Tuesday, December 29, 2020



Los Angeles pilot finally captures elusive ‘jetpack man’ on video

The unidentified flying man in Los Angeles has finally been caught on video soaring 3,000 feet above Palos Verdes near Catalina Island with a jetpack. The mystery aeronaut has been spotted at least twice before, in the summer and fall, but now there’s video, posted to the Instagram account of the Sling Pilot Academy, a local aviation school. The video, which the school said one of its flight instructors recorded recently appears to show a solitary man sailing through the sky above the water off the California coast. Although the figure does look like a person in some kind of suit, the school said it wasn’t 100% certain that the flyer was indeed the mystery sky intruder. Local police, the FBI and Federal Aviation Administration had announced an investigation in early September after an August spotting of a suspected jetpack traveler 3,000 feet off the ground near Los Angeles International Airport. Two separate airline crews had reported sightings, but there was no video at the time. (Fox News)


President Trump’s impact on courts likely to last long beyond his term

During his tenure, President Trump has installed 230 federal judges to federal benches, including the three newest justices of the U.S. Supreme Court. He has :

  • appointed the most federal judges of any president in U.S. history, 53% more than Jimmy Carter’s record of 150 judges.
  • appointed 30% of the judges in the nation’s court of appeals, where all but a handful of litigation cases typically reach their end.
  • in the first two years, he appointed 30 appellate court judges and 53 district court nominees (the highest number of appellate court confirmations within a two-year-period since Ronald Reagan). Due to the young age of Trump’s lifetime Supreme Court appointments and the sheer number of his other federal bench installations, Trump’s legacy will endure in the U.S. judiciary for decades.

(Associated Press)


Stressed? Robots are here to help

Employees are increasingly turning to artificial intelligence instead of their boss to deal with workplace mental health issues. A global study by Workplace Intelligence and Oracle found 82% of workers are turning to chatbot or AI-based digital assistants to support their mental health, and 80% are open to having a robot provide counsel. The stigma of mental health remains a core reason to avoid human conversations. Mental health apps including Companion, Breath2Relax, MoodKit and Start, as well as on-demand virtual resources, are booming in popularity thanks to the pandemic. (Oracle)


Scientists discover a new species of snake hiding in plain sight

Sometimes, looking at things we thought we knew with fresh eyes (and new tools) can lead to incredible discoveries. That’s what happened when a graduate research assistant at the University of Kansas’ Biodiversity Institute found out that three specimens of snakes preserved in the institute’s biodiversity collection, found in field missions between 2006 and 2012 and overlooked up to this point, belonged in a category of their own. The three snake specimens are the only known members of a new snake genus, called Levitonius, and a new snake species, called Levitonius mirus. The findings by he and his colleagues, based on methods including DNA analysis and CT scans looking at the snakes’ bone structure. The newly identified Levitonius mirus, also known as Waray dwarf burrowing snake, is native to the islands of Samar and Leyte in the Philippines, an exceptionally biodiverse archipelago that includes at least 112 land snake species, according to the study. The snake has among the fewest number of vertebrae of any snake species in the world, according to the study, and has a long and narrow skull relative to its size. Its scales are highly iridescent, and it is likely that its diet is based on earthworms. The three specimens that were examined in the study are the only known ones ever found, and the snake has never been photographed alive. (CNN)

Will Netflix model work for travel?

The pandemic wreaked havoc on the travel industry in 2020: international travel all but halted for many countries; airlines filed for bankruptcy protection; traditional tourist hotspots have become coldspots. In response, the travel industry has been forced to rip up big chunks of its playbook and start fresh. One idea gaining traction? Travel subscriptions. Costco has partnered with WheelsUp to offer a yearly private jet subscription for $17,499.99. Tripadvisor is launching a yearly subscription service called Tripadvisor Plus for $99, which offers access to travel deals and other perks. (LinkedIn)


UPDATE: Gingerbread monolith that appeared Christmas Day has fallen

A monolith made of gingerbread that appeared Christmas Day has collapsed. The monolith, like recent ones seen around the world, mysteriously showed up – this time, at Corona Heights Park in San Francisco. The structure even had icing and gumdrops. Plenty of people stopped by to check it out, and it received lots of attention online. But just a day later, it was found toppled to the ground. No word on who put up the gingerbread monolith or how it fell. (KGO-TV)


An 11-year-old boy used his birthday money to buy Chick-fil-A for the homeless — and now the chain is putting him in a commercial

While many 11-year-olds ask for birthday presents, one boy decided to donate his gift of $150. Rather than donating the money outright, he used it to buy Chick-fil-A for his local homeless community. “During the pandemic, a lot of people lost their jobs so they don’t have a lot of food and toys for their kids,” the young boy said. His mother said she and her son bought 20 meals from Chick-fil-A and dropped them off for members of the homeless community. The chain caught wind of the boys’ generosity and reached out to offer the youngster a commercial spot which will reportedly air in January. The boy was invited to the chain’s Atlanta, Georgia headquarters to film. Others have also responded to the story with positive notes of encouragement and birthday wishes for the boy. One Twitter user even offered to buy him lunch. (WJBF)


Leisure time may someday pay

The future of work is predicted to be “all about making money from your leisure time,” according to some experts. Soon we could cash in on the data we once gave companies like Apple or Facebook for free. As data’s value rises, we will begin to think about how we work in an entirely different way. That’s because we’d be paid handsomely for data related to things like what we eat, where we exercise and what we watch, instead of simply whiling away our time in an office. (Financial Review)


Ancient ‘fast food’ counter to open to the public

A “fast food” shop from the ancient Roman city of Pompeii, which was destroyed in a volcanic eruption almost 2,000 years ago, is to open to the public for viewings only next year. The food counter, known as a thermopolium, would have served hot food and drinks to locals in the city. The shop, with its bright frescoes and terracotta jars, was discovered in 2019 and unveiled recently. Pompeii was engulfed by a volcanic eruption from Mount Vesuvius in AD79. The eruption buried Pompeii in a thick layer of ash, preserving the city and the outlines of many of its residents in time, and making it a rich source for archaeologists. The paintings found at the site are believed to show some of the food that was on offer to customers, including chicken and duck. Traces of pork, fish, snails and beef were also discovered in jars and other containers. The director of the Pompeii archaeological park said that the discovery was “extraordinary”. The Pompeii site, which lies around 14 miles to the south-east of Naples, is currently closed due to the coronavirus pandemic, but the park hopes to reopen by Easter. Around a third of the ancient city has not yet been uncovered and finds from the site continue to emerge. (BBC)


Girl Scouts accuse Boy Scouts of poaching new recruits

Lawyers for the Girl Scouts claim the Boy Scouts of America have been stealing potential members over the past two years — while engaging in a “highly damaging” recruitment war, according to papers filed in Manhattan federal court. The bad blood between the organizations started when the Cub Scouts announced it would accept girls beginning in 2018. It intensified last year when the Boy Scouts also began welcoming girls into their program, causing the Girl Scouts to sue the organization over its move to rebrand as the gender-neutral Scouts BSA. In papers filed recently, the Girl Scouts doubled down on the accusation that the BSA has been intentionally poaching its member pool. The Girl Scouts said BSA’s marketing of new services for girls using the terms “scout, scouts, scouting, scouts BSA and scout me in” proved “extraordinary and highly damaging to Girl Scouts” and had set off an “explosion of confusion”. “As a result of Boy Scouts’ infringement, parents have mistakenly enrolled their daughters in Boy Scouts thinking it was Girl Scouts,” attorneys wrote, adding that this never happened before Scouts BSA moved to include girls. As proof of “rampant instances of confusion and mistaken instances of association between Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts,” the organization provided documents of registration fees being returned to confused parents of girls from less than a tenth of local Scout councils. The legal papers allege that Scouts BSA blamed dozens of accusations of unfair marketing on isolated incidents. In a statement, the Boy Scouts accused its counterparts of launching a “ground war.” The Boy Scouts has seen its membership sharply decline in recent years amid massive sex abuse allegations and youth sports participation. It currently has 2.2 million members, about a third as many scouts as at the organization’s height in 1972. Membership in the Girl Scouts has fallen to 1.7 million, from a high of 3.8 million in 2003. (New York Post)


A homeless man risked his life to save several cats and dogs trapped at an Atlanta animal shelter after it caught fire

A 53-year-old man rushed into into an animal shelter called W-Underdogs on December 18 after a fire engulfed its kitchen. “I was nervous as hell, I’m not going to lie. I was really scared to go in there with all that smoke. But God put me there to save those animals,” the man said. “If you love a dog, you can love anyone in the world. My dog is my best friend, and I wouldn’t be here without him, so I knew I had to save all those other dogs.” While the shelter was not completely destroyed, the fire left it uninhabitable, according to W-Underdogs founder. Luckily, W-Underdogs was only a week away from moving into its new facility in Atlanta, where the animals now reside. “Even the firefighters didn’t want to handle the dogs. They called animal control, but the man was already in the building pulling out the cats and dogs until they were all safe,” said the founder of the shelter. (CNN)


Discovery Supports a Surprising New View of How Life on Earth Originated

Chemists at Scripps Research have made a discovery that supports a surprising new view of how life originated on our planet. In a study, they demonstrated that a simple compound called diamidophosphate (DAP), which was plausibly present on Earth before life arose, could have chemically knitted together tiny DNA building blocks called deoxynucleosides into strands of primordial DNA. The finding is the latest in a series of discoveries, over the past several years, pointing to the possibility that DNA and its close chemical cousin RNA arose together as products of similar chemical reactions, and that the first self-replicating molecules, the first life forms on Earth, were mixes of the two. The discovery may also lead to new practical applications in chemistry and biology, but its main significance is that it addresses the age-old question of how life on Earth first arose. In particular, it paves the way for more extensive studies of how self-replicating DNA-RNA mixes could have evolved and spread on the primordial Earth and ultimately seeded the more mature biology of modern organisms. (SciTech Daily)


China sentences lawyer who reported on outbreak to 4 years

A Chinese court sentenced a former 37-year-old lawyer who reported on the early stage of the coronavirus outbreak to four years in prison on charges of “picking fights and provoking trouble,” one of her lawyers said. The judge gave the sentence to the female lawyer following accusations she spread false information, gave interviews to foreign media, disrupted public order and “maliciously manipulated” the outbreak. The female lawyer traveled to Wuhan in February and posted on various social media platforms about the outbreak that is believed to have emerged in the central Chinese city late last year. She was arrested in May amid tough nationwide measures aimed at curbing the outbreak and heavy censorship to deflect criticism of the government’s initial response. She went on a prolonged hunger strike while in detention, prompting authorities to forcibly feed her, and is said to be in poor health. China has been accused of covering up the initial outbreak and delaying the release of crucial information. Beijing vigorously denies the accusations, saying it took swift action that bought time for the rest of the world to prepare. China’s ruling Communist Party tightly controls the media and seeks to block dissemination of information it hasn’t approved for release. (ABC News)


Tuesday Bring Up:

  • Hero Day
  • Pepper Pot Day
  • Tick Tock Day
  • YMCA Day

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