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Friday, October 26, 2012

U.S. Economic Growth Picks Up in the Third Quarter

The U.S. Commerce Department said the economy grew 2 percent in the third quarter, faster than analysts predicted. An increase in consumer purchases, gains in homebuilding and a jump in U.S. public spending, principally defense, all contributed to the acceleration of the economic expansion. The report along with the news that a Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan final consumer sentiment index climbed to a five-year high in October, showing renewed optimism ahead of the presidential election. Consumer spending represents about 70 percent of the U.S. economy, and added 1.4 percent to the gross domestic product (GDP). Meanwhile, defense outlays jumped 9.4 percent, the most in over two years, while public spending grew 3.7 percent, the most in three years. Corporate spending, however, stayed flat.

“Frankenstorm” Sandy May Hit East U.S. on Monday

Hurricane Sandy, which caused as many as 40 deaths in the Caribbean, could merge with a winter storm before heading towards the eastern coast of the U.S., the National Hurricane Center warned today. Sandy is so large it could well cover the entire eastern third of the country, keeping planes grounded and causing floods. Because its winds are so powerful and because it is moving slowly, experts say it could last a long time, affecting more people and causing great damage. ”It’s going to be a long-lasting event, two to three days of impact for a lot of people,” according to James Franklin, head forecaster at the National Hurricane Center. Meteorologists expect high winds, heavy rains, tide surges, and even snow falls, and are urging the population to stock up on food, make sure the elderly, children, and pets are protected, and otherwise prepare for disruptions. Sandy is expected to hit the land on Monday evening.

Bombing and Fighting in Syria Breaks Eid Truce

The Syrian ceasefire that was to mark Islam’s most important holiday, Eid al-Adha, didn’t hold. Called by United Nations and Arab League Peace Envoy to Syria Lakhdar Brahimi, it was accepted formally by President Bashar al-Assad’s government yesterday. As the day broke, however, fighting continued. A car bomb exploded on a playground near the Omar Ibn Khattab mosque in Damascus later in the day, killing 8 people and injuring 30, including children, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. Some other parts of the country did seem to observe the truce, however, with combatants in the city of Idlib in northern Syria reporting a quieter day. The ceasefire is supposed to hold for three more days.

Malala’s Father Says She is “Everybody’s Daughter”

Ziauddin Yousafzai, the father of 15-year-old Malala who was shot in the head by the Taliban for wanting an education, spoke today in London with gratitude for all the support his daughter and his family received. “When she fell, Pakistan stood and the world rose,” Yousafzai said. “She is not just my daughter, she is everybody’s daughter.” Malala, who wrote a blog in Urdu arguing for girls’ right to education, was attacked in Pakistan’s Swat Valley, then flown to Britain for medical care. She is now in recovery. Malala became famous in 2009, writing and speaking of her fear that her education would be interrupted during a Taliban uprising in Swat, and won Pakistan’s first National Peace Prize for her efforts.

Asteroids on Collision Course with Earth Could Be Diverted with Paintballs

Sung Wook Paek, a student at MIT’s Department of Aeronautics and Austronautics, devised a strategy to divert the course of asteroids heading for earth with balls full of paint powder. Paek’s solution takes advantage of solar radiation pressure, the force photons exert on objects. In his paper, which won the 2012  Move an Asteroid Technical Paper Competition, he describes how two clouds of white paintballs, if perfectly timed, could cover the entire surface of an asteroid, thereby more than doubling its reflectivity, known as albedo. The force of the pellets launched could begin to push the object off its path. Then, the power of the sun’s photons would take over, finishing the job. The object of the competition was to find creative ways of protecting the Earth against a potential asteroid collision. Other papers proposed more expected solutions, such as detonating a nuclear bomb near the asteroid, or launching projectiles or spacecrafts against it.

Weekend Read: The Island Where People Forget to Die

What is the secret of Ikaria, the Greek island where residents live healthy well into their 90s? In the New York Times Magazine.

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