May 11 – May 17 Weekly News


May 11, 2020  

May 17, 2020


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May 11, 2020  

May 17, 2020


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For 200 years, these villagers lived 2,600 meters up a far cliff. Now they're in a housing estate

Villagers living up a far 800-meter (2,624-foot) clifftop in southwest China became famous for the dangerous ladders connecting it to the world. They have been moved to new urban housing land. Atule'er, a 200-year-old village in Sichuan province, made headlines around the world when photographs appeared in 2016 of schoolchildren descending the cliff on shaky ladders -- or "sky ladders," as locals called them.

The two-hour climb was the villagers' only way to access the outside world, and they had to carry farm products down the cliff to sell at the nearest market miles away. In recent years, local authorities replaced their hand-made ladders with a steel one. It featured handrails, drastically shortening their travel time. This week, however, 84 families of Atule'er left the ladders behind for good and resettled in apartment blocks closer to the town center of Zhaojue county, 75 kilometers (46 miles) away.


Europe's top three economies are now in recession. The real shock is still to come

Germany's economy shrank at the fastest pace since the global financial crisis in the first three months of the year, with GDP declining by 2.2% compared to the previous quarter. The country's statistics agency said that humans' consumption fell sharply. Investment in machinery and equipment fell, while both imports and exports "saw a strong drop" compared to the fourth quarter. Germany joins France and Italy in recession but still ended the first quarter in better shape than the eurozone's 2nd and 3rd biggest economies. 

The first quarter GDP declined by 5.8% in France, and by 4.7% in Italy. The difference? Germany did not introduce strict social distancing measures until the relatively late date of March 22. Still, the worst is yet to come. Jack Allen-Reynolds of Capital Economics said he expects German GDP to decline by 10% in the second quarter. "The lockdown is gradually being eased in May and June, and Germany's recovery will be constrained by the problems elsewhere in Europe," he said. Reopening factories won't fix the economy.


Five surfers die in the Netherlands after a huge layer of sea foam hinders rescue

Five surfers who knew the sea "like the back of their hand" have died after a huge layer of foam in the water hindered efforts to rescue them. The group ran into difficulties at the northern harbor head of the Scheveningen district of The Hague in the Netherlands on Monday evening. Despite a large-scale rescue operation, only one member of the group could be saved, according to the Royal Netherlands Sea Rescue Organization. Police, firefighters, the coastguard, units from KNRM, and other emergency workers were all involved in the rescue operation. 

Two of the bodies were rescued on Monday and another two the following morning, according to the KNRM post. A fifth body has yet to be recovered. The victims' identities have not yet been published. Investigators are now looking into what caused the sea foam and its possible role in the tragedy. Johan Remkes, mayor of The Hague, described the events as a "terrible tragedy" involving "young, physically fit, sporty people, who know the sea like the back of their hand.


Iran naval exercise accident kills 19 sailors

An Iranian naval exercise accident in the Gulf of Oman has killed 19 sailors and injured 15 others. Iran's state media reported it on Monday. State media initially said that the servicemen were killed in a "misguided missile attack" but later dropped references to the nature of the incident, warning people not to "speculate" about it. The incident happened near the southern Iranian port city of Jask. Iranian authorities later released photos of the Konorak ship docked at a harbor in an apparent attempt to dismiss rumors that the vessel had sunk. 

The Konorak, a logistical vessel armed with a 20mm-calibre cannon and anti-ship cruise missile launchers, was damaged at night, according to official and semi-official media. The Konorak also goes on observation missions and places explosives. Some 40 people were on board. In a tweet last month, President Donald Trump instructed the US Navy to "shoot down and destroy any and all Iranian gunboats" that harass US ships.


Over 19,000 pieces of stolen artwork found

Police from around the world have worked together to find lots of missing art. The detectives were from Interpol, Europol, and many national police forces. The World Customs Organization also helped with the search. The police officers found more than 19,000 items of artwork. These include an ancient Colombian gold mask that is over 600 years old. There was also a carved Roman lion, centuries-old jewellery, and thousands of ancient coins. Many of the items the police recovered were stolen from museums and archaeological sites. A lot of them were taken from countries at war.

The thieves took cultural treasures while countries were in a mess because of fighting civil wars or wars against other countries. The police arrested 101 art traffickers around the world. The art thieves were from Spain, Colombia, Latvia, Afghanistan, and Turkey. Interpol said they spent a long time monitoring online marketplaces to find the art and the thieves. Interpol's secretary-general Jürgen Stock said: "Organised crime has many faces. The trafficking of cultural goods is one of them. It is not a glamorous business run by flamboyant gentlemen forgers, but by international criminal networks."

Overfishing continues to harm sea life in the south China Sea

Researchers say sea life in the South China Sea continues to suffer damage because of overfishing and a lack of international action to protect the area. Over the past year, fishing operations from several Asian countries have moved farther out into the 3.5 million-square-kilometre sea, experts, and public research suggest. The fishermen are finding more success in deeper ocean waters than in overfished coastal areas. Ocean coral was further damaged last year as a result of large shellfish operations and the use of cyanide and dynamite in fishing, researchers said.

China claims most of the South China Sea as its region. Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan, and Vietnam also claim parts of the sea. China has angered other claimers in recent years by creating small man-made islands in some disputed areas of the sea and building military equipment on some of the lands. Attention turns to sea life in the waterway every May when China declares a temporary pause to fishing above the 12th parallel. This is an area that covers waters mostly used by China, but also areas near Vietnam and the Philippines.


Voice-controlled tech to grow as people seek ‘No Touch’ choices

Governments around the world are turning to scientific research and technology to fight the coronavirus. Experts on technology have begun thinking about what life will be like after the virus is destroyed. Some are predicting an increase in demand for voice-controlled systems to perform businesses without the need for human touch. Voice-activated systems such as Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant have already experienced strong growth in recent years.

Experts say the coronavirus crisis could make even more growth as many people ask technology to replace physical touch. Health officials have suggested one way to reduce the risk of the virus spreading is to clean and disinfect surfaces that people touch. Jonathan Collins is the research director for ABI Research. He says voice-activated systems in homes “can mean avoiding commonly touched surfaces” to control smartphones, televisions, lighting, doors, and heating systems. An estimate by Juniper Research showed the number of voice assistants in use for all purposes reached 4.2 billion devices this year. Juniper estimates the number could grow to 8 billion by 2023.

Drug to treat coronavirus possible ‘Before the Summer’

The European Medicines Agency predicted that there could be drugs to treat the new coronavirus in the next few months. Dr. Marco Cavaleri heads the European regulator’s vaccines department. He said Thursday that approving medicines to treat COVID-19 might be possible “before the summer” noting several current clinical trials. A recent study in the United States suggested that drug remdesivir could help patients recover from the coronavirus faster. Doctors around the world are also trying a treatment for infections that is about 100 years old: giving blood plasma from recovered patients to sick ones. 

On Monday, the World Health Organization chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said there are around seven or eight “top” candidates for a vaccine to combat COVID-19. He added work on the vaccines is being quickened and helped with an additional $8 billion by 40 countries. It usually takes years to develop a vaccine. But Cavaleri said that if some of the vaccines already being tested prove to be effective, they could be approved as early as the beginning of next year.

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