Lost World Of Shipwrecks Have Been Found In The Black Sea Off Of Bulgarian Coast

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE NEW YORK TIME’S, SCIENCE SECTION)

An image of the well-preserved medieval ship found at the bottom of the Black Sea, one of more than 40 wrecks discovered. Photogrammetry, a process using thousands of photographs and readings, produced a rendering that appears three-dimensional.Credit Expedition and Education Foundation/Black Sea MAP

The medieval ship lay more than a half-mile down at the bottom of the Black Sea, its masts, timbers and planking undisturbed in the darkness for seven or eight centuries. Lack of oxygen in the icy depths had ruled out the usual riot of creatures that feast on sunken wood.

This fall, a team of explorers lowered a robot on a long tether, lit up the wreck with bright lights and took thousands of high-resolution photos. A computer then merged the images into a detailed portrait.

Archaeologists date the discovery to the 13th or 14th century, opening a new window on forerunners of the 15th- and 16th-century sailing vessels that discovered the New World, including those of Columbus. This medieval ship probably served the Venetian empire, which had Black Sea outposts.

Never before had this type of ship been found in such complete form. The breakthrough was the quarterdeck, from which the captain would have directed a crew of perhaps 20 sailors.

“That’s never been seen archaeologically,” said Rodrigo Pacheco-Ruiz, an expedition member at the Center for Maritime Archaeology at the University of Southampton, in Britain. “We couldn’t believe our eyes.”

A photogrammetric image of a ship from the Ottoman era that most likely went down between the 17th and 19th centuries. The discoverers nicknamed it the Flower of the Black Sea because of its ornate carvings, including two large posts topped with petals. Credit Expedition and Education Foundation/Black Sea MAP

Remarkably, the find is but one of more than 40 shipwrecks that the international team recently discovered and photographed off the Bulgarian coast in one of archaeology’s greatest coups.

In age, the vessels span a millennium, from the Byzantine to the Ottoman empires, from the ninth to the 19th centuries. Generally, the ships are in such good repair that the images reveal intact coils of rope, rudders and elaborately carved decorations.

“They’re astonishingly preserved,” said Jon Adams, the leader of the Black Sea project and founding director of the maritime archaeology center at the University of Southampton.

Kroum Batchvarov, a team member at the University of Connecticut who grew up in Bulgaria and has conducted other studies in its waters, said the recent discoveries “far surpassed my wildest expectations.”

Independent experts said the annals of deepwater archaeology hold few, if any, comparable sweeps of discovery in which shipwrecks have proved to be so plentiful, diverse and well-preserved.

A photogrammetric image of the stern of the Ottoman-era ship showing coils of rope and a tiller with elaborate carvings. A lack of oxygen at the icy depths of the Black Sea left the wrecks relatively undisturbed.Credit Expedition and Education Foundation/Black Sea MAP

“It’s a great story,” said Shelley Wachsmann of the Institute of Nautical Archaeology at Texas A&M University. “We can expect some real contributions to our understanding of ancient trade routes.”

Goods traded on the Black Sea included grains, furs, horses, oils, cloth, wine and people. The Tatars turned Christians into slaves who were shipped to places like Cairo. For Europeans, the sea provided access to a northern branch of the Silk Road and imports of silk, satin, musk, perfumes, spices and jewels.

Marco Polo reportedly visited the Black Sea, and Italian merchant colonies dotted its shores. The profits were so enormous that, in the 13th and 14th centuries, Venice and Genoa fought a series of wars for control of the trade routes, including those of the Black Sea.

Brendan P. Foley, an archaeologist at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution on Cape Cod, Mass., said the good condition of the shipwrecks implied that many objects inside their hulls might also be intact.

“You might find books, parchment, written documents,” he said in an interview. “Who knows how much of this stuff was being transported? But now we have the possibility of finding out. It’s amazing.”

Experts said the success in Bulgarian waters might inspire other nations that control portions of the Black Sea to join the archaeological hunt. They are Georgia, Romania, Russia, Turkey and Ukraine.

Dr. Foley, who has explored a number of Black Sea wrecks, said the sea’s overall expanse undoubtedly held tens of thousands of lost ships. “Everything that sinks out there is going to be preserved,” he added. “They’re not going away.”

For ages, the Black Sea was a busy waterway that served the Balkans, the Eurasian steppes, the Caucasus, Asia Minor, Mesopotamia and Greece. It long beckoned to archaeologists because they knew its deep waters lacked oxygen, a rarity for large bodies of water.

The great rivers of Eastern Europe — the Don, the Danube, the Dnieper — pour so much fresh water into the sea that a permanent layer forms over denser, salty water from the Mediterranean. As a result, oxygen from the atmosphere that mixes readily with fresh water never penetrates the inky depths.

In 1976, Willard Bascom, a pioneer of oceanography, in his book “Deep Water, Ancient Ships,” called the Black Sea unique among the world’s seas and a top candidate for exploration and discovery.

A photogrammetric image of a Byzantine wreck, dating perhaps to the ninth century. Superimposed is an image of one of the expedition’s tethered robots that photographed the lost ships.CreditExpedition and Education Foundation/Black Sea MAP

“One is tempted,” he wrote, “to begin searching there in spite of the huge expanse of bottom that would have to be inspected.”

In 2002, Robert D. Ballard, a discoverer of the sunken Titanic, led a Black Sea expedition that found a 2,400-year-old wreck laden with the clay storage jars of antiquity. One held remnants of a large fish that had been dried and cut into steaks, a popular food in ancient Greece.

The new team said it received exploratory permits from the Bulgarian ministries of culture and foreign affairs and limited its Black Sea hunts to parts of that nation’s exclusive economic zone, which covers thousands of square miles and runs up to roughly a mile deep.

Although the team’s official name is the Black Sea Maritime Archaeology Project, or Black Sea MAP, it also hauls up sediments to hunt for clues to how the sea’s rising waters engulfed former land surfaces and human settlements.

Team members listed on its website include the Bulgarian National Institute of Archaeology, the Bulgarian Center for Underwater Archaeology, Sodertorn University in Sweden, and the Hellenic Center for Marine Research in Greece.

An illustration of what the research team believes the medieval ship found in the Black Sea looked like during its heyday. Credit Jon Adams/University of Southampton/Black Sea MAP

The project’s financial backer is the Expedition and Education Foundation, a charity registered in Britain whose benefactors want to remain anonymous, team members said. Dr. Adams of the University of Southampton, the team’s scientific leader, described it as catalyzing an academic-industry partnership on the largest project “of its type ever undertaken.”

Nothing is known publicly about the cost, presumably vast, of the Black Sea explorations, which are to run for three years. The endeavor began last year with a large Greek ship doing a preliminary survey. This year, the main vessel was the Stril Explorer, a British-flagged ship bearing a helicopter landing pad that usually services the undersea pipes and structures of the offshore oil industry.

Instead, archaeologists on the ship lowered its sophisticated robots to hunt for ancient shipwrecks and lost history.

In an interview, Dr. Pacheco-Ruiz of the University of Southampton said he was watching the monitors late one night in September when the undersea robot lit up a large wreck in a high state of preservation.

“I was speechless,” he recalled. “When I saw the ropes, I couldn’t believe my eyes. I still can’t.”

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Dr. Pacheco-Ruiz said the vessel hailed from the Ottoman Empire, whose capital was Constantinople (today Istanbul), and most likely went down sometime between the 17th and 19th centuries. He said the team nicknamed it “Flower of the Black Sea” because its deck bears ornate carvings, including two large posts with tops that form petals.

In an interview, Dr. Batchvarov of the University of Connecticut said most of the discoveries date to the Ottoman era. So it was that, late one night, during his shift, he assumed that a new wreck coming into view would be more of the same.

“Then I saw a quarter rudder,” he recalled, referring to a kind of large steering oar on a ship’s side. It implied the wreck was much older. Then another appeared. Quickly, he had the expedition’s leader, Dr. Adams, awakened.

“He came immediately,” Dr. Batchvarov recalled. “We looked at each other like two little boys in a candy shop.”

Dr. Batchvarov said the wreck — the medieval one found more than a half-mile down — was part of a class known by several names, including cocha and “round ship.” The latter name arose from how its ample girth let it carry more cargo and passengers than a warship.

Dr. Adams said the remarkable color images of the lost ships derived from a process known as photogrammetry. It combines photography with the careful measurement of distances between objects, letting a computer turn flat images into renderings that seem three-dimensional.

He said tethered robots shot the photographic images with video and still cameras. The distance information, he added, came from advanced sonars, which emit high-pitched sounds that echo through seawater. Their measurements, he said, can range down to less than a millimeter.

A news release from the University of Southampton refers to the images as “digital models.” Their creation, it said, “takes days even with the fastest computers.”

Filmmakers are profiling the Black Sea hunt in a documentary, according to the team’s website.

Another part of the project seeks to share the thrill of discovery with schools and educators. Students are to study on the Black Sea, the website says, or join university scientists in analyzing field samples “to uncover the mysteries of the past.”

The team has said little publicly on whether it plans to excavate the ships — a topic on which nations, academics and treasure hunters have long clashed. Bulgaria is a signatory to the 2001 United Nations convention that outlaws commercial trade in underwater cultural heritage and sets out guidelines on such things as artifact recovery and public display.

Dr. Pacheco-Ruiz said the team had so far discovered and photographed 44 shipwrecks, and that more beckoned.

Which was the most important? Dr. Adams said that for him, a student of early European shipbuilding, the centerpiece was the medieval round ship. He said it evoked Marco Polo and city states like Venice. The ship, he added, incorporated a number of innovations that let it do more than its predecessors had and paved the way for bigger things to come.

“It’s not too much,” he said, “to say that medieval Europe became modern with the help of ships like these.”

Massive sinkhole prompts evacuation of 22 families in Rome

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

 

Massive sinkhole prompts evacuation of 22 families in Rome

A view of a large sinkhole that opened in a street of a residential area in Rome on Wednesday.

(CNN)A massive sinkhole swallowed several cars in a Rome neighborhood, forcing the evacuation of surrounding buildings and raising pressing questions over safety protocols in the Italian capital.

The incident took place on Wednesday in via Livio Andronico, in Rome’s Balduina district, just before 6 p.m. local time, according to Italian firefighters who were called to the scene.

The sinkhole opened up near a building site.

“The road had sunk for about 10 meters, dragging parked vehicles with it,” firefighters said in astatement.
About 22 families were evacuated from the surrounding buildings. No injuries have been reported.
As of Thursday morning, firefighters were still carrying out security and stability checks on the scene with help of technicians.
The sinkhole appeared near a building site where construction workers are erecting residential buildings, according to public broadcaster RAI News.

Workers remove cars that were sucked down into the sinkhole.

Some of the residents said they had complained to authorities about cracks in the roads.
Lawyer Giancarlo De Capraris told La Repubblica newspaper: “In the last three months I filed a complaint to Carabinieri (national police) and firefighters. Everything remained unheeded. I flagged the cracks on the road surface that became deeper every day and the continuous passage of heavy vehicles. This was a disaster waiting to happen.”
One resident told RAI News she felt the floor of the house shaking in the past few days.
Rome Mayor Virginia Raggi told Italian news agency ANSA: “Those responsible will pay.”

Construction of the Leaning Tower of Pisa

(I FOUND THIS ARTICLE ON THE GOOGLE + SITE OF MABELXXXBXB, IT IS ALSO FOUND UNDER THE TITLE OF ‘LEANINGTOWEROFPISA.NET’)

 

Construction of the Leaning Tower of Pisa

Begun in 1173, the process by which the leaning tower of Pisa had transformed into the monument as we know it today was long and drawn out. In fact, it took over 800 years from start to finish.

Intricate carvings, columns, arch’s, and other design elements are incorporated into the construction of the tower. For medieval Europe, these types of design themes and construction processes were way ahead of their time, resulting in a structure that has remained timeless in appearance through the ages.

The tower was built with limestone and lime mortar, though the exterior of the tower is covered in marble. Ironically, the limestone is probably why the tower has not cracked and broken- the rock is flexible enough that it can withstand the pressures placed on it by the lean. It is doubtful that the original architect, Bonanno Pisano, had any idea that the qualities of limestone would play a role in preventing its ultimate collapse.

Originally, the leaning tower of Pisa was to be a bell tower for a cathedral. Five years after the initial construction of two floors it began to lean once the third floor was completed. At the time the cause of the lean was not known, though it was discovered many years later that the lean was the result of the tower being built on a dense clay mixture that was unable to fully support the weight of the tower.

As you can imagine, the construction process was halted for nearly 100 years. The architects of the time hoped that the soul would settle and harden over time, allowing them to resume construction and correct the lean.

Giovanni di Simone, Alessandro Della Gherardesca, and Benito Mussolini

100 long years passed before Giovanni di Simone constructed four additional floors. He had also intended to counteract the lean during the construction process but, like the original architects, made a critical miscalculation. The result was the four floors being built crooked, causing the tower to shift even more.

In 1372 the bell chamber was finally attached to the leaning tower of Pisa, and there were no further modifications or additions made until the 19 th century.

Alessandro Della Gherardesca decided to increase the value of the tower to the tourism industry by digging a pathway around the base of the tower that would allow tourists to see the detail that was put into the base. This took place in 1838, and resulted in the tower leaning even more when Gherardesca’s workers struck water, flooding the ditches and increasing the tilt.

Benito Mussolini was the next to try his hand stabilizing the tower in 1934. He felt that the tower was an embarrassment to Italy and that it must be corrected and returned to a perpendicular state. As a result of his orders, 361 holes were drilled into the foundation of the tower and 90 tonnes of cement were used to fill them. The cement, rather than form up in the holes and act as a counterweight, sank into the clay beneath the structure, causing the tower to lean over even more.

End of Construction

The Leaning Tower of Pisa was closed for construction in 1990 and was then reopened once it was safe for everyone to tour. From start to finish, the leaning tower of Pisa took over 800 years to be constructed- probably the longest construction time in the world!

 

 

 

11 Year old boy and his parents die after falling into a volcanic crater in Italy

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

 

A boy and his parents die after falling into a volcanic crater in Italy

Rescue workers stand near the crater in Pozzuoli, Italy, after three people died there Tuesday September 12.

Rome (CNN) An 11-year-old boy died after he fell into a volcanic crater in Italy and his parents also died when they tried to help him, police said.

The incident happened Tuesday at the Solfatara Crater in Pozzuoli, a popular tourist attraction near Naples.
Naples police told CNN the family of four was visiting from Turin, and the 11-year-old boy wandered into an area that is off-limits to visitors.

A view of Solfatara crater near Naples on September 12.

The Solfatara, a dormant volcano, emits sulfurous fumes. The area around it is known for a type of quicksand, which makes the ground unstable.
It’s not known if the boy lost consciousness because of the fumes or if the quicksand pulled him in. But when his parents tried to rush to his rescue, they too were were sucked in, police said.
Another child, 7, survived.
“I’ve been here for 40 years and such an accident has never happened,” Armando Guerriero, owner of a bar located near the entrance to the volcano, told the ANSA news agency.

Italian mafia kingpin arrested in Uruguay after two decades

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

 

Italian mafia kingpin arrested in Uruguay after two decades on the run

Rocco Morabito was arrested in Uruguay.

Story highlights

  • Rocco Morabito was convicted in Italy and sentenced to 30 years for drug trafficking
  • He fled Italy in the mid-1990s, was arrested in Uruguay on Friday

(CNN)A convicted drug kingpin in the Italian mafia has been arrested in Uruguay after being on the run for over 20 years, the Uruguayan Interior Ministry said in a statement.

Rocco Morabito — described by authorities as a prominent member of the Ndrangheta, or Calabrian Mafia — had been wanted since 1994. He was convicted in absentia for drug trafficking and organized-crime activities in Italy, and was sentenced to 30 years in prison.
Italian authorities said that Morabito had been responsible for shipping drugs into Italy and arranging distribution in Milan.

View of the villa where Italian mafia fugitive Rocco Morabito lived in the resort town of Punta del Este, Uruguay.

The Uruguayan Interior Ministry said Morabito was arrested Friday in a hotel in the Uruguayan capital of Montevideo. Italian police said the arrest followed “months of international cooperation and intelligence activity.”
Italian Interior Minister Marco Minniti lauded Morabito’s arrest, saying he was “considered one of the sought-after members of the Ndrangheta”.
Uruguayan authorities said some months ago Morabito tried to enroll his daughter in a local school using his real name, and his fingerprints were confirmed by Italian authorities.
Interpol issued a red notice for Morabito — its highest-priority international arrest warrant — in 1995 following an arrest warrant issued by Italian prosecutors in Reggio Calabria.
Authorities said Morabito — one of Italy’s five most-wanted fugitives — entered Uruguay in 2001 using false Brazilian identification papers including a bogus birth certificate. For the last decade he lived in a comfortable rural villa near the town of Maldonado, adjacent to the resort city of Punta del Este.
When he was arrested, Morabito had 13 cell phones, an automatic pistol, 12 credit and debit cards, a large quantity of Uruguayan money and US $50,000 in cash, plus currency certificates worth US $100,000, the Uruguayan Interior Ministry said.
In a search of Morabito’s home in the town of Maldonado, authorities seized a 2015 Mercedes and a Portuguese passport in his false Brazilian name. His wife — an Angolan national with a Portuguese passport — was also arrested, authorities said.
According to the Uruguayan Interior Ministry, Morabito was indicted for three crimes of forgery and will remain in preventive detention for three months while extradition proceedings are underway Italian police say once extradited, Morabito will face the 30-year sentence handed down two decades ago.

7 climbers fall to their deaths in the Alps

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

 

7 climbers fall to their deaths in the Alps

A view of the Zillertal Valley in the Austrian Alps, near an area where five climbers were killed.

Story highlights

  • Five climbers were killed after falling onto a glacier in the Austrian Alps
  • Two others were killed in Italy climbing in a group roped together

Rome (CNN) Seven climbers fell to their deaths in two separate incidents in the Alps on Sunday, officials said.

Five of the climbers died in the Austrian Alps, Zell am See provincial government chief Martin Reichholf told CNN. Two others were killed as they climbed in a group roped together in the Italian Alps, according to an emergency center there.
Reichholf said there were indications that the climbers were German citizens, adding that details were still emerging.
The climbers in Austria fell around 300 meters (1,000 feet) onto a glacier near the town of Krimml, according to Dr. Egbert Ritter, a trauma surgeon at the AUVA hospital in Salzburg.
Adamello Glacier
Krimml
Map data ©2017 GeoBasis-DE/BKG (©2009), Google, Inst. Geogr. Nacional
A sixth climber — a 60-year-old man — is in intensive care at the hospital, but his injuries are not life-threatening, Ritter said. Six helicopters were at the scene of the accident, he told CNN.
The climbers fell at around 10 a.m. (4 a.m. ET) about 1.5 kilometers south of a mountain cabin called the Zittauer Hutte at an altitude of around 3,000 meters, he said.

Group roped together

In Italy, a man and woman who appear to be in their mid-30s were killed as they climbed the Adamello glacier in the the Trentino Alto Adige region, according to the emergency rescue center in the town of Trento.
They were part of a group of nine Italians from the city of Brescia. The climbers were connected by three ropesThey fell when those on the lowest rope slipped on the glacier, dragging down others higher up the slope, according to the rescue center.
A further two climbers were seriously injured, including a 14-year-old boy who is being treated in Trento hospital.
Three helicopters were used to rescue the group, officials said.

Why Terror Suspects in Europe Slip Through Security Cracks

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT AND FROM THE WASHINGTON POST)

Why Terror Suspects in Europe Slip Through Security Cracks

London- About a year ago, police stopped a young man in the airport of Bologna, a town in northern Italy. Youssef Zaghba, an Italian citizen of Moroccan origin, had raised suspicions because he was to embark on a one-way ticket for Istanbul: They feared he was trying to reach Syria through Turkey to join a terror group.

After ISIS propaganda materials were found on his smartphone, Zaghba was arrested and briefly detained between March and April 2016. (Attempting to join a foreign ogranization is a crime in Italy, since a special law was introduced in 2015.)

Eventually authorities had to release him because his lawyer found irregularities in the arrest, but the secret services kept monitoring him and put his name in the Schengen Information System (SIS), the database where European Union member states share security information, so that other countries could be alerted that Zaghba posed a danger.

On June 3 of this year, Zaghba participated in the London Bridge attack that left eight people dead, along with the three terrorists.

Despite being in the EU’s watch list, Zaghba was let into Britain at least twice. Moreover, according to the local media, he was not considered “a subject of interest” by British security. Most recently, Zaghba traveled between two countries in January: He was briefly questioned in London’s Stansted airport. (It is unclear if the British failed to go through a check of the SIS database, or if they saw his name on the database and simply ignored the warning, as the newspaper Repubblica suggests.)

How could a terror suspect be on Italy’s watch list and not in the British one? And why didn’t the presence of Zaghba’s name in the SIS prompt UK authorities to keep an eye on him?

The London Bridge attack raises issue about the sharing of security information between European countries, at a time when terrorists have been shown to move often across the EU’s open borders.

It is not unusual after an attack to learn that the perpetrators were already known to anti-terror agencies. Some analysts argue that this doesn’t always imply a security failure, because there are too many people on watch-lists to monitor effectively all of them: There are some 23,000 “subjects of interests” for anti-terror agencies in the UK and 15,000 in France.

“Since it takes at least four agents to monitor a single suspect, it becomes apparent that many European countries lack the resources to monitor all of them and that there’s an overload of security information,” said Arturo Varvelli, the head of the Terrorism Program at ISPI, a think tank in Milan.

However, Zaghba’s case is different — and the way he slipped by, despite all the warnings, might not be just the result of an overburdened security system but also symptomatic of a different problem: European countries still haven’t fully learned how to read (and perhaps trust) each other’s red flags.

“It’s the second time, in less than a year, that a terrorist already known to Italian authorities has carried an attack in another European country,” notes Francesco Strazzari, a security expert at the Sant’Anna School of Advanced Studies in Pisa, referring to last winter’s attack in Berlin. The Christmas Market attack was carried by a Tunisian man who immigrated to Italy, and whom Italian authorities had tried to deport because they were aware of his radical tendencies.

In an interview, Strazzari recalled that the November 2015 attacks in France were also carried out by terrorists that had ties to a different country, Belgium, and who seemed to move freely between the two.

Critics of the EU have blamed its open borders for security failures, while its supporters point out that assets such as the SIS database are actually supposed to improve the security of each country. But Strazzari says that the main problem is that sometimes information gets “lost in translation.”

The EU, he says, doesn’t really have a pan-European security apparatus, but only a system that aims at coordinating the security services of each of its member states.

Varvelli, the ISPI researcher, argues that lack of trust might also pose a problem. Red flags about individuals are not clear cut, he explains: “Security officials need to interpret them, in order to grasp the level of danger, and knowing where that information comes from plays an important part in the process.”

But while they are bound to share information, the secret services of different countries aren’t keen on sharing with each other how they gathered that information — which ends up making the information less useful.

Varvelli said that ISIS is “well aware” of this weakness and are exploiting it: “Terrorists have realized that if they are closely monitored in the country they are based in, a good strategy is to move to a different country.”

The Washington Post

Trump irritates allies and returns to brewing crisis in US

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF FRANCE 24 TV)

Trump irritates allies and returns to brewing crisis in US

 

 
© Mandel Ngan, AFP | US president Donald Trump flies home after G7 summit in Italy

Text by EMILIE BOYER KING

Latest update : 2017-05-28

President Donald Trump flew back to the United States on Saturday without a much-awaited commitment to fighting climate change, at odds with many of his allies on big policy issues and to a brewing crisis in the White House.

Now back home, Trump is unlikely to get much rest after his gruelling nine-day diplomatic marathon, with Russian controversies and claims that his son-in-law Jared Kushner wanted to set up secret communications with Moscow swirling overhead.

Trump’s first trip abroad as president took him to Saudi Arabia and Israel, the Vatican, and Belgium and Italy. He met with heads of state, the pope and attended gatherings of NATO leaders and members of the G-7 industrialised nations.

The royal treatment in Saudi Arabia

Trump is not a conventional president and neither was his first foray into international politics.

From the start, he set a new direction. In many ways, the first leg of his journey in the Middle-east was the easiest for the US leader who made ‘America First’ a cornerstone of his presidency and is still learning the ropes on international diplomacy.

Instead of following presidential tradition by heading to a neighbouring democracy like Canada or Mexico, Trump kicked off his maiden voyage in Saudi Arabia, the repressive desert kingdom, where he sought to win Arab states’ support for fighting extremism.

He was given the royal treatment, and looked delighted as he took part in traditional dances and enjoyed lavish meals. Raising the human rights record of his host, one of the world’s most oppressive governments, was not on his agenda.

“We are not here to lecture — we are not here to tell other people how to live, what to do, who to be, or how to worship,” Trump said.

Instead, the US closed a $110 billion arms sale to show its renewed commitment to the security of the Persian Gulf region and unveiled numerous business agreements, but without going into details.

Trump then travelled to Israel and the West Bank to more rapturous welcome. He looked solemn as he lay a wreath at a holocaust memorial and as he prayed at the sacred western wall in Jerusalem. But while he called for peace in the region he was vague as to what form it should take. Trump stayed clear of calling for ‘a two-state solution’, an option backed by his predecessor Barack Obama.

Trump chastised the members

Things started to heat up when Trump left the warm climes of the Middle East for Europe, for the NATO summit in Brussels and the most confrontational part of his trip.

On his way, Trump made a short stop in Rome for an audience with Pope Francis. The two men have in the past clashed on issues such as migration, climate change and the Mexico-US wall. After the meeting, the Vatican said, laconically, that there had been an “exchange of views” on international issues.

Trump was more enthusiastic: “Honor of a lifetime to meet His Holiness Pope Francis. I leave the Vatican more determined than ever to pursue PEACE in our world,” he tweeted on May 24th after meeting the pontiff.

Honor of a lifetime to meet His Holiness Pope Francis. I leave the Vatican more determined than ever to pursue PEACE in our world.

The NATO summit in Belgium the next day pitted Trump against the 27 other members of the military alliance. The US president unnerved them by not affirming his commitment to the alliance’s key Article 5 on mutual defense — which states the principle that an attack on any one member is an attack on all. A US administration spokesperson downplayed their fears however and saying the US would adhere to it.

Trump chastised the members for not spending enough on defence and repeated the charge that some members owed “massive amounts of money” from past years, even though allied contributions are voluntary.

A “disaster”

Trump’s appearance in Brussels was particularly frustrating for Germany. In a meeting with senior European Union officials, he said the country was “very bad on trade” despite months of painstaking relationship building between Germany and the US in the run up to the summit.

It is little surprise European officials described the summit as a “disaster”.

Side meetings with other leaders in the Belgium capital provided with some light relief however. A series of “manly” and prolonged handshakes with French President Emmanuel Macron, followed by an apparent snub by Macron in favour of European Union leaders, delighted the twittersphere.

À Bruxelles, unis avec nos alliés de @NATO.

Leaving the EU headquarters and his crestfallen NATO allies behind, Trump ended his diplomatic tour in Italy for the G7 summit with the leaders of the world’s wealthiest industrial nations. This stop was set to be just as acrimonious: four preparatory meetings had failed to clear up differences with the Trump administration on trade, how to deal with Russia and climate change.

Little surprise, but some disappointment

So there was perhaps little surprise, but some disappointment, when after three days of contentious private debate and intense lobbying by other leaders, Trump refused to commit to the hard-fought Paris Agreement on Climate Change. The six other G7 nations reaffirmed their commitment to it in a joint statement issued Saturday.

Trump promised to make a decision in the week ahead on whether the United States will be the first of 195 signatories to pull out.

The leaders reached agreement on some issues however. On trade, Trump bowed to pressure from allies to retain a pledge to fight protectionism. And on Russia, Trump did not insist on removing the threat of additional sanctions for Moscow’s intervention in Ukraine, as the allies had feared.

‘Someone who is willing to listen and who wants to work’

But despite disagreements over many policy issues, leaders also warmed to the US president.

“I saw someone who is willing to listen and who wants to work,’ said France’s Macron. “I think Donald Trump understood the importance of multilateral discussion and that, along with the pragmatism he demonstrated during his campaign, Trump will now take into account the interests of his friends and partners.”

The Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni, the G7 summit’s host agreed. “I found him very willing to engage, very curious, with an ability and desire to ask questions and to learn from all his partners,” he said.

At the summit’s close on Saturday, Trump appeared to rate his trip as a success.

“I think we hit a home run no matter where we are,” he said.

Home, where a whole new set of challenges begin.

The Vatican’s Swiss Guard Just Added 40 New Members

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TIME.COM AND THE ASSOCIATED PRESS)

Pope Francis Delivers First 'Urbi Et Orbi' Blessing During Easter Mass In St. Peter's Square
Swiss guards perform ceremonial duties during Holy Easter Mass held by Pope Francis in St. Peter’s square on March 31, 2013 in Vatican City, Vatican. Franco Origlia—Getty Images

The Vatican’s Swiss Guard Just Added 40 New Members

2:55 PM ET

(VATICAN CITY) — The world’s oldest standing army has 40 new members after a Vatican Swiss Guard swearing-in ceremony.

Each man took a loyalty oath Saturday evening in a ritual-rich ceremony in the St. Damaso courtyard of the Apostolic Palace. The May 6 date commemorates the day in 1527 when 147 guardsmen died while protecting Pope Clement VII during the Sack of Rome.

Earlier Saturday, Pope Francis told the Guards they’re called to “another sacrifice no less arduous” — serving the power of faith.

The recruits, who enroll for at least two years, must be single, upstanding Swiss Catholic males younger than 30.

Wearing blue-and-gold uniforms and holding halberds — spear-like weapons — they are a tourist delight while standing guard at Vatican ceremonies. Their main duty is to protect the pope.

Trump Just Tried To Show Off For Italy’s Prime Minister And Humiliated Himself

(I GOT THIS ARTICLE FROM FACEBOOK)

Trump Just Tried To Show Off For Italy’s Prime Minister And Humiliated Himself

President Trump started his White House press conference by reading from a prepared speech. He should have stayed on script. (Video below.)

“Through the ages, your country has been a beacon of artistic and scientific achievement,” Trump read aloud.

“From Venice to Florence, from Verdi to Pavarotti,” he continued before looking away from his script, and adding “friend of mine. Great friend of mine.”

Many in attendance, along with Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni, certainly knew that Italian opera legend Luciano Pavarotti is not Trump’s friend, as he has been dead for ten years.

Pavarotti, a national treasure for Italians, was considered one of the greatest voices of all times, was a legendary tenor who mastered both opera and popular music. For the President of the United States to claim him as a current friend is the equivalent of Italy’s Prime Minister announcing that he had just had a lovely time with Abraham Lincoln or Muhammad Ali.

Enjoy the latest example of Trump showing the world he doesn’t know what he’s talking about. At least no one got hurt this time.

Trump gives a shout out to Pavarotti, calls him “a good friend of mine”.

Pavarotti died 10 years ago in 2007. —via @MSNBC

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