New NASA project allows public to search for new worlds


New NASA project allows public to search for new worlds

“The human eye is extremely good at spotting such imposters, and we need citizen scientists to help us distinguish between the look-alikes and genuine planets.”

You can now help discover new worlds beyond our solar system from the comfort of your home, thanks to a new citizen science platform called Planet Patrol launched by NASA.

The Planet Patrol platform allows members of the public to collaborate with professional astronomers as they sort through a stockpile of star-studded images collected by NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS).

“Automated methods of processing TESS data sometimes fail to catch imposters that look like exoplanets,” said project leader Veselin Kostov, a research scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, and the SETI Institute in Mountain View, California.

“The human eye is extremely good at spotting such imposters, and we need citizen scientists to help us distinguish between the look-alikes and genuine planets.”

Volunteers will help determine which TESS snapshots include signals from potential planets and which ones show planet impersonators, NASA said on Wednesday.

TESS uses its four cameras to take full images of one patch of sky, called a sector, every 10 minutes for a month at a time.

This long stare allows TESS to see when planets pass in front of their stars, or transit, and dim their light.

Over the course of a year, TESS collects hundreds of thousands of snapshots, each containing thousands of possible planets — too many for scientists to examine without help.

On the new website, participants will help astronomers sift through TESS images of potential planets by answering a set of questions for each – like whether it contains multiple bright sources or if it resembles stray light rather than light from a star.

These questions help the researchers narrow down the list of possible planets for further follow-up study.

Citizen scientists can dive even deeper by learning more about the star in each image and by engaging with the Planet Patrol community, NASA said.




Amazon says nearly 20,000 of its employees tested positive for Covid-19 since March


Amazon says nearly 20,000 of its employees tested positive for Covid-19 since March

Amazon on Thursday said that slightly more than 19,800 of its employees have tested positive for Covid-19 since the start of March.

Data on the e-commerce giant’s 1.37 million frontline workers, including those at its Whole Foods Market grocery stores in the United States, showed a lower infection rate than expected, Amazon said.

The release of the figure comes as some workers in logistics centers have criticized the company’s safeguards to protect them from the pandemic as well as its reluctance to share information about colleagues who get infected.

Amazon has ramped up testing to 50,000 a day across 650 sites, according to the Seattle-based company.

“Since the beginning of this crisis, we’ve worked hard to keep our employees informed, notifying them of every new case in their building,” Amazon said in a blog post sharing Covid-19 infection rates among its frontline workers.

If the rate of infection among Amazon and Whole Foods workers were the same as the general US population, the number of cases would have topped 33,000, according to the company.




Will you shut up, man: Personal attacks rule 1st Trump-Biden debate


Will you shut up, man: Personal attacks rule 1st Trump-Biden debate

“Clown”, “Liar”, “just shush for a minute” and “keep yapping” were the insults that will forever be the highlight of the first Trump-Biden US presidential debate 2020 with Fox News anchor and moderator Chris Wallace coming in for serious flak based on how he allowed American President Donald Trump to aggressively interrupt his Democratic challenger Joe Biden throughout the first US presidential debate in Cleveland, Ohio.

Trump snarled, grimaced and wagged his fingers at Biden repeatedly throughout the 90-minute debate. At one point, he said: “I’ll tell you Joe, you could never have done the job that we did. You don’t have it in your blood.”

“Everything he says here is a lie”, Biden snapped. The wrong guy, wrong night, wrong time.”

“This man doesn’t know what he’s talking about,” Biden said several times during the evening.

The US election is 35 days away and it is increasingly likely that in the current Covid-19 situation, the results may not be known for days or weeks after November 3 — the election date.

“I’m 80 per cent sad, and 20 per cent mad as hell”, is how Claire McCaskill, former Senator from Missouri, described her takeaways from the debate.

Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson thinks “much of the nation must have been appalled.” “I don’t know what the hell we watched.”

Donald Trump chased the “television audience away” according to veteran Democratic strategist James Carville. “It was unwatchable, 25 minutes in.”

In less than 10 minutes, the debate descended into personal attacks when the moderator failed to keep Trump quiet during Biden’s two minute talk time. Biden shot back at Trump, “Will you shut up, man?”

Reacting to the first debate performance, Democratic vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris said “America was given a very clear choice”. She cast Trump as a man out of his depth and playing defence.

“What we saw was a dog whistle through a bullhorn,” she said on late night television.

“That performance tonight is going to convince people Donald Trump is not worthy of another term” David Plouffe, former Barack Obama campaign manager, said in post debate comments.

Donald Trump and Joe Biden skewered each other with angry words over Trump’s coronavirus response, racial justice, the economy and each other’s fitness for the president’s office in their chaotic 90 minute meeting.

“The fact is that everything he’s said so far is simply a lie,” Biden said. “I’m not here to call out his lies. Everybody knows he’s a liar.”

Biden tore into Trump within the first five minutes. He told Trump to “get out of your bunker and get out of the sand trap” and “get into his golf cart to the Oval Office and come up with a plan to save people”.

When Trump struggled to answer questions about reports he paid a measly $750 in federal income taxes in 2016 and 2017, Biden waded in. “Show us your taxes. Show us your taxes,” he pushed, even as Trump claimed he has paid “millions in taxes”.

Recent polling shows Trump’s support among key voter groups has slipped since 2016. Biden stepped onto the stage leading in head to head national polls and by razor thin margins in some battlegrounds.

In the crucial battlegrounds of Iowa, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan, where Trump was leading at this time in 2016, he is now trailing Biden. A RealClearPolitics poll of polls average puts Biden at about 6 points ahead of Trump nationally.

Trump refused to condemn white supremacists and ended the night refusing to say whether he would accept the election results. Trump’s coronavirus response was at the heart of the first presidential debate.

Biden called Trump a “failure” on the Covid-19 response. “You blew it”.




“He’s a liar!”: Biden attacks Trump in first presidential debate


“He’s a liar!”: Biden attacks Trump in first presidential debate

Calling Donald Trump a “liar” and a man who “doesn’t know what he’s talking about”, Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden ripped into US president Trump’s response to the coronavirus pandemic which has killed more than 200,000 Americans, plunged the economy and upended life across the country.

President Trump and Biden waded into their first debate Tuesday night in Cleveland, Ohio with exactly 35 days until the 2020 US election.

In the 90 minute long schedule, Trump’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic is expected to remain front and center in this first 2020 presidential debate. The debate began with the hot button issue of Trump’s recent Supreme Court pick.

Trump picked Amy Coney Barrett days after the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, sparking fears among Democrats that Trump is pushing through his agenda to move the country’s highest court to a 6-3 conservative majority.

“And we just, we won the election and therefore we have the right to choose her and very few people knowingly would say otherwise,” Trump said on his choice of Barrett.

“Everything he says here is a lie,” Biden snapped. “The wrong guy at the wrong time.”

“This man doesn’t know what he’s talking about,” Biden said in response to many of Trump’s claims.

Biden also mocked Trump for his controversial remarks on using bleach as a possible remedy for the coronavirus.

For Trump, this pivotal moment in his re-election campaign comes days after a New York Times investigation revealed shocking details on Trump’s taxes. Trump, the Times said, paid just $750 in federal income taxes the year he ran for president and in his first year in the White House. Trump paid no federal income taxes in 10 of the past 15 years.

Recent polling shows Trump’s support among key voter groups has slipped since 2016. Biden stepped onto the stage holding leading in head to head national polls and by razor thin margins in some battlegrounds.

In the crucial battlegrounds of Iowa, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan where Trump was leading at this time in 2016, he is now trailing Biden. A RealClearPolitics poll of polls average puts Biden at about 6 points ahead of Trump nationally.

Trump spent a good part of the day in debate prep, with many of his close aides in tow. Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, son-in-law Jared Kushner and former White House counsellor Kellyanne Conway were in the mix.

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on network television that she is watching the debate with “great interest”.

She had a piece of pre-debate advice for Biden. “Don’t get pulled into all the craziness”, she said and said Biden must just tell his story to the American people.

Fox News anchor Chris Wallace is moderating the showdown and has broken up the debate into six parts: the coronavirus pandemic, the Supreme Court, Trump’s and Biden’s records, the economy, the integrity of the election and “race and violence in our cities.”

Trump has been drumming up the notion that he is preparing an “all-out” assault on Biden. Trump will try, as he has done before, to paint Biden’s four decades in Washington as proof that he is incapable of closure and that his son Hunter Biden benefited from corruption.

Two more debates are coming up next month, on October 15 at Miami, Florida and October 22, at Nashville, Tennessee.




India does not give a ‘straight count’ on Covid-19 death: Trump


India does not give a ‘straight count’ on Covid-19 death: Trump

US President Donald Trump has said that India does not give a “straight count” on the Covid-19 deaths.

During the presidential debate on Tuesday night between him and Democratic Party presidential candidate Joe Biden, they both sparred on the extent of the deaths caused by the pandemic.

Biden said that the 200,000 people who died of the coronavirus were 20 per cent of the global death toll of 1 million while the US population is only 4 per cent of the world.

Trump shot back, “When you talk about numbers you know how many people died in China? You know how many people died in Russia? You don’t know how many people died in India. They don’t give you a straight count.”

Trump said that the pandemic was China’s fault, but Biden tried to deflect China’s role wanting to pin the blame for its ravages on Trump.

The first debate was held in Cleveland was about domestic issues and there were no international questions on the agenda set out Chris Wallace of Fox News, who was the moderator for the debate. The mention of India and the two other countries brought a passing reference to foreign countries.

Earlier in his news conferences, he has mentioned India’s record of conducting Covid-19 tests as the second-best in the world and only behind the US.




3 killed in Northern California wildfire


3 killed in Northern California wildfire

At least three people were killed, while thousands others were evacuated from their homes due to a massive wildfire in Northern California, according to media reports.

On Monday, the deaths were confirmed by Shasta County Sheriff Eric Magrini without providing further details, reports USA Today.

The blaze, dubbed Zogg Fire, burned through 31,200 acres near Redding, while another blaze, Glass Fire, has scorched more than 36,200 acres in the Napa and Sonoma wine counties, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection’s (Cal Fire) said in its latest update.


Both fires were at 0 per cent containment as of Monday night.

A least one winery has been charred, according to the San Francisco-based KPIX TV station.

Meanwhile, evacuation orders were issued for over 50,000 people in Napa and Sonoma counties, where two smaller offshoots of the Glass Fire, the Shady and Boysen, merged to expand the blaze.

The entire town of Calistoga, population 5,200, was put under evacuation orders on Monday night, according to Cal Fire.

This fire season, California has witnessed 8,136 fires that have scorched 3,754,729 acres of land.

Since August 15, 29 people have died, while 7,776 structures have been destroyed.




Nepal issues new guidelines for mountaineering, trekking activities


Nepal issues new guidelines for mountaineering, trekking activities

Nepal’s Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation has issued new guidelines for foreign tourists aimed at minimising the spread of Covid-19 during mountaineering and trekking activities, the media reported on Tuesday.

According to one of the most important guideline, tourists must secure an entry-visa, or an entry-permit in absence of visa-provision in their countries in co-ordination with respective agencies, The Himalayan Times reported.

Travellers must also carry a PCR test report conducted not more that 72 hours ago, proving that the person was Covid-19 negative.


Along with the report, the person must have booking-documents for the hotel wherein they will stay for at least seven days in quarantine and also provide papers showing that he/she has an insurance of $5,000.

In addition to the above mentioned conditions, the traveller must also undergo a PCR test at their own expense on the fifth day of being quarantined and if the result is positive, the person must stay in quarantine for as long as they do not test negative.

The Ministry further said that the trekking or mountaineering agency must insure travellers from Nepal against coronavirus for a sum of 100,000 NPR prior to applying for permit, reports The Himalayan Times.

Travel enthusiasts must also abide by all the protocols laid out by the Health Ministry.

Meanwhile, eight-time Everest climber Pemba Sherpa criticised the new guidelines, saying there will be no trekkers and mountaineers in the upcoming season.

“They won’t come here to stay at a hotel for a week even after having a negative PCR report,” Sherpa said while asking the government to review its decision.

Nepal opened Mount Everest and other Himalayan peaks on July 30 after a nearly five-month closure due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

All spring season expeditions that usually last from March to May were suspended in the wake of the pandemic.

The government had halted the issuance of climbing permits for expeditions and cancelled issued permits for the spring season 2020 on March 13.

An expedition to Everest usually takes 45 to 90 days, a short climbing window, depending on favourable weather, and generally falls after mid-May.




’14 yrs at Guantánamo Bay, nearly half of me has disappeared, gradually I am going to vanish’’


’14 yrs at Guantánamo Bay, nearly half of me has disappeared, gradually I am going to vanish’’

Of the original 780 prisoners, 740 have been released, but here I am, thousands of miles from my wife and children — including Jawad, who is 17, and who I have never had the chance to touch.

On 21 August, 2006, records show that I weighed 73 kilos. When I was weighed a week ago, the scale registered just 39 kilos. In the last 14 years at Guantánamo Bay, nearly half of me has disappeared.

In total, it has now been 18 years since I was kidnapped and handed over to US forces, to be tortured in Afghanistan and flown halfway across the world to this island gulag. Of the original 780 prisoners, 740 have been released, but here I am, thousands of miles from my wife and children — including Jawad, who is 17, and who I have never had the chance to touch.

Can you imagine one of your children being almost adult, yet you have never touched him? My hunger strike is a peaceful protest against this indefinite detention without trial. Nobody suggests I have ever committed a crime.

The US military are paranoid about people escaping, though it is hard to think where I might go: there are 100 soldiers for each detainee, along with the second largest landmine field in the world after Korea, plus the shark infested Caribbean sea.

Yet I have an escape plan: I am going to gradually vanish. I like to think that almost half of me has found freedom already, though I am so thin I can now feel my thumb and finger when I pinch where my stomach ought to be.

This is despite them force feeding me with tins of Ensure, deliberately hurting me in the process. Twice a day they take me to the ‘torture chair’.

They say I go voluntarily, but if I do not walk there in my shackles, they send a team of guards to throw me to the floor and violently drag me out of my cell — and then punish me afterwards for refusing to comply. I may as well get there on my own two feet.

They strap me in and a military nurse uses a 110-centimetre tube on me. It is painful and I get a splitting headache each time they do it, but I am used to that. What I can never accept is being used as a sub-human guinea pig for the nurses to learn the job. Soldiers come and go every few months, but I remain. I try to teach them how to do it, as I am an expert by now: after seven years of hunger striking, on and off, I have probably had a tube stuck up my nose more times than anyone else on the planet.

In each new six-month deployment there are one or two who can’t get it round the top of my nose, or send the tube into my lungs instead of my stomach. (They have to blow air in first to show where it went — or else I would drown in protein shake). One soldier I have at the moment is just untrainable, I don’t think she’ll ever get it right, no matter how many times she tries.

Mine is a fairly desperate strategy, particularly for someone like me. Back in another world, before I was kidnapped, when I was not driving a taxi around Karachi I would be cooking for my friends and family. Preparing and eating food is one of life’s great pleasures, and I do not give it up lightly.

To distract myself from my misery, I have been working on a cookbook. My family is originally from the Rohingya minority that has suffered from Burmese genocide, so we are used to being mistreated. One of my dishes is Rohingya ‘Strappado Chicken’, so named as you must hang the chicken rather like they dangled me in the ‘Dark Prison’.

A ‘Guantánamo Diet Book’ would be rather shorter — you just stop eating. What else am I supposed to do? What would you do if you had lost 18 years of your life, with no end in sight? The freedom to refuse food — to starve myself in protest against this terrible injustice — is the only freedom I have left.They tell me that I am not ‘cooperating’ with them. They told my lawyers if I testified against some of the high-value detainees, I could go home.

But they wanted me to repeat what I said during 540 days in their ‘Dark Prison’ in Kabul, where they hung me from an iron bar in a pitch dark pit. (That is a form of torture that was cal-led ‘Strappado’ 500 years ago in the Mid-dle Ages, yet is sadly something the US used on me in the 21st century — the pain as your shoulders gradually dislocate is excruciating.)

But I have lines I will never cross, and I said I could not ‘cooperate’ in repeating lies that I made up to get them to stop torturing me.

I know nothing about terrorism, and it is ironic that unless I swear to these lies, I am labelled a terrorist myself. I’ve done a lot of ‘cooperating’ — following their stupid rules or taking part in their “Periodic Review Board” even though President Donald Trump tweeted he would not let anyone go — but no matter how much I do this, I am still here.

So I will maintain my peaceful protest, aiming to lose another 17 pounds, down to about 70. I suppose in the end, if I keep going, I will not survive. But I was recently 51 years old, and have had the prime of my life taken from me. If they won’t let me return to my wife and children soon, the rest of me may as well go home in a box.

The writer is a former taxi driver from Karachi held prisoner by the US for 18 years without charge or trial.




NASA unveils $28 billion plan to return to the moon by 2024


NASA unveils $28 billion plan to return to the moon by 2024

The first mission — known as Artemis I — is on track for 2021 without astronauts, and Artemis II will fly with the crew in 2023.

About 18 months ago, NASA accepted a bold challenge to send the first woman and next man to the surface of the Moon in 2024.  On Monday, NASA has shared an update on its Artemis program and revealed its latest plan to return astronauts to the Moon in 2024. The estimated the cost of meeting that deadline is $28 billion, from which $16 billion would be spent on the lunar landing module.

However, meeting the deadline set by US President Donald Trump administrator, Jim Bridenstine, depends a lot on receiving approval from Congress, as they have to approve financing of $3.2 billion quickly for the development of human-rated lunar landers, according to a report in Spaceflight Now on Monday. The $28 billion would cover the budgetary years of 2021-25.

“I am confident in NASA’s partnership with these companies to help achieve the Artemis mission and develop the human landing system returning us to the Moon” said Lisa Watson-Morgan, HLS program manager at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. “We have a history of proven lunar technical expertise and capabilities at Marshall and across NASA that will pave the way for our efforts to quickly and safely land humans on the Moon in 2024.” 




Direct cargo ferry service between India and Maldives starts today


Direct cargo ferry service between India and Maldives starts today

This ferry service, being operated by the Shipping Corporation of India, will run twice a month and will provide a cost-effective, direct and alternate means of transportation of goods between India and Maldives.

Minister of State (Independent Charge) for Shipping, Mansukh Mandaviya and Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation of Maldives, Aishath Nahula, today jointly e-launched a direct cargo ferry service between India and Maldives.

During its maiden voyage, a vessel with a capacity of 200 TEU and 3000 MT of breakbulk cargo will sail from Tuticorin to Kochi today, from where it will proceed to Kulhudhuffushi port in North Maldives and then to Male port. It is scheduled to reach Kulhudhuffushi on September 26, 2020, and Male on September 29, 2020.

This ferry service, being operated by the Shipping Corporation of India, will run twice a month and will provide a cost-effective, direct and alternate means of transportation of goods between India and Maldives.

Speaking on the occasion, Mandaviya noted that this service is another milestone in the comprehensive bilateral relations between India and Maldives. He mentioned that this direct cargo service will further cement the close ties between India and Maldives by enhancing people-to-people contact and boosting bilateral trade.

Nahula expressed deep appreciation for the launch of the service as reflective of the close ties of friendship and cooperation between India and Maldives.

Speaking on the occasion, Mandaviya noted that this service is another milestone in the comprehensive bilateral relations between India and Maldives. He mentioned that this direct cargo service will further cement the close ties between India and Maldives by enhancing people-to-people contact and boosting bilateral trade.

Nahula expressed deep appreciation for the launch of the service as reflective of the close ties of friendship and cooperation between India and Maldives.

The launch of this service concretely fulfils the commitment made by Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his visit to the Maldives in June last year and the announcement made by External Affairs Minister Dr S Jaishankar during his virtual meeting with the Foreign Minister of Maldives on August 13, 2020.

The senior officials of the Ministry of Shipping, Ministry of External Affairs of India and officials of Maldives were also present.




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