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Submission + - Japan launches its first commercial payload

schwit1 writes: Using its H-IIA rocket, upgraded to lower cost, Japan launched its first commercial payload today, putting Canada’s Telestar 12V into geosynchronous orbit.

It is not clear if Japan’s government-run space program can compete. The rocket is built by Mitsubishi, but it appears owned and operated by JAXA, the equivalent of Japan’s NASA. It has also been a very expensive rocket to launch, as for much of its existence it has been like SLS, more dedicated to producing pork jobs than actually competing with other rocket companies. Whether they can upgrade it sufficiently to compete in price with other rockets is highly questionable.

Nonetheless, that Japan is trying to compete is good news. The more competition, the better. The effort alone will produce new ideas, which in turn can only help lower the cost to get into space, thus making it possible for more people to afford it.

Submission + - Highschooler suspended over an "insensitive" tweet ( 1

mi writes: When a teacher complained about low voter-turnout in a Massachusetts town, one of the students suggested, it may be because too many of the residents aren't legally allowed to vote: "When only 10 percent of Revere votes for mayor cause the other 90 percent isn't legal". The school punished the student because "the district believes in freedom of speech, but cannot support insensitive language".

Submission + - NASA contracting development of new ion/nuclear engines

schwit1 writes: NASA has awarded three different companies contracts to develop advanced ion and nuclear propulsion systems for future interplanetary missions, both manned and unmanned.

These are development contacts, all below $10 million. However, they all appeared structured like NASA’s cargo and crew contracts for ISS, where the contractor does all of the development and design, with NASA only supplying some support and periodic payments when the contractor achieves agreed-upon milestones. Because of this, the contractors will own the engines their develop, and will be able to sell them to other customers after development, thereby increasing the competition and innovation in the field.

Submission + - Princeton, Georgetown Join Growing List Of Colleges Pushed To Airbrush History B (

noramendozanm1 writes: At Princeton, student protesters known as the Black Justice League are occupying the university presidentâ(TM)s office demanding the scalp of former school president and U.S. President Woodrow Wilson, whom they have branded a racist. Georgetownâ(TM)s student sit-in lasted only one day before the president gave in to demands that the [...]

Submission + - Satellite wars (

schwit1 writes: Sixty years after the space race began, an orbital arms race is again in development.

Military officials from the US, Europe and Asia confirm in private what the Kettering Group and other amateur stargazers have been watching publicly. Almost every country with strategically important satellite constellations and its own launch facilities is considering how to defend — and weaponize — their extraterrestrial assets. “I don’t think there is a single G7 nation that isn’t now looking at space security as one of its highest military priorities and areas of strategic concern,” says one senior European intelligence official.

The US is spending billions improving its defences — primarily by building more capacity into its constellations and improving its tracking abilities. A $900m contract was awarded to Lockheed Martin in 2014 to develop a radar system capable of tracking objects as small as baseballs in space in real time. But there are also hints that the US may be looking to equip its satellites with active defences and countermeasures of their own, such as jamming devices and the ability to evade interceptions.

A purely offensive anti-satellite programme is in fast development as well. High-energy weapons and manoeuvrable orbiters such as space planes all open the possibility of the US being able to rapidly weaponise the domain beyond the atmosphere, should it feel the need to do so.

Submission + - Obamacare regulations to destroy craft beer industry

schwit1 writes: The cost to meet Obamacare regulations requiring beer companies to include specific calorie information on every beer they make is likely going to destroy many small local beer breweries.

As of December 2016, all brewers must include a detailed calorie count on every type of beer they produce. Failure to comply with the new regulations means craft brewers will not be able to sell their beer in any restaurant chain with over 20 locations. Because this is a major market for selling beer, it hamstrings smaller craft brewers if they do not comply.

The Cato Institute estimates the Obamacare calorie labeling requirements will cost a business as much as $77,000 to implement. For larger beer companies, this is a drop in the bucket, but for small, local craft brewers it represents a significant cost that they must pay. As a result, it creates a significant disadvantage compared to larger beer companies who can better absorb the cost of this new regulation.

But hey, who cares if a major thriving industry should be destroyed by government regulations.

Submission + - File Says NSA Found Way to Replace Email Program (

schwit1 writes: Newly disclosed documents show that the NSA had found a way to create the functional equivalent of shut down programs. The shift has permitted the agency to continue analyzing social links revealed by Americans’ email patterns, but without collecting the data in bulk from American telecommunications companies — and with less oversight by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.

The disclosure comes as a sister program that collects Americans’ phone records in bulk is set to end this month. Under a law enacted in June, known as the USA Freedom Act, the program will be replaced with a system in which the NSA. can still gain access to the data to hunt for associates of terrorism suspects, but the bulk logs will stay in the hands of phone companies.

The newly disclosed information about the email records program is contained in a report by the NSA’s inspector general that was obtained through a lawsuit under the Freedom of Information Act. One passage lists four reasons that the NSA. decided to end the email program and purge previously collected data. Three were redacted, but the fourth was uncensored. It said that “other authorities can satisfy certain foreign intelligence requirements” that the bulk email records program “had been designed to meet.”

Submission + - Audit shows DHS Running Hundreds of Vulnerable Sensitive, Top Secret Databases (

schwit1 writes: The Department of Homeland Security is running hundreds of sensitive and top secret databases without the proper authorization, leaving the agency unsure if it can “protect sensitive information” from cyber attacks.

An audit released publicly Thursday by the inspector general found multiple areas of weaknesses within the agency’s information security programs.

Specifically, the department is operating 136 “sensitive but unclassified,” “Secret,” and “Top Secret” systems with “expired authorities to operate.”

“As of June 2015, DHS had 17 systems classified as ‘Secret’ or ‘Top Secret’ operating without [authorities to operate] ATOs,” the inspector general said. “Without ATOs, DHS cannot ensure that its systems are properly secured to protect sensitive information stored and processed in them.”

Submission + - Leaked NSA doc reveals 'sheer luck' needed to find useful info in sea of data (

schwit1 writes: The NSA didn’t know it was already sitting on a “goldmine” of data on one of its targets until one of its analysts discovered it by “sheer luck,” according to an internal newsletter entry leaked by Edward Snowden.

The article, dated March 23, 2011, was written by a signals development analyst in SIDtoday, an NSA in-house newsletter. He explains how he discovered the contact and personal information for over 10,000 people, as well as some 900 account login details, after “a ton of hard work,” according to reports from The Intercept and teleSUR.

“By sheer luck, (and a ton of hard work) I discovered an important new access to an existing target and am working with TAO to leverage a new mission capability,” the analyst wrote to colleagues. TAO refers to Tailored Access Operations, an NSA hacking team which had collected the 900 usernames and passcodes.

The “existing target” was Petróleos de Venezuela, a Venezuelan state oil company also referred to as PDVSA.

Submission + - Hillary Clinton campaign bullies comedians mocking her (

mi writes: A video of the short performance, which is less than three minutes, is posted on the website of the renowned club, Laugh Factory, and the Clinton campaign has tried to censor it. Besides demanding that the video be taken down, the Clinton campaign has demanded the personal contact information of the performers that appear in the recording. This is no laughing matter for club owner Jamie Masada, a comedy guru who opened Laugh Factory more than three decades ago and has been instrumental in launching the careers of many famous comics. “They threatened me,” Masada told Judicial Watch. “I have received complains before but never a call like this, threatening to put me out of business if I don’t cut the video.”

Submission + - House Passes Fed Transparency Bill; Obama Will Veto (

schwit1 writes: In a 241-185 vote, the House passed passed H.R. 3189, aka Fed Oversight Reform and Modernization Act. The bill would make changes to how the Fed conducts monetary policy and regulatory activities and would direct the Fed to take a rules-based approach to interest rate decisions; require audits of more Fed functions such as monetary policy; and place restrictions on its emergency lending powers. In other words, everything that the banks that are direct and indirect stakeholders in the Fed would fight to the death to prevent.

The new House speaker promptly applauded the passage. From Paul Ryan:

Today, the House passed H.R. 3189, the Fed Oversight Reform and Modernization Act. The bill would require the Federal Reserve to explain publicly its monetary policy, specifically how it sets interests rates and the country’s money supply. In response, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) issued the following statement:

"If the Federal Reserve explained to the public how it made its decisions, the American people would have greater confidence in them. Families could better plan for the future, invest their money wisely, and create opportunity for all of us. I thank Chairman Hensarling and the Financial Services Committee for offering this commonsense legislation."

The victory, however, was very hollow: the White House has repeatedly said Obama’s advisers would recommend veto of H.R. 3189, "which seeks to make changes to Fed operations, including how the independent agency conducts monetary policy and regulatory activities.

The Fed is independent? Interesting: read the following excerpt from the left-leaning NYT and decide just how independent the Fed is:

... in 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson, who wanted cheap credit to finance the Vietnam War and his Great Society, summoned Fed chairman William McChesney Martin to his Texas ranch. There, after asking other officials to leave the room, Johnson reportedly shoved Martin against the wall as he demanding that the Fed once again hold down interest rates. Martin caved, the Fed printed money, and inflation kept climbing until the early 1980s.

And then this, from Lady Bird Johnson, spoken to William McChesney Martin, on his arrival at the LBJ ranch": "I hope you have examined your conscience and you’re convinced you’re on the right track."

And that is just how "independent" the Fed has always been.

But back to the White House which knows that with Congress a joke since the crisis, its only branch of government is the money printer in the Marriner Eccles building: "Subjecting Fed’s “exercise of monetary policy authority to audits based on political whims of members of the Congress, of either party, threatens one of the central pillars of the nation’s financial system and economy,” White House budget office says in statement.

Which brings us to a tangent: every time a standing Fed chairman (or woman) is criticized before Congress their traditional response is that it is Congress that gave the emergency powers it now has to bail out anyone and everyone. Especially Fed member banks.

So what happens when Congress tries to change the law? Well... this.

"Summit meetings tend to be like panda matings. The expectations are always high, and the results usually disappointing." -- Robert Orben