New Zealand police shoot dog delaying flights at Auckland

Flights from New Zealand’s Auckland Airport are returning to schedule after a runaway dog near the tarmac was shot dead by police because it was delaying planes taking off.

Sixteen domestic and international flights were delayed for safety reasons at the nation’s busiest airport while the dog was on the loose for three hours, a spokeswoman for Auckland Airport, Lisa Mulitalo, told Reuters.

“The dog was clearly distressed and wouldn’t let anyone near it so the decision was made to shoot the dog,” she said.

A police marksman killed the 10-month-old bearded-collie and German shorthaired pointer cross called Grizz, which was in training to detect explosives, said Mike Richards, a spokesman for New Zealand’s Aviation Security Service.

“Of course it was dark for most of the time it was on the run, they tried everything they could, but just couldn’t lure the dog back, I think it was just freaked out,” he said.

Mulitalo said the backlog of delayed flights would likely be cleared during the morning.

(Reporting by Tom Westbrook)

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Digitization Unearths New Data From Cold War-Era Nuclear Test Films

The film is silent, but it starts with a bang. The screen blows out white, then a tropical beach comes into view, before an explosion tears across the horizon. A two-tiered mushroom cloud flows skyward, revealing a dark, intense plume of smoke that smolders in the distance.

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Another film, showing the charmingly titled “Operation Teapot”, is a black-and-white nightmare: A ball of fire comes into the frame over a mound in the distance, engulfing the sky and setting off a wave of soil or smoke or both, so powerful that the camera starts to shake.

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These are films of the nuclear age, and there are thousands of them. They document the 210 atmospheric nuclear tests the United States conducted between 1945 and 1962.

Until recently, these government-commissioned films had been scattered around different archives, though the bulk of them sat in boxes at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico. Fortunately, a team of physicists and film archivists at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California decided to digitize the films before it was too late.

Greg Spriggs, a weapon physicist and the project lead, notes that the film canisters were already starting to smell of vinegar — one of the byproducts of film decomposition.

Spriggs and his team started digitizing the films using special scanners that move the film without gripping it by the holes in the edges. But as they watched the old films, they noticed something: the nuclear yield data based on the images was wrong.

These aren’t just any old government movies: They are scientific documents that are key to understanding nuclear power. And even though the films are very old, scientists don’t get access to these sort of nuclear tests anymore: atmospheric nuclear tests have been banned since 1963.

Today, nuclear physicists run virtual nuclear tests on supercomputers. But those tests are based in part in research on the old films. And, unsurprisingly, there are better methods of measurement today.

So Spriggs and his team set about reanalyzing all of the old films, using new techniques. The indicators remain the same, in some ways: the double flash of light, the fireball, and the shock wave captured on film all offer significant information for researchers on the energy generated by the nuclear blast. But today’s new tools offer greater precision.

For instance, the size, speed and duration of the fireball created can be used to estimate the weapon’s yield. The old methods involved analysts studying the film, advancing it frame by frame to see where the edge of the fireball seemed to be, and measuring its radius. This created plenty of room for human error, and, indeed, the yield numbers generated by this method produced inconsistent results.

But the newly digitized films allow researchers to more clearly see the fireball’s edge, allowing for much more accurate yield estimates. “We were finding that some of these answers were off by 20, maybe 30, percent,” says Spriggs. “One of the payoffs of this project is that we’re now getting very consistent answers. We’ve also discovered new things about these detonations that have never been seen before. New correlations are now being used by the nuclear forensics community, for example.”

The lab has posted a number of the films on YouTube, and the ability to watch these films from the cold remove of one’s desk chair is an arresting experience.

These brief portals to the Cold War are oddly devoid of context. Each film on Lawrence Livermore’s Atmospheric Nuclear Test playlist is accompanied by nothing more than its code name — no date, no location, no mention of lingering radiation. The films are silent, the explosions otherworldly. But they were in our world: enormous nuclear weapons, unleashed over Nevada and the Marshall Islands.

For his part, Spriggs hopes that the films are a deterrent to using such weapons in the future.

“It’s just unbelievable how much energy’s released,” he said. “We hope that we would never have to use a nuclear weapon ever again. I think that if we capture the history of this and show what the force of these weapons are and how much devastation they can wreak, then maybe people will be reluctant to use them.”

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Study: 'Urgent' Action Against Global Warming Needed To Save Coral Reefs

Graveyard of Staghorn coral, Yonge reef, Northern Great Barrier Reef, October 2016.

Greg Torda /ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies

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Greg Torda /ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies

In 2016, a mass bleaching event caused unprecedented destruction to the Great Barrier Reef and other coral reefs around the world.

Now, a new study in Nature has concluded that securing a future for coral reefs “ultimately requires urgent and rapid action to reduce global warming.”

It finds that local measures, such as protecting reefs and water quality, ultimately yield little protection against bleaching caused by high water temperatures.

Bleached and flourescing corals on the northern Great Barrier Reef, April 2016.

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Ed Roberts, Tethys Images

The researchers documented the extent of the damage to the Great Barrier Reef off the coast of Australia during the 2016 bleaching event, and found that only 8.9 percent of more than 1,000 reefs in the region escaped with no bleaching along a stretch more than 2,000 kilometers long.

That’s far worse that the two previous major Great Barrier Reef bleaching events, in 1998 and 2002. In both cases more than 40 percent of the reefs surveyed escaped bleaching.

James Cook University’s Mia Hoogenboom, one of the co-authors of the paper, told Morning Edition that when she went diving to document the reef’s condition, it was a shock to see the extent of the damage.

“It’s confronting to go from a reef which is colorful, which is swarming with life, to a reef that’s covered in dead corals and corals that are covered in a slimy green algae,” she said. “So it doesn’t feel like the same reef and it doesn’t engender that same sense of wonder at the biodiversity that’s present in those areas.”

The three major bleaching events occurred in different but overlapping areas, which allowed the researchers to test a hypothesis that previous exposure to bleaching may make coral more resilient to the effect of high water temperatures.

Unfortunately, the researchers found that “bleaching in previous years didn’t confer any resistance to bleaching in the most recent bleaching event.” Hoogenboom said “the bleaching was just as severe on reefs that had previously been bleached than on reefs that hadn’t bleached before in that event last year.”

The Two-Way has explained how coral bleaching occurs as water temperatures rise:

Coral bleaching occurs when the living organisms that make up coral reefs expel the colorful, photosynthetic algae that normally live inside their bodies, and provide them with food. Those algae give coral reefs their color and disappear when the reefs are exposed to stressful climatic conditions, such as temperatures even a few degrees higher than normal.”

Hoogenboom says the researchers found that other factors can help mitigate the severity of the bleaching. For example, good water flow can reduce the damage.

But ultimately, she says, “temperature is really the main driver of these mass coral bleaching events,” prompting the team’s push for global action against climate change.

In recent weeks, her team received more bad news – they’ve found that a bleaching event is occurring on the Great Barrier Reef for the second successive year.

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A New Zealand River Now Has The Legal Rights Of A Human

Māori paddlers guide a boat down the Whanganui River in New Zealand, during a visit from Britain’s Prince Harry in 2015.

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For the first time in New Zealand’s history, the country’s lawmakers have granted a river the legal rights of a human. The parliamentary vote Wednesday, which caps more than 140 years of legal struggles, ensures the roughly 90-mile Whanganui River will be represented by two guardians in legal matters that concern the waterway.

The legislation marks a monumental victory for the local Māori people, who view the river as “an indivisible and living whole,” Gerrard Albert, lead negotiator for the Whanganui tribe, tells The Telegraph. “It has been a long, hard battle” to earn legal recognition of the river, which is known by the Māori as Te Awa Tupua.

Under that name, the river will be appointed representatives — one each from the tribe and the government — in court proceedings. And the BBC notes the settlement also includes $80 million in financial redress and $30 million toward improving the river’s health.

“It’s not that we’ve changed our worldview, but people are catching up to seeing things the way that we see them,” Adrian Rurawhe, a Māori member of Parliament, tells the New Zealand Herald.

It is, however, a new concept for New Zealand’s government — and one it took a long time to come around to. The Herald reports the local Māori have sought to obtain legal protections for the Whanganui River since 1873, giving rise to “one of New Zealand’s longest running court cases.”

With the news that their generations-long efforts have finally succeeded, the hundreds of tribal representatives on hand for the moment “wept with joy when their bid to have their kin awarded legal status as a living entity was passed into law,” according to The Guardian.

In the legislative chamber the Māori present sang a waiata, or a traditional Māori folk song, in celebration.

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Chris Finlayson, New Zealand Minister for Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations, admitted the arrangement is a unique one in the country’s history — but he says it’s not as unfamiliar as you may think.

“I know the initial inclination of some people will say it’s pretty strange to give a natural resource a legal personality,” Finlayson says, according to the BBC. “But it’s no stranger than family trusts, or companies or incorporated societies.”

In the end it’s a matter of recognition, Finlayson tells Buzzfeed News.

“This legislation recognizes the deep spiritual connection between the Whanganui Iwi [tribe] and its ancestral river, and creates a strong platform for the future of Whanganui River.”

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James Cotton, Legend Of The Blues Harmonica, Dies At 81

Legendary harmonica player James Cotton, who died aged 81 after a 72-year-long career.

Christopher Durst/Courtesy Alligator Records

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Christopher Durst/Courtesy Alligator Records

James Cotton, one of the foremost blues harmonica players of the 20th century, died Thursday of pneumonia while being treated at St. David’s Medical Center in Austin, Texas. He was 81 years old.

A note from Cotton’s label, Alligator Records, confirmed his passing.

The Grammy Award-winning Cotton was born July 1, 1935, on a Mississippi cotton plantation and began playing the harmonica at age 9. As a teenager, he was mentored by Sonny Boy Williamson II, toured with Howlin’ Wolf and recorded sessions at the legendary Sun Records studio. Starting at the age of 20, Cotton spent 12 years on the road with Muddy Waters and was featured on Waters’ records At Newport 1960.

Cotton formed The James Cotton Band in 1966, eventually drawing him into the orbit of the new era through collaborations with, among many others, Janis Joplin, The Grateful Dead and Led Zeppelin.

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His status cemented, Cotton’s accolades began to pile up — a Grammy in 1996 for his album Deep In the Blues, a 2010 all-star tribute concert at New York’s Lincoln Center, and the Festival International de Jazz de Montréal’s 2015 B.B. King award.

Cotton is survived by his wife Jacklyn Hairston Cotton, daughters Teresa Hampton and Marshall Ann Cotton, and son James Patrick Cotton. He also leaves behind numerous grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Cotton explained his life best, in an interview with NPR in 2013: “I guess I was born with the blues, and I don’t know nothing else but the blues.”

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A Unlikely Romance Blossoms, Rooted In A Secret: 'Frantz'

Adrien (Pierre Niney) and Anna (Paula Beer) share a graveside moment in Frantz.

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Jean-Claude Moireau /Music Box Films

In 1919, a German miss and a French gent gingerly approach each other across the no-man’s-land between their two countries. For Francois Ozon, director and co-writer of Frantz, the romance is less tentative. The French filmmaker’s melodrama is a love letter to German-born director Ernst Lubitsch, as well as to painter Caspar David Friedrich.

Frantz is adapted from Broken Lullaby, made by Lubitsch (from a French play) in Hollywood in 1932. While thematically rich, Ozon’s update is less compelling narratively. His decision to (mostly) emulate the look and feel of ’30s black-and-white cinema threatens to turn a heartfelt parable into a novelty act.

After her fiance’s death in World War I, Anna (Paula Beer) continues to live with heartbroken Hans (Ernst Stötzner) and Magda (Marie Gruber), who were to have become her in-laws. Frantz was their only child, and Anna is their last connection to him. The family never even received his body; the grave Anna visits regularly is empty.

It is at the grave site, of course, that Anna meets Adrien (Pierre Niney). The spindly, tortured veteran has just arrived from France, and begins leaving roses at Frantz’s headstone. He soon encounters Anna, and tells her that he and Frantz, both classical musicians, were friends in Paris before the war.

Initially, Adrien is unwelcome in the town, and at the home of Frantz’s parents. “Every Frenchman is my son’s murderer,” Hans announces.

Anna and Adrien become friends on a walk in the country during which the scenery bursts into color, mimicking Friedrich’s landscapes. This strategy loses some of its potency later, when Ozon begins switching to color for a variety of purposes, including flashbacks both enchanted and grim. But the director is tweaking the notion of cinematic reality by using color for sequences that may not have actually occurred.

Anna brings Adrien to Hans and Magda’s house, where he plays Frantz’s violin. Before long, the Frenchman is a surrogate son. Magda seems happy that Adrien might marry Anna, and replace her boy in Anna’s life.

Anyone familiar with the original film, or the play that preceded it, has reason to suspect that Adrien hasn’t told the truth about his relationship with Frantz. But Ozon doesn’t have to follow the original, which raises many other possibilities. Is Adrien a con man? Is he delusional? Were Frantz and Adrien lovers? There’s also a hint that Frantz might have embraced death, suggested by his devotion to Édouard Manet’s “The Suicide,” which the movie places at the Louvre.

The director doesn’t tinker much with the story’s first half, but adds a second part of his (and co-writer Philippe Piazzo’s) own invention. Anna’s symbolic liberation from small-town almost-widowhood begins when she buys a dress, imported from Paris, to attend a dance with Adrien. Later, she follows him to France, where the possibility of an independent life awaits.

A young woman’s emergence is a recurrent Ozon theme, and Beers embodies the transformation luminously, if not so flashily as some of the director’s Gallic leading ladies. While Adrien’s bold decision to visit a hostile Germany sets the events in motion, Anna’s choices guide the latter half of the tale.

One of those choices is to keep what she learns about Frantz’s fate to herself. A priest in the confessional helps guide her to that course, counseling her that dishonesty to spare people pain can be “pure.” With its bows to Lubitsch, Friedrich, and Mahler, Frantz is a testament to the consoling power of art. But it’s also a tribute to the beauty of lies.

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Sierra Leone pastor discovers 706-carat diamond

An undated picture released March 16, 2017 of a 706-carat diamond discovered by pastor Emmanuel Momoh in eastern Sierra Leone. Sierra Leone State House/Handout via Reuters

By Umaru Fofana| FREETOWN

A Christian pastor has found one of the world’s largest uncut diamonds – weighing 706 carats — in Sierra Leone’s eastern Kono region.

The stone, a photograph of which was posted on the president’s official website, is being stored in the country’s central bank, government sources said.

A local chief from Kono handed the stone to President Ernest Bai Koroma on behalf of Emmanuel Momoh who made the discovery. The government plans to auction it.

The presidency said in a statement on Thursday that Koroma thanked the chief who acted as an intermediary for not smuggling it out of the country.

Diamonds fueled a decade-long civil war that ended in 2002 in which 50,000 people were killed. Rebels forced civilians in the east to mine the stones and bought weapons with the proceeds, leading to the term ‘blood diamonds’.

“He (Koroma) underscored the importance of selling such a diamond here as it will clearly give the owners what is due them and benefit the country as a whole,” the statement said.

The stone is yet to be valued but could be worth millions of dollars. Sierra Leone’s gross national income per capita stood at $620 in 2015, according to World Bank data.

The United Nations lifted a ban on diamond exports from Sierra Leone in 2003. The International Monetary Fund expects the country to export $113 million worth of diamonds this year though the sector remains plagued by smuggling.

Despite its size, this week’s discovery is considerably smaller than the Cullinan diamond, which was found in South Africa in 1905. That 3,106-carat stone was cut into several polished gems and the two largest pieces are part of Britain’s crown jewels.

A 1,111-carat diamond was unearthed in a Botswana mine in 2015.

(Writing by Aaron Ross; Editing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg and Pritha Sarkar)

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Trump Violating Lawyers' First Rule For Clients: Keep Your Mouth Shut

President Trump speaks at a rally in Nashville Wednesday. During the speech, he criticized a court that blocked his new travel executive order. And that, lawyers say, could be a problem for him.

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Andrea Morales/Getty Images

Ask any veteran lawyer about her worst fear, and you’ll hear this: the client who digs a hole for himself — and then keeps on digging.

The challenge of defending a difficult client is once again in the news this week as the Justice Department has struggled to convince federal judges that President Trump’s executive order, imposing limits on travelers from six majority Muslim countries, is not, in fact, a ban on Muslims.

In rulings from Hawaii, Maryland, Washington and beyond, courts have cited Trump’s own words as evidence the travel ban is infected by an intent to disfavor Muslim visitors and refugees. That, Judge Derrick Watson in Hawaii concluded Wednesday, violates the First Amendment’s establishment clause, which prohibits Congress from establishing a state religion or favoring one over another.

“A reasonable, objective observer — enlightened by the specific historical context, contemporaneous public statements, and specific sequence of events leading to its issuance — would conclude that the Executive Order was issued with a purpose to disfavor a particular religion,” the judge wrote.

The predicament of the Justice Department lawyers defending the president’s order reminded one criminal defense attorney of this remark from the Roman philosopher Cicero: “Man is his own worst enemy.”

“A lawyer’s first job is to try to prevent his client from doing something that may come back to bite him,” said Barry Pollack, the attorney and president of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. “A lawyer’s second job is prevent his client from getting bitten.”

On the campaign trail, President Trump called for a “total and complete shutdown” of Muslims at the U.S. border. The Justice Department has been arguing those statements before the November election should be out of bounds in court. And some legal scholars agree.

Problem is, Trump keeps on talking.

At the time he unveiled his first executive order, on Jan. 27, the president told the Christian Broadcasting Network that Christians would be given priority when they sought status as refugees. “We are going to help them,” Trump said. “They have been horribly treated.”

That weekend, his close adviser Rudy Giuliani, the former New York mayor, told Fox News that the president had directed him to come up with a way to enact a Muslim ban that would pass legal muster. Advocates for refugees and civil liberties groups used those remarks to convince a judge to block the order.

“There’s a concept in the Rules of Evidence called, ‘Party Admission,'” said longtime lawyer Mark MacDougall. “When you make a statement that’s unfriendly to your case, it can be used against you in court. That’s why all good lawyers tell their clients to keep their mouths shut. That’s your first conversation.”

MacDougall, who has defended government officials, intelligence agents and corporate executives, said most defendants are “usually sufficiently scared that they listen. Politicians are different.”

Inside the Trump White House, the President and his top aides indeed are adopting their own approach, one that, in part, targets the judges ruling against them. After courts blocked the first order, dealing the White House a political and public-relations blow, White House aide Stephen Miller told interviewers that a newly envisioned order would include technical changes, but have the same basic purpose. Then that remark wound up in an adverse court decision this week.

Again, Wednesday evening, just hours after a court restrained the new travel ban, Trump told an audience at a Nashville rally the ruling was “terrible” and politically motivated. With television cameras trained on him, the president said the new executive order, issued March 6, was a “watered-down version of the first order.”

“This new order was tailored to the dictates of the 9th Circuit’s, in my opinion, flawed ruling,” Trump added. “This was, in the opinion of many, an unprecedented judicial overreach.”

The reply came swiftly on Twitter from one of the many courtroom opponents of the idea. ACLU Deputy Legal Director Cecillia Wang entreated, “Keep talking, Mr. President. Keep on talking.”

Keep talking, Mr. President. Keep on talking. https://t.co/2daiCj0qxL

— Cecillia Wang (@WangCecillia) March 16, 2017

Among those who would prefer the president stop talking: federal judges themselves. Five appeals court judges from the 9th Circuit, who wrote Wednesday in support of Trump’s sweeping powers on immigration, nevertheless went out of their way to decry some of his rhetoric.

“The personal attacks on the distinguished district judge and our colleagues were out of all bounds of civic and persuasive discourse — particularly when they came from the parties,” the judges said. “Such personal attacks treat the court as though it were merely a political forum in which bargaining, compromise, and even intimidation are acceptable principles.”

It’s not clear what kind of advice the president is getting from his White House counsel, Don McGahn, or the Justice Department — or whether Trump is taking it.

There’s been no public hint of criticism from the lawyers taking a beating in court on behalf of the president. Longtime defense lawyer William Taylor III said he’s concluded Trump wants to talk to his political supporters and “just doesn’t care” about legal advice to the contrary. But at least one former Obama Justice Department spokeswoman, Dena Iverson, suggested a lot is going on behind the scenes:

@DevlinBarrett Fed Programs should probably automatically provide employees paper bags to breathe into due to POTUS tweeting abt their cases

— Dena Iverson (@DenaDeBonis) February 9, 2017

Sarah Isgur Flores, a spokeswoman for DOJ, called the Hawaii ruling flawed in its reasoning and its scope and pledged “the Department will continue to defend this Executive Order in the courts.”

The question in the legal community is, what will President Trump and his top aides say before then.

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Far-Right Party Defeated In Dutch Elections

One of the most closely watched races for prime minister in the history of the Netherlands came to a close Wednesday. Center-right Prime Minister Mark Rutte defeated populist candidate Geert Wilders of the Party of Freedom.

NPR international correspondent Frank Langfitt (@franklangfitt) talks with Here & Now‘s Robin Young about the results and reaction to the elections.

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