Largest Ever Exhibition of Vermeer Paintings to Open in Amsterdam

A journalist takes images of Girl with a Pearl Earring during a press preview of the Vermeer exhibit at Amsterdam's Rijksmuseum, Monday, Feb. 6, 2023, which unveils its blockbuster exhibition of 28 paintings by 17th-century Dutch master Johannes Vermeer drawn from galleries around the world. (AP)
A journalist takes images of Girl with a Pearl Earring during a press preview of the Vermeer exhibit at Amsterdam's Rijksmuseum, Monday, Feb. 6, 2023, which unveils its blockbuster exhibition of 28 paintings by 17th-century Dutch master Johannes Vermeer drawn from galleries around the world. (AP)
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Largest Ever Exhibition of Vermeer Paintings to Open in Amsterdam

A journalist takes images of Girl with a Pearl Earring during a press preview of the Vermeer exhibit at Amsterdam's Rijksmuseum, Monday, Feb. 6, 2023, which unveils its blockbuster exhibition of 28 paintings by 17th-century Dutch master Johannes Vermeer drawn from galleries around the world. (AP)
A journalist takes images of Girl with a Pearl Earring during a press preview of the Vermeer exhibit at Amsterdam's Rijksmuseum, Monday, Feb. 6, 2023, which unveils its blockbuster exhibition of 28 paintings by 17th-century Dutch master Johannes Vermeer drawn from galleries around the world. (AP)

Twenty-eight paintings by Johannes Vermeer go on display at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam this week, the largest ever exhibition of works of the 17th-century Dutch master, known for his expertise at rendering light and intimate household scenes.

The show gathers half the works that Vermeer, who died aged 43 and worked slowly, is thought ever to have painted and three-quarters of those that still exist. He likely never saw so many of his own works together at one time.

Rijksmuseum director Taco Dibbits said Vermeer was a man who lived with a large family and had a busy life as an art dealer, but still managed to obsessively refine works of quiet beauty, bathed in light rendered with almost photographic accuracy.

"It's this ... complete focus and tranquility in his paintings that we still love today," Dibbits said.

Alongside famed works like "Girl With A Pearl Earring" (1664) and "The Milkmaid" (1659), the exhibit features Vermeer's two known outdoor paintings, several large canvases, and a string of his portrayals of women -- including playing instruments, reading and working.

"What's quite striking when you look at Vermeer is that in his paintings, it's mostly women who are the protagonists," said curator Pieter Roelofs, noting Vermeer had seven daughters.

Though no letter written by Vermeer exists, a key document is an inventory of possessions drawn up after his death, which left the family in debt. Furniture and many objects mentioned on the list appear in the paintings.

Roelofs said major advances have been made in understanding how Vermeer worked, including identifying pinholes at the focal point in some paintings such as "The Milkmaid", part of a system of strings he used to help ensure perfect perspective.

Artists and scholars dispute whether Vermeer may have made use of a "camera obscura", a forerunner of the modern photocamera.

Roelofs said Vermeer's works are more than something a good eye and skilled hand can create. Recent analysis shows the composition of "The Milkmaid" changed several times, notably by stripping things out to simplify it.

"That is what Vermeer is: it's never good enough and he keeps working on it until he thinks its sufficient to hand over to clients," Roelofs said.

Author Tracy Chevalier, whose novel "Girl with a Pearl Earring" was adapted to a movie of the same name, said for her the exhibition evoked an image of Vermeer as a reserved man who "plays his cards close to his chest."

"His paintings are so quiet and there are no children ... he must have compartmentalized his life and said 'no, no kids in the studio'."

Museums in Germany, France, Japan, Britain, Ireland and the United States contributed to the exhibition, which opens on Friday and runs until June.



Aid Brings a Gaza Bakery Back to Life

 A Palestinian worker arranges freshly baked flatbread at a bakery in Gaza City on April 14, 2024, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas. (AFP)
A Palestinian worker arranges freshly baked flatbread at a bakery in Gaza City on April 14, 2024, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas. (AFP)
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Aid Brings a Gaza Bakery Back to Life

 A Palestinian worker arranges freshly baked flatbread at a bakery in Gaza City on April 14, 2024, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas. (AFP)
A Palestinian worker arranges freshly baked flatbread at a bakery in Gaza City on April 14, 2024, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas. (AFP)

A bakery in Gaza City has started operating for the first time in six months with aid from the World Food Program (WFP), providing desperately needed food in a part of the territory where a UN-backed report has warned of imminent famine.

Abdelrahman al-Jadba, clutching a bag of freshly baked loaves, said he felt a sense of relief that he'd be able to feed his children, describing how he had been forced to give them bread made from flour mixed with sand.

"We pray to God that this continues," he said.

Israel's offensive in the Gaza Strip has turned much of the territory into a wasteland with an unfolding humanitarian catastrophe since October, when the armed group Hamas ignited war by storming southern Israel.

Israel has faced increased international pressure to let more aid into the Gaza Strip since it targeted an aid convoy on April 1, killing international relief workers.

The WFP said it has been using a new coordinated route to get aid to north Gaza, where it had delivered more than 1,300 metric tons of food parcels and wheat flour through nine convoys.

"On Saturday, WFP successfully delivered fuel enough for 4-5 days and wheat flour to a bakery in Gaza City to produce 14,000 bread parcels daily, the first delivery since the start of the war," a WFP spokesperson said.

"Deliveries will need to be repeated regularly, the plan is to reach an additional three bakeries in Gaza City next."

Israel, which denies hindering humanitarian relief to Gaza, has said that aid is moving into Gaza more quickly. But the amount is disputed and the United Nations says it is still much less than the bare minimum to meet humanitarian needs.

Bakery worker Motaz Ajour said his bakery had been out of action for 170 days until receiving WFP aid.

"A huge number of people are outside waiting in line and we hope to God that there will be other bakeries that will help us in north of Gaza," he said.

Aid agencies have complained that Israel is not ensuring enough access for food, medicine and other needed humanitarian supplies, and the European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell accused Israel in March of using starvation as a weapon of war.

Israel has blamed delays on aid getting into Gaza on the United Nations, which it has said is inefficient. It said convoys started going into northern Gaza from Thursday using a new crossing point it set up. It was not clear if the WFP convoys were using that route.

According to the union of bakery owners in Gaza, there were 140 bakeries operating in Gaza before the war, many of which had been bombed and destroyed. All bakeries in northern Gaza had stopped functioning.

Al-Jadba said the bag of bread he had bought cost 5 shekels ($1.35). Ten days ago, it would have cost him 20 times that amount, he said.

"Our feelings after bread became available: it brought some sense of relief to be able to feed these children, fill the hunger and be able to move on to the next day and maybe, God willing, bring more," he said.


Greece to Spend 780 Mln Euros to Protect Marine Biodiversity, Says PM

Plastic waste is pictured at the bottom of the sea, off the island of Andros, Greece, July 20, 2019. (Reuters)
Plastic waste is pictured at the bottom of the sea, off the island of Andros, Greece, July 20, 2019. (Reuters)
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Greece to Spend 780 Mln Euros to Protect Marine Biodiversity, Says PM

Plastic waste is pictured at the bottom of the sea, off the island of Andros, Greece, July 20, 2019. (Reuters)
Plastic waste is pictured at the bottom of the sea, off the island of Andros, Greece, July 20, 2019. (Reuters)

Greece is pushing ahead with 21 initiatives worth 780 million euros ($830.9 million) to protect marine biodiversity and tackle coastal pollution, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said on Monday ahead of an international conference.

Greece, which includes thousands of islands and which has the longest Mediterranean coastline of any littoral state, said last week it plans to create two marine parks, one in the Ionian Sea and one in the Aegean Sea, as part of the initiatives.

"Quietly but methodically, Greece is playing a leading role in the defense against dramatic climate changes, which are proven to affect every region and every activity," Mitsotakis said in an article published in Kathimerini newspaper.

Greece plans to present its national strategy on marine biodiversity protection at the "Our Ocean" conference, which Athens will host this year and which will be attended by about 120 countries.

More than 400 new commitments amounting to $10 billion will be announced during the conference, said a government official, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The European Union's Copernicus Climate Change Service said last month that ocean temperatures hit a record high in February, in a dataset that goes back to 1979. Overfishing and plastic pollution are also major threats to oceans.

Plastics entering the world's oceans could nearly triple by 2040 if no further action is taken, research has shown.

Greece wants to reduce plastic litter in the water by 50% and microplastics by 30% by 2030, the government official said.

The Greek marine parks, whose boundaries will be defined after scientific research by early 2025, will cover 32% of Greece's waters, Mitsotakis said. Greece has legislated the expansion of marine protected areas to 30% of its territorial waters by 2030.

The plan for a marine park in the Aegean Sea has irritated neighboring Türkiye, which said last week that it was not willing to accept a possible "fait accompli on geographical features whose status is disputed". In response, Greece accused Türkiye of "politicizing a purely environmental issue".

NATO allies Greece and Türkiye have long been at odds over a range of issues including maritime boundaries and claims over their continental shelves in the Mediterranean.

Mitsotakis said other initiatives underway include campaigns to curb plastic pollution, constructing charging stations at 12 ports for electric vessels and setting up a monitoring system for protected marine areas because fishing practices that damage the seabed will be banned. Greece wants to ban bottom trawling in all marine protected areas by 2030, the official said.


Russian Ballet Shows in South Korea Cancelled for a Second Time

Svetlana Zakharova as Princess Aurora with The Bolshoi Ballet. (AFP/Getty Images)
Svetlana Zakharova as Princess Aurora with The Bolshoi Ballet. (AFP/Getty Images)
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Russian Ballet Shows in South Korea Cancelled for a Second Time

Svetlana Zakharova as Princess Aurora with The Bolshoi Ballet. (AFP/Getty Images)
Svetlana Zakharova as Princess Aurora with The Bolshoi Ballet. (AFP/Getty Images)

A ballet show in South Korea featuring principal dancers from Russia's Bolshoi Ballet was cancelled a day before opening night, the organizer said on Monday, amid tensions between Seoul and Moscow over Ukraine and North Korea.

The last-minute cancellation came after Seoul performances of a ballet starring Svetlana Zakharova, a Ukrainian-born Russian prima ballerina and a vocal supporter of Russian President Vladimir Putin, were called off in March.

The Russian embassy in South Korea expressed "deep regret" over the latest cancellation.

"We can't help but notice that South Korea is now showing a certain tendency in its approach to cooperation with Russia in the cultural field as well," the embassy said on its social media account.

"We will have no choice but to consider this."

South Korea has joined Western economic sanctions on Russia, suspended transactions with Russian institutions, and regulated the exports of some strategic items, including electronics and semiconductors, in response to Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

Seoul and Moscow have also clashed over Seoul's decision to impose sanctions against Russian individuals and entities which it said were carrying military cargo to North Korea or were linked to North Korea's nuclear and missile programs.

The performances, due to take place from Tuesday to Thursday, initially featured 12 principal performers from the Bolshoi Ballet at the Sejong Center for the Performing Arts in Seoul.

The program was then modified to reduce the number of Russian performers with changed content.

However, the show's organizer on Monday announced the cancellation on social media, saying the alterations to the show's cast and program were not accepted by the concert hall.


The World’s Coral Reefs Are Bleaching. What Does That Mean?

This July 26, 2023 image provided by phade® by WinCup, Inc., shows a "Coral Fort," made of biodegradable drinking straws that researchers are using to prevent laboratory-grown coral from becoming really expensive fish food, off the coast of Fort Lauderdale, Fla. (Chris Gug/phade® by WinCup, Inc. via AP)
This July 26, 2023 image provided by phade® by WinCup, Inc., shows a "Coral Fort," made of biodegradable drinking straws that researchers are using to prevent laboratory-grown coral from becoming really expensive fish food, off the coast of Fort Lauderdale, Fla. (Chris Gug/phade® by WinCup, Inc. via AP)
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The World’s Coral Reefs Are Bleaching. What Does That Mean?

This July 26, 2023 image provided by phade® by WinCup, Inc., shows a "Coral Fort," made of biodegradable drinking straws that researchers are using to prevent laboratory-grown coral from becoming really expensive fish food, off the coast of Fort Lauderdale, Fla. (Chris Gug/phade® by WinCup, Inc. via AP)
This July 26, 2023 image provided by phade® by WinCup, Inc., shows a "Coral Fort," made of biodegradable drinking straws that researchers are using to prevent laboratory-grown coral from becoming really expensive fish food, off the coast of Fort Lauderdale, Fla. (Chris Gug/phade® by WinCup, Inc. via AP)

Huge stretches of coral reef around the world are turning a ghostly white this year amid record warm ocean temperatures.

On Monday, the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration confirmed the world's fourth mass global bleaching event is underway - with serious consequences for marine life and for the people and economies that rely on reefs.

Here's how warming affects coral reefs and what the future might hold for these fragile underwater ecosystems.

WHAT ARE CORALS?

Corals are invertebrates that live in colonies. Their calcium carbonate secretions form hard and protective scaffolding that serves as a home to many colorful species of single-celled algae.

The two organisms have evolved over millennia to work together, with corals providing shelter to algae, while the algae remove coral waste compounds and deliver energy and oxygen back to their hosts.

WHY DO CORALS MATTER?

Coral reefs cover less than one percent of the ocean floor, but have out-sized benefits for marine ecosystems and economies.

A quarter of marine life will depend on reefs for shelter, finding food or spawning at some point in their lives and coastal fisheries would struggle without corals.

Every year, reefs provide about $2.7 trillion in goods and services, from tourism to coastal protection, according to a 2020 estimate by the Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network. About $36 billion is generated by snorkeling and scuba diving tourists alone.

Coral reefs also help coastal communities by forming a protective barrier against storm surges and large waves. This helps to avoid property damage for more than 5 million people worldwide, a 2022 study in the journal Marine Policy found.

WHAT IS CORAL BLEACHING?

When water temperatures rise, jewel-toned corals get stressed. They cope by expelling their algae — causing them to turn bone white.

Most corals live in shallow waters, where climate-driven warming is most pronounced.

Whether a coral becomes heat-stressed depends on how long the high temperatures last, and how much warmer they are than usual.

Scientists have found that corals generally begin to bleach when surrounding waters are at least 1 degree Celsius warmer than the maximum average temperature - or the peak of what corals are used to - and persist for four or more weeks.

WHAT IS GOING ON WITH OCEAN TEMPERATURES THIS YEAR?

This year has seen an explosive and sustained bout of ocean heat as the planet deals with the effects of both climate change and an El Nino climate pattern, which yields warmer seas.

In March, global average sea surface temperature (SST) reached a record monthly high of 21.07C (69.93F), according to the EU Copernicus Climate Change Service.

"There's been a pretty large step change in the global average SST this year," said Neal Cantin, a coral biologist with the Australian Institute of Marine Sciences. "We're certainly in a new regime. Corals clearly aren't keeping up".

As the El Nino weakens, scientists say some of that ocean heat should diminish. But overall ocean warming will continue as climate change intensifies.

DO ALL BLEACHED CORALS DIE?

Corals can survive a bleaching event if the surrounding waters cool and algae return.

Scientists at the Palau International Coral Reef Center estimate that it takes at least nine to 12 years for coral reefs to fully recover from mass bleaching events, according to research published in 2019.

Disruptions such as cyclones or pollution can slow the recovery.

"Bleaching is like a fever in humans," said ecologist David Obura, director of Coastal Oceans Research and Development in the Indian Ocean East Africa. "We get a fever to resist a disease, and if the disease is not too much, we recover. But if it is too much, we die as a result."

Scientists caution that corals this year have faced harsher and more prolonged high temperatures than ever before.

"What is happening is new for us, and to science," said Lorenzo Alvarez-Filip, a coral reef ecologist at the National Autonomous University of Mexico. "We cannot yet predict how severely stressed corals will do even when they survive the stress event, or how coral recovery will operate."

WHAT HAPPENS TO DEAD CORALS?

Dead reefs can still offer shelter to fish or provide a storm barrier over several years for coastal communities.

But eventually, these underwater graveyards of calcium carbonate skeletons will erode and break apart.

"It might take 10, even 20 years to see these consequences," Alvarez-Filip said.

WHAT CAN BE DONE TO HELP SAVE REEFS?

The best chance for coral survival is for the world to cut greenhouse gas emissions to limit climate change.

Many scientists think that at just 1.2C of warming above preindustrial level, the world has already passed a key threshold for coral reef survival. They expect between 70% and 90% of the world's coral reefs will be lost.

Scientists and conservationists are scrambling to intervene.

Local communities have cleanup programs to remove litter from the reefs to reduce further stresses. And scientists are breeding corals in labs with the hopes of restoring degraded reefs.

However, none of this is likely to work to protect today's corals from warming waters. Scientists are therefore trying to plan for the future by bringing coral larvae into cryopreservation banks, and breeding corals with more resilient traits.

Obura said that while it's important that scientists investigate such interventions, breeding genetically engineered corals is not the answer to climate change. "We have to be very careful about stating that it's the solution and that it's saving corals reefs now," he said.

"Until we reduce carbon emissions, they won't save coral reefs."


'From Gaza With Love': Palestinian Saint Levant Rouses Coachella

Saint Levant's performance follows last year's show from Elyanna, a Palestinian-Chilean who became the first Palestinian to perform at Coachella © VALERIE MACON / AFP
Saint Levant's performance follows last year's show from Elyanna, a Palestinian-Chilean who became the first Palestinian to perform at Coachella © VALERIE MACON / AFP
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'From Gaza With Love': Palestinian Saint Levant Rouses Coachella

Saint Levant's performance follows last year's show from Elyanna, a Palestinian-Chilean who became the first Palestinian to perform at Coachella © VALERIE MACON / AFP
Saint Levant's performance follows last year's show from Elyanna, a Palestinian-Chilean who became the first Palestinian to perform at Coachella © VALERIE MACON / AFP

Saint Levant, the Palestinian-French-Algerian-Serbian rapper who's found viral fame online, made his Coachella debut over the weekend, bringing eminently danceable beats and Palestinian solidarity to the stage.

The 23-year-old played a set scheduled for a time conflicting with the highly anticipated No Doubt reunion but still packed the desert festival's Gobi Tent, where he played both his hits and newer work to a sea of fans, many sporting keffiyehs and waving Palestinian flags.

"There's so many people we wanted to see at the same time -- but this was a hundred percent where we were coming," Mustafa Arch, a 32-year-old Syrian-Lebanese festival-goer, told AFP after the set.

"Free Palestine -- we're so happy to be here, this is probably the best day of the weekend for us. We'll continue to represent the whole weekend," Arch said.

Some 1.5 million people have taken refuge in the southern city of Rafah, according to the United Nations, which says Israel is blocking food aid convoys as a famine looms.

"Coachella, my name is Saint Levant and I was born in Jerusalem and raised in Gaza," the artist told the crowd to cheers. "As I hope all of you are aware, the people of Gaza have been undergoing a brutal, brutal genocide for the past six months. And the people of Palestine have been undergoing a brutal occupation for the past 75 years."

"It's not just me on the stage -- it's the whole Arab world on the stage."

The artist born Marwan Abdelhamid spent many of his childhood years living in the Gaza Strip.

In 2007 he and his family fled to Jordan, where he lived for approximately a decade before moving to California, where he is now based in Los Angeles.

Saint Levant's trilingual rap track "Very Few Friends" went viral after he released it in November 2022, and 2023's "From Gaza With Love" has also found a growing fanbase.

During Saturday's set he performed the new works "Deira" and "5am in Paris;" he released the latter just a few days ago.

"It's about exile," he told his Coachella audience.

"A feeling that us Palestinians know a bit too well."

The artist said he would also soon release a broader project called "Deira," named after a hotel built by his father which was bombed in recent months.

Speaking to AFP after the set, 43-year-old Yara Brenton called it "incredible" to see a fellow Palestinian onstage.

Saint Levant's performance follows last year's show from Elyanna, a Palestinian-Chilean who became the first Palestinian to perform at Coachella.

"I remember coming to Coachella ages ago, there was nothing like this. I never saw myself represented in anything popular," said Brenton. "It means a lot, and it means a lot to see so many younger people enthusiastic about it too."

She voiced praise that Saint Levant was outspoken about the Palestinian cause onstage, saying that "a few years ago, this wouldn't have been okay."

"There are a lot more people who know about Palestine" today, Brenton said.

"And there's no going back, I think, from this awareness."


How O.J. Simpson Burned the Ford Bronco into America’s Collective Memory

Motorists wave as police cars pursue the Ford Bronco (white, R) carrying fugitive and murder suspect O.J Simpson on a 90 minutes chase on Los Angeles freeway on June 17, 1994. (AFP)
Motorists wave as police cars pursue the Ford Bronco (white, R) carrying fugitive and murder suspect O.J Simpson on a 90 minutes chase on Los Angeles freeway on June 17, 1994. (AFP)
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How O.J. Simpson Burned the Ford Bronco into America’s Collective Memory

Motorists wave as police cars pursue the Ford Bronco (white, R) carrying fugitive and murder suspect O.J Simpson on a 90 minutes chase on Los Angeles freeway on June 17, 1994. (AFP)
Motorists wave as police cars pursue the Ford Bronco (white, R) carrying fugitive and murder suspect O.J Simpson on a 90 minutes chase on Los Angeles freeway on June 17, 1994. (AFP)

The Ford Bronco initially was conceived and designed for rugged outdoorsy types, a two-door means of escape to nature from the bustling cities of mid-century America.

But it had already been tamed and polished for suburbanites, with cruise control and air conditioning, by 1994, when O.J. Simpson cowered in the back of one, a handgun to his temple, as patrol cars followed it for about two hours in the California twilight.

The model was discontinued two years later. But the Bronco — or at least that white Bronco — became one of America’s most iconic automobiles after the slow-speed chase that played out on TV screens before an audience of millions, a moment that was seared indelibly into the nation’s cultural memory.

“Kids who were born in the 2000s, even they know that’s O.J.,” Marcus Collins, a University of Michigan marketing professor, said of his students. “It’s just as salient as me showing the twin towers on fire. It definitely became etched in the zeitgeist because of all the contextual associations that we applied to it.”

The Bronco ridden in by Simpson, who died Wednesday, now sits in a crime museum in Tennessee, parked near a Volkswagen Beetle that was driven by serial killer Ted Bundy.

White Ford Bronco is also the name of a band that plays 1990s cover songs, by artists from Metallica to Will Smith to the Spice Girls.

Singer and guitarist Diego Valencia, 41, said he was brainstorming band names in 2008 when a co-worker suggested it.

“With something like ‘Seinfeld’ or ‘Beverly Hills 90210,’ you might be losing some people,” Valencia said. “But that was the most ’90s thing ever.”

The White Ford Bronco name is not a celebration of Simpson, Valencia said, but a nod to that moment of “where were you in June of 1994?”

MARKETED TO HUNTERS AND FISHERMEN

The Bronco rolled off the assembly line in 1966 as one of the first sport-utility vehicles, said Todd Zuercher, an auto historian and author of the 2019 book “Ford Bronco: A History of Ford’s Legendary 4x4.”

“The whole thing back then was get out and get away from the hustle and bustle of urban life and get into the backcountry,” Zuercher said.

The vehicle was marketed to hunters and fishermen but also to families for exploring, Zuercher said. The Bronco was an improvement over competing models, such as the Jeep CJ-5 and the International Scout, because it had a hard top, a heater and maybe even a radio.

SUVs progressively became larger and more luxurious over the years, Zuercher said, and by time of the Simpson car chase, the Bronco was on its fifth generation.

Simpson also owned a Bronco, but it was seized as evidence after blood was found inside. The one involved in the police pursuit was a 1993 XLT model belonging to his friend, former teammate and the driver that evening, Al “A.C.” Cowlings.

‘HE WAS CHECKING OUT’

Simpson was charged with murder after his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend Ronald Goldman were found stabbed to death. Simpson failed to surrender to police as promised and was declared a fugitive on June 17, 1994.

He was spotted later in the Bronco with Cowlings, sparking a 60-mile (96-kilometer) police pursuit across Southern California. More than 90 million Americans watched, thunderstruck, as TV helicopters provided live shots of the action. Thousands more lined freeways and city streets, some cheering the former star running back as the bizarre motorcade passed by.

Cowlings said there was only one thing on his mind: keeping Simpson alive.

“He was checking out,” Cowlings told The Associated Press in 1996. “There’s no way O.J. and I were trying to escape. I was trying to save a friend.”

Clutching a family photo, Simpson was ultimately coaxed out of the Bronco and gave himself up in the driveway of his Brentwood home. Police found a gun, Simpson’s passport, a fake beard and thousands of dollars in cash and checks in the vehicle.

The make of the vehicle seemed to heighten the drama.

“If it were a Jeep Wrangler, it almost could have been any of us,” said Collins, the marketing professor. “But because it was a white Ford Bronco, it stood out. It was a distinctive vehicle with this very distinctive person, O.J. It was still on brand.”

SOCCER MOMS WEREN’T DRIVING BRONCOS

There has been speculation that the chase hastened the Bronco’s demise, or alternatively that it led to an uptick in sales.

Zuercher, the auto historian, said the Bronco was already on its last legs at the time. As a two-door SUV, it couldn’t compete with four-door models that were family-friendly and extremely popular. The Ford Explorer, for example, was a runaway hit when it came out in 1990.

“Most of the soccer moms of the 1990s weren’t driving Ford Broncos,” Zuercher said. “There were two more model years after the O.J. chase, and then the Bronco was gone for 25 years.”

The car-chase Bronco was later bought by three men, one of whom was Simpson’s former agent, ESPN reported in 2016. It spent years in a Los Angeles parking garage, among other places, before finding a home at the Alcatraz East Crime Museum in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee.

Besides the Simpson Bronco and Bundy’s Beetle, the museum also houses a 1933 Essex Terraplane that belonged to gangster John Dillinger and a 1934 Ford prop car used in the bloody death scene at the end of the 1967 film “Bonnie and Clyde.”

Taylor Smart, the museum’s marketing director, said there is still an air of mystery surrounding the O.J. pursuit that captivates people, notably the question of, Why did it even happen?

The museum replays the chase on TV screens in the room where the iconic Bronco is parked behind a barrier, allowing visitors to relive the drama as they use cellphones to take snapshots of a slice of American history.

“A lot of people can name the exact bar that they were at” on that day 30 years ago, Smart said. “It was this shared experience with many across America. Everyone kind of has a story to tell of where they were, what they were doing, when that white Bronco chase came on.”


Five Years after Fire, Notre-Dame Rises from Ashes

The spire has been covered in lead, a material that has caused much debate because of its potential toxicity. Geoffroy VAN DER HASSELT / AFP
The spire has been covered in lead, a material that has caused much debate because of its potential toxicity. Geoffroy VAN DER HASSELT / AFP
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Five Years after Fire, Notre-Dame Rises from Ashes

The spire has been covered in lead, a material that has caused much debate because of its potential toxicity. Geoffroy VAN DER HASSELT / AFP
The spire has been covered in lead, a material that has caused much debate because of its potential toxicity. Geoffroy VAN DER HASSELT / AFP

Five years after being ravaged by fire, Notre-Dame Cathedral has returned to its former splendor months ahead of its planned reopening, participants in a recent visit to the monument said.
The fire at the UNESCO-listed cathedral, which used to welcome 12 million visitors a year, shocked the world on April 15, 2019.
But now, the inside of Notre-Dame is at its most luminous in living memory, visitors said.
"It is wonderful to see these colors that had completely disappeared," said Guillaume Normand, vice rector of Notre-Dame, as he inspected the completely restored chapel. "Stunning," he told AFP.
When the public returns to Notre-Dame in December they will get an "unequaled perception of its dimension", added the cathedral's rector, Olivier Ribadeau Dumas. He said he was "humbled" in the face of "those who created, preserved or saved it, and those who are now restoring it".
Ongoing work is on track to meet the December deadline for re-opening, the head of the reconstruction said last month.
The monument already had a key moment in February when scaffolding came off around its spire, which authorities say will be fully visible by the time the Paris Summer Olympics kick off in July.
The spire has been covered in lead, a material that has caused much debate because of its potential toxicity.
$900 million of donations
In December, the cathedral regained its great cross, and got a new golden rooster to replace one that had been destroyed in the fire.
Initially, President Emmanuel Macron promised the building would be fully restored by the time the Olympics open, but the date was pushed back after restoration work hit several snags.
Authorities have still not determined the cause of the fire, although they believe it was started accidentally.
A fund-raising drive launched within hours of the fire has attracted donations of 846 million euros ($903 million).
Restoration work has been constant since 2019, except for a few weeks during the Covid crisis.
All key challenges of the restoration had now been met, said Philippe Jost, president of the Rebuilding Notre-Dame de Paris public body. The rebuilding of the nave, using wood from around 1,000 trees specially selected from French forests, had been among the toughest tasks, Jost said.
Some 250 companies and hundreds of craftsmen, architects and other trade professionals have been involved in the restoration.
The cathedral's organ, undamaged by the fire but covered in lead dust, has been fully cleaned, although it will take six months of harmonization before its 8,000 pipes recover their full sound potential.
Natural light inside the cathedral is at its brightest in living memory after the cleanup, Jost said.
The roofing over the nave, choir and spire are among jobs still to be completed by the summer, as are floor and furniture restorations.
Starting in the autumn, the cathedral's grounds and entrance areas are to be cleared for outside work to begin.
France has just called for bids for the creation of modern stained glass for Notre-Dame, with deliveries expected in 2026.


Iberians Hit the Beaches as Temperatures Rise 10C above Normal

 A woman protects herself from the sun during hot weather in Bilbao, Spain, April 13, 2024. (Reuters)
A woman protects herself from the sun during hot weather in Bilbao, Spain, April 13, 2024. (Reuters)
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Iberians Hit the Beaches as Temperatures Rise 10C above Normal

 A woman protects herself from the sun during hot weather in Bilbao, Spain, April 13, 2024. (Reuters)
A woman protects herself from the sun during hot weather in Bilbao, Spain, April 13, 2024. (Reuters)

People in Bilbao in northwestern Spain normally spend April dodging the showers but on Saturday many hit the beach as temperatures were up to 10 degrees Celsius (18 degrees Fahrenheit) above normal.

The Portuguese were also hitting the beach near Lisbon as temperatures rose to as high as 29 C.

Many people swapped umbrellas for ice cream as temperatures reached 21 C in Bilbao and were expected to hit 27 C elsewhere on Sunday, Aemet, the state weather forecasting agency said.

"Temperatures, both on Saturday and Sunday, will be between 5 and 10 degrees Celsius higher than normal in much of the country, and between 10 and 15 degrees Celsius in the northern third of the peninsula and the Canary Islands," Aemet said in a post on the social media site X.

Temperatures more often experienced in summer months were being recorded in April, Aemet said.

In Portugal, temperatures were also higher than usual for this time of the year, according to weather agency IPMA on Saturday.

In the central region of Santarem, temperatures are expected to reach 31 C.

However, by next week temperatures in much of Spain will dip again, particularly in northern Spain, Aemet said.


Climate Targets Group Trustees Seek to Calm Governance Storm

Representation photo: A general view shows almost dried up Lake Zicksee near Sankt Andrae, as another heatwave is predicted for parts of the country, in Austria, August 12, 2022. REUTERS/Leonhard Foeger/
Representation photo: A general view shows almost dried up Lake Zicksee near Sankt Andrae, as another heatwave is predicted for parts of the country, in Austria, August 12, 2022. REUTERS/Leonhard Foeger/
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Climate Targets Group Trustees Seek to Calm Governance Storm

Representation photo: A general view shows almost dried up Lake Zicksee near Sankt Andrae, as another heatwave is predicted for parts of the country, in Austria, August 12, 2022. REUTERS/Leonhard Foeger/
Representation photo: A general view shows almost dried up Lake Zicksee near Sankt Andrae, as another heatwave is predicted for parts of the country, in Austria, August 12, 2022. REUTERS/Leonhard Foeger/

Trustees of a climate targets verification group at the center of a governance storm on Friday sought to assuage concern over their plan to allow offsetting of companies' supply chain emissions.

The Science Based Targets initiative had initially laid out its plan in a statement on its website late Tuesday, prompting staff and some technical advisors to write separate letters to the board criticising the move.

Among the complaints was that the board had circumvented an established governance process and made a decision to allow offsetting of so-called Scope 3 emissions without the agreement of the broader group.

By allowing limited use of offsets for Scope 3 emissions, the hope is it will help drive money to climate friendly projects like afforestation. Scope 1 emissions, those directly under a company's control, would not be able to be offset.

In exchange for funding a project such as planting more trees, a company would be able to collect a credit that they can use to offset pollution from parts of their value chain, such as when a customer uses their products.

In a "clarification" to its April 9 statement, the trustees said no change had been made to the group's current standards and that any use of such "environmental attribute certificates" would be "informed by the evidence".

In addition, any changes to the group's standards would follow the usual process that includes a research and drafting stage as well as a public consultation, and review and approval by the group's technical council, it said.

A draft proposal about potential changes to Scope 3 will be published in July and feed into the drafting phase of the process, the statement added.

Separately, the trustees also received a letter of support from a group of non-profits and companies working with communities in the Global South most exposed to climate change, including in Tanzania, Kenya, Peru and Indonesia.

Among the 15 signatories were Brazil's Ecologica Institute and Rioterra.

The group said it celebrated the decision to allow Scope 3 offsets as "at long last" money would flow to communities working to protect nature, including through reducing deforestation, restoring grassland and reforesting mangroves.

"Simply put, if seen through, this brave shift by the SBTi Board will unlock more climate finance for natural assets and local communities in the Global South, accelerating global climate action," the group said in a letter seen by Reuters.

"We urge the SBTi staff to listen and act pragmatically, and to work expeditiously, to propose guidance to operationalize the Board's direction."


Stranded Sea Otter Pups Paired With Surrogate Moms at California Aquarium

A sea otter stands as another sea otter emerges from water, at the Aquarium of the Pacific, in Long Beach, California, US, April 11, 2024. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni Purchase Licensing Rights
A sea otter stands as another sea otter emerges from water, at the Aquarium of the Pacific, in Long Beach, California, US, April 11, 2024. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni Purchase Licensing Rights
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Stranded Sea Otter Pups Paired With Surrogate Moms at California Aquarium

A sea otter stands as another sea otter emerges from water, at the Aquarium of the Pacific, in Long Beach, California, US, April 11, 2024. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni Purchase Licensing Rights
A sea otter stands as another sea otter emerges from water, at the Aquarium of the Pacific, in Long Beach, California, US, April 11, 2024. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni Purchase Licensing Rights

Every year, around 10 to 15 sea otter pups are found stranded off the California coast, often due to storms that separate mother and offspring.

The Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach is partnering with the Monterey Bay Aquarium to pair pups with surrogate sea otter mothers with the hope of teaching them life skills and returning them to the wild.

As part of the program, the aquarium has successfully bonded their first surrogate mom, called Ellie, and a currently unnamed pup.

"That mom is going to teach them all of the behaviors that we cannot teach, being people," said Megan Smylie, the sea otter program manager at the Aquarium of the Pacific, Reuters reported.

"That adult female will start to mimic behaviors that the pup should learn, will help it groom, will help it forage, will help it teach prey manipulation, how to open up shells and anything that they would need to know that humans are unable to teach them," Smylie added.

California sea otters are a protected species. After being relentlessly hunted for their unique fur - they have the densest hair of any animal with up to a million hairs per square inch (6.45 sq cm) - they were thought to be extinct until a colony of 50 was found off the coast of Big Sur in the 1930s.

Now, the numbers are up to around 3,000 but more are needed not only for the species' survival but also to protect California's near-shore ecosystems.

"They are a critical sort of predator in that system that keeps herbivores like sea urchins in check so that sea urchins don't overpopulate and take out kelp forests and eel grass beds, as an example," said Brett Long, a senior director at the Aquarium of the Pacific.

The sea grass and kelp ecosystems are credited with creating biodiversity, protecting against climate events and are a powerful tool in carbon sequestration, Smylie said.

Sea otters may be super cute and cuddly, but Long also says they are very territorial and are "just a wolverine in the water."

And their eating habits are pricey, as they consume 25 percent of their bodyweight every day in restaurant-quality seafood. So a 45-pound (20-kg) otter eats 10-12 pounds (4.5-5.4 kg) of seafood a day.

That means that feeding an otter costs the aquarium $40,000 a year and demands constant fundraising.

The two aquariums have rescued eight stranded pups and hope other organizations can join the effort to increase the population in the wild and protect the California shore ecosystem.

"This is a bigger purpose," said Long. "This is a higher challenge. So we invest and we invest a lot but we've all now learned and appreciate, boy, you see that juvenile otter survive out in the wild. That feels incredible."