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Saturday, June 11, 2016

Peru votes in tightening race shaped by ex-leader's legacy

June 05, 2016

LIMA, Peru (AP) — Peruvians will choose Sunday between two conservative candidates in a tight presidential election that has become a referendum on the legacy of imprisoned ex-President Alberto Fujimori's iron-handed rule in the 1990s.

Recent polls show former World Bank economist Pedro Pablo Kuczynski having erased the lead held by his better-organized and politically sharper opponent, Keiko Fujimori, the daughter of Peru's former strongman.

A mock voting exercise Saturday by Lima-based Gfk put support for Kuczynski at 51 percent compared with 49 percent for Fujimori. With a margin for error in the survey of plus or minus 1.6 percentage points, it's still a statistical tie but it is a far better standing for Kuczynski than a week ago when he was trailing by more than 4 points. Fujimori topped him in the first round of voting by almost 20 points.

The 77-year-old Kuczynski, who supported Keiko Fujimori in the 2011 runoff won by outgoing President Ollanta Humala, has narrowed the gap by abandoning his above-the-fray, grandfatherly appeal and hitting Fujimori hard.

"Peru is on the threshold of becoming a narco-state," he told supporters at his closing campaign rally in Lima. The reference wasn't just to her father's well-known ties to corruption, organized crime and death squads, for which he's serving a 25-year jail sentence, but an attempt to draw attention to a string of scandals that have hobbled Fujimori in the final stretch, most notably a report that one of her big fundraisers and the secretary general of her party is the target of a U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration investigation. Peru is the world's largest producer of cocaine.

Her running mate, Jose Chlimper, is also in hot water for orchestrating the broadcast of a doctored audio tape in an attempt to clear the name of the party boss. "If Fujimori wins the big question is whether she'll be able to control her party," said Eduardo Dargent, a political scientist at Lima's Catholic University.

PPK, as Kuczynski is almost universally known in Peru, is also benefiting from a last-minute endorsement by the third-place finisher in the first round of voting, leftist congresswoman Veronika Mendoza, the protagonist of a massive anti-Fujimori demonstration this week the likes of which Peru hasn't seen since the turbulent end of Fujimori's rule 16 years ago.

Fujimori, who served as first lady in her father's administration after her parents' divorce, has tried to contain her rival's rise by taking distance from her father's crimes, even signing a pledge not to pardon him if elected.

"I'm the candidate, not my father," is a frequent retort. At the same time, she's vowed to bring back the "iron hand" style of government for which many still revere the elder Fujimori, who is credited with taming Maoist Shining Path rebels as well as the country's hyperinflation. Instead of rebels, Keiko Fujimori is promising to wield an iron fist against crime, a top voter concern. Among her proposals: build jails in high-altitude prisons in the Andes to punish and isolate dangerous criminals.

She's also trying to cast her rival, the son of a Jewish-Polish immigrant who is married to an American and spent decades in business outside Peru, as part of the white elite establishment that has traditionally overlooked the needs of the poor.

Regardless of who wins, Keiko Fujimori has already reshaped Peru's political landscape. In April, her Popular Force party won 73 of 130 seats in the unicameral congress, setting Fujimori up to be the first president since her father in the 1990s to govern with a legislative majority — something her detractors cite as a risk to Peru's already-weak system of checks and balances.

Argentine court sentences ex-dictator for Operation Condor

May 27, 2016

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) — Argentina's last dictator and 14 other former military officials were sentenced to prison for human rights crimes, marking the first time a court has ruled that Operation Condor was a criminal conspiracy to kidnap and forcibly disappear people across international borders.

The covert operation was launched in the 1970s by six South American dictatorships that used their secret police networks in a coordinated effort to track down their opponents abroad and eliminate them. Many leftist dissidents had sought refuge in neighboring countries and elsewhere.

An Argentine federal court on Friday sentenced former junta leader Reynaldo Bignone, 88, to 20 years in prison for being part of an illicit association, kidnapping and abusing his powers in the forced disappearance of more than 100 people. The ex-general who ruled Argentina in 1982-1983 is already serving life sentences for multiple human rights violations during the 1976-1983 dictatorship.

In the landmark trial, 14 other former military officials received prison sentences of eight to 25 years for criminal association, kidnapping and torture. They include Uruguayan army colonel, Manuel Cordero Piacentini, who allegedly tortured prisoners inside Automotores Orletti, the Buenos Aires repair shop where many captured leftists were interrogated under orders from their home countries. Two of the accused were absolved.

The sentences are seen as a milestone because they mark the first time a court has proved that Operation Condor was an international criminal conspiracy carried out by the U.S.-backed regimes in Chile, Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay.

"Operation Condor affected my life, my family," Chilean Laura Elgueta told The Associated Press outside the court room. Her brother, Luis Elgueta, had taken refuge in Buenos Aires from Gen. Augusto Pinochet's forces, only to be forcibly disappeared in Buenos Aires in 1976 as part of Operation Condor.

"This trial is very meaningful because it's the first time that a court is ruling against this sinister Condor plan," she said. The investigation was launched in the 1990s when an amnesty law still protected many of the accused. Argentina's Supreme Court overturned the amnesty in 2005 at the urging of then-President Nestor Kirchner.

"Forty years after Operation Condor was formally founded, and 16 years after the judicial investigation began, this trial produced valuable contributions to knowledge of the truth about the era of state terrorism and this regional criminal network," said the Buenos Aires-based Center for Legal and Social Studies, which is part of the legal team representing plaintiffs in the case.

During the case, several defendants either died or were removed from the judicial process. Since the bodies of many victims have never been found, Argentine prosecutors argued that the crime of covering up their deaths continues today, and that statutory time limits don't apply.

The victims included Maria Claudia Irureta Goyena, the daughter-in-law of Argentine poet Juan Gelman, who was pregnant when she was kidnapped and held for months inside Automotores Orletti before an Argentine air force plane took her to Uruguay. She gave birth there, and then was disappeared. Decades passed before her daughter, Macarena Gelman, discovered her own true identity.

A key piece of evidence in the case was a declassified FBI agent's cable, sent in 1976, that described in detail the conspiracy to share intelligence and eliminate leftists across South America. Operation Condor was launched in November 1975 by Chile's Pinochet who enlisted other dictators in South America. But the covert program went much further: the U.S. government later determined that Chilean agents involved in Condor killed the country's former ambassador Orlando Letelier and his U.S. aide Ronni Moffitt in Washington, D.C., in September 1976. Operation Condor's agents also tracked other exiles across Europe in efforts to eliminate them.

"This is a great ruling, with stiff sentences," Luz Zaldua, a lawyer representing families of the victims. "It has established that Condor was a supranational criminal association, and that's important — not just for our country but for all countries that have been part of this operation."

__ Associated Press video journalist Paul Byrne and AP photographer Natacha Pisarenko contributed to this report.

Argentine FM says Falklands no obstacle to becoming UN chief

May 27, 2016

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) — Argentina's foreign minister said Friday she believes there's no conflict of interest between her bid to be the next U.N. secretary-general and her work pressing her country's sovereignty claim over the disputed Falkland Islands.

Buenos Aires has long claimed as its own the Atlantic archipelago, a British overseas territory it calls the Malvinas. Argentina staged an ill-fated invasion of the islands in 1982 that was repelled by Britain.

As foreign minister Susana Malcorra has lobbied for Argentina's claim and recently brought it up when President Mauricio Macri met with British Prime Minister David Cameron at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. The South American country regularly raises the issue at the U.N.

"What we have been saying regarding the Malvinas is what we have said since the day we took office ... and I see no incompatibility" between that and becoming secretary-general, Malcorra said at a news conference, without explaining further.

The secretary-general is chosen by the 193-member General Assembly on the recommendation of the 15-member Security Council, of which the United Kingdom is a permanent member. Traditionally the secretary-general job has rotated among regions, and people from Asia, Africa, Latin America and Europe have all held the post. Some in eastern Europe, including Russia, argue that their region has never had one of their own as secretary-general and it is their turn.

A group of 56 nations has also been lobbying for the United Nations to get its first female chief. Malcorra is a former U.N. undersecretary-general and chief of staff to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, whose term ends Dec. 31.

Fire at Ukrainian home for the elderly kills 17, injures 5

May 29, 2016

MOSCOW (AP) — A fire swept through a private home for the elderly in a Ukrainian village shortly before dawn Sunday, killing 17 people and injuring five others, an emergency official said. The head of the emergency services, Mykola Chechetkin, said 35 people were in the house when the fire broke out before 4 a.m. and 17 of them were killed. It was unclear whether any staff members were among the dead.

Police said they are working to determine the cause of the fire and also to learn whether the home was operating legally. The owner of the business was detained for questioning. Photographs provided by the emergency services show that the fire gutted the two-story, yellow stucco building in Litochki, a village 42 kilometers (25 miles) north of Kiev, the capital. Several charred satellite dishes were seen still attached to a wall.

Reports carried by the Russian state news agency Tass and others said the fire may have been set off when a television set exploded. The Ukrainian government has set up a commission to investigate the circumstances of the fire.

Savchenko: I could run for president if Ukrainians want it

May 27, 2016

MOSCOW (AP) — Ukrainian pilot Nadezhda Savchenko who came home earlier this week after two years in Russian custody said on Friday would run for president if that's what Ukrainians desire. Savchenko returned to a rapturous welcome after the imprisonment in Russia made her a national hero in absentia, lauded for her flinty defiance.

Savchenko was captured by rebels in June 2014 when she was serving in a volunteer Ukrainian battalion in the east and then resurfaced in Russian custody. She convicted in March and sentenced to 22 years in prison for complicity in the deaths of two Russian journalists.

Prosecutors alleged she was acting as a spotter for mortar fire that killed the Russians. She rejected the charges and her lawyers insisted she had been captured hours before the mortar attack. Savhenko was released after being pardoned by President Vladimir Putin, which he said he did on humanitarian grounds at the urging of the journalists' relatives.

At her first news conference upon her return, the 35-year old told a full house of reporters on Friday what she would like best is to return to her job as a military pilot. But she is willing to launch a political career if this could help Ukraine to deal with the separatist war in the east and snap out of a political and economic turmoil.

When asked by a reporter if she was willing to run for president, she replied: "Ukrainians, if you want me to become president, I will become president." The news conference was interjected by shouts "Glory to Ukraine!" with Savchenko, dressed in a white shirt and a tailored waistcoat, echo them with "Glory to the heroes!"

Savchenko rejected suggestions that she should ditch the party of former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, which put her on top of the ballot for the 2014 parliamentary election, because of the party's reputation of favoring Ukraine's oligarchs. She said she would stick with that party and was anxious to come to work to the parliament next week.

Savchenko's return heralds new turmoil in Ukraine

May 26, 2016

MOSCOW (AP) — After being freed from a Russian jail, Ukrainian pilot Nadezhda Savchenko stands to emerge as a wild new force in Ukraine's already volatile politics. Savchenko's adamant defiance of Russian authorities and the Russian justice system has made her a national icon, a widely revered symbol of courage and perseverance for a nation reeling from an economic meltdown and a devastating war in the east against Russian-back separatists. The 35-year-old's blunt candor and passionate ways pose a tough challenge to Ukraine's political clans, who have been locked in fierce power battles that go back decades.

The prospects of more political infighting raises new threats to the stability of Ukraine — and would be welcome news for the Kremlin, which is eager to see its neighbor plunge deeper into turmoil. Savchenko's return home was a personal triumph for Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, who rallied international leaders to press Russia for her release. But even though he may have hoped her return boosts his sagging popularity, Savchenko's entry into politics is likely to challenge him greatly.

Many Ukrainians hold Poroshenko responsible for a moribund economy, a dramatic fall in living standards and his failure to stem rampant official corruption. Some hard-line nationalists, including members of volunteer battalions who fought in the east, see the president as too weak in defending Ukraine's national interests.

They have vowed to block any legislation that would give broader powers to the separatist eastern regions in line with the February 2015 Minsk peace agreement brokered by France and Germany. Some nationalist forces have seen that deal as betrayal of Ukraine's interests.

Poroshenko has defended the Minsk agreement and accused Russia of failing to honor it as sporadic clashes in the east continued despite the truce. Savchenko, an ardent nationalist captured by separatists in June 2014 while she acted as an artillery spotter for a volunteer battalion in eastern Ukraine, will likely take an unflinching stance on the war in the east and oppose any compromise with Russia-backed rebels.

She also is likely to become a voice for masses angry with endemic corruption, which has run amok despite official promises to eradicate it, eroding trust in the government and sapping the hopes raised by the 2014 ouster of Ukraine's former, Moscow-friendly leader.

Even before Savchenko's return, Ukraine's ruling coalition was embroiled in bitter political infighting. Following months of jockeying, Poroshenko managed to replace Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk with his loyalist, Volodymyr Groysman. Still the battle left the parties led by Poroshenko and Yatsenyuk in a fragile coalition, united mostly in their desire to avoid an early election.

Savchenko is already a member of parliament, voted in while she was languishing in a Russian jail. She has not yet talked about her political plans — but her return could consolidate those unhappy with the status quo and increase pressures for an early election.

Yulia Tymoshenko, the former Ukrainian prime minister whose party got Savchenko into parliament in 2014 when her Russian ordeal just began, hopes now to emerge as the main winner. Tymoshenko, who spent 2 ½ years in a Ukrainian prison in 2011-2014 as the former pro-Moscow president sought to eliminate her as a political rival, expected a triumphant return to the political scene after his downfall. Instead, she saw her popularity dwindle as many saw her as a relic of the old political system.

Since then, Tymoshenko managed to rebuild her popularity, riding the growing wave of anger with the anemic economy and official corruption. "Tymoshenko is pushing for new elections, and Savchenko's voice may help a lot," said Vadim Karasyov, an independent Kiev-based political analyst.

Still, Tymoshenko will likely find it hard to control the unruly military pilot. Savchenko, who is fully aware of her nationwide popularity, is unlikely to take a back seat. The tensions between the two were immediately visible Wednesday during a greeting ceremony at Kiev's airport, when Savchenko dodged Tymoshenko's attempts to kiss her and refused to take flowers from her.

"Savchenko's uncompromising stance and her unpredictability would be a problem for both herself and for those who would try to use her," said Volodymyr Fesenko, head of Penta think-tank in Kiev. "Savchenko's charisma can unite the right and the ultra-right forces, which believe that the ideals of revolution must be defended," he said. "That scenario may trigger street protests and new parliamentary elections."

As Ukraine seems ready to sink deeper into turmoil, one man is watching with glee: Russia's President Vladimir Putin, whose relentless pressure on Ukraine has been one factor crippling his southern neighbor.

As parts of the Minsk peace agreement remain deeply divisive in Ukraine, the Russian leader could highlight Ukraine's failure to meet its end of the deal and push for lifting Western sanctions against Russia. The Kremlin could also point to Ukraine's political infighting to support its contention that the nation is dominated by nationalists who are eager to resort to violence and shun compromise.

Yuras Karmanau in Minsk, Belarus contributed to this report.

Handout or no? Swiss mull $2,500 monthly income for all

June 04, 2016

GENEVA (AP) — Would you accept about $2,500 from your government every month, no questions asked? Swiss voters get a choice Sunday in a referendum that, while not specifying a figure, asks if they want "unconditional basic income." Experts estimate a minimum of 2,500 Swiss francs ($2,560) per month is needed for an individual to make ends meet in wealthy Switzerland, where private-sector health insurance is required and the cost of living is sky-high.

Critics warn that the policy would explode the state budget. The Swiss government itself advises voters to reject the proposal, and polls suggest it will fail in a country known for free-market policies and a high-tech, capitalistic financial sector.

Proponents, however, insist the time has come for a minimum monthly wage as sweeping 21st-century economic changes like robots displacing factory workers make jobs more precarious in the digital age. They say they're seeking momentum more than outright victory.

Polls have suggested that only about one-quarter of Swiss voters back the idea. Still, the initiative cleared the bar for a vote, which in Switzerland's direct democracy means garnering at least 100,000 signatures in a petition drive. It is one of five issues on the ballot Sunday, including efforts to raise money for public services and simplify the application procedures for asylum-seekers.

Universal basic income might seem like souped-up welfare but proponents say it's actually aimed to supplant welfare. Advocates in Switzerland and other European countries also examining the idea say current welfare systems are overburdened by red tape, deterring many potential beneficiaries from applying.

The novelty of unconditional basic income is that everybody would get it automatically. It would be a floor: Salaried workers who earn more than 2,500 francs a month would get no extra money. Under a proposed model, each child would get one-quarter of the total for adults — about 625 francs per month — a sum higher than state child-care outlays for families today.

Possible ways of paying for it would include fees on salaries of people who earn more than the minimum, savings from welfare programs that would be discontinued and taxes or spending cuts in the state budget.

Switzerland's basic income push is among the most advanced in Europe. The Dutch city of Utrecht wants to start a two-year experiment with a similar plan, handing money to residents who already receive welfare benefits.

Ralph Kundig, president of the Swiss chapter of the Basic Income Earth Network, said some economists favored the idea as a way to underpin consumption and support the economy. "Our parents, grandparents and beyond worked hard so that we could produce more by working less, with machines and so forth," Kundig said. "The only thing that they did not foresee was that this wealth would only benefit the owners of the means of production."

Kundig said studies and pilot projects show people wouldn't just sit at home and do nothing. "Basic income is much more of a stimulant to employment and the economic activity of a country," he said, adding it would increase entrepreneurship because people would be less afraid about losing jobs and more willing to take risks.

But an association of mostly small businesses in the southwestern Swiss region of Valais region, UVAM, is among the many voices calling for voters to reject the proposal, writing on its Web site: "No bread without work." It lambasted the basic income proposal as "an absolute danger, because it's the perfect negation of the virtue of work" that would entrench a dependent class and cost 208 billion francs per year.

"Without wealth, here's no redistribution, because money doesn't fall from the sky," the group wrote. Kundig said all reforms are often viewed in a negative light at first. "All advances in society — like retirement insurance or even the right for women to vote ... were initially considered catastrophes for the economy," he said of earlier Swiss reforms. "Everybody who resists social progress always says it can't be paid for, but that's just talk."

Mike Corder in The Hague contributed to this story.

Leftist party in Romania makes gains in local elections

June 06, 2016

BUCHAREST, Romania (AP) — Election results show Romania's main leftist party made gains in local elections that were overshadowed by concerns about graft. Preliminary results published by election authorities early Monday show that that Gabriela Firea, a former TV journalist and member of the center-left Social Democratic Party, won the post of Bucharest mayor, receiving about 43 percent of the vote.

The party also won all six seats for district mayor in the capital. The party resigned from government in November after street protests following a deadly nightclub fire that raised corruption concerns.

The mayors of Brasov and Craiova, who have been indicted for taking kickbacks, both won re-election. The mayor of Baia Mare, jailed for corruption charges, was also easily re-elected.

Global experts assess Poland's threatened pristine forest

June 05, 2016

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Poland's Environment Ministry says that global forestry experts are checking the condition of the ancient Bialowieza Forest where the ministry has begun extensive logging to stop the spread of a harmful beetle.

Environmentalists have protested the logging to the European Commission, saying it threatens the forest's existence while giving no guarantee of success in fighting the bark beetle. The ministry said on its website that it has invited experts from the International Union for Conservation of Nature who started inspecting the forest on Sunday and will give an opinion on the ministry's plans to protect it.

TVN24 showed the experts examining parts of the forest, which is on the UNESCO world heritage list. Critics say Environment Minister Jan Szyszko wants to take the forest off the UNESCO list to facilitate the logging.

The ministry statement said that contrary to media reports, there are no plans to seek the removal of the forest from the list.

Ex-Polish presidents lead anti-government march in Warsaw

June 04, 2016

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Poland's two former presidents led tens of thousands of marchers Saturday in Warsaw to protest the right-wing government's policies and mark 27 years since the ouster of communism.

The march was yet another in a series organized by a new civic movement, the Committee for the Defense of Democracy, or KOD, against the conservative government that took office in November. The government's policies have strained Poland's relations with the European Union and the U.S. and angered many in Poland. But the ruling party insists it has a mandate from Poland's voters.

The nationalist government has focused on helping those left out of Poland's economic growth and increased its grip on state institutions. The moves have paralyzed the nation's Constitutional Tribunal, put state-owned media under government control and increased police surveillance powers.

The EU says Poland's rule of law and democracy are in danger. The protests Saturday brought former presidents Aleksander Kwasniewski, a left-winger, and Bronislaw Komorowski, a centrist, together to remind the Poles about their attachment to freedom and to democracy, which they won on June 4, 1989, in an election that peacefully ousted the communists from power.

"We want a free Poland because we fought for it, we dreamed about it and we built it," Komorowski, a dissident under communism, told the crowd. Warsaw authorities said 50,000 people took part. Smaller marches also took place in other Polish cities and in Berlin and Brussels, the E.U. headquarters.

At the ruling Law and Justice party's regional meeting in Warsaw, party leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski insisted Saturday that his policies are improving the lives of Poles and protecting Poland's independence in the 28-nation EU.

Poles have the right to "a new, better shape (of Poland) that would better serve the vast majority of Poles and we will not give that right up," Kaczynski said Saturday, pounding the podium.

Luxembourg takes first steps to asteroid mining law

Luxembourg (AFP)
June 3, 2016

One of Europe's smallest states, the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, cast its eyes to the cosmos on Friday, announcing it would draw up a law to facilitate mining on asteroids.

Extracting precious metals, rare minerals and other valuable commodities on passing asteroids is a staple of science fiction, but Luxembourg says incentives are urgently needed to turn this dream into fact.

"Comprehensive legislation" will be drawn up with the help of space law experts, the economy ministry said in a statement.

Expected to take effect in 2017, it is billed as providing a legal framework that will spur investment in exploiting resources in Near Earth Objects (NEOs) -- the scientific term for asteroids as well as comets.

"(It) will guarantee operators the right to resources harvested in outer space in accordance with international law," the ministry said.

"Space resources-dedicated licences will be issued under the new law, and government supervision of the activities of operators and regulating their rights and obligations will be ensured by Luxembourg in accordance with the Outer Space Treaty."

Luxembourg already has a successful industry for satellite services as well as its highly lucrative banking sector.

The proposed law aims at offering a more pro-business environment compared to legislation passed in the United States in 2015.

Unlike the US, Luxembourg law on asteroid mining will extend not only to local companies but also to foreign corporations which are established in the duchy.

The law will only be at national level, but Luxembourg intends at the same time to promote a legal regulatory framework internationally, Prime Minister Xavier Bettel was quoted as saying.

The government announced a funding incentive of 200 million euros ($226 million) to encourage research and development in asteroid mining.

Two US companies have already established "legal entities" in Luxembourg, the ministry said.

They are Deep Space Industries, which is working on a concept of a future spacecraft for asteroid mining, and Planetary Resources, a startup co-financed by Google pioneer Larry Page, which is keen on developing exploration satellites.

- Profit in NEOs? -

Asteroids are primeval rubble left from the building of the Solar System some four billion years ago.

The main asteroid belt lies very far from Earth, between Mars and Jupiter.

However, many asteroids are bumped out of the belt, and some of these veer close to Earth in their orbit around the Sun.

These so-called NEOs would thus the target for mining ships that -- theoretically -- would land on the asteroid, extract raw material and maybe even process it.

So-called Type C asteroids have drawn the most interest, as they are believed to have a high content of water, carbon, sulphur, nitrogen, phosphorus and ferrous metals.

The mining is likely to be carried out by robots rather than humans, given the high risks and costs of manned space missions.

However, asteroids could also be a stepping stone for planetary exploration, some hope. Manned spaceships would land there to refuel and stock up on water, according to this vision.

Source: Space Daily.
Link: http://www.spacedaily.com/reports/Luxembourg_takes_first_steps_to_asteroid_mining_law_999.html.

Roman anger over corruption helps anti-establishment party

June 06, 2016

ROME (AP) — An anti-establishment candidate in Rome comfortably clinched a runoff mayoral election slot, according to results Monday, as Romans disgusted by corruption scandals and deteriorating city services largely turned away from traditional left-wing and right-wing parties.

Virginia Raggi of the 5-Star Movement took 35.3 percent of the vote Sunday in the Italian capital, trailed by Premier Matteo Renzi's Democratic Party candidate Roberto Giachetti, with just under 25 percent. Since no candidate took more than 50 percent in balloting, the top two face a runoff June 19.

Renzi's candidate for Milan, Giuseppe Sala, widely praised for smooth management of that city's Expo 2015, finished just ahead of center-right challenger Stefano Paris. Both head to a runoff. On Monday, Renzi sought to discourage interpretation of Democratic Party local results as judgment on his government, now in its third year. He cited "local dynamics" in the races across the nation, including in two other big cities, Naples and Turin.

"It's not a debacle but it's not enough for us because we want more," Renzi said. He is staking his survival as premier on the outcome of a voter referendum in October on a centerpiece reform of his center-left coalition: a drastic overhaul of Parliament's structure to streamline the lawmaking process.

Calling Sunday's results a "protest vote," Renzi contended that voters in October will draw on that same angry mood to confirm his reform, which strips the Senate of lawmaking powers, leaving that job to the lower Chamber of Deputies.

A political analyst ventured a different interpretation. "Yesterday's vote suggests that the electorate is increasingly volatile and party identification is further declining," said Wolfango Piccoli, a London-based director of research at Teneo Intelligence, a political risk consultancy. "This makes the referendum outcome even less predictable."

The 5-Star Movement founder, comic Beppe Grillo, hailed the results, including Raggi's impressive showing in Rome and a runoff berth for a 5-Star candidate in the industrial town of Turin. Raggi said she drew on her experiences as a mother in Rome in deciding she had something to offer if she becomes the city's first female mayor. She cites rundown playgrounds and chaotic traffic, including chronic double-parking making it difficult to maneuver baby strollers.

Giachetti, her rival in the runoff, said "there's an angry city that wanted to show this anger and I don't underestimate anything." For several years, Rome prosecutors have been unearthing corruption and mafia-like threats by cliques linked to both former right-wing and center-left local politicians in divvying up city contracts, including ones to house and feed migrants. Buses from the mass transit agency, long a source of patronage jobs, frequently break down, and drivers frequently strike. Traffic police staged a mass "sickout" last New Year's Eve without punishment.

The June 19 runoff will be an opportunity to "rewrite" the city's future, Raggi told Italian news agency ANSA. Since last fall, Rome has lacked a mayor. The last one, a Democrat, gradually lost Renzi's support and resigned as he failed to turn the badly-managed city around.

Indirectly helping Giachetti, and not a right-wing candidate, to snag the second Rome runoff berth was former Premier Silvio Berlusconi, who backed a rival center-right candidate, effectively splitting the right-bloc's votes, further indication of his waning political influence on conservatives.

Mayoral races in Italy's 5 biggest cities head to runoffs

June 05, 2016

MILAN (AP) — Mayoral races on Sunday in Italy's five biggest cities, including the capital Rome, appeared headed to runoffs after no candidate managed the 50-percent hurdle needed to win outright, exit polls and early returns indicated.

The local elections in towns and cities across the country, accounting for one-quarter of Italy's voting population, were a test of support for Prime Minister Matteo Renzi's governing Democratic Party.

Turnout appeared abysmally low, below 60 percent in each of the five biggest races, which commentators said was partially due to the single day of voting, compared with two days five years ago, held over a long holiday weekend.

The anti-establishment 5-Star movement was leading the Rome ballot in early returns, as a broad corruption scandal and deteriorating public services have soured many voters on traditional parties. Exit polls showed the 5-Star candidate, Virginia Raggi, was headed to a runoff against either the Democratic Party candidate or that of the center right, who were battling for second place.

In Milan, early returns showed two centrist-managers appeared aded to a runoff, with the former manager of Expo 2015, Giuseppe Sala, running as the Democratic Party candidate against former city manager Stefano Parisi who has broad center-right backing.

The runoffs are scheduled for June 19.

Mayor of declining German town wants migrants to fill gaps

June 10, 2016

HETTSTEDT, Germany (AP) — Nestled in the foothills of Germany's Harz mountains, Hettstedt has many points of pride: idyllic surroundings, a history dating back nearly 1,000 years and a traditional copper industry that brought ages of prosperity and prestige.

What the town doesn't have, if predictions prove true, is a future. Hettstedt has been hemorrhaging residents since communism collapsed in East Germany 26 years ago, stoking economic competition and giving young people newfound freedom to travel in search of adventure and opportunity. Where once 20,000 people lived, only 15,000 remain today, with the loss of another 5,000 forecast in the coming decade.

The man who hopes to reverse this demographic decline is Hettstedt's mayor, a jovial 38-year-old lawyer with a radical idea: Why not take advantage of the influx of migrants to Germany and settle some of them here?

"I see this as a huge chance, that through migration we can become more open-minded, but also fill the skills gaps," Danny Kavalier said in an interview at his office overlooking the medieval town square.

But Kavalier's idea is sensitive in a region with few foreigners and strong anti-immigrant sentiment. In March, a fledgling nationalist party called Alternative for Germany received more than 30 percent of votes in the region, reflecting hostility to Chancellor Angela Merkel's refugee policy that permitted almost 1.1 million asylum-seekers to arrive last year.

The 3-year-old party argues that the country can't integrate hundreds of thousands of Muslims because their traditions and beliefs conflict with German values. "I think it's a bit narrow-minded to think you can preserve Hettstedt as a town solely with refugees," said Jens Diederichs, a regional lawmaker for Alternative for Germany, who favors increasing state incentives for families to have children. "We should do more for our own children and youth."

Kavalier, mayor since 2011, says the departure of thousands of young Hettstedters in the early 1990s caused lasting damage to the birth rate and workforce in a town where the average age today is approaching 50. Local employers already complain they can't recruit enough apprentices, and bigger labor supply problems loom with much of the workforce poised for retirement within the coming decade.

The mayor says he's realistic about the pace of social change that locals should be expected to accept. With 233 asylum-seekers currently resident, he says the arrival of 10 to 15 foreign families a year would best enliven the town's prospects again.

One of those seeking acceptance is Rawad Younes, a 33-year-old electrician from the Syrian coastal city of Latakia. He came to Germany seven months ago and lives in a shelter for asylum-seekers on the edge of Hettstedt.

"First of all I want to learn perfect German," he said shyly, displaying a passable command of the language already. "And then I want to find work in my profession." When asked about Syrians' experiences in Germany, Younes switched to Arabic.

"We find it difficult here, difficult to make German friends," he said. "There is a certain perception of refugees that's kind of difficult to deal with. We don't know what will become of us. Maybe things will get better for refugees. But the most difficult thing we face here is integrating with Germans."

Younes noted that some Germans appeared unwelcoming to migrants "because they feel (they) already have enough problems." Anti-immigrant feeling in Hettstedt has swelled on social media, with some locals complaining of the costs of providing housing and food aid. Kavalier, a member of Merkel's Christian Democratic Union, is countering such criticism by making a case grounded in morality and economic necessity.

Kavalier listed amenities at risk of closure if Hettstedt cannot maintain its tax intake and young population: the library, swimming pool, museum and three out of four primary schools. Utility bills also would rise more quickly, he said.

"A sinking population means fewer people have to pay more money to maintain the structures," he said. He and council allies have sought to highlight the upsides of immigration in other ways. After one recent town hall meeting, they invited refugees to serve Middle Eastern food.

"Love goes through the stomach," Kavalier suggested. The greatest sense of appreciation may well be generated on Hettstedt's soccer field, where the town team has just completed an undefeated season and won promotion to a higher league thanks to a squad that includes three Syrians.

"They're absolutely key players," said Michael Thiesler, manager of FC Hettstedt. "They've brought us forward a great deal and contributed a lot to our success." Thiesler, 36, noted that before the Syrian athletes arrived, he sometimes had to don a jersey himself to ensure they could field a full team. He said fellow players and fans have welcomed the immigrant talent.

"If people perform well, they're accepted and then over time you get to know each other," he said. "I've never heard anything negative from the fans." Even the nationalist lawmaker, Diederichs, said he wanted to see newcomers join sports and cultural clubs. "It's important that they can develop a sense of belonging here," he said.

But not every migrant can win local affections by scoring goals. For many, daily life offers physical challenge enough, partly because the main shelter is nowhere near Hettstedt's center. "It's really good here, but the market is really far from where I live. I get tired," said Abed Alsalam Lahafi, a father of three in his 50s who hopes to find a home closer to town.

Lahafi said his sons were hoping to finish high school in Hettstedt, while his 7-year-old daughter was enrolled in a local primary school and already speaking more German than her parents. As his daughter cheerfully counted to 10 in German, Lahafi said in Arabic, "We too will learn, God willing."

Kavalier faces re-election in two years. He says he's concerned about growing support for the Alternative for Germany party — but even more concerned by the lack of enthusiasm for his pro-refugee stance among some in his own Christian Democratic Union.

"I'm a bit disappointed, to be honest, that there's so little bravery to take advantage of this opportunity," he said.

Associated Press reporters Hamza Hendawi in Cairo and Donogh McCabe in Berlin contributed to this story.

German President Joachim Gauck won't seek a 2nd term

June 06, 2016

BERLIN (AP) — Germany's head of state, 76-year-old President Joachim Gauck, said Monday he won't seek a second term in 2017 due to his age, a move that could cause complications for Chancellor Angela Merkel heading into an election year.

Gauck told reporters at his office in Berlin he would complete his five-year term but didn't feel he was up to another because "the years between 77 and 82 are different than those that I'm in right now."

"Until the end of my term, I will seriously and happily fulfill my duties," he said. Following the announcement, Merkel said she had been hoping Gauck would stay for a second term but that "I respect the decision of the president."

A new president will be chosen in February, an awkward time for Merkel who faces national elections later in 2017. With no obvious successor for Gauck, the search for a candidate seems likely to be complicated as factions in Merkel's coalition government seek their own nominee.

There are already questions over whether her Christian Democratic Union and Bavarian-only sister party Christian Social Union will be able to agree upon a joint candidate, and many see the situation as a test of Merkel's authority.

Some names being mentioned include Merkel's Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble, or Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who is a member of Merkel's coalition partner Social Democrats. Merkel said she would hold broad discussions about a successor to Gauck beyond her CDU-CSU party circle but was not more specific.

Germany's president performs a largely ceremonial role that has little executive power, but is considered an important moral authority. Last year, Gauck labeled the killings of Armenians by Ottoman Turks a century ago as "genocide" in a speech supported by the German government, marking a shift in the country's stance after officials previously avoided the term. His words were echoed last week in a resolution passed by Germany's Parliament.

In a gesture of reconciliation in 2013, Gauck met with French President Francois Hollande at the site of the largest civilian massacre in Nazi-occupied France, Oradour-sur-Glane, saying he shared the bitterness of those in France "over the fact that the murderers have not been brought to justice." It was the first visit to the ghost town by a serving German leader.

More recently, Gauck has also spoken out against the rise of anti-Islam populist groups and their anti-migrant message, saying Germans should remember its own nation's history of fleeing war and persecution.

Gauck, a former East German pro-democracy activist with no political affiliation, won wide backing from Germany's mainstream parties when elected by lawmakers in 2012 and is very popular, with recent polls showing about 70 percent supporting him for a second term.

"This decision was not easy for me, because I consider it a great honor to serve this country," Gauck said.

Kirsten Grieshaber contributed to this report.

Paris museum reopens as French floods slowly ease

June 05, 2016

PARIS (AP) — The riverside Grand Palais exhibition hall in Paris reopened Sunday as floodwaters slowly receded from the French capital, after the worst floods in three decades caused the Seine River to burst its banks.

Other regions remained at risk, notably parts of Normandy, as digging out began in villages and towns around the French capital. The Louvre Museum, several Paris train stations and roads remained closed. Quayside restaurants along the Seine were still engulfed in water Sunday and tourist boats were unable to pass under bridges, a blow to the riverside economy.

The glass-topped Grand Palais, built for the 1900 World's Fair and currently hosting an exhibit by avant-garde Chinese artist Huang Yong Ping among several others, opened again Sunday after closing Friday because of flood risks.

Elsewhere, emergency crews were pumping water out of a key Paris highway interchange. South of the capital, 300 cars and big rigs trapped for four days on a highway were being removed and returned to their owners who had been forced to abandon them. The complex, daylong operation "is going quite well," Gendarmerie Capt. Laurent Terrien told BFM-TV.

After a week of exceptionally heavy rains around Europe, at least 18 people died in flooding in Germany, France, Romania and Belgium. New thunderstorms were forecast for eastern France on Sunday. In Normandy, the Seine River was expected to peak later in the day. More than 11,000 French homes are still without electricity.

President Francois Hollande said ministers involved in the flooding will examine the consequences on Monday at a meeting presided over by Prime Minister Manuel Valls. Wednesday's Cabinet meeting will also focus on the floods, he said in an interview with France Inter radio.

"We are very vigilant so that should there be more bad weather, there won't be consequences," Hollande said, adding he was confident the monthlong European Championship soccer tournament that starts on Friday would be a flood-free event.

In Paris, the Seine peaked Saturday and the national flood service said it would remain about 4 meters (more than 13 feet) above normal Sunday. Authorities warn it will take up to 10 days for the river to return to normal.

The flood risks along the Seine moved downstream after forcing thousands from their homes and houseboats earlier this week. West of Paris, it overflowed around the medieval city of Rouen overnight, but the local administration said Sunday the damage was "localized and limited" and severe flood warnings for the area were lifted.

Townsfolk were digging out southeast of Paris in the hard-hit Seine-et-Marne region around Nemours, where the Loing River overflowed. Small animals at a local zoo were among the victims. BFM-TV showed what looked like the lifeless body of a baby lamb hanging in tree branches.

German authorities on Sunday pulled the plug on the Rock am Ring music festival west of Frankfurt after a new storm warning was issued. Late Friday, a lightning storm sent 70 people from the festival to the hospital.

Angela Charlton contributed to this report.

Seine River peaks in Paris, top museums stay shut for days

June 04, 2016

PARIS (AP) — The Seine River peaked early Saturday around Paris, hitting its highest level in nearly 35 years — almost 4.5 meters (15 feet) above average — then began a slow descent. That drew a collective sigh of relief but authorities cautioned it could take up to 10 days for the river to return to normal.

It will take at least four days before tourists in the French capital get a chance to view art at the world-class Louvre Museum, where workers have been scrambling to move 250,000 artworks from basement storage areas to rooms upstairs to keep them safe from flooding.

The Louvre, home to Leonardo da Vinci's "Mona Lisa," said it won't reopen until Wednesday, while the Orsay Museum, known for its impressionist art, was closed at least through the weekend. Other Paris landmarks shut down due to flooding include the national library and the Grand Palais, Paris' opulent exhibition center, which was built more than 100 years ago.

Nearly a week of heavy rain has led to serious flooding across parts of France, Germany, Romania and Belgium. The death toll from flooding in France rose to four, with 24 others injured, French Prime Minister Manuel Valls said Saturday after a government crisis meeting, bringing the flooding death toll across Europe to 18.

A regional lawmaker in Bavaria, Michael Fahrmueller, was quoted by the dpa news agency as estimating that economic damages from flooding in Lower Bavaria would be over 1 billion euros ($1.14 billion). He said 5,000 homes were affected — 500 of them beyond repair — and 200 bridges destroyed.

No damages estimates have been made yet for flooding in France. In Germany, where 11 people have died from flooding, another weather catastrophe struck when a lightning storm hit a rock festival west of Frankfurt late Friday, sending more than 70 people to the hospital. The Rock am Ring festival was suspended Saturday, with organizers urging tens of thousands of festival-goers to seek shelter.

In France, Environment Minister Segolene Royal said camping sites in the Bois de Boulogne and Maison Laffitte, just outside Paris, were evacuated, along with some nursing homes and medical facilities in the Yvelines region west of Paris and in Hauts-de-Seine, to the northwest. She did not elaborate.

Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo said water levels on the Seine in the city were dropping at less than one centimeter per hour, and cautioned vigilance. "Under Paris, it's really like Swiss cheese with canalizations, the Metro, sometimes huge working spaces," she said.

The swollen Seine, where riverside restaurants are partially flooded and floating barges are unable to pass under bridges, was becoming a tourist attraction in itself. Gawkers, tourists and Parisians alike leaned off bridges or ventured down steps toward flooded roadways and jogging paths.

"It's impressive. Very impressive," said Marijke Engelvaart from Apelsdoorn in the Netherlands. "You see it on television, but if you see it live, it makes more of an impression." France's meteorological service said Saturday that high flood alerts remained in effect in 14 regions, mostly in central and western France.

Valls, the prime minister, said water levels were decreasing "slowly but steadily." He waded in rubber boots through the streets of a town in the Essonne region south of Paris. Even as the peak water level passed, transportation problems remained throughout the French capital. Several train and subway stations were shut down in the city center and flooded roads abounded.

One of the Seine's tributaries had not seen water levels this high since 1910, when the Great Flood of Paris swamped the capital. Boats and barges docked in Paris were being carefully watched to ensure none would cast off their moorings.

"It's just water," said Nicolas Hainsohn, a houseboat resident, told The Associated Press. "(But) it's tricky to dock, because you need to follow the water flow. You have to be careful, otherwise you can hit the river bank."

Mstyslav Chernov and Chris Den Hond in Paris and Frank Jordans in Berlin contributed to this report.

Austria suggests interning migrants on Greek islands

June 05, 2016

BERLIN (AP) — Austria's foreign minister is proposing interning migrants on Greek islands. In a newspaper interview, Sebastian Kurz says Europe could copy Australia's model of intercepting migrant boats offshore — either sending them back or keeping them in island camps until their asylum claims have been processed.

Human rights groups have criticized the practice as inhumane and a breach of international law. Kurz told Austrian newspaper Die Presse in an interview published Sunday that "of course the Australian model can't be copied one-to-one, but the basic principle can be applied to Europe too."

He said someone who is on an island such as Lesbos and stands little chance of getting asylum is more likely to return home than someone who already has an apartment in Vienna or Berlin.

Prominent activist freed in Bahrain leaves for Denmark

June 11, 2016

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — A prominent activist in Bahrain said early Saturday she left the tiny island kingdom after recently being freed from prison, the latest protester to go into exile five years after its Arab Spring demonstrations.

Zainab al-Khawaja is the daughter of well-known activist Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, who himself is serving a life sentence over his role in the protests that saw the island's Shiite majority and others demand more political freedom from its Sunni rulers.

In a series of messages on Twitter, al-Khawaja said she had left the country. Her family confirmed she left with two children to Denmark, where she also has citizenship. The "regime that thinks exile means moving us away from our land should know, we carry (hashtag)Bahrain in our hearts wherever we go," she wrote.

Al-Khawaja was detained March 14 and faced three years in prison on charges related to her participation in anti-government protests, including tearing up pictures of Bahraini King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa. She was in prison with her infant son, Abdulhadi, prior to her release.

Al-Khawaja said Bahrain was preparing to file new charges against her that would have made her detention "indefinite." Bahrain's government and its state-run news agency did not immediately comment on al-Khawaja leaving the country.

Bahrain, home to the U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet, crushed the 2011 protests after several weeks with the help of troops from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. In the time since, the island has faced low-level unrest, protests and attacks on police.

Other prominent opposition figures and human-rights activists remain imprisoned. Some have had their citizenship stripped by the government and been deported.

Astronomers smash cosmic records to see hydrogen in distant galaxy

Perth, Australia (SPX)
Jun 06, 2016

An international team of scientists has pushed the limits of radio astronomy to detect a faint signal emitted by hydrogen gas in a galaxy more than five billion light years away - almost double the previous record.

Using the Very Large Array of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory in the US, the team observed radio emission from hydrogen in a distant galaxy and found that it would have contained billions of young, massive stars surrounded by clouds of hydrogen gas.

As the most abundant element in the Universe and the raw fuel for creating stars, hydrogen is used by radio astronomers to detect and understand the makeup of other galaxies.

However, until now, radio telescopes have only been able to detect the emission signature of hydrogen from relatively nearby galaxies.

"Due to the upgrade of the Very Large Array, this is the first time we've been able to directly measure atomic hydrogen in a galaxy this far from Earth," lead author, Dr Ximena Fernandez from Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, said.

"These signals would have begun their journey before our planet even existed, and after five billion years of travelling through space without hitting anything, they've fallen into the telescope and allowed us to see this distant galaxy for the very first time."

As an archaeologist digs down they find older and older objects. The same is true for astronomers - as they build bigger telescopes and develop new techniques to see farther into the Universe, they look further and further back in time.

"This is precisely the goal of the project, to study how gas in galaxies has changed through history," Dr Fernandez said.

"A question we hope to answer is whether galaxies in the past had more gas being turned into stars than galaxies today. Our record breaking find is a galaxy with an unusually large amount of hydrogen."

This success for the team comes after the first 178 hours of observing time with the Karl G. Jansky Very Large Array (VLA) radio telescope for a new survey of the sky called the 'COSMOS HI Large Extragalactic Survey', or CHILES for short.

Once it's completed the CHILES survey will have collected data from more than 1,000 hours of observing time.

In a new approach, members of the team including Dr Attila Popping from International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research and the ARC Centre of All-sky Astrophysics (CAASTRO) in Australia are working with Amazon Web Services to process and move the large volumes of data via the 'cloud'.

"For this project we took tens of terabytes of data from the Very Large Array, and then processed it using Amazon's cloud-based servers to create an enormous image cube, ready for our team to analyse and explore," Dr Popping said.

Professor Andreas Wicenec, head of the Data Intensive Astronomy team at the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research, said the limiting factor for radio astronomers used to be the size of the telescope and the hardware behind it.

"It's fast becoming more about the data and how you move, store and analyse vast volumes of information," he said.

"Big science needs a lot of compute power - right now we're designing systems to manage data for several large facilities around the world and the next generation of radio telescopes, including China's 500m radio telescope, the Square Kilometre Array and the SKA's pathfinder telescopes that are already up and running in outback Western Australia."

Source: Space Daily.
Link: http://www.spacedaily.com/reports/Astronomers_smash_cosmic_records_to_see_hydrogen_in_distant_galaxy_999.html.

SpaceX could send people to Mars by 2024, Elon Musk says

by Shawn Price
Los Angeles (UPI)
Jun 3, 2016

SpaceX Chief Elon Musk is predicting his company will be able to launch humans to Mars by 2024.

Speaking at Code Conference in Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif. on Wednesday, Musk said if there are no delays, there could be a human colony on Mars by 2025 and promised to give more details of his company's "architecture for Mars colonization" at a global space conference in September.

"What really matters is being able to transport large numbers of people and ultimately millions of tons of cargo to Mars," Musk said. "That's what's necessary in order to create a ... growing city on Mars."

SpaceX announced plans in April to send an unmanned Dragon Version 2 craft to the red planet possibly as soon as 2018, with the goal of landing large payloads there without parachutes or airbags or aerodynamic decelerators.

Musk acknowledged a schedule more ambitious than NASA's, that isn't intending to put a man on Mars until the at least the 2030s.

"When I cite a schedule, it is actually the schedule I think is true," said Musk. "It's not some fake schedule that I don't think is true. It may be delusional. That is entirely possible from time to time. But it's never some knowingly fake deadline ever."

He also implied he could one day move to Mars for good. "I think if you're going to choose a place to die, then Mars is probably not a bad choice," Musk said.

Source: Mars Daily.
Link: http://www.marsdaily.com/reports/SpaceX_could_send_people_to_Mars_by_2024_Elon_Musk_says_999.html.

NATO troops in massive airborne exercise in Poland

June 07, 2016

TORUN, Poland (AP) — Some 2,000 NATO troops from the U.S., Britain and Poland are conducting an airborne operation as part of the biggest exercise performed in Poland since the 1989 end of communism and amid concerns over Russia.

The troops are to parachute Tuesday near the central city of Torun, where they are to secure a bridge on the Vistula River, as part of Polish-led exercise that involves some 31,000 troops. Russia considers NATO troops' presence close to its border as a security threat. President Vladimir Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Tuesday in Moscow that the military exercise in Poland "does not contribute to the atmosphere of trust and security on the continent."

The Polish command of the exercise says the operation is transparent and international observers have been invited.

Periodic table elements named for Moscow, Japan, Tennessee

June 08, 2016

NEW YORK (AP) — You'll soon see four new names on the periodic table of the elements, including three that honor Moscow, Japan and Tennessee. The names are among four recommended Wednesday by an international scientific group. The fourth is named for a Russian scientist.

The International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry, which rules on chemical element names, presented its proposal for public review. The names had been submitted by the element discoverers. The four elements, known now by their numbers, completed the seventh row of the periodic table when the chemistry organization verified their discoveries last December.

Tennessee is the second U.S. state to be recognized with an element; California was the first. Element names can come from places, mythology, names of scientists or traits of the element. Other examples: americium, einsteinium and titanium.

Joining more familiar element names such as hydrogen, carbon and lead are: — moscovium (mah-SKOH'-vee-um), symbol Mc, for element 115, and tennessine (TEH'-neh-seen), symbol Ts, for element 117. The discovery team is from the Joint Institute for Nuclear Research in Dubna, Russia, the Oak Ridge National Laboratory and Vanderbilt University in Tennessee, and the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California.

Vanderbilt physics professor Joseph Hamilton, who played a role in the discoveries, proposed naming an element for Tennessee. He had hoped to use the symbol Tn, but it had been used in the past and couldn't be reassigned to the new element.

— oganesson (OH'-gah-NEH'-sun), symbol Og, for element 118. The name honors Russian physicist Yuri Oganessian. — nihonium (nee-HOH'-nee-um), symbol Nh, for element 113. The element was discovered in Japan, and Nihon is one way to say the country's name in Japanese. It's the first element to be discovered in an Asian country.

An official at a Japanese institute involved in the discovery said the name was chosen to recognize government funding for the project. "We wanted to show our research has been supported by the Japanese people," said Kosuke Morita, a research group director at the RIKEN Nishina Center for Accelerator-based Science.

The public comment period will end Nov. 8.

AP reporters Sheila Burke in Nashville and Satoshi Sugiyama in Wako, Japan, contributed to this report.

Boxing legend Muhammad Ali dies at 74

June 4, 2016

Muhammad Ali, one of the most influential sports figures in the 20th century, has passed at the age of 74 in Phoenix, U.S., a family spokesman has confirmed to media.

A boxing legend, Ali won the heavyweight title three times and was known for his unorthodox fighting style merging power and agility. Off the ring, he was famous throughout the globe for his charismatic personality, as well as social and political activism.

“After a 32-year battle with Parkinson’s disease, Muhammad Ali has passed away at the age of 74. The three-time World Heavyweight Champion boxer died this evening,” family spokesman Bob Gunnell told NBC News.

In 1967, three years after he won his first title, Ali refused to be drafted during the Vietnam War even though he registered for military service, presenting himself as a conscientious objector. Ali was stripped of his title, had his boxing license suspended, and a court found him guilty of draft evasion. His conviction was eventually reversed by the Supreme Court.

As the tide turned and public opinion shifted on the war, Ali became a spokesman for the anti-war sentiment, giving speeches at universities across the United States, even as he became increasingly active in the Civil Rights movement.

A convert to Islam, Ali advocated religious freedom. Initially a member of the Nation of Islam movement, which combined elements of religion and African American political activism, Ali converted to Sunni Islam after falling out with the group in 1975.

Ali leaves behind his wife Lonnie, seven daughters and two sons, as well as a legacy likely to remain unmatched as a boxer and world-renowned public figure.

Source: Middle East Monitor.
Link: https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20160604-boxing-legend-muhammad-ali-dies-at-74/.