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Saturday, January 11, 2020

World News, World News Updates, World News Headlines, Latest World News, Current Affairs

World News, World News Updates, World News Headlines, Latest World News, Current Affairs

Rush Drummer and Lyricist Neil Peart Dies Aged 67

Posted: 10 Jan 2020 05:34 PM PST

(SANTA MONICA, Calif) — Neil Peart, the renowned drummer and lyricist from the influential Canadian band Rush, has died. He was 67.

His representative, Elliot Mintz, said in a statement Friday that Peart died at his home Tuesday in Santa Monica. The band posted a message on Twitter also confirming the news.

“It is with broken hearts and the deepest sadness that we must share the terrible news that on Tuesday our friend, soul brother and band mate over 45 years, Neil, has lost his incredibly brave three and a half year battle with brain cancer,” the band wrote. “Rest in peace brother.”

Peart was revered for his drumming skills, but was also the band’s key songwriters, known for his fantastical lyrics. The respected musician placed fourth on Rolling Stone’s list of 100 Greatest Drummers of All Time, just behind Ginger Baker, Keith Moon and John Bonham.

Peart, alongside bandmates Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson, were inducted in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2013, and honored for combining “the signature traits of progressive rock with a proto typical heavy-metal sound.” Their most known songs include “Tom Sawyer,” “The Big Money” and “The Spirit of Radio.”

“We’ve always said it’s not something that meant a lot to us, but we knew our fans cared so much to be validated like that — that their favorite band like their favorite sports team should be celebrated as champions,” Peart told The Associated Press when Rush was inducted into the Rock Hall. “We always knew that was the case and certainly to see it blossom after this is a testament to the truth of that.”

Peart was born on September 12, 1952 in Ontario.

When Rush formed in 1968, its original lineup included Lifeson, bassist Jeff Jones and drummer John Rutsey. After a few weeks, Lee replaced Jones, and in 1974 Peart replaced Rutsey weeks before Rush’s first U.S. tour.

Rush’s first album with Peart — now the band’s principal songwriter — was 1975’s platinum-seller “Fly by Night.” They released a second album that same year, “Caress of Steel,” which reached gold status.

But in 1976 the band marked a major breakthrough with the album “2112,” which sold three million units in the U.S. Rush’s most successful album was 1981’s “Moving Pictures,” which sold four million copies and featured the rock hit “YYZ,” helping the band earn its first-ever Grammy nomination (they earned seven nominations throughout their career).

Rush’s 1990’s “Chronicles” was a double platinum success, while 11 of the band’s albums were certified platinum and 10 albums reached gold status.

The band was heavily influential and fans of Peart and Rush paid tribute on social media.

“Today the world lost a true giant in the history of rock and roll. An inspiration to millions with an unmistakable sound who spawned generations of musicians (like myself) to pick up two sticks and chase a dream. A kind, thoughtful, brilliant man who ruled our radios and turntables not only with his drumming, but also his beautiful words,” Dave Grohl, who inducted Rush into the Rock Hall, said in a statement Friday. “I still vividly remember my first listen of “2112” when I was young. It was the first time I really listened to a drummer. And since that day, music has never been the same. His power, precision, and composition was incomparable. He was called “The Professor” for a reason: we all learned from him.”

Jack Black tweeted, “The master will be missed — Neil Peart RIP #RushForever.” Gene Simmons called Peart “a kind soul,” while Chuch D of Public Enemy recalled being inducted into the Rock Hall on the same night as Rush, saying backstage he and Peart shared “a unique moment without much word. Rest in Beats my man.”

Slash, Bryan Adams, Paul Stanley and Questlove of The Roots also paid tribute to Peart.

“Thank you for inspiring me and for all your help and advice along the way, especially in the early days when you took the time to talk to a young green Danish drummer about recording, gear and the possibilities that lay ahead,” Metallica’s Lars Ulrich wrote on Twitter. “Thank you for what you did for drummers all over the world with your passion, your approach, your principles and your unwavering commitment to the instrument! Rest In Peace.”

In 2015, Peart announced he was retiring from touring.

Peart is survived by his wife, Carrie and their daughter, Olivia Louise Peart. He was also an author and published six books.

Mexico is Doing the U.S.’s ‘Dirty Work,’ Say Researchers as Border Apprehensions Decline For 7th Month In a Row

Posted: 10 Jan 2020 05:03 PM PST

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) announced Thursday that apprehensions at the U.S. Mexico border — a figure generally considered the most accurate measure of migrants who have attempted to enter the U.S. — have decreased for the seventh consecutive month. But immigration experts and advocates say that trend is likely the result of a crackdown on migration by the Mexican government.

According to data released Thursday, 32,858 people were apprehended at the border in December 2019, including unaccompanied children, family units and adults who traveled alone. That’s a decline from the previous month that saw 33,511 apprehensions. An additional 7,762 were deemed “inadmissible” by CBP in December — which researchers say is how asylum seekers are counted by the agency — totaling 40,620 enforcement actions last month. Though numbers have steadily decreased since May 2019, apprehensions for fiscal year 2019 overall were still nearly double the year before.

CBP Acting Commissioner Mark Morgan in a public statement Thursday said that the decline is “a direct result of President Trump’s network of policy initiatives and our ability to effectively enforce the law, enhance our border security posture and properly care for those in custody.” However, border and migration experts tell TIME the reality is much more complex and is likely the result of action taken by the Mexican government, which has acted out of pressure from the Trump Administration to curb northward migration.

This is the leading reason why apprehension numbers have declined, says Josiah Heyman, professor of anthropology and director of the Center for Interamerican and Border Studies at the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP).

“Probably a limited amount of credit — or blame — should go to the U.S. treatment of people at the border and U.S. border policy,” Heyman says. “A larger amount of the credit or blame should go to the country of Mexico doing the dirty work of the United States.”

A series of policies since the start of the Trump Administration has aimed to deter asylum claims and unauthorized migration to the U.S., including a Zero Tolerance policy that separated thousands of parents from their children. But migrants fleeing violence and poverty continued attempting to reach the U.S. border, say researchers who spoke to TIME. What has changed is their ability to reach the border.

The Mexican government — under pressure by the U.S. — has stepped up enforcement of immigration laws, resulting in the the country deploying its recently formed Mexican National Guard. The force has sometimes violently prevented migrants from arriving at the U.S. border, according to accounts my multiple Mexican media outlets. The National Guard and the Mexico office of Security and Civilian Protection did not immediately return TIME’s request for comment.

In July, U.S. President Andrés Manuel López Obrador thanked Trump for acknowledging Mexico’s efforts, according to Reuters. “I am grateful that even President Trump is making it known that Mexico is fulfilling its commitment and that there are no threats of tariffs,” Lopez Obrador said.

CBP did not immediately respond to TIME’s request for comment.

In June, Mexico announced plans to deploy thousands of National Guard forces to the northern border, and an additional 6,000 to its southern border with Guatemala in response to a threat by the Trump Administration to impose tariffs on Mexican exports to the U.S., a move that likely could have devastated the Mexican economy.

“Mexico is completely economically vulnerable to the United States,” Heyman says. “We threatened Mexico with economic disaster, and Mexico has moved in the direction of doing whatever the United States wants.”

Jeremy Slack, an assistant professor of geography in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at UTEP who primarily studies deportation, also believes Mexico’s involvement is the leading cause of decline.

“We didn’t see a major difference in terms of what’s going on in Central America,” Slack tells TIME. “Short answer. One hundred percent, the reason for the decline is related to Mexico’s use of the National Guard to stop people traversing Mexico.”

On Friday, DHS Acting Secretary Chad Wolf spoke to reporters in Yuma, Ariz., and acknowledged Mexico’s work to combat migration northward. He called Mexico’s actions “unprecedented.”

Another policy, known as “metering,” has resulted in thousands of asylum seekers waiting in Mexico for their turn to claim asylum at a U.S. port of entry — they have not been counted in CBP’s apprehension or inadmissible statics, according to Heyman and Slack. At least an additional 56,000 have already claimed asylum but have been returned to Mexico to wait for their court proceedings.

Central Americans have also not stopped attempting to migrate north, according to Jason De León, a professor of anthropology and Chicana/o and Central American studies at the University of California, Los Angeles, who is also the director of the Undocumented Migration Project, a long-term study of unauthorized border crossing. “We have made it more dangerous to cross Mexico, and much more expensive, and we’ve prolonged the process, but people are still very much coming,” he says.


The U.K. Has Sent a Formal Extradition Request to U.S. for Anne Sacoolas, the Wife of a Diplomat Charged in the Death of Harry Dunn

Posted: 10 Jan 2020 04:40 PM PST

The U.K.’s Crown Prosecution Service has sent a formal extradition request to the U.S., asking that the country return Anne Sacoolas to face trial for the killing of teenager Harry Dunn, according to Reuters.

Sacoolas, the wife of U.S. diplomat based at at an Air Force base in England, was charged in December for the death of Harry Dunn, a 19-year-old who was killed while riding his motorcycle in August after Sacoolas allegedly crashed into him with her car. Sacoolas then fled to the U.S. and claimed diplomatic immunity, causing international controversy.

“Following the Crown Prosecution Service’s charging decision, the Home Office has sent an extradition request to the United States for Anne Sacoolas on charges of causing death by dangerous driving,” a Home Office spokesperson told Reuters in a statement. “This is now a decision for the U.S. authorities.”

The Home Office did not immediately return TIME’s request for comment, but the U.S. State Department tells TIME the extradition request is “highly inappropriate.”

“This was a tragic accident, a young man has lost his life, and his family is grieving. No one could hear about this tragic accident and not feel incredible sadness over this loss,” a State Department spokesperson said in an emailed statement to TIME. “The President, the Secretary of State, the U.S. Ambassador in London and others in our government have all expressed sincere condolences to the Dunn family for this tragedy.”

“The United States has been clear that, at the time the accident occurred, and for the duration of her stay in the U.K., the driver in this case had status that conferred diplomatic immunities,” the spokesperson added. “The Foreign Secretary stated the same in Parliament. It is the position of the United States government that a request to extradite an individual under these circumstances would be an abuse. The use of an extradition treaty to attempt to return the spouse of a former diplomat by force would establish an extraordinarily troubling precedent.”

The Dunn family has been adamant in relation to Sacoolas’ extradition, and met with President Trump at the White House in October. Trump attempted to have Sacoolas meet with the family at the White House, the Dunn family says, but they declined.

“It’s about Harry, it’s not about politics,” Charlotte Charles told TIME in October during the family’s visit to the U.S. “It shouldn’t be about the governments and it shouldn’t be us worrying about this becoming a political brawl or whatever. It’s about our boy, and making sure that it doesn’t happen to another family.”

Radd Seiger, the Dunn family’s spokesperson, told The Guardian that the family is “confident in the knowledge that the rule of law will be upheld.”

“They will simply take things one step at a time and not get ahead of themselves,” he added. “However, no one, whether diplomat or otherwise, is above the law.”

U.S. Bans Charter Flights to Cuban Cities Outside Havana

Posted: 10 Jan 2020 12:59 PM PST

(HAVANA) — The Trump administration is banning charter flights to Cuban cities besides Havana in a new tightening of U.S. restrictions on the island.

In October, the administration banned commercial flights to cities outside the capital.

The State Department said in a press release Friday that charter operators would have 60 days to wind down their flights to Santiago, Holguin and seven other cities across the island, and put a new restriction on the number of charter flights to Havana’s Jose Martí International Airport.

“‘Today’s action will further restrict the Cuban regime’s ability to obtain revenue, which it uses to finance its ongoing repression of the Cuban people and its unconscionable support for dictator Nicolás Maduro in Venezuela,” Secretary of State Michael Pompeo said in the statement.

The new restriction leaves both leisure travelers and Cuban-Americans without an easy way to travel to destinations outside the Cuban capital. Driving from Havana to eastern Cuba can take more than 12 hours on poorly maintained and often dangerous roads.

Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez said on Twitter that the new measure was a “serious violation of human rights and freedom of travel of U.S. citizens and hinders family reunification.”

Cultural Heritage Reminds Us of Our Shared Humanity. That’s Why Threats Against Them Are So Dangerous

Posted: 10 Jan 2020 10:00 AM PST

On Jan. 4 President Trump created an international uproar when he first suggested that Iranian cultural sites were legitimate military targets. “They’re allowed to use roadside bombs and blow up our people. And we’re not allowed to touch their cultural sites? It doesn’t work that way,” he told reporters on Air Force One the following day.

The response to those comments was surprisingly encouraging. Not only did preservationists, historians and international law experts express outrage – including the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s director and CEO calling such threats “abhorrent to the collective values of our society” — but there was significant criticism from across the political spectrum, including from some of the President’s strongest supporters. “We’re not at war with the culture of the Iranian people,” Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, said on Monday.

While Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper has given his assurances that international law will be respected and cultural sites will not be treated as military targets, and the President himself has backed off his threats, the initial threat raises deeper questions surrounding the role of culture, memory and place in conflict. Why does threatening cultural and historic sites with attack strike such a chord? What does it say about the intrinsic power of the past? And how can that power be harnessed to unify and create a strong foundation for respect across difference?

On one level, this outcry in support of protecting cultural heritage suggests that a majority of people recognize, almost intuitively, that a historic temple is never just a historic temple. Iran is home to countless incomparable sites, including 24 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, such as the ancient city of Persepolis and the Masjed-e Jāmé (“Friday Mosque”), each of which contributes to the identity of the Iranian people. To imply such sites are targets is a wider act of aggression. Indeed, throughout history, threatening to eradicate a group or a nation’s culture has almost always been about something more – namely, about eradicating people themselves. Cultural destruction has forever been part and parcel of ethnic cleansing. In 2001, when the Taliban destroyed the Bamiyan Buddhas —two 6thcentury statues, each well over 100 feet tall, carved into a cliff in central Afghanistan — the reasoning given by the militant group was that the statues “have been gods of the infidels.” The fact is that the destruction was part of a much larger campaign to eliminate the region’s Hazara ethnic minority, for which the statues were of irreplaceable religious significance.

Taliban Destroy The Buddhas Of Bamiyan
CNN via Getty ImagesThe giant Buddhas of Bamiyan are destroyed by the Taliban government on March 12, 2001 in Bamiyan, Afghanistan. The two enormous statues, measuring 175 feet in height, were carved into sandstone cliffs at Bamiyan by Buddhist worshippers who traveled the Silk Road from China in the third century A.D.

The destruction of cultural sites — from libraries to places of worship to museums — is ultimately about erasing a people’s entire history. During the Bosnian war in the early 1990s, Serb and Croat forces destroyed or damaged hundreds of mosques in their efforts to rid the region of Muslims. In Zvornik, which had been a historic Muslim trading post on the Drina River, so many traces of the town’s past had been eliminated that Brano Grujic, the Serb-installed mayor there, could falsely boast in 1993 thatthere were never any mosques in Zvornik.” As Helen Walasek, the author of Bosnia and the Destruction of Cultural Heritage, writes, sites such as archives and museums were targeted in part because they reflected Bosnia’s pluralistic past. Such attacks were aimed at eradicating any trace of Bosnia-Herzegovina’s historic diversity and traditions of coexistence.”

Ironically, the dictator or despot’s antipathy toward history reminds us of the transformative power of both memory and place to connect people across generations, borders, and other potentially fractious lines. Perhaps for this reason, there is a growing global movement not only to preserve historical and cultural sites, but to reimagine those sites as places of reflection and healing. Leading the way are “Sites of Conscience” —some 275 sites across 65 countries — that include former concentration camps that spark discussions on modern xenophobia, repurposed prisons that invite dialogue on mass incarceration, and historic slave trade sites that advocate on behalf of the 40 million people who are enslaved today.

The current conversation around preservation of cultural heritage in the Middle East comes at a critical time for the region, when conflict and atrocity have put a number of marginalized cultures at risk. In Iraq, the genocide of the Yazidi people, a religious minority that were terrorized by ISIS in a systematic attack beginning in August 2014, threatened to eradicate not only Yazidis themselves but any record of them — in large part because their religion and traditions are orally transmitted. That makes initiatives to erect museums and memorials dedicated to them — something supported by many, including Nadia Murad, a Yazidi human rights activist and co-recipient of the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize — particularly urgent.

While cultural heritage is not the only way we form bonds with others, it is one of the most powerful and effective means of doing so across barriers. It is heartening to see the public outcry at this latest threat, but the risk to cultural sites during conflict remains extraordinarily high. This is especially so given the limited funding for multilateral organizations dedicated to their protection such as UNESCO, from which the United States formally withdrew a year ago. If our children and our children’s children cannot access the most fundamental aspects of our own histories and those of others, they will never be able to identify the common threads that bind us all. And it is only through this binding that we can tap into — and act on — our shared humanity.

Teacher Killed, Five Students Wounded in Mexico Elementary School Shooting

Posted: 10 Jan 2020 09:49 AM PST

(MEXICO CITY) — At least two people were killed at an elementary school in northern Mexico Friday, when an 11-year-old opened fire on his teacher and classmates with two guns, authorities said.

Coahuila state Gov. Miguel Angel Riquelme said the sixth-grade shooter and his teacher died.

The preliminary investigation showed that the student arrived at his classroom, told a classmate, “Today is the day,” and asked permission to go to the bathroom, Riquelme said. After 15 minutes he had not returned and his teacher went to look for him. He emerged from the bathroom firing two guns. The shooting ended when he shot himself, he said.

Among the wounded were five students and a gym teacher, Riquelme said.

The governor said the shooter lived with his grandparents and that his mother had died some years ago. He said the boy had not presented behavioral problems before in the school. Investigators were looking into reports that the boy was influenced by a particular video game.

Images from the scene showed worried parents arriving at Colegio Cervantes to pick up their children Friday morning. It is a private school in downtown Torreon across the street from a large park.

Torreon is an industrial city with foreign assembly plants.

School shootings are rare in Mexico. Friday’s incident was reminiscent of another in January 2017 in the northern city of Monterrey. In that case, a student opened fire in a private high school. He killed a teacher and wounded two students. The shooter died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

U.S. Warship ‘Aggressively Approached’ By Russian Ship in North Arabian Sea

Posted: 10 Jan 2020 08:38 AM PST

(WASHINGTON) — An American warship was “aggressively approached” by a Russian Navy ship in the North Arabian Sea, the U.S. Navy said Friday.

Navy Cmdr. Josh Frey, spokesman for U.S. 5th Fleet, said that the USS Farragut was conducting routine operations Thursday and sounded five short blasts to warn the Russian ship of a possible collision. He said the USS Farragut, an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, asked the Russian ship to change course and the ship initially refused but ultimately moved away.

Even though the Russian ship moved away, Frey said the delay in shifting course “increased the risk of collision.”

Japanese Billionaire Pledges to Give Away $9 Million to His Twitter Followers

Posted: 10 Jan 2020 08:17 AM PST

(Bloomberg) — A tweet from a Japanese billionaire to distribute 1 billion yen ($9 million) to his followers is attracting plenty of attention.

Yusaku Maezawa has pledged to give 1 million yen each to 1,000 of his Twitter followers who reposted a message from his @yousuck2020 account. It has been retweeted 4.1 million times since the New Year.

Maezawa, 44, who founded online fashion shopping site Zozo Inc., is used to the attention. He’s already behind the most-retweeted Twitter post after pulling the same stunt last year: 4.3 million and counting. That time, though, he offered just 100 million yen to 100 people.

He isn’t the only one who has promised money to online followers. Democratic Presidential candidate Andrew Yang last year offered $1,000 a month for 12 months to anyone who retweeted him.

Maezawa has earned a reputation as one of the world’s biggest spenders, pouring hundreds of millions of dollars into everything from Basquiat paintings to a Hermes-upholstered private jet and a down payment for a ride on Elon Musk’s rocket.

He can certainly afford it. Even after his latest giveaway, Maezawa will have a $3.6 billion fortune, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

But for those suddenly hoping to benefit from Maezawa’s largesse, some bad news. The deadline for his Twitter contest was Jan. 7.

This Marsupial Was Only Discovered 5 Years Ago. Climate Change and Australia’s Bushfires Are Driving It to Extinction

Posted: 10 Jan 2020 08:05 AM PST

Andrew Baker knew he had found something special when he heard the hissing noise coming from inside the metal trap he and a team of researchers had set out in the rainforest in eastern Australia. None of the mouse-sized marsupials called antechinuses that he had been studying made a similar sound. Further research proved Baker, a mammalogist at Queensland University of Technology, right. In 2014, the animal he discovered was officially identified as a new species: the black-tailed dusky antechinus.

But time is already running out to study the creature, which lives on the rocky, muddy slopes of forests between Queensland and New South Wales. Since October, fires have ravaged the rainforest it calls home, and they’re still burning. Baker says the number of black-tailed dusky antechinuses has been dwindling for years because of hotter temperatures and drier conditions, which are also killing off its food source of insects and spiders.

The antechinus is just one of the country’s unique plants and animals whose existence is threatened by the devastating combination of climate change and the bushfires tearing across Australia this season. Conditions created by climate change may further hinder habitat recovery, causing fragile populations to collapse and leaving Australia forever changed.

“If temperatures continue to ramp up, hot seasons lengthen and cooler seasons shorten, then during critical periods of forest recovery there are likely to be more fires,” Baker says. “This will only further jeopardize habitat stability and place any recovering animal populations at even higher risk of extinction.”

The bushfires, which have killed more than 20 people and destroyed more than 2,000 homes, are still burning. On Friday, thousands of people evacuated their homes in the country’s southeast as fires moved in. The fires have blazed a trail of destruction across more than 25 million acres—an area about the size of the U.S. state of Indiana.

The bushfires have taken a catastrophic toll on wildlife across Australia. Chris Dickman, an ecologist at the University of Sydney’s Faculty of Science, has estimated that more than a billion animals maybe have been killed or will die as a result of the fires.

Haunting images of badly burned koalas and charred kangaroo carcasses have grabbed international attention and led to millions of dollars in donations for recovery efforts. But it’s the species with smaller habitats and fewer numbers that are more vulnerable to being wiped out.

A black-tailed dusky antechinus
Gary Cranitch—Queensland Museum Antechinuses breed each year in a two-week frenzy, at the end of which all the males drop dead. They are found nowhere else in the world.

As many as 100 plant species classified as threatened could have already had their entire habitats burned by fires this season, says David Keith, a fire ecologist at the University of New South Wales. Australia’s plant life, more than 90% of which is found nowhere else in the world, evolved to survive fires—but perhaps not the kind of unprecedented blazes that this season has brought, Keith says.

Last year was the hottest and driest on record in Australia, according to a report released Thursday by the country’s Bureau of Meteorology. In December, Australia experienced its hottest day ever recorded, with temperatures averaging 105° Fahrenheit across the country. It’s these conditions, experts say, that have caused one of the worst bushfire seasons on record in Australia. “Climate change is supercharging the fires that we’re seeing now,” says Lesley Hughes, a professor of biology at Macquarie University and a Climate Councillor at the Climate Council of Australia.

John Woinarski, a professor specializing in conservation biology at Charles Darwin University, says those conditions create particular concern for species with small populations and living ranges. He is worried about the future of animals like a forest-dwelling rat-kangaroo called the long-footed potoroo; the greater glider (a fluffy, possum-like creature); and several species of animals that live on Kangaroo Island in South Australia.

On Kangaroo Island, sometimes sometimes referred to as “Australia’s Galapagos,” around 380,000 acres have already been devastated by fires. The fires, which started with a lightning strike in late December, are still burning.

Glossy Black Cockatoo
Ray Tipper—Natural Resources Kangaroo Island A female glossy black-cockatoo. This species’ habitat was destroyed in fires on Kangaroo Island

There is grave concern for Kangaroo Island’s endangered glossy black-cockatoo. Before the fires, there were about 400 on the island, says Daniella Teixeira, a Ph.D. student at the University of Queensland who studies the species. Teixeira, who is currently more than 1,000 miles away in Brisbane trying to finish her thesis on the birds, says that it’s been devastating to see pictures of the landscape where the cockatoos she studied lived.

“I know the trees and the birds that nest in those trees and they’re all gone,” Teixeira says. “I was actually there the moment that the baby bird flew out of the nest, when it took its first flight and joined the flock,” she says of one nest.

NASA Kangaroo Island
NASA Worldview This satellite image shows the areas on Kangaroo Island that have been burned by the bushfires in late December 2019 and early January 2020.

Other conservationists are in a frenzy searching for surviving Kangaroo Island dunnarts, another mouse-sized marsupial, which researchers say could also be facing extinction. The creature was endangered even before the fires began, with only about 500 left on the island.

“It’s not unrealistic to think that this could be a precursor to the extinction of the species, that’s not being dramatic,” says Pat Hodgens, who works on Kangaroo Island dunnart conservation with the non-profit Land for Wildlife. The fires, he says, have left the animal’s habitat in ruins: “It’s a totally changed landscape. In some areas it’s just scorched earth, ash on the ground, burnt rocks.”

His team recently captured their first-ever video footage of the creatures, showing a female with joeys in her pouch. It was particularly hard on Hodgens to see the destruction in the area where the video was shot. “Where she lived and where she was probably rearing her young has been absolutely decimated by the fires, there’s nothing left of the habitat, that’s pretty devastating,” he says.

Any dunnarts that escaped the flames will struggle to find food and shelter in their singed habitat, and will face perils like hungry feral cats.

Dunnart Kangaroo
Kangaroo Island Land for Wildlife A Kangaroo Island dunnart captured by Land for Wildlife cameras after fires in the area.

Baker, who studies the antechinus, is anxiously awaiting cooler weather or rain to put out the fires burning around the creatures’ habitat so he can survey the damage. He hopes to do more research on their strange breeding habits—antechinuses breed each year in a two-week frenzy, at the end of which all the males drop dead—with the goal of finding a way to get them to reproduce in captivity to help rebuild their numbers.

He fears it may already be too late. “We’ve passed the edge,” he says. “Even if they’re still there, we’re on the downhill run towards their extinction, and I don’t know what we can do to turn it around.”

Violence Against Women Has Made a Resurgence in India. Deepika Padukone’s New Film Highlights the Strength of Survivors

Posted: 10 Jan 2020 07:49 AM PST

Laxmi Agarwal was 16 years old when her life changed forever. She was out running an errand in New Delhi in 2005 when she was attacked with acid by three assailants, one of whom was a 32-year-old family friend whose romantic advances she had refused. She suffered severe injuries and underwent multiple surgeries in the months and years following. “It was not only an attack on me,” Agarwal says. “I was physically attacked, but my entire family paid for it.”

Channeling her anger into action, Agarwal has since become a high-profile campaigner for banning the sale of acid and received the International Women of Courage Award from Michelle Obama in 2014. After encouraging other acid attack survivors in India to come forward with their stories, her own experience is now being told through the country’s biggest medium: a Bollywood film adaptation directed by Meghna Gulzar and produced by and starring Deepika Padukone. “Laxmi was the one who started fighting for this cause, she was the first one that uncovered her face and she was the one who was unapologetic about the way she looked,” Padukone tells TIME, ahead of the Jan. 10 global release of Chhapaak. “She was kind of a torchbearer for any amendment that we see today in the law regarding the regulation of the sale of acid.”

The release of Chhapaak, (loosely translated as ‘splash’), comes as violence against women in India has made a painful resurgence in the headlines in recent months. Beyond India’s borders, too, women took to the streets to protest violence against women: an anti-rape chant from Chile spread to 200 cities worldwide in December and mass demonstrations took place in France in November to condemn the country’s rising rate of femicide. While Chhapaak focuses on acid violence in particular, Padukone says the current global context underscores its relevance. “It makes us feel like there couldn’t be a better time for a movie such as ours to come out.”

Chhapaak stillsDeepika Padukone stars in new film Chhapaak

In a country where top film stars tend to steer clear of politics, Padukone—India’s highest-paid female actor—has made headlines this week for joining students protesting against the government on Tuesday evening. She stood silently behind a student leader who was injured when masked men, armed with sticks and rods, stormed into the campus of New Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) on Sunday, injuring some 30 people. After photos of Padukone at the protest circulated online, #BoycottChhapaak trended on Twitter, while others praised Padukone for being a rare dissenting voice amid India’s political crackdown under the hashtag #ISupportDeepika.

It wasn’t the first time Padukone has broken from the ranks of traditional A-List Bollywood stars to take a stand on important social issues — having gained a profile as an advocate for mental health and now turning her attention to acid violence. Statistics available from India’s National Crime Records Bureau indicate that 206 cases of acid attacks and attempts to perpetrate acid attacks on women were reported in 2016. Advocates say that unreported cases mean that the real figures are likely to be much higher, possibly as many as over 1,000 attacks per year. According to Acid Survivors’ Trust International, acid attacks in India often occur in public places and in most cases, the attack is committed by a person known to the victim.

After her attack, it took years for Agarwal to feel comfortable with going out in public. The support of family members and friends eventually gave her the strength to do so. “I thought that if these people can see me and they can accept me, why not the entire world?” says Agrawal, now 31. In 2006, she and another acid attack survivor filed a Public Interest Litigation in the Supreme Court of India to regulate the sale of acid in the country and new criminal laws to deal with offenders. Seven years later in 2013, the Supreme Court ruled in their favor, adding restrictions on the sale of acid to individuals below the age of 18.

While the implementation of the regulations vary from state-to-state, Agarwal says that the past six years have seen further strengthening in the law and attitudes to survivors changing in broader society. Her own “Stop Sale Acid” campaign in 2018 encouraged local shop-owners to stop selling acid and offered a certification for those who took an oath to no longer sell it. “2013 was a start, because there was nothing for survivors,” she says. “The most important thing, and the best thing that happened was the other acid attack survivors who took the courage to come out with their stories and be accepted by the world.”

Chhapaak stillsDirector Meghna Gulzar and actor Deepika Padukone on the set of Chhapaak

From Chhapaak’s inception, Agarwal was involved in the production process, meeting with Padukone several times and attending the shooting of the film. “When I saw Deepika playing me, I was so happy to see her look exactly like me,” says Agarwal. While Padukone takes on the lead role based on Agarwal, several other acid attack survivors are featured in acting parts in Chhapaak. “What compelled me to do this project was the spirit that all of these survivors have,” Padukone tells TIME. “It’s also about what they’ve chosen to make of their lives and that experience and that incident, that they’ve not succumbed but have actually come out more victorious and stronger. There’s something for all of us to learn from that.”

Padukone’s own experience of overcoming personal traumas added another layer to the storytelling of Chaapaak. In 2015, Padukone publicly spoke about her struggles with clinical depression and her mental health. That same year, she created the Live Laugh Love Foundation, aiming to reduce stigma, provide education and raise awareness around mental health. She sees the common thread between herself and Agarwal as turning adversity into advocacy. “I would never compare depression and acid violence because they’re completely different, but at the same time, those experiences influenced both of our lives,” Padukone says. “[Agarwal’s] situation was life-threatening in a certain sense, mine was life-threatening in a different sense, yet we both have wanted to overcome that, to fight that, and to make that experience meaningful not just for ourselves but for the people around us.”

For Agarwal, one of those people is her young daughter, who is looking forward to seeing the film. She also hopes that through the film’s portrayal of her journey, it will have a broader impact on attitudes towards acid attack survivors. It’s a sentiment that resonates with Padukone too, who says she learnt a great deal about the challenges survivors face while acting in and producing the project. “On a much deeper level, hopefully we will be able to challenge the notion of what beauty is, or the way we’ve been conditioned to understand beauty,” she says. “I think what they want is to not be treated as anything less than any of us.”