Indonesia’s Aceh whips unmarried couples after hotel raid

Indonesia’s Aceh whips unmarried couples after hotel raid
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An Indonesian woman gets taken away after she was whipped in public in Banda Aceh on March 4, 2019. (AFP)
Indonesia’s Aceh whips unmarried couples after hotel raid
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An Indonesian woman is whipped in public in Banda Aceh on March 4, 2019. (AFP)
Indonesia’s Aceh whips unmarried couples after hotel raid
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An Indonesian woman is whipped in public in Banda Aceh on March 4, 2019. (AFP)
Indonesia’s Aceh whips unmarried couples after hotel raid
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An Indonesian woman gets taken away after she was whipped in public in Banda Aceh on March 4, 2019. (AFP)
Indonesia’s Aceh whips unmarried couples after hotel raid
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An Indonesian woman is whipped in public in Banda Aceh on March 4, 2019. (AFP)
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An Indonesian man is whipped in public in Banda Aceh on March 4, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 05 March 2019

Indonesia’s Aceh whips unmarried couples after hotel raid

Indonesia’s Aceh whips unmarried couples after hotel raid
  • In December, two men caught having sex with underage girls were whipped 100 times each
  • Aceh adopted religious law after it was granted special autonomy in 2001, an attempt by the central government to quell a long-running separatist insurgency

BANDA ACEH, Indonesia: Six couples were publicly whipped in Indonesia’s conservative Aceh province Monday for relations outside marriage, with at least two women unable to walk after the painful punishment.
Flogging is common for a range of offenses in the region at the tip of Sumatra island, including gambling, drinking alcohol, and having gay sex.
It is the only province in the world’s biggest Muslim-majority country that imposes Islamic law.
The twelve people whipped Monday were arrested late last year during a raid on a hotel in the province’s capital Banda Aceh.
Four people were each flogged seven times after being found with a member of the opposite sex who wasn’t a relation.
The others — who were caught in more compromising positions — received between 17-25 strokes for having intimate relations outside of marriage, an official said.
All 12 also served several months in prison before the public punishment.
Some women cried out in pain as a masked sharia officer lashed them, and at least two had to be carried from the scene by sharia officers.
Dozens of spectators and journalists watched quietly. Some winced occasionally after the blows, while others used smartphones and tablets to film the spectacle.
“This law is designed to have a deterrent effect, not only for the offenders but for the spectators who watch the caning,” said the head of the local public order agency, Marwan, who like many Indonesian goes by one name.

He added: “The pain of being flogged is not that bad, the embarrassment is worse.”
Rights groups have slammed public caning as cruel, and Indonesia’s President Joko Widodo has called for it to end.
But the practice has wide support among Aceh’s mostly Muslim population — around 98 percent of its five million residents practice Islam.
Aceh adopted religious law after it was granted special autonomy in 2001, an attempt by the central government to quell a long-running separatist insurgency.
In December, two men caught having sex with underage girls were whipped 100 times each.


FBI says search for fabled gold in Pennsylvania ended up empty; other parties believe otherwise

FBI says search for fabled gold in Pennsylvania ended up empty; other parties believe otherwise
Updated 25 June 2021

FBI says search for fabled gold in Pennsylvania ended up empty; other parties believe otherwise

FBI says search for fabled gold in Pennsylvania ended up empty; other parties believe otherwise
  • Legendary gold cache was supposedly US government gold “stolen during the Civil War” and hidden in a Pennsylvania cave
  • Court documents show the FBI sought a federal judge permission to dig, fearing Pennsylvania would seize the treasure

An FBI agent applied for a federal warrant in 2018 to seize a fabled cache of US government gold he said was “stolen during the Civil War” and hidden in a Pennsylvania cave, saying the state might take the gold for itself if the feds asked for permission, according to court documents unsealed Thursday.
The newly unsealed affidavit confirms previous reporting by The Associated Press that the government had been looking for a legendary cache of gold at the site, which federal authorities had long refused to confirm. In any case, the FBI said, the dig came up empty.
The AP and The Philadelphia Inquirer petitioned a federal judge to unseal the case. Federal prosecutors did not oppose the request, and the judge agreed, paving the way for Thursday’s release of documents.
“I have probable cause to believe that a significant cache of gold is secreted in the underground cave” in Dent’s Run, holding “one or more tons” belonging to the US government, wrote Jacob Archer of the FBI’s art crime team in Philadelphia.
Archer told the judge he needed a seizure warrant because he feared that if the federal government sought permission from the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources to excavate the site, the state would claim the gold for itself, setting up a costly legal battle.
“I am concerned that, even if DCNR gave initial consent for the FBI to excavate the cache of gold secreted at the Dent’s Run Site, that consent could be revoked before the FBI recovered the United States property, with the result of DCNR unlawfully claiming that that cache of gold is abandoned property and, thus, belongs to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania,” the affidavit said.
Archer also revealed allegations against a legislative staffer who, he wrote, tried to get some of the loot for himself.
In 2013, the affidavit said, the legislative staffer contacted a pair of treasure hunters who had identified the likely site of the gold. The staffer “corruptly” offered to get the treasure hunters a state permit to dig “in return for three bars of gold or ten percent” of whatever they recovered. The staffer said he was acting on behalf of others in state government, according to Archer, including “someone who controlled money going to DCNR and someone working in the Pennsylvania governor’s office.”
No one has been charged in connection with the case, and federal prosecutors say they consider the matter closed. A spokesperson for the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources declined comment.
The FBI had long refused to explain exactly why it went digging on state-owned land in Elk County in March 2018, saying only in written statements over the years that agents were there for a court-authorized excavation of “what evidence suggested may have been a cultural heritage site.”
According to the affidavit, the FBI based its request for a seizure warrant partly on the work done by the treasure hunters, who had made hundreds of trips to the area. The father-son duo told authorities they believed they had found the location of the fabled Union gold, which, according to legend, was either lost or stolen on its way to the US Mint in Philadelphia in 1863.
After meeting with the treasure hunters in early 2018, the FBI brought in a contractor with more sophisticated instruments. The contractor detected an underground mass that weighed up to nine tons and had the density of gold, the affidavit said.

Shutterstock treasure hunt illustration image

That amount of gold would today be worth hundreds of millions of dollars.
Archer wrote that he also spoke with a journalist, identified as “Person 3,” who had done extensive research on a Civil War-era group called the Knights of the Golden Circle. The KGC, Archer wrote, was a secret society of Confederate sympathizers that had purportedly “buried secret caches of weapons, coins, and gold and silver bullion, much of which was stolen from robberies of banks, trains carrying payroll of the Union Army during the Civil War and from northern army military posts, in southern, western and northern states.”
Archer said that a turtle carving found on a rock near the proposed dig site was “very likely ... a KGC marker for that site.”
Archer wasn’t able to confirm the US Mint had actually missed any expected shipments of gold because the Mint did not have records for the Civil War period, the affidavit said.
The FBI apparently did not indicate to the judge, in writing, what it found at the site, according to the documents unsealed Thursday. A spokesperson for the US attorney’s office in Philadelphia said that no such document was filed with the court because the dig came up empty.
Dennis and Kem Parada, co-owners of the treasure-hunting outfit Finders Keepers, have said they believe the FBI found gold at the site. They are seeking thousands of pages of FBI documents about the investigation as well as video files of the dig.
Their attorney, Bill Cluck, said the court documents revealed Thursday simply raise more questions.
He noted the warrant granted by US Magistrate Judge Richard Lloret gave FBI agents permission to dig from 6 a.m to 10 p.m. But residents have told of hearing a backhoe and jackhammer overnight — when the excavation was supposed to have been paused — and seeing a convoy of FBI vehicles, including large armored trucks.
In addition, it is telling that the FBI never checked back with the contractor whose sensitive instruments had indicated the possible presence of gold to ask what went wrong, said Warren Getler, the journalist identified as “Person 3” in the affidavit.
“Did the science really go wrong? I am not so sure about that,” said Getler, author of “Rebel Gold,” a book exploring the possibility of buried Civil War-era caches of gold and silver.
“Why did they send four or five armored cars after the fact?” he asked. “Why did they work under cover of darkness? Why did they kick us off the mountain at 3 p.m. that day when we were supposed to be working as partners?”
The FBI assertion of an empty hole is “insulting all the credible people who did this kind of work,” Dennis Parada previously told the AP. “It was a slap in the face, really, to think all these people could make that kind of mistake.”


Tunisia ‘trailblazer’ in Mediterranean seaweed farming

Tunisia ‘trailblazer’ in Mediterranean seaweed farming
Updated 23 June 2021

Tunisia ‘trailblazer’ in Mediterranean seaweed farming

Tunisia ‘trailblazer’ in Mediterranean seaweed farming

Wading knee-deep in the calm waters of a lagoon, workers in northern Tunisia harvest red seaweed, in a nation dubbed a Mediterranean “trailblazer” in cultivating the in-demand plant.

Red seaweed or algae is used for gelling, thickening and texturing agents that are increasingly a substitute for animal-based products in processed foods, and it is also being used increasingly in cosmetics and pharmaceuticals.


Colombia has the world’s largest variety of butterfly species: study

Colombia has the world’s largest variety of butterfly species: study
Photo/Shutterstock
Updated 23 June 2021

Colombia has the world’s largest variety of butterfly species: study

Colombia has the world’s largest variety of butterfly species: study
  • “Colombia is a country with a great diversity of natural habitats, a complex and heterogeneous geography and a privileged location in the extreme northeast of South America,” the report reads in part

BOGOTA: Colombia is home to the world’s largest variety of butterflies, approximately 20 percent of all known species, according to a study published Tuesday by the Natural History Museum in London.
An international team of scientists cataloged 3,642 species and 2,085 subspecies, registering them in a document titled “Checklist of Colombian Butterflies.”
More than 200 butterfly species are found only in Colombia, said Blanca Huertas, the senior butterfly collection curator at the Natural History Museum in London, who was part of the research team.
Project researchers traveled widely in Colombia, analyzed more than 350,000 photographs, and studied information collected since the late 18th century, the museum said.
“Colombia is a country with a great diversity of natural habitats, a complex and heterogeneous geography and a privileged location in the extreme northeast of South America,” the report reads in part.
“These factors, added to the delicate public order in the last century in certain regions, has limited until now, the advancement of field exploration.”
Colombia has endured more than half a century of armed conflict, with some areas controlled by leftist guerrillas, right-wing paramilitary groups or drug lords, and with little government presence.
Protecting butterflies in Colombia will also help protect its forests as well as other, less likeable species, Huertas said.
Between 2000 and 2019 Colombia lost nearly 2.8 million hectares of forest, equivalent to the area of Belgium, according to the National Department of Planning.


Madame Tussauds to open in Dubai later in 2021

Madame Tussauds to open in Dubai later in 2021
Updated 22 June 2021

Madame Tussauds to open in Dubai later in 2021

Madame Tussauds to open in Dubai later in 2021
  • The attraction will feature 7 rooms including a Bollywood-themed area
  • There will be 60 statues of global stars including new faces from the Middle East

DUBAI: Dubai is already known for its manmade islands, iconic sky scrapers, and the world’s first seven-star hotel – the Burj Al Arab, and now it’s getting its own version of the popular tourist attraction Madame Tussauds.

The world-famous waxwork museum is opening its first Middle East venue in Dubai’s Bluewaters Island later this year, Merlin Entertainments Ltd (Merlin), announced Tuesday.

Visitors will be able to take pictures with a selection of wax statues of 60 global stars, including 16 new wax figures from the Middle East region.

The attraction will feature seven themed rooms, including a Bollywood movie, featuring the Badshah of Bollywood, Shahrukh Khan.

Other figures will include Kylie Jenner, Cara Delevingne and footballing legend, Christiano Ronaldo.

“In addition to well-known global figures, the new Madame Tussauds will also be home to figures celebrated in the Middle East including Nancy Ajram and Maya Diab, alongside other figures which we will announce very soon,” said Meike Lippert, Senior Divisional Director Midway Europe and Global New Openings, Merlin Entertainments.

It takes sculptors 12 weeks to create each wax statue, and during that time they document 500 precise body measurements, insert real hair strand by strand, apply countless layers of paints to build up the skin tones.

And it can cost up to $208,000 to create a wax figure, depending on the work involved.

The first Madame Tussauds was opened in 1835 in London, and has remained a popular destination with tourists in the British capital ever since.

There are also branches in Amsterdam, Hong Kong, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Shanghai, Wuhan and New York.

“It is a thrilling experience to bring the iconic Madame Tussauds to the UAE,” said Sanaz Kollsrud, General Manager of Madame Tussauds Dubai.

“This will be the 25th edition of our wax attraction and will be a first in the GCC. We intend to bring a whole new entertainment experience to the exciting portfolio of attractions in Dubai and cement Bluewaters’ position as a global tourist destination.” Kollsrud added.


Outgoing Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu gets his first smartphone

Outgoing Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu gets his first smartphone
Updated 21 June 2021

Outgoing Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu gets his first smartphone

Outgoing Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu gets his first smartphone
  • Netanyahu was probably one of the few people who didn’t own a smartphone
  • Former prime minister’s new phone number will remain unknown to many

BEIRUT: Israel’s former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu now owns a smartphone for the first time in 12 years, Israeli media reported on Monday.
Unseated as premier in early June, Israel Today said Netanyahu was probably one of the few people who didn’t own a smartphone across the country, highlighting that “today he is proud of the smartphone he has.”
Foreign Minister Yair Lapid and Prime Minister Naftali Bennett succeeded in cobbling together a government in the aftermath of Israel’s fourth consecutive election in two years.
Netanyahu, who served for 12 years as prime minister until Bennett’s government was sworn in last week, has yet to move out of the prime minister’s residence in Jerusalem.
The former prime minister’s new phone number will remain unknown to many except for a select few, the newspaper said.
Mentioning the issue of owning smartphones in 2014, Netanyahu was reportedly overheard exclaiming to his entourage prior to filming and interview with an American TV channel: “I do not understand the new world where everybody wants to click photos! When do you live?”
Reporters cited him as saying “everybody takes pictures, that is all what they do! Don’t take pictures, live your life! I lived mine without taking photos. I am the only person, who doesn’t have electronic devices. I am a free man and you are all slaves to your devices.”
According to the newspaper, a friend of Netanyahu claimed that the last time he owned a personal phone was in 2009.
Despite the fact that he has not used a smartphone for more than a decade, he remains one of the most followed people on social media, with over 2 million followers on Twitter and over 2.6 million followers on Facebook.