NBA’s Silver backs Kanter’s decision to skip London trip
By ZAC BOYER
Friday, January 18
LONDON (AP) — NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said Thursday that the safety and security of players will always be paramount for the league after New York Knicks center Enes Kanter did not travel to London for his team’s game against the Washington Wizards.
Kanter said he feared he could be attacked or killed over his opposition to Turkey President Recep Tayyip Erdogan if he were to travel to London. Istanbul-based newspaper Daily Sabah reported that an arrest warrant was issued for Kanter by Turkish prosecutors on Wednesday.
Silver said NBA officials never suggested that Kanter skip the game but understand why he chose not to travel.
“There are significant issues that he is dealing with, and I recognize that for the NBA, by virtue of the fact that we’re a global business, we have to pay a lot of attention to those issues as well,” Silver said. “I will say there’s nothing more important to me, as the commissioner of the league, the safety and security of our players, and so we take very seriously the threats that he has received, (even if) it’s just people on social media.
“Again, I support Enes, a player in this league, and I support the platform that our players have to speak out on issues that are important to them.”
The Daily Sabah reported that Turkish prosecutors are seeking an Interpol “red notice,” which is an international request for arrest and extradition, for Kanter, who was accused of membership in a terror organization. He was said to have provided financial support to exiled Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, who has been blamed by the Turkish government as being responsible for a failed coup in Turkey in 2016.
The Associated Press has been unable to independently verify those reports.
Kanter said Wednesday on Twitter that the Turkish government could not present “any single piece of evidence of my wrongdoing” and that he doesn’t “even have a parking ticket in the U.S.”
Kanter, who has frequently criticized Erdogan, has had his Turkish passport revoked. He noted in an op-ed he wrote for The Washington Post earlier this week that he does not yet have U.S. citizenship or a U.S. passport — either of which would offer him greater legal protection.
He learned of the cancellation of his Turkish passport on May 20, 2017, when he was detained in Bucharest, Romania, upon returning from a trip to Indonesia to run a basketball camp for his charitable foundation. He was later granted safe passage to London before returning to the United States.
Turkey has insisted on numerous occasions that its detention of academics and activists for allegedly supporting anti-government protests, which have intensified following the failed coup, are an important part of its fight against extremist groups.
“Erdogan is doing whatever he can, such as using institutions like the Interpol to execute his brutal international policy of persecution against his critics, including abductions and kidnappings of innocent Turkish people living abroad,” Celine Assaf Boustani, an international lawyer at the Human Rights Foundation, told The Associated Press. “Interpol should reject Turkey’s request to issue a red notice arrest warrant for Kanter and uphold its constitution, which strictly forbids Interpol to undertake any politically motivated intervention or activity.”
Kanter, who had played in every Knicks game this season until missing the last two with an illness, is averaging 14.4 points and a team-high 11 rebounds.
Several of his teammates were reluctant to address the situation when asked before the Knicks’ practice on Wednesday, though forward Kevin Knox called it “unfortunate.”
“Obviously, we miss him, but that’s a decision that we respect and understand and we’ll be happy to see him when we get back,” coach David Fizdale said.
Meanwhile, Silver, speaking ahead of the ninth regular-season game in London, said the NBA is considering moving the game to Paris next year.
“I’m told I’m not allowed to break news today, but yes, it is possible,” Silver said, smiling. “Paris has traditionally been a very important market for the NBA … and we’re looking forward to coming back to Paris.”
More AP NBA: https://apnews.com/NBA and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports
Second US-North Korea summit the focus of talks
By MATTHEW LEE and DEB RIECHMANN
Friday, January 18
WASHINGTON (AP) — High-level talks aimed at finalizing a second summit between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un are planned for this week in Washington, U.S. officials said.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is expected to meet former North Korean spy chief Kim Yong Chol at a Washington hotel on Friday. The meeting will likely be followed by a Kim visit to the White House, where he could meet with Trump, according to two officials, who were not authorized to discuss the matter publicly and spoke Thursday on condition of anonymity.
Neither the U.S. nor North Korea has announced any meetings, although Kim Yong Chol arrived earlier Thursday in Beijing, where he was booked on a flight to the U.S., South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency reported. A motorcade that included the North Korean ambassador’s car and a Chinese car with a sign reading “state guest” could be seen departing from a VIP area at the airport.
Trump has spoken several times of having a second summit with Kim early this year and has exchanged multiple letters with the North Korean despite little tangible progress on a vague denuclearization agreement reached at their first meeting in Singapore last June. Since then, several private analysts have published reports detailing continuing North Korean development of nuclear and missile technology.
At a conference of U.S. diplomats at the State Department on Wednesday, Vice President Mike Pence acknowledged the lack of progress. He called the Trump-Kim dialogue “promising” but stressed that “we still await concrete steps by North Korea to dismantle the nuclear weapons that threaten our people and our allies in the region.”
A planned meeting between Pompeo and Kim Yong Chol in New York last November was called off abruptly. U.S. officials said at the time that North Korea had canceled the session.
A White House official, while not confirming plans for Friday’s meeting, said “a lot of positive things” are happening related to North Korea’s denuclearization. The official said Trump and Kim Jong Un had established a “good relationship” and that U.S.-North Korea conversations were continuing.
The official, who also spoke on condition of anonymity, said the two sides were “working to make progress” on the denuclearization goal and that Trump “looks forward to meeting Chairman Kim again at their second summit at a place and time yet to be determined.”
The talks had stalled over North Korea’s refusal to provide a detailed accounting of its nuclear and missile facilities that would be used by inspectors to verify any deal to dismantle them. The North has been demanding that the U.S. lift harsh sanctions and provide it with security guarantees before it takes any steps beyond its initial suspension of nuclear and missile tests.
Kim Jong Un expressed frustration in an annual New Year’s address over the lack of progress in negotiations. But on a visit to Beijing last week, he said North Korea would pursue a second summit “to achieve results that will be welcomed by the international community,” according to China’s official Xinhua News Agency.
AP Interview: Europol ties together tennis match-fixer rings
By JOHN LEICESTER
AP Sports Writer
Thursday, January 17
PARIS (AP) — European police agency Europol says it has identified links between match-fixing gambling syndicates being unraveled in Spain and Belgium that are thought to have paid off dozens of players and corrupted lower-level tennis tournaments on a massive scale.
Pedro Felicio, who heads Europol’s Economic and Property Crime unit, told The Associated Press in a phone interview that there are “strong indications” the fixers were also involved in volleyball, beach volleyball, and basketball.
European police investigators are still trying to determine the extent to which gangs broken up in June and October in Spain and in June in Belgium may have worked together.
However, Felicio said cross-checks of suspects’ names, their contacts, company details, places and people they frequented and phone records pointed to ties.
He said: “We see these links. They exist.”
Belgian investigators traveled to France this week for the police questioning of four low-ranked French tennis players suspected of having been paid to fix matches by Grigor Sargsyan, a 28-year-old Armenian alleged to have run the Belgium-based match-fixing operation. He is being held in a Belgian jail. Investigators say crooked players knew him as “Maestro.”
The four French players — Jules Okala, 21; Mick Lescure, 25; Yannick Thivant, 31; and Jerome Inzerillo, 28 — were released from police custody on Wednesday evening. None operated in the highest spheres of tennis. The career-best singles ranking of any of them was 354, reached by Inzerillo in 2012.
The rings dismantled in Spain also involved Armenians. The group broken up in June, with 129 arrests in Spain and France , had “close contact with many tennis, beach volleyball, basketball, and ice hockey players,” and bribed about 20 players to fix match outcomes that the group then bet on, Europol said at the time.
The second Armenian cell taken down in Spain in October also bribed tennis players to guarantee predetermined results and used the identities of thousands of citizens to place international bets on the matches. Police said 28 professional players, including one who participated in last year’s U.S. Open, were linked to the ring.
The Belgium ring appears, for the moment, to have been even more extensive, believed to have paid at least 115 low-ranked players in more than half a dozen countries to fix games, sets and matches in exchange for payments of 500 to 3,000 euros ($570 to $3,400). Investigators have questioned players in Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, Slovakia, and Bulgaria and are looking to question others, including both players and managers, in the United States, Chile and Egypt.
Felicio told the AP that European police are working to piece together the extent and strength of links between the various rings.
“These are kinds of loose networks,” he said. “They have contacts between each other because they need the contacts that both of them have, sometimes to do money laundering, to do transportation of whatever, to contact someone that they wish to know to corrupt. So what we see is that the connections exist. But what is the structure? Is there a ring leader and then everybody falls in line and has specific positions? Or are these loose networks?”
“This is what still needs to be seen,” he added. The investigations are “still very far from the end.”
One possible indication of connections between the rings is they used “very similar” methods to place bets on matches they fixed, Felicio said. These included the use of so-called “mules,” people paid either to place bets for fixers or who allowed their identity and bank details to be used so bets could be placed in their names.
“It’s just about having access to a large number of small soldiers,” Felicio said. “You can use their identity and then perform bets in their name so that this is never traced back to the organization.”
More AP Tennis: https://www.apnews.com/apf-Tennis and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports
Coffee: 60% of wild species are at risk of extinction due to climate change
January 17, 2019
Author: Adam Moolna, Teaching Fellow in Environment and Sustainability, Keele University
Disclosure statement: Adam Moolna does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.
Partners: Keele University provides funding as a member of The Conversation UK.
Is your morning coffee an espresso or a skinny latte? Is it from a darkly roasted French or Italian blend? If it’s a high quality brew, it’s almost certainly made with beans from the Arabica species (Coffea arabica), which is known for its finer flavours. Examples would be Javan coffees, Ethiopian sidamo, and the expensive Jamaican blue mountain.
If you’ve stirred together an instant blend, it’s probably from a different species, Robusta (Coffea canephora), known for its harsher taste. But there are more than 100 species of coffee in the wild. All produce similar beans that you could make a recognisable coffee drink from.
Robusta is sometimes openly mixed with Arabica in commercial products – and is often secretly used to adulterate “100% Arabica” products, too. A third species, Coffea liberica, native to west and central Africa, is widely grown for local use in tropical countries, but is not globally traded because of its more bitter taste.
A fourth species Coffea eugenoides was bred with Robusta in ancient times to give rise to Arabica, a crossbreed. Another 38 closely related species can cross-fertilise commercial coffees through pollen transfer.
There are a further 82 species which are more distantly related to the commercial breeds, but scientists could interbreed them with commercial coffees in a lab. All these coffee relatives can help enhance the genetic diversity of commercial coffee species, making them more adaptable to changes in their environment.
Dark days ahead for coffee
Climate change is threatening global coffee yields as changing temperatures and rainfall patterns affect plant growth. The changing climate may also be leaving plants more vulnerable to disease.
All major commercial coffee growing countries have been badly affected by the fungal disease “coffee leaf rust”, which spread across Africa and into Asia during the early 20th century, then to South America, becoming entrenched globally by the turn of the millennium.
The Central American coffee rust outbreak that began in the 2011-2012 harvest season affected 70% of farms in the region, resulting in over 1.7 million lost jobs and US $3.2 billion in damage and lost income.
Robusta varieties used for the instant blends have been key to developing resistance to coffee leaf rust in Arabica varieties through cross breeding. As climate change and disease risks escalate, wild coffee species offer a crucial resource for maintaining the world’s coffee supply. Arabica has tightly limited geographic ranges in which it grows well and Robusta, while resistant to leaf rust, is vulnerable to other diseases.
A recent study led by the UK’s Kew Royal Botanic Gardens set the value of this variety in context: over 60% of coffee species are threatened with extinction.
The authors explained that wild relatives of coffee are already used as local substitutes for globally traded commercial crops. They offer different climatic tolerance ranges and disease resistance traits that can help ensure global coffee production continues to meet demand.
But coffee species are particularly vulnerable to extinction because they occur in a small numbers of small geographic ranges – such as pockets of wild Arabica populations between certain altitude ranges in the Ethiopian highlands.
Wild coffee species – and wild varieties of the commercial species – are almost all in decline due to competition for land use and overharvesting of the coffee plant for timber or firewood. A number of wild coffee relatives haven’t been spotted for many decades and may be extinct.
One species, the cafe marron, from the remote island of Rodrigues in the Indian Ocean, was known from only one sighting in 1877. A century later, a schoolboy drew an “unusual” tree while exploring and showed it to a teacher. They recognised it as a surviving cafe marron. The sole surviving specimen of that wild coffee has inspired wider forest conservation on Rodrigues. It is also being cultured in lab collections at Kew.
Sadly, there may be less hope for other species. Coffee seeds don’t store well, unlike wild relatives of other crops such as wheat or maize. So we can’t rely on storage in seed banks to conserve coffee diversity and resilience. Freezing plant matter in labs or growing samples in test tubes might be an alternative, but not one that has been explored beyond existing commercial strains.
Preserving different coffee varieties in botanic gardens isn’t really viable for protecting genetic diversity either. Coffee species readily fertilise each other, “contaminating” the resource you’re trying to conserve.
While some experts suggest we preserve coffee diversity in collections, the Kew Gardens study argues that the sustainability of coffee depends on conservation of these species where they grow, in protected areas and working with communities throughout their native distribution in Africa and Asia.
Conserving genetic diversity should be included in existing approaches for sustainable coffee production, such as Fair Trade and Rainforest Alliance certifications. Ensuring the continuity of the coffee trade means protecting the ecosystems coffee comes from and the livelihoods of people across the bean to coffee cup economy.
We can also expect new flavours and even coffees with naturally low or zero caffeine content. Naturally caffeine-free Indian Ocean island cafe marron anyone?
From the Editors of E – The Environmental Magazine
Dear EarthTalk: After reading an EarthTalk piece on climate divestment, I’m looking to switch my checking and savings accounts to an environmentally friendly bank. Any ideas? – Bill Kim, Troy, NY
Few of us think about how our banking affects the environment but, in reality, putting your money with a green-minded financial institution may be one of the best things you can do to help conserve land, protect air and water, save endangered wildlife and mitigate climate change. Banks (owned by shareholders) and credit unions (owned by the customers) lend and invest some of the deposited funds they are holding, which is how they’re able to pay interest back to you. A bank or credit union that limits its investments to sustainability-oriented companies and institutions is well on its way to being considered green.
“Money is power—it allows people and businesses to meet their needs and act on their beliefs,” says Laurie Fielder of the Vermont State Employees Credit Union (VSECU), a leading “green” credit union in Vermont. “Your credit union or bank has a lot of power in determining who has access to money, which means they determine which ideas and businesses are empowered.” She adds that individuals investing in energy savings at home, or businesses committed to sustainable operations, are ideal loan candidates for VSECU, given its underlying commitment to ethical practices that benefit the community.
New York-based Amalgamated Bank started in 1923 to open up quality and affordable banking services to the masses, and has been serving working people and their families ever since. In the modern era, Amalgamated considers environmental sustainability a key component of its overall investment criteria, refusing “to invest our own dollars in funds that harm people or the planet.” Amalgamated offers a full suite of banking and investment services to individuals, businesses, non-profits and institutions.
Likewise, Minnesota-based Sunrise Banks offers a full suite of personal and commercial banking services and invests customer deposits in sustainable and community development projects that return high yields financially and environmentally. Another great place to bank if you care about the planet is California-based Beneficial State Bank, which distributes its profits to local community and sustainable development projects. Aspiration, an online-only bank that stays green not just by foregoing brick-and-mortar branch locations but also by investing only in businesses and institutions that have sworn off fossil fuels, is yet another green choice. Still other responsible options include: City First Bank of DC, First Green Bank, the Missoula Federal Credit Union, New Resource Bank, Southern Bancorp and Verity Credit Union. U.S. citizens can open online accounts with any of these banks.
To find more banks and credit unions that worry about achieving a so-called “triple bottom line” (financial, social and environmental gains), check out the website of the Global Alliance for Banking on Values, an independent network of banks using finance to deliver sustainable economic, social and environmental development. Only 11 of the 48 banks around the world that qualify as members of this Netherlands-based non-profit are U.S.-based, but industry analysts expect many more American banks will start to go green given increasing public demand for putting our money where our mouths are.
CONTACTS: “How are activists using divestment to fight climate change?” emagazine.com/divesting-fossil-fuels/; VSECU, www.vsecu.com; Amalgamated Bank, www.amalgamatedbank.com; Sunrise Banks, www.sunrisebanks.com; Beneficial State Bank, www.beneficialstatebank.com; Aspiration, www.aspiration.com; Global Alliance for Banking on Values, www.gabv.org.
EarthTalk® is produced by Roddy Scheer & Doug Moss for the 501(c)3 nonprofit EarthTalk. To donate, visit www.earthtalk.org. Send questions to: firstname.lastname@example.org.