Even as front-line health workers have been celebrated during the COVID-19 pandemic, many others working to track the virus, stem its spread and help Americans avoid infection have found themselves under siege. Those public health workers have been vilified by a portion of the public and attacked by some political leaders and media figures. They have been fired or forced from office. They have been subjected to protests — some on their own front lawns — as well as curses, threats and even, on at least one occasion, racist taunts. All that while working endless hours, sometimes in unfamiliar ro...
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The James Webb and Hubble telescopes on Thursday revealed their first images of a spacecraft deliberately smashing into an asteroid, as astronomers indicated that the impact looks to have been much greater than expected.
The world's telescopes turned their gaze towards the space rock Dimorphos earlier this week for a historic test of Earth's ability to defend itself against a potential life-threatening asteroid in the future.
Astronomers rejoiced as NASA's Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) impactor slammed into its pyramid-sized, rugby ball-shaped target 11 million kilometres (6.8 million miles) from Earth on Monday night.
Images taken by Earth-bound telescopes showed a vast cloud of dust expanding out of Dimorphos -- and its big brother Didymos which it orbits -- after the spaceship hit.
While those images showed matter spraying out over thousands of kilometers, the James Webb and Hubble images "zoom in much closer", said Alan Fitzsimmons, an astronomer at Queen's University Belfast involved in observations with the ATLAS project.
James Webb and Hubble can offer a view "within just a few kilometers of the asteroids and you can really clearly see how the material is flying out from that explosive impact by DART", Fitzsimmons told AFP.
"It really is quite spectacular," he said.
An image taken by James Webb's Near-Infrared Camera (NIRCam) four hours after impact shows "plumes of material appearing as wisps streaming away from the centre of where the impact took place", according to a joint statement from the European Space Agency, James Webb and Hubble.
Hubble images from 22 minutes, five hours and eight hours after impact show the expanding spray of matter from where DART hit.
'Worried there was nothing left'
Ian Carnelli of the European Space Agency said that the "really impressive" Webb and Hubble images were remarkably similar to those taken by the toaster-sized satellite LICIACube, which was just 50 kilometers from the asteroid after separating from the DART spacecraft a few weeks ago.
The images depict an impact that looks "a lot bigger than we expected," said Carnelli, the manager of the ESA's Hera mission which intends to inspect the damage in four years.
"I was really worried there was nothing left of Dimorphos" at first, Carnelli told AFP.
The Hera mission, which is scheduled to launch in October 2024 and arrive at the asteroid in 2026, had expected to survey a crater around 10 meters (33 feet) in diameter.
It now looks like it will be far bigger, Carnelli said, "if there is a crater at all, maybe a piece of Dimorphos was just chunked off."
The true measure of DART's success will be exactly how much it diverted the asteroid's trajectory, so the world can start preparing to defend itself against bigger asteroids that could head our way in the future.
It will likely take Earth-bound telescopes and radars at least a week for a first estimate of how much the asteroid's orbit has been altered, and three or four weeks before there is a precise measurement, Carnelli said.
- 'Huge implications' -
"I am expecting a much bigger deflection than we had planned," he said.
That would have "huge implications in planetary defence because it means that this technique could be used for much larger asteroids", Carnelli added.
"Until today, we thought that the only deflection technique would be to send a nuclear device."
Fitzsimmons said that even if no material had been "flung off" Dimorphos, DART still would still have slightly affected its orbit.
"But the more material and the faster it's moving, the more of a deflection there will have been," he said.
The observations from James Webb and Hubble will help reveal how much -- and how quickly -- matter sprayed from the asteroid, as well as the nature of its surface.
The asteroid impact marked the first time the two space telescopes observed the same celestial body.
Fitzsimmons said the images were "a beautiful demonstration of the extra science you can get by using more than one telescope simultaneously".
© 2022 AFP
NBC 26 reporter Nina Sparano challenged Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) on his role in a plot to overthrow the 2020 presidential election results.
Johnson has previously said that his participation in the plot lasted only "seconds."
During an interview with NBC 26 this week, Johnson deflected questions about the Jan. 6 riot by pointing to violent protests that occurred during the summer of 2020.
"The news media focuses all on one day, which I condemned repeatedly," the senator said.
Sparano pressed Johnson on his participation in presenting an alternate slate of electors to then-Vice President Mike Pence in order to overturn the election results.
"I had virtually — you can't — I had no involvement," Johnson stuttered. "I received either three texts and I sent two texts or the other way around. My involvement, you know, my lack of involvement was seconds worth of texting."
"But that's still involvement," Sparano pointed out.
"But, you know, I was — was texted there had — something had to be delivered to the vice president," Johnson said. "I didn't know what it was. And was there somebody that could help arrange delivery? So then I talked to my chief of staff and he took care of it."
Johnson said he eventually discovered that Pence refused to accept the alternate slate of electors.
"That's the end of story," he insisted.
"But if he would have said yes, go ahead and deliver it, you didn't know what it was?" Sparano pressed.
"What — what — what would you do if you get a call from the president of the United States' lawyer wanting to get something to the vice president?" Johnson replied.
"But you didn't know what it was," the reporter pointed out. "Wouldn't you want to inquire what something is to hand to the vice president of the United States?"
"I didn't hand anything to the [vice president]," Johnson said. "I wasn't involved."
"But if he would have said sure," Sparano posited.
"I wasn't involved. You can make it seem — I wasn't involved," the senator repeated. "A couple texts. I few seconds of my time! I couldn't even remember what I had done, which is why it took a little while to piece it all together but, you know, we pieced it all together. I received three texts and I sent two."
Sparano wondered if Johnson's chief of staff went "rogue" in participating in the fake electors plot.
"He'd been to the White House," Johnson explained. "He knew these people. And they asked him to arrange and deliver something to the vice president. He contacted the people he knew. The vice president says we're not accepting anything. End of story."
"So, he knew what he was doing," Sparano observed.
"We weren't doing anything!" Johnson gasped. "Were we supposed to deliver something or not? Did the vice president want it? The vice president didn't. We didn't deliver anything."
Johnson went on to complain that the media was "trying to turn this into a story." He also refused to say whether he would testify if subpoenaed.
"There's nothing to subpoena me about," he asserted.
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'Incredibly alarming': Republican poll worker in Michigan charged with tampering with voting equipment
A Michigan poll worker has been charged after a witness saw him inserting a USB drive into an electronic poll book after the Aug. 2 statewide primary, the Detroit Free Press reports.
James Holkeboer, an election inspector at the Gaines Township 8th Precinct, has been charged with falsifying records under election law and using a computer to commit a crime.
As Detroit Free Press points out, poll books contain voter registration data that includes personal and confidential information that election workers use to oversee elections at their precincts.
Holkeboer registered with the county as a Republican, according to Michigan Radio. Detroit Free Press reported that "an individual with the same name served as an alternate delegate for the 3rd Congressional District at the Michigan Republican Party's State Endorsement Convention earlier this year."
Kent County Clerk Lisa Posthumus Lyons says the incident did not result in any unwarranted access to voting machines or election results.
"(T)his incident is extremely egregious and incredibly alarming. Not only is it a violation of Michigan law, but it is a violation of public trust and of the oath all election workers are required to take," Posthumus Lyons said.
"Let me be very clear: voter fraud and illegal election activity in Kent County will not be tolerated. Our citizens deserve to have faith in their elections and in those who work them. I will do everything possible to keep Kent County’s elections secure, transparent, fair, and accurate. If someone or something threatens that, we will take aggressive action to protect our elections and hold those responsible accountable."
She said the Kent County Clerk's Office will conduct a post-election audit of the precinct and the poll book in question will be replaced.
A spokesperson for Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson said in a statement to the Free Press, "we take seriously all violations of election law and will continue to work with the relevant authorities to assure there are consequences for those who break the law ... Michigan voters can be confident that their votes will be counted accurately and securely.”