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Senator Bob Corker (R-Tennessee) discovers why he is an idiot

In a Senate hearing on Thursday, Senator Bob Corker (R-Tennessee) lambasted Secretary of State John Kerry about the Iran deal he negotiated.

Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker on Thursday offered a scathing indictment of the Obama administration’s shifting goals and rationales for its nuclear deal with Iran, going so far as to tell Secretary of State John Kerry that “I believe you’ve been fleeced” by Iran. Corker said the agreement reached July 14 in Vienna would “codify a perfectly aligned pathway for Iran to get a nuclear weapon.”

Turning to Kerry, who took notes as he spoke, Corker said: “What you have really done here is you have turned Iran from being a pariah to Congress – Congress – being a pariah.”

Actually, it was Corker who turned Congress into a pariah. It was his bill, approved by a Republican Congress, that has made a rejection of the Iran deal almost impossible. While the Constitution requires treaties to only be approved with a two-thirds Senate majority, Corker wrote a bill and pushed it through Congress that allows this particular treaty to be approved automatically, unless two-thirds of both Houses of Congress vote to override it. In other words, instead of needing only 34 votes to kill it, Corker’s bill now requires 67 in the Senate and 292 in the House.

Why he and the Republicans in Congress did this suggests strongly to me that they are either all idiots, or far more corrupt and tied to power than anyone imagined. Unwilling to fight for our country or for the principles for which it was founded, they instead bent over and begged to be screwed by this corrupt President and Democratic Party that wishes nothing more than to destroy the free society we once had.

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Worlds without end

Last week’s fly-by of Pluto by New Horizons illustrated forcefully once again the power of exploration on the human mind, and how that exploration always carries surprises that delight and invigorate us.

First of all, the images from that fly-by demonstrated clearly that the decision by the International Astronomical Union (IAU) to declare Pluto a non-planet was very much premature. Even project scientist Alan Stern himself enthusiastically noted at the start of Friday press conference that Pluto-Charon was a “double planet system”.

The IAU definition itself was faulty and difficult to apply. The clause that required a planet to have “cleared the neighborhood around its orbit” made little sense in the real universe, as even the Earth has not successfully cleared its orbit after several billion years. Was the IAU suggesting the Earth was not a planet?

New Horizons’s discovery last week that even a small object like Pluto, orbiting the Sun on its own with no gas giant nearby to provide tidal heating, can still exhibit significant and on-going geological activity, shows that our understanding of what defines a planet is at this time quite limited. We simply don’t know enough about planetary evolution and formation to definitively define the term. Nor do we have enough knowledge to determine if Pluto falls into that category, though the data strongly suggests that it does.

Are planets made up of only gas giants, rocky terrestrial planets like the Earth, and dwarf planets like Ceres and Pluto? Or are there numerous other as yet unknown categories?
» Read more

GAO finds IRS still focused on harassing conservatives

Working for the Democratic Party: The GAO has found that targeting of conservatives by the IRS is still possible because the agency has not taken sufficient steps to prevent it.

The GAO now says that IRS political “targeting is indeed possible in the audit process” for nonprofits, largely due to poor agency oversight and controls. “Unfortunately, the IRS has not taken sufficient steps to prevent targeting Americans based on their personal beliefs,” the GAO says.

Specifically, The GAO found that “control deficiencies” do “increase the risk” that the IRS nonprofit unit “could select organizations for examinations in an unfair manner—for example, based on an organization’s religious, educational, political or other views.”

Then there’s this tidbit:

The GAO also found that a quarter of the IRS nonprofit audit case files it reviewed had no description of any allegation that triggered the audit to begin with. The IRS doesn’t sufficiently document why it even started nonprofit audits in the first place, the watchdog group says. All of these “weaknesses undermine the integrity of tax administration,” the GAO warns.

Instead, the GAO found that IRS audits are usually triggered because someone complained. And since IRS employees are almost all Democrats and very partisan, the only complaints they take seriously are Democratic ones. Thus, the audits are mostly against conservatives, and serve to squelch political opposition to the Democratic Party.

Astronomers confirm Kepler discovery of near twin of Earth

Worlds without end! In the release today of another set of Kepler data, astronomers have announced the discovery in that dataset of a new twin of Earth.

The newly discovered Kepler-452b is the smallest planet to date discovered orbiting in the habitable zone — the area around a star where liquid water could pool on the surface of an orbiting planet — of a G2-type star, like our sun. The confirmation of Kepler-452b brings the total number of confirmed planets to 1,030. …

Kepler-452b is 60 percent larger in diameter than Earth and is considered a super-Earth-size planet. While its mass and composition are not yet determined, previous research suggests that planets the size of Kepler-452b have a good chance of being rocky. While Kepler-452b is larger than Earth, its 385-day orbit is only 5 percent longer. The planet is 5 percent farther from its parent star Kepler-452 than Earth is from the Sun. Kepler-452 is 6 billion years old, 1.5 billion years older than our sun, has the same temperature, and is 20 percent brighter and has a diameter 10 percent larger.

While this exoplanet is certainly not identical to Earth, it is close enough that the possibility of alien life — really alien life — could very likely exist upon it.

The dataset also included 11 other Earth twin candidate exoplanets that still need to be confirmed.

More problems at Virgin Galactic?

The story outlines what appear to significant problems at Virgin Galactic:

  • Some sources say the company has shelved LauncherOne in favor of a bigger launcher that would be deployed from the bottom of a 747, not WhiteKnightTwo.
  • The company however says LauncherOne is still under development.
  • The company admits that they recently had a LauncherOne test rocket engine explode during testing.

It appears that they have discovered that LauncherOne is not cost effective for meeting their contract with OneWeb to launch 39 satellites. It would only be able put up one satellite at a time. A more powerful launcher however would be too heavy for WhiteKnightTwo.

Thus, after 10 years of development, nothing they have built to date is useful for a profitable operation, and they apparently have to start over.

Russians confirm their commitment to ISS through 2024

Even as a new crew arrived at ISS, the head of Roscosmos confirmed that the Russians are now committed to sticking with ISS through 2024, as requested by the U.S.

I’ll make a prediction: The station’s life will be extended beyond 2024, but not necessarily under the control of its present international partnership. If the governments involved consider backing out at that time, there will be private companies then capable of taking it over, and will demand that the U.S. transfer ownership to them. This will in turn act to pressure the governments to continue the station’s operation.

Either way, ISS will continue.

Meanwhile, quality control issues continue to pop up with the Russians. One of the solar panels on the Soyuz capsule that delivered crew to ISS yesterday had failed to open when commanded, then decided to pop open unannounced during the docking. They had enough power to get to the station with only one panel, and the panel opening at the wrong time fortunately did not cause any problems, but for the panel to open as it did is without doubt worrisome.

Hackers demonstrate they can remotely take over moving vehicle

Does this make you feel safer? In a demonstration of the vulnerability of modern cars that are linked to the internet, two hackers took over the operation of an unmodified moving Jeep Cherokee.

A pair of Missouri-based hackers have put on an extraordinary demonstration by logging into a Jeep Cherokee remotely, while it was being driven by a Wired reporter Andy Greenberg, and systematically taking over the car’s functionality. First, they hit him with cold air through the air-con system, then they blasted Kanye West through the stereo at full volume, rendering the volume knob completely useless. They flashed up a picture of themselves on the car’s console and set the windscreen wipers going full blast, squirting cleaning fluid onto the windscreen and making it difficult to see.

But these were just warmups to the main event – next, they took over the engine and shut it off completely, leaving the driver powerless and coasting on the freeway as traffic flashed past around him. Then, once he was off the highway, they showed how they could completely disable the brakes, and take over the steering of the car – only at slow speeds and in reverse, but they’re working on unlocking new abilities every day.

This suggests to me that linking any car directly to the internet is probably a very bad idea.

Robotic servicing demo resumes on ISS

After a two year hiatus, engineers have resumed experiments on ISS to demonstrate robotic servicing of satellites in space.

Known by its creative team as the “little ISS experiment that could,” RRM broke uncharted ground in 2011-2013 with a set of activities that debuted robotic tools and procedures to refuel the propellant tanks of existing satellites. Its second phase of operations, which took place in April and May and will resume again later in 2015, offers something entirely different and just as disruptive, says Reed. “We’ve outfitted the RRM module with new hardware so we can shift our focus to satellite inspection, instrument life extension, and even techniques for instrument swap-out,” says Reed. Such servicing technologies could open new possibilities for owners of spacecraft in low and geosynchronous Earth orbit, he says.

Many of the designs of this demo project are based on actual research satellites that need refueling or repair. Thus, if the robot can do the work on ISS, it is likely it can also do the work at the satellite itself.

Haze spotted over Ceres’ double bright spot

Dawn, in orbit around Ceres, has detected a haze above the dwarf planet’s double bright spot, suggesting that the tiny asteroid/planet is still geologically active.

Haze on Ceres would be the first ever observed directly in the asteroid belt. In 2014, researchers using the European Space Agency’s Herschel Space Observatory reported seeing water vapour spraying off Ceres, which suggested that it was geologically active1. At least one-quarter of Ceres’s mass is water, a much greater proportion than seen in most asteroids.

Bright spots pepper Ceres’s surface, but the haze has so far been seen in only one location — a crater named Occator, which has a large bright area at its centre and several smaller spots nearby. Mission scientists have been trying to work out whether the bright spots are made of ice, evaporated salts or other minerals, or something else entirely.

Some team members had been leaning towards the salt explanation, but the discovery of haze suggests the presence of sublimating ice. “At noontime, if you look at a glancing angle, you can see what seems to be haze,” Russell says. “It comes back in a regular pattern.” The haze covers about half of the crater and stops at the rim.

Mountains and craters on Pluto?

The edge of Tombaugh Regio

Cool image time! Even as they download new images for a press conference on Friday, the New Horizons’ science team has released a new close-up of Tombaugh Regio, showing both a new mountain range within it as well as its sharply defined western contact with the dark whale feature, which now appears to be heavily cratered and old.

“There is a pronounced difference in texture between the younger, frozen plains to the east and the dark, heavily-cratered terrain to the west,” said Jeff Moore, leader of the New Horizons Geology, Geophysics and Imaging Team (GGI) at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, California. “There’s a complex interaction going on between the bright and the dark materials that we’re still trying to understand.” While Sputnik Planum is believed to be relatively young in geological terms – perhaps less than 100 million years old — the darker region probably dates back billions of years. Moore notes that the bright, sediment-like material appears to be filling in old craters (for example, the bright circular feature to the lower left of center).

Make sure you click through to see the full resolution image. It is quite astonishing. They have also released a new image each of two of Pluto’s moons.

John Kerry doesn’t understand the words “Death to America!”

Peace in our time! In one of his first speeches following the announcement of a deal with Iran,  Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei said, to chants of “Death to American” and “Death to Israel”, that the policies of Iran and the U.S. were “180 degrees” opposed.

When asked his thoughts on this speech and its hostility, Secretary of State John Kerry (former Demcratic Presidential candidate) was baffled.

“I don’t know how to interpret it at this point in time, except to take it at face value, that that’s his policy,” he said in the interview with Saudi-owned Al Arabiya television, parts of which the network quoted on Tuesday. “But I do know that often comments are made publicly and things can evolve that are different. If it is the policy, it’s very disturbing, it’s very troubling,” he added.

Reminds me of the reaction of many appeasers to both Hitler and Stalin. No matter how plainly these tyrants expressed the desire to conquer the world and destroy their enemies, these appeasers, most of whom were on the left, would continually come up with excuses for their plain words. I however take Khamenei at his word. When he gets the bomb, he plans on using it.

Falcon Heavy first test flight delayed again

In the heat of competition: The first test flight of SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket has been pushed back from the end of this year until April 2016.

This isn’t surprising after the June 28 launch failure. They have to get the Falcon 9 up and running before they can consider launching the first Falcon Heavy.

Judy Garland – Somewhere over the rainbow

An evening pause: I posted this performance back on November 23, 2010, had forgotten, and found it again by accident. It bears another viewing. As noted at the youtube link,

Judy Garland only performed “Over The Rainbow” twice during her many television appearances, which spanned 14 years. She performed it on her first TV Special, “Ford Star Jubilee” in the episode called “The Judy Garland Special” in 1955, and sang it to her children on The Christmas Edition of her weekly TV show “The Judy Garland Show” (1963).

Here Judy is dressed up [in the first special] as the tramp character she played when doing a duet with Fred Astaire in the film ‘Easter Parade’.

Watch. It shows why she was both a great singer and a great actress.

SpaceX pinpoints likely cause of Falcon 9 failure

The investigation into the failure of the Falcon 9 launch June 28 now thinks the cause was a failed strut in the upper stage.

The struts are 2 feet long and about an inch thick at its thickest. SpaceX does not make the struts, a supplier does. From now on, each one will be individually checked, Musk said, and the design and material may be altered for added strength. The struts are designed to handle 10,000 pounds of force at liftoff; at the time of the accident, they would have been seeing only 2,000 pounds of force. A failure at such a low threshold is “pretty crazy,” Musk said. The strut most likely failed at its attachment point, he added.

Another change: Beginning with its next launch, each Dragon cargo carrier will be equipped with software for deploying its parachutes. The Dragon destroyed last month, along with an estimated $110 million worth of NASA equipment and supplies, would have survived if the parachutes normally used for descent at mission’s end could have been activated, Musk said.

The investigation is still not finalized, but is likely close to completion.

Iran’s parliament questioning Iran nuclear deal

Democracy in action! Iran’s parliament is likely to demand changes to Iran deal before voting for its approval.

The ironies here are tragic. While their parliament stands up for its constitutional rights, our Congress, run by Republicans, has ceded its power to the President, with the Senate giving up its constitutional right to only approve treaties with a two-third majority. Instead, they got down on their knees and handed Obama the power to make this very bad treaty without their full consent. What idiots.

Internet tycoon commits $100 million to alien life search

Russian internet entrepreneur Yuri Milner has given SETI $100 million for a ten year project to accelerate their effort to search for evidence of extraterrestrial life.

Understanding why SETI needs private funding is important:

SETI has been going on since 1960, when radio telescopes became sensitive enough to detect signals from another planet if it was broadcasting signals similar to those which our civilization does. Researchers developed devices that could monitor millions of frequencies at once for any signal that looked at all different from that produced by astronomical objects or the natural background. At first funded by universities and NASA, public funding for SETI was axed by Congress in the early 1990s. Since then, the nonprofit SETI League has received funding of a few million dollars a year from private donors.

Congress correctly cut the funds because it isn’t really the business of the federal government to search for alien life. Some taxpayers really don’t want their money used for that purpose, and they should have the right to say no. Instead, Congress essentially told SETI to do it right: Get private funding from people who want the research done. The work will be done more efficiently for less, and no one will be required to contribute who doesn’t want to.

Milner’s contribution now is the biggest donation yet, and suggests that interest in this research is building culturally.

Baikonur Cosmodrome to open for tourists

The competition heats up: Faced with the possibility that the Russians might eventually end their lease arrangement combined with a desire to make money, Kazakhstan is now planning to make the historic Baikonur spaceport available to tourists.

Why they haven’t done this years ago is baffling. But then, this is Russia and Kazakhstan, not the U.S.

Philae status update

Engineers on the Rosetta team are struggling to figure out why they cannot get a solid communications lock with their Philae lander, and have come up with several explanations.

One possible explanation being discussed at DLR’s Lander Control Center is that the position of Philae may have shifted slightly, perhaps by changing its orientation with respect to the surface in its current location. The lander is likely situated on uneven terrain, and even a slight change in its position – perhaps triggered by gas emission from the comet – could mean that its antenna position has also now changed with respect to its surroundings. This could have a knock-on effect as to the best position Rosetta needs to be in to establish a connection with the lander.

Another separate issue under analysis is that one of the two transmission units of the lander appears not to be working properly, in addition to the fact that one of the two receiving units is damaged. Philae is programmed to switch periodically back and forth between these two transmission units, and after tests on the ground reference model, the team has sent a command to the lander to make it work with just one transmitter. As Philae is able to receive and accept commands of this kind in the “blind”, it should execute it as soon as it is supplied with solar energy during the comet’s day.

They have heard from Philae since July 9. Because of comet activity they have had to pull Rosetta back away from the nucleus to protect it, and are now focusing its primary activity on observations, not communications with Philae. They will continue to try to bring Philae back to full functioning life, but the priority is now the comet.

The Earth from a million miles away

Earth from a million miles away

Cool image time! NASA’s DISCOVR solar observation probe has released its first image of the Earth, taken from its station-keeping position a million miles from Earth.

This camera was originally designed for Al Gore’s proposed propaganda mission where a spacecraft would take daily pictures of the Earth to pound home his environmental agenda. Eventually NASA found a real use for the satellite’s overall structure and location, observing the Sun’s activity and give us advance warning of dangerous flares or coronal mass ejections.

They left the Earth-viewing camera on board, partly because it was built already (it would cost money to remove) and partly because daily images like this can be of some scientific value.

Dawn resumes descent to Ceres

After a several week pause while engineers analyzed the issue that caused the spacecraft to go into safe mode on June 30, they have now resumed their descent to a lower orbit to take higher resolution images of Ceres.

The spacecraft experienced a discrepancy in its expected orientation on June 30, triggering a safe mode. Engineers traced this anomaly to the mechanical gimbal system that swivels ion engine #3 to help control the spacecraft’s orientation during ion-thrusting. Dawn has three ion engines and uses only one at a time. Dawn’s engineering team switched to ion engine #2, which is mounted on a different gimbal, and conducted tests with it from July 14 to 16. They have confirmed that the spacecraft is ready to continue with the exploration of Ceres.

Obamacare increases are only going to get worse

Finding out what’s in it: After Obamacare`s government help for insurance companies ends and consumers have bear the full cost of this monstrous law, the costs will skyrocket again.

By 2023, I estimate that the average family plan could be 61% more expensive than it is in 2015, with individual plans only one or two percentage points behind. These increases are so high that direct taxpayer subsidies to consumers are unlikely to keep up. So the cost, both financially and politically, will become increasingly intolerable.

Thank you Obama and the Democratic Party for bringing us this present. We couldn`t have done it without you!

Apple makes the conservative internet vanish

The state religion will not be challenged! Apple`s new news service considers leftwing news outlets the only outlets worth listing.

Their unwillingness to consider almost any conservative sites for listing not only illustrates their biased leftwing perspective, it also shows us their deep-seated close-mindedness. They believe in liberalism/socialism/big government so much they make it a point to refuse to even read opposing sites, no less deny access to them.

Islamic attack in France

Peace in our time: Even as a jihadist attacked military recruiting offices in Tennessee this week, there was also a major terrorist attack in France, with all evidence pointing at Islamic terrorists as the attackers.

The attack, three separate explosions at a petrochemical plant, has interestingly not been reported in detail by a single mainstream news source in the U.S. I wonder why. Could it be that these events put the lie to President Obama’s Iran deal, that agreeing to this deal will only make our lives more dangerous and will empower the radical and violent Islamic movement, which is as virulent in Iran as it is in the Islamic State?

Nah. It’s all in my imagination. President Obama couldn’t be wrong. He wouldn’t lie to us.

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