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.
Lima, Sep 11 (AP/UNB) — Peru is celebrating the return of an ancient funeral mask made of gold following a two-decade legal battle to repatriate the smuggled antiquity from Germany.
President Martin Vizcarra on Monday attended a ceremony at the presidential palace where the so-called Sican mask was shown publicly for the first time since its return to the South American nation.
The 8th century mask depicting a pre-Incan deity was seized in 1999 in Germany from a Turkish art dealer arrested for selling looted objects. It was handed over last week to Peru's embassy in Berlin.
The mask made of hammered gold alloy with silver eyes is one of the most emblematic of 9,000 art objects Peru has repatriated the last decade.
Authorities believe the mask was taken from Peru in the late 1990s.
Dhaka, Sept 9 (UNB) - Indira Gandhi Cultural Centre (IGCC) will host an evening of Nazrul Sangeet, Rabindra Sangeet and modern songs by Debolina Sur on Monday evening at Kabi Sufia Kamal auditorium of Bangladesh National Museum in the city.
Debolina Sur belongs to a wonderful cultural family background and this leads her going forward with music.
As a child artist she achieved so many awards and National awards too “Natun Kuri” is one of them.
She went to Visva Bharati University of Shantiniketan and there she completed her Modern Music (Honors) with Rabindra Sangeet.
She achieved first class there. She had a great opportunity to learn music personally from Swastika Mukherjee, Gora Sarbadhikari, Vasabi Mukherjee.
Entry for the event is open to all and there is no need to collect invitation pass, said a press release.