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The 20 best Asian American films of the last 20 years

“The first Asian American film from a major Hollywood studio in 25 years.” That was the mantle carried by “Crazy Rich Asians” when it arrived in 2018. But surely, observers asked, there had to have been Asian American films since “The Joy Luck Club” even if Hollywood didn’t deliver them? The same tentative excitement surrounded Netflix’s “Always Be My Maybe” this year: If this wasn’t the first Asian American rom-com, then what was?

Clearly, it’s time for a canon, a set of films that fans can debate, but which make undeniable that Asian American cinema exists and elicit some consensus about their quality and cultural impact.

True, Asian American cinema has long had a testy relationship with canons. In fact, early films, like those made by Visual Communications in the 1970s, existed to undermine the notion of canons altogether, agitating from the margins against a mainstream that could never understand or assimilate its cultures or politics. In later decades, Asian American film and video explicitly explored image-making too experimental, too queer, too resistant to labels to comfortably assemble into a neat corpus.

However, following the so-called “Class of 1997” when an unprecedented number of feature films premiered at the San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival (including Rea Tajiri’s “Strawberry Fields” and Quentin Lee and Justin Lin’s “Shopping for Fangs”), a wave of self-consciously Asian American films with an eye on national audiences burst onto the scene. Panels and funding opportunities organized by Visual Communications in Los Angeles, Asian CineVision in New York and the National Asian American Telecommunications Assn. in San Francisco provided institutional support for feature films.

Meanwhile, Asian American film festivals in Chicago, San Diego, Washington, D.C., Seattle, Boston, Philadelphia, Austin and elsewhere emerged to promote and exhibit these new works. Whereas an earlier generation of sporadic feature filmmaking (Wayne Wang’s “Chan Is Missing” in 1982, Mira Nair’s “Mississippi Masala” in 1991, Ang Lee’s “The Wedding Banquet” in 1993) found audiences primarily in the mainstream art house circuit, this later wave of films fed a nationwide hunger of Asian Americans to see themselves reflected onscreen and on their own terms. This national festival circuit became an informal distribution network and bestowed the films awards.

We invited over more than 20 Asian American critics and curators who professionally observed and debated the scene for the last two decades to participate.

The titles that fed this growing movement suggest the possibility of a canon that can coexist with Asian American cinema’s more anticanon impulses, which continue to this day.

To determine that canon, we invited more than 20 Asian American critics and curators who professionally observed and debated the scene for the last two decades to participate in a poll. They were limited to films from this period (2000-2019) directed by and prominently featuring Asian Americans. (Canada was bracketed off because while Asian Canadian cinema played the same festival circuit, its films were produced in a different political context surrounding issues of immigration, citizenship and national belonging all central to how Asian American cinema was first defined.)

The resulting list won’t be surprising to longtime fans, but it will be a marvel to the uninitiated. Topping the poll is Justin Lin’s electrifying breakout “Better Luck Tomorrow.” Recent films with Sundance Film Festival pedigrees crowd the rest of the top 10. But after that are lesser-known titles — comedies, family dramas, documentaries — craving rediscovery: films like Spencer Nakasako’s powerful “Refugee” about Cambodian families on two continents, and Grace Lee’s “The Grace Lee Project,” about a Missouri director’s nationwide search to find Asian American women with her same name.

While the top 20 only includes one Southeast Asian director (Ham Tran) and two South Asian directors (Mira Nair and Aneesh Chaganty), the rest of the list reveals broader ethnic diversity, suggesting that even within Asian American cinema are voices still demanding recognition.

If anything, canons should beget other canons, expanding the corpus and making it ever more impossible to deny the vast existence of Asian American filmmaking, or the suggestion that it’s ever needed Hollywood to tell its own stories.

Hu is the artistic director of the Pacific Arts Movement, presenters of the San Diego Asian Film Festival.

Top 20

1‘Better Luck Tomorrow’ (2002)

‘Better Luck Tomorrow’

(281.5 points*)
Director: Justin Lin
Cast: Parry Shen, Jason Tobin, Sung Kang, Roger Fan

“Fast & Furious” franchise helmer Justin Lin made his solo directing debut with this Sundance hit, a high school crime drama about Asian American overachievers breaking bad that sent the model minority myth spinning. It remains a milestone for ferociously defiant Asian American storytelling.

2 ‘Minding the Gap’ (2018)

Keire Johnson Bing Liu and Zack Mulliganon set of ‘Minding the Gap’

(244.5 points)
Director: Bing Liu
With: Keire Johnson, Zack Mulligan, Bing Liu

Three childhood friends united in their love for skateboarding grow up in a small Illinois town in front of our eyes in filmmaker Bing Liu’s Oscar-nominated documentary, with searing observations on race, class and masculinity.

3‘The Farewell’ (2019)

‘The Farewell’

(213 points)
Director: Lulu Wang
Cast: Awkwafina, Zhao Shuzhen, Tzi Ma, Diana Lin, Lu Hong

Tears, tenderness and one majorly surreal “true lie” envelop Wang’s keenly observed semiautobiographical stunner, a multigenerational, cross-cultural tale of a NYC artist paying one last visit to her grandmother in China.

4‘In the Family’ (2011)

In the Family

(162.5 points)
Director: Patrick Wang
Cast: Trevor St. John, Patrick Wang, Sebastian Brodziak

This exquisitely shaped drama, about a family tragedy that threatens to rip a father and his son apart, heralded the arrival of an important new filmmaking talent in Wang (“The Grief of Others,” “A Bread Factory”).

5‘Spa Night’ (2016)

“Spa Night”

(158.5 points)
Director: Andrew Ahn
Cast: Joe Seo, Youn Ho Cho, Haerry Kim

Ahn’s debut is an achingly sad portrait of a young Korean American man grappling with various forms of identity confusion — sexual, social, cultural — in an L.A. milieu we see too rarely in the movies.

6‘Crazy Rich Asians’ (2018)

‘Crazy Rich Asians’

(133.5 points)
Director: Jon M. Chu
Cast: Constance Wu, Henry Golding, Michelle Yeoh, Awkwafina

Asians making history in a blockbuster Hollywood rom-com? You love to see it. Wu and Golding anchor Chu’s glossy adaptation of Kevin Kwan’s bestselling novel, the first modern-set studio movie to center a majority Asian and Asian American cast in 25 years.

7‘Columbus’ (2017)

‘Columbus’

(130 points)
Director: Kogonada
Cast: John Cho, Haley Lu Richardson

Cho and Richardson give superbly matched performances as two people talking about architecture and thinking about life in a serenely intelligent two-hander set at the intersection of Ozu and Linklater.

8‘Gook’ (2017)

Justin Chon appears in “Gook”

(129.5 points)
Director: Justin Chon
Cast: Justin Chon, Simone Baker, David So

Two Korean American brothers (Chon and So) and the African American girl (Baker) they’ve befriended navigate hardships and increasing racial tensions as the 1992 Los Angeles riots turn the city upside down in a bracing American tale from actor-turned-director Chon.

9‘The Namesake’ (2006)

‘Namesake’

(128 points)
Director: Mira Nair
Cast: Tabu, Irrfan Khan, Kal Penn

This sensitive adaptation of ‎Jhumpa Lahiri’s bestseller exploring the immigrant experience broke into the mainstream and proved that in an alternate — and more inclusive — universe, Bollywood stars Khan and Tabu would be Hollywood stars too.

10‘American Revolutionary: the Evolution of Grace Lee Boggs’ (2013)

‘American Revolutionary: The Evolution of Grace Lee Boggs’

(127.5 points)
Director: Grace Lee
With: Grace Lee Boggs, Danny Glover, Bill Ayers

A late Detroit-based activist known especially for her advocacy for black communities during the civil rights era, Boggs springs to rich, indelible life in this affectionate but critically thoughtful documentary.

11‘Saving Face’ (2004)

‘Saving Face’ | Ma

(126.5 points)
Director: Alice Wu
Cast: Michelle Krusiec, Joan Chen, Lynn Chen

A young surgeon keeps her sexual identity a secret from her mom, who has secrets of her own. A hallmark of lesbian cinema and a beloved comedy of Chinese American women negotiating family honor.

12‘Colma: The Musical’ (2006)

A scene from ‘Colma: The Musical’

(126.5 points)
Director: Richard Wong
Cast: H.P. Mendoza, Jake Moreno, L.A. Renigen

This miraculous microbudget musical, about three high school graduates in the sleepiest of San Francisco suburbs, introduced the world to the inventive eye of Wong and the infectious melodies of composer-lyricist-actor Mendoza.

13‘Searching’ (2018)

‘Searching’

(96 points)
Director: Aneesh Chaganty
Cast: John Cho, Debra Messing, Michelle La, Joseph Lee

Writer-director Chaganty’s taut techno-thriller unfolds through the computer screen of a distraught dad as he hunts for his missing daughter, a bold cinematic experiment in storytelling anchored by Cho’s emotional star turn.

14‘The Grace Lee Project’ (2005)

‘The Grace Lee Project’

(88 points)
Director: Grace Lee
With: Grace Lee, Aldo Velasco

What’s in a name? Grace Lee, no fan of her own overused moniker, set out to find the answer — and emerged with a documentary that wittily upends stereotypes about Asian female passivity.

15‘Journey from the Fall’ (2006)

(86 points)
Director: Ham Tran
Cast: Long Nguyen, Kieu Chinh, Diem Lien

A rejoinder to Oliver Stone and Hollywood’s Vietnam, this shattering, bicontinental family epic collected memories of the Vietnamese diaspora to tell its own story of the years following the fall of Saigon.

16‘Refugee’ (2003)

‘Refugee’

(85 points)
Director: Spencer Nakasako
With: David Mark, Sophal Meas, Mike Siv

Developed out of after-school youth media programs in San Francisco’s Tenderloin district, the documentary tracks three young Cambodian American men who go back to Cambodia to reunite with fathers, sisters and brothers separated by war.

17‘In Between Days’ (2006)

‘In Between Days’

(84 points)
Director: So Yong Kim
Cast: Jiseon Kim

A lonely teenage immigrant’s struggle to make sense of her new surroundings is illuminated with extraordinary sensitivity and visual grace in So Yong Kim’s prize-winning debut.

18‘The Motel’ (2005)

(83.5 points)
Director: Michael Kang
Cast: Jeffrey Chyau, Sung Kang, Samantha Futerman

This Sundance charmer follows a 13-year-old boy’s misadventures growing up in a locale all too familiar to many Asian American immigrants: the family-run motel.

19‘Advantageous’ (2015)

advantageous-jaqueline-kim.jpg

(78.5 points)
Director: Jennifer Phang
Cast: Jacqueline Kim, Freya Adams, Ken Jeong

In this eerie sci-fi drama, a young mother wonders if she’s too old and too ethnic for the modern workplace, so she volunteers to transplant her consciousness into a younger, whiter body.

20‘The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift’ (2006)

(72 points)
Director: Justin Lin
Cast: Sung Kang, Brian Tee, Lucas Black, Sonny Chiba

Life’s simple: You make choices and you don’t look back. How did a pulpy action picture e-brake its way onto this list? Directed by Justin Lin, the “Furious” threequel revolutionized a formula, introducing a fan fave (Sung Kang’s Han Seoul-oh) and paved the way for unprecedented franchise evolution.

[*A word about the methodology for point tabulation: Contributors had the choice to submit up to 20 film titles, ranked or unranked. For ranked ballots, points were weighted according to preference: 20 points for #1, 19 points for #2, etc. For unranked ballots, all films received the same number of points, which is an average of the total number of points possible for the ballot.]

Surface Laptop 3 vs MacBook Air: Microsoft has a winner

Microsoft is making people fall in love with its Surface devices. On Oct.02, the Redmond-based software giant unveiled a bunch of hardware products, including the Surface Laptop 3. The new Surface Laptop is a slick machine that will be competing with Apple’s ultraportable laptop MacBook Air. If you are in the market for a portable, thin, and powerful laptop, you might be interested in checking them both out. Here’s how the Surface Laptop 3 stacks up against the MacBook Air.

Microsoft has launched the Surface Laptop 3 this year in two different sizes of 13.5-inch and 15-inch. The MacBook Air comes in only one screen size of 13.3-inch. To make it a fair comparison, we are pitting the 13.5-inch model of Microsoft’s device against the MacBook Air.

Design

For the last several years, one of the biggest strengths of MacBook Air has been its gorgeous, portable, and lightweight design. The new Surface Laptop almost snatches that advantage away from Apple’s iconic laptop. Their weights, dimensions, and built quality are similar. They are both ultra-premium, slim laptops. They both feature large touchpads and stylish curves. Both laptops have a front-facing camera for video calls.

The Surface Laptop has an aluminum design, though Microsoft also offers an Alcantara fabric version. The Alcantara version is available in Platinum and Cobalt Blue colors while the aluminum model comes in Sandstone and Black colors. It measures 12.1 x 8.8 x 0.57 inches and weighs 2.9 pounds.

Microsoft’s clamshell device features an impressive keyboard and touchpad. If you want the soft fabric finish on the keyboard, you can opt for the Alcantara version, though it’s going to get dirty with long-term use. The keyboard is comfortable to type on. The Laptop 3 offers more key travel of 1.3mm to give you the feel of a softer click.

Microsoft highlighted during the unveiling event that the Laptop 3’s keyboard can easily be removed for repairs, though you shouldn’t try to do it yourself. The glass touchpad offers a blazing-fast response to gesture and swipes.

The Surface Laptop 3 has a wider selection of ports than MacBook Air. It gets a USB-A port, a USB-C port, a 3.5mm headphone jack, and a Surface Connect port. However, it doesn’t support Thunderbolt 3. The MacBook Air features only two Thunderbolt 3 ports for data transfer, charging, and connecting with external devices, and a 3.5mm audio jack.

The MacBook Air has similar dimensions of 12 x 8.4 x 0.6 inches. It weighs just 2.8 pounds. Apple’s laptop is available in Space Gray, Silver, and Gold colors. It has a premium unibody aluminum design. It features a Touch ID fingerprint sensor for authentication and security.

The MacBook uses Apple’s third-generation Butterfly keyboards that have fixed the issues users had reported with older versions. However, the typing experience on the new MacBook Air is still not as good as it is on the new Surface Laptop.

Apple’s Force Touch trackpad is the gold standard in the industry. For audio, Apple has used upward-firing speakers on the sides of the keyboard to deliver stereo sound.

Display

Microsoft’s laptop features a gorgeous 13.5-inch PixelSense touchscreen display with 2256 x 1504 resolution and a 3:2 aspect ratio. If you want a laptop with touchscreen functionality, the Surface Laptop 3 has you covered. It has 201ppi of pixel density. The new Surface Laptop delivers vibrant colors.

The MacBook Air gets a 13.3-inch LED-backlit IPS Retina display with 1600 x 2560 resolution and 227ppi of pixel density. Unlike its rival, it lacks the touchscreen functionality. Its Retina display delivers rich colors and supports Apple’s True Tone technology that automatically optimizes the display brightness and colors to ensure that the content is visible at all times. It also helps reduce the strain on your eyes.

Internal specs

If you want a laptop powerful enough to handle even the most demanding tasks such as video editing, the Surface Laptop 3 should be your choice. It runs Intel’s latest 10th-gen Ice Lake quad-core 10nm Core i5-1035G7 or i7-1065G7 processors. Microsoft claims the Surface Laptop 3 is up to three times more powerful than the MacBook Air.

The base model of Surface Laptop packs 10th-gen quad-core Core i5 chipset with 8GB RAM and 128GB of SSD storage. You can configure the processor up to Core i7, RAM up to 16GB, and storage up to 1TB SSD. The device features Intel’s beefed-up Iris Plus 950 GPU to enhance the graphics power.

On the other hand, the MacBook Air runs Intel’s eighth-gen dual-core Core i5 processor. The device gets Intel UHD Graphics 617 GPU, which is good enough for casual users but can’t handle video editing or gaming.

Apple doesn’t offer a Core i7 configuration for MacBook Air. It features 8GB LPDDR3 RAM and 128GB SSD storage for the base model. Users can configure RAM to 16GB and storage to 256GB, 512GB or 1TB.

One of the biggest limitations of the MacBook Air is that it runs Intel’s Y-series processors rather than the U-series or H-series. The Y-series enhances battery life and produces less heat. But it delivers only about half as much power as the U-series. The Surface Laptop 3’s U-series 10th-gen chipset gives it a clear edge over the MacBook Air.

Battery life

According to Microsoft, the 13.5-inch Surface Laptop 3 offers up to 11.5 hours of battery life on a single charge. But in real life, the battery is unlikely to last that long. Microsoft tested the device with screen brightness set at just 150 nits. You probably won’t keep the brightness that dim, especially when using the laptop outdoors.

The new Surface Laptop offers up to 80% charge in less than an hour using the proprietary Surface Connector.

The MacBook Air packs a 49.9Wh battery. Apple promises up to 13 hours of video playback and up to 12 hours of web surfing. In real-world conditions, the MacBook Air offers between 8-10 hours of battery life depending on the apps you are running.

Both laptops are generally not used for heavy computing and they make the list of best laptops for marketing and lightweight office work.

Pricing

The Surface Laptop 3 starts at $999 for the base model with Core i5 processor, 8GB RAM, and 128GB SSD storage. Upgrading storage to 256GB will bump up the price to $1,299. If you want the Core i7 variant with 16GB RAM and 256GB storage, you’ll have to shell out $1,599. The maxed-out version with Core i7 processor, 16GB RAM, and 1TB storage costs $2,399.

The MacBook Air starts at $1,099 for the base model with Core i5 processor, 128GB storage and 8GB RAM. The 256GB storage option will set you back by $1,299.

Conclusion

If you are not a hardcore macOS fan, the new Surface Laptop 3 is better than the MacBook Air in almost every aspect. It delivers faster performance, better graphics power, similar battery life, a gorgeous display, and an excellent build quality – all at an attractive starting price of $999, which is $100 lower than that of MacBook Air.

Coral-tracking satellites monitor reef bleaching in near-real time

Hawaii’s coral reefs are in danger. A major marine heat wave that began in August is bleaching corals across the state, from the western shores of Kauai to the Big Island’s Kona coast..

Scientists are watching the devastation unfold in unprecedented detail. They are using a network of 140 small satellites and experimental deep-learning algorithms to track the event in near-real time. High-resolution images of Hawaii’s corals collected before, during and after the bleaching event could reveal how reefs respond to extreme temperatures. Such data could ultimately help governments around the world to anticipate — and minimize — the damage caused by future bleaching events.

“This has never been done before,” says Jamison Gove, an oceanographer at the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in Honolulu, Hawaii. “If it works out, it is novel and pretty amazing.”

The satellite project is part of the US$1.5-million Allen Coral Atlas, an effort to map and monitor the world’s reefs overseen by Vulcan, a philanthropic institution in Seattle, Washington, established by the late Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen. The satellites are owned and operated by Planet, an Earth-imaging company in San Francisco, California, and the scientific analysis is being led by Greg Asner, an ecologist at Arizona State University in Tempe.

The satellites began watching Hawaii’s reefs in July, shortly after NOAA predicted the ocean heat wave. Water even a few degrees Celsius warmer than normal can cause corals to bleach by expelling the symbiotic algae that provide reefs with nutrients and oxygen, and give them their bright colours.

The latest bleaching event is the third in Hawaii since 2014, and scientists say it could be the most devastating yet. “The scary thing is that this might be the new norm moving forward,” says Brian Neilson, head of Hawaii’s Division of Aquatic Resources in Honolulu. The frequency and intensity of coral bleaching events across the globe are projected to increase in the coming decades.

In living colour

Scientists have used satellites to spy on reefs before. Most of those earlier efforts focused on mapping reefs rather than assessing their condition. The latter requires satellites to gather images more frequently, and at higher resolution. Planet’s satellites provide daily images of Hawaiian reefs at a resolution of 3.7 metres; previous coral-mapping efforts have used satellites that capture images every few days, at resolutions between 10 and 30 metres.

But determining how to accurately detect the degree to which a coral has bleached posed a challenge for Asner’s team. Sensors on their satellites register only four wavelengths — red, green, blue and near-infrared. Because only green and blue wavelengths can penetrate seawater, variations in reefs’ health come across in the pictures as subtle shifts in hue and brightness.

The scientists are using deep-learning algorithms to sort through their data and look for patterns. So far, they can see roughly 12 metres underwater. An initial analysis suggests that their satellite system can detect bleaching when roughly 5-10% of a reef turns white.

These results aren’t yet good enough to replace the work of divers who monitor corals in areas such as Hawaii, says Mark Eakin, who coordinates NOAA’s Coral Reef Watch programme in College Park, Maryland. But in remote regions that lack scientific resources, he says, “satellite imagery will provide information we might otherwise miss”.

Seeking survivors

Asner’s team had planned to check the accuracy of its satellite data by comparing it to high-resolution images of corals collected by instruments aboard a specially equipped aeroplane. The sensors carried by the team’s plane can detect more than 400 wavelengths of light — from the visible to the infrared — up to 22 metres underwater. In some cases, the scientists can even identify coral species from aeroplane data.

But the scientists had to quickly modify those plans when the bleaching event in Hawaii started, because their plane is undergoing repairs. Asner worked with NOAA and the government of Hawaii to create a website where the public can report sightings of bleached coral. The scientists have visited dozens of sites flagged by website visitors, inspecting reefs and collecting the detailed imagery needed to validate the satellite-monitoring system.

Asner says that his team will keep monitoring Hawaii’s reefs by satellite until the bleaching event ends, which NOAA predicts will happen in November. 

Crawford Drury, an ecologist at the Hawaiʻi Institute of Marine Biology in Kaneohe, says that developing reliable methods for monitoring coral health by satellite could help to identify the planet’s most resilient reefs. “If we can find corals that are naturally tolerant and study them, we can learn more about what makes them that way,” Drury says.

Such regions are important because they could become safe havens for marine life in a warming world, Asner says. In the meantime, understanding the factors that determine when and where a reef bleaches can help scientists and governments to protect corals at risk, by minimizing other sources of stress — such as fishing and tourism.

“Reefs have the potential to survive these bleaching events,” Asner says, “but we’ve got to really monitor them and manage them.”

Hacking group linked to Iran targeted a presidential campaign, Microsoft says

Microsoft said Friday that hackers linked to the Iranian government have attacked a U.S. presidential campaign, as well as government officials, media targets and prominent expatriate Iranians.

Overall, the hackers attempted to penetrate 241 accounts — four successfully — though none of those penetrated was associated with presidential campaigns or current or past U.S. officials, Microsoft said. A company spokeswoman declined to identify those targeted, citing customer privacy.

The announcement is the latest sign that foreign governments are looking for ways to potentially disrupt the 2020 presidential election. U.S. intelligence officials have sounded the alarm about the risks for months.

In a blog post released Friday, Microsoft’s Tom Burt, corporate vice president for customer security and trust, said that owners of four accounts that were compromised by the hackers have been notified.

The attacks by a group Microsoft calls Phosphorous occurred during a 30-day period between August and September.

Burt said the Iranian hackers used password reset and account recovery features to try to take over accounts. For example, they gathered phone numbers belonging to targets to help with a password reset.

The hackers researched their targets, making more than 2,700 attempts to identify emails belonging to a specific Microsoft customer. A spokeswoman declined to provide more details.

List of worst U.S. Airlines according to Twitter

Airline travel may be the fastest and most convenient way to go from one city to another. But it’s not just about booking the cheapest flights and getting you from point A to point B. Things like delays, lost baggage, last-minute flight cancellations, and denied boardings could make the whole experience horrible. And passengers turn to Twitter and other social platforms to vent their frustration. Here we take a look at the most criticized US airlines on Twitter. We will also dig into the reasons why people criticize them.

Folks at InsureMyTrip conducted a Twitter sentiment analysis to find out which of the nine biggest US airlines receives the most criticism on social media. They used artificial intelligence to detect the emotional tone of 96,000 tweets over a two-week period to identify the airlines that got the most negative mentions.

InsureMyTrip also looked into reasons that were causing negative mentions for each of the nine airlines. Some of the most common bad experiences were delays, poor customer service, cancellations, bad food, uncomfortable seats, and lost luggage. It’s worth pointing out that people are more likely to share their negative experiences on social media than the positive ones with a carrier.

Check out the US airlines ranked from most to least criticized on social media. We’ve also highlighted the percentage negative mentions next to the respective airline’s name.

1- Spirit Airlines (69%)

Spirit is one of the cheapest airlines in the country. InsureMyTrip found that 69% of Spirit Airlines’ Twitter mentions had a negative emotional tone, higher than any other airline in the country. Flight cancellations and delays together accounted for more than 35% of complaints. Poor customer service was the third biggest reason for negative mentions on Twitter.

2- Frontier Airlines (63.7%)

This Denver-based ultra-low-cost carrier was the second-most criticized US airline, according to InsureMyTrip. About 63.7% of Frontier Airlines mentions on Twitter were negative. Close to 20% of complaints were about delays and 13% about cancellations. Based on Twitter sentiment, Frontier Airlines offers the worst customer service of all nine airlines on this list. However, you can expect good food and comfortable seats.

3- American Airlines (55.8%)

American Airlines found 23,039 mentions on Twitter during the two-week period analyzed by InsureMyTrip. And 55.8% of them were negative. Another survey by WalletHub earlier this year also suggested that American Airlines is not as reliable as it used to be. About 14% of complaints were about delays and 10% about cancellations, which are much lower than most other airlines. The airline offers quality food, but not so comfortable seats.

4- United Airlines (49.5%)

You can expect good food and comfortable seats when flying with United. But be prepared for delays and last-minute flight cancellations. Close to half of United Airlines’ Twitter mentions were negative. According to InsureMyTrip, 23.5% of the negative tweets were related to delays and 11.1% were about cancellations. Poor customer service was another major pain point, accounting for 7% of the complaints.

5- JetBlue Airways (49.5%)

JetBlue Airways offers excellent in-flight experience including quality food and comfortable seats. Out of all the negative mentions, 23% were about delays and 7.2% were related to cancellations. It was only slightly behind United Airlines in terms of delays. JetBlue does a pretty good job at customer service, though.

6- Delta Air Lines (48.7%)

Delta is one of the world’s oldest airlinesstill in operation. Fewer than half of its Twitter mentions were negative, found InsureMyTrip. About 20% of the complaints were related to delays and 9.3% about cancellations. Another 6% complaints were about its poor customer service. Delta offers quality food and comfortable seats.

7- Alaska Airlines (37.9%)

Personal finance website WalletHub has named Alaska the best airline in the country, but 37.9% of its customers still find a reason to complain. A little over 16% of the complaints were about delays, and 8.2% were about cancellations. Only 4.6% complaints were about poor customer service and 2.6% related to mishandled luggage.

8- Allegiant Air (35.6%)

Allegiant is the second least criticized airline on social media in the United States, with only 35.6% of all Twitter mentions being negative. It is known for offering quality food and comfortable seats. A little over 20% of the complaints were about delays and 6% related to cancellations.

9- Southwest Airlines (30.1%)

Southwest is the least criticized airline in the United States. Only 30.1% of its Twitter mentions were negative. No wonder it features in Trip Advisor’s list of top 10 best airlines in the world. About 15% of negative mentions were about delays and 10.6% were related to cancellations. Another 15.6% complaints were related to the keyword seating and 16% to money. However, Southwest has been praised for its excellent customer service. According to WalletHub, it receives only 0.36% complaints per 100,000 passengers.

Overall, most airlines suffer from delays and cancellations. If you want a hassle-free experience, Southwest Airlines is your best bet.

Few mistakes to avoid when claiming your workers’ compensation benefits

When you are injured at your place of work, you become entitled to workers’ compensation benefits. Now, these include your medical treatment costs, loss of income, and compensation until you become to fit to join work.

Many individuals think that workers’ compensation is a simple and straightforward process. On the contrary, it is complicated and time-consuming if you do not hire a competent lawyer to fight your case. You have your insurance but the provider affirms that your injuries aren’t severe enough to file a claim.

According to an article published on HuffPost, whether you qualify for the claim or not depends on if your employer perceives your workplace injury caused as part of your daily job. During claim filing, you may become confused about the entire process, leading to some common mistakes. Here are the three common blunders you must avoid for smooth claim processing:

  • Visiting a doctor, who is not on your employer’s list? 

When injured at your workplace, you need to consult with a medical professional immediately after the incident. Then, some states in the US require you to visit one of the doctors on the list of your employer. If you fail to do so, your claim might be rejected. You must see one of those physicians within 90 days.

If you visit your family doctor or any other medical expert other than those mentioned in your employer’s list, your workers compensation benefits claim may be adversely affected.

  • Not filing for workers compensation benefits benefits

Too frequently, individuals do not ask for workers’ comp benefits after sustaining injuries at the workplace. They often believe the grueling process not their cup of tea and so avoid it, or that the mishap was their responsibility. Therefore, they are not entitled to the compensation benefits.

These are not the truth. When you’re injured on-the-job, you possibly have your doctor’s medical bills accumulating. On top of it, you are perhaps even not capable to join work after the accident or injury. The procedure of filing for workers’ compensation is from time to time cumbersome, but that does not mean you will avoid filing your claim.

Again, almost all workers insured at their workplace are entitled to workers’ compensation benefits. It is irrelevant whether you were partially responsible for the injury, or your employer was to a degree responsible. You should still fight your workers’ compensation benefits nevertheless.

  • Not informing your employer after the accident

According to your state’s law, you should report your workplace injury to the employer within 90 days of the incident. In a couple of scenarios, the time limit may be extended in case you did not find out about your injuries or health issues for some time. Therefore, inform your employer as soon as possible after the accident.

If you do not report within the specified time, your compensation claim will be denied. You should be a little proactive to claim your benefits and receive the same.

Workers compensation benefits: Conclusion

Avoid these mistakes to make your claim process smooth and hassle-free. Your goal is to receive the benefits.

NASA Just Revealed an Ocean on Enceladus Contains The Building Blocks of Life

Scientists just found the most basic ingredients for life bursting from an ocean on Saturn’s moon Enceladus.

A new analysis of NASA data reveals the presence of organic compounds in the plumes of liquid water that shoot into space from the ocean below Enceladus’s icy crust.

These compounds, which carry nitrogen and oxygen, play a key role in producing amino acids ⁠- complex molecules that serve as the building blocks of proteins. Without proteins, life as we know it on Earth couldn’t exist.

Scientists have long suspected that the ocean below Enceladus’s surface could harbour the ingredients for life. Researchers had detected other organic molecules coming from the icy moon before, but this is the first time anyone has detected them dissolved in the water.

That’s critical, since it means the compounds could undergo deep-sea chemical reactions that produce amino acids.

These findings were published Wednesday in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

“This work shows that Enceladus’ ocean has reactive building blocks in abundance, and it’s another green light in the investigation of the habitability of Enceladus,” Frank Postberg, a co-author of the study, said in a press release.

In deep-sea vents, these compounds could create life

On Enceladus, jets of ocean water and ice regularly shoot out into space through warm cracks in the moon’s crust.

The NASA scientists behind the new study analysed data on the chemical composition of those plumes, and found several new organic compounds, some containing nitrogen and some containing oxygen.

These compounds were dissolved in the ocean water below Enceladus’s surface. They then evaporated with the surface water, condensed, and froze into the moon’s icy crust, according to the study. The plumes blew the compounds into space, where NASA’s Cassini spacecraft sensed them as it flew nearby.

The compounds are yet another sign that Enceladus might have its own version of a process that creates life on Earth.

Deep in Earth’s oceans, seawater mixes with magma that bubbles up through cracks in the ocean floor. That interaction produces smoky hydrothermal vents that can get as hot as 700 degrees Fahrenheit (370 degrees Celsius).

The vents spew hydrogen-rich hot water, fuelling chemical reactions that transform organic compounds into amino acids. Those amino acids can then stack onto each other like Legos to form proteins, which are crucial for replicating the genetic information that creates life.

This process allows life to develop without the assistance of sunlight. That’s important because Enceladus’s ice surface is highly reflective and sends what little sunlight the moon receives back into space. Any life there would have to develop in the dark.

Scientists believe that potential hydrothermal vents in the subsurface ocean on Enceladus might work similarly to those on Earth.

“If the conditions are right, these molecules coming from the deep ocean of Enceladus could be on the same reaction pathway as we see here on Earth,” Nozair Khawaja, who led the research team behind the latest discovery, said in a release. “We don’t yet know if amino acids are needed for life beyond Earth, but finding the molecules that form amino acids is an important piece of the puzzle.”

Last year, the team discovered similar organic molecules from the same data. But the molecules were not water-soluble; the researchers believe that they sat on the surface of the Enceladus ocean.

Such compounds would need to dissolve into ocean water in order to interact with hydrothermal vents and produce life. Until now, scientists weren’t sure if organic compounds on Enceladus did that.

“Here we are finding smaller and soluble organic building blocks – potential precursors for amino acids and other ingredients required for life on Earth,” Jon Hillier, another co-author of the study, said in the release.

More to learn from NASA’s Cassini data

The data scientists used to arrive at both of these findings came from NASA’s Cassini mission. The probe launched in 1997 and spent 13 years exploring Saturn and its moons.

In September 2017, the mission ended when scientists intentionally sent the spacecraft plummeting into Saturn. They did this to avoid contaminating Enceladus or Titan, another nearby moon that could also harbour life, with Earthly microbes.

Cassini discovered that Enceladus conceals a global ocean of liquid saltwater below its surface, and photographed jets of that water shooting into space. The probe flew through those plumes and collected data about their composition in 2008.

Scientists plan to continue studying that and other data collected by Cassini for decades to come.

NASA also plans to send a probe to Saturn’s moon Titan, which is another a prime target in the search for alien life because of its own abundant organic compounds. That mission is set to launch a nuclear-powered helicopter called Dragonfly toward Titan in 2026.

The spacecraft is expected to arrive at Titan in 2034, then start hunting for signs of life.

12 Most Beautiful Lakes in Switzerland

Whether it’s the altitude, the crystal-clear water or the beauty of the surrounding landscape, there’s something extraordinary about the sparkling lakes in Switzerland. Nestled in the country’s four major river basins are hundreds of postcard-perfect lakes waiting to be explored. Switzerland’s excellent transportation system makes it easy to access all but the most remote bodies of water.

From swimming, fishing and water skiing to sightseeing cruises, each lake offers a unique set of fun-filled activities. Lakeside resorts, villages and cities feature a host of cultural attractions too, including medieval castles, one-of-a-kind museums and picturesque public gardens. Wherever your travels through Switzerland take you, no visit is complete without a tour of the country’s most scenic lakes.

12. Riffelsee

Riffelsee

The towering majesty of Mount Matterhorn draws tourists from all over the world to the shores of Riffelsee. The view of the Matterhorn reflected on the lake’s tranquil water is a sight to behold. Thanks to the nearby skiing resort in the alpine village of Zermatt, Riffelsee is surprisingly easy to reach too. The Gornergrat Bahn narrow-gauge railway that serves the resort stops at the Rotenboden station, which is just a 10-minute walk away from the lake. Downhill skiing, mountain climbing and hiking make the area a popular destination in every season.

11. Lake Constance

Lake Constance

dreamstime/© Oxfordsquare

Sharing borders with Switzerland, Austria and Germany, Lake Constance is best known for summer fun and recreation. The third largest lake in Central Europe is a popular travel destination where opportunities for boating, hiking and water sports abound. A cycle path that runs along the perimeter of the lake offers a memorable biking experience. One of Europe’s most picturesque boat cruises begins on the Swiss side of the lake at Kreuzlingen. Stops along the way include the medieval towns of Stein am Rhein and Schaffhausen.

10. Bachalpsee

Bachalpsee

Also known as Bachse, Bachalpsee is located above the resort town of Grindelwald in the canton of Berne. The hike up to the small-sized lake from the popular ski resort takes around 1.5 hours. Views of the surrounding glaciers, mountains and meadows make the trek well worth the effort. Don’t be surprised if the scenery looks a bit familiar. The region around Grindelwald has provided a backdrop for several famous movies, including the view of Alderaan in the Star Wars film “Revenge of the Sith.”

9. Blausee

Blausee

dreamstime/© Akulamatiau

Located in the Kander River valley, Blausee is a small lake that’s big on charm. Fed by subterranean springs, the lake is named after its deep blue water. Legend has it that the lake got its color from a blue-eyed maiden who died of a broken heart. The picturesque lake is situated in a lush green forest in the middle of the Blausee Nature Park. While the Blue Lake has been a popular destination for centuries, it retains a feeling of peace and solitude. Fishing, hiking and picnicking are favorite pastimes. If you simply want to unwind, a hotel on the shore of the lake features a full-service spa.

8. Lake Zurich

Lake Zurich

dreamstime/© Digitalpress

With its northern section jutting into the Switzerland’s largest city, Lake Zurich is one of the easiest lakes in the country to access. Adventures on the water begin with a boat cruise that takes you past Zurich’s architectural wonders into the countryside. Glide past storybook villages to the town of Rapperswil where you can stroll along a lakeside promenade, ramble through a medieval castle and explore more than 600 varieties of roses in the public gardens. With a chapel that dates to the 7th century, the nearby island Ufenau is worth visiting too.

7. Walensee

Walensee

dreamstime/© Polina Ryazantseva

One of the larger lakes in Switzerland, Walensee is located within the area known as “Heidiland,” the region that inspired Swiss writer Johanna Spyri’s famous Heidi stories. Scattered across the steep vertical cliffs framing lake are a series of quaint villages, spa towns and ski resorts. Each offers breathtaking views of the lake below. Lake Walen is a great spot for a variety of outdoor activities, from boating and hiking to downhill skiing. For fans of the Heidi books, a visit to the tourist attraction Heididorf in nearby Maienfeld is sure to delight.

6. Oeschinensee

Oeschinensee

Situated above the resort village of Kandersteg, Oeschinensee is a high-altitude lake that attracts visitors in every season. A gondola ride from Kandersteg provides easy access to the large alpine lake. Summer and winter, Lake Oeschinen boasts an array of unique experiences. In warm weather, a ride on a long slide winding through the mountainous landscape offers an adrenaline-fueled thrill. Rowboat rentals are readily available for on-the-water fun. Ice fishing, tobogganing and skating are popular pastimes when the lake freezes over, which generally occurs from December to May.

5. Lake Brienz

Lake Brienz

dreamstime/© Travelpeter

One of Switzerland’s most beautiful lakes, Lake Brienz is known for its setting and spectacular turquoise-blue water. Surrounded by soaring mountains, the lake is best experienced by boat. Passenger ships have operated on Lake Brienz since 1839, providing regular service to shoreline locations, including the resort town of Interlaken. Hiking from the lake to the Geissbach Falls is another popular activity. A funicular railway takes you up the final stretch, landing you on the grounds of the historic Grand Hotel Geissbach.

4. Lake Lugano

Lake Lugano

dreamstime/© Seawhisper

Straddling the border between Switzerland and Italy, Lake Lugano offers visitors a multicultural holiday experience. This large, branching lake boasts spectacular views from every angle. A great way to take it all in is with a ride up the rack railway from the village of Capolago to the top of Monte Generoso. From the Renaissance church in Morcote to the Hermann Hesse Museum in Montagnola, lakeside towns offer unique insights into the region’s rich history.

3. Lake Thun

Lake Thun

Separated from neighboring Lake Brienz by a small sliver of land, Lake Thun offers numerous sightseeing activities, from medieval churches and castles to natural wonders. Oberhofen on the northeast shore is dominated by a 13th-century castle overhanging the lake. On the opposite side lies pretty Spiez with its own castle and Romanesque church. Near the Beatushohlen-Sundlauenen ferry terminal at the south end of the lake are the St. Beatus Caves where you can view with stalagmites, stalactites and waterfalls.

2. Lake Geneva

Lake Geneva

The largest lake in Switzerland, Lake Geneva shares its many attractions with neighboring France. Situated at the northern side of the Alps, the crescent-shaped lake is a favorite holiday spot for the rich and famous. Luxury shops line the cobblestone streets of Geneva, and yachts float serenely on the lake’s waters. A scenic cruise around the lake takes you past lakeshore castles and hillside vineyards. Opportunities for outdoor activities draw visitors to Lake Geneva too. Ski resorts and mountainous hiking trails are less than an hour’s drive away from the shoreline.

1. Lake Lucerne

the most beautiful lake in Switzerland

Switzerland’s fourth largest lake, Lake Lucerne is a study in contrasts. Though the winding body of water is surrounded by the Alps, the climate is generally mild. When wreathed in fog, the lake can take on a forbidding atmosphere, yet its one of the most popular travel destinations in Switzerland. Numerous hotels and resorts dot the shores. Breathtaking landscapes explain the appeal of lovely Lake Lucerne. In addition to boating, hiking and cycling, popular activities include visits to the meadow of the Rutli, the legendary site of the founding of Swiss independence.

Living For The Weekend Becomes A Sign Of Job Burnout

Burnout is a real occupational hazard, and it does not disappear when the workweek is done. The tired, snappy, apathetic employee at the office is the same person who still holds those grudges at home.

According to the World Health Organisation’s International Classification of Diseases, the main criteria for burnout isn’t necessarily being overworked. It can also come from being under-challenged. Burnout is chronic workplace stress that can result in feelings of being drained and being increasingly disengaged and cynical about your work.

When you are experiencing burnout from the stress of your job, you can forget what time off is supposed to feel like. You can even develop bad habits on the weekend that are making you feel even more drained and overwhelmed on Monday morning.

Psychologists and career experts shared weekend habits that can contribute to burnout and offered solutions to combat it.

You live too much for the weekend.

There’s a difference between having something to look forward to on your days off and having that be the only part of the week you live for. That’s when this all-or-nothing thinking can be a sign of underlying burnout. “When people say, ‘I hate Mondays,’ or ‘Thank God it’s Friday,’ these are cute little sayings, but what you’re telling yourself is, ’80% of my life sucks,’” said clinical psychologist Ryan Howes.

“When people split their week up and start thinking of work as bad and the weekend as all good, that contributes to the problem,” Howes said. “They spend all weekend dreading going back to work on Monday and griping and complaining about it.”

Solution: Bring your weekend into your week, and find engagement elsewhere. “If your weekends are filled with connecting with friends and getting some rest and going on little adventures, fantastic. How can you make that part of your workweek?” Howes said. Examples Howes offered are getting breakfast with a non-work friend or going to a bookstore on your lunch break.

When you feel like your job isn’t challenging enough and you’re burned out from being under-challenged, you can also find fulfilment elsewhere, said Melody Wilding, a licensed social worker and executive coach. “That weekend time can be really valuable for starting a side hustle or volunteering or doing an artistic project. Something that makes you feel more engaged,” she said.

When your work is draining the life out of you, “people have to feed their soul,” said Adriana Alejandre, a licensed marriage and family therapist. She said that surrounding yourself with people who are funny can be helpful and that trying something new can invigorate curiosity.

You can’t stop thinking and venting about work.

Constantly complaining about your terrible colleagues and your overbearing boss on the weekend can feel like a stress release in the moment, but in the long-run, this rumination can make you feel even worse.

When you can’t get the feelings off your chest and keep expressing these negative emotions, Howes said, “you’re not venting, you’re ruminating, you’re dwelling on it, you’re holding a grudge, and that means that the venting isn’t effective.”

Solution: Gain self-awareness and reframe your thinking. “What can I do about this?” is a reframing question Howes said employees can ask themselves to redirect their complaining energy into something productive. “Venting should be the beginning of a problem-solving process, not an end to itself,” he said.

Wilding said a “brain-dumping” ritual of using reflective questions to think about your workweek can provide you the necessary closure to move on to your weekend. “I find a lot of people crash into the weekend and they don’t really have this time to decompress,” Wilding said.

Wilding added that some questions you can ask yourself for this ritual are ones that help you reflect on what did go well, such as, “What did I accomplish this week? Where did I make progress? What would I like to improve?” or ones that have you looking ahead, like, “How can I learn from this going forward?”

By giving yourself emotional and mental closure, you don’t let your work thoughts “leak over and be this pervasive thing that haunts you all weekend,” Wilding said.

You’re completely checked out, even in your free time.

When you’re experiencing burnout, your tunnel vision of work, work, work can lead to trouble engaging in the world outside of it on the weekends.

“I see a lot of times where people are so overwhelmed with the sheer amount of life things they have to do or want to do that they just check out over the weekend, so they’re not even spending that time in a restorative way,” Wilding said. “They’re sort of just numbing out with Netflix or bottomless brunches and things like that to escape everything and avoid it.”

Solution: Be intentional. This doesn’t mean you can’t relax on your couch and watch movies, but be thoughtful about this plan. “It’s fine if you’re going in for a Netflix binge for the right reasons, and you know what you want to get out of it,” Wilding said. “As long as it’s a personal choice. But if your reasons are, ‘I just want to turn everything off, I just want to go into my cave and hide from the world,’ then it’s not with the healthiest intentions.”

Technology controls you and not the other way around.

When your phone is nearby, you can feel like you are on-call to your boss, even when you’re officially not. You may even find yourself checking email apps and work notifications mindlessly to check in.

First, recognise where this need to be available may be coming from. “Usually, that’s all based in fear. That’s why it’s stressful, because they’re afraid. ‘I’m afraid I’m going to miss out on something. I’m afraid I’m going to get behind. I’m afraid I’m going to come back and be unprepared,’” Howes said.

Solution: Create boundaries about when you’re available, and share those expectations. If you are driven to stay on-call by a fearful urge of “what if they need me?” self-reflect on how this thinking can perpetuate the burnout cycle. “If they’ve always depended on you and if you reply to them or engage with them on your time off, you’re enabling them to continue relying on you. Fighting against that anxiety is really important,” Alejandre said.

Even if you need to be reachable, you can be intentional about how much work you allow to take up your weekend, Wilding suggested. “Yes, you need to be reachable and you need to put parameters on that,” she said.

Once you make boundaries for yourself, you can share what your parameters are to others. “Be clear around your working hours, when you will be available, when you won’t be available, and the timeframe in which you’ll get back to someone,” Wilding said.

Burnout is not always your problem, but you should feel empowered to change what you can.

Of course, some of the contributing factors of burnout ― demanding bosses, unreasonable deadlines ― are outside of your control. But this can also be a signal that you need to change what is not working. When you trace your burnout to a systemic toxic source, you need to decide whether staying at this job outweighs what it is doing to your mental health. You may need to have a conversation with your boss about work expectations or get real about your career priorities.

But in the meantime, reclaiming your weekend is possible. But it does take work to cure the stresses of work.

Here’s how hibernating squirrels live for months without water

Thirteen-lined ground squirrel (Ictidomys tridecemlineatus) in prairie, Iowa, USA.

As the weather cools, one species of squirrel in the U.S. Midwest is gearing up for one of the most intense naps in the animal kingdom. For up to 8 months, the tiny mammals won’t eat or drink anything at all—and now scientists know how they do it.

Most squirrels don’t hibernate—instead, they stash food for the cold season and spend the winter snug in their nests. Not the 13-lined ground squirrel (Ictidomys tridecemlineatus), whose heart rate, metabolism, and body temperature dramatically plummet during their long rest—similar to bears, woodchucks, and other hibernating animals.

To find out how the squirrels suppress their thirst—a powerful force that could potentially wake them up—researchers measured the blood fluid, or serum, of dozens of squirrels, divided into three groups: those that were still active, those that were in a sleep-of-the-dead hibernation state called torpor, and those that were still hibernating, but in a drowsy in-between state.

Generally, a high serum concentration makes animals, including humans, feel thirsty.

The sleeping squirrels’ serum concentration was low, preventing them from waking up for a drink. Even when researchers roused the torpid squirrels, they wouldn’t drink a drop—until the team artificially increased the concentration of their blood serum.Next, the researchers wanted to know how the squirrels’ blood concentration dropped so low. Perhaps the squirrels drank a lot of water prehibernation to dilute their blood, the researchers thought. But when they filmed squirrels preparing for their winter snooze, they found the animals actually drank less water than they normally did.Instead, chemical tests revealed the squirrels regulate their blood concentration by removing electrolytes like sodium and other chemicals like glucose and urea and storing them elsewhere in the body (possibly in the bladder), the researchers reported last month in Current Biology.

The finding could also explain how other hibernating animals stay hydrated.This new knowledge might one day help humans with conditions such as diabetes, or astronauts who have launched on long space flights. Unfortunately, even if people can figure out how to drop their serum concentrations, it’s unlikely they’ll ever be as cute as sleeping squirrels.

Astronomers spot the filaments of gas that feed the galaxies

According to the prevailing theory of cosmology, every galaxy lies embedded in a vast network of filaments and sheets of hydrogen gas. But seeing those filaments has remained difficult because they are so wispy and diffuse. Now, an international team of astronomers has spotted two such strands in an ancient cluster of galaxies. The observation bolsters cosmologists’ prevailing theory, which holds that only about 15% of matter is ordinary matter, whereas the rest is mysterious dark matter that interacts only through gravity.

The standard theory says that as the universe evolved, dark matter coalesced to form clumps and strands in a vast “cosmic web.” Ordinary hydrogen gas collected in the clumps to form stars and flowed along the filaments to feed the growing galaxies. Astronomers have seen how the gravity of the web’s filaments distort the images of more distant galaxies, making them align slightly, like fish swimming in a school. Other scientists have detected huge intergalactic clouds of hydrogen by noting how they absorb light from very distant, bright galaxies called quasars. But researchers hadn’t been able to see the streams of gas themselves or tie them to the galaxies they feed.

Now, a team led by Hideki Umehata, an astronomer with the Japanese research agency RIKEN and the University of Tokyo, has peered out into space and back in time to trace two enormous filaments of hydrogen (above) in a cluster of galaxies as it appeared just 2 billion years after the big bang, they report today in Science. That gas was heated by the two dozen galaxies in the cluster and radiated at a particular wavelength. The researchers spied that glow with the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope on Cerro Paranal in northern Chile, and even correlated the distribution of the gas with the galaxies lighting it up. The observation may be just the first thread in a much longer story, as researchers hope to see such filaments in other, dimmer clusters.

Windborne mosquitoes may carry malaria hundreds of kilometers

Conventional scientific wisdom has long held that mosquitoes have a limited range: They fly low to the ground and typically travel less than 5 kilometers during their brief lifetimes. Now, researchers have turned that wisdom on its head. In the Sahel, the semidesert region just south of the Sahara Desert, malaria-bearing mosquitoes are borne on winds that allow them to travel hundreds of kilometers—and as high as 290 meters above the ground—in a single night.

The findings, published today, help explain why mosquito populations can surge so suddenly—and mysteriously—in the Sahel. They also have big implications for efforts to eliminate malaria from entire countries or regions. Long-distance travel by mosquitoes could increase the risk of malaria reintroduction after it has been eliminated in a particular place. Mosquito flights could also aid the spread of insecticide-resistant mosquitoes and drug-resistant parasites.

“This is simply amazing and completely groundbreaking. This study is imaginative and unprecedented, completely changing our understanding of malaria vector ecology and gene flow,” says Gerry Killeen, a mosquito ecologist at the Ifakara Health Institute in Tanzania and the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine in the United Kingdom, who was not involved with the project. “I’ll never look at my data in quite the same way!”

Researchers from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) in Bethesda, Maryland, the University of Bamako, and elsewhere had been studying mosquito ecology in four villages in central Mali for 10 years. In 2014, they published a population dynamics study, also in Nature, containing strong evidence that at least one malaria-carrying mosquito species is a long-distance traveler, abandoning the Sahel during the dry season.Spurred by this discovery, NIAID mosquito ecologist Tovi Lehmann and his team went hunting. They used helium balloons to hoist vertical sticky nets between 40 meters and 290 meters above the ground in the four villages on 617 different nights between 2013 and 2015.

They captured 461,000 insects including 2748 mosquitoes, 235 of which were Anopheles, the genus that carries malaria parasites.The mosquito harvest grew larger with the height of the sticky nets, suggesting the insects may migrate at even higher altitudes. More than 80% of the captured mosquitoes were female, the sex that bites people and spreads malaria. And of these, 90% had taken a human blood meal before traveling, meaning they could have been exposed to malaria parasites.

The scientists weren’t sure where the mosquitoes came from or how far they had traveled. But they used meteorological modeling tools to calculate possible travel trajectories, taking into account wind direction and speed. Assuming the insects ascend on their own, before being borne along on the wind, a mosquito might travel as far as 295 kilometers in a single, 9-hour nocturnal journey, they report today.The scale of the migrations is “massive,” the authors conclude: They estimate that each year, more than 50 million mosquitoes capable of carrying malaria traversed an imaginary 100-kilometer line perpendicular to the prevailing wind in the study region.

Although the team hoisted its nets from March to November, they caught mosquitoes only between the wet season months of July and November, with peak captures between August and October. This offers an answer to a long-standing riddle: How can mosquito populations persist in the Sahel? The researchers say the seasonal pattern of high-altitude winds could transport the insects from wetter sites to the south, where mosquitoes can live year-round, and return them to those sites during the Sahel’s dry season, when the prevailing winds blow in the other direction.

The scientists did not find malaria parasites in a single mosquito, however. That’s not so strange, they say, because they captured only 235 Anopheles mosquitoes, and studies suggest mosquito infection rates in the region are between 0.1% and 5%. Although the study does suggest malaria parasites are transported during long-distance air travel, researchers “didn’t show it directly,” says Nora Besansky, who studies the genomics of malaria-transmitting mosquitoes at the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana. Further studies may find what the researchers missed or find that infected mosquitoes are somehow unable to migrate long distances, she speculates. Either way, she adds, the paper is “transformative.”Lehmann himself notes that the implications go beyond malaria control. He says there’s a “high probability” that migrating mosquitoes carry with them other important pathogens, such as the virus that causes Rift Valley fever.

Alessandra della Torre of Sapienza University of Rome, who studies how mosquito genetics and ecology affect malaria in sub-Saharan Africa, agrees. “This is a breakthrough paper with critical public health implications,” she says. The scientists, she adds, “performed a study which nobody else thought could be performed to test a working hypothesis that nobody else dared to make.”

Are these cruise ships really seven of the world’s great places to visit?

If you’re a fan of cruising, new ships keep rolling out with bigger and better amenities. But would you include any on a list of the world’s greatest places? Time magazine did. It named seven ships in its second annual list of 100 Great Places to Visit last week.

Ships such as Norwegian Joy, which frequently visits the Port of Los Angeles, joined a diverse array of places that includes California’s Hearst Castle in San Simeon, Raffles hotel in Singapore, and the Dark Sky Sanctuary in the Pitcairn Islands in the Southern Pacific.

Southern California places named to the list include two new destinations, Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge at Disneyland and Arts District Firehouse Hotel, Los Angeles.

To compile the list, Time requested nominations across a variety of categories from its editors and correspondents as well as industry experts. Cruise ships that made the cut are:

Celebrity Edge

Celebrity Edge made its debut in December 2018 and was instantly a high-seas hit for Celebrity Cruises and its corporate parent, Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. There are plenty of wow factors packed into its 1,004-foot length, including unique indoor-outdoor balconies and a high-tech cantilevered “Magic Carpet” that reaches heights of 13 stories above sea level. The $1-billion vessel is Celebrity’s first in six years and is the initial vessel of four scheduled to launch through 2022.

Norwegian Joy

Norwegian Joy

This fun-and-games ship was renovated this year at a cost of $50 million and occasionally sails from the Port of Los Angeles to the Mexican Riviera. The 3,883-passenger Norwegian Joy is a sister ship to Norwegian Bliss, which also sails from Los Angeles to Mexico. Both ships feature a two-level racetrack, mini-golf, laser tag, aqua parks and the Galaxy Pavilion, offering an immersive, virtual reality experience.

Guntu

This 266-foot Japanese floating hotel looks nothing like the other ships on this list. Guntuis small and has 19 rooms, a sushi bar, spa and sauna and explores the Seto Inland Sea of Japan. Rates start at $3,510 per person for two nights and include 10 different itineraries with a range of immersive activities including fishing excursions and temple visits.

AmaMagna

Twice as wide as traditional river cruise ships, the new AmaMagna has been called a game-changer because of its innovative design. More than 50% of its cabins are suites and it has five bars, four unique dining areas and a variety of leisure activities. The AmaWaterways’ ship was christened in July and sails on the Danube. Passengers can swim in a large heated pool and warm up in a whirlpool.

Ecoventura Theory

Explore the Galapagos Islands on Ecoventura Theory, a cushy 20-passenger yacht that’s owned and operated by Ecoventura, a family-owned and operated company based in Ecuador. The ship, the only one in the Galapagos to secure a Relais & Chateaux affiliation, offers seven-night and two-week itineraries that allow guests to explore the Galapagos Islands slowly.

American Song

American Cruise Lines has a fleet of 12 ships roaming U.S. waters and prides itself on offering passengers gracious hospitality. Its newest ship, American Song, is the first in its new “modern riverboat series,” which focuses on putting a contemporary spin on traditional river cruising. The five-deck-high, 190-passenger American Song looks nothing like European riverboats and has staterooms that are more spacious than those on most other U.S. steamboats and paddlewheelers.

Seabourn Ovation

Seabourn Cruise Line is known for luxury vessels that offer a private club atmosphere. The company’s fifth ship, the 604-passenger Seabourn Ovation, has its own concierge and the Retreat, 15 private, living-room-like cabanas with flat-screen TVs and a personalized, fully-stocked refrigerator. The ship’s small size allows it to stop at exotic ports not reached by larger vessels.

U.S. authorities seek access to Facebook encrypted messages

U.S. Atty. Gen. William Barr and other U.S., U.K. and Australian officials are pressing Facebook Inc. to give authorities a way to read encrypted messages sent by users, reigniting tensions between tech companies and law enforcement.

Facebook’s WhatsApp already has end-to-end encryption, meaning that even Facebook cannot read the text of messages. Facebook plans to extend that protection to Messenger and Instagram Direct — but the officials will ask Facebook to hold off in an open letter to Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg. A copy of the letter, dated Friday, was obtained by the Associated Press.

“Companies should not deliberately design their systems to preclude any form of access to content, even for preventing or investigating the most serious crimes,” the letter says.

While law enforcement wants a way to read messages that’s analogous to wiretaps for phone calls, security experts say giving police such access makes messaging insecure for everyone.

The letter is yet another salvo in the Justice Department’s continuing effort to push technology companies to provide law enforcement with access to encrypted devices and applications during investigations.

Former FBI Director James B. Comey championed the need for law enforcement to find a workaround to encrypted devices and communications. He led a highly publicized push to gain access to an iPhone belonging to a perpetrator of a 2015 terrorist shooting attack in San Bernardino that killed 14 people.

Apple Inc. resisted such efforts and went to court over the FBI’s demand that Apple let the FBI disable security measures that prevent attempts to guess the phone’s passcode. Although the FBI wanted this capability just for the single case, Apple CEO Tim Cook argued that the technique could then be used again on a number of devices and make iPhone users more vulnerable to spies and cyberthieves. The FBI relented after it found another way of getting into the San Bernardino shooter’s phone.

Barr will make the request to Facebook in a letter with U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan, U.K. Home Secretary Priti Patel and Australia Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton. BuzzFeed News reported on the letter earlier.

The growing use of end-to-end encrypted communications has been coined by the Justice Department as the “going dark” problem.

At a cybersecurity conference this summer, Barr gave lengthy comments on what he described as a dangerous increase in device encryption. He specifically detailed the use of WhatsApp group chat by a drug cartel to coordinate the murders of Mexico-based police officials.

Facebook said Thursday that people have the right to have a private conversation online and that companies already can respond to government agencies when they receive valid legal requests. “We strongly oppose government attempts to build back doors because they would undermine the privacy and security of people everywhere,“ Facebook spokesman Joe Osborne said in a statement.

In announcing plans in March to expand encryption, Zuckerberg acknowledged that the privacy protection it affords extends to “the privacy of people doing bad things.” He said Facebook was working on better ways to detect patterns of bad behavior, without seeing contents of messages.

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