Friday, August 21, 2020

NASA Is Tracking a Vast, Growing Anomaly in Earth’s Magnetic Field

NASA is actively monitoring a strange anomaly in Earth’s magnetic field: a giant region of lower magnetic intensity in the skies above the planet, stretching out between South America and southwest Africa. This vast, developing phenomenon, called the South Atlantic Anomaly, has intrigued and concerned scientists for years, and perhaps none more so than NASA researchers. The space agency’s satellites and spacecraft are particularly vulnerable to the weakened magnetic field strength within the anomaly, and the resulting exposure to charged particles from the Sun. The South Atlantic Anomaly (SAA) generally doesn’t affect life on Earth, but the same can’t be said for orbital spacecraft (including the International Space Station), which pass directly through the anomaly as they loop around the planet at low-Earth orbit altitudes. During these encounters, the reduced magnetic field strength inside the anomaly means technological systems onboard satellites can short-circuit and malfunction if they become struck by high-energy protons emanating from the Sun. These random hits may usually only produce low-level glitches, but they do carry the risk of causing significant data loss, or even permanent damage to key components – threats obliging satellite operators to routinely shut down spacecraft systems before spacecraft enter the anomaly zone. (Science Alert)


California confirms first case of plague in 5 years

Health officials have confirmed a case of plague at South Lake Tahoe – the first in California in five years. El Dorado County, California officials said that the California Department of Public Health notified them of the positive test of a local resident who is under medical care while recovering at home. Officials believe the resident may have been bitten by an infected flea while walking a dog along the Truckee River corridor or in the Tahoe Keys area on Tahoe’s south shore. Plague bacteria are most often transmitted by fleas that have acquired it from infected squirrels, chipmunks and other wild rodents. Dogs and cats may also carry plague-infected fleas. (CBS News)


U.S. states seek $2.2 trillion from OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma: filings’

States across the country claimed they are owed $2.2 trillion to address harm from OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma LP’s alleged role in America’s opioid epidemic, accusing the drugmaker in new filings of pushing prescription painkillers on doctors and patients while playing down the risks of abuse and overdose. In filings made as part of Purdue’s bankruptcy proceedings that were disclosed earlier this week, the states said Purdue contributed to a public health crisis that has claimed the lives of roughly 450,000 people since 1999 and caused strains on healthcare and criminal justice systems. The filings cited more than 200,000 deaths in the U.S. tied directly to prescription opioids between 1999 and 2016. In large states such as California and New York, claims alone totaled more than $192 billion and $165 billion, respectively. Forty-nine U.S. states, Washington, D.C. and various territories are making the claims. Oklahoma settled litigation with Purdue last year. (Reuter)


Veterinary clinic says couple cursed at employees, left behind dog

An Oklahoma City veterinary hospital says it was shocked after a man allegedly cursed at an employee and then abandoned a dog on the property. Neel Veterinary Hospital says a couple came to the clinic with a gray pitbull that was coughing. After consulting with clinic staff, the couple said they had financial limitations and didn’t like the suggestions for further care of the dog. “They cursed and yelled at our staff and hit a staff member with their car door,” the veterinary hospital posted on Facebook. At that point, the man allegedly took the dog and tied it to the clinic’s side door and drove away. Officials say if they can identify the man, they plan to file animal abandonment charges against him. (KFOR)


San Francisco restaurant ordered to take down controversial domes

The San Francisco restaurant that made headlines for launching $200-per-person meals inside geodesic domes received a visit last week from a Department of Public Health officer, who ordered the restaurant to take the domes down. The restaurant, Japanese fine dining spot Hashiri, first erected the domes because serving outdoors didn’t seem feasible given its location in Mint Plaza where homeless folks often hang out. During the coronavirus pandemic, many San Francisco restaurants are turning to outdoor dining because they can’t operate indoors and many have had a tough time attracting enough takeout business to be financially solvent. The officer ordered the business to remove the domes “due to the enclosed nature of the structure, which may not allow for adequate air flow,” according to the inspection report. The California Department of Public Health’s guidelines for outdoor dining during the pandemic state that outdoor structures like tents need to be open on the sides to allow for air flow. However, the owner said he believes the domes’ two windows and door provide sufficient ventilation. The business spent more than $4,000 on the three domes. (San Fransisco Chronicle)


Cities sue Netflix, Hulu, Disney+, claim they owe cable “franchise fees”

Four cities in Indiana are suing Netflix and other video companies, claiming that online video providers and satellite-TV operators should have to pay the same franchise fees that cable companies pay for using local rights of way. The lawsuit was filed against Netflix, Disney, Hulu, DirecTV, and Dish Network on August 4th in Indiana Commercial Court in Marion County. The cities of Indianapolis, Evansville, Valparaiso, and Fishers want the companies to pay the cable-franchise fees established in Indiana’s Video Service Franchises (VSF) Act, which requires payments of 5 percent of gross revenue in each city. The lawsuit is based on an unusual legal argument and doesn’t seem likely to succeed. Essentially, the cities are claiming that Netflix and similar providers use the public rights of way simply by offering video streaming services over the Internet. Netflix, Hulu, and Disney+ are Internet-only services. Dish and DirecTV are primarily satellite operators but also offer online access. The cities’ lawsuit never mentions the word “satellite” and doesn’t fully explain how DirecTV and Dish use the public rights of way. (Arstechnica)


Microsoft will bid farewell to Internet Explorer and legacy Edge in 2021

On August 17th, 2021, Internet Explorer 11 will no longer be supported for Microsoft’s online services like Office 365, OneDrive, Outlook, and more. Microsoft is also ending support for Internet Explorer 11 with the Microsoft Teams web app later this year, with support ending on November 30th. Microsoft is hoping that the new Internet Explorer legacy mode in the Chromium-based Microsoft Edge browser will help. Alongside the support changes, Microsoft is also planning to drop support for its existing legacy version of Microsoft Edge on March 9th, 2021. After the end of support date, the legacy version of Edge will no longer receive security updates. Microsoft has been moving existing Windows 10 users over to new its Chromium-based Edge browser, and the company says new devices and future Windows feature updates will all include the new Edge browser. (The Verge)


Men Urged to Limit Alcohol to One Drink a Day Amid New Concerns

Men should consume no more than one alcoholic drink a day, according to a federal committee’s recommendations for new U.S. dietary guidelines. That’s a reduction from the current recommended limit of two drinks a day, and matches the guidance for women. The shift reflects scientists’ evolving thinking on moderate drinking, and comes as a 20-year rise in Americans’ drinking is accelerating during the pandemic. Earlier research linked moderate drinking to a lower risk of heart disease, but many health experts now say some of those studies are flawed, and that there’s more and better evidence showing wider health risks of alcohol. Researchers at Boston University looked at deaths from cancer, cardiovascular disease, and more than 60 alcohol-related conditions. Two drinks a day is associated with a higher risk of death than drinking one drink a day. (Health 4 Everyday)


Scientists in the Horn of Africa have found an elephant shrew that was feared extinct

The Somali sengi, a mouse-sized mammal with a trunk-like nose that mates for life and feeds on insects, had not been seen in the wild since 1968. The sengi was in the Global Wildlife Conservation’s list of 25 most wanted lost species. But not anymore – researchers caught one in the Eastern African country of Djibouti after setting 1,259 traps baited with peanut butter, oatmeal, and yeast. In total, they found 12 sengis. The researchers have asked the International Union for Conservation of Nature to grant the sengis “least concern” status on the organization’s Red List of Threatened Species. (CNET)


Governor Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency in California over the devastating wildfires that have forced thousands of people to flee their homes

The evacuation orders affect parts of Santa Cruz, San Mateo, Napa, and Sonoma Counties, in Northern California. Dozens of wildfires razing through California are being fueled by record high temperatures and increased dryness. The emergency declaration will free additional resources to battle the blazes. Newsom also ordered the California National Guard to assist with firefighting efforts. Temperatures were forecasted to reach over 100°F on some days in Napa, Sonoma, and Sacramento. Authorities have warned of poor air quality in Northern California due to the wildfires. The SCU Lightning Complex, which is 4% contained, has burned 35,000 acres east of San Jose. The LNU Lightning Complex fire has burned 32,000 acres and is growing rapidly. (Sacramento Bee)


The U.S. National Hurricane Center is monitoring two systems in the Atlantic that could potentially develop into tropical storms, as well as a hurricane in the Gulf of Mexico

Forecasters say that there is a 50% and 70% chance, respectively, that each of the disturbances in the Atlantic will develop into major storms – as of now, it is too early to know if they will make landfall on the Atlantic coast. However, one of the systems will likely bring gusty winds and heavy rains to the Leeward Islands. There have been 11 named storms in the Atlantic so far this year. Typically, there are about 12 named storms in the Atlantic every hurricane season, but forecasters say that 2020 will likely bring 19 to 25 storms and 7 to 11 of those are expected to become hurricanes. The main factor fueling the storms are higher-than-normal ocean surface temperatures in the tropical Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea. (USA Today)


Google is rolling out a major Google Maps update that with more details to help users identify natural landscapes

The maps feature a richer color palette that highlights natural features, including ice caps, deserts, beaches, and forests. The new maps will be available in 220 countries and territories starting this week. The company said it has used satellite images and a new color mapping algorithm for the upgrade. Google also plans to overhaul street maps for New York, San Francisco, and London in the coming months. The maps will feature additional details showing features such as sidewalks, crosswalks, and pedestrian islands. They will also show shapes “to scale,” Google said. More cities will be added in the future. (The Verge)


Broadcasters Air 150 Times More Negative News on Trump Than Biden: Study

NewsBusters, a project of watchdog Media Research Center, analyzed ABC, CBS, and NBC evening newscasts from June 1 through July 31. Analysts found that the shows spent 512 minutes of airtime on Trump, nine times more than the 58 minutes they allotted to Biden. But that extra airtime was almost entirely negative toward Trump. Analysts at the center found 634 of 668 evaluative statements about the president were negative, compared to 4 of 12 for Biden. In a typical campaign season, broadcasts would devote time to both candidates. Forty percent, or 23.5 minutes, of the Biden-focused coverage aired Biden’s criticisms of Trump, while just 0.25 percent, or 88 seconds, of Trump-focused coverage consisted of relaying Trump’s criticisms of the presumptive nominee. The study included explicitly evaluative statements about Trump or Biden from reporters, anchors, or nonpartisan sources such as experts or voters. It didn’t include evaluations or comments from partisan sources, or neutral statements. Trump has regularly described many reporters as biased against him. ABC News, NBC News, and CBS News didn’t respond to requests for comment on the study. (News Busters)


Friday Dawns A New Weekend With:

  • Brazilian Blow-out Day
  • International Day of Remembrance and Tribute To The Victims of Terrorism
  • Internet Self-care Day
  • Men’s Grooming Day (3rd Friday)
  • Poet’s Day
  • Senior Citizen’s Day
  • Spumoni Day

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