BBC Films Giant Fish Catching Birds Mid-Air For The First Time Ever For Blue Planet II

We’ve all come to be amazed, entertained and blown away by the awesome acts of nature being filmed by the BBC’s Natural History Unit, and it seems that the latest series soon to be released, Blue Planet II, is not going to disappoint. For the first time ever, the team has managed to film giant fish literally leaping from the water to gulp down seabirds as they fly along the surface of the ocean.

The incredible act of the giant trevally fish predating on flying birds had never been photographed, let alone filmed before, making the sequence captured by the BBC even more impressive. “A rumour had come to us in Bristol from some South African fishermen that they’d seen Giant Trevally jumping out of the water and catching seabirds in mid-air,” explained Miles Barton, who directed the segment. “There wasn’t a single picture or video clip of this happening.”

The massive giant trevally fish can reach an impressive 80 kilograms (176 pounds) in weight. BBC NHU 2017

“I haven’t been out on a shoot in 20 years where I haven’t had at least a still picture of the behaviour to go on. So I was sceptical, to say the least,” Barton continued.

But the accounts by the fishermen were so convincing, the unit sent a team of four people to see not only if the event was real, but also if they would be able to capture it on film. “You only take on one or two of these types of risky shoots on a show,” said Barton. “This was our biggest gamble.”

The predators leap out of the water to catch unfortunate low-flying seabirds. BBC NHU 2017

And boy did it pay off. As soon as they arrived in the Seychelles, the water was bubbling with activity as the fish launched themselves from the water in a bid to catch the fledgling seabirds mid-air. The challenge, however, was to commit this amazing behavior to film, and in a way good enough to put all other nature documentaries to shame.

Despite arriving in the remote archipelago with some of the most high tech gyro-stabilized cameras to go on the side of a boat, the team found that the best shots were achieved by the wonderfully low tech act of simply standing on a beach with the camera on a tripod and waiting for the giant trevallies to come to them and start feeding.

The shots will debut as part of Blue Planet II, which will air on BBC One in the UK on August 29 at 8pm BST, to be followed up soon after on BBC America. Twenty years after the initial series, and taking four years to film, in addition to the acrobatic bird snatching fish, it will also feature many other astonishing acts, including armor clad octopuses, tool-using fish, and the hairy-chested Hoff crab.

Read more: http://www.iflscience.com/plants-and-animals/bbc-films-giant-fish-catching-birds-midair-for-the-first-time-ever-for-blue-planet-ii/

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‘London’s team’ are finally threatening to become an NFL force

The Jacksonville Jaguars appear to be getting their act together after years of ineptitude. It should play well in the leagues push in Europe

If the Jacksonville Jaguars are indeed Londons NFL franchise then how strange is it for the capital to possibly have an NFL playoff team?

After years of failed attempts to win more than five games in a season, the Jags long tipped for a move from Florida to the UK sit at 4-3, tied for first place in the AFC South and are a legitimate threat to be playing in the post-season. And who would have figured this?

At the end of last year, it seemed Blake Bortles was the latest of young Jaguar quarterback blunders, throwing for a lot of yards but also a lot of interceptions. Jacksonville had no discernible running game and a solid defense wasnt enough to promise they could haul themselves to respectability.

Something strange has happened to the same old Jaguars since. They got good. The season is almost half-over and Jacksonville lead the NFL in sacks, interceptions and point differential. Yes, they were the lucky beneficiaries of Houston quarterback Tom Savages regrettable season debut one that lasted a half. And, yes, they picked up 10 sacks that day because Houstons starting left tackle, Duane Brown, was holding out. Still, the Jags never used to dominate teams no matter how broken those clubs might be.

On Sunday, they trampled the woeful Colts 27-0 in Indianapolis, but the score, as one-sided as it was, said little about how complete this domination was. The Jags outgained Indianapolis 518-232 as Bortles, the quarterback who appeared close to through in Jacksonville, threw for 330 yards and a touchdown.

That the Jags won so decisively a week after a loss to the Rams is also a tremendous sign. An even better sign is that the players almost expected to win. And that is definitely different about this team.

The beauty of it is its still October and were in control of our identity, defensive end Calais Campbell told reporters last week. Thats all you can really ask for. Nobody is 6-0 and were in a tie for first place. Were in a good place. We just have to bounce back [from the Rams loss]. One thing weve shown is we can bounce back and we are very resilient.

There are plenty of reasons for Jacksonvilles resurgence. Rookie running back Leonard Fournette, who missed Sundays game, has given the Jags a more balanced, more potent offense. Bortles, who is amazingly just 25, has been efficient, growing into the role of a game manager. The defense is healthy and aggressive and still young. But the biggest change may be the return of the franchises best coach, Tom Coughlin, who is the Jags executive vice-president, and the fact head coach Doug Marrone has a full year in charge of the team. Marrone, who filled in at the end of last season when Gus Bradley was fired, has always been underrated as an offensive mind. Suddenly, the Jags are something of a threat.

In the past, the schedule never favored Jacksonville much. The Jags often found themselves staring at second halves filled with winning teams, but in the seasons final 10 games they play the Bengals, Browns, Cardinals, Colts and 49ers. All teams with losing records. The playoffs arent guaranteed but for a team that has already won games by scores of 29-7, 44-7, 30-9 and now 27-0 Jacksonvilles playoff chances are as good as they have been for a long, long time.

Londons de facto, NFL team in the postseason. Who would have guessed?

Fantasy player of the week

Jameis
Jameis Winston nearly led his team to victory against the Bills. Photograph: Timothy T Ludwig/USA Today Sports

Jameis Winston. Not often is a player on a losing team the offensive star of a week, but the Buccaneers quarterback was fantastic in Buffalo on Sunday. Just a week after a shoulder injury knocked him from the game (and made his appearance in this weeks game a legitimate question) Winston threw for 384 yards and one touchdown. He is starting to come into his own as a passer.

The Bucs were in good position to win this game but the Bills scored 10 points late in the game a winning field goal set up by an Adam Humphries fumble. Instead of leaving town at 3-3 in a muddled NFC South, Tampa Bay fall to 2-4. The Bucs are still in position to make a good second-half run and Winston may finally be dependable enough to get them there.

Quote of the week

There is no question the league is suffering negative effects from these protests Cowboys owner Jerry Jones continues to talk about the anthem protests from several of the leagues players. Two weeks after saying any of his players who disrespect the flag would be benched, Jones continues to worry about the fallout from having players kneeling or holding up a fist during the anthem in support of Colin Kaepernicks plea for a national conversation about racial equality.

On Sunday, in the stadium where Kaepernick starred for the San Francisco 49ers, Joness Cowboys rolled over the 49ers 40-10 with quarterback Dak Prescott throwing for three touchdowns and running back Ezekiel Elliott running for 147 yards and two touchdowns.

Stat of the week

10,363. Thats the number of consecutive snaps Browns tackle Joe Thomas had taken until he left Sundays game with a triceps injury. Its impossible to imagine, really, the number of times game-after-game that Thomas jumped from a crouch and smashed himself into an opposing defender. Never did he quit. Never did he throw up his hand and walk to the sideline. Never did he say he was tired and needed a break.

Perhaps most amazing was that he did this for a dreadful team that has wallowed near the bottom of the NFL for his entire career. Its hard enough to play every play for more than a decade when you are winning. Imagine doing it when you are losing. A lot. Fittingly, the Browns lost on the day Thomass streak ended 12-9 in overtime to Tennessee.

Stat of the week II

Seven. As in the number of passes attempted by Chicagos rookie quarterback Mitch Trubisky. Yes, seven. The Bears are not comfortable letting Trubisky loose just yet. In fact, his attempts have dropped considerably with each week he has been starting, going from 25 in his debut to 16 last week to just seven on Sunday. He did the most with the seven he had, however, completing four for 107 yards and finished the day with a quarterback rating of 101.8 (which goes to show how useless quarterback ratings are).

Bears coach John Fox has always been uniquely creative for a man in his position. While many coaches fear tearing apart their offenses, Fox has done so in the past with great success. Remember when he did in Denver back in 2011 with Tim Tebow? Most importantly, his plan worked on Sunday. Trubisky barely threw but the Bears beat Carolina 17-3 in one of Cam Newtons worst games (0 touchdowns, two interceptions).

Video of the week

Sports Illustrated (@SInow)

Is this seat taken? pic.twitter.com/uIqnzhiIdE

October 22, 2017

Not only have the Jets surprised the NFL this year by not being the worst team in the league but their receivers should get points for imagination. Heres Robby Anderson catching a touchdown pass and then doing the Lambeau Leap one better by hopping into the stands and reclining in what appears to be a very comfortable field-side seat. Of course why that seat is empty is another story.

Unfortunately for the Jets, Miami got the last laugh when Matt Moore took over for an injured Jay Cutler and lead the Dolphins to a late 31-28 victory. Unfortunately for Anderson, he ripped off his helmet in frustration just before games end a costly penalty that made a longshot, last chance even more of a longshot.

Elsewhere around the league

–The Super Bowl rematch wasnt quite as dramatic as last Februarys game. The New England Patriots didnt need to mount a comeback against the Atlanta Falcons this time: they didnt trail the entire game and ran out easy winners. The Falcons offense, so devastating last season, is starting to come a concern. Tom Brady, meanwhile, is still sickeningly good in his fifth decade it was another two touchdown game for the ageless one.

–After knocking Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers out for the season, Minnesota can probably skate to the playoffs. On Sunday, the Vikings rode their defense and running back Latavius Murray to a 24-16 victory over disappointing Baltimore.

–Brett Hundley has not proven to be a great replacement for Rodgers, throwing for just 87 yards in Green Bays 26-17 loss to the Saints.

–Todd Gurley had 106 yards rushing for the surprising 5-2 Rams along with one touchdown in a 33-0 trampling of Arizona at Twickenham Stadium. Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer broke his left arm and was knocked from the game.

–Pittsburgh continue to roll back after a slow start this season with a 29-14 win over Cincinnati behind two passing touchdowns by Ben Roethlisberger and 202 total yards from running back LeVeon Bell.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/blog/2017/oct/23/jacksonville-jaguars-nfl-london

The ‘Ali summit’: a turning point in sports’ fight against injustice

In 1967, athletes put their weight behind Muhammad Ali after he refused to be drafted. Fifty years later, NFL players are again taking a political stand

In 1962, as a cornerback for the American Football Leagues Boston Patriots, Walter Beach rallied his fellow black players there were about five for a discussion.

The topic was what to do about a forthcoming exhibition game against the Houston Oilers that was scheduled to be played in New Orleans. As was custom and law in most of the south at the time, the team accommodations were to be segregated. Promoters planned to house the black players from both teams at a black-owned motel, and white players from both teams at a hotel two miles away. We were all in agreement that we didnt want to participate in it, Beach said.

The players, led by Beach, asked the team to simply allow them to fly down and fly back the day of the match rather than submit to the indignities of Jim Crow the name given to the laws enacted by southern states to legally enforce segregation after the civil war.

The team did buy Beach a plane ticket, he recalled: a ticket home. He was cut.

Five years later, retired, he found himself back at the intersection of activism and athletics. The boxing heavyweight champion of the world, Muhammad Ali, was facing intense public backlash, not to mention the possibility of jail time and having his titles stripped, over his refusal to be drafted for the Vietnam war.

Muhammad
Muhammad Ali, flanked by basketball players Bill Russell and Lew Alcindor (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar). Photograph: Robert Abbott Sengstacke/Getty Images

In the midst of that uproar, the Cleveland Browns running back Jim Brown, who had just retired as the NFLs leading rusher, decided to call Ali and other prominent, vocal black athletes to a meeting. Beach, who had become close with Brown during their time together on the Browns, was invited to attend. None of us had any idea of trying to change Alis mind. The meeting was there to support his position, Beach said.

The meeting was held at the offices of the Negro Industrial Economic Union, a black empowerment organization that Brown himself had founded and had branches in other major US black hubs. After the meeting, which included a number of prominent athletes such as the Boston Celtics Bill Russell, the UCLA center Lewis Alcindor (who would later change his name to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) and the Washington running back Bobby Mitchell a celebrated picture (at top) was snapped by journalists, as the stars put their weight behind Ali. Also invited, and pictured, was the Cleveland attorney Carl Stokes, who later that year would become mayor of the city the first black man to be elected to that office any major US city.

I felt with Ali taking the position he was taking, and with him losing the crown, and with the government coming at him with everything they had, that we as a body of prominent athletes could get the truth and stand behind Ali and give him the necessary support, Brown told the Cleveland Plain Dealer in 2012.

Now, just over 50 years after the meeting, which came to be known as the Muhammad Ali summit, its hard to ignore the parallels with the sudden resurgence of solidarity over social issues among black athletes. After a long chill from the 1980s through the 2000s, a number of factors, including Black Lives Matter and the protest movement authored by Colin Kaepernick, have brought that attitude roaring back.

Shut up and play football

Eli
Eli Harold, Colin Kaepernick and Eric Reid kneel in protest. Photograph: Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

Not all the athletes gathered necessarily shared Alis feelings about Vietnam or would have done the same in his shoes. In fact, reports from the meeting suggest the discussion several times became heated and emotional. What they all wanted to reinforce when it was over, though, was that black athletes had the right to use their profile to speak up and speak out, and shouldnt be limited to their exploits on the court or the field or in the ring.

It was very important that you let people understand that youre more than a football player. Football is what I did, it wasnt who I was. Muhammad Ali was a boxer. Thats what he did. That wasnt who he was, Beach said.

Cue up to the present, and athletes are rejecting that compartmentalizing from fans all over again. People told me to shut up and play football, the Cleveland Browns wide receiverAndrew Hawkins told Slate in 2016. But what they dont realize is [these issues are] more important to me than what anybodys public perception of me is when I give my opinion.

Hawkins was one of the players who triggered the new wave of athlete protests, which predated Kaepernicks campaign, by wearing a shirt over his game jersey in 2014 that demanded justice for Tamir Rice and John Crawford, both black males shot by police while holding toy guns. Even before that, in 2012, the Miami Heat took a team photo in black hoodies as a tribute to the Florida teenager Trayvon Martin, an unprecedented move at the time.

But none of these Black Lives Matter inspired-efforts by athletes carried quite the same impact as what Colin Kaepernick, the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback, started in August 2016 when he began sitting, and then kneeling, for the national anthem in protest against police violence. Kaepernicks actions spurred the same type of vitriol and the same wave of solidarity that Ali generated all those years ago.

There hasnt been a moment where youve had a photo op that came to that, where you have had a photo of Colin Kaepernick surrounded by LeBron James and Michael and Martellus Bennett, Gregg Popovich and so on, but de facto youve had the same thing, said the Columbia Journalism School professor Samuel Freedman. Theres really been a rallying around [Kaepernick].

The rallying, timid at first, peaked after Kaepernick became the object of Donald Trumps abuse late last month, when Trump, without naming him, suggested the quarterback was a son of a bitch at an Alabama rally for his refusal to stand for the national anthem. It was a popular sentiment with the Trump supporters in attendance, and with white Americans in general, according to polling.

But Trumps ire only managed to make the protests more popular. Increasingly, the kneeling protests have become adopted not just in the NFL, but among various soccer clubs, the WNBA, and youth sports teams, all while Kaepernick remains apparently toxic to NFL owners and the GMs who decide which players make the roster.

Thus, the once (briefly) best-paid QB in the NFL has become equal parts folk hero and pariah in much the same way Ali polarized Americans during the 1960s. Kaepernick is the only player currently, and maybe ever, to have jersey sales in the leagues top 40 while not even signed to a team. Indeed, his jersey has come to be more associated with black consciousness and activism than football, with many non-fans of his former team, or even the game, seeking it out, mirroring a broader trend among his overall fanbase.

A courageous, prophetic, self-sacrificial act

Activists
Activists protest in support of Colin Kaepernick. Photograph: M Stan Reaves/Rex/Shutterstock

In 1962, the season after his unceremonious dismissal from the Patriots, Beach caught on with the Cleveland Browns where he met Brown and he said his experience was much the same. He said the team held him for years in a sort of roster limbo: placing him on waivers, which would allow another team to sign him, and then retracting the waivers when another team tried to.

Beach is convinced this roster trickery was intended to achieve one purpose alone. I was a liability. I was one of those individuals that struggled against racism all the time. They wanted to blackball me and thats precisely what they doing to Kaepernick.

Kaepernick filed suit against the NFL earlier this week, accusing the leagues owners of colluding to deny him employment due to his polarizing demonstration.

Beach also sued. And won. He had years of service added to his pension on the grounds that, had the team allowed him to sign on elsewhere, he could have played longer.

But what remains to be seen is whether the energy that players have collected in the Trump era can translate into something as unified in message as the Ali Summit, or even more. If it does, players like Kaepernick may never have to worry about whether their vocal stances on social issues will leave them unemployed.

I think the symbolic points been made, and I think the open question is what the players do with the social power that theyve achieved, said Freedman, who wrote the book Breaking the Line, about the intersection of college football and the civil rights movement.

Last week, the Los Angeles Chargers tackle Russell Okung proposed essentially a 21st-century summit, allowing players to unite behind a single narrative.

I am convinced that we will never make progress if we do not find a way to come together and take action that represents the will of the players, he wrote in an open letter to his colleagues.

As Kaps message has now been distorted, co-opted and used to further divide us along the very racial lines he was highlighting, we as players have a responsibility to come together and respond collectively.

Okung said he had initially been skeptical of Kaepernicks tactics but wrote: There is now no doubt in my mind that what he did last season was a courageous, prophetic, self-sacrificial act that has captivated a nation and inspired a powerful movement.

If I had his cellphone number, I would tell him that.

If what hes proposing comes to fruition, and if history is any guide, maybe hell get to tell him in person instead.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/oct/23/colin-kaepernick-muhammad-ali-summit-sports-activism

Post-hurricane cleanup could kill more workers than storms themselves

The two hurricanes that battered Texas and Florida left 200 people dead but neglect of health and safety among mainly day laborers could exact a great toll

More workers could die from the long-term effects of cleaning up after hurricanes Harvey and Irma than were killed by the storms, according to a nationwide network of workplace health and safety groups.

The mainland US death toll for the two hurricanes, which battered Texas and Florida in August and September, now stands at approximately 200 people. But according to Jessica Martinez, executive director of National Council of Occupational Safety and Health (Cosh), a nationwide network of workplace health and safety groups, a greater number of people will die cleaning up in their wake if more resources arent put into health and safety training from post-cleanup.

And local work safety groups said federal officials have been conspicuously absent from meetings about worker safety.

Jos Garza, former associate deputy assistant secretary for policy at Department of Labor under Obama, and now executive director of the Texas-based Workers Defense Project, said he had been working with more than 60 organizers in communities in Texas since the storm and had yet to meet with any high-ranking government officials. Ultimately, the lives of workers are too important for us to sit back and do nothing, he said.

Part of the problem stems from cuts the Trump administration is seeking to make to federal funding given by the Obama administration to labor groups to train undocumented workers in their rights to a healthy and safe workplace. Local groups claimed the Trump administration was also refusing to coordinate with worker groups doing health and safety training for hurricane cleanup workers.

Disaster cleanup work is extremely hazardous. For example, during the hurricanes chemicals got into Houstons water, including flesh-eating bacteria that already took the life of one woman trying to clean up her home.

As well as chemicals released during the storm, hurricane damage knocked loose asbestos, creating a toxic brew of chemicals and mold, which could cause debilitating and deadly long-term problems for those doing the work.

Reports of the deaths of cleanup workers have already begun to surface.

More than 1,000 workers died from the cleanup work following the 9/11 terror attacks. However, unlike 9/11, where the work was done mainly by firefighters and skilled unionized demolition workers, the cleanup work following Harvey is being done mainly by undocumented day laborers, paid on average $80 a day.

Undocumented workers may also be afraid to speak out about work dangers due to fear of deportations, creating a recipe for disaster, according to safety experts.

Workers are going to be facing an enormous amount of pressure to move quickly. People want to move quickly and get back into their houses, said Garza.

Its not OK to just get some masks from the 99 cents store, which we hear happens a lot. You have to get real equipment like N-95, said Martinez, referring to the $8 respirator that the federal National Institute for Occupational and Safety Health recommends for this kind of work.

Most undocumented workers are employed on residential projects and are paid out of pocket by homeowners. If a worker insists on their federal rights, they can easily be fired and replaced by the multitude of day laborers crowding street corners looking for cleanup work.

To combat this pressure, groups like Cosh and Workers Defense Project have begun training organizers to teach workers about how they can protect themselves against hurricane cleanup hazards.

There are negotiations skills that need to happen for day laborers when they are asking for the proper equipment, said Martinez. Its quite complex in terms of how to train and educate day laborers to ask for their rights.

Last month, Martinez flew down to Texas with a team of workplace safety experts, who trained more than 60 organizers in how to educate workers.

Houstons
Houstons water has been polluted by a variety of dangerous chemicals following the hurricanes. Photograph: David J Phillip/AP

During the Obama administration, the governments labor watchdog, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (Osha) worked closely with groups like Cosh and Workers Defense Project to enforce workplace safety laws.

With a budget of only $552m, Osha employs so few inspectors that it would take it 129 years to inspect every workplace; thus the Obama administration saw working with worker advocate groups as a way to amplify their reach and train people to alert Osha when government action was needed to crack down on an employer.

Trump has moved to cut regulations in order to spur business growth. Oshas plans to expand its regulatory reach have been cut in half. Regulations concerning blood-borne pathogens, combustible dust and occupational exposure to styrene have been removed from Oshas regulatory agenda, for example.

The Trump administration is also planning to kill the Susan Harwood Worker Training Grant Program, an $11m-a-year in grant to workplace safety groups for health and safety trainings. Under Trumps fiscal year 2017 budget, the grants would be eliminated entirely.

Basically there are a lot of workers that Osha inspectors and Osha staff have trouble reaching, primarily immigrant workers who may not feel comfortable talking to Osha inspectors, said Jordan Barab, who served as the number two at Osha for eight years under President Obama as the deputy assistant secretary of labor for occupational safety and health.

Loren Sweatt, Oshas deputy assistant secretary, said the agency was working with groups on the ground but the agency did not give details about its work if any with undocumented workers.

As Oshas dedicated staff continues to respond to Hurricane Harvey, we have worked with hundreds of organizations, conducted more than 1,200 safety and health interventions, directly reached more than 16,000 workers through both English and Spanish communications and interactions, and directed remediation of hazards for over 4,000 workers. All these activities are similar to prior disaster actions taken by Osha, and the Osh Act protects all working men and women, she said in an emailed statement.

Barab says that during Hurricane Sandy, that Osha leadership held emergency meetings and directed regional staff to coordinate closely with community groups to prevent similar workplace hazards from occurring.

This time, during Hurricane Harvey cleanup, he is not seeing a high level outreach from Osha to community groups to ensure workers are protected.

There is no leadership, why would it happen? There is one person in the front office in Washington, said Barab, referring to the acting Osha head Sweatt, who served as a Republican staffer on the House education and workforce committee for 15 years.

Shes not connected to those kind of workers and they arent making reaching these kind of workers a priority, said Barab. We made it a high priority to focus on these workers in any way they could and I dont see that happening in that administration.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/oct/23/post-hurricane-cleanup-work-health-safety

Donald Trump gets absolutely scorched by Republican senator Jeff Flake

Jeff Flake is going out with a bang, and Donald Trump is notgoing to like it.

The Republican senator from Arizona announced on Tuesday that he’s not running for re-election in 2018. And then he denounced President Donald Trump and everything Trump represents on the Senate floor.

“We must never regard as ‘normal’ the regular and casual undermining of our democratic norms and ideals,” Flake said, according to his prepared speech.

He continued, “Reckless, outrageous, and undignified behavior has become excused and countenanced as ‘telling it like it is,’ when it is actually just reckless, outrageous, and undignified.”

“And when such behavior emanates from the top of our government, it is something else: It is dangerous to a democracy.”

He also laid into Republican politicians, who have enabled Trump by biting their tongues when he goes off the rails.

“When we remain silent and fail to act when we know that that silence and inaction is the wrong thing to do — because of political considerations, because we might make enemies, because we might alienate the base, because we might provoke a primary challenge, because ad infinitum, ad nauseum — when we succumb to those considerations in spite of what should be greater considerations and imperatives in defense of the institutions of our liberty, then we dishonor our principles and forsake our obligations.”

“Despotism loves a vacuum”

Finally, he warned that abandoning our values would benefit America’s enemies.

“Despotism loves a vacuum.  And our allies are now looking elsewhere for leadership. Why are they doing this? None of this is normal. And what do we as United States Senators have to say about it?”

Reaction was split between those who found Flake brave for standing up to Trump and his own party …

… to those who noted that Flake still supported much of Trump’s agenda, and faced a tough primary and general election in 2018, which means it’s no guarantee he’d win anyway.

Amid environmental concerns, crews haul away remnants of Puerto Rican homes in heaps of trash

(CNN)None of it was supposed to be garbage. Yet, for weeks, heaps of discarded possessions grew to towering heights across Puerto Rico.

Finally, after weeks of waiting, clean-up is underway in Levittown and elsewhere on the island. But at least one local environmentalist is worried about what will happen after the garbage hits the island’s overflowing landfills.
Experts have warned of potentially devastating impacts from Maria on the island’s precarious infrastructure.
Puerto Rico’s solid waste management system has been on the brink for years. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, one year before Hurricane Maria made landfall, most of Puerto Rico’s 29 operating landfills were beyond capacity. And, nearly half had been ordered closed amid concerns over risks posed to nearby soil and groundwater, the agency said.
Following the storm, as the island begins to clean up, the problem is even worse: by some estimates, Puerto Rico is generating several times the amount of garbage it had been sending to the landfill previously.
The island’s waste management crisis was far from Charlie Dominguez’s mind as he started piling wet, stinky furniture and kitchen cabinets across the street from his home, per instructions from government officials, he said.
He watched as the heap grew each day, counting the days without trash pickup. Then a mosquito outbreak came and he started worrying about disease.
By his count it took 34 days for crews to start removing garbage to his great relief. Finally, amid mounting losses, a sign of progress.
“Better late than never,” the 24-year-old lifelong Levittown resident told CNN. “You could almost say it’s like starting fresh.”
The Army Corps of Engineers has hired a local contractor to sift through debris in some of the island’s incorporated areas, including Levittown, to separate hazardous waste from organic material. The debris is bound for landfills on the island and the Environmental Protection Agency will handle disposal of the hazardous waste.
But Juan Rosario worries there is little to no room left in Puerto Rico’s landfills for Maria’s debris.
“We were in a huge mess before Maria. Now the mess is becoming a crisis,” said Rosario, executive director of Amanecer 2025, a local nonprofit that advocates for environmental issues.
The EPA began its direct involvement to address the landfills in 2002, working with the Puerto Rico Environmental Quality Board to develop legal agreements. However, the agency has acknowledged that “it is not practical to immediately close most landfills,” and has focused on prioritizing those posing “the greatest threat to the environment and to people’s health.”
Since 2007, the EPA has reached agreements with 12 municipalities and other owners and operators of the landfills to improve operations and put them on schedules for closure. The agency said the orders go above and beyond landfill closures by including composting and recycling programs. But some environmental groups say the orders don’t go far enough and lack meaningful enforcement mechanisms, allowing for the operation of illegal landfills.
They cite the Toa Baja landfill — which receives waste from Levittown — as a prime example. It was under such an agreement to permanently close by 2014. It was amended in 2012 to give operators more time to come up with a new schedule for closure.
Meanwhile, the agency continues to issue orders. In July, the agency reached an agreement with the municipality of Santa Isabel to close by July 2019 “to protect the health of nearby communities.”
In April, the agency ordered the municipality of Toa Alta to permanently stop disposing waste by the end of 2017 because it has reached capacity. The agency said one of the most urgent concerns is the landfill’s leachate collection system, which is not functioning. Leachate is a liquid generated by decomposition of waste material. According to the EPA, “The Toa Alta Landfill sits on top of Puerto Rico’s North Coast Limestone aquifer system, a potential source of drinking water. The landfill is adjacent to a number of homes of Toa Alta residents.”
In the meantime, the order requires the municipality and its operators to cover exposed areas of the landfill each day to help control odors and blowing debris and inspect incoming loads of waste to separate out hazardous wastes and prohibited materials. It also required the municipality and its operators to better manage stormwater, institute mosquito control measures, and improve landfill security.
The separation of hazardous waste is the first step in current cleanup efforts. Crews in Levittown are working from dawn to dusk to separate toxic waste such as paint cans, household cleaners and televisions from organic material.
For 76-year-old Louis Acosta, the cleanup provides a measure of hope. To him, as long as the rodent-infested trash pile is still standing, it is a reminder to him of what was lost and all that needs to be addressed before his community can rebuild.
“This area was a beautiful place to live,” he said. Then, one month later, “you’re surrounded by trash so, it’s not easy to see that.”
But Rosario worries it will come at a high price for the future.
“We have comprised, in a period of less than one month, probably, the amount of the residues that we were going to produce probably in two or three years in only one month,” he said.
“This is a disaster in the making in the sense that we are going to pay for this not necessarily now, but after.”

Read more: http://www.cnn.com/2017/10/23/health/puerto-rico-cleanup-landfills-maria/index.html

Owning a car will soon be a thing of the past | John Harris

As cities clamp down on vehicle use, technology is putting a utopian vision in reach, writes Guardian columnist John Harris

If ours is an age in which no end of institutions and conventions are being disrupted, it shouldnt come as a surprise that one of the most basic features of everyday life seems under serious threat. If you are fortunate enough to live in a house with a drive, look outside and you will probably see it: that four-wheeled metal box, which may well be equipped with every technological innovation imaginable, but now shows distinct signs of obsolescence.

To put it another way: after a century in which the car has sat at the heart of industrial civilisation, the age of the automobile of mass vehicle ownership, and the idea (in the western world at least) that life is not complete without your own set of wheels looks to be drawing to a close. Top Gear is a dead duck. No one writes pop songs about Ferraris any more. The stereotypical boy racer appears a hopeless throwback. And in our cities, the use of cars is being overtaken by altogether greener, more liberating possibilities.

The sale of diesel and petrol cars is to be outlawed in the UK from 2040. But only 10 days ago Oxford announced that it is set to be the first British city to ban all petrol and diesel cars and vans from a handful of central streets by 2020, extending to the entire urban centre 1o years later. Paris will ban all non-electric cars by 2030, and is now in the habit of announcing car-free days on which drivers have to stay out of its historic heart. In the French city of Lyon, car numbers have fallen by 20% since 2005, and the authorities have their sights set on another drop of the same magnitude. London, meanwhile, has shredded the idea that rising prosperity always triggers rising car use, and seen a 25% fall in the share of journeys made by car since 1990.

Last week, highlighting the increasingly likely arrival of driverless vehicles, General Motors announced that it will soon begin testing autonomous cars in the challenging conditions of New York City, apparently the latest step in the companys rapid and handsomely funded move towards building a new fleet of self-driving taxis. Earlier this year, forecasters at Bank of America tentatively claimed that the US may have reached peak car, acknowledging that transportation is costly and inefficient, making the sector ripe for disruption. Their focus was on ride-sharing services, car-pool apps and the collective use of bikes: what they were predicting had the sense of a reality that is already plain to see.

Sinitta laments having a boyfriend who cares more about his Ferrari, in her 1987 hit GTO

There are caveats to all this, of course. Although cities in the worlds rising economies are just as fond of car-sharing and bike use as anywhere in the west, car ownership in India and China is rising vertiginously. And as one of the 25,000 residents of a West Country town that is expanding fast and now prone to gridlock, I can confirm that in swaths of this country, the idea that we will soon surrender our vehicles can easily look rather far-fetched. The recent farcical launch by Great Western Railway of its new intercity trains (plagued by technical problems, and now taken out of service) highlights how our public transport remains woeful. Even if it brings regular twinges of guilt, there is currently little alternative to owning a car, and using it every day.

But deep social trends do point in another direction. In 1994 48% of 17- to 20-year-olds and 75% of 21- to 29-year-olds had driving licences. According to the National Travel Survey, by 2016 these figures had dropped respectively to 31% and 66%. Some of this, of course, is down to the deep financial insecurities experienced by millennials, and the stupid costs of car insurance. But in the context of technological change, it looks like it might have just as much to do with the likely shape of the future. If you buy most of your stuff online, the need to drive to a supermarket or shopping centre dwindles to nothing; if you are in daily touch with distant friends and family online, might a time-consuming visit to see them feel that bit less urgent? Meanwhile, at the other end of the demographic spectrum, an ageing population will soon have equally profound consequences for levels of car ownership, and the demand for alternatives.

Many huge social changes creep up on us, and the fact that politicians tend to avert their eyes from incipient revolutions often serves to keep them out of public discourse. But this one is surely huge. I am from a generation for whom the promise of your own car represented a kind of personal utopia. Go-faster stripes were signifiers for aspiration; Margaret Thatchers reputed claim that a man who, beyond the age of 26, finds himself on a bus can count himself as a failure chimed with the newly discovered joys of conspicuous consumption. Now, even if some of this lingers on, it does not feel nearly as culturally powerful. The rising global emergency focused on fatal levels of air pollution confirms the motor industrys dire environmental impacts; and concerns about the sub-prime loans that now define a huge swath of the car market suggest that the supposed joys of driving might be unsustainable in plenty of other ways.

Traffic
Traffic in Oxford Street, central London, in 1965. Photograph: Powell/Getty Images

The birth pangs of something better are inevitably messy, as evidenced by the stink currently surrounding Uber an archetypal example of those modern disruptors who point to the future, while obscuring their visions in a great cloud of arrogance. But whatever Ubers failings (and it has to be said: in a city as diverse as London, the idea of traditional black cabs, mostly driven by white British men, representing a comparatively progressive option seems flimsy, to say the least), its innovations are hardly going to be put back in their box. In the US, the average cost per mile of the UberX service is put at around $1.50; In New York City, car ownership works out at around $3 a mile. As and when Uber and Lyft and whatever ride-hailing services either join or displace them go driverless in cities and suburbs across the planet, the financial maths will become unanswerable.

At a time of all-pervading gloom, make no mistake: this is good news. At the heart of it all are amazingly emancipatory prospects: mobility no longer dependent on a huge cash outlay and on the organised extortion of motor insurance; everybody, regardless of age or disability, able to access much the same transport. With the requisite political will, dwindling numbers of cars will bring opportunities to radically redesign urban areas. The environmental benefits will be self-evident. And as cities become more and more car-free, towns will cry out for their own changes. Neglected railway branch lines may well come back to life; the hacking-down of bus services that came with austerity will have to be reversed. With any luck, the mundane term public transport will take on a new vitality.

Is this utopian? No more, surely, than the dreams of the people whose visions of a car outside very house and busy highways eventually came true, with no end of grim consequences. The remains of the old must be decently laid away; the path of the new prepared, said Henry Ford. How ironic that the same wisdom now applies to the four-wheeled dreams he created, and their final journey to the scrapyard.

John Harris is a Guardian columnist

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/oct/23/owning-car-thing-of-the-past-cities-utopian-vision