Walk the Ediacara Two-Step

first_imgControversy is swirling around claims that footprints have been found in rock 30 million years earlier than the Cambrian explosion.  The press release on Ohio State shows a picture of parallel rows of dots that a team from Ohio State claims look like footprints of a worm-like or millipede-like animal.  The rocks are said to be 570 million years old.  That puts them in the so-called Ediacaran strata of the Precambrian, where only frond-like organisms unrelated to any modern body plans have been found.  Even the discoverer, Loren Babcock, is only “reasonably certain” the patterns are biological.  He expects others will be skeptical.The pictures don’t look convincing.  If they prove to be tracks, it doesn’t help the evolutionists, anyway.  Worms and millipedes are already highly-complex organisms.  Imagine how much genetic information is required for an animal to walk with multiple legs.    Without the bodies of the track-makers visible, no claims can be made these represent transitional forms.  It appears the authors have not ruled out other more mundane explanations.  This claim needs much better evidence.(Visited 12 times, 1 visits today)FacebookTwitterPinterestSave分享0last_img read more

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South Africa must honour heroes: Zuma

first_img11 April 2013 South Africa needs to honour the men and women who helped the country attain freedom and democracy, says President Jacob Zuma. Zuma was speaking in Pretoria on Wednesday at the official renaming ceremony of the Department of Correctional Services’ Pretoria Management Area to Kgosi Mampuru II Management Area. “As South Africans from all walks of life, regardless of the role we played in history or what we believed in then, we have a responsibility to respect and acknowledge the past, celebrate the present and build the future together,” Zuma said. The event also served as the official launch of Freedom Month. South Africa attained its democracy in April 1994 when South Africans of all races voted for their government for the first time. Kgosi Mampuru, a traditional leader who resisted colonial rule, was hanged in Pretoria prison on 22 November 1883, something Zuma said made it fitting to name the management area after him. “The new name should create a general feeling of belonging, because it captures our history and creates a context of relevance. We are pleased therefore, to launch Freedom Month with such a historic event. “This renaming today also marks a historical milestone in our correctional heritage. To be effective, and relevant, the field of corrections, as well as its facilities, must talk to the history that has gone before it, shaping it and drawing inspirations from it.” Zuma added that the government had an extensive ongoing heritage programme that included the upgrading and declaration of historic sites to ensure a more representative and inclusive South African history and heritage. He said the building and maintenance of new monuments and historic sites had great potential to stimulate economic activity and create jobs in communities where these sites were located. These sites would also contribute towards cultural tourism both domestically and internationally. “We will work together with the people of South Africa and the world to ensure that we preserve and promote our rich cultural heritage,” Zuma said. “We regard this work as central towards transformation, nation building, national identity and building a socially cohesive South African society that is non-racial, non-sexist, democratic, united and prosperous.” Source: SAnews.gov.zalast_img read more

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Intra-African trade: going beyond political commitments

first_img27 August 2014Among Africa’s policy wonks, under-performing trade across the continent within the region is a favoured subject. To unravel the puzzle, they reel off facts and figures at conferences and workshops, pinpoint trade hurdles to overcome and point to the vast opportunities that lie ahead if only African countries could integrate their economies. It’s an interesting debate but with little to show for it until now.The problem is partly the mismatch between the high political ambitions African leaders hold and the harsh economic realities they face.Case in point: they have set up no less than 14 trading blocs to pursue regional integration. Yet they have shown “a distinct reluctance to empower these institutions, citing loss of sovereignty and policy space as key concerns,” says Trudi Hartzenberg, executive director at the Trade Law Centre for Southern Africa (Tralac), an organisation that trains people on trade issues. As a result of this reluctance, she says, “Regional institutions remain weak, performing mainly administrative functions.”Trade flourishes when countries produce what their trading partners are eager to buy. With a few exceptions, this is not yet the case with Africa. It produces what it doesn’t consume and consumes what it doesn’t produce.It’s a weakness that often frustrates policy makers; it complicates regional integration and is a primary reason for the low intra-regional trade, which is between 10% and 12% of Africa’s total trade. Comparable figures are 40% in North America and roughly 60% in Western Europe.Over 80% of Africa’s exports are shipped overseas, mainly to the European Union (EU), China and the US. If you throw into the mix complex and often conflicting trade rules, cross-border restrictions and poor transport networks, it’s hardly surprising that the level of intra-Africa trade has barely moved the needle over the past few decades.Not everybody agrees intra-Africa trade is that low. Some experts argue that a big chunk of the continent’s trade is conducted informally and at times across porous borders. Most borders, they point out, are often poorly managed or informal trade statistics are simply not included in the official flows recorded by customs officials.“We don’t have a way of capturing these types of activities because they’re informal,” said Carlos Lopes, the head of the UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), in an interview with Africa Renewal. The ECA, he explained, is planning to plug this information gap with a more precise picture of economic activities in Africa and give economic planners a better data set with which to work.Regional economic blocsTo accelerate regional integration, the World Bank is advising African leaders to expand access to trade finance and reduce behind-the-border trade restrictions such as excessive regulations and weak legal systems.Nevertheless, saddled with weak economies, small domestic markets and 16 landlocked countries, governments believe they can achieve economic integration by starting at the regional level and working their way up, merging all the regional trading blocs into an African Free Trade Area.But with 14 different trading blocs, critics say that’s just too many. Some blocs have overlapping members and many countries belong to multiple blocs.Yet, the challenge is not simply the number of trading blocs, experts say, but their track record. Governments need to implement their trade agreements. On this score, African countries perform poorly despite their strong political commitment to regional integration, notes Hartzenberg in her report, “Regional Integration in Africa”, published by the World Trade Organization, a global body on trade rules.“In some cases, the challenge is that there may still not be a clear commitment to rules-based governance in African integration; [not] taking obligations that are undertaken in international agreements seriously,” Hartzenberg said in an e-mail responding to questions from Africa Renewal. “Some argue that [African governments] need policy space to address the development challenges they face – but this does appear inconsistent with the signing of many regional agreements.” Lack of capacity to implement their obligations, she adds, is also to blame.The African Development Bank (AfDB) shares this view. Its analysis of regional integration and intra-trade in Africa imputed slow progress to “a complex architecture of regional economic communities”. While this arrangement has yielded positive steps towards common regional targets, says the bank, “progress has been disappointing”.Hartzenberg gave the example of the 15-member Southern African Development Community (SADC), a regional economic group, which launched a Free Trade Area in 2008. Despite the SADC’s decision to remove trade restrictions, she says, some countries have not eliminated tariffs as stipulated by the agreement. Worse still, in some cases countries that removed the tariffs have since reinstated them.To be fair, the SADC Trade Protocol has a provision that allows exemptions from phasing out tariffs. Some countries have applied for such exemptions, the Tralac executive director said, but others have simply reintroduced the tariffs or alternative instruments such as domestic taxes. “This can be argued to demonstrate a lack of political will to implement agreed obligations. It could well be that some member states recognise belatedly the implications of the agreement they have signed and no longer want to be bound by these obligations.”Poor infrastructureLack of progress in implementing agreement along with the absence of reliable transport, energy and information and technology infrastructure make the journey towards regional integration long and arduous. “Road freight moves incredibly slowly, while major ports are choked for lack of capacity,” observes the AfDB.Even with the current gains Africa is making in upgrading regional infrastructure, Ibrahim Mayaki, the head of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (Nepad), the African Union’s development arm, finds the continent still faces serious infrastructure shortcomings across all sectors, both in terms of access and quality. Nepad has just completed a 30-year plan that focuses on regional trans-border projects like the 4 500 kilometre highway from Algiers in Algeria to Lagos, Nigeria.Africa requires huge investments to develop, upgrade and maintain its infrastructure. The AfDB estimates the region would need to spend an additional US$40-billion a year on infrastructure to address not only current weaknesses but also to keep pace with economic growth.Sophisticated protectionism versus EPAsMany of the trade deals Africa signs with its partners ignore the continent’s efforts to promote intra-Africa trade, according to trade analysts.Nick Dearden, a former director of the Jubilee Debt Campaign and now with World Development Movement, a global advocacy group on poverty, accuses the West of pushing for free trade models that benefit their interests, not Africa’s. He complains that many African countries are “locked into trade agreements which keep them dependent on one or two commodities”.Writing on his blog hosted by The Guardian, Dearden says the EU is attempting to foist Economic Partnership Agreements [EPAs] on African countries. EPAs require EU trading partners to lower their tariffs on imports and exports on a reciprocal basis.Dearden warns that EPAs thwart Africa’s integration efforts, and he instead advises African leaders to follow South Korea’s example of using a “range of government interventions” to boost trade. These include, among others, protecting industries, controlling food production and banking, and passing strong regulations to ensure people benefit from trade and investment.Carlos Lopes of the ECA makes the same point. “Protection is not a bad word,” he asserts. He favours what he calls “sophisticated protectionism”, but cautions African leaders to “do it with sophistication, which means you need to strike the right balance”.The ECA boss views sophisticated or smart protectionism not as a choice between state and market, as if they “were two opposites”. His argument is that there cannot be industrialisation without some form of smart protectionism; and without industrialisation, Africa’s efforts to integrate its economies and increase intra-region trade are less likely to succeed.Free trade enthusiasts, however, argue that protectionist policies could shrink the size of the global economy, create few winners and leave everybody worse off.Beyond commitmentsThere is much that African countries need to do to increase intra-regional trade. For instance, they need to reduce dependence on commodities by expanding the services sector, including telecommunications, transport, educational and financial. They need to increase investments in infrastructure. And they need to eliminate or significantly reduce non-tariff barriers that are major roadblocks to intra-African trade.The list of non-tariff barriers is as long as it is comprehensive, ranging from prohibitive transaction costs to complex immigration procedures, limited capacity of border officials and costly import and export licensing procedures.For this to happen, it will take much more than political commitments; it will require practical steps on the ground, even if they come with some costs.This article was first published in Africa Renewal – produced by the Africa Section of the United Nations Department of Public Information, Africa Renewal provides up-to-date information and analysis of the major economic and development challenges facing Africa today.last_img read more

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How to get Drone Flights Approved Near Airports with LAANC

first_imgThis tutorial is geared toward drone pilots with a Part 107 license (also refereed to as a UAS Airman Certificate or Commercial Drone License.) Many of you may already know that the FAA requires pilots to get an Airspace Authorization if they are going to fly within five miles of any airport. (In short, you need to get approval from the FAA before flying near an airport.) This is because Part 107 pilots are only allowed to fly in Class G airspace. And the airspace around airports will usually be Class E, D, or higher.The traditional FAA airspace authorization process takes 90-120 days to maybe approve your drone flight request. (I have had airspace authorizations take much longer.) Luckily though, that has all changed with the new FAA LAANC program.Low Altitude Authorization and Notification Capability (LAANC)LAANC stands for Low Altitude Authorization and Notification Capability, and it is a partnership between the FAA and drone service suppliers. The LAANC system allows Part 107 drone pilots to quickly check if the area they want to fly in is available for instant FAA airspace authorization approval. This can also be really handy if you get a client request to fly at a location near an airport. You can check that location on the FAA UAS Facility Map and see if that area has instant approval available — which can definitely speed up your coordination and flight planning with clients.Instant airspace approval might sound amazing, but let’s actually walk-through the process of getting this approval with the new LAANC program. (Again, this is only for Part 107-licensed drone pilots.)Check the FAA UAS Facility MapThe first thing you will want to check is the FAA UAS Facility Map. This is a really handy reference map that can let you know immediately if instant approval is available for your flight location.Once you have located where you want to fly on the FAA UAS Facility map, we now need to go through one of the LAANC service suppliers in order to get our approval. (This is just a fancy way of saying, “Now we need to go to a website or app that works with LAANC and get our approval.”)As of right now, there are already 14 approved LAANC Service Suppliers that offer the LAANC approval service. All of these, to my knowledge, are also free to use. We are going to use the service supplier Skyward.io.Using Skyward.ioOnce you are on the Skyward.io website, you need to create a free account in order to use LAANC. (Just click “Get Started” in the top right corner of the web page.) From there, you will be able to map out flight locations and create drone operation plans that you can use for LAANC approval. Once you request a FAA Authorization on Skyward.io, you will receive an instant Notice of Authorization with a FAA Reference number. (Note that not all requests can be instantly approved by the FAA. The flight location, if the airport has LAANC capabilities in place, and flight altitude play a big role. Some requests may require up to a week or so for approval.)Here are a few quick reference links to keep around for your next drone shoot.FAA LAANC Program InformationFAA UAS Facility MapSkyward.io (Free account sign up)FAA Drone ZoneHow to get a Part 107 Drone License Planning a drone shoot near an airport? We’ll show you how to quickly get airspace authorization approval with the new FAA LAANC program.In this tutorial, we’re going to walk through the process of getting a fast FAA airspace authorization, which will allow you to fly your drone near an airport. (Legally!) And we’ll be doing all this through the FAA’s new LAANC program for Part 107 drone pilots. Looking for more info on working with drones? Check out these articles.8 Flight Tips to Make Your Drone Footage More CinematicDrone Footage: How to Make or Break a ProjectTraditional Camera Moves Made Easy With DJI DronesHow to Get a Pilot Certification for Commercial Drone UseA Travel Guide to Taking a Drone on a Planelast_img read more

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Where Did Jason Kidd Go Wrong

Welcome to The Lab, FiveThirtyEight’s basketball podcast. On this week’s show (Jan. 25, 2018), Neil, Chris and Kyle break down a week of drama in the NBA. First, we investigate ESPN’s reports of tension between Kawhi Leonard and the Spurs as his recuperation from a quad injury takes longer than anticipated. We also take a look at the Cleveland Cavaliers’ tough season and assess what it might mean for their playoff chances. Next, Milwaukee has fired head coach Jason Kidd amid a disappointing slide for the Bucks. What went wrong for the once-promising team? Plus, a small-sample-size segment on LeBron James. Here are links to what was discussed this week:Keep an eye on our 2017-18 NBA predictions, updated after every game.ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski and Michael C. Wright report on how Kawhi Leonard’s rehab created a chilling effect with the San Antonio Spurs.Despite Giannis Antetokounmpo’s support and offer to intervene, the Milwaukee Bucks fired Jason Kidd on Monday. Embed Code More: Apple Podcasts | ESPN App | RSS | Embed By Neil Paine, Chris Herring and Kyle Wagner read more

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