Posts

Meteor

US Military Records Confirm An Interstellar Meteor Collided With Earth In 2014

According to a recently released document from the United States Space Command, researchers discovered an interstellar meteor hit Earth in 2014. An interstellar meteor is a space rock that originated from outside of our solar system, making it extremely rare for any of them to make contact with our planet. 

CNEOS 2014-01-08 is the name of the meteor that crashed along the northeast coast of Papua New Guinea on January 8th, 2014 (hence the numbers in the name).

Amir Siraj identified the object as an interstellar meteor in 2019 when he co authored a study as an undergraduate at Harvard University. Initially, Siraj was investigating “Oumuamua,” the first known interstellar object in our solar system that was found in 2017. 

Embed from Getty Images

Siraj was performing the study with Harvard professor of science Abraham Loeb. Siraj was going through NASA’s Center for Near Earth Object Studies database to potentially find other interstellar objects and was able to find the 2014 meteor within days. 

Siraj was able to conclude that the object was indeed an interstellar meteor based on the high velocity of it when it hit Earth. The meteor was moving at a high speed of 28 miles per second, for reference the Earth is currently moving around the sun at a speed of 18.6 miles per second. 

After mapping out the meteor’s trajectory, Siraj found that at its highest speed, the meteor was moving at about 37.3 miles per second in relation to the sun. He used this to determine that the meteor was in an unbound orbit before crashing into Earth, meaning it came from outside our solar system. 

“Presumably, it was produced by another star, got kicked out of that star’s planetary system and just so happened to make its way to our solar system and collide with Earth.”

Embed from Getty Images

John Shaw, deputy commander of the US Space Command, which is part of the US Department of Defense, was able to confirm that the object was in fact an interstellar meteor after reviewing the findings in the study.

“Dr. Joel Mozer, the Chief Scientist of Space Operations Command, the United States Space Force service component of U.S. Space Command, reviewed analysis of additional data available to the Department of Defense related to this finding. Dr. Mozer confirmed that the velocity estimate reported to NASA is sufficiently accurate to indicate an interstellar trajectory,” wrote Shaw.

Initially, Siraj and Loeb weren’t able to get their findings published or confirmed from NASA due to the database it came from. So much time had passed since they contacted NASA for confirmation, that Siraj even moved on to other studies so he wouldn’t get his hopes up to high. 

“I thought that we would never learn the true nature of this meteor, that it was just blocked somewhere in the government after our many tries, and so actually seeing that letter from the Department of Defense with my eyes was a really incredible moment,” Siraj said.

Now that Loeb and Siraj have their confirmation, their team is working to resubmit all their findings for publication to explain in greater detail the significance of this discovery.

Airport TSA

TSA Warns Of Travel ‘Hiccups For Very, Very Busy Summer’

David Pekoske, the nation’s TSA chief, and airport and airline leaders throughout the nation have stated that there will be inevitable “hiccups” this summer, as the agency is expecting the largest airport passenger crowds since the Covid-19 pandemic first began. 

Pkoske said that labor shortages and an increased demand for travel have already begun to overwhelm airlines. The agency is gearing up to deploy as many as 1,000 TSA agents and K-9 units to the nation’s busiest airports to ideally counter any potential delays at security checkpoints. 

“We expect the summer to be very, very busy. That’s not to say that there will not be some hiccups along the way — those things will happen, but we’ll do everything we can to recover quickly.”

Embed from Getty Images

Some expect airport crowds surpass 3 million passengers per day on the busiest travel days for the summer. The increased demand for travel has also led to pilots complaining about fatigue and flight cancellations heading into the summer at airlines including American Airlines, Southwest, Alaska, and Delta. 

 “Everybody is facing labor shortages; airlines and TSA are no different. At just about every level you can think of in the airline industry we can speak of we’re having labor shortages,” said Paul Doell, vice president for the National Air Carrier Association.

Airline restaurants and car rental companies have also been dealing with labor shortages. Customer service call centers for airlines and passengers who need wheelchair assistance, as well as ground airport employers, have also been struggling to maintain a steady supply of workers to deal with the demand for flights. 

Airlines themselves are cutting thousands of flights from their schedules as a means of helping scheduled flights run on time. This also means that TSA agents and other airline workers will likely have to work harder to get travelers to their flights on time.

Embed from Getty Images

“But regional air carriers, which fly about 43% of all scheduled flights in the U.S., say they are facing labor shortages as employees such as pilots are being poached by the larger airlines. That could create issues connecting smaller destinations to larger hub airports,” said Kevin Burke, head of Airports Council International-North America.

“The pilot shortage is impacting the regionals, and we expect to see the small communities hit the hardest. We expect this to continue to be a trend, but those pain points will assert themselves at hubs as well.”

Pekoske warned that “many travelers this summer could be getting on a plane for the first time in three years, especially as masking and Covid-19 restrictions have fallen in many parts of the country and international travel restrictions are being lifted.”

“The amount of people that worked concessions prior to the pandemic are not there now, they’ve come back, but they’re nowhere near where they need to be,” Burke explained. 

“So we really ask that we try to have patience and understanding when they are dealing with employees at the airport. Everybody’s trying to do the best job they can to make sure this is safe, secure and also as comfortable as it can be under normal circumstances but especially when you have those tough days where you have storms that are disrupting the system,” Doell said. 

NATO Russian Flags

NATO Chief Says Ukraine Can Win War With Russia After Finland And Sweden Military Alliance

Ukrainian forces have been able to push back the Russian military around Kharkiv as a part of their counter offense that has caused Russian troops to withdraw from the nation’s second-largest city. 

NATO’s Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg made a statement on Sunday stating that “Ukraine can win this war” following the news that Finland was applying to join the military alliance. This is a historic move, as Finland traditionally remains neutral. 

Sweden’s President Sauli Niinisto said that “joining the military alliance will maximize Finland’s security after Russia’s unprecedented invasion of Ukraine in February.” 

Sweden is also expected to apply to join NATO, which is likely going to make tensions worse with Russia, who warned last week that it would be taking “retaliatory steps” should Finland join the military alliance. 

Embed from Getty Images

Additionally, Ukraine President Volodymyr Selenskyy took to Twitter to discuss his conversations with International Monetary Fund Director Kristalina Georgieva about receiving financial support for his country. 

Zelenskyy wrote that he and Georgieva “discussed the need for financial support for the Ukrainian economy,” and that they were looking forward to the “further fruitful joint work in maintaining financial stability of Ukraine.” 

Back in April Zelenskyy and Georgieva discussed Ukraine’s economic stability and preparations for post-war reconstruction. 

In a reply to a tweet from Zelenskyy in April, Georgieva said that “continued economic support by Ukraine’s partners is essential to lay the foundations for rebuilding a modern competitive Ukraine.”

In the US, the Lockheed Martin Corporation, one of the nation’s biggest security and aerospace companies, was awarded two contracts worth $309 million for its Javelin missiles. These missiles are anti tank weapons that have helped Ukraine in their fight against Russian invaders. 

Embed from Getty Images

Demand for these missiles has remained high throughout the entire war, but have seen an increase in demand as conditions worsen in Ukraine. The missiles have so far been used to stop Russian tanks from advancing on the capital.

The US has sent more than 5,500 Javelin systems to Ukraine. State Department Counselor Derek Chollet will be leading a delegation group to Moldova, Georgia, and the United Kingdom as a means of furthering their collaborative efforts to help Ukraine. 

Moldova is one of the most vulnerable countries when it comes to the war with Russia. Chollet is planning to meet with government officials in the nation to “reinforce US support for Moldova’s democracy, prosperity, and security.” 

“Chollet will then head to Georgia, where he will meet with government, opposition, and civil society representatives for discussions on Russia’s continuing occupation of parts of Georgia, on the Kremlin’s brutal war against Ukraine, and on how to advance the people of Georgia’s aspirations for a democratic, peaceful, prosperous, and Euro-Atlantic future,” according to the state department.

Chollet will then travel to the UK to discuss the countries’ response to the war in Ukraine and other global security concerns.

Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 Vaccine 

FDA Places Strict Limits On Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 Vaccine 

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced last week that it is limiting the emergency use authorization of the Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine for individuals 18 and older. The vaccine is now available for adults who don’t have access to other vaccinations and for adults who aren’t able to receive the other Covid-19 vaccine for personal medical reasons. 

The FDA released a statement in which they detailed the changes and why they’re being made. They explained that the change is being implemented due to the rare risk of a dangerous clotting condition known as thrombosis with thrombocytopenia syndrome (TTS) after receiving the vaccine. 

Embed from Getty Images

“We’ve been closely monitoring the Janssen COVID-19 Vaccine and occurrence of TTS following its administration and have used updated information from our safety surveillance systems to revise the EUA,” Dr. Peter Marks, director of the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, said in the statement. 

“We recognize that the Janssen COVID-19 Vaccine still has a role in the current pandemic response in the United States and across the global community. Today’s action demonstrates the robustness of our safety surveillance systems and our commitment to ensuring that science and data guide our actions.”

The agency also confirmed that the updated authorizations apply to booster doses as well. The FDA also emphasized that the benefits of the J&J vaccine outweigh the risks for certain individuals as well. 

In their statement, they wrote that individuals who had a severe allergic reaction to an mRNA vaccine (Pfizer or Moderna), have personal concerns over mRNA vaccines, or don’t have access to mRNA vaccines should definitely receive the J&J jab. 

According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 18.7 million doses of the J&J vaccine have been administered in the US, and of all the Americans who are currently fully vaccinated, about 7.7% got the J&J vaccine. 

Embed from Getty Images

The CDC’s vaccine advisory committee issued their own statement on Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine, saying it “makes a preferential recommendation for the use of mRNA COVID-19 vaccines over the Janssen adenoviral-vectored COVID-19 vaccine in all persons aged  ≥ 18 years in the United States.”

Both the CDC and FDA have made these statements mainly due to TTS concerns. When rare clotting events began appearing in the initial periods of vaccination in the US, Johnson & Johnson made a statement emphasizing their commitment to giving Americans a safe and effective vaccine. 

“The safety and well-being of the people who use our products is our number one priority. We are aware of an extremely rare disorder involving people with blood clots in combination with low platelets in a small number of individuals who have received our COVID-19 vaccine. … We have been working closely with medical experts and health authorities, and we strongly support the open communication of this information to healthcare professionals and the public.”

The FDA released data that showed around 60 cases of TTS since the J&J vaccine began its distribution, nine of those unfortunately were fatal. 

The FDA emphasized, however, that the risk for TTS is extremely rare. Current data shows that there’s about three cases of TTS for every million doses administered. 

Symptoms of TTS can appear within one to two weeks after vaccination, and they include shortness of breath, chest pain, leg swelling, persistent abdominal pain, neurological symptoms like headaches or blurred vision, and red spots appearing under the skin at the site of vaccination.

Ukraine Conflict

Ukraine Updates: Mariupol Residents Evacuating, Resolution Could Mean US Intervention 

This Monday the residents of Mariupol, Ukraine began a mass evacuation with Ukrainian authorities assisting thousands of more residents escape the city that once held almost 500,000 citizens. 

Mayoral adviser Petro Andryushchenko told the media that buses were heading toward Zaporizhzhia, which is 140 miles west of Mariupol. Individuals who own cars are being encouraged to evacuate themselves as quickly as possible. 

Embed from Getty Images

“We hope that thousands of our Mariupol residents … will get to Zaporizhzhia tonight or tomorrow morning,” Andryushchenko said Monday.

The Ukraine military said “civilians are already arriving in Zaporizhzhia [a city of about 750,000 people] and are being provided hot meals, physical and psychological examinations and medicines.”

“All evacuees will receive a calm refuge. Finally, these people will be able to feel safe.”

According to some estimates from authorities, about 100,000 people might still be trapped in the port city of Mariupol, with little access to food, water, and utilities. Several hundred of them are thought to be at a sprawling steel plant that is the last major holdout in the Russian-occupied city. 

Embed from Getty Images

More than 100 citizens were evacuated from the Azovstal plant on Sunday before Russian shelling forced a temporary halt to the evacuation efforts. The Russian military claims that 69 individuals chose to evacuate while 57 others asked to stay under Russian control. 

Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy told media stations that civilians who remain in the plant were likely afraid that the buses they boarded would be taken to Russia, but he has UN assurances that citizens would be going to Ukraine-controlled areas. 

Representative Adam Kinzinger is planning on introducing a joint resolution that would authorize President Joe Biden to use US military forces in Ukraine if Russia uses chemical, biological, or nuclear weapons. 

“The legislation of the use of force would be used to protect the national security interests of the United States with respect to Ukraine and assist in defending and restoring the territorial integrity of Ukraine.” 

“The authority would terminate when the territorial integrity of Ukraine has been restored,” according to the resolution.

“Putin must be stopped. Accordingly, the commander in chief of the world’s greatest military should have the authority and means to take the necessary actions to do so,” Kinzinger said.

World Military Spending Hits $2 Trillion For First Time In History 

In 2021, global military spending hit an all-time high of $2 trillion, according to a report from a leading defense think-tank in Sweden. This also marks the seventh consecutive year that collective spending on the military has increased from the previous year. 

COVID-19

US Covid-19 Infections Likely To Rise Again, According To Fauci 

 Dr. Anthony Fauci, one of Joe Biden’s top advisers, said this week that a likely rise in Covid-19 cases will probably not result in a full-scale surge, or prompt a renewal of widespread health and safety procedures. 

“The bottom line is we will likely see an uptick in cases, as we’ve seen in European countries, particularly the U.K.. Hopefully we won’t see a surge. I don’t think we will.”

The BA.2 subvariant of the omicron variant is driving up cases in both Europe and Asia, specifically in Hong Kong which has been dealing with a sudden major surge of new cases within the past couple of weeks. 

Embed from Getty Images

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has made the argument that the US needs to be prepared to resume health and safety measures in public spaces, while Fauci claims that he doesn’t think that’s going to happen: “right now, at this point, I don’t see that happening.”

Covid-19 hospitalizations, deaths, and cases in general have been continuing to decline in the US. BA.2 is reportedly 50% more transmissible than the original strain of omicron, however, like omicron it doesn’t cause more severe illness or evade immunity from vaccinations or an earlier infection, according to Fauci. 

Fauci and US Surgeon General Vivek Murthy have been urging Congress to pass a Covid-19 relief package that has been stalled for quite some time now. The White House has sought out $22.5 billion in funding for relief efforts and supplies. 

The Biden Administration, however, has also warned that it will have to wind down certain programs and therapeutic treatments soon due to a lack of funding. 

Embed from Getty Images

“As much work as we’ve done in the last two years to get the right tools, we’ve got to continue funding them and supporting them so they’re available to people across the country.”

“That’s why Congress moving to provide that funding is so critical,” Murthy said on Sunday.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has also argued that too much of the money meant to be allocated for Covid-19 programs and protocols has yet to be spent. 

“They ought to reprogram some of this massive amount that was spent last year that’s not out the door yet,” McConnell said on Sunday.

Fauci, 81, also discussed speculation over his retirement: “I can’t stay at this job forever. I want to make sure we’re really out of this before I really seriously consider doing anything different. We’re still in this. We have a way to go. I think we are clearly going in the right direction. I hope we stay that way.”

US Unlikely To End Covid Testing Rules For International Travel 

Throughout the past month many countries have made international travel a lot easier as the Covid-19 pandemic continues around the world. Vaccinated travelers have found it much easier to book and experience travel again, however, US travelers returning from abroad must still present negative Covid-19 test results before they’re able to safely return.

The US Virgin Islands became the latest territory to announce that vaccinated travelers no longer need to provide a negative test upon arrival, a move that other international countries, like the UK, have had in place for nearly a month. 

Embed from Getty Images

According to the US Centers for Disease Control And Prevention’s (CDC) last updated guidance for international travel, which was made in December, the US requires all incoming travelers over the age of 2 to submit a negative Covid test taken within one day of departure from a foreign country in order to enter the US. 

It’s become much easier to find at-home Covid-19 tests in the US, which will allow travelers to have greater access to testing in order to go abroad and return safely. The US government’s international travel guidance allows at-home tests as an accurate result for re-entry into the country. 

The provision within the guidelines also provides a list of approved at-home tests that travelers can take before and after traveling abroad. The CDC accepts Ellume, Quered, and BinaxNow at-home tests, which are some of the most commonly sold brands throughout the US. 

Embed from Getty Images

The CDC also requires that the tests are supervised by a live attendant via a video call. BinaxNow tests can even be purchased through the website eMed, which will provide an at-home test shipped directly to your home prior to your trip with instructions on how to take it with live video guidance. 

In a statement to the media, a CVS spokesperson said the company’s stores “have the ability to meet our customers’ needs with at-home test kits both in store and at CVS.com,. We have simplified the digital process so customers can order and pick up a test kit with no up-front, out-of-pocket cost or the need to submit a claim to insurance.”

Walgreens said it “worked diligently with our suppliers to ensure we have enough supply to meet customer demand at nearly all locations.”

While other countries may continue to lift certain Covid-19 protocols for international travel, the US is unlikely to follow suit anytime soon, as it is one of the nation’s with the highest rate of infection.

Uber Lyft

Uber And Lyft Now Adding Fuel Surcharges To Rides As Gas Prices Continue To Rise 

Uber and Lyft announced this week that customers will be paying more for rides temporarily, as both companies are now adding a surcharge to deal with the rise in gas prices nationwide. 

In a statement made to the media, Lyft said that the company is asking riders to pay a “temporary fuel surcharge” which will go directly to the drivers as a means of compensation for the rise in gas prices nationwide. 

Embed from Getty Images

“We’ve been closely monitoring rising gas prices and their impact on our driver community,” a company spokesperson said.

The company didn’t specify how much the surcharge would be, but it will likely be dependent on the length of the trip for the rider. Uber announced last week that they would also be adding a surcharge on all Uber trips and Uber Eats services for the next 60 days. After that, the company will reassess the charges. 

“We know that prices have been going up across the economy, so we’ve done our best to help drivers and couriers without placing too much additional burden on consumers,” Uber said in a statement.

Uber customers will be paying a surcharge of either $0.45 or $0.55 on every trip, while Uber Eats deliveries will now include a charge of either $0.35 or $0.45 on each order, depending on the location of delivery. 

Embed from Getty Images

Uber said the surcharges will also go directly to the drivers. Uber also clarified that the surcharge will not apply to rides that begin in New York City of Uber Eats deliveries within the city’s limits because drivers there are receiving a 5.3% increase to the city’s minimum earnings standard for the past month. 

Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, gas prices have risen exponentially all around the nation. Uber and Lyft have both stated that the rise in fuel prices is the reason they’re both implementing the surcharges into their ride policies. 

As of this Monday, the average cost of a regular gallon of gas has reached $4.325, according to AAA. That price reflects a 26 cent increase in the past week alone.

Around this time last year the average price for a gallon of regular gas cost around $2.859. 

President Biden announced a ban on all US imports of Russian oil and gas, a move that he acknowledged would likely cause the price of gas to increase nationwide. Biden also pledged to do everything in his power to not have the rise in gas prices impact Americans and their wallets. 

“Defending freedom is going to cost, however, it’s going to cost us as well in the United States,” Biden said.

Russia Requesting Military And Economic Aid From China, According To US Officials

According to US officials, Russia has asked China for military and economic assistance, including drones, as a part of their unprovoked invasion of Ukraine. The official’s declined to state what exactly China’s response was to the request, but it is known that they did respond.

The news of the request was brought up to White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan during a conversation with his Chinese counterpart, Yang Jiechi. Sullivan explained to the media afterwards that providing Russia with support from China would be a “concern.”  

“We also are watching closely to see the extent to which China actually does provide any form of support, material support or economic support, to Russia. It is a concern of ours. And we have communicated to Beijing that we will not stand by and allow any country to compensate Russia for its losses from the economic sanctions,” Sullivan said.

Russia continued its attack to western Ukraine this weekend, firing off missiles near the city of Lviv, and hitting a large military base close to the Polish border. The blasts reportedly killed dozens of people. 

Embed from Getty Images

China claims that it was not asked by Russia for military aid or any other type of assistance. Liu Pengyu, spokesperson for the Chinese embassy in the US, said in a statement, “I’ve never heard of that. The Ukraine situation is indeed disconcerting, China has and will continue to provide humanitarian assistance to Ukraine.

“The high priority now is to prevent the tense situation from escalating or even getting out of control. … China calls for exercising utmost restraint and preventing a massive humanitarian crisis.”

Beijing is currently trying to strike a neutral tone regarding the international conflict. Chinese domestic media coverage has, however, promoted Russian disinformation campaigns and described the war as a “special military operation. 

White House press secretary Jen Psaki and other US officials have been critical of Beijing’s response overall. 

“Beijing has seemingly endorsed false Russian claims that the US is developing chemical weapons in Ukraine.”

“Our assessment right now is that China is abiding by the requirements that have been put in place, but we would continue to encourage any country to think a lot about what place they want to — what role they want to play — in history as we all look back,” Psaki said Wednesday.

Sullivan said that the “US has made it clear to Beijing that there will absolutely be consequences for large-scale efforts to give the Kremlin a workaround to US sanctions.”

Embed from Getty Images

“We will not allow that to go forward and allow there to be a lifeline to Russia from these economic sanctions from any country anywhere in the world. While the US believes China, in fact, was aware before the invasion took place that Vladimir Putin was planning something, they may not have understood the full extent of it. Because it’s very possible that Putin lied to them the same way that he lied to Europeans and others,” Sullivan explained. 

Sullivan also expressed to the media this weekend that while the “Biden administration is concerned about the possibility of escalation with respect to Putin’s nuclear posture, we have not seen anything that would require us to change our nuclear posture at this time.” 

“We are watching this extremely closely, and obviously, the escalation risk with a nuclear power is severe, and it is a different kind of conflict than other conflicts the American people have seen over the years,” he said, before explaining the administration’s decision to reject Poland’s offer to transfer fighter jets to Ukraine through the US and German air base. 

“The President listened to the assessment of his intelligence community, he listened to the advice of his military commanders, he consulted his NATO allies, and he ultimately determined that the risk-benefit analysis of flying planes from NATO bases into contested airspace over Ukraine did not make sense, was not something that he would authorize.

The US is focused on providing other anti-air systems that could help the Ukrainians make progress in terms of dealing with the threat that is coming from the air from the Russian side,” Sullivan explained.

The national security adviser also reiterated that Russia “would pay a severe price if they chose to use chemical or biological weapons in Ukraine. Russia’s accusations against Ukraine preparing to deploy chemical weapons is a tell, a tell that they themselves may be preparing to do so and then trying to pin the blame on someone else– that’s a classic page out of the Russian playbook.”