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Investigation finds Syria likely behind 2018 chlorine attack

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Investigation finds Syria likely behind 2018 chlorine attack

THE HAGUE, Netherlands — An investigation by the global chemical weapons watchdog found “reasonable grounds to believe” that a Syrian air force military helicopter dropped a chlorine cylinder on a Syrian town in 2018, sickening 12 people, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons said Monday.

It is the second time that the OPCW’s Investigation and Identification Team has concluded that Syrian government armed forces likely were responsible for a gas attack. Last year, the team also found reasonable grounds to believe that the Syrian Arab Air Force was responsible for attacks using chlorine and the nerve agent sarin in March 2017 in the town of Latamneh.

Syria has repeatedly been accused of using chemical weapons during the country’s grinding civil war. The government of President Bashar Assad denies the claims.

In the latest report, the OPCW investigation team said it found evidence that a military helicopter belonging to the Tiger Forces of the Syrian air force dropped at least one chlorine cylinder on the rebel-held northern Syrian town of Saraqeb on Feb. 4, 2018.

“The cylinder ruptured and released chlorine over a large area, affecting 12 named individuals,” the watchdog said in a statement. Those affected all survived, the report said.

As part of the investigation, experts interviewed witnesses, analyzed samples and remnants collected from the town as well reviewing symptoms reported by casualties and studying satellite imagery and modeling gas dispersion patterns.

The OPCW can’t hold individuals criminally responsible for attacks. The report will be shared with the organization’s member states and the United Nations. The report will likely be discussed at a meeting of the OPCW member states later this month.

The European Union’s foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, condemned the use of chemical weapons by Syria and said those responsible must be held accountable.

“It is now up to the International Community to duly consider the reports and take appropriate action,” Borrell said in a statement.

The investigative team was established after Russia blocked the extension of a joint investigation mechanism set up by the U.N. and OPCW in 2015. That team accused Syria of using chlorine in at least two attacks in 2014 and 2015 and of unleashing sarin in an aerial attack on Khan Sheikhoun in April 2017 that killed about 100 people.

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Florida fisherman chased by 11-foot alligator in scary video

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Florida fisherman chased by 11-foot alligator in scary video

A Florida fisherman became the bait when he was chased by an alligator in the Everglades.

GoPro video captured the near-death experience when Tommy Lee was tarpon fishing on May 8.

The 22-year-old was recording himself fishing at sunrise when an 11-foot bull alligator swam onshore. As Lee backed up, the reptile chased him through the brush, getting too close for comfort.

It “stalked me then chased me,” he told ViralHog. “The gator appeared much larger and closer in person. It got within 10 feet of me.”

At one heart-pounding moment, Lee tripped and fell to the ground, but quickly regained his footing and continued to back up.

In the two-minute video, you can hear the frazzled fisherman exclaiming, “Jesus Christ. You gotta be careful here.” But as he lost sight of the deadly creature, he retraced his steps following the animal until it splashed back in the water.

“And I am out of here,” Lee said to himself before grabbing his gear and turning off the camera.

Lee uploaded the shocking clip to his YouTube channel, Chum Dumpster, where it amassed 1.2 million views.

However, it isn’t too surprising that the sharp-toothed creature came out to play. May and June mark mating season for the more than one million alligators that live in Florida.

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KFC hackers jailed in China over $31,000 worth of chicken

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KFC hackers jailed in China over $31,000 worth of chicken

The Chinese students who scored a five-finger-lickin’ discount at Kentucky Fried Chicken — for a total of $31,000 worth of food — are going to prison.

Their scam took place in 2018 after one of them discovered a glitch on KFC’s online order platform, allowing them access to an endless supply of fried chicken.

The five college con artists involved in the grift were handed down a range of sentences by the People’s Court of Xuhui District in Shanghai, from 13 to 30 months, according to Daily Mail and recent Chinese-language reports, with fines set between $150 (1,000 yuan) and $900 (6,000 yuan).

“Being fully aware of this bug, the convicted deliberately engaged in false transactions and illegally profited from them, which constituted the crime of fraud,” court papers read, according to Australia’s 9News.

The group’s 23-year-old ringleader, identified only as “Xu,” defrauded the company out of some $9,000 (58,000 yuan). All told, they stole more than $31,000 (129,000 yuan) worth of food from Yum! Brands, which owns the KFC name.

The simple scheme involved a loophole between KFC’s app and the restaurant’s page on Chinese social network WeChat, which allowed Xu to use a voucher for free food while also being refunded. It’s been reported that Xu later began shilling out the free food he’d reaped as a side hustle.

The case has reportedly sparked debate online, according to Global Times, with some saying that a bug in KFC’s order system is on the corporation — not the customers who reaped the spoils of their mistake.

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Brood X cicadas force businesses, homeowners to take precautions

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Brood X cicadas force businesses, homeowners to take precautions

Brood X, a classification of the trillions of periodical cicadas that have descended in states across the eastern and southern U.S., has emerged after a 17-year hiatus — and already closed one restaurant.

The District of Columbia and the surrounding states of Maryland and Virginia are cicada ground zero, reporting sightings earlier than most other states. 

More of the red-eyed, singing insects will appear as ground temperatures warm to 64 degrees and experts say that the bugs come in peace. 

However, a Michelin-starred restaurant in Washington, D.C., announced this week that it was temporarily closing on May 10 in order to “combat” the bugs. 

“We have decided to pause service at Little Pearl for 4 weeks starting May 10th in preparation for ‘Cicada Season,’” Capitol Hill’s Little Pearl wrote in an email to customers, according to The Washington Post. “As we tried to get as creative as possible to combat them this year, we know in good faith that a single 100 decibel cicada will ruin anyone’s dinner experience, a ‘tsunami’ of them will be impossible to control.”

Washingtonian noted that the restaurant offered to reschedule, refund bookings or move diners’ reservations to their sister restaurant Rose’s Luxury.

Rose’s Restaurant Group owner and chef Aaron Silverman told the local magazine that Little Pearl’s closing is also “to renovate, clean, reorganize, up-train, and get all our affairs in order as the pandemic caused so many disruptions.”

In addition, he said that because around 80% of the restaurant’s seating is outdoors in a “heavily vegetative area,” it “seemed like the best window to take advantage of.”

Many businesses have decided to embrace the arrival of Brood X, selling coffee mugs and “Choco-cadas.”

Nevertheless, while the cicadas aren’t dangerous, their presence can be disruptive. 

As WCPO reported on Monday, the cicadas’ loud buzzing sounds may cause emotional or physical reactions in people with autism or with sensory issues.

Furthermore, although cicadas do not bite and are harmless to humans and property, Michigan State University entomologist Gary Parsons notes that their abundance can be a “nuisance” and that — while edible — eating too many could make pets sick.

While cicadas do not intentionally enter homes like ants and spiders, cicada eggs laid in stems and twigs of trees and shrubs often kill twigs and branches. 

Experts advise against using insecticide, as the chemicals will kill other bugs in the process.

The Baltimore Sun reported last week that an effective way to prevent damage on young trees is to enclose them with half-inch mesh netting, though the University of Maryland’s professor emeritus Michael Raupp advises planting next fall. 

Raupp told Fox News in March that people who might be afraid of cicadas should try to learn as much about them as they can.

“Hey, this is a chance to go out in your backyard and have a National Geographic special happening right there,” he said. “It’s going to be birth. It’s going to be death. It’s going to be predation. It’s going to be competition. It’s going to be better than an episode of ‘Outlander.’ There’s going to be romance in the treetops when the big boy band cranks it up.”

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