Monday, April 27, 2020

Intense rainfall may be to blame for the 2018 eruption of the Kilauea volcano in Hawaii, scientists say in a new study

The pressure created by rainwater weakened the rocks in the volcano’s caldera, allowing lava to creep up and burst through the surface. Study authors said that this is the first time that scientific research links rainfall with volcanic eruptions. “Under pressure from magma, wet rock breaks easier than dry rock. It is as simple as that,” said study co-author and geophysicist at the University of Miami. According to the study, the findings suggest that increased rainfall associated with climate change could trigger volcanic eruptions worldwide. The study showed how that immediately before and during the eruption, infiltration of rainfall into Kīlauea Volcano’s subsurface increased pore pressure at depths of 1 to 3 kilometers by 0.1 to 1 kilopascals, to its highest pressure in almost 50 years. A precipitation-induced eruption trigger is consistent with the lack of precursory summit inflation, showing that this intrusion was not caused by the forceful intrusion of new magma into the rift zone. Moreover, statistical analysis of historic eruption occurrence suggests that rainfall patterns contribute substantially to the timing and frequency of Kīlauea’s eruptions and intrusions. Thus, volcanic activity can be modulated by extreme rainfall triggering edifice rock failure, a factor that should be considered when assessing volcanic hazards. (Nature)


Scammers cheated people out of almost $500k by telling them they’d captured video of the victims visiting porn websites, and threatening to share the clips with friends

Millions of “sextortion” spam messages sent between September 1, 2019 and January 31, 2020 generated nearly a half-million US dollars in profits for Internet criminals. The messages told recipients that their computers had been hacked, that the sender had captured video of them visiting pornographic websites, and threatened to share the video with the targets’ “friends” if they didn’t pay—asking for as much as $800 USD worth of Bitcoin (BTC) to be transferred to a wallet address. The flow of that digital currency reveals that many of the operators behind these sextortion scams are connected to a much larger criminal digital economy. Though there were some smaller players involved in these spam campaigns, the movement of the BTC deposited in many of those wallets shows the campaigns were linked to other criminal enterprises, either funding other illicit activity or providing a way to convert the BTC to hard cash. As with many spam campaigns, the sextortion messages were launched from botnets using compromised personal computers all around the world, with PCs in Vietnam providing the greatest single share (7%). Some of the messages demonstrated some new methods being used by sophisticated spammers to evade filtering software. (Sophos)


A new feature in Google Translate gives options for masculine and feminine translations when the source phrase is gender-neutral

Google recently announced the release of English-to-Spanish and Finnish-, Hungarian-, and Persian-to-English gender-specific translations in Google Translate that leverage a new paradigm to address gender bias by rewriting or post-editing initial translations. The tech giant claims the approach is more scalable than an earlier technique underpinning Google Translate’s gender-specific Turkish-to-English translations, chiefly because it doesn’t rely on a data-intensive gender-neutrality detector. According to Google, building the rewriter involved generating millions of training examples composed of pairs of phrases, each of which included both masculine and feminine translations. Because the data wasn’t readily available, the Google Translate team had to come up with candidate rewrites by swapping gendered pronouns from masculine to feminine (or the other way around), starting with a large monolingual data set. (Venture Beat)


Cities are turning to vertical farms to keep their supply chains upright

If the last few weeks are any indication, an algorithm may soon be growing your green beans. As urban grocery stores struggle to stock enough produce for their customers, they’re finding a seedling of hope in vertical farms: big, indoor facilities that cultivate plants using precision-controlled temperatures, lighting, and water supplies. Demand is blossoming for vertical farm startups while some companies have seen 2x the business, and they’re racing to open up new facilities near big cities. Some problems being faced is that vertical farms are spreading their roots right as old-school farmers, facing lowered demand, are letting billions of dollars of produce rot on their land. The trucking industry is overwhelmed. Farmers typically split their crops between restaurants and grocery stores. With the restaurant side of the supply chain shut down, it’s difficult — and expensive — to pivot all the way into the other. On the plus side, vertical farms promise an answer to some of the burden as they can grow crops right near the stores that need them most. But the industry needs stronger financial roots if it’s ever going to be ready for harvest. The upfront costs of vertical farms are immense. The need to pay for LED lights, ventilation, temperature controls, and the 24/7 power costs are immense. Many vertical farms are opening, but very few are actually profitable. (Axios)


The highest court in the Netherlands has ruled that doctors may legally euthanize some patients with severe dementia

Under the ruling, physicians can honor written requests that were issued by patients before they developed an advanced form of the disease — even if the patient’s current condition means they are unable to confirm that request. Euthanasia is legal in the Netherlands, if certain criteria are met. These criteria include a well-considered and voluntary decision by the patient, suffering without the possibility of improvement, and a lack of reasonable alternatives. (CNN)


New data on Gilead’s remdesivir, released by accident, show no benefit for coronavirus patients.

A study of Gilead’s antiviral medication remdesivir, accidentally posted briefly to the WHO’s website, suggests that the treatment does not improve patient conditions or prevent death. A Gilead spokesperson says the post, which was removed from the WHO’s website, did not accurately represent the study, which she said showed “a potential benefit for remdesivir, particularly among patients treated early in disease.” The study ended early as there were too few subjects to accurately assess results. (STAT)


Tens of millions of students want to know: will my school be open in the fall?

No public education or health expert is sure at the moment. Currently, schools in every state remain closed, and 39 states and the District of Columbia have either “ordered or recommended” that schools remain closed for the rest of the school year. No state has yet made any solid determination about the fall, though some schools have already announced plans regarding in-person vs. virtual classes. The majority of schools have made no announcements, though several university presidents say they’ll have to make a call by mid-June or July. (Washington Post)


Large group busted for meat market theft after leaving ‘trail of meat’ behind

A large group of adults and minors were arrested after allegedly stealing meat from a meat market in Visalia, California. The Visalia police officers responded to a burglary at the Jalisco Meat Market. When officers arrived, they detained one adult and a boy under the age of 18, leaving the business. Officers followed a trail of meat to a nearby apartment, where they found more people that were involved. Detectives executed a search warrant at the home and found six adults and five minors connected to the burglary. Overall, 13 people were arrested for the crime. During the search warrant, detectives found some of the stolen meat being cooked during a small gathering. Police say the kitchen at the home was filled with food, so these thieves weren’t stealing meat out of desperation. The subjects were booked on charges related to burglary, burglary during a stat of an emergency/looting, providing false information to a police officer, resisting arrest and warrants. (KMPH)


Gravitational waves reveal unprecedented collision of heavy and light black holes

Researchers with the world’s gravitational wave detectors said they had picked up vibrations from a cosmic collision that harmonized with the opening notes of an Elvis Presley hit. The source was the most exotic merger of two black holes detected yet—a pair in which one weighed more than three times as much as the other. Because of the stark mass imbalance, the collision generated gravitational waves at multiple frequencies, in a harmony Elvis fans would recognize. The chord also confirms a prediction of Albert Einstein’s theory of gravity, or general relativity. Such mismatched mass events could help theorists figure out how pairs of black holes form in the first place. Physicists first detected gravitational waves in 2015, when the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO), a pair of detectors in Washington and Louisiana, spotted two black holes spiraling into each other, generating infinitesimal ripples in spacetime. Two years later, the Virgo detector near Pisa, Italy, joined the hunt, and by August 2017, the detectors had bagged a total of 10 black hole mergers. (Science Magazine)


Man cited after urinating on a business’ rug

Crystal Lake, Illinois police have cited a 63-year-old roofing worker who was caught on camera urinating on a local business’ rug and then asking whether the building had “any leaks.” The situation unfolded when he entered a business, Crystal Lake Deputy Police Chief said. Video surveillance showed the man enter the building and call out “Hello?” in the empty lobby. The business wasn’t open to customers at the time, although the door was unlocked. After a few moments without a response, the man turned to face the front desk, with his back to the surveillance camera, and audibly urinated on a rug. He appeared to notice the camera and make eye contact with it afterward. A short time later, an employee came to greet him and he explained he was from a roofing company and asked whether the building had any leaks. After noticing a wet spot on the rug, the female employee reviewed the security footage and notified police. Because the man’s license plate was overexposed on camera, officers set out to contact the business and arrange a meet-up. Eventually, police got through to the business, and without identifying themselves, set up a time to meet with an employee for a quote. Officers cited the man when he arrived in the same vehicle shown on the business’ surveillance video. The man was cited with disorderly conduct, an ordinance violation typically punishable by a $75-1,000 fine. Since the act wasn’t a criminal offense, he wasn’t arrested and does not face any criminal charges. (Patch)


Man Allegedly Breaks Into Closed Restaurant and Spends 4 Days Eating, Drinking Its Supplies

A 42-year-old man has been accused of breaking into a New Haven, Connecticut restaurant that had been closed due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and spending four days eating and drinking thousands of dollars’ worth of food and beverages. He was found asleep with a bottle of rum inside a downtown eatery, according to the New Haven Police Department. Authorities said officers arrived on the scene in response to a report about a robbery in progress. According to authorities, restaurant management estimates the man had consumed and stole several thousands of dollars’ worth of food and beverages — including 70 bottles of liquor. He has been charged with burglary, larceny and criminal mischief in connection to the alleged incident, as well as failure to appear in court from an unrelated case, authorities said. He was held in lieu of $12,500 bail while currently being held at New Haven Correctional Center. (Hartford Courant)


Stimulus bill signed into law

President Trump has signed the $484 billion stimulus bill to replenish small business funds. The legislation includes $75 billion that will go toward hospitals and health care providers and $25 billion for expanding coronavirus testing. Under the bill, $310 billion will replenish the Paycheck Protection Program, which depleted its initial $349 billion last week, and $60 billion will go toward SBA disaster loans. While the loans are designed to allow businesses to keep workers on the payroll, many workers are asking to be laid off instead and file for unemployment, which could bring in more revenue. (Business Insider)


Fire Marshals in Louisiana said a man set his mother’s shed on fire out of anger for not receiving a federal stimulus check amid the coronavirus pandemic

The 51-year-old man got into a dispute with his mother over the federal payout before the arson happened, the Louisiana Office of State Fire Marshal said in a news release. Investigators were able to determine the fire was intentionally set inside the shed. They arrested the man after witnesses told them they saw him in the shed moments before the fire started. Witnesses also told investigators they saw him flee the scene after the fire. He was booked into jail on an arson charge after Avoyelles Parish deputies found him armed with a knife. He has also been charged with other crimes by the parish’s Sheriffs office. (ABC News)


Monday Crashes In With:

  • Babe Ruth Day
  • Mantanzas Mule Day
  • Morse Code Day
  • National Devil Dog Cakes Day
  • National Little Pampered Dog Day
  • World Tapir Day

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