Intelligent life in the universe may be extremely rare — we should look for it anyway

Intelligent life may be extremely rare in our universe, according to Princeton University Astrophysical Sciences Professor Ed Turner.

This view is not surprising, since intelligence is also rare on Earth, so extending this proposition to cosmic scales seems plausible. Turner made the case about how special we might be at a recent Galileo Project conference. I could not resist asking him, “Do these arguments make you religious?”

There are two ways to interpret our existence as sentient beings. The materialistic view considers consciousness as an emergent phenomenon out of the initial soup of chemicals that pervaded early Earth. It took 4.5 billion years for natural selection to make Homo Sapiens a few million years ago, and within a billion years from now the sun will boil off all liquid water on Earth.

With this perspective in mind, our existence may have been replicated repeatedly on other planets over the past 13.8 billion years since the Big Bang. Keep in mind that the number of times the dice was rolled in the form of an Earth-size planet in the habitable zone around a sun-like star, is at least 10 to the power of 31, the number of habitable planets in the spatial region that extends 4,000 times beyond the horizon of the observable universe, the minimum volume where such planets are expected to exist. The principle of mediocrity echoes the Copernican principle, namely that the Earth is not at the center of the universe and that we, as observers, are not privileged. Intelligence emerged in the last fifth of the lifetime of Earth as a habitable planet, but a factor of five is not necessarily making us rare given that most stars formed billions of years before the sun.

Just as with composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart who died prematurely just before reaching a young age of 36 years, the most advanced extraterrestrial civilizations may have died by the time we reach their technological lifespan and attempt to reproduce their astonishing accomplishments. Searching for their radio signals — echoing our own technological baby steps, would resemble an unrealistic attempt to reach Mozart over the phone after his death. Instead, we should seek the relics these civilizations left behind, like the musical notes of Mozart.

On the other side of the argument, the “Rare Earth hypothesis” lists many unlikely astrophysical events and circumstances that were needed for terrestrial life to exist. This hypothesis makes us feel special. But it also brings home a sense of responsibility. If we are cosmically rare, we must guarantee our long-term survival. Toward that goal, we may wish to spread copies of our precious existence elsewhere in the solar system or the Milky Way galaxy, so that our existence will not be vulnerable to a single-planet catastrophe.

What is the relevance of whether we are mediocre or special? It’s a scientific search for the relics of extraterrestrial technological civilizations.

As anyone in the dating business knows, finding a match requires dedicated efforts and resources. Believing that we are unique, removes the wind behind the sails of the search. But without searching, we will never know if we are truly rare. Scientific evidence is under no obligation to conform with our misconceptions, especially if those are driven by an unsubstantiated sense of privilege. Scientific inquiry stems from our willingness to accept evidence that violates our prior beliefs. It is our obligation to our self-assigned title of an “intelligent civilization,” that makes us adapt to agnostic observations of reality rather than surrender to an exaggerated sense of self-importance.

The traditional Search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI) approach of seeking radio signals is now complemented by the Galileo Project at Harvard, which I lead, the first privately-funded scientific research program in search for objects near Earth that may have originated from an extraterrestrial technological civilization. Finding even a single extraterrestrial artifact would be sufficient to settle the debate about our intellectual status in the cosmos. Finding no such object after an exhaustive search would set limits on the technological capabilities or motivations of anyone else out there.

The search for the unknown resonates with spirituality and not just materialism, because we never know what we might find. Currently, there is no business plan associated with the search for other civilizations, but one can imagine huge profits from importing unfamiliar technologies to Earth. Our culture could also benefit greatly from new scientific knowledge, but like with dating opportunities — we must first invest major efforts and resources in the search.

At the conference, Turner warned that the Galileo Project might find nothing.

In my view, in pursuing the search, at least we know that we have tried. Whatever we find, learning from experience provides a sense of purpose or meaning to our life.

We need a diverse group of skeptics and advocates in the search for possible extraterrestrial civilizations so that when they all agree, the evidence collected has a robust interpretation. This is the trademark of the scientific method.

Avi Loeb is the head of the Galileo Project, founding director of Harvard University’s – Black Hole Initiative, director of the Institute for Theory and Computation at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, and the former chair of the astronomy department at Harvard University (2011-2020). He chairs the advisory board for the Breakthrough Starshot project, and he is a former member of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology and a former chair of the Board on Physics and Astronomy of the National Academies. He is the bestselling author of “Extraterrestrial: The First Sign of Intelligent Life Beyond Earth” and a co-author of the textbook “Life in the Cosmos,” both published in 2021.

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Navy recovers F/A-18 that fell into Mediterranean during heavy weather

An F/A-18 fighter jet that was blown off the deck of the aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman into the Mediterranean Sea during bad weather last month has been recovered, the Navy announced Monday. 

The more than 32,000-pound F/A-18E Super Hornet, which costs roughly $50 million, was recovered from a depth of 9,500 feet, according to a Navy statement

A team of U.S. 6th Fleet, Task Force 68, Naval Strike Wing Atlantic and Naval Sea Systems Command retrieved the aircraft last Wednesday using a remote-operated vehicle that placed a special line on the jet. 

A crane lifting hook attached to a ship was then lowered to the seafloor and connected to the rigging, allowing it to lift the aircraft to the surface and hoist it onboard. 

The last time the Navy used such a method was in March when it recovered an F-35C fighter jet that fell into the South China Sea in January after it crashed on the USS Carl Vinson.  

The Navy recovered the F/A-18 27 days after it was swept off the deck of the Truman on July 8 as the ship was conducting a resupply mission in unexpected heavy weather. 

The incident is highly unusual as the Navy has methods in place to withstand heavy weather and prevent such mishaps, including chaining down aircraft. 

It was not clear if such methods were used at the time of the accident, and the service did not release the exact location where the jet was lost or recovered. 

The aircraft was delivered to an unnamed, nearby military installation to be prepared for transport to the United States, according to the Navy.    

An investigation into how the aircraft was first lost has been launched.

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Federal agencies must recalibrate to fight today’s health challenges

COVID-19, monkeypox and infant formula shortages are just a few of the public health challenges the federal government has faced over the last several months and years. Despite the federal response to these challenges, criticism of agencies such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration have come from both sides of the aisle during both the Trump and Biden administrations.

Recently, several recommendations have been proposed to optimize the role of federal agencies; however, many of these may carry unintended consequences. It is vital for any reforms to prioritize enhancing leadership and coordination across the federal bureaucracy while not eliminating critical missions and roles. 

First, reports of an internal review at the CDC, prompted by its response to COVID-19, have brought to light a number of concerns such as a rigid financial structure, lack of authority to collect public health data and excessively lengthy review processes for scientific guidance. The CDC has also been criticized during the pandemic for falling short in communicating its scientific guidance in a way that considers real-world implications. Potential solutions to address these issues include requiring Senate confirmation of the CDC director to increase accountability, providing the CDC with authority to collect core public health data and identifying ways to quickly reallocate funding in an emergency.

One idea that should not be considered, however, is to drop “prevention” from the CDC’s name and to jettison its focus on noninfectious diseases in order to make it solely an infectious diseases response agency. As we know, the vast majority of deaths in America stem from preventable chronic diseases and 90 percent of the nation’s $4.1 trillion in annual health care expenditures are for people with chronic and mental health conditions. Not only is the CDC’s mission central to promote health and prevent illness broadly, but its work also ensures Americans are more resilient to emergencies such as COVID-19. A recent study estimated that two-thirds of COVID-19 hospitalizations were attributable to obesity, hypertension, diabetes and heart failure — all preventable chronic diseases.

Second, the FDA is reportedly reorganizing its food safety program after the nationwide infant formula shortage and investigations into its inability to ensure the safety of produce, baby food and water. Solutions voiced at a recent U.S. Senate hearing include a new leadership structure unifying food programs, new models for public-private sector collaborations and additional resources to hire and retain staff.

An idea that should not be considered is taking “food” out of the FDA’s mission, which for nearly a century has included the monitoring of food safety, to create a new agency (and thereby likely a new silo). Instead, ensuring the FDA begins to prioritize not only food safety but also healthier food is a better choice. With respect to the latter, aggressively tackling excessive sodium and added sugars while defining the term “healthy” on food labeling should be top priorities for the agency, as poor diet is now the nation’s leading risk factor for mortality, having surpassed smoking. Along with tobacco, which the FDA also regulates, the agency needs to fulfill its mission first and foremost as a public health agency regulating these two leading risk factors of disease.

Third, Congress created the position and office of the Assistant Secretary of Preparedness and Response (ASPR) at the Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) over 15 years ago to support the nation’s response to public health threats. However, HHS secretaries have not always empowered the ASPR to act on their behalf nor provide clear direction to HHS agencies. The Biden administration has proposed to transition ASPR from an office supporting the secretary to an agency on par with the CDC, FDA, and others but this doesn’t solve the lack of coordination, and alternatively, risks creating yet another silo.

A better idea would be for Congress and the HHS secretary to clarify and strengthen ASPR’s leadership roles and responsibilities during a federal response to a pandemic, a recommendation recently put forth by the Bipartisan Policy Center’s (BPC) Future of Health Task Force. Enhancing the office’s hiring and contracting authorities should also be included. BPC’s task force also recommended coupling ASPR’s leadership within HHS with the creation of a new White House deputy national security advisor for pandemic and biothreats preparedness to coordinate, direct and hold all federal departments and agencies accountable for all biodefense preparedness and operational response efforts.

Finally, one policy objective that should be pursued, particularly given our experience with COVID-19, is to strengthen our nation’s public health infrastructure such that it has the capabilities to respond to a broad range of challenges. This requires sustainable long-term investments in states and localities in addition to renewed federal leadership.

To this point, a recommendation by the Commonwealth Fund Commission on a National Public Health System to establish a position at HHS, such as an undersecretary for Public Health, should be favorably considered. This position would help oversee and coordinate the development of a national public health system with federal agencies, states, localities, tribes and territories. Given the urgency of ensuring programmatic alignment and budgetary transparency, the commission recommended that HHS, under existing statutory authority, could reconfigure and support the position of the assistant secretary for health to serve in this role right now.

As we approach midterm elections and the 118th Congress in 2023, it is likely that there will be increasing calls for reform and government oversight of the nation’s federal public health structure. It is important that proposals be scrutinized, not only on their merits but also for unintended consequences. While considering reorganization or reallocation of duties, the federal government should focus on strengthening its leadership ability to respond to all public health challenges, emergent and long-standing, so that we can achieve a healthier nation.

Anand Parekh, M.D., M.P.H., is chief medical advisor at the Bipartisan Policy Center and former deputy assistant secretary of health at the Department of Health and Human Services.

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CNN’s Chris Wallace: Democrats appear set to tell Biden ‘enjoy your retirement’ in 2024

Chris Wallace thinks that President Biden might not wind up as Democrats’ choice to run for president in 2024, underscoring a sentiment that has been simmering among some members of the party and media pundits in recent weeks.

“Remember, in the CNN poll of polls, I think it’s 75 percent of Democrats say they would like to see another Democratic nominee for president in 2024. You know, and we’ve seen this in businesses, that, you know, ‘Thank you very much for your service. Here’s the gold watch. Enjoy your retirement,’” Wallace said on “At This Hour” Monday morning.

The former Fox News anchor, who was hired by CNN last year to join its since-shuttered streaming service, acknowledged Biden’s recent legislative wins “after a lot of stalemate” and dreary approval ratings.

Those victories on climate change, health care and tax reform will be successful in “changing the narrative,” around his presidency, Wallace said.

“Whether or not a large percentage of that 75 percent, three-quarters of Democrats are going to say, ‘You know what, I’m excited by the idea of a guy who on next Inauguration Day would be 82 running for election again’ … I’m not so sure about that,” Wallace said.

Wallace’s comments come just days after and op-ed from columnist Maureen Dowd published in The New York Times suggesting Biden should ride “the crest of success” into a political retirement without a second term.

“The country really needs to dodge a comeback by Trump or the rise of the odious Ron DeSantis. There is a growing sense in the Democratic Party and in America that this will require new blood,” Dowd wrote. “If the president made his plans clear now, it would give Democrats a chance to sort through their meh field and leave time for a fresh, inspiring candidate to emerge.”

White House officials have said Biden intends to run for president again in 2024, but a number of Democratic allies have declined to say publicly whether he should.

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Jihadists are on the rise across Africa — The US and its allies must remain vigilant

A deadly assault on Mali’s largest military base. Suicide bombings in Somalia. A massive armed prison break in Nigeria. Though these events happened hundreds of miles apart from each other, they’re all related –– because they’re all part of the rising wave of Islamic extremism in Africa. 

The American public’s attention may have shifted away from radical Islamic terrorists, but that doesn’t mean jihadists have stopped sowing death and destruction. Nor did the recent death of Al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri end the terrorist threat. On the contrary, extremists continue to spread instability and chaos across the globe. 

Al-Qaeda affiliates in Africa’s Sahel region pose some of the greatest dangers. In the past 15 years, groups like Al-Shabaab and Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) have increased their attacks tenfold. Today they stand toe-to-toe with African military forces and are drawing ever closer to realizing their dreams of creating Islamic states rooted in Sharia law.  

Al-Qaeda affiliates are particularly gaining ground in Mali, especially as France withdraws its forces in response to the military coup in Bamako. The jihadists are already turning the country into a launching pad for attacks throughout the region, and Al-Qaeda’s leadership is thrilled at the prospect of additional victories. Before his death, al-Zawahiri praised African extremists for writing “an epic chapter in the war annals of Muslim history” and promoted them as an “example, worthy of emulation, for…Muslims the world over.” 

These groups’ goals aren’t limited to Africa. They are part of the same network responsible for killing thousands of Americans, in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, in the attacks on U.S. embassies in 1998, in the bombing of the U.S.S. Cole in 2000, and on 9/11. It is clear they intend to target the U.S. again — and with our southern border out of control due to the Biden administration’s failures, they have a ready way to infiltrate our country

That’s why we can’t afford to let Islamic extremists overtake Africa. Fortunately, Western forces are the most effective counter-terrorists on the continent. It was the U.S. military that removed Algerian Al-Qaeda leader Mokhtar Belmokhtar in 2015, and it was a French strike that killed AQIM emir Mohammad Droukdel in 2020. We must continue to replicate those efforts.  

In addition, the U.S. must address structural challenges and instabilities in Africa that breed extremism, including poverty and economic stagnation. Local governments also face a growing famine caused by Vladimir Putin’s war on Ukraine, from which jihadists only stand to gain. Through effective and responsible foreign assistance, we can aid development and combat corruption that saps local governments’ ability to fight terrorists. 

Our European allies share the burden of threats from terrorism, and their robust involvement in countering those threats is critical. The U.S. should work closely with our European partners and encourage their further engagement. A united Western front will show resolve and increase our capacity to disrupt and defeat Al-Qaeda. It will also promote stability in Africa and reduce the risk of mass migration and refugee flows from the continent.

Further gains for African terrorists will mean terrible suffering for the people of Mali, Somalia, Nigeria, and more, and greater danger of attacks targeting the U.S. and our allies. The West must stay vigilant against this growing threat and work together to combat it. 

Rubio is the senior senator from Florida and vice chairman of the Select Committee on Intelligence and a senior member of the Committee on Foreign Relations.

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Amnesty says it stands by report on Ukraine military that sparked ‘distress and anger’

Amnesty International said it is standing by its recent findings that the Ukrainian military put civilians at risk by operating out of schools and hospitals, but the group on Sunday sought to clarify its report to appease an uproar from Ukrainian officials and Western diplomats.

The report, published on Thursday, concluded that Ukrainian forces operated in close proximity to civilians, putting them at higher risk for Russian attacks. The head of the group’s Ukraine chapter resigned the following day, saying she and other local staffers had opposed the report’s publication.

“Amnesty International’s priority in this and in any conflict is ensuring that civilians are protected; indeed, this was our sole objective when releasing this latest piece of research,” the group said in a statement. “While we fully stand by our findings, we regret the pain caused and wish to clarify a few crucial points.”

Beyond drawing anger from Ukrainian leaders and others in the West, who argued the report unfairly blamed Ukraine for Russia’s tactics, Russian state-sponsored media and top officials quoted Amnesty’s findings to support Moscow’s argument that it was only launching strikes on military targets.

Amnesty’s new statement notes the group documented instances of Ukrainian forces locating themselves right next to where civilians were living in all 19 towns and villages the group visited between April and July, arguing that international humanitarian law requires all parties to avoid doing so to the maximum extent feasible.

“This does not mean that Amnesty International holds Ukrainian forces responsible for violations committed by Russian forces, nor that the Ukrainian military is not taking adequate precautions elsewhere in the country,” the group said.

“We must be very clear: Nothing we documented Ukrainian forces doing in any way justifies Russian violations,” the statement continues. “Russia alone is responsible for the violations it has committed against Ukrainian civilians.”

The group also noted its criticism of Moscow since the war’s start. Amnesty previously argued Russia has committed war crimes in Ukraine and has documented Moscow’s use of cluster munitions, arbitrary executions and torture.

“Amnesty’s work over the last six months and our multiple briefings and reports on Russia’s violations and war crimes reflect their scale and the gravity of their impact on civilians,” the group said on Sunday.

Amnesty also reiterated that it had reached out to the Ukrainian government prior to publishing the findings but did not hear back.

“Amnesty International is not attempting to give the Ukrainian military detailed instructions regarding how they should operate – but we call on the relevant authorities to abide by their international humanitarian obligations in full,” the group said.

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How states can fight back against the climate emergency

California is on fire. In Florida, the ocean is expected to rise another six inches in the next 15 years, destroying countless homes and lives. And in the Midwest, more frequent heatwaves have led to drought, reduced crop yields and the death of thousands of livestock

Climate change is not on the horizon; it is already here. And it is impacting American lives every day. The most important tools we have to address the growing concerns around climate change are knowledge, education and preparedness — all of which can be fostered and advanced through the creation of viable green career pathways. Armed with these tools, we can ensure that all Americans are well-informed and well-prepared to tackle this once-in-a-lifetime challenge.

More than 80 percent of parents and teachers support teaching about climate change and its impact in schools. Unfortunately, little time is being spent in the classroom discussing the topic, and many teachers do not have access to the necessary resources and professional development to effectively teach it. This is why state and local dollars should be allocated for providing resources and professional development opportunities to educators around climate change — particularly as new content standards, such as the Next Generation Science Standards become more popular. Of course, education alone won’t be enough to fix our warming planet — tackling climate change must become a national priority.

My home state of Iowa understands the power of investing in green energy and renewable energy jobs. The Hawkeye state is the largest producer of green energy in the United States, producing over 58 percent of its electricity from primarily wind turbines. In 2019, these turbines provided over $69 million in lease payments to Iowa landowners and produced more than $61 million in taxes for the state and local governments, while simultaneously reducing carbon dioxide emissions equal to 2.7 million cars.

Iowa’s “green economy” currently employs over 13,000 workers, and is expected to grow nearly 20 percent in the next five years. Thus, the economic argument for addressing global warming is clear: Climate change education and green career pathways benefit state bottom lines. However, growing our workforce to meet the rising demand for renewable energy will require laser-like focus and a national commitment to addressing the impacts of climate change.

Investment and alignment at every educational level will be critical for providing green industries with a highly skilled workforce pipeline, as many require career-specific competencies such as renewable energy, energy efficiency, green manufacturing and conservation. Career and technical education programs and community college systems are uniquely positioned to help students enter these careers.

In North Carolina, the state’s Clean Energy Youth Apprenticeship Program provides high school and community college students with opportunities for on-the-job training, necessary coursework and workforce internships to enter in-demand green careers. And in Iowa, community colleges, often in partnership with energy manufacturers, are offering wind energy-specific programs such as degrees and certifications in turbine technology, sustainable energy technology, and applied engineering technology — wind turbines. State and local leaders must think critically about the industries that are growing in their region, and then develop programs to support students with the resources to enter or reskill into those industries. For instance, nearly 420,000 potential workers in Iowa, from a variety of industries such as transportation, retail and construction, could be easily reskilled into green jobs.

As the former governor of Iowa and a former high school educator who, today, consults clients who are involved in renewable energy and infrastructure initiatives, I understand just how substantial the benefits of investing in renewable and green energy industries can be, not only for our planet but for the state. During my time in office, we were the only state to have its entire bipartisan congressional delegation vote in favor of wind production tax credits. Perhaps it is time for leaders across the country, regardless of party, to rally around climate change initiatives and green energy. Just look at what it did for Iowa — these credits saved Iowa taxpayers and businesses money while incentivizing job creation, particularly in rural communities, where the majority of wind farms are located. Today, these Iowa communities continue to thrive thanks to our over $20 billion historic investment in renewable energy, while unfortunately other communities across the country who have doubled down on fossil fuels continue to struggle.

Climate change can be a highly contentious and political issue that arguably poses the most significant threat to the next generation of Americans. But it is also a threat that, with proper preparation, investment and bipartisan support, we can face head-on. 

As a former educator, I understand that one of our most effective tools in the battle against climate change is our schools. By equipping millions of teachers and young people, who are already passionate about this issue, with the skills, knowledge and information necessary to address climate change, and through the creation of clear, accessible green career pathways, we may be able to stem the growing tide and ensure our children and grandchildren have a healthy and safe planet for millennia to come.

Chet Culver is the founder of the Chet Culver Group, a renewable energy and infrastructure consultancy. He was the governor of Iowa from 2007 to 2011.  

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Pentagon announces additional $1B in lethal aid to Ukraine

The United States has greenlit the largest military assistance package to Ukraine thus far, preparing to send $1 billion in ammunition for advanced rocket systems, vehicles and explosives to help the country beat back the Russian invasion.    

The new assistance package will include ammunition for High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS), as well as 75,000 rounds of 155mm artillery ammunition and 50 armored medical treatment vehicles, according to a Pentagon statement released Monday.  

“It is the largest single drawdown of U.S. arms and equipment utilizing this authority, and this package provides a significant amount of additional ammunition, weapons, and equipment – the types of which the Ukrainian people are using so effectively to defend their country,” according to the statement 

The U.S. government has now approved nearly $10 billion in security assistance for Ukraine over the course of 18 packages since August 2021. 

The latest weapons tranche coincides with a newly announced $4.5 billion in humanitarian aid for the Ukrainian government, the U.S. Treasury Department announced Monday. That funding will be given to Ukraine in batches, beginning with a $3 billion disbursement this month. 

The administration has periodically released assistance to the Ukrainians since Russian launched its attack in late February. The last military assistance package, totaling $550 million, was announced Aug. 1 and included ammunition for HIMARS, a rocket system that allows Ukrainian forces to strike targets from longer distances. 

The latest lethal aid package will also include 20 120mm mortar systems and 20,000 rounds of 120mm mortar ammunition; munitions for National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile Systems (NASAMS); 1,000 Javelin and hundreds of AT4 anti-armor systems; claymore anti-personnel munitions; C-4 explosives, demolition munitions, and demolition equipment; and medical supplies, according to the Pentagon. 

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Treasury sanctions crypto ‘mixer’ for aiding hackers laundering illicit funds

The Treasury Department imposed sanctions on Monday against cryptocurrency mixer Tornado Cash for helping hackers launder more than $7 billion worth of virtual currency since it launched in 2019.

According to the department, Tornado Cash has allowed cyber groups, including North Korean-backed hackers, to use its platform to launder the proceeds of cybercrimes. 

For instance, the Lazarus Group, a state-sponsored hacking group tied to North Korea, used Tornado Cash to steal over $455 million in cryptocurrency, the largest known virtual currency heist to date, the department said. 

In April, the FBI accused the Lazarus Group of stealing about $620 million in cryptocurrency from the virtual game Axie Infinity. 

The FBI said at the time that it would “continue to expose and combat the DPRK’s use of illicit activities — including cybercrime and cryptocurrency theft — to generate revenue for the regime.” The U.S. sanctioned the group in 2019.

The Treasury Department also disclosed that Tornado Cash was used to launder more than $96 million of illicit cyber funds originating from the Harmony bridge heist, and at least $7.8 million from the Nomad crypto theft.

“Despite public assurances otherwise, Tornado Cash has repeatedly failed to impose effective controls designed to stop it from laundering funds for malicious cyber actors on a regular basis and without basic measures to address its risks,” said Brian Nelson, Treasury’s undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence.

The software code that runs Tornado Cash services is distributed across the Ethereum network, so it does not have servers based in one particular country. Treasury’s sanctions entry forbids US entities from transactions linked to multiple Ethereum addresses linked to Tornado Cash.

The Hill reached out to Tornado Cash for comment.

Treasury sanctioned another crypto mixer,, in May, alleging that it was being used to launder money from hackers backed by North Korea’s government.

In June, California-based crypto firm Harmony, said that hackers stole $100 million in cryptocurrency from one of its blockchain bridges. The firm said at the time that it was partnering with law enforcement to try to track down the hackers and retrieve the stolen funds.

Nomad, another California-based crypto firm, suffered similar losses earlier this month. The company lost $190 million worth of digital currency. 

The State Department also weighed in on the sanctions against Tornado Cash.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement on Monday that the U.S. will continue to go after cryptocurrency mixers that allow cyber criminals to launder illicit funds.

“The United States will not hesitate to use its authorities against malicious cyber actors, to expose, disrupt, and promote accountability for perpetrators and enablers of criminal activities,” Blinken said.

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National average price of gas expected to fall below $4: GasBuddy

The national average price for a gallon of gas fell to $4.01 on Monday and is expected to imminently fall below $4, according to estimates by GasBuddy.

Gas prices have fallen for eight consecutive weeks after briefly peaking at a record high of more than $5 a gallon in mid-June, according to the gas price tracker’s analysis. AAA reported on Monday a nationwide average of $4.059 per gallon.

“The national average is poised to fall back under $4 per gallon as early as today as we see the decline in gas prices enter its eighth straight week,” Patrick De Haan, GasBuddy’s head of petroleum analysis, said in a statement. 

“By the end of the week, one hundred thousand stations will be at $3.99 or less,” he said.

But average gas prices still vary widely by state.

Texas on Monday reported the lowest average gas price at $3.51, closely followed by Oklahoma and South Carolina.

Gas prices in two western states — California and Hawaii — still remain above $5.30, followed by Alaska at $4.97.

De Haan suggested the prospects are for gas prices to continue to fall, though he suggested hurricane season could lead to disruptions.

“The groundwork is laid for a ninth week of decline, with areas of the West Coast soon ditching the $5 per gallon average,” said De Haan. “While I’m upbeat the drop can continue for another couple weeks, we’re starting to see some activity in the tropics, which may increase risk of potential disruption.”

GasBuddy’s analysis indicates diesel prices are also dropping, falling 13.1 cents in the last week and now standing at an average of $5.14 per gallon. De Haan said that average will likely soon dip below $5.

AAA attributed some of the recent drop to falling gas demand, citing recent Energy Information Administration (EIA) data showing gas demand last week was in line with levels at the end of July 2020, when pandemic restrictions kept many drivers off the roads.

Higher gas prices have been a major contributor to inflation, which hit 9.1 percent for the year ending in June, the largest price increase in roughly 40 years.

President Biden authorized releases from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve beginning in March to decrease prices at the pump following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

After promising to make him a pariah, Biden also met with Saudi Arabia Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman last month in an apparent attempt for the country to increase its oil production.

The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), which includes Saudi Arabia, and other oil producers on Wednesday agreed to boost production in September but at a much slower pace than in previous months.

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