Today is Epiphany, another reason for Putin to take his shirt off

Jan. 14, 2018: Anastasia Gruzdeva poses for selfie as the temperature dropped to about -58 degrees Fahrenheit in Yakutsk, Russia. (sakhalife.ru photo via AP)

Russian leader Vladimir Putin takes just about every opportunity to go shirtless for the cameras, but Friday was the first time he publicly participated in the frigid dip that is a ritual of the feast of the Epiphany.

He was among hundreds of thousands of celebrants who plunged into chilly water at sites across Russia and Eastern Europe for the holiday celebrated 12 days after the Orthodox Christmas.

Jan. 14, 2018: Anastasia Gruzdeva poses for selfie as the temperature dropped to about -58 degrees Fahrenheit in Yakutsk, Russia. (sakhalife.ru photo via AP)

Putin’s pool was reportedly 21 degrees Fahrenheit, but the government-run Channel One reported that some hardy souls took the plunge in minus-58 degree waters in remote Yakutia. Temperatures there have been so cold that eyelashes frost over upon exposure to outside air.

“Epiphany” is from the Greek word for revelation, referring to Jesus’ manifestation to the world. The Orthodox celebration ties the event to Jesus’ baptism — hence the river swimming.

In western Europe and parts of the United States, Epiphany (or Three Kings Day) is celebrated January 6 and commemorates the visit of the Magi to the infant Jesus.

Tradition has it that Christmas decorations should be removed on the eve of Epiphany, also called Twelfth Night. If you miss that deadline, you must keep them up until February 2, which is Candlemas (as well as Groundhog Day).

…read more

Source:: The Mercury News – Nation, World

Border wall prototypes thwart commandos in rigorous tests

By ELLIOT SPAGAT

SAN DIEGO (AP) — Assaults by tactical teams on prototypes of President Donald Trump’s proposed wall with Mexico indicate the barriers’ imposing heights should stop border crossers, a U.S. official with direct knowledge of the rigorous assessment told The Associated Press.

Military special forces and U.S. Customs and Border Protection special units spent three weeks trying to breach and scale the eight models in San Diego, using jackhammers, saws, torches and other tools and climbing devices, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the information was not authorized for public release.

A Customs and Border Protection report on the tests identifies strengths and flaws of each design. It does not pick an overall winner or rank them, though it does point to see-through steel barriers topped by concrete as the best overall design, the official said.

The report recommends combining elements of each, depending on the terrain. The official likened it to a Lego design, pulling pieces from different prototypes.

Carlos Diaz, a spokesman for Customs and Border Protection, said the agency is still in “the testing phase” and that results are being evaluated. He said combining elements of different prototypes instead of picking a winner is consistent with previous statements by officials. He noted that the agency said in its bidding guidelines that a minimum height of 18 feet would be a key characteristic. He said he did not have additional details on test results.

Contractors were awarded between $300,000 and $500,000 for each prototype. Prototypes were built last fall to guide future construction of one of Trump’s signature campaign pledges. Four were concrete and four were made of other materials.

Ronald Vitiello, the agency’s acting deputy commissioner, said after visiting the prototypes in October that he was struck most by the 30-foot heights, which are significantly higher than existing …read more

Source:: The Mercury News – Nation, World

Military ties between Britain and France will not be shaken by Brexit

IT WAS in his typical, headline-grabbing mode that Boris Johnson pitched the notion of building a bridge across the Channel. At least it served as a diversion from the gritty realities of yesterday’s Anglo-French summit, held at the Sandhurst officer training academy. “Let’s do it,” responded France’s president, Emmanuel Macron. The French are fond of grands projets, but Mr Macron was probably thinking it might be nice if his side of the bridge could start in a muddy field far from Calais: the one that, thanks to the Channel Tunnel, has already become a magnet for undocumented migrants trying to reach Britain.

The most substantive agreement emerging from the summit was an undertaking by Britain to provide £45m ($63m) of funding to shore up security in Calais, which acts as a border post between the two countries, and to accept a few more of the migrants, particularly unaccompanied minors.

Otherwise the summit was dominated by defence and security issues…

…read more

Source:: The Economits – Europe

Drone rescue off Australian beach heralded as world-first

In this Thursday, Jan. 18, 2018 image made from a video provided by Westpac Little Ripper, a yellow flotation device is dropped from a flying drone toward two teenagers caught in a riptide in heavy seas off the Australian coast. A flying drone has dropped the flotation device to the pair in what officials describe as a world-first rescue. They were about a kilometer (0.6 mile) from lifeguards who were about to start training with the new drones, equipped with a camera, rescue gear and six rotors.  (Westpac Little Ripper via AP)

By Rod McGuirk | Associated Press

CANBERRA, Australia — A flying drone has dropped a flotation device to two teens caught in a riptide in heavy seas off the Australian coast in what officials describe as a world-first rescue.

Monty Greenslade and Gabe Vidler got into trouble on Thursday at Lennox Head, 470 miles north of Sydney.

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In this Thursday, Jan. 18, 2018 image made from a video provided by Westpac Little Ripper, a yellow flotation device is dropped from a flying drone toward two teenagers caught in a riptide in heavy seas off the Australian coast. Westpac Little Ripper via AP

They were about a half mile from lifeguards who were about to start training with the new drones, equipped with a camera, rescue gear and six rotors.

After a friend raised the alert, lifeguard Jai Sheridan said he piloted the drone to the swimmers and dropped a rescue pod minutes faster than lifeguards could have reached the pair by conventional means.

“I was able to launch it, fly it to the location, and drop the pod all in about one to two minutes. On a normal day, that would have taken our lifeguards a few minutes longer to reach the members of the public,” Sheridan said in a statement.

Greenslade, 16, said Friday the pair were lucky that the drone had been nearby.

“We realized pretty quickly that it was a rescue drone, once we heard it,” Greenslade told Nine Network television. “It was pretty noisy, so it was kind of hard to miss it, to be honest.”

“With the heavy waves, we were sort of going under and coming up for breath and … the drone dropped the package and …read more

Source:: The Mercury News – Nation, World

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