200,000 Indian Farmers March on New Delhi

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Disaffected Indian farmers have gathered en masse in and around New Delhi, protesting the enactment of agriculture reform laws and blocking highways into the city. The controversial farm reforms would deregulate the agricultural sector, allowing farmers to do business directly with buyers. Farmers are concerned that the bills will weaken protections for minimum crop prices, which have so far shielded them from corporate predatory pricing. A series of negotiations throughout the week between farmers and government officials have been unsuccessful, as the protests increasingly spread throughout India. [NYT] [By KEVIN WANG] 

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Mount Everest Official Height Increases by Two Feet

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A joint Chinese-Nepali surveying mission announced on 8 December that Mount Everest grew by more than two feet since the last official measurement in 1955. The newest measurement has the mountain standing at 8848.86 metres or 29031.7 feet, an increase of 0.86 metres or 2.8 feet. Chinese surveyors ascended the north side while the Nepalis climbed from the south, and both teams measured the height using satellite data from the peak. [NYT] [By KEVIN WANG]

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Canada becomes the third country to approve the COVID-19 vaccine

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The Pfizer and BioNTech vaccine, which has already been approved in the UK and Bahrain, has now been approved in Canada for those over 16. Although long-term effects of the vaccine have not been studied, a trial that involved 43000 participants has demonstrated 95% effectiveness and no severe effects. However, those with severe allergies have been advised not to take the vaccine as a precaution. Canada is supposed to receive 249 000 doses by the end of the month, with 20 million total purchased from Pfizer. It is planned to have all Canadians vaccinated by the end of the third quarter of 2021. First to receive it will be residents of care homes, people over 80, and front line workers. [BBC, Toronto Star] [Miranda Zhao]

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Boeing 737 Max back in the air after nearly 2 years 

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On December 9, the Boeing 737 Max was back in the air from Brazil’s Gol Airlines after nearly two years. The plane was grounded following two deadly crashes. One in March 2019, a 737 Max crashed in Ethiopia and a second crash in Indonesia involving a series of failures in October 2018. In all, the 737 Max was responsible for 346 deaths. Due to safety reasons, Gol airlines allows customers to exchange their tickets if they don’t want to fly on a 737 Max. Gol airlines is the biggest airline in Brazil and they own seven 737 Max aircrafts. The only Brazilian company to own one. Brazil lifted its restrictions on the model in November. Similar restrictions were lifted in the U.S. and Europe, where the plane is expected to come back in commercial flight. As for Canada, Transport Canada is reviewing proposed changes to the model from previous years to determine if the aircraft is safe to fly again. [CBC][By Anirudh Goel]

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SpaceX’s Prototype Starship SN8 successful but botches landing

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SpaceX’s unmanned prototype Starship SN8 was launched on 9 December in Boca Chica, Texas. The 50m tall rocket was equipped with three of SpaceX’s newest raptor engines, a nose cone, and aerodynamic surfaces. The test flight was the latest of many of SpaceX test flights. It was intended to perform numerous maneuvers, reach 41000 feet, and come back down. Many of its goals were achieved. However, the touchdown velocity was too high and the ship exploded on impact. Overall SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has deemed the test a success, posting “Mars, here we come!!” to his Twitter account. The ultimate goal is to have a reusable Starship able to carry 100 tons of people and materials off earth. [Reuters][By Miranda]

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India announces $35 billion economic stimulus package

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Once the world’s fastest growing major economy, COVID-19 devastated India. India’s economy contracted by 23.9% in the April-June quarter, its worst performance in at least 24 years. The country’s finance minister has announced a $35.14 billion package to stimulate the economy by boosting jobs, consumer demand, agriculture, manufacturing, and exports negatively impacted by COVID-19. Within the package, $121 million for development of a COVID-19 vaccine. The main goal is to attract investment and enable India to become part of a global supply change. Nearly $27 billion will be in incentives over five years to manufacturers in ten sectors, including automobiles, textiles, and pharmaceuticals. [ABC News][By Emily Ma]

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31 species now extinct, according to ICUN’s Red List of endangered species

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The International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List of Threatened Species has declared 31 animal and plant species extinct. In Lake Lanao and its outlet in the Philippines, fifteen out of seventeen freshwater fish species are extinct, with the other two critically endangered. These species were impacted by predatory introduced species, overharvesting, and destructive fishing methods. In Central America, three frog species have been declared extinct. Additionally, all species of freshwater dolphin are threatened with extinction. To help recover the species, actions are being taken to eliminate the use of gillnets (curtains of fishing net hanging in the water), reduce the number of dams in their habitat, and enforce the ban on purposely killing them. Although the outlook on twenty-five species has improved, the growing list of extinct species is a reminder that conservation must be incorporated in all sectors of the economy to efficiently combat threats. [ABC News] [By Emily Ma]