-million-year-old track

313-million-year-old track marks found in Grand Canyon – Live Science

image of fossilized tetrapod tracks found in grand Canyon

The fossilized tetrapod tracks, which came from the Manachaka Formation.

(Image: © Stephen Rowland/National Park Service)

Some 313 million years ago, a large lizard-like creature crawled up a coastal sand dune in what is now the Grand Canyon. Some time later, a light dew wetted the tracks cementing them in place and then a wind-blown sand buried them, preserving the animal’s clawed footprints for eons.

The paleontologists who studied the trackway say they are the oldest recorded vertebrate tracks in Grand Canyon National Park. Tetrapods, or four-legged beasts, left this set of tracks, along with another set imprinted a little later in time. The second set of footprints was laid down after some sand had accumulated in the first set, and the researchers said these prints could belong to the same species. 

These ancestors of modern reptiles lived in the sand 250 million years before T. rex, and they would have walked using a highly evolved gait.

Related: Dinosaur sloshed around ancient lagoon

Allan Krill, a Norwegian geology professor, initially discovered the imprinted tracks in 2016 while leading his students along Bright Angel Trail on an annual field trip to the Grand Canyon. He noticed the fossilized footprints etched into a fallen boulder at the base of a canyon on the trail. Krill took photos of the prints and sent them to Steve Rowland, a geologist who often accompanied the Norwegian group on their trips. 

Rowland and his team determined that the track-bearing boulder fell from a nearby cliff-exposure of the Manakacha Formation. “We were able to determine that it was from that area because we studied the nature of the rock, features such as its color and grain size,” he said. Knowing the origin of the rock also allowed researchers to date the tracks.

The size of the tracks suggest the creatures would have been about the size of a modern-day chuckwalla, 15 to 30 inches (or 40 to 80 centimeters) long, the researchers said.

A surprising gait

When Rowland’s team examined the tracks, they found two surprising features.”The first is that they are the oldest known amniotes living in sand dunes,” said study co-author Steve Rowland, Emeritus Professor of Geology at the University of Nevada Las Vegas. Amniotes are animals like birds and reptiles whose eggs can survive outside of water. Earlier-evolved species such as fish and amphibians need to lay their eggs in water. “Finding these amniote tracks in what was a coastal dune means that these ancestors of modern reptiles adapted to land almost as soon as they evolved,” Rowland said.

“The second surprising thing is the arrangement of the footprints -– these tracks revealed a lateral-sequence gait,” Rowland told Live Science. If you watch your pet dog or cat, especially when they are moving slowly, you might see it use a lateral-sequence gait in which they move the right-rear leg followed by the right-front leg, and then the left-rear followed by the left-front. This sequence is more stable than the other known type of gait, called the diagonal-sequence gait, Rowland said. Humans use this diagonal type of movement, swinging our left arm forward synchronously with our right leg, and vice versa. Fish also use diagonal sequence when moving their fins. 

Animals with four legs can use both types of gait. “Until we studied these tracks,” Rowland said, “no one knew how early in the history of animals the lateral-sequence gait came into use. Now, we know that it was used very early in the history of amniotes, 313 million years ago.”

Spencer Lucas, a paleontologist at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History who was not involved in this study, applauded the work. The current research, he said,”documents an important discovery: the oldest record of the footprints of tetrapod vertebrates in an eolian (wind-formed) rock layer. It establishes that vertebrates were living in deserts millions of years earlier than was previously known.”

The findings were published Aug. 19 in the journal PLOS One.

Originally published on Live Science.

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Interactive track

This Interactive Tool Lets You Track NASA’s Perseverance Rover on Its Way to Mars in Real Time – SciTechDaily

NASA Mars 2src2src Perseverance on Way to Mars

The Mars 2020 Perseverance mission lifted off from Cape Canaveral, Florida, on July 30. NASA’s Eyes on the Solar System tool lets you track the spacecraft in real time as it makes its way to Mars for a February 18, 2021, landing. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

A crisply rendered web application can show you where the agency’s Mars 2020 mission is right now as it makes its way to the Red Planet for a February 18, 2021, landing.

The last time we saw NASA’s Mars 2020 Perseverance rover mission was on July 30, 2020, as it disappeared into the black of deep space on a trajectory for Mars. But with NASA’s Eyes on the Solar System, you can follow in real time as humanity’s most sophisticated rover – and the Ingenuity Mars Helicopter traveling with it – treks millions of miles over the next six months to Jezero Crater.

“Eyes on the Solar System visualizes the same trajectory data that the navigation team uses to plot Perseverance’s course to Mars,” said Fernando Abilleira, the Mars 2020 mission design and navigation manager at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California. “If you want to follow along with us on our journey, that’s the place to be.”

Give the Mars 2020 Perseverance spacecraft a spin. Fully interactive, Eyes on the Solar System doesn’t just let you track it in real time as it travels to the Red Planet. Dozens of controls on pop-up menus allow you to customize not just what you see – from faraway to right “on board.” Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Eyes doesn’t just let you see the distance between the Red Planet and the spacecraft at this very moment. You can also fly formation with Mars 2020 or check the relative velocity between Mars and Earth or, say, the dwarf planet Pluto.

“With all our orbital assets circling Mars as well as Curiosity and InSight on its surface, there is new data and imagery coming in all the time about the Red Planet,” said Jon Nelson, visualization technology and applications development supervisor at JPL. “Essentially, if you haven’t seen Mars lately through Eyes on the Solar System, you haven’t seen Mars.”

Dozens of controls on pop-up menus allow you to customize not just what you see – from faraway to right “on board” a spacecraft – but also how you see it: Choose the 3D mode, and all you need is a pair of red-cyan anaglyph glasses for a more immersive experience.

You don’t have to stop at Mars, either. You can travel throughout the solar system and even through time. The website not only uses real-time data and imagery from NASAs fleet of spacecraft, it’s also populated with NASA data going back to 1950 and projected to 2050. Location, motion, and appearance are based on predicted and reconstructed mission data.

While you’re exploring, take a deeper dive into our home planet with Eyes on the Earth and travel to distant worlds with Eyes on ExoPlanets.

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Begin track

New York City On Track To Begin Reopening As San Francisco Takes Step Back | NBC Nightly News – NBC News

Published on 29 May 2020

If New York City meets certain health criteria, Governor Andrew Cuomo says, the city will be able to push forward with reopening on June 8. San Francisco’s stay-at-home order is extended indefinitely after a spike in coronavirus cases amid new concerns of outbreaks at Iowa and Oregon food plants.

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New York City On Track To Begin Reopening As San Francisco Takes Step Back | NBC Nightly News

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mailed track

Track your mailed stimulus check using your computer or phone. Here’s how to do it – CNET


With Informed Delivery, you can see when your stimulus check has been mailed.

Angela Lang/CNET

For the most up-to-date news and information about the coronavirus pandemic, visit the WHO website.

Are you constantly asking yourself, “Is my stimulus check in the mail?” A free service from the US Postal Service may be able to give you an answer. It’s called Informed Delivery, and it can automatically send you a digital image of your physical envelopes, including the one containing your check from the IRS. Although the USPS can’t tell you why your stimulus payment hasn’t arrived, it can help you watch for a delivery date. 

Informed Delivery doesn’t work just for stimulus checks. It’s a preexisting tool that documents all your mail, which of course, includes your money from the government. There are some limitations, so you might want to start by tracking your payment using the IRS online portal first. This should give you a rough estimate of when your stimulus money will arrive. After that, Informed Delivery verifies that the check has in fact been processed by the USPS and is on its way. You can cancel anytime.

One more word before you begin. The IRS’ online tracking tool, which is called Get My Payment (remember, this is separate from the USPS service), has been known to return error messages that are hard to figure out. If you run into trouble, here are 12 possible explanations for what’s going on and how you might be able to work around them. And if you’re hearing chatter about another economic relief bill, here’s what we know about a second stimulus check, which is now being negotiated.

Keep track of the coronavirus pandemic.

Am I definitely getting my stimulus check in the mail?

At this point, you’re more likely to receive your money in the mail than in your bank account. That’s because the IRS deadline to provide your direct deposit information passed on May 13. 

The federal revenue agency said its focus is now on sending payments in the mail through the post office — either as a paper check or as a prepaid debit card called the economic impact payment, or EIP, card. Read on to track your payment envelope in the mail.

Informed Delivery: Quickly check that you’re eligible

When the USPS runs mail through its automated mail sorting equipment, it creates a digital image of the front of all letter-size mail, and that includes your stimulus check. The Informed Delivery program uses this digitally captured information to notify you when each piece of mail is on the way. 

The service is available to many residential and personal PO box addresses but not businesses. It also won’t work for some multiunit buildings where the Postal Service hasn’t yet identified each unit.

Here’s how to check whether it’s available in your area:

1. Head to the Postal Service’s Informed Delivery page and tap the Sign Up for Free button.

2. Enter your mailing address, and tap Continue

If the service is available, you can continue to set up an account.

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Stimulus Checks Helpline


Set up the Informed Delivery service

Setting up your account is straightforward. 

1. On the Postal Service’s Informed Delivery page, tap Sign Up for Free.

2. After you enter your mailing address and confirm it’ll work with the service, you’ll need to accept the terms and conditions and tap Continue

3. On the next page, choose your username, password and security questions. Then, enter your contact information and tap Continue.

4. On the next page, you’ll need to verify your identity. Tap Verify identity online if you want to receive a verification code on your phone or tap Request invitation code by mail if you want the Postal Service to mail a code to you. If neither method works for you, may also be given the option to visit a post office to verify your identity in person.

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How to file a tax extension during the COVID-19 pandemic


How to see your own personal mailbag 

It can take three business days to activate your account after you set it up. Once it’s live, you will receive an email each morning Monday through Saturday if mail is scheduled to arrive, notifying you of mail that will be delivered, along with a grayscale image of the front of the letter. 

You can also use the free Android and iPhone Informed Delivery app to be notified.

For more on ordering and receiving packages during the coronavirus pandemic, here’s how to find household goods when Amazon and other online stores are out of stock, how to order beer and wine online, and how long the virus can survive on packages.

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track troops

US on track to pull troops out of Afghanistan: Pentagon – Al Jazeera English

The United States is on track to meet its commitment to the Taliban to withdraw several thousand troops from Afghanistan by mid-July, even as violence flares, the peace process is stalled, and Kabul struggles in political deadlock.

US officials say they will reduce to 8,600 troops by July 15 and abandon five bases. By the second quarter of 2021, all foreign forces are supposed to withdraw, ending the US’s longest war. Yet the outlook for peace is cloudy at best. In the absence of Afghan peace talks, the administration of US President Donald Trump may face the prospect of fully withdrawing even as the Taliban remains at war with the government.

That has concerned some lawmakers, including Representative Liz Cheney, a Republican and member of the House Armed Services Committee.

She says the US needs to keep a military and intelligence presence in Afghanistan to prevent groups like al-Qaeda and the ISIL’s Afghan affiliate from forming havens from which to attack the US

“Withdrawing US troops from Afghanistan won’t end the war – it will just let the terrorists win,” she told The Associated Press.

Serious negotiation? 

Some question whether the US – Taliban agreement signed in Doha, Qatar, on February 29, which the Trump administration billed as “a decisive step to achieve a negotiated peace”, was instead mainly a withdrawal agreement. Trump had campaigned on bringing troops home from foreign wars. And although the Afghan government publicly supported the deal, it did not participate directly in the negotiations and has not, in Washington’s view, capitalised on the chance for peace talks.

“President Trump promised to bring our troops home from overseas and is following through on that promise,” the White House said when the Doha deal was signed.

The deal stipulated that the Taliban would start intra-Afghan peace negotiations on March 10, but that has not happened. The Taliban and the Afghan government also have squabbled over a promised release of each other’s prisoners.

“A lot of this boils down to: Was the US -Taliban agreement any kind of serious negotiation at all, or was it just totally a fig leaf to cover abject withdrawal? I suspect the latter,” Stephen Biddle, a Columbia University professor of international and public affairs and a former adviser to US commanders in Kabul, told the Associated Press.

“It gave away almost all the leverage we had in exchange for virtually nothing,” he added. “It looks very much like a situation in which the Taliban have concluded that the Americans are out, and they’re going to play out the string and see what happens when we’re gone.”

Watch: Will there ever be direct talks between Afghanistan’s government and Taliban?

The US has been the prime backer of the Afghan government since it invaded the country soon after the September 11, 2001, attacks and overthrew the Taliban.

According to US government auditors, Washington has committed $86bn to support Afghan security forces and is still spending about $4bn a year.

The Trump administration has expressed frustration with the lack of movement toward peace talks, but it has not threatened publicly to pull back from its commitment to fully withdraw. It did conduct an air attack against the Taliban in defence of Afghan ground forces in early March just hours after Trump had what he called a good conversation by phone with a senior Taliban leader, Abdul Ghani Baradar.

Although the withdrawal is required by the Doha agreement, US defence officials had said for many months that they wanted to reduce to 8,600 – the approximate number of troops that were supporting Afghan forces and conducting counterterrorism operations when Trump took office.

US officials constructed the Doha agreement mainly as a way of ending US involvement in the war, rather than as an assured path to peace. The withdrawal is subject to Taliban assurances, but it does not require a peace settlement.

The deal also is seen by the US as a way to enlist the Taliban in the fight against the ISIL (ISIS) group. The US military considers the group’s Afghan affiliate as a greater threat than the Taliban.

The US agreed to withdraw not just military forces but also all intelligence agency personnel, private security contractors, trainers and advisers. NATO allied forces also are to withdraw.

The Doha deal was seen at the time as Afghanistan’s best chance at peace in decades of war, but the government has since been consumed with political turmoil. Ghani and his rival Abdullah Abdullah have both declared themselves winners of last year’s presidential polls, and each declared himself president.

Defense Secretary Mark Esper has said that getting out of Afghanistan would advance his aim of devoting more forces to the Asia-Pacific region to counter China, which he sees as the number one long-term threat to the US.

Esper has been sceptical of the Taliban’s commitment to peace, and on May 5 he said neither the Taliban nor the Afghan government is abiding by the agreement.

Esper said the Taliban should return to the reduced levels of violence that existed in the week before the February 29 Doha signing.

At the time, Ghani put his government forces in a defensive stance, but on Tuesday he ordered a return to the offensive, expressing anger for two attacks, including one that killed 24 people, including infants, at a hospital.

Newborn infants receive medical care in Kabul

 An Afghan mother feeds a newborn baby who survived the recent attack by gunmen on a Doctors Without Borders (Medecins Sans Frontieres, or MSF) clinic, at the Ataturk Hospital in Kabul, Afghanistan. At least two newborns, 12 mothers, and several nurses were killed and 16 others were wounded in the attack [Haroon Sabawoon/Anadolu]

The Taliban denied responsibility and the US has blamed the ISIL affiliate in Afghanistan for the attack. The Taliban on Thursday said it had carried out a suicide bombing as retaliation for having been falsely accused by Ghani.

A Pentagon spokesman, Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Campbell, indicated the US stance has not changed.

“Consistent with the agreement, the US military will continue to conduct defensive strikes against the Taliban when they attack our [Afghan] partners,” he said Wednesday. “As the secretary of defence stated recently, this is going to be a windy, bumpy road, but a political agreement is the best way to end the war.”

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