RAJANT AND KIBER ANNOUNCE STRATEGIC PARTNERSHIP AROUND AUGMENTED REALITY (AR) SOLUTION FOR ENERGY MARKET

Malvern, Pennsylvania (USA), Nov. 11, 2021 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Rajant Corporation, the exclusive provider of Kinetic Mesh wireless networks, and Kiber, powered by VRMedia, have partnered to offer the Kiber3 fully integrated augmented reality solution for remote assistance. Ideally suited for the energy market as well as warehouses and factories, the third generation augmented reality multi–feature wearable device runs over Rajant Kinetic Mesh to empower a workforce in daily industrial operations with instant expertise and remote collaboration through AR technology.

Federico Gulletta, Chief Executive Officer of Kiber, comments, "We are delighted about participating as Rajant's partner in ADIPEC 2021. Attending this premium event for the oil & gas industry allows us to present Kiber to professional visitors in Abu Dhabi. Kiber 3 is the latest third–generation of our all–in–one AR solution for remote collaboration. It is designed to be compliant with ATEX Zone 1 Certification requirements providing real quality and efficiency benefits to O&G companies and supporting them in operations in potentially explosive atmospheres."

The association between these two companies will be on display at the upcoming ADIPEC in Abu Dhabi, UAE. The strategic partnership, inclusive of demonstrations, can be found in Booth 13564, November 15th to 18th. Schedule time to talk at ADIPEC today.

"We've been impressed with what this web–based platform has to offer, especially when it comes to the energy industry," states Al Rivero, Rajant VP of Sales, Global Energy. "The Kiber3 is an all–in–one hands–free solution that is cyber–safe. Features of the wearable headset include a vision wide–angle camera, long–life battery, and hand cam with thermal imaging. Kiber brings expertise into field operations to speed up diagnostics, increases productivity, reduce costs, and improve safety. Given it is certified for use in potentially explosive atmospheres, teams can safely collaborate remotely and in real–time.'

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About Kiber

Kiber is powered by VRMedia, an Italian company developing deep tech solutions for the industry since 2002. Our mission is to empower the workforce in field service operations, we help companies to embark on an industrial transformational journey providing cutting–edge tools. Delivering Innovation and Quality through higher performances and smarter solutions is our manifesto. Kiber empowers the workforce through Augmented Reality technology–based solutions making remote collaboration easy, safe, and efficient. Kiber3 is a unique Hardware and Software fully integrated AR remote communication wearable solution allowing remote users to live the situation on–site as if they were present and on–site workers to receive support while staying focused on their job with an all–in–one "hands–free" solution. For more information, visit https://kiber.tech/.

About Rajant Corporation

Rajant Corporation is the broadband communications technology company that invented Kinetic Mesh networking, BreadCrumb wireless nodes, and InstaMesh networking software. With Rajant, customers can rapidly deploy a highly adaptable and scalable network that leverages the power of real–time data to deliver on–demand, mission–critical business intelligence. A low–latency, high–throughput, and secure solution for a variety of data, voice, video, and autonomous applications, Rajant's Kinetic Mesh networks provide industrial customers with full mobility, allowing them to take their private network applications and data anywhere. With successful deployments in more than 65 countries for customers in military, mining, ports, rail, oil & gas, petrochemical plants, municipalities, and agriculture. Rajant is headquartered in Malvern, Pennsylvania, with additional facilities and offices in Arizona and Kentucky. For more information, visit Rajant.com or follow Rajant on LinkedIn and Twitter.

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Social Movement Voices Fall on Deaf Ears of Governments at COP26

The climate summit COP26 was accompanied by protests by social movements, with demonstrators arriving in Glasgow from all over the world and expressing themselves in their own language or dressing up as dinosaurs to symbolize their criticism. But government delegates did not listen to their demands for ambitious and fair action to contain the global warming crisis. CREDIT: Laura Quiñones/UN

By Emilio Godoy
GLASGOW, Nov 11 2021 – One element that runs through all social movement climate summits is their rejection of the official meeting of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the low ambition of its outcomes – and the treaty’s 26th Conference of the Parties (COP26) was no exception.

The leaders of the UNFCCC “gladly welcome those who caused the crisis. COP26 has done nothing but pretend and greenwash,” Mitzi Jonelle Tan, a member of the non-governmental organization Youth Advocates for Climate Action from the Philippines, told IPS during a rally at the Glasgow Screening Room, a few blocks from the venue where the official meeting is being held until Friday, Nov. 12.

The COP26 Coalition, the alternative summit to the climate conference, has been a motley crew of organizations and movements whose common demand was a real effort to fight the climate crisis through concrete and fair measures and whose 200 events in this Scottish city included workshops, forums, artistic presentations and protests, which ended on Wednesday, Nov. 10.

Among the demands with which the alternative meeting in Glasgow lobbied the 196 Parties to the UNFCCC were the abandonment of fossil fuels, the rejection of cosmetic solutions to the climate emergency, the demand for a just transition to a lower carbon economy and the call for reparations and redistribution of funds to indigenous communities and the global South.

The movement also called for a gender perspective in policies, climate justice – that those primarily responsible (developed nations) take responsibility and pay for their role -, respect for the rights of indigenous peoples, and a halt to air pollution.

Due to logistical issues and the limitations imposed by the covid-19 pandemic, which postponed the official summit for a year, the parallel sessions of the social movements were held in this Scottish city in a hybrid format, combining face-to-face and virtual participation. Exhibitors and online participants struggled with the quality of their internet connections.

One of the most unanimous and loudest criticisms from non-governmental social and environmental organizations focused on the exclusion of civil society groups from Latin America, Africa and Asia, due to the UK host government’s decision to modify the admission criteria according to the level of contagion in each country and the extent of vaccination.

In addition, they complained about the strict hurdles imposed by the COP26 presidency, held by the United Kingdom, supported by Italy, to the presence of NGO observers at the official negotiating tables, which undermined the transparency of the Glasgow process, whose agreements are to be embodied in a final declaration, which is weakening every day and whose final text will be released on Nov. 12 or 13, if the negotiations stretch out.

The alternative movement also had a formal but unofficial space in the so-called COP26 Green Zone, located in the same area as the official negotiations, in the center of Glasgow.

In the forums parallel to COP26 in Glasgow, indigenous women were major protagonists with their demands for respect for their rights and effective participation in the negotiations. In the picture, indigenous women delegates take part in a forum on women of the forest at the peoples' summit. CREDIT: Emilio Godoy/IPS

In the forums parallel to COP26 in Glasgow, indigenous women were major protagonists with their demands for respect for their rights and effective participation in the negotiations. In the picture, indigenous women delegates take part in a forum on women of the forest at the peoples’ summit. CREDIT: Emilio Godoy/IPS

In-depth solutions

One of their key proposals was for a Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty aimed at moving towards the end of the era of coal, gas and oil, the consumption of which is primarily responsible for the growing planetary climate emergency.

The initiative, which imitates the name of the treaty against nuclear weapons, demands an immediate end to the expansion of fossil fuel production, a fair phase-out and a just energy transition.

Countries and corporations “continue to invest capital in the extraction of fossil fuels. We need to see efforts to phase them out, to stop the financing, subsidies and exploitation of fossil fuels,” Tzeporah Berman, the Canadian chair of the anti-fossil fuel initiative, told IPS.

The idea for the treaty emerged in 2015 from a call by leaders and NGOs from Pacific island states – whose very existence is threatened by the climate crisis – and it was formally launched in 2020.

So far it has received the support of some 750 organizations, 12 cities, more than 2,500 scientists, academics, parliamentarians from around the world, and religious leaders, indigenous movements and more than 100 Nobel Prize winners.

Climate policies are the focus of COP26 which has addressed carbon market rules, at least 100 billion dollars a year in climate finance, gaps between emission reduction targets and necessary reductions, strategies for carbon neutrality by 2050, adaptation plans, and the working platform on local communities and indigenous peoples.

The International Rights of Nature Tribunal tried the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), parallel to COP26. In the case, Philippine activist Mitzi Jonelle Tan testified to the lack of effective action against the climate emergency. CREDIT: Emilio Godoy/IPS

The International Rights of Nature Tribunal tried the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), parallel to COP26. In the case, Philippine activist Mitzi Jonelle Tan testified to the lack of effective action against the climate emergency. CREDIT: Emilio Godoy/IPS

Indigenous people and rights of nature tribunal in the spotlight

Indigenous people, especially from the Amazon jungle, have been key participants at the latest edition of the alternative summit, with at least 40 activists present in Glasgow to complain about harassment by the government of far-right Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro and demand more protection for the rainforest, whose destruction can have dramatic effects on the environmental health of the planet.

“Our main demand is demarcation of our territories,” because this guarantees a number of rights, Cristiane Pankararu, a member of the Pankararu people and leader of Brazil’s non-governmental National Association of Indigenous Women Warriors (ANMIGA), told IPS.

Her organization belongs to the Association of Indigenous Peoples of Brazil, whose demands are demarcation, climate solutions based on indigenous peoples’ knowledge and practices, and investment in forest protection.

One of the most symbolic activities of the counter-summit was the Fifth International Rights of Nature Tribunal, which tried the cases of “False solutions to the climate change crisis” and “The Amazon, a threatened living entity”.

In the first verdict, the tribunal, which sat for the first time in 2014 and was composed this time of seven judges from six countries, found the UNFCCC at fault for failing to attack the roots of the climate emergency.

In the second ruling, the jury, composed of nine experts from seven countries, accused developed countries and China, as well as agricultural, mining and food corporations, of destroying the Amazon, the planet’s main rainforest ecosystem, which is threatened by these extractive activities.

Nick Dearden, director of Global Justice Now, listed three serious problems: the role of large corporations, the protection of corporate intellectual property, and the power of corporations to sue states that want to protect the environment, in international arbitration tribunals.

“It is a profound symptom of how the global economy protects the interests of large corporations, especially extractive ones, and that has not been addressed at the COP,” he told IPS.

A dialogue of the deaf has prevailed between the UNFCCC and civil society, as the official summit has ignored the demands of social movements.

“They have not listened to us. We are here to demand action. We don’t need another COP to solve the climate crisis, we need change,” Tan complained.

Despite the obstacles, “we will not stop participating actively. The women’s movement is unifying. It is a slow process, because people are not used to being led by women,” Pankararu said.

IPS produced this article with the support of Iniciativa Climática of Mexico and the European Climate Foundation.

Aurora Strategy Group Announces Expansion into the Middle East

TORONTO, Nov. 11, 2021 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Marcel Wieder, President and Chief Advocate announced today that the Aurora Strategy Group will be expanding its practice to include Israel and the Arabian Gulf region. "We have concluded a strategic partnership with Beyad Halashon Communications in Israel to represent clients there, while Aurora will reciprocate in Canada. At the same time, Aurora founding Principal Craig Hughson, is establishing a presence in Dubai, the United Arab Emirates, to serve the Gulf region," said Wieder. "This gives us a strategic presence in one of the fastest growing markets for Canadian companies. At the same time, it offers opportunities for Middle Eastern firms to access the Canadian market."

Beyad Halashon Communications is headed by David M. Weinberg, a seasoned and well–respected public relations and government affairs consultant. According to Weinberg, "Trade between Canada and Israel, and Israel and the UAE, has been growing significantly and this is an opportunity to help clients understand the opportunities that are available to them." Weinberg went on to say, "Partnering with Aurora, with a national footprint and an experienced team, will help Israeli firms access the Canadian market."

"Opening up an office in Dubai is a terrific opportunity for Aurora," said Hughson. "As the only Canadian owned public affairs firm to have a footprint in the UAE, we will offer clients unprecedent access to an important and growing market. Plus, with the addition of the Israel office, we will build on the recent Abraham Accords signed between the UAE and Israel."

"The addition of Weinberg is an important milestone for Aurora," Wieder said. "Together with Hughson in Dubai, this is a strong Middle East team that can serve the needs of clients in both markets."

Aurora Strategy Group is also part of the International Public Relations Network that consists of more than 50 firms in over 40 countries. Aurora clients have access to this network to ensure their global message is delivered.

Aurora Strategy Group is a public affairs, government and public relations firm based in Toronto, Ontario with offices in Edmonton, Alberta and Moncton, New Brunswick.

For further information contact:

Marcel Wieder Tel: 416–907–2126 Email: info@aurorastrategy.com

David M. Weinberg Tel: 972–54–776–7273 Email: davidw@aurorastrategy.com

Craig Hughson Tel: 971–50–573–3647 Email: craig@aurorastrategy.com


New Research from Cornell University and FreedomPay Reveals Cybersecurity Confidence Gap in Retail, Restaurant and Hospitality Sectors

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Nov. 11, 2021 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) —

New data released today by Cornell University's Center for Hospitality Research and FreedomPay, a global leader in data–driven commerce, reveals that while nearly all (96%) surveyed retail, restaurant and hospitality stakeholders are confident in their companies' internal risk assessment processes, their satisfaction (95%) in the security of their systems is misaligned with reality, as one–third of companies (31%) have experienced a data breach in their company's history. Of companies that have been breached, 89% have been hit more than once in a year, and 69% of retail businesses have been breached upwards of three times in a year.

Check Please! How Restaurant, Retail and Hospitality Businesses are Managing Cybersecurity Risks "" a joint study between Cornell and FreedomPay "" is based on a new survey of small, medium, and large–size enterprises across the hospitality, retail, and food and beverage sectors.

"Especially over the past two years, cybersecurity has been top of mind for businesses as we navigate a highly complex eCommerce network," said Chris Kronenthal, President of FreedomPay. "Retailers and hospitality businesses increasingly view their payments systems as more than transaction processing "" they are important sources of data and customer insights. Merchants and consumers alike need the assurance that this data is being protected and managed properly."

“These findings provide a baseline understanding of how key decision–makers are handling cybersecurity issues and offer key insights for optimizing and fortifying systems as we continue down this path of accelerated digital transformation,” said Professor Linda Canina, the Dr. Michael Dang Director of the Center for Hospitality Research at the Cornell Peter and Stephanie Nolan School of Hotel Administration.

Threats Are Rising, Complexity Abounds

With new cyber threats emerging daily both internally and externally, business leaders are juggling a full slate of concerns and challenges. Threats such as payment integrity (59%) and malware (58%) are the most cited concerns, with risk management (57%) cited as the biggest challenge leaders say their systems face. Companies also fear internal threats, with hospitality companies most frequently citing human error (86%) and lack of employee education (81%) as negatively impacting cybersecurity systems.

Businesses' best efforts to protect themselves and customers are spurring growing complexity and system proliferation. The findings revealed three–quarters (74%) of companies use more than one cybersecurity system. Medium merchants (80%) are significantly more likely than small merchants (67%) to use more than one system. More than half of companies (56%) have many cybersecurity systems in many locations. Overall, companies are split on whether systems are governed by a single department (51%) or multiple (49%). Small merchants (57%) are significantly more likely to keep governance to one department, while large merchants (63%) are significantly more likely to have multiple departments involved.

Roadblocks Remain

Businesses are challenged to balance security with customer preferences, with many implementing heightened cybersecurity measures to make their customers feel more secured and reassured when making a purchase. The study found that 91% of companies believe their customers deeply care about cybersecurity while 86% believe it increases customer loyalty. Yet, companies acknowledge the inherent tradeoffs "" namely, two–thirds (65%) of leaders believe that customers are annoyed by extra security measures, and they want systems to be easy to use (67%).

Budgetary concerns may also play a factor in determining any potential system enhancements "" among the few (15%) that currently do not have plans to enhance their system, they are most likely to cite preventative costs (61%) and an unwillingness to have a disruption in service (52%).

Despite these roadblocks, companies have said they are increasing or have increased their IT budgets, calling out the COVID–19 pandemic and technology as driving forces. Other notable findings include:

  • In The Dark: More than one–third (35%) of surveyed leaders do not know how much of their company's budget is spent on cybersecurity.
  • Bicameral Opinion: While 91% of respondents agree that their customers do care about cybersecurity, 48% also believe their customers do not care about cybersecurity.
  • Inaction: Nearly all (96%) companies say they value the importance of security systems to protect their data, and 85% agree that their customers would be more satisfied if they had extra security measures in place. Yet, half (50%) have either not increased their IT security budget or decreased their budget since 2019.
  • Show Me The Money: Still, companies are divided on what precautions and guidance are worth the cost. Four–fifths (83%) of companies who do use a third–party to manage and secure information say this option is "more cost–effective" for their business, while half (51%) of companies who do not use a third–party supplier cite it as being "more costly" than their current process.
  • Checking The Box? Almost all merchants (91%) are very or extremely confident that their company adequately trains end–users, relying on conferences and seminars (71%) to keep them trained and engaged. Notably, small (92%) and medium (95%) merchants are significantly more confident than their large (79%) counterparts, where the most common form of end–user engagement comes from training videos (82%).
  • Looking for a Leader: A majority of companies (87%) say they would welcome involvement from the U.S. government to fight cybersecurity threats as well as enhance policy (84%). Large merchants (threats–76%, policy–74%) and retail companies (threats–81%, policy–75%) are significantly less likely to want the U.S. government involved.

Click here to download the report.

Methodology

The survey was conducted by Hanover Research and included 300 respondents for small, medium, and large–size enterprises across hospitality, retail, and food & beverage spaces.

About FreedomPay

FreedomPay's Next Level Commerce platform transforms existing payment systems and processes from legacy to leading edge. As the premier choice for many of the largest companies across the globe in retail, hospitality, lodging, gaming, sports and entertainment, foodservice, education, healthcare and financial services, FreedomPay's technology has been purposely built to deliver rock solid performance in the highly complex environment of global commerce. The company maintains a world–class security environment and was first to earn the coveted validation by the PCI Security Standards Council against Point–to–Point Encryption (P2PE/EMV) standard in North America. FreedomPay's robust solutions across payments, security, identity, and data analytics are available in–store, online and on–mobile and are supported by rapid API adoption. The award winning FreedomPay Commerce Platform operates on a single, unified technology stack across multiple continents allowing enterprises to deliver an innovative Next Level experience on a global scale. www.freedompay.com

About Cornell Center of Hospitality Research

Cornell's Center for Hospitality Research (CHR) was created in 1992 for the purpose of expanding both the quality and volume of research supporting the hospitality industry and its related service industries. The CHR's mission is to advance hospitality thought leadership by publishing and disseminating impactful and actionable research that industry leaders can put into practice today; facilitating the exchange of new ideas by bringing students, faculty, and industry professionals together at roundtables, panels, conferences, and other engaging events; and partnering with the other Centers and Institutes in the Cornell Nolan School of Hotel Administration to maximize research, event, and networking collaborations.

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Antibiotics? Handle with Care

The main drivers of antimicrobial resistance include the misuse and overuse of antimicrobials; lack of access to clean water, sanitation and hygiene for both humans and animals; poor infection and disease prevention and control in health-care facilities and farms; poor access to quality, affordable medicines, vaccines and diagnostics; lack of awareness and knowledge; and lack of enforcement of legislation. Credit: Bigstock.

The main drivers of antimicrobial resistance include the misuse and overuse of antimicrobials; lack of access to clean water, sanitation and hygiene for both humans and animals; poor infection and disease prevention and control in health-care facilities and farms; poor access to quality, affordable medicines, vaccines and diagnostics; lack of awareness and knowledge; and lack of enforcement of legislation. Credit: Bigstock.

By Baher Kamal
MADRID, Nov 11 2021 – Antibiotics, like other antimicrobials, have become a threat to health rather than healing it. Why? Because their misuse and overuse have created such a strong resistance that they no longer respond to medicines, making infections harder to treat and increasing the risk of disease spread, severe illness and death.
Much so that antimicrobial resistance is now considered among the top 10 global public threats facing humanity.

In fact, an estimated 700 000 people die each year from antimicrobial resistant (AMR) infections, in addition to an untold number of sick animals that may not be responding to treatment.

Antimicrobial Resistance occurs when bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites change over time and no longer respond to medicines making infections harder to treat and increasing the risk of disease spread, severe illness and death

In short, antimicrobial resistance is a significant global threat to public health, food safety and security, as well as to livelihoods, animal production and economic and agricultural development.

 

What happens?

According to the World Health Organization (WHO) The misuse and overuse of antibiotics in livestock is meant to prevent contagion from one animal to the rest of the herd, thus increasing milk and meat production, in pursuit of more profits.

A similar case is the misuse and overuse of different antimicrobials in agriculture with the aim of obtaining more production and therefore more commercial benefits.

The point is that human consumption of meat and vegetables and fruits also imply their ingestion of antimicrobials in the daily diet.

 

What are antimicrobials?

The following information is based on investigations and studies carried out by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).

Antimicrobials – including antibiotics, antivirals, antifungals and antiparasitics – are medicines used to prevent and treat infections in humans, animals and plants.

 

What is antimicrobial resistance?

Antimicrobial Resistance occurs when bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites change over time and no longer respond to medicines making infections harder to treat and increasing the risk of disease spread, severe illness and death.

As a result of drug resistance, antibiotics and other antimicrobial medicines become ineffective and infections become increasingly difficult or impossible to treat.

 

Why is it a global concern?

The emergence and spread of drug-resistant pathogens that have acquired new resistance mechanisms, leading to antimicrobial resistance, continues to threaten our ability to treat common infections.

Especially alarming is the rapid global spread of multi- and pan-resistant bacteria (also known as “superbugs”) that cause infections that are not treatable with existing antimicrobial medicines such as antibiotics.

Furthermore, a lack of access to quality antimicrobials remains a major issue. Antibiotic shortages are affecting countries of all levels of development and especially in health-care systems.

 

Change or loose

In other words, new antibacterials are urgently needed – for example, to treat carbapenem-resistant gram-negative bacterial infections as identified in the WHO priority pathogen list.

However, if people do not change the way antibiotics are used now, new antibiotics will suffer the same fate as the current ones and become ineffective.

Without effective tools for the prevention and adequate treatment of drug-resistant infections and improved access to existing and new quality-assured antimicrobials, the number of people for whom treatment is failing or who die of infections will increase.

Medical procedures, such as surgery, including caesarean sections or hip replacements, cancer chemotherapy, and organ transplantation, will become more risky.

 

What accelerates the emergence and spread of antimicrobial resistance?

AMR occurs naturally over time, usually through genetic changes. Antimicrobial resistant organisms are found in people, animals, food, plants and the environment (in water, soil and air).

They can spread from person to person or between people and animals, including from food of animal origin.

The main drivers of antimicrobial resistance include the misuse and overuse of antimicrobials; lack of access to clean water, sanitation and hygiene for both humans and animals; poor infection and disease prevention and control in health-care facilities and farms; poor access to quality, affordable medicines, vaccines and diagnostics; lack of awareness and knowledge; and lack of enforcement of legislation.

 

Present situation

For common bacterial infections, including urinary tract infections, sepsis, sexually transmitted infections, and some forms of diarrhoea, high rates of resistance against antibiotics frequently used to treat these infections have been observed world-wide, indicating that we are running out of effective antibiotics.

 

Drug resistance in malaria parasites
Another example is the case of the emergence of drug-resistant parasites which poses one of the greatest threats to malaria control and results in increased malaria morbidity and mortality.

 

Drug resistance in fungi
The prevalence of drug-resistant fungal infections is exasperating the already difficult treatment situation. Many fungal infections have existing treatability issues such as toxicity especially for patients with other underlying infections (e.g. HIV).
This is leading to more difficult to treat fungal infections, treatment failures, longer hospital stays and much more expensive treatment options.

 

A week to raise awareness

This year’s World Antimicrobial Awareness Week (WAAW) marked 18 to 24 November was previously called the World Antibiotic Awareness Week.

But from 2020, it would be called the World Antimicrobial Awareness Week to include all antimicrobials including antibiotics, antifungals, antiparasitics and antivirals.

The Week is a global campaign that aims to raise awareness of antimicrobial resistance worldwide and encourage best practices among the general public, health workers and policy makers to slow the development and spread of drug-resistant infections.

Is obtaining more and more commercial benefits a reason enough to transform the healers into killers?

 

Zenfolio Acquires Format to Expand Services for Photographers

Menlo Park, California, Nov. 11, 2021 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Zenfolio, the leader in creative and business solutions for photographers, announced that it has acquired Format, a major website–building platform and marketplace based in Toronto, Canada, used by professional photographers and artists worldwide. Both companies offer Software as a Service (SaaS) business solutions "" Zenfolio since 2006 and Format since 2010. Combined, these two market leaders provide the most comprehensive service offering to photographers and artists, leveraging their respective brands and complementary strengths.

John Loughlin, Zenfolio CEO, shared the rationale for bringing the two companies together. "We deeply respect the Format brand, their employees and community, and the business they have built," he stated. "This combination will expand the capabilities and services offered to our respective customers."

Lukas Dryja, Format CEO and Co–Founder, shared his enthusiasm for the merger. "Since creating Format, we have cared deeply about our community and team," he said. "Partnering with Zenfolio is a tremendous opportunity for both. The Format community will benefit from Zenfolio's extensive technology services while Zenfolio customers will have access to world class tools and designs to showcase their work online."

The Format acquisition continues a strategy launched by Zenfolio three years ago to reimagine the company. Zenfolio recently unveiled a new cloud–based technology platform using artificial intelligence and machine–learning that is redefining the business of photography. Zenfolio leads the industry in workflow automation, helping photographers manage and grow their businesses, while spending more time behind the lens.

"Bringing together two leading platforms for photographers allows us to accelerate the development of new services by taking best in breed features and capabilities and making them available to customers of both companies," Loughlin explained.

The two brands will initially operate in parallel, each retaining its current employee workforce and subscription base. Format will continue to be headquartered in Toronto. Zenfolio headquarters will continue to be located in Menlo Park, California.

About Zenfolio

Zenfolio Inc., a Centre Lane Partners company, offers advanced business solutions enabling photographers to easily show, share and sell their images. For the past 15 years, Zenfolio has proudly served photographers around the globe.

About Format

Format empowers professional photographers and creatives by transforming them into successful entrepreneurs. Founded in 2010 in Toronto, Canada, Format is a proudly self–funded company with a remote team distributed globally.

Vista Point Advisors acted as the exclusive advisor to Format in its sale to Zenfolio.

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COP26: Climate Action in Agribusiness Could Reduce Emissions by up to 7 per Cent

Extreme weather like widespread drought is causing economic losses amongst farmers in Africa. Credit: UN Photo/Albert González Farran

By Nibal Zgheib
LONDON, Nov 11 2021 – Targeted action in agriculture could have a massive impact on climate change, according to a joint brief by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) and the Investment Centre of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), published at the COP26 climate conference in Glasgow scheduled to end November 12.

The mitigation potential of crop and livestock activities, including soil carbon sequestration and better land management, is estimated at 3 to 7 percent of total anthropogenic emissions by 2030.

The potential economic value of mitigating these emissions could amount between US$ 60 billion and US$ 360 billion, the two institutions say.

“Agriculture must become the focus of a global coalition for carbon neutrality and we need to support both mitigation and adaptation. We must enable smallholder farmers to adapt and to benefit economically through the provision of environmental services,” said Mohamed Manssouri, Director of the FAO Investment Centre.

“Now is the time to grasp this vital opportunity to reduce emissions and increase carbon sequestration, while restoring biodiversity, supporting health and nutrition and generating new business opportunities through food and land-use systems.”

The brief highlights the huge potential for engaging food and land-use systems in the fight against climate change. It also shows how the agriculture sector is uniquely placed to be part of the carbon-neutral solution by reducing emissions, while maximizing its potential to act as a carbon sink by absorbing more carbon from the atmosphere than it releases. A full report will be published in early 2022.

The agriculture sector generates a high amount of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, with agri-food systems causing an estimated 21 to 37 percent of total global emissions. But agriculture is also a victim of emissions.

Farmers are often among the first witnesses to climate change. Rising temperatures, changing rainfall patterns and supply-chain disruptions are already impacting food production, undermining global efforts to end hunger.

The EBRD/FAO brief shows how sustainable, targeted investments and interventions will make agriculture part of the climate solution. Reaching carbon neutrality for agri-food systems essentially means lowering GHG emissions throughout the entire value chain, improving farming practices, using agricultural lands for carbon sequestration, promoting sustainable agriculture and avoiding land clearance.

The brief sets out key action areas for policymakers and investors, including the development and enhancement of sound governance mechanisms and the mainstreaming of carbon neutrality in corporate strategies.

Achieving the right policy mix and agreeing on carbon accounting methods can unlock major investments in greening across agri-food systems.

“The investment universe is evolving quickly, as banks align their lending with the net zero objective and asset managers look for opportunities to decarbonise their portfolios while managing risks associated with climate change,” said Natalya Zhukova, EBRD Director, Head of Agribusiness.

One of the main actors in addressing climate change is the private sector. Country policies, strategies and roadmaps are all important in signalling regulatory changes and creating incentives to drive the accurate valuation and pricing of carbon.

While the private sector will be needed to mobilise billions, equally, it stands to gain by reducing costs, mitigating risks, protecting brand values, ensuring long-term supply-chain viability and gaining competitive advantage.

Nibal Zgheib is Communication Adviser, EBRD and former Programme Assistant, World Food Programme

 


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Experts call for Improved Protection of African Fisheries

WTO is hoping for an end to fishing subsidy negotiations which have been ongoing for more than 20 years. Fishmonger in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, displays his catch for sale. Credit: Ignatius Banda/IPS

By Ignatius Banda
Bulawayo, ZIMBABWE , Nov 11 2021 – With subsidies of global fisheries back on the World Trade Organisation’s agenda, experts are calling for African governments to upscale the protection of the sector long plagued by activities that continue to threaten the continent’s blue economy.

The chair of the negotiations, Ambassador Santiago Wills of Colombia, earlier in November 2021 presented a revised draft text on fisheries subsidies. This will be used for discussions aimed at resolving remaining differences ahead of the 12th Ministerial Conference from November 20 to December 3.

The Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala called the subsidies “harmful” when the ministers met on July 15.
She said she was cautiously optimistic that there could be an agreement on how to cap subsidies that contribute to overfishing.

Now she is more emphatic and has been engaging political leaders at the highest level to get their support for a successful conclusion to the highest levels, to get their support for a successful conclusion to the 21-year-long negotiations.

“The eyes of the world are really on us,” she said. “Time is short and I believe that this text reflects a very important step toward a final outcome. I really see a significant rebalancing of the provisions, including those pertaining to special and differential treatment, while, at the same time, maintaining the level of ambition.”

Meanwhile, independent researchers say harmful practices ranging from overfishing and too much reliance on fisheries for livelihoods have to be addressed by African governments.

Researchers at the Africa Centre for Strategic Studies say unfair subsidies go towards inputs such as fuel and larger fishing vessels which often go beyond regulated permits while also pushing out smaller players.

Amid those challenges, African countries still have to compete in global fish markets with rich countries which heavily subsidise the sector. This creates sustainable development gaps that will slow the realisation of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal (SGD) 14, which seeks the sustainable use of marine resources.

Guided by the SGDs, the WTO gave the trade ministers ahead of the July 15 meeting the “task of securing an agreement on disciplines to eliminate subsidies for illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing and to prohibit certain forms of fisheries subsidies and contribute to overcapacity and overfishing,”

Developing and least developed countries will take centre stage of these negotiations to ensure they get a fair deal, with the meeting at the end of November, according to remarks by Okonjo-Iweala.

According to FAO, Africa is home to thriving artisanal fishing communities, employing more than 12 million people, with global demand projected to increase 30 percent by 2030.

There are concerns that low-income coastal fishing communities face the harshest challenges of depleting stocks as they compete with more sophisticated illegal fishing syndicates.

Experts warn that African countries need to develop strategies that will ensure less reliance on fisheries, ensuring the sector’s long-term sustainability.

Rashid Sumaila of the Fisheries Economics Research Unit at the University of British Columbia, Canada, says African governments have to do more to see fewer nets cast in the continental waters.

“Governments must remove the incentive to overfish,” Sumaila told IPS.

“They must also improve national fisheries management and push for regional cooperative management of the sector and make illegal fishing unprofitable,” he said.

How African governments achieve that on a continent plagued by low incomes and a thriving informal sector could prove difficult, researchers from the Africa Centre for Strategic Studies contend.

By WTO estimates, global fisheries subsidies stand at around USD35 billion per year.

Citing data from the Food and Agriculture Organisation(FAO), the WTO says fish stocks are at risk of collapsing in many parts of the world due to overexploitation. It estimates that 34 percent of global stocks are overfished, “meaning they are being exploited at a pace where the fish population cannot replenish itself.”

While the WTO has cited what it calls “lack of political impetus” in the past two decades to resolve the contentious fisheries subsidies and protect smaller global players, Alice Tipping, a researcher at the International Institute for Sustainable Development’s Sustainable Trade and Fisheries, says despite the challenges of the past 20 years, collective action among both high- and low-income countries is the only way forward.

“The WTO negotiations are both technically and legally challenging because they require collective action from governments, but there is a clear benefit in having rules applied at the multilateral level so that everyone has to contribute to the solution,” Tipping told IPS.

Experts say the two-decade deadlock highlights the weak negotiating clout of African and other low-income countries, with some rich countries insisting on an exemption from the harmful subsidies ban while simultaneously allowing their fishing fleets to operate illegally on African shores.

As DG Okonjo-Iweala put it, “the fisheries subsidies negotiations are a test both of the WTO’s credibility as a multinational negotiating forum.”

“If we wait another 20 years, there may be no marine fisheries left to subsidise – or artisanal fishing communities to support,” Okonjo-Iweala warned.

The African continent finds itself in a bind as the African Union’s Agenda 2063 describes the fisheries as “Africa’s Future,” recognising the sector’s key role as a “catalyst for socio-economic transformation.”

This, however, highlights the continent’s reliance on fisheries when researchers are pushing for the decongestion and up-scaled regulation of artisanal fishers.

“A lot of artisanal fisheries is unreported and unregulated mainly because authorities do not affect enough means to document and manage those fisheries,” said Beatrice Gomez, Coordinator of the Coalition for Fair Fisheries Agreements (CFFA).

The CFFA is a platform of European and African groups raising awareness on the impact of EU-Africa agreements on African artisanal fishing communities.

“It would be better to have the activities of artisanal fishers documented properly to show their real importance for jobs and food security to ensure sustainability and long-term future,” Gomez told IPS by email.

“Ideally, for this work, artisanal fisheries have to be co-managed in collaboration with fishing communities, but it takes money, time and human resources which (African) governments do not have or do not want to devote to this.”

The World Bank says fisheries contribute USD24 billion to the African economy, making it a huge attraction for the poor.

 


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Biofuels, the World’s Energy Past and Future

The biofuel from this mini biogas power plant in the municipality of Entre Rios do Oeste, in the southern Brazilian state of Paraná, is supplied by local pig farmers, who earn extra income while the municipality saves on energy costs for its facilities and public lighting. CREDIT: Mario Osava/IPS

The biofuel from this mini biogas power plant in the municipality of Entre Rios do Oeste, in the southern Brazilian state of Paraná, is supplied by local pig farmers, who earn extra income while the municipality saves on energy costs for its facilities and public lighting. CREDIT: Mario Osava/IPS

By Mario Osava
RIO DE JANEIRO, Nov 11 2021 – The number of victims of serious burns, some fatal, has increased in Brazil. Without money to buy cooking gas, the price of which rose 30 percent this year, many poor families resort to ethanol and people are injured in household accidents.

A larger number of poor Brazilians have returned to using firewood, less explosive but also a cause of accidents and of health-damaging household pollution. It is cheaper in the countryside, while in the cities people burn boards and old furniture, not always as widely available as alcohol or ethanol, which can be purchased at any gas station.

In fact, biofuels, such as wood, ethanol, biodiesel and biogas, have been competing with fossil fuels since the industrial use of coal began in England in the 18th century. Economic and environmental factors influence private and public decision-making with regard to their production and use.

A commitment made by 103 countries at the 26th Conference of the Parties (COP26) on Climate Change, which is taking place in the Scottish city of Glasgow during the first 12 days of November, to reduce methane emissions from 2020 levels 30 percent by 2030, may now give biofuels a new boost.

Replacing oil, gas and coal with other sources will help contribute to that goal.

“In Brazil, the demand for ethanol was imposed for economic reasons: high oil prices; and energy reasons: the risk of shortages,” said Regis Leal, an aeronautical engineer and specialist in Technological Development at the state-owned National Laboratory of Biorenewables.

Ethanol in the seventies

Ethanol is a fuel produced from sugarcane, corn or any vegetable with a high sucrose content, which is mainly used in motor vehicles. Brazil is the world’s second largest producer of ethanol, after the United States.

The National Alcohol Programme (Proalcohol) was created in Brazil in 1975, two years after the first big oil crisis that more than tripled the price of a barrel of oil. Brazil, which at the time imported more than 80 percent of the crude oil it consumed, lost the momentum of an economy that had grown by more than 10 percent per year between 1968 and 1973.

With alcohol or ethanol replacing gasoline or mixed with it, the aim was to reduce dependence on imported oil, while intensifying the search for hydrocarbon deposits for self-sufficiency, which Brazil only achieved three decades later.

This sugar mill and ethanol distillery are in the southern Brazilian state of São Paulo, much of whose territory has been turned into one large sugarcane field. CREDIT: Mario Osava/IPS

This sugar mill and ethanol distillery are in the southern Brazilian state of São Paulo, much of whose territory has been turned into one large sugarcane field. CREDIT: Mario Osava/IPS

In the United States, the use of ethanol began to be fomented in the 1980s, but for environmental reasons, Leal told IPS in an interview by telephone from Campinas, a city in the interior of the state of São Paulo, near the country’s largest sugar and ethanol-producing area.

In cities located at high altitudes, such as Denver, the capital of the western U.S. state of Colorado, at 1,600 metres above sea level, lower oxygen levels lead to incomplete combustion of petroleum derivatives and, consequently, greater carbon monoxide contamination and health damage, he explained.

Mixing in MTBE (methyl tert-butyl ether), a combination of chemicals, added oxygen, but because it was a highly toxic product it was soon replaced by ethanol, made from corn in the case of the U.S.

In both Brazil and the United States, biofuel production also bolstered or stabilised the price of sugar and corn by absorbing surplus production.

This is an aspect that is misunderstood by those who condemn biofuel production for apparently reducing food production. This is a false dilemma, because it must be analysed on a case-by-case basis, said Suani Coelho, coordinator of the Bioenergy Research Group (GBio) of the Energy and Environment Institute at the University of São Paulo.

“In Tanzania, a FAO (U.N. Food and Agriculture Organisation) study evaluated the production of ethanol from manioc. The hypothesis seemed doubtful, also because the energy balance of cassava is not so good. But in Tanzania there is a surplus of the crop that cannot be exported. So it is worth taking advantage of it to make ethanol,” said Coelho, a chemical engineer with a doctorate in energy.

In Brazil, where ethanol is made almost exclusively from the more locally productive sugarcane, corn was incorporated in the industry in 2017, with a distillery in Lucas do Rio Verde, in the state of Mato Grosso, the country’s largest producer of soybeans, corn and cotton.

Lucas do Rio Verde is in the state of Mato Grosso, the region of Brazil with the highest soybean and corn production, which is crowded with agribusiness warehouses and silos. The first corn ethanol distillery was set up there to take advantage of the surplus corn production. CREDIT: Mario Osava/IPS

Lucas do Rio Verde is in the state of Mato Grosso, the region of Brazil with the highest soybean and corn production, which is crowded with agribusiness warehouses and silos. The first corn ethanol distillery was set up there to take advantage of the surplus corn production. CREDIT: Mario Osava/IPS

“Corn is produced there as a second crop, after soybeans, in the same area, in a volume that is not viable for export. So it makes sense to use it for ethanol,” she told IPS by telephone from São Paulo.

Ethanol led to a great improvement in the urban environment.

In Brazil it has already replaced 46 percent of gasoline, according to the sugarcane industry association (Unica), with an annual production of 35 billion litres. It is used as fuel alone in motor vehicles or as a 27 percent blend in gasoline.

The United States produces 50 to 70 percent more than Brazil, depending on the year. Together, they account for about 84 percent of world production, a level of concentration that hinders free international trade in ethanol.

Biofuels or electrification

Coelho and Leal do not agree with the claim that the electrification of transportation tends to hinder the expansion of biofuels to other countries and major producers.

Developing countries do not have the capacity to make large investments to build new infrastructure, such as electric recharging points for vehicles. Moreover, “Brazil is going through a crisis, it is increasing fossil fuel thermoelectric generation, making the energy mix dirtier, and it has no other way to increase the supply of electricity,” argued Coelho.

Leal said the demand for ethanol can grow a great deal. “Any increase in its blend in the United States, which accounts for half of the world’s gasoline consumption, will have a huge impact,” he said.

The ethanol expert also questions the environmental and climatic advantages of electric vehicles, taking into consideration the entire production cycle, transportation, batteries, employment and other aspects.

 View of a vast oil palm plantation in Tailandia, a municipality in the state of Pará, in Brazil’s eastern Amazon rainforest. The intent to turn palm oil into biodiesel did not work out, because the oil serves a more attractive market in the food and chemical industries. CREDIT: Mario Osava/IPS

View of a vast oil palm plantation in Tailandia, a municipality in the state of Pará, in Brazil’s eastern Amazon rainforest. The intent to turn palm oil into biodiesel did not work out, because the oil serves a more attractive market in the food and chemical industries. CREDIT: Mario Osava/IPS

Biodiesel was not as successful as ethanol, but it also improved the urban environment and has a future, with some additional effort.

It is produced from vegetable or animal oils, even used, and other fatty materials.

Its main problem is that it is more expensive and therefore cannot compete with diesel fuel in order to replace it, Leal pointed out. Currently the diesel blend has been reduced from 12 to 10 percent, so as not to further drive up the cost of diesel fuel, the price of which is rising worldwide.

Another biofuel, which has been around for a long time but is now expanding, is biogas.

It is not only clean, but actually helps to reduce pollution, since it is the gas generated from garbage, wastewater, agricultural waste and animal excrement, which is no longer released into the air, thus reducing greenhouse gases that cause global warming.

Its use is incipient in Brazil, but it has the potential to replace 70 percent of the diesel fuel consumed in the country, at a lower cost, according to the Brazilian Biogas Association. And big cities and the country’s enormous agricultural sector offer plenty of raw materials.

By means of a simple refining process, biogas is converted into biomethane, equivalent to natural gas and, therefore, a fuel that can even be used to run heavy vehicles. If used for electricity generation, it could meet 36 percent of national demand, the association of companies in the sector estimates.

Small biodigesters produce biogas that could prevent the use of firewood and ethanol, and the resultant accidents and pollution, among poor families, especially in the countryside, noted Coelho.

“Appropriate public policies and low-interest loans for investments” could boost biogas and its environmental benefits, at a time when international financial institutions are cutting financing for coal-fired and other fossil fuel power plants, Leal said.

The two experts stressed that all these biofuels play an important role in making green hydrogen, produced from renewable energy sources, viable and recognised as central to the world’s energy future.

Biofuels have served humanity since its earliest past, not always in a sustainable way. The first was firewood, on which 2.8 billion people in the world still depend, according to an October 2020 World Bank report. But it is environmentally unsound, and leads to deforestation and household pollution.

The oils and resins that illuminated cities and homes in centuries past, before the advent of electricity, were also destructive. Oils extracted from whale blubber and from the eggs of Amazonian turtles are examples, almost driving certain species to extinction.