Zimbabwe’s ‘Crocodile’ Emmerson Mnangagwa sworn in as leader

Newly inaugurated leader Emmerson Mnangagwa laid out his vision for Zimbabwe on Friday, paying tribute to Robert Mugabe as a “mentor” but vowing to eschew the former president’s policies. Mnangagwa was sworn in Friday as interim president, following Mu…

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Loss of the night: Global light pollution rising rapidly

Artificial lighting at night is contributing to an alarming increase in light pollution, both in amount and in brightness, affecting places all over the world, a new study has found.

Some regions have showed a steady increase in light pollution aligned with economic development, but more developed nations that were thought to be “going dark” by switching to energy-saving LEDs showed no apparent decline in their rates of light pollution.

Globally, there has been a push toward more energy- and cost-efficient light sources, such as LEDs, but this has directly contributed to an alarming increase in light pollution, the researchers believe.

Using the first calibrated satellite radiometer for night lights, which can detect radiance, a team of scientists found a 2.2% increase in the Earth’s outdoor artificial lighting each year between 2012 and 2016.

“I was very surprised by the result of the study, particularly in wealthy well-lit countries like the US,” said Christopher Kyba of the GFZ German Research Centre for Geosciences, lead author of the study.

“When we switch from a sodium lamp to a white LED, what we observe is a decrease in the total amount of light that the satellite can see. But what we saw instead for the US was basically a constant amount of light; new lights were added in other places,” he said.

In many other developed countries that are already very bright, the team saw an increase in the total amount of light, despite the fact that many cities appear to be “going dark” by switching to LEDs, Kyba added.

As with the US, some of the world’s brightest countries like Spain, Italy and the Netherlands showed stability in levels of outdoor light over this time frame.

The study also noted a consistent growth in lighting in South America, Africa and Asia, with a few exceptions in regions like Yemen and Syria, which showed a decrease due to escalating conflict and warfare.

The risks from light pollution

The study concluded that a steady increase in the use of energy-efficient lights that are cheap and readily available will result in even more light pollution and a reduction of natural day-night light cycles in areas that still experience them.

Light pollution poses a threat to 30% of vertebrates and more than 60% of invertebrates that are nocturnal, including plants, microorganisms and, most alarmingly, human health, the researchers add.

White LED light has been linked to disruptions in sleep patterns, and the glare is found to affect eyesight.

Last year, the American Medical Association issued an official policy statement about LED street lighting, recommending a radiance and color temperature level less harmful to health.

In August, a Harvard study found an increased risk of breast cancer in women living in neighborhoods with higher outdoor lighting. This was linked to increased brightness at nighttime, as the body expects light during daytime and darkness at night.

The health of birds is also at risk. A study published last month found that high-intensity light in urban areas can alter their behavior in terms of migration, foraging and vocal communication. The impact was especially adverse in nocturnal migrating birds that were used to orienting in darkness and were failing to do so due to light pollution.

Another landmark study published last year found that 83% of the world’s population and more than 99% of the US and European populations were affected by light pollution and could not see the stars at night.

Gareth Jones, professor of biological sciences at the University of Bristol, who was not part of the new study, said it is “an important paper because it uses new and carefully calibrated methods for quantifying light pollution over a wide range of wavelengths at high spatial resolution. The study confirms that light pollution continues to increase and is of global relevance.”

“Although there are benefits in terms of greater energy efficiency associated with changes to new lighting technologies such as LEDs, nevertheless light pollution and its associated risks to human health and biodiversity continue to increase,” Jones added.

The Rebound Effect: How much is too much light?

The arguments for the transition to LEDs include cost-saving and reductions in energy consumption, but this has led to increased demand and greater use of outdoor lighting.

Large cities like Milan appeared to have a decrease in radiance around the city center but an increase in rural areas, which the scientists attributed to the replacement of older lamps with LEDs.

“From energy economics, there’s a phenomenon called The Rebound Effect,” Kyba said: If we have an energy-efficient car, for example, we allow ourselves to live farther from work and thus end up driving more. Though there’s a limit to the amount of time one spends driving, with LED lights, there seems to be no saturation point.

The improved energy efficiency has therefore led to more LED lighting being installed in households and outdoors, Kyba said.

He also highlighted an issue with the way people are using LEDs, which offer features like dimmers that are going unused.

“What is currently happening is that we take take the old lamps out, keep the masts standing and get the new lamp on,” he said. “So we’re not using these amazing ways of using LEDs.”

He also offered a practical solution to reduce the light being emitted in cities.

“In city centers, we need to completely rethink the way we light by putting people at the center and not cars, which have their own lights,” Kyba said. “We shouldn’t have streetlights anymore. We should have lighting for pedestrians and for the people riding bikes.”

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‘Bloody’ video game will get socialist makeover for China

One of the world’s hottest video games will get a socialist makeover before going on sale in China.

Chinese tech giant Tencent has announced plans to distribute PlayerUnknown’s “Battlegrounds” in its home market after modifying the violent game to comply with “socialist core values.”

The game, which was developed by South Korea’s Bluehole Studio, has attracted 20 million global players since its debut in March. But its chance of approval in China took a hit in October when state censors described it as “too bloody and violent” and contrary to “traditional Chinese culture.”

In the game, players deploy a variety of weapons in fight-to-the-death scenarios reminiscent of Hollywood movie series “The Hunger Games.”

But the version that goes on sale in China could be toned down significantly. Tencent pledged in its statement to bring the game’s content “in line with the socialist core values and … the traditional cultural norms and ethics of the Chinese nation.”

Tencent and Bluehole didn’t respond when asked exactly how the game would be changed, or when it would officially debut in China on PC.

Chenyu Cui, an analyst at IHS Markit, said Tencent may seek to appease censors by offering to tone down the game’s violence or introducing a “patriotic or military concept.”

Battlegrounds is likely to benefit from advertising on Tencent’s WeChat social network, which boasts almost 1 billion users. Tencent, which is valued at more than $500 billion, offers some of China’s most popular gaming titles through its network.

Cui said that Tencent could boost revenue from “Battlegrounds” by adding new in-game spending on rare items and power-ups.

“Battlegrounds” is currently distributed to home computers via an online platform called Steam. Over 40% of players are in China, who can circumvent censors by downloading the title via Steam’s Hong Kong store.

China is a huge opportunity for makers of video games. The market is expected to be worth almost $30 billion at the end of 2017, according to IHS Markit.

That hasn’t gone unnoticed by Chinese authorities.

A closely watched Communist Party newspaper publicly chastised Tencent earlier this year over its hugely popular “Honor of Kings” series.

The People’s Daily claimed that the game caused addiction in young people.

— Serenitie Wang contributed to this report.

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France calls for UN Security Council meeting on Libya slave auctions

French President Emmanuel Macron called the sale of migrants at slave auctions in Libya “a crime against humanity” and vowed to press for sanctions.

France has requested an “urgent” meeting of the UN Security Council to discuss this treatment of migrants in Libya, Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said. France will advocate for international sanctions against Libya if its justice system fails to act, he said.

Libyan authorities launched a formal investigation into the human slave auctions, which CNN revealed this month in exclusive reporting.

After obtaining footage of a human auction in Libya, a CNN team went to the country in October to investigate. It saw a dozen men sold at an auction outside of the capital, Tripoli — some for as little as $400. The crew was told of auctions taking place at nine locations in the country.

Auctions report sparks Paris protest

News of the auctions sparked protests outside of the Libyan Embassy in Paris. French soccer star Paul Pogba raised the issue after scoring a goal for his club, Manchester United, putting his wrists together as if they were handcuffed.

The UN secretary-general said Monday that the reports from Libya demonstrate some of “the most egregious abuses of human rights” and may amount to crimes against humanity,

Secretary-General António Guterres urged the international community to unite on the issue and called on all countries to adopt the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and its protocol on human trafficking.

“I abhor these appalling acts and call upon all competent authorities to investigate these activities without delay and to bring the perpetrators to justice,” Guterres said. “I have asked the relevant United Nations actors to actively pursue this matter.”

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France calls for UN Security Council meeting on Libya slave auctions

French President Emmanuel Macron called the sale of migrants at slave auctions in Libya “a crime against humanity” and vowed to press for sanctions.

France has requested an “urgent” meeting of the UN Security Council to discuss this treatment of migrants in Libya, Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said. France will advocate for international sanctions against Libya if its justice system fails to act, he said.

Libyan authorities launched a formal investigation into the human slave auctions, which CNN revealed this month in exclusive reporting.

After obtaining footage of a human auction in Libya, a CNN team went to the country in October to investigate. It saw a dozen men sold at an auction outside of the capital, Tripoli — some for as little as $400. The crew was told of auctions taking place at nine locations in the country.

If confirmed, the new footage “compounds the already unimaginable and inhumane horrors endured by migrants in Libya,” the United Nations in Libya said Wednesday. Recently, the UN’s International Organization for Migration has alerted the international community to cases where migrants were being sold between human trafficking gangs, the agency said in a statement.

The UN in Libya is “dismayed and sickened by the recent video” and is actively pursuing the matter with the Libyan authorities to set up transparent monitoring mechanisms that safeguard migrants against horrific human rights abuses, said Ghassan Salame, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Support Mission in Libya.

“The Libyan Government must address comprehensively this outrage to the conscience of humanity. The international community cannot continue to turn a blind eye (to) this already dire situation,” Salame added.

News of the auctions sparked protests outside of the Libyan Embassy in Paris. French soccer star Paul Pogba raised the issue after scoring a goal for his club, Manchester United, putting his wrists together as if they were handcuffed.

The UN secretary-general said Monday that the reports from Libya demonstrate some of “the most egregious abuses of human rights” and may amount to crimes against humanity,

Secretary-General António Guterres urged the international community to unite on the issue and called on all countries to adopt the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and its protocol on human trafficking.

“I abhor these appalling acts and call upon all competent authorities to investigate these activities without delay and to bring the perpetrators to justice,” Guterres said. “I have asked the relevant United Nations actors to actively pursue this matter.”

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