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New Zealand puts cap on offshore oil and gas exploration - no new permits granted

(quote)
New Zealand bans all new offshore oil exploration as part of 'carbon-neutral future'
The New Zealand government will grant no new offshore oil exploration permits. The ban will apply to new permits and won’t affect the existing 22, some of which have decades left on their exploration rights and cover an area of 100,000 sq km.
The prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, said her government "has a plan to transition towards a carbon-neutral future, one that looks 30 years in advance”"
The Labour coalition government was elected last year and made tackling climate change one of the cornerstones of its policies, committing to transition to 100% of electricity generation from renewable sources by 2035 and making the economy carbon neutral by 2050.
Last month Ardern accepted a 50,000-strong Greenpeace petition calling for an end to offshore oil and gas exploration.

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Image courtesy 123RF / Radio New Zealand

Up: $1.3T spending bill; benchmark rate (2018: 3 hikes?); price of goods (pushed by tariff); young users fled FB, so did Tesla

(quote)

#BreakingNews: Fed raises benchmark rate 0.25%. Fed funds rate range now 1.5% to 1.75%. Fed maintains three rate hikes for 2018.

More Than 11 Million Young People Have Fled Facebook Since 2011 According to iStrategy, Facebook has 4,292,080 fewer high-school aged users and 6,948,848 college-aged users than it did in 2011.

March 23, 2018 - Elon Musk joins delete-facebook boycott, deleted Tesla’s and SpaceX’s Facebook pages on Friday. “I didn’t realize there was one. Will do,” Musk tweeted back. He initially said, “What’s Facebook?” to a prior tweet from WhatsApp co-founder Brian Acton urging his followers to delete Facebook because, “It is time.”

(unquote)

Image courtesy JOEL SAGET / AFP / Getty Images

Queen bans plastic. Man made pollution and it bites back: seafood eaters ingest 11,000 pieces of microplastic each year

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Queen Elizabeth II is banning plastic straws and bottles across the royal estates.
The Telegraph reported that the monarch is behind Buckingham Palace's plans to phase out single-use plastics from public cafes, royal residences and staff dining rooms. Royal caterers will instead use china plates and glasses or recyclable paper cups. Takeaway food from the Royal Collection cafes must be made of compostable or biodegradable packaging.

British lawmakers are also urging for more action to fight plastic pollution. A ban on microbeads came into force in Britain last month. In 2015, a 5p (5 British pennies) fee was introduced on plastic carrier bags, which led to 9 billion fewer bags being used. Many businesses in the UK are getting on board with cutting out plastics. Starbucks recently introduced a 5p disposable cup charge in 20 to 25 central London outlets to encourage customers to switch to reusable cups. And Iceland Foods, a major UK supermarket chain specializing in frozen food, announced that it will eliminate plastic packaging from its own brand of products by the end of 2023.

The Queen was reportedly inspired to take action after working with famed naturalist Sir David Attenborough on a conservation documentary about wildlife in the Commonwealth. Attenborough's "Blue Planet II" documentary that aired last year highlighted the devastating effects of plastic on our oceans and marine life.

The Queen declares war on plastic after David Attenborough documentary  read more »

23 Jan 1368. Zhu Yuanzhang ascends to throne of China as Hongwu Emperor, founding Ming Dynasty that would last for 3 centuries

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23 January 1368 In a coronation ceremony, Zhu Yuanzhang ascends to the throne of China as the Hongwu Emperor, initiating Ming Dynasty rule over China that would last for three centuries.

The Hongwu Emperor (21 October 1328 - 24 June 1398), personal name Zhu Yuanzhang, was the founder and first emperor of China's Ming dynasty.

In the middle of the 14th century, with famine, plagues, and peasant revolts sweeping across China, Chu Yuan chang rose to command the force that ended the Mongol-led Yuan dynasty, forcing the Mongols to retreat to the Central Asian steppes.

Zhu was born into a desperately poor peasant tenant farmer family. He had seven older siblings, several of whom were "given away" by his parents, as they did not have enough food to support the family. When he was 16, severe drought ruined the harvest where his family lived. Subsequently, famine killed his entire family, except one of his brothers.

Destitute, Zhu accepted a suggestion to take up a pledge made by his brother and became a novice monk. He did not remain there for long, as the monastery ran short of funds, and he was forced to leave.

For the next few years, Zhu led the life of a wandering beggar and personally experienced and saw the hardships of the common people. After about three years, he returned to the monastery and stayed there until he was around 24 years old. He learned to read and write during the time he spent with the Buddhist monks.  read more »

Massive reforestation. To cover 23% of landmass, in 5 years 83.5 million acres of forest planted across China

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The pollution-beleaguered country plans to increase forest coverage to 23 percent of its total landmass by the end of the decade.
Outdoor air pollution contributes to the deaths of an estimated 1.6 million people in China annually (that's 4,400 people a day). Meanwhile, less than 20 percent of the water from underground wells used by farms, factories and homes is fit for drinking or bathing thanks to industrial and agricultural contamination. But with the recent news that the country will no longer be the world's dumping ground for plastic waste, and other ambitious green initiatives - nixing new coal-fired power plants, investing in renewable energy, et cetera - China is showing the world that it is changing its ways.

The latest chapter is a massive reforestation plan, as reported by David Stanway at Reuters, in which the country plans to plant 6.6 million hectares of forest by the end of the year. One hectare is equal to 2.47 acres, meaning that the country will be getting 16.3 million acres of trees. Stanway writes:
“Planting trees has become a key part of China's efforts to improve its environment and tackle climate change, and the government has pledged to raise total coverage from 21.7 percent to 23 percent over the 2016-2020 period, said the China Daily, citing the country's top forestry official.”

China to create new forests covering area size of Ireland: China Daily  read more »

1 in 9 Bridges (70k or 11% of total) in need of repair - US infrastructure once best in world now decaying

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1 Out of Every 9 Bridges in the US Is Structurally Deficient
There are about 630,000 bridges in the United States, ranging from impressive new structural creations like Margaret Hunt Hill bridge in Dallas to deteriorating slabs of concrete in desperate need repair. It's that last growing group of bridges, ports, and highways that represent the slowing decaying infrastructure that was once the best in the world.

In a new 60 Minutes report, host Steve Kroft lays down some knowledge that, for all of us bridge-traveling, highway-driving citizens, would be pretty alarming: 1 out of every 9 bridges are in various degrees of disrepair. That's around 70,000 bridges total if you're keeping track. This isn't exactly startlingly new information, an AP report last year reported similar numbers. That doesn't mean all of these structures are on the verge of collapse with every passing car, train, or pedestrian, but it does mean they are in desperate need of TLC in the form of billions and billions of dollars—money that just doesn't exist.  read more »

"Peace Constitution" drafted by US lawyers, Japan's law, renounces war: 3 collisions, US-Japan naval drill


in June 2017, the USS Fitzgerald and a cargo ship chartered by Nippon Yusen KK smashed into each other off Japan

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The Constitution of Japan is the fundamental law of Japan. It was enacted on May 3, 1947, as a new constitution for a post-war Japan - "Post-war Constitution" or the "Peace Constitution", largely drafted by US lawyers in the occupation authority - is best known for its Article 9, by which Japan renounces its right to wage war.

19Nov2017
The incident came as Japanese and US forces take part in a 10-day joint naval drill
An American warship has been damaged after a tug boat drifted into the destroyer during a drill off Japan, according to the US navy, the latest in a spate of incidents in Asia.

The guided-missile destroyer USS Benfold was participating in a scheduled towing exercise in Sagami Bay on Saturday when the Japanese tug lost propulsion, according to the US 7th Fleet.

The Japanese coastguard said the tug lost control and drifted into the warship as a rope got caught in its propeller, but confirmed there were no injuries.

Back in June, the USS Fitzgerald and a cargo ship smashed into each other off Japan, leaving seven sailors dead.

23Aug2017
The 7th Fleet has been involved in more than one deadly collision in Asia so far this year.  read more »

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