Current Events


Out of This World: Leonardo Painting Tops $450 Million at Auction
November 15, 2017
A Leonardo painting has set an auction by quite a long way, selling for $450 million. Christie's entertained bids from four bidders in the auction room and one on the phone for 19 minutes before the auction ended, with the anonymous phone bidder taking it. The painting, Salvator Mundi, was created about the same time as the Mona Lisa, art historians believe, but had private owners for centuries before being rediscovered in 1900.

Climate Change Savaging Natural Wonders: Report
November 13, 2017
The world's wetlands and other natural wonders are increasingly under attack from climate change, a new report concludes. The report, from the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), found that 62 natural wonders around the world were damaged and at risk from global warming; that figure has doubled in just three years. The Everglades are an example of a wetlands that has experienced a rise in sea level. Elsewhere, rising river levels have created fierce flooding. More famously, the sea has already swallowed a few islands in the Bay of Bengal and is threatening a handful of island nations in the Pacific. The report was published to coincide with the United Nations climate summit in Bonn, Germany.

Rival Group Claims U.S. Representation at Climate Conference
November 13, 2017
The official U.S. delegation to the United Nations climate summit has scheduled a meeting on the future of coal. Sensing the irony, a rival group made up of leaders of large U.S. states, cities, and businesses has requested its own represenation at the summit. Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg was a keynote speaker at an event to launch a drive called America's Pledge, an effort to ensure that climate change is at the forefront of discussions involving representatives of America. Current California Gov. Jerry Brown is also in attendance, as are four U.S. Senators, several mayors, and a handful of representatives of major U.S. corporations.

Carbon Emissions Predicted to Set New Record High
November 13, 2017
Scientists are expecting a record high in carbon emissions in 2017, after three years of flat growth. The prediction, of a 2-percent growth, comes in the Global Carbon Budget report, produced by a group of several dozen research institutions and emissions experts. The official number is expected to be 37 billion tons of carbon dioxide, the highest total ever.

3D Tour for 'Void' Found Inside Great Pyramid
November 12, 2017
You now have another way to see inside the Great Pyramid of Giza. The catch is that you'll have to go to Paris. That seemingly contradictory statement is made possible by 3D technology, specifically a virtual reality tour designed by the team of scientists who last week announced the presence of a large "void" inside the famed pyramid. The scientists, from the Heritage Innovation Preservation Institute Scan Pyramids project, used space-age technology and cosmic rays to do the scan; the result was a previously unknown space, which researchers are not sure is a chamber or a corridor. Visitors to the in Paris can now don a virtual reality headset and "see" the interior of the Great Pyramid, including the "void."

Human Driver Caused Driverless Shuttle Collision
November 12, 2017
Las Vegas driverless shuttleHuman error caused a collision between a truck driver and Las Vegas's first self-driving shuttle, authorities have confirmed. The shuttle was on its first day of covering a half-mile loop around downtown Las Vegas. While in motion, the shuttle's onboard sensors detected the presence of another vehicle and stopped. The other vehicle, a large delivery truck, pulled out into the street from a loading bay; in doing so, the truck grazed the front bumper of the shuttle. The truck driver was cited after the collision. Eight people were onboard the shuttle at the time. No one in either vehicle was injured.

Ancient Gymnasium Found in Egypt
November 12, 2017
Ancient Egyptian gymnasiumA team of Egyptian and German archaeologists have found the first known ancient gymnasium in Egypt. The gymnasium recently unearthed is near what was at that time a village named Philoteris. The initial population of the village was 1,200, one-third of whom were Greek. The village was in an area known as Fayum, which was popular with Greek settlers. The gymnasium would have once had several meeting halls, a dining hall, and a large courtyard, according to Cornelia Römer, leader of the excavations. Surrounding the building would have been large gardens and a 650-foot-long racing track, Römer said. 

High Court Rolls Out Electronic Filing
November 12, 2017
The U.S. Supreme Court now accepts electronic submissions.Rolling out a new e-filing system, the Court joins the lower courts in accepting non-paper documents. People wishing to file documents regarding cases to be argued before the High Court can find a link on the Court's website but must have registered with the Court before filing. This is intended primarily for lawyers filing on behalf of someone else. The Court has not abandoned paper altogether, however: Parties to High Court suits will still have to submit paper versions of the documents, for awhile.

Repeat Performance for La Niña
November 12, 2017
The "little girl" is back again this year, as far as the weather is concerned. The Climate Prediction Center has announced the formation of a La Niña for the second year in a year. La Niña is a natural cycle that features cooler-than-average ocean temperatures in the central Pacific Ocean, which has varying effects on weather patterns across the United States and across the world. The 2017 La Niña is forecast to be weak, so a predicted down year for U.S. agricultural production might not be so severe.

New Space Found Inside Great Pyramid
November 2, 2017
The Great Pyramid at Giza has revealed yet another secret. A team of scientists using space-age technology has revealed the presence of a hidden space. Pharaoh Khufu's grandest achievement, more than 450 tall, was built more than 4,000 years ago and was sealed until A.D. 820. Those who opened the pyramid found three chambers inside, connected by a large corridor known as the Grand Gallery. The Queen's chamber is at the center of the pyramid; the King's chamber is above that; and another chamber is below the base.Until now, searches for other chambers have proved fruitless. A team of scientists from Japan's Nagoya University and KEK physics lab have employed a host of new technologies combined with the use of cosmic rays; the result was a previously unknown space, which researchers are not sure is a chamber or a corridor.

Seaborne Plastic Waste Turned into Clothing
November 5, 2017
recycled plastic clothingA clothing company has begun a sustainability project to make clothes out of plastic garbage from the sea. The company, Spain's Ecoalf, sports a program called Upcycling the Oceans. Fishers gather plastic from the Mediterranean, the company turns the plastic into pellets, which are then used to create filaments to use in clothing. The Madrid-based company, begun in 2009 by environmentalist Javier Goyeneche, has already released a collection of bright clothes made from recycled fishing nets. The clothing efforts are also intended to draw attention to the ever-growing amount of plastic waste in Earth's oceans.

Course of Running Race Illustrates Gerrymandering
November 5, 2017
gerrymandered district mapRunners in Asheville, N.C., recently participated in a 5K race (3.1 miles) that followed a nontraditional route, one designed to prove a political point. Asheville is in North Carolina's 10th and 11th Congressional districts. The city used to be in one district. The Republican-controlled legislature redrew the shape of the two districts, both of which elected Republicans to the House of Representatives in 2016. The race course for the Asheville 5K run was a zigzag affair, with sharp corners and repeated steps, effectively tracing the boundary between the two congressional districts. Race organizers designed the course route as nonstandard to call attention to the "gerrymandered" districts that resulted from the 2011 redistricting.


Anne Frank Proposed as Name for German Train
October 31, 2017
The operator of Germany's state rail system has proposed the idea of naming a train after Anne Frank, the young Holocaust victim whose diary has been read around the world. The response to that proposal has not been universal acclaim. Most prominent of the critics of the proposal is the Anne Frank House, which was once the Amsterdam house where Anne and her family hid from the Gestapo but is now a museum. Officials there said that the proposal evoked great pain in reminding people of the way that the Frank family–and so many people like them– died. A great many Jewish and other enemies of the Nazi state were sent to concentration camps aboard trains. Deutsche Bahn, the train operator, said it planned to name one of its new high-speed trains after Frank as a memorial to her. That idea found favor with many people who echoed that sentiment.

New Investigation into Anne Frank Cold Case
October 31, 2017
A retired FBI agent is heading up a new investigation into the events that led to the death of Anne Frank, the young Holocaust victim whose diary has been read around the world. Vince Pankoke, known for investigations into Colombian drug trafficking and the September 11 attacks, and a team of 19 experts will use new-age technology to go back over evidence unearthed in previous investigations, with the goal of shedding more light on how Frank and her family were betrayed. 

Dubai Announces Plans for Revolving Apartments Tower
October 31, 2017
Dubai, already home to the world's tallest building, has announced plans for a shape-shifting skyscraper. The Dynamic Tower will reach "only" 1,273 feet into the sky when it is completed, possibly as early as 2020. However, plans call for each of the tower's 80 floors to be able to rotate a complete circle independently of any other floor, meaning that people inside can experience different views on an ongoing basis.

'Distracted Walking' Law Targets Mobile Phone Users
October 29, 2017
Hawaii's largest city has made it illegal to cross the street while staring down at a mobile device. Honolulu, with an estimated population of more than 400,000, has a new law targeting "distracted walking"; those who are caught breaking the law will face a fine of up to $99. Anyone who happens to be making an emergency phone call while "distracted" will not face a fine.

Persian Gulf Crisis Stretches to 4 Months
October 29, 2017
The diplomatic crisis in the Persian Gulf region is entering its fourth month, with no signs that it will be resolved anytime soon.The target of a blockade, Qatar is continuing to try to cope without an open border with its only land neighbor, Saudi Arabia, and with disruption of its air and sea traffic. Saudi Arabia and three other countries, have refused a diplomatic solution for several weeks. The last communication between Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was a phone call on September 8; that conversation did not result in any resolution of the crisis.

Titanic Survivor Letter Sets Record at Auction
October 22, 2017
A famous letter that survived the sinking of the Titanic has set a record at auction. The only known letter on Titanic notepaper to have gone into the Atlantic and come back out again sold for 126,000 pounds (US$166,363). American businessman Alexander Oscar Holverson wrote the letter on April 13, 1912, the day before the famed ocean liner hit the iceberg that caused its doom. He and his wife, Mary, had boarded the ship in Southampton, bound for their home in New York. He wrote the letter to his mother.

Ancient 'Gates' Found in Saudi Arabia
October 22, 2017
Archaeologists have discovered in Saudi Arabia a few hundred stone structures that are very, very old. Found in Harrat Khaybar, a volcanic region in the west-central part of the country, the gates and walls are man-made and could date back thousands of years. Archaeologists are still not sure how old the stone strucutres are. They made the discovery primarily examining satellite imagery. The longest gate is 1,699 feet in length; the shortest is 43 feet in length.

Leonardo Painting Auction Prediction: $100 Million
October 15, 2017
A painting by the creator of the Mona Lisa could fetch $100 million at auction. Leonardo da Vinci's Salvator Mundi was painted about the same time as the Mona Lisa, art historians believe, but had private owners for centuries before being rediscovered in 1900. Officials said that the price paid for the painting in a 1958 Christie's auction was $60. The painting was identified as Leonardo's work only in 2011. It is the only known Leonardo painting still in private hands.

Great Pacific Garbage Patch Tapped for Statehood
October 7, 2017
A drive to declare the Great Pacific Garbage Patch an official nation is gaining momentum, with more than 130,000 people already applying for citizenship. The environmental charity Plastic Oceans Foundation began a campaign to petition the United Nations to recognize a new country, Trash Isles, as a way to call attention to the ever-growing amount of plastic and other garbage in the northern pacific Ocean. The latest estimates say that Trash Isles would be the size of a large country.

Bronze Statue Arm Found in Antikythera Wreckage
October 7, 2017
The encrusted fingers of a recently rediscovered statue point to greater treasures yet to come, according to archaeologists working at the famed Antikythera wreck, off the coast of the Greek island of the same name. The ship, which sunk in 1 B.C., has revealed many treasures in its time, none perhaps more enticing and maddening than the Antikythera Mechanism, which many people think was a primitive form of computer. Initial discovery of the wreck occurred only in 1900. Since then, several expeditions have turned up notable finds, including a bronze statue called the Antikythera Youth, which now stands in Greece's National Archaeological Museum. Much more recently, a team of divers from Greece and Sweden have been exploring the site, at times employing an underwater metal detector built for the purposes, in a newly funded endeavor. Their latest find is an intact arm that would have been part of a bronze statue onboard the ship. The archaeologists think that as many as eight other bronze sculptures are yet to be found.

Saudi Women to Join World's Drivers
October 1, 2017
Women in Saudi Arabia have won the right to drive. Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz announced that women could begin achieving a driver's licence in June 2018. The population of Saudi Arabia, as of the 2016 counting, is 32 million. Nearly half of those are women. Women were granted the right to vote in 2015 and to run for seats on local councils. However, women are still prohibited from doing many other things. For example, they cannot, without the consent of a male "guardian (husband, son, or father), travel outside the country, open a bank account or a business, decide whom they marry, or undergo certain medical procedures. Activists said that they intended their next target to be the laws the so-called "guardianship laws."

Evidence Bolsters Submerged Continent Claim
October 1, 2017
Evidence suggests that Earth could indeed have eight continents, one of which is on the seafloor. Earlier this year, scientists suggested the presence of a large underwater mass known as Zealandia, which sunk beneath the waves tens of millions of years ago but was, when it was at sea level, very large indeed. A nine-week voyage to the seafloor off New Zealand and Australia revealed evidence of land-based fossils on the submerged landmass, which is now more than 3,200 feet below the surface. As well, the expedition found that Zealandia's crust was not as deep as the surrounding oceanic crust, confirming the theory that the land was once much higher up. Working aboard a ship called the JOIDES Resolution, the scientists drilled more than 8,000 feet below the surface, at six sites at various points along the Zealandia landmass. What they discovered included remains of pollen from land plants and remains of organisms whose home is in warm shallow seas.

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David White