Around the World

Conflict, Natural Disasters, Tourism Threaten UNESCO World Heritage Sites

It's a list as varied as the sites it contains: the Statue of Liberty, Angkor in Cambodia, the city of Verona in Italy.

These and hundreds of other sites make up the World Heritage List, the most notable cultural, natural and historic landmarks around the world. UNESCO -- the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization -- carefully selects the properties and they are protected by the 40-year-old World Heritage Convention, ratified by 190 countries.

But this cultural and historic legacy shared by the world is under threat. Of the 962 sites, 38 are listed as "in danger," under siege by pollution, natural disasters, uncontrolled urbanization, unchecked tourism or armed conflict.

Take, for example, what happened in Syria just a few weeks ago. Amid intense fighting, a fire destroyed hundreds of shops in the vast medieval souk, or marketplace, in Aleppo, Syria's largest city. It's yet another casualty in the uprising that began in March 2011 and has claimed more than 30,000 lives. The souk was located in the old city of Aleppo, a World Heritage site, one of six in Syria. Four others had already been damaged: the Crac des Chevaliers castle, the old city of Damascus, the ancient villages of Northern Syria and the ruins of Palmyra.

One of the most recent additions to the "in danger" list is Timbuktu. Located in Mali in West Africa, the site contains three large historic mosques, now threatened by desertification and rampant urbanization.

UNESCO monitors not only the "in danger" sites but also hundreds of others on the World Heritage List. The Great Barrier Reef along Australia's northeast coast is the largest coral reef ecosystem in the world. But it has lost more than half its coral over the last three decades.

And UNESCO's own work is now under threat. The United States last year cut off its funding, a contribution that made up 22 percent of the organization's budget. The cutoff was automatic. Congress passed laws in the early 1990s requiring that funds be withdrawn from any United Nations body in which Palestine was voted in as a full member.

This week, Christiane Amanpour discusses the cultural and historical importance of sites on the World Heritage List with Kishore Rao. He is the director of the organization's World Heritage Center.

  • The top iPhone and iPad apps on App Store

    App Store Official Charts for the week ending September 1, 2014:

  • Nasdaq stocks posting largest percentage decreases

    A look at the 10 biggest percentage decliners on Nasdaq at the close of trading: Conn's Inc. fell 30.8 percent to $31.00. RiceBran Tech fell 20.0 percent to $5.32. Alder BioPharm fell 13.1 percent to $14.80. ...

  • Nasdaq stocks posting largest percentage increases

    A look at the 10 biggest percentage gainers on Nasdaq at the close of trading: XRS Corp. rose 82.8 percent to $5.52. Image Sensing Systems Inc. rose 79.8 percent to $6.67. Digital Ally Inc. rose 79.0 percent ...

  • Business Highlights

    ___ It's no longer safe to recline your airplane seat Squeezed into tighter and tighter spaces, airline passengers appear to be rebelling, taking their frustrations out on other fliers. Three U.S. flights ...

  • Here's Everything We Learned from Lifetime's Ridiculous Unauthorized Saved By the Bell Story
    Here's Everything We Learned from Lifetime's Ridiculous Unauthorized Saved By the Bell Story

    With The Unauthorized Saved By the Bell Story, Lifetime went behind the scenes of Saved By the Bell and unveiled what (allegedly) happened behind the cameras of one of our favorite childhood sitcoms. But instead of Zack Morris running the show, this time it was all about Screech—and the story from outcast Dustin Diamond's perspective. Based on Diamond's tell-all memoir, The Unauthorized Saved By the Bell Story began with the gang—Dylan Everett as Mark-Paul Gosselaar, Sam Kindseth as Diamond, Tiera Skovbye as Elizabeth Berkley, Julian Works as Mario Lopez, Alyssa Lynch as Tiffani-Amber Thiessen, and Taylor Russell McKenzie as Lark Voorhies—pulling up to their first mall tour, totally unaware that their lives were about to change. Cut to four months prior when Gosselaar, Voorhies, and Diamond were cast for Good Morning Miss Bliss, a Disney Channel sitcom that was quickly axed. The two-hour movie would take viewers through the revamping of the show all the way until the final day of filming in 1993. But while I had hoped for more juicy and gossipy tidbits about one of television's most iconic shows, instead we got a sad story of a kid who just wanted to fit in and a cheesy made-for-TV movie that seemed more parody than biopic. And because Diamond has admitted the memoir was mostly made up, who knows how much of The Unauthorized Saved By the Bell Story was true tales versus wishful thinking. Still, the movie got some details right, even when others were obviously wrong. (Um, why was Gosselaar, not in character, doing a Zack "Morris time out"?) Here are the eight most interesting things we learned from The Unauthorized Saved By the Bell Story. 1. The characters changed after casting When casting began for more kids following the cancellation of Miss Bliss, both Berkley and Thiessen were up for Kelly. NBC liked them both and created Jessie for Berkley. (Jennie Garth, meanwhile, was passed on for the role.) Voorhies was also supposed to be a "Jewish American Princess" and Lopez Italian. No word on why Miss Bliss students Mikey (Max Battimo) and Nikki (Heather Hopper) didn't make the cut over to Bell. Zack was always supposed to be the all-American blonde boy, so a half-Indonesian Gosselaar had to get his hair from a bottle! 2. The series nearly got canned for a second timeFirst, Disney cancelled Good Morning Miss Bliss. Then, NBC executive Brandon Tartikoff restructured the series to focus on the kids rather than the teacher and move it to a cool California location. The revamped version didn't fare much better and after a terrible review, the NBC sitcom continued to get poor ratings. But overnight word caught on, ratings spiked, and the series was a bonafide hit. 3. Hormones were in the airIt seemed that Voorhies and Gosselaar locked eyes from that first casting call and were an item almost immediately. But the actress' strict religious background kept them from doing much off the set and when Gosselaar's and Thiessen's characters had to kiss (which, of course, required practice), it became more of a love triangle. Diamond, for his part, had his first kiss when his character had to smooch Violet (Tori Spelling) but when Diamond made moves off-camera she just wanted to meet Mark. 4. Diamond was the outcastIt's no secret Diamond wasn't well-liked, but it seemed that it was more of an age issue than anything else. Thiessen didn't appreciate his pranks, he couldn't do as many push-ups as Lopez, kids on the street bullied him. In one of the final scenes he summed it up best by saying to Gosselaar, "We've played best friends for five years and this is maybe the longest conversation we've ever had." 5. The kids wanted more dramatic storylines After an encounter with a girl who dumped her boyfriend because Kelly did, Thiessen and Berkley asked for more plots with real issues. Berkley got her wish when she scored the famous "I'm so scared" caffeine pill addiction episode and even asked to talk to real life addicts! 6. Diamond began drinking After meeting an extra who gave him his first swig, Diamond began to drink. It got so out of hand that he got too wasted at an appearance in South Carolina, and was threatened to be cut from the show by creator Peter Engel. His partying — and new best friend — would ultimately come back to bite him when the friend filmed him smoking weed and later blackmailed Diamond for not getting him a bigger part. 7. Diamond and Screech were basically the same personArt imitated life when Screech was devastated that his best friend Zack was kissing the girl of his dreams. Diamond, it seemed, couldn't get any lovin' like his fellow castmates. And just like Screech, the Dustin of the movie also had bizarre daydreams where he was a hunk. 8. The mystery of their second senior year (and Tori) explained The reason Jessie and Kelly were replaced by bad girl Tori, only to later return, was due to contract issues. Initially, the series was supposed to go just four seasons, but when NBC wanted a fifth, Thiessen and Berkley exited. They later reunited for the graduation episode (which, by the way, they actually filmed before leaving the series not after like the movie depicted.) And just as an exec would tell Engel on the final day of filming, "This is far from the end of Saved By the Bell." Everyone knows Thiessen did ultimately return for The College Years and Zack and Kelly's Wedding. What did you think of The Unauthorized Saved By the Bell Story?

  • California high school drops mascot criticized by Arab-American group

    (Reuters) - A California high school has retired its Middle Eastern-themed mascot and accompanying belly dancers and redrawn its logo after criticism from Arab-Americans that they played on harmful stereotypes, a group advocating for the change said on Monday. Coachella Valley High School agreed to use a new image of a stoic-looking Arab man to represent its sports teams, dubbed "the Arabs," said Abed Ayoub, a spokesman for the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, which worked with the school to choose the new logo.

  • Home Depot says probing 'unusual activity' after data breach report
    Home Depot says probing 'unusual activity' after data breach report

    Home Depot Inc said on Tuesday it was working with law enforcement to investigate "some unusual activity" related to customer data but that it could not confirm if it had become the latest retailer to be hit by a large-scale security breach. "At this point, I can confirm that we’re looking into some unusual activity and we are working with our banking partners and law enforcement to investigate," Home Depot representative Paula Drake wrote in an emailed statement to Reuters. "If we confirm that a breach has occurred, we will make sure customers are notified immediately." The statement came after security website KrebsonSecurity first reported that multiple banks had seen evidence that Home Depot may be the source of stolen credit and debit cards put up for sale on underground markets. Retail customers faced a massive data breach during last year's holiday season when hackers stole at least 40 million payment card numbers and 70 million other pieces of customer data from Target Corp .

  • Jenny Sanford wants psych exam for US Rep. Sanford

    CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) — Jenny Sanford wants a family court judge to order U.S. Rep. Mark Sanford to undergo psychiatric and psychological evaluations and take anger management and parenting courses in the latest filing in the couple's contentious divorce.