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No Good AirAsia News, Afghanistan Mission Ends, 2014 In Review

At Juanda Airport, relatives of the victims of the AirAsia plane crash
At Juanda Airport, relatives of the victims of the AirAsia plane crash

Monday, December 29, 2014

The head of Indonesia’s search-and-rescue agency has said that AirAsia flight QZ8501, which disappeared yesterday with 162 people on board, is likely “at the bottom of the sea,” CNN reports. Search operations have so far failed to locate the aircraft, which was flying from Indonesia to Singapore. It is the third such incident to affect a Malaysian company this year, after the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 and the downing of MH17 in eastern Ukraine. Although high-profile plane incidents have made headlines over the past year, 2014 has seen the fewest crashes in more than 80 years. Still, if those on board the AirAsia aircraft are declared dead, the number of casualties would reach a 10-year high of 1,320.

Rescuers worked through the night despite difficult weather conditions to evacuate passengers from a burning ferry traveling from Greece to Italy. At least one person died, though a witness told Italian news agency ANSA that he had seen four dead bodies. At least 363 people have been rescued, but 115 were still on board this morning. Italian prosecutors have opened a criminal investigation into the incident.

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NATO formally ended its 13-year mission in Afghanistan yesterday, a move the Afghanistan Taliban called “a clear indication of their defeat and disappointment,” AFP reports. The group vowed to continue to fight “so long as a single foreigner remains in Afghanistan in a military uniform.” About 12,500 NATO troops will remain in Afghanistan as part of a “training and support” mission.

As Die Welt’s Fanny Jiménez writes, German researchers have discovered the neurology and psychology at play when we touch our faces, scratching our noses or stroking our chins. It turns out that we do this when we are anxious or overwhelmed. “Their conclusion is that spontaneous face-touching helps to regulate cognitive overload and stress,” the journalist writes. “This ‘self-stimulation,’ as the researchers call it, balances out disturbances in processing information and emotional swings.”
Read the full article, Unmasking The Mystery Of Why People Touch Their Faces.

Greek parliament members have failed to name a new president, paving the way for a snap general election that Reuters says “could derail the international bailout program it needs to keep paying its bills.” Far-left anti-austerity party Syriza is currently leading the polls, and a date for the election will be announced within 10 days.

Sony Pictures’ controversial comedy The Interview has earned the company $15 million in online sales, far more than the $2.8 million earned from the limited theater release four days ago, The Verge reports. The movie, which is still struggling for a good review, has aggravated the already tense U.S.-North Korea relationship, and the scandal escalated further over the weekend when North Korea compared Barack Obama to “a monkey in a tropical forest.”

  • South Korea announced it had suggested resuming high-level talks with North Korea next month on issues that stand in the way of unification. Pyongyang has yet to respond. South Korea and Japan, meanwhile, finalized a military pact today to share intelligence about North Korea’s missile and nuclear program.

Today marks one year since Al Jazeera journalists Baher Mohamed, Mohamed Fahmy and Peter Greste were arrested under what the news network says were “false charges of aiding the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood and spreading false news.” The three were handed jail sentences ranging from seven to 10 years in June, but their appeal will be heard in court Thursday.

We all share the same sky, but each of us gazes up from a unique place on earth.
Find out what Simon, Italy’s most trusted astrologer, has to say in this week’s horoscope.

U.S. and British intelligence agencies NSA and GCHQ regard encryption as “a threat” and have gone to extreme lengths to crack all types of secure communications, documents released by Edward Snowden reveal. In one striking example, the leaked documents show that the NSA has been collecting Skype data since 2011, even before Microsoft bought it. The agency has also targeted VPNs and other protocols, although some programs are still proving to be too difficult to crack. Read more in English from Der Spiegel.

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Worldcrunch recalls the events of 2014 — in 57 seconds.

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A Naturalist's Defense Of The Modern Zoo

Zoos are often associated with animal cruelty, or at the very least a general animal unhappiness. But on everything from research to education to biodiversity, there is a case to be made for the modern zoo.

Photograph of a brown monkey holding onto a wired fence

A brown monkey hangs off of mesh wire

Marina Chocobar/Pexels
Fran Sánchez Becerril


MADRID — Zoos — or at least something resembling the traditional idea of a zoo — date back to ancient Mesopotamia. It was around 3,500 BC when Babylonian kings housed wild animals such as lions and birds of prey in beautiful structures known as the Hanging Gardens of Babylon.

Ancient China also played a significant role in the history of zoos when the Tang Dynasty (618-907 AD) created several parks which hosted an assortment of animals.

In Europe, it wouldn't be until 1664 when Louis XIV inaugurated the royal menagerie at Versailles. All these spaces shared the mission of showcasing the wealth and power of the ruler, or simply served as decorations. Furthermore, none of them were open to the general public; only a few fortunate individuals, usually the upper classes, had access.

The first modern zoo, conceived for educational purposes in Vienna, opened in 1765. Over time, the educational mission has become more prominent, as the exhibition of exotic animals has been complemented with scientific studies, conservation and the protection of threatened species.

For decades, zoos have been places of leisure, wonder, and discovery for both the young and the old. Despite their past success, in recent years, society's view of zoos has been changing due to increased awareness of animal welfare, shifting sensibilities and the possibility of learning about wild animals through screens. So, many people wonder: What is the purpose of a zoo in the 21st century?

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