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Japan approves construction of maglev bullet train that will travel 178 miles in 40 minutes

When it comes to building high-speed trains Japan is continuing to embarrass the rest of the world, with the latest line, approved by the government this Friday, capable of travelling the 178 miles from Tokyo to Nagoya in just 40 minutes.

This is less than half the time it currently takes the celebrated Shinkansen bullet train to travel the route, with trains on the Chūō Shinkansen line reaching speeds of 300 mph thanks to their maglev (magnetic levitation) technology.

Maglev uses extremely powerful superconducting magnets to float the train 10cm above the track, allowing for frictionless movement. The technology has previously been used to build short demonstration lines in cities including Tokyo, but the Tokyo-Nagoya route will be the first functioning intercity route.

A 43-kilometer test track that will be opening up in November this year proved so popular with the Japanese public that more than 150,000 individuals applied for 1,200 pairs of seats, with the winners to be decided by lottery.

Central Japan Railway Co (JR Central) plan to finish the work by 2027 before extending the line from Nagoya to Osaka  before 2045. This second route will travel 331 miles in just 67 minutes, shortening the current travel time of 138 minutes.

The Tokyo-Nagoya route will reportedly pass by Mt Fjui, but commuters hoping for a breath-taking (if blurred) view the whole way round will be disappointed – with 86 per cent of the line run through tunnels, with some travelling 40 metres below ground when passing under urban areas.

The estimated cost of the line to Nagoya is ¥5.5 trillion (£32 billion) with the full Osaka line running up a bill of around ¥9 trillion.

Central Japan Railway will be funding the project entirely through cash generated by its current bullet train lines (the most popular in the world); a sensible move for a company that reported a higher operating profit margin than even Apple in the fiscal year ending March 31.

Original Source: http://ind.pn/1vUm4hs

California imposes first state-wide plastic bag ban

The US state of California has passed the first statewide legislation in the nation banning single-use plastic bags.

The bags will be outlawed in grocery and convenience stores to cut down on litter damaging to the environment.

The bill, signed by Governor Jerry Brown, will take effect next July.

Plastic manufacturers have challenged the move, however, claiming it will lead to the loss of thousands of jobs and allow grocers to profit from new paper bag fees.

“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,” Mr Brown wrote in a statement on Tuesday.

It also prohibits “stores from selling or distributing a recycled paper bag at the point of sale unless the store makes that bag available for purchase for not less than $0.10” (£0.06), according to the legislation.

Larger grocers, including Wal-Mart and Target, will be required to comply with the law beginning in July 2015, while convenience stores and food marts will have until July 2016.

Plastics trade group The American Progressive Bag Alliance had lobbied hard to stop the ban prior to its passage, but to no avail.

“If this law were allowed to go into effect, it would jeopardize thousands of California manufacturing jobs, hurt the environment and fleece consumers for billions so grocery store shareholders and their union partners can line their pockets,” Lee Califf, executive director of the manufacturer trade group, told US media.

The law – at a glance

A plastic bag
  • only bans plastic bags at check-outs at grocery stores, pharmacies, convenience stores and liquor shops
  • does not apply to non-food shops like clothing and electronics stores
  • nor does it apply to the plastic bags used for produce and meat
  • will take effect at larger stores July 2015
  • then expand to smaller businesses in 2016

But the bill’s supporters have argued extra fees can be avoided by using reusable bags when shopping.

Though California is the first US state to ban plastic bags, more than 100 cities – including Chicago and Seattle – have already outlawed them.

Original Source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-29435813

Rockefellers, Heirs to an Oil Fortune, Will Divest Charity From Fossil Fuels

John D. Rockefeller built a vast fortune on oil. Now his heirs are abandoning fossil fuels.

The family whose legendary wealth flowed from Standard Oil is planning to announce on Monday that its $860 million philanthropic organization, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, is joining the divestment movement that began a couple years ago on college campuses.

The announcement, timed to precede Tuesday’s opening of the United Nations climate change summit meeting in New York City, is part of a broader and accelerating initiative.

In recent years, 180 institutions — including philanthropies, religious organizations, pension funds and local governments — as well as hundreds of wealthy individual investors have pledged to sell assets tied to fossil fuel companies from their portfolios and to invest in cleaner alternatives. In all, the groups have pledged to divest assets worth more than $50 billion from portfolios, and the individuals more than $1 billion, according to Arabella Advisors, a firm that consults with philanthropists and investors to use their resources to achieve social goals.

The people who are selling shares of energy stocks are well aware that their actions are unlikely to have an immediate impact on the companies, given their enormous market capitalizations and cash flow.

Even so, some say they are taking action to align their assets with their environmental principles. Others want to shame companies that they believe are recklessly contributing to a warming planet. Still others say that the fight to limit climate change will lead to new regulations and disruptive new technologies that will make these companies an increasingly risky investment.

Ultimately, the activist investors say, their actions, like those of the anti-apartheid divestment fights of the 1980s, could help spur international debate, while the shift of investment funds to energy alternatives could lead to solutions to the carbon puzzle.

“This is a threshold moment,” said Ellen Dorsey, executive director of the Wallace Global Fund, which has coordinated the effort to recruit foundations to the cause. “This movement has gone from a small activist band quickly into the mainstream.”

Not everyone will divest completely or right away, Ms. Dorsey noted, and some are divesting just from specific sectors of the fossil fuel industry, such as coal.

“The key thing is that they are moving along toward a common destination,” she said.

Among the individual investors joining in the announcement on Monday is Mark Ruffalo, the actor. The news conference will include a videotaped message from Bishop Desmond Tutu, who said that because climate change has a disproportionate impact on the poor, it is “the human rights challenge of our time.”

Just how transparent the various funds and institutions will be about the progress of their asset sales is uncertain.

At the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, there is no equivocation but there is caution, said Stephen Heintz, its president. The fund has already eliminated investments involved in coal and tar sands entirely while increasing its investment in alternate energy sources.

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Unwinding other investments in a complex portfolio from the broader realm of fossil fuels will take longer. “We’re moving soberly, but with real commitment,” he said.

Steven Rockefeller, a son of Nelson A. Rockefeller and a trustee of the fund, said that he foresees financial problems ahead for companies that have stockpiled more reserves than they can burn without contributing significantly to climate damage. “We see this as having both a moral and economic dimension,” he said.

Activism to divest from fossil fuel companies began on college campuses, but the record of success there has been mixed.

The university with the biggest endowment, Harvard, has declined to divest, despite pressure from many students and outside organizations.

Drew Gilpin Faust, Harvard’s president, has issued statements that she and her colleagues do not believe that divestment is “warranted or wise,” and argued that the school’s $32.7 billion endowment “is a resource, not an instrument to impel social or political change.”

Stanford recently announced it would divest its holdings in the coal industry; Yale University’s investment office asked its money managers to examine how its investments affect climate change and to look into avoiding companies that do not take sensible “steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.” The announcement did not satisfy students pressing for divestment.

Pitzer College, however, is one of a number of schools that have promised more extensive efforts to remove fossil fuels from their endowments. Donald P. Gould, a trustee and chair of the Pitzer investment committee and president of Gould Asset Management, said that everyone involved in the decision knew that the direct and immediate effect on the companies would be minimal.

“I don’t think that anyone who favors divestment is arguing that the institutions’ sale of the fossil fuel company stock is going to have much impact, if any, on either the stocks or the companies themselves,” he said, since the market capitalizations of the companies is immense.

Even if the movement were to depress share prices, the energy companies, which make enormous profits from their products, do not need to go to capital markets to raise money, he noted. But in the long term, he said, “divestment seeks to work indirectly on these companies by changing the conversation about the climate.”

Pension funds have proved a harder sell. While Hesta Australia, a health care industry retirement fund worth $26 billion, announced last week that it would get out of coal, many others have not. PensionDanmark said in a statement that it has invested 7 percent of its $26 billion portfolio in renewable energy with plans to raise that percentage over time. “Divestment will itself not contribute to solving the challenges of global climate change, and we believe it is not a very wise way to try and solve the issue,” the company said.

Torben Moger Pedersen, the fund’s chief executive, added that if the returns from a traditional carbon-based power plant and a wind farm were equal, the fund would invest in the wind farm. But, he added, “We are not missionaries.”

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In an interview last week at the Rockefeller family’s longtime New York offices at 30 Rockefeller Center, Mr. Heintz, Mr. Rockefeller and Valerie Rockefeller Wayne, the chairwoman of the fund, spoke of the family’s longstanding commitment to use the fund to advance environmental issues.

The family has also engaged in shareholder activism with Exxon Mobil, the largest successor to Standard Oil. Members have met privately with the company over the years in efforts to get it to moderate its stance on issues pertaining to the environment and climate change. They acknowledged that they have not caused the company to greatly alter its course.

The Rockefellers have also tried to spur change through direct investment. In the 1980s, Mr. Rockefeller said, members of the family formed a $2 million fund to invest directly in renewable-energy alternatives. They were too early.

“The fund didn’t survive, which was a lesson,” he said. Nevertheless, he added, the failure of the fund was “a badge of honor.”

Ms. Wayne said the family’s commitment is intergenerational, and continuing. She said that her 8-year-old daughter lectures her on the destruction of orangutan habitat to create palm oil plantations.

“If I’m wearing lipstick, she won’t kiss me,” she said, “because there’s palm oil in it.”

Original Source: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/22/us/heirs-to-an-oil-fortune-join-the-divestment-drive.html?_r=0


New Zealand health and safety association formed

A new health and safety organisation has been formed in New Zealand to respond to the country’s long-standing problem of workplace deaths and injuries.

The Health and Safety Association of New Zealand (HASANZ) will take over the work of the Occupational Health and Safety Industry Group (OHSIG) and represent a wider range of professional bodies than its predecessor.

Announced last week at OHSIG’s biennial conference, which took place in Auckland from 10-12 September, HASANZ will be the “go to place” for information and advice in the health and safety space, and could be described as an “association of associations”, representing workplace health and safety professions in New Zealand.

Other announcement’s included the introduction of key themes for WorkSafe, New Zealand’s workplace health and safety regulator. Gordon MacDonald, CEO of WorkSafe, remarked on the need to target areas of high and chronic risk; the safe rebuild of Christchurch (after the 2010-2011 earthquakes); transition from reactive to proactive working; a greater emphasis on occupational health; encouragement of collaborative work between duty holders; and addressing the new requirement for due diligence of directors and officers.

Parallel streams of accepted papers included safety in design, led by Jack Donaghy, a chartered engineer with Beca NZ, who introduced ideas comparable to those in the UK Construction, Design and Management Regulations. In another, Kirstin Olsen from Massey University described some of her research into the role of safety practitioners in achievement of workplace safety management practices under the Accident Compensation Corporation scheme.

New Zealand is a bi-cultural society (Maori and European) but is home to people of many other ethnicities and cultures and three papers specifically showcased Maori and Pacific programmes for holistic prevention and recovery.

Other papers covered ergonomics and preventative programmes and research, including use of exercise to prevent work-related upper limb disorders, manual handling generally, manual handling in the health sector and work in the fishing industry. There were also discussions of different aspects of occupational health, including pre-employment health screening, fatigue management, and management of laboratory animal allergy in a research setting.

In common with other westernised countries, New Zealand has an ageing workforce. Brent Sutton addressed some of the problems this brings, including preparation for and monitoring an ageing workforce. However, this was the only paper to address this topic, and other areas were also neglected. Papers focussing on risks in the forestry and mining sectors were absent and no papers referred to health and safety at work for refugees.

As part of the much-needed reform, a recommendation has been made to adopt a new health and safety bill, moving the New Zealand legislation from hazard management to risk management. The forthcoming Health and Safety at Work Act will also change how hazardous substances are managed. Suzanne Broadbent, an occupational hygienist, explored the differences between how such substances are currently managed and the logic behind the proposed changes.

A series of papers on the theme of risk management provided useful insights and research updates relevant to the forthcoming legislation. My own paper described my research findings into the effectiveness of risk assessments and application of ISO31000:2009 Risk management – Principles and guidelines. His anonymous online survey so far suggests many people use informal and unstructured processes for risk assessments.

The closing keynote presentation on 10 September was by Rob Long, from the Australian Catholic University, and raised contentious issues arising from perfectionist goals for “zero harm” in the workplace. Essentially, if zero harm is unattainable why do we try to attain it? Stakeholders end up with conflicts and mixed messages. Cristian Sylvestre, managing director of SafeStart, returned to this theme on 11 September, drawing on research showing that inattentiveness while on “autopilot” may be a significant cause of many incidents.

OHSIG was formed in 2005 to enable the many small health and safety related bodies to meet together, share ideas and have a voice with the Government. This was the final OHSIG conference but the first biennial HASANZ conference is planned for 2016.

Original Source: http://www.shponline.co.uk/new-zealand-health-safety-association-formed/?

Foster & Partners to design New, Sustainable Mexico City Airport

The contract for an ambitious new airport in Mexico City has been awarded to Pritzker Prize–winning British architect Norman Foster of Foster & Partners. Foster joined forces with Mexican firm FR-EE, led by Fernando Romero, son-in-law of Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim, and NACO (Netherlands Airport Consultants) on the winning submission.

Foster’s team aims to make this the world’s most sustainable airport. The LEED Platinum design imagines a building outfitted with innovative systems to collect rainwater and sunlight to produce energy. Building materials are to be sourced domestically and sustainably wherever possible. Construction will be completed by locals, creating jobs in the surrounding area.

Mexico City International Airport

Initial renderings reveal one large central terminal—more eco-friendly than powering multiple structures—under an undulating ceiling. Foster + Partners have some experience with weaving local aesthetics into airport designs: the Queen Alia International Airport in Amman, Jordan, features shapes inspired by Bedouin tents, and Beijing Capital International Airport’s Terminal 3 reimagines the dragon motif ubiquitous in Chinese imagery.

Original Source: http://www.architecturaldigest.com/blogs/daily/2014/09/foster-partners-mexico-city-airport

European Commissioner for Health and Food Safety Elected

Lithuania’s former health minister Vytenis Andriukaitis has been elected as the new European Commissioner for health and food safety and will take up his new post next month.

The appointment was part of the European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker’s unveiling of his new European Commission who will aim to tackle the big political changes Europe is facing, including unemployment, investment and security.

Juncker said: “In the new European Commission, form follows function. We have to be open to change. We have to show that the Commission can change. What I present to you today is a political, dynamic and effective European Commission, geared to give Europe its new start.

Andriukaitis will work alongside the College of Commissioners to promote health and well being in all EU policy areas, curb harmful use of alcohol, create initiatives to address discrimination, upgrade defence of child health and withstand a strong, qualified pharma policy based on the public interest.

He will also be expected to stand up to corporate lobbies to ensure transparency when working with stakeholders and encouraged to speak out about the risks that the prospective EU and US trade and investment deal could pose to people’s health.

Speaking at the European Public Health Alliance (EPHA) 2014 annual conference recently Andriukaitis said: “Health is not a consequence of growth but also a condition for growth. Investments in public health increase productivity and boost job creation. Health should not only be seen as product of growth: health encourages growth.”

Original Source: http://bit.ly/1tXlnyV

Bosnian Mine Accident: 29 Rescued, 5 Miners Buried

Exhausted, dusty but happy to be alive, 29 miners were pulled out one by one Friday from a trouble-plagued coal mine that collapsed a day earlier in central Bosnia. They left behind five men, presumed dead under rubble deep underground and beyond the reach of rescuers.

Emergency workers had dug through more than 100 meters (330 feet) of collapsed mine tunnels 500 meters below the surface to reach the trapped men.

Families of those who were left behind broke down in tears as authorities closed the pit entrance.

“We could not reach that group of people,” said rescue worker Amir Arnaut. “We could only reach the first group.”

Officials said that an investigation will be launched to determine the cause of the accident, but they suggested it was linked to a 3.5 magnitude earthquake which hit the town of Zenica on Thursday afternoon, according to Bosnia’s seismologists. The tremor caused a pressure burst and a gas blast which collapsed the mine, officials said.

It was the third incident at the Zenica pits this year, underscoring the vulnerability of the mines in Bosnia and elsewhere in the Balkans, which are generally poorly secured and where miners work with outdated equipment and little protection.

Once communist Yugoslavia’s pride, mines likes the ones in Zenica have been badly maintained, and have seen almost no investment and modernization as the region was engulfed in an ethnic conflict in 1990s.

The rescued men, blinking as they faced daylight, emerged from the mine to cries of joy from their families.

“He is alive!” cried Admira Durakovic, whose husband Amir was among the miners. She then broke down, sobbing and shaking.

Twenty-six miners were taken to a hospital, six of them badly hurt, but none suffered life-threatening injuries, doctors said.

Alija Celebic, a retired miner, waited for his son Bego, one of the survivors. Celebic said his son was hurt in the same pit only few weeks ago, but recently returned to work.

“All is good as long as he is alive!” he exclaimed.

The families and union leaders accused the management of responding poorly to the latest collapse, particularly in first claiming that only eight workers were trapped. Union leaders said it was seven hours after the blast before authorities brought in rescue machinery.

Sixteen miners — a total of 430 work in the pit — were hurt in two previous gas explosions, the most recent less than four weeks ago. The mine was the site of one of the greatest mining tragedies in Bosnia’s history, when 39 miners died in a gas explosion in 1982.

Mine manager Esad Civic conceded that the Zenica mine — once among the most modern in Europe — is now far from the world standard, following Bosnia’s 1992-95 war that impoverished the country. But he insisted that accidents are unavoidable when mining deep underground.

Nuraga Duranovic, a mining inspector, said the deaths cannot be officially confirmed until the bodies are found. Officials said efforts to recover the bodies will continue on Saturday.

He said 22 other miners managed to get out of the pit Thursday, two of whom were injured.

Muris Tutnjic, one of those who got out Thursday, returned to the site Friday to show his support. He said the underground blast “just blew us away.”

“I was alone. … Thank God I managed to pull myself out,” Tutnjic told The Associated Press. “My colleagues … they were some 200, 300, maybe 400 meters (yards) away from me, they got covered.”


Jovana Gec contributed from Belgrade, Serbia.

Original Source: http://abcn.ws/1pRbEwg

Turkish police fire gas at protests over worker lift deaths

Turkish riot police on Sunday fired tear gas and water cannon at protesters in Istanbul, a day after 10 workers were killed when a lift crashed to the ground from the 32nd storey of a building.

Police stepped in when more than 1,000 people gathered near the construction site in Istanbul’s upscale Mecidiyekoy district to express their anger at Turkey’s lax workplace safety measures, an AFP photographer at the scene reported.

“This is not an accident, this is not a destiny, this is murder!” the crowd shouted, at the first major confrontation between demonstrators and the authorities since Recep Tayyip Erdogan was inaugurated as president last month.

Authorities said an investigation had been launched into the incident at the Torunlar Centre, which is being built on the former site of Galatasaray football club’s Ali Sami Yen stadium.

The exact cause of the accident remains unclear. There have been claims that the elevator broke down two weeks ago and that workers were awaiting funds to repair it.

“I lost my two sons,” said father-of-six Mithat Kara, as he sat in tears at the side of the construction site.

Among the dead was also 21-year old student Hidir Ali Genc, who used to work at construction sites to fund his university expenses.

The incident created a storm on social media, with users criticising the government’s handling of the protest.

“State, answer to industrial accidents. Workers respond by making barricades,” one Twitter user wrote.

Engineers were inspecting the site on Sunday. Thirty-six of the tower’s 42 floors have already been completed, local media reported.

Police on Sunday released eight people detained in connection with the incident, including the safety director of the site, after hearing their testimonies.

-‘Work murders’-

Labour and Social Security Minister Faruk Celik said the accident happened after a freight elevator used to carry construction materials slipped off its rails, with workers and building materials crashing to the ground.

“We will go after (the guilty people) if there is any negligence or shortcoming,” he was quoted as saying by Turkish media.

But the opposition ratcheted up pressure on the government, pledging to improve work safety conditions.

“Work accidents have turned into work murders,” said Kemal Kilicdaroglu, leader of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP).

“The CHP will settle account at every platform. We will take initiative so that inspections will not be merely on paper.”

The building’s owner Aziz Torun denied any responsibility, as well as the possibility of a technical problem with the elevator.

“Authorities and the prosecutor will decide” what caused the accident, he told a press conference.

Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu called the workers’ deaths “very painful and very saddening”.

“The investigation will be carried out in detail,” he told reporters on Sunday.

The incident, which is due to top the agenda of the weekly cabinet meeting on Monday, has put Turkey’s poor record on workplace safety under further scrutiny.

In May, 301 miners died in the western town of Soma in Turkey’s worst-ever industrial accident. Most of the dead were killed by carbon monoxide poisoning.

Turkey has the world’s third-highest rate of deadly workplace accidents, according to the International Labour Organisation.

Original Source:http://yhoo.it/1lLeOk4 

Falling gargoyle kills mother-of-two outside church in Chicago

A woman has been killed by a falling stone gargoyle as she walked along the street in a freak accident in the US.

Sarah Bean, 34, died almost instantly when she was hit on the head as she walked past the Second Presbyterian Church in Chicago on Thursday.

A piece of metal is thought to have come loose from the building, which is more than 100 years old, and knocked a chunk of stone from the statue.

Ms Bean had been on the way to lunch with her fiancé, Lance Johnson, around noon before starting work at a local children’s hospital.

Her family told the Chicago Tribune the couple had been together for years and after having their two children, recently decided to marry.

“She was a beautiful person,” her older brother, Michael Willis, said.

“This is not good. This is not something you expect, at all.”

The church, built in 1874, reportedly failed a string of health and safety inspections between 2007 and 2011, when inspectors had noted fractures and holes in stonework, but passed tests in the last two years.

Police and city officials were continuing their investigation on Saturday after construction workers were seen securing parts of the structure and protective scaffolding was installed around the building.

Reverend David Neff, pastor of the Second Presbyterian Church, sent his “heartfelt sympathy and continual prayers” for Ms Bean’s family and friends.

Original Source: http://ind.pn/1oVk6Ez

Germany breaks 3 solar power records in 2 weeks

Over the first week of June 2014, German solar power systems generated 1.26 TWh of electricity, another new record for the country…

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