Epic storm. The massive winter storm dubbed “Hercules” by weather forecasters laid siege to the Northeast overnight, killing nine and choking roads, airports, and railroads with a thick blanket of snow. As much as 9 inches fell on New York City, where snowplows chugged through Times Square. But Massachusetts bore the brunt of the storm, which dumped 23 inches in Boxford. Boston’s Logan International Airport and New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport closed late Thursday and did not expect to reopen until this afternoon. So far, U.S. airlines have canceled 3,800 flights. Schools throughout the area also closed.
Quantum leak. The National Security Agency (NSA) is trying to build a super computer that can break nearly every kind of encryption used to keep secret data secret. The “quantum computer” would be exponentially faster than regular computers and is part of a $79.7 million government research program, according to new documents released by former security analyst Edward Snowden. The new revelations came out the same day The New York Times called for clemency for the former CIA contractor now hiding in Russia and probably didn’t help his chances of getting a government reprieve. But according to the documents, the NSA doesn’t have that much to hide. Civilian labs and research groups also are working to build a super computer, and the government apparently isn’t any closer to success than they are.
The ice thickens. The Chinese icebreaking ship sent to rescue another vessel stuck in thick Antarctic ice may now need its own rescue. The Chinese ship came to the aid of a Russian research vessel carrying tourists and scientists that got stuck on Christmas Eve. When the icebreaker failed to free the Russian ship, it sent a helicopter to carry its passengers to safety on an Australian icebreaker. The Aurora Australis was on its way home today when the Chinese vessel signaled it might also be stuck. The ships’ predicament can be blamed on global warming, or a lack thereof. A new report released today shows a dramatic slowdown in the rate at which one of the Antarctic’s largest glaciers is melting. Pine Island Glacier makes up about 10 percent of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet. Researchers had blamed global warming for shrinking the ice sheet, but its decline came to an abrupt halt in 2012 thanks to a La Niña weather event. “This enormous, and unexpected, variability contradicts the widespread view that a simple and steady ocean warming in the region is eroding the West Antarctic Ice Sheet,” study co-author Pierre Dutrieux, of the British Antarctic Survey, said in a statement. Scientists on the Russian research vessel, which is still stuck in the ice, couldn’t agree more. They visited the ice cap to study the effects of global warming. And now they have a first hand account.
Bush improving. Former first lady Barbara Bush remains hospitalized in Houston with a respiratory-related condition. Bush, 88, was admitted to the hospital on Monday but her prolonged stay is just a result of doctors being cautious, a family spokesman said. Bush and her husband, former President George H. W. Bush, will celebrate their 69th wedding anniversary Monday.
Live long and prosper. A city councilman in North Carolina made news this week when he submitted his resignation letter in Klingon, the fictional language spoken in the Star Trek TV series and movies. “Folks don’t know what to think of me half the time,” said David Waddell, so “I might as well have one last laugh.” But Indian Trail’s mayor, Michael Alvarez, wasn’t amused, calling Waddell’s letter “childish” and “an embarrassment.” Sure, but it was funny.