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California becomes first US state to ban plastic bags

RT -

Under the new law, plastic bags will be banned in phases. Grocery stores and pharmacies will be required to stop handing out disposable bags by July 1, 2015. Afterwards, customers will be charged 10 cents for paper bags or reusable plastic bags. By 2016, convenience stores and liquor stores will have to do the same.

This bill is a step in the right direction – it reduces the torrent of plastic polluting our beaches, parks, and even the vast ocean itself,” said California Governor Jerry Brown on signing the milestone bill into law. “We’re the first to ban these bags, and we won’t be the last.”

The law allows exceptions for the purchase of meats, fruits and vegetables, and authorizes local governments to impose fines of up to $5,000 on businesses that violate the rule.

Environmental advocates claim that single plastic bags pollute rivers, oceans, parks, and beaches, adding that they are dangerous to animal life and don’t easily decompose. They also clog city storm drains, costing municipalities millions of dollars to clean up.

READ MORE: NYC stages world's ‘biggest ever’ climate change march (PHOTOS, VIDEO)

While the ban was supported by the majority of lawmakers and environmentalists, there were dissenters too.

It was a backroom deal between grocers and union bosses to scam California consumers out of billions of dollars without providing any public benefit, all under the guise of environmentalism,” said Lee Califf, executive director of American Progressive Bag Alliance, a coalition of plastic bag manufacturers.

Califf claimed the law will lead to people losing their jobs, and higher charges for consumers.

The coalition has promised to overturn the law by referendum, a process which will require them to gather 500,000 signatures in three months to put the issue on the November ballot for voters to decide, according to The Weather Channel.

READ MORE: Bee studies feel sting of pesticide manufacturers – MPs

However, with a third of Californians already living under city ordinances and laws banning plastic bags, anti-pollution advocates argue people will adjust to the statewide ban, adding that they don’t anticipate the referendum to be successful.

“The more the public sees the policy, the more they like,” Mark Murray, executive director of Californians Against Waste, told the Sacramento Bee. “Once it’s implemented in your community, your support for it grows.”

About 100 California cities and counties already have partial or full prohibitions on plastic bags, with San Francisco being the first city to issue a ban in 2007. Cities in the rest of the US are starting to follow suit as well – Austin, Chicago, and Seattle have implemented partial bans – and similar measures are being considered by lawmakers in Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, and Rhode Island. Hawaii could be the next state to move forward with a total ban.

READ MORE: Decline in wildlife aggravates human conflict – study

Germany’s largest public broadcaster admits ‘too little Russian interests’ in Ukraine coverage

RT -

Kai Gniffke, the TV channel's editor-in-chief, published a statement on his blog on Tuesday, stating: “Maybe we have conveyed too little of Russian interests to the German viewers. We could possibly have examined the position of NATO even more critically.”

Speaking on the war in Syria and Iraq, as well as the Islamic State, Gniffke said “it is only now that the powder fume over Ukraine has shred away.” He added that “mainstream news issues” have “too easily” diverted the attention of editors.

ARD's comment has long been awaited, as the Advisory Council voiced its concerns over the “biased” Ukraine coverage at a meeting on June 24. But the leaked document was made public only three months later, revealed by online magazine Telepolis.

One of the main concerns, presented by a group of nine advisers, was that the channel’s talk shows “had a tendency to narrate against Russia and the Russian position.” The reasoning for the concern was not only the reports of ordinary viewers, but also a thorough analysis of several ARD reports on the developments in Ukraine, starting from the end of 2013.

Among 10 accusations of the channel, named “boiling points,” the Council voiced concern that the ARD passed over in silence NATO’s intentions of the expansion to the East. It also mentioned that the channel failed to question the legitimacy of the Maidan-imposed authorities in Kiev.

The elected representatives of political parties and associations believed the ARD management ignored the lawfulness of the Crimean referendum, having never investigated it or its history. What is more, mass protests of the Russian-speaking population in Eastern Ukraine, based on their rejection of the coup-imposed government, were apparently underreported.

On Wednesday, ARD TV channel withdrew its May 20 “Daily news” story from its archive, and correspondent Udo Lielischkies corrected his report. It entailed the deaths of two residents of the eastern Ukrainian town of Krasnoarmeysk. The reporter back then put the blame on the “bullets of the new rulers,” referring to the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic. However, a review of the facts has shown it was Kiev’s military volunteers, DPA news agency reported.

“We take the mistake very seriously,” Gniffke said. He added that “it is not good, but we do it also to maintain the trust of the viewers.”

READ MORE: ‘Freedom of speech in Russia, not here!’ German TV mocks Western media’s Ukraine coverage

Another German TV channel – ZDF, which has also been criticized by its viewers for inaccurate reporting – has lately tried to get off the hook by mocking Western media’s coverage of the Ukrainian crisis.

The black-and-white parody presented a German general in the times of World War I, who had to cope with the recent developments in Ukraine. The massacre in Odessa, the MH17 tragedy, the Russian aid convoy – these were the events he tried to get across to an editor of a fictional newspaper, probably inspired by the work of Orwell’s Ministry of Truth.

Verizon Wireless Caves To FCC Pressure, Says It Won't Throttle 4G Users

Slashdot -

MetalliQaZ writes Verizon Wireless was scheduled to begin throttling certain LTE users today as part of an expanded "network optimization" program, but has decided not to follow through with the controversial plan after criticism from Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler. All major carriers throttle certain users when cell sites get too congested, but Wheeler and consumer advocates objected to how carriers choose which customers to throttle. The fact that Verizon was throttling only unlimited data users showed that it was trying to boost its profits rather than implementing a reasonable network management strategy, Wheeler said.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

35,000 walruses forced onto land in Alaska due to decrease in Arctic Sea ice

RT -

An estimated 35,000 walruses were photographed last week, all gathered on a beach about five miles north of Point Lay village in Alaska, according to the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Spotted during NOAA's annual aerial survey, the arctic marine mammals were forced ashore after failing to find sea ice, according to the scientists.

Unlike seals, walruses cannot swim indefinitely, and they use ice to rest, or "haul out," pulling themselves onto a solid surface. Walruses also use ice as a diving platform to reach food, and females give birth on the surfaces.

Walruses are currently gathering in vast numbers on land near the Chukchi Sea, raising further concerns of a warming climate.

"The massive concentration of walruses onshore, when they should be scattered broadly in ice-covered waters, is just one example of the impacts of climate change on the distribution of marine species in the Arctic," Margaret Williams, managing director of the World Wildlife Fund's (WWF) Arctic program, said in a statement.

A report from the National Snow and Ice Data Center on September 22 said that Arctic Sea ice had reached its lowest levels of the year on September 17 – the sixth-lowest amount on record. "Not since records began has the region of the North Pacific Ocean been so warm for so long," the NOAA report stated.

According to NOAA, the large haul-outs are a relatively new phenomenon, with the first ones spotted in 2007. The WWF says other haul-outs have been reported to the west of Alaska, on Russian shores.

Study: Compound Found In Beer Boosts Brain Function

Slashdot -

An anonymous reader writes Researchers have found that a chemical found in hops may actually improve memory. Unfortunately, a person would need to drink 3,520 pints of beer a day to get a high enough dose of the chemical to boost their brain power. A daunting task for even the most enthusiastic Oktoberfest participant. From the article: "Researchers at Oregon State University discovered that doses of xanthohumol, a flavonoid found in hops, improved memory and thinking in a lucky group of mice. Flavonoids are a class of compounds present in plants, known to have numerous health benefits. Last year, researchers discovered that a flavonoid found in celery and artichokes could potentially fight pancreatic cancer. The researchers treated the mice with dietary supplements of xanthohumol over the course of eight weeks. Their goal was to determine if xanthohumol could affect palmitoylation, a naturally occurring process in animals (including humans) that's associated with memory degradation. The mice then went through a series of tests—including the popular Morris water maze—to gauge whether or not the treatments had improved their spatial memory and cognitive flexibility. For the younger mice in the group, it worked. But on the older mice, unfortunately, the xanthohumol didn't seem to have any effect."

Read more of this story at Slashdot.


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