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During her fourth appearance on the Ellen DeGeneres show on Thursday night, Mrs. Obama announced that on April 6, for the annual Easter Egg Roll at the White House, she and the All Stars from “So You Think You Can Dance” will organize a dance session and teach everyone to perform the “GimmeFive” dance. This event is part of the celebration of the fifth anniversary of Michelle Obama’s anti-childhood-obesity campaign called “Let’s Move”.

To promote the campaign, Mrs. Obama told Ellen DeGeneres, she has launched an initiative known on social media as “#GimmeFive”, asking both celebrities and ordinary people to state five things they are doing to improve their physical condition and work towards a healthy lifestyle. From Beyonce, Ryan Seacrest, or Nick Jonas to the astronauts on the International Space Station, a lot of celebrities joined the campaign. Michelle Obama helped schoolchildren plant beetroots and other healthy vegetables, an event which was also included in the #GimmeFive initiative. She also participated in sport competitions with high-school girls. Five ways to stay healthy can include workout routines or eating habits, but also styles of relaxation or ways of practicing ecological agriculture.

The full video of Ellen DeGeneres’s show will be broadcasted on Monday, but the producers have already released a fragment of that video yesterday, showing Michelle Obama and Ellen DeGeneres, along with a troupe of backup dancers, perform the “GimmeFive” dance, to the tune of “Uptown Funk”, a hit song played by Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars.

Although it’s hard not to joke when you’re around Ellen DeGeneres – and Michelle Obama did display a strong sense of humor – the First Lady seemed to take her exercise routine very seriously. She and Ellen DeGeneres spoke of a push-up competition – of which pictures were shown during the filming – and the dance too was staged as a sort of I-dare-you-to-do-this contest between the two famous women. When asked how intensely she has been working out, Michelle Obama jestingly warned Ellen DeGeneres not to make her take off her jacket.

The First Lady’s trip to Burbank, California, where the Ellen DeGeneres show is filmed, was a surprise one. Her office had not previously announced it. Although President Barack Obama also travelled to California on the same day, to appear on the Jimmy Kimmel Live talk-show, their schedules didn’t overlap and they flew separately. Michelle Obama was back in Washington on Friday, according to White House spokesman Eric Schultz.

image source: twitter

On Thursday, a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket was fired up from Cape Canaveral. It carried four immense octagonal slice-shaped capsules, which were set into orbit at a five minutes distance from each other. They are now gravitating around the Earth with increased speed, preparing to be grouped into a pyramid formation. The goal of this mission is to study magnetic reconnection, a natural process that poses a threat to communication systems on our planet.

According to a NASA report about the Magnetospheric Multiscale Mission, magnetic reconnection is a phenomenon provoked by the connection, disconnection and reconfiguration of magnetic fields, which leads to large explosions (whose energy release is the equivalent of billions of megatons of TNT and whose propelling force can speed particles through space nearly light-fast).

The study of magnetic reconnection could lead to a better comprehension of its effects on communications (internet, mobile phones, electrical grids, and GPS systems). Furthermore, it could deepen scholars’ understanding of the functioning of magnetic fields in space, at far distances in the outer solar system or beyond.

The first phase of the mission involves orbiting the earth following an elliptical trajectory. Each of the four spacecraft will reach a distance of 43,000 miles from the Earth while in orbit. In the second phase, this distance will increase to 95,000 miles. The space capsules will cover both the bright side of our planet, where the Sun’s magnetic field meets the Earth’s, and the dark side of the planet, where magnetic reconnection is more frequent, producing the aurora borealis and aurora australis.

Each spacecraft has arm-like appendages that extend up to 200 feet on each of its eight sides. These carry measurement instruments. The Magnetospheric Multiscale Mission program manager Craig Tooley described the limbs of the spacecraft as having, each, “a footprint about the size of a football field”. Due to the mobile instruments, they will record magnetic activity over 100 times faster than any mission has done so far. The gigantic octagonal devices weight around 3,000 pounds when completely fuelled.

Scholars are very enthusiastic about the discoveries this mission might trigger. Jim Burch from the Southwest Research Institute, the principal investigator for the Magnetospheric Multiscale Mission, explained that “everything to do with space weather starts with reconnection”, which is why it is crucial to understand why and how it takes place. The current mission will study precisely that area around the Earth where magnetic reconnection phenomena take place. Burch is confident that this will help solve the mystery.

image source: NASA

A 75-year old woman strangled a rabid raccoon after it viciously attacked her while she was taking a walk.

The woman, Class Overton lives in Henrico County, Virginia. She was taking a hike through the Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden in Richmond when the rabid animal ran out of the nearby wood and attacked her leg. The rabid raccoon was scratching and clawing at her leg and when she tried to shake the creature off, she realized just how violent and rabid it really was.

Overton told the Richmond Times-Dispatch that as she was moving away from it, still facing it, she just grabbed its neck and knew that it was her or the raccoon. She knew that she couldn’t get away from and so she threw it to the ground and started strangling it with both hands.

When the animal was dead, Overton called the nature center’s front desk and 911 was called. Class Overton was taken to a local hospital where she received first aid as well as the first of several shots to prevent rabies.

Blood and tissue samples were taken from the raccoon and it was confirmed that the animal had rabies.

Overton is a self-proclaimed animal lover and said that at the moment of the attack, self-preservation kicked in knew it was either her or the raccoon. She continued:

[…] a primitive part of my brain just went into operation and that was it.

A spokesperson for Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden in Richmond said that the path where the woman was attacked was closed down in order for the staff members to check for more potentially infected fauna.

In the United States, raccoons and skunks are the most common carrier of rabies and they are both nocturnal. It is highly unlikely for these animals to attack people during the day, but when the rabies virus is present, it undermines an animal’s instincts, making it behave out of the ordinary.

Rabies is an extremely deadly virus transmitted through saliva and blood. Rabies shots need to be given to any person or animal that is suspected of being bitten by an infected animal. If that doesn’t happen and the first symptoms of the disease start setting in, then there is no cure. Once settled in, rabies is 100% deadly and there is no cure or treatment.

Image Source: Daily Mail

UK Chancellor George Osborne declared on March 12 that Britain intends to join the AIIB (Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank), a China-backed monetary institution aimed at funding energy, transport and infrastructure projects in several Asian countries. This decision was taken without consulting the US, which caused a White House official to express his displeasure in the Financial Times. In their Thursday article, the newspaper reported that the government official, who refused to disclose his name, warned about “a trend toward constant accommodation of China”.

Hoping to invest in the world’s most rapidly developing countries, but also hoping to find a solution to last year’s Hong Kong issue (which still breeds tension between former pro-democracy protesters and Chinese authorities), British Prime Minister David Cameron has been intensely working towards establishing new trade deals with China, an effort which culminates with this AIIB membership request. Critics say that economic interests are placed above the necessary criticism of China’s management of human rights issues that the UK used to voice.

The AIIB was founded in 2014 by 21 nations, among which India, Thailand and Singapore are the most prominent. If Britain is accepted, it would be the first important Western economy to be involved in the project. The bank’s plans to expand in the Pacific region were mildly discouraged by the Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott, whose support was limited by conditions of transparency. South Korea and Japan were also persuaded by the US not to participate.

The US drew attention to a series of questions regarding the AIIB’s observance of international regulations. Last year, when the bank was founded, Obama agreed with Tony Abbott about the transparency conditions, stressing the necessity for this bank to be truly multilateral.

According to financial experts, China has a 67% shareholding in the new bank, because the inaugurating agreement specifies that the capital structure of AIIB is relative gross domestic product. Some experts fear that in these conditions Britain would not have an important vote in taking bank-governing decisions. But UK’s hope is to gain some power within the new Asian bank, rather than exert pressure from outside.

image source: Daily Post

After organizing an attack last Saturday on Maiduguri, a city in the North-East of Nigeria, where a suicide-bombing killed 50 people or more, the African terrorist organization Boko Haram officially swore allegiance to ISIS (Islamic State in Iraq and Syria). Abubakar Shekau, the leader of Boko Haram, recognized Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi – the head of the Islamic State – as “Caliph” and promised to “hear and obey in times of difficulty and prosperity”.

Now that a week has elapsed since the African terrorist organization’s pledge of allegiance, a 28-minute audio message from Abu Mohammed al Adnani, a supposed ISIS spokesman, announced that Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi accepted Abubakar Shekau’s oath of fidelity and declared that the caliphate has now broadened its frontiers to Western Africa. The ISIS leader congratulated the African extremists, to whom he referred as “our jihadi brothers”. Abu Mohammed al Adnani, the ISIS messenger, summoned Islamic radicals who want to join the jihad to become members of the Boko Haram troops, if they cannot reach Iraq or Syria.

Boko Haram has been active for several years in Nigeria, where it has been organizing terrorist attacks, with the purpose of taking over control and imposing a very drastic version of Sharia law. In the past few years, the terrorist organization has gone from fighting government soldiers to pillaging villages, kidnapping civilians, organizing assassinations, market bombings, as well as attacks on churches and even on mosques that were not part of the Boko Haram group. Their actions have brought instability not only in Nigeria, but in neighboring countries such as Cameroon and Chad as well.

The alliance between Boko Haram and ISIS is not that surprising for experts who study terrorism. According to Jacon Zenn, a Nigerian specialist, such a connection would grant the African terrorist organization legitimacy in front of other extremists, which means that it will gain new recruits easily. It is not the first time Boko Haram tries to become part of a larger extremist group: in 2009 they became the allies of al-Qaeda’s North-African branch (AQIM, or al-Qaeda in the Islamic Magreb), who helped the terrorists train and also organize the first suicide bombings in 2011. In his annual Worldwide Threat Assessment, National Intelligence Director James Clapper declared his worries that the new self-declared north-African Islamic State might expand to neighboring regions.

image credit: Conflict News

A 2-year old Alabama toddler died after drinking methadone spiked grape soda that belong to his babysitter.

It was revealed by the Alabama Police Department that Demonie Hendon, a two year old boy, died on Saturday after he drank his babysitter’s grape soda that contained methadone.

Bessemer Police arrested Cassie Townsend, the 31-year old babysitter of Demonie Hendon and charged her with chemical endangerment exposure to a child resulting in death. The little boy died on Saturday from methadone ingestion.

Cassie Townsend, the child’s babysitter, was watching Demonie on a Friday night when she saw that the soda bottled she had been drinking from that had methadone in it was not where she had left it, she told the police.

As soon as she saw that the bottle had been moved, she went to check in on the little boy, whom she found to be looking very sickly, which led her to suspect that he had to have drunk from the bottle.

Cassie Townsend took the little child to a hospital in Birmingham on Friday night, but she took him back home, shortly after. Later in the day, she found that the boy had become unresponsive, so she rushed him back to the children’s hospital.

Demonie died in the hospital this Saturday, which made police change its charges. The woman was initially charged with child endangerment (chemical endangerment exposure of a child), but after Demonie died, the charged were updated.

At this moment, police are waiting on toxicology reports to confirm that it was indeed methadone in the grape juice that the Alabama toddler ingested. The report, unfortunately, could take several weeks until it is ready.

Methadone is a medication that is used by drug addicts to reduce the withdrawal symptoms of heroin and other narcotics. The powerful drug is usually dispensed at a clinic and patients are supposed to swallow it on-site. They are not allowed to take the methadone away from the facility, it was revealed by the police. An investigation into the clinic that gave Townsend the methadone is expected to begin.

Image Source: NY Daily News

Scientists have finally solved one of the many puzzles about Vincent Van Gogh’s paintings. The researchers from the University of Antwerp, the Netherlands, have figured out why the red lead paint in many of Van Gogh’s painting is turning white and fading.

The red paint isn’t the only paint in Van Gogh’s paintings that is acting peculiar, though. It appears that the color yellow is turning brown and that the red lead paint is turning light whenever it is exposed to bright lights.

In order to come up with an explanation, the scientists employed the help of X-rays. They took a minuscule piece of paint chip and while keeping it under a microscope they fired X-rays through the sample to see what minerals it had inside.

This helped them find that the red lead was covered in a thing called degradation product and also something called plumbonacrite. Plumbonacrite is causing chemical buildup inside the red lead paint particles when light is shined on it.

What was really stunning about this particular discovery is that plumbonacrite has never, until now, been reported in paintings dating from before the mid-20th century. Finding it in paint coming from paintings in this time period is challenging a lot of the information scientists have about the time and the paints used by artists from the mid-20th century.

While the scientists seem to have figured out the reason why Van Gogh’s paintings are turning white, the red paint at least, they are still stumped when it comes to Renoir’s Madame Leon Clapisson from 1883. Apparently, this famous painting is not fading due to the same reason. The red color used in there comes from a more natural source, which is still used in fabric and even food dyes today: the insect called cochineal.

When it comes to red paint made with cochineal, scientists speculate that when the color is exposed to light, the particles inside the paint separate into organic and inorganic compounds and that is why Renoir’s painting has its red colors turning into a mellow grey color. The researchers are trying to better understand this process and hope that one day they will be able to restore the color red in paintings.

Image Source: Wikipedia

A new paper released by the US Geological Survey states that the chance California will suffer an earthquake with a magnitude bigger than 8.0 on the Richter scale has gone up to 7%, up from the previous estimate of 4,7%.

The risk of lower magnitude, but still serious earthquakes, is even higher, especially in the San Francisco Bay Area. The study itself, named the “Third Uniform California Earthquake Rupture Forecast” bases its estimates on a time span ranging to 2044.

“The new likelihoods are due to the inclusion of possible multi-fault ruptures, where earthquakes are no longer confined to separate, individual faults, but can occasionally rupture multiple faults simultaneously” explained lead study author Ned Field, a research at the USGS.

The paper also calculates the chance earthquakes will happen alongside individual fault lines that run through the state. The biggest possibility of an earthquake with a magnitude of at least 6.7 is around Hayward Fault line, near the Santa Clara county city of Milpitas, with 22.3% chance of serious seismic activity over the next thirty years.

However, the frequency of earthquakes happening near the 6.7 mark has decreased from almost one every 5 years to one every 6.3 years. California is such a high seismic activity-risk zone because of the complex and intertwined system of fault lines it has.

An earthquake of magnitude 8.0 or more would be only the second to hit the lower 48 US states in the history of recorded seismic activity, and the first since the formation of the United States as a nation.

The only previous one was the Cascadia Subduction Zone earthquake, which hit a 600 mile wide region pertaining today to the states of California, Washington and Oregon with a magnitude of 9.0 in January 1700. It was so intense that records of it suggest it also created damage on the shores of Japan.

Besides that, the largest earthquake in California was the Fort Tejon 1857 earthquake, with a magnitude of 7.9. However, earthquakes don’t necessarily need to match its intensity to cause widespread disaster.

The 6.7 magnitude Northridge earthquake in 1994 managed to destroy an Interstate 5 connector and caused over $15 billion in damage. The consequences of a large earthquake range from the destruction of houses and loss human lives to irreparable damage to irrigation systems, transport networks and disruption of communications infrastructure.

Image Source: Fox News

It was announced that actor Johnny Depp was injured on location over for the next installment of the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise.

The actor was on location in Australia at the time of the injury, which happened over the weekend, but he was not filming.

The fifth installment of the Pirates franchise, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales is currently filming in Australia.

According to inside sources, the actor needed surgery and had to be flown back to the United States to have the surgery.

At the moment, the circumstances under which Johnny Depp, 51, hurt himself have not been disclosed and the only piece of information known is that he wasn’t on set when it happened.

Sources also say that production of the Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales movie is going to be minimally impacted by the absence of its star. Scenes are going to be shot around the Depp’s charismatic character, Captain Jack Sparrow, for the weeks to come.

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales began shooting last month in Australian and it is expected to hit the theaters in around two years, the official release date being July 7, 2017.

The fifth installment of the Pirates movie is also starring Brenton Thwaites and Javier Bardem, whose wife, Penelope Cruz, also starred on the franchise while she was pregnant with their baby. The Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales movie is going to be directed by Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg.

The next Pirates of the Caribbean movie is going to feature Jack Sparrow in his search for the trident of Poseidon. Bardem is going to play the role of Sparrow’s old nemesis, Captain Salazar who is going to lead a fleet of deadly ghost pirates who have escaped from the Devil’s Triangle. Bardem aims to kill Sparrow, as well as all pirates at sea and Jack’s only hope of survival is to find the Trident of Poseidon. The Trident gives the person who owns it total control over the seas, which is the only way Sparrow is going to defeat Captain Salazar.

The last movie from the popular Disney Pirates franchise, grossed over $1 billion at the box office worldwide.

Image Source: The Guardian

It was announced that Dunkin’ Donuts is removing titanium dioxide from its food. The long overdue decision was announced by the company this week.

Titanium dioxide is toxic to the environment and also to human health. It is used as a whitening agent in toothpaste, pain, sunscreen and also sugar. Sugar whitened by titanium dioxide was used, until now, by Dunkin’ Donuts in the making of all their products. The removal of titanium dioxide will not affect the way Dunkin’ Donuts products’ taste.

The trouble with titanium dioxide is that it is a source of nanomaterials, which are extremely harmful to human health and the environment. Dunkin’ Donuts has agreed to remove the harmful ingredient from their products following independently commissioned lab tests that revealed the company’s white powdered donuts contained titanium dioxide nanomaterials.

Nanomaterials have, as the name would suggest, very small dimensions which make them even more toxic for human health and also the environment. There is insufficient safety information about these nanoparticles and their use in foods, but the studies that do exist say that they can cause organ damage, brain damage, chromosomal and DNA damage and genital malformations.

President and Chief Counsel of As You Sow, Daniele Fugere, said that Dunkin’ Donuts’ decision is a groundbreaking one. She continued to say that Dunkin’ Donuts has demonstrated a very strong industry leadership by removing this potentially dangerous ingredients from its products. Fugere added:

Engineered nanomaterials are beginning to enter the food supply, despite not being proven safe for consumption. Dunkin’ has made a decision to protect its customers and its bottom line by avoiding use of an unproven and potentially harmful ingredient.

Environmental Health Program Manager at As You Sow, Austin Wilson, says that now that Dunkin’ Donuts have removed titanium dioxide from their products, the pressure for competitors to follow suit is big.

The FDA warns that it is not aware of any ingredients in food that is on the scale of nanometers for which there is data available to determine that its use in indeed generally accepted as safe. The Food and Drug Administration does not regulate nanomaterials in food. For example, asbestos is also a nanomaterial and it was used for a long time before its toxicity on humans was fully understood.

Image Source: Fox40

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