Current Events

 

Unmanned Mayflower on the Road to Completion
March 24, 2020
Mayflower Autonomous Ship The bulk of a new Mayflower is complete and on the road. Workers in Gdansk, Poland have completed work on the hull of what is being called the first full-sized, fully autonomous vessel to cross the Atlantic Ocean. Aluship, which built the hull, placed the hull on a special truck, and the next step is Plymouth, in the U.K., where other workers will finish the job. To mark the 400th anniversary of the journey of the Pilgrims to the New World, the Mayflower Autonomous Ship (MAS) will sail from Plymouth in September 2020 across the Atlantic to the United States. The plan is for the self-guided vessel to complete its journey in two weeks. The original Mayflower, carrying 102 English people in search of religious freedom, took two months, launching in September 1620 and reaching the eastern coast of North America in December of that year.

Iditarod 2020: Norway's Waerner the Winner
March 18, 2020
Thomas Waerner Thomas Waerner has won the 2020 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. The English-born Norwegian finished in 9 days, 10 hours, 37 minutes, 47 seconds. That was nearly six hours ahead of second-place finisher Mitch Seavey, a former champion three times over. Jessie Royer, the first female finisher, came in third, 90 minutes behind Seavey. He first raced the Iditarod in 2015, finished 17th, and was named Rookie of the Year. Waerner crossed the line first with 10 dogs in tow. A spectator had handed him a Norwegian flag just before crossing, and he waved that flag over his head. Race organizers awarded him $51,000 and a new truck.

NEA Urges Nationwide School Shutdown in Wake of Coronavirus
March 16, 2020
All schools in the country should close for two weeks, according to the National Education Association. The NEA, the largest teachers union in the U.S., made that recommendation in the wake of the coronavirus COVID-19, which continues to spread across the country and the world. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently issued a ban on all gatherings of more than 50 people. In response, a very large number of industries have either closed altogether or have drastically reduced their openings hours or number of people allowed in one place at one time.

Ancient Mayan Capital Found on Mexican Cattle Ranch
March 16, 2020
The capital of a long-lost Maya kingdom has been hiding in plain sight, relatively, on a cattle ranch in Mexico. The site is Lacanja Tzeltal. It is now in Chiapas, in the southeastern part of Mexico. The site, which was settled in 750 B.C, was occupied for a millennium and was the capital city of the ancient kingdom of Sak Tz'i'. Archaeologists know this because the owner of a Chiapas cattle ranch found an ancient stone tablet on his property and told a friend, who passed on the information to an archaeology student who was studying in the area. A few years later, with all necessary permissions granted and approved, they began digging.

Egypt Finishes Step Pyramid Restoration
March 8, 2020
Step PyramidEgypt has reopened the world's oldest pyramid after a 14-year restoration. The pharaoh Djoser, who ruled nearly 5,000 years ago during the Third Dynasty, mandated a number of large building projects. However, he was most well-known for commissioning the building of his tomb, which was the first Step Pyramid. His faithful minister Imhotep designed and oversaw the building of the pyramid, at Saqqara. Restoration began in 2006 and stopped in 2011, after the removal of President Hosni Mubarak from power; work began again in 2015. A 5.8-magnitude earthquake in 1992 badly damaged the pyramid. Workers filled in gaps in the mastabas and renovated a number of internal passages and burial shaft tomb walls. Workers also did restoration work on Djoser's sarcophagus.

Iditarod 2020: Ceremonial Start in the Snow
March 8, 2020
2020 Iditarod ceremonial startThe ceremonial start marked the beginning of events for the 48th annual running of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog race. As happened last year, the snow was plentiful. During the ceremonial start, the 57 mushers and their teams left at two-minute intervals and made their way leisurely through the 11-mile crowd-lined Anchorage route. The race gets underway in earnest the day after the ceremonial start. The start is in Willow; the finish is in Nome. The race will traverse the Northern Route this year. The Northern Route has 23 checkpoints and goes through Yentna Station, Skwentna, Finger Lake, Rainy Pass, Rohn, Nikolai, McGrath, Takotna, Ophir, Cripple, Ruby, Galena, Nulato, Kaltag, Unalakleet, Shaktoolik, Koyuk, Elim, Golovin, White Mountain, and Safety before finishing at Nome.

Iditarod 2020: Teacher on the Trail
March 7, 2020
Iditarod 2020 Teacher on the Trail Kelly Villar, of Mansfield, Conn., is the 2020 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race Teacher on the Trail. Race organizers selected her from three finalists in May 2019. Originally a teacher in Virginia Beach, Va., Villar has taught elementary school students in Mansfield since 2004, most recently at Southeast Elementary School. A keen fan of the Iditarod since her earliest days of teaching, she had her first musing experience in New Hampshire a few years ago. An avid skier from a very young age, she also learned to climb and do high ropes courses; exercise for pleasure these days for her involves camping, hiking, kayaking, and other outdoor pursuits. She has also worked as a lifeguard and performed as a synchronized swimmer.

Englishwoman Wins International Pancake Day Race
February 26, 2020
Katie Godof 2020 Pancake Day Race The Pancake title is back across the Pond. Katie Godof (right), an Englishwoman from Olney, won this year's international Pancake Day race, finishing in a time of 1 minute, 6 seconds. The winner of the Liberal, Ks., race was Whitney Hay; her finish time was 1 minute, 9 seconds. The race is a 415-yard course that follows an "S" shape, to mirror the route supposedly taken by the woman late for church all those years ago. Competitors must wear a head scarf, an apron, and a skirt; they must carry a frying pan, and they must flip the pancake in the pan at least twice, once at the start and once at the finish.

U.K. Unveils Post-Brexit Passport
February 24, 2020
New U.K. passport Citizens of the United Kingdom will once again have blue passports, now that the U.K. has left the European Union. The government will start issuing the passports in March, said Home Secretary Priti Patel. U.K. citizens last had blue passports in 1998. Between then and now, they have had burgundy colored passports, as have all other members of the EU. Manufacturing the new blue colored passports has been Gemalto, a company based in Poland and run by people from France and the Netherlands. Gemalto won the contract in 2018. More than 80 other countries, including the United States, issue their citizens blue colored passports.

Barbie Dolls to Mark New Olympic Sports
February 24, 2020
Barbie surfing 2020 Olympics Five new Barbie dolls will help celebrate new sports at the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo. Coming soon to toy vendors around the world will be Barbie athletes showcasing baseball/softball, karate, skateboarding, sport climbing, and surfing. Baseball was an Olympic sport from 1992 to 2008. Softball was on offer at the Olympics from 1996 to 2008. The other sports will be offered as Olympic sports for the first time in 2020. Barbie doll manufacturer Mattel has also announced the imminent release of a new collection of Hot Wheels toys, to commemorate the Olympics through the years, and a version of the card game UNO that features the Tokyo 2020 mascot Miraitowa, along with a new rule just for the Olympics.

Lindisfarne Dig Unearths Viking Game Piece
February 8, 2020
Lindisfarne game pieceArchaeologists digging at Lindisfarne in northern England have unearthed a piece of glass associated with a Viking board game. The game is hnefatafl, or "King's Table," which simulates a Viking raid. The piece of glass was in a trench from which other items found have been dated to the 8th and 9th Centuries. Notably, Viking raiders sacked the monastery at Lindisfarne in 793.

Presidential Impeachment Trial Ends in Acquittal
February 6, 2020
The Senate has voted not to convict President Trump on either of the two Articles of Impeachment that the House of Representatives had delivered for consideration. After two weeks of testimony and questions, members of the impeachment managers team and the President's defense team delivered closing arguments and then the Senators voted. A total of 67 Senators would have had to have voted to convict the President. On the first Article of Impeachment, alleging abuse of power, the Senate voted 52–48 against. On the second Article of Impeachment, alleging obstruction of Congress, the Senate voted 53–47. Republicans hold a 53–47 majority in the Senate. All Republicans voted to acquit the President on the second Article of Impeachment. All but one Republican voted to acquit the President on the first Article of Impeachment. The only Republican to vote to convict the President on the first Article of Impeachment was Mitt Romney of Utah. He became the first Senator in the history of the U.S. to vote to convict a President who was a member of the same political party. This did not occur in the previous two presidential impeachment trials, that of Andrew Johnson in 1866 and of Bill Clinton in 1998–1999.

Team Fluff Wins a Thriller in Puppy Bowl XVI
February 2, 2020
Gina Team Fluff won Puppy Bowl XVI, taking home the Lombarky Trophy in a 63$#8211;59 thriller over Team Ruff. Gina, a very young Labrador retriever-chow chow mix, won Most Valuable Puppy (MVP) honors. Her teammate Rocky Road, a German Shepherd-Samoyed mix, scored the game-winner, after the teams played it close to each other for much of the game. A record 96 puppies from a total of 61 shelters took part in the 2020 Puppy Bowl. It wasn't just American dogs competing, either; taking part also were puppies from Canada, Colombia, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Presidential Impeachment Trial to Enter Final Phase
February 1, 2020
The Senate impeachment trial of President Trump has reached its final phase. Both the impeachment managers and the President's defense team will make closing arguments to the Senate on Monday and Tuesday. Then, barring any last-minute changes to the schedule, the Senate will vote on Wednesday on whether to convict or acquit. A conviction would result in the President's removal from office. An acquittal would result in the status quo.

Brexit a Reality: U.K. Leaves the EU
January 29, 2020
Brexit Brexit has become a reality. The United Kingdom has left the European Union, ending a relationship that began in 1973. At 11 p.m. GMT, it was midnight in Brussels, headquarters of the EU, and the Withdrawal Agreement took effect, having been ratified by the European Council as a last formal step, following approval by the U.K. Parliament and the European Parliament. To mark the moment, workers at EU headquarters removed the Union Flag from its displays and the U.K. has minted a coin. Also marking the moment was U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson, the third leader of the country to have grappled with the demands of Brexit since it was triggered by the results of a 2015 referendum. Johnson gave a speech in which he called for calm and common purpose. Meanwhile, proponents of Brexit celebrated their long-awaited moment.

European Parliament Approves Brexit
January 29, 2020
Brexit One more official step, and Brexit can go ahead. The penultimate remaining obstacle to the United Kingdom's leaving the European Kingdom is gone, after the European Parliament voted overwhelmingly to approve the Withdrawal Agreement that the U.K. Parliament had sanctioned the week before. The vote in the European Parliament was 621–49 (with 13 abstentions). The Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) took the vote after two hours of debate. Accompanying the announcement of the vote were bagpipes playing and a few versions of the song "Auld Lang Syne," including one sung by some MEPs who had held hands and linked arms.

Defense Closes Out First Week of Presidential Impeachment Trial
January 26, 2020
The Senate has concluded one week of the impeachment trial of President Trump. During the first week of the trial, the impeachment managers presented 24 hours of testimony during three days, laying out their case in defense of the two articles of impeachment delivered by the House of Representatives. The third day of the impeachment managers' trial testimony came about after Democratic Senators protested the original two-day limit proposed by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. The testimony of the House impeachment managers finished on Friday with an impassioned closing argument by Adam Schiff, the lead impeachment manager. On Saturday, the team tasked with defending President Trump delivered their first of three days of testimony, laying out their case that Trump did nothing that deserved his being removed from office. They questioned the motives of the impeachment managers The defense team has two more days in which to present.

January 26, 2020

Coin, Other Commemorations to Mark Brexit
January 26, 2020
Brexit coin Among the commemorations of Brexit will be an official 50-pence coin. United Kingdom Finance Minister Sajid Javid said that about 3 million of the coins would go into circulation on January 31, the day that the U.K. leaves the European Union, and that another 7 million coins would enter circulation later in the year. The roughly seven-sided coin contains the words "Peace, prosperity and friendship with all nations. 31 January 2020." Parliament passed a Withdrawal Agreement that the heads of the European Union have now ratified. The European Parliament is expected to approve the agreement in a vote on Wednesday. The official split occurs at midnight on Saturday, February 1. That will be 11 p.m. in the U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson is scheduled to give a speech that night. The Government is not planning a wholesale celebration because of the divisive nature of the issue. Since a slight majority of referendum voters approved the U.K.'s withdrawal from the EU, arguments have punctuated political and social discussions across the spectrum of U.K. life, inside Parliament and out.

3D Printing Helps 3,000-year-old Mummy 'Speak'
January 23, 2020
Nesyamun mummy A 3,000-year-old Egyptian priest has spoken again, sort of. Scientists in the United Kingdom have used 3D printing to recreate the vocal tract of a mummified Egyptian priest and, further, to reproduce a sound that the priest would have made while he was alive. The priest, Nesyamun, was a priest of the god Amun-Ra at the Temple of Amun at the Karnak temple complex. He also served as a scribe and an incense-bearer. He died about 1100 B.C.

Space-baked Cookies Back on Earth
January 23, 2020
Space cookies It takes two hours to bake cookies in space, astronauts have revealed. U.S. astronaut Christina Koch and Italian astronaut Luca Parmitano performed the cookie-baking experiment aboard the International Space Station recently. The flavor was chocolate chip. It as the first time that raw ingredients had been used to bake food in space. Three cookies are back on Earth, having arrived still sealed in their individual baking pouches. A SpaceX capsule brought them back, and scientists have frozen two of them in a Houston-area lab. The Smithsonian Institution's National Air and Space Museum will display one cookie. It took a few attempts to get the consistency right, the astronauts said.

Navy to Name Carrier after Pearl Harbor Hero 'Dorie' Miller
January 20, 2020
Doris Miller The U.S. Navy will name a new aircraft carrier after Doris Miller, an African-American World War II veteran. Miller rose to the occasion during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, manning a machine gun until he was out of ammunition. He was a mess attendant aboard the battleship West Virginia. When a Japanese torpedo hit his ship, he was sorting laundry. Eight more torpedoes hit the West Virginia that day, and the ship sank. Miller helped his captain, Mervyn Bennion, who was mortally wounded, to safety and then took to firing the gun. As his ship sank, he jumped to safety.

Impeachment: Opening Arguments to Last 2 Days
January 20, 2020
The House impeachment managers and President Trump's legal team will each have a total of 24 hours divided over two days in which to present their opening arguments in the Senate impeachment of the President. The trial will begin at 1 p.m. Eastern Time each day. After the opening statements have finished, the Senate will ask questions for a total of 16 hours. Senators will not ask the question directly; rather, the presiding officer, Chief Justice John Roberts, will officially present the questions to whomever they are directed. At that point, the Senate will vote on whether to have witnesses testify during the trial. If the Senate does decide to call witnesses, then they will depose each witness before that witness will be allowed to testify.

Presidential Defense Team Calls for Swift Acquittal
January 20, 2020
Now that the U.S. Senate has taken up the trial of President Trump on charges of two articles of impeachment, the White House has named the lawyers who will defend the President during the trial. The team includes current White House officials and longtime Trump legal associates. In their response to the two articles of impeachment filed against Trump by the House of Representatives, Trump's defense team called for an immediate acquittal.

House of Lords Amends Brexit Bill, Forcing Commons Revisit
January 20, 2020
Brexit The House of Commons will again have to vote on a Brexit deal, as the House of Lords has added an amendment to the bill that provides details for the United Kingdom's plan to leave the European Union. In its debate on the bill that the Commons passed, the House of Lords voted 270–229 to amend the bill with a requirement that the U.K. government give citizens of the EU who live in the U.K. physical proof of their right to remain after the split. Proof can be granted online but does not result in any hard copy of the status and so anyone who wishes to check such status must go online. The concern is that the lack of a piece of paper proving citizenship status could be harmful to many people. Under the U.K. constitutional system, any amendments to a bill go back to the House of Commons for consideration and can be overturned by the lower house. Effectively, the amendments make an even tighter timeline for the delivery of a deal to the EU by the mandated January 31 deadline.

Presidential Impeachment Trial to Begin
January 16, 2020

The U.S. Senate will now conduct the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump. Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, and other House leaders have delivered two articles of impeachment to the Senate. The trial is expected to begin next week and last a few weeks. Yet to be determined is whether witness testimony will be included in the trial. The House Intelligence Committee had conducted hearings to investigate claims that Trump had put pressure on the government of Ukraine–specifically President Volodymyr Zelensky–to announce that it was investigating Joe Biden, a former Vice-president and then a potential (since formally running for President) presidential candidate. The details of the pressure involved allegations of withholding aid until the Ukrainian government made a public announcement that it was investigating Biden and, specifically, his son Hunter's dealings in Ukraine. That was not the only investigation that Trump wanted Ukraine to announce, according to the impeachment articles. The other investigation was to be into the conduct of Ukrainian officials during the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign and whether those Ukrainian officials interfered with the U.S. election, which was won by Trump. The second article of impeachment charged that the White House refused to comply with House subpoenas for information and/or testimony in connection with the impeachment investigation and, further, that the White House directed other agencies in the Executive Branch to do the same.

U.K. Parliament Finally Passes Brexit Bill
January 11, 2020
The U.K. House of Commons has voted to approve the deal put forward by Prime Minister Boris Johnson with regard to leaving the European Union. Assuming approval by the House of the Lords, the bill will become law in time for the planned January 31 exit. The vote was 330 in favor and 231 against, much more than enough to pass the bill and much of a majority than had been hoped for during previous debates.

N.Y. Public Library's Top 10 All-time Checkouts
January 13, 2020
The New York Public Library is celebrating its 125th anniversary in various ways, one of which is the release of a list of the 10 books that have been checked out the most. Topping the list is The Snowy Day, by Ezra Jack Keats, with nearly half a million checkouts. It's the story of a red-snowsuited boy named Peter who enjoys adventures on the first day of snow in the city. Other familiar titles on the list include To Kill a Mockingbird, 1984, The Cat in the Hat, and The Very Hungry Caterpillar.

Notre Dame Scaffolding Removal Tricky
January 6, 2020
A project to remove the scaffolding surrounding the Notre Dame Cathedral may damage the iconic building further, a French official has said. Gen. Notre Dame Cathedral scaffoldingJean-Louis Georgelin, who is overseeing the cathedral's reconstruction, said that the removal of the scaffolding would take many weeks because of the meticulous and careful nature of the activity involved. The symbolic Notre Dame Cathedral suffered extensive damage from a fire earlier this year. In order to remove the scaffolding, Georgelin said, workers will enact another set of scaffolding around the existing set, then remove the inner scaffolding bit by bit, taking care that nothing falls on the already damaged stone vaults. The fire brought down the spire and much of the existing scaffolding with it. Georgelin said that the workers would not hurry through their task and, once the scaffolding had been removed, inspect each and every stone and piece of wood remaining in order to discover the true extent of the damage.

1,200-year-old Gold Coins Found in Israel
January 6, 2020
Israeli coin hoardA dig in Israel has turned up 1,200-year-old coins that archaeologists say might have been a secret stash kept for a specific purpose. Digging at the city of Yavneh, the archaeologists found the seven gold coins hidden in a clay jug at the site at which also were found pottery kilns. One of the coins dates to the 8th or 9th Century, according to an Israeli coin expert from the Israel Antiquities Authority, specifically to the reign of Caliph Harun al-Rashid, who is thought to have been the inspiration for the famous One Thousands and One Nights stories. Also in the hoard are coins made by North African peoples; such coins are not often found in Israel.

1,000-year-old Mayan Palace Unearthed in Mexico
January 5, 2020

Archaeologists have found a Mayan palace last used 1,000 years ago near the popular resort city of Cancun, Mexico. The 20-foot-tall building is 180 feet long and 49 feet wide and, according to authorities at the National Institute of Anthropology and History, was probably used during two overlapping Mayan periods, the Late Classic and the Terminal Classic. That would have been during the height of Mayan civilization. Researchers also found two homes, an altar, and a round oven.

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David White