In ‘New India’, noose tightening on corruption, nepotism: PM Modi in France

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HINDUSTAN TIMES OF INDIA)

 

In ‘New India’, noose tightening on corruption, nepotism: PM Modi in France

Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed the Indian diaspora in Paris during his visit to France on Friday amidst chants of “Modi hai to Mumkin hai” at the UNESCO headquarters.

INDIA Updated: Aug 23, 2019 17:21 IST

HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent

Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Prime Minister Narendra Modi greets Indian community in France at UNESCO HQ in Paris,France, Friday, Aug 23, 2019.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi greets Indian community in France at UNESCO HQ in Paris,France, Friday, Aug 23, 2019. (Photo: Twitter/ @MEAIndia)

Prime Minister Narendra Modi said it was the strength of 1.25 billion Indians that had powered the big decisions taken by his government in the first 75-days of re-election amidst chants of “Modi hai to Mumkin hai” during his address to the Indian diaspora at the UNESCO headquarters in Paris on Friday..

He listed criminalizing the practice of “Triple Talaq” and indirectly referred to removal of the “temporary” provision of Article 370 that had granted special status to Jammu and Kashmir along with several other welfare schemes among the “big” decisions taken by his government.

“Triple Talaq, was an inhuman practice, we have ended the practice that hung like a sword over hundreds of thousands of Muslim women for years,” he said, adding that his government had set some goals for the country that were considered “impossible to achieve earlier”. He listed the “record number of new bank accounts” and the beneficiaries under PM’s Central health scheme as some important milestones.

“We have showed red card to several evil social practices in the last five years,” he said and added “In new India, the way in which action is being taken against corruption, nepotism, loot of people’s money, terrorism, this has never happened before.”

Watch | Modi’s Paris diplomacy: Macron fully backs India’s stand on Kashmir issue 

Modi’s Paris diplomacy: Macron fully backs India’s stand on Kashmir issue
Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed media with French president Emanuel Macron on the first day of his three-nation tour. He spoke about Jammu and Kashmir and Pakistan’s diplomatic campaign against India.
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“There was no place for temporary in India,” he said in a veiled reference to his government’s decision to abrogate Article 370 that granted special status to Jammu and Kashmir. “It took us 70-years to remove temporary,” said the Prime Minister.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi said, the mandate given to him in 2019 elections was “not just to run India but to create a new India”, adding that the country had seen “several positive developments in the last five-years during which the youth, women, farmers and the poor were put at the center of government’s programmers.” He also said that several studies had confirmed rapid eradication of poverty in India.

The Prime Minister, who is on day long visit to France, said India-France ties were beyond friendship. There was no single platform in the world where the two countries had not worked together. So, I devote this day to India-France relations,” he said.

He said India and France partnership could be summed up by combining words “IN” (for India) with “FRA” (for France) to create “INFRA”. INFRA, he said, represented the joint efforts between the two nations in the field of “Solar Infra”, “Technical Infra” and “Space Infra” among others.

Also read | We met goals once considered unachievable: PM to Indians in France

First Published: Aug 23, 2019 15:14 IST

3 Amazing Sights in India Besides the Taj Mahal

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TRAVEL TRIVIA)

 

3 Amazing Sights in India Besides the Taj Mahal

Book a trip to India, and there is one staple sight you’re going to try and see — the Taj Mahal. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to visit India’s most popular tourist destination, but to visit the Taj Mahal and only the Taj Mahal would mean missing out on some of the most breathtaking views a country could offer.

Before you start filling up your calendar with the things you’ll see and do, make sure the following three sights are somewhere on your itinerary. They’ll help you see a side of India you didn’t know existed while also providing a glimpse into the early history of the South Asian nation.

Humayun’s Tomb, New Delhi

Credit: Boris Stroujko / Shutterstock.com

As a United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) site, Humayun’s Tomb in New Delhi draws plenty of attention. The tomb, which shares a similar appearance to the famed Taj Mahal, was built in 1565 A.D. after the death of Humayun, also known as Nasir-ud-Din Muhammad. The second emperor of the Mughal Empire is joined by several other Mughal rulers, who are buried within the walls of Humayun’s Tomb.

When Humayun passed away after a fall down a flight of stairs, his widow, Queen Bega Begum, undertook the task of having a mausoleum built for the emperor. Persian architect Mirak Mirza Ghiyas took on the job under the supervision of Bega Begum.

Once an incredible structure marked by ornate designs, a lack of maintenance over the years allowed much of it to pale. In the early 20th century, a restoration project tackled the decaying structure and the surrounding gardens, which were taken over by the English in the 19th century, and returned the building to its original form.

Basgo Monastery, Ladakh

Credit: Rudra Narayan Mitra / Shutterstock.com

Located in the Leh District of Basgo, some 24 miles from Leh, travelers will find the remains of the Basgo Monastery. In 1680, the monastery was constructed for the Namgyal rulers who overtook the land. Built from bricks of mud, the monastery overlooks Ladakh and is tucked between the Himalayan and Karakoram mountain ranges.

Grags-pa-bum, a Tibetan king, started construction of the structure. At the center of the manmade complex is a series of temples dedicated to the Maitreya Buddha, or fifth incarnation of Sakyamuni, or Buddha. Murals that depict snippets of the life of Buddha are painted along the interior walls.

Though much of the monastery has deteriorated over time, it’s still used for ceremonies and holidays by the inhabitants of the nearby Hemis monastery.

Sundarbans, West Bengal

Credit: Santhosh Varghese / Shutterstock.com

Not every incredible sight in India is going to be manmade. In West Bengal, travelers will find the Sundarbans, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Found on the southeastern tip of the 24 Paraganas district, the Sundarbans is named for the Sundari mangrove plant that grows within the region.

The wilds of West Bengal come to life in the Sundarbans, which is the world’s largest deltaic mangrove forest. Along with a striking beauty and exotic appearance, the Sundarbans are home to an icon of India — the Royal Bengal Tiger.

This natural stretch of mangrove offers a unique experience for anyone who travels down the still waters that run alongside vibrant green coastlines. Visitors will get to say they’ve been inside the world’s largest estuarine forest and existed among tigers and crocodiles.

7 Places You Didn’t Know Were UNESCO World Heritage Sites

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TRAVEL TRIVIA)

 

7 Places You Didn’t Know Were UNESCO World Heritage Sites

From national parks and natural wonders to ancient cities and historic buildings, World Heritage Sites are selected by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) for being significant places.

As of December 2018, there are 1,092 World Heritage Sites, recognized for their cultural, historical, scientific or natural standing. Italy, China and Spain have the most sites on the list with 54, 53 and 47, respectively.

While every travel destination has some degree of importance, World Heritage Sites are legally protected, promoting their conservation.

Here are 7 places you may not have known were UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Quito, Ecuador

Quito, Ecuador

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The capital city of Ecuador, Quito, was one of the first places marked as a World Heritage Site in 1978, mainly due to its pristine historic center, which UNESCO calls the “best-preserved, least altered” in all of Latin America. The integrity of the city’s original configuration is noted as one of its reasons for being included.

Ancient City of Damascus

Ancient City of Damascus

mohammad alzain/Shutterstock

One of seven Syrian sites on the list that are in danger due to conflict in the region is the Ancient City of Damascus. Founded in the 3rd millennium B.C., it’s one of the oldest cities in the Middle East. It has around 125 monuments from different periods of its history, including the famous 8th century Great Mosque of the Umayyads, which has thus far survived the Syrian Civil War.

Everglades National Park

Everglades National Park

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Also on the World Heritage Sites “in danger” list is South Florida’s Everglades National Park, the largest subtropical wilderness in the United States. Home to rare and endangered species like the manatee, American crocodile and Florida panther, the Everglades itself is threatened by the “serious and continuing degradation of its aquatic ecosystem,” UNESCO announced when it re-added the park to the list in 2010.

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Rock Drawings in Val Camonica

Rock Drawings in Val Camonica

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Located in northern Italy, Val Camonica has one of the world’s greatest collections of prehistoric petroglyphs. There are more than 140,000 symbols and figures carved in the rock over a period of 8,000 years. The valley, located in the Lombardy region, has petroglyphs throughout that depict themes linked with agriculture, duels and deer hunting.

Pre-Hispanic Town of Uxmal

Pre-Hispanic Town of Uxmal

Aleksandar Todorovic/Shutterstock

The Pre-Hispanic Town of Uxmal, Mexico was founded in the year 700 by roughly 25,000 inhabitants. It was selected as a UNESCO site in 1996 because of the layout of its buildings, dated from 700 to 1000, which reveal a knowledge of astronomy. The Pyramid of the Magician — known to the Spaniards as the Pyramid of the Soothsayer — is at the city’s ceremonial center. It is among the high points of Mayan art and architecture.

The Grand Canal

The Grand Canal

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Running from Beijing in the north to the Zhejiang province to the south, the Grand Canal was added as a World Heritage Site in 2014. Construction on the vast Chinese waterway system began in the 5th century B.C. By the 13th century, it consisted of more than 2,000 kilometers of artificial waterways that link five of China’s main river basins.

Palau de la Música Catalana and Hospital de Sant Pau, Barcelona

Palau de la Música Catalana and Hospital de Sant Pau, Barcelona

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Barcelona’s Palau de la Música Catalana and Hospital de Sant Pau are listed as a singular World Heritage Site, recognized as “two of the finest contributions to Barcelona’s architecture by the Catalan art nouveau architect Lluís Domènech i Montaner.”

China claims 55 of UNESCO world heritages with new elected site

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF SHANGHAI CHINA’S ‘SHINE’ NEWS NETWORK)

 

China claims 55 of UNESCO world heritages with new elected site

Xinhua
China claims 55 of UNESCO world heritages with new elected site

Imaginechina

Liangzhu Relics Park in Yuhang District, Hangzhou City, Zhejiang Province.

China’s Archaeological Ruins of Liangzhu City were on Saturday inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List as a cultural site, bringing the total number of the Asian country’s sites on the list to 55.

International delegates congratulated China on the world’s recognition of the exceptional site as a concrete testimony of 5,000 years of Chinese civilization and its unique contribution to world civilization.

Meanwhile, they praised China’s notable performance in the conservation of its world heritages and expressed readiness for strengthened international cooperation in the protection and management of the world heritages.

China claims 55 of UNESCO world heritages with new elected site

Xinhua

The Chinese delegation celebrate during the 43rd session of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee in Baku, Azerbaijan on July 6, 2019.

Cultural treasure of China

The decision to add the Chinese cultural site, located in the eastern Chinese city of Hangzhou, to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization’s World Heritage List was approved by the World Heritage Committee at its ongoing 43rd session in the Azerbaijani capital of Baku.

“It is considered to be a supreme achievement of prehistoric rice-cultivating civilization of China and East Asia over 5,000 years ago and an outstanding example of early urban civilization,” said a report by the International Council on Monuments and Sites, the committee’s official advisory body.

Sitting on a plain crossed by river networks in the Yangtze River Basin, the nominated property of Archaeological Ruins of Liangzhu City includes the archaeological remains of Liangzhu City (3300 BC-2300 BC), which was once the center of power and belief of an early regional state in the lower reaches of the Yangtze River during the Late Neolithic China period.

The property testifies to the existence of a regional state with a unified belief system and supported by a rice-cultivating agriculture in late Neolithic China. It also represents an early urban civilization with complex functions and structures.

“Archaeological Ruins of Liangzhu City is a major archaeological discovery of China in the 20th century and an important cultural site that witnessed the 5,000-year civilization of the country,” said Liu Yuzhu, head of China’s National Cultural Heritage Administration, at the committee session.

“We are proud that after 25 years of preparation, our efforts have finally led to the successful inscription of this exceptionally important property, which is the most concrete testimony of 5,000 years of Chinese civilization,” said Shen Yang, ambassador and permanent delegate of China to UNESCO, following the announcement of the decision.

“We are keenly aware that the inscription also entails an enormous responsibility for conserving this heritage of humanity,” he added.

Zhou Jiangyong, Hangzhou’s municipal committee secretary of the Communist Party of China, said the Chinese city will spare no effort to “protect and make proper use of the enormous cultural heritage before passing it on to the future generations.”

The Chinese side also pledged continued efforts and strengthened international cooperation in the protection and management of world heritages in China.

China claims 55 of UNESCO world heritages with new elected site

Xinhua

Combo photo shows artifacts excavated from the Liangzhu relic site in Hangzhou, capital of east China’s Zhejiang Province.

Permanent heritage for world

Attendants at the convention congratulated China on the inscription, commenting on the site’s cultural and historic value as well as its contribution to world civilization.

“We see it as an important heritage site taking into account its historical value and also its contribution to the civilization of mankind, in particular for China, as well as the rest of the world. We are really seeing a great heritage coming to enrich the list of human civilization,” said Edmond Moukala, chief of the Africa Unit of the World Heritage Center.

Moukala highlighted Liangzhu’s universal value, especially in boosting tourism and providing a rich variety of research resources for scholars around the world who are interested in the Liangzhu culture.

He noted that China has been doing an excellent job in protecting its world heritages, which sets a “good example for the rest of the world.”

“We think that Liangzhu will also be an inspiring case study that will help us not only to learn about how to preserve heritages, but also learn how heritages can really provide expertise to our African people. We look forward to collaborating with China and to learning from you,” Moukala said.

Similarly, Anar Karimov, Azerbaijan’s ambassador and permanent delegate to UNESCO, also praised the efforts of the Chinese government and the “overall Chinese perception and vision” to protect heritages for the younger generations.

“We commend the efforts of China and Chinese experts in protecting their heritages. Also, we see the dedication and commitment of local Chinese authorities and Chinese communities to protect and conserve the heritage of Liangzhu and (other heritages) all over the country,” Karimov said.

He also expressed the hope that China would share its experience in protecting world heritages with Azerbaijan.

“We, Azerbaijan, as a young country with relatively less experts and capacity in this field, think that there is much to be learned from our Chinese friends. This is another area where Azerbaijan is willing to work and cooperate with our Chinese partners,” he said.

On Friday, China’s Migratory Bird Sanctuaries along the Coast of the Yellow Sea-Bohai Gulf (Phase I) was also inscribed on the World Heritage List as a natural site.

The natural site is located in the Yellow Sea ecoregion, containing the world’s largest continuous mudflat seashore.

It is the central node of the East Asian-Australasian Flyway, which is the most threatened migratory flyway worldwide and boasts the largest number of endangered and critically endangered species.

The area has a high biodiversity, with about 280 species of fishes and more than 500 species of invertebrates, providing a variety of food resources for millions of migratory birds.

At present, China has 55 world heritage sites, including 37 cultural sites, 14 natural sites and four cultural and natural heritages.

China claims 55 of UNESCO world heritages with new elected site

Xinhua

Aerial photo taken on June 23, 2019 shows a view of Liangzhu relic site in Hangzhou, east China’s Zhejiang Province.

India: More Than 50 Dead As Train Mows Down Crowd During Hindu Festival

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE BBC)

 

Amritsar: Scores dead as train mows down crowd

Media caption Crowds celebrate Hindu festival near Amritsar

More than 50 people have been killed and 200 hurt after a train ran into a crowd near Amritsar in India’s northern Punjab state, police told the BBC.

The victims were standing on the railway tracks watching celebrations for the Hindu festival of Dusshera, eyewitnesses told BBC Punjabi.

They did not hear the train approach as they watched a firecracker-filled effigy of the demon king Ravana burn.

Officials said the priority now was to take the injured to local hospitals.

Footage posted to social media showed the fast-travelling train hitting the crowd.

The incident happened at about 18:30 local time (13:00 GMT), said local journalist Ravinder Singh Robin.

Just moments before, crowds watching the firecrackers show were asked by organizers to move back – towards the railway tracks, reports say.

The train that hit the crowds was travelling from Jalandhar to Amritsar.

Crowds celebrating the Hindu festival near Amritsar, India. Photo: 19 October 2019Image copyright BBC/RAVINDER SINGH ROBIN
Image caption The incident happened as crowds were celebrating a Hindu festival

Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh described the incident as “absolutely tragic”, and wrote in a tweet that local authorities were being “mobilized”.

“We will do everything possible to assist the injured,” he said, adding: “[I] have directed the district administration to leave no stone unturned to ensure the best possible treatment for them.”

Mourning relatives near Amritsar, India. Photo: 19 October 2018Image copyright EPA
Image caption Relatives of the victims and witnesses were visibly distressed following the incident

Prime Minister Narendra Modi described the incident as “heart-wrenching”.

There are fears that the death toll will rise further.

Train accidents are fairly common in India, where much of the railway equipment is out of date.

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Dusshera festival

An effigy of demon king Ravana is set on fire in Delhi, India. Photo: 19 October 2018Image copyright EPA
  • Celebrates the triumph of the Hindu god Rama over the 10-headed demon king Ravana
  • Marks the victory of good over evil
  • In large parts of India it is celebrated with Ramlila – a dramatic folk re-enactment of the 10-day battle
  • Staged annually – often over 10 or more successive nights
  • Festival culminates with devotees burning effigies of Ravana which are lit with firecrackers in open grounds
  • In 2005, UNESCO recognized the tradition of Ramlila as a “Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity”
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ALL THE THINGS TOURISTS ARE NOT ALLOWED TO DO IN VENICE ITALY

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF ITALY’S QUARTZY NEWS)

 

 

ALL THE THINGS TOURISTS ARE NOT ALLOWED TO DO IN VENICE

By Rosie Spinks 

Venice has long been known as the sinking city, but only in modern times has it begun sinking under the weight of its tourists. Each day, the UNESCO World Heritage site receives up to 60,000 visitors, resulting in a city that is increasingly becoming devoid of actual Venetians.

While Venice is not the only city grappling with the crisis of over tourism, it is taking a more punitive approach than most in dealing with visitors. Earlier this year, the city began separating tourists from locals during busy periods. And in 2017—in addition to taking steps to divert large cruise ships to a nearby industrial town—the city’s tourism board launched the #EnjoyRespectVenezia campaign to remind tourists of everything they can’t do while visiting the fine city. There are even “angels of decorum” employed each summer to ensure the rules are enforced.

This week came news that tourists may soon be banned from engaging in a fairly common activity: sitting. While sitting in and around the famed St. Mark’s Square is already banned, there is a new proposal from mayor Luigi Brugnaro to ban sitting on the ground throughout the city, with offenders facing fines between €50 and €500. The rule will be voted on in October.

If the mere act of resting one’s backside after a long day of sightseeing may be banned, it’s worth asking what else “boorish” visitors—the seemingly preferred adjective of tourism officials—are supposed to avoid. Here is a list of forbidden behaviors in Venice, as well as the fine they incur.

  • Sitting is banned in the following places: “in St. Mark’s Square and in Piazzetta dei Leoncini, beneath the arcades and on the steps of the Procuratie Nuove, the Napoleonic Wing, the Sansovino Library, beneath the arcades of the Ducal Palace, in the impressive entranceway to St. Mark’s Square otherwise known as Piazzetta San Marco and its jetty.” (€200)
  • You can’t idly stand around, even to consume food and drink, unless you are in a restaurant or cafe. (€200)
  • You may not swim or immerse your body parts in any canal, stream, “water spot,” or in St Mark’s Basin. (€450)
  • You can’t litter, although that should be obvious. (€100-200)
  • You may not roam Venice’s historic streets or be in any private or public vehicle “while bare-chested or wearing swimwear.” (€200)
  • You may not scatter food or food waste, even if it’s to feed pigeons. (€50-200)
  • Bicycling is not allowed, “even when led by hand.” (€100)
  • You may not camp, nor lie on benches. And don’t even thinking about standing anywhere in possession of camping equipment, because that is banned too. (€50)

Great White Sharks Have A Secret ‘Cafe,’ And They Led Scientists Right To It

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF NPR)

 

Great White Sharks Have A Secret ‘Cafe,’ And They Led Scientists Right To It

Scientists tagged over 30 great white sharks last fall — more than they had ever done in a single season.

Courtesy Stanford University — Block Lab Hopkins Marine Station

Great white sharks have a “hidden life” that is becoming a lot less hidden thanks to a scientific expedition that has been years in the making.

Scientists used to think the apex predators moved up and down the western coast of North America, snacking in waters with lots of food close to shore. Almost 20 years ago, Stanford marine biologist Barbara Block started putting tags on the sharks that could track their movements.

She and other researchers noticed something surprising — the tags showed that the sharks were moving away from these food-rich waters and heading more than a thousand miles off the coast of Baja California in Mexico.

Satellite images suggested the area was an ocean desert, a place with very little life.

The mystery of what was drawing the sharks to this strange place set new research into motion.

“We wanted to know if there was a hidden oasis that was formed by the currents that we couldn’t see from space,” Block said.

To find out, the scientists tagged over 30 great white sharks last fall — more than they had ever done in a single season. They’ve already gotten to know some of these animals from years of research. They’ve even given them names, such as Eugene, Tilden and Leona.

Then this spring, the research team set off on a state-of-the-art ship called the research vessel Falkor toward the mysterious area, hoping to find the sharks they tagged.

“There’s a lot of expectation when you put technology on an animal and then you take an expensive ship like the Falkor with 40 people to a box in the middle of the ocean and expect that these white sharks are going to be there,” Block said, speaking from the ship.

Sure enough, the animals were indeed swimming to this remote place, which the researchers have nicknamed the “White Shark Cafe.”

“Just as we predicted, the sharks showed up right in the cruise box,” Block added.

Schmidt Ocean Institute YouTube

The tags were programmed to pop off and float to the surface right when the Falkor was there. Each tag that reached the surface gave off a signal — and kicked off what Block called an “open-ocean treasure hunt,” as the team tried to find something the size of a small microphone in an area about the size of Colorado. These sophisticated tags record temperature, pressure, light and time.

“We doubled our current 20-year data set in three weeks,” Block said. The tags have 2,500 days of data at one- to three-second intervals, allowing researchers to see how the white sharks move up and down through the water with unprecedented detail.

In early March, two months before Falkor departed for the same mission, two saildrones were deployed from San Francisco. They have been transmitting data in real time, listening for the acoustic tags that researchers attached to great white sharks and using sonar to detect other creatures deep under the surface.

SOI/Monika Naranjo Gonzalez

The scientists will need time to parse all of this information, including new mysteries such as why male and female sharks move differently through the water. The males move up and down rapidly — sometimes 120 times a day. Females will go up to the shallow water at night, then down much deeper in the day.

“The male white shark and the female white shark are doing completely different things, and that’s not something we’ve seen so much before,” Block said. “We have to spend some time studying these behaviors to try to understand if this is courtship behavior or is this really a feeding or foraging behavior.”

And after the tags popped up, the scientists used a range of techniques to learn about the water nearby. They had a couple of saildrones, which are surface vehicles that can locate plankton and fish. They also gathered DNA from the water to figure out what is moving down there and observed creatures using a remotely operated underwater vehicle and by pulling them up in nets.

“We expected it to be the desert that the textbooks sort of advertised it would be,” said Bruce Robison, a senior scientist at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute.

But this was no desert.

A layer of nutrient-rich plant life exists deeper under the ocean than satellites could detect. Tiny creatures feed on it, and larger creatures feed on them. And up and up. It represents “a complete food chain, a ladder of consumption, that made us believe that there was an adequate food supply out here for big animals like tunas and the sharks,” Robison said.

The scientists found that the “White Shark Cafe,” originally thought to be an ocean desert, actually is home to a diverse food chain.

Schmidt Ocean Institute

Robison was surprised by how diverse the area was, with animals such as fish, squids, crustaceans and jellyfish. They saw totally different patterns of life in sites just a few miles away from one another, an indication of the area’s complexity.

The fact that scientists didn’t even know this area existed until sharks led them there speaks to how much we still don’t know about the ocean. In fact, according to NOAA’s National Ocean Service, humans have explored just 5 percent of it.

“People don’t really get is why it’s like that — it’s because it’s really hard to do,” Block said. She added that there could be more ocean hot spots out there that scientists are not yet aware of.

And Robison said all the information they gathered could help build a case for why the White Shark Cafe should be officially protected by the U.N. cultural agency. UNESCO is considering recognizing and protecting it by making it a World Heritage Site.

The Great Wall Of China’s Repair Work Is Called “Brutal And Ugly” By Locals

(This article is courtesy of the Shanghai Daily News)

Chinese outrage over ‘ugly’ restoration of Great Wall

中国”最美野长城”被抹平引发众怒

CHINESE social media users were in an uproar Friday over restoration of a 700-year-old section of the Great Wall that has been covered in concrete, turning it into a smooth, flat-topped path.
Known as one of the most beautiful portions of the “wild”, restored wall, the eight-kilometer (five-mile) Xiaohekou stretch in northeast Liaoning province was built-in 1381 during the Ming Dynasty.
Photos posted online showed that its uneven, crumbling steps and plant growth had been replaced as far as the eye could see with a white, concrete-like cap.
“This looks like the work of a group of people who didn’t even graduate from elementary school,” said one user of China’s Twitter-like Weibo platform. “If this is the result, you might as well have just blown it up.”
“Such brutal treatment of the monuments left behind by our ancestors! How is it that people with low levels of cultural awareness can take on leadership positions?” asked another. “Why don’t we just raise the Forbidden City in Beijing, too?”
Even the deputy director of Liaoning’s department of culture Ding Hui admitted: “The repairs really are quite ugly,” according to state broadcaster CCTV.
The Great Wall is not a single unbroken structure but stretches for thousands of kilometres in sections from China’s east coast to the edge of the Gobi desert.
In places it is so dilapidated that estimates of its total length vary from 9,000 to 21,000 kilometers, depending on whether missing sections are included. Despite its length it is not, as is sometimes claimed, visible from space.
Emergency maintenance was ordered for Xiaohekou in 2012 to “avoid further damage and dissolution” caused by “serious structural problems and issues due to flooding” and was completed in 2014, the State Administration of Cultural Heritage said in a statement on its website in response to public and media outcry.
The government body has begun an investigation into the approval, implementation and outcome of the maintenance work, stating that it would deal with work units and personnel found to be at fault severely, “without justifying their mistakes”.
Around 30 percent of China’s Ming-era Great Wall has disappeared over time as adverse natural conditions and reckless human activities — including stealing the bricks to build houses — erode the UNESCO World Heritage site, state media reports said last summer.
Under Chinese regulations people who take bricks from the Great Wall can be fined up to 5,000 yuan ($750), but plant growth on the wall continues to accelerate decay, and tourism, especially to undeveloped sections, continues to severely damage the world’s longest human construction.

Mauritius President to resign over expense claims

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

 

Mauritius President to resign over expense claims, prime minister says

Mauritius President Ameenah Gurib-Fakim delivers a speech in Paris in 2015.

Lagos, Nigeria (CNN)The President of Mauritius will resign next week, the island country’s prime minister has said.

Ameenah Gurib-Fakim will step down over allegations she misused a credit card given to her by a charity.
Prime Minister Pravind Jugnauth said Gurib-Fakim, who was facing impeachment proceedings over the alleged expense irregularities, had agreed to step down after the country’s 50-year independence celebrations on March 12.
“The President of the Republic told me that she would resign from office and we agreed on the date of her departure,” Jugnauth told reporters in Port Louis, the country’s capital.
“The interests of the country come first,” he said.
Attempts to obtain comment from Gurib-Fakim and her office were not immediately successful.
The president was left fighting for her political career after local media published a report that she had paid for personal expenses on a credit card given to her by London-based charity Planet Earth Institute (PEI) in 2016.
The report alleged that Gurib-Fakim had spent thousands of dollars on the card on clothing and luxury items.
She has denied any wrongdoing and said she had refunded all the money.
“I do not owe anything to anybody. Why is this issue coming up now almost a year later on the eve of our independence day celebrations,” she said on March 7, Reuters news agency reported.
The Planet Earth Institute is accredited to the United Nations Environmental Program and its mission is the “scientific independence of Africa.” When contacted, a spokeswoman for PEI declined to comment.
Gurib-Fakim was appointed to the PEI board in 2015, but resigned two years later in 2017.
She is internationally renowned and is feted on the world stage, and is the recipient of the L’Oréal-UNESCO award for women in science.
Despite her huge international profile, commentators say Gurib-Fakim’s popularity closer to home was waning.
Mauritians increasingly saw her as a “president in transit,” because of her frequent trips abroad, said Rabin Bhujun, managing editor of ION News, a digital news platform in the country.
“How does it benefit the country for her to be on the Forbes list? This is an important factor which encouraged the government to get rid of her.
They felt she wasn’t a heavyweight in politics and had no problem sacking her,” Bhujun said.

World Celebrates Bob Marley Day, Reggae is Changing So Are Its Fans

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF GLOBAL VOICES)

 

As the World Celebrates Bob Marley Day, Reggae is Changing and So Are Its Fans

A mural of reggae icon Bob Marley; photo by Vanessa, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Reggae icon Bob (Robert Nesta) Marley was born on February 6, 1945; his birthday is now celebrated around the world as Bob Marley Day. This year, he would have turned 73 years old. Marley’s hometown of Kingston, Jamaica, is now recognised by UNESCO as a Creative City of Music.

As the anointed birthplace of reggae music, music-lovers from all over the world make the pilgrimage to the Bob Marley Museum in uptown Kingston, the site of Marley’s former home. Visitors also head downtown to tour Tuff Gong Studios, founded by Marley in 1965, and the “Culture Yard” in Trench Town, where Marley grew up, learned to play guitar and formed his band, the Wailers.

Bob Marley remains an enduring icon and legacy in Jamaica, but as musical tastes and trends change, some Jamaicans wonder if the spirit of traditional roots reggae may be fading.

Reggae Month, first announced by the Jamaican government in 2008, is currently underway in Jamaica.

While passing by Marley’s former home, a fan tweeted a photo of the festivities celebrating Bob Marley Day:

The museum itself shared a live stream:

The veteran British reggae band UB40 posted their congratulations:

Jamaican public and private institutions posted creative tweets, Marley quotes and of course, music:

AK Dixon, a Jamaican living in Toronto, Canada, where Bob Marley Day is annually celebrated, urged Jamaica to step up its game:

The American rapper Common added his birthday wishes on Twitter, acknowledging what he learned from Marley:

Happy Born Day Bob Marley! Thank you for showing me how to use my art to help the people.

From Los Angeles, California, Twitter user Isaac Bryan reminded us of Marley’s activism:

On the born day of Bob Marley we are reminded-

“Get up, stand up, Stand up for your rights. Get up, stand up, Don’t give up the fight.” 🇯🇲

To mark the day, Damian “Junior Gong” Marley tweeted a charming childhood photograph of himself with his father:

Are young Jamaicans missing the reggae vibes?

While Bob Marley Day sparked celebratory social media posts from the Jamaican diaspora as well as non-Jamaican individuals and organisations, young Jamaicans were relatively quiet online.

Winston Barnes, a Florida-based Jamaican who hosts a radio talk show for the diaspora, bemoaned a perceived declining interest in reggae music, blaming the embrace of Western music styles such as hip hop:

I am now convinced that Marley’s work was in vain. At least for Jamaicans. We know so little about what he did, as evidenced by our disrespect for his work and by extension our culture. Jamaica has many more radio stations than ever and cumulatively, they play less Jamaican music than before. This at a time when Jamaicans create and produce virtually every genre of music! What would we say to Bob if he was among us physically? I listened to a motivational feature on Jamaican radio last evening and virtually all the inserts originated from outside of Jamaica! In 2018?
Foreigners respect and regard Marley’s music, at least publicly more than we ever have even in 2018! I am now convinced that maybe it is too late to fix this problem we face as a country and as a culture…and then we turn around and talk rubbish about the Grammies and Reggae!

Barnes refers to complaints by Jamaicans that the Grammy Awards do not give enough credit to reggae music, since the award is not televised.

Stephen Cooper agreed:

And last year when Raging Fyah’s Album “Everlasting” was nominated, same comments when Ziggy won. Maybe it is time for the Caribbean to have their own “Grammy” type of Ceremony.

It’s very unfortunate. Despite the fact that many reggae artists insist they don’t really care about the Grammys—in part because they know it’s a scam—the Grammys are one of the few places where reggae is recognized on the international stage. And, it clearly boosts record sales.

Many Jamaicans felt Chronixx, a young, up-and-coming reggae artist, should have won the Grammy instead of granting it to Damian “Jr. Gong” Marley. Of all the members of the Marley family, only a few live in Jamaica, while others occasionally visit. However, other social media users applauded Jr. Gong’s “Stony Hill” album as a quality contender:

Deep down we all wanted the yute from del la Vega get it…but the Grammy kids gave it to the dread from stonyhill…welldone

The ‘Marley factor’ and the future of reggae

Dr. Sonijah Stanley Niaah, of the Institute of Caribbean Studies and Reggae Studies Unit at the University of the West Indies, explained the ‘Marley factor’:

Jamaica is this cool place on the world map that is hardly visible, but everyone knows of the little rock because of its musical legacy. When it comes to the Grammys, Jamaica is always present. In the 2018 staging it was Shaggy’s on-stage performance that ensured Jamaica’s presence at the live Grammy show, and when he uttered “I’m a Jamaican in New York”…the crowd response peaked.

However, it wasn’t Shaggy’s performance which caused all the backstage rumbling that kept Jamaicans awash with emotion. It was Jr Gong [Damian Marley], and, more specifically, the ‘Marley factor.’

…This abundance of presence at the Grammys on the part of the Marleys has concerned Jamaicans in particular, and thus each year upon the release of the nominees for the ‘Best Reggae Album’ category, there is the inevitable combination of glee, grief, concern, and trepidation.

…Chronixx was leading in the court of public opinion ahead of all the other nominees and in particular, the only one close to him was Morgan Heritage, who were nominated for their Avrakedabra album, in the poll conducted by the Recording Academy. Unfortunately, the award is not granted on the basis of public opinion, sales figures, or even musical appeal…

To date, Ziggy Marley has won a total of seven Grammys. Stephen and Damian Marley as well as Bunny Wailer (a Marley connection), won three each.

Despite this — or perhaps because of it — a Kingston-based blogger believed the Rastafarian spirit and energy of reggae music could be losing its power:

It was through music that slaves communicated, the drums warned other slaves and motivated them toward rebellion and change. Reggae music with its origin in Jamaica was one of the most effective tools in advocating for peace and unity, challenging political movements and creating change

Bob Marley’s messages of love and unity was perhaps not as successful in the 1970s because our violence was imported and managed by and for external interests. As Babylon prepares for its fall, its hold on Jamaica is compromised, and this is the right time for the Rastafari messages of love and unity. Consciousness and liberation are still some of the messages we associate and expect from Rasta, unfortunately, it would appear that Rasta has lost its value locally and as an agent of change in our society.

Bob Marley, Reggae music and Rastafarianism represents a few of the most renowned parts of Jamaican culture, it seems however that the Marley legacy is busy chasing Grammys as opposed to using music to create change…as was the real impassioned legacy of Robert Nesta Marley, Reggae and Rastafari. We are left with Capitalist Rastafari, token international Grammy awards, and an ailing culture directed by dancehall music, reversely influenced by Hip-hop and the American lifestyle!

Entertainment lawyer Lloyd Stanbury agreed:

Reggae requires much more than the focus on who wins “Best Reggae Album” at the GRAMMYS

While younger Jamaicans acknowledge the Marley legacy, reggae music and its fans are changing as the world changes.

Chronixx, whose lyrics deal with climate change, rising crime, and internet addiction, is being called the “new golden boy” of reggae. His hit song “Do It for the Love, not for the Likes”, became a popular Jamaican catchphrase and hashtag, #DoItFortheLove.

In response to all these changes, if Bob Marley were alive today he might well remind us of a line from his song “Natural Mystic”: “There’s a natural mystic blowing through the air…if you listen carefully now you will hear.” In other words, time, space — and everything in it — move along naturally. Maybe in the end, it all comes down to the music, no matter how it evolves.