Europe braces for potentially deadly hot spell

By Claire Parker | Washington Post

Forget your exams, go to the pool and make sure to eat. That’s the message French authorities are urgently sending residents, and not just for joie de vivre – but as a matter of life or death.

As a massive heat wave bears down on Europe in coming days, France is hoping to avoid the devastating death toll it suffered in 2003, during the hottest spell in centuries. That July and August, an estimated 70,000 people across Europe died from heat-related causes. Around 15,000 of those deaths occurred in France – and in Paris, morgues overflowed with bodies.

The city has since devised plans to avoid such casualties during surges in temperatures, which scientists say are becoming more common in Europe as a result of climate change. Those plans will be put to the test this week, when temperatures across Europe are expected to rise between 20 and 35 degrees Fahrenheit above normal as hot air from deserts in Spain and the Sahara blows northward.

Temperatures in Germany on Wednesday could smash the existing June record of around 101 degrees Fahrenheit set in Frankfurt in 1947, meteorologists warned. The heat wave is also expected to hit Belgium and Switzerland, and some parts of Sweden and Denmark could see unusually hot days as well.

But the memory of the deadly summer of 2003 weighs most heavily on France, and authorities there have already begun to implement emergency plans.

In France, temperatures from Wednesday through Friday could climb beyond 100 degrees Fahrenheit (38 degrees Celsius). Paris has issued an orange alert – it’s second-highest heat warning – for the city and surrounding area.

Authorities announced a number of measures to keep residents cool, including installing temporary water fountains and three portable pools in high-density neighborhoods, keeping swimming pools open until 10:30 p.m. and …read more

Source:: The Mercury News – Nation, World


Massive blast leaves crater in German barley field

By Alex Horton | Washington Post

From the air, the massive crater resembles a pink virus floating against a pool of green.

But from the ground, the destruction is clear and unforgiving: A 33-foot wide, 13-foot gouge into the earth that began in the 1940s with an Allied sortie and ended Sunday morning in a massive blast in a barley field in central Germany.

No one was hurt in the blast, the German news site Hessenschau reported.

The explosion was thundering and unexpected, leading some residents in Ahlbach farmland to speculate it was an earthquake.

Explosive experts combed the crater, and no bomb elements were initially found, the nearby city of Limburg said in a statement, prompting the theory that it was the work of an asteroid.

However, a second look, with the help of drones, helped build evidence that has pointed to a likely culprit – a 550-pound dud of a bomb dropped decades ago that remained buried and untouched until its detonation mechanism eroded with time.

Between 1940 and 1945, Allied bombers dropped 2.7 million tons of bombs on Europe. About half of that ordnance fell on German targets, eradicating Nazi war infrastructure and killing more than 400,000 German civilians.

But around 10% of bombs dropped over Germany failed to explode, according to Smithsonian Magazine, leaving deadly artifacts in the ground to be found by firefighters, engineers and construction workers so often it has become routine.

The city of Limburg said the bomb probably had a chemical detonator that failed when the bomb was dropped.

Not all bombs explode on impact. Sometimes chemical components were used to delay explosions until a bomb could burrow into the ground to create a bigger crater and cause more damage.

With such bombs used in World War II, gravity helped. The components relied on a north-south orientation after a bomb fell as designed …read more

Source:: The Mercury News – Nation, World


A teacher used ‘Abduction 101’ to plot a deadly kidnapping. A visiting Chinese scholar was his random victim.

By Meagan Flynn | The Washington Post

On the evening of June 29, 2017, as dozens of University of Illinois students walked the streets and raised a banner that said “Help find Yingying Zhang,” Brendt Christensen stood on the sidelines and told his girlfriend why Zhang would never be found.

Zhang, 26, a visiting scholar from China, had disappeared less than two months after arriving in the United States. One afternoon, she had taken a break from her studies on photosynthesis in corn and soybeans to grab lunch and sign a lease for a new apartment. But Zhang never made it to meet the property manager. She was last seen on city surveillance cameras flagging down a bus, then getting inside a black Saturn hatchback that pulled up alongside her. Before long, her family flew from China to start looking for her.

“We searched the parks, the abandoned houses,” her boyfriend, Xiaolin Hou, told a federal court this month. “We don’t have a destination but we will never give up the hope to find her.”

Only Christensen, 29, knew where she was. As he would soon tell his girlfriend, standing in the crowd at Zhang’s memorial, Christensen kidnapped her. He raped her, killed her and disposed of her body where nobody would ever find it, he said.

The student instructor and doctoral candidate had been spinning the dark plot around in his head for months, leading a “double life,” prosecutors said, as he staked out random victims on the streets of Champaign, Illinois, until he found Zhang. He wanted to fulfill an “abduction fantasy,” prosecutors said. He idolized Ted Bundy, telling his girlfriend that afternoon that Zhang was his 13th victim (a claim his defense attorney claimed was drunken nonsense) and that he was “apparently very good at this.”

“The family won’t leave until she is …read more

Source:: The Mercury News – Nation, World


Is the missing Jennifer Dulos a ‘Gone Girl’? Husband’s lawyer points to her ‘very dark’ novel

By Emanuella Grinberg and Hollie Silverman, CNN
Jennifer Dulos.

(CNN) — An attorney for the estranged husband of a Connecticut mother who has been missing for more than a month doubled down on his theory that she may have disappeared in a “Gone Girl”-style escape from her life.

The family and friends of Jennifer Dulos, 50, dismissed the suggestion that she staged her disappearance in a manner similar to the plot of the popular novel.

Monday marked one month since the mother of five was last seen in her 2017 Chevrolet Suburban in New Canaan. Friends reported her missing on May 24 after she failed to show up for appointments.

Authorities found her car about three miles from the house where she had lived with her five children since splitting from her husband in 2017.

Her estranged husband, Fotis Dulos, and his girlfriend pleaded not guilty to charges of evidence tampering and hindering prosecution in her disappearance and were released on bond earlier this month.

Authorities said surveillance cameras captured someone resembling Fotis Dulos dumping garbage bags in trash cans that contained items stained with the missing mother’s blood.

State’s Attorney Richard J. Colangelo told a judge that investigators found Fotis Dulos’ DNA mixed with the woman’s blood in a faucet inside her home.

But Fotis Dulos’ lawyer offered another explanation for her disappearance: She left to cause hardship for her estranged husband.

“We have been provided a very dark 500-plus page novel Jennifer wrote,” lawyer Norm Pattis said in a statement to NBC News.

“We are reviewing it now. We are also investigating new information regarding $14,000 worth of medical bills regarding tests just before she disappeared. We don’t know what had become of Jennifer but the ‘Gone Girl’ …read more

Source:: The Mercury News – Nation, World


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