Windies warm-upsST JOHN’S, Antigua (CMC):West Indies will use unofficial Twenty20 games against minnows Zimbabwe in Sharjah as part of their preparation for next month’s T20 World Cup in India, the West Indies Cricket Board announced yesterday. The Caribbean side will take on Zimbabwe on Saturday and then again next Monday, with both games slated for the Sharjah Cricket Stadium. West Indies are currently in Dubai for a preparation camp ahead of the March 8 to April 3 T20 World Cup.They will also play two T20s against English County team Warwickshire at the ICC Global Cricket Academy on March 4 and again two days later. Following the fixtures, West Indies will fly to Kolkata on March 7, where they play official warm-up games against India on March 10 and against Australia on March 13.West Indies have been drawn in Group One of the Super 10 preliminary round stage, where they will face England, South Africa and Sri Lanka.The group will be completed by either Afghanistan, Hong Kong, Scotland or Zimbabwe, who do battle in a pre-tournament round of qualifiers.WI Women winWest Indies Women defeated South Africa Women by 16 runs in the opening One-Day International of the three-match series at Buffalo Park here yesterday.Scores: WEST INDIES WOMEN 214 for seven off 50 overs (Hayley Matthews 56, Britney Cooper 55 not out, Deandra Dottin 28, Shemaine Campbelle 26; Dane van Niekerk 2-25, Shabnim Ismail 2-40, Sune Luus 2-50). SOUTH AFRICA WOMEN 198 all out off 48.5 overs (Marizanne Kapp 69 not out, Trisha Chetty 47, Shabnim Ismail 34; Deandra Dottin 5-34, Shaquana Quintyne 2-15, Anisa Mohammed 2-36).FIFA reduces bans for Blatter, PlatiniZURICH (AP):Sepp Blatter and Michel Platini had their bans from soccer reduced from eight years to six by FIFA’s appeal body yesterday, two days before the sport’s ruling body tries to turn the page on years of scandals by electing a new president. Blatter and Platini were initially found guilty of wrongdoing by FIFA’s independent ethics committee, which is led by a German judge, over a previously-secret 2011 financial transaction.Platini, the UEFA president, said not being cleared was an “insulting decision, shameful and a denial of rights” and announced he will appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.Blatter, as FIFA president, authorised a payment of 2 million Swiss francs ($2 million) to Platini, which was found to be unethical and a conflict of interest. But following hearings last week, an in-house appeal committee comprising members of federations voting in tomorrow’s presidential election decided to relax the suspensions. The committee is headed by Larry Mussenden of Bermuda, who is currently campaigning to win a May vote to become president of CONCACAF and a FIFA vice president.Djokovic wins 700th career matchDUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP):Novak Djokovic earned his 700th career match win at the expense of Tunisian wild card Malek Jaziri 6-1, 6-2 at the Dubai Championships yesterday. Djokovic, who joined the tour a decade ago, has a 700-146 career match record.He’s one of three active players to reach 700 wins, the others being Roger Federer with 1,067, and Rafael Nadal on 775.”Sounds like I played many matches in my career,” a smiling Djokovic told the crowd.
When humans make a mess of things, our fellow organisms try to help. That’s no excuse for our failures to be good stewards.Oil CleanupThe Deepwater Horizon oil spill in July 2010 was, without controversy, a terrible disaster brought on by human incompetence. Many species of marine organisms died, beaches were fouled, and teams had to go to extreme lengths to try to clean up the mess. But did all that oil just stay in the water? Remarkably, a new paper in PNAS shows, bacteria quickly ate up much of it. Some microbes are known to degrade oil, but the extent of bacterial assistance in the recovery has not been appreciated till now. Science Daily asks, “What happened to the Deepwater Horizon oil plume?” and answers, “Researchers simulate spill, discover new bacterium, map microbe activity.”Some bacteria were known to feed on hydrocarbon seeps in the Gulf of Mexico, but the oil spill gave them—and other previously unknown species—an opportunity to bring good out of human error. Microbial biologist Gary Anderson from Berkeley describes what happened:“Naturally occurring microbes at this depth are highly specialized in growing by using specific components of the oil for their food source. So the oil droplets provided a large surface area for the microbes to chew up the oil.”Working with Berkeley Lab scientist Jill Banfield, a study co-author and also a professor in UC Berkeley’s Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, the team used newly developed DNA-based methods to identify all of the genomes of the microbes that used the introduced oil for growth along with their specific genes that were responsible for oil degradation. Many of the bacteria that were identified were similar to oil-degrading bacteria found on the ocean surface but had considerably streamlined sets of genes for oil degradation.Plastic, Too?Many are rightly concerned about the accumulation of plastic in the oceans. There’s no excuse for it, and we humans must work together to stop it. But in another surprising discovery, there’s far less of it out there in the North Atlantic Gyre than expected. What’s happening? Michael LePage at New Scientist says,In fact, there’s only a tenth to a hundredth as much plastic as expected – and the amount of floating plastic does not appear to be increasing. “The trend should be there,” Sole says.This lack of trend cannot be explained by physical processes, according to his team’s mathematical models. Instead, they propose that there has been a population boom in microbes that have evolved the ability to biodegrade plastic.But have they really “evolved” this ability? It would be a remarkably fast case of evolution if they did, since humans have only been manufacturing plastic for about a century. Another possibility is that they already possessed genes to break it down, much like the highly-touted case of bacteria that supposedly evolved the ability to digest nylon (see Evolution News for refutation). LePage goes on to say that nobody really knows what microbes are capable of.In theory it is possible that some microbes have evolved the ability to break down plastics. Studies by Linda Amaral-Zettler of the Netherlands Institute for Sea Research show that the microbes colonising floating plastic are quite distinct from those in the surrounding water, and suggest some are feeding on pollutants.In effect, the plastic is creating a whole new ecosystem that Amaral-Zettler and colleagues call “the plastisphere”.But when ter Halle looked at the DNA of the organisms on floating plastic in the North Atlantic, she didn’t find any microbes known to be capable of breaking down plastic. That could be because they have not yet been discovered of course – there could be millions of unknown microbes still.It’s too early to say that microbes are helping clean up the human-caused pollution. They could, in fact, just be reducing the pollutants to millimeter-sized pieces we can’t detect. If so, the plastic could still infect the food chain. Sea turtles and whales are among the large animals that suffer and die from ingesting large pieces of plastic, parts of fishing nets and mylar balloons. The pollution must be curtailed, no matter what is going on. It’s just interesting to find another case of microbes that might be helping clean up after humans.Anti-Erosion TreesLarger organisms can also affect the planet. A new study posted by Phys.org says that coastal mangrove forests are 800% more effective at protecting Florida beaches from erosion than salt marshes or artificial protections. Mangroves work well because their “dense tangles of prop roots … serve as highly effective shields for coastlines by reducing the force of breaking waves, decreasing erosion and increasing sediment deposition.” Conservationists would do well to increase their spread. “In all, mangrove habitats could provide $4.9 million worth of coastal protection more than manmade barriers,” scientists estimate.Atmospheric CleansingEven without microbes, the atmosphere has a trick to help clean up pollution. Nature discusses the “self-cleansing ability of prehistoric air,” showing that even without human error, the Earth sweeps the atmosphere clean regularly. Hydroxyl radicals (OH–), produced by UV light, the breakdown of ozone and water vapor, last only for a few seconds but attach to pollutants and neutralize them. There are many unknowns in this process, the articles point out. But then, these uncertainties also call into question the confidence of the consensus about climate change. A new study had some surprising results about the function of hydroxyl radicals to temperature:The new results highlight once again how little we understand about the complexity of chemistry–climate feedbacks and, more generally, of how strongly Earth-system processes are interconnected. Tropospheric composition is driven in different ways by the ocean, cryosphere (the part of the Earth system that is frozen water), lithosphere (Earth’s rocky, outermost shell) and the land and marine biospheres, but also by the stratosphere. It will be crucial to develop a better understanding of the feedback mechanisms involved to more accurately predict how anthropogenic emissions might affect climate and air quality in the future. In particular, a deeper understanding of how atmospheric composition — especially the lifetime of greenhouse gases — is affected by climate change will be important when using results from climate models to inform policy decisions about how global warming can be kept below certain temperature targets.Writer Michaela I. Hegglin ends by encouraging atmospheric scientists to tie their models to actual observations. “Simulations should not simply be ‘tuned’ to provide the best reproduction of the present climate, but should be built on an understanding of the processes involved, to allow the credible simulation of both past and present climates.” Why? Because climate feedbacks remain “relatively unexplored” at this point, despite the political trust put on climate models.Natural cleansing systems are no excuse for humans to pollute the planet. The extent to which our actions could overwhelm these automatic rescue processes is unknown. Still, it is quite remarkable that they work so well. 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Founder: Lebo’s Soweto BackpackersWhy is Lebo considered to be Tomorrow’s Hope?Lebo Malepa is one of those young, passionate South Africans who are extremely proud of where they come from and want to share their vision with others.When Lebo was selling African crafts outside the Hector Pieterson Museum back in 2002, he was also selling tourists on the many attractions of Soweto and its rich cultural surrounds.What sets Lebo apart is that, instead of being saddened by the busloads of tourists being whisked in and out of South Africa’s biggest township with only a few pictures and museum brochures in hand, he saw an opportunity to offer a more “real” Soweto experience.It wasn’t long before Lebo had ditched the crafts and opened a place where tourists can experience Soweto as a living museum of the country’s rich history and culture.In his own words.“Being around different people from different countries telling you how much they love South Africa makes you realise how special I am to be living in this country.”Fast FactsLebo’s Soweto Backpackers is run by Lebo Malepa and his life/business partner, Maria Westlund.The backpackers was originally Lebo’s grandmother’s house.Lebo won an Emerging Tourism Entrepreneur Award in 2007.The backpackers is within walking distance of the Hector Pieterson Museum and Orlando Stadium, which is currently under reconstruction as a training venue for the 2010 Fifa World Cup.The backpackers offers a variety of walking and bicycle tours of Soweto.The backpackers works closely with a network of organisations and projects in the area, like orphanages, youth clubs and schools, and makes it possible for guests to spend time at or donate goods to these initiatives.How can I experience Soweto?If you want to experience Soweto life first-hand, Lebo is sure to have a walking/cycling tour or event to suit your needs. Visit Lebo’s Soweto Backpackers.Contact Lebo’s Soweto BackpackersTel: 011 936 3444Cell: 084 851 8681E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.orgStory published on SAinfo on 4 June 2008.Source: Brand South Africa
9 September 2008The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights has stressed the need to address discrimination and inequality, and to do more to prevent genocide.In her first major speech since taking up her new post, Navanethem Pillay told delegates at the opening of the ninth session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland on Monday that genocide is the ultimate form of discrimination.“We must all do everything in our power to prevent it.”An activist attorney under apartheid in South Africa, Pillay spent eight years as a judge on the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda and five years on the International Criminal Court in The Hague before taking up her post as the UN’s top human rights official on 1 September.Drawing on her experience of dealing with war crimes and crimes against humanity, the high commissioner called for a stronger focus on preventing genocide, as well as “the cycles of violence, the mobilisation of fear, and the political exploitation of difference – ethnic, racial and religious difference,” that lead to genocide.She noted that 2008 contains a number of important human rights milestones – including the 60th anniversaries of the Genocide Convention on 9 December, and of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on 10 December.At the same time, she pointed out that both the Universal Declaration and the Genocide Convention “grew out of the Holocaust, but we have yet to learn the lesson of the Holocaust, as genocide continues.”Durban Review ConferencePillay, who herself experienced discrimination while living in apartheid South Africa, added that development, security, peace and justice were all undermined “when discrimination and inequality – both in blatant and subtle ways – are allowed to fester and to poison harmonious coexistence.”She urged countries not to let “diverging points of view” deter them from taking part in next year’s review of the 2001 global conference against racism, known as the Durban Review Conference, the process leading to which has been heavily criticized.“I do not believe that ‘all or nothing’ is the right approach to affirm one’s principles or to win an argument,” she said.“The process will certainly benefit from active participation by all states. Should differences be allowed to become pretexts for inaction, the hopes and aspirations of the many victims of intolerance would be dashed perhaps irreparably.”She said that former South African president Nelson Mandela had taught her that “far from being appeasement, coming to terms with other people’s experiences and points of view may serve the interest of justice better than strategies that leave no room for negotiation.”Gender discriminationIn her speech, Pillay also emphasised that gender discrimination remained a major concern.“Such discrimination makes the Universal Declaration’s promise an empty pledge for millions of women and girls,” she said.“No effort should be spared to persuade countries to repeal laws and practices that continue to reduce women and girls to second-class citizens despite international standards and despite the specific commitments that have been made to throw out these laws and customs.”She pledged to carry out her role as high commissioner in an impartial fashion, without favouring one set of rights over another. “The credibility of human rights work depends on its commitment to truth,” she said, “with no tolerance for double standards or selective application.”Over the course of the next three weeks, the UN Human Rights Council is expected to consider human rights situations that require its attention, including follow-up to its special sessions on Darfur, Beit Hanoun in northern Gaza, and the global food crisis.The council’s president, Martin Ihoeghian Uhomoibhi, told delegates how important it was to conduct the body’s work in a spirit of transparency and mutual respect for the viewpoints of others.“We cannot afford to do otherwise, given the importance and sensitivity we all attach to human rights issues,” Uhomoibhi said.“We must continue to insist that all human rights issues be given an open and fair hearing, we must also recognise that our work in the council is primarily to promote and protect human rights for all people; to improve the human rights situation of victims, and not merely to condemn and to name and shame.”Source: BuaNews
German cruise line TUI Cruises celebrated the delivery of its new cruise ship Mein Schiff 6 on May 9, 2017. The ship was constructed by Finnish shipbuilder Meyer Turku.Featuring a length of around 294 meters, Mein Schiff 6 has 15 decks with around 1,267 staterooms and the capacity to carry approximately 2,534 passengers. It is the fourth ship in a series of vessels built in Turku for TUI Cruises.“We are very happy about the delivery of Mein Schiff 6 in time and excellent quality,” Wybcke Meier, TUI Cruises CEO, said.“With Mein Schiff 6 our goal was to improve further from previous ships with a few fine tunings based on passenger feedback and at the same time build it with fewer hours than before. At the same time we are ramping up our production volume to meet the demands of our long and stable order book,” Jan Meyer, CEO, said.With an order book reaching until 2024, Meyer Turku shipyard is facing a gradual ramp up of production in the coming years.“We are rebuilding the shipyard with heavy investments exceeding 100 million euros for a further increase in output,” Meyer added.Image Courtesy: Meyer Turku