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Germany Divided, India Coal Strike, Fasten Your Smartbelts

Having fun on ice slides Monday at Harbin's Ice and Snow World in northeastern China.
Having fun on ice slides Monday at Harbin's Ice and Snow World in northeastern China.

Tuesday, January 6, 2014

A record 18,000 people gathered in the eastern German city of Dresden last night for a weekly “anti-Islamization of the West” march, while similar protests are spreading across the country in cities like Berlin, Cologne and Stuttgart. The protesters were met with smaller, opposing rallies denouncing PEGIDA (Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the West) as racist and xenophobic, while lights were switched off at major sites in disapproval of the weekly demonstration. In the tabloid Bild, 80 public figures from the primary political parties and the media decried the anti-Islamization protests, with former Chancellor Helmut Schmidt calling for his country to “remain open and tolerant.”
Read more in English from Worldcrunch.


Joan of Arc was born 603 years ago today. Find out what else Jan. 6 has given us in
your daily 57-second shot of history.

The self-proclaimed ISIS caliphate in large areas of Iraq and Syria has published its first annual budget — $2 billion for 2015 with an anticipated $250 million surplus, making it the world’s richest terrorist organization, London-based al-Araby al-Jadeed reports. But Financial Times reports that people in the Iraqi city of Mosul are tired of their taxes and the lack of decent governing structures. “We’ve endured international sanctions, poverty, injustice. But it was never worse than it is now,” one man told reporters. With the price of bread in Syria now equivalent to a third of the daily income of most civilians under ISIS rule, the newspaper concludes that if the caliphate were official, “it would be a country of the poor.”

The months-long battle for Kobani, a Kurdish Syrian town on the Turkish border, continues, and Kurdish fighters said they had gained control of a key district, giving them control over 80% of the town. For more on this, here’s a Syria Deeply/Worldcrunch piece, Fighting ISIS In Kobani, A Syrian Kurd Tells His Story.


Asian stock markets have continued their slide for a second day, with Tokyo’s Nikkei suffering its biggest drop in 10 months amid growing concern over falling oil prices and the political situation in Greece. This follows similar trends in the West yesterday, particularly in Greece, Italy and France, as well as in the U.S., where both the Dow and S&P 500 registered losses as the price of crude oil fell under $50 per barrel. Read more from USA Today.

The political deadlock in Afghanistan continues, and the country is still without a government 100 days after President Ashraf Ghani was introduced and agreed to share power with his rival Abdullah Abdullah, prompting jibes from the Taliban.

Thousands of people have fled their homes in the north Nigerian state of Borno after Boko Haram fighters seized a second military base in a week. Many are feared dead in the attack, though no official figure has been released, and other residents are believed to have drowned as they tried to cross a nearby lake to safety. Read more from The Guardian.

“Minors today are like 007: They have a licence to kill.” — São Paulo’s newly appointed Police Chief Youssef Abou Chahin defended tougher legislation to curb skyrocketing crime by youths in Brazil’s most populated city,Folha de S. Paulo reports.

Coal workers in India are beginning a five-day strike today that news agency PTI describes as the biggest industrial action since 1977. Trade unions denounce the “disinvestment” in the state-owned company Coal India and are protesting legislation that would privatize the sector. The strike is expected to affect the production of 1.5 million tons of coal and may hit fuel supplies at power plants.

Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology released figures showing that 2014 was the country’s third hottest since records began in 1910, behind only 2013 and 2005, The Sydney Morning Herald reports. This comes as South Australia is facing its worst bushfires in decades amid soaring temperatures and strong winds.

As Süddeutsche Zeitung’s Charlotte Theile reports, the Swiss Haldigrat ski area became a family business when Kurt Mathis saw that a chair lift was for sale and fell in love with it. “Many ski areas have joined forces in recent years so they can offer more runs, comfortable lifts and perfectly prepared slopes. It's all very different at the Haldigrat, where there are no runs,” Theile writes. “At the valley lift station, there's a map showing areas skiers should avoid — for example, the woods where there is a wildlife reserve. Anybody who goes in and disturbs the animals is fined. The rest is up to the individual. ‘Everything is possible and nothing is certain,’ Mathis says. ‘It’s an uncontrolled skiing area, and you come here at your own risk.’”
Read the full article, Switzerland's No-Slope Anti-Resort For Freestyle Skiers.

Another Consumer Electronics Show has opened in Las Vegas, and this year’s event is poised to highlight wearables above all else. But news of a “smartbelt” that adjusts itself when you’ve eaten too much has prompted widespread mockery, most notably from The Guardian’s Charlie Brooker, who developed his own list of ideas for wearable tech. We, on the other hand, have long been prepared for the next step, The Internet of Bodies.

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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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