Scientists to explore 120,000yo ecosystem uncovered after trillion-ton iceberg break (PHOTOS)

Scientists to explore 120,000yo ecosystem uncovered after trillion-ton iceberg break (PHOTOS)
The British Antarctic Survey (BAS) is due to launch a mission in early 2018 to explore the uncharted ecosystem that remained hidden beneath the Antarctic ice shelf for the past 120,000 years.

BAS researchers want to gauge the response of the marine ecosystem to environmental change after the A68 iceberg, which is four times the size of London, broke away from the Larsen C Ice Shelf in mid-July, leaving 5,818 sq km of seabed exposed to the elements for the first time.

READ MORE: New satellite images show Antarctica’s 1 trillion ton iceberg in stunning detail (PHOTOS)

“We have a unique opportunity to study how marine life responds to a dramatic environmental change. Normally, it takes years to plan the logistics for marine research cruise,” said Dr Katrin Linse from the BAS.

“Everyone is pulling out the stops to make this happen. All we need now is for the iceberg to move far enough away from the remaining shelf and the sea ice to melt so that we can navigate safely.”

As the iceberg separates from the shelf, the research vessel the RRS James Clark Ross will enter the ecosystem before any major changes can take place, the BAS wrote in a press release. The ship will have to maneuver the icy debris field using satellite navigation.

“It’s exciting to think about what we might find. Using a range of different techniques, our multi-disciplinary approach by an international team will examine the marine ecosystem spanning the water column from the surface of the ocean all the way to the seabed and the sediment,” Linse added.

READ MORE: Larsen B part 2? Monster iceberg drifts further from Antarctic shelf (SATELLITE IMAGES)

The team is hoping to spend a total of three weeks in February 2018 on board the research vessel.

“We hope that we’ll be able to answer fundamental questions relating to the sustainability of polar continental shelves under climate change,” said Dr Phil Trathan, Head of Conservation Biology at BAS.

“It’s important we get there quickly so we can make a baseline assessment before the newly exposed marine environment changes and new species begin to colonise the area,” Trathan added.

BAS glaciologists and remote sensing specialists will continue to track the Larsen C Ice Shelf and will conduct multiple flyovers of the area before the mission sets sail in early February.

“We are watching the progress of the Larsen berg very closely as we haven’t seen a berg of this size in the area for some time and it has the possibility to obstruct shipping lanes in the area, especially as it starts to break up and disperse,” said Andrew Fleming, Head of Remote Sensing at BAS.

Courtesy: RT

Catalan crisis: President Carles Puigdemont calls for independence talks with Spain

Catalan President Carles Puigdemont has told the regional parliament that Catalonia should declare independence, but suspend the effects of the referendum to facilitate dialogue with Madrid.

Watch video00:38

Puigdemont calls for dialogue with Spain

Catalan President Carles Puigdemont told the regional parliament on Tuesday that Catalonia had won the right to secede from Spain, but would first seek talks with Madrid.

He and other regional officials later signed a document declaring the region’s independence. It was unclear at the time of writing whether the document had any legal basis, but a regional government spokesman told news agency AFP that the Puigdemont immediately suspended the declaration after it was signed.

“We call on all states and international organisations to recognize the Catalan republic as an independent and sovereign state. We call on the Catalan government to take all necessary measures to make possible and fully effective this declaration of independence and the measures contained in the transition law that founds the republic,” the document said, according to news agency Reuters.

Puigdemont’s main points in the speech:

– Catalan independence had won in a parliamentary election and had now won a referendum. The region had now won the right to become an independent state.

– The standoff between Barcelona and Madrid was now a European issue. The relationship between the two government no longer works and both sides had a responsibility to de-escalate the situation.

– The Catalan government was not making any threats or insults and believes that the only way forward is democracy and peace. Catalonia was always willing to talk.

– The independence referendum took place on October 1 under very difficult circumstances. Spanish police did not want to just take ballot boxes, but strike fear into voters. 770,000 votes could not be counted because of the crackdown.

– Madrid’s aggressive behavior was an attempt to re-centralize power in Spain.

– Catalan citizens were neither mad nor criminals and had nothing against Spain.

Carles Puigdemont gives a speech at the Catalan regional parliament in Barcelona Carles Puigdemont wants a negotiated independence from Spain

Reaction from Madrid

The Spanish government rejected what it called an “tacit” declaration of independenc by Catalonia.

“It’s unacceptable to make a tacit declaration of independence to then suspend it in an explicit manner,” a central government spokesman told news agency AFP.

Read more: Full reactions to the Puigdemont speech

How the day unfolded

Puigdemont met with his cabinet earlier on Tuesday to discuss next steps in a tense standoff with the central Spanish government in Madrid, which has opposed the regional government’s drive toward secession.

Spanish government spokesman, Inigo Mendez de Vigo, warned Puigedemont against declaring independence.

“We call on Puigdemont not to do anything irreversible, not to pursue a path of no return and not to make any unilateral independence declaration,” he said.

EU Council President Donald Tusk also cautioned against such a move, saying a declaration of independence would make “dialogue impossible” between Barcelona and Madrid.

Puigdemont was scheduled to address the regional parliament at 6 p.m. (1600 UTC), but his speech was delayed by an hour.

Read more: Catalan independence – what you need to know

A disputed referendum

National leaders in Madrid and regional leaders in Barcelona have been locked in a standoff since Catalonia held an independence referendum on October 1.

The poll, which Spanish courts and Madrid had declared illegal, ended with 90 percent of voters opting for secession. While turnout was only 43 percent, Puigdemont said afterwards that “the citizens of Catalonia have won the right to an independent state in the form of a republic.”

Images of Spanish police seizing ballots and roughing up voters in Barcelona led to 700,000 people to join a general strike in Catalonia last Tuesday to protest police violence.

Armed Catalan police guard the Catalan parliament ahead of Puigdemont's speechArmed Catalan police guard the Catalan parliament ahead of Puigdemont’s speech

Spain’s opposition

Spain’s interior minister later apologized for Madrid’s actions, but Spanish authorities remained steadfast in denying the legitimacy of the referendum.

Spanish King Felipe has said Catalan authorities had been “irresponsible” in holding the vote and that he was committed to Spain’s “unity and permanence.”

Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said on Sunday he would not rule out suspending Catalonia’s autonomous status if it claimed independence. The central government could take the unprecedented move to invoke article 155 of the Spanish constitution to take over the running of an autonomous region.

Catalonia isolated and under pressure

Puigdemont had repeatedly called on the EU to mediate talks between Barcelona and Madrid following the referendum, a demand Spanish authorities and the EU have refused to accept.

Businesses have also pressured Catalan leaders to defuse tensions with many declaring they will relocate to other parts of Spain. The Madrid stock market has also struggled as international investors have dumped Spanish shares.

Read more: Catalonia independence: Secessionists start to feel the squeeze

Watch video01:22

Winemakers worry about Catalan independence

amp/rt  (AP, Reuters, dpa, AFP)

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North Korea ‘hacked US-South Korea war plans’

North Korean hackers have leaked hundreds of South Korean military documents, according to South Korean media. Detailed South Korean-US wartime operational plans were reportedly among those stolen.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un presides over a target strike exercise (Getty Images/AFP/STR)

Large amounts of classified military documents were stolen by North Korean hackers last year, according to media reports on Tuesday.

Rhee Cheol-hee, a lawmaker with South Korea’s ruling Democratic Party, said hackers broke into Seoul’s military data center last September, reported the daily newspaper Chosun Ilbo and South Korea’s Yonhap news agency.

Read moreNorth Korea’s murky links to international cybercrime

Watch video28:31

Kim Jong-un: North Korea’s dangerous leader

Rhee said that the hackers accessed 235 gigabytes of sensitive data, both outlets reported. Among the leaked documents were Operational Plans 5015 and 3100 — the latest plans South Korean-US plans in case of war with North Korea.

Those plans also included procedures for “decapitation” attacks against top North Korean leaders, Chosun Ilbo reported Rhee as saying.

Read moreKim Yo Jong: Who is the North Korean leader’s mysterious sister?

Rhee added that the content of 80 percent of the documents has yet to be identified, but the South’s contingency plan for its special forces was stolen as well as details on the annual joint military drills with the US.

Read moreCan former US President Jimmy Carter bring peace to the Korean Peninsula?

Watch video02:15

US and North Korea in dangerous war of words

The North’s cyber onslaught

In May of this year, South Korea’s Defense Ministry said the North was believed to be behind the military’s online network, but did not say what had been leaked.

Pyongyang has denied that it was behind the latest cyber attack, criticizing Seoul for “fabricating” the claims.

Read moreUS-North Korea ‘back-channel talks happening’

The report comes amid heightened tensions on the Korean peninsula, with fears of conflict stoked by US President Donald Trump’s threats of military action against the North’s leader Kim Jong Un over missile and nuclear tests.

In one of his Tweets over the weekend, Trump wrote that diplomacy and US policies have been unsuccessful, adding that “only one thing will work.”

…hasn’t worked, agreements violated before the ink was dry, makings fools of U.S. negotiators. Sorry, but only one thing will work!

According to the South Korean government, Pyongyang has a unit of some 6,800 trained cyber-warfare specialists.

North Korean hackers have also been accused of launching several large cyber attacks, including the 2014 hacking of Sony Pictures.

Watch video03:16

Why a North Korean defector lives in fear for his life

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Rohingya crisis: UN launches cholera vaccination drive in refugee camps

The United Nations has launched a massive vaccination drive in Rohingya refugee camps in Bangladesh amid fears of a cholera outbreak. Nearly one million Rohingya are living in desperate conditions in the camps.

A Rohingya refugee child reacts as a Bangladeshi volunteer administers an oral cholera vaccine to her father

The United Nations has started administering cholera vaccines to Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh as part of one its biggest cholera vaccination drives.

Thousands of Rohingya on Tuesday braved the heat at makeshift health centers to receive the oral vaccine.

“Diarrheal diseases can easily spread any time hundreds of thousands of people live in close proximity without proper sanitation,” UNHCR spokeswoman Yante Ismail told DW.

“Our concern is that new arrivals may be susceptible to diarrheal diseases due to their weakened bodies and compromised immune system, as a result of the hardship they have encountered.”

More than 500,000 Rohingya have fled to Bangladesh in the past month to escape military and civilian reprisals in Myanmar that the United Nations has described as “ethnic cleansing.”

Rohingya, a vast majority of whom are Muslims, have been denied citizenship rights. They are viewed by the local authorities as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh, although many have been living in the region for decades, if not centuries. Myanmar’s Buddhist majority is often accused of subjecting them to discrimination and violence.

Read moreRohingya people in Myanmar: what you need to know

A Rohingya refugee gets her finger inked after having a dose of an oral cholera vaccine at the Thankhali refugee campA Rohingya refugee gets her finger inked after having a dose of an oral cholera vaccine at the Thankhali refugee camp

Second biggest cholera vaccination drive

The world body and the Bangladesh government first plan to vaccinate 650,000 people against cholera, which spreads through dirty water and can kill if left untreated.

A second round of vaccinations will start on October 31. It will target 250,000 children aged between one and five years with an additional dose of the vaccine for added protection.

The World Health Organization (WHO), which is supporting the campaign, said on Tuesday it had dispatched 900,000 doses of the vaccine. The vaccines are being delivered by more than 200 mobile vaccination teams.

It is the second biggest cholera vaccination drive that the UN has undertaken. About 800,000 people were immunized against the disease in Haiti in November.

Amid fears of a cholera outbreak, the WHO said more than 10,000 diarrhea have been reported and treated in the past week.

“UNHCR health experts are concerned that given the living conditions of new arrivals, if not prevented early, acute diarrhea could spread quickly and result in high mortality rates, especially among children, the elderly, and those with compromised immune systems,” Ismail said.

Ismail added that more and more refugees were coming to clinics with diarrhoea and severe dehydration.

Read moreMyanmar’s Rohingya: A history of forced exoduses

Rohingya refugee gets oral vaccine against choleraA second round of vaccination targeted at children will start on October 31.

No signs of violence after ceasefire expires

A one-month ceasefire unilaterally enacted by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) to afford aid groups access to northwest Myanmar expired at midnight local time. On Tuesday, Myanmar officials announced they had seen no signs of new attacks in the hours after the ceasefire ended.

Read moreMyanmar’s Rohingya rebels – What you need to know

The current exodus began after Myanmar security forces launched a counteroffensive in Rakhine State in western Myanmar in response to ARSA attacks on police posts on August 25. Myanmar says that more than 500 people, mostly insurgents, have been killed since hostilities began.

Although ARSA has stated its willingness to enter talks should the government “be inclined to peace,” authorities in Myanmar have said, “We have no policy to negotiate with terrorists.”

Watch video02:13

Dozens of Rohingya refugees drown off Bangladesh coast

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Liberia elections: who will succeed Ellen Johnson Sirleaf?

Liberians are voting to elect a successor for President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. The peace Nobelist is stepping down after 12 years in office. The vote is seen as a crucial test for the country’s democracy.

Election campaign propaganda showing candidate George Weah and his running mate Jewel Taylor

Colorful placards cover the walls of Liberia’s capital Monrovia. All throughout the election campaign, supporters of the various candidates flocked to the streets to take part in demonstrations. 2.1 million Liberians are casting their vote for a new president in the third election since the end of the civil war in 2003.

The poll is a turning point in Liberia’s history. After 12 years at the helm, Africa’s first democratically elected female president and Nobel Peace laureate, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, will not be running for office again. The country’s constitution does not allow for another term.

Enthusiastic campaigning

The presidency of the small West African country was hotly contested. Emotions ran high. “Compared to previous elections, the situation is calm. But the election campaign was very energetic,” said observer Christopher Fomunyoh from the National Democratic Institute based in Washington, DC. “Liberians hope that these elections will bring on historic change and cement democracy in their country,” he added.

Lieberian Vice President Jospeh Boakai on the red carpet of the White House in Washington President Johnson Sirleaf dod not support the campaign of Vice President Joseph Boakai

The 20 presidential candidates often made the same promises: more jobs, fomenting the economy and expanding the education sector. The list of candidates is very colorful. There is a former football star, a feared ex-warlord and rich businessmen. Vice President Joseph Boakai of the governing Unity Party (UP) has the advantages of experience in government. But at 72 he is no longer the youngest. Originally, President Johnson Sirleaf had promised to support him. But she failed to turn up to his campaign events. Observers believe there is an internal party conflict. Boakai rejects all speculations: “Our party is united, possibly without the involvement of the president, but that doesn’t mean our party is not united. She and I have worked together very well.”

The promise of more jobs

In an interview, Boakai extolled the country’s development in the last couple of years, though he admitted there was room for improvement. He was especially critical about the lack of roads and infrastructurein the 170 year-old country. It was not possible to strengthen the economy without infrastructure, he added. The vice president promises to create more jobs, further conciliate ethnic groups and improve health services. Talking to DW, he also said that under his presidency, corruption in Liberia would be a thing of the past.

Another candidate who promises to tackle corruption is George Weah, of the main opposition party Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC).

Candidate George Weah campaigningFormer football star George Weah is running again

The 51-year-old former football star and member of parliament lost out to Ellen Johnson Sirleaf in 2005. Many Liberians believe that the presidency was stolen from him then. Weah won the first voting round, but lost the run-off. He hasn’t been able leave a mark on politics since. He also failed to profit from growing popular discontent with the president, whom many Liberians accuse of not having done enough to fight corruption.

Only Weah’s decision to ally himself with Jewel Taylor caused some excitement around his campaign. The senator from Bong county is the ex-wife of former president Charles Taylor, who carries primary responsibility for the civil war in Liberia and in neighboring Sierra Leone. In 2012 a special court sentenced him to 50 years in prison for his role in the conflict. George Weah denied that his alliance with Taylor’s ex-wife was a mistake. “It was a good idea,” he told DW. “She is a hard-working woman.  She has the qualification, she is capable. I believe in gender equality. And to have a woman as vice president is a good thing.” Weah stressed that everybody who had participated in the civil war had made mistakes. But now the time had come to build peace.

Unemployment threatens the peace

There is another woman striving to reach the top: 40-year-old former model MacDella Cooper. After a career on catwalks in the USA, Cooper founded a non-profit carrying her name in 2004. She has a child fathered by opposition candidate George Weah. Another candidate with good prospects is 66-year-old Charles Brumskine. The lawyer and economist ran in 2005 and 2011 and is one of the country’s most popular opposition politicians.

Opposition candidate and former rebel leader Prince Johnson Former rebel leader Prince Johnson watched Presdient Doe being tortured to death

Two further former allies of Charles Taylor are also in the running. One of them is Benoni Urey, who owns Liberia’s biggest mobile operator. The other one is the notorious former warlord Prince Johnson, now a member of parliament. A 1990 video shows him casually sipping beer while watching his militiamen torturing President Samuel Doe to death. Today the 54-year-old says: “Liberia wants peace.” In an interview with DW he criticized his fellow candidate George Weah for allegedly only spending his money on good causes outside Liberia: “How many children in Liberia did he prioritize? There is nothing,” he said adding: “He wants to be president to sit over our resources. They say that when you mismanage yours, you mismanage ours.”

Whoever succeeds President Johnson Sirleaf will have a difficult task ahead. The challenges are many. Liberia is very poor and 85 percent of its youth is unemployed. The outgoing head of state herself has called the situation a real threat to the country. Failing to find a solution for youth unemployment could sink the country into another conflict, she has warned.

Watch video03:23

Field of Liberian presidential candidates runs the gamut

 

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Palestinian rivals Fatah and Hamas begin unity talks in Cairo

Both sides voiced optimism as talks began in the Egyptian capital, with a top Hamas representative saying he was “full of hope” for reconciliation. Egypt has been instrumental in bringing the two sides together.

Gazastreifen Graffiti in Gaza Stadt Aussöhnung Hamad und Fatah (picture-alliance/Zumapress)

Delegates from rival Palestinian parties Fatah and Hamas met in Cairo on Tuesday for talks on bringing the Gaza Strip under the control of the Palestinian Authority.

The Islamist group Hamas wrested control of Gaza from the mainstream Fatah party in 2007.

Now mediators in Egypt are engaged in yet another attempt to facilitate true power sharing between the two in Gaza and the West Bank.

Read more: What are Fatah and Hamas?

Representatives from both sides voiced optimism ahead of the talks being held behind closed doors.

What Hamas representative Izzat Reshiq said:

–     “We meet in Cairo full of hope to draw and lay down a road map entitled national reconciliation.”

What Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah said:

–     “The dialogue committee for reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas started work under Egyptian sponsorship” adding the talks “began in the headquarters of the Egyptian intelligence to examine the files to enable a Palestinian national unity government to work in the Gaza Strip.”

What Azzam al-Ahmad, head of the Fatah delegation, said:

–     The main aim of the talks is “empowering the government in Gaza.”

What the Fatah cabinet said:

–     “The cabinet hopes the national dialogue session in Cairo will succeed in achieving reconciliation and reunite the homeland. It expresses readiness to assume full duties in Gaza Strip as soon at the factions have clinched an agreement.”

What Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said:

–     Palestinians should not fall for “bogus reconciliations.”

Read more: Benjamin Netanyahu: Israel will not accept ‘bogus’ Palestinian reconciliation deal

Netanyahu also repeating calls for Hamas to disband its military arm. Hamas said that point was not up for discussion.

Major points of discussion at the talks will be security, scheduling presidential and legislative elections and an overhaul of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO), which is in charge of peace negotiations with Israel.

Watch video03:31

Q&A with Tania Krämer on Hamas’s concessions to Fatah over Gaza

js/rt (AFP, Reuters)

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Harvey Weinstein allegations: Meryl Streep, Jennifer Lawrence and other actors express dismay

Actresses in Hollywood have sharply condemned Harvey Weinstein’s alleged sexual harassment. The disgraced producer was sacked from Weinstein Co. this weekend.

Harvey Weinstein (Getty Images/Y.Coatsaliou)

A chorus of movie stars has poured condemnation on disgraced film mogul Harvey Weinstein, whose downfall over multiple allegations sexual harassment spanning decades has sent shockwaves through Hollywood.

Weinstein was fired on Sunday from Weinstein Co., the studio he co-founded, three days after a New York Times expose alleged the Oscar-winning producer had a history of demanding sexual favors to advance young women’s careers in the movie industry.

Weinstein’s accusers include Rose McGowan and Ashley Judd. The Times reported that at least eight settlements had been reached with plaintiffs. Weinstein reportedly asked aspiring actresses for massages, sex and demanded they watch him shower.

New allegations have emerged in the days since the expose. In a Huffington Post report, TV anchor Lauren Sivan claimed that in 2007 Weinstein tried to kiss her and then masturbated in front of her at a New York restaurant after she rebuked his overtures.

‘Desperate’ for help

Weinstein has since apologized for his behavior, saying: “I own my mistakes.”

But before Weinstein Co. sacked him on Sunday, Weinstein reportedly sent an email to the board of directors saying that many of the allegations were false.

He begged the board not to fire him, saying he was “desperate” for their help.

The accusations against one of Hollywood’s most powerful figures has caused soul searching within the movie industry over Weinstein’s behavior and accusations of a years-long cover-up.

It has also raised questions over the treatment of women in the movie industry and the dark side of power and money in Hollywood.

Shock and condemnations

Movie legend Meryl Streep, who once jokingly referred to Weinstein as “God,” called his behavior “inexcusable.”

“The disgraceful news about Harvey Weinstein has appalled those of us whose work he championed, and those whose good and worthy causes he supported,” said Streep, who worked with Weinstein on several films over the years.

“Harvey supported the work fiercely, was exasperating but respectful with me in our working relationship, and with many others with whom he worked professionally,” Streep continued. “If everybody knew, I don’t believe that all the investigative reporters in the entertainment and the hard news media would have neglected for decades to write about it.”

Meryl Streep holds up an Oscar statueMeryl Streep won an Oscar for her portrayal of British PM Margaret Thatcher in “The Iron Lady,” a Weinstein Company release

Streep said Weinstein’s history of sexual harassment was not widely known.

Jennifer Lawrence said Tuesday in a statement that Weinstein’s behavior was “inexcusable and absolutely upsetting.”

“My heart goes out to all of the women affected by these gross actions. And I want to thank them for their bravery to come forward,” said Lawrence, who on an Oscar for the 2012 “Silver Linings Playbook,” which was produced by Weinstein Co.

She said that she had never been personally harassed and was unaware of allegations of Weinstein’s behavior.

Other stars to condemn Weinstein included Judi Dench, Seth Rogan, Lena Dunham and Patricia Arquette, director James Gunn and producer Judd Apatow.

Known secret?

Other movie stars came out saying that they had long heard rumors of Weinstein’s behavior and that they regretted not taking them seriously.

“I had hoped that these kind of stories were just made up rumors, maybe we have all been naïve,” wrote Kate Winslet, who won an Oscar for Weinstein Co.’s “The Reader.”

Glenn Close also said she had heard rumors of Weinstein’s behavior.

“Harvey has always been decent to me, but now that the rumors are being substantiated, I feel angry and darkly sad,” Close said in a statement to the New York Times.

“I’m angry, not just at him and the conspiracy of silence around his actions, but also that the ‘casting couch’ phenomenon, so to speak, is still a reality in our business and in the world: the horrible pressure, the awful expectation put on a woman when a powerful, egotistical, entitled bully expects sexual favors in exchange for a job.”

cw/kms (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)

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