Alaska putting together pieces after massive earthquake
By MARK THIESSEN
Monday, December 3
ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — The supply chain of food and other goods delivered to the Port of Anchorage from the Lower 48 has not been disrupted by the powerful earthquake that caused widespread damage to roads in the Anchorage area.
“The ships are coming in on schedule, the supply lines are at this point uninterrupted,” Anchorage Mayor Ethan Berkowitz said Sunday at a news conference.
The magnitude 7.0 earthquake rattled the state’s largest city early Friday morning swaying buildings and fraying nerves. There were no reports of deaths, serious injuries or structural damage to buildings.
Roads, however, took the brunt of the damage, especially the scenic Glenn Highway, the closest thing Alaska has to an interstate and links the state’s largest city to suburban communities to the north.
Traffic has been snarled since the quake. Delays came as drivers were diverted around road damage on temporary detours or the highway was reduced to one lane while crews try to reconstruct the roadway after the temblor caused sinkholes and buckled pavement.
Employees who live north of Anchorage are being encouraged to take Monday off or work from home if possible to reduce traffic. Gov. Bill Walker, who leaves office at noon Monday, gave state workers in the Anchorage area the day off to help reduce the number of cars on the highway. Schools have been closed until Dec. 10, which should also reduce traffic.
Walker said he would not be traveling to the rural village of Noorvik for the swearing in of Gov.-elect Mike Dunleavy on Monday but instead would remain in Anchorage to keep working on recovery efforts.
Roads aren’t the only transportation worry in Alaska.
About 90 percent of all the goods sold in Alaska are delivered to the Port of Anchorage, where officials have completed a preliminary damage assessment.
“Everything looked good,” Municipal Manager Bill Falsey said. “There was some structural concerns with some of the trestles. We have got some things on a watch list but nothing that should impede operations.”
Two major cargo companies operate at the port. One was offloading barges as normal on Sunday, and the other company is scheduled to offload barges Monday after successfully testing their crane system.
Jet fuel was also being unloaded at another terminal Sunday.
“We’re estimating we have on hand now automotive gasoline supplies that will be good for at least three weeks, and that the next shipment comes in on Dec. 7,” he said. “We’re not expecting any disruptions to those supply chains.”
Officials on Saturday encouraged Alaskans not to make a run on grocery stores, saying there was no reason to hoard food.
However, at least one grocery store Sunday morning had no milk and little to no bread, bottled water or bananas.
Berkowitz said the stories he’s heard, particularly from grocery stores, in the immediate aftermath of the earthquake was of cooperation and sharing.
“Even when people were initially concerned, people who might have been reaching for the last item, looked over and saw someone else and said, ‘Yes, we are sharing this with you,’” he said.
He also touted Alaskans’ longstanding tradition to stock up for long winters.
“I would encourage people, once the ships get in, once things settle back down, make sure you have the emergency preparations, the emergency kits that you should have,” he said.
Schools will be closed for the week so damage assessments can be conducted on about 4,000 classrooms in 86 schools and four other facilities, comprising 8 million square feet, to make sure they are safe for staff and students, Superintendent Dr. Deena Bishop said Sunday.
Scientist at work: To take atomic-scale pictures of tiny crystals, use a huge, kilometer-long synchrotron
December 3, 2018
Author: Kerry Rippy, Ph.D. Candidate in Chemistry, Colorado State University
Disclosure statement: Kerry Rippy does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.
Partners: Colorado State University provides funding as a member of The Conversation US.
It’s 4 a.m., and I’ve been up for about 20 hours straight. A loud alarm is blaring, accompanied by red strobe lights flashing. A stern voice announces, “Searching station B. Exit immediately.” It feels like an emergency, but it’s not. In fact, the alarm has already gone off 60 or 70 times today. It is a warning, letting everyone in the vicinity know I’m about to blast a high-powered X-ray beam into a small room full of electronic equipment and plumes of vaporizing liquid nitrogen.
In the center of this room, which is called station B, I have placed a crystal no thicker than a human hair on the tip of a tiny glass fiber. I have prepared dozens of these crystals, and am attempting to analyze all of them.
These crystals are made of organic semiconducting materials, which are used to make computer chips, LED lights, smartphone screens and solar panels. I want to find out precisely where each atom inside the crystals is located, how densely packed they are and how they interact with each other. This information will help me predict how well electricity will flow through them.
To see these atoms and determine their structure, I need the help of a synchrotron, which is a massive scientific instrument containing a kilometer-long loop of electrons zooming around at near the speed of light. I also need a microscope, a gyroscope, liquid nitrogen, a bit of luck, a gifted colleague and a tricycle.
Getting the crystal in place
The first step of this experiment involves placing the super-tiny crystals on the tip of the glass fiber. I use a needle to scrape a pile of them together onto a glass slide and put them under a microscope. The crystals are beautiful – colorful and faceted like little gemstones. I often find myself transfixed, staring with sleep-deprived eyes into the microscope, and refocusing my gaze before painstakingly coaxing one onto the tip of a glass fiber.
Once I’ve gotten the crystal attached to the fiber, I begin the often frustrating task of centering the crystal on the tip of a gyroscope inside station B. This device will spin the crystal around, slowly and continuously, allowing me to get X-ray images of it from all sides.
As it spins, liquid nitrogen vapor is used to cool it down: Even at room temperature, atoms vibrate back and forth, making it hard to get clear images of them. Cooling the crystal to minus 196 degrees Celsius, the temperature of liquid nitrogen, makes the atoms stop moving so much.
Once I have the crystal centered and cooled, I close off station B, and from a computer control hub outside of it, blast the sample with X-rays. The resulting image, called a diffraction pattern, is displayed as bright spots on an orange background.
What I am doing is not very different from taking photographs with a camera and a flash. I’m about to send light rays at an object and record how the light bounces off it. But I can’t use visible light to photograph atoms – they’re too small, and the wavelengths of light in the visible part of the spectrum are too big. X-rays have shorter wavelengths, so they will diffract, or bounce off atoms.
However, unlike with a camera, diffracted X-rays can’t be focused with a simple lens. Instead of a photograph-like image, the data I collect are an unfocused pattern of where the X-rays went after they bounced off the atoms in my crystal. A full set of data about one crystal is made up of these images taken from every angle all around the crystal as the gyroscope spins it.
My colleague, Nicholas DeWeerd, sits nearby, analyzing data sets I’ve already collected. He has managed to ignore the blaring alarms and flashing lights for hours, staring at diffraction images on his screen to, in effect, turn the X-ray images from all sides of the crystal into a picture of the atoms inside the crystal itself.
In years past, this process might have taken years of careful calculations done by hand, but now he uses computer modeling to put all the pieces together. He is our research group’s unofficial expert at this part of the puzzle, and he loves it. “It’s like Christmas!” I hear him mutter, as he flips through twinkling images of diffraction patterns.
I smile at the enthusiasm he’s managed to maintain so late into the night, as I fire up the synchotron to get my pictures of the crystal perched in station B. I hold my breath as diffraction patterns from the first few angles pop up on the screen. Not all crystals diffract, even if I’ve set everything up perfectly. Often that’s because each crystal is made up of lots of even smaller crystals stuck together, or crystals containing too many impurities to form a repeating crystalline pattern that we can mathematically solve.
If this one doesn’t deliver clear images, I’ll have to start over and set up another. Luckily, in this case, the first few images that pop up show bright, clear diffraction spots. I smile and sit back to collect the rest of the data set. Now as the gyroscope whirls and the X-ray beam blasts the sample, I have a few minutes to relax.
I would drink some coffee to stay alert, but my hands are already shaking from caffeine overload. Instead, I call over to Nick: “I’m gonna take a lap.” I walk over to a group of tricycles sitting nearby. Normally used just to get around the large building containing the synchrotron, I find them equally helpful for a desperate attempt to wake up with some exercise.
As I ride, I think about the crystal mounted on the gyroscope. I’ve spent months synthesizing it, and soon I’ll have a picture of it. With the picture, I’ll gain understanding of whether the modifications that I have made to it, which make it slightly different than other materials I have made in the past, have improved it at all. If I see evidence of better packing or increased intermolecular interactions, that could mean the molecule is a good candidate for testing in electronic devices.
Exhausted, but happy because I’m collecting useful data, I slowly pedal around the loop, noting that the synchrotron is in high demand. When the beamline is running, it is used 24/7, which is why I’m working through the night. I was lucky to get a time slot at all. At other stations, other researchers like me are working late into the night.
Damaging police report looms over Netanyahu re-election bid
By JOSEF FEDERMAN
Monday, December 3
JERUSALEM (AP) — Israeli police on Sunday recommended indicting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on bribery charges, adding to a growing collection of legal troubles that have clouded the longtime leader’s prospects for pursuing re-election next year.
Netanyahu denied the latest allegations. But his fate now lies in the hands of his attorney general, who will decide in the coming months whether the prime minister should stand trial on a host of corruption allegations that could play a central role in next year’s election campaign.
In a scathing attack on police investigators in a speech on Sunday, Netanyahu called the investigation a “witch hunt” that was “tainted from the start.”
“Israel is a law-abiding country. And in a law-abiding country police recommendations have no legal weight,” he told his Likud party at a Hannukah candle-lighting ceremony. Most of his half-hour holiday speech went to dismissing the allegations, and the boisterous crowd of hundreds of party members rallied behind him.
Sunday’s decision followed a lengthy investigation into a case involving Netanyahu’s relationship with Shaul Elovitch, the controlling shareholder of Israel’s telecom giant Bezeq.
Police said they found sufficient evidence that confidants of Netanyahu promoted regulatory changes worth hundreds of millions of dollars to Bezeq. In exchange, they believe Netanyahu used his connections with Elovitch to receive positive press coverage on Bezeq’s popular news site Walla.
In a statement, police said the investigation concluded that Netanyahu and Elovitch engaged in a “bribe-based relationship.”
Police said they believed there was sufficient evidence to charge Netanyahu and his wife Sara with accepting bribes, fraud and breach of trust. They also recommended charges be brought against Elovitch, members of his family and members of his Bezeq management team.
Police have already recommended indicting Netanyahu on corruption charges in two other cases. One involves accepting gifts from billionaire friends, and the second revolves around alleged offers of advantageous legislation for a major newspaper in return for favorable coverage.
The prime minister has denied any wrongdoing.
“The police recommendations regarding me and my wife don’t surprise anyone,” Netanyahu said in a statement. “These recommendations were decided upon and leaked even before the investigation began.”
The police recommendations do not have any immediate impact on Netanyahu. They go to his hand-picked attorney general, Avichai Mandelblit, who will review the material and make the final decision on whether to press charges.
That decision will have a great impact on Netanyahu’s future. Israeli law is unclear about whether an indicted prime minister would have to step down. But at the minimum, a trial would put great pressure on Netanyahu, who has been in office for nearly a decade, to step aside.
Israel must hold its next election by November 2019. But Israeli governments rarely last their full terms.
Netanyahu last month was nearly forced to call elections after a key partner withdrew from his coalition to protest a cease-fire with the Hamas militant group in Gaza. Netanyahu now leads a coalition with a razor-thin 61 seat majority in the 120-seat parliament.
With his Likud Party firmly behind him and his remaining coalition partners remaining silent, there does not seem to be any immediate threat to the government.
Mandelblit’s office has not said when he will issue his decision. Most analysts expect him to take several months to review the material.
Reuven Hazan, a political scientist at Hebrew University, said Netanyahu will likely try to push forward elections before Mandelblit decides whether to indict. Netanyahu holds a solid lead in all opinion polls, and a victory would make it more difficult for Mandelblit to indict and potentially force out a newly re-elected leader.
“He’ll send a message to the attorney general that everyone knew about these three police reports and they still voted for him and want him in power,” Hazan said. That would force the attorney general “to seriously reconsider his decision,” he said.
The Bezeq case, known as Case 4000, is the most serious of which Netanyahu has been accused. Two of his top confidants have turned state witnesses and are believed to have provided police with incriminating evidence.
Netanyahu held the government’s communications portfolio until last year and oversaw regulation in the field. Former journalists at the Walla news site have attested to being pressured to refrain from negative reporting of Netanyahu.
Opposition lawmakers called on Netanyahu to resign.
“The prime minister has no moral mandate to keep his seat and must resign today. Israel must go to elections,” said Tamar Zandberg, head of the dovish Meretz party.
But Netanyahu’s colleagues in the ruling Likud Party lined up behind him, attacking outgoing Police Commissioner Roni Alsheikh for releasing the recommendation on his last day on the job.
The appointment of Alsheikh’s potential successor is being held up after a government-appointed committee rejected his candidacy, and Netanyahu has repeatedly criticized the police as the investigations into his behavior have mounted.
Micky Zohar, a Likud lawmaker, sarcastically called the police report Alsheikh’s “parting gift” to Netanyahu.
Netanyahu and his wife have long had reputations for being overindulgent and out of touch with common Israelis.
Sara Netanyahu went on trial in October on fraud and breach of trust charges for allegedly spending roughly $100,000 of government funds on private meals at the prime minister’s official residence, even as there was a full-time chef on staff.
In 2016, a court ruled she abused an employee and awarded the man $42,000 in damages. Other former employees have accused her of mistreatment, charges the Netanyahus have vehemently denied.