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Jun 27, 2017, 09:52 PM
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 on: Jun 26, 2017, 05:40 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Darja
Theresa May: Selling England by the Pound

By Dan Alexe
Contributing Editor, New Europe   

“Selling England by the Pound” is an album by the mythical British progressive rock group Genesis, where the first song starts with the line: “Can you tell me where my country lies?”

At the latest Brexit-dedicated summit, on June 22-23 in Brussels, Theresa May has been told by Jean-Claude Juncker, the powerful EU Commission boss, that her offer to let EU citizens stay after Brexit was ‘insufficient’.

“‘It’s a first step, but that step is not sufficient,” EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said at the key Brussels summit.

The EU Commission President said May’s “fair and serious”offer to let millions of EU citizens already living in Britain stay permanently does not go far enough.

Theresa May has so far refused to confirm that EU migrants who arrived after Britain triggered Article 50 in March will be given permanent residency rights after Brexit, and has flatly rejected Brussels‘s proposal to give EU courts the power to prtect their rights into the future.

Who is she? Who is this Theresa May who is now “selling England by the pound”?

A “bloody difficult woman”, said about her a party colleague, the media-savvy Kenneth Clarke.Until the Brexit disaster, she kept being compared with Margaret Thatcher.

A eurosceptic, she discreetly helped Cameron and let Boris Johnson lead the Brexit campaign. When Boris utterly failed and fled, she made him foreign secretary. She was denied any sense of humour by those who know her intimately, but the nomination of Johnson as Foreign Secretary proved everybody to be wrong. An astonished Paddy Ashdown (ex-Leader of the Lib Dems, amongst other things, and ex-High Representative in Bosnia) even tweeted: “Boris as Foreign Secretary is the silliest appointment since Caligula made his horse a Consul.”

Described as “utterly intractable” by a Cameron ally, May proves on the contrary to be extremely careful. Thus, she didn’t take out from the list of new nobles inherited from Cameron the former prime minister’s hairdresser. Theresa May let him on the list, and the hairstylist will be anointed as a Member of the British Empire by the Queen at a ceremony inside Buckingham Palace.

When she was in the opposition, she received systematically the less gratifying shadow ministries: family, environment and others such. Her rival inside the Tory party, Andrea Leadsom, even tried to block her candidature by underlining the fact that May can’t be a good head head of government because she has no children. As soon as she became prime minister, after a short homage to her predecessor Cameron (and keeping the hairdresser on the list of future nobles), she startled with a discourse in which she presented her vision of the society.

A Conservative of the purest breed, she surprised as prime minister with a leftist discourse. The poor, she said, suffer from ill-treated ailments and are excluded from the health system; Blacks receive a harsher treatment in the judicial system; women earn less than men, the education system is underperforming and the young are today unable to buy a home. This can’t go on, she said, asking for a greater control over the salaries of  the bankers and the privileged. The “fortunate few”, she menacingly said, will have to pay.

Here are excerpts from what she said:

“If you‘re black you are treated more harshly by the criminal justice system than if you‘re white.

“If you‘re at a state school you‘re less likely to reach the top professions than if you‘re educated privately.

“If you‘re young you will find it harder than ever before to own your own home. We will build a better Britain, not just for the privileged few’.

The former chancellor of the exchequer Osborne dreamed of turning Britain into a fiscal paradise… Theresa May speaks of regulating capitalism. She wants multinationals to pay more taxes. This let many party pundits flabbergasted. Charity is good, indeed, we had it in our program, they thought, but social justice? What the heck! Is she sliding to the left of Jeremy Corbyn? Is she emulating Bernie Sanders? Actually, none of these. She is simply a “bloody difficult woman”.

 on: Jun 26, 2017, 05:36 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Darja
Poland limits access to morning-after pill

By Beata Stur

A new law in Poland restricts access to emergency contraception and will have a “catastrophic impact on rape survivors,” warned a leading human rights organisation.

Polish President Andrzej Duda on June 23 approved legislation that will end prescription-free access to the morning-after pill. The new law comes into effect next month.

“We consider it as another blow to women’s rights, and will affect teenagers and those in remote rural areas, and will have a particularly catastrophic impact on rape survivors,” said Draginja Nadazdin, director of Amnesty International in Poland, in a statement issued on June 25.

As reported by The Telegraph, critics say this could take too long to arrange a doctor’s appointment and lead to unwanted pregnancies, even in the case of rape, because the pill has to be taken as soon as possible.

Quick access to a doctor could be even harder for people in rural areas, and young girls in particular may baulk at seeing a physician owing to a sense of shame.

According to Health Minister Konstanty Radziwill, hormonal means of contraception were being abused and had harmful health effects.

By being forced to see a doctor, he said women will now “get advice on whether these substances negatively affect their health”.

He has also suggested the pill induced an early abortion.

Health experts, however, dismissed Radziwill’s claims, pointing out the morning-after pill prevents conception rather than causing an abortion, and that there is little or no scientific evidence indicating it had harmful and long-lasting side-effects.

 on: Jun 26, 2017, 05:35 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Darja
Missing babies: Israel's Yemenite children affair

By Yolande Knell BBC News, Jerusalem
26 June 2017

In the years after the creation of the Israeli state hundreds of babies went missing. Their parents, mostly Jewish immigrants from Yemen, were told their children had died, but suspicions linger that they were secretly given away to childless families - and newly released documents have revealed some disturbing evidence.

When Leah Aharoni remembers losing her baby daughter five decades ago, she bursts into tears.

"I just saw her for a short time. She was pretty with fair skin. She opened her eyes and looked at me, as if she was saying: 'Don't let me go,'" she says.

Leah had given birth to premature twins in a hospital near her home in Kiryat Ekron, in central Israel, but the little girls were sent away to be cared for.

She was told they were being taken to a special clinic in Tel Aviv. But when Leah's husband visited soon afterwards, only one of the twins was there. The other, Hanna, had died, he was informed.

Leah was shocked not to be shown a body or a grave - a common feature of such stories - but she and her husband did not doubt the heart-breaking news.

It was only years later that she began asking questions, when her surviving daughter, Hagit, turned 18 and was called for national military service.

Two draft notices arrived in the post simultaneously. One for Hagit - and one for Hanna. This is another hallmark of missing baby stories.

"It started to bother me. Something was not right. I couldn't sleep at night. I decided I had to know what happened," Leah says.

Leah had experienced many calamities long before the loss of her baby. As a child, she and her family had joined thousands of Jews fleeing violence in Yemen. They were robbed as they trekked from one end of the country to the other and Leah was reduced to begging for food. Then they were rescued in an airlift known as Operation Magic Carpet.

"It was the land I had always dreamed about," the 78-year-old recalls, remembering the flight to Israel.

"When we got off the plane everyone kissed the holy ground.

"Then we heard the bombs and grenades and saw the smoke."

They had arrived, malnourished and penniless, during the first Arab-Israeli war.

Many Yemenite Jews spent periods in transit camps before being settled in homes, and stories of babies going missing began to arise immediately.

Some reports talk of children disappearing after visits to the camps by wealthy American Jews.

In other cases children appeared to be recovering in hospitals from relatively minor ailments when the parents were suddenly told they had died.

On kibbutzes, where some of the Yemenites settled, it was typical for youngsters to be separated from their parents and looked after together, and here too it's said that some children vanished.

Estimates of the number of missing children range from hundreds to thousands.

In many cases the parents believe their children were really kidnapped and given or sold to families of European Jews - occasionally Holocaust survivors who had lost their children - or Americans.

Over time, Leah, like many other parents, ceased to believe in the story of her child's death.

"I went to my father and told him, but he said I should never suspect another Jew stole my child," she says.

She went in search of documents that would reveal the truth about what happened to Hanna, and was deeply disturbed by what she found.
Image caption Leah shows a death certificate for her daughter from 1969 - she was also given one dated 1966

One document she obtained said the babies were moved to Tel Aviv after the date on Hanna's death certificate.

Another was a second death certificate, dated three years later than the first - long after Leah and her husband had been told their daughter had died.

Like Leah, most parents received no information about their child's grave. When they did, in some cases it transpired that the grave was empty, or DNA tests showed that the body was not theirs.

Three government inquiries have looked into the Yemenite Children Affair, as it is known, since the 1960s, and all have concluded that most children died of diseases and were buried without their parents being informed or involved.

But many of the families involved suspect a cover-up and continue to believe that there was an organised operation to snatch children, involving health workers and government officials.

So last year the government of Benjamin Netanyahu decided to open up most of the archives of the public inquiries and put them online.

Netanyahu said this marked a new era of transparency and would "right an historic wrong".

Last week it led to shocking revelations in a Knesset committee about medical experiments on Yemenite children. Testimony given under oath at one of the earlier inquiries revealed that four undernourished babies died after being given an experimental protein injection, and that many children died as a result of medical negligence.

Post-mortem examinations were carried out on children, who were then buried in mass graves in violation of Jewish tradition, the special Knesset committee on the disappearance of children heard. In some cases the children's hearts were removed for US doctors, who were studying why there was almost no heart disease in Yemen.

"It's a big scandal that the doctors didn't tell the parents they were doing experiments and research on their children," says Nurit Koren, the chair of the committee.

"And even worse there are healthy babies who died from an experimental treatment. It's a crime, it was on purpose, and it let to their death."

Koren is herself the child of parents from Yemen. One of her cousins and her mother-in-law's sister were among the children who disappeared. So one of her objectives, on being elected, was to reopen the subject, which she describes as "an open wound in the heart of the Israeli nation".

One of the disturbing aspects of the Yemenite Children Affair is the way the darker-skinned immigrants appear to have been treated as second-class citizens. The founders of Israel were mostly Ashkenazi Jews, of European descent, some of whom expressed fears that Mizrahi (literally "Eastern") Jews brought with them a backwards "Oriental" culture that might damage the new state.

"Zionism - what is it really about?" asks Rafi Shubeli, a Yemenite-Israeli historian and activist from the group Our Brothers Do Exist.

"What were its intentions towards Mediterranean Jews, the Jews of the Islamic world?

"There are very many elements in Israeli society who want to avoid this kind of discussion."
Image caption Rafi Shubeli, Yemenite-Israeli historian and activist from the group Our Brothers Exist, giving evidence in the Knesset

Whether there was an organised conspiracy to snatch Yemenite babies and give them away for adoption remains unproven though, according to historian Tom Segev, who has written books on Israel's early years and served as an expert witness for one government inquiry.

He points out that hundreds of thousands of immigrants arrived in Israel at a time of war, and in the years immediately afterwards, when the country was still reeling.

"All these people came in very, very difficult conditions and it's a story of chaos," Segev says.
Media captionTom Segev: "I don't think there was a conspiracy"

Yemenites were housed in tents and had to endure heavy winters. There were child mortality rates of 50%, he points out.

Some children may have been given away, he accepts.

"In some cases this might have happened: one, two, three, four, 10 - I don't know how many," he says.

But in most cases the children just died, he believes.

"It's probably the most tragic story of the return of Jews to Israel."

Working with Nurit Koren, MyHeritage, a company that researches family ancestry, recently began offering help to Yemenite Jews who have a missing child, or who think they were secretly adopted.

Leah Aharoni, who has long been convinced that her daughter, Hanna, could be alive and searching for her biological family, gave a DNA sample - samples of cells from the inside of her cheek - to be checked against others in a new database for Yemenite-Israelis.

"I want to find out where my daughter went. I want her to know that I didn't abandon her, that I love her," Leah says. "I was tricked."

She is encouraged by a few cases in which adults in Israel and abroad found out they had been adopted, and managed to trace their Yemenite parents. She is still waiting to find out if there is a match for her.

At a beachside cafe in Haifa, I meet a physicist who is philosophical about how his life was shaped by this time of turmoil.
Image caption Yehuda Kantor found his biological family through DNA testing

A few months ago, Yehuda Kantor became the first person to be reunited with his biological family through the MyHeritage testing programme.

He had spent more than 20 years searching for his biological mother - making regular appearances in the media to publicise his case.

"I got hundreds of telephone numbers and lots of information but none quite fitted my story. I tried some DNA tests but it was in vain," Yehuda says.

Yehuda had a happy childhood, raised in nearby Afula by Batia and Asher Kantor, an Ashkenazi Jewish couple originally from Eastern Europe.

However, it was not until he reached his twenties that he discovered what much of his close-knit community already knew: he was adopted.

His mother, who had been unable to conceive, revealed she had brought him home from a small orphanage, aged three.

She always feared losing him and so, out of respect for his adoptive parents, it was only after they died that Yehuda opened his adoption file.

This showed no signature of consent from his Yemenite biological mother and gave only her first name, Zahara.

MyHeritage was able to use that to trace a grave for a woman who had died 17 years ago.

They then approached her five children asking them to do DNA tests. These showed they are the half-brother and half-sisters of Yehuda.

"Wow, there are a lot," remarked Yehuda, as he was told the news ahead of an emotional first meeting filmed by Israeli television.

His biological siblings had never been told of the existence of an older brother and were unable to explain the circumstances of his adoption.

However, they were able to give some information on his roots and Yehuda is delighted to be getting to know them better.

"I'm happy the circle was completed and I now know the history, the origin and I know which family [I'm from] from a genetic point of view," he says.

"You cannot regret what happened in the past. This is my life. I accept it as it is."

Additional reporting by Erica Chernofsky

 on: Jun 26, 2017, 05:31 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Darja
The woman helping Mongolians die with dignity

By Anu Anand BBC World Service, Ulan Bator

Fifteen years ago there was no such thing as palliative care - care for the dying - in Mongolia. Now there is, thanks to the efforts of one woman, who persuaded the country's medical establishment that it was possible and worthwhile to prevent people dying in agony.

Odontuya Davaasuren was 17 years old, studying paediatrics far from home in Leningrad, Russia when her father died of lung cancer in Mongolia.

"I didn't have the opportunity to care for my father or say goodbye," she recalls. "When I returned to Mongolia, my sister told me that our father had been in constant pain."

Several years later, as a practising doctor, she shared her apartment with her mother-in-law, who was dying of liver cancer, and she saw first-hand how pain could deprive people of peace at the end their life.

"I cared for her. I fed, washed and changed her, but I could not relieve her pain because I didn't know how," she says.

The only medication available for dying patients in Mongolia at the time was what you'd get for muscle pain or headaches, not the persistent pain of a tumour pressing on nerves in the upper abdomen. Nor the multiple other symptoms like constant nausea and vomiting.

    I felt shame and that I am a bad doctor because I didn't know how to help

"I felt shame and that I am a bad doctor because I didn't know how to help," she says.

If these experiences weren't enough, at work Davaasuren witnessed children with leukaemia so wracked with pain they never smiled or spoke, and a young mother who cried constantly and asked to be killed to escape the pain of stomach cancer.

"Many, many patients died at home, in pain, with great physical and psychological suffering," she recalls. "Many times, the families bought so much traditional medicine and other expensive medicines. But that was just false hope."

The idea of palliative or end-of-life care, to support people in the last months or years of their life, was well established in other countries. But in Mongolia, home of the conqueror Genghis Khan, where nomads have lived and died by the harsh conditions of the landscape for millennia, it was entirely unknown.

Then a trip to Sweden in 2000, to attend a European Palliative Care Association conference, opened Davaasuren's eyes and eventually helped her make Mongolia a better place to die.

"Before I went to Stockholm in 2000, I had never heard these words, 'palliative care'," she says. "This was not available in Mongolia or other post-socialist societies."

On returning, her pleas to Mongolia's health ministry initially fell on deaf ears.

"'Why do you want to spend money on people who are dying,' they asked me, 'when we don't have enough for living patients?'"

A wind cold enough to freeze your fingers within seconds is blowing across low brown hills that ripple across the landscape on the outskirts of Ulan Bator, the Mongolian capital.

Not a single building, streetlight or electrical pylon is visible, just a scattering of round tents, called gers, the traditional home of nomadic farmers.

Entering through the sky blue wooden door of one ger, Davaasuren, now 59 and a grandmother, meets Timurbat. He sits propped on a wooden bed, against turquoise fabric printed with large, red roses that lines the inside of the dwelling.

Timurbat's abdomen is painfully distended, his skin has a yellow cast, and the whites of his eyes have turned turmeric-coloured as his cancer-riddled liver struggles to break down the pigment from dying red blood cells.

Like his ancestors, Timurbat has spent a lifetime herding sheep and cattle on horseback, to shelter in winter and water in summer.

But now he is too weak to speak, much less stand.

"My leg and arm hurt, and I have headaches," he says, groaning and closing his eyes. "I can't sleep at night. I wish it didn't hurt so much."

Davaasuren kneels in front of him, gently prodding his abdomen.

"You can see the cancer here in the lower abdomen," she says. "This stage is incurable, but I wish for him to be comfortable, without suffering and pain."

Davaasuren asks Timurbat's wife, Enkjargal, what medication he has been taking and suggests increasing the dose of morphine.

"Before, he received one tablet every four hours, now he needs more because it doesn't help," she says.

Outside the ger as Davaasuren prepares to leave, Enkjargal breaks down in tears.

Davaasuren hugs her close and whispers to her.

Mongolia has the highest rate of death from liver cancer - six times the global average - and the number of cases is constantly increasing. The culprit is a viral infection, either Hepatitis B or Hepatitis C. Spread by contamination with infected blood, and through sex (particularly in the case of Hepatitis B) more than a quarter of Mongolians are chronically infected with at least one of the strains.

    People asked: 'Please kill me' - they preferred to die than suffer

It is a slow killer. Over many years, the virus causes genetic changes in liver cells, eventually leading to tumours in some patients. By the time symptoms appear, it is usually too late.

"A good death... and a good life before death, it is a human right," Davaasuren says.

To make her point to the Health Ministry, after her return from Sweden in 2000, she visited dying patients at home and filmed their desperate testimonies. Back then, terminally ill patients were routinely discharged from hospitals once doctors felt they could not be helped and left to cope alone.

Without pain relief, many considered suicide.

"Many people asked, 'Please kill me,'" Davaasuren says. "They preferred to die than suffer. After [filming], I would come back in the evening. I just watched and cried, watched and cried. I saw so much suffering."

Because of the liver cancer statistics, Davaasuren knew most families in Mongolia were likely to experience this suffering.

Her emotionally charged lobbying paid off and in 2002, she was allowed to establish a national palliative care programme, designed to support the dying and those who love them.
Image caption Odontuya Davaasuren (centre) with two of her nurses

Fifteen years on, each provincial hospital in the country provides palliative care, as do hospitals in each of Ulan Bator's nine districts. Five hospices care for dying patients on wards and at home.

One major change Davaasuren has made is to increase the availability of morphine.

Before she helped rewrite the legislation on the use of the drug for pain relief, many officials believed making it more easily accessible would fuel addiction.

"Now pharmacies can distribute morphine free for all cancer patients according to each person's need until death," she says.

She has also trained thousands of doctors to provide both pain relief and psychological support to the dying, arguing both aspects are crucial.

"Spiritual care is sometimes much more important than morphine," she says. "Spiritual care can relieve pain. Patients lose their anxiety, fear, insomnia... and there are very good changes after accepting death."

In the palliative care ward of Mongolia's National Cancer Hospital, Davaasuren sits talking to a man with sad eyes and salt-and-pepper hair in a bed by the window.

As she chats with him about routine matters, their conversation gradually becomes more intimate. There are soft words and a few soft laughs.

    Now it is not the time to bomb by medicine, it is time to surround him with love

"His name is Renchin and he worked in the forest as a builder," Davaasuren explains.

"He has five children. He feels death is coming, but sometimes when the children are here, he says, 'I'm OK, don't worry,' because he is a father," she says.

"But I told him, 'Now it's time to think about what you need to tell your children, how you need to prepare, because I think it is time. It's better to know the truth than have false hope.' He smiled but did not cry."

Davaasuren speaks to Renchin's daughter next, who is sitting nearby. Her polite smile changes during the course of the conversation. Tears begin to fall and her cheeks quiver.

"I told her her father is dying," says Davaasuren. "She said she had hoped for a cure. I said, 'It is the terminal stage. Now it is not the time to bomb by medicine, it is time to surround him with love.' She said, 'Thank you, I understand it now.'

"It's very difficult for me still. I sometimes cry together with my patients."

 on: Jun 26, 2017, 05:26 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Darja
'World's Fastest Folding Electric Scooter' Revolutionizes Commuting


The so-called "first and last mile" problem is one of the biggest hurdles with public transportation. How do you encourage more people to take Earth-friendlier commutes when their homes are miles away from the train or bus station?

One solution, as this Estonian electric scooter company proposes, is to simply take your commute with you—literally. Tallinn-based Stigo has developed a compact e-scooter that folds to the size of a rolling suitcase in about two seconds.

When folded, the Stigo L1E takes up a mere 48 × 40 cm (19 x 16 inches) of space. And at only 14 kg. (31 lbs.), it can be easily towed by hand, tucks neatly into train and bus storage compartments or, say, underneath your table at a café or the office.

"We believe Stigo will revolutionize the way people travel," Stigo CEO Ardo Reinsalu said in a statement. "Stigo is not only the world's fastest folding electric scooter, but you can also pull it along like hand luggage wherever you go, including indoors and outdoors, and charge it from a regular outlet."

According to its specs, the electric scooter has a max speed of 15 mph (25 kph) and runs on a 250W hub motor powered by a 36V lithium-Ion battery that can be charged from a regular outlet. A single charge takes about three hours and will give a range of 22 miles (40 km). You use a grip-twist throttle to adjust the speed.

"Our vision is to solve the first/last mile commuting problem by offering freedom of movement in a stylish and environmentally friendly manner," Reinsalu added.

The vehicle can be found at dealers around the world, including its first concept store in Tianjin, China. The base model sells for $1,849 at its store in the U.S.

 on: Jun 26, 2017, 05:19 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Darja
Finland has far fewer wild wolves than previously thought, census shows

Data reveals there are 150 to 180 animals in Finland, where government awards licences to hunt them
Two European Grey wolves (Canis lupus) and Common raven (Corvus corax) Kuhmo, Finland

Fiona Harvey Environment correspondent
Monday 26 June 2017 07.00 BST

Conservation groups have raised concerns over Finland’s wild wolf population after a new census found numbers far below those regarded as naturally sustainable.

Data from the Finnish National Resources Institute show there are currently only about 150 to 180 wolves living in Finland, where the government awards licences to hunt the animals.

The estimate is much lower than previous estimates, which put the population at more than 230 animals more than a year ago.

It also falls a long way short of the estimated 800 individuals needed to sustain a healthy degree of genetic diversity within the population, according to the Wolf Action Group, a conservation committee within the Finnish Nature League.

This week, the campaigners will meet EU officials to discuss the census data, and the application of Europe’s Habitat Directive to the remaining wolves in Finland. Under the EU rules, wolves – which are classed as endangered – should be accorded special status with measures taken to ensure their viability, but conservationists say these rules have not been followed.

The Finnish Nature League said the culling of wolves in the last few years had worsened the animals’ prospects by killing pack leaders, family groups and dispersing packs.

The government view has been that culling was needed to minimise the encroachment of wolves on farmers and isolated communities, for their own protection as well as that of people.

A hunt targeting 50 grey wolves was approved earlier this year in Finland, when the number of wild wolves was estimated at approximately 250 animals. It was justified in part as a way of cutting down on the illegal poaching of wolves.

However, the licensing has proved controversial, with green groups claiming that the hunting has been indiscriminate, and by dispersing packs without their leaders has led to an increasing danger to the human population and livestock.

Wolf hunting is viewed as a traditional method of restraining wild populations of the predator, and has been backed by the influential hunting lobbies in countries, such as Norway and Finland, with remaining wild wolf populations, as well as by farmers and people living in rural areas that have seen increased wolf activity. But conservation groups have warned that fragile populations may be in danger of collapse within a few years if current practices are allowed to continue.

In Norway a proposed cull on a much smaller wolf population, estimated at fewer than 70 animals, was scaled back after protests last year.

Wolf numbers across Europe are thought to have risen to about 12,000. They have been increasing their geographic range and even beginning to encroach on urban areas, leading to calls for increased “management” of wolf populations, including culls. Finland also shares a border with Russia, home to a large wolf population estimated at more than 50,000, making management of the local population more difficult.

Interest in traditional hunting has undergone an unexpected recent revival in the Nordic region. Seal-hunting, which has been dying out in Norway for decades after long-running campaigns against animal cruelty, gained new public recognition due to the film Sealers: One Last Hunt earlier this year.

 on: Jun 26, 2017, 05:17 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Darja
Anti-poaching drive brings Siberia’s tigers back from brink

A WWF appeal aims to highlight the threat of habitat destruction and climate change on wild populations
Amur, or Siberian, tiger numbers have grown from 20-30 in the 1930s to around 500 now.

Robin McKie Science editor

In February, Pavel Fomenko was told that the body of a young female tiger had been discovered underneath a car parked outside the town of Luchegorsk, in eastern Russia. Fomenko – head of rare species conservation for WWF Russia – took the corpse for examination where he uncovered the grim details of the animal’s death.

The Amur tiger, which is also known as the Siberian tiger, had been caught in a trap and had chewed off a paw to free itself. It was left crippled, unable to hunt, and died of starvation while seeking shelter under the car. “Hearing about this sort of thing is always painful,” said Fomenko. “This was a beautiful tigress.” It is harrowing scenes such as these that conservation groups are hoping will become increasingly rare in the years to come. Later this week, WWF will launch an appeal that aims not just to halt the decline in tiger numbers but to boost them to new levels. The goal is to increase the world’s tiger population in the wild to more than 6,000 by 2022, the next Chinese year of the tiger. In this way, it should be possible to achieve global security for this poster boy and girl of the conservation movement.

The Siberian tiger protector - in pictures: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/gallery/2017/jun/24/the-siberian-tiger-protector-in-pictures

The death of the tigress found under the car is tempered by the knowledge that the Amur is part of a global wild tiger population that has started to rise, albeit marginally, after decades of decline. The world lost 97% of its tiger population in a little over a century, but last year, WWF reported that global numbers in the wild had risen from 3,200 in 2010 to about 3,900 in 2016, thanks to the introduction of anti-poaching patrols, habitat protection and other measures.

“The increase in tiger numbers is encouraging but the species’ future in its natural environment still hangs in the balance and numbers remain perilously low,” said Rebecca May, WWF’s tiger specialist. “There now needs to be an enormous push forward to build on this progress. We need commitment and urgent action from all governments of ‘tiger-range’ countries [where tigers still roam free], as well as the passion and unwavering support of the public.”

To fund the campaign, WWF will launch an appeal this week for the public to become “tiger protectors” by donating £5 a month to its programme. Some of this money will be used to expand reserves in the wild where tigers can mix and breed in greater numbers, reversing a trend that has seen the tiger’s range in Asia shrink by nearly 95% over the past 150 years.

This attrition of habitat has continued unabated into recent times. Between 2006 and 2014, the tiger’s already dwindling range shrank a further 40%. By contrast, human populations have soared in tiger-range countries – which include India, Russia, Nepal and nine other Asian nations that now have a human population of 3.2 billion, double the number in 1977.

In addition, poaching, habitat destruction and climate change still pose major threats to the species, problems that are all illustrated by the battle to save the Amur tiger. In 2010, it was estimated that more than 70% of Amur deaths were caused by humans, most of them poachers who use roads built deep into forests by the logging industry to find the tigers.

The Russian government has recently introduced a package of measures aimed at boosting Amur numbers, including restricting logging in tiger habitat areas and increased penalties for poaching and the possession of tiger parts, which are sold to countries in the Far East where they are considered to have medicinal properties.

As head of conservation, Fomenko has been trying to implement these measures, work that sometimes requires spending a month or more in the wild tracking and protecting tigers – including fights with poachers – and investigating sites where poaching and suspicious tiger deaths have occurred. “There’s the risk of getting lost, the risk of getting frostbitten, the risk of encountering a predator. There is a high chance of meeting death,” he said.

The fortunes of the Amur tiger have been more encouraging than most. Its population had dropped to only 20 to 30 animals in the 1930s and the species was on the brink of extinction. Today, there may be more than 500 Amurs in the wilds of Siberia thanks to the work of conservationists such as Fomenko, backed by governments that value good conservation.

It remains to be seen if this reversal can be maintained, although Fomenko is under no illusions about the value of such work: “Tigers are powerful, they are beautiful, they are perfect – and they can co-exist with humans.”

 on: Jun 26, 2017, 05:14 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Darja
Appeals Court Denies Monsanto's Request for Reconsideration Post Controversial Reuters Story


Monsanto, the maker of the glyphosate-based herbicide Roundup, filed a motion June 16 in U.S. District Court, Northern District of California to reconsider the chemical's addition to California's Proposition 65 list of agents known to cause cancer.

The agrochemical giant made this move based on a June 14 Reuters investigation of Dr. Aaron Blair, a lead researcher on the World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) committee, that classified glyphosate as a "2A probable human carcinogen" in March 2015.

On June 22, Monsanto's petition for review and application for stay were denied by the court.

Earlier this year, California became the first state to consider requiring Monsanto to label glyphosate as a chemical "known to the state to cause cancer" in accordance with the Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986, better known as Prop 65. The designation was compelled by the IARC's glyphosate classification.

Glyphosate is at the center of hundreds of cancer lawsuits in which plaintiffs across the U.S. claim that they or their loved ones developed non-Hodgkin's lymphoma due to exposure to Monsanto's Roundup, pointing in part to the IARC cancer classification.

But the St. Louis-based agrochemical maker has vehemently defended the safety of its star product and has previously attempted to block the herbicide from California's cancer list.

The Reuters piece accused Dr. Blair, a top epidemiologist from the U.S. National Cancer Institute, for failing to share "important" scientific data from the Agricultural Health Study (AHS) he conducted with other scientists to assess the herbicide glyphosate for the IARC. IARC scientists, including Dr. Blair, reviewed a wide body of published, peer-reviewed scientific research on glyphosate and determined in March of 2015 that glyphosate should be classified as a probable human carcinogen. The Reuters' article assumed that IARC scientists were unaware of the additional AHS data and that if the IARC had known of this missing data, its conclusion could have been different. However, Dr. Blair, who worked on the AHS study and the IARC analysis testified [starting on page 70] that he supported IARC's carcinogenicity finding notwithstanding the AHS results, repeatedly asserting that the AHS study was unfinished and unpublished, and IARC required that findings only rely upon studies that were complete, therefore the incomplete AHS data could not have been relied upon by IARC scientists.

Monsanto and its industry allies accused Blair of deliberately concealing data. Blair called the accusations "absolutely incorrect." Reuters reported that IARC is "sticking with its findings." As stated above, the organization only considers published, peer-reviewed research.

Some scientists have since voiced concerns with the AHS cited in the story. Michael Hansen, senior scientist at Consumers Union, said the Reuters report "omits the fact that the data from the other epidemiology studies (all case control studies), and the meta-analyses, clearly show a statistically significant increase in non-Hodgkin's lymphoma with glyphosate exposure."

Other concerns of the study include the failure to use an appropriate latency period for cancers, the control group having an elevated risk of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma and exposure misclassification.

Some consumer advocates have also suggested "flaws" within the Reuters story itself. Carey Gillam, a veteran journalist who spent 17 years at Reuters before joining the nonprofit consumer group U.S. Right to Know in 2016, claimed "Monsanto clearly planted that false and misleading story with Reuters and now is exploiting the carefully spun story to try to gain political advantage."

"A careful reading of the documents that the story is based on indicates that Reuters cherry-picked points that furthered Monsanto's agenda while ignoring points that ran counter to Monsanto's position," Gillam continued. "It certainly is also noteworthy that while Reuters described the documents as 'court documents,' implying their reporter got them through the court system rather than from Monsanto and friends, they were not in fact filed in court and so had to be hand-fed to Reuters. It's unfortunate that Reuters has allowed itself to be used to promote Monsanto's propaganda, but hopefully regulators can see through the ruse."

Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. called Monsanto's motion "a classic smoke and mirrors flimflam." The environmental attorney is co-leading lawsuits on behalf of dozens of California residents and hundreds of people with non-Hodgkin lymphoma throughout the U.S. who allege Roundup causes cancer.

"Its basis is the company's deceptive spin on a study so badly flawed that it could not pass peer review and was never published," Kennedy added. "Like all of its other products and campaigns, Monsanto's motion is equal parts poison, deception and chutzpah."


FERC Releases 'Utterly Insufficient Review' for Mountain Valley Pipeline


The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) released its Final Environmental Impact Statement Friday for the Mountain Valley Pipeline, a controversial 303-mile pipeline that would carry two billion cubic feet of fracked gas per day from West Virginia through Virginia.

As has been the pattern at FERC, the review fails to adequately assess whether the pipeline is needed in the first place, while sweeping aside the project's serious threats to water resources, the safety of communities and the climate.

Oil Change International research analyst Kelly Trout had the following response to FERC's deeply flawed climate assessment:

In this utterly insufficient review, FERC ignores both science and economics to sweep aside the Mountain Valley Pipeline's significant climate impact. FERC severely undercounts climate pollution by ignoring methane leakage across the gas supply chain, which makes gas as dirty or dirtier than coal, and by omitting emissions from upstream fracking. FERC also wrongly assumes that gas supplied by the project is likely to replace coal, when it's just as likely to lock out the clean energy and efficiency alternatives we urgently need.

If FERC was doing its job, it would find the Mountain Valley Pipeline will cause an unacceptable increase in climate pollution and reject this dirty project. A proper analysis shows that this pipeline will cause as much climate pollution as 26 coal plants per year. This project is the last thing we need in the face of worsening heatwaves and flooding, and when clean alternatives are readily available now.

Concerned residents continue to fight this dirty pipeline because it's a clear threat to local livelihoods, clean water and our climate. It's time for FERC to completely overhaul its pipeline review process to prioritize the safety of communities and our climate, not the profits of corporate polluters.

In a recent study, Oil Change International found that the Mountain Valley Pipeline will cause nearly 90 million metric tons of greenhouse gas pollution per year, which is the equivalent of 26 coal plants or 19 million vehicles on the road. The study applied a gas pipeline climate methodology that is based on the latest analysis of the lifecycle pollution of fracked gas from the Appalachian Basin.

 on: Jun 26, 2017, 05:10 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Darja

How Algae Can Help Sweden Eliminate Carbon Emissions

By Avery Friedman

Algae is often considered a nuisance, but for Sweden, the rapidly growing sea plant is now an asset.

As the Scandinavian country works to cut all of its greenhouse gas emissions by 2045, it's using algae to sop up the carbon emissions from cement.

Cement production, it turns out, is a major source of carbon dioxide. It also happens to be a top industry in Sweden.

So the country is at a crossroads—how does it keep creating one of the most widely used materials in the world, while also bringing emissions to zero?

The answer: algae.

Nestled in the quaint village of Degerhamn, Sweden, a cement factory called Cementa (owned by the international conglomerate HeidelbergCement) is implementing a new initiative that uses algae from the nearby Baltic Sea to capture the factory's carbon dioxide emissions before the gas enters the atmosphere.

Cement is composed largely of limestone, a substance that, when heated, releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. In addition, fossil fuels are burned in the process of heating the limestone, emitting even more carbon dioxide.

The process that Cementa uses is simple. First, water from the Baltic is pumped into large bags that can hold about 800 gallons of liquid. Then, nutrients are added to multiply the algae. Finally, the liquid is mixed with the factory's waste and left to sit in the sunlight, which gradually absorbs all the carbon.

This system was created as a part of Swedish scientist Catherine Legrand's Algoland project.

Legrand and her team from Linnaeus University found that algae is able to convert carbon dioxide and water into various growth-promoting nutrients. The cement plant is essentially enhancing algae's naturally occurring photosynthesis process. According to Linnaeus University researcher Martin Olofsson, in just a few runs through the algae mixture, nearly all carbon dioxide is absorbed by the green sea plant.

The Algoland system at Cementa is still small-scale, but with ample supply of space, sunlight, water and fresh algae, the company has plenty of potential to take this initiative to the next level. The project is set to expand beyond Sweden as well.

"We are preparing to scale up the algae project to a commercial scale in Morocco," Jan Theulen, Heidelberg's director of alternate resources, told Quartz Media.

Sweden's use of algae is just a small part of a larger, nationwide push towards a cleaner energy supply. Over the past several years, the country has increased its tax on carbon emissions for both industries and households, and it's one of the few countries that goes beyond the pledges made under the Paris climate agreement.

Sweden has long been a trailblazer in the fight against climate change, and it's now discovering that viable green technology sometimes resides just beneath the surface.

Reposted with permission from our media associate Global Citizen.

 on: Jun 26, 2017, 05:06 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Darja
Swiss firm Climeworks begins sucking carbon dioxide from the atmosphere in fight against climate change

Company's 'super ambitious' plan is to capture one per cent of annual emissions by 2025

 Ian Johnston Environment Correspondent
A Swiss company has opened what is believed to be the world’s first ‘commercial’ plant that sucks carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, a process that could help reduce global warming.

Climeworks, which created the plant in Hinwil, near Zurich, told the Carbon Brief website that the process was currently not making money.

However the firm expressed confidence they could bring down the cost from $600 per tonne of the greenhouse gas to $200 in three to five years with a longer term target of $100.

And its “super-ambitious” vision is to capture one per cent of annual global carbon emissions by 2025, which would involve building hundreds of thousands of the devices.

The captured gas is currently being sold, appropriately enough, to a greenhouse that grows fruit and vegetables.

However it could also be used to make fizzy drinks and renewable fuels or stored underground.

One of the company’s founders, Christoph Gebald, told Carbon Brief: “With this plant, we can show costs of roughly $600 per tonne, which is, of course, if we compare it to a market price, very high.

“But, if we compare it to studies which have been done previously, projecting the costs of direct air capture, it’s a sensation.”
Previous research into the idea had assumed a cost of $1,000 per tonne.

“We are very confident that, once we build version two, three and four of this plant, we can bring down costs,” Mr Gebald said.

“We see a factor [of] three cost reduction in the next three to five years, so a final cost of $200 per tonne. The long-term target price for what we do is clearly $100 per tonne of CO2.”

He said such a carbon capture system could start to make an impact on emissions on a global scale, but this might require a price to be put on carbon emissions. The European Union and some other countries around the world have put a price on carbon for some major emitters, but environmentalists have complained it is too low and fails to reflect the true cost.

“The vision of our company is to capture [one] per cent of global emissions by 2025, which is super ambitious, but which is something that is feasible,” Mr Gebald said.

“Reaching one per cent of global emissions by 2025 is currently not possible without political will, without a price on carbon, for example. So it’s not possible by commercial means only.”

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