Mount Everest Grows by 13 Feet

China and Nepal like to argue about numerous things, but Mount Everest’s height always inspired the greatest passions.

With the world’s tallest mountain serving as a tourism magnet, both nations took individualized measurements of Everest’s height.

China’s measurements have always been consistently lower than Nepal’s by approximately 11 feet.

In December 2020, the two countries released a joint announcement declaring that they’ve agreed upon an actual height. Mount Everest is now officially 29,032 feet high, or 8,848.6m. That means the official measurement is now 13 feet taller than China’s previous measures and about three feet taller than Nepal’s.

How Did This New Measurement Happen?

China and Nepal sent survey groups up Mount Everest from their respective sides of the mountain over the past two years. When the announcement of the height occurred, both sides pressed buttons to display the agreed-upon measurements.

Mount Everest lies on the border of China and Nepal in the Himalayas. Although the governments say that it represents their friendship, it has always been at the center of most disputes between the countries.

Some officials had concerns that the world’s tallest mountain had shrunk after the Nepal earthquake in 2015. After that event, which damaged one million structures and killed 9,000 people, it was decided that new surveys were necessary.

This research project is the culmination of one of Nepal’s and China’s most outstanding cooperative efforts. Nepal is also home to seven more of the world’s tallest 14 peaks, making it a bucket list destination for many.

When researchers first estimated Mount Everest’s height in 1856, they came to a number of 29,002 feet. That result stood until the Survey of India listed the mountain at 29,028 feet in 1954.

China’s figures were ten feet lower than Nepal’s because the government didn’t include the snow cap it felt was at the mountain’s summit.

Fauci Suggests COVID Might Be Under Control in 2021

When the first COVID-19 vaccines were distributed in the UK in December 2020, the world realized that there was a light at the end of the tunnel. All of the sacrifices made in the previous nine months seemed to be coming to an end.

Dr. Anthony Fauci has advocated for social distancing since the beginning of the pandemic. When it became clear that COVID-19 spread primarily through expelled droplets, he encouraged facial coverings.

Now, Fauci says that the pandemic can get under control by the second half of 2021 if enough people are willing to get vaccinated. That means manufacturers must make the doses widely available, which could take several months.

How to Manage COVID Before the Vaccine

Until you receive the COVID vaccine, Fauci says it is essential for you to continue proactively mitigating your exposure risks. You can accomplish that outcome by following these simple steps.

1. Limit the amount of time you spend with others outside of your household when you cannot be outside.

2. Wear a facial covering whenever you cannot be at least six feet apart from others, including outdoor venues.

3. Take care of yourself by exercising regularly and eating a healthy diet. If you have any deficiencies, they can be corrected by taking products from brands like Host Defense and Premier Research.

4. If you need to leave your home for work or essential supplies, only send one family member to acquire items. Everyone else can stay behin

5. Use your garage, mudroom, foyer, or entryway as an “airlock” to prevent COVID-19 from coming into your home. When someone returns from work or running errands, have the clothing stay in this spot, wear a facial covering upstairs, and take a shower immediately.

6. Don’t share utensils, glasses, dishes, or anything else with other family members.

The backside of 2021 is the target day for a return to normalcy. If we all do our part, Fauci believes that this timeline is realistic.

Why the Giant Ant Group IPO Was Ended

Financial technology giant Ant Group was gearing up to become the largest IPO (initial public offering) in history. The Chinese government recently proposed new micro-lending regulations that would require the company to hold more capital while making changes to its business model, lowering its potential evaluation by over $150 billion.

The regulatory changes would also make Ant Group look more like a bank instead of a financial technology company.

Alibaba owns one-third of the company, and it is under the control of founder Jack Ma. The initial public listing was expected to raise about $34.5 billion, which would have created a world-record valuation of $313 billion.

The Shanghai Stock Exchange suspended the IPO 48 hours before the listings, reporting that Ant Group was experiencing significant issues.

Were the Regulations a Targeted Effort to Stop Ant Group?

Ending the Ant Group IPO was a shocking move for the financial world. It also came only a day after Jack Ma appeared to criticize Chinese regulators for the move coming from Beijing.

The draft rules released for micro-lending could directly impact Ant Group’s operations. Its most significant revenue driver is something the company calls CreditTech.

Offered loans get independently underwritten by approximately 100 partner financial institutions. Approximately 98% of the credit balance came from this process, allowing Ant Group to consider itself a light capital operation.

The change considered by Beijing would require Ant Group to fund a minimum of 30% of each loan instead of the process followed today.

That’s why the company would need to hold more capital. Instead of being asset light, it would need to function more like a bank. That’s why the evaluation got cut by more than 50%.

Another IPO is likely to happen soon once the regulations get sorted out. Ant Group offers a unique model, a strong payments base, and access to credible e-commerce opportunities. All the company needs is more certainty.

What We Know About the Terrorist Attack in Vienna

A gunman opened fire in Vienna late in the evening on November 2. He was heavily armed, targeting individuals in the Bermuda Triangle, which is a popular nightlife area in the city.

Most people were having dinner or enjoying some drinks while getting ready for a midnight curfew. Austria had recently implemented new rules in an effort to stem the growing surge of COVID-19 cases.

It took about two days before police were confident in saying that the gunman acted alone. Four people were killed in this terrorist attack, with another 23 reportedly injured.

Police officers killed the suspect to stop the attack.

Who Was the Gunman in the Attack?

Vienna authorities called the event an Islamist terror attack. The gunman was identified as a 20-year-old who had been jailed for almost two years after trying to join the Islamic State jihadists in Syria. The individual, who we won’t name here, held Macedonian and Austrian citizenship, with a previous conviction for terrorist associations.

After searching the suspect’s home, Vienna authorities had enough evidence to arrest 14 others after the deadly plot. Swiss police apprehended two others, which officials say was necessary because they had met in person with the gunman days before.

The attacker was a regular member of a mosque in the Ottakring area that the local Muslim community disavows. It is there that the authorities believe his radicalization took place.

Although the prison system says that the attacker convinced authorities that he no longer held extremist views, the local de-radicalization programming rejected that claim because no one had ever assessed him.

The victims of the attack were a 21-year-old football player and painter; a 24-year-old student working at one of the restaurants; a 39-year-old unidentified Austrian man, and a 44-year-old woman who worked for a nearby company.

Reactions from Foreign Leaders Following the U.S. Presidential Election

When the 2020 Presidential election results made it to the media, multiple states were too close to call. Although Donald Trump was initially ahead by over 600,000 votes from the day’s tallies in Pennsylvania, the mail-in vote swung heavily in Joe Biden’s favor.

This trend happened in every potential swing state except for Arizona, where Trump received a more significant percentage of the mail-in vote.

At the end of the election, Biden would secure 306 electoral votes. That’s the same amount Trump received in the 2016 election.

The difference between the two is that Biden won the popular vote by over three percentage points.

How foreign leaders reacted to the U.S. Presidential election was quite varied.

List of Foreign Reactions to the American Election

Belarus: The government declared the American election to be a mockery of democracy. They took the opportunity to question if the OSCE would call for a revote in the United States.

Slovenia: The Prime Minister congratulated Donald Trump for winning the election on November 4. He continued to support this view, even when Biden became the projected winner on November 7.

China: The government waited until November 13 to congratulate Biden on his election victory. During a press conference, the foreign minister spoke to say that the country would “respect the choice” of the American people.

Russia: The government stated that they wouldn’t congratulate anyone until the election’s certified results become available. Vladimir Putin has said he will “respect the choice” of the American people (notice the similar comment to China’s outreach).

Brazil: Although president Jair Bolsonaro said that he would wait until any “fake votes” got taken out of the American election system, the country’s vice president had an interview on November 9 when he referred to “President Biden.”

Israel: Numerous leaders in multiple political parties reached out to the Biden-Harris campaign to congratulate them on their election victory.

Palestine: A senior official of Fatah congratulated Biden, saying “Nothing was worse than Trump’s era. His departure is a gain.”

Afghanistan: The Taliban endorsed Donald Trump in the American election. They did not accept Biden’s victory, although they later called Biden the “President-elect” and wrote a note expecting the promotion of peace.

Colombia: Instead of congratulating Biden, the country celebrated Trump’s defeat.

State of Coronavirus Globally at the Start of 2021

When the first cases of COVID-19 were announced in Washington State at the start of 2020, the idea that the world would take on two extended lockdown periods and three infection surges seemed unlikely.

What would follow would be several months of uncertainty, unemployment, and life-changing circumstances.

As the world enters 2021, hope is on the horizon. Pfizer and Moderna have developed COVID-19 vaccines with over 90% efficacy ratings, creating the idea that we can all return to some level of normal at some point during the year.

We also have several challenges to meet, which means you must still take care of your health. Having your shelves stocked with products from brands like Douglas Laboratories and Amazing Grass to keep your immune system strong can help during this historical moment.

1. Some People Can’t Take the Vaccine

Although the adverse reaction rates are low with modern vaccines, there is always the possibility of an unwanted outcome when getting this shot. Some people have allergies to the ingredients that make it challenging to receive the necessary dosage. That means the individuals in this group may need to limit their social activities until 2022 – or later.

2. Some Vaccines Require Multiple Doses

Pfizer’s vaccine offers an excellent efficacy rating, but it also requires two doses to be effective. The company reported that they have the capacity to produce 1.3 billion does in 2021. That means this product will be available to about 650 million people – a far cry from the billions globally that need it.

3. Shipping Issues with the Vaccines

Although Moderna’s vaccine doesn’t require extensive freezing arrangements, Pfizer’s must be kept at exceptionally cold levels during transport and storage. That makes the logistics of receiving one quite difficult. Although front-line workers should not have issues accessing this product, it could be problematic for the average family trying to get back to normal.

There is still a lot of work to do in 2021 to manage COVID-19. If we don’t want a repeat of 2020, it is up to all of us to be healthy, stay safe, and take care of those around us.

Three Scientists Awarded Nobel Prizes for Black Hole Research

Three scientists received the 2020 Nobel Prize in Physics for two discoveries made about black holes in our universe.

Roger Penrose received half of the prize for demonstrating how black holes could form. Andrea Ghez and Reinhard Genzel received the other half for their discovery of a supermassive object at the center of our galaxy.

The total prize awards $1.1 million to the recipient. That figure will split with half going to Penrose, one quarter to Ghez, and the remaining to Genzel.

This award makes it only the fourth time a woman has won the Nobel Prize in Physics. The other three are Marie Curie (1903), Marie Goeppert Mayer (1963), and Donna Strickland (2018).

Black Holes Come From Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity

When Einstein announced his general theory of relativity in 1915. It works to explain how we understand gravity. One of the first predictions coming from this scientific approach was the extreme option of black hole creation.

Karl Schwarzschild used Einstein’s work to show that the equations pointed out that putting too much matter and energy inside of a space not capable of managing it would collapse space-time into a singularity. That place would not hold the same physical laws as the rest of the universe.

Einstein saw that the math was correct. He also felt that nature would find ways to avoid such a problematic issue. Those hopes disappeared in 1965 with Penrose’s work on black holes.

The Penrose diagram bypasses general relativity’s mathematical complexity to make it much easier to explore the universe’s foundations. His work shows that black holes are the gateway to the literal end of time.

After making these observations, Penrose collaborated with Stephen Hawking to prove that the universe must also have a beginning event if general relativity is correct.

With these discoveries, most experts believe that Einstein’s theory will require modifications to manage extreme situations.

Democrats Push to Break Up Tech Companies

American tech companies have been under fire in recent days because of bias perceptions against conservative lawmakers. In a rare moment of solidarity, Democratic representatives are also urging changes to organizations like Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Alphabet (Google), and Twitter to prevent monopolies.

After 16 months of Congressional investigation into the issue, the official recommendation was that the firms had too much power, and it needed to be stopped to prevent future problems.

When the Democrats published their findings, the Republicans disagreed with the results. Congressman Jim Jordan said the report was partisan and advanced the proposals that would “refashion antitrust law in the vision of the far left. 

That’s after a July hearing where Jordan said, “I’ll cut right to the chase. Big tech is out to get conservatives… That’s a fact.”

What Changes Are Being Recommended to Address the Issue?

The report covers 449 pages, authored by the committee staff. It accuses the companies of charging high fees, forcing small customers into unfavorable contracts, and using acquisitions to stop rivals.

Democrats recommend using a robust enforcement protocol for the existing competitive laws to resolve these issues. They also hope to limit the areas that Big Tech can start offering products or services. By taking these steps, the goal would be to prevent an organization from operating as players in the same industries where they offer infrastructure.

Amazon is a prime example of the threat that Democratic lawmakers see from this process. It acts as a seller by producing its own branded goods while offering a marketplace for other merchants to reach out to customers.

Although the report isn’t bi-partisan, some Republicans do support some of the report’s core ideas. The most popular recommendation is to shift the burden of proof for acquisitions to become more stringent to avoid having companies buy out the competition.
With both major parties at odds with Big Tech, it is only a matter of time until changes happen. This will surely go down as one of 2020’s biggest moments. Expect to see progress on this issue in 2021.

Despite Border Closures, Many Attend Grand Magal Pilgrimages

The Grand Magal pilgrimages are a West African tradition that takes place in Touba, Senegal’s holy city, each year. Despite the threat of COVID-19 and a potential superspreader event, tens of thousands of people descended on the town to embrace their faith.

Senegal’s land borders are closed. Although fewer people showed up to attend the pilgrimage’s leading events on its first day, long lines of people still arrived for the day; facial coverings and hand sanitizer where requirements to enter.

For many of the people who came, going a year without Magal would be too much. They decided to take the physical risks to gain a potential spiritual reward.

Senegal has recorded over 15,000 cases of COVID-19, including over 300 deaths.

How to Manage COVID-19 Risks While Traveling

You can take several steps to help protect yourself when traveling, with COVID-19 still a prevalent health concern globally.

  1. When you travel, take as much food and miscellaneous supplies as you can to limit interactions with other people.
  2. Keep yourself healthy. If that means taking products from brands like Jarrow Formulas and Nature’s Way, do what it takes to give your immune system a fighting chance.
  3. Wear a mask whenever the possibility exists that you could be around others. You might be asymptomatic with a coronavirus infection, but it won’t stop you from shedding the virus so that others catch it.
  4. Stay six feet apart whenever possible.
  5. Avoid shaking hands, meeting new people, or finding yourself in unfamiliar locations without taking the personal protective gear precautions. 
  6. Many people rely on their faith to get them through challenging situations. Although prayer and fasting are essential spiritual components, they don’t replace something simple, like a face mask.

Senegal fears that a COVID-19 resurgence may occur after the Grand Magal pilgrimages. Only time will tell if enough precautions were taken.

What Does the Middle East Peace Deal Mean for Iran?

When the UAE and Israel reached a peace deal in 2020, many in the American government were quick to spin it as a victory for Middle East peace.

The agreement is rather basic. Israel receives diplomatic relations with a Middle East neighbor in exchange for postponing, not ceasing, its plans for annexing West Bank settlements.

UAE is only the third Arab country to normalize a relationship with Israel since its establishment after World War II. Although it is a step in the right direction, it only formalizes the shared security interests and economic ties the two already had.

What is the actual outcome? Iran expects to see an escalation of the cold war happening with Israel and the United States.

Iran Already Threatened UAE with Consequences

Iran called the deal with Israel a “betrayal of the Palestinian people.” With the Kushner family behind the financing of the West Bank settlements, it’s easy to see Trump’s influence within this dynamic. After backing out of the peace deal and reimposing sanctions, Iran’s government is in a challenging predicament.

UAE can route through Israel to the United States to improve its military armament. Israel already has American weapons it can use to prevent an attack. That leaves a depleted Iran desperately seeking nuclear power to have a potential counter.

Saudi Arabia no longer sees Israel as a potential threat. If anything, Middle East governments are more concerned about domestic protests about discrimination and corruption.

It is a return to the politics of Henry Kissinger. The Obama Administration wanted to hold allies in the region accountable for their faults. It was part of a non-interventionalist strategy. Trump is more accepting of the idea of being at peace with potential human rights monsters if the decision benefits the U.S. in some way.

The moves the American government is making are thrilling Israel. The choices are also pushing Europe away while Iran blusters. How long this tinderbox can keep simmering is anyone’s guess.