STORM RUINS LIVES.
Tropical Storm Idalia, which initially made landfall in Florida as a hurricane, caused widespread damage throughout the Southeast and left a trail of flooding before heading to the Atlantic Ocean. Florida experienced power outages affecting up to half a million customers, mainly due to the storm uprooting power poles and lines. Though major urban regions like Tampa Bay received only glancing blows, Florida’s rural Big Bend area was heavily affected with streets turned into rivers, houses submerged, and severe wind damage. In Georgia, the storm claimed a life when a tree fell on a man. In South Carolina, combined effects of the storm and king tides led to seawater flooding beachfront streets, and Charleston experienced a surge above its seawall. The high tide in Charleston reached 9.2 feet, the fifth-highest reading since records started in 1899. The storm also generated tornadoes that caused minor injuries in South Carolina. President Joe Biden assured the affected states of full support from his administration. As Idalia moves on, Bermuda is on alert for a potential hit from the weakened storm, which follows closely on the heels of Hurricane Franklin. (Associated Press)
TYPHOON CREEPING UP ON ASIAN COAST.
China has activated its highest typhoon alert in response to Typhoon Saola, which is bearing down on the southeastern coastline with wind speeds surpassing 200 kph (125 mph). As per the National Meteorological Center, the typhoon, located approximately 315km southeast of Guangdong province, is projected to travel northwest across the South China Sea, nearing Guangdong’s coast and eventually weakening. The typhoon is expected to make landfall between Huilai County in Guangdong and Hong Kong on the afternoon or evening of September 1, potentially ranking as one of the five most powerful typhoons to hit Guangdong since 1949. In preparation, Shenzhen city in Guangdong has elevated its typhoon warning and suspended school classes. Additionally, China Southern Power Grid is reinforcing its equipment, major train lines have been halted, and the Hong Kong Observatory plans to increase its wind signal. Coastal regions anticipate significant storm surges and heavy rainfall. (Reuters)
NUCLEAR WASTEWATER MISINFORMATION RAMPANT.
Following Japan’s decision to release treated radioactive water from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant into the ocean, anti-Japanese sentiment has surged in China. The Chinese government and media use the term “nuclear-contaminated wastewater” to refer to the discharge, fanning fears and anger among its citizens. This has led to boycotts and protests against Japanese products and businesses in China. Experts believe that Beijing is using the issue not just to strain its already tenuous relationship with Tokyo but also to challenge the credibility of Japan and its allies. Scientists, including those from China, have indicated that the release would have minimal effects on human health or the environment. However, Chinese state media and influencers have escalated discussions around Fukushima, omitting details like Japan’s thorough treatment of the water prior to discharge. This widespread misinformation aims to undermine Japan and its allies while asserting China’s dominance and perspective in global geopolitics. (New York Times)
WHAT’S NEXT FOR ISRO?
Following the success of the Chandrayaan-3 moon landing, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) is preparing for its next mission to study the sun with the Aditya-L1 spacecraft, India’s inaugural space observatory for solar studies. The launch is scheduled for the first week of September from Sriharikota, India’s primary spaceport. The Aditya-L1, named after the Hindi term for the sun, seeks to investigate solar winds and their subsequent effects on Earth, such as the phenomenon of auroras. Insights from the mission might also illuminate the sun’s influence on Earth’s climate. The spacecraft will hitch a ride on India’s PSLV launch vehicle, journeying 1.5 million km in about four months to study the sun’s atmosphere. Its destination is a Lagrange Point, a space region where objects remain stationary due to balanced gravitational forces. The mission received funding of roughly $46 million in 2019, and while ISRO is known for cost-effective space initiatives, an official cost update hasn’t been provided. (Reuters)
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has recommended the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to reclassify marijuana from a Schedule I to a Schedule III controlled substance. HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra announced this recommendation on X (formerly Twitter) in response to President Joe Biden’s request for a rescheduling suggestion. This move is aimed at reducing the stringent federal restrictions on marijuana. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer praised HHS’s decision, emphasizing that the DEA should act promptly. Currently, Schedule I drugs, including marijuana, are viewed as having a high potential for abuse and no recognized medical use. In contrast, Schedule III substances, such as ketamine and certain anabolic steroids, are perceived to have a lesser potential for misuse. Biden’s decision for the review came after pardoning numerous Americans for marijuana possession. The recommendation was positively received by the U.S. Cannabis Council, which highlighted the potential benefits for both the justice system and the cannabis industry. (Associated Press)
HACKERS BEHAVING BADLY.
Maksim Sergeevich Galochkin is a key member of the notorious Russian cybercrime syndicate Trickbot, according to cybersecurity researchers. Under the online handles Bentley and Manuel, the 41-year-old Galochkin oversees a large technical team within Trickbot. Though not a coder himself, he ensures the malware can evade antivirus detection. Trickbot has launched thousands of cyberattacks globally, including against businesses, hospitals, and governments. Galochkin was unmasked following analysis of a massive data leak from the group. The leak reveals Trickbot’s management structure, operations, and ties to Russian intelligence. Though efforts have been made to disrupt the group, Trickbot continues thriving amid Russia’s war in Ukraine. The Kremlin allows cybercriminals like Galochkin to operate freely, likely using them as a “natural resource.” Exposing identities can deter activities, but many Trickbot members remain active behind the scenes. (Wired)
MORE HACKERS BEHAVING BADLY.
In late May, China’s state-sponsored hackers, UNC4841, exploited a vulnerability in Barracuda’s Email Security Gateway, granting them unauthorized access to several sensitive networks for months. Although Barracuda released a patch and initiated removal efforts, the hackers countered with a novel malware, DepthCharge, which ensured even replaced devices got reinfected. UNC4841 specifically leveraged a powerful flaw, CVE-2023-2868, in the devices, allowing command injections via email attachments. Only a select 5% of devices were infected, but the hackers’ methods, including using DepthCharge to embed in backup configurations, demonstrated their advanced preparation and foresight. Their access was used mainly for espionage, and they maintained backdoor entry to compromised devices in various ways. Mandiant’s research links UNC4841 to China, suggesting an escalating trend in Chinese cyber espionage’s sophistication and stealth. (Ars Technica)
Researchers have achieved a groundbreaking feat by cryopreserving and reviving adult coral fragments. Using antifreeze and liquid nitrogen, the team froze coral pieces, later thawing them in seawater. Remarkably, these revived corals demonstrated a similar oxygen consumption rate as their non-frozen counterparts within 24 hours. This development, as published in Nature Communications, has the potential to not only preserve marine organisms but also human organs in the long run. Coral reefs, crucial for marine health and significantly impacted by global warming, can benefit from this preservation method. Previous research led by marine biologist Mary Hagedorn had successfully cryopreserved coral sperm, but this was challenging due to their limited release and the difficulty in collecting them. With coral reefs depleting globally, the urgency for effective preservation methods has intensified. This method, termed isochoric vitrification, offers a simple and economical approach, with aims to capture the genetic material of all coral species by decade’s end. Further testing will determine its broader applicability, including potential use in preserving human organs. (Smithsonian)
SCIENTISTS SCOFF AT INTERSTELLAR METALS CLAIM.
In 2014, a meteor exploded off Papua New Guinea’s coast, leading some to believe it came from outside our Solar System. Recently, remnants of this meteor were recovered from the Pacific Ocean, and initial analysis hints at an extraterrestrial origin. Interstellar objects passing through our Solar System is a recent discovery, and finding such an object could provide insights into the formation of distant stars and planets. Avi Loeb, a controversial physicist from Harvard University, led this expedition. He has previously suggested that the interstellar object ‘Oumuamua might be an alien craft. His current project was inspired by a catalog from the U.S. Department of Defense’s Space Command, which recorded meteors entering Earth’s atmosphere. One meteor, which exploded in 2014, caught Loeb’s attention due to its extraordinary speed. Subsequent research indicated a high likelihood of its interstellar origin. With funding, Loeb’s team retrieved metallic fragments from the ocean. Initial tests found unusual elements, but the claim of an extraterrestrial origin has been met with skepticism from other scientists. Some argue the data is inconclusive, while others question the accuracy of the meteor’s recorded speed. Further research is necessary to confirm the meteor’s origins. (Science)
Thanks for reading. Let’s be careful out there.
WORDS: The Biology Guy.
IMAGE CREDIT: Andrew Heneen.