, Jefferson immediately concluded that the hardscrabble men and women here deserved more shine, especially in the face of a disaster that threatens to destabilize their lives with little remedy. Vanishing Pearls makes its national debut on April 18 in New York and Los Angeles. It’s the culmination of more than three years of work by Jefferson, filming and reporting on the BP disaster’s impacts long after the rest of the media shifted their focus elsewhere. The documentary was featured this January at Slamdance, the Utah-based film festival known for showcasing breakout films that Sundance slept on. Christopher Nolan and Lena Dunham are among the directors discovered at Slamdance. Slamdance also helped Jefferson catch the attention of Ava DuVernay, founder of the pioneering film distribution company African-American Film Festival Releasing Movement (AFFRM), and the first African-American woman to win the Sundance Best Director prize for her 2012 film Middle of Nowhere. With DuVernay’s power behind the project, Vanishing Pearls will now throw more shine on the struggling black oystermen than Jefferson originally imagined. Friday’s opening coincides with the four-year commemoration of the BP disaster. I was able to catch Jefferson by phone from her home office in New Orleans to discuss her filmmaking experience and the fate of these oystermen. Q. So how does it happen that entire communities are just rendered invisible? A. Because they don’t matter enough. It’s about the money. Down there in Pointe à la Hache, you have a fishing community that has contributed so much to our state, our identity, and our economy. But what contributes more is oil and gas, and fishing has historically been in the way of the growth of oil and gas. So when up against the industry, they don’t matter. [The oystermen] know that, that the terms are unbalanced in favor of the oil and gas industry, but I don’t think they thought that a natural disaster would come and wipe out entire portions of their livelihood also. We will continue to drill, because it’s just a way of life here, but I think the state needs to work harder to strengthen regulations so that if another disaster occurs, it won’t wipe out the remaining estuaries that are still thriving. Q. While your film is about people and communities, you didn’t shy away from breaking down the environmental toll of the BP disaster. Did you personally have much background in the science? A. No, it was a steep learning curve. I interviewed Dr. Ed Cake, who’s one of three well-known oyster biologists in the Gulf Coast, because this is absolutely not my field. But I felt that if this was a story I was going to tell, I’d better dive in and figure it out. I didn’t want to bog people down with the science, but if you don’t grasp even a little bit of it, then you won’t get the whole story. Q. You show that the oyster beds were exposed to some oil and dispersants. How do you deal then with the question of whether seafood is safe to eat? A. The best way I can describe it is the way Dr. Cake explained it to me: Oysters are like the canaries in the coal mine. If they’re able to survive, thrive, and reproduce, then the waters are OK; if they’re not, then the waters are unhealthy. At the time that the spill had occurred, the dispersants had been sprayed, but the full effects hadn’t played out yet. So there were still oysters that could be harvested in that area. The last of that harvest came in late 2011. The Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Department put a hold on fishing, closing the public [oyster bed] grounds for a long time, and then when they opened them back up, those guys went out and harvested the last of what survived. There hasn’t been much left. Q. The oystermen come across as the real scientists in your film. A. I think when people think of fishermen, they think of simple bayou people who aren’t educated. Perhaps they haven’t been in school for the longest time, or they don’t have post-grad degrees, but they are very much knowledgeable about what they do, and it’s something they’ve done for years. I wanted to show that their work is more complicated and harder than people think. You have to have a certain type of intellect to get this work and be successful at it. Q. You find many of the oystermen in the film talking about generational instructions on how to harvest oysters sustainably. Did you get the sense they were natural environmentalists? A. Yes, it was clear from when I first met them that these are the real environmentalists, because they actually have to live off the land and water. It really is in and of itself a science that’s been passed down to them, and I think it’s their passion for this work that makes them want to remain bayou residents. Q. Despite their expertise, they’ve had to play defensive with scientists and environmentalists, notably those who under the Louisiana coastal master plan want to use freshwater diversions to replenish the eroded marshlands, even though this will ruin what’s left of the oyster beds. Did you sense that professional environmentalists respected these fishers’ expertise at all? A. There isn’t proof that these freshwater diversions will work or will be as beneficial as stated. People have told them, “Look, you’re going to have to sacrifice for the greater good of the state.” If the diversions were something proven to work, then it probably wouldn’t be such a harsh pill to swallow for them. It’s not that the [environmentalists] know better [than the oystermen], they just understand things differently. We need a more collective approach moving forward. Q. What can people do after seeing your film if they want to help? A. One reason I signed with AFFRM is that they are very supportive of social advocacy campaigns. We’ve already launched one and hope to do more around supporting efforts to clean up the spill and make sure regulations are tighter so that we don’t have this kind of occurrence again. We have a petition you can sign encouraging EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers to support efforts to tighten regulations under the Clean Water Act so that our streams and tributaries going into the Mississippi River won’t be polluted — and also, of course, so those communities who rely on those waters will be able to have healthy water again. —– Watch the trailer for Vanishing Pearls: Filed under: Business & Technology, Climate & Energy, Living

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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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Big names struggle ahead of Masters

Injuries to Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods, plus the poor form of others, mean some big names are struggling ahead of Augusta

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There’s more to Hamilton than pure talent

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In F1′s new era Lewis Hamilton proves he has the technical intellect to go with his natural driving gift, says chief F1 writer Andrew Benson

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Politics is second to solving people’s problems: New People’s Party’s Judy Chan Ka-pui

<!– google_ad_section_start –> Four months ago, few in Hong Kong – not to mention the political arena – would have heard of the name Judy Chan Ka-pui. Yet, the New People’s Party freshman shot to fame in the small hours of March 24 when she defeated Democratic Party lawmaker Sin Chung-kai and People Power chairwoman Erica Yuen Mi-ming to win a Southern District Council by-election. <!– google_ad_section_end –>

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Vatican bank fraud foiled after suspects stopped with 1.2bn of forged bonds

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Would-be swindlers were carrying a case of forged bearer bonds as they tried to enter the Vatican gates ‘to meet cardinals’The papal gendarmerie and Italian police have foiled a massive potential fraud at the Vatican bank after two men stopped at the gates to the Vatican were found to be carrying a case containing large amounts of forged bearer bonds, Italian police say.Lt Col Davide Cardia of the financial police said the would-be swindlers, who were wearing business suits, tried to convince Swiss Guards at a Vatican City gate this month that cardinals were expecting them.

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Erdogan’s name and face dominate as Turkey heads to the polls

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The prime minister is not even standing in Sunday’s local elections, but in the divided capital the talk is of no one elseTurkey may be in turmoil and the vast city of Istanbul in ferment, bridling at the antics of a government struggling to cope with scandal and sleaze, but in Kasimpasa quarter, the prime minister’s troubles raise barely a shrug.A conservative, lower-middle-class district bordering the Golden Horn and predominantly inhabited by Turks from the Black Sea coast, Kasimpasa loves Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the powerful prime minister increasingly reviled across Turkey and tarnished internationally.

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A high seas fishing ban scorecard: (Almost) everybody wins

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When it comes to fishing, most of the ocean is lawless. Fish in the high seas — the half of the world’s oceans that fall under the control of no single nation, because they’re more than 200 miles from a coastline — are being plundered with aplomb by fishing fleets that observe virtually no fish conservation rules. Some very smart people think that might be a very stupid way of managing the world’s fisheries. They say it’s time for the world to ban fishing on the high seas. Many of the world’s brawniest fish and shark species migrate through these open waters, where they are being targeted and overfished. Bluefin tuna are becoming so rare that a single fish sold last year for $1.8 million. Last month, McKinsey & Company director Martin Stuchtey suggested during an ocean summit that banning fishing on the high seas would cause an economic loss of about $2 for every person on the planet. But he said the benefits of more sustainable fisheries, if such a ban was imposed, would be worth about $4 per person, creating a net benefit of $2 apiece. From Business Insider: Hard numbers reveal that today’s fishing industry is not profitable, and as fleets work harder chasing fewer fish, the losses grow and stocks are further depleted in “a race to the bottom,” the economist explained. Stuchtey’s numbers were approximations. But the results of a study published in the journal PLOS Biology this week put some flesh on the economist’s back-of-the-envelope calculations. An economist and a biologist, both from California, modeled the effects of such a ban and concluded that the move could double the profitability of the world’s fishing industries — and boost overall fishing yields by 30 percent. It would also boost fish stock conservation and improve the sustainability of seafood supplies. “The closure will probably result in short-term losses of protein from the sea,” Christopher Costello, a University of California at Santa Barbara environmental and resource economics professor who coauthored the paper, told Grist. “But the key point is that these short-term losses are likely to be followed by significant long-term gains because of the rebuilding of fish stocks.” The greatest human beneficiaries of such a ban would be residents of developing countries — nations that can’t afford the types of hulking vessels needed for high-seas fishing expeditions. The scientists say these developing nations would benefit from a rise in fish stocks in the waters they control, as would be the case for other countries. The biggest potential losers, according to the researchers, would include Japan, China, and Spain, which operate large offshore fishing fleets. And that could make a high-seas fishing ban a difficult sell at the United Nations. “Whether a country like Japan or China would stand to gain or lose is an empirical question that will require careful country-by-country analysis,” Costello said. “It may disadvantage a few politically powerful countries, while it advantages many smaller countries.” Global Ocean CommissionHigh seas are shown in dark blue. Click to embiggen.Filed under: Food

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This jellylike blob is actually a gross yet edible water bottle

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What if you could have a water bottle without the wasteful, toxic plastic? (And a water fountain doesn’t count. Not consumer-y enough, Buddha.) Three British design students wanted to answer that question, seeing as we’re basically drowning in plastic. Their Lexus Design Award-winning solution is the portable, edible, and weird-looking Ooho: an edible water “bottle” that resembles alien sweat. (We kickbox with a lot of aliens, OK?) To drink the Ooho, you gently bite its gelatinous membrane until the water runs into your mouth and all over your clothes, ideally making it look like you peed yourself. As a bonus, if you don’t eat the outside, you’re basically left with a used condom: We dig the idea of rethinking and reducing packaging, but even with its double-layered design, the Ooho doesn’t seem quite as durable as throwing a plastic water bottle into the bottom of your gym bag. Plus, there’s the cleanliness factor — what’s to keep the outer layer of brown algae and calcium chloride from getting grimy? (At least it’ll probably compost better than an Alpine Spring bottle.) The Ooho doesn’t seem shelf-ready yet, but edible packaging is inevitable: Boston Whole Foods customers will see the WikiPearl on shelves, little nuggets of ice cream, yogurt, cheese, and even veggies inside an edible skin. Seems like a weird fad, but if it’ll save resources and keep junk outta landfills and oceans, we just might try it.Filed under: Business & Technology, Living

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States struggling to understand frackquakes

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Frackers have been triggering earthquakes across the country by injecting their wastewater at high pressure into disposal wells. That much is certain. The U.S. Geological Survey has linked the practice to a sixfold increase in earthquakes in the central U.S. from 2001 to 2011. It’s also possible that the very act of fracking has been causing some temblors. What isn’t certain, though, is what governments can do about it. Bloomberg reports on a new initiative that aims to manage some of those earth-shaking dangers: Regulators from Kansas, Texas, Oklahoma and Ohio met for the first time this month in Oklahoma City to exchange information on the man-made earthquakes and help states toughen their standards. “It was a very productive meeting, number one, because it gave the states the opportunity to get together and talk collectively about the public interest and the science,” Gerry Baker, who attended as associate executive director of the Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission, a group that represents energy-producing states, said in an interview. “It was a good start in coordinating efforts.” … The goal of the regulators is to develop a set of common procedures to monitor for earthquakes, investigate their cause and draft rules and regulations to prevent them, said Scott Anderson, senior policy adviser for the Environmental Defense Fund in Austin, Texas, who has been in communication with state regulators on the issue. Would we be stating the obvious if we suggested that these states protect themselves from earthquakes by simply stopping fracking — just as New York and countless local municipalities have done — while the drilling risks are better investigated by scientists?Filed under: Article, Climate & Energy

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This necklace tells you when your cows are horny

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Farming apps are the new bubble, my friend (a Tinker Bell-sized bubble, but still). Not only can you track your yield, find commodity prices, and chart rainfall, but now you can keep tabs on when your dairy cows are feeling frisky. NMRThe key to the latter is a British innovation called the Silent Herdsman, which cows wear like a high-tech necklace. (It’s more of a Tamagotchi than an iPhone app.) The sensor monitors cattle’s temperature and wirelessly alerts the farmer via computer when they’re in heat – otherwise, somebody would have to be constantly elbow-deep in bovine hoo-ha. Perhaps unsurprisingly, farmers are constantly looking for a way to avoid these more hands-on methods — the Silent Herdsman isn’t even the first estrus-monitoring tool we’ve reported on. A Swiss device sends texts when a cow is in heat, but it involves implanting a transmitter in the genitals — a leeeeetle more invasive. Knowing the intricacies of a cow’s cycle isn’t just to avoid getting your leg humped. As Silent Herdsman CEO Annette MacDougall explains, “It’s important because, if you can maximize the probability of a pregnancy in cows, the likelihood is you’re going to increase your milk yields.” Small farmers need all the help they can get. The Silent Herdsman is coming to the U.S. soon; it’s already a reality in China, New Zealand, Switzerland, and Germany. As Sydney Brownstone of Fast Company suggests, it’d be even cooler if the device could measure methane from cows. After tracking their fertility, farts seem like no big deal.Filed under: Living

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Oil workers and Jewish grandmas driving American metropolitan growth

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Looking for the fastest-growing metropolitan areas in the United States? Follow the fracking – or, alternatively, search for the top-rated golf club brunches on Yelp. The most recent U.S. census data, measuring urban growth between July 1, 2012 and July 1, 2013, showed that oil boomtowns and Southern retirement communities now get to sit at the popular table. The irony here, of course, is that there were never more unlikely candidates for said table than The Villages, Fla., or Fargo, N.D. This list paints a pretty bizarre picture of America’s future, but at least it’s interesting. A couple of cities on this list – Austin, for example – actually seem like fun places to live for young people, but what’s most striking is that with the exception of The Villages, all of the top spots are filled by oil towns. That’s no coincidence. Last July, the New York Times published a study examining social mobility in metro areas across the United States. The places of greatest economic opportunity, according to the results, were concentrated in oil-rich regions: North Dakota, eastern Montana, western Texas. Here’s a list of the top 10 fastest-growing metro areas, with the most likely reasons for their growth: 1. The Villages, Fla. – 5.2 percent Awkwardly named The Villages is literally just a retirement community in the dead center of Florida, about an hour northwest of Orlando. No one under the age of 65 is moving there. 2 & 3. Odessa and Midland, Texas – tied at 3.3 percent Odessa and Midland, about 20 miles apart, lie on the oil-rich Permian Basin in western Texas, which is expected to produce 1.41 million barrels this month. Both towns have experienced housing shortages in recent years due to an oil boom in the region. 4 & 5. Fargo and Bismarck, N.D. – tied at 3.1 percent Fargo and Bismarck have both seen unprecedented growth due to workers flocking to high-paying jobs on the Bakken shale. This influx — and its attendant problems, including high real-estate prices, increased crime rates, and a really tough dating scene – have been well-documented. 6. Casper, Wyo. – 2.9 percent Casper, nicknamed The Oil City, is bringing recent high school grads to work in the region’s oil fields in droves. A city full of 18-year-olds with tens of thousands of dollars in disposable income? Pretty sick, brah! 7. Myrtle Beach, S.C. – 2.7 percent It turns out everyone you’ve ever met wearing a Myrtle Beach sweatshirt is finally making their sartorially expressed dreams a reality and moving to Myrtle Beach. There is no other explanation. 8. Austin, Texas – 2.6 percent Have you ever been to Austin? There is pretty much nowhere within the city limits that you can’t get a delicious taco. That’s just part of the reason that 110 people move to Austin each day – the city’s economy expanded by 5.9 percent last year, more than twice the growth rate for the national economy. 9. Daphne, Ala. – 2.6 percent Fairhope, in the Daphne metro area on the Gulf Coast of Alabama, was founded as an experimental utopian society by a group of rare Iowan socialists, and continues to pride itself on being a weird little resort town. Fairhope’s current mayor started out as the city’s horticulturist, and the town is committed to being bike- and pedestrian-friendly. This one doesn’t sound so bad, y’all. 10. Cape Coral, Fla. – 2.5 percent In 2012, Forbes named Cape Coral among its 25 top places to retire in the U.S. It seems that the publication’s target audience took that recommendation to heart.Filed under: Cities, Climate & Energy, Living

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Workers fear for the future in Ukraine’s heavily industrialised east

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Donbass’s miners and factory workers are justifiably concerned what the geopolitical tug of war means for themStanding outside Donetsk’s coal mine, Igor Yefremov mused over the future of Ukraine’s heavy industry. “If we join the European Union our mines and factories will shut down,” he said. “Already the orders from Russia are drying up. Russia doesn’t want us because of the chaos in Kiev.”Yefremov was waiting to meet his brother-in-law, who was working on the early shift at the city centre mine. Above ground, the scene was tranquil. Off-duty workers sat on benches in a small, sunny rose garden, dwarfed by two giant pit frames.

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America, Inc. at it’s Finest

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New July 2013