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He promised to protect their pets during Hurricane Michael. Then the walls collapsed.

Alaska News - Thu, 2018-10-11 09:06

Dogs at the Pawaday Inn kennel and grooming all survived, even though the walls collapsed. Sadly, a cat drown when he was trapped in rising rain water behind a downed wall pic.twitter.com/WHpyCUlouw

— David Ovalle (@DavidOvalle305) October 10, 2018

PANAMA CITY, Fla. -- For six years, Charles Burgess ran Pawaday Inn, building up a loyal customer base that brought him their beloved dogs and cats for grooming and boarding.

As Hurricane Michael approached, customers entrusted Burgess to care for their pets as they left town.

So Burgess holed up with 12 dogs, two cats and several employees in the squat concrete building building on East Sixth Street, figuring it was strong enough to endure whatever was coming. But Michael, whipping to the top of the Category 4 scale just before landfall near the Panhandle city, proved too powerful.

As the winds howled, much of the building collapsed around them. Burgess and his employees whisked the dogs into a small, stronger inner room holding the wash tub for dogs. Two of the animals escaped as sheets of driving rain lashed the building.

"We thought the building would hold up but it didn't," Burgess said. "The roof caved in. Then, the walls caved in."

[Hurricane Michael leaves a path of destruction across Florida Panhandle]

After midafternoon, as Michael moved deeper into the state and the sun peeked out from behind gray clouds, Burgess and his workers picked their way out of the tangle of concrete blocks, air-conditioning ducts and foam insulation. The remaining dogs barked in their cages, sopping wet but wagging their tails.

They were loaded into trucks and vans to head to Burgess' home but the rescue effort wasn't done.

"We got to go find the two that ran off," Burgess said.

"We got one," one of his employees said.

Then another employee, Brian Bon, emerged from behind the shattered building with a leashed bull terrier.

"That's Star," Burgess said. "We got you now, baby."

Star looked shell-shocked and confused, but sat down, her tail wagging slightly. They led her into a SUV, the last of the rescues.

There was one casualty. One of the caged felines, named Tomcat, got stuck behind rubble and drowned.

"When the wall caved in, it blocked us from getting to him and the water just kept coming in,"Burgess said.

Burgess shook his head.

He said: “I’ve got to start over. I had a good client base, but it’s hard finding a good decent building in this area.”

University of Michigan promises to discipline faculty in Israel boycott controversy

Alaska News - Thu, 2018-10-11 07:56

University of Michigan Law School in Ann Arbor, Michigan (University of Michigan photo)

The University of Michigan this week promised “serious consequences” for instructors whose “personal views” cause them to withhold letters of recommendation, responding to mounting concern that protest against the Israeli state is harming students on the Ann Arbor, Michigan, campus.

The announcement follows two separate cases this fall in which a professor and a teaching assistant reneged on their commitments to provide references for undergraduates after learning that the students were applying to study abroad in Israel. The actions have turned the university into a site of contest over the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, known as BDS.

"Withholding letters of recommendation based on personal views does not meet our university's expectations for supporting the academic aspirations of our students," Michigan's president, Mark S. Schlissel, and the provost, Martin A. Philbert, wrote in a letter to the university community, published online Tuesday. "Conduct that violates this expectation and harms students will not be tolerated and will be addressed with serious consequences. Such actions interfere with our students' opportunities, violate their academic freedom and betray our university's educational mission."

The university leaders said that each case is "being addressed with those involved through our existing policies" and that Michigan doesn't "share protected personnel information."

But an Oct. 3 letter obtained by the Michigan Daily spells out punitive measures directed against the professor, John Cheney-Lippold, who last month agreed to support a student’s application for a study-abroad program - until he learned that she was headed to Tel Aviv University.

A dean for Michigan's College of Literature, Science, and the Arts told Cheney-Lippold, an associate professor of internet and cultural studies, that he would not qualify for a salary increase for the 2018-'19 academic year, according to the campus newspaper, and that his eligibility for sabbatical leave would be frozen for two years. Further conduct of this nature, the dean wrote, would be subject to additional discipline, "up to and including initiation of dismissal proceedings."

"Faculty are not required to write letters for every student who requests them, and have discretion to decline for legitimate reasons such a lack of time, information about the student, and academic assessment," the dean, Elizabeth Cole, wrote. That discretion, though, "does not extend to withholding a letter because of your personal views regarding the student's place of study," she added, "and then using the student's request as a political platform to gain an audience for your own opinions, both in the media and in the classroom."

A second episode unfolded just last week, when a teaching assistant in a political theory course, Lucy Peterson, withheld a recommendation letter from a junior, Jake Secker, after learning that he planned to study abroad at Tel Aviv University.

When Secker identified his destination, she said she could no longer provide the reference, according to emails provided to The Washington Post.

"I'm so sorry that I didn't ask before agreeing to write your recommendation letter, but I regrettably will not be able to write on your behalf," she explained. "Along with numerous other academics in the US and elsewhere, I have pledged myself to a boycott of Israeli institutions as a way of showing solidarity with Palestine."

Secker, a native of Great Neck, New York, was able to obtain a letter from an associate dean instead, but he and his father weren't satisfied, telling The Post that Michigan was obligated to follow up on its apology with action. The student's father, Ed Secker, said the instructor should be disciplined. Peterson didn't respond to messages seeking comment, and a university spokesman declined to comment on details of the incident.

Both instructors were labeled anti-Semitic by critics - a charge that Cheney-Lippold vehemently denied in an interview with The Post. He defended his decision to withhold the letter, saying his protest didn't interfere with his teaching duties and was protected by his academic freedom.

"I can't prevent a student from going to Israel," Cheney-Lippold reasoned. "But everybody has the right to withhold something, and I chose to exercise that right based on what the movement needs from me as a solidarity activist."

Cheney-Lippold is a member of the American Studies Association, which voted in 2013 to endorse BDS. The movement seeks the end of Israeli occupation of "all Arab lands," the full equality of Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel and "the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN Resolution 194."

In their Tuesday letter, the president and provost underscored Michigan's opposition to the boycott of Israeli academic institutions. "Our view is that educators at a public university have an obligation to support students' academic growth, and we expect anyone with instructional responsibilities to honor this fundamental university value," they wrote.

A differing view was taken by more than 200 Michigan alumni, who have signed a letter of support for the instructors.

"We write to condemn the disciplinary actions the University plans to take, and to express our opposition to the University of Michigan's longstanding position on this issue, a position that puts it at odds with international law, the constitutionally protected right to boycott, and its own non-discrimination policy," the letter states.

The alumni argue that Israeli universities have been "directly complicit in the ongoing occupation through their development of military and surveillance technologies and through their regular violation of the academic freedoms of Palestinians living in Israel, in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and in diaspora."

In response to revelations in The Post about a second denial of a recommendation letter, Jonathan A. Greenblatt, the chief executive of the Anti-Defamation League, warned in a statement of a "chilling effect on Jewish and pro-Israel students."

Adding to the pressure on the university has been outcry over images displayed last week by Emory Douglas, the minister of culture for the Black Panther Party in the 1960s and '70s, at a required lecture for University of Michigan art students. Slides in the presentation likened Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to Adolf Hitler and depicted pigs - a highly fraught animal for some Jews - drinking from bottles of money and holding wands with Jewish stars at the end, according to images posted on social media and provided to The Post.

The presentation drew rebuke from Israel's minister of education, Naftali Bennett, who this week addressed a letter to Michigan's president saying, "The time has come for you as head of the University to make a strong stand against what has clearly become a trend of vitriolic hatred against the Jewish state on your campus."

In their letter, the president and the provost apologized to students who were offended but defended the lecture as an exercise of free speech, also saying that Israel hadn't been singled out for criticism.

But a Michigan senior, Alexa Smith, said the response was insufficient.

"This is not thought-provoking. This is not educational. This is university-endorsed bigotry," she told The Post.

Cheney-Lippold, in an interview last month, said the controversy had been a useful teaching moment, as he had invited his students to disagree with him and ask him questions, turning the classroom into a safe environment to debate BDS and the Israel-Palestine conflict.


The Washington Post’s Ruth Eglash contributed to this report.

How will 9 billion or 10 billion people eat without destroying the environment?

Alaska News - Thu, 2018-10-11 07:43

Beef cattle at the Texana Feeders feedlot in Floresville, Texas. (Daniel Acker/Bloomberg) (Daniel Acker/)

The human population has reached 7.6 billion and could number 9 billion or 10 billion by midcentury. All those people will need to eat. A sobering report published Wednesday in the journal Nature argues that a sustainable food system that doesn’t ravage the environment is going to require dramatic reforms - including a radical change in dietary habits.

To be specific: Cheeseburgers are out, fruits and veggies are in.

The 23 authors of the report - hailing from Europe, the United States, Australia and Lebanon - reviewed the many moving parts of the global food system and how they interact with the environment. The authors concluded that current methods of producing, distributing and consuming food are not environmentally sustainable, and that damage to the planet could make it less hospitable for human existence.

A core message from the researchers is that efforts to keep climate change at an acceptable level will not be successful without a huge reduction in meat consumption.

"Feeding humanity is possible. It's just a question of whether we can do it in an environmentally responsible way," said Johan Rockström, an earth scientist at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany and a coauthor of the study.

The report comes on the heels of a warning from the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that global leaders need to take unprecedented action in the next decade to keep the planet’s average temperature from rising more than 1.5 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels.

Global warming has typically been linked to the burning of fossil fuels, but food production is a huge and underappreciated factor, and the new report seeks to place food in the center of the conversation about how humanity can create a sustainable future.

"Everybody knows that energy has something to do with climate - we need to transform our energy system. There's very few people who realize that it's just as, and maybe more, important to transform our food system," said Katherine Richardson, director of the Sustainable Science Center at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark. Richardson, who was not part of the team producing the new study, added, "The food system is broken and needs to be fixed if we have any hope of feeding 9 to 10 billion."

Already, half the planet's ice-free land surface is devoted to livestock or the growing of feed for those animals, Richardson said. That's an area equal to North and South America combined, she said. Rain forests are steadily being cleared for cropland. And the demand for food is increasing faster than the population: Rising income in China and many other formerly impoverished countries brings with it a higher demand for meat and other forms of animal protein. Some 70 percent of the world's fresh water is already used in agriculture, and the demand for that water will intensify.

The Nature report, titled "Options for keeping the food system within environmental limits," contends that, without targeted changes, pressures on various environmental systems will increase 50 to 90 percent by 2050 compared with 2010. There's no simple solution, the authors write; rather, "a synergistic combination of measures" will be needed to limit the environmental damage.

One obvious measure is a change in diets. Researchers say meat production - which includes growing food specifically to feed to livestock - is an environmentally inefficient way to generate calories for human consumption. Moreover, ruminants such as cows are prodigious producers of methane as they digest food, and methane is a potent greenhouse gas. The report says greenhouse-gas emissions from the global food system could be reduced significantly if people curb red-meat consumption and follow a diet built around fruits, vegetables, nuts and legumes.

To limit greenhouse-gas emissions, "We won't get very far if we don't seriously think about dietary changes to a more plant-based diet," said Marco Springmann, lead author of the report and a senior researcher at the Oxford Martin Program on the Future of Food.

He said that what is good for the planet is good for the eater. For most people consuming a typical Western diet, eating less meat will generally mean better health.

Two representatives of the National Cattlemen's Beef Association, asked to respond to the Nature report, said the U.S. beef industry is focused on improving the efficiency of beef production. The United States had 128 million head of cattle (including dairy cows) in 1976 and 94 million cattle as of this past January, yet it produces just as much beef today as it did in the 1970s, in part because of breeding efforts that boosted the growth rate of the livestock, said Sara Place, the Beef Association's senior director for research on sustainable beef production.

Ashley McDonald, senior director of sustainability for the association, said, "We're trying as an industry to take a proactive stance and really make a commitment to continuous improvement."

The report notes that the current food system is incredibly wasteful, with about one-third of the food produced eventually being discarded. Most of that food waste comes from spoilage. Halving the amount of wasted food would put a dent in the overall environmental problem, they said, and reducing waste by 75 percent is theoretically possible.

The report is agnostic on whether the world should adopt genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in the food supply. The report also does not take a position on population growth. Although birth rates have declined dramatically in many countries - to levels far below the replacement rate - the global population continues to rise. A 2015 U.N. report estimated that the population would reach 9.7 billion by 2050.

Decades ago, the prospect of so many human beings crowding the planet inspired predictions of widespread famine. The "green revolution" in agriculture changed the equations. Still, the food is not evenly distributed. About 3 billion people are malnourished today and 1 billion of them suffer from food scarcity, according to Rockström.

At the core of this research is the argument that Earth has several limits, the "planetary boundaries," that cannot be exceeded without potentially dire consequences. These boundaries - which involve factors such as climate change, loss of biodiversity, deforestation, atmospheric aerosols (smog), stratosphere-ozone depletion and the supply of fresh water - define the "safe operating space" for humanity. Proponents of the hypothesis say that human civilization has thrived in the geological epoch known as the Holocene, covering a period of roughly 11,700 years since the end of the last ice age, but that damage to the environment could put humanity into an existential crisis.

"You can imagine a scenario in which contemporary society starts to unravel" because of degradation in the environment, said Will Steffen, an emeritus professor of Earth-system science at the Australian National University and a proponent of the planetary-boundaries hypothesis. "So it's a long fuse, big bang."

He noted a movement in Australia to promote the consumption of kangaroo meat, since kangaroos are not ruminants and don't have the same ecological footprint.

“It’s a gamier taste, but it’s also a much leaner meat. It takes more talent to cook it to make it easy to chew and digest,” he said, before quickly adding, “I don’t like the thought of the poor little guys getting shot.”