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    The Asteroid That Killed the Dinosaurs Created the Amazon Rain Forest – Scientific American - April 5, 2021 by Mr HomeBuilder

    Dinosaur and fossil aficionados are intimately familiar with the meteorite strike that drove Tyrannosaurus rex and all nonavian dinosaurs to extinction around 66 million years ago. But it is often overlooked that the impact also wiped out entire ecosystems. A new study shows how those casualties, in turn, led to another particularly profound evolutionary outcome: the emergence of the Amazon rain forest of South America, the most spectacularly diverse environment on the planet. Yet the Amazons bounty of tropical species and habitats now face their own existential threat because of unprecedented destruction from human activity, including land clearing for agriculture.

    The new study, published on Thursday in Science, analyzed tens of thousands of plant fossils and represents a fundamental advance in knowledge, says Peter Wilf, a geoscientist at Pennsylvania State University, who was not involved in the research. The authors demonstrate that the dinosaur extinction was also a massive reset event for neotropical ecosystems, putting their evolution on an entirely new path leading directly to the extraordinary, diverse, spectacular and gravely threatened rain forests in the region today.

    These insights, Wilf adds, provide new impetus for the conservation of the living evolutionary heritage in the tropics that supports human life, along with millions of living species.

    Carlos Jaramillo, a paleobiologist at the Panama-based Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute and co-lead author of the study, agrees that the meteorites evolutionary and ecological effects hold implications for todays rapid, human-caused destruction of the Amazon rain forest and other key habitats across the planet. We can relate this to nowadays, he says, because were also transforming landscapes, and that lasts foreveror at least a very long time.

    Modern-day rain forests are integral to life on Earth. The Amazon, in particular, plays a crucial role in regulating the planets freshwater cycle and climate. Yet Western European and North American paleontologists have paid little attention to tropical forests, focusing instead on temperate latitudes. Many academic and amateur fossil hunters have also tended to write off warm, wet locales as a lost cause for finds because they have assumed that conditions there would prevent organic materials from being preserved long enough to fossilize. Its this combination of factors that has led us to this absence of much data in the tropics, says Bonnie Jacobs, a paleobiologist at Southern Methodist University, who co-authored a contextualizing essay that was published with the new study in Science.

    Scientists already knew that the effects of the meteorite collision and its aftermathat least in temperate zonesvaried with local conditions and distance from the Chicxulub impact crater in Mexicos Yucatn Peninsula. New Zealand forests, for example, escaped relatively unscathed. But researchers have had no idea how the event changed the tropical rain forests of Africa or, until now, those of South America.

    Along with most of his co-authors, Jaramillo is from Colombia and specifically wanted to investigate the origins of his home countrys tropical forests. The new study, which he conceptualized as an undergraduate student, represents nearly 12 years of effort. It took us a long time, he says, because we had to start from zero.

    Whole trees are almost never preserved in the fossil record, so Jaramillo and his colleagues turned to fossilized pollen and leaves for insights. Pollen preserves well over time and is widespread in the fossil record. Like leaves, it differs morphologically among species, which helps researchers determine what types of plants lived in an ancient habitat.

    Jaramillo and his colleagues searched 53 sites across Colombia for rocks that formed during the Late Cretaceous period, just before the meteorite strike, and others that formed during 10 million subsequent years, in the Paleogene period. From these rocks, the team amassed and analyzed around 50,000 fossil pollen grains and 6,000 fossil leaves to characterize the types of plants that made them. Recent separate findings indicate that plant leaves receiving more light have a higher density of veins, as well as a higher ratio of a naturally occurring isotope called carbon 13. The researchers studied those features among the collected fossils to piece together the structure of the regions past forests.

    Their findings paint a picture of a sudden, cataclysmic annihilation of life after the impactbut also of a phoenix-like rebirth in the millions of years afterward. Prior to the meteorite, the authors determined, South Americas forests featured many conifers and a brightly lit open canopy supporting a lush understory of ferns. Dinosaurs likely played key roles in maintaining these Cretaceous forests by knocking down trees and clearing out vegetation, among other things. Within moments of the Chicxulub meteorites impact, however, this ecosystem was irrevocably altered. Fires, which likely burned for several years, engulfed South Americas southerly forests. Along with many of the animals they supported, a total of 45 percent of the continents tropical plant species disappeared, according to the authors calculations.

    It took six million years for the forests to return to the level of diversity they had before the meteorite, and the species that slowly grew back were completely different than what came before. Legumesplants that form symbiotic relationships with bacteria that allow them to fix nitrogen from the airwere the first to appear, and they enriched the formerly nutrient-poor soil. This influx of nitrogen, along with phosphorus from the meteorites ash, enabled other flowering plants to thrive alongside the legumes and to displace conifers. As flowering species competed for light, they formed dense canopies of leaves and created the layered Amazon rain forest we know today, which is characterized by a blanket of productivity up top and a dark understory at the bottom.

    Regan Dunn, a paleoecologist at the La Brea Tar Pits and Museum in Los Angeles, who was not involved in the new study, agrees that its findings are not only key for revealing the past but also for putting current anthropogenic threats into perspective. She particularly notes the authors calculation that 45 percent of plant species went extinct following the meteorite collision, because current estimates suggest that at least this many plant species will be globally threatened in the Amazon basin in the next 30 years from human activities alone.

    The question remains: How will human impact change the composition and function of Amazonian forests forever? Dunn says.

    The new findings show how extensive mass extinction events can alter the course of everything, Jacobs says. Today we are in the midst of another such event, she adds, but this one is driven by a single speciesand there is no place far from the metaphorical impact crater because humans are ubiquitous.

    Yet unlike past mass extinction events, Jacobs says, this time we are not powerless to stop it.

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    The Asteroid That Killed the Dinosaurs Created the Amazon Rain Forest - Scientific American

    UNIFIL deminers persevere with clearing south Lebanese land of deadly mines | UNIFIL – UNIFIL - April 5, 2021 by Mr HomeBuilder

    As the world marks the International Day for Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action on 04 April 2021, UNIFIL peacekeepers continue to carry on with the painstaking but necessary work of clearing large swathes of south Lebanese lands of deadly mines.

    One of them is Captain Yang Dong from China. Recently, he was found hovering a hand-held metal detector a few centimetres above the ground, emanating a high-pitched electronic sound as he gingerly scanned the ground for mines near the village of Labbouneh.

    The closer we get to a minefield in the remote areas of south Lebanon, the more red-painted stones we see, he says. The red stones remind us between safe and unsafe areas. It is reminding us not to step around It is dangerous and there could be some mines there.

    Another deminer from China, Senior Sergeant Lu Nianyou, explains the procedure of detecting a mine: A steady beeping means all is fine, terrain is safe. But when beeping increases in frequency and becomes louder than the usual, it is a clear signal not to move any further.

    In a nearby field close to the Blue Line, another group of UNIFIL deminers, from Cambodia, is busy undertaking the same task.

    Team leader Chief Warrant Officer Ith Seyla says he feels very proud to be clearing the land of mines so that the landowners can till the land for farming.

    If we clear all the mines, they can do farming in this area, he says.

    His colleague, Warrant Officer Bun Channa of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces (RCAF), is equally proud. I feel very happy in this job as a deminer because its humanitarian work, she adds. Its good to be serving my own country as well as Lebanon.

    In 2020 alone, UNIFILs Chinese and Cambodian deminers cleared 14,541 square metres of land and discovered and destroyed 1,348 anti-personnel mines.

    Since 2006, UNIFIL deminers have cleared nearly 5 million square metres of mine-filled land in south Lebanon. They have also destroyed more than 43,500 mines, bombs and unexploded ordnances.

    During the first four years, UNIFIL deminers (which also included Italian, Belgian, Dutch, Spanish, Ukrainian and Finnish peacekeepers) conducted humanitarian demining in order to protect civilians and facilitate safe access to dwellings and agricultural land. As part of its mandate, UNIFIL facilitates the marking of the Blue Line. To ensure the safety of patrols carried out by UNIFIL peacekeepers, demining activities focused on specific operational tasks clearing access pathways to the Blue Line.

    However, their scope of work increased again in January 2020 with the signing of a new agreement between UNIFIL and the Lebanon Mine Action Centre (LMAC) of the Lebanese Armed Forces.

    Calling for continued efforts by Member States to foster the establishment and development of national mine-action capacities, the UN General Assembly declared on 8 December 2005 that 4 April of each year shall be observed as the International Day for Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action.

    The global theme of this years observance isPerseverance, Partnership, Progressperseveranceneeded during the COVID-19 pandemic, newpartnershipsneeded to mitigate the threat of improvised explosive devices, withprogresstowardsa world free from the threat of landmines and unexploded ordnances.

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    UNIFIL deminers persevere with clearing south Lebanese land of deadly mines | UNIFIL - UNIFIL

    Landfill size, tipping rate increasing over coming fiscal year – Maryville Daily Times - April 5, 2021 by Mr HomeBuilder

    Its set to be a big 2021-22 fiscal year for the Alcoa/Maryville/Blount County Sanitary Landfill, which is in the early stages of expanding its more than 250-acre footprint and increasing per-ton tipping fees by mid-summer of next year.

    Landfill and city of Alcoa officials said expansion of its Class III material cells nonhazardous industrial, commercial, landscaping, land clearing and farming wastes could take until at least February 2022.

    Meanwhile, they said tipping fees to dump 1 ton of waste at the site will rise from $50 to $52 on July 1, this following a busy fiscal 2020 and sharp increases in trash drop-offs during the heat of COVID-19 restrictions.

    Alcoa Public Works and Engineering Director Shane Snoderly said increased rates track with inflation. Weve held off the last few years, he said. We actually probably should be a little higher than what we are, but thats just kind of playing some catch-up.

    As rates rise, so will the amount of space at the landfill. Operations there are finally realizing the fruit of planning that lasted several years, officials said.

    Expanding for Class III materials is important to the landfill, where crews recently tore down the decades-old cabin staff used as an office tucked in a hilly, wooded area in the southwestern portion to make room for 11 more acres of Class III waste cells.

    But before that happens, the Tennessee Department of Environment & Conservation has to give the permitting green light.

    That could take until February 2022, according to Solid Waste Manager Kelly Hembree, though she hopes sooner. She also explained a single-permit expansion plan leaders initially created recently was split in two on TDECs recommendation.

    What weve decided to do is to break it into two projects, Hembree said. The overlay project were doing first because were kind of in a hurry, and the other project is where the old office used to be.

    Snoderly explained doing overlay strategically layering material on top of already existing cells is a lot easier to get permitted and get underway.

    Launching these projects comes not a moment too soon for the landfill, Hembree added. Were currently on the last lift (or layer) of the current demolition cell, she said, explaining leaders already are using space designated for Class I materials to store Class III materials.

    Ive put all the commercial construction demolition waste ... into the current Class I cell, and we dont want to do that, Hembree explained.

    Having more cells by 2022 will mean less scraping for space, at least for the better part of another century, which is how long some officials estimate it will last.

    Blount Countians may be able to help extend that time, however.

    Hembree encouraged residents to find another use for things they throw away.

    The only thing that really bothers me is a lot of things people haul off they could donate somewhere. You see a lot of good things that could have been used had it been taken to like a Habitat ReStore or AMVETS or somewhere like that, she said, noting the adage reduce, reuse, recycle still rings true in Blount.

    Snoderly agreed, noting local recycling options are a huge benefit to extending the life of the landfill.

    Follow @arjonesreports on Facebook and Twitter for more from city government reporter Andrew Jones.

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    Landfill size, tipping rate increasing over coming fiscal year - Maryville Daily Times

    Here’s how Bally Sports’ takeover of Fox Sports Southwest affects Spurs fans – mySA - April 5, 2021 by Mr HomeBuilder

    April 1, 2021Updated: April 1, 2021 2:42p.m.

    After more than 25 years, Fox Sports Southwest is out and Bally Sports is in due to a rebrand.

    After more than 25 years, Fox Sports Southwest is out and Bally Sports is in due to a rebrand.

    The change affects all 19 regional networks previously owned by Fox Sports. Fox Sports Southwest hasbecome a staple for Spurs fans in San Antonio who would rather enjoy Sean Elliott and Bill Land's play-by-play commentary rather than other sports world figures.

    Spurs fans noticed the new look on their social media feeds on Wednesday as the rebrand launched.

    RELATED: Patty Mills honored with NBA community award inspired by Spurs legend David Robinson

    Other than a new name and graphics, not much will change for the fan experience. According to the website's frequently asked questions, the channel positions will stay the same across all providers.

    Elliott, Land and Matt Bonner are all staying onboard. Anchor Ric Renner promoted the new era on Twitter by showing off the new studio.

    READ MORE FROM MADALYN: Spurs spill the beans, confirm 'Coffee Gang' merchandise line will launch soon

    The Fox Sports GO app automatically updated to the new Bally Sports look with the shakeup reveal on Wednesday. The social media accounts also reflect the change.

    First reactions from fans included disapproval of the new scoreboard and requests to offer games on streaming networks such as Hulu.

    Bally Sports will broadcast Thursday night's Spurs game against the Atlanta Hawks. Tipoff is at 7:30 p.m.

    Madalyn Mendoza is a proud Alamo City native. Keep up with her work and puro San Antonio happenings on Twitter, @MaddySkye.

    Continued here:
    Here's how Bally Sports' takeover of Fox Sports Southwest affects Spurs fans - mySA

    Nonprofit Harmony Lanes brings inclusive transportation to High Country – The Appalachian Online - April 5, 2021 by Mr HomeBuilder

    A local nonprofit is looking to establish multi-modal paths around Boone, allowing residents to get around town without a vehicle.

    Harmony Lanes was established in 2019 to create safe, inclusive, multi-modal transportation opportunities according to its website. Its biggest project yet, the East Boone Connector, was approved by the North Carolina Department of Transportation in the fall of 2019 and should be finished in the next three years.

    We started up to advocate and push the town and the county and the university to think in terms of sustainability and quality of life for the people who live here, including students and locals, and try to make some smarter decisions in the infrastructure planning as we go forward, Harmony Lanes founder Dave Freireich said.

    The East Boone Connector, part of a $9 million project, will run along Bamboo Road from US 421 to the Wilson Ridge Road intersection. The path will be protected from the road with a curb and a 3-foot patch of grass.

    Having no shoulder lane or sidewalk right now, Freireich said this 10-foot path will help people safely get to the Hospitality House, the Community Care Clinic and many businesses. But it will also help people driving cars, he said.

    If were getting cars off the road, because a lot of people will choose to use these systems, then were helping you too, Freireich said.

    Freireich spoke about other towns and cities that have implemented this infrastructure and the success they have had.

    Asheville recently converted a three-lane road into a two-lane road with a center turn lane and bicycle lanes on each side. This transformation resulted in a decrease in traffic and an increase in bicycle ridership. Even with 20,000 vehicles a day on this one street, travel times went down.

    Shaw Brown, owner of Boone Bike, said that as Boone has grown, getting around on a bike has become harder.

    Theres big voids, Brown said. Maybe theres a safe two miles and then theres an unsafe half mile. And then its safe again.

    Brown, who has lived in Boone for 30 years, sponsored Harmony Lanes in the past and said they are bringing light a problem that has been here forever.

    The Town of Boone has worked on several similar projects in the past, former town council member Lynne Mason said, but theres still a little work to do.

    Mason, who stepped down from the council in 2019, said she was a fierce advocate for this type of work during her 19 years as town council member and is glad Harmony Lanes is implementing these new forms of transportation, emphasizing her appreciation for citizen groups.

    I loved community engagement when I was on council and different groups being champions for different issues, Mason said. Theyve done an absolutely amazing job in creating this awareness.

    The East Boone Connector also has environmental benefits, Freireich said.

    Freireich, a 1996 App State graduate, said enrollment at the university has increased from 12,000 to 20,000 since he graduated. With this increase in population, he said people need more environmentally conscious ways to travel.

    If were going to reverse the environmental impact of our fossil fueled economy, electric cars and public transportation are a great step forward, Freireich said. But we also need to make it easy and safe for people to get a mile or two to class, work, shopping without needing a car.

    Skye-Anne Tschoepe is the hub coordinator of Sunrise Boone, an environmental group working to end anthropogenic climate change. She and Freireich met at the ClimACT Peoples Assembly in January, where their collaboration began.

    Tschoepe said the creation of the East Boone Connector in itself will create jobs and then, after construction, benefit the environment because less cars on the road will lead to less greenhouse gas emission.

    And also the human health benefits, I mean if we bike or walk instead of driving our cars, the miles add up and were healthier, Tschoepe said.

    The East Boone Connector should be completed within three years, according to the Harmony Lanes website. The NCDOT will start land clearing this year and begin construction in 2022.

    Harmony Lanes originally needed 30% of the funding from the Town of Boone and Watauga County, but the NCDOT is funding the entire project because it adheres to their Complete Streets policy. This NCDOT policy encourages infrastructure projects in North Carolina to incorporate multiple modes of transportation.

    Eventually, Harmony Lanes hopes to create the Cross Boone connector, a multimodal path connecting the end Boone Greenway to App States campus.

    A previous version of this article incorrectly stated The East Boone Connector project was $9 million. The mistake has been corrected.

    Read more:
    Nonprofit Harmony Lanes brings inclusive transportation to High Country - The Appalachian Online

    With the Suez Canal Unblocked, the Worlds Commerce Resumes Its Course – The New York Times - April 5, 2021 by Mr HomeBuilder

    Heres what you need to know:

    . . . the YM Wish.

    Thats the name of the first ship to transit through the Suez Canal almost a week after a colossal cargo vessel navigating the waterway zigged when it should have zagged (though perhaps going straight would have been even better) and wedged itself tight into the side.

    The YM Wish is a 1,207-foot-long Hong Kong-flagged container ship, and it exited the canal about 9:15 p.m. headed for the Red Sea and Jeddah.

    The vessel may have made it through the Suez Canal without mishap, but it had little reason to gloat, notes our colleague reporting from Egypt, Vivian Yee.

    Six years ago, VesselFinder.com reported, the YM Wish ran aground in the Elbe River in Germany. In that case, however, it took less than a day to get the vessel afloat again.

    And with that this live briefing will come to a close.

    The mammoth cargo ship blocking the Suez Canal was wrenched from the shoreline and finally set free on Monday, raising hopes that one of the worlds most vital maritime routes would quickly rebound and limit the fallout of a disruption that had paralyzed billions of dollars in global trade.

    Within hours, other ships awaiting transit through the 120-mile-long waterway that connects the Mediterranean and Red Seas, waylaid for nearly a week, fired up their engines and began moving again.

    Salvage teams, working on land and water for six days and nights, were ultimately assisted by forces more powerful than any machine rushed to the scene: the moon and the tides.

    The ship, the quarter-mile-long Ever Given, was ultimately set free at around 3 p.m., according to shipping officials. Horns blared in celebration as images emerged on social media of the ship once again on the move.

    We pulled it off! Peter Berdowski, chief executive of Royal Boskalis Westminster, a Dutch maritime salvage company hired by the vessels owner, said in a statement.

    President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi of Egypt celebrated the moment on Twitter, writing that Egyptians have succeeded today in ending the crisis of the stuck ship in the Suez Canal despite the great complexities surrounding this situation in every aspect.

    Early Monday, the stern of the Ever Given was clearly free from land, but it was some hours before it was certain that the ships bulbous bow had been successfully pulled from the mud and muck on the banks of the canal.

    Salvage crews had worked around a schedule largely dictated by the tides: working to make progress during the six hours it would take for the water to go from low point to high.

    A full moon on Sunday gave the salvager an especially promising 24-hour window to work in, with a few extra inches of tidal flow providing a vital assist.

    Throughout the night on Sunday and into Monday, tugboats worked in coordination with dredgers to return the 220,000-ton vessel to the water.

    Then, just before dawn, the ship slowly regained buoyancy.

    It was a turning point in one of the largest and most intense salvage operations in modern history, with the smooth functioning of the global trading system hanging in the balance.

    The army of machine operators, engineers, tugboat captains, and other salvage operators knew they were in a race against time. Each day of blockage put global supply chains another day closer to a full-blown crisis.

    Vessels packed with the worlds goods including cars, oil, livestock and laptops usually flow through the canal with ease, supplying much of the globe as they traverse the quickest path from Asia and the Middle East to Europe and the East Coast of the United States.

    With concerns that the salvage operation could take weeks, some ships decided not to wait, turning to take the long way around the southern tip of Africa, a voyage that can add weeks to the journey and more than $26,000 a day in fuel costs.

    Each bit of progress in moving the ship over the weekend was celebrated by the workers on the canal, with tugboat horns blaring and shouts of joy often echoing in the desert dark.

    transcript

    transcript

    [horn blowing]

    The company that oversees the ships operations and crew, Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement, said 11 tugboats had helped, with two joining the struggle on Sunday. Several dredgers, including a specialized suction dredger that can extract 2,000 cubic meters of material per hour, dug around the vessels bow, the company said.

    Teams of divers inspected the hull throughout the operation and found no damage, officials said. The ship was to be inspected again after it was freed.

    Assisted by a flotilla of tugboats, the ship was towed north to the Great Bitter Lake, the widest part of the canal, so it could be further inspected and so delayed traffic could once gain flow smoothly.

    Leth Agencies, a shipping services provider that specializes in canal passages, said on Twitter that with the Ever Given now safely out of the way, 43 other vessels awaiting southbound transit at Great Bitter Lake had resumed their voyages toward the Red Sea end of the canal.

    Praising the salvagers who freed the cargo vessel Ever Given six days after it grounded, the head of the Egyptian agency that runs the Suez Canal said Monday night that traffic had resumed in both directions of the crucial maritime passageway.

    But Lt. Gen. Osama Rabie, chairman of the Suez Canal Authority, put the cost to Egypt of the disruption at between $12 million and $15 million a day, and said an investigation would determine who was responsible for paying it.

    The Suez Canal is not at fault, General Rabie told reporters at a news conference in Ismailia, a city at the 120-mile-long canals halfway point. We have been harmed by the incident.

    As of 6 p.m. local time less than three hours after the Ever Given was refloated traffic paralyzed by the ship had resumed moving, General Rabie said.

    He said the ship had been moved north to the Great Bitter Lake, the widest part of the canal, where inspectors will examine it for possible damage. Thank God, there were no deaths, injuries, or leaks, General Rabie said. All engines are working.

    More than 300 ships were prevented from transiting the canal after the Ever Given was beached last week, its quarter-mile length blocking the waterway.

    We will work day and night to clear the ships and end the congestion, General Rabie said.

    A Taiwanese company operates the quarter-mile-long Ever Given. An Indian crew staffs it. A Panamanian flag flies over it. And Dutch and Egyptian salvagers helped pull it from the shallows of the Suez Canal where the vessel was beached for nearly a week.

    But it was Japans largest shipbuilder that constructed the vessel and owns it and will most likely bear the enormous cost of the disruption it caused.

    The Ever Given, part of the Taiwanese-based Evergreen Line, is owned by a subsidiary of Imabari Shipbuilder, a private company founded in 1901 and based in Ehime, on Japans southern island of Shikoku. The subsidiary, Shoei Kisen Kaisha Ltd., founded in 1962, has a client base that includes companies in Belgium, Hong Kong, Singapore and Taiwan.

    Yukito Higaki, the president of Imabari, expressed confidence last Friday that the Ever Given would be refloated by the weekend, a prediction that proved somewhat optimistic.

    In an interview with the Ehime Shimbun, a local newspaper, Mr. Higaki also said the subsidiary was likely to bear the cost of salvage and repair.

    Those costs have yet to be determined.

    But the head of the Suez Canal Authority, which helped oversee the freeing of the vessel, said Egypt had suffered losses of between $12 million and $15 million a day because of the blockage.

    The Ever Given is one of 13 container ships constructed from a design by Imabari. The company, facing big competition from rivals in China and South Korea, formed a joint venture with two other Japanese shipbuilders last year.

    It does appear to be having a run of bad luck.

    A sister megaship of the Ever Given, the Ever Gentle, was damaged in an incident this past weekend in Taipei, according to a report by the Maritime Bulletin, a news service. A crane struck the Ever Gentles funnel, or smokestack, crumpling it.

    Despite the damage, the Ever Gentle later departed Taipei for Yantian, China, the report said.

    The six days that the Suez Canal was closed to traffic might have seemed endless to the sailors stranded at either end of the passage, but tell that the crews of the so-called Yellow Fleet.

    In the aftermath of the 1967 Arab-Israeli War, 14 commercial vessels were marooned in the canal for eight years.

    The war, which broke out in June of that year, lasted only six days. But the Egyptian authorities closed the canal and ordered the 14 vessels to anchor in the widest part, known as Great Bitter Lake.

    With Egyptian forces on the western side of the canal and Israelis on the eastern side, the waterway essentially became a cease-fire line between two enemy armies.

    Time passed, the yellow sands of the desert coated the hulls of the trapped ships, and eventually the Yellow Fleet was born.

    Even had the vessels captains wanted to defy the Egyptian orders and exit the canal, it was not possible. Egypts armed forces mined parts of the waterway.

    Eventually, the crew members who came from Britain, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, France, Poland, Sweden, West Germany and the United States, among other places were allowed to evacuate and go home. And Egypt allowed the shipowners, who worried that the vessels would languish and rust without regular upkeep, to deploy rotating maintenance crews aboard.

    The crew members had a lot of spare hours on their hands and spent a considerable number of them drinking, some later recalled. One captain wrote that 1.5 million empty beer bottles might have been dumped into the water, musing about what future archaeologists in a few thousand years time will think of this.

    Worried about the alcohol consumption, the captains organized what they called the Great Bitter Lake Association, which essentially became a mini-community of merchant sailors from all over the world. They visited one another, turned lifeboats into sailboats for regattas and hosted weekly events on one anothers ships.

    The Polish vessel had a doctor and became the sick bay. The Swedish ship was the athletic center, because it had a gym. The association members even created their own insignia and postage stamp. Their story was chronicled in a book, Stranded in the Six-Day War, by Cath Senker, a British author and educator.

    Despite the efforts to keep the ships seaworthy, the vessels deteriorated over time and had to be towed out of the canal when Egypt finally reopened it in 1975.

    Oil prices fell Monday morning as word spread that the giant cargo ship blocking the Suez Canal had been set free, raising hopes that hundreds of vessels, many carrying oil and petroleum products, could soon proceed through the critical waterway.

    Oil prices had swirled earlier in the day, as prospects of an end to the logjam brightened, and then dimmed. But following the announcement that the containership Ever Given had been freed, the price of Brent crude, the international benchmark, fell about 2.5 percent, to $63.90 a barrel.

    Since the vessel got stuck early last week, tankers have been lining up at the entrances to the canal waiting to deliver their cargoes to Europe and Asia.

    The Suez Canal is a crucial choke point for oil shipping, but so far the impact on the oil market of this major interruption of trade flows has been relatively muted. Though prices jumped after shipping on the canal was halted, oil prices still remain below their nearly two-year highs of about $70 a barrel reached earlier this month.

    Traders are now expected to focus on broader threats to the oil market, including whether the imposition of new lockdowns in Europe may hold back the recovery of oil demand from the pandemic.

    From a global perspective, oil supplies are considered adequate, and the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, Russia and other producers, the group known as OPEC Plus, are withholding an estimated eight million barrels a day, or about 9 percent of current consumption, from the market. Officials from OPEC Plus are expected to meet by video conference on Thursday to discuss whether to ease output cuts.

    Among the assorted exports waiting to pass the Suez Canal is one that may have a more urgent deadline: tens of thousands of livestock packed into vessels that are running out of rations.

    Even with the resumed voyage of the Ever Given, the cargo ship that had accidentally beached in the canal and blocked the waterway for nearly a week before it was freed on Monday, the risk to the livestock aboard other vessels remains high.

    As of Monday, about 20 vessels in the canal were carrying livestock, said MarineTraffic, a global ship tracking site. Those ships, mostly from Romania but also Spain and South America, could have up to 200,000 animals aboard, estimated Animals International, an animal welfare organization that has investigated conditions aboard such vessels.

    They are dying as we speak, said Gabriel Paun, the European director for Animals International. Ships typically contain a few days of food and water for the journey, but with some having left more than two weeks ago, those rations would be depleting. Any day of delay is adding unnecessary suffering and, subsequently, death.

    The livestock vessels had been bound for Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Egypt, according to MarineTraffic, and Egyptian officials have delivered emergency feed to some vessels to support them.

    Romanian veterinary and food and safety authority officials said on Monday that 11 vessels were transporting 105,727 sheep and 1,613 cattle, and that if the vessels remained delayed, other options were under consideration, including unloading the animals in nearby ports or returning them to Romania.

    We have contacted the competent authorities in Egypt, as well as transporters and business operators, and measures have been undertaken in order to supplement the quantities of feed on the livestock vessels where is needed, the Romanian veterinary and food and safety authority said in an emailed statement.

    But conditions were likely to be deteriorating, said Mr. Paun, adding that hygiene on such vessels was poor, with animals packed together in their own excrement. The best way forward, he said, would be for officials to give vessels with livestock aboard priority. Every hour matters. Every hour saves lives. We all know that they go to death, but it is about unnecessarily suffering.

    Spanish agricultural ministry officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment. But Spain has said that no ships bound for Saudi Arabia or Jordan would be loaded with livestock until the canal cleared, and Mr. Paun said that Romania had also temporarily suspended live exports.

    It is not the first time the shipping of livestock along the route has drawn concern: In 2019, almost all of the 14,000 sheep aboard a vessel bound for Saudi Arabia died after it capsized outside the Port of Midia in Romania.

    From the outset, when winds of more than 70 miles per hour whipped up the sands surrounding the Suez Canal into a blinding storm and the Ever Given ran aground, the forces of nature have played an outsize role in the drama that has disrupted the free flow of goods and oil around the planet.

    Since the 1,300-foot cargo ship laden with nearly 20,000 containers found itself wedged in the single lane of the canal, salvage teams have had to calculate complicated questions regarding not just engineering and physics, but also meteorology and earth science.

    And no natural phenomenon has been as critical as the tides.

    The rising and falling of the sea is a phenomenon upon which we can always depend, according to the National Ocean Service, which is part of the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Tides are the regular rise and fall of the sea surface caused by the gravitational pull of the moon and sun and their position relative to the earth.

    The tides are constant, but they can rise higher and fall lower depending on the location of the sun and moon.

    When the sun and moon are in alignment as was the case with the full moon on Sunday their combined gravitational pull results in exceptionally high tides, known as Spring Tides.

    That is the case at the moment in the Suez, with water levels rising some 18 inches above normal.

    High tides occur 12 hours and 25 minutes apart, according to NOAA. It takes six hours and 12.5 minutes for the water at the shore to go from high to low, or from low to high.

    This is the window for salvage crews to free the Ever Given. Each time the tide rises, the 220,000-ton vessel stood a better chance of becoming buoyant, and the scores of tugboats used the tidal forces to help them in their struggle to free the ship.

    But every time the tide fell, new stresses were put on the hull of the ship and the dangers increased.

    The tidal flows in the Suez were at their peak Sunday and Monday, meaning it was a critical moment to finally free the ship

    And by early afternoon, they had succeeded, with the ship once again fully afloat.

    Even with the refloating of the Ever Given meaning the Suez Canal can soon reopen for business, shipping analysts cautioned that it will take time perhaps days for the hundreds of ships now waiting for passage to continue their journeys.

    Shipping analysts estimated the traffic jam was holding up nearly $10 billion in trade every day.

    All global retail trade moves in containers, or 90 percent of it, said Alan Murphy, the founder of Sea-Intelligence, a maritime data and analysis firm. Name any brand name, and they will be stuck on one of those vessels.

    The Syrian government said over the weekend that it would begin rationing the use of fuel after the closure of the Suez Canal delayed the delivery of a critical shipment of oil to the war-torn nation.

    And in Lebanon, which in recent months has been suffering blackouts amid an economic and political crisis, local news outlets were reporting that the countrys shaky fuel supply risked further disruption if the blockage continued.

    With the backlog of ships now stuck outside the canal growing to over 300 on Sunday, the threat to the oil supplies in Lebanon and Syria was an early indication of how quickly the disruption to the smooth functioning of global trade could ripple outward.

    Virtually every container ship making the journey from factories in Asia to consumer markets in Europe passes through the channel. So do tankers laden with oil and natural gas.

    The shutdown of the canal is affecting as much as 15 percent of the worlds container shipping capacity, according to Moodys Investor Service, leading to delays at ports around the globe. Tankers carrying 9.8 million barrels of crude, about a tenth of a days global consumption, are now waiting to enter the canal, estimates Kpler, a firm that tracks petroleum shipping.

    The Syrian Ministry of Petroleum and Mineral Resources said the blockage of the canal had hindered the oil supplies to Syria and delayed arrival of a tanker carrying oil and oil derivations to Syria.

    Rationing was needed, the ministry said in a statement, in order to guarantee the continued supply of basic services to Syrians such as bakeries, hospitals, water stations, communication centers, and other vital institutions.

    What may well be the worlds biggest meme just got a little bigger.

    A TikTok user named donut_enforcement has modified the popular Microsoft Flight Simulator game to nod to the Suez Canal mishap that has captured world attention over the past week.

    It appears that we have a stuck cargo ship, a pilot observes during game play as an aerial view shows the cargo ship Ever Given wedged in a virtual Suez Canal, angled into the canal bank.

    Read the original post:
    With the Suez Canal Unblocked, the Worlds Commerce Resumes Its Course - The New York Times

    New section of SH 249 opens | Navasota Examiner – The Navasota Examiner - April 5, 2021 by Mr HomeBuilder

    A new 8.4-mile section of the SH 249 extension project, Section 1B of Segment 1, is now open to the public as of March 26, 2021 at 5:45 p.m. Section 1B stretches from FM 1488 in Magnolia to FM 1774 in Plantersville near Todd Mission and is a controlled-access tollway with intermittent frontage roads. Tolling will begin immediately upon opening the new section.

    Section 1B is part of the larger $766.5 million SH 249 Extension Project. Once Complete, the new highway will cross through Montgomery and Grimes Counties and offer approximately 26 miles of new roadway from FM 1774 in Pinehurst to SH 105 near Navasota. The project has been funded through a combination of federal, state and local government funds and bond proceeds.

    Segment 2 design and land clearing activities began in November 2018 and this segment is scheduled to open to the public in the winter of 2023. Segment 2 will extend from FM 1774 in Plantersville near Todd Mission to 105 near Navasota in Grimes County. Section 1A opened to the public Aug. 8, 2020 and is a controlled-access tollway with intermittent frontage roads that stretches from FM 1774 in Pinehurst to FM 1488 in Magnolia.

    The SH 249 Extension Project is being built to provide a safer and more reliable corridor for the public by linking suburban communities with major roadways. The project is expected to have a lasting impact and enhance the communitys ability to access regional destinations.

    For more information on the project, visit https://txsh249.com and follow the project on Facebook and Twitter at @TXSH249.

    Read more:
    New section of SH 249 opens | Navasota Examiner - The Navasota Examiner

    Pierce Land Clearing Stresses the Need to Seek Professional Forestry Mulching Services – Press Release – Digital Journal - February 20, 2021 by Mr HomeBuilder

    Pierce Land Clearing, a highly referred land clearing company in Austin, TX, has recently emphasized why people should seek forestry mulching services for their properties.

    Austin, TX - In an exclusive update on their website, Pierce Land Clearing stressed the need for people to seek professional forestry mulching services whenever they are looking to clear their lands. The Austin land clearing team hopes that the update will help clients get the best forestry service in Austin.

    This team started by mentioning that professional forestry mulching services are quick and cost-effective. This is because a forestry mulcher can handle many jobs, thus eliminating the need for other machinery. Therefore, theland clearing company in Austinemphasizes the need to seek such services to save time and money.

    This group also added that professional forestry services could be carried out at any time of the year. Theland clearing company Austinaffirmed that the process could be carried out during chilly, hot, wet, or even dry seasons. This is because the process is versatile and easy.

    Also, people should seek these services given that they prevent soil erosion. This is because the mulch keeps the soil intact hence minimizing the risk of erosion. Additionally, the services can minimize waste and reduce hauling costs in the long run.

    About Pierce Land Clearing

    Pierce Land Clearing is a highly referred group in Austin, TX that prides itself on offering the best forestry services. The team specializes in tree and stump removal, home demolition, tree pile shredding, lot clearing, cedar removal, utility rows, fence, and pond construction. The staff is fully insured and has machines capable of handling any land clearing project. For the best forestry services, contact this group today.

    Media ContactCompany Name: Pierce Land ClearingContact Person: Taylor PierceEmail: Send EmailPhone: (254) 998-4468Address:900 Banister Ln Unit GCity: AustinState: TXCountry: United StatesWebsite: piercelandclearing.com/

    Read more:
    Pierce Land Clearing Stresses the Need to Seek Professional Forestry Mulching Services - Press Release - Digital Journal

    Land earmarked for Agri-Food Innovation Park in Kranji ‘erroneously’ cleared: JTC – CNA - February 20, 2021 by Mr HomeBuilder

    SINGAPORE: Plots of land earmarked for the development of the Agri-Food Innovation Park in Kranji were "erroneously" cleared ahead of the conclusion of a commissioned study and a "stern warning" has been issued to the contractor involved, said JTC Corp on Tuesday (Feb 16).

    In a statement, JTC referred to social media posts regarding the clearance of land at Kranji Road and Kranji Close, saying the area that had been cleared was earmarked for the development of the Agri-Food Innovation Park.

    The Agri-Food Innovation Park is part of the Sungei Kadut Eco-District. About 18 hectares of land has been set aside for the first phase of development for the Agri-Food Innovation Park in the district to co-locate research and development, prototyping and high-tech farming operations such as indoor farming and aquaculture hatcheries.

    As part of JTCs preparations to develop the Agri-Food Innovation Park, it had engaged an environmental specialist to carry out a biodiversity baseline study in December last year, and to work out an environmental monitoring and management plan for specified plots of land within the area, it said.

    The study and the plan were expected to be completed around April, following which JTC would engage key stateholders, including nature groups, to discuss development plans, it said.

    On Jan 13, however, JTC discovered during a site inspection that its contractor had erroneously begun clearing some plots of land prior to the conclusion of the baseline study and environmental monitoring plan for those areas, it said.

    "Upon this discovery, JTC instructed the contractor to stop all clearing works immediately. Since then, no further clearing has taken place on site and the contractor has been issued a stern warning," it said.

    In a separate statement, contractor Huationg said it has complied with JTC's instruction to stop all clearing works.

    We apologise for the erroneous clearing of land and are working with JTC on ongoing investigations to determine the cause of this lapse, and to prevent future occurrences, said Huationg.

    The company is also conducting an internal review and working with JTC to strengthen its project management processes, it added.

    JTC said it "takes a very serious view of this incident" and is investigating how the error occurred before deciding whether further punitive measures need to be taken.

    "Going forward, JTC will continue with the baseline study and environmental monitoring and management plan and will work closely with all relevant stakeholders, including URA, NParks, nature interest groups and the community, to ensure that the Sungei Kadut Eco-District redevelopment plans are carried out with due consultation and in an environmentally responsible and sensitive manner," it said.

    The findings of the studies will be made public when ready, it added.

    On Monday, the Nature Society Singapore shared a Facebook post showing cleared swathes of land in the area.

    "This is a shocking and dreadful development in an important green area contiguous to the Rail Corridor," said Nature Society Singapore, referring to aerial shots of the area taken in May 2019 and February 2021.

    The Sungei Kadut Eco-District is part of the Northern Agri-Tech and Food Corridor and is one of the nodes that will be connected via the 24km Rail Corridor. The land 15m to 20m to the left and right of the Rail Corridor has been "safeguarded to protect biodiversity within the belt of the existing forest", JTC said.

    See original here:
    Land earmarked for Agri-Food Innovation Park in Kranji 'erroneously' cleared: JTC - CNA

    Nature advocates call for mitigation measures after error in clearing parts of Kranji woodland area – CNA - February 20, 2021 by Mr HomeBuilder

    SINGAPORE:The error in clearing parts of the Kranji woodland area could undermine recent efforts by Singapore authorities to better engage nature groups, said conservation advocates who expressed shock and disappointment at the mistake.

    The 70ha Kranji woodland area, about the size of Jurong Lake Gardens, is along a green artery known as the Rail Corridor.

    About 18ha had been set aside for the first phase of development for the Agri-Food Innovation Park, but parts of it were mistakenly cleared by a contractor of JTC Corp before an environmental impact assessment could be completed.

    Revealing this on Tuesday (Feb 16), JTC said it engaged an environmental specialist to carry out a study in December and to work out an environmental management plan for specified plots of land in the area.

    The study was expected to be completed around April, but land was cleared before that.

    JTC did not say when its contractor, Huationg, started clearing the area, but said it discovered the error on Jan 13 and instructed the firm to immediately stop all clearing work.

    CNA has contacted JTC for further information, including details on the area of land that was erroneously cleared.

    A CORRIDOR FOR WILDLIFE

    When CNA visited the work site on Wednesday, it was quiet with construction equipment sitting idle.

    Along the nature walk nearby, a glimpse can be caught of dark green hoarding, but it is not obvious that the trees and shrubs beyondhave been levelled.

    Aerial photos posted byFacebook user Brice Li on Feb 14 showed swathes of land that have been cleared. Trees had been cut down on both sides with only a narrow strip of green remaining.

    Following his post, some nature advocates chimed in on social media.

    "This is a shocking development in an important green area of the Rail Corridor," said Facebook group We Support The Green Corridor in Singapore.

    The forested area in Kranji is one of the few patches of woodland on the northern stretch of the Rail Corridor, said Mr Leong Kwok Peng, who chairs the Nature Society Singapores conservation committee.

    The 24km rail corridor stretches from Tanjong Pagar in the south to Woodlands in the north of Singapore. The railway land, which belonged to Malaysia, was returned to Singapore in 2011 and it is seen as a green corridor that will link a number of future developments.

    It is also a corridor for wildlife, said Mr Leong.

    You can't just have a linear tree-lined area and hope that nature will just continue to move north and south. You must have some kind of forest patch in between for the animals to forage, he added.

    Mr Leong said the nature society has discussed mitigation measures with JTC and hopes that the belt of green that remains can be retained and widened. Of course, it wont be the same, he said.

    ONCE ITS GONE, ITS GONE

    Other conservation champions CNA spoke to also expressed shock and disappointment at the erroneous clearance.

    We cant afford to make this kind of mistake, said biological scientist N Sivasothi.

    He added that the slip-up appeared to undermine efforts made by the authorities over the past few years to enhance consultations with nature groups.

    Mr Sivasothi said once baseline studies are done, plans are usually discussed with nature groups to see how potential impacts can be mitigated or even avoided, which has been a move in the right direction.

    Speaking of adetailed process of engagement, he said: The fact that this all just gets dismissed without proper consideration is quite criminal at this stage.

    Conservation scientist and Nominated Member of Parliament Professor Koh Lian Pin added that baseline environmental studies help to highlight potential ecological impacts if the site is subsequently cleared or disturbed.

    Since this part of Kranji woodland was cleared before the completion of its baseline study, we may never know the full extent of the ecological impacts of this clearance.

    He added that these studies are key in providing policymakers with scientific insights to help them make more informed decisions and to consider the need for any mitigation actions.

    This is especially important in Singapore where we have to balance the many priorities of our society, Prof Koh added.

    MP Louis Ng (PAP-Nee Soon) added that he was shocked by the erroneous clearing, especially amid the recent public focus on the importance of conserving green spaces.

    As (MND) put it then, any decision to clear land must be based on science, thats why these studies are important.

    Now part of it is lost, and we might not know what we have lost, said Mr Ng, who is also the chairman of the Government Parliamentary Committee for Sustainability and the Environment.

    Mr Ng said he has filed a parliamentary question asking the National Development Ministry if it is investigating the error, and whether it will further strengthen the environmental impact assessment (EIA) framework to prevent any repeat of such mistakes.

    The framework, first introduced in 2008, aims to determine and mitigate the potential impactof new developments on the environment.

    Specifically, Mr Ng suggested codifying the framework into law.

    He also said there is no use crying over spilt milk, and that it is more important to find out why it happened to make sure it does not occur again.

    Prof Koh echoed this, adding that reviewing the failure would be in the interest of maintaining public trust in the integrity of the process of conducting environmental studies prior to development.

    As for environmental remedial action, Mr Sivasothi warned that once (the greenery) is gone, its gone.

    The next best course of action is to quickly re-examine the site for impact mitigation and this would include roping in nature groups as soon as possible, said the senior lecturer at the department of biological sciences in the National University of Singapore (NUS).

    The environmental baseline would also have to be reviewed again now that the forest has been impacted, he said.

    With that terrible scar, we will just have to reassess according to the current situation.

    More:
    Nature advocates call for mitigation measures after error in clearing parts of Kranji woodland area - CNA

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