Albania’s ‘wild river’ granted national park status

Tepelenë, Albania (AFP) — Environmental campaigners scored a rare victory in Albania on Wednesday after authorities announced the creation of a national park to protect the Vjosa River, one of Europe’s largest undammed waterways. For years, activists lobbied to save what they call Europe’s last major “wild river” — one whose course is unaltered by industry or dams — recruiting A-listers like Leonardo DiCaprio to their cause. Spanning more than 400 kilometres (248 miles), the […]

French Bulldogs topple Labradors as most popular US breed: AKC

New York, United States (AFP) — The lovable Labrador Retriever is no longer the most popular dog breed in the United States, as French Bulldogs take over the top spot, the American Kennel Club (AKC) announced Wednesday. Labs, which the New York-based registry describes as “famously friendly” and “an enthusiastic athlete,” had been the most popular dog breed for 31 years prior to 2022. But Frenchies had “been quietly climbing the charts for many years,” […]

Prototype spacesuit for future NASA mission to Moon unveiled

by Mark Felix with Chris Lefkow in Washington Agence France Presse Houston, United States (AFP) — NASA and the private aerospace company Axiom Space unveiled a prototype on Wednesday of the next-generation spacesuit that astronauts will wear on the next walk on the Moon. The suit revealed at an event at the Johnson Space Center in Houston features greater flexibility and thermal protection than those worn by the Apollo astronauts who first stepped foot on […]

Japan parliament expels YouTuber MP who never came to work

A celebrity gossip YouTuber-turned-lawmaker became the first MP expelled by Japan’s parliament in over 70 years Wednesday, having not shown up to work once. Yoshikazu Higashitani, known by his online moniker GaaSyy, had been ordered to apologise for his months-long absence earlier in March. But the lawmaker, one of two elected members of the fringe party Seijika Joshi 48, or “Politician Girls 48”, did not attend that parliamentary session either. Higashitani, 51, had not set […]

Arianespace inks deal to launch at least two Vega-C rockets

Washington, United States (AFP) — Arianespace said on Tuesday that it has signed a contract to launch two Vega-C rockets, forging ahead three months after the failure of the Italian-made vehicle’s first commercial flight. The first of the two new launches will occur in the last quarter of 2025 from the Kourou space base in French Guiana, Arianespace said in a statement. The contract includes an option for a third launch, it added. Italian aerospace […]

Satellite constellations multiply on profit hopes, geopolitics

by Mathieu RABECHAULT Agence France-Presse WASHINGTON, United States (AFP) — The massive constellation of satellites operated by SpaceX, while still growing, will soon be joined in low Earth orbit by many more commercial competitors, but also government-sponsored programs. When firms floated the idea of expanding access to high-speed internet through satellite constellations in low Earth orbit (LEO), analysts expected only two or three companies would succeed. “But the number of players keeps growing,” Caleb Henry, […]

Meta axes another 10,000 jobs in new round of cuts

by Alex PIGMAN Agence France-Presse WASHINGTON, United States (AFP) — Facebook owner Meta announced a fresh wave of job cuts on Tuesday, part of what CEO Mark Zuckerberg called the company’s “year of efficiency” as the US tech sector continues to downsize. In an email to employees, Zuckerberg said Meta would shed 10,000 jobs over the next few months, targeting middle management, and that 5,000 other roles would remain unfilled. The cuts follow a cull […]

Steam cuisine: cooking in Japan’s hot springs

BEPPU, Japan (AFP) — Using geothermal resources to generate electricity is a divisive prospect in Japan, but there is little disagreement about another use for it: natural steam for cooking. The geothermal sources that make Japan a haven for hot springs or onsen are also used to produce a range of delicacies. There’s the “onsen tamago” — eggs cooked in geothermally heated water at around 65 degrees (149 degrees Fahrenheit) to produce a relatively firm […]

‘No need to worry’: Odds drop newly-found asteroid will hit Earth

Paris, France | AFP | by Daniel Lawler The chances have plummeted that a newly-discovered asteroid with the potential to wipe out a city will hit Earth on Feb. 14, 2046, the European Space Agency said on Tuesday. The asteroid, which is named 2023 DW and is estimated to be around the size of a 50-metre Olympic swimming pool, was first spotted by a small Chilean observatory on February 26. It swiftly shot to the […]

Indonesians seeking climate justice take aim at Swiss concrete giant

by Dessy SAGITA Agence France Presse Pari Island, Indonesia (AFP) Sitting near a wall of stacked rocks, fisherman Mustagfirin looks out to sea from the tiny Indonesian island of Pari, wondering whether his home will exist for much longer. His battered wooden boat is anchored just offshore, where trees and statues that were once on the beach now sit partially submerged about 40 kilometres (25 miles) north of the capital Jakarta. “I am very saddened […]

Hot spring baths block Japan’s geothermal potential

by Etienne Balmer and Harumi Ozawa Agence France Presse Tsuchiyu-onsenmachi, Japan (AFP) With over 100 active volcanos, Japan has the world’s third largest geothermal resources, but also a powerful industry that has steadfastly opposed developing the sector: hot springs. Geothermal is a renewable resource that harnesses heat from deep below the Earth’s crust — a seemingly attractive option for energy resource-poor Japan. But the hot springs or onsens that dot Japan are a major business, […]

Kenzaburo Oe: novelist who won Nobel with ‘poetic force’

  by Etienne BALMER / Kyoko HASEGAWA Nobel-winning Japanese novelist Kenzaburo Oe, a leading liberal voice who defended the disenfranchised and challenged the conformity of modern society, has died aged 88. “He died of old age in the early hours of March 3,” publisher Kodansha said in a statement on Monday, adding that a family funeral has already been held. Known for his pacifist and anti-nuclear views, Oe saw himself as part of a generation […]