Colchester boy, 8, steers car to safety after mum has seizure

Celebrity Gists, Facts, personality, relationship
Lauren Smith and Ben Hedger
Ben Hedger steered his mum Lauren Smith’s car to safety after she had a seizure

An eight-year-old boy took control of a car at 60mph and steered it to safety across a busy dual carriageway when his mother blacked out at the wheel.

Ben Hedger was on his way home from school with mum Lauren Smith when she had a seizure on the A120 near Colchester, in Essex.

The Ford Ka hit the central reservation and realising the danger, Ben put on the hazard lights and guided the vehicle across the lanes to the hard shoulder.

His mum said she was “so proud”.

Miss Smith, 27, who lives in Colchester, lost consciousness at about 15.45 GMT on Monday.

“When I started having the seizure at first I grabbed the wheel and was steering erratically so because of that we moved from the left lane into the central reservation and crashed into that,” she said.

“We were scraping along and that is when Ben realised he needed to do something.

“He put the hazards on, grabbed the steering wheel and steered us to the hard shoulder where we continued along until the car stalled.”

Miss Smith said Ben had not realised how serious his actions had been.

“He realised something was wrong with me but he didn’t realise he had done this amazing thing.

“He said he just did what he had to do otherwise we would have died.”

After pulling the car over, Ben tried to use his mother’s phone to call the emergency services before another car stopped and helped them.

Miss Smith, who came around after five to 10 minutes, said she had never had a seizure before and had to be told about what had happened by Ben, the emergency services and a fellow driver.

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The blind woman developing tech for the good of others

Entertainment, Facts, International Finance, international News, personality, Tech

Virginia Harrison BBC News, Singapore

Chieko Asakawa was awarded Japan's Medal of Honour for her contributions to accessibility research
Chieko Asakawa received Japan’s Medal of Honour for her contribution to accessibility research

An accident in a swimming pool left Chieko Asakawa blind at the age of 14. For the past three decades she’s worked to create technology – now with a big focus on artificial intelligence (AI) – to transform life for the visually impaired.

“When I started out there was no assistive technology,” Japanese-born Dr Asakawa says.

“I couldn’t read any information by myself. I couldn’t go anywhere by myself.”

Those “painful experiences” set her on a path of learning that began with a computer science course for blind people, and a job at IBM soon followed. She started her pioneering work on accessibility at the firm, while also earning her doctorate.

Dr Asakawa is behind early digital Braille innovations and created the world’s first practical web-to-speech browser. Those browsers are commonplace these days, but 20 years ago, she gave blind internet users in Japan access to more information than they’d ever had before.

Hands on a keyboard with a braille computer display
Braille and voice control are still key technologies for blind people

Now she and other technologists are looking to use AI to create tools for visually impaired people.

Micro mapping

For example, Dr Asakawa has developed NavCog, a voice-controlled smartphone app that helps blind people navigate complicated indoor locations.

Low-energy Bluetooth beacons are installed roughly every 10m (33ft) to create an indoor map. Sampling data is collected from those beacons to build “fingerprints” of a specific location.

“We detect user position by comparing the users’ current fingerprint to the server’s fingerprint model,” she says.

Close-up of blind person's can on road
Image captionCould navigation apps mean blind people have to rely on canes less?

Collecting large amounts of data creates a more detailed map than is available in an application like Google Maps, which doesn’t work for indoor locations and cannot provide the level of detail blind and visually impaired people need, she says.

“It can be very helpful, but it cannot navigate us exactly,” says Dr Asakawa, who’s now an IBM Fellow, a prestigious group that has produced five Nobel prize winners.

NavCog is currently in a pilot stage, available in several sites in the US and one in Tokyo, and IBM says it is close to making the app available to the public.

‘It gave me more control’

Pittsburgh residents Christine Hunsinger, 70, and her husband Douglas Hunsinger, 65, both blind, trialled NavCog at a hotel in their city during a conference for blind people.

“I felt more like I was in control of my own situation,” says Mrs Hunsinger, now retired after 40 years as a government bureaucrat.

She uses other apps to help her get around, and says while she needed to use her white cane alongside NavCog, it did give her more freedom to move around in unfamiliar areas.

Chieko Asakawa
Image captionDr Asakawa says memories of colour help with her work on object recognition and NavCog

Mr Hunsinger agrees, saying the app “took all the guesswork out” of finding places indoors.

“It was really liberating to travel independently on my own.”

A lightweight ‘suitcase robot’

Dr Asakawa’s next big challenge is the “AI suitcase” – a lightweight navigational robot.

It steers a blind person through the complex terrain of an airport, providing directions as well as useful information on flight delays and gate changes, for example.

The suitcase has a motor embedded so it can move autonomously, an image-recognition camera to detect surroundings, and Lidar – Light Detection And Ranging – for measuring distances to objects.

When stairs need to be climbed, the suitcase tells the user to pick it up.

“If we work together with the robot it could be lighter, smaller and lower cost,” Dr Asakawa says.

The current prototype is “pretty heavy”, she admits. IBM is pushing to make the next version lighter and hopes it will ultimately be able to contain at least a laptop computer. It aims to pilot the project in Tokyo in 2020.

“I want to really enjoy travelling alone. That’s why I want to focus on the AI suitcase even if it is going to take a long time.”

IBM showed me a video of the prototype, but as it’s not ready for release yet the firm was reluctant to release images at this stage.

AI for ‘social good’

Despite its ambitions, IBM lags behind Microsoft and Google in what it currently offers the visually impaired.

Microsoft has committed $115m (£90m) to its AI for Good programme and $25m to its AI for accessibility initiative. For example, Seeing AI – a talking camera app – is a central part of its accessibility work.

Microsoft's Saqib Shaikh demonstrates the firm's text-to-speech smartphone app
Image captionMicrosoft’s Saqib Shaikh demonstrates the firm’s text-to-speech smartphone app

And later this year Google reportedly plans to launch its Lookout app, initially for the Pixel, that will narrate and guide visually impaired people around specific objects.

“People with disabilities have been overlooked when it comes to technology development as a whole,” says Nick McQuire, head of enterprise and AI research at CCS Insight.

But he says that’s been changing in the past year, as big tech firms push hard to invest in AI applications that “improve social wellbeing”.

He expects more to come in this space, including from Amazon, which has sizeable investments in AI.

“But it’s really Microsoft and Google… in the last 12 months that have made the big focus in this area,” he says.

Mr McQuire says the focus on social good and disability is linked to “trying to showcase the benefits [of AI] in light of a lot of negative sentiment” around AI replacing human jobs and even taking over completely.

But AI in the disability space is far from perfect. A lot of the investment right now is about “proving the accuracy and speed of the applications” around vision, he says.

Dr Asakawa concludes simply: “I’ve been tackling the difficulties I found when I became blind. I hope these difficulties can be solved.”

Edited By Don Michael Adeniji 

Of Buhari, Tinubu, Macbeth and Odu Isa

2019 Elections, Africa, APC, Corruption, economy, Facts, Nigeria, PDP, PMB, Politics, Power, relationship

Of Buhari, Tinubu, Macbeth and Odu Isa.

“Owe ni Ifa npa, Omoran ni imo” Ifa’s revelation is always in parables; only the wise can understand their meanings.

In his analysis of the Shakespearean Tragedy “Macbeth” Michael Stratford argues that the essence of human pride was covered in three dimensions by this work. He asserted in supports of the works of Majorie Garber on the play which concluded that Macbeth’s confrontation with morality at the end of the play portrayed “real recovery” and completed the depiction of the phases of pride in men. He went further to outline these stages as: The hubris that hurls a man into sin and error, the false pride that secure and justifies all and perpetuates us in evil acts, and the final realization of our immortality and futility of all things.

The play Macbeth has been analyzed by many due to its relevance in everyday human progression. Macbeth was a young and virile soldier honored for his love of Scotland and bravery at war by King Duncan. He was at the zenith of his profession as a soldier and revered titled gentleman in Scotland when the story started. A chance meeting with the “three witches”, their predictions of Macbeth as the King of Scotland, transported this gentleman into a murderer and usurper and finally his death.Given the level of public exposure to education and the current public discourse about the ruler of Nigeria which pulls towards lack of proper formal education, maybe this narrative could be brought home more.

Curiosity recently made me look into the Ifa esoteric and cosmogony and I was amazed at the level of sophistication of the Odu Ifa in explaining and predicting main pattern of human conscious, and unconscious acts; going even further to reveal the purpose and destinies of humans on earth. I was further impressed by the manner with which knowledge and wisdom for managing pride and power were expressively itemized thorough the use of parables.For noninitiates, the Ifa divinity comprises of sixteen major quadrant of ancient Yoruba Ifa cult, which was subdivided into 256 distinct sub-heads detailing all areas of human: wisdom for proper interrelations, truth and moralities, science, cosmology, metaphysics, medicine and other established norms of the Yoruba People of Southwest Nigeria as established by Orunmila. Orunmila the first Ifa priest was reputed to have started the accumulation of this knowledge base, handing it over to his sixteen children, who continued to practice and develop the Ifa practice.

In Odi Isa, amongst the Odu Ifa, Orunmila tried to balance power and pride; where he depicts the travail of the Tiger, the king of the jungle when the entire animal challenged him to battle. The tiger despite his acclaimed overwhelming power, applied wisdom and appealed to the elders for help. The elders asked the Tiger to perform a sacrifice and in respect to the words of the elders, the Tiger performed all necessary rites. And to this day, no animal was able to conquer the tiger.

Tiger’s powerful could have stupidly against public opinion challenged the whole animal kingdom. which will then overrun him and take over his kingdom. When faced with adversities, he went begging the elders for advice. Instead of ruin and death as in Macbeth case, the tiger excel and its kingdom expanded.

Many writers in the pre-2015 era had lauded the achievements of the new progressives led by General Mohamadu Buhari and Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu. The duo in conjunction with other heavy weights in Nigerian politics had performed the first presidential election upset in Nigerian history; the defeat of a sitting president in a general election. The global press was agog in the spirit of the wave of change coming to Nigeria politics.

The emergence of Buhari as the new government leader was heralded as a milestone in Nigerian political arena. Given the sixteen years politicking before his emergence as the president, people were thoroughly misled that the “Buhari presidential dream” was driven by passionate goals for real change. When the new government started showing signs of unpreparedness to rule and obvious lack of cohesion were being revealed, the Nigerian people still believed and attributed it to huge challenges emanating from long period of institutionalized corruption by previous governments. Nigerian new government was later revealed to have been distracted by huge amount of propaganda, vain retribution, illegal and unnecessary arrests and prosecutions in its first year in power.

Apparently, governance and economy finally start to show negative growth. Before the end of the second year, the country which was reputed as one of the ten growing global economies was in recession. Economic indicator aside, the failing security architecture has been witnessed in all theaters of operation. Conflict escalations in most areas were being witnessed. Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) continued to rise as conflicts engulfs the state. Youth and elites migration have more than doubled within three years, and statistics on youth unemployment is reading above one third of population. The national currency’s value in international trade fell by over 200 percent in the first year of this government and it took direct intervention of the Central Bank of Nigeria to shore up the Naira to its current 360 to one dollar status.

Failed economy, repetitive conflicts, insurrections, low school attendance, thriving illicit economies, and high youth emigration, according to Mary Kaldor are signs of failing states. The constant stay outside the country by the president was a minor issue until the whole world was treated to the caricature of Nigerian President’s show of shame in faraway Poland on the Saturday Night Show recently. The lack of grace and charisma that goes with the esteemed office of the president of Federal Republic of Nigeria, the representative of over 200millon people and one of the fastest growing states globally by this current president reflects his depth of understanding of the power and privilege of Nigeria in global politics.

Tinubu’s rise to stardom in Nigerian politics was midwifed by the NADECO movement against military rule in the late eighties and early nineties. The movement which led to the emergence of this ongoing republic equally blessed BAT with the governorship of the most priced state in Nigeria, Lagos. Lagos represents the hub of commerce and economy of Nigeria. Nigerian position as a giant in Africa business resides in the economic performance of Lagos State. Eight years of his direct rule, twelve years of his protégés ruling, characterized by unashamed plundering of Lagos state’s resources has created a new Bola Ahmed Tinubu. The Czar of Southwest Nigeria was born. By 2014, Tinubu had in his control a war-chest big enough to start and prosecute any political war in Nigeria against any opposition.

When Tinubu pitched his tent against President Goodluck Jonathan, midwifed a coalition of parties to form All Peoples’ Congress (APC) in supports of Buhari, the die was cast. Tinubu’s prowess and political machinery was founded on the Lagos State dynasty. This base he has always controlled since 1999. Experts have posited that the loss of Lagos by the Tinubu gang will surely sound the kernel of his political demise. Recent happenings have shown the arrival of the new Tinubu. Four month to general elections, Tinubu unilaterally influenced the removal of the name of the incumbent governor of Lagos State from the ballot and imposed a new man as the party representative. A move that has been reported irked many locals and party faithful.

Obviously, Tinubu’s power as sole godfather and power broker in Lagos politics is on test as 2019 February elections looms. Buhari’s reign and reelections as president is being supported by the Tinubu’s camp. The alliance many agreed was based on the pact to return Tinubu as president in 2023. This ambition has fueled the unalloyed support from Lagos APC for Buhari’s return. It’s a big gamble on the path of Tinubu and Buhari. Like the proverbial fly, Buhari has tasted the wine and is ready and willing to die in the same cup of wine.

Tinubu’s ambition also has turned him to the fly that refused to heed the warnings of the elders and has decided to follow the corpse into the earth. Ambition is necessary to achieve and progress in life, yet ambitions should be ethically based, no normal leader will continue to aspire to hold and office in which he does not have capacity for managing, and no normal human being will sacrifice the future of his people, merely for his own selfish ambition.

Ambition contaminated by acute pride surely begets disaster. Macbeth ambition was fueled by greed and selfish ambition to rule Scotland, never because he was a pushed by a need to work a better society for his people. His endgame led to war and carnage pushing Scotland which was growing as a nation into complete recession and pillage by ravaging armies. Equally, the Tiger would have resorted to use of might against his enemies as he was in power, but wisdom led him to the elders. Tinubu and Buhari have achieved the impossible in Nigerian politics; the time has come for them both to respect the people and leave the scene. Unrestrained pride and ambition, the elders says always lead to death and destructions.

Don Michael Adeniji                                                                                          Director, African Initiative for Peace and Human Development, Abuja Chicago Illinois. December, 2018

7 Reasons Behind Fatigue And How To Fix Them

Facts, foods, News

Fatigue can follow you around like a leech even after maintaining a healthy diet and active lifestyle. This crisis of energy happens to a major portion of working adults who has the need to keep up with the pace of the fast-moving world. Keeping up the energy level is another challenge that we need to face in our daily lives. Even though a continuous tiredness can be a symptom of a bigger problem lying dormant inside your body, you might try identifying a few energy zapping habits and changing them to regain your energy. Don’t run to the doctor just yet.

7. Irregular Sleeping PatternImage Credit: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/433823376580161716/

If your everyday sleeping routine is not the same, you are probably not getting enough sleep and it might be messing with the rhythms of your body. It will cause you more tiredness instead of restoring your energy at the end of the day. Having a restless sleeping partner just adds up to the erratic sleeping pattern.

Fix
Make sure your sleeping hours are constant every night, not deferring more than an hour or so on weekends and make sure you are getting at least 7 hours of sound sleep.

6. Inactivity

Image Credit: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/45106433740544268/

Sitting around working on your desk for endless hours at a time can cause more harm than good. Sitting still makes your heart rate and blood circulation slow down as your brain relates the stillness to sleeping. It also weakens your muscles thus making it harder to do physical tasks.

Fix
Exercise for a least half an hour every day, be it at the gym, at home, dancing, jogging, etc. If you don’t have the time, then try walking around every hour at your workplace.

 

5. Dehydration

Image Credit: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/22729173096494930/

Many of us forget to drink sufficient amount of water while running around to keep up with our hectic lifestyle, thus resulting to the lethargic feeling. Severe dehydration occurs in our body without giving us much indication except for the numbing tiredness and sometimes nausea.

Fix
Minimum 8-10 glasses of water every day is a must. You might even need more if your job is more physically demanding than average. If you have a habit of drinking caffeinated products, you might need to compensate that with a few more glasses of water.

4. Tension and Stress

Image Credit: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/394768723564480647/

If you have a habit of being stressed or tensed all the time, your energy will get drained faster. Because people tend to clench their muscles, hyperventilate or jiggle feet when they are stressed.

Fix
Try stopping your work every few hours and concentrate on releasing tension from your body. Take deep and slow breaths by ballooning your stomach and chest and loosening all the muscles in your body by massaging them.

 

3. Nutrition and Diet

Image Credit: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/285978645064122661/

Improper nutrition and imbalanced diet may cause a lot of this unexplained tiredness and fatigue. If your diet contains lots of carbs, sugar, and processed foods, it is possible that this is the reason behind your lethargy.

Fix
Include complex carbs like whole grains, proteins and healthy fats in your meals and snacks. You can try having unprocessed food to avoid added sugar and have fruits, honey, etc. to satiate your sugar cravings.

2. Clutter and Mess

Image Credit: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/145874475405315248/

A messy office space or a cluttered closet can give you an overwhelming feeling of anxiety and stress, which you cannot really pinpoint. The impending activity of having to clear up the mess is bound to make you feel tired and make it harder to focus on anything.

Fix
Get rid of anything that you don’t need and label everything to keep everything organized in order and avoid any messy situation in the future.

 

1. Loneliness

Image Credit: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/16747829841911769/

Physically or emotionally, if you are cooped up in your home alone or not talked to someone properly and openly about what’s going on inside your mind, can cause fatigue.

Fix
A day out in the sun, a heart-to-heart conversation with a friend or family can give you the relief that your body might need to restore your energy level.

All these 7 habits are the reason behind oxygen deficiency and why your blood circulation slows down. Utilize a little time every day to help yourself to get out of these habits that zap your energy before making an appointment with the doctor.

Cameroon’s forced returns put Nigerian refugees at risk- ISS

Facts, News, Politics
Forced repatriations are illegal and play into Boko Haram’s narrative that states are unwilling to protect people BY AIMÉE-NOËL MBIYOZO

ref.jpg

Cameroon has forcibly returned 385 refugees to Nigeria this year, most of them in the past month, a United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) report reveals. This despite the country’s commitment as recently as 2017 to facilitate the safe return of Nigerian refugees fleeing Boko Haram violence.

By doing this, Cameroon is violating both national and international law. It is also putting vulnerable refugees at risk, and is eroding the effectiveness of protection frameworks and supporting extremist narratives.

Roughly 110 000 Nigerians have fled to Cameroon from Boko Haram-related violence. Of these, the UNHCR has registered 87 600. The Minawao refugee camp was built in 2013 specifically for Nigerians. The camp has capacity for 20 000 but reports indicate it hosts over 70 000. At least 30 000 additional refugees have been living in villages surrounding the Minawao camp and make up the bulk of the forced returns.

The Cameroonian government claims that Nigerian refugees constitute a security and economic threat, but has provided no evidence that Nigerian asylum seekers or refugees have been involved in attacks. Despite mounting evidence, Cameroon denies deporting refugees and claims they have merely moved people to safer localities.

After two years of quiet efforts to curtail forced returns, the UNHCR published two reports in May 2017 documenting over 90 000 returns since January 2015. The UNHCR has since formed a tripartite commission with Nigeria and Cameroon to facilitate safe, voluntary returns that Cameroon has repeatedly violated.

A September 2017 report by Human Rights Watch claimed Cameroon had summarily deported more than 100 000 Nigerians, with evidence that soldiers beat people to force them to comply. Allegations of torture and human rights abuses, including unlawful detention, torture and killing, have been lodged against the Cameroonian government.

New Nigerian arrivals are reportedly being aggressively screened, accused of being members or wives of Boko Haram, tortured and moved to remote locations away from UNHCR access. Gross abuses have been reported in the Minawao camp, including a lack of food, water and healthcare and restrictions on refugees’ rights to move freely.

Cameroon has a legitimate right to monitor who is in the country, but assuming Nigerian nationals are linked to extremists is false and distracts from the real issues. It also has dangerous consequences. Refugees forcefully returned from Cameroon to north-east Nigeria face displacement and destitution.

They are returned to a conflict region with no access to resources or support. Overcrowding is severe, housing is scarce and food is in short supply. Women are particularly vulnerable and face sexual exploitation. Children are being separated from their families. Some returnees, including children, are weakened by malnutrition and a lack of medical care and die during deportations.

The non-refoulement principle – which forbids countries from returning asylum seekers or refugees to countries where they face danger – is at the heart of international refugee conventions. Cameroon is a state party to both the 1969 Organisation of African Unity Refugee Convention and the 1951 Refugee Convention of Geneva and has incorporated these prohibitions into its own laws. By forcibly returning people, Cameroon is contravening national and international law and tarnishing its long history of hosting refugees.

Conducting forced returns erodes the authority of international laws to protect refugees. It sets a dangerous precedent and is part of an international trend of growing hostilities and shrinking protection for refugees.

Returning refugees as a security measure is a particularly dangerous precedent in the Lake Chad Basin, where Chad, Niger and Nigeria all face extremist threats and have tenuous human rights records. Analysis by the Institute for Security Studies argues that if other countries follow Cameroon, this would worsen an already dire situation. Worryingly, in February 2018, Nigeria – possibly in response to this practice – was similarly accused of forcibly returning 47 Cameroonian asylum seekers.

By repatriating people fleeing Boko Haram, Cameroon is forcing vulnerable people into situations that inherently contain many of the factors that fuel radicalisation. And this is happening in a region where Boko Haram is actively recruiting. Plus, one of Boko Haram’s objectives is to delegitimise governments as ruling entities. This is a central narrative of the extremist group, as are claims that states are illegitimate and unwilling to protect people.

Whether intentionally or by default, states that violate international and national human rights laws, and expose vulnerable people to imminent threat and poverty, lend significant weight to Boko Haram narratives.

Meanwhile Boko Haram activity in Cameroon has increased. It has displaced an estimated 200 000 Cameroonians internally and is recruiting members using a mix of coercion and financial incentives, particularly among disaffected youth. Up to 4 000 Cameroonians are believed to have joined Boko Haram. Evidence thus far indicates the group has had far more success in recruiting Cameroonians than infiltrating Nigerian refugee flows.

Responding effectively to Boko Haram in Cameroon requires practical, evidence-based efforts that address the root causes of extremism in a particular context. This must be done without violating the rights of refugees, or creating conditions that could worsen violent extremism.

As a signatory to international conventions governing refugees, Cameroon must reconsider its policy on deportations, and comply with international and national law to protect refugee rights. It must further allow entry of all asylum seekers and provide access to refugee registration. Programmes that counter Boko Haram recruitment must be started, and should include socio-economic development and education, particularly among disaffected youth.

Read the full ISS policy brief: Cameroon’s forceful repatriation of Nigerian refugees.

Aimée-Noël Mbiyozo, Senior Research Consultant, Migration Programme, ISS

50 great World Cup moments: England lose to West Germany on penalties at Italia 90

Entertainment, Facts, sports

https://wp.me/p8ZPmC-JSi.

50 great World Cup moments: England lose to West Germany on penalties at Italia 90

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Relive England’s penalty shootout heartbreak against West Germany at the semi-final of Italia 90, as we reach 47 days to go until the 2018 World Cup begins.

Available to UK users only.

Soccer News

via BBC Sport – Footballhttps://ift.tt/OHg7x6

April 27, 2018 at 10:21PM

A PATCH OF GARBAGE IN THE PACIFIC IS NOW TWICE THE SIZE OF TEXAS

Facts, weather

A PATCH OF GARBAGE IN THE PACIFIC IS NOW TWICE THE SIZE OF TEXAS

gabage.jpgImagine trillions of pieces of plastic debris that, if strung together end to end, would line every inch of coastline in the world at least three times over.

That’s how much garbage researchers found pollutes a remote area in the Pacific Ocean between California and Hawaii. The phenomenon is known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, and researchers with The Ocean Cleanup foundation estimate it covers more than 600,000 square miles, more than twice the size of Texas:

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is estimated to be 2.3 times the size of Texas.

Source: The Ocean Cleanup
Credit: Sam Hart/NBC

It’s growing, too. A study published last month in Scientific Reports reported it is four to 16 times bigger than in previous estimates.

Records of the patch have been around since as early as 1988, but the concentration of debris received a significant amount of media attention in the 2010s. The environmental charity Plastic Oceans Foundation and social media company LADBible went so far as to campaign for the patch to be recognized as a sovereign nation in 2017.

It’s growing, too. A study published last month in Scientific Reports reported it is four to 16 times bigger than in previous estimates.

Records of the patch have been around since as early as 1988, but the concentration of debris received a significant amount of media attention in the 2010s. The environmental charity Plastic Oceans Foundation and social media company LADBible went so far as to campaign for the patch to be recognized as a sovereign nation in 2017.

While the name may suggest an actual land mass, an island of garbage floating far out in the ocean, the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is nothing like that. Rather, it’s a concentration of particles ranging from 10 kilograms of debris per square kilometer to over 100.

“There’s been a lot of different wording for this area, people call it like, ‘plastic soup’ or ‘plastic smog,’” said Laurent Lebreton, head researcher at The Ocean Cleanup and lead author of the recent study.

Instead, it’s a patch in that there is a consistent concentration of plastic within the estimated bounds, he said. The phenomenon is observed in each of the world’s oceans: accumulations of debris at the center of large-scale circular current patterns called “ocean gyres,” which are created by winds and the Earth’s rotation.

“It really is a ‘patch.’ It’s an area that keeps its integrity … the concentration of plastic inside this area is one to two orders of magnitude [larger] than outside,” Lebreton said.

In other words, the patch would not be visible from a satellite or even a plane, but close inspection reveals enough debris to impact marine life.

The Ocean Cleanup determined the concentration and extent of the patch through observation with boats, nets and aerial imaging. Researchers projected the full extent of high concentrations of debris using an algorithm.

The patch is made up of trillions of pieces of debris, from the size of large fishermen’s nets down to particles less than 0.05 cm in length. Most of the patch’s mass is debris wider than 50 cm:

Because the bulk of the patch’s mass is larger debris, The Ocean Cleanup says cleanup is possible, if it’s rolled out soon.

“We need to clean up as much as we can before everything degrades into microplastics,” Lebreton said.

It would cost between $122 million and $489 million just to hire enough boats to clean the Great Pacific Garbage Patch for a year, according to a U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration estimate from 2012.

And The Ocean Cleanup projects the patch, and others like it in oceans across the planet, will continue to grow at faster rates if nothing is done to curb disposal of plastic into the ocean.

Lebreton said that any solution toward prevention and cleanup will require “drastic measures” in the form of policy and planning at many levels — governments, corporations and cities.

“Plastic pollution in the ocean starts in the street — everything goes down waterways, streams, rivers,” Lebreton said. “So that’s how we tackle this. We need to stop putting plastic in anything that leads to the ocean.”

KIMR

The Sex They Don’t Tell You About by Rachael Corral

Facts

When I was growing up in my formative tween/pre-teen years purity aka abstinence became a mainstream movement within the church. I know sexual purity has been apart of church doctrine for centuries; it is one of the topics most denominations agree upon. However, in the late 90’s in my church circle and probably yours,  purity rings and father daughter covenant balls became a thing. Maybe it was an over-correction from the Boomers and Generation Y who were now parents of teens. They regretted their own youthful bad decisions and wanted to make sure we were protected.  Perhaps it was the rise of internet pornography and how readily available it was to our generation. Secular media has always been anti-waiting-till-marriage this was nothing new; but with outlets like MTV and VH1 we were now seeing soft porn dressed up as music videos in our living rooms.  Whatever the cause, for good or bad, this purity movement helped shape all I knew and believed about sexuality and dating.

I was fascinated with the subject and soaked in any and all information I could find on the subject. Mind you this was before Google, so my information came from my mother, Christian books on the subject, Christian teen girls magazine, Christian radio programs, my youth pastor and youth leaders. I was young and had not learned how to separate opinion from fact. I took in everything on the subject as absolute truth and as a result purity became a very literal, legalistic state of being.

Instead of teaching the future generations how to manage themselves and delay gratification we were taught to resist and protect ourselves from the lust and perversion of the flesh. Don’t have sex or commit any sexual acts before marriage. As a matter of fact, don’t date, don’t kiss before marriage and never let yourselves be alone before marriage. Oral sex is a sin, inside and outside of marriage. Masturbation is a sin. French kissing is essentially intercourse with your mouth so if you are going to choose to kiss before marriage make sure you are not french kissing. Do not ever (even platonically) touch a person of the opposite sex; you might incite lust in their heart. Definitely do not let them touch you, it can transfer spirits. Guard your heart with all diligence, guard your mind, your eye gate and your ear gate. Do not dress in a way that could even be perceived as seductive, you don’t want to cause your brother to stumble. We based an entire theology around dating and purity upon what  a 21 year old young man (who had never had a real relationship) wrote about in a very cleverly titled book. The author postulated that dating is practicing for divorce and doing irreparable damage to your heart so that you have nothing left to give to your future spouse. We know now the author’s intention was not to create a legalistic doctrine around dating, only to cause us to question why we do what we do. The church, however, took it and ran. Probably because it was the safest option. Cue a generation of young Christians who are scared to define a relationship out of fear that they will end up dating someone who is not their future spouse.

In the Christian world there is a stigma about the topic of sex and very few people are talking honestly about it. If they do talk about sex it is either preaching abstinence/purity, or raving about the wonders of sex in marriage. This is very damaging because it is not the whole story, it is not the full truth and it is not necessarily God’s heart on the subject. Shame hides in the dark, it lies to us telling us that we are the only ones. It causes us to only show our version of the best parts of ourselves, we hide the things we are ashamed of. Think of an infection left hidden and buried deep. It is going to spread, if left long enough it will turn to sepsis and you could die. The best treatment for an infection is to open it up, clean everything out and allow it to heal. The goal of shame is to keep us quiet and separated from others, if it is exposed to the light, it will have no power.

So let’s talk about some of the awkward, shameful lies about sex and purity that I have believed most of my life. The majority of these I did not learn until I was already married. It was then, that I was confronted with how many erroneous ideas I held about sex.

Lie 1: Purity is a physical state of being. The standard of purity is the same across the board.

Purity is a state of your heart. It is a very personal and individual process for everyone. There is no one-size-fits-all guideline. If you are convicted over something don’t do it, but you also do not need to put your convictions on everyone else. Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. Practical application: If you are in a relationship you need to be brave and have the very awkward conversation to make sure you are both on the same page with how far is too far. Respect each others boundaries, protect each others purity

My belief system around purity was that it was something that could be tarnished or contaminated. I lived my life like God was keeping score, turns out it was just me. Whenever people talked about purity they never seemed to give people the whole truth because they were afraid that it would be taken as an excuse to sin. I was taught that God forgave, but you would never be able to erase the scars of your actions. While yes, some consequences might be permanent (a child for example), God is always a God of hope and healing and restoration. No one is too far gone that God can’t restore them, and my sin is not too big of a problem for Jesus’ blood to cover. I worked tirelessly to “keep myself pure” and it was a very hard pill for me to swallow when I realized that I had been striving for years to protect my purity motivated out of trying to earn God’s blessing instead of out of a heart conviction. Not that it doesn’t count or that I regret my decisions; I believe God still blesses us in our ignorance. I wasted so much time and effort when I could have been resting in God’s grace and focusing on other things. When I received a revelation of God’s grace it set me free from trying to have to be good enough, pure enough. Where I looked down and judged others who were not holding themselves to the same standard I was, God reminded me that sin is sin, He already paid the price for it. God does not classify sin, the church has been the ones who do that.

Lie 2: Having a sex drive before marriage is a sin.

God created us perfectly. Yes, we have hormones and desires and urges before we can “legally” use them. It is a sin? NO! Do we need to learn how to manage our appetite and delay gratification? Yes.

I had spent years feeling guilty and condemned thinking I had a problem with lust and perversion. I prayed and fasted for God to take away my lustful desires. Turns out I am a normal human and have hormones. This is one of those tricky areas where people begin to debate what is sin and what is not. Temptation in and of itself is not the sin. When you own the temptation as yours, that is when it could be sin. For example if you have a bad thought, the thought itself is not sin, but there is a point where you will either choose to own the thought by continuing to think and build on the original thought or you will choose to push it out and think of something else.

Lie 3: Sex is dirty and wrong, it is shameful and should not be talked about.

No, no and no. God intentionally created sex, it is not an accident or an afterthought. He is not embarrassed by it, He does not think it is dirty or wrong. In the context of marriage, it is a gift, a covenant, it is an act of worship, the most intimate expression of God’s love for us. Sexual intimacy dispels doubt, creates connection, fosters emotional intimacy, relieves stress, releases oxytocin (bonding hormone), helps you sleep and the list can go on and on. If any of that feels untrue you might want to readjust your mindset. It is not shameful at all. If you feel shame around sex or being sexual, it is a lie. Recognize it, confront it and refuse to partner with it. It might not be an instant mindset change, it might take practice renewing your mind. Like I said before shame thrives and feeds off of secrecy. When you expose it, its power is gone. Talk about it, to your husband or wife, a trusted friend, a counselor or therapist. If that seems to scary and daunting, start small. Say it out loud to yourself, write it in a journal. When you recognize and confront shame you will notice things will begin to shift for you.

This has been one of the harder mindsets to shift for me after being married. I knew in my head that sex in marriage is good and not shameful, but still felt yuck about the whole situation. For me, it took saying what I believed to be true about sex and sexuality out loud to my life coach. Just saying the lies out loud helped me to make that connection from my head to my heart and really recognize and know that I was choosing to believe and partner with the lie that sex is shameful.

Lie 4: Saving yourself for marriage automatically equals great sex when you are married.

Great sex comes from practice and a mutual commitment to connection and growth within all aspects of the marriage. It does not always come naturally and not many people will tell you that. The very little we do hear in the church about sex in marriage is typically painted as this magical, amazing thing. With divorce rates about 50% right now, inside and outside of the church, and sexual incompatibility cited as one of the main reasons for divorce, maybe we are not getting the full truth. We are doing everyone a disservice by not telling or exaggerating our truth truth. People who are having problems in the sexual aspect of their relationship are less likely to seek help because they feel like they are the only ones. Don’t get me wrong, I know plenty of married couples who have amazing sex lives, this is in no way saying sex in marriage sucks. I just want to let you know if you are having problems it is not as uncommon as you might think. Real life is not a romance movie, there will be ups and downs. Most people bring several of the following into their marriage bed that they will need to work through at some time or another in order to have mutually satisfying sexual intimacy. Things like emotional baggage, unrealistic expectations, trust issues, pre-conceived ideas from previous relationships, intimacy issues, pornograpy or sexual addictions, previous sexual abuse, bad communication to name a few. Then there are physical obstacles that might present themselves at sometime throughout your marriage like impotence, low testosterone or physical conditions that make sex painful, libido killing hormones from birth control, pregnancy or breastfeeding. Hold onto hope, have patience and work on creating a safe space for connection, communication and growth.

Honest moment; my wedding night fell miserably short of all the hype. I was devastated and so confused because it was not like they said it would be. Sex has been a very sore subject for us and we have been struggling for years. It has not been one single thing or just one persons problem. It has been a cumulation of many things. Such as,w the very difficult and emotional circumstances surrounding our wedding, miscommunication and misinterpretation, unrealistic expectations, my hormones being all out of whack from birth control, among other things. I have had a very hard time wrapping my head around this lie. I sat in hopelessness for a long time until I decided that I was done being the victim. I had wrestle and rumble with all sorts of negative emotions and false mindsets and belief systems about the whole situation. I have had to mourn the death of my unrealistic expectations created in the naiveté of youth. To combat all the lies that I had partnered with surrounding sex and purity as well as grieve all the hard work and years of striving that were misplaced and unnecessary. It has not been an easy process by any means. My husband has had his own journey. It is awkward and uncomfortable, but our commitment to seek health and wholeness in this area has deepened our connection and strengthened our marriage. We are still in our process, but we can see how far we have come and the light at the end of the tunnel grows brighter and brighter.

 

Do we really only get a certain number of heartbeats in a lifetime? Here’s what science says

Facts

do-we-really-only-get-a-certain-number-of-heartbeats-in-a-lifetime-heres-what-science-says (1)Do we really only get a certain number of heartbeats in a lifetime? Here’s what science says

“I believe that every human has a finite number of heartbeats,” the famous quote goes. “I don’t intend to waste any of mine running around doing exercises.”

Contrary to what you might have heard, Neil Armstrong never said this. What’s more, he disagreed with it. But as much as it’s a misattribution, was Armstrong right to argue?

The simplest answer is ‘yes’. There is no strict tally for your ticker, keeping track of your pulse until you’ve used up your allocation of beats. So get out and exercise (after you’ve finished reading this article, of course).

But there is a more complex answer, one that suggests there is at least some kind of relationship between our heart rate and overall life expectancy.

In 2013, a team of Danish researchers published in the journal BMJ Heart 16 years of work on just under 5,200 men.

Of the roughly 2,800 individuals who provided a decent bank of medical data, just over a third had passed away by the end of the trial from various causes.

Matching the sample’s resting heart rates with the rate of mortality led the researchers to believe that higher pulses correlated with a greater chance of dying.

Those with between 71 to 80 beats per minute had a 51 percent greater chance of kicking the bucket during that period than those with a resting rate of under 50 beats. At 81 to 90 beats per minute, that risk was double. Over 90, and it tripled.

In case you’re thinking this was all about fitness or risk of cardiovascular disease, they took those factors into account. Even those who were in otherwise good physical condition seemed to be at risk, so once again, don’t use this an excuse to do avoid going for a run.

This sly nod to a relationship between life expectancy and heart rate extends past individual humans – other animals appear to obey a similar ballpark rule.

Check out this website to get some idea of what your pulse is like when compared with, say, a giraffe’s.

As we’ve seen, humans have on average a heart rate of around 60 to 70 beats per minute, give or take. We live roughly 70 or so years, giving us just over 2 billion beats all up.

Chickens have a faster heart rate of about 275 beats per minute, and live only 15 years. On balance, they also have about 2 billion beats.

We seem kind of lucky. A whale has around 20 beats per minute, and lives only slightly longer than us. It gets just under a billion heart beats.

An elephant? Try 30 beats per minute for around 70 years, giving roughly a billion as well.

The poor little skittish hamster has a rapid-fire pulse of 450 beats every minute, squeezed into three short years. That also adds up to a little under a billion.

This rule isn’t a hard and fast one, given differences of a few million here and there.

But if we look at it in rough orders of magnitude, there does seem to be a heart-wrenching link between living fast and dying young for all creatures great and small.

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Britain Aims to Close Gender Pay Gap With Transparency and Shame

economy, Facts, International Finance

easy

EasyJet headquarters at London Luton Airport. Men outearn women by around 52 percent at easyJet, which has pledged to hire more female pilots. Credit Andrew Testa for The New York Times

The gender pay gaps detailed by British companies in recent months surprised almost no one — men are paid more than women, often by a wide margin, at the vast majority of businesses.

But by making companies publicly air their salary information, Britain intends to force a reckoning. Officials in London hope the embarrassing revelations in the reports, which had to be submitted by Wednesday, will shame companies into doing more to close the divide.

The push is one of a growing number of efforts among countries to promote the principle of equal pay. Australia recently mandated gender pay gap reporting for most companies. In Germany, a new law will require businesses with more than 500 employees to reveal their pay gaps. Nordic countries like Iceland have been even more aggressive, by making companies prove they are paying male and female staff equally.

Proponents of the British effort argue that the increased transparency will lead to smaller gaps. Research by the accounting firm PwC predicts that if nothing is done, it could take nearly a century for the divide to close entirely across the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, a group of rich countries that includes Britain.

“This is a game-changer,” said Andrew Bazeley, a policy manager at the Fawcett Society, a British organization that campaigns for women’s rights and equality. “It will force businesses to think about the gender pay gap in ways they might not have before.”

Under the new reporting requirements, companies with 250 or more employees must publish salary differences between men and women every year. They are also required to provide details on gaps in average bonuses paid, and the proportion of men and women who received those bonuses.

The submissions have made for uncomfortable reading for company executives. At Goldman Sachs’s sprawling moneymaking machine in Britain, women are paid an average of 56 percent less than men. Men outearn women by around 52 percent at easyJet, the country’s busiest discount airline. And at WPP, the British advertising giant, women take home, on average, around one-quarter less than their male counterparts.

Photo

Johan Lundgren, easyJet’s chief executive, is taking a 4.6 percent pay cut to match the salary of his female predecessor.CreditGeorges Gobet/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Still, at least in some cases, the requirement to publish the data has made an impact as big companies have scrambled to counter the fallout from embarrassing reports. EasyJet has said its male chief executive would take a 4.6 percent pay cut to match the salary of his female predecessor, and pledged to more than triple the proportion of its female pilots.

In other cases, a change in the pay culture has been pushed from the outside. At Mills & Reeve, a British law firm whose audit determined it was paying women an average of 32 percent less than men, a major impetus has come from big clients that have started to request more female representation among the firm’s attorneys.

“It’s increasingly something we’re asked for as part of tenders and pitches, to give details of our diversity,” said Claire Clarke, a managing partner.

Some efforts predate the new rules, but have come into focus because of the requirements. The British bank Barclays, for example, has sought to hire, and retain, more senior female executives by offering a new 12-week “internship” targeted at experienced women who are coming off a career break and introducing greater flexibility in existing jobs.

Supporters of the British regulations acknowledge that transparency alone won’t solve the problem. But without it, companies and regulators in countries seeking to enforce equal pay laws would have scant evidence that a gap existed — and face less pressure to address it. Jake Rosenfeld and Patrick Denice, sociologists at Washington University, found in a study that salary transparency raised wages, in part because “even being cognizant of gender pay disparity” helped change norms.

Such is the case in Iceland. The country has gone further than any other, becoming the first to require employers to submit to external audits to prove they are paying women on a par with men. The thinking was that unless equal pay laws were applied more forcefully, the imbalance might never close.

Iceland’s government has vowed to completely close the nation’s gender pay gap by 2022, after women walked out of their jobs en masse in protest on a chilly afternoon in October 2016.

NewYorkTimes>

Between 50 and death.

Facts, Words

Between 50 and death.
olderIt’s time to use the money you saved up. Use it and enjoy it.  Don’t just keep it for those who may have no notion of the sacrifices you made to get it. Warning: This is also a bad time for investments, even if it seems wonderful or fool-proof. They only bring problems and worries. This is a time for you to enjoy some peace and quiet.

Keep a healthy life, without great physical effort. Do moderate exercise (like walking every day), eat well and get your sleep. It’s easy to become sick, and it gets harder to remain healthy. That is why you need to keep yourself in good shape and be aware of your medical and physical needs. Keep in touch with your doctor, do tests even when you’re feeling well. Stay informed.

Don’t stress over the little things. You’ve already overcome so much in your life. You have good memories and bad ones, but the important thing is the present. Don’t let the past drag you down and don’t let the future frighten you. Feel good in the now. Small issues will soon be forgotten. Regardless of age, always keep love alive. Love yourself, your life, love your family, love your neighbor and remember: “A man is not old as long as he has intelligence and affection.” Be proud, both inside and out. Don’t stop going to your hair salon or barber, do your nails, go to the dermatologist and the dentist, keep your perfumes and creams well stocked. When you are well-maintained on the outside, it seeps in, making you feel proud and strong.

Don’t lose sight of fashion trends for your age, but keep your own sense of style. There’s nothing worse than an older person trying to wear the current fashion among youngsters. You’ve developed your own sense of what looks good on you – keep it and be proud of it. It’s part of who you are. ALWAYS stay up-to-date. Read newspapers, watch the news. Go online and read what people are saying. Make sure you have an active email account and try to use some of those social networks. You’ll be surprised what old friends you’ll meet. Respect the younger generation and their opinions. They may not have the same ideals as you, but they are the future, and will take the world in their direction. Give advice, not criticism, and try to remind them that yesterday’s wisdom still applies today.

Never use the phrase: “In my time.” Your time is now. As long as you’re alive, you are part of this time. Some people embrace their golden years, while others become bitter and surly. Life is too short to waste your days on the latter. Spend your time with positive, cheerful people, it’ll rub off on you and your days will seem that much better. Spending your time with bitter people will make you feel older and harder to be around. Don’t abandon your hobbies. If you don’t have any, make new ones. You can travel, hike, cook, read, dance. You can adopt a cat or a dog, grow a kitchen  garden, play cards, checkers, chess, dominoes, golf. Try to go. Get out of the house, meet people you haven’t seen in a while, experience something new (or something old). The important thing is to leave the house from time to time. Go to museums, go walk through a park. Get out there. Speak in courteous tones and try not to complain or criticize too much unless you really need to.

Try to accept situations as they are. Pain and discomfort go hand in hand with getting older. Try not to dwell on them but accept them as a part of the life. If you’ve been offended by someone – forgive them. If you’ve offended someone – apologize. Don’t drag around resentment with you. It only serves to make you sad and bitter. It doesn’t matter who was right. Someone once said: “Holding a grudge is like taking poison and expecting the other person to die.” Don’t take that poison. Forgive, forget and move on with your life. Laugh. Laugh away your worries  Remember, you are one of the lucky ones. You managed to have a life, a long one. Many never get to this age, never get to experience a full life. But you did.

May God be praised
Now is the time to be at peace and as happy as you can be! May you live long and prosper in good health.

Having A Drink A Day? It Could Be Killing You

Facts

drinkingPeople who follow government guidelines to have a drink or so a day could be drinking themselves into an early grave, researchers said Thursday.

 Any more than five drinks a week on average can take years off a person’s life, the new study of more than half a million people around the world shows.

That’s less than what’s recommended in many countries. For instance, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Heart Association both say men can safely drink up to two alcoholic drinks a day and women up to a drink a day.

A drink is defined as 12 ounces of beer, four ounces of wine, or 1.5 ounces of 80-proof spirits.

An international team of researchers looked at data from 600,000 people in 19 countries, who were asked about drinking habits dating back as long ago as 1964. They were followed for years afterward.

People who reported drinking more had higher rates of stroke, heart disease, deadly high blood pressure and fatal aortic aneurysms, the team reported in the Lancet medical journal.

“The paper estimates a 40-year-old drinking four units a day above the guidelines has roughly two years lower life expectancy,” said David Spiegelhalter, a risk expert at Britain’s University of Cambridge who was not involved in the study.

“This works out at about an hour per day. So it’s as if each unit above guidelines is taking, on average, about 15 minutes of life, about the same as a cigarette. Of course it’s up to individuals whether they think this is worthwhile.”

The most people can get away with and not raise their risk of early death was about five glasses of wine a week or the equivalent, the researchers found.

 Many people can drink far more than that in a single day. The CDC says more than 38 million American adults admit to binge-drinking once a week and guzzle an average of eight drinks per spree.

The CDC says that more than 2,000 Americans die each year from acute alcohol intoxication.

It’s no secret that alcohol can be bad for health in other ways, too. Drinking raises the risk of both cancer and heart disease, and one study suggested that drinking accounts for 15 percent of breast cancer cases.

The risk starts rising with as little as one drink a day on average.

 The American Institute for Cancer Research and the World Cancer Research Fund recommend in a joint reportthat people limit alcohol.

People who do not drink at all can have worse health, also — something that can confuse consumers and doctors alike. So the researchers, led by Cambridge University’s Dr. Angela Wood, used only information about people who were current drinkers “because ex-drinkers include people who might have abstained from alcohol owing to poor health itself, as well as those who have changed their habits to achieve a healthier lifestyle,” they wrote.

They found that the more people drank, the higher their risk of death compared with people who drank less.

If a 40-year-old man dropped his intake from two drinks a day to around five drinks a week, he could expect to add an average of a year or two to his life, the researchers projected.

What’s the safest drink? It might be wine, sipped a little at a time, the study suggested.

 “Exploratory analyses suggested that drinkers of beer or spirits, as well as binge drinkers, had the highest risk for all-cause mortality,” the researchers wrote.

“The key message of this research for public health is that, if you already drink alcohol, drinking less may help you live longer and lower your risk of several cardiovascular conditions,” Wood said in a statement.

“We should always remember that alcohol guidelines should act as a limit, not a target, and try to drink well below this threshold,” said Victoria Taylor, a senior dietitian at the British Heart Foundation.

The study’s likely to be controversial, said Jason Connor and Wayne Hall of the University of Queensland Centre for Youth Substance Abuse Research in Australia.

 “The drinking levels recommended in this study will no doubt be described as implausible and impracticable by the alcohol industry and other opponents of public health warnings on alcohol,” they wrote in a commentary.

“Nonetheless, the findings ought to be widely disseminated and they should provoke informed public and professional debate.”

South Africa and Nigeria are crucial for continental initiatives

Africa, Facts, International Finance, international News, Politics, World Bank
South Africa and Nigeria are crucial for continental initiatives
Africa will benefit from both countries backing free trade, and from cooperation between the continent’s two giants.

The impressive turnout at the African Union’s Extraordinary Summit on the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) on 21 March showed the continent’s united fervour to boost its economic opportunities. Delegations from 50 countries, including 27 heads of state, attended the summit in Kigali.

NasarawaThe fact that there were almost as many leaders present as attend the bi-annual AU summits contrasts with the majordivisions within the AU on much-needed reforms of the institution. Countries seem to agree on boosting intra-African trade, but disagree on strengthening the AU itself.

At the January AU summit, 23 countries signed up to the Single African Air Transport Market and 30 have signed the AU’s Protocol to the Treaty Establishing the African Economic Community on Free Movement of Persons, Right of Residence and Right of Establishment.

Even though many hurdles lie ahead in establishing the free trade area and even more in allowing free movement of Africans across the continent, these agreements are important first steps. The AfCFTA initiative in particular has been hailed as a major achievement, paving the way for greater intra-African trade and more economic opportunities for all African states.

However while 44 countries signed the agreement, two of Africa’s biggest economies, South Africa and Nigeria, didn’t. Due to their economic, military and diplomatic strength and their history of driving change in Africa, these two countries are crucial for such initiatives. South African President Cyril Ramaphosa did attend the Kigali summit, and made upbeat statements about the benefits of the AfCFTA.

South Africa did sign the Kigali Declaration – showing its intent to sign the free trade deal in future, pending finalisation of outstanding aspects of the agreement. South Africa in fact proposed the drawing up of such a declaration, says the country’s Minister of Trade and Industry Rob Davies. Ratification of the AfCFTA would also need the nod from South Africa’s Parliament.

Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari decided at the last moment not to attend the summit, citing the need for further consultation. According to local reports, concerns were raised by private-sector organisations such as the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria. This came as a blow to Rwanda, the event’s host, and its President Paul Kagame, current AU chairperson.

Nigeria has a major role to play in Africa’s free trade deal. In fact, Buhari leads a country that has historically been at the forefront of getting the AfCFTA off the ground. The creation of such a free trade area was first mooted in the Lagos Plan of Action that followed a summit in Nigeria’s commercial capital in 1980. The 1991 Abuja Treaty on establishing the African Economic Community was the forerunner of the AfCFTA and trade experts often still refer to the process as the Abuja road map.

Nigeria initially proposed to host the secretariat of the AfCFTA. The country is also the undisputed leader of the 15-member Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) – one of Africa’s most pro-active regional economic communities. Within the AU, Buhari has also been appointed the lead head of state on the AU theme for 2018 – winning the fight against corruption: a sustainable path to Africa’s transformation.

So why did Nigeria stay away?

While the only official explanation has so far been that the decision was put on hold ‘for further consultation with local stakeholders’, it is also clear that some Nigerians might not see intra-African trade in the same way as, say, South Africans do. Nigerians have in the past been on the receiving end of South Africa’s strong economic drive on the continent – the cellphone giant MTN being one obvious example.

This was also one of the reasons given for strong opposition in Nigeria to Morocco’s application to join ECOWAS at the end of 2017. Morocco is one of the biggest investors on the continent, especially in West Africa – and there have been fears that greater access via ECOWAS agreements on free movement of people and goods could threaten local businesses in Nigeria.

However Nigeria is also a major exporter and investor on the continent in financial services, manufactured goods, agricultural products and the like. Trade experts concur that in the long run, the AfCFTA can be a win-win for all, especially the bigger economies. Former United Nations Economic Commission for Africa head Carlos Lopes commented during the summit that Nigeria would come around on the trade agreement – although he later tweeted that it had missed a symbol of historic significance by not signing.

Clearly the two giants of sub-Saharan Africa, Nigeria and South Africa, both have a lot to gain from greater intra-African trade. In the past, strong cooperation between South Africa and Nigeria has led to major advances, such as the transformation of the Organisation of African Unity into the AU.

In his new book on Nigerian and South African foreign policy, The Eagle and the Springbok, University of Johannesburg Professor Adekeye Adebajo calls South Africa and Nigeria the two ‘Gullivers’ in their respective regions. After a ‘lost decade’ where ‘Africa’s indispensable bilateral relationship’ between South Africa and Nigeria was marked by competition and diplomatic squabbles, there is a need for greater cooperation between these African powers, together with others such as Algeria, Ethiopia or Angola, he says.

‘The combined political clout of these two states represents a potentially formidable force in shaping Africa’s integration and representing the continent’s interests on the world stage,’ he says.

The AfCFTA and other AU initiatives need both South Africa and Nigeria. Ramaphosa has so far indicated that he is committed to regional integration and intra-African trade. Now is a good time to strengthen diplomatic links with Nigeria to keep the Abuja road map on track.

Liesl Louw-Vaudran, ISS Consultant

Source: ISS

Is Côte d’Ivoire becoming a wildlife trafficking hotspot?

Corruption, Facts, Politics, World Bank
coteTackling corruption is a priority in stopping the spread of this damaging transnational organised crime.

Since 2016, Côte d’Ivoire has recorded at least five major wildlife-trafficking events involving seizures and arrests. The most recent was in January, when 578kg of ivory and over half a ton of pangolin scales, leopard skins and other items were seized. According to media reports, the pangolin scales were probably poached and harvested in Côte d’Ivoire, while the elephant tusks came from West, East and Central Africa.

These seizures and arrests were the result of multiple investigations aimed at dismantling networks of wildlife traffickers. The investigations are being carried out by Côte d’Ivoire’s Transnational Organised Crime Unit and the Ministry of Environment, Water and Forests with assistance from the Eco Activists for Governance and Law Enforcement (EAGLE Network) – a non-governmental organisation that fights wildlife trafficking.

Based on available information, the problem in Côte d’Ivoire seems smaller in scale than in other countries in the region (such as Nigeria or Guinea) or elsewhere on the continent, such as East and southern Africa. But recent seizures may only represent the tip of the iceberg, and could provide a long-overdue glimpse into both the crime and the networks that run it. Continued investigations will undoubtedly allow a better understanding of the phenomenon.

According to reports, pangolin scales and elephant ivory are the most trafficked wildlife products in the country. These products come from Côte d’Ivoire and other countries in the region, such as Burkina Faso, Guinea, Mali, Nigeria and Liberia, and are believed to be destined for Asian markets. This makes Côte d’Ivoire both a country of origin and of transit. 

Although poaching has long since been recorded in Côte d’Ivoire, the country has only recently been flagged for wildlife trafficking activities. A TRAFFIC report published in December 2017, which presents data on pangolin seizures and trafficking routes between 2010 and 2015, makes little reference to Côte d’Ivoire. The main states that feature in West Africa are Nigeria, Guinea and Liberia. This highlights the need for more information on the scope and scale of wildlife trafficking in Côte d’Ivoire.

The main challenge is preventing the country from becoming a trafficking hub. Several internal factors make the country particularly vulnerable.

For a long time, the government has failed to prioritise conservation and anti-wildlife trafficking measures. The forest police and other bodies tasked with managing, preserving and protecting wildlife lack human, financial and material resources. Those involved in the illegal trade of protected species receive relatively light penalties, limited to a fine of 3 000 to 300 000 CFA francs (between €4.57 and €457), and two to 12 months in jail. There is little indication that authorities are planning a tougher stance which might be a grave oversight, given that wildlife crime is likely to grow.

Corruption generally enables organised crime. The EAGLE Network says some level of corruption among public officials is recorded in 85% of arrests of alleged traffickers. Trafficking in protected species is considered lucrative, and the corruption it breeds undermines the integrity of governance systems, including security and justice, and fuels the business of trafficking.

Wildlife trafficking is also related to other forms of trafficking and transnational organised crime. At the mass seizure in January, some of those arrested were found with evidence that could be linked to human trafficking, illicit arms, drug trafficking and money laundering. Unless action is taken fast against wildlife trafficking, criminal networks will widen their footprint in Côte d’Ivoire, compounding organised crime and corruption in the country and beyond.

To tackle the problem, Côte d’Ivoire’s government must acknowledge that wildlife trafficking is a form of transnational organised crime with potentially dire consequences for the country. A first step should be the toughening of existing legislation. United Nations Resolution 71/326, adopted in September 2017, calls on states to make ‘illicit trafficking in protected species of wild fauna and flora a serious crime’.

To prevent criminal networks from deepening their presence and impact in the country, Ivorian police and justice officials must step up investigations and increase monitoring and surveillance. This requires upskilling and raising the awareness of security forces – including water and forestry agents, police and customs. To dismantle transnational networks, cooperation between the police, intelligence and judicial authorities of affected countries must be strengthened.

Most important of all however in the fight against wildlife trafficking, is tackling corruption in the management and protection of fauna resources.

William Assanvo, ENACT Regional Coordinator West Africa, ISS

This article was first published by the ENACT project.

Picture: © WWF Global Photo Network/Flickr

Reigning Daily With Christ – New Kingdom Church, Wuye, Abuja

Church, Facts, God, Words

JIDE OGUNSAKIN

PASTOR JIDE OGUNSAKIN Senior Pastor, New Kingdom Church, Pameec Plaza, Wuye, Abuja, Nigeria +234 806 313 4845

Thursday April, 12

PRAISE GOD WITH YOUR ALL

MEMORY VERSE:

Bless the Lord, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless his holy name (Psalms 103:1).

TEXT: Psalms 108:1-5

Until you praise God with your all you may never get His all and until you praise Him with your all you may never be made whole. Wholeness is majorly a product of praise that is why only the one leper who returned to give God praise out of the ten was made whole (Luke 17:11-19). Until you praise God spirit, soul and body your praise is not complete. David said: “Bless the Lord, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless his holy name.” By the way, are your hands within you? Then praise God with them. Are your legs within you? Then praise God with them even in a dance. Is your mouth within you? Then sing songs of praise unto Him. Everything that you have is given to you by God so use them to praise this God that has done you well. The faithfulness of God in your life is enough to attract your wholehearted praises. Don’t forget that God does fearful things in praises (Exodus 15:14). This gives us the assurance that praise is profitable. It will profit you in Jesus name. I don’t care what that challenge of your life may be, as you praise God today, God who only can do fearful things will attend to it in Jesus name.

FOOD FOR THOUGHT:

God is interested in your praise and He deserves it. Use all you’ve got to praise Him.

PRAYER:

Father, help me to give You acceptable praises today and forever.

READ THE BIBLE IN ONE YEAR

Deuteronomy 16:21-22,   17,   18   Luke 14:15-35   Psalms 44:13-26

Ease of Doing Business, 2018

Facts, international News, Politics, World Bank

Ease of Doing Business, 2018

map

1. NZ

2. Singapore

3. Denmark

6. US

7. UK

14. Australia

18. Canada

20. Germany

28. Spain

31. France

34. Japan

35. Russia

46. Italy

60. Turkey

72. Indonesia

78. China

82. S Africa

92. Saudi

100. India

124. Iran

145. Nigeria

188. Venezuela

Source: World Bank

Country Share of World Population

Facts, international News

mapShare of World Population, 2017.

China: 18.3%

India: 17.5%

US: 4.3%

Indonesia: 3.5%

Brazil: 2.7%

Pakistan: 2.7%

Nigeria: 2.6%

Bangladesh: 2.2%

Russia: 1.9%

Mexico: 1.7%

Japan: 1.7%

Ethiopia: 1.4%

Philippines: 1.4%

Vietnam: 1.3%

Egypt: 1.3%

Germany: 1.1%

Iran: 1.1%

Turkey: 1.1%