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Trump Preens About Getting Fireworks Back To Mount Rushmore In Time For Fire Season



In an odd detour during the signing of the first part of the trade deal with China, President Donald Trump boasted about bringing back summer fireworks to Mount Rushmore. He said they had been blocked because of some “environmental reasons” — in a drought-stricken area threatened by wildfires.

As confused Chinese officials patiently waited Wednesday in the East Room of the White House, Trump also falsely indicated at one point that there had never been July 4th fireworks at Mount Rushmore in South Dakota (though he also said there have been none in 20 years). 

In fact, there were major fireworks displays for several years at the Black Hills monument, which features massive stone carvings of the busts of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln. But they were halted after 2009 when an infestation of pine beetles killed thousands of surrounding trees, turning them into potentially explosive tinder.

“What can burn? It’s stone, you know, it’s stone,” Trump told a group of people witnessing the trade deal signing, including South Dakota farmers and Gov. Kristi Noem. “So I called up our people and within about 15 minutes we got it approved, and you’re going to have your first big fireworks display at Mount Rushmore, and I’ll try to get out there if I can.”

The fireworks had been canceled because of the “unacceptable risk of wildfire,” said a 2011 statement from the National Parks Service. “Efforts are on-going … to combat the Mountain Pine Beetle and reduce fire danger, however, the condition of the forest in the surrounding area continues to deteriorate and will remain a concern for the foreseeable future. The park service is committed to being responsible stewards of the land, as well as responsible neighbors, and to do that we need to take every conceivable precaution to mitigate the fire danger. ”

A CNN fact-check on Trump’s statement found that there was no “15-minute” turnaround in the policy. In fact, National Park officials — who are consulting with local tribes and weighing effects on wildlife — are still considering whether to allow fireworks as climate change continues to boost fire danger in dry regions of the nation. A 2016 report by the U.S. Geological Survey also found that past fireworks displays likely contaminated groundwater within the memorial site. An NPS proposal concerning fireworks will be available early this year for public comment.

Noem has been pushing for a resumption of fireworks, arguing in a statement in May that the surrounding forest has “gained strength” and that “advancements in pyrotechnics allow for a safe fireworks display.” If the fireworks display does return, she said, she hopes to attend the event with Trump.





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Our Planet Matters: What’s the BBC plan all about?


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Media captionOur Planet Matters: Climate change explained

The BBC has announced plans for a year-long series of special programming and coverage on climate change.

A raft of news services and shows are planned as part of the Our Planet Matters project.

These include a new monthly Climate Check podcast from BBC Weather, and coverage of debates and events around the globe.

Digital, TV and radio outlets will all take part.

Sir David Attenborough also plans a new hour-long documentary for the Our Planet Matters programmes. Extinction: The Facts will examine the fragile state of the natural world.

“We have to realise that this is not playing games,” Sir David told the BBC. “This is an urgent problem that has to be solved and, what’s more, we know how to do it.”

How can I follow?

Online, the BBC will produce new explainers, interactive tools and guides to help sort through the jargon and analyse what’s happening in the UK and across our changing planet. You can check back on everything that has been published so far here.

In a new series for BBC Two, Ade Adepitan travels to countries on the frontline of climate change to find out what humanity is doing to face up to possibly the greatest challenge in our history in a three part series, Ade on the Frontline of Climate Change.

Radio 4’s PM programme will air The Environment in 10 Objects. Each episode will look at the environmental impact of one household item, and how we can respond to the climate crisis at home.

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Devastating wildfires in Australia have raised even greater awareness of the dangers posed by climate change

A new weekly podcast on the World Service will examine climate change from scientific, business and policy perspectives with the help of journalists from around the world.

BBC Weather meanwhile plans to bring in a monthly Climate Check service, to help audiences see trends behind the daily weather.

Adam Bullimore, head of BBC Weather, says it will be a chance to “share something more with audiences than just the typical weather forecast”, and will focus on the impact of data like CO2 emissions and Arctic sea ice measurements on our planet.

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Media captionHow to reduce your carbon footprint when you fly

The BBC will also cover the build up to the COP 26 climate summit in Glasgow this November. On Friday, BBC Breakfast and the News Channel will be live from Glasgow’s Science Centre talking about plans to make Scotland’s biggest city carbon neutral by 2030, and how this will affect its people.

In the summer, the BBC will host a climate debate. Experts and people from around the UK will be brought together at the audience event.

What about abroad?

Our worldwide network of BBC correspondents will report on the effects of climate change on the environment and communities from all corners of the globe.

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The BBC’s global network of correspondents will cover climate issues from around the globe

That even includes Antarctica. Chief environment correspondent Justin Rowlatt will be reporting from the remote Thwaites Glacier, where researchers are trying to find out the stability of the colossal ice mass.

All through 2020 the BBC will report on which countries, people and technologies are leading the way in tackling climate change.

Scientific work will also be a key focus. There will be coverage of how researchers are trying to understand the pace of climate change and its effects on the natural world.

How is the BBC doing on its own climate targets?

According to the BBC press office, the corporation reduced its carbon footprint by 78% last year by purchasing renewable electricity to match that used at major sites and is on track to remove all single-use plastics from BBC sites by the end of 2020.

The corporation now aims to go carbon neutral and has launched a project to identify what action is needed and how quickly it can be achieved.

“We’re committed to responsible travel policies including only travelling when necessary, using technology such as videoconferencing, improving the fuel efficiency of our vehicle fleet and introducing electric vehicles,” a statement reads. “Currently one of our contractors offsets CO2 emissions on our flights with them and we are exploring whether there’s scope to do more.”

BBC Director of News, Fran Unsworth, said: “We are very aware of our own impact on the environment and our responsible travel policy means we only fly when necessary.”

You can read the BBC’s Greener Broadcasting strategy here.



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Rupert Murdoch’s Son Just Went After News Corp’s Coverage Of Climate Change


James Murdoch, the son of News Corp Chairman Rupert Murdoch, and his wife, Kathryn, unleashed fierce criticism Tuesday over the handling of climate change and environmental issues by the media titan’s slate of conservative news outlets.

In a statement to The Daily Beast, a spokesperson for the couple said the Murdochs were “disappointed” with what they called “ongoing denial” at both Fox News and the broader News Corp empire, which owns much of the media outlets in Australia. The country is currently fighting a scourge of devastating bushfires that have left at least 28 people dead and scorched more than 15 million acres.

“Kathryn and James’ views on climate are well established and their frustration with some of the News Corp and Fox coverage of the topic is also well known,” the spokesperson told the Beast. “They are particularly disappointed with the ongoing denial among the news outlets in Australia given obvious evidence to the contrary.”

The statement is a rare public rebuke of Rupert Murdoch’s empire from one of his closest family members. News Corp has been accused in recent weeks of trying to downplay Australia’s deadly fire season within the Australian media while promoting misinformation about what has caused the disaster.

James and Kathryn Murdoch said they were "disappointed" with the ongoing "denial" at Rupert Murdoch's media outlets.



James and Kathryn Murdoch said they were “disappointed” with the ongoing “denial” at Rupert Murdoch’s media outlets.

Scientists and fire officials have called on the Australian government to do more to address climate change as the fires rage on. Climate change doesn’t cause wildfires, but it can exacerbate conditions, experts say. Australia has seen a particularly hot and dry fire season, and 2019 was the country’s hottest and driest year on record.

News Corp has rejected assertions that it’s fueling climate change denial, telling The New York Times this month that its coverage “has recognized Australia is having a conversation about climate change and how to respond to it.” The company said, however, that disputed claims of arson, which diminish the role of climate change, were “legitimate stories to report in the public interest.” 

Murdoch has said publicly that he is a climate change “skeptic” but not a denier. He also said last year there were no “climate change deniers” working within News Corp. 

Rupert Murdoch and News Corp have donated millions of dollars to bushfire recovery efforts, as has his other son, Lachlan.

It’s not the first time the younger Murdoch has criticized the conservative media titan. In September, James said there were views aired on Fox News that he “really disagree[s] with.”

“The connective tissue of our society is being manipulated to make us fight with each other, making us the worst versions of ourselves,” James Murdoch told The New Yorker in an interview.

At least 28 people have been killed by a series of wildfires in Australia. 



At least 28 people have been killed by a series of wildfires in Australia. 

Kathryn Murdoch has worked for more than a decade on climate issues and has recently taken a more high-profile role in fighting climate change. In an interview with The New York Times in September, she said she had been motivated by the urgency of the global warming crisis to increase her activism and had decided to “switch everything I was doing.” 

“I wanted to be able to look my children in the eye and say, ‘I did everything I could,’” she said at the time. 

James Murdoch left his role as the CEO of 21st Century Fox early last year after Disney acquired its film and television assets. His brother, Lachlan Murdoch, was chosen to lead what remained as part of the newly minted Fox Corp.

Lachlan Murdoch has repeatedly come to the defense of Fox News. During an interview in 2018, he said he was “not embarrassed” by the network “at all,” saying the cable news channel served a purpose in the U.S. discourse.

“You have to understand that Fox News is the only mass media company in America, in this country, with conservative opinion, with strong conservative opinion in prime time,” Lachlan Murdoch said at that year’s New York Times DealBook conference.





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Climate change: Australia fires will be ‘normal’ in warmer world


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UK scientists say the recent fires in Australia are a taste of what the world will experience as temperatures rise.

Prof Richard Betts from the Met Office Hadley Centre said we are “seeing a sign of what would be normal conditions under a future warming world of 3C”.

While natural weather patterns have driven recent fires, researchers said it’s “common sense” that human-induced heating is playing a role.

Last year was Australia’s warmest and driest year on record.

UK researchers have carried out a rapid analysis of the impact of climate change on the risk of wildfires happening all over the world. Their study looked at 57 research papers published since the last major review of climate science came out in 2013.

All the studies in the review showed links between climate change and the increased frequency or severity of fire weather. This is defined as those periods of time which have a higher risk of fire due to a combination of high temperatures, low humidity, low rainfall and high winds.

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The signal of human-induced warming has become clearer in different parts of the world with the passage of time. A paper published last year suggests the impact of climate change could be detected outside the range of natural variability in 22% of land that’s available for burning.

“Overall, the 57 papers reviewed clearly show human-induced warming has already led to a global increase in the frequency and severity of fire weather, increasing the risks of wildfire,” said Dr Matthew Jones, from the University of East Anglia, and the lead author of the review.

“This has been seen in many regions, including the western US and Canada, southern Europe, Scandinavia and Amazonia. Human-induced warming is also increasing fire risks in other regions, including Siberia and Australia.”

However, the review says that the dramatic fire situation witnessed in Australia in recent months is “challenging to diagnose”.

Naturally occurring weather patterns have played a significant role in creating the right conditions for wildfires. Conditions in the Indian Ocean and the Pacific have meant hot, dry spells across the country.

But the influence of human-driven climate change is also in the mix.

“This (the fires) would have happened naturally but we can be confident that they have been made hotter because of man-made climate change,” said Prof Betts.

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Getty Images

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Drought and record temperatures have contributed to the dramatic burning in Australia

Speaking at the launch of the global review, he pointed to the fact that Australia is now about 1.4C warmer than the global average temperature was in the pre-industrial period.

“Temperatures in December in Australia, that have occurred recently, they are extreme for now but they would be normal under a world getting on for three degrees of warming, so we are seeing a sign of what would be normal conditions under a future warming world of 3 degrees,” Prof Betts explained.

Right now, the world has warmed around 1C since the 1850s. Even with current government plans to limit emissions of CO2, the world is on course for around 3C of warming by the end of this century.

Other experts involved in the review say that people are seeing the signal of global warming “with their own eyes” when it comes to wildfires and heatwaves.

“These are impacts we are seeing for one degree of global climate change. The impact will get worse as long as we don’t do what it takes to stabilise the world’s climate,” said Prof Corinne Le Quéré, from the University of East Anglia in Norwich.

“And what it takes is to bring CO2 and other long-lived greenhouse gases down to net zero emissions. If we don’t do it, we will have much worse impacts – so what we are seeing in Australia is not the new normal, it’s a transition to worse impacts.”

The details of the papers included in the review can be found at the ScienceBrief online platform.

Follow Matt on Twitter.


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100-Year-Old Turtle Sex God Retires After Making 800 Species-Saving Babies


Slow and steady saves the species. 

A 100-year-old Galapagos giant tortoise is retiring after helping to save his endangered species by siring some 800 babies. 

At one point, Diego was one of the last two males of the Chelonoidis hoodensis of Espanola Island in the Galapagos. However, since a captive breeding program began nearly half a century ago with the last dozen females of the species, some 2,000 turtles have been brought back to the island, AFP reported.

Diego is father to 800 of them ― or some 40 percent of the total. 

Here’s Diego showing off his winning smile in 2016: 



Diego isn’t even the most prolific of his kind. According to The New York Times, another turtle named E5 is responsible for the other 60 percent of the babies. A third male tortoise who was later brought into the program has sired none.

Diego, who previously spent 30 years at the San Diego Zoo, is currently in quarantine and will be released back into Española, per the BBC.

“He’s contributed a large percentage to the lineage that we are returning to Espanola,” Jorge Carrion, director of Galapagos National Parks, told AFP. “There’s a feeling of happiness to have the possibility of returning that tortoise to his natural state.”

While it might seem like Diego will ease into retirement, the Washington Post reported that he could have a good 20 years or more left, not to mention more in the tank. 

He might actually amp it up,” James P. Gibbs, a professor of environmental and forest biology at the State University of New York in Syracuse, told the newspaper. “I don’t know — we shall see.”





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Sri Lanka elephants: ‘Record number’ of deaths in 2019


Kaudulla National Park in central Sri Lanka, August 2019.Image copyright
Anbarasan Ethirajan

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There are an estimated 7,500 wild elephants in Sri Lanka

A record number of elephants – 361 – have died in Sri Lanka during 2019, environmental groups say.

It is highest figure of elephant deaths to be reported since Sri Lanka became independent in 1948, conservationists said. Most were killed by people.

There are an estimated 7,500 wild elephants in Sri Lanka. Killing them is illegal, but the animals often come into conflict with rural communities.

Elephants are revered in Sri Lanka but some farmers view them as pests.

Sajeewa Chamikara, an environmentalist from the Movement for Land and Agricultural Reform, told the BBC that some 85% of elephant deaths last year may have been caused by human activity.

He said communities had used electric fences, poison and explosives concealed as food to kill the animals.

In September, officials said they suspected seven elephants found dead in a reserve were poisoned by local residents for destroying crops.

BBC World Service South Asia editor Anbarasan Ethirajan says the expansion of villages and farms in Sri Lanka has contributed to dwindling supplies of food and water for the animals.

Officials have promised to work to resolve the conflict by putting fences between elephant habitats and rural communities.

But Mr Chamikara said the government needed to do more to improve the quality of protected areas, such as tackling the issue of invasive plants which grow over grasslands that feed the elephants.

“Our development plan is not eco-friendly. We need a sustainable development plan,” he said.

Trains are responsible for killing some wild elephants during their migration. Others die of natural causes, he said.

Dozens of elephants are kept in captivity in Sri Lanka to raise income from tourists, while others are forced to march at local festivals.

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Media captionSri Lanka elephant runs amok in religious procession



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Reward Boosted To $7,500 For Nailing Killer Of Endangered California Wolf



An activist ecological organization has upped the reward to $7,500 for nabbing the killer of an endangered California wolf wearing a tracking collar.

The yearling male, identified by researchers as OR-59, was discovered killed by a bullet on a county road in the far northeast region of the state. The wolf had traveled to California from Oregon in late 2018. He was fatally shot just days after a rancher spotted him feeding on a carcass of a calf that had died of natural causes. Wildlife officials have been unable to crack the case.

“There were early leads that have since been exhausted, so the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service decided to broaden our inquiry by seeking information from the public by offering a reward” of $2,500, agency representative Pam Bierce told the Capital Press Friday. 

“This loss is a terrible blow to wolf conservation in California,” Amaroq Weiss of the Center for Biological Diversity said in a statement. “It underscores why our endangered wolves need the strongest possible protection at both state and federal levels.” The organization has added $5,000 to the reward.

The wolf is one of “several dozen” illegally shot along the West Coast over the last years, according to the center.

Fewer than a dozen wolves live in California, including some lone animals and the Lassen pack that roams in the northern section of the state.

The seven-member, all-black Shasta pack — the state’s first in nearly 100 years — vanished from northern Siskiyou County within months after its discovery in 2015. Officials believe the animals were illegally killed.

The wolf is one of “several dozen” illegally shot along the West Coast, according to the center.

Fewer than a dozen wolves live in California, includingsome lone animals and the Lassen pack that roams in the northern section of the state.

The seven-member, all-black Shasta pack — the state’s first in nearly 100 years — vanished from northern Siskiyou County within months after its discovery in 2015. Officials believe the animals were illegally killed.

Oregon has at least 137 wolves.

California’s wolves were wiped out in the early 1900s by a government-sponsored eradication program throughout the nation on behalf of the livestock industry. The animals began to return to Oregon and Washington shortly after 2000.

The Trump administration has proposed ending endangered species protections for wolves from all states except Alaska and Hawaii.





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Nasa Moon rocket core leaves for testing


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NASA

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The first Artemis rocket stage was guided towards the Pegasus barge

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The first core stage for Nasa’s “mega-rocket”, the SLS, has left its factory in New Orleans for crucial tests to assess its readiness for launch.

The Space Launch System (SLS) is a critical part of the space agency’s Artemis programme, which aims to return Americans to the Moon by 2024.

The core stage is the centrepiece of the new rocket and will undergo comprehensive testing in Mississippi.

On Wednesday, it was placed on a barge which will sail it to its destination.

The rocket, which will be taller than a 30-storey building, is being built for Nasa by Boeing.

Nasa deputy administrator Jim Morhard attended the roll-out of the rocket stage from the Michoud Assembly Facility (Maf) in New Orleans where it was built.

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NASA / Danny Nowlin

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The core stage provides two million pounds of thrust to help power the first Artemis mission to the Moon

He said it represented “an exciting leap forward in the Artemis program as Nasa teams make progress toward the launch pad”.

The rocket programme, which was announced in 2010, has been hit by delays and cost overruns.

Some in the space community believe it would be better to launch deep space missions on commercial rockets. But supporters of the programme say that Nasa needs its own heavy-lift launch capability.

After roll-out from the Maf, the core was loaded on to Nasa’s Pegasus barge to travel by water to the Stennis Space Center near Bay St Louis in Mississippi.

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NASA / Jared Lyons

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The stage will be transported by water from its factory in New Orleans to Mississippi

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NASA / Jared Lyons

Presentational white space

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NASA / Jared Lyons

The test campaign at Stennis is called the “Green Run”, and will involve operating all the core stage systems simultaneously for the first time.

This will see the four powerful RS-25 engines fired for about eight minutes (or perhaps a little less), and throttled at different settings. This will mimic the levels of thrust needed during launch.

The SLS core stage contains two propellant tanks – one to hold liquid oxygen and another for liquid hydrogen. Together, they hold a combined 733,000 gallons (2.7 million litres) of propellant to power the engines.

The SLS was designed to re-use technology originally developed for the space shuttle programme, which ran from 1981-2011.

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NASA

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The B-2 test stand at Nasa’s Stennis Space Center will be used for the Green Run campaign

The RS-25 thrusters are the same ones that powered the orbiter, and the SLS core stage is based on the external tank that fed the shuttle engines with propellant (albeit with significant modifications).

Two solid rocket boosters (SRBs) – similar to those that helped launch the shuttle – will sit either side of the SLS core.

The rocket will provide the power required to send the Orion spacecraft – Nasa’s next-generation crew vehicle – on its way to the Moon. The rocket’s maiden launch (Artemis-1) is expected to occur some time in 2021.

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NASA

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Artwork: The SLS provides the power needed to send Orion on its way to the Moon

Last year, John Shannon, who has been Boeing’s head of the SLS programme since 2015, told me: “I suspect that once SLS is in the national capability, there won’t be a need for another heavy-lift vehicle like it for many years. So this is really a once-in-a-generation opportunity.”

The core is the largest stage Nasa has ever had built at the Louisiana factory, including the Saturn V rocket stages for the Apollo programme.

“This is a historic moment for Nasa’s Artemis programme and a proud time for the… team as the first flight article leaves the factory floor,” said Julie Bassler, the Nasa SLS Stages manager.

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NASA

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The Orion crew vehicle, and its service module – provided by the European Space Agency – are being tested in Ohio

Meanwhile, Nasa and its partners have completed production of the Orion spacecraft for the first Artemis mission. It is currently undergoing final testing at the Plum Brook Station in Ohio.

For the Artemis-1 mission, Orion will be sent on a loop around the Moon to test the hardware in deep space. The spacecraft will carry no crew.

The first mission to carry crew will be Artemis-2, which should send four astronauts on a lunar flyby.

Artemis-3, which is being targeted for 2024, will see a man and a woman land at the lunar south pole – the first time astronauts will have travelled to the lunar surface since 1972.

Follow Paul on Twitter.

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More Than Half Of Puerto Ricans Without Power After Earthquakes



GUANICA, Puerto Rico, Jan 8 (Reuters) – More than half of Puerto Rico’s 3 million people remained without power on Wednesday and thousands slept outdoors after earthquakes toppled homes on the Caribbean island and raised fears more could collapse.

Tuesday’s quakes, including the most powerful one to strike the U.S. territory in 102 years, killed at least one person and destroyed or damaged about 300 homes. A state of emergency was declared.

The south of the island was hardest hit, dozens of homes collapsing in towns like Yauco, Guanica and Guayanilla during a 6.4 magnitude earthquake and 5.6 aftershock.

Tremors shook the island on Wednesday and thousands slept outdoors or in their cars, fearful their homes would collapse in the event of another major event.

“Horrible, horrible, horrible, horrible, everything fell on top of us,” said Josefina Pacheco who ran out onto the street during the quakes. “It’s really hard to see so many houses around you on the ground.”

Power was not expected to be restored to the whole island until the weekend after quakes knocked out its main generating facility, the Costa Sur plant, and damaged other energy infrastructure.

It will take at least a year to repair Costa Sur, which up until Tuesday supplied about a quarter of Puerto Rico’s power, the head of the AEE electricity agency, Jose Ortiz, told El Nuevo Dia newspaper.

About 600,000 of the island’s 1.5 million customers had power on Wednesday, up from 100,000 on Tuesday night, and the island was generating 955 megawatts of electricity, well short of the 2,300 megawatts it needed, AEE said on Twitter.

The power outages brought back memories of the aftermath of Hurricane Maria in 2017, when Puerto Ricans endured lengthy blackouts following a disaster that killed nearly 3,000 people.

On Wednesday, about 24% of the population still had no running water and more than 2,200 people left homeless had taken refuge in government shelters, said Carlos Acevedo, commissioner of disaster agency NMEAD.

In Guanica, supermarket owner Santo Manuel Ruiz Pietri began cleaning up collapsed shelves and surveying structural damage to his building.

“It was nearly complete devastation at our Guanica location, inside and outside,” said Ruiz Pietri, estimating the damage to be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

PUBLIC HEALTH EMERGENCY

The earthquakes followed a series of natural and man-made disasters to afflict the U.S. territory in recent years. The island is also going through bankruptcy and its former governor resigned amid a political scandal and massive street protests last year.

U.S. President Donald Trump on Tuesday declared an emergency in Puerto Rico and authorized the Federal Emergency Management Agency to coordinate disaster relief with Puerto Rican officials.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services declared a public health emergency on the island to ensure hospitals had funding to meet needs.

More than 500 tremors occurred in the south of the island between Dec. 28 and Tuesday, including 32 greater than magnitude 4.

The 6.4 magnitude quake on Tuesday morning was the most powerful to hit Puerto Rico since 1918, when a 7.3 magnitude quake and tsunami killed 116 people, according to the Puerto Rican seismology institute, Red Sismica.

Puerto Rico is accustomed to hurricanes, but powerful quakes are rare.

(Reporting by Ricardo Ortiz, Luis Valentin Ortiz, Marco Bello, Daniel Trotta and Andrew Hay Editing by Richard Chang, Robert Birsel)





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Natural History Museum will showcase ‘fantastic beasts’


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NHM/Jeff Spicer/Getty

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The Erumpent, a rhino-like animal, appears in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

It’s one of the more remarkable specimens taken into London’s Natural History Museum. It’s certainly one of the most “fantastic”.

The horn comes from an Erumpent, a fictional beast created in the mind of author JK Rowling.

It’s going to feature in a major new exhibition at the South Kensington institution this spring, in which the extraordinary creatures of the Harry Potter universe are used to shine a light on some of the “magical” animals that exist in the real world.

The NHM is describing the show as its most ambitious to date.

It’s a joint venture with Warner Bros, who own the film versions of Rowling’s Potter books and their Fantastic Beasts spin-offs, together with the BBC, whose Natural History Unit in Bristol, will be filming a companion programme.

“We want to show people that the natural world is just as amazing as the mythical, wizarding world,” said Clare Matterson, executive director of engagement at the NHM.

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Media captionNorthumberland and how it inspired Fantastic Beasts

The exhibition will put 50 specimens from the museum’s world famous collections next to props from the Potter movies. Interactive displays will compare and contrast different animals.

“You’ll recall the Erumpent’s mating dance from Fantastic Beasts. We’ll be making comparisons with the peacock spider, which has its own extraordinary movements that it uses to attract a mate,” explained the NHM executive.

“Then there’s something in the magical world called a Demiguise, which, as the name suggests, has ways of making itself disappear. And, of course, there are all sorts of examples in the natural world but one of the most famous is the octopus which can change its colours and camouflage itself, blending into its natural surroundings.”

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Media captionWATCH: The Crimes of Grindelwald visual effects

The exhibition will also point out some of the direct links between fact and fiction.

A good illustration is the giant oarfish, the world’s longest bony fish. This animal is thought to be the inspiration for many of the myths that exist around sea serpents.

It’s a theme that will be picked up in the BBC companion programme, which will be fronted by actor Stephen Fry, best known in this context as the voice of the Harry Potter audio books.

The BBC One special is going to visit places such as the frozen steppes of Siberia and the caves of Madagascar to explore the origins and stories of mythical beasts and to draw the connections with species that are alive today or have not long gone extinct.

Stephen Fry said: “I could not be more delighted to be a part of this magnificent opportunity for us Muggles to show the wizarding world that the fantastic beasts in our world are more than a match for theirs.

“Joining forces with the combined powers of the fabulous BBC, its legendary Natural History Unit and the magical Natural History Museum we hope to be able to bring you closer than you’ve ever been to some of the most spectacular and extraordinary creatures ever seen.”

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The peacock spider has a few moves of its own when it comes to attracting a mate

Clare Matterson added: “Ultimately, what we’re trying to do is get that important message across that we should care more about the animals on this extraordinary planet we inhabit.”

Tickets for the exhibition – Fantastic Beasts: The Wonder of Nature – will go on sale soon.

The show will run for seven months before heading out on an international tour.

Image copyright
Getty Images

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The giant oarfish probably lies behind many of the sea serpent myths

and follow me on Twitter: @BBCAmos





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