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Wednesday, December 8, 2021

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Israeli Spies Tricked Iranians Into Blowing Up Nuclear Facility

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JERUSALEM, ISRAEL — A Jewish media outlet claims that Israeli spies used complex operations to bomb three nuclear facilities in Iran over the last 17 months. Here are the details: The Telegraph reports that the pro-Israel media outlet, The Jewish Chronicle, reported on Thursday, December 2, that Mossad agents had tricked Iranian scientists into blowing up an Iranian nuclear facility. The outlet claimed that a major explosion at Iran’s Natanz facility in April was the result of Mossad agents posing as Iranian dissidents to recruit scientists working at the facility. The scientists agreed to smuggle in explosives disguised as boxes of food in catering trucks. Some of the explosives were also dropped inside the facility by a drone before being gathered by the scientists. The explosion completely destroyed the plant’s independent internal power system. Iran acknowledged that attacks on Natanz had set its nuclear program back by months and said it was searching for Iranian suspects in relation to the operation. The outlet also claimed that another explosion at the Natanz facility, in 2020, was caused when Israel remotely detonated explosives hidden inside building materials a year before. In June this year, Mossad operatives used a motorcycle-sized drone to attack another Iranian facility with missiles. The new revelations in the Jewish Chronicle appeared days after Iran resumed negotiations with world powers over returning to the Iran nuclear deal. Former President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew the US from the deal during his presidency.

La Palma Volcano Eruption 2021: Longest Ever Eruption Coming

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LA PALMA, CANARY ISLANDS — “The current La Palma eruption has a good chance of becoming the island’s longest in 500 years, according to El Pais English, as yet another new fissure vent opened on Saturday, releasing lava which headed through previously populated areas down towards the ocean.” “The island’s El Martin volcano erupted for 82 days in 1646, but the record was set in 1585, when the Tahuya volcano erupted for 84 days, according to Spanish newspaper El Razon.” “The Cumbre Vieja volcano began erupting on September 19, 2021, which means December 13 could be the day the record is broken.” “Volcanologists think the activity is generated by a ‘hotspot’ beneath the Canary Islands, a reservoir of extremely hot magma that seeks ways to emerge, according to El Pais,” “However, the Volcano Discovery site explains that while seismic activity has been decreasing at the volcano over recent days, emission of sulfur dioxide remains high, albeit on a decreasing trend, implying that there is still a log of magma available to erupt.”

Russian Debris Cloud Almost Hits Astronauts

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WASHINGTON — Two weeks ago, a Russian missile struck an old satellite, creating thousands of pieces of space debris that will whizz around Earth at hypersonic speed for centuries to come. This cloud of micro bullets is now threatening the International Space Station. Here are the details: The Guardian reports that NASA has called off a spacewalk on Tuesday, November 30 because of a cloud of space debris that was created when Russia blew up an old satellite as part of a missile test. Any piece of that cloud of space debris can puncture an astronaut’s suit or damage the International Space Station. The space station and its crew of seven have been at increased risk from fast-moving pieces of debris since Russia blew up the satellite two weeks ago. Two U.S. astronauts were scheduled to replace a damaged antenna on the outside of the space station, but late on Monday night, NASA says it learned that a piece of orbiting debris might come dangerously close. SpaceX founder Elon Musk also announced on Tuesday that the company “had to shift some Starlink satellite orbits to reduce the probability of collision.” He added that the space station and SpaceX Dragon capsules “have micrometeorite shields (for ultra high velocity impact absorption), but spacesuits do not, hence there is a higher risk for spacewalks.” The Russian missile strike generated thousands of pieces of “space junk” that are now hurtling around the Earth at around 27,400 kilometers per hour — much faster than the speed of a bullet.

How Astrazeneca Causes Blood Clots

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OXFORD, U.K. — The trigger for rare blood clots occurring in patients who receive the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine may be a type of protein in the blood that is attracted to one element of the vaccine, according to a new study in the Science Advances journal, cited by the BBC. The University of Oxford’s vaccine uses a genetically modified common cold virus from chimpanzees to carry blueprints for the coronavirus’s spike protein. This virus vector then helps program an immune response against a real coronavirus. The new study found that if the vaccine enters the bloodstream, it can attract a type of protein called platelet factor 4. From there, in extremely rare cases, the body’s immune system can confuse platelet factor 4 for the virus vector, and release antibodies to attack it. When this happens, the antibodies and platelet factor 4 can cluster together, resulting in blood clots. The BBC points out that vaccine-induced clots like these have been linked to just 73 deaths out of nearly 50 million doses of AstraZeneca given in the U.K., while AstraZeneca said the vaccine is thought to have saved more than a million lives around the world and prevented 50 million cases of COVID. The clots are more likely to occur because of a COVID infection than the vaccine, according to a spokesperson for the company.

Aztec Sacrifice: Burned Human Remains Found Below Surface of Mexico City

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MEXICO CITY— An altar containing a pot of human ashes was found near a square in Mexico City. Archaeologists say it dates back to near the end of the Aztec empire, the BBC reports. Archaeologists with Mexico's National Institute for Anthropology and History also found 13 intricately decorated incense burners carefully placed in what they say was the courtyard area of a family home, where they explain the inhabitants would have held a ritual “to bear witness to the ending of a cycle of their lives and of their civilisation.” The altar dates to the time of the Spanish conquest. The house itself was located in one quarter of the Aztec city of Tenochtitlan[d], according to The American Post and would also have been made up of a large room which was connected by a corridor to five smaller rooms, one of which is believed to be a kitchen, according to the BBC.

La Palma Volcano Eruption: Hidden Tunnels Helping Lava

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LA PALMA, SPAIN — As the La Palma volcano continues to erupt after two months, molten lava is travelling down toward the Atlantic Ocean at speeds of up to one meter per second through new lava tubes, according to the Canary Islands Volcanology Institute, cited by CNN. Harvard University’s Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences explains that these tubes occur when the top surface of a lava flow cools more rapidly than the underlying lava, forming a crust that insulates the lava below, which stays hotter and flows further as a result. According to the Canary Island Volcano Association, different types of activity at different vents are driving the lava flow. Last month the extent of the damage prompted the president of a neighboring island to suggest bombing the volcano in order to change the direction of the flow, according to Live Science.

China’s Latest Taiwan Incursion Reveals Worrying Capability

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TAIPEI, TAIWAN — China surprised the world on Sunday when it practiced aerial refueling during its latest mass incursion into Taiwan’s air defense zone. Aerial refueling has long been considered a weak point of the Chinese air force. Here are the details: Reuters reports that a large force of Chinese warplanes passed close to Taiwan on Sunday, November 28, prompting Taiwan to scramble fighter jets to track the incoming warplanes. The Chinese force consisted of 27 aircraft that included five nuclear-capable bombers, 18 fighters, three large support planes, and an aerial tanker. The aerial tanker was significant as it was the first time that China practiced a refuelling mission in Taiwan’s air defense identification zone. Twelve of the fighter jets flew patterns around the southwest corner of Taiwan's air defense zone, just to the northeast of the Dongsha Islands, while the remaining aircraft flew in a large “V” pattern from the southwest corner of the zone to the southeast corner, and back. China has recently greatly increased its pressure on Taiwan’s defenses, sending a total of 149 warplanes into the democratically governed country’s air defense zone in only the first four days of October. Taiwan says China is using “gray zone warfare," which is designed to wear out Taiwan's forces by forcing them to scramble repeatedly. China’s Y-20U tanker is a new version of its Y-20 military transport aircraft that’s been modified for aerial refueling. The addition of such aircraft could greatly extend the range of China's fighters, bombers, and transport planes.

China Facial Recognition Surveillance System Targets Foreigners

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HENAN PROVINCE, CHINA — The Chinese province of Henan has awarded a contract to build a surveillance system that targets journalists, international students and migrant women, according to the BBC, which adds that it will categorize journalists as either red, yellow or green, based on the degree to which they are considered “harmful.” The system will incorporate cameras that can identify faces partially covered by masks or glasses, and include information from cell phones, social media and travel records. It will be operated by at least 2,000 officials and policemen, who can search for people by uploading pictures or searching facial attributes, according to Reuters. Warnings will be set off if a journalist registers at a hotel, buys a ticket or crosses the provincial border in Henan, and they will then be tailed and ‘dealt with’ according to their category. The contract for the system was put out for tender on July 29, days after foreign journalists were targeted by a nationalist campaign for their reporting on floods in Henan and Human Rights Watch told the BBC: “This is not a government that needs more power to track more people especially those who might be trying to peacefully hold it accountable.” A study this year by Comparitech found that seven in 10 governments are using facial recognition technology on a large scale basis. China was at the top of its ranking system.

Earth Getting a Ring Like Saturn’s

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SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH — There are currently around 170 million pieces of space debris flying at very high velocities in Earth orbit. This number is set to increase as thousands of mini satellites are being added to the dangerous mix every year. Here are the details: The Salt Lake Tribune reports that a new scientific study is looking at ways to keep the Earth from growing a visible ring made entirely of junk. The study found that there are currently 170 million pieces of space junk in orbit around the Earth. Of these, 23,000 are larger than a softball and dangerous enough to be tracked by the U.S. Department of Defense. One of the study’s contributors, robotics professor Jake Abbot of the University of Utah, said that “Earth is on course to have its own rings. They’ll just be made of junk.” The 170 million pieces of space junk travel at extremely high speeds and can each cause severe damage to spacecraft and astronauts. This number is expected to rise sharply, as SpaceX and Amazon are currently putting thousands of small satellites in orbit per year. Professor Abbot told the Salt Lake Tribune that space junk pieces always spin, so they would break robotic arms, which is why he and his team are looking at building spacecraft with highly specialized magnets to catch and collect debris in Earth orbit. Any future world war would exponentially increase the number of dangerous space junk pieces, as major nations are building up arsenals of anti-satellite missiles that would blow up thousands of satellites and create billions of pieces of space debris.

Is New COVID Variant Omicron Ready to Take Over the World?

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JOHANNESBURG — Researchers in South Africa are tracking the rise of omicron, a new COVID-19 variant of concern, within the context of a large spike in cases in the South African province of Gauteng[e], 90 percent of which were from the new, highly mutated variant, according to Deutsche Welle. The Guardian reports that scientists in South Africa and Botswana separately submitted discovery of the variant on November 23, and the journal Nature notes that many of the 30-plus mutations to the coronavirus spike protein that characterize it are linked to the ability to evade infection-blocking antibodies and heightened infectivity. Penny Moore, a virologist in Johannesburg, told Nature there are also hints the variant could dodge herd immunity conferred by T cells, though omicron’s effect on vaccine efficacy and disease virulence is not yet clear. Richard Lessells, an infectious-diseases physician, said at a press briefing organized by South Africa’s health department on November 25 that there is concern the variant may already be circulating widely in South Africa. Since it was sequenced the variant has now also been discovered in Britain, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Denmark, Belgium, Israel, Australia and Hong Kong, according to Reuters.

South Korea to Build World’s First Floating City

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BUSAN, SOUTH KOREA — The U.N. recently signed a deal with the Korean port city of Busan to build the world’s first floating city on Busan’s coastline. Here are the details: Business Insider reports that a historic deal was signed on Thursday, November 18 to build the world’s first ever floating city on the coast of South Korea. The South Korean city of Busan agreed to host such a floating city with the backing of the UN Human Settlement Program and Oceanix, the company that designed the floating city. Like many coastal cities, Busan is threatened by rising sea levels, and the floating city is designed to help such cities to expand onto the sea. The city will be based on a collection of hexagonal platforms that float on the water. These platforms will be strengthened by a limestone coating that’s more than twice as hard as concrete while also being buoyant. The city is designed to survive Category 5 hurricanes. It would also be flood proof as it is designed to rise with the sea. The floating city would produce its own food, energy and freshwater. Cages underneath the platforms could be used to house scallops, kelp or other forms of seafood, while aquaponic systems could use waste from fish to fertilize plants. The next step will be for Oceanix and the UN to work with Busan’s officials to fine-tune the final design of the floating habitat. Oceanix says the whole process would take a total of three years, so it expects to see the prototype in the water by 2025.

World Leaders Have a Chance to Avert Catastrophe in Our Oceans

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GENEVA — The WTO’s 12th Ministerial Conference is meeting this week in an attempt to end 20 years of negotiations over harmful fishing subsidies, responding to the reality that global fish production is currently nine times higher than it was in 1950, and over 34 percent of the world’s assessed fish stocks are being overfished, according to the U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organization. The primary issue at stake here is that much of the fishing behind those figures is economically unviable and thus is being effectively propped up by massive government subsidies, according to the U.N. Secretary-General's Special Envoy for the Ocean writing on the World Economic Forum’s website. The current draft text of a deal is designed to eliminate subsidies that contribute to overcapacity or overfishing, as well as facilitating illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, which is rife in the industry. It attempts to do this by blocking payments for the construction or upgrading of vessels, or contributions to costs of fuel, for instance. India’s Financial Express says any agreement over a final text is being publicly challenged by New Delhi, which says the current draft favors countries with already established distant-water fishing industries. As an alternative India is proposing developed countries that fish outside of their own waters should not be able to provide fishery subsidies for 25 years, while developing countries are given more time to comply with restrictions. In pushing for the total removal of harmful subsidies, the U.N. Secretary-General's Special Envoy for the Ocean points out that large-scale fishing fleets are pushing out smaller operations and that if we were to remove all harmful fisheries subsidies, we could have a 12.5 percent increase in fish biomass by 2050, to the benefit of those smaller operations.

Last Chance to See Titanic Before Bacteria Consume Its Wreck

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NEWFOUNDLAND, CANADA — The famous wreck of the Titanic is quickly disappearing. The iron giant is being eaten by metal-eating bacteria and battered by deep-sea currents, but for only a quarter of a million dollars you can dive down and get a look before it’s gone. The Associated Press reports that you can now join an expedition to see the Titanic for as little as $250,000. That’s the price OceanGate Expeditions is charging people to join its next expedition and dive down to the Titanic’s wreck in its five-person submersible. For that price, you’ll be trained to be a mission specialist, operating some of the equipment and helping experts to survey the famous wreck. The wreck itself is gradually disappearing, and the company’s next cluster of 10-day expeditions, slated for May to June next year, will focus on documenting all remaining objects with high-tech scanning devices. The 109-year-old ocean liner is being battered by deep-sea currents and metal-eating bacteria that consume hundreds of pounds of iron a day. Holes pervade the wreckage, and large parts of the superstructure are nearing the point of collapse. In addition to charting the decomposition of the wreck, OceanGate also plans to document the site’s unique sea life, such as crabs and corals. The Titanic was dubbed “the unsinkable ship” because of its strong construction, but in 1912 it sank within three hours in the freezing waters of the North Atlantic. The unsinkable ship was brand new and on its maiden voyage when it struck an iceberg and sank, killing more than 1,500 people.

Arctic Warming Began Sooner Than Thought

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CAMBRIDGE, U.K. — The Arctic Ocean has been warming since decades earlier than previous observations would suggest, according to a new study in the journal Science Advances that used marine debris to reconstruct 800 years of data. The study found that the Arctic water’s temperature and salinity — or saltiness — remained relatively constant until the early 1900s, but at that point heat and salt transported from the Atlantic Ocean began to increase substantially, possibly chiming with the period in which humans had begun “supercharging” the atmosphere with carbon dioxide, and thus possibly suggesting the Arctic is more sensitive to greenhouse gases than previously thought, according to study co-author Francesco Muschitiello[e], who spoke to CNN. The study is clear that the causes of this early “Atlantification” are not yet fully understood, but it does suggest changes in the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation — currents that moderate temperatures in the Northern Hemisphere — could have played a role and, regardless of the specific mechanisms behind it, CNN notes that once rapid warming in the Arctic causes ice to melt a feedback loop begins, whereby the lack of ice causes even warmer temperatures, because without the bright white sea ice to reflect away the sun’s energy, the dark ocean absorbs it as heat. Detailing how things stand now, Muschitiello[f] added: “the Arctic is warming very, very quickly, and much faster than any other area on the planet.”

Refugee Crisis ‘Part of Russia’s Plan to Invade Ukraine’

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KIEV, UKRAINE — Ukraine’s intelligence chief says Russia is preparing to invade Ukraine, and Moscow created a refugee crisis in Poland to make it harder for Europe to fight back. Here are the details: Bloomberg reports that the U.S. military is preparing for a possible invasion of Ukraine by Russia around January next year. The news outlet says multiple sources say the Pentagon has shared intelligence with its allies showing a buildup of Russian troops and artillery that can quickly turn into a rapid, large-scale push into Ukraine from multiple locations, if President Vladimir Putin decided to invade. Satellite images and other information shows that around 100 Russian battalion tactical groups comprised of around 100,000 troops could quickly push into Ukraine from Crimea, the Russian border and via Belarus. Bloomberg’s sources also said Moscow called up tens of thousands of reservists on a scale unprecedented in post-Soviet times. Such reservists would be used to occupy ground taken by the battalions. Ukraine’s intelligence chief told the Military Times that Russia is preparing for an attack by the end of January and that the attack would involve airstrikes, amphibious assaults and an incursion though Belarus. EU member nations including Poland have also accused Russia of encouraging a refugee crisis as its ally, Belarus, funnels migrants toward the EU. Ukraine says the refugee crisis was created by Russia to destabilize the EU in preparation for an invasion.

Bus Crash in Bulgaria Kills At Least 45 People

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SOFIA, BULGARIA — A bus has slammed into a highway barrier in Bulgaria, killing at least 45 people onboard, including 12 children, according to the BBC. The bus had been part of a convoy of four, making a return trip from Istanbul to Skopje in North Macedonia. However, the other busses were a few minutes ahead by the time of the accident, the cause of which remains unknown. The New York Times reports one local mayor of a town close to the site saying that, ‘accidents are common in the area because of the steep gradient of the roads,’ while the BBC cites one of the investigators as saying ‘human error by the driver or a technical malfunction’ are currently the two most likely explanations.

Construction Starts on America’s Giant Solar Farm

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INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA — On farmlands near South Bend, Indiana, work has already started on what will be the largest solar farm ever built in the U.S. Here are the details: The Associated Press reports that Northern Indiana will become the home of America’s largest solar farm. Dubbed Mammoth Solar, the project will cover around 13,000 acres, or 5,261 hectares, which is about the size of 9,850 American football fields. Work has already started on the site, which straddles the border between Starke and Pulaski counties, 80 kilometers southwest of the city of South Bend. The farm will eventually have a total of 2.85 million solar panels, and is expected to be fully operational by 2024. At that point it will generate a total of 1.65 gigawatts of electricity — enough to power 250,000 homes. Most of the power will be used by the homes and businesses around the project. Whatever isn’t used will continue to travel farther along the lines until it’s consumed. ​​ With the UN's latest alarming report on climate change, more and more large renewable infrastructure projects are likely to be greenlit, meaning the title of the world's largest solar farm will likely change hands several times in the coming years. Organizers say the construction project will create 500 jobs, and the finished, fully operational solar farm will create at least 50 new, full-time jobs.

Architects Reveal the High-Rise That Sucks CO2 Out of Air

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GLASGOW, SCOTLAND — Architects recently presented plans for highrise towers that can absorb large amounts of carbon out of Earth’s atmosphere and ecosystems. Here are the details: New Atlas reports that architects unveiled a revolutionary way to build carbon-capturing cities at the 2021 U.N. Climate Change Summit, also known as COP26. Speaking at the summit on Thursday, November 11, senior partners at architectural firm Skidmore, Owings and Merrill presented a blueprint for skyscrapers that can absorb up to four times as much carbon as they emit during construction and their lifetime. The skyscrapers, called Urban Sequoias, would draw in air from outside and then use carbon-extraction systems to remove carbon from the air. The buildings would also come with areas dedicated to growing plants and algae — both of which could be used to capture carbon and to provide fuel for the building. The carbon extracted from each building could be used to create road paving materials, pipes or other parts of urban structures. The architects said if all new buildings were built to collect more carbon than they emit, urban greenhouse gas emissions could be greatly reduced — perhaps by as much as 1.6 billion tons a year. The architects said up to 120 tons of carbon could be trapped per square kilometer if concrete-covered areas were converted into gardens and cities were re-built as intense carbon-absorbing landscapes. They said that streets could also be retrofitted with proven carbon-capture technologies.

The Shocking Secret Behind Earth’s Strange Companion

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TUCSON, ARIZONA — Researchers just made a shocking discovery about one of only five Earth quasi-satellites ever discovered by humans. Here are the details: A new study published recently in the journal Communications Earth and Environment casts new light on a strange 50-meter-wide rock that’s one of only five known quasi-satellites that orbit the Sun while staying close to Earth. Earth’s gravity affects the orbits of these quasi-satellites, and they circle the Sun in a year like our planet, but they don’t orbit the Earth itself. Yet, these unique asteroids do stay in sync with Earth as they orbit the Sun. The study shows that the only one of these quasi-satellites that can be observed via strong telescopes, called 469219 Kamo‘oalewa, has the same color signature as rocks brought back from the moon by astronauts 50 years ago. Researchers believe this rare color similarity, combined with the object’s unique orbital plane and slow speed, points to the likelihood that the object used to be part of the moon’s surface. If that is the case, the most likely way in which the rock departed from the moon would have been if a much bigger asteroid smashed into the moon, breaking the rock off from the surface and flinging it into space. The Chinese National Space Administration has designated 469219 Kamo‘oalewa as the target for a complex mission to collect and return samples from an asteroid. The organization says it plans to launch the mission in 2024, aiming to arrive at the space rock in 2025.

Wisconsin Parade SUV Attack: Animated Reenactment of Incident

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WAUKESHA, WISCONSIN — Thirty-nine year-old Darrell E. Brooks has been charged with five counts of intentional first-degree homicide after he allegedly crashed through barriers and drove his car into spectators and participants at the Waukesha Christmas parade on Sunday. According to The Guardian five people were killed in the incident and another 48 were injured. CNN reports that Brooks had been released on $1,000 bail earlier this month, and the Milwaukee County District Attorney's office said in a statement released Monday that the bail had been set “inappropriately low.” The incident that led to the previous charge also involved Brooks being accused of using a car to cause an injury, according to a criminal complaint cited by CNN.

Chain Reaction Antarctic Ice Sheet Collapse May Have Already Begun

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BONN, GERMANY — The acceleration of Antarctic ice loss in recent decades may already mark the beginning of a “self-sustaining and irreversible period of ice sheet retreat,” according to a study measuring historical ice sheet debris, which has identified patterns behind eight episodes of ice sheet destabilization across recent millennia that could also apply now. The Nature Communications journal study found that in the eight previous episodes, mass Antarctic ice sheet destabilization “switched on” within “only a decade or two,” with bursts of iceberg calving causing the sheet itself to destabilize within only a few years each time, before continuing for many centuries, according to a press release published on Eurekalert. The study also found that sea levels responded to these tipping points accordingly, also rising for several centuries and up to a millennium in some cases. One study co-author, Zoe Thomas, summarized why we should worry: “If it just takes one decade to tip a system like this, that’s actually quite scary, because if the Antarctic Ice Sheet behaves in future like it did in the past, we must be experiencing the tipping right now.”

Harvard Scientists Say Origin of Interstellar Space Rock Still Unknown

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CAMBRIDGE, MASSACHUSETTS — A recent attempt to explain the origins of Oumuamua, the first interstellar object ever detected passing through our Solar System, has been countered by two Harvard astrophysicists, one of whom, Avi Loeb, has famously suggested that it could be a piece of alien technology, according to SciTechDaily. Detected on October 19, 2017, Oumuamua was initially difficult to categorize, before the “nitrogen iceberg” theory of the object emerged and satisfied many scientists. That theory, presented in the AGU Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets, suggested the 45-meter object appears to be made of frozen nitrogen, like the surface of Pluto. Astrophysicists behind it said Oumuamua likely ejected from the surface of a Pluto-like exoplanet during a collision half a billion years ago and, what’s more, this type of collision was common enough to satisfy the statistical likelihood of Oumaumua being detected in our solar system. This origin story would explain Oumuamua’s strange, flat shape, as its outer layers would have been evaporated by cosmic radiation, and it would also explain why, like a comet, Oumuamua sped up erratically as it approached the Sun and sunlight vaporized the ices it is made of. However, SciTechDaily explains that Harvard astrophysicists have cast doubt over this theory because it requires the existence of too many Pluto-like exoplanets. Writing in the New Astronomy journal, they say Oumuamua’s size, plus the number of theoretically similar objects required to make its discovery likely, requires much more nitrogen than is predicted to exist in the universe, according to Live Science. The new paper explains that pure nitrogen is rare — in our solar system it has been found on Triton and Pluto, where it represents around 0.5 percent of the total mass of the dwarf planet, and star systems likely do not contain enough nitrogen ice to allow for such a large population of Pluto-like exoplanets or the theoretically abundant nitrogen ice Oumuamuas they might produce. This counter-position itself is now controversial, though, with one of the authors of the original nitrogen theory, Steven Desch, telling Universe Today that the estimates of the number of likely Oumuamua-equivalents used by the Harvard astrophysicists was too high, and as a result, so was their estimate of the amount of nitrogen required to create them. Desch explained that with a lower estimate of the total number of Oumuamua-equivalents floating around in space used in the original theory, a lower amount of nitrogen is required to exist, and thus so is a more reasonable number of Pluto-like exoplanets. “They are attempting to manufacture controversy when none exists,” he added.

Climate Change is Inflating the Troposphere Like a Balloon

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BOULDER, COLORADO — Scientists have looked at data from weather balloons since 1980 and calculated that the Earth’s troposphere is expanding like a balloon. Here are the details: Scientists recently published a study in the journal Science Advances, showing that the lowest part of Earth’s atmosphere, called the troposphere, is expanding at an increasing rate. The troposphere stretches from sea level up to around 7 kilometers high at the poles, and up to around 20 kilometers at the equator. It is the layer that contains most of the atmosphere’s moisture and heat, so it is where most of Earth’s weather is formed. The researchers say the data shows that this layer has been expanding by 50 meters per decade between 1980 and 2000. However, since 2000 the rate has increased to 53.3 meters per decade. They say the expansion is mainly being caused by global warming, but another contributing factor is the shrinking of the stratosphere, which is the layer above the troposphere. The stratosphere shrank due to new technologies releasing ozone-depleting gases into the air, which in turn depleted the stratosphere, which in turn caused the troposphere to expand. Global legislation managed to limit the release of these gases, but their remnants still affect the stratosphere. The researchers noted: “The study captures two important ways that humans are changing the atmosphere. The height of the tropopause is being increasingly affected by emissions of greenhouse gases, even as society has successfully stabilized conditions in the stratosphere by restricting ozone-destroying chemicals."

Top U.S. General Says China’s hypersonic missile test ‘went around the world’

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WASHINGTON — The Chinese hypersonic missile test “went around the world” this summer, according to the second most senior U.S. general, John Hyten. Speaking to CBS News, the general said the missile “dropped off a hypersonic glide vehicle that glided all the way back to China,” adding weight to the story broken by The Financial Times last month which described the glide vehicle’s ability to travel at five times the speed of sound, the minimum figure to be considered hypersonic. The vehicle missed its target by around 40 kilometers, but General Hyten called this “close enough” to prompt U.S. concern about China’s new technological capability. Behind this concern, USA Today reports that while ballistic missiles reach altitudes of 1,300 to 2,000 kilometers before descending and can be detected by radar systems, hypersonic glide vehicles keep a lower trajectory and can manoeuvre within the atmosphere, making them difficult to detect and destroy. Both types of missile are capable of carrying nuclear warheads, but The Financial Times adds that China’s new missile, which is classified as a “fractional orbital bombardment system,” can also fly over the South Pole, while most U.S. missile defence systems are aimed at attacks over the North Pole.

Kyle Rittenhouse Shootings: Animated Reenactment

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KENOSHA, WISCONSIN — The jury is deliberating in the case of Kyle Rittenhouse, who fatally shot two men and wounded a third during protests in Kenosha, Wisconsin last year. Rittenhouse, then 17, had travelled to Kenosha on Aug. 25, 2020, from Antioch, Illinois as protests marred by looting, arson and rioting gripped the city following the police shooting of a black man, Jacob Blake. Rittenhouse was armed with an AR-15-style rifle and says he went to Kenosha to protect a car dealership. Rittenhouse has pleaded not guilty to five felony counts. He faces life in prison for the most serious charge, first-degree intentional homicide.

Chinese ‘Bacteria-Infected’ Fertilizer Sparks Diplomatic Row

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COLOMBO, SRI LANKA — Sri Lanka stepped into a world of hurt when it rejected a shipment of organic fertilizer from China, saying the Chinese fertilizer contains dangerous bacteria. Here are the details: The BBC reports that Sri Lanka has sparked a diplomatic tussle with China by banning a shipment of Chinese organic fertilizer and ordering the shipment to be returned to China. The tussle started after the Sri Lankan government suddenly banned chemical fertilizers for health reasons in May and allowed only organic fertilizers to be imported. The government later banned the shipment of 20,000 tons of organic fertilizer from Chinese biotech company Qingdao Seawin Bio-tech, saying that testing found dangerous bacteria in the organic fertilizer. The Sri Lankan government also ordered state-owned People's Bank to stop a payment of nine million dollars for the cargo. The Chinese embassy in Sri Lanka responded by blacklisting the bank for not honoring the payment. Meanwhile, the Chinese company rejected the testing authority’s test results and refused to take back the cargo, leaving the ship anchored off the coast of Sri Lanka. Sri Lankan farmers are protesting their government’s handling of the situation, saying the resulting fertilizer shortage will lead to a much reduced harvest. Sri Lankan officials say the Chinese fertilizer contains bacteria that are harmful to certain crops. They insist that since the cargo has implications for the bio-security of the country, it cannot be accepted.

Russian Missile Takes Out Satellite, Endangers International Space Station

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CAPE CANAVERAL, FLORIDA — A Russian anti-satellite missile test blew up one of its own satellites on Monday, November 15, according to the BBC, resulting in 1,500 pieces of trackable orbital debris and causing astronauts on the International Space Station to shelter in capsules for safety. Politico reports that Russia did not warn the U.S. about the test in advance and subsequently the seven-member crew of the ISS, which included three Russian cosmonauts, was instructed to shelter inside the Soyuz and Dragon crew capsules for two hours, according to NASA. The space station is now passing through or near the debris cloud from Cosmos 1408 every 90 minutes, though there is no need to shelter beyond the second and third passes. More broadly, the BBC says space debris is a ‘rapidly worsening situation,’ with roughly a million 1-to-10 centimeter objects floating in uncontrolled orbit of Earth, and Time Magazine pointing out that much of it is moving at over 17,000 miles per hour. Part of the explanation for this is that Russia is not the first country to shoot down a satellite in this way, with India, China and the U.S. also having done so previously.

How Bees ‘Scream’ When Genocidal Murder Hornets Attack

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WELLESLEY, MASSACHUSETTS — Scientists have found that bees can scream in bee language when giant murder hornets attack their nests. Here are the details: In a recent study published on the Royal Society Open Science website, researchers say they found that Asian honeybees have found a way to “scream” when giant murder hornets attack their nests. The study found that the bees have developed a way to create intense vibro-acoustic signals, which are short pulses of vibration and sound frequencies produced by their wings and thoraxes. When a scouting murder hornet comes close to the nest, the bees close to the nest’s entrance would suddenly increase their signalling seven-fold. At the same time, these worker bees also begin making anti-predatory signals, which are harsher and more irregular in their frequencies. Video recordings show the bees make this antipredatory signal by raising their abdomens, buzzing their wings and racing about frantically. In some cases, the signals seem to cause worker bees at the hive’s entrance to go into defense mode, spreading animal dung on the hive to repel predators, or trying to form a ball of bees around the scouting hornet, which heats it to death. The study says these sophisticated defenses require quick reactions from all the bees in the hive, and the frantic and energetic signals from the bees at the entrance seem to be the way the 'call to arms’ is transmitted quickly.

This Week Earth’s Shadow Will Turn The Moon Blood Red

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WASHINGTON — This week the moon will fly through Earth’s shadow and turn blood red for many hours. Here are the details: NASA reports that the longest partial lunar eclipse in 580 years will take place this week. The near-total eclipse will happen between November 18 and 19 while the moon is full and the Earth moves between the moon and the sun, causing the Earth’s shadow to fall on the moon for almost three-and-a-half hours. The shadow will block most of the light from the sun, bathing the moon in a dramatic red color. This dramatic reddening of the moon happens because light from the sun, despite being blocked by Earth, bends around our planet and travels through our atmosphere to reach the moon. Earth's atmosphere filters out shorter, bluer wavelengths of light and allows redder wavelengths through. After these red wavelengths pass through our atmosphere, they continue traveling to the moon, bathing it in red light. The eclipse will be visible from North America and the Pacific Ocean, Alaska, Western Europe, eastern Australia, New Zealand and Japan. To get exact eclipse timings for your location, you can visit websites like timeanddate.com. NASA calls this the eclipse of the Micro Beaver Full Moon. The Micro Beaver Full Moon is so named because it occurs when the moon is at its farthest point from Earth at a time when the beaver-trapping season is about to start.

Ahmaud Arbery Killing: Homeowner Says He Had Not Asked Men to Protect Property

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BRUNSWICK, GEORGIA — The owner of the home Gregory McMichael, his son Travis McMichael and William ‘Roddie’ Bryan Jr. accused Ahmaud Arbery of burgling before he was killed has told a jury in the murder trial that he had not asked the men to protect the property and he had called the police to report various people entering the property in the months before Arbery was killed. The three men, all white, are accused of chasing Arbery, a black man, in vehicles before killing him on February 23, 2020, according to CNN, with Arbery's mother telling CNN's Anderson Cooper Thursday night that her son was “jogging: and “in the midst of his jog” he stopped by an ‘unoccupied home under construction and looked around’ and was “killed immediately.” The three men involved in the killing have pleaded not guilty to charges of malice and felony murder, plus charges of aggravated assault, false imprisonment and criminal attempt to commit false imprisonment. The defence argues that Travis McMichael shot Arbery in self-defense as Arbery and Travis McMichael wrestled over Travis' shotgun, though Reuters reports that while Gregory McMichael bloodied himself as he searched Arbery's body for a weapon, he found none, according to police testimony at the trial.

Scientists Say ‘Cannibal’ Solar Storms Heading Toward Earth

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BOULDER, COLORADO — The sun’s ‘coronal mass ejections’ will increase significantly over the next four years as it ramps up into the next solar cycle maximum in 2025, according to scientists at the Space Weather Prediction Center who spoke to Space.com. and one type in particular could have knock-on consequences for our internet connectivity. Coronal mass ejections are billion-ton clouds of plasma gas with magnetic fields that are ejected by the sun towards the Earth, where they then create geomagnetic storms. However, as their frequency increases, larger CMEs can form when later CMEs ‘catch up’ with those that have been ejected before them and the two merge. One problem with this is that we can only learn a CME's magnetic field when it reaches the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Deep Space Climate Observatory, so its likely effects are not clear until 20 to 30 minutes before it hits Earth and, at that point, in a worst-case scenario, a cannibal solar storm could push the world into an ‘internet apocalypse’ by knocking out satellites,or undersea cables, according to a new research paper from the University of California, Irvine. At the same time, oil and gas pipelines, networking cables and power grids would also be vulnerable to being knocked out.

Kyle Rittenhouse Trial: Prosecution’s Case Enhanced by Details of Eight Shots

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KENOSHA, WISCONSIN — New drone footage and a medical examiner's explanation may have enhanced the case against Kyle Rittenhouse in his homicide trial, according to USA Today. Drone footage suggested that although Joseph Rosenbaum had chased Rittenhouse, he was not as close to him during the chase as previous footage indicated, and the medical examiner suggested Rittenhouse shot Rosenbaum twice before firing a lethal shot into his back as he reached a horizontal position. CNN reports Rittenhouse also shot at three people who confronted him in the aftermath of that shooting on the night of August 25, 2020, during chaotic protests following the police shooting of Jacob Blake. He fired two shots at one unidentified person and killed Anthony Huber with another shot after Huber had hit him with a skateboard, and finally he shot off most of Gaige Grosskreutz’s right bicep after Grosskreutz had briefly raised his hands to surrender, before moving toward Rittenhouse with his own gun pointed at him. The prosecution rested on Tuesday, November 9, and the defense opened its case, arguing that Rittenhouse, now 18, fired only in self-defense.

Asteroid the Size of the Eiffel Tower Coming Toward Earth in December

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HOUSTON — A 330-meter-wide asteroid, around the size of the Eiffel Tower, is heading towards Earth, and is expected to pass us by on December 11, 2021. The asteroid, known as 4660 Nereus[j], is calculated to be passing about 2.4 million miles away from Earth, however The Scotsman explains that because its diameter is wider than 140 meters and it will approach Earth at less than half the distance from the Earth to the sun, it is classified as “potentially hazardous,” which means only a relatively slight deviation in its massive orbit could place it on a collision course with Earth and that that could cause “major regional damage.” An unlikely chance of a collision, however, is actually more likely in 2060, when 4660 Nereus will pass within just 745,000 miles of Earth on Valentine’s Day.

Travis Scott Astroworld Crowd Crush: Animated Reenactment

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HOUSTON — At least eight people were killed and dozens injured in a crowd crush at a Travis Scott concert at the Astroworld Festival in Houston, according to CNN. The incident occured on Friday night, November 5, and witnesses said people began being compressed against one another when a countdown timer appeared 30 minutes before Scott began to perform. With around 50,000 people in the crowd, the pressure got worse and worse as the timer counted down, according to one witness who was eventually crowd-surfed to safety having passed out. According to CNN, several witnesses noted a lack of medical personnel at the site as many people lost consciousness and some members of the crowd attempted to perform CPR themselves. While questions remain over why the show was not immediately stopped, witnesses cited by CNN say that for his part Travis Scott did pause the show several times. Meanwhile, crowd safety expert Paul Wertheimer described how crushes like these occur when people in a crowd are forced to compete against each other for the best location or best area to be. “The crowd was allowed to get too dense and was not managed properly,” he said, according to The Los Angeles Times. “The fans were the victims of an environment in which they could not control.”

Huge, Alien-Looking Spiders Invading the U.S.

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WINTERVILLE, GEORGIA — People in northern Georgia are freaking out because their yards are being taken over by huge alien spiders that are covering everything in thick clouds of spider web. Here are the details: The Guardian reports that northern Georgia is suffering from an infestation of giant invasive spiders called Joro spiders. Going by the scientific name Trichonephila clavata, these spiders are having a very visible effect on the people of the region, as they spin dense clouds of spiderweb that can be as deep as 3 meters. The invasive species was first spotted in Georgia in 2014, but this year their numbers have exploded and people are finding their yards covered in dense clouds of spiderweb. It doesn’t help that these large and spooky webs also contain multiple large spiders that, when fully grown, can each easily cover a large man’s hand. Joro spiders are common in Japan, China, Korea and Taiwan. It is unclear how they made their way to the U.S. Researchers say the particular abundance of the spiders this year could have been caused by changes in weather. Will Hudson, an entomologist at the University of Georgia, said that he had killed more than 300 of the spiders, as they made his porch unusable by covering it with clouds of spider web. “The webs are a real mess,” Hudson said. “Nobody wants to come out of the door in the morning, walk down the steps and get a face full of spiderweb.”

China Potentially Building More Nuclear Missile Silos Than Thought

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YUMEN, CHINA — The scale and speed of construction at possible missile silo fields in China suggests its government is putting significant resources into developing its nuclear capabilities, with a new Federation of American Scientists report increasing an estimate of the total number of new silos being built from the 229 described in a previous report to 300. The new report is careful to state that it is not certain what is in the silos, but says there is “increased confidence” that they are related to the People’s Liberation Army Rocket Force’s modernization program and, based on commercially available satellite images, it describes significant progress on construction since the earlier report in July. It also describes how China appears to be experimenting with different types of shelters at the three silo field sites near Yumen, Hami and Ordos in north-central China, before concluding that although China is currently still far behind the U.S. and Russia’s total nuclear arsenal, the new silos could see China’s total intercontinental ballistic missile force exceed that of either Russia and the United States in the foreseeable future.

Recreating Dune: How We Can Live on Mars

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LONDON — The success of the new Dune movie has people speculating about whether humans changing Mars’s surface and atmosphere to be more like Earth’s, known as terraforming, is possible and, according to the BBC, the primary issue is creating a breathable atmosphere to match Earth’s, where currently plants and bacteria give out oxygen through photosynthesis. For Earth, large-scale oxygenation initially occurred 2.3 billion years ago, when bacteria began releasing oxygen as waste, according to the Nature Communications journal, but the BBC explains the difficulty in artificially introducing bacteria to do the same on Mars is that water which could be used for photosynthesis is currently frozen. One solution to that problem could be building automated factories on Mars that produce greenhouse gases which warm up the planet and melt the ice.” However, any additional atmosphere that was generated would still have to deal with an additional problem called ‘spallation,’ where high energy radiation from the sun blasts away a planet’s atmosphere, a process which already afflicted Mars 3.5 billion years ago. One researcher who spoke to the BBC suggested that once an active biosphere is established on Mars, oxygen production may be able to match losses from spallation. But in 2017 NASA scientists at NASA’s Planetary Science Vision 2050 Workshop suggested creating an artificial magnetic field that sits in front of the planet in order to protect it from the sun’s radiation. The idea is that a structure that generates a magnetic dipole field at the Mars L1 Lagrange Point could allow the Martian atmosphere to become thick enough to melt ice at Mars’ northern pole and, in time, spark a greenhouse gas effect that could restore some of Mars’ oceans.

Satellites Show Greenland Meltdown is Causing Seas to Rise

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LEEDS, U.K. — Scientists published a new study in the journal Nature Communications, in which they show that Greenland’s ice sheet is melting at such a fast pace that it’s heightening worldwide flood risks. The study, which was published on Monday, November 1, found that the Greenland ice sheet has lost more than 3.5 trillion tons of ice over the past decade, which increased global sea levels by one centimeter. This one ice sheet contains enough ice to raise global sea levels by 6 meters, or 20 feet, and it has been experiencing an increasing number of extreme melting events over the past 40 years. The new research is the first to use satellite data to detect Greenland ice sheet runoff. The satellite images showed significant annual variation in ice melt and showed that heat waves were increasingly a major cause of ice loss — above and beyond global temperature increases. In 2012 alone, for example, when changes in atmospheric patterns caused unusually warm air to hover over the ice sheet for weeks, 527 billion tonnes of ice was lost. Lead author of the study, Thomas Slater of the University of Leeds, said: “As our climate warms, it’s reasonable to expect that the instances of extreme melting in Greenland will happen more often.”

Nigeria Building Collapse: Building Had Six Extra Floors

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LAGOS, NIGERIA — Rescuers are searching for survivors after a building collapsed in Lagos, Nigeria, on Monday, and its owner has been arrested on undisclosed charges. The Associated Press reports the building was under construction at the time of the collapse but dozens of people were inside, including construction workers, and as of Tuesday, November 3, 14 had been found killed. However, officials said the building’s developers had added six floors to plans originally allowed under their building permit and there is speculation the additional weight could have caused the collapse. One civil servant in a nearby building described looking through the window, only to see the building collapsing “floor after floor,” according to CNN. One construction worker told the BBC he and 15 others escaped the collapse, but as many people were still trapped on Tuesday the Associated Press reported crowds of angry people accusing authorities of being slow to start rescue efforts. The general manager of the Lagos State Building Control Agency told the News Agency of Nigeria that as well as having approval for 15 floors and building 21, the materials used were ‘inferior’ and ‘terrible.’ However, hours after making these comments, The Associated Press reports that the general manager was suspended indefinitely.

Tokyo Knife Attacker Says His Aim Was to Get Executed

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TOKYO — The Associated Press reports that a 24-year-old Japanese man stabbed multiple people on a Tokyo subway train on Halloween, Sunday, October 31. Police said 17 people were injured, but most of these injuries were caused when people fled the scene. The man stabbed several people, including a man in his seventies, before setting fire to some of the train carriage’s seats with lighter fluid. The suspect was arrested at the scene. Although no one died at the scene of the attack, at least three people were hospitalized with serious injuries, including the elderly victim, who was stabbed in the chest. The suspect told police he wanted to kill at least two people so that he could be sentenced to death. Earlier reports indicated that the attacker was dressed like the Joker from the Batman movies, but photos showed that he was simply clothed in slightly colorful clothes and had no facial makeup that resembled the Joker’s extravagant makeup.

How Facebook’s Super-Immersive New ‘Metaverse’ Will Look

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SAN MATEO, CALIFORNIA — Facebook is betting big on creating a future where you can simply don a virtual reality device and step into a 3D world filled with 3D versions of real people. Here are the details: The Guardian reports that Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced on Thursday, October 28 that the company is rebranding as Meta. He also announced that the company will now be spending billions on creating a so-called “metaverse.” With “metaverse” company officials say they mean a digital world that will be much more immersive than before, and will feature many more virtual reality, or VR, elements. For instance, instead of current interaction with others via written comments discussing posted 2D videos and photos, Meta’s vision would be for users to use VR headsets and other technologies to create the experience of stepping into a 3D world where they can interact verbally and visually with 3D representations of other users. Meta officials say the metaverse would be a series of interlinked worlds, where a user moves seamlessly from Facebook’s world to Apple’s or Google’s, or a computer game’s world. Meta said it was creating 10,000 new jobs in the European Union as part of growth plans that include building a metaverse. Only time will tell if people will embrace Facebook’s new name and project. In the wake of the Frances Haugen revelations, the company is currently struggling with an image of fueling political polarization and being bad for democracy as well as its users’ privacy, security and mental health.

Two Trains Crash Into Each Other After Derailment in England

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SAILSBURY, U.K. — Two trains have collided in Salisbury, England, on Sunday, October 31 after the first hit an object and derailed, according to the BBC, with a Network Rail spokesperson cited by the Press Association explaining that the 1708[i] Great Western Railway service from Portsmouth Harbour to Bristol Temple Meads hit the object inside a tunnel as it approached Salisbury station at around 6:46 p.m. The derailment then knocked out signalling in the area as the 1720 [j]South Western Railway service from London Waterloo to Honiton approached the tunnel. ] From there, one local resident said they heard ‘no screeching like brakes, just a long rumbling sound like thunder hitting the railway line, and one woman on the second train said she was “thrown against the wall and there was a massive rumbling,” as it collided with the first train, injuring 17 people and initially trapping one of the train’s drivers in their train.

Antidepressant May Reduce Severe COVID-19 Symptoms

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ST.LOUIS COUNTY, MISSOURI — “The antidepressant fluvoxamine, sold under the brand name Luvox, could reduce risk of severe COVID-19 symptoms by almost a third in high risk patients, according to a new study in The Lancet Global Health journal which gave around 1,500 volunteers with COVID-19 100 milligrams of the drug twice a day for 10 days. According to one study author cited by CNN, the drug targets two dangerous immune responses prompted by COVID-19 infections: the production of inflammatory molecules called cytokines and the production of blood platelets, both of which account for some of the most serious COVID symptoms. Cytokines are small proteins produced by the body’s immune cells after coronavirus infects the lungs, according to pharmaceutical company Incyte. They bind to receptors on cells, signalling for those cells to adjust how they grow or behave in order to direct an immune response against a pathogen, including causing inflammation. The problem cytokines can cause is that as part of an immune response they attract additional immune cells, which in turn produce additional cytokines. If too many cytokines are produced, they can overwhelm the body and create what is known as a ‘cytokine storm,’ according to Live Science. Cytokine storms in COVID infections can cause excessive inflation which damages lung cells, scar tissue can form that prevents oxygen from passing into the bloodstream, and weakened blood vessels can allow fluid to fill up lung cavities, which causes respiratory failure. Fluvoxamine may reduce this production of cytokines, according one of the professors from The Lancet study, cited by CNN, and it may also reduce levels of blood platelets. Blood platelets circulate within our blood, binding together when they recognize damaged blood vessels, and the U.S. National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute says COVID-19 infections make them more prone to forming potentially deadly blood clots. In the Lancet study, 741 volunteers with COVID-19 received fluvoxamine, while 756 volunteers got a placebo. Just 11 percent of those given fluvoxamine needed hospital treatment, versus almost 16 percent given placebos.

U.S. Says Iran Directed Drone Strike Against U.S. Force

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WASHINGTON — U.S. officials say Iran was behind the kamikaze drone strikes against U.S. forces in Syria last week. Here are the details: The Associated Press reports that U.S. officials said on Monday, October 25 that they believe Iran was behind the drone attack on the al-Tanf military outpost in Syria where U.S. troops are based. The drone attack happened on Wednesday, October 20, and U.S. officials say the drones were Iranian and Iran appears to have facilitated their use. Officials said they believe the attacks involved as many as five kamikaze drones laden with explosive charges, and that they hit both the U.S. side of al-Tanf garrison and the side where Syrian opposition forces stay. The proliferation of these crude kamikaze drones is part of Iran’s regional strategy. The country supports proxies, such as the Houthis in Yemen and Hezbollah in Lebanon, with weapons platforms, says David Schenker, a senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. Often, drones are shipped in parts from Iran and assembled in Gaza, Syria, Iraq and Yemen. There were no reported injuries or deaths as a result of the attack. U.S. and coalition troops are based at al-Tanf to train Syrian forces on patrols to counter Islamic State militants. The base is located on a road that serves as a vital link for Iranian-backed forces from Tehran all the way to southern Lebanon and Israel.

We Have Eight Years to Halve Emissions or Face Catastrophe

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NEW YORK CITY — Current international plans to cut carbon emissions will not stop the planet’s temperature rising above the 1.5 degree Celsius target before the end of this century, according to the U.N. Emissions Gap report, which says Earth will hit 2.7 degrees of warming unless humanity changes course drastically. The report says to keep global warming below 1.5 degrees this century the world must halve annual greenhouse gas emissions in the next eight years. The BBC explains that as things stand around 50 countries have pledged to hit ‘net zero,’ balancing the amount of greenhouse gas produced and the amount removed from the atmosphere, by 2050, and this could reduce projected temperature rises by 0.5 degrees, to 2.2 degrees, by the end of 2100. However, this level of warming would still see “dramatic and deadly impacts”, and the report suggests two further problems with even those seemingly ambitious targets: First, the plans are quite vague, particularly in the world’s 20 richest countries. And second, many of the plans postpone significant emissions cuts until after 2030, which makes it extremely difficult to imagine them delivering net zero just 20 years later. The report does contain recommendations about how emissions could be rapidly reduced, including explaining how methane emissions, the second-largest source of warming, could be curbed at low or no cost. However, it is critical of COVID stimulus packages, finding that only around 20 percent of recovery investments will support renewables and the green economy.

China Hints it Stuck Time Bombs on U.S. Satellites

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HONG KONG — China has developed a space weapon that can creep into the tailpipes of enemy satellites, where it would grab on and hide, waiting for the right time to blow up. Here are the details: The South China Morning Post reports that Chinese scientists say they’ve created a space weapon that attaches itself to the inside of an enemy satellite’s booster exhaust cone. The scientists published their weapon research in the Chinese journal Electronic Technology & Software Engineering in September. They say that the weapon is designed to fit snugly in the exhaust cones of the gas boosters that move satellites around. The device weighs only 3.5 kilograms and — once it has entered the exhaust cone — would use an electric motor to extend a thin probe that can pass through the narrowest part of the booster. Once inside the booster chamber, the probe would expand to keep the device firmly attached and hidden inside the exhaust cone. The device can then wait for a long time before it detonates a special melt-cast explosive that burns slowly, simulating an engine malfunction and severely damaging the satellite. The scientists say the probe’s attachment sequence can also be reversed to release the weapon from the target. The South China Morning Post says the U.S. military has already voiced concerns about China’s Shijian-17, an experimental probe with a robotic arm that has conducted some unusual maneuvers since its launch in 2016.

Russia and China Encircle Japan in Provocative Move

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TSUGARU STRAIT — A joint naval exercise between China and Russia has completed a near full circle of Japan, reinforcing tensions in the region, according to CNN. The Chinese warships included a Type 055 destroyer[h], a Type 052D destroyer[i] and two Type 054A frigates[j], while the Russian ships included two Udaloy class destroyers, two Steregushchiy class corvettes and a Marshal Nedelin class ship, according to The Drive. The exercises have brought the charge of hypocrisy because China regularly condemns similar exercises by the U.S. in the Taiwan Strait as destabilizing. Two weeks ago, for instance, the Chinese military's Eastern Theater Command suggested a U.S. and Canadian transit could ‘seriously jeopardize peace and stability’ in the strait, according to CNN. Both those ships and now the Chinese and Russian vessels remained in international waters, but notably the Chinese and Russian ships took a route through the Tsugaru Strait, which is only around 12 miles wide at its narrowest point. That places them well within the area that can be claimed by a country under international law, albeit Japan only actually claims areas three miles from either shore.

The Baldwin Shooting: How Blanks Can Kill You

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SANTA FE, NEW MEXICO — Actor Alec Baldwin recently fired a gun loaded with blank cartridges on a movie set, killing one and injuring another. Here are the ways in which blank cartridges can kill you: The BBC reports that actor Alec Baldwin fired a dummy gun on a film set on Thursday, October 21, killing the director of photography and injuring the director. Initial reports indicate that this was an accident caused by an improperly loaded prop gun. The most famous death caused by a prop gun was that of actor Brandon Lee, who was killed while filming a scene in which his co-star fired a blank cartridge at him. The film crew had made a mistake by not double-checking the gun’s barrel before loading it with a blank cartridge. If they had checked, they would have found that the tip of a dummy bullet had broken off and was still stuck in the barrel of the gun. A dummy bullet is a fake cartridge that is used to simulate a real bullet during filming. When Lee’s co-star fired the gun at him, the exploding gases of the blank cartridge propelled the forgotten fragment of the dummy bullet forward, hitting Lee and lodging in his spine. Another way in which blank cartridges can kill is if the gun is held too close to a person when it is fired, resulting in the force of the escaping gases breaking off a piece of skull or bone and pushing that fragment into a vital organ. It’s also possible that a fragment of the blank cartridge’s metal casing can break off and exit the gun’s muzzle at high velocity. The paper or wax that keeps the gunpowder in place will also shoot out at high velocity. Another risk is that residue from previous blank cartridges can build up in the gun’s barrel. If the gun is not cleaned properly, this residue can build up to a significant size, causing the gas explosion to become more violent and propelling the hard residue at fatal velocities. The bottom line is that one should never shoot a blank cartridge from a short distance, and never aim at someone’s eyes or head.

Historic Solar Storm Proves Vikings Beat Columbus

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L'ANSE AUX MEADOWS, CANADA — A massive solar storm in the year has helped prove the Vikings had crossed the Atlantic Ocean and settled in Canada by A.D. 1021, according to a study in the journal Nature. Scientists already knew the solar storm occurred between A.D. 992 and 993 and were able to use a technique that measures increases in atmospheric radiocarbon concentration to correlate its impact on trees at the L'Anse aux Meadows [d]site, on Newfoundland's northern peninsula, with later Viking activity. The study reanalysed wood excavated from the site in the 1960s, which had been cut using metal Viking tools otherwise unknown in North America at that point. It found distinctive marks in the tree rings from the solar storm, plus 28 annual growth rings formed after those marks. Adding 28 years to A.D. 993 showed Vikings had to have been cutting those trees in the year A.D. 1021, which means they arrived in the Americas 471 years before Christopher Columbus, according to The Guardian. Having established a presence in Iceland and Greenland before arriving at the L'Anse aux Meadows site, the Vikings likely travelled west to gather new raw materials, most notably wood, according to the study’s lead author.

Scientists Find How Dire Wolves and Saber-Tooth Cats Hunted

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LOS ANGELES — Scientists examined signs of trauma in thousands of dire wolf and saber-tooth cat bones to better understand how these Ice Age beasts hunted and killed their prey. Researchers at UCLA, in collaboration with the La Brea Tar Pits, analyzed roughly 35,000 bones for the study, which was published in the journal Nature Ecology and Evolution.