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December 17, 2017

US rower robbed of food, passport near Haiti

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) — A U.S. man who recently rowed across the Atlantic Ocean to raise awareness about HIV testing was robbed on Thursday off Haiti’s north coast, authorities said.

The incident occurred when Victor Mooney began having trouble with his boat near the tiny Tortuga Island, according to a U.S. Coast Guard report.

Mooney, a Brooklyn native, was headed back to the U.S. from his trans-Atlantic journey but had diverted toward Haiti on advice of his U.S. weather router, which warned a storm was coming and that he needed to seek shelter. The 48-year-old had completed the 3,000-mile (4,800 kilometer) journey in June on his fourth attempt, a journey to honor a brother who died of AIDS.

Mooney said he saw several boats approach on Thursday morning and that people aboard them began yelling at him in a language he did not understand as they tied his boat to theirs.

“It was like mosquitoes,” Mooney said in a phone interview. “One came, two came, three came and they surrounded my boat.”

Once he was towed to Tortuga Island, Mooney said a group of people ransacked his rowing vessel.

“They just took everything,” he said.

Police agent Kenssley Derival said Mooney’s food was stolen, along with his passport, which he said authorities have since recovered.

Helping Mooney with translations from Creole to English was 33-year-old Emmanuel Milhomme, who lives on Tortuga Island but previously lived in Fort Myers, Florida. He said he was in the area when he saw the commotion and noticed the U.S. flag on Mooney’s boat and approached him.

“Where he came from, I don’t know,” Milhomme said. “It could have been worse.”

Mooney was staying at Milhomme’s house until authorities arrived. It was not immediately clear exactly when Mooney would resume his trip back to the U.S.

“It was a frightening situation,” he said. “Thank God there’s no bodily harm, but I want to go home.”

___

Associated Press writers David Caruso in New York and Evens Sanon in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, contributed to this report.

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US rower robbed of food, passport near Haiti

The Incredible Toys Of Billionaire Richard Branson

From spaceships to hot air balloons, billionaire entrepreneur and Virgin Group founder Richard Branson is always playing with some new toy. ;

He’s set world records with kite boards, planes, and even rockets through endeavors with Virgin Atlantic, Virgin Oceanic, and Virgin Galactic. He even has two islands in the Caribbean dedicated to parties and adventures.

We’ve rounded up some of his most outrageous toys here. ;

Perhaps Branson’s most famous toy, Necker Island is a 74-acre Caribbean resort that’s played host to plenty of celebrity-packed parties since the 1970s. Thought it took him five years and $10 million to construct the island resort, he estimated that the island is worth at least $60 million, as of 2006.

Source: ;Virgin blog

Guests staying at Branson’s resort can use this zip line to get down from the main house to the beach.

Source: Virgin blog

When his guests get tired of lounging by the pool or beach, they can hang out on his 105-yacht, the Necker Belle. He put the yacht up for sale in March, though he has yet to find a buyer.

Source: ;Yacht Charter Fleet

;

He can explore the sea around his island on the Necker Nymph, a three-passenger open cockpit submersible that was designed just for him by submarine company DeepFlight.

Source: DeepFlight

;

;

He also owns neighboring Moskito Island, which he hopes to turn into a sanctuary for endangered lemurs and a model for renewable energy use.

Source: Virgin blog, The Guardian

;

Branson has also reportedly gone on dives in the DeepFlight Super Falcon, a $1.7-million submarine that mimics flying underwater. “The sub handled beautifully, descended to 100 feet smoothly, then straight up, bursting through the surface of the water,” Branson reportedly said after his first dive in a Super Falcon. “We went in search of Great White sharks, when suddenly, one appeared. Graham Hawkes, the genius behind the submarine, was shouting like an excited schoolboy, and so was I.”

Source: Business Insider, DeepFlight

;

Branson has always loved exploring the high seas. In 2004, he was the first to buy an Aquada, the world’s first high-speed amphibious vehicle. That summer, he set a record for crossing the English Channel in an amphibious vehicle, completing the task in just one hour and 40 minutes.

Source: Gizmag

;

In 2011, Branson launched Virgin Oceanic to explore previously unseen parts of the ocean. The DeepFlight Challenger was designed for adventurer Steve Fossett, who would use the submarine to explore the Marianas Trench on a record-breaking solo dive. Unfortunately, Fossett died before he could embark on his journey on the Challenger, and the submarine is now managed by Branson’s Virgin Oceanic.

Source: Telegraph, DeepFlight

In October of 2008, Branson and crew departed New York City in a 99-foot yacht called “Virgin Money,” in an attempt to break the transatlantic monohull sailing record. The team was forced to abandon the effort after facing 40-foot waves in the Bermuda Triangle.

Source: New York Daily News

Kitesurfing is one of Branson’s favorite hobbies. In 2013 he organized the Virgin Kitesurfing Armada, which broke the Guinness World Record for the largest number of kitesurfers to complete a one-mile course. He is also the oldest man to kitesurf across the English Channel, a feat he completed in 2012, at the age of 61.

Source: ;Virgin, ;Daily Mail

Branson likes to play with toys in the sky, too. In 1987, he crossed the Atlantic in the Virgin Atlantic Flyer, becoming the first man to cross that ocean in a hot air balloon. In 1991, he was in the first balloon to cross the Pacific. Branson made several attempts to circumnavigate the globe in a balloon with aviators Steve Fossett and Per Lindstrand, though they were ultimately unsuccessful.

Source: ;Daily Mail

Branson always brings an element of fun to Virgin Atlantic flights. Here, he poses with models and lifeguards on the wing of a plane that had just landed in Sydney.

For his personal use, Branson flies a Falcon 50EX. He recently sold his Falcon 900EX, which was too large for life on Necker Island. “I need a small plane just to get out of the British Virgin Islands,” he told Business Jet Traveler. “And I use that for shorter distances.”

Source: Business Jet Traveler

;

In 2003, he took to the skies on a glider modeled after the world’s first plane, made by Sir George Cayley in 1853. Branson flew for 50 yards at an altitude of fifteen feet, remarking afterwards, “That was fantastic. I can fly. That was exhilarating.”

Source: BBC

But Branson hopes to fly people to much higher altitudes someday. He has plans for Virgin Galactic to take tourists to space aboard the WhiteKnightTwo, a rocket-powered spaceship he named VMS Eve for his mother. Tickets will cost a staggering $250,000 per person.

Source: Yahoo Finance

Read more stories on Business Insider, Malaysian edition of the world’s fastest-growing business and technology news website.

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The Incredible Toys Of Billionaire Richard Branson

Special Report: As seas rise, a slow-motion disaster gnaws at U.S. shores

By Ryan McNeill, Deborah J. Nelson and Duff Wilson

SAXIS, Virginia (Reuters) – Chincoteague is the gateway to a national wildlife refuge blessed with a stunning mile-long beach – a major tourist draw and source of big business for the community.

But the beach has been disappearing at an average rate of 10 to 22 feet a year, as a warming planet and other forces lift sea levels. The access road and parking lot have been rebuilt five times in the past decade because of coastal flooding, at a total cost of $3 million.

Officials who run Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge say they face a losing battle against rising sea levels. In 2010, they proposed to move the beach to a safer spot, shrink the parking lot, and shuttle in tourists by bus.

The town revolted. Chincoteague wants the federal government to continue to rebuild rather than retreat. Four years on, after a series of angry public meetings, the sea keeps eating the shore, and the government keeps spending to fix the damage.

The people of Chincoteague are engaged in a battle at the water’s edge against rising seas. All along U.S. shores, people, businesses and governments are confronting rising seas not as a future possibility. For them, the ocean’s rise is a troubling everyday reality.

Reuters gathered more than 25 million hourly readings from National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration tide gauges at nearly 70 sites on the U.S. coast and compared them to flood thresholds documented by the National Weather Service.

The analysis was then narrowed to include only the 25 gauges with data spanning at least five decades. During that period, the average number of days a year that tidal waters reached or exceeded NOAA flood thresholds increased at all but two sites and tripled at more than half of the locations.

The coastal flooding is often minor. Its cumulative consequences are not. As flooding increases in both height and frequency, it exacts a toll in closed businesses, repeated repairs, and investment in protection. In effect, higher seas make the same level of storm and even the same high tides more damaging than they used to be.

In Charleston, South Carolina, a six-lane highway floods when high tides prevent storm water from draining into the Atlantic, making it difficult for half the town’s 120,000 residents to get to three hospitals and police headquarters.

In Annapolis, Maryland, home to the U.S. Naval Academy, half a foot of water flooded the colonial district, a National Historic Landmark, at high tide on Chesapeake Bay during rainstorms on April 30, May 1, May 16 and Aug. 12.

Engineers say there are three possible responses to rising waters: undertake coastal defense projects; adapt with actions like raising roads; or abandon land to the sea. Lacking a national strategy, the United States applies these measures haphazardly.

Congress actually recognized global warming way back in 1978 with passage of the National Climate Program Act. The law aimed to “assist the Nation and the world to understand and respond to natural and man-induced climate processes and their implications.”

But after $47 billion in direct federal spending on climate change research, Congress hasn’t passed a major piece of legislation to deal specifically with the effects of rising sea levels.

“In the U.S., you have best data set on what’s happening in the world, and yet it’s not used in public policy,” said Robert Nicholls, professor of coastal engineering at the University of Southampton in England and a contributor to the U.N.-sponsored Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

The lack of clear policy is evident in Chincoteague, population 3,000.

Most visitors come for the mile of ocean-facing public recreational beach, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which manages the refuge. Visitors can drive with all of their gear right up to the edge of the beach to park in a 1,000-space crushed-shell lot.

As erosion worsened, the cost to American taxpayers of repeated destruction of the parking lot and causeway from rising sea levels would only increase, Fish and Wildlife officials said. In 2010, the agency proposed moving the beach to a less-endangered site.

Town leaders pointed to a survey in which 80 percent of visitors said they would not continue coming to the beach if they had to park in town and take a shuttle. Residents also feared that Fish and Wildlife would let the southern end of Assateague Island erode away if the beach were moved.

A series of angry meetings with local Fish and Wildlife officials resolved nothing.

In 2012, Chincoteague got a hearing at the U.S. Capitol on the proposal. Wanda Thornton, an Accomack county supervisor, testified that local residents feared for their jobs.

The agency released a draft plan in May that would relocate the beach to the less unstable site, but keep the parking area at its current size, as long as there’s enough land to do so. As many residents feared, this plan would not replenish the sand at the southern end of Assateague or at the new site as they erode.

A public hearing in Chincoteague on June 26 failed to settle the matter.

(This is an abridged version of a special report. The full package, including unabridged text, interactive graphics and video, is on Reuters.com at http://reut.rs/1nyd8pK )

(Edited by John Blanton)

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Special Report: As seas rise, a slow-motion disaster gnaws at U.S. shores

France's camps offer family-friendly flexibility

SAINT-JUST-LUZAC, France (AP) — One son’s conquering a waterslide. The other’s at the soccer pitch leading French, British and Dutch teammates to victory. Mom’s getting a massage. Dad’s poolside chatting to his new European neighbors and plotting a barbeque.

You might not recognize this as a typical holiday in France. But this is how French families celebrate summers at 10,000 campsites nationwide, half of Europe’s total. It’s rural France at its most flexible and relaxed. Options range from frugal to fabulous. Pack a tent, fly into any French airport, rent a car and head out.

Don’t like roughing it? Neither do most Europeans, who bring their designer dogs and satellite dishes, and choose hard-roofed accommodation from mobile homes to fairy-tale cottages. The most exclusive options are booked months in advance.

I’ve gone the scruffy, improvised tent-in-suitcase route three times, sampling sites from Normandy to the Pyrenees. This summer I took my partner and sons, aged 4 and 16, to three five-star camps.

___

DOMAINE DES ORMES, Brittany, northwest France

How flashy is this mega-camp? The resident owner takes helicopter day trips from his medieval chateau.

Des Ormes (The Elms) has an 18-hole golf course, hotel with spa, equestrian center, three restaurants, pub, three pools (two outdoor with wave pool and slides, one indoor with steamy jungle plants), playgrounds, turf field for sports, lakes with fishing and paddle boats, and a treetop adventure course featuring log bridges and zip lines.

You’d need a week to do it all, never mind nearby attractions like the Mont Saint-Michel monastery, walled pirate city of Saint-Malo and D-Day sites.

Activities for young and old run several times daily. On our last night, hundreds gathered at the poolside amphitheater for a camp-produced film featuring time-traveling knights. The heroes found themselves in modern-day Les Ormes defending their “castle,” the owner’s residence — and appeared live at the pool, with dozens of extras, to duel the villain. Amid eyebrow-singeing blasts of fire, the bad guy got chest-kicked into the water.

Fireworks ran 15 minutes. The boy on my shoulders loved it. Everyone else was impressed it happened at all.

___

SUNELIA INTERLUDE, Ile de Re (Ile de Re), mid-Atlantic Coast

A four-hour drive south, the Ile de Re feels exclusive, starting with a 16 euro ($21.50) bridge toll.

Re is best seen by bicycle. The island, 30 kilometers (20 miles) long and 5 kilometers (3 miles) wide, is flat as a pancake with one of Europe’s most extensive bicycling networks. Paved paths run through salt beds and vineyards. Haggle at rental bike shops in one of the 10 villages, not at the campsite, to save money. Bikes can include child seats or canopied two-wheeled chariots for infants and pets.

We camped beside the beach on Re’s sandy south coast. Nature here is schizophrenic: At high tide, the sand’s been swallowed up; six hours later, you can walk a quarter-mile (half kilometer) into the Atlantic, in bath-like calm, before your feet leave the muddy sand. Hundreds of parked bicycles — and zero cars — mark the beach entrances, flanked by surf schools and catamaran clubs.

But the Interlude campsite, run by the Sunelia chain, proved a letdown despite its five stars. Its indoor complex of water-jet pools was overrun by children and had only one toilet. Its playground and sports facilities were cramped, some pathways were crumbling — my younger boy got bloody knees falling in a pothole — and its too-formal restaurant had short hours and extortionate prices. We stuck to ice cream and pizzas from the overpriced convenience store.

Fortunately, three nearby villages of whitewashed homes with pastel shutters — Le Bois Plage, with a daily market and old-school amusement rides, fortress-enclosed Saint Martin de Re, and yacht-filled port of La Flotte — offered buckets of atmosphere, seaside dining and competitive superstores.

Wildlife around our tent included feral kittens, rock-hopping lizards, and a praying mantis. We fed spiders to the ruthless, muscle-armed mantis and took it home as a prized family pet.

___

SEQUOIA PARC, Poitou-Charente, southwest France

An hour’s drive south past La Rochelle and Rochefort lies the oyster capital of France and, inland, one of the finest family campsites, Sequoia Parc, on the grounds of a grand chateau.

A four-pool complex offers water slides for every age, even toddlers; a lazy river; and sundeck with non-alcoholic bar.

At the camp’s mini-zoo, my younger son loved visiting goats, chickens, geese, a sheep, badger and alpaca. There are pony rides and weekly visits from a traveling circus featuring acrobats, jugglers, camels and stunt cats, including one who escaped under the bleachers.

Nighttime entertainment beside a barnyard-converted pub and restaurant included a laughably unfunny mime and a live Shrek show that mesmerized my 4-year-old. His big brother bonded with other boys playing basketball, tennis and soccer, then hit the pools with his gaggle of Euro-lads.

My partner indulged in massages, 60 euros ($80) an hour, while I enjoyed simple things: an herb garden for cooking, starling nests inside tropically gardened shower blocks, and chatting with neighbors over candlelit Bordeaux or Cognac.

One warning: Sequoia Parc is flanked by marshland. If mosquitoes find you delicious, you’re doomed.

___

If You Go…

CAMPING IN FRANCE: Most campgrounds open mid-May to September. A few like Des Ormes offer year-round facilities. Off-peak prices can be as low as 5 euros ($7) a day for campsites, with hard-roofed accommodation starting at 300 euros ($400) a week. Prices can quadruple for peak summer weeks. Companies like CanvasHolidays and Eurocamp can help book itineraries with varied lengths of stay and locations.

DOMAINE DES ORMES: http://www.lesormes.com/en/

INTERLUDE: http://en.interlude.fr/

SEQUOIA PARC: http://www.sequoiaparc.com/en/

Continued here – 

France's camps offer family-friendly flexibility

'Star Wars' Filming in Ireland Exposes Birds to the Dark Side

Conservationists fear the filming of the new Star Wars movie on a remote Irish island this week could create more than a phantom menace for thousands of nesting birds.

The island of Skellig Michael features stunning alien-like cliffs and landscapes, making it a great set for director J.J. Abrams’ ;Star Wars: Episode VII. Skellig Michaelis also home to six ground-nesting bird species that are currently in the height of their breeding season.

“Skellig Michael is internationally important for six seabird species,” said Stephen Newton, senior conservation officer at BirdWatch Ireland, one of the organizations that have criticized the plan to film on the island.

Three of those species—Atlantic puffins, Manx shearwaters, and European storm petrels—nest below the ground, where they can’t be seen. The shearwaters and petrels are also nocturnal, which makes them hard to observe and track.

“They nest in burrows, holes, and crevices and only visit their nests during the hours of darkness to feed their young,” Newton said.

That makes it hard to protect the birds’ nests because even locating them is a challenge. “How can the authorities safeguard these birds from disturbance when they do not know where they are?” Newton asked.

The Irish Naval Service is doing more to safeguard the film set from prying eyes than anyone appears to be doing to protect the birds. The navy has set up a two-mile exclusion zone around Skellig Michael, effectively sealing off the island from tourists and fans hoping to get a sneak peek of the movie. The Irish Examiner reported that even the ferrymen who were contracted to shuttle the film crew back and forth needed to get special security clearances.

The United Nations has also wondered about the production’s impact on the island. Skellig Michael is a UNESCO World Heritage site, a designation established nearly 20 years ago to protect the island’s seventh-century Christian monastery.

A UNESCO spokesperson told The Irish Times that the organization has requested information on how and why permission was granted to film on the island. The Irish National Monuments Service said it would provide a report to UNESCO “later this week.” Filming is only scheduled to take place for three days, and the crew will be on to its next location by the end of the week.

None of the six bird species nesting on the island are endangered, but all face declining populations, and Newton pointed out that the Skellig Michael is critical to their future.

“Skellig has at least 10,000 pairs of storm petrels and is one of the largest colonies in the world,” he said.

BirdWatch Ireland had requested information on how the production company would safeguard the birds, but it has not yet been provided.

For its part, the Irish Film Board, which approved the shoot, said the crew’s week on Skellig Michael “has been designed to specifically avoid disturbance of breeding birds on the island.”

All the same, conservationists are definitely feeling a disturbance in the Force, as the production’s long-term impact on the island remains to be seen.

Related stories on TakePart:

These Birds Are Dying So Rich, Powerful Men Can Improve Their Sex Lives

How Dogs Can Save Birds From Being Incinerated by a Solar Power Plant

Is the Emperor Penguin Marching Into Oblivion?

First the Bees, Then the Birds, and Now the Fish Are at Risk From a Particularly Toxic Pesticide

Original article from TakePart

Original post: 

'Star Wars' Filming in Ireland Exposes Birds to the Dark Side

'Star Wars' Filming in Ireland Exposes Birds to the Dark Side

Conservationists fear the filming of the new Star Wars movie on a remote Irish island this week could create more than a phantom menace for thousands of nesting birds.

The island of Skellig Michael features stunning alien-like cliffs and landscapes, making it a great set for director J.J. Abrams’ ;Star Wars: Episode VII. Skellig Michaelis also home to six ground-nesting bird species that are currently in the height of their breeding season.

“Skellig Michael is internationally important for six seabird species,” said Stephen Newton, senior conservation officer at BirdWatch Ireland, one of the organizations that have criticized the plan to film on the island.

Three of those species—Atlantic puffins, Manx shearwaters, and European storm petrels—nest below the ground, where they can’t be seen. The shearwaters and petrels are also nocturnal, which makes them hard to observe and track.

“They nest in burrows, holes, and crevices and only visit their nests during the hours of darkness to feed their young,” Newton said.

That makes it hard to protect the birds’ nests because even locating them is a challenge. “How can the authorities safeguard these birds from disturbance when they do not know where they are?” Newton asked.

The Irish Naval Service is doing more to safeguard the film set from prying eyes than anyone appears to be doing to protect the birds. The navy has set up a two-mile exclusion zone around Skellig Michael, effectively sealing off the island from tourists and fans hoping to get a sneak peek of the movie. The Irish Examiner reported that even the ferrymen who were contracted to shuttle the film crew back and forth needed to get special security clearances.

The United Nations has also wondered about the production’s impact on the island. Skellig Michael is a UNESCO World Heritage site, a designation established nearly 20 years ago to protect the island’s seventh-century Christian monastery.

A UNESCO spokesperson told The Irish Times that the organization has requested information on how and why permission was granted to film on the island. The Irish National Monuments Service said it would provide a report to UNESCO “later this week.” Filming is only scheduled to take place for three days, and the crew will be on to its next location by the end of the week.

None of the six bird species nesting on the island are endangered, but all face declining populations, and Newton pointed out that the Skellig Michael is critical to their future.

“Skellig has at least 10,000 pairs of storm petrels and is one of the largest colonies in the world,” he said.

BirdWatch Ireland had requested information on how the production company would safeguard the birds, but it has not yet been provided.

For its part, the Irish Film Board, which approved the shoot, said the crew’s week on Skellig Michael “has been designed to specifically avoid disturbance of breeding birds on the island.”

All the same, conservationists are definitely feeling a disturbance in the Force, as the production’s long-term impact on the island remains to be seen.

Related stories on TakePart:

These Birds Are Dying So Rich, Powerful Men Can Improve Their Sex Lives

How Dogs Can Save Birds From Being Incinerated by a Solar Power Plant

Is the Emperor Penguin Marching Into Oblivion?

First the Bees, Then the Birds, and Now the Fish Are at Risk From a Particularly Toxic Pesticide

Original article from TakePart

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'Star Wars' Filming in Ireland Exposes Birds to the Dark Side