Coral reefs

Coral reefs stretch over 280,000 km in tropical areas. The reefs act as a “home,” and also is known as a shelter for many different species. Many people call the coral reef the “rainforests of the sea.”

Coral reefs help out the environment as well as us humans. The reef protects our shores from the impact of waves and from storms. They also help humans in the form of food and/or medicine. They also provide economic wealth to communities from tourism.

The World Meteorological Organization says that the reefs have more than $30 billion (U.S. dollars) in global goods and services.

The past few years, the reefs have seen many global threats increase.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature produced the “Red List of Threatened Species,” which highlights the species that are extinct, critically endangered, or vulnerable.

Australia’s Great Barrier Reef is one of the most managed reefs in the world. In 2009, a report made by the Australian agency fears the future and that “catastrophic damage to the ecosystem may not be saved.”

The State of Coral Reefs Around the World says that 205 of the world’s coral reefs are destroyed and show no immediate prospect of recovery. Approximately 405 or 16% of the world’s reefs, were seriously damaged in 1998, and are either recovering well or have recovered. 60% of the earth’s coral reefs are threatened by just human activity. For more information about reef recovery statistics, please visit: globalissues.org

Some threats coral faces would be: bleaching (which is when the water temperatures increase), over fishing and over harvesting which disrupt the ecosystem of the reefs, boat anchors and divers can also scar the reef. Another thing is that invasive species, like the lionfish, can also caused a threat. Threats like lawn runoffs, sewage, cities, and farms all feed algae into the ocean, which can cause the reef to be overwhelmed according to  ocean.si.edu.

According to oceanservice.noaa.gov, there are 10 ways you can help protect the coral reefs:

1: Choose sustainable seafood.

2: Conserve water; the less water you use the less runoff and wastewater will find its way back to the ocean

3: Volunteer to help with local beach or a reef cleanup.

4: Corals are already a gift. Don’t give them as presents.

5: If you dive, don’t touch. Coral reefs are alive. Any stirred-up sediment can smother the corals.

6: Practice safe boating. Anchor in a sandy area away from coral and sea grasses so that the anchor chain doesn’t drag and damage nearby corals.

7: Don’t send chemicals into our waterways. Nutrients from excess fertilizer increases algae growth that blocks sunlight to corals.

8: Be a marine debris crusader. Besides picking up your own trash, carry away the trash that others have left behind.

9: Educate yourself about coral reefs and the creatures they support.

10: Long-lasting light bulbs are a bright idea. Light bulbs reduce greenhouse gases.

Coral reefs play a vital role in sustaining the health of our oceans and economy so it is in our best interest to protect them.

Eid

Eid al-fitr (festival of breaking fast) and Eid I’d al- fitr are the two festivals of Islam. Ei-al fitr marks the end of Ramadan, the holy month of fasting, and is celebrated during the first three days of Shawwal. And on the day of Eid we perform the communal prayer.

Eid al-fitr doesn’t begin until the moon is first sighted, and technically that means across the world Eid al-fitr starts at different times and different days; depending on the location. The festival traditionally last for three days.

On Eid morning, Muslims cleanse their bodies and put on news clothes. Before leaving to perform morning prayer, Muslims wake up to cleanse their bodies with a ritual called ‘ghusl.’ Muslims often get new clothes to pray with and is obligatory that all Muslims do this. Some people wear the traditional prayer clothes and women decorate their hands with henna.

After getting dressed and ready, Muslims gather for prayers in a Mosque and/or outside locations. On that day, Muslims greet each other with, “Eid Mubarak,” which means “Have a blessed Eid.” It is a pretty common thing to say on Eid day to celebrate the ending of fast.

After the prayer, some Muslims go home, or visit close relatives and eat Eid lunch. Or they drink some tea or coffee, eat cookies, sweets, or go out to eat. Younger children get Eid money from older relatives; that varies from $5 or more.

My family, we usually celebrate by praying, going out to eat at a restaurant, and going to play at a amusement park. Many Muslims celebrate the holiday differently: some Muslims play at a park, some stay home, some eat at home, some eat at a restaurant, etc.

Some Muslim families sacrifice an animal and share the meat with the poor, and some exchange gifts.

Bullet trains

As Japan has just tested the one of the  world’s fastest bullet trains, the ALFA-X, which clocks in at 400 kilometers per hour/249 miles per hour, I thought it would be a good time to revisit bullet trains. How were they invented? How fast are they? Why are they some places but not others?

Bullet trains were originally designed in Japan. The first bullet train that opened for commuter service was the Hikari bullet train which opened October 1, 1964, and ran until 1999. Hideo Shima was the first designer of the bullet train and finished his plans for Japan’s high speed railway in 1959. Japan then built the the train and tracks in just five years, in time for the 1964 Tokyo Olympics.

After Japan’s success, countries such as Austria, France, Belgium, Germany, China, Italy, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Korea, Spain, Sweden, Taiwan, and the United Kingdom built similar high speed bullet trains.

The fastest train in the world is the Shanghai Maglev, in China, which can reach speeds of 267 miles per hour. The second fastest train in operation is the Fuxing Hao, also in China, which has gone as fast as 236 miles per hour. The originator of the bullet train, Japan, has the world’s third fastest train, the Shinkansen, which can go 224 miles per hour.

The fastest trains outside of Asia are housed in Italy and both can reach speeds of 220 miles per hour. They’re called the Italo and the Frecciarossa and are made by competing companies.

In America, there are no high speed trains, at least according to world standards. There are trains in America that can reach speeds of 125 miles per hour, which is considered by the U.S. to be a high speed railway, but according to world standards the minimum for a high speed train is 160 miles per hour. California has planned the first high speed railway in the U.S., but it is not planned to be completed until the year 2040.

Mother’s Day

A mother is someone who provides love, care, nurture, and safety for her children. Every mother expresses these aspects in different ways. In appreciation of our mother’s, we celebrate Mother’s Day, which falls on May 12, 2019 in the United States. In other countries Mother’s Day is celebrated on different days, but usually Mother’s Day is celebrated on the second Sunday in May.

Mother’s Day is celebrated in many different ways all around the world, but the main purpose is to celebrate an appreciation towards mothers. According to The Holiday Spot, in the United Kingdom, Mother’s Day is also called Mothering Sunday. It is celebrated on the fourth Sunday of Lent, and is a time to give mothers rewards for their love and encouragements.

On the other hand, in India, Mother’s Day is a time of reflection of how important their mothers are. They also send cards and eat out so the mother can rest and get out of the kitchen.

Gift giving is one of the top ways of showing your appreciation for another, which is one of the reasons why, on Mother’s Day, we treat our mother out to a meal or get her a present. If taking your mother out to her favorite restaurant won’t work, then here is a list of gifts you can give to her:

  • Jewelry
  • Tea or coffee
  • Plant
  • Kitchen utilities
  • Skin care
  • Chocolate
  • Bouquet of flowers

Homemade gifts may be the most meaningful gift you could give your mother, but if you don’t have a lot of art skills you could visit a local store. If you are still unable to find gift at your local store you can visit Etsy to find a Mother’s Day gift for your mother.

So, until Mother’s day, you could think of what ways you could show your appreciation for your mother. Maybe by giving her a present, treating her out to a meal, or maybe spending the whole day with your mother.

Norte Dame Cathedral

On April 15, 2019, the Notre Dame Cathedral, in Paris, caught on fire. The centuries old building burned through the wooden roof. The fire was believed to be accidental.

The cathedral caught on fire at around 6 p.m., and around 500 firefighters spent nearly five hours fighting the fire.

The cause of the fire was believed to be an electric short-circuit in an elevator, and that a computer glitch may have a played a part by showing the fire in the wrong place. The flames were believed to have started at the base spire.

By 11 p.m., the cathedral had been preserved, that includes the two iconic bell towers, but two-thirds of the of the roof was gone. According to The New York Times, the French President Emmanuel Macron promised that the cathedral will be rebuilt.

After the fire was cleared from the cathedral, people from around the world assessed the damage of the cathedral and the many works of art it contained. The overall structure of the cathedral was still intact, except for the roof and spire. After all the bell towers survived the blazing fire, most of the bells are believed to have survived as well. The Emmanuel Bell, the cathedral’s main bell, and a 15th century relic, survived the fire.

Many of the paintings and other art works inside of the building had been rescued from the fire. The grand organ in the cathedral was intact, but was believed to have suffered water damage.

Since the fire, nearly $1 billion dollars has been raised to rebuild the cathedral. After the news broke about the donation, many people have had negative reactions worldwide to the amount of money raised, with some even saying that the money could be used to solve world social issues.

Officials had said that the $1 billion will most likely repair all damages to the cathedral, despite President Macron’s five-year promise, rebuilding the cathedral could take up to decades to repair.

5-year-old child thrown from the third floor at Mall Of America

On Friday, April 13, a 5-year-old boy named Landon was thrown off of the 3rd floor at Mall of America. The Bloomington police got reports at 10:17 a.m. that a young child had fallen about 40 feet from the third floor balcony and had landed on the first floor. Witnesses recall seeing a woman screaming for help on the third floor, which was his mother. The child was was lying face up in between an escalator and the Michael Kors store on the first floor. The 5-year-old boy suffered life threatening injuries and has been hospitalized. According to Fox9, witnesses on the first floor described seeing the boy on his back, not breathing and fully unconscious.

A family friend set up the GoFundMe page that will help the family cover the medical costs including many surgeries. The GoFundMe has since raised $400,000.

According to NBC News, the suspect of this attack has been named a 24-year-old man from Minneapolis: Emmanuel Deshawn Aranda. He was immediately arrested after the attack and has been in custody on a suspicion of an attempted murder charge. The suspect has been banned from the mall, in the past, on misdemeanor charges. He was arrested at the Mall of America in 2015 after he threw items from the 3rd floor at the mall and broke many items at stores nearby. He has since then told police after his arrest, for throwing the child, that his motive and plan was that he had been looking for someone to kill on April 13.

According to CNN, the 5-year-old boy had been improving. Doctors said they found no brain damage and not even any swelling or nerve damage. They referred to his injured as something more like a child falling off a bike rather than falling 40 feet in the air.

The boy has suffered a good amount of broken bones and bleeding internally, but he has since been making great improvements.

The world’s first picture of a black hole, and why it matters

Photo via theguardian.com

So, unless you’ve been living a prehistoric, or nomadic life, traversing from cave to cave on a journey for wild boar meat, you probably already know about how a group of astronomers, from something called The Event Horizon Telescope Project, have taken the first ever real, and (somewhat) clear picture of a black hole, from millions light years away, in the galaxy you’ve only heard the name of once known as Messier 87. You see the blurry orange circle, you compare it to its infinitely more interesting looking, not real cgi renditions, and think to yourself, why?

Why does it matter that we just took a picture of an orange circle from far away? Well, my ignorant, yet now thoroughly offended hypothetical reader, there’re lot’s of earth shattering scientific breakthroughs which are the result of this discovery.

Katie Bouman, the main woman behind the image, watching in disbelief at the reveal of the image, via CNN

Well, not only was this photo taken from 50 million light years away
which means, the light we’re seeing in this photo, is from millions, and millions of years ago. And to photograph something so impossibly far away, the team would need a telescope almost the size of planet earth itself, but the Even Horizon team, all came together and connected 8 different telescopes from around the planet, to combine their data to get an accurate image using a technique called interferometry. Which is such obviously a massive breakthrough as it shows that not only is our technology at THIS level, but it will just keep better as the years progress. And who knows what this could possibly lead to, for future generations.

But not only that, but the researchers say that, this whole thing, helps further prove the theory of Relativity, which was first talked about in 1915, by this quite obscure scientist, I dunno if you heard of him, his name was ALBERT FREAKING EINSTEIN, so basically, this means, he predicted that black holes well, exist, and that they have things called event horizons. And there were also tons of equations he came up with, which predict the exact size, and shape, of the black hole, based on its mass, and that’s pretty much what the image revealed. You can read more on this at space.com ( Yeah “space.com” I mean what else would you name it?)

So, if all this isn’t already enough evidence of the extraordinary feat of this black hole, from an entirely different galaxy, millions of light years away, being well, see-able. Then I dunno what to tell you. It might not be super interesting to see a blurry orange circle. But this “blurry orange circle” has extremely extraordinary implications, which will effect the way we view the outward universe for pretty much the rest of time.

And for this, we can thank Katie Bouman, along with many others in the Event Horizon team, but Katie Bouman was a very integral part, as sometime back in 2017, she led the work to create a specific algerithum which was used to generate the picture of the black hole. Before then, Bowman was then a graduate student, earning a PhD in computer science, and artificial intelligence at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (a.k.a. MIT). And now, according to the guardian, while Katie is as-of-now, a post-doctoral at MIT, and is due to obtain a position as an assistant professor at the California Institute of Technology, she instead prefers to continue her work with the Event Horizon team, as it is her passion, and there is still much to discover, and much to learn, about this wide world we live in.

Julian Assange arrested

By: Daniela Fernandez

On April 11, 2019, Julian Assange was arrested in London at the Ecuadorian Embassy. He was arrested for refusing to surrender to the court.

Assange is most well known for creating Wikileaks, which is a place where classified information can be illegally released for the world to know, according to NBC News.

According to CNN, Assange had been living in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London since 2012 after seeking asylum there. He first seeked asylum there after being accused of rape in 2010, while in Sweden. On November 2, 2011, while in London, the High Court ruled that Julian Assange was to be extradited to Sweden for the accusations of rape against him.

Then on December 5, 2011, Assange petitioned the UK Supreme Court to have his extradition to Sweden revoked. On May 30, 2012, the UK Supreme Court came to a decision to finalize Assange’s extradition to Sweden.

A month later on June 19, 2012, Julian Assange applied for political asylum at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London. The UK then responded to this by stating that they can revoke Assange’s asylum and extradite him to Sweden. On August 16, 2012, Ecuador gave Assange asylum in their embassy, stating they were concerned about his human rights being violated by the UK extraditing him.

On August 13, 2015, Sweden dropped their case against Assange for sexual molestation, and unlawful coercion, because they had no more time to question him as their case had expired. Then on May 17, 2017, Assange’s rape charges were dropped by Sweden.

On July 27, 2018, the UK and Ecuador reported that they were talking about what was to be done about Assange. Then, on December 6, Assange denied the UK and Ecuador’s deal to let him go free.

Then, after many years of struggle between Ecuador and the UK, Julian Assange was removed from the embassy and arrested by the UK. Ecuador stated the reason for their decision was because Assange violated international conventions through Wikileaks. Wikileaks stated Ecuador violated international law by revoking his asylum.

Easter: An overview

This year Easter, which is a Christian holiday, occurred on Sunday, April 21. Each year, Easter falls on the Sunday after the first full moon in spring. Easter Day, for Christians, is the resurrection of Jesus from the tomb on the third day after he was put to death. The resurrection of Jesus is a way to renew hope that we have victory over sin. Easter is three days after the death of Jesus on the cross.

Easter is where many people do a period of fasting called Lent leading up to it, and many churches set aside time for repentance and remembrance. Lent begins on Ash Wednesday, and ends on Good Friday, the day that Jesus was put to death. On the day before Good Friday, there is a day called Maundy Thursday, considering to be the last supper/Passover Jesus took. Easter is associated with the Jewish holiday Passover, the Last Supper was a Passover feast.

Abstract Passover story Haggadah book over traditional food and Moses. Vector illustration – Image taken from: https://www.sbs.com.au/topics/life/culture/article/2017/04/10/gentiles-guide-passover

During Passover, Jesus took bread, which represented his body, and shared it with his 12 apostles. The cup of wine they drank represented his blood. In present time, Passover observed by breaking bread and drinking wine, or as an alternative grape/cranberry juice. Breaking bread is simply having bread, without yeast, and breaking it into pieces among the people.  These rituals symbolize the sacrifice he was about to make in death, and this became the basis for the Christian ritual.


The week leading up to Jesus’ death is called Holy Week. This includes Palm Sunday, which is the day that Jesus entered Jerusalem and was celebrated, Maundy Thursday, and Good Friday when Jesus would be put to death.

Easter Day is a time of celebration of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. As time passed many secular ideas have been incorporated in this holiday. In present time Easter is celebrated as Jesus’ resurrection and/or to celebrate with the Easter bunny.

Another tradition is the Easter Bunny, that delivers candy and chocolate eggs to children on Easter Sunday morning. According to Country Living, the Easter bunny was a part of early pagan (non-religious) celebrations, and Christian missionaries had sometimes incorporated pagan ideas into their holidays. The two were combined to help promote their holidays to others. Historians believe it arrived in America with the German immigrants in the 1700s. The Easter bunny was at first the goddess of spring and dawn named Eastre, but was turned into a bunny by the Germans.

Eastre was celebrated because during spring, people celebrated the renewal of life and fertility. Eastre was associated with newborns and animals, and rabbits were known for reproducing rapidly, which created the concept of the Easter bunny.

The eggs came from when Eastre came late for spring once and saw a frozen bird. Eastre then turned that frozen bird into a white hare and made it lay colorful eggs once a year. The Easter eggs symbolizes fertility and birth in pagan traditions that pre-date Christianity, and also the resurrection of Jesus.

So, even though Easter is a Christian holiday today, it has connections to other beliefs as well.

For more information, please visit:

http://www.holidayinsights.com/easter/

https://www.crosswalk.com/faith/spiritual-life/undertanding-the-history-and-symbols-of-easter-1256039.html

What’s going on in West Papua?

Image via theguardian.com

If you’ve been reading the news lately, you’ve probably seen an article or two about what’s going on in West Papua, Indonesia, but most articles don’t give you the full idea, and not many people know the intense situation which is going on. Anyway, let me give you some background here from indonesiamatters.com if you don’t already know.

So, in the 1800s, there was this island called “New Guinea.” The British took the East half, and the Dutch took the Western half, and then it became a part of the Dutch East Indies. Then, in the ’30s, the former colonies of the Dutch East Indies all became independent except for Western New Guinea. But, in 1952, the Dutch prepared the people, for independence, for this remaining colony, and by the ’60s, the parliament of that part of New Guinea (now called West Papua) was formed, and the country created a national anthem, flag, and national seal.

 

Flag of West Papua via freewestpapua.org

Everything seemed to be going well until in 1962 when the Indonesian government started invading West Papua, and tried to push out the Dutch who were staying in the country, taking care of it before its total independence. The Dutch forces successfully stopped the invasion, but then Indonesia went to the Soviet Union for support, and because of Cold War anxiety, the US government tried to help out the Dutch in West Papua.

In August, later that year, an agreement was reached, in New York, between the Netherlands and Indonesia, where the UN gains custody of West Papua until they hold a vote. But, when the vote actually happened in 1969, it was said to be heavily rigged by the Indonesian government, thus making West Papua a province of Indonesia (two provinces actually).

Via worldpoliticsreview.com

Now, according to a paper put out by the International Association of Genocide Scholars, the people, culture, language, and just overall heritage of West Papua is vastly different from the rest of Indonesia, as they are a Melanesian people, more similar to the many different groups within the bordering country of Papua New Guinea, which is VASTLY different culturally and linguistically from the South East Asian culture of Indonesia. The government is said to be trying to force Indonesian culture on the people of West Papua.

This, to some, would be a reason to secede already, but why should we care? The main reason is the deep seeded oppression which is going on within the West Papua region, as  it is one of the longest running modern day illegal annexations/occupations.

There are intense reports of brutal torture as described by a study in 2015: torture seems to be the unofficial form of governance. It is said that the Indonesian regime is not reluctant to use killing, surveillance, and arbitrary arrest to control the illegally occupied West Papua.

An example of this is when graphic footage was leaked to YouTube in October 2010. There are two separate occurring events which were captured in this footage. The beginning shows eight highlanders forcibly stripped naked in front of two Indonesian army soldiers. And while interrogating these terrified Papuans, and calling them “monyet,” “anjing,” or “bajingan” (monkey, dog, bastard), the soldiers kicked their heads with their edged boots, and hit their heads using their helmets.

The soldiers demanded that they would confess to being members of the OPM, which is an independence movement with the overall goal of freeing West Papua from Indonesian control. The latter half of the footage displays two people, with one having a knife to their throat, and another being burnt on his bare skin by Indonesian army men, as so the men would confess the location of OPM weaponry near their town. It was very public, and many people were forced to bear witness.

This is said to be a very frequent occurrence in West Papua, according to that study. Along with that, terrible Indonesian policies which cause environmental damage such deforestation, severely undermines the foundation for West Papuan society and culture.

Via freewestpapua.org

So, it would be evident to say that independence would be a fair option for these oppressed people of West Papua, and that’s what they are trying to achieve now more than ever. According to theguardian.com other Pacific Islander countries, such as Vanuatu, have shown support for the struggle against the oppression. And according to UNPO (Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization) almost 2 million residents of West Papua have signed a petition (which could have had more signatures if it wasn’t heavily kept away by the Indonesian government), practically begging the UN for equal, and fair independence, and self determination for the West Papuan peoples.

Sadly, according to theguardian.com, the UN denied the petition after all that, and said that it damaged the territorial integrity of Indonesia. I believe this is a violation of equal rights, freedom, and the democracy on which the very principals the UN were supposedly founded on. Though maybe, in the future, brave governments such as Vanuatu may eventually speak out loud enough, and take action. I believe that it is the UN’s duty, as a global peacekeeper, to find, and create justice for the West Papuan peoples, as they deeply deserve it.