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  • Notre Dame proposals envision ‘green’ roof, glass spire, beam of light
    by SL on May 18, 2019 at 5:09 pm

    Chesnot/Getty Images(PARIS) — Two days after fire broke out at Notre Dame Cathedral, swallowing both the wooden roof and the spire, French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe announced an international competition of architecture to decide whether to rebuild under the same conditions or endow it with a new spire “adapted to the techniques and issues of our time.”Ever since, architects, landscape artists and graphic designers from France and beyond have answered the call, imagining the Notre Dame of tomorrow.The proposal from landscape artist and architect Clément Willemin features a garden roof with walking paths around wild-looking bushes, plants and flowers. It received immediate reactions and has been viewed online 7 million times, receiving 70,000 likes.But others’ views have been mixed.”Some people insult me, others tell me, ‘I pray for you,’” Willemin says.He doubts that his project will be picked, saying “my point was more to feed the debate than anything.”Brazilian architect Alexandre Fantozzi told ABC News he was celebrating Easter with his family when he thought of a roof and spire totally covered with stained glass windows — “the biggest Gothic feature,” Fantozzi said.Graphic designer Anthony Séjourné told ABC News he wanted to contrast the heaviness of the original spire, which crumbled to the ground in the fire, with a projecting beam of light that would pierce the clouds, thus keeping the original spiritual symbol of wanting to get to the heavens.Parisian architect Alexandre Chassang told ABC News he imagines a glass shard-looking spire.For NAB design founder Nicolas Abdelkader, Notre Dame’s reconstruction is an opportunity to tackle social and environmental issues, “values dear to the Church and presumably to the French state,” he told ABC News.He makes the roof a greenhouse dedicated to training the unemployed in urban agriculture, horticulture and permaculture, and makes the spire into a giant hive for the bees miraculously saved during the fire.”We could produce the famous ‘nectar of the gods’ in the heart of the new spire,” Abdelkader said.While the projects are creating buzz on social media, some reactions are downright brutal. The architects said they received dozens of insulting emails and abusive comments following the publication of their project.Just like late I.M. Pei’s pyramid of the Louvre 30 years ago, the discussion over Notre Dame’s reconstruction is triggering passions, dividing France in two camps: the debate between modern and old.According to a recent poll, 55% of French people dislike the idea of an international competition because they want the spire to be rebuilt “as it was.” Conservative congressman Nicolas Dupont-Aignan even issued a petition urging to “build identically” and “not disfigure Notre-Dame.”When Denis Laming first saw the flames atop Notre Dame from his apartment window, he told ABC News that he knew that the roof was lost and that a quarrel between conservatives and modernists would ensue. The architect famous for the French theme park Futuroscope then imagined a roof identical from the outside, but with a sliding mechanism that reveals glass windows to reconcile the nostalgics with the modernists.Laming’s project was awarded Thursday with a UNESCO label for best reconstruction project on Notre Dame.For now, no announcement on the international competition rules and starting date has been set, but Laming says that his Cathedral of Light design is being “presented to the relevant institutions.”Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved. […]

  • Russian ‘The Voice Kids’ finale to be redone after bots rig final result
    by Leighton Schneider on May 17, 2019 at 9:00 pm

    Channel One(MOSCOW) — The final result of Russia’s version of the popular TV singing talent show, “The Voice Kids,” has been cancelled after it was found that thousands of automated calls and text messages were used to rig voting in favor of its 10-year-old winner. Moscow-based cybersecurity firm IB-Group was brought in to examine the results after complaints were raised over the victory of Mikella Abramova, the daughter of well-known Russian popstar Alsou and millionaire Yan Abramov. Abramova won the show’s final, broadcasted on April 26, with 56.5% of a phone-in vote. Large numbers of viewers, however, immediately began complaining online and the state Channel 1, which airs the show, noted there had been “anomalies” in the voting. So, it hired IB-Group to investigate. On Thursday, IB-Group’s researchers said that, after analyzing the voting data, there had been “massive automated sending of SMS messages in favour of one participant.” Sequential phone numbers were used to make more than 30,000 automated calls into the show’s voting line for the contestant, IB Group wrote in a statement on its website. Another 300 telephone numbers were used to send 8,000 text messages, the statement said, noting that the automated calls and messages were made by so-called ‘bots’ — software programs that can be directed to repeat tasks over and over. The findings prompted Channel 1 to announce that it was annulling the results, saying the investigation had confirmed there was “an outside influence” that had affected the outcome. In a statement on its website, the channel said it would now organize a new “special show” in which all the contestants would compete again on May 24. It emphasized that IB-Group’s investigation was only intended to confirm that there had been manipulation, not to assign blame. “We believe that children should not bear responsibility for actions not undertaken by them,” the statement read. IB-Group, which is one of Russia’s most prominent cybersecurity firms and has partnered with Interpol, said that its analysis was preliminary and that it would complete its full investigation by the end of the month. Channel 1 said it would be taking measures to protect its voting system in the future and that these would be announced before the next season of the show, which will be its seventh. The revelation has prompted anger in Russia, with some viewers and Russian news outlets laying suspicion on Abramova’s parents despite there being no evidence so far regarding who was behind the vote fraud. Alsou is a popular music star in Russia and performed for the country in the Eurovision Song Contest in 2000, where she placed second. Abramov, meanwhile, is a businessman whose holdings include a loans company and some factories, one of which is an arms manufacturing plant, according to the Russian newspaper Vedomosti. After the announcement, one of the show’s hosts Dmitry Nagiev said that it was now important to protect the children taking part. “Let’s not forget that it is only a jolly game of ‘who sings best,'” he told the state-funded Russian broadcaster RT. “And as soon as adults interfere with their screwed-up attempts to tinker with it, the game takes on not very pretty forms.” Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved. […]

  • Taiwan becomes first Asian nation to legalize same-sex marriage
    by JTP on May 17, 2019 at 2:39 pm

    Carl Court/Getty Images(HONG KONG) — Lawmakers in Taiwan voted in favor of a bill legalizing same-marriage Friday, making the self-governing island the first Asian country to do so. Tens of thousands of demonstrators, gay rights supporters and dissenting protesters packed the streets outside the parliament building in Taipei in the rainy morning hours, awaiting the crucial vote. Taiwan’s constitutional court ruled in 2017 that same-sex couples had the right to marry and gave the government a two-year deadline to amend the constitution with a new law to guarantee it. The momentum suffered a setback this past November when 67 percent of Taiwanese voters rejected the notion that Taiwan’s civil code “should be used guarantee the rights of same-sex couples to get married,” reflecting the conservative traditional values still entrenched in Taiwan despite its reputation for being progressive on gay rights.Opponents of same-sex marriage began to push back and dulled the political will of some lawmakers over fears of repercussions in the general election next year. Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen, who faces a tough re-election fight, continued to press forward on same-sex marriage, which she publicly supported during her 2016 campaign. The legislature ultimately voted 66-27 overwhelmingly in favor of an article that would allow same-sex couples to register their marriage with government agencies, enshrining it into law. “On May 17th, 2019 in #Taiwan, #LoveWon,” Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen tweeted after the vote. “We took a big step towards true equality, and made Taiwan a better country.”Media executive and LGBTQ activist Jay Lin told ABC News that he was “so happy to be living in Taiwan and witnessing this day.” Lin had briefly joined his fellow activists in front of the legislature building before heading to work. “I was nervously checking the phone during a lunch meeting with clients who came from abroad and erupted into jubilation after they left and I saw the results,” he said. Lin went straight back to the office and began celebrating with his colleagues, many of whom have also worked on the same-sex marriage fight for the past three years.“We just broke out into spontaneous celebration, drinking and hugging,” said Lin. The Taiwan vote comes as LGBTQ rights in other parts of Asia have come under attack in countries like Brunei and Indonesia.The law that was passed was weaker than some activists groups had hoped for; there were limitations on adoption rights and restrictions on Taiwanese citizens marrying foreigners from other countries where same-sex marriages are not legal. The new law will take effect next Friday. Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved. […]

  • Theresa May agrees to ‘timetable for departure’ as cross-party Brexit talks collapse: Reports
    by JTP on May 17, 2019 at 12:48 pm

    Michal Wachucik/Getty Images(LONDON) — British Prime Minister Theresa May looks set to step down in June or July after a meeting with disgruntled lawmakers that left her “tearful,” according to British media. In the Thursday meeting with the 1922 Committee, an influential group of Conservative lawmakers from her own party, the prime minister agreed to step down if her Brexit deal is voted down when she brings it to the House of Commons in the week beginning June 3.Senior political sources told the BBC she promised to resign if the vote fails and that it was “inconceivable” May would stay in power after the next vote.The Daily Telegraph, a newspaper favoring Brexit, reported the meeting was “emotionally charged” and that May will step down by June 30 at the latest. However, the BBC reported an exact date has not been set and that the prime minister had only agreed to a “timetable for departure.”The prime minister had previously said she would resign if her Brexit deal, which has been voted down three times this year, was accepted by British lawmakers.That announcement was an attempt to get more lawmakers to side with the deal, but it now seems that whatever happens, a new prime minister will be in place by the deadline for the U.K. to leave the European Union on Oct. 31 of this year.It is not only the prime minister’s own future at stake. May had spent the last six weeks negotiating with Jeremy Corbyn in a bid to find a compromise agreement that would pass through the House of Commons. On Friday, the talks broke down, with Corbyn saying the negotiations “have gone as far as they can” in a letter to the prime minister.This means that when Parliament votes again on Brexit next month, the deal will effectively be the same as the one defeated by a historic margin in January and again in March.May’s Brexit deal has come under criticism from lawmakers of all political persuasions. Some suggest the deal will leave the U.K. too closely aligned to the EU, while others believe the deal will damage the U.K.’s economy. Conservative lawmakers within May’s own party will spend the coming months jostling for positions. When she resigns, a leadership election will take place. Boris Johnson, the former mayor of London, has already put himself forward as a future candidate.The current deadline for leaving the European Union is set at Oct. 31 of this year. The original date for departure was March 29, but the government were forced to ask the EU for an extension after they were unable to agree on a deal, despite negotiating with the EU for the better part of three years.If Parliament cannot agree on a deal, the U.K. will leave a “no deal” Brexit, unless lawmakers decide to cancel Brexit entirely by revoking Article 50, the legal mechanism for leaving the EU. The next vote on May’s Brexit deal will be taking place the same early June week President Donald Trump, who has been critical of May’s Brexit deal, embarks on a state visit to the U.K.Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved. […]

  • US photos showed cruise missiles on Iranian boats
    by JTP on May 17, 2019 at 11:20 am

    fatido/iStock(WASHINGTON) — One of the key “threat streams” that Iran or Iranian-backed groups in the Middle East were planning possible attacks against U.S. forces in Iraq, Syria and at sea were U.S. intelligence photos that indicated that Iran had placed cruise missiles on small boats in the Persian Gulf region that could be used against ships or land targets, according to a U.S. official.That imagery suggested a threat to U.S. naval ships, ships of partner nations and was one of the factors that led U.S. Central Command to speed up the arrival of the USS Abraham Lincoln strike group to the Middle East, the official said. The photos taken by U.S. intelligence showed missiles had been placed aboard small Iranian boats known as “dhows” in the waters off the Iranian port of Chabahar, east of the Persian Gulf two U.S. officials told ABC News.A third U.S. official described the missiles as cruise missiles that could be used to target vessels sailing off the key waters off of Iran or at land targets.Another U.S. official described the placement of the missiles on the dhows as “different” but did not know if it was a new type of missile.The official stressed that while the imagery was a key piece of intelligence, the decision to deploy the Lincoln strike group and B-52 bombers to deter Iran or its allies from carrying out attacks against U.S. forces was generated by several pieces of intelligence. That included the possibility that Iranian-backed militias in Iraq and Syria might attack U.S. forces or facilities.Last week, a senior military official described “anomalous naval activity” by dhows and the possible placement of missiles but did not provide details about how the U.S. had obtained that information or where the boats were located.At the time it was unclear what the purpose was for placing the missiles on the Iranian boats whether to be potentially used against at U.S. ships or other commercial vessels in the region or if they were being transported outside of Iran.The carrier strike group is now in the Arabian Sea after having sailed through the Red Sea this past weekend, according to two U.S. officials. It was unclear if the strike group would sail into the Persian Gulf.The U.S. intelligence community continues to assess last Sunday’s sabotage attacks on four vessels off the coast of the United Arab Emirates. But an initial assessment has concluded that an Iranian-backed group placed explosive charges on the hulls of the four vessels, said a U.S. official.American officials said that U.S. intelligence continues to see multiple threat streams from Iran across the Middle East, not just in the Gulf region.On Wednesday, the State Department ordered the evacuation of non-essential personnel from the U.S. embassy in Baghdad and the consulate in Erbil.Senior State Department officials told reporters that the evacuation was a prudent step in “light of credible threat streams.”Congressional leaders were scheduled to receive their first briefing on the intelligence and the new military deployments to the Middle East on Thursday.Members of Congress have raised concerns about a New York Times report that the Pentagon had presented a plan to send an additional 120,000 U.S. forces to the Middle East if Iran strikes at U.S. targets or proceeds to once again enrich uranium.An administration official confirmed that national security officials met at the White House last week to discuss Iran options, but that sending more troops was not part of a new plan.Instead, the official said senior Pentagon officials presented a wide range of the military’s existing contingency options to respond to the variety of scenarios that could involve Iran. Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved. […]