DAILY DOSE: A satellite as bright as the stars pisses off astronomers; Mold in Starbucks’ freezers makes workers strike.


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The knock-on effects of the pandemic never seem to end. Whether it’s the economy or politics or, in this case, children’s health, the incessant “because of Covid-19” problems are like waves on a beach – constant and unrelenting. Kids are really suffering from the trifecta of respiratory viruses. Per Ars Technica,

Respiratory illnesses are raging this fall, slamming children particularly hard. Cases of influenza-like illnesses are off to a startlingly strong and early start this season. RSV—respiratory syncytial (sin-SISH-uhl) virus—continues to skyrocket. A stew of SARS-CoV-2 variants is still simmering in the background. And the rabble of usual cold-season viruses, such as rhinoviruses and enteroviruses, is also making the rounds.

With the surge in infections, children's hospitals around the country have reported being at capacity or overwhelmed, as Ars has reported before. But another effect of the crush of viruses is a squeeze on the workforce. As The Washington Post first reported Tuesday, the US broke its record last month for people missing work due to childcare problems—such as having children home sick and childcare facilities or schools shuttered due to staffing shortages and sickness.

In October, more than 100,000 employed Americans missed work for childcare-related problems, according to data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. That is more missing workers than in any other month in recent records, including the entirety of the COVID-19 pandemic, during which many childcare facilities and schools closed down for extended periods. At the height of pandemic-related shutdowns in 2020, the number of Americans missing work for childcare problems only reached the low 90,000s.

Don’t listen to people who tell you the pandemic was no big deal. http://bit.ly/3E8WrAw

Scientists are exploring increasingly creative approaches to saving the Great Barrier Reef from climate change and subsequent warming oceans. Per the Associated Press,

The first step in the government’s reef restoration plan is to understand better the enigmatic life cycle of the coral itself.

For that, dozens of Australian researchers take to the seas across the reef when conditions are ripe for reproduction in a spawning event that is the only time each year when coral polyps naturally reproduce as winter warms into spring.

But scientists say that is too slow if corals are to survive global warming. So they don scuba gear to gather coral eggs and sperm during the spawning. Back in labs, they test ways to speed up corals’ reproductive cycle and boost genes that survive higher temperatures.

If anyone tells you climate change isn’t real and that the oceans aren’t being impacted, show them coral bleaching and wait for the explanation. http://bit.ly/3Xa4c21

NASA finally launched its new moon rocket yesterday. It’s a big deal. Per the AP,

NASA’s new moon rocket blasted off on its debut flight with three test dummies aboard Wednesday, bringing the U.S. a big step closer to putting astronauts back on the lunar surface for the first time since the end of the Apollo program 50 years ago.

If all goes well during the three-week, make-or-break shakedown flight, the crew capsule will be propelled into a wide orbit around the moon and then return to Earth with a Pacific splashdown in December.

After years of delays and billions in cost overruns, the Space Launch System rocket thundered skyward, rising from Kennedy Space Center on 8.8 million pounds (4 million kilograms) of thrust and hitting 100 mph (160 kph) within seconds. The Orion capsule was perched on top and, less than two hours into the flight, busted out of Earth’s orbit toward the moon.

“It was pretty overwhelming,” said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson. ”We’re going out to explore the heavens, and this is the next step.”

Exciting times coming. http://bit.ly/3V2veqi

As good a piece of news the launching of Artemis I is, it’s not all great news on the space exploration front. Astronomers are really pissed about a new satellite that, from its location, appears as bright as distant stars. Per Science,

Since launching in September, the communications satellite BlueWalker 3 has orbited Earth, curled up as if in a cocoon. Now, it has hatched, unfurling an antenna array as big as a highway billboard, its maker, Texas-based AST SpaceMobile, announced today. Astronomers say the satellite’s brightness has spiked by a factor of 40, rivaling the brightest stars in the sky.

“It’s like exactly what astronomers don’t want,” says astronomer Meredith Rawls of the University of Washington, Seattle, who helps run the International Astronomical Union’s Centre for the Protection of the Dark and Quiet Sky from Satellite Constellation Interference. “It’ll show up as a superbright streak in images and potentially saturate camera detectors at observatories.”

Thousands of commercial satellites already litter low-Earth orbit. The 64-square-meter BlueWalker 3 is the largest one yet, considerably brighter than any of the Starlink satellites deployed by SpaceX, says astronomer John Barentine of Dark Sky Consulting. On top of the light pollution, BlueWalker 3 is testing a transmission technology that threatens to trespass into the frequencies used by radio observatories on Earth, he says. “This just fundamentally feels different,” he says. “We’re in new territory here.”

Any place humans get their hands on, they pollute. End of story. http://bit.ly/3tBoGmH

The battle over abortion rages on. Per CNN,

A Georgia Superior Court judge has overturned the state’s law banning abortions as early as six weeks of pregnancy, ruling it unconstitutional and saying it cannot be enforced.

The decision from Fulton County Superior Court Judge Robert McBurney makes the procedure legal in the state again until at least 20 weeks of pregnancy, effective immediately. The judge’s order comes in response to a lawsuit that sought to strike down the ban on multiple grounds and will apply statewide.

HB481, dubbed Georgia’s LIFE Act, bans, with some exceptions, abortion when early cardiac activity is detected – as early as six weeks into a pregnancy, when many women don’t yet know they are pregnant.

This result speaks for itself. http://bit.ly/3TKwjSk

While we’re on the subject of speaking for itself, this news about a New York City branch of Starbucks makes your stomach turn. Per The City,

“Food safety inspectors with the state Department of Agriculture and Markets found “mold-like material” inside the ice machine at the Starbucks Reserve Roastery in Chelsea last week — and issued the upscale cafe a failing inspection report. 

Two days later, Starbucks denied there was moldy ice in a letter to the union representing striking workers and declared: “We are confident the Department’s report will confirm what we already know – the Roastery meets the safety and health standards.”

The Roastery’s baristas, bartenders and bakers have been on strike since Oct. 25 following staff sightings of bedbugs in the breakroom and mold in the ice machines.

During a Nov. 9 visit, state inspectors identified “mold-like material” in the ice machine and identified “several critical violations,” according to Department of Agriculture spokesperson Jola Szubielski.”

Really gross. http://bit.ly/3OlFyHO

Thanks for reading. Let’s be careful out there.

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