Getting to know migrants
Society Berlin startup consultant Lasse Landt has got together with Khaled Alaswad, a Syrian refugee he met at a computer class, to set up a website called Let’s Integrate, which aims to help Germans and migrants meet each other. The idea is simply to get together and have a conversation. “If refugees never talk face to face with a local person, they will never know anything about the culture here,” says Alaswad (pictured above right with Landt). The service is free and there are plans to roll it out to other German cities. Ahmed Haj Ali, a 23-year-old refugee from Damascus, has tried it and liked it. “I want to stay here for a long time,” he says. “This will help me adapt to their culture and help me learn German.”
Protection for Arctic waters
Ecology With the warming brought by climate change, whole areas of the frozen Arctic are now becoming accessible for the first time to deep-sea fishing. For fishing companies, this represents a big opportunity. But for ecological campaign group Greenpeace it means a major ecosystem containing vulnerable species could be destroyed by the giant “bottom trawlers” that operate in the North Barents Sea. Following Greenpeace’s highlighting of the issue, a landmark deal has now been struck that means major companies such as McDonald’s, Birds Eye, Europe’s largest frozen fish processor, Espersen, and Fiskebat, which represents Norway’s fishing fleet, have agreed not to expand into these pristine waters. The deal covers an area twice the size of France, and the brands supporting it will not buy any fish from companies operating there. “This is a major step in the right direction,” says Greenpeace campaigner Daniela Montalto.
Beach cats attract tourists
Animals When Andrea Atzori and his wife founded a cat sanctuary on a remote beach on the Italian island of Sardinia back in 2011, they had no idea just how successful it might become. The good news for them and their 60-odd cats-not to mention cat lovers all over the world-is that the sanctuary has now become a major tourist destination, drawing around 11,000 visitors in the last three years alone. In fact, the not-for-profit operation was recently voted the seventh best destination in Sardinia. “People are curious because they assume cats hate water, but the cats here grew up on the shore and have no fear of the sea,” Atzori says. “They are also super-tame and friendly so know how to entertain visitors.” To visit the beach-loving felines, book at the sanctuary’s website: www.gattisupallosu.org.
You can’t stop the music In Afghanistan, where music was once banned under the Taliban and is still frowned upon by many conservative Muslims, the creation of an orchestra can be seen as quite an achievement. But when that orchestra is all-female-in a country where women’s freedoms are notoriously limited-it’s quite remarkable. “Apart from my father, everybody in the family is against it,” says 19-year-old Negin Khpalwak, who is the leader of the Zohra orchestra, an ensemble of 35 women at the Afghanistan National Institute for Music who play both Western and Afghan musical instruments. Negin and her fellow musicians have grown used to suspicion and hostility from many of their countrymen, and take security precautions if they travel with their instruments. “I will never accept defeat,” she says. “I will continue to play music. I do not feel safe, but when people see me and say, ‘That is Negin Khpalwak’, that gives me energy.”
Sources: Society: ECN, 16 May 2016. Ecology: The Guardian, 25 May 2016. Animals: The Local (Italy), 26 May 2016. Heroes: The Huffington Post, 18 April 2016