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Top News: (3/21-3/27)

Here are the top stories for this week all summarized so you can stay informed and save time!

All sources are at the end of the post.

Ketanji Brown Jackson: Key moments as Biden's Supreme Court pick quizzed:

Ketanji Brown Jackson. (Getty Images)

In a Senate Panel earlier this week Ketanji Brown Jackson, President Biden’s nomination to the Supreme Court, took questions on her career and record. Several Republicans brought Jackson’s judicial philosophy into question by accusing her of being an “activist judge” imposing her preferred view on the bench to which she responded by saying, "I am trying in every case to stay in my lane.” Some lawmakers raised concern about her providing “free legal service” to help terrorists get out of Guantanamo Bay, though she was assigned the case as a Public Defender rather than choosing to represent them. Her response to this was that ignoring the protections in the Constitution "would let the terrorists win." Jackson was asked about increasing the number of Justices on the Supreme Court but deflected the question as being a policy question for Congress. When accused by some Republicans as being “soft on crime”, she suggested having family members in law enforcement meant, “Crime and the need for law enforcement are not abstract concepts or political slogans to me.”

Putin is demanding gas importers pay Russia in rubles, twisting the West’s sanctions regime against itself:

Russian President Vladimir Putin is attempting to force the world to reengage with the Russian economy. On Wednesday, he ordered that gas contracts with "unfriendly" countries, those sanctioning Russia, be settled in rubles rather than in foreign currencies. Russia's central bank and gas suppliers like Gazprom have one week to implement the change. This is a significant change as about 58% of Gazprom's foreign gas sales were in euros and an additional 39% were in U.S. dollars in the third quarter of 2021. This may be intended as a way to put pressure on European countries, which get roughly 40% of their natural gas from Russia. The European Union has not banned Russian oil and gas, though it pledged to reduce Russian gas imports by two-thirds by the end of the year. Vinicius Romano, a senior analyst for Rystad Energy, sees this as an attempt by Putin to prop up the ruble by forcing gas buyers to pay into “the previously free-falling currency.” These payments are a lifeline for the increasingly isolated economy, allowing the ruble’s value to increase to 25% below its value before the invasion of Ukraine up from its 40% crash. This may also be an attempt to work around existing sanctions by forcing the West to work with Russian entities if it wants to maintain its imports of Russian energy. It is currently unclear whether or not this ruse will work in Russia’s favor.

Holocaust Survivors Reunite in Florida After a Labor Camp Friendship was Broken 80 Years Ago:

Sam Ron (left) and Jack Waksal (right) – Red Banyan

Those who say there’s no such thing as destiny need to meet Jack Waksal and Sam Ron, victims who met during the Holocaust, and who met again 79 years later in South Florida. Having endured slave labor shoulder to shoulder in the Pionki Labor Camp in Poland, the two were separated after Waksal escaped into the forest, and Ron was moved to a different camp that was ultimately liberated. Just teenagers at the time of their imprisonment, the two managed to both immigrate to the United States, specifically to Ohio, where they both lived for 40 years unaware of each other’s existence before eventually moving to South Florida. Neither knew the other had survived until Waksal attended a United States Holocaust Memorial Museum’s South Florida Dinner last Sunday and found his old camp comrade to be the guest speaker. Introduced by his former name of Shmuel Rakowski, Waksal felt as if he was seeing a fraternal brother. Despite living 40 miles apart, the two men are determined to keep the survivor’s flames burning and fill in the massive gap of years with life stories. Ron occasionally makes appearances at schools to teach young people about his experiences.

New Enzyme Discovery is Another Leap Towards Dissolving Plastic Waste With ‘Amazing Efficiency’:

TPDAO as seen through microscopy imaging: Credit- RITA CLARE / MONTANA STATE UNIVERSITY

Scientists who helped pioneer the use of enzymes to eat plastic have taken an important next step in developing nature-based solutions to the global plastics crisis. They have characterized an enzyme that has the remarkable capacity to break down terephthalate (TPA)—one of the chemical building blocks of polyethylene terephthalate (PET) plastic, which is used to make single-use drinks bottles, clothing, and carpets. The research was co-led by Professor Jen DuBois of Montana State University, and Professor John McGeehan from the University of Portsmouth in England. In 2018, McGeehan led the international team that engineered a natural enzyme that could break down PET plastic. The enzymes (PETase and MHETase) break the PET polymer into the chemical building blocks ethylene glycol and TPA. With more than 400 million tons of plastic waste produced each year, it is hoped this work will open the door to improve bacterial enzymes, such as TPADO.


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