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Europe Ebola Warning, Kenyatta In Court, Typhoon Eye

Typhoon Vongfong is expected to hit Japan in the next 48 hours.
Typhoon Vongfong is expected to hit Japan in the next 48 hours.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

ISIS fighters have withdrawn from areas they had earlier seized in the Syrian Kurdish town of Kobani after a series of strikes from the U.S.-led coalition, Kurdish officials in the town have said, echoing previous a previous report from the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. But the battle for the city, which sits on the border with Turkey, continues. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had warned yesterday that Kobani was “about to fall,” amid criticism and frustration, including Washington’s, over inaction from Ankara.

The events unfolding in Kobani have led to violent protests from Kurdish minorities across Turkey, which left at least 14 people dead as the police tried to disperse demonstrators with tear gas and water cannons, AP reports. Similar protests also took place in Brussels and in the German cities of Hamburg and Celle, where Kurdish protesters clashed with armed pro-ISIS radicals.

West African countries, who also face a jihadist threat in Boko Haram, agreed yesterday to form a regional force that will start operating next month against the Nigeria-based group.

Fears over the Ebola virus are rising in Spain and more generally in Europe, with the World Health Organization warning that the Madrid nurse who mysteriously got infected with the virus was likely the beginning and that more cases were expected among health personnel in Europe and in the U.S.

Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta arrived this morning in The Hague to appear in front of the International Criminal Court on charges of crimes against humanity, becoming thus the first serving head of state to come before the court, CNN reports. Kenyatta, who temporarily appointed his deputy as President before he left for the Netherlands, faces five charges over the ethnic massacres that followed the 2007 Presidential election in which more than 1,000 people were killed. He has repeatedly denied the accusations that he orchestrated the violence, calling the charges politically motivated. The ICC is expected to determine today whether his case can proceed to trial.


Japan is facing yet another natural disaster as Vongfong, a super typhoon believed to be the most intense storm this year is picking up speed and is expected to make landfall this weekend, AFP reports. According to a Japanese meteorologist, Vongfong is “very much similar” in strength to Haiyan, another typhoon that left nearly 8,000 people dead or missing when it hit the Philippines last year. Meanwhile, the death toll at Mount Ontake after a violent volcanic eruption a week-and-a-half ago now stands at 55, after rescuers found four more bodies.

Reporting from the Syria-Turkey border, Le Monde’s veteran war correspondent Remy Ourdan managed to speak to two former ISIS foot soldiers who recount how they’d fled the terror group after witnessing the arbitrary killing of Syrian civilians: “Maher then did something unimaginable: He shouted at his emir, a Saudi jihadist, Abu Hafs al-Jazrawi, who immediately ordered his arrest. The incident triggered a frenzied and bloody escape through the Syrian countryside. "The emir left me in a house with two guards. One had a stick to beat me up. I managed to get hold of it and I beat him until he passed out, then I beat the one standing outside the door." Maher ran through the deserted village until he reached the road, and while still in the ISIS black uniform, clambered into a civilian car with a Syrian family. Read the full article: These Two ISIS Foot Soldiers Fled In Horror - But One Wants To Return

A UN report on the human rights situation in Ukraine between mid-August and mid-September, due to be published today, shows that some armed groups and battalions under the control of Ukrainian army have violated international humanitarian law, Russian state news agency Ria Novosti reports. The 37-page document denounces the violation of “principles of military necessity, distinction, proportionality and precaution,” and in particular the “beatings, poor nutrition and lack of medical assistance” of people detained by the Ukrainian army during the months-long conflict that has killed more than 3,500 people in eastern Ukraine. The Kremlin-backed agency notes however that the UN report doesn’t mention the several mass grave uncovered in government-controlled territories.

Two Americans scientists, Eric Betzig, William E. Moerner and Germany’s Stefan W Hell, were awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry “for the development of super-resolved fluorescence microscopy,” a finding that “has brought optical microscopy into the nanodimension.”

In a expand=1] video uploaded to YouTube, two male kangaroos were spotted boxing it out in the streets of a suburban Australian neighborhood. Set to Tchaikovsky's Waltz of the Flowers from The Nutcracker suite, it's rather graceful.

— Crunched by Marc Alves

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Life On "Mars": With The Teams Simulating Space Missions Under A Dome

A niche research community plays out what existence might be like on, or en route to, another planet.

Photo of a person in a space suit walking toward the ​Mars Desert Research Station near Hanksville, Utah

At the Mars Desert Research Station near Hanksville, Utah

Sarah Scoles

In November 2022, Tara Sweeney’s plane landed on Thwaites Glacier, a 74,000-square-mile mass of frozen water in West Antarctica. She arrived with an international research team to study the glacier’s geology and ice fabric, and how its ice melt might contribute to sea level rise. But while near Earth’s southernmost point, Sweeney kept thinking about the moon.

“It felt every bit of what I think it will feel like being a space explorer,” said Sweeney, a former Air Force officer who’s now working on a doctorate in lunar geology at the University of Texas at El Paso. “You have all of these resources, and you get to be the one to go out and do the exploring and do the science. And that was really spectacular.”

That similarity is why space scientists study the physiology and psychology of people living in Antarctic and other remote outposts: For around 25 years, people have played out what existence might be like on, or en route to, another world. Polar explorers are, in a way, analogous to astronauts who land on alien planets. And while Sweeney wasn’t technically on an “analog astronaut” mission — her primary objective being the geological exploration of Earth — her days played out much the same as a space explorer’s might.

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