The Daily Visionary: Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Photo Credit: Sky News

Photo Credit: Sky News

UK's Jo Johnson resigns over Theresa May's Brexit deal


Jo Johnson, former Transport Minister, Leave supporter, and brother of Boris Johnson, resigned from Prime Minister Theresa May’s Cabinet Friday night and hinted more senior Conservatives and high-profile Ministers may follow.


Mr. Johnson said being left with the choice between Prime Minister May's Brexit deal plans or a no-deal scenario was a "failure of British statecraft on a scale unseen since the Suez crisis", describing the situation as "chaos" and criticizing Prime Minister May's deal, stating: "We were promised a Brexit that would enable us to strike trade deals around the world - we are far from that. We were promised a Brexit that was going to unleash our economy as sort of a low tax Synaporian tiger on the edge of Europe, on the contrary we are signing up to all the rules and regulations that bind the rest of the EU and we're going to end up without taking back control."


Prime Minister May now faces a knife-edge Commons vote on the Brexit deal with the loss of both Johnson brothers, and both Leave and Remain supporters turning against her. A defeat in the vote next month increases the likelihood of a no-deal Brexit or potentially a general election.


Brexit polls showed concern regarding national self-determination, not immigration, as the single most important consideration that encouraged people to vote Leave. Brexiteers are deeply anxious that the UK will get trapped in a customs union, unable to set its own tariff rates and strike trade deals around the world as an independent country. They argue that no serious country would give up the right to determine its own trade policy, handing the keys to its own future to a foreign trading power, the European Union.


100 Year Anniversary of the War to End All Wars


November 11, 2018 marks one hundred years since the end of the First World War and commemorates the signing of the armistice between the Allies and Germany at 11:00 am on November 11, 1918, the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. 16 million people died and 21 million wounded between the terrible stalemate war years of 1914 to 1918. It was the first war in Europe, the precursor being the American Civil War, with new military technologies and trench warfare that left unprecedented carnage and destruction across the continent.


The Great War was so brutal, it was afterward called, in vain hope, the war to end all wars. The unnecessary and pointless war was triggered by the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife in Sarajevo, setting off a rapidly escalating chain of events and enfolding one European nation after another into the war. A number of alliances among the European powers had existed for years but political instability in the Balkans, particularly Bosnia, Serbia and Herzegovina, was threatening these. Germany, Austria-Hungary, Bulgaria and the Ottoman Empire were allies (the Central Powers) who fought against allies Great Britain, France, Russia, Italy, Romania, Japan and the United States (the Allied Powers).


Austria-Hungary blamed the Serbian government for the attack and intended to use the incident as justification to finally settle the question of Serbian nationalism. On July 28, Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia and within a week, Russia, Belgium, France, Great Britain and Serbia had lined up against Austria-Hungary and Germany, and World War I had begun.


In the spring of 1915, shortly after losing a friend in Ypres, Canadian doctor Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae was inspired by the sight of poppies growing in battle-scarred fields and wrote the now famous poem In Flanders Fields. The poem moved American teacher Moina Michael, who began making and selling silk poppies to friends to raise money for the ex-service community. The bright red poppy is regarded as a resilient flower which managed to flourish despite fields being destroyed by war and is worn every year leading up to November 11th in commemoration of those who served and lost their lives.


California Wildfires Out of Control


The California wildfires are now the deadliest in the state’s history having taken the lives of at least 31 by Sunday, and more than two hundred people unaccounted for. Along with the human toll, other damages are reportedly expected to cost the state, insurers, and homeowners upwards of $19 USD billion, according to Bloomberg.


Roughly 150,000 California residents remained displaced as of Monday morning, as fire crews continue to arrive from other states to assist. More than 8,000 crews are already battling the flames. The Camp Fire in Northern California has killed 23 people and burned 108,000 acres. The Woolsey Fire near Los Angeles has killed at least two and has scorched 83,275 acres. The Hill fire in Ventura County has ravaged 4,531 acres.


Videographer Jeff Frost documents the California 2016 wildfire season in his documentary Fire Chasers, which premiered on Netflix earlier this year. Frost has been shooting video of fires for over five years and attended fire academy to better understand the fires and actions of firefighters on site. His goal is to provide insight on how the combination of climate change and poor forest management is creating a monumental problem for California residents. The release date of the second season of Fire Chasers has not yet been announced.


In a series of tweets Saturday, Trump said the state’s deadly wildfires are a result of poor forest management and threatened to cut federal aid. “There is no reason for these massive, deadly and costly forest fires in California except that forest management is so poor,” Trump tweeted. “Billions of dollars are given each year, with so many lives lost, all because of gross mismanagement of the forests. Remedy now, or no more Fed payments!” and “With proper Forest Management, we can stop the devastation constantly going on in California. Get smart!


China ramps up buying of Canadian crude


Chinese refiners have been buying a lot of Canadian crude oil in the last couple of months, taking advantage of the massive discount of Western Canadian Select to West Texas Intermediate. China purchased 1.58 million barrels of heavy Canadian crude oil for loading in September, up by nearly 50 percent compared to the 1.05 million barrels it imported from Canada in April. Last month, Chinese refiners continued buying Canadian crude, with tanker loadings bound for China reaching 3.76 million barrels since the start of September.


The past two months were refinery maintenance season in the United States, and a lot of refineries have yet to ramp up to full production, meaning they have yet to ramp up their purchases of heavy Canadian crude that they need to make fuels, which means Chinese buyers have yet to face the competition of the U.S. refiners. China’s two other main sources of heavy crude, Australia and Venezuela, are both going through a production decline, reducing Chinese refiners’ choice in sourcing heavy crude. An additional reason for the surge in Chinese buying of Canadian crude this fall was the peak of construction season, hence an increased asphalt demand, hence greater heavy crude demand. As construction season reaches its end, this particular demand will decline with it.


The purchases have given troubled Canadian drillers hope for the future that even without the Trans Mountain expansion their crude could expand on Asian markets. This potentially huge market is what motivated the expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline between neighboring provinces British Columbia and Alberta. However, there is little chance expansion will begin anytime soon, what with all the opposition and legal challenges from environmentalists and First Nations allies. A provincial election in the spring for Alberta and a federal election in the fall may significantly change the current balance of political power. If Chinese refiners continue to buy Canadian crude even without the cheaper pipeline channel, it would significantly brighten the prospects of Canada’s oil industry.


The Five-Second-Rule Debunked


Human beings have and contain approximately 37 trillion bacteria cells, more than our 30 trillion human cells, and large number of these are beneficial bacteria that create important micro-biomes in our bodies.


However, the assumption that when we drop food on the floor and it's still "clean" for a few second, is wrong. The laboratory at Clemson University, South Carolina, USA tested the five-second-rule by dropping bologna and bread on surfaces contaminated with Salmonella. They decided to conduct the study both out of curiosity and as a research-learning exercise in an undergraduate research program called “Creative Inquiry.”


To test the 5-second rule, they studied two factors: the duration of food contact with the contaminated surface, and the length of time that the surface had been contaminated with bacteria. They inoculated ceramic tile, laminated wood, and carpet with Salmonella Typhimurium.  The Salmonellae were allowed to remain on the surface for 15 seconds and 2, 4, 8, and 24 hours. They then placed bologna or bread on those surfaces for 5, 30, or 60 seconds. Bacteria can survive and cross-contaminate other foods even after long periods of time on dry surfaces. While the contact time had a statistically significant effect on bacterial transfer, there was, from a practical standpoint, a substantial amount of bacteria transferred to the food within 5 seconds, thus debunking the 5-Second Rule.