Recently in International News Category

Space-tourism company plans trips to the Moon

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The Golden Spike Company, launched by former NASA executives, announced Thursday that they are trying to send people to the moon, the BBC News said.

Golden Spike will be "the first company planning to offer routine exploration expeditions to the surface of the Moon," according to the news release, the Washington Post said.

They have aimed for a first launch before the end of the decade and will use rocket and capsule technology that already exists, the BBC News said.

"We can do this," Alan Stern, former NASA science administrator and leader of the company, said to the Washington Post.

The company has gathered many space veterans including Apollo-era flight director Gerry Griffin and former space shuttle commander Bill Richardson, the BBC News said.

The project has also met criticism, however.

"This is unlikely to be the one that will pan out," Harvard University astronomer Jonathan McDowell said about the project. McDowell criticized space firms and said that many will fail before anything is built.

Ministers announced on Thursday that all free schools in England must educate their students about the theory of evolution to receive funding, the Guardian said.

This change in rules has followed lobbying by senior scientists expressed concern that free schools run by creationists could avoid teaching evolution, the BBC News said.

"The new clause in the funding agreement should ensure that all pupils at free schools have the opportunity to learn about evolution as an extensively evidenced theory and one of the most fundamentally important tentents of modern biology," Nobel-prizewinning geneticist Sir Paul Nurse said to the Guardian.

While creationism can be taught, it has to be taught as a religious concept and not as part of the science curriculum, the Guardian said.

If a free school breaches the rule and does not teach evolution, the Department for Education can take "swift action which could result in the termination of that funding agreement," the BBC News said.

Paul Bate, a member of the European Educators Christian Association, said that schools should teach a broad and balanced curriculum, the BBC News said.

"Science and religion need each other in this debate," Bate said to the BBC News. "Albert Einstein, one of the greatest scientists of all time said, 'Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind."

New numbers come out on sea level rise

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Melting polar ice sheets have raised sea levels by 11mm in the last two decades, according to a report released Thursday, the BBC News said.

The study, published in the Science Magazine, also showed that the pofalar ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica are melting at rates three times faster than 1990s, the Washington Post said.

Since 1992, polar melting contributed around one-fifth of the overall global sea level rise, the BBC News said. This rise in sea level and cause huge impacts to coastal cities around the world, the BBC News said.

More than 20 polar research teams who worked together to create a single estimate produced the study, the BBC News said.

"Understanding how and why the ice sheets are changing today better equips us for understanding and predicting how much and in what ways they will change in the future," NASA chief scientist Waleed Abdalati said to the Washington Post.

The UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is scheduled to release their next report in September 2013 that will expand on this issue, the BBC News said.

The Israeli government announced on Sunday that more than 44 million hacking attempts have been made on the Israeli government websites since Wednesday, Reuters said.

These hacking were done by a group called Anonymous in their campaign "OpIsrael" and have occurred after the air assault on Gaza, the Examiner said.

In a statement by the group, they said that they launched the campaign after threats by the Israeli government to cut off all of Gaza's telecommunication links, BBC News said.

"We are ANONYMOUS and NO ONE shuts down the Internet on our watch," the Anonymous' statement said according the BBC News.

The group has warned the Israeli government not to cut off the telecommunication links and has threatened the government that if the military attacks in Gaza continue, the group will unleash their "full and unbridled wrath," BBC News said.

While most of the attacks have come from Israel and the Palestinian territories, there have been attacks from around the world, Reuters said.

"The ministry's computer division will continue to block the millions of cyber attacks," Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz said to Reuters.

Both sides in the Gaza conflict are using social media as a method of warfare, Reuters said.

"The war is taking place on three fronts. The first is physical, the second is on the world of social networks and the third is cyber," Israel's chief information officer Carmela Avner said to Reuters.

Xi Jinping becomes new leader of China

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The Chinese Communist Party announced the new leadership headed by Xi Jinping, the son of a revolutionary leader and economic reformer, on Thursday, the NY Times said.

Xi will take over as the country's president from Hu Jintao in March, the Washington Post said.

Xi was confirmed as the leader for the next decade and let the new Politburo Standing Committee onto the state at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, the BBC News said.

Facing calls from Chinese elites to support more openness in China's economic and political systems, Xi comes at a time of pressing reform, the NY Times said.

"The people's desire for a better life is what we shall fight for," Xi said to the Washington Post. His main job is to "steadfastly take the road of prosperity for all."

China has gone through a decade of rapid development and has become the world's second-largest economy, the BBC News said.

Yet, the development has also led to a widening wealth gap, environmental challenges and social discontent over this inequality and corruption, the BBC News said.

"The party faces many severe challenges, and there are also many pressing problems within the party that need to be resolved, particularly corruption," Xi said, according to the BBC News.

Protests in Argentina start against government

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Thousands of protesters marched in the streets of Buenos Aires on Thursday evening to protest the government under President Cristina Kirchner, the BBC News said.

Gathering at the obelisk at the Plaza de Mayo Square in downtown Buenos Aires, people waved Argentine flags and sang the national anthem, the Wall Street Journal said. The top concerns of the protestors included crime, high inflation, and the rumors that Kirchner may seek a third term, the Wall Street Journal said.

The opposition activists used social media to assemble the protestors and the march was one of the biggest anti-government protests in a decade, the BBC News said.

Middle class Argentines had a similar protest almost two months over out of frustration over the government's control over the economy, the Wall Street Journal said.

Kirchner won the re-election in October 2011 but her popularity has dropped since then, the Wall Street Journal said.

According to a poll by Management & Fit last month, only nearly 31 percent of the respondents approved of Kirchner's way of running the government, which is down from 64 percent a year ago, the Wall Street Journal said.

Russia's Internet censorship law takes into effect

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A law in Russia that allows the government to blacklist and block websites that contain harmful content without any trial took effect on Thursday, the BBC News said.

This legislation was passed by the Russian Parliament and signed off by President Vladimir Putin in July, the Huffington Post said. The Russian government has said that this law is aimed to protect children from harmful Internet content, the Huffington Post said.

The banned websites will be managed by Roskomnadzor, Russia's Federal Service for Supervision in Telecommunications, Information Technology and Mass Communications, the BBC News said. These contents will not be available to the public, the BBC News said.

Many human rights group have said that this legislation, however, will increase censorship in the country, the BBC News said.

"It will be [an attack on] the freedom of speech on the internet," Yuri Vdovin, vice president of Citizens' Watch, said, the Huffington Post said.

A survey by the Levada Center in July showed, however, that 62% of the people supported the idea of a blacklist while 16% opposed it, the BBC News said.

The sex abuse scandal involving the BBC expanded on Thursday when authorities announced that 300 potential victims had accused BBC's well-known television host Jimmy Savile, USA Today said.

Jimmy Savile, who died last year at 84, is "undoubtedly" one of the most prolific sex offenders in recent British history, Scotland Yard officer Peter Spindler told the NY Times.

The number of potential victims increased from 200 to 300 in the past week, the NY Times said. Out of the 130 interviews that the police have conducted with the potential victims, 114 have accuse Savile of sexual harassment ranging from inappropriate touching to rape, the NY Times said.

"It is quite staggering, the number of women," Spinder said to USA Today.

While Savile was known for his charity work at hospitals and homes for children, Savile is accused of using this charity work as a way to target troubled youths who could not report the sexual harassment with credibility, the USA Today said.

Savile had been investigated but never prosecuted for sexual abuse at least half a dozen times, the BBC reported on Wednesday, the NY Times said.

Madagascar's palm trees face threat of extinction

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A majority of Madagascar's unique palm tree species are in danger of extinction, according to a study by an environmental group released Wednesday, the Montreal Gazette said.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature said that 83% of the 192 tree varieties in Madagascar has been added to the threatened species list, BBC News said.

"The figures on Madagascar's palms are truly terrifying, especially as the loss of palms impacts both the unique biodiversity of the island and its people," Jane Smart, the global director of the IUCN Biodiversity Conservation Group, said in a statement, the Montreal Gazette said.

Madagascar is the world' fourth biggest island and most of its mammals and plants are unique because of its isolation, BBC News said.

Forests, however, have been shrinking due to agriculture and logging, BBC News said. The palm trees have been subject to excessive harvesting that has led to the trees' near extinction state, BBC News said.

According to William Baker, head of the IUCN expert group on the palm trees, the palm trees in the island's eastern rain forests have already been reduced to less than a quarter of their original size, the Montreal Gazette said.

The decline in these palm tree forests "threatens all of the remarkable wildlife that occurs there," Baker said according to the Montreal Gazette.

Skydiver breaks speed of sound

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An extreme sports athlete landed on Earth after a 24-mile jump above New Mexico on Sunday, broke the record for the highest ever free-fall and went faster than the speed of sound, BBC News said.

Austrian Felix Baumgartner, 43, reached a speed of 833.9 miles per hour in his dive, BBC News said. The fall took under 10 minutes and he used a parachute for the last few thousand feet, BBC News said.

"When I was standing there on top of the world, you become so humble, you do not think about of breaking records anymore you do not think about gaining scientific date," Baumgartner said to CBS News. "The only thing you want is come back alive."

Baumgartner had prepared for this dive for five years and had made two preparation jumps, CBS News said. He planned this jump to be the last jump of his career and plans to fly helicopters on mountain rescue and firefighting mission in the future, CBS News said.

His feat attracted millions of viewers on many forms of social media, CBS News said. Almost 7.3 million viewers watched as Baumgartner ascended and the subject also dominated half the worldwide trending topics on Twitter, CBS News said.

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