New island offers clues in search for life on Mars: NASA

In this picture dated June 5, 2017 and received from NASA on December 13, 2017 shows a view of a recently-formed Tongan island, unofficially known as Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai, which had formed from a Pacific Ocean submarine volcano which erupted in late December 2014. (NASA/AFP)
Updated 13 December 2017
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New island offers clues in search for life on Mars: NASA

WELLINGTON: The world’s newest island — formed during a volcanic eruption in the remote Pacific four years ago — may offer clues to how life potentially developed on Mars, NASA said Wednesday.
The island of Hunga Tonga Hunga Ha’apai rose from the seabed about 65 kilometers (40 miles) northwest of the Tongan capital Nuku’alofa in late 2014-early 2015.
Scientists initially expected the island — created when vast quantities of rock and dense ash spewed from the Earth’s crust — to wash away within a few months.
But NASA said it had proved more resilient than expected, possibly because warm sea water combined with ash during the volcanic explosion to create a concrete-like substance known as “tuff.”
While the island — which initially measured one kilometer wide, two kilometers long and about 100 meters high — has undergone significant erosion, it is now expected to last anywhere from six to 30 years.
Jim Garvin, the chief scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, said it was a rare chance to study the life cycle of a newly created island.
He said Mars had many similar volcanic islands that appeared to have been surrounded by water when they were created.
Garvin said such spots may be prime locations to look for evidence of past life because they combined a wet environment with heat from volcanic processes.
Examining how life gained a foothold on the Tongan island could help scientists pinpoint where to look for evidence of life on Mars, he said.
“Islands like this might have worked on Mars two or three billion years ago — lakes and small seas filling depressions, persistent surface waters,” he said.
“(It’s) stuff we really strive to understand because it could have produced the conditions necessary for microbial life.”
NASA’s studies on the island were presented at a meeting of the American Geophysical Union in New Orleans this week.
It comes after US President Donald Trump on Monday directed NASA to send Americans to the Moon for the first time since 1972, in order to prepare for future trips to Mars.


After shedding Daesh, Mosul embraces makeovers

An Iraqi woman gets a lip injection at an aesthetic clinic in the northern city of Mosul on November 19, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 19 December 2018
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After shedding Daesh, Mosul embraces makeovers

  • Mosul, and Iraq more broadly, have been shaken by waves of conflict since the 2003 US-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein and paved the way for a sectarian war
  • The city’s medical services were hit hard by Daesh’s three-year reign and the months-long battle to oust it

MOSUL, Iraq: For three years, Mosul’s women were covered in black from head to toe and its men had to keep their beards long. Salons were shut, and plastic surgery considered a crime.
But more than a year after the Daesh group’s ouster, the Iraqi city is flaunting its more fabulous side.
Need to zap away a scar or a burn? Cover up a bald spot with implants? Whiten teeth for a dazzling smile? Mosul’s plastic surgeons and beauticians are at your service.
Raji Najib, a Syrian living in Mosul, recently made use of the city’s aesthetic offerings.
The 40-year-old had long been self-conscious of his bald spots, until his Iraqi friends told him what had worked for them — hair implants at a new clinic in their hometown.
“They told me the equipment was modern, the nurses competent and the prices good,” Najib said.
In Mosul, the average hair implant procedure costs around $800, including the follow-up after the operation.
Nearly 90 kilometers (50 miles) to the east in Iraq’s Irbil, or even further north in Turkey, the same operation costs at least $1,200.
Plasma injections to prevent hair loss cost around $63 in Mosul, but at least $20 more in Irbil.
In addition to the difference in price, Najib would have had to put up money and time for travel.
“Going to a clinic in Mosul is much easier, as I don’t have time to travel outside Mosul,” he told AFP.

Decades ago, only one department in Mosul’s hospitals offered plastic surgery, and only to those who had a severe accident or were trying to eliminate a physical handicap from birth.
Mosul, and Iraq more broadly, have been shaken by waves of conflict since the 2003 US-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein and paved the way for a sectarian war.
Religious hard-liners forced women to cover up or stay at home, and extremists in particular targeted hairdressers, many of whom closed their shops in fear.
Another shock came in 2014 when the Daesh group swept across much of Iraq’s north, with the militants making Mosul their de facto capital.
The religious police of Daesh enforced ultra-strict rules on dress for all residents, making sure women showed no skin and men wore ankle-length capris and long beards, with no moustache.
The city has since gotten a makeover.
Five beauty clinics have opened since Mosul was recaptured last summer by Iraqi security forces, and they can hardly keep up with the flow of customers, most of them men.
Muhannad Kazem told AFP he was the first to relaunch his city’s beauty business with his clinic, Razan, which offers teeth whitening services and other dental care.
His secret? “The employees came from Lebanon, and the treatments and machines were imported,” said Kazem, 40.

The city’s medical services were hit hard by Daesh’s three-year reign and the months-long battle to oust it.
The available hospital beds in Mosul dropped from 3,657 before 2014 to just 1,622 last year, according to the local human rights commission.
But the city is rebuilding, and one new commercial center houses the Diamond Dental Clinic in the bottom floor, with the Shahrazad beauty center upstairs.
A poster at the entrance advertises what’s on offer: injections of botox and other fillers, slimming surgeries, dermatological operations, and more.
Inside the glossy interior are men and women alike, an unthinkable sight under the iron-fisted rule of Daesh.
A female employee carefully injected serums to prevent hair loss into the scalp of a woman gritting her teeth, one of the dozen customers streaming in per day.
Beautician Alia Adnan said the physical and mental impact of the militants on people in Mosul has been long-lasting.
“They have hair or skin problems because of the stress and the pollution that Mosul’s residents were exposed to, both under Daesh and during the clashes,” she told AFP.