The Noah's Ark for Plants Beneath the English Countryside

The Millennium Seed Bank holds some 40,000 plant species from around the world. Ben Stansall / AFP
The Millennium Seed Bank holds some 40,000 plant species from around the world. Ben Stansall / AFP
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The Noah's Ark for Plants Beneath the English Countryside

The Millennium Seed Bank holds some 40,000 plant species from around the world. Ben Stansall / AFP
The Millennium Seed Bank holds some 40,000 plant species from around the world. Ben Stansall / AFP

Inside bomb-proof frozen vaults underneath the English countryside hides a treasure trove of 40,000 species of wild plant seeds from around the world, many of which are in danger of disappearing.

The world's largest seed bank, located in the sleepy countryside south of London, is in a race against time because two out of five plant species are threatened with extinction, according to scientists.

Britain's David Attenborough, a leading environmental figure of international renown, has called the Millennium Seed Bank (MSB) "perhaps the most significant conservation initiative ever".

"The purpose is conservation of wild species through seeds, against those species becoming extinct, in the long run," explained John Dickie, the project's senior research leader.

The 70-year-old has been involved with the MSB since its inception in the late 1990s and the opening of its current home in 2000 to celebrate the millennium.

A total of 2.5 billion seeds are stored at the MSB in Wakehurst, 35 miles (56 kilometers) outside London, and at a branch of the capital's Kew Gardens botanical gardens.

They come in all shapes, colors and sizes, and belong to 40,020 different species originating from 190 countries.

Nearly 20 percent of the world's flora is preserved at Wakehurst, with priority given to plants that are threatened, particularly by climate change, and endemic plants that can only be found in one geographical area.

Plants that have a societal function, such as for medical or economic use, also have their place.

'Not rocket science'

"Plant species are endangered for a number of reasons but mainly through land use change, and increasingly through climate change," said Dickie.

"Some plants will adapt. Others are not adaptable. At least they are here rather than not existing anymore," he added.

Wakehurst receives new seeds from all over the world every week and then the process of saving them begins.

That process is "based on the technology that has already been in use for crop species", said Dickie.

"It's not rocket science. Dry it, freeze it. It's just chemistry," he added, explaining that, once frozen, the seeds can be stored for decades, probably centuries.

Dickie's team of around 20 researchers and various volunteers works in public view in their glass-fronted laboratory.

Lucy Taylor is working on Albizia Polyphylla seeds that have arrived from Madagascar.

"Madagascar is a very interesting place for us. As it was disconnected from Africa, there's a unique flora. And there's also a lot of pressure on land," she said.

One of her jobs is to separate the empty seeds from the rest.

"Many of them can be empty or infested with bugs or some kind of disease, so it's important for us to clean them as much as we can," explained Taylor.

"We want to have the best quality collection possible but also space in our bank vault is limited."

The seeds are X-rayed for diseases, and each is given its own identity card, with its name, country of origin and date of arrival at the MSB.

The seeds are then stored in glass jars before scientists -- kitted up like Arctic explorers -- take them to the minus 20 degree Celsius (minus four-degree Fahrenheit) underground vaults, built to withstand floods, bombings and radiation.

The largest collection of seeds is from the orchid family.

But there are also rare plants, such as the world's smallest water lily and the Deschampsia Antarctica, also known as Antarctic hair grass, one of two flowering plants native to the frozen continent.

The MSB, which receives public funding and donations, has partnerships with 90 countries.

Some, such as Indonesia, refuse to share their seeds with the MSB, but keep them on their territory and take responsibility for their conservation.



Report: King Charles Visit to France Envisaged for September

Britain's King Charles III salutes people as he exits the fortified evangelical church in in the village of Viscri, central Transylvania, Romania on June 6, 2023. (AFP)
Britain's King Charles III salutes people as he exits the fortified evangelical church in in the village of Viscri, central Transylvania, Romania on June 6, 2023. (AFP)
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Report: King Charles Visit to France Envisaged for September

Britain's King Charles III salutes people as he exits the fortified evangelical church in in the village of Viscri, central Transylvania, Romania on June 6, 2023. (AFP)
Britain's King Charles III salutes people as he exits the fortified evangelical church in in the village of Viscri, central Transylvania, Romania on June 6, 2023. (AFP)

Britain's King Charles may travel to France in September after a planned state visit in March was cancelled because of sometimes-violent protests over reforms to the French pension system, BFM TV reported.

Charles had planned a three-day visit to France in late March in what would have been his first state visit since succeeding his mother Queen Elizabeth as British monarch in September.

But the visit was cancelled after social unrest over President Emmanuel Macron's new pension law erupted into some of the worst street violence seen in years across the country.

Instead, he visited Germany on his first overseas trip as monarch.

Reuters could not immediately confirm BFM's report.


Self-Made Millionaire Sits China’s University Exams for 27th Time 

Students leave after their first exam during the first day of the National College Entrance Examination (NCEE), known as “gaokao”, in Nanjing, in China's eastern Jiangsu province on June 7, 2023. (AFP)
Students leave after their first exam during the first day of the National College Entrance Examination (NCEE), known as “gaokao”, in Nanjing, in China's eastern Jiangsu province on June 7, 2023. (AFP)
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Self-Made Millionaire Sits China’s University Exams for 27th Time 

Students leave after their first exam during the first day of the National College Entrance Examination (NCEE), known as “gaokao”, in Nanjing, in China's eastern Jiangsu province on June 7, 2023. (AFP)
Students leave after their first exam during the first day of the National College Entrance Examination (NCEE), known as “gaokao”, in Nanjing, in China's eastern Jiangsu province on June 7, 2023. (AFP)

Among the millions of fresh-faced high schoolers sitting China's dreaded "gaokao" college entrance exam on Wednesday, Liang Shi sticks out like a sore thumb -- a grey-haired, self-made millionaire stubbornly taking the test for the 27th time.

Liang, 56, is no fool. He worked his way up from a menial job on a factory floor to establishing his own successful construction materials business.

But one dream has always eluded him: getting a high enough score on the notoriously grueling gaokao to study at the top-tier Sichuan University.

To compete with the nearly 13 million high school seniors taking the exam this year, Liang said he has been living "the life of an ascetic monk" for the past few months, rising just after dawn to furiously study textbooks for 12 hours a day.

"It's an uncomfortable thought that I didn't manage to get a college education," Liang told AFP.

"I really want to go to university and become an intellectual."

Over the past four decades, the Sichuan native has taken the gaokao 26 times but has consistently failed to get the required result to send him to his chosen university.

"They call me 'the gaokao holdout'," he said, proudly owning a mocking nickname given to him by local media.

For students, a good gaokao result can decide one's life trajectory, with a degree from an elite university conferring respect, status and better job opportunities.

Liang took the exam for the first time in 1983, when he was only 16.

He kept trying to boost his score for the next decade -- until he had to give up in 1992, as the test at that time was restricted to single people aged under 25.

As soon as those limits were lifted in 2001, Liang's desire for a prestigious college education was rekindled.

He has since taken the gaokao another 16 times, including every year since 2010 -- even when harsh zero-Covid restrictions made taking the exam more challenging than normal.

Online, some have questioned whether his apparent obsession is merely a publicity stunt.

"What for?" Liang retorted.

"No one in their right mind would spend decades taking the gaokao for a stunt."

He had to give up drinking and playing mahjong during the preparation period, he jokingly pointed out.

Liang's quest hasn't got much support from his son, who took the gaokao himself in 2011.

"At first he didn't approve, and now, he's just indifferent," Liang said.

Asked how he would celebrate once the test is over this weekend, he said he was planning to make up for lost fun.

"I'm going to play mahjong with my friends for three days and three nights."


Pope Francis to Undergo Intestinal Surgery Under General Anesthesia 

Pope Francis reacts as he meets faithful during the weekly general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, June 7, 2023. (Reuters)
Pope Francis reacts as he meets faithful during the weekly general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, June 7, 2023. (Reuters)
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Pope Francis to Undergo Intestinal Surgery Under General Anesthesia 

Pope Francis reacts as he meets faithful during the weekly general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, June 7, 2023. (Reuters)
Pope Francis reacts as he meets faithful during the weekly general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, June 7, 2023. (Reuters)

Pope Francis went to the hospital Wednesday to undergo abdominal surgery to treat an intestinal blockage, two years after he had 33 centimeters (13 inches) of his colon removed because of a narrowing of the large intestine.

The Vatican said Francis, 86, would be put under general anesthesia for the procedure Wednesday afternoon and would be hospitalized at Rome's Gemelli hospital for several days.

Francis' Fiat 500 car pulled out of the Vatican shortly after 11 a.m. with an escort, and arrived at the Gemelli some 20 minutes later.

The pope is undergoing what the Vatican said was a "laparotomy and abdominal wall plastic surgery with prosthesis" to treat a "recurrent, painful and worsening" constriction of the intestine.

A laparotomy is open abdominal surgery. It can help a surgeon both diagnose and treat issues. The statement said Francis was suffering from a blocked laparocele, which is a hernia that formed over a previous scar.

"The stay at the health facility will last several days to allow for the normal post-operative course and full functional recovery," the statement said. An update was not expected until after the procedure.

Francis remains in charge of the Vatican and the 1.3-billion strong Catholic Church, even while unconscious and in the hospital.

In July 2021, Francis spent 10 days at Gemelli to remove 33 centimeters (13 inches) of his large intestine. He had suffered what the Vatican said was a severe inflammation and narrowing of the colon. In an interview with The Associated Press in January, Francis said the diverticulosis, or bulges in his intestinal wall, that had prompted the 2021 surgery, had returned.

Francis had come out of the 2021 surgery saying he could eat whatever he wanted, but he lamented that he hadn’t responded well to the general anesthetic used in the longer-than-expected procedure. That reaction in part explained his refusal to have surgery to repair strained knee ligaments that have forced him to use a wheelchair and walker for over a year.

The fact that he is going back for surgery suggests he had little choice but to treat the intestinal issue, especially given the rigorous upcoming travel schedule this summer.

The Argentine pope had part of one lung removed when he was a young man. He also suffers from sciatica nerve pain. In late March, Francis spent three days at Gemelli for an acute case of bronchitis, during which he was treated with intravenous antibiotics. He emerged April 1 saying "Still alive!"

Francis initially went to the Gemelli on Tuesday for what the Vatican said were medical tests. It revealed no details at the time.

The 86-year-old had appeared in good form Wednesday morning at his audience in St. Peter’s Square, zipping around the square in his popemobile greeting the faithful. He also had two meetings beforehand, the Vatican said.

Francis has had a packed schedule of late, with multiple audiences each day. The Vatican has recently confirmed a travel-filled August, when the Holy See and Italy are usually on vacation, with a four-day visit to Portugal the first week of August and a similarly long trip to Mongolia starting Aug. 31.

In a sign that the trips were very much on, the Vatican on Tuesday released the planned itinerary for Francis’ visit to Portugal for World Youth Day events from Aug. 2-6. The itinerary confirms a typically busy schedule that includes all the protocol meetings of an official state visit plus multiple events with young people.


Spain Registers Hottest Spring Temperatures on Record

A woman using a fan to cool-off walks past a man lying in the shade in Seville on April 26, 2023 as Spain is bracing for an early heat wave. (AFP)
A woman using a fan to cool-off walks past a man lying in the shade in Seville on April 26, 2023 as Spain is bracing for an early heat wave. (AFP)
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Spain Registers Hottest Spring Temperatures on Record

A woman using a fan to cool-off walks past a man lying in the shade in Seville on April 26, 2023 as Spain is bracing for an early heat wave. (AFP)
A woman using a fan to cool-off walks past a man lying in the shade in Seville on April 26, 2023 as Spain is bracing for an early heat wave. (AFP)

Spain registered its hottest spring on record this year, and its second driest ever, the state meteorological agency said Wednesday.

Rubén Del Campo, spokesman for the Aemet weather agency, said the latest data showed a continuation of the extremely high temperatures the country suffered in 2022, which was the hottest year ever recorded in Spain.

The spring heat was accompanied by a scarcity of rain that will exacerbate Spain's long-term drought, despite some rainfall over the last month. Spain's Ecological Transition Ministry reported Tuesday that the country's reservoirs are at 47.4% of their capacity, consolidating a downward trend.

Del Campo noted knock-on effects for the Mediterranean country's ecosystem. “Surface water temperatures recorded in 2022 were the highest since at least 1940,” he told a press conference, warning that the phenomenon endangered marine life and its ability to reproduce.

The situation inland was also made much more precarious. “These high temperatures have repercussions on both human health and ecosystems in terms of increased likelihood of forest fires,” the spokesman added.

Del Campo also issued predictions for the summer ahead, which he said would likely be “extremely hot,” though with a probability of some rainstorms. The Aemet spokesman said it was not clear that the El Niño weather phenomenon would contribute to the expected high temperatures in Spain. El Niño is a cyclical warming of the world's oceans and weather, which is forecast to return later this year.

The Spanish government announced 2.2 billion euros ($2.4 billion) worth of drought response measures last month, including funding for urban water reuse and further aid for struggling farmers.

Spain is Europe’s leading producer and exporter of fresh fruit and vegetables. The country requested emergency funds from the European Union in April given the dire prognosis for this year’s crops.


Short of Animals, Gaza Zoo Fights to Survive

A lion is seen inside an enclosure at NAMA Zoo in Gaza June 1, 2023. REUTERS/Mohammed Salem
A lion is seen inside an enclosure at NAMA Zoo in Gaza June 1, 2023. REUTERS/Mohammed Salem
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Short of Animals, Gaza Zoo Fights to Survive

A lion is seen inside an enclosure at NAMA Zoo in Gaza June 1, 2023. REUTERS/Mohammed Salem
A lion is seen inside an enclosure at NAMA Zoo in Gaza June 1, 2023. REUTERS/Mohammed Salem

Large paintings of a bear, an elephant and a giraffe decorate the outer walls of NAMA Zoo in Gaza City, but none of these wild creatures is represented live among those caged inside.

Six years ago, the lone tiger died, and despite visitors' frequent demands for a replacement, the owners have not been able to afford to buy or feed a new one.

There were once six zoos in Gaza. But with the economy crippled, two of the zoos have closed, Reuters reported.

"Because of the lack of resources and capabilities and the high prices of animals it is difficult to replace an animal you lose," said Mahmoud Al-Sultan, the medical supervisor of the NAMA zoo.

The original animals at the zoo were smuggled through tunnels over a decade ago.

As well as four pairs of lions, each of which gets through 60 kilograms of meat a week, the zoo has crocodiles, hyenas, foxes, deer and monkeys, as well as a lone ibex and a solitary wolf.

At the lions' cages, children stand to take pictures from a distance and giggle as they touch the bars on the cages of deer and birds. A ticket costs less than $1 because people can't afford more, Sultan said.

"I come here to have some fun, but I see the same animals every time," said nine-year-old Fouad Saleh. "I wish I could see an elephant, a giraffe or a tiger."

For the moment, that appears unlikely. Gaza lacks the medical facilities to treat animals like lions and tigers.

In the past, the Four Paws international animal welfare group has had to rescue animals and find them new homes in Israel, Jordan or as far away as South Africa.

"We struggle to afford the food," said Sultan. "Sometimes we provide frozen food, chicken, turkeys, and sometimes if a donkey is injured we have it slaughtered and shared out between the lions."


Former FBI Agent Robert Hanssen, Who Was Convicted of Spying for Russia, Dies in Prison 

The identification and business card of former FBI agent Robert Hanssen are seen inside a display case at the FBI Academy in Quantico, Virginia, on May 12, 2009. (AFP)
The identification and business card of former FBI agent Robert Hanssen are seen inside a display case at the FBI Academy in Quantico, Virginia, on May 12, 2009. (AFP)
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Former FBI Agent Robert Hanssen, Who Was Convicted of Spying for Russia, Dies in Prison 

The identification and business card of former FBI agent Robert Hanssen are seen inside a display case at the FBI Academy in Quantico, Virginia, on May 12, 2009. (AFP)
The identification and business card of former FBI agent Robert Hanssen are seen inside a display case at the FBI Academy in Quantico, Virginia, on May 12, 2009. (AFP)

Robert Hanssen, a former FBI agent who took more than $1.4 million in cash and diamonds to trade secrets with Moscow in one of the most notorious spying cases in American history, died in prison Monday. 

Hanssen, 79, was found unresponsive in his cell at a federal prison in Florence, Colorado, and later pronounced dead, prison officials said. He is believed to have died of natural causes, a person familiar with the matter told The Associated Press. The person was not authorized to publicly discuss details of Hanssen's death and spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity. 

He had been serving a sentence of life in prison without possibility of parole since 2002, after pleading guilty to 15 counts of espionage and other charges. 

Hanssen had divulged a wealth of information about American intelligence-gathering, including extensive detail about how US officials had tapped into Russian spy operations, since at least 1985. 

He was believed to have been partly responsible for the deaths of at least three Soviet officers who were working for US intelligence and executed after being exposed. 

He got more than $1.4 million in cash, bank funds, diamonds and Rolex watches in exchange for providing highly classified national security information to the Soviet Union and later Russia. 

He didn't adopt an obviously lavish lifestyle, instead living in a modest suburban home in Virginia with his family of six children and driving a Taurus and minivan. 

Hanssen would later say he was motivated by money rather than ideology, but a letter written to his Soviet handlers in 1985 explains a large payoff could have caused complications because he could not spend it without setting off warning bells. 

Using the alias “Ramon Garcia,” he passed some 6,000 documents and 26 computer disks to his handlers, authorities said. They detailed eavesdropping techniques, helped to confirm the identity of Russian double agents, and spilled other secrets. Officials also believed he tipped off Moscow to a secret tunnel the Americans built under the Soviet Embassy in Washington for eavesdropping. 

He went undetected for years, but later investigations found missed red flags. After he became the focus of a hunt for a Russian mole, Hanssen was caught taping a garbage bag full of secrets to the underside of a footbridge in a park in a “dead drop” for Russian handlers. 

The story was made into a movie titled “Breach” in 2007, starring Chris Cooper as Hanssen and Ryan Phillippe as a young bureau operative who helps bring him down. 

The FBI has been notified of Hanssen’s death, according to the Bureau of Prisons. 


Prince Harry Gets His Day in Court against Tabloids He Accuses of Blighting His Life

FILE - In this Thursday, Jan. 16, 2020 file photo, Britain's Prince Harry gestures in the gardens of Buckingham Palace in London. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth, File)
FILE - In this Thursday, Jan. 16, 2020 file photo, Britain's Prince Harry gestures in the gardens of Buckingham Palace in London. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth, File)
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Prince Harry Gets His Day in Court against Tabloids He Accuses of Blighting His Life

FILE - In this Thursday, Jan. 16, 2020 file photo, Britain's Prince Harry gestures in the gardens of Buckingham Palace in London. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth, File)
FILE - In this Thursday, Jan. 16, 2020 file photo, Britain's Prince Harry gestures in the gardens of Buckingham Palace in London. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth, File)

Prince Harry is due at a London court Tuesday to testify against a tabloid publisher he accuses of phone hacking and other unlawful snooping.

Harry alleges that journalists at the Daily Mirror and its sister papers used unlawful techniques on an “industrial scale” to get scoops, The Associated Press said.

Publisher Mirror Group Newspapers is contesting the claims. Harry faces cross-examination by the company’s lawyer when he enters the witness box at the High Court in London.

The 38-year-old son of King Charles III will be the first British royal since the 19th century to face questioning in a court. An ancestor, the future King Edward VII, appeared as a witness in a trial over a gambling scandal in 1891.

Harry has made a mission of holding the UK press to account for what he sees as its hounding of him and his family.

Setting out the prince’s case in court Monday, his lawyer, David Sherborne, said that from Harry's childhood, British newspapers used hacking and subterfuge to mine snippets of information that could be turned into front-page scoops.

He said stories about Harry were big sellers for the newspapers, and some 2,500 articles had covered all facets of his life during the time period of the case — 1996 to 2011 — from injuries at school to experimenting with marijuana and cocaine to ups and downs with girlfriends.

“Nothing was sacrosanct or out of bounds” for the tabloids, the lawyer said.

Mirror Group's attorney, Andrew Green, said there was “simply no evidence capable of supporting the finding that the Duke of Sussex was hacked, let alone on a habitual basis.”

Green said he plans to question Harry for a day and a half.

Harry has been expected in court Monday for the opening of the hacking case, the first of his several lawsuits against the media to go to a full trial.

He was absent because he’d taken a flight Sunday from Los Angeles after the birthday of his 2-year-old daughter Lilibet, Sherborne said — to the evident chagrin of the judge, Timothy Fancourt.

“I’m a little surprised,” said Fancourt, noting he had directed Harry to be prepared to testify.

Harry’s fury at the UK press — and sometimes at his own royal relatives for what he sees as their collusion with the media — runs through his memoir, “Spare,” and interviews conducted by Oprah Winfrey and others.

He has blamed paparazzi for causing the car crash that killed his mother, Princess Diana, and said harassment and intrusion by the UK press, including allegedly racist articles, led him and his wife, Meghan, to flee to the US in 2020 and leave royal life behind.


Indonesian Scientist Works with Poachers to Restore Coral Reefs 

Scientist and lecturer Syafyudin Yusuf, 54, dives as he investigates coral in the waters of Badi Island, South Sulawesi province, Indonesia, May 29, 2023. (Reuters)
Scientist and lecturer Syafyudin Yusuf, 54, dives as he investigates coral in the waters of Badi Island, South Sulawesi province, Indonesia, May 29, 2023. (Reuters)
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Indonesian Scientist Works with Poachers to Restore Coral Reefs 

Scientist and lecturer Syafyudin Yusuf, 54, dives as he investigates coral in the waters of Badi Island, South Sulawesi province, Indonesia, May 29, 2023. (Reuters)
Scientist and lecturer Syafyudin Yusuf, 54, dives as he investigates coral in the waters of Badi Island, South Sulawesi province, Indonesia, May 29, 2023. (Reuters)

For nearly two decades, Indonesian marine scientist Syafyudin Yusuf has worked with former poachers to rehabilitate coral reefs destroyed by their use of dynamite for fishing.

They have restored to health 11.5 hectares (roughly 30 acres) of corals around a group of 120 islands known as the Spermonde archipelago in the Makassar Strait off Sulawesi.

Fifteen years ago, only 2% of the area's original reef area remained undamaged, according to research by Makassar's Hasanuddin University, as fisherfolk used explosives and chemicals, which have now been banned.

"We enter their lives and try to influence their... mindsets to be able to change from destructive fishing to being conservationists," Syafyudin said, adding that his team anchors frames into the seabed to allow corals to grow undisturbed.

Indonesia's roughly 5 million hectares of coral reefs account for a fifth of the world's total, according to Greenpeace.

Experts say coral reefs are crucial to coastal and marine ecosystems, playing a role in preventing erosion and flooding. They are increasingly at risk of dying with oceans warming as they absorb greenhouse gas emissions.


Jill Biden Stresses from Cairo Support for Youth Education, Women Empowerment

Jill Biden toured the landmarks of Al-Azhar Mosque (Al-Azhar)
Jill Biden toured the landmarks of Al-Azhar Mosque (Al-Azhar)
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Jill Biden Stresses from Cairo Support for Youth Education, Women Empowerment

Jill Biden toured the landmarks of Al-Azhar Mosque (Al-Azhar)
Jill Biden toured the landmarks of Al-Azhar Mosque (Al-Azhar)

First Lady Jill Biden stressed the importance of supporting youth education and empowering women, during her first visit to Egypt on Friday.

Biden landed in Cairo Friday, on the second leg of her six-day trip across the Middle East, North Africa and Europe that seeks to promote empowerment for women and education for young people.

The First Lady visited Al-Azhar Mosque, inspected its historical features and corridors, and listened to an explanation by the President of Al-Azhar University, Salama Daoud, about the history of the mosque.

“Al-Azhar Mosque is one of the most important mosques in Egypt, and one of the most famous ancient mosques in the Islamic world. It was established more than 1083 years ago, to be the most important institution for spreading and teaching moderate and enlightened Islam,” Daoud said.

According to an official statement, “women received great attention from Al-Azhar during the era of the sheikh of Al-Azhar, Dr. Ahmed Al-Tayyib, who was keen to support and empower women” working in the mosque.

The American First Lady expressed her happiness at her visit to Egypt and the Al-Azhar Mosque, thanking Daoud for his warm reception.

She also stressed “the importance of supporting youth education and empowering women, and the need for peoples strengthen relations between them.”

Jill Biden also visited the pyramids area in Giza, and stopped in front of the Great Pyramid of Khufu.

She was accompanied during the visit by the Egyptian Minister of Tourism and Antiquities, Ahmed Issa, the Chargé d’Affaires of the US Ambassador to Cairo, John Desrocher, and the Secretary-General of the Supreme Council of Antiquities in Egypt, Mostafa Waziri.

Issa granted a pharaonic necklace-shaped souvenir to Biden at the end of her tour at the Giza Pyramids.

The First Lady also visited a technical school in Cairo, accompanied by the Egyptian Minister of Education and Technical Education, Reda Hegazy, and a number of Egyptian officials.

“Together, the United States and Egypt are working with local companies to bring on-the-job training to the classroom,” she said on Twitter.


Saudi Arabia Re-elected Chair of MENA Region’s Research Councils at GRC

The 11th annual meeting took place from May 29 to June 2 in The Hague. SPA
The 11th annual meeting took place from May 29 to June 2 in The Hague. SPA
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Saudi Arabia Re-elected Chair of MENA Region’s Research Councils at GRC

The 11th annual meeting took place from May 29 to June 2 in The Hague. SPA
The 11th annual meeting took place from May 29 to June 2 in The Hague. SPA

The member states of the MENA Region of the Global Research Council (GRC) have voted to re-elect Saudi Arabia as their representative on the GRC Governing Board.

The decision was made during the council's 11th annual meeting in The Hague, The Netherlands, the Saudi Press Agency reported Saturday.

The President of King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology (KACST) and the General Supervisor of the founding team of the Research, Development and Innovation Authority, Dr. Munir Eldesouki, will continue to represent Saudi Arabia at the GRC.

The re-election of Eldesouki reaffirms the Kingdom's prominent position in the scientific and research fields and its commitment to fostering cooperation among research centers in the MENA region, SPA said.

This achievement is a testament to the unwavering support of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, and Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, Crown Prince, Prime Minister and Head of the Higher Committee of Research, Development and Innovation, it added.

During the annual meeting, which took place from May 29 to June 2, Eldesouki chaired a meeting of the heads of research councils from the MENA region. He also participated in a panel discussion on the funding of climate change research. Additionally, the Kingdom presented a working paper on the challenges and opportunities faced by the research councils in the MENA region.

The Saudi delegation actively engaged in various sideline meetings, including those of the GRC's Executive Committee and the International Consultative Committee.