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Scientists on a mission to explore Thwaites, Antarctica’s ‘doomsday’ glacier

A team of scientists are sailing to “the place in the world that’s the hardest to get to” so they can better figure out how much and how fast seas will rise because of global warming eating away at Antarctica’s ice.

Thirty-two scientists on Thursday are starting a more than two-month mission aboard an American research ship to investigate the crucial area where the massive but melting Thwaites glacier faces the Amundsen Sea and may eventually lose large amounts of ice because of warm water. The Florida-sized glacier has gotten the nickname the “doomsday glacier” because of how much ice it has and how much seas could rise if it all melts — more than two feet (65 centimeters) over hundreds of years.

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Because of its importance, the United States and the United Kingdom are in the midst of a joint $50 million mission to study Thwaites, the widest glacier in the world by land and sea. Not near any of the continent’s research stations, Thwaites is on Antarctica’s western half, east of the jutting Antarctic Peninsula, which used to be the area scientists worried most about.

“Thwaites is the main reason I would say that we have so large an uncertainty in the projections of future sea level rise and that is because it’s a very remote area, difficult to reach,” Anna Wahlin, an oceanographer from the University of Gothenburg in Sweden, said Wednesday in an interview from the Research Vessel Nathaniel B. Palmer, which was scheduled to leave its port in Chile hours later. “It is configured in a way so that it’s potentially unstable. And that is why we are worried about this.”

Thwaites is putting about 50 billion tons of ice into the water a year. The British Antarctic Survey says the glacier is responsible for 4% of global sea rise, and the conditions leading to it to lose more ice are accelerating, University of Colorado ice scientist Ted Scambos said from the McMurdo land station last month.

Oregon State University ice scientist Erin Pettit said Thwaites appears to be collapsing in three ways:

— Melting from below by ocean water.

— The land part of the glacier “is losing its grip” to the place it attaches to the seabed, so a large chunk can come off into the ocean and later melt.

— The glacier’s ice shelf is breaking into hundreds of fractures like a damaged car windshield. This is what Pettit said she fears will be the most troublesome with six-mile (10-kilometer) long cracks forming in just a year.

No one has stepped foot before on the key ice-water interface at Thwaites before. In 2019, Wahlin was on a team that explored the area from a ship using a robotic ship but never went ashore.

Wahlin’s team will use two robot ships — her own large one called Ran which she used in 2019 and the more agile Boaty McBoatface, the crowdsource named drone that could go further under the area of Thwaites that protrudes over the ocean — to get under Thwaites.

The ship-bound scientists will be measuring water temperature, the sea floor and ice thickness. They’ll look at cracks in the ice, how the ice is structured and tag seals on islands off the glacier.

Thwaites “looks different from other ice shelves,” Wahlin said. “It almost looks like a jumble of icebergs that have been pressed together. So it’s increasingly clear that this is not a solid piece of ice like the other ice shelves are, nice smooth solid ice. This was much more jagged and scarred.”

Read more: Iceland’s glaciers lose some 750 km2 in 20 years due to global warming

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Lindsay Lohan celebrates birthday as married woman to Dubai resident Bader Shammas

Actress Lindsay Lohan is celebrating her 36th birthday on Saturday as a married woman.

The “Freaky Friday” star said she was the “luckiest woman in the world” in an Instagram post Friday that pictured her with financier Bader Shammas, who had been her fiance.

“I am stunned that you are my husband,” Lohan said in the post, adding that “every woman should feel like this everyday.”

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The couple had announced their engagement last November. People magazine and Entertainment Tonight confirmed there had been a wedding, but no details were offered.

While still single a few years ago, Lohan told Entertainment Tonight that she was looking for “a smart businessman” and someone who doesn’t like the spotlight. Shammas’ Instagram account is private.

The “Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen” actress and sometimes singer has worked through some sobriety issues in recent years, and has recently filmed a romantic comedy that is due to be released on Netflix later this year.

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Dutch university gets cyber ransom money back with interest

A Dutch university that fell victim to a massive ransomware attack has partly received back its stolen money, which in the meantime more than doubled in value, a news report said on Saturday.

The southern Maastricht University in 2019 was hit by a large cyberattack in which criminals used ransomware, a type of malicious software that locks valuable data and can only be accessed once the victim pays a ransom amount.

“The criminals had encrypted hundreds of Windows servers and backup systems, preventing 25,000 students and employees from accessing scientific data, library and mail,” the daily De Volkskrant said.

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The hackers demanded 200,000 euros ($208,000) in bitcoins.

“After a week the university decide to accede to the criminal gang’s demand,” the paper said.

“This was partly because personal data was in danger of being lost and students were unable to take an exam or work on their theses,” it said.

Dutch police traced part of the ransom paid to an account belonging to a money launderer in Ukraine.

Prosecutors in 2020 seized this man’s account, which contained a number of different crypto currencies including part of the ransom money paid by Maastricht.

“When, now after more than two years, it was finally possible to get that money to the Netherlands, the value had increased from 40,000 euros to half-a-million euros,” the paper said.

Maastricht University will now get the 500,000 euros ($521,000) back.

“This money will not go to a general fund, but into a fund to help financially strapped students,” Maastricht University ICT director Michiel Borgers said.

The investigation into the hackers responsible for the attack on the university is still ongoing, De Volkskrant added.

Read more:

Cyberattack hits Norway, pro-Russian hacker group fingered

Explainer: EU agrees rulebook for ‘Wild West’ crypto markets

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Singer R. Kelly sues Brooklyn jail for putting him on suicide watch

R. Kelly on Friday sued the Brooklyn jail that has housed him since his racketeering and sex crimes conviction, saying it wrongly put him on suicide watch after he received a 30-year prison sentence despite knowing he was not suicidal.

In a complaint filed in Brooklyn federal court, the 55-year-old multiplatinum R&B singer said officials at the Metropolitan Detention Center ordered the watch after his June 29 sentencing “solely for punitive purposes” and because he was a “high-profile” inmate.

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Kelly’s lawyer Jennifer Bonjean quoted a prosecutor as saying the jail’s legal counsel had told her that “per the psychology department, is on a psych alert for various reasons, such as age, crime, publicity and sentencing.” No timetable was provided.

Bonjean wasn’t satisfied with the explanation. “Simply put, MDC Brooklyn is run like a gulag,” she wrote.

Kelly said the “harsh conditions” he faced led to “severe mental distress,” and amounted to cruel and unusual punishment that violated the US Constitution’s Eighth Amendment.

He is seeking unspecified compensatory and punitive damages, though the docket suggests Kelly is seeking $100 million.

The jail did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Known for the 1996 Grammy-winning hit “I Believe I Can Fly,” Kelly was convicted last September on one count of racketeering and eight counts of violating the Mann Act, which bars transporting people across state lines for prostitution.

Prosecutors said Kelly exploited his stardom and wealth over two decades to lure women and underage girls into his orbit for sex, with the help of his entourage.

Kelly said he was also put on suicide watch after his conviction.

Ghislaine Maxwell, another inmate at the Brooklyn jail, was placed on suicide watch on June 24, four days before being sentenced to 20 years in prison for aiding financier Jeffrey Epstein’s sexual abuse of underage girls.

Maxwell’s lawyer said the British socialite had been given a “suicide smock” and deprived of clothing, toothpaste and soap though she too was not suicidal.

Friday’s filings did not say what specific conditions Kelly faced.

Kelly still faces an August trial in Chicago federal court on child pornography and obstruction charges, and various state charges in Illinois and Minnesota.

Read more:

R&B singer R. Kelly handed 30-year prison sentence for sex crimes

UK prosecutors charge actor Kevin Spacey with sex crimes

Ghislaine Maxwell handed 20-year prison sentence for sex trafficking

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