News Tidbits For March 13, 2018

Britain Blames Russia for Poisoning of Former Russian Spy

Source: The New York Times

Theresa May, the British Prime Minister, has stated that it was “highly likely” that the Kremlin was behind the poisoning of the former Russian Spy. The U.S. secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, agreed. Sergei V. Skripal and his daughter were poisoned with a military-grade nerve agent developed by Russia, exposing many bystanders to risk.

Russia is now believed to have more intelligence agents deployed in London that at the height of the Cold War. Their task is to keep an eye on the hundreds of prominent Russians who have built lives in Britain.

Source: The New York Times

At the Horn of Africa, millions who have long suffered from poverty and war are now facing a new crisis: climate change. The region has dried faster in the 20th century than at any time over the last 2,000 years, pushing countless people to the edge of survival.

There’s good environmental news out of China, though, where the government appears to be winning its war on air pollution. If declines persist, residents could expect to live 2.4 years longer on average, according to an estimate.

Source: The New York Times

A company called Kitty Hawk, financed by Larry Page, the co-founder of Google, has been testing a new kind of fully electric, self-piloting flying taxi. This has nothing to do with the viral video seen last year of a single-pilot aircraft being tested over water. It is a much more ambitious project and could lead to commercial flying taxis in New Zealand in as soon as three years.

The prototype takes off like a helicopter and flies like a plane, and looks like a cross between a small plane and a drone. It is a big step forward in the commercialization of this technology, which many believed would take another decade to achieve.

Source: The New York Times

Thailand officially declared today, March 13, National Elephant Day — or Chang Thai Day — back in 1998. The country’s national animal, the elephant, has always played an important role in Thai society, where it was seen as a symbol of royalty.

Practically, the elephant also helped the Thais in warfare, harvest and transportation. In Buddhism, Thailand’s predominant religion, the elephant is a symbol of mental strength and frequently appears in allegories and art.There’s even a Thai Elephant Orchestra (!), which has been trained to play percussion instruments.

It’s not completely clear how many elephants live in the country, but in 2006 the number of wild elephants was estimated at 3,000 to 3,700, while elephants in captivity numbered around 4,000. At the beginning of the 20th century, Thailand was said to have had more than 300,000 wild elephants and about 100,000 domesticated ones.

Today, Asian elephants are endangered, with a population of fewer than 50,000 worldwide.

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