Timelapse video of Tonga island's creation helping scientists gain better understanding of Mars

In 2015, a volcanic island exploded out of the Pacific Ocean, and it has been evolving ever since.

The Tongan island of Hunga Tonga Hunga Ha'apai is one of Earth's newest landforms and it could tell scientists where to look for evidence of life on Mars, according to BBC. 

Scientists are now watching the erosion carefully, as they think they can see the remnants of similar water-birthed islands on Mars. 

What the researchers see on Hunga Tonga Hunga Ha'apai could potentially be something to help them better understand the water environment on Mars, as well as whether the conditions might have been favourable for the initiation of life. 

Chief scientist at the US space agency's (NASA) Goddard Space Flight Center Dr Jim Garvin told the BBC: "We're going to use [the island] on Earth to train us to understand Mars".

"The thought was that we might be able to use recognition of these kinds of landforms to be an indication of palaeowater stories, depths and longevities on the Red Planet." 

The island of Hunga Tonga Hunga Ha'apai grew out of the Hunga volcano, a 1.3 kilometre-high mountain that is almost completely submerged in the southwest Pacific. 

A new NASA study said the newly formed island was initially projected to last a few months but now it has a projected 30-year lease of life.



'Welcome to the PC World' - Melbourne newspaper reprints controversial cartoon of Serena Williams

A controversial cartoon of Serena Williams that has been widely condemned as a racist depiction of the tennis great has been partially reprinted on the front page of the Melbourne-based newspaper that initially published it.

The Herald Sun newspaper printed an edited portion of the cartoon - featuring 23-time Grand Slam winner Williams jumping on a broken racket during her dispute with a chair umpire in the US Open final - among caricatures of other famous people Wednesday under the headline "Welcome to the PC World."

The newspaper has defended its cartoonist Mark Knight's depiction of Williams and is asserting the condemnation, which has come from all parts of the world, is driven by political correctness.

"If the self-appointed censors of Mark Knight get their way on his Serena Williams cartoon, our new politically correct life will be very dull indeed," the paper printed on its front page.

Williams has won the Australian Open singles title seven times at Melbourne Park, including 2017 when she was pregnant. She is a crowd favorite at the first tennis major of the year, which is held each January at a venue that is within sight of the Herald Sun's headquarters.

In comments published by News Corp., Knight said that he created the cartoon after watching Williams' "tantrum" during her US Open final loss to Naomi Osaka on Saturday and that it was designed to illustrate "her poor behavior on the day, not about race".

Knight reportedly has disabled his Twitter account after his post of the cartoon attracted tens of thousands of comments, mostly critical.

During the final against Osaka, Williams got a warning from the chair umpire for violating a rarely enforced rule against receiving coaching from the sidelines. An indignant Williams emphatically defended herself, denying she had cheated. A short time later, she smashed her racket in frustration and was docked a point. She protested and demanded an apology from the umpire, who penalised her a game.

Critics of Knight's cartoon described it as a clear example of a stereotype facing black women, depicting Williams as an irate, hulking, big-mouthed black woman jumping up and down on a broken racket. The umpire was shown telling a blond, slender woman - meant to be Osaka, who is Japanese and Haitian - "Can you just let her win?"

"I was deeply offended. This is not a joke," said Vanessa K. De Luca, former editor in chief of Essence magazine, who wrote a column about the US Open furor.

The cartoonist "completely missed the point of why she was upset," De Luca told The Associated Press. "It was about her integrity, and anybody who doesn't get that is perpetuating the erasure that so many black women feel when they are trying to speak up for themselves. It's like our opinions don't matter."

In a social media post, Peter Blunden, managing director of News Corp's operations in the state of Victoria, said: "Australia's finest cartoonist Mark Knight has the strongest support of his colleagues for his depiction of Serena Williams' petulance. It's about bad behaviour, certainly not race. The PC brigade are way off the mark ... again."

NZ Herald cartoonist Rod Emmerson has come to the defence of Australian colleague Mark Knight, who is denying claims of racism. Source: 1 NEWS


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Monster Hurricane Florence nears Carolina coast as fleeing residents strike empty petrol stations

Coastal residents fleeing a potentially devastating blow from Hurricane Florence encountered empty gasoline pumps and depleted store shelves as the monster storm neared the Carolina coast with 225 km/h winds and drenching rain that could last for days.

While some said they planned to stay put despite hurricane watches and warnings that include the homes of more than 5.4 million people on the US East Coast, many weren't taking any chances.

A steady stream of vehicles full of people and belongings flowed inland on Tuesday (Weds NZT), and North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper tried to convince everyone to flee.

"The waves and the wind this storm may bring is nothing like you've ever seen. Even if you've ridden out storms before, this one is different. Don't bet your life on riding out a monster," he said.

Forecasters said Florence was expected to blow ashore late Thursday or early Friday local time, then slow down and dump 0.3 to 0.6 metres of rain that could cause flooding well inland and wreak environmental havoc by washing over industrial waste sites and hog farms.

President Donald Trump declared states of emergency for North and South Carolina and Virginia, opening the way for federal aid. He said the federal government is "absolutely, totally prepared" for Florence.

All three states ordered mass evacuations along the coast. But getting out of harm's way could prove difficult.

Florence is so wide that a life-threatening storm surge was being pushed 485 kilometres ahead of its eye, and so wet that a swath from South Carolina to Ohio and Pennsylvania could get deluged.

People across the region rushed to buy bottled water and other supplies, board up their homes, pull their boats out of the water and get out of town.

At 2am (Weds evening NZT), the storm was centered 1,005 km southeast of Cape Fear, North Carolina, moving at 28 km/h. It was a potentially catastrophic Category 4 storm but was expected to keep drawing energy from the warm water and intensify to near Category 5, which means winds of 253 km/h or higher.

Florence is the most dangerous of three tropical systems in the Atlantic. Tropical Storm Isaac was east of the Lesser Antilles and expected to pass south of Puerto Rico, Hispaniola and Cuba, while Hurricane Helene was moving northward away from land. Forecasters also were tracking two other disturbances.

Described as a monster, the eye of Hurricane Florence continues to grow. Source: 1 NEWS

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Plane makes emergency landing in Boston after engine issue leads to smoke and gas-like odour filling cabin

An engine-related issue forced an Iberia Airways flight en route to Madrid to make and emergency landing at Boston's Logan Airport.

The Boston Globe reports an Iberia Airways spokeswoman says the plane landed without incident and there were no injuries to any of the 265 passengers.

The flight originated Tuesday around 9:15pm (local time) at New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport.

The spokeswoman said about 90 minutes into the flight crew members noticed an engine-related issue. The plane landed safely in Boston.

Melissa Miller, of New York, says she was on the flight and that passengers "knew something was up" when a smoke and gas-like odour filled the cabin.

Miller said passengers were bussed back to New York to re-book flights.

Massport and FAA officials did not respond to requests for comment.

There have been delays at Auckland Airport
Plane (file). Source: 1 NEWS


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Indian man told police how he befriended truck drivers then murdered them and sold their vehicles and goods

Indian police have arrested a 48-year-old man who they say has confessed to killing 33 truck drivers and their helpers over the past decade, then selling the vehicles and the goods they were carrying.

The man was arrested two weeks ago near the central town of Bhopal, the capital of Madhya Pradesh state, police officer Rahul Kumar Lodha said Wednesday.

Police stumbled across the man's name as they investigated a string of recent murders of truck drivers in Madhya Pradesh.

While the man was apparently not connected to those killings, some of the seven men arrested told police they had helped him in similar robberies.

The man told police he would befriend drivers in roadside eateries and slip drugs into their food so they would fall asleep, Lodha said.

He would then drive their trucks to isolated areas, strangle them and their helpers, and dump the bodies in forests.

He and his accomplices would then sell the trucks and their goods, Lodha said.

Indian drivers often travel with assistants who help clean their trucks, change tires and other chores.

Dharmendra Choudhary, another police officer in Madhya Pradesh state, said the suspect was arrested in western Maharashtra state some years ago in connection with similar robberies, but was freed on bail and fled.

Between robberies, he worked as a tailor in a small shop in Mandideep, a village on the outskirts of Bhopal.

Truck
Truck Source: istock.com