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Category Archives: High Seas

Japan to send warship, aircraft to Middle East to protect vessels – Reuters

Posted: December 28, 2019 at 11:47 pm

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan will send a warship and patrol planes to protect Japanese ships in the Middle East as the situation in the region, from which it sources nearly 90% of its crude oil imports, remains volatile, Japans top government spokesman said on Friday.

FILE PHOTO: A Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force's P3-C Orion surveillance aircraft flies over an oil tanker as the plane takes part in an anti-piracy operation at the Gulf of Aden, off Somalia, in this photo taken by Kyodo August 1, 2015. Mandatory credit Kyodo/via REUTERS

Under the plan approved by Prime Minister Shinzo Abes cabinet, a helicopter-equipped destroyer and two P-3C patrol planes will be dispatched for information-gathering aimed at ensuring safe passage for Japanese vessels through the region.

If there are any emergencies, a special order would be issued by the Japanese defense minister to allow the forces to use weapons to protect ships in danger.

Peace and stability in the Middle East is extremely important for the peace and prosperity of the international community including Japan, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a regular news conference.

Also, it is very important to make sure Japan-related ships can sail safely in the Middle East, the worlds major source of energy.

Friction between Iran and the United States has increased since last year, when U.S. President Donald Trump pulled the United States out of a 2015 international nuclear deal with Iran and re-imposed sanctions on it, crippling its economy.

In May and June, there were several attacks on international merchant vessels in the region, including the Japanese-owned tanker Kokuka Courageous, which the United States blamed on Iran. Tehran denies the accusations.

Oil importers and refiners welcomed the government decision.

The Middle East situation remains unpredictable ... We believe the decision, made against this backdrop, will benefit the safe passage of ships in the region, Petroleum Association of Japan President Takashi Tsukioka said in a statement.

Japan, a U.S. ally that has maintained friendly ties with Iran, has opted to launch its own operation rather than join a U.S.-led mission to protect shipping in the region.

Abe last week briefed visiting Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Tokyos plan to send naval forces to the Gulf.

The planned operation is set to cover high seas in the Gulf of Oman, the northern Arabian Sea and the Gulf of Aden, but not the Strait of Hormuz.

The Japanese government aims to start the operation of the patrol planes next month, while the destroyer will likely begin activities in the region in February, a defense ministry official said.

The government decision is effective for one year through December 26, 2020. A fresh cabinet approval is necessary to extend the armed forces activities in the Middle East.

A European operation to ensure safe shipping in the Gulf will also get underway next month, when a French warship starts patrolling there.

Additional reporting by Kaori Kaneko; Editing by Hugh Lawson and Michael Perry

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Oceans and marine life through 2019: 10 positive developments in sea life and global oceans – Firstpost

Posted: at 11:47 pm

Emma Critchley and Douglas McCauleyDec 27, 2019 10:14:48 IST

In 2019, we saw a mixed bag of news stories from oceans, high seas and marine conservation.A fair bit of progress was made toward an international treaty to protect biodiversity on the high seas.An incrediblerebound was witnessed in the western South Atlantic humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae) to nearly its pre-whaling population size. Meanwhile, research documenting rapidly unfurling effects of climate change in the ocean painted a dire picture of the present and future ocean. These include accelerating sea level rise, more severe marine heatwaves and more frequent coral bleaching events.

A pair of marine scientists from the University of California, Santa Barbara, have shared their list of the topten ocean news stories from 2019 that are still worth celebrating.

A glimpse of marine life just beneath the ocean surface.

Climate change impacts on land made almost daily headlines this year: fires, floods, more extreme storms. Equally intense effects are being realized in our seas. This year, more than 100 scientists from 30 countries brought these impacts on the ocean into sharp focus with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)special report on the ocean and cryosphere.

The findings were bleak: Sea level rise is accelerating, marine heatwaves are more extensive and intense and coral bleaching events are occurring with increasing frequency. The reports predictions up the ante on action. Even if we meet the Paris Agreement mandate to keep warming to below a 2-degree Celsius rise over pre-industrial levels, the report suggests thatby 2100 sea levels will rise by 0.3 to 0.6 meters (1 to 2 feet), there will be 20 times more marine heatwaves and the ocean will be 40% more acidic.

Icebergs and melting ice in the Vatnajkull National Park in Iceland.

The urgency for ocean/climate action was happily mirrored at the close of this year with an all-time bump in importance for oceans at the recent UN climate negotiations (COP25) in Madrid, with the event even being billed by some as theBlue COP.

While detailed scientific reports and formal international negotiations are making slow progress, 2019 was the year thatyouth climate activistsstood up to demand a much more rapid response. This includedyouth from the Pacific islandswho are already dealing with the impacts of sea-level rise.

Greta Thunberg inspired millions of students to participate in school strikes, and Fridays for Future marches became a common occurrence in towns and cities across the globe. More than4 million people in over 163 countriesare estimated to have participated in the global climate strike in September. 2019 could be called the year when youth undeniably spoke their mind about climate change, but it remains to be seen how well the world listened.

2019 was a big year for progress on protecting biodiversity on the high seas, the two-thirds of the ocean that lie outside of national waters. The U.N. hosted two rounds of negotiations on a possible new global treaty to better manage and protect biodiversity on the high seas life that too often has slipped through international regulatory cracks. This protection is critical for pelagic populations that have already suffered huge losses due tooverfishingorbycatch.

Two young dolphins heading towards the high seas just as the sun breaks through the horizon in Avalon Beach, New South Wales.

Marine scientists from around the world presented results to the UN this year as towhich parts and how much of the high seas should be protected. Considerations include hotspots for migratory marine top predators such as seabirds and sharks, important fish spawning and feeding grounds and areas that may provide a buffer to climate change impacts. Adraft treaty textwas released in November.

With only one more planned negotiating session left this spring in New York, all eyes in 2020 will be on whether the treaty indeed becomes something that matters for ocean life on the high seas.

More than 3 billion people globally rely on healthy marine ecosystems for their livelihoods. However, fish stocks are overexploited, marine pollution is rife and ocean acidification is on the rise. A key target ofUN Sustainable Development Goal 14is to protect 10 percent of marine areas by 2020, a goal also encapsulated inAichi Target 11of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD).

With several large new protected areas announced in recent years andcurrent ocean protection at around 7.5 percentwe are now close to reaching the 10 percent target, but it remains to be seen if this can be achieved before the next CBD Conference of the Parties in October 2020. Even so, meeting the target does not ensure conservation success.

Hard work remains to be done to ensure that all marine protected areas are effective. This year also saw increasing calls from scientists, conservationists and governments toraise global ambitions and aim to protect 30 percent of the ocean by 2030, part of which would include high seas waters.

Grey reef sharks (Carcharhinus amblyrhynchos) in the waters of the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument. Image: Kydd Pollock/USFWS-Pacific Region via Flickr

An oil spill detected off the coast of Brazil in late August of this year is estimated at over 7,000 tons of crude oil, covering a 2,700-kilometer (1,680-mile) stretch of coastline. The spill hascontaminated hundreds of beaches, estuaries, reefs and mangrovesand is threatening important biodiversity hotspots and at least 48 marine protected areas.

One of these is Abrolhos Bank, the largest coral reef area in the South Atlantic Ocean. The source of the spill has yet to be identified, but it seems likely to have comefrom a dark ship that had switched off its location transponder. Analysis of satellite data has helped to identify ships that were in the area at the time of the spill, and the Brazilian authorities are currently reviewing the information. Brazils National Contingency Plan was activated late, and citizens whose livelihoods depend on coastal resources were those most impacted by the spill.

Oil tanker at sea. Image: Flickr

An improved response requires a crisis emergency fund and trained personnel to help citizens respond safely to environmental disasters. Further investment is also needed to improve both the science of spills and the technology that will enable a modern satellite monitoring system of ship activity.

Every year it seems we learn more and more about the severity of the plastic pollution crisis. Actions to address the crisis kicked off at the start of the year when the Alliance to End Plastic Waste, a group of household-name companies (think Procter & Gamble, Shell and Dow),committed $1 billion to reduce plastic waste and improve recycling. Other recent commitments include theSea the Future initiative from the Minderoo Foundation, which hinges on businesses pledging a voluntary contribution that will make fossil fuel-based plastics more expensive to produce and more valuable to collect.

At the country level, Vietnam released itsNational Action Planon Ocean Plastic Waste Management,Panamabecame the first Central American nation to ban plastic bags, andKenyacommitted to banning single-use plastics in 2020. Awareness has also increased about therole that rivers playin the flow of plastic into the ocean, and innovative solutions are being developed to tackle the problem, such as Baltimore HarborsMr Trash Wheeland The Ocean CleanupsInterceptor.

A special ship designed to clean the oceans harvested its first plastic from the Great Pacific Garbage Patch in October 2019, after setting sail from San Francisco in a month prior. Image: The Ocean Cleanup/YouTube

The world moved closer this year to answering a landmark question for oceans:Should we legalize mining of the seafloor?

The International Seabed Authority hopes to finalize the answer to that question next year by completing international regulations on commercial ocean mining in the high seas, but it faces significant political opposition.In 2019 a host of countries, including Fiji, formally called for bans on ocean mining,citing concerns about the possible negative impacts that mining may have on fisheries, carbon storage in the oceans and fragile deep-ocean ecosystems.

Paralleling the race to mine the seafloor is the race to reduce our dependence on these marine minerals, through both the transformation of battery chemistry away from the reliance on rare metals for example, with potential breakthrough moments in next-generation battery research from labs atMITandBerkeley and the improvement of methods to recycle metals from existing products.

A garden of coral on the Sibelius Seamount at a depth of 2,465 m (8,087 ft). Image: NOAA/Wikimedia Commons

Harmful fisheries subsidiesare contributing to the depletion of marine life globally, with one-third of the worlds fish stocks now harvested at unsustainable levels compared to just 10 percent some 40 years ago.Subsidies are payouts provided to fishers by governments to offset costs, such as fuel and fishing gear, and they can often encourage illegal catch or fishing beyond biologically sustainable limits.

Members of the World Trade Organization (WTO) have been in negotiations to end harmful fisheries subsidies since 2001, and with talks picking up momentum in 2019, it was hoped an agreement would finally be reached by the end of the year. Unfortunately, that opportunity has now passed, but in early December members agreed onan intensive program of negotiations for early 2020aiming to reach agreement by the next WTO ministerial meeting in June.

Fresh fish sorting from fisheries at sea, destined for a local market in Mui Ne, Vietnam. Image: Duangphorn Wiriya/Unsplash

The appointment of a new chair of the negotiations has injected fresh energy and hope into the talks process, and many voices of influence have joined the call for a swift conclusion to the negotiations, including the WTOs director-general, Roberto Azevdo, and famed British naturalistSir David Attenborough.

Its often quoted thatwe know more about the moons surface than the ocean floor, and even in 2019 the ocean still continues to surprise us. Though weve known about biofluorescence in the marine world for a while,the mechanism for why some shark species emit a green glow was only worked out this year.

Bioflourescent catfish under visible and infrared light. Image: Scientific Reports

Biofluorescence in female (a-d) and male (e-h) catsharks (Scyliorhinidae). Image: Scientific Reports

Researchers discovered a small family of molecules that produce the green glow, which is only visible to other sharks, and the compounds may even offer protection from microbial infection. It can be a challenge to keep up with the changes happening in the ocean, many of which are driven by climate change.The appearance of a go-kart-size hoodwinker sunfish (Mola tecta) washed upon Coal Oil Point Reserve in Santa Barbara, California, caused confusion for locals and scientists alike. This species, which was only discovered in 2014, is usually more at home in the waters of the Southern Hemisphere.

And finally, the so-called Blob,a patch of unusually warm ocean water that formed in the Gulf of Alaska in 2013and spread along the entire North American west coast, continues to leave its mark.

The emerging risks from marine heat waves on a world map. Image: Springer/Nature

While waters cooled in mid-2016, the previous warmer temperatures have been tied to a crash in cod stocks in the Gulf of Alaska, and this monthfisheries managers made the unprecedented decision to close the Pacific cod fishery. Worryingly,NOAA reported in September on the beginning of another marine heatwave covering the same region and extent as the blobwith the potential to further impact marine and coastal ecosystems.

The story has beenadapted from a commentary and edited for style from Mongabay. You can read the original story here.

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Untangling the Problem of Ocean Plastic – Sierra Magazine

Posted: at 11:47 pm

During the past half century, Mary Crowley has sailed nearly 115,000 miles of ocean, as both a crew member and a sea captain. Over the years, she has noticed that all the places she lovesGreece, Italy, Costa Rica, Palau, French Polynesia, Indonesia, Thailand, the Galpagos Islandshave been gradually filling up with plastic debris.

Through her nonprofit, Ocean Voyages Institute (OVI), which is located in Sausalito, California, Crowley organized a 2009 expedition to the North Pacific Gyre to study the problem. She determined that one of the biggest offenders is "ghost nets," which linger long after they are lost or discarded by commercial fishing operations and end up entrapping and killing marine life.

After consulting with marine architects, engineers, oceanographers, and other experts, Crowley began to think about ways that existing ships and maritime equipment could be used for ocean cleanup. Eventually, she developed a plan: to design special satellite trackers and enlist volunteers to attach them to ghost nets so they could be monitored and eventually retrieved. Once the soccer-ball-size devices were ready, OVI handed them out to seagoers, including participants in the Trans Pacific Yacht Race and crews of environmental vessels belonging to Greenpeace and the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society.

Ocean plastic kills 100,000 marine mammals and turtles and 1 million seabirds each year.

In the summer of 2019, a cargo schooner left Honolulu on a mission to collect the tagged debris. Crowley suspected that ocean currents sort out plastic according to size, shape, and density and had a hunch that when the onboard drones located one fishing net, others would be nearby (she calls this her "one tracker, many nets" theory).

In fact, after picking up a tagged net weighing 600 pounds, the crew found two much-larger nets within a five-mile radius. After 25 days, the ship returned to port with 42 tons of nets. Two tons were given to environmental artists, and the rest of the nets were sent to a waste-to-energy power plant in Hawaii.

Now, Crowley is planning a longer 2020 expedition, and she hopes the crew will collect more than 400 tons of ghost nets. She'd like to see fishing boats tasked with picking up smaller "consumer debris," and her institute is developing methods for collecting shredded plastic and microplastics.

Crowley believes that cleaning up the high seas is only one solution to the plastic problem. Getting rid of single-use plastic is another. "We also have to change our habits and our manufacturing," she says. "We've been treating our oceans as our garbage pail for centuries. It's time we stop."

This article appeared in the January/February 2020 edition with the headline "Ghost Net Buster."

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Bradfordians celebrate Christmas at work and on the high seas – Bradford Telegraph and Argus

Posted: at 11:47 pm

WHEN you are sitting down to your Christmas dinner today, spare a thought for those working or having to be away from home over the festive holidays.

The emergency services are on call, hospitals will sill be looking after patients, railway crews are out and about and council and utility company staff are among those also on duty making sure you can celebrate Christmas happily and safely.

And you can't get much more unlike the traditional image of a family round the groaning festive table than the pair of Idle rowers who are taking part in the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge.

Chris Nicholl and James Tordoff have left family and friends behind to take part in the gruelling race which started on December 12 and has seen them cover more than 700 nautical miles in the two weeks to date.

Rather than a roast with all the trimmings, socialising or watching the Queen's Christmas message on TV the pair will be in the middle of the ocean eating a rehydrated meal.

Chris said: "We intend to stop the boat and have a hot rehydrated chicken tikka with rice meal for Christmas Day as most of our other meals will be cold.

"We have a Terrys chocolate orange each for dessert. We have some Santa hats to put on and will be playing a Christmas playlist on our Bluetooth speaker.

"We will also call our partners back home.

"It will be tough to be away from our loved ones at Christmas but each day we will be getting closer to seeing them again.

"We will miss our friends, family, and all the festive food and drink.

"Santa will deliver our presents at home and will be waiting for us when we get back. Although seeing our family when we get to Antigua with be the best Christmas present."

Back in Bradford, council staff will be doing their best to help people in need with dozens of workers on duty over the Christmas period.

Bradford Enablement and Support Team and home care staff will be working with vulnerable adults and children while in Extra Care housing schemes staff provide personal care for people in their own homes also including assisting with preparing meals, talking and having fun with service uses and supporting people with health and wellbeing.

There are also childrens homes and care leavers staff while the Safe and Sound service is a 24-hour response service for people if they have had falls or other incidents.

On call over the holidays are members of the Environmental Health department, the Emergency Planning Team, Highways for gritting, winter maintenance the emergency social care services for children and the building control team.

Terry Moore, care manager in Bradford Councils Extra Care Services, said: Christmas Day is no different to any other day. People still have their own care needs.

"We dont have extra staff to cover. Its just like any other day.

Among the locations where Council staff will be on duty is Mary Seacole Court, an Extra Care Housing scheme which has individual apartments for older people who receive personal care at the same time as being able to live as independently as possible.

Bradford Council provides personal care services to these people, but the scheme is run and managed by Housing 21.

Among the communal activities in the run-up to the festivities were a Christmas Party last Friday and a Christmas dinner held on Christmas Eve and staff will be helping entertain residents during the rest of the holiday period.

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10 Things No Mom Should Consider Wearing On Her Cruise (5 She’ll Be Glad She Did) – TheTravel

Posted: at 11:47 pm

Nothing beats a vacation on a luxury cruise ship. These types of holidays are like no other ones in the world. They allow travelers to experience several parts of the world in one swoop, all while enjoying the luxuries and amenities that a ship has to offer. Many people swear by cruises, foregoing all other kinds of travel.

When packing for a cruise getaway, there are some essential items that moms need to make sure they jam into their suitcases. Other items ladies might consider should be left at home.

Here are ten things no mom should consider bringing along with them on their cruise and five more that need to make the cut.

People sometimes want to get jazzed up for a few fancy dinners while on their cruise vacations. That is fine and dandy, but travelers might want to consider leaving the four-inch heels at home. If the high seas get angry and storms arise, that boat will be rocking, and a high heeled-wearing woman might get tossed to the ground.

Fact: You are going to want to take pictures on your cruise vacation. The ocean and sky are mesmerizing, and the islands the boat docks at will be full of exciting things to capture on film. That said, leave your pricey cameras behind. Bring along a cheaper version for all those silly cruise ship selfies.

Sometimes an outfit doesn't seem complete without the bling, and many women will be tempted to bring their diamonds and pearls along on their cruise vacation. Expensive or heirloom jewelry should never be brought along on any vacation. Items are always at risk of getting stolen or lost.

Depending on what kind of cruise you are taking (and these days you can take some pretty wild cruises) and what time of year you are vacationing in, you may choose to pack a waterproof jacket of sorts. You are on the ocean after all, and spray is standard. Stormy weather can also pop up at any given time.

If you are anything like me, you are a vacation over-packer. Try to avoid bringing a pair of shoes and a different outfit for every day of your trip. Cruise cabins are not exactly known for being spacious, so the less baggage, the better. Try and pack articles of clothing that can be mixed and matched with other items for versatility.

You will definitely want to bring a couple of bathing suits along with you for your cruise. With that said, maybe leave the ones that resemble dental floss back at home. Cruise ships have plenty of places to sunbathe but are not precisely private spaces. You won't find a lot of secluded spots to let it all hang out.

While on vacation, people try and forget about the concept of time. Trips are breaks away from the hustle and bustle of life. Not on cruise ships! When the ship anchors at an island, it expects passengers to be on board at a particular time so that they can set sail for the next destination. Bring a watch so that you never miss your ship.

It might be tempting to wander down the cruise ship staircase to the buffet and eat breakfast in slippers and a robe. Don't do this. Leave the robe at home and pack comfy sweats instead. Don't be "that guy" who thinks that every surface of the cruise ship belongs to him and him alone.

Packing a good pair of walking shoes for any vacation, including cruises, is a good idea. Island excursions are typical on specific cruises, and you'll want to be able to trek around without pinched toes and blisters. Shoes with excellent traction are also a great thing to have on hand while strolling through ship corridors. Those floors can get slippery.

Caftans and billowing articles of clothing look amazing for pictures you plan to put up on the Gram, but they are not always practical on ships. You wouldn't want to catch a corner of your gown on a rail and rip the thing right off. Winds can pick up on the seas and are often unpredictable.

We don't care how much of a base tan you think you have, or how well you brown and not fry. While vacationing on a cruise ship, a good sunscreen is essential. No one wants to deal with the aftermath of too much Vitamin D on their vacation. When choosing a sunscreen, aim for one that is water-resistant.

Even when cruise ships host fancy dinners, relaxed hairstyles and updos might be the way to go. Intricate updos will hold their own in the dining rooms and indoor spaces, but should you head out for some fresh air, the wind and seawater might make that updo look like a total bird's nest.

For the most part, you'll want to pack mostly casual clothes and bathing suits for tropical cruises, and weather appropriate clothing for cruises to the north. Formal wear is not usually at the top of the list. That said, a few nice outfits to wear to dinner would probably be a good idea. Don't go overboard with dresses, but bring one or two.

Having fake eyelashes put on can make a woman feel glamorous. Once these guys start to go wonky and fall off, though, they need immediate attention. Cruise ships might not be equipt to handle eyelash emergencies, and this can leave women with fakes looking a mess. It's probably best to pack a solid mascara instead.

One good rule of thumb for cruise ship vacations is: If you can not live without it, don't bring it. Grandpa's antique watch might look dapper, but it isn't worth losing. One carat diamond earrings might make you the Belle of the Ball but will also make you beyond upset if one goes missing.

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The 10 sapphic YA fantasy books coming out in 2020 to add to your TBR – Hypable

Posted: at 11:47 pm

The future of fantasy looks bright with these 10 sapphic YA fantasy books coming out in 2020 that you definitely want to pre-order and add to your TBR list.

From debut authors to returning favorites, 2020 is jam packed with sapphic YA fantasy books that we cant help but be excited about. 2019 was a monumental year for queer YA fantasy books, and its looking like 2020 will blow 2019 out of the water with representation of LGBT+ in fantasy.

Talking about normalizing LGBT+ in fantasy is something Im passionate about, as well as lifting #OwnVoices books up and finding new queer fantasy to read, which is important because representation in media matters.

This time, I wanted to highlight some sapphic YA fantasy books that are coming out this coming year that are not only on my TBR for 2020, but are at the top of it. There is something for everyone from revolution to different and unique magic systems, danger is. With perilous journeys and tough decisions to make, these young women are not only bad asses, but know how to get what they want.

Queen of Coin and Whispers is a standalone YA fantasy full of some of my favorite things: espionage, betrayals, and treason with a side of romance. This sapphic YA fantasy will surely not disappoint with its Queen heroine and her spymaster who must decide whats best for not only the country, but for themselves.

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Dangerous Remedy is the first book in a new series that mixes the French Revolution with the fantastical as it adds in a dash of disturbing magic powers that are sought after by people on both sides of the bloody war. Full of a diverse cast, this sapphic YA fantasy will keep you on the edge of your seat as Camille has to choose between being loyal to those she loves and whats best for the revolution in this intrigue heavy debut.

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Ruinsong is a standalone f/f, dark with a forbidden romance with two young women who belong to rival factions that have to come to terms with not only their feelings, but with what side they are truly on. Underground rebellions, bardic magic, and ruthless tyrannical queens make this a book you dont want to miss.

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Stunningly dark, Blood Countess brings a bloody retelling of the Countess Dracula herself, Elizabeth Bthory, from the point of view of one of her scullery maids. A historical horror novel, its obvious that this wont be a healthy representation of sapphic love, but one of manipulation and grooming that Elizabeth Bthory was famous for.

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A life swap, where two young women want to live differently than they do, leads to romance as one becomes a physician and another goes to finishing school to learn divination. Add in a war in which they work together to help end, Emilie and Annettes journey of self-discovery seems like the perfect sapphic YA fantasy to add to our TBR list!

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Kim Smejkals dark fantasy debut has unique tattoo-based magic that is linked to deities where the tattoos bind the recipients more than they help. With their lives built on lies, its up to Ceila and Anya to bring down malicious deities and their vicious zealot followers.

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Covens with a history of sordid black magic and murder at sacred sites, is only the beginning of the intricately made world of Witches of Ash and Ruin, a dark tale of ascending into powers and a dangerous murder mystery that two young women find themselves in the middle of. Its described as a mixture of V.E. Schwabs A Darker Shade of Magic and A Discovery of Witches, so this is at the top of my TBR in March.

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The Mermaid, the Witch, and the Sea is an adventure on the high seas with pirates, cross dressing, arranged marriage, where mermaids are wanted for their blood, and two heroines on opposite sides are fighting to stop slave trade. Maggie Tokuda-Halls debut mixes pirates, imperial colonialism and its terrors, and Asian folklore, giving The Mermaid, the Witch, and the Sea a unique vibe we cant wait to sink are claws into.

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Morally grey heroines are one of my favorite tropes. Not all characters need to be perfectly and lawfully good. Girl, Serpent, Thorn gives us a princess with a curse, where her touch is poisonous, and on her journey to learn more about her curse, she meets a demon with answers, and she has to decide what side of good or evil she falls on, or if there is such thing as being somewhere in the middle when youre cursed.

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This book has everything: seemingly evil queens, human sacrifice for the better of the people, an exchange of life for someone the heroine loves, and an unlikely romance. The Dark Tide is described as being similar to The Wicked Deep, Caraval, and Three Dark Crowns so sign me up immediately. Where not everything is as it seems, The Dark Tide looks to be enrapturing and alluring with its plot and character dynamics. Is it June yet?

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This is only a small sampling of the amazing queer representation and sapphic YA fantasy coming coming out in 2020. To delve deeper and add even more books to your TBR, check out this massive list compiled by Goodreads!

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On the Road to Gaza: The Freedom Flotilla Will Sail Again – Antiwar.com

Posted: at 11:47 pm

What is Gaza to us but an Israeli missile, a rudimentary rocket, a demolished home, an injured child being whisked away by his peers under a hail of bullets? On a daily basis, Gaza is conveyed to us as a bloody image or a dramatic video, none of which can truly capture the everyday reality of the Strip its formidable steadfastness, the everyday acts of resistance, and the type of suffering that can never be really understood through a customary glance at a social media post.

At long last, the chief prosecutor of the International Court of Justice (ICC), Fatou Bensouda, has declared her satisfaction that "war crimes have been or are being committed in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip". As soon as the ICC statement was made on December 20, pro-Palestinian groups felt a rare moment of relief. Finally, Israel will stand accused, potentially paying for its recurring bloodbath in the isolated and besieged Gaza Strip, its military occupation and apartheid in the West Bank, and much more.

However, it could take years for the ICC to initiate its legal proceedings and render its verdict. Moreover, there are no political guarantees that an ICC decision indicting Israel would ever be respected, let alone implemented.

Meanwhile, the siege on Gaza persists, only to be interrupted by a massive war, like the one of 2014, or a less destructive one, similar to the latest Israeli onslaught in November. And with every war, more dismal statistics are produced, more lives shattered, and more painful stories are told and retold.

For years, civil society groups across the world labored to destabilize this horrific status quo. They organized, held vigils, wrote letters to their political representatives and so on. To no avail. Frustrated by government inaction, a small group of activists sailed to Gaza in a small boat in August 2008, succeeding in doing what the United Nations has failed to do: they broke, however fleetingly, the Israeli siege on the impoverished Strip.

This symbolic action of the Free Gaza movement had a tremendous impact. It sent a clear message to Palestinians in occupied Palestine, that their fate is not only determined by the Israeli government and military machine; that there are other actors who are capable of challenging the dreadful silence of the international community; that not all Westerners are as complicit as their governments in the prolonged suffering of the Palestinian people.

Since then, many more solidarity missions have attempted to follow suit, coming across the sea atop flotillas or in large caravans through the Sinai desert. Some have successfully reached Gaza, delivering medical aid and other supplies. The majority, however, were sent back or had their boats hijacked in international waters by the Israeli navy.

The outcome of all of this has been the writing of a new chapter of solidarity with the Palestinian people that went beyond the occasional demonstration and the typical signing of a petition.

The second Palestinian Intifada, the uprising of 2002, had already redefined the role of the "activist" in Palestine. The formation of the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) allowed thousands of international activists from around the world to participate in "direct action" in Palestine thus fulfilling, however symbolically, a role that is typically played by a United Nations protective force.

ISM activists, however, employed nonviolent means of registering civil societys rejection of the Israeli occupation. Expectedly, Israel did not honor the fact that many of these activists came from countries deemed "friendly" by Tel Avivs standards. The killing of US and British nationals Rachel Corrie and Tom Hurndall in Gaza in 2003 and 2004 respectively, was just the precursor of Israeli violence that was to follow.

In May 2010, the Israeli navy attacked the Freedom Flotilla consisting of the Turkish-owned ship MV Mavi Marmara and others, killing ten unarmed humanitarian workers and wounding at least 50 more. As was the case with the murder of Rachel and Tom, there was no real accountability for the Israeli attack on the solidarity boats.

It must be understood that Israeli violence is not random nor is just a reflection of Israels notoriety and disregard of international and humanitarian law. With every violent episode, Israel hopes to dissuade outside actors from getting involved in "Israeli affairs". Yet, time and again, the solidarity movement returns with a defiant message, insisting that no country, not even Israel, has the right to commit war crimes with impunity.

Following a recent meeting in the Dutch city of Rotterdam, the International Coalition of the Freedom Flotilla, which consists of many international groups, has decided to, once more, sail to Gaza. The solidarity mission is scheduled for the summer of 2020, and, like most of the 35 previous attempts, the Flotilla is likely to be intercepted by the Israeli navy. Yet, another attempt will likely follow, and many more, until the Gaza siege is completely lifted. It has become clear that the purpose of these humanitarian missions is not to deliver a few medical supplies to the nearly two million besieged Gazans, but to challenge the Israeli narrative that has turned the occupation and isolation of Palestinians to a status quo ante, to an "Israeli affair".

According to the United Nations Office in Occupied Palestine, the poverty rate in Gaza seems to be increasing at an alarming speed of 2% per year. By the end of 2017, 53% of Gazas population lived in poverty, two-thirds of them living in "deep poverty". This terrible number includes over 400,000 children.

An image, a video, a chart or a social media post can never convey the pain of 400,000 children, who experience real hunger every single day of their lives so that the Israeli government may achieve its military and political designs in Gaza. Indeed, Gaza is not just an Israeli missile, a demolished home, and an injured child. It is an entire nation that is suffering and resisting, in near-complete isolation from the rest of the world.

True solidarity should aim at forcing Israel to end the protracted occupation and siege on the Palestinian people, sailing the high seas, if necessary. Thankfully, the good activists of the Freedom Flotilla are doing just that.

Dr. Ramzy Baroud is a journalist, author and editor of The Palestine Chronicle. His last book is The Last Earth: A Palestinian Story (Pluto Press, London) and his forthcoming book is These Chains Will Be Broken: Palestinian Stories of Struggle and Defiance in Israeli Prisons (Clarity Press, Atlanta). Baroud is a Non-resident Senior Research Fellow at the Center for Islam and Global Affairs (CIGA), Istanbul Zaim University (IZU). His website is http://www.ramzybaroud.net.

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One Piece: Kaido Beats Luffy and the Straw Hat Pirates With One Blow – CBR – Comic Book Resources

Posted: at 11:47 pm

WARNING: The following contains spoilers for One Piece Episode 915, "Destructive! One Shot, One Kill - Thunder Bagua!"

Kaido, the primary antagonist of One Piece's Wano Arc, has made his presence known. The last of the mighty Four Emperors to appear in the series, he might very well be the most powerful of them all -- or at least the most dangerous.

Kaido rules in alliance with Orochi, the Shogun of Wano, who stole the land after burning Oden Castle down. But until the past few episodes, Kaido has only been resting in his castle, drinking and brooding. Viewers had no idea of the scale of his incredible power until he, in a few minutes, defeated -- and possibly killed -- the Straw Hat Pirates and friends, before beating Luffy into submission.

RELATED: One Piece Creator Teases the Manga's Endgame Is Nigh

The Four Emperors essentially reign supreme among the high seas of One Piece: Shanks, Charlotte Linlin, Marshall D. Teach and Kaido. Teach stole his position after slaying Whitebeard, meaning that, with the exception of Shanks, all of these guys are not exactly friends with the Straw Hat Pirates.

Kaido in particular has a grudge against Luffy and the gang. He depended on a supply of artificial Devil Fruits in order to transform his pirates into beast-men. These fruits came from Doflamingo, whom Luffy and crew very effectively defeated. Kaido was Doflamingo's biggest customer, who was then cut off from arguably his most necessary resource.

While Luffy didn't defeat Kaido in combat or shake his position of power, he did inconvenience the mighty emperor. Of course, Kaido has the ability to transform into a gigantic dragon, which certainly gives him an edge over Luffy. More than that, however, Kaido can annihilate the Straw Hat Pirates, which he basically does ... while drunk.

Kaido manages to one-shot all of the Straw Pirates while drunk. After drinking enough, he leaves his base to go on a stroll through the clouds, and ends up attacking Oden Castle, where several of the Straw Hat Pirates are hidden. All he does is rear back and deliver a single blast -- one mighty rush of fire -- that melts the castle.

RELATED:10 Things One Piece Needs Resolve Before It Ends

As of now, it's unknown who, if anyone, survived in the anime. As far as Luffy knows, his entire crew -- save for Zoro, Nico, Usopp and Franky -- is dead. On top of that, Tama, the girl Luffy saved at the cost of exposing himself to Kaido, was hurt.

The two-episode brawl consists primarily of Luffy delivering blow after blow, and none of them hurting Kaido. Yet, the fight ends with Kaido deciding to strike back. All it takes is a single strike to put Luffy down. But more than that, he doesn't only defeat Luffy, but he also attacks his pride. He dismisses his dream to be King of the Pirates, further proving that Kaido doesn't simply win on the physical level but also on an emoti9onal one.

Considering that he defeated Luffy while drunk, it appears that Kaido may very well be unstoppable. One Piece has featured powerful antagonists before; every villain, to an extent, is the most dangerous one Luffy has confronted to that point. Furthermore, he has faced the other Emperors before, but Kaido may be the most dangerous.

RELATED:One Piece vs. Naruto: 10 Anime Memes That Make Fans Pick Sides

Kin'emon's plan to defeat Kaido involved getting him, Orochi and the rest of the crew drunk at a certain festival, and slaying them while they're intoxicated. That might work out for the lower-ranking crew members, but against Kaido, their superior?

Kaido may be the single strongest character in the entire series to date. It seems almost absurd that Luffy can have any chance of victory, unless he can figure out a way to defeat Kaido from within his ranks.

Episode 915 adapts the start of Chapter 924 of One Piece. Knowing that, we can piece together a few details about where the anime will go in the next episode: Kaido didn't actually kill any of the Straw Hats, of course; they survived a mountain-melting blast. We also know that Kaido kidnaps Luffy, convinced he defeated all of the Straw Hat Pirates for good.

Luffy's usual, direct approach will inevitably fail against Kaido. The only solution is the more covert, clever approach that Kin'emon outlined in previous episodes. It's the only way to overthrow Kaido. Luffy clearly vowed to defeat the Four Emperors a long while ago, but beating them and shaking their authority over the pirating world might be far more difficult than Luffy anticipated. After all, Kaido far surpasses Luffy as a fighter. His only hope will be to exercise control and strategy, and to utilize the capabilities of his entire crew.

Or, perhaps, with Luffy out of the picture, the others can better serve Kin'emon's plot to defeat Kaido. It would be necessary for them to avoid a direct fight, because, as demonstrated here, a drunken Kaido can still beat all of them in a matter of seconds. Luffy has never faced an enemy as unstoppable as the raging ocean. In order to win, they will need to use all the strategy and resources available to them in order to win. It will become necessary for them to all work together as a team if they have a prayer of winning.

NEXT: One Piece: 10 Whitebeard Pirates Vs Roger Pirates Matchups We Would Have Loved To See

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One Piece: Kaido Beats Luffy and the Straw Hat Pirates With One Blow - CBR - Comic Book Resources

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No One Wanted to Mess with the Dauntless Dive-Bomber – The National Interest Online

Posted: at 11:47 pm

Key Point: Here is the history of this weapon war.

World War II gave us many stories of aerial warfare, men and their machines fighting their way to victory and glory in the name of humanity. However romantic such a notion may be, World War II was the first in which airpower actually won battles, decided the outcome of campaigns, and ultimately the course of the conflict itself. That victory came about as a result of Allied airmen dropping ordnance onto the most important things the Axis countries owned, turning them into rubble or wreckage. Its a simple formula actually: precisely drop enough lead or high explosive onto something, and it will be destroyed.

Fighter Pilots Make Movies. Bomber Pilots Make History!

But not everyone saw the worth of that idea in the 1930s and 1940s. Most airpower enthusiasts of the day saw bombing in terms of large formations of huge multi-engined planes, fighting their way past hostile defenses to carpet an objective with bombs, the target being embroiled in the mess.

The early days of World War II, however, did not see Americas few victories won by huge formations of heavy bombers. Those battles were won by one small, tubby, and not terribly fast airplane, flown by men whose courage and tenacity are still a source of envy and wonder to historians of the period. There was a saying going around at the time: Fighter pilots make movies. Bomber pilots make history! The men who made that history were the aviators of the Navy and Marine scout and bombing squadrons, and their war horse was the Douglas SDB Dauntless dive-bomber.

It is sometimes difficult to remember that before laser-, infrared-, and satellite-guided bombs came into being, delivering ordinance from aircraft was hardly a precision process. Huge sums of money were spent developing specialized bombsights for level bombers, to help lay their loads onto targets with some modicum of accuracy. However, without some sort of terminal guidance for the bombs themselves, even the famed Norden bombsight of World War II would do no better than to lay a string of bombs across an area the size of several football fields. There were, however, simpler and more intuitive ways of putting a bomb close to an aim-point from the air.

Concept Of Dive-Bombing Created

Nobody knows who first came up with the idea of aiming bombs at a target from a diving airplane, but sometime in World War I this became an intuitive way of getting bombs closer to the desired target. The result was a specialized kind of weapons delivery known as dive-bombing. Technical dive-bombing was a uniquely American creation, the product of a small cadre of U.S. Marine Corps (USMC) aviators who wanted to provide close bombing support to riflemen on the ground. It was Lieutenant L.H.M. Sanderson who, in 1919 as a member of Marine Observation Squadron Nine, noted that a diving aircraft pointed at a target made more accurate deliveries, causing the tactical adoption of glide- and dive-bombing by the USMC. Further experimentation showed that the reduced horizontal velocity component of the diving aircraft (compared to that of a level bomber) combined with the superior view of the target by the pilot made for truly precise weapons deliveries by skilled pilots.

Navy Begins Procuring Dive-Bombing Aircraft

By the mid-1930s, the Navy and Marines had both seen the virtues of dive-bombing. The USMC was using it to support troops on the ground as flying artillery, while their sea-service brethren developed the tactics as a precision antishipping tactic. To this end, the Navys Bureau of Aeronautics (BuAer) began to procure purpose-built dive-bombing aircraft, with the specialized equipment and structures necessary to make them a truly deadly form of warfare. These included aerodynamic dive brakes (to slow and steady the aircraft during the dive), extra structure (to withstand the stresses of pulling out after the dive), trapeze bomb-release systems (to help the bomb clear the propeller), and telescopic bombsights (to assist the pilot in putting the weapon precisely onto the target).

Seeking The Next Generation Of Bombers

Curtiss, long a supplier of Navy and Marine aircraft, produced most of the early dive-bombers. In fact, it was a demonstration by Marine Curtiss F8C Helldivers that led German Air Minister Ernst Udet to procure several for the emerging Luftwaffe as the inspiration for the famous Ju-87 Stuka. The 1930s were a time of amazing technological advancement in the aviation industry, and several new companies began to produce dive-bombers for the Navy and Marines. One of these was the Vought SB2U Vindicator, the first all-metal, low-wing monoplane procured for use by the sea services. Brought into service in 1938, the Vindicator provided a great deal of experience in operations of such aircraft, and led the BuAer to look for a more advanced model for the Navy and Marines. That search led to an emerging aircraft manufacturer in southern California: the Douglas Aircraft Company (DAC).

Founded by Donald Douglas, DAC already had an impressive standing in the aviation world by the late 1930s. Manufacturer of the incomparable DC-3 (which became the military C-47/R4D Skytrain/Dakota), DAC already had built a solid reputation with the Navy with the TBD Devastator torpedo bomber. Despite the unfortunate reputation it would acquire at the Battle of Midway in 1942 (where 39 out of 43 would be shot down), the TBD was the finest carrier-based torpedo bomber in the world when it was delivered in 1937. Like the SB2U, the TBD was a rugged, all-metal, low-wing monoplane that clearly represented the future of carrier aircraft. With the clouds of war beginning to grow, the DAC was going to be a major player in that effort.

Initially, the contract for the Vindicator replacement went to the El Segundo division of Northrop, which was producing a fairly conventional scout bomber design known as the BT-1. But, Northrop sold this division to DAC, and with it came one of the greatest aircraft designers of all time: the legendary Ed Heinemann. Heinemann had already produced a number of successful designs and almost immediately saw the possibilities for an improved model of the BT-1. At the same time, Heinemann began to be influenced by DACs founder on how he might design better aircraft for the sea services.

They Have To Take Punishment And Still Work

He would later write in his book, Aircraft Design: One day when I was a young man just beginning to design airplanes, the great person who founded the company that bore his name, Donald Douglas, took me by the shoulder and taught me a lesson that was simple, though vital to success. At the time, we were trying to generate business from the U.S. Navy. Navy planes take a beating, he said. They slam down on the carriers when they land and get roughed up by the unforgiving elements of the high seas. If we want the Navy to buy our airplanes, we must build them rugged. They have to take punishment and still work.

Applying this and other ideas to the basic BT-1 design, he refined it into the XBT-2, what became known as the Scout-Bomber-Douglas Aircraft Company, or SBD.

SBD Rolled Out With Several Changes

The SBD was a surprising little airplane, as much for what it did not have in the way of features as for what it did have. For example, the SBD broke with the trend for folding wings to save deck and hangar space. By using a compact wing and platform, Heinemann was able to design the SBD to be small enough to fit up to three dozen onto U.S. carriers along with their other squadrons of fighters and torpedo bombers. The lack of a folding wing also saved weight and removed a weak point that made for a more rugged design. Another SBD innovation was the inclusion of perforated split dive brakes, which also functioned as flaps on takeoff and landing.

When fully extended, the split flaps allowed a pilot to dive the SBD at an angle of up to 80 with a terminal velocity (the point where aerodynamic resistance balances engine power and gravity) of around 250 knots. This limited the stresses on the aircraft during pullout and provided a more stable platform during the dive. Nevertheless, the Dauntless (the name the Navy gave the SBD) was stressed to withstand up to 9 gees during maneuvering, and even was able to handle so-called zero lift (nearly vertical) dives. To help the pilot see the target and assist in aiming, a padded 3X sighting scope was mounted over the control panel. All of this was designed to help the two-man crew (a pilot and radio operator/gunner) to put a bomb onto the deck of a moving ship or a ground target with accuracy.

Along with the aforementioned features, Heinemann designed the SBD to take full advantage of the new advances in lightweight materials and structures to improve weight and durability. Although relatively new for its day, the Dauntless had a hydraulic system to power extend and retract the landing gear and dive brakes/flaps, replacing earlier hand-cranked systems. To protect against enemy fighters, two forward-firing .50-caliber M2 machine guns were mounted in the cowling, while a pair of twin .30-caliber Brownings was carried in a rear-firing flexible mount.

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Court remands five persons with 35 sacks of suspected cannabis – GhanaWeb

Posted: at 11:47 pm

Crime & Punishment of Saturday, 28 December 2019

Source: GNA

Cannabis

Five persons who were arrested by the Western Naval Command with 35 sacks of dried leaves suspected to be cannabis have appeared before a Circuit Court in Accra.

The Tema Naval Command picked up the five on December 23, this year, on board a boat carrying 35 sacks of dried leaves suspected to be cannabis on the high seas.

Facing charges of conspiracy and possession of narcotics, the five have had their pleas preserved by the court pending further investigations into the matter.

They are Evans Adasu Laweh, Moses Akorlie, Moses Gyinadu, Norgbetey Buanor and Benjamin Bortey Dame.

The court presided over by Justice Mrs Jane Harriet Akweley Quaye remanded the five accused persons into prison custody to reappear on January 10.

Their remand, the court said, was to enable the Police conduct further investigations into the matter.

Prosecuting Assistant State Attorney Mr Adamah Watskin prayed the court to remand the accused persons into prison custody pending further investigations into the matter.

According to Mr Watskin, the substances were being forwarded to the Ghana Standards Authority (GSA) for analytical examination.

The State Attorney indicated that that other accomplices who are at large were being sought for by the Police.

He said if the accused persons were admitted to bail, they might interfere with evidence and other accomplices who are at large, hence the accused persons should be remanded.

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