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Sunday, 19 September 2021

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Climate Change Pushing North Atlantic Jet Stream Northward

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TUCSON, ARIZONA — Scientists found that Earth’s northernmost jet stream is in trouble. They say that if this weather-controlling air current migrates northward, the U.S. and Europe are in for centuries of nasty weather. Here are the details: In a new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, scientists warn that the planet’s northernmost wind channel, called the North Atlantic jet stream, will start migrating northward if the Earth keeps warming up. This would impact North America and Europe in the form of more severe flooding, droughts and heatwaves. The jet stream is a band of fast-moving air that is created by the difference in pressure between cold Arctic air and warmer air to the south. It is also known for giving airliner jets a time-saving boost when they travel from the U.S. to Europe. The study’s researchers bored deep holes in the Greenland ice sheet and looked at the way snow layers had been deposited over the last 1,250 years. From this they calculated the past positions and intensity of the powerful air current. They say that while the current fluctuations in the jet stream’s position and intensity are still within historic bounds, their calculations indicate that the weather-controlling air current would migrate northward by 2060, if greenhouse emissions continue at the current pace. The study found that in 1374 the jet stream moved northward and caused a drought and famine in Spain and Portugal. When the jet stream’s wind intensity decreased by 50 percent in 1728 and 1740, it led to cooler temperatures and less rain, causing famines in Ireland and Britain.

U.S. Hands Nuclear-Powered Submarines to Australia

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WASHINGTON — The U.K., U.S. and Australia have announced a security pact aimed at confronting China, whereby Australia will be provided with the technology to build nuclear-powered submarines for the first time, according to the BBC. Australia says it will abide by the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty in not pursuing nuclear weapons, but the move could still ‘indirectly spur the proliferation of nuclear weapons’ because of the technology it involves and the precedents it sets, according to The Guardian. The pact, known as AUKUS, which also covers artificial intelligence, quantum technologies and cyberwarfare, is designed as a response to China's military buildup in the Indo-Pacific, according to the BBC.

North Korea Test-Fires New ‘Nuclear-Capable’ Ballistic Missiles

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PYONGYANG, NORTH KOREA — North Korea has successfully tested a new long range, ground-launched cruise missile which may be its first of this kind to have nuclear capabilities, according to the country’s state media outlet KCNA, cited by The Drive. Described as ‘a strategic weapon of great significance,’ the use of the word ‘strategic’ is often interpreted as a euphemism for nuclear capabilities, according to a senior fellow at the U.S.-based Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, who spoke to Reuters. The missile flew 930 miles or 1,500 kilometers with a flying time of 126 minutes, according to the KCNA. However, it flew in oval and figure-of-eight flight orbits, so it actually came down inside North Korean territorial waters. The Drives notes that in any conflict scenario cruise missiles could be used to saturate an enemy’s defenses, with large numbers of attacking from different directions and their flatter trajectories making them hard to pick up. It remains unclear if North Korea can build nuclear warheads small enough to be harnessed on a cruise missile, but Reuters reports that leader Kim Jong Un said developing smaller bombs is a top goal earlier this year.

The ‘Flying Bum’ Airship Gets a Cool Job

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BEDFORD, U.K. — Futurism reports that a giant airship called the Airlander has been selected to take tourists on luxury air cruises over the North Pole. The tour company that plans to operate the cruises, OceanSky Cruises, recently announced that the Airlander 10, built by Hybrid Air Vehicles, will be the aircraft serving the route. The tour company says the Airlander 10 is unlike any other aircraft, being the world’s largest flying vehicle and using innovative technology to combine the best characteristics of fixed-wing airplanes, helicopters and static lift by helium. The company says this combination creates a new breed of hyper-efficient aircraft with abilities to explore the Arctic in a completely new way. The Airlander 10 had previously gone viral on social media when it was nick-named “The Flying Bum” because of how it looks. However, it looks like “The Flying Bum” will have the last laugh, as its low speed and high versatility makes it perfect for hosting tourists in spacious luxury, while cruising slowly over scenic landscapes and wildlife.

Science’s ‘Most Important Tool’ Finally Ready to Launch

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WASHINGTON — The James Webb Space Telescope is finally ready to launch after NASA spent billions of dollars to fix the design of its giant sun shield’s deployment mechanism. Now everyone’s holding fingers crossed that the $10 billion telescope won’t become the most expensive dud, ever. Here are the details: The Guardian reports that NASA will finally launch the $10 billion James Webb telescope on December 18. This will be the largest, most powerful and most complex telescope ever placed in space. After many years of postponements, the telescope is now finally cleared for take-off on a European Space Agency Ariane rocket from Kourou in French Guiana. Once in space, the telescope will take around a month to get to its final position, where it will orbit the sun at around 1,5 kilometers from Earth. The launch of this very expensive telescope had been postponed quite a few times. Work on it began back in 1996 and the plan was to launch it in 2007. The original price estimate was only $500 million, which is only 5 percent of the current price tag of $10 billion. The telescope will feature a 6.5-meter mirror and a sun shield that will unfurl to the size of a tennis court once in space. This massive sun shield has to fit into a tiny cargo bay, and solving the engineering problems of getting such a huge surface to unfurl successfully caused long delays and a ballooning budget. Scientists are now hoping that the sun shield will be able to unfurl perfectly when it is 1.5 million kilometers away from Earth. Otherwise the $10 billion dollar James Webb telescope might become the most expensive “oopsie” in history.

Scientists Resurrecting Woolly Mammoth to Fix Climate Change

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CAMBRIDGE, MASSACHUSETTS — Geneticists led by Harvard Medical School's George Church are seeking to bring the woolly mammoth back to life 4,000 years after its extinction, and have secured $15 million of investment, according to CNN. Supporters of the idea believe their return to the Arctic could help recreate a grazing ecosystem, trampling down and compacting snow, which makes it less likely to melt and release methane and carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, according to the BBC. Supporters also speculate that because ‘mammoths are like walking bulldozers’ they could be used to level forests and shrublands that have sprung up in the Arctic, which would mean sunlight-reflecting snow remains in those areas longer.

Earth’s Core is Growing Lopsided

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BERKELEY, CALIFORNIA — Earth’s inner core grows 1 millimeter in radius per year, but its east side, beneath Indonesia, is growing faster than its west, beneath Brazil, because it is cooling at a faster rate, causing more iron crystals to form, according to a study in Nature Geoscience. Because of lower temperatures around the east side, iron crystals form more quickly. However, Earth’s spherical shape is maintained by constant spinning and the force of gravity, which redistribute the extra mass evenly, according to Popular Mechanics.

World’s Largest Carbon-Sucking Machine Switched On for First Time

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HELLISHEIDI, ICELAND — The world’s largest carbon capture plant has opened in Iceland and its manufacturers say it will capture 4,000 tons of carbon dioxide from the air per year. Its fans draw air towards a filter which carbon dioxide particles stick to. Once enough particles are captured, the temperature inside is raised, which releases the carbon dioxide from the filter, so the now highly concentrated gas can be collected. The carbon dioxide is then mixed with water and injected deep into the ground, where it can be stored safely, without affecting the Earth’s climate.

The Five Most Insane Scientific Studies of the Year

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CAMBRIDGE , MASSACHUSETTS — The 2021 Ig Nobel awards, rewarding ‘research that first makes people laugh and then makes them think,’ has seen 10 Ig Nobel prizes handed out, including one to a study suggesting men evolved beards to protect their faces in fist fights. According to The Guardian, other notable winners were a study that emphasised the benefits of transporting rhinoceroses upside down, and a study that detailed the array of bacteria living on chewing gum stuck to pavements. The Ig Nobel for chemistry went to a group who studied the smells released by cinema audiences and found that they change depending on the type of movie, with isoprene levels varying massively during scary movies.

Walmart Billionaire to Build $400 Billion City in Desert

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UNITED STATES — Walmart billionaire Marc Lore has launched a jaw-dropping project to build a $400 billion utopian city in the middle of the American desert. Here are the details: CNN reports that recently retired Walmart billionaire, Marc Lore, announced plans to build a brand new super city in the middle of the American desert for $400 billion. Lore said the plan is to construct a utopian city that will be very clean and green, built around the dream of social equality. Famous architect house Bjarke Ingels Group has been hired to design the city, which Lore has named Telosa. Renderings of the plan show nature-friendly architecture covered in foliage, and people playing in large parks that criss-cross the city. The plans also show many green technologies built into the city. Lore says his team will be meeting very soon with state officials in one of the U.S.’ less populated regions, with the aim of receiving the city’s first residents by 2030. The project’s first phase aims to build enough infrastructure for 50,000 people on 1,500 acres for an estimated cost of $25 billion. The whole city would eventually house 5 million people within 40 years. Lore said the aim is to create a more equitable city from the ground up, where all citizens would “participate in the decision-making and budgeting process.” This plan to build a revolutionary new city in the desert echoes that of Mike Reynolds, who after many years of struggling with local authorities was granted the right to build nature-friendly buildings called Earthships in an area of New Mexico. Over the years, Reynolds’ community has built dozens of Earthships, which require no external water, electricity, or sewage connections and thus save the inhabitants thousands of dollars in municipal fees per year.

Russia Testing Doomsday Torpedo, Nuclear-Powered Missile

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MOSCOW — A cruise missile with a nuclear warhead at the front and a nuclear engine at the rear. Plus, a massive underwater drone designed to cause radioactive tsunamis. These are just two of the new weapons that Russia is testing right now. Here are the details: CNN reports satellite images show Russia seems to be preparing to test fire another one of its nuclear-powered cruise missiles. This comes just months after CNN reported on Russia’s testing of a doomsday drone that’s designed to cause massive tsunamis filled with radioactive material. The nuclear-powered missiles, code-named Skyfall, are around eight meters long and feature nuclear engines which allow them to fly incredibly long distances. Russia claims the missile can take any route to its target, and the U.S. says it’s designed specifically to get around U.S. air defences. In April, CNN reported on Russian tests of its new Poseidon 2M39 drone torpedo. Unlike conventional torpedoes, Russia says this behemoth can snoop around enemy defenses to sneak up to enemy coastal cities. Once in position, the huge device would set off its massive nuclear warhead to create large tsunami-like waves, inundating cities and large areas of coastal land with radioactive particles, making the land uninhabitable for decades. The new torpedo and missile are part of Russia’s drive to modernize its strategic nuclear arsenal. Alongside its development of these terrifying weapons, Russia is also building up its forces on its long northern border. Analysts say Moscow is preparing to dominate the Arctic Ocean as the waterway becomes more accessible because of thinning ice caused by global warming.

Man Who Killed Pluto Says Evidence for Replacement Ninth Planet Increasing

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PASADENA, CALIFORNIA — Evidence of the existence of a ninth planet in our solar system is unlikely to be a fluke, according to a pre-print of a California Institute of Technology study co-authored by Michael Brown, the astronomer who led the campaign that saw Pluto demoted from planet to dwarf planet. Planet Nine, which is theorized to be many times the size of Earth, and would orbit the sun far beyond Neptune, was originally conceived of due to the unusual positioning of a number of icy asteroids and cometary cores in the Kuiper belt, according to NBC News. There has been recent pushback against the idea, with some suggesting that ‘observation bias’ meant overrating the significance of the cluster. However, the new study, which takes into account a greater number of object observations, calculates just a 0.4 percent chance that the unusual clustering is a fluke.

China Plans to Build Kilometer-Long Ships in Space

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HONG KONG — China plans to build massive space structures that could be more than a mile long and spaceships that would dwarf SpaceX’s giant Starship. And it plans to manufacture these giant structures piece by piece — in Earth orbit. Here are the details: The South China Morning Post reports that a Chinese government research body, the National Natural Science Foundation of China, has published a five-year plan to research the best way to build massive structures in space. The plan is to build spacecraft that could be as massive as a kilometer long in space, after launching the building materials into orbit. Other research targets include the building of giant space telescopes in space, and giant power plants that would be added to in modular fashion, creating megastructures hanging in Earth orbit. The biggest space object ever built by humans is the International Space Station. China’s plan is to build space objects that would be 10 times longer than the 109 meters of the International Space Station. China’s National Natural Science Foundation published the plan after researchers at the Chinese Academy of Sciences warned that space technology is developing rapidly and this means that new methods need to be found to launch, deploy and manufacture spacecraft. Analysts theorize that in-space construction could also improve spacecraft performance and reduce operating costs. China has recently been grabbing headlines by announcing big space projects that fire the imagination. But critics say these research projects are mostly aimed at creating propaganda headlines, while the resulting technology itself would be virtually impossible to deliver.

Supervolcanoes Can Erupt More Often Than We Thought

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SUMATRA, INDONESIA — Supervolcanoes stay active and dangerous even in the period after supereruptions, according to a new study in the journal Communications Earth & Environment. The largest eruptions at these sites, known as supereruptions, are capable of causing mass death on a global scale, according to The Independent, but the new research centers on the idea of what happens after those largest eruptions, to help understand when catastrophe might strike in the future. Feldspar and zircon mineral records from Mount Toba in Indonesia showed that magma had continued to ooze out within that supervolcano’s caldera for 5,000 to 13,000 years after its supereruption 74,000 years ago, according to the study’s lead author, cited by SciTechDaily. This post-supereruption ‘oozing’ means that eruptions can occur even when no liquid magma is found underneath a volcano, which means the volcanoes still present hazards even after their largest eruptions, and also adds to our understanding of how supervolcanoes develop over time.

Supervolcanoes Can Erupt More Often Than We Thought - But That Means Something Quite Specific

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SUMATRA, INDONESIA — Supervolcanoes stay active and dangerous even in the period after supereruptions, according to a new study in the journal Communications Earth & Environment. The largest eruptions at these sites, known as supereruptions, are capable of causing mass death on a global scale, according to The Independent, but the new research centers on the idea of what happens after those largest eruptions, to help understand when catastrophe might strike in the future. Feldspar and zircon mineral records from Mount Toba in Indonesia showed that magma had continued to ooze out within that supervolcano’s caldera for 5,000 to 13,000 years after its supereruption 74,000 years ago, according to the study’s lead author, cited by SciTechDaily. This post-supereruption ‘oozing’ means that eruptions can occur even when no liquid magma is found underneath a volcano, which means the volcanoes still present hazards even after their largest eruptions, and also adds to our understanding of how supervolcanoes develop over time.

Solar Storm Could Kill Global Internet for Months — Study

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IRVINE, CALIFORNIA — In 1859 a massive solar storm hit the Earth, turning the night sky into an eerily beautiful version of daytime. But the storm also caused significant damage to Earth’s primitive communication system of the time, the telegraph system. If such a powerful magnetic wave were to hit the Earth today, our highly sensitive communication systems would crash and burn. A new study now says the global internet would be the hardest to fix, and could be knocked out for months on end. Here are the details: Wired Magazine reports that a new study shows that the internet could be knocked out for many months if a massive solar storm hits the planet again, like it did in 1859 and 1921. Researchers looked at the infrastructure required to keep the world’s internet running, and found that undersea internet cables would be most at risk. While the optical fibers inside these cables can’t be damaged by magnetized solar particles, their electronic repeaters can get permanently fried. These electrical devices are placed between 50 and 150 kilometers apart, and they have the very important function of boosting the signal before it fades inside the cables. The study found that, while regional internet grids could be fixed quickly, international internet connections could be knocked out for weeks because it would take a long time to replace hundreds of repeaters situated at the bottom of the ocean. The study was done by assistant professor Sangeetha Abdu Jyothi from the University of California, who said the issue needs to be studied more deeply, as little is known about how solar storms would affect power systems under the ocean. Abdu Jyothi added that undersea cables near the Earth’s poles would be affected more severely by solar storms, while cables near the equator would be less affected.

Climate Change in Arctic Leads to More Extreme Cold Weather Events

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AUSTIN, TEXAS — Accelerating Arctic warming as a part of global warming is likely responsible for severe winter weather like powerful snowfalls and abnormal cold spells in the northern hemisphere, according to a new study. The study, in the journal Science, explains the influence of climate change on the Arctic increases the likelihood of winds above the North Pole being stretched, which in turn makes extreme cold weather events in the U.S. and elsewhere more likely.

New ‘Grand Canyon’ And Meteor Craters Found Under Ice Sheet

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GREENLAND — In recent years, scientists have used advanced technologies like airborne radar to see how Greenland looks under its three-kilometer deep ice sheet. They found that the world’s largest island is hiding quite a few fascinating surprises. Here are the details: Live Science reports that recent scientific studies have found a number of fascinating phenomena hidden under the three-kilometer deep ice sheet that covers Greenland. One of these hidden phenomena is a huge canyon that’s almost as big as the Grand Canyon. Stretching for 740 kilometers, this hidden canyon is up to 10 kilometers wide and up to 800 meters deep in places. Another study found a massive plain in the middle of Greenland that lies below sea level. This strange depression is probably caused by the weight of the ice sheet, and it’s surrounded by a ring of hidden mountain ranges. Scientists were also thrilled to find evidence of a huge, ancient lakebed that is now filled with a treasure trove of sample-containing sediment that scientists would love to access one day. Researchers also found evidence of at least 60 small lakes deep below the ice. These are filled with crystal-clear water that melted off the ice above. Scientists also found data pointing to at least two large meteor craters under the ice. And when an old ice-core sample was studied more closely, scientists found fossils of plants that lived a million years ago. This old ice-core sample was re-discovered in a freezer in 2017, long after it was originally drilled out of the ice in 1966 when the U.S. attempted to build a nuclear missile base in Greenland during the Cold War. Live Science reporter Stephanie Pappas writes that this Cold War ice-core sample “came from northwestern Greenland, and the plants held within may have grown in a boreal forest. Such a forest could only grow in largely ice-free conditions, suggesting that parts of Greenland’s ice sheet may be younger than researchers previously believed.”

Monstrous Centipedes Devour Birds on Hellish Island

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NORFOLK ISLAND GROUP, AUSTRALIA — If you were to take a plane from Brisbane on Australia’s east coast and fly for 1,400 kilometers east, into the great expanse of the Pacific Ocean. And if you had a good navigator, you would find a small island with an excellent airfield built during the Second World War. On this small island you’ll find more than 1,700 people, many of them descendants of the HMS Bounty ship mutineers who moved from Pitcairn Island to this island, called Norfolk Island, in the 1850s. From here, you are just a short boat ride away from an even smaller island called Phillip Island, where you’ll find hundreds of giant, monstrous centipedes that eat small birds for dinner. Here are the details. A new study published on August 3 in the journal The American Naturalist, shows how giant, venomous centipedes on a South Pacific island are killing and eating up to 3,700 seabird chicks every year. These giant centipedes (Cormocephalus coynei) have become the dominant predator on a remote island only 2 kilometers wide, called Phillip Island. Phillip Island centipedes are ferocious beasties, growing up to nearly 1 foot long, clad in armored plates along their segments and equipped with a potent venom that they inject into unwitting victims through pincer-like “forcipules.” The study shows that by hunting and consuming thousands of baby black-winged petrels each year, the centipedes are the undisputed apex predators on the small island, and are a vital part of its ecosystem. As night falls across the remote island, the centipedes emerge from their lairs to stalk their victims. Using two sensitive antennas, they navigate their way across the forest floor that serves as their hunting ground. Black-winged petrels build burrows on the ground, so their chicks are prime targets. And it’s not just seabird chicks that the centipedes will hunt. They were also observed eating geckos, skinks, crickets and even scavenged fish. Skin-crawling though it may be, the centipedes’ voracious appetite is actually vital for the island’s ecosystem, bringing nutrients from the sea (where the petrels hunt for their food) onto land, making the centipedes vital to the regrowth of vegetation on the island. This vegetation was mostly destroyed when humans transformed the island into a penal colony in 1788, introducing pigs, goats and rabbits that ravaged its foliage. By the early 20th century the pigs and goats were removed and, since the 1980s, conservation efforts by the nearby Norfolk Island National Park got rid of the remaining rabbits, enabling the seabird and centipede populations to rebound. The result? The island's ecology bounced back and is now flourishing.

China’s ‘Game-Changing’ New Carrier Almost Ready to Sail

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SHANGHAI, CHINA — China is almost ready to launch a powerful new aircraft carrier that is more modern than U.S. carriers in some important capabilities. Analysts say that if it works like it could, this new carrier would pose a serious threat to the balance of military force around Taiwan and in the Pacific region. Here are the details: The U.S.-based Center for Strategic and International Studies, or CSIS, recently released new satellite photos showing that China’s surprisingly sophisticated new aircraft carrier is quickly nearing completion and might be launched by the end of this year already. The CSIS released images of the carrier in Shanghai’s Jiangnan Shipyard taken by satellites of Maxar Technologies on July 12. The images reveal that the new carrier has slots for three separate plane-launching catapult systems. These game-changing systems make it much more effective than China’s existing two carriers, which use simple deck ramps to launch their aircraft. This means these older carriers can only launch fighter-type jets with light bomb loads, while the new carrier should be able to launch and catch heavier fixed-wing planes like the U.S.’ vital E2 Hawkeye radar platform. All U.S. carriers can deploy the E2 because of their catapult and catching systems. However, the catapults on China’s new carrier will be electromagnetic systems, which gives it a clear advantage over the steam-powered catapults operated by U.S. carriers. Only one U.S. carrier, the U.S.S. Gerald R. Ford, fields such an electromagnetic catapult system, but analysts say these are the catapults of the future because they require less manpower to operate and maintain. They also put less stress on the airframes of the planes they catapult, and they don’t require huge reservoirs of fresh water to be carried by the ship.

Alien MEGASTRUCTURES Could Be Harnessing the MASSIVE Energy of Black Holes

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HSINCHU CITY, TAIWAN — Scientists are considering whether Dyson Spheres, hypothetical megastructures built to surround stars and harness their energy for alien civilizations, could also be built around black holes. A study published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society journal looked at six energy sources inside black holes, including friction generated inside their accretion disks, and energy from the relativistic jets blasted out from their poles. Scientists involved told Live Science that because black holes pack a huge mass into a relatively small amount of space compared to stars, building a Dyson Sphere around them to capture their energy could save a lot of material.

Possible ‘Havana Syndrome’ Attack Delays V.P. Harris’ Flight

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SINGAPORE — Vice President Kamala Harris’s trip to Vietnam was recently delayed after suspicions that a case of Havana Syndrome had been detected in the Vietnamese capitol of Hanoi. Havana Syndrome is a mysterious illness most experts believe could only be caused by directed energy weapons that pulse invisible microwaves at targets. Here are the details: CNN reports U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris’s flight from Singapore to Hanoi on Tuesday, August 24 was delayed after an American diplomat suffered an ‘anomalous incident,’ the term used by the Biden administration to describe Havana Syndrome, a mysterious illness suffered by hundreds of U.S. and Canadian diplomats and CIA agents since 2016. First identified in Havana, the symptoms include dizziness, fatigue, headaches and loss of hearing, memory and balance. Some sufferers were forced into permanent retirement. Various theories have been proposed to explain the cause of the syndrome. Among the leading theories are directed microwave radiation, unintended consequences of a hacking operation, and mass psychogenic illness. Microwave weapons work in much the same way as an ordinary microwave oven. A strong electrical current is fed into a magnetron. A magnetron is a high-powered vacuum tube that oscillates microwaves to produce high-energy microwave radiation. However, in a microwave oven, this energy bounces around within the walls of the oven. Instead of containing the energy inside a box, a microwave weapon concentrates the energy into a focused direction, with minimal broadening of the energy stream. This is why it’s also called a directed energy weapon. The second main theory is that the syndrome is the result of a hacking operation which used an energy tool to collect data from the devices of government employees, New York Magazine reports, citing intelligence officials. Whoever was responsible for the operation noticed the injury it was causing and began using it intentionally as a weapon. Finally, some scientists believe the syndrome may be mass psychogenic illness, which occurs when a group of people perceive the same symptoms, despite there being no external cause. This theory states there is no underlying disease, even though the symptoms are real and cause distress. “Directed microwave radiation is the most plausible explanation, according to a recent report by a U.S. National Academy of Sciences committee.” “On October 19 last year, the New York Times reported that ‘some senior Russia analysts in the CIA, officials at the State Department, and outside scientists, see Russia as the most likely culprit given its history with weapons that cause brain injuries and its interest in fracturing Washington's relations with Beijing and Havana.’” Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal reported on August 18 that at least two U.S. officials stationed in Germany sought medical treatment after developing symptoms of the mysterious disease.

MASSES of Weapons Left in Hands of Taliban as U.S. RUSHES to Exit

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KABUL, AFGHANISTAN — As the U.S. has completed its withdrawal from Afghanistan, it has left behind vast amounts of equipment. Citing a U.S. Government Accountability Office audit, The New Statesman reports that thousands of land vehicles, aircraft, helicopters and weapons handed over to the Afghan army between 2003 and 2016 could now be in the hands of the Taliban. Those land vehicles include: 22,174 Humvees,[g] 42,604 Light Tactical Vehicles, 8,998 Medium Tactical Vehicles and 189 Armored Cavalry Assault Vehicles. The weapons include: 358,530 rifles, 64,363 machine guns, 12,692 shotguns, and 126,295 pistols. The aircraft include 23 A-29 Super Tucano [h]Fighters, 10 AC-208 Eliminator Armed Caravan reconnaissance and ground attack aircraft, 23 Cessna-208 Caravan utility aircraft, and 3 Lockheed C-130 Hercules transport aircraft. Finally, there were also 32 Russian-made MI-17 utility and attack helicopters, 33 UH-60 Black Hawk medium-lift utility helicopters, and 43 McDonnell Douglas MD 500 Defender light utility helicopters. It is unclear exactly how much of this equipment is now in the hands of the Taliban, but The New Statesman reports that the Taliban is now likely the only extremist group in the world in possession of an air force.

‘ARMS RACE’ With COVID Coming FAST as Virus May Be Heading for More SUBSTANTIAL Mutations

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BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA — SARS-CoV-2 will continue to evolve in various directions, beyond the mutations seen in its delta variant, according to Hamish McCallum, Director at the Center for Planetary Health and Food Security at Griffith University. Since the virus’s emergence in 2019, the global population of SARS-CoV-2 has accumulated an average of about one mutation every two weeks, according to the Next Strain COVID tracker. Writing for The Conversation, McCallum explains that these mutations occur when the virus's genome, made up of around 30,000 nucleotides, is replicated and some of those nucleotides are erroneously replaced. Along the way, some of these mutations confer advantages on the virus, in particular the ability to produce more cases, more quickly, and these mutations are more likely to survive into the next generation, because of natural selection. At the moment, the delta variant offers a clear demonstration of this selection process in action.

Rockets Fired at Airport and U.S. Drone Attack Kills Civilians as U.S. Completes Exit

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KABUL, AFGHANISTAN — The Taliban have taken over Kabul airport following the departure of the final U.S. flight on Tuesday morning, according to the BBC, but only after a rocket attack on the airport on Monday. As many as five rockets were fired according to U.S. Major General William Taylor at a Pentagon briefing, with three landing off the airfield with no effect, one intercepted by an anti-missile system and another landing inside with no danger to personnel. In the hours after the attack, footage emerged showing the remains of a four-door sedan that appeared to have been used by the attackers. IS-K, an Islamic State affiliate in Afghanistan, has claimed responsibility for the attack, saying it fired at least six Katyusha [d]rockets, according to The Associated Press, which added that rockets also struck a neighborhood close to the airport. The attack followed a suicide bomb last week which killed at least 95 people, according to the BBC, as well a deadly U.S. drone strike which blew up a vehicle carrying IS suicide bombers planning to attack the airport, according to The Associated Press. However, relatives cited by The Associated Press said it also killed civilians who had nothing to do with the extremist group.

Japanese Court Sentences Yakuza Boss to Death

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FUKUOKA, JAPAN — A Japanese court delivered a major blow to the yakuza when it sentenced to death the boss of one of the yakuza’s most violent syndicates. The case comes after multiple murders and vicious attacks against ordinary civilians over the last few decades, including the stabbing of a nurse who worked at a clinic where the crime boss was being treated. Here are the details: The BBC reports that a Japanese court sentenced a yakuza boss to death on Tuesday, August 24, for ordering murders and attacks against ordinary Japanese citizens. Satoru Nomura, the 74-year-old head of the Kudo-kai crime syndicate in southwest Japan, denied accusations he had masterminded the violent assaults on ordinary people. The Fukuoka District Court sentenced Nomura to death by hanging, while Japanese media said the verdict came despite a lack of evidence directly linking him to the crimes. Although prosecutors had no direct evidence Nomura had ordered violent attacks, they successfully argued that his absolute command over the group meant he had ultimate responsibility. After the sentencing, Nomura reportedly told the judge: “You will regret this for the rest of your life.” Nomura’s number two, Fumio Tanoue, was jailed for life on Tuesday. Nomura was found guilty of ordering the fatal 1998 shooting of an ex-boss of a fisheries cooperative who exerted influence over port construction projects, major media outlets said. He was also judged to be behind a 2014 attack on a relative of that murder victim, and a 2013 knife attack against a nurse at a clinic where Nomura was seeking treatment, the court reportedly said. The 2012 shooting of a former police official who had investigated the Kudo-kai was also deemed Nomura's responsibility. The official survived with serious injuries to his waist and legs. The yakuza were long tolerated in Japan as a necessary evil for ensuring order on the streets and getting things done quickly, however dubious the means. But in recent decades, stiffer anti-gang regulations, waning social tolerance and a weak economy have resulted in steadily falling yakuza memberships. The yakuza grew from the chaos of postwar Japan into multi-billion-dollar criminal organizations, involved in everything from drugs and prostitution to protection rackets and stock-market manipulation. Unlike the Italian Mafia, yakuza have long occupied a gray area in Japanese society — they are not illegal, and each group has its own headquarters in full view of the police. They also frequently operate front companies out of upmarket offices. It is believed to be the first time a senior member of Japan's mafia, the yakuza, has been sentenced to death. Sentencing Nomura on Tuesday, the judge described his actions as extremely vicious.

Horrific Bomb Attack on Kabul Airport in Afghanistan

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KABUL, AFGHANISTAN — At least 95 people were killed and 150 others wounded as a bomb was detonated by IS-K, the Afghanistan branch of the Islamic State group, at Kabul's Hamid Karzai International Airport last Thursday, according to the BBC. The Pentagon said 13 U.S. service personnel were killed when the bomb went off outside the ‘Abbey Gate’ area of the perimeter, which is controlled by U.S. troops and allows civilians access to evacuation flights, according to The Indian Express. Large crowds had been camping outside the area as they waited to enter the airport at the time of the explosion, which occurred at around 6 p.m. Cited by the BBC, U.K. Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said a suicide bomber was wearing a suicide vest and a smaller device when he made his way towards the perimeter fence and detonated the device. According to a separate account cited by the BBC, one attacker also fired into a crowd of people, although reports also claimed Taliban guards had fired into the air. On Thursday The Pentagon had initially said that there had been two explosions, the first at the Baron Hotel, near the airport's perimeter. But on Friday it changed this account, saying that there was in fact only one.

Where the Giant Dinosaur-Killing Asteroid Came From

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BOULDER, COLORADO — About 66 million years ago, an object estimated to be 6 miles wide — that’s almost 10 kilometers wide — slammed into the Earth, triggering a cataclysmic series of events that resulted in the demise of non-avian dinosaurs. Now, scientists think they know where that object came from. Here are the details: According to new research by the Southwest Research Institute in Colorado, the Chicxulub impact — which scientists say killed off the dinosaurs — was caused by a giant, dark “primitive” asteroid from the outer reaches of the solar system's main asteroid belt, situated between Mars and Jupiter. This region is home to many dark asteroids, which are space rocks with a chemical makeup that makes them appear darker than most asteroids. Geochemical analysis of the crater also suggests that the impacting object was part of a class of carbonaceous chondrites — a primitive group of meteorites that have a relatively high ratio of carbon and were likely formed very early on in the solar system's history. Simulating over hundreds of millions of years, the model showed thermal forces and gravitational tugs from planets periodically slingshotting large asteroids out of the belt. On average, an asteroid more than 6 miles wide from the outer edge of the belt was flung into a collision course with Earth once every 250 million years, the researchers found. This calculation makes such an event five times more common than previously thought, and consistent with the Chicxulub crater created just 66 million years ago.

Tibetan Plateau Found to Provide Ideal Conditions for Observatories

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QINGHAI, CHINA\ — The world’s most powerful astronomical observatories are currently almost all located in the Western Hemisphere, but a new Chinese study in the journal Nature proposes that the Tibetan Plateau in China provides ideal conditions for large telescopes built in the East. Any new structures could hypothetically be built at the summit of Saishiteng Mountain, near the town of Lenghu in Qinghai province where four main factors, summarized by MIT’s Technology Review site, contribute to the site’s suitability. The first factor is that the site has ‘unusually clear skies’ in the words of one of the study’s co-authors, who spoke to Space.com, meaning it has no dense cloud formations and little light pollution. The second factor is that the local air and weather conditions are stable, with the atmosphere causing minimal interference with optical and infrared observations at night. The third factor is the site’s infrastructure connections and accessibility, which are described as ‘convenient’ in the study. The final factor is that the potential locations at the summit are all remote enough for their night sky views to be protected from human activity, with altitudes 100,000 square kilometres surrounding Lenghu Town below 3,000 meters, against Lenghu’s altitudes of between 4,200 and 4,500 meters.

Building Kills COVID With Dozens of Hi-Tech Gadgets

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BUCHAREST, ROMANIA — Disinfection robots, thermal body cameras and virus-killing air-con systems — welcome to the Covid-free office of the future. A workplace in Bucharest filled with anti-virus innovations could become the new normal in office design. Here’s how it works: The Guardian reports that H3, a large office building in the Romanian capital of Bucharest, features all of the 153 measures of the so-called “Immune” anti-Covid building standard. When you enter the building, a flick of the wrist opens the door, after which a thermal body camera scans you for signs of fever. If the scanner finds fever, you’ll be whisked to a quarantine room with its own separate air-con and air-purifying systems. If you are “green-lighted” by the scanner, you can move to the self-cleaning lift that uses UV lighting to clean the lifts and lift shafts. Inside, you’ll find doors fitted with attachments that let you open them with an elbow or lower arm. The toilet cubicles are floor to ceiling, enclosing you in your own cubicle with air conditioning. At night, a 1.2-meter-tall robot traverses the building, using UV light to disinfect and kill pathogens. During the day, virus-killing hydrogen peroxide ions are emitted from strategic points in the ventilation system. Because visibility of the measures is so important to the designers, transparent panels have been fitted in the ceilings so that the mechanisms can be seen. “The point is to reassure them. We don’t want people to panic,” says Gavin Bonner, one of the main coordinators behind the “Immune” building standard project. The project has brought together health professionals, architects, engineers, IT specialists and building managers from around the world to help corporations prepare for post-pandemic life.

Afghan Commandos, Northern Alliance Prepare to Fight Taliban

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PANJSHIR VALLEY, AFGHANISTAN — Ancient enemies of the Taliban and elite Afghan commandos who were trained by the SAS and U.S. Special Forces are regrouping in a part of Afghanistan that had always hated the Taliban. They are preparing for a fight to the death, and if Western countries don’t help them they will probably be wiped out. Here are the details: The New York Times reports that leaders in Afghanistan's Panjshir Valley are defying the Taliban, and Afghan forces who are still determined to continue fighting are regrouping around them. Among these are U.S. Special Forces and British Special Air Service-trained Afghan commandos who vow to fight until their “last drop of blood” to take their country back from the Taliban. These anti-Taliban forces are preparing for the coming fight in the Panjshir Valley, an area just 80 miles north of Kabul. Any soldiers or militias who want to take up arms against the Taliban are being urged to flock to the valley, where Afghanistan's Vice President Amrullah Saleh has declared himself the country's rightful leader. In a Twitter message to Afghans, Saleh said: “Join the resistance. I will never, ever and under no circumstances bow to Talib terrorists.” He has vowed to resist after President Ashraf Ghani fled the country. It is feared the commandos face deadly reprisals if caught by the Taliban's death squads, with 22 of their number having been brutally executed in June after they ran out of ammunition while fighting the insurgents in Dawlat Abad. The son of Ahmad Shah Massoud, one of the main leaders of Afghanistan's anti-Soviet resistance in the 1980s, has also pledged to hold out against the Taliban from his stronghold in the Panjshir valley. In a Washington Post editorial, Ahmad Massoud, the 32-year-old son of the famous mujahideen commander, said members of the Afghan military — including some from the elite Special Forces units — had rallied to his cause under the banner of the Northern Alliance and he appealed to the West for help.

Double-Whammy for Doomsday Glacier Spells Big Trouble

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ANTARCTICA — Climate change is not the only factor melting the Thwaites Glacier, the Earth itself may also be warming the massive block of Antarctic ice colloquially known as the ‘Doomsday Glacier.’

Twenty Years Later: Why the 9/11 Twin Towers Collapsed

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NEW YORK — In a few days it would have been 20 years since the 9/11 attacks killed thousands of people and brought down two of the world’s tallest office towers. Here is the official theory on how and why the towers collapsed: The structural integrity of the World Trade Center depended on two connected systems of vertical pillars. A central core of reinforced concrete conveyed vertical loads, while steel pillars were arranged around the perimeter. In combination with horizontal trusses, the outer pillars formed a system for absorption of horizontal loads, caused mainly by wind. The horizontal trusses also supported 10 centimeter-thick cement slabs in each floor while connecting the two vertical systems, preventing the pillars around the perimeter from falling outwards. In September of 2005, America’s National Institute of Standards and Technology released its report on why the buildings collapsed. It stated that when the planes struck the towers, the rupturing of their fuel tanks started a fire that buckled and weakened the buildings’ structural steel. With time, the buckling caused the outer walls to deform, which caused the sudden collapse of the floors above the impact zones. The report states that the floors below provided little resistance to the tremendous energy of the falling building, allowing the structures to disintegrate very quickly. A senior materials scientist at independent Norwegian research organization SINTEF later said that it’s much more likely that the final blow was struck by molten aluminum from the fragments of the two planes. Christian Simensen said such molten aluminum would have seeped into the building’s structure, where it would have made contact with pools of water from the building’s sprinkler system. Such contact would have caused the aluminum to explode with enough force to greatly weaken the building’s structure. He said this theory would also explain the many explosions that witnesses heard during the horrifying event.

China Forced WHO Team to Say Lab Leak ‘Extremely Unlikely’

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COPENHAGEN, DENMARK — A shocking TV interview with a top W.H.O. official indicates that Chinese officials put immense pressure on W.H.O. investigators to stay away from the hypothesis that a lab leak could have been the cause of the COVID pandemic. The official said the W.H.O. team was eventually forced to report that the hypothesis was “extremely unlikely.” Here are the details: The leader of the W.H.O. mission which reported that a Chinese lab leak was “extremely unlikely” to be the origin of the COVID pandemic told a Danish TV station the words “extremely unlikely” were only used because of intense pressure by the team’s Chinese members. On Thursday, August 12, Denmark’s TV 2 published Danish-language excerpts from the interview, conducted for a documentary titled “The Virus Mystery,” on its website, in which Danish scientist Peter Embarek spoke about how Chinese team members refused to discuss the hypothesis that the pandemic could have been the result of human error in a Chinese government lab. Embarek said horseshoe bats are not found in the wild in the Wuhan region, which points to the fact that “patient zero” could very well have been a lab worker. Another point of concern that Embarek said needs to be investigated, is the fact that a Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention lab moved to a new building only 500 meters from the market that was the epicenter of the pandemic in December of 2019. He said the lab moved on December 2, 2019. Embarek told TV 2 such a move would involve the moving of virus samples and bats outside of secure rooms, which would have significantly increased the dangers of a lab leak. Embarek said his team did not get to look at laboratory books or documents directly from the laboratory. “We got a presentation,” he said, “and then we asked the questions we wanted to ask, but we did not get to look at any documentation at all.” He added that while the W.H.O.’s initial investigation was purely scientific, what is needed is a forensic-style investigation where books, logs and records are checked and employees are interviewed separately. On July 16, the W.H.O. proposed to conduct such in-depth audits of the relevant laboratories in Wuhan. But at that time China's deputy health minister, Zeng Yixin, flatly rejected a new W.H.O. visit. However, when asked for comment by the Washington Post, Embarek said the interview had been mistranslated in English-language media. He would not comment further and has since declined a follow up interview with the Washington Post and could not be reached for comment by Reuters. You can read the interview in the link in the description below.

Banning CFCs Saved Us From Apocalyptic Climate Change

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MONTREAL, CANADA — If the world hadn't banned the chemicals that destroy the ozone layer with the 1987 Montreal Protocol, climate change would have significantly worsened global warming by the 2040s, according to a new study in the journal Nature. The study found that a continued increase in chlorofluorocarbons, or CFCs, would have caused the ozone layer to collapse worldwide, which in turn would have led to a rise in ultraviolet radiation showering down on plants and animals. Without the agreement, the study states the tropics would have lost 60 percent of their ozone coverage by 2100, with mass exposure to unfiltered radiation damaging plant tissues, dramatically stunting their growth and limiting their ability to photosynthesize. According to Science Alert, a hole of that size would be even larger than the one that formed over Antarctica in the early 1980s, with the ultimate effect being that by 2100, damaged forests, soils and other vegetation would not have been able to absorb a total of 580 billion tons of carbon dioxide. This would make the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere 40 to 50 percent higher. That increase alone would cause global temperatures to rise by 0.8 degrees Celsius or 1.4 degrees Fahrenheit. However, the CFCs themselves are also greenhouse gases, and they would have caused an additional 1.7 °C or 3 °F of global warming by 2100. The total contribution to global warming increases that have been avoided through global commitment to the Montreal Protocol, then, is 2.5 degrees Celsius, or 4.5 degrees Fahrenheit, according to the study. This sentiment matches the sentiment in the recent report by the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. In five previous reports, the world was on track for the hottest scenario, likely to involve temperatures 3.3 to 5.7 degrees Celsius higher than pre-industrial levels by the end of the century. However, this time it is on track for a position between the next two scenarios down, with temperature increases between 2.1 and 4.6 degrees Celsius, because of recent progress to combat climate change, according to one report co-author who spoke to The Associated Press.

China Starts Huge Project to Beam Power From Space

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CHONGQING, CHINA — China has broken ground on a project that aims to put miles of solar panels in space and use them to power a massive microwave emitter that will hang 23,000 miles up in the sky. Here’s hoping that the giant microwave beam does not go off target and start frying miles of Earth’s surface. Here are the details: The Times reports that China’s government plans to launch a fleet of mile-long solar panels into space by 2035 and beam the energy back to Earth. The basic concept involves a space station with a solar array to convert solar energy into electrical energy. Then it would use a microwave transmitter or laser emitter to transmit the energy to a collector on Earth. The Earth-based station will then transfer the microwave energy back into electrical energy, from where it would be fed into the grid. As part of this ambitious project, Beijing has broken ground on the new Bishan space solar energy station in the city of Chongqing. The station will begin tests by the end of the year, with the hope of having a functioning one-megawatt solar energy station by 2030. By 2050, China plans to have the station fully operational and producing a gigawatt of power, the same output as the largest nuclear reactor in China. Space-based solar systems can be much more efficient because it’s always sunny in space, and the sunlight does not get filtered by Earth’s atmosphere and clouds. The idea of space-based solar power stations has been around since 1941. Science fiction writer Isaac Asimov first wrote about them in the short story Reason. In the story, he wrote about a space station that transmits energy collected from the Sun to various planets by using microwave beams. A number of concept designs were created in the 1970s, but none were deemed economically viable.

China Runs Military Exercises in Taiwan

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TAIPEI, TAIWAN — Chinese fighter jets and warships exercised off the southwest and southeast of Taiwan on Tuesday, with the People’s Liberation Army's Eastern Theater Command saying it carried out ‘joint fire assault and other drills using actual troops,’ according to Reuters. In total 11 planes entered Taiwan’s air defense identification zone as part of the exercises, including one Y-8 anti-submarine plane; one Y-8 electronic warfare plane; one KJ-500 airborne early warning and control plane; six J-16 twinjet, multirole fighters; and two H-6K twin-engine jet bombers. Taiwan's Ministry of National Defense said the aircraft flew in an area between mainland Taiwan and the Taiwan-controlled Pratas Islands, with Reuters noting that some entered the strategically important Bashi Channel, which leads to the Pacific. The path of the warships has not been released.

Hated Giant ‘Murder’ Hornet Spotted Alive in the U.S.

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BLAINE, WASHINGTON — They're back! The first live Asian giant “murder” hornet of 2021 has been spotted in Washington state — and it was caught in the act of living up to its name, attacking a wasp nest. The news has scientists worried that America’s honey bees could get wiped out. Here are the details: Asian giant hornets, colloquially known as murder hornets, are back in Washington state after a resident spotted a live insect, officials at the Washington State Department of Agriculture confirmed on Thursday, August 12. The sighting occurred on August 11, near a rural area east of Blaine, in Whatcom County, Washington. This is roughly two miles from where the first murder hornet nest, which contained 500 live specimens, including 200 queens, was eradicated in October of 2020. The state’s agriculture department said it will set live traps in an attempt to catch a live hornet, tag it, and track it back to the nest. Murder hornets kill honeybees, which are already under siege from mites, diseases and other factors. They usually attack honey bee hives in the late summer or early fall. A small group can kill an entire honey bee hive in a matter of hours. Normally found in East Asia, nobody knows quite how the hornets came to America, but since 2019, there have been several sightings in Washington state. With a length of 5 centimeters, they are the world's largest hornets — and they have an extremely painful sting. According to the Washington State Department of Agriculture, the hornets enter a “slaughter phase” where they kill bees by decapitating them. They then defend the hive as their own, while taking the brood to feed their own brood. The agency has already killed six or seven hives in Washington state since 2019.

Massive Earthquake Hits Haiti, Kills Hundreds

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PORT-AU-PRINCE, HAITI — The 7.2 magnitude earthquake that hit Haiti on Saturday has killed at least 1,297 people, according to Reuters, with the search for survivors ongoing. Haiti sits in an area where several tectonic plates transition from smashing together to sliding past one another, according to one research geologist at the U.S. Geological Survey’s Geologic Hazards Science Center who spoke to The Associated Press. Saturday’s magnitude earthquake likely occurred along the Enriquillo-Plantain Garden fault zone, which sits at the intersection of the Gonave microplate, and the Caribbean plate, according to Encyclopaedia Britannica. Gavin Hayes, senior science adviser for earthquake and geologic hazards at USGS, explained to The Associated Press that friction builds up between the plates and until the strain that’s stored up overcomes the friction, causing the fault to move suddenly. Haiti is especially vulnerable to earthquakes like these for socioeconomic reasons, according to The Associated Press. Its high population density and buildings that are primarily designed to withstand hurricanes rather than earthquakes exacerbate issues caused by seismic activity, but building earthquake resistant buildings remains difficult in what is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere.

September 11 Anniversary: Timeline of Events

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NEW YORK CITY— On Tuesday, September 11, 2001, four passenger jets were hijacked by terrorists in what the Encyclopedia Britannica refers to as “the deadliest terrorist attacks on American soil in U.S. history.”

NASA Says Asteroid Bennu Now More Likely to Hit Earth

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WASHINGTON — If you manage to develop an anti-aging diet, or create a time machine, or in some other way manage to be alive and on Earth on the Tuesday afternoon of September 24, 2182, then there is a chance that you might be looking up to see a big asteroid flashing down towards Earth. Here are the details: NPR reports NASA scientists calculated that Asteroid Bennu has a higher chance of hitting Earth than previously thought. The scientists used new data from NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft to make a more precise calculation of Bennu’s orbit. That spacecraft managed to snatch a sample of dusty pebbles from the asteroid in October last year and is currently on its way back to Earth to drop off the precious cargo. NASA found that the single likeliest impact moment would be on the afternoon of September 24, 2182. On that Tuesday, Bennu has about a 1-in-2,700 chance of hitting Earth. An impact would pack the energy of more than 1.1 billion tons of TNT, roughly two million times the energy of last year’s devastating port explosion in Beirut, Lebanon. The NASA team reached its revised estimate by pinpointing Bennu’s distance from Earth to within about seven feet at dozens of times between 2019 and 2020. That level of precision is like measuring the distance between the Empire State Building and the Eiffel Tower to within a few thousandths of an inch. The OSIRIS-REx spacecraft arrived at Bennu in late 2018 as NASA’s first — and humankind’s third — attempt to sample the surface of an asteroid. The spacecraft managed to successfully snatch a sample in October of 2020 and is currently on its way back to Earth with it. Before grabbing the sample, OSIRIS-REx spent nearly two years orbiting and studying rubble-strewn Bennu.

NASA Searching for Life on Titan

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WASHINGTON D.C. — NASA’s Dragonfly mission to the surface of Titan will be its first since 1976 to explicitly incorporate the search for signs of life into its mission goals, according to a new report published by its scientists in The Planetary Science Journal. Launching in 2026 and arriving in 2034, Dragonfly is focused on Titan, the only one of Saturn’s moons with a substantial atmosphere and liquid on its surface, because many of the prebiotic chemical compounds that formed on early Earth have also formed in its atmosphere. Previously the surface of Titan has proven impossible to study in detail because of that thick methane atmosphere, according to Phys.org, and thus the Dragonfly mission provides the first opportunity to study it in detail. As it roams the surface of Titan, NASA’s Dragonfly Titan Rotorcraft Relocatable Lander will search for chemical biosignatures, investigate the moon's methane cycle and explore the prebiotic chemistry currently taking place both in its atmosphere and on its surface. Previously, in 1997 the ESA's Huygen’s [c]probe travelled to Saturn aboard NASA’s Cassini orbiter before making its way down to Titan’s surface in 2005. However, Alex Hayes, one Dragonfly co-investigator, told Phys.org that that mission was limited because at the time scientists had so little knowledge of what kind of surface Huygen’s would be landing on.

How to Stop Global Warming in Five Easy Steps

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MANCHESTER, UNITED KINGDOM — On Monday, August 9, the U.N.’s science panel published a study that shows how humanity is running out of time to do something about the steady increase in global temperature. On Tuesday, a professor published a short list of simple solutions that would solve the crisis. The professor’s article is called “We Have Four Years Left to Keep Warming to 1.5 °C. Here's How We Can Do It.” Here are the details: A day after the U.N.’s science panel warned that humanity has only four years left to stop the trend of increasing global emissions, Matthew Paterson, research director of the Sustainable Consumption Institute at the University of Manchester, published a plan for how this trend can be halted. Writing in the Conversation, he says to limit the globe’s warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, we need to take these fairly simple steps as soon as possible: First, we need to ban all new coal-fired power plants, all new oil and gas operations and all airport expansions. In essence, the world could agree to a fossil fuel non-proliferation treaty. Existing coal plants could be rapidly replaced with renewable sources of energy, like wind farms. Radical improvements could be made in the energy efficiency of buildings. Instead of using natural gas for heating and cooking in buildings, people should only use electricity. Ground transport could be decarbonized by a shift to electric vehicles, such as electric cars, trucks, buses and trains. Lastly, people should move away from private cars toward bicycling, walking and public transport. Paterson says achieving all of this in 10 years is technically possible. But there are significant obstacles that are fundamentally political. For instance, fossil fuel companies continue to fight to prevent action that threatens their profitability, lobbying governments to weaken legislation and to protect their subsidies.

Japanese Startup Delivering UAE’s Rover to the Moon in 2022

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TOKYO, JAPAN — A Japanese startup is speeding up moon exploration by getting investors to buy into three lunar missions that are on schedule to start launching next year already. Next year’s moon mission will deliver Dubai’s first lunar rover and a Japanese moon robot to the surface of the moon. Here are the details: TechCrunch reports that a Japanese technology startup has raised millions to build a moon lander that will deliver the United Arab Emirates’ first rover to the moon next year. To date, the relatively small Japanese company, called ispace, has raised $195.5 million dollars through crowdfunding, plus a $500,000 payment from Google’s Lunar XPRIZE contest in 2018, for designing a prototype Hakuto lunar rover. The updated Hakuto-R lunar flight module has reached its final stages of assembly and is on schedule for a launch in the fourth quarter of 2022. It will be carried to space on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launched from the Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral in Florida. Apart from the UAE’s moon rover, the lander will also deliver a Japanese lunar robot and three static onboard experiments from Canada. In 2023 a second HAKUTO-R lander will deliver an ispace rover intended to collect data to support subsequent missions. 2024 will see ispace send a larger lunar lander that is currently being developed in the U.S. Ispace’s ambitions lie in commercial landers aimed at carrying rovers and science experiments to the lunar surface. It is also looking to monetize data it gathers from the moon, which it hopes to sell on to other companies, such as space agencies and research organisations, to aid preparations for their own missions to Earth’s nearest neighbour.

Iran Versus Israel — How Their Forces Compare

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MIDDLE EAST — The recent deaths of two ship workers in a mysterious drone strike on an oil tanker highlighted a shadow war between Iran and Israel that could escalate into a real war. We compared the militaries of the two sides and found that while Iran has many number advantages, Israel has some crucial quality advantages. Here are the details: We looked at the military strength of Iran and Israel and found that Iran’s much larger population of 84 million versus the roughly 9 million people in Israel allows Iran to field an active-duty force of 525,000 troops, compared to Israel’s 170,000. Iran has more tanks, but these are mostly T-72s and copies of the T-54 and T-55, which are widely considered inferior to Israel’s Merkava Mark 4. Israel’s air force is larger and much more modern than Iran’s, with 66 F-15s, 175 F-16s and at least 27 F-35 stealth fighters, with plans to own 75 F-35s in total. Iran’s air force consists of 63 old F-4s and 26 old F-14s, as well as 19 MiG-29s and 23 Su-24s from Russia and 17 F-7s from China. Israel also possesses 48 attack helicopters, compared to Iran’s 12. Iran’s navy is larger and is modernizing but Israel’s navy has advanced missiles and vessels, and it can likely also launch nuclear-armed cruise missiles from its five Dolphin-class submarines, which are believed to operate near the Persian Gulf. Thanks to U.S.-led sanctions, Iran likely has no nuclear weapons on its 29 submarines. Iran pursued nuclear capabilities in the late 1980s and early 1990s, and while Tehran says it doesn’t seek nuclear weapons now, its recent enrichment activity has raised questions about its true aims.

U.N. Says ‘Code Red’ for Humanity on Climate

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NEW YORK CITY — Global warming is close to spiraling out of control, according to the sixth report by the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has called “a code red for humanity.” The report outlined five different scenarios for the planet based on how much carbon emissions are reduced, ranging from a future with incredibly large and quick pollution cuts to a future involving continued increases in carbon pollution. In five previous reports, the world was on track for the hottest scenario, likely to involve temperatures 3.3 to 5.7 degrees Celsius higher than pre-industrial levels by the end of the century.

Supervolcanoes Aren’t Our Problem, These Volcanoes Are

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CAMBRIDGE, UK — Several smaller volcanoes located next to key infrastructure should be our main priority when planning to combat the effects of volcanic activity, according to a new study published in the Nature Communications journal. Researchers say that while eruptions from supervolcanoes happen at intervals of hundreds of thousands of years, lower-magnitude eruptions, rated between three and six on the Volcanic Explosivity Index, occur far more regularly, and still have the potential to cause mass disruption if they occur in one of seven key “pinch points.” Citing the infamous 2010 eruption in Iceland which grounded flights across Europe and lost the global economy $5 billion, the research points out that a significant portion of critical infrastructure is located near lower-magnitude volcanic centers. Near those centers, ash clouds, volcanic gases, landslides, mudflows, earthquakes and tsunamis could cause massive disruption by snapping undersea cables, destroying crops, damaging power plants, electric grids and pipelines, and blocking maritime passages, the study says.

Gulf Stream Nearing ‘Day After Tomorrow’ Tipping Point

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POTSDAM, GERMANY — A team of scientists who study the world’s ocean currents say the increased melting of arctic freshwater is causing an imbalance in the salinity of seawater in the north Atlantic. They say this could lead to a very sudden shutdown of the current that carries warm water to the planet’s northern reaches, causing a sudden and dramatic drop in temperatures in North America and Europe, as well as disastrous food shortages worldwide. Here are the details: The Guardian reports that climate scientists have detected warning signs of the collapse of the Gulf Stream, one of the planet’s main potential tipping points. The research found “an almost complete loss of stability over the last century” of the currents that researchers call the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation, or AMOC. The currents are already at their slowest point in at least 1,600 years, but the new analysis shows they may be nearing a shutdown. Such an event would have catastrophic consequences around the world, severely disrupting the rains that billions of people depend on for food in India, South America and West Africa, while increasing storms and lowering temperatures in Europe. The AMOC is driven by dense, salty seawater sinking into the Arctic Ocean, but the melting of freshwater from Greenland’s ice sheet is slowing the process down earlier than climate models suggested. The analysis was based on 'fingerprints' the AMOC leaves in surface temperature and salinity patterns. It showed a 'critical threshold' is being reached beyond which the system may collapse. While some scientists are sounding the alarm, others sound less certain. David Thornalley of University College London, whose work showed the AMOC is at its weakest point in 1,600 years, said: “These signs of decreasing stability are concerning. But we still don’t know if a collapse will occur, or how close we might be to it.”

Iran Blamed for Deadly Drone Attack on Oil Tanker

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DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES — After years of a shadow war between Iran and Israel, in which both sides use clandestine strikes against each other’s commercial and military ships, a British guard and a Romanian sailor have now been killed in a “suicide drone strike” on an oil tanker. Here are the details: The Associated Press reports that the U.K. and U.S. joined Israel in saying Iran was behind an attack on an Israeli-operated oil tanker that killed two people, and have vowed to respond, calling it a violation of international law. U.S. Navy explosive experts believe a drone strike hit the tanker off the coast of Oman, killing a British security guard and a Romanian ship worker. The strike hit the bridge of the tanker Mercer Street on the night of Thursday, July 29. It marks the first-known fatal attack after years of assaults on commercial shipping in the region linked to tensions with Iran. While no one has claimed responsibility for the attack, Israeli officials alleged Tehran launched the drone strike against a ship that was being operated by an Israeli company. Iran denied the allegations and said Israel killed the ship workers in a false-flag attack designed to show Iran in a bad light. The attack comes after years of tit-for-tat attacks in which Israel and Iran use clandestine methods to attack each other’s commercial and military ships, using limpet mines, drones and other methods to cause damage. A U.S. official speaking on condition of anonymity said the attack appeared to have involved several drones, including a so-called “suicide drone,” which was presumably responsible for pressing home the attack itself.