Guatemala volcano: Several dead as Fuego volcano erupts

Seven people have been killed and nearly 300 injured after Guatemala’s Fuego volcano erupted, officials say.

The volcano, about 40km (25 miles) south-west of the capital Guatemala City, has been spewing black smoke and ash into the sky.

Flows of lava have reportedly struck at least one village, causing deaths and injuries. People have been evacuated from several areas and the capital’s La Aurora airport has closed.

> Read entire article Guatemala volcano: Several dead as Fuego volcano erupts | BBC
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Creating a safety culture in Latin America

A prevalence of high-risk industries such as mining, exposure to powerful pesticides in agriculture and the exacerbation of risks due to climate change, these are just some of the factors that contribute to occupational health and safety hazards in Latin America. But a culturally rooted lack of awareness and engagement is perhaps the greatest danger of all.

Posted on ISO.org  |  By Elizabeth Gasiorowski-Denis

With some 130 million workers earning their livelihoods in conditions of informality and one in ten not having access to social protection), it is little wonder that health and safety is not always top of mind for employees in the Latin America region. However, some organizations are taking the lead in challenging the mindset of many of their workers to bring their health and safety performance to the next level.

SEE ALSO: ISO 45001 – ALL YOU NEED TO KNOW

Here, we talk to experts in Latin America about “where to from here” with ISO 45001, the new International Standard on occupational health and safety management systems.

Occupational health and safety concerns all of us… It is about the lives and well-being of our colleagues,” says Sergio Henao Osorio, Organizational Change Manager at Ingenio Pichichí S.A., one of Colombia’s leading sugar cane manufacturers. “But the key issue in Colombia is that there is not a true health and safety culture in the workplace. That is one of our challenges, but it is also one of the pillars of our mission: to make it a key value for all our staff, and something we honour in all our activities.

Ingenio Pichichí S.A., which has a staff of 792 plus 995 contractors, boasts an accident rate well below the 7 % average in Colombia and is one of the highest-performing organizations in the industry when it comes to safety. “Our aim is to achieve a zero-accident rate,” explains Sergio, “therefore, we are continually working on ways to encourage self-responsibility, the use of protective equipment, providing the best technologies and generally promoting an overall safety culture.

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A prevalence of high-risk industries such as mining, exposure to powerful pesticides in agriculture and the exacerbation of risks due to climate change, these are just some of the factors that contribute to occupational health and safety hazards in Latin America.

Read entire article Creating a safety culture in Latin America | ISO.org

US will not resume Brazil beef imports until food safety addressed

The United States will not resume imports of beef from Brazil until food safety issues have been addressed, US Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue announced.

Purdue met with his Brazilian counterpart, Blairo Maggi, to discuss the issue after Washington late last month halted all beef imports from the country following a rash of bad shipments discovered in US ports.

“Though Brazil pressed for a timeline for restoration of beef imports… any timeline would have to depend upon progress being made by Brazil,” Purdue told the Brazilian official, the USDA said in a statement following the meeting.

The agency’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) began inspecting all Brazil beef imports in March after a series of bad meat shipments were discovered, and through late June had stopped 11 percent of the beef meant for the US market, about 1.9 million pounds (862,000 kilograms).

The normal rejection rate is one percent, USDA said.

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At the time the ban was imposed, Purdue said, “Ensuring the safety of our nation’s food supply is one of our critical missions, and… my first priority is to protect American consumers.”

Brazil is the world’s leading beef and poultry exporter. The US ban comes after a scandal in March when 21 meat processors in the South American country were accused by Brazilian police of adulterating bad quality meat and bribing inspectors.

The bans caused havoc in the $13 billion a year industry, which employs some six million people, before being finally lifted.

Source: Seychelles News Agency

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Mexico’s spyware scandal is a gift for organized crime

Recent revelations about the government of Mexico’s widespread use of spyware to monitor adversaries in the press and the human rights community represent a gift for organized crime.

The New York Times first reported in June that Mexican journalists, lawyers, human-rights activists and their families had been targeted by government-owned spyware, which would allow eavesdroppers to monitor virtually all aspects of their digital communications.

The computer program reportedly used deceptive and highly personalized messages to lure targets into activating the spyware. These include contaminated links purporting to deal with a visa issue, claims of proof that a spouse was having an affair, and warnings about a commando squad outside a target’s house.

>> SEE ALSO: Canadian security agency will soon be able to launch cyber attacks against terrorists

According to the Times, NSO Group, the Israeli company that manufactures the software, sold it to the administration of President Enrique Peña Nieto under the condition that it be deployed only against terrorists and criminal groups. The government has not confirmed that it used the software to target the reporters and activists, but experts have been virtually unanimous in declaring government agencies the only plausible authors of the hacking.

InSight Crime Analysis

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This latest scandal from the Peña Nieto administration represents a massive self-inflicted wound in its fight against organized crime.

Most immediately, the revelations give criminal groups an invaluable window into the government’s anti-crime operations. At the very least, this is a warning to drug traffickers as well as their lawyers, money launderers and business partners to avoid electronic communications, and to be on guard against phishing attempts.

For more sophisticated organizations, knowledge of the identity of the company behind the Pegasus software, and the details about the software itself, could provide clues that allow it to be countered. The exposure of the Peña Nieto administration’s activities is akin to telling an adversary not only where an imminent attack is to come, but also detailing the makeup of the invading force.

Source: Mexidata.info

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Risk of Gulf of Mexico tropical system increases

Waters around southeastern Mexico and over the south-central Atlantic have the potential to yield the next tropical systems of the 2017 hurricane season.

Tropical system may form near the southwestern Gulf of Mexico next week

A broad area of disorganized showers and thunderstorms over Central America will drift northward over the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico this weekend.

“This feature has a good chance to become a tropical depression and tropical storm next week,” according to AccuWeather Hurricane Expert Dan Kottlowski. “There are still multiple scenarios for development and track at this time.”

Risk of Gulf of Mexico tropical system increases; Another threat may follow in central Atlantic

A clockwise flow of dry air is forecast to develop over the southeastern United States early next week. If this scenario unfolds and lingers, then Florida and the northeastern Gulf of Mexico could be sheltered from the storm.

However, if this feature is weak or breaks down, then the door could be opened for the tropical system to drift into the northeastern Gulf of Mexico.

While winds aloft over the Yucatan Peninsula, the southwestern Gulf of Mexico and the northwestern Caribbean Sea are currently too strong to allow development to occur, these disruptive winds are projected to ease next week. A situation to be closely monitored.

Tropical wave over the central Atlantic bears watching

A second area of concern in the Atlantic basin is a strong tropical wave that recently moved off the west coast of Africa.

Tropical waves are clusters of showers and thunderstorms that move westward near the equator. Over time, these clusters can begin to spin and evolve into a tropical depression, tropical storm and hurricane.

Tropical development in this part of the Atlantic during June is rare.

The next names on the list of tropical storms for the 2017 are Bret and Cindy. Tropical Storm Arlene formed and dissipated in the middle of the Atlantic during April. Arlene never directly affected any land areas.

Source: AccuWeather

Resilience bonds: a secret weapon against catastrophe

The costs of natural disasters are becoming too much to bear – and it’s driving up premiums no matter where you live. The solution may be a transformative type of insurance never seen before.

In a conference room overlooking downtown Miami, British executives are talking about why they know south Florida’s streets so well. It isn’t because of the sunshine. It’s because of the area’s risk for disasters like hurricanes and flooding.

“There are hundreds of my colleagues… who know the zip codes of these counties in this part of the world almost as well as the residents here,” says Rowan Douglas, head of capital, science and policy at the London-based risk management group and insurance broker Willis Towers Watson. “This area of the world is protected to some degree by a global community of everyone else who buys their insurance policy. My mother-in-law in northwest Spain is sharing risk with Florida.”

It will be a financial and scientific revolution, and it will save billions of dollars and thousands, if not millions, around the world of lives – Rowan Douglas

Enter a new idea that could transform not only the global economy, but how disasters affect us: a resilience bond. As well as guaranteeing help to communities after a catastrophe, it would help fund projects and strategies they need to become less vulnerable to begin with. “Resilience bonds are, in my view, the next exciting and innovative frontier in infrastructure and resilience finance,” says Samantha Medlock, former senior advisor to the Obama White House on resilience and now senior vice president at Willis Towers Watson.

The concept is part of an overall trend, experts say, that could transform how communities work: as risk modelling has become more and more sophisticated, the private sector is getting closer to being able to turn not only risk, but resilience, into numbers.

Resilience bonds could help places vulnerable to natural disasters, like Mexico, better prepare for catastrophe – not just help clean up after it.

It’s like a life insurance company being able to tell you not only how likely you, specifically, are to have a heart attack in the next five years, but also exactly how much walking a half hour a day or cutting out red meat could reduce that risk… and what that increase in health is likely to be worth, in cash, to your future.

That ability to put ‘hard numbers’ on what previously have been seen as ‘soft’ concepts, like the value of resilience, is huge, industry insiders say. “It will be a financial and scientific revolution, and it will save billions of dollars and thousands, if not millions, around the world of lives,” says Douglas.

Fix-it mentality

When it comes to preparing for future disasters, humanity tends to be woefully optimistic. In the same way that it’s difficult to convince individuals to fork out money for a life insurance policy, it’s tough to get governments to carve out spending for just-in-case scenarios when they also need to prioritise streets and schools.

Worldwide, just 26% of economic losses due to natural disasters were covered by insurance in 2016. “That means people dying or suffering, and governments and aid agencies and charity and philanthropy filling that gap. Or not filling that gap, as the case may be,” says Daniel Stander, managing director of consulting company Risk Management Solutions (RMS), which works with companies and governments to model and manage catastrophe risk.

Buying insurance for your household (or city) is one thing. Another is making your community resilient to begin with. Here’s the problem: it’s difficult to pay for something when the risk of doing nothing is hard to quantify.

In 2012, Hurricane Sandy cost the New York City area some $19 billion in damages.

Pilot project

A resilience bond is “an innovative variation on the cat bond”, says Medlock. It would work like this: imagine City X wants to build higher seawalls or fix its levee, but doesn’t have access to funds. When it goes to buy a multiyear, parametric cat bond for flooding, the insurer takes the expected impact of that planned investment into account and lowers the premium the city has to pay. With that cost saving in the budget, City X now has the money to fund its seawalls and levee – even if no disaster ever occurs.

At the moment, this hasn’t happened yet. But it’s close. “We’re probably not years away from this sort of a concept becoming real,” says Medlock. “We could be months away.”

Source: BBC

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Cocoa Industry announces cooperative initiative to end deforestation

Hosted by HRH The Prince of Wales, leading chocolate and cocoa companies commit to develop cooperative, multi-stakeholder framework to address deforestation and forest degradation in the cocoa supply chain

Twelve of the world’s leading cocoa and chocolate companies agreed to a statement of collective intent committing them to work together, in partnership with others, to end deforestation and forest degradation in the global cocoa supply chain, with an initial focus on Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana. The agreement, concluded during a meeting hosted by HRH The Prince of Wales, commits the participating companies to develop and present a joint public-private framework of action to address deforestation at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change 23rd Conference of the Parties (COP 23) meeting in Bonn in November of this year.

The meeting, organized by World Cocoa Foundation (WCF), IDH-the Sustainable Trade Initiative (IDH) and The Prince’s International Sustainability Unit (ISU), is the first of its kind covering the global cocoa supply chain.

Senior executives from the 12 companies stated their commitment to develop an actionable suite of measures to end deforestation and forest degradation, including greater investments in more sustainable forms of landscape management; more active efforts in partnership with others to protect and restore forests in the cocoa landscape; and significant investments in programs to improve cocoa productivity for smallholder farmers working in the cocoa supply chain. Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana are the world’s leading producers of cocoa, and many observers point to cocoa farming as a driving force behind rapid rates of deforestation in both countries.

The meeting brought together a cross-section of the world’s largest chocolate makers and cocoa buyers, producers and traders, including Barry Callebaut; Blommer Chocolate Company; Cargill; CEMOI; ECOM; Ferrero; The Hershey Company; Mars, Incorporated; Mondelēz International; Nestlé; Olam and Touton. Also present were ministers and senior government representatives of the two-leading cocoa producing countries – Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana – as well as France, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway and the United Kingdom.

The 12 companies will now engage in a planning and consultation process with governments, farmer organizations NGOs and other relevant stakeholders to build the joint framework to be unveiled at COP 23.

As farmers in Africa, Southeast Asia and Latin America seek new areas of land to grow crops including cocoa amid increasing global demand, WCF, IDH and ISU organized an industry commitment to end deforestation and forest degradation recognizing that deforestation is likely to increase in the future unless concerted action is taken. This commitment builds on the cocoa industry’s existing initiatives in partnership with producer country governments and other stakeholders to design sustainable cocoa development programs aimed at improving the livelihoods of the millions of smallholder farmers who grow cocoa.

Source: PR Newswire

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Is there a way to tackle air pollution?

The search for solutions to the threat of polluted air is generating ideas that range from the modest to the radical to the bizarre.

A London primary school may issue face-masks to its pupils. The council in Cornwall may take the extreme step of moving people out of houses beside the busiest roads.

Four major cities – Paris, Athens, Mexico City and Madrid – plan to ban all diesels by 2025. Stuttgart, in Germany, has already decided to block all but the most modern diesels on polluted days. In India’s capital, Delhi, often choked with dangerous air, a jet engine may be deployed in an experimental and desperate attempt to create an updraft to disperse dirty air.

RELATED: Climate Disclosure Project’s report shows progress on emissions but says it’s not enough

The World Health Organization calculates that as many as 92% of the world’s population are exposed to dirty air – but that disguises the fact that many different forms of pollution are involved.

A man walks in a public park on a smoggy morning in New Delhi
In India’s capital, Delhi, often choked with dangerous air, a jet engine may be deployed in an experimental and desperate attempt to create an updraft to disperse dirty air.

For the rural poor, it is fumes from cooking on wood or dung indoors.

For shanty-dwellers in booming mega-cities, it is a combination of traffic exhaust, soot and construction dust.

In developed countries, it can be a mix of exhaust gas from vehicles and ammonia carried on the wind from the spraying of industrial-scale farms.

In European cities, where people have been encouraged to buy fuel-efficient diesels to help reduce carbon emissions, the hazard is from the harmful gas nitrogen dioxide and tiny specks of pollution known as particulates.

The first step is to understand exactly where the air is polluted and precisely how individuals are affected – and the results can be extremely revealing.

Source: BBC

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