Monday, March 1, 2021

Brisbane, Australia tapped by International Olympic Committee as preferred host for 2032 Summer Olympics

The decision by the IOC’s executive board puts Brisbane on a fast-track to victory 11 years ahead of the games and before several expected rival candidates have publicly developed their plans. Officials in Brisbane, Queensland and the Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) will now begin “targeted dialogue” with an IOC panel overseeing a reformed bidding process. The IOC’s new bidding process, developed in part by Australia’s top Olympic official, seeks to find a winning host more efficiently and avoid turning other campaigns into expensive losers. The 2032 race was expected to include bids from Doha, Qatar, which is hosting the 2030 Asian Games, and Budapest, Hungary. Neither has launched a formal bid yet, and Wednesday’s decision will likely be a deterrent for either to enter the race. If Brisbane is eventually approved by the full IOC membership, potentially next year, it would cap the second straight unconventional bidding process for the Summer Games. Paris and Los Angeles were awarded the 2024 and 2028 editions, respectively, at the same time when in 2017 the IOC changed its rules mid-contest to allow a double award. (ESPN)


NASA’s Perseverance rover sends back first high-definition, 360-degree panorama of Martian surface 

This is the first 360-degree panorama taken by Mastcam-Z, a zoomable pair of cameras aboard NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover. The panorama was stitched together on Earth from 142 individual images taken on the third Martian day of the mission (February 21, 2021). Annotated versions of this panorama include a scale bar and close-ups of rock features seen in the distance. A detail shot from the top of the panorama shows the rim of Jezero Crater, Perseverance’s landing site. A key objective for Perseverance’s mission on Mars is astrobiology, including the search for signs of ancient microbial life. The rover will characterize the planet’s geology and past climate, pave the way for human exploration of the Red Planet, and be the first mission to collect and cache Martian rock and regolith (broken rock and dust). Subsequent NASA missions, in cooperation with ESA (European Space Agency), would send spacecraft to Mars to collect these sealed samples from the surface and return them to Earth for in-depth analysis. (NASA)


Advanced X-ray imaging creates the first 3D map of the hearing nerve in the inner ear, showing where various sound frequencies are captured 

Researchers at Uppsala University have created the first 3D map of the hearing nerve showing where the various sound frequencies are captured. Using what is known as synchrotron X-ray imaging, they were able to trace the fine nerve threads and the vibrating auditory organ, the cochlea, and find out exactly how the frequencies of incoming sound are distributed. Sound waves have differing frequencies, that is, the number of vibrations they make every second varies according to whether it is a high-pitched sound, which causes more vibrations per second, or a low-pitched one, which results in fewer. Frequency is measured in hertz (Hz), and the human ear can perceive frequencies of between 20 and 20,000 Hz. When the sound waves are captured by the cochlea of the inner ear, fibrous connective tissue and sensory cells separate the various frequencies. High-frequency sounds reach the sound-sensitive hair cells in the lower part of the cochlea, while low-frequency sounds are absorbed in the corresponding way in the upper parts of the cochlea. (Uppsala University)


The U.S. is currently experiencing its mildest flu season in decades

The downturn in influenza cases is likely due to measures taken to prevent the spread of coronavirus, along with an increase in people getting the flu shot. According to the CDC, this is the “lowest flu season we’ve had on record” though a database keeping track of U.S. flu transmission only goes back 25 years. Some researchers have suggested that the rapid spread of coronavirus may have “muscled aside” influenza and other viruses in the U.S., though scientists aren’t quite sure how this process works. The Reuters Fact Check team notes that there’s no evidence that cases of influenza are being “mislabeled” as COVID-19, despite claims on social media. Influenza transmission is also down significantly in Europe. U.K. officials have been unable to identify a single case of influenza so far in 2021 in nearly 700,000 samples. (Associated Press)


Circulation in the Atlantic Ocean is at its weakest level in at least a millennium, according to a new study

The Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC) is a system of currents that brings warm, tropical water to the North Atlantic. The weak circulation is likely due to climate change, researchers say, and could result in more extreme weather hitting the United Kingdom and Europe. At the current rate of global warming, the scientists say AMOC will weaken another 34-45% by the end of the 21st century, raising sea levels across the U.S. East Coast and hastening a “tipping point” after which the trends would be irreversible. Should AMOC remain weak, the U.K. would likely see more severe storms and continental Europe would experience stronger heatwaves and droughts. Changes to AMOC would also drastically impact marine life. (Nature)


A 105-year-old woman who contracted COVID-19 in January said she beat the virus thanks to a long-term habit: eating gin-soaked golden raisins

Born in 1916, the woman has lived through the Spanish flu, two world wars, the deaths of three husbands, and now the coronavirus pandemic. Living in a nursing home in New Jersey, contracted the virus in January, shortly after receiving her second coronavirus vaccine dose, but she showed few symptoms and recovered within a couple of weeks. She said she survived the virus thanks to a decades-long habit of eating nine gin-soaked golden raisins every morning as well as her daily prayers and not eating any fast food. The woman’s 53-year-old granddaughter said that her family describes her Grandma as “the 105-year-old badass who kicked Covid.” (The New York Times)


U.S. retail sales will grow between 6.5% and 8.2% this year

According to a forecast by the National Retail Federation, retail sales grew by 6.7% last year, amounting to $4.06T, driven by a 22% increase in e-commerce sales. Last year’s growth rate was nearly twice the expected growth rate of 3.5%. It was the first time over the last decade that the growth rate has risen above 5%. In 2021, e-commerce is expected to grow between 18-23%, and contribute to a maximum of $1.19T in sales. As more people receive the COVID-19 vaccine and traveling and social gathering resume, the services category, which accounts for 70% of spending, is expected to grow this year. In January, U.S. retail sales exceeded the estimated growth rate of 1%, increasing by 5.3%. January’s growth follows three months of declining sales. (National Retail Federation)


AT&T nabs deal for DirecTV spinoff

AT&T has reached a deal with private equity firm TPG to spin off its DirecTV, AT&T TV and U-Verse business, forming a new jointly-run entity called DirecTV. The pay-TV unit has lost millions of customers and seen its value drop sharply in recent years as digital video distribution has surpassed satellite. The new agreement values DirecTV’s video business at around $16.25 billion, while AT&T had acquired DirecTV for $48.5 billion in 2015. AT&T has meanwhile shifted focus from traditional pay-TV with its purchase of Time Warner and launch of streaming service HBO Max. (CNBC)


Indonesia creates virtual police department to guard social media

Indonesian police started patrolling online, monitoring social media content posted by its citizens. The new unit was formed to reduce crime related to the Electronic Information and Transaction Law (UU ITE), which includes cyber defamation. Operating under the Criminal Investigation Agency of the national police, it has already sent warnings to 12 social media users on multiple platforms, said head of the cybercrime division. First, it will monitor platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and others. If it encounters content, such as texts, images, or videos, which might violate UU ITE, the officer will take a screenshot and consult with a team of experts skilled in criminal law, languages, and IT. If they deem that the content might violate the law, being a defamation or baseless accusation, an officer will send a warning via direct message. That warning contains details of the problematic post, date and time, along with a recommendation to delete or amend it. If the user refuses to heed the advice, the harmed party can file a police report. The Indonesian government has voiced its plan to launch a virtual police department since December. (KrAsia


US officials ask China not to subject staff to Covid-19 anal swab tests

US officials in China have asked local authorities to refrain from subjecting US staff in the country to Covid-19 anal swabs, according to a US diplomat based in China. China responded to a report which claimed that US diplomats in the country were complaining after having been administered the swab tests. “The State Department never agreed to this kind of testing and protested directly to [China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs] when we learned that some staff were subject to it,” a state department spokesperson said in a statement. “We have received assurances from [the ministry] that this was in error and that diplomatic personnel are exempt from this testing requirement. We have instructed staff to decline this test if it is asked of them (as was done in the past),” the statement added. China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said it was unaware of anal swab tests being administered. (CNN)


Industries where boomers face ageism

About 10% of baby boomers who are seeking work said that ageism, including being told “you’re overqualified” or “you’re too close to retirement”, is the leading obstacle in their job hunts. The results were even higher in industries such as media and communications (14%), finance (13%), software and IT (13%), as well as retail (11%). Boomer job seekers also cited struggling with “not enough jobs available” (19%), “lacking the right connections” (7%), “too much competition” (6%) and “lacking the right skills” (3%). (LinkedIn Workforce Confidence Index)


Mr. Potato Head brand goes gender neutral

Hasbro, who has been making the potato-shaped plastic toy for nearly 70 years, announced that it was dropping Mr. from the brand in an effort to make sure “all feel welcome in the Potato Head world.” That set off a social media frenzy over the beloved toy. Hasbro clarified in a tweet that the Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head characters will still exist, names and all, but the branding on the box will say “Potato Head.” “While it was announced today that the POTATO HEAD brand name & logo are dropping the ‘MR.’ I yam proud to confirm that MR. & MRS. POTATO HEAD aren’t going anywhere and will remain MR. & MRS. POTATO HEAD,” the company tweeted. Many toymakers have been updating their classic brands in recent years, hoping to relate to today’s kids and reflect more modern families. (Hasbro Twitter)


Volunteer Fire Department building, equipment destroyed in fire

The Twin Lakes, Oklahoma Volunteer Fire Department went up in flames. Officials with the Guthrie Fire Department said the Twin Lakes Assistant Fire Chief stopped by the building and noticed an ATV on fire inside. Officials said he tried to get equipment out of the building but had to evacuate. The building and everything inside were destroyed. “Six trucks, a small ATV, a tractor and of course all the contents in the building, their protective equipment, their office, their tools and other stuff like that are going to be a total loss,” said the Guthrie Fire Department Chief. Several departments came out to help put out the fire. Nobody was hurt. (KOCO)



Monday Gets Entangled With:

  • Asiatic Fleet Memorial Day
  • Baby Sleep Day
  • Black Women in Jazz & The Arts Day
  • Breast Implant Illness Awareness Days
  • Casimir Pulaski Day
  • Dadgum That’s Good Day
  • Endometriosis Day or Wear Yellow Day
  • Horse Protection Day
  • Peanut Lovers Day
  • Peace Corps Day
  • Pig Day
  • Plan a Solo Vacation Day
  • Refired, Not Retired Day
  • Saint David’s Day
  • Self-injury Awareness Day
  • World Compliment Day
  • Zero Discrimination Day