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US unveils its latest nuclear stealth bomber

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(Last Updated On: December 3, 2022)

America’s newest nuclear stealth bomber made its debut Friday after years of secret development, and as part of the Pentagon’s answer to rising concerns over a future conflict with China.

The B-21 Raider is the first new American bomber aircraft in more than 30 years. Almost every aspect of the program is classified, Associated Press reported.

As evening fell over the Air Force’s Plant 42 in Palmdale, California, the public got its first glimpse of the Raider in a tightly controlled ceremony. It started with a flyover of the three bombers still in service: the B-52 Stratofortress, the B-1 Lancer and the B-2 Spirit. Then the hangar doors slowly opened and the B-21 was towed partially out of the building.

“This isn’t just another airplane,” Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said. “It’s the embodiment of America’s determination to defend the republic that we all love.”

The B-21 is part of the Pentagon’s efforts to modernize all three legs of its nuclear triad, which includes silo-launched nuclear ballistic missiles and submarine-launched warheads, as it shifts from the counterterrorism campaigns of recent decades to meet China’s rapid military modernization.

China is on track to have 1,500 nuclear weapons by 2035, and its gains in hypersonics, cyber warfare and space capabilities present “the most consequential and systemic challenge to U.S. national security and the free and open international system,” the Pentagon said this week in its annual China report.

“We needed a new bomber for the 21st Century that would allow us to take on much more complicated threats, like the threats that we fear we would one day face from China, Russia, ” said Deborah Lee James, the Air Force secretary when the Raider contract was announced in 2015.

While the Raider may resemble the B-2, once you get inside, the similarities stop, said Kathy Warden, chief executive of Northrop Grumman Corp., which is building the bomber.

“The way it operates internally is extremely advanced compared to the B-2, because the technology has evolved so much in terms of the computing capability that we can now embed in the software of the B-21,” Warden said.

Other changes include advanced materials used in coatings to make the bomber harder to detect, Austin said.

“Fifty years of advances in low-observable technology have gone into this aircraft,” Austin said. “Even the most sophisticated air defense systems will struggle to detect a B-21 in the sky.”

Other advances likely include new ways to control electronic emissions, so the bomber could spoof adversary radars and disguise itself as another object, and use of new propulsion technologies, several defense analysts said.

“It is incredibly low observability,” Warden said. “You’ll hear it, but you really won’t see it.”

Six Raiders are in production. The Air Force plans to build 100 that can deploy either nuclear weapons or conventional bombs, and can be used with or without a human crew. Both the Air Force and Northrop also point to the Raider’s relatively quick development: The bomber went from contract award to debut in seven years. Other new fighter and ship programs have taken decades.

The cost of the bombers is unknown. The Air Force previously put the price at an average cost of $550 million each in 2010 dollars – roughly $753 million today — but it’s unclear how much is actually being spent. The total will depend on how many bombers the Pentagon buys.

“We will soon fly this aircraft, test it, and then move it into production. And we will build the bomber force in numbers suited to the strategic environment ahead,” Austin said.

Ellsworth Air Force Base in South Dakota will house the bomber’s first training program and squadron, though the bombers are also expected to be stationed at bases in Texas and Missouri.

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Jupiter’s moon count jumps to 92, most in solar system

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(Last Updated On: February 4, 2023)

Astronomers have discovered 12 new moons around Jupiter, putting the total count at a record-breaking 92.

That’s more than any other planet in our solar system. Saturn, the one-time leader, comes in a close second with 83 confirmed moons, AP reported. 

The Jupiter moons were added recently to a list kept by the International Astronomical Union’s Minor Planet Center, said Scott Sheppard of the Carnegie Institution, who was part of the team.

They were discovered using telescopes in Hawaii and Chile in 2021 and 2022, and their orbits were confirmed with follow-up observations.

These newest moons range in size from 0.6 miles to 2 miles (1 kilometer to 3 kilometers), according to Sheppard.

“I hope we can image one of these outer moons close-up in the near future to better determine their origins,” he said in an email Friday.

In April, the European Space Agency is sending a spacecraft to Jupiter to study the planet and some of its biggest, icy moons. And next year, NASA will launch the Europa Clipper to explore Jupiter’s moon of the same name, which could harbor an ocean beneath its frozen crust.

Sheppard — who discovered a slew of moons around Saturn a few years ago and has taken part in 70 moon discoveries so far around Jupiter — expects to keep adding to the lunar tally of both gas giants.

Jupiter and Saturn are loaded with small moons, believed to be fragments of once bigger moons that collided with one another or with comets or asteroids, Sheppard said. The same goes for Uranus and Neptune, but they’re so distant that it makes moon-spotting even harder.

For the record, Uranus has 27 confirmed moons, Neptune 14, Mars two and Earth one. Venus and Mercury come up empty.

Jupiter’s newly discovered moons have yet to be named. Sheppard said only half of them are big enough — at least 1 mile (1.5 kilometers) or so — to warrant a name.

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Apple forecasts another drop in revenue, proclaims iPhone production problems over

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(Last Updated On: February 3, 2023)

Apple Inc (AAPL.O) on Thursday forecast that revenue would fall for a second quarter in a row but that iPhone sales were likely to improve as production had returned to normal in China after COVID-related shutdowns.

While striking an optimistic tone on sales of services and iPhones, CEO Tim Cook said an uncertain economy is expected to hurt categories like gaming and digital advertising, Reuters reported on Friday.

Overall, Apple’s leaders tried to reassure investors that despite the firm being buffeted by up-and-down sales cycles for its flagship device and vulnerable to supply chain shocks, the world’s largest listed company remains on a steady – if somewhat slower – rise. And in the immediate aftermath of some of the company’s worst financial results in years, at least some investors seemed to give Cook the benefit of the doubt, imposing only modest share price declines.

For the just-ended quarter, Apple’s profits missed Wall Street expectations for the first time since 2016, dragged down by iPhone sales falling for the first time since 2020.

The stock was down about 2% after Chief Financial Officer Luca Maestri said that iPhone sales were likely to improve compared with the quarter ended Dec. 31. That did not quite erase a 3.7% gain during regular trade.

Amazon.com (AMZN.O) and Alphabet (GOOGL.O) also fell about 4% after reporting results. They also had gained during regular trade.

Apple sales fell 5% to $117.2 billion and were down in every part of the world in the quarter. Sales from each product category dropped, except for gains in services and iPads. Earnings per share were $1.88.

Analysts had expected sales of $121.1 billion and profits of $1.94 per share, according to IBES data from Refinitiv. In an interview, Cook told Reuters that the production disruptions that plagued Apple’s key quarter were now over.

“Production is now back where we want it to be,” he said.

During its fiscal first quarter ended Dec. 31, Apple faced a wave of challenges that left Wall Street expecting lower sales. Chief among those were supply chain pressures when COVID lockdowns at a production facility in Zhengzhou, China, slowed production of iPhone 14 Pro and Pro Max devices, both premium priced models that would traditionally help drive Apple’s margins higher.

Cook said the lockdowns in China created a dual challenge where both supply and demand were constrained, with greater China sales falling 7% to $23.9 billion.

But product snags are behind Apple now. “They still feel demand will be soft, but they’ve rectified production, which means that if demand does go up unexpectedly, they can ramp” to meet it, said Ben Bajarin of analyst firm Creative Strategies.

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Instagram co-founders launch news app called Artifact

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(Last Updated On: February 2, 2023)

Instagram co-founders Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger this week launched their new venture, Artifact – an app touted as a tailored news feed powered by artificial intelligence.

The co-founders, who left Facebook in 2018 amid tensions with their parent company, shared the roll out on Instagram. Krieger wrote, “Excited to announce what @kevin and I have been working on with a talented team the past year+ — Artifact, a personalized news feed driven by the latest in artificial intelligence.”

He added that while they are gradually letting people onto the app as the company scales up, people can also join a waitlist.

Working in a similar way to TikTok, according to Platformer, Artifact provides users with an initial feed of popular articles chosen from a range of publications big and small. Tapping on articles of interest will prompt Artifact to deliver similar stories in the future, in the same way that watching TikTok videos fine tunes the algorithm with each user session.

Artifact beta users are currently testing two features: One is a feed with articles posted by people you follow, along with their comments on each post; the second is a direct-message inbox where you can privately discuss articles.

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