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A strongly-worded position paper published by the Low Impact Fishers of Europe (LIFE) Platform has come out firmly against Individual Transferable Quotas (ITQs) as an integral component of EU fisheries policies and management, which LIFE says have a disproportionately negative impact on small scale coastal fishing communities.

Branding ITQs as a bad idea for coastal fishing, LIFE’s position paper, entitled Rights Based Management and Small Scale Fisheries in the EU: Human Rights Versus Property Rights, analyses Rights Based Management (RBM) from a small scale coastal fishing communities (SSCF) perspective, and concludes that, under ITQs regimes, SSCF always tend to lose out.

‘ITQs are a system based on an economic logic that does not account for wider impacts and different forms of value. They make access to fisheries more difficult for SSCF, prevent access for new fishers, result in excessive concentration of quotas, drive inequality, and negatively impact small coastal communities,’ LIFE’s spokesman stated.

‘Sweden is establishing an ITQ system for demersal fisheries in the Baltic and North seas in January 2017. Although it is reported that measures will be included to protect SSCF, much will depend on whether they receive a fair quota share to begin with, and to what extent the SSCF quota is ring fenced from the quota trading system.’

LIFE has set out its clear position in opposition to the introduction of ITQs, and judges that many of their purported benefits are hypothetical, false, ideologically motivated, exaggerated, or all of these, claiming that ITQs do not improve sustainability or stewardship, and only improve efficiency in a narrow economic sense. Sustainability and stewardship are mainly determined by rigorously set and enforced TACs, and by engaging fishers in genuine co-management.

Alternative forms of allocating fishing opportunities can deliver the social, environmental and economic benefits that the CFP seeks to achieve, without jeopardising the survival of the small- scale fleet and the wider value they provide to society.

LIFE’s paper presents alternatives that would require a differentiated approach to managing the SSCF and large scale sectors, and would include a ring-fenced community quota or quota pool, allocated to and managed by a SSCF PO, Co-operative, or other organisation collectively owned and run by the SSCF, and secondly allocation based on social, economic and environmental criteria, as per Article 17 of the CFP, to reward those who fish the most sustainably, with capacity regulated by effort control rather than by economic efficiency, plus clear state ownership of TACs.

The full text of LIFE’s position paper can be found here.

EU states rebel against plans to relicense weedkiller glyphosate

Vote to approve relicensing of ingredient in herbicides including Roundup had been due on Monday, but it might be postponed

A farmer sprays pesticides on to crops in Bailleul, France.
A farmer sprays pesticides on to crops in France. The World Health Organisation has linked glyphosate to cancer. Photograph: Philippe Huguen/AFP/Getty

A rebellion by several EU countries could scupper plans by the European commission to approve the relicensing of a weedkiller linked to cancer by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

The vote to relicense glyphosate, a key ingredient in herbicides such as Monsanto’s multibillion-dollar brand Roundup, had been scheduled at a two-day meeting of experts from the EU’s 28 member states, which begins on Monday.

But officials are now saying that they may postpone the vote rather than lose it, raising the prospect of a legal limbo for glyphosate, the licence for which runs out in June.

France, the Netherlands and Sweden have all said they will not support an assessment by the European food safety authority (Efsa) that glyphosate is harmless.

That ruling ran counter to findings by the WHO’s cancer agency that glyphosate was “probably carcinogenic to humans”, causing a bitter row over scientific methodology and industry influence.

The Swedish environment minister, Åsa Romson, said: “We won’t take risks with glyphosate and we don’t think that the analysis done so far is good enough. We will propose that no decision is taken until further analysis has been done and the Efsa scientists have been more transparent about their considerations.”

An Efsa panel based its recommendation that glyphosate was safe enough for a new lease of life on six industry-funded studies that have not been fully published.

The substance is so widely used that it is commonly found in British bread, German beer and, according to one study, the urine of people in 18 countriesacross Europe.

Glyphosate use has been banned or restricted in large parts of Europe because of alleged links to a host of health problems, ranging from birth defects and kidney failure to coeliac disease, colitis and autism.

Romson said: “We are raising concerns because our citizens are raising concerns. They want to feel safe and secure with food and production in our society.”

Public pressure over the pesticide has been intense, with nearly 1.5 million people petitioning the EU’s health commissioner, Vytenis Andriukaitis, for a ban on the substance.

But splits between national environment and agriculture ministries across Europehave left diplomats holding their glyphosate voting cards close to their chests, with decisive meetings lined up for later this weekend.

Germany, Denmark and Italy have yet to clarify their positions on the proposal that the chemical be given a new 15-year licence.

On Friday morning, France’s environment minister, Ségolène Royal, signalled that France would oppose the move. “We need the commission to align the most protective position for health, which is the WHO position,” she said. “We will say no.”

Commission officials told the Guardian that a vote would not go ahead if support for relicensing continued to erode.

“If we see that many states want to think it over or there is a growing [opposition], if there is not a qualified majority, I doubt that it will be put to a vote,” one official said. “The ball is in the member states’ court.”

After a Dutch parliament vote opposing the renewal of glyphosate’s permit, the Netherlands called for a postponement of the EU-wide decision. “If there is no possibility to postpone the vote, then we will vote against the proposal,” said Marcel van Beusekom, a spokesman for the Netherlands agriculture ministry.

Although the licence for glyphosate will run out at the end of June, there could still be time to avoid the issue falling into legal limbo if the vote does not back relicensing. The commission could appeal against the decision or bring forward another proposal, EU sources said.

The psychology of crowd dynamics

Le Bon’s book on the crowd was first published in 1895. Moscovici (1981) has argued that it has not simply served as an explanation of crowd phenomena but has served to create the mass politics of the twentieth century. Certainly, Le Bon influenced a plethora of dictators and demagogues, most notoriously, Goebbels, Hitler and Mussolini. This influence was not in spite of but rather an expression of Le Bon’s intentions. He repeatedly urged contemporary establishment figures to employ his principles in order to use the power of crowd for, rather than against, the state. His perspective matched the concerns of the age in their entirety: fear and fascination in equal measure; denigration of the collective intellect, harnessing of collective energy. Both are equally represented in the core concept of submergence which, for Le Bon, marked the transition from individual psychology to crowd psychology. Simply by being part of the crowd,

individuals lose all sense of self and all sense of responsibility. Yet, at the same time, they gain a sentiment of invincible power due to their numbers.

Once individual identity, and the capability to control behaviour disappears, crowd members become subject to contagion. That is, they are unable to resist any passing idea or, more particularly and because the intellect is all but obliterated, any passing emotion. This may even lead crowd members to sacrifice their personal interests – a further sign of irrationality. Contagion, however, is but an effect of suggestibility. That is, the ideas and emotions which sweep unhindered through the crowd derive primarily from the ‘racial unconscious’ – an atavistic substrate which underlies our conscious personality and which is revealed when the conscious personality is swept way. Hence the primitivism of that unconscious is reflected in the character of crowd behaviour. Crowd members, Le Bon asserts, have descended several rungs on the ladder of civilization. They are barbarians. But even here, where he seems at his most negative, the two-sidedness of Le Bon’s perspective still comes through. For, as he then clarifies, this barbarian: “possesses the spontaneity, the violence the ferocity and also the enthusiasm of primitive beings” (p. 32). The majority of his crowd text is, in fact, essentially a primer on how to take advantage of the crowd mentality, how to manipulate crowds and how to recruit their enthusiasms to ones own ends. In brief, Le Bon exhorts the would be demagogue to direct the primitive mass by simplifying ideas, substituting affirmation and exaggeration for proof, and by repeating points over and again. It is important to acknowledge this stress on the power and the potential of crowds as a strength in Le Bon’s work which has often been overlooked – and this is an issue that will recur several times in this chapter. Nonetheless there are fundamental criticisms that can be made of his ideas on three different levels.

On a descriptive level, Le Bon’s work is thoroughly decontextualised. The crowd is lifted both from the distal and the proximal settings in which it arises and acts. If Le Bon’s concern was with the working class crowds of late nineteenth century France, no sense is given of the grievances and social conflicts which led angry demonstrators to assemble. Perhaps more strikingly still, Le Bon writes of crowd events as if crowds were acting in isolation, as if the police or army or company guards who they confronted were absent, and as if the violent actions directed from one party to another were the random gyrations of the crowd alone. Such decontextualisation leads to reification, to generalisation and to pathologisation. Behaviours that relate to context are seen as inherent attributes of the crowd, they are therefore assumed to arise everywhere irrespective of setting and, by obscuring the social bases of behaviour, crowd action is rendered mindless and meaningless.

On a theoretical level, this divorce between crowds and social context is mirrored and underpinned by a desocialised conception of identity. That is, the self is conceptualised as a unique and sovereign construct which is the sole basis of controlled and rational action. Social context plays no part in determining the content of identity but merely serves to moderate its operation. Specifically, crowd contexts serve as the ‘off switch’ for identity. Thus Le Bon’s crowd psychology breaks the link both between society and the self and also between the self and behaviour. The former rupture means that no action, including crowd action, can either shape or be shaped by society. The latter rupture means that crowd action can have no shape at all, either social or otherwise. If the self is sole basis of control, then loss of self in the crowd means loss of control and emergent psychopathology.

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18cosmos-2-articleLarge

Confirming inflation would mean that the universe we see, extending 14 billion light-years in space with its hundreds of billions of galaxies, is only an infinitesimal patch in a larger cosmos whose extent, architecture and fate are unknowable. Moreover, beyond our own universe there might be an endless number of other universes bubbling into frothy eternity, like a pot of pasta water boiling over.

‘As Big as It Gets’

In our own universe, it would serve as a window into the forces operating at energies forever beyond the reach of particle accelerators on Earth and yield new insights into gravity itself. Dr. Kovac’s ripples would be the first direct observation of gravitational waves, which, according to Einstein’s theory of general relativity, should ruffle space-time.

Marc Kamionkowski of Johns Hopkins University, an early-universe expert who was not part of the team, said, “This is huge, as big as it gets.”

He continued, “This is a signal from the very earliest universe, sending a telegram encoded in gravitational waves.”

The ripples manifested themselves as faint spiral patterns in a bath of microwave radiation that permeates space and preserves a picture of the universe when it was 380,000 years old and as hot as the surface of the sun.

Dr. Kovac and his collaborators, working in an experiment known as Bicep, for Background Imaging of Cosmic Extragalactic Polarization, reported their results in a scientific briefing at the Center for Astrophysics here on Monday and in a set of papers submitted to The Astrophysical Journal.

Dr. Kovac said the chance that the results were a fluke was only one in 10 million.

Dr. Guth, now 67, pronounced himself “bowled over,” saying he had not expected such a definite confirmation in his lifetime.

“With nature, you have to be lucky,” he said. “Apparently we have been lucky.”

The results are the closely guarded distillation of three years’ worth of observations and analysis. Eschewing email for fear of a leak, Dr. Kovac personally delivered drafts of his work to a select few, meeting with Dr. Guth, who is now a professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (as is his son, Larry, who was sleeping that night in 1979), in his office last week.

“It was a very special moment, and one we took very seriously as scientists,” said Dr. Kovac, who chose his words as carefully as he tended his radio telescopes.

Andrei Linde of Stanford, a prolific theorist who first described the most popular variant of inflation, known as chaotic inflation, in 1983, was about to go on vacation in the Caribbean last week when Chao-Lin Kuo, a Stanford colleague and a member of Dr. Kovac’s team, knocked on his door with a bottle of Champagne to tell him the news.