Chinese researchers discovered that human activities were the dominating factor influencing the Asian dust storm 2,000 years ago, according to a new research article in Nature Communications journal.
The research team collected samples from an alpine lake in north China's Shanxi Province in 2009.
The lake locates on the Chinese Loess Plateau, which is an ideal place to study the relations between an Asian dust storm and human activities, said Liu Jianbao, a researcher at the Institute of Tibetan Plateau Research under the Chinese Academy of Sciences and co-corresponding author of the article.
By extracting dust storm components from lake sediments, the research team reconstructed the history of the Asian dust storm for the past 2,000 years.
The results showed that the increases in dust storm coincided with a large population during strong Asian monsoon periods. By contrast, reduced dust storm activity corresponded to a decreased population.
The strengthened Asian monsoon facilitated the development of Chinese civilizations, destabilizing the topsoil and thereby increasing the dust storm frequency. This indicates that human activities, beginning at least 2,000 years ago, began to overtake natural climatic variability as the dominant controls of dust storm activity in eastern China.
The findings are expected to provide scientific support for policymaking of regulating human activities and afforestation in arid and semi-arid regions of north China.
The Aalst Carnival parade included stereotypical depictions of Jews for the second year in a row and the Belgian government said that the anti-Semitism in the three-day festival embarrassed the nation and endangers society.
The Carnival was kicked off the United Nations' UNESCO heritage list last year after a float rife with anti-Semitic symbols raised worldwide condemnation. Yet despite all the warnings, some again targeted Jews.
"Even though Aalst Carnival is much more than that, these facts detract from our values and reputation of our country," Prime Minister Sophie Wilmes said in a statement.
Festival committee chair Dirk Verleysen said floats or individuals "that exceed all limits" of decency would be taken out of the parade, but offensive elements did appear.
Earlier this week, Israel called on Belgium to scrap the annual Aalst parade. Yet one group on Sunday walked around the parade dressed up like insects with fur hats worn by some ultra-Orthodox Jewish men.
Wilmes suggested that authorities would see if they could take action.
"Belgium is a state of law. It is for the Justice Department and concerned authorities to see if the events during Carnival are in contravention of the law."
She said that stereotypes that stigmatize "lead to division. It endangers society. Specifically when it comes to repeated and conscious actions."
Aalst mayor Christoph D'Haese, who has been criticized for taking insufficient action after last year's offensive float, called Wilmes "otherwordly," and added that "I did not see an anti-Semitic or racist parade. To the contrary, I saw a high mass of free speech and creativity." He took time to pose with a Carnival reveler wearing a stereotypical hooked nose.
Chief Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt, president of the Conference of European Rabbis, countered D'Haese's view and said that "the satirical procession with anti-Semitic tropes in Aalst, Belgium, are extremely offensive and abuse the power of free speech which is such an essential ingredient in any liberal democracy."
The EU office of the American Jewish Committee immediately called on the European Union to investigate the parade.
"Belgian authorities did nothing to prevent the outright anti-Semitic costumes, which clearly violate the EU's founding values, built on the lessons of the Holocaust and World War II," said Daniel Schwammenthal, director of the AJC Brussels-based Transatlantic Institute.
The overwhelming majority of the 75-plus official entries in the parade's 92nd edition may have touched on anything from town hall politics to Brexit and global climate change, but several again highlighted the theme which caused such an uproar.
Carnival groups claims their three-day festival has a right to mock everything, even those hurtful to others. But even the president of the northern Belgian Flanders, where the festival is held, warned against insulting or excessively mocking people.
One float was about the "Aalst Tribunal" of what is acceptable as humor and carried three puppets on their float each carrying some stereotypical depictions of a Jew, Muslim and a Roman Catholic priest. Some smaller groups also relied on Jewish stereotypes for their presentations.
The Carnival in the industrial city of Aalst has its roots in the Middle Ages and often features satirical floats that take shots at local politicians and the powerful.
Last year's festivities featured one float depicting Jews with exaggerated features and side locks standing over bags of money. The caricatures recalled anti-Semitic tropes of the Middle Ages and Nazi Germany.
Aalst is one of Europe's most famous carnivals and usually is a celebration of unbridled, no-holds-barred humor and satire. Politicians, religious leaders and the rich and famous are relentlessly ridiculed during the three-day festival ahead of Roman Catholic Lent.
UNESCO, Jewish groups and the EU condemned last year's float as anti-Semitic, with the EU saying it conjured up visions of the 1930s.
A man was struck and killed by a Mardi Gras float during a raucous weekend street parade in New Orleans, becoming the second person in days killed along a parade route during this year's Carnival season, authorities said.
The man was fatally injured Saturday evening as the popular Krewe of Endymion was rolling, New Orleans police said in a statement. He was pronounced dead at the scene, and the Orleans Parish Coroner's Office was to release his name and cause of death after completing an autopsy and notifying his family.
The remainder of Endymion's parade was scrapped Saturday evening. Police said 13 floats had already gone ahead when the accident occurred with the 14th float in the formation. Remaining floats that followed, along with marching groups, were diverted from the accident scene on Canal Street, a wide route popular with parade viewers in the Mississippi River port city.
New Orleans police said first responders swiftly converged on the site, tweeting out calls for crowds to avoid the area.
The float, with its gaudy lights still twinkling, was cordoned off by police on horseback and on foot. All around, streets were strewn with tossed bead necklaces and trinkets thrown from the floats.
The death prompted an outpouring of sympathy from other parade participants, who were working quickly to adjust their parades.
"The Krewe of Orpheus extends its heartfelt sympathy to the families of those whose lives were lost in the recent parade incidents," Krewe of Orpheus Captain Sonny Borey said in a statement, echoing those of other parade participants Sunday.
The fatality came as New Orleans was mourning the death of a 58-year-old woman who — witnesses said — was run over by a parade float Wednesday night.
Mayor LaToya Cantrell said Saturday night that the south Louisiana city was grieving.
"To be confronted with such tragedy a second time at the height of our Carnival celebrations seems an unimaginable burden to bear. The City and the people of New Orleans will come together, we will grieve together, and we will persevere together," Cantrell said in a statement.
On Sunday, Cantrell re-emphasized the need for safety precautions and said the issue will be examined in the coming days.
"In the weeks and months ahead, we will be looking at further changes that need to be made to make our routes and our celebrations more safe — but the work starts right now," she said in a statement.
Also Sunday, a person riding on a float in the Thoth parade in New Orleans fell from a lower level and was injured. City officials tweeted via NOLA Ready, an emergency preparedness site, that the float rider was in stable condition at a trauma center. That person wasn't immediately identified.
Wednesday's fatality had occurred during the parade of the Mystic Krewe of Nyx, an all-female Carnival group. Witnesses said the woman, New Orleans native Geraldine Carmouche, had apparently tried to cross between two parts of a tandem float and tripped over a hitch connecting the sections.
Tandem floats, similar to the one involved in Saturday's incident, are multiple floats connected together and pulled by one tractor. Tandem floats would not be allowed for the few days remaining in the 2020 festival season, city agency NOLA Ready tweeted. Each float will require its own tractor, The Times-Picayune/The New Orleans Advocate reported NOPD Superintendent Shaun Ferguson said.
The Krewe of Bacchus was splitting its tandem floats for its Bacchus Sunday evening parade at the city's request, the group said in a statement. The Krewe of Orpheus said it would follow the city's safety recommendations for its parade Monday.
The Carnival season is nearing its traditional all-out Fat Tuesday celebration, the raucous climax of a week or more of parades and partying.
The deaths also come just a year after a car sped into a bicycle lane near a parade route, hitting nine people and killing two bicyclists not far from where the Krewe of Endymion formation had just passed. A man identified as the driver was subsequently charged with two counts of vehicular homicide.
Before this year, the most recent Carnival float-related fatality in Louisiana happened in 2009, when a 23-year-old rider fell from a float and in front of its wheels in Carencro, about 120 miles (195 kilometers) west of New Orleans.
In 2008, a rider getting off a three-part float after the Krewe of Endymion parade in New Orleans was killed when the float lurched forward and the third section ran over him, police said.
One of every three people in Venezuela is struggling to put enough food on the table to meet minimum nutrition requirements as the nation's severe economic contraction and political upheaval persists, according to a study published Sunday by the U.N. World Food Program.
A nationwide survey based on data from 8,375 questionnaires reveals a startling picture of the large number of Venezuelans surviving off a diet consisting largely of tubers and beans as hyperinflation renders many salaries worthless.
A total of 9.3 million people – roughly one-third of the population – are moderately or severely food insecure, said the World Food Program's study, which was conducted at the invitation of the Venezuelan government. Food insecurity is defined as an individual being unable to meet basic dietary needs.
The study describes food insecurity as a nationwide concern, though certain states like Delta Amacuro, Amazonas and Falcon had especially high levels. Even in more prosperous regions, one in five people are estimated to be food insecure.
"The reality of this report shows the gravity of the social, economic and political crisis in our country," said Miguel Pizarro, a Venezuelan opposition leader.
Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro has been largely reluctant in recent years to invite international organizations to provide assessments of the nation's humanitarian ordeal, though the World Food Program said it was granted "full independence" and collected data throughout the country "without any impediment or obstruction."
"WFP looks forward to a continuation of its dialogue with the Venezuelan government and discussions that will focus on the way forward to provide assistance for those who are food insecure," the agency said in a statement.
There was no immediate response to the findings by Maduro's government.
The survey found that 74% of families have adopted "food-related coping strategies," such as reducing the variety and quality of food they eat. Sixty percent of households reported cutting portion sizes in meals, 33% said they had accepted food as payment for work and 20% reported selling family assets to cover basic needs.
The issue appears to be one that is less about the availability of food and more about the difficulty in obtaining it. Seven in 10 reported that food could always be found but said it is difficult to purchase because of high prices. Thirty-seven percent reported they had lost their job or business as a result of Venezuela's severe economic contraction.
Venezuela has been in the throes of a political and humanitarian crisis that has led over 4.5 million people to flee in recent years. Maduro has managed to keep his grip on power despite a push by opposition leader Juan Guaidó to remove him from office and mounting U.S. sanctions.
Maduro frequently blames the Trump administration for his nation's woes, and his government has urged the International Criminal Court to open an investigation, alleging that the financial sanctions are causing suffering and even death. The nation's struggles to feed citizens and provide adequate medical care predate U.S. sanctions on the Venezuelan government.
In addition to food, the survey also looked at interruptions in access to electricity and water, finding that four in 10 households experience daily power cuts. Four in 10 also reported recurrent interruptions in water service, further complicating daily life.
Noting that the survey was done in July through September, Carolina Fernández, a Venezuelan rights advocate who works with vulnerable women, said she believes the situation has deteriorated even more. While it was once possible for many families to survive off remittances sent by relatives abroad, she said, that has become more difficult as much of the economy is dollarized and prices rise.
"Now it's not enough to have one person living abroad," she said.
Fernández said food insecurity is likely to have an enduring impact on a generation of young Venezuelans going hungry during formative years.
"We're talking about children who are going to have long-term problems because they're not eating adequately," she said.
Those who are going hungry include people like Yonni Gutiérrez, 56, who was standing outside a restaurant that sells roasted chickens in Caracas on Sunday.
The unemployed man approached the restaurant's front door whenever a customer left with a bag of food, hoping they might share something. He said he previously had been able to scrape by helping unload trucks at a market, but the business that employed him closed.
"Sometimes, with a little luck, I get something good," he said of his restaurant stakeout.
The Israel military said early Monday that it struck Palestinian militants targets in Gaza and Syria in response to rockets fired toward southern Israel on Sunday evening, hours after Israel said it killed a Palestinian militant who tried to place a bomb along the Israel-Gaza barrier fence.
The Palestinian Islamic Jihad militant group claimed responsibility for the rocket barrages. Palestinians were furious over the image of the man's lifeless body dangling off the front of an Israeli bulldozer that crossed into Gaza to retrieve it. There was also criticism in Gaza of the territory's Hamas rulers for not responding.
The Israeli military reported air raid sirens throughout southern Israel and said at least 20 rockets had been fired. There were no reports of damage or injuries on the Israeli side, but it was the heaviest barrage of rockets from the Gaza Strip in several months. Air raid sirens continued into the evening, and Israel's Home Front Command ordered the suspension of classes in Israeli schools in southern Israeli communities near the Gaza Strip on Monday and prohibited large gatherings.
In response to the rocket fire, the Israeli military said aircraft struck "dozens of Islamic Jihad terror targets throughout the Gaza Strip" and a facility belonging to the militant group outside Damascus.
The Gaza health ministry reported that four Palestinians were treated at the Al-Shifa hospital in Gaza City for wounds caused by the Israeli strikes.
Islamic Jihad said in a statement that the airstrikes on Damascus killed two of its members, identifying them as Salim Salim, 24, and Ziad Mansour, 23. It did not disclose their nationalities or elaborate on their roles. It vowed to respond to the deaths of its members.
Israel and the Islamic Jihad group engaged in a heavy round of fighting last November after the Israeli military killed a top Islamic Jihad commander.
Since then, Israel and Gaza's more powerful Hamas group have been working through Egyptian mediators to cement an informal cease-fire. But Islamic Jihad has continued to try to carry out attacks.
Islamic Jihad said the man killed along the border was a militant. Israel said the man was planting explosives along the border fence. Amateur video on Palestinian social media showed an Israeli bulldozer crossing into Gaza and then lifting up his body.
Fawzi Barhoum, a Hamas spokesman, accused the Israeli military of abusing the dead body, saying that it "bears the consequences of the ugly crime."
The military said it was removing the body in a way that prevented further danger to those around.
But the images generated widespread anger in Gaza, where it was seen as a provocation and violation of Islamic principles that call for respect for the dead.
It also sparked criticism of Hamas on social media, with people accusing the group of appearing weak and allowing Israel to operate with impunity inside Gaza's territory. One image on social media showed a picture of Jesus draped with a Palestinian flag hanging off the front of a bulldozer.
Israeli Defense Minister Naftali Bennett rejected the criticism, noting that Hamas has been holding the bodies of two Israeli soldiers since they were killed in the 2014 Gaza war.
"I back the military, which killed the terrorists and collected the body," he said. "That's what should be done and that is what was done."
The incident comes amid a relative lull along the security fence separating Israel from Gaza. Last week, Israel announced it would provide hundreds of additional work permits for Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, in a new step aimed at solidifying an informal cease-fire with the Hamas.
Tens of thousands of Gazans used to work in Israel. But Israel virtually sealed the border when it joined Egypt in imposing a crippling blockade on Gaza after Hamas seized power in the strip from rival Palestinian forces in 2007. The blockade, along with three wars between Hamas and Israel, has devastated the economy in Gaza, where unemployment is over 50%.