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Today β€” May 29th 2017IGIHE.com English Version

Bamporiki launches book on genocide perpetrators' testimonies

By IGIHE

Member of Parliament Edouard Bamporiki yesterday launched a book β€˜Mitingi Jenosideri, Imbundo, Imbarutso y'imbunda yarimbuyeimbaga ' featuring testimonies from perpetrators of the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi from various prisons in Rwanda. The book has been translated to English as 'My Son It Is A Long Story'.

It also carries testimonies of 67 genocide perpetrators and children born of mothers raped by genocidaires.

The launching ceremony was attended by the First Lady Jeannette Kagame and the Minister of Sports and Culture, Uwacu Julienne among other officials.

Umubyeyi Mediatrice, the chairperson of Umuryango Art for Peace Rwanda, an organization bringing together artists striving for peace initiated by Bamporiki, said the book is undoubtedly among the first of its kind featuring messages of genocide perpetrators serving as evidences that it was planned before. She noted the book will leave a lesson to the reader.

β€œWe hope the way it was prepared will help all readers understand that genocide which took lives of Tutsis was prepared and executed fiercely and left wounds to survivors and scars among perpetrators and their descendants. The healing lies in accepting such a bitter history and be concerned with the future,” she said.

The executive secretary of the National Commission for the Fight Against Genocide (CNLG) Dr Bizimana Jean Damascène, commended Bamporiki for the efforts of documenting perpetrators testimonies.

β€œGiving room for genocide perpetrators to speak for themselves how genocide was planned is a milestone because it helps in fighting and resisting genocide ideology especially trivializers and deniers of the genocide against Tutsi,” he said.

MP Bamporiki also lauded Madam Jeannette Kagame for support whenever he has a concern.

Bamporiki shared that he started writing β€˜Mitingi Jenosideri' in 2010. β€œI faced challenges while writing the book because a majority of my close advisors discouraged me saying there is no reason to write what people already knew,” he said.
MP Bamporiki explained his work became most complicated while receiving testimonies from women convicted for genocide crimes.

β€œI got deeper insights of how fiercely genocide was prepared, hearing how co-wives conspired to kill their man and consider that act β€˜getting a successful mission. It gave me a picture that women played a big role in genocide,” he said.

Children born of raped mothers during genocide, people jailed for genocide crimes and women who got pregnant or contracted AIDS after being raped also gave testimonies during the launch of the book.

The 322-page book is on sale at Rwf 20,000.

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Member of Parliament Edouard Bamporiki during the launch of the book 'My Son It Is A Long Story'

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The executive secretary of the National Commission for the Fight Against Genocide (CNLG) Dr Bizimana Jean Damascène, commended Bamporiki for the efforts of documenting perpetrators testimonies.
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First Lady Jeannette Kagame;the Minister of Sports and Culture,Uwacu Julienne (right);the Executive Secretary of the National Commission for the Fight Against Genocide (CNLG), Dr Jean Damascène Bizimana (first from left) during the launch of the book.
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First Lady Jeannette Kagame with the Minister of Sports and Culture , Uwacu Julienne during the launch of β€˜Mitingi Jenosideri, Imbundo, Imbarutso y'imbunda yarimbuye imbaga'
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The 322-page book is on sale at Rwf 20,000.

IGIHE

Civilian death toll rises in Syria's Raqqa

By IGIHE

Deadly air strikes continue to target Raqqa city, monitoring group says, as thousands continue to flee the fighting.

At least 13 people have been killed in suspected US-led coalition air strikes on the ISIL-held city of Raqqa and suspected rocket attacks fired by a Kurdish group fighting ISIL, a monitoring group has said.

Some of the deaths in the northern city on Sunday evening resulted from air strikes blamed on the US-led coalition, the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Monday.

The death toll also included civilians killed in rocket attacks by the Ghadab al-Furat group (dubbed Wrath of the Euphrates) on Sunday, the Observatory said.

Ghadab al-Furat is a Kurdish group fighting under the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). They launched a campaign in October 2016 to retake Raqqa, the de facto capital of the ISIL in northern Syria.

The SDF, which includes the powerful Kurdish YPG armed group, said last week it plans to launch the final assault on Raqqa city in early summer.

US Central Command (CENTCOM) said in a press release on Sunday that it conducted 17 air strikes targeting ISIL in Syria, destroying two ISIL bases in Deir Az Zor and three ISIL headquarters near Raqqa.

It did not mention civilian casualties in its report.

Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently, an activist group in Raqqa, said on Sunday that a school was targeted by the US-led coalition in Mansoura west of Raqqa city.

The school was destroyed in the attack, the group said.

The activists said on Thursday that Raqqa city was targeted with at least 30 coalition air strikes, and 80 rocket attacks by the SDF killing at least 35 civilians in the past 24 hours.

The SDF has been encircling Raqqa since November.

Earlier this month, its fighters captured Tabqa, a previously ISIL-held town some 50km west of Raqqa, and a strategic dam nearby.

The UN said in a report that on May 14, at least 23 farm workers, including 17 women, were reportedly killed when air strikes hit al-Akershi village in a rural area of eastern Raqqa province.

Other air strikes on two residential areas of the ISIL-controlled city of Abo Kamal in eastern Deir Az Zor province the following day (May 15), reportedly killed at least 59 civilians (including 16 children and 12 women) and injured another 70.

The day after that, ISIL fighters are said to have cut the throats of eight men at the sites of the air strikes,after accusing them of providing coordinates for the strikes.

Earlier in May, the Observatory reported the highest monthly civilian death toll for the coalition's campaign in Syria.

Between April 23 and May 23 2017, coalition air strikes killed at least 225 civilians in Syria, including dozens of children.

The US military had said coalition air strikes in Iraq and Syria had "unintentionally" killed a total of 352 civilians since 2014.

At least 23,544 civilians have been displaced between May 18-22, the UN said in a press release last week.

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Raad al- Hussein last week urged all states' air forces operating in the country to take much greater care to distinguish between legitimate military targets and civilians.

"The same civilians who are suffering indiscriminate shelling and summary executions by ISIL, are also falling victim to the escalating air strikes, particularly in the northeastern governorates of Raqqa and Deir Az Zor," Zeid said.

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The UN says at least 23,544 people have been displaced from May 18-22 due to the fighting in Raqq

Source:Al Jazeera

Al Jazeera

Nearly $1m raised for victims of Jeremy Christian

By IGIHE

Muslims among those raising funds as solidarity soars, but fears simmer over planned 'anti-Sharia' march after attack.

Muslims in Portland thanked the community for its support as they raised money for the victims of a deadly attack on a train by an Islamophobic white supremacist.

On Friday, Jeremy Joseph Christian - a 35-year-old who was known to authorities - fatally slit the throats of 53-year-old Ricky John Best and Taliesin Myrddin Namkai Meche, 23, after they stepped in to defend two girls Christian was bullying.

One of the girls is Muslim and was wearing the hijab.

A third victim, 21-year-old Micah David-Cole Fletcher, was also stabbed in the attack.

Fletcher - who in 2013 performed a poem condemning Islamophobia - is in serious condition in hospital, but expected to survive.

"I am very thankful as a Muslim, I am very thankful as a Portlander ... that we stand together here as one," Muhammad Najieb, an imam at the Muslim Community Centre, told the AP news agency.

The two young women "could have been the victims, but three heroes jumped in and supported them", he said.

Destinee Mangum, one of the girls Christian was abusing, told Fox 12 Oregon KPTV: "I just want to say thank you to the people that put their life on the line for me. They lost their lives because of me and my friend, and the way we looked."

Crying as her voice shook, she added: "I appreciate them. Without them, we probably would be dead right now."

A fundraising page launched by Najieb's group for the families of the victims, including the two young women, had raised $50,000 in its first hours.

In total, various pages have raised almost one million dollars for the victims and their families.

By the time of publishing on Monday, Muslims Unite for Portland Heroes had raised $326,593; Tri Met Hero Recovery (for the surviving victim) gathered $133,635; Girls who survived Portland's MAX attack raised $13,084 and Tri Met Heroes received $365,056.

Anti-Muslim march to go ahead

On April 29, local reporter Mike Bivins filmed Christian at a march by the far right.

In the footage, Christian was draped in an American Revolutionary War flag and could be seen performing a Nazi salute and heard shouting "Die Muslims. Die fake Christians. Die Jews", as police watched on.

Joey Gibson, who organised that rally, is behind another march planned for June 4.

While there was solidarity in the Oregon city, there were concerns of more unrest ahead of Gibson's "Portland march against Sharia".

Similar rallies, held under the guise of free speech, are widely believed to be fascist in nature.

"We gotta come together on June 4," said organiser Joey Gibson, in a video posted to his Facebook page. "We need to stand up for what we believe in."

Gibson distanced himself from Christian in the clip, but urged his followers to pray for the suspect.

Extremist ideology

Police said they will examine what appears to be the extremist ideology of Christian, whose social media postings indicate an affinity for Nazis and political violence.

The attack occurred on a light-rail train on the first day of Ramadan, the holiest time of the year for Muslims.

Christian was being held on suspicion of aggravated murder, attempted murder, intimidation and being a felon in possession of a weapon.

He was arrested a short time after the attack when he was confronted by other men, and will face court on Tuesday.

The FBI said it is too early to say whether the slayings qualify as a federal hate crime. However, Christian faces intimidation charges, the state equivalent of a hate crime.

Court records show Christian served prison time for first-degree robbery and second-degree kidnapping after a crime committed 15 years ago, when he was 20, and theft and weapons charges were dismissed in 2010.

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Various groups have raised almost one million dollars for the victims of Friday's attack

Source:Al Jazeera

Al Jazeera

North Korea fires missile in third test in three weeks

By IGIHE

Short-range ballistic Scud missile landed in the Sea of Japan and was the third successful test in as many weeks.

North Korea has test-fired a missile into Japanese waters, the latest in a series of launches that have ratcheted up tensions over its nuclear weapons programme.

It was North Korea's third ballistic missile test in as many weeks and the 12th this year - carried out in fresh defiance of UN sanctions warnings and US threats of possible military action.

US military monitors said the short-range missile flew for six minutes, while Japan said it fell into the country's exclusive economic zone (EEZ) - waters extending 370km from its coast.

The launch comes despite tough talk from US President Donald Trump, who promised last week at the G7 summit that the "big problem" of North Korea "will be solved".

Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe swiftly condemned the test and vowed concerted action along with its US ally.

"We will never tolerate North Korea's continued provocations that ignore repeated warnings by the international community," Abe told reporters.

"As agreed during the G7 summit, the North Korean problem is the international community's top priority. In order to deter North Korea, we will take concrete action with the United States."

Monday's test,a short-range Scud, marks the second time this year that a North Korean missile fell provocatively close to its neighbour Japan.

It flew about 450 kilometres before landing in the Sea of Japan (East Sea) between the Korean peninsula and Japan, the US Pacific Command said.

Conflict 'catastrophic'

North Korea has been stepping up efforts towards its ultimate goal - developing an intercontinental ballistic missile that can deliver a nuclear warhead to the continental US.

The isolated but nuclear-armed North Korea has test-fired a missile almost every week for the past three weeks.

Michael Penn, president of the Tokyo-based Shingetsu news agency, said the latest test was part of a North Korean effort to strengthen its military against any possible threats from the US.

"The missile technology tests themselves do seem to be the priority of the North Korean regime, to get their technology as strong as possible, as quickly as possible, because they feel this is their best way forward – to show their own ability to defend themselves against a Trump administration they cannot predict," Penn told Al Jazeera.

James Mattis, the US secretary of defence, in an interview that aired on Sunday before the launch, said the US favoured diplomacy over war with North Korea, which he said would be "catastrophic".

"The North Korean regime has hundreds of artillery cannons and rocket launchers within range of one of the most densely populated cities on Earth, which is the capital of South Korea," he told CBS News.

"This regime is a threat to the region, to Japan, to South Korea. And in the event of war, they would bring danger to China and to Russia as well.

"But the bottom line is, it would be a catastrophic war if this turns into a combat, if we're not able to resolve this situation through diplomatic means."

Mattis declined to say what kind of action from Pyongyang would constitute a "red line" for Washington, saying the administration needs "political manoeuvre room".

'Direct challenge'

South Korea's new president, Moon Jae-In, ordered a meeting of the national security council to assess the launch, which came a day after North Korea said its leader Kim Jong-un had overseen a test of a new anti-aircraft weapons system.

South Korea condemned the test as a "grave threat" and a challenge to the new leader who advocates dialogue with North Korea in a break from his conservative predecessors.

"That the North repeated such provocations after the inauguration of our new leadership... is a direct challenge to our demand for peace and denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula," the foreign ministry said.

The missile launches, and Pyongyang's threat to stage its sixth nuclear test, have prompted calls for tougher UN sanctions and a warning from Trump that military intervention was an option under consideration.

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South Korea condemned the test as a "grave threat" and a challenge to its new leader

Source:Al Jazeera

Al Jazeera

US 'might' expand laptop ban to all flights

By IGIHE

Laptop ban on all flights into and out of US could be part of a new security measure, Homeland Security Secretary says.

The United States might ban laptops from aircraft cabins on all flights into and out of the country as part of a ramped-up effort to protect against potential security threats, US Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly said on Sunday.

In an interview on "Fox News Sunday," Kelly said America planned to "raise the bar" on airline security, including tightening screening of carry-on items.

"That's the thing that they are obsessed with, the terrorists, the idea of knocking down an airplane in flight, particularly if it's a US carrier, particularly if it's full of US people."

Washington imposed restrictions, in March, on large electronic devices in aircraft cabins on flights from 10 airports.

Kelly said the move would be part of a broader airline security effort to combat what he called "a real sophisticated threat." He said no decision had been made as to the timing of any ban.

"We are still following the intelligence," he said, "and are in the process of defining this, but we're going to raise the bar generally speaking for aviation much higher than it is now."

Airlines are concerned that a broad ban on laptops may erode customer demand. But none wants an incident aboard one of its airplanes.

"Whatever comes out, we'll have to comply with," Oscar Munoz, chief executive officer of United Airlines, told the company's annual meeting last week.

Airlines were blindsided in January when President Donald Trump issued an executive order banning entry for 90 days to citizens from Iraq, Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen, sending airlines scrambling to determine who could board and who could not. The order was later blocked in the courts.

In the case of laptops, the administration is keeping the industry in the loop. Delta Air Lines said in a statement it "continues to be in close contact with the US Department of Homeland Security," while Munoz applauded the administration for giving the company a "heads up."

"We've had constant updates on the subject," he said. "We know more than most. And again, if there's a credible threat out there, we need to make sure we take the appropriate measures."

Among the enhanced security measures will likely be tighter screening of carry-on items to allow Transport Security Administration agents to discern problematic items in tightly stuffed bags.

Kelly said that in order to avoid paying fees for checking bags, people were stuffing them to the point where it was difficult to see through the clutter.

"The more stuff is in there, the less the TSA professionals that are looking at what's in those bags through the monitors can tell what's in them."

The TSA has begun testing certain new procedures at a limited number of airports, requiring people to remove additional items from carry-on bags for separate screenings.

Asked whether the government would expand such measures nationwide, Kelly said: "We might, and likely will."

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Airlines are concerned that a broad ban on laptops may erode customer demand

Source:Al Jazeera

Al Jazeera

Morocco arrests leader of Rif protest movement

By IGIHE

Zefzafi fled the city after an arrest warrant was issued against him for protesting during Friday prayer sermon.

Authorities in Morocco on Monday arrested the fugitive leader of a protest movement that has shaken the country's northern Rif region for months.

Nasser Zefzafi was arrested after a warrant was issued against him for allegedly interrupting a Friday prayer sermon at a mosque in the northern coastal city of Al-Hoceima and calling for further demonstrations, officials said.

The prosecutor of Al-Hoceima said Zefzafi was detained "along with other individuals" and transferred to Casablanca, without providing further details of the arrests.

Prosecutors said the arrest was ordered after Zefzafi "obstructed, in the company of a group of individuals, freedom of worship" at the mosque in Al-Hoceima.

He faces between six months and three years in prison on charges of insulting the Imam, making provocative speeches and sowing disturbances.

Supporters had poured into the streets throughout the weekend, protesting against attempts to detain him.

Hundreds of mainly young demonstrators gathered in two neighbourhoods of the city again on Sunday night chanting "The state is corrupt" and "We are all Zefzafi", according to AFP news agency.

The protesters attempted to make their way to the city's central square but were blocked by security forces. After an hour-long face-off with police, the youths disappeared without incident.

"We cannot take a single step, the police are everywhere," an activist told AFP news agency on condition of anonymity.

As of late Sunday, police had arrested 22 people in connection with the disturbances in Al-Hoceima, officials said.

Authorities have accused protesters of receiving money and other support from abroad "to carry out propaganda activities".

Morocco's northern Rif region has been shaken by social unrest since the death of a fishmonger in October, who was crushed inside a garbage truck while trying to relieve his fish confiscated by the police.

His death evolved into a grassroots movement demanding jobs and economic development with Zefzafi emerging as the leader of the Al-Hirak al-Shaabi or "Popular Movement", based largely in the coastal city of Al-Hoceima.

Last week, Interior Minister Abdelouafi Laftit led a large government delegation to Al-Hoceima.

Officials have promised increased support for the local economy, in particular the crucial fishing industry.

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Moroccan activist Nasser Zefzafi is the leader of the Hirak movement

Source:Al Jazeera

Al Jazeera

Somalia's al-Shabab stones man to death for adultery

By IGIHE

Somali militants have stoned a man to death after an Islamic court convicted him of adultery.

Dayow Mohamed Hassan, 44, was buried neck-deep and pelted to death with stones by al-Shabab fighters.

He was convicted of being in an adulterous relationship with a woman and impregnating her, despite having two wives, an official said.

Al-Shabab occasionally passes such sentences for sexual offences in areas it controls in Somalia.

In 2014, a teenage boy was stoned to death after being convicted of raping a woman.

In 2008, a young girl was killed in a similar manner after being convicted of adultery.

In the latest case, a woman filed a complaint of rape against Hassan, but the court tried him for adultery as it is easier to prove, says BBC Somali's Mohamed Mohamed.

Hundreds of people watched him being stoned death in Ramo Adey village in the south-central Bay region, said Moalim Geedow, the al-Shabab governor for the area.

"The man had a third woman who was a divorcee... He deceived her, saying that he went to a sheikh [religious leader] and that he married her," Mr Geedow told Reuters news agency.

"However, when the woman got pregnant, the two families debated and there was no trace of valid matrimony. The court ruled he did not marry her legally and he was stoned to death."

Al-Shabab is fighting to overthrow the weak UN-backed government in Somalia and impose its own strict interpretation of Islamic law.

It has lost control of many towns and cities to a 22,000-strong African Union force supporting the government.

But the group, linked to al-Qaeda, still has a strong presence in many rural areas.

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Al-Shabab is al-Qaeda's main affiliate in East Africa

Source:BBC

BBC

Libya Benghazi: Group blamed for 2012 attack on US mission disbands

By IGIHE

A group of militant Islamists in Libya, blamed by the US for the 2012 attack on the US mission in Benghazi which killed the ambassador, says it has disbanded.

The Ansar al-Sharia group said that its leadership had been wiped out while fighting the Libya National Army.

Most of its members are thought to have defected to the Islamic State group.

Separately, a case against Hillary Clinton brought by the parents of two Americans killed in the Benghazi attack has been dismissed by a US judge.

The Benghazi diplomatic compound attack killed four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens, while Mrs Clinton was secretary of state. The issue dogged her presidential campaign last year.

Patricia Smith and Charles Woods, parents of two of those killed, filed a lawsuit against Mrs Clinton for wrongful death and defamation.

The suit claimed the former secretary of state's use of a private email server contributed to their sons' deaths by exposing their details to the attackers.

The parents also accused her of defaming them in statements to the media.

But federal judge Amy Berman Jackson ruled that Mrs Clinton was acting in her official capacity while using her private email server, so the US government should be the defendant.

She also ruled that the parents should have raised, as legally required, their claims with the state department before launching their legal action. Because of this, she decided in favour of the government's motion to dismiss the counts against it.

She judged that the parents did not have enough evidence to substantiate their claim that Mrs Clinton had called them, or implied, that they were liars.

The al-Qaeda linked Ansar al-Sharia group emerged in Benghazi - Libya's second largest city - in the upheavals following the death of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi in 2011. At one point in 2014 they took control of the city.

But the group suffered heavy casualties while fending off continued offences launched by Libyan National Army strongman Khalifa Haftar - who earlier this month repeated his efforts to drive jihadist fighters out of their two remaining strongholds in Benghazi.
The online announcement of Ansar's formal disbandment called on Islamists to form a united front in Benghazi.

Libya now has two rival parliaments and three governments. The bulk of the fighting is between the Libyan National Army and forces aligned with the UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli.

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Many of Ansar a-Sharia's members and supporters have defected to the so-called Islamic State group

Source:BBC

BBC

Congo-Kinshasa: Genetic testing underway on Virus behind new Ebola outbreak

By IGIHE

Tests are underway to determine the genetic sequence of the Ebola virus behind an outbreak in central Africa, a U.S. Centers for Disease Control researcher said Friday.

Dr. Barbara Knust, an epidemiologist, told VOA's Horn of Africa service that scientists are looking for "clues" about where this strain of Ebola originated and how to treat it.

"That could help [us] understand how this virus is related to other viruses that have caused other Ebola outbreaks," she said.

The latest Ebola outbreak is in northern Democratic Republic of the Congo, in a remote area near the border with the Central African Republic. The World Health Organization said that as of May 24, Ebola had killed four people in the area and the number of suspected cases stood at 44.

The Ebola virus, which causes a type of hemorrhagic fever, killed more than 11,000 people across the West African countries of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone in 2014 and 2015.

Staff from the CDC, the WHO, the Congolese Ministry of Health and other agencies are in Congo's Bas Uele province, working to contain the spread of the virus. Knust said the international response was going "fine."

"The responders involved in this outbreak very certainly are taking it seriously and the resources have been mobilized quickly," she said. "At least at this point of time [it] appears that it was detected fairly early, although that information is forthcoming. There is some hope it will remain a limited outbreak."

She said there had been discussion of using experimental treatments used in the West African outbreak, but that the Congolese government had not given its approval.

Dr. Galma Guyo, a disease control specialist in Nairobi, was part of an African Union team that responded to the Ebola outbreak in Liberia. He warned that the DRC's location in the center of Africa could allow the virus there to spread across borders.

"There is a possibility that the viruses can easily spread and be hard to detect due to the remoteness of the region, too," he said.

Source:Voice of America

Voice of America

Kenya:IEBC clears 6 and rejects 3 for State House race

By IGIHE

The electoral commission has so far cleared six presidential candidates to face off in the August General Election.

They are National Super Alliance leader Raila Odinga, Cyrus Jirongo (United Democratic Party), Ekuru Aukot (Thirdway Alliance) and Michael Wainaina (Independent).

Flopped

Others are Mohamed Dida (Alliance for Real Change) and Joe Nyagah (Independent).

By midday Monday, three aspirants had flopped the test the Independent Electoral and Boundaries commission set for politicians gunning for the top seat in the land.

They are Peter Solomon Gichira (Independent), Erastus Nyamera (Independent) and Justice and Equality Party flagbearer Justus Juma.

Mr Gichira's loss saw him attempt to jump off the 6th floor of Anniversary Towers, the IEBC headquarters, in protest on Saturday afternoon.

He was on Monday charged before a Nairobi court with attempted suicide, malicious damage and creating disturbance at IEBC's offices.

SH200,000

He denied the three charges and Chief Magistrate Francis Andayi released him on Sh 200,000 cash bail.

Mr Nyamera flopped the IEBC test after presenting himself before the Wafula Chebukati-led panel without a running mate.

He also failed to produce his academic papers, Sh200,000 cheque and requisite signatures.

Mr Juma, on the other hand, failed to secure the green light to run for the top office after it emerged that his proposer was not a member of his party.

President Uhuru Kenyatta is expected to present his papers to the commission from 2.30pm.

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Independent candidate Michael Wainaina and his running mate Miriam Mutua address the press after being cleared by the IEBC at KICC, Nairobi, on May 29, 2017.

Source:Daily Nation

Daily Nation

Tanzania:27 perish in mines within five months

By IGIHE

Mining sector-related accidents are on a worrisome upward trend, according to a new report, which shows that 27 people lost their lives within the first five months of this year.

The Chief Inspector of Mines, Mr Ally Samaje, says besides the casualties, 46 people were injured in eleven accidents that were recorded between January and May – one of the highest in recent years.

β€œDuring the whole of 2016, the recorded number of deaths and injuries was 30 and 32. The latest figures, even before we are half-way the current year, indicates that local quarries are increasingly becoming death traps,” he said.

The Ministry of Energy and Minerals has embarked on a countrywide mission to train artisan miners on safety precautions in quarries. He said a session had been conducted at the Mirerani Mining Hills in Simanjiro District in Manyara Region.

Four people died in three accidents there so far this year. It was during the session that Mr Samaje painted the grim picture, and told quarry owners that the government won't hesitate to close down and revoke the licences of those whose sites would be deemed to be unsafe.

The training programme covers the Northern, Central, Western, Lake-Victoria, Eastern, the Western Peninsula, Southern Highlands and Lake Nyasa zones.

Landslides, explosions, suffocation, electrocution and fire outbreaks are among the major causes of accidents. On his part, the Commissioner for Minerals, Engineer Benjamin Mchwampaka, has ordered all mines to have managers who must monitor the activities of mining pits closely, and ensure that accurate records of workers assigned in the basements are kept.

He remarked: β€œWe have discovered that some of those engaged in the operations down there are casual labourers whose identity and number are unknown. This poses problems for rescue teams in the event of accidents.

” The Executive Secretary of Mirerani Artisan Miners Association, Mr Aboubakar Madiwa, proposed that training sessions at Simanjiro should be conducted at weekly intervals, because the hills host 593 small scale miners, and the figure keeps rising.

Meanwhile, Mugini Jacob reports that a new small gold mine has been closed indefinitely after claiming the life of an artisanal miner at Merenga village in Serengeti District, Mara Region.

Source:Daily News

Daily News

Mushikiwabo urges African countries on facilitating free movement

By IGIHE

The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Louise Mushikiwabo has stressed the need to remove barriers to enhance free movement among Africans to ease cooperation and promote trade without considering free movement a threat to national security.

Mushikiwabo made the call on Saturday as she launched Committee of Intelligence and Security Services of Africa, (CISSA) workshop on the theme centering on β€˜Free movement of persons in Africa'.

The meeting brought together security chiefs and various experts from African countries.

Mushikiwabo recalled Africa Liberation Day celebrated on 25th May 2017 highlighting that no reason should keep Africa divided over colonial history.

β€œAs we celebrate Africa Liberation Day, no reason should keep Africa divided along colonial boundaries making it the most closed continent over top reasons rooted on embargos taken for fellow Africans,” she said.

β€œSuch decisions must be based on willingness to maintain security and protecting national economies and creating jobs. Free movement of people should not be directly associated with insecurity and socio-economic hardship; and that is why we must anticipate, prepare, share information and coordinate our collective security,” she said.

Mushikiwabo pointed out an example of Seychelles asβ€˜the only African country to offer visa-free access for all Africans and the most open country to Africans' which is β€˜secure and has no particular socio-economic challenge.'

Mushikiwabo noted that only cooperation as a continent would help address Africa's problems and urged Africans to learn from past mistakes to make improvements.
Terrorism, human trafficking and epidemics like Ebole are among areas pointed as challenges to free movement.

The Africa Visa Openness report 2017 carried out by World Bank, African Development Bank and African Union Commission indicates that 21 African countries have made a progress in facilitating free movement compared to previous 2015 report.

The report indicates that 40% of leading 20 African countries facilitating free movement are from East Africa, 35% being West, 20% from South and 5% from Northern Africa. No country from central Africa appears on the list.

The Secretary-General of the National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS), Brig Gen Joseph Nzabamwita who also chairs CISSA said economy and trade improved since East African countries facilitated free movements.

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The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mushikiwabo Louise in a group photo with security chiefs and various experts from African countries.
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The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Louise Mushikiwabo giving her remarks.

IGIHE

Losing sleep over climate change

By IGIHE

Climate change may keep you awake β€” and not just metaphorically. Nights that are warmer than normal can harm human sleep, researchers show in a new paper, with the poor and elderly most affected. According to their findings, if climate change is not addressed, temperatures in 2050 could cost people in the United States millions of additional nights of insufficient sleep per year. By 2099, the figure could rise by several hundred million more nights of lost sleep annually.

The study was led by Nick Obradovich, who conducted much of the research as a doctoral student in political science at the University of California San Diego. He was inspired to investigate the question by the heat wave that hit San Diego in October of 2015. Obradovich was having trouble sleeping. He tossed and he turned, the window AC in his North Park home providing little relief from the record-breaking temperatures. At school, he noticed that fellow students were also looking grumpy and bedraggled, and it got him thinking: Had anyone looked at what climate change might do to sleep?

Published by Science Advances, the research represents the largest real-world study to date to find a relationship between reports of insufficient sleep and unusually warm nighttime temperatures. It is the first to apply the discovered relationship to projected climate change.

"Sleep has been well-established by other researchers as a critical component of human health. Too little sleep can make a person more susceptible to disease and chronic illness, and it can harm psychological well-being and cognitive functioning," Obradovich said. "What our study shows is not only that ambient temperature can play a role in disrupting sleep but also that climate change might make the situation worse by driving up rates of sleep loss."

Obradovich is now a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government and a research scientist at the MIT Media Lab. He is also a fellow of the Center for Marine Biodiversity and Conservation at UC San Diego's Scripps Institution of Oceanography. Obradovich worked on the study with Robyn Migliorini, a student in the San Diego State University/UC San Diego Joint Doctoral Program in Clinical Psychology, and sleep researcher Sara Mednick of UC Riverside. Obradovich's dissertation advisor, social scientist James Fowler of UC San Diego, is also a co-author.

The study starts with data from 765,000 U.S. residents between 2002 and 2011 who responded to a public health survey, the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance Survey from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The study then links data on self-reported nights of insufficient sleep to daily temperature data from the National Centers for Environmental Information. Finally, it combines the effects of unusually warm temperatures on sleep with climate model projections.

The main finding is that anomalous increases in nighttime temperature by 1 degree Celsius translate to three nights of insufficient sleep per 100 individuals per month. To put that in perspective: If we had a single month of nightly temperatures averaging 1 degree Celsius higher than normal, that is equivalent to 9 million more nights of insufficient sleep in a month across the population of the United States today, or 110 million extra nights of insufficient sleep annually.

The negative effect of warmer nights is most acute in summer, the research shows. It is almost three times as high in summer as during any other season.

The effect is also not spread evenly across all demographic groups. Those whose income is below $50,000 and those who are aged 65 and older are affected most severely. For older people, the effect is twice that of younger adults. And for the lower-income group, it is three times worse than for people who are better off financially.

Using climate projections for 2050 and 2099 by NASA Earth Exchange, the study paints a bleak picture of the future if the relationship between warmer nights and disrupted sleep persists. Warmer temperatures could cause six additional nights of insufficient sleep per 100 individuals by 2050 and approximately 14 extra nights per 100 by 2099.

"The U.S. is relatively temperate and, in global terms, quite prosperous," Obradovich said. "We don't have sleep data from around the world, but assuming the pattern is similar, one can imagine that in places that are warmer or poorer or both, what we'd find could be even worse."

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Areas of the western and northern United States β€” where nighttime temperatures are projected to increase most β€” may experience the largest future changes in sleep.

Source:Science Daily

Science Daily

Rulindo mayor urges leaders on fighting injustice

By IGIHE

The mayor of Rulindo District, Emmanuel Kayiranga has urged grassroots leaders to fight corruption and all other forms of injustice.

The mayor was addressing sector and cell executive secretaries recently.

Kayiranga observed that some leaders solicit bribes or delay to offer a service which affect service delivery and good governance.

β€œYou have a duty to be closer and to work with the people. You can't assume that you are giving people the required service when you are not there, and this is why sometimes those who feel frustrated may tempt to give a bribe to get a free service,” Kayiranga said.

β€œCriminality exist where leaders, the people and security organs work independently. We are way beyond that and you should be drivers of community policing initiatives to ensure that crimes are detected and prevented,” he said.

The District Police Commander, Supt. Aphrodis Gashumba, challenged the local leaders to distance themselves from all tendencies of corruption.

β€œThe impact of corruption are severe, however small you might perceive it. It is a crime that undermines governance, denies people their right to services. you should report anytime you witness it,” the DPC said.

He urged them to be exemplary and be close to the people and also fight use and sell of illicit drugs.

Source:Police

Police

Mind-controlled device helps stroke patients retrain brains to move paralyzed hands

By IGIHE

Device reads brain signals, converts them into motion

Stroke patients who learned to use their minds to open and close a device fitted over their paralyzed hands gained some control over their hands, according to a new study from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.

By mentally controlling the device with the help of a brain-computer interface, participants trained the uninjured parts of their brains to take over functions previously performed by injured areas of the brain, the researchers said.

"We have shown that a brain-computer interface using the uninjured hemisphere can achieve meaningful recovery in chronic stroke patients," said Eric Leuthardt, MD, a professor of neurosurgery, of neuroscience, of biomedical engineering, and of mechanical engineering & applied science, and the study's co-senior author.

The study is published May 26 in the journal Stroke.

Stroke is the leading cause of acquired disability among adults. About 700,000 people in the United States experience a stroke every year, and 7 million are living with the aftermath.

In the first weeks after a stroke, people rapidly recover some abilities, but their progress typically plateaus after about three months.

"We chose to evaluate the device in patients who had their first stroke six months or more in the past because not a lot of gains are happening by that point," said co-senior author Thy Huskey, MD, an associate professor of neurology at the School of Medicine and program director of the Stroke Rehabilitation Center of Excellence at The Rehabilitation Institute of St. Louis. "Some lose motivation. But we need to continue working on finding technology to help this neglected patient population."

David Bundy, PhD, the study's first author and a former graduate student in Leuthardt's lab, worked to take advantage of a quirk in how the brain controls movement of the limbs. In general, areas of the brain that control movement are on the opposite side of the body from the limbs they control. But about a decade ago, Leuthardt and Bundy, who is now a postdoctoral researcher at University of Kansas Medical Center, discovered that a small area of the brain played a role in planning movement on the same side of the body.

To move the left hand, they realized, specific electrical signals indicating movement planning first appear in a motor area on the left side of the brain. Within milliseconds, the right-sided motor areas become active, and the movement intention is translated into actual contraction of muscles in the hand.

A person whose left hand and arm are paralyzed has sustained damage to the motor areas on the right side of the brain. But the left side of the person's brain is frequently intact, meaning many stroke patients can still generate the electrical signal that indicates an intention to move. The signal, however, goes nowhere since the area that executes the movement plan is out of commission.

"The idea is that if you can couple those motor signals that are associated with moving the same-sided limb with the actual movements of the hand, new connections will be made in your brain that allow the uninjured areas of your brain to take over control of the paralyzed hand," Leuthardt said.

That's where the Ipsihand, a device developed by Washington University scientists, comes in. The Ipsihand comprises a cap that contains electrodes to detect electrical signals in the brain, a computer that amplifies the signals, and a movable brace that fits over the paralyzed hand. The device detects the wearer's intention to open or close the paralyzed hand, and moves the hand in a pincer-like grip, with the second and third fingers bending to meet the thumb.

"Of course, there's a lot more to using your arms and hands than this, but being able to grasp and use your opposable thumb is very valuable," Huskey said. "Just because your arm isn't moving exactly as it was before, it's not worthless. We can still interact with the world with the weakened arm."

Leuthardt played a key role in elucidating the basic science, and he worked with Daniel Moran, PhD, a professor of biomedical engineering at Washington University School of Engineering & Applied Science, to develop the technology behind the Ipsihand. He and Moran co-founded the company Neurolutions Inc. to continue developing the Ipsihand, and Leuthardt serves on the company's board of directors. Neurolutions funded this study.

To test the Ipsihand, Huskey recruited moderately to severely impaired stroke patients and trained them to use the device at home. The participants were encouraged to use the device at least five days a week, for 10 minutes to two hours a day. Thirteen patients began therapy, but three dropped out due to unrelated health issues, poor fit of the device or inability to comply with the time commitment. Ten patients completed the study.

Participants underwent a standard motor skills evaluation at the start of the study and every two weeks throughout. The test measured their ability to grasp, grip and pinch with their hands, and to make large motions with their arms. Among other things, participants were asked to pick up a block and place it atop a tower, fit a tube around a smaller tube, and move their hands to their mouths. Higher scores indicated better function.

After 12 weeks of using the device, the patients' scores increased an average of 6.2 points on a 57-point scale.

"An increase of six points represents a meaningful improvement in quality of life," Leuthardt said. "For some people, this represents the difference between being unable to put on their pants by themselves and being able to do so."

Each participant also rated his or her ability to use the affected arm and his or her satisfaction with the skills. Self-reported abilities and satisfaction significantly improved over the course of the study.

How much each patient improved varied, and the degree of improvement did not correlate with time spent using the device. Rather, it correlated with how well the device read brain signals and converted them into hand movements.

"As the technology to pick up brain signals gets better, I'm sure the device will be even more effective at helping stroke patients recover some function," Huskey said.

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Medical resident Jarod Roland, MD, tries out a device that detects electrical activity in his brain and causes his hand to open and close in response to brain signals. A new study shows that this device can help chronic stroke patients recover some control over their paralyzed limbs.

Source:Science Daily

Science Daily

Weekend double win for Police Handball Club as they stretch unbeaten run

By IGIHE

Saturday and Sunday wins for Police Handball Club against GS St Aloys Rwamagana and ADEGI Gituza of Gatsibo, respectively, ensured that the reigning champions remained in contention for their fourth successive national league trophy.

The five time champions trounced GS St Aloys 31-21 prior to their Sunday encounter with ADEGI Gituza, whom they beat 36-21.

Day 12 and Day 13 match wins stretched their points to 39 maximum points and second on the log, albeit a game in hand, which gives APR a hand to sit on the summit with 40 points.

Police head coach, Assistant Inspector of Police (AIP) Antoine Ntabanganyimana believes that his side can register yet another season to reckon.

"We haven't lost any match in the last three consecutive seasons. Our philosophy for the last three seasons is to win each and every game. So far, we have a game less to play which gives us an upper hand to reclaim the summit," AIP Ntabanganyimana said.

Police's game in hand will be against ES Kigoma.

"We are also in preparation for the Genocide memorial cup which starts in the coming days," he added.

The tournament will bring clubs from the host Rwanda, Uganda, Tanzania , Kenya and Zambia.

Source:Police

Police

Rates of suicide 'worrying' among people with autism, say experts

By IGIHE

Suicide rates among people with autism in England have reached "worryingly" high levels, according to experts writing in the Lancet Psychiatry.

Writing ahead of a world-first international summit on suicidality in autism, the researchers β€” from Coventry and Newcastle universities β€” say the issue remains poorly understood and that action is urgently needed to help those most at risk.

Dr Sarah Cassidy from Coventry University cites a clinical study she led in 2014 β€” also published in the Lancet Psychiatry β€” in which 66% of adults newly diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome (AS) reported having contemplated suicide.

In the same study β€” which remains the most recent clinical research into suicidality in autism β€” 35% of the 365 respondents newly diagnosed with AS said they had planned or attempted to end their own life, with 31% reporting that they suffered depression.

A 2016 population study in Sweden also concluded that suicide is a leading cause of premature death in people with autism spectrum disorder.

Dr Cassidy from Coventry University's Centre for Research in Psychology, Behaviour and Achievement said,"What relatively little we know about suicidality in autism points to a worryingly high prevalence of people with the condition contemplating and attempting to take their own life.

"More concerning still, the small body of research that does exist exposes serious shortcomings in how prepared we are to intervene and provide effective support to those with autism who are most at risk of dying by suicide.

"There are significant differences, for example, in the risk factors for suicide in autism compared with the general population, meaning the journey from suicidal thoughts to suicidal behaviours might be quite different.

"The models we currently consider best practise for assessing and treating suicidality need to be rethought for those with autism, and policy adjusted accordingly so new approaches are reflected across services."

Co-author Dr Jacqui Rodgers from Newcastle University's Institute of Neuroscience said,"This unique event is of huge importance. For the first time researchers and clinicians from the fields of autism and suicide research will come together, along with members of the autism community and those bereaved by suicide, to learn from each other and identify clinical and research priorities to address this urgent issue."

Jon Spiers, chief executive of autism research charity Autistica, said, "For years society and the healthcare system have ignored the voices of families who have lost autistic loved ones unnecessarily, and far too young. Recent research revealing the sheer scale of the problem proves that we cannot let that continue.

"National and local government, research funders and industry, as well as the NHS and service providers all have a responsibility to tackle the issue of suicide in autism. Autistica is committed to playing a major part by funding mental health research programmes. This suicide summit will kick-start our campaign for change in this severely overlooked area."

Coventry and Newcastle universities are running the international summit on suicide in autism β€” the first of its kind anywhere in the world β€” over the next two days, with funding from Autistica and the James Lind Alliance.

The aim is to develop recommendations for changes in government policy and practise that can be implemented quickly to reduce suicide in autism, and to decide on priorities for future research in the field.

Source:Science Daily

Science Daily

Where rivers meet the sea: Harnessing energy generated when freshwater meets saltwater

By IGIHE

Penn State researchers have created a new hybrid technology that produces unprecedented amounts of electrical power where seawater and freshwater combine at the coast.

"The goal of this technology is to generate electricity from where the rivers meet the ocean," said Christopher Gorski, assistant professor in environmental engineering at Penn State. "It's based on the difference in the salt concentrations between the two water sources."

That difference in salt concentration has the potential to generate enough energy to meet up to 40 percent of global electricity demands. Though methods currently exist to capture this energy, the two most successful methods, pressure retarded osmosis (PRO) and reverse electrodialysis (RED), have thus far fallen short.

PRO, the most common system, selectively allows water to transport through a semi-permeable membrane, while rejecting salt. The osmotic pressure created from this process is then converted into energy by turning turbines.

"PRO is so far the best technology in terms of how much energy you can get out," Gorski said. "But the main problem with PRO is that the membranes that transport the water through foul, meaning that bacteria grows on them or particles get stuck on their surfaces, and they no longer transport water through them."

This occurs because the holes in the membranes are incredibly small, so they become blocked easily. In addition, PRO doesn't have the ability to withstand the necessary pressures of super-salty waters.

The second technology, RED, uses an electrochemical gradient to develop voltages across ion-exchange membranes.

"Ion-exchange membranes only allow either positively charged ions to move through them or negatively charged ions," Gorski explained. "So only the dissolved salt is going through, and not the water itself."

Here, the energy is created when chloride or sodium ions are kept from crossing ion-exchange membranes as a result of selective ion transport. Ion-exchange membranes don't require water to flow through them, so they don't foul as easily as the membranes used in PRO; however, the problem with RED is that it doesn't have the ability to produce large amounts of power.

A third technology, capacitive mixing (CapMix), is a relatively new method also being explored. CapMix is an electrode-based technology that captures energy from the voltage that develops when two identical electrodes are sequentially exposed to two different kinds of water with varying salt concentrations, such as freshwater and seawater. Like RED, the problem with CapMix is that it's not able to yield enough power to be viable.

Gorski, along with Bruce Logan, Evan Pugh Professor and the Stan and Flora Kappe Professor of Environmental Engineering, and Taeyoung Kim, post-doctoral scholar in environmental engineering, may have found a solution to these problems. The researchers have combined both the RED and CapMix technologies in an electrochemical flow cell.

"By combining the two methods, they end up giving you a lot more energy," Gorski said.

The team constructed a custom-built flow cell in which two channels were separated by an anion-exchange membrane. A copper hexacyanoferrate electrode was then placed in each channel, and graphite foil was used as a current collector. The cell was then sealed using two end plates with bolts and nuts. Once built, one channel was fed with synthetic seawater, while the other channel was fed with synthetic freshwater. Periodically switching the water's flow paths allowed the cell to recharge and further produce power. From there, they examined how the cutoff voltage used for switching flow paths, external resistance and salt concentrations influenced peak and average power production.

"There are two things going on here that make it work," said Gorski. "The first is you have the salt going to the electrodes. The second is you have the chloride transferring across the membrane. Since both of these processes generate a voltage, you end up developing a combined voltage at the electrodes and across the membrane."

To determine the gained voltage of the flow cell depending on the type of membrane used and salinity difference, the team recorded open-circuit cell voltages while feeding two solutions at 15 milliliters per minute. Through this method, they identified that stacking multiple cells did influence electricity production. At 12.6 watts per square meter, this technology leads to peak power densities that are unprecedentedly high compared to previously reported RED (2.9 watts per square meter), and on par with the maximum calculated values for PRO (9.2 watts per square meter), but without the fouling problems.

"What we've shown is that we can bring that power density up to what people have reported for pressure retarded osmosis and to a value much higher than what has been reported if you use these two processes alone," Gorski said.

Though the results are promising, the researchers want to do more research on the stability of the electrodes over time and want to know how other elements in seawater β€” like magnesium and sulfate β€” might affect the performance of the cell.

"Pursuing renewable energy sources is important," Gorski said. "If we can do carbon neutral energy, we should."

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Photograph of the concentration flow cell. Two plates clamp the cell together, which contains two narrow channels fed with either synthetic freshwater or seawater through the plastic lines.

Source:Science Daily

Science Daily

Why the Sumatra earthquake was so severe

By IGIHE

An international team of scientists has found evidence suggesting the dehydration of minerals deep below the ocean floor influenced the severity of the Sumatra earthquake, which took place on December 26, 2004.

The earthquake, measuring magnitude 9.2, and the subsequent tsunami, devastated coastal communities of the Indian Ocean, killing over 250,000 people.

Research into the earthquake was conducted during a scientific ocean drilling expedition to the region in 2016, as part of the International Ocean Discovery Program (IODP), led by scientists from the University of Southampton and Colorado School of Mines.

During the expedition on board the research vessel JOIDES Resolution, the researchers sampled, for the first time, sediments and rocks from the oceanic tectonic plate which feeds the Sumatra subduction zone. A subduction zone is an area where two of the Earth's tectonic plates converge, one sliding beneath the other, generating the largest earthquakes on Earth, many with destructive tsunamis.

Findings of a study on sediment samples found far below the seabed are now detailed in a new paper led by Dr Andre HΓΌpers of the MARUM-Center for Marine Environmental Sciences at University of Bremen - published in the journal Science.

Expedition co-leader Professor Lisa McNeill, of the University of Southampton, says: "The 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami was triggered by an unusually strong earthquake with an extensive rupture area. We wanted to find out what caused such a large earthquake and tsunami and what this might mean for other regions with similar geological properties."

The scientists concentrated their research on a process of dehydration of sedimentary minerals deep below the ground, which usually occurs within the subduction zone. It is believed this dehydration process, which is influenced by the temperature and composition of the sediments, normally controls the location and extent of slip between the plates, and therefore the severity of an earthquake.

In Sumatra, the team used the latest advances in ocean drilling to extract samples from 1.5 km below the seabed. They then took measurements of sediment composition and chemical, thermal, and physical properties and ran simulations to calculate how the sediments and rock would behave once they had travelled 250 km to the east towards the subduction zone, and been buried significantly deeper, reaching higher temperatures.

The researchers found that the sediments on the ocean floor, eroded from the Himalayan mountain range and Tibetan Plateau and transported thousands of kilometres by rivers on land and in the ocean, are thick enough to reach high temperatures and to drive the dehydration process to completion before the sediments reach the subduction zone. This creates unusually strong material, allowing earthquake slip at the subduction fault surface to shallower depths and over a larger fault area - causing the exceptionally strong earthquake seen in 2004.

Dr Andre HΓΌpers of the University of Bremen says: "Our findings explain the extent of the large rupture area, which was a feature of the 2004 earthquake, and suggest that other subduction zones with thick and hotter sediment and rocks, could also experience this phenomenon.

"This will be particularly important for subduction zones with limited or no historic subduction earthquakes, where the hazard potential is not well known. Subduction zone earthquakes typically have a return time of a few hundred to a thousand years. Therefore our knowledge of previous earthquakes in some subduction zones can be very limited."

Similar subduction zones exist in the Caribbean (Lesser Antilles), off Iran and Pakistan (Makran), and off western USA and Canada (Cascadia). The team will continue research on the samples and data obtained from the Sumatra drilling expedition over the next few years, including laboratory experiments and further numerical simulations, and they will use their results to assess the potential future hazards both in Sumatra and at these comparable subduction zones.

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A 'free-fall funnel', part of the drilling process.

Source:Science Daily

Science Daily

How do blind cavefish find their way? The answer could be in their bones

By IGIHE

A study has found asymmetry in the cranial bones of Mexican cavefish

Imagine living in perpetual darkness in an alien world where you have to find food quickly by touch or starve for months at a time.

The limestone caverns of Mexico's Sierra del Abra Tanchipa rainforest contain deep cisterns cloaked in utter blackness. This is where researchers at the University of Cincinnati traveled to find a little fish (Astyanax mexicanus) that has evolved to feast or endure famine entombed hundreds of feet below the ground.

"They have been able to invade this really extreme environment. They are exposed to darkness their entire life yet they're able to survive and thrive," said Amanda Powers, a UC graduate student and lead author of a study on blind cavefish published in May in the journal PLOS One.

"They've evolved changes to their metabolism and skull structure. They've enhanced their sensory systems. And they can survive in an environment where not many animals could," she said.

Mexican cavefish are bizarre, not merely blind but born with eyes that regress until they are completely lost as adults. The bones of their once-round eye orbits have collapsed. In place of eyes, their empty sockets store fat deposits that are covered in the same silvery, nearly translucent scales as the rest of their pale, unpigmented bodies.

The UC study examined one biological adaptation that might help to explain how these fish navigate and find food without benefit of sight β€” asymmetry. Researchers examined juvenile and adult cavefish to understand how their skulls change during their lives.

Most fish are symmetrical β€” their left and right sides are virtually identical and streamlined to provide the most efficient locomotion in the water.

Cavefish are genetically similar to their symmetrical and keen-sighted cousins, Mexican tetras, found in nearby creeks and rivers on the surface. They're so closely related that they easily interbreed and produce fertile young, even though the two species are believed to have diverged millions of years ago.

Cavefish start their lives with symmetrical features like other fish. But when they mature, their fragmented cranial bones harden in a visibly skewed direction, the study found.

UC's researchers speculate that this adaptation helps the typically left-leaning cavefish navigate by using sensory organs called neuromasts to follow the contours of the cave as they swim in a perpetual counterclockwise pattern. This behavior was observed among captive cavefish, which keep moving around the edges of their tanks while surface fish tend to stay motionless in the shadows of their tank or swim in haphazard ways.

"That was a real big piece of the puzzle for us," said Joshua Gross, a UC biology professor and co-author. "It's a mystery how they've been able to adapt. The amazing thing is that they're not just barely surviving β€” they thrive in total darkness."

Gross has been studying cavefish for years at UC. They make an excellent model to examine regressive evolution, the process by which animals lose features over generations, he said.

"The traits they've lost are very conspicuous β€” their eyes, their pigmentation," Gross said. "The beauty of studying cave animals is it's a very robust model for understanding why features are lost, and it's a simple, stable set of environmental pressures that cause those features to go away."

Cave-dwelling animals as diverse as salamanders and crayfish have responded similarly by losing pigment and eyesight while gaining or augmenting other sensory structures.

"The fact that they're all moving in the same evolutionary direction is not a coincidence. They're all living in total darkness with a limited food supply," he said.

Cavefish are especially valuable for evolutionary study, Gross said, because of their genetic relationship with readily abundant surface fish. Many antecedents of other cave-dwelling animals have been lost to extinction from natural selection or calamity.

The UC biology lab has dozens of aquariums and breeding tanks full of cave and surface fish, each smaller than a goldfish. Researchers use QR-code stickers to keep track of the family history of the resident fish swimming in slow circles.

The hardy fish are easy to keep because they are not picky eaters. They get a mix of foods including flakes, brine shrimp and blackworms. UC gets its study fish from natural populations maintained by colleagues and reputable breeders.

"Our lab really tries to avoid taking any animals from nature," Gross said.

Mexican cavefish also are raised as a popular aquarium pet.

The skulls of all but a couple cavefish UC studied bend to the left. They seem to be right-finned, swimming in a lazy counterclockwise pattern around their aquariums in the biology lab.

"You could see how asymmetry might be an advantage in navigation," Powers said.

"They tend to swim in a unidirectional, circular motion around their tanks to explore their surroundings," she said. "Having asymmetry in their skull we think is attributed to handedness. If their skull is bent to the left, they could be 'right-handed.' They're feeling the wall to the right with their sensory structures."

This kind of asymmetry is uncommon in nature. Think of the fiddler crab with its outsized claw. Owls have asymmetrical ears β€” one canal placed higher on the skull than the other β€” perhaps to help the night predators target the faint rustling of a mouse in the dark.

In the biology lab, researchers breed surface fish with cavefish and study the resulting hybrids, co-author and recent UC graduate Shane Kaplan said. He and UC student Erin Davis also contributed to the study.

The interesting genetic combinations occur in the second generation or F2 population of hybridization, he said.

"You can capture the genetic diversity of the entire population," Kaplan said. "Some fish look exactly like surface fish. Others look exactly like cavefish. Then you'll have intermittent phenotypes. Some are pale but have eyes while others will have no eyes but are fully pigmented."

The study was funded by grants from the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation.

Powers traveled with Gross to Mexico in 2013, in 2015 and again this year to study wild cavefish. They wore dust masks to guard against fungal spores associated with the respiratory disease histoplasmosis, which can be found in bat guano. Getting to the fish pools required a little spelunking.

"The group ahead of us disturbed some bats. As we were coming in, bats were going out," she said. "They have incredible echo-location. The bats knew where you were and would fly around you in the darkness, even though it was a very small chamber."

The cave had several distinct pools, each farther from the entrance. The deeper they went, the fewer surface-dwelling fish they found until they found only blind cavefish.

"Whenever you would touch the surface of the water with your finger, a swarm of cavefish would come right up to it," Powers said. "Not many fish would do that. These cavefish have zero predators so they're not afraid. That was a really cool experience."

Kaplan said it would be worthwhile to explore the cavefish's DNA to find out what prompts the asymmetry in adult cavefish.

"We haven't yet delved into why it's happening. I'd love to get more into the genetics and developmental processes that lead to these bizarre phenotypes," Kaplan said.

Gross said his biology lab will continue to pursue these and other questions about this fascinating fish that has mastered a dark, subterranean realm, indifferent to the bright, colorful and chaotic world above it.

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A micro-CT scan shows the differences in bone structure between a surface fish and a blind cavefish.

Source:Science Daily

Science Daily

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