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Massive telescope collapse caught on remote camera and drone in Puerto Rico

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The National Science Foundation (NSF) has released new footage of the collapse of the Arecibo telescope platform in Puerto Rico.

The 57-year-old radio telescope suffered major damage in August when one of the cables supporting the platform snapped. Another cable snapped in early November.

Then, on Tuesday, the entire platform came crashing 122 metres onto the dish below.

“We are saddened by this situation but thankful that no one was hurt,” NSF Director Sethuraman Panchanathan said in a statement. “When engineers advised NSF that the structure was unstable and presented a danger to work teams and Arecibo staff, we took their warnings seriously.”

The telescope has been used to track asteroids on a path to Earth, conduct research that led to a Nobel Prize and determine if a planet is potentially habitable. It also served as a training ground for graduate students and drew about 90,000 visitors a year.

“I am one of those students who visited it when young and got inspired,” said Abel Mendez, a physics and astrobiology professor at the University of Puerto Rico at Arecibo who has used the telescope for research. “The world without the observatory loses, but Puerto Rico loses even more.”

Arecibo has also been featured in movies such as Contact and the James Bond film GoldenEye.


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Puerto Rico should be state instead of territory – The Hawkeye

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from The Hawkeye.

Puerto Rico should be state instead of territory – The Hawkeye

Imagine being a part of the United States, but having little to no rights. You don’t get to vote for U.S. president. All you get is to elect a governor, the Senate and Assembly.

This is exactly the anguish Puerto Ricans experiences every year around election time.

According to TIME, Puerto Rico has been a territory of the U.S. since 1898 after the U.S. defeated Spain in the Spanish-American war.

However, unlike Hawaii, which receives complete voting rights, Puerto Rico is controlled by the U.S. government and its citizens are given birthright citizenship as Americans so they can travel between their island and the U.S. mainland, but aren’t allowed to vote for president.

Puerto Ricans deserve to receive voting rights and choose who their president will be. And this is a right they so desperately want.

In June 2017, around 97% of votes were in favor of becoming a state instead of a territory. But only 23% of the population voted on it, according to Ballotpedia.

According to the New York Times, Puerto Ricans voted again on the same question in this November’s election.

The majority of Puerto Ricans said yes, they wanted to be the 51st state to join the union.

It’s time to stop asking Puerto Ricans what they want—We know what they want. Allow Puerto Rico to be a state.

The Declaration of Independence says that “all men are created equal.” If this is true, then Puerto Ricans have as much right as Americans on the mainland to vote. They are just as much a part of this country as we are.

Plus, if the U.S. government allowed Puerto Rico the right to vote, we would become uniquely diverse. Puerto Rico would be a progression for the U.S. to develop itself into a nation that is equal and just. We all know that for hundreds of years different groups have had to fight their way to receive the rights they deserve.

If the U.S. would give Puerto Rico its right to vote without protests or harm to citizens, it would be a proud moment in American history.

Unfortunately, that’s not normally how it goes. Think of how long it took women and African Americans to gain the right to vote. These two groups had to fight hard to get to that point.

If the U.S. decides to find “roadblocks” preventing Puerto Ricans from voting, then they will have to fight for these rights. They will have to protest in the streets and make their voices to be heard.

And we will have to help them. These are our brothers and sisters who should receive the right to vote. We must fight alongside them. We have to make others realize how important this situation is.

We all have to stand up. This is a season of development and growth for the U.S. and the government must feel us shake the foundation of the nation.

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Hurricane dealt final blow to iconic telescope in Puerto Rico

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Hurricane dealt final blow to iconic telescope in Puerto Rico

The death of an icon. Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico, one of the world’s most iconic telescopes, is to be decommissioned due to damage caused by Hurricane Maria in 2017.

The National Science Foundation determined the 57-year-old, 1,000-foot diameter radio telescope’s structure was in danger of “catastrophic failure and its cables may no longer be capable of carrying the loads they were designed to support.”

“Over its lifetime, Arecibo Observatory has helped transform our understanding of the ionosphere, showing us how density, composition and other factors interact to shape this critical region where Earth’s atmosphere meets space,” said Michael Wiltberger, head of NSF’s Geospace Section.

“While I am disappointed by the loss of investigative capabilities, I believe this process is a necessary step to preserve the research community’s ability to use Arecibo Observatory’s other assets and hopefully ensure that important work can continue at the facility.”

It was also the filming location for the James Bond thriller “Goldeneye.”

Morning sky: Venus is still very bright rising about 2 hours before the Sun. You can’t miss her as she will be the brightest object in the morning sky. Mercury is visible with binoculars or a telescope in the early December morning sky but will be low above the horizon. He passes behind the Sun on December 20th.

Evening sky: Mars dominates the eastern sky. Look for a very bright red “star” halfway up from due south just after sunset. This is good time to see surface details on Mars because of how close it is to the Earth. Jupiter and Saturn are up in the south-southwest at sunset. Both are positioned for viewing but are slowly making their way towards the western horizon and into the Sun’s glare. Watch as Jupiter gets closer to Saturn from day to day and will culminate with the two gas giants being really close together on December 21st. Uranus is visible, but you’ll need a star chart and dark skies to find him.

Due to the coronavirus there will be no public viewings scheduled this month. If things change, we’ll post it on TAS’s events calendar (see below).

3rd: Moon near bright star Pollux in Gemini the Twins in the late evening sky.

8th: Last quarter Moon.

10th: Thin crescent Moon near bright star Spica in Virgo the Virgin in the morning sky.

12th: Very thin crescent Moon very close to Venus in the very early morning sky.

13th – 14th: Geminid meteor shower peaks.

14th: New Moon.

21st: Jupiter and Saturn in conjunction in the west at sunset. They will be VERY close together – a Kodak moment. Winter solstice – the longest night of the year for the Northern Hemisphere. First quarter Moon.

23rd: Moon near Mars in the evening sky.

26th: Moon between two star clusters, the Hyades and the Pleiades in the evening sky.

30th: Full Moon near bright star Pollux in Gemini the Twins in the late evening sky.

Check out TAS’s events calendar at

Ken Kopczynski is president of the Tallahassee Astronomical Society, a local group of amateur astronomers. He is the recipient of the 2013 Partners in Excellence Award presented by the Big Bend/Leon Association.

Never miss a story:  Subscribe to the Tallahassee Democrat using the link at the top of the page.

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Should Puerto Rico become a U.S. state?

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After being hit by Hurricane Maria in 2017, Puerto Rico suffered an extraordinary economic and humanitarian crisis — and President Trump maligned the territory and its government. But with Joe Biden’s election as the 46th U.S. president and the possibility that Democrats may control the U.S. Senate, many Democratic policymakers have been talking about granting Puerto Rico statehood.

Legislators have introduced bills to admit Puerto Rico as a U.S. state before. Those don’t get far — in part because little is known about whether mainland American voters would support that initiative. Our study finds that both Republican and Democrat voters become more willing to support Puerto Rican statehood when they learn more about the island’s political status.

Puerto Rico’s political status

The United States took control of Puerto Rico from Spain in 1898 — and its status has been debated ever since. Puerto Ricans were granted U.S. citizenship in 1917. While they are exempt from paying federal income tax, they do not have the right to vote in federal elections and lack voting congressional representation.

For the island to become a state, Congress would need a majority support for the initiative in both chambers similar to any other federal legislation. Legislators are often prompted to act is when their constituents support a position. Our research, published in the Journal of Elections, Public Opinion and Parties, investigates both how mainland Americans feel about the possibility of Puerto Rico as the 51st state and what might change their attitudes.

Here is how we researched this question

To examine public attitudes toward Puerto Rican statehood, in February 2016, we conducted an original survey of non-Hispanic White U.S. mainland citizens recruited online by Cint. Although not nationally representative, our heterogeneous sample of 1,750 respondents largely matched the targeted population across important demographic and political characteristics.

To test what might change their opinions on statehood, we included an information experiment describing Puerto Rico’s political status and its relationship to the United States. After completing a short demographic survey, our respondents were randomly divided into two equal groups. Respondents in the first group were asked to read information about a small tree frog, the coquí, native to Puerto Rico. The second group was asked to read a short explainer of Puerto Rico’s political connection to the United States.

The second group’s explainer described Puerto Ricans as having been U.S. citizens since 1917 and serving in every major U.S. war since World War I. It also explained that while residing on the island, Puerto Ricans do not have the ability to vote for U.S. president and do not have a voting representative in Congress.

The explainer made a difference. Our results indicate that while White Americans are generally ambivalent about Puerto Rican statehood, the “informed” respondents had significantly higher levels of support (51 percent vs. 40 percent) and lower levels of opposition (19 percent vs. 26 percent) to statehood than did the coquí group. White Americans who read the explainer were more likely to say that Puerto Ricans should maintain their U.S. citizenship and that it is unfair that they lack federal representation. We saw these effects equally among all major demographic and political subgroups of White respondents, including both Republicans and Democrats.

Of course, our research has some limitations. Most important, our experimental treatment combines several distinct pieces of information, which could all have had a potentially separate influence. For instance, did knowledge that some Puerto Ricans are U.S. military veterans influence some, while simple knowledge that they were citizens without federal representation influence others? However, the difficulty of disentangling these effects arguably makes our findings more reliable. After all, mainland Americans mostly get their information about the island from the major news media who usually provide multiple facts about Puerto Rico in their coverage.

Of course, in everyday life, mainland Americans don’t simply read neutral presentations of facts. Republicans and Democrats generally learn about current events from very different media streams, which often carry partisan weight. If the Republican Party were to oppose Puerto Rican statehood on the grounds that it would add more Democratic votes for president and Congress, for instance, Fox News and other right-leaning outlets would probably campaign against such a bid. However, since we found that neutrally presenting information changes minds on both sides of the partisan line, we believe it’s possible that some significant portion of Republicans might support it nonetheless.

What does this mean for the prospects of Puerto Rico statehood?

Clearly, our study cannot determine whether statehood is the best choice for the island or the United States in general. However, we do find that mainland White voters could support statehood if they knew more about Puerto Rico’s history as part of the United States; about its U.S. citizen residents; and about those residents’ long history of significant contributions to U.S. society and culture. In Congress, which will ultimately decide on Puerto Rican statehood, this could make the difference.

Abdiel Santiago is a doctoral student at Stanford University Law School.

Alexander Kustov (@akoustov) is a postdoctoral associate in the Jackson Institute for Global Affairs at Yale University.

Ali A. Valenzuela (@AliAValenzuela) is an assistant professor in the department of politics and program in American studies at Princeton University.

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¿Cuándo se certifican los resultados de la elección en Estados Unidos?

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La mayoría de los estados tienen leyes que requieren que los electores voten por el candidato al que se comprometieron (en casi todos los casos, el ganador del voto popular de su estado), limitando la posibilidad de “electores infieles”. (Hubo varios en 2016, pero no cambiaron el resultado final). La Corte Suprema confirmó unánimemente esas leyes este verano en Chiafalo v. Washington. Así que es una fuente de incertidumbre menos.

Una complicación posible —pero, de nuevo, sumamente improbable— sería que una legislatura estatal lograra nombrar una lista favorable a Trump y defenderla contra las impugnaciones legales, mientras el gobernador certifica una lista electoral favorable a Biden mediante el proceso normal, produciendo dos conjuntos de electores en competencia.

En ese caso, correspondería al Congreso decidir cuáles son los votantes que se contarán.

Pero “no creo que nada de esto sea probable”, dijo Paul Smith, vicepresidente de litigios y estrategia del Campaign Legal Center, un grupo no partidista sobre el derecho al voto. “En ausencia de alguna justificación realmente clara, como alguna disfunción masiva, es bastante difícil que una legislatura diga ‘acabamos de decidir que ya no nos gusta la democracia’”.

El 6 de enero, el Congreso contará y certificará los votos electorales.

En cualquier año remotamente normal, las certificaciones estatales —para el 8 de diciembre o, a más tardar, el 14 de diciembre— serían el fin de las disputas, y después de eso todo serían formalidades. Lo más probable es que eso también suceda este año.

Pero en el improbable caso de que las legislaturas estatales y los gobernadores nombraran electores en competencia, el Congreso tendría que elegir.

Algo así sucedió en 1960: el gobernador de Hawái certificó una victoria de 141 votos para Richard Nixon, pero un recuento le dio la vuelta al estado y ganó John F. Kennedy, y los resultados no fueron definitivos cuando se reunió el Colegio Electoral. Había poco en juego: los votos electorales de Hawai no influyeron en el resultado de las elecciones, que ganó Kennedy, pero el Congreso tuvo que resolver la disputa. El propio Nixon, presidiendo el Senado como vicepresidente en funciones, pidió el consentimiento unánime para contar los votos a favor de Kennedy.

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Puerto Rico finds over 100 briefcases with uncounted ballots a week after election – By Danica Coto | Associated Press

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Puerto Rico finds over 100 briefcases with uncounted ballots a week after election

Danica Coto | Associated Press

Officials count early votes at the Roberto Clemente Coliseum where social distancing is possible amid the COVID-19 pandemic, during general elections in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020.

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — Puerto Rico’s elections commission said Tuesday that it has discovered more than 100 briefcases containing uncounted ballots a week after the U.S. territory held its general election, drawing criticism and scorn from voters who now question the validity of the outcomes of certain races.

Francisco Rosado, the commission’s new president, said the briefcases were found in a secured vault and blamed the situation on what he said was an underfunded and understaffed administrative board responsible for counting a record number of absentee and early votes.

“We’ve identified, much to our regret, a disorganization in the handling of material in the vaults,” he said at a press conference. “Misplaced. Poorly organized. We have to admit that.”

Rosado said he didn’t know yet how many total votes are in the 126 briefcases, noting some contained three ballots and others 500 ballots. Officials initially said there were 182 briefcases but later revised the number.

“Every vote will be counted,” he said. “I have to tell the people of Puerto Rico to trust the transparency of the process.”

The discovery is the latest misstep for a commission that botched the island’s primaries in August so badly that a second round of voting was held, an unprecedented situation that led to the commission’s previous president to resign a month later. Then the commission was criticized for taking a record four days after the Nov. 3 general election to finalize counting nearly all votes, only to announce on Tuesday that it had discovered more briefcases. Traditionally, the commission releases final vote counts the night of the election.

Roberto Iván Aponte, electoral commissioner for Puerto Rico’s Independence Party, said in a phone interview that he expects all votes inside the newly discovered suitcases to be counted by Thursday at the latest. He said those votes could affect races like the one for mayor of Culebra, a popular tourist island just east of Puerto Rico. The mayor elect won only by two votes, according to preliminary results.

Aponte and other officials blame the ongoing problems on a new law that Gov. Wanda Vázquez approved in June just two months before the primary that led to several changes including the softening of restrictions for absentee and early voting and eliminating departments and high-ranking positions within the elections commission, which led to the departure of longtime officials. This year, Puerto Rico received more than 220,000 absentee and early votes, a record for officials who have been overwhelmed by the paperwork.

Aponte warned that the commission’s ongoing problems is sowing doubt among voters.

“After these elections, there has to be a serious evaluation of how those votes will be handled,” he said, referring to absentee and early votes.


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