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5 things you absolutely must know today

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Artist engineers tree to grow 40 different kinds of fruit

Syracuse University professor and artist Sam Van Aken has engineered trees that each grow 40 different kinds of pitted fruits using a process know as chip grafting. Van Aken sliced budding branches of various fruit-bearing trees and gently inserted them into slits he cut into the areas of the “working tree.” He wrapped the wounds, giving each transition a chance to heal. And it worked, having repeated this process many times over a number of years. Now, the dozens of trees he has created are bearing fruit in their natural sequence. It’s art and a way to spread diversity on a small scale, Van Aken told National Geographic. [Source: National Geographic]

Six missing in Beijing crackdown

Since July 9 of this year, at least 238 people have been detained and at least six missing in what many are calling Beijing’s crackdown on civil society. The missing, many of whom occupy human rights-related jobs, have not been seen since July 10 and are feared to have been taken into the custody of China’s security services. “We just really don’t know [what has happened to them],” China researcher for Human Rights Watch Maya Wang told the Guardian. Beijing’s offensive began with the detention of attorney Wang Yu, who defended five Chinese feminists detained earlier this year. Beijing claims the allegation they are cracking down on civil society is finger pointing and unjustified. Human rights lawyers Sui Muqing and Xie Yang were taken into custody and remain in custody, facing up to 15 years for the crime of “inciting subversion.” [Source: The Guardian]

Cheating site Ashley Madison apologizes to its users, offers free profile deletion

Ashley Madison, the site enabling its subscribers to have affairs without the chance of getting caught, has apologized to its users for the breach of security that has resulted in hackers having control of about 37 million profiles. The hack took place Sunday, but the site is reeling, scrambling to figure out what to do. The ultimatum from hacker group The Impact Team: shut down the site or we’ll leak all the profiles to the public. Ashley Madison is now allowing all of its users to delete their profiles at no charge (it’s bizarre to think they were making money of account deletion). The hack has potential to be extremely damaging, as profiles leak to the public. Many of the people affected won’t seek professional help in managing their identifies, due to the sensitivity of the site’s content. AM claims to be holding the reigns to its own site once again, and it’s assuring its users that it will delete any information The Impact Team leaks to the public immediately. [Source: The Guardian]

Woman beheaded in India for being a witch

It’s gruesome, for sure, but it’s also important to know these kinds of things still happen in our world: a 63-year-old woman from India was beheaded by Assam state villagers Tuesday for being a witch. Seven people were arrested over the killing. People in the area were getting ill and a group blamed the elderly Purni Orang for the bout. “After that they branded her a witch and killed her,” police official Samad Hussain told BBC Hindi. Police in the area told news sources that at least 90 woman have been beheaded, burnt alive, or stabbed to death over the last six years for allegedly practicing witchcraft. This gruesome, draconian form of vigilantism against witches is, apparently, common in the Assam state of India. [Source: BBC]

Nigel Richards doesn’t know French, won French-language Scrabble world championship

Must you know this today? That might be a stretch. But it’s interesting what people do on this planet, and this guy, who is in his late forties, has thinning hair and a scraggly beard, is no exception: New Zealander Nigel Richards, who memorized French words from a dictionary two months ago, has won the French-language Scrabble world championship. “He doesn’t speak French at all, he just learnt the words,” said Liz Fagerlund, a close friend of Richards. “He won’t know what they mean, wouldn’t be able to carry out a conversation in French I wouldn’t think.” Richards has won five U.S. national titles and the English-language world championship three times.

Follow Toban Dyck at @tobandyck.

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