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Man dies in Venice's worst floods for 50 years
« Reply #14550 on: November 13, 2019, 04:51:22 AM »
City calls for state of emergency


A person photographs flooded St. Mark's Square, in Venice, Italy, on Tuesday, November 12.

An elderly man has died in the worst floods to hit Venice in more than 50 years, as local authorities in the Italian lagoon city called for a state of emergency to be imposed.

The unnamed man was killed on Tuesday night while he was trying to run electric pumps at his home on the island of Pellestrina, Alessandro Bertasi, spokesman for Venice's mayor, told CNN.
The popular tourist destination was struck by an exceptionally high tide on Tuesday night, which peaked at 187 centimeters (73.6 inches), according to a statement by Venice's government Wednesday morning.
The historic crypt of St. Mark's Basilica was inundated for just the sixth time in 1,200 years.
It is the worst flooding in Venice since 1966, when the city was hit by tides up to 194 cm (76.4 inches) high, according to government statistics.

People walk past a stranded taxi boat on Riva degli Schiavoni, after it was washed away during an exceptional overnight high tides, early on Wednesday, November 13.
Venice resident Elisa Aquina Laterza told CNN she lives near the Rialto Bridge. She posted on Twitter a video of sirens that alerted the population about the high tides on Tuesday night.
"Last night after the sirens went off we were without electricity. The windows banged with gusts of strong wind," she said. "It was a night of fear and today we are blocked here at home with reduced public transport."

Laterza said on Monday it was impossible to walk because of the floods. "Today I'll try to venture out to help my neighbors," she added.
People who lived through the 1966 flood say there wasn't the strong wind then that there is now, Laterza said.
"I've only witnessed this historic flood but I must say that the situation is unprecedented and our city is our land and it needs help and support from all," Laterza added.


People walk past a stranded gondola across the flooded Riva degli Schiavoni embankment and St. Mark's square in the background.

45% flooded
On Tuesday, the Tide Forecasting and Reporting Center of Civil Protection said that 45% of the city was flooded. Thirty volunteers will be deployed Wednesday to help with the clean-up, it said.
Photos show waters flooding St Mark's Square in front of the famous Basilica, and spilling into the Gritti Palace luxury hotel.
Venice's government announced that after the "extraordinary" tide, it would "submit a request for a state of emergency" to the country's central government. All schools will be closed Wednesday due to the weather conditions, the local government said.

It also asked citizens and businesses to collect evidence of any damage their properties had suffered so they could request compensation.
In a tweet, Venice's mayor Luigi Brugnaro blamed climate change for the unusually high tides, and said the tide was "a wound that will leave a permanent mark."
Only around 53,000 residents live in Venice, which has seen its population dwindle over the past 50 years as it tries to curb overtourism.
Tides of 140cm (55 inches) or more are known as "acqua alta" in Italian, and generally take place in winter time, according to Venice's municipality website.

https://edition.cnn.com/2019/11/13/europe/venice-flooding-state-of-emergency-intl-hnk/index.html
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Euthanasia bill passes final vote, goes to referendum
« Reply #14551 on: November 13, 2019, 05:14:44 AM »
Parliament has passed a bill legalising voluntary euthanasia in a historic vote, and turned the final decision on assisted dying over to the public.

Politicians on Wednesday night voted through Act leader David Seymour's End of Life Choice Bill 69 votes to 51, after a debate ending two years of fierce political arguments about the legislation and decades of attempts to get reforms through the House.

It will now go to a public referendum alongside next year's general election for a final test.

Since the bill – which would let terminally ill adults request assisted dying – was introduced in 2017, Seymour has devoted the bulk of his time to seeing the legislation through eight protracted parliamentary debates and a record 39,000 submissions from the public.

Speaking in Parliament, in front of a packed public gallery on Wednesday, Seymour implored his fellow MPs to give the bill backing one last time.

"I have listened to New Zealanders talk about their experiences from Kerikeri to Gore," Seymour said.

"Overwhelmingly they have said to me: 'I have seen bad death. If my time comes and I'm not doing well, I want choice. By the way, it's nobody else's business but my own'."

The legislation had passed its second reading 70 votes to 50 and was widely expected to clear the final hurdle.

But neither side was taking votes for granted ahead of the third reading, jostling going on to the wire.

https://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=12284982
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Re: Man dies in Venice's worst floods for 50 years
« Reply #14552 on: November 13, 2019, 05:43:36 AM »
Somehow, "Venice" & "Flooding" in the same sentence seems like an Oxymoron...

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IDF drone entered Islamic Jihad leader's home before assassination
« Reply #14553 on: November 13, 2019, 05:51:06 AM »

View of a building hit by an Israeli air strikes in Gaza City on November 12, 2019

Palestinian sources say the Israeli drone confirmed Baha Abu al-Ata precise location minutes before strike

24NEWS has learned that the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) used a drone to confirm that a Palestinian Islamic Jihad commander was inside his Gaza home minutes before his assassination.

According to Palestinian sources, the drone entered his apartment to indicate his precise location. A few minutes later, an IDF airstrike was launched at the apartment, killing Baha Abu al-Ata and his wife.

Additionally, the sources said following a barrage of rockets fired toward Israel’s southern city of Sderot over two weeks ago, an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) was spotted hovering over the home of Abu al-Ata and the homes of three other Islamic Jihad senior figures in the coastal enclave.

Israel's deadly strikes against al-Ata and another senior official based in Damascus early Tuesday resulted in a wave of tit-for-tat rocket salvos and air strikes that have seen over 250 projectiles fired into Israeli territory and 16 Palestinians killed in two days.

Egypt, Ramallah and the UN scrambled late Tuesday to halt the escalation between Israel and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad group.

Egyptian officials speaking anonymously were quoted as saying that they were trying to broker a deescalation amid rocket attacks on Israeli targets and retaliatory strikes from the IDF.

Meanwhile on Wednesday morning, the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) began deploying artillery regiments across the southern Palestinian enclave. Moreover, Golani's Brigade 13 was deployed in the area for additional manpower, Hebrew media reported.

https://www.i24news.tv/en/news/israel/diplomacy-defense/1573637516-i24news-exclusive-idf-drone-entered-islamic-jihad-leader-s-home-before-assassination
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Hong Kong to shut all schools on Thursday for 'safety reasons'
« Reply #14554 on: November 13, 2019, 06:15:13 AM »

Hong Kong has been upended by five months of huge, often violent protests seeking greater democratic rights and police accountability.

HONG KONG: All Hong Kong schools will suspend classes on Thursday (Nov 14) due to "transportation and safety reasons", the Hong Kong Education Bureau said on Wednesday.

The bureau made the announcement in a statement, according to Reuters and urged protesters to stop all violent acts.

<a href="http://www.youtube.com/v/lfoJjJW2Aqw&fs=1" target="_blank" class="new_win">http://www.youtube.com/v/lfoJjJW2Aqw&fs=1</a>

This comes after protesters stepped up a "blossom everywhere" campaign of road blocks and vandalism across Hong Kong that has crippled the international financial hub this week and ignited some of the worst violence in five months of unrest.


Protesters vandalize Festival Walk mall in Kowloon Tong, Hong Kong, November 12, 2019..

<a href="http://www.youtube.com/v/PAHoWZgKvuA&fs=1" target="_blank" class="new_win">http://www.youtube.com/v/PAHoWZgKvuA&fs=1</a>

The new phase in the crisis, which has forced schools and shopping malls to close as well as the shutdown of large chunks of the vital train network, prompted police to warn on Tuesday the city was "on the brink of total collapse".

Masked protesters dressed in their signature black were also locked in a series of tense standoffs at university campuses following battles on Tuesday that continued through the night with police firing tear gas and rubber bullets.

The chaos was part of the largely anonymous protest movement's new strategy of "blossom everywhere", in which small groups of people target as many parts of the city as possible to cause maximum disruption and stretch police resources.

Protesters had until this week largely confined their actions to evenings and the weekends.

The campaign began with an effort to shut down the train network and enforce a city-wide strike on Monday.


A protester throws a molotov cocktail as another protester uses a leaf blower to blow tear gas fired by police at the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK), in Hong Kong on Nov 12, 2019.


Protesters take cover as university students standoff with riot police at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, China Nov 12, 2019.

The already tense atmosphere escalated on Monday when a police officer shot an unarmed 21-year-old protester, leaving him in a critical condition.

It was the third confirmed time a police officer had shot someone with live bullets since the unrest began in June.

A masked person on Monday then doused a 57-year-old man, who had been arguing with protesters, with a flammable liquid and set him on fire. He was also hospitalised in a critical condition.

The chaos prompted the city's education authorities to tell parents earlier on Wednesday they could decide whether to send children to school "due to traffic and emergencies", while some international schools remained closed for a second straight day.

The education bureau made the decision citing "traffic and emergency conditions and that some major traffic lines have been seriously affected", according to a statement on the Hong Kong government's website.

"The bureau stressed that schools should keep their premises open, arrange sufficient manpower as far as possible to take proper care of students who have arrived at school, maintain communication with parents, and allow students to return home only under safe conditions.

"(Students) must not wander on the streets or go to potentially dangerous places, and should never participate in unlawful activities."

The protest movement has been fuelled by fears that China is choking the liberties and freedoms Hong Kong is meant to have under the terms of the handover deal with the British.

Protesters are demanding the right to freely elect their leaders.

TOUGHER RESPONSE

China has responded with ominous warnings that it is prepared to further curb freedoms, and that it wants tougher security measures in Hong Kong.

On Tuesday the People's Daily, the mouthpiece of China's ruling Communist Party, warned that local district elections due to be held on Nov 24 may be cancelled if the protesters do not back down.

"Only by supporting the police force to decisively put down the riots can (Hong Kong) return to peace and hold fair elections, to help Hong Kong start again," the commentary said.


University students in a standoff with riot police at the Chinese University of Hong Kong on Nov 12, 2019.


Protesters sit near a barricade as university students standoff with riot police at the Chinese University of Hong Kong on Nov 12, 2019.

Other powerful arms of the Chinese state media have also again raised the prospect this week of the Chinese military being deployed in Hong Kong to end the crisis.

Still, China is not yet prepared to take such drastic action as military intervention as it plays a longer game of weakening and intimidating the protest movement, according to Ben Bland, Sydney-based director of the Southeast Asia Project at the Lowy Institute, a policy think-tank.

"It still seems, as far as we can tell, that the most likely response is going to continue to be led by the Hong Kong authorities and the Hong Kong police," Bland told AFP on Wednesday.

But the events this week have deepened concerns that Hong Kong's police cannot solve the crisis, and that a political solution must be found.

The police force's spokesman, Kong Wing-cheung, appeared to echo those fears on Tuesday.

"Hong Kong's rule of law has been pushed to the brink of total collapse," he said.

https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/asia/hong-kong-protests-all-schools-shut-safety-reasons-12089696

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Trump Lauds CIA Coup in Bolivia, Threatens More of the Same Elsewhere
« Reply #14555 on: November 13, 2019, 06:21:02 AM »
Trump is a front man for the imperial state, supporting its wars of aggression, economic terrorism, and other hostile actions.

He serves the military, industrial, security complex, Wall Street, Big Oil, and other predatory corporate interests exclusively.

He’s guilty of flagrantly breaching international and constitutional law, betraying the public trust, and bragging about his hostile to peace, equity and justice agenda.

All of the above are high crimes and misdemeanors, legitimate impeachable offenses, not phony ones pursued by undemocratic Dems.

In response to the CIA-orchestrated coup against democratically reelected Bolivian President Evo Morales — staged to eliminate democratic rule in the country, wanting it transformed into a US vassal state — Trump lauded what happened.

He turned truth on its head, praising “the Bolivian military (for) abiding by its oath to protect not just a single person, but Bolivia’s Constitution (sic),” adding:

“We are now one step closer to a completely democratic, prosperous and free Western Hemisphere (sic)” — code language for aiming to replace legitimate governments in Venezuela, Cuba and Nicaragua by similar actions.

US hegemonic aims are all about seeking dominion over planet earth, its resources and populations, wanting pro-Western puppet regimes worldwide serving US interests — naked aggression, economic terrorism, color revolutions, and old-fashioned coups its favored tactics.

After losing support from Bolivia’s military, his firewall protection from US rage to replace him with fascist tyranny supporting its interests, he resigned and left for Mexico to avoid blood in the streets — CIA dirty hands all over what’s gone on in the country, planned long before his October 20 democratic reelection.

According to Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrand, Morales’ forced resignation is “a coup because the army requested” it, its leadership serving US interests, flagrantly breaching international and Bolivian law.

Morales formally requested asylum in Mexico, Ebrand explained, adding it was granted for “humanitarian reasons, and the emergency situation currently experienced in Bolivia.”

On Monday, Russia’s Foreign Ministry expressed “alarm” over “dramatic development of events” in Bolivia, adding:

“(C)onstructive solutions through dialogue (sought by Morales with opposition elements was) crushed by the opposition in an orchestrated (CIA) coup” in cahoots with anti-democratic Bolivian fascists.

“We are alarmed by the dramatic developments in (the country), where the wave of violence, unleashed by the opposition, prevented the completion of Evo Morales’ presidential mandate.”

“We call on all political forces of Bolivia to common sense and responsibility, find a constitutional way out of the situation in the interests of peace, tranquility, restoration of manageability of the state institutions, the rights of all citizens, and socioeconomic development” — polar opposite US hegemonic aims.

Time and again, (US-installed) UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres disgraces the office he holds, consistently failing to observe UN Charter provisions he’s sworn to uphold.

They notably include preserving and protecting human rights, supporting world peace and stability, denouncing wars of aggression, and respecting fundamental international laws.

He one-sidedly backs US-led Western and Israeli interests — disdaining the rights and welfare of ordinary people everywhere.

Instead of denouncing the coup in Bolivia to eliminate democratic rule, he issued his pre-scripted/pro-Western hollow statement through his spokesman, saying:

He “urges all concerned to refrain from violence, reduce tension and exercise maximum restraint. He calls on all actors to abide by international law, notably fundamental human rights principles.”

The above is code language, expressing support for coup d’etat events in Bolivia instead of denouncing them — acting in cahoots with US imperial interests, never denouncing its aggression, economic terrorism and other hostile actions.

Before departing for Mexico on Monday, Morales said the following:

“Sisters and brothers, I leave for Mexico, grateful for the detachment of the government of that brother town that gave us asylum to take care of our lives,” adding:

“It hurts to leave the country for political reasons, but I will always be pending. Soon I will return with more strength and energy.”

According to Bolivia’s attorney general Juan Lanhipa, 34 members of the nation’s electoral commission, including three Supreme Electoral Tribunal members in La Paz, were arrested and detained — tyranny replacing Bolivian democracy rearing its ugly head following Morales’ resignation and departure for Mexico.

Former Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa denounced the (CIA orchestrated) “coup” in Bolivia, forcing Morales to resign — calling the Washington-based Organization of American States (OAS) “an instrument of US domination.”

Interviewed on RT Spanish, he minced no words stressing: “Of course, there was a coup d’etat” in Bolivia.

He denounced the insubordination of the the country’s military, breaching “a constitutional state of law,” adding:

“If Evo Morales did not resign, there would have been a bloodbath because there was no public order.”

Bolivia’s military backed the CIA orchestrated coup, “forcibly remov(ing) a president who has won the election widely, with more than 10 points.”

He’s Bolivia’s democratically elected and three-times reelected leader. What happened post-election “destroy(ed) the rule of law.”

US-supported fascist tyranny won round one. Leaked audio tapes of discussions between Bolivian  anti-Morales fascists and likeminded/anti-rule of law hardline US Senators Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz and Bob Menendez.

In response to Morales’ October 20 reelection, they called for nationwide strike actions, setting “government party” buildings ablaze, attacking the Cuban embassy, and establishing a “civil-military transitional” dictatorship.

On Monday, thousands of pro-Morales supporters rallied in La Paz and elsewhere against the coup forcing his resignation.

Bolivia’s military proved it was in cahoots with the CIA plot to remove him from the office he democratically won for the 4th time — demanding his resignation and refusing to challenge violent anti-government protesters.

In contrast, soldiers were deployed against pro-Morales supporters, using live fire and other hostile actions to disperse them.

The struggle for Bolivia’s soul continues. Most of its people support Morales.

The fate of the nation and democratic rule hang in the balance. A people-supported counter-revolution is needed to restore what was lost.

It’s the only acceptable response to US hegemonic aims, wanting Bolivia transformed into a vassal state, its democracy replaced by fascist tyranny beholden to US interests.

What’s unacceptable should never be tolerated by ordinary people anywhere.

Popular resistance against US imperial rage is the only option. Nothing else can work.

https://stephenlendman.org/2019/11/trump-lauds-cia-coup-in-bolivia-threatens-more-of-the-same-elsewhere/
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Australia fires will not be contained for 'many weeks'
« Reply #14556 on: November 13, 2019, 06:35:23 AM »
The bushfires that are raging across eastern Australia destroyed more than 50 homes and injured 13 firefighters on Wednesday. Without rain, officials warn there is little chance of the fires abating any time soon.

AUSTRALIA'S CATASTROPHIC BUSHFIRES — IN PICTURES


Wildfire meets wildlife
A kangaroo stands in a charred forest. Some national parks have been threatened by the bushfires sweeping through eastern Australia. Wildlife authorities report that over 350 koalas burned to death in recent weeks as key habitat went up in flames.


Tough day at work
Around 3,000 firefighters have been deployed to fight the blaze, with 13 workers injured so far. Queensland Fire and Emergency Services warned that "conditions are now very dangerous and firefighters may soon be unable to prevent the fire advancing. The fire may pose a threat to all lives directly in its path."


Deadly drought
A helicopter drops fire retardant on forest flames. Australia is suffering through drought that has brought high temperatures and dry winds. If rain doesn't come soon, authorities warn the fires could burn for weeks to come. Three people have died and over 120 civilians have been injured.


Hotter and faster than ever before
Bushfires turn the sky orange in Port Macquarie. 150 fires were burning in New South Wales and Queensland on Wednesday. It is "uncharted territory" for fire authorities, who have never battled this many fires simultaneously.


'Catastrophic fire danger'
A ferry navigates smoke-filled Sydney. Authorities issued a "catastrophic fire danger" alert for Australia's most populous city and the surrounding area.


Unprecedented damage
A kookaburra perches on a branch in a fire-ravaged forest. The blazes have destroyed over 11,000 square kilometers (6,800 square miles) of Australian woodlands.

Bushfires in eastern Australia destroyed more than 50 homes and injured 13 firefighters on Wednesday, according to officials.

150 fires were burning across the states of New South Wales and Queensland. Police ordered more mass evacuations, including the population of the popular tourist destination of Noosa, north of Brisbane. Firefighters told people to "leave immediately."

"Conditions are now very dangerous and firefighters may soon be unable to prevent the fire advancing," Queensland Fire and Emergency Services said in a statement. "The fire may pose a threat to all lives directly in its path."

A helicopter also crashed while fighting fires in the north of the region, though the pilot managed to escape with only minor injuries.

A property owned by Australian actor Russell Crowe was also affected. Crowe tweeted a video of a helicopter dropping water near his home with the caption "Top shot son!"

Despite the widespread damage, there have been no further fatalities since Friday and many people expressed gratitude that the fires have not caused more deaths.

"I have to confess to being hugely relieved this morning that yesterday our amazing volunteers and emergency service personnel withstood the catastrophic conditions and did manage to save life and property," New South Wales premier Gladys Berejiklian told reporters late on Tuesday.


Smoke from the wildfires over Sydney

Will things get worse?

Officials remain fearful that the fires will continue to get worse in coming days and weeks.

"We will not have all these fires contained and locked up for many, many weeks," said Shane Fitzsimmons, New South Wales Rural Fire Service Commissioner.

"Unfortunately, what we need is rain, and there is certainly nothing in the forecast for the foreseeable future that's going to make any discernible difference to the conditions that we are experiencing."

So far the fires have claimed three lives and destroyed 125,000 square kilometers (48,250 square miles) of farmland and bush.

https://www.dw.com/en/australia-fires-will-not-be-contained-for-many-weeks/a-51220250
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The Arctic's Most Stable Sea Ice Is Vanishing Alarmingly Fast
« Reply #14557 on: November 13, 2019, 04:55:25 PM »

The most substantial deposits of Arctic sea ice are swiftly disappearing.

After climate change melts the Arctic Ocean's year-round ice cover, only the region's oldest, thickest ice will remain ... or will it? A new study offers a dire warning that even this ice is at risk.

Known as the "Last Ice Area," this icy zone extends more than 1,200 miles (2,000 kilometers) from Greenland's northern coast to the western part of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago. The enduring ice here is at least 5 years old — older than in neighboring regions — and measures about 13 feet (4 meters) thick.

However, this older, more robust sea ice is not as stable as once thought, and it's vanishing much faster than expected. In fact, the Last Ice Area is disappearing about twice as rapidly as the Arctic's younger, thinner sea ice, researchers reported in a new study.

Much of the ice in the western Arctic is "first-year ice" — ice that is no more than 1 year old, said lead study author Kent Moore, a physics professor with the University of Toronto Mississauga.

"The ice in the central Arctic is between 2 and 3 years old, and then the really old ice is in this Last Ice Area," Moore told Live Science.

Sea ice cover in the Arctic grows and shrinks with the seasons, but recent years have seen less and less widespread ice, during both winter and summer months. In 2019, Arctic sea ice reached its maximum on March 13, spanning around 6 million square miles (15 million square kilometers). That extent is actually lower than most of the 40 previous years, according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC).

Arctic sea ice cover for 2019 reached its lowest on Sept 18. At 1.6 million square miles (4 million square km), this coverage tied with 2007 and 2016 as the second lowest since the 1970s, NASA reported.

The prognosis for Arctic ice in a warming world is grim. Climate models predict that most of the ice outside of the Last Ice Area could vanish for good within the next few decades, leaving the Last Ice Area as the sole refuge for marine life that depends on ice, such as seals, polar bears and algae, Moore said.

"By the year 2060, the Arctic will be what people define as being ice-free, which is an area of perennial ice less than 1 million square kilometers [386,102 square miles]. And much of that ice will be in the Last Ice Area," he explained.

Dynamic ice
This ice was long thought to be fairly stationary, accumulating without much loss and locked in a location where it was undisturbed by wind and ocean currents. For the first time, scientists looked at the Last Ice Area using a model that reproduced the local ice cycle, incorporating satellite and atmospheric data from 1979 to 2018. The study authors found that the region was far more dynamic than previously suspected, and huge amounts of ice were being carried away into the ocean.

"What we found is from year to year, the ice thickness can change by about 1 meter [3 feet]," Moore said. On average, ice thickness is about 10 to 13 feet (3 to 4 m), but in some years it was less than 10 feet (3 m) and in other years it was greater than 16 feet (5 m). And when the ice becomes thinner — which is happening more frequently — it's easier for winds to carry it away, the scientists reported in the study.

Related: 8 Ways Global Warming Is Changing the World

They also learned that this area was thinning at an accelerated rate when compared with the rest of the Arctic. Since the late 1970s, two locations have seen their ice thickness drop by about 5 feet (2 m), the researchers wrote.

"We still don't know exactly why, but it's probably because the ice is now more mobile, and so it's able to leave this area more easily than it was in the past," Moore said.

Climate change is heating things up in the Arctic at a rate that is unmatched anywhere else in the world. In June, the average temperature in the Arctic was warmer than the usual average by nearly 10 degrees Fahrenheit (5.5 degrees Celsius). Because climate models until now have likely underestimated ice loss from the Last Ice Area, it's possible that the Arctic will reach an ice-free state even more quickly than predicted, the study authors warned. And if Earth continues to warm, even the Last Ice Area won't stay frozen for much longer, Moore said.

"Eventually we'll lose ice in this region as well, if we don't get our use of carbon under control in the next few years," he said. "We're going to pass a point where we won't be able to sustain these ecosystems, if the ice loss persists through the latter half of this century."

The findings were published online Oct. 15 in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.

https://www.livescience.com/arctic-ice-refuge-vanishing.html
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Japanese emperor to spend night with goddess in last major accession rite
« Reply #14558 on: November 13, 2019, 05:02:57 PM »

Japan's Emperor Naruhito and Empress Masako ride in a car during their royal parade to mark the enthronement of Japanese Emperor Naruhito in Tokyo on Nov 10, 2019.

TOKYO: Japanese Emperor Naruhito will be ushered into a dark wooden hall on Thursday night to celebrate his last major accession rite after becoming emperor this spring: spending the night with a goddess.

The "Daijosai" rite centres on Amaterasu Omikami - the sun goddess from whom conservatives believe the emperor is descended. It is the most overtly religious of the series of rituals marking Naruhito's taking over after his father Akihito's abdication.

The rite has prompted lawsuits from critics ranging from Communists to Christians, who say it smacks of the militaristic past and violates the constitutional separation of church and state since the central government pays the 2.7 billion yen (US$25 million) cost.

Rumours have persisted that the emperor has conjugal relations with the goddess, a view put forth in pre-World War Two textbooks, an era when the emperor was considered divine. Naruhito's grandfather Hirohito, in whose name Japan fought the war, was stripped of his divinity after Japan lost.

But scholars and the government say the rite involves sharing a meal of dishes from across Japan to seal the emperor's new status.

"This ritual is basically a feast involving the sun goddess and the emperor," said John Breen, professor at the International Research centre for Japanese Studies, Kyoto, who notes that most coronations have mystical elements.

"The emperor is transformed by partaking of this feast."

At around 7.00pm the emperor, dressed in pure white robes, will enter a specially-built shrine compound by torchlight, disappearing behind white curtains.

Though the empress, dressed in robes with a long train, also appears, she does not follow him in.

In a dimly-lit room, kneeling by the side of piled straw mats draped in white, the emperor arranges offerings on 32 plates made of oak leaves for the sun goddess before bowing and praying for the peace of Japan.

The emperor and the goddess symbolically share rice, millet and rice wine before the roughly two-and-a-half hour ritual ends. It is then repeated in a different shrine building, with everything finishing at around 3.00am on Friday.

Critics note that while a Daijosai existed more than 1,000 years ago, the current ritual largely took its form in the late 1800s, as Japan sought to unite the nation around the emperor.

Koichi Shin, 60 and head of a group suing to ban the ritual, said the rite's nationalistic underpinnings are one reason for their opposition. Another is using public funds to stage it - a complaint echoed by the Emperor's younger brother, Crown Prince Akishino, who said the imperial family's private funds should be used, mandating a smaller rite.

Shin noted objections to the Daijosai and other imperial rites are fewer compared to 1990, when Akihito went through it, with press coverage less critical and fewer protests. In 1990, 1,700 people sued the government compared to 318 this time.

"We don't expect good results," Shin said.

"But we think it's important to use everything we can to get across the idea that merging religion and state isn't good."

https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/asia/japanese-emperor-to-spend-night-with-goddess-in-last-major-accession-rite-12092442
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Blasphemy laws exist in 69 countries, report finds
« Reply #14559 on: November 13, 2019, 05:09:48 PM »
Sixty-nine countries have blasphemy laws and penalties have hardened in parts of the world in recent years, according to a report on the status and rights of the non-religious.

The 2019 edition of the Freedom of Thought Report, from Humanists International, has found that blasphemy is punishable by death in six countries.

Eighteen countries outlaw 'apostasy' – leaving a religious tradition – and in 12 of them it is punishable by death. The report says people can effectively be put to death for expressing atheism in 13 countries.

The figures come despite the fact that blasphemy laws have been repealed in eight countries in the last five years. Six of these countries are in Europe. Legislation is also pending in Ireland, following a referendum vote to repeal its blasphemy law.

The worst offenders

The report identifies Saudi Arabia and Pakistan as "perennial" prosecutors for blasphemy and says freedom of thought is particularly penalised by Islamic penal codes and sharia-influenced laws.

It notes that accused atheists suffer from ongoing imprisonment and extrajudicial violence in Pakistan – despite the high-profile release of Asia Bibi, who spent eight years on death row for blasphemy. It also notes that criticism of Pakistan's blasphemy law is often denounced as itself an act of blasphemy, meaning critics are at risk of condemnation and even assassination.

The report also identifies several countries where freedom of thought on religion is deteriorating, most significantly:

Brunei, where a new penal code this year renders blasphemy and apostasy punishable by death
Mauritania, which introduced a mandatory death sentence for blasphemy and apostasy last year
Indonesia, where high-profile blasphemy prosecutions are cited as a cause for concern
Iran, where the government has cracked down on demonstrators protesting against forced hijab laws
India, where the report cites concern about prosecutions and intercommunal violence linked to Hindutva beliefs.
State enforcement of religious orthodoxy

The report also highlights the extent to which states enforce a particular religious orthodoxy. It ranks countries according to their record in four categories: constitution and the government; education and children's rights; society and community; and expression and advocacy of humanist values.

Those with the gravest violations in each category tend to be in the Middle East and Africa – along with China, where the government is currently clamping down severely on religious expression.

Responses to the report

National Secular Society spokesperson Chris Sloggett said: "Blasphemy and apostasy laws are always an affront to the fundamental rights to freedom of expression and belief, and are never justifiable.

"This report shows that these laws and state enforcement of religious doctrine plague societies and undermine individual rights around much of the world. Politicians must face global pressure to repeal these unjust laws.

"Politicians in the UK should take a keen interest in this repression in their dealings with other countries. And they should lead by example by promoting free speech on religion as a positive value and the separation of religion and politics at home."

Humanists International president Andrew Copson said repealing blasphemy and apostasy laws "must be a priority". He added that doing so would "begin to de-legitimise the religious extremism that threatens so many societies across so much of the planet".

Notes

The countries that have repealed blasphemy laws in the past five years are Norway, Iceland, Malta, the Alsace-Moselle region of France, Denmark, Canada, New Zealand and Greece.
This week it was reported that Greece was considering re-introducing its law – with a punishment of up to two years in prison. But according to further reports the Greek government quickly dropped its plan.
The report notes a general trend of religious belief gradually declining around the world. It calls on commentators to recognise that where the number of non-religious people appears to be very low, that may reflect self-censorship on the part of the non-religious.

https://www.secularism.org.uk/news/2019/11/blasphemy-laws-exist-in-69-countries-report-finds
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"The coup mongers are destroying the rule of law," Morales, Bolivia's first indigenous president, tweeted late Sunday.

Bolivia's socialist President Evo Morales was forced to resign Sunday under threat from the nation's military, police forces, and violent right-wing protestors who have burned and ransacked the homes of members of Morales' party, assaulted supporters of the president, and kidnapped a Bolivian mayor.

Political leaders and activists around the world immediately denounced Morales' ouster as a military coup that leaves Bolivia without a constitutionally elected government. Williams Kaliman, the chief commander of the Bolivian armed forces, pressured Morales to resign earlier Sunday.

The coup mongers are destroying the rule of law," Morales, Bolivia's first indigenous president, tweeted hours after announcing his resignation in a televised address.

Morales said he and his vice president, Álvaro García Linera, resigned because they "don't want to see any more families attacked" under orders from right-wing former president Carlos Mesa and opposition leader Luis Fernando Camacho.

"This is not a betrayal to social movements," Morales added. "The fight continues. We are the people, and thanks to this political union, we have freed Bolivia. We leave this homeland freed."

Morales' resignation came following his announcement early Sunday that he would hold new elections after the U.S.-dominated Organization of American States (OAS) questioned Morales' October victory and claimed the vote was fraught with irregularities. Trump administration officials and Republican lawmakers like Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) were quick to parrot the OAS.

"The role of the United States cannot be ignored," CodePink wrote in an email to supporters on Monday. "The State Department has been actively opposing Evo Morales since 2001, when it sought to weaken his political base. This was five years before he was elected president. Since that time, the United States has funded President Morales' political adversaries, including civic groups in eastern Bolivia that attempted a coup in 2008."

Mark Weisbrot, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR), tweeted Sunday that OAS "never did find any evidence of fraud in the October 20th election, but the media repeated the allegation so many times that it became 'true,' in this post-truth world."

Former Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, who was freed from prison Friday after spending more than a year behind bars on politically motivated charges, was among those who denounced the coup in Bolivia late Sunday.

"There was a coup in Bolivia and comrade Evo Morales was forced to resign," Lula tweeted. "It is unfortunate that Latin America has an economic elite that does not know how to live with democracy and the social inclusion of the poorest."

A chorus of political leaders in Latin America and across the globe echoed Lula.

Jeremy Corbyn, the U.K. Labour leader, said Sunday that "to see Evo Morales who, along with a powerful movement, has brought so much social progress forced from office by the military is appalling."

"I condemn this coup against the Bolivian people," said Corbyn, "and stand with them for democracy, social justice, and independence."

U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) tweeted Sunday: "There's a word for the president of a country being pushed out by the military. Its called a coup."

Morales' resignation did not bring a halt to right-wing violence, the Washington Post reported.

"Socialist officials denounced the ransacking of Morales' home late Sunday," according to the Post. "The former head of Bolivia’s electoral tribunal, Maria Eugenia Choque, was detained, police said."

Amid widespread chaos and concerns for Morales' safety, the government of Mexico said it would grant the ousted Bolivian president asylum upon request.

"In Bolivia there is an ongoing military operation, we reject it, it is similar to those tragic events that bloodied Latin America in the last century," Marcelo Ebrard, Mexico's foreign minister, tweeted late Sunday. "Mexico will maintain its position of respect for democracy and institutions. Coups, no."

https://www.commondreams.org/news/2019/11/11/global-condemnation-appalling-coup-bolivia-military-forces-socialist-president-evo
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Hackers Can Access Your Alexa by Shining a Laser in Your Window
« Reply #14561 on: November 13, 2019, 05:34:32 PM »
They took over one smart device from 360 feet away.

Countless millions of people use AI assistants such as Siri or Alexa to do everything from make purchases online to control the locks in their smart homes.

Just say the command that triggers the assistant, and the sound waves from your voice will hit a part of your smart device’s microphone called the diaphragm. That causes the diaphragm to move, producing electrical signals that the device’s software can understand and respond to.

But according to new research funded in part by the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, cybercriminals could hack Siri, Alexa, and other voice-activated AI assistants without saying a word — they just need a line of sight to the device.

A team from Japan and the University of Michigan found that an attacker could encode a command in a beam of light rather than speak it. When they then shine the light on a device’s microphone, the diaphragm moves just as it would if hit by sound waves.

In tests, the researchers found they could hack Siri and other AI assistants from up to 110 meters (360 feet) away — that was the length of the longest hallway they had access to. They also controlled a device in one building from a bell tower 70 meters (230 feet) away by shining their light through a window.

Someone could buy the equipment needed to command an AI assistant using light for less than $400, the researchers said. The telephoto lens needed for long-range attacks bumps that up to $600, but that’s still a small price to pay for access to anything from a person’s online accounts to the locks keeping their home secure.

https://futurism.com/hack-alexa-laser-window
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EU NGO finds network of fake news sites linked to Indian NGOs and think tanks, all spreading anti-Pakistan propaganda.



Researchers have uncovered today a network of 265 online news sites using the names and brands of defunct newspapers from the 20th century to push anti-Pakistan media coverage inside the regular news cycle.

Discovered by the EU DisinfoLab, an EU-based NGO focused on researching sophisticated disinformation campaigns, this network of fake news sites was traced back to a group of Indian companies, NGOs, and think tanks.

The EU DisinfoLab team believes the goal of this global network of fake news organizations was to influence international institutions, elected representatives, and public perceptions on Pakistan by multiplying the same negative anti-Pakistan press coverage.

Furthermore, the fake news sites were also meant to reinforce the legitimacy of anti-Pakistan NGOs by providing linkable press materials to reinforce an anti-Pakistan agenda.

This was done to "add several layers of media outlets that quote and republish one another, making it harder for the reader to trace the manipulation, and in turn (sometimes) offer a 'mirage' of international support," the EU DisinfoLab team said.



Tensions between India and Pakistan are well known, both being at odds with one another since 1947 due to soverignity rights over the Kashmir region.

HOW THE SITES OPERATED
The entire scheme operated based on a similar and rather simple pattern.

All news sites were registered to use a domain that either mimicked the name of a popular local news site or used the name of a defunct newspaper.

For example, in Romania, the group operates an English news site located at frontulplugarilor.com, mimicking the name of Frontul Plugarilor, a pro-communist newspaper published in Bucharest between 1945-1953.



Similarly, in Turkey, the group operates a website at hamevasser.com, mimicking the name of a Zionist Hebrew-language weekly newspaper published in Constantinople (now Istanbul) in the early 1900s, between 1909-1911.

Among the sites it operates in the US, there's the metroeastjournal.com, which imitates the Metro-East Journal, a newspaper that shut down in 1979; or saltlaketelegram.com, which mimics the Salt Lake Telegram, a local newspaper that operated between 1915-1952.

A comprehensive list of all the sites operated by the group can be found on this interactive Google map.

SITES HID ANTI-PAKISTANI PROPAGANDA INSIDE REGULAR NEWS COVERAGE
According to the EU DisinfoLab team, all the 265 websites published English news articles, despite using the names of local newspapers.

Most of the content was syndicated from Russia Today, Voice of America, KCNA, and Interfax, researchers said.

However, hidden in the syndicated content, were articles critical of Pakistan. A search for "pakistan" on one of the sites part of this network yielded the results below, all critical of the Pakistani government.


Screenshot showing 'pakistan' search results on Times of Bulgaria

The EU DisinfoLab team said that links between all the 265 fake news sites were also easy to find. In many cases, several news sites listed a contact address in the same co-working space/office, while in other cases, they shared web servers.

The NGO plans to release a more in-depth report in the coming weeks. In the meantime, the organization has documented their findings in a blog post and a series of Twitter threads .

https://www.zdnet.com/article/network-of-265-online-sites-are-mimicking-defunct-newspapers-to-spread-anti-pakistan-propaganda/
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Flood, fire and plague: climate change blamed for disasters
« Reply #14563 on: November 14, 2019, 06:40:58 AM »
While the politicians argue, concern is growing about the impact on the health of a warmer world.


A firefighter works along Putty Road on Thursday in Sydney, Australia.

SINGAPORE — Extreme floods in Venice, fires in Australia and even an outbreak of plague in China have been attributed to climate change this week, while researchers have warned that global warming could saddle future generations with life-long illness.

Venice declared a state of emergency on Wednesday after "apocalyptic" floods swept through the lagoon city, flooding its historic basilica and inundating squares and centuries-old buildings.

"This is the result of climate change," city mayor Luigi Brugnaro said on Twitter.

City thoroughfares were turned into raging torrents, stone balustrades were shattered, boats tossed ashore and gondolas smashed against their moorings as the lagoon tide peaked at 6 feet 2 inches.

It was the highest since the record 6 feet 4 inches set in 1966, but rising water levels are becoming a regular threat to the tourist jewel.

"Venice is on its knees," said Brugnaro. "The damage will run into hundreds of millions of euros."

On the other side of the world, parts of Australia have been ravaged by wild bush fires this week, with four people killed and communities forced to flee the flames.

Since 2016, parts of northern and inland New South Wales, along with southern Queensland, have been in drought that the Bureau of Meteorology says is being driven, in part, by warmer sea-surface temperatures affecting rainfall patterns.


A room in the flooded Gritti Palace is pictured during an exceptional high tide water level in Venice on Tuesday.

Air temperatures have also warmed over the past century, increasing the ferocity of droughts and fires.

But links between climate change and extreme weather events have become a political football in Australia.

The coal-industry supporting government accepts the need to cut emissions while arguing that stronger environmental action would cripple its economy.

That pits the country against its Pacific island neighbors which are particularly susceptible to warmer temperatures and rising seas.

Globally, concern about effective action has surged since President Donald Trump abandoned the international Paris Accord on climate change and took steps to dismantle environmental protections.

Trump and Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro are among the world's only leaders who publicly question the science of climate change, despite devastating fires in their countries — in California and the Amazon basin — that environmentalists at least partly blame on global warming.

While the politicians argue, concern is growing about the impact on the health of a warmer world.

In China, health officials have reported a rare outbreak of pneumonic plague after two cases were confirmed this week in Beijing.

The two were infected in the province of Inner Mongolia, where rodent populations have expanded dramatically after persistent droughts, worsened by climate change, state media said.

An area the size of the Netherlands was hit by a "rat plague" last summer.

The wider implications for health are sobering.

The Lancet medical journal published a study this week saying climate change was already harming people's health by increasing the number of extreme weather events and exacerbating air pollution.

A warmer world brings risks of food shortages, infectious diseases, floods and extreme heat.

If nothing is done, the impacts could burden an entire generation with disease and illness throughout their lives, researchers said.

"Children are particularly vulnerable to the health risks of a changing climate. Their bodies and immune systems are still developing, leaving them more susceptible to disease and environmental pollutants," said Nick Watts, one of those who led the Lancet Countdown on Health and Climate Change study.

Health damage in early childhood is "persistent and pervasive," he warned, bringing lifelong consequences.

"Without immediate action from all countries to cut greenhouse gas emissions, gains in wellbeing and life expectancy will be compromised, and climate change will come to define the health of an entire generation," he told a London briefing.

https://www.nbcnews.com/news/world/flood-fire-plague-climate-change-blamed-disasters-n1082026
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Pope tells tech companies they are responsible for child safety
« Reply #14564 on: November 14, 2019, 06:50:49 AM »
VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - Pope Francis said on Thursday that technology company executives and investors must be held accountable if they put profit before the protection of children, including from easy access to pornography on the web.

Francis spoke at the start of a Vatican conference on “Promoting Digital Child Dignity” that brought companies like Apple Inc, Alphabet Inc’s Google, Microsoft Corp and Facebook together with child protection groups and law enforcement and judicial officials.

“Companies that provide (internet) services have long considered themselves mere suppliers of technological platforms, neither legally nor morally responsible for the way they are used,” Francis said.

“There is a need to ensure that investors and managers remain accountable, so that the good of minors and society is not sacrificed to profit.”

Francis said the Church’s “painful and tragic experience” with its own sexual abuse crisis gave it a “duty to approach these issues with a long-term vision”.

Last month, the United States, Britain and Australia called on Facebook to suspend plans to encrypt its messaging service, saying it would hinder the fight against child abuse and terrorism.

Child predators have increasingly used messaging applications to groom their victims and exchange explicit images and videos. The number of known child sexual abuse images has soared from thousands to tens of millions in just a few years.

Chief executive Mark Zuckerberg said he was “optimistic” Facebook would be able to identify predators with the same tools it uses to combat election interference.

One prominent attendee at the conference is Queen Silvia of Sweden, a long-time activist for children’s rights.

Citing studies that show the average age of first access to digital pornography is 11, Francis said companies must make greater efforts to identify the age of users and intensify cooperation with law enforcement to combat child pornography.

“I make an urgent appeal to them to assume their responsibility towards minors, their integrity and their future,” Francis said.

“It will not be possible to guarantee the safety of minors in the digital world without the full involvement of companies in this sector and without a full awareness of the moral and social repercussions of their management and functioning.”

This year, Britain’s National Association for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children proposed that technology company directors be made legally responsible for child safety.

The conference at the Pontifical Academy of Sciences is the Vatican’s latest foray into moral issues related to technology. In September, another Vatican department brought together Silicon Valley heavyweights, Nobel laureates and cyber experts on to discuss the ethical use of artificial intelligence (AI).

On Thursday, Francis urged computer engineers to strengthen ways of using AI and algorithms to protect children on the internet. He said they should feel “personally responsible for building the future”.

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-technology-pope-children/pope-tells-tech-companies-they-are-responsible-for-child-safety-idUSKBN1XO1TJ?utm_source=reddit.com
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