Friday, July 17, 2020

Astronauts aboard the International Space Station have captured stunning images of Neowise, one of the brightest comets to fly by Earth in decades

Neowise came dangerously close to breaking apart when it neared the sun earlier this month but survived the ordeal and can now be seen in the early hours before sunrise in the Northern Hemisphere. You may be able to spot it with the naked eye but to see its tail, you will need a telescope or binoculars. Photographers across the world have snapped some amazing shots, but the ISS has a unique vantage point because from there, the comet appears to be headed toward Earth. But worry not, the closest Neowise will come to our planet is 64 million miles. (CBS News)


President Trump announced new measures to punish China for its efforts to stamp out Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement

In response to a new security law that curbs freedoms in the former British colony, President Trump said he had ordered an end to Hong Kong’s special status. That means “no special privileges, no special economic treatment and no export of sensitive technologies,” President Trump said. He also signed a bill that penalizes banks that do business with Chinese officials tied to the security law. China accused the U.S. of “gross interference” and vowed to impose retaliatory sanctions. U.S.-China relations have soured in recent months. The countries have clashed on numerous issues including the pandemic, Huawei, China’s military buildup in the South China Sea, and China’s alleged human rights abuses against Muslim minorities. (Reuters)


White House Tells Hospitals To Bypass CDC On COVID-19 Data Reporting

Hospitals will begin sending coronavirus-related information directly to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), not the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), under new instructions from the Trump administration. The move is in effect now, according to a new guidance and FAQ document for hospitals and clinical labs posted on the HHS website. From now on, the department, not the C.D.C., will collect daily reports about the patients that each hospital is treating, the number of available beds and ventilators, and other information vital to tracking the pandemic. (Health and Human Services)


The US has withdrawn from five bases in Afghanistan and reduced the size of its forces in the country as part of an agreement made this year with the Taliban

A Pentagon spokesperson said the five bases are now in the hands of the US’ Afghan partners, while more than 8,000 US troops remain in the country. February’s “Agreement for Bringing Peace to Afghanistan” outlined a series of commitments from the US and the Taliban related to troop levels, counter-terrorism and an eventual ceasefire. However, there’s been some concern about whether the Taliban is holding up its end of the deal. A Defense Department report this month detailed the group’s continued ties to al Qaeda. Data provided to the Pentagon also showed that the Taliban increased its attacks on America’s Afghan allies in the month after the peace deal was signed. (CNN)


Apple defeated the European Union over a $14.8 billion tax bill

In a significant blow to the landmark ruling by EU competition commissioner, the EU’s General Court said that the European Commission was wrong to declare that two rulings by Irish tax authorities constituted illegal state aid. In 2016, the commission found that the rulings, issued by Irish tax authorities in 1997 and 2007, had “substantially and artificially lowered the tax paid by Apple in Ireland since 1991.” But the General Court said that the commission “incorrectly concluded” that Irish tax authorities had granted Apple an unfair advantage by not allocating the intellectual property rights of its products to two Irish subsidiaries. The $13 Billion fine was the world’s largest-ever anti-trust penalty issued on the basis that Apple had avoided taxes by directing profits from the subsidiaries, which are responsible for all of the company’s sales outside of the Americas, to a “head office” with “no employees, no premises, no real activities.” (Yahoo News)


Teens are dressing up as mask-wearing grandmas to score alcohol

Teenagers are going into liquor stores dressed as elderly grandmas wearing coronavirus face masks. The “prank” has taken social-media platform TikTok by storm, with videos of users bedecked as boozehound bubbies, seemingly victorious, bottles in hand, racking up millions of views. That you get liquor before you turn 21 is, we’re sure, just a bonus. (Fox News)


Meanwhile in Oklahoma

Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt has tested positive, making him the first U.S. governor to get the virus. Governor Stitt has backed one of the country’s most aggressive reopening plans and resisted a statewide mask mandate. He attended President Donald Trump’s rally in Tulsa last month, which some health experts say likely contributed to a surge in cases. (Associated Press)


Former VA hospital worker pleads guilty to murders of seven veterans

A former nursing assistant at a Veterans Affairs facility in West Virginia admitted in federal court recently that she injected elderly patients with lethal doses of insulin, killing seven of them. The former health care worker at the Louis A. Johnson Veterans Affairs Medical Center was present in the courtroom and verbally acknowledged that she was pleading guilty to eight felonies: seven counts of second-degree murder related to the deaths of seven veterans and one count of assault with intent to commit murder. None of the patients required care in the intensive care unit or were close to death. Some were not even diabetic, according to court documents. The seven veterans died from July 2017 through June 2018 from severe hypoglycemia, a condition characterized by lower than normal blood sugar that is a known effect of administering insulin to a non-diabetic patient or administering more than the prescribed dosage to an insulin-dependent diabetic patient, court documents said. The judge accepted that plea and she was remanded to the custody of US Marshals after the hearing, which was streamed on Zoom. She will remain in jail until sentencing. (CNN)


The jobs on the rise amid COVID-19

The pandemic’s upheaval has created a surprising list of several in-demand jobs, revealing how the labor market is already shifting in the wake of COVID-19, according to a report. The specialized jobs range from safety managers and care coordinators, to loan specialists and crisis counselors — and are becoming central to how we fight the virus and re-establish our everyday lives. Skills on the rise include “telemedicine,” and “virtual instruction,” transforming bedrock professions such as teaching and health care where most job titles haven’t changed, but the nature of work has abruptly altered. (LinkedIn)


Parts of the United States saw record levels of high-tide flooding last year as rising seas brought water further into coastal homes and infrastructure, according to a recent government report. The increase in high-tide flooding along the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts since 2000 has been “extraordinary,” the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported, with the frequency of flooding in some cities growing fivefold during that time. That shift is damaging homes, imperiling the safety of drinking water, inundating roads and otherwise hurting coastal communities, the agency said. NOAA defines high-tide flooding, also called sunny-day or nuisance flooding, as water rising more than half a meter, or about 20 inches, above the normal daily high-tide mark. The frequency of that flooding has increased because of rising sea levels, which were roughly 13 inches higher nationally last year than in 1920, the agency reported. (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration)


United States executes 2nd man in a week

The United States carried out its second federal execution in three days yesterday (7-16) following a hiatus of nearly two decades, killing by lethal injection a Kansas man whose lawyers contended he had dementia and was unfit to be executed. The man was put to death at the Federal Correctional Complex in Terre Haute, Indiana. He was sentenced to be executed for kidnapping and killing a 16-year-old girl before dismembering, burning and dumping her body in a septic pond. He also was convicted in a state court in Kansas of using a claw hammer to kill an 80-year-old woman who had polio. As the lethal chemical was injected, he took several deep breaths and blinked repeatedly, laying his head back down on the gurney. His time of death was 8:19 a.m. EDT. The Supreme Court cleared the way for the execution to take place just hours before, ruling in a 5-4 decision. The four liberal justices dissented, as they had for the first case earlier this week. (AP News)


Universe is 13.8 billion years old, scientists confirm

The universe is about 13.8 billion years old, according to new research recently published by an international team of astrophysicists. While this estimate of the age of the universe had been known before, in recent years, other scientific measurements had suggested instead that the universe may be hundreds of millions of years younger than this. The scientists studied an image of the oldest light in the universe to confirm its age of 13.8 billion years. This light, the “afterglow” of the Big Bang, is known as the cosmic microwave background and marks a time 380,000 years after the universe’s birth when protons and electrons joined to form the first atoms. Obtaining the best image of the infant universe helps scientists better understand the origins of the universe, how we got to where we are on Earth, where we are going, how the universe may end and when that ending may occur. (Stony Brook University)


Astronomers discover huge galactic wall hidden behind Milky Way

Scientists have discovered a celestial structure made of galaxies more than 1.4 billion light-years long and 600 million light-years deep in the skies over the South Pole, according to a report. The South Pole Wall, as it has been dubbed, is situated along the southern border of the cosmos from the perspective of Earth, and consists of thousands of galaxies, hydrogen gas, dust and dark matter. It’s also one of the largest known structures in the universe. The wall is among a number of structures that make up the cosmic web, including the Great Wall, the Bootes Void, the comparably sized Sloan Great Wall and the Hercules Corona-Borealis Great Wall, the largest known structure at 10 billion light-years wide. That’s about a tenth of the diameter of the observable universe. The South Pole Wall, however, is half the distance from the Earth to the Hercules Corona-Borealis Great Wall, 500 million light-years, and was hidden by the brightness of the Milky Way in an area called the Zone of Avoidance. It was discovered when scientists saw galaxies in different directions around it were affected by its gravitational pull. The wall is the largest structure discovered within a 650 million light-year radius from Earth. (MIT Technology Review)


Friday Breaks In With:

  • Celebration of The Horse Day (3rd Weekend)
  • Disneyland Day
  • Emoji Day
  • Lottery Day
  • Peach Ice Cream Day
  • Robin Hood Day
  • Tattoo Day
  • Victims of Baton Rouge, Louisianna Attack Day
  • World Day for International Criminal Justice
  • Wrong Way Corrigan Day
  • Yellow Pig Day

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