Marc Anthony to Trump: Shut the f— up about NFL, worry about Puerto Rico

Marc Anthony has some scathing words for Donald Trump, pleading with the president to forget about football and focus instead on hurricane-hammered Puerto Rico.

Anthony tweeted on Monday night: “Mr. President shut the f— up about NFL. Do something about our people in need in #PuertoRico. We are American Citizens too.”

The 49-year-old singer was born in New York, but his parents are from Puerto Rico, which was hit hard by Hurricane Maria.

Trump did tweet about Puerto Rico later Monday night, but dwelled on the island’s “billions of dollars” of debt to “Wall Street and the banks.”

Anthony is one of many entertainers with Puerto Rican roots trying to summon support.

“Hamilton” star Lin-Manuel tweeted that he’s “texting every famous Puerto Rican singer I know and several I don’t.”

Puerto Rico’s nonvoting representative in the U.S. Congress said Sunday that Hurricane Maria’s destruction has set the island back decades, even as authorities worked to assess the extent of the damage.

“The devastation in Puerto Rico has set us back nearly 20 to 30 years,” said Puerto Rico Resident Commissioner Jenniffer Gonzalez. “I can’t deny that the Puerto Rico of now is different from that of a week ago. The destruction of properties, of flattened structures, of families without homes, of debris everywhere. The island’s greenery is gone.”

Puerto Rico’s National Guard diverted an oil tanker that broke free and threatened to crash into the southeast coast, said Gov. Ricardo Rossello, and officials still had not had communication with nine of 78 municipalities.

“This is a major disaster,” he said. “We’ve had extensive damage. This is going to take some time.”

The death toll from Maria in Puerto Rico was at least 10, including two police officers who drowned in floodwaters in the western town of Aguada.

Botanic gardens ‘best hope’ for saving endangered plants

The world’s botanic gardens contain about a third of all known plants and help protect 40% of endangered species, a study has found.

Scientists say that with one in five of the world’s plants on the brink of extinction, botanic collections hold the key to saving rare plant life.

In the first detailed study of plants grown in botanical gardens, they recorded more than 100,000 species.

Efforts are needed to target some of our rarest plants, they say.

“This is the first time that we have carried out a global assessment to look at the wide range of plants grown, managed and conserved in botanic gardens,” said Dr Paul Smith, Secretary General of the charity Botanic Gardens Conservation International.

“So, for the first time we know what we have and, perhaps more importantly, what is missing from botanic gardens.”

Tropical plants were under-represented in the inventory of species. Meanwhile, primitive plants such as mosses were fewer in number compared with exotic specimens such as orchids and lilies.

“Botanic gardens maintain in their living collections and seed banks an astonishing array of plant diversity, ” Dr Smith explained.

“We think gardens should be making much more of what they can uniquely grow that no other garden or experts have ever grown before.”

Image copyright Botanic Gardens Conservation International
Image caption Peridiniya Botanic Garden in Sri Lanka: Tropical plants are under-represented worldwide

About 500 million people visit botanic gardens each year. As well as being popular visitor attractions, they are a centre of learning and education, and conduct valuable research and conservation work.

The study, published in the journal Nature Plants, identified gaps in the botanic collections of more than 1,000 institutions.

Many botanic gardens are in the Northern Hemisphere, where tropical species are harder to maintain as they need to be grown in heated glasshouses.

Tropical plants are best grown in their country of origin, but there are far fewer facilities in the Southern Hemisphere.

Furthermore, only 10% of global collections are dedicated to threatened species, suggesting botanic gardens could do more to preserve some of the world’s most vulnerable plants.

Image copyright Botanic Gardens Conservation International
Image caption Gardens By The Bay in Singapore

Dr Samuel Brockington of the University of Cambridge is a curator at the university’s own botanic garden and co-researcher of the study.

He said the global network of botanic gardens was our best hope for saving some of the world’s most endangered plants.

“Currently, an estimated one-fifth of plant diversity is under threat, yet there is no technical reason why any plant species should become extinct,” he said.

“If we do not conserve our plant diversity, humanity will struggle to solve the global challenges of food and fuel security, environmental degradation, and climate change.”

Posted in BBC

Australia joins UK space radar mission

Australia is to be a launch partner on the UK’s innovative new small radar satellite, NovaSAR.

The spacecraft, which will track shipping and forestry change from orbit, is due to launch on an Indian rocket early next year.

Australia’s main research organisation, CSIRO, has signed a 10% share in NovaSAR’s data.

The deal comes on the heels of an announcement that the country will soon get a national space agency.

This future body will no doubt look to secure many more such collaborations, to enable Australian scientists and entrepreneurs to exploit the latest Earth observation information.

NovaSAR (PDF) has been built by Surrey Satellite Technology Limited in Guildford, in southern England, with the aid of a £21m UK government grant.

Image copyright SSTL
Image caption The S-band radar instrument itself has been developed by SSTL’s parent, Airbus

The 3m-long platform, which looks like a cheese-grater, is regarded as an “operational demonstrator” – that is to say, it will showcase a capability but with the intention that its data is put to good use to develop services.

Radar works at wavelengths that allow it to pierce cloud to see the surface of the Earth in all weathers, and in darkness.

NovaSAR will use this vision to make forestry assessments in the tropics (frequent cloud) and at high latitude (poor light conditions); to support disaster relief (radar is very good at sensing flood water); and to monitor shipping routes.

This third application is enhanced by the addition of an Automatic Identification System (AIS) sensor onboard the satellite.

All ships over 300 gross tonnes are required to fit AIS transponders that broadcast details about their voyage.

Spotting from orbit those vessels that have their AIS disabled is often a sign of illegal actors, such as smugglers or trawlers attempting to net fish in no-take zones.

Radar plus AIS is seen as something of a killer application in maritime policing.

Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) will get a 10% share of the tasking and data-acquisition capabilities of NovaSAR.

Dr Dave Williams from CSIRO said the deal represented a significant investment in Australia’s space capability.

“The aim is to manage the NovaSAR satellite as a natural extension of the significant role CSIRO already plays in managing a range of national facilities, on behalf of the Australian community of scientists and for the benefit of the nation.

“Because we’ll be able to direct the satellite’s activity, it provides significant opportunities to support a wide range of existing research, further develop Australia’s earth observation data analytics expertise, and create new opportunities in the field of remote sensing.”

Dr Williams was the chief executive of the UK Space Agency before taking up his role at CSIRO.

Media captionAnimation: NovaSAR has the look of a cheese-grater

NovaSAR is trying to address the interest in smaller, lower cost solutions to satellite radar.

Traditionally, these spacecraft have been large, power-hungry beasts that gather imagery which, by its very nature, leads to very big data volumes.

Managing all this in a compact package is challenging.

SSTL, working with its parent company Airbus, has produced what it thinks is one answer: something that is very capable but still compact enough (430kg) to fit on a cheaper rocket.

“We’ve gone for some specific radar applications, some specific modes,” explained Luis Gomes, SSTL’s commercial director. “But we’ll aim to investigate other possibilities once we’re in orbit.

“We’d like to have a go at radar interferometry, to sense landslides for example. It wasn’t designed for that purpose but we want to see if it’s possible,” he told BBC News.

A number of companies are building spacecraft that are much smaller even than NovaSAR.

Capella Space (US) and ICEYE (Finland) have plans for radar constellations based on cubesats – satellites with bodies that are built from 10cm blocks.

The SSTL/CSIRO deal was signed in Adelaide on Tuesday at the International Astronautical Congress.

Posted in BBC

Why India is the only stock market reacting to bad news globally

Indian markets seem to have reacted to a China downgrade by S&P, a UK downgrade by Moody’s, and a once-in-a-generation change in the US already named as the ‘Great Unwinding’.

Shishir Asthana

Moneycontrol Research

Is Indian market the only one concerned about global developments while all other emerging markets are ignorant? Indian markets seem to have reacted to a China downgrade by S&P, a UK downgrade by Moody’s, and a once-in-a-generation change in the US already named as the ‘Great Unwinding’.

Foreign investors seem to be selling their holding in the Indian stock markets while increasing it in other emerging markets, especially in other member countries of BRICS (Brazil, Russia, China and South Africa). Apart from India, all other markets continue to remain strong.

China equity funds extended their longest inflow streak since the third quarter of 2014 while Brazil equity funds hit a 17-week high on continued inflows. A rally in commodities is helping a sustained rally in Brazil. Chinese markets were higher despite the country being downgraded.

Overall emerging market funds posted inflows of USD 2.7 billion during the week ending September 20, 2017. In the last 38 weeks emerging markets have seen inflows in 34 weeks.

In India, however, the story seems to be different. Since the beginning of August 2017, foreign investors have withdrawn nearly Rs 20,000 crore as on September 25, 2017. Debt markets, though, continued to see inflows during this time period.

The only reason market has shown some respectability is on account of buying by domestic mutual players who have bought nearly Rs 25,000 crore of shares. However, this is not enough to stop the general market slide.

Why is it that foreigners are selling and domestic institutions are buying?

One reason that has been attributed to funding managers is that foreign institutions have a choice of investing in various markets and are using this to buy into cheaper markets. Indian markets trade at price-to-earnings ratio of 24 while Brazil trades at 17 times, China at 15 times, South Africa at 15 times and Russia at 7 times.

Clearly, Indian markets are costly, but they have been costly for some time now. What was the trigger for foreigners to sell at the beginning of August 2017?

By end of July, the disruption caused by the implementation of Goods and Service Tax (GST) was becoming clear. Many industries were reporting a near clampdown in activity even after inventory de-stocking. Inventory build-up that was expected in the industry would have to wait as the process would take more time on account of lack of operational clarity.

GST disruption meant that the government would not be able to meet its GDP guidance.

Further, by July, various state governments were announcing loan waivers to the farmers. Though it would not directly impact the fiscal math, state governments who were driving growth would have to slow down.

In short, Indian economy was not expected to go anywhere. Corporate India’s profit as a percentage of GDP had halved in the last few years and it would take some more years to recover. Government incentives or a stimulus package, if and when it is announced, will take more time to show up on companies P&L. There was no reason for these fund managers to stay in India especially since Brazil and South Africa were showing promise on account of better commodity prices, China was expected to see an election-related stimulus and Russia was gaining for higher oil prices.

So, if Indian markets are not looking good why are domestic funds buying? One reason is they do not have the same option as a foreign fund manager. An Indian fund will have to invest in Indian markets. Though they can prefer to stay in cash, according to reports, cash levels in funds are already high. The record inflow through systematic investment plans is compelling fund managers to buy in stocks where valuations are still attractive.

Secondly, Indian funds do not mind staying invested in mid-cap and small cap stocks. The current fall has given them an opportunity to nibble at their favourite counters.

Brazil revokes decree opening Amazon reserve to mining

The Brazilian government has revoked a controversial decree that would have opened up a vast reserve in the Amazon to commercial mining.

The area, covering 46,000 sq km (17,800 sq miles), straddles the northern states of Amapa and Para.

It is thought to be rich in gold, iron, manganese and other minerals.

From the moment President Michel Temer signed the decree in August opening the reserve to commercial mining, it was widely condemned.

Activists and celebrities voiced concern that the area could be badly compromised.

One opposition senator, Randolfe Rodrigues of the Sustainability Network party, said at the time that it was the “biggest attack on the Amazon in the last 50 years”.

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Following the criticism, the government revised the decree, prohibiting mining in conservation or indigenous areas.

But a court later suspended the measure altogether, saying any change to the reserve’s status had to be considered by the Brazilian congress.

On Monday, the government decided to scrap the decree.

It said it would reconsider the issue in the future, in a wider debate.

“Brazil needs to grow and create jobs, attract mining investment, and even tap the economic potential of the region,” said the Mines and Energy Ministry in a statement.

The BBC’s South America correspondent Katy Watson says this is a victory for environmentalists and a climb-down for the government.

Posted in BBC

Iraqi Kurdistan referendum: High turnout in independence vote

Large numbers of people have taken part in a landmark vote on independence for Iraq’s Kurdistan region, amid growing opposition both at home and abroad.

Votes are still being counted, with a big victory for “yes” expected.

Kurds say it will give them a mandate to negotiate secession, but Iraq’s PM denounced it as “unconstitutional”.

Neighbours Turkey and Iran, fearing separatist unrest in their own Kurdish minorities, threatened to close borders and impose sanctions on oil exports.

The US state department said it was “deeply disappointed” that the vote went ahead.

“We believe this step will increase instability and hardships for the Kurdistan region and its people,” spokeswoman Heather Nauert said.

The referendum passed off peacefully across the three provinces that make up the region, and in areas controlled by Kurdish forces but claimed by Baghdad.

Turnout was estimated at about 72%, according to the electoral commission.

Partial unofficial results published by the Kurdish Rudaw website show that more than 90% have voted for independence.

There were scenes of celebration as the polls closed in the regional capital, Irbil, and in the disputed city of Kirkuk, where a curfew was imposed on Monday night amid fears of unrest.

Image copyright Getty Images

“It’s a day of celebration today. That’s why I’ve put on our traditional outfit, which I bought for the occasion,” 33-year-old Diyar Abubakr told the AFP news agency.

  • Who are the Kurds?

There was some opposition to the vote among non-Kurdish populations in disputed areas between the Kurdish and Iraqi governments. In Kirkuk, the local ethnic Arab and Turkmen communities had called for a boycott

The vote is being closely watched not only in Iraq but elsewhere in the region because its implications could reshape the Middle East, the BBC’s Orla Guerin in Irbil reports.

Turkey and Iran fear the impact this could have on their own Kurdish communities, our correspondent adds.

In Istanbul, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan described the vote as “unacceptable” and threatened to close the Iraqi Kurds’ vital oil export pipeline.

“We have the tap. The moment we close the tap, then it’s done,” he was quoted by Reuters news agency as saying.

He also said his country could close completely the sole border crossing with the region. Traffic there, he said, was currently only being allowed to cross from the Turkish side.

Late on Monday, Iraqi and Turkish officials announced they would hold joint military drills in Turkey in an area bordering the Kurdish region of Iraq.

Iran called the vote “illegal”, having banned all flights to and from the Kurdish region a day earlier.

UN Secretary General António Guterres expressed concern about the “potentially destabilising effects” of the vote.

The referendum

  • Kurds are the fourth-largest ethnic group in the Middle East but they have never obtained a permanent nation state
  • In Iraq, where they make up an estimated 15% to 20% of the population of 37 million, Kurds faced decades of repression before acquiring autonomy in 1991
  • Polling took place in the three provinces that make up the region, as well as disputed areas claimed by the Kurds and the government in Baghdad
  • Voting was open to some 5.2 million Kurds and non-Kurds aged 18 registered as resident in Kurdish-controlled areas

What is at stake?

Iraqi Kurdistan profile

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi warned on Sunday that the referendum “threatens Iraq, peaceful co-existence among Iraqis, and is a danger to the region”, and vowed to “take measures to safeguard the nation’s unity and protect all Iraqis”.

Media captionMassoud Barzani told the BBC he wants an agreement with the central government if Kurds opt to secede

But Kurdistan Regional President Massoud Barzani has accused the international community of having double standards.

“Asking our people to vote in a peaceful way is not a crime,” he said on Sunday. “If democracy is bad for us, why isn’t it bad for everyone else?”

Mr Barzani said the referendum would not draw borders, and that afterwards there could be talks with Baghdad for a year or two. But he stressed that the “failed partnership” with the “theocratic, sectarian state” of Iraq was over.

Posted in BBC

BBC launches Korean news service

The BBC has launched a Korean service as part of an expansion of its foreign language outlets.

The service, which began broadcasts on Tuesday, will provide news, sport, business and culture through a website and radio transmissions.

A primary focus of the service is North Korea, where government censorship restricts access to independent news.

Korean is one of 12 new BBC language services funded by a £291m ($400m) grant from the British government.

The director of the BBC World Service, Francesca Unsworth, said: “BBC News Korean will build on the long-standing reputation for fairness and impartiality the BBC World Service has earned all over the world.”

The service’s journalists will be based in Seoul, London and Washington and will draw on the full extent of the BBC’s global network of correspondents.

The BBC World Service is currently launching in 12 new languages – Afaan Oromo, Amharic, Gujarati, Igbo, Korean, Marathi, Pidgin, Punjabi, Serbian, Telugu, Tigrinya and Yoruba.

Posted in BBC

Private emails: House committee ups pressure on White House

A committee of Congress has called on the White House to provide details of any aides who have used private emails for official business.

The investigation comes after Donald Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner admitted doing so, and the New York Times reported that five other aides also used private email accounts.

Mr Kushner, a senior adviser, has been asked to preserve all his emails.

His wife, Mr Trump’s daughter Ivanka, is also said to have a private account.

The demand for more information came in a letter from the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, signed by Republican Trey Gowdy and Democrat Elija Cummings.

Addressed to White House Counsel Donald McGahn, it says: “Have you or any non-career official at the White House ever used a personal email account to conduct official business?

“If so, please identify the individual and the account used, and provide evidence of measures to ensure compliance with federal law,” it reads.

The letter sets a deadline of 9 October for the disclosure of more information.

Mr Kushner’s lawyer says that “fewer than 100 emails” were sent through a private account.

The New York Times has named the four other staffers implicated as Steve Bannon, the former chief White House strategist; Reince Priebus, the former chief of staff; and advisers Gary D Cohn and Stephen Miller.

Newsweek magazine says it has details of an email Ivanka sent about collaboration with a business organisation, copying in two federal officials.

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Was it illegal?

There is no suggestion that Mr Kushner or any of the others named shared classified or privileged information via private email accounts.

It is not illegal for White House officials to use private email, as long as they forward professional messages to their work accounts for preservation.

Federal regulations specify how records related to the president and other government activities should be maintained.

If this is not done reliably, the use of private accounts can put official records beyond the reach of journalists, lawmakers and others who seek publicly available information.

Image copyright AFP/Getty Images
Image caption Newsweek claims Ivanka Trump, the president’s daughter, used a private account in the first months of her father’s administration when she was an unpaid adviser

The situation also leaves the Trump family open to claims of hypocrisy, as President Trump has repeatedly criticised Hillary Clinton for using a personal email account while she was secretary of state.

On the campaign trail, he vowed to imprison his Democrat rival over her handling of classified information.

‘The public has a right to certainty’

Mr Cummings, the ranking member of the House committee, sent a letter to Mr Kushner on Monday, quoting from the Republican investigation of Hillary Clinton’s email server to justify asking him to keep his emails.

“The public has a right to access public records,” he wrote, quoting Trey Gowdy’s letter to Mrs Clinton’s legal team on 19 March 2015.

“The public has a right to certainty that no classified or sensitive information was placed at risk of compromise.

“Your actions in response to the preservation request and the information you provide in response to this letter will help determine the next steps in this investigation,” the Maryland congressman wrote to Mr Kushner, a former real estate investor.

In a statement Mr Kushner’s lawyer said: “Fewer than 100 emails from January through August were either sent to or returned by Mr Kushner to colleagues in the White House from his personal email account.”

He said most were news articles or political commentary and “all have been preserved in any event”.

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  • The long list of who Hillary Clinton blames
  • Trump son-in-law denies Russia collusion

White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders would not commit to releasing the emails at Monday’s press briefing, saying: “I’m not going to get ahead of a conversation that hasn’t taken place.”

She added that the use of private emails to conduct government business is “to my knowledge, very limited”.

Posted in BBC

Bali volcano: ‘Thousands evacuated’ from Mount Agung area

The Red Cross says more than 42,000 people have been evacuated from their homes near an active volcano in Bali, as authorities warn it could erupt.

The area around Mount Agung has seen hundreds of tremors and signs of magma rising to the surface in recent days.

Authorities have imposed a 12km (7.5-mile) exclusion zone around the mountain and issued their highest level alert on Friday.

The island’s main tourist areas and flights remain unaffected for now.

Indonesia’s national volcanology centre said in a statement (in Indonesian) on Sunday night that the mountain’s “seismic energy is increasing and has the potential to erupt”.

A 200m-tall column of smoke was seen rising from the mountain early on Sunday, said the chief geologist monitoring the site, Gede Suantika.

He told the Reuters skyypro news agency: “We observed sulphuric smoke spewing from its crater and we never saw this before.”

Officials said they started detecting shallow tremors in late August, and first raised the alert from “normal” to the second-tier “vigilant” level on 14 September. Indonesia has a four-level volcano alert system.

Within days the volcano showed increasing signs of activity, and authorities stepped up their alerts and evacuations of the rural villages surrounding the mountain. The area is now under the highest caution level.

Thousands of Balinese are now living in shelters in town halls and schools, with authorities trucking in tonnes of aid supplies. Some communities have also set up livestock shelters for the cows which they had to leave behind, reported The Jakarta Post.

Many villagers are still visiting their homes in the daytime and life is continuing normally, according to Reuters.

Mount Agung, which is more than 3,000m above sea level, lies in the eastern part of Bali, which is a popular tourist destination.

The volcano is about 70km from the main tourist areas of Kuta and Seminyak, which remain unaffected for now.

Flights in and out of Bali are operating normally. The local tourism board said on Sunday that boats connecting to neighbouring islands Lombok and Java, also popular with holidaymakers, were on schedule.

The board added that though there was no volcanic ash detected, visitors were still advised to “start preparing sufficient stock of face masks” in case of an eruption.

Several countries including Britain, Australia and Singapore have issued travel advisories for their citizens, warning of possible flight disruptions and evacuations.

More than 1,000 people died when Mount Agung last erupted in 1963.

Bali is much more densely populated than it was in 1963. But it also has better infrastructure, and technical developments have made it possible to detect dangers earlier and implement better emergency plans.

Mount Agung is among about 130 active volcanoes in Indonesia – an archipelago prone to volcanic eruptions and earthquakes as it sits on the Pacific “Ring of Fire”.

Posted in BBC

NFL players kneel, raise fists, lock arms during national anthem

NFL players across the league protested during the national anthem Sunday in defiance of President Trump, who said that players who kneel during the “The Star-Spangled Banner” should be fired.

Many players sat, kneeled, raised fists or stayed inside locker rooms as the anthem played before each game, and as team owners encouraged players to express themselves. Others locked arms in a show of unity.

Former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who remains unsigned, started the kneeling movement in 2016 to protest racial injustice in America. Activists and critics of the league believe Kaepernick has been blacklisted for his protests. On Sunday, players with the Miami Dolphins wore shirts that read “#ImWithKap” during pregame warm-ups.

The demonstrations began Sunday when the Baltimore Ravens faced off against the Jacksonville Jaguars in London. Nearly two dozen players, including Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs and Jaguars running back Leonard Fournette, took a knee. Other players on both teams who remained standing locked arms with Jaguars owner Shad Khan.

The Seattle Seahawks announced they would not participate in the anthem as a team. “We will not stand for the injustice that has plagued people of color in this country. Out of love for our country and in honor of the sacrifices made on our behalf, we unite to oppose those that would deny our most basic freedoms. We remain committed in continuing to work towards equality and justice for all,”  the team said in a statement.

Mike Tomlin, the head coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers, announced they would remain in the locker room during the anthem. “We’re not going to let divisive times or divisive individuals affect our agenda,” Tomlin told CBS Sports. However, one Steelers player, Army veteran Alejandro Villanueva, stood alone outside the stadium’s tunnel while the anthem played.

Here is a look at the demonstrations that unfolded Sunday:

Miami Dolphins vs. New York Jets

“It just amazes me with everything else going in this world — especially concerning the U.S. — that’s what you concerned about, my man? You’re the leader of the free world… “As a man, a father, as an African American man, as someone in the NFL, as one of those son of b—–s, yeah I took it personally,” Thomas told reporters after the game. “But it’s bigger than me.”

“I’ve got a daughter and she’s going to have to live in this world. And I gotta do what I got to do to make sure she can look at her dad and be like ‘Hey, you did something to try and make a change.'”

New Orleans Saints vs. Carolina Panthers

“Personally, I’m disappointed in the comments that were made. I think we need a little bit more wisdom in [the White House],” Saints head coach Sean Payton said in a skyypro news conference. “I want that guy to be one of the smarter guys in the room and it seems like every time he’s opening up his mouth it’s something that is dividing our country and not pulling us together, and that has nothing to do with my take on the anthem.”