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The latest research from the ground suggests that the southern polar ice cap has been shrinking for the last 50 years, contradicting satellite based evidence that it was actually increasing in size. Scientists are still clearly divided over whether the Antarctic ice fluctuations indicate any long term global warming trend. Meanwhile, the world’s largest iceberg (the size of Jamaica) which separated from the Antarctic ice cap in 2000 broke into two huge pieces this fall. 75% of the world’s fresh water ice is stored in the Antarctic and it naturally returns to the oceans through icebergs.
One the world’s top amateur surfing stars was attacked by a shark off the coast of Kauai. Thirteen-year-old Bethany Hamilton was practicing when a large shark bit off her entire left arm and a huge chunk of her surfboard. She paddled over to two fellow surfers who helped tow her back to shore where she was rushed to hospital. Her arm could not be recovered so she will be learning to use an artificial limb. From her hospital bed Bethany remained positive and said she planned to make a surfing comeback in the years ahead as well as pursue a career as a photographer. Best wishes Bethany!
At a recent U.N. meeting 187 countries voted that the U.S. boycott of Cuba was illegal and immoral. Only the U.S.A. and Israel disagreed. This poor Caribbean island of 11 million became a communist state after Fidel Castro led the overthrow of a U.S. backed dictatorship in 1959. Cuban businesses, many U.S. owned, were taken over by the new government. The U.S. retaliated with a boycott of Cuba that has helped keep the island’s economy depressed ever since. The U.S. also threatens other nations, such as Canada, with penalties if they deal with Cuba.
A group led by Canadian billionaire Edgar Bronfman Jr. paid $3.4 billion to buy Warner Music from U.S. media giant Time Warner (which lost $130 billion in 2002). Warner Music is one of the five major record labels, with acts such as Linkin Park, Madonna, Simple Plan, Metallica & Missy Elliott. This is Bronfman’s second foray into the music business after helping form Universal Music. Bronfman once was a songwriter himself, penning songs for Celine Dion among others. Meanwhile, Japan’s Sony Music and Germany’s BMG have decided to merge into one company.
American troops remain under daily attack from Iraqi resistance fighters. George Bush’s war team seems baffled how to stop their Mideast adventure from turning into a greater disaster. Once they decided to invade Iraq their choices were clear but equally embarrassing and painful: Leave, and see Iraq slip into a bloody civil war leading to the breakup of the country along ethnic lines (enflaming the entire Middle East region) or; Prolong the occupation in a land where you are hated, under constant attack, spending up to a trillion dollars while losing thousands of young American lives.
China has become the third nation to send a man into space. Russia was first in 1961, the U.S. second in 1962. Despite the late start, China has big plans: an orbiting space station by 2005, followed by possible manned missions to the moon. While the Russian space program struggles financially and the Americans proceed cautiously after the latest shuttle disaster, China is poised to make up ground quickly. Cynics suggest that China’s dictatorship is struggling to give its poor citizens a new source of national pride now that Communism has failed.
After ruling this nation of 24 million since 1981 years the outspoken Dr. Mahathir Mohamad has retired as Prime Minister. He has been credited with transforming the ethnically diverse former British colony from a poor farming nation into a manufacturing and high-tech powerhouse. He also had been criticized for being tough against anyone who opposed him, and ignoring calls for improved human rights, democracy and environmental laws. His frequent rants on world politics, anti-Muslim and financial conspiracies often made headlines and brought both applause and criticism.
The oldest person in the world, a Japanese woman, died at the age of 116. Upon her death the title went to another Japanese woman 114 years old. She unfortunately died two weeks later. Meanwhile, the world’s oldest man, also 114 and from Japan, died back in September 2003. The Japanese have the highest life expectancy in the world with the average woman living to 86 and the average man making it to 78. Researchers believe their typically lowfat diet, consisting of fish and green vegetables, contributes to their increased lifespan.
A pod of 12 sperm whales, mostly females, beached themselves on Auckland’s west coast, one of the worst beachings for the species in the last 30 years. It was suspected that the whales followed a herd leader who got caught in the shallow water of the bay and couldn’t return to the deeper waters. Some of the sperm whales, made famous in the novel Moby Dick, were more than 30 feet long and weighed up to 12 tonnes. Their huge internal organs, normally supported by water pressure, collapse under their own weight as soon as the whales wash up on shore.