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New American Spy Satellite Launches on Classified Mission

Source: Space.com

A new American satellite soared into Earth orbit today (March 1), kicking off a reconnaissance mission that's shrouded in secrecy.

The NROL-79 satellite launched into space atop a two-stage United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket at 12:49 p.m. EST (1749 GMT) today, rising off a pad at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

NROL-79 will be operated by the U.S. National Reconnaissance Office (NRO), which oversees the United States' fleet of spy satellites. It's unclear what NROL-79 will be doing, or where it will be orbiting; details about the spacecraft and its mission are classified. [Launch Photos: NROL-79 Spy Satellite Soars to Orbit]

After lifting off, the Atlas V headed south, hugging the coasts of California and the Mexican state of Baja California as it rose into the sky. If everything went according to plan, the rocket reached Mach 1 the speed of sound, about 767 mph (1,234 km/h) 81 seconds into flight, according to a ULA mission-description video. The booster's main engine cut off 4 minutes and 3 seconds after liftoff, and the rocket's two stages separated 6 seconds later. The payload fairing protecting NROL-79 was jettisoned 4 minutes and 27 seconds after launch.


Read more: http://www.space.com/35874-american-spy-satellite-nrol-79-launch-success.html

Mission patch: http://www.americaspace.com/2017/02/28/atlas-v-nro-79-intruder-mission-readied-for-wednesday-launch-to-track-ships/

Alternative Facts And Snake Oil From The SLS Mafia


Alternative Facts And Snake Oil From The SLS Mafia
By Keith Cowing on February 28, 2017 6:46 PM.


If you think NASA is frustrated with SpaceX, you're probably right
Ars Technica

"A more blunt assessment was offered by Mary Lynne Dittmar, who is familiar with the thinking of NASA's human spaceflight program managers. "I find it extraordinary that these sorts of announcements are being made when SpaceX has yet to get crew from the ground to low-Earth orbit," she told The New York Times. Dittmar serves as executive director of the Coalition for Deep Space Exploration, the organization formed by the principal contractors behind NASA's SLS rocket and Orion spacecraft. These are the old-guard aerospace firms, including Boeing and Lockheed Martin, whose government contracts are threatened by SpaceX. Orion, in particular, appears to be particularly vulnerable if SpaceX can show that Dragon is capable of performing the same kind of deep space missions and high velocity returns from the Moon. With his latest proposal, Elon Musk is playing a dangerous, but potentially winning, game with his lower-cost alternatives to NASA's existing programs. He recognizes that NASA has nurtured his company, and on Monday night, he remained publicly appreciative of the space agency. However by talking about Mars and now the Moon, he not only indicates that his company isn't entirely focused on its most important contract - commercial crew- but also is making a play for NASA's future deep space exploration plans."

Keith's note: FYI The Coalition for Deep Space Exploration is not an "organization". It is not incorporated anywhere. Dittmar is paid with funds that come directly from these aerospace companies. It is hypocritical in the extreme for her to criticize SpaceX for having not done things when in fact SLS has never flown and a stripped-down Orion test article flew just once on a rocket that it will never fly on again.

Meanwhile, Dragons launched on Falcon 9 rockets have made multiple visits to ISS and Falcon Heavy, composed of three of those Falcon 9's, has a significant flight record and is slated to launch this year - years ahead of SLS. SLS will fly only once every several years until the middle of the next decade - and only once or twice a year after that. Meanwhile Falcon 9s will soon be flying monthly. NASA studies looking at moving a crew onto EM-1 will soon show just how expensive and inflexible SLS/Orion actually is while the Falcon/Dragon product line continues to expand its capability without the ever-increasing costs that plague SLS/Orion.

No one is going to get (back) to the Moon fueled with alternative facts and snake oil.

Energy Department issues scathing evaluation of nuclear project

Source: Washington Post


On Dec. 5, the NNSA completed a scathing evaluation that branded several of the company’s claims about the state of the project “misleading” and “inaccurate.” The agency said CB&I Areva’s claims that the project is 70 percent complete “are patently false.” A separate September 2016 Energy Department report said construction was only 28 percent complete.


President Obama tried to kill the Savannah River plant. In the president’s proposed 2017 budget, the administration said it would “pursue a dilute and dispose approach as a faster, less-expensive path to meeting the U.S. commitment to dispose of excess weapons grade plutonium.” It proposed cutting spending to from $345 million to $275 million to begin winding it down.

One of the project’s sharpest critics Tom Clements, director of the public interest group Savannah River Site Watch, obtained the December NNSA assessment through a Freedom of Information Act request. He called the evaluation “devastating.”

“I have never seen an asessment like that. It all but calls them liars,” he said.

The Savannah River project, however, has an important ally in Congress: Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), who has defended this method of converting nuclear weapons fuel. In addition, hundreds of jobs in his state depend on the project moving forward. For a time, Graham held up the confirmation vote on Ernest Moniz as energy secretary over the Obama administratin’s intentions for the Savannah River MOX project.


But the Obama administration continued to say the MOX plant at Savannah River wasn’t practical. What started as a $620 million project in 1999 with a 2006 starting date has become a $17 billion project still decades away from a start state. By some estimates, it would require a $1 billion a year appropriation, which the Obama administration said was unlikely at best.


Read more: https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/economy/energy-department-issues-scathing-evaluation-of-nuclear-project/2017/02/28/8af4d11a-fd2c-11e6-99b4-9e613afeb09f_story.html

Obama and Tom Clements have it right - this is a boondoggle that should be canceled.
Naturally, anti-science Republicans want to keep it alive, because nuclear is magic.
You just can't trust the nuclear industry - or Republicans.

Daniel Ellsberg, who leaked the Pentagon Papers, asks: Who will be the next Snowden?


Daniel Ellsberg, who leaked the Pentagon Papers, asks: Who will be the next Snowden?

By Margaret Sullivan Media Columnist February 26 at 4:00 PM

The most dangerous man in America is asking to borrow my scarf.


Almost five decades after the first Pentagon Papers story was published in 1971, revealing the secret history of the Vietnam War, the 85-year-old Ellsberg still isn’t done making trouble. That was clear on a Georgetown University stage earlier this month, shortly after the scarf encounter.


Ellsberg said that “the things that were crimes under Nixon are no longer crimes,” after post-9/11 Patriot Act legislation.

“Even killing people is something Obama has proclaimed the right to do,” he said, referring to Anwar al-Awlaki, an American citizen and radical Islamic cleric assassinated by a CIA drone strike in Yemen.

Ellsberg thinks Trump — whose associates are already under FBI investigation for Russian connections — will avoid Nixon’s fate.

“If he were facing a Democratic Congress, he’d be in great trouble. If he were facing a Republican Congress that had any principle, any conscience, any shame . . . but he doesn’t have that,” Ellsberg said. “It won’t be a problem. And I’m sorry to say that.”


Ellsberg stands by what he did — just as he fully approves of Snowden and Manning because they brought light to government deception and malfeasance.

Despite the threats that such leakers will endanger national security and have “blood on their hands,” he said, no such harm has been proved.

Republicans vote to give police powers to arrest people planning peaceful protests

Source: Independent

Police may be given power to arrest anyone involved in a peaceful demonstration that is merely suspected of turning violent.

Republican senators in Arizona voted for SB1142 this week, which proposes expanding the state’s racketeering laws to also include rioting.


Republicans voted by 17 to the Democrats' 13 in favour of the bill on Wednesday.

It will now go to the House of Representatives for approval.


Read more: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/arizona-republicans-police-arrest-peaceful-protest-powers-vote-violent-state-senate-a7595361.html

It also allows asset seizure.

FirstEnergy talks bankruptcy and need for bailout of its nuclear plants

Source: Crain's Cleveland Business

FirstEnergy Corp. executives used two words a lot when discussing the company's financial position and its plans to exit the nuclear power business when they spoke with analysts Wednesday, Feb. 22: "bankruptcy" and "billions."

The Akron-based company might be working to position itself for better treatment from state legislators — from which FirstEnergy hopes to secure ratepayer-funded relief for its nuclear plants near Dayton and Toledo — but it made clear that the stakes are high and even bigger than FirstEnergy itself. None of the analysts questioned the company's sincerity or used the other "b" word: bluffing.

First, came the billions. FirstEnergy reported it lost $6.2 billion, or $14.49 per share, in 2016. That's down from positive earnings of $578 million, or $1.37 per share, in 2015.

Yet, FirstEnergy CEO Chuck Jones began the call with analysts by saying, "2016 was a successful and transformative year for FirstEnergy."


Read more: http://www.crainscleveland.com/article/20170222/NEWS/170229921/firstenergy-talks-bankruptcy-and-need-for-bailout-of-its-nuclear

Which Teens Are Most Likely to Smoke Pot? The Smart Ones, Study Finds

Source: Time

High-achieving teenagers are more likely to drink alcohol and use cannabis than their less school-smart peers, a new study of British adolescents suggests.


"Our finding that adolescents with high academic ability are less likely to smoke (cigarettes) but more likely to drink alcohol regularly and use cannabis is broadly consistent with the evidence base on adults," the study's authors said in a statement. They added that the fact that alcohol and cannabis use among high-achieving pupils persisted into early adulthood is evidence against the hypothesis that high academic ability is associated with temporary experimentation with substance use.

The study was published in the BMJ.

Read more: http://time.com/4678433/brainy-teens-smoke-tobacco-pot-study/

BMJ study at http://bmjopen.bmj.com/content/7/2/e012989
(The article had a bad link)

Radioactive boars eating false truffles could cause supply issues in Czech Republic

Source: Australian Broadcasting Corporation

Key points:
- Boars are eating mushrooms containing Caesium 137
- Boar meat is a delicacy in the Czech Republic
- 47 per cent of boars tested from 2014 to 2016 exceeded radioactivity limits

The Czech Republic has an unusual problem this winter with its wild boar meat — the boars are radioactive.

A cold and snowy winter is forcing them to feed on false truffles, an underground mushroom common in the Sumava mountain region shared by Czechs, Austrians, Germans — and wild boars.

The mushrooms can absorb high levels of the radioactive isotope Caesium 137. And three decades ago the nuclear catastrophe at Chernobyl released Caesium 137 that eventually drifted down on the Sumava mountains.


The half life of Caesium 137 is 30 years — that is, it takes 30 years for the radioactivity of the isotope to fall to half its original value.

Then another 30 to fall to half again, and so on. The boars could be radioactive for quite a while.

And that could cause some problems with the supply of boar meat, which is a delicacy in the Czech Republic.


Read more: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-02-23/many-wild-boars-roaming-czech-forests-are-radioactive/8295400

Thiel company helped support NSA spy program: report

Source: The Hill

Billionaire Peter Thiel’s company Palantir helped support the National Security Agency’s controversial spy program XKeyscore, according to a report in The Intercept citing previously undisclosed documents from NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden.

Palantir helped build software to accelerate and increase the NSA’s use of XKeyscore, according to the documents.


Thiel is an adviser to President Trump who has reportedly spearheaded the search for chair of the Federal Trade Commission and the antitrust head at the Justice Department.


According to the new disclosures, Palantir has also been employed by at least three members of the intelligence alliance called “Five Eyes” that connects the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand and Canada with the United States.


Read more: http://thehill.com/policy/cybersecurity/320592-palantir-helped-support-nsa-spy-program-xkeyscore-report

Robot probes show Japan reactor cleanup worse than expected

Source: Associated Press

Robot probes sent to one of Japan’s wrecked Fukushima nuclear reactors have suggested worse-than-anticipated challenges for the plant’s ongoing cleanup.

The plant’s operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. said the remote-controlled “scorpion” robot was sent into the Unit 2 reactor’s containment vessel Thursday to investigate the area around the core that had melted six years ago, but its crawling function failed while climbing over highly radioactive debris.

The robot, carrying a dosimeter, thermometer and two small cameras, transmitted some data and visuals but could not locate melted fuel - key information to determine how to remove debris out of the reactor. The robot was abandoned inside the vessel at a location where it won’t block a future probe.

Preliminary examinations over the past few weeks have detected structural damage to planned robot routes and higher-than-expected radiation inside the Unit 2 containment chamber, suggesting the need to revise robot designs and probes.


Read more: http://www.cbsnews.com/news/bad-news-from-japans-wrecked-fukushima-nuclear-reactor/
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