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Geopolitics

People Of Palmyra, Where ISIS Puts Syrian History At Risk

Locals in the city of Palmyra speak out as ISIS threatens the treasured ancient ruins of their city, after destroying its notorious Assad regime prison that scarred so many.

Palmyra, in 2011.
Palmyra, in 2011.
Omar Abdullah

PALMYRA — Designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, the Syrian city of Palmyra used to attract tourists from across the world to visit its historic sites. Yet Palmyra and its historic ruins — an integral part of Syria's cultural and heritage — may be the Islamic State's next victim.

ISIS, which took over Palmyra in May, released a gruesome video on Saturday depicting the killing of dozens of Syrian army soldiers earlier this year. Twenty-five men were executed by teenagers in front of the historic amphitheater. The Assad regime's planes targeted the city with airstrikes the following day.

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Ideas

Artificial Satellite Pollution, Perils For Biodiversity In Space And On Earth

Exploiting space resources and littering it with satellite and other anthropogenic objects is endangering the ecosystem of space, which also damages the earth and its creatures below.

Image of the small satellite NanoRacks-Remove Debris satellite deployed into space by the ISS

Thomas Lewton

Outer space isn’t what most people would think of as an ecosystem. Its barren and frigid void isn’t exactly akin to the verdant canopies of a rainforest or to the iridescent shoals that swim among coral cities. But if we are to become better stewards of the increasingly frenzied band of orbital space above our atmosphere, a shift to thinking of it as an ecosystem — as part of an interconnected system of living things interacting with their physical environment — may be just what we need.

Last month, in the journal Nature Astronomy, a collective of 11 astrophysicists and space scientists proposed we do just that, citing the proliferation of anthropogenic space objects. Thousands of satellites currently orbit the Earth, with commercial internet providers such as SpaceX’s Starlink launching new ones at a dizzying pace. Based on proposals for projects in the future, the authors note, the number could reach more than a hundred thousand within the decade. Artificial satellites, long a vital part of the space ecosystem, have arguably become an invasive species.

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