Two Thieves Steal Bells from Historic Church in Libya

The bronze bell 'Etienne', one of the eight bells for the Notre-Dame Cathedral. Reuters
The bronze bell 'Etienne', one of the eight bells for the Notre-Dame Cathedral. Reuters
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Two Thieves Steal Bells from Historic Church in Libya

The bronze bell 'Etienne', one of the eight bells for the Notre-Dame Cathedral. Reuters
The bronze bell 'Etienne', one of the eight bells for the Notre-Dame Cathedral. Reuters

Two thieves sneaked to the historic Saint Mary's Church in the old city of Tripoli, Libya, stole its copper bells and sold them in a scrap market, at a time when Libyan antiquities are being easily stolen and smuggled abroad.

On its Facebook page, the Tripoli Security Directorate (TSD) said it had arrested two persons after they admitted to stealing two bells from the church, and selling them to a scrap merchant.

TSD noted that it had managed to recover one of the stolen items, while the search continued for the other.

The Directorate has warned merchants from buying any items suspected of theft, and asked them to inform the authorities in case of any suspicion.

Libyans in Tripoli live amid fear of robberies, kidnapping, blackmailing, and killing.

Saint Mary's Church of Tripoli was built in 1615, restored in 1829, and then closed in 1970.

Mohamed al-Sawi, curator at Tobruk Museum told Asharq Al-Awsat that Libyan antiquities are being stolen and smuggled abroad, noting that citizens sometimes find some precious historic pieces and hand them over to the museum.



Japan Demographic Woes Deepen as Birth Rate Hits Record Low

People use their umbrellas to shelter from the rain as they walk through Shibuya district in Tokyo on June 2, 2023. (AFP)
People use their umbrellas to shelter from the rain as they walk through Shibuya district in Tokyo on June 2, 2023. (AFP)
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Japan Demographic Woes Deepen as Birth Rate Hits Record Low

People use their umbrellas to shelter from the rain as they walk through Shibuya district in Tokyo on June 2, 2023. (AFP)
People use their umbrellas to shelter from the rain as they walk through Shibuya district in Tokyo on June 2, 2023. (AFP)

Japan's birth rate declined for the seventh consecutive year in 2022 to a record low, the health ministry said on Friday, underscoring the sense of crisis gripping the country as the population shrinks and ages rapidly.

The fertility rate, or the average number of children born to a woman in her lifetime, was 1.2565. That compares with the previous low of 1.2601 posted in 2005 and is far below the rate of 2.07 considered necessary to maintain a stable population.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has made arresting the country's sliding birth rate a top priority and his government, despite high levels of debt, plans to earmark spending of 3.5 trillion yen ($25 billion) a year on child care and other measures to support parents.

"The youth population will start decreasing drastically in the 2030s. The period of time until then is our last chance to reverse the trend of dwindling births," he said this week while visiting a daycare facility.

The pandemic has exacerbated Japan's demographic challenges, with fewer marriages in recent years contributing to fewer births and COVID-19 partly responsible for more deaths.

The number of newborns in Japan slid 5% to 770,747 last year, a new low, while the number of deaths shot 9% higher to a record 1.57 million, the data showed. More than 47,000 deaths in Japan last year were caused by the coronavirus pandemic.


Biden Trips, Tumbles on Air Force Stage

US President Joe Biden is helped up after falling during the graduation ceremony at the United States Air Force Academy. Brendan Smialowski / AFP
US President Joe Biden is helped up after falling during the graduation ceremony at the United States Air Force Academy. Brendan Smialowski / AFP
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Biden Trips, Tumbles on Air Force Stage

US President Joe Biden is helped up after falling during the graduation ceremony at the United States Air Force Academy. Brendan Smialowski / AFP
US President Joe Biden is helped up after falling during the graduation ceremony at the United States Air Force Academy. Brendan Smialowski / AFP

President Joe Biden took a face-first tumble on Thursday after tripping over an obstacle on stage at the Air Force Academy in Colorado, but he appeared unhurt -- and joked about it later.

Biden, 80, who had delivered the commencement address to graduates of the military academy, had just shaken hands with a cadet and begun walking back to his seat when he fell, AFP said.

Air Force personnel helped him back up and he did not appear to require further help.

As he rose, Biden pointed to the object that had apparently caught his foot. It resembled a small black sandbag on the stage.

White House Communications Director Ben LaBolt tweeted shortly afterward that "he's fine. There was a sandbag on stage while he was shaking hands."

Returning by Air Force One and Marine One to the White House later, Biden had another spot of bad luck: he bumped his head exiting the door of the helicopter.

He showed no sign of injury as he walked across the South Lawn and quipped to reporters that "I got sandbagged."

Biden is the oldest person ever in the presidency and is seeking a second term in the 2024 election. His official doctor's report this year declared him physically fit and he exercises regularly.

In November 2020, shortly after winning his election against the incumbent Donald Trump, Biden broke his foot while playing with a pet dog.


Saudi Arabia’s KSRNR Accorded Government Member Status at Int’l Union for Conservation of Nature

Saudi Arabia’s KSRNR Accorded Government Member Status at Int’l Union for Conservation of Nature
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Saudi Arabia’s KSRNR Accorded Government Member Status at Int’l Union for Conservation of Nature

Saudi Arabia’s KSRNR Accorded Government Member Status at Int’l Union for Conservation of Nature

The King Salman bin Abdulaziz Royal Reserve Development Authority (KSRNR) has been officially announced as a government member of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) for its efforts in protecting ecosystems, habitats, and wildlife and empowering local communities and involving them in its activities.

Among the first agencies in the Kingdom to obtain membership in IUCN, KSRNR will now have access to the international databases specialized in ecosystem and wildlife protection and utilize the expertise of more than 18,000 experts working in the union.

Securing a seat in the IUNC will enable the authority to establish partnerships and exchange expertise with the union’s members, improve its nature protection activities according to international standards, and ensure environmental sustainability as per the Saudi Vision 2030 and the Saudi Green Initiative targets.


Al Hussein, Rajwa Wedding Captivates Jordan and the World

Jordan's Crown Prince Al Hussein bin Abdullah and Rajwa Al-Saif are greeted as they walk together on the day of their royal wedding, in Amman, Jordan, June 1, 2023. (Royal Hashemite Court (RHC)/Handout via Reuters)
Jordan's Crown Prince Al Hussein bin Abdullah and Rajwa Al-Saif are greeted as they walk together on the day of their royal wedding, in Amman, Jordan, June 1, 2023. (Royal Hashemite Court (RHC)/Handout via Reuters)
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Al Hussein, Rajwa Wedding Captivates Jordan and the World

Jordan's Crown Prince Al Hussein bin Abdullah and Rajwa Al-Saif are greeted as they walk together on the day of their royal wedding, in Amman, Jordan, June 1, 2023. (Royal Hashemite Court (RHC)/Handout via Reuters)
Jordan's Crown Prince Al Hussein bin Abdullah and Rajwa Al-Saif are greeted as they walk together on the day of their royal wedding, in Amman, Jordan, June 1, 2023. (Royal Hashemite Court (RHC)/Handout via Reuters)

Jordan's Crown Prince Al Hussein bin Abdullah married Saudi architect Rajwa Al-Saif on Thursday in a palace ceremony attended by royals and other VIPs from around the world, as massive crowds gathered across the kingdom to celebrate the region's newest power couple.

Rajwa is daughter to Khalid bin Musaed bin Saif bin Abdulaziz Al-Saif and Azza bint Nayef Abdulaziz Ahmed Al-Sudairi. The wedding drew a star-studded guest list including Britain's Prince William and his wife Kate, US First Lady Jill Biden, Iraqi President Abdul Latif Rashid and his wife Shanaz Ibrahim Ahmed, Crown Prince Frederik of Denmark and Crown Princess Mary, King Philippe of Belgium, Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden, Cyprus first lady Philippa Karsera, and Queen Jetsun Pema of Bhutan.

The bride, wearing an elegant white dress by Lebanese designer Elie Saab, arrived at Zahran Palace in a 1968 Rolls-Royce Phantom V custom-made for the crown prince’s late great grandmother. The crown prince arrived earlier in full ceremonial military uniform with a gold-hilted saber.

The families and their guests gathered in an open-air gazebo decked with flowers and surrounded by landscaped gardens for a traditional Muslim wedding. The crowd erupted in applause after the signing of the marriage contract. Al-Saif will henceforth be known as Her Royal Highness Princess Rajwa Al Hussein, according to a royal decree.

Several miles away, a jolt went through a packed ancient Roman amphitheater as viewers watched the couple seal their vows and exchange rings on a wide screen. After several minutes of stillness, the crowd of some 18,000 people were on their feet, waving flags and shrieking with excitement at one of several viewing parties held across the nation.

Samara Aqrabawi, a 55-year-old mother watching the livestream with her young daughter, said the ceremony was more impressive than she imagined. “I wish for all mothers and fathers in Jordan and in the world to feel like they’re surely feeling,” she said of the king and queen.

The newlyweds later emerged from the palace in a white custom Range Rover escorted by several bright red Land Rovers, motorcycles and a military marching band — a nod to the traditional horse-mounted processions during the reign of the country's founder, King Abdullah I.

The kingdom declared Thursday a public holiday so crowds of people could gather to wave at the couple’s motorcade amid a heavy security presence across the city. Tens of thousands of well-wishers attended free concerts and cultural events.

On Thursday morning, Saudi wedding guests and tourists — the men wearing white dishdasha robes and the women in brightly colored abayas — filtered through the marbled lobby of the Four Seasons Hotel in Amman.

“We are all so excited, so happy about this union,” said Noura Al-Sudairi, an aunt of the bride. “Of course it’s a beautiful thing for our families, and for the relationship between Jordan and Saudi Arabia.”

Excitement over the nuptials — Jordan’s biggest royal event in decades — has been building in the capital of Amman, where congratulatory banners of Hussein and his beaming bride adorn buses and hang over winding hillside streets. Shops had competing displays of royal regalia.

“She looks like such a princess that I think she deserves him,” Suhair Afaneh, a 37-year-old businesswoman, said of the bride, lingering in front of a portrait of Hussein in a dark suit.

Jordan’s 11 million residents have watched the young crown prince rise in prominence in recent years, as he increasingly joined his father, Abdullah, in public appearances. Hussein has graduated from Georgetown University, joined the military and gained some global recognition speaking at the UN General Assembly.

The wedding took place a week after Jordan’s 77th birthday. Combining tradition and modernity, the royal family introduced a wedding hashtag (#Celebrating Al Hussein) and omnipresent logo that fuses the couple’s initials into the Arabic words “We rejoice.”

Zahran Palace in Amman, where the marriage ceremony was held, hasn’t seen such pomp and circumstance since 1993, when, on a similarly sunny June day, Abdullah married Rania, who was born in Kuwait to Palestinian parents. Decades earlier, Abdullah's father, the late King Hussein, sealed his vows in the same garden with his second wife, the British citizen Antoinette Gardiner.

In addition to the Prince and Princess of Wales, the guest list includes an array of foreign aristocrats and dignitaries, including senior royals from Europe and Asia, Saudi aristocrats, as well as US climate envoy John Kerry.

Both Rajwa and Kate wore gowns by the Lebanese designer Elie Saab, said a spokeswoman for the company, Maryline Mossino.

The motorcade drove through Amman to the Al Husseiniya Palace, a 30-minute drive away, for the reception. There, the newlyweds walked beneath an arch of swords and were welcomed with a traditional zaffeh, a lively musical procession featuring drums, dancing, singing and clapping.

The royals greeted more than 1,700 guests at the reception, which featured live music and a banquet. The celebrations were capped with a fireworks display that could be seen across the capital.

Jordanians from all walks of life shared an infectious excitement about the wedding.

“This is a really important day for my country, and those who are not Jordanian wouldn’t understand,” said Najwa Issamad, a 40-year-old nurse watching her teenage sons dance rowdily to pop wedding music blaring from their phones downtown. “It’s a time for all Jordanians to stop whatever we’re doing and say, let’s celebrate, let’s rejoice.”


Emirates Palace…an International Icon in World of Hospitality

Emirate Palace Mandarin Oriental hotel in Abu Dhabi (Asharq Al-Awsat).
Emirate Palace Mandarin Oriental hotel in Abu Dhabi (Asharq Al-Awsat).
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Emirates Palace…an International Icon in World of Hospitality

Emirate Palace Mandarin Oriental hotel in Abu Dhabi (Asharq Al-Awsat).
Emirate Palace Mandarin Oriental hotel in Abu Dhabi (Asharq Al-Awsat).

The Emirates Palace in Abu Dhabi, officially named Emirates Palace Mandarin Oriental, is a landmark in the world of international extravagant hotels. Now, the palace is offering people the chance to visit and take a closer look at its breathtaking luxury.

 

In the lobby, you can spot Arab and foreign visitors queuing to enter the hotel through its massive doors accompanied by the receptionists who stand to warmly welcome the guests. The tour often starts at the grand dome known for its unique decoration inspired by the Islamic and Arabic civilization that reflect the history of the country and the region.

 

Executives at the Emirates Palace believe that “the hotel has become a world-known landmark in the UAE, and a site with a cultural and historic significance.”

 

The fancy and precise detail we see are indescribable; gold dominates everywhere inside the hotel. According to CNN, the Emirates Palace Mandarin Oriental, valued at $3 billion, has witnessed the restoration of 2,000 square meters by a specialized team that painted the interior sides of the hotel with real silver and gold.

 

The latest developments promise a new phase of advanced services at the hotel, whose management has always been eager to maintain the legacy of the site and provide new hospitality experiences for guests including renovated rooms, new spa, and improved sport facilities.

 

The hotel is characterized with top-notch sustainable services and trends, and provides redesigned accommodations including the so-called “first vegan rooms” in the region with an eco-friendly design, sustainable beds, vegan menus, and cruelty-free bath products.

 

Located on the shores of the Arabian Gulf, the Emirates Palace Mandarin Oriental boasts wide areas, expanded lobbies, and highly detailed and diverse decors that reflect an incomparable creativity completed with rare artifacts displayed in glass vitrines in the corners of the corridors.

 

The management of the hotel has been making major steps to ensure significant upgrades that lure more visitors, such as incorporating cafés and restaurants into the main lobby, and dedicating a special pavilion for high-profile gatherings so guests can take their favorite hot and cold beverages on comfortable tables and chairs in keeping with the hotel’s tone, in addition to exquisite food and drink menus.

 

The Mandarin Oriental also includes Michelin starred restaurants and international award-winning spas.

 


Sweden Close to Becoming First 'Smoke Free' Country in Europe as Daily Use of Cigarettes Dwindles

FILE - A no smoking sign is seen at a bus stop in Stockholm, Sweden, June 25, 2019. (Magnus Andersson /TT News Agency via AP, File)
FILE - A no smoking sign is seen at a bus stop in Stockholm, Sweden, June 25, 2019. (Magnus Andersson /TT News Agency via AP, File)
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Sweden Close to Becoming First 'Smoke Free' Country in Europe as Daily Use of Cigarettes Dwindles

FILE - A no smoking sign is seen at a bus stop in Stockholm, Sweden, June 25, 2019. (Magnus Andersson /TT News Agency via AP, File)
FILE - A no smoking sign is seen at a bus stop in Stockholm, Sweden, June 25, 2019. (Magnus Andersson /TT News Agency via AP, File)

Summer is in the air, cigarette smoke is not, in Sweden's outdoor bars and restaurants.

As the World Health Organization marks “World No Tobacco Day” on Wednesday, Sweden, which has the lowest rate of smoking in the Europe Union, is close to declaring itself “smoke free” — defined as having fewer than 5% daily smokers in the population.

Many experts give credit to decades of anti-smoking campaigns and legislation, while others point to the prevalence of “snus,” a smokeless tobacco product that is banned elsewhere in the EU but is marketed in Sweden as an alternative to cigarettes, The Associated Press said.

Whatever the reason, the 5% milestone is now within reach. Only 6.4% of Swedes over 15 were daily smokers in 2019, the lowest in the EU and far below the average of 18.5% across the 27-nation bloc, according to the Eurostat statistics agency.

Figures from the Public Health Agency of Sweden show the smoking rate has continued to fall since then, reaching 5.6% last year.

“We like a healthy way to live, I think that’s the reason,” said Carina Astorsson, a Stockholm resident. Smoking never interested her, she added, because “I don’t like the smell; I want to take care of my body.”

The risks of smoking appear well understood among health-conscious Swedes, including younger generations. Twenty years ago, almost 20% of the population were smokers — which was a low rate globally at the time. Since then, measures to discourage smoking have brought down smoking rates across Europe, including bans on smoking in restaurants.

France saw record drops in smoking rates from 2014 to 2019 but that success hit a plateau during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic — blamed in part for causing stresses that drove people to light up. About one-third of people aged 18 to 75 in France professed to having smoked in 2021 — a slight increase on 2019. About a quarter smoke daily.

Sweden has gone further than most to stamp out cigarettes, and says it’s resulted in a range of health benefits, including a relatively low rate of lung cancer.

“We were early in restricting smoking in public spaces, first in school playgrounds and after-school centers, and later in restaurants, outdoor cafes and public places such as bus stations,” said Ulrika Årehed, secretary-general of the Swedish Cancer Society. “In parallel, taxes on cigarettes and strict restrictions on the marketing of these products have played an important role.”

She added that “Sweden is not there yet,” noting that the proportion of smokers is higher in disadvantaged socio-economic groups.

The sight of people lighting up is becoming increasingly rare in the country of 10.5 million. Smoking is prohibited at bus stops and train platforms and outside the entrances of hospitals and other public buildings. Like in most of Europe, smoking isn’t allowed inside bars and restaurants, but since 2019 Sweden’s smoking ban also applies to their outdoor seating areas.

On Tuesday night, the terraces of Stockholm were full of people enjoying food and drinks in the late-setting sun. There was no sign of cigarettes, but cans of snus could be spotted on some tables. Between beers, some patrons stuffed small pouches of the moist tobacco under their upper lips.

Swedish snus makers have long held up their product as a less harmful alternative to smoking and claim credit for the country’s declining smoking rates. But Swedish health authorities are reluctant to advise smokers to switch to snus, another highly addictive nicotine product.

“I don’t see any reason to put two harmful products up against each other,” Årehed said. “It is true that smoking is more harmful than most things you can do, including snus. But that said, there are many health risks even with snus.”

Some studies have linked snus to increased risk of heart disease, diabetes and premature births if used during pregnancy.

Swedes are so fond of their snus, a distant cousin of dipping tobacco in the United States, that they demanded an exemption to the EU’s ban on smokeless tobacco when they joined the bloc in 1995.

“It’s part of the Swedish culture, it’s like the Swedish equivalent of Italian Parma ham or any other cultural habit,” said Patrik Hildingsson, a spokesman for Swedish Match, Sweden’s top snus maker, which was acquired by tobacco giant Philip Morris last year.

He said policymakers should encourage the tobacco industry to develop less harmful alternatives to smoking such as snus and e-cigarettes.

“I mean, 1.2 billion smokers are still out there in the world. Some 100 million people smoke daily in the EU. And I think we can (only) go so far with policymaking regulations,” he said. “You will need to give the smokers other less harmful alternatives, and a range of them.”

WHO, the UN health agency, says Turkmenistan, with a rate of tobacco use below 5%, is ahead of Sweden when it comes to phasing out smoking, but notes that’s largely due to smoking being almost nonexistent among women. For men the rate is 7%.

WHO attributes Sweden’s declining smoking rate to a combination of tobacco control measures, including information campaigns, advertising bans and “cessation support” for those wishing to quit tobacco. However, the agency noted that Sweden’s tobacco use is at more than 20% of the adult population, similar to the global average, when you include snus and similar products.

“Switching from one harmful product to another is not a solution,” WHO said in an email. “Promoting a so-called ‘harm reduction approach’ to smoking is another way the tobacco industry is trying to mislead people about the inherently dangerous nature of these products.”

Tove Marina Sohlberg, a researcher at Stockholm University’s Department of Public Health Sciences, said Sweden’s anti-smoking policies have had the effect of stigmatizing smoking and smokers, pushing them away from public spaces into backyards and designated smoking areas.

“We are sending signals to the smokers that this is not accepted by society,” she said.

Paul Monja, one of Stockholm’s few remaining smokers, reflected on his habit while getting ready to light up.

“It’s an addiction, one that I aim to stop at some point,” he said. “Maybe not today, perhaps tomorrow”.


Earth Is ‘Really Quite Sick Now’ and in Danger Zone in Nearly All Ecological Ways, Study Says

Dead fish drift in the Oder River near Brieskow-Finkenheerd, eastern Germany, on Aug. 11, 2022. (AP)
Dead fish drift in the Oder River near Brieskow-Finkenheerd, eastern Germany, on Aug. 11, 2022. (AP)
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Earth Is ‘Really Quite Sick Now’ and in Danger Zone in Nearly All Ecological Ways, Study Says

Dead fish drift in the Oder River near Brieskow-Finkenheerd, eastern Germany, on Aug. 11, 2022. (AP)
Dead fish drift in the Oder River near Brieskow-Finkenheerd, eastern Germany, on Aug. 11, 2022. (AP)

Earth has pushed past seven out of eight scientifically established safety limits and into “the danger zone,” not just for an overheating planet that's losing its natural areas, but for well-being of people living on it, according to a new study.

The study looks not just at guardrails for the planetary ecosystem but for the first time it includes measures of “justice,” which is mostly about preventing harm for countries, ethnicities and genders.

The study by the international scientist group Earth Commission published in Wednesday’s journal Nature looks at climate, air pollution, phosphorus and nitrogen contamination of water from fertilizer overuse, groundwater supplies, fresh surface water, the unbuilt natural environment and the overall natural and human-built environment. Only air pollution wasn’t quite at the danger point globally.

Air pollution is dangerous at local and regional levels, while climate was beyond the harmful levels for humans in groups but not quite past the safety guideline for the planet as a system, the study from the Swedish group said.

The study found “hotspots” of problem areas throughout Eastern Europe, South Asia, the Middle East, Southeast Asia, parts of Africa and much of Brazil, Mexico, China and some of the US West — much of it from climate change. About two-thirds of Earth don’t meet the criteria for freshwater safety, scientists said as an example.

“We are in a danger zone for most of the Earth system boundaries,” said study co-author Kristie Ebi, a professor of climate and public health at the University of Washington.

If planet Earth just got an annual check-up, similar to a person's physical, “our doctor would say that the Earth is really quite sick right now and it is sick in terms of many different areas or systems and this sickness is also affecting the people living on Earth,” Earth Commission co-chair Joyeeta Gupta, a professor of environment at the University of Amsterdam, said at a press conference.

It’s not a terminal diagnosis. The planet can recover if it changes, including its use of coal, oil and natural gas and the way it treats the land and water, the scientists said.

But “we are moving in the wrong direction on basically all of these,” said study lead author Johan Rockstrom, director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany.

“This is a compelling and provocative paper – scientifically sound in methodology and important for identifying the dimensions in which the planet is nearing the edge of boundaries that would launch us into irreversible states,” Indy Burke, dean of the Yale School of the Environment said in an email. She wasn’t part of the study.

The team of about 40 scientists created quantifiable boundaries for each environmental category, both for what’s safe for the planet and for the point at which it becomes harmful for groups of people, which the researchers termed a justice issue.

Rockstrom said he thinks of those points as setting up “a safety fence” outside of which the risks become higher, but not necessarily fatal.

Rockstrom and other scientists have attempted in the past this type of holistic measuring of Earth’s various interlocking ecosystems. The big difference in this attempt is that scientists also looked at local and regional levels and they added the element of justice.

The justice part includes fairness between young and old generations, different nations and even different species. Frequently, it applies to conditions that harm people more than the planet.

An example of that is climate change.

The report uses the same boundary of 1.5 degree Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) of warming since pre-industrial times that international leaders agreed upon in the 2015 Paris climate agreement. The world has so far warmed about 1.1 degrees Celsius (2 degrees Fahrenheit), so it hasn’t crossed that safety fence, Rockstrom and Gupta said, but that doesn’t mean people aren’t being hurt.

“What we are trying to show through our paper is that event at 1 degree Centigrade (1.8 degrees Fahrenheit) there is a huge amount of damage taking place,” Gupta said, pointing to tens of millions of people exposed to extreme hot temperatures.

The planetary safety guardrail of 1.5 degrees hasn’t been breached, but the “just” boundary where people are hurt of 1 degree has been.

“Sustainability and justice are inseparable,” said Stanford environmental studies chief Chris Field, who wasn’t part of the research. He said he would want even more stringent boundaries. “Unsafe conditions do not need to cover a large fraction of Earth’s area to be unacceptable, especially if the unsafe conditions are concentrated in and near poor and vulnerable communities.”

Another outside expert, Dr. Lynn Goldman, an environment health professor and dean of George Washington University’s public health school, said the study was “kind of bold,” but she wasn’t optimistic that it would result in much action.


European Genes Found in Ancient Egyptian Mummy in Ireland

The remains of an Egyptian mummy and its
sarcophagus lie within a tomb at Saqqara, south of Cairo. AP
The remains of an Egyptian mummy and its sarcophagus lie within a tomb at Saqqara, south of Cairo. AP
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European Genes Found in Ancient Egyptian Mummy in Ireland

The remains of an Egyptian mummy and its
sarcophagus lie within a tomb at Saqqara, south of Cairo. AP
The remains of an Egyptian mummy and its sarcophagus lie within a tomb at Saqqara, south of Cairo. AP

A research team at the University of Manchester's Center for Biomedical Egyptology, managed to unveil further secrets about the life of mummy Takabuti kept at the Ulster Museum, Belfast.

Previous research used CT scans to look into the cause of the mummy’s death, and showed that it was “stabbed with an axe, and not with a knife”, as it was previously thought.

The new research, published in the Journal of Archaeological Science, provides new insights on the life, death, and embalming of Takabuti, based on a proteomic and genomic analysis of 50 milligrams of bone and thigh muscle. The new findings show that the famous mummy “had European genes that originated from the mother.”

The team also examined the mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA), which revealed a group of maternal genes known as “H4a1 haplogroup” that currently dominates in Europe.

The new discovery supports a theory saying that the family of Takabuti’s mother may have originated outside Egypt, as the name of the mother “Tasenirit” engraved on the mummy’s sarcophagus, is not known elsewhere in Egyptian sources. However, her father’s name, Nespare, and his role as a priest of Amun as indicated from Takabuti’s sarcophagus, suggest that she had direct Egyptian ancestry.

The analyzed proteins also indicate protracted leg muscle activity in the hours before death, which suggests that Takabuti tried to escape the attacker who hit her with the axe.

The researchers note that “the mummy lived in Thebes during the turbulent period when the Kushite rulers of Egypt were conducting military campaigns against the Assyrians, and she may have been caught up in one of these conflicts.”

The team also looked into the secrets of Takabuti’s mummification. CT scan results from former studies showed that the embalming reflected changes in practice during the Third Intermediate and Late Periods, where greater attempts were made to make a mummy look more “realistic”, such as the unusual retention of the complete head of natural hair rather than shaving the head or adding hair extensions.

The new study uncovered other secrets with the help of 20–30 mg needle biopsy sample of the packing material inserted during mummification.

The researchers found that the materials used for embalming contained cedar wood shavings. Using radiocarbon dating, they determined that “the mummification took place in the Third Intermediate Period and in keeping with the previously dated hair and the stylistic dating of the coffin that placed it in the 25th Dynasty.”


KAUST Hosts Int’l Conference on Sustainable Development

The four-day conference, the first of its kind in the Kingdom and the entire Middle East has attracted 1,000 scientists and innovators from leading regional universities
The four-day conference, the first of its kind in the Kingdom and the entire Middle East has attracted 1,000 scientists and innovators from leading regional universities
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KAUST Hosts Int’l Conference on Sustainable Development

The four-day conference, the first of its kind in the Kingdom and the entire Middle East has attracted 1,000 scientists and innovators from leading regional universities
The four-day conference, the first of its kind in the Kingdom and the entire Middle East has attracted 1,000 scientists and innovators from leading regional universities

Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) has inaugurated the international conference on sustainable development organized by Times Higher Education (THE).

The four-day conference, the first of its kind in the Kingdom and the entire Middle East has attracted 1,000 scientists and innovators from leading regional universities, including Prince Sultan University, the Knowledge University, the United Arab Emirates University, and Prince Sattam Bin Abdulaziz University.

Officials from the Ministry of Education, Ministry of Environment, Water and Agriculture, Ministry of Economy and Planning, and the Bureau of Strategic Administration are also in attendance.

The President of KAUST, Dr. Tony Chan, emphasized that the conference serves as a platform to foster strong collaborations among participating institutions.

He expressed hope that academic and research organizations would align their educational and innovation programs to achieve concrete and impactful outcomes.

Minister of Investment Eng. Khalid bin Abdulaziz Al-Falih participated in the conference and delivered a presentation on investment in the Kingdom's transformation.

Al-Falih underscored the conference's significance as a platform for showcasing global efforts and research in sustainable development.


Saudi Astronaut Crew Returns from Space Station 

Commander Peggy Whitson, pilot John Shoffner, and mission specialists Ali Al-Qarni and Rayyanah Barnawi representing Saudi Arabia pose before the planned Axiom Mission 2 (Ax-2) launch to the International Space Station at Kennedy Space Center, Florida, US May 21, 2023. (Reuters)
Commander Peggy Whitson, pilot John Shoffner, and mission specialists Ali Al-Qarni and Rayyanah Barnawi representing Saudi Arabia pose before the planned Axiom Mission 2 (Ax-2) launch to the International Space Station at Kennedy Space Center, Florida, US May 21, 2023. (Reuters)
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Saudi Astronaut Crew Returns from Space Station 

Commander Peggy Whitson, pilot John Shoffner, and mission specialists Ali Al-Qarni and Rayyanah Barnawi representing Saudi Arabia pose before the planned Axiom Mission 2 (Ax-2) launch to the International Space Station at Kennedy Space Center, Florida, US May 21, 2023. (Reuters)
Commander Peggy Whitson, pilot John Shoffner, and mission specialists Ali Al-Qarni and Rayyanah Barnawi representing Saudi Arabia pose before the planned Axiom Mission 2 (Ax-2) launch to the International Space Station at Kennedy Space Center, Florida, US May 21, 2023. (Reuters)

The team of Saudi astronauts, including the first Arab woman sent into orbit, splashed down safely off Florida on Tuesday night, capping an eight-day research mission aboard the International Space Station (ISS).

The SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule carrying the Saudis and two Americans parachuted into the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Panama City, Florida, after a 12-hour return flight and blazing re-entry plunge through Earth's atmosphere.

The splashdown was carried live by a joint webcast presented by SpaceX and the company behind the mission, Axiom Space.

It concluded the second space station mission organized, equipped and trained entirely by Axiom, a 7-year-old Houston-based venture headed by NASA's former ISS program manager.

The Axiom 2 crew was led by retired NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson, 63, who holds the US record for most time spent in orbit with 665 days in space over three long-duration missions to the ISS, including 10 spacewalks. She now serves as Axiom's director of human spaceflight.

"That was a phenomenal ride. We really enjoyed all of it," Whitson radioed to mission controllers moments after splashdown.

Ax-2's designated pilot was John Shoffner, 67, an aviator, race car driver and investor from Alaska.

Rounding out the crew as mission specialists were the first two astronauts from Saudi Arabia to fly aboard a private spacecraft - Ali Al-Qarni, 31, a fighter pilot for the Royal Saudi Air Force; and Rayyanah Barnawi, 34, a biomedical scientist in cancer stem-cell research.

Barnawi is the first woman from the Arab world ever launched into Earth orbit and the first Saudi woman to fly in space.

In August 2022, Sara Sabry became the first Arab woman and the first Egyptian to fly to space on a brief suborbital ride operated by the Blue Origin astro-tourist venture of Jeff Bezos.

California-based SpaceX, founded by Twitter owner and Tesla Inc electric carmaker CEO Elon Musk, supplied the Falcon 9 rocket and crew capsule that ferried Axiom's team to and from orbit and controlled the flight.

NASA furnished the launch site at its Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, and assumed responsibility for the Axiom crew during their stay aboard the space station, orbiting some 250 miles (400 km) above Earth.