Reuters – President Nicolas Maduro’s government scrambled on Wednesday to return power to western Venezuela following heavy looting in the second largest city, while China offered to help the South American nation end its worst blackout on record.
Power had returned to many parts of Venezuela after a nationwide outage last week that Maduro’s ruling Socialist Party blamed on an act of U.S. sabotage, though it had not fully reached the western state of Zulia, where temperatures are high.
Looters smashed shop windows and made off with merchandise in more than 300 businesses across the state, located along the border with Colombia, the Zulia chapter of business organization Fedecamaras said in a statement.
“This has truly been a tragedy,” opposition legislator Nora Bracho, who represents Zulia in the National Assembly, said in a text message on Wednesday. “Not having power is already a burden with the temperature at 104 degrees. In addition, there’s no potable water and no food.”
The country’s top food company, Empresas Polar, said four facilities in Maracaibo, the biggest city after the capital Caracas, had been sacked this week, with looters making off with water, soft drinks and pasta.
AP – The people of Deal would like a Brexit deal. Above all, they want Britain’s divided politicians to make a decision.
This seaside town facing France across the Channel voted strongly to leave the European Union in Britain’s 2016 referendum. Almost three years later, residents of Deal, the rest of the U.K. and the EU woke up Wednesday to political crisis and warnings of economic chaos if Britain crashes out of the bloc on March 29 without a withdrawal agreement to smooth the way.
“Potentially it is going to be a nightmare,” said Michael Eddy, a district councilor who lives in Deal, a few miles from England’s main Channel port of Dover.
Residents, businesses and politicians across Britain and the European Union were bracing for a chaotic, cliff-edge Brexit after British lawmakers rejected Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit agreement for a second time on Tuesday by a decisive 391-242 vote.
Parliament will vote later Wednesday on whether to rule out leaving the EU on March 29 without a deal.
AP – he U.S. Federal Aviation Administration is facing mounting criticism for backing the airworthiness of Boeing’s 737 Max jets as the number of countries that have grounded the aircraft grows in the wake of the Ethiopian Airlines crash over the weekend.
The rest of the world typically takes it cues from the FAA, long considered the world’s gold standard for aircraft safety. Yet other aviation safety regulators, including the European Union, China, Australia and the United Kingdom, have decided not to wait for the FAA to act. The Ethiopian disaster came just five months after the deadly crash of another new Boeing 737 Max 8 operated by Lion Air in Indonesia.
Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., the chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, said in a statement Tuesday that he’s concerned that international aviation regulators are providing more certainty to the flying public than the FAA.
The Guardian – Whenever I wake up it is there and it is unbelievably loud. When nobody else can hear it you think you are going nuts, and it just wears you down,” says Simon Payne, 55, from Cambridgeshire. Payne is a hearer of the mysterious global phenomenon known as the Hum. “I have been desperate to get away from it, so I have stayed with friends – and even moved house.”
The Hum is experienced as a consistent, low-pitched noise, much like the sound of a large truck idling in a nearby parking lot. Hearers tend to report experiencing it in urban areas – leading some to conclude that it is, in fact, a form of noise pollution screened from most people by the general city soundscape.
It is said to cause symptoms that range from insomnia to headaches to dizziness. But because its actual source is unknown, it is impossible to discern its effects accurately.
The earliest reliable reports of the phenomenon date from the UK in the early 1970s, according to a 2004 investigation by the geoscientist David Deming, a Hum hearer himself. Deming was unable to find a source, urban or otherwise, but despite the tantalising nature of the mystery, his is one of the few formal studies that exist. Mainstream scientists, unwilling to keep company with Hum-theorising alien fanatics and conspiracy theorists, have largely avoided the topic – unfortunately for those who suffer its effects.
But in 2012, on hearing the Hum himself, science teacher and former university lecturer Glen MacPherson decided to follow in Deming’s footsteps to get to the bottom of the strange phenomenon. To start, he created the World Hum Map and Database – an interactive map that has accumulated thousands of hearers’ descriptions of their experience and their locations across the globe. (He estimates that up to 4% of people worldwide can hear the Hum.) Armed with this and a team of volunteer investigators in various countries, McPherson set out to test a set of four hypotheses regarding its possible source.
Natural sources of sonic phenomena were an obvious starting point. Sounds resulting from volcanoes for example, have been verified as propagating for durations and distances that seem unreal, circling the entire Earth multiple times. However, Elizabeth Silber, a Canadian physicist and planetary scientist who investigated reports of a hum in Windsor, Canada, says: “There are many natural sources … such as aurorae, lightning, meteors, volcanoes, waterfalls and ocean waves. Yet none of these seem to be consistent with the manifestation of the Hum.”
Breitbart – U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is heading for Washington and talks on the organization’s peacekeeping budget. His aim is to secure additional funding after the United States capped its share and threw responsibility back on the rest of the world to step up and fill the void.
Breitbart – An Australian judge has sentenced Cardinal George Pell to six years in prison for sexual abuse, with the possibility of parole after three years and eight months.
In December, a jury found Pell guilty of sexually abusing two choir boys when he was archbishop of Melbourne in the 1990s. Pell has always maintained his innocence and his lawyers have filed an appeal, which will take place next June.
Not long after the guilty verdict issued against Pell, the Holy See announced the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith would open its own canonical investigation of the charges against the prelate.
U.S. News, Politics & Government
CBS – A federal judge has ruled against a group of local parents who are refusing to vaccinate their children.
More than 40 students have been banned from a private school during the Rockland County measles outbreak. On Tuesday, the judge said he would not lift that ban.
Those students and their families were in a courtroom instead of a classroom, fighting an order to stay away from fellow students due to the high risk they could contract and spread the measles.
The controversial parents said the ban was doing more harm than good.
“Preventing my child from being with his class, his teacher, his classroom has had a significant social and psychological impact,” one mother who wouldn’t give her name claimed.
The unidentified parent added her youngster has missed 90 days of class at the private Green Meadow Waldorf School in Rockland County.
Market Watch – Maybe we need to make America great — to live in — again.
Global consulting firm Mercer released its quality of living rankings Thursday, and for the 10th year in a row, Vienna took the No. 1 spot. It was followed by Zurich, with Auckland, Munich and Vancouver tying for third place.
The company ranks hundreds of global cities based on a number of factors, including recreation, housing, economy, public services and transport, political and social environment, school and education, medical and health considerations, and natural environment.
European cities continue to have the highest quality of living in the world, with Vienna (1), Zurich (2) and Munich (3) not only ranking first, second and third in Europe, but also globally,” the report revealed — adding that “as many as 13 of the world’s top 20 spots were taken by European cities.”
You’ll have to scroll all the way down to the 34th spot to find an American city. That honor goes to San Francisco, followed closely by Boston (36), Honolulu (37), New York (44), Seattle (46), Chicago (49), Washington, D.C. (53), Philadelphia (54) and Pittsburgh (59).
Not only do U.S. cities rank pretty low down on the list, they’re falling in the ranking. Indeed, all U.S. cities fell in ranking this year with the exception of New York, which climbed one place to 44 as crime rates in the city fell. Meanwhile Detroit retained its spot as the lowest ranking U.S. city.
CNN – Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort was ordered Wednesday to serve an additional 43 months on federal conspiracy charges, bringing his total sentence between two federal courts to 7.5 years in twin cases stemming from special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation.
US District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson told Manafort that, despite his apologies to the courtroom, his lawyers’ arguments about the absence of any charges directly linked to collusion in the 2016 election were “just one more thing that’s inconsistent with the notion of any genuine acceptance of responsibility.”
RT – The US Defense Department signed a memo on Tuesday that would enforce limitations on transgender troops. The policy, which has been the subject of court challenges, will take effect on April 12. It will bar most transgender individuals from serving if they require hormone treatments or transition surgery. The memo, signed by David Norquist, the number-two official at the Pentagon, will allow service secretaries to issue waivers on a case-by-case basis. President Donald Trump announced a ban on transgender people serving in the military in July 2017. He later accepted Pentagon recommendations to limit the ban to individuals with a history of gender dysphoria, defined as “those who may require substantial medical treatment,” allowing some exceptions, Reuters reports.
RT – US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has sought to recruit some of the top oil industry guns to serve as Washington’s foreign policy tools to crack down on “bad actors” like Venezuela, Russia and Iran.
Addressing members of IHS Markit’s CERAWeek annual energy conference in Houston, Texas on Tuesday, Pompeo divulged what has long been an open secret – that the US is willing to use all its political clout to propel its economic interests and vice versa.
Breitbart – Former FBI legal counsel Lisa Page testified to Congress that the Justice Department ordered the FBI not to charge former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton with “gross negligence” by mishandling classified information.
CS Monitor – Gov. Gavin Newsom plans to sign a moratorium on executions, granting reprieve for the state’s 737 death-row inmates. The moves counter a 2016 ballot measure in which Californians voted to speed up death-row punishments.
Economic Collapse – Is there anything left in this country that has not been deeply tainted by corruption? By now you have probably heard that dozens of people have been arrested for participating in a multi-million dollar college admissions scam. Enormous amounts of money were paid out in order to ensure that children from very wealthy families were able to get into top schools such as Yale University, Stanford University, the University of Texas and the University of Southern California. We should certainly be disgusted by these revelations, but we shouldn’t be surprised. Such corruption happens every single day on every single level of society in America. At this point our nation is so far gone that it is shocking when you run into someone that actually still has some integrity.
The “mastermind” behind this college admissions scam was a con man named William Rick Singer. He had been successfully getting the kids of wealthy people into top colleges for years using “side doors”, and he probably thought that he would never get caught.
But he did.
Energy & Environment
Big Island News – A Magnitude 5.5 earthquake struck the south flank of Kīlauea Volcano on Hawaiʻi Island at 12:55 a.m. HST early Wednesday morning.
The earthquake occurred at a depth of 6.3 km and was felt all across the Big Island. It was felt strongest in Volcano Village.
For a short time, the USGS website also measured the earthquake at a possible Magnitude 4.8, but later appeared to confirm a Magnitude 5.3 measurement. The strength of the quake was later revised to a 5.5.
USA Today – t’s happened before and it could happen again.
Roughly 2,700 years ago, an unusually powerful solar storm swept past the Earth, scientists announced in a new study. Though it had little to no impact on people in that long ago, pre-industrial and pre-technological world, such an event today would cause widespread power outages along with potentially disastrous communication and navigation failures.
The solar storm, which was in 660 B.C., was about 10 times stronger than any known event in the past 70 years, study lead author Raimund Muscheler said.
A solar storm of that strength would be “a threat to modern society in terms of communication and navigation systems, space technologies and commercial aircraft operations,” the study said.
Scientists studied ancient ice in Greenland to uncover clues about previous solar storms. Looking at an ice core that dated as far back as 100,000 years, researchers found radioactive isotopes that indicated a very powerful solar storm 2,700 years ago.
CNN – A ferocious winter storm — a “bomb cyclone” — was ripping across Colorado on Wednesday afternoon on its way to the Great Plains and parts of the Midwest, bringing blizzard conditions and a flood threat to a swath of the US.
A bomb cyclone happens when there’s a rapid pressure drop, with a decrease of at least 24 millibars (which measures atmospheric pressure) over 24 hours known as bombogenesis. This storm has dropped 27 millibars since Tuesday morning and continues to strengthen.
The current pressure in the storm is equivalent to what you would typically find in a Category 1 hurricane, said CNN Meteorologist Brandon Miller. Further pressure drops later Wednesday should bring it to Category 2 equivalent.
Science & Technology
Sputnik – While astronomers have been attempting to put our galaxy, the Milky Way, on a scale in a bid to determine its overall mass, a team of astrophysicists from the US and Germany has come up with a fascinating hypothesis on what enigmatic dark matter may be actually composed of.
Despite dozens of years devoted to the study of puzzling dark matter, the substance can still hardly be detected and measured by instruments. And now, researchers have been exploring an intriguing hypothesis: what if galactic rotation and galaxies’ extra-gravity are affected not by dark matter per se, which was found to be the case in the 1980s, but the mass of light instead?
While we don’t know for sure what dark matter is and can’t detect it directly, there is apparently something that accounts for extra gravity, and this might not be dark matter, a team of researchers, including plasma physicist Dmitri Ryutov, Dmitry Budker, and Victor Flambaum suggested. In a new paper, published in The Astrophysical Journal and cited by The Science Alert, they adduced an argument that light particles (photons) could be at least in part the source of the phenomenon, which causes something that looks like gravity to us.
The effect they described is some kind of “negative pressure” caused by electromagnetic stresses related to photon mass. When viewed in the context of a mathematical system called Maxwell-Proca electrodynamics, these electromagnetic stresses can generate additional centripetal forces, acting mostly on interstellar gas. The team calls this Proca stress, assuming that it operates pretty much like gravity.
Care2 – According to one study, “The belief in green tea as a ‘wonder weapon’ against diseases dates back thousands of years.” I’ve talked about it in relation to chronic disease, but what about infectious disease? Interest in the antimicrobial activity of tea dates back to a military medical journal in 1906, which suggested that servicemen fill their canteens with tea to kill off the bugs that caused typhoid fever. “However, this effect of tea was not studied further until the late 1980s” when tea compounds were pitted against viruses and bacteria in test tubes and petri dishes, but what we care about is whether it works in people. I had dismissed this entire field of inquiry as clinically irrelevant until I learned about tea’s affect on genital warts. External genital warts, caused by human wart viruses, “are one of the most common and fastest-spreading venereal diseases worldwide.”
DailyMail – Eating two portions of mushrooms per week could halve your risk of abnormal brain decline in old age.
Researchers found people who eat 300g or more of cooked mushrooms – about equal to a medium-sized punnet – have a reduced risk of mild cognitive impairment.
And even eating smaller amounts could still be beneficial, they said.
MCI is between natural brain decline and dementia, and people with the condition may experience forgetfulness and reduced language and attention skills.
Mushrooms contain an amino acid which the body can’t make for itself and which is found in particularly low levels in people with MCI, scientists said.
Mercola – The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is proposing new regulations to ensure the safety and effectiveness of sunscreens.
Of the 16 active sunscreen ingredients used in products on the U.S. market, only two — non-nano-sized zinc oxide and titanium dioxide — have been deemed safe for human use by the FDA.
FDA admits scientific data are lacking for 12 active sunscreen ingredients on its list, and asks industry to help in providing more data in order to perform a “rigorous assessment” of all active ingredients on the market.
One of the 12 active sunscreen ingredients the FDA claims to be unsure about is oxybenzone, found in an estimated 70 percent of sunscreens. Evidence suggests oxybenzone is an endocrine disruptor, and it is known to decimate coral reefs and harm aquatic life.
Research shows 13 of 29 sunscreen chemicals (45 percent) allowed in the U.S. and/or European Union have the ability to reduce male fertility by affecting calcium signaling in sperm, in part by exerting a progesterone-like effect