The biggest rainforest news stories in 2018

first_img Popular in the CommunitySponsoredSponsoredOrangutan found tortured and decapitated prompts Indonesia probeEMGIES17 Jan, 2018We will never know the full extent of what this poor Orangutan went through before he died, the same must be done to this evil perpetrator(s) they don’t deserve the air that they breathe this has truly upset me and I wonder for the future for these wonderful creatures. So called ‘Mankind’ has a lot to answer for we are the only ones ruining this world I prefer animals to humans any day of the week.What makes community ecotourism succeed? In Madagascar, location, location, locationScissors1dOther countries should also learn and try to incorporateWhy you should care about the current wave of mass extinctions (commentary)Processor1 DecAfter all, there is no infinite anything in the whole galaxy!Infinite stupidity, right here on earth.The wildlife trade threatens people and animals alike (commentary)Anchor3dUnfortunately I feel The Chinese have no compassion for any living animal. They are a cruel country that as we knowneatbeverything that moves and do not humanily kill these poor animals and insects. They have no health and safety on their markets and they then contract these diseases. Maybe its karma maybe they should look at the way they live and stop using animals for all there so called remedies. DisgustingConservationists welcome China’s wildlife trade banThobolo27 JanChina has consistently been the worlds worst, “ Face of Evil “ in regards our planets flora and fauna survival. In some ways, this is nature trying to fight back. This ban is great, but the rest of the world just cannot allow it to be temporary, because history has demonstrated that once this coronavirus passes, they will in all likelihood, simply revert to been the planets worst Ecco Terrorists. Let’s simply not allow this to happen! How and why they have been able to degrade this planets iconic species, rape the planets rivers, oceans and forests, with apparent impunity, is just mind boggling! Please no more.Probing rural poachers in Africa: Why do they poach?Carrot3dOne day I feel like animals will be more scarce, and I agree with one of my friends, they said that poaching will take over the world, but I also hope notUpset about Amazon fires last year? Focus on deforestation this year (commentary)Bullhorn4dLies and more leisSponsoredSponsoredCoke is again the biggest culprit behind plastic waste in the PhilippinesGrapes7 NovOnce again the article blames companies for the actions of individuals. It is individuals that buy these products, it is individuals that dispose of them improperly. If we want to change it, we have to change, not just create bad guys to blame.Brazilian response to Bolsonaro policies and Amazon fires growsCar4 SepThank you for this excellent report. I feel overwhelmed by the ecocidal intent of the Bolsonaro government in the name of ‘developing’ their ‘God-given’ resources.U.S. allocates first of $30M in grants for forest conservation in SumatraPlanet4dcarrot hella thick ;)Melting Arctic sea ice may be altering winds, weather at equator: studyleftylarry30 JanThe Arctic sea ice seems to be recovering this winter as per the last 10-12 years, good news.Malaysia has the world’s highest deforestation rate, reveals Google forest mapBone27 Sep, 2018Who you’re trying to fool with selective data revelation?You can’t hide the truth if you show historical deforestation for all countries, especially in Europe from 1800s to this day. WorldBank has a good wholesome data on this.Mass tree planting along India’s Cauvery River has scientists worriedSurendra Nekkanti23 JanHi Mongabay. Good effort trying to be objective in this article. I would like to give a constructive feedback which could help in clearing things up.1. It is mentioned that planting trees in village common lands will have negative affects socially and ecologically. There is no need to even have to agree or disagree with it, because, you also mentioned the fact that Cauvery Calling aims to plant trees only in the private lands of the farmers. So, plantation in the common lands doesn’t come into the picture.2.I don’t see that the ecologists are totally against this project, but just they they have some concerns, mainly in terms of what species of trees will be planted. And because there was no direct communication between the ecologists and Isha Foundation, it was not possible for them to address the concerns. As you seem to have spoken with an Isha spokesperson, if you could connect the concerned parties, it would be great, because I see that the ecologists are genuinely interested in making sure things are done the right way.May we all come together and make things happen.Rare Amazon bush dogs caught on camera in BoliviaCarrot1 Feba very good iniciative to be fallowed by the ranchers all overSponsored Beyond the Iceland ad ban, there were plenty of other developments on the palm oil front. Most notably, the global energy slump significantly affected the palm oil market, driving the palm oil price to the lowest levels more than a decade. The price drop put major buyers in a position to demand higher production standards, which translated to import restrictions in Europe and added pressure on the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) to adopt a zero deforestation standard, which it did in November. In an attempt to establish a price floor, the governments of Indonesia and Malaysia moved forward with biofuels mandates (B20 biodiesel mandate in Indonesia; B10 mandate in Malaysia) to create new sources of demand for palm oil.The world’s largest palm oil company Wilmar got caught up in a scandal when Chain Reaction Research revealed it was using shadow companies to cirumvent its zero deforestation commitment. The scandal prompted Wilmar co-founder Martua Sitorus to resign. Wilmar sought redemption by announcing stronger palm oil sourcing criteria, although critics said the new policy still lacked transparency.The Norwegian government banned biofuels linked to deforestation. Meanwhile the U.S. government was called out for contributing to global deforestation through its biofuels mandate. Malaysia and Indonesia protested restrictions on palm oil.Nestle was briefly suspended by the RSPO in a dispute over paying its membership dues. It was later reinstated. Nestle also announced it would use a new satellite monitoring service developed by Airbus and The Forest Trust to monitor compliance with its zero deforestation commitment for palm oil sourcing.A study published in the journal Nature Communications calculated the full carbon cost of land use change associated with converting forests to oil palm plantations. The research, which accounted for both above-ground and below-ground carbon, estimated that each hectare of rainforest converted to oil palm monoculture generates 174 tons of carbon emissions, which is a higher figure than used by institutions like the RSPO and IPCC.In January 2018, the Indonesian government released a new draft of the Indonesian Sustainable Palm Oil Standard (ISPO) certification, which will become a mandatory standard for producing palm oil in the country. Observers like Chain Reaction Research note however that IPSO standard is far weaker than other standards like the RSPO. Despite the weaker standard, it appears small farmers — who are expected to come into compliance by 2020 — are far behind in meeting IPSO criteria.Several reports detailed how the palm oil industry is pillaging Papua, the Indonesian-held half of the island of New Guinea. Investigative reporting revealed how a 2,800 square kilometer plantation project got granted across community forest lands.After a long-running campaign by the Rainforest Action Network, PepsiCo suspended buying from an Indofood subsidiary over deforestation and human rights abuses. Activists signaled they are going to step up campaigns against financiers of the palm oil industry and other sectors associated with deforestation. And finally an artist found a creative way to protest palm oil linked to deforestation, carving an “SOS” message in a plantation.The distress call carved into a Sumatran oil palm plantation that has been bought up to be reforested. Photo courtesy of Ernest Zacharevic.Zero deforestation commitmentsAs we approach 2020 deadlines for commitments to reduce deforestation, there is increasing discussion about whether companies are effectively moving from commitment to action on their zero deforestation policies. Several firms had high profile stumbles in 2018. Wilmar and Asia Pulp & Paper (APP) got caught up in controversy when it was revealed that they were using shadow companies to circumvent their sustainability policies. Wilmar suffered resignations of two top executives, including a co-founder over the issue. But the cost for APP was much higher: the pulp and paper giant lost a partnership with Greenpeace that had bought it considerable goodwill internationally and saw its efforts to regain eco-certification under the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) derailed.FSC also found itself facing renewed criticism. In March, the eco-certification body lost Greenpeace, one of its charter members. Then in May, an analysis revealed that timber concessions certified by FSC lost more blocks of intact forests than non-certified concessions. In September, FSC said it would conduct further investigation into allegations against Korindo, which environmentalists have linked to large-scale conversion of rainforests in Indonesia.Like FSC, the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) also faced some headwinds in 2018, including several critical reports and academic papers. Particularly significant was a demand to strengthen its standards from a group of institutional investors representing over $6.7 trillion in assets under management. The letter, which was organized by Ceres, called into question the relevance of RSPO given that the body’s certification criteria didn’t include a zero deforestation component at a time when most of the planet’s major palm oil buyers, traders, and producers had zero deforestation policies. RSPO subsequently established a zero deforestation provision at its November general assembly. Under pressure from environmental groups — notably campaigns by Mighty Earth — major players in the cacao and rubber industries took steps toward eliminating deforestation from their supply chains. The effort toward establishing subnational jurisdictional approaches to addressing deforestation from commodity production continued to inch forward under the Governors Climate and Forest Task Force. Supporters see the approach as a means to scale zero deforestation commitments at district, state, and regional levels. For example, Ecuador reactivated its Jurisdictional RSPO Certification plan for palm oil in March 2018, aiming to certify entire provinces rather than individual companies or plantations.Indonesian rainforest in Bukit Tigapuluh, Sumatra. Photo by Rhett A. Butler.IndonesiaIn January, the Indonesian government touted a sharp drop in deforestation, but the figures were immediately contested because they included loss within industrial plantations, which critics say cloud the numbers. However, data released later in the year confirmed a significant decline in both tree cover loss and deforestation. In July, the Indonesian government launched its first “State of Indonesia’s Forests ” report in collaboration with the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and Norway’s International Climate and Forest Initiative. The report aims to provide a comprehensive assessment of Indonesia’s forests on a regular basis. The use of “shadow companies” by major plantation conglomerates to evade zero deforestation commitments was a major theme in Indonesia in 2018. Both Asia Pulp & Paper (APP) and Wilmar — high profile zero deforestation commitment companies — got caught using subsidiaries, affiliates, and sister companies to continue clearing peatlands and high conservation value forests. Their responses were markedly different however. Two of Wilmar’s top executives — including a co-founder — resigned in the aftermath of the scandal. Wilmar then strengthened its sustainability standard and revised its platform for mapping its suppliers. In contrast, APP issued demonstrably false denials and saw Greenpeace terminate its engagement with the fiber giant. The eco-certification body FSC then suspended APP’s process for re-association. Other lower-profile conglomerates were also outed for their use of shadow companies including The Salim Group, which controls IndoFood and First Pacific.A plan to build a dam that would flood a significant block of habitat for the world’s mostly recently discovered ape species was a top story in 2018. Scientists and environmentalists alike condemned the scheme as a danger both to the Tapanulii orangutan and to people living below the dam site. In August, the Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi) filed suit against the North Sumatra provincial government for approving the project.Indonesia’s peatlands continued to attract a lot of attention in 2018. Early in the year some 125 palm oil and pulp companies committed to restore a combined 14,000 square kilometers of degraded peatlands that fall within their concessions under a government-led effort to prevent a repeat of the 2015 peat fire crisis. The primary intervention under the program involves blocking drainage canals. In February, a team of scientists from Indonesia, Germany and the Netherlands won the $1 million Indonesian Peat Prize for developing a fast, accurate and cost-effective way to map Indonesia’s peatlands. Both developments are notable given the degree to which peatland restoration efforts are underfunded in Indonesia, according to a study published in Case Studies in the Environment, which estimated that only $200 million of the $4.6 billion needed to restore some 20,000 square kilometers by 2020 has been raised.Indonesia’s Peatland Restoration Agency was reported to be looking at the possibility of developing swamp-friendly agriculture in the peatlands degraded by the failed Mega Rice Project (MRP). The aim would be to rehabilitate some 1,250 square kilometers to the extent that the area no longer burns during the dry season.Ahead of the Asian Games, which was being hosted in August by Palembang (South Sumatra) and Jakarta, the Indonesian government enlisted the help of plantation companies to avoid another haze disaster in the midst of the sporting event. The government asked on pulpwood and oil palm companies with concessions in fire-prone areas accelerate efforts to restore degraded peatlands and prevent fires during the June-September dry season. But the push failed to stop the recurrence of fires, with more than 2,200 fire hot spots recorded across Indonesia by mid-August, though the burning and air pollution wasn’t as severe as 2015. South Korean-Indonesian forestry company Korindo found itself in trouble for breaching its own moratorium on deforestation in its oil palm holdings. The NGO Mighty Earth found that the company has continued to plunder pristine forests in Papua for palm oil and timber. But it wasn’t only Korindo feeling the heat in Papua — at least 17 people — it’s unclear how many were construction workers or members of the Indonesian military — were killed on a stretch of the Trans-Papua highway on December 2 by the National Liberation Army of West Papua (TPNBP), a group fighting for West Papua’s independence. Additionally, an in-depth investigation into the Tanah Merah project (disclosure: this was a joint investigation involving Mongabay), a giant oil palm plantation under development in Papua province, revealed the murkiness of the transactions underpinning the land deal.Corruption in Indonesia’s natural resources sector continued to loom large in 2018. Another collaborative investigation between Mongabay, The Gecko Project, and Earthsight documented the corrupt sell-off of land and resources by politicians in Central Kalimantan. It also looked at the Corruption Eradication Commission’s (KPK) efforts to take action against corruption in the plantation sector, including obstacles the agency faces in doing its job.A study by Forest Watch Indonesia found that selective logging concessions accounted for the highest rate of deforestation in three provinces studied from 2013 to 2016. The researchers attributed the phenomenon to illegal encroachment of oil palm plantations and overharvesting of timber.The fate of the Harapan rainforest conservation project is at stake with the Danish government indicating it won’t renew funding at the end of 2018. The Danish government had hoped the project would develop other funding sources, including ecotourism and trade in non-timber forest products, but that hasn’t happened. The project had been an experiment as an ecosystem restoration concession (ERC), which pays fees and taxes like a logging concession but doesn’t generate logging revenue. Originally it was thought such projects, which aim to restore heavily degraded areas into healthy forests, could generate returns from carbon credits, but that market never materialized. Without Danish funding or another source of revenue, Harapan is expected to be cleared within five years.In December, the Indonesian government launched a long-awaited database of all government land use maps to eliminate disparities between the various maps currently used by different agencies. The “One Map” initiative, which was launched in 2011 and was slated for completion by 2015, aims to reduce disputes over land use, especially the issuing of permits for mining, plantations, conservation, and community lands. However the newly released map still has some important gaps, including the exclusion of indigenous territories, and surfaced some 10.4 million hectares of overlapping land use in Kalimantan and 6.4 million hectares on Sumatra. Eventually the “One Map” could help address concerns about issues like the government’s proposed “land swap” process, which allows companies with holdings on sensitive peatlands to exchange for concessions in “degraded” forests. NGOs, companies, and local communities fear that the lack of transparency in the process could lead to perverse outcomes, like opening up high carbon stock forests to conversion for plantations or exacerbating social conflict. The unified map could give all parties a more common understanding of the land involved in these swaps. Another issue NGOs hope the map could help address is lack of disclosure around plantations. NGOs that have tried to increase transparency around land use in Indonesia by creating their own maps like Global Forest Watch and Greenpeace have often found themselves in the crosshairs of various ministries.Indonesia and the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) signed an agreement that eliminated tariffs and non-tariff barriers for thousands of products traded between Indonesia and the EFTA member countries (Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Iceland). Indonesian palm oil would get nearly full market access in Iceland and Norway, while Switzerland would maintain some quotas on the product. The Norwegian government has separately set zero deforestation standards for its own procurement policies.Indigenous communities and rights groups expressed dismay about the Indonesian government’s slow progress on passing legislation that would recognize local communities’ land rights as mandated by a 2013 constitutional ruling.In September, President Joko Widodo issued a presidential instruction extending a moratorium on new licenses for oil palm plantations for three years. The moratorium applies both to new permits and to projects that have yet to secure all the permits needed to begin operating. It also requires a review of oil palm licenses in the country.In February, Indonesia became the first government to issue a “green” Islamic-compliant bond, or sukuk, raising $1.25 billion. The funds will finance projects that meet environment criteria and are compliant with Islamic financing laws. On the other end of the finance spectrum, in May Chain Reaction Research called out Lembaga Tabung Haji, a major Islamic financier, for deforestation by its publicly traded palm oil company TH Plantations. The company has lost about half of its value since the report came out amid a broad decline in the value of palm oil companies.In Indonesian courts there were some decisions with significant implications for sustainability. In May, a typo derailed a landmark ruling against an Indonesian palm oil firm found guilty of burning peatland and orangutan habitat in Sumatra. The district court shielded PT Kallista Alam from a Supreme Court ruling ordering it to pay $26.5 million in fines. The verdict stunned activists who saw the case as setting important precedents. In December, judges at the Cibinong District Court in West Java province threw out a lawsuit against Basuki Wasis, an environmental expert, whose testimony was instrumental in the conviction of Nur Alam, the governor of Southeast Sulawesi province, who was charged with abuse of power in his issuance of mining licenses. TechnologyBlock chain mania reached the conservation sector, with the technology being proposed as a solution for issues ranging from commodity supply chain tracking to tackling the illegal wildlife trade to raising money for conservation projects. Tech companies like Google and Microsoft put resources toward helping conservationists leverage artificial intelligence (AI) for applications ranging from automated species identification to predicting poaching before it happens to monitoring deforestation. Remote sensing technologies continued to advance, with entities from Planet to World Resources Institute’s Global Forest Watch rolling out new tools to track and anticipate forest degradation and deforestation. Despite the Trump Administration’s ongoing assault on climate science, NASA was able to launch the global ecosystem dynamics investigation (GEDI) instrument on a two-year mission. GEDI uses Lidar to create 3-D maps of the forests to measure carbon. And the E.U. also pushed innovation in forest monitoring by making cloud-penetrating radar imagery of the whole planet freely available.Pair of jaguar in the Peruvian Amazon. Photo by Rhett A. ButlerPeruThe pope’s visit to the Peruvian Amazon in January put a spotlight on deforestation and indigenous peoples rights. His trip was preceded by the long-awaited declaration of Yaguas National Park, a protected area around the size of Yellowstone National Park that covers more than 8,680 square kilometers of rainforest and is home to upwards of 3,000 species of plants, 500 species of birds and 160 species of mammals. But just following the pope’s departure, the Peruvian government approved a law that would allow roads to be built in border zones of “national priority and interest”, effectively opening up the country’s most remote and pristine areas to deforestation, logging, and mining. The Amazon Conservation Association’s Monitoring of the Andean Amazon Project (MAAP) estimated the decision would put 2,750 square kilometers of primary rainforest at risk, while threatening indigenous communities.Research showed that gold mining in the Peruvian Amazon has reached a all-time high and that illegal logging and timber smuggling continue to plague the country’s forestry sector. On a more positive conservation front, other research found that ecotourism in Peru’s protected areas generated $720 million dollars in revenue and created 36,000 jobs in 2017. Peru established a special judiciary on environmental crimes to deal with backlog of some 20,000 complaints ranging from small-scale illegal mining up to governor-level abuses. But in December, Peru’s timber watchdog agency OSINFOR was merged into the Ministry of Environment, sparking sharp criticism from NGOs and the U.S. government. The move appeared to breach Peru’s trade agreement with the U.S., which required independent oversight of the timber trade.BiodiversityFrom orangutans (Borneo alone lost nearly 150,000 since 1999) to birds (eight extinctions confirmed this century) to insects (Puerto Rico’s rainforest registered a 60-fold decline), a number of studies published in 2018 added to the growing body of evidence that we’re in the midst of the planet’s sixth great extinction. Summing up the trend, WWF’s latest Living Planet Report estimated that the number of vertebrate animals per species has fallen by 60 percent on average since 1970.Despite the long-term trend, there were a few bright spots for biodiversity in 2018. The critically endangered Sumatran rhino got a lifeline in the form of a $20 million commitment to stave off its extinction, while initiatives aiming to set aside up to half the planet’s land area for nature gained momentum. The U.N. worked to reignite interest in global targets to protect biodiversity.Lowland rainforest in Indonesia. The forests of Indonesia, Malaysia, and Papua New Guinea store vast amounts of carbon but are being destroyed and degraded by demand for timber, wood pulp, and palm oil. Photo by Rhett A. Butler.Forests’ role in climate change mitigationAdvocacy campaigns like The Forgotten Solution coupled with prominent reports and studies raised the profile of tropical forest conservation as a climate change mitigation strategy. Beyond the solutions framing, much of the focus in 2018 was around tropical forests shifting from a net carbon sink to a source of emissions due to rising rates of deforestation and forest degradation, increased incidence of forest fires, and ongoing destruction of peatlands. Several studies warned about trends in Earth’s largest rainforest, the Amazon, which is experiencing more droughts and fires. Scientists continued to express concern about the Amazon reaching a tipping point where vast areas of rainforest are replaced with savanna. Even swampy, carbon-dense Amazon peatlands are at risk. Overall, emissions from tropical deforestation now exceed all CO2 emissions from the E.U. on an annual basis.A second major climate theme in 2018 was the role forests play in regulating temperatures beyond carbon emissions and sequestration. For example, a study published in Nature Climate Change looked at the influence of land cover changes on temperature and found deforestation increases local temperatures. The findings were consistent with other research that found temperature increases following deforestation in Borneo. Another study, published in Nature Communications, examined reactive gases emitted by trees and other vegetation. They found these gases, like biogenic volatile organic compounds, have an overall cooling effect on the atmosphere globally, so deforestation would increase temperatures.However efforts to connect climate change mitigation to forest conservation continued to struggle in 2018. The REDD+ mechanism, which aims to compensate tropical countries for reducing carbon emissions from deforestation and forest degradation had another difficult year, with the flagship Suruí Forest Carbon Project — the indigenous led REDD+ project that has gotten the most attention and support over the past decade — was suspended due to sharply rising deforestation from logging and mining. California’s postponed its decision on whether to include tropical forest conservation carbon credits in its cap-and-trade program until next April. And the voluntary market for carbon conservation credits remained small with prices that make conservation uncompetitive with other forms of land use. Like previous studies, research published in Environmental Research Letters concluded that carbon prices would need to rise substantially to make much of a dent in deforestation rates. Still REDD+ advocates continued to push for the inclusion of forest carbon credits in a global carbon offset market for aviation via the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).Criticism of REDD+ remained widespread, especially around local people’s rights and livelihoods. Amazon Watch and other groups said world leaders should focus on keeping fossil fuels in the ground.Community leader from a village near Jantho, Aceh, Indonesia. Photo by Rhett A. ButlerIndigenous peoples and conservationRecognition of the role local and indigenous communities have in stewarding forests continued to grow in 2018. More reports and studies argued that securing indigenous peoples’ land rights is one of the most cost-effective mechanisms for protecting forests and mitigating climate change. Accordingly, philanthropic attention and dollars shifted toward such efforts, including a pledge by group of 17 philanthropic foundations at the Global Climate Action Summit to support recognition of indigenous peoples’ and traditional communities’ collective land rights and resource management as part of their land-based climate change mitigation programs. A study co-authored by UN Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples and the Rights and Resources Initiative (RRI) even put a dollar figure on the labor and cash indigenous peoples invest in forest conservation efforts, estimating the annual contributions of such “Forest Guardians” at $1.7 billion.Launched in 2017, the Interfaith Rainforest Initiative held gatherings bringing together religious and indigenous leaders, as well as scientists and policymakers, to discuss ways to build constituencies and partnership to protect forests.24 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean agreed to a set of principles to protect environmental defenders, promote transparency in public access to environmental information, and improve environmental democracy and justice. The Escazú Agreement must now be ratified by the member countries. Latin America has been particularly hard-hit by murders of indigenous rights and environmental defenders in recent years, with Brazil, Colombia, Peru, and Mexico among the deadliest in 2017, according to Global Witness.Rainforest in Borneo. Photo by Rhett A. Butler.Ecosystem services: “Rivers in the sky”The concept of forests driving “rivers in the sky” gained wider traction in 2018 thanks to a growing body of evidence showing the role tropical forests play in generating local and regional precipitation.Research published in the journal Nature Sustainability estimated that the Amazon contributes as much as $8.2 billion to Brazil’s economy annually via the ecosystem services it affords.Yet another study linked malaria to deforestation. Blue Anole from Colombia. Photo by Thomas MarentColombia25 young Colombians, ranging in age from seven to 26, filed a lawsuit against the government in January for failing to protect their right to a healthy environment. In April, Colombia’s highest court agreed, ordering the government to take immediate action to conserve forests and fight climate change. In its decision, the Supreme Court cited rising deforestation in the Amazon rainforest and granted “personhood” to the Colombian Amazon, giving it rights under law. Shortly after the ruling, Colombia’s then-president Juan Manuel Santos announced a plan to add 8 million hectares (80,000 square kilometers) to its protected areas and signed a decree granting indigenous communities more autonomy in governing their own territories. Norway committed $250 million in support of the effort.The Colombian government scrapped a plan to complete the Marginal de la Selva highway due to concerns over deforestation and other environmental impacts. The road would have connected Venezuela to Ecuador through Colombia, but would have run near three national parks. President Santos also announced that Chiribiquete National Park would be expanded by 1.5 million hectares to 4.3 million hectares, making it one of the planet’s largest rainforest preserves. And in May, President Santos announced that five percent of the revenue generated from Colombia’s carbon taxes would go toward conservation projects under the Herencia Colombia program, effectively creating a new source of revenue for forest protection efforts.But not all the news out of Colombia was positive for conservation in 2018. Observers continued to warn that Colombia’s peace agreement with the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC) could unleash deforestation as industrial agriculture moves into regions previously off-limits due to conflict. Indeed, satellite data suggests that deforestation and the incidence of fire has increased since the ceasefire was signed in 2016. For example in Meta, one of the departments where conflict was rife, Tinigua National Natural Park lost 3 percent of its forest cover in just three months. And lastly, in August President Santos left office with a low approval rating, raising uncertainty on whether his successor would be as strong a proponent for conservation.Rangers in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, Uganda. Photo for Mongabay.com by Rhett A. Butler.Congo Basin and beyondDemocratic Republic of Congo (DRC) reopened logging across thousands of square kilometers of its rainforests, including granting concessions covering 6,500 square kilometers to two Chinese companies. The move ended the official logging moratorium that was put in place in 2002. In protest, more than 50 conservation and human rights organizations called on international donors to halt forest conservation-related funding to the country. A Greenpeace investigation suggested a further 14 concessions were slated to be granted and that large areas inside Salonga and Virunga national parks would be reclassified to allow extraction activities. Norway, which is a major funder of forest conservation across Congo Basin countries including DRC, voiced concern. Congo’s largest peatland was said to be at risk.Following a kidnapping of two British tourists and in the midst of ongoing violence against rangers, Virunga, arguably Central Africa’s best known national park for its population of mountain gorillas, closed to visitors in June. In the wake of the closure, deforestation increased within the park’s boundaries. However in a bit of good news for wildlife, a survey showed that the population of mountain gorillas continues to rise, while a broader assessment found more lowland gorillas and chimpanzees than expected. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) changed the status of mountain gorillas from “critically endangered” to “endangered”, citing population gains.In May DRC officials established a new community forest strategy, which led to five communities winning legally recognized control of their forests for the first time. The community concessions covered some 300 square kilometers in Equateur province. NGOs involved in the process said that recognizing local people’s rights would help better safeguard Congo’s forests. The Rights and Resources Initiative (RRI) said that DRC wouldn’t be ready to implement REDD+ projects until issues around the rights of communities and indigenous groups were worked out.A study published in the journal Area concluded that the Chinese furniture sector is a major driver of logging in Central Africa. Many of those products end up in the hands of consumers in the United States and Europe. Another study disaggregated drivers of deforestation in the Congo Basin and estimated that small-scale clearing accounts for 84 percent of tree cover loss. Selective logging was a distant second as a driver of deforestation, accounting for 10 percent of loss. The study warned that if current population forecasts prove accurate, the Congo basin could lose all of its primary forests by 2100. While most deforestation is driven by subsistence agriculture at present, NGOs warned about the threat to DRC and Congo Basin forests and indigenous peoples from planned expansion of industrial rubber, timber, and palm plantations.Deforestation for industrial plantations continued to be a flashpoint in Cameroon. And a newly described species from Cameroon — based on a collection made nearly 70 years ago — may already be extinct due to habitat clearance.Sierra Leone suspended timber exports over deforestation concerns.Golden Veroleum Liberia, a palm oil company controlled by an Indonesian family, continued to be scrutinized for its operations in Liberia.Republic of Congo created Ogooué-Leketi National Park as its fifth national park. Ogooué-Leketi, which covers 3,500 square kilometers and borders Batéké Plateau National Park in neighboring Gabon, is home to western lowland gorillas, chimpanzees, and forest elephants.Other placesMadagascar: 2018 was a bad year for conservation in Madagascar. In the run-up to the presidential election, corruption around natural resources flourished and violence surged — including arrests of environmentalists and killings of conservation workers. Satellite data showed persistently high rates of deforestation — Madagascar had the world’s highest tree cover loss of any major forest country in 2017. Then in December, Madagascar elected Andry Rajoelina who during his 2009-2014 presidency presided over large-scale pillaging of Madagascar’s wildlife and forests, delivering serious set backs to conservation efforts on the island.Malaysia: In early 2018, Sarawak committed to preserve 80 percent of its land area as primary and secondary forest, a surprising move given that less than 60 percent of the state is currently forested and plantation concessions amounted to a third of Sarawak’s territory in 2011. The announcement marked a major shift from the approach taken under the previous chief minister Abdul Taib Mahmud who orchestrated the plunder of Sarawak’s forests for timber and palm oil during his 33-year rule. However that wasn’t the biggest surprise in Malaysia this year: in May Prime Minister Najib Razak and his Barisan Nasional coalition were ousted from power after a corruption scandal. Najib’s replacement was Mahathir Mohamad, the 92-year-old former prime minister who presided over the birth of Malaysia’s palm oil industry but in recent years has become more critical of environmental degradation in the country. Mahathir immediately launched investigations into the infrastructure building spree Najib had undertaken. Several projects were suspended or cancelled. The election also impacted Sabah, Malaysia’s crown jewel in terms of rainforest biodiversity, with a new chief minister, Shafie Apdal, taking control after 15 years of rule by Musa Aman. Shafie removed Sam Mannan, who set aside vast blocks of Sabah’s rainforests for conservation, from his role as head of the Sabah Forestry Department. Shafie then banned log exports and ordered a review all timber concession holders. He also abolished communal land titles and hinted at opening up Sabah’s forests to coal mining.Myanmar: Myanmar announced a crackdown on cross-border charcoal and timber trafficking and arrested a number of Chinese nationals allegedly involved with the trade. Logging mills decried the country’s 2017 timber export ban, while environmental activists complained about a “shadowy agreement” made by the Myanmar government to circumvent export restrictions for high value timber.Japan: Activists from Rainforest Action Network (RAN) and other groups protested the use of rainforest timber from Malaysia and Indonesia for the construction of Olympic facilities. Japanese officials had earlier admitted that “at least 87 per cent of the plywood panels used to construct the New National Stadium” were from those countries’ rainforests.Bangladesh: A number of press reports detailed deforestation and other degradation in Bangladesh resulting from the influx of Rohingya refugees escaping genocide in Myanmar.Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands: Global Witness investigated illegal logging in Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands, finding that much of the timber goes to China.Kenya: In February, the Kenyan government implemented a 90-day ban on logging in response to a severe water crisis. Indigenous forest peoples, including the Ogiek and Sengwer, continued to voice concern about eviction from their traditional lands in the name of conservation. The Yiaku pointed to their own stewardship as an example of best practice in managing forests. India: The government released a new forest policy draft that environmentalists said placed too much emphasis on industrial timber. The government was also criticized for its claim that forest cover is increasing in the country.Australia: The Australian government was widely condemned by conservationists and environmental activists for surging deforestation in Queensland and New South Wales. In March, the Queensland parliament passed stricter land-clearing rules.Mesoamerica: The Belizean government approved the creation of one of Central America’s largest biological corridors with a 110-square-kilometer protected area that connects the Shipstern Nature Reserve and Freshwater Creek Forest Reserve in northern Belize. The effort was led by the Corozal Sustainable Future Initiative. Illegal forest clearing for cattle ranching was revealed in Honduras and Mexico.Ecuador: The battle over oil in the Ecuadorean Amazon continued in 2018, with indigenous groups holding numerous protests against historical and planned extraction in eastern parts of the country. The issue was even put to a vote in a referendum, with Ecuadoreans deciding to expand the strictly protected portion of Yasuní National Park and reducing where extraction is permitted in the park, which is world-renowned for its high levels of biodiversity and as a refuge for traditional indigenous peoples. Later in 2018, the Constitutional Court of Ecuador ordered Chevron to pay $9.5 billion in compensation for environmental damage caused by Texaco, a subsidiary, between 1964-1990. The decision came almost 25 years after 30,000 people sued the company. Chevron, which has engaged in a long-running public relations and legal campaign against the plaintiffs, can no longer make appeals in the case in Ecuador. Cambodia: 2018 was another year of violence against journalists and environmental activists in Cambodia. Investigations turned up examples of deforestation and illegal logging in Cambodian parks like Virachey National Park. In the run up to the general election in July, Prime Minister Hun Sen blamed the opposition and foreigners for these activities, while cracking down on press freedom, including effectively forcing the sale of the Phnom Penh Post to a PR firm.Tropical rainforest in Malaysian Borneo. Borneo’s rainforests are still being cleared at a rapid rate.Global Rainforest EcologyThere were several major updates on the quality and extent of tropical forests as well as what’s driving deforestation. An update of the global tree cover dataset that underpins platforms like Global Forest Watch came in June. It showed that we lost an area of tree cover equivalent to the land mass of Bangladesh in 2017, 158,000 square kilometers (15.8m hectares). Brazil led the tropics in terms of area of tree cover loss at 4.5m hectares, followed by DRC (1.5m ha), and Indonesia (1.3m ha). Total tree cover loss was the second worst on record (since 2001), following 2016. A breakdown of the new UMD data shows Brazil experienced by far the most tree cover loss in 2017. Indonesia, while currently in the top three, nearly halved its tree cover loss between 2016 and 2017.A separate study, published in the journal Nature compared 2016 figures from the dataset with 1982. It found that while tree cover increased globally over the past 35 years, the planet’s most biodiverse ecosystems — especially tropical forests — lost vast areas of tree cover. The researchers in the Nature study broke land cover into three categories: tall vegetation consisting of trees of at least five meters (16 feet) in height; short vegetation under five meters in height including shrubs, grass, and agricultural crops; and “bare ground”, including urban areas, sand, tundra, and rock. While the classification may seem simplistic, powerful conclusions can be drawn from the data, including assessing agricultural expansion, climate-driven expansion and contraction of ecosystems, and forest clearing and recovery. A third major study using the baseline dataset — published in Science — assessed drivers of tree cover loss between 2001 and 2015. It concluded that commodity-driven deforestation accounted for 5 million hectares per year or 27 percent of all forest loss, followed by forestry (26 percent), shifting agriculture (24 percent), and wildfire (23 percent). Article published by Rhett Butler This is our annual rainforests year in review post.Overall, 2018 was not a good year for the planet’s tropical rainforests.Rainforest conservation suffered many setbacks, especially in Brazil, the Congo Basin, and Madagascar.Colombia was one of the few bright spots for rainforests in 2018. 2018 was a difficult year for the world’s tropical rainforests. Below are of some of the biggest rainforest storylines for the year, but we couldn’t cover everything, so if there are important things missing, feel free to add them via the comment function at the bottom.The outlook for 2019 will be covered in an upcoming post: Rainforest storylines to watch in 2019 [1/2/19].SummaryWith rising deforestation and/or the election of anti-environmental administrations, things went generally downhill for rainforests in Brazil, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), and Madagascar. Peru had a mixed year for rainforests, declaring a huge new national park, but also having some conservation setbacks. Indonesia had some bright spots between last year’s decline in deforestation, a three-year renewal — and strengthening — of a palm oil moratorium, and the release of One Map. Malaysia‘s rainforests did even better with new conservation areas and a log export ban in Sabah and a conservation commitment from Sarawak (albeit unlikely to be met). But Colombia led major rainforest countries in terms of positive developments, with outgoing president Juan Manuel Santos working to leave a conservation legacy.Outside the tropics, Trump Administration undermined rainforest conservation between his trade war with China that boosted the profitability of deforestation for commodity production in the Amazon; his attacks on science, scientific institutions, and intergovernmental bodies; and his tacit approval of regimes that murder journalists, human rights advocates, and environmental defenders. Europe was more supportive of rainforest conservation with various initiatives to eliminate or reduce deforestation from commodity supply chains, and Norway continued to lead the world in funding efforts to protect forests across the tropics.Commodity markets — especially palm oil — had a rough year, resulting in strengthening of sustainability commitments and standards, as well as reducing profitability of expansion in many markets (trade wars aside) and possibly offering a bit of respite for rainforests following two years of historically high forest loss.Two studies published in 2018 offered very bad news for orangutans (150,000 dead in 15 years) in Borneo and good news for great apes in Africa (chimp and gorilla populations are higher than expected). But overall, biodiversity probably lost more than it won during the year.Tropical rainforest in Borneo. Photo by Rhett A. ButlerBrazilHome to nearly two-thirds of the world’s largest tropical rainforest, developments in Brazil are globally significant to rainforests. And 2018 had no shortage of major developments in Brazil.The year started out on a relatively positive note for Brazil’s forests and indigenous peoples, with a top official at the Ministry of Mines and Energy announcing an end to the era of building big hydroelectric dams in the Amazon basin and the government releasing data showing that soy farming in newly deforested parts of the Amazon had slowed dramatically. But that positive news was overshadowed by Brazil’s ongoing political corruption crisis, its struggling economy, and remote sensing data which seemed to indicate an upward trend in Amazon forest loss. In February, Brazil’s supreme court ruled that changes to the country’s forest code, which governs land use in the Amazon and beyond, were constitutional, raising fears among environmentalists that the country’s environmental protections could be further weakened.In April, an investigation found that members of Congress were receiving millions of dollars in campaign funds from entities convicted of deforestation crimes. “Of the 249 deputies who received tainted donations, 134 are members of the Bancada Ruralista, the pro-agribusiness rural caucus that dominates the chamber,” noted a Mongabay story. Investigations published later in the year revealed rampant fraud in the timber permitting systems, effectively allowing loggers to evade taxes and regulations; six members of the bancada ruralista agribusiness lobby of congress had been charged with, or convicted of crimes; and the use of offshore tax havens by major soy and beef producers. A Starbucks supplier was linked to slave labor in the Amazon, while a top U.S. flooring retailer was tied to Brazilian firm ensnared in timber bust. IBAMA, the Brazil’s environmental law enforcement agency levied $29 million in fines on major soy traders and farmers for illegal deforestation.Donald Trump’s trade war with China fueled a sharp increase in Brazilian agricultural exports, increasing the profitably of agribusiness and raising concerns about accelerating deforestation. While the Temer administration announced that Brazil had already met its 2020 emissions reductions target, scientists and analysts warned that rising deforestation could cause the country to miss that goal. In fact, Brazil’s deforestation rate in the Amazon has exceeded its target the past four years running, raising the prospect that Temer’s celebration may have been premature. When Brazil released its official deforestation tally in late November, it showed that deforestation had reached a ten-year high. (By contrast, cerrado deforestation fell).Comparison between two deforestation alert systems: INPE’s DETER and IMAZON’s SAD. Last update: Oct 30, 2018The apparent reversal in the deforestation trend was enough to cause Norway, the chief foreign patron of the Amazon Fund, to voice concern as it paid another $70 million into the conservation fund.In September, the Ministry of Justice formally recognized the 2.1 million hectare Kaxuyana-Tunayana indigenous territory on border of Pará and Amazonas, But later that month, Congress stripped protected status from 11 new conservation areas covering 600,000 hectare in the state of Rondonia.The biggest development for the near-term future of the Amazon came in October with the election of Jair Bolsonaro, a populist who championed himself as an anti-environmentalist, calling for measures to strip indigenous peoples of their traditional lands, curb environmental protections, and pull Brazil out of its international climate commitments. The run-up to the election was marred with violence and warnings from scientists that Bolsonaro could undo much of the progress Brazil has made in the past decade and undermine its international leadership on climate and forests. Civil society grounds scrambled to figure out how to engage with the new administration.Illegal forest clearing for oil palm in Riau Province. Photo by Rhett A ButlerPalm oilWhile palm oil has been one of the biggest drivers of deforestation for over a decade, 2018 seemed to be the year that palm oil finally caught the world’s attention.A slew of scientific studies and NGO reports (including a bombshell expose by Greenpeace) added further detail on the impact palm oil is having on the world’s forests, but it was an ad campaign by Iceland Foods, a British supermarket, that emerged as one of the biggest catalysts for global awareness around the crop. It started in April when Iceland announced it would remove palm oil from its own-brand products. That announcement was followed by the customary denunciations by the palm oil lobby as well as calls for palm oil boycotts by fringier environmental campaigners (Greenpeace noted that it was against deforestation, not palm oil). The situation got interesting when Iceland repackaged an animated short that had originally been produced by Greenpeace. The video told the story of a young orangutan forced to leave its home due to destruction of its natural habitat for palm oil production. Clearcast, the U.K. organization charged with approving advertisements before they air, barred the ad from running due to its “political” nature. That ban was marketing gold for ad, leading it to go viral across social media and raising global visibility on issues around palm oil. Google Trends data shows that global interest in palm oil — as measured by Google searches — peaked around the time of the ad ban. And finally a fourth study based on the dataset said that deforestation in the highlands of Southeast Asia was much higher than previously thought.On a much more micro-level, an investigation linked surging Chinese demand for avocado to deforestation in Mexico.Several studies looked at characteristics of trees and forests that better withstand droughts, finding that taller and older trees fare better during Amazon droughts, while diverse forests are more resilient.2018 featured a renewed focus on intact forest landscapes (IFLs), including a high-profile perspective published in Nature Ecology & Evolution that highlighted “the exceptional value of intact forest ecosystems“. A report issued by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) looked specifically at the threats from extractive industries to the 5.2 million square kilometers of tropical IFLs left globally, noting that nearly a fifth of this area is potentially threatened by extractive activities. Another study examined large-scale infrastructure projects in the Andes-Amazon region of South America and determined that the area around these roads and dams experienced tree cover loss four times greater than areas without such projects. Another study in Science found that a third of protected areas on land are influenced by intensive human activity. To help address declining wilderness, philanthropist Hansjörg Wyss committed $1 billion to conserve 30 percent of Earth’s surface and seas by 2030 through his foundation’s Campaign for Nature. Beyond protecting intact areas, 2018 saw a push for ecosystem restoration via mechanisms ranging from reseeding by drone to conventional reforestation programs, but one study published in Conservation Letters gave reason for tempering exuberance about the prospects of forest recovery. It found that regenerating forests in Costa Rica — which has been championed for the apparent recovery of its forests — are short-lived, experiencing deforestation rates of 2.2-3.5 percent a year following recovery.A study published in Nature Geoscience added further evidence to the idea that the downfall of the Maya may have been environmental degradation. The research found lingering effects of ancient deforestation on present-day soil carbon in Mexico and Guatemala.More research added to growing concerns about the ecological impact of rainforest dams.A Conservation Biology study highlighted the importance of elephants for African forests.The European Union beefed up its tough talk on deforestation, including curtailing the use of palm oil in biodiesel transport fuels. France said it wanted the E.U. to ban imports of commodities linked to deforestation — including soy, palm oil, timber, and beef — by 2030. Indonesia and Malaysia complained about discriminatory trade practices, but a report by the Rainforest Foundation Norway said that the climate action plans (“Nationally Determined Contributions”) of most major tropical forest counties are not sufficiently ambitious to achieve a goal of ending deforestation by 2030 as pledged under the New York Declaration on Forests. A study concluded that urban forests store significant amounts of carbon.A study published in Science Advances argued that children in developing countries have better nutrition when they live near forests. The reason? Kids living near forests have more diverse diets. However another study, based on research near a protected area in Madagascar, concluded that local communities weren’t being sufficiently compensated for the opportunity cost of forgoing access to the protected forest. In other words, the local communities were effectively subsidizing the REDD+ conservation project.The conservation community continued to talk more about measuring the effectiveness of conservation interventions and strategies, including the need for more experimentation. Emerging out of Mongabay’s series on the issue was a Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment paper that found the absolute number of Google searches on conservation and biodiversity topics is rising, suggesting that climate change isn’t crowding out people’s interest in biodiversity.That’s a wrap on rainforest news for 2018. The outlook for 2019 will be covered in an upcoming post. Thanks for reading. Agriculture, Amazon Mining, Avoided Deforestation, Biodiversity, Biofuels, Cacao, Carbon Conservation, Carbon Finance, Certification, Commodity Roundtables, Conservation, Dams, Deforestation, Drivers Of Deforestation, Drought, Ecosystem Services, Ecosystem Services Payments, Energy, Environment, Environmental Politics, Featured, Forest Fires, Forest Stewardship Council, Forestry, Forests, Fossil Fuels, Gold Mining, Green, Illegal Logging, Illegal Timber Trade, Indigenous Peoples, Jurisdictional Approaches, Land Rights, Logging, Mining, Orangutans, Palm Oil, Payments For Ecosystem Services, Peatlands, Plantations, Protected Areas, Pulp And Paper, Rainforest Conservation, Rainforests, Redd, Rspo, Rubber, Sustainable Forest Management, Technology, Technology And Conservation, Threats To Rainforests, timber trade, Tropical Forests, Year in review – rainforests, Zero Deforestation Commitments last_img read more

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African Romance looks to sparkle

first_img8 November 2007Local diamond cutters and polishers have been given a boost with the launch of African Romance, a Johannesburg-based, majority black-owned gem company looking to establish a luxury African jewellery brand that will rival its foreign competitors.According to Business Report, African Romance spent in the region of R40-million on setting up its five-star facility in Sandton, Johannesburg late last year and on buying over 4 000 rough diamonds, with about 30 of the stones being polished a day.The company is 30% owned by the Gauteng provincial government, and 94% of its staff are black and 41% women. According to the company, its employees include the most experienced black diamond marker in South Africa, as well as the first black woman to operate a laser machine anywhere in the world.According to The Citizen newspaper, while southern Africa accounts for some 40% of world diamond production, most rough gems are sent to the United States, Europe or India to be cut and polished.“We want to create a model that says Africa can do it,” African Romance chief executive Mohseen Valli Moosa told The Citizen, pointing out that South Africa produced 12-million carats of diamonds in 2005, of which only 1% were polished within the country.Moosa told Business Report that despite wages for local diamond cutters and polishers being higher than those in India and China, “beneficiation is viable in South Africa in the long term”.To overcome this and remain viable, he told the paper that African Romance was looking to establish a luxury African brand to rival the likes of French jewellery and watch maker Cartier.“There is a gaping hole in the international brand world for African diamond designs,” Moosa said.African Romance subscribes to the Kimberley Process Certificate Scheme, which seeks to keep illicitly mined and conflict diamonds off the market. Clients receive a guarantee that their diamonds are legitimate and comply with the highest values of integrity and best practice. The South African government has been calling for increased mineral beneficiation within the country to ensure that more value is added to products before they are exported, enabling the creation of more jobs.In October, it was announced that the State Diamond Trader would buy 10% of diamonds mined locally by De Beers before passing them on to local cutters and polishers to add value.The trader, which is expected to supply its clients with rough diamonds by January 2009, will be run on a cost-recovery basis, with the intention of passing profit margins on to its clients.In terms of the value of the agreement, 10% of South Africa’s annual production of diamonds, amounting to around US$1.4-billion, would be about $140-million (about R960-million).All diamonds purchased by the State Diamond Trader will have to comply with the Kimberley Process Certificate Scheme, which seeks to keep illicitly mined and conflict diamonds off the market.SAinfo reporter Want to use this article in your publication or on your website?See: Using SAinfo materiallast_img read more

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Let us hold on to Madiba’s values: Zuma

first_img9 December 2013 Peace, forgiveness, caring, justice and equality for all – South Africans should hold on to the values that Nelson Mandela lived by, President Jacob Zuma told the congregation at the Bryanston Methodist Church in Johannesburg on Sunday as the country held a day of national reflection and prayer for Madiba. The 95-year-old former statesman passed away on Thursday, 5 December at his home in Houghton, Johannesburg after a lengthy battle with a lung infection. “We should not forget the values that Madiba stood for and sacrificed his life for,” Zuma said. “He stood for freedom, he fought against those who oppressed others … He actively participated to remove the oppressor to liberate the people of this country. When our struggle came to an end, he preached and practised reconciliation to make those who had been fighting to forgive one another and become one nation.” Mandela’s ex-wife Winnie Madikizela-Mandela and grandson Mandla Mandela, and African National Congress (ANC) treasurer-general Zweli Mkhize, were among those present at the Bryanston church service. Mkhize told SAnews after the service that it was important for South Africans to “re-live the values of our late former president – those are unity, reconciliation and compassion – so that we create a better South Africa. We’ve got a beacon in Nelson Mandela to take our country forward.” Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe, addressing a capacity congregation at the Grace Bible Church in Soweto, said Mandela “personified unity and diversity even while in prison. Through all that he endured, he learned not to hate. Instead he chose to see goodness in every person.” Motlanthe quoted Mandela, who said of himself that he “was not a saint, but a sinner who keeps trying”. Young and old filled the seats at the Grace Bible Church while others watched the service from monitors outside the church hall. Church member Margaret Lukhele, who came with her family of eight for the service, said they would “forever remain proudly South Africans because of Tata. He walked the long road back to freedom, made every South African to be free and to live free.” Also on Sunday, South Africans from various faiths gathered together under a white marquee to reflect on Mandela’s legacy at the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory in Johannesburg. Former Cabinet minister Tokyo Sexwale said South Africans grieved together “while understanding that 95 years of life were well lived and should be celebrated. It is a life worthy of celebration.” Mandela’s great-grandson, Luvuyo Mandela, thanked the public for the support the family had received, adding: “What happens next is that we pick up from where he left off.” Chief Rabbi Warren Goldstein said: “The greatest tribute we can make to Madiba is to live like him. He showed us tolerance and generosity of spirit.” Anti-apartheid struggle stalwart Ahmed Kathrada recounted a story Madiba had once told him, of a conversation he’d had with a little girl who had called him a “stupid old man”. Kathrada said he would remember Mandela “as a politician who could laugh at himself”. Source: SAnews.gov.zalast_img read more

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A top Chinese brain scientist wonders how he ended up on the U.S. visa blacklist

first_img A top Chinese brain scientist wonders how he ended up on the U.S. visa blacklist Rao Yi By Dennis NormileJul. 18, 2018 , 12:10 PM “The U.S. embassy is not afraid of offending people and making enemies,” says Rao Yi of Peking University in Beijing.center_img SHANGHAI, CHINA—Frustrated with a string of unexplained U.S. visa denials, a top Chinese brain scientist has decided to go public, copying numerous journalists on a 17 July email to officials at the U.S. Embassy in Beijing pleading his case.”Most embassies try to make more friends for their countries; the U.S. embassy is not afraid of offending people and making enemies,” says Rao Yi, a high-profile neuroscientist at Peking University in Beijing who studied and worked in the United States for 22 years. His difficulty obtaining a visa is particularly ironic, given that he has been invited to attend a workshop by the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF), a government agency based in Alexandria, Virginia.Rao, 56, earned his Ph.D. in neuroscience in 1991 from University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), and did a postdoc at Harvard University. He was on the faculty at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri for 10 years and later joined Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago, Illinois, where he rose to be a full professor. Along the way, he acquired U.S. citizenship. He returned to China in 2007 to become dean of Peking University’s School of Life Sciences. He later gave up his U.S. citizenship.Sign up for our daily newsletterGet more great content like this delivered right to you!Country *AfghanistanAland IslandsAlbaniaAlgeriaAndorraAngolaAnguillaAntarcticaAntigua and BarbudaArgentinaArmeniaArubaAustraliaAustriaAzerbaijanBahamasBahrainBangladeshBarbadosBelarusBelgiumBelizeBeninBermudaBhutanBolivia, Plurinational State ofBonaire, Sint Eustatius and SabaBosnia and HerzegovinaBotswanaBouvet IslandBrazilBritish Indian Ocean TerritoryBrunei DarussalamBulgariaBurkina FasoBurundiCambodiaCameroonCanadaCape VerdeCayman IslandsCentral African RepublicChadChileChinaChristmas IslandCocos (Keeling) IslandsColombiaComorosCongoCongo, The Democratic Republic of theCook IslandsCosta RicaCote D’IvoireCroatiaCubaCuraçaoCyprusCzech RepublicDenmarkDjiboutiDominicaDominican RepublicEcuadorEgyptEl SalvadorEquatorial GuineaEritreaEstoniaEthiopiaFalkland Islands (Malvinas)Faroe IslandsFijiFinlandFranceFrench GuianaFrench PolynesiaFrench Southern TerritoriesGabonGambiaGeorgiaGermanyGhanaGibraltarGreeceGreenlandGrenadaGuadeloupeGuatemalaGuernseyGuineaGuinea-BissauGuyanaHaitiHeard Island and Mcdonald IslandsHoly See (Vatican City State)HondurasHong KongHungaryIcelandIndiaIndonesiaIran, Islamic Republic ofIraqIrelandIsle of ManIsraelItalyJamaicaJapanJerseyJordanKazakhstanKenyaKiribatiKorea, Democratic People’s Republic ofKorea, Republic ofKuwaitKyrgyzstanLao People’s Democratic RepublicLatviaLebanonLesothoLiberiaLibyan Arab JamahiriyaLiechtensteinLithuaniaLuxembourgMacaoMacedonia, The Former Yugoslav Republic ofMadagascarMalawiMalaysiaMaldivesMaliMaltaMartiniqueMauritaniaMauritiusMayotteMexicoMoldova, Republic ofMonacoMongoliaMontenegroMontserratMoroccoMozambiqueMyanmarNamibiaNauruNepalNetherlandsNew CaledoniaNew ZealandNicaraguaNigerNigeriaNiueNorfolk IslandNorwayOmanPakistanPalestinianPanamaPapua New GuineaParaguayPeruPhilippinesPitcairnPolandPortugalQatarReunionRomaniaRussian FederationRWANDASaint Barthélemy Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da CunhaSaint Kitts and NevisSaint LuciaSaint Martin (French part)Saint Pierre and MiquelonSaint Vincent and the GrenadinesSamoaSan MarinoSao Tome and PrincipeSaudi ArabiaSenegalSerbiaSeychellesSierra LeoneSingaporeSint Maarten (Dutch part)SlovakiaSloveniaSolomon IslandsSomaliaSouth AfricaSouth Georgia and the South Sandwich IslandsSouth SudanSpainSri LankaSudanSurinameSvalbard and Jan MayenSwazilandSwedenSwitzerlandSyrian Arab RepublicTaiwanTajikistanTanzania, United Republic ofThailandTimor-LesteTogoTokelauTongaTrinidad and TobagoTunisiaTurkeyTurkmenistanTurks and Caicos IslandsTuvaluUgandaUkraineUnited Arab EmiratesUnited KingdomUnited StatesUruguayUzbekistanVanuatuVenezuela, Bolivarian Republic ofVietnamVirgin Islands, BritishWallis and FutunaWestern SaharaYemenZambiaZimbabweI also wish to receive emails from AAAS/Science and Science advertisers, including information on products, services and special offers which may include but are not limited to news, careers information & upcoming events.Required fields are included by an asterisk(*) Rao says he was still regularly traveling to the United States until he was denied a visa to travel to San Francisco for a reunion with his UCSF lab mates in 2016. Since then, he has failed to get visas to join a conference at the McGovern Institute for Brain Research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, to attend a memorial service for U.S. banker David Rockefeller, and even to visit his daughter, a U.S. citizen.In addition to his position at Peking University, he is now director of the Chinese Institute for Brain Research in Beijing. NSF invited him to a workshop in Washington, D.C., on 23 and 24 July that aims to develop a Global Inventory of Brain Initiatives to facilitate international coordination.Rao says he had an interview at the U.S. embassy on Monday, during which he was asked to provide an updated CV and travel schedule. He says he has not made flight reservations because his recent experiences leave him doubtful about getting a visa. He says he is puzzled about the visa denials and cannot think of anything he might have done to get blacklisted. He did appear on Chinese TV criticizing U.S. President Donald Trump after the 2016 election, but his first visa rejection predated the election. He says he was once told that the decision was made in Washington, D.C., but was given no further details.The U.S. government began applying tougher restrictions on some Chinese graduate students last month, but the new policy does not apply to senior scientists and does not include the neurosciences.The U.S. embassy in Beijing does not comment on individual visa cases, a spokesperson wrote in an email to ScienceInsider. “I certainly hope that the U.S. will not go down in history as the country which arbitrarily blocks international cooperation in the natural sciences,” Rao wrote in his email plea to embassy officials.last_img read more

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Sourav Ganguly to miss Libra Legends’ opener in Masters Champions League

first_imgBogged down by a back spasm, former India captain Sourav Ganguly is set to miss Libra Legends’ first match of the inaugural Masters Champions League (MCL), starting here on Thursday.Ganguly was to lead Legends in the T20 tournament but had to pull out after doctors advised him rest after suffering a back spasm during a practice game some days ago, reports gulfnews.com on Wednesday.However, according to report, the 43-year-old will be in the city cheering his team for the first game on Thursday.Australian cricketer Brad Hogg who attended the captain’s press conference for the Legends said Ganguly would be joining the team soon.A source close to Ganguly said: “He (Ganguly) had signed the playing contract much earlier and was committed to play in the tournament. Despite his busy schedule, Ganguly had engaged himself in regular practice sessions for a while until this unfortunate turn of events.””We have already written to the league management clarifying the position and despite the medical advice, he will be undertaking a four and-half hour flight each way to be with the team for the first match.”When asked about Ganguly’s pullout earlier in the day, MCL chairman Zafar Shah said he still does not know much about the situation.With Ganguly not taking part in the opener, the responsibility to lead the team would surely fall on former South African star all-rounder Jacques Kallis, who won the Big Bash League (BBL) on Sunday with Sydney Thunders.”Kallis’ Sydney Thunders won the Big Bash league, so he was not there for training this morning after all that celebrations. I think he has landed and is in the hotel … I will be going and grabbing him and make sure he is there with us for cruise tonight. He has been the coach of Kolkata Knight Riders, so I have to do a bit of sucking up to him,” Hogg said.advertisementlast_img read more

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SPORT-COA-ICC 2 LAST

first_img(REOPENS DEL 64) (REOPENS DEL 64) On how to achieve the 2/3 majority in state associations to accept the changes, Rai added: “We are talking to them and will continue to talk to them. Our immediate task is to keep the game going. For that we have worked on the conduct of the IPL 2, auction of the IPL and arrangements of the league smoothly.” “We are here for the last 50 days only. Only three days ago we have put on the model constitution. We want to take things in the consultation way and not in the confrontational way. “When we took over, we did not expect some people or rather a particular group of people to be generous. There were attempts to collaborate. Our attempt will be to persuade them to accept things. The court will play an important role in it. Some defiance was tried but they failed. If it goes on, we will react. “There is a plan of action in place, well defined. But that cant be discussed. Let us make it clear. These problems are solvable and will be solved to everyone?s satisfaction. We are not interested in politics. But if politics is needed to be played, then we won?t be found wanting,” he concluded. PTI BS AT ATlast_img read more

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10 months agoSissoko: Why I chose Spurs over Everton

first_imgSissoko: Why I chose Spurs over Evertonby Paul Vegas10 months agoSend to a friendShare the loveTottenham midfielder Moussa Sissoko has revisited his dramatic move from Newcastle United.Ronald Koeman wanted to take the Frenchman to Goodison Park in August 2016 but was pipped to his signature by Spurs boss Mauricio Pochettino and chairman Daniel Levy on transfer deadline day.“It was funny,” said Sissoko. “When I signed I was in the office with the chairman and I saw on the TV, ‘Sissoko was on his way to Everton, but then he went back and came to Tottenham’.“It wasn’t true.“Before I signed here, I talked with Koeman, the manager of Everton, on the phone.”He wanted me to join Everton and I said, ‘You have to speak with Newcastle and my agent, and if you find an agreement, why not?’“On that day, we didn’t have anything.“Then on the last day of the transfer window I came here and everything was nearly done with Tottenham.“So in my head, it was clear.“I was happy because I wanted to leave Newcastle and had the opportunity to sign here.” TagsTransfersAbout the authorPaul VegasShare the loveHave your saylast_img read more

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400000 SQFT TV FILM FACILITY ANNOUNCED FOR MARKHAM AT TIFF

first_imgAdvertisement LEAVE A REPLY Cancel replyLog in to leave a comment Facebook Advertisement Advertisement The lot will be large enough to accommodate productions on the scale of the most recent Star Trek and James Bond films.Scarpitti added Markham’s diversity of talent, culture and high-tech industries make the city the “right place” for the new studio.In this edition of #MayorsMinute we’re taking you to the movies! #FirstStudioCity announced they will build a world-class movie studio in Markham Centre, creating hundreds of jobs. Markham has the diversity of talent for large-scale tv, film productions. #ChooseMarkham #TIFF18 pic.twitter.com/A4FJsPvSsb— Mayor Frank Scarpitti (@frankscarpitti) September 7, 2018by Heidi Riedner | York Region News First Studio City is building a 400,000-square-foot film studio in the City of Markham, Mayor Frank Scarpitti announced Sept. 7.Markham Movieland, which will be the largest studio in Canada and will include 20 sound stages, is scheduled to be operational by the end of 2020, Scarpitti said in a video he tweeted from the heart of Toronto International Film Festival celebrations.The studio will feature a 70,000-sq.-ft. sound stage, which will be the largest single-purpose sound stage in North America, Scarpitti said. Login/Register With: Twitterlast_img read more

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The Cavs Have Played The Defense Of Their Lives So Far —

Through the first three games of the NBA Finals, the Cleveland Cavaliers have slowed down the Golden State Warriors’ offense to an extent that few teams have been capable of this year. The Warriors have been held to an offensive rating of 101.5 points per 100 possessions — a whopping 10.4 points below their regular-season average. And during Games 2 and 3 of the finals in particular, Golden State was limited to offensive ratings that both rank in the bottom 15 percent of its game-by-game output this season. Reigning MVP Stephen Curry has mostly been neutralized,1His personal offensive rating in the series is nearly 40 points below his season average. and aside from Klay Thompson and Andre Iguodala, his teammates — so superior on paper before the series began — have struggled to pick up the slack.In short, it’s been a masterful defensive performance by Cleveland. Indeed, since 1985, only the 1998 Chicago Bulls in their matchup with the Utah Jazz have done a better job holding an opponent below offensive expectations2In this case, the efficiency we’d expect based on a team’s regular-season ratings and whether the games were played at home or on the road. through the opening three games of an NBA Finals. But how much of it can we expect to hold up as the series goes on?To answer that, I looked at every best-of-seven NBA playoff series from the past 30 years, tracking how much a team’s defense defied expectations through the first three games and how much of that carried over into the remainder of the series:Weighted by the leverage of each series, the answer is 23 percent. So if a team (like Cleveland against Golden State) suppresses its opponent’s offensive rating by 12.5 points relative to expectations3This is different from the 10.4 figure above because we’re accounting for home-court advantage in the formal calculation. during a series’s first three games, we’d expect it to reduce that opponent’s offensive rating by about 2.9 points over the rest of the series.Twenty-three percent doesn’t sound like a lot, and this may speak a bit to what seems like one of the central debates of these finals so far — how much of Golden State’s struggles can be attributed to Cleveland’s defensive skill versus merely a run of bad shooting luck by the Warriors. History tells us that a team’s defensive performance over expectations through the first three games of a series is more than three-quarters ephemeral.But 23 percent of 12.5 points is nothing to sneeze at. Suppressing the Warriors’ offense by 2.9 points per 100 possessions brings them much closer to the NBA pack at that end. And while the Warriors have also done well defensively against Cleveland in the finals,4The Cavs’ 101.2 offensive rating for the series is running 5.7 points below expectation, although some of that should be tempered by the absences of Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love. the overall effect of a 23 percent carry-over from Games 1-3 would reduce Golden State’s chances of winning the finals by about 8 percentage points.Given the current circumstances of the series (Cleveland leads 2-1, with the remaining home games split evenly if the series goes to seven), that adjustment could be the difference between being favored to win the NBA championship and not. While our power ratings suggest that the Irving-less Cavs have a mere 40 percent chance of winning from here out despite the 2-1 edge, an 8-point tweak to those odds would make the series a virtual coin flip. And, perhaps not coincidentally, that’s essentially how Vegas currently views the finals.CORRECTION (June 12, 10:06 a.m.): A previous version of this article misstated the team with the best defensive performance compared to expectations in the NBA Finals since 1985. It was the Chicago Bulls in 1998, not the Utah Jazz. read more

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How A Weekend Of Upsets Changed The College Football Playoff

MAKES PLAYOFFWINS NAT’L TITLE AuburnSEC<1-10<1-2 FloridaSEC<1—<1— USCPac-122+2<1— TEAMCONFERENCEPROBCHANGEPROBCHANGE TennesseeSEC<1—<1— Washington St.Pac-124—<1— Oklahoma St.Big 123—<1— WashingtonPac-1232-205-5 West VirginiaBig 126+2<1— ColoradoPac-1210+2<1— UtahPac-122+2<1— AlabamaSEC90%+438%+7 Western MichiganMAC<1—<1— We’d said Louisville needed help to squeeze back into the playoff picture, and this past weekend provided it. If the Cardinals win out (the biggest obstacle to which is Houston, on the road, this Thursday night), they’d be slightly better than 50-50 to make the CFP. And Michigan’s loss only ratchets up the pressure surrounding “The Game” against Ohio State on Nov. 26: Provided each team beats its next foe (both Michigan and Ohio State are very likely to beat Indiana and Michigan State, respectively), the winner of the two rivals’ annual clash will be practically guaranteed to make the CFP — while the loser’s chances will be slim at best.All of these shake-ups will lead to a few weeks of extra anxiety for the coaches involved. But from a fan’s perspective, they took a relatively tidy (read: potentially boring) playoff picture and made it far more chaotic, a good recipe for an exciting climax to the season.Check out our college football predictions. MichiganBig Ten36-2012-7 Penn StateBig Ten8+6<1— OklahomaBig 1215+72+2 Will your favorite team make the College Football Playoff? See all of our predictions for the 2016 season » 2016 College Football Playoff predictions update (Nov. 16) ClemsonACC70-914-3 Ohio StateBig Ten56+1817+7 LouisvilleACC40+129+3 NebraskaBig Ten<1—<1— The big beneficiaries of that were Ohio State, which tacked 18 percentage points onto its CFP probability, and Louisville, which picked up 12 points — as well as the Big Ten’s less-heralded contenders (Wisconsin and Penn State) and whoever wins the Big 12 (probably Oklahoma), who now has a Hail Mary’s chance to make the playoff. Changes in FiveThirtyEight’s CFP prediction model are since last week.Source: ESPN Stats & InfoRMATION GROUP After one of the wildest upset weekends in history — three of the AP poll’s top four teams all lost on Saturday — you knew the college football landscape was due for some bulldozing. That applied to both the College Football Playoff committee’s rankings, which landed Tuesday night, and FiveThirtyEight’s CFP prediction model, which uses those rankings to simulate the rest of the season and project who will be left standing when the committee makes its final decision. Each leaves us with a cloudier view of the playoff picture now than we had a week ago.On the committee side, Washington dropped out of the rankings’ all-important top four (the Huskies fell to No. 6 after falling to USC), Clemson slid from second to fourth after its loss to Pitt, and Ohio State vaulted from No. 5 to No. 2. At the same time, Michigan stayed at No. 3 despite losing to Iowa, and Alabama strengthened its grip on No. 1 — so three of the top four from last week’s rankings remained in those coveted positions. But now slots 2 through 6 in the rankings are all occupied by one-loss teams, with six more two-loss teams directly behind them. Aside from the Crimson Tide’s ongoing dominance, there’s not much to feel confident about going into the final few weeks of the regular season.That point is underscored by our CFP prediction model. Alabama remained relatively steady, and now has a 90 percent probability of making the playoff; at this point, the Tide would likely get in even if they lost a game (whether to Auburn in the season finale, or perhaps even the SEC championship). But the weekend also took identical 20-percentage-point tolls on Michigan and Washington’s CFP probabilities, and lopped 9 points off of Clemson’s as well. WisconsinBig Ten24+92+1 read more

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