Assessing Sir Richard Branson’s grand plan for our economic future.
As the country heads further into election year, the effect the dairy industry has on the environment looms as a politically charged issue. The Green Party, for instance, has made swimmable rivers a key election platform —many of New Zealand’s waterways are threatened by dairy run-off. According to the Ministry for the Environment, nearly two-thirds of the country’s monitored river swimming spots recorded levels of pollution that rendered them unsafe for swimming last summer. In a 2015 report, the Ministry found that the area of land under dairy farming had increased 28 per cent over the preceding 10 years.
It was against this backdrop that billionaire businessman Sir Richard Branson, on a recent trip to New Zealand, told Newshub that marijuana presented a huge opportunity for the country. “You should legalise it, grow it, tax it, regulate it,” he said. “I think that would be wonderful because obviously the amount of dairy cows that New Zealand has is damaging the rivers. If you could put some of that land over into growing cannabis it would be just as profitable for them, if not more profitable.”
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has wrapped up a visit to Moscow, where he met with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. The meetings come at a time of increased tension between Washington and Moscow. On Wednesday during a press conference, President Trump said relations with Russia had reached a new low point. Trump’s comments came a day after the White House accused Russia of attempting to cover up the role of the Syrian government in the recent chemical attack in Syria that killed 87 people. Russia has rejected the claim, saying the U.S. has been too quick to blame Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. We speak to Stephen Cohen, professor emeritus of Russian studies and politics at New York University and Princeton University.
FULFILLING DONALD TRUMP’S campaign promise to “bomb the shit” out of ISIS, the Pentagon dropped the “mother of all bombs” — one of its largest non-nuclear munitions — for the first time on Thursday, in Afghanistan. The 21,600 pound weapon was developed over a decade ago, but was never used due to concerns of possible massive civilian casualties.
The Pentagon said it used the weapon on an ISIS-affiliated group hiding in a tunnel complex in the Nangarhar province. The group, according to the Pentagon, is made up of former members of the Taliban.
The Massive Ordnance Air Blast Bomb (MOAB), nicknamed the “mother of all bombs,” has a mile-long blast radius.
When it first introduced the bomb, the Pentagon said it was designed to terrify America’s enemy into submission. “The goal is to have the capabilities of the coalition so clear and so obvious,” Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said in 2003, “that there is an enormous disincentive for the Iraqi military to fight against the [invading] coalition.”
Thursday’s attack drew condemnation from Hamid Karzai, the U.S.-backed former president of Afghanistan. “This is not the war on terror,” he said, “but the inhuman and most brutal misuse of our country as testing ground for new and dangerous weapons.”
Marc Garlasco, a former senior targeting official in the Bush-era Pentagon, told The Intercept on Thursday that the weapon was never put to use “due to collateral damage concerns.”
Military force cannot resolve tension over North Korea, China said on Thursday, while an influential Chinese newspaper urged the North to halt its nuclear programme in exchange for Chinese protection.
With a US aircraft carrier group steaming to the area and tension rising, South Korea said it believed the United States would consult it before any preemptive strike against the North.
Fears have been growing that the reclusive North could soon conduct its sixth nuclear test or more missile launches in defiance of UN sanctions and stark warnings from the United States that a policy of patience was over.
China, North Korea’s sole major ally and benefactor, which nevertheless opposes its weapons programme, has called for talks leading to a peaceful resolution and the denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula.
At least once a day, Adam’s captors attached metal clamps to his fingers and toes. One of the men then cranked a handle on a machine to which the clamps were linked with wires, and sent powerful electric shocks through his body. If he managed not to scream, others would join in, beating him with wooden sticks or metal rods.
As they tortured him, the men shouted verbal abuse at him for being gay, and demanded to know the names of other gay men he knew in Chechnya. “Sometimes they were trying to get information from me; other times they were just amusing themselves,” he said, speaking about the ordeal he underwent just a month ago with some difficulty.
Adam’s testimony, as well as that of another gay Chechen man with whom the Guardian spoke, backs up reports that a shocking anti-gay campaign is under way in the Russian republic of Chechnya, involving over a hundred and possibly several hundred men. Some are believed to have been killed.
Adam was held in an informal detention facility with more than a dozen other gay men, who were all subjected to torture on a daily basis. A similar “mop-up” campaign by governmental security forces took place in towns across the republic.
Igor Kochetkov, a gay rights activist from St Petersburg, has helped organise an emergency contact centre which gay people in Chechnya can reach out to securely to get help with evacuation. He said “dozens” of people had got in touch to ask for help. Many are in hiding from both their families and the authorities.