Denver, Sep 16 (AP/UNB) — Cyclists and hikers explored a newly opened wildlife refuge at the site of a former nuclear weapons plant in Colorado on Saturday, while a protester in a gas mask brought signs warning about the dangers of plutonium.
With no fanfare, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service opened the gates of Rocky Flats National Wildlife Refuge on the perimeter of a government factory that made plutonium triggers for nuclear bombs for nearly four decades.
Spread across a rolling, wind-swept plateau 16 miles (26 kilometers) northwest of downtown Denver, the refuge is a rare oasis of tallgrass prairie, with bears, elk, falcons, songbirds and hundreds of other species. The refuge offers sweeping panoramas of the Rocky Mountain foothills and Denver's skyscrapers.
"You get these incredible views," said Jerry Jacka, who spent two hours mountain biking at the refuge Saturday.
Jacka said he was not worried about his safety, despite lawsuits and protests by people who argued the government has not tested the refuge thoroughly enough to make sure people are safe using it.
"I don't believe that they're covering up any sort of information about pollutants and radioactive elements and stuff in the soil," Jacka said.
The government built plutonium triggers at Rocky Flats from 1952 to 1989, a history marred by fires, leaks and spills. The plant was shut down after a criminal investigation into environmental violations.
The U.S. Energy Department, which oversaw the plant, said it found 62 pounds (28 kilograms) of plutonium stuck in exhaust ducts of buildings.
Rockwell International, the contractor then operating the plant, was fined $18.5 million after pleading guilty in 1992 to charges that included mishandling chemical and radioactive material.
The weapons complex covered 2 square miles (5 square kilometers) at the center of the site. It was cleaned up at a cost of $7 billion but remains off-limits to the public. The 8-square-mile (21-square-kilometer) buffer zone surrounding the manufacturing site was turned over to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for a refuge.
About 10 miles (16 kilometers) of trails are now open at the refuge. Visitors are told to stay on the paths and not wander the grasslands.
State and federal health officials say the site is safe, but some people worry that plutonium particles eluded the cleanup and could be sprinkled over the refuge, where hikers and cyclists could stir them up or track them home. At least seven Denver-area school districts have barred school-sanctioned field trips to refuge.
If inhaled, plutonium can lodge in lung tissue, where it can kill lung cells and cause scarring, which in turn can cause lung disease and cancer, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
"You have a situation where you still have plutonium in the soil being disturbed by the wildlife and the weather," said Stephen Parlato, his voice muffled by the gas mask he wore at a refuge trailhead Saturday.
Parlato said the mask had a filter capable of blocking plutonium particles and that he wore it for protection, not for show.
"You even have school districts that have gone on the record to say they do not allow their students to come on trips here. This is an ongoing danger," he said.
Jon Simon, another cyclist who rode the refuge trails Saturday, said he doubted he would develop plutonium-related health problems in his lifetime, but worried that children might be vulnerable.
"I wouldn't want to walk my kid through here every day in the morning for our morning walk or something like that," he said. "But I'm old enough.... That's not what's going to get me."
The opening was in the works for months but was thrown into doubt Friday afternoon when Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, who oversees the Fish and Wildlife Service, said he wanted to wait for more information about safety.
An hour later, the Interior Department said a review was complete and the refuge would open.
Department spokeswoman Faith Vander Voort did not respond to an email seeking more information about the review.
Dhaka, Sept 15 (UNB) - A colorful festival titled ‘Japan Fest 2018’ was held in the city on Saturday for the first time after several years that showcased both traditional and contemporary Japanese culture as well as music.
The Embassy of Japan organised the festival at Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy on Saturday evening where over 1,000 Bangladeshi people interested in Japan enjoyed the festival.
“Japan Fest 2018 was organised to bring Japanese culture for Bangladeshi people at hand to further enhance amicable relations between the two countries. This was the first time for me to experience so many Japanese cultures at once,” said Anika Begum who is majoring Japanese language at Dhaka University.
Apart from various Japanese cultural displays and workshops, three renowned Japanese musicians performed in the Japanese pop song and traditional music concert in the evening, bringing additional excitement to the audience.
The event was supported by Japanese and Bangladeshi organisations; Regent Airways, Ajinomoto, Grameen UNIQLO, Honda Bangladesh, Studio Padma, Japanese Commerce and Industry Association in Dhaka, Bangladeshi Ikebana Association, Bangladesh Bonsai Association, ICARUS and students of Department of Japanese Language & Culture as well as Department of Japanese Studies, Dhaka University, said the Japanese Embassy in Dhaka.
In 2022, the two friendly countries will celebrate the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations. Japan and Bangladesh have established a long and friendly relation since 1972.
Japan will further strengthen the bilateral relations towards the anniversary, said the Embassy.
Guatemala City, Sept 15 (AP/UNB) — An altar found at Guatemala's La Corona site suggests the Mayan dynasty of Kaanul, known as the Snake Kings, acted like its namesake in slowly squeezing the rival kingdom of Tikal, archaeologists said Friday.
A team led by Marcello Canuto of Tulane University uncovered the carved stone altar in the northern Peten region near the Mexico border.
When it was first found in 2017, the altar was encased in the roots of a tree in a collapsed temple. It took a year to painstaking pry the massive stone slab from the roots, fully excavate it and move it to Guatemala City, where it was presented this week at a museum.
The altar is dated A.D. 544 and depicts the Tikal ruler Chak Took Ich'aak conjuring two local gods from a shaft in the form of a snake.
The same man appears 20 years later as a vassal of the Kaanul dynasty and the ruler of the larger, nearby city of Peru-Waka. But the gods associated with him are different local deities associated with that place.
Canuto said the altar suggest Kaanul's eventual victory was the result of decades of astute politicking and cultural appropriation, not just battles.
Chak Took Ich'aak and his son "are trying to show that they are praying or conjuring up gods that were there way earlier to give them that kind of legitimacy," Canuto said. "It's almost like they're setting up franchises, but using the same recipes of local gods, claiming they had access to local deities. There's an attempt to render this whole process legitimate by appealing to local interests."
A princess from the Kaanul dynasty — based in Dzibanche and later Calakmul, in neighboring Mexico — had been married into the La Corona ruling family two decades before.
It's unlikely that La Corona could have simply conquered El Peru, which was much more powerful, unless it had backing from someone even more powerful.
"This would be equivalent to Cuba defeating the United States in a war. They could only have done that ... if they had had the backing of the Soviet Union," Canuto said.
The enormous city-state of Tikal, whose towering temples still stand in the jungle, battled for centuries for dominance of the Maya world with the Kaanul dynasty. Just a few decades after the altar was carved, Kaanul apparently defeated Tikal by amassing a string of allied cities that encircled and eventually strangled Tikal. The symbol of the Kaanul dynasty were stone masks carved in the form of grinning snakes.
Francisco Estrada-Belli, a Tulane University archaeologist who was not involved in the La Corona discovery, said: "Its broader significance is that it shows the behind-the-scenes ... machinations of the Snake Kings as they are expanding their empire in the direction of Tikal."
"Not long ago, we thought the victory over Tikal was the result of a sort of out-of-the-blue blitz," Estrada-Belli said. "It is fascinating to learn more about how Maya empires expanded, just like in the 'Game of Thrones.'"
Tomas Barrientos, an archaeologist at the University of the Valley of Guatemala noted that "for several centuries during the Classic period, the Kaanul kings dominated much of the Maya Lowlands," until the Maya civilization collapsed for reasons that still aren't clear.
"This altar contains information about their early strategies of expansion," Barrientos said.
Las Vegas, Sept 15 (AP/UNB) — Bullet fragments are still lodged in Robert Aguilar's back, but almost a year after he was wounded in the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history, he can walk with the help of a cane and has a very special group of people to thank: the health care providers at a Las Vegas area hospital.
Aguilar and other survivors did just that Friday, when they reunited with the doctors, nurses and other health care professionals who cared for them at Sunrise Hospital. They shared emotional stories in person or prerecorded videos of their days and weeks at the hospital and the time since they were discharged.
"I can't thank them enough," said Aguilar, who was temporarily paralyzed from the waist down after being shot in his right side, a bullet stuck in his spine. "It feels weird to be back... (But) it is good to see everybody up and about and moving after seeing them hurt and bandaged."
Aguilar, a resident of Rancho Cucamonga, California, texts and talks on the phone with his surgeon at least once a month.
He is among the more than 200 victims the hospital handled the night of Oct. 1, when a high-stakes gambler broke the windows of his Las Vegas Strip casino-resort suite and opened fire into a crowd at an outdoor country music festival. He killed 58 people and injured hundreds more before taking his own life.
Testimonials from victims and their relatives, as well as health care providers, left many of the more than 100 attendees teary. Some of the victims also reunited with others who were taken to the hospital in personal vehicles.
Dr. Chris Fisher, the hospital's medical director of trauma services, said it is sometimes difficult to recognize some of his patients because he saw them at their worst. But days like Friday, when patients look great and like anybody else, "are the best days for a trauma surgeon."
"It's the most rewarding part of the job," Fisher said of moments when he reunites with patients. "It's so hard to go through that experience not only as a patient but as a physician. The reward for that is to see them come back; to see them living normal lives again, to see them experiencing all that life has to offer with their family and their friends."
Kortney Spencer of Los Angeles was shot in the right leg and spent 11 nights at the hospital. She said she wanted to find a nurse who helped her, but couldn't remember her name because of the condition she was in while at the hospital.
"It's hard to try to reconnect," Spencer said. "But they were really amazing, and I wanted to make sure they get recognized and that I could say thank you."
London, Sept 14 (AP/UNB) — London is starting its stint at the center of the fashion universe as industry leaders express concerns about the potential impact of Brexit.
Top designers including Burberry, Christopher Kane, Victoria Beckham, Erdem and others will be showing new collections in a series of shows that start on Friday.
Anticipation is high, especially with a new creative director at Burberry and a rare London catwalk show by Beckham, the former Spice Girl who has won plaudits for her designs.
But British Fashion Council chairwoman Stephanie Phair told the BBC Friday there are wide concerns about the impact of Britain leaving the European Union.
She says the uncertainty of Brexit plans is making it difficult for the fashion industry to develop a strategy. Britain is scheduled to leave the EU in March.