2015-09-02 European migrant crisis


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The European migrant crisis arose through the rising number of migrant arrivals in 2015 – a combination of economic migrants and refugees – to the European Union (EU) across the Mediterranean Sea and the Balkans from North Africa, the Middle East, and South Asia.

The term has been used since April 2015, when at least five boats carrying almost two thousand migrants to Europe sank in the Mediterranean Sea, with a combined death toll estimated at more than 1,200 people.

The shipwrecks took place in a context of ongoing conflicts in several North African and Middle Eastern countries as well as the refusal by several European Union governments to fund the Italian-run rescue option Operation Mare Nostrum, which was replaced by Frontex’s Operation Triton in November 2014.

On 23 April 2015, EU governments agreed to triple funding for border patrol operations in the Mediterranean so that they would be equal to the previous capabilities of Operation Mare Nostrum, but Amnesty International immediately criticized the EU’s decision not “to extend Triton’s operational area” to the area previously covered by Mare Nostrum.

Some weeks later, the European Union decided to launch a new operation based in Rome, called EU Navfor Med, under the command of the Italian Admiral Enrico Credendino.

In 2014, EU member states received 132,405 requests from migrants.

In total, 23,295 requests were accepted so these migrants will receive some form of protection by the EU (asylum, refugee status, subsidiary protection, protection because of humanitarian reasons), while 109,110 requests were rejected so these migrants will be required to leave the territory of the European Union.

According to Eurostat, four states – Germany, Italy, France, and Sweden – take around two-thirds of the EU’s asylum applications; while analysis of United Nations and World Bank data by The New York Times indicates Hungary, Austria, and Sweden, together with Serbia and Kosovo, to be among the top recipients of EU asylum seekers per capita, when adjusted for their own populations.

As of August 2015, Frontex recognizes the following general routes on sea and on land used by illegal migrants and human traffickers to enter the EU:
the Western African route
the Western Mediterranean route
the Central Mediterranean route
the Apulia and Calabria route
the circular route from Albania to Greece
the Western Balkan route
the Eastern Mediterranean route
the Eastern Borders route

Several serious accidents and deaths have occurred in Europe as a result of human trafficking involving migrants.

Standard cargo trucks are normally used, increasing the severity of accidents when they occur.

The International Organization for Migration says that deaths at sea have increased ninefold after the end of Operation Mare Nostrum.

Amnesty International condemned European governments for “negligence towards the humanitarian crisis in the Mediterranean” which they say has led to an increase in deaths at sea.

Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have criticised the funding of search and rescue operations.

Amnesty International says that the EU is “turning its back on its responsibilities and clearly threatening thousands of lives”.

Pope Francis expressed his concern about the loss of life and urged EU leaders to “act decisively and quickly to stop these tragedies from recurring”.

Australian PM Tony Abbott said the tragedies were “worsened by Europe’s refusal to learn from its own mistakes and from the efforts of others who have handled similar problems.

Destroying the criminal people-smugglers was the centre of gravity of our border control policies, and judicious boat turnbacks was the key.”

(Find Text Source here)


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2015-07-20 Country Series part 2 – France


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Wikipedia Introduction:

France, officially the French Republic (French: République française), is a sovereign state comprising territory in western Europe and several overseas regions and territories.

Metropolitan France extends from the Mediterranean Sea to the English Channel and the North Sea, and from the Rhine to the Atlantic Ocean; France covers 640,679 square kilometres (247,368 sq mi) and has a population of 66.6 million.

It is a unitary semi-presidential republic.

The capital of France is Paris, the country’s largest city and the main cultural and commercial center.

The Constitution of France establishes the state as secular and democratic, with its sovereignty derived from the people.

During the Iron Age, what is now France was inhabited by the Gauls, a Celtic people.

The Gauls were conquered by the Roman Empire in 51 BC, which held Gaul until 486.

The Gallo-Romans faced raids and migration from the Germanic Franks, who dominated the region for hundreds of years, eventually creating the medieval Kingdom of France.

France has been a major power in Europe since the Late Middle Ages, with its victory in the Hundred Years’ War (1337 to 1453) strengthening French state-building and paving the way for a future centralized absolute monarchy.

During the Renaissance, France experienced a vast cultural development and established the first steps of a worldwide colonial empire.

The 16th century was dominated by religious civil wars between Catholics and Protestants (Huguenots).

Louis XIV made France the dominant cultural, political and military power in Europe, but in the late 18th century, the monarchy was overthrown in the French Revolution.

One legacy of the revolution was the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, one of the world’s earliest documents on human rights, which expresses the nation’s ideals to this day.

France was governed as one of history’s earliest Republics until the Empire was declared by Napoleon, who dominated European affairs and had a long-lasting impact on Western culture.

Following his defeat, France endured a tumultuous succession of governments: an absolute monarchy was restored, replaced in 1830 by a constitutional monarchy, then briefly by a Second Republic, and then by a Second Empire, until a more lasting French Third Republic was established in 1870.

France’s colonial empire reached the height of global prominence during the 19th and early 20th centuries, when it possessed the second-largest colonial empire in the world.

In World War I, France was one of the main winners as part of the Triple Entente powers fighting against Germany and the Central Powers.

France was also one of the Allied Powers in World War II, but it was occupied by Nazi Germany in 1940.

Following liberation in 1944, a Fourth Republic was established and later dissolved in the course of the Algerian War.

The Fifth Republic, led by Charles de Gaulle, came into being in 1958 and continues to operate today.

In the era of decolonization, most of the French colonial empire became independent after the Second World War.

Throughout its long history, France has produced many influential artists, thinkers, and scientists, and remains a prominent global center of culture.

It hosts the world’s fourth-largest number of cultural UNESCO World Heritage Sites and receives around 83 million foreign tourists annually—the most of any country in the world.

France remains a great power with significant cultural, economic, military, and political influence in Europe and around the world.

It is a developed country with the world’s fifth/sixth-largest economy by nominal GDP and tenth-largest by purchasing power parity.

In terms of total household wealth, France is the wealthiest nation in Europe and fourth in the world.

It also possesses the world’s second-largest exclusive economic zone (EEZ), covering 11,035,000 square kilometres (4,261,000 sq mi).

French citizens enjoy a high standard of living, and the country performs well in international rankings of education, health care, life expectancy, civil liberties, and human development.

France is a founding member of the United Nations, where it serves as one of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council.

It is a member of numerous international institutions, including the Group of 7, North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the World Trade Organization (WTO), and La Francophonie. France is a founding and leading member state of the EU.

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2015-07-19 Country Series part 1 – United States



Wikipedia Introduction

The United States of America (USA), commonly referred to as the United States (U.S.) or America, is a federal republic consisting of 50 states and a federal district.


The 48 contiguous states and Washington, D.C., are in central North America between Canada and Mexico.

The state of Alaska is located in the northwestern part of North America and the state of Hawaii is an archipelago in the mid-Pacific.

The country also has five populated and numerous unpopulated territories in the Pacific and the Caribbean.

At 3.8 million square miles (9.842 million km2) and with over 320 million people, the United States is the world’s fourth-largest country by total area and third most populous.

It is one of the world’s most ethnically diverse and multicultural nations, the product of large-scale immigration from many countries.

The geography and climate of the United States are also extremely diverse, and the country is home to a wide variety of wildlife.

Paleo-Indians migrated from Eurasia to what is now the U.S. mainland at least 15,000 years ago, with European colonization beginning in the 16th century.

The United States emerged from 13 British colonies located along the East Coast.

Disputes between Great Britain and the colonies led to the American Revolution.

On July 4, 1776, as the colonies were fighting Great Britain in the American Revolutionary War, delegates from the 13 colonies unanimously adopted the Declaration of Independence.

The war ended in 1783 with recognition of the independence of the United States by the Kingdom of Great Britain, and was the first successful war of independence against a European colonial empire.

The country’s constitution was adopted on September 17, 1787, and ratified by the states in 1788.

The first ten amendments, collectively named the Bill of Rights, were ratified in 1791 and designed to guarantee many fundamental civil rights and freedoms.

Driven by the doctrine of Manifest Destiny, the United States embarked on a vigorous expansion across North America throughout the 19th century.

This involved displacing American Indian tribes, acquiring new territories, and gradually admitting new states, until by 1848 the nation spanned the continent.

During the second half of the 19th century, the American Civil War ended legal slavery in the country.

By the end of that century, the United States extended into the Pacific Ocean, and its economy, driven in large part by the Industrial Revolution, began to soar.

The Spanish–American War and World War I confirmed the country’s status as a global military power.

The United States emerged from World War II as a global superpower, the first country to develop nuclear weapons, the only country to use them in warfare, and a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council.

The end of the Cold War and the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991 left the United States as the world’s sole superpower.

The United States is a developed country and has the world’s largest economy by nominal and real GDP, benefiting from an abundance of natural resources and high worker productivity.

While the U.S. economy is considered post-industrial, the country continues to be one of the world’s largest manufacturers.

Accounting for 34% of global military spending and 23% of world GDP, it is the world’s foremost economic and military power, a prominent political and cultural force, and a leader in scientific research and technological innovations.


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2015-06-13 Scorpion


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Scorpions are eight legged venomous arachnids.

They have a long body with an extended tail with a sting.

The average adult scorpion is about 3 inches in length.

he longest scorpion is the African scorpion, which can be 9 inches long.

There are about 1,750 species of scorpions worldwide.

The evolutionary history of scorpions goes back to the Silurian, 430 million years ago.

They have adapted to a wide range of environments, and live on all continents except Antarctica.

There are 13 living families.

Only about 25 species have venom which can kill a human being.

The beneficial uses in medicine, and culinary demand, lead some larger scorpions to reach prices of $50,000 per scorpion.

The venom alone can net up to $39 million (USD) per gallon.


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2015-05-25 Betty Robinson

Betty Robinson(Click on the relay runner to enlarge picture…)

Of all the Olympic adventures enjoyed by athletes down the years, few can match the drama experienced by American sprinter Betty Robinson.
Elizabeth (“Betty”) Robinson (August 23, 1911 – May 18, 1999), later Elizabeth R. Schwartz was an American athlete and winner of the first Olympic 100 m for women.

She was the first women’s 100m champion, she remains to this day the youngest and her story is one of the most remarkable in the annals of the Games.

When she ran in the final of the 100m at the Olympic Games in Amsterdam in 1928, it was only her fourth competitive race and she was just 16.

She had been spotted running after a train by her schoolteacher and was encouraged to take up sprinting.

In her second competitive race, a matter of months before the Games in Holland, she broke the world record in an unofficial time.

She arrived in Amsterdam about as inexperienced as you can be but sometimes that level of naivety can work in your favour, and Robinson was far from over-awed by the occasion.

The six-woman final was whittled down to four sprinters after a series of false starts saw two competitors disqualified.

When the start finally came, Robinson surged steadily clear before winning in a world record 12.2secs, finishing about a foot clear of Canadians Bobbie Rosenfeld and Ethel Smith.

Three years later, Robinson was to experience a great drama.

Travelling in a biplane piloted by her cousin, it crashed and Robinson was given up for dead when rescuers found the body among the wreckage.

She and her cousin were placed in the trunk of a car and taken to an undertakers but on arrival they were found to be alive and Robinson remained in a coma for seven months.

She had suffered a broken leg, a crushed arm and severe concussion but her determination saw her recover and by 1936 she was back at the Olympics in Berlin.

So severe was her leg injury that she was unable to kneel down and could not compete in the 100m.

However she was still able to run in the relay and she helped steer the US quartet to 4x100m gold in an astonishing performance.

(text source here)

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2015-04-11 Bir Tawil

Bir Tawil

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After Britain removed itself from North Africa, Egypt and Sudan had to draw a border up between themselves.

For the most part, the border was a completely straight line, until they reached the Red Sea.

Both countries desired a region called the Hala’ib Triangle because it had resourced and a settlement, the synonymous town of Hala’ib.

Britain intervened and drew up a border that matched the land use of tribes in the area.

Egypt didn’t like this at all, it meant that it had to have Bir Tawil, a small, barren piece of land next to the Hala’ib whilst Sudan got the land with the resources and population.

Egypt asserts that the border sits at the straight line originally drawn while Sudan claims it was the one drawn by the British, leaving Bir Tawil in an odd state as neither country actually claims Bir Tawil at all, making it the last unclaimed piece of land on Earth.

Although, that isn’t exactly true.

Last year an American man went out there and claimed to set up “The Kingdom of North Sudan”, which has since received no recognition from any country.

(Text source here)

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2015-03-20 Solar Eclipse

Solar Eclipse

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A total solar eclipse occurred on Friday March 20, 2015.

A solar eclipse occurs when the Moon passes between Earth and the Sun, thereby totally or partly obscuring the image of the Sun for a viewer on Earth.

A total solar eclipse occurs when the Moon’s apparent diameter is larger than the Sun’s, blocking all direct sunlight, turning day into darkness.

Totality occurs in a narrow path across Earth’s surface, with the partial solar eclipse visible over a surrounding region thousands of kilometres wide.

It had a magnitude of 1.045.

The longest duration of totality was 2 minutes and 47 seconds off the coast of the Faroe Islands.

It is the last total solar eclipse visible in Europe until the eclipse of August 12, 2026.

The only populated places reachable by public land travel from which the totality could be seen were the Faroe Islands and Svalbard.

The solar eclipse began at 08:30GMT in northwest Europe and moved towards the northeast but still in northern Europe.

It was most visible from the North Atlantic and Arctic Oceans, Greenland, Iceland, Republic of Ireland, United Kingdom, Faroe Islands, northern Norway and Murmansk Oblast.

The shadow began its pass off the south coast of Greenland.

It then moved to the northeast, passing between Iceland and the United Kingdom before moving over the Faroe Islands and the northernmost islands of Norway.

The shadow of the eclipse was visible in varying degrees all over continental Europe.

For example, London experienced an 85% partial solar eclipse while points north of the Faroe Islands in the Norwegian Sea saw a complete solar eclipse.

The eclipse was observed at radio frequencies at the Metsähovi Radio Observatory, Finland.

The European Union has a solar power output of about 90 gigawatts and production could have been temporarily decreased by up to 34 GW of that dependent on the clarity of the sky.

In actuality the dip was less than expected, with a 13 GW drop in Germany happening due to overcast skies.

This was the first time that an eclipse had a significant impact on the power system, and the electricity sector took measures to mitigate the impact.

The power gradient (change in power) may be −400 MW/minute and +700 MW/minute.

Places in Netherlands, Belgium and Denmark may be 80% obscured.

Temperature may decrease by 3 °C, and wind power may decrease as winds are reduced by 0.7 m/s.

20 March 2015 was also the day of the March equinox (also known as the spring or vernal equinox in the Northern Hemisphere).

In addition, six supermoons are expected for 2015.

The supermoon on 20 March 2015 was the third of the year; however, it was a new moon (near side facing away from the sun), and only its shadow was visible.

(text source here)

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