Archive for April 2nd, 2017

What climate change has to do with the price of your lettuce

Posted on 02. Apr, 2017 by .


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Unusual weather in the Southwest could cause a nationwide salad shortage later this month. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg (lettuce): Scientists say the weird weather is probably caused by climate change — which means these sorts of problems are likely to happen again.

The shortage, first reported by NPR, is the result of two separate phenomena in Arizona’s Yuma County and California’s Salinas Valley, the two places where the United States grows most of its leafy greens. In Yuma, the lettuce harvest, which usually runs from November to April, wound up early because of unusually warm weather. And in central California, which typically picks up the harvest once Yuma is done, heavy precipitation delayed some plantings.


“There’s this old adage in climate science that you can’t attribute any one event to human causes,” Overpeck said. “That’s not really true anymore, because now it’s really been established that humans alter the whole global climate system. Anything related to increased warmth in the atmosphere likely has some element of human causation.”

Both the temperature in Yuma and the rain in Salinas have a link to atmospheric warmth. The case of Yuma is pretty obvious: Temperatures in the Southwest have been increasing for 100 years, and this winter was no different. According to the National Weather Service, February’s average temperature was two degrees warmer than the recorded average in recent decades.

In Salinas, the situation is a bit more complex, Overpeck said. The region has seen an unusual number of storms called “atmospheric rivers” — you might know them by the name Pineapple Express — which push heavy precipitation to the Pacific coast from around the Hawaiian islands. It’s unclear whether climate change has a role in the increased incidence of atmospheric rivers, Overpeck said. While some early research suggests that is the case, more data is needed to confirm it.

That said, it’s “a basic concept of physics” that when the atmosphere is warmer, it holds more moisture, Overpeck explained. That means that, when storm clouds form, you tend to see more snow and rain.

According to the 2012 Census of Agriculture, Yuma County boasts nearly 70,000 acres of planted lettuce, while Monterey County, the home of the Salinas Valley, has 134,000. The 2015 Salinas harvest was valued at more than $1.65 billion.

Both regions primarily grow iceberg and leaf lettuce, followed by spinach and baby greens.

Incidentally, these sorts of cascading disruptions aren’t just limited to lettuce — or even to the United States. Britain recently suffered a widely publicized shortage of iceberg lettuce, zucchini, broccoli and cabbage, brought on by extreme weather in Europe’s “salad bowl,” Spain.


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UN votes to outlaw nuclear weapons in 2017

Posted on 02. Apr, 2017 by .


An article by the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weaponsicanw

The United Nations today [October 14] adopted a landmark resolution to launch negotiations in 2017 on a treaty outlawing nuclear weapons. This historic decision heralds an end to two decades of paralysis in multilateral nuclear disarmament efforts.

At a meeting of the First Committee of the UN General Assembly, which deals with disarmament and international security matters, 123 nations voted in favor of the resolution, with 38 against and 16 abstaining.

The resolution will set up a UN conference beginning in March next year, open to all member states, to negotiate a “legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons, leading towards their total elimination”. The negotiations will continue in June and July.

The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), a civil society coalition active in 100 countries, hailed the adoption of the resolution as a major step forward, marking a fundamental shift in the way that the world tackles this paramount threat.

“For seven decades, the UN has warned of the dangers of nuclear weapons, and people globally have campaigned for their abolition. Today the majority of states finally resolved to outlaw these weapons,” said Beatrice Fihn, executive director of ICAN.

Despite arm-twisting by a number of nuclear-armed states, the resolution was adopted in a landslide. A total of 57 nations were co-sponsors, with Austria, Brazil, Ireland, Mexico, Nigeria and South Africa taking the lead in drafting the resolution.

The UN vote came just hours after the European Parliament adopted its own resolution on this subject – 415 in favour and 124 against, with 74 abstentions – inviting European Union member states to “participate constructively” in next year’s negotiations.

Nuclear weapons remain the only weapons of mass destruction not yet outlawed in a comprehensive and universal manner, despite their well-documented catastrophic humanitarian and environmental impacts.

“A treaty prohibiting nuclear weapons would strengthen the global norm against the use and possession of these weapons, closing major loopholes in the existing international legal regime and spurring long-overdue action on disarmament,” said Fihn.

“Today’s vote demonstrates very clearly that a majority of the world’s nations consider the prohibition of nuclear weapons to be necessary, feasible and urgent. They view it as the most viable option for achieving real progress on disarmament,” she said.

Biological weapons, chemical weapons, anti-personnel landmines and cluster munitions are all explicitly prohibited under international law. But only partial prohibitions currently exist for nuclear weapons.

Nuclear disarmament has been high on the UN agenda since the organization’s formation in 1945. Efforts to advance this goal have stalled in recent years, with nuclear-armed nations investing heavily in the modernization of their nuclear forces.

Twenty years have passed since a multilateral nuclear disarmament instrument was last negotiated: the 1996 Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty, which has yet to enter into legal force due to the opposition of a handful of nations.

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The Underground Railroad for Refugees

Posted on 02. Apr, 2017 by .


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In the fall of 2014, two Afghan police officers, Mohammed Naweed Samimi and Mohammed Yasin Ataye, travelled to America on temporary visas. For five weeks, along with other law-enforcement officers from Afghanistan, they attended lectures on intelligence-gathering techniques at a Drug Enforcement Administration facility in Virginia. One Saturday, the trainees took buses into Washington, D.C., for a day of sightseeing. That evening, they all returned to the buses—except for Samimi and Ataye.

They had contacted an Afghan family in suburban Virginia, who picked them up in Washington and drove them to their house. From there, Samimi and Ataye took a bus to Buffalo, New York. Their destination was a safe house known as Vive, at 50 Wyoming Avenue, on the east side of the city. At Vive, a staff composed largely of volunteers welcomes asylum seekers from around the world. A dozen or so people show up each day, looking for advice, protection, and a place to sleep.

Vive occupies a former schoolhouse next door to an abandoned neo-Gothic church with boarded-up windows. More than a quarter of the nearby properties are vacant “zombie homes,” and the area contains some of the cheapest real estate in America. Vive residents rarely venture into the neighborhood. A staff member told me, “Agents from the Border Patrol circle the building all the time.” So far, the schoolhouse has not yet been subjected to a raid, which would require a warrant.

In theory, people who come to Vive could have stayed in their home countries and applied for a visa through the U.S. State Department’s lottery system. But in 2015, out of more than nine million visa applications, fewer than fifty thousand were granted. For people in urgent situations abroad, there is another option: they can simply show up in a safe country and request asylum. Those with money fly directly to the U.S. on tourist visas and, upon arriving, request protection. Poorer migrants stow away on boats, hop on freight trains, and cross deserts. After making their way out of Africa or Asia, they often head to Latin America and then travel overland to the U.S. border. Some hire human traffickers to smuggle them. Many show up at Vive almost penniless.

Of the people who arrived at the schoolhouse last year, roughly ten per cent came from the seven countries included in the Trump Administration’s proposed travel ban. Most arrivals do not intend to stay in the U.S. In recent years, it has become increasingly difficult to win asylum in America, and since 2011 the number of pending asylum requests has grown tenfold; applicants often wait years for an answer, and in the end more than half are rejected. But there’s another option, just four miles due west of Vive’s schoolhouse, across the Niagara River: Canada.

In December, 2015, when a plane filled with Syrian refugees landed in Toronto, Canada’s Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, greeted them at the airport, handing out winter coats. President Donald Trump, meanwhile, has pledged to purge the U.S. of “bad hombres.” Trudeau has been echoing the openness of his father, Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, who, in 1980, went on television and welcomed Cambodian refugees to Canada. As of 2015, Canada granted asylum to sixty-two per cent of applicants. It also offers far better social services than the U.S. does, including access to education, temporary health services, emergency housing, and legal aid. But to make a claim for asylum in Canada you first have to get there, and the easiest route is across the U.S. border.

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And Jesus Said Unto Paul of Ryan …

Posted on 02. Apr, 2017 by .


16kristofWeb-master768A woman who had been bleeding for 12 years came up behind Jesus and touched his clothes in hope of a cure. Jesus turned to her and said: “Fear not. Because of your faith, you are now healed.”

Then spoke Pious Paul of Ryan: “But teacher, is that wise? When you cure her, she learns dependency. Then the poor won’t take care of themselves, knowing that you’ll always bail them out! You must teach them personal responsibility!”

They were interrupted by 10 lepers who stood at a distance and shouted, “Jesus, have pity on us.”

“NO!” shouted Pious Paul. “Jesus! You don’t have time. We have a cocktail party fund-raiser in the temple. And don’t worry about them — they’ve already got health care access.”

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Refugee ban could result in increased illegal immigration

Posted on 02. Apr, 2017 by .


Taken from –

President Trump’s temporary ban on refugees could create a new wave of illegal border crossings, experts warn.

The latest iteration of Trump’s travel ban includes a provision that halts entry of all refugees into the United States for 120 days.

That could interfere with an Obama administration-brokered deal that allowed Central American children to apply for refugee status in the United States without leaving their countries.

The Central American Minors program was created last year to reduce the number of unaccompanied minors and family units fleeing through Mexico and illegally trying to cross the southern border into the U.S.

Although the program remains in place, Trump’s latest executive order sets out new rules for the number of refugees the United States will accept.

“The problem is that we are maxed out, because, remember, [Trump] decreased the number of refugees that are allowed into the U.S.,” said Rep. Norma Torres (D-Calif.).

“We could already be maxed out at 100 percent in 90 days. That means no one else could come in,” she said.

With that avenue of escape closed, many may choose to make the dangerous crossing through Mexico instead.

Central American children and family units have become the main drivers of illegal immigration, as resettlement from Mexico has leveled off since 2009. Since 2014, Mexicans have accounted for less than half of all illegal border crossings.

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