Victoria Beckham brings her brand home to London

Victoria Beckham brings her brand home to London

In partnership with

This article was originally published by Refinery29, the leading next-gen media and entertainment company focused on women. The opinions in this article belong to the author.
On Monday, after 10 years of presenting in New York, Victoria Beckham returned to London, joining the London Fashion Week schedule to showcase her Spring-Summer 2019 collection and celebrate a decade of her brand. It was, as they say, a real fashion moment.
She’s come a long way since the brightly hued body-con and cinched-waist dresses she offered with her initial collections, the aesthetic intertwined with her personal style at the time. Gone are the structured jackets and high-shine fabrics, and in their place, a wardrobe belonging to a woman who is contemporary, confident and cool.

Courtesy Victoria Beckham

The showstoppers included a tomato red ribbed co-ord with cutaway back detail and pink rope belt around the waist; trousers with spliced ankles in pastel blues and deep burgundies, and oversized leather bags with playful drawstring fastenings. Model Stella Tennant opened the show, wearing a white trouser suit, soft silver booties and a delicate white lace cami, a look that fused the femininity and masculinity, seriousness and playfulness, that is now so inherent in both Beckham and her brand.
“I was feeling the pressure coming back to celebrate in London,” she exclusively tells Refinery29 at a presentation of her collection at Annabel’s the day after the show. “It was stressful and overwhelming but I feel very proud, very happy — I’m on cloud nine to be honest.” Anticipation had been building since the news of her homecoming was announced, and everyone from her loyal fans to industry insiders have been reflecting on 10 years of Victoria Beckham: the brand, the designer and the woman.

Courtesy Victoria Beckham

For her, though, this season wasn’t about looking at what had gone before. “I looked back over the past 10 years, but not in a retrospective way at all, and I wasn’t inspired by a particular past collection.” Instead, she identified the signature elements of her aesthetic that have become stronger over the years, and, ultimately, what her customers come to her for. “I recognized all of the strong codes that we had established, from the color palette to the cut, and put together a collection I believe my customer wants.”

While it’s obvious Beckham takes her role and platform very seriously, what people have come to recognize — and it’s been obvious all along to those who have worked with her — is that she doesn’t take herself too seriously. Take her first campaign in London, recreating the tongue-in-cheek shoot for Marc Jacobs back in 2008, the year she launched herself into the world of fashion. Shot once again by Juergen Teller, her legs are akimbo, sprawling from an oversized shopping bag. There are obvious plays on the nature of celebrity and personal brand as commodity here, but what comes through most is how fun she can be.

“I think it’s always good to show personality and a sense of humor,” she explains. “What better way to celebrate the 10th anniversary than by poking fun at myself and recognizing where it all began.”

Courtesy Victoria Beckham

A decade ago, when she first announced that she’d be moving from Spice Girl and footballer’s wife into the realm of fashion — taking on the mantle of creative director, no less — she was met with skepticism at best; derision at worst. While it’s vital to hold makers to task to ensure the bar is kept high when it comes to craftsmanship and vision, the way women’s magazines talked about celebrities at the time was pretty horrific. Still, Beckham bears no grudges.

“I was very aware of it at the beginning — it wasn’t just the beginning, it was for quite a few seasons, but I expected that, and I wasn’t frustrated by it,” she says. “I just kept my head down, worked hard, and always made it about the product and the customer, rather than about me as a celebrity. It was quite a few seasons before I came out at the end of the show, and my family didn’t attend the first few seasons. I really wanted it to be about the clothes and nothing else.”

Courtesy Victoria Beckham

Aside from the sophisticated yet modern pieces she creates, what won the industry over was Beckham’s professionalism and humility. She meets clients straight after the catwalk shows, introducing herself to everyone in the room, and regularly talks press through her inspiration and motivation each season. This may not sound like much, but in an industry rife with egos, it casts Beckham in a really positive light.

Now the much-anticipated 10th anniversary show is complete (having received rave reviews), can Beckham put her feet up and enjoy the moment? Not likely.

“We’re going to launch a beauty brand as well, so I’m going to be developing makeup, skincare and fragrance — that’s something that I’m very excited about.”

Courtesy Victoria Beckham

We can expect Victoria Beckham beauty some time next year — “I don’t want to rush anything; I know, as a woman, what I want” — and it seems like she’s ready for the next challenge.

“It feels like the start of a new chapter,” she says of 2018. “Having brought on investors, an incredible chairman in Paris, our new offices and return to London, and now Paolo (Riva) coming on as CEO, it just feels like the start of the next 10 years.” Here’s to the next decade, VB.

Read Full Story

London Fashion Week Spring-Summer 2019 highlights

London Fashion Week Spring-Summer 2019 highlights

Written by Osman Ahmed, CNN

Once considered the least important city in the quartet of fashion capitals, London Fashion Week has transformed from a fledgling week of lesser-known designers and commercial brands into a lineup of big names, promising young designers and buzzy parties.

However, with the specter of Brexit looming and the seismic shifts in culture courtesy of the #MeToo movement, many designers are keen to express more than just sartorial propositions. In fact, many of them are using their shows and collections as canvases for bigger ideas, questioning and exploring the nuances of how women live today and how they’ll want to express themselves tomorrow. Here are fiver wider conversations that emerged from the Spring-Summer 2019 shows.

Anniversaries and new beginnings

London Fashion Week was marked by a combination of anniversaries and new beginnings. Two designers, Victoria Beckham and Mary Katrantzou, celebrated a decade with landmark shows. Beckham decamped from New York to show in London for the first time, rounding off the day with a party that saw her dancing to “Spice Up Your Life” alongside British Vogue editor Edward Enninful. Meanwhile, Katrantzou sent out a highly embellished collection that drew on themes from her career, like trompe l’oeil, digital prints and show-stopping embroidery.

The week also marked a new dawn for Riccardo Tisci, the new creative director of Burberry. Tisci sent out a whopping 113 looks, each one a polished rendition of the classic Burberry wardrobe. Much of the womenswear adhered to a palette of beiges, browns and neutrals, while the menswear was altogether sharper and darker, inspired by Savile Row tailoring. The show finished with a parade of elegant black evening gowns that will surely find their way onto the backs of A-list stars.

The personal and political

In uncertain times as these, fashion usually responds with either escapism or realism, with provocation and protest hidden between the seams. Nicholas Kirkwood, who staged a fashion show just for his footwear, chose the latter, building a chaotic forest of computers and wires for a show inspired by the subculture of hacking. However, what really reasserted the notion of political protest was the arrival of activist Rose McGowan on the catwalk, taking off her shoes and holding them up in a powerful stance.

Rose McGowan stands on the catwalk during the Nicholas Kirkwood Spring-Summer 2019 show.

Rose McGowan stands on the catwalk during the Nicholas Kirkwood Spring-Summer 2019 show. Credit: Ian West/AP

Elsewhere, Erdem Moralioglu, the proprietor of ultra-feminine florals, was inspired by Fanny and Stella — better known as Frederick Park and Ernest Boulton, two Victorian cross-dressers who were charged with “conspiring and inciting persons to commit an unnatural offense” in 1870 and eventually acquitted.

“These were people in such a conservative time dressing to be who they felt they were,” said Moralioglu.

The show was an imagining of what Stella and Fanny would be like if they were around today or even in the ’80s, hitting up subcultural nightclubs. Leg-of-mutton sleeves, taffeta bow, chintzy florals, tea gowns with boned corsetry were reimagined in club-kid neon brights and paraded down the halls of the National Portrait Gallery’s Victorian galleries. There were even a couple of boys in the show — not that you would be able to tell.

Erdem Spring-Summer 2019

Erdem Spring-Summer 2019 Credit: John Phillips/Getty Images

Meanwhile, Roland Mouret, who was once known for his body-conscious creations, put forward more fluid, forgiving silhouettes inspired by the activist and Parkland shooting survivor Emma González and yonic symbolism. There were brooches and badges, which were made in collaboration with female artist Mehrnoosh Khadivi, that invoked political participation and involvement.

“This season is based upon collective women’s voices,” he said backstage. “It’s also about going towards more of an emotional situation; a bit about letting go of expectations and rethinking the rules.”

The death of the stiletto

The once-loved stiletto could be on the wane, if the majority of the shows this week were anything to go by. Take Christopher Kane’s molecule-inspired sneakers in primary hues; Simone Rocha’s floor-sweeping satin slip-ons with feathers lining the sole; JW Anderson’s latest chubby-soled collaboration with Converse; or Nicholas Kirkwood’s light-up hi-tops.

JW Anderson Spring-Summer 2019

JW Anderson Spring-Summer 2019 Credit: Jeff Spicer/Getty Images Europe/Getty Images for JW Anderson

This is hardly surprising. Last year, sales of high heels dropped 12% in the US, while sales of women’s sneakers jumped 37%, according to a survey by NPD Group. The simple explanation would be that women are prioritizing comfort over style, dress codes are relaxing, and the offering of comfortable shoes is becoming more sophisticated every season.

The designers who did show stilettos and high heels found their models precipitously stumbling down the catwalk, often distracting from the clothes themselves.

Modern sexuality

In the age of #MeToo and #TimesUp, designers are grappling with how to present sexuality on the catwalk. With his unapologetically slinky, sexy and short-skirted collection — set to a fictional conversation between David Attenborough in conversation with Marilyn Monroe — Christopher Kane made a statement about how women should feel free to dress however they please.

“These are strong women dressing for themselves,” said Kane. “I was brought up by strong women and I don’t think that sex is anything to be ashamed of.”

Molly Goddard Spring-Summer 2019

Molly Goddard Spring-Summer 2019 Credit: Victor VIRGILE/Getty Images

Other designers echoed the sentiment: David Koma showed a line of flamenco-inspired dresses that skimmed the thigh and hugged the body, and Charlotte Knowles presented a collection of skin-tight garments secured by straps and buckles. Even Molly Goddard, the winner of this year’s BFC/Vogue Designer Fashion Fund, sent out looks that showed more skin than her usual smocked babydoll dresses.

New perspectives

Simone Rocha Spring-Summer 2019

Simone Rocha Spring-Summer 2019 Credit: Victor VIRGILE/Getty Images

As the entertainment and fashion industries continue to embrace diversity — and attempt to avoid cultural appropriation — designers are presenting alternative perspectives to Eurocentric aesthetics. Simone Rocha’s show was an ode to Chinese women in the Tang dynasty (the Irish designer’s father is Chinese) and featured interpretations of paintings found in Hong Kong antique markets — themselves imitations of 16 Century paintings of Chinese concubines. The result was a spellbinding line up of cocoon shapes with prints of paintings, Tang-inspired chiffon aprons and scarlet embroidered line paintings on white cotton dresses.

Elsewhere, at Fashion East, the incubator of emerging talent, South London designer A Sai Ta explored his Vietnamese heritage. The Central Saint Martins graduate was inspired by the mantra of Kim Phuc (better known as “Napalm Girl” in war photographer Nick Ut’s famous image): “Love is more powerful than any weapon.” Hence, his show was an exploration of second-generation culture and the horrors of war. There were tie-dye camouflage prints, sharp-edged military details, spices of blue dragons and Chinoiserie, monastic Buddhist drapery, and the curves of traditional Vietnamese “ao dai” tunic.

Supriya Lele Spring-Summer 2019

Supriya Lele Spring-Summer 2019 Credit: Tolga Akmen/Shutterstock

Supriya Lele, who staged her first standalone presentation this season, drew on her the grey space between her Indian heritage and her British upbringing. Her work is an antidote to the traditional tropes of Indian style, which usually center around Bollywood sparkle and woodblock elephant prints. Instead, it evoked the sensual drapery of the sari with layers of transparencies and crochet bralettes with subtle Indian embroidery, all seen through the lens of ’90s lo-fi luxury.

“I was able to work through things that I was embarrassed of,” explained Lele. “Growing up, I was always very aware that we ate certain food or dressed in a certain way. Now, I’m proud of my heritage.”

Read Full Story

In Alishan, ride Taiwan’s mountain railway over a century old

Chiayi, Taiwan (CNN) — As a red and cream-colored train chugs up the Alishan mountains of Taiwan, hikers and villagers stop and wave at the passengers on board.
It feels like an adventure, harking back to a time when train travel was new and exciting.

And in a way, it is.

The train has embarked on one of the newly introduced cruise-style tours on the century-old Alishan Forest Railway, a network of 71.4 kilometers (44.4 miles) of narrow-gauge rail lines in central Taiwan’s Alishan mountain range.

Former Japanese logging railway

Completed in 1912 under the Japanese occupation, the Alishan Forest Railway was used to transport now-endangered Taiwan cypress trees from Alishan. After logging was banned, it lived on as the only passenger train to ride up the mountains.

Today, it remains one of the world’s most historic and beautiful mountain railways.

Running between Chiayi city at an elevation of 30 meters (98.4 feet) to Chushan at 2,451 meters (8,041 feet) — the highest train station in Taiwan — the Alishan Forest Railway offers diverse natural scenery.

It’s the highest narrow-gauge mountain railway in Asia — higher than the famed Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, which ascends from 100 meters to 2,200 meters.

Alishan Railway

The railway was first built by the Japanese government to transport Taiwan cypress logs.

courtesy Liao Yuan-chiao

Best of all, many aspects of Alishan rail network remain as they were 100 years ago. The railroad ties are still made of solid wood and drivers have to get off the train and manually switch the track direction.

“It feels more human, unlike the cold and automated modern machines,” says Liao Yuan-chiao, an Alishan train captain.

A rail enthusiast, Liao left his job as a lecturer six years ago to work as a train assistant at the Alishan Forest Railway.

Alishan Train Taiwan beautiful nature

Alishan Forest Railway train captain Liao Yuan-chao.

Maggie Wong/CNN

“I like railways because I love the low noise from a diesel train motor — you can hear the changes in the sounds when the machine changes its speed. It sounds alive.

“Luckily, Alishan Forest Railway hasn’t been replaced by electric trains,” Liao adds. “It’s totally my paradise.”

Saving Alishan Forest Railway

Alishan Train Taiwan beautiful nature

Shizilu Station is one of the old train communities visited on the new cruise tour.

Maggie Wong/CNN

The railway’s popularity plunged after the faster and easier Alishan Highway was built in 1982.

Its services have been disrupted by natural disasters and derailments multiple times. After taking over, AFRCH closed the railway for three months for maintenance and check-ups before reopening in June 2018.

“Alishan Forest Railway is a priceless cultural heritage [for Taiwan].” says Tang Yu-chin, a spokesperson of AFRCH. “Therefore, preserving Alishan Forest Railway isn’t just for tourism purposes but for promoting this culture.”

Alishan Railway

Many local volunteers have grown up with the railway, like 87-year-old Hsu Chao-huo.

Maggie Wong/CNN

Themed tours are carried out regularly. The current series runs every Wednesday until mid-October.

Instead of just highlighting Alishan attractions, it focuses on the history and culture of the Alishan Forest Railway. Travelers spend time at various stops including the wooden Beimen and Jhuchi stations, which were rebuilt to match their original designs.

“I used this before when I was a lumberjack,” says Hsu Chao-huo, an 87-year-old volunteer guide at the small museum at Shizilu Station, pointing at the rusty saw on the shelf.

“I’ve been living on Alishan all my life. The mountain is better for my health — the land below is too hot.”

The cruise concludes at Hinoki (Taiwan Cypress) Village near Beimen Station — a cultural village consisting of 28 wooden Japanese-style houses there were occupied by Japanese officials half a century ago.

‘I never thought it could disappear one day’

Alishan Train Taiwan beautiful nature

When not teaching tourism in a Tainan university, Wu Han-en is Fenqihu’s stationmaster.

Maggie Wong/CNN

Working at the Chuchi Township Office, along the Alishan Forest Railway, Lai Guo-hua started taking aerial photographs of the area around four years ago.

“I grew up next to the railway,” he says. “My grandfather and my father both worked for the Alishan Forest Railway.

“I thought it’d always be there — until there were voices who wanted it demolished completely. Some thought we shouldn’t bother maintaining it as we could just use the highway nowadays.

“Then I started photographing the Alishan Forest Railway so I could introduce it to those who didn’t know the line. It’s filled with memories of my growing-up — and of all the residents along the tracks.

“Those voices are still there — so we’re trying our best to introduce the Alishan Forest Railway so more travelers will know about it, too,” chimes in Wu Han-en, a part-time tourism lecturer in Tainan who also works as the stationmaster of Fenqihu (one of the railway’s bigger stops).

Getting to Alishan

The Alishan Forest Railway isn’t a continuous line as one section of track between Shizilu Station and Alishan Station was damaged in a typhoon.

Travelers can take the main line from Chiayi Station to Fenqihu Station (2 hours, 20 minutes) and continue the journey by bus from Fenqihu Station to Alishan Station.

Only one train departs from Chiayi, at 9 a.m on weekdays. Two more trains (at 8:30 a.m. and 9:30 a.m.) are added at weekends. (Find the schedule on this website).

From Alishan Station, there are three shorter lines — Shenmu Line, Zhaoping Line and Chushan Line — that ferry passengers between the main Alishan Stations to the attractions around the Alishan Scenic Area.

Visitors should bear in mind, the best views are on the right-hand side when traveling uphill and on the left when running downhill.

The technical stuff

Apart from its history, it’s worth learning some train lingo to truly appreciate the uniqueness of the Alishan Forest Railway.

For instance, it features a loop line, spiral route track design, S-type lines and 180-degree U-turn lines as well as Z-type lines — it’s rare to experience all these formations in one railway system.

The train makes four loops through multiple tunnels as it spirals up and down the narrow peak of Duli Mountain.

When the slope is even narrower, the train has to slowly move back and forth in a Z-shaped route to ascend or descend.

Best hiking trail: Spirited Away in Alishan

Alishan Railway

This 2,700-year-old Taiwan cypress tree is located at the end of the Shuishan trail and hiking route.

Maggie Wong/CNN

One of the coolest hiking paths is the 1.6-kilometer Shuishan trail.

With an unassuming and hidden entrance, the trail takes walkers along a defunct moss-covered train track dotted with a few abandoned structures from the old days.

A hiking trail at the end of the line leads to a majestic 2,700-year-old Taiwan Cypress tree.

Attractions on Alishan

Alishan Forest Railway and Cultural Heritage Office Taiwan Alishan Railway

Jiemei Lake is located near Zhaoping Station.

courtesy Alishan Railway/Alishan Forest Railway and Cultural Heritage Office

Visiting the attractions around Alishan can easily take two to three days.

Chushan Line is the most popular track. It runs one return trip daily in early morning, taking travelers to see the sunrise and sea of clouds on Chushan. Xiaoliyuanshan Lookout, a 15-minute hike from Chushan, offers a better view.

Fenqihu Station, dubbed the Bento Kingdom for its crucial position as a main rest stop for workers in the past, is famous for its 100-year-old food street and a former logging track-turned-bamboo forest hiking trail.

Shenmu Station is home to a few trails among the stunning old forests.

Zhaoping Station takes travelers to the stunning Jiemei Lake and the Sakura Skywalk.

During cherry blossom season from March to May, the Alishan Forest Railway runs a special vintage steam train once a week. Fall is a popular time to visit, too.

Where to stay

A note on each of the hotel’s doors tells which important political figures have stayed in that room.

A modern wing of Alishan House stands next to the original property.

The old wing also doubles as the Alishan culture museum. Ticket-holders can get a guided tour around the old Japanese-style hotel rooms and other historical displays within the hotel.

Tip: Many hotels with Alishan in their names are actually a long way from the park — Alishan is a vast mountain range. It’s better to book a stay in a hotel within the park.

Where to grab a cup

Alishan Train Taiwan beautiful nature

The Alishan tea-tasting session in a pavillion during the cruise tour.

Maggie Wong/CNN

The mountains in Alishan produce some of the best oolong teas and coffee beans in Taiwan.

The cruise tour includes a tea-tasting session where you can sample and buy directly from tea farmers on Alishan.

Otherwise, there are plenty of teahouses at Fenqihu Station. Ding-Zhan Kitchen Coffee near Fenqihu Station serves artisanal coffees from beans grown and roasted by the owner.

How to get tickets for Alishan Forest Railway

Alishan Railway

Tickets can be purchased at the main Chiayi Station.

courtesy Liao Yuan-chiao

Tickets for the main line can be reserved online (in Chinese) up to 15 days before your departure or at some of the station counters of Alishan Forest Railway or Taiwan Railway.
Fares are calculated according to distance (from $0.3/kilometer). A trip from Chiayi to Fenqihu cost around $12. Check the fare table on its website.

Tickets for Shenmu Line (TWD100 or $3) and Zhaoping Line (TWD150 or $5) can be purchased at the station on the day of your travel. They run every 25-30 minutes.

Tickets for Chushan Line (TWD150) have to be bought a day in advance from 1-4 p.m. at Chiayi Station. Transferring bus tickets between Fenqihu to Alishan can be bought at Chiayi Station, too.

Read Full Story

What it’s like at the ground zero of climate change

What it’s like at the ground zero of climate change

It’s not easy to photograph climate change, a slow, subtle process that develops over time.

But when a glacier breaks up, the images can be breathtaking — and a sobering reminder of the trouble we are in.

Reuters photographer Lucas Jackson managed to document one of these moments when he was in Greenland with NASA scientists earlier this year.

“They said the mass of that ice was the equivalent of Lower Manhattan from roughly 34th Street all the way down,” Jackson said.

After seeing such a massive chunk of ice rumble into the sea, Jackson said he fully grasped the urgency of the issue.

“It was interesting watching that, thinking about how much ice that is from that one event — and that there’s thousands of these glaciers around Greenland and that’s happening constantly.”

Greenland is often considered by scientists to be ground zero of the Earth’s climate change.

The massive island is in the Arctic, which is warming twice as fast as the rest of the planet, and it is the largest contributor to the rising sea levels that could become catastrophic for coastal cities around the world.

Snow-covered mountains are seen behind the tiny town of Tasiilaq, Greenland, in June.

Water melts off an iceberg as it floats in a fjord near Tasiilaq in June.

The average sea level has risen by about 7-8 inches since 1900, according to a major climate report released by the Trump administration last year. Almost half of that has happened in the last 25 years.

What will the next 100 years look like? Or the next 20? How fast will the waters continue to rise, and when will it put cities at risk? That’s what scientists are still trying to pinpoint.

Aerial views of icebergs floating in a fjord near the town of Tasiilaq.

Before heading to Greenland this year, Jackson had been warned. But not about the melting ice.

“Literally every person I talked to that had ever been to Greenland said it’s great except there’s clouds of mosquitoes so big that you think you’re going to die,” he said. “That worried me a little bit. Apparently because there’s just a lot of standing water there.”

A young girl plays on a trampoline in Tasiilaq.

Chunks of ice float inside of meltwater pools that were on the top of Greenland’s Helheim glacier in June.

Jackson lucked out because he went during the summer solstice, at the end of mosquito season. And the temperatures weren’t too cold, he said — above 30 degrees Fahrenheit mostly, dropping into the upper 20s at night.

Nights near the Arctic Circle, however, are much different than the nights that most of us are accustomed to.

“The sun would basically just kind of spin around the horizon all day, and then it would dip down for two or three hours and then come back up again,” Jackson said.

Jackson used to work in Alaska, so he came prepared.

In addition to all his camera equipment, he brought not one but two sleep masks — just in case he lost one. They’re critical, he said, to maintain a sleep schedule when the sun is rarely down.

Plus the lower sun offered some of the most dramatic light, so when many of the scientists were sleeping, Jackson would use that time to work and get some of his best shots.

Seal hunter Henrik Josvasson jumps back onto his boat after searching for puffin eggs near Tasiilaq.

A small skiff motors past an iceberg in the open ocean near Tasiilaq in June.

He brought three still cameras and a drone to get aerial shots of the melting glaciers. He also accompanied scientists as they flew airplanes back and forth for hours, using radar to get data from the water below.

He photographed the scientists at work and in camp, and he spent some time in Tasiilaq, a town in east Greenland. There’s only about 2,000 people who live in the town, but on an island this remote, it still qualifies as the seventh-largest.

NASA investigator Josh Willis looks out at the ice while flying above Greenland in March.

Oceanographer David Holland repairs a broken GPS module at his research camp above the Helheim glacier.

Greenland’s ice loss has jumped dramatically over the last 20 years. From 1992 to 2001, the average annual ice loss in Greenland was 34 gigatons (34 billion metric tons). Since 2002, the annual ice loss has averaged about 280 gigatons.

Antarctica’s ice mass is also shrinking, but Greenland makes much more sense for NASA to study from a logistical standpoint. It’s much more accessible.

“In one summer they can do a certain amount of research that could take them years to get in Antarctica because the logistics are so difficult and it’s such a unforgiving environment,” Jackson said.

An iceberg floats near Tasiilaq in June.

A NASA science crew eats together at a camp set up on the side of the Helheim glacier.

The stakes are high. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory has an online tool that shows how rising sea levels could one day flood major cities such as Miami, New York, Mumbai and Shanghai.

And some remote island nations, which sit right above sea level, are also threatened.

The end of a glacier is seen from above in March.

NASA safety officer Brian Rougeux works to build a semi-permanent structure in a science camp on the side of the Helheim glacier.

It’s not a coincidence that NASA’s Arctic mission is called “OMG,” for Oceans Melting Greenland.

“I think it’s shocking how quickly our planet is changing because of our footprint, and a name that carries with it an element of surprise seemed right for this mission,” said Josh Willis, the project’s principal investigator.

The five-year project, which is examining how warm ocean water is speeding the loss of Greenland’s glaciers, will end in 2020.

A band plays music late at night in Tasiilaq.

A man in Tasiilaq walks along a road in the evening sunshine.

Lucas Jackson is a Reuters photographer based in New York. Follow him on Instagram and Twitter.

Photo editors: Brett Roegiers and Bernadette Tuazon

Read Full Story

Giant filter towers proposed to eliminate Delhi smog

Giant filter towers proposed to eliminate Delhi smog

CNN’s series often carry sponsorship originating from the countries and regions we profile. However, CNN retains full editorial control over all of its reports. Our sponsorship policy.

They look like something from a science fiction film: the industrial monoliths from “Blade Runner,” or perhaps the Martian pods in “War of the Worlds.” But in reality, these giant towers loom over the skyline of Delhi, in India, and land with benevolent intentions.

“The Smog Project,” designed by Dubai-based architecture firm Znera Space, is an ambitious proposal to clean the air in one of the world’s most-polluted cities.

Delhi’s citizens are on the frontlines of a smog crisis. During a particularly bad spell in late 2017, air quality was so poor breathing it was equivalent to smoking 44 cigarettes a day.
World Health Organization data shows Indian cities dominate the top 20 most-polluted cities globally in terms of PM2.5 levels — atmospheric particles less than 0.0025mm (0.000098 inches) wide, the smallest and most dangerous size of airborne pollution.
Globally, the health implications of air pollution are profound. It caused about 4.2 million deaths in 2016, is linked to 3.2 million new diabetes cases annually and can impair cognitive ability, according to recent studies.
The Smog Project is shortlisted for a World Architecture Festival 2018 award in the “Experimental Future Project” category, for “proposals that challenge conventional thinking.”

“It’s a conversation starter,” says Najmus Chowdhry, principal architect for the concept. Chowdhry, raised in Chandigarh, about 150 miles north of Delhi, compares the nation’s capital to “a gas chamber,” but says politically “everyone is passing the buck.”

Curbing practices that cause smog — biomass burning, industry and transport emissions, among others — is a slow process that could take generations, he argues. And with further economic growth comes certain headwinds: car ownership in India is predicted to jump 775% by 2040, according to a 2016 International Energy Agency report, while, per KPMG, public transport’s share of the market is in decline.

“The situation at hand is so grave that it requires a top-down scheme,” Chowdhry adds.

The Smog Project comprises a vast array of 328 feet-high air filtration pods, each capable of producing more than 353 million cubic feet of clean air per day, serving an area of 100 hectares, say its designers.

Inflows at the base of a tower suck in air and pass it through five stages of filtration — including charcoal-activated carbon, negative ion generators and electrostatically-charged plasma — to trap airborne particles. Air is forced upwards where it passes through a photo-catalyst filter to sterilize bacteria and viruses, before being released into the atmosphere.

Towers would be powered by solar hydrogen cells laid out in a hexagonal network of “sky bridges” between units — a nod to British architect Sir Edwin Lutyens, who drafted the urban grid plans for an area of New Delhi in the early 20th century. The intention is for the network’s power needs to be self-sustaining.
As well as providing clean air, the repository of carbon particles captured could go on to find use in graphene, concrete, fertilizer, ink and water distillation, say the designers. (India has already seen innovations in this area, with Bangalore-based Graviky Labs producing Air Ink from collected carbon particles.)

Chowdhry describes it as a “feasible concept” and says a 15-20 meter-high (49-66 foot) prototype is at an “advanced conceptual level.”

The architect is in talks with AirLabs in Copenhagen, a startup specializing clean air technology, which Chowdhry says could produce simulation models for the design. But Znera is still looking for development funding. Chowdhry says as well as exploring opportunities in India, he will look to the UAE. He notes Dubai has experienced severe dust and sandstorms in recent years and could also utilize the technology.
“There are bodies in (the) Dubai government which actually encourage you to take such steps … to come up with such prototypes,” he says, adding talks have also taken place with Masdar City developer Mubadala, based in Abu Dhabi.
The design is notable for its scale, however it’s far from the only urban air filter in development. Dutch designer Daan Roosegarde’s 23-foot “Smog Free Tower” was unveiled at Beijing Design Week 2016, capable of cleaning approximately 25 million cubic feet of air a day. “CityTree” is a 13-foot by 10-foot moss-culture installation, by Berlin-based Green City Solutions, which captures as much pollution as 275 trees, the company claims.
Indian visitors sit on the steps outside Jama Masjid amid heavy smog in the old quarters of New Delhi on November 8, 2017.

Indian visitors sit on the steps outside Jama Masjid amid heavy smog in the old quarters of New Delhi on November 8, 2017. Credit: SAJJAD HUSSAIN/AFP/AFP/Getty Images

Sumit Sharma, director of the Earth Sciences and Climate Change Division at The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) in New Delhi, describes Znera’s proposal as “commendable,” but offers caution.

“Considering the limitations of the technology in terms of its area coverage to treat widespread air pollution in the Delhi city, this is not the only solution we must rely upon,” he argues. “For long-term, wider-scale air-quality improvements, emission mitigation measures are required at the respective sources.”

Pratim Biswas, chair of the Department of Energy, Environment and Chemical Engineering at Washington University in St Louis, agrees. “Delhi needs to focus on deploying effective air pollution control technology at the source,” he wrote in an email to CNN.

Urban air filtration, he added, “would work in a neighborhood type concept — not a full megacity,” questioning the cost effectiveness of Znera’s design. Biswas didn’t dismiss urban air filters entirely though, describing them as “a secondary technique, and would be good for regional air cleaning (maybe around four or five skyscrapers).”

A localized approach is Znera’s initial aim, says Chowdhry, adding that doing so would still be a big step: “If we tackle one of the districts and see what the success rate is, I think that would basically quantify the success of the entire thing.”

But that is still a long way off. When pressed for a timeline, Chowdhry estimates a fully-functional prototype is still 2-3 years away.

The winners of the World Architecture Festival will be announced between November 28-30 in Amsterdam, the Netherlands.

Read Full Story

Business leaders at China's 'Davos' warn of damaging deadlock

Business leaders at China’s ‘Davos’ warn of damaging deadlock

US-China trade war may raise gadget prices

Business leaders and officials in China say that Beijing is ready to dig in for a war of attrition with the United States on trade.

The Trump administration launched its biggest barrage of tariffs yet just as top executives and policymakers were gathering for the start of a World Economic Forum event in the northern Chinese city of Tianjin on Tuesday. China said later it would retaliate with more tariffs of its own.

The trade war dominated discussions at the “summer Davos,” as the event is known, and few participants predicted a swift resolution to the conflict.

“China is growing concerned that the US motivation is now trying to keep China down and contain it,” said Timothy Stratford, a managing partner at law firm Covington & Burling in Beijing. “I expect that we’re going to have a deadlock for some time.”

The US government wants China to change practices that it says disadvantage American businesses, accusing Beijing of overseeing the theft of US intellectual property and boosting Chinese companies through aggressive industrial policies. The Chinese government dismisses the criticism as groundless, even though American and European firms operating in China frequently complain about the issues.

‘This is a test for us’

Chinese government officials speaking in Tianjin insisted that the country can weather the tariff battle even though it has shaken the country’s financial markets.

“The trade frictions don’t have a huge direct impact on China’s economy, but they may impact people’s expectations,” said Liu Shijin, a Chinese government adviser and member of the monetary policy committee at the People’s Bank of China.

A slump in Chinese stocks and the yuan showed investors had “overreacted” to trade fears, he added.

“This is a test for us and we should stick to our direction and never stop,” Liu said of the trade war.

Analyst: Trade war is big headline, not big problem

Fang Xinghai, vice chairman of China’s securities regulator, said that the new US tariffs wouldn’t make Beijing back down. He said he hoped the two governments would soon talk again and strike a deal.

One of China’s most prominent entrepreneurs is doubtful that will happen anytime soon.

The trade war is “going to last long, it’s going to be a mess,” Jack Ma, the founder and executive chairman of top Chinese e-commerce company Alibaba (BABA), said Tuesday at a separate event in the eastern city of Hangzhou. He predicted the conflict could drag on for as long as 20 years.

US companies operating in China say the waves of tariffs are already hurting their business. Casualties also include American chipmaker Qualcomm (QCOM), whose $44 billion deal to buy Dutch rival NXP Semiconductors (NXPI) was blocked by Chinese regulators in July.

Other companies could get caught in the crossfire. JPMorgan Chase (JPM) wants to take advantage of China’s efforts to open up its financial industry and recently applied to launch a brokerage in the country.

Asked if he was worried Beijing could withhold approval for the venture because of the trade war, JPMorgan China CEO Mark Leung said in Tianjin that it’s “not within our control.”

He added that the bank is “working constructively” with regulators.

GFX trade war china usa flags business

US economy could overheat

While China appears to be suffering more pain right now, it may not be in the US government’s interests to leave tariffs in place for too long.

“We’ve seen a heating up of the US economy,” said Helen Zhu, head of China equities at investment manager Blackrock. “If tariffs were to go to 25% later this year on $200 billion of imports, that would work into inflationary pressure and damage the US consumer.”

“There’s an increasing incentive for both sides to work out something in the coming months,” she said.

If they don’t, the fallout will be felt around the world.

“Every time we get into a trade war, it doesn’t end up well,” said Carlos Moedas, the European Union’s commissioner for research, science and innovation.

“Each time we’ve done protectionism, people get worse off,” he added, referring to the global trade slump in the 1930s. “Economically, politicians seem not to have learned their lessons.”

— Jethro Mullen contributed to this report.

CNNMoney (Tianjin, China) First published September 18, 2018: 9:04 AM ET

Read Full Story

VP of worldwide finance is out

Tesla says Justice Department is looking at Musk comments

Justice Department investigating Elon Musk's Tesla tweet

The Justice Department is investigating whether comments made by Tesla CEO Elon Musk last month about taking his company private were illegal, the automaker confirmed Tuesday.

The company said it had received a voluntary request for documents and is cooperating. Tesla said it had not been subpoenaed.

“We respect the DOJ’s desire to get information about this and believe that the matter should be quickly resolved as they review the information they have received,” a spokesperson said.

Tesla didn’t give further specifics about what the Justice Department is looking at, or about reports of an investigation underway by the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Shares of Tesla (TSLA) fell as much as 6% after the criminal probe was first reported midday Tuesday by Bloomberg. The shares came off that low later in the afternoon.

CNN has reached out for comment to the US attorney’s office in San Francisco, which is leading the probe, according to the Bloomberg report.

Musk tweeted on August 7, in the middle of the trading day, that he was thinking about taking Tesla private at a price of $420 per share, and that he had “funding secured” for such a deal.

The stock shot up nearly 9% after the announcement but has declined substantially since then. By Tuesday, it was down more than 25% from the post-tweet high.

Musk abandoned the plan after less than three weeks. He later said his “funding secured” comment was based on talks with Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund, which he said had urged him to take the company private and offered to increase its investment in Tesla.

Critics said such conversations were a long way from having “funding secured” for taking the company private at a stock price significantly higher than where it was trading.

Shareholders have filed lawsuits charging that Musk made the claim to manipulate the stock price, and several news outlets reported that the Securities and Exchange Commission is looking into the matter.

But SEC enforcement actions are almost always civil matters, resulting in fines or other sanctions, up to banning up an executive from serving as an officer of a public company.

Justice Department investigations are less common, and potentially more serious, because they entail possible criminal charges.

Criminal charges typically are reserved for corporate officers who are accused of repeatedly and willfully presenting false information.

Two former executives of Theranos, for example, face wire fraud charges over claims they made to investors and doctors about the company’s blood testing process. Both have pleaded not guilty.

— CNN’s Laura Jarrett contributed to this report.

CNNMoney (New York) First published September 18, 2018: 12:24 PM ET

Read Full Story

Michael Nelson floats in a boat made from a metal tub and fishing floats after the Neuse River went over its banks and flooded his street during Hurricane Florence September 13, 2018 in New Bern, North Carolina. Some parts of New Bern could be flooded with a possible 9-foot storm surge as the Category 2 hurricane approaches the United States.

Before-and-after aerial photos show destruction, beach erosion on North Carolina coastline

The pictures were shot by planes outfitted with cameras taking “high-definition aerial photos” and collected by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The photos are vital to assessing damage and organizing the assistance that’s needed.

The latest post-Hurricane Florence photos were taken Tuesday; NOAA told CNN that the pre-Florence photos were taken in 2014.

In one image, the southernmost portions of Topsail Beach’s main thoroughfare, Anderson Boulevard, are still covered with dark standing water. Ocean Boulevard, one of the side streets, is completely covered with sand.

The flow of the storm surge is etched into the sand it flung onshore. Some docks behind Carolina Boulevard are stripped of their timber, with only their pylons remaining.

Houses across the island had their shingles shorn by the high winds.

Before Hurricane Florence, the Surf Condos black asphalt parking lot hugged the eight buildings in the complex. Now, aerial images show it covered in sand.

The beach in front of the condo buildings appears to be halved—eroded by the storm.

Just up the street from the condos, almost 1.3 miles of North Shore drive is covered in sand from the surge.

More than a mile of Shore Drive, the road closest to the beach, is almost completely covered in sand. Even portions of the Topsail Drive, further inland, are covered.

Among the checkered roofs, their shingles torn off in the wind, are the emerald green above-ground pools. Their in-ground counterparts’ water matches the same hue of the dirty standing water on the roads.

Debris from this stretch of houses litters the ground, all the way towards the sound side of the island.

Beaches disappear along barrier islands from surge

Before the storm, the National Weather Service warned the surge would bring “extreme beach erosion with significant loss of dunes.”

Along the barrier islands, the sandy beachfront is noticeably thinner. But the greatest changes appear to be along the inlets that dot the state’s barrier islands.

The northern point of the New River Inlet is drastically different post Hurricane Florence.

The northern point of the New Topsail Inlet, the Southernmost tip of Topsail Island, is also drastically smaller than it was in 2014.

Read Full Story

Syria accidentally shot down a Russian military plane

Syria accidentally shot down a Russian military plane

Russian state media said Syrian missiles shot the maritime patrol aircraft down amid an attack by Israeli jets in the Latakia region of northwest Syria.

Moscow blamed Israel for putting its aircraft in the line of fire and said it had only a minute’s notice of the strike.

“As a result of the irresponsible actions of the Israeli military, 15 Russian servicemen were killed, which is absolutely not in keeping with the spirit of Russian-Israeli partnership,” said Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov, spokesperson for the Russian military, according to RIA-Novosti.

In a rare acknowledgment of its military activity in the region, Israel expressed “sorrow” for the loss of Russian life, but blamed the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad. The Israeli Defense Forces said it had followed well-established protocols in communicating with Moscow, which are intended to prevent such incidents.

“Israel holds the Assad regime, whose military shot down the Russian plane, fully responsible for this incident,” the IDF said in a statement, adding that Iran and Hezbollah were also accountable.

According to the statement, Syrian antiaircraft batteries “fired indiscriminately and from what we understand did not bother to ensure no Russian planes were in the air.”

The incident presents Moscow with a diplomatic conundrum, as the country has a strong relationship with both Israel and the Syrian regime.

On Tuesday Russian President Vladimir Putin called the incident a tragedy and said that Russia will concentrate on taking additional security measures to “protect our servicemen and our assets in Syria.”

“Here it’s more like a chain of tragic accidental circumstances, because Israel didn’t shoot our plane down. But there’s no doubt, no doubt at all, that we will have to take a serious look at what in fact happened, and our view of this tragedy is set out in the statement issued by the Russian Federation Ministry of Defense, which has been fully agreed with me,” Putin said.

In a phone conversation with Putin, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reaffirmed “the importance of the continuation of security coordination between Israel and Russia, that has succeeded in preventing many losses on both sides in the past three years,” according to a statement released by the Prime Minister’s Office.

Netanyahu promised that Israel would transfer all relevant information about the incident to Russia and proposed sending the Commander of the Israeli Air Force to Moscow to personally hand over the information.

Earlier in the day Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman talked by phone with his Russian counterpart, Army Gen. Sergei Shoigu, both sides said. According to a readout of the call from the Russian Ministry of Defense, Shoigu described the actions of the Israeli air force as irresponsible and told Liberman that fault “rests entirely with the Israeli side.”

“We reserve the right for further reciprocal steps,” Shoigu said, according to the readout.

At a press conference Tuesday, US President Donald Trump said it was his understanding that Syria was responsible for the incident.

“That’s not a good situation,” Trump said at a press conference, noting reports were still preliminary. He called it a “very sad thing.”

Trump defended his strategy in Syria, saying “we have done a tremendous job” battling ISIS in the war-torn nation.

Anti-aircraft system ‘sold to Syria by Russians’

The target in Syria’s Latakia coastal region that Israeli warplanes struck Monday was believed to be a facility that Iran was using to house sensitive military equipment that could be assembled into weapons, and then transferred to Lebanese Hezbollah, according to two US defense officials.

The officials would not detail the intelligence that led the United States to this conclusion. But they pointed out a major concern of both Israel and the United States: that Lebanese Hezbollah is gaining access to Iranian missiles that are increasingly precise and longer range in order to attack Israel.

US and Israel surveillance routinely monitors Iranian air and ground shipments into Syria. But the identification of a site focusing specifically on assembly of weapons underscores an effort by Tehran to continue to try to hide the capabilities it is trying to ship to Lebanese Hezbollah.

In Syria, is the worst yet to come?

The officials could not say if this is the first time a facility associated with assembly of weapons has been struck by the Israelis. But one of the officials said it’s the US understanding that Israel has not struck in this area for nearly five years.

Earlier Tuesday, Israel hinted at the type of target it struck. The IDF wrote on Twitter that jets “targeted a facility of the Syrian Armed Forces from which systems to manufacture accurate and lethal weapons were about to be transferred on behalf of Iran to Hezbollah in Lebanon.”

“These weapons were meant to attack Israel, and posed an intolerable threat against it,” the IDF said.

The IDF alleges that by the time Syrian antiaircraft missiles had been launched, Israeli warplanes responsible for the overnight operation were already back within Israeli airspace.

The IDF also says that the Russian plane was not “within the area of operation” while the Israeli strike on Latakia was underway. Russia bases much of its Syrian military presence in Latakia.

A photo taken on July 23, 2006 shows a Russian IL-20M plane landing at an unknown location. Russia has blamed Israel for the loss of a military IL-20M jet Monday.

The Russian military said Israel notified the Russian side about the planned operation only a minute in advance, and that Israeli controllers would have seen the Russian plane, which was coming in to land, RIA reported.

Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Yevgenyevich Konashenkov claimed the Israelis used the plane as cover, effectively putting it in the cross hairs of the Syrian air defenses, according to RIA.

The Russian aircraft was shot down by an antiaircraft system sold by Moscow to the Syrians several years ago, a US official with knowledge of the incident told CNN Monday. The Syrian air defense network in western Syria is very densely populated with antiaircraft missile and radar systems.

In February, the two-man crew of an Israeli F-16 ejected from their aircraft when a missile exploded near them, damaging their plane as they finished conducting a mission against Syrian forces.

An Israeli defense official told CNN earlier this month that Israel has struck Syria 200 times in the past 18 months to prevent the deployment of Iranian weapons in the region.

Demilitarized zone in neighboring Idlib

The incident occurred on the same day that Russia announced a joint agreement with Turkey to create a demilitarized zone in Syria’s Idlib province, which neighbors Latakia, potentially thwarting a large-scale military operation and impending humanitarian disaster in the country’s last rebel stronghold.

Speaking alongside Russian President Vladimir Putin at talks in Sochi on Monday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the creation of a 15- to 20-kilometer (approximately nine to 12 miles) demilitarized zone will prevent a “humanitarian crisis” in the northwestern province.

Only a fool takes Vladimir Putin at his word in Syria

All heavy military equipment tanks, ground-to-air missiles and mortars of all the opposition groups will be removed by October 10, the leaders said. The zone, which will be patrolled by Turkish and Russian military units, will become operational from October 15.

Erdogan described the agreement as a “solution” to the issues in the region.

Speaking Tuesday, Kremlin press secretary Dmitry Peskov said that the downing of the Russian aircraft would not affect the Sochi agreement “in any way,” adding that “this is an important, breakthrough agreement.”

In recent weeks, Syrian and Russian planes have conducted scores of airstrikes in Idlib in the run-up to an anticipated offensive by Russian-backed Syrian forces to retake the last part of the country under armed opposition.

Last week, UN officials said that more than 30,000 people fled the province in anticipation of the government offensive.

CNN’s Judith Vonberg, Kara Fox, Natalie Gallon, Andrew Carey, Mary Ilyushina, Oren Liebermann and Radina Gigova contributed reporting.

Read Full Story