Thirty years after the Berlin Wall fell, new—and more beneficial—barriers are going up in the city. Researchers have discovered that moss is potentially more effective than trees are at pulling carbon from the air. In short, 2,000 pots of it (the equivalent of 250 trees) can neutralize the pollution created in a month by 42 diesel cars. To learn more, the E.U. has committed $1.6 million to build 12 moss-covered four-by-three-meter panels in the city that will be watered by rain and ventilated by solar fans.
Kinder, Gentler Berlin Walls
He Puts the “Son” in Corruption
For one corrupt Chinese official, it wasn’t just about the money; he put his family first. Wang Baoan, a former Finance Ministry administrator, helped dish out lucrative government subsidies in exchange for surrogacy services that secured him one—no, make that two—biological sons. Guan Chengshan, a businessman with lithium-battery projects who was funneled $130 million in state subsidies, paid nearly $500,000 to procure the two children for Baoan. Both men have been sentenced to prison.
Can the Russian Election Be Hacked?
In the rush to sabotage American election systems, it seems the Russian government has neglected their own. A Russian radio station offered rewards to anyone who could break into the online voting system set to administer this month’s regional Russian elections, and a French cryptographer rose to the challenge … in 20 minutes. The Frenchman, Pierrick Gaudry, accomplished his mission with a regular computer and free, readily available software. Russian authorities have said the encryption code has since been made more secure. It’s unclear, however, how much that truly matters—tens of thousands have demonstrated in the streets of Moscow this summer, ever since the government barred opposition candidates from appearing on the ballots.
Nazis in the Basement
Eighty years after the start of World War II, France still struggles with a legacy of collaboration with Nazis. The discovery of a two-foot-tall bust of Adolf Hitler hidden in a basement storage room of the French Senate isn’t helping the cause. When rumors of its existence were reported by Le Monde, the response from a spokesperson was not “Mon Dieu!” but, in keeping with these times, “Fake news!” After the bust, along with a Nazi flag and other items, was revealed, one former senator implied he was shocked—shocked!—that they still existed. As he told Le Monde, “I am surprised that in all this time we have not had the presence of mind to make them disappear.”
Dark Side of the Moon Cakes
In China, celebrating the Mid-Autumn Festival—which is a bit like Thanksgiving—is not complete without moon cakes. A traditional, sweet Chinese pastry, it is on every family table, and the sharing of it is a symbol of the family re-uniting. This year, however, there will be far fewer moon cakes. The South China Morning Post reported that Chinese retailers yanked one of the most popular brands of the treat from store shelves after state media reported that the son of the founder had voiced support for the Hong Kong protesters.