AMAZING

AMAZING

Israel uncovers buried section of Western Wall

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JERUSALEM: Israeli archaeologists in Jerusalem’s Old City on Monday unveiled a newly unearthed section of the Western Wall and the first Roman public structure ever discovered in the city, they said.

Archaeologist Joe Uziel said he and his colleagues knew the wall section was there and had expected to find a Roman street at its base.

“But as we excavated and excavated we realised we weren’t getting to the street. Instead, we have this circular building,” he told reporters in English at the underground site.

“Basically we realised that we were excavating a theatre-like (Roman) structure.”

He said that carbon-14 and other dating methods indicated it came from the second or third centuries AD and appeared to be unfinished.

The Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA), which conducted the two-year dig, said that historical sources mentioned such structures but in 150 years of modern archaeological research in the city none had been found.

The section of the 2,000-year-old Western Wall uncovered by the diggers is about 15 metres (yards) in width and eight metres high, with the stones very well preserved.

It had been buried under eight metres of earth for 1,700 years, the IAA said.

The Western Wall is the last remnant of the retaining structures which surrounded the second Jewish temple until its destruction by the Romans in 70 AD.

It is the holiest site where Jews are permitted to pray.

Previously, the last section to be exposed was in 2007, IAA chief Jerusalem architect Yuval Baruch said.

“Exposing parts of the Western Wall is of course extremely, extremely, extremely exciting, but the structure we are looking at right now we had no idea would be here,” Uziel said, pointing to the 200-seat auditorium.

“It’s probably the most important archaeological site in the country, the first public structures from the Roman period of Jerusalem,” Baruch said.

Uziel said it was unclear if the building had been a meeting chamber for Roman administrative officials or a concert venue.

Two tigers rescued from Aleppo find new Dutch home

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THE HAGUE: Two tigers rescued from an abandoned zoo in the war-torn Syrian town of Aleppo are to be given a new home in a Dutch sanctuary, the animal refuge said Friday.

Brother and sister, Sultan and Sayeeda, will arrive Monday in The Netherlands after they were among 13 animals evacuated earlier this year from the “Magic World” zoo and amusement park in the ravaged Syrian city.

The Four Paws charity, which goes to the aid of animals in distress around the world, brought the tigers out of Syria and into Turkey at the end of July along with five lions, two bears, two hyenas and two dogs.

After a short stay in Turkey to be cared for and treated for neglect, the animals were taken to Jordan in mid-August. While most of the 13 beasts are staying there, Sultan and Sayeeda, who were badly emaciated and de-hydrated, are to be cared for at the Felida refuge in northern Nijeberkoop.

The felines, which will be housed in the sanctuary’s quietest areas, will receive special medical treatment to help them get over the trauma of the war and develop a more natural behaviour.

They “were living in a war zone. They were thirsty and hungry. They could hear lots of noise from the bombings” and suffered a lot of stress as a result, said Simone Schuls, the director of the refuge.

“It’s a great second chance for these animals,” she said, adding the pair may eventually be rehoused elsewhere depending on their recovery.

In April in a tough mission in Iraq, Four Paws also rescued a lion and a bear, the last survivors of the ravaged zoo in Mosul.

Wrongly convicted US man freed after 23 years in prison

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CHICAGO: Surrounded by news cameras and supporters, Lamonte McIntyre hugged his mother Friday for the first time as a free man in 23 years.

The 41-year-old Kansas native was wrongly convicted of a double murder and finally set free after spending more than half of his life behind bars.

He was serving two life sentences.

The group Injustice Watch said McIntyre’s first words were, “It’s nice outside.”

McIntyre was originally convicted at the age of 17 on the testimony of witnesses who later recanted. Prosecutors presented no physical evidence or motive to tie him to the 1994 murders.

A judge was reconsidering the case in court hearings that were scheduled to last into next week when the new prosecutor in the case said Friday in a news release that new information cast doubt on witness identification of McIntyre as the killer, and that a jury might have not convicted him.

“In light of information learned by my office since I began in January,” Wyandotte County District Attorney Mark Dupree said, “my office is requesting the Court find that manifest injustice exists.”

The original investigators of the daytime shooting never issued search warrants nor discovered a link between McIntyre and the victims, according to The Washington Post. He was arrested after less than 20 minutes of interviews.

“The investigation was hasty and superficial,” said the Midwest Innocence Project, which helped free McIntyre.

‘You’re free’

McIntyre has always maintained his innocence.

His mother Rose McIntyre — who was present when he was arrested decades ago — on Friday thanked “everybody who never gave up on my son”, according to the Kansas City Star, which reported that there were many tears in the courtroom when the man was finally freed.

“He (the judge) said, ‘You’re free.’ I almost hit the floor,” The Star quoted Rose McIntyre as saying.

“I want him to feel the sunlight.”

Asterix illustration sells for record 1.4 million euros

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PARIS: An original illustration for the cover of one of the early Asterix comic books sold for a record 1.4 million euros (1.7 million dollars) at auction on Friday, more than seven times its expected price, an auction house announced.

The drawing for “Asterix and the Banquet” (“Le Tour de Gaul” in French), signed by the creators of the legendary series, Albert Uderzo and Rene Goscinny, was sold by the Drouot auction house in Paris.

The story, first published as an album in 1965, recounts the travels of shrewd Gallic hero Asterix and his rotund sidekick Obelix as they travel round France collecting local delicacies and wine.

It had been expected to sell for 180,000-200,000 euros, a statement from Drouot said.

Another cover illustration for the “Asterix and the Chieftain´s Shield” volume sold for 1.2 million euros.

The famed Asterix characters are set to return next week with the publication of the 37th book in the series. “Asterix and the Chariot Race”, set in ancient Italy

Chile penguins win battle in war against mine

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LA HIGUERA: They may be less than a metre tall but they have conquered a Goliath: Chile´s vulnerable Humboldt penguins have thwarted — for now at least — a billion-dollar mining project in one of the country´s most depressed regions.

The rare species is only found on the coasts of Peru and Chile, which has created the National Humboldt Penguin Reserve — but it´s also an area rich in natural resources which have put the animals on a collision course with mining giant Andes Iron and their $2.5 billion project.

Conservationists jumped to their defense when the company unveiled plans to construct a huge open-cast mine and a port near the reserve, 600 kilometres (250 miles) north of Santiago.

The Dominga mine would have produced 12 million tonnes of iron ore a year, making it the biggest of its kind in the country, and 150,000 tonnes of copper.

For months it made headlines amid a bitter national debate over economic development and environmental conservation that was fought out on social media and split the socialist government of Chilean President Michelle Bachelet.

The project was rejected in March by an environmental commission but Andes Iron appealed the ruling.

In August, a special cabinet committee which included the energy and mines, health and environment ministers, finally vetoed the project citing a lack of guarantees for the penguins.

Humboldts have been protected here since 1990 when the reserve was set up to encompass the islands of Dama, Choros and Gaviota, a stunning nature trail beloved of a whale, sea-lion and penguin watchers.

Thousands of jobs

Rodrigo Flores, vice-president of the fisherman´s union in nearby Punta Choros, a jumping off point for tours of the islands, welcomed the move.

“Dominga is an invasive project, for nature and for society,” he told AFP. “It is incompatible with a place considered a hotspot of biodiversity at the global level.”

But that´s not everyone´s view.

Joyce Aguirre is one of the project´s staunch defenders in the local community of La Higuera.

“Every project has an impact,” she said, arguing that the government had a duty to come down on the side of jobs.

“We want to be vigilant and watch what´s going to happen. We are the ones who live here and we would never want to damage the area.”

The region is among the most underdeveloped in Chile and many locals lament the loss of thousands of jobs promised under the plan.

Conservation NGO Oceana warned of the risks to the ecosystem from the mine, whose port terminal was set to be built only 30 kilometers away from the island of Choros.

The conservation group argued that increased shipping traffic, with its greater risk of oil spills, would do untold harm to a known cetacean migrant route and pristine waters that provide a rich food source to several vulnerable species including the sea otter.

“I´ve been diving in other areas and I´ve seen that residue from mining activity is noticeable on the ocean bottom, killing all existing life,” said fisherman Mauricio Carrasco. “That´s what we´re afraid of.”

Constant pressure on reserve

In Punta Choros, 160 families in the fishing community play an official role in watching over the penguin reserve, an area of 880 hectares which is home to 80 percent of the species.

Recent studies have shown the water to be pristine, largely due to conservation efforts.

But the reserve “is constantly under threat from mega-projects,” warned Liliana Yanes, regional director of the National Forestry Office in Coquimbo.

French giant Suez was forced to pull out of a project to build a power plant in Barrancones, near Choros, in 2010. The then-president Sebastian Pinera demanded that the power plant be built elsewhere after thousands of people protested.

Around 60 kilometres away in the town of La Serena, part of the population has come out strongly against the U-turn on the Dominga project.

“We feel the disappointment, as Chileans, because the government is clipping our wings,” said Marta Arancibia, adding that the region was one of the poorest in Chile.

She is a member of a residents association which signed an agreement with Andes Iron in which they promised to invest heavily in local education, healthcare and potable water projects.

“The state hasn´t been present for us over the last 20 years, so we see these private enterprise projects as opportunities,” said Aguirre, who also signed the agreement.

Andes Iron has signalled its intention to continue the battle in Chile´s environmental court and if necessary, take it all the way to the Supreme Court.

Round one to the plucky penguins, though it seems the war has only started.

Swiss flushing away millions in gold and silver every year

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ZURICH: While London’s sewers can get clogged with fatbergs made up of grease and diapers, it seems Switzerland’s waste system is flecked with silver and gold.

Researchers last year detected 3 tonnes of silver and 43 kg of gold in effluent and sludge from waste water treatment plants – amounting to around 3 million Swiss francs ($3.1 million).

But before people start hunting in their drains for jewellery, the government study said the tiny particles were likely to be mostly from the watchmaking, pharmaceuticals and chemical industries, which use the metals in their products and processes.

“You hear stories about an angry man or woman throwing jewellery down the toilet, but we didn’t find any rings, unfortunately,” report author Bas Vriens said on Thursday.

“The levels of gold or silver were very small, in the micrograms, or even nanograms, but when you add them up it’s pretty substantial.”

Researchers are now studying if it is worthwhile to extract the metals that end up in sewage sludge before usually being burnt, but so far it has not found to be cost-effective.

Higher levels of gold were found in the western Swiss region of Jura, believed to be linked to watchmakers that use the precious metal to decorate their expensive timepieces.

There was also a higher concentration in the southern canton of Ticino due to the gold refineries in the area. This was the only region where it might make sense to recover the metals, Vriens said.

Other trace elements including rare metals such as gadolinium – used in medical imaging – were also found by the scientists from the government’s Institute of aquatic science and technology (EAWAG).

Their discovery is the latest example of wealthy Switzerland finding riches in unusual places.

Last month an investigation was launched after toilets at a Geneva bank and three restaurants were blocked by about $100,000 in high-denomination banknotes – a bit different from the huge fat mass that blocked an east London sewer.

The Swiss metal concentrations complied with regulations and were removed before humans drank the water again, the study said.

“It wouldn’t make sense for people to boil their tap water to recover gold or silver because it has already been filtered out before it re-enters the drinking water supply,” Vriens said.

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