THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN
A China Eastern Airlines jet suffered a major engine failure shortly after taking off out of Sydney for Shanghai on Sunday.
THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN
A China Eastern Airlines jet suffered a major engine failure shortly after taking off out of Sydney for Shanghai on Sunday.
(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TIME NEWS)
(NEW YORK) — How long has our species been around? New fossils from Morocco push the evidence back by about 100,000 years.
The bones, about 300,000 years old, were unearthed thousands of miles from the previous record-holder, found in fossil-rich eastern Africa. The new discovery reveals people from an early stage of our species’ evolution, with a mix of modern and more primitive traits.
“They are not just like us,” said Jean-Jacques Hublin, one of the scientists reporting the find. But they had “basically the face you could meet on the train in New York.”
Coupled with other evidence, the Moroccan fossils suggest that Homo sapiens may have reached its modern-day form in more than one place within Africa, said Hublin, of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, and the College of France in Paris.
Previously, the oldest known fossils clearly from Homo sapiens were from Ethiopia, at about 195,000 years old.
It’s not clear just when or where Homo sapiens came on the scene in Africa. Hublin said he thinks an earlier stage of development preceded the one revealed by his team’s discovery.
We evolved from predecessors who had differently shaped skulls and often heavier builds, but were otherwise much more like us than, say, the ape-men that came before them. Our species lived at the same time as some related ones, like Neanderthals, but only we survive.
Hublin and others described the new findings in two papers released Wednesday by the journal Nature. The discovery could help illuminate how our species evolved, Chris Stringer and Julia Galway-Witham of the Natural History Museum in London wrote in a Nature commentary.
The Moroccan specimens were found between 2007 and 2011 and include a skull, a jaw and teeth, along with stone tools. Combined with other bones that were found there decades ago but not correctly dated, the fossil collection represents at least five people, including young adults, an adolescent and a child of around 8 years old. Analysis shows their brain shape was more elongated than what people have today.
“In the last 300,000 years, the main story is the change of the brain,” Hublin said.
When these ancient people lived, the site in Morocco was a cave that might have served as a hunting camp, where people butchered and ate gazelles and other prey. They used fire and their tools were made of flint from about 25 miles (40 kilometers) away.
So where did the fully modern human body develop? The researchers say evidence suggests primitive forms of Homo sapiens had already widely spread throughout Africa by around 300,000 years ago. The different populations may have exchanged beneficial genetic mutations and behaviors, gradually nudging each other toward a more modern form of the species, Hublin said. In this way, he said in an interview, modern Homo sapiens may have arisen in more than one place.
So if there’s a Garden of Eden, he said, it’s the continent as a whole.
Some experts who didn’t participate in the research called that idea possible, although not yet demonstrated. But John Shea, an anthropologist at Stony Brook University in New York, said it’s more useful to think of the different local populations as a single one, connected the same way a big city is connected by subway stops.
“These are parts of a network,” through which ideas and genes flowed, he said.
Shea said it made sense to find such old traces of early Homo sapiens in northwestern Africa. He agreed that it doesn’t mean our species first appeared there.
“When it comes to evidence for human origins in northwest Africa versus eastern Africa versus southern Africa, it’s a tie,” he wrote in an email.
Richard Potts of the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History said the Morocco fossils “appear to reflect the very early transition to Homo sapiens, very possibly denoting the outset of the lineage to which all people belong.”
The site is about 34 miles (55 kilometers) southeast of the coastal city of Safi, northwest of Marrakech. Its age was determined chiefly by analyzing bits of flint found there, and the authors concluded they were around 315,000 years old. Hublin said that since a different method suggested a younger age for the site, he considers the bones to be about 300,000 years old.
Richard Roberts of the University of Woollongong in Australia, an expert in determining ages of ancient sites, supported that conclusion.
“I’d say the authors have presented pretty convincing evidence for the presence of early modern humans at this site by 300,000 years ago and perhaps a little earlier,” Roberts wrote in an email.
(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)
(CNN) An armed standoff in Melbourne, Australia, which left one civilian dead and two police in hospital was a “terrorist incident,” Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull told reporters Tuesday.
(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)
(CNN) Australian police have defended their actions after a passenger tried to force his way into the cockpit on a Malaysia Airlines flight from Melbourne to Kuala Lumpur Thursday.
(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE WASHINGTON POST)
Selwood sprung up on the gunnel at the bow of the boat to avoid the thrashing shark and steadied himself by clinging to the tubular metal frame of the sun shelter, known as a bimini.
“I didn’t give it a chance to look me in the eyes. I wanted to get up and get on top of the gunnel because it was thrashing around madly,” Selwood told Australian Broadcasting Corp.
“Flash Gordon wouldn’t have caught me,” he said, referring to the athletic science fiction comic book hero of the 1930s.
Selwood used a hand-held radio to call the Evans Head coast guard and stayed on the gunnel until a rescue boat arrived.
Coast guard skipper Bill Bates said he misread the danger when Selwood reported his predicament.
“He said, ‘I’m injured, I’ve broken my arm, I’ve got lacerations and there’s a shark in my boat,’” Bates said.
“Often a fisherman will bring a small shark on board — maybe 2 or 3 feet (up to 1 meter) — and they’re still ferocious. That’s what I was expecting, but I was totally wrong,” he added.
The coast guard crew rescued Selwood, but left the shark alone. The shark was estimated to weigh 200 kilograms (440 pounds).
“The shark was thrashing inside the boat, taking up the entire deck area — there was no way you’d put a foot in there,” Bates said.
The coast guard took Selwood to paramedics at Evans Head, where his badly swollen arm was cleared of any fracture.
The coast guard later towed Selwood’s boat with the shark into Evans Head just before nightfall.
“We think it was already dead at that stage, but no one was game to put their finger in to find out,” Bates said.
Why the shark flung itself over the motor and into the anchored boat is a mystery.
Selwood said he was sitting on a cooler, known generically in Australia by the popular brand name Esky, with two hand lines off the port and starboard sides of the boat when he saw one of the lines move as if a fish was hooked.
“I hopped up off the Esky, I touched the hand line and I just caught a blur coming in the corner of me eye and just out of instinct,” Selwood said. “I threw me right arm up and this thing hit me in the forearm and spun me around and knocked me off me feet.”
“This thing was beside me and I looked over and thought, ‘Oh, a bloody shark.’ So I just climbed — he was doing a mad dance around, he was thrashing everywhere,” he added.
Selwood said he’ll have to replace destroyed equipment, including buckets and coolers, before returning to the fishing spot he’s visited for more than 50 years.
“He didn’t do anything structural to me boat, it just smashed anything that was in his road. You can understand, he was a wild creature out of his comfort zone,” Selwood said.
(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE NEW YORK TIMES)
SHANGHAI — Moody’s Investors Service downgraded its credit rating on China’s sovereign debt by a notch on Wednesday, saying that the steady buildup of debt in the Chinese economy would erode the country’s financial strength in the coming years.
In a bluntly worded statement, Moody’s said that the Chinese government remained committed to achieving high economic growth despite slowing productivity gains and a shrinking population of working-age adults. The only way for China to achieve that high growth is to allow its debt to continue to grow as a way to stimulate the economy, Moody’s warned.
”The downgrade reflects Moody’s expectation that China’s financial strength will erode somewhat over the coming years, with economywide debt continuing to rise as potential growth slows,” the credit rating firm said.
Moody’s moved down China’s debt rating to A1 from Aa3, but changed its outlook for further ratings adjustments to stable, from negative.
Moody’s action is still likely to anger Chinese officials, who have tried hard to persuade the Chinese public and the international financial community that they have the country’s debt troubles well in hand.
Stock markets in China and Hong Kong opened slightly lower on Wednesday on the news. The Australian dollar, which is widely considered a barometer of investor sentiment about China because Australia sells so much of its raw materials to that country, weakened against the United States dollar.
(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE REUTERS NEWS AGENCY)
Venezuela said it was sending 2,000 soldiers on Wednesday to a border state that is a hotspot of anti-government radicalism after a night of looting in which one 15-year-old died as political unrest rumbled on in the volatile nation.
Most shops and businesses in San Cristobal, capital of Tachira state on the Colombian border, were closed and guarded by soldiers on Wednesday, though looting continued in some poorer sectors, residents said.
People made off with items including coffee, diapers, and cooking oil in a country where a brutal economic crisis has made basic foods and medicine disappear from shelves.
Barricades of trash, car tires, and sand littered the streets, as daily life broke down in the city that was also a hotspot during the 2014 wave of unrest against leftist President Nicolas Maduro.
Hundreds of thousands of people have come onto the streets across Venezuela since early April to demand elections, freedom for jailed activists, foreign aid and autonomy for the opposition-led legislature.
Maduro’s government accuses them of seeking a violent coup and says many of the protesters are no more than “terrorists.” State oil company PDVSA also blamed roadblocks for pockets of gasoline shortages in the country on Wednesday.
In Tachira, teenager Jose Francisco Guerrero was shot dead during the spate of looting, his relatives said.
“My mom sent my brother yesterday to buy flour for dinner and a little while later, we received a call saying he’d been injured by a bullet,” said his sister Maria Contreras, waiting for his body to be brought to a San Cristobal morgue.
The state prosecutor’s office confirmed his death, which would push the death toll in unrest to at least 43, equal to that of the 2014 protests.
’21ST CENTURY JEWS’
With international pressure against Venezuela’s government mounting, the United Nations Security Council turned its attention to the country’s crisis for the first time on Wednesday.
“The intent of this briefing was to make sure everyone is aware of the situation … we’re not looking for Security Council action,” U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley told reporters after the session.
“The international community needs to say, ‘Respect the human rights of your people or this is going to go in the direction we’ve seen so many others go’ … We have been down this road with Syria, with North Korea, with South Sudan, with Burundi, with Burma.”
Venezuela’s U.N. envoy Rafael Ramirez in turn accused the United States of seeking to topple the Maduro government.
“The U.S. meddling stimulates the action of violent groups in Venezuela,” he said, showing photos of vandalism and violence he said was caused by opposition supporters.
Venezuelans living abroad, many of whom fled the country’s economic chaos, have in recent weeks accosted visiting state officials and their family members.
Maduro on Tuesday likened that harassment to the treatment of Jews under the Nazis.
“We are the new Jews of the 21st century that Hitler pursued,” Maduro said during the cabinet meeting. “We don’t carry the yellow star of David … we carry red hearts that are filled with desire to fight for human dignity. And we are going to defeat them, these 21st century Nazis.”
The German Nazis and their collaborators persecuted and killed six million Jews in the Holocaust during the 1930s and 1940s.
Social media has for weeks buzzed with videos of Venezuelan emigrees in countries from Australia to the United States shouting insults at public officials and in some cases family members in public places.
Maduro’s critics say it is outrageous for officials to spend money on foreign travel when people are struggling to obtain food and children are dying for lack of basic medicines.
But some opposition sympathizers say such mob-like harassment is the wrong way to confront the government.
Graphic on Venezuela’s economic woes: here
(Reporting by Anggy Polanco, additional reporting by Eyanir Chinea, Brian Ellsworth, Girish Gupta and Andrew Cawthorne in Caracas, Julia Symmes Cobb in Bogota and Michelle Nichols at the United Nations in New York; Writing by Girish Gupta and Alexandra Ulmer; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne and Andrew Hay)
(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SHANGHAI DAILY NEWS)
AUSTRALIAN police have seized 903 kilograms of crystal methamphetamine smuggled from China inside boxes of hollow floorboards — the largest haul of the illicit drug in Australia, officials said yesterday. methamp
Law enforcement agencies valued the seizure, mostly found in a Melbourne warehouse in February, at almost A$900 million (US$680 million).
Two Australian men, aged 53 and 36, have been charged with commercial drug trafficking and face life in prison if convicted, police said. A search is underway for another two suspects in Melbourne.
Federal Police Assistant Commissioner Neil Gaughan described the concealment of the drug inside 70 boxes of wooden floorboards as “quite complex, quite unique.”
Gaughan said police knew the identity of the syndicate that supplied the drug, best known as ice. He would not be more specific than to say the drug originated from somewhere in Asia.
Justice Minister Michael Keenan praised Australia’s cooperation with China’s National Narcotics Control Bureau which he said had stopped 7.5 tons of drugs from reaching Australian streets. Australia was the only Western country that had a joint taskforce with the Chinese bureau based in Guangzhou.
“It is a very serious blow to organized crime around the country,” Keenan said of the latest seizure.
Australia’s drug users pay up to 80 times the price the drug would fetch in China, Keenan said.
Australia’s previous largest haul of ice was almost 880 kilograms seized in Sydney in November 2014. The country’s largest seizure of cocaine was in February when a yacht was intercepted with 1.4 tons of the drug.
(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE NEW YORK TIMES)
SAN FRANCISCO — Uber has for years engaged in a worldwide program to deceive the authorities in markets where its low-cost ride-hailing service was being resisted by law enforcement or, in some instances, had been outright banned.
The program, involving a tool called Greyball, uses data collected from the Uber app and other techniques to identify and circumvent officials. Uber used these methods to evade the authorities in cities such as Boston, Paris and Las Vegas, and in countries like Australia, China, Italy and South Korea.
Greyball was part of a broader program called VTOS, short for “violation of terms of service,” which Uber created to root out people it thought were using or targeting its service improperly. The VTOS program, including the Greyball tool, began as early as 2014 and remains in use, predominantly outside the United States. Greyball was approved by Uber’s legal team.
Greyball and the broader VTOS program were described to The New York Times by four current and former Uber employees, who also provided documents. The four spoke on the condition of anonymity because the tools and their use are confidential and because of fear of retaliation by the company.
Uber’s use of Greyball was recorded on video in late 2014, when Erich England, a code enforcement inspector in Portland, Ore., tried to hail an Uber car downtown as part of a sting operation against the company.
At the time, Uber had just started its ride-hailing service in Portland without seeking permission from the city, which later declared the service illegal. To build a case against the company, officers like Mr. England posed as riders, opening the Uber app to hail a car and watching as the miniature vehicles on the screen made their way toward the potential fares.
But unknown to Mr. England and other authorities, some of the digital cars they saw in their Uber apps were never there at all. The Uber drivers they were able to hail also quickly canceled. That was because Uber had tagged Mr. England and his colleagues — essentially Greyballing them as city officials — based on data collected from its app and through other techniques. Uber then served up a fake version of its app that was populated with ghost cars, to evade capture.
At a time when Uber is already under scrutiny for its boundary-pushing workplace culture, the Greyball tool underscores the lengths to which the company will go to win in its business. Uber has long flouted laws and regulations to gain an edge against entrenched transportation providers, a modus operandi that has helped propel the company into more than 70 countries and to a valuation close to $70 billion.
Yet using its app to identify and sidestep authorities in places where regulators said the company was breaking the law goes further in skirting ethical lines — and potentially legal ones, too. Inside Uber, some of those who knew about the VTOS program and how the Greyball tool was being used were troubled by it.
In a statement, Uber said, “This program denies ride requests to users who are violating our terms of service — whether that’s people aiming to physically harm drivers, competitors looking to disrupt our operations, or opponents who collude with officials on secret ‘stings’ meant to entrap drivers.”
Dylan Rivera, a spokesman for the Portland Bureau of Transportation, said in a statement: “We’re very concerned to hear that this practice continued at least into 2015 and affected other cities.
“We take any effort to undermine our efforts to protect the public very seriously,” Mr. Rivera said.
Uber, which lets people hail rides from a smartphone app, operates multiple kinds of services, including a luxury Black Car one in which drivers are commercially licensed. But one Uber service that many regulators have had problems with is the company’s lower-cost service, known as UberX in the United States.
UberX essentially lets people who have passed a cursory background check and vehicle inspection to become an Uber driver quickly. In the past, many cities banned the service and declared it illegal.
That’s because the ability to summon a noncommercial driver — which is how UberX drivers who use their private vehicles are typically categorized — often had no regulations around it. When Uber barreled into new markets, it capitalized on the lack of rules to quickly enlist UberX drivers, who were not commercially licensed, and put them to work before local regulators could prohibit them from doing so.
After authorities caught up, the company and officials generally clashed — Uber has run into legal hurdles with UberX in cities including Austin, Tex., Philadelphia and Tampa, Fla., as well as internationally. Eventually, the two sides came to an agreement, and regulators developed a legal framework for the low-cost service.
That approach has been costly. Law enforcement officials in some cities have impounded or ticketed UberX drivers, with Uber generally picking up those costs on behalf of the drivers. Uber has estimated thousands of dollars in lost revenue for every vehicle impounded and ticket dispensed.
This is where the VTOS program and the use of the Greyball tool came in. When Uber moved into a new city, it appointed a general manager to lead the charge. The manager would try to spot enforcement officers using a set of technologies and techniques.
One method involved drawing a digital perimeter, or “geofence,” around authorities’ offices on a digital map of the city that Uber monitored. The company watched which people frequently opened and closed the app — a process internally called “eyeballing” — around that location, which signified that the user might be associated with city agencies.
Other techniques included looking at the user’s credit card information and whether that card was tied directly to an institution like a police credit union.
Enforcement officials involved in large-scale sting operations to catch Uber drivers also sometimes bought dozens of cellphones to create different accounts. To circumvent that tactic, Uber employees went to that city’s local electronics stores to look up device numbers of the cheapest mobile phones on sale, which were often the ones bought by city officials, whose budgets were not sizable.
In all, there were at least a dozen or so signifiers in the VTOS program that Uber employees could use to assess whether users were new riders or very likely city officials.
If those clues were not enough to confirm a user’s identity, Uber employees would search social media profiles and other available information online. Once a user was identified as law enforcement, Uber Greyballed him or her, tagging the user with a small piece of code that read Greyball followed by a string of numbers.
When a tagged officer called a car, Uber could scramble a set of ghost cars inside a fake version of the app for that person, or show no cars available at all. If a driver accidentally picked up an officer, Uber occasionally called the driver with instructions to end the ride.
Uber employees said the practices and tools were partly born out of safety measures for drivers in certain countries. In France, Kenya and India, for instance, taxi companies and workers targeted and attacked new Uber drivers.
“They’re beating the cars with metal bats,” Courtney Love, the singer and celebrity, tweeted from an Uber car at a time of clashes between the company and taxi drivers in Paris in 2015. Ms. Love said protesters had ambushed her Uber ride and held her driver hostage. “This is France? I’m safer in Baghdad.”
Uber has said it was also at risk from tactics used by taxi and limousine companies in certain markets. In Tampa, for instance, Uber referred to collusion between the local transportation authority and taxi companies in fighting ride-hailing services.
In those environments, Greyballing started as a way to scramble the locations of UberX drivers to prevent competitors from finding them. Uber said it remained the primary use of the tool today.
But as Uber moved into new markets, its engineers saw that those same techniques and tools could also be used for evading law enforcement. Once the Greyball tool was put in place and tested, Uber engineers created a playbook with a list of tactics and distributed it to general managers in more than a dozen countries across five continents.
At least 50 to 60 people inside Uber knew about Greyball, and some had qualms about whether it was ethical or legal. Greyball was approved by Uber’s legal team, headed by Salle Yoo, the general counsel. Ryan Graves, an early hire who became senior vice president of global operations and a board member, was also aware of the program.
Ms. Yoo and Mr. Graves did not respond to a request for comment.
Outside scholars said they were unsure of the program’s legality. Greyball could be considered a violation of the federal Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, or possibly intentional obstruction of justice, depending on local laws and jurisdictions, said Peter Henning, a law professor at Wayne State University, who also writes for The New York Times.
“With any type of systematic thwarting of the law, you’re flirting with disaster,” Mr. Henning said. “We all take our foot off the gas when we see the police car at the intersection up ahead, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But this goes far beyond avoiding a speed trap.”
To date, Greyballing has been effective. In Portland that day in late 2014, Mr. England, the enforcement officer, did not catch an Uber, according to local reports.
And two weeks after Uber began dispatching drivers in that city, the company reached an agreement with local officials for UberX to be legally available there.
(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF REUTERS NEWS AGENCY)
Australia expressed regret on Thursday and promised a thorough investigation of “insulting” teaching material found at a west Australian military base that led to Indonesia suspending defense ties between the often uneasy Asia-Pacific neighbors.
Indonesia confirmed on Wednesday it had suspended military cooperation with Australia in December, a decision that was initially said to have been taken independently by the military.
However, Indonesian President Joko Widodo said on Thursday he had given his permission for the suspension of ties and that his defense minister and military chief had been asked to investigate.
Such military ties cover a range of activities from counterterrorism cooperation to border protection.
Jakarta and Canberra have had a rocky military relationship in recent years, and Australia stopped joint training exercises with Indonesia’s Kopassus special forces after accusations of abuses by the unit in East Timor in 1999, as the territory prepared for independence.
Ties were resumed when cooperation on counterterrorism became imperative after the 2002 bombing of two nightclubs on the resort island of Bali that killed 202 people, including 88 Australians.
Australian Defence Minister Marise Payne said on Thursday an investigation into the offensive materials that were found at Campbell Barracks in the west Australian city of Perth would be concluded “imminently”.
“We have indicated our regret that this occurred and that offence was taken. I think that’s appropriate when a significant counterpart raises their concerns with you,” Payne told reporters in Sydney.
Australia would present the findings of the report to Indonesia’s government and military, Payne said.
Payne refused to reveal the exact nature of the offending material, although Indonesia media have reported that a senior Indonesian military officer training in Australia took offence at a poster questioning Indonesian sovereignty over the western half of the island of Papua.
Media have also reported that the same officer also found documents that ridiculed the founding ideology of Indonesia’s National Armed Forces.
Papua, where there is a long-simmering separatist movement, is a politically sensitive issue in Indonesia.
“We of course … recognize Indonesia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and that is our firm and stated position,” Payne said.
She said the offending material had been removed and that all training documents would be “culturally appropriate”.
Indonesia most recently suspended military ties with Australia in 2013 over revelations that Australian spies had tapped the mobile telephone of then president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.
Indonesian and Australian officials stressed that the bilateral relationship had not stalled, unlike in 2013.
“I think our relations with Australia remain in a good condition. The problem has to be clarified first at the operational level so the situation will not heat up,” Widodo told reporters in Jakarta.
Australia needs Indonesia’s help to enforce its controversial immigration policy that includes turning back boats carrying would-be asylum seekers. Payne said there was “no indication” of any change”.
(Reporting by Colin Packham and Tom Westbrook; Additional reporting by Bernadette Christina Munthe and Kanupriya Kapoor in JAKARTA; Editing by Paul Tait)
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