Thousands march in Somalia after attack that killed more than 300

Powered by article titled “Thousands march in Somalia after attack that killed more than 300” was written by Jason Burke Africa correspondent, for on Wednesday 18th October 2017 14.27 UTC

Thousands of Somalis have demonstrated against those behind the bombing that killed more than 300 people at the weekend, defying police who opened fire to keep them away from the site of the attack.

Wearing red headbands, the crowd of mostly young men and women marched through Mogadishu amid tight security. They answered a call to unity by the mayor, Thabit Abdi, who said: “We must liberate this city, which is awash with graves.”

The attack in the heart of Mogadishu on Saturday has been blamed on al-Shabaab, the local violent Islamist group, and was one of the most lethal terrorist operations anywhere in the world in recent years.

The Somali capital has suffered scores of bombings over recent years but not on this scale.

“We are demonstrating against the terrorists that massacred our people. We entered the road by force,” said Halima Abdullahi, who lost six of her relatives in the attacks.

Mohamed Salad, a university student, called on God to punish those responsible for the bombing.

The true death toll in the attack will probably never be known. The government buried at least 160 of those killed because they could not be identified after the blast.

In the town of Dusamareb in central Somalia, residents also marched for several hours and clerics called for the war against the militants to be stepped up.

The president, Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, pledged to rid Somalia of al-Shabaab, an affiliate of al-Qaida, after taking power in February in an election seen as a key milestone on the battered east African country’s gradual return to stability and prosperity.

Protesters near the scene of the massive truck bomb attack in Mogadishu.
Protesters near the scene of the massive truck bomb attack in Mogadishu. Photograph: Farah Abdi Warsameh/AP

The bombing, which involved two vehicles, is a major setback to the government, underlining its inability to guarantee security even in the capital.

Both vehicles detonated before reaching their intended target, which investigators believe was the heavily defended compound where the United Nations, embassies and forces from the African Union are based.

One, a large truck with around 350kg of explosives concealed under agricultural produce and a tarpaulin, was set off at a checkpoint in the centre of a crowded neighbourhood of the city and ignited a petrol tanker nearby.

Al-Shabaab, which began an insurgency in 2007, has not claimed responsibility for the attack.

Analysts suggested that the organisation may not want to undermine any popular support by associating itself with such a huge loss of civilian life.

The method and type of attack – a large truck bomb – is increasingly used by the al-Qaida-linked organisation and one of two men detained by security forces in connection with the bombing has told his interrogators that it was the work of the group.

The man who drove the truck has been identified by Somali officials as a former soldier in Somalia’s army whose home town was raided by local troops and US special forces two months ago in a controversial operation in which 10 civilians were killed, including three children.

Officials said the driver was a former member of the Islamic Courts Union, a conservative Islamist movement which briefly controlled much of Somalia in 2006 before being ousted by a US-backed invasion by Ethiopian troops. He joined the army in 2010 but defected from his military post to join al-Shabaab around five years later.

The local businessman and tribal leader who vouched for the truck to allow it to pass checkpoints before it exploded has been arrested and is being held in jail, the Somali intelligence official said.

The smaller vehicle – a Toyota minivan – was stopped at a checkpoint several hundred metres short of its target and the driver detained. This bomb then detonated, possibly set off by remote control or by security officials, without causing casualties.

The minivan’s driver is in a prison in Mogadishu, said a senior Somali police officer, Capt Mohamed Hussein.

The explosion site in Mogadishu.
The explosion site in Mogadishu. Photograph: Xinhua/Rex/Shutterstock

Officials described the driver as a veteran militant who had been involved in previous attacks in Mogadishu, including one on the Jazeera hotel in 2012 in which eight people died.

He has been cooperating with the investigation. Officials said the man was proud of what he had done. “He says it is for jihad,” one said.

The US involvement in Somalia intensified in the later years of the Obama administration and has increased significantly since Donald Trump became president, with greater latitude given to local commanders to order airstrikes or take part in raids.

Critics have argued this risks greater civilian casualties, which, in the tight-knit world of Somalia’s complex clan system, can prompt feuds and revenge attacks. Al-Shabaab is adept at exploiting such divisions.

Mohamed Ali, a police captain at the scene, said it was fine for the demonstrators to access the scene to express their grief.

“For some who could not see their relatives alive or dead, the only chance they have is to at least see the spot where their beloved were killed,” he told Reuters. © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

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Iran’s supreme leader dismisses Trump’s ‘rants and whoppers’

Powered by article titled “Iran’s supreme leader dismisses Trump’s ‘rants and whoppers'” was written by Saeed Kamali Dehghan Iran correspondent, for on Wednesday 18th October 2017 11.17 UTC

Iran’s supreme leader has said his country will not take heed of “rants and whoppers of a foul-throated US president”, in a speech that also made clear that Tehran will not be the first to violate the nuclear deal.

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, in his first reaction since Donald Trump decertified the Iran deal, said on Wednesday that “we will not tear up the nuclear deal so long as the other side has not torn it up, but if they do, we will cut it in pieces”.

The 78-year-old ayatollah told a gathering of students in Tehran that the US was angry because Iran had foiled its plots in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Egypt.

“I don’t want to waste our time to respond to the rants and whoppers of the foul-throated president of the United States,” he said, according to the transcript of his speech posted on his official website. “The US is the agent of the international zionism, it was the US that created Daesh [Arabic acronyms for Isis] and Takfiri movements [Iran’s terminology for Sunni extremist groups].”

Khamenei said the US was infuriated by Iran’s role in fighting Isis. “They are angry because the Islamic Republic has foiled their plots in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Egypt,” he said. “Everyone should know that once again America will receive a slap in its mouth and will be defeated by the people of Iran.”

Khamenei was reacting to Trump’s vituperative speech on Friday, during which he announced he was decertifying Tehran’s compliance under the nuclear accord, a move that could lead to the end of the agreement.

“Based on the factual record I have put forward, I am announcing today that we cannot and will not make this certification. We will not continue down a path whose predictable conclusion is more violence, more terror and the very real threat of Iran’s nuclear breakout,” Trump said at the White House.

Despite Trump’s move, European nations involved in two years of negotiations that led to the 2015 landmark nuclear deal, known as the joint comprehensive plan of action (JCPOA), has remained adamant that the deal should remain in force.

The EU’s foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, said this week that she will be travelling to Washington in November to reiterate Europe’s message on the deal. High-level officials from the EU have been lobbying the US Congress to preserve the deal.

Trump said this week that terminating the deal was a “very real possibility” and that Iranian leaders had a “very modified” tone in their reaction to his speech. His decision does not immediately mean that the agreement is in jeopardy. He has asked Congress to add a series of amendments to the agreement for a more stringent implementation. Iran and Europe have said renegotiating was not possible and that the agreement was multilateral and the US could not unilaterally change it. But the US’s influence over the financial market limits European leverage.

“The European governments have affirmed [their stance] on the agreement and have condemned the statement made by the American president,” Khamenei said.

“We welcome this but it is not enough for [Europe] just to say that they will not tear it up. The nuclear agreement is in their interest. Europe should stand up against [US’s] practical measures and they should refrain commenting about our defensive capabilities,” he said referring to EU’s repeated concerns over Tehran’s missile programme. © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

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ESPN kneels before advertisers by silencing Jemele Hill for doing her job

Powered by article titled “ESPN kneels before advertisers by silencing Jemele Hill for doing her job” was written by Marina Hyde, for The Guardian on Wednesday 18th October 2017 10.51 UTC

More than a week into her suspension for some highly anodyne tweets related to the Take the Knee protest, it feels long overdue to devote space to the ESPN anchor Jemele Hill. Still, I vaguely heard we were listening to women for a minute, and wondered if a black woman could catch a little of that entitlement to be heard. The traditional answer to that has been “No, I’m afraid she can’t” – which accounts for the nagging sense among many women of colour that sisterliness only stretches so far. Its borders are currently feared to mirror precisely those of Hollywood, California.

Even so, let us journey into the great wilderness beyond. Let us go where the vice-president of the United States can spend up to $250,000 of taxpayer money attending a game just so he could walk out of it when players knelt; where two owners in an 80% or so black NFL can decree that any athlete who silently kneels during the national anthem will be benched; but where a woman whose job is in part to talk about sports and social issues is suspended for doing that.

By way of background: along with her longtime collaborator Michael Smith, Jemele Hill hosts the 6pm edition of SportsCenter, in a pairing ESPN heralded at launch as “the first African-American duo to host SportsCenter on a regular basis”. Last month, Hill was disciplined for tweets suggesting Donald Trump was a white supremacist. The White House spokeswoman called for her to be fired. Last week, Hill was judged to warrant suspension for a short series of tweets in which she attempted to point out that there were other ways to show displeasure with the two NFL owners threatening to bench players for kneeling than expecting the athletes to do it for them.

“Just so we’re clear,” ran one of these. “I’m not advocating an NFL boycott. But an unfair burden has been put on players in Dallas & Miami w/ anthem directives.” She pointed out that “change happens when advertisers are impacted”, advising those calling players “sellouts” might want to devote some of their attention in that direction. So, pretty standard stuff that people could mostly have worked out for themselves anyway. It’s not like she just slipped her Twitter followers the nuclear codes.

Yet ESPN released a statement saying Hill was being taken off air for two weeks. Trump himself reacted to the news of her suspension with typical gossamer-touched statesmanship, tweeting: “With Jemele Hill at the mike, it is no wonder ESPN ratings have ‘tanked’, in fact, tanked so badly it is the talk of the industry!” And with that, he returned to touting an author’s book entitled The Art of the Donald: Lessons from America’s Philosopher-in-chief. “Really good book!”

Hill, on the other hand, faces a difficult future when she returns from the naughty step next week. The actual president of the actual United States has twice made it perfectly quite clear he’d like her never to work in this town again. That alone should make any self-respecting network go the extra mile to bolster its employee in pointed defence of its independence – which is why every instinct suggests ESPN will bottle it. Various commentators predict this episode will ultimately make Hill too controversial to retain. Dear, dear. Imagine being such a remorselessly political network that one woman’s tweets about a sports-related issue being talked about across America were regarded as so dangerous that you had to shut her down for two weeks. Imagine treating her tweets as though they were an existential threat to your command and control. Imagine being ESPN.

It’s difficult to even see what rules Hill meaningfully broke with the tweets leading to her suspension, other than mildly, indirectly inconveniencing some corporations who advertise with both the NFL and ESPN. ESPN’s code of conduct forbids employees “involved in ‘hard’ news reporting” from taking political positions. But Hill can’t sensibly be judged to be a hard news reporter. In fact, when promoting her and Smith to their slot, the network made specific play of the fact that the show would include “a deliberate and well-paced conversational format in which they discuss sports topics, news, culture, and social issues”. Furthermore, the code states that outside of hard news reporting, political or social commentary is appropriate. “The topic should be related to a current issue impacting sports.”

Well … I don’t think it would be going out on a limb here to suggest this particular topic is currently impacting sports. Hill may well argue her views are not even political. Speaking to Sport Illustrated’s Richard Deitsch in the past, she explained: “I do tweet more about social issues, which I consider to be issues of morality. Racism isn’t politics. Racism is an issue of right and wrong. Tweeting about significant issues that impact marginalised people isn’t politics. That’s right and wrong.”

In the end, perhaps it would be most helpful for ESPN to tighten up their code of conduct by explaining precisely how black you are allowed to be on their network. Some black seems very important to them. Just a few months ago, ESPN promoted Hill and Smith’s show with a recreation of the entire title sequence of the classic all-black sitcom A Different World, with several of the original cast members drafted in to give it that crucial authenticity. So that much black was good. But this much appears too much. As far as how to phrase the addendum, ESPN may simply care to enshrine the immortal words of reactionary sportswriter Clay Travis, who summarised the real injustice thusly: “So many dudes coming home putting on @espn to pop a beer & chill and they got some chick in a feminist tshirt talking about police shootings.”

Well quite. If only athletes would start taking the knee to assert the constitutional right to a hassle‑free Bud Light, instead of frittering their time away on this business of summary police execution. And if only anchors such as Hill would understand that you never talk about money as something which might be withheld; only as something of which more might be spent. © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

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New Zealand library cracks case of the missing books

Powered by article titled “New Zealand library cracks case of the missing books” was written by Eleanor Ainge Roy in Dunedin, for on Wednesday 18th October 2017 01.00 UTC

A library in New Zealand has solved a longstanding mystery as to why books were going missing and reappearing in strange and hidden places.

Auckland library staff grew increasingly puzzled when books kept turning up in unusual places, tucked under tables and chairs and hidden in hard-to-find spots around the library.

“It was really odd and we couldn’t quite figure it out, we were finding books delicately tucked under shelves with a proper bookmark, no pages folded over or anything” said Auckland Libraries manager Rachael Rivera.

“We thought someone was playing with us or it was bored kids.”

The mystery was eventually solved when the library called a meeting with the city’s rough sleepers, and it was revealed many of them – who were unable to get library cards because they didn’t have a home address – had been hiding their books so they could come back to them the next day, and not risk losing their place.

According to the latest figures from Auckland council there are more than 23,000 homeless people in New Zealand’s largest city, and more than 700 sleeping rough each night.

Rivera said some members of the homeless community did have a card as the library allowed them to use the local City Mission as their residential address, but others were wary about damaging or losing library books if they took them out onto the streets.

“That community really values the services we offer and treat the books with a great deal of respect,” said Rivera, who added that around 50 rough sleepers frequent the library daily.

“A lot of the guys that come in are extremely well-read and have some quite eccentric and high-brow literary tastes … people are homeless for so many different reasons, and being intelligent and interested in literature doesn’t preclude that.”

Since discovering the cause of the missing books the library have dedicated a shelf for the homeless to safely store their books behind the main counter. The library also shows “discretion” with its homeless clients regarding overdue fines or late books.

“We’ve seen a real increase in people using the library as a space to just be,” said Rivera.

“And that’s a mix of people who are sleeping on the street as well as people living in tiny apartments in the CBD. It is surprising in this modern age we are in, but we actually feel like there are more people coming to the space then ever before. It’s really vibrant.” © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

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Web of Australian Adani solar companies leads to offshore tax havens

Powered by article titled “Web of Australian Adani solar companies leads to offshore tax havens” was written by Joshua Robertson, for on Wednesday 18th October 2017 01.01 UTC

Adani has spread its use of offshore tax havens to its Australian solar projects, providing another avenue that could allow the wealthy Indian family behind the transnational to legally minimise tax paid on income from local operations.

Six companies linked to Adani’s renewables business, which chairman Gautam Adani wants to make the biggest in Australia by 2022, were registered with the Australian Securities and Investments Commission on 3 August.

The companies all have Australian-based Adani executives as directors. But they fall into two groups – three companies in each – which follow a markedly different path to their ultimate owners.

One trail leads back to Adani Enterprises, the stockmarket-listed company in India which is vying to build Australia’s largest coalmine, and in which the Adani family are the major shareholders.

The other bypasses the public company in India entirely, leading back to the Adani family via privately owned companies based in the Cayman and British Virgin islands, recognised tax havens.

The companies were registered a month before the energy giant said it would proceed with “one of the world’s most advanced solar energy plants” at Rugby Run near Moranbah, the largest of three plants Adani proposes in central Queensland and South Australia.

Gautam Adani trumpeted the group’s Australian solar ambitions when announcing a power purchasing agreement for Rugby Run with an unnamed but “significant power retailer”.

“We are the largest generator of solar energy in India and we aim to replicate that in Australia,” he said.

Adani bought Rugby Run – a former cattle property once earmarked as a rail thoroughfare for transporting coal from its contentious Carmichael mine – for $1 on 9 June last year from Queensland beef barons the Acton family, transfer documents show.

The site gives its name to one of three companies that signal the start of the tax haven trail from the Australian solar business: Adani Rugby Run Operations Pty Ltd, Adani Renewable Operations Pty Ltd and Adani Renewable Operations Holdings Pty Ltd.

All three companies have a parent company in Singapore, Global Renewable Energy Holding Pte Ltd, which was incorporated in January with Vinod Shantilal Adani as sole director.


Singapore company filings show Global Renewable Energy Holding Pte Ltd is owned by Atulya Resources Ltd in the Cayman Islands. Atulya Resources is in turn owned by ARFT Holding Ltd in the British Virgin Islands. Documents held by the Singapore corporate regulator disclose that “the Adani Family” is an ultimate shareholder of ARFT Holding Ltd.

Back in Australia, the other three companies registered in August were Adani Renewable Assets, Adani Renewable Asset Holdings and Adani Rugby Run.

They are held by Adani Global Pte Ltd in Singapore, which is held by Adani Global Ltd in Mauritius, in turn owned by the public company Adani Enterprises Ltd in India.

Adam Walters, the principal researcher for Energy Resource Insights, who uncovered the new tax haven links, said Adani’s use of tax havens and parallel company structures was entirely legal.

But he said they could enable the Adani family to generate income from operating the solar farms, via agreements with the public Indian parent company that owned the assets. These profits could then be channelled to the Adani family via the Cayman and British Virgin islands, which would have favourable tax implications for them, Walters said.

“Rather than benefit because of their shareholdings in listed companies in India where they have to pay lots of tax, they could benefit via the British Virgin Islands,” he said.

“What could well be the case is the listed companies have got the money behind them, they can build the things, but then the profits can be generated in the family-owned businesses.”

Walters said this was a pattern suggested elsewhere in Adani’s corporate structures around Australian mine and rail projects.

It arose when Adani Mining had an opportunity to dispose of a future liability worth billions, in the form of a $2 a tonne royalty deed held by the original owner of the Carmichael mine site, Linc Energy.

When a distressed Linc agreed to offload the deed for $150m in 2014, it was not Adani Mining that bought it. Instead, Adani Mining lent $150m to an Adani family-held trust, linked to the rail project, to snap it up.

“This means that the family could potentially receive over a billion dollars in the Caribbean even if the mine is unprofitable in Australia,” Walters said.

“Adani Mining, rather than spending $150m, now have an IOU on their balance sheet for $150m. In the short term, the company looks healthier than it actually is and in the longer term, if the mine does go ahead then the Adani family make the money.”

The trust that could enrich the family through coal royalties is held via the same tax haven companies as the solar companies.

The $150m was one of several multimillion-dollar loans in Australia by public Adani company subsidiaries to private Adani family-owned companies.

“If [the solar business] is the same as elsewhere, we know the Adani family has not actually put a single dollar into Australia – they’re inter-company loans to the family from the listed company,” Walters said.

He said there were another three trusts registered by Adani in Australia around the solar projects but “beneficial ownership of these remains unclear at this stage”.

The chief executive of Adani Mining, Jeyakumar Janakaraj, has dismissed any suggestion the Australian operations would be “hiding profits” via holding companies in tax havens.

“There is absolutely no implication of this, as everything that is being done in Australia or in India is transparent,” he told India’s Economic Times.

“We make regular filings to the tax offices and government authorities. This report is a desperate attempt by the activists who were not able to legally stall the [Carmichael] project or get the government to do it.

“This is their last attempt to hurt the goodwill we enjoy, but we are going ahead with the project as planned.”

The 175-megawatt plant would rate among Australia’s biggest solar projects, along with Adani’s proposed 100MW farm at Crinium Creek, also in central Queensland, and a 140MW far near Whyalla in South Australia. Adani is the largest solar generator in India.

Adani declined to comment on the company arrangements. © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

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New Zealand town has itself to tank after solving petrol drought

Powered by article titled “New Zealand town has itself to tank after solving petrol drought” was written by Eleanor Ainge Roy in Dunedin, for on Tuesday 17th October 2017 01.03 UTC

A tiny New Zealand town has built its own petrol station after local people got fed up with driving a two-hour round trip to stock up on fuel.

Pongoroa in the lower North Island is home to just 120 people and has been without a petrol pump for four years. As a result residents faced a journey to other towns to fill up, often carrying extra jerry cans in the back seat to make it worth the expense.

Frustrated with the commute and determined to keep their rural town viable, Pongoroa’s residents fundraised NZ$250,000 to build a petrol station. Petrol company Allied Petroleum contributed close to NZ$1m to the project, despite being initially sceptical the isolated fuel stop would ever pay off.

Around New Zealand essential services are increasingly withdrawing from small towns and postal deliveries are being scaled back.

“We are a rural community and farming is the main economic activity here. We are just trying to grow and future-proof our town,” said Andrew Casey, a local resident.

The Pongoroa petrol station while it was under construction.
The Pongoroa petrol station while it was under construction. Photograph: Pongoroa Fuel Stop Project

“It is that or die I suppose. Community spirit is oozing out of the ground, there is a local joke that there are more committees than there are residents in Pongoroa. We are looking after ourselves very well, as much as possible.”

To keep costs low, local people helped build the petrol station, holding working bees to prepare the site, supplying equipment and contributing to basic jobs.

The pumps opened over the weekend and some locals say the home-grown effort has taken on a “spiritual” quality. Patrons at the Pongoroa Hotel couldn’t stop glancing proudly at the product of their sweat and toil.

Allied Petroleum general manager Alastair Tennent told RNZ he suspected Pongora’s determination in getting a fuel pump would inspire other New Zealand towns in isolated regions to do the same.

“I would say it’s been a real vision and tenacity by a local committee that’s got them to where they are today … it was a tremendous effort by the locals.” © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

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Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh on Monday discussed the issue of shifting of the students of Chintpurni Medical College to other institutions with his council of ministers.

Taking up the issue after conclusion of the day’s cabinet meeting agenda, the Chief Minister said his government was committed to protecting the careers of the students affected by closure of Chintpurni Medical College in Pathankot. The government will not allow their future to be jeopardised, he said.

The meeting was informed that of the 250 students studying in the college’s MBBS course, 100 were from the 2014 batch and the remaining 150 students from the 2016 batch. The cabinet agreed that all these students should be shifted to other medical colleges in the state as soon as the approval of the Medical Council of India and Ministry of Health, Government of India, for this is received.

The Chief Minister had given a personal assurance to the affected students who met him in Pathankot last month that the shifting process would be initiated without delay as soon as the approval comes through. He had assured the students that his government would do everything to safeguard their careers, and if need be, separate exams would be held in case the MCI approval does not come through before the examinations begin in November.

The college, owned by BJP’s Swaran Singh Salaria, had failed to meet the standards set by MCI, as a result of which the Punjab & Haryana High Court had directed the state government to relocate the students. Subsequently, the state government wrote to the MCI and the Union Health Ministry for permission to shift the students to other colleges.

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New frontier for science as astronomers witness neutron stars colliding

Powered by article titled “New frontier for science as astronomers witness neutron stars colliding” was written by Hannah Devlin Science Correspondent, for on Monday 16th October 2017 14.00 UTC

The collision of a pair of neutron stars, marked by ripples through the fabric of space-time and a flash brighter than a billion suns, has been witnessed for the first time in the most intensely observed astronomical event to date.

The extraordinary sequence, in which the two ultra-dense stars spiralled inwards, violently collided and, in all likelihood, immediately collapsed into a black hole, was first picked up by the US-based Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (Ligo).

As its twin detectors, in Louisiana and Washington state, picked up tremors in space-time that had spilled out from the merger 1.3m light years away, an alert went out to astronomers across the globe. Within hours, 70 space- and ground-based telescopes swivelled to observe the red-tinged afterglow, making it the first cosmic event to be “seen” in both gravitational waves and light.

Dave Reitze, executive director of Ligo, said: “What is amazing about this discovery is it is the first time we’ve got a full picture of one of the most violent, cataclysmic events in the universe. This is the most intense observational campaign there has ever been.”

Einstein first predicted the existence of gravitational waves a century ago, but the first experimental proof that space itself can be stretched and squeezed took until 2015, when Ligo scientists detected a collision of black holes. But this dark merger, and the three detected since, were invisible to conventional telescopes. As the stars collided, they emitted an intense beam of gamma rays and the sky was showered with heavy elements, resolving a decades-old debate about where gold and platinum come from.

When neutron stars collide graphic

Neutron stars are the smallest, densest stars known to exist: about 12 miles wide, with a teaspoon of neutron star material having a mass of about a billion tons. The core is a soup of pure neutrons, while the crust is smooth, solid and 10 billion times stronger than steel.

The 100-second hum picked up by Ligo told the story of how the two stars, each slightly heavier than the sun, approached their death. Initially separated by 200 miles, they circled each other 30 times a second. As they whirled inwards, accelerating to 2,000 orbits each second, the signal rose in pitch like a slide whistle.

Two seconds later, Nasa’s Fermi space telescope picked up an intense burst of gamma rays, emitted as shockwaves rushed through jets of matter funnelled out of the poles during the monumental impact of the collision.

This animation captures phenomena observed over nine days following the neutron star merger known as GW170817.

What happened next is uncertain. A neutron star weighing more than twice the mass of the sun (the combined mass here) has never been seen before – but neither has a black hole so small. Theoretical predictions suggest an almost instantaneous gravitational collapse into a black hole is most likely.

“Neutron stars are at this sweet spot between a star and a black hole,” said Prof Andreas Freise, a Ligo project scientist at the University of Birmingham. “When two of them collide, we expect them to immediately collapse into a black hole, leaving behind a bit of dust and stuff.”

David Shoemaker, spokesman for the Ligo Scientific Collaboration, said: “It’s [probably] the first observation of a black hole being created where there was none before, which is pretty darn cool.”

Neutron star merger seen in gravity and matter
Neutron star merger seen in gravity and matter: the right panel contains a visualization of the stars’ matter, the left shows how space-time is distorted near the collisions. Photograph: Karan Jani/Georgia Tech

The observations herald a new era of rapid-response astronomy, in which transient and unexpected cosmic events can be observed in detail for the first time. When Ligo’s software picked up a signal at 1:41pm UK time on 17 August, Shoemaker was one of a small team at Ligo to be alerted by a ringtone on his phone reserved for when black holes or neutron stars collide.

“My phone went off and I smiled,” he said.

Within an hour, the detection had been confirmed by Virgo, a European gravitational wave detector near Pisa, the source of the signal had been triangulated to a small patch of sky and a global alert was triggered.

Prof Stephen Smartt, of Queen’s University Belfast, was leading a five-day observation run of supernovae on the New Technology Telescope at La Silla, Chile, when the news came in.

“We dropped everything and pointed at that bit of sky,” he said. “This was the most unusual object we’d ever seen.”

Smartt’s team, and those on other telescopes, observed the faint new blob and measured its spectrum to assess the chemical composition. The blob was a fireball of radioactive heavy chemical elements, known as a kilonova, that had been blown out from the collision at one fifth of the speed of light shortly after the gamma ray burst.

Previously, scientists had speculated that the sheer force of neutron star collisions would be enough to force extra neutrons into the nuclei of atoms, forging heavy elements like gold and platinum, but until now this idea was purely theoretical.

“People have been looking for that forever,” said Freise.

“This is the first real confirmation that heavy elements such as gold, platinum and uranium are either solely or predominantly produced in binary neutron star collisions,” said Reitze. “The wedding band on your finger or the gold watch you’re wearing was most likely produced a billion years ago by two neutron stars colliding. That’s pretty cool.”

This is what the gravitational wave signal of the two stars colliding sounds like.

Earlier this month, three US scientists who played a crucial role in the development of Ligo were awarded the Nobel prize in physics for the first detection of gravitational waves. Shoemaker pointed out that two of the new laureates – and others – had been working on the project long before it captured the world’s attention

“This kind of thing doesn’t happen because there are suddenly neat instruments,” he said. “It’s decades of work and people working together in a collaborative way. It’s quite phenomenal.”

The findings are published on Monday in a series of papers in journals including Science, Nature and Physics Review Letters. © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

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Storm Ophelia: woman dies in south-east Ireland after tree falls on car – latest updates


Powered by article titled “Storm Ophelia: woman dies in south-east Ireland after tree falls on car – latest updates” was written by Matthew Weaver and Haroon Siddique, for on Monday 16th October 2017 13.34 UTC

The Environment Agency has three flood warnings and 13 flood alerts in place for south west and north west England.

Cumbria council has closed the Ford bridge in Burneside, near Kendal

More strange light is being reported across the UK.

There are several reports of a strange dark orange light in northern England.

Earlier today a red looking sun was seen in many parts of England. The light is caused by particulates thrown up by the storm, according to experts.

All trains cancelled in Ireland

Irish Rail has cancelled all trains for the rest of the day.

Schools in Pembrokeshire close

All schools in Pembrokeshire on the west of Wales coast have been closed, as disruption from Ophelia spreads to the UK.

At least four downed trees are causing traffic problems in the county, the council said.

Around 200 homes are without power in the Eglwyswrw area, including the school which had to close early. The council decided to close all of its schools at 1pm.

The number of homes and businesses without power has almost doubled to 230,000, according to RTE.

Power cuts are no longer confined to the south-west of Ireland. Around a thousand homes are without power in Cong in County Mayo.


The violent winds caused by Storm Ophelia has affected the filming of Game of Thrones.

Set building for the cult television series, a large part of which is filmed in Northern Ireland, has been suspended due to the storm.

Filming on the new Superman prequel series Krypton, which is also being shot in the region, has also been halted for the day due to safety fears.


The storm has ripped off roofs in Cork, according to dramatic footage and photographs.

The fatal accident occurred in Aglish in west Waterford around 11.40am.

The victim is a woman in her 20s and was travelling in the car with another woman who was also hurt. Reports from the county say the limb of a tree pierced the windscreen of the vehicle during the storm.

The woman was taken to Waterford University hospital but was pronounced dead before arriving. A woman in the car with her was treated for non-life threatening injuries.


What we know so far

  • A woman has been killed in Waterford, south-east Ireland as Tropical Storm Ophelia batters Ireland with winds of more than 100mph. Waterford council said the woman was killed when high winds brought down a tree on her car in Aglish.
  • At least 120,000 homes and businesses are without power amid scores of reports of fallen trees and power lines. The main electricity supplier warned that it expects more to lose power by the end of the day and disruption could last all week.
  • The Irish prime minister, Leo Varadkar, issued a personal appeal for citizens of the Republic to remain indoors. He described the impact of Ophelia on Ireland as a “national emergency”.
  • Bill Clinton’s visit to Belfast was cancelled because of the storm. The former US president was due to meet political parties represented in the Stormont parliament to urge them to find a way to restore the power-sharing government. Government buildings in Northern Ireland have been closed.
  • The Met Office has extended an amber weather warning to parts of Scotland, Wales and northern England with winds threatening power cuts and falling debris. A series of flood alerts and warnings are in place for south west and north west England. Planes have been grounded at Manchester airport, with 20 flights cancelled and passengers warned to check ahead before travelling to the airport.
  • Waves of up to 27ft high were recorded at sea as a rare warning for hurricane-force 12 winds was issued for shipping areas south of Ireland.


The Irish Times has confirmed the death of a woman in a car in county Waterford.

A tree fell on the car in Aglish, Co Waterford this morning in which she was the only occupant, according to a spokeswoman for Waterford County Council.

In its latest update the electricity supplier ESB said 120,000 customers are without power.

It said:

  • 120,000 customers, predominantly in southern counties are left without power
  • Majority of customers currently without electricity will be without supply overnight
  • Crews across the country are in the process of responding to electricity outages, once it is safe to do so
  • Customers who use electrically powered medical devices should contact their healthcare professional

An increase in hurricane-force winds wreaking havoc across the Britain and Ireland is entirely consistent with global warming, according to scientists.

A warmer world means more energy in the climate system, especially in the oceans, which is where big storms derive their energy from.

“There is evidence that hurricane-force storms hitting the UK, like Ophelia, will be enhanced in the future due to human-induced climate change,” said Dr Dann Mitchell, at the University of Bristol. “While tropical hurricanes lose strength when they travel north, they can re-intensify due to the nature of the atmospheric circulation at UK latitudes. It is the rise in temperatures over most of the Atlantic that is a primary driver of this, a clear signature of human-induced climate change.”

In May, a report found that even the minimum global warming expected – an increase of 1.5C – is projected to increase the cost of windstorm destruction by more than a third in parts of the UK. If climate change heats the world even further, broken roofs and damaged buildings are likely to increase by over 50% across a swathe of the nation, the report found. Northern Ireland, facing Hurricane Ophelia on Monday, is the worst affected region of the UK.

However, the high winds battering the west coasts are not highly unusual, according to Julian Heming, tropical prediction scientist at the UK Met Office, said: “Wind gusts of up to 80mph are expected over the UK from ex-hurricane Ophelia. This kind of wind strength is not unusual for an autumn/winter storm in the UK. For example, four of the five named storms affecting the UK in 2016 recorded wind gusts in excess of 80 mph.”

The Met Office said that while unusual for hurricanes to impact the UK, it’s not unprecedented with Gordon impacting the UK in 2006 and Grace in 2009.


Woman reported killed in Waterford

The broadcaster RTE is reporting that a woman has been killed by fallen tree in Waterford

Waterford council confirmed one fatality in Aglish in the south-west of the county.


Government buildings in Northern Ireland are to close at 1pm, PA reports.

The head of the Northern Ireland civil service, David Sterling, held an emergency meeting with the permanent secretaries from all government departments on Monday morning.

It was decided that all government buildings providing non-essential services close at 1pm and all non-essential civil service staff will leave work at that time.

Guidance is to be issued later about school opening arrangements for Tuesday.


Here’s our news story rounding up the latest on the storm.

These before and after stills show trees uprooted by the storm.

Anglesey county council, in north Wales, has instructed all schools to close after lunch because of the threat posed by Ophelia.

This video, from Sky News’s Dublin correspondent, vividly illustrates the storm’s force:

A series of flood alerts and flood watches are in force for south-west and north-west England.


Red sky in the morning, shepherds warning…

A red sun being seen in parts of the UK has been caused by particulates thrown up by Ophelia, according experts.


Belfast international airport has confirmed that it has cancelled 24 flights, most of them to or from the UK.

A spokesman said the airport is on standby to take diverted flights destined for Dublin including a number of transatlantic flights.


Up to 100,000 homes and businesses without power

Up to 100,000 homes and businesses in Ireland are now without power, according to Derek Hynes, operations manager of the electricity supplier ESB. He warned a news briefing that more homes will be without power by the end of the day.

He said:

We have, and we will have had, trees falling on our network over the course of this morning. We do have, and we have more, live electrical wires on the ground. Please stay safe by staying clear of all fallen electricity wires. We are approaching 100,000 homes and businesses without electricity. They are predominantly in an area from Cork city west and north up as far as Tralee.

That currently comprises a total of about 400 individual outages. Each one of these individual outages is a potential threat to members of the public in terms of fallen wires on the ground.


Reports of Ophelia making landfall

Storm watchers reckon Ophelia is making landfall in County Kerry.

Broadcaster RTE also reports the storm making landfall


Met Éireann has issued a new warning for “violent and destructive gusts” of up 93mph (150 kmph) across Ireland and even strong gusts in coastal and hilly areas.

It repeated a warning to life and property, with the strongest winds in the provinces of Munster and south Leinster.


Ophelia forces Bill Clinton to postpone Stormont intervention

Ireland’s prime minister, Leo Varadkar, has appealed to the Irish public to stay indoors as Storm Ophelia batters Ireland.

Referring to the biggest storm recorded in Irish history, Debbie in the 1960s, he said: “The last time we had a storm this severe 11 lives were lost so safety is our number one priority.”

Speaking in Dublin before a cabinet meeting to co-ordinate Ireland’s response to the storm, Varadkar reminded the public that the red weather warning applied to all cities and all counties across Ireland.

And he warned that the danger to public safety was not over even after the storm had passed the island as there would be fallen trees and felled power lines, many of which could still be live, all across the country in the aftermath of Ophelia.

A media briefing by the Northern Ireland Office at Stormont today has been cancelled.

Former US president Bill Clinton was scheduled to speak in the city today and deliver an address urging Northern Ireland’s political parties to find a solution that would restore devolved government in the region.

During his trip Clinton was to hold talks with the parties represented at the Stormont assembly. Clinton was due to be in Ireland to receive an award from Dublin City University later on Monday evening.


Kevin Moran, minister for flood relief, warned that the storm will bring flooding and widespread structural damage.

Speaking at that press conference in Dublin he said: “This storm is over 120km in width so it is going to do an awful lot of structural damage to the whole country. There is going to be flooding in some parts of the country, but we don’t know the level. This is unprecedented.

“What we are seeing happening in Cork at the present time and the amount of electricity that’s out, if that is to ripple right through then we’re faced with an awful problem tomorrow and right into the weekend.”

Asked whether the Irish government had done enough to prepare the country, Moran said: “That’s an unfair question. We have spoken to every local authority in the country.”

Varadkar said homeless people will be allowed to stay in hostels throughout the day to protect them from the storm.


Engineers from the UK are to travel to Ireland to help restore power, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar told that press conference.

He said: “So far we don’t have any reports of any injuries, but we do have trees down and power outrages. About 15,000 are without power … in Cork.

“Staff are ready to come in from Northern Ireland and Britain to assist in the coming days in restoring power. We can only restore the power lines when it is safe to do so.”

He added: “While in some parts of the country the storm is not yet that bad it is coming your way and this is a national red alert. It applies to all cities all counties and all areas.

“Even after the storm has passed there will still be dangers. There will be trees on the ground. There will be power lines down.”


Wind speeds of more than 77 mph (124kmph) were recorded at Cork airport at 10am, while an offshore speed of more than 109 mph was recorded on Fastnet Rock.


Varadkar urges people to stay indoors as the storm passes. He said the government’s priority is to avoid injury. So far no injuries have been reported, he said.

He urges people to work from home where possible.

Ireland’s taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, is giving a TV address.


22,000 homes in Ireland without power

There are now 22,000 customers hit with power cuts as lines are knocked down, according to the Electricity Supply Board in the Irish Republic.

An ESB spokeswoman appealed to the public to stay away from fallen power lines as many of them are still live.

Ireland’s prime minister, Leo Varadkar, is due to give a live TV address in the next few minutes.

Gust of more than 100mph were recorded as Tropical storm Ophelia approaches the southern coast of Ireland. A speed of of 165kmph (103mph) was recorded at an amateur station in Durrus, in county Cork.

A speed of 92 was recorded at an official station on Fastnet Rock.

Here’s satellite imagery from the National Weather Service Ocean Prediction Center.

And this is the latest forecast track from the Irish Met office, Met Eireann.

The storm has yet to make landfall.

Here’s a map showing the forecast path of the storm.



There are already 5,000 homes without electricity due to power lines coming down as Storm Ophelia hits the south and south-west of Ireland.

Most of the power outages so far are in Cork and Kerry, where police said trees and power lines have already been brought down.

With the red weather warning now extended to the entire Irish Republic, Gardai have advised people to stay indoors and only go out for essential journeys.

Dublin Bus has withdrawn all its services in the Irish capital from 10am to 6pm tonight.

In Northern Ireland meanwhile the lord chief justice has ordered all courts to be shut by 12.30pm. The Department of Agriculture has announced the closure of all forest parks in Northern Ireland for the day. The closure of all schools and colleges including universities is unprecedented for Northern Ireland.

Here’s the stormy scene in Ballyrisode, in Cork south-west Ireland.


Amber weather warning extended

The Met Office has extended an amber weather warning to parts of Scotland, Wales and northern England threatening power cuts and falling debris.

It said:

A spell of very windy weather is expected today in association with ex-Ophelia. Longer journey times and cancellations are likely, as road, rail, air and ferry services may be affected as well as some bridge closures. There is a good chance that power cuts may occur, with the potential to affect other services, such as mobile phone coverage. Flying debris is likely, such as tiles blown from roofs, as well as large waves around coastal districts with beach material being thrown onto coastal roads, sea fronts and properties. This leads to the potential for injuries and danger to life. This warning has been updated to extend it into parts of north and west Wales and into the extreme south-west of Scotland.


The storm has already brought down trees and power lines in south-west Ireland, according to the Irish police.

In a video appeal, assistant commissioner Michael Finn said:

This storm has arrived. Speaking to colleagues down in the south west this morning we have trees down in County Kerry, we have trees and power lines down in west Cork already this morning. This is just the start of the storm.

I would appeal particularly to motorcyclists, cyclist and drivers of high-sided vehicles – you are particularly vulnerable out there this morning. So unless your journey is absolutely essential we don’t want you to put yourselves or indeed the emergency services at risk by being out in the road.

We want to appeal also to people in the coastal areas, while it might be attractive to go to see some of these sights, you are putting yourself at serious risk by being in those areas …

We have gusts of up to 150 kmph arriving right now on our coasts, so be prepared.


We’d like to hear from you if you’ve been affected by Ophelia or any of the associated disruption.
You can share your pictures, videos and stories with us via this callout, or you can also message the Guardian on WhatsApp by adding the contact+44(0)7867825056. We’ll use a selection of your responses as part of our reporting.
Please think of your safety first before recording or sharing any content with us.

It’s a rapidly moving picture on the island of Ireland. In the last few minutes the Met Office in Northern Ireland has said the storm will now start battering the region around 12pm and adverse conditions will continue right up to midnight.

The Met Office said there would be “short, sharp bursts of winds” of up to 80mph in Northern Ireland but the mean wind speed for the whole day could be up to 50mph.

The wind is whipping up a sandstorm on a beach in Ballinspittle on the Cork coast, according to RTE’s Stephen Murphy.

The Met Office in Belfast has said conditions will be at their worst from around 3pm today across Northern Ireland.

It added that the storm will continue across the region until around 10pm tonight. So far 11 flights have been cancelled from Belfast City airport due to the storm.

And in central Belfast, St Patrick’s soup kitchen will open later this afternoon to shelter the city’s homeless from Storm Ophelia throughout the day.

In Derry some shops in the Foyleside shopping centre, including Debenhams, have closed for the day as the public in the city have been urged to stay indoors and not travel if at all possible.


The coming storm seems to have spooked the crows in Cork.



As Storm Ophelia barrels towards Ireland, the Irish president, Michael D Higgins, has issued an appeal for people to heed the warnings about the dangers it poses.

Speaking from Australia where he is on a state visit, Higgins said he hoped everyone “took the necessary precautions” to protect life and property when the storm reaches the Republic from the middle of the morning onwards.

Ireland’s transport minister, Shane Ross, has warned of huge disruption to the country’s transport network today.

Ross said he was urging the public not to travel if at all possible on Monday.

There are 140 flights cancelled from Ireland, Bus Éireann has announced all its school services are shut and the Garda Siochana have urged cyclists not to go out on their bikes today.

Colleges and schools in the Republic and Northern Ireland are all closed for the day, with the Irish weather service, Met Eireann, warning again today on RTE radio that Ophelia still has the “potential for hurricane force winds and hurricane force gusts”.

Ophelia is expected to the south and south-west of Ireland around 10am.


People in many parts of Ireland have been warned to stay indoors at various times of the day while the storm passes. A general warning not to cycle today is also in force from Transport for Ireland.

The bus service in Dublin has warned that all buses in the city will be withdrawn from 10am.


Waves of almost 27ft high have been recored south-west of Ireland as the storm heads towards landfall, Dave Throup a seasoned storm watcher from the UK’s Environment Agency notes.

No sign of any such waves near the Irish coast yet, but the wind is picking up according to RTE’s Brian O’Connell in Portmagee, on Ireland’s south-west coast.

This is Matthew Weaver with live coverage on the impact of ex-hurricane Ophelia which is due to make landfall in the next hour.

It is expected to batter Ireland and Northern Ireland with gusts of up to 80mph, threatening widespread disruption and life-threatening conditions.

The weather system has weakened from a hurricane to a tropical storm, but Ireland’s Met Office has issued a red weather warning, meaning potential danger to life.

Schools in Ireland have been closed along with many government buildings and courts.

Southern and western coasts are set to bear the initial brunt in the morning before it moves north. A rare warning of hurricane force 12 winds was issued in Monday’s shipping forecast for areas south and west of Ireland.

It said: “Severe gale nine to violent storm 11 occasionally hurricane force 12 at first in North Fitzroy, Sole, Fastnet and Shannon.”

An amber warning is in place for Northern Ireland, with the UK Met Office warning of potential power cuts, and disruption to transport and mobile phone reception. Flying debris such as roof tiles could be a danger to life, it said.

The storm has arrived 30 years and a day after the Great Storm of October 1987.

Updated © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

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Words Of Wisdom by SGI President

Words Of Wisdom–Hope

Daisaku Ikeda

Hope is the secret to a robust life force. When we possess the treasure of hope, it gives rise to other treasures, too. Hope draws forth our inner potential and strength. Hope is a magic weapon that enables us to make our dreams come true. As long as one has hope, there is nothing one cannot achieve; everything is born from hope. No matter how hopeless or bleak things appear, the moment always comes when suddenly our spirit revives, and hope is reborn. That is why we must never give up. Age is not an excuse for giving up. Allowing yourself to grow passive and draw back is a sign of personal defeat. There may be a retirement age at work, but there is no retirement age in life. Our life force, our fundamental energy, is fueled by hope. “Hope,” Beethoven cried, “you forge the heart into steel.” Hope is confidence. Hope is determination. Hope is courage. And faith is the ultimate expression of hope. Belief fortifies the heart.


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