Tensions with Iran
Relations between the U.S. and the Middle Eastern country of Iran have been tense for a long time, but over the past week they have gotten worse. On New Year’s Eve, protestors stormed the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, the capital city of Iraq. The attack was thought to be supported by Iran.
On January 3, a U.S. drone killed a high ranking Iranian official, Major General Qassem Soleimani. President Trump’s decision to kill Soleimani has proven controversial. Some have called the move reckless, while others say that it was necessary as Soleimani has organized terrorist attacks against U.S. personnel.
Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT) was one of the first elected U.S. officials to comment. He tweeted:
“Soleimani was an enemy of the United States. That’s not a question. The question is this — as reports suggest, did America just assassinate, without any congressional authorization, the second most powerful person in Iran, knowingly setting off a potential massive regional war?”
On the other hand, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) advised, “We can and we should learn more about the intelligence and thinking that led to this operation and the plan to defend American personnel and interests in the wake of it,” before judging the situation.
As opinion within the U.S. remains divided, Iran has held a funeral for Soleimani with crowds turning up on the streets to mourn him, some of them expressing anger toward the United States.
Meanwhile, the Iraqi parliament has voted in favor of a resolution to expel the 5,200 U.S. troops stationed in that country, although it is unknown whether this will actually happen.
The Canadian Army Plays Pokémon Go
Soldiers in Canada were ordered to play Pokémon Go as part of their duties. Documents
have recently shown that the Canadian army faced a problem when people started arriving on its military bases – the trespassers weren’t spies, however, they were attempting to hunt down digital Pokémon in the area.
A vehicle was reported to be “acting suspiciously” in the car park of Greenwood air force base in Nova Scotia – before it was discovered that the occupants were actually playing the augmented reality game Pokémon Go. One man who was arrested attempting to collect Pokémon at CFB Borden explained to officers that “I have to beat my kids” at the game. A woman was caught at the entrance to a base, “whilst the three children with her were climbing all over the tanks.”
Documents reveal how the country figured out how to deal with the issue. The game, which became popular after its release three years ago, involves traveling to different locations to collect the digital creatures, especially at hotspots called PokeSpots and PokeGyms.
“Plse advise the Commissionaires that apparently Fort Frontenac is both a PokeGym and a PokeStop,” wrote Major Jeff Monaghan at Canadian Forces Base Kingston. “I will be completely honest in that I have no idea what that is,” he added.
At least three officers were ordered to wander around Canadian army bases playing the game to locate where Pokémon were hiding out. “We should almost hire a 12-year-old to help us out with this,” commented security expert David Levenick at CFB Borden in Ontario.
The military was issued a public notice warning people not to enter the bases. In some instances, the breaches were deemed a “security risk” that could harm operations, while in others, military officials saw the positive side. “Life and work are best accomplished if there is good fun, health and friendship,” observed Rear Admiral John Newton. “If Pokemon Go enables these values, while we protect our interests, then we all stand to marvel at this intersection of technology, gaming and health.”
Puffin Observed Using “Tool”
One measure of intelligence in the animal kingdom is the use of tools. Very few animal species have been observed using tools.
Researchers in Iceland used motion-activated video cameras to record footage of a puffin utilizing a small stick to scratch an itch or to remove a tick from its body. The same phenomena also occurred in Wales, which is more than 1,000 miles away, suggesting that tool-use behavior may be “widespread in this group.”
“I was surprised and excited,” said Annette Fayet, an ecologist at the University of Oxford who was studying the birds. According to the research, recently published in the Proceedings of the Natural Academy of Sciences, “our finding shows that the wild avian tool-use repertoire is wider than previously thought and extends to contexts other than food extraction.” Seabirds in particular have not been known to use tools for grooming.
Although the news that puffins can use sticks (and therefore have brains that understand the manipulation of tools) is exciting, the idea that we have even scratched the surface of what animals are capable of is limited, to say the least. Whatever is going on in the secret lives of birds, science and observation are slowly revealing that these creatures are more sophisticated than most of us have ever realized.