Ukrainian Actor Parlays TV Role as President into Electoral Victory
April 21, 2019
Life has imitated art, as an actor who plays the Ukrainian president on TV has been elected Ukraine's President. Volodymyr Zelensky has declared victory over the incumbent, Petro Poroshenko, after exit polls showed a wide disparity between the vote totals for the two candidates: Zelensky won 73 percent of the vote, and Poroshenko got 25 percent. It was the second round of elections. The first, which featured 38 candidates, resulted in no one candidate receiving a majority of the vote. Zelensky, with 30 percent, and Poroshenko, with 16 percent, were the top two vote-getters. Zelensky is a political novice who is perhaps most well-known for his role as the Ukrainian president in the TV show Servant of the People. The main character, Vasyl Holoborodko, begins as a schoolteacher with no political experience but emerges as a strong national leader. The show has been on the air for nearly four years and routinely garners an audience of half of the country's population of 42 million. He has also starred in movies, including the Russian-language hit Love in the Big City.
Titanic Letter Describing Early Near-collision Up for Auction
April 21, 2019
A U.K. auction house is selling a letter written by a member of the Titanic crew a few days before the ocean liner's sinking that describes what could have been an even earlier collision. Steward Richard Geddes wrote to his wife, Sarah, on April 11, 1912, the day after the "unsinkable ship" left the port of Southampton. In the letter, Geddes explains how the Titanic and another ship, the SS City of New York, came within a few feet of each other as the Titanic first left. The other ship, Geddes wrote, broke its ropes and the Titanic had to steer clear quickly. Many people onboard interpreted the near-collision as a sign of trouble ahead. They were proved correct on the night of April 14, when the ocean liner hit an iceberg and sank less than three hours later. Geddes, who in the letter said he hoped his wife was not worrying, did not make it out alive.
Blind Sailor Completes Nonstop Pacific Crossing
April 20, 2019
A Japanese sailor who is blind has sailed across the Pacific Ocean without stopping. Mitsuhiro Iwamoto is the first visually impaired person to make the 8,700-mile crossing. Iwamoto, 52, sailed a 40-foot yacht named Dream Weaver from San Diego, California, to Fukushima, Japan. Iwamoto was at the controls, and his navigator, American Doug Smith, relayed wind directions and potential hazards. Iwamoto also used an audio compass and a vocalized GPS. The trip took two months.
Competition to Design New Notre Dame Cathedral Spire
April 18, 2019
The French government will have an international competition to design a spire to replace the one that a fire destroyed at the famed Notre Dame cathedral, Prime Minister Édouard Philippe said. The more than 400 firefighters that battled the blaze and kept the bell towers and the rest of the building intact saved a number of artworks and relics, and those will be moved to the Louvre; the artworks and relics had been at Paris City Hall for safekeeping. A day after the fire, exactly 24 hours after it started, cathedrals around the country tolled their bells in honor of the famed central cathedral. A ceremony in Paris featured readings from Victor Hugo's famed novel Notre-Dame de Paris, known in English as The Hunchback of Notre Dame. Within a day of the blaze, the book was atop France's online bestseller list.
Study Finds Big Rise in Plastic Trash in Atlantic Ocean
April 18, 2019
The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is probably the most well-known ocean area littered with tons and tons of plastic. However, scientists in the U.K. have been collecting data on marine plastic for more than 60 years and have now released the results of a decadeslong study that found that the amount of plastic in the North Atlantic Ocean is large as well.
Much of Notre Dame Cathedral Intact after Fire, Officials Say
April 16, 2019
Notre Dame's spire is gone, but much of the cathedral's spirit remains. People gathered in the thousands at a vigil a day a blaze tore through Paris's symbolic heart of a building. The fire that consumed the iconic 300-foot spire burned through a large amount of wood on the inside and outside of the building, but some treasures were saved by the more than 500 firefighters who battled the blaze for 15 hours, at one point risking their lives by staying inside to build a wall of water between the fire and the bell towers. Fire officials revealed that the 850-year-old cathedral was within 15 to 30 minutes from being entirely consumed. As it was, a large amount of the wooden frames inside were charred.
Notre Dame Cathedral Damaged by Fire
April 15, 2019
Fire has demolished the spire of one of the world's most famous landmarks, the Notre Dame cathedral, but firefighters have saved the main structure and iconic bell towers of the 850-year-old structure. The cathedral, on the Ile de la Cite, one of two islands in the River Seine, in the center of the city, has been the victim of fire and smoke damage created by a fire in the attic that then spread across the roof. Firefighters numbering in the hundreds battled the blaze deep into the night and stopped the blaze from consuming the entire cathedral. The scaffolding around the building was symbolic of a $6.8 million renovation project, which had started a few years ago.
Seychelles President Makes Underwater Plea for Ocean Protection
April 14, 2019
To make a speech supporting better protection for the world's oceans, Seychelles President Danny Faure climbed inside a submersible and went below the surface. The broadcast, from 406 feet below sea level in the vessel Ocean Zephyr, was part of Faure's expanded efforts to campaign for a better understanding of how sea level rise will affect island nations such as his. In 2018, the Seychelles declared 81,000 square miles of water in the surrounding area as protected; the goal is to protect 30 percent of its natural waters by 2020. The protection limits fishing and tourism in the area.
Ukrainian President Has One-man Debate
April 14, 2019
What if they had a two-man debate and only one man showed up? That was the case in Kiev, as incumbent President Petro Poroshenko was the only one to appear onstage for a televised debate. His chief rival, TV comedian Volodymyr Zelensky, did not attend the event, at Olympic Stadium. The two men will face in a runoff election this week, after neither garnered enough of the vote in a previous election to win the presidency outright. Poroshenko got just 16 percent of the vote in the March 31 first round of elections. Zelensky was the leading vote-getter, with more than 30 percent of the vote. In all, 38 candidates were on the ballot. The candidate with the third-most votes was former prime minister Yluia Tymoshenko. Since that first election, Zelensky, who is known for playing a president on television, has made few public appearances and has campaigned largely using social media.
Colorful 4,300-year-old Tomb of Nobleman Found in Egypt
April 14, 2019
Egypt has taken the wraps off a well preserved tomb of a nobleman who lived 4,300 years ago. The tomb, near the Cairo-area necropolis of Saqqara, belonged to Khuwy, a senior official who lived during the Fifth Dynasty. The pharaohs of that dynasty ruled for about 150 years from the early 25th Century B.C. to the mid-24th Century B.C. Archaeologists found the mummified remains of Khuwy inside the tomb. Hieroglyphs drawn within the tomb list his many titles. One of those titles was "sole friend," the equivalent of a senior official to the pharaoh. Khuwy is thought to have served the Fifth Dynasty pharaoh Djedkare Isesi. His mummy was found during excavations in the 1940s. As well, archaeologists recently found on a nearby granite column an inscription containing the name of that pharaoh's wife, Queen Setibhor.
Cave Wall Messages Written in Cherokee Language
April 10, 2019
Archaeologists have confirmed that Cherokee gathered in an Alabama cave 200 years ago and wrote ceremonial messages using their newly created alphabet. The messages, some of which were written backward, appear on the wall of Manitou Cave, near what was then Willstown but is now Fort Payne. Some of the messages were appeals to supernatural forces to aid the Cherokee's efforts in a contest of stickball, a prime sport preferred by the Native American tribe most famous for embarking on the Trail of Tears. Archaeologists know that the messages were put on the wall on April 30, 1828 because one of the messages contains that date. That was not long before the advent of the Indian Removal Act, which stipulated that the Cherokee and other tribes would have to give up their ancestral lands and head west. The great Cherokee leader Sequoyah, who lived nearby, created his alphabet in 1821. More properly known as a syllabary because it is 85 characters based on the syllables of the Cherokee language. The Cherokee accepted it as official in 1825, just three years before the newly identified cave wall messages were written.
Brexit Deadline Extended to October 31
April 10, 2019
The United Kingdom will not be forced to leave the European Union on April 12. That is the result of a meeting of the European Council, which offered October 31 as a new date for U.K. Prime Minister Theresa to present details of how Brexit would happen. May has agreed to the date. Meeting in Brussels, leaders of all of the other members of the European Union agreed to the extension. Unanimity is a requirement of such decisions. French President Emmanuel Macron made waves by speaking out against a longer extension than the June 30 date that May had earlier requested. German Chancellor Angela Merkel led the drive toward approving the October 31 date, and Macron eventually agreed. May still has to convince Parliament to approve some sort of deal regarding citizenship, trade, and a host of other issues that would result in the country's leaving the EU.
Brexit Deadline Fast Approaching
April 8, 2019
The days are few before the United Kingdom is scheduled to leave the European Union. The split will happen on April 12 unless circumstances change. U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May has, in recent days, engaged in discussions with Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, in hopes of breaking the deadlock that has kept May's deal from passing Parliament. May's Conservative Party does not have a majority in Parliament and so must depend on members of other parties to approve the deal that May hammered out with EU negotiators weeks ago. That support has so far been lacking.
Upscale 'Snack Bar' Found in Pompeii
April 8, 2019
Archaeologists have uncovered a snack bar at Pompeii. The thermopolium, its proper Greek name (meaning "a place where something hot is sold"), was a staple around the Roman world, with several already discovered at Pompeii and elsewhere. Customers could get a drink or a bite of hot food,
just like at today's snack bars. Such places were popular, especially with the poor, who usually could not afford a private kitchen; as well, people who didn't have time to cook at home would frequent a thermopolium. On one wall behind this latest discovery is a painting of a Nereid, a mythical sea nymph, holding a lyre and riding a horse with a sea dragon-like tail. She is flanked by dolphins in the marine scene. An ancestor of today's restaurant, the thermopolium was usually a small room with an L-shaped masonry counter, inside which were dolia, or earthenware jars, that stored dried food. More upscale thermopolia would have had frescoes on the wall.
Hardtack That Survived Lusitania Sinking Up for Auction
April 8, 2019
A hardtack cracker that survived the 1915 sinking of the ocean liner Lusitania is up for auction. The cracker, or biscuit as such things are known in the United Kingdom and current and former members of its commonwealth, comes with a note written by the British soldier who found the biscuit, in a lifeboat that took some survivors of the ocean liner's sinking to Ireland, to what is now Cobh but what was then Queenstown. Henry Aldridge and Son will do the auctioneering. The pre-sale estimate of the biscuit is a range from $3,920 to $6,533. The biscuit is one of only two known to still exist, the auction house said, adding that the other is on display in a museum in Ireland.
Natural Causes Preserved Terracotta Army's Weapons: Study
April 4, 2019
Scientists say that natural elements, not some ancient precursor to anti-rust technology, kept the Terracotta Army's weapons intact all these years. The very large collection of armed soldiers was discovered in 1974 by a group of farmers digging a well. Made up of more than 7,000 life-size clay sculptures of armed warriors, the army guards the tomb of China's first emperor, Qin Shi-huang-di, who died in the 3rd Century B.C. Not long after the discovery, scientists found traces of chromium salt oxide, a substance now known to resist rust, on some of the weapons held by the warriors. Some scientists formed the theory that the Chinese knew of chromium's anti-rusting properties all those years ago. However, new analysis had found that the real cause of preservation was in the soil itself and the surrounding air.