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French Alps Plane Crash, Israeli Spying, Flushing Gold

French Alps Plane Crash, Israeli Spying, Flushing Gold

Photo: A Germanwings Airbus A320 — Xinhua/ZUMA
An Airbus A320 carrying 150 people crashed in the southern French Alps near the town of Digne this morning, and French President François Hollande has said officials expect no survivors in what represents the first crash of a low-budget airline in Europe.

  • The crash occurred in a particularly hard-to-access area of the French Alps, between the cities of Digne and Barcelonnette, the French daily Le Monde reports.
  • The flight was operated by Germanwings, a Lufthansa budget airline, and was connecting 144 passengers and 6 crew members from Barcelona to Düsseldorf.
  • Madrid officials say there could be at least 45 Spanish victims.
  • According to Germanwings, 67 German passengers — including 16 students and their two teachers returning from a school exchange — were on board.
  • One of the two black boxes has been recovered, French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve announced.
  • After first announcing the aircraft issued a distress call, the French Civil Aviation Authority said "the crew had not transmitted a Mayday."
  • Plane debris have been found, and search and rescue teams are on site.
  • The weather conditions were reportedly clear at the time of the crash.

“It is one thing for the U.S. and Israel to spy on each other. It is another thing for Israel to steal U.S. secrets and play them back to U.S. legislators to undermine U.S. diplomacy,” a senior U.S. official told The Wall Street Journal in a news story reporting that Israel spied on the Iran nuclear talks. Israeli officials deny the claims, but in a development that highlights an increasingly tenuous relationship between the two countries, sources told the newspaper that the White House discovered the operation when U.S. intelligence agencies spying on Israel “intercepted communications among Israeli officials that carried details the U.S. believed could have come only from access to the confidential talks.”

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and German Chancellor Angela Merkel appear to have a hard time understanding each other in a photo on today’s front page of the Greek daily I Kathimerini. Merkel was welcoming the Greek prime minister in Berlin — his first visit to Germany since taking office in January — as Tsipras was seeking financial help from Germany for cash-strapped Greece. Read more on our 4 Corners blog.

Three men accused of leading a terrorist attack that killed 31 people and wounded 141 at a train station in Kunming, China, last year, were executed today on the orders of the Supreme People's Court, China Daily reports. In December 2014, a group of knife-wielding attackers, believed to be separatists from the Uyghur minority in northwestern China, randomly attacked civilians before the police shot four of them dead and arrested four others. A spokesperson for the World Uyghur Congress rights group said the defendants were denied a fair trial and that China used the death penalty as a political tool.

The inflation rate in the United Kingdom has fallen to 0.0% for the first time on record, The Guardian reports.

Masked gunmen killed 13 people near Afghanistan’s capital Kabul today when they opened fire on bus passengers, Reuters quoted local officials as saying. This follows two other bus attacks by unknown gunmen in the last month. In the previous raids, members of the ethnic Hazara group, who were persecuted during Taliban rule, seemed to have been targeted. Current Taliban insurgent groups have denied any links to these attacks, while militants who have allegedly sworn allegiance to ISIS have also been accused.

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On March 24, 1989, the Exxon Valdez spilled millions of gallons of crude oil in Prince William Sound, Alaska. Time for your 57-second shot of history.

Utah Gov. Gary Herbert signed a bill yesterday authorizing the use of firing squads as a backup execution method when lethal injection drugs are not available, The Salt Lake Tribune reports. The bill comes amid a nationwide shortage of lethal injection drugs. Several foreign manufacturers that make such drugs but are opposed to the death penalty have recently refused to provide the products to the United States. This has led to several botched executions, because some states developed their own lethal injections that proved defective. Numerous rights groups have called for a veto against the bill.

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Australian National University scientists said yesterday that they found a 400-kilometer-wide asteroid impact area — the largest ever discovered — in central Australia’s Warburton Basin. The asteroid broke into two before it hit the ground at least 300 million years ago, according to the research team.

As Die Welt’s Dirk Schumer writes, the European Union was built atop the rubble of so much bad history, and was meant to build democracy and keep peace among neighbors. But something has come undone, and the union itself is now in mortal peril. “Now the last bastions of international courtesy are crumbling after decades of a common market and shared laws,” he writes. “Greek officials, led by Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, are demanding reparations dating back to World War II and threaten to enable Islamic terrorists to travel to Berlin by allowing illegal immigrants in Greece to travel northward unless the eurozone backs down on austerity demands. Even Russian President Vladimir Putin hasn't gone that far. And never has a common social calamity, an international showdown, been treated with more cynicism and defamation.”
Read the full article, The Dying Days Of The Great European Experiment.

An eight-year study by the U.S. Geological Survey has found that significant levels of precious metals such as gold, silver and platinum can be found in human feces and could even be comparable with those found in mines. Scientists believe that retrieving the metals could be both an income source and a way to make waste a safer fertilizer.

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Lithium Mines In Europe? A New World Of Supply-Chain Sovereignty

The European Union has a new plan that challenges the long-established dogmas of globalization, with its just-in-time supply chains and outsourcing the "dirty" work to the developing world.

Photo of an open cast mine in Kalgoorlie, Australia.

Open cast mine in Kalgoorlie, Australia.

Pierre Haski


PARIS — It is one of the great paradoxes of our time: in order to overcome some of our dependencies and vulnerabilities — revealed in crises like COVID and the war in Ukraine — we risk falling into other dependencies that are no less toxic. The ecological transition, the digitalization of our economy, or increased defense needs, all pose risks to our supply of strategic minerals.

The European Commission published a plan this week to escape this fate by setting realistic objectives within a relatively short time frame, by the end of this decade.

This plan goes against the dogmas of globalization of the past 30 or 40 years, which relied on just-in-time supply chains from one end of the planet to the other — and, if we're being honest, outsourced the least "clean" tasks, such as mining or refining minerals, to countries in the developing world.

But the pendulum is now swinging in the other direction, if possible under better environmental and social conditions. Will Europe be able to achieve these objectives while remaining within the bounds of both the ecological and digital transitions? That is the challenge.

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