U.S. Court Ordered to Ease Iranian Sanctions

The United States has received a court order from the United Nations’ International Court of Justice to lift sanctions imposed upon Iran. As the Associated Press reports, the order encompasses any “sanctions to the export to Iran of medicine and medical devices, food and agricultural commodities and spare parts and equipment necessary to ensure the safety of civil aviation.”

Although the case is legally binding, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says that sanctions will continue to be enforced, barring humanitarian and safety-related exceptions that existed prior to the court order. The U.S. has responded further by withdrawing from the 1955 Treaty of Amity, which was used as a basis for the case. The treaty was originally intended to create closer economic ties and regulate diplomatic relations between the participating nations. The administration has also expressed their intention to pull out of an amendment to the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations that could be used to sue the U.S. at the International Court of Justice. National Security Advisor John Bolton, who made the latter announcement, said, “The United States will not sit idly by as baseless politicized claims are brought against us.”

Revised Version of NAFTA Announced

Mexico, Canada and the United States announced on Oct. 1, 2018 that they have reached an agreement on revisions to the North American Free Trade Agreement, now renamed the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA). The document itself is 34 chapters long and its contents have been negotiated for the past 14 months. Among other changes, it will grant U.S. farmers increased access to Canada’s dairy market, promote North American manufacturing of car parts and higher-wage auto manufacturing jobs and raise duty-free shopping limits for Canada and Mexico.

Some of the provisions have already stirred up controversy, such as the edict that countries involved in USMCA can no longer require companies to store data on their land. According to the Washington Post some Canadians have contested this new rule over concerns about digital information privacy. Others argue that many storage facilities in Canada are already vulnerable to both government surveillance and hacking, and that moving physical data locations elsewhere won’t alter security levels. The Post conceded that one way or another, experts believe that “the new regulations will not result in much immediate change.”

Potential Discovery of First "Exomoon"

Astronomers Alex Teachey and David Kipping published an article in the journal Science Advances on Oct. 3, 2018 detailing what they propose may be evidence for the first detected moon orbiting a planet outside of our solar system. Support for its existence is based in their observations of the exoplanet Kepler 1625b. An unexpectedly early transition of the planet in front of its star, as well as a secondary dimming of the star after the planet passed, could both be the result of a natural satellite circling the exoplanet. While the scientists stressed that other explanations are possible, BBC News quoted Teachey saying, “We are excited about this result, certainly it is a tantalizing result.”

Kepler 1625b is a gas giant about the size of Jupiter, albeit with 10 times as much mass. If it exists, the exomoon — Kepler 1625b-i — is expected to be a Neptune-sized body orbiting at a distance of three million kilometers from its host planet. Kipping, Teachey and their colleagues have been studying this potential moon, which they have lightheartedly referred to as a “Nept-moon,” since July 2017.