Football fans across the country should welcome Oakland’s lawsuit challenging the monopolistic practices of the NFL and its 32 teams.It won’t keep the Raiders in the East Bay, but frankly they’ve outstayed their welcome. However, if the city prevails, other cities would have stronger negotiating power to hold onto their teams.And Oakland might recover money to help pay off about $80 million of debt the Raiders are leaving behind for taxpayers. The money was used for publicly funded …
Scientists are racing to preserve Madagascar’s trove of unique flora and fauna as deforestation threatens the African island’s diverse plant and animal wealth. And these riches keep growing as researches discover more and more endemic species in its rainforests. Extinction of Madagascar’s lemurs would cause a ‘extinction cascade’ event scientists warn. (Image: Royal Botanic Gardens Kew)Sulaiman PhilipEcological researchers continue to discover new plant and animal species in Madagascar’s forests. In the last 15 years they have discovered 600 new species. According to a World Wildlife Fund (WWF) report, 385 plants, 42 invertebrates, 17 fish, 69 amphibians, 61 reptiles and 41 mammals have been discovered on Madagascar.These species are found nowhere else on Earth and now they are under threat as farmers clear-cut the forests to make way for agriculture – or to sell the timber. In a country where most live on less than a dollar a day, the country’s biodiversity comes second to the need to earn a living and feed your family.Saving the island nation’s plant kingdom has become the enterprise of a team of botanists from the Royal Botanic Garden in Kew, England. The team, led by Solofo Eric Rakotoarisoa, trek into the forests, clamber up limestone cliffs and cross submerged roads to collect seeds to be stored in the Millennium Seed Bank at Kew Gardens. Seeds harvested in Madagascar are flown to the temperature controlled seed bank in Kew, England. (Image: Royal Botanic Gardens Kew) The project is a race against extinction. Once the seeds are collected, they are sorted and labelled, and then flown to the UK for safeguarding. In the freezer botanists have already stored 1 800 seeds from Madagascar’s 13 000 plant species.Since 2009, poverty, logging, mining and climate change have speeded up deforestation as the nation became poorer after former president Marc Ravalomanana was deposed and donor funding was suspended. Since the 1950s tavy, a slash and burn technique that clears forests for farming, charcoal production, and illegal logging, has led to four-fifths of the island’s forests being cleared.Rakotoarisoa has sounded the alarm. “It’s getting to the point where it’s really obvious the forests are disappearing. It’s getting worse and worse [the slash and burn clearances]; the poverty in Madagascar is increasing.”The aim of the Kew Gardens botanists is to create a storehouse of seeds that can be used to replace extinct plants. To head off that Armageddon, Madagascar’s population will need to understand the value of protecting the island’s biodiversity.As Mark Wright, a conservation adviser at WWF-UK, points out: “If they have no practical way of making a living, of course they are going to turn to the natural resources sector and see what they can get from that, and who wouldn’t do it?”Discoveries like the new species of wild coffee plant can be cultivated as a cash crop. Coffee, the most traded commodity after oil, would require protection of the remaining habitats while allowing families to earn a living.Love lemurs? Go see them nowKing Julien: “Don’t be alarmed, giant freaks! While you were asleep, we simply took you to our little corner of heaven. Welcome to Madagascar.” ‘Lemur’ means ghost in Latin, with wide-eyed, eerie stares and night time activity, it is easy to see how these spectre-like figures of Madagascar’s forests got their name. (Image: Royal Botanic Gardens Kew) Unlike the lemurs in the movie, Madagascar’s long-tailed primates are in danger of losing their habitat and becoming extinct. The suspension of donor funding after the 2009 coup has sped up the destruction of the country’s forests and the habitats of the fabled wildlife.After the coup, donors and lending agencies suspended or ended all non-humanitarian aid. Madagascar’s national park system received 80% of its budget from donors, and these sanctions devastated their ability to protect the island’s wildlife and plant life.Or, as lemur expert and president of Conservation International Russell A Mittermaier explained: “Madagascar’s real brand, the real competitive advantage, is this unique biodiversity. By cutting the funding, we’re not just hurting Madagascar, we’re hurting the world as a whole.”Lemurs represent Brand Madagascar. They offer the promise of observing rare species in their natural habitat, and experience in Africa – Rwanda and Uganda’s mountain gorilla programmes – show that eco-tourists are prepared to pay a premium for the privilege.Extinction of the lemur population would lead to what primatologist Christoph Schwitzer refers to as an extinction cascade. “Lemurs have important ecological and economic roles, and are essential to maintaining Madagascar’s unique forests through seed dispersal and attracting income through ecotourism.”Co-ordinated conservation is the best solution for Madagascar going forward Schwitzer believes. This would involve engagement with local communities, eco-tourism and long term-field research.Madagascar’s Maromizaha Forest is a model for the preservation of the island’s eco-system. Members of the local community have been trained to be guides for tourists eager to see one of the 13 species of lemur that make the forest home.Researchers have gone into local schools to teach children about the unique environment around them. And they have brought new, less destructive, methods of agriculture to local farmers. In the four years to 2011, the number of visitors to the Maromizaha Forest went from 200 to close to 3 000.The increase in visitors brings with it risks. Schwitzer says: “There’s always a trade-off between the destruction caused by too many tourists and the money they bring to the country that can be used for wildlife conservation. This balance for Madagascar is still very positive for conservation and it’s a long way until it may tip over.” Scientist predict 60% of 57 species unique to Madagascar are likely to find suitable habitat reduced by an average of 59.6% over the next 70 years, entirely due to climate change. (Image: Royal Botanic Gardens Kew)Madagascar, the paradise on EarthOne hundred and sixty million years ago, or thereabouts, Madagascar broke off from continental Africa. Over time the island nation has developed a distinct natural eco-system. Today 95% of its reptiles, 89% of its plant life and 92% of its mammal population exist nowhere else. This diversity has ecologists referring to Madagascar as the eighth continent.This unique menagerie includes more than 700 species of reptiles and amphibians. In Madagascar’s threatened rain forests visitors can find neon green geckos and tiny tree frogs that secrete toxins through their skin. Half of the world’s chameleon varieties have evolved on this speck – Madagascar is less than 0.5% of the Earth’s landmass, in the middle of the Indian Ocean.Mark Wright explained in a 2011 report: “It is a very odd island. In terms of its geography, it helps speciation. There’s a mountain ridge down the middle, so on the east of the island you’ve got rainforest, but everything on the west is a rain shadow. So you get an enormous variety of environments from the very wet to the very dry. It’s a fantastic range of environments into which species can adapt.”
9 Steps to A Greener CodeNew homes built using the 2009 International Residential Code (IRC) or International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) will be more energy efficient than ever. As a consequence, a builder’s world may become a bit more complex and, in some cases, a bit more expensive. STEP 6: EFFICIENT WINDOWSCode: N1102.1 In certain warm climates, the thermal performance of windows has been increased.What it means to you: Heat gain or heat loss from windows causes a significant loss of energy. Windows are rated by U-value, which is the inverse of R-value. The lower the number, the more efficient the window is at blocking heat flow. In climate zones 1 to 4, which are generally hotter in the summer, U-values have decreased, representing an increase in energy efficiency.Solar-heat-gain coefficients (SHGC) measure how well a window blocks heat from sunlight. these standards also have changed. SHGC is expressed by a number between 0 and 1. The smaller the number, the less solar heat is transmitted into a home. In hotter climates (1 to 4), the SHGC requirement has been reduced considerably, which reduces the stress on cooling equipment and overall home operating costs.The 2009 building codes reflect practices that not only increase energy efficiency—air-sealing measures and increased insulation, for example—but also address sustainable building practices, such as moisture control.Other segments of this series:Part 1: Air SealingPart 2: InsulationPart 3: LightingPart 4: Programmable ThermostatsPart 5: Insulating Mass WallsPart 6: Efficient WindowsPart 7: Insulating Mechanical PipesPart 8: Exceeding the Energy CodePart 9: Vapor Retarders
Don’t cheap out on your camera support! Investing in a quality tripod and fluid head is a smart decision for the future expansion, performance and safety of your gear. Build quality in a tripod has a huge impact on the final image, for both filmmakers and still photographers.Inexpensive tripods are often shoddily constructed, made from aluminum or a similar, thin metal. This flimsy construction makes the tripod prone to breaking and doesn’t provide strong stabilization. Conversely, investing in a more expensive, but higher quality tripod, will provide a more stable image, a longer product lifespan and additional peace of mind when you go to shoot. Are you in the market for a new tripod? Make the following considerations…Avoid Center ColumnsTripods with height adjustable center columns introduce a lot of vibration and instability to your camera rig. There’s a reason professional quality tripods don’t have center columns: the engineering will not provide enough stability. If you’re looking for adding height, go with a tripod that has longer legs.Avoid Aluminum, Stick With Carbon FiberAluminum tripods are usually much more prone to vibrations than tripods constructed of carbon fiber. Aluminum has a longer dampening time, meaning vibrations are much more prevalent – traveling easily throughout the tripod.Carbon fiber has a much shorter dampening time, containing and minimizing vibrations with every camera movement or bump of the tripod. Although lightweight tripods tend to cost more, they do not necessarily perform better. That being said, many professional tripods are made from carbon fiber, which is considerably lightweight. A tripod with better dampening times will produce a professional looking result with minimal hassle.This video from Gordon Liang illustrates the dampening time of an assortment of tripods.Load CapacityEvery tripod will have a maximum load capacity, ranging from 7-10 lbs for cheaper models and upwards of 50 lbs for higher-end types. This is where a little planning can go along way. Selecting the right tripod for your needs (and future needs) is key to your tripod investment. Factor in the weight of your camera combined with weight from any other equipment that will be rigged onto your tripod. As previously stated, it is best to account for the future when that time comes to add more equipment (and weight) to the tripod. A teleprompter, monitors, lights, field recorders and microphones all add weight. Never plan to be at or near your tripod’s load capacity. If you have a 20 lb rig, a tripod rated at 30 lbs will obviously perform better (and safer) than one loaded to capacity.Head & Bowl MountNot all tripods come with a fluid head. It’s important to use a quality head with the appropriate counter-balance and weight load. Tripods that use bowl systems are the most widely used by professionals because it’s easy to level and balance a fluid head in a pinch to get that perfect shot.What is your go-to pair of sticks? Share in the comments below.
The Petersen Events Center is one of the hardest places to play in college basketball, and Pitt’s student section, the “Oakland Zoo,” is a big reason why. The Zoo is virtually on top of the court, and like many of the nation’s other top student sections, they get very creative with their heckling. Unfortunately, today doesn’t seem to be their day, at least when it comes to the “cheat sheet” for the game against rival Syracuse.The Oakland Zoo’s cheat sheet on the Syracuse players. Names of players’ girlfriends and moms! pic.twitter.com/VMrsBAxdC5— Syracuse Basketball (@syrbasketball) February 7, 2015Including mothers and girlfriends is a bit questionable, but the Zoo is far from the only student section to do that. However, the whole basis for taunts against starting forward Tyler Roberson is a mess.In its cheat sheet, the @OaklandZoo mocked Tyler Roberson for spelling his name wrong on Twitter. Problem is: the Zoo spelled it Robertson— Syracuse Basketball (@syrbasketball) February 7, 2015When making fun of someone for misspelling his own name, you should probably make sure you have it right first.
In what was one of the craziest endings we’ve ever seen in an NCAA Tournament game, No. 6 seed SMU lost to No. 11 seed UCLA on a goaltending call. The call was somewhat questionable, but it gave the Bruins a one-point lead, eventually sending them into the Third Round with a 60-59 victory. Following the devastating loss, SMU senior forward Yanick Moreira, the recipient of the goaltending call, took to Twitter to express his frustration. I would like to apologize for all the SMU fans as senior I shouldn’t make those type of mistake.. I’m really sorry— Yanick Moreira (@Ymoreira35) March 19, 2015“@KDTrey5: Yep that was a goaltend.” You right ref thank you for end my college career pic.twitter.com/nhrrON0DQM— Yanick Moreira (@Ymoreira35) March 19, 2015These guys don’t deserve it . It really hurts . All those mile run in the summer all those 2 a day to end my college career like this— Yanick Moreira (@Ymoreira35) March 19, 2015Here’s the play. Was it the right call?
Rice Leukemia SigneeThe Rice football program landed a very special recruit on Wednesday. Seven-year-old Ziggy Stoval-Redd, who is battling leukemia, signed with the Owls during a special signing ceremony. Accompanied by his mother and Rice head football coach David Bailiff, Ziggy received a warm round of applause from the Owl team. Here’s the video:Whenever stories like this pop up in the sports world, it always warms the heart a little bit.
KIGALI, Rwanda – African leaders on Wednesday signed what is being called the largest free trade agreement since the creation of the World Trade Organization.The deal creates a continental market of 1.2 billion people, with a combined gross domestic product of more than $3.4 trillion. A major goal is to boost intra-African trade and rely less on the volatility of commodity prices that affect many exports.The aim is to have agreement, signed by 44 of the African Union’s 55 member states, enter into force by the end of this year, said the chair of the AU Commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat. States now must ratify the deal, but the number of countries needed to put the agreement into force has not yet been agreed upon.“Our peoples, our business community and our youth in particular cannot wait any longer to see the lifting of the barriers that divide our continent, hinder its economic takeoff and perpetuate misery, even though Africa is abundantly endowed with wealth,” Mahamat said. He urged strong follow-up to “confound those who, outside Africa, continue to think, with barely concealed condescension, that our decisions will never materialize.”Concerns remain. The president of Nigeria, one of Africa’s largest economies, skipped the summit amid trade unions’ objections. “We will not agree to anything that will undermine local manufacturers and entrepreneurs, or that may lead to Nigeria becoming a dumping ground for finished goods,” President Muhammadu Buhari said through his office.And while Africa’s largest economies are expected to benefit most from the deal that progressively eliminates tariffs and other trade barriers, some of them worry that more people from poorer countries will migrate their way.But some of the continent’s strongest and fastest-growing economies, including Ghana, Kenya and Ethiopia, signed the deal. South Africa’s new president has expressed support but his signing was not announced during the event.“Africa is stronger when we work together,” said Niger’s President Mahamadou Issoufou, who led the free trade effort.
REDFORD TOWNSHIP, Mich. — Ford and Volkswagen are in talks about building VW vehicles in some of Ford’s U.S. factories.VW CEO Herbert Diess (dees) told reporters after a meeting at the White House that the automaker is holding discussions with Ford.Ford CEO Jim Hackett confirmed the talks Tuesday and Executive Chairman Bill Ford says the negotiations are going well.VW also has said it’s considering a new U.S. factory to build electric vehicles that the company plans for the future.The German company now builds SUVs and a midsize car at a factory in Chattanooga, Tennessee, but imports the rest of its vehicles.Ford and VW also are in talks about an alliance to build commercial vehicles.The Associated Press
New Delhi: RBI Governor Shaktikanta Das Monday said he will be meeting heads of payments banks later this week to understand their issues and concerns. As many as seven payments banks have commenced their operations. He also said that guidelines on regulatory sandbox will be issued in the next two months to promote FinTech in the country. A sandbox approach means experimenting and learning before finally adopting a technology or system. This approach helps in containing the impact of failures.