Scientists have pulled DNA from Ludwig van Beethoven's hair to look for clues about his many health problems and hearing loss. They weren't able to figure out why the famous composer lost his hearing and had severe stomach problems. But they reported Wednesday that they did find clues about the liver disease that is widely believed to have killed the German composer. Beethoven's genome showed that he had a high risk for liver disease and was infected with the liver-damaging hepatitis B. The researchers concluded that those factors, along with his drinking, likely contributed to his death nearly 200 years ago.
Conservationists want South Carolina to make the Venus fly trap the state’s official carnivorous plant. Supporters say honoring the Venus fly trap isn’t about one extra thing students see on an elementary school worksheet. Instead, it’s to protect and increase awareness of an interesting species found only in the upper part of the South Carolina coast and a small sliver of southeast North Carolina. In all, South Carolina has about five dozen different official state things, such as the state bird, state opera and even a state snack, which is boiled peanuts.
Badgers burrowing under rail tracks have halted trains in the northern and southern Netherlands, forcing lengthy cancellations on at least two lines. All trains were halted Tuesday afternoon on a busy line between the southern cities of Den Bosch and Boxtel after the animals dug into a dike carrying rails. The national railway company says the line will be out of service for at least a week. A week earlier, badgers also burrowed under tracks in a northern village, knocking a line out of service until next month. Badgers are protected in the Netherlands so rail operators have to get permission to move them before repairs can begin. Buses have been laid on for travelers.
Police say one of two porcupines which went missing from a zoo in central Germany over the weekend has somehow found its way back home. State police in Saxony-Anhalt had called Sunday for the public to keep an eye out for the two Indian crested porcupines, called Pinky and Brain, after they were apparently stolen from an animal park in the town of Thale. German news agency dpa quoted police saying the exact circumstances of their disappearance were still being investigated, but there was no way the porcupines could have escaped on their own. Police also expressed hope that Pinky might be found soon, after a hiker reported seeing the animal about 6 miles from the zoo.
Millions of fish have washed up dead in southeastern Australia in a die-off that authorities and scientists say is caused by depleted oxygen levels in the river after recent floods and hot weather. Residents of the Outback town of Menindee in New South Wales state complained of a terrible smell from the dead fish. The Department of Primary Industries says the fish deaths were likely caused by low oxygen levels as floods recede, a situation made worse by fish needing more oxygen because of the warmer weather. Police have established an emergency operations centre in Menindee to coordinate a massive cleanup this week. State Emergency Operations Controller Peter Thurtell says the immediate focus was to provide a clean water supply to residents.
Six giant African land snails have been found in the luggage of a traveler who flew to Michigan from the west African country of Ghana. U.S. Customs and Border Protection says Friday that the mollusks, which can carry diseases that affect humans, were discovered and seized March 9 during an agriculture inspection at Detroit Metropolitan Airport in Romulus. The man transporting the snails is a resident of Ghana and said they were to be eaten. The snails are prohibited in Michigan and the rest of the United States. They eat at least 500 different types of plants, along with plaster and stucco. They grow as long as 8 inches and carry a parasite that can cause meningitis in humans.
A Louisiana couple has run afoul of state law by keeping a 22-pound nutria as a pet. A nutria is a rat-tailed, orange-toothed rodent found in Louisiana swamps and waterways. Nutria are considered an invasive species in the state. But “Neuty” — the nutria rescued as a baby from a busy roadside by Denny Lacoste — frolics with the couple's dog, swims in their pool and snuggles in the arms of his keepers. The state says it's illegal to keep injured or orphaned wild animals as pets. But wildlife officials' decision to confiscate the animal has sparked a petition drive by those who want him to stay with the Lacostes.
Authorities in Thailand have expanded their search for a metal cylinder with radioactive contents that has gone missing from a power plant, warning the public that it poses a danger to health. The 12-inch-long, 55-pound cylinder containing the radioactive material Caesium-137 was discovered missing last Friday from a piece of machinery at a steam power plant in Prachinburi province east of Bangkok. Authorities have searched junk shops, scrap metal yards and secondhand stores in Prachinburi and neighboring Chachoengsao province. Health officials warned the public that extended contact with the cylinder could have serious short and long-term consequences. The material has similar physical characteristics to salt and can disperse easily if its container opened.
Part of a roof at a shopping mall in Duluth, Minnesota, collapsed as workers were removing several inches of snow. Duluth city spokeswoman Kelli Latuska says no one was injured when a portion of the roof at Miller Hall Mall fell in early Tuesday. Most stores in the mall weren't open at the time. Authorities did not say exactly what caused the collapse but it happened after a foot of snow fell in the city over the weekend. Duluth Fire officials say workers were clearing a portion of the roof when they evacuated after hearing “popping sounds.” Authorities say everyone in the building has been accounted for since the collapse.
Scientists have figured out what makes a small see-through fish sometimes shimmer in the light. In a study published Monday, they say the key is in the muscles of the fish from Thailand, called a ghost catfish. Most iridescent animals have shiny scales or feathers to reflect the light. The ghost catfish has tightly packed structures in its muscles that bend light into its rainbow colors. Researchers aren't sure if the colors serve a purpose like attracting a mate. The fish is a few inches long and is sold around the world for aquariums.
US and World News
Two decades ago, U.S. spy agencies wrongly believed Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. That intelligence drove the rationale for one of America's most costly and deadly wars. Those intelligence failures deeply shaped American spy agencies and a generation of officers and lawmakers trained to be more skeptical. They also helped drive a major reorganization of the U.S. intelligence community. But they did lasting damage to the credibility of U.S. intelligence. A new AP-NORC poll finds that only 18% of U.S. adults have a great deal of confidence in the government’s intelligence gathering agencies. Read moreIraq WMD failures shadow US intelligence 20 years later
A coroner's office says a body found in the Colorado woods near an abandoned car was that of a 17-year-old student accused of wounding two administrators in a shooting at his Denver high school. Park County Sheriff Tom McGraw said the body was discovered Wednesday not far from the student’s car in a remote mountain area about 50 miles southwest of Denver, near the small town of Bailey, in Park County. Earlier in the day, Denver police identified the suspect in the shooting at East High School as Austin Lyle. The Park County coroner’s office confirmed in a Facebook post that the body was that of Lyle’s. Cause of death wasn’t released, pending the completion of an autopsy. Read moreDenver high school shooting suspect dead, coroner confirms
The Australian government on Thursday released the wording of a referendum question that promises the nation’s Indigenous population a greater say on policies that effect their lives. Australians are expected to vote sometime between October and December on a constitutional amendment that would enshrine a new body called the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice. The Voice would be an elected group charged with advocating Indigenous interests, but would not have a vote on laws. An emotional Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said the body was needed to overcome Indigenous disadvantage. Indigenous people account for 3.2% of the Australian population, and are the nation’s most disadvantaged ethnic group. Read moreAustralia sets wording of Indigenous Voice referendum
China’s government says it would oppose possible U.S. plans to force TikTok’s Chinese owner to sell the short-video service as a security risk and warned such a move would hurt investor confidence in the United States. Governments are worried TikTok’s owner, ByteDance, might give browsing history or other data about users to China’s government or promote propaganda and disinformation. The Wall Street Journal reported U.S. authorities were considering banning TikTok ban if ByteDance doesn’t sell the company. A Ministry of Commerce spokeswoman, Shu Jueting said, “If the news is true, China will resolutely oppose it.” TikTok is one focus of conflicts between China and other governments over technology and security that are disrupting various high-tech industries. Read moreChina criticizes possible US plan to force TikTok sale
Palestinian health officials say that Israeli security forces killed a Palestinian militant during a raid in the northern West Bank. Thursday's incident marks the latest escalation of violence in what has been the deadliest start of a year for Palestinians in the occupied territory in more than two decades. Israeli forces stormed into the northern city of Tulkarem, home to an emerging militant group with ties to the armed offshoot of the nationalist Fatah party. The Palestinian Health Ministry said 25-year-old Amir Abu Khadija was killed. Fatah’s Al Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades claimed Abu Khadija as a leader. Surging tensions have raised fears of violence in Jerusalem during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. Read morePalestinian killed in Israeli military raid in West Bank
A shortage of fresh vegetables last month may force the Bank of England to approve an 11th consecutive interest rate increase Thursday. The scramble for peppers, cucumbers and spinach helped push inflation to 10.4% in February, surprising analysts who expected prices to drop into single digits for the first time in seven months. Before the numbers were released Wednesday, many economists suggested the Bank of England would keep rates on hold. That's because of concern about turmoil in the global financial system following the collapse of two U.S. banks and the ensuing turmoil at Switzerland’s Credit Suisse. But the unexpected jump in prices refocused attention on stubbornly high inflation that's pummeling consumers and slowing economic growth. Read moreUK central bank may hike rates after big jump in food prices
The Swiss central bank has hiked its key interest rate and insisted that a government-orchestrated takeover of troubled Credit Suisse by rival bank UBS ended the financial turmoil. In a statement, the Swiss National Bank said Thursday that it’s providing large amounts of support in Swiss francs and foreign currencies and that the Sunday announcement by the federal government, financial regulators and the central bank “put a halt to the crisis.” The hastily arranged, $3.25 billion deal aimed to stem the turmoil in the global financial system after the collapse of two U.S. banks and jitters about long-running troubles at Credit Suisse led shares of Switzerland’s second-largest bank to tank and customers to pull deposits. Read moreCredit Suisse deal averted crisis, Swiss central bank says
The Gymnastics Ethics Foundation was created in 2019 to help protect athletes after the American sexual abuse scandal and it has now published its strategy to set new safeguarding standards with a view to the 2028 Los Angeles Olympics. The “Gymnasts 2028” plan sets goals to better protect athletes from harassment and abuse, investigate complaints, prosecute disciplinary cases and monitor national federations. Alex McLin is the independent foundation’s director. He says the GEF wants "to really put gymnasts at the center of our thinking throughout everything we do.” A generation of leaders have left USA Gymnastics since U.S. team doctor Larry Nassar’s abuse of hundreds of athletes emerged in 2016. Read moreEthics agency to better protect gymnasts for LA Olympics
A prominent leader of Uganda’s LGBTQ community says he is worried about becoming “homeless,” describing anguished calls by others like him who are concerned for their safety after the passing of a tough new anti-gay law. Frank Mugisha, head of the banned LGBTQ support group Sexual Minorities Uganda, told AP that he is worried about being evicted from where he rents. Internationally there is growing pressure as the United Nations, the United States and others are urging President Yoweri Museveni to block the bill passed by lawmakers on Tuesday. The bill prescribes death and life imprisonment for some homosexual acts. Read moreUganda LGBTQ leader says gay bill threatens homelessness
Russia has issued a full-throated warning that the West risks further escalation in Ukraine after the British government announced it is providing depleted uranium munitions to Ukraine. Moscow falsely claims the munitions have nuclear components. While depleted uranium is a byproduct of the uranium enrichment process needed to create nuclear weapons, it cannot generate a nuclear reaction. However, the rounds' radioactive properties do carry some risks. The U.N. nuclear watchdog has urged caution when handling the munitions and warns of possible dangers of exposure. Read moreA look at the uranium-based ammo the UK will send to Ukraine
Israel's parliament has passed the first of several laws that make up its contentious judicial overhaul. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition approved a motion Thursday that would protect the Israeli leader from being deemed unfit to rule over his corruption trial and claims of a conflict of interest. Critics say the law is tailor-made for Netanyahu, encourages corruption and deepens an already gaping chasm between Israelis over the judicial overhaul. Also Thursday, protesters were staging another day of demonstrations aimed at ringing an alarm over what they see as the country’s descent toward autocracy. Read moreIsrael passes law protecting Netanyahu as protests continue
A rare tornado left a line of damage across roofs of commercial buildings in the Los Angeles suburb of Montebello. Video captured Wednesday shows pieces of roofing being ripped up and twisting into the sky. One person was hurt. The National Weather Service confirmed that a tornado with winds of up to 110 mph touched down. The violent weather comes amid a strong late-season Pacific storm that brought damaging winds and more rain and snow to saturated California. Five deaths have been attributed to the storm. Read moreRare tornado near Los Angeles rips building roofs; 1 injured
A new report from the American Library Association says attempted book bannings and restrictions at school and public libraries continue to surge, setting a record in 2022. The report being released Thursday says more than 1,200 challenges were recorded by the association in 2022, nearly double the then-record total from 2021. Deborah Caldwell-Stone is the director of the ALA's Office for Intellectual Freedom. She says she has "never seen anything like this,” and calls the past two years "exhausting, frightening, outrage inducing.” Librarians around the country have told of being harassed, and threatened with violence or legal action. Read moreLibrary association reports record book ban attempts in 2022
The United States is denying Chinese claims that its military had driven away an American guided-missile destroyer from operating around disputed islands in the South China Sea. Tensions in the region have been on the rise between the two powers. The U.S. Navy’s 7th Fleet said that a statement Thursday from China’s Southern Theatre Command that it had forced the USS Milius away from waters around the Paracel Islands — called Xisha by China — was “false.” A fleet spokesperson says: “USS Milius is conducting routine operations in the South China Sea and was not expelled." Read moreUS denies Chinese claim it drove away American destroyer
Prince William has placed a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Warsaw, paying his respects to the Poles who lost their lives in past wars. He made the gesture Thursday during a visit to Poland aimed at honoring the country’s efforts to help Ukraine today. The heir to the throne’s visit to Poland underscores Britain’s support for an ally on the front line of efforts to help refugees displaced by Russia’s war in Ukraine and to assist the Ukrainian military in fighting off the invasion. William is expect to meet next with President Andrzej Duda, one of several meetings on a two day trip to Poland. Read morePrince William honors Poles who fell in past wars in Warsaw