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Dolphins swimming in the oil-contaminated waters of the Gulf of Mexico after the 2010 BP spill suffered unusual lung lesions and died at high rates because of petroleum pollution, US scientists said Thursday.

The report in the journal PLOS ONE presents the strongest evidence to date that the environmental disaster that was unleashed when the BP-leased Deepwater Horizon rig exploded on April 20, 2010, pouring 4.9 million barrels of oil into the ocean, was the reason for an unusually high number of dead or dying bottlenose dolphins washing up on the shores of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama.

Dolphins take big, deep breaths right at the surface of the water, where oil sheens are most concentrated, and "where there is a good chance of inhaling oil itself," said lead author Stephanie Venn-Watson, a veterinary epidemiologist at the National Marine Mammal Foundation.

"Dolphins were negatively impacted by exposure to petroleum compounds following the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, and exposure to these compounds caused life threatening adrenal and lung disease that has contributed to increased dolphin deaths in the northern Gulf of Mexico."

- Unusual lesions -

Unusual lesions in the lungs and adrenal glands, which regulate hormones and stress response, were a key sign that something was wrong with dolphins in the area of the spill, according to the research which compared autopsies of 46 dolphins that were stranded and died in the spill area from June 2010 to August 2012 to a comparison population of stranded dolphins off the Gulf coast of Florida.

 

 

"We found that dolphins that died after the oil spill had distinct adrenal gland and lung lesions that were not present in the stranded dolphins from other areas," said Kathleen Colegrove, a veterinary pathologist at the University of Illinois.

"These dolphins had some of the most severe lung lesions I have ever seen in wild dolphins from throughout the US."

One in three of the stranded dolphins in the spill area had a thinned adrenal gland cortex, a rate that was significantly higher than the reference population of stranded dolphins in Sarasota Bay, Florida, in which one in 10 had such a condition.

"The thinning of the adrenal gland cortex was a very unusual abnormality for us, that has not been previously reported in dolphins in the literature," Colegrove told reporters during a conference call to discuss the findings, which are the latest in a series of research papers on dolphin health in the region after the spill.

- Bacterial pneumonia -

One in five of the oil spill dolphins had bacterial pneumonia, a serious lung disease that was severe enough to cause or contribute to the animals' deaths.

By comparison, bacterial pneumonia was found in just one in 50 of the Florida dolphins to which the autopsies were compared.

 

 

 

 

Luz, one of the Charlie Hebdo cartoonists to survive January's Islamist attack on the French satirical magazine, on Thursday published an album recounting his life after the massacre.

Entitled "Catharsis", the album portrays some of the hardships faced by the cartoonist since the attacks that left 12 dead at the Charlie Hebdo offices: the nightmares and the police escort that accompanies him to his bed.

Luz drew the magazine's "survivors' issue" front cover -- a depiction of the prophet Mohammed under the banner "all is forgiven."

In the cartoon, the prophet holds a placard that reads "Je Suis Charlie" ("I am Charlie") a rallying call of support for the magazine that went viral and became a symbol for freedom of speech.

"One day, the ability to draw left me, at the same time as a whole bunch of friends," writes Luz in a preface to the album, referring to the horror of the events of January 7.

"The only difference was that it (writing) came back. Little by little. Both darker and more light-hearted."

After the survivors' issue, Luz -- real name Renald Luzier -- said he would no longer draw the prophet.

And earlier this week, the cartoonist announced he was leaving the paper but denied his departure was linked to internal problems at the paper that have come to the fore in the wake of the attacks.

 

 

 

Gay-themed traffic lights installed in Vienna for the 2015 Eurovision Song Contest have proven so popular that authorities have now decided to keep them for good and even turn them into t-shirts.

The Austrian capital, which hosts this year's kitsch pop competition, launched the revamped lights a fortnight ago at 120 zebra crossings as a symbol of tolerance.

Instead of the traditional single figure, they now show either a gay or heterosexual couple holding hands, along with a heart symbol.

The city confirmed on Wednesday it had ordered 2,000 t-shirts featuring the small figures in red and green on a black background.

One t-shirt costs 5 euros ($5.5).

 

 

 

French President Francois Hollande said on Tuesday there was "no question" of introducing a migrant quota system in Europe, as proposed by the European Commission.

 

 

 

Call it a clinic to restore marred beauty: arms, noses, hands and other appendages missing from sculptures due to vandalism or old age are replaced in a unique Argentine workshop.

Patiently waiting their turn, some 100 artworks from parks, gardens and other public spaces are scattered over the grounds of the outdoor facility in Buenos Aires.

Some 25 artists using old photographs work to repair damaged marble, remove graffiti and wipe away the effects of years spent outdoors.

But they must also create, fashioning missing body parts while remaining faithful to the original oeuvre.

The damage gets even worse during election times, as graffiti and campaign posters pop up like mushrooms, even on statues -- and Argentine is in fact getting ready for presidential elections in four months.

"At election time, our work intensifies," said Nicolas Quintana, director of parks for the Buenos Aires city council.

"We have a photo archives in the Department of Monuments and Artworks. We used that as a guide, and we also use photos from the Internet and magazines," added Gabriel Ramirez, a sculptor who is among those tasked with the delicate reconstruction work.

 

 

 

 

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande jointly pledged Tuesday to do their utmost to ensure an "ambitious" UN deal to combat climate change is reached this year.

In a joint statement at informal international talks in Berlin, the European Union's two biggest economies also urged other countries to do their part in helping achieve a global push to cut emissions.

France and Germany have "firmly decided to take all efforts to reach an ambitious, comprehensive and binding UN climate agreement by the end of this year," Merkel and Hollande said.

The talks took place under the "Petersberg Climate Dialogue" initiative, launched by Merkel in 2010, to prepare for the UN Climate Change Conference in Paris in December.

 

 

Hollande has set out an ambitious goal for the Paris meeting -- an agreement to limit the rise in global temperatures linked to greenhouse gas emissions to two degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit) from the pre-industrial age.

Several dozen ecologist protesters shouted "stop coal, protect the climate" as Merkel and Hollande arrived at the meeting in central Berlin, attended by representatives of 35 countries which began on Monday.

Environmental group Greenpeace set up a six-metre (20-foot) high model of the Eiffel Tower converted into a wind turbine near the Brandenburg Gate to call for the use of only renewable energy sources by 2050.

 

- 'Fair, binding rules' -

 

 

 

Survivors of the Boston Marathon bombings said justice had been served but reacted with mixed emotions after a jury handed down the death penalty verdict to convicted killer Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.

"He's going to go to hell. That's where he wanted to go," said Michael Ward, a firefighter who was off duty at the time of the April 15, 2013 attacks but who treated victims at the scene.

"I remember when those bombs went off and I remember the vile, disgusting thing that this person did," he told reporters almost immediately after the sentence was handed down following 14 hours of jury deliberations.

"This is a matter of justice," he said. "No one's here celebrating. If you ask 10 people you'll get 10 different opinions," he said.

"But ultimately, justice has prevailed today... He wanted to go to hell and he's going to get there early," he added.

Liz Norden, whose two adult sons each lost a leg in the attacks at the marathon finish line, said she would be there "every step of the way" if ever afforded the option of watching Tsarnaev be put to death.

"I feel justice for my kids," she told reporters. "It feels like a weight has been lifted off my shoulders."

 

Ballroom dancer and amputee Adrianne Haslet-Davis tweeted: "My heart is with our entire survivor community. I am thrilled with the verdict!"

Yet there was also an element of surprise and sadness over the sentence.

The death sentence was possible only under federal law. The state of Massachusetts outlawed capital punishment in 1947 and opinion polls had suggested residents favored a life sentence for Tsarnaev.

Some survivors, including the parents of eight-year-old victim Martin Richard, had publicly opposed the death penalty, worried that years, if not decades, of prospective appeals would dredge up their agony.

- No peace -

The Richard parents reportedly left court on Friday declining to comment. Outside the federal courthouse, a small group of US veterans and anti-death penalty protesters expressed anger and disappointment.

Melida Arredondo, her eyes hidden behind dark glasses, conceded she had conflicted emotions about the decision, mainly she said, because of the ongoing process that countless appeals would entail.

 

 

 

 

 

A Chinese company is sending more than 12,000 people on a holiday to Thailand, tourism officials said Thursday, with one resort hosting a series of back-to-back banquets catering to thousands of guests at a time.

Thailand's tourism body said the enormous group of holidaymakers was one of the largest they had accommodated from a company in China, where employees and customers are often rewarded for meeting targets.

"It will be a challenge but it's one we relish," Chattan Kunjara Na Ayudhya, the executive director of the Tourism Authority of Thailand's public relations wing, told AFP.

The 12,700 tourists are being sent by Infinitus China, a direct sales company, and began arriving in Thailand on 10 May, Chattan said.

They will travel in groups of 2-3,000 at a time and will make a six-day trip to Bangkok and the nearby seaside town of Pattaya, he added.

Those arriving include both employees of the firm as well as freelance sales staff and regular customers.

The visit comes less than a week after France received more than 6,000 Chinese holidaymakers from a single Chinese firm that booked 4,760 rooms in 79 four-and five-star hotels.

Itthiphol Kunplome, Pattaya's mayor, confirmed that the first batch of nearly 3,000 employees had begun arriving in his city.

"We are ready to welcome them and ready to facilitate their activities while they are in Pattaya," he told AFP.

A tour guide involved in the colossal task of organising 400 coach trips to ferry the groups said 300 colleagues would be on hand until the last holidaymaker leaves on 23 May.

"The company chose Thailand because they were impressed with our beaches, temples, cultural performances and fruits," he told AFP, asking not to be named.

Chattan said all the guests would attend one of a series of giant banquets at the Royal Cliff Hotel in Pattaya.

 

 

 

Japan is readying to lift the lid on what could be its most effective global marketing gimmick yet: the high-tech toilet seat.

Few foreign visitors make it through their first day in Japan without singing the praises of this epitome of Japanese know-how; a contraption that offers both comforting warmth and a frighteningly accurate bidet jet.

Now the government appears ready to capitalise on the enthusiasm and is set to talk up toilet technology as it launches a worldwide drive to promote Japan's prowess in innovation for the smallest room, according to the Yomiuri Shimbun.

Clean toilets equipped with various features "will be a plus for tourism", and will be included in a growth strategy to be compiled this summer, the newspaper said, citing unnamed sources.

The government will consider installing more high-tech toilets in areas frequented by tourists, such as airports, the Yomiuri said.

The nation might also produce promotional videos for foreigners in a bid to showcase the comfort of Japanese toilets ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games, the newspaper said.

Nearly every household in Japan and most public restrooms are equipped with a seat that is plugged into the mains electricity.

 

 

 

Europe held sombre ceremonies to mark 70 years since victory over Nazi Germany on Friday as leaders warned of modern day threats such as the war in Ukraine and Islamic extremism.

Celebrations of the WWII victory in Europe were muted a day before Moscow rolls out its full military might at a parade which is being snubbed by Western leaders due to tensions over the crisis in Ukraine.

Poland opened Victory Day celebrations with a midnight ceremony in northern Westerplatte, where the first shots of the war were fired on September 1, 1939 as Nazi forces swept across the border.

In France, President Francois Hollande laid a wreath at the tomb of the unknown soldier at a solemn ceremony under the Arc de Triomphe in Paris after urging citizens not to grow complacent about war.

"We didn't experience the war, we see it as a far-off reality, sometimes abstract, even though it is not so far from us, in Ukraine, further still in the Middle East," he said.

Hollande also referred to the hundreds of French citizens who have gone to fight alongside jihadists in Syria and Iraq.

 

"There is also terrorism which can strike us, racism, anti-Semitism. There are still causes which should spur us on."

France is still recovering from a jihadist killing spree in and around Paris in January which left 17 people dead over three days.

- Allied troops 'saved world' -

 

"I think in the wake of what happened in January we must come together, find common ground," said Jean Ruiz, witnessing the ceremony on the Champs Elysees avenue.