International Intonation – March 20, 2013

Mark Hendricks, Contributor Ω

Who needs the sun?

A research paper published in the March 14 issue of Science describes an ecosystem at the bottom of the ocean completely independent of the sun.

The ecosystem is composed of chemosynthetic microbes, which derive their energy entirely from chemical reactions between the seawater and the basalt rocks of Earth’s oceanic crust.

Chemosynthetic organisms have been found before in mine shafts and near sea floor hydrothermal vents but the sheer size of the ecosystem is what makes this different. Earth’s oceanic crust covers 60 per cent of the planet’s surface, representing a massive ecosystem.

“The largest ecosystem on Earth, by volume, is supported by chemosynthesis,” Mark Lever from Aarhuis University in Denmark and part of the research team told Wired.

The paper is the culmination of 15 years of research and reveals a potentially rich array of life just waiting to be discovered at the ocean floor.

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The Red Pyramid at Dahshur.

Egyptian tomb raiders

A renowned Egyptologist and former Egyptian minister of state for antiquities affairs warns that unless actions are taken, Egypt could lose its historical artifacts forever.

Zahi Hawass’ warning came after a modern cemetery was built on top of a UNESCO-protected heritage site.

“In Dahshur, they have built a new cemetery above the causeway which links two pyramids, one of the fourth dynasty and one dating to the fifth dynasty,” Hawass told the Sunday Express. “This was totally illegal.”

Hawass believes the new ministers are wary of criticizing president Morsi for fear of losing their jobs.

Looting is on the rise in Egypt. Police officers no longer provide protection to historical sites and since the Arab Spring more than 5,600 illegal digs have been carried out. This number continues to rise.

A $153 million restoration project in Cairo that would have focused on 30 major monuments has also been scrapped.

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United States increasing missile defense

The Obama administration announced it will increase its missile defences on the West Coast by nearly 50 per cent in case of a possible attack by North Korea.

The announcement came a week after North Korea conducted their third nuclear test.

Last week an unidentified spokesman for Pyongyang’s foreign ministry threatened the United States with a preemptive attack, saying they will exercise their right to “a preemptive nuclear attack to destroy the strongholds of the aggressors.”

In response to these statements the U.S. is planning to add 14 interceptors to its West Coast missile defence.

“The U.S. has missile defences to protect us from limited ICBM attacks,” defence secretary Chuck Hagel said at the press conference. “But North Korea in particular has recently made advances in its capabilities and has engaged in a series of irresponsible and reckless provocations.”

The interceptors will cost $1 billion and won’t be ready for four years.

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