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  • The people of China are vacationing more than ever before. A while back I came across a story where Chinese tourists swarmed a tiny village in Austria. Who could blame them, UNESCO World Heritage Sites are breathtaking places to visit.

    In 2018, there were 2.9 million Chinese travelers to the United States. Each year, that number has been in decline. But China’s boom isn’t slowing down. In 2010, we knew it was just warming up. As travelers from the People’s Republic of China ebbs and flows, there’s been some espionage lurking underneath.

    This story centers around a Chinese tourist, Qingshan Li. He was visiting the US under a tourist visa in San Diego, California. Li was allegedly caught attempting to purchase military munitions under suspicious circumstances. Justin Rohrlich at Quartz reports:

    One of the items Li was allegedly after, a Harris Falcon III AN/PRC 152A radio, is designated as a defense article on the United States Munitions List, and subject to international arms trafficking regulations. This means the Falcon III, which provides US troops in the field with National Security Agency-certified encrypted communications, cannot leave the country without a special license issued by the State Department.

    Li had agreed to pay AB a total of 50,000 renminbi, or roughly $7,200, for the radio. He knew AB was already under investigation for export-related crimes and believed AB “was attempting to get rid of the radio in light of AB’s entanglement with law enforcement,” according to court filings.

    What’s old is now new again. This isn’t the first, nor the last time we’ll be seeing foreign actors participating in freelance espionage while vacationing abroad. Popular tourism spots such as Tallinn, Estonia’s capital used to be hotbeds for KGB activity during the Cold War.

    While the he largest immediate threat to the US is cyber-security and Russia’s election interferences — we can expect to see more of this tried-and-true method of “freelancing spying” from other countries, not just China.

  • It was only two days ago that the New South Wales Rural Fire Service warned the developing bushfires were growing in intensity and would generate its own weather system. Unfortunately, these bushfires were growing far too quick to be contained. In turn, these sorts of weather patterns become a repeating cycle: fires, wind, thunderstorm, lighting, and repeat.

    The Amazon fires had roughly 2.2M hectares burned, the 2019/2020 Australia Bushfire has burned 5.9M hectares so far. It’s a bit mind-blowing to draw a comparison between two very large numbers. The destruction of wildlife alone is enough to make your stomach churn, and the video really communicates the devastation:

    Most of the pictures of these bushfires and the pyro-cumulonimbus (sometimes referred to as cumulonimbus flammagenitus) cloud formations are really intense:

    According to Quartz, this is only the beginning. Climate change has radically altered meteorology on Earth, and we can expect these sorts of weather patterns more frequently in arid regions:

    As global temperatures rise, pyrocumulus clouds may become more common. A similar fire-induced weather system took place during California’s wildfire season in 2018. The state’s hilly terrain created perfect conditions for not only thunderstorms, but fire tornadoes. An unprecedented number of wildfires in north Russia and the Arctic Circle in the summer of 2019, as captured by satellite images, contributed to an increase in lightning strikes in the North Pole.

    To make matters worse, the smoke and carbon dioxide is stuffing the air downstream in Auckland, New Zealand and turning the sky orange. This is getting really bad, really quickly.

  • Chase Purdy at Quartz writes:

    On Oct. 7, it was announced that astronauts on the International Space Station had successfully grown their own meat from microscopic animal cells, using a process called cell-culturing. The bit of cow muscle they produced was small, but it was a historic accomplishment nonetheless.

    The ISS project was part of a joint venture by San Francisco-based Finless Foods and Israel-based Aleph Farms, just two of many startups pioneering the concept of cell-cultured meat. Their technology isn’t just a sci-fi fantasy, conceived to nourish future space colonies: It has very real implications for our food systems right now.

    The omnivore’s dilemma deepens. Cell-culturing is a pretty straightforward, and interesting solution for decreasing our carbon-footprint while keeping us well-fed. For the rest of us, vegetarianism seems to be the best way to reduce your carbon-footprint. Not into that idea? Even just cutting beef from your diet alone can reduce your carbon footprint a sizable amount. But, replacing farm-grown meats with lab-grown meats? This introduces new wrinkles into an already complex problem our society needs to solve I we want to end climate change.

  • The shoe is an insanely popular design which bears Kaepernick’s iconic name (and Afro). It’s a really cool shoe. Marc Bain for Quartz reports:

    The sneaker, a version of Nike’s popular Air Force 1, quickly sold out in adult sizes on Nike’s site and its SNKRS app after dropping this morning. Nike also released child and toddler sizes, and launched the sneaker first in North America, with global releases to follow.

    The shoe comes about a month after Kaepernick once again made headlines for a new confrontation with the NFL. Since kneeling during the national anthem in 2016 to protest police brutality and other injustices against black Americans, the quarterback has effectively been shut out of the league. In November, having finally settled his lawsuit against the NFL, Kaepernick was meant to take part in a league-approved workout demonstrating his readiness to return to play, until a dispute over terms led him to hold his own alternate workout instead.

    The real story here is the success of Kaepernick’s successful Nike shoe launch in the shadow of a confrontation with NFL league politics and lawsuits. That’s a very impressive feat, for anyone. I’m proud of Kaepernick and his steadfast uncompromising ideals. I hope Kap continues to press forward as a free-agent (or NFL player), because athletes like him are a rare breed. In general, we need more leadership like Kap.

  • Micronations

    Very few micronations exist. Microsnations, by definition are self-proclaimed (and often unrecognized countries). Only about 67 exist, as of writing according to research from Quartz. My favorite tid-bit from Quartz’s research is the micronation Zaqistan, which is located in Utah. If you’ve ever been to Utah, you know how comical this is. There is, and I am not understating this — nothing out there.

    Don’t believe me? That’s ok. Here is Zaqistan on Google Maps. Take a peak at that aerial view. Here are the coordinates for your GPS if you ever want to trek out there: 41.440006, -113.427229

    If you really want to go the mile you can apply for a passport from Zaqistan’s (or is it Zaq Landsberg’s) website:

    Zaqistan is small, remote and bound on all sides by the United States. It is as of now unrecognized by any other country. It is NOT POSSIBLE to travel to Zaqistan without going through the United States. Zaqistan is a fledgling, developing nation.

    There are no living facilities, no roads, and no water in Zaqistan, it is not possible to live in Zaqistan. We currently visit Zaqistan for only a few days of the year, and no one lives there year round.