Friday 22nd of May 2015

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by Gus Leonisky on Fri, 2015-05-22 17:12


According to Forest Heroes, the company responsible for this act of deforestation is Astra Agro Lestari. Astra has announced it is “pursuing” deforestation-free palm oil, but has not made a clear promise to stop cutting down the forest, as other companies have.

Activists have very little leverage on agriculture businesses, but they can affect the companies associated with agribusiness. So the activists are going after Mandarin Oriental Hotels, which is owned by the same conglomerate that owns Astra — a group called Jardine Matheson. The chair of this conglomerate, Ben Keswick, is also on a corporate governance board for Astra.


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by Gus Leonisky on Fri, 2015-05-22 12:56


 One of the earliest known copies of the Ten Commandments was written in soot on a strip of goatskin found among the trove of biblical material known as the Dead Sea Scrolls, widely considered to be one of the great archaeological finds of the 20th century.

Penned on parchment by an unknown scribe more than 2,000 years ago, the scroll fragment is one of humanity’s most precious documents — and so fragile that its custodians rarely permit it to be moved from the secure vault where it rests in complete darkness.

But for 14 days over the next seven months, the Ten Commandments scroll, known to scholars as 4Q41, will make a rare public appearance at the Israel Museum as part of a new exhibit called “A Brief History of Humankind,” a show based on the international best-selling book by Israeli polymath Yuval Noah Harari.

The exhibit chronicles humanity’s narrative arc by pairing cutting-edge modern art from the museum’s extensive collection alongside the display of 14 artifacts: the earliest-dated stone tools; the earliest evidence of man-made fire; the earliest known evidence of a family burial; the world’s oldest complete sickle — plus the Ten Commandments. It ends with Albert Einstein’s handwritten 1912 manuscript for the Special Theory of Relativity, including the formula E=mc 2 .

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Bugger, I thought the ten commandments were engraved in stone... Soot on a goat skin? Bugger that...

Anyway... Fantastic! A history of humanity... I hope it includes the 20,000 year old rainbow serpent of the Australian Aborigines and some of the rock paintings about 40,000 years old in Arnhem Land, Australia (and you can see most of these with your own eyes on site, with the permission of the local custodians). There are of course some amazing paintings in the Kimberleys about 9,000 year old as well. And those Lascaux paintings are not to be sneezed over, though there are about 3,500 sites older than Lascaux in Arnhem Land alone...  And of course why not cap this exhibition beyond Einstein's cute work, with Gus fourth theorem:

"We can see the universe but the universe cannot see us."


by Gus Leonisky on Fri, 2015-05-22 10:55


... some national security experts were surprised to learn that an important component of that effort has been ended. A CIA spokesperson confirmed to Climate Desk that the agency is shuttering its main climate research program. Under the program, known as Medea, the CIA had allowed civilian scientists to access classified data—such as ocean temperature and tidal readings gathered by Navy submarines and topography data collected by spy satellites—in an effort to glean insights about how global warming could create security threats around the world. In theory, the program benefited both sides: Scientists could study environmental data that was much higher-resolution than they would normally have access to, and the CIA received research insights about climate-related threats.

But now, the program has come to a close.

"Under the Medea program to examine the implications of climate change, CIA participated in various projects," a CIA spokesperson explained in a statement. "These projects have been completed and CIA will employ these research results and engage external experts as it continues to evaluate the national security implications of climate change."

The program was originally launched in 1992 during the George H.W. Bush administration and was later shut down during President George W. Bush's term. It was re-launched under the Obama administration in 2010, with the aim of providing security clearances to roughly 60 climate scientists. Those scientists were given access to classified information that could be useful for researching global warming and tracking environmental changes that could have national security implications. Data gathered by the military and intelligence agencies is often of much higher quality than what civilian scientists normally work with.

In some cases, that data could then be declassified and published, although Francesco Femia, co-director of the Center for Climate and Security, said it is usually impossible to know whether any particular study includes data from Medea. "You wouldn't see [Medea] referenced anywhere" in a peer-reviewed paper, he said. But he pointed to the CIA's annual Worldwide Threat Assessment, which includes multiple references to climate change, as a probable Medea product, where the CIA likely partnered with civilian scientists to analyze classified data.

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by Gus Leonisky on Fri, 2015-05-22 10:45

Australia's electricity industry is about to undergo a massive transformation, with the advent of cheap storage batteries for solar energy.

US billionaire Elon Musk, a co-founder of PayPal, this month launched a lithium-ion battery called the Powerwall that is expected to sell in Australia next year for about $5,500.

It was developed alongside his revolutionary Tesla electric car, launched late last year.

"You can actually go, if you want, completely off-grid," Mr Musk said of the batteries.

"You can take your solar panels, charge the battery packs and that's all you use."

Bloomberg new energy finance analyst Kobad Bhavnagri said the batteries would be "a complete game-changer"

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Buying Baird's poles and wires might be a loosing venture within a couple of years... see toon and story at top...

by Gus Leonisky on Fri, 2015-05-22 10:39

GOVERNMENTS AROUND the world charge prices for energy that do not account for its harmful environmental, health and other side effects, amounting to a US$5.3 trillion "post-tax" subsidy this year, the International Monetary Fund said in a report on Monday.

The IMF said China in particular failed to charge its more than 1 billion consumers for the pollution that comes from heavy use of fossil fuels, adding up to a US$2.3 trillion subsidy this year.

The United States was the second-biggest offender, with an estimated US$699 billion subsidy, followed by Russia, the European Union, India and Japan.

The report comes as almost 200 nations are trying to work out a deal to combat global warming ahead of a summit in Paris in December. Getting rid of fossil fuel subsidies and setting policies to price carbon pollution are seen as key international measures that would help keep temperatures from rising.

The IMF has long urged governments to get rid of "pretax subsidies" that allow firms and households to buy coal, gasoline or other fuel sources below their cost of supply. Many governments, including Egypt, India, Indonesia and Jordan, have recently raised domestic prices to match those internationally, said the Washington-based institution charged with policing global economic and financial stability.

But the Fund said it had turned its focus to the post-tax subsidies that mean prices fail to reflect costs like unfair tax advantages and deaths from pollution.

In its last study on the subject in 2013, the IMF estimated these post-tax subsidies amounted to US$2 trillion in 2011, or 2.9 per cent of the world's gross domestic product.

With new data about the extent of environmental damage, the IMF says these subsidies totalled US$4.9 trillion in 2013 and were expected to rise to US$5.3 trillion this year, or 6.5 per cent of global GDP.

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by Gus Leonisky on Fri, 2015-05-22 10:33

A key Pentagon advisor is warning Australia that its next submarine fleet purchase may be obsolete as a result of game-changing technology breakthroughs in drone warfare.

Despite the intense political debate over procurement of submarines in Australia, former US military naval advisor and submarine expert Bryan Clark said he had not been contacted by Government officials here.

The Federal Government is planning to build a fleet of 12 new submarines, thought to be worth tens of billions of dollars.

Mr Clark told Lateline the next class of submarines would arrive in the 2020s, and said he did not know whether the Government was looking at the new detection technologies being developed.

"It is something that should impact the design of the next class of [Australian] submarines," he said.

"I've certainly been in contact with the US government in terms of what it might imply for how the next generation of US submarines needs to evolve."

Mr Clark said new technologies, particularly developments in acoustic techniques, meant quiet submarines could be easily detected by the enemy, rendering them ineffective.

"New detection techniques are emerging that would allow you to find large man-made objects in the water more easily than in the past," he said.

Mr Clark said the United States has relied on its submarines being undetectable and being able to operate with impunity in areas close to other countries, but "that is probably going to be coming to an end in the next 10-20 years with these new detection technologies".

When this happens, unmanned undersea vehicles would be used instead, Mr Clark told the ABC.

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by Gus Leonisky on Fri, 2015-05-22 09:15

Labor, the Greens and crossbenchers have formed a new group to raise concerns about the highly secretive Trans-Pacific Partnership deal as political opposition builds ahead of its signing.

One critic told Guardian Australia the agreement amounts to the redefinition of western sovereignty.

The historic agreement between 12 Pacific rim nations could be reached within a fortnight, as the United States mobilises support behind president Barack Obama’s centrepiece trade policy.

The Australian parliamentary working group, founded by Labor’s Melissa Parke, Greens senator Peter Whish-Wilson and independent senator Nick Xenophon, will officially launch on Monday.

Consumer group Choice and community conglomerate Australian Fair Trade and Investment Network (Aftinet) will also speak at Monday’s lunchtime event, to be held in Parliament House.

Xenophon said the group is an example of “from little things big things grow”, adding there is “increasing disquiet” over the TPP deal and how it is being negotiated.

The group aims to better inform the community, via educating parliamentarians, on the implications of the deal.

“If people realised what this delivered, they would be horrified,” Parke said. “There are many [parliamentary] colleagues who have expressed concern about the TPP.”

by Gus Leonisky on Fri, 2015-05-22 09:06

It is a "sad day" for Tasmania-based chocolate maker Cadbury Australia which will shed 20 per cent of its workforce from its factory in Claremont, unions say.

The company has been notifying staff of the 80 redundancies ahead of the weekend.

The multinational chocolate maker has fallen victim to a drop in sales and a more internationally competitive market.

It is the latest in a number of big blows for the company, which withdrew its application for $16 million of Federal Government money earlier this year.

Australian Manufacturing Workers Union (AMWU) state secretary John Short said those funds need to be invested in Tasmanian industries to create new jobs.

"What we're calling on is for that $16 million to be put back into Tasmania to help manufacturing," he said.

"It's a sad day for workers and a terrible day for Tasmania."

He said a boost from the Federal Government could have helped the situation.

"It wouldn't have done any harm to help the company become more productive," he said.

"It wasn't just a handout, the company was prepared to put money in themselves, but the conditions on the grant were too difficult for the company."

Cadbury's parent company Mondelez said the decision was not taken lightly.

Staff were briefed about the job losses at the start of their shift this morning.


You can blame this caper on SuperTurd... See toon at top. Don't blame Gus, please. I do my bit and swallow, crunch and melt more Cadbury dark chokholette daily than an average bear in a year. I do it for the taste, my country and Cadbury.

by Gus Leonisky on Fri, 2015-05-22 08:51

A vast slab of Antarctic ice that was previously stable may have started to collapse, according to new analysis of satellite data.

Research published in the journal Science on Thursday found the Southern Antarctic Peninsula (SAP) ice sheet is losing ice into the ocean at a rate of 56 gigatons each year – about 8,500 times the mass of the Great Pyramid of Giza. This adds around 0.16mm per year to the global sea level.

The sheet’s thickness has remained stable since satellite observations began in 1992. But Professor Jonathan Bamber of Bristol university, who co-authored the study, said that around 2009 it very suddenly began to thin by an average of 42cm each year. Some areas had fallen by up to 4m.

“It hasn’t been going up, it hasn’t been going down – until 2009. Then it just seemed to pass some kind of critical threshold and went over a cliff and it’s been losing mass at a pretty much constant, rather large, rate,” said Bamber.

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Please would someone convert the ice loss into something we can comprehend like the standard unit of liquid stuff-ups, like the Olympic Swimming Pool universal unit? With mental arithmetics I would say that this loss is "equivalent" to about 21 million of the OSP universal unit. And let's not forget to add that this is INCREASING.