News In Focus: A Look At This Week’s Most Interesting Stories

Europe: One hundred and twelve years ago, the Wright Brothers made history flying their first fixed-wing aircraft.  Eighty-three years ago, American female aviator Amelia Earhart flew solo across the Atlantic.  Eight years later, Italian pilot Caproni Campini flew the first jet aircraft.  In 1989, the world’s first “invisible” military aircraft was deployed in a bombing mission in Panama.

With these spectacular milestones, what is left for aviation news?

Swiss psychiatrist and aeronaut Bertrand Piccard and businessman André Borschberg gave their answer as they took off from Abu Dhabi to begin their five-month, round-the-world flight tour on their Solar Impulse 2, a solar-powered aircraft developed by the company Bertrand and Borschberg founded.

The pilots said the tour hoped to arouse global citizens’ awareness on climate change.

But tech-geeks may be more interested in the aircraft itself:


The Middle East: Mesopotamia, the region bound by Rivers Tigris and Euphrates, that stretches from the Persian Gulf to the Lebanese coast, is said to be the cradle of civilization. This once fertile crescent had been home to the Sumerians, Akkadians, Babylonians, and Assyrians.

Ancient sculptures, monuments, artifacts that have survived several millenniums, still stand as a testament to their makers.

Until recently, that is.

Members of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) have begun bulldozing historical structures and smashing statues within sight in the city of Nimrud.  Among those destroyed are the iconic Assyrian winged bulls — large sculptures of a crowned human head carved from blocks of limestone, which represent spiritual guardians “Sheedu Lamassu,” the “Repellent of Evil.”

According to the New York Post, other victims of ISIS’s destructive spree over the weekend included Khorsabad, a 2,800-year-old Assyrian capital, and a 2,000-year-old desert fortress in Hatra.

While Iraqis have good reasons to mourn angrily at the damages ISIS extremists have brought, some Muslims defended the Islamic State’s systematic looting and wrecking of museums and archaeological sites as being an act of faith, claiming Salafi teaching obliged followers to destroy idolatrous forms.

But perhaps what these Salafi teachers have not explained is how these acts are linked to the ISIS’s selling of antiques that its members scooped up after taking control of a large part of Syria and Iraq.

Here’s UNESCO footage from several years ago showing the Hatra fortress in all of her prior glory:


Asia: With Japanese Prime Minister Abe Shinzo about to deliver remarks concerning the 70th anniversary of World War II, German Chancellor Angela Merkel told the Asahi Shimbun newspaper that she hoped Japan would face its historical past candidly.

While Japan was the Pacific theater aggressor, it has not shown sincere remorse over the atrocities and pain it inflicted on the region.

Merkel, however, was cautious in saying that she cannot give Japan any advice to pacify its neighbors, as “it has to come out of a process in society,” as the Guardian quoted.

To learn more about Japan’s WW II involvement, here’s an interesting documentary that uses rare color footage and explores the war from a Japanese perspective:


Science: The National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA) unmanned probe Dawn just finished its three billion mile trek to visit Earth’s dwarf cousin, Ceres.

Ceres, known as an “embryonic planet,” is thought to be water-rich, and lies in an asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter.

The US $473 million mission will snap photos over the next 16 months and hopefully solve the mystery of bright spots found in one of Ceres’ craters.

NASA produced the following silent piece of animation, which depicts Dawn’s approach and trajectory:


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Image Of Dawn Courtesy of Marc Ward /