Donkey business: As local numbers dwindle, China kickstarts global donkey-purchasing initiative to maintain supply of traditional medicine ejiao


The humble donkey faces almost certain extinction in China due to their highly sought-after hide, which is used to manufacture the traditional medicine ejiao.

Ejiao is a product refined from the skin of a dead donkey, turned into a sweet tasting, gelatinous substance, and used in traditional Chinese medicine. Diluted in either hot wine or water and drunk, the remedy supposedly helps with ailments such as irregular menstruation, bleeding, dizziness, insomnia, and dry cough. Ejiao is also served as an edible snack, usually coating almonds and sesame seeds.

The real stuff is considered a luxury good though, which led to the proliferation of poor quality imitations sold via the black market. The skin of mules, horses, pigs, and even old shoes, according to some, was used in the manufacture of these lesser quality ‘ejiao-like‘ products.

The demand for this highly popular remedy however caused the unintended consequence of the systematic decimation of donkeys in China to historically low levels. Conservative estimations say that around five million specimens have been killed over the last 20 years, bringing the total numbers to about 6 million at present.

Consequently, China is now reaching out to global markets in an effort to acquire as many donkeys as possible to maintain its hugely profitable ejiao trade.

However, many countries around the world have been forced to curtail their donkey exports, as China’s seemingly inexhaustible demand for the animals began to put a strain on local donkey populations.

China’s demand for more donkeys to maintain the supply of ejiao is unlikely to end any time soon, and the very existence of the species hangs in the balance as a result.

Iraqi housewife ‘cooks the heads’ of ISIS fighters out of revenge


While most Irish housewives use their pots to cook cabbage and the like, things inside the kitchen are somewhat more complicated in the hellish, war-torn Middle East.

Enter 39-year-old Wahida Mohamed, better known as Um Hanadi. After losing two husbands, several family members, and some domestic animals to the savagery of ISIS, the self-declared ‘housewife’ vowed to take revenge and wage brutal war against her foes.

Commanding a 70-strong, all-male militia, no-nonsense Um Hanadi now strictly applies the ‘eye-for-an-eye’, or rather a ‘head-for-a-head’ policy. Any ISIS fighter or prisoner that falls to her group is beheaded, and the head is cooked inside a slow-burning pot.

In recent interviews, she boasted of having taken out 18 ISIS operatives herself, though she did say that her group ‘fights as a family.’

Having struck fear in the heart of ISIS, Um Hanadi is now at the top of their kill list. She has reportedly survived six assassination attempts thus far, and her body is riddled with shrapnel after car bomb attacks. She bears a 15-shot 9-mm Beretta sidearm at all times.

ISIS operatives are particularly bent on taking her out, as they believe that being killed by a woman tears up their ticket to heaven.

Um Hanadi admits ‘I fought them. I beheaded them. I cooked their heads, I burned their bodies.’

In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king: Donald Trump weaponizes Denis O’Brien and fires a broadside against Hilary Clinton


Anything goes in the high-stakes game of world domination. Presidential hopeful Donald Trump has seen fit to use the name of Ireland’s very own Denis O’Brien in an attempt to discredit his nemesis, Hillary Clinton.

Mr. Trump issued an open letter on his website linking Ms. Clinton with Denis O’Brien’s less-than-diaphanous financial dealings around certain offshore places in Central America, the Caribbean and the Pacific Islands, among other high-profile issues.

Trump’s poison letter goes into exquisite detail about the sizeable donations that Mr. O’Brien has made to the Clinton Foundation, the funding for O’Brien-owned Digicel (a mobile phone provider that operates in 33 separate markets around Caribbean, Central America, and Oceania regions) for its Haiti operation, the Esat Digifone controversy, and of course, Siteserv, another of O’Brien’s business ventures that just happened to win the tender for the installation of hundreds of thousands of water meters across Ireland.

The missive, titled ‘Follow the money’ dubs the Irishman ‘another corrupt Clinton friend.’ Given Mr. O’Brien’s propensity to launch legal actions like a child throws tantrums, it’d be interesting to see if he’d take on the likes of Donald Trump.

Destination Mars: Billionaire entrepeneur Elon Musk unveils his plans to colonize the Red Planet, but admits there’s a very high chance the first colonists will die fast


Every great cause requires a few martyrs, they say. And no matter how one looks at it, the colonization of Mars is indeed a great cause.

Fourth rock from the Sun, and second smallest planet in the Solar System, Mars remains as hostile and inhospitable to human life as the bottom of the Atlantic. Featuring low gravity, an almost total lack of protection against solar radiation, and an unbreathable atmosphere consisting mostly of carbon dioxide, life on the Mars we know would be brief indeed.

Much has been written and postulated about whether or not the Red Planet will ever play host to human life. Even if mankind does set foot on the planet’s reddish and unforgiving surface, the challenges ahead would be great, and deadly.

Enter billionaire entrepeneur Elon Musk. Speaking at the 67th International Astronautical Congress in Guadalajara, Mexico, on Tuesday, Musk unveiled ambitious plans to not only ferry people to Mars, but actually colonise the planet.

Mr. Musk said he will strive to establish the first human settlement on Mars by the year 2022. Through his company, SpaceX, the entrepeneur plans to build a massive 400ft-tall booster rocket dubbed ‘Interplanetary Transport System’ (ITS), upon which would sit a spaceship transporting the wayward passengers. Propelled by rocket fuel made out of a mix of methane and oxygen, Lusk estimates that the flight time would be about 80 days. And you could go on the ‘cheap’, too. Lusk predicts he could eventually cut the cost of an average one-way ticket down to about $100k per person.

He did speak frankly about the unlikely survival of the first pioneers, however.

He said “I think the first journey to Mars is going to be very dangerous. It’d basically be, ‘Are you prepared to die?’”

‘If you are, OK, you’re a candidate for going. This is less about who goes first. … It’s about making a self-sustainable civilisation on Mars as fast as possible.”

Major incident: Train crash at Hoboken in New Jersey, United States, multiple injuries reported


A major rescue operation is underway in Hoboken, New Jersey, after a train crashed through barriers at the station during this morning’s rush hour.

Train no. 1614 on the Pascack Valley Line failed to stop and plowed through safety barriers and crashed into the station’s waiting area. Partial sections of its first and second carriages became embedded under support beams on the platform.

A large number of casualites have occurred as a result of the incident. Early reports say that at least three people are dead, and  over 100 injured, many of them seriously.

Hoboken is New Jersey’s fifth busiest train station, and a major hub for other domestic routes.

Preliminary reports suggest that the event is accidental, though authorities have stressed that investigations are still at an early stage.

US-Iraqi forces take positions around Mosul in preparation for ground assault against ISIS


The city of Mosul stands on the banks of the Tigris River as it runs through northern Iraq. It once was a prosperous industry and transportation hub, producing marble and oil. Crucially, the city has huge strategic value, as it controls a highway that runs to the border with Syria and its second city, Aleppo.

During the 2003 invasion of Iraq, Mosul remained under the control of troops loyal to Saddam Hussein until April of that year, when the local garrison fled. Uday and Qusay Hussein, the dictator’s sons, were killed during a shootout with Coalition forces in July.

Civilian US contractors moved in after Mosul was secured and implemented an extensive programme to rebuild the city’s infrastructure, which had been largely destroyed during fighting.

The rise of ISIS in subsequent years brought widespread turmoil and unrest to Iraq, and many intellectuals, engineers, journalists, and other people of significance were either killed or forced to leave.

ISIS took full control of the city in June 2014, forcing the evacuation of up to half a million people. The extremist organization systematically massacred the scattered remnants of the Iraqi army, seizing large amounts of US-manufactured weapons and equipment in the process.

Mosul has remained in ISIS hands ever since. Now, a coalition of US and Iraqi forces is preparing to mount a large-scale ground offensive in an effort to drive ISIS out of the city for good.

There is a perception that ISIS are on the backfoot, and that their morale is waning in the wake of recent surgical drone strikes that have taken out key tier one personnel within the organization.

President Obama has authorized dispatching 600 extra troops to the area, thus increasing the number of US forces on the ground to just over 5,200. Though a significant number, it’s still a far cry from the 170,000-strong US army present in Iraq during the height of the conflict in 2003.

The ground offensive is expected to begin in the next few weeks.

MH17 downing: Report concludes that airliner was shot down by anti-aircraft fire


A thorough investigation into the events surrounding the downing of Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17 has concluded that the aircraft was shot down by a missile launched from a ground-based weapon system.

Flight MH17 was lost over Ukrainian airspace on July 17, 2014, while en route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur. The aircraft broke up in mid-air, killing all 298 on board.

The outcome of the investigation, which has been based on over half a million videos, photographs, and hundreds of thousands of other pieces of evidence, concludes that the jet was hit a a anti-aircraft missile launched from a Russian-made Buk weapon system.

Witnesses accounts also revealed that while the launcher was sited on Ukrainian soil, it was moved back to Russian territory shortly after the weapon was fired.

While the report conclusively states the method by which MH17 was destroyed, it falls short of determining which side of the conflict actually pressed the button. Fighting on the ground directly beneath MH-17’s flight path was fierced at the time of the disaster, and the authorities have not been able to pinpoint who fired the weapon that brought the airliner down.

The aircraft broke apart over rebel-held territory, and the wreckage field measured several miles wide.

The downing of MH17 was a pivotal fact in the imposing of sanctions on Russian over the Ukrainian conflict.

Black Moon rising: Rare lunar event may herald the end of the human race


You may wish to cancel your direct debits and dust off your bucket list (or draft one up double time), as a rare lunar event known as the Black Moon may bring about the end of the world as we know it.

Putting aside any interpretations derived from apocalyptic fundamentalism, there are several events named “Black Moon”, one of them being when two new moons fall within the same calendar month.

The last time that such event took place was March 2014, and won’t happen again until July 2019.

This year’s Black Moon will rise up in the night sky on Friday, September 30. Earth’s perennial companion will not actually be visible, as sunlight will fall on the side of Moon that is facing away from our planet.

Some believe that the Black Moon heralds the end of days, and Matthew 24:29 appears to confirm such fears: “Immediately after the distress of those days, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken.’

Here in Ireland at least, the rise of the Black Moon coincides with the first week of the Dáil’s order of business after a long period of taxpayer-funded absenteeism. When one reads the signs, it certainly does not bode well for the country.

Heavy ordnance dropped on rebel-held areas of Aleppo after ceasefire comes to fiery end


The war-torn city of Aleppo in Syria has come under heavy bombardment once again, after a fragile ceasefire collapsed.

Five aircraft, said to belong to the Russian air force, flew over the city yesterday, dropping heavy weapons on rebel-held areas. Local reporters said that cluster munition and incendiary ordnance were used during the latest attack.

The city of Aleppo has largely been under rebel control since 2012. Forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al Assad have maintained a constant siege ever since.

The latest ceasefire effort all but ended after a convoy ferrying humanitarian aid into the besieged city was bombed on Monday, killing 20 people.

German pensioner claims to have found Nazi nuclear arsenal


70-year-old German pensioner Peter Lohr claims to have found a long-lost set of nuclear bombs purportedly developed by Nazi scientists late in the Second World War.

Using specialized equipment, the hobby historian said he had located a number of objects resembling nukes buried deep beneath the Jonastal in the German State of Thuringia.

The Jonastal, also known as Jonas Valley, is a region of rough terrain near the town of Ohrdruf in central Germany. During the last few months of the war, thousands of prisoners interned at the Buchenwald concentration camp were forced to dig a network of 25 tunnels beneath a specific area of the valley. Construction works were halted after Allied forces liberated Ohrdruf.

The ultimate purpose of the tunnels remains uncertain, but some military historians postulated that the site may have been earmarked for nuclear testing and production and storing of the legendary Wunderwaffe (Wonder Weapon).

Back in 1945, there were testimonies of bright lights and large underground explosions at the site, giving some credence to the fact that a new type of weapon was being tested. However, none of this was ever officially corroborated.

Cue present day, when Mr. Lohr claims to have found either the remnants of such weapons, or the weapons themselves, still buried under the valley, 70 plus years on.

After his purported discovery, the pensioner warned “The metal’s been lying there for 71 years. At some point it will decay and then we will have a second Chernobyl on our hands.”

Local authorities have now banned Mr. Lohr from performing further investigations in the area, so we may never know what truly lies beneath the Jonas Valley.