virtual reality, universe, galaxies, Switzerland, open source software
Photo credit: NASA Goddard Space Flight / Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

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Big Picture, Big Data: Swiss Unveil VR Software of Universe (Maria)

The author writes, “The final frontier has rarely seemed closer than this — at least virtually. Researchers at one of Switzerland’s top universities are releasing open-source beta software on Tuesday that allows for virtual visits through the cosmos, including up to the International Space Station, past the moon, Saturn or exoplanets, over galaxies and well beyond.”

Biden DOJ Shields Ex-Trump Officials From Testifying About Election Fraud Cases (DonkeyHotey)

From Politico: “A top career official in President Joe Biden’s Justice Department blocked efforts by Senate investigators to probe the handling of voter fraud complaints in the aftermath of the 2020 election, according to transcripts. … As Senate Judiciary Committee aides investigating Donald Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election questioned top Trump-era Justice Department officials, a DOJ attorney present for the interviews intervened repeatedly to say such questions were outside the scope of the panel’s inquiry.”

The IRS Can’t Handle Taxpayers’ Calls. This Firm Found a Way to Cash In (Reader Steve)

From the Los Angeles Times: “If you need to reach the Internal Revenue Service, your wait on hold will average about a half-hour, the tax agency says, noting that ‘some telephone service lines may have longer wait times.’ In fact, most calls won’t even be answered. According to a recent report from the national taxpayer advocate, a steady string of Republican-led budget cuts means that of roughly 100 million calls to the IRS last year, only 24% were answered. ‘Put differently, IRS employees did not answer more than 75 million telephone calls from taxpayers seeking help in complying with their tax obligations,’ said taxpayer advocate Erin M. Collins.”

We’re Already Barreling Toward the Next Pandemic (Sean)

The author writes, “A year after the United States bombed its pandemic performance in front of the world, the Delta variant opened the stage for a face-saving encore. If the U.S. had learned from its mishandling of the original SARS-CoV-2 virus, it would have been better prepared for the variant that was already ravaging India. Instead, after a quiet spring, President Joe Biden all but declared victory against SARS-CoV-2. … The variant then ripped through the U.S.’s half-vaccinated populace and once again pushed hospitals and health-care workers to the brink. Delta’s extreme transmissibility would have challenged any nation, but the U.S. nonetheless set itself up for failure. Delta was an audition for the next pandemic, and one that America flubbed. How can a country hope to stay 10 steps ahead of tomorrow’s viruses when it can’t stay one step ahead of today’s?”

Drug Treatment for Lyme Disease Could Lead to Its Eradication (Dana)

The author writes, “The discovery that a chemical is deadly to the bacterium that causes Lyme disease but harmless to animals might allow the disease to be eradicated in the wild. ‘Lyme disease is well-positioned to be eradicated,’ says Kim Lewis at Northeastern University in Boston. ‘We are gearing up, the first field trial will be next summer.’ Lyme disease is caused by a bacterium called Borrelia burgdorferi that lurks in wild mice. Ticks that feed on the mice become infected and can infect other animals, including people. The disease is a growing problem in North America, Europe and Asia.”

Back to the Drawing Board (Dan)

The author writes, “In 2007, at the age of twenty-four, I went to the Mayflower Hotel, in Washington, DC, to attend the fiftieth annual gathering of the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists. It was my first time there; I’d been invited as part of a cohort of about ten young people, an outreach by old-timers to the next generation. Newspapers were declining, and the AAEC was interested in how our profession could make money on the internet. A panel posed the question, ‘What is the future of editorial cartoons?’ At the time, the answer was me. … Later, I would come to see that convention and its open bar as a last hurrah.” 

After Several Attempts, Wildlife Officers Remove Tire That Was Around an Elk’s Neck for Over Two Years (Dana)

The author writes, “For two years, an elk was seen with a tire around its neck. Now, after several attempts, wildlife officials have freed the animal of the rubber hindrance. The bull elk was first spotted by a Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) officer in 2019 conducting a population survey of Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep and mountain goats in the Mount Evans Wilderness, about 30 miles west of Denver, according to a news release from CPW on Monday.”

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