Thursday, June 10, 2021

After going extinct in the country in 1952, cheetahs will return to India in November

Eight cats, five male and three female, will be moved from South Africa to India’s Kuno National Park in Madhya Pradesh. Situated in India’s Chambal, Kuno Park has over 750km2 of mixed woodland-grassland for the world’s fastest land animal to enjoy. (BBC)


The U.S. Department of Defense is seeking $874M in the upcoming federal budget to help fund 600+ AI efforts, a 50% increase in projects over the current fiscal year

The funding, specifically earmarked for AI, is intended to support the fast-growing importance of AI in all of the department’s operations, according to the Pentagon. The proposal is included in the fiscal year 2022 budget, which begins October 1st. The increase in AI projects comes after the U.S. National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence released a report, which says the United States is unprepared to compete in the new age of AI and needs to invest readily right now, or risk falling behind China and other superpowers. The report stresses the need for the United States to develop and manufacture AI-enabled weapons. (Intelligent Aerospace)


More therapists and health practitioners are turning to VR to help treat PTSD in clients, who are exposed to 3D environments that mimic their original trauma and fears

Repeated exposure of events, which can help patients revisit memories and access those that were buried away, shows promise in treating some main symptoms of PTSD. PTSD, anxiety, and phobias are on the rise, particularly among frontline healthcare workers who have reported higher rates of PTSD as a result of the pandemic. As VR becomes more mainstream and affordable, clinicians are using it to help patients overcome traumatic events and fears in controlled settings. One patient, a survivor of the September 11th terrorist attacks, saw a 90% decrease in PTSD symptoms after six one-hour sessions of VR. Among Iraq War veterans who tried VR exposure therapy, 16 out of 20 patients no longer met the diagnostic criteria for PTSD after the treatment. Most VR therapies are not covered by insurance and direct-to-consumer products for mental health treatment are rare. Most clinicians agree it should be deployed under a therapist’s supervision only. (The New York Times)


An underwater avalanche sent mud from Congo 1,000km into the ocean, disrupting data across Nigeria and South Africa

A vast underwater avalanche sent mud and sand more than 1,000km out into the ocean over the course of two days, rupturing submarine cables and disrupting internet traffic on Africa’s western coast, scientists have revealed. The avalanche, the longest sediment flow ever recorded, traveled more than 1,100km from its source at the mouth of the Congo river along a deep ocean canyon, according to a new study. It took place in January 2020 but the data on it has only just emerged. The slide may have gone unnoticed on land had the telecommunications cables not been broken, slowing data traffic between Nigeria and South Africa. The event was also captured on devices that researchers had placed in the south Atlantic to measure the speed of currents and sediments. The sensors showed a flow of mud and sand accelerating from five meters per second to eight meters per second as it flooded out to sea. (The Guardian)


U.S. intelligence agencies did not adequately warn law enforcement about the potential for violence at the Capitol on January 6th

According to a bipartisan Senate 127-page report, it specifically analyzed the communication and intelligence failures while criticizing federal agencies for an intelligence breakdown, as well as the U.S. Capitol Police (USCP) for not taking the threat seriously and failing to execute a plan once it became clear. The report could potentially be the final bipartisan assessment from Congress about the events on January 6th. The report says that the FBI and DHS ignored online chatter about violence and did not offer a threat assessment to Capitol police. An FBI memo warning that potentially armed individuals were traveling to the Capitol apparently was never delivered to law enforcement officials. The USCP did not develop a “department-wide operational plan” in preparation for a violent event, though the Capitol police chief did reportedly expect a large number of protesters. Among 20 recommendations made in the report, the senators encourage a single intelligence bureau to share information with Capitol police and giving USCP leadership the ability to quickly call for the National Guard. (Associated Press)


Man slaps French President Emmanuel Macron across the face

A video has emerged showing a man slapping French President Emmanuel Macron across the face during a visit to a town in the country’s southeast earlier this week. The footage begins with the French leader walking toward a crowd lined up at barriers, offering his greetings. He then leans in and touches the arm of a man in a green shirt, before the man winds up and slaps the French President across the face. The security detail and French police then intervene to separate the pair and two people have been detained by police. (Fox News)


Tennessee woman accidentally buys loaded handgun at church rummage sale

A woman in Greeneville, Tennessee was shopping at a church rummage sale and accidentally bought a loaded Glock 23, believing it was an airsoft gun. The woman alerted police about the purchase and said she had gone to a rummage sale at a church, where a gun was taken out of a bag of clothing and put on a table for sale. She told police she wanted to buy the holster the .40-caliber handgun was in and thought the weapon was an airsoft gun. When she got home, she said, she realized it was a Glock 23 and there was a full magazine and “one in the chamber.” The woman told police she then called the youth pastor. Another woman came forward claiming the gun belonged to her husband, but when she couldn’t provide a proper description of the markings on the side of the weapon it was turned over to police. Police looked up the serial number of the weapon and found it was reported as stolen on May 8th by the Greene County Sheriff’s Office. The report said the firearm, 11 rounds, a magazine, and a holster were seized by police. No arrests have been made in the case. (WKRN)



Half of adults in UK watched porn during pandemic

Half the adult population of the UK watched online pornography during the pandemic. The media regulator, Ofcom, found that 26 million individuals viewed adult material in September 2020. By far the most popular site was PornHub, which was visited by 15 million people, 50% of men, and 16% of women, with internet access giving the site a far larger audience than mainstream television channels such as Sky One, ITV4 and BBC News. The figures rise substantially among younger age groups, with a third of young women and three-quarters of young men visiting PornHub in the four weeks covered by the research. Ofcom also quoted PornHub’s own claims that the average UK visitor spent 10 minutes and 20 seconds on the site, an attention time that would be envied by many mainstream outlets. (The Guardian)


The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has relaxed coronavirus-related international travel restrictions for more than 110 countries

The Biden administration is creating expert working groups to help safely restart travel between Canada, Mexico, the EU, and the U.K. Under the move, traveling to Japan will be eased ahead of the start of the Tokyo Olympics on July 23rd. 61 countries were lowered from the CDC’s highest “Level 4,” which prohibits all travel, to “Level 3,” which allows individuals to travel only if they have been fully vaccinated. The CDC also changed its criteria for “Level 4” stating countries now must have 500 COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people, increasing from 100 cases per 100,000.  Countries now listed as “Level 3” include France, Ecuador, the Philippines, South Africa, Canada, Mexico, Russia, Spain, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine, Honduras, Hungary, and Italy. 50 countries were lowered to “Level 1” or “Level 2,” including Singapore, Israel, South Korea, Iceland, Belize, and Albania. The U.S. currently bans entry to non-U.S. citizens who have traveled to China, the U.K., Ireland, India, South Africa, Brazil, Iran, and Europe 14 days before arrival. (CNBC)


Auckland, New Zealand’s largest city, has won the Economist’s “world’s most liveable city” for 2021

Island nations like New Zealand, Australia, and Japan that have been able to stem the spread of COVID-19 thanks to border controls performed best in 2021. The Economist said that “the COVID-19 pandemic has taken a heavy toll on global liveability.” Regions like Europe, which had a slow vaccination roll-out, performed particularly badly. Vienna, the capital of Austria, which had led the list since 2018, dropped out of the top 10 altogether. The Economist measures cities in five categories: culture and environment; stability; healthcare; education; infrastructure. (The Economist)


El Salvador has become the world’s first country to accept cryptocurrency as legal money

Sixty-two members of the country’s Congress voted in favor of the bill, while nineteen members opposed and three abstained. The President of El Salvador announced plans to make Bitcoin legal money last week at a multi-day cryptocurrency conference in Miami, Florida. The law will see El Salvador use Bitcoin alongside the U.S. dollar, the country’s official currency. El Salvador will partner with Strike, a cryptocurrency technology company that enables real-time Bitcoin transfers, to build the country’s new financial infrastructure. (Forbes)


Researchers identify gene that controls the circadian rhythm, or wake-sleep cycle, in mice; may lead to understanding of how similar genes work in humans

That internal nagging feeling that drives you to seek sleep at night and wake in the morning to eat, work, and play, is, it turns out, genetic, and it’s not just in people. Nearly every living organism, from animals to plants as well as several microorganisms and fungi, has an internal body clock, or a circadian rhythm. Now, Virginia Tech scientists have taken a step closer to an answer thanks to the DNA of a mouse, a petri dish, and much patience. In a new study, an assistant professor in the Department of Biological Sciences, part of the Virginia Tech College of Science, and a researcher with the Fralin Life Sciences Institute, and her team has identified a novel gene, Per2AS, that controls the sleep/wake cycle in mice. Per2AS appears to be a new type of gene, known as a non-coding gene. Unlike most other genes, Per2AS is not translated from RNA into a subsequent protein, thus making its function unclear until now. The study has been in the works for nine years. Growing evidence suggests that at least some nontraditional genes are important for various biological processes, such as neuronal activities, immune functions, and cell differentiation, as well as disease development including cancer, neurodegeneration, and congenital genetic diseases. The big takeaway: A nontraditional gene can have functions to control our body clock and therefore is important for our genome to have. In other words, nontraditional genes are as vital as their more basic counterparts. (Virginia Tech)


Oldest livestock genome yet sequenced suggests goat domestication began in western Iran roughly 10,000 years ago

Ancient hunters and farmers living in the foothills and valleys of western Iran’s verdant highlands may have been among the first people to domesticate livestock. Now, a new study, which includes the oldest livestock genome yet sequenced, bolsters that notion, appearing to capture genetic and archaeological evidence of a transitional stage between wild-hunted goats and their domesticated descendants. The study has captured “the ’ground zero’ for goat domestication, or close to it,” according to an animal geneticist at University College Dublin. Comparing the ancient goat DNA with that of modern wild goats from the region, the scientists found distinct genetic clusters indicating the apparently managed goats were being bred with one another. This confirms the herders maintained a goat population largely separate from the region’s wild goats. The earliest of the goat remains date to about 8200 B.C.E., making the DNA in the study the oldest livestock genomes yet sequenced. (Science Magazine)


Thursday Screeches Past With:

  • Alcoholics Anonymous (Founders) Day
  • Ballpoint Pen Day
  • Black Cow Day
  • Egg Roll Day
  • Herbs and Spices Day
  • Iced Tea Day
  • Race Unity Day


Historical Events

  • 1624 – Signing of the Treaty of Compiègne between France and the Netherlands.
  • 1793 – The Jardin des Plantes museum opens in Paris. A year later, it becomes the first public zoo.
  • 1864 – American Civil War: Battle of Brice’s Crossroads. Confederate troops under Nathan Bedford Forrest defeat a much larger Union force led by General Samuel D. Sturgis in Mississippi.
  • 1886 – Mount Tarawera in New Zealand erupts, killing 153 people and destroying the famous Pink and White Terraces.
  • 1947 – Saab produces its first automobile.
  • 1957 – John Diefenbaker leads the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada to a stunning upset in the Canadian federal election, 1957, ending 22 years of Liberal Party rule.
  • 1967 – Argentina becomes a member of the Berne Convention copyright treaty.
  • 1967 – The Six-Day War ends: Israel and Syria agree to a cease-fire.
  • 1977 – Apple ships its first Apple II personal computer.
  • 1991 – The kidnapping of Jaycee Lee Dugard