The Daily Visionary: Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Australia will recognise Jerusalem as Israel's capital


The Australian government is following the United States (U.S.) by preparing to formally recognize Jerusalem as the capital city of the State of Israel but is reportedly not planning on relocating its embassy from Tel Aviv in the near future. The embassy will not be relocated in the immediate future, due to the AUS $200 million estimated cost of moving the facility. Instead, Australia is reportedly planning to open a consular facility in the Israeli capital in lieu of an embassy move.


Shortly after Prime Minister Scott Morrison entered office it was reported that he was weighing the possibility of recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, as well as the relocation of the Australian embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Palestinians claim Jerusalem as their capital and most countries believe that the status of the city should be determined as part of a peace deal.


Australia’s recognition of Israel’s capital joins a small but growing number of countries, including the U.S., Guatemala, the Czech Republic, and Honduras. In 2017, Russia announced that it recognized the western part of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel while also recognizing the eastern part of the city as the capital of a future Palestinian state.


Hong Kong and Singapore lead the world in economic freedom: report


Hong Kong and Singapore have again been ranked as the most economically free jurisdictions in the world, with the United States (U.S.) back in the top ten, according to the Fraser Institute’s annual Economic Freedom of the World report for 2018. The Fraser Institute produces the annual Economic Freedom of the World report in cooperation with the Economic Freedom Network, a group of independent research and educational institutes in nearly one hundred countries and territories. It’s the world’s premier measurement of economic freedom.


While Hong Kong is still the most economically free, there is a valid concern that interference from mainland China—which ranks 108th in economic freedom—will ultimately lead to deterioration in Hong Kong’s top position, particularly in rule of law, which helps ensure equal freedom for all,” said Fred McMahon, Dr. Michael A. Walker Research Chair in Economic Freedom with the Fraser Institute.


Rounding out the top ten are New Zealand, Switzerland, Ireland, the United States, Georgia, Mauritius, the United Kingdom, and Australia and Canada tied at tenth place. The United States is ranked at sixth, entering the top ten most-economically free countries for the first time since 2009.


The report measures the economic freedom—the ability of individuals to make their own economic decisions—by analyzing the policies and institutions of 162 countries and territories. These include regulation, freedom to trade internationally, size of government, sound legal system and property rights, and government spending and taxation. The 2018 report is based on data from 2016, the last year of available comparable statistics.


Where people are free to pursue their own opportunities and make their own choices, they lead more prosperous, happier and healthier lives,” Mr. McMahon said.


Read the full report

Photo Credit: ICRAF

Photo Credit: ICRAF


Satellites warn African farmers of pest infestations


Researchers from the United Kingdom (U.K.) have developed an early warning system to prevent the crops of African farmers from being devastated. The Pest Risk Information Service (Prise) combines temperature data and weather forecasts with computer models and then sends farmers a mobile phone alert so that they can take precautions. It is hoped that the system will boost yields and increase farm incomes by up to 20 percent.


Prise is being used in Kenya, Ghana, and Zambia and will be rolled out soon in other parts of the world. Prise is an upgrade of a highly successful U.K. Aid scheme run by the Centre for Agriculture and Bioscience International development charity (CABI). It uses a network of so called "plant doctors" and clinics to advise farmers when pests or diseases destroy their crops.


Satellites can provide accurate land temperature information, which is one of the most important drivers of pest infestations. This, combined with weather data and computer models, can be used to give farmers enough time to spray pesticide and take other precautions. The ‘doctors’ draw on a database using an app to help them to diagnose the issue and then prescribe the right pesticide and other measures. So far, the scheme has helped 18.3 million farmers, in thirty-four countries across Africa, Asia, and the Americas. On average, farm incomes and yields are 13 percent higher for those using the service.


Professor Charlotte Watts, chief scientific adviser for the U.K.'s Department for International Development, which funds the plant doctor scheme, says a new initiative with CABI and the U.K. Space Agency (UKSA) will use the network to prevent, rather than just mitigate infestations. She says the idea is to use satellite data collected by the UKSA to develop a system that is able to predict when pest infestations will strike a week or more in advance. Early indications are that the system is working, says Professor Watts, "Farmers are completely dependent on crops and the predictability of having a good yield to survive and also to send their kids to school. So, if we can reduce the impact of pests, if we can enable them to get better yields - which we are already seeing - it will mean that we can help them move out of poverty."


The rise of lab-grown meat, as McDonald's limits antibiotic use in their beef supply chain


The first lab-grown or cell-cultured meat was a beef burger created by scientists at Maastricht University in the Netherlands in 2013. Since then, investment has soared and dozens of American food companies, many in Silicon Valley, are working on alternatives to traditionally reared meat.


Today, global meat consumption stands at over 300 million tonnes each year. Sales of plant-based meat alternatives increased by 24 percent in the United States (U.S.) in the last year, according to Nielsen. Non-dairy alternatives for cheese, butter, yogurt and ice cream have grown 50 percent in the past year and plant-based milk accounts for 15 percent of the total market. These companies say they are deliberately targeting consumers who eat meat, since vegetarians and vegans represent less than 5 percent of the American population.


Just is a start-up led by a group of scientists in San Francisco who recently announced they created chicken nuggets grown from stem cells found in a chicken’s feather. They aim to sign a commercial agreement to sell its chicken by the end of the year and predict that within twenty years its lab grown products will be more popular, cheaper, and healthier than meat derived from livestock. The chicken produced by Just tastes similar to real chicken yet has a spongy texture.


Beyond Meat, whose investors include Bill Gates, which makes plant-enriched burgers designed to replicate beef patties, claims to be one of the fastest growing companies in the U.S. One of the world’s largest food companies, Tyson Foods, is bankrolling both lab-made plant and lab-made meat products.


The U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration recently announced they are creating a joint regulatory framework to oversee the production of cell-cultured food products. “It’s still much, much more expensive than conventional meat production,” says Joshua Tetrick, Just’s boss.


McDonald's is one of the biggest buyers of beef in the world, and just released guidelines for beef suppliers in its top ten sourcing countries to curb the use of antibiotics as the fast-food giant joins a broad effort to battle dangerous superbugs. Suppliers will be required to begin phasing out the use of antibiotics defined by the World Health Organization as “highest priority critically important antimicrobials” (HPCIA) to human medicine, which urges suppliers to adopt a tiered approach to the use of antibiotics, encouraging them to use HPCIA drugs as the last resort.


Daimler will buy USD $23 billion of battery cells for electric car push


Daimler, the maker of Mercedes-Benz, will buy battery cells worth more than USD $23 billion by 2030 as it readies mass production of hybrid and electric vehicles in response to European regulators restricting diesel emissions. “With extensive orders for battery cells until the year 2030, we set another important milestone for the electrification of our future electric vehicles,” said Wilko Stark, who oversees procurement and supplier quality for Mercedes-Benz Cars.


Daimler said it is expanding its competence in battery cell research and working on next generation batteries to cut its dependence on costly rare earth minerals including cobalt, which is mainly sourced from war-torn Democratic Republic of Congo. The Mercedes-Benz EQ electric car, set for a 2019 launch, will use battery cells containing 60 percent nickel, 20 percent manganese and 20 percent cobalt, the company said.


Future Mercedes-Benz electric cars will contain batteries using 80 percent nickel and only 10 percent manganese and 10 percent cobalt, it added. “Our engineers are also working on a ratio with 90 percent nickel, 5 percent manganese 5 percent cobalt in order to reduce the amount of rare earth metals even further,” Daimler said, adding it was also working on solid state batteries, which don’t require any cobalt, for future products.

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