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Asteroid samples drifting away

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — A NASA spacecraft is stuffed with so much asteroid rubble from this week’s grab that it’s jammed open and precious particles are drifting away in space, scientists said Friday. Scientists announced the news three days after the spacecraft named Osiris-Rex briefly touched asteroid Bennu, NASA’s first attempt at such a mission. The mission’s lead scientist, Dante Lauretta of the University of Arizona, said Tuesday’s operation 200 million miles away collected far more material than expected for return to Earth — in the hundreds of grams. The sample container on the end of the robot arm penetrated so deeply into the asteroid and with such force, however, that rocks got sucked in and became wedged around the rim of the lid. Scientists estimate the sampler pressed as much as 19 inches into the rough, crumbly, black terrain. Lauretta said there is nothing flight controllers can do to clear the obstructions and prevent more bits of Bennu from escaping, other than to get the samples into their return capsule as soon as possible. So, the flight team was scrambling to put the sample container into the capsule as early as Tuesday — much sooner than originally planned — for the long trip home. “Time is of the essence,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, chief of NASA’s science missions. This is NASA’s first asteroid sample-return mission. Bennu was chosen because its carbon-rich material is believed to hold the preserved building blocks of our solar system. Getting pieces from this cosmic time capsule could help scientists better understand how the planets formed billions of years ago and how life originated on Earth. The requirement for the $800 million-plus mission was to bring back a minimum 2 ounces (60 grams). Regardless of what’s on board, Osiris-Rex will still leave the vicinity of the asteroid in March — that’s the earliest possible departure given the relative locations of Earth and Bennu. The samples won’t make it back until 2023, seven years after the spacecraft rocketed away from Cape Canaveral.

First murder hornet nest in US

SPOKANE, Wash. — Scientists have discovered the first nest of so-called murder hornets in the United States and plan to wipe it out Saturday to protect native honeybees, officials in Washington state said. After weeks of searching, the agency said it found the nest of Asian giant hornets in Blaine, a city north of Seattle near the Canadian border. Bad weather delayed plans to destroy the nest Friday. The world’s largest hornet at 2 inches (5 centimeters) long, the invasive insects can decimate entire hives of honeybees and deliver painful stings to people. Farmers in the northwestern U.S. depend on those honeybees to pollinate many crops, including raspberries and blueberries. Despite their nickname and the hype around the insect that has stirred fears in an already bleak year, the hornets kill at most a few dozen people a year in Asian countries, and experts say it is probably far less. Meanwhile, hornets, wasps and bees typically found in the United States kill an average of 62 people a year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said. The real threat from Asian giant hornets is their devastating attacks on honeybees, which are already under siege from problems like mites, diseases, pesticides and loss of food. A small group of the hornets can kill an entire honeybee hive in hours. The nest was found after a worker for the Washington state Agriculture Department caught two of the large hornets in a trap Wednesday. Two more living hornets were captured in another trap Thursday, the agency said. Using dental floss, “entomologists were able to attach radio trackers to three hornets, the second of which led them to the discovery of the nest” Thursday. The nest was found inside the cavity of a tree on private property. Dozens of the hornets were seen buzzing in and out of the tree.

Libyan factions sign cease-fire

GENEVA — The rival sides in Libya’s conflict signed a permanent cease-fire Friday, a deal the United Nations billed as historic after years of fighting that has split the North African country in two. But skepticism over whether the agreement would hold began emerging almost immediately. The breakthrough, which among other things orders foreign mercenaries out of the country, sets the stage for political talks in November to find a lasting solution to the chaos unleashed after a 2011 NATO-backed uprising toppled and killed longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi. Previous diplomatic initiatives to end the conflict have repeatedly collapsed — but the U.N.-brokered deal aims to cement a monthslong lull in fighting and gives a boost to the political process. “I am honored to be among you today to witness a moment that will go down in history,” Stephanie Turco Williams, the top U.N. envoy for Libya who led mediation talks this week, said at the signing in Geneva. She did, however, express some caution, noting that a “long and difficult” road remains ahead. It’s not clear how the cease-fire will be enforced — given the patchwork of militias in Libya — but Williams said armed groups and military units had agreed to return “to their camps” and that the deal would take effect immediately.

Ming dynasty vase recovered

LONDON — British police say they have recovered a 15th-century Chinese vase valued at 2.5 million pounds ($3.3 million) that was stolen in Switzerland last year. The Metropolitan Police force said Friday that they have arrested two men over the theft of the Ming dynasty vase. It is thought to have been stolen from a Swiss collection in June 2019 by a London-based organized crime gang. The suspects, aged 44 and 42, were arrested in London’s tony Mayfair area last week on suspicion of handling stolen goods. They have been released on bail until mid-November. There is a lucrative illegal market for stolen Chinese antiquities, and there have been several high-profile thefts in recent years, including a string of heists at British museums and auction houses in 2012 that netted jade bowls, figurines and other items worth millions.

Guthrie retiring from touring

LOS ANGELES — You can get anything you want at Alice’s Restaurant. But it appears we’ve seen Arlo Guthrie tell us that in person for the last time. In lengthy posts on his Facebook page and website, the 73-year-old folksinger announced Friday he is retiring from performance immediately. He’s canceled numerous shows he had planned around the country for the next year and said he won’t be booking any more. “It’s been a great 50-plus years of being a working entertainer, but I reached the difficult decision that touring and stage shows are no longer possible,” he said in the statement titled “Gone Fishing.” Guthrie did not respond to email and phone messages asking to elaborate but indicated in his statement that health issues played a major role. He said he’d suffered two strokes in recent years, including a serious one that hospitalized him for several days last year. The son of folk music legend Woody Guthrie rose to overnight fame in 1967 with the release of “Alice’s Restaurant Massacree,” a hilarious 18-minute talking blues ballad about how his Thanksgiving Day 1965 arrest for littering kept him out of the Army during the Vietnam War. As he finger-picked a maddeningly memorable tune over and over on his acoustic guitar, Guthrie related how he’d mocked the local police chief who arrested him, appeared before a blind judge who couldn’t see the photos submitted as evidence against him and berated his draft board for concluding he “wasn’t moral enough to join the Army and burn women and kids’ houses and villages after being a litterbug.”

Teen sues over Trump elephant

NEW SMYRNA BEACH, Fla. — A high school student is suing his central Florida school district after his parking pass was revoked when he refused to remove a large elephant statue painted to promote President Donald Trump from the bed of his pickup truck. Tyler Maxwell, 18, told Fox 35 in Orlando that his grandfather gave him the elephant, which he bought from an old car dealership before the 2016 presidential election. He helped his father paint it as a red, white and blue Trump display four years ago. Now that he’s old enough to drive, and vote, Maxwell said he put the elephant in his truck and parked it in the student lot at Spruce Creek High School on Sept. 14. “I’ve been pretty excited for the last four years to be able to vote,” Maxwell said. Some 20 minutes into his first class, Maxwell said he was summoned to the principal’s office. “I was told to I had to go ahead and take it off campus,” Maxwell said. He told the television station that his father then drove to the school and asked for a reason in writing why his son could not leave the Trump elephant in his truck. He didn’t get an answer in writing, so the son returned with the elephant to school the next day. “Tuesday morning, my parking pass was taken away,” Tyler said. He then left school and switched to distance learning. His family hired an attorney who filed a federal lawsuit, accusing the school district of violating his freedom of speech. “It’s a freedom of speech case. The question is should a student have to give up his free speech right when he drives onto school property. The answer to that is no and the school just needs to realize that,” said Tyler’s attorney, Jacob Heubert. Volusia County Public Schools said in a statement that the school board has an obligation to provide neutral campuses.

Drop box lawsuit dropped

COLUMBUS — A coalition of voter advocacy groups dropped a lawsuit Friday against Ohio’s strict rule limiting ballot drop boxes to one location per county, a coup for President Donald Trump’s reelection campaign in a key battleground state less than two weeks before the election. The A. Philip Randolph Institute, the League of Women Voters of Ohio and the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio made the decision after the federal appellate court in Cincinnati set a timetable last week that pushed further activity in the case past Election Day.

‘Transitioning’ from fossil fuel

OKLAHOMA CITY — Joe Biden is confronting the harsh political realities of combating climate change. The Democratic presidential nominee has spent months touting a $2 trillion plan to boost investment in clean energy and stop all climate-damaging emissions from the U.S. economy by 2050. The plan implied that he would wean the U.S. off oil and gas, but Biden wasn’t so explicit about the industry’s fate — until Thursday night. During the final moments of the presidential debate, Biden said he would “transition away from the oil industry.” President Donald Trump, trailing Biden in many national and battleground state polls, immediately sensed an opportunity to appeal to voters in competitive states like Texas and Pennsylvania that produce oil and gas. “Basically what he is saying is he is going to destroy the oil industry,” Trump said. “Will you remember that, Texas? Will you remember that, Pennsylvania? Oklahoma? Ohio?” With less than two weeks until the election, Biden’s comment is prompting a sudden test of whether voters who increasingly say they are worried about the climate crisis will embrace steps to confront it. During a season of worsening wildfires, hurricanes and other disasters, scientists are issuing urgent warnings that big cuts in burning oil, gas and coal are needed right away. Biden “just killed paycheck(s) earned by hardworking families in Texas,” Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican, tweeted after Thursday’s final presidential debate saw Trump and Biden spell out their worlds-apart stances on climate-damaging fossil fuels. Even some Democrats distanced themselves from Biden’s comment. Rep. Kendra Horn, a Democrat who flipped a Republican seat in Trump-loyal Oklahoma in 2018, tweeted: “We must stand up for our oil and gas industry.” So did Rep. Xochitl Torres Small, a first-term Democratic congresswoman in a tossup race in New Mexico, in the oil- and gas-rich Permian Basin. “We need to work together to promote responsible energy production and stop climate change, not demonize a particular industry,” she tweeted, adding that she was ready to “stand up to” the Democratic Party.

Navy training plane crashes

FOLEY, Ala — A U.S. Navy training plane that took off from Florida crashed Friday in an Alabama residential neighborhood near the Gulf Coast, authorities said. Officials did not immediately release information about possible fatalities, but said no one on the ground was hurt. Foley Fire Chief Joey Darby said responders encountered a “large volume of fire” with a home and several cars engulfed in flames. Firefighters were able to make “a quick stop on the fire,” the chief told local news outlets. The crash occurred southeast of Mobile, near the city of Foley and the town of Magnolia Springs. Darby called the neighborhood a “heavily populated” residential area. No firefighters were injured, he added.

Schwarzenegger has heart surgery

LOS ANGELES — Arnold Schwarzenegger says he feels “fantastic” after his recent heart surgery. The 73-year-old “Terminator” actor and former California governor said on social media Friday he had a new aortic valve implanted in his heart. He posted a photo of himself with a thumbs up from his hospital bed. “Thanks to the team at the Cleveland Clinic, I have a new aortic valve to go along with my new pulmonary valve from my last surgery,” he wrote. The actor underwent heart surgery in 2018 to replaced a pulmonary valve that was originally installed in 1997. Schwarzenegger also posted some photos of himself standing in front of a few monuments in Cleveland. “I feel fantastic and have already been walking the streets of Cleveland enjoying your amazing statues,” he said.

Veggie burgers still burgers

BRUSSELS — It’s a meaty issue but the EU has taken a stance: veggie burgers are in fact burgers. European lawmakers said Friday that plant-based products that do not contain meat, including veggie burgers, soy steaks and vegan sausages, can continue to be sold as such in restaurants and shops across the European Union’s 27 countries. Europe’s largest farmers’ association, Copa-Cogeca, had supported a ban, arguing that labelling vegetarian substitutes with designations bringing meat to mind was misleading for consumers. On the opposite side of the debate, a group of 13 organizations including Greenpeace and WWF urged lawmakers to reject the proposed amendments, arguing that a ban would have not only exposed the EU “to ridicule,” but also damaged its environmental credibility. They said promoting a shift toward more plant-based diet is in line with the EU Commission’s ambition to tackle global warming. Losing the ability to use the terms steak or sausage might make those plant-based products more obscure for consumers.

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