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[Markets] Ireland Probes Possible UFO Sighting After Multiple Pilots Report "High Speed, Bright Lights"

In what sounds like a repeat of the infamous 2004 "Tic Tac Incident", when a US Navy ship witnessed what looked like a strange, tic tac-shaped object with "no visible means of lift" flying off the coast of California, a UFO sighting by commercial pilots off the coast of Ireland has triggered an investigation by the Irish Aviation Authority, RT reported.

The strange flying vessel was first spotted by a Britsh Airways pilot on Nov. 9 at 6:47 am local time. At the time, the pilot was flying over the southwest coast of Ireland. At the time of the report, the pilot was flying from Heathrow to Montreal, and made a call to Shannon Air Traffic Control to ask if Ireland was conducting military exercises. When they said no, the baffled pilot shared what he had seen.

NASA

In a recording of the call obtained by RT, the pilot can be heard saying they witnessed a "a bright light" that had been flying at a very fast speed beside her plane before it "disappeared at very high speed."

And as it turns out, the British Airlines pilot wasn't the only one to see the vessel. After a Virgin Airlines pilot joined the conversation to suggest that it might have been a meteor re-entering Earth’s atmosphere, the pilot added that there were "multiple objects following the same sort of trajectory," and that they were "very bright where we were."

Then a third pilot joined the conversation to say "Glad it wasn’t just me," and reported a UFO that was "astronomical, it was like Mach 2." Ground control replied that "other aircraft in the air have also reported the same thing so we are going to have a look and see."

The IAA later said it had filed reports of unusual activity in response to the claims.

"This report will be investigated under the normal confidential occurrence investigation process," read the IAA statement to the Irish Examiner.

Meanwhile, in a separate report, RT pointed out that US astronaut Leland Melvin admitted on Twitter earlier this year that he had seen something "organic, alien-like" floating out of the payload of a space shuttle roughly a decade earlier. In response to a question about whether he had ever witnessed alien life, he shared a story about spotting a "translucent, curved, organic" object in the cargo area of his space craft, which prompted him to call his colleagues on Earth and ask what it was.

Though ground control suggested to Melvin that what he had seen was just ice that had broken off of a Freon hose. "I was about to say 'Houston we have a problem' but know everyone spins-up when those words are uttered from a space vehicle," he said.

Asked if NASA might have lied to maintain calm, Melvin said he didn't think so...but that "you never know." 

Published:11/14/2018 3:40:58 AM
[Science] NASA’s prolific planet-hunter Kepler has finally earned its retirement After nine years of service, half a million stars surveyed, and thousands of planets discovered around those stars, NASA's astonishingly successful Kepler space telescope is finally taking a well-earned rest. Out of fuel but in a safe orbit, the spacecraft will drift through the solar system looking at nothing in particular as its immense trove of data continues to drive discoveries here on Earth. Published:10/30/2018 4:44:27 PM
[Markets] There Is A Strange, "Plume-Like" Cloud Hanging Over Mars

Authored by Gavin Hanson via The Daily Caller,

A “curious” plume-shaped cloud that appeared near Mars’s equator is growing and now casts a long trail from an alien volcano, Oct. 10 photographs from the European Space Agency (ESA) show.

Photos from the ESA’s Mars Express Orbiter show a cloud extending from behind a massive Martian volcano named Arsia Mons.

While the cloud, which could be “visible even to telescopes on Earth,” is hanging over the volcano, it is not being ejected from it despite its proximity, according to a Thursday ESA press release.

“In spite of its location, this atmospheric feature is not linked to volcanic activity but is rather a water ice cloud driven by the influence of the volcano’s leeward slope on the air flow — something that scientists call an orographic or lee cloud — and a regular phenomenon in this region,” the ESA’s statement said.

Mars’s cold, thin atmosphere is seasonally obscured by ice clouds, but scientists believe the summer’s major dust storm might have spurred on the creation of this cloud.

Abnormal levels of dust in the atmosphere and Arsia Mons’s gigantic, 12-mile high profile worked together to form the abnormal whisp, scientists say.

The massive dust storm knocked NASA’s Opportunity rover offline when it blotted out the sun and prevented the 15-year-old rover’s solar panels from recharging it, according to a NASA blog post. Scientists hoped once the storm cleared, skies would “clear enough for the solar-powered rover to recharge and attempt to ‘phone home.'”

Published:10/27/2018 7:20:53 PM
[TC] Meet Shuttle, the company that’s building a booking agent for spaceflight Avery Haskell says he first knew he wanted to be an astronaut ever since he was a boy growing up in Houston near NASA’s Johnson Space Center. The 24 year-old Stanford graduate who counts Stephen Hawking and Carl Sagan as his heroes, grew up in an entrepreneurial family. In the early days of the Internet […] Published:10/26/2018 3:46:32 PM
[Gadgets] The space pen became the space pen 50 years ago Everyone knows about the space pen. NASA spent millions on R&D to create the ultimate pen that would work in zero gravity and the result was this incredible machine. Well, no. In fact it was made by a pen manufacturer in 1966 — but it wasn't until October of 1968 that it went into orbit and fulfilled its space pen destiny. Published:10/18/2018 6:54:54 PM
[Markets] Is An Asteroid Coming? NASA's 'Planetary Defense Coordination Office' Budget Suddenly Spikes To $150 Million

Authored by Michael Snyder via The American Dream blog,

It didn’t make many national headlines, but the proposed budget for NASA’s “Planetary Defense Coordination Office” was just increased by 90 million dollars. 

At a time when our national budget is already stretched to the max, this seems like an odd thing to be spending so much money on.  As you will see below, the “Planetary Defense Coordination Office” is only two years old, and it is in charge of tracking threats posed by near-Earth objects such as asteroids.  Needless to say, if a giant asteroid suddenly hit our planet it would be the greatest catastrophe in modern times and for those of us that survived our lives would be radically different from then on.  So the threat is real, but in recent years NASA has assured the public that there are no imminent threats.  Has that now changed?

This is a subject that I am particularly interested in, and so a Politico article about “NASA’s asteroid defense program” definitely caught my eye…

The Trump administration has proposed increasing the budget for NASA’s Planetary Defense Coordination Office by three-fold — from some $60 million to $150 million — amid growing concerns that humanity is utterly unprepared for the unlikely but still unthinkable: an asteroid strike of calamitous proportions.

The White House also recently issued a new National Near-Earth Object Preparedness Strategy and Action Plan intended to energize a host of agencies who could contribute to potential ways to prevent such as a disaster.

First of all, why spend 90 million dollars that we don’t have if there is nothing to be concerned about?

Secondly, why issue a brand new plan that is “intended to energize a host of agencies who could contribute to potential ways to prevent such as a disaster” if there is no disaster looming for the foreseeable future?

Something doesn’t smell right about all of this.

According to NASA, there are more than 25,000 asteroids lurking out there that are 140 meters in size or greater.

And overall, there are approximately a million near-Earth objects that could pose a potential threat.

So it definitely makes sense to be prepared for such a disaster, and NASA established the ‘Planetary Defense Coordination Office’ back in early 2016

If and when the interplanetary asteroid apocalypse comes, NASA plans to be prepared.

In a little noticed move this week, the space agency announced that it had created a directorate for “detecting and tracking near earth objects (NEOs).”

The new Planetary Defense Coordination Office—which, despite its science fiction-sounding name, is part of a very real effort to ward off the potentially deadly impact of asteroids that may hit the planet—is charged with supervising “all NASA-funded projects to find and characterize asteroids and comets that pass near Earth’s orbit around the sun.”

At that time, it was being reported that one of the primary tasks of this new agency was to find a way to “redirect” potentially dangerous asteroids

The office is also developing long-term planetary defense goals. They include “asteroid redirect” concepts that could could push the threatening object off course and away from Earth – a program also of interest to the European Space Agency. NASA is poised for the worst case scenario as well.

“Even if intervention is not possible, NASA would provide expert input to FEMA about impact timing, location, and effects to inform emergency response operations. In turn, FEMA would handle the preparations and response planning related to the consequences of atmospheric entry or impact to U.S. communities,” the space agency noted.

Today, the ‘Planetary Defense Coordination Office’ is being headed up by former Air Force officer Lindley Johnson.  And what he recently told Politico about what a major asteroid impact would mean for our nation was quite chilling

As we studied the problem more, we looked at the effects of an impact of even a 100-plus meter size object. If it were to impact near a metropolitan area, it would be a disaster on a scale more than anything we’ve tried to deal with in our history. So the threshold that we wanted to look for these things was lowered actually to 140 meters in size based upon a study that NASA sponsored. It would be an existential threat to national well-being. The effects of it would have a significant impact to our society and a nation as a whole.

But once again, why all the fuss if NASA is confident that there are no major threats on the horizon?

Or could it be possible that they are not being entirely truthful with us?

In a previous article, I discussed the fact that the head of Russia’s space agency, Anatoly Perminov, has publicly stated that an 885-foot-wide asteroid known as Apophis “will surely collide with the Earth in the 2030s”.

The 2030s may seem like the distant future right now, but to me it seems like it was just yesterday that the calendar was rolling over from the year 1999 to the year 2000.

And of course there are so many threats that the major space agencies don’t even know about at this point.  For example, the huge meteor that recently exploded over a U.S. military base in Greenland was a complete surprise to authorities.

The truth is that the next time we get hit, there will probably be little to no warning, and if the asteroid is big enough millions of people could die.

According to a very disturbing study that was conducted at the University of California at Santa Cruz, if a very large asteroid hit the Atlantic Ocean we could potentially see tsunami waves as high as 400 feet slam into the east coast of the United States…

If an asteroid crashes into the Earth, it is likely to splash down somewhere in the oceans that cover 70 percent of the planet’s surface. Huge tsunami waves, spreading out from the impact site like the ripples from a rock tossed into a pond, would inundate heavily populated coastal areas. A computer simulation of an asteroid impact tsunami developed by scientists at the University of California, Santa Cruz, shows waves as high as 400 feet sweeping onto the Atlantic Coast of the United States.

We are talking about a disaster that would wipe out Miami, Charleston, Washington D.C., Baltimore, Philadelphia, Boston and New York City along with countless other cities in a single day.

Today, 39 percent of all Americans live in a county that directly borders a shoreline, and so we are extremely vulnerable.

And scientists assure us that it is only a matter of time before we see more giant tsunamis like the one that devastated Japan in 2011.  Even if no asteroid hits us in the near future, the crust of our planet is becoming increasingly unstable, and this is particularly true along the Ring of Fire.

Part of the job of the federal government is to protect us, and so NASA should be applauded for wanting to be prepared.

But are they being entirely truthful with us, and if not, what is it that they are not telling us?

Published:10/17/2018 7:51:58 PM
[Media] Slate writer glad NASA propaganda film ‘First Man,’ about the bulls**t space race, is tanking

Enough with this NASA propaganda as long as there are hungry children out there.

The post Slate writer glad NASA propaganda film ‘First Man,’ about the bulls**t space race, is tanking appeared first on twitchy.com.

Published:10/15/2018 4:03:44 PM
[Science] NASA plans ‘on schedule’ Soyuz launch despite failure of Russian rocket The high-profile failure of a normally reliable Soyuz rocket during a crewed mission to the International Space Station earlier this week spooked the space community in more ways than one, but NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine said he expects to launch a new crew in December via Soyuz anyway. Published:10/13/2018 1:51:20 PM
[Markets] Bizarre Cosmic Rays Are Shooting Out Of Antarctica And Physicists Can't Explain It

Authored by Emma Fiala via TheMindUnleashed.com,

Just over ten years ago, NASA-affiliated researchers set out to observe cosmic rays showering down on Earth from above. During the experiments in Antarctica, physicists found something unexplainable, something that could change everything we think we know about physics.

The Antarctic Impulsive Transient Antenna (ANITA) balloon experiment began in 2006 when the balloon spent a month hovering over Antarctica’s ice. Using sensors, ANITA began detecting high energy neutrinos interacting with the ice sheet below.

Neutrinos are unique in that they don’t lose energy as they disseminate throughout the universe. Because of this, neutrinos are capable of providing humans with a peek into the vast expanse of the universe that would otherwise be unavailable.

According to Motherboard, the Soviet physicist Gurgen Askaryan once theorized that “when a high energy particle interacted with a dense dielectric medium - a type of insulating material that doesn’t conduct electricity - it would produce a shower of secondary charged particles whose radiation can be detected by standard radio antennas. This interaction, now known as the Askaryan effect, allows physicists to detect particles that hardly interact with normal matter (like neutrinos) by observing their secondary effects.”

During ANITA’s time in the Antarctic, it detected never before seen “upward-pointing cosmic-ray-like events.” The rays detected had horizontal planes of polarization, which may suggest they didn’t originate in space. The detection of these events means a new type of particle may have been evading detection by sophisticated particle accelerators since we began using sophisticated particle accelerators.

Thanks to the Standard Model, physicists have known that cosmic rays are capable of reaching and penetrating Earth. However, according to the model, those rays shouldn’t be able to pass all the way through our planet. So are the anomalous high energy particles measured by ANITA originating from Earth, or are they actually passing through it?

Some existing physics models that exist beyond the Standard Model involve theories that the interactions between cosmic rays and ice actually produce micro black holes that open into small dimensions. ANITA’s first mission didn’t detect the black holes, but it did detect the Askaryan effect.

Last week, a group of researchers posted a new theory about the rays measured by ANITA. The group, led by Pennsylvania State University physicist Derek Fox, suggests ANITA may have found evidence of a particle that lies completely outside of the Standard Model of physics.

The Standard Model has been successful as long as we’ve been using it, but it hasn’t been able to explain everything. For example, things like gravity and the accelerating expansion of the universe are not adequately explained by the model. That’s where the physics beyond the Standard Model (BSM). Some of those theories include string theory and extra dimensions.

Fox’s theory relies on a type of BSM called supersymmetry. “We argue that if the ANITA events are correctly interpreted then they require some beyond the Standard Model particle,” Fox told Motherboard. “The likely properties of the particle seem consistent in at least some ways with the predicted properties of the stau in some supersymmetric models.”

In order to delve further into the unknown when it comes to these upward-pointing cosmic rays, they must also be observed at other locations. Fox and his colleagues took the first step when analyzing data from the IceCube Neutrino Observatory in the Arctic. Despite the difference in detection systems, three events were identified in the data that were analogous to the cosmic rays observed by ANITA in Antarctica.

Fox’s theory is only one interpretation of the ANITA data. The fourth ANITA mission was launched in 2016 and researchers are hopeful that its data, once completely analyzed, will reveal additional examples of these unusual cosmic rays.

Published:10/4/2018 11:35:47 PM
[Science and Technology] Space Station Crew Returns Safely to Earth

By Duncan Idaho -

ISS International Space Station

Three members of the Expedition 56 crew returned safely to Earth Thursday from the International Space Station, where they spent months providing hands-on support for scientific research in low-Earth orbit, working to keep the orbiting laboratory fully operational, and performing three spacewalks. NASA astronauts Drew Feustel and Ricky Arnold, and cosmonaut Oleg Artemyev of the ...

Space Station Crew Returns Safely to Earth is original content from Conservative Daily News - Where Americans go for news, current events and commentary they can trust.

Published:10/4/2018 10:02:03 AM
[Markets] Explosive Report Details Chinese Infiltration Of Apple, Amazon And The CIA

One week ago, President Trump stood up at a meeting of the United Nations Security Council and accused China of attempting to tamper with US elections - mimicking some of the same allegations that had first been levied against Russia nearly two years prior. In his speech, Trump claimed that China was working to undermine Republicans, and even the president himself, warning that "it's not just Russia, it's China and Russia." While the media largely shrugged off this proclamation as more presidential bombast probably inspired by the burgeoning US-China trade beef, the administration continued to insist that it was taking a harder line against Chinese efforts to subvert American companies to aide the Communist Party's sprawling intelligence apparatus. As if to underline Trump's point, the FBI had arrested a Taiwanese national in Chicago the day before Trump's speech, accusing the 27-year-old suspect of trying to help China flip eight defense contractors who could have provided crucial intelligence on sensitive defense-related technology.

But in a game-changing report published Thursday morning, Bloomberg Businessweek exposed a sprawling multi-year investigation into China's infiltration of US corporate and defense infrastructure. Most notably, it confirmed that, in addition to efforts designed to sway US elections, China' intelligence community orchestrated a pervasive infiltration of servers used to power everything from MRI machines to the drones used by the CIA and army. They accomplished this using a tiny microchip no bigger than a grain of rice.

BBG published the report just hours before Vice President Mike Pence was expected to "string together a narrative of Chinese aggression" during a speech at the Hudson Institute in Washington. According to excerpts leaked to the New York Times, his speech was expected to focus on examples of China's "aggressive moves against American warships, of predatory behavior against their neighbors, and of a sophisticated influence campaign to tilt the midterms and 2020 elections against President Trump". His speech is also expected to focus on how China leverages debt and its capital markets to force foreign governments to submit to its will (something that has happened in Bangladesh and the Czech Republic.

China

But while those narratives are certainly important, they pale in comparison to Bloomberg's revelations, which reported on an ongoing government investigation into China's use of a "tiny microchip" that found its way into servers that were widely used throughout the US military and intelligence infrastructure, from Navy warships to DoD server farms. The probe began three years ago after the US intelligence agencies were tipped off by Amazon. And three years later, it remains ongoing.

Nested on the servers’ motherboards, the testers found a tiny microchip, not much bigger than a grain of rice, that wasn’t part of the boards’ original design. Amazon reported the discovery to U.S. authorities, sending a shudder through the intelligence community. Elemental’s servers could be found in Department of Defense data centers, the CIA’s drone operations, and the onboard networks of Navy warships. And Elemental was just one of hundreds of Supermicro customers.

During the ensuing top-secret probe, which remains open more than three years later, investigators determined that the chips allowed the attackers to create a stealth doorway into any network that included the altered machines. Multiple people familiar with the matter say investigators found that the chips had been inserted at factories run by manufacturing subcontractors in China.

With those two paragraphs, Bloomberg has succeeded in shifting the prevailing narrative away from Russia and toward China. Or, as Pence is expected to state in Thursday's speech (via NYT) "as a senior career member of our intelligence community recently told me, what the Russians are doing pales in comparison to what China is doing across this country."

The story begins with a Silicon Valley startup called Elemental. Founded in 2006 by three engineers who brilliantly anticipated that broadcasters would soon be searching for a way to adapt their programming for streaming over the Internet, and on mobile devices like smartphones, Elemental went about building a "dream team" of coders who designed software to adapt the super-fast graphics chips being designed for video gaming to stream video instead. The company then loaded this software on to special, custom-built servers emblazoned with its logo. These servers then sold for as much as $100,000 a pop - a markup of roughly 70%.  In 2009, the company received its first contract with US defense and intelligence contractors, and even received an investment from a CIA-backed venture fund.

  • Elemental also started working with American spy agencies. In 2009 the company announced a development partnership with In-Q-Tel Inc., the CIA’s investment arm, a deal that paved the way for Elemental servers to be used in national security missions across the U.S. government. Public documents, including the company’s own promotional materials, show that the servers have been used inside Department of Defense data centers to process drone and surveillance-camera footage, on Navy warships to transmit feeds of airborne missions, and inside government buildings to enable secure videoconferencing. NASA, both houses of Congress, and the Department of Homeland Security have also been customers. This portfolio made Elemental a target for foreign adversaries.

Like many other companies, Elementals' servers utilized motherboards built by Supermicro, which dominates the market for motherboards used in special-purpose computers. It was here, at Supermicro, where the government believes - according to Bloomberg's sources - that the infiltration began. Before it came to dominate the global market for computer motherboards, Supermicro had humble beginnings. A Taiwanese engineer and his wife founded the company in 1993, at a time when Silicon Valley was embracing outsourcing. It attracted clients early on with the promise of infinite customization, employing a massive team of engineers to make sure it could accommodate its clients' every need. Customers also appreciated that, while Supermicro's motherboards were assembled in China or Taiwan, its engineers were based in Silicon Valley. But the company's workforce featured one characteristic that made it uniquely attractive to China: A sizable portion of its engineers were native Mandarin speakers. One of Bloomberg's sources said the government is still investigating whether spies were embedded within Supermicro or other US companies).

But however it was done, these tiny microchips somehow found their way into Supermicro's products. Bloomberg provided a step-by-step guide detailing how it believes that happened.

  • A Chinese military unit designed and manufactured microchips as small as a sharpened pencil tip. Some of the chips were built to look like signal conditioning couplers, and they incorporated memory, networking capability, and sufficient processing power for an attack.
  • The microchips were inserted at Chinese factories that supplied Supermicro, one of the world’s biggest sellers of server motherboards.
  • The compromised motherboards were built into servers assembled by Supermicro.
  • The sabotaged servers made their way inside data centers operated by dozens of companies.
  • When a server was installed and switched on, the microchip altered the operating system’s core so it could accept modifications. The chip could also contact computers controlled by the attackers in search of further instructions and code.

In espionage circles, infiltrating computer hardware - especially to the degree that the Chinese did - is extremely difficult to pull off. And doing it at the nation-state level would be akin to "a unicorn jumping over a rainbow," as one of BBG's anonymous sources put it. But China's dominance of the market for PCs and mobile phones allows it a massive advantage.

One country in particular has an advantage executing this kind of attack: China, which by some estimates makes 75 percent of the world’s mobile phones and 90 percent of its PCs. Still, to actually accomplish a seeding attack would mean developing a deep understanding of a product’s design, manipulating components at the factory, and ensuring that the doctored devices made it through the global logistics chain to the desired location - a feat akin to throwing a stick in the Yangtze River upstream from Shanghai and ensuring that it washes ashore in Seattle. "Having a well-done, nation-state-level hardware implant surface would be like witnessing a unicorn jumping over a rainbow," says Joe Grand, a hardware hacker and the founder of Grand Idea Studio Inc. "Hardware is just so far off the radar, it’s almost treated like black magic."

But that’s just what U.S. investigators found: The chips had been inserted during the manufacturing process, two officials say, by operatives from a unit of the People’s Liberation Army. In Supermicro, China’s spies appear to have found a perfect conduit for what U.S. officials now describe as the most significant supply chain attack known to have been carried out against American companies.

Some more details from the report are summarized below:

The government found that the infiltration extended to nearly 30 companies, including Amazon and Apple.

  • One official says investigators found that it eventually affected almost 30 companies, including a major bank, government contractors, and the world’s most valuable company, Apple Inc. Apple was an important Supermicro customer and had planned to order more than 30,000 of its servers in two years for a new global network of data centers. Three senior insiders at Apple say that in the summer of 2015, it, too, found malicious chips on Supermicro motherboards. Apple severed ties with Supermicro the following year, for what it described as unrelated reasons.

Both Amazon and Apple denied having knowledge of the infiltration (Amazon eventually acquired Elemental and integrated it into its Amazon Prime Video service). Meanwhile, the Chinese government issued a conspicuous non-denial denial.

  • In emailed statements, Amazon (which announced its acquisition of Elemental in September 2015), Apple, and Supermicro disputed summaries of Bloomberg Businessweek’s reporting. "It’s untrue that AWS knew about a supply chain compromise, an issue with malicious chips, or hardware modifications when acquiring Elemental," Amazon wrote. "On this we can be very clear: Apple has never found malicious chips, 'hardware manipulations’ or vulnerabilities purposely planted in any server," Apple wrote. "We remain unaware of any such investigation," wrote a spokesman for Supermicro, Perry Hayes. The Chinese government didn’t directly address questions about manipulation of Supermicro servers, issuing a statement that read, in part, "Supply chain safety in cyberspace is an issue of common concern, and China is also a victim." The FBI and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, representing the CIA and NSA, declined to comment.

Bloomberg based its story on interviews with 17 anonymous sources, including 6 former government intelligence officials. One official told BBG that China's long-term goal was "long-term access" to sensitive government secrets.

  • In all, 17 people confirmed the manipulation of Supermicro’s hardware and other elements of the attacks. The sources were granted anonymity because of the sensitive, and in some cases classified, nature of the information.
  • The companies’ denials are countered by six current and former senior national security officials, who - in conversations that began during the Obama administration and continued under the Trump administration - detailed the discovery of the chips and the government’s investigation. One of those officials and two people inside AWS provided extensive information on how the attack played out at Elemental and Amazon; the official and one of the insiders also described Amazon’s cooperation with the government investigation. In addition to the three Apple insiders, four of the six U.S. officials confirmed that Apple was a victim. In all, 17 people confirmed the manipulation of Supermicro’s hardware and other elements of the attacks. The sources were granted anonymity because of the sensitive, and in some cases classified, nature of the information.

One government official says China’s goal was long-term access to high-value corporate secrets and sensitive government networks. No consumer data is known to have been stolen.

Notably, this revelation provides even more support to the Trump administration's insistence that the trade war with China was based on national security concerns. The hope is that more US companies will shift production of sensitive components back to the US.

  • The ramifications of the attack continue to play out. The Trump administration has made computer and networking hardware, including motherboards, a focus of its latest round of trade sanctions against China, and White House officials have made it clear they think companies will begin shifting their supply chains to other countries as a result. Such a shift might assuage officials who have been warning for years about the security of the supply chain—even though they’ve never disclosed a major reason for their concerns.

As one government official reminds us, the extent of this attack cannot be understated.

  • With more than 900 customers in 100 countries by 2015, Supermicro offered inroads to a bountiful collection of sensitive targets. "Think of Supermicro as the Microsoft of the hardware world," says a former U.S. intelligence official who’s studied Supermicro and its business model. "Attacking Supermicro motherboards is like attacking Windows. It’s like attacking the whole world."

But perhaps the most galling aspect of this whole scandal is that the Obama Administration should have seen it coming.

  • Well before evidence of the attack surfaced inside the networks of U.S. companies, American intelligence sources were reporting that China’s spies had plans to introduce malicious microchips into the supply chain. The sources weren’t specific, according to a person familiar with the information they provided, and millions of motherboards are shipped into the U.S. annually. But in the first half of 2014, a different person briefed on high-level discussions says, intelligence officials went to the White House with something more concrete: China’s military was preparing to insert the chips into Supermicro motherboards bound for U.S. companies.

And thanks to Obama having dropped the ball, China managed to pull off the most expansive infiltration of the global supply chain ever discovered by US intelligence.

  • But that’s just what U.S. investigators found: The chips had been inserted during the manufacturing process, two officials say, by operatives from a unit of the People’s Liberation Army. In Supermicro, China’s spies appear to have found a perfect conduit for what U.S. officials now describe as the most significant supply chain attack known to have been carried out against American companies.

The inconspicuous-looking chips were disguised to look like regular components but they helped China open doors that "other hackers could go through" meaning China could potentially manipulate the systems being infiltrated (as a reminder, these chips were found in servers used in the US drone program).

  • The chips on Elemental servers were designed to be as inconspicuous as possible, according to one person who saw a detailed report prepared for Amazon by its third-party security contractor, as well as a second person who saw digital photos and X-ray images of the chips incorporated into a later report prepared by Amazon’s security team. Gray or off-white in color, they looked more like signal conditioning couplers, another common motherboard component, than microchips, and so they were unlikely to be detectable without specialized equipment. Depending on the board model, the chips varied slightly in size, suggesting that the attackers had supplied different factories with different batches.
  • Officials familiar with the investigation say the primary role of implants such as these is to open doors that other attackers can go through. “Hardware attacks are about access,” as one former senior official puts it. In simplified terms, the implants on Supermicro hardware manipulated the core operating instructions that tell the server what to do as data move across a motherboard, two people familiar with the chips’ operation say. This happened at a crucial moment, as small bits of the operating system were being stored in the board’s temporary memory en route to the server’s central processor, the CPU. The implant was placed on the board in a way that allowed it to effectively edit this information queue, injecting its own code or altering the order of the instructions the CPU was meant to follow. Deviously small changes could create disastrous effects.
  • Since the implants were small, the amount of code they contained was small as well. But they were capable of doing two very important things: telling the device to communicate with one of several anonymous computers elsewhere on the internet that were loaded with more complex code; and preparing the device’s operating system to accept this new code. The illicit chips could do all this because they were connected to the baseboard management controller, a kind of superchip that administrators use to remotely log in to problematic servers, giving them access to the most sensitive code even on machines that have crashed or are turned off.
  • This system could let the attackers alter how the device functioned, line by line, however they wanted, leaving no one the wiser. To understand the power that would give them, take this hypothetical example: Somewhere in the Linux operating system, which runs in many servers, is code that authorizes a user by verifying a typed password against a stored encrypted one. An implanted chip can alter part of that code so the server won’t check for a password—and presto! A secure machine is open to any and all users.

Shortly after the report was published, the US Department of Defense has scheduled a national-security related press conference for 9:30 am ET on Thursday. It didn't reveal the subject of the briefing, but the timing is certainly suspicious...

But regardless of what is said on Thursday, one thing probably won't change: Expect to hear a lot less about Russia, and a lot more about China as the deep state's interference myopic focus on the former shifts to the latter. As Kevin Warsh framed the question during a Thursday interview with CNBC where he asked "are we at the beginning of a 20-year Cold War?" in response to a question about curbing China's influence - both economically and defensively. We imagine we'll be hearing a lot more about the breach from senior US officials, including both the vice president and the president himself, in the very near future.

Published:10/4/2018 7:24:23 AM
[Markets] Russia Says Space Station Hole Was Deliberate Sabotage After Formal Investigation

After a thorough investigation which included consultation with NASA, Russia is now pointing the finger to deliberate sabotage as causing a hole that created a dangerous oxygen leak on the International Space Station (ISS).

Dmitry Rogozin, the head of Russian space agency Roskosmos, said on Monday that an official investigative report had confirmed their prior theory: "It concluded that a manufacturing defect had been ruled out which is important to establish the truth," he said. 

Damage to the craft first uncovered in late August while it was anchored to the International Space Station (ISS) alarmed engineers and raised suspicion of foul play — a possibility at first thought remote — but an air leak was initially thought to be the result of a micrometeorite colliding with the vessel.

Concerning the drill hole, the Russian space agency chief continued, "Where it was made will be established by a second commission, which is at work now." The agency is now actively seeking the person or persons responsible for drilling the hole. 

A report of the new findings in Yahoo news summarizes of prior suggestions that it was a mere accident or assembly defect:

Now it appears that isn’t the case, and that the hole was created specifically to cause problems for the crew. Who created it remains to be seen, but the Russian space agency is clearly taking this all incredibly seriously and whoever was responsible will likely face some incredibly stiff punishment.

An initial inquiry from early September, related in Russian media, had described the possibility of a "reckless assembly worker" reported to have made a manufacturing error that had possibly opened up further once in space. However, the latest formal investigation reveals the Russians believe the damage is far beyond a mere manufacturing error, and have thus dismissed the idea that it was accidental or an assembly error

Previously a Russian space program source described to TASS news agency that “There are drilling traces not only inside the living module [of the ISS], but also on anti-meteorite plates.”

These plates have been described in media reports as "mounted outside of the station’s hermetic hull". “The one who made the hole in the hull passed straight through it and the drill head hit external non-hermetic protection,” the TASS source explained. "The top of the drill came through the pressure hull and hit the non-gas-tight outer shell."

Sergei Prokopyev explained on a video released by Roscosmos last month that his team had located and sealed the tiny hole that created loss of pressure. Image source: AP

Officials now hope that a secondary investigation will locate a suspect or suspects responsible. The investigation will continue even as Russian media in some instances has speculated on sensational claims that American astronauts secretly sabotaged the Russian vessel docked at the space station; however, such an act could have potentially caused danger to the entire ISS including the American sectors as well. 

A prior statement between the Russian space chief and NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine had attempted to calm widespread speculation and accusations of foul play: "The Administrator and the General Director noted speculations circulating in the media regarding the possible cause of the incident and agreed on deferring any preliminary conclusions and providing any explanations until the final investigation has been completed," the statement read. 

And further, the NASA statement said of Russia-NASA cooperation: "They affirmed the necessity of further close interaction between NASA and Roscosmos technical teams in identifying and eliminating the cause of the leak, as well as continuation of normal ISS operations and NASA’s ongoing support of the Roscosmos-led Soyuz investigation."

NASA has denied the possibility that Americans could have had anything to do with it. However, this latest turn certainly adds suspense to an already very bizarre saga playing out dangerously in space. 

Published:10/4/2018 2:01:02 AM
[Markets] China Is Developing Space Lasers To Detect Submarines 1,640 Feet Underwater

China is developing a dual-purpose laser-equipped low-Earth orbit satellite. The program was launched earlier this year, is aimed at increasing Chinese surveillance of maritime traffic and unparallel anti-submarine warfare detection in the world's oceans.

Project Guanlan, meaning "watching the big waves," was launched in May at the Pilot National Laboratory for Marine Science and Technology in Qingdao, a city in eastern Shandong Province on the east coast of China, said South China Morning Post.

It is an ambitious project that the US and Russia have failed to acquire fully. China aims to boost its surveillance activities in the South China Sea, East China Sea, Yellow Sea, Sea of Japan, and the Phillippine Sea, according to the laboratory’s website.

Researchers are currently working on the satellite’s design at the laboratory, but its lasers and internal components are being developed by 20 research institutes and universities across the country.

Song Xiaoquan, a researcher involved in the project, said if the program is successful, it will enable China to surveil the upper layer of the Ocean.

"It will change almost everything," Song said.

For several decades, countries around the world have been trying to develop a device to detect submarines using LIDAR (light detection and ranging) technology. Both the US and Russia have tools that can recognize submarines 300 feet below the surface of the sea. But this is not enough, as most superpowers have subs that operate at depths of 1,600 feet.

Recently, NASA and Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency funded projects that could see submarines up to 600 feet below the surface -- but still nowhere close to the 1600 feet target zone.

Lasers that penetrate 1,600 feet depth remain a pipedream for major superpowers. China is attempting to realize this dream.

Once Project Guanlan's laser components are assembled. A pilot test of the device could be mounted on a spy plane as well as surveillance satellites.

Shooting a laser beam from space has been difficult as the beam tends to degrade in the atmosphere and various layers of the ocean. Sunrays do not go more than 600 feet deep in the oceanic water.

Once completed, Project Guanlan could be manufactured by the Xian Institute of Optics and Precision Mechanics, Chinese Academy of Sciences in Shaanxi province.

Zhang Tinglu, another fellow researcher, involved in the project, said the primary obstacle for the satellite was the thermocline, a thin layer of water where the temperature changes abruptly, which degrades the effectiveness of the laser.

Tinglu declined to elaborate on the future of the satellite but noted that thermocline is known to be important for submarine captains because it can reflect active sonar and other acoustic signals. That means a sub could potentially avoid detection in the thermocline, but not by a laser beam.

Song, Tinglu, and or the lab did not give the South China Morning Post any indication as to when the laser will be completed. Song did say the team has been under pressure. "There’s still heaps of problems that we need to solve," he added.

Since President Xi Jinping took office in 2013, China has been investing heavily in military hardware, including anti-submarine technology, as it militarizes the South China Sea.

With the possible development of Chinese lasers in low-Earth orbit detecting American and allied subs in oceanic waters could be a game-changer in geo-strategic one-upmanship competition as the new Cold War between US-China is a major theme for 2020 and beyond.

Published:10/4/2018 12:29:36 AM
[Markets] Fasanara Capital: "Nobody Cares About Market Valuations These Days"

Submitted by Francesco Filia of Fasanara Capital

How Expensive Is The Equity Market In The US

The biggest equity bubble out there is in the US: the Nasdaq and the S&P. This is no news, few disagree in market chatters. Nobody is positioned for it, though. Looking at valuation metrics, there is not the shadow of a doubt: Shiller P/E, Hussman P/E, P/Sales, P/Book, EV/EBITDA, Cash Flow Yield, Forward P/E.

At Fasanara, we add to the list the ‘Peak PEG Ratio’ (read here a full working definition), a measure of how expensive a stock is relative to its ability to generate earnings. In single stocks, the PEG ratio is commonly used, as is rationale for investors to have the will to pay higher multiples for stocks capable of generating high growth. Yet, for indexes, this is rarely done. If and when you do, this is the incontrovertible result:

We consider cyclically-adjusted earnings, like Prof Shiller institutionalized (and won a Nobel doing). To counter one of its most frequent critics, to have included non-normal conditions during the Lehman crisis, we just consider the two top quarters in earnings in the last 40. In spite of that, the resulting pic is still a NASA Space Shuttle that left the orbit.

The cartel of ZIRP, 5trn US QE, 5trn US Buybacks, and now late-cycle 1.4trn tax cuts sugar-rush did not go unnoticed in markets. The S&P qualifies as the most expensive in history and pre-history. When compared to potential economic growth, multiples on the S&P500 exceed even those seen during the Tech Bubble in 2000. When measured against potential growth, even against its peak earnings in 10 years, the S&P has never before been this expensive before. It is approx. 60% above its historical average fair value.

How Expensive Is The Bond Market In Europe

The biggest bond bubble out there is in Europe, where real and nominal rates are still negative in spite of ebullient global equities. Bond yields are historically aligned with growth and inflation rates, according to basic valuation models. Why not, then, draw their historical simple relationship to them, in ratio format. This is what the ‘Real Rate to Growth Ratio’ does (read here a full definition), no more no less. And this is the self-explanatory Chart that results:

When compared to trend growth, government bonds in core Europe have rarely been as expensive as they are today. They are 250/300 basis point away from equilibrium.

How Much More Expensive Can They Get

Not much further, perhaps. This is what we find out in our studies on market structure and what we call the Tipping Points Analysis (‘TPA’). Our analysis is available in this e-Book, and is further discussed in slides 16 and 17 in this presentation.

Nobody Cares

Let’s be clear: nobody cares about valuations these days in markets. The lack of care is visible across the spectrum of investable assets, public and private: Equities, Bonds, High Yield, Emerging Markets, Venture Capital, Private Equity, Real Estate. It seems that we live through the apotheosis of what Nassim Taleb calls the ‘Bob Rubin trade’: my profit, your losses. A perverse incentive scheme is heavily skewed for money managers to not care, and moral hazard to disseminate across. Regulators, more strangely but not uncommonly to history, turn a blind eye, as ‘you cannot know a bubble, except in retrospect’, they lament. There is crowding in Academics too, Rob Arnott would probably say. Or worse, the ‘Portfolio Balance Channel Theory’ of Ben Bernanke actively goal-sought this out, as output to the experimental model. Call it the key to kick-off ‘animal spirit’ or ‘trickle-down economics’, elegantly.

As sober investors though, we should care that nobody does. Tail Risk badly needs complacency as a basic ingredient to assert itself, and compound Systemic Risks.

In Complexity Science parlance, complacency is the lack of the negative feedback loop keeping systems at bay, in stable state. Complacency is instead propelling them further out, in thin air stratosphere, where far-from-equilibrium dynamics apply.

The Critical Transformation Hypothesis

Our thoughts are expanded upon in this video slideshow. In a big long nutshell, we believe that Systemic Risk in financial markets are best analyzed through the prism of Complexity Science, using the analytical tools available to non-linear socio-ecological systems, where a shift in positive loops comes in anticipation of a dramatic transformation.

Chaos theory and Catastrophe Theory can then help shed light on the current set-up in markets. Years of monumental Quantitative Easing / Negative Interest Rates monetary policy affected the behavioral patterns of investors and changed the structure itself of the market, in what accounts as self-amplifying positive feedbacks. The structure of the market moved into a low-diversity trap, where concentration risks of various nature intersect and compound: approx. 90% of daily equity flows in the US is today passive or quasi-passive, approx. 90% of investment strategies is doing the same thing in being either trend-linked or volatility-linked, a massive concentration in managers sees the first 3 asset managers globally controlling a mind-blowing USD 15 trillions (at more than 20 times the entire market cap of several G20 countries), approx. 80% of index performance in 2018 is due to 3 stocks only, a handful of tech stocks – so-called ‘market darlings’ - are disseminated across the vast majority of passive and active investment instruments. 

The morphing structure of the market, under the unequivocal push of QE/ZIRP new-age ideologism, is the driver of a simultaneous overvaluation for Bonds and Equities (Twin Bubbles) which has no match in modern financial history, so measured against most valuation metrics ever deemed reputable; a condition which further compounds potential systemic damages.

The market has lost its key function of price-discovery, its ability to learn and evolve, its inherent buffers and redundancy mechanisms: in a word, the market lost its ‘resilience’. It is, therefore, prone to the dynamics of criticality, as described by Complexity Science in copious details.

This is the under-explored, unintended consequence of extreme experimental monetary policymaking. A far-from-equilibrium status for markets is reached, a so-called unstable equilibrium, where System Resilience weakens and Market Fragility approaches Critical Tipping Points.

A small disturbance is then able to provoke a large adjustment, pushing into another basin of attraction altogether, where a whole new equilibrium is found. In market parlance, more prosaically, a market crash is incubating - and has been so for a while.

While it is impossible to determine the precise threshold for such critical transitioning within a stochastic world, it is very possible to say that we are already in such phase transition zone, where markets got inherently fragile, poised at criticality for small disturbances, and where it is increasingly probable to see severe regime shifts.

Fragile markets now sit on the edge of chaos. This is the magic zone, theorized by complexity scientists, where rare events become typical.

Published:9/30/2018 1:41:48 PM
[Government] NASA’s bold-ish plan for the next era takes us to the moon and Mars… eventually NASA has issued a report summarizing its official plans for exploring our solar system, and it makes for exciting reading — if you don’t mind that it comes with a dose of realism. Crewed missions to the moon’s surface; a semi-permanent base orbiting it; a Mars sample return mission; all these and more are there, […] Published:9/26/2018 5:45:56 PM
[Markets] The Next Big Geomagnetic Storm Poses An Astronomical Risk To Modern Man

Scientists are concerned about the next significant "space weather" event, which begins at the sun in the center of the solar system. Severe space weather occurs less frequently than traditional weather on Earth but can be more destructive in nature.

The sun is now headed towards a solar minimum, forecasted to arrive in 2019 as the Sun changes over from Solar Cycle 24 to Solar Cycle 25. The Sun goes through 11-year cycles, during which solar activity increases and decreases.


Tracking sunspot activity dates back to the start of the first solar cycle in 1755. Today, simple sketching and counting of sunspot numbers have given way to land-based and space-based technologies that continuously monitor the Sun.

Scientists have discovered that intense activity such as sunspots and solar flares generally subside during a solar minimum. Dean Pesnell of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, said during a solar minimum, that does not mean the sun becomes dull.

He said solar activity simply changes.

For instance, Pesnell warned, "during a solar minimum, we can see the development of long-lived coronal holes."

Coronal holes are large regions in the sun’s atmosphere where the sun’s magnetic field opens up and allows streams of solar particles known as coronal mass ejection (CME) to escape the sun as fast solar wind.

If the coronal hole is Earth-facing, then electrically charged particles from the Sun slam into Earth's magnetic field and cause intense electromagnetic storms around the planet. The impact of these particles on the electronic infrastructure underlying modern industrial civilization can be devastating, said the Financial Times.

CMEs disrupt GPS, satellites, and astronauts currently in space. Even airline crew and passengers get a markedly higher dose of radiation during solar storms, especially during polar-crossing, trans-oceanic flights.

And a repeat of the most significant solar storm on record, the 1859 Carrington Super-flare, would cost trillions of dollars in damage as power grids, communication networks, and electronic equipment worldwide would be knocked out.

Some scientists believe that Earth is due for a severe space weather event that could send civilization temporarily into reverse.

Another incident occurred in 1989, when an Earth-facing CME rocked the planet, producing a surge in voltage that caused Hydro-Québec power grid in Canada to collapse, leaving millions of people without electricity.

"During a big geomagnetic storm in 2003, a Japanese scientific satellite was lost and 10 percent of the world’s satellite fleet suffered malfunctions," said Professor Richard Horne of the British Antarctic Survey.

"Today we have around 1,500 satellites in orbit, with thousands more due to be launched in the next few years," Prof Horne adds. "People are trying to use more commercial off-the-shelf components, rather than components made to operate in space, and many systems have not been tested in a major storm, so there is a lot of uncertainty about what might happen."

A recent space weather event in late April 2017, allegedly knocked out power grids across the entire country in one simultaneous fashion. San Fransisco, New York, and Los Angeles were the three main areas affected. Each region experienced challenges or shutdowns in basic infrastructure such as communication networks and mass transportation.

An unfortunate coincidence of adverse space and Earth weather came in September 2017, when space storms disrupted shortwave radios for hours -- preventing emergency response to hurricanes tearing apart the Caribbean.

"The Sun’s been very quiet for the last 10 years. It reminds people not to be complacent," said Mike Hapgood, head of space weather at the UK Rutherford Appleton Laboratory.

Scientists tell the Financial Times that satellites can monitor potentially troublesome activity on the sun days ahead of a possible eruption, forecasting the path and effects of an actual CME, well, that is very difficult. If the CME is Earth-facing it takes about 24-hours to arrive, so when the next big solar flare comes racing towards Earth, government officials do not have enough time to prepare the nation or even the world for impact -- it would be devastating.

According to Prof Horne, the most notable satellite for short-term space weather forecasting today is the US Deep Space Climate Observatory, or DSCOVR, launched into low-Earth Orbit (LEO) in 2015. From this tactical position about 1m miles from Earth, DSCOVR provides an early warning of about one hour before impact.

In late 2016, the Obama administration quietly passed an executive order titled "Coordinating Efforts to Prepare the Nation for Space Weather Events," which prepares the fragile nation for economic collapse from a space weather event. The mainstream media, for a good reason, were not allowed to cover the passage of this executive order because it would cause too much panic among the American people. When the next significant solar event strikes, most will not be prepared -- not even government.

Published:9/21/2018 12:16:14 AM
[Markets] Will NASA’s next rockets carry a Budweiser logo? NASA's administrator has directed the space agency to look at boosting its brand by selling naming rights to rockets and spacecraft. Published:9/11/2018 2:29:26 AM
[Markets] Russia Says Space Station Leak May Be Deliberate Sabotage

Last week, we reported that in what may have been a scene out of the movie Gravity, NASA scrambled to contain a pressure leak on the International Space Station that was reportedly caused by a micrometeorite striking the lab according to the Russian space agency.

However, a few days later what was merely an innocent close encounter with a meteor, turns out may have been straight out of a Stanley Kubrick movie, because according to PhysOrg, the Russian space chief said the air leak on the International Space Station last week could have been deliberate sabotage.

Russia's space agency chief Dmitry Rogozin said the hole detected Thursday in the Russian space craft docked at the orbiting station was caused by a drill and could have been done deliberately, either back on Earth or by astronauts in space. He said that astronauts used tape to seal the leak after it caused a small loss of pressure that was not life-threatening.

"There were several attempts at drilling," Rogozin said late Monday in televised comments, adding that the drill appeared to have been held by a "wavering hand". "What is this: a production defect or some premeditated actions?" he asked.

"We are checking the Earth version. But there is another version that we do not rule out: deliberate interference in space."

A state commission will seek to identify the culprit by name, Rogozin said, calling this a "matter of honour" for Russia's Energiya space manufacturing company that made the Soyuz.

Asked to comment on the sabotage allegations, a NASA spokeswoman referred all questions to the Russian space agency which is overseeing the commission's analysis. Last week Rogozin said the hole in the side of the ship used to ferry astronauts was most likely caused from outside by a tiny meteorite, but later admitted it had been ruled out.

A Russian MP who is a former cosmonaut suggested that a psychologically disturbed astronaut could have done it to force an early return home.

"We're all human, and anyone might want to go home, but this method is really low," Maxim Surayev of President Vladimir Putin's ruling party, told RIA Novosti state news agency.

"If a cosmonaut pulled this strange stunt—and that can't be ruled out—it's really bad," said Surayev, who spent two stints on the ISS. "I wish to God that this is a production defect, although that's very sad, too—there's been nothing like this in the history of Soyuz ships."

Some were skeptical by the sabotage theory: Alexander Zheleznyakov, a former space industry engineer and author, told TASS state news agency however that drilling the hole in zero gravity would be nearly impossible in that part of the spacecraft. "Why would cosmonauts do it?" he asked.

The hole was in a section of the Soyuz ship that will not be used to carry astronauts back to Earth.

A space industry source told TASS that the spacecraft could have been damaged during testing at Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan after passing initial checks and the mistake was then hastily covered up.

"Someone messed up and then got scared and sealed up the hole," the source speculated, but then the sealant "dried up and fell off" when the Soyuz reached the ISS.

Meanwhile, RIA Novosti reported that Energiya will carry out checks for possible defects on all Soyuz ships and Progress unmanned ships used for cargo at its production site outside Moscow and at Baikonur. The ISS is one of the few areas of Russia-US cooperation that remains unaffected by the slump in relations and Washington's sanctions, although as we reported over the weekend, Russia announced it would stop carrying US astronauts to the space station in April.

Russia's rockets used for launching spacecraft and satellites have suffered engine problems.

Currently on the ISS are two cosmonauts from Russia, three NASA astronauts and a German from the European Space Agency.

Published:9/4/2018 4:12:47 PM
[Markets] Russia To Stop Carrying US Astronauts To Space Station In April

Russia’s contract with NASA to carry astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS) will end in April 2019, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Yury Borisov told reporters on Friday. Under the current contract, American astronauts have had access to seats on Russian Soyuz spacecraft in order to reach the ISS and return home according to RT.

Yury Borisov, who is responsible for overseeing military and space matters in the Russian cabinet, said that the landing of a Soyuz-MS spaceship in April next year "will finalize the fulfillment of our obligation under a contract with NASA."

The expiration will pile further pressure on NASA to restore its own capability to shuttle U.S. crew members back and forth to the orbiting lab. The space agency has contracting with Boeing and Musk's SpaceX to develop new vehicles to transport astronauts, but the work has been plagued by delays.

NASA has relied on Russia since retirement of the space shuttle in 2011 ended U.S.-controlled access to the space station. Congress and President Donald Trump’s administration have touted the commercial program’s importance to ending that reliance, especially as diplomatic relations between the nations have deteriorated.

The cost of the ISS ferry service has varied over the years: currently Russia charges NASA about $81 million per seat on the Soyuz to fly astronauts to and from the station, up from the cheapest price of $21.8 million in 2007 and 2008. NASA signed an agreement in early 2017 to acquire additional Soyuz seats into 2019, although no further contracts involving the Russian craft have been announced.

The discontinuation of the Space Shuttle program seemed like a minor inconvenience in 2011, when the US and Russia were on relatively good terms. Today however, as a result of the bitter political stand-off between the two nations, the fact that the US has to rely on Russia in some aspects of its space exploration is considered humiliating by some people in America.

However, Russia may continue carrying US astronauts to orbit if a new deal is struck, Sergey Krikalev, executive director of manned space programs at Roscosmos, told TASS. "This is a working issue. The current contract ends, but it doesn’t mean that we’ll stop delivering American astronauts on the ISS. There’ll be other contracts. No tough measures are implemented." Discussions on the next contract are already underway between Roscosmos and NASA, but "there have been no specific decisions yet," Krikalev added.

NASA officials declined to say whether the agency has discussed procuring additional Soyuz spots with Russian officials. "As part of its normal operations planning, NASA is continuing to assess multiple scenarios to ensure continued U.S. access to the International Space Station," NASA spokeswoman Stephanie Schierholz said in an email.

According to Bloomberg, in September 2014, NASA awarded Boeing and Elon Musk’s Space Exploration Technologies Corp. a combined $6.8 billion to revive the U.S.’s ability to fly to the station. SpaceX plans to fly Demo-2, its first test flight with a crew, in April 2019, while Boeing’s Crew Test Flight is now slated for mid-2019, according to a new schedule that NASA released Aug. 2.

Both dates are later than the companies had been targeting. The first Boeing and SpaceX test flights without a crew could occur later this year, according to NASA’s most recent flight schedule.

Late Senator John McCain was among the most vocal critics of the situation, in which the US pays Russia millions of dollars each year in return for space engines and rides to the ISS. Vice-President Mike Pence last week pledged that the US will “very soon” be able to take people into space without Russia’s help and will return to the moon by 2024.

Published:9/1/2018 4:13:20 PM
[Markets] North America's Devastating Wildfires, Viewed From Space

If you live on the west coast of North America, it’s likely that you’ve felt a bit smoked out, lately.

Wildfires in British Columbia, Canada are already the worst in the province’s history, while California has had a particularly rough season with human deaths, evacuations, and billions of dollars of damage.

Oregon has one confirmed death from a wildfire in mid-July, and Washington hasn’t gotten off easy, either. On July 31, 2018 a state of emergency was declared in the Evergreen State.

VISUALIZING WILDFIRES FROM SPACE

Today’s image comes to us from NASA, and it shows aerosols around the world including those originating from volcanoes, desert dust, cloud cover, sea-salt – and of course, smoke.

Here’s the same image with labels, indicating black carbon on the west coast of the continent:

Courtesy of: Visual Capitalist

The wildfires are just as visible as the massive slash-and-burning occurring in Central Africa, hurricanes and typhoons, and even the dust swirling up from the Sahara, the world’s largest desert.

Here’s a visualization of the fires in North America, with some extra zoom:

It’s clear from this image that smoke isn’t just affecting the coast – in fact, experts say it has been travelling as far as Ireland, in lesser concentrations of course.

OTHER VISUALS

While we thought the visualization above was the most striking, there are countless of other examples from the last month that show the extent of wildfires and smoke on the west coast.

Here’s another shot from NASA from a few weeks ago, during peak wildfire season in California and Oregon:

And here’s an image of Seattle and Vancouver from mid-August, when smoke from Canadian fires was so bad in those cities that it was like “inhaling seven cigarettes” per day:

FUTURE FORECAST

As we roll into September, the worst of the wildfire season is over.

Unfortunately, it’s already been the worst in British Columbia’s history. Here are the 10 worst fire seasons graphed since 1950, based on square kilometers burned:


Data as of Aug 29, 2018, and from the BC Forest Service

While this year has been an anomaly, it may also be a preview of what’s to come. One recent report out of California said that the number of wildfires over 25,000 acres is likely to increase by 50% leading up to 2050.

Is this the new normal?

Published:8/30/2018 10:59:31 PM
[2018 News] Gamer gunman was hospitalized for psychological issues and struggled at college where he fell behind as it’s revealed his NASA engineer father and government worker mom argued over his medical care when they divorced Gamer gunman was hospitalized for psychological issues and struggled at college where he fell behind as it’s revealed his NASA engineer father and government worker mom argued over his medical care when they divorced. Well, it appears we have another problem child who somehow obtained a weapon. Did he buy it? Did his dad or […] Published:8/27/2018 6:25:19 PM
[Markets] More Evidence The Economy Is Deteriorating

Authored by Dave Kranzler via Investment Research Dynamics,

“Financial-market and economic prospects remain far shy of the hype and headlines, amidst tanking consumer optimism and negative revisions to recent reporting.” – John Williams, Shadowstats.com

The economy may seem like it’s doing well if you are part of the upper 10% demographic. Though, in reality, for most of the upper 10%, doing “well” has been a function of having easy access to credit. NASA Federal Credit Union is offering 0% down, 0% mortgage insurance for mortgages up to $2.5 million.

Someone I know suggested the tax cut stimulus had run its course. But the narrative that the tax cuts would stimulate economic activity was pure propaganda. The tax cuts stimulated $1 trillion in expected share buybacks and put more money in the pockets of corporate insiders and billionaires. The average middle class household spent its tax cut money on more expensive gasoline and food. Since the tax cut took effect, auto sales and home sales have declined. Retail sales have been mixed. However, it’s difficult to distinguish between statistical manipulation and inflation. I would argue that, net of real inflation and Census Bureau statistical games, real retail sales have been declining.

As an example, last week Black Box Intelligence released July restaurant sales. While comparable store sales were up 0.54% over July 2017, comparable restaurant traffic was down 1.8%. On a rolling three months, comp sales are up 0.46% but comparable traffic is down nearly 2%. With traffic declining, especially a faster rate relative to the small increase in sales, it means the sales “growth” is entirely a function of price inflation. If Black Box Intelligence could control it’s data for price increases, it would show that there is no question that real sales are declining. I have been loathe to recommend shorting restaurant stocks because, for some reason, the hedge funds love them.

On Wednesday last week, the Government reported July retail sales, which were “up” 0.5% vs June. However, June’s 0.5% “gain” was revised sharply lower to 0.2%. Revising the previous month lower to make the headline number for the reported month appear higher is a mathematical gimmick that the Government uses frequently. As an example of the questionable quality of the retail sales report, the Government reports that sales at motor-vehicle and parts dealers rose 0.2% from June to July. But the auto industry itself reported a 4% decline in sales from June to July. I’ll leave it up to you to decide which report is more reliable…

Housing starts for July, reported last Thursday, showed an 8% decline from June’s number. June’s number was revised lower from the original number reported. No surprise there, at least for me. The report missed the Wall Street brain trust’s expectations by a wide margin for the second month in row. The downward revision to June makes the report even worse. Additionally, housing starts are now down year-over-year for the second month in a row.

This report followed last Wednesday’s mortgage applications report which showed a decline in purchase applications for the 5th week in a row. The housing starts number continues to throw cold water on the “low inventory” narrative. While there still may some areas of housing market strength in the $500,000 and below price bucket, the mortgage purchase applications data has been mostly negative since April, which reflects deteriorating home sales. This reality is “magnified” by the fact that home sales have declining during what should be the strongest seasonal period of the year for home sales.

Lending Tree, Zillow Group and Redfin are “derivatives” of housing market activity. They reflect web searches, foot traffic and sales associated with mortgages and home sales. Lending Tree stock is down nearly 42% late January. Zillow stock is down 26% since mid-June. Redfin is down 39.5% since the beginning of the year, including an 18.5% plunge two weeks ago. unequivocally, these three stocks reflect the popping of the housing bubble. The Short Seller Journalrecommended shorting all three of these stocks before their big declines.

Normally I’m hesitant to discuss the regional Fed economic surveys because they are skewed by their expectations/outlook (hope/sentiment) components. However, the Philly Fed survey for August was notable because it reinforced my view that the economy and the “hope” for a better economy is fading quickly. The overall index crashed to 11.9 from 25.7 in July. This is lower than just before the Trump election, when “hope” soared. Wall Street was expecting a 22.5 reading on the index. The new orders, work week and employment components plunged. Shipments dropped, inventories rose and prices paid fell. This report reflects the view that economy is much weaker than is conveyed by the political propaganda coming form DC.

I don’t know what it will take to cause a plunge in the Dow, S&P 500 and Nasdaq but, as we’ve seen with homebuilder stocks, there’s a lot of opportunity to make money on economic reality in the lesser-followed sectors of the stock market.

Published:8/26/2018 8:15:47 PM
[Markets] "Worst Storm In A Quarter Century" Nears Hawaii, Gov Warns "Be Prepared To Shelter In Place"

Overnight saw Hurricane Lane churn slowly toward Hawaii as 1.4 million people brace for the U.S. Pacific island state’s worst storm in a quarter century.

Hurricane Lane in the early morning hours near Hawaii (Source/ The crew of the @Space_Station) 

The storm is moving northwest to the Hawaiian islands at 7 miles per hour with sustained winds of 130 miles per hour, and forecasters say it’s “on course to pass very close” to the islands or make landfall from Thursday through early Saturday.

It could be so disastrous that state officials are asking residents to stockpile food and water for several weeks.

“Be prepared to shelter in place with 14 days of food supplies and water and any other necessities,” Hawaii Gov. David Ige said at a press conference Wednesday.

NOAA: Lane Weakens Slightly While Tracking Towards The Hawaiian Islands 

“Preparations to protect life and property should be rushed to completion,” the National Weather Service said. “Life-threatening impacts are likely in some areas as the hurricane makes its closest approach.”

NOAA: Earliest Reasonable Arrival Time of Tropical-Storm-Force Winds

“Lane – classified as a powerful Category 4 storm on the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale of hurricane strength – was expected to hit the Big Island overnight and slam the island of Maui on Thursday,” according to Reuters.

To the north, Oahu was under a hurricane warning while Kauai remained on hurricane watch meaning it could face similar conditions starting Friday morning.

Governor David Ige requested for a President Disaster Declaration for the State of Hawaii on Wednesday. Washington shortly approved it.

“I urge our residents and visitors to take this threat seriously and prepare for a significant impact,” the governor said at a news conference in the state capital, Honolulu.

He also announced that all schools, University of Hawaii campuses and non-essential government offices on the islands of Oahu and Kauai would be closed for at least two days starting on Thursday.

Tropical Tid Bits: Global + Hurricane Models

On Thursday morning, Reuters compiled a list of critical events that have transpired in Hawaii in the last 24 hours, as citizens, government, and the military are now preparing for a devastating hit:

The shelves of a downtown Honolulu Walmart were stripped of items ranging from canned tuna to dog food. Shoppers jostled with one another to get the last boxes of ramen noodles.

“There’s nothing in there,” said one shopper leaving the store.

City residents used carts to push cases of bottled water and coolers full of ice, after warnings of possible power outages and evacuations.

Cars waited in long lines at gasoline stations in Honolulu and people could be seen pulling small boats from the water ahead of Lane’s expected storm surge.

“I went to Safeway last night for regular groceries, everyone was in a panic,” said Thao Nguyen, 35, an employee at a Honolulu branch of Hawaiian shirt retailer Roberta Oaks.

“People were buying cases of tiny water bottles.”

U.S. President Donald Trump directed FEMA and administration officials to remain in close coordination with the state, White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders told reporters.

“The president is deeply concerned for the well-being of all Hawaiians,” she said.

U.S. Navy ships and submarines based in Hawaii were instructed to leave port, a common practice as a hurricane approaches to avoid damage.

As of 11 p.m. (0900 GMT Thursday), the storm was centered 235 miles (380 km) south-southwest of Kailua-Kona, the weather service said.

The outer bands of the storm were already dumping 1 to 3 inches an hour of rain on parts of the Big Island as the eastern side of the island was under a flash flood warning, said Gavin Shigesato, a NWS meteorologist said.

The most powerful storm on record to hit Hawaii was Hurricane Iniki, a Category 4 storm that made landfall on Kauai island on Sept. 11, 1992, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. It killed six people and damaged or destroyed more than 14,000 homes.

How are people reacting?

Hawaii News Now shows how the Big Island is starting to see “early impacts” of the storm

Another Twitter user complains about price gouging at Safeway

Big waves rolling in onto the beaches

Supplies going fast at Walmart in Honolulu

Kona businesses begin preparing for the hurricane

NASA captures footage of Hurricane Lane from space

“All Costco’s on Oahu are sold out of water,” said one user.

CBS This Morning provides an update earlier this morning from Hawaii. In short, Hurricane Lane could be devastating.

Published:8/23/2018 12:45:04 PM
[TC] Descartes Labs launches its geospatial analysis platform Descartes Labs, a New Mexico-based geospatial analytics startup, today announced that its platform is now out of beta. The well-funded company already allowed businesses to analyze satellite imagery it pulls in from NASA and ESA and build predictive models based on this data, but starting today, it is adding both weather data to its library, as […] Published:8/15/2018 10:32:44 AM
[Markets] Paul Craig Roberts: The Self-Imposed Impotence Of The Russian And Chinese Governments

Authored by Paul Craig Roberts,

The Russian and Chinese governments are puzzling. They hold all the cards in the sanction wars and sit there with no wits whatsoever as to how to play them.

The Russians won’t get any help from the Western media which obscures the issue by stressing that the Russian government doesn’t want to deprive its citizens of consumer goods from the West, which is precisely what Washington’s sanctions intend to do.

The Russian and Chinese governments are in Washington’s hands because Russia and China, thinking that capitalism had won, quickly adopted American neoliberal economics, which is a propaganda device that serves only American interests.

For years NASA has been unable to function without Russian rocket engines. Despite all the sanctions, insults, military provocations, the Russian government still sends NASA the engines. Why? Because the Russian economists tell the government that foreign exchange is essential to Russia’s development.

Europe is dependent on Russian energy to run its factories and to keep warm in winter. But Russia does not turn off the energy in response to Europe’s participation in Washington’s sanctions, because the Russian economists tell the government that foreign exchange is essential to Russia’s development.

As Michael Hudson and I explained on a number of occasions, this is nonsense. Russia’s development is dependent in no way on the acquisition of foreign currencies.

The Russians are also convinced that they need foreign investment, which serves only to drain profits out of their economy.

The Russians are also convinced that they should freely trade their currency, thereby subjecting the ruble to manipulation on foreign exchange markets. If Washington wants to bring a currency crisis to Russia, all the Federal Reserve, its vassal Japanese, EU, and UK central banks have to do is to short the ruble. Hedge funds and speculators join in for the profits.

Neoliberal economics is a hoax, and the Russians have fallen for it.

So have the Chinese

Suppose that when all these accusations against Russia began - take the alleged attack on the Skirpals for example - Putin had stood up and said:

“The British government is lying through its teeth and so is every government including that of Washington that echoes this lie. Russia regards this lie as highly provocative and as a part of a propaganda campaign to prepare Western peoples for military attack on Russia. The constant stream of gratuitous lies and military exercises on our border have convinced Russia that the West intends war. The consequence will be the total destruction of the United States and its puppets.”

That would have been the end of the gratuitous provocations, military exercises, and sanctions.

Instead, we heard about “misunderstandings” with out “American partners,” which encouraged more lies and more provocations.

Or, for a more mild response, Putin could have announced: “As Washington and its servile European puppets have sanctioned us, we are turning off the rocket engines, all energy to Europe, titanium to US aircraft companies, banning overflights of US cargo and passenger aircraft, and putting in place punitive measures against all US firms operating in Russia.”

One reason, perhaps, that Russia does not do this in addition to Russia’s mistaken belief that it needs Western money and good will is that Russia mistakenly thinks that Washington will steal their European energy market and ship natural gas to Europe. No such infrastructure exists. It would take several years to develop the infrastructure. By then Europe would have mass unemployment and would have frozen in several winters.

What about China?

China hosts a large number of major US corporations, including Apple, the largest capitalized corporation in the world. China can simply nationalize without compensation, as South Africa is doing to white South African farmers without any Western protest, all global corporations operating in China. Washington would be overwhelmed with global corporations demanding removal of every sanction on China and complete subservience of Washington to the Chinese government.

Or, or in addition, China could dump all $1.2 trillion of its US Treasuries. The Federal Reserve would quickly print the money to buy the bonds so that the price did not collapse. China could then dump the dollars that the Fed printed in order to redeem the bonds. The Fed cannot print the foreign curriences with which to purchase the dollars. The dollar would plummet and not be worth a Venezuelan bolivar unless Washington could order its pupper foreign central banks in Japan, UK, and EU to print their currencies in order to purchase the dollars. This, even if complied with, would cause a great deal of stress in what is called “the Western alliance,” but what is really Washington’s Empire.

Why don’t the Russian and Chinese play their winning hands? The reason is that neither government has any advisers who are not brainwashed by neoliberalism. The brainwashing that Americans gave Russia during the Yeltsin years has been institutionalized in Russian institutions. Trapped in this box, Russia is a sitting duck for Washington.

Turkey is a perfect opportunity for Russia and China to step forward and remove Turkey from NATO. The two countries could offer Turkey membership in BRICS, trade deals, and mutual security treaties. China could easily buy up the Turkish currency off foreign exchange markets. The same could be done for Iran. Yet neither Russia nor China appear capable of decisive action. The two countries, both under attack as Turkey is from Washington, sit there sucking their thumbs. 

Published:8/13/2018 8:57:30 PM
[Markets] 72% Of Americans Say It's "Essential" For US To Be World Space Exploration Leader

Seventy-two percent of U.S. adults say it is “essential” for the U.S. to lead the world in space exploration, according to a Pew Research Center survey conducted from March 27 to April 9.

As The Daily Caller's Evie Fordham reports, space exploration is on many Americans’ minds after President Donald Trump proposed creating a sixth branch of the military called the Space Force in March. Vice President Mike Pence delivered a speech Thursday outlining a Pentagon report about how Space Force can become reality.

Eighty percent of U.S. adults see the International Space Station as a “good investment.” Sixty-five percent of U.S. adults see the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) as “essential” in space exploration even as private companies like Virgin Galactic and Elon Musk’s SpaceX have come into existence, according to Pew.

Support for U.S. investment in space exploration and technology is roughly the same among U.S. adults “across gender, educational and political groups,” according to Pew. Seventy-one percent of Baby Boomer and older generations support “continued U.S. space leadership” compared to 70 percent of millennials.

Sixty-three percent of U.S. adults say that monitoring “key parts of the Earth’s climate system” should be a top priority for NASA. Sixty-two percent of U.S. adults say that monitoring “asteroids/objects that could hit earth” should be NASA’s top priority. Only 18 percent say that sending astronauts to Mars should be a top priority.

Democrats, including Hawaii Rep. Brian Schatz, blasted Trump’s interest in space and a potential Space Force after Pence’s speech Thursday.

“It’s dangerous to have a leader who cannot be talked out of crazy ideas,” Schatz said on Twitter Thursday.

Published:8/12/2018 4:10:35 PM
[Artificial Intelligence] NASA’s Parker Solar Probe launches tonight to “touch the sun” NASA's ambitious mission to go closer to the Sun than ever before is set to launch in the small hours between Friday and Saturday — at 3:33 AM Eastern from Kennedy Space Center in Florida, to be precise. The Parker Solar Probe, after a handful of gravity assists and preliminary orbits, will enter a stable orbit around the enormous nuclear fireball that gives us all life and sample its radiation from less than 4 million miles away. Believe me, you don't want to get much closer than that. Published:8/10/2018 1:28:55 PM
[Politics] NASA's Bridenstine Touts Space Force: 'It's Necessary' NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine touted President Donald Trump's plan to create a separate U.S. Space Force as a sixth military service. Published:8/10/2018 8:28:13 AM
[Markets] Your Digital Self: Jeff Bezos shoots for the moon The Amazon.com founder is likely to meet a goal of having his Blue Origin space-travel company work with NASA to return to the moon.
Published:8/10/2018 3:01:35 AM
[World] NASA Astronaut Scott Kelly on Trump Space Force: USAF Has Capability

Former NASA Astronaut Scott Kelly gave mixed reviews to President Donald Trump's plan for a Space Force to militarize space.

Published:8/9/2018 6:53:56 PM
[Markets] Your Digital Self: America’s biggest housing challenge — 3D-printing a home on Mars NASA selects 10 designs for housing on the red planet.
Published:8/9/2018 3:20:40 AM
[Space] NASA names first astronauts for the inaugural commercial flights to the ISS NASA has announced the names of the first astronauts who’ll fly to the International Space Station on American-made, commercial spacecraft. The crews will fly to the space station on rockets built by NASA commercial partners Boeing and SpaceX. “Today, our country’s dreams of greater achievements in space are within our grasp,” said NASA administrator Jim […] Published:8/3/2018 1:56:25 PM
[Gadgets] NASA’s 3D-printed Mars Habitat competition doles out prizes to concept habs A multi-year NASA contest to design a 3D-printable Mars habitat using on-planet materials has just hit another milestone — and a handful of teams have taken home some cold hard cash. This more laid-back phase had contestants designing their proposed habitat using architectural tools, with the five winners set to build scale models next year. Published:7/27/2018 3:14:28 PM
[Markets] World's First Satellite With Harpoon Will Begin Space Junk Removal Test

After more than 60-years of human beings launching satellites into low Earth orbit (LEO), space junk has become a rather serious problem. In fact, humans have left outer space an absolute mess.

In the collection of space junk orbiting above, it includes spent boosters, dead satellites, spacecraft parts, and even Elon Musk’s Tesla Roadster.

According to the United States Space Surveillance Network, there are more than 21,000 objects larger than 3.93 inches orbiting Earth. But, it gets worse, there are an estimated 500,000 bits and pieces of space junk between .40 inches and 3.93 inches in size. The figures do not count active satellites, which the Index of Objects Launched into Outer Space maintained by the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA), counts roughly 4,600 active satellites overhead.

Last month, the RemoveDEBRIS satellite, one of the world’s first experiments to address the problem of space debris orbiting Earth, was launched from the International Space Station (ISS), indicating that a new era of junk removal in space has begun. The satellite traveled to the ISS on a commercial resupply mission aboard the SpaceX CRS-14, following its launch via a Falcon 9 rocket back in April.

Video: RemoveDEBRIS satellite departs from ISS

Led by Surrey Space Centre (SSC) at the University of Surrey, the RemoveDEBRIS satellite was constructed on the SSTL-42 satellite bus platform. The mission to remove space debris was mostly funded by the European Union, will demonstrate its satellite junk removal capabilities later this year and into next.

RemoveDEBRIS satellite features three Airbus technologies to complete the Active Debris Removal (ADR) mission: a harpoon and net to capture space junk, and a Vision-Based Navigation (VBN) system to find space debris.

“We have spent many years developing innovative active debris removal systems to be at the forefront of tackling this growing problem of space debris and to contribute to the UNs’ Sustainable Development Goals for our future generations,” noted Nicolas Chamussy, Head of Airbus Space Systems.

“We will continue to work closely with teams across the world to make our expertise available to help solve this issue.”

The mission began last month via the departure from the ISS. Deployment of the net from RemoveDEBRIS is scheduled for October, while the VBN test could be late Demeber. The harpoon test is expected sometime in the first quarter of 2019. All experiments will be conducted underneath the ISS.

“During the net experiment, a cubesat will be deployed from the main mission craft. Once the cubesat is 5m away, it will be targeted by the net and captured at around 7m before it floats away to deorbit. The harpoon experiment will involve the launch of a 1.5m boom from the main spacecraft with a composite panel on the end. After launching the boom, the harpoon will be fired at 20m per second to penetrate the target and demonstrate its ability to capture debris. The VBN system will be used to test 2D cameras and 3D light detection and ranging (LIDAR) technology provided by Switzerland’s CSEM to track a second cubesat deployed from the main spacecraft,” said Nasaspaceflight.com.

Video: Space Debris removal mission animation – RemoveDEBRIS

If the experiment is successful, the RemoveDebris satellite could be the most cost-effective, orbital debris removal solution the world has ever seen. This would usher in a boom period for the space junk removal industry, which could be first sparked by a series production of the RemoveDebris satellite, along with countless launches via Elon Musk’s Falcon 9 to the ISS. Maybe President Trump’s space force will get it on the action…

Published:7/10/2018 12:15:13 AM
[Markets] Spacecraft With Revolutionary Heat Shield Will "Touch The Sun"

NASA has unveiled a "cutting-edge heat shield" that will make it possible for a space probe to "touch the sun" — or at least get a spacecraft to within 4 million miles of it, which scientists are hailing as nothing short of a "revolutionary" development in space technology. 

The announcement was made via the official site NASA.gov as the launch of the Parker Solar Probe is readied for its August 4 liftoff date: "The launch of Parker Solar Probe, the mission that will get closer to the Sun than any human-made object has ever gone, is quickly approaching, and on June 27, 2018, Parker Solar Probe’s heat shield — called the Thermal Protection System, or TPS — was installed on the spacecraft."

Image source: NASA

The heat shield, measuring eight feet in diameter, will reach nearly 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit while keeping the probe's instruments at about 85 degrees, allowing the probe to "collect unprecedented data" on the giant ball of fire and earth's most vital source of energy, previously impossible to access without a protective shield, and will allow "the spacecraft’s orbit will carry it to within 4 million miles of the Sun's fiercely hot surface," according to NASA

For comparison, the closest that planet Mercury ever gets to the sun during its orbit is approximately 29 million miles, allowing surface temperatures to reach 800 degrees Fahrenheit (430 °C). And Earth’s average distance to the sun is 93 million miles. At the core of the sun, temperatures can reach more than 27 million degrees Fahrenheit (15 million °C), scientists have estimated. 

The TPS shield will enable the probe to reach more than seven times closer than any spacecraft has come before, to within the sun's outer atmosphere known as the corona, as a NASA statement explains, "Parker Solar Probe will employ a combination of in situ measurements and imaging to revolutionise our understanding of the corona and expand our knowledge of the origin and evolution of the solar wind."

And further NASA has defined the mission as to "trace how energy and heat move through the solar corona and to explore what accelerates the solar wind as well as solar energetic particles."

Via Mail Online

The description of the heat shield is as follows:

The heat shield is made of two panels of superheated carbon-carbon composite sandwiching a lightweight 4.5-inch-thick carbon foam core. The Sun-facing side of the heat shield is also sprayed with a specially formulated white coating to reflect as much of the Sun’s energy away from the spacecraft as possible.

The Parker Solar Probe itself is about the size of a car but is light-weight, along with its protective shield:

The heat shield itself weighs only about 160 pounds — here on Earth, the foam core is 97 percent air. Because Parker Solar Probe travels so fast — 430,000 miles per hour at its closest approach to the Sun, fast enough to travel from Philadelphia to Washington, D.C., in about one second — the shield and spacecraft have to be light to achieve the needed orbit.

The agency has previously said the probe will "touch the sun" when it arrives at the star's outer atmosphere, revealing more than ever before about its mysterious "inner workings," according to researchers. 

Published:7/6/2018 9:25:22 PM
[Markets] NASA To Test 'Quiet' Supersonic Booms Over Texas 

The era of commercial supersonic flight could be just around the corner (again).

This November, residents will get to hear “quiet” sonic booms as military jets race above the skies of Galveston, Texas, said NASA.

NASA research pilot Jim “Clue” Less stands next to an F/A-18 that he is flying to help test low-boom flight research. (Source: Maria Werries/NASA)
 

Part of the Low-Boom Flight Demonstration program (LBFD), the space agency recently awarded Lockheed Martin’s Skunk Works a $247.5-million contract to design, build and flight test a low-boom X-plane that could produce a quiet supersonic aircraft in the next three to five years.

The experimental aircraft dubbed X-59 “QueSST,” is scheduled to take to the skies in 2021 with a top velocity of 1.5 times the speed of sound, or about 990 miles per hour at an altitude of 55,000 feet. The jet will only have room for a pilot, as it tests design principles that soften the sonic boom.

Artist drawing of the X-59 “QueSST” (Source: NASA)

“It is super exciting to be back designing and flying X-planes at this scale,” said Jaiwon Shin, NASA’s associate administrator for aeronautics. “Our long tradition of solving the technical barriers of supersonic flight to benefit everyone continues.”

The news comes about four months after President Trump signed the federal budget deal, which funds the Low-Boom Flight Demonstrator (LBFD) program. In the budget proposal, the Trump administration noted that the X-plane “would open a new market for U.S. companies to build faster commercial airliners, creating jobs and cutting cross-country flight times in half.”

While the X-59 is more of a concept than reality, NASA will use McDonnell Douglas F/A-18 Hornets over Galveston to imitate the sonic profile of the X-plane while residents and sound recording sensors document the sonic booms overhead — if there are any.

During the tests this fall, F/A-18 Hornets will perform dives at supersonic speeds, making powerful sonic booms over the Gulf of Mexico and quieter booms over the coastal city. Simultaneously, a network of “audio sensors strategically placed around the city” will provide scientists with a decibel reading of how loud the sonic booms were, said NASA. About 500 local volunteers will be dispersed around the region to document their experience. The combination of audio sensors and the "human factor" will give scientists a better understanding if the LBFD program can produce “quiet” sonic booms.

According to NASA, the Gulf Coast city was selected because of its location near the Gulf of Mexico, allowing the F/A-18s to keep its louder sonic booms (near the dive point) out to sea, while sending muffled sonic thumps [X-59 supersonic profile] towards the city.

“We’ll never know exactly what everyone heard. We won’t have a noise monitor on their shoulder inside their home,” Alexandra Loubeau, NASA’s team lead for sonic boom community response research at Langley, Virginia, said in a statement. “But we’d like to at least have an estimate of the range of noise levels that they actually heard.”

The technology behind the X-59’s noise-reducing ability is its uniquely shaped structure, designed so that supersonic shockwaves do not build up into strong sonic booms.

“With the X-59 you’re still going to have multiple shockwaves because of the wings on the aircraft that create lift and the volume of the plane. But the airplane’s shape is carefully tailored such that those shockwaves do not combine,” said Ed Haering, a NASA aerospace engineer at Armstrong.

“Instead of getting a loud boom-boom, you’re going to get at least two quiet thump-thump sounds, if you even hear them at all,” he said.

“This is why the F/A-18 is so important to us as a tool. While construction continues on the X-59, we can use that diving maneuver to generate quiet sonic thumps over a specific area,” Haering added.

The X-59 is expected for delivery by the second half of 2021. Once the prototype is built and its “quiet” sonic booms confirmed, NASA stated it would conduct test flights across the United States.

Sonic booms have been a problem for aeronautical engineers for decades. In 1973, the U.S. banned commercial supersonic flights over the mainland for concern that sonic booms posed an extreme public nuisance. This was a significant challenge for the Anglo-French Concorde project to expand, which ultimately led to its retirement in 2003.

While commercial supersonic airliners have been around for decades, commercial flights were halted following the Year 2000 crash of Air France Flight 4590. However, the Trump administration is making a move to reintroduce these planes by the mid-2020 period. That is, assuming “quiet” sonic booms can be confirmed via NASA.

Meanwhile, the real test is about a decade later, because it is around early 2030 or mid-2030s when hypersonic airliners are expected to be introduced to the public domain. When that happens, and assuming commercial flight is cost-effective, it would spark the next "travel" revolution around the world.

Published:7/5/2018 10:48:24 PM
[Markets] Amazon's Fusion With The State Shows Neoliberalism's Drift To Neo-Fascism

Authored by Elliott Gabriel via MintPressNews.com,

In Part 1 of our investigative series on Surveillance Capitalism, MPN spoke to author Yasha Levine and Monthly Review editor John Bellamy Foster about the rise of the Amazon.com empire and its fusion with the U.S. state apparatus.

In our next installments, we will continue exploring the rise of Surveillance Capitalism and the implications of Amazon-fueled spying technology, both in the workplace and in U.S. city streets.

“Capitalism is a system that seeks to transgress all boundaries in its production and sale of commodities, commodifying everything in existence, which today, in the age of monopoly-finance capital and surveillance capitalism, means intruding into every aspect of existence,” John Bellamy Foster told MPN.

This year may go down in history as a turning-point when the world finally woke up to the dark side of the ubiquitous presence of popular Silicon Valley companies in our daily lives. One can only hope so, at least.

From Amazon to Facebook, Apple, Google, Microsoft and PayPal – among others – revelations poured out confirming the ongoing abuse of user data by monopolistic corporations, as well as their growing role as vendors of surveillance technology to the U.S. police state, military, and migrant detention agencies.

In March, the lid was blown off of the violation of user data on Facebook, with Cambridge Analytica mining user information for the purpose of providing millions of detailed “psychological profiles” to the Trump campaign, among others. Scarcely two weeks later, the Google campus was in an uproar over the development of its “Project Maven,” which was building an AI-fueled platform to vastly upgrade the automatic targeting abilities of the U.S. military’s global drone fleet. Faced with public outrage and internal dissent, the company pulled out of bidding to renew its Pentagon contract, which ends next year.

Now, employees and shareholders of Amazon.com – the world’s largest online marketer and cloud-computing provider – are demanding that chief executive Jeff Bezos halt the sale of its facial recognition or Amazon Web Services (AWS) Rekognition service to law enforcement agencies across the U.S., including to the Department of Homeland Security – Immigration and Customs Enforcement (DHS-ICE).

“As ethically concerned Amazonians, we demand a choice in what we build, and a say in how it is used,” the letter said. “We learn from history, and we understand how IBM’s systems were employed in the 1940s to help Hitler.

“IBM did not take responsibility then, and by the time their role was understood, it was too late,” it continued, referring to collusion with the operation of Nazi extermination camps during the Second World War. “We will not let that happen again. The time to act is now.”

Unveiled in November 2016 as a part of the AWS cloud suite, Rekognition analyzes images and video footage to recognize objects while providing analytics to users. It also lets clients “identify people of interest against a collection of millions of faces in near real-time, enabling use cases such as timely and accurate crime prevention,” according to promotional material. Law enforcement agencies like the Washington County Sheriff’s Department pay as little as $6 to $12 a month for access to the platform, giving deputies the ability to scan its mugshot database against real-time footage.

Amazon employees cited a report from the ACLU that notes that AWS Rekognition “raises profound civil liberties and civil rights concerns” owing to its “capacity for abuse.” Its uses could include monitoring protest activity, as well as the possibility that ICE could employ the technology to continuously track immigrants and advance its “zero tolerance” policy of detaining migrant families and children at the U.S.-Mexico border.

In the letter distributed on email list “we-won’t-build-it,”  Amazon employees lay out their opposition to their employer’s collusion with the police and the DHS-ICE migrant-capture and mass-incarceration regime:

We don’t have to wait to find out how these technologies will be used. We already know that in the midst of historic militarization of police, renewed targeting of Black activists, and the growth of a federal deportation force currently engaged in human rights abuses — this will be another powerful tool for the surveillance state, and ultimately serve to harm the most marginalized.”

The furor surrounding AWS Rekognition is hardly a revelation to journalist Yasha Levine. Instead, as is the case with Google and other flagship firms’ work for Washington, it’s just another chapter in Silicon Valley’s long-time integration into the repressive state apparatus.

“This isn’t so much a big step to some ‘Surveillance Apocalypse,’ it’s just an indication of where we’ve been for a long time,” Levine told MintPress News.

Yet the Amazon workers’ outrage was likely provoked by recent headlines highlighting the Trump administration’s separation of Central American migrant families at the concentration camps along the Southern border - along with the key role Amazon plays for ICE’s data “ecosystem,” crucial to the operation of ICE’s immigrant enforcement, mass incarceration, and removal regime.

In their letter, Amazon’s employees decried the role the company plays in the platform Palantir provides for ICE:

We also know that Palantir runs on AWS. And we know that ICE relies on Palantir to power its detention and deportation programs. Along with much of the world we watched in horror recently as U.S. authorities tore children away from their parents. Since April 19, 2018 the Department of Homeland Security has sent nearly 2,000 children to mass detention centers...

In the face of this immoral U.S. policy, and the U.S.’s increasingly inhumane treatment of refugees and immigrants beyond this specific policy, we are deeply concerned that Amazon is implicated, providing infrastructure and services that enable ICE and DHS.“

In 2014, ICE gave Palantir a $41 million contract for the Investigative Case Management (ICM) system, which expanded its capacity for data-sharing between the bureau and other agency databases including those of the FBI, the Drug Enforcement Administration, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, among others. The contract allowed ICE to significantly boost its ability to capture and incarcerate unauthorized migrants based on the disparate data Palantir collated and hosted on Amazon Web Services’ servers.

Watch | Palantir 101

“What Amazon has simply done is allow everyone to lease that [Rekognition] capability the way that you would lease its web space, or have a pay-as-you-go plan with Amazon,” Levine commented.

In his new book, Surveillance Valley: The Hidden History of the Internet, Levine details the romance enjoyed between Big Data and the U.S. repressive state. In the introduction to his book, he notes :

From Amazon to eBay to Facebook — most of the Internet companies we use every day have also grown into powerful corporations that track and profile their users while pursuing partnerships and business relationships with major U.S. military and intelligence agencies. Some parts of these companies are so thoroughly intertwined with America’s security services that it is hard to tell where they end and the U.S. government begins.”

Having conquered retail and the internet, Amazon looks to the state and says “Forward”

President Barack Obama shakes hands with workers after speaking at the Amazon fulfillment center in Chattanooga, Tenn., July 30, 2013. Susan Walsh | AP

Conceived by founder Jeff Bezos as an “everything store” selling products from books to DVDs and music, Amazon has long been a scourge to the traditional brick-and-mortar marketplace, spending the late 1990s and the 2000s sweeping big and small booksellers alike into the ash-heap of retail history.

Amazon has now become the de facto store for everything in America –  it’s shocking to think about how much we buy from it and how much money we give away to it,” Levine said, adding that the company’s power as a business “is kind of depressing.”

The company has also become the world’s premier internet hosting firm through its Amazon Web Services cloud computing platform. From 2006 on, AWS played a similar role to Amazon.com’s retail platform in regard to small-fry-displacing traditional corporate data centers and information technology (IT) professionals, providing a previously unimaginable level of centralization in terms of data storage and IT functionality at a low cost. For some time even Dropbox found shelter under the AWS cloud.

Watch | Amazon.com and Jeff Bezos In 1999

The company’s success as the world’s biggest retailer and cloud computing service was closely related to Amazon’s surveillance efforts directed not only toward consumers, but against its huge and heavily-exploited employee workforce. As Levine detailed in his book:

[Amazon] recorded people’s shopping habits, their movie preferences, the books they were interested in, how fast they read books on their Kindles, and the highlights and margin notes they made. It also monitored its warehouse workers, tracking their movements and timing their performance.

Amazon requires incredible processing power to run such a massive data business, a need that spawned a lucrative side business of renting out space on its massive servers to other companies.”

In the 2012 U.S. presidential election, AWS software provided nearly all aspects of then-incumbent President Barack Obama’s reelection campaign software and big-data analysis, ranging from web management to mailing-list management, data modeling, volunteer dispatching, voter-information database maintenance and “massive transaction processing” for donations.

Watch | Obama for America on AWS

By early 2013, a secretive deal awarded Amazon a 10-year, $600-million contract to provide cloud services to the Central Intelligence Agency and the 17 agencies comprising the intelligence community.

Langley’s contract with such a commercially-oriented company as Amazon, rather than rival bidder IBM, sent shockwaves through the tech industry, but the company boasted that it reflected the “superior technology platform” it could provide to the CIA along with its ability to deliver “the confidence and security assurance needed for mission-critical systems.”

Amazon’s platform will soon be the venue for a major intelligence project by the CIA dubbed “Mesa Verde,” which will see the agency’s AWS-built C2S cloud software deployed in multiple experiments meant to parse thousands of terabytes of data, including public web data, using natural language processing tools, sentiment analysis, and data visualization.

According to a Bloomberg Government report in May, AWS is the only private cloud platform granted clearance to store agency information marked “Secret.”

Amazon’s CIA partnership: Surveillance Capitalism in action

Rev. Paul Benz, center, and Shankar Narayan, legislative director of the ACLU of Washington, right, stand with others as they wait to deliver petitions at Amazon headquarters, June 18, 2018, in Seattle. Representatives of community-based organizations urged Amazon at a news conference to stop selling its face surveillance system, Rekognition, to the government. They later delivered the petitions to Amazon. Elaine Thompson | AP

Amazon’s partnership with Langley is just another case of surveillance capitalism in action, according to sociology professor and author John Bellamy Foster, the editor of the venerable independent socialist journal Monthly Review.

Speaking to MintPress News, Foster explained:

Amazon now seems to be landing one contract after another with the military and intelligence sectors in the United States...

[The CIA cloud] is built on the premises of a private corporation, a kind of ‘walled castle’ for intelligence [spy] agency communication separate from the rest of the Internet, but principally operated by a for-profit corporation. Amazon also has a $1 billion contract with the Security and Exchange Commission, works with NASA, the Food and Drug Administration and other government agencies.”

In a 2014 essay for Monthly Review, Foster and Robert W. McChesney introduced the term surveillance capitalism in reference to the process of finance capital monetizing data extracted through surveillance operations performed in collusion with the state apparatus. The two trace the political-economic roots of the the data-driven Information Age from the early stages of the military-industrial complex to the 1950s fusion of consumer capitalism – corporations, ad agencies, and media – with the permanent warfare state, eventually leading to the birth of satellite technology, the internet, and the domination of a handful of monopolist tech firms during the present era of neoliberal globalization.

From the tech sector’s role in police-state operations to the expansion of “Smart” technology like Amazon’s Alexa into our homes, the use of drones and AI for keeping tabs on the entire population, and the manipulation of Facebook user data by the Trump campaign’s partnership with Cambridge Analytica, Foster is unequivocal in his judgment of surveillance capitalism’s metastasizing growth and its omniscient role in our daily lives:

The implications for the future are staggering.”

Not everyone shares Foster’s pessimistic perspective. To former CIA cybersecurity researcher John Pirc, the agency contract with Amazon represented the removal of a “clouded judgment”-based stigma over cloud computing security. Speaking to The Atlantic, Pirc commented:

You hear so many people on the fence about cloud, and then to see the CIA gobble it up and do something so highly disruptive, it’s kind of cool.”

Holy Disruption and the “Gale Force of Creative Destruction”

Creation, epiphany, genesis, prophecy, rapture, sacrifice, wrath; such sacred words pepper the Old and New Testaments and still carry divine significance for the faithful. Beloved by clergy and revered by the flock, such consecrated terms hardly apply to Apple’s bitten-fruit logo or Alexa’s profanely secular robotic voice.

But in today’s cult of high technology and the internet — where entrepreneurs like Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg have been elevated to the level of prophets or pharaohs, and start-ups are evangelized at TED Talks as the panacea to problems ranging from physical fitness to refugee crises — a new ecclesiastical lexicon is used. Central to this pseudo-religion of Big Data is the phrase disruption, an oft-invoked term signifying the replacement of old markets and business models by new technological innovations.

As Silicon Valley pioneer, computer scientist, and critic Jaron Lanier noted in his 2013 book Who Owns the Future?:

The terminology of ‘disruption’ has been granted an almost sacred status in tech business circles...

To disrupt is the most celebrated achievement. In Silicon Valley, one is always hearing that this or that industry is ripe for disruption. We kid ourselves, pretending that disruption requires creativity. It doesn’t. It’s always the same story.”

For Lanier – a fervent defender of capitalism —  the D-word is misused to convey the liberating potential of new technology, when in fact the reign of big tech firms has led to a shrunken market dominated by “a small number of spying operations in omniscient positions.” Thus the digital landscape has become the fiefdom of monopoly firms who exercise an iron grip on competitors and Big Data’s primary commodities – internet users and their data.

To Foster, this process is little more than neoliberalism – the prevailing capitalist ideology dictating the unimpeded control over all aspects of public life by finance capital and the market. Foster notes that neoliberal orthodoxy is rooted in the concept of creative destruction, the concept from which the “disruption” buzzword is derived.

Creative destruction was introduced in 1942 by Austrian-American economist Joseph Schumpeter to describe a process of constant change under capitalism, whereby emerging entrepreneurs act as “innovation powerhouses” through a “perennial gale of creative destruction” that disorganizes and displaces competition, reshapes global markets, and paves the way to an emergence of new monopolies such as, for example, Silicon Valley’s leading firms.

Watch | Greenspan on Schumpeter’s “Creative Destruction”

“One of the key components of neoliberal ideology has been the opening up of the system to the unrestricted growth of monopolistic corporations and monopoly power,” Foster said to MintPress News, adding:

The neoliberal age has thus seen one of the greatest periods of growth of monopoly power, particularly in the cyber or digital realm, in all of history. If you take Google, Amazon, and Facebook, none of them even existed 25 years ago, and Facebook didn’t exist 15 years ago. Amazon had a 51 percent increase in market capitalization between 2016 and 2017 alone. These are giant monopolistic enterprises.”

Continuing, Foster explained:

In general, capitalism is a system that seeks to transgress all boundaries in its production and sale of commodities, commodifying everything in existence — which today, in the age of monopoly-finance capital and surveillance capitalism, means intruding into every aspect of existence as a means of manipulating not only the physical world, but also the minds and lives of everyone within it. It is this that constitutes the heart of surveillance capitalism.

But this same system of monopoly-finance capital has as its counterpart a growing centralization of power and wealth, increasing monopoly control, expanding militarism and imperialism, and an expansion of police power. It is what the political theorist Sheldon Wolin called ‘inverted totalitarianism,’ the growth of totalizing control of the population, and the destruction of human freedom under the mask of an ideology of individualism.”

As Amazon now approaches its 25-year anniversary, Foster notes, it’s become “a vast cultural (or anti-cultural) commodity empire” – and its ownership of The Washington Post has made clear the monopoly firm’s fusion with the state apparatus of U.S. imperialism.

Amazon clutches the “Newspaper of Record,” or “Democracy Dies in Darkness”

The front page of the Washington Post is displayed outside the Newseum in Washington, , 2013, a day after it was announced that Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos bought the Washington Post for $250 million. Evan Vucci | AP

Since Jeff Bezos bought The Washington Post in 2013 for $250 million, the leading newspaper of the U.S. capital has stood at the ramparts of Fortress Amazon. Beyond any elite squadron of lobbyists or contracts with the Homeland Security or National Security State, the newspaper’s influential role shaping public and policymaker opinion gives Jeff Bezos and his fellow Amazon executives unparalleled access to the halls of imperial power.

“Of course it’s a problem when a powerful, monopolistic business like this with a very controlling owner is in the media business as well,” Yasha Levine commented, adding:

Let’s be honest, Amazon is a major CIA contractor now, and now this major contractor owns one of the most important newspapers in the country – which also happens to report on the CIA and national security issues.”

Since President Donald Trump came to power last January, “Amazon Washington Post” has been the target of the former reality-TV star’s ire as a top example of “fake news media.” While many of Trump’s attacks on the Post have been his standard Twitter outbursts against legitimate journalistic scrutiny, the newspaper once celebrated for publishing the groundbreaking 1971 Pentagon Papers is now both a bully pulpit for the president’s detractors in the Beltway liberal “resistance” and a mouthpiece of an aggressively neoliberal wing of the U.S. establishment.

“The Washington Post was always a liberal-capitalist paper, an arbiter of capitalist ideology and a defender of U.S. empire, [but] it has now become, as part of the Bezos empire, something worse,” Foster observed.

Scarcely a day passes without the Post publishing a torrent of stories seeking to expose “Russian interference” favoring Trump through social media or “fake news.” Citing the “experts” in “nonpartisan” media criticism group PropOrNot, the Post has smeared MintPress News and publications like Black Agenda Report, CounterPunchand Truthout as propaganda platforms tied to the Kremlin without citing so much as a shred of evidence. Through its de facto blacklist, the group has also attempted to tie disparate independent media organizations to hard-right and white-supremacist outlets like Alex Jones’ Infowars and neo-Nazi website The Daily Stormer.

Watch | WaPo refuses to add disclosure about $600M CIA contract

The Washington Post has generally waged what amounts to an ideological war on basic progressive causes, Foster explained:

It recently ran an article describing the ‘far left’ as those who believed in single-payer health insurance or protecting national parks, as if even these traditional left-liberal causes were now far outside the range of acceptable political discourse — a stance clearly designed to ratchet the political discourse further to the right. Bezos and Amazon are simply symbols of this social retrogression, as is the current autocrat in the White House.

To Levine, the trend – like the ownership of muckraking news website The Intercept by billionaire Silicon Valley entrepreneur and eBay co-founder Pierre Omidyar — goes beyond the Post alone. Levine commented:

It’s a larger issue of Silicon Valley coming into its own, and businesses built on top of the internet dominating business; and if you dominate business, you dominate society and news media coverage – that’s just the way things work.

Foster agrees, and minces no words depicting the danger Amazon’s growing power in U.S. society represents:

Democracy can be judged in various ways, but no definition of democracy – no matter how specious – is consistent with a society in which such vast class and monopoly power exist, and where the infrastructure of genuine democracy (education, communications, science, culture, public discourse, means of public protest) is demolished.

For this and other reasons, U.S. society and much of the capitalist world is shifting from neo-liberalism to something better described as neo-fascism.”

In our next installments, we will continue exploring the rise of Surveillance Capitalism and the implications of Amazon-fueled spying technology, both in the workplace and in U.S. city streets.

Published:7/3/2018 9:35:00 PM
[The Blog] Another little spacecraft that could: Dawn’s photos reveal distant secrets

Robot craft discovers it's no asteroid after all

The post Another little spacecraft that could: Dawn’s photos reveal distant secrets appeared first on Hot Air.

Published:7/3/2018 4:33:14 PM
[Markets] This Is What A Massive X9 Class Solar Flare Looks Like

Scientists from Caltech Astronomy examined the great solar flare of 1990 that occurred in active region NOAA 6063. The eruption and subsequent shockwave were so massive that scientist decided to write a report on their findings titled “Tangential Field Changes in the Great Flare of 1990 May 24.”

The region on the sun gave rise to a dangerous X9.3 flare, which was visible in white light. The flare was observed by several observatories, including the Big Bear Solar Observatory at Caltech.

Solar flares are enormous explosions on the sun that unleash streams of energy, light, and high-speed particles into space. The most dangerous solar flare is known as “X-class flares” based on a classification system that divides solar flares according to their strength.

If Earth faced, the solar flares and associated coronal mass ejection (CME) can create geomagnetic storms that can disable satellites, communications systems, and even ground-based technologies and power grids.

massive solar storm in April 2017 allegedly interfered with power grids in San Fransisco, New York, and Los Angeles. On both coasts, critical infrastructure such as communication networks and mass transportation were severely impaired.

This was the period when mainstream media blamed the Russians for cyber hacking America.

Meanwhile, in a report from NOAA titled “Geomagnetic Storms and the US Power Grid,” the paper mentions how US power grids are highly interconnected and susceptible to damage from solar flares.

The report shows how the sun produces Geomagnetically Induced Current (GIC) [solar flares] and launches it to the Earth.

When GICs penetrate the Earth’s geomagnetic field, they usually enter transformers in the power grid.

What happens next? Well, GICs blowup transformers and force a terrifying grid-down event.

Even the White House has been preparing for a catastrophic solar storm through a recent 2016 Executive Order titled “Coordinating Efforts to Prepare the Nation for Space Weather Events.”

The Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta warns about solar storms and its physiological impact on markets.

So, what does this all mean? Like the great solar flare of 1990, scientist and governmental agencies have been fascinated by the sun and its occasional expulsion of energy. Not all solar flares are Earth-facing, but it is only a matter of time before the next big one cripples modern society. Then what?

Published:7/3/2018 12:29:30 AM
[Politics] Global Warming Turning Out To Be Hot Air It is 30 years this past week that James Hansen, then well into the first of more than three decades as head of the NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration)-Goddard Institute for Space Studies, testified to a Senate committee that the then-current heat wave in Washington was caused by the relationship between "the greenhouse effect and observed warming."This was the starting gun of a mighty debate about the existence, cause and consequences of global warming. Hansen was embraced by... Published:6/30/2018 9:13:20 AM
[Markets] Moon Fuel: A New Multi-Trillion Dollar Treasure

Authored by Mining.com  via OilPrice.com,

India’s space program wants to go where no nation has gone before – to the south side of the moon.

And once it gets there, it will study the potential for mining a source of waste-free nuclear energy that could be worth trillions of dollars.

The nation’s equivalent of NASA will launch a rover in October to explore virgin territory on the lunar surface and analyze crust samples for signs of water and helium-3. That isotope is limited on Earth yet so abundant on the moon that it theoretically could meet global energy demands for 250 years if harnessed.

“The countries which have the capacity to bring that source from the moon to Earth will dictate the process,’’ said K. Sivan, chairman of the Indian Space Research Organisation. “I don’t want to be just a part of them, I want to lead them.’’

The mission would solidify India’s place among the fleet of explorers racing to the moon, Mars and beyond for scientific, commercial or military gains. The governments of the U.S., China, India, Japan and Russia are competing with startups and billionaires Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos and Richard Branson to launch satellites, robotic landers, astronauts and tourists into the cosmos.

The rover landing is one step in an envisioned series for ISRO that includes putting a space station in orbit and, potentially, an Indian crew on the moon. The government has yet to set a timeframe.

The mission would solidify India’s place among the fleet of explorers racing to the moon, Mars and beyond for scientific, commercial or military gains.

“We are ready and waiting,’’ said Sivan, an aeronautics engineer who joined ISRO in 1982. “We’ve equipped ourselves to take on this particular program.’’

China is the only country to put a lander and rover on the moon this century with its Chang’e 3 mission in 2013. The nation plans to return later this year by sending a probe to the unexplored far side.

In the U.S., President Donald Trump signed a directive calling for astronauts to return to the moon, and NASA’s proposed $19 billion budget this fiscal year calls for launching a lunar orbiter by the early 2020s.

ISRO’s estimated budget is less than a 10th of that – about $1.7 billion – but accomplishing feats on the cheap has been a hallmark of the agency since the 1960s. The upcoming mission will cost about $125 million – or less than a quarter of Snap Inc. co-founder Evan Spiegel’s compensation last year, the highest for an executive of a publicly traded company, according to the Bloomberg Pay Index.

This won’t be India’s first moon mission. The Chandrayaan-1 craft, launched in October 2008, completed more than 3,400 orbits and ejected a probe that discovered molecules of water in the surface for the first time.

The upcoming launch of Chandrayaan-2 includes an orbiter, lander and a rectangular rover. The six-wheeled vehicle, powered by solar energy, will collect information for at least 14 days and cover an area with a 400-meter radius.

The rover will send images to the lander, and the lander will transmit those back to ISRO for analysis.

A primary objective, though, is to search for deposits of helium-3. Solar winds have bombarded the moon with immense quantities of helium-3 because it’s not protected by a magnetic field like Earth is.

The presence of helium-3 was confirmed in moon samples returned by the Apollo missions, and Apollo 17 astronaut Harrison Schmitt, a geologist who walked on the moon in December 1972, is an avid proponent of mining helium-3.

There are an estimated 1 million metric tons of helium-3 embedded in the moon — enough to meet the world’s current energy demands for at least two, and possibly as many as five, centuries.

“It is thought that this isotope could provide safer nuclear energy in a fusion reactor, since it is not radioactive and would not produce dangerous waste products,’’ the European Space Agency said.

There are an estimated 1 million metric tons of helium-3 embedded in the moon, though only about a quarter of that realistically could be brought to Earth, said Gerald Kulcinski, director of the Fusion Technology Institute at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a former member of the NASA Advisory Council.

That’s still enough to meet the world’s current energy demands for at least two, and possibly as many as five, centuries, Kulcinski said. He estimated helium-3’s value at about $5 billion a ton, meaning 250,000 tons would be worth in the trillions of dollars.

To be sure, there are numerous obstacles to overcome before the material can be used – including the logistics of collection and delivery back to Earth and building fusion power plants to convert the material into energy. Those costs would be stratospheric.

“If that can be cracked, India should be a part of that effort,’’ said Lydia Powell, who runs the Centre for Resources Management at the New Delhi-based Observer Research Foundation think tank. “If the cost makes sense, it will become a game-changer, no doubt about it.’’

Plus, it won’t be easy to mine the moon. Only the U.S. and Luxembourg have passed legislation allowing commercial entities to hold onto what they have mined from space, said David Todd, head of space content at Northampton, England-based Seradata Ltd. There isn’t any international treaty on the issue.

“Eventually, it will be like fishing in the sea in international waters,’’ Todd said. “While a nation-state cannot hold international waters, the fish become the property of its fishermen once fished.’’

India’s government is reacting to the influx of commercial firms in space by drafting legislation to regulate satellite launches, company registrations and liability, said GV Anand Bhushan, a Chennai-based partner at the Shardul Amarchand Mangaldas & Co. law firm. It doesn’t cover moon mining.

Yet the nation’s only spaceman isn’t fully on board with turning the moon into a place of business.

Rakesh Sharma, who spent almost eight days aboard a Russian spacecraft in 1984, said nations and private enterprises instead should work together to develop human colonies elsewhere as Earth runs out of resources and faces potential catastrophes such as asteroid strikes.

“You can’t go to the moon and draw boundaries,’’ Sharma said. “I want India to show that we’re capable of utilizing space technology for the good of people.’’

Published:6/29/2018 7:39:58 PM
[Government] NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope launch set back to 2021 NASA announced yesterday that its highly anticipated James Webb Space Telescope is delaying its launch — again. It was announced in March that the mission would be delayed until 2020, which is already two years past its original launch date in October 2018. But after accepting the recommendations of an independent review board, NASA has […] Published:6/28/2018 12:33:08 PM
[Markets] Boeing Unveils Plans For Hypersonic Mach 5 Passenger Airliner

About four months after China revealed its plan to design a hypersonic passenger airliner, Boeing Commercial Airplanes (BCA) has decided to join the race for hypersonics by partnering with hypersonic specialists at the company’s Research & Technology unit to examine the feasibility of Mach 5 travel capable of crossing the Atlantic in 2 hours or the Pacific in 3.

According to Aviation Week, Boeing unveiled the initial concept vehicle at the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) Aviation 2018 conference in Atlanta, Georgia. Although the hypersonic vehicle is in the early stages of design, the concept depicts a passenger capacity larger than long-range business jets, but much smaller than Boeing’s flagship 737, with indications the plane could enter service by the mid/late 2030s.

Boeing said the hypersonic aircraft could fly at Mach 5 with an altitude ceiling of 95,000 feet. That means this new vehicle would travel 2.5 times faster and 30,000 feet higher than the Aérospatiale/BAC Concorde, a British-French turbojet-powered supersonic passenger airliner, which operated from 1976 to 2003. Boeing touted the ability to operate the aircraft with same-day return flights from Asia and Europe, which would significantly increase asset utilization.

“You have to do these kinds of studies now to know where we have to push the technology and where we have to advance things,” said Boeing chief scientist for hypersonics Kevin Bowcutt, whose hypersonic research has been primarily in space and military applications.

Technologically we could have an [operational military] hypersonic aircraft... flying in 10 years. But there’s a lot that goes into a commercial airplane, including the market, regulatory and environmental requirements, so it will happen when there is a convergence of those things,” Bowcutt explained.

Boeing determined that Mach 5 (3,836 mph) as the sweet spot between civil and non-transport military applications. “When you look at the problem of getting from Point A to Point B anywhere in the world, the question is how fast do you want to go and how fast is fast enough?” said Bowcutt.

“Supersonic isn’t really fast enough to go overseas and back in one day. For the business traveler or the military, where time is really important, that’s an interesting point. Mach 5 is where you can do that. You can get across the Atlantic in about 2 hr. and across the Pacific in about 3 hr,” said Bowcutt, who confirmed that a fierce race for hypersonic technologies is well underway among global superpowers.

Although sharing design features with Boeing’s proposed military hypersonic demonstrator, the commercial concept has an extended forward fuselage for greater cabin volume. (Source: Boeing) 

“Our commercial airplane team has been working right alongside the BR&T [Boeing Research & Technology] team as this technology has evolved,” said Mike Sinnett, vice president of BCA product strategy and future airplane development. “We share our insight into the commercial market and where we see it going, as well as the requirements any commercial airplane would need to meet—ranging from passenger appeal to regulatory mandates.”

Both teams have “so far been looking at requirements and flight times,” adds Bowcutt. “And we have some of their advanced concept folks working shoulder-to-shoulder with us. We are trying to get to a point where we have a concept in which we are comfortable with the way the design closes, and then we can start looking at the market and at things like sonic boom and takeoff noise.”

In April, we covered the $247.5-million contract NASA awarded Lockheed Martin’s Skunk Works to design and build a low-boom X-plane that could lead to a new era of supersonic air travel in the next three to five years. While the technology is for Mach 1.5, there could be indications that the technology expected to hit the skies in 2021, could eventually be applied to hypersonic aircraft.

From supersonic to the sweet spot of Mach 5, it is the speed that dictates time for research and development. “To get from Mach 0.8 to Mach 5 is a sixfold [600%] increase in speed, but from Mach 5 to 6 is only a 20% increase. After Mach 5 you get diminishing returns and increasing costs, so what I am looking for are technical cliffs, or step changes. If you go much faster, eventually you are going to hit a step change in propulsion or materials,” explained Bowcutt. Boeing believes that it will have to adopt an advanced titanium airframe structure to sustain Mach 5 cruising speeds.

Bowcutt said the propulsion options for Mach 5 travel are limited. “We know we don’t need a scramjet because we can do it with a kind of turboramjet: a turbofan that transitions to a ramjet at Mach 5,'” he explained. Bowcutt also mentioned that cooling technology would be necessary for managing the thermal environment of the cabin and propulsion system.

As Aviation Week noted, Boeing will likely partner with one of the “big three” commercial engine-makers GE, Pratt & Whitney, and or Rolls Royce for the project.

Boeing could speed up the research of the development of the hypersonic airliner because of its vast knowledge of hypersonic technologies from its hypersonic waverider program. “We are doing a lot of that aero work right now, trying to look at what the theoretical limits of the lift/drag ratio are in cruise, and there are some key things we’ve learned about how to configure waveriders to get the right ratio, and to get high performance with an integrated propulsion system,” said Bowcutt.

Why should you care about hypersonic technologies?

Well, the era of hypersonic is now. Unbeknownst too many, the race for hypersonic aircraft and weapons have flourished among global superpowers (China, Russia, and the United States), who realize that the first to possess these technologies will revolutionize their civilian and military programs.

Video: Routine Hypersonic Flight: The Final Frontier of Aeronautics | Kevin Bowcutt

Published:6/28/2018 3:28:42 AM
[Climate News] Martian dust storm now global Nuclear powered Curiosity rover captures photos through the haze, while Opportunity goes into sleep mode due to lack of solar power. Via NASA Goddard – A storm of tiny dust particles has engulfed much of Mars over the last two weeks and prompted NASA’s Opportunity rover to suspend science operations. But across the planet, NASA’s Curiosity rover,… Published:6/26/2018 7:21:29 PM
[Middle Column] NYT: NOAA may be stripped of climate mission by Trump admin.

Anthony Watts: "Limiting NOAA’s proselytizing about gloom and doom and tinkering with climate data such as Karl et al did in 2015 to remove “the pause” would be a better approach in my view. If the Trump administration really wants to limit the gloom and doom, getting rid of NASA GISS GISTEMP climate division and the feckless Gavin Schmidt would be the best approach. The agency was formed to study planetary situations for NASA missions, not to study the climate of Earth. It’s a redundant agency, using NOAA’s climate data and then bollixing it to fit their viewpoint. Further, Schmidt has shown time and again that he’s lost the principles of what science really should be about, and has become more of an advocate than a scientist, much like his predecessor James Hansen, who would regularly get himself arrested at protests."

Published:6/25/2018 1:44:01 PM
[Markets] Martin Armstrong: 30 Years Of Global Warming Forecasts Have All Failed

Authored by Martin Armstrong via ArmstrongEconomics.com,

The Wall Street Journal just published a review of the Global Warming Forecasts for the past 30 years. They have not even come close to the scenarios they put forth back in 1988...

On June 23, 1988, the then NASA scientist James E. Hansen who helped to start all this nonsense testified before the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources.

He stated that he expressed had a “high degree of confidence” in “a cause-and-effect relationship between the claimed CO2 induced “greenhouse effect and observed warming.” 

That is how government characterizes something when they are guessing – “high degree of confidence” which was the same words used to invade Iraq who had weapons of mass destruction. He later came out and said: “Simply stated, there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction.” (August 25, 2002).

The CIA Director testified before Congress and said: “We said in the estimate with high confidence that Iraq had them.” see Transcript Washington Post).

Why does anyone EVER believe those in government? They cannot even forecast GDP accurately when they fudge the numbers.

Here is Hansen’s forecast.

The dark red overlay is actual surface temperatures reported and there is even a controversy surrounding them that they have been constantly skewed higher to not look like complete idiots.  Even the models devised by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, are at least twice the actual temperature by now even with fudged numbers. So why are all these model so exaggerated?

These models are completely VOID of cyclical models and they do not even understand that this is a cycle. They are constructed with same idiotic bases that whatever trend is in motion will remain in motion. The Dow Jones Industrials closed 1932 at 60.26 and 1933 at 98.67. That was a 63.7% gain year over year. By assuming that trend will remain in motion, which was his dire forecast, the Dow would have reach 96,433,885,025.00 by 1975. That makes 50,000 look cheap.

Even averaging a 5-year advance VOID of understanding cycles, fails to provide a valid forecast ever. If I take the closing in the Dow of 2009 and the closing of 2014, the average advance was 1479 points per year. Now take the 2014 closing of 17823.07, that gives me 25,218.09. That is fine because we have been in a bull market. We all know the cycle will change. That is what is wrong with the global warming forecasts.

What actually happened, they got $1 billion for research by scaring the HELL out of everyone. I wonder what kind of chart I should make to get $1 billion handed to me from Congress with no performance requirements. What a deal.

Published:6/25/2018 8:42:32 AM
[Markets] Star Wars Redux: Trump's Space Force

Authored by Karl Grossman via Counterpunch.org,

If Donald Trump gets his way on formation of a Space Force, the heavens would become a war zone. Inevitably, there would be military conflict in space.

The Outer Space Treaty of 1967 which designates space as the global commons to be used for peaceful purposes—and of which Russia and China, as well as the United States, are parties—and the years of work facilitating the treaty since would be wasted.

If the U.S. goes up into space with weapons, Russia and China, and then India and Pakistan and other countries, will follow.

Moreover space weaponry, as I have detailed through the years in my writings and TV programs, would be nuclear-powered—as Reagan’s Star Wars scheme was to be with nuclear reactors and plutonium systems on orbiting battle platforms providing the power for hypervelocity guns, particle beams and laser weapons.

This is what would be above our heads.

Amid the many horrible things being done by the Trump administration, this would be the most terribly destructive.

“It is not enough to merely have an American presence in space, we must have American dominance in space,” Trump said at a meeting of the National Space Council this week.

“Very importantly, I’m hereby directing the Department of Defense and Pentagon,” he went on Monday, “to immediately begin the process necessary to establish a Space Force as the sixth branch of the armed forces; that is a big statement. We are going to have the Air Force and we are going to have the Space Force, separate but equal, it is going to be something.”

The notion of the U.S. moving into space with weaponry isn’t new.

It goes back to the post-World War II years when the U.S. government brought former Nazi rocket scientists from Germany to the U.S.—mainly to the U.S. Army’s Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, Alabama—to use “their technological expertise to help create the U.S. space and weapons program,” writes Jack Manno, who retired last year as a professor at the State University of New York/Environmental Science and Forestry College, in his book Arming the Heavens: The Hidden Military Agenda for Space, 1945-1995.

 “Many of the early space war schemes were dreamt up by scientists working for the German military, scientists who brought their rockets and their ideas to America after the war,” he relates. “It was like a professional sports draft.”

Nearly 1,000 of these scientists were brought to the U.S., “many of whom later rose to positions of power in the U.S. military, NASA, and the aerospace industry.” Among them were “Wernher von Braun and his V-2 colleagues” who began “working on rockets for the U.S. Army,” and at the Redstone Arsenal “were given the task of producing an intermediate range ballistic range missile to carry battlefield atomic weapons up to 200 miles. The Germans produced a modified V-2 renamed the Redstone….Huntsville became a major center of U.S. space military activities.”

Manno writes about former German Major General Walter Dornberger, who had been in charge of the entire Nazi rocket program who, “in  1947, as a consultant to the U.S Air Force and adviser to the Department of Defense…wrote a planning paper for his new employers. He proposed a system of hundreds of nuclear-armed satellites all orbiting at different altitudes and angles, each capable or reentering the atmosphere on command from Earth to proceed to its target. The Air Force began early work on Dornberger’s idea under the acronym NABS (Nuclear Armed Bombardment Satellites).”

For my 2001 book, Weapons in Space, Manno told me that “control over the Earth” was what those who have wanted to weaponize space seek. He said the Nazi scientists are an important “historical and technical link, and also an ideological link….The aim is to…have the capacity to carry out global warfare, including weapons systems that reside in space.”

But then came the Outer Space Treaty put together by the U.S., Soviet Union and the United Kingdom. In the 2001 TV documentary I wrote and narrate, “Star Wars Returns.”

Craig Eisendrath, who had been a U.S. State Department officer involved in its creation, notes that the Soviet Union launched the first space satellite, Sputnik, in 1957 and “we sought to de-weaponize space before it got weaponized…to keep war out of space.”

Adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1966, it entered into force in 1967.  It has been ratified or signed by 123 nations.

It provides that nations “undertake not to place in orbit around the Earth any objects carrying nuclear weapons or any other kinds of weapons of mass destruction, install such weapons on celestial bodies, or station such weapons in space in any other manner.”

Atomic physicist Edward Teller, the main figure in developing the hydrogen bomb and instrumental in founding Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California, pitched to Ronald Reagan, when he was governor of California visiting the lab, a plan of orbiting hydrogen bombs which became the initial basis for Reagan’s “Star Wars.” The bombs were to energize X-ray lasers. “As the bomb at the core of an X-ray battle station exploded, multiple beams would flash out to strike multiple targets before the entire station consumed itself in in a ball of nuclear fire,” explained New York Times journalist William Broad in his 1986 book Star Warriors.

Subsequently there was a shift in “Star Wars” to orbiting battle platforms with nuclear reactors or “super” plutonium-fueled radioisotope thermoelectric generators on board that would provide the power for hypervelocity guns, particle beams and laser weapons.

The rapid boil of “Star Wars” under Reagan picked up again under the administrations George H. W. Bush and son George W. Bush. And all along the U.S. military has been gung-ho on space warfare.

A U.S. Space Command was formed in 1982.

“US Space Command—dominating the space dimension of military operations to protect US interests and investment. Integrating Space Forces into war-fighting capabilities across the full spectrum of conflict,” it trumpeted in its 1998 report Vision for 2020. It laid out these words to resemble the crawl at the start of the Star Warsmovies. The U.S. Space Command was set up by the Pentagon to “help institutionalize the use of space.” Or, as the motto of one of its units declares, to be “Master of Space.”

Vision for 2020states, “Historically, military forces have evolved to protect national interests and investments-both military and economic.” Nations built navies “to protect and enhance their commercial interests” and during “the westward expansion of the United States, military outposts and the cavalry emerged to protect our wagon trains, settlements and railroads. The emergence of space power follows both of these models. During the early portion of the 2lst Century, space power will also evolve into a separate and equal medium of warfare.”

“It’s politically sensitive, but it’s going to happen,” remarked U.S. Space Command Commander-in-Chief Joseph W. Ashy in Aviation Week and Space Technology (8/9/96):

“Some people don’t want to hear this, and it sure isn’t in vogue, but—absolutely—we’re going to fight in space. We’re going to fight from space and we’re going to fight into space…. We will engage terrestrial targets someday—ships, airplanes, land targets—from space.”

Or as Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Space Keith R. Hall told the National Space Club in 1997: “With regard to space dominance, we have it, we like it and we’re going to keep it.”

The basic concept of the Pentagon’s approach to space is contained in The Future of War: Power, Technology & American World Dominance in the 2lst Century. Written by “arms experts” George and Meredith Friedman, the 1996 book concludes: “Just as by the year 1500 it was apparent that the European experience of power would be its domination of the global seas, it does not take much to see that the American experience of power will rest on the domination of space. Just as Europe expanded war and its power to the global oceans, the United States is expanding war and its power into space and to the planets. Just as Europe shaped the world for a half a millennium [by dominating the oceans with fleets], so too the United States will shape the world for at least that length of time.”

Or as a 2001 report of the U.S. Space Commission led by then U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld asserted:

“In the coming period the U.S. will conduct operations to, from, in and through space in support of its national interests both on the earth and in space.”

Nuclear power and space weaponry are intimately linked.

“In the next two decades, new technologies will allow the fielding of space-based weapons of devastating effectiveness to be used to deliver energy and mass as force projection in tactical and strategic conflict,” stated New World Vistas: Air and Space Power for the 21st Century, a 1996 US Air Force board report. “These advances will enable lasers with reasonable mass and cost to effect very many kills.” However, “power limitations impose restrictions” on such space weaponry making them “relatively unfeasible,” but “a natural technology to enable high power is nuclear power in space.” Says the report: “Setting the emotional issues of nuclear power aside, this technology offers a viable alternative for large amounts of power in space.”

Or as General James Abrahamson, director of the Strategic Defense Initiative, put it at a Symposium on Space Nuclear Power and Propulsion, “without reactors in orbit [there is] going to be a long, long light [extension] cord that goes down to the surface of the Earth” to power space weaponry.

Thus nuclear power would be needed for weapons in space.

Since 1985 there have been attempts at the UN to expand the Outer Space Treaty of 1967 to prohibit not only nuclear weapons but all weapons from space. This is called the Prevention of an Arms Race in Outer Space (PAROS) treaty and leading in urging its passage have been Canada, Russia and China. There has been virtually universal backing from nations around the world for it. But by balking, U.S. administration after administration has prevented its passage.

Although waging war in space was hotly promoted by the Reagan and Bush administrations and ostensibly discouraged by the Obama administration and Clinton administration, all U.S. administrations have refused to sign on to the PAROS treaty.

In my book Weapons in Space, I relate a presentation I gave at a conference at the UN in Geneva in 1999 on the eve of a vote the next day on PAROS. I spoke about the “military use of space being planned by the U.S.” being “in total contradiction of the principles of peaceful international cooperation that the U.S. likes to espouse” and “pushes us—all of us—to war in the heavens.”

I was followed by Wang Xiaoyu, first secretary of the Delegation of China, who declared: “Outer space is he common heritage of human beings. It should be used for peaceful purposes…It must not be weaponized and become another arena of the arms race.”

The next day, on my way to observe the vote, I saw a U.S. diplomat who had been at my presentation. We approached each other and he said he would like to talk to me, anonymously. He said, on the street in front of the UN buildings, that the U.S has trouble with its citizenry in fielding a large number of troops on the ground. But the U.S military believes “we can project power from space” and that was why the military was moving in this direction. I questioned him on whether, if the U.S. moved ahead with weapons in space, other nations would meet the U.S. in kind, igniting an arms race in space. He replied that the U.S. military had done analyses and determined that China was “30 years behind” in competing with the U.S. militarily in space and Russia “doesn’t have the money.” Then he went to vote and I watched as again there was overwhelming international support for the PAROS treaty—but the U.S. balked. And because a consensus was needed for the passage of the treaty, it was blocked once more.

And this was during the Clinton administration.

With the Trump administration, there is more than non-support of the PAROS treaty but now a drive by the U.S. to weaponize space.

It could be seen—and read about—coming.

“Under Trump, GOP to Give Space Weapons Close Look,” was the headline of an article in 2016 in Washington-based Roll CallIt said “Trump’s thinking on missile defense and military space programs have gotten next to no attention, as compared to the president-elect’s other defense proposals….But experts expect such programs to account for a significant share of what is likely to be a defense budget boost, potentially amounting to $500 billion or more in the coming decade.”

Intense support for the plan was anticipated from the GOP-dominated Congress. Roll Call mentionedthat Representative Trent Franks, a member of the House Armed Services Committee and an Arizona Republican, “said the GOP’s newly strengthened hand in Washington means a big payday is coming for programs aimed at developing weapons that can be deployed in space.”

In a speech in March at the U.S. Marine Corps Air Station near San Diego, Trump declared:

“My new national strategy for space recognizes that space is a war-fighting domain, just like the land, air, and sea. We may even have a Space Force—develop another one, Space Force. We have the Air Force; we’ll have the Space Force.”

Bruce Gagnon, coordinator of the Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space, notes that Trump cannot establish a Space Force on his own—that Congressional authorization and approval is needed.  And last year, Gagnon points out, an attempt to establish what was called a Space Corps within the Air Force passed in the House but “stalled in the Senate.”

“Thus at this point it is only a suggestion,” said Gagnon of the Maine-based Global Network.

“I think though,” Gagnon went on, “his proposal indicates that the aerospace industry has taken full control of the White House and we can be sure that Trump will use all his ‘Twitter powers’ to push this hard in the coming months.”

Meanwhile, relates Gagnon, there is the “steadily mounting” U.S. “fiscal crisis…Some years ago one aerospace industry publication editorialized that they needed a ‘dedicated funding source’ to pay for space plans and indicated that it had come up with it—the entitlement programs. That means the industry is now working to destroy Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and what little is left of the welfare program. You want to help stop Star Wars and Trump’s new Space Force. Fight for Social Security and social progress in America. Trump and the aerospace industry can’t have it both ways—it’s going to be social progress or war in space.”

As Robert Anderson of New Mexico, a board member of the Global Network, puts it:

“There is no money for water in Flint, Michigan or a power grid in Puerto Rico, but there is money to wage war in space.”

Or as another Global Network director, J. Narayana Rao of India, comments: “President Donald Trump has formally inaugurated weaponization of space in announcing that the U.S. should establish a Space Force which will lead to an arms race in outer space.”

Russian officials are protesting the Trump Space Force plan, “Militarization of space is a way to disaster,” Viktor Bondarev, the head of the Russian Federation Council’s Defense and Security Committee, told the RIA news agency the day after the announcement. This Space Force would be operating in “forbidden skies.” He said Moscow is ready to “strongly retaliate” if the US violates the Outer Space Treaty by putting weapons of mass destruction in space.

And opposition among legislators in Washington has begun. “Thankfully the president cannot do it without Congress because now is NOT the time to rip the Air Force apart,” tweeted Senator Bill Nelson of Florida.

“Space as a warfighting domain is the latest obscenity in a long list of vile actions by a vile administration,” writes Linda Pentz Gunter, who specializes in international nuclear issues for the organization Beyond Nuclear, this week. “Space is for wonder. It’s where we live. We are a small dot in the midst of enormity, floating in a dark vastness about which we know a surprising amount, and yet with so much more still mysteriously unknown.”

“A Space Force is not an aspiration unique to the Trump administration, of course,” she continued on the Beyond Nuclear International website of the Takoma Park, Maryland group, “but it feels worse in his reckless hands.”

Published:6/23/2018 5:32:06 PM
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[Markets] Trump's "Space Force" Is No Joke - Bloomberg Admits "It Might Even Work"

Via The Bloomberg Editors,

The military is heavily reliant on space, but its approach now is dysfunctional.

President Donald Trump’s desire to add a “Space Force” to the U.S. military has elicited plenty of mockery and puzzlement. But don’t dismiss the idea. If undertaken prudently, it could represent a substantial and forward-looking reform.

Although Trump offered few details, Congress has been mulling a similar concept for years. The idea would be to create a new military branch, or a new service within the Air Force, dedicated to overseeing operations in space. Trump said this week (in unfortunate language) that he envisions the new entity as “separate but equal” to the Air Force.

If nothing else, such a shift would recognize military reality. Space is an increasingly critical battlefield. Across its five branches, the U.S. military uses space-based technology for navigation, reconnaissance, weather forecasting, intelligence collection, communications, command and control, precision targeting, and much else. Its reliance on satellite-guided munitions has increased with each new conflict in recent years.

This growing dependency also creates risks, however. Satellites are vulnerable to attack, as are the ground systems that support them. By treaty and convention, countries have long avoided conducting strikes in space, but U.S. adversaries have been investing heavily in anti-satellite weapons for years, and with good reason — without adequate defenses, space could become an “Achilles’ heel” for America’s high-tech forces.

Yet no one is fully in charge of U.S. space operations. Notionally, most responsibility falls to the Air Force. But in practice, authorities are fragmented across some 60 different entities. Among other problems, this has made acquiring new technology a painfully slow and expensive process, which results in the U.S. chronically sending obsolete stuff into orbit. It has made it harder to set coherent priorities and pursue a broader strategy for space. And plenty of critics have argued — persuasively — that the current arrangement is impeding much-needed change and innovation.

Could Trump’s Space Force, or something like it, do better?

Several studies, dating back to 2001, suggest that it could. If organized with care and forethought, such a force could clarify accountability, accelerate decision-making, rationalize the procurement process, improve recruitment, and ease pressure on the broader Air Force, which is heavily burdened with more traditional responsibilities.

Done rashly, though, such a reform could simply enlarge the bureaucracy and create catalogs of new expenses. More alarmingly, it could signal to other countries that the U.S. is taking a more belligerent approach to space, and thus encourage a new arms race or otherwise worsen tensions. For these reasons and others, much of the Pentagon’s senior leadership — not least, the president’s own defense secretary — opposes the idea.

Some skepticism, then, is clearly in order. Creating a Space Force would be the most ambitious reorganization of the military since 1947. And getting it right would require extreme diligence, farsightedness and attention to detail — virtues that are not exactly hallmarks of this administration.

Even so, the idea is worthy of serious debate. Congress, which would have to authorize and fund any new military branch, is considering it with due care. The president has drawn needed attention to long-simmering flaws in U.S. space policy. And the Pentagon now has renewed incentive for reform. All that should count as progress — whether the Space Force takes off or not.

Published:6/21/2018 8:48:18 AM
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