WASHINGTON — The U.S. Air Force tested Lockheed Martin’s Hypersonic Air-breathing Weapon Concept in March, but kept it secret to avoid increasing tensions with Russia. A DARPA press release said the missile was initially accelerated up to high speeds by a booster stage. It then engaged its air-breathing scramjet engine, which propelled it to a speed faster than Mach 5. The hypersonic missile maintained that speed for an extended period of time, flying higher than 65,000 feet, and traveling more than 300 nautical miles. Launched from a B-52H bomber, the missile can conduct short or no-notice strikes against time-sensitive and other critical targets. As with other hypersonic missiles, it can maneuver within the atmosphere, meaning it can fly more unpredictably than ballistic missiles. The initial secrecy around the launch comes in contrast to Russian claims of using hypersonic missiles against targets in Ukraine, but both gestures point toward a wider hypersonic arms race already ongoing. On Tuesday, it was announced that the U.S. would work with Britain and Australia in developing nuclear-capable hypersonic weapons, according to The Guardian, and this is seen as a response to developments in the area by Russia and China.
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TAIPEI, TAIWAN — Russia’s surprising struggles in Ukraine present various lessons for the world in dealing with a possible Chinese invasion of Taiwan, according to the War on the Rocks site. Firstly, Russia’s military buildup outside Ukraine demonstrates that any Chinese attack would likely be preceded by an equivalent buildup, and thus surveillance can prevent surprises. The second lesson is that a strong national identity could play a factor in creating stronger resistance than anticipated, with asymmetric guerilla tactics harnessed in a similar way. The third lesson is that while of course warfare plays out militarily, it’s also conducted economically. The fourth lesson is that refugees may well become a major consideration in any future conflict. And then, finally, the last lesson offered by War on the Rocks is that wars come with unintended consequences.
VIENNA, AUSTRIA — Humans are consuming about five grams of plastic, the equivalent to a credit card’s worth, every week, according to a new review in the Health and Exposure journal. Gut News explains that both microplastics, between 0.001 and 5 millimeters in size, and nanoplastics, less than 0.001 millimeters, enter our food chain after starting out as waste packaging. These particles can enter the body through seafood, with fish known to mistake them for food or accidentally consume them alongside other food, but they can also enter the body when we drink from plastic bottles, with people who drink 1.5 to 2 liters of water a day from these bottles taking in 90,000 plastic particles per year, while tap water drinkers take in around 40,000. The particles can trigger local inflammation and immune response, and nanoplastics in particular have been found to trigger chemical pathways involved in the formation of cancer. The presence of both types of particles in the gastrointestinal tract has also been found to change the gut microbiome composition, linking it to metabolic diseases such as diabetes, obesity and chronic liver disease.
KYIV — Roman Abramovich poisoned: explainer. Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich and two Ukrainian negotiators were allegedly poisoned after eating chocolates and drinking water during informal peace talks last month. According to The Wall Street Journal, Abramovich, Ukrainian lawmaker Rustem Umerov and another negotiator developed symptoms after a March 3 meeting in Kyiv. These included peeling skin on their faces and hands, red eyes and constant, painful watering. According to a source cited by The Guardian, Abramovich also lost his sight for several hours after the incident. The poison may have consisted of organophosphates, the base chemical in nerve agents, according to one former chemical weapons colonel cited by Marca, though investigative outlet Bellingcat said the poisoning occurred through an “undefined” chemical weapon, adding that initial symptoms abated the next morning. Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky is also known to have met with Abramovich, but was not affected, according to Bellingcat, and all of those involved have since recovered. As to the motivation behind the attack, allies of the poisoned men blamed ‘hardliners’ in Moscow, who allegedly ‘wanted to sabotage talks to end the war,’ according to The Guardian.