Connect with us

Global Affairs

Mexico’s Maya Train accused of jeopardizing vital cave systems: ‘They are endangering species’ | Society

The scientists raised the alarm more than a month ago: a change in the route of Mexico’s Tren Maya, or Maya Train, between Cancún and Tulum would threaten karstic ground full of caverns, cenotes and underground rivers, which account for the main reserve of fresh water in the region. Last week, logging in the jungle to clear a path for the train at Playa del Carmen, in Quintana Roo, has confirmed these fears. The work has uncovered the main entrance to the “Avispa Enfadada,” or Angry Wasp, a cave nearly two miles long (three kilometers) in which bats, toh birds and blind brotula fish live. The jaguar depends on caves like this one to drink water in the dry seasons, but the future of the natural phenomenon is now under threat: to support the weight of the train, supports would have to be built inside or they will have to be completely filled in. The authorities, for now, have not made their plans public.

“We have been saying this since the start to Fonatur, but they didn’t listen to us and these are the results,” complains biologist Roberto Rojo, from the civic association Círculo Espeleológico (Cavers Circle), referring to the authority in charge of the work.

For more than 20 years, Rojo has been exploring the complex underground world in this area of the peninsula in Yucatán, of which there is much left to discover. From the outside, you can see the enormous stalactites that hang from the roof of the cave, which are several meters across. Once inside, Rojo explains, the cavern is decorated with “beautiful formations” that have been created over a space of two million years, as the water dissolves the limestone rock of which they are made. Inside, as in so many other caves in the area, archeological vestiges have also been found.

The interior of the cave ‘Avispa enojada,’ in Quintana Roo, when it was discovered in 2016.
The interior of the cave ‘Avispa enojada,’ in Quintana Roo, when it was discovered in 2016.Peter Sprouse

During his morning press conference, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador stated that the work would not affect these cave systems. “The project includes building viaducts that will pass over the top, they will not be touched, the subterranean rivers and the cenotes will not be affected,” he said on Tuesday. The scientists and environmentalists who have organized a campaign against the train’s route through the jungle doubt that this will be possible. Around 500 meters from the Angry Wasp, also under the deforested zone to build the tracks, there is another enormous cave that’s 1.24 miles (two kilometers) long, known as “Alita.” On Wednesday afternoon, once the train workers had gone, speleologist Tanía Ramírez rappelled down the entrance to the cavern. “There were enormous chambers, and the most interesting thing was that on the way out we found a prehispanic stairway,” she explains.

“I feel very sad and powerless,” Ramírez complains. “These are places that we have been exploring for years, we know this jungle perfectly well and it’s so sad that they want to shut us up in this way, that they want to cover up the sun with a finger and that they insist that there are no caves there, that this is attack politics, when that’s really not the case.”

Given the rejection of experts, environmentalists and even celebrities, the new train route through the jungle, the so-called 4T, has mobilized defenders of the project, who have classified those who have raised their voices in protest as “pseudo-environmentalists.” On Thursday, the president made a video public in which inhabitants of the Jacinto Pat area, through which the train will pass, show their support for the project.

Aerial image of the entrance to the cave taken on March 28.
Aerial image of the entrance to the cave taken on March 28.GREENPEACE

“We noted that the agencies are doing the studies of the ground, flora and fauna, and there isn’t the ecocide that they say there is,” says Tony Kinil, an inhabitant of the area, in the video. The president of the local authority, Cresencio Noh, claims that the tracks will pass three kilometers “behind” the Dos Ojos cenote, in the jungle, “where, without a doubt, they will not affect us.”

Until now, Fonatur has not made public the official path of route 5 of the Maya Tren, but the deforestation work started at the end of February, shortly after they announced that the tracks would not run next to the road that connects Cancún and Tulum, as was initially planned. The opposition of the hotels, which had to cede part of the entrance to their luxury resorts, and the time it took to present the work – which included raising the tracks over the Playa del Carmen beach – worked against the original plan.

On February 6, shortly before the machines arrived at the beach, the industrial engineer Guillermo D. Christy and other members of the Cenotes Urbanos collective, discovered a pristine cave that had never been explored. They called it “Yorgana 3.” They took several weeks to map it out and record the different species that lived there, including Yucatecan frogs, blind brotula fish and coral shrimp. From the ground to the ceiling there were less than two meters. Now the entrance has been exposed, after workers cleared the jungle that covered it. “How is the cabling of a train going to pass through there?” they ask. “The ceiling won’t hold. They’ll have to fill it or blow it up. Either option is terrible, because they are endangering species that are at risk of extinction.”

Source link


Amidst the Technological Conflict with the US, China Intensifies Efforts in AI and Microchip Development

China is actively pursuing the development of artificial intelligence (AI) and semiconductors to secure its position in the global race for technological superiority, which has become a significant source of geopolitical tension with the United States.

Recognizing the critical importance of these two fields for China’s economic and military future, Beijing is intensifying its efforts to find domestic solutions. This comes at a time when the U.S. is aiming to restrict Chinese access to cutting-edge technology necessary for high-tech microchip production. Through substantial investments and President Xi Jinping’s call for “self-sufficiency” in science and technology, China’s strategy focuses on fostering a collaborative environment that accelerates development and narrows the gap between China and the West.

During a speech at the ZGC Forum, Mei Jianping of China’s Ministry of Science and Technology acknowledged the existing gap in various areas crucial to AI progress compared to developed countries. The technology fair, held in Beijing’s Zhongguancun district, a prominent tech hub, prominently features AI as one of its hot topics. Mei emphasized the need for an exchange of ideas and collective contributions to position China’s next generation of AI and its scientific and technological industry on par with the rest of the world.

The ZGC Forum encompasses various events related to sustainable development, financial technology, smart cities, identifying transformative young entrepreneurs, and the significance of innovation in state-run companies.

Dr. Yu Yue, from the Strategic Alliance for Technological Innovation in the Chinese Artificial Intelligence Industry, outlined China’s plan to boost technological growth through the establishment of a nationwide network of AI developers. The objective is to ensure high-quality development at every computing center and promote extensive collaboration, constructing a comprehensive network that facilitates the new model of AI technology development.

To inaugurate the ZGC Forum, President Xi sent a letter emphasizing the need for greater global collaboration without explicitly mentioning U.S. restrictions. Xi highlighted the importance of international cooperation, openness, and knowledge sharing to address common development challenges amid the ongoing scientific and technological revolution and industrial transformation.

Renowned figures such as Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates also participated in the forum, expressing their belief that China has the potential to contribute uniquely by sharing its technologies and experiences.

The forum takes place against the backdrop of strained U.S.-China relations due to repeated disputes over Taiwan and the U.S. shooting down an alleged Chinese spy balloon that violated American airspace without permission. However, recent weeks have shown some signs of thawing, as mentioned by U.S. President Joe Biden during the G7 summit in Hiroshima.

Another positive development occurred with a meeting between China’s commerce minister, Wang Wentao, and his U.S. counterpart, Gina Raimondo. Described as “candid” by the American government, the talks addressed the impacts each country’s actions have had on the microchip sector. Wang expressed concerns regarding the U.S.’s China policies related to the economy, trade, semiconductors, export control, and outbound investments review. Raimondo, in turn, voiced her concerns about China’s increasing restrictions on U.S. interests, such as the recent ban on the use of Micron’s semiconductors in critical infrastructure projects.

China’s actions can be partially seen as a response to Washington’s decision in October to limit exports of microchip-manufacturing technologies to China, aiming to prevent China from developing cutting-edge weapons. These microprocessors are essential for AI and the advancement of other state-of-the-art technologies like smart electric vehicles. Taiwan plays a significant role in this standoff as it produces 60% of global microchips and 90% of the most advanced variants. The country’s capability to produce three-nanometer chips surpasses China’s, making it a crucial factor in this landscape. In March, Xi directly accused the U.S. of leading a Western strategy of “containment, encirclement, and suppression” against China to hinder its development.

Despite the geopolitical tensions, the atmosphere at the ZGC Forum was marked by confidence in the future. Huo Jiaqi, a 23-year-old postgraduate student from the Beijing University of Posts and Telecommunications, expressed optimism, stating that China has overcome similar challenges in its history. The forum showcased a wide range of technological advancements, including smart humanoid robots, police robots, drones, and metaverse avatars parading on LED screens.

In summary, China is determined not to be left behind in the global race for technological superiority in AI and semiconductors. The country recognizes the significance of these fields for its economic and military progress. With substantial investments and a focus on fostering collaboration and development, China aims to bridge the gap with developed countries. The ZGC Forum serves as a platform for discussing and showcasing advancements in various technological areas. Despite the ongoing tensions with the U.S., there are indications of a potential thaw in relations, as recent meetings between Chinese and U.S. officials demonstrate. The forum reflects China’s commitment to achieving self-sufficiency and becoming a key player in the global technology landscape.

We Can’t Thank You Enough For Your Support!
  • Compiled by Team
  • For More Info. & News Submissions Contact Us:
  • For Anonymous News Submissions:

Continue Reading

Global Affairs

South African president appoints judge to oversee weapons-for-Russia inquiry | International

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa has appointed a judge to oversee an inquiry into allegations that the country supplied arms to Russia on a ship that docked secretly at a naval base in December.

The allegations were made this month by the United States’ ambassador to South Africa, who said he was sure that weapons and ammunition were loaded onto the Russian-flagged cargo ship Lady R when it docked at the Simon’s Town naval base near Cape Town late last year.

Ambassador Reuben Brigety indicated that the U.S. had intelligence to sustain the allegation and he said he would bet his life on the accuracy of his claim that weapons were loaded onto the ship.

The Lady R container-carrying ship is under U.S. sanctions for being tied to a company that has transported weapons to aid the Russian war effort in Ukraine.

South Africa has denied there was any government-sanctioned deal to provide weapons to Russia, although it hasn’t categorically ruled out that an unofficial transaction took place involving another entity.

Judge P.M.D. Mojapelo, a former Supreme Court of Appeal judge, was appointed chairman of a three-member panel to investigate the incident, Ramaphosa’s office said in a statement on Sunday. A lawyer and a former minister of justice were also appointed.

The panel has six weeks to complete its investigations and another two weeks from then to provide a report to Ramaphosa, the president’s office said.

“The panel has been tasked to establish persons who were aware of the cargo ship’s arrival, and, if any, the contents to be off-loaded or loaded, the departure and destination of the cargo,” Ramaphosa’s office said.

Ramaphosa ordered the inquiry because of the seriousness of the allegations and “the impact of this matter on South Africa’s international relations,” his office said.

South Africa could be in breach of international law and its own laws regarding weapons sales if it is found to have supplied arms to Moscow for the war in Ukraine.

The incident has strained relations between the U.S. and South Africa, which is Africa’s most developed economy and a key Western partner on the continent.

South African Defense Minister Thandi Modise has said the Lady R was visiting to deliver an ammunition shipment from Russia that was ordered by South Africa in 2018 but was delayed because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Modise has refused to release cargo documents related to the visit by the Lady R after requests by opposition parties, saying they are classified. She said she will release them to the inquiry, though.

Sign up for our weekly newsletter to get more English-language news coverage from EL PAÍS USA Edition

Source link

Continue Reading


Sweden to Implement Permanent Residency Tests Commencing in 2027

A recent study conducted by the Swedish National Agency for Education has revealed significant disparities in the quality of teaching among different providers of Swedish for Immigrants (SFI) courses. Out of the 30 providers investigated, only six were found to offer good quality teaching, while the remaining 24 exhibited various issues, with three of them displaying serious deficiencies.

The report examined both distance learning and on-site classes, highlighting a particular concern regarding the lack of opportunities for students in distance classes to practice speaking Swedish. Helén Ängmo, the director-general of the agency, emphasized that insufficient opportunities for students to speak Swedish raise barriers for their integration into society and the labor market. Participation in dialogue, whether with healthcare providers, government agencies, or educational institutions, is crucial, and it is troubling to observe persistent quality issues in SFI, especially in relation to distance classes and their level of individual adaptation.

Although online classes offer greater flexibility for teachers to tailor course materials to students’ abilities, they generally provide fewer opportunities for varied interaction, as students are often required to work independently at home with limited chances for practicing spoken and written skills with their peers.

Another prevalent issue identified was the lack of opportunities for students to practice Swedish in everyday situations. Many students expressed their desire to learn conversational skills for interacting with people and engaging with government agencies and authorities.

Some students even reported being unable to communicate with supermarket staff despite having studied SFI for a considerable period of time. Others mentioned having learned how to communicate with staff at their children’s schools or preschools from their own children, as these topics were neglected in their SFI studies.

Furthermore, students with a higher proficiency in Swedish often faced a lack of challenge in class, and their influence on teaching methods was limited. However, providers that more frequently tailored classes to students’ interests, experiences, and goals were more successful in incorporating examples from their daily lives.

For instance, healthcare workers were given the opportunity to practice language used in the healthcare sector, while others received assistance in language skills necessary for picking up their children from school or completing various forms.

Teachers’ expectations and the support they received played a significant role in determining the quality of teaching. In classes where teachers felt there was insufficient assistance from school leadership, limited collaboration with their peers, or inadequate time for teacher-student contact in online courses, the quality of teaching tended to be poorer.

To address these issues, the agency emphasized the need for better support for teachers in developing and adapting their teaching methods to suit individual students. Only 55% of SFI teachers in the 2022/23 academic year possessed the necessary qualifications to teach SFI at the adult level, a figure deemed insufficient by the agency.

While acknowledging the potential benefits of online classes, the agency emphasized the importance of their further development to ensure that students in such programs have an equal opportunity to develop their Swedish communication skills compared to students attending in-person classes.

Online classes provide flexibility for individuals to combine their studies with work or parental responsibilities, but equal access to language development should be ensured.

The agency underscored the significance of SFI for Sweden as a country, emphasizing its role in providing individuals who do not have Swedish as their native language with the opportunity to learn Swedish and effectively communicate in everyday life, the community, the workplace, and further studies. Municipal-run Swedish for Immigrants classes for adults were highlighted as playing a vital role in this regard.

Continue Reading


Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Join our mailing list to receive the latest news and updates 
directly on your inbox.

You have Successfully Subscribed!