Mohammed bin Salman Project Restores Mosques in Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Region

The Project seeks to preserve the heritage of the mosques
The Project seeks to preserve the heritage of the mosques
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Mohammed bin Salman Project Restores Mosques in Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Region

The Project seeks to preserve the heritage of the mosques
The Project seeks to preserve the heritage of the mosques

As part of its second phase, the Prince Mohammed bin Salman Project for Developing Historical Mosques is reconstructing and renovating the mosques in the Eastern Region, adopting methods that aim to safeguard the heritage they represent by restoring them to their original form to the greatest extent possible in adherence to global standards.

The project seeks to grant Jawatha and Umm Zriniq mosques in the Eastern Region a historical and aesthetic identity with unique and distinguished features that respect their aesthetic history.

It will do so through multiple stages of systematic projects relying on studies, research and analysis on how to best restore them into their original form and which materials to use to do so.

Jawatha Mosque is considered among the oldest historical mosques in the Islamic world. Built by Bani Abd Al-Qais after their second visit to Prophet Mohammad in the seventh century of the Hijri calendar, it is considered the first mosque to host Friday prayers after the Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah.

The area of the mosque, before and after renovation, is around 205,5 square meters and can hold 170 worshippers.

Meanwhile, the Umm Zriniq Mosque in Al-Owemariah neighborhood of Al-Hofuf city was built over 100 years ago next to the Umm Zriniq Cemetery.

The area of the mosque will increase from 30 square meters to 213,96 square meters, and its capacity will rise. It will hold 94 worshippers after it had ceased to receive worshippers.

The Prince Mohammed bin Salman Project to Develop Historical Mosques aims to rehabilitate and restore 130 historical mosques in various regions across the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, highlighting their civilizational and cultural dimensions by preserving their original aesthetic.

The second phase of this project includes 30 historical mosques in 13 different regions across the Kingdom- six mosques in the Riyadh region, five mosques in the Makkah region, four mosques in the Madinah region, three mosques in the Asir region and two mosques in each of the Eastern regions, Al-Jouf and Jazan, and one mosque in each of the Northern Borders, Tabuk, Baha, Najran, Hail and Qassim.



Airport Near Volcano Reopens as Indonesia Lowers Eruption Alert Level 

Mount Ruang volcano erupts in Sitaro, North Sulawesi, on April 19, 2024. (AFP)
Mount Ruang volcano erupts in Sitaro, North Sulawesi, on April 19, 2024. (AFP)
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Airport Near Volcano Reopens as Indonesia Lowers Eruption Alert Level 

Mount Ruang volcano erupts in Sitaro, North Sulawesi, on April 19, 2024. (AFP)
Mount Ruang volcano erupts in Sitaro, North Sulawesi, on April 19, 2024. (AFP)

Indonesian authorities reopened an international airport near a volcano that erupted last week as they lowered a warning level on Monday.

Sam Ratulangi airport has been closed since Thursday due to eruptions at nearby Mount Ruang.

Indonesia’s Disaster Management Agency lowered the volcano's alert level from four, the second-highest level, to three, but said residents were still ordered to remain at least 4 kilometers (2.7 miles) away from the mountain.

More than 3,000 residents have been evacuated since Thursday due to dangers including ash, falling rocks, hot volcanic clouds and fears of a tsunami. A joint team from the local authorities combed the villages surrounding the volcano and evacuated residents by boat.

Danger continued with the possibility of small-scale eruptions, which could cause rockslides and other damage in the immediate area of the volcano.

Officials opened the airport after satellite imagery showed that rains had washed away volcanic ash covering the tarmac.

Indonesia, an archipelago of 270 million people, has 120 active volcanoes. It is prone to volcanic activity because it sits along the “Ring of Fire,” a horseshoe-shaped series of seismic fault lines around the Pacific Ocean.


North Koreans May Have Helped Create Western Cartoons, Report Says 

A cartoon soldier is depicted on part of a warning sign on barbed wire on the Chinese side of the border between Russia, China and North Korea near the town of Hunchun, China, November 24, 2017. (Reuters) 
A cartoon soldier is depicted on part of a warning sign on barbed wire on the Chinese side of the border between Russia, China and North Korea near the town of Hunchun, China, November 24, 2017. (Reuters) 
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North Koreans May Have Helped Create Western Cartoons, Report Says 

A cartoon soldier is depicted on part of a warning sign on barbed wire on the Chinese side of the border between Russia, China and North Korea near the town of Hunchun, China, November 24, 2017. (Reuters) 
A cartoon soldier is depicted on part of a warning sign on barbed wire on the Chinese side of the border between Russia, China and North Korea near the town of Hunchun, China, November 24, 2017. (Reuters) 

North Korean animators may have helped create popular television cartoons for big Western firms, including Amazon and HBO Max, despite international sanctions on North Korea, a research report has found.

Researchers discovered files on a North Korean internet server that included animations, written instructions and comments that appear to relate to projects under production for the foreign studios, the report from the Washington-based 38 North project released on Monday said.

Among those projects were "Invincible," an Amazon Original animated series produced by California-based Skybound Entertainment and "Iyanu, Child of Wonder," an anime about a superhero created by Maryland-based YouNeek Studios and due to air this year on HBO Max.

US sanctions prohibit almost all commercial activity between US citizens and North Korean entities.

Michael Barnhart, who works on North Korea issues at Mandiant, a computer security company owned by Google, and worked with 38 North on the project, said there was nothing to indicate the Western companies had knowledge of the arrangements, which appeared to involve subcontracting of work to China.

"There's no way that anyone could have known it, except for the operational security error which exposed it," he said.

Amazon spokespersons declined comment and referred Reuters to Skybound Entertainment.

Skybound said it had no knowledge of any North Korean companies working on its animation, but took the allegations seriously and had initiated a thorough internal review to verify and rectify any potential issues.

"We have also notified the proper authorities and are cooperating with all appropriate bodies," its head of corporate communications Hannah Cosgrove said.

HBO Max and YouNeek did not respond to requests for comment.

The report said that after discovering the files, two researchers kept watch on the server and observed traffic throughout January.

"Each day, a new batch of files would appear that included instructions for animation work and the results of that day's work," the report said.

"Often the files contained editing comments and instructions in Chinese, presumably written by the production company, along with a translation of those instructions into Korean," it said.

"This suggests a go-between was responsible for relaying information between the production companies and the animators."

The report said the identity of the person, or persons, uploading the files could not be determined, nor of the North Korean entity involved.

WESTERN ANIMATION PROJECTS

North Korea's premier animation house is the Pyongyang-based April 26 Animation Studio, also known as SEK Studio, which has worked in the past on international projects. In 2016, the US Treasury Department designated it a North Korean state-owned enterprise and put it under sanctions.

The report noted that in 2021 and 2022 the US government also imposed sanctions on Chinese companies that have worked with the studio or acted as a go-between.

38 North said files found on the server related to a range of projects, including Season 3 of "Invincible." The report said a document on the server carried the name of the series and "Viltruminte Pants LLC," part of the Skybound group.

Working with Mandiant, the researchers examined access logs for the server, which included three internet addresses in China.

Two of the latter were registered to China's Liaoning Province, which neighbors North Korea and where there are many North Korean-operated businesses and North Korean IT workers.

Mandiant's Barnhart told Reuters he assessed "with high confidence" that the animation contracts had been outsourced to North Korea by a front company, apparently in China.

China's Washington embassy said Beijing strictly implemented UN prohibitions on dealings with North Korea but added that sanctions were not a solution to the North Korea issue. North Korea's UN mission did not respond to a request for comment.

BETTER PAY IN CHINA

Choi Seong-guk, a North Korean defector web cartoonist who worked at SEK Studio between 1996 and 2002, told Reuters the studio had a team assigned for joint work with foreign studios.

Choi, who quit the state-run studio over low pay, said some fellow North Korean cartoonists also left and went to work overseas, mostly in China, where they were construction workers on paper but in reality created animation for Chinese clients.

"By doing that in China, they are paid $100 per month ... compared to $1 back home," he said.

In 2022, the US Departments of State and Treasury and the Federal Bureau of Investigation issued an advisory warning businesses about the risk of inadvertently hiring North Korean IT workers and said this could put them in violation of US and UN sanctions.

A spokesperson for the US Treasury said it does not comment on "potential investigations or sanctions violations as general practice" but North Korea's efforts to generate revenue for its weapons programs through cybercrime and abuse of contractors was a concern.


Earth Day Art Urges UK to Think Green ahead of Election

Artist Jamie Wardley created the painting for Earth Day to remind voters to consider the environment when they cast their ballots. Oli SCARFF / AFP
Artist Jamie Wardley created the painting for Earth Day to remind voters to consider the environment when they cast their ballots. Oli SCARFF / AFP
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Earth Day Art Urges UK to Think Green ahead of Election

Artist Jamie Wardley created the painting for Earth Day to remind voters to consider the environment when they cast their ballots. Oli SCARFF / AFP
Artist Jamie Wardley created the painting for Earth Day to remind voters to consider the environment when they cast their ballots. Oli SCARFF / AFP

From the air over the rolling hills of Hebden Bridge in northern England, a gigantic painting interrupts the placid green pasture with a call to action.
The work measuring 50 meters (164 feet) long depicts a smiling girl cradling the Earth and beside it are the words: "Vote for Climate, Vote for Our Future".
Artist Jamie Wardley, who created the painting for Earth Day on Monday, hopes the message will remind voters to consider the environment when they cast their ballots in a UK general election due this year, AFP said.
Wardley, who used football pitch paint and sprayers to create the painting, said the election was an opportunity for voters to prioritize the environment, which was why the work was hopeful in tone.
"She's optimistic because this year it's the UK elections, and it's a chance for us to make a real difference for our children's future," he told AFP.
"It's only governments that can set policies and regulations that make a significant difference," he added.
It took a team of 10 artists three days to complete the painting and Wardley's daughter was used as the model.
"It survived the rain a bit, and it'll be here for probably another week," Wardley said.
"This isn't going to change the world, but it might help a little. And if we all pitch in, then hopefully we make a difference."
Earth Day is observed annually on April 22. First celebrated in 1970, it now includes a wide range of events across more than 193 countries, demonstrating support for environmental protection.


Europe Suffered Record Number of 'Extreme Heat Stress' Days in 2023

In a year of contrasting extremes, Europe witnessed scorching heatwaves but also catastrophic flooding, withering droughts, violent storms and its largest wildfire. Louisa GOULIAMAKI / AFP/File
In a year of contrasting extremes, Europe witnessed scorching heatwaves but also catastrophic flooding, withering droughts, violent storms and its largest wildfire. Louisa GOULIAMAKI / AFP/File
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Europe Suffered Record Number of 'Extreme Heat Stress' Days in 2023

In a year of contrasting extremes, Europe witnessed scorching heatwaves but also catastrophic flooding, withering droughts, violent storms and its largest wildfire. Louisa GOULIAMAKI / AFP/File
In a year of contrasting extremes, Europe witnessed scorching heatwaves but also catastrophic flooding, withering droughts, violent storms and its largest wildfire. Louisa GOULIAMAKI / AFP/File

Europe endured a record number of "extreme heat stress" days in 2023, two leading climate monitors said Monday, underscoring the threat of increasingly deadly summers across the continent.
In a year of contrasting extremes, Europe witnessed scorching heatwaves but also catastrophic flooding, withering droughts, violent storms and its largest wildfire, said AFP.
These disasters inflicted billions of dollars in damages and impacted more than two million people, the EU's Copernicus Climate Change Service and the UN's World Meteorological Organization (WMO) said in a new joint report.
The consequences for health were particularly acute, with heat singled out by these agencies as the biggest climate-related threat as global warming drives ever-hotter European summers.
"We're seeing an increasing trend in the number of days with heat stress across Europe and 2023 was no exception, with Europe seeing a record number of days with extreme heat stress," said Rebecca Emerton, a climate scientist at Copernicus.
For this study, Copernicus and WMO used the Universal Thermal Climate Index, which measures the effect of the environment on the human body.
It takes into account not just high temperatures but also humidity, wind speed, sunshine, and heat emitted by the surroundings.
The index has 10 different categories of heat and cold stress, with units of degrees Celsius representing a 'feels-like' temperature.
Extreme heat stress "is equivalent to a feels-like temperature of more than 46 degrees Celsius, at which point it's imperative to take actions to avoid health risks such as heat stroke", said Emerton.
- 'Extended summer' -
Prolonged exposure to heat stress is particularly dangerous for vulnerable people such as the elderly or those with pre-existing health conditions.
The effect of heat is stronger in cities, the report said.

Twenty three of the 30 worst heatwaves on record in Europe have occurred this century and heat-related deaths have soared around 30 percent in the past 20 years, the report said.
2023 was not the hottest summer in Europe -- in fact, it was the fifth -- but that doesn't mean it wasn't blazing.
Much of Europe sweltered from heatwaves during an "extended summer" between June and September, Emerton said.
September was the warmest on record for Europe as a whole, she added.
On July 23, an unprecedented 13 percent of Europe was experiencing high levels of heat stress, with southern Europe the worst affected.
The data on deaths in Europe from extreme heat in 2023 is not available yet.
But tens of thousands of people are estimated to have died due to heatwaves during equally sweltering European summers in 2003, 2010 and 2022, the report said.
"We see that there is excess mortality when we see such extreme heatwaves like was the case in 2023," said Alvaro Silva, a climatologist from WMO.
"This increase in mortality... is affecting (the) big majority of European regions. This is a big concern."
Serious consequences
Scientists agree that greenhouse gas emissions are warming the planet, causing more intense and frequent extreme weather events.
Europe is warming twice as fast as the global average and heatwaves will become longer and more powerful in future, the report said.
This -- coupled with aging populations and more people moving to cities -- will have "serious consequences for public health", it added.
"Current heatwave interventions will soon be insufficient to deal with the expected heat-related health burden."
2023 was the hottest year globally on record and oceans, which absorb 90 percent of excess heat produced by carbon dioxide emissions, also warmed to new highs.
Average sea surface temperatures in Europe were the warmest on record, the report said, with a severe marine heatwave in part of the Atlantic Ocean described as "beyond extreme".
Glaciers in all parts of Europe saw a loss of ice, while Greece suffered the largest wildfire in the history of the EU.
2023 was also one of Europe's wettest years, with major flooding affecting 1.6 million people, and storms another 550,000.
Emerton said that the economic cost of these extreme events was 13.4 billion euros ($14.3 billion) -- about 80 percent attributed to flooding.


15 Suffer Minor Injuries in Tram Accident at Universal Studios in Los Angeles

FILE - The Universal Studios Hollywood. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes, File)
FILE - The Universal Studios Hollywood. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes, File)
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15 Suffer Minor Injuries in Tram Accident at Universal Studios in Los Angeles

FILE - The Universal Studios Hollywood. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes, File)
FILE - The Universal Studios Hollywood. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes, File)

A tram accident at Universal Studios Hollywood in Los Angeles injured 15 people Saturday night, authorities and the company said.

Los Angeles County Fire Department units were dispatched to the theme park on Lankershim Boulevard shortly after 9 p.m., the department said in a social media post.

The victims taken to area hospitals had minor injuries, the department said.

A Universal Studios Hollywood spokesperson emailed a statement to The Associated Press confirming there were “multiple minor injuries” from an accident involving a tram at the theme park.
The details of the accident were not immediately available.


Massive River Flooding Expected in China's Guangdong, Threatening Millions

FILE PHOTO: Visitors attend the China Import and Export Fair, also known as Canton Fair, in Guangzhou, Guangdong province, China April 15, 2024. REUTERS/David Kirton/File Photo
FILE PHOTO: Visitors attend the China Import and Export Fair, also known as Canton Fair, in Guangzhou, Guangdong province, China April 15, 2024. REUTERS/David Kirton/File Photo
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Massive River Flooding Expected in China's Guangdong, Threatening Millions

FILE PHOTO: Visitors attend the China Import and Export Fair, also known as Canton Fair, in Guangzhou, Guangdong province, China April 15, 2024. REUTERS/David Kirton/File Photo
FILE PHOTO: Visitors attend the China Import and Export Fair, also known as Canton Fair, in Guangzhou, Guangdong province, China April 15, 2024. REUTERS/David Kirton/File Photo

Major rivers, waterways and reservoirs in China's Guangdong province are threatening to unleash dangerous floods, forcing the government on Sunday to enact emergency response plans to protect more than 127 million people, Reuters reported.
Calling the situation "grim", local weather officials said sections of rivers and tributaries at the Xijiang and Beijiang river basins are hitting peak water levels that only happen once in 50 years, according to state broadcaster CCTV news on Sunday.
Massive flooding is expected at the Beijiang basin, CCTV said quoting China's water resource ministry, prompting it to raise an emergency advisory.
Guangdong officials urged departments in all localities and municipalities to begin emergency planning to avert natural disasters and promptly disperse disaster relief funds and materials to ensure affected people have food, clothing, water and a place to live.
The province has seen torrid downpours and strong winds since Saturday evening due to severe convective weather which has affected several parts of China over the past few weeks, Reuters reported.
A 12-hour stretch of heavy rain, starting from 8 p.m. (1200 GMT) Saturday, battered the central and northern parts of the province in Zhaoqing, Shaoguan, Qingyuan and Jiangmen.
Some power facilities in Zhaoqing were damaged, cutting power to some places.
"Please look at Zhaoqing's Huaiji county, which has become a water town. The elderly and children at the countryside don't know what to do with power outages and no signal," said one user on the popular social media site Weibo.
Raging muddy flood waters swept one vehicle down a narrow street in Zhaoqing, showed a video released by Hongxing News.
"It rained like a waterfall for an hour and a half on the highway driving home last night," said another netizen. "I couldn't see the road at all."
Many hydrological stations in the province are exceeding water levels, weather officials warned, and in the provincial capital Guangzhou, a city of 18 million, reservoirs have reached flood limits, city officials announced on Sunday.
Data showed 2,609 hydrological stations with daily rainfall greater than 50 mm (1.97 inches), accounting for about 59% of all observation stations. At 8 a.m. Sunday, 27 hydrological stations in Guangdong were on alert.
Officials have been reducing water levels at the reservoirs through spillways and culvert discharge to ensure downstream flood control.


KAUST Releases New Study on Climate Change and Causes of Floods in Arabian Gulf Region

KAUST Releases New Study on Climate Change and Causes of Floods in Arabian Gulf Region
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KAUST Releases New Study on Climate Change and Causes of Floods in Arabian Gulf Region

KAUST Releases New Study on Climate Change and Causes of Floods in Arabian Gulf Region

A new study by King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) exposed the serious dangers climate change poses to the Arabian Gulf region, reported the Saudi Press Agency on Saturday.

Researchers warned about the potential of catastrophic flooding, which could overwhelm existing infrastructure and lead to significant loss of life and damage the economy, due to the rise in temperatures and more frequent rainfall, as observed in the recent extreme weather in the UAE and Oman.

Unless drastic action is taken to decrease greenhouse gas emissions, the region’s maximum annual rainfall could rise by 33% by the end of this century, the study said, stressing that many areas in the Gulf lack the infrastructure needed to cope with the uncharacteristic weather brough about by climate change.

With its extensive satellite data on the oceans and atmosphere of the region, as well as its highly regarded supercomputer lab, KAUST has unmatched resources for gaining a deep understanding of climate risks. This gives the university a vital role in comprehending and getting ready for the forecast challenges.


The Skies Fill with Color at a Chinese Kite Festival

 A dragon-shaped kite flies in the air at the 41st International Kite Festival in Weifang, Shandong Province of China, Saturday, April 20, 2024. (AP)
A dragon-shaped kite flies in the air at the 41st International Kite Festival in Weifang, Shandong Province of China, Saturday, April 20, 2024. (AP)
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The Skies Fill with Color at a Chinese Kite Festival

 A dragon-shaped kite flies in the air at the 41st International Kite Festival in Weifang, Shandong Province of China, Saturday, April 20, 2024. (AP)
A dragon-shaped kite flies in the air at the 41st International Kite Festival in Weifang, Shandong Province of China, Saturday, April 20, 2024. (AP)

More than 1,000 kites filled the skies of Weifang, an eastern Chinese coastal city that touts itself as the “kite capital of the world,” on Saturday. Locals say there is nothing that can’t sail the skies of Weifang.

From dragons to pandas, modern cars to mythical characters from a canonical Chinese novel, kite craftsmen and aficionados showcased their latest art at the Weifang International Kite Festival.

Kite-makers say the craftsmanship has evolved over the years, with nylon fabrics becoming more common at the expense of traditional materials such as paper and silk.

Modern craftsmanship also means kite-makers are boasting more elaborate, complex and bigger designs, among them a centipede kite measuring 70 meters (230 feet) in length.


12 Students and Teacher Killed in Columbine School Shooting Remembered at 25th Anniversary Vigil

Roses and candles sit on chairs for each of the shooting victims during a 25th Year Remembrance ceremony on April 19, 2024 at First Baptist Church of Denver in Denver, Colorado. (Getty Images/AFP)
Roses and candles sit on chairs for each of the shooting victims during a 25th Year Remembrance ceremony on April 19, 2024 at First Baptist Church of Denver in Denver, Colorado. (Getty Images/AFP)
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12 Students and Teacher Killed in Columbine School Shooting Remembered at 25th Anniversary Vigil

Roses and candles sit on chairs for each of the shooting victims during a 25th Year Remembrance ceremony on April 19, 2024 at First Baptist Church of Denver in Denver, Colorado. (Getty Images/AFP)
Roses and candles sit on chairs for each of the shooting victims during a 25th Year Remembrance ceremony on April 19, 2024 at First Baptist Church of Denver in Denver, Colorado. (Getty Images/AFP)

A girl who wrote in her diaries, a boy with learning disabilities who was just learning to like who he was and a teen who would spend every free minute fishing were among the 13 victims of the Columbine High School shooting remembered during a vigil Friday on the eve of the 25th anniversary of the shooting that was the worst the nation had seen at the time.

As small candles flickered on 13 empty chairs, short biographies of Columbine students Rachel Scott, Kyle Velasquez and Corey DePooter and the other victims were read one by one. After each, the crowd of about 150 people replied together “never forgotten” and a bell tolled.

The youngest killed in the attack that has inspired dozens of copycat shootings was Steven Curnow, 14. The oldest was teacher Dave Sanders, 47, who shepherded students out of the cafeteria to safety and was shot as he tried to get students upstairs into classrooms.

The others killed were Cassie Bernall, Kelly Fleming, Matt Kechter, Daniel Mauser, Dan Rohrbaugh, Isaiah Shoels, John Tomlin and Lauren Townsend.

Sanders' daughter, Coni Sanders, said her father changed the world forever by saving hundreds of students.

“The kids that he saved now have children and those children will have children so generations from now people will know they exist because of his bravery,” she said before the ceremony began.

The gathering, set up by advocates including gun safety organizations, was the main public event marking Saturday's anniversary, which is more subdued than previous milestone years. In addition to remembering those killed, the vigil at a church near the state Capitol also drew attention to those who were wounded and those who survived the shooting but suffered trauma.

Daniel Mauser's father, Tom Mauser, decided to set up the vigil after learning school officials did not plan to organize a large community event as they did on the 20th anniversary.

Mauser, who became a gun safety advocate after the shooting, urged the crowd of about 150 people gathered at a church across from the state Capitol never to forget the victims of Columbine and to take some kind of action to reduce gun violence.

“And most importantly we ask you to never forget, never forget the victims of Columbine. The slain, the injured, the traumatized and their families. And especially never forget those who lost their lives,” said Mauser, wearing his son's sneakers, a tradition he reserves for special occasions.

Former Arizona Congresswoman Gabby Giffords, who began campaigning for gun safety after she was nearly killed in a mass shooting, attended and spoke about her long recovery, drawing a comparison to the small steps needed to make change in the world.

“Change doesn't happen overnight and we can't do it alone. Join me. Let's move ahead together,” she said, drawing a standing ovation.

Nathan Hochhalter, whose sister Anne Marie was paralyzed after she was shot at Columbine, spoke about being trapped in a classroom at the school with about 30 students as they heard gunfire nearby. They were rescued about four hours later by SWAT officers who he said frisked them five times. Six months later, his mother, who had bipolar disorder, took her own life after asking to look at a gun in a pawnshop and shooting herself there.

“I just want to use this moment to let everyone know that it’s OK to ask for help, whatever your situation is whether, either as a survivor 25 years later or someone struggling with any part of their life. These things come in waves and they can hit you when you least expect it. You should all know that we’re all here for you and that you're not alone,” Hochhalter said.


Nigerian Chess Champion Plays Royal Game for 58 Hours, Sets New Global Record

 Tunde Onakoya, a Nigerian chess champion and child education advocate, plays a chess game in Times Square, Friday, April 19, 2024, in New York. (AP)
Tunde Onakoya, a Nigerian chess champion and child education advocate, plays a chess game in Times Square, Friday, April 19, 2024, in New York. (AP)
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Nigerian Chess Champion Plays Royal Game for 58 Hours, Sets New Global Record

 Tunde Onakoya, a Nigerian chess champion and child education advocate, plays a chess game in Times Square, Friday, April 19, 2024, in New York. (AP)
Tunde Onakoya, a Nigerian chess champion and child education advocate, plays a chess game in Times Square, Friday, April 19, 2024, in New York. (AP)

A Nigerian chess champion and child education advocate has played chess nonstop for 58 hours in New York City’s Times Square to break the Guinness World Record for the longest chess marathon.

Tunde Onakoya, 29, hopes to raise $1 million for children's education across Africa through the record attempt that began on Wednesday.

He crossed the 58-hour mark at about 02:30 a.m. GMT Saturday, surpassing the current chess marathon record of 56 hours, 9 minutes and 37 seconds, achieved in 2018 by Hallvard Haug Flatebø and Sjur Ferkingstad, both from Norway.

The Guinness World Record organization has yet to publicly comment about Onakoya’s attempt. It sometimes takes weeks for the organization to confirm any new record.

Onakoya played against Shawn Martinez, an American chess champion, in line with Guinness World Record guidelines that any attempt to break the record must be made by two players who would play continuously for the entire duration.

Support had been growing online and at the scene, where a blend of African music kept onlookers and supporters entertained amid cheers and applause.

The record attempt is “for the dreams of millions of children across Africa without access to education,” said Onakoya, who founded Chess in Slums Africa in 2018. The organization wants to support the education of at least 1 million children in slums across the continent.

“My energy is at 100% right now because my people are here supporting me with music,” Onakoya said Thursday evening after the players crossed the 24-hour mark.

On Onakoya's menu: Lots of water and jollof rice, one of West Africa’s best-known dishes.

For every hour of game played, Onakoya and his opponent got only five minutes' break. The breaks were sometimes grouped together, and Onakoya used them to catch up with Nigerians and New Yorkers cheering him on. He even joined in with their dancing sometimes.

A total of $22,000 was raised within the first 20 hours of the attempt, said Taiwo Adeyemi, Onakoya's manager.

“The support has been overwhelming from Nigerians in the US, global leaders, celebrities and hundreds of passersby," he said.

Onakoya’s attempt was closely followed in Nigeria, where he regularly organizes chess competitions for young people living on the streets.

More than 10 million children are out of school in the West African country — one of the world’s highest rates.

Among those who have publicly supported him are celebrities and public office holders, including Nigeria’s former Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, who wrote to Onakoya on the social media platform X, “Remember your own powerful words: 'It is possible to do great things from a small place.’"