provinceorstate:florida

  • The most expensive hyphen in history
    https://www.fastcompany.com/90365077/the-most-expensive-hyphen-in-history

    Bugs, bugs bugs

    By Charles Fishman4 minute Read

    This is the 18th in an exclusive series of 50 articles, one published each day until July 20, exploring the 50th anniversary of the first-ever Moon landing. You can check out 50 Days to the Moon here every day.

    In the dark on Sunday morning, July 22, 1962, NASA launched the first-ever U.S. interplanetary space probe: Mariner 1, headed for Venus, Earth’s neighbor closer to the Sun.

    Mariner 1 was launched atop a 103-foot-tall Atlas-Agena rocket at 5:21 a.m. EDT. For 3 minutes and 32 seconds, it rose perfectly, accelerating to the edge of space, nearly 100 miles up.

    But at that moment, Mariner 1 started to veer in odd, unplanned ways, first aiming northwest, then pointing nose down. The rocket was out of control and headed for the shipping lanes of the North Atlantic. Four minutes and 50 seconds into flight, a range safety officer at Cape Canaveral—in an effort to prevent the rocket from hitting people or land—flipped two switches, and explosives in the Atlas blew the rocket apart in a spectacular cascade of fireworks visible back in Florida.

    The Mariner 1 probe itself was blown free of the debris, and its radio transponder continued to ping flight control for another 67 seconds, until it hit the Atlantic Ocean.

    This was the third failed probe in 1962 alone; NASA had also launched two failed probes to the Moon. But the disappointment was softened by the fact that a second, identical Mariner spacecraft (along with an identical Atlas-Agena rocket) were already in hangers at the Cape, standing by. Mariner 2 was launched successfully a month later and reached Venus on December 14, 1962, where it discovered that the temperature was 797º F and that the planet rotated in the opposite direction of Earth and Mars. The Sun on Venus rises in the West.

    It was possible to launch Mariner 1’s twin just 36 days after the disaster because it took scientists at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory only five days to figure out what had gone wrong. In handwritten computer coding instructions, in dozens and dozens of lines of flight guidance equations, a single letter had been written incorrectly, probably forgetfully.

    In a critical spot, the equations contained an “R” symbol (for “radius”). The “R” was supposed to have a bar over it, indicating a “smoothing” function; the line told the guidance computer to average the data it was receiving and to ignore what was likely to be spurious data. But as written and then coded onto punch cards and into the guidance computer, the “R” didn’t have a bar over it. The “R-bar” became simply “R.”

    As it happened, on launch, Mariner 1 briefly lost guidance-lock with the ground, which was not uncommon. The rocket was supposed to follow its course until guidance-lock was re-achieved, unless it received instructions from the ground computer. But without the R-bar, the ground computer got confused about Mariner 1’s performance, thought it was off course, and started sending signals to the rocket to “correct” its course, instructions that weren’t necessary—and weren’t correct.

    Therefore “phantom erratic behavior” became “actual erratic behavior,” as one analyst wrote. In the minute or so that controllers waited, the rocket and the guidance computer on the ground were never able to get themselves sorted out, because the “averaging” function that would have kept the rocket on course wasn’t programmed into the computer. And so the range safety officer did his job.

    A single handwritten line, the length of a hyphen, doomed the most elaborate spaceship the U.S. had until then designed, along with its launch rocket. Or rather, the absence of that bar doomed it. The error cost $18.5 million ($156 million today).

    In the popular press, for simplicity, the missing bar became a hyphen. The New York Times front-page headline was “For Want of a Hyphen Venus Rocket Is Lost.” The Los Angeles Times headline: “‘Hyphen’ Blows Up Rocket.” The science fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke, in his 1968 book The Promise of Space, called it “the most expensive hyphen in history.”

    For NASA’s computer programmers, it was a lesson in care, caution, and testing that ended up steeped into their bones. During 11 Apollo missions, more than 100 days total of spaceflight, the Apollo flight computers performed without a single fault.

    But what happened to Mariner 1 was, in fact, an arresting vulnerability of the new Space Age. A single missing bolt in a B-52 nuclear bomber wasn’t going to bring down the plane, but a single inattentive moment in computer programming—of the sort anyone can imagine having—could have a cascade of consequences.

    George Mueller was NASA’s associate administrator for manned spaceflight from 1963 to 1969, the most critical period for Apollo’s development. Just before that, Mueller had been an executive at Space Technology Laboratories, which had responsibility for writing the guidance equations for Mariner 1, including the equation with the missing bar.

    During his years at NASA, Mueller kept a reminder of the importance of even the smallest elements of spaceflight on the wall behind his desk: a framed image of a hyphen.

    #Histoire_numerique #Nasa #Mariner

  • Thousands of Immigrant Children Said They Were Sexually Abused in U.S. Detention Centers, Report Says

    The federal government received more than 4,500 complaints in four years about the sexual abuse of immigrant children who were being held at government-funded detention facilities, including an increase in complaints while the Trump administration’s policy of separating migrant families at the border was in place, the Justice Department revealed this week.

    The records, which involve children who had entered the country alone or had been separated from their parents, detailed allegations that adult staff members had harassed and assaulted children, including fondling and kissing minors, watching them as they showered, and raping them. They also included cases of suspected abuse of children by other minors.

    From October 2014 to July 2018, the Office of Refugee Resettlement, a part of the Health and Human Services Department that cares for so-called unaccompanied minors, received a total of 4,556 allegations of sexual abuse or sexual harassment, 1,303 of which were referred to the Justice Department. Of those 1,303 cases deemed the most serious, 178 were accusations that adult staff members had sexually assaulted immigrant children, while the rest were allegations of minors assaulting other minors, the report said.

    “The safety of minors is our top concern when administering the UAC program,” Jonathan H. Hayes, the acting director of the Office of Refugee Resettlement, said in a statement, using an abbreviation for unaccompanied children. “None of the allegations involved O.R.R. federal staff. These allegations were all fully investigated and remedial action was taken where appropriate.”

    [Read the latest edition of Crossing the Border, a limited-run newsletter about life where the United States and Mexico meet. Sign up here to receive the next issue in your inbox.]

    The records do not detail the outcome of every complaint, but they indicate that some accusations were determined to be unfounded or lacking enough evidence to prosecute. In one case, a staff member at a Chicago detention facility was accused in April 2015 of fondling and kissing a child and was later charged with a crime. The report did not state whether that person had been found guilty.

    The documents, first reported by Axios, were made public by Representative Ted Deutch, Democrat of Florida, the night before a House Judiciary Committee hearing on Tuesday about the Trump administration’s policy of family separations at the southern border. That policy, which was put in place last spring, resulted in more than 2,700 children being separated from their parents under President Trump’s “zero tolerance” policy of prosecuting anyone caught crossing the border illegally, including those with families seeking asylum on humanitarian grounds.

    For most of the four years covered by the report, the number of allegations made to the Office of Refugee Resettlement stayed about the same from month to month. But the number of complaints rose after the Trump administration enacted its separation policy. From March 2018 to July 2018, the agency received 859 complaints, the largest number of reports during any five-month span in the previous four years. Of those, 342 allegations were referred to the Justice Department, the report showed.

    During the hearing on Tuesday, a discussion of the records sparked a heated exchange between Mr. Deutch and Cmdr. Jonathan White of the United States Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, who last year repeatedly warned a top official in Health and Human Services that the family separation policy could permanently traumatize young children.
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    As Mr. Deutch read some of the report, Commander White interjected, “That is false!”

    He later apologized, claiming that a “vast majority of allegations proved to be unfounded.” He said he was unaware of any accusations against staff members that were found to have merit.

    https://www.nytimes.com/2019/02/27/us/immigrant-children-sexual-abuse.html
    #viol #viols #abus_sexuels #USA #Etats-Unis #rétention #détention_administrative #enfants #enfance #rapport #migrations #asile #réfugiés

    L’article date de février 2019

  • Trump affirme que la Russie a retiré la plupart de son personnel présent au Venezuela

    Donald Trump : Rusia nos informó que removió a su personal de Venezuela
    http://www.el-nacional.com/noticias/mundo/donald-trump-rusia-nos-informo-que-removio-personal-venezuela_284229

    Donald Trump, presidente de Estados Unidos, dijo este lunes que el gobierno de Rusia le comunicó con respecto a la salida de su personal de Venezuela. 

    «Rusia nos ha informado que han removido a la mayoría de su personal de Venezuela», indicó el mandatario en Twitter. 

    Rick Scott, senador de la provincia de Florida en EE UU, también dio declaraciones con respecto al tema, asegurando estar complacido por las medidas tomadas por los dirigentes rusos en territorio venezolano. 

    «Me alegro de que Rusia esté tomando las medidas necesarias para retirarse de Venezuela. Deberían retirarse por completo y deberían hacerlo ahora. El respaldo de Maduro se está resquebrajando y es momento para que se haga a un lado», señaló Scott en la misma red social.

    Sin embargo, la información no ha sido divulgada por los representates rusos durante las últimas horas. En la mañana de este lunes una empresa de armamento ruso aseguró que la información era falsa luego de que el diario estadounidense The Wall Street Journal hiciera una publicación al respecto.

    https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/1135603282104213504

    Russia has informed us that they have removed most of their people from Venezuela.

  • Citrus Farmers Facing Deadly Bacteria Turn to Antibiotics, Alarming Health Officials - The New York Times
    https://www.nytimes.com/2019/05/17/health/antibiotics-oranges-florida.html

    Since 2016, the Environmental Protection Agency has allowed Florida citrus farmers to use the drugs, streptomycin and oxytetracycline, on an emergency basis, but the agency is now significantly expanding their permitted use across 764,000 acres in California, Texas and other citrus-producing states. The agency approved the expanded use despite strenuous objections from the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which warn that the heavy use of antimicrobial drugs in agriculture could spur germs to mutate so they become resistant to the drugs, threatening the lives of millions of people.

    The E.P.A. has proposed allowing as much as 650,000 pounds of streptomycin to be sprayed on citrus crops each year. By comparison, Americans annually use 14,000 pounds of aminoglycosides, the class of antibiotics that includes streptomycin.

    The European Union has banned the agricultural use of both streptomycin and oxytetracycline. So, too, has Brazil, where orange growers are battling the same bacterial scourge, called huanglongbing, also commonly known as citrus greening disease.

    “To allow such a massive increase of these drugs in agriculture is a recipe for disaster,” said Steven Roach, a senior analyst for the advocacy group Keep Antibiotics Working. “It’s putting the needs of the citrus industry ahead of human health.”

    But for Florida’s struggling orange and grapefruit growers, the approvals could not come soon enough. The desperation is palpable across the state’s sandy midsection, a flat expanse once lushly blanketed with citrus trees, most of them the juice oranges that underpin a $7.2 billion industry employing 50,000 people, about 40,000 fewer than it did two decades ago. These days, the landscape is flecked with abandoned groves and scraggly trees whose elongated yellow leaves are a telltale sign of the disease.

    The decision paves the way for the largest use of medically important antibiotics in cash crops, and it runs counter to other efforts by the federal government to reduce the use of lifesaving antimicrobial drugs. Since 2017, the F.D.A. has banned the use of antibiotics to promote growth in farm animals, a shift that has led to a 33 percent drop in sales of antibiotics for livestock.

    The use of antibiotics on citrus adds a wrinkle to an intensifying debate about whether the heavy use of antimicrobials in agriculture endangers human health by neutering the drugs’ germ-slaying abilities. Much of that debate has focused on livestock farmers, who use 80 percent of antibiotics sold in the United States.

    Although the research on antibiotic use in crops is not as extensive, scientists say the same dynamic is already playing out with the fungicides that are liberally sprayed on vegetables and flowers across the world. Researchers believe the surge in a drug-resistant lung infection called aspergillosis is associated with agricultural fungicides, and many suspect the drugs are behind the rise of Candida auris, a deadly fungal infection.

    Créer du doute là où il n’y en a pas, au nom de la science évidemment... une science « complète » qui est impossible avec le vivant, donc un argument qui pourra toujours servir.

    In its evaluation for the expanded use of streptomycin, the E.P.A., which largely relied on data from pesticide makers, said the drug quickly dissipated in the environment. Still, the agency noted that there was a “medium” risk from extending the use of such drugs to citrus crops, and it acknowledged the lack of research on whether a massive increase in spraying would affect the bacteria that infect humans.

    “The science of resistance is evolving and there is a high level of uncertainty in how and when resistance occurs,” the agency wrote.

    Since its arrival in Florida was first confirmed in 2005, citrus greening has infected more than 90 percent of the state’s grapefruit and orange trees. The pathogen is spread by a tiny insect, the Asian citrus psyllid, that infects trees as it feeds on young leaves and stems, but the evidence of disease can take months to emerge. Infected trees prematurely drop their fruit, most of it too bitter for commercial use.

    Taw Richardson, the chief executive of ArgoSource, which makes the antibiotics used by farmers, said the company has yet to see any resistance in the 14 years since it began selling bactericides. “We don’t take antibiotic resistance lightly,” he said. “The key is to target the things that contribute to resistance and not get distracted by things that don’t.”

    Many scientists disagree with such assessments, noting the mounting resistance to both drugs in humans. They also cite studies suggesting that low concentrations of antibiotics that slowly seep into the environment over an extended period of time can significantly accelerate resistance.

    Scientists at the C.D.C. were especially concerned about streptomycin, which can remain in the soil for weeks and is allowed to be sprayed several times a season. As part of its consultation with the F.D.A., the C.D.C. conducted experiments with the two drugs and found widespread resistance to them.

    Although the Trump administration has been pressing the E.P.A. to loosen regulations, Nathan Donley, a senior scientist at the Center for Biological Diversity, said the agency’s pesticides office had a long track record of favoring the interests of chemical and pesticide companies. “What’s in the industry’s best interest will win out over public safety nine times out of 10,” he said.

    A spokesman for the E.P.A. said the agency had sought to address the C.D.C.’s and F.D.A.’s concerns about antibiotic resistance by ordering additional monitoring and by limiting its approvals to seven years.

    #Antibiotiques #Citrons #Agrumes #Pesticides #Conflits_intérêt #Pseudo-science

  • Suffering unseen: The dark truth behind wildlife tourism
    https://www.nationalgeographic.com/magazine/2019/06/global-wildlife-tourism-social-media-causes-animal-suffering

    I’ve come back to check on a baby. Just after dusk I’m in a car lumbering down a muddy road in the rain, past rows of shackled elephants, their trunks swaying. I was here five hours before, when the sun was high and hot and tourists were on elephants’ backs.

    Walking now, I can barely see the path in the glow of my phone’s flashlight. When the wooden fence post of the stall stops me short, I point my light down and follow a current of rainwater across the concrete floor until it washes up against three large, gray feet. A fourth foot hovers above the surface, tethered tightly by a short chain and choked by a ring of metal spikes. When the elephant tires and puts her foot down, the spikes press deeper into her ankle.

    Meena is four years and two months old, still a toddler as elephants go. Khammon Kongkhaw, her mahout, or caretaker, told me earlier that Meena wears the spiked chain because she tends to kick. Kongkhaw has been responsible for Meena here at Maetaman Elephant Adventure, near Chiang Mai, in northern Thailand, since she was 11 months old. He said he keeps her on the spiked shackle only during the day and takes it off at night. But it’s night now.

    I ask Jin Laoshen, the Maetaman staffer accompanying me on this nighttime visit, why her chain is still on. He says he doesn’t know.

    Maetaman is one of many animal attractions in and around tourist-swarmed Chiang Mai. People spill out of tour buses and clamber onto the trunks of elephants that, at the prodding of their mahouts’ bullhooks (long poles with a sharp metal hook), hoist them in the air while cameras snap. Visitors thrust bananas toward elephants’ trunks. They watch as mahouts goad their elephants—some of the most intelligent animals on the planet—to throw darts or kick oversize soccer balls while music blares.

    Meena is one of Maetaman’s 10 show elephants. To be precise, she’s a painter. Twice a day, in front of throngs of chattering tourists, Kongkhaw puts a paintbrush in the tip of her trunk and presses a steel nail to her face to direct her brushstrokes as she drags primary colors across paper. Often he guides her to paint a wild elephant in the savanna. Her paintings are then sold to tourists.

    Meena’s life is set to follow the same trajectory as many of the roughly 3,800 captive elephants in Thailand and thousands more throughout Southeast Asia. She’ll perform in shows until she’s about 10. After that, she’ll become a riding elephant. Tourists will sit on a bench strapped to her back, and she’ll give several rides a day. When Meena is too old or sick to give rides—maybe at 55, maybe at 75—she’ll die. If she’s lucky, she’ll get a few years of retirement. She’ll spend most of her life on a chain in a stall.

    Wildlife attractions such as Maetaman lure people from around the world to be with animals like Meena, and they make up a lucrative segment of the booming global travel industry. Twice as many trips are being taken abroad as 15 years ago, a jump driven partly by Chinese tourists, who spend far more on international travel than any other nationality.

    Wildlife tourism isn’t new, but social media is setting the industry ablaze, turning encounters with exotic animals into photo-driven bucket-list toppers. Activities once publicized mostly in guidebooks now are shared instantly with multitudes of people by selfie-taking backpackers, tour-bus travelers, and social media “influencers” through a tap on their phone screens. Nearly all millennials (23- to 38-year-olds) use social media while traveling. Their selfies—of swims with dolphins, encounters with tigers, rides on elephants, and more—are viral advertising for attractions that tout up-close experiences with animals.

    For all the visibility social media provides, it doesn’t show what happens beyond the view of the camera lens. People who feel joy and exhilaration from getting close to wild animals usually are unaware that many of the animals at such attractions live a lot like Meena, or worse.

    Photographer Kirsten Luce and I set out to look behind the curtain of the thriving wildlife tourism industry, to see how animals at various attractions—including some that emphasize their humane care of animals—are treated once the selfie-taking crowds have gone.

    After leaving Maetaman, we take a five-minute car ride up a winding hill to a property announced by a wooden plaque as “Elephant EcoValley: where elephants are in good hands.” There are no elephant rides here. No paint shows or other performances. Visitors can stroll through an open-air museum and learn about Thailand’s national animal. They can make herbal treats for the elephants and paper from elephant dung. They can watch elephants in a grassy, tree-ringed field.

    EcoValley’s guest book is filled with praise from Australians, Danes, Americans—tourists who often shun elephant camps such as Maetaman because the rides and shows make them uneasy. Here, they can see unchained elephants and leave feeling good about supporting what they believe is an ethical establishment. What many don’t know is that EcoValley’s seemingly carefree elephants are brought here for the day from nearby Maetaman—and that the two attractions are actually a single business.

    Meena was brought here once, but she tried to run into the forest. Another young elephant, Mei, comes sometimes, but today she’s at Maetaman, playing the harmonica in the shows. When she’s not doing that, or spending the day at EcoValley, she’s chained near Meena in one of Maetaman’s elephant stalls.

    Meena Kalamapijit owns Maetaman as well as EcoValley, which she opened in November 2017 to cater to Westerners. She says her 56 elephants are well cared for and that giving rides and performing allow them to have necessary exercise. And, she says, Meena the elephant’s behavior has gotten better since her mahout started using the spiked chain.
    Read MoreWildlife Watch
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    We sit with Kalamapijit on a balcony outside her office, and she explains that when Westerners, especially Americans, stopped coming to Maetaman, she eliminated one of the daily shows to allot time for visitors to watch elephants bathe in the river that runs through the camp.

    “Westerners enjoy bathing because it looks happy and natural,” she says. “But a Chinese tour agency called me and said, ‘Why are you cutting the show? Our customers love to see it, and they don’t care about bathing at all.’ ” Providing separate options is good for business, Kalamapijit says.

    Around the world Kirsten and I watched tourists watching captive animals. In Thailand we also saw American men bear-hug tigers in Chiang Mai and Chinese brides in wedding gowns ride young elephants in the aqua surf on the island of Phuket. We watched polar bears in wire muzzles ballroom dancing across the ice under a big top in Russia and teenage boys on the Amazon River snapping selfies with baby sloths.

    Most tourists who enjoy these encounters don’t know that the adult tigers may be declawed, drugged, or both. Or that there are always cubs for tourists to snuggle with because the cats are speed bred and the cubs are taken from their mothers just days after birth. Or that the elephants give rides and perform tricks without harming people only because they’ve been “broken” as babies and taught to fear the bullhook. Or that the Amazonian sloths taken illegally from the jungle often die within weeks of being put in captivity.

    As we traveled to performance pits and holding pens on three continents and in the Hawaiian Islands, asking questions about how animals are treated and getting answers that didn’t always add up, it became clear how methodically and systematically animal suffering is concealed.

    The wildlife tourism industry caters to people’s love of animals but often seeks to maximize profits by exploiting animals from birth to death. The industry’s economy depends largely on people believing that the animals they’re paying to watch or ride or feed are having fun too.

    It succeeds partly because tourists—in unfamiliar settings and eager to have a positive experience—typically don’t consider the possibility that they’re helping to hurt animals. Social media adds to the confusion: Oblivious endorsements from friends and trendsetters legitimize attractions before a traveler ever gets near an animal.

    There has been some recognition of social media’s role in the problem. In December 2017, after a National Geographic investigative report on harmful wildlife tourism in Amazonian Brazil and Peru, Instagram introduced a feature: Users who click or search one of dozens of hashtags, such as #slothselfie and #tigercubselfie, now get a pop-up warning that the content they’re viewing may be harmful to animals.

    Everyone finds Olga Barantseva on Instagram. “Photographer from Russia. Photographing dreams,” her bio reads. She meets clients for woodland photo shoots with captive wild animals just outside Moscow.

    For her 18th birthday, Sasha Belova treated herself to a session with Barantseva—and a pack of wolves. “It was my dream,” she says as she fidgets with her hair, which had been styled that morning. “Wolves are wild and dangerous.” The wolves are kept in small cages at a petting zoo when not participating in photo shoots.

    The Kravtsov family hired Barantseva to take their first professional family photos—all five family members, shivering and smiling in the birch forest, joined by a bear named Stepan.

    Barantseva has been photographing people and wild animals together for six years. She “woke up as a star,” she says, in 2015, when a couple of international media outlets found her online. Her audience has exploded to more than 80,000 followers worldwide. “I want to show harmony between people and animals,” she says.

    On a raw fall day, under a crown of golden birch leaves on a hill that overlooks a frigid lake, two-and-a-half-year-old Alexander Levin, dressed in a hooded bumblebee sweater, timidly holds Stepan’s paw.

    The bear’s owners, Yury and Svetlana Panteleenko, ply their star with food—tuna fish mixed with oatmeal—to get him to approach the boy. Snap: It looks like a tender friendship. The owners toss grapes to Stepan to get him to open his mouth wide. Snap: The bear looks as if he’s smiling.

    The Panteleenkos constantly move Stepan, adjusting his paws, feeding him, and positioning Alexander as Barantseva, pink-haired, bundled in jeans and a parka, captures each moment. Snap: A photo goes to her Instagram feed. A boy and a bear in golden Russian woods—a picture straight out of a fairy tale. It’s a contemporary twist on a long-standing Russian tradition of exploiting bears for entertainment.

    Another day in the same forest, Kirsten and I join 12 young women who have nearly identical Instagram accounts replete with dreamy photos of models caressing owls and wolves and foxes. Armed with fancy cameras but as yet modest numbers of followers, they all want the audience Barantseva has. Each has paid the Panteleenkos $760 to take identical shots of models with the ultimate prize: a bear in the woods.

    Stepan is 26 years old, elderly for a brown bear, and can hardly walk. The Panteleenkos say they bought him from a small zoo when he was three months old. They say the bear’s work—a constant stream of photo shoots and movies—provides money to keep him fed.

    A video on Svetlana Panteleenko’s Instagram account proclaims: “Love along with some great food can make anyone a teddy :-)”

    And just like that, social media takes a single instance of local animal tourism and broadcasts it to the world.

    When the documentary film Blackfish was released in 2013, it drew a swift and decisive reaction from the American public. Through the story of Tilikum, a distressed killer whale at SeaWorld in Orlando, Florida, the film detailed the miserable life orcas can face in captivity. Hundreds of thousands of outraged viewers signed petitions. Companies with partnership deals, such as Southwest Airlines, severed ties with SeaWorld. Attendance at SeaWorld’s water parks slipped; its stock nose-dived.

    James Regan says what he saw in Blackfish upset him. Regan, honeymooning in Hawaii with his wife, Katie, is from England, where the country’s last marine mammal park closed permanently in 1993. I meet him at Dolphin Quest Oahu, an upscale swim-with-dolphins business on the grounds of the beachfront Kahala Hotel & Resort, just east of Honolulu. The Regans paid $225 each to swim for 30 minutes in a small group with a bottlenose dolphin. One of two Dolphin Quest locations in Hawaii, the facility houses six dolphins.

    Bottlenose dolphins are the backbone of an industry that spans the globe. Swim-with-dolphins operations rely on captive-bred and wild-caught dolphins that live—and interact with tourists—in pools. The popularity of these photo-friendly attractions reflects the disconnect around dolphin experiences: People in the West increasingly shun shows that feature animals performing tricks, but many see swimming with captive dolphins as a vacation rite of passage.

    Katie Regan has wanted to swim with dolphins since she was a child. Her husband laughs and says of Dolphin Quest, “They paint a lovely picture. When you’re in America, everyone is smiling.” But he appreciates that the facility is at their hotel, so they can watch the dolphins being fed and cared for. He brings up Blackfish again.

    Katie protests: “Stop making my dream a horrible thing!”

    Rae Stone, president of Dolphin Quest and a marine mammal veterinarian, says the company donates money to conservation projects and educates visitors about perils that marine mammals face in the wild. By paying for this entertainment, she says, visitors are helping captive dolphins’ wild cousins.

    Stone notes that Dolphin Quest is certified “humane” by American Humane, an animal welfare nonprofit. (The Walt Disney Company, National Geographic’s majority owner, offers dolphin encounters on some vacation excursions and at an attraction in Epcot, one of its Orlando parks. Disney says it follows the animal welfare standards of the Association of Zoos & Aquariums, a nonprofit that accredits more than 230 facilities worldwide.)

    It’s a vigorous debate: whether even places with high standards, veterinarians on staff, and features such as pools filled with filtered ocean water can be truly humane for marine mammals.

    Dolphin Quest’s Stone says yes.

    Critics, including the Humane Society of the United States, which does not endorse keeping dolphins in captivity, say no. They argue that these animals have evolved to swim great distances and live in complex social groups—conditions that can’t be replicated in the confines of a pool. This helps explain why the National Aquarium, in Baltimore, announced in 2016 that its dolphins will be retired to a seaside sanctuary by 2020.

    Some U.S. attractions breed their own dolphins because the nation has restricted dolphin catching in the wild since 1972. But elsewhere, dolphins are still being taken from the wild and turned into performers.

    In China, which has no national laws on captive-animal welfare, dolphinariums with wild-caught animals are a booming business: There are now 78 marine mammal parks, and 26 more are under construction.

    To have the once-in-a-lifetime chance to see rare Black Sea dolphins, people in the landlocked town of Kaluga, a hundred miles from Moscow, don’t have to leave their city. In the parking lot of the Torgoviy Kvartal shopping mall, next to a hardware store, is a white inflatable pop-up aquarium: the Moscow Traveling Dolphinarium. It looks like a children’s bouncy castle that’s been drained of its color.

    Inside the puffy dome, parents buy their kids dolphin-shaped trinkets: fuzzy dolls and Mylar balloons, paper dolphin hats, and drinks in plastic dolphin tumblers. Families take their seats around a small pool. The venue is so intimate that even the cheapest seats, at nine dollars apiece, are within splashing distance.

    “My kids are jumping for joy,” says a woman named Anya, motioning toward her two giddy boys, bouncing in their seats.

    In the middle of the jubilant atmosphere, in water that seems much too shallow and much too murky, two dolphins swim listlessly in circles.

    Russia is one of only a few countries (Indonesia is another) where traveling oceanariums exist. Dolphins and beluga whales, which need to be immersed in water to stay alive, are put in tubs on trucks and carted from city to city in a loop that usually ends when they die. These traveling shows are aboveboard: Russia has no laws that regulate how marine mammals should be treated in captivity.

    The shows are the domestic arm of a brisk Russian global trade in dolphins and small whales. Black Sea bottlenose dolphins can’t be caught legally without a permit, but Russian fishermen can catch belugas and orcas under legal quotas in the name of science and education. Some belugas are sold legally to aquariums around the country. Russia now allows only a dozen or so orcas to be caught each year for scientific and educational purposes, and since April 2018, the government has cracked down on exporting them. But government investigators believe that Russian orcas—which can sell for millions—are being caught illegally for export to China.

    Captive orcas, which can grow to 20 feet long and more than 10,000 pounds, are too big for the traveling shows that typically feature dolphins and belugas. When I contacted the owners of the Moscow Traveling Dolphinarium and another operation, the White Whale Show, in separate telephone calls to ask where their dolphins and belugas come from, both men, Sergey Kuznetsov and Oleg Belesikov, hung up on me.

    Russia’s dozen or so traveling oceanariums are touted as a way to bring native wild animals to people who might never see the ocean.

    “Who else if not us?” says Mikhail Olyoshin, a staffer at one traveling oceanarium. And on this day in Kaluga, as the dolphins perform tricks to American pop songs and lie on platforms for several minutes for photo ops, parents and children express the same sentiment: Imagine, dolphins, up close, in my hometown. The ocean on delivery.

    Owners and operators of wildlife tourism attractions, from high-end facilities such as Dolphin Quest in Hawaii to low-end monkey shows in Thailand, say their animals live longer in captivity than wild counterparts because they’re safe from predators and environmental hazards. Show operators proudly emphasize that the animals under their care are with them for life. They’re family.

    Alla Azovtseva, a longtime dolphin trainer in Russia, shakes her head.

    “I don’t see any sense in this work. My conscience bites me. I look at my animals and want to cry,” says Azovtseva, who drives a red van with dolphins airbrushed on the side. At the moment, she’s training pilot whales to perform tricks at Moscow’s Moskvarium, one of Europe’s largest aquariums (not connected to the traveling dolphin shows). On her day off, we meet at a café near Red Square.

    She says she fell in love with dolphins in the late 1980s when she read a book by John Lilly, the American neuroscientist who broke open our understanding of the animals’ intelligence. She has spent 30 years training marine mammals to do tricks. But along the way she’s grown heartsick from forcing highly intelligent, social creatures to live isolated, barren lives in small tanks.

    “I would compare the dolphin situation with making a physicist sweep the street,” she says. “When they’re not engaged in performance or training, they just hang in the water facing down. It’s the deepest depression.”

    What people don’t know about many aquarium shows in Russia, Azovtseva says, is that the animals often die soon after being put in captivity, especially those in traveling shows. And Azovtseva—making clear she’s referring to the industry at large in Russia and not the Moskvarium—says she knows many aquariums quietly and illegally replace their animals with new ones.

    It’s been illegal to catch Black Sea dolphins in the wild for entertainment purposes since 2003, but according to Azovtseva, aquarium owners who want to increase their dolphin numbers quickly and cheaply buy dolphins poached there. Because these dolphins are acquired illegally, they’re missing the microchips that captive cetaceans in Russia are usually tagged with as a form of required identification.

    Some aquariums get around that, she says, by cutting out dead dolphins’ microchips and implanting them into replacement dolphins.

    “People are people,” Azovtseva says. “Once they see an opportunity, they exploit.” She says she can’t go on doing her work in the industry and that she’s decided to speak out because she wants people to know the truth about the origins and treatment of many of the marine mammals they love watching. We exchange a look—we both know what her words likely mean for her livelihood.

    “I don’t care if I’m fired,” she says defiantly. “When a person has nothing to lose, she becomes really brave.”

    I’m sitting on the edge of an infinity pool on the hilly Thai side of Thailand’s border with Myanmar, at a resort where rooms average more than a thousand dollars a night.

    Out past the pool, elephants roam in a lush valley. Sitting next to me is 20-year-old Stephanie van Houten. She’s Dutch and French, Tokyo born and raised, and a student at the University of Michigan. Her cosmopolitan background and pretty face make for a perfect cocktail of aspiration—she’s exactly the kind of Instagrammer who makes it as an influencer. That is, someone who has a large enough following to attract sponsors to underwrite posts and, in turn, travel, wardrobes, and bank accounts. In 2018, brands—fashion, travel, tech, and more—spent an estimated $1.6 billion on social media advertising by influencers.

    Van Houten has been here, at the Anantara Golden Triangle Elephant Camp & Resort, before. This time, in a fairly standard influencer-brand arrangement, she’ll have a picnic with elephants and post about it to her growing legion of more than 25,000 Instagram followers. In exchange, she gets hundreds of dollars off the nightly rate.

    At Anantara the fields are green, and during the day at least, many of the resort’s 22 elephants are tethered on ropes more than a hundred feet long so they can move around and socialize. Nevertheless, they’re expected to let guests touch them and do yoga beside them.

    After van Houten’s elephant picnic, I watch her edit the day’s hundreds of photos. She selects an image with her favorite elephant, Bo. She likes it, she says, because she felt a connection with Bo and thinks that will come across. She posts it at 9:30 p.m.—the time she estimates the largest number of her followers will be online. She includes a long caption, summing it up as “my love story with this incredible creature,” and the hashtag #stopelephantriding. Immediately, likes from followers stream in—more than a thousand, as well as comments with heart-eyed emoji.

    Anantara is out of reach for anyone but the wealthy—or prominent influencers. Anyone else seeking a similar experience might do a Google search for, say, “Thailand elephant sanctuary.”

    As tourist demand for ethical experiences with animals has grown, affordable establishments, often calling themselves “sanctuaries,” have cropped up purporting to offer humane, up-close elephant encounters. Bathing with elephants—tourists give them a mud bath, splash them in a river, or both—has become very popular. Many facilities portray baths as a benign alternative to elephant riding and performances. But elephants getting baths, like those that give rides and do tricks, will have been broken to some extent to make them obedient. And as long as bathing remains popular, places that offer it will need obedient elephants to keep their businesses going. 


    In Ban Ta Klang, a tiny town in eastern Thailand, modest homes dot the crimson earth. In front of each is a wide, bamboo platform for sitting, sleeping, and watching television.

    But the first thing I notice is the elephants. Some homes have one, others as many as five. Elephants stand under tarps or sheet metal roofs or trees. Some are together, mothers and babies, but most are alone. Nearly all the elephants wear ankle chains or hobbles—cuffs binding their front legs together. Dogs and chickens weave among the elephants’ legs, sending up puffs of red dust.

    Ban Ta Klang—known as Elephant Village—is ground zero in Thailand for training and trading captive elephants.

    “House elephants,” Sri Somboon says, gesturing as he turns down his TV. Next to his outdoor platform, a two-month-old baby elephant runs around his mother. Somboon points across the road to the third elephant in his charge, a three-year-old male tethered to a tree. He’s wrenching his head back and forth and thrashing his trunk around. It looks as if he’s going out of his mind.

    He’s in the middle of his training, Somboon says, and is getting good at painting. He’s already been sold, and when his training is finished, he’ll start working at a tourist camp down south.

    Ban Ta Klang and the surrounding area, part of Surin Province, claim to be the source of more than half of Thailand’s 3,800 captive elephants. Long before the flood of tourists, it was the center of the elephant trade; the animals were caught in the wild and tamed for use transporting logs. Now, every November, hundreds of elephants from here are displayed, bought, and sold in the province’s main town, Surin.

    One evening I sit with Jakkrawan Homhual and Wanchai Sala-ngam. Both 33, they’ve been best friends since childhood. About half the people in Ban Ta Klang who care for elephants, including Homhual, don’t own them. They’re paid a modest salary by a rich owner to breed and train baby elephants for entertainment. As night falls, thousands of termites swarm us, attracted to the single bulb hanging above the bamboo platform. Our conversation turns to elephant training.

    Phajaan is the traditional—and brutal—days- or weeks-long process of breaking a young elephant’s spirit. It has long been used in Thailand and throughout Southeast Asia to tame wild elephants, which still account for many of the country’s captives. Under phajaan, elephants are bound with ropes, confined in tight wooden structures, starved, and beaten repeatedly with bullhooks, nails, and hammers until their will is crushed. The extent to which phajaan persists in its harshest form is unclear. Since 2012, the government has been cracking down on the illegal import of elephants taken from the forests of neighboring Myanmar, Thailand’s main source of wild-caught animals.

    I ask the men how baby elephants born in captivity are broken and trained.

    When a baby is about two years old, they say, mahouts tie its mother to a tree and slowly drag the baby away. Once separated, the baby is confined. Using a bullhook on its ear, they teach the baby to move: left, right, turn, stop. To teach an elephant to sit, Sala-ngam says, “we tie up the front legs. One mahout will use a bullhook at the back. The other will pull a rope on the front legs.” He adds: “To train the elephant, you need to use the bullhook so the elephant will know.”

    Humans identify suffering in other humans by universal signs: People sob, wince, cry out, put voice to their hurt. Animals have no universal language for pain. Many animals don’t have tear ducts. More creatures still—prey animals, for example—instinctively mask symptoms of pain, lest they appear weak to predators. Recognizing that a nonhuman animal is in pain is difficult, often impossible.

    But we know that animals feel pain. All mammals have a similar neuroanatomy. Birds, reptiles, and amphibians all have pain receptors. As recently as a decade ago, scientists had collected more evidence that fish feel pain than they had for neonatal infants. A four-year-old human child with spikes pressing into his flesh would express pain by screaming. A four-year-old elephant just stands there in the rain, her leg jerking in the air.

    Of all the silently suffering animals I saw in pools and pens around the world, two in particular haunt me: an elephant and a tiger.

    They lived in the same facility, Samut Prakan Crocodile Farm and Zoo, about 15 miles south of Bangkok. The elephant, Gluay Hom, four years old, was kept under a stadium. The aging tiger, Khai Khem, 22, spent his days on a short chain in a photo studio. Both had irrefutable signs of suffering: The emaciated elephant had a bent, swollen leg hanging in the air and a large, bleeding sore at his temple. His eyes were rolled back in his head. The tiger had a dental abscess so severe that the infection was eating through the bottom of his jaw.

    When I contacted the owner of the facility, Uthen Youngprapakorn, to ask about these animals, he said the fact that they hadn’t died proved that the facility was caring for them properly. He then threatened a lawsuit.

    Six months after Kirsten and I returned from Thailand, we asked Ryn Jirenuwat, our Bangkok-based Thai interpreter, to check on Gluay Hom and Khai Khem. She went to Samut Prakan and watched them for hours, sending photos and video. Gluay Hom was still alive, still standing in the same stall, leg still bent at an unnatural angle. The elephants next to him were skin and bones. Khai Khem was still chained by his neck to a hook in the floor. He just stays in his dark corner, Jirenuwat texted, and when he hears people coming, he twists on his chain and turns his back to them.

    “Like he just wants to be swallowed by the wall.”

    #tourisme #nos_ennemis_les_bêtes

  • Dans la lignée de son rôle très actifs dans les accords de paix en Colombie, la Norvège, qui n’a pas reconnu Juan Guaidó comme président, entretient de longue date des contacts avec gouvernement et opposants du Venezuela. Des rencontres ont eu lieu mardi 14 et mercredi 15à Oslo.

    Qué tienen los noruegos para abonar una solución a la crisis en Venezuela
    http://www.el-nacional.com/noticias/politica/que-tienen-los-noruegos-para-abonar-una-solucion-crisis-venezuela_28253

    Noruega ha hecho del apoyo a la paz en el mundo una verdadera política de Estado”. Son palabras del ex presidente colombiano Juan Manuel Santos en la obra La batalla por la paz, en la que desgrana desde las vivencias personales en el arduo camino hasta la firma de los acuerdos de paz en Colombia. En esta complicada tarea participó una delegación noruega encabezada por el diplomático Dag Nylander.

    Noruega, junto con Cuba, fueron los países garantes presentes en la mesa de negociaciones. Con esa labor, Noruega se ganó el crédito de todos, incluidos cubanos y venezolanos, subraya al diario ALnavío Leiv Marsteintredet, profesor asociado de Política Comparada de la Universidad de Bergen. Este experto noruego es investigador de fenómenos políticos y especialista en estudios de resolución de conflictos, con un marcado interés por América Latina, especialmente Venezuela.

    Ahora el foco negociador vuelve de nuevo a Noruega. Esta vez por la crisis venezolana. Según adelantó el diario ALnavío -y se hacen eco medios noruegos y españoles- el martes y el miércoles delegados de la oposición y del régimen de Nicolás Maduro mantuvieron dos encuentros en Oslo. Ya están de regreso a Caracas. En ambos encuentros estuvo presente un grupo de intermediarios, un equipo noruego. Marsteintredet subraya que parte de ese equipo es el mismo que participó en la mesa de negociación de los acuerdos de paz en Colombia, incluido Nylander.

    Noruega lleva ya probablemente un año o más hablando con las dos partes, con gobierno y oposición de Venezuela. Por lo menos por separado. Lo confirmó la ministra de Exteriores noruega, Ine Eriksen Søreide”, recalca este experto.

    El rumor de que Noruega podría tener un papel en la mediación entre ambas partes despertó cuando Yván Gil, viceministro para Europa de Nicolás Maduro, visitó Oslo a mediados de febrero. Gil se reunió con el diplomático noruego Nylander, el mismo de las negociaciones de paz en Colombia años atrás.

    Intercambiamos opiniones sobre la situación de Venezuela, pero en el marco de la posición oficial de Noruega”, dijo Gil a Aftenposten.

     Hasta ahora Noruega no ha reconocido a Juan Guaidó como presidente encargado de Venezuela.

    ¿Por qué los noruegos están mediando en la crisis venezolana? “Es natural ver esto como una continuación del buen contacto que Noruega obtuvo en la negociación de los acuerdos de paz en Colombia tanto con los cubanos como con el gobierno de Venezuela, primero de Hugo Chávez y ahora de Nicolás Maduro, ya que Venezuela también formó parte de las conversaciones para el tratado de paz en Colombia”, explica Marsteintredet.

    Este experto subraya que Noruega ha mantenido una presencia en Colombia para seguir la implementación del acuerdo de paz, que “se ha ganado el respeto del gobierno de Venezuela” y que “ha aprovechado esos contactos para seguir trabajando”, esta vez por la resolución del conflicto venezolano.

    • Le point de vue du «  boss  » : négocier, c’est bien, faut essayer, mais faut pas que ça serve à gagner du temps ; négocier, c’est pour virer Maduro.
      Intéressante base de «  négociations  ». Un peu comme pour Bachar,…

      Rubio : Guaidó y su equipo no caerán en negociaciones falsas
      http://www.el-nacional.com/noticias/mundo/rubio-guaido-equipo-caeran-negociaciones-falsas_282689

      Marco Rubio, senador estadounidense por el estado de Florida, dijo este viernes que el presidente interino Juan Guaidó merece crédito por «explorar nuevas posibilidades para encontrar una transición pacífica a la democracia en Venezuela». 

      Señaló que tanto Estados Unidos como el Grupo de Lima son conscientes de que Nicolás Maduro utilizó las oportunidades de diálogo pasadas para ganar tiempo. «El presidente Guaidó y su equipo no van a caer en una negociación falsa», aseguró en Twitter. 

      El martes Noruega recibió a representantes de Nicolás Maduro y de la oposición para explorar eventuales conversaciones a fin de buscar solución a la crisis política. Por parte del oficialismo participaron Jorge Rodríguez y Héctor Rodríguez y por la oposición asistieron Gerardo Blyde, Fernando Martínez y Stalin González, segundo vicepresidente del Parlamento.

      Guaidó informó el jueves en rueda de prensa que se trataba de «un esfuerzo de Noruega por una mediación, que tiene meses. Esta fue la segunda invitación a Oslo (...) Es la intención de un país, así como la tienen el Grupo de Contacto, el Grupo de Lima, Canadá y otras naciones, de mediar en la crisis. Es una iniciativa más de un país que quiere colaborar».

      @marcorubio - Twitter
      17:36 - 17 may. 2019
      https://twitter.com/marcorubio/status/1129410338603044865

      .@jguaido deserves credit for exploring new every possibility at finding a peaceful transition to democracy in #Venezuela#LimaGroup & #EU well aware #Maduro used past negotiations to buy time & President Guaido & his team aren’t going to fall for a fake negotiation

  • When a Town Takes Uber Instead of Public Transit - CityLab
    https://www.citylab.com/transportation/2019/04/innisfil-transit-ride-hailing-bus-public-transportation-uber/588154

    Ihr Gemeinde hat keine öffentliches Busnetz, sie brauchen aber eins? Kein Problem, Uber macht das. Sofort, unkompliziert, flexibel, alle sind froh. Dann kommt der Erfolg. Und dann wird es teuer. So geschehen in einer Gemeinde in Kanada.

    Will das jemand in Deutschland?

    Das Rechenexempel zeigt, dass es egal ist, wie der private vermittler oder Beförderer heißt. Öffenliche System werden mit zunehmendem Erfolg immer billiger, private immer teurer. Ergo sind private Anbieter gut für Zwischenlösungen bis zum Aufbau eines funktionsfähigen öffentlichen Nahverkehrssystems. Wer sie beauftragt, muss den Zeitpunkt des Wechsels zur öffentlichen Lösung von Anfang an planen, sonst schlägt die Kostenfalle zu.

    Noch dümmer ist es, wenn öffentliche Angebote privatisiert werden. Dann wird es auch bei eingeschänktem Service sofort teuer.

    LAURA BLISS APR 29, 2019 - Innisfil, Ontario, decided to partially subsidize ride-hailing trips rather than pay for a public bus system. It worked so well that now they have to raise fares and cap rides.

    In 2017, the growing Toronto exurb of Innisfil, Ontario, became one of the first towns in the world to subsidize Uber rides in lieu of a traditional bus. Riders could pay a flat fare of just $3-$5 to travel to community hubs in the backseat of a car, or get $5 off regular fares to other destinations in and around town.

    People loved it. By the end of the Uber program’s first full year of service, they were taking 8,000 trips a month. Riders like 20-year-old Holley Hudson, who works for daycare programs at YMCAs around the area, relied on it heavily, since she doesn’t drive. To get to the college course practicums she was taking when the service launched, “I used Ubers on a Wednesday, Thursday, Friday basis,” she said.

    Now “Innisfil Transit” is changing its structure. As of April 1, flat fares for the city-brokered Ubers rose by $1. Trip discounts dropped to $4, and a 30-ride monthly cap was implemented. Town leaders say this will allow Innisfil to continue to cover costs.

    But Hudson and others see the changes as harmful, and a strange way of declaring success. As cities around the world turn to Uber, Lyft, and other apps as a quick fix for mobility service gaps, what’s now happening in Innisfil may be a good example of the risks.

    Innisfil’s journey with Uber began in 2015. Thickening traffic and an expanding population of seniors, students, and carless adults all signaled the need for some sort of shared mobility option in town. Just 45 minutes north of Toronto, the once-agricultural hamlet has recently ballooned in population, growing 17 percent from 2006 to 2016 to 37,000 residents.

    But as local leaders studied options for a fixed-route bus service, the cost/benefit analysis didn’t seem to add up. One bus to serve a projected 17,000 annual riders would cost $270,000 in Canadian dollars for the first year of service, or about $16 per passenger. And designing the system would be a drawn-out process.

    So instead, Innisfil did as so many people do when they’re in a hurry and facing a cumbersome bus ride: It hailed an Uber instead.

    “Rather than place a bus on the road to serve just a few residents, we’re moving ahead with a better service that can transport people from all across our town to wherever they need to go,” Gord Wauchope, then the mayor, said at the time.

    That logic is informing ride-hailing partnerships in dozens of communities across North America, all testing the notion that companies like Uber and Lyft can supplement or substitute for traditional service in some fashion. In certain cases, ride-hailing is replacing bus routes wholesale. In others, it’s responding to 911 calls, paratransit needs, and commuters traveling the last leg of a transit trip. Innisfil’s program was unique, in that the city branded the Uber partnership not as a complement to public transit, but as transit itself in a town without existing bus lines.

    Adoption of Innisfil Transit was fast and steady: The program racked up 86,000 rides in 2018. Nearly 70 percent of respondents to a city survey said that they were satisfied or more than satisfied with the new service—figures that would be the envy of any traditional public transit agency.

    But that popularity meant costs grew for the town. So now residents will have to cover more of their own trips. “It’s the growing ridership and popularity of the service,” town planner Paul Pentikainen said. “It’s been a great success, but there are also challenges with working with a budget.”

    “I would never get on a bus in Toronto and hear the driver say, ‘Sorry, but you’ve hit your cap.’”
    Normally, though, raising transit fares when ridership is growing is backwards logic. While passenger fares almost never cover the full cost of service, more passengers riding fixed-route buses and trains should shrink the per-capita public subsidy, at least until additional routes are added. On a well-designed mass transit system, the more people using it, the “cheaper” it gets.

    But the opposite is happening in Innisfil. Only so many passengers can fit in the backseat of an Uber, and the ride-hailing company, not the town, is pocketing most of the revenue. With per-capita costs essentially fixed, the town is forced to hike rates and cap trips as adoption grows. But this can create a perverse incentive: Fare bumps and ridership drops tend to go hand-in-hand on traditional systems.

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    The trip cap in particular bothers Hudson, who continues to rely on the Uber service as her primary mode of transportation. She expects that she’ll burn through her allotted 30 trips in a couple of weeks. The city has an application for residents to qualify for an extra 20 trips per month, but Hudson doesn’t plan to file. She’s opposed to the idea on principle.

    “I would never get on a bus in Toronto and hear the driver say, ‘Sorry, but you’ve hit your cap,’” Hudson said. “Uber was supposed to be our bus.”

    Hudson emailed town officials to complain about the new trip limit. In a reply, a city councillor named Donna Orsatti wrote that the cap had been implemented because “the system was being abused by those in the youth bracket who were using Uber at $3 to go to Starbucks (as an example), purchase a drink, then go back to school or meet their friends.”

    That sounded oddly judgmental to Hudson’s ears. And it’s not how public transit is supposed to work: “We shouldn’t be criticized for where we’re going,” she said.

    In an email to CityLab, Orsatti explained her intentions. The cap was never meant to restrict residents, but rather “to ensure it is available to all residents to allow them transportation to essential service areas,” she wrote. And Pentikainen acknowledged that, while the rate structure might work differently from traditional transit, Uber still makes more sense for Innisfil. The city’s subsidy for the program grew from $150,000 in 2017 to about $640,000 in 2018, and for 2019, it has allocated another $900,000. On a per trip basis, Pentikainen said, it’s still a lot cheaper than the projected bus costs, and more equitable.

    “It’s a service that the whole town has access to, versus providing a service that only those who can walk to bus stops can,” he said.

    Pentikainen says that—despite Orsatti’s email—no city report called out Starbucks-toting teens for “abusing” the system. But he did note that the cap was partly designed to discourage short-distance trips that can be accomplished on foot or bike for most people.

    According to an Uber spokesperson, the ride-hailing company also advised the city to implement the cap as a way to control costs.

    Uber has touted the success of the Innisfil program as it invites other cities to adopt its model. Part of the attraction is that ridership is sinking on public transit systems across North America, as on-demand transportation apps has boomed. City decision-makers sometimes opt for Lyft and Uber as a way to lure travelers back, or to cut costs on low-performing routes. In other cases, the rise of ride-hailing is used as a bad-faith justification for further slashing bus service.

    Success has been mixed for transit agency/ride-hailing marriages. Many programs have seen weak ridership, and cities can find themselves hamstrung in their ability to make adjustments, since ride-hailing companies are famously guarded about sharing trip data. Some, including Pinellas County, Florida, which subsidizes certain Uber trips, have heard complaints that municipal discounts don’t go very far as the on-demand transportation giant has raised its own fares.

    Now that both Uber and Lyft have filed initial public offerings, industry analysts predict that the costs of these services—which have been heavily subsidized by their billions in venture capital backing—will creep steadily upwards as public investors expect returns. And city governments and commuters who come to rely on ride-hailing as a social service won’t have much control.

    In Innisfil, Uber fares have held steady, according to Pentikainen. And the company has shared certain data upon request. As the city grows and ride-hailing services evolve, it will continue to evaluate the best way to mobilize its residents, Pentikainen said. Eventually, Innisfil might be interested in adopting Uber’s latest transit-like offering, which is called Uber Bus. Similar to the microtransit startup Via and its failed predecessors Chariot and Bridj, riders are scooped up in larger vans at designated locations on a schedule that is determined based on demand.

    And if Uber ever raised fares to the point where riders could no longer rationalize the costs, the city would go back to the drawing board. In some parts of town, Pentikainen said, they might even consider a regular fixed-route bus. “There are a range of ways to consider efficiencies from the town’s perspective,” he said. “All along, this was a starting point. We have to react along the way.”

    Still, the idea of further changes made in reaction to the app’s contingencies worries Hudson. That doesn’t sound like very reliable service for her, nor for the older people and students she sees riding in Ubers en route to school and doctor’s appointments. If Innisfil makes further tweaks, Hudson says she might consider getting her license in order to avoid the stress. But she fears more for what could happen to those who can’t.

    “Uber was supposed to be our public transit,” she said. “Now we have to think about whether we can take an Uber or not.”

    #Kanada #ÖPNV #Bus #Taxi #Uber #disruption #Rekommunalisierung

  • The Race to Develop the Moon | The New Yorker
    https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2019/05/06/the-race-to-develop-the-moon

    The guiding laws of space are defined by the Outer Space Treaty, from 1967, which has been signed by a hundred and eight countries, including all those with substantial space programs. “Laws that govern outer space are similar to the laws for the high seas,” Alain Berinstain, the vice-president of global development at the lunar-exploration company Moon Express, explained. “If you are two hundred miles away from the continental shelf, those waters don’t belong to anybody—they belong to everybody.” Moon Express describes the moon as the eighth continent. The company, which is based in Florida, is hoping to deliver its first lander to the moon in 2020; on board will be telescopes and the Celestis cremains. “If you look down at the waters from your ship and see fish, those fish belong to everybody,” Berinstain continued. “But, if you put a net down and pull those fish onto the deck of the ship, they’re yours. This could change, but right now that is how the U.S. is interpreting the Outer Space Treaty.”

    Individual countries have their own interpretations of the treaty, and set up their own regulatory frameworks. Luxembourg promotes itself as “a unique legal, regulatory and business environment” for companies devoted to space resources, and is the first European country to pass legislation similar to that of the U.S., deeming resources collected in space to be ownable by private entities.

    It’s not difficult to imagine moon development, like all development, proceeding less than peacefully, and less than equitably. (At least, unlike with colonization on Earth, there are no natives whose land we’re taking, or so we assume.) Philip Metzger, a planetary physicist at the University of Central Florida, said, “I’m really glad that all these countries, all these companies, are going to the moon. But there will be problems.” Any country can withdraw from the Outer Space Treaty by giving a year’s notice. “If any country feels it has a sufficient lead in space, that is a motivation to withdraw from the treaty,” he said.

    So there is a tacit space race already. On the one hand, every national space agency applauded the success of the Chang’e-4 lander. The mission had science partnerships with Germany, the Netherlands, Saudi Arabia, and Sweden. NASA collaborates with many countries in space, sharing data, communications networks, and expertise. Russian rockets bring American astronauts to the International Space Station. When, in response to economic sanctions, the head of the Russian space agency said that maybe the American astronauts could get to the I.S.S. by trampoline, the comment was dismissed as posturing. Still, NASA has contracted with Boeing and SpaceX, Elon Musk’s rocket company, to begin taking astronauts to the I.S.S. this year—which means the U.S. will no longer rely on Russia for that. Russia and China say they will work together on a moon base. NASA used to collaborate with the China National Space Administration; in 2011, six months after members of NASA visited the C.N.S.A., Congress passed a bill that effectively prohibited collaboration.

    It’s natural to want to leave the moon undisturbed; it’s also clear that humanity will disturb it. But do we need to live there? Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, envisages zoning the moon for heavy industry, and Earth for light industry and residential purposes. Bezos’s company Blue Origin is developing reusable rockets intended to bring humans reliably back and forth from space, with the long-term goal of creating manufacturing plants there, in zero gravity. Earth would be eased of its industrial burden, and the lower-gravity conditions would be beneficial for making certain goods, such as fibre-optic cables.

    “There’s the argument that we’ve destroyed the Earth and now we’re going to destroy the moon. But I don’t see it that way,” Metzger said. “The resources in space are billions of times greater than on Earth. Space pretty much erases everything we do. If you crush an asteroid to dust, the solar wind will blow it away. We can’t really mess up the solar system.”

    #Espace #Communs #Tragédie_communs #Idéologie_californienne #Géopolitique

  • Recent Poll Showing Biden in Lead Confuses and Distorts Support for Bernie Sanders
    https://gritpost.com/recent-poll-biden-confuses-distorts-support-bernie

    In the poll released April 30, Biden is shown with an impressive 24-point edge over Sanders, with 39% of voters saying they supported him, compared to just 15% for the Vermont senator. However, a Grit Post analysis of the results found that the poll largely excluded voters under the age of 50 in coming to that conclusion.

    Also, the poll didn’t give respondents the option to offer their approval or disapproval of Sen. Sanders, even though the poll did ask respondents to give their approval or disapproval of lesser-known candidates like Reps. Seth Moulton (D-Massachusetts), Tim Ryan (D-Ohio), and Eric Swalwell (D-California), and even Miramar, Florida mayor Wayne Messam.

    “We’d like to get your overall opinion of some people in the news. As I read each name, please say if you have a favorable or unfavorable opinion of these people – or if you have never heard of them. How about Joe Biden?” the poll asked. “How about Pete Buttigieg? … How about Kirsten Gillibrand? … How about Tim Ryan? … How about Eric Swalwell? … How about Seth Moulton?”

    The phrase “How about Bernie Sanders?” does not appear in the poll.

  • Meet Voatz, the #blockchain company tackling election fraud
    https://hackernoon.com/meet-voatz-the-blockchain-company-tackling-election-fraud-1c95737138f5?s

    As the midterm elections have come and gone, voter fraud and suppression has continued to be an issue and hot topic item for Florida, Arizona, and Georgia. Claims and lawsuits are being dealt with in these crucial states as officials attempt to sort out the chaos. However, a preliminary test with mobile election system Voatz is trying to find a solution to these problems before they arise.Voatz is looking to introduce blockchain technology into the voting process. Common misconceptions tends to tie blockchain and cryptocurrency together into one entity. As blockchain is simply the technology that allows cryptocurrency to live, it has many other practical uses. However, cryptocurrency as been seeing trouble transitioning over into the mainstream lately, unable to work on essential, (...)

    #politics #finance

  • How can we improve the postdoc experience? Notes from the NPA Annual Meeting!
    https://massivesci.com/notes/how-can-we-improve-the-postdoc-experience-notes-from-the-npa-annual-meet

    Numerous institutions have their postdoctoral fellows and administrators returning this week from the National Postdoctoral Association Annual Meeting (April 12-14) in Orlando, Florida. img alt="A group of...

  • #Venezuela : un groupe d’avocats (dans l’orbite de l’Assemblée nationale vénézuélienne, dominée par l’opposition) empêche le transfert à un groupe privé des 10 milliards de dollars de PDVSA séquestrés aux É.-U. dans le cadre d’un contentieux avec Citgo, filiale locale de PDVSA.

    Abogados evitaron que un grupo se adueñara de fondos congelados de Pdvsa
    http://www.el-nacional.com/noticias/economia/abogados-evitaron-que-grupo-aduenara-fondos-congelados-pdvsa_278185

    Dos abogados y un economista venezolanos evitaron que un grupo de estafadores se hiciera con 10.000 millones de dólares que el gobierno de Estados Unidos había congelado a Petróleos de Venezuela. Norma Camero, Carlos Ramírez López y Federico Alves actuaron ante el Tribunal del Distrito Sur del estado de Florida para detener una acción que terceros interpusieron con la intención de quedarse con el dinero.

    • La tribune de Carlos Ramirez López, avocat dans cette affaire.
      (je dois dire que je ne comprends pas très bien…)

      Batalla legal por botín de Pdvsa
      http://www.el-nacional.com/noticias/columnista/batalla-legal-por-botin-pdvsa_278664
      http://en-cdnmed.agilecontent.com//img/default.png

      Las formas de robar han evolucionado tanto que en vez de pistolas y ametralladoras ahora se usa como arma al sistema judicial internacional. Dos bandas delictivas la han pretendido utilizar, primero en Estados Unidos, y al fracasar ahora lo están intentando en Suiza. Estamos hablando de sofisticadas agrupaciones hamponiles que manejan softwares desde donde se controlan las operaciones comerciales de la que hasta hace poco fue una de las empresas petroleras más importantes del mundo, Pdvsa.

      Esta es la historia
      El negocio petrolero venezolano fue la “joya de la corona” de nuestras riquezas, en la que Hugo Chávez clavó los ojos para utilizarla como poderosa arma de su proyecto de dominación socialista continental que incluyó a Estados Unidos. Desde 2005, a través de la filial Citgo, inició y mantuvo por años un increíble proceso para abastecer gratuitamente combustible a familias pobres en New Jersey y en lo cual se declaró haber invertido 700 millones de dólares. En esa política invasiva con dinero Chávez mantuvo en primer lugar a Cuba, pero también a 18 naciones caribeñas y centroamericanas y para lo cual se crearon estructuras como el ALBA y Petrocaribe, integrado por 18 naciones caribeñas y centroamericanas.

      Siendo Rafael Ramírez presidente de Pdvsa, y Wilmer Ruperti uno de los ungidos de Chávez, un grupo de alta confianza atrapó el control de los centros computarizados desde donde se manejaban los negocios de la empresa, las licitaciones para compras y ventas de sus productos. De antemano sabían cuales eran los precios mínimos a los que se podía vender y los máximos a los que se podía comprar. Este grupo incluso hizo duplicados –clonó– los cerebros de las computadoras de Pdvsa y las manejaban fuera, todo en complicidad con los que estaban dentro, y así llegaron a robar más de 10.000 millones de dólares, todo lo cual aparece explicado con detalles en la demanda que interpuso una famosa firma de abogados en un tribunal de Miami reclamando ese dinero a la parte del grupo delictivo que al dividirse formó tienda aparte.

      La demanda
      El 5 de marzo de 2018, Boies Schiller Flexner, mismo bufete de abogados que bajo contrato del empresario petrolero Wilmer Ruperti representó a los sobrinos de Cilia Flores en el juicio por narcotráfico en una Corte de Nueva York, consignó una demanda en la Corte Federal del Distrito Sur de Florida contra 40 empresas de diversas partes del mundo, reclamando la devolución de los dineros defraudados a Pdvsa, que según el escrito ocurrió durante 14 años.

      En la demanda se describen los detalles del delito y de su ejecución se imputa específicamente a los demandados, entre los que figura incluso un banco, así como importantes compañías dedicadas al comercio petrolero, y se exige la devolución de la gigantesca fortuna que robaron a Venezuela; pero el detalle es que dicho retorno no lo pedían para nuestro país sino para una firma privada a la que insólitamente Pdvsa le cedió esos derechos mediante un documento notariado en Nueva York el 27 de julio de 2017 y que en su nombre firmaron el entonces ministro de Petróleo y presidente de la petrolera venezolana Nelson Martínez, el tesorero Miguel Bolívar, la consultora jurídico Vicki Zárate y el abogado de la nación, el procurador Reinaldo Muñoz.

      Detalles inexplicables
      1. En la demanda se relata que la trama fraudulenta fue descubierta tras una intensa labor de investigación privada realizada durante dos años, es decir, desde 2015. Esto lleva a la pregunta ¿por qué no denunciaron en Venezuela, lugar desde donde partía el delito?

      2. Dicen que la investigación abarcó desde 2004 hasta 2014, es decir, exactamente el lapso durante el cual Rafael Ramírez presidió Pdvsa A) ¿Fue Rafael Ramírez partícipe de este robo? ¿Por qué ni lo mencionan? B) ¿Sería posible que él siendo jefe absoluto de la empresa no tuviera conocimiento de ese escandaloso robo?

      3. La referida cesión de derechos que sin autorización de la Asamblea Nacional se firmó en Nueva York sin duda constituyó un intento de fraude, con el cual se pretendió utilizar al sistema judicial norteamericano para consolidarlo, lo que constituyen hechos delictivos perseguibles en Venezuela y en Estados Unidos.

      Se les cayó el primer intento en Miami
      Como ha sido público, un grupo de venezolanos intervinimos en el juicio para denunciar su ilegalidad. La Corte de Miami rechazó la demanda y cerró el caso. Hasta allí llegó el intento delictivo de US Pdvsa Litigation Trust, pero los complotados no se han rendido en su empeño. Ahora están litigando en Suiza, específicamente en Ginebra, donde se quitaron la máscara de dicha firma privada y accionan directamente en nombre de Pdvsa con la misma historia. Esto evidencia lo truculento que fue lo de la cesión firmada en Nueva York, lo cual tiene connotaciones delictivas que deben ser perseguidas penalmente, y quien teniendo esa responsabilidad no lo haga se convierte en cómplice y también tendrá que responder por la omisión en el cumplimiento del deber de salvaguarda de los intereses de la patria.

      Juicio penal ahora en Ginebra
      El nuevo episodio en tribunales suizos extiende la territorialidad del delito que se viene cometiendo con este asunto, pues ahora se pretende allá utilizar aquel sistema judicial por acción interpuesta ante el Ministerio Público de Ginebra. Ya se abrió una investigación criminal fundamentalmente contra Francisco Morillo, quien luego de ser el principal socio de Wilmer Ruperti en esta trama se pelearon y es lo que ha dado lugar al conflicto. Es rencilla personal y pelea por el botín, pero ese dinero no es de ellos, es de Venezuela y debe regresar para la reconstrucción del país que también requiere castigo ejemplar para los partícipes de este crimen que ha llevado a la tragedia humanitaria que hoy se vive.

      Esta historia continúa.

      ¡Ya estamos preparando viaje para ir donde ese fiscal y los jueces de Ginebra!

  • How the Disposable Straw Explains Modern Capitalism - The Atlantic
    https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2018/06/disposable-america/563204

    Alexis C. Madrigal - Jun 21, 2018

    A straw is a simple thing. It’s a tube, a conveyance mechanism for liquid. The defining characteristic of the straw is the emptiness inside it. This is the stuff of tragedy, and America.

    Over the last several months, plastic straws have come under fire from environmental activists who rightly point out that disposable plastics have created a swirling, centuries-long ecological disaster that is brutally difficult to clean up. Bags were first against the wall, but municipalities from Oakland, California, (yup) to Surfside, Florida, (huh!) have started to restrict the use of plastic straws. Of course, now there is a movement afoot among conservatives to keep those plastics flowing for freedom. Meanwhile, disability advocates have pointed out that plastic straws, in particular, are important for people with physical limitations. “To me, it’s just lame liberal activism that in the end is nothing,” one activist told The Toronto Star. “We’re really kind of vilifying people who need straws.” Other environmentalists aren’t sure that banning straws is gonna do much, and point out that banning straws is not an entirely rigorous approach to global systems change, considering that a widely cited estimate for the magnitude of the problem was, umm, created by a smart 9-year-old.

    All this to say: The straw is officially part of the culture wars, and you might be thinking, “Gah, these contentious times we live in!” But the straw has always been dragged along by the currents of history, soaking up the era, shaping not its direction, but its texture.

    The invention of American industrialism, the creation of urban life, changing gender relations, public-health reform, suburbia and its hamburger-loving teens, better living through plastics, and the financialization of the economy: The straw was there for all these things—rolled out of extrusion machines, dispensed, pushed through lids, bent, dropped into the abyss.

    You can learn a lot about this country, and the dilemmas of contemporary capitalism, by taking a straw-eyed view.

    People have probably been drinking things through cylindrical tubes for as long as Homo sapiens has been around, and maybe before. Scientists observed orangutans demonstrating a preference for a straw-like tool over similar, less functional things. Ancient versions existed, too.

    But in 19th-century America, straws were straw, rye stalks, cut and dried. An alternative did not present itself widely until 1888. That year, Marvin Stone, a Washington, D.C., gentleman, was awarded a patent for an “artificial straw”—“a cheap, durable, and unobjectionable” substitute for natural straws, Stone wrote, “commonly used for the administration of medicines, beverages, etc.”

    Workmen created these early artificial straws by winding paper around a thin cylindrical form, then covering them in paraffin. Often, they were “colored in imitation of the natural straw.” Within a decade, these straws appeared often in newspaper items and advertisements across the country.
    A typical Stone straw ad from a newspaper in 1899 (Google Books)

    Advertising for the Stone straw describes its virtues and emphasizes the faults of the natural straw. Stone’s straws were free from TASTE and ODOR (natural straws were not). Stone’s straws were SWEET, CLEAN, and PERFECT (natural straws could be cracked or musty). You only had to use one Stone straw per drink (not always the case with natural straws).

    They worked. They were cheap. They were very popular and spawned many imitators because once an artificial straw had been conceived, it just wasn’t that hard to make them, tinkering with the process just enough to route around Stone’s patent. This could be read as a story of individual genius. America likes this kind of story.

    But in 1850, long before Stone, Abijah Fessenden patented a drinking tube with a filter attached to a vessel shaped like a spyglass. Disabled people were using drinking tubes in the mid-19th century, as attested to by a patent from 1870. These were artificial, high-value straws; rye was natural and disposable. But it wasn’t until the late 1880s that someone thought to create the disposable, artificial straw.

    Why?

    Americans were primarily a rural people in the early 19th century. Cities had few restaurants until the 1830s and 1840s. Most that did exist were for very rich people. It took the emergence of a new urban life to spark the creation of the kind of eating and drinking establishment that would enshrine the straw in American culture: the soda fountain.

    Carbon dioxide had been isolated decades before, and soda water created with predictably palate-pleasing results, but the equipment to make it was expensive and unwieldy. It wasn’t until the the gas was readily available and cheap that the soda fountain became prevalent. In the 1870s, their technical refinement met a growing market of people who wanted a cold, sweet treat in the city.

    At the same time, the Civil War had intensified American industrialization. More and more people lived in cities and worked outside the home. Cities had saloons, but they were gendered spaces. As urban women fought for greater independence, they, too, wanted places to go. Soda fountains provided a key alternative. Given the female leadership of the late-19th-century temperance movement, soda fountains were drafted onto the side. Sodas were safe and clean. They were soft drinks.

    By 1911, an industry book proclaimed the soda fountain the very height of democratic propriety. “Today everybody, men, women and children, natives and foreigners, patronize the fountain” said The Practical Soda Fountain Guide.

    Temperance and public health grew up together in the disease-ridden cities of America, where despite the modern conveniences and excitements, mortality rates were higher than in the countryside. Straws became a key part of maintaining good hygiene and public health. They became, specifically, part of the answer to the scourge of unclean drinking glasses. Cities begin requiring the use of straws in the late 1890s. A Wisconsin paper noted in 1896 that already in many cities “ordinances have been issued making the use of wrapped drinking straws essential in public eating places.”

    But the laws that regulated health went further. A Kansas doctor campaigned against the widespread use of the “common cup,” which was ... a cup, that many people drank from. Bans began in Kansas and spread.
    The Cup Campaigner

    In many cases, this cup was eventually replaced by the water fountain (or paper cups). Some factories kept the common cup, but purchased straw dispensers that allowed all to partake individually. “The spectacle of groups of able-bodied men standing around drinking water through straws and out of a common, ordinary drinking cup, prompted no end of facetious comment,” read an item in the Shelbina Democrat of October 11, 1911.

    Cup and straw both had to be clean to assure no germs would assail the children (or the able-bodied men). So even the method by which straws were dispensed became an important hygienic indicator. “In some stores, customers are permitted to choose their own straws, and this system would work very well if customers would not finger the straws,” The Practical Soda Fountain Guide lamented.

    That led to the development of the straw dispenser, which has a deep lineage. Already, in 1911, the thing existed where you individually pop a straw into reach. That’s it, right below, with the rationale written in: “Protects straws from flies, dust, and microbes.”
    The Practical Soda Fountain Guide

    To people living through the early 20th century, the straw was a creation of the new public-health regime. “Due to the ‘Yankee mania for sanitation,’ the [American] output of artificial straws has increased from 165 million in 1901 to 4 billion a year at present,” the Battle Creek Enquirer wrote in May 1924. “A manufacturer pointed out yesterday that, laid end to end, these straws would build an ant’s subway 16 times around the world at the equator.”

    Four billion straws! There were only 114 million Americans at the time, so that’s 35 straws per capita (though some were exported).

    Of course, straw making was improving through all these decades—mechanizing, scaling up—but the straw itself basically stayed the same. According to Sidney Graham—who founded the National Soda Straw Company in 1931, and who competed against Stone and other early straw manufacturers—in a 1988 history of the straw:

    Straws were uniform up until the 1930s ... They were tan in color, thin, and exactly 8.5 inches long. Then someone in the soda-bottling business started marketing eight-ounce bottles, and straws grew to 10.5 inches. Various soda fountains began mixing malted milks, and the old straws were too thin. So we started making them thicker. Still, they were all tan in color, like the original straws.

    In the interwar years, however, major changes came to straws. In 1937, for example, Joseph Friedman invented the bendy straw at his brother’s soda shop in San Francisco, leading to the design that’s prevalent today.

    But what happened to the straw industry is far more interesting than its (limited) technical advances. Three of the biggest names in the industry—Friedman’s Flexi-Straw Company; the Lily-Tulip Cup Corporation, which made popular white straws; and Maryland Cup Corporation—have bumped around the last 80 years like corporate Forrest Gumps.

    As it turns out, all three companies’ histories intersect with each other, as well as with structural changes to the American economy. But first, we have to talk about McDonald’s.

    Let’s start with Ray Kroc, who built the McDonald’s empire. For about 16 years, beginning in 1922, he sold cups for the Lily-Tulip Cup Corporation, rising to lead sales across the Midwest. “I don’t know what appealed to me so much about paper cups. Perhaps it was mostly because they were so innovative and upbeat,” Kroc recalled in his memoir, Grinding It Out. “But I sensed from the outset that paper cups were part of the way America was headed.”

    At first, selling cups was a tough job. Straws were cheap—you could get 100 for nine cents in the 1930s—but cups were many times more expensive. And besides, people could just wash glasses. Why would they need a paper cup? But America was tilting toward speed and disposability. And throwaway products were the future (“innovative and upbeat”). Soda fountains and their fast-food descendants were continuing to grow, spurring more sales of cups and straws. In the end, Kroc called the years between 1927 and 1937 “a decade of destiny for the paper-cup industry.”

    Selling all those cups brought Kroc into contact with soda fountains, and eventually he went into business selling milkshake mixers. This led him to Southern California, where he saw the first McDonald’s in operation. He bought his way into the small company and deposed the original owners. With Kroc growing the brand, McDonald’s added 90 franchises between 1955 and 1959. By 1961, Kroc was fully in control of the company, and by 1968, there were 1,000 McDonald’s restaurants.
    The first McDonald’s that Ray Kroc opened in Des Plaines, Illinois, is now a museum dedicated to the burger chain. (Reuters/Frank Polich)

    The restaurant chain became a key customer for Maryland Cup, which began as an ice-cream-cone bakery in Boston. Its first nonfood product launched under a brand that became nationally famous, Sweetheart. That product? The straw. The name derived from the original packaging, which showed “two children sharing a milkshake, each drinking from a straw and their heads forming the two curved arcs of a heart.”

    After the war, the company went into cups, and later other kinds of packaging for the growing fast-food industry. It developed new products for McDonald’s, like those old foam clamshell packages that hamburgers used to come in. It also snatched up the Flexi-Straw Company—along with all its patents and rights—in 1969. Things were going great. The founder’s son-in-law was president of the company in Baltimore; one nephew of the founder ran the McDonald’s relationship; the other ran the plastics division.

    Because the future, at that point, had become plastics! In 1950, the world produced 1.5 million tons of plastic. By the late 1960s, that production had grown more than tenfold. Every product was being tried as a plastic thing, and so naturally, the straw became a plastic thing, too. It didn’t happen overnight. It took years for paper straws to lose their cultural salience.

    While functionally, paper and plastic straws might have seemed the same, to the keen observer who is the narrator of Nicholson Baker’s dazzling 1988 novel, The Mezzanine, the plastic and paper straw were not interchangeable. Paper did not float. Plastic did: “How could the straw engineers have made so elementary a mistake, designing a straw that weighed less than the sugar-water in which it was intended to stand? Madness!”

    Baker’s narrator wonders why the big fast-food chains like McDonald’s didn’t pressure the straw engineers into fixing this weighting mistake. “[The chains] must have had whole departments dedicated to exacting concessions from Sweetheart and Marcal,” Baker writes.

    But there was a problem: lids, which had come into vogue. Plastic straws could push through the little + slits in the cap. Paper ones could not. The restaurant chains committed fully to plastic straws.

    Baker goes on to imagine the ramifications, painting a miniature portrait of the process of path-dependent technological choice, which has helped shape everything from the width of railroad tracks to the layout of your keyboard. The power players went plastic, so everyone had to go plastic. “Suddenly the paper-goods distributor was offering the small restaurants floating plastic straws and only floating plastic straws, and was saying that this was the way all the big chains were going,” Baker writes. Sometimes it all works. Other times, a small pleasure is lost, or a tiny headache is created: “In this way the quality of life, through nobody’s fault, went down an eighth of a notch.”

    I can’t prove that this was the precise series of events that took hold among straw engineers, cup distributors, and McDonald’s. Most corporate decision-making of this kind simply doesn’t stick in the nets of history. Yet these differences influence the texture of life every single day, and ever more so, as the owners of corporations become ever further removed from the products they sell. Let’s just say that the logic Baker describes, the way he imagines the development and consequences of these forgettable technologies, squares with the histories that we do know. The very straw engineers that Baker describes might well have been working in the plastics division of the Maryland Cup Corporation, owners of the Sweetheart brand.

    Baker was writing in the 1980s, when straws of all kinds had begun to proliferate, and the American economic system entered a period of intense consolidation and financialization. A key component of this new form of capitalism was the “leveraged buyout,” in which private-equity firms descended on old companies, sliced them up, took out huge amounts of debt, and sold off the various components, “unlocking value” for their investors. You might remember this was how Mitt Romney made his fortune. Matt Taibbi described the model in acerbic but not inaccurate terms: “A man makes a $250 million fortune loading up companies with debt and then extracting million-dollar fees from those same companies, in exchange for the generous service of telling them who needs to be fired in order to finance the debt payments he saddled them with in the first place.”

    Global competition and offshoring enabled by containerized trade was responsible for some of the trouble American manufacturing encountered in the 1970s and 1980s. But the wholesale restructuring of the economy by private-equity firms to narrow the beneficiaries of business operations contributed mightily to the resentments still resounding through the country today. The straw, like everything else, was swept along for the ride.

    In the early 1980s, Maryland Cup’s family-linked executives were on the glide path to retirement. Eighty family members held about half the company’s stock. In 1983, the company had $656 million in revenue, $32 million in profits, and 10,000 employees. It was the biggest disposable-food-product manufacturer in the nation, an empire built on cups, straws, and plastic silverware. The family was ready to cash out.

    The big paper and food companies circled Maryland Cup, but it was eventually sold for $534 million to Fort Howard, a paper company that had gone public in the early ’70s, and began to aggressively expand beyond its Wisconsin base.

    The sale was a boon for Maryland Cup’s shareholders, but the company did not fare well under the new management. Following the transaction, the Baltimore Sun relates, Maryland Cup executives flew to dinner with Fort Howard’s hard-charging CEO, Paul Schierl. He brought out a flip chart, on which he’d written the company’s “old” values—“service, quality, responding to customers.” He turned the page to show the company’s “new” values—“profits, profits, profits.” It’s like a scene out of Tommy Boy, or a socialist’s fever dream.

    Fort Howard forced deep cuts on the company. Some longtime managers quit. The trappings of the family company went out the window. No more executives dressing up as Santa Claus or local charitable contributions. And while Fort Howard was cutting people, it invested in expanding the company’s factories. This was just business. Schierl literally appeared at a sales meeting in a devil’s mask.

    Maryland Cup’s struggles intensified after the wave of departures that followed the acquisition. It needed customer volume to keep its new, bigger plants running, so Fort Howard snatched up the Lily-Tulip Cup Corporation in 1986 for another $332 million. Surely there would be synergies. More layoffs came.

    Two years later, the private-equity guys struck. Morgan Stanley, which had helped broker Fort Howard’s deals, swept in and snatched the company for $3.9 billion in one of those famed leveraged buyouts. The whole enterprise was swept off the public markets and into their hands.

    One of their moves was to spin out the cup business as Sweetheart Holdings—along with a boatload of debt jettisoned out of Fort Howard. Just eight years inside Fort Howard and a turn through the private-equity wringer had turned a profitable company into one that still made money on operations in 1991, but was $95 million in the red because it was so loaded up with debt.

    The company made layoffs across the country. Retirement health-care benefits were cut, leaving older employees so livid they filed a class-action lawsuit. A huge Wilmington factory closed after McDonald’s got rid of its plastic clamshell packaging for hamburgers, citing environmental concerns over plastic.

    In 1993, the company was sold again to a different investment group, American Industrial Partners. Eventually, it was sold yet again to the Solo Cup Company, makers of one-third of the materials necessary for beer pong. And finally, in 2012, Solo was itself sold to Dart Container, a family-owned packaging company that sells a vast array of straws under the Solo brand.

    Fort Howard continued on, going back public in 1995, then merging with another paper company, James River, in 1997, to become Fort James. Just three years later, an even bigger paper company, Georgia Pacific, snatched up the combined entity. In 2005, Koch Industries bought the shares of all the companies, taking the company back private. They still make straws.

    While bulk capitalism pushes hundreds of millions of plain plastic straws through the American food system, there are also thousands of variations on the straw now, from the “krazy” whirling neon kind to a new natural straw made from rye stalks advertised on Kickstarter (the entrepreneur calls them “Straw Straws”). There are old-school paper straws and newfangled compostable plastic straws. Stone Straw, founded by the inventor of the artificial straw, even survives in some form as the straw-distributing subsidiary of a Canadian manufacturing concern. Basically, there’s never been a better time to be a straw consumer.

    Meanwhile, the country has shed manufacturing jobs for decades, straws contribute their share to a dire global environmental disaster, the economy continues to concentrate wealth among the very richest, and the sodas that pass through the nation’s straws are contributing to an obesity epidemic that threatens to erase many of the public health gains that were won in the 20th century. Local governments may legislate the use of the plastic straw, but they can’t do a thing about the vast system that’s attached to the straw, which created first disposable products, then companies, and finally people.

    The straw is the opposite of special. History has flowed around and through it, like thousands of other bits of material culture. What’s happened to the straw might not even be worth comment, and certainly not essay. But if it’s not clear by now, straws, in this story, are us, inevitable vessels of the times in which we live.

    #USA #histoire #capitalisme #alimentation #plastique

  • New report exposes global reach of powerful governments who equip, finance and train other countries to spy on their populations

    Privacy International has today released a report that looks at how powerful governments are financing, training and equipping countries — including authoritarian regimes — with surveillance capabilities. The report warns that rather than increasing security, this is entrenching authoritarianism.

    Countries with powerful security agencies are spending literally billions to equip, finance, and train security and surveillance agencies around the world — including authoritarian regimes. This is resulting in entrenched authoritarianism, further facilitation of abuse against people, and diversion of resources from long-term development programmes.

    The report, titled ‘Teach ’em to Phish: State Sponsors of Surveillance’ is available to download here.

    Examples from the report include:

    In 2001, the US spent $5.7 billion in security aid. In 2017 it spent over $20 billion [1]. In 2015, military and non-military security assistance in the US amounted to an estimated 35% of its entire foreign aid expenditure [2]. The report provides examples of how US Departments of State, Defense, and Justice all facilitate foreign countries’ surveillance capabilities, as well as an overview of how large arms companies have embedded themselves into such programmes, including at surveillance training bases in the US. Examples provided include how these agencies have provided communications intercept and other surveillance technology, how they fund wiretapping programmes, and how they train foreign spy agencies in surveillance techniques around the world.

    The EU and individual European countries are sponsoring surveillance globally. The EU is already spending billions developing border control and surveillance capabilities in foreign countries to deter migration to Europe. For example, the EU is supporting Sudan’s leader with tens of millions of Euros aimed at capacity building for border management. The EU is now looking to massively increase its expenditure aimed at building border control and surveillance capabilities globally under the forthcoming Multiannual Financial Framework, which will determine its budget for 2021–2027. Other EU projects include developing the surveillance capabilities of security agencies in Tunisia, Burkina Faso, Somalia, Iraq and elsewhere. European countries such as France, Germany, and the UK are sponsoring surveillance worldwide, for example, providing training and equipment to “Cyber Police Officers” in Ukraine, as well as to agencies in Saudi Arabia, and across Africa.

    Surveillance capabilities are also being supported by China’s government under the ‘Belt and Road Initiative’ and other efforts to expand into international markets. Chinese companies have reportedly supplied surveillance capabilities to Bolivia, Venezuela, and Ecuador [3]. In Ecuador, China Electronics Corporation supplied a network of cameras — including some fitted with facial recognition capabilities — to the country’s 24 provinces, as well as a system to locate and identify mobile phones.

    Edin Omanovic, Privacy International’s Surveillance Programme Lead, said

    “The global rush to make sure that surveillance is as universal and pervasive as possible is as astonishing as it is disturbing. The breadth of institutions, countries, agencies, and arms companies that are involved shows how there is no real long-term policy or strategic thinking driving any of this. It’s a free-for-all, where capabilities developed by some of the world’s most powerful spy agencies are being thrown at anyone willing to serve their interests, including dictators and killers whose only goal is to cling to power.

    “If these ‘benefactor’ countries truly want to assist other countries to be secure and stable, they should build schools, hospitals, and other infrastructure, and promote democracy and human rights. This is what communities need for safety, security, and prosperity. What we don’t need is powerful and wealthy countries giving money to arms companies to build border control and surveillance infrastructure. This only serves the interests of those powerful, wealthy countries. As our report shows, instead of putting resources into long-term development solutions, such programmes further entrench authoritarianism and spur abuses around the world — the very things which cause insecurity in the first place.”

    https://privacyinternational.org/press-release/2161/press-release-new-report-exposes-global-reach-powerful-governm

    #surveillance #surveillance_de_masse #rapport

    Pour télécharger le rapport “Teach ’em to Phish: State Sponsors of Surveillance”:
    https://privacyinternational.org/sites/default/files/2018-07/Teach-em-to-Phish-report.pdf

    ping @fil

    • China Uses DNA to Track Its People, With the Help of American Expertise

      The Chinese authorities turned to a Massachusetts company and a prominent Yale researcher as they built an enormous system of surveillance and control.

      The authorities called it a free health check. Tahir Imin had his doubts.

      They drew blood from the 38-year-old Muslim, scanned his face, recorded his voice and took his fingerprints. They didn’t bother to check his heart or kidneys, and they rebuffed his request to see the results.

      “They said, ‘You don’t have the right to ask about this,’” Mr. Imin said. “‘If you want to ask more,’ they said, ‘you can go to the police.’”

      Mr. Imin was one of millions of people caught up in a vast Chinese campaign of surveillance and oppression. To give it teeth, the Chinese authorities are collecting DNA — and they got unlikely corporate and academic help from the United States to do it.

      China wants to make the country’s Uighurs, a predominantly Muslim ethnic group, more subservient to the Communist Party. It has detained up to a million people in what China calls “re-education” camps, drawing condemnation from human rights groups and a threat of sanctions from the Trump administration.

      Collecting genetic material is a key part of China’s campaign, according to human rights groups and Uighur activists. They say a comprehensive DNA database could be used to chase down any Uighurs who resist conforming to the campaign.

      Police forces in the United States and elsewhere use genetic material from family members to find suspects and solve crimes. Chinese officials, who are building a broad nationwide database of DNA samples, have cited the crime-fighting benefits of China’s own genetic studies.

      To bolster their DNA capabilities, scientists affiliated with China’s police used equipment made by Thermo Fisher, a Massachusetts company. For comparison with Uighur DNA, they also relied on genetic material from people around the world that was provided by #Kenneth_Kidd, a prominent #Yale_University geneticist.

      On Wednesday, #Thermo_Fisher said it would no longer sell its equipment in Xinjiang, the part of China where the campaign to track Uighurs is mostly taking place. The company said separately in an earlier statement to The New York Times that it was working with American officials to figure out how its technology was being used.

      Dr. Kidd said he had been unaware of how his material and know-how were being used. He said he believed Chinese scientists were acting within scientific norms that require informed consent by DNA donors.

      China’s campaign poses a direct challenge to the scientific community and the way it makes cutting-edge knowledge publicly available. The campaign relies in part on public DNA databases and commercial technology, much of it made or managed in the United States. In turn, Chinese scientists have contributed Uighur DNA samples to a global database, potentially violating scientific norms of consent.

      Cooperation from the global scientific community “legitimizes this type of genetic surveillance,” said Mark Munsterhjelm, an assistant professor at the University of Windsor in Ontario who has closely tracked the use of American technology in Xinjiang.

      Swabbing Millions

      In Xinjiang, in northwestern China, the program was known as “#Physicals_for_All.”

      From 2016 to 2017, nearly 36 million people took part in it, according to Xinhua, China’s official news agency. The authorities collected DNA samples, images of irises and other personal data, according to Uighurs and human rights groups. It is unclear whether some residents participated more than once — Xinjiang has a population of about 24.5 million.

      In a statement, the Xinjiang government denied that it collects DNA samples as part of the free medical checkups. It said the DNA machines that were bought by the Xinjiang authorities were for “internal use.”

      China has for decades maintained an iron grip in Xinjiang. In recent years, it has blamed Uighurs for a series of terrorist attacks in Xinjiang and elsewhere in China, including a 2013 incident in which a driver struck two people in Tiananmen Square in Beijing.

      In late 2016, the Communist Party embarked on a campaign to turn the Uighurs and other largely Muslim minority groups into loyal supporters. The government locked up hundreds of thousands of them in what it called job training camps, touted as a way to escape poverty, backwardness and radical Islam. It also began to take DNA samples.

      In at least some of the cases, people didn’t give up their genetic material voluntarily. To mobilize Uighurs for the free medical checkups, police and local cadres called or sent them text messages, telling them the checkups were required, according to Uighurs interviewed by The Times.

      “There was a pretty strong coercive element to it,” said Darren Byler, an anthropologist at the University of Washington who studies the plight of the Uighurs. “They had no choice.”

      Calling Dr. Kidd

      Kenneth Kidd first visited China in 1981 and remained curious about the country. So when he received an invitation in 2010 for an expenses-paid trip to visit Beijing, he said yes.

      Dr. Kidd is a major figure in the genetics field. The 77-year-old Yale professor has helped to make DNA evidence more acceptable in American courts.

      His Chinese hosts had their own background in law enforcement. They were scientists from the Ministry of Public Security — essentially, China’s police.

      During that trip, Dr. Kidd met Li Caixia, the chief forensic physician of the ministry’s Institute of Forensic Science. The relationship deepened. In December 2014, Dr. Li arrived at Dr. Kidd’s lab for an 11-month stint. She took some DNA samples back to China.

      “I had thought we were sharing samples for collaborative research,” said Dr. Kidd.

      Dr. Kidd is not the only prominent foreign geneticist to have worked with the Chinese authorities. Bruce Budowle, a professor at the University of North Texas, says in his online biography that he “has served or is serving” as a member of an academic committee at the ministry’s Institute of Forensic Science.

      Jeff Carlton, a university spokesman, said in a statement that Professor Budowle’s role with the ministry was “only symbolic in nature” and that he had “done no work on its behalf.”

      “Dr. Budowle and his team abhor the use of DNA technology to persecute ethnic or religious groups,” Mr. Carlton said in the statement. “Their work focuses on criminal investigations and combating human trafficking to serve humanity.”

      Dr. Kidd’s data became part of China’s DNA drive.

      In 2014, ministry researchers published a paper describing a way for scientists to tell one ethnic group from another. It cited, as an example, the ability to distinguish Uighurs from Indians. The authors said they used 40 DNA samples taken from Uighurs in China and samples from other ethnic groups from Dr. Kidd’s Yale lab.

      In patent applications filed in China in 2013 and 2017, ministry researchers described ways to sort people by ethnicity by screening their genetic makeup. They took genetic material from Uighurs and compared it with DNA from other ethnic groups. In the 2017 filing, researchers explained that their system would help in “inferring the geographical origin from the DNA of suspects at crime scenes.”

      For outside comparisons, they used DNA samples provided by Dr. Kidd’s lab, the 2017 filing said. They also used samples from the 1000 Genomes Project, a public catalog of genes from around the world.

      Paul Flicek, member of the steering committee of the 1000 Genomes Project, said that its data was unrestricted and that “there is no obvious problem” if it was being used as a way to determine where a DNA sample came from.

      The data flow also went the other way.

      Chinese government researchers contributed the data of 2,143 Uighurs to the Allele Frequency Database, an online search platform run by Dr. Kidd that was partly funded by the United States Department of Justice until last year. The database, known as Alfred, contains DNA data from more than 700 populations around the world.

      This sharing of data could violate scientific norms of informed consent because it is not clear whether the Uighurs volunteered their DNA samples to the Chinese authorities, said Arthur Caplan, the founding head of the division of medical ethics at New York University’s School of Medicine. He said that “no one should be in a database without express consent.”

      “Honestly, there’s been a kind of naïveté on the part of American scientists presuming that other people will follow the same rules and standards wherever they come from,” Dr. Caplan said.

      Dr. Kidd said he was “not particularly happy” that the ministry had cited him in its patents, saying his data shouldn’t be used in ways that could allow people or institutions to potentially profit from it. If the Chinese authorities used data they got from their earlier collaborations with him, he added, there is little he can do to stop them.

      He said he was unaware of the filings until he was contacted by The Times.

      Dr. Kidd also said he considered his collaboration with the ministry to be no different from his work with police and forensics labs elsewhere. He said governments should have access to data about minorities, not just the dominant ethnic group, in order to have an accurate picture of the whole population.

      As for the consent issue, he said the burden of meeting that standard lay with the Chinese researchers, though he said reports about what Uighurs are subjected to in China raised some difficult questions.

      “I would assume they had appropriate informed consent on the samples,” he said, “though I must say what I’ve been hearing in the news recently about the treatment of the Uighurs raises concerns.”
      Machine Learning

      In 2015, Dr. Kidd and Dr. Budowle spoke at a genomics conference in the Chinese city of Xi’an. It was underwritten in part by Thermo Fisher, a company that has come under intense criticism for its equipment sales in China, and Illumina, a San Diego company that makes gene sequencing instruments. Illumina did not respond to requests for comment.

      China is ramping up spending on health care and research. The Chinese market for gene-sequencing equipment and other technologies was worth $1 billion in 2017 and could more than double in five years, according to CCID Consulting, a research firm. But the Chinese market is loosely regulated, and it isn’t always clear where the equipment goes or to what uses it is put.

      Thermo Fisher sells everything from lab instruments to forensic DNA testing kits to DNA mapping machines, which help scientists decipher a person’s ethnicity and identify diseases to which he or she is particularly vulnerable. China accounted for 10 percent of Thermo Fisher’s $20.9 billion in revenue, according to the company’s 2017 annual report, and it employs nearly 5,000 people there.

      “Our greatest success story in emerging markets continues to be China,” it said in the report.

      China used Thermo Fisher’s equipment to map the genes of its people, according to five Ministry of Public Security patent filings.

      The company has also sold equipment directly to the authorities in Xinjiang, where the campaign to control the Uighurs has been most intense. At least some of the equipment was intended for use by the police, according to procurement documents. The authorities there said in the documents that the machines were important for DNA inspections in criminal cases and had “no substitutes in China.”

      In February 2013, six ministry researchers credited Thermo Fisher’s Applied Biosystems brand, as well as other companies, with helping to analyze the DNA samples of Han, Uighur and Tibetan people in China, according to a patent filing. The researchers said understanding how to differentiate between such DNA samples was necessary for fighting terrorism “because these cases were becoming more difficult to crack.”

      The researchers said they had obtained 95 Uighur DNA samples, some of which were given to them by the police. Other samples were provided by Uighurs voluntarily, they said.

      Thermo Fisher was criticized by Senator Marco Rubio, Republican of Florida, and others who asked the Commerce Department to prohibit American companies from selling technology to China that could be used for purposes of surveillance and tracking.

      On Wednesday, Thermo Fisher said it would stop selling its equipment in Xinjiang, a decision it said was “consistent with Thermo Fisher’s values, ethics code and policies.”

      “As the world leader in serving science, we recognize the importance of considering how our products and services are used — or may be used — by our customers,” it said.

      Human rights groups praised Thermo Fisher’s move. Still, they said, equipment and information flows into China should be better monitored, to make sure the authorities elsewhere don’t send them to Xinjiang.

      “It’s an important step, and one hopes that they apply the language in their own statement to commercial activity across China, and that other companies are assessing their sales and operations, especially in Xinjiang,” said Sophie Richardson, the China director of Human Rights Watch.

      American lawmakers and officials are taking a hard look at the situation in Xinjiang. The Trump administration is considering sanctions against Chinese officials and companies over China’s treatment of the Uighurs.

      China’s tracking campaign unnerved people like Tahir Hamut. In May 2017, the police in the city of Urumqi in Xinjiang drew the 49-year-old Uighur’s blood, took his fingerprints, recorded his voice and took a scan of his face. He was called back a month later for what he was told was a free health check at a local clinic.

      Mr. Hamut, a filmmaker who is now living in Virginia, said he saw between 20 to 40 Uighurs in line. He said it was absurd to think that such frightened people had consented to submit their DNA.

      “No one in this situation, not under this much pressure and facing such personal danger, would agree to give their blood samples for research,” Mr. Hamut said. “It’s just inconceivable.”

      https://www.nytimes.com/2019/02/21/business/china-xinjiang-uighur-dna-thermo-fisher.html?action=click&module=MoreInSect
      #USA #Etats-Unis #ADN #DNA #Ouïghours #université #science #génétique #base_de_données

  • Reuters: Pdvsa mueve a Rusia la cuenta para ventas de empresas mixtas
    http://www.el-nacional.com/noticias/economia/reuters-pdvsa-mueve-rusia-cuenta-para-ventas-empresas-mixtas_270204

    Petróleos de Venezuela (Pdvsa) informó a los presidentes de las empresas mixtas que los futuros pagos por las exportaciones de crudo serán depositados en la institución bancaria rusa Gazprombank.

    El objetivo de esta medida es esquivar las sanciones económicas impuestas por Estados Unidos, de acuerdo al documento y a lo informado por fuentes a Reuters.

    Las empresas afectadas por esta medida deberán notificar a sus clientes que serán abonados, en dólares o euros, en la nueva cuenta bancaria en Moscú, así lo indica una carta firmada por vicepresidente de Finanzas de Pdvsa, Fernando de Quintal.

    Fuentes cercanas al sector petrolero aseguraron que después de las sanciones financieras impuestas por la administración de Donald Trump, presidente de EE UU, los socios extranjeros deben confirmarle a Pdvsa que continuarán en los proyectos.

    Decenas de barcos cargados de petróleo se mantienen anclados fuera de los puertos del país, debido a dichas medidas económicas. Por esta misma razón, Pdvsa podría detener su producción y mejoramiento de crudo con Equinor y Total, pues los diluyentes necesarios eran importados desde EE UU.

  • Replenishment Gone Wrong: U.S. Navy Cruiser and MSC Dry Cargo Ship Collide Off U.S. East Coast – gCaptain
    https://gcaptain.com/replenishment-gone-wrong-u-s-navy-cruiser-and-msc-dry-cargo-ship-collide-o


    The Military Sealift Command dry cargo and ammunition ship USNS Robert E. Peary (T-AKE 5) pulls alongside the amphibious dock landing ship USS Ashland (LSD 48) (not pictured) to conduct a replenishment at sea.
    U.S. Navy File Photo

    A U.S. Navy guided-missile cruiser and a Military Sealift Command dry cargo ship collided Tuesday during an underway replenishment off the coast of Florida, the U.S. Navy has confirmed.

    The Navy said no personnel were injured when the USS Leyte Gulf (CG 55) and USNS Robert E. Peary (T-AKE 5) made contact.

    Both ships were able to safely operate after the incident.

    The ships had been conducting a replenishment-at-sea when the sterns touched at approximately 4 p.m. Eastern Standard time,” the Navy said in a statement.

    U.S. Fleet Forces Command and Military Sealift Command will thoroughly investigate this incident,” the statement added.

    Damage will be assessed when the ships arrive in port.

    The ships were conducting operations in conjunction with the Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group.

  • ¿Por qué Trump apuesta por Venezuela ?
    http://www.el-nacional.com/noticias/por-que-trump-apuesta-por-venezuela_269484


    Foto : Cortesía

    Question – sans réponse – posée par l’agence espagnole EFE

    El presidente estadounidense, Donald Trump, ha aparcado su habitual tendencia aislacionista y su respeto por las figuras autócratas en el caso de Venezuela, un país que cautivó su atención desde que llegó al poder y que ahora motiva una de sus apuestas más arriesgadas en el plano internacional.

    Trump, un líder crítico con el papel de EE UU como «policía del mundo» y poco preocupado por temas de derechos humanos en países aliados, sorprendió a sus asesores al interesarse por Venezuela en cuanto llegó a la Casa Blanca y esa atención ha culminado en el reconocimiento del opositor Juan Guaidó como presidente interino.

    «Antes de llegar al poder, pasó algo que realmente despertó su interés en Venezuela. Pero no sé qué fue», dijo a Efe un ex asesor de Trump en asuntos latinoamericanos, Fernando Cutz.

    Aunque no descarta la posible influencia en la política hacia Venezuela del asesor de Seguridad Nacional John Bolton, del senador republicano Marco Rubio y del vicepresidente Mike Pence, Cutz cree que Trump siempre tuvo claro que quería actuar en el país sudamericano.

    «Lo veía como un reto de política exterior que definiría su Presidencia, una de sus tres prioridades junto a Corea del Norte e Irán», aseguró el ex funcionario.

    Durante su frenética primera semana en el poder en enero de 2017, Trump encontró tiempo para pedir a su equipo en el Consejo de Seguridad Nacional de la Casa Blanca (NSC, en inglés) que le pusiera al día sobre Venezuela.

    Cutz organizó entonces una sesión en la que Trump exigió «desarrollar opciones» para hacer frente a lo que consideraba una inaceptable crisis humanitaria en el país.

    «Me preguntaba sobre la gente, sobre por qué estaban sufriendo tanto. Preguntaba por qué pasaba eso en un país tan rico, y cómo podíamos ayudarles», relató Cutz, que dejó la Casa Blanca el año pasado y que ahora trabaja en la consultora The Cohen Group.
    […]
    Los defensores de Maduro apuntan a un posible interés por el petróleo venezolano de Trump, quien hace años lamentó que EE UU no se quedara con el crudo de Irak cuando invadió el país; y tampoco faltan quienes especulan, sin aportar pruebas, sobre un hipotético lazo empresarial del presidente en Venezuela.
    […]
    En cualquier caso, el discurso de la Casa Blanca se endureció a partir de la llegada el pasado abril de Bolton, quien ha definido a Venezuela, Cuba y Nicaragua como una «troika de la tiranía» y se ha rodeado de figuras afines como Mauricio Claver-Carone, de origen cubano y encargado de Latinoamérica en el Consejo de Seguridad Nacional de los Estados Unidos.

    Ni Cutz ni Feierstein descartan tampoco que Trump pueda estar pensando en su campaña de reelección en 2020, dada la importancia de Florida, «donde hay una creciente diáspora de estadounidenses de origen venezolano», en palabras del primero.

    Sea cual sea la causa, el interés de Trump en Venezuela ha derivado en la audaz decisión de apostar todas las cartas al triunfo de Guaidó, que por ahora no tiene el control de facto del país.

    «Es arriesgado porque no hay garantías de que funcione, y si no funciona estaremos en apuros. Habremos usado todos los mecanismos de presión que teníamos, y podríamos vernos forzados a intervenir militarmente», concluyó Cutz.

  • Forget Tlaib and Omar, Democratic 2020 front-runners should worry Israel more

    While the new generation of pro-BDS lawmakers are making news, Democratic presidential contenders’ opposition to ’pro-Israel’ legislation signals a much deeper shift
    Amir Tibon Washington
    Feb 04, 2019
    https://www.haaretz.com/us-news/.premium-forget-tlaib-and-omar-democratic-2020-front-runners-worry-israel-m

    WASHINGTON – Two newly elected congresswomen may be generating a lot of headlines, but Israeli officials are most concerned about the heated Senate debate about Israel in the past month than the pro-boycott statements of Democratic Reps. Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar.

    While Israeli officials are worried about the media attention Tlaib and Omar are receiving – which is seen as helping to advance their views and possibly creating more support for them – they are not perceived as having the potential to weaken or delay pro-Israel legislation in Congress. The representatives’ ability to pass laws that would harm or upset the Israeli government is seen as even more limited.
    Haaretz Weekly Ep. 13Haaretz

    But talking with Haaretz, Israeli officials admit greater concern that close to half of all Democratic senators voted against the anti-boycott, divestment and sanctions legislation proposed by Sen. Marco Rubio (Republican of Florida) last week.

    Almost all of the Democratic senators who are potential 2020 presidential nominees – from Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris and Bernie Sanders (an independent who caucuses with the Democrats) to Sherrod Brown, Cory Booker and Kirsten Gillibrand – opposed the legislation, citing concerns over freedom of speech. The senators said that although they oppose BDS, they also oppose legislation that would force state contractors to sign a declaration saying they don’t boycott Israel or its settlements in the occupied territories.
    Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar smiling during a news conference with Nancy Pelosi on Capitol Hill in Washington, November 30, 2018.
    Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar smiling during a news conference with Nancy Pelosi on Capitol Hill in Washington, November 30, 2018.Bloomberg

    The anti-BDS legislation being opposed by high-ranking Democratic senators and presidential hopefuls has been a flagship project of the pro-Israel lobby in the United States for the past decade. It has also received strong support and encouragement from senior officials in the Israeli government. The pushback on the Democratic side to the legislation, which is coming from the mainstream of the party, is more consequential in the long-term than the provocative statements of freshman members of the House of Representatives, according to Israeli officials.

  • #bitcoin: The Gathering Storm
    https://hackernoon.com/bitcoin-the-gathering-storm-8000562c0adc?source=rss----3a8144eabfe3---4

    Thunderstorm Dynamics Similar To Bitcoin Market CyclesThe atmospheric dynamics which drive the lifecycle of a #thunderstorm actually have some similarities to the dynamics that drive the Bitcoin market. Specifically, since Crypto.IQ is based in Sarasota, FL, let’s compare the Bitcoin market to the sea breeze — thunderstorm cycle that is so much a part of the weather here .On a typical summer day in Florida, the sun rises and begins to heat the ground. This solar heating is transferred into the lowest part of the atmosphere near the surface, essentially the air near the ground begins to gain energy and buoyancy. This can be compared to how Bitcoin adoption increases, such as when thousands of Bitcoin ATMs are deployed and stores begin to accept Bitcoin, which pumps energy into the Bitcoin (...)

    #bitcoin-storm #gathering-storm #storms

  • 116th Congress: #TweetYourThobe, Rashida Tlaib wears Palestinian thobe at swearing in - INSIDER
    https://www.thisisinsider.com/116th-congress-tweetyourthobe-rashida-tlaib-wears-palestinian-thobe-a

    Democratic members of the House of Representatives takes their oath on the opening day of the 116th Congress as the Democrats take the majority from the GOP, at the Capitol in Washington, Thursday, Jan. 3, 2019. On the top row are, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., left, and Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., middle row, Rep. Joe Morelle, D-N.Y., left, and Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., and on the bottom row, Rep. Deb Haaland, D-N.M., the first Native American woman elected to Congress. They are joined by children and family members, a tradition on the first day of the new session. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

    Women are tweeting images of their thobes — traditional Palestinian dresses adorned with elaborate embroidery — inspired by freshman Rep. Rashida Tlaib.
    Rep. Tlaib, who was elected in November to represent the 13th District in Michigan, was sworn into the 116th Congress on Thursday.
    The congresswoman is one of the first two Muslim-American women elected to Congress, and during her swearing-in Rep. Tlaib wore a thobe.
    The #TweetYourThobe movement was started by Palestinian-American novelist Susan Muaddi Darraj, The New York Times reported, as a way to show support for Tlaib.

    #palestine

  • Les chevaux préhistoriques de Floride étaient sédentaires. (5Ma)

    Une analyse de strontium de dents de cheval fossilisées de Floride a révélé que les animaux ne voyageaient pas loin de leur lieu de naissance. Les chercheurs ont également trouvé des preuves que des chevaux préhistoriques se nourrissaient le long de la côte comme des chevaux sauvages comme aujourd’hui dans des endroits comme Assateague Island National Seashore.

    Selon une nouvelle étude de l’Université de Cincinnati, contrairement aux zèbres d’aujourd’hui, les chevaux préhistoriques de certaines régions d’Amérique du Nord n’ont pas fait de migrations épiques pour trouver de la nourriture ou de l’eau douce.

    Les résultats suggèrent que la Floride était un paradis pour les chevaux il y a 5 millions d’années, offrant tout ce que les animaux pouvaient souhaiter dans un espace relativement restreint.

    Les zèbres des plaines et les chevaux sauvages mongols entreprennent des migrations épiques chaque année pour trouver de l’eau ou de l’herbe verte.

    Le cheval sauvage mongol, également connu sous le nom de cheval de Przewalski, parcourt jusqu’à 13 km par jour. Et les zèbres de Burchell en Afrique australe sont connus pour leurs migrations saisonnières qui les conduisent jusqu’à 300 milles(...) au fur et à mesure qu’ils suivent les pluies et l’herbe verte.

    Les géologues du Collège des arts et des sciences McMicken de l’Université de Californie ont découvert que les chevaux préhistoriques de la côte de la Floride vivaient et mouraient dans un espace relativement restreint.
    "Il semble que ces chevaux en Floride étaient relativement sédentaires. Ils n’ont pas parcouru de longues distances" , a déclaré Jenelle Wallace, diplômée de l’Université de la Californie et auteur principal de l’étude.

    Les premiers chevaux du monde sont originaires d’Amérique du Nord. Ils y ont vécu pendant 55 millions d’années avant de s’étendre en Asie et en Afrique et de disparaître sur leur continent il y a environ 12 000 ans.

    Les petits animaux à trois doigts vivaient comme des antilopes, broutant les feuilles dans les forêts profondes. Mais pendant la période du Miocène entre 23 et 8 millions d’années, l’évolution du cheval a explosé en 15 familles différentes. Les chevaux ont développé des corps plus gros, des jambes plus longues et des sabots durs à la place des orteils pour les aider à couvrir davantage de terrain.

    Leurs dents ont également changé, devenant plus grandes et plus longues pour la culture d’herbe grossière recouverte de poussière de silice abrasive au lieu de cueillir des feuilles molles. Ce sont ces dents qui ont aidé les chercheurs de l’UC à étudier le mode de vie des chevaux éteints.

    Les géologues de l’UC ont comparé les isotopes de strontium trouvés dans les dents de cheval fossilisées à ceux de strontium dans le substrat rocheux dans différentes parties du sud-est américain pour suivre les errances des chevaux. Des plantes telles que l’herbe absorbent le strontium de la terre et les chevaux, à leur tour, absorbent ce strontium pendant le pâturage. De cette façon, le strontium sert de marqueur géographique.

    Les professeurs de géologie de l’UC et les co-auteurs de l’étude, Brooke Crowley et Joshua Miller, ont utilisé cette technique pour suivre les mouvements d’autres animaux, qu’ils soient vivants ou préhistoriques. (...)

    L’étude a examiné sept espèces de chevaux ainsi que deux mangeurs de feuilles connus : un tapir préhistorique et un parent éloigné d’éléphants appelé gomphothère.
    (...)

    Parmi les chevaux, les chercheurs ont trouvé peu de variation dans la taille de leur gamme. Mais le strontium a montré une connexion entre les chevaux et la mer. Comme les chevaux modernes dans des endroits comme Assateague Island National Seashore, des chevaux préhistoriques pourraient s’être nourris le long de la côte. Les chercheurs ont suggéré que la végétation consommée par les chevaux était influencée par le strontium d’origine marine issu de la pulvérisation marine, les précipitations ou l’intrusion d’eau salée dans les eaux souterraines.

    L’étude a été financée par des subventions du département de géologie de l’UC, de Sigma Xi, de la Geological Society of America et de l’American Society of Mammalogists, ainsi que du prix Winifred Goldring de l’Association for Women Geoscientists.

    « L’étude suggère que nous ne sommes pas les seules pommes de terre de canapé. Si les animaux ne doivent pas bouger, ils ne le feront pas », a déclaré Miller.

    La migration est une affaire dangereuse, a déclaré Miller. Les animaux sont exposés à des blessures, à la maladie et à la famine lorsqu’ils parcourent de grandes distances. Et au Miocène, les chevaux devaient déjouer beaucoup de grands prédateurs tels que les chats à dents de sabre.

    « Les coûts énergétiques du déménagement sont élevés », a déclaré Miller.

    #Préhistoire #Paléolthique #Cheval #Amérique_du_Nord #5MaBP
    Jenelle P. Wallace, Brooke E. Crowley, Joshua H. Miller. Investigating equid mobility in Miocene Florida, USA using strontium isotope ratios. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology, 2019 ; 516 : 232

    DOI : 10.1016/j.palaeo.2018.11.036

    https://uc.edu/news/articles/2018/12/n2057444.html

  • A vivid, surreal Kodachrome love poem to 1980s Florida
    https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/in-sight/wp/2018/12/12/a-vivid-surreal-kodachrome-love-poem-to-1980s-florida

    Florida has long been one of the most intriguing of the 50 states. From election drama to news of the weird, the state has been the source of a rich variety of stories going back over the years. Photographer Nathan Benn’s new book, “A Peculiar Paradise: Florida Photographs” (Powerhouse, 2018), brings together images he shot as a National Geographic photographer. The book is a rich source of the kinds of things that make the state such an interesting place, and a look back at one of the most fertile times in its history, the 1980s.


    Charles Tipton and family of Panama City harvesting oysters at dawn in Apalachicola Bay. (From “A Peculiar Paradise” by Nathan Benn, published by powerHouse Books)
    #photographie #floride

  • #security Audits, Essential yet Neglected!
    https://hackernoon.com/security-audits-essential-yet-neglected-130e9af974fe?source=rss----3a814

    Image Ref. — Quill Audits“Blockchain technology is no more Nascent”, rather, its immense potential is being realised by governments and enterprises all around the globe. Traditional businesses from fields like healthcare, agriculture, finance and transportation have already integrated #blockchain in their supply chains, and made business records secure and immutable. The adoption of cryptocurrencies by governments of Ohio and Florida further strengthens my point.As we adopt something new in our lives, critics too, find their way to creep in. Rather than giving facts on the how blockchain use cases have transformed a business process, media reports have highlighted the cases where millions of dollars were stolen from a blockchain ecosystem-DAO Hack — $150 Million StolenParity — $300 Million (...)

    #cybersecurity #audit #smart-contracts

  • Trump: Israel would be in big trouble without Saudi Arabia | The Times of Israel
    https://www.timesofisrael.com/trump-israel-would-be-in-big-trouble-without-saudi-arabia

    US President Donald Trump on Thursday suggested that Israel would face major regional difficulties in the Middle East if it were not for the stabilizing presence of Saudi Arabia.

    “Israel would be in big trouble without Saudi Arabia,” Trump told reporters after a Thanksgiving Day telephone call with members of the military from his Mar-a-Lago resort home in Florida.

    Pour mémoire, ce constat qui avait rarement été fait avaec autant de franchise... #israël #usa #arabie_saoudite