Stratolaunch, Talon
Photo credit: Eva Folsom / Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 4.0 DEED)

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After Coming Back From the Dead, the World’s Largest Aircraft Just Flew a Real Payload (DonkeyHotey)

The author writes, “Built and flown by Stratolaunch, the massive Roc aircraft took off from Mojave Air and Space Port in California on Saturday. The airplane flew out over the Pacific Ocean, where it deployed the Talon-A vehicle, which looks something like a mini space shuttle.
This marked the first time this gargantuan airplane released an honest-to-goodness payload, the first Talon-A vehicle, TA-1, which is intended to fly at hypersonic speed. During the flight, TA-1 didn’t quite reach hypersonic velocity, which begins at Mach 5, or five times greater than the speed of sound.”

Trump’s Allies Ramp Up Campaign Targeting Voter Rolls (Reader Pat)

The authors write, “A network of right-wing activists and allies of Donald J. Trump is quietly challenging thousands of voter registrations in critical presidential battleground states, an all-but-unnoticed effort that could have an impact in a close or contentious election. Calling themselves election investigators, the activists have pressed local officials in Michigan, Nevada and Georgia to drop voters from the rolls en masse. They have at times targeted Democratic areas, relying on new data programs and novel legal theories to justify their push.”

Scanners That Spot Smuggled Fentanyl at the Border Sit Unused Because Congress Hasn’t Provided the Cash To Install Them (DonkeyHotey)

From NBC News: “Customs and Border Protection has spent millions on the most up-to-date high-tech scanners to spot fentanyl crossing the southern U.S. border, but many scanners are sitting in warehouses unused because Congress hasn’t appropriated funds to install them, acting CBP Commissioner Troy Miller told NBC News. Miller gave NBC News a tour of a port of entry in Nogales, Arizona, where half of all fentanyl seized at the border is stopped on its way into the U.S. from Mexico.”

The Case for a Tuberculosis Vaccine to Prevent Dementia (Gerry)

The author writes, “We still don’t know what causes Alzheimer’s. We don’t know how to reverse it, let alone cure it. It can’t even be categorically diagnosed until autopsy, and its progress seems inexorable. Yet even without understanding it completely, Alzheimer’s — and certain other degenerative diseases — can apparently be prevented by a vaccine that already exists: Bacillus Calmette-Guérin, developed to fight tuberculosis in the early 1900s. Fighting Alzheimer’s with the help of a TB preventative may not sound obvious, but the proof of the pudding is in eating it and remembering it too. Why it works is a question, but if it does?”

Rain Comes to the Arctic, With a Cascade of Troubling Changes (Laura)

From Yale Environment 360: “Rain used to be rare in the Arctic, but as the region warms, so-called rain-on-snow events are becoming more common. The rains accelerate ice loss, trigger flooding, landslides, and avalanches, and create problems for wildlife and the Indigenous people who depend on them.”

Do Some Electric Fish Sense the World Through Comrades’ Auras? (Mili)

The author writes, “It would be a game-changer if all members of a basketball team could see out of each other’s eyes in addition to their own. Biologists have found evidence that this kind of collective sensing occurs in close-knit groups of African weakly electric fish, also known as elephantnose fish. This instantaneous sharing of sensory intelligence could help the fish locate food, friends and foes.”

Can You Spot the TSA Contraband? (Russ)

From The Washington Post: “Stop us if you’ve heard this one before: What do a chicken, a PlayStation and jar of peanut butter have in common? TSA found a gun in all of them. …The agency shares its weirdest finds throughout the year on social media and then compiles its greatest hits at the end of the year. Items left behind at checkpoints that are not contraband end up at TSA’s lost and found for at least 30 days and then are sold, destroyed or donated. Think you could spot a banned item coming down the belt? Test your skills … with these real-life airport security X-rays from around the world.”

From Our Archives

Closing Borders and Ethnocentrism Unite Trump and Hungary’s Orbán

May 18, 2017: “As the world is trying to figure out Donald Trump, WhoWhatWhy is looking at other world leaders with similar traits. The second part of this series compares the US president and Hungarian strongman Viktor Orbán, who closed down his country’s borders to keep out refugees.”

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