Most Ocean Plastic Pollution Carried by 10 Rivers

The equivalent of one garbage truck full of plastic waste is dumped into the world’s oceans every minute, equal to 8 million tons a year. New research suggests that 90 percent of that waste gets into the oceans through 10 major river systems.

“It seems that larger rivers preferentially transport plastic and these are rivers with a large population. You could reduce river plastic loads tremendously by focusing on these 10 rivers,” lead researcher Christian Schmidt of Germany’s Helmholtz Center for Environmental Research, told VOA.

Two of the rivers are in Africa – the Nile and the Niger – while the remaining eight are in Asia – the Ganges, Indus, Yellow, Yangtze, Haihe, Pearl, Mekong and Amur.

Researchers analyzed studies that examined the plastic pollution load in rivers, and compared the figures to the quantity of waste that is not disposed of properly in each river catchment or watershed.

The results suggest reducing waste in those rivers would go a long way to tackling ocean plastic pollution.

“Actually, it’s very simple. You have to improve waste management, particularly in developing countries with rapid economic growth. So, this is a waste management problem there. But globally, ((it’s)) not exclusively developing countries. Littering is the other source of river plastics, countries like Germany,” says Schmidt.

The ecological consequences of oceanic plastic pollution are difficult to foresee, but scientists are clear that it is already deeply affecting marine life. So-called microplastics – found in cosmetics – are often mistaken for food. One recent study by the University of Ghent in Belgium calculated that humans eat up to 11,000 plastic fragments in their seafood each year.

“The microbeads, they might be more harmful for aquatic life, but the larger pieces, over time they are brittle and form a secondary source of microplastics,” according to Schmidt.

It is estimated that 5 percent of plastic is recycled effectively. Total global plastic production was 322 million tons in 2015, a figure that is expected to quadruple by 2050.

Schmidt and his colleagues hope their research offers a potential focus for cleanup programs.

From: MeNeedIt

Scientists: Rivers in Africa, Asia Responsible for Most Ocean Plastic Waste

The equivalent of one garbage truck full of waste plastic is dumped into the world’s oceans every minute – or 8 million metric tons a year. New research suggests that the vast majority of that waste is transported to the oceans by just a handful of major river systems – and tackling the pollution at source would go a long way to cleaning up our seas. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

From: MeNeedIt

California Experiences Hepatitis A Outbreak

The U.S. state of California is experiencing its largest person-to-person outbreak of hepatitis A in the United States since a vaccine to prevent the liver disease became available in 1996. More than 600 cases have been reported in the state and 21 people have died. According to the California Department of Public Health, most of those infected are homeless or use drugs.  Elizabeth Lee reports from Los Angeles.

From: MeNeedIt

South African Court Doubles Pistorius Sentence

Oscar Pistorius’ prison sentence was increased to 13 years and five months by South Africa’s Supreme Court of Appeal on Friday, a decision that more than doubled the Olympic runner’s jail term for the murder of girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp. 

In an announcement that took a matter of minutes, Supreme Court Justice Willie Seriti said the Supreme Court upheld an appeal by prosecutors against Pistorius’ original six-year sentence for shooting Steenkamp multiple times in his home in 2013. 

Prosecutors had called that six-year sentence “shockingly” lenient.

Pistorius should have been sentenced to the prescribed minimum of 15 years for murder in South Africa, Seriti said, as he delivered the verdict that was reached by a panel of five judges at the Supreme Court in the central city of Bloemfontein. 

The new sentence of 13 years and five months took into account time Pistorius has served in prison and at home under house arrest, Seriti said.

Pistorius, who turned 31 Wednesday, has served over a year of his initial six-year sentence. 

Pistorius killed Steenkamp in the pre-dawn hours of Valentine’s Day 2013 after shooting four times through a closed toilet cubicle door in his home. Claiming he mistook his girlfriend for an intruder, he was initially convicted of manslaughter. That conviction was overturned and replaced with a murder conviction by the Supreme Court in 2015. 

Friday’s decision likely brings an end to a near five-year legal saga surrounding the double-amputee athlete, a multiple Paralympic champion and record-breaker who was once one of the most celebrated sportsmen in the world. 

Pistorius’ lawyers have just one avenue open to them if they want to challenge the new sentence handed down by the Supreme Court, and that is to appeal to the Constitutional Court, the highest court in South Africa. 

Pistorius failed with an appeal to the Constitutional Court last year to challenge his murder conviction.

From: MeNeedIt

Black Friday Kicks Off Holiday Shopping  Season

Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, traditionally has started the holiday shopping season in the United States. It refers to the day when retailers hope to turn a profit — go from “being in the red,” or being in debt, to being “in the black,” or making money.

Many stores opened in the early hours of Friday morning to lure shoppers with big bargains. Some stores even opened on Thanksgiving Day to get a head start on the season.

Black Friday is usually the busiest shopping day of the year in the U.S. 

 

WATCH: US Retailers Look to Profitable Black Friday Weekend

The National Retail Federation estimates that 69 percent of Americans, or 164 million, people will take advantage of the deals retailers offer on a vast variety of goods in stores and online.

A recent study said Amazon is the top destination for people beginning their holiday shopping.

“I buy pretty much what I can on Amazon,” Lam Huynh told the Associated Press news agency.

Analysts say online giant Amazon is expected to capture half of the holiday season’s sales growth.

From: MeNeedIt

Russian Tech Firm Wins US Intel Prize

Amid concerns about Russian hacking and online influence, Russian technology firm NtechLab has won a prize awarded by the United States intelligence community. VOA’s Moscow Bureau visited NtechLab to ask its general director about the award, the technology, and concerns about privacy.

From: MeNeedIt

Smooth Sailing So Far on $7.5M Makeover of Pilgrim Ship

If you’re a fan of the Mayflower II, here’s something that will float your boat.

A year after craftsmen embarked on an ambitious effort to restore the rotting replica of the ship that carried the Pilgrims to the New World in 1620, the work “is going really great,” project manager Whit Perry says.

 

Britain built the vessel and sailed it to the U.S. as a gift of friendship in 1957. Usually it’s moored in Plymouth Harbor, where more than 25 million people have boarded it over the past six decades. But over the years, the elements, aquatic organisms and insects took their toll.

 

It’s now in dry dock at the Henry B. duPont Preservation Shipyard at Connecticut’s Mystic Seaport, getting a $7.5 million makeover in time for 2020 festivities marking the 400th anniversary of the Pilgrim landing.

 

The Associated Press caught up with Perry, director of maritime preservation and operations at Plimoth Plantation , for a progress report.

 

AP: You’re 12 months into a 2-year project involving major structural repairs to America’s most beloved boat. Any unpleasant surprises?

 

Perry: Not really. I couldn’t be more pleased with the progress we’re making right now. We’ve had some major milestones since we began on Nov. 3, 2016. We have more than 100 new frames and floor timbers inside in the hold. Now we’re actually going to start the planking process on the outside of the ship, which is very exciting.

 

AP: So nothing’s bugging you? This time last year, on top of water damage and dry rot, you had beetles chewing through the bottom of the boat.

 

Perry: Ah, yes, the wharf borer beetle. No, that’s been a minor issue. We did find evidence of (Teredo worms). This is a mollusk that can grow up to three feet long and eats through wood. On the bottom of the keel, there’s something called a “worm shoe” — a 4-inch-thick piece of wood that runs the whole length of the ship. It lets the worms have a field day but not get into the main structure of the boat. That’s where we found evidence of worms. The ship itself is OK.

 

AP: The shipyard’s live webcam is pretty cool, but it’s hard to tell how many people are involved and what they’re doing. Can you tell us what we can’t see?

 

Perry: There are 20 people working on the Mayflower II at any one time. They’re working regular shifts, but we’re paying a little overtime so they don’t feel like they have to put down their tools if they’re in the middle of something. There are small teams working all over the ship. As we take things apart, we’re fixing anything with a question mark now, while we have the chance.

 

AP: Sea water actually preserves a wooden ship like this one. What happens when it’s on dry land for so long? Is that bad for a boat?

 

Perry: It can be. We’re very proactive in spraying the boat with salt water and an antifungal agent. As we put the ship back together, we try to keep the humidity up with misters so it doesn’t dry out too much. We also have to leave a little play on the new planking beneath the waterline so it doesn’t buckle when the ship returns to the water and the wood starts to swell. It’s not an exact science.

 

AP: In 2020, the eyes of the world will be on Plymouth. Sounds like you’re confident the ship will be ready?

 

Perry: It’s all going really great. We’re on budget and we’re on schedule. The ship will leave Mystic Seaport by late spring or early summer of 2019. And I’ve got to say, sailing the Mayflower II back to Plymouth is going to be quite a spectacle. Seeing the ship back under sail is going to be a beautiful sight.

From: MeNeedIt

Tech Firms Scrounging for Skilled Workers Training Their Own

Some information technology companies are growing so concerned about not find enough digital talent that they’re training their own.

 

IBM, Amazon and Microsoft all now have apprenticeship programs that pay workers learning on-the-job while they build IT skills. The programs cost companies tens of thousands of dollars per trainee.

 

IBM Vice President Joanna Daly says the apprenticeship program the tech giant started last month will help fill the several hundred vacant early-career IT jobs in the U.S. Rhode Island-based Carousel Industries executive Tim Hebert says the company’s apprentices are loyal and stay for years.

 

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics says the median pay last year for computer and information technology occupations was about $83,000, compared to $37,000 for all jobs.

 

From: MeNeedIt

Trappers ask Court to Throw out Lawsuit Over US fur Exports

Fur trappers are asking a federal judge to throw out a lawsuit from wildlife advocates who want to block the export of bobcat pelts from the United States.

Attorneys for trapping organizations said in recent court filings that the lawsuit against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service infringes on the authority of state and tribal governments to manage their wildlife.

The plaintiffs in the case allege the government’s export program doesn’t protect against the accidental trapping of imperiled species such as Canada lynx.

More than 30,000 bobcat pelts were exported in 2015, the most recent year for which data was available, according to wildlife officials. The pelts typically are used to make fur garments and accessories. Russia, China, Canada and Greece are top destinations, according to a trapping industry representative and government reports.

Federal officials in February concluded trapping bobcats and other animals did not have a significant impact on lynx populations.

The Fish and Wildlife Service regulates trade in animal and plant parts according to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, or CITES, which the U.S. ratified in 1975.

The advocates’ lawsuit would “do away with the CITES export program,” according to attorneys for the Fur Information Council of America, Montana Trappers Association and National Trappers Association.

“They are seeking to interfere with the way the States and Tribes manage their wildlife, by forcing them to limit, if not eliminate, the harvesting of the Furbearers and at the very least restrict the means by which trapping is conducted,” attorneys Ira Kasdan and Gary Leistico wrote in their motion to dismiss the case.

Bobcats are not considered an endangered species. But the international trade in their pelts is regulated because they are “look-alikes” for other wildlife populations that are protected under U.S. law.

Critics of the government export program argue the government review completed in February did not look closely enough at how many lynx trappers inadvertently catch in traps set for bobcats or other furbearing species.

Pete Frost, an attorney for the plaintiffs, said the fur industry’s move to throw out the case “seeks to deprive citizens of their right to court review of the federal pelt export program.”

Between 2.3 million and 3.6 million bobcats lived in the U.S., with populations that were stable or increasing in at least 40 states, according to a 2010 study from researchers at Cornell University and the University of Montana.

 

From: MeNeedIt

Macy’s Parade Begins With Balloons, Bands and Security

The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade marched, rolled and soared in traditional style Thursday as police went all-out to secure it in a year marked by attacks on outdoor gathering spots.

With new faces and old favorites in the lineup, the Americana extravaganza made its way through 2 ½ miles (3.22 kilometers) of Manhattan on a cold morning.

“The crowds are still the same, but there’s a lot more police here. That’s the age we live in,” Paul Seyforth said as he attended the parade he’d watched since the 1950s.

“Not a lot’s changed — the balloons, the bands, the floats — and that’s the good thing,” said Seyforth, 76, who’d flown in from Denver to spend his 50th wedding anniversary in New York and see this year’s parade.

The televised parade was proceeding smoothly, though about midway through, a gust of wind on a largely calm day blew a candy-cane balloon into a tree branch, and it popped near the start of the route on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. No one was injured.

In 2005, one of the parade’s signature giant balloons caught a gust, hit a Times Square lamppost and injured two people. The candy cane was smaller than the giant balloons.

Timothy McMillian and his wife, their 9-year-old daughter and his in-laws started staking out a spot along the route at 6:30 a.m. They’d come from Greensboro, North Carolina, to see in person the spectacle they’d watched on TV for years.

McMillian, a 45-year-old schoolteacher, booked a hotel months ago, but he started to have some concerns about security when a truck attack on a bike path near the World Trade Center killed eight people on Halloween.

“With the event being out in the open like this, we were concerned,” he said. “But we knew security would be ramped up today, and we have full confidence in the NYPD.”

Authorities say there is no confirmation of a credible threat to the parade, but they were taking no chances after both the truck attack and the October shooting that killed 58 people at a Las Vegas country music festival.New York Police Department officers with assault weapons and portable radiation detectors were circulating among the crowds, sharpshooters were on rooftops and sand-filled city sanitation trucks were poised as imposing barriers to traffic at every cross street. Officers also were escorting each of the giant balloons.

The mayor and police brass have repeatedly stressed that visitors shouldn’t be deterred. And Bekki Grinnell certainly wasn’t.

“When your kid from Alaska is marching in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, you come,” said Grinnell, whose daughter was marching with the band from Colony High School in Palmer, Alaska. Grinnell said she wasn’t worried about security because of the police presence: “I think we’re in a safe spot.”

Other paradegoers also showed their appreciation for police: The NYPD marching band and a group of mounted officers got some of the biggest cheers from spectators lined up as many as 15 deep along barricades. Among other crowd favorites: as did the SpongeBob SquarePants balloon.

The 91st annual parade featured new balloons including Olaf from the Disney movie “Frozen” and Chase from the TV cartoon “Paw Patrol” will be among the new balloons Thursday, along with a new version of the Grinch of Dr. Seuss fame.

Smokey Robinson, The Roots, Flo Rida and Wyclef Jean were among the stars celebrating, along with performances from the casts of Broadway’s “Anastasia,” ″Dear Evan Hansen” and “SpongeBob SquarePants.” The lineup included a dozen marching bands, as well as the high-kicking Radio City Music Hall Rockettes — and, of course, Santa Claus.

“This is my favorite thing ever,” musician Questlove told The Associated Press as he got ready to ride the Gibson Guitars float with his bandmates in The Roots and late-night host Jimmy Fallon of “The Tonight Show,” where The Roots are the house band. Questlove said being in the parade is “probably my favorite perk” of the job.

“To go from being a spectator to being up here, it’s kinda cool,” he said.

Added singer-songwriter Andy Grammer as he got on the Homewood Suites float: “It’s kind of like being at the center of Thanksgiving.”

From: MeNeedIt