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China says it tested missile-interception system

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(Last Updated On: June 20, 2022)

China has carried out a land-based missile interception test that “achieved its expected purpose”, the Defence Ministry said, describing it as defensive and not aimed at any country.

China has been ramping up research into all sorts of missiles, from those that can destroy satellites in space to advanced nuclear-tipped ballistic missiles, as part of an ambitious modernisation scheme overseen by President Xi Jinping.

Beijing has tested missile interceptors before; the most recent previous public announcement of a test was in February 2021, and before that in 2018. State media has said China has conducted anti-missile system tests since at least 2010.

The ministry said in a brief statement late on Sunday that the “ground-based midcourse anti-missile intercept technology” test had been carried out that night.

“The test reached its expected goals,” the ministry said. “This test was defensive and not aimed at any country.”

It provided no other details.

China, along with its ally Russia, have repeatedly expressed opposition to the U.S. deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) anti-missile system in South Korea.

China argued the equipment’s powerful radar could penetrate into its territory. China and Russia have also held simulated anti-missile drills.

China has given few details about its own missile programmes, aside from occasional brief statements by the Defence Ministry or in state media.

In 2016, the Defence Ministry confirmed it was pressing ahead with anti-missile system tests after pictures appeared on state television.

Beijing says such technology is needed for national defence and security.

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Rich heritage buried under impoverished Gaza Strip

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(Last Updated On: June 26, 2022)

While workers labored on a large construction site in the Gaza Strip, a security guard noticed a strange piece of stone sticking out of the earth.

“I thought it was a tunnel,” said Ahmad, the young guard, referring to secret passages dug by Hamas to help it battle Israel.

In the Gaza Strip, ruled by Hamas and repeatedly ravaged by war, people are more familiar with burying the dead than digging up their heritage.

But what Ahmad found in January was part of a Roman necropolis dating from about 2,000 years ago — representative of the impoverished Palestinian territory’s rich, if under-developed, archaeological treasures, phys.org reported Sunday.

After the last war between Israel and Hamas in May 2021 left a trail of damage in Gaza, Egypt began a reconstruction initiative worth $500 million.

As part of that project in Jabaliya, in the north of the coastal enclave, bulldozers were digging up the sandy soil in order to build new concrete buildings when Ahmad made his discovery.

“I notified the Egyptian foremen, who immediately contacted local authorities and asked the workers to stop,” said Ahmad, a Palestinian who preferred not to give his full name.

With rumors on social media of a big discovery, Gaza’s antiquities service called in the French non-governmental group Premiere Urgence Internationale and the French Biblical and Archaeological School of Jerusalem to evaluate the site’s importance and mark off the area, phys.org reported.

“The first excavations permitted the identification of about 40 tombs dating from the ancient Roman period between the first and second centuries AD,” said French archaeologist Rene Elter, who led the team dispatched to Jabaliya.

“The necropolis is larger than these 40 tombs and should have between 80 and 100,” he said.

One of the burial sites found so far is decorated with multi-colored paintings representing crowns and garlands of bay leaves, as well as jars for funereal drinks, the archaeologist added.

Stakes and fences have been erected around the Roman necropolis, which is watched over constantly by guards as new buildings go up nearby, phys.org reported.

Gaza is a tiny, overcrowded strip of land whose population in 15 years has ballooned from 1.4 million to 2.3 million. As a result, building construction has accelerated.

“Some people avoid telling authorities if there is an archaeological discovery on a construction site out of fear of not being compensated” for the resulting work stoppage, Abu Hassan said.

“We lose archaeological sites every day,” which shows the need for a strategy to defend the enclave’s heritage, including training local archaeologists, he said.

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Burmese python weighing almost 100kg caught in Florida

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(Last Updated On: June 24, 2022)

The largest Burmese python ever seen in Florida was caught by researchers who used another python to lure it out of its hiding place in the Everglades, National Geographic reported this week.

The gargantuan snake was a female, measuring nearly 5.4 meters long and weighing 97 kilograms, 13.6 kg more than the next-largest python ever found in the state.

Most Burmese pythons that are found in Florida range between 1.8 and 3 m long, although in their native habitats in Southeast Asia, the snakes commonly reach 5.4 m. The largest can reach lengths of 6 m or more, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

Since being introduced in Florida in the 1970s, the invasive pythons have bred successfully in the southern regions of the state, where they prey on many native birds and mammals, as well as the occasional alligator or pet dog, Live Science reported.

A 3.7 m snake nicknamed Dion served as bait for the record-setting female that the team captured in December.

At that time, the team of researchers noticed Dion had stationed himself in one particular location near Naples, within the western Everglades’ ecosystem. When they went to check on him, they found him coiled near a monstrous female.

After an intense wrestling match, the researchers managed to wrangle the huge female into a bag, which they then secured and transported to their research facility.

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Giant stingray caught in Cambodia is world’s largest freshwater fish

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(Last Updated On: June 22, 2022)

The largest freshwater fish ever recorded was captured in the Mekong River in Cambodia last week by a fisherman collaborating with researchers to document the river’s biodiversity.

The four-meter endangered giant freshwater stingray (Urogymnus polylepis) was hauled from the river on June 13 before being measured and released back into the wild, the non-profit conservation news service Mongabay reported.

Weighing in at nearly 300 kilograms, the stingray surpasses the previous record holder, a 293-kg Mekong giant catfish (Pangasianodon gigas) caught in Thailand in 2005.

Experts say the find emphasizes what’s at stake in the Mekong, a river that’s facing a slew of development threats, including major hydropower dams that have altered the river’s natural flow and exacerbated low river levels due to dry-season droughts in recent years, Mongabay reported.

“This is an absolutely astonishing discovery, and justifies efforts to better understand the mysteries surrounding this species and the incredible stretch of river where it lives,” Zeb Hogan, a fish biologist and leader of the USAID-funded Wonders of the Mekong project, said in a statement.

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