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California to prosecute pro-life activists

Fascist state: California has charged two anti-abortion activists with 15 felonies for making undercover videos that proved Planned Parenthood sold baby parts for profit.

Prosecutors say Daleiden, of Davis, California, and Merritt, of San Jose, filmed 14 people without permission between October 2013 and July 2015 in Los Angeles, San Francisco and El Dorado counties. One felony count was filed for each person. The 15th was for criminal conspiracy to invade privacy.

Daleiden said in an email to The Associated Press that the “bogus” charges are coming from “Planned Parenthood’s political cronies. … The public knows the real criminals are Planned Parenthood and their business partners,” Daleiden said.

The conversations included officials from Planned Parenthood and StemExpress, a California company that provides blood, tissue and other biological material for medical research and had received fetal tissue from Planned Parenthood. In one of the pair’s videos, Daleiden poses as “Robert Sarkis” of the phony Biomax Procurement Services and is shown discussing liver tissue with the chief executive of StemExpress at a Northern California restaurant.

The article tries to imply that the videos were edited deceptively, but anyone who has watched the full tapes can see that Planned Parenthood does exactly what filmmakers say, harvest baby parts for profit. For the Democratic officials that run California, revealing such facts is unacceptable, and must be punished.

A NASA Image and Video library, available to all

NASA has unveiled a new image and video library website that allows anyone to search through more than 140,000 NASA images, videos, and audio files.

I just tested it, putting “Apollo 8” as much search words. The site immediately made available a pretty nice collection of just under 300 images from that mission. The collection was far from complete (And I speak from experience, since when I wrote Genesis: the Story of Apollo 8 I looked at every one of the images taken during the mission as well as most of the images taken by NASA’s press office as well as numerous others by every news source, including Life magazine.) but it was a start. It appears NASA intends to keep adding images with time.

ESA narrows landing site choice for ExoMars 2020 to two

The European Space Agency has narrowed its choice of landing sites for its ExoMars 2020 rover mission.

Two ancient sites on Mars that hosted an abundance of water in the planet’s early history have been recommended as the final candidates for the landing site of the 2020 ExoMars rover and surface science platform: Oxia Planum and Mawrth Vallis.

A primary technical constraint is that the landing site be at a suitably low level, so that there is sufficient atmosphere to help slow the landing module’s parachute descent. Then, the 120 x 19 km landing ellipse should not contain features that could endanger the landing, the deployment of the surface platform ramps for the rover to exit, and driving of the rover. This means scrutinising the region for steep slopes, loose material and large rocks.

Oxia Planum was selected in 2015 for further detailed evaluation. Although not yet complete, the investigation so far indicates that the region would meet the various constraints.

They will spend the next year evaluating both sites, though based on the press release it sounds as if Oxia Planum is the favorite.

French Guiana strikes continue

The strikes in French Guiana that canceled last week’s Ariane 5 launch have now escalated, practically paralyzing the country.

It also looks like this situation will not be settled quickly. Many of the local mayors have refused to meet with the representatives sent over by the French government.

Science discovers that cats prefer human companionship over food

News you can use: A new study has found that cats will choose human companionship over food if given a choice.

The researchers took 50 cats from shelters and peoples homes and deprived them of food, human contact, scent and toys for a few hours. They then introduced them to stimuli within these four categories to see what they chose.

Most cats chose human socialisation over any of the other categories.

From my perspective, what is even more important is that cats don’t choose those humans nonchalantly. Every cat lover knows that, unlike dogs, cats pick carefully whom they will love. But if they love you they show it.

Today’s modern fascist university

Two articles today illustrate once again the fascist totalitarian culture that now dominates many of today’s American colleges.

In both cases the university acted to oppress individuals who happened to express opinions dissenting from leftist/Muslim orthodoxy. In both cases the universities declined to respond when asked to comment. In both cases these stories are justifiable reasons for never sending your children to these schools.

I have recently been focusing on these university incidents because they are a good predictor of the future. Unless we take some meaningful and forceful action, these fascists will be running the country soon. Be prepared.

Reused first stage static fire dress rehearsal today

Update: The countdown and static fire test has been completed, apparently successfully. The launch however is now set for Thursday.

SpaceX today plans to do the first static fire dress rehearsal countdown of a Falcon 9 rocket using an already used first stage.

The static fire process for SpaceX and its Falcon 9 rocket is one of the last critical components in the pre-launch flow ahead of liftoff. For SES-10, the Falcon 9 and mated second stage will be moved to the launch pad on top of the TEL (Transporter Erector Launcher) and will be taken to vertical at historic launch complex 39A. Once the Falcon 9 is vertical, technicians and engineers will complete all of the connections between the TEL/launch mount and LC-39A and proceed into countdown operations on Monday morning.

For this particular static fire, SpaceX has up to an eight-hour window.

If all goes well, they plan to do the actual launch on Wednesday.

The article by the way also provides a nice detailed history of the first stage.

“Limited in attention span, all about big talk and identity politics, but uninterested in substance.”

Link here. Read it all. The disgusting refusal of the Republican leadership to lead, to do what they have promised for seven years and repeal Obamacare, demonstrates their fundamental corruption. Another quote:

In this case, the hardliners were playing a productive role by pointing out the real policy consequences of the piecemeal approach being pursued by the House leadership. Though we’ll never know for sure how the numbers might have looked if a vote had taken place, it’s clear that many centrist members of the Republican caucus were also prepared to vote this bill down. House conservatives, if they could be blamed for anything, it’s for having the audacity to urge leadership to actually honor seven years of pledges to voters to repeal Obamacare. If anybody was moving the goal posts, it wasn’t Freedom Caucusers, it was those who were trying to sell a bill that kept much of Obamacare’s regulatory architecture in place as a free market repeal and replace plan.

And then there’s this. Make sure you read it all.

Update: And read this as well: “While Democrats lie in pursuit of their goals and aspirations, Republicans lie in pursuit of the other side’s ideals.”

I am reminded of the political situation in the late 1960s. The baby boom generation wanted a leftist Congress passing leftist laws. They had the momentum and the culture behind them. Congress was reluctant to go that way. It took more than a decade, until Jimmy Carter’s administration, before a really leftist Congress was in place and able to pass that agenda.

We are in the same boat now. The left is losing ground steadily. The conservatives are on the rise, and want their agenda passed. The problem is that Congress is behind the times and refusing to face this new cultural reality. Whether it ever will remains a question, however, since it is unclear to me whether the right has the same determination and no retreat approach held by the left in the 1960s and 1970s.

X-37B sets new orbial record

The X-37B presently in orbit this weekend set a record for the longest in-orbit flight for the Air Force’s fleet of two ships.

As of today (March 25), the X-37B has spent 675 days on its latest Earth-circling mission, which is known as Orbital Test Vehicle-4 (OTV-4). The previous record was 674 days, set during OTV-3, which lasted from December 2012 to October 2014. It’s unclear what the new duration record will end up being; most X-37B activities and payloads are classified, and the Air Force has historically been tight-lipped about landing plans.

Republican Obamacare bill does not have votes

It appears that the Obamacare bill put forth by the Republican leadership in the House does not have the votes for passage. There are also reports that Ryan will pull the bill rather than have it go down to defeat.

You want a bill that all Republicans can (and have) supported, along with the people that voted for them? Re-introduce this bill.

(a) PPACA.—Effective on the date that is 180 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Public Law 111–148) is repealed, and the provisions of law amended or repealed by such Act are restored or revived as if such Act had not been enacted.

(b) Health care-Related provisions in the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010.—Effective on the date that is 180 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, title I and subtitle B of title II of the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010 (Public Law 111–152) are repealed, and the provisions of law amended or repealed by such title or subtitle, respectively, are restored or revived as if such title and subtitle had not been enacted.

That’s the entire legal text of the bill. It is very simple, and gets us back to where we were in 2010, which might not have been a perfect place, but is a good place to start if you want to consider reform. Tinkering with the crap law that Obama and the Democrats gave us is stupid, and will accomplish nothing.

And if the Democrats filibuster this bill? Let them. Campaigning for Obamacare has clearly not been a good thing for them (see 2010, 2014, and 2016), and in the 2018 elections the Democrats are very vulnerable, with many running in strongly Republican states.

Next Proton launch tentatively set for May

The Russians have tentatively scheduled their next Proton launch for May, contingent on the repair work being done on the rocket’s engines.

The engine repairs are required because of corruption in the factory that made them. Previously, the Russians had hoped to get Proton off the ground by April. That is no longer likely.

The link above includes a manifest of Russian launches through next year. Interestingly, it only includes three commercial launches. A quick review of the launches listed at this site only includes another three or so commercial launches much farther in the future. All in all, it appears that the Russians are getting less business for this rocket. I also suspect this will remain the case until they get things fixed and begin launching again, though they will need to cut their prices significantly to match SpaceX’s.

More problems for Russian ISS module

A Russian module intended for ISS, delayed for years because of technical problems, appears to have more issues that could delay it further, and might even prevent its launch entirely.

As its original 2007 launch date came and went, more and more delays pushed back the MLM’s launch. Then, in 2013, engineers discovered a leaking fueling valve as well as contamination in the propulsion system. At the time, reports said repairs and cleanup would take nearly 10 months.

Those months stretched into years. During the last four years, engineers have been working diligently replacing a jungle of pipelines, valves, and thrusters—part of Nauka’s sophisticated propulsion system—in an effort to get rid of the sawdust contamination introduced during botched upgrades. Because the spacecraft has stayed earthbound much longer than intended, parts of Nauka have also slipped out of warranty.

Fighting off political and logistical concerns surrounding the project—as well suggestions that they ground the MLM entirely until it can serve as the first module of Russia’s own space station—the tedious cleanup and repair effort entered its final phase this year, and the module finally appeared on track for launch at the end of this year or, at the very latest, the first half of 2018.

Then things went from bad to worse. In the past few weeks, engineers found the same contamination they’ve been fighting for years inside the module’s propellant tanks. The repair team tried to wash off these contaminants, but so far all efforts to cleanse the vessels have failed.

Read the whole article. The situation is not good.

SSL sues Orbital ATK over proprietary in-space servicing technology

Space Systems/Loral has filed a lawsuit against Orbital ATK over that company’s improper access to proprietary information concerning its in-space servicing plans.

At least four confidential SSL documents were viewed and distributed by an Orbital ATK employee working at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, where the data is stored as part of an ongoing SSL partnership with the U.S. space agency, according to the complaint filed in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia.

Orbital declined to comment.

SSL, a subsidiary of Canada-based MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates Ltd., said it was informed of the data breach by NASA in December 2016. Orbital acknowledged the unauthorized access of SSL’s data and fired the employee, but did not respond to questions about the scope of the breach or about five other Orbital employees whom NASA said may have read the SSL documents, the lawsuit said.

The two companies are in direct competition for doing in-space robotic servicing of satellites. Last month Orbital ATK sued DARPA for its contract with SSL for this work, claiming the contract violated U.S. policy that forbids DARPA from competing directly against commercial companies. It appears that this new lawsuit is a bit of tit-for-tat.

Labor strikes force Arianespace to suspend all French Guiana launches

Arianespace today announced that it is suspending all launches from French Guiana indefinitely while it works out the labor problems that surfaced this week with wildcat strikes.

Arianespace chief executive Stephane Israel tweeted Wednesday that officials will set a new target launch date as soon as possible.

The delay will likely cause Arianespace to push back the following launch from French Guiana. Once the Ariane 5 takes off, a Russian-made Soyuz rocket is next in line at the tropical space base, slated to loft the Boeing-built SES 15 communications satellite into orbit to provide in-flight Internet connectivity for airline passengers, and support government, networking and maritime customers across North America. SES 15 also hosts a payload for the FAA’s Wide-Area Augmentation System to enhance airline navigation and safety across the United States.

Liftoff of SES 15 was scheduled for April 4, but it takes nearly two weeks to reconfigure the French Guiana spaceport and downrange tracking stations between launches.

These problems play into the hands of Arianespace’s competitors, SpaceX, the Russians, and ULA.

Vote on Republican Obamacare bill canceled

The Republican leadership has canceled today’s planned vote on their Obamacare replacement bill, having failed to get the support of that bill from conservatives.

The link is to mainstream news outlet ABC, which typically reports this bill as an effort “to repeal and replace ‘Obamacare.'” This is not a repeal bill. To call it that is to lie about what it is. All it does is tinker a bit with Obamacare, at its outer edges, while cementing the law in place by making the Republican Party now partly responsible for it.

Kudos to the House Freedom Caucus and its conservative members for demanding a full repeal and not backing down. They are right. Pass a full repeal, let the Democrats in the Senate fillabuster its passage. The 2018 elections are now getting closer, and too many of those Democratic senators are vulnerable. Let them campaign on that filibuster. It will do them as much good as it did in 2010, 2014, and 2016.

Another NASA authorization bill this year?

Less than a day after President Trump signed the first NASA authorization bill since 2010, it appears that two major players, one in industry and one in Congress, would like to revisit this bill again this year.

The first story summarizes and quotes from a series of tweets sent out by Elon Musk reacting to the bill, of which the most important noted ““changes almost nothing about what NASA is doing. Existing programs stay in place and there is no added funding for Mars,” and adding, “Perhaps there will be some future bill that makes a difference for Mars, but this is not it.”

The second story describes comments made by Cruz at a Commercial Spaceflight Federation breakfast on March 22, where he noted that in 2017 Cruz hoped to do it all over again, with a different focus: “In this coming Congress, I hope to take up another commercial space launch piece of legislation, and a longer-term NASA authorization.”

I suspect that both want and expect some changes in how NASA has been doing things, and the just-signed authorization did not accomplish that. The bill was written last year, as Cruz also noted in his remarks, and thus could not reflect any policy changes we can expect from Trump. I also suspect that both Musk and Cruz want to influence that policy, which is not yet determined. I am hoping that Capitalism in Space, which their offices have both received, is having some of its own influence here, even if it is tiny.

Another arrest in Jewish center bomb threats

A Jewish teenager has been arrested in Israel, suspected of making many of the bomb threat phone calls to Jewish community centers worldwide during the past year.

The motive here is unknown. So far, we have a leftist journalist and a Jewish teenager making the calls. I fear that these idiots have made it easier for Islamic terrorists to do an actual bombing.

Deborah Kerr – I whistle a happy tune

<An evening pause: From the 1956 Rodgers & Hammerstein Hollywood musical, The King and I. The song, actually sung by Marni Nixon, invokes a lesson I have learned works in almost every situation. Act like you belong and have the right to do what you are doing and people will accept this without question. This worked especially well when I was in the movie business.

The song’s lesson is also a good portrayal of the optimism and courage of the American culture in the mid-twentieth century. All good things were possible, if we showed courage and determination.

Hat tip Edward Thelen.

Atlas 5/Cygnus launch delayed again

ULA has now delayed the launch of its Atlas 5 rocket, taking Cygnus to ISS, indefinitely because of the discovery of another hydraulic issue, this time with the booster.

This is the third time hydraulic issues have delayed the launch, the second time those problems were related to the booster itself.

Why U.S. farmers are hacking their John Deere tractors

Link here.

Tractor hacking is growing increasingly popular because John Deere and other manufacturers have made it impossible to perform “unauthorized” repair on farm equipment, which farmers see as an attack on their sovereignty and quite possibly an existential threat to their livelihood if their tractor breaks at an inopportune time. “When crunch time comes and we break down, chances are we don’t have time to wait for a dealership employee to show up and fix it,” Danny Kluthe, a hog farmer in Nebraska, told his state legislature earlier this month. “Most all the new equipment [requires] a download [to fix].”

The nightmare scenario, and a fear I heard expressed over and over again in talking with farmers, is that John Deere could remotely shut down a tractor and there wouldn’t be anything a farmer could do about it. “What you’ve got is technicians running around here with cracked Ukrainian John Deere software that they bought off the black market”

A license agreement John Deere required farmers to sign in October forbids nearly all repair and modification to farming equipment, and prevents farmers from suing for “crop loss, lost profits, loss of goodwill, loss of use of equipment … arising from the performance or non-performance of any aspect of the software.” The agreement applies to anyone who turns the key or otherwise uses a John Deere tractor with embedded software. It means that only John Deere dealerships and “authorized” repair shops can work on newer tractors.

This behavior by John Deere is no different than the immoral behavior of Microsoft to its customers (which is why I use Linux). It is unacceptable and should encourage the rise of significant competition from other tractor companies.

The longest stretch of no sunspots since 2009

The Sun just completed its longest stretch, 15 days, without sunspots since 2009, suggesting once again that the solar minimum is coming much sooner than expected.

So far this year the Sun has been blank 34% of the time, a pace that makes this year almost as blank as 2009, the year in which the previous solar minimum ended. This suggests that 2017 might be the year in which the next solar minimum begins, which would be about two years earlier than the earliest predictions.

The more likely scenario is that 2018 will be the year the solar minimum begins, with 2019 when solar activity bottoms out. This will still be much earlier than expected, making this solar cycle only about 9-10 years long. What makes this more significant is that historically short cycles always went with high activity, while long cycles signaled an inactive and weak maximum. This cycle will be the first that is both short and weak.

What happens next remains the big question. Will the Sun enter a grand minimum, with no sunspots for decades? Or will sunspot activity continue? Since solar scientists really do not yet understand the mechanism within the sun’s magnetic field that causes this solar cycle, we really can’t answer these questions, in advance. We must wait, and see.

Lawsuit against San Jose by Trump supporters to go forward

A federal judge has given the go-ahead to a lawsuit by Trump supporters against the city of San Jose for not protecting them from attacks by anti-Trump protesters during a Trump rally in June.

The city police essentially forced Trump supporters into the anti-Trump mob, and then stepped back and did nothing when that mob attacked them. You can see some of the videos of these attacks here.

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