Author Archives: StaceyD

The ‘Great’ Conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn

Skywatchers are in for an end-of-year treat. What has become known popularly as the “Christmas Star” is an especially vibrant planetary conjunction easily visible in the evening sky over the next two weeks as the bright planets Jupiter and Saturn come together, culminating on the night of Dec. 21.

In 1610, Italian astronomer Galileo Galilei pointed his telescope to the night sky, discovering the four moons of Jupiter – Io, Europa, Ganymede, and Callisto. In that same year, Galileo also discovered a strange oval surrounding Saturn, which later observations determined to be its rings. These discoveries changed how people understood the far reaches of our solar system.

Thirteen years later, in 1623, the solar system’s two giant planets, Jupiter and Saturn, traveled together across the sky. Jupiter caught up to and passed Saturn, in an astronomical event known as a “Great Conjunction.”  

“You can imagine the solar system to be a racetrack, with each of the planets as a runner in their own lane and the Earth toward the center of the stadium,” said Henry Throop, astronomer in the Planetary Science Division at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “From our vantage point, we’ll be able to be to see Jupiter on the inside lane, approaching Saturn all month and finally overtaking it on December 21.”

The planets regularly appear to pass each other in the solar system, with the positions of Jupiter and Saturn being aligned in the sky about once every 20 years.

What makes this year’s spectacle so rare, then? It’s been nearly 400 years since the planets passed this close to each other in the sky, and nearly 800 years since the alignment of Saturn and Jupiter occurred at night, as it will for 2020, allowing nearly everyone around the world to witness this “great conjunction.”

The closest alignment will appear just a tenth of a degree apart and last for a few days. On the 21st, they will appear so close that a pinkie finger at arm’s length will easily cover both planets in the sky. The planets will be easy to see with the unaided eye by looking toward the southwest just after sunset.

From our vantage point on Earth the huge gas giants will appear very close together, but they will remain hundreds of millions of miles apart in space. And while the conjunction is happening on the same day as the winter solstice, the timing is merely a coincidence, based on the orbits of the planets and the tilt of the Earth.

“Conjunctions like this could happen on any day of the year, depending on where the planets are in their orbits,” said Throop. “The date of the conjunction is determined by the positions of Jupiter, Saturn, and the Earth in their paths around the Sun, while the date of the solstice is determined by the tilt of Earth’s axis. The solstice is the longest night of the year, so this rare coincidence will give people a great chance to go outside and see the solar system.”

Want to learn when and where to look up? Join Throop as he talks about the “Great Conjunction” on #NASAScience Live Thursday, Dec. 17. Submit your questions by using #askNASA. The NASA Science Live episode will air live at 3 p.m. EST Thursday on NASA Television and the agency’s website, along with the NASA FacebookYouTube, and Periscope channels.

For those who would like to see this phenomenon for themselves, here’s what to do: 

  • Find a spot with an unobstructed view of the sky, such as a field or park. Jupiter and Saturn are bright, so they can be seen even from most cities.
  • An hour after sunset, look to the southwestern sky. Jupiter will look like a bright star and be easily visible. Saturn will be slightly fainter and will appear slightly above and to the left of Jupiter until December 21, when Jupiter will overtake it and they will reverse positions in the sky.
  • The planets can be seen with the unaided eye, but if you have binoculars or a small telescope, you may be able to see Jupiter’s four large moons orbiting the giant planet.

Each night, the two planets will appear closer low in the southwest in the hour after sunset as illustrated in the below graphic:

For more information and tips for getting a good photo of this phenomenon, click HERE.

Son Begs Chinese Government For Proof Of Life After Dad Placed In Concentration Camp

Every day Arfat Elkin lives the same nightmare: The Chinese Government has detained his father and he has no idea if his father is dead or alive.

“In 2017 I lost contact with my parents,” Arfat said. “In 2018, a year later, I learned my mom was in a concentration camp, and my father disappeared in March 2018. I’ve contacted the Chinese government, sent letters to the Chinese embassy, the United Nations, every place I could contact. More than two years later I still don’t have information.”

Arfat came to the United States in 2015 as an international student to fulfill a dream to study economics.  He is from the northwestern region of Xinjiang, a mostly Muslim Turkic-speaking ethnic group.

Hid dad, Erkin Tursum, is a TV Producer and Journalist at Yili TV.  Arfat said his dad was detained by the government because he allowed his son to study abroad.

Arfat’s family is among the tens of thousands of families swept up in President Xi Jinping’s campaign to suppress the Uighur Muslim minority in Xinjiang, China.

The NY Post reports: 

It turns out the Chinese Communist Party is bent on permanently locking up much of the Uighur Muslim population of the far-west region of Xinjiang: Satellite images show that Beijing has secretly built 260 high-security concentration camps to hold them.

Many, perhaps all, include a factory in the camp so the prisoners can be forced to labor for the state, as well.

“People are living in horror in these ­places,” said Zhenishan Berdibek, 49, who was held in a camp for much of 2018. “Some of the younger people were not as tolerant as us — they cried and screamed and shouted. I lost my hope,” Berdibek told BuzzFeed. “I wanted to die inside the camp.”

Beijing has claimed that the Uighurs represent an Islamic terrorist threat, but the ugly reality is the CCP under President Xi Jinping is bent on crushing any possible resistance or dissent, religious or secular — and laughs at the idea of human rights

Since 2017, the Chinese Community Party has detained between 1 million to 3 million Uighurs and other minority groups in mass concentration camps where they are forced to abandon their religion, study communist propaganda, and are accused of torturing Uighurs, including sexual abuse, forced labor, water boarding and forced sterilizations. Those not in the camps are believed to be under strict government surveillance.

President Donald Trump signed the Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act of 2020 that condemns China for its human rights abuses and mandates sanctions against those responsible for the abuse of China’s Muslim minority.

To read more about the Uighur Muslim population and President Xi Xinjiang, click HERE.

Memorial Hermann Proud to be Among First in U.S. to Receive and Administer COVID-19 Vaccine to Frontline Healthcare Workers

Today (December 15), Memorial Hermann Health System received its first shipment of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine and immediately began administering the vaccine to its frontline healthcare workers. The system’s very first vaccine was given to Robert Luckey, RN, who works as a nurse in Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center’s dedicated COVID Intensive Care Unit. He received the vaccine to a round of applause from his colleagues.

“We have been fighting this battle against COVID-19 since March,” said Luckey. “I’m thrilled there is now a vaccine to help protect us against this virus, and I am very grateful and proud to be among the first in the country to be able to receive it.”

The CDC recommends that healthcare workers who are most at risk of contracting COVID-19 be the first in the United States to receive the vaccinations. In addition, the state has provided guidance on who will receive the first doses of the vaccine in Texas.

“Today is truly a remarkable day full of optimism for the near future,” said David Callender, M.D., President and CEO of Memorial Hermann. “We are so thankful to be included in the first allocation of this vaccine. Together, our employees and physicians have treated more COVID-19 positive patients in our hospitals than anyone else in the Greater Houston area, and that’s something we’re extremely proud of.”

In partnership with UTHealth, the system was first in Texas to perform a double lung transplant on a patient whose lungs were severely damaged by COVID-19. In addition, Memorial Hermann and UTHealth are participating in over 30 clinical trials dedicated to COVID-19.

Memorial Hermann expects to receive 16,575 doses of the Pfizer vaccine in the first allotment, more than any other health system in the Greater Houston area. Moments after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued its emergency use authorization (EUA) for the Pfzier COVID-19 vaccine, the health system opened up online registration for frontline employees to begin signing up to receive the vaccine, with the first available time slots going quickly.

“It’s been a stressful, exhausting 10 months, so I think I can speak for everyone when I say that it’s an honor for us to be able to offer this vaccine to the individuals who have dedicated nearly a year of their lives to caring for our community during this pandemic,” said Dr. Callender. “We are committed to doing everything we can to ensure our workforce is protected, so we can continue providing the same safe, compassionate care our patients have come to expect from us.”

After the vaccine has been distributed to essential workers and vulnerable populations identified by the state of Texas, the vaccine will be more widely available. It is uncertain exactly when this will occur – timing will depend on how quickly the Pfizer vaccine can be produced and distributed, and whether or not other vaccines, including Moderna’s candidate, are authorized quickly by the FDA. As soon as doses of the vaccine are available for widespread use, Memorial Hermann plans to make them available for its patients and members of the community.

“We’re all very hopeful that this will be the turning point we’ve been waiting for since this pandemic began. However, now is not the time to let our guard down,” Dr. Callender said. “Our fight with COVID-19 is not over yet, but at least there is finally an end in sight.”

Dr. Callender stressed that, although the vaccine is here and others are on the way, it will take months to vaccinate everyone who wants to receive it. This is why it is important to continue practicing the three “W’s”: wearing a mask, watching social distance and washing hands frequently.

To learn more about Memorial Hermann’s response and resources related to COVID-19, please visit the system’s Coronavirus Resource page. 

DFW Airport’s Team of ‘Detectives’ in Their Lost and Found Department Highlighted

If you are doing some holiday traveling and pass through DFW on your journey, don’t despair if you leave something behind. Hopefully, you won’t misplace anything, but if you do, know that in the airport system, lost items are considered especially precious. At DFW, the dedicated detectives who investigate these unaccounted for items are members of an elite squad known as the Lost and Found Unit.

To see some stats on what they are actually are able to find, check out this video.

From their Lost and Found Page:

*COVID-19 Impacts*

NOTICE: Due to the recent decreases in passenger traffic, the Lost and Found office located in the Terminal E baggage claim near E4 will reduce their hours of operation effective April 1 – September 30, 2021. New hours of operation are below: Mondays through Fridays, 8:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.Closed Saturdays and SundaysClosed Memorial Day, Fourth of July and Labor Day

Advice for Travelers

DFW’s Lost and Found does not charge to file a lost property report. Please be aware that there has been an increase in unverified third-party websites charging travelers a fee to retrieve a lost item(s). When filing a report, please only call the number provided on this site or file the report in person at one of the two locations.

Lost and Found (American Airlines)

This lost and found area is located in front of the American Airlines’ Customer Service area inside security near Gate C2. Items that are retrieved on planes may be claimed here. Please call 972 425 2465 for more information. 

Lost and Found (Items Not On Plane)

This lost and found location is located before security across the baggage claim in Terminal E at E4. Please note that this lost and found location does not retrieve lost items on the plane. Please call (972) 973-4420 for more information.


Planning for Vaccine Distribution: DFW Airport, American Airlines Make Dallas-Fort Worth an Ideal Gateway

As a COVID-19 vaccine inches closer to becoming available in the U.S., Dallas Fort Worth International Airport is poised to serve as a key player in the “biggest product launch” in history.

The Dallas region’s central location, transportation infrastructure, and connectivity—combined with DFW International Airport and American Airlines’ cargo network and expertise in handling time- and temperature-sensitive products—make North Texas the ideal gateway for this massive logistical effort.

Cargo and Cold Chain Infrastructure

DFW International Airport’s cargo operations serve 22 major cargo hubs throughout Asia, Europe, the Middle East, and the Americas. DFW handles 54% of air cargo from Texas, generating more than $20 billion and accounting for nearly 55% of the airport’s total annual regional economic impact.

DFW opened its cold chain facility in October 2017, enabling it to handle temperature-sensitive products ranging from fruits, flowers, and fish, to pharmaceutical and life sciences products. Since then, the airside cold chain facility experienced a 20% increase in pharma shipments.

“DFW Airport is proud to be one of just two airports in the U.S. to obtain IATA CEIV Pharma community status,” said Milton De La Paz, DFW International Airport Vice President of Airline Relations and Cargo Business Development. “DFW is also the first airport in North America to have both an IATA CEIV Pharma community and a cloud-based air cargo community system, which enables collaborative data sharing of cargo shipments across all stakeholders in the supply chain.”

Read more from Dallas Innovates…

Weekend Meals offered at Timberline, Silverlake and Cannon Elementary beginning December 4, 2020

Nutrition Services is pleased to provide a free weekend meal bag for all in-person students at Timberline, Silverlake and Cannon Elementary. The weekend meal bag includes 2 breakfasts and 2 lunches. The menu and heating instructions will be sent home in the first bag, so please save the menu for future reference. The weekend meals menu may also be viewed below. For more information, please email Meals will be distributed directly to each student at the end of the day each Friday.

Curbside Meals Service

During the 2020-2021 school year, with the aid of a nationwide USDA waiver, children 18-years-old and under are able to receive free weekly meal bundles. GCISD will offer curbside (drive-thru) service at Cross Timbers Middle, Grapevine Elementary and Grapevine Middle on Wednesdays from 4 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.

Things to Remember

  • This service is available to all children 18-years-old and under
  • Students do not have to be enrolled at the specific site where meal bundle is picked up
  • Proof of enrollment is no longer required and students do not need to be present in the vehicle
  • Parents will drive to the curb and, without getting out of the vehicle, tell staff how many students they need to receive bundles for
  • If you have questions, please contact Grapevine-Colleyville ISD Nutrition Services by emailing or by calling 817-251-5615.

About the Meals

Students will be given bags that will include 7 breakfasts, 7 lunches and 1 gallon of White or Chocolate Milk. There will be a mix of items to refrigerate, to freeze and that are shelf stable. Information sheets will be provided with storage and preparation instructions. Parents must read all information and follow storing, cooking and discarding recommendations.

Curbside Pickup at Campus Locations

  • All family members must remain in vehicle. Meals served  4-5:30 p.m. on Wednesdays.
  • Cross Timbers Middle SchoolGrapevine Elementary SchoolGrapevine Middle School2301 Pool Road
    Grapevine, Texas 76051
  • Meals served from bus loop at rear of building. 1801 Hall-Johnson Road
    Grapevine, Texas 76051
  • Meals served from main entrance off Hall-Johnson Road301 Pony Parkway
    Grapevine, Texas 76051
  • Meals served at rear of building. Cars asked to proceed to front of GMS and will be directed from there. View Map

For more information and answers to FAQs, click HERE.

Eviction Moratorium close to expiration: What to do now?

In late August, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) put in place a moratorium to help keep renters in their homes by not allowing landlords to evict people who are covered under the moratorium.

Citizens protected under the eviction freeze must be behind of their rent despite actively applying for other government housing programs in the area. Another requirement is being unable to pay full rent or make a full housing payment due to a major loss of income, layoffs, fewer work hours, or medical expenses that will most likely amount to more than 7.5 percent of the person’s adjusted gross income. Household income in 2020 may be as high as $99,000 or $198,000 for tax returns filed jointly.

If accepted, they will be given a certificate to present to the landlord.

Unfortunately, this moratorium is scheduled to end on December 31, 2020, leaving those sheltered under this program worried about where they will live. The CDC can extend or shorten the date on which the moratorium will expire.

However, there are some City and County resources that are available now and will continue to accept new clients after the moratorium expires.

The City of Irving Rental, Mortgage, and Homelessness Assistance is provided under the umbrella of the Community and Development Department. In order to apply, the applicant and his or her family must live in the City of Irving and be able to provide proof of residence, information about family members living at the residence, proof of income and a valid form of identification, such as a Texas driver’s license, passport or birth certificate that proves that the head of household is a U.S. Citizen or Legal Resident.

In addition, the applicant must provide birth certificates for all minor children and documentation of hardship due to COVID-19. For assistance with rent, a copy of the current lease or a late or eviction notice must be submitted. For mortgage assistance, a copy of the most recent mortgage statement is required.

If the applicant is homeless, the Homelessness Assistance Form available on the City website must be filled out.

For more information on any of these programs, visit

However, this program is not full of sunshine and roses according to Pat O’Reilly, Board President of Many Helping Hands in Irving, who also works on the Homelessness Task Force.

“Me, Shelia Slade [from Many Helping Hands], and Steve [Allen, Pastor of Christ Church in Irving] and about 15 other people are on the Homelessness Task Force. We met last night, and Steve, who is in contact with Austin Street, said there’s just no way to prepare for the evictions that are happening, if they do go through.

“I just got an email from a friend of mine who is a writer for the Dallas Morning News and he just sent me a letter from the City of Dallas saying that they’re now going to allow “tent cities.” To me, that’s the least somebody needs to do.

“The letter spells out that they’re going to provide bathrooms and hand washing facilities. We provide portable showers in Irving every Tuesday, and that will continue. But we’re talking about [potentially] thousands of people.

“According to City Council, we have 45 people that are homeless on the streets. We know there are more than 150 people living on the streets. According to [the meeting] last night, we’re actually looking at number jumping up to 400 – 500 people.

“The City has continued to turn their back on the homeless community, basically saying that Irving doesn’t have homeless, so we don’t care. I attended a City Council meeting where one member said, ‘If we provide more services, then we will have more [homeless] people.’ Our comeback was, ‘They’re already here.’

“The City of Denton is light years ahead of us. When COVID hit, they provided hand washing stations wherever the homeless were. So, we went and petitioned for Irving to do that and we fought for it and finally got one. It was up for about two months and then somebody stole it, and the City declared they weren’t going to do anything else.

“The City gets all kinds of federal funds to help the homeless. If they don’t use those funds, that money can go to Parks and Recreation. So, they improve a park in South Irving and tell the government that they’re helping the poor.

“We need five councilmen to be pro-homeless, and right now, we have four.”

If the Moratorium does expire on December 31, three to four times the number of the current homeless population is expected to influx each local city.

The Task Force is looking toward corporations with a heart for the homeless to sponsor/donate to the cause, as donations is what they need to “keep the doors open.”

Corporations that may be interested in supporting the Homeless Task Force can email Steve Allen at or call 682-583-3302; Dennis Webb at or 972-849-9421; or Ruby Sevcik (Executive Director at Crisis Ministries) at or 972-891-8783.

Thank you in advance for having a heart for the homeless. They are still human beings, and we all know how COVID has affected jobs, income and health, both for tenants AND landlords.

Covid-19 vaccine: First person receives it in UK

Margaret Keenan, who turns 91 next week, said it was the, “best early birthday present.”

She was given the injection at 06:31 GMT (12:31 am CST) – the first of 800,000 doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine that will be dispensed in the coming weeks.

Up to four million more are expected by the end of the month.

Hubs in the UK will vaccinate over-80s and some health and care staff – the program aims to protect the most vulnerable and return life to normal.

“I feel so privileged to be the first person vaccinated against Covid-19,” Ms Keenan, who is originally from Enniskillen, Co Fermanagh, said.

“It’s the best early birthday present I could wish for because it means I can finally look forward to spending time with my family and friends in the new year after being on my own for most of the year.

“My advice to anyone offered the vaccine is to take it. If I can have it at 90, then you can have it too,” she added.

Read more at BBC…

What about the U.S.?

Once COVID-19 vaccine candidates receive emergency-use authorization from the FDA, rollout is expected to begin as soon as 24 hours later. The first vaccine candidate through that gate will likely be the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, which the FDA will make a decision about on December 10, followed by the Moderna vaccine, which the FDA will make a decision about on December 17.

The U.S. has worked to rush coronavirus-vaccine availability through a multibillion-dollar federal program called Operation Warp Speed, which is aimed at fast-tracking the development, testing, regulatory approval, and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines. The U.S. has already pre-purchased hundreds of millions of doses of various vaccine candidates sight unseen, and the Trump administration has vowed that at least the initial round of vaccinations will be available to all Americans free of charge.

Read more at The Intelligencer…

Intoxication Assault Against Irving Firefighter: UPDATE


UPDATE: December 7, 2020 – The Irving Firefighter injured on December 6, is Aaron Donohue. Aaron’s medical condition remains serious and he is still in the hospital. He is progressing slowly but steadily. His injuries are not considered life-threatening at this time. Please continue to keep Aaron, his family and the Irving Fire Department in your prayers. 

 Irving, Texas – December 6, 2020 – The Irving Police Department was working a major accident at approximately 3:45 a.m. today involving five vehicles WB 3100 block W. S.H. 183. The freeway had been shut down due to this accident. A 2016 Dodge Challenger was traveling the wrong way, EB in the WB lanes of SH 183, drove into the accident scene striking an Irving Firefighter. The Irving Firefighter, 30-years of age, was transported to Parkland Memorial Hospital and is currently undergoing treatment for severe injuries, his name is not being released at this time but he has been with the fire department for 4.5 years. The driver of the vehicle, Yajaira Estrada Calderon, is a 23-year old female out of Arlington and has been arrested for Intoxication Assault. 


The Irving Police Department is asking everyone to keep the Irving Firefighter and Irving Fire Department in your prayers during this time. If anyone has information on this case contact the Irving Police Department at (972) 273-1010 or 911 (24 hours). 

Preparing for a Vaccine: American Cargo Operations Conducting Trial Flights From Miami to South America

FORT WORTH, Texas — The American Airlines Cargo team is preparing for its critical role in transporting the coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine once approved. In mid-November, American’s cargo operation began conducting trial flights, in conjunction with pharmaceutical and cargo partners, from Miami to South America on its Boeing 777-200 aircraft. The trial flights simulate the conditions required for the COVID-19 vaccine to stress test the thermal packaging and operational handling process that will ultimately ensure it remains stable as it moves across the globe.

While the situation will be unique, the task is not new to American — the airline’s cargo operation has been shipping life-saving medicine for more than eight decades. Since the beginning of the pandemic, American has been transporting hundreds of thousands of pounds of personal protective equipment (PPE), medical equipment, COVID-19 test kits and pharmaceuticals to help battle the coronavirus. As a recognized expert in cold chain logistics, American has been involved in transporting components for Phase III COVID-19 vaccine trials, including quickly and safely carrying test vaccines and specimens to research facilities around the world.

Read more from American Airlines…