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Australian Fires ‘Contained’ in New South Wales as Flooding Dangers Loom

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  • Australia’s New South Wales Rural Fire Service said all fires within the state have been contained after heavy rains brought in by a now ex-tropical cyclone. 
  • Seemingly replacing one problem for the next, flash flooding has led to power outages and even prompted evacuations. 
  • Australia’s recent extreme weather shifts have raised concerns over climate change, with scientists predicting the country will continue to experience even more intense extremes as climate change worsens.

All Fires in New South Wales “Contained”

After months of struggling to contain brutal fires that ravaged millions of acres, firefighters in Australia’s state of New South Wales said all fires in the region have been contained.

“After what’s been a truly devastating fire season for both firefighters and residents, who’ve suffered so much this season, all fires are now contained in New South Wales, which is great news,” Rob Rogers, assistant commissioner of the NSW Rural Fire Service, said.

“Not all fires are out,” he added. “There’s still some fire activity in the far south of the state, but all fires are contained, so we can truly focus on helping people rebuild.”

New South Wales is the country’s most populous state, with it being home to both Sydney and the country’s capital, Canberra. This is the first time since the bushfire season began in June that all fires have been contained—meaning fire crews have managed to surround them on all sides to prevent them from spreading.

While Australia sees a yearly brushfire season, its most recent one was particularly extreme thanks to a combination of below-average rainfall and high winds.

Source: Australian Board of Meteorology

In November, NSW and Queensland both declared states of emergency. Throughout the season, thousands were forced to evacuate their homes, more than 3,000 homes were destroyed, and at least 33 people died.

In December, heavy smoke blanketed Sydney, with the air quality in the city measuring 11 times above the hazardous level at one point. 

The fires have also been devastating to wildlife, with one billion animals estimated dead. On Tuesday, Australia’s Department of Agriculture, Water, and Environment listed 113 species in need emergency intervention following the fire, including the koala and the platypus, among others.

Rain Puts Out Fires but Leads to Flash Flooding

News that NSW’s fires were contained came after the region’s latest bout of rain. In fact, over the last few weeks, Australia has witnessed several waves of rain that have helped assist fire crews in controlling the blazes.

In NSW alone, the RFS said the downpour helped it put out 30 fires since Friday. That rain also helped to put out NSW’s two biggest fires, which were burning about 1.2 million acres of land each. 

Over the past week, Australia’s east coast has experienced rain brought in by now ex-Tropical Cyclone Uesi. According to the Australia Bureau of Meteorology, NSW saw nearly 8 inches of rain within a 24 hour period.  Over a four day period, it saw more than 15 inches of rainfall, reportedly the heaviest it’s seen in 30 years. 

According to The Sydney Morning Herald, Sydney’s dams are reaching their highest levels since April 2018.

However, with the rain, Australia seemed to have traded one problem for another. Both Queensland and NSW are currently facing a series of issues, including flash flooding, power outages, and more evacuations.

Queensland itself saw several reports of missing people, with one body being found.

Is Climate Change To Blame?

With Australia’s extreme weather shifts, some have wondered whether or not the heavy rainfall witnessed on the east coast is a result of climate change; however, the answer isn’t quite clear.

Many scientists have credited the bushfire season as a result of climate change. Those scientists also predict that Australia’s bushfire season will only continue to become more frequent and more intense. Part of this is because Australia is especially susceptible to climate change since it has a vast interior desert and rapidly-heating ocean currents surround the country.

As far as storms go, the Climate Council of Australia found in 2016 that climate is fueling more intense and more damaging storms. 

“Extreme weather events including tropical cyclones, extreme rainfall, hail/thunderstorms and extra-tropical cyclones (for example, east coast lows) are now occurring in an atmosphere that is packing more energy and carrying more moisture than it did in the 1950s,” it found, adding that climate change also exacerbates coastal flooding. 

It then predicted that “climate change will continue to exacerbate storms in Australia, increasing the risk of devastating impacts.”

Still, it’s unclear whether this ex-tropical cyclone is a result of that climate change, though as London School of Economics and Political Science Professor Tim Forsyth said, it is possible.

“For years, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has predicted weather will be more extreme and unpredictable,” he told NBC News. “This is consistent with the pattern this year in Australia of a longer than expected dry period, followed by unexpectedly high rainfall.”

“However, it is also important not to draw rapid conclusions,” he added. “There’s still a lot of uncertainty about long-term weather patterns. We have to acknowledge that human records of weather in Australia only go back to the early 20th century — so there are limits to what we know.”

See what others are saying: (BBC) (The Guardian) (NPR)

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Mukbangs and Ordering Too Much Food Banned in China

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  • China recently passed a law that bans ordering too much food and sharing content online that portrays overeating.
  • Though food scarcity is not an issue in the country, the law is meant to combat food waste, with authorities pointing out that China tosses 35 million tons of food annually.
  • The law doesn’t penalize consumers at restaurants. Instead, it fines restaurants $1550 for allowing diners to order “more than they need.”
  • TV stations, media companies, or people who post overeating content, such as Mukbangs, can face a $16,000 fine.

The End of Mukbangs

Some of the most popular content across Chinese social media has effectively been banned under an anti-food waste law that authorities passed late last week.

The law bans diners from ordering more than they need, which could hurt an entire class of eating videos, including ones where people enter all-you-can-eat restaurants to consume thousands of dollars worth of food. While it could be argued that if the creators eat all that food, they’ve satisfied the “more than they need” clause, the law also bans binge eating and posting such content online, meaning no more mukbangs for Chinese fans.

Censors have already begun removing overeating content, and much of it went missing overnight from Douyin, TikTok’s Chinese sister app.

The law also affects far more than a fringe group of people making food content. It’s so vague and open to interpretation that it could disrupt everyday restaurant-goers.

President Xi Jinping called food waste a “distressing” problem that threatens China’s food security, despite the fact that China is not facing any imminent food shortages.

Nearly 35 million tons of food go to waste every year in China, though that’s a relatively small amount for its population size. The U.S., for comparison, manages to throw away 66 million tons of food yearly.

Still, the legislation does not come as a complete surprise since Xi launched a food-saving campaign back in August claiming that COVID-19 was threatening the food supply chain.

Who’s Penalized?

Across China, restaurants have already begun to comply with the new rules. Some have set up scales at their entrance to give recommended food portion sizes to customers based on their weight. Meanwhile, others have promised to offer smaller-sized plates as an option.

One standard that many are seeking to enact is the “N-1” rule, which states that the number of dishes should be one less than the number of guests. The rule could be an attempt to curb a cultural practice that sees hosts ordering far more food than could be eaten in an effort to show off wealth.

Under the law, much of the blame towards a consumer wasting food is placed on restaurants, as there’s no clear cut fine for diners violating the law. Any establishment found allowing customers or misleading customers into ordering excessive amounts of food facing a $1550 fine. Showing content related to binge-eating could result in TV stations, online media companies, or even content creators facing a $16,000 fine.

Tuesday seems to have been the first time regulators went after a particular business, warning a Nanjing bakery to stop throwing away pastries that the business didn’t believe would sell because of visual defects. It has promised to donate them instead.

See what others are saying: (SCMP) (The Guardian) (Vice)

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Zimbabwe Considers Controversial Mass Elephant Killing

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  • Zimbabwe is considering culling its 100,000 elephant population over concerns of how they destroy other habitats and interact with farmland.
  • The plan isn’t unheard of, as Zimbabwe has done similar culls in the past, while other countries have done their own more recently.
  • However, the large-scale killing of elephants has faced pushback, with some suggesting the animals should instead be transported to areas with falling elephant populations.
  • For the time being, the plan is still just a proposal, and the government of Zimbabwe has promised to make a decision based on “scientific advice.”

Killing Elephants Is What’s Best for Them?

For the first time since 1988, Zimbabwe is considering a mass killing of elephants.

In a local radio interview on Wednesday, Minister of Environment, Climate, Tourism, and Hospitality Mangaliso Ndlovu said, “We are trying to see ways in which we can reduce the numbers. We have to discuss it at policy level as government. Options are on the table…” 

“It’s an option but not a decision yet,” Ndlovu later added by text message to the station. “We will obviously rely on scientific advice.”

The country is home to about 100,000 elephants, the second largest population in the world after neighboring Botswana. The mass killings are better known as culls, and the concept isn’t completely unknown in areas with large animal populations. They can happen for a variety of reasons, such as removing sterile males from the mating population that prevent fertile ones from accessing mates.

In Zimbabwe, authorities are worried that the elephant population has outgrown the resources available, causing the animals to destroy habitats that other species need to survive by eating the bark off trees and killing them. Additionally, the large population increases the chances of violent human-elephant interactions as elephants encroach on farmlands.

Elephants are known for their great intelligence and advanced emotional states compared to other animals, and therefore authorities are concerned about how a cull could affect populations. Notably, elephants can experience Post-traumatic stress disorder. In an effort to minimize those effects, other countries that have initiated culls, such as Uganda, have targeted entire herds for eradication while leaving others completely untouched.

Cull Concerns

Any discussion of a cull causes alarm bells among animal conservationists, particularly as total elephant populations in Africa have been on the decline over the last decade. However, in both Botswana and Zimbabwe the populations have actually risen considerably. Despite this, the possible plan has received considerable pushback online.

Many people have pointed out that there are other viable solutions to control the population and protect both the animals, other habitats, and farmland. As journalist Yashar Ali pointed out, “The only reasonable solution for Zimbabwe and other countries with large elephant populations is to work on human-wildlife conflict mitigation measures, contraception for elephants, and translocation.”

In particular, translocation has been touted as a viable alternative to not only help reduce the elephant population in Zimbabwe but also bolster the falling populations in other countries. Now, some have wondered why there has been any pushback against a cull, pointing out that animals such as deer are regularly culled across the world.

But it’s not quite apples and oranges. Take the U.S., which often hosts deer culls. The country has over 30 million deer, compared to Zimbabwe’s 100,000 elephants. On top of that, deer can give birth to over 20 fawns in their roughly 10-year lifespan, compared to less than 10 for an elephant during its more than 60 years alive.

For the time being, the plan is still just a proposal. It remains to be seen if Zimbabwe’s government will take such a large-scale cull seriously.

See what others are saying: (Reuters) (Bloomberg) (Quartz)

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Cash-in-Transit Truck Driver Praised After Foiling Robbery Attempt in South Africa

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  • Viral video captured the moment a rookie security guard and the driver of an armored cash-in-transit truck were ambushed in South Africa by robbers firing bullets at them last month. 
  • The footage shows the driver, 48-year-old Leo Prinsloo, keeping his cool as he sped off and maneuvered through traffic to get away from the two groups chasing them. 
  • When the truck eventually jerked to a halt, he grabbed a gun from his partner and exited the vehicle to confront the attackers, who had fled empty-handed. 
  • While Prinsloo has faced widespread praise, he has also been placed under protective guard because of death threats he’s received since foiling the heist.

The Viral Video

Millions of people all over the world have watched dash-cam footage of a rookie security guard and the driver of an armored cash-in-transit truck as they were ambushed in South Africa by robbers firing bullets at them.

The incident happened on April 22, though the footage, which looks like it was pulled straight from an action movie, has recently gone massively viral.

It shows the driver, 48-year-old Leo Prinsloo keeping his cool as he sped off and maneuvered through traffic to get away from the two groups chasing them. When the truck eventually jerked to a halt, he grabbed a gun from his partner and exited the vehicle to confront the attackers, who had fled empty-handed.

It turns out Prinsloo, who served with the South African Police Services special forces unit for 12 years, actually teaches the nation’s military special forces how to shoot. People who watched the insane footage are now calling him the real-life Jason Bourne, with many impressed by his incredible instincts.

“I cannot say much as an investigation is underway but I and my fellow guard did what was expected of us. They needed to take us out so they could take out the cargo vehicle,” Prinsloo said when speaking to the Daily Mail.

“But there was no way I was going to let that happen and unfortunately I did not have a chance to return fire,” he added.

Prinsloo Defends Partner

Prinsloo’s partner, Lloyd Mtombeni, has been facing a bit of criticism for what some perceived as a lack of action. However, it’s worth noting that Mtombeni told local reporters this was only his fourth day on the job and the first time he had ever experienced gunfire from inside the vehicle.

Because of the backlash against him, Prinsloo defending Mtombeni, saying, “I think those people should keep their opinions to themselves until they’re in the same situation and see if they can do better in the same circumstances.”

Others also spoke out in support of the guard online, commended him for staying composed and taking direction from Prinsloo. Still, it doesn’t appear like the threat is over.

According to News24, Prinsloo has been placed under protective guard because he’s been receiving death threats since foiling the heist. So far, no arrests have been made in this case but police are still investigating.

See what others are saying: (News24) (The South African) (ABC 7)

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