Saturday, Dec. 09, 2023 |
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A long-exposure photo taken Thursday shows a string of SpaceX StarLink satellites passing over an old stone house near Florence, Kan. (AP Photo/Reed Hoffmann, File)
String of satellites baffles residents, bugs astronomers
PHILADELPHIA — A string of lights that lobbed across the night sky in parts of the U.S. on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday had some people wondering if a fleet of UFOs was coming, but it had others— mostly amateur stargazers and professional astronomers— lamenting the industrialization of space.
The train of lights was actually a series of relatively low-flying satellites launched by Elon Musk’s SpaceX as part of its Starlink internet service earlier this week. Callers swamped TV stations from Texas to Wisconsin reporting the lights and musing about UFOs.
An email to a spokesman for SpaceX was not returned Saturday, but astronomy experts said the number of lights in quick succession and their distance from Earth made them easily identifiable as Starlink satellites for those who are used to seeing them.
“The way you can tell they are Starlink satellites is they are like a string of pearls, these lights travelling in the same basic orbit, one right after the other,” said Dr. Richard Fienberg, press officer for the American Astronomical Society.
Fienberg said the satellites that are being launched in large groups called constellations string together when they orbit, especially right after launching. The strings get smaller as time goes on.
This month, SpaceX has already launched dozens of satellites. It is all part of a plan to bridge the digital divide and bring internet access to underserved areas of the world, with SpaceX tentatively scheduled to launch another 120 satellites later in the month. Overall, the company has sent about 1,500 satellites into orbit and has asked for permission to launch thousands more.
US pipeline halts operations after ransomware attack
WASHINGTON — The operator of a major pipeline system that transports fuel across the East Coast said Saturday it had been victimized by a ransomware attack and had halted all pipeline operations to deal with the threat. The attack is unlikely to affect gasoline supply and prices unless it leads to a prolonged shutdown of the pipeline, experts said.
Colonial Pipeline did not say what was demanded or who made the demand. Ransomware attacks are typically carried out by criminal hackers who scramble data, paralyzing victim networks, and demand a large payment to decrypt it.
The attack on the company, which says it delivers roughly 45% of fuel consumed on the East Coast, underscores again the vulnerabilities of critical infrastructure to damaging cyberattacks that threaten to impede operations. It presents a new challenge for an administration still dealing with its response to major hacks from months ago, including a massive breach of government agencies and corporations for which the U.S. sanctioned Russia last month.
In this case, Colonial Pipeline said the ransomware attack Friday affected some of its information technology systems and that the company moved “proactively” to take certain systems offline, halting pipeline operations. In an earlier statement, it said it was “taking steps to understand and resolve this issue” with an eye toward returning to normal operations.
The Alpharetta, Georgia-based company transports gasoline, diesel, jet fuel and home heating oil from refineries located on the Gulf Coast through pipelines running from Texas to New Jersey. Its pipeline system spans more than 5,500 miles, transporting more than 100 million gallon a day.
Vaccine orders scale back as interest in shots wanes
MADISON, Wis. — States asked the federal government this week to withhold staggering amounts of COVID-19 vaccine amid plummeting demand for the shots, contributing to a growing U.S. stockpile of doses.
From South Carolina to Washington, states are requesting the Biden administration send them only a fraction of what’s been allocated to them. The turned-down vaccines amount to hundreds of thousands of doses this week alone, providing a stark illustration of the problem of vaccine hesitancy in the U.S.
More than 150 million Americans — about 57% of the adult population — have received at least one dose of vaccine, but government leaders from the Biden administration down to the city and county level are doing everything they can to persuade the rest of the country to get inoculated.
U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy said Friday that the federal government has dedicated $250 million for community organizations to promote vaccinations, make appointments and provide transportation.
From wire sources
He cited examples such as holding conversations with small groups of people in minority communities in St. Louis and asking Rhode Island churches to contact community members and offer them rides to vaccination sites. He also noted that a global Hindu American organization has turned temples into vaccination centers, making it easier for elderly members to get shots in a familiar setting. The Indianapolis Motor Speedway has added a vaccination site in which people can get their shots in a Formula 1 garage near the race tunnels.
Stefanik’s political evolution mirrors story of today’s GOP
NEW YORK — There was a time, not long ago, when Elise Stefanik would not say Donald Trump’s name.
He was simply “my party’s presidential nominee,” she would say. The pragmatic New York congresswoman was far more focused on welcoming a new generation of voters to what she hoped would be a more inclusive Republican Party.
Today, Stefanik is one of Trump’s fiercest defenders in the House of Representatives, where her loyalty to the former president — and the support he returned — has carried the 36-year-old to the brink of becoming one of the most powerful women in Congress. She is widely expected to become the third-ranking House Republican in the coming days once Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., is stripped of her leadership post because of her vocal criticism of Trump.
Stefanik’s rise is linked to her commitment to bringing more Republican women to Congress, an effort that helped make the House GOP’s 2021 first-term class one of the most diverse in history. But those close to Stefanik suggest there is one moment above all that solidified her political transformation and rise in Republican politics — and that moment had little to do with diversity.
It was a Thursday night in November 2019, and Trump’s first impeachment inquiry was raging on Capitol Hill. Stefanik had emerged as a leading Trump defender in committee hearings, but on that night, she brought her message to Fox News’ Sean Hannity for the first time.
Last wild macaw in Rio is lonely and looking for love
RIO DE JANEIRO — Some have claimed she’s indulging a forbidden romance. More likely, loneliness compels her to seek company at Rio de Janeiro’s zoo.
Either way, a blue-and-yellow macaw that zookeepers named Juliet is believed to be the only wild bird of its kind left in the Brazilian city where the birds once flew far and wide.
Almost every morning for the last two decades, Juliet has appeared. She swoops onto the zoo enclosure where macaws are kept and, through its fence, engages in grooming behavior that looks like conjugal canoodling. Sometimes she just sits, relishing the presence of others. She is quieter — shier? more coy? — than her squawking chums.
Blue-and-yellow macaws live to be about 35 years old and Juliet — no spring chicken — should have found a lifelong mate years ago, according to Neiva Guedes, president of the Hyacinth Macaw Institute, an environmental group. But Juliet hasn’t coupled, built a nest or had chicks, so at most she’s “still just dating.”
“They’re social birds, and that means they don’t like to live alone, whether in nature or captivity. They need company,” said Guedes, who also coordinates a project that researches macaws in urban settings. Juliet “very probably feels lonely, and for that reason goes to the enclosure to communicate and interact.”
In a small New Hampshire town, the 2020 election still rages
WINDHAM, N.H. — Meetings of the Windham Board of Selectmen are usually as sleepy as they sound — a handful of residents from the New Hampshire town, a discussion of ambulance fees, maybe a drainage study.
So when a crowd of about 500 people showed up last week, some waving American flags, carrying bullhorns and lifting signs questioning the presidential election, Bruce Breton knew things were about to change.
“I’ve never seen anything like this before,” said Breton, who has served on the board for 18 years. “The groundswell from the public is unbelievable.”
The crowd at the Monday meeting had been fired up by conservative media, which in recent weeks has seized on the town’s election results for four seats in the state House as suspect. The attention, fanned by a Donald Trump adviser who happens to be a Windham resident, has helped a routine recount spiral, ultimately engulfing the town in a false theory that the national election was stolen from Trump.
It doesn’t seem to matter that Republicans won all four state House seats in question.
Election officials face fines, charges in GOP voting laws
In 2020, election officials tried to make voting easier and safer amid a global pandemic. Next time, they might get fined or face criminal charges.
Republicans are creating a new slate of punishments for the county officials who run elections, arguing they overstepped their authority when they expanded voter access during the coronavirus pandemic.
The new penalties, part of a nationwide Republican campaign to roll back access to the ballot, already have become law in Iowa, Georgia and Florida, and are making their way through statehouses in Texas and elsewhere. The GOP push comes after a presidential contest that saw record turnout and no widespread problems.
Election officials have responded with warnings of a chilling effect on those responsible for administering the vote and counting ballots, raising fears they could be penalized for minor mistakes, get caught up in partisan fights or even leave their jobs.
In Iowa, Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds drew heavy criticism for signing a broad voting bill in March that shortens hours at polling places, narrows the early voting period and imposes new restrictions on mail and absentee ballots. The law also bans sending unsolicited absentee ballot applications to voters, as some officials did before the 2020 election.
Police: 3 hurt in Florida mall shooting as shoppers scatter
MIAMI — A shooting at a South Florida shopping mall that was sparked by a fight between two groups of people sent panicked shoppers fleeing and left three persons injured Saturday afternoon, police and witnesses said.
Live aerial television news footage showed people scattering outside the Aventura Mall after the initial reports of gunfire. Law enforcement vehicles could be seen converging at the complex and blocking roads.
Aventura Police said two groups of people had begun fighting before it escalated to gunfire.
One individual in one of the groups produced a gun, and an individual in the other group also drew a gun and fired that weapon, said an Aventura police spokesman, Michael Bentolila, in briefing reporters on live television.
Police said the three wounded were taken to hospitals but their injuries were not life-threatening.
Lloyd Price, singer and early rock influence, dies at 88
NEW YORK — Singer-songwriter Lloyd Price, an early rock ‘n roll star and enduring maverick whose hits included such up-tempo favorites as “Lawdy Miss Clawdy,” “Personality” and the semi-forbidden “Stagger Lee,” has died. He was 88.
Price died Monday at a long-term care facility in New Rochelle, New York, of complications from diabetes, his wife, Jacqueline Price, told The Associated Press on Saturday.
Lloyd Price, inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1998, was among the last survivors of a post-World War II scene in New Orleans that anticipated the shifts in popular music and culture leading to the rise of rock in the mid-1950s. Along with Fats Domino and David Bartholomew among others, Price fashioned a deep, exuberant sound around the brass and swing of New Orleans jazz and blues that placed high on R&B charts and eventually crossed over to white audiences.
“Very important part of Rock history. He was BEFORE Little Richard!” rock singer and E Street Band member Steven Van Zandt said Saturday on Twitter. “Lawdy Miss Clawdy of 1952 has a legit claim as the first Rock hit…. Righteous cat. Enormous talent.”
Price’s nickname was “Mr. Personality,” fitting for a performer with a warm smile and a tenor voice to match. But he was far more than an engaging entertainer. He was unusually independent for his time, running his own record label even before such stars as Frank Sinatra did the same, holding on to his publishing rights, and serving as his own agent and manager. He would often speak of the racial injustices he endured, calling his memoir “sumdumhonkey” and writing on his Facebook page during the 2020 Black Lives Matter protests that behind his “affable exterior” was “a man who is seething.”
Westbrook ties Robertson’s record, Wizards beat Pacers
INDIANAPOLIS — When the final buzzer sounded Saturday night, Russell Westbrook grabbed the ball, jogged to the baseline and waved to the crowd. A few moments after joining Oscar Robertson as the NBA’s career triple-doubles leader with 181, he celebrated the milestone with his teammates and his opponents.
It was quite a show.
Westbrook finished with 33 points, 19 rebounds and 15 assists, and made two free throws with a second left to give Washington a 133-132 overtime victory over Indiana. Heck, he even blocked the Pacers’ final shot before grabbing the ball.
“I love his spirit, his determination,” coach Scott Brooks said. “He’s really, really helped us become a better team and that’s vintage, you know — rebound, making a clutch shot, blocking a shot. Those are all great things and those are all team things. That’s what Russell’s about, he’s always been that way.”
Westbrook’s performance overshadowed everything else on the court.
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