Second suicide bombing attack in Volgograd in two days

Volgograd suffered its second terrorist attack in so many days on the morning of December 30th, with 14 dead and 28 wounded from a suicide bomber on a trolley bus. Several of the survivors remain under medical care, and it is feared that the death toll will continue to climb.

The attack is suspected to be connected with Sunday’s suicide bombing at a Volgograd railway station that killed 16 people. The two bombs used in the attacks were “identical” according to Vladimir Markin, a spokesman for the Russian Investigative Committee.

The attacks have hit the spirit of Volgograd’s population hard during the holiday season and city residents are choosing to traverse on foot rather than risk public transportation. The region has declared a period of mourning for the victims of the two bombings.

With the Sochi Olympics on the horizon, concerns have been raised regarding security at the event given the recent bombings. Russian Olympic Committee President Alexander Zhukov seemed confident, stating that “everything necessary has been done.” The White House released a statement saying that the US and Russia were working together on security measures leading up to the game.

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Freedom Ship floating city project may be back on track

Most of us take living on dry land as a fact of life, but the Freedom Ship International project is looking to change that.

A revived project from the 90’s, the goal is to create an ocean-faring platform that can serve as a permanent residence for 50,000 people complete with shopping centers, schools, hospitals and anything else an urban center might require.

It’s audacious enough to draw an immediate combination of both skepticism and awe, but project lead Roger Gooch believes that the project is definitely feasible. “In the last six months we’re getting more interest in the project and we are hopeful we will raise the $1 billion to begin construction.” says Gooch.

The Freedom Ship designs expect it to be a mile long and 25 stories high, capable of housing 30,000 daily visitors, 20,000 crew and 10,000 overnight passengers in addition to the 50,000 permanent residents.

Concept designs feature an airport on the roof to transport individuals and supplies, as the ship would be far too large to enter a port. You can check out more concepts of the ship at the website here.

Edward Snowden named Guardian Person of the Year for 2013

Young American whistleblowers taking on the overbearing government are shaping up to be the heroes of the 21st century. Edward Snowden has been making international headlines for months by bringing NSA activities to light, and he has been voted the Guardian 2013 Person of the Year hot on the heels of Chelsea Manning (formerly Bradley Manning).

The voting audience found it to be an easy decision as Snowden won with a landslide 1,445 votes. Greenpeace activists Marco Weber and Sini Saarela came in a distant second with 314 votes followed by Pope Frances with 153.

Snowden currently lives in a tenuous situation in Moscow, on the run from US authorities and fearing extradition should he leave his only safe haven. Moscow is only grudgingly welcoming, and has stated that if Snowden were to leave he would not be allowed back in.

Earlier this year in November, Snowden was reported to be in communication with the German parliament discussing the possibility of asylum in exchange for testimony on the international spying habits of the US.

Vast freshwater reserves found under the ocean

As current sources of drinkable water dwindle, scientist may have found the answer under the ocean of all places. “The volume of this water resource is a hundred times greater than the amount we’ve extracted from the Earth’s sub-surface in the past century since 1900,” says Vincent Post, the Australian groundwater expert and lead on the project.

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Image courtesy of Ken Hodge via flickr cc

The report estimates 500,000 cubic kilometers of low salinity water buried under various seabeds around the world that could be reached using platforms that are similar to offshore oil rigs that are used today. The water is not immediately drinkable, but much easier to desalinate than salt water and comparable dry land basins have been used in the past.

Challenges include setting up drilling operations, which would incur a large initial cost, and using the water effectively. “We should use them carefully: once gone, they won’t be replenished until the sea level drops again, which is not likely to happen for a very long time,” warns Post. Overuse or contamination of these reserves would result in a major loss of resources that we may literally need to survive.

Sweden closes 4 prisons, not enough prisoners

Various global headlines over the years have made Swedish prisons famous for their almost-gentle, humanitarian approach to punishment, and it could be that those efforts are paying off.

The head of Sweden’s prison operations Nils Oberg announced that 4 Swedish prisons would be closing due to a 6% drop in the prisoner population.

Sweden’s jailtime policies seem relaxed almost to the point of fantasy from an American perspective. The maximum sentence for even the worst offenders are rarely more than ten years, and whenever possible the Swedish justice system attempts to use non-prison rehabilitation methods rather than jail time.

Post prison rehabilitation is also a lot stronger in Sweden. Unlike the US, the Swedish government offers a supervised transition back into society for ex-cons and guarantees treatment for those suffering from drug addictions or mental health problems.

The programs and situation sharply contrast the US, where decades-long sentences are handed out for non-violent crimes regularly and prisons are at 39% over capacity as of 2011.