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Building The Blueprint For Life On Mars

What is needed to make life on Mars sustainable for a long time? The main essentials of human life include air, water, food, and shelter. However, people require more than just the basic essentials to live comfortably. The Mars One project is becoming a more discussed topic by the media and public in general by the day. One interesting discussion is the speculation of how the first Mars settlers will create a lasting community on the planet.

The supplies that will be transported from Earth are likely to run out – most of them will probably be used in the seven-month journey to the red planet. When those first citizens arrive on Mars, they will have to come up with systems and processes to ensure sustainable resources for their future. In a nutshell, this is what they may be required to have. Even though humans will be able to produce numerous renewable resources on Mars, they will still need consistent funding from Earth.

According to the Mars One project, the estimated initial cost of settling the first four Mars citizens is around six billion dollars. Cost overruns are also a huge possibility. Future funding of this plan would come from donations by private investors, more so because the U.S has proposed budget cuts to space exploration funding. What began, as a grassroots cause might become a fierce global marketing campaign to get steady financial support.

A small leak in cash flow may cause trouble.  Space travel comes with a ton of health risks. All astronauts go through a thorough medical screening before undertaking a mission and they are monitored from Earth the entire time. However, this close monitoring will not be enough for permanent life on Mars. It is essential for all citizens to be able to access modern medical care.

It is almost impossible to have physicians of every specialty on Mars. Medical robots could act as a good alternative to diagnose the IBM Watson prototype and other conditions. Preventive medical technology such as early-warning software to preempt strokes, heart attacks, seizures, and other events might help. The use of minimally invasive robotic surgery to treat some conditions is also another option. All of these choices still call for equipment, facilities, and expertise. Communication with Earth is vital because of safety, technical support, and research.

Nonetheless, as the Mars community grows, the citizens will need stand-alone channels of communication among themselves. Creating a network of underground cables for the Internet and communications would be costly. A better choice is satellite phone and Internet. Humans and structures have to be protected from the environment. Too much exposure to dust storms, severe climate shifts, and radiation are some of the factors that astronauts need to be concerned about.

Southwest Research Institute has proposed plastic shielding for protection against cosmic radiation as well as wearing lead protective clothing and thick insulation. For structures, a strong outer coating might do. There are so many things to be considered when it comes to life on Mars. Examining them and coming up with solutions increases the chances of dual-planet existence. How will humans live on the red planet? An MIT team created a design concept in answer to this question as part of an international competition, Mars City Design 2017. The competition concentrated on sustainable cities on the red planet to be built within the next century.

The winning urban design by MIT, titled Redwood Forest, built tree habitats or domes, each with a capacity of up to 50 people. These domes offer open, public spaces with plants and water, obtained from the northern plains. The tree habitats will sit on top of networks of roots or underground tunnels that will give access to private spaces and convenient transportation to the rest of the tree habitats in the community. The roots will not only offer connectivity, but also protect residents from extreme thermal variations, micrometeorite impacts, and cosmic radiation.

The MIT team consisted of Caitlin Mueller, assistant professor, and postdoc Valentina Sumini leading nine students from various research groups and departments. Speaking on the project, Sumini says that the city will functionally and physically replicate a forest, utilizing the local resources on Mars such as regolith (or soil), water, the sun, and ice to support life. The forest-like design is also a symbol of the potential of growth as Mars transforms into a green planet.

Each tree habitat consists of an inflated membrane structure and a branching structural system. Since the design workflow is parametric, each habitat is different and is part of a diverse forest. The team seeks to create a comfortable environment for colonists using system architecture and location focused on sustainability—a very critical element for any Martian community.

George Lordos MBA ’00, the man responsible for the Redwood Forest system architecture, talked about the crucial role of water in developing vibrant communities on the red planet. He said that, in the Redwood Forest, each tree habitat would use energy from the sun to process and distribute water to the tree.

Water enters the soft cells in the dome and provides the much-needed protection from radiation, supplies hydroponic farms, and manages heat loads. Solar panels generate energy to break up the stored water for rocket fuel production, oxygen and charging hydrogen fuel cells (these are necessary in powering long-range vehicles and also for backup energy storage when dust storms occur).

According to the designers, most of the features in the Redwood Forest design could also be used on Earth. For instance, electric vehicles using underground multi-level networks might help with the congestion in cities in America. The tree habitat idea could help in creating working and living spaces in very harsh environments such as the sea floor, deserts, and high latitudes. Hydroponic gardening underneath cities could offer a steady supply of fresh vegetables; fish and fruits with lower transportation and land costs. Other member of the MIT team include AeroAstro PhD students Matthew Moraguez,

Alejandro Trujillo and Samuel Wald, Alpha Arsano SM ’17 (Architecture PhD student), Kamming Mark Tam MEng ’15 (research fellow), John Stillman and Meghan Maupin (Integrated Design and management Program graduates) and Zoe Lallas (Civil and Environmental engineering undergraduate). There is an easier way to launch humans to the red planet—the Martian mission could refuel on the moon. This is the suggestion of an MIT study.

Past studies have shown that water ice and lunar soil in specific craters of the moon can be mined and made into fuel. Assume that the necessary technologies are developed when the mission to Mars is set to take place; the MIT team has discovered that a detour to the moon for refueling would cut the mass of the mission by 68%. The team built a model to figure out the best route to the red planet, with the assumption that fuel-generating infrastructure and resources are available on the moon.

They determined that the most mass-efficient path would involve launching a crew with fuel, just enough to get it into orbit around Earth. Tankers of fuel would then be launched into space from a fuel plant on the moon. The Mars-bound crew would pick up the tankers, go to a nearby fueling station and refuel before going on their way. This plan is different from NASA’s direct route. It is against the common idea of how to get to Mars, where you have to go straight, carrying everything with you.

This new detour idea is unintuitive. However, from a big-picture view, it could be the most affordable option. Space exploration programs have employed two major strategies in providing resources to mission crews: the carry-along strategy, where all resources and vehicles accompany the crew at all times and the resupply strategy, which involves replenishing the crew with resources on a regular basis. However, the more humans go beyond Earth’s orbit in exploration, the more these strategies become less sustainable. The destinations are far away and budgets are limited.

The team suggests that missions to distant destinations will have a lot to gain from an “in-situ utilization” supply strategy; where resources and provisions such as fuel, oxygen, and water are produced and collected on the way. The resources generated in space would be used in place of those that would otherwise come from Earth. Ishimatsu came up with a network flow model for various routes to the red planet to see if manned missions would benefit from infrastructure and fuel resources in space. The routes range from a direct flight to those with several pit stops on the way.

The purpose of the model was to reduce the mass launched from Earth. The model focuses on a future situation in which fuel can be produced and distributed from the moon to certain points in space. According to the model, fuel depots are situated at specific gravitationally bound places in space, known as Lagrange points. Ishimatsu argues that this research highlights the importance of having a resource-producing structure in space. He goes on to say that it may not be necessary for the first mission to Mars but its presence will make repeated trips easier and more sustainable. Although the goal is to create a self-sustaining colony on Mars, a ‘road in space’ will make interplanetary travel more affordable. 

100,000 told to evacuate as Bali volcano spews huge ash cloud

A large eruption of Bali’s restless Mount Agung volcano could be imminent, Indonesian officials have said as they called for 100,000 people to leave the area.

So far, 40,000 people have been moved away from the volcano and tens of thousands of travelers have been stranded due to airport closures.

Mount Agung has been spewing volcanic ash with increasing intensity since last Tuesday. After confirmation that the volcano was shifting into the magmatic phase, authorities raised the warning level to the maximum of 4 on Monday morning.

Indonesia’s disaster mitigation agency (BNPB) has strongly urged people to immediately leave the designated exclusion zone, which has been extended to an 8-10km radius of the volcano.

Image result for 100,000 told to evacuate as Bali volcano spews huge ash cloud

“We ask people in the danger zone to evacuate immediately because there’s a potential for a bigger eruption,” said Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, a spokesman for the agency.

He said up to 40,000 people had been evacuated from the area and a further 60,000 also needed to move. The governor of Bali said later that 150,000 could be called on to leave.

“Not all residents have evacuated yet. There are those [who have not left] because their farm animals haven’t been evacuated yet. There are those who feel they are safe,” Sutopo said.

He said security personnel were trying to persuade people to leave voluntarily but that some could be evacuated by force.



Dubai police will ride hoverbikes straight out of ‘Star Wars’

Dubai is aggressively turning itself into a “Future City,” putting self-flying taxis in the skies and a facial recognition system in its airport. The Dubai police department’s latest ride is now adding another sci-fi transportation staple: the hoverbike.

The Dubai police, which already has luxury patrol cars, self-driving pursuit drones, and a robot officer, just announced it will soon have officers buzzing around on hoverbikes, which look like an early version of the speeder bikes used by the scout troopers on Endor in Return of the Jedi. 

The force (see what I did there?) unveiled its new Hoversurf Scorpion craft at the Gitex Technology Week conference, according to UAE English language publication Gulf News. The police force will use the hoverbike for emergency response scenarios, giving officers the ability to zoom over congested traffic conditions by taking to the air.  

The Russian-made craft is fully electric and can handle loads of up to 600 pounds, offering about 25 minutes of use per charge with a top speed of about 43 mph. The Scorpion can also fly autonomously for almost four miles at a time for other emergencies. 


The Jones Act Waiver For Puerto Rico Just Expired And Won’t Be Renewed

The Jones Act waiver for Puerto Rico expired Sunday night, and “it is not being extended at this time,” Department of Homeland Security spokesman David Lapan told HuffPost on Monday.


DHS had temporarily waived the Jones Act ― an arguably outdated law that imposes exorbitant shipping costs on the U.S. island ― on Sept. 28. The waiver has meant that Puerto Rico has been able to import food, fuel and supplies more quickly, and for half the cost, in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria.


With the 1920 law back in effect, the island will go back to paying much higher shipping costs to import supplies. The Jones Act requires that all goods shipped between U.S. ports be carried by U.S.-owned and operated ships, which are more expensive vessels than others in the global marketplace. That’s meant that Puerto Rico pays double the costs for goods from the U.S. mainland compared with neighboring islands ― and that U.S. vessels are making bank.

Image result for Puerto Rico damage

The return to higher shipping costs won’t help Puerto Rico as it tries to climb out of economic devastation. Nearly half of the 3.4 million Americans on the island still don’t have drinking water since Maria hit nearly three weeks ago. Just 15 percent have electricity. Many people still haven’t heard from loved ones, and at least 39 deaths have been attributed to the storm.


Despite the DHS position, Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rossello said Monday night that he wants another extension of the Jones Act waiver.


“I think we should have it,” Rossello told CBS News’ David Begnaud. “In this emergency phase, while we’re looking to sustain and save lives, we should have all of the assets at hand.”


Lapan said DHS is “always prepared to review requests on a case-by-case basis and respond quickly” to possible waivers of the Jones Act. But those decisions have to be related to national defense, he said, and are not driven by cost-related matters.


Fearing eruption of volcano, thousands begin evacuations in Bali

Nearly 50,000 people have fled the Mount Agung volcano on the Indonesian tourist island of Bali, fearing an imminent eruption as dozens of tremors rattle the surrounding region, officials said Monday.

Waskita Sutadewa, spokesman for the disaster mitigation agency in Bali, said people have scattered to all corners of the island and some have crossed to the neighboring island of Lombok.


Indonesian authorities raised the volcano’s alert status to the highest level on Friday following a dramatic increase in seismic activity. It last erupted in 1963, killing about 1,100 people.

Thousands of evacuees are living in temporary shelters, sports centers, village halls and with relatives or friends. Some return to the danger zone, which extends up to 12 kilometers from the crater, during the day to tend to livestock.


Officials have said there’s no immediate threat to tourists but some are already cutting short their stays in Bali. A significant eruption would force the closure of Bali’s international airport, stranding thousands.

“It’s obviously an awful thing. We want to be out of here just to be safe,” said an Australian woman at Bali’s airport who identified herself as Miriam.

National Disaster Mitigation Agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said hundreds of thousands of face masks will be distributed in Bali as part of government humanitarian assistance that includes thousands of mattresses and blankets.

“Mount Agung is entering a critical phase. Although it has been declared in the alert status on Sept. 22, it is not guaranteed that it will erupt imminently,” he said at a news conference in the capital, Jakarta.

In 1963, the 3,031-meter (9,944-foot) Agung hurled ash as high as 20 kilometers (12 miles), according to volcanologists, and remained active for about a year. Lava traveled 7.5 kilometers (4.7 miles) and ash reached Indonesia’s capital, Jakarta, about 1,000 kilometers (620 miles) away.


The mountain, 72 kilometers (45 miles) to the northeast of the tourist hotspot of Kuta, is among more than 120 active volcanoes in Indonesia.

The country of thousands of islands is prone to seismic upheaval due to its location on the Pacific “Ring of Fire,” an arc of volcanoes and fault lines encircling the Pacific Basin.


Clinton: Trump should send Navy to help Puerto Rico

Hillary Clinton is calling on the Trump administration to send the U.S. Navy to help Puerto Rico in its relief efforts after Hurricane Maria tore through the U.S. territory, leaving destruction and damage in its wake

Clinton in a tweet on Sunday urged President Trump and Defense Secretary James Mattis to deploy the Navy, including the United States Naval Ship Comfort, immediately in order to help those on the island reeling from the Category 4 storm’s aftermath.

“These are American citizens,” she added, along with a retweet of the images of the faces impacted by the destruction.

Hurricane Maria brought large amounts of destruction as the whipping winds and relentless rain pummeled the islands in the Caribbean, claiming the lives of at least 19 people in the region. 


About 3.4 million residents in Puerto Rico are living without electricity after the storm knocked out the power on Wednesday. Officials are warning that it could be months before they see the lights flicker back on as repair efforts just begin to get afoot.

Federal emergency relief resources are already strained after a wave of powerful storms hit the U.S. over the past few months including Hurricane Harvey and Irma.

Trump spoke with the governors of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands on Thursday, a day after declaring the impact of Hurricane Maria a major disaster.


Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló called the Category 4 storm the “most devastating storm to hit the island this century, if not in modern history.” 


Leonardo DiCaprio Commits $20 Million To Fight Climate Change

Leonardo DiCaprio is more than just a leading man in some of Hollywood’s biggest blockbusters. Along with being a writer and producer, he’s also an outspoken activist ringing the alarm bells of the catastrophe to befall us, should we ignore our role in global warming. DiCaprio himself has been a long-time advocate for the environment, and sits on the board of many prominent organizations including the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), and the International Fund for Animal Welfare.

He’s also traveled the world speaking on climate change and is currently a UN messenger of peace. He even brought up climate change in his acceptance speech, when he finally won an Oscar last year for his role in The Revenant. In addition, he’s made two speeches to the UN, one in 2014 and another earlier this year.

At a two-day conference that just wrapped up on Tuesday at Yale University, he announced The Leonardo DiCaprio foundation was committing $20 million dollars in grants to 100 nonprofits working to fight climate change. The foundation has six programs. They are: Wildlife and Landscape Conservation, Climate Change, Indigenous Rights, Innovative Solutions, Marine and Ocean Conservation, and Transforming California. Up until now, the foundation has had a direct financial impact of $80 million, which DiCaprio himself raised.

“These facts have been presented time and again, year after year, for decades,” DiCaprio said. “Quite simply, we are knowingly doing this to ourselves, to our entire planet, and we’re risking our very future.” He mentioned that the intense storms hitting the Caribbean and Gulf Coast, along with the horrendous flooding in Southern Asia, make the “results of our inaction even clearer.”   


And yet, “There is still an astounding level of willful ignorance and inaction from the people who should be doing the most to protect us and every other living thing on this planet.” Apparently, DiCaprio and his foundation head met with then President-elect Trump in December and offered a commonsense plan to address climate change, as well as to boost the economy through supporting green jobs. “We talked about how the United States has the potential to lead the world in clean energy manufacturing and research and development,” he said.

DiCaprio called R&D, green jobs, and green engineering “the largest domestic opportunity in all of American history.” Meanwhile, the Trump administration has backed away from the Paris Climate Agreement, which Kerry as Secretary of State helped broker in 2015. According to DiCaprio, the only thing we lack is the political will to tackle this ever-increasing problem.


Strong 7.1 quake hits Mexico, people trapped in collapsed buildings

 A 7.1 magnitude earthquake hit Mexico on Tuesday, collapsing buildings and trapping an unknown number of people.

TV images showed a multi-story building in the capital with a middle floor collapsed as sirens blared from first responders rushing to the scene. Other video showed the side of a government building sheering off and falling into the street as bystanders screamed.

In Cuernavaca, a city south of Mexico City, there were unconfirmed reports on local radio of people trapped beneath collapsed buildings.


The quake came just over a week after another major quake shook the country. A civil protection official told local TV that an unspecified number of people were trapped inside various buildings that caught fire in Mexico City.


Mexican TV and social media showed cars crushed by debris. Many people fled into the streets, and electricity and phone lines were down in parts of the capital.

Tuesday’s epicenter was located 5 miles (8 km) southeast of Atencingo in the central state of Puebla at a depth of 32 miles (51 km), the U.S. Geological Survey said.

The quake hit only hours after many people participated in earthquake drills around the nation on the anniversary of the devastating quake that killed thousands in Mexico City in 1985.

Many people were also still shaken from the recent quake on Sept. 7, a powerful 8.1 temblor that killed at least 98 people.

President Enrique Pena was on a flight to Oaxaca, one of the hardest hit areas by that quake, and said via his Twitter account that he was immediately returning to attend to the quake in Mexico City.



10 Big Differences between Asian and American Education Systems

When I first walked into Daewon High School in Seoul (the #1 high school in the country), I wasn’t surprised by the motto over the main door: “Less of me, more of us.” American culture encourages students to express their opinions about a particular subject matter freely. They are also encouraged to discuss some topics with other students and the teacher, and to do projects at home. On the other hand, Asian schools are completely different. Schools in Asian countries are lecture-based, and learning is memorization-based. Creativity is not required, discipline is. The teacher presents a particular matter and lectures while students are sitting and carefully taking notes. Well, at least, they’re supposed to be taking notes! My friend, a school teacher in Seoul, used to constantly agonize over the number of students sleeping in her class, sometimes many at a time, and that it was a common problem for all teachers in Korea.
Although some teachers might encourage student participation after the end of lectures, it’s not considered a priority in the Asian school system.


Teacher – student relationship


The relationship between a student and a teacher in American schools is casual and friendly. Students are allowed to communicate with their teachers freely. Also, teachers value students’ opinions without a dismissive attitude.
Asian countries are characterized by a certain hierarchy, which transmits onto schools as well. Schools have their own hierarchy that doesn’t incorporate casual and friendly relationships between teachers and students. Teacher-student communication in the average Asian school is strictly formal. Teachers respect students and demand respect in return. Openly disagreeing with a teacher isn’t encouraged. As a result, many Western teachers, when teaching in Asia, find the students to be highly respectful.




The American grading system is very simple – when a student gets a particular score, he or she gets a grade that is in the range for that score e.g. scoring higher than 93 gives you an A, but also scoring at least 93 gives you an A as well.
The grading system in Asian schools is more complicated than that in the American system. However, it’s also more precise. Asian schools use a relative grading system, which doesn’t have a set score that defines the great. Instead, the system divides scores into percentages and assigns different grades to specific percentages.
For example, students whose grades are in top 35% in entire class can receive an A, the next 40% get a B, etc. The primary purpose of this grading system is to increase competitiveness and motivate students.


After-school school, sort of


Children in America rely on their “regular” school education to study, get informed, etc. They do homework that was assigned to them by their teachers, and that would be it. On the other hand, Asian kids go to school after their regular schools. These are called different things, like Hagwons (학원) in South Korea, and Eikaiwas (英会話教室) in Japan; they are private academies.
Private academies teach kids subjects and lectures they are taught in schools. Many (all?) mothers in these countries send their children to these academies after school, which range in subjects taught from academic, instrumental, sport, and, most popular, English language study. These after school academies are probably why sleeping students are tolerated on occasion in public schools; their teachers know they have many hours of schooling left! And they know the students are most likely going to listen to the same subject matter in private academy later. Teachers from private academies assign kids additional homework. Some private academies open their doors during vacations only; children can stay there up to 11 PM. The government of South Korea had to place laws against hagwons being open late into the night because there was such demand from parents! Children go to these academies right after their regular schools.


Class size


American teachers usually work with smaller classes. For example, 25 – 30 students in one class. On the other hand, classes in Asian schools are much bigger. They can go from 35 students up to a staggering number of 65 students in some regions.

Of course, in private schools and after-school academies, class sizes can be as small as 10-20.


Homeroom concept


In American schools, children “change” their classmates all the time. One child can attend Math class with one group of students, while at English class he or she will see a completely different group of students in the classroom.
Asian schools have a homeroom concept in which students are assigned to particular classes where they stay throughout their time in that particular school, or if some student is particularly exceptional, then he/she gets the opportunity to advance. This cohort concept aims to bring different children closer together, to allow them to get used to each other which in turn increases productivity – so they say – as well.



Teachers in American schools have their classrooms. Children come to them. Also, each child has his or her own hallway locker where they place their stuff.
However, in Asian schools, each class has its own classroom and the teacher is the one who comes to them to lecture. That’s why there’s no need for hallway lockers. Children have their stuff with them at all times. After the language class is over, they put their books into their backpack and take out the book and notebook for the next class.


Head teacher


This is something that American schools don’t have, though I like it. In Asian schools, besides having teachers for different subjects, each class has its own head teacher (remember kids stay in one classroom the whole day, basically). This teacher is responsible for establishing discipline in his or her class. Also, the head teacher is the one who calls a child’s parents if he or she misbehaves. On the other hand, in American schools, each teacher has to establish discipline or contact parents on a per-student basis, amongst all his or her many students.



Teachers in American schools are allowed to send their students out in case they misbehave or show lack of respect. Also, schools are allowed to suspend students.
Asian schools are different; according to their law, “no child shall be denied an education”, teachers aren’t allowed to send kids out of the classroom. Also, schools don’t suspend kids. They assume kids would fall in with a bad crowd, smoke, drink, or do other mischievous things if they are banned from the class.


In America, kids go to school in a school bus. Once they turn 16 and get their driver’s license, they drive to school. In Asian countries, kids don’t go to school in a school bus. They go to the nearest school. Since they live close, they walk or ride their bikes to school.
Though, high school is a different story. When teenagers go to high school that’s not near their home, they take the subway, bus, or train. They can’t drive because you have to be 18 in Asian countries to get a driver’s license. Even when 18-year-olds get the much-anticipated license, he or she isn’t encouraged to drive to school.

As you can see, American and Asian schools are extremely different. What do you admire the most about the American and Asian school systems? Is there any trait from Asian schools that you’d like to see in America as well? Or vice versa?


China to ban petrol and diesel cars, state media reports

China is joining France and Britain in announcing plans to end sales of petrol and diesel cars.

China’s industry ministry is developing a timetable to end production and sale of traditional fuel cars and will promote development of electric technology, state media on Sunday cited a Cabinet official as saying.

The reports gave no possible target date, but Beijing is stepping up pressure on automakers to accelerate development of electrics.

China is the biggest auto market by number of vehicles sold, giving any policy changes outsize importance for the global industry.

A deputy industry minister, Xin Guobin, said at an auto industry forum on Saturday his ministry has begun “research on formulating a timetable to stop production and sales of traditional energy vehicles,” according to the Xinhua News Agency and the Communist Party newspaper People’s Daily.

France and Britain announced in July they will stop sales of petrol and diesel automobiles by 2040 as part of efforts to reduce pollution and carbon emissions that contribute to global warming.


Mexico hit by ‘strongest earthquake in a century’ as magnitude 8.2 tremor triggers tsunami waves

A rare and powerful 8.2-magnitude earthquake struck southern Mexico late Thursday, killing at least 15 people as seismologists warned of a tsunami of more than 10 feet.

The quake hit offshore in the Pacific about 75 miles southwest of the town of Tres Picos in far southern Chiapas state, the US Geological Survey said, putting the magnitude at 8.1.

Mexico’s president said the earthquake magnitude was 8.2, the strongest in a century in the country.

The country’s seismologic service initially gave a magnitude of 8.4, which if confirmed would be the most powerful ever recorded in this quake-prone country. 

The quake shook a large swath of the country and was felt as far north as Mexico City – 600 miles from the quake epicenter – where people ran out of their homes in their pajamas as buildings trembled and swayed.

A tsunami warning and the prospect of aftershocks kept the nation on alert.

“Based on all available data … widespread hazardous tsunami waves are forecast for some coasts,” the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said.

“Tsunami waves reaching more than three meters above the tide level are possible along the coasts of Mexico,” it said, with lower waves in other countries.


The tsunami warning was for the coasts of Mexico, down through Central America into Guatemala, El Salvador, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Panama and Honduras, and as far south as Ecuador.


The quake was felt in much of Guatemala, which borders Chiapas.

President Enrique Pena Nieto ordered schools to remain closed Friday in Chiapas and Mexico City so officials could inspect for structural damage.

He said on Twitter he was overseeing the emergency response from the National Disaster Prevention Center’s headquarters.

In Mexico City, people ran out of buildings after hearing earthquake warning sirens go off just before midnight (6am UK time Friday).


Girl, 7, finds 4ft sword in same lake where King Arthur hurled Excalibur

A seven-year-old girl has found a 4ft sword in the same lake where King Arthur’s Excalibur was said to have been hurled.

Matilda Jones was paddling waist-deep in Dozmary Pool on Bodmin Moor when she came across the blade while on a family holiday.


According to legend, the lake is believed to be the spot where King Arthur is said to have returned Excalibur after being fatally wounded in the Battle of Camlann.

The story of how the legendary Excalibur and how it started and ended with the Lady in the Lake

Ironically, dad Paul Jones, 51, had recounted the famous folklore of King Arthur to Matilda and her four-year-old sister Lois just before the recovery, the Mirror reports.

Matilda found the sword in Dozmary Pool while paddling on a family holiday (Image: SWNS)

Paul, of Doncaster, said: “It was a blistering hot day and Matilda asked if we could go for a paddle. She was only waist deep when she said she could see a sword.

“I told her not to be silly and it was probably a bit of fencing but when I looked down I realised it was a sword. It was just there laying flat on the bottom of the lake.

Paul and Matilda Jones with the sword (Image: SWNS)

“The sword is 4ft long – exactly Matilda’s height.”

Legend has it that King Arthur was first given Excalibur from the Lady of Lake in Dozmary Pool after rowing out to receive it.

After being mortally wounded in the Battle of Camlann he asked to be taken there so he could return the sword to her.

After three attempts, his loyal follower Bedivere cast it into the water and the Lady of the Lake’s arm rose to receive it.

Dutch prisons are closing because the country is so safe

In 2013, 19 prisons in the Netherlands closed because the country didn’t have enough criminals to fill them.

Now, five more are slated to close their doors by the end of the summer, according to internal documents obtained by The Telegraaf.

While these closures will result in the loss of nearly 2,000 jobs, only 700 of which will transition into other unknown roles within Dutch law enforcement, the trend of closing prisons follows a steady drop in crime since 2004.

The problem of empty jail cells has even gotten to the point where, last September, the country imported 240 prisoners from Norway just to keep the facilities full.

Still, according to The Telegraaf’s report, Justice Minister Ard van der Steur announced to parliament that the cost of maintaining sparsely-filled prisons was cost-prohibitive for the small country.


A number of factors underlie the Netherlands’ ability to keep its crime rate so low, namely, relaxed drug laws, a focus on rehabilitation over punishment, and an electronic ankle monitoring system that allows people to re-enter the workforce.

A study published in 2008 found the ankle monitoring system reduced the recidivism rate by up to half compared to traditional incarceration. Instead of wasting away in a jail cell, eating up federal dollars, convicted criminals are given the opportunity to contribute to society.

These measures all add up to an unbelievably low incarceration rate: Although the Netherlands has a population of 17 million, only 11,600 people are locked up. That’s a rate of 69 incarcerations per 100,000 people.

The US, meanwhile, has a rate of 716 per 100,000 — the highest in the world. It’s marked largely by its lack of attention to social services and rehabilitation programs once prisoners finish their sentences. Without a safety net to give them any other options, many fall back into their old habits.


Airbnb host faces attempted murder charge for assault on South African guest

Sibahle Nkumbi is a #South African filmmaker and visual artist who is currently studying in Bern, Switzerland. She booked an #AirBnB property for herself and three artist friends in #Amsterdam in the Netherlands, while she was attending and reviewing her friend Zanele Muholi’s art exhibition. When the four ladies were a little late in checking out last Saturday, the owner called her husband, who became verbally abusive towards the women and eventually pushed Nkumbi down the stairs, causing a concussion and several bruises. The unnamed 47-year-old Dutch host is now facing a possible attempted manslaughter charge for his actions.


Sibhahle Nkumbi speaks about the altercation with the Airbnb host

Muholi filmed the incident, which is included in a video interview uploaded to YouTube on Monday, July 9.


In the video Nkumbi talks about the incident, saying she had apologized profusely to the owner’s wife for being an hour late checking out of the property. As they were talking, the Airbnb host arrived and started banging on the door, yelling for them to let him in.

During the interview, Nkumbi explained that the host was verbally abusive to her, even though she said she didn’t provoke him in any way. Nkumbi said she was trying to reason with the man, but he continued to be abusive. She went on to say that the Airbnb host made racially motivated statements, including referring to the ladies as “you people” and telling them they needed to leave now, telling her she is not the great artist she thinks she is and that this was “not Africa.”

As Nkumbi tried to leave the property, the host grabbed her and she said she immediately knew he was going to throw her down the stairs.


As she only had the wall to hang on to, she fell, tumbling down the staircase. The fall knocked her out and when she came to, she was in the hospital.

Amsterdam Police considering attempted manslaughter charge

As reported by the Huffington Post, Nkumbi was then interviewed by Amsterdam police, who said in a media statement that the four women were supposed to check out of the apartment at 11 a.m., but got into an argument with the owners at around 12:30 p.m. Marijke Stor, the police spokesperson, said they had arrested a 47-year-old man, who is suspected of attempted manslaughter. The Airbnb host was released on Sunday and the prosecutor will now decide whether to pursue the case in court.

Airbnb speaks out about the ‘appalling’ incident

The Independent Online quotes David King, the company’s Director of Diversity and Belonging, as saying the host’s behavior was “appalling” and against everything Airbnb stands for.


King said he and Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky were reaching out to Nkumbi and her friends and will take the strongest actions possible against the “abhorrent conduct” of the Dutch host, including banning them from their platform. He added that no one should ever be treated this way and that Airbnb will not tolerate such behavior.


China’s expertise in fighting desertification can help others

China’s Kubuqi Desert, the seventh biggest in the country, earned its reputation as “the sea of death” because of its harsh conditions and the abject poverty in which its people live.

Situated in Inner Mongolia, sand dunes have swallowed grasslands where people lived and raised sheep as recently as 50 years ago.


Sandstorms known as the Yellow Dragon pollute the air as far as Beijing, more than 1 200 km away, causing asthmatics and those suffering from other chest ailments to be rushed to hospital. Plumes even cross the Pacific reaching the West Coast of the US.

In the past 30 years China formulated a game plan to tackle desertification in these parts and the Chinese believe the model can be replicated in different parts of the world as drought, poverty and scarce water are a serious problem.


Environmentalists have described the effects of climate change as a “deadly dance” as the poles melt, temperatures rise and soil degrades.

Scientists increasingly warn about the pitfalls of mining, infrastructure development and drying water beds. Land gives way to sand because of overuse, the clearing forests and stress on water resources.

To find solutions to the growing problem of desertification, delegates and leaders from different countries have been invited to attend the seventh Kubuqi International Desert Forum which will be held later this month.

One of the discussions on the agenda is the work of Chinese company Elion Resources Group. The company has saved more than 6000km2 of land from desertification through growing a “green wall” – cultivating traditional Chinese medicinal plants and building a solar energy centre.


The medicinal plant of choice is liquorice, which thrives in this tough environment . It has stimulated industries to improve the lives of the local people who earn an income through farming the plant and leasing land to grow it. These plants also help slow down desertification and gradually transform the desert areas into arable lands.

The green wall or barrier of trees helps counter the effects of sandstorms and rehabilitate the land.

The executive secretary-general of UN Convention to Combat Desertification, Monique Barbut, has hailed the rehabilitation of the desert as a model for the global community because it emphasised the balance between the ecosystem, the economy and the people.

According to Elion’s researchers, deserts cover nearly 40 million km2 of the Earth, accounting for a quarter of its land surface. More than 110 countries and about 1 billion people around the world have been affected by desertification.

According to a UN study, large parts of Africa and Asia are at risk, as are some parts of North America.

Barbut recently spoke at the UN convention where the Joint Action Initiative to combat desertification, rehabilitate degraded land and mitigate the effects of drought was launched.

The initiative aims to make China’s ambitious rejuvenation of the old Silk Road environmentally sustainable.

The “One Belt One Road” plans to boost economies from China, the Persian Gulf and the Mediterranean to parts of Africa, Asia and Europe. But these plans could prove futile as many of the countries along the belt are affected by desertification and drought.

According to the UN News Centre, Barbut called for the international community to come up with long-term solutions to “battle the ravages of drought and flood which are destroying communities”.

She warned that drought and floods devastate families and destabilise communities because they lead to mass migrations – leaving the vulnerable open to human rights abuses and long-term security threats.

She said the UK Ministry of Defence estimates up to 60 million Africans risked migration as a result of desertification in the next two decades.

She believes China’s experience in rehabilitating man-made deserts back to health and its knowledge could benefit initiatives such as Africa’s Great Green Wall and the re-greening in southern Africa.

The African-led project aims to grow 8 000km of trees and plants across the width of Africa to provide food and jobs.

Environmentalists believe this is an opportunity for China to spearhead work in a climate change-resilient world and to make its mark in green development.

Peters is the Live Editor of Weekend Argus. She is on a 10-month scholarship with the China Africa Press Center.


Denmark’s contraception aid to Africa ‘to limit migration’

The Minister for Development Co-operation, Ulla Tornaes, said Copenhagen would contribute 91m kroner (£11m; $14m) for the program.

She said unwanted pregnancies had “enormous” human and social costs in the world’s poorest nations.

But she added that limiting Africa’s population growth was also important.

Speaking at a conference in London on Tuesday, Ms Tornaes said 225 million women in the world’s poorest countries do not currently have access to family planning.

“Unwanted pregnancies have enormous human costs in developing countries – from very young women who must give up their basic education, maternal mortality.”

The minister said this “also has large social costs, where many countries’ development step is limited by high population growth”.

She then referred specifically to Africa, saying that curtailing the continent’s population growth by increasing access to contraception and family planning was an important foreign and security policy priority for the Danish government.

“If the population growth in Africa continues as now, the African population will double from 1.2 billion people to 2.5 billion people by 2050,” Ms Tornaes said.

Danish Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen (C) presents Esben Lunde Larsen as new Environmental and Food Minister (L) and Ulla Tornaes as new Minister of Higher Education and Science in front of Amalienborg Castle in Copenhagen February 29, 2016Image copyrightAFP
Image captionUlla Tornaes (right) is a minister in the government of Danish PM Lars Lokke Rasmussen (centre)

“Part of the solution to reducing migratory pressures on Europe is to reduce the very high population growth in many African countries.”

Denmark, like a number of other EU nations, has in recent years been under pressure to deal with a rising number of asylum seekers and immigrants arriving in Europe.

However, asylum applications dropped dramatically in the country in 2016, compared with 2015.

The government said October that 5,500 applications were received until 30 October, compared with 21,000 in 2015.

In January 2016, the Danish parliament backed a controversial proposal to confiscate asylum seekers’ valuables to pay for their upkeep – a move criticized by the UN.


Hodor surprises fans, holds the door one last time on a ‘Game of Thrones’ tour in Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland actor Kristian Nairn surprised a Game of Thrones tour group in Co Antrim on Wednesday and recreated his character Hodor’s famous ‘hold the door’ scene.


The unsuspecting group of fans were at Ballintoy Harbour on a guided tour arranged by Belfast company McComb’s Travel.

The area is well known as one of the main locations previously used during production of Game of Thrones.

After surprising the group, Nairn recreated the iconic scene from season six of the HBO series.

McComb’s Travel posted pictures of Nairn’s appearance on their Facebook page on Thursday, captioning the images: “It’s not every day that Kristian Nairn aka Hodor from Game of Thrones arrives on our Game of Thrones Tour!

“Kristian gave both Derek our guide and all of our tour passengers the fright of their lives when he held the door of Ballintoy Boat House.”

Hodor actor Kristian Nairn surprises Game of Thrones fans. (McComb’s Travel)
Hodor actor Kristian Nairn surprises Game of Thrones fans. (McComb’s Travel)
Hodor actor Kristian Nairn surprises Game of Thrones fans. (McComb’s Travel)

Belfast Telegraph Digital


Bakari Henderson: Black College Grad Beaten to Death by Crowd During Vacation in Greece

A 22-year-old Black American college student’s vacation to Greece ended in tragedy after he was beaten to death by a large group of people in the ancient country.

Texas-born Bakari Henderson was reportedly found battered and unresponsive by authorities on a street on the Greek Island of Zakynthos after an argument inside a bar spilled out onto the street.

Here’s what you need to know about Bakari Henderson and the tragic incident:

Bakari Henderson was on vacation in the Laganas on the Greek island of Zakynthos

Bakari Henderson was celebrating a recent graduation while he was vacationing in Laganas on the Greek island of Zakynthos — popular with tourists who enjoy its stunning beaches and wild nightlife — when his life was tragically cut short.

Henderson was reportedly beaten to death with brass knuckles after reportedly getting into an argument with a security guard.


The incident reportedly began at around 3 a.m. Friday when Henderson had a minor altercation with a security guard at a sports bar called Bar Code.

According to media reports from Greece, the fight started after a man from a group of Serbians walked up to a group of Americans that included Henderson and broke a glass on their table. One of the Americans then reportedly grabbed the 32-year-old Serbian and punched him, which is believed to have sparked the massive bar brawl.


The security guard and a 34-year-old Greek bartender chased Henderson out of the bar and beat him to death, allegedly with brass knuckles. Eight others are believed to have joined in the assault, which was witnessed by several horrified onlookers passing by.

Witnesses reported seeing Henderson surrounded by a crowd of as many as 10 people during the attack, which was said to have lasted for about 30 seconds.

The Greek Security Division said that he was rushed to a hospital in Zakynthos, where he was pronounced dead on arrival due to severe head trauma. The grad student’s body was taken to the Patras coroner for further examination, but his death was most likely caused by multiple blows to the head.

After being notified of his death, Henderson’s family released the following statement:

“Bakari loved spending time with family and friends, traveling, and meeting new people. He was a big thinker and enjoyed coming up with new business ventures. Bakari was an inspiration to all he met. He loved life and lived it to the fullest.”

Four people were arrested, two were charged with Henderson’s murder and others are being questioned


An investigation has been launched into Henderson’s death, and at least four people have already been arrested for their involvement. Out of the four who were arrested, two were charged with his murder, and a number of other people are being questioned.

Greek newspaper Kathimerini said that only two suspects were taken into custody initially, but after viewing security footage of the attack, police picked up two more suspects who were also of Serbian descent like the security guard.

The State Department released a statement saying:

“Greek police in Zakynthos notified the U.S. Embassy of the death of a U.S. citizen in the early morning hours of Friday, July 7. We are in communication with authorities and providing consular assistance to the deceased citizen’s family. We offer our sincerest condolences to family.”

Police are investigating whether race played any part in the attack on Henderson, who was black.

Henderson graduated from the University of Arizona and played basketball in high school.


Back in May 2017, Henderson, originally from Austin, Texas graduated from the University of Arizona, where he studied business finance and entrepreneurship.

University president Robert C. Robbins said in a statement:

“Our hearts and prayers are with his friends and family. I can only imagine the deep sense of loss they must be feeling at his untimely death. It is always a tragedy when a young life ends before it has really yet to begin.”

Before college, Henderson played basketball for Anderson High School in Austin, which he graduated from in 2013. According to his MaxPreps profile, he played 34 games with an average of 2.7 points per game, 0.5 assists, 2.6 rebounds, 0.7 steals and 0.1 blocks. His Junior year (2011-2012) he scored 92 points, grabbed 89 rebounds and had 18 assists.


One photo of Henderson on Facebook showed him wearing a Los Angeles Lakers T-shirt, and one of his favorite basketball players was said to be Kobe Bryant. Other photos (some dating back to 2012) show him hanging out with his friends at school and various other places.


Fox News

Amelia Earhart’s disappearance may finally be explained with one photo

Ever since Amelia Earhart and her navigator Fred Noonan disappeared on their around-the-world flight on July 2, 1937, what happened to the two has been one of the great unsolved mysteries of the 20th Century.

A recently discovered photograph from the U.S. Government archives may actually provide an answer to all the speculation that has circled the case and HISTORY will present the evidence in a two-hour special Amelia Earhart: The Lost Evidence on Sunday, July 9 at 9 p.m. ET/PT.

The photo taken on Jaluit Atoll and uncovered by Former US Treasury Agent Les Kinney, who has been searching for an answer for 15 years as to what happened to Earhart, was filed away because it was considered to be a picture of Japanese movements in the Marshall Islands. No one guessed that it might provide a clue as to Earhart’s fate.

But if you look closely, you can see a Caucasian woman sitting on the dock with her back to the photographer, and to her far left is a man who very much resembles Noonan. The person who took the photograph is believed to have later been executed as a spy.

If that is Earhart and Noonan, it would mean they survived the crash. Of course, that raises more questions about what happened to them after their her rescue.



In Amelia Earhart: The Lost Evidence, Former FBI Executive Assistant Director Shawn Henry investigates evidence that Earhart survived her final flight, crash-landed in the Marshall Islands, and was captured by the Japanese military – dying in their custody on Saipan — and why there may have been a cover up.

The first step for Henry was to determine if the photograph is possibly Earhart and Noonan, and toward that end, he enlists the aid of photo recognition expert Kent Gibson, who rated the photo “very likely” to be Earhart and Noonan.

“When you pull out, and when you see the analysis that’s been done, I think it leaves no doubt to the viewers that that’s Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan,” Henry told NBC News.

Additionally, “Amelia Earhart: The Lost Evidence” presents evidence verified by some of the most reputable professionals in the world including: plane parts found in an uninhabited island of the Marshall Islands by Earhart Investigator Dick Spink consistent with the aircraft that Earhart was flying in 1937; and an original interview with the last living eyewitness who claims to have seen Earhart and Noonan after their crash.

Will the 80-year-old mystery be solved? Tune in when Amelia Earhart: The Lost Evidence premieres Sunday, July 9 at 9 p.m. ET/PT on HISTORY and form your own opinion.


Japan’s population is falling faster than it ever has before

Japan’s population fell at the beginning of this year at the fastest pace since 1968, when the earliest comparable figures started getting collected.

As of January 1, the number of Japanese people (excluding resident foreigners) fell by a record 308,084 from a year earlier to 125,583,658, marking the eighth consecutive year of declines, government data showed Wednesday.

These changes highlight a mounting demographic challenge to Japan’s economic growth that has been roughly two decades in the making. Some economists even call the situation a “demographic time bomb,”given the vicious cycle that has formed between low fertility rates and low consumer spending.

The conflict lies in the tension between Japan’s traditional work culture — which emphasizes the role of men as primary breadwinners — and younger generations’ desire to have flexibility in their personal and professional lives.

Younger people increasingly want more egalitarian relationships in which men and women can both pursue their careers and share household duties. But career pursuits have won the battle for the last decade or so, while starting or growing families has taken a backseat on a mass scale.


The number of births in Japan fell 2.9% from the previous year to 981,202 today, the lowest since comparable data became available in 1974. People at or above the age of 65 account for 27.2% of the total population, the highest ratio on record, while those 14 or younger make up just 12.7%, the data showed.

The number of registered foreign residents in Japan increased 6.9% from a year earlier, according to the data. Japan has long been reluctant to open up to immigration, since many Japanese people pride themselves on what they see as their cultural and ethnic homogeneity.

But recently, the government has been increasing its efforts to attract students and high-skilled workers from overseas.

The overall population, which combines both Japanese and resident foreigners, fell 0.1% from a year ago to 127,907,086, the data showed.


India plants 66 million trees in 12 hours as part of record-breaking environmental campaign

Volunteers in India planted more than 66 million trees in just 12 hours in a record-breaking environmental drive.

About 1.5 million people were involved in the huge plantation campaign, in which saplings were placed along the Narmada river in the state of Madhya Pradesh throughout Sunday.

India committed under the Paris Agreement to increasing its forests by five million hectares before 2030 to combat climate change.

Last year volunteers in Uttar Pradesh state set a world record by planting more than 50 million trees in one day. 

Observers from Guinness World Records also monitored Sunday’s plantation and are expected to confirm in the coming weeks that the effort set a new high. 


The campaign was organised by the Madhya Pradesh government, with 24 distracts of the Narmada river basin chosen as planting sites to increase the saplings’ chances of survival. Volunteers planted more than 20 different species of trees.

Shivraj Singh Chouhan, the state’s chief minister, described the efforts as a “historic day”. 

He said volunteers including children and the elderly had planted 66.3 million saplings between 7am and 7pm, adding in a tweet: “By planting trees we are not only serving Madhya Pradesh but the world at large.”


Chinese Province Larger Than Texas Just Ran For An Entire Week On Only Renewable Energy

While the U.S. flounders on environmental action and a growing number of cabinet officials out themselves as climate deniers, China continues to make waves as an emerging leader in this space.


Chinese state media announced this week that the sprawling province of Qinghai in the country’s northwest had run for seven consecutive days entirely on renewable energy. The province, which is larger than Texas, relied only on wind, solar and hydroelectric power from June 17-23, reported Xinhua. These renewable energy sources reportedly provided Qinghai and its population of 5.8 million with 1.1 billion kilowatt hours of electricity — equal to about 535,000 tons of coal.


Qinghai’s fossil fuel-free week was part of a trial that the Chinese government initiated to see if an entire province could successfully achieve zero emissions for an extended period of time. Wang Liming, deputy governor of Qinghai, told China Daily this month that the experiment would set a new global clean energy record.

“It will break the current record of four days held by Portugal,” he said, referring to the four days in May last year when the European nation of 10 million ran on just renewable energy.


As Grist notes, Qinghai is a hub for clean energy in China. Located on the northeastern part of the Tibetan Plateau, the province gets plenty of sun (more than 3,000 hours of daylight every year) and is home to the world’s largest solar farm. Also the location of the headwaters of Asia’s three largest rivers ― the Yellow, Yangtze and Mekong ― Qinghai’s hydropower potential is immense.


“Qinghai is the country’s important warehouse of natural resources and it plays a vital role in the development of the nation’s green industry,” said Miao Wei, China’s minister of industry and information technology, this month, according to China Daily.

China has been positioning itself as a global leader of green energy in recent years. In January, the Chinese government announced plans to spend $360 billion on renewable energy by 2020, an investment they could create 13 million jobs.

With its commitment to clean energy development and reducing its coal consumption, China is set to overachieve the pledges it made in the Paris climate agreement, according to a recent Climate Action Tracker report. Together with India, China’s climate commitments have been so significant that they could offset the negative impacts that President Donald Trump’s climate policies could have on the globe, the report’s authors said. 


“Five years ago, the idea of either [China or India] stopping — or even slowing — coal use was considered an insurmountable hurdle, as coal-fired power plants were thought necessary to satisfy the energy demands of these nations. Yet, recent observations show they are now on the way towards overcoming this challenge,” the report said. “This stands in contrast to the decisions of the U.S. administration under President Trump, who appears intent on going in the opposite direction.” 


Australian police charge Vatican cardinal with sex offenses

A cardinal in charge of the Vatican’s finances has been charged with multiple sexual offenses by Australian police, in one of the most significant indictments against a top-ranking leader of the Catholic Church.

Cardinal George Pell faces multiple charges of “historical sexual assault offenses,” the Australian criminal justice system’s term for offenses committed in the past, Victoria Police Deputy Commissioner Shane Patton announced at a news conference on Thursday morning in Australia.

That morning, Victoria police notified Pell’s legal representative that he has been charged and must appear in court on July 18, Patton said.

Patton said that Pell was treated no differently than any other defendant because of his high rank in the Vatican — notifying a legal representative and summoning the defendant to court at a later date is the recommendation of Australian prosecutors in a case like his.


In the Vatican, Pell’s job as secretariat of the economy is so crucial that it has been described as the second-most-powerful role in Rome, after only the pope. But for years, he has faced accusations of improper behavior connected with clergy sexual abuse in Australia.

In Ballarat, Pell’s hometown, dozens of children were abused by priests. After the abuse came to light, priests testified under oath that Pell knew about the abuse while it was occurring.

The scale of the abuse in Ballarat was staggering: In one fourth-grade class of 33 boys, 12 committed suicide, the Post reported in 2015. Five priests who worked in the parish were convicted of crimes, including one who was found guilty of abusing more than 50 children.

Two years ago, Peter Saunders, a survivor of sexual abuse on the Vatican’s Commission for the Protection of Minors, spoke out against Pell, calling him “almost sociopathic” in his lack of concern for the victims of abuse in an interview with Australia’s television program “60 Minutes.”

Saunders asked Pope Francis at the time to remove Pell from his position and take “the strongest action against him.” But Pell publicly refuted Saunders’s allegations, and a Vatican spokesman stood with Pell, saying the cardinal “must be considered reliable.”


Bangladesh downgraded in US ‘trafficking in persons’ report

The US government has downgraded Bangladesh in the ‘trafficking in persons’ report for not taking firm steps to deal with the threat, a media report said.

The report released by US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Tuesday said that Dhaka does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking, bdnews24 reported.


Although Bangladesh demonstrated some efforts during adopting the 2012 Prevention and Suppression of Human Trafficking Act (PSHTA) in January 2017 but “the government’s investigations, prosecutions, and convictions of trafficking crimes and the number of victims identified by the government… decreased,” the report added.

Bangladesh “remained without a formal mechanism to refer trafficking victims to protective services…” and “did not provide rehabilitation services designed for trafficking victims’ specific needs…,” the report added.

“NGOs reported victims were frequently re-trafficked due to insufficient care,” it added.

“Therefore, Bangladesh was downgraded to Tier 2 Watch List,” the US government said.

However, Bangladesh had been on the Tier-2 list for the last five consecutive years, reports Dhaka Tribune.

Around 45 nations, including Pakistan, Serbia, and Saudi Arabia are in the Tier 2 Watch list.


The countries in the Tier 2 Watch list do not fully comply with the TVPA’s (Trafficking Victims Protection Act) minimum standards, but are making significant efforts to bring themselves into compliance with those standards, the daily said.

As per the report, China, Russia and Iran are among the worst offenders.


How China changed Hong Kong: views from the city

Hong Kong is preparing to mark the 20th anniversary of the handover of the territory from the UK to China. The moment will bring thousands on to the streets – some to celebrate and others to protest. Here the Guardian asks six Hong Kong residents about their memories of 1997 and their thoughts on the city’s future.

Yau Wai-ching, disqualified lawmaker

Hong Kong people have been forced to pay for a deceit.

Yau Wai-ching in Hong Kong’s Sheung Wan district.
Yau Wai-ching in Hong Kong’s Sheung Wan district. Photograph: Benjamin Haas for the Guardian

At midnight on 30 June 1997, I remember a heavy rain and my eyes nearly closing, almost falling asleep. But I didn’t. I was forced to concentrate on my parent’s old television screen, watching two flags: one was the flag of United Kingdom, the other was China’s. I tried to ask my mom about what was happening on that screen, but I could not understand, except for the one phrase that I learned that evening: handover.

Nothing changed the next day. In my world as a six-year-old I was waiting till September when I would become a primary 1 student. My parents said the handover meant nothing to them as they still had to work and pay taxes. Everything seemed to remain unchanged, exactly what the Chinese government promised to the Hong Kong people.

But then year by year, Cantonese began to be replaced by Mandarin, our constitutional laws made in the 1980s have been amended and “interpreted” by the Chinese government, and values among Hong Kongers changed after an influx of more than a million immigrants from China since 1997. Those mainlanders have come to dominate much of the social atmosphere. Locals are now always blamed as discriminating against those new immigrants if we ever expressed a different viewpoint and sometimes we are even slandered as fascists or racists.

In these past 20 years, Hong Kongers still believe in law and justice, fairness and democracy, but we no longer believe in the system and rules created by the Chinese government. Instead of becoming more like Hong Kong, the Chinese government will use any type of propaganda or immigration policy to make us more like them.

We have started to realise that the United Kingdom and China signed a treaty in 1984 that was supposed to protect Hong Kong, but it has turned out to be a deception and a joke. Since the handover all Hong Kong people have been forced to pay for that deceit.

Holden Chow, pro-establishment lawmaker

Hong Kong is part of China and we are Chinese: this is a fact and never in dispute.

Holden Chow at his office in Hong Kong’s legislative council.
Holden Chow at his office in Hong Kong’s legislative council. Photograph: Benjamin Haas for the Guardian

I was in UK back in 1997 doing my A-levels, and I returned to Hong Kong before 1 July to witness the handover ceremony. As a patriot, I was always happy to see the handover and the establishment of Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China. I believe the “one country, two systems” works well: Hong Kong indeed has been able to sustain prosperity and with the full support from central government, we even have survived global economic crisis.

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Woman severely burned in acid attack on 21st birthday

A young woman has told of a terrifying acid attack on her 21st birthday that left her hospitalized and her cousin in a coma.

Resham Khan said she was in a car traveling through Beckton, East London, on June 21 when the horrific incident occurred.

Resham tweeted: “On my actual birthday, my cousin and I went for a drive in the morning, blasting music and chilling like cousins do, hyping it as I WAS 21.”

But out of nowhere, she said a man approached the car as they waited at a traffic light and threw a liquid at her through the open window.

Resham, who said she had just returned from a year exchange in Cyprus, told how the assailant ran around to the other side and threw more over her cousin.


She said: “The pain was excruciating, I was struggling to close the window. My cousin struggled to get us away. I saw my clothes burn away in front of me.

“He put his foot down as we were coming onto a dual carriageway but the pain took over and we crashed.

“We stripped off in the middle of the road, running around screaming and begging for water.

“We did this for 45 minutes.”

Resham said another driver eventually stopped and drove the pair to hospital, before they were transferred to a specialist unit.

She continued: “I have had a skin graft, they are waiting on what my face will actually look like. And I have burns across my body.

“My cousin was put into a coma as his burns were worst.

“He was been woken up and I’m waiting to be told I’m no longer bed bound to visit him.”

Resham added: “I’m devastated. I keep wondering if my life will ever be the same. Acid attacks in the UK are unheard of for me.”

“My 21st birthday… Just got back to the country. And now I’ll probably never look the same.

“I am so grateful to everyone that has prayed for me. I feel as though I’m blessed to have my limbs and senses. But I loved my face and body.

“I just want this guy caught.”

One of Resham’s student pals has now set up a GoFundMe page to raise cash to support them in their long recovery.

Daniel Mann said his uni friend and her cousin, who he named as Jameel Muhktar, have had to put their lives on hold since the shocking attack.

He wrote: “Resham is usually a very confident young woman. She was preparing to open her own business over the summer, and had plans to model for Asian bridal, make-up and hair artists.

“But now she feels as though her identity has been stolen from her, on her 21st birthday.”

Resham said she had made a full statement to cops, adding that one officer told her he was “certain [the attacker] will be found and sent away for a long time.”

A spokesperson for the Metropolitan Police told Sun Online: “Police were called at approximately 9:15 a.m. on Thursday, 21 June to reports that two occupants of a car had been sprayed with a corrosive substance.

“The occupants, a man aged 37 and a woman aged 21, were assisted by members of the public and had been taken to an east London hospital prior to the arrival of police and the London Ambulance Service.

“Both victims have suffered burn injuries described as life-changing.


“It is believed the victims were inside a parked car when a man approached and threw a corrosive substance through the open window.

“The car made off pursued by the suspect on foot before it collided with a fence. The suspect made off.

“Officers from Newham and the Met’s Territorial Support Group executed a warrant at an address in E16 on the afternoon of [June 21] in connection with the incident. There were no arrests; inquiries continue.”


A top Spanish bullfighter was gored to death when he tripped over his own cape

A top Spanish bullfighter died at a festival in France when he tripped over his cape and was gored by the bull, according to a Yahoo7 report.

A video of the incident can be seen below.

In the video, Ivan Fandiño can be seen retreating from the bull when he tripped over his cape and momentarily lost his balance. The 36-year-old from the northern Basque region was then knocked to the ground by the bull before others interceded and distracted the bull.


According to the report, the bull’s horn punctured Fandiño’s lung and he could be heard yelling “hurry up, I’m dying,” as other matadors carried him out of the ring. He later died at a hospital.

The royal family of Spain issued a short statement on Twitter in honor of Fandiño, whom they referred to as a “great bullfighting figure.”

Ex-Green Beret run through ISIS gunfire to save a little girl

A dramatic rescue of a little girl trapped by ISIS gunfire was captured Friday on video.

David Eubank, a Special Forces soldier turned aid worker, was filmed as he ran out in the open amid ISIS sniper fire to rescue the girl as two other men covered him with rifle fire.

“I thought, ‘If I die doing this, my wife and kids would understand,'” Eubank told the Los Angeles Times.


According to the Times, Eubank’s dramatic rescue played out on a street in the Iraqi city of Mosul, where ISIS snipers were firing at civilians who were attempting to flee. Wearing only a T-shirt, a bulletproof vest, and a helmet, Eubank is seen running out into the street approximately 150 yards before picking up the girl and bringing her back safely behind a tank.

Eubank, 56, served for a decade with the US Army Special Forces. After leaving the military, he founded an aid group called the Free Burma Rangers, which seeks to bring “hope and love to people in the conflict zones of Burma, Iraq, and Sudan,” according to its website.

Watch the dramatic video:

London Fire: 6 Dead, 74 Hurt in High-Rise Apartment Blaze

LONDON — At least six deaths were confirmed early Wednesday after a blaze ripped through a high-rise apartment block in the British capital as residents slept. At least 74 people were injured, according to authorities.

More than 250 firefighters battled the west London inferno through the night.

Local resident Tim Downie told NBC News he saw “people dangling children out the windows to try and get them to safety” as flames spread upward.

Witness Samira Lamrani said one woman wrapped a baby up “in some sort of thick blanket” and dropped the tot from around the 9th floor. “Miraculously the baby just sort of dropped in a straight line, and a guy just ran forward and the baby fell into his arms,” she added.

Local officials believe that several hundred people were in the building, which dates back to the 1970s. The high-rise had a “stay put” policy in the event of a fire — with residents urged to shut their windows and doors and await rescue.

London Fire Brigade Commissioner Dany Cotton called it an “unprecedented incident,” adding that a “number of fatalities” had been confirmed. Police later put the death toll at 6, but warned that figure was likely to grow.

“In my 29 years of being a firefighter, I have never, ever seen anything of this scale,” Cotton said. “This is a major fire that’s affected all floors of the 24-story structure from the second floor upwards.”

She highlighted that “very large numbers” were rescued by emergency crews early on. But almost nine hours after the blaze broke out, Cotton admitted “we have absolutely no idea” how many people remained unaccounted for.

Michael Paramasivan was wearing only underwear and a robe when he fled the seventh floor about 35 minutes after the blaze was reported.

He described the scene in the stairwell as an “absolute horror story.”



Puerto Rico Votes in Favor of US Statehood

Puerto Rico on Sunday overwhelmingly voted for statehood. But Congress, the only body that can approve new states, will ultimately decide whether the status of the US commonwealth changes.

Ninety-seven percent of the votes in the nonbinding referendum favored statehood, an increase over the results of a 2012 referendum, official results from the State Electoral Commission show. It was the fifth such vote on statehood.

“Today, we the people of Puerto Rico are sending a strong and clear message to the US Congress … and to the world … claiming our equal rights as American citizens, Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló said in a news release.

What do we really know about Puerto Rico?

When outsiders think of Puerto Rico, a couple of things probably come to mind: It’s a small island in the Caribbean. People mostly speak Spanish there. It’s not a US state but has American ties. They were the Sharks in “West Side Story.” (Wait, maybe they were the Jets?) But there’s so much more to know.

Some Puerto Ricans are raring to cozy up with America to jump-start a flagging economy; meanwhile, some residents would just as soon maintain the status quo, and others would prefer to break ties altogether.

Momentum has been building for the island shaped like a postage stamp to join the union as the 51st state, so it’s probably smart to start reading up about America’s cousin to the south — its background, economic status and heritage.

Step back in time

The Taíno Indians already called the island home when Christopher Columbus landed there in 1493, and it was settled around 1508 by Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de León.

It was eventually named Puerto Rico, which means “rich port” and became a Spanish colony for about 400 years.

The Spanish mined for gold and established agricultural plantations with slave labor, but the colony eventually became more valuable as a military outpost.

The island came under US control in 1898 after the Spanish-American War.

What’s a commonwealth?

A 1950 federal law helped clarify the relationship between the United States and Puerto Rico, paving the way for a public vote on its new constitution. After it was approved in 1952 by the people of Puerto Rico, President Harry Truman, Congress and the Puerto Rican governor, the island became an official US commonwealth.

What’s the difference between a commonwealth and a territory? Not too much, except that commonwealths have their own constitutions. Puerto Rican residents have been US citizens since 1917 (thanks to the Jones Act), so they receive many of the same benefits and protections, with just a few differences.

For one, they can truthfully say, “Don’t blame me, I didn’t vote for them,” when discussing the US presidency. While voters can participate in primary elections, they can’t vote for president in the general election. In 2016, 75% of Puerto Ricans voted for Marco Rubio in the Republican primary (and nearly 14% for Donald Trump) versus Hillary Clinton’s 61% of the Democratic vote.


Puerto Rico has a nonvoting delegate in Washington, called a resident commissioner. Back home, Puerto Rico has its own governor and legislative body.

A definite plus to living on the island and one reason some might prefer things as they are: Puerto Ricans only have to pay federal income taxes on work they’ve done in the States, and not at home.

As a commonwealth, Puerto Rico gets US military protection and receives federal funding from the government for highways and social programs, just not as much as an official state gets.

Citizens pay into Social Security and have access to Medicare and Medicaid, but instead of being eligible for Supplemental Security Income assistance, low-income, elderly and blind or disabled people can get help from a similar program run by the US Department of Health and Human Services.

There could be a lot of changes in federal programs if Puerto Rico joins Team USA as a state, such as those for student loans, the GI Bill, Pell Grants and assistance programs for families and children.

Statehood, independence or somewhere in between

Options on the weekend referendum included remaining a commonwealth, becoming a state, entering “free association” or becoming an independent nation. Free association is an official affiliation with the United States where Puerto Rico would still receive military assistance and funding.

Four plebiscites, or popular votes, have been held to decide the commonwealth’s status in relation to America. Three of four times, Puerto Rico residents voted against statehood (in 1967, 1993 and 1998).

In a 2012 referendum the majority of voters for the first time chose statehood, but it didn’t go anywhere. (Some argued the results should have been considered a “no” since more than one-third of voters left the part about alternative status blank.)

Jorge Benitez, a political scientist at the University of Puerto Rico-Rio Piedras, said the only definite takeaway from the 2012 vote results at the time was that the people of Puerto Rico wanted a change in status. “It isn’t clear what change we want, but we want change,” he said.

“I think people just came to realize that the current relationship simply does not create the number of jobs that we need,” Puerto Rico Secretary of State Kenneth McClintock said after that vote nearly five years ago.

In 2012, 6% of voters opted to cut ties with the United States.



Obama, Trudeau have dinner in Montreal

The duo dined at trendy Liverpool House on Tuesday when the former US president was in town for a speaking engagement.

The pair have a storied bromance, which began when Mr Trudeau visited the White House for a state dinner last year.

Mr Trudeau, who once called Mr Obama his “sibling”, tweeted that they discussed getting young people “to take action in their communities”.


The Obama Foundation also tweeted that the two had discussed their “shared commitment” to youth leadership.

Mr Obama was in town to give a speech at the Palais des congrès hosted by the Montreal Chamber of Commerce. The event was sold out, with reports of tickets being resold online for hundreds of dollars.

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During his speech, Mr Obama commended the Paris climate agreement and expressed disappointment that the US has withdrawn.

“In Paris, we came together around the most ambitious agreement in history to fight climate change,” he said. “An agreement that even with the temporary absence of American leadership will still give our children a fighting chance.”

But it wasn’t all business for the busy former president, who took time to have dinner with the Canadian prime minister.


Restaurant owner David McMillan told the CBC that the pair seemed jovial at dinner, which included oysters, shrimp, halibut, steak, spaghetti lobster and strawberry shortcake. The restaurant is a favorite of Mr Trudeau’s, who is from Montreal and represents the district of Papineau.

But while the pair were cool and collected inside, outside it was mayhem with about 200 security guards and a street packed with onlookers.


UN chief warns oceans are ‘under threat as never before’

Secretary-General Antonio Guterres opened the first-ever UN conference on oceans with a warning that the seas are “under threat as never before” with one recent study warning discarded plastic rubbish could outweigh fish by 2050 if nothing is done.

The UN chief told presidents, ministers, diplomats and environmental activists from nearly 200 countries on Monday that oceans – “the lifeblood of our planet” – are being severely damaged by pollution, over fishing, and the effects of climate change as well as refuse.

The five-day conference, which began on World Environment Day, is the first major event to focus on climate since President Donald Trump announced last Thursday that the United States will withdraw from the landmark 2015 Paris Climate Agreement – a decision criticized by Bolivia’s President Evo Morales and other speakers.

Guterres said the aim of the conference is “to turn the tide” and solve the problems that “we created”.

He said competing interests over territory and natural resources have blocked progress for far too long in cleaning up and restoring to health the world’s oceans, which cover two-thirds of the planet.


“We must put aside short-term national gain to prevent long-term global catastrophe,” Guterres said. “Conserving our oceans and using them sustainably is preserving life itself.”

General Assembly President Peter Thomson, a Fijian diplomat, said: “the time has come for us to correct our wrongful ways”.

“We have unleashed a plague of plastic upon the ocean that is defiling nature in so many tragic ways,” he said. “It is inexcusable that humanity tips the equivalent of a large garbage truck of plastic into the ocean every minute of every day.”

Thomson also warned that illegal and destructive fishing practices and harmful subsidies for fisheries “are driving our fish stocks to tipping points of collapse”. And he said increasing human-caused carbon emissions are not only driving climate change but causing rising sea levels by warming the oceans and making them more acidic with less oxygen, which harms marine life.

Thomson said the conference probably represents the best opportunity ever “to reverse the cycle of decline that human activity has brought upon the ocean”, and to spur action to meet the UN goal for 2030 to conserve and manage the ocean’s resources.

The conference asked governments, UN bodies, and civil society groups to make voluntary commitments to take action to improve the health of the oceans. So far, more than 730 commitments have been received, most on managing protected areas, according to conference spokesman Damian Cardona.

At the end of the conference on Friday, nearly 200 countries will issue a Call for Action addressing marine issues that Cardona said have already been agreed.



More Than 1,000 People Injured During Stampede at Soccer Game Viewing in Italy

Panic spread through a throng viewing the Champions League soccer final in a Turin square on Saturday and prompted a stampede that injured more than 1,000, authorities said.

Fans in the northern Italian city gathered in San Carlo Square to view the match on a big screen. Their beloved local team, Juventus, competed against Real Madrid in the match, in Cardiff, Wales.

But chaos ensued during the outdoor party, sparking the crush.

Italian news agency ANSA is now reporting 1,527 people, three of whom were in serious condition.

“The underlying cause was panic, what unleashed the panic has to be understood,” said the prefect of Turin, Renato Saccone, who arrived to Piazza San Carlo to see what had happened.

The prosecutor’s office has kicked off a probe into the incident, which occurred in a continent edgy over the threat of terror.

It was not known what caused the stampede.


Monica Viscovo, press officer of the Turin state police, said some eyewitnesses reported an explosion. There was also speculation of a fireworks explosion or a firecracker.

Authorities said people were injured when a railing fell.

Antonio Scarmozzino, director of the Molinette Hospital in Turin, said around 350 people were treated, with three of them badly hurt. Two women and a boy were in serious condition after they were “crushed by the people trying to escape,” he said.

“I’m shocked at what happened in San Carlo Square, #Torino, and close to the people involved. We’re watching the situation minute by minute,” Turin Mayor Chiara Appendino said on Twitter.

The square was littered with debris and people who came to watch the match left behind shoes and other belongings.

Real Madrid won the match 4-1. The win was a milestone in the Champions League, a popular yearly competition for the top European teams.

The Spanish team won its 12th European Cup and become the first team in 27 years to retain the trophy.

Real Madrid is the first team to win back-to-back titles since the competition morphed into the Champions League.


Scientists discover a giant black worm monster in the Philippines

Scientists have discovered a hellish, sulfur-eating, worm-like relative of clams living in a Philippines bay, a new study reports. At more than five feet long and two inches wide, these creatures are the longest members in this family of shellfish that exist today — and they look like massive, ink-black, alien boogers.

Known as the giant shipworm (Kuphus polythalamia), even though they aren’t worms, they’ve never before been described in the scientific literature. But scientists knew that they had to exist, because of the massive, elephant tusk-like shells that stick around even when their horrifying denizens are gone. The shells were first described in the 1700s, and continue to be sold to collectors, but scientists were previously unable to find ones that still contained living shipworms to study, Popular Science reports.

In fact, Margo Haygood, a medicinal chemistry professor at the University of Utah, and her colleagues only knew where to look for them because a cluster of the shells had been caught on camera. The calcified tusks were spotted in a documentary film, poking out of the muddy seafloor in a shallow Filipino bay that had once been used to store logs. Researchers retrieved five specimens from the area, and published their findings today in the journalPNAS.


The scientists painstakingly chipped the giant shipworms out of their shells and dissected them, but the creatures still didn’t give up their secrets easily. The scientists were particularly stumped as to exactly how the worms grow so big. The cap of the giant shipworm’s shell seals over its mouth, presumably stopping it from directly consuming the sediment it lives in, and there were only “trace quantities of fecal matter” in their digestive systems. So, what were these worms eating?

Relatives of the giant shipworm are known to bore into soggy, submerged wood — digesting the wood particles they churn up with the help of symbiotic bacteria that live in their gills. The giant shipworm, though, is less picky — shacking up in muddy seafloor sediments or rotting wood. So clearly, wood isn’t its only, or even its main, food source.


Haywood and her colleagues suspected the giant shipworms might instead be consuming hydrogen sulfide released by decaying vegetation or rotting animal carcasses at the bottom of the bay. But hydrogen sulfide, which gives swamp gas its eau de rotten eggs, isn’t all that nutritious.

The worms would need symbiotic bacteria to digest down the inorganic compound and release more nutritious carbon for them to eat. Fortunately for the worms, scientists used electron microscopes to discover microbes that could do just that, living in the giant shipworms’ gills.


Japan zoo kills 57 monkeys carrying ‘invasive alien’ genes

A Japanese zoo has killed 57 snow monkeys, nearly one-third of the species in the facility, for carrying “invasive alien” genes, zoo officials said, adding that the animals were all crossbreeds and culling them is legally allowed.

The incident took place in Takagoyama Nature Zoo in the city of Futtsu, Chiba Prefecture, some 45km from Tokyo.

Zoo officials discovered that of 164 Japanese macaques (also known as snow monkeys), at least 57 were crossbreeds with rhesus macaques.

The monkeys were killed by lethal injection, a Futtsu official told AFP, adding that the zoo operator held a memorial service for the macaques at a nearby Buddhist temple.  

Snow monkey-rhesus macaque crossbreeds are considered an “invasive alien species” in Japan, the zoo operator and local officials said.

“They have to be killed to protect the indigenous environment,” another official with the Chiba prefectural government told AFP.
The zoo said that the culling was “unavoidable” and decided to take measures to prevent crossbreeding in the future, Japanese broadcaster NHK reported.  

The remaining 107 Japanese macaques will be kept in the zoo, which also promised to submit all new-born monkeys to DNA testing, Chiba Nippo newspaper reported.  


According to Junkichi Mima, spokesman for conservation group WWF Japan, invasive species like rhesus macaques cause problems “because they get mixed in with indigenous animals and threaten the natural environment and ecosystem.”

“Preventing exposures to foreign animals is very important,” Tomoko Shimura of the Nature Conservation Society of Japan added.

Japan’s Environment Ministry currently allows zoos to keep such crossbreeds.

“There are many zoos in the country which rear animals that became classified as invasive species after the law was created,” a ministry official said, as cited by AFP.