December 30, 2018

How ancient DNA may rewrite prehistory in India

How ancient DNA may rewrite prehistory in India Image copyright Getty Images Image caption The origin of Indians has been the subject of a heated debate New research using ancient DNA is rewriting prehistory in India - and disproves notions of deep-rooted ancestry linked to Hindu nationalism, writes Tony Joseph. Who are the Indians? And where did they come from? In the last few years, the debate over these questions has become more and more heated. Hindu right-wingers believe the source of Indian civilisation are people who called themselves Aryans - a nomadic tribe of horse-riding, cattle-rearing warriors and herders who composed Hinduism's oldest religious texts, the Vedas. The Aryans, they argue, originated from India and then spread across large parts of Asia and Europe, helping set up the family of Indo-European languages that Europeans and Indians still speak today. As it happens, many 19th Century European ethnographers and, of course, most famously, Adolf Hitler, also..
December 29, 2018

Bangladesh elections: Security on high alert ahead of polls

Bangladesh elections: Security on high alert ahead of polls Image copyright AFP/Getty Image caption Sheikh Hasina has ruled Bangladesh as prime minister since 2009 Bangladesh's Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is seeking her third consecutive term in a general election on Sunday, in which more than 100m people are expected to vote. Security forces are on high alert ahead of the poll, with some 600,000 security personnel deployed across the nation. More than a dozen people have been killed in clashes between supporters of rival political parties. Ms Hasina is expected to win, while her main rival is in jail for corruption. High-speed mobile internet has been ordered to be shut down until after the elections, a decision made to prevent rumours and propaganda from triggering unrest, an official said. Why is this election important? Bangladesh is a Muslim-majority nation of more than 160 million people and faces issues ranging from possibly devastating climate change to endemic poverty a..
December 29, 2018

US-China trade: Trump touts progress in talks for deal

US-China trade: Trump touts progress in talks for deal Media playback is unsupported on your device Media captionWhat are tariffs and how do they affect us? "Big progress" is being made in US-China relations, Donald Trump has said, at the end of a year that has seen both countries apply tit-for-tat tariffs. A trade war erupted earlier this year when Mr Trump complained China was not doing enough to address a trade imbalance between the nations. Earlier this month, both agreed to suspend new tariffs to allow for talks. Mr Trump said he and Chinese President Xi Jinping spoke on Saturday and that talks were "moving along very well". Mr Trump did not offer more detail on what specific progress was being made. Skip Twitter post by @realDonaldTrump Just had a long and very good call with President Xi of China. Deal is moving along very well. If made, it will be very comprehensive, covering all subjects, areas and points of dispute. Big progress being made! — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrum..
December 29, 2018

Indian miners: Navy divers deployed in rescue bid

Indian miners: Navy divers deployed in rescue bid Image copyright Reuters Image caption Rescuers prepare a water pump at the site of the flooded coal mine A team of Indian navy divers has been deployed in a bid to rescue 15 workers trapped inside a flooded coal mine. The men had entered the illegal pit, known as a "rat hole", in the north-eastern state of Meghalaya on 13 December, and were cut off when floodwater from a nearby river poured in. Emergency workers equipped with high-power pumps have arrived at the scene. It is not yet clear whether the miners are still alive. India's NDTV reports that divers have recovered nothing but three helmets so far. Officials hope the men may have found an air pocket in the main mineshaft. "Only God's grace and some miracle can help them to be alive," Kyrmen Shylla, Meghalaya's disaster management minister, told Reuters on Wednesday. Earlier rescue efforts by India's National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) and State Disaster Re..
December 29, 2018

China ‘releases’ Canadian teacher Sarah McIver

China 'releases' Canadian teacher Sarah McIver Image copyright FREDERIC J. BROWN A Canadian citizen who was detained in China amid frosty relations between the two countries has been released and returned to Canada, media reports say. Teacher Sarah McIver, from Alberta, was held earlier this month for "unlawfully working in China". Global Affairs Canada confirmed that a Canadian citizen had been released, but did not name the person. Ms McIver's detention followed that of two other Canadians. They are still being held. China and Canada both said Ms McIver's case was different from the other two. Former diplomat Michael Kovrig and businessman Michael Spavor face accusations of harming national security. The detentions came amid a dispute between Canada and China following the arrest of Huawei chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou earlier this month. Ms Meng was held at the request of US prosecutors and faces extradition on charges of violating sanctions on Iran. She ..
December 28, 2018

Anak Krakatau: Indonesian volcano’s lost stature

Anak Krakatau: Indonesian volcano's lost stature Image copyright Reuters Image caption Radar satellites are one of the few ways of assessing the volcano currently The scale of the dramatic collapse of the Indonesian volcano that led to last Saturday's devastating tsunami in the Sunda Strait is becoming clear. Researchers have examined satellite images of Anak Krakatau to calculate the amount of rock and ash that sheared off into the sea. They say the volcano has lost more than two-thirds of its height and volume during the past week. Much of this missing mass could have slid into the sea in one movement. It would certainly explain the displacement of water and the generation of waves up to 5m high that then inundated the nearby coastlines of Java and Sumatra. How volcanoes can trigger tsunamis Indonesia tsunami: 'I clung to a bench' Indonesia's disaster agency says more than 400 people are confirmed dead with 20 or so still missing. In excess of 40,000 have ..
December 28, 2018

A whole new world for free trade?

A whole new world for free trade? Image copyright Getty Images The final weeks of 2018 have been dramatic, to say the least. Global stock markets are roiling, disturbed in part by the anti-free market trade sentiment that continues to roll-out of Washington. Looking ahead to the new year, however, pro-free trade movements in Europe and in Asia are progressing. Two major agreements are about to come into effect that will bring together some of the world's biggest trading areas and economies. And they exclude the world's two biggest economies, the US and China, who are engaged in their own trade war. EU signs giant trade deal with Japan What is a 'Canada-style' trade deal? Pacific trade deal signed by 11 nations What are free trade agreements?Free trade agreements are designed to cut trade tariffs between member countries. Tariffs are a form of tax, like a border tax. They are placed on goods coming into a country for a range of reasons, sometimes to try and prote..
December 28, 2018

The Mumbai ‘toxic hell’ where poor are forced to live

The Mumbai 'toxic hell' where poor are forced to live Image caption Piles of garbage are a common sight in Mahul Tens of thousands of people are fighting to leave Mahul, a heavily industrialised neighbourhood in the western Indian city of Mumbai, saying the toxic pollution there is adversely impacting their health. BBC Marathi's Mayuresh Konnur and Janhavee Moole report on the residents' battle to be relocated. Anita Dhole, 38, was forced to move to a "transit camp" set up by the civic authorities in Mahul in May 2017 after the illegal slum she was living in was demolished. Since then, she says, she has been suffering. "I have breathing trouble and high blood pressure, and the pollution has also affected my eyesight," she says. Hers was one of more than 5,000 families - estimated to be between 30,000 and 50,000 people - that lost their homes in the demolition drive and were offered temporary housing in Mahul. They were told they would be given homes in another Mum..
December 28, 2018

Sydney Opal Tower: How could a crack form in a new building?

Sydney Opal Tower: How could a crack form in a new building? Image copyright EPA Image caption The Opal Tower in Sydney opened to residents in July On Monday, Christmas Eve, hundreds of people were forced to leave their homes in a 38-storey tower in Sydney, Australia, when a huge crack was found in its wall. Authorities later found the split in a support wall on the building's 10th floor. Engineers estimated it caused parts of the building to shift by up to 2mm. Although nobody was injured, Australians were shocked by the fault in the newly-built Opal Tower in Sydney's Olympic Park. The shiny high-rise boasted million-dollar apartments, and the developer and builder are well regarded in the industry. The tower's construction and design has since been called into question, as have the standards of the wider Australian building industry itself. Both the tower's builder and the developer defended the construction, saying that the temporary relocation was just a precau..
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