The results of the latest study about vaccines and autism are in, and they’re not surprising.

Here’s the thing about science.

Science! Photo from
“Maniac”/Wikimedia Commons.

It has a mind of its own. And sometimes, it won’t do what you want it to do.

At least one anti-vaccine group recently learned this the hard way.

Beginning in 2003, SafeMinds, a group that attributes the majority of new cases of autism to “worrisome changes in our environment,” spent hundreds of thousands of dollars over 10 years to fund a study that it hoped would demonstrate a conclusive link between childhood vaccines and autism, according to a
report in Newsweek.

The results of the study were finally published last week. And it did not turn out the way SafeMinds expected:

“Between 2003 and 2013, SafeMinds provided scientists from the University ofTexas Southwestern School of Medicine, the University of Washington, the Johnson Center for Child Health & Development and other research institutions with approximately $250,000 to conduct a long-term investigation evaluating behavioral and brain changes of baby rhesus macaques that were administered a standard course of childhood vaccines. (The National Autism Association, another organization that has questioned vaccine safety, also provided financial support for this research.) The latest paper in the multiyear project was
published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). In it, the researchers concluded that vaccines did not cause any brain or behavioral changes in the primates.”

Yep. The evidence against a vaccines-autism link is so overwhelming that even a study funded specifically to find such a link was unable to find one.

Vaccines! Photo by
James Gathany, CDC/Wikimedia Commons.

It’s one thing to spend money on an honest scientific inquiry and let the chips fall where they may. But once the inquiry has been made, it’s important to respect the facts.

A 2013 study in the Journal of Pediatrics also found no evidence supporting a vaccines-autism link. Neither did this 2015 study in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Nor did this one from 2011. This one also found none.

SafeMinds has pushed back against the reported findings via a statement on their website, but thus far, the evidence for a vaccine-autism connection is thin-to-nonexistent.

After all, the most prominent study to suggest one has
since been found to have been a complete fabrication.

The bottom line: Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but no one is entitled to their own science.

Science!! Photo by
Glen Edelson/Flickr.

And the science just keeps getting clearer and clearer:

Vaccines and autism aren’t linked.

And vaccines save lives.

Graphic by
Leon Farrant/visually.

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Donald Trump just held the weirdest Cabinet meeting ever

(CNN)Leave it to Donald Trump to reinvent the Cabinet meeting.

Donald Trump did something very different in his Cabinet meeting Monday.
First, he reviewed the various alleged successes of his first 143 days and made this remarkable claim: “Never has there been a president….with few exceptions…who’s passed more legislation, who’s done more things than I have.”
    Um, ok. While Trump has signed a number of executive orders and actions — the most high profile of which, the so-called “travel ban” was, again, blocked by a court on Monday — what he hasn’t really done is pass actual legislation through Congress. The health care bill is tied up in Senate machinations. Tax reform hasn’t moved an inch. Funding for the border wall hasn’t happened. And so on.
    (Nota bene: You can’t say “never has” something happened and then say “with few exceptions.” Either it’s never happened or it, well, has.)
    But, that wasn’t even close to the weirdest part of the Cabinet meeting!
    Once Trump finished touting his administration’s accomplishments, he turned to several of his newly-minted Cabinet secretaries like Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue. Each of those Cabinet secretaries lavished praise on Trump, which he accepted without comment but with a broad smile.
    At first, I thought Trump was just going to have the new members of the Cabinet spend a few minutes praising him. NOPE! It soon became clear that Trump planned to have every Cabinet member speak. And when I say “speak” what I really mean is “praise Trump for his accomplishments, his foresight, his just being awesome.”
    You think I am exaggerating. I am not. Here’s what White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus said about Trump: “We thank you for the opportunity and blessing to serve your agenda.”
    I mean, WHAT?!?
    The whole thing reminded me of a scene directly from the boardroom of “The Apprentice.” A group of supplicants all desperately trying to hold on to their spots on the show by effusively praising Trump — each one trying to take it a step further than the last. And Trump in the middle of it all, totally and completely pleased with himself. (Reminder: Around that Cabinet table are hugely accomplished generals, billionaires and political people with long track records of success.)
    What those contestants knew is the same thing Trump’s Cabinet has now realized: Flattery will get you everywhere. Donald Trump’s favorite topic of conversation is Donald Trump. The best way to talk about Donald Trump, if you want to keep working for Donald Trump, is to praise Donald Trump. The more over-the-top, the better.
    Chuck Schumer was quick off the line to mock Trump with this re-creation of the Cabinet meeting:
    There’s a tendency in Trump’s presidency to overlook or dismiss these smaller sorts of things. “Keep focused on the stuff that really matters,” people tweet at me every day, all day. (For liberals sending those tweets, it’s about Russia and Trump’s finances. For conservatives, it’s Trump’s many accomplishments that are being allegedly ignored.)
    My contention is that things like this Cabinet meeting — while totally inconsequential in terms of actual policy — are deeply revealing about who Trump is and how he views himself, the people who work for him and the world. And how he views all of those things is this: With Trump at the center and everyone a spoke emanating from his hub.

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    The danger of high-functioning depression as told by a college student.

    I first saw a psychiatrist for my anxiety and depression as a junior in high school.

    During her evaluation, she asked about my coursework. I told her that I had a 4.0 GPA and had filled my schedule with pre-AP and AP classes. A puzzled look crossed her face. She asked about my involvement in extracurricular activities. As I rattled off the long list of groups and organizations I was a part of, her frown creased further.

    Finally, she set down her pen and looked at me, saying something along the lines of “You seem to be pretty high-functioning, but your anxiety and depression seem pretty severe. Actually, its teens like you who scare me a lot.”

    When we see depression and anxiety in adolescents, we see teens struggling to get by in their day-to-day lives. We see grades dropping, and we see involvement replaced by isolation. But it doesnt always look like this.

    And when we limit our idea of mental illness, at-risk people slip through the cracks.

    We dont see the student with the 4.0 GPA or the student whos active in choir and theater or a member of the National Honor Society or the ambitious teen who takes on leadership roles in a religious youth group.

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    Hate To Break It To You But You Are The Reason Your Life Sucks So Much

    If you think your life sucks, it probably does. If you think the world is out to get you, it probably is. If you think you deserve more, you probably do.

    The only thing in the world holding you back from achieving greatness is in fact you.

    If you think the world is out to get you its because you have a shit attitude towards life youre looking at everything the wrong way. Youre using the negatives to fuel you instead of the positives. Youre letting the negatives control your mind and in turn youre allowing them control of your life. Youre letting the bad things win.

    You will never amount to any form of greatness if you spend your life working some boring desk job that just drains you of your energy because youre too lazy to get out and search for something more fulfillingthat is no ones fault but your own.

    You will never travel the world and see Paris if you keep making excuses for why you cant go. Just buy the plane ticket, pack a bag and go. Let the world shape you and open your eyes. Let it challenge you and frustrate the hell out of you. Struggle with language barriers and get lost. Surrender the control you posses in every day life and just go.

    You will never lose weight if you dont change your eating habits. You will never improve your health if you dont eat more vegetables. You will never get smarter or broaden your horizons if youre unwilling to learn from others and read.

    You will never be happy if youre constantly looking at the negatives. You will never reach happiness in your life if youre constantly surrounding yourself by people and things that drain you.

    You are the reason you are unhappy, you are the reason youre stuck in a rut and your relationships are poor and you’re constantly criticizing others and looking for more. Thats all on you.

    Theres no way to sugar coat it. You are your own worst enemy; you are the only one who is standing in the way of your goals and your success.

    Life doesnt owe you or anyone else anything, so dont expect it to. Dont expect a million dollars to show up at your door, dont expect to wake up with a rocking body, dont expect to get your dream job if you dont ever put work into it.

    If you want something you have to work hard for it. Not a half-assed hard either, I mean you need to work your ass off. You need to make sacrifices and push through even when things get messyand complicated. You need to keep going when everything in you is telling you to give up because thats the only way youll ever amount to anything great.

    If you think youre life sucks it probably does, its just like the saying, he who says he cant and he who says he can are both usually right.

    Dont stand in the way of your own life, dont give up when things get hard because quitting will never get you anywhere. Instead work harder and work smarter.

    Believe in yourself when no one else does so you can look back and say, I told you so.

    No one will believe you can do it until you do, so you have to want your own dreams. Others can want your dreams for you but youre the only one who can make them happen and youre the only one who can succeed or fail in reaching them.

    Stop doing things that dont fulfill you, stop blaming others for your problems and stop thinking life owes you something because it doesnt. If you want your life to get better than start living like it. Start doing something positive in the right direction and dont give up until you get there, then keep going.

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    Simon Cowell comes through where Britain’s NHS does not

    Just as the case of Charlie Gard drifts out of headlines and his family attempts to find peace after their long battle both with the infants condition and Englands nationalized health service, another somewhat prominent example has gained some attention and it involves none other than famous star searcher and producer Simon Cowell (from “American Idol,” “X Factor” and “Britains Got Talent”).

    Enter 15-year-old Julia Carlile, who appeared on Cowells show “Britains Got Talent” along with her interpretive dance group Just Us (renamed MerseyGirls). During on-air introductions shortly before their first performance, Carlile revealed she was born with and suffers from spinal scoliosis (a condition that causes the spine to curve and the body to contort).

    She also stated that she was going to need corrective surgery shortly after the performances on the show and the result of such surgery in England would mean her dancing days would be over. Her condition was so severe that her surgery would need to be performed before the end of the year because her spine was crushing into her lung. The surgical option offered through NHS involved fusing metal rods to her spinal column which would have severely limited her bodys natural movements and have a recovery time of up to six months or more.

    Cowell and the judges were so impressed by Carliles attitude and her groups performance (to Rachel Plattens “Fight Song”) which worked Carliles scoliosis into the performance, that co-judge Alesha Dixon awarded them the rare Golden Buzzer  which meant the group advances through preliminary competition. The group promised to give Julia the reward money (£250k) for her surgery if they won. They went on to finish 9th for the show. But that wasnt the end of the story for Cowell and Carlile.

    But the question remains for kids like Carlile with such limited options and a health care system that is more concerned with panels and cost over care and innovation, the very same system the Democrat party wants to bring to this country.

    She revealed to the Liverpool paper, The Echo, that Cowell himself had offered to cover her medical costs for her surgery. She told the paper that Cowell had approached her backstage during the shows finale and told her he would cover the £175,000 bill for her surgery (roughly $220,000).

    But her surgery wasnt going to be performed through NHS and she wasnt going to receive fused rods to her spine. Carlile opted for a medical procedure only offered in the United States called vertebral body tethering, which involves the placement of screws, not rods, along her spinal cord. The procedure has a six-week recovery time and is reversible. Furthermore it wont limit Carliles body movements as severely, allowing her to continue to dance.

    The procedure, which was performed on Carlile in New Jersey on July 23rd, is not offered through Englands NHS. Its also not offered in Cuba. Or Sweden, or Denmark or anywhere else where nationalized health care is lionized by the political left in this country.

    Carlile kept fans and followers on Twitter updated on her status including posting a photo in a dance pose after her first operation. 9 days post op and i’m dancing already, it was a long bumpy road to recovery but i did it! Second op tomorrow #strong #fighter #scoliosis

    She also posted an update after her second surgery just two days ago. Second surgery was a success! Now on the road to recovery. Thankyou @SimonCowell she tweeted.

    Cowell picking up the tab is an act of generosity that shouldnt ever be forgotten among his famous hard demeanor. But the question still remains for kids like Carlile with such limited options and a health care system that is more concerned with panels and cost over care and innovation, the very same system the Democratic Party wants to bring to this country. And without a GOP health care plan to repeal or replace ObamaCare, they might very well succeed in the near future.

    In the meantime, Carlile is expected to make a full recovery. Thats as good a reason as any to dance. 

    Stephen L. Miller has written for Heat Street and National Review Online. Follow him on Twitter at @redsteeze.

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    Tanzania’s ghost safari: how western aid contributed to the decline of a wildlife haven

    International projects helped turn a rich and fertile Tanzanian valley into vast tracts of farmland, teak forests and sugar plantations

    The long road from Dar es Salaam brings you through sparsely wooded hills and fields to the narrow northern neck of the Kilombero valley. Theres a bend in the road, then the land opens out, suddenly, in front of you.

    Along the west side lie the steep-faced Udzungwa mountains, one of the last pristine rainforests in Tanzania. The Kilombero river runs through the red soils of the valley, flooding in November or December and subsiding by June. Down the longer eastern flank rise the Mahenge mountains, and beyond them, invisible, unfurls the vast territory of the Selous game reserve, one of the largest remaining chunks of African wilderness.

    Ryan Shallom was 16 the first time he saw the Kilombero valley, in 1990. There were 600 lions in the valley back then, recalls Shallom, whose family were professional hunters, running trips for tourists and rich Tanzanians. The light tree cover in the valleys higher ground, the rivers, the abundance of food and water, meant that this was a haven not just for elephants, lions, and buffalos, but for all wildlife: a pocket Eden.

    Kilombero valley map

    We used to see herds of 100 elephants or more, buffalo in all directions There was the worlds largest population of puku antelope, about 60,000. I think 75% of the worlds population of puku were in Kilombero.

    But from the mid 90s, the wildlife began to disappear. In 1998, elephant numbers in the valley were over 5,000, according to data collected by the Tanzania Wildlife Research Institute. Now elephants are rarely seen. The lions have gone too, although there are rumours that there is one male lion left. The puku are vanishing: Shallom estimates their numbers have fallen to just over a thousand. The crocodiles, hippos, and zebra, have all more or less vanished.

    We call it the ghost safari now, says scientist turned safari-man Roy Hinde. Its devastating.

    Ryan Shallom remembers a time when there were 600 lions in the Kilombero valley. Photograph: Sophie Tremblay/the Guardian

    A history of aid in Kilombero valley

    For many years Kilombero valley defied change. Tribes such as the Pogoro, the Ndamba-Mbunga, the Hehe and the Ngindo had lived there for centuries or frequently travelled through. From 1800 onwards the Europeans first Germans, then after the first world war, British started to arrive, eyeing up the fertile soil and making enormous plans. But somehow their plans kept falling through.

    A few years after Julius Nyerere became president of an independent Tanganyika in 1961, a British survey hypothesised complete control of the flooding in the valley to free a vast area for irrigation. But it would never happen. Nyerere did not like western foreign investors, although help from communist China was acceptable. The majority of farmers in the valley then were small-scale tribal farmers about 64,000 or thereabouts. The foreigners, meanwhile, came and went. Over and over again foreign dreams a sugar plantation, a rice farm, a railway withered and died in the valley.

    But in 1985 Nyerere stepped down. The new government set about the task of opening up to foreign investors once again. Kilomberos magic trick was about to come to an end.

    In the 90s, the decade that Shallom and Hinde both arrived in the valley for the first time, the rice plantation and the sugar plantation were already in place, but they were sluggish, half-abandoned, state-propped up enterprises. Parts of the plantations were being used by farmers from the valley, while others were being reclaimed slowly by the forest. Farmers speckled the rest of the valley but mostly it was a little oasis, far away from the 20th century.

    A photo taken by Shallom in the mid-90s, when elephants regularly walked through his land. Photograph: Ryan Shallom/Sophie Tremblay/the Guardian

    The encroachment started in the mid 90s when the cattle started moving in, says Shallom. Tanzania, like other African countries, was experiencing a rapid growth in livestock a profitable, moveable way to store capital at a time when demand for meat, both on the continent and in the rest of the world, was beginning to explode. Pastoralist tribes in Tanzania particularly the Sukuma began to move into the valley in ever larger numbers, bringing large herds of their distinctive long-horned cattle.

    A teak plantation followed, funded by British aid money in the form of the Commonwealth Development Company (now known as CDC). Over the next few years it would take over 28,000 hectares (69,189 acres), and become the largest teak farm in Africa.

    In 1998, the Tanzanian government sold the sugar plantation to Illovo, Africas biggest sugar company, now owned by the mega-corp Associated British Foods which continued an outgrower programme that was being tried out. There were already farmers moving into the area, but the outgrower system would turbo-charge the in-migration. The main plantation supported small-scale farmers by buying their crops at a set pre-agreed price: in some cases out-growers got training and support, and had a ready market for their crops. The model caught on fast and by 2002 there were about 3,300 outgrowers; by 2006 that number had swollen to nearly 6,000.

    Finally buyers were found for the rice plantation; another international consortium involving Agrica, another British-based company. This too began an outgrower programme which was as popular as the one up the valley. Within a few years the plantation was dealing with 480 or more outgrowers.

    The Tanzanian government was supportive of the growth and appeared to be supportive of the investors (although there would be clashes too). In 2009 the government announced their Kilimo Kwanza initiative Agriculture First which would prioritise the transformation and growth of the countrys agricultural sector. And in 2010, the then Tanzanian president Jakaya Kikwete went to the World Economic Forum to pitch his country for investment, positing a new model for sustainable agricultural development based on the Kilombero outgrower model; clusters of agribusiness which incorporated small-scale farmers. Sagcot the Southern Agricultural Growth Corridor of Tanzania was born and the investors loved it. USAid promised $2m on the spot.

    An aerial view at the base of the Udzungwa mountains, where the farmland runs up against the forest. Photograph: Sophie Tremblay/For The Guardian

    Aid money and international funds came rolling in. A bewildering network of initiatives and partnerships between business and the international sector (Feed the future, the New Alliance, the New Vision for Agriculture Initiative, the Grow Africa Partnership) was either setting up or already in place and focusing on Africa, and Tanzania and Kilombero were perfect candidates. British and Norwegian aid money went to the rice plantation. World Bank money went to the teak plantation. USAid came in to rehabilitate roads, build bridges and generally slosh cash around. Thanks to the west, thanks to aid, it was boomtime in the valley.

    The population, meanwhile, grew rapidly. All you needed to do to set up a farm, after all, was to get permission from the local village and pay them a small fee, and then clear an area and get cracking. Nearby were readymade markets for your produce. The valley was beautiful, the land welcoming and fertile. It is hardly surprising that between 1964 and 2015 the valleys population rose from 56,000 to more than half a million.

    What about the wildlife?

    Baboons still live in the valley. One farm at least employs a boy with a catapult to keep them out of the crops. Photograph: Sophie Tremblay/For The Guardian

    We tried to get people interested, says Shallom. For years we shouted and screamed and did everything we could to get someone to pay attention. We suggested that the valley should be aggregated into the Selous reserve. We talked to the newspapers, to local government officials, to everyone we could get hold of. But no one was interested.

    The valley was being radically transformed. The miombo forest, the open plains, were disappearing as the small farms and the big farms encroached. Every day more of the valley floor was covered with miles of sugar and rice plantation, or with the monocultural teak forests.

    The difference is startling. Miombo forest is a mixture of high trees, evergreens, shrubs, flowers, creepers and undergrowth. You can actually hear the density of life here; the low throb of bees, a whine of other insects, the calls of the doves and the shrikes.

    Teak is entirely different. The trees are slender, elegant, reaching up to 150ft when mature. The leaves are huge, simple, obtuse in shape with undivided blades; they are thick and slightly sandpapery to the touch. When they fall on the ground, Hinde says, they kill undergrowth. You cant grow anything beneath teak trees. The empty ground beneath the trees, which grow in neat and unnerving lines, means that in this forest it is nearly silent. We spot a solitary buffalo spider, and a few butterflies.

    An aerial view of the teak plantation in the valley. Photograph: Sophie Tremblay/For The Guardian

    I talked to the teak company about building wildlife corridors, says Hinde, who monitored the impacts for the conservation NGO Frontier. Hed come to the valley as a young scientist, but had given up in frustration by the time he spoke to the Guardian, and started his own safari company, Wild Things, hoping to instead spur action by bringing people to see the incredible wildlife. They did make a number of changes to make the plantations more wildlife friendly. Measures included setting aside large areas for conservation and breaking up the teak zones in order to help out wildlife. But the corridors they built were too narrow. Villagers would put pitfall traps in them and the elephants would go in feet-first and be trapped for their meat and for their ivory.

    Pressure on the wildlife was also coming from the rising population. There has been a massive increase in smallholder farming (predominantly rice) and nomadic cattle herding, says KVTC head Hans Lemm. Pastoralists have entered the valley in significant numbers since the early 2000s.

    The old tribes would eat fish, according to Father Klimakus Chahali, who grew up in the valley, and now runs the mission in the town of Itete. They didnt cut down trees. Rumours abounded that some of the new arrivals in the valley had a less friendly attitude to wildlife, and were killing the lions in the valley to protect their livestock. One year, says Shallom, I found 22 lion carcasses. They were poisoning them with pesticides. Bushmeat consumption and poaching rose too: We knew there were cartels operating in the valley but again no one wanted to know.

    Other conservationists tried to sound the alarm along with Hinde and Shallom. Trevor Jones of the Southern Tanzania Elephant Program (Step) was one of the most effective; his 2007 map of the wildlife corridors in the valley along with his warnings that they would shortly be shut made it into a number of environmental assessments, including USAIDs. It has been very sad to see all the overgrazing and conversion to farmland of wildlife habitat in the Kilombero valley over the last decade, says Jones.

    A giant footprint up in the north of the valley shows a last remaining spot where elephants still sometimes come out of the forest to nibble at the edges of the sugar plantation. Photograph: Sophie Tremblay/For The Guardian

    Anna Estes, a conservationist working in the north of the country, says: The main threat to elephants overall is not big agriculture, but unofficial development from subsistence farmers. 80% of farming in Tanzania is small-scale subsistence farming. Because it is unplanned, this causes a lot of damage to elephant habitat. Aside from the immediate threat from poaching, habitat loss is the number one threat to elephants these days, and human-elephant conflict is an extension of that. The outgrower programme if inadvertently magnified that effect tenfold.

    Today farms completely line the road that lies along the west of the valley. A brand new road is planned that will lead from Ifakara, in the centre, along down the east side beside the Selous. Everywhere you look, there are blackened stumps and cleared land, marking the new arrivals creating new farms. Forests that were here a year ago have disappeared. New farms have sprung up in their place.

    In a cafe in one village they tell us that most people here have arrived in the last few years; the man in charge only moved here two years ago. Has he ever seen or heard of elephants in the area? He shakes his head. No.


    So how did government and aid money end up being used to help fund the destruction of a wildlife haven?

    I work more and more with the World Bank or the African Development Bank, says scientist Holly Dublin, and I see what their plans and what they are giving loans for to these governments. It is like theres a total disconnect. So what you are going to see is that of course, elephants come last. In fact, anything to do with wildlife comes last.

    It wasnt that the big donors were unaware of the risks. The World Bank did 320 pages of assessment on Sagcot [pdf] with a specific case study on Kilombero. They highlighted the high risk from accelerated agribusiness investment noting possible increasing pressure on the forests and their biodiversity. There was some discontent at the World Bank around the project, says Doug Hertzler of ActionAid, who has closely followed the impacts of the Tanzanian agricultural plans. For a long time the funding was held up because of the concerns. They hesitated and dragged their feet but in the end the money went through.

    7 North Ruipa IMG 2807 Lions, elephants and hippos have all vanished from Kilombero valley, Tanzania, after UK and US funded projects helped turn a once-thriving habitat into vast tracts of farmland, teak, and sugar plantations Photograph: Sophie Tremblay/For The Guardian

    It was a similar story with the US aid agency, USAID, who noted in their own extensive report that Kilombero Valley Floodplain is of global, national, regional and local importance in terms of its ecology and biodiversity and added that the most important direct threat to biodiversity comes in the form of the conversion, loss, degradation, and fragmentation of natural ecosystems. But they went in nonetheless, and their work can be seen all over the valley including the rehabilitation of a road that runs straight through the heart of the Ruipa wildlife corridor and which will, undoubtedly bring more traffic.

    A USAID spokesperson at the U.S. Embassy in Tanzania said they were working to help Tanzania improve its environmental performance. Asked if economic development was incompatible with that, he said: It is a problem and were very conscious of it … When were looking at doing a project were looking for that balance between environmental issues and sustainable living. Its a juggling act and were always looking for new ideas.

    UK money went in too, in the form of a grant to the rice plantation and support for SAGCOT (they had also been key funders of the teak plantation). They told the Guardian: DFIDs support to developing agriculture in Tanzania is vital for maintaining a stable supply of food, creating jobs and improving prosperity for hundreds of thousands of households. All our agriculture programmes are environmentally sustainable, and protect wildlife and biodiversity, while helping the poorest people lift themselves and their families out of poverty for good. But they also point out, very reasonably, that trade and job creation are the means through which developing countries will become self-sufficient, eliminate poverty and hunger, and end their dependency on aid to help Tanzania stand on its own two feet.

    I dont know that development banks can be blamed for not taking into account wildlife, says Dublin. They take into account the health needs, the food needs, the water needs So the fact that they have done their land use planning and the government and the guys who have responsibility for wildlife have not stepped up to the plate in that, I think you have to be careful how you tell that story. When a development agency gives a loan to expand a food project, that is what they are supposed to be doing. That is their job.

    The companies in the valley all worry about this too and have all employed their own techniques to try to stem the losses. The rice plantation has run education courses on modern agricultural techniques in order to help local people grow more rice in a smaller area; the teak plantation, in some places, has alternated teak and miombo to try to give the wildlife some space. The sugar plantation is trying to build up a forest area in one part of in the north of the valley where elephants are still sometimes seen, so that the elephants will continue to pass that way without stumbling into the plantations (a beehive fence to keep them in the forest has been strung along one point). But they agree that the problem is just getting worse. As KVTC head Lemm says: We have seen a significant reduction in wildlife. In particular large mammals and the various wildlife corridors that we are part of are under severe pressure.

    The Tanzanian government has other priorities. Growth is, of course, prioritised over biodiversity. Julius Nyerere once said I personally am not very interested in animals. I do not want to spend holidays watching crocodiles. Nevertheless, I am entirely in favour of their survival. I talk to heads of state about this all the time, says Kaddu Sebunya, head of the African Wildlife Foundation. One president said to me. Ive never had a voter ask me for more elephants or more natural parks. They want hospitals, education, and thats what keeps him awake at night.

    Smallholder farmers and pastoralists have moved in huge numbers to the valley, cutting down forest as they go. Photograph: Sophie Tremblay/For The Guardian

    Scientists are warning that a mass species extinction is already underway. Agriculture is one of the most serious threats to the planets biodiversity, and the demand for food and agricultural land is only going to grow. In Kilombero Valley the World Bank predicts that the demand for agricultural land will almost double in the coming 20 years, with a large increase for rice and maize and a smaller increase for sugarcane. Globally, the Food and Agriculture Organisation estimates that an extra 1.2m hevtares of land will be needed for agriculture by 2050. Much of the suitable land not yet in use is concentrated in a few countries in Latin America and sub-Saharan Africa, says the FAO report. It makes no reference to biodiversity, but does mention that part of the land is forested, protected or subject to expanding urban settlements.

    We have to be pragmatic, and agree to lose something, says Kaddu. The Africa Wildlife Foundation tries to explain to governments and businesses that they need an ecosystem that functions. If you want to continue getting water for agriculture, you need to maintain a landscape that produces rain. But the truth is that we cant have it all. Africa is going to lose wildlife. We are going to have to negotiate. We are going to have to lose a few elephants. Conservationists in Tanzania are working on dozens of initiatives to improve, or at least slow the decline in the biodiversity of Kilombero valley.

    Shallom is less sanguine. After years of battling with the state, he shut down his hunting lodge and left the valley. For a while he just gave it all up and let his business fall away; he admits that for the last few years he has struggled. Now he has two new concessions in the Selous; for the first time in the conversation his face lights up as he talks about building up the wildlife there again. But the happiness disappears when we go back to the subject of the valley. Ive seen Kilombero from its best to its worst, he says. To me it is a closed chapter, a very bitter pill I had to swallow. Kilombero is done now. Its over.

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    Brad And Angelina Are Reportedly Getting Back Together

    While most of the world is still recovering from the tragic news of Chris Pratt and Anna Faris breakup, we, the hard-hitting journalists of the world, have different celebrity couples to move on to. Namely, Brad and Angelina, and why they might not be calling it quits after all.

    Are you okay? Did you faint? Yes, you read that correctly. Brangelina, power couple of the century, adopters of seven million children, human rights pioneers, might be giving it another shot. Lets discuss.

    Its been 11 months since Angelina first confirmed the divorce was happening, when she said that it was for the health of the family. The world momentarily stopped turning and we definitely shed a tear or 100, but now there are new developments. According to reports, they havent moved forward on the divorce in several months, and it seems unlikely that they will anytime soon.

    Sources say that Brad got sober to try and win Angie back, which sounds like no fun but also, like, good for him. Angie supposedly read about his changes in his story in May and had a change of heart. What, he couldn’t just text her that he was sober or slide into her DMs like a normal person? Whatever. In the story, Brad repeatedly uses boozing as a verb, which makes us slightly uncomfortable in the way that our dads saying “lit” makes us uncomfortable, but its the thought that counts.

    Also, last month in an interview for , Angie said that the divorce has been the hardest time, and were just kind of coming up for air. What does all this mean?? Why are all these developments happening through magazine interviews? Sorry to all you girls who are still Team Jen Aniston, but it looks like Angie and Brad might be back together. Thank god. Just when I was starting to think love is a construct invented by the film industry and we’re all sitting in a rock hurtling through space *puts down blunt*. Now I can die happy, as long as this doesn’t mean a sequel.

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    Blue Apron is having a really bad day

    Things are not going so well for Blue Apron this morning after reporting its second-quarter earnings (its first earnings report ever), and the stock is crashing as a result of it.

    The companys stock is down more than 14 percent on the earnings report, which came in pretty mixed compared to what Wall Street wanted. Blue Apron is looking to pull back on its marketing spend as it tries to get its burn under control, which resulted in a drop in its number of customers. The company was able to squeeze out a small profit in a past life, but since then it began to aggressively spend on marketing as it sought to acquire customers.

    The problem quickly became getting those customers to stick around and keep buying meals. This time around, the company was able to improve the health of its customer base as they are spending more money and buying slightly more meals, but it still has to show that it can grow that base even as it starts to pull back on marketing. The company reported a loss of 47 cents per share on revenue of $238.1 million, while Wall Street was looking for a loss of 30 cents per share on $235.8 million.

    Chart time:

    So, better than expected revenue but with a widening loss even, as it pares back its marketing expense. The company gave off some negative signals about its next quarter, forecasting a loss between $121 million and $128 million in the second half, according to Business Insider. These comments were likely made on the earnings call, which were reviewing right now. But those kinds of negative signals are going to punish a freshly-IPOd company, especially amid a period of wild uncertainty with the decline of Snap and possible fading appetite for new IPOs.

    If Blue Apron sees some turbulence heading into the back half of the year, the persistent threat of Amazon definitely isnt going to help. Information is slowly dripping out that Amazon is gunning for the meal-kit delivery space, which has crushed the stock over time. The company went public at $10 per share, but has since collapsed and lost nearly half its value.

    Still, the IPOs will continue to come. Dropbox is reportedly inching closer to an IPO, and TechCrunch previously reported that Stitch Fix has confidentially filed for an IPO.

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    GOP Senator Suggests McCains Brain Tumor Mightve Contributed to No Vote on Repeal

    Republican Sen. Ron Johnson seemingly suggested last week that Sen. John McCains brain tumor may have affected the Arizona Republicans judgment when he voted against the skinny repeal of Obamacare late last month. CNN on Wednesday unearthed audio from a Chicago radio show last week, in which Johnson said of the shocking moment McCain voted against the proposal: Im not gonna speak for John McCainhe has a brain tumor right now, that vote occurred at 1:30 in the morningsome of that might have factored in. A seemingly shocked radio host replied, Really? and asked if the senator truly believed McCains decision-making was clouded by his tumor. Again, I-I-I dont know exactly what we really thought and again I dont want speak for any senator, the Wisconsin Republican stammered. I really thought he was going to vote yes to send that to conference at 10:30 at night. By about 1, 1:30, he voted no. So you have talk to John in terms what was on his mind. McCains office responded to Johnsons comments in a statement later Wednesday. It is bizarre and deeply unfortunate that Senator Johnson would question the judgment of a colleague and friend. Senator McCain has been very open and clear about his reasons for the vote, spokeswoman Julie Tarallo said. Johnson later backtracked, writing in a statement: Im disappointed I didnt more eloquently express my sympathy for what Sen. McCain is going through. I have nothing but respect for him and the vote came at the end of a long day for everyone.

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    Gundlach, Wary of Pricey Market, Sets Cap on DoubleLine Size

    Jeffrey Gundlach sees too much of a good thing — in financial markets and in his industry — and he wants no part of it.

    The co-founder and chief executive officer of DoubleLine Capital LP says risky assets such as junk bonds and emerging-market debt are overvalued. He’s reducing those positions in DoubleLine funds and investing more in higher-quality credits with less sensitivity to rising interest rates, mindful that doing so may mean he gives up some performance for a while.

    Gundlach, 57, says he can’t predict what event or development will trigger a change in investor sentiment. Like Howard Marks, the co-chairman of Oaktree Capital Group LLC, who last month warned that markets had crossed into “too-bullish territory,” Gundlach says it’s better to be cautious now than to hold on until it’s too late.

    “If you’re waiting for the catalyst to show itself, you’re going to be selling at a lower price,” he said in a phone interview Monday from DoubleLine’s office in Los Angeles. “This is not the time period where you say, ‘I can buy anything and not worry about the risk of it.’ The time to do that was 18 months ago.”

    ‘Turning Money Away’

    Gundlach is taking a similarly conservative approach to building his eight-year-old firm. While some competitors embrace the mantra “size matters,” he believes there’s a limit to how much DoubleLine can manage well and says the firm may stop marketing altogether once assets reach $150 billion, up from about $110 billion today.

    “I’ve actually been turning money away in our institutional business,” Gundlach said. “I don’t want to manage $500 billion. I don’t really want to manage $200 billion.”

    That attitude is out of step with an industry that prioritizes asset growth, both as a means to generate more revenue and as a way to defray fixed expenses such as technology and compliance. Janus Capital Group and Aberdeen Asset Management Plc each combined with other firms in part to gain scale. Vanguard Group has more than quadrupled its assets to $4.4 trillion in less than a decade, and in an interview in March, Larry Fink, whose BlackRock Inc. oversees $5.7 trillion, said “scale has become a greater necessity — and for us a greater advantage.”

    Bill Gross once managed a single fund with $293 billion in assets, the Pimco Total Return Fund. By comparison, Gundlach, who co-founded DoubleLine in 2009, said he’s debated whether to close the $54 billion DoubleLine Total Return Bond Fund, the firm’s largest, to new money.

    Investing Style

    “We can’t do $100 billion in the Total Return Bond Fund,” he said. “The market isn’t big enough for our style, the things we invest in.”

    That fund has invested largely in mortgage-backed securities and returned 3.5 percent annually for the past five years, outperforming 92 percent of its peers as measured by Bloomberg. In 2016 it trailed the benchmark Bloomberg Barclays US Aggregate bond index for the first time, a lag Gundlach said was mostly because the fund doesn’t invest in corporate debt.

    He also said a decline in the Total Return Bond Fund’s assets from $62 billion last September, traditionally seen as a warning sign, reflects a decision to concentrate less on a single product. While other firms discounted fees to lure more investors, DoubleLine sought instead to attract assets to its other funds, including the Core Fixed Income and Shiller Enhanced CAPE, both co-managed by the firm’s deputy chief investment officer, Jeffrey Sherman.

    “I don’t want one $150 billion fund, I want 10 $15 billion funds. A diversified business,” Gundlach said in the interview. “We lose business because our fees are too high and I say, ‘Fine, that’s a way of regulating growth.’”

    DoubleLine has adapted the “smart beta” programmatic approach to investing in stocks, first used in the Shiller CAPE fund, to a similar product for European markets, and Gundlach said the next step may be a global stock fund.

    DoubleLine’s funds have consistently outperformed their peers. That’s what appeals to investors even if its fees aren’t the industry’s lowest, according to Todd Rosenbluth, fund research director at CFRA, a New York-based investment research firm. An example is the SPDR DoubleLine Total Return Tactical ETF, which has continued to attract assets and has a $3.4 billion market cap.

    DoubleLine Driven

    “People were driven to buy a Gundlach-driven portfolio — DoubleLine-driven, not just him,” Rosenbluth said. “As long as the firm follows the same approach and delivers the same return, I think investors are going to be very pleased.”

    Gundlach started DoubleLine after a dispute with management at TCW Group led to his ouster and prompted a legal battle. Oaktree took a 20 percent stake. When DoubleLine’s Total Return Bond Fund hit $50 billion in 2015, many speculated Gundlach had ambitions to build a giant firm.

    Instead, his goal is to keep DoubleLine small enough that it can continue buying a range of assets at good prices and outperform its benchmark indexes and peer funds. Anything larger would require a corporate infrastructure at a “totally different level” and many more employees than the more than 200 DoubleLine has now, Gundlach said.

    “To get to $300 billion, I think you need a thousand people,” he said. “You need offices in Beijing and Mumbai and London, because you really have to go big on sovereign wealth funds and a lot of wholesalers in the retail industry. And it just becomes a very big company, and I don’t want that.”

    Tokyo Office

    Currently, DoubleLine has only two corporate offices, its headquarters in Los Angeles and an outpost in Tokyo, where the firm oversees about $1 billion in assets. Gundlach said his strategy has Oaktree’s full support.

    The challenge right now is figuring out how quickly to dump lower-quality but higher-yielding assets in favor of safer securities that return less. In the meantime, Gundlach said he recently bought five-and eight-month put options on the S&P 500, positions that could generate returns of 400 percent if the index drops by enough.

    “Volatility is about to go up,” he said. “That’s my highest-conviction trade right now.”

    Gundlach took such concerns to Twitter last week, cautioning his some 32,000 followers that bond investors were buying into “riskier and riskier” strategies. More recently he’s been tweeting about a potential news story — a “fake news ruse” — he expects will be critical of DoubleLine and which he believes is being motivated by a competitor. He declined to identify the rival firm in the interview.

    Trump Factor

    The complacency in markets is understandable. Gundlach acknowledges that there are no obvious signs of a recession within six months, the only thing he says would bring about a major correction in asset prices. Everything from consumer confidence to employment to gauges of manufacturing health are strong.

    He expects the Federal Reserve to raise rates again in December and in successive quarters so long as the data are supportive. He doesn’t see the unwinding of the Fed’s balance sheet as a threat because Chair Janet Yellen and others have communicated their plans “extremely well.”

    Also, while optimism for tax reform and infrastructure spending have faded, Gundlach said it’s not clear when doubts about the Trump presidency will start to weigh heavily on investors.

    “The current president is getting virtually nothing done but is very noisy about it,” Gundlach said Tuesday during an interview on CNBC. “I don’t think the president’s performance has much to do with the way the stock market valuation is today.”

    Trump hasn’t accomplished much as president, so he shouldn’t be credited for the stock market’s advance to record heights, Gundlach told CNBC. But he also doesn’t expect politics to bring down markets, barring a disaster.

    “I don’t see the big drop, unless there’s something out of left field, like some sort of really escalating conflict,” he said in the Bloomberg News interview. “I think you’re supposed to be gradualistically moving toward the exits.”

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