Daily Archives: August 22, 2017

Worldwide remembrance of the slave trade 'a tribute to every victim' – senior UNESCO official

22 August 2017 &#150 While the International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition is a tribute to every victim and their resistance against slavery, it is also a reminder of the importance of teaching history, a senior United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural (UNESCO) has stressed.

&#8220The legacy of the slave trade is a symbolic victory for human rights freedom; and the International Day acts as a reminder of the eternal effort to reaffirm human dignity and break down ignorance&#8221 Nada Al-Nashif, UNESCO Assistant Director-General for Social and Human Sciences told UN News ahead of the International Day of remembrance, marked annually on 23 August.

Since its 1998 establishment, the commemoration has provided an opportunity to look back at the legacy of the slave trade and to understand how the uprising that began in 1791 in what is now Haiti was symbolic of a victory for freedom and human rights.

She explained that many regions of the world consider it to be a day of common heritage that symbolizes &#8220a call for freedom, for justice and for dialogue among people.&#8221

According to Ms. Al-Nashif, it is important to understand the limitation of interpretation, to change the silence and to act together to make resistance against slavery an inspirational force for future generation.

She underscored that its &#8220call for truth&#8221 permeates UNESCO’s work in appealing for social justice, the reduction of inequality and the preservation of human dignity and human rights.

Tracing history

Aiming not only to break the silence, but to better understand the historic causes, methods and global consequences of the tragedy, UNESCO launched in 1994 the landmark Slave Route Project.

&#8220Highlighting global transformations and cultural interactions,&#8221 Ms. Al-Nashif said the project showcased &#8220how cultural pluralism and intercultural dialogue and understanding are critical to the culture of peace.&#8221

Since its introduction, UNESCO maintains that the project has had a significant impact at local, national, regional and international levels &#8211 and has helped to effect a change in attitudes by &#39de-racializing&#39 the tragedy which, de facto, concerns humanity as a whole.

The Slave Route Project has contributed substantially to fostering greater awareness of the ethical, political, socio-economic and cultural aspects of this chapter of history, &#8220and even the official recognition of slavery as a crime against humanity by the United Nations,&#8221 according to Ms. Al-Nashif.

Ms. Al-Nashif noted that project also speaks to &#8220remedy the general ignorance on the history of Africa by reconstructing it &#8211 freeing it from racial prejudice &#8211 and re-reading the history through purely African perspectives or more objective views of scientists or researchers.&#8221

Turning newly-nominated UNESCO World Heritage sites, Ms. Al-Nashif told UN News about Valongo Wharf Archaeological Site in Brazil and Mbanza Kongo, the Vestiges of the Capital of the former Kingdom of Kongo in Angola, saying &#8220both [are] recognized to be of universal value.&#8221

Ms. Al-Nashif said that Valongo, the former harbour area in Rio de Janeiro is &#8220one of the most important wharfs in world history, because as many as 900,000 African men, women and children were held there before being sold in the Brazilian market and, for the two decades that it existed, was a hub for how the African diaspora came to the New World.&#8221

The Vestiges were also a principal slave trade route through which enslaved people were transported to the Americas and Caribbean.

&#8220The archaeological traces of the past speak to the many tangible and intangible heritage elements that still exist and have been honoured now,&#8221 she stressed.

Ms. Al-Nashif added that slavery is not a thing of the pass.

&#8220Today we talk about modern slavery and human trafficking; the pushback on multilateralism and human rights; about race, identity and culture; and the challenges on how we can co-exist together,&#8221 she concluded.

Press Gaggle by Press Secretary Sarah Sanders et al. en route Yuma, AZ | 8/22/2017


Aboard Air Force One
En Route Yuma, Arizona

1:30 P.M. MST

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Good afternoon.  The President is going to visit a U.S. Customs and Border Protection hangar facility where we have unmanned aerial systems and some other tools and techniques we use to patrol the border.

The visit to Yuma is very relevant because it’s an area where the strategy that the President is pursuing, articulated in his executive order, emphasized in his budget request for FY18, has worked, and worked dramatically.  By putting up a border wall, by adding agents from 200 to 800, between 2005 and 2009, and including the technology and access roads needed to patrol the border effectively, apprehensions were reduced from 138,000 crossings in 2005, in just three years, down to under 10,000.  

That’s the kind of success that the President’s strategy can realize in other parts of the border that are busier, such as Rio Grande Valley in South Texas.  So it’s a really important stop to emphasize his strategy and his message.

MR. HOMAN:  I’m Tom Homan from ICE.  Look, I’m here to support our sister agency, CBP.  Look, immigration enforcement is more meaningful when you have a true interior enforcement strategy, which we have under this President.  

So as a CBP official just said, the numbers on the border are down drastically, almost 70 percent last month.  That comes hand in hand with better border security, better tools, better equipment, better technology on the border, together with a strong interior enforcement.

Interior enforcement is meaningful.  For those who get by the Border Patrol, they need to understand there’s no safe haven in the United States.  So they got to understand, if you get by the Border Patrol, ICE is looking for you.  I think hand in hand, ICE and Border Patrol is sending that message, and I think it has a direct reflect on the kind of apprehensions on the southwest border.

Q    What’s the President’s message to the Senate on this border issue with the funding held up?

MR. HOMAN:  Look, I think the President’s message is, we need a strong border and we need strong interior enforcement.  What he’s done so far has worked, so we need the funding to make it permanent.  We need funding to build a wall.

Look, I’ve been doing this 33 years; I started in the Border Patrol.  The border wall is successful.  Wherever that border wall has been built, the numbers have declined.  Less drugs, less bad people, less illegal aliens coming in.  I mean bad people, I mean anybody who wants to come into this country and do harm.

The border wall works every place it’s been — San Diego, Yuma, El Paso.  It’s worked.  It declined in apprehensions, declined in crossings.  And I think together with interior enforcement, the President’s plan is working.  So the funding needs to come through to make this a permanent fix.  We can only get better with more funding, more equipment, and more manpower.

Q    Just to be clear, those measures were made during the previous administration.  Is that right?  

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  They were made during the Bush administration, those investments, and sustained.  But, really, the FY18 request is a reasonable, balanced request of a border wall — $1.6 billion — as well as technology, additional Border Patrol agents, additional ICE agents, and access and surveillance equipment that will let us patrol that border more successfully.  So it’s a balanced request that we support strongly at the operational level.

MR. HOMAN:  Look, I think the message being sent on interior enforcement — which wasn’t part of the last administration, not to the extent it is now — interior enforcement is sending that clear message that if you are lucky enough to get by the Border Patrol, in the last administration you’re home free unless you commit yet another crime and get arrested and get put in jail, and get convicted of that crime.  Now the message is clear:  If you’re in the United States illegally, if you happen to get by the Border Patrol, someone is looking for you.  And that message is clear and I think it has a direct impact on the decrease in apprehensions.

Q    Do you think the President should pardon Joe Arpaio?

MS. SANDERS:  I can speak to that, actually.  I know that that’s a question that you guys have asked a lot today.  I can tell you that there will be no discussion of that today at any point, and no action will be taken on that front at any point today.

Q    And, Sarah, tonight is the first time the President has done a rally since the Charlottesville events of about over a week ago.  What kind of a tone does he want to set when he’s speaking before supporters tonight?

MS. SANDERS:  This is a campaign event, so I can’t get too deep into the specifics just because of the legal lines there.  But I think the President was clear last night on what he feels like the tone of the country should be.  I think he’s been clear in every statement that he’s made, and condemns hate in all form.  He has been consistent in that, and I think you’ll see that again not just tonight but throughout his tenure as President.

Q    Did he have any hesitation about doing this after the mayor of Phoenix encouraged him not to come, and just after the response to his comments last Tuesday?

MS. SANDERS:  I haven’t spoken to him directly about that, so I’m not sure if there was a hesitation on that front.  But I think the President always appreciates the opportunity and the ability to talk directly to the American people.  I think we saw that last night, and that certainly was a great moment and a positive step forward.  And I think that he’ll continue to do that.  And the more that the President has the ability to talk directly to the American people, that’s always a good thing.

All right, guys, I’ll come back in between.  If you guys have one or two more questions for these guys —

Q    What will he be doing between —

MS. SANDERS:  We’re going to sit down during the landing, but I’ll come back if you guys want to ask one or two more questions of these guys before the stop.

Q    Is there anything we’ll see today in terms of technology that is specifically new since the Trump administration came into office?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  No.  Those budget procurements are still happening under the FY17 budget.  But this is technology that the President is investing in and is sustaining that’s going to improve our capability.  We’re going to be getting more hours for our UAS and more mobile surveillance systems that aren’t going to be demonstrated today.

1:37 P.M. MST

Mergers: Commission opens in-depth investigation into proposed acquisition of Monsanto by Bayer

Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, in charge of competition policy, said: “Seeds and pesticide products are essential for farmers and ultimately consumers. We need to ensure effective competition so that farmers can have access to innovative products, better quality and also purchase products at competitive prices. And at the same time maintain an environment where companies can innovate and invest in improved products.”

The proposed acquisition of Monsanto (US) by Bayer (Germany) would create the world’s largest integrated pesticides and seeds company. It would combine two competitors with leading portfolios in non-selective herbicides, seeds and traits, and digital agriculture. Both companies are active in developing new products in these areas. Moreover, the transaction would take place in industries that are already globally concentrated, as illustrated by the recent mergers of Dow and Dupont and Syngenta and ChemChina, in which the Commission intervened to protect competition for the benefit of farmers and consumers.

The Commission’s preliminary concerns

The Commission has preliminary concerns that the proposed acquisition could reduce competition in a number of different markets resulting in higher prices, lower quality, less choice and less innovation. In particular, the initial market investigation identified preliminary concerns in the following three areas:

  • Pesticides
    Monsanto’s pesticide product glyphosate is the most sold non-selective herbicide in Europe. Bayer produces glufosinate ammonium, also a non-selective herbicide and one of the very few alternatives to glyphosate. According to the Commission’s preliminary investigation, Monsanto and Bayer are two of a limited number of competitors in this field capable of discovering new active ingredients and developing new formulations, including addressing the growing problem of weed resistance to existing products.
    In addition, the Commission will further assess both Monsanto’s activities in biological pesticide products that would compete with Bayer’s existing portfolio of chemical pesticide products, and the parties’ overlapping activities in products that tackle varroa mites, a parasite affecting bee colonies in Europe. 
  • Seeds
    Bayer and Monsanto are both active in the breeding of vegetable seeds. The Commission’s initial investigation shows that the parties have high combined market shares in a number of these vegetable seeds markets, and that some of their products compete directly with each other.
    Bayer and Monsanto are also active in the breeding and licensing of seeds for several field crops. Monsanto has the highest market share in oilseed rape seeds in Europe. Bayer, with the highest market share in oilseed rape seeds at global level, is one of the few players with the means to compete intensively in this market. Furthermore, both parties are important licensors of cotton seeds to their competitors in Europe, and both are investing in research and innovation programs for wheat. 
  • Traits
    A trait is a characteristic of a plant, such as height, herbicide tolerance and insect or disease resistance, and can be developed in laboratories and introduced in certain plant varieties.
    The Commission’s preliminary investigation indicates that Monsanto has a dominant position in several traits markets worldwide. Bayer is one of the few competitors to Monsanto in certain traits markets, and has notably developed alternative herbicide tolerance traits to Monsanto’s. The Commission will investigate in particular whether the transaction could lead to a reduction of competition in these markets, taking into account the existing links between the few worldwide competitors through cross-licensing and through research and development cooperations.

Finally, the merged entity would hold both the largest portfolio of pesticides products and the strongest global market positions in seeds and traits, making it the largest integrated company in the industry. The Commission will further investigate whether competitors’ access to distributors and farmers could become more difficult if Bayer and Monsanto were to bundle or tie their sales of pesticide products and seeds, notably with the advent of digital agriculture. Digital agriculture consists in the collection of data and information about farms with the aim of providing tailored advice or aggregated data to farmers. Both Bayer and Monsanto are currently investing in this emerging technology.

The transaction was notified to the Commission on 30 June 2017. The Commission now has 90 working days, until 8 January 2018, to take a decision. The opening of an in-depth investigation does not prejudge the final result of the investigation.

On 31 July 2017, Bayer and Monsanto submitted commitments to address some of the Commission’s preliminary concerns. However, the Commission considered these commitments insufficient to clearly dismiss its serious doubts as to the transaction’s compatibility with the EU Merger Regulation. The Commission therefore did not test them with market participants.

Given the worldwide scope of Bayer and Monsanto’s activities, the Commission is cooperating closely with other competition authorities, notably with the Department of Justice in the US and the antitrust authorities of Australia, Brazil, Canada and South Africa.



The Commission has been petitioned through emails, postcards, letters and tweets expressing concerns about the proposed acquisition of Monsanto by Bayer. The Commission’s mandate under the European merger control rules is to assess the merger solely from a competition perspective. This assessment must be impartial and is subject to the scrutiny of the European Courts.

The other concerns raised by the petitioners are subject to European and national rules to protect food safety, consumers, the environment and the climate.

Companies and products

Bayer, headquartered in Germany, is a diversified pharmaceuticals, consumer health, agriculture (Bayer Crop Science) and animal health company. This transaction mainly concerns the Bayer Crop Science division. Bayer Crop Science operates three business segments: (i) Crop Protection; (ii) Seeds and Traits; and (iii) Environmental Science. Bayer is also active in developing digital agriculture technologies.

Monsanto, headquartered in the US, is an agriculture company which produces seeds for broad acre crops, fruits and vegetables as well as plant biotechnology traits. It also provides pesticide products, including the glyphosate herbicide under the “Roundup” brand and other herbicides for agricultural and non-agricultural use. Additionally, Monsanto is involved in research on biological agriculture and provides farmers with digital agriculture services through its ‘Climate Corporation’ business.

Merger control rules and procedures

The Commission has the duty to assess mergers and acquisitions involving companies with a turnover above certain thresholds (see Article 1 of the Merger Regulation) and to prevent concentrations that would significantly impede effective competition in the European Economic Area or any substantial part of it.

The vast majority of notified mergers do not pose competition problems and are cleared after a routine review. From the moment a transaction is notified, the Commission generally has a total of 25 working days to decide whether to grant approval (Phase I) or to start an in-depth investigation (Phase II).

In addition to the current transaction, there are two other on-going phase II merger investigations: the proposed acquisition of NXP by Qualcomm and the proposed acquisition of Haldex by Knorr-Bremse.

More information will be available on the competition website, in the Commission’s public case register under the case number M.8084.

IGAD Roster of Mediators shares experiences with the Members of the Pan Wise Network

21-08-2017, Durban (South Africa): The Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) yesterday inaugurated its 2nd High Level Retreat on Mediation focused on Experience-sharing between members of the IGAD Roster of Mediators and members of the Pan-African Network of the Wise (PanWise) in Durban in partnership with the African Centre for the Constructive Resolution of Disputes (ACCORD).

Ambassador Tesfaye Negassa, Member of IGAD Roster of Mediators, with Ambassador Tewolde Gebremeskel, Director of Peace & security Division-IGAD, chaired the opening session with Ambassador Welile Nhlapo, Senior Political Advisor-ACCORD, and Ms. Karin Hernmarck Ahliny, Deputy Head of Mission at the Embassy of the Kingdom of Sweden in South Africa.

The purpose of this High-Level Retreat is to create a platform for experience-sharing between members of the IGAD Roster of Mediators, the African Union’s Members of the Panel of the Wise, and members of PanWise from the Regional Economic Communities/Regional Mechanisms (RECs/RMs) such as the Common Market for East and Southern Africa (COMESA), the International Conference for Great Lakes Region (ICGR) and Southern African Development Community (SADC).

This retreat will provide an opportunity for IGAD Roster Members to gain exposure beyond the IGAD region. Further, the Retreat will enable the IGAD Roster Members to share their depth of knowledge of the IGAD region with other mediators, while also learning from the experiences from other regions.

The main objective of the Retreat is to provide a platform for experience-sharing, further deepening mediation knowledge and practice between the IGAD Mediation Roster Members and the PanWise Network.

Ambassador Tesfaye Negassa, in his opening remarks, welcomed on behalf of IGAD Chairperson the cooperation between IGAD Roster of Mediators and Members of the Panel of the Wise Network. He extended his heartfelt congratulations to the organisers of this retreat and the host country, the Republic of South Africa. He appreciated the role played by the IGAD building competences on mediation through trainings and high-level retreats to contribute to the values forms of preventive diplomacy and enhance peacebuilding as well as importance of applying various forms of dispute resolutions mechanism.

Ambassador Tewolde in his opening remarks welcomed the IGAD Roster of Mediators, members of the Panel of the Wise Network from the African Union, COMESA, SADC and ICGLR. He appreciated the long standing and productive partnership between IGAD and ACCORD on conflict prevention, peace-making and conflict resolution. Amb. Tewolde lauded the commitment of the members and former members of the Pan Wise Network to come and participate in this important second retreat of IGAD. He concluded with the hope to see a rich discussion and exchange of opinions with aspiration to see IGAD Roster of Mediators co-opted into the Pan Wise Network.

Mr. Nhlapo commended IGAD for “its effort in building a normative capacity on mediation, as well as in strengthening its relations with other institutions working in the area of conflict prevention & mediation, and in assisting member states build their architecture on conflict prevention, peace-making and peace building”. “We have this opportunity to look at preventive approaches in the form of preventive diplomacy together with other conflict prevention mechanisms in Africa”, he added.

Sweden provides financial support to the retreat.

A new map of seismic hazards in Brazil shows that new building code is required

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Seismic hazardsA new map of seismic hazards in Brazil shows that new building code is required

Published 22 August 2017

Researchers are working on a new national map of seismic hazards for Brazil. The survey under way seeks to help ensure earthquake-resistant construction becomes more widespread. Brazil’s seismic-resistant building standard, in force since 2006, was based on an outdated seismic hazard map, and the scientists conducting the new survey say that the Brazilian building code must be updated in order to prevent low-intensity tremors from causing damage.

Researchers are working on a new national map of seismic hazards for Brazil. In preparing the seismic hazard map, the researchers first conducted a survey of the tremors that have occurred in Brazil in recent decades in order to determine the level of seismic activity in each region.

According to the survey, seismic events occur most frequently in the Northeast, especially in the states of Ceará and Rio Grande do Norte, in northern parts of Mato Grosso and Goiás states, and in Mato Grosso state’s wetlands (Pantanal biome).

Actually, any region is susceptible to seismic tremors. The probability is higher in some areas, such as Minas Gerais, and lower in others. We don’t yet know exactly why some areas are more active than others,” said Marcelo Sousa de Assumpção, a professor at the University of São Paulo’s Institute of Astronomy, Geophysics & Atmospheric Sciences (IAGUSP), and one of the coordinators of the Brazilian Seismographic Network (RSBR).

Seismic risk is relatively low in Brazil compared with other South American countries, such as Chile or Peru, thanks to its location in a stable region with very old topography and in the interior of a tectonic plate,” Assumpção said.

But low-and medium-intensity tremors occur with a certain frequency in Brazil, and these can have drastic consequences depending on where they happen,” said the principal investigator for the research project “Pantanal-Chaco-Paraná basins (PCPB): crust and upper mantle seismic structure and evolution”, supported by the São Paulo Research Foundation (FAPESP).

A recent example was the series of tremors of magnitudes 2.01-2.55 that occurred in Mariana, Minas Gerais state, three days before the collapse of the Fundão tailings dam owned by Samarco, resulting in the worst environmental disaster in Brazilian history.

FAPESPnotes that despite its low magnitude, the epicenter of a 2.5 tremor occurred only 1 km from the tailings dam, according to a statement by Samarco in a report on the causes of the accident prepared by an international committee of experts that analyzed the dam geotechnically.

One of the committee’s conclusions was that low-magnitude tremors cannot endanger well-built structures that are in use. “This dam, however, was in a fragile condition, and the tremors occurred an hour before it burst,” Assumpção said.

Based on the frequency and magnitude of these tremors, they estimated the probability of similar tremors in the coming years and the level of vibration they would cause in the soil on which homes, hospitals, stores and other buildings stand, given their distance from the epicenter.

Magnitude 3 tremors, for example, occur twice per month on average in Brazil. Magnitude 4 tremors, such as the 2012 quake in Montes Claros, Minas Gerais, occur twice a year. Magnitude 5 tremors, such as the quake that hit the town of Itacarambi in Minas Gerais in 2007, cause damage and occur once every fifty years, according to the researchers.

The tremors that occurred before the collapse of Samarco’s tailings dam in Mariana, for example, occur all the time and are felt only when they occur near a town or city,” Assumpção said.

Although seismic events of this magnitude are relatively low-level, if they occur 1 km from a building or in the middle of a town, their intensity can be substantial, and they can have a serious impact on the population.”

He added that Brazil’s seismic-resistant building standard, NBR-15421, in force since 2006, was based on an outdated seismic hazard map. “We believe Brazil has many more earthquake-prone areas than are identified by the old map on which the standard was based,” he said.

Builders of hydroelectric dams are required to perform seismic hazard studies before their designs are approved. In the case of tailings dams, many mining companies perform seismic hazard studies as part of the design process to make sure they can withstand a major earthquake, but not all do so, according to Assumpção. “There were no regulations that required seismic studies for approval of tailings dams,” he said.

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