Wednesday, December 9, 2020

The Geminid meteor shower is the last one of the year and it’s set to give stargazers a great show, experts say

It’s expected to peak in the evening hours between December 13th and 14th, but there could be a “decent spattering of meteors on the preceding nights (December 11-12 and December 12-13) as well,” according to the organization EarthSky. “The Geminids are a very reliable shower if you watch at the best time of night, centered on about 2 a.m. for all parts of the globe, and if you watch in a dark sky,” EarthSky wrote on its website. “The meteors tend to be bold, white and quick. This shower favors Earth’s Northern Hemisphere, but it’s visible from the Southern Hemisphere, too. The curious rock comet called 3200 Phaethon is the parent body of this shower.” (EarthSky)


Hawaii is offering free round trips to remote workers who want to live there temporarily

What better way to survive a pandemic than to do it on a beach in Hawaii? For anyone who finds the idea dreamy, Hawaii is offering free round trip tickets to Oahu to out-of-state remote workers who want to live and work there while contributing to the state’s economy. The state launched the temporary residency program, known as “Movers and Shakas,” in collaboration with schools and businesses. It is accepting its first group of applicants until December 15th. Fifty people will be chosen for the first cohort. Later applicants will be accepted on a rolling basis. To apply, you must be a remote worker and at least 18 years old. Participants must move within one month of being selected and are required to spend at least 30 consecutive days in Hawaii. “Hawai’i currently has the lowest rate per capita of Covid infections in the country, also making it one of the safest places to live and work,” according to the program’s news release. (Business Wire)


California man punches 350-pound bear in face to save beloved dog ‘Buddy’

A Nevada County, California man ended up in a brawl with a bear to save his best friend, a pit bull named Buddy. Buddy was playing outside his home the day before Thanksgiving when Benham heard a growl and saw a bear had the dog in its mouth. “I heard a growl, looked about 75-100 feet down, and the bear was dragging him by his head,” the man said. “Honestly, the only thing I could think of was ‘save my baby.’” The man did save Buddy by running out and punching the 350-pound bear in the face. “I just ran down there, plowed into the bear, tackled it and grabbed it by the throat and started hitting it in the face and the eye until it let go,” he said. Even after the heroic rescue, the man was worried he might lose Buddy when the canine went into surgery and came out after three hours with some stitches and some staples, but was able to return home for Thanksgiving where he spent the holiday in bed resting up and healing. Buddy is expected to make a full recovery. The bear has returned several times since the attack, and Benham can’t figure out how to get it to leave him alone. (CBS 13 Sacramento)


Binge drinking among Americans increased the longer they stayed at home, study finds

Researchers from the University of Texas Health Science Center School of Public Health in Dallas analyzed data from an online survey of 1,982 adults from mid-March to mid-April when stay-at-home orders were put in place nearer the start of the pandemic. Participants were 42 years of age on average, and the majority were White (89%) and women (69%). Participants were divided into three groups based on survey responses: binge drinkers, non-binge drinkers and non-drinkers. Researchers also analyzed how long they were spending in lockdown and the number of people and children they lived with. They were also asked to answer questions about their current mental health state and previous experiences with depression, as well as their employment status and whether they had suffered a job loss or decreased salary. The survey found that participants, on average, spent 21 hours a day at home, with 72% of respondents saying they did not leave for work. The researchers found that alcohol abuse among binge drinkers, defined as men who consume five or more drinks within two hours, and women who consume four in the same time frame, surged by 19% during every week of lockdown. Increased alcohol consumption for binge drinkers was more than double (60%) compared with people who did not have such drinking habits (28%), the study found. Individuals who drank excessively during the pandemic had admitted to consuming up to seven drinks within two hours, on average, as compared to the two-drink maximum that the average non-binge drinkers had consumed on occasion. The study found that 32% of those surveyed reported binge drinking during the pandemic, with those deemed as binge drinkers increasing their alcohol intake even more. What’s more, non-binge drinkers were said to have consumed around the same amount of alcohol they did prior to lockdown. (American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse)



Mastercard and Visa Investigating Business Relationship with Pornhub Following Alleged Rape, Assault Videos

Visa and Mastercard are reportedly investigating their business relationships with Pornhub after a columnist at The New York Times wrote a recent op-ed exposing the pornographic site for carrying rape scenes and other footage of nonconsensual acts. “It monetizes child rapes, revenge pornography, spycam videos of women showering, racist and misogynist content, and footage of women being asphyxiated in plastic bags,” according to the article. “A search for ‘girls under18′ (no space) or ’14yo’ leads in each case to more than 100,000 videos.” It also detailed several descriptions and examples of sexual assault found on Pornhub, many including underaged girls and many posted onto the website without consent. The article called out card issuers for working with the site, prompting Visa and Mastercard to investigate the matter, despite Pornhub’s claim that the allegations are “irresponsible and flagrantly untrue.” Visa said that if Pornhub is violating the law, they will prohibit their card from being used on the site. Mastercard promised “immediate action″ if the allegations are true, adding, “We are investigating the allegations raised in the New York Times and are working with MindGeek’s bank to understand this situation.” American Express said company policy prohibits their card from being used on “digital adult content websites” while PayPal stopped processing payments to Pornhub last year. (Associated Press)


FCC awards SpaceX Starlink $886 million to serve 643,000 rural customers

SpaceX has been awarded $885.51 million by the Federal Communications Commission to provide Starlink broadband to 642,925 rural homes and businesses in 35 states. The satellite provider was one of the biggest winners in the FCC’s Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) auction, the results of which were released today. Funding is distributed over 10 years, so SpaceX’s haul will amount to a little over $88.5 million per year. Charter Communications, the second-largest US cable company after Comcast, did even better. SpaceX could theoretically provide service to all of rural America once it has launched enough satellites, even without FCC funding. One possibility is that SpaceX could use the FCC money to lower prices in the 642,925 funded locations, but the FCC announcement didn’t say whether that’s what SpaceX will do. We asked SpaceX and the FCC for more details and will update this article if we get any answers. Starlink is in beta and costs $99 per month, plus a one-time fee of $499 for the user terminal, mounting tripod, and router. The 35 states where SpaceX won FCC funding are Alabama, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, and Wyoming. (Ars Technica)


150 Cadillac dealers have accepted buyouts from GM instead of transitioning to EVs

This represents about 17% of all its U.S. dealerships. These buyouts are part of a more significant effort from GM to move into the EV market quickly. GM informed its 880 Cadillac dealers in the U.S. that they would need upgrades costing at least $200,000 to prepare their dealerships to sell EVs. This would include electric chargers, maintenance equipment, and training required for the new cars. The buyouts come from the $27B being invested in GM’s electric and autonomous vehicles before 2025.  The company expects to have 30 EVs in the market by 2025. By 2030, GM expects all Cadillacs sold to be electric. The buyouts ranged from $300,000.00 to $1,000,000.00. (The Wall Street Journal)


KIA has recalled 295,000 cars, including the 2011-2013 Optima Hybrid, over a fire risk

The recall comes after KIA and Hyundai agreed to a record $210 Million civil penalty with the U.S. government. KIA made the decision to recall 295,000 cars from U.S. roads, including certain production runs of its Sorento, Forte, Forte Koup, Soul, Sportage, and the Optima Hybrid models. As part of the recall, dealers will perform an inspection of the engine compartment for fuel or oil leaks, perform an engine test, and make necessary repairs. KIA is currently developing a software upgrade for its Knock Sensor Detection System, which could alleviate some of the danger. (CNBC)


A dog that disappeared in suburban Chicago three years ago, has been reunited with her owners

The black labrador vanished from a backyard when Debra and Steve Mejeur were visiting friends in Chicago. Since the family is from Kalamazoo, Michigan, they posted notices and hired a professional pet searcher to find Lola, who was specially trained to help one of the family members in case she suffered a seizure, but their search efforts bore no fruit until a couple who saw the dog in a forest reserve in DuPage County, Illinois, notified the local animal services department. Rescuers found a microchip in Lola’s neck that pointed to the family searching for the lost pup. After being reunited with Lola, the family said they were was “stunned.” No one knows how Lola survived for three years. (Associated Press)


Uber has sold its self-driving car division to a Silicon Valley startup named Aurora for $4 Billion

As part of the deal, the ride-hailing company will invest $400M to acquire a 26% stake in Aurora, a firm that makes sensors and software for autonomous vehicles. Uber CEO will join Aurora’s board. Uber said that it plans to collaborate with Aurora. Japan’s Toyota is an investor in the self-driving unit, which is known as Advanced Technologies Group (ATG). ATG ran into trouble in 2018, when one of its test cars killed a woman crossing a street in Arizona. It has also been entangled in a long-running legal dispute over technology theft with Google’s self-driving car unit, Waymo. ATG was founded by executives who had previously worked in Uber, Tesla, and Google. Aurora is backed by Amazon and South Korean carmaker Hyundai. (BBC)


400 lawmakers from 34 countries signed a letter in support of “Make Amazon Pay”

In a campaign that’s seeking better working conditions, fairer tax practices, and higher environmental standards from the tech giant. The signees include U.S. congresswomen Ilhan Omar (D-MN) and Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) and former U.K. Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, who said in the letter that Amazon has dodged its “debts to workers, societies, and the planet.” On Black Friday, November 27th, a coalition of unions, environmentalists, and human-rights groups launched global protests against Amazon as they seek higher pay, union rights, and climate action named “Make Amazon Pay”. A new open letter, signed by mostly left-leaning politicians, is addressed to Jeff Bezos. It says the Amazon founder’s wealth is based on the efforts of workers who have risked their health to deliver products during the pandemic and help Bezos earn “enormous profits.” The letter claims that while Bezos’ personal wealth has gone up by ~$13M per hour in 2020, Amazon workers are forced into dangerous working conditions and have experienced “little to no” pay increases. They cited Amazon’s impacts on the environment, with a carbon footprint that’s “greater than two-thirds of the world’s countries.” They argued that Amazon’s emissions curbing plans are insufficient. They argued that Amazon engages in corporate tax dodging and uses monopolistic practices to squeeze out small businesses. An Amazon spokesperson said their concerns stem from “misleading assertions” by groups that are self-interested and/or misinformed. The company has argued it offers “excellent” salaries, along with benefits and working conditions, that are similar to other major employers. (Business Insider


According to new measurements, the peak of Mount Everest is 8,848.86 meters (29,031.7 feet) above sea level, slightly higher than previously thought

The world’s highest peak just became a tiny bit higher. Nepal and China, the two countries that share a border on Mount Everest, announced a new official measurement of the mountain’s height on Tuesday (12/8): 8,848.86 meters, or 29,031.69 feet. That’s about three feet higher than the most commonly used measure of Everest’s height dating back to a survey conducted by India in the early 1950s. The announcement, which was broadcast live on national television in Nepal, is the culmination of an exhaustive process involving two trips to the summit and years of measurements to calculate Everest’s precise height above sea level. Experts say the figure is likely to become the standard height for Everest. “It will be difficult to improve on the new number,” said a geologist at the University of Colorado. The measurements taken by Nepal are “remarkable for their density.” The exact height of Everest is a moving target, geologists say, thanks to shifting tectonic plates and the occasional earthquake. The former pushes the mountain’s height ever-so-slightly upward each year, while the latter can cause it to sink. For Nepal, the drive to measure Everest was partly an exercise in national pride. Despite being home to the world’s highest peak, Nepal had never conducted its own measurement. Starting in 2018, Nepal announced it would spend $1.3 million on the project. (The Washington Post)


The man who found a treasure chest filled with gold and jewels that had been hidden in the Rocky Mountains by art dealer Forrest Fenn has come forward

Jack Stuef, a 32-year-old medical student from Michigan, was forced to identify himself due to a lawsuit. Forrest Fenn, who died in September, once estimated that 350,000 people went looking for the chest, which was filled with gold coins and jewelry. He’s not willing, though, to part with the treasure’s secrets and the clues that led him to it. Jack Stuef spent two years searching for Forrest Fenn’s treasure, which included gold, jewelry and other artifacts believed to total over $1 million. He finally found it in the Wyoming wilderness in June. Forrest Fenn’s infamous treasure hunt began 10 years ago, when the author published a cryptic poem in his autobiography meant to lead prospective explorers to the spot in the Wyoming wilderness where his treasure chest was hidden. Forrest Fenn estimated over 350,000 people searched for the chest, and a few even died on their journey. Stuef said he’ll never reveal the location where he found the chest to preserve the wildlife there and prevent other explorers from following his trail, which could be dangerous. (Outside Online


Wednesday Bombards Us With:

  • Cremation Day
  • Christmas Card Day
  • International Anti-corruption Day
  • International Day of Commemoration and Dignity of The Victims of The Crime of Genocide and The Prevention of This Crime
  • Pastry Day
  • Weary Willie Day
  • World Techno Day

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