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Thousands Evacuated as Canary Island Volcano Erupts

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Thousands Evacuated as Canary Island Volcano Erupts


A volcano erupted Sunday on the Spanish island of La Palma, spewing lava and a thick column of smoke and prompting the authorities to evacuate thousands of residents from nearby towns.

The eruption was the first in 50 years on La Palma, a resort island in the Canary archipelago popular with visitors from northern Europe. The Canary Islands are in the Atlantic Ocean, off the northwestern coast of Africa.

Spain’s military said on Sunday that it would evacuate between 5,000 and 10,000 residents of villages on the edge of La Cumbre Vieja national park, as flowing lava and fires neared the surrounding farms and homes.

Firefighters and emergency workers were being sent from the archipelago’s larger islands, Tenerife and Gran Canaria, and Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez of Spain delayed a planned trip to New York ahead of the United Nations General Assembly. Instead, Mr. Sánchez joined members of the military’s national emergency response unit on Sunday in La Palma.

The volcano erupted around 3:15 p.m., dramatically belching lava into the air and sending fiery rivers of molten lava down its sides. Scientists had warned an eruption was imminent following days of increased seismic activity in the area, including a magnitude 3.8 earthquake.

Home to about 85,000 residents, La Palma is one of the smallest Canary Islands. The previous most recent eruption on La Palma began in October 1971 and lasted more than three weeks. That eruption killed one person, a tourist who died after inhaling toxic gases while trying to admire the lava.



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‘Zombie’ Urchins Are Destroying Kelp Forests. Can’t We Just Eat Them?

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‘Zombie’ Urchins Are Destroying Kelp Forests. Can’t We Just Eat Them?


ALBION, Calif. — A decade ago, when Gary Trumper used to dive for sea urchins, the docks here were packed with commercial fishing vessels. Mr. Trumper and his diving partner, Byron Koehler, would steer through masses of tangled kelp and return after a few hours of work with what Mr. Koehler described as enough red urchin to sink their 26-foot boat.

No longer. Today, more than 95 percent of California’s coastal kelp are gone, devoured by a population explosion of purple sea urchins in the past seven years. This proliferation has led to dead zones known as “urchin barrens,” where carpets of urchins can be seen for miles. One such barren encompasses 400 miles of coastline from Marin County to the Oregon border.

“This bay should be choked off with kelp,” Mr. Trumper said as he gestured over the side of his boat.

The problem has reverberated throughout the international seafood market and created an environmental crisis along the California coast. Fishermen, state officials and now some entrepreneurs are scrambling to slow and even reverse the damage. Among the wide-ranging solutions that have been proposed are aggressive aquaculture programs and the deployment of robotic predators — a sort of Roomba for urchins.

Uni, the delicate meat inside an urchin’s spiny shell, is a pricey delicacy. So it might seem that a surplus of urchins would be good business for commercial divers, but Mr. Trumper explained that the opposite is true. The purple urchins off the California coast are mostly inedible because they contain little to no uni. Having overgrazed the coastal kelp and devastated the red urchin population, the purple urchins are now starving. Worse still, they can exist in this state of starvation for decades, lying in wait to gobble up any kelp spores that appear, which prevents kelp forests from growing back.

Mr. Trumper, who is now in his 50s, has been diving since he was 10 with his father, the founder of the commercial fishery Pacific Rim Seafood. “We had so many markets we lost because we couldn’t supply them with product,” he said. Now, he is at a loss for what to do: “It’s the only job I ever had.” Mr. Trumper’s own son, like many other urchin divers in the area, seeks mostly nonfishing work.

This shortage of edible urchins has affected restaurants as well, just as Americans were developing a palate for the delicacy. Uni has long been a staple of Japanese and Italian cuisine, but can be found on plates in places as far-flung as Chile and is increasingly making its way into Californian fare.

Nico Pe​​ña, the chef de cuisine at Octavia, a fine-dining restaurant in San Francisco, says that the urchin available off California’s North Coast “has a beautiful umami flavor with an ocean salinity,” adding that “the texture is super luscious.” He serves it in its dramatic spiny urchin shell with a side of cultured butter and brioche toast.

He first encountered uni while working at the pasta station at Quince, a three-Michelin-starred restaurant across town, where it was cooked down and used to thicken a cream sauce. Uni is incredibly delicate — its melt-in-your-mouth texture is part of its appeal — so less picturesque pieces that have lost their form can be turned into uni butter and used on pasta dishes. Mr. Pe​​ña says he jumps at the chance to add uni to Octavia’s menu because it sells so well and fits with his culinary philosophy of leaning on locally sourced ingredients.

But since July, he’s struggled to source it. “I noticed that there is a lot less than what I was able to get before,” he said, adding that other chefs have had to eliminate uni dishes altogether.

The urchin trouble began in 2014 with “a perfect storm of bad things for kelp,” according to Laura Rogers-Bennett, a research associate at the University of California, Davis and a scientist at the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. There was a major marine heat wave from 2014 to 2016, which was driven by climate change and El Niño weather events.

Simultaneously, sea urchins’ main predator, sunflower sea stars, were wiped out by a sea star wasting syndrome. This created what fishermen and scientists call a “purple carpet,” where the urchins wait in a starving “zombie” state for any sprouts of kelp to grow, thus turning the area into a lifeless urchin barren. And without any uni meat, the urchins are unattractive to other predators like sea otters.

Uni divers like Mr. Trumper and Mr. Koehler were among the first to notice the problem. “They took over the shallows and spread like wildfire,” Mr. Trumper said.

During the 2015 survey season, Ms. Rogers-Bennett said she recalled thinking, “​​Oh my god, there are purple urchins everywhere, and there’s no kelp canopy.”

Kelp forests, commonly referred to by marine biologists as “the lungs of the ocean” because of how they sequester carbon, are essential for a healthy ocean ecosystem. The decline of the California kelp forests sent other marine populations, including red abalone, into such a death spiral that the California Fish and Game Commission closed that abalone fishery in 2017 and announced it would not reopen until at least 2026.

Ms. Rogers-Bennett explained that tackling the problem now, while even a marginal amount of kelp remains, is of the utmost urgency. “If we go down to zero kelps, then trying to restore them is a huge amount of work,” she said. But outcry has been limited mostly to those in the food and conservation sectors. “If 90 percent of the trees in California disappeared,” Ms. Rogers-Bennett said, “then I think people would be much more concerned about the problem.”

The problem has resulted in unlikely partnerships between business interests and conservationists. On a misty morning in late August, Mr. Trumper and Mr. Koehler are not diving for the commercial seafood industry; they’re working for Reef Check, a nonprofit that has partnered with the state government to tackle the problem.

Mr. Trumper and Mr. Koehler are being paid a day rate to pluck every urchin they can from designated zones. The urchins are then brought to Reef Check’s lab where they are analyzed and then used for compost, paving or other purposes. Mr. Trumper explained that these days, working for conservation organizations is the only way they can make a reliable income, but he said even with that, he was earning “just enough money to keep the lights on.” At the end of the day, they collect hundreds of wriggling spiny purple urchins from a designated area smaller than an Olympic-size swimming pool. Their haul fills two large industrial trash cans.

Morgan Murphy-Cannella, a kelp-restoration coordinator at Reef Check who works with Mr. Trumper and Mr. Koehler, said that working with commercial divers is important not just for curtailing the devastating impact on local industries, but also because they know the sea best. “They have thousands of underwater hours,” she said. “They know the reef really well. They’re able to notice patterns.”

So far, their efforts appear to be helping. Mr. Trumper says that kelp is regrowing in the areas where they have pulled urchin. Ms. Murphy-Cannella added that a similar project in Noyo Bay in Mendocino County showed promising results. “This type of restoration works,” she said. But she is far from optimistic. “How do we use this over the bigger scale?” she said. “It’s impossible to clear an entire coastline of urchin.”

Last year, Ms. Rogers-Bennett’s team at U.C. Davis collaborated with a company called Urchinomics, which had been working on similar problems in Norway and Japan. Together, along with the Nature Conservancy, they worked to determine whether their technologies were transferable to California.

They embarked on a yearlong study to see if they could take the starving urchin and make them commercially viable. Urchinomics hired divers to take the starving urchins from the barrens and bring them to aquaculture tanks on land, where they were fed pellets made from scraps of discarded seaweed. Urchinomics’ chief executive, Brian Tsuyoshi Takeda, explained that the choice of feed is incredibly important. “If an urchin is sitting on a dead herring, it will taste like that herring,” he said. “An urchin that’s eating umami-rich kelp essentially tastes like a lot of umami.”

At the end of 12 weeks on this diet, when the urchin shells were cracked in half, there was plump, deep yellow uni inside. The company has begun doing test sales in the United States and is selling to a larger market in Japan. While the commercial aspect appears to be working, Ms. Rogers-Bennett was enthusiastic about the ecological implications. “This is actually better than sustainable,” she said, “because the more you fish it, the better off the kelp forest will be. This is a restorative seafood product.”

When asked what his company would do if they are successful in clearing out barrens off the Southern California coast where they are currently operating, Mr. Tsuyoshi Takeda said that he anticipated no shortage of work. First, they would move up the coast, clearing out the barrens in Northern California and Oregon. And there are urchin barrens all over the world.

Another company, Marauder Robotics, is in the process of developing artificially intelligent underwater predator robots that collect urchins from the seafloor. It is currently conducting experiments in Southern California. In 2018, Dennis Yancey, the company’s chief executive, estimated that one robot could do the work of 75 commercial divers.

Though these kinds of efforts undoubtedly make a dent in the problem, Ms. Murphy-Cannella of Reef Check suggests that “the solution is going to be multiple avenues working together.”

“We can’t eat our way out,” she said.



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Syria Accuses Israel of Assassinating Official Near Golan Heights

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Syria Accuses Israel of Assassinating Official Near Golan Heights


The Syrian government on Saturday accused Israel of assassinating a high-ranking Syrian official who spent 12 years in an Israeli prison on terrorism charges before serving decades in the Syrian government.

The official, Midhat Saleh, who was responsible for overseeing the strategic Golan Heights boundary, was shot and killed by an apparent sniper while inside Syria near the shared border between the two countries.

In a statement announcing his death, Syria’s Presidency of the Council of Ministers said Mr. Saleh was “targeted by the Israeli enemy with bursts of treacherous bullets while returning to his home.”

Mr. Saleh, a member of the Druse religious minority, served 12 years in an Israeli prison on charges of using mines and explosives with the intention of killing Israeli civilians and soldiers

Credit…Syrian Arab News Agency

In 1997, after his release, he went to Syria, where he was elected to Parliament.

A senior Israeli defense official, who would not address Israel’s involvement in any killing, said Mr. Saleh was working with Iran’s Revolutionary Guard to establish the military infrastructure along the border necessary for an attack against Israel.

Israel has been operating aggressively against Iran in Syria soon after the country’s civil began and has attacked Iranian or Iranian-related targets in the country hundreds of times, if not more, as well as carried out a series of assassinations. The fighting between Israel and Iran inside Syria effectively constitutes a shadow war, as regional powers test their opponents’ abilities amid the carnage of the Syrian civil war.

Israel has long maintained that Iran represents a threat to its existence and has targeted the Islamic Republic’s agents both outside and inside Iran, stymying its nuclear weapons program and killing its top scientists and operatives.

The Israelis are sensitive to Iran’s presence in Syria. The assassination was the fourth attack this week against Iranian forces in Syria attributed to Israel.

Mr. Saleh, 54, was killed in Ein al-Tina, Syria, according to SANA, the Syrian state news agency. The town is directly across the border from Majdal Shams, Israel, the Druse village in which he was born.

The year of his birth, 1967, coincided with Israel’s defeat of a coalition of Arab countries and the occupation of the Golan Heights, a strategic plateau that spans the border.

He was arrested by Israeli intelligence agents in 1985, along with other Druse from the occupied Golan villages, and convicted of terrorism.

“I’m not saying we will kill the Jews or drive them away,” he said in a 2007 interview with The Guardian. “I just want to live on my land.”

After representing the Golan in Syria’s Parliament, he was appointed head of the country’s Golan Office and an adviser to President Bashar al-Assad.

Mr. Saleh was praised by officials in Mr. Assad’s government, a regime that has brutalized its own people, including gas attacks, for much of the past decade.

Hussein Arnous, Syria’s prime minister, described Mr. Saleh’s assassination as a cowardly act. Hussam Edin Aala, the country’s United Nations representative, called him “a man who devoted his life to defending the rights of his people in the occupied Syrian Golan.”



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Penn Badgley Flexes New Dance Moves

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Penn Badgley Flexes New Dance Moves


“It feels good,” the actor Penn Badgley said on a recent Friday morning, in an echoing studio at the Mark Morris Dance Center in Brooklyn. “I’m clumsy as hell. But it feels good.”

Mr. Badgley, 34, who played lonely boy Dan on the original “Gossip Girl” and now stars on the Netflix thriller “You,” hadn’t visited a gym in two years. He hadn’t taken a dance class in far longer.

But at a fashion shoot a month before, he had found himself moving in tandem with the photographer and missing dance acutely. So he reached out to André Zachery, his gyrotonics instructor and the artistic director of Renegade Performance Group, a contemporary dance company in Brooklyn. Mr. Zachery was willing to put him through his paces.

In the yawning dance studio, mirrors lined one wall. Ice-white tube lights glared overhead. Mr. Badgley had dressed for class in a villain-black T-shirt and shorts. A luxurious dad beard and a corona of mink-brown hair framed his face.

They began with a warm-up: stretches, lunges, isolations of the neck, shoulders, chest and hips. Roy Ayers’s “Everybody Loves the Sunshine” set the groove; Mr. Badgley, his brooding face etched into a frown, inhaled and exhaled in time, rolling his spine down and up.

Mr. Zachery integrated the stretches into a simple routine, and Mr. Badgley lumbering and somewhat stiff, like a bear who hadn’t fully shaken off hibernation, danced his way through the initial eight count, then repeated the steps again.

“All right, not bad,” Mr. Zachery said encouragingly. “You want to go a little faster?”

Mr. Badgley paused to tie his hair back with a blue-and-white bandanna. He asked to take it slow again. “As much as I love to move and I love to dance, it’s not a language that I speak regularly at all,” he said. “So even just getting into this feels great. But it also feels very clumsy.”

Mr. Zachery reassured him, gently countering Mr. Badgley’s perfectionism. “Be imperfect with this,” he said.

As Mr. Zachery prepared the next combination, the track switched to Donny Hathaway’s “The Ghetto,” and Mr. Badgley’s face stern face split into a smile. “This is one of my kid’s favorite songs,” Mr. Badgley said. “He loves classic soul.”

Last summer, Mr. Badgley and his wife, Domino Kirke, welcomed a son. (They also share custody of Ms. Kirke’s son from an earlier relationship.) On “You,” Mr. Badgley plays Joe, the sociopath next door. Joe has also had a son with his wife, Love (Victoria Pedretti), who has a body count of her very own.

In the third season, which premieres on Oct. 15, Joe muses about his new life in a Bay Area suburb. “Me, a boy and his mom, who is usually great, but occasionally murders people with her bare hands,” Joe says. “What could go wrong?” A lot, it turns out.

Mr. Badgley has some experience playing characters with dark motives. The final episodes of “Gossip Girl” revealed that Dan, the Deuxmoi of his day, had surveilled his friends and lovers, uploading their secrets to the pre-Instagram internet.

Making the show was, as Mr. Badgley described it, “an existential endurance test.” As a 20-something, he struggled with the glitzy ethos of the series. Fans’ failure to differentiate between him and Dan nagged at him, too. “I wouldn’t recommend fame to anybody,” he said. “It just doesn’t make anything better or help it make more sense. It doesn’t help you as a person.”

When “Gossip Girl” ended in 2012, he spent half of a decade shooting indie movies and touring with his band, MOTHXR. He wasn’t sure he wanted to return to mainstream TV and he had further doubts about Joe, a character who imprisons, tortures and kills women (and the occasional interfering man), all in the name of true love. Boy gets girl? Absolutely.

Still, he thought that “You” had something to say about the tropes of romantic love and the queasy nexus of desire, power and abuse. Many viewers responded a lot more swoonily and for a while Mr. Badgley took time to razz fans asking to be kidnapped. (“No thx,” he replied.) Now he tries to focus on the work itself, which he likens to a dance, “a torturous and ugly dance.”

Back in the studio, Mr. Badgley was trying to dance more beautifully. He can become overwhelmed by his own thoughts, he said, so Mr. Zachery introduced a guided meditation, occupying Mr. Badgley’s mind so that his body could move more freely.

As Robert Glasper’s cover of “Smells Like Teen Spirit” played, he had Mr. Badgley imagine himself at the beach, his body buoyed by the waves. They also played a game of avant-garde Twister, in which had Mr. Badgley had to keep either both hands and one foot on the floor, or both feet and one hand.

“Yo, man,” Mr. Zachery said approvingly. “You’re actually more in your body than you think.”

Finally, at a suggestion from Mr. Badgley, he switched the music to “Promises,” a mellow album from Floating Points, Pharoah Sanders and the London Symphony Orchestra. The two men began to move across the floor together, limbs slowly cartwheeling as they improvised. Politely, Mr. Badgley asked to turn the music up.

“Now we’re dancing,” he said, back arched, head tipped back, arms like wings. “It feels so good.”



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