Monday, September 8, 2014
RUSSIA THREATENS RETALIATION
Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev warned in an interview that further Western sanctions against Russia will see Moscow “respond asymmetrically.” According to news agency Ria Novosti, Medvedev suggested that Russia could decide to close its air space to Western companies, a move that he believes would lead some of them to go bankrupt. This comes as the fragile truce negotiated Friday between Kiev troops and pro-Russian rebels seems to be holding despite some reports of artillery fire, Reuters reports. Both sides accused the other of violating the ceasefire over the weekend.
"The Queen is a unionist," the Daily Express quoted one Royal source as saying after an opinion poll commissioned by The Sunday Times showed a stunning 51% of Scottish voters in support of a Sep. 18 independence referendum. Royal sources say Queen Elizabeth is worried about an impending constitutional crisis.
UN: ISIS WANTS “HOUSE OF BLOOD”
Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein, the newly appointed chief of the UN Human Rights Council, urged the world in a strong-worded maiden speech to make a priority of ending the “increasingly conjoined conflicts in Iraq and Syria,” AFP reports. He went further and said that any future state governed by ISIS would become a “house of blood, where no shade would be offered.” Meanwhile, the BBC reports that the Iraqi army, backed by U.S. strikes, has cleared ISIS fighters from a strategic dam on the Euphrates river. This comes as U.S. President Barack Obama is expected to outline in a Wednesday speech a strategy to defeat ISIS. According to The New York Times, senior officials believe the campaign could take up to three years.
American Serena Williams won her third U.S. Open title in a row, and sixth overall, after defeating Denmark's Caroline Wozniacki 6-3, 6-3 Sunday at Flushing Meadows.
POST-9/11 CIA TORTURE
An exclusive report in British newspaper The Daily Telegraph describes torture methods the CIA has employed in its post-9/11 interrogations of al-Qaeda suspects. It comes as the U.S. Senate is preparing to publish a declassified version of its “Torture Report.” According to a source quoted in the article, the methods used exceed the previously acknowledged “waterboarding” and have brought some suspects close to “death.”
The British royal family has announced that Prince William and Kate are expecting a second baby, just over a year after the birth of Prince George.
Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto has pulled off the political feat of pushing through unprecedented reforms. But they are based on a promise that economic growth will inevitably follow, writes America Economia’s Luis Rubio. “The president's extremely low approval rating may reflect a traditional Mexican skepticism about grand visions of change: They will believe them when they see them,” he writes. “That's when the ratings might turn around. But the more problematic scenario is that the supposed link between reforms and growth is wrong. There is no doubt that an improved economy would solve many problems, create job opportunities and better living standards. Yet it is not obvious that the reforms will resolve basic, structural problems.The population became accustomed to the economy's pathetic performance a long time ago.”
Read the full article, The Blind Spot In Mexico's Sweeping Reforms.
HOPES RISE FOR EBOLA VACCINE
An experimental Ebola vaccine has enabled monkeys to develop immunity to the disease for up to 10 months, raising hopes that the deadly disease that has killed more than 2,100 people since the beginning of the year could be prevented in the near future. Leaders of the African Union have gathered for an emergency meeting in the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa to discuss a response to the outbreak. President Barack Obama announced that the U.S. military would be deployed in West Africa to provide assistance and equipment. Read more from The Washington Post.
MY GRAND-PÈRE'S WORLD
CORRUPTION CHARGES AMID BRAZIL ELECTIONS
Brazil President Dilma Rousseff’s hopes of being re-elected next month have been dealt a heavy blow after a former director of state-run oil company Petrobras accused several politicians, including some in Rousseff’s Workers Party, of corruption, magazine Veja revealed over the weekend. But Socialist candidate Marina Silva, who is currently leading the polls in a potential second round with Rousseff, is also under threat. Among those accused by Paulo Roberto Costa, who is himself in jail and under investigation for his own role in the scheme he denounced, is Eduardo Campos, the former candidate of Silva’s party who was killed in a plane crash last month. Read more from Reuters.
For more on Brazil’s presidential race, we offer this Folha de S. Paulo/Worldcrunch article, Evangelical Passion Drives Brazil Presidential Challenger Marina Silva.
JACK THE RIPPER IDENTIFIED?
It may be that DNA evidence has solved the world’s most mysterious whodunnit. According to a new book, Jack the Ripper was Aaron Kosminski, a Polish Jew who had fled to London with his family in the early 1880s to escape Russian massacres. Read more from The Guardian.
Slow Food calls for an action plan to significantly reduce and improve the production and consumption of meat, dairy, and eggs by 2050.
If, as the saying goes, we are what we eat, the same also goes for the animals that end up on our plate. How we feed our own food can have knock-on effects, not just for our own health but also for the planet. We are now aware of the meat and dairy industry's significant carbon footprint, responsible for more than a third of global anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions.
Large-scale cattle productions that favor pure profit over more sustainable practices also add to environmental woes through biodiversity loss, deforestation and pesticide use — with some of the world's richest countries contributing disproportionately: The five biggest meat and milk producers emit the same amount of greenhouse gases as the oil giant Exxon.
The good news is that we could meet — if we would — some of these challenges with an array of innovative solutions, as the fields of farming, breeding and nutrition look at ways to shift from centralized intensive agro industry toward a more localized, smaller-scale and more organic approach to production.
Cows fed corn and grain-based diets may grow larger and are ready to be processed at a younger age — but this requires significant energy, as well as land and water resources; in contrast, grass and hay-fed cows support a regenerative farming model in which grazing can contribute to restoring the health of soil through increased microbial diversity. Compared to highly processed GM crops, natural-grass diets with minimal cereals also lead to more nutrient-rich livestock, producing better quality meat, milk and cheese. Farmers have started focusing on breeding native animal species that are best adapted to local environmental contexts.
This new approach to agricultural practices is closely linked to the concept of agroecology, where farming works in tandem with the environment instead of exploiting it. If mowed a few times a year, for instance, natural meadows produce hay that is rich in grasses, legumes and flowers of the sunflower family, like daisies, dandelions, thistles and cornflowers. These biomes become reservoirs of biodiversity for our countryside, hosting countless species of vegetables, insects and birds, many of which are at risk of extinction. Until recently, these were common habitats in meadows that were not plugged or tilled and only required light fertilization. Today, however, they are becoming increasingly threatened: in the plains, where the terrain is used for monocultures like corn; or in hills and mountains, where fields are facing gradual abandonment.
It is worth noting that extensive agriculture, which requires smaller amounts of capital and labor in relation to the size of farmed land, can actually help curb climate change effects through carbon dioxide absorption. Researchers at the University of California, Davis determined that in their state, grasslands and rangelands have actually acted as more resilient carbon sinks than forests in recent years. Through a system of carbon uptake, these lands provide a form of natural compensation, going as far as canceling the farms' impact on the planet, rendering them carbon "creditors."
In the meantime, grasslands and pastures allow animals to live in accordance with their natural behavioral needs, spending most of the year outside being raised by bonafide farmers who care about animal welfare. A recent study by Nature found that allowing cows to graze out of doors has both psychological and physical health benefits, as they seem to enjoy the open space and ability to lie on the soft ground.
Some might worry about the economic losses that come with this slower and smaller business model, but there are also opportunities for creativity in diversifying activities, like agro-tourism and direct sales that can actually increase a farm's profit margin. This form of sustainable production goes hand-in-hand with the Slow Meat campaign, which encourages people to reduce their meat consumption while buying better quality, sustainable meat.
Others may assume that the only environmentally-conscious diet is entirely plant-based. That is indeed a valuable and viable option, but there are also thoughtful ways to consume meat in moderation — and more sustainably. It also should be noted that many fruits and vegetables have surprisingly large carbon footprints: The industrial-scale cultivation of avocados, for example, requires massive amounts of water and causes great hardship to farming communities in Latin America.
But forging a broad shift toward more "biodiversity-friendly" pastoralism requires action by both those producing and eating meat, and those with the legislative power to enact industry-wide change. It is urgent that policies be put into place to support a return to long-established agricultural practices that can sustainably feed future generations. Although no country in the world today has a defined strategy to decrease consumption while transforming production, governments are bound to play a key role in the green transition, present and future.
In Europe, Slow Food recommends that the Fit for 55 package include reducing emissions from agriculture activities by 65% (based on 2005 levels) by 2050. Agriculture-related land use emissions should also reach net-zero by 2040 and become a sink of -150 Mt CO2eq by 2050. But these targets can only be met if the EU farming sector adopts agroecological practices at a regional scale, and if consumers shift to more sustainable diets. If we are indeed what we eat, we should also care deeply about how the choices we make impact the planet that feeds us.