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Extreme commute: From New Zealand to rural Iceland

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Shawn Parkinson and other Kiwi butchers work for two months for SAH Products in Blondous, Iceland

Every year, several dozen butchers make an epic commute – from provincial New Zealand to rural Iceland – for just two months’ work. It’s at the extreme end of the trend for fly-in fly-out workers.

As work commutes go, Shawn Parkinson’s journey takes some beating.

Dannevirke to Auckland – six-hour drive. Auckland to Sydney – three-hour flight. Sydney to Dubai – 14 and a half hours in the air. Dubai to London – seven-hour flight. London to Reykjavik – almost three hours’ flying time. Reykjavik to Blonduos, north-west Iceland – three-hour drive.

Two months later, he repeats all 22,300km (about 13,850 miles) on the return leg.

Every September, he and 30 other New Zealand butchers travel to Iceland for its lamb processing season. It’s an annual trek Mr Parkinson has made for the past seven years.

“My friends say ‘Iceland? What do you kill there – seals?’ Nah, they’ve got their own breed of sheep.”

‘Experience of a lifetime’

For him, this far-flung short-term contract is a no-brainer.

“We’d be out of work if we stayed in New Zealand at this time of year. It’s off-season. We’re laid off,” he tells me during his morning break at the SAH Products slaughterhouse near Blonduos.

“This is the experience of a lifetime. It’s the other side of the world and you can still get a bit of work.”

Source: BBCNews Read more

Giant fluorescent pink slug

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Kaputar_pink_slug

Triboniophorus aff. graeffei

Now on the endangered species list…

Medieval Festival in Reims Champagne

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Originally posted on Cooking Class:

20140810-193701.jpgJune 2014. I am a big GOT and LOTR rings fan. The geek inside of me loves medieval films and books. Luckily we were in Reims Champagne in time for the Medieval Festival.  It was held at the perimeters of the grand Notre-Dame de Reims. The kings of France were crowned in this cathedral. People came in costumes like knights, serfs, magicians, ladies, elves, and more. I wish I wore a costume too!  There were concerts, booths, magic shows and tournaments.  Booths were selling medieval food and merchandising.  Some participants pitched tents and cooked their own food to reenact this era. It was20140810-194128.jpg20140810-193623.jpg20140810-193549.jpg20140810-193436.jpg20140810-193403.jpg20140810-193318.jpg20140810-193341.jpg so festive!

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Going to Pot

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Can Zambia save its environment with marijuana?

Green party’s presidential candidate Peter Sinkamba is promising voters to cut country’s dependency on mining – by growing and exporting marijuana

Peter Sinkamba on campaign trail in Chingola city, part of Zambia’s copperbelt. Photograph: Courtesy of The Independent Observer

For decades, Zambia has staked its economic fortunes on copper mining. But when voters in this southern African nation go to the polls in January to select a new president, at least one candidate will be looking to send that tradition up in smoke.

On Friday, Peter Sinkamba will announce his candidacy on the Green party ticket to replace the late President Michael Sata, who died on 29 October from an undisclosed illness. Sinkamba, regarded as Zambia’s leading environmentalist for his battles against the country’s big copper mines, is running on an unlikely platform, especially in this socially conservative nation: legalising marijuana.

His plan, first announced in April, calls for cannabis’ legalisation for medicinal use in Zambia, which would be a first in Africa. The surplus crop would be exported abroad, earning Zambia what Sinkamba claims could be billions of dollars.

At stake is an opportunity to diversify Zambia’s economy while beginning to clean up the environmental degradation left by close to a century of intensive opencast mining.

Copper has long been Zambia’s national treasure, having fired the country to middle-income status in the 1960s and 70s. But by the late 1990s, tumbling copper prices sent the country’s mining income to its lowest levels since independence from the UK in 1964.

Mining has since rebounded. In 2012, copper exports amounted to $6.3bn (£4bn), or nearly 70% of Zambia’s total export market. But many Zambians now find their country’s dependency on copper stifling. Local communities suffer from environmental impacts like toxic sulphur dioxide emissions from refineries.

In an interview with the Guardian in his hometown of Kitwe, the Copperbelt’s largest city, Sinkamba said his marijuana proposal would wean Zambia off its addiction to mining by prioritising its fledgling agricultural sector.

“Historically, we’ve been the kind of people that have consumed a lot of marijuana,” said Sinkamba. “It is massively cultivated across the whole country [for the black market] … So what we’re saying is, look, let’s come out of it and legalise it.”

Sinkamba reckons that Zambia could capture up to 10% of a global marijuana market – estimated at $140bn by the UN in 2005 – which would make it more lucrative than copper mining. In a shadow budget released earlier this year, the Green party claimed marijuana exports would boost GDP by over 68% by 2021.

Experts on the international drug trade, however, caution that Sinkamba’s scheme might be half-baked. According to John Collins, an international drug policy researcher at the London School of Economics, the export of marijuana for recreational use would run afoul of the 1961 UN single convention on international narcotics control.

Nor would marijuana exports necessarily be all that profitable, added Jon Caulkins, a cannabis expert at Carnegie Mellon University, who pointed out that it would take less than 10,000 acres to grow all the THC (the main constituent in marijuana) consumed in the US. Zambia has about 87.4m arable acres.

However, Collins called Sinkamba’s plan “entirely doable” if he can take advantage of loopholes that exist in international drug law for medicinal drugs. Israel, for example, last year considered a plan to export medicinal marijuana to the Czech Republic, but shied away out of concern that becoming an international drug dealer would look bad politically.

“I think the key for Zambia is that they may view the economic returns from the industry as outweighing political concerns which would limit countries like Israel going too far down this route at the moment,” he said.

In any case, Sinkamba is a dark horse in the election. But he insists that his proposal has struck a chord with a disillusioned, and very young, electorate.

On the streets of Kitwe, Sinkamba is greeted by young people with cries of “Legalise!” belted with the same vigour as anti-apartheid activists in South Africa once chanted “Amandla! [power].”

“When we look at the trends, the world is going in the direction of legalising marijuana,” said Sinkamba. “But we don’t want to be the last ones. We want to be the first ones.”

Source: TheGuardian

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A starling coming in to land

Image credit: Boeta

‘Twisted light’ beamed across Vienna

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The green laser beam travelled from a radio tower to the roof of the scientists’ own building

Physicists have sent a beam of twisted light 3km through the air above Vienna.

It is the first time that information has been transmitted outdoors using the “twist” of a visible light beam.

This twisting property could allow very fast communication because light with different amounts of twist, encoding separate channels of information, could be sent simultaneously.

Reported in the New Journal of Physics, the technique was tested by sending three images of famous Austrians.

The images were black-and-white portraits of the physicists Ludwig Boltzmann and Erwin Schroedinger, and composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

Above the rooftops of Mozart’s own city, where the only long-range signal known to the famous composer would have been church bells, his portrait was broken down into pixels and travelled through the night inside a green laser beam.

Source: BBCNews Read more

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