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Comet At hand, Afghan Opium, Bush To Bush

Eyes on the prize: comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko
Eyes on the prize: comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Presidents Xi Jinping and Barack Obama signed a landmark deal to limit their greenhouse gas emissions, The Washington Post reports. China, for the first time, agreed to cap its output by 2030 or even earlier if possible, and pledged to increase the share of non-fossil fuels in its energy mix to 20% in the same period. The U.S. meanwhile will cut its emissions by 26 to 28% levels by 2025, compared to 2005 numbers. The deal was negotiated secretly by the world’s two biggest carbon polluters, who together account for 40% of the world’s emissions. Obama described the plan as “a major milestone in U.S.-China relations.” Making a similar statement in The New York Times, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry explains that “we need to solve this problem together because neither one of us can solve it alone.”

The European Space Agency’s Rosetta mission is in the final hours of an unprecedented attempt to land on the surface of a comet. The spacecraft successfully released its Philae lander early Wednesday, ahead of the planned landing today on Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, a large mass of ice and dust some 510 million kilometers from Earth, the BBC reports. If successful, the mission would mark a turning point in space exploration history. Much of the difficulty in landing on the comet is its low gravity. “It's all down to Isaac Newton and the laws of physics now,” said Professor Mark McCaughrean, senior science adviser at the European Space Agency. You can follow the landing here. In the meantime, this series of pictures of the comet are just what you need to relive the 10-year mission, and better understand how it works and what it could teach us.

Five of the world’s biggest banks have been collectively fined $3.16 billion for conspiring to manipulate the $5.3-trillion-a-day foreign currency market, The New York Times reports. The UK’s HSBC, Royal Bank of Scotland, Swiss bank UBS and American banks JP Morgan Chase and Citibank have all been fined by British, U.S. and Swiss regulators. Barclays pulled out of the settlement talks but the probe continues, while Bloomberg writes that Deutsche Bank is also being investigated. “Today’s record fines mark the gravity of the failings we found and firms need to take responsibility for putting it right,” the head of Britain’s Financial Conduct Authority said.

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Afghanistan’s opium cultivation expanded to a record-high 553,000 acres in 2014.

Moscow and Tehran reached a deal late Tuesday that will see Russia build two more nuclear reactors in Iran, and possibly another six later, a move that Iran’s top nuclear official described as “a turning point in the relations between our countries,” RT reports. This comes less than two weeks before a November 24 deadline for Iran to sign a deal on curbing its nuclear program with six world powers, including the U.S. and Russia. According to the Los Angeles Times, the reactors will however be operated under the UN’s supervision, a step aimed at reassuring the West that the program won’t be used for military purposes.

After hundreds of years of reducing our physical activity with the help of machines, we now find we need to move to remain healthy. A friendly city is one that forces you to walk more, this Clarin essay opines: “Just as we are about to reach the evolutionary dream of not having to move much, we find ourselves having to think about cities that force us to do so. Fewer than 100 years ago, most of us were engaged in manual work — carrying bags, painting, digging or plowing the fields. Physical activity was a normal part of our lives. Today, we have to go to a gym to move our limbs a bit, and many of us don't even do that much.”
Read the full article, A City Should Force You Off Your Arse.

Mali recorded its second Ebola death, a nurse who had treated an infected man from Guinea at a clinic which is now in quarantine in the capital Bamako, Reuters reports. The woman was however the first to have contracted the disease in the West African country, the first victim being a two-year old girl from Guinea. U.S. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew urged the International Monetary Fund to write off $100 million of the $372 million collectively owed by Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia, the three countries worst hit by the virus, which has killed nearly 5,000 people.


Former U.S. President George W. Bush has made clear who he’d like to see in the White House next.

Rookie rowers at New York’s Snowflake Regatta 2014 proudly present you this video of highly cringeworthy rowing.

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Joshimath, The Sinking Indian City Has Also Become A Hotbed Of Government Censorship

The Indian authorities' decision to hide factual reports on the land subsidence in Joshimath only furthers a sense of paranoia.

Photo of people standing next to a cracked road in Joshimath, India

Cracked road in Joshimath

@IndianCongressO via Twitter
Rohan Banerjee*

MUMBAI — Midway through the movie Don’t Look Up (2021), the outspoken PhD candidate Kate Dibiasky (Jennifer Lawrence) is bundled into a car, a bag over her head. The White House, we are told, wants her “off the grid”. She is taken to a warehouse – the sort of place where CIA and FBI agents seem to spend an inordinate amount of time in Hollywood movies – and charged with violating national security secrets.

The Hobson’s choice offered to her is to either face prosecution or suspend “all public media appearances and incendiary language relating to Comet Dibiasky”, an interstellar object on a collision course with earth. Exasperated, she acquiesces to the gag order.

Don’t Look Upis a satirical take on the collective apathy towards climate change; only, the slow burn of fossil fuel is replaced by the more imminent threat of a comet crashing into our planet. As a couple of scientists try to warn humanity about its potential extinction, they discover a media, an administration, and indeed, a society that is not just unwilling to face the truth but would even deny it.

This premise and the caricatured characters border on the farcical, with plot devices designed to produce absurd scenarios that would be inconceivable in the real world we inhabit. After all, would any government dealing with a natural disaster, issue an edict prohibiting researchers and scientists from talking about the event? Surely not. Right?

On January 11, the National Remote Sensing Centre (NRSC), one of the centers of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), issued a preliminary report on the land subsidence issue occurring in Joshimath, the mountainside city in the Himalayas.

The word ‘subsidence’ entered the public lexicon at the turn of the year as disturbing images of cracked roads and tilted buildings began to emanate from Joshimath.

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