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Saturday, July 23, 2016

Amazon Rainforest Third Major Drought 11 Years - Malibu Times: Blogs

The Amazon has been ravaged by the climate in crisis. First, half a billion trees were blown down by a mega storm then a one-in-100-year drought occurred later that year in 2005. The Amazon rainforest lost 23 percent of its estimated mean annual carbon accumulation or carbon dioxide it removes from the atmosphere. Then those dead trees began decomposing releasing billions of tons of heat-trapping carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. 

Wildlife Dying En Masse as South American River Runs Dry

The lagoon, located in the western Paraguayan province of Boquerón, is just one of many stretches of the Pilcomayo River suffering an extensive die-off of caiman, fish, and other river creatures. There have not been any official estimates from the Ministry of the Environment, but Roque González Vera, a journalist for ABC Color in Paraguay, reports utter devastation in some places: Up to 98 percent of caimans (Caiman yacare) are suspected dead, and 80 percent of the capybara (Hydrochoerus hydrochaeris) population has died.

The End of Robert Mugabe, Zimbabwe's Democratic Push | News24

Yesterday, July 21, 2016, Robert Mugabe's biggest support group, the War Veterans, the very architects of the land redistribution program repudiated him in very clear terms. You can read their statement here. What started as a national protest from Pastor Evan Mawareri has now turned to one of the most embarrisng exits from power since the late Mobutu was chaufferred to  the Airport - and yet, Mugabe faces the same fate again but albeit with a more literate population - Zimbabweans have one of the highest literacy rates in Africa. Will they allow Mugabe to leave power unaccountable?

PressTV-France razes camp housing 2,600 refugees

French police have dismantled a tent camp home to 2,628 refugees as part of an ongoing operation to clear out shelters sprouting up around Paris, which is grappling with a shortage of accommodation for refugees.
The raid took place in the northern part of the capital, Paris, on Friday, marking the 26th of its kind over the past year in the city.

Number of people fleeing South Sudan violence hits one-day record, officials say | Reuters

NEW YORK (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - More than 8,300 refugees fled violence in war-torn South Sudan and crossed into neighboring Uganda in a single day this week, setting a one-day record for this year, United Nations officials said on Friday.

The refugees, nearly all women and children, were escaping stepped-up fighting between forces loyal to South Sudan's president and those loyal to its former vice president, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees said.

Agrimoney.com | Ideas wane on Argentine wheat revival - but corn hopes grow

Argentina's wheat production will increase in 2016-17, but not by as much as had been thought, the US Department of Agriculture bureau in Buenos Aires said, cutting to 13.7m tonnes their harvest forecast.

The downgrade, to a figure 1.3m tonnes below the official USDA forecast restated last week, reflected lower expectations for sowings, which are being held up by "unusually wet conditions" in key central Argentine growing areas, the bureau said.

"Parts of Entre Rios, Santa Fe and Cordoba provinces have suffered unusually excessive rains… which have shut down part of the road network, many dirt roads, and have worsened the problem of a high water table levels in many areas."

Cinquième nuit de tensions à Beaumont-sur-Oise

La préfecture du Val d'Oise a recensé un tir d'arme à plomb, un véhicule incendié et une interpellation dans la soirée du samedi 23 juillet à Beaumont-sur-Oise. La ville est sous tension pour la cinquième nuit d'affilée, conséquence de la mort lors de son arrestation d'Adama Traoré, un jeune homme de 24 ans.

C'est un véhicule de la gendarmerie qui a été visé par une arme à plomb. La personne interpellée transportait une batte de base-ball et des projectiles selon Jean-Simon Mérandat, le directeur de cabinet du préfet.

En savoir plus sur http://www.lemonde.fr/police-justice/article/2016/07/24/cinquieme-nuit-de-tensions-a-beaumont-sur-oise_4973956_1653578.html#rrIHozDU6brZBVt2.99

Parliamentary report slams UK government counter-extremism policies | Middle East Eye

UK government proposals to tackle extremism risk making the situation worse and are based on unproven theories of radicalisation and vague definitions of extremism, parliament's human rights committee warned in a report published on Friday.
The report by the Joint Committee on Human Rights concluded that progress towards putting in place a counter-extremism bill appeared to have gone backwards with the government "retreating from providing any level of detail".
It also criticised the government's oversight arrangements for its existing Prevent strategy for tackling extremism, which it said were "too opaque and do not engender confidence".

Burundi faces foreign exchange shortage as aid dries up, crisis grinds on | Reuters

A shortage of foreign exchange in Burundi caused by an ongoing political crisis is squeezing businesses, which say they are unable to replenish their stocks of imported merchandise.

The European Union suspended financial support to Burundi in March, saying President Pierre Nkurunziza had not done enough to resolve an ongoing political and economic crisis.

Uganda: Cancer uptick attributed to eating food prepared with transformer oil | East & Horn Africa

A least cancer 100 cases are diagnosed at Uganda's Cancer Institute Hospital in Kampala and other hospitals around the country every day.
Transformer oil is stolen from transformers and used in preparing food in some restaurants
"We are overwhelmed by the increasing number of cancer cases in the country," George Okware, a cancer expert in the ministry of health, said.
"We have information that some people are eating food prepared with transformer oil and that could be the reason why the cancer cases are on the rise."

Read the original article on Theafricareport.comUganda: Cancer uptick attributed to eating food prepared with transformer oil | East & Horn Africa 
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China installed 20 GW of solar power in first-half; triple from a year ago | Reuters

China installed 20 gigawatts (GW) of solar power capacity in the first half of 2016, three times as much as during the same period a year ago, state news agency Xinhua reported late on Thursday citing the country's largest solar industry lobby.

The surge in capacity extended China's lead over Germany as the top solar generator, said Wang Bohua, General Secretary of the China Photovoltaic Industry Association (CPIA), according to Xinhua.

Heavy rain in China kills at least 87, millions evacuated | Reuters

Heavy rain in China has killed at least 87 people and forced 16 million from their homes, state media reported on Saturday.

Seventy-two people have been killed and 78 are missing in the northern province of Hebei after rain triggered floods and landslides, the Xinhua news agency reported, citing the civil affairs department.

India's water reservoirs at 34 percent capacity in week to June 21 | Reuters

Water levels in India's main reservoirs were at 34 percent of their storage capacity in the week to July 21, down 3 percentage points from a year earlier, government data showed.

The latest levels were higher than the last 10 years' average of 33 percent, and were 5 percentage points more compared with the previous week.

Congress Turns Back on Rail Safety (2015 Re-Print) - iFreePress

Congress Turns Back on Rail Safety

This week Congress turned its back on railroad safety.  The House of Representatives has cleared the last hurdle and next week will  extend the deadline to install a vital rail safety requirement for another three years and ignored its original 2008 deadline that it gave railroads seven years  to install  Positive Train Control (PTC).

New York Rail Crash 2015

In that period, according to the Association of American Railroads, the number of carloads of highly flammable crude oil has increased by 5,100 percent. In terms of passenger deaths, the United States has four times the number of deaths per billion rail kilometers traveled than Europe.
Sarah Feinberg, who administers the Federal Railroad Administration, warned the House of Representatives of the consequences of their actions.
"If PTC is not fully implemented," she testified in June 2015, "by January 1, 2016 we can and should expect there to be more accidents in the months and years to follow that PTC could have prevented."
She testified immediately following the May 2015 Philadelphia passenger accident that killed eight people that potentially was going to disrupt the lobbying efforts of the transportation industry to extend the deadline. In addition, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) warned that PTC could have prevented or reduced the impact of 140 accidents, 300 deaths, 6,500 injuries since 1970.
But the Transportation industry had another plan.  According OpenSecrets, an organization that tracks lobbying efforts, the four major railroads gave members of Congress in excess of six million dollars in 2014 and specifically they gave  $1.9 million dollars to the campaigns of the House of Representatives Transportation Committee members.  
The original deadline was pushed after a Los Angeles commuter crash.  In 2008, 25 passengers were killed just outside Los Angeles in a commuter rail accident when a passenger and a freight train collided when they missed a red signal to stop. Amidst the outrage, Congress passed the requirement to install PTC systems and set the 2015 deadline.
This technology is not new. It has been installed in Europe and others places for decades and this accounts for Europe's safer rail system. In fact, nearly two decades ago the NTSB urged Congress to mandate PTC.
PTC is a signalling system that detects  problems like missed train signals or excessive speeds and can disengage the locomotive in some circumstances and in others send warnings to the locomotive cab.
This is how it works:
It would have saved eight lives this year  if Amtrak had installed PTC. The rapid acceleration of the Philadelphia train Number 188, going over three times the speed limit, would have been detected and the train would have been slowed.
Five years ago the railroads submitted their implementation plans for PTC and all agreed the project could be accomplished by the December 31, 2015 deadline. Yet today, for Class 1 freight railroads, which carry over 600,000 carloads of crude oil a year, only 39 percent of locomotives will be fully equipped by the end of this year. Only 67 percent of radio base stations will be operational, and less than 35 percent of the employees trained.  
Amtrak has done considerably better with 85 percent of its locomotives equipped and this rises to 97 percent in the Northeast Corridor, but this is worthless because they have only mapped about 63 perecent of track miles. However the local commuter lines like the one outside Los Angeles that killed 28 people in 2008 are only 29 percent complete.
According to a Government Accounting Office (GAO) report, the reasons for this failure of public safety are numerous. Railroads blame the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for the lack of availability of much needed 220 mhz radio spectrum, the delay of obtaining permits to put up signal towers on tribal lands, the lack of coordinated implementation, and the lack of enough money being provided by Congress.
Amtrak and the freight railroads have pushed back on the deadline with a threat to shut down rail service if Congress do not pass an extension.  This would disrupt 26 commuter railroads with 1.7 million daily trips and some 90 freight railroads and significantly disrupt the American economy.
The Senate had already reacted to the threat by passing an extension until 2018 with unlimited extensions and placed it inside the current Highway Bill. The House of Representatives followed suit and this week's approval by the Transportation Committee cleared the final hurdle to the extension.
Both parties appear to have the votes to pass the Highway Bill so it means rail safety has been put off until 2018, and the railroads are allowed a series of two year extensions after 2018 if they fail to implement PTC. Even Senate luminaries like Senator Richard Blumenthal (D. Conn) could not stop this blanket extension when he argued for targeted extensions to keep the pressure on implementation.
"It has been 45 years since the NTSB first urged railroads to implement PTC which is an unacceptable delay in implementation of this critical life saving technology and this delay has allowed numerous, preventable tragedies."
William Church is editor of the William Church's Infrastructure Newsletter and former Managing Director of CIWARS (Centre for Infrastructural Warfare Studies).