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WYWS: Boeing Starliner hasn't found its orbit yet, MI5 murder OKed – Montreal Gazette

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And the Hungarian government has taken over fertility clinics to boost birth rate.


Boeing’s unmanned CST-100 Starliner spacecraft, atop an ULA Atlas V rocket, lifts off on an uncrewed Orbital Flight Test to the International Space Station from launch complex 40 at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Cape Canaveral, Florida December 20, 2019.


JOE SKIPPER / REUTERS

Hello and good frigid morning after the Habs victory over the Flames Thursday night. Here is the early morning news platter that is While You Were Sleeping.

Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft has not reached correct orbit: Boeing Co launched its new astronaut capsule on Friday on an unmanned debut journey to the International Space Station, but the capsule had not yet reached the orbit required for it to get to the station, the company said. The CST-100 Starliner astronaut capsule was not yet in the desired orbit after its launch earlier from Cape Canaveral in Florida, a Boeing spokeswoman said. The U.S. space agency NASA said the spacecraft was currently in a stable position but not in its “planned orbit.”

Court rules British MI5 agents can murder, kidnap and torture: Britain’s intelligence service MI5 can authorize its agents to engage in murder, kidnap and torture, a London court ruled, as Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s new government prepares to overhaul espionage laws. Judges on the Investigatory Powers Tribunal declared in a majority decision that MI5 has the power to permit informants to operate in criminal groups, even if the policy itself confers no legal immunity. “The case raises one of the most profound issues which can face a democratic society governed by the rule of law, Judge Rabinder Singh, said in the ruling. The decision comes as Johnson seeks to update laws to bring them in line with the U.S. in a crackdown on spies, saboteurs and hackers working for foreign states such as Russia, North Korea and Iran. The judges cited the agency’s own guidelines to agents and handlers that said the authorization “will be the service’s explanation and justification of its decision,” if the agent’s activities were to be scrutinized by police or other prosecution authorities. Human rights campaigning groups including Reprieve had asked the court to grant an injunction “restraining further unlawful conduct.” The request was dismissed in a 3-2 decision, which was also the first time a dissenting opinion has ever been published in the tribunal’s 20-year history, Reprieve said.

Hungarian government takes over fertility clinics to boost birth rate: Hungary’s government has taken over six privately owned fertility clinics and boosted funding to make treatments accessible to many more couples in a bid to reverse a population decline, the government said. Prime Minister Viktor Orban has made it a priority to boost the population and reverse a labor shortage with incentives to raise the birth rate rather than increase immigration, anathema to the nationalist leader. His government has already introduced a string of measures, including tax benefits, subsidized loans and other programs to favor families. In a ruling published in the official gazette Magyar Kozlony late on Thursday, the government said it had brought six private clinics specialized in in-vitro fertilization (IVF) under state ownership and control, designating the move an issue of “national strategic importance” and exempting it from competition rules. The government also said drugs used in fertility treatments would be free of charge as of Jan. 1 and volume limitations for state-financed IVF treatments would be abolished in order to eliminate waiting lists.

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ESC Algonquin students auctioning of quilts for a worthy cause – BayToday.ca

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A group of grade 11 Algonquin high school students has started a unique fundraising auction that will take place online Friday through the ESC Algonquin’s Facebook page. 

Emilie Perron, and her classmates have helped created custom-made quilts that will be auctioned off to support five charities including Wounded Warriors, One Kids Place, The Nipissing Transition House, #NoahStrong and the Crisis Centre.  

“A lot of people, including our teachers, staff, and the whole school board are proud of us,” Emilie told BayToday.  

“Many people in the community feel the same way. We just hope we can reach more of the community and get more people to be aware of this project that we are doing.”  

As part of their grade 11 English course, this authentic and engaging project known as “Barons Quilts for Causes” was presented to students in September in order to raise their awareness of the importance of good citizenship.

The community-oriented project was designed to develop core skills such as collaboration, communication, and creative thinking as well as inspire kindness, hope, compassion, and service.

In addition, with the expertise, equipment and efforts of Mrs. Kelly Schroeder from The Cottage Quilter, students successfully fabricated five beautiful quilts for this fundraiser.

Perron says the students were even more engaged since the project gave the students a chance to express themselves through the quilts.  

“We could pick group members that reflect well with our personal beliefs,” said Perron.  

“Each group then picked a quilt pattern and chose an organization they all stood by. We have been working hard since the beginning of September to ensure a good quality project that will bring success. Our goal as a group is to be able to raise the most amount of money possible to maximize the impact of this project. In order for us to be successful in raising money for the organizations, we will need an ample amount of publicity.”

Dr. Emily Weiskopf-Ball, the project leader and English teacher at the school, has been impressed by the student’s enthusiasm for the project. 

“I congratulate the students for having such an open mind and being so willing to undertake such a great challenge as well as the other partners who accepted to work with us,” said Dr Weiskopf-Ball.

Bids must be made directly to ÉSC Algonquin’s Facebook page before 4 p.m. on Friday, January 22, 2021.

Here is the link to our website HERE or to the Algonquin Facebook page. 

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Tonight, Uranus will be on display for all to see – BGR – BGR

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  • Uranus isn’t the easiest planet to spot in the night sky, and most of the time we can’t see it at all, but tonight it’ll be a bit easier to spot the distant, frosty world.
  • NASA says that Uranus will be near Mars in the night sky, and if you have something like a nice pair of binoculars or, better yet, a telescope, you should be able to see it.
  • The planet, which is a pale blue and white, will appear tiny at such a distance, but it’s actually nearly 15 times more massive than Earth.

When you gaze up at the night sky you see plenty of stars, but can you pick out planets when you see them? Sometimes it’s possible to spot the likes of Jupiter and Mars without a telescope, but more often than not, folks with “average” eyes can’t tell much of a difference. Tonight, however, you might be able to catch a glimpse of Uranus, and all you should need is a decent pair of binoculars.

Uranus huge, blue, and stinky. It’s also one of the most interesting planets in our system, and it’s not often that we have guideposts in the sky in order to see it. This time around, Uranus will appear close to Mars in the sky, making it a bit easier to spot, especially if you have the hardware to zoom in a little closer.

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Tonight, Uranus will appear between our own Moon and Mars in the sky. It’ll be tiny and very faint, but it’ll be there, shining a pale blue and just waiting for someone to come visit in search of life.

“The distant, outer planet Uranus is too faint for most of us to see with the unaided eye, and it can be tough to locate in the sky without a computer-guided telescope,” NASA explains in its weekly skywatching tips post. “But Uranus can be located now right between the Moon and Mars.”

Uranus is strange and special for a variety of reasons. It’s very cold, which isn’t particularly unusual, but the planet happens to rotate on a 90-degree angle compared to the rest of the planets in our system. The theory is that something huge slammed into Uranus a long time ago, causing it to shift and ultimately rotate at an angle that doesn’t match up with its own orbit around the Sun.

Additionally, the planet’s moons have been of interest to scientists for some time, mainly because they’re thought to be covered in ice that may hide liquid water beneath it. If that’s the case, those moons could harbor life in some form, but we wouldn’t know for sure until we actually went and checked it out.

In any case, Uranus will be in the sky tonight, and if you have a pair of binoculars or a telescope, you’ll have a great shot at seeing it. Assuming the weather cooperates, of course.

Mike Wehner has reported on technology and video games for the past decade, covering breaking news and trends in VR, wearables, smartphones, and future tech.

Most recently, Mike served as Tech Editor at The Daily Dot, and has been featured in USA Today, Time.com, and countless other web and print outlets. His love of
reporting is second only to his gaming addiction.

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Giant predatory worm's ancient fossil burrows discovered – CBC.ca

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Millions of years ago, giant predatory worms as long as an adult human terrorized the ocean. The fearsome creatures hid under the sea floor, waiting to seize unwitting prey with their slicing jaws and drag them underground to be consumed — like they do today, recently discovered fossils suggest.

The fossils are “very, very distinctive,” said Shahin Dashtgard, a professor of earth sciences at Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, B.C., who co-authored a new study describing them.

“They’re like nothing we’ve ever seen before in the rock record.”

The fossil burrow opening, left, is compared to a modern Bobbit worm burrow opening. The researchers found that the fossil and modern burrows were similar. (Paleoenvironntal Sediment Laboratory/National Taiwan University, Chutinun Mora)

Unlike traditional fossils that are usually formed from the hard parts of an animal’s body, such as its bones or shell, the worm fossils are “trace fossils” consisting of non-biological traces such as footprints or, in this case, a burrow. The fossils are described in a study published this week in the journal Scientific Reports.

Dashtgard noted that because worms have soft bodies, they’re rarely fossilized.

“So, the burrows they make is really the only record we have of what the ecosystem would look like and how diverse the ecosystem was.”

Evoke the monsters of science fiction

The researchers propose that the ancient worm was similar to the modern-day Bobbit worm or sand striker, a marine predator that lives in tropical and subtropical seas in the Indo-Pacific Region and grows up to three metres long. It hides in underground burrows with just its head exposed, striking and grabbing prey, such as fish or shellfish with sharp, scissor-like jaws and dragging them into its burrow.

Bobbit worms are named for the slicing ability of their jaws, which was likened to the slicing that abused wife Lorena Bobbit did to remove her husband’s penis in 1989. They have also been compared to sand crawling monsters in science fiction worlds such as Star Wars, Dune and Tremors.

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Bobbit worms and their relatives are thought to have existed for a very long time. Fossil jaws of what is thought to be the oldest Bobbit worm have been found in a 400 million year old rock formation in Ontario.

But because they’re soft, worms are rarely found in the fossil record.

That’s why researchers have begun looking for trace fossils of soft-bodied marine animals. Ludvig Löwemark, a professor of geosciences at National Taiwan University and Masakazu Nara, a professor of biological sciences at Kochi University in Japan, two co-authors of the study, were looking for trace fossils of another ancient animal when they came across something unusual in a 20 million-year-old sandstone formation in Taiwan.

Figuring out what it was became the project of Yu Yen Pan, a master’s student working with Löwemark who is now a PhD student at Simon Fraser University.

An animation shows how the trace fossil would have formed. (Yu Yen Pan)

Key piece of the puzzle

The rock where the fossils were originally found, Badouzi promontory, was an ancient continental shelf about 30 or 40 metres below the surface of the ocean, said Pan.  It was likely similar to the environment found off the coast of Taiwan today. Other fossil evidence shows that it was likely a coral reef populated by animals such as stingrays and other fish, sea urchins and crustaceans such as shrimp and lobsters.

The first fossils were mostly fragments left behind by erosion, so the researchers decided to look for similar fossils in another part of the same rock layer some distance away in an area called Yehliu Geopark.

It wasn’t long before Löwemark called Pan over. He had found a complete fossil,  starting with a funnel at the top that narrows to a cylindrical tube about three centimetres in diameter, descending straight into the ground for 70 or 80 centimetres, before bending horizontally into an L-shape, reaching a total length of about two metres

“We were super excited,” Pan recalled. “This really could help us to connect the puzzle together and make the story more complete.”

The top part of the fossil burrow, seen from the side, is funnel shaped, with feathery lines from the disturbance of the soil that’s thought to be caused by the worm pulling prey into the burrow. (Paleoenvironntal Sediment Laboratory/National Taiwan University)

In total, the researchers found 319 fossil specimens at the two sites. A chemical analysis of the fossils found they were high in iron, which is typical of burrows made by soft-bodied animals. That’s because they tend to stabilize their burrows with mucus that attracts microbes that enrich the sediment with iron.

The fact that the tunnel was L-shaped also suggested that it was made by a soft-bodied animal, as such animals can’t dig too deep before the ground gets too hard and compacted for them to continue, and they need to start digging horizontally.

The burrows were different in size and shape from burrows made from other animals, such as eels or razor clams. 

But when the researchers compared the fossil burrows to the burrows of modern Bobbit worms, which inhabit modern ecosystems not much different from those that the fossil was found in, they appeared very similar.

Dashtgard suggests that means the worms have been living in a similar environment for quite a long time — about 20 million years.

‘Feathery footprint’ from Taiwan

The researchers named their new fossil Pennichnus formosae. The first part of the name refers to the feathery (“penna” in Latin) “footprint” (“ichnus” in Latin) left in the top “funnel” of the burrow by the way the sediments were disturbed when the animal pulled its prey inside. “Formosae” after Formosa, a former name for Taiwan, honours the place it was found, 

Pan said the fossil is notable because it provides clues about hunting behaviour of an ancient invertebrate, something that is quite rare.

The study coauthors included, from left, Shahin Dashtgard, Ludvig Lowemark, Yu Yen Pan and Masakazu Nara, standing on right. (Paleoenvironmental Sediment Laboratory/National Taiwan University)

David Rudkin was one of the researchers who studied the Ontario Bobbit worm jaw fossils but was not involved in the trace fossil study. Rudkin, a retired assistant curator at the Royal Ontario Museum and a retired lecturer at the University of Toronto, said while he isn’t an expert in trace fossils, he found the interpretation in the new study “pretty convincing.”

“The kicker, of course, would be finding a direct association in the form of either ‘jaw’ elements or soft-body bits within the burrows, left after the animal died in place,” he said in an email.

Unfortunately, the conditions that preserve burrows and those that preserve bodies tend to be quite different, so they’re rarely found together, he said. 

“Under the circumstances,” he said, “I think the authors have done a nice job of making the case for these being Bobbit burrows!”

This is an artistic reconstruction of Websteroprion amrstrongi, a Bobbit worm that lived 400 million years ago in Ontario. Its fossil jaws were discovered and reported by a team of researchers that included David Rudkin at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto. (James Ormiston)

More burrows likely to be found

Murray Gingras is professor at the University of Alberta who studies traces made by modern animals and compares them to the fossil record. He wasn’t involved in the new study but has gone to Australia to study the burrows of modern Bobbit worms as part of his own research.

One challenge with trace fossils, he said, is that many animals can make very similar traces and figuring out which one any given trace came from requires some interpretation. But in this case, he thinks the researchers’ interpretation is reasonable and well argued.

“I think it’s a fun discovery,” he said. 

He said he’s surprised such fossil burrows haven’t been found before given how widespread Bobbit worms are and how conspicuous their burrows are.

He suspects that many more will be found now that other researchers know what to look for, and that will help uncover the animals’ movements and distribution over the past 20 million years.

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