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Save the shark fin industry!

One Small Chinese Fish Factory Vs. An NBA Giant And A School Of Sharks

China's basketball legend Yao Ming wants to save the sharks. Wang Haifeng wants to save 500 jobs. Who are you rooting for? Have you ever tried shark fin soup?

PUQI – If Wang Haifeng could meet Chinese basketball star Yao Ming, he would try to convince him that he’s wrong about his support for protecting sharks. And he isn’t the only one to criticize the former NBA player’s work against the consumption of shark fins.

In the village of Puqi, 500 kilometers south of Shanghai, the fish factory employs more than 500 people. “This has had an impact on our business,” says Wang, head of Haideli Shark Products, which produces 1,000 tons of shark meat each year. “Young people who aren’t familiar with these dishes are talked out of eating them, sometimes for good.”

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The dark corners of China

How Methamphetamines Replaced Heroin As China's New Drug Of Choice

Smuggled in from Burma and North Korea, meth is flooding Chinese mean streets.

RUILI – At 38 Ruijing Street in the small town of Ruili, in the southwest Yunnan province, there is a constant flow of drug addicts coming and going.

Under the watchful eye of a dozen prostitutes waiting for their clients, an addict enters this rundown house every three minutes. Shidian, 22, comes out with doses of bingdu, a methamphetamine known in the West as "crystal meth" or "ice" for its crystalline texture.

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A happy pothead

The United States Of Marijuana - America's "Green Rush" On Pot

In Colorado, meet the nation's first newspaper weed critic.

DENVER - Some might call it a dream job: pot critic. Every week, William Breathes samples marijuana for Westword, a magazine based in Denver, Colorado. Just like wine, there are many varieties of weed: Pineapple Express, Purple Passion, White Rhino…

Breathes (a pseudonym) became the first marijuana critic in the U.S. in 2010 after Colorado became one of 18 states to legalize the drug for therapeutic use. Breathes’ job was to smoke pot and give his readers a review.

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Manipulating the weather? The HAARP antenna array

Hurricanes And Tsunamis As Weapons? The Truth About 'Environmental Warfare'

PARIS - Hurricane Sandy in the U.S., the tsunami in Japan or the eruption of the Eyjafjoll volcano in Iceland. Could the rising tide of such natural disasters be explained by man’s voluntary action? Could these cataclysms be triggered deliberately by the army, for political reasons?

For years, these conspiracy theories, relayed generously on the Internet, suggest that the climate could be manipulated as part of strategic or tactical wars.

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Lizzy Hawker running the 2009 Trail des Cerces in the French Alps

Run For The Hills: Meet Lizzy Hawker, England's Queen Of The Ultra-Trail

CHAMONIX – Bruce Springsteen sang the song, but Lizzy Hawker was actually born to run. She just replaced the New Jersey rocker’s urban jungle for mother nature, open spaces, and most of all– mountains. Lizzy Hawker is the queen of ultra-trail running, an increasingly popular athletic and mystical sport.

Ultra-trail running or ultra-marathon is any sporting event run on trails longer than the regular marathon distance (42.195 kilometers), often more than 100 kilometers. Looking at the petite 30-year-old Brit, you wouldn’t believe that she is the world’s top female endurance athlete.

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Notre Dame Cheerleaders Parading In The Streets Of Dublin

"The Gathering" Calls Ireland's Diaspora Home, But Some Just See A Tourist Trap

DUBLIN - Ireland, its scenery, its music, its hospitality… who has never dreamed of having a couple of drops of Irish blood in their veins?

That’s the idea behind “The Gathering.” In 2013, Ireland is calling on “all the Flynns, O’Malleys and Schweitzenburgs to come back home (…) no matter when their families left.” The event will kick off on December 31 with a concert in Dublin. Eamon Gilmore, the country’s deputy Prime Minister has made it clear that "the Gathering is also open to all those who love or are interested in Ireland."

Five million euros were invested in the project, including 1.5 million for advertising campaigns abroad. About 325,000 extra visitors are expected and 180 million euros in profits. As a comparison, and in the absence of statistics on tourism, about 800,000 Americans and 300,000 Germans make the trip during good years. Barry Hargreaves, a Texas resident, has decided to go to Ireland for the first time this summer. "My mother was a Murphy and all my ancestors are Anglo-Saxons. The Gathering is a great opportunity to discover Ireland."

Ceili tournaments (the traditional Irish dance), music festivals, a new show by the creators of Riverdance written by Joseph O’Connor, or even a reunion of bearded men in Ballymoe, in Galway. There will be "thousands of ways to get in touch with your Irish roots. Organize a golf trip, a family reunion or a corporate event. Prepare to bring all the members of your clan to Ireland next year": that’s what Ireland’s Transport, Tourism and Sport Ministry is proposing.

Clans are traditional kinship groups organized by name and heritage that made up the country before the 17th century and that met up during “gatherings.” Among those clans were the O’Neills, warriors that protected their land. Though they lost their power when the British took control of the island, clans have become popular again in the past decades along with renewed interest for Gaelic and the country’s history.

In May, 400 members of the O’Neill clan will gather in Armagh County in Northern Ireland. "The trip is supported by local authorities in a region that has suffered from recent conflicts," says Eoin O’Neill, a professor and member of the executive committee of the O’Neill clan association. "Foreign O’Neills want to see historical sites, take DNA tests, learn about their genealogy. These gatherings are also a way of meeting interesting people. One of my daughters is called Maire O’Neill. Well I met a Maura O’Neill who is a professor at Berkeley and works with Hillary Clinton!"

“Shaking down” the diaspora

The advertising campaign has been strong in Ireland, in the press and on social media, but also in the U.S., where about 35 million Americans claim to have Irish roots. A few weeks ago, Gabriel Byrne, a famous actor and a former Irish cultural ambassador to the U.S. where he’s been living for years sparked a controversy by calling the project "a scam." "Most people don’t give a shit about the diasporain Ireland except to shake them down for a few quid," he said.

He isn’t the only one criticizing this call to return home while the country is still struggling with the fallout of the 2008 economic crisis. In October, the unemployment rate was close to 15% and tens of thousands of young graduates have already left the country in search of a job abroad.

Others say the project is too dependent on its volunteers and is just adding its name to existing events. They are also worried that it is serving up a cliché of Ireland. James O’Higgins Norman, a sociologist and the vice-president of Clans of Ireland, says The Gathering and its funding pushed clans to hold their gatherings in 2013 instead of 2012 or 2014. "But there are also those who wanted to create groups and wouldn’t have done it otherwise. We are working with some of them to make sure they give visitors an authentic representation of our heritage rather than third-rate gatherings with shamrocks and Leprechauns."

Despite the criticism, Leo Varadkar, the Irish minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport said he wasn’t "ashamed" of promoting growth. According to Gian Gregori, in charge of Ireland Tourism for Switzerland "more than 2,000 gatherings are planned in 2013 and the numbers keep growing."

In The Irish Times, Una Mullaly wrote: "The Gathering is an alright idea. It seems simple enough; (…) Maybe, even maybe, it might make Irish people realize that we are an important nation with tens of millions of people who want to feel a sense of belonging to this screwed up island."

The Roza Hassad greenhouses near Doha, Qatar

Roses In The Desert - How Qatar Hopes To End Its Dependence On Food Imports

DOHA – Jean-Pierre Moreau is growing flowers in the desert.

Just 30 kilometers west of the Qatari capital of Doha, roses, gladiolus, chrysanthemum are blooming. At the request of Hamid Khalifa al-Thani, the Emir of Qatar, the Frenchman produces four million flowers a year, with the help of 60 employees mostly from Nepal and India.

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Get off the Internet -- if you can!

Do You Have A "Right To Be Forgotten" On The Internet?

Children's privacy is of particular concern in Europe, even as US tech giants line up to oppose any new laws that could force Internet "de-indexing."

PARIS - What if you could, with a couple of clicks, delete from the Internet all your awkward poems, embarrassing photos or stupid posts that you published as a teenager without realizing they would be there forever?

That is a centerpiece proposal from a report by the Défenseure des Enfants (Children’s Ombudswoman), a French independent body that defends and promotes children’s rights.

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Nature's finest

Care For Something Wild? Natural Wines Go Upmarket

GENEVA - Pontus Elofsson, head sommelier at Copenhagen’s Noma restaurant, ranked best restaurant in the world for the past three years, swears by them: natural wines. These are the wines with “nothing added, nothing taken away” - no sulfites, no foreign yeasts, no added sugars, no enzymes.

Traditional wines, on the other hand, are “corrected through additives and techniques.” The “wilder the wine,” the better it pairs with the uncluttered, Scandinavian-inspired cuisine of Noma’s chef Rene Redzepi, says Elofsson.

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Outside of Salou, signs that Spain may have an upside-down plan to economic recovery..

Spain's Solution To Massive Debt Crisis: Over-The-Top Theme Parks

BARCELONA - Barcelona World. The name says it all.

The project is as pretentious as its declared objective: “One of the main investment projects that will transform this region into a tourism industry leader in Europe and in the world.” This is what the Catalan Industry and Labor Minister Francesc Xavier-Mena said of the new site, which will be located near Salou, in the Tarragon province, on the Mediterranean coast.

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Orwa Nyrabia

Tales From A Syrian Jail: Filmmaker Witnesses The 'Surreal' Of Regime's Cruelty

CAIRO – Orwa Nyrabia is looking for an apartment in Cairo for a few months, just enough time to wrap his latest movie a month after being released from a Syrian jail.

Nyrabia was arrested on August 23 in Damascus and held for 22 days. This 35-year-old filmmaker and creator of the renowned Dox Box film festival calls himself a “subtle opponent” of the regime. Movies are what saved him.

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Drilling in Greece

Drilling Out Of Debt: Could Oil And Gas Reserves Save The Greek Economy?

ATHENS - Everyone knows that Greece’s debt is spiraling out of control, but few know that the country is an oil producer, though its production is minimal: 2,000 barrels a day – 0.5% of just its own needs.

During the 1980’s, however, Greece produced 30,000 barrels a day – 12% of its consumption – through oil fields off the coast of Kavala, in the northern Aegean Sea.

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