Obamacare continues to cut employement

Finding out what’s in it: New government surveys confirm that businesses are cutting jobs and work hours to avoid Obamacare.

It is important to repeat again that this monstrosity of a law was given to us by the Democratic Party, and only the Democratic Party. Who are you voting for in November?

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Russia reiterates that it has no intention to stop selling the U.S. its rocket engines

Russia officials today repeated that they will continue to sell Russian rocket engines to American companies, despite the sanctions imposed on their country because of the Ukrainian situation.

Meanwhile, there’s this story about the budget squeeze in the U.S. that makes it difficult to produce an American-made engine for the Atlas 5 rocket.

Management problems at NASA’s asteroid hunting program

An inspector general report today criticized NASA’s program to find potentially hazardous asteroids, finding it disorganized and poorly managed.

The report faulted the NEO Program’s lack of structure, and said its resources are inadequate for handling its growing agenda. In addition to the program’s Washington-based executive, Lindley Johnson, NASA funding goes to support six employees at the Minor Planet Center in Massachusetts and six more at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California, the inspector general’s office said.

The report said the program’s executive fell short when it came to overseeing progress in the asteroid-tracking effort. What’s more, there were no formal partnerships with the Defense Department or the National Science Foundation, or with international space agencies. Those groups could make significant contributions to the effort, the report said.

I do not doubt that this program has management problems. What government agency today doesn’t? And any that are managed well are the exception to the rule. However, the report’s conclusion that “resources are inadequate for handling its growing agenda” is typical Washington-speak for “Give us more money!” which almost never solves the management problems that made the program a failure in the first place.

Philadelphia’s District Attorney likes to steal homes

Theft by government: Having broken no law, a Philadelphia husband and wife were evicted from their home and the house taken from them by the DA’s office, which stood to personally profit from the confiscation.

The nightmare began when police showed up at the house and arrested their 22-year-old son, Yianni, on drug charges — $40 worth of heroin. Authorities say he was selling drugs out of the home. The Sourvelises say they had no knowledge of any involvement their son might have had with drugs.

A month-and-a-half later police came back — this time to seize their house, forcing the Sourvelises and their children out on the street that day. Authorities came with the electric company in tow to turn off the power and even began locking the doors with screws, the Sourvelises say. Authorities won’t comment on the exact circumstances because of pending litigation regarding the case.

Police and prosecutors came armed with a lawsuit against the house itself. It was being forfeited and transferred to the custody of the Philadelphia District Attorney. Authorities said the house was tied to illegal drugs and therefore subject to civil forfeiture. In two years, nearly 500 families in Philadelphia had their homes or cars taken away by city officials, according to records from Pennsylvania’s attorney general.

This quote from later in the article is also key: “The very authorities taking the property appear to be profiting from it, according to Pennsylvania state records.”

No first stage landing attempt on next Falcon 9/Dragon launch

SpaceX has decided not to attempt a soft splashdown of the Falcon 9 first stage during Saturday’s launch of the Dragon capsule to ISS.

In a change of plans, the Falcon 9 booster stage set to launch Saturday will not carry landing legs, according to Hannah Post, a SpaceX spokesperson. She said SpaceX does not plan to attempt a water landing of the first stage after its job during launch is completed.

SpaceX initially planned to program the rocket’s first stage to fly back to Earth after completing its work to boost the Dragon spacecraft off the launch pad, but engineers swapped out the Falcon 9 booster with a first stage originally assigned to another flight, officials said.

The reason for the changeout was not disclosed.

I suspect this decision is in connection with the Falcon 9R failure last month, but admit I am speculating with no inside knowledge.

I should also note that if Saturday’s launch goes as planned, it will set a new SpaceX record for the fastest turn-around between launches, less than two weeks. If they succeed, I think they will prove once and for all to most of their remaining naysayers that they are a serious, reliable, and well-run launch company.

Philae’s landing site chosen

Philae's primary landing site

The Rosetta science team has chosen the primary landing site on Comet 67P/C-G for its Philae probe.

Site J is on the ‘head’ of the comet, an irregular shaped world that is just over 4 km across at its widest point. The decision to select Site J as the primary site was unanimous. The backup, Site C, is located on the ‘body’ of the comet. The 100 kg lander is planned to reach the surface on 11 November, where it will perform indepth measurements to characterise the nucleus in situ, in a totally unprecedented way.

This site is, located in the outside center of the nucleus’s smaller lobe, was picked unanimously because it appears to be the easiest to reach while also providing good science.

The descent to the comet is passive and it is only possible to predict that the landing point will place within a ‘landing ellipse’ typically a few hundred metres in size.

A one square kilometre area was assessed for each candidate site. At Site J, the majority of slopes are less than 30º relative to the local vertical, reducing the chances of Philae toppling over during touchdown. Site J also appears to have relatively few boulders, and receives sufficient daily illumination to recharge Philae and continue science operations on the surface beyond the initial battery-powered phase.

Provisional assessment of the trajectory to Site J found that the descent time of Philae to the surface would be about seven hours, a length that does not compromise the on-comet observations by using up too much of the battery during the descent.

I have put a close-up of the landing site below the fold.
» Read more

Refusing TSA sex abuse

Does this make you feel safer? The TSA last weekend tried to body search an individual after he had completed his flight. The man refused, and walked away.

Last Saturday, Kahler Nygard took a Spirit Airlines flight to Denver to visit with friends. When he departed from Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, Transportation Security Administration agents patted him down and allowed him to board his flight. When the plane landed, he was singled out and ordered to exit before the other passengers. After he exited the aircraft, TSA agents approached Nygard and demanded that he go through an additional pat-down and a screening of his luggage for explosive materials.

He had already arrived safely at his destination in Denver and simply wanted to leave the airport. After an argument, which can be seen in the above video [embedded below the fold], Nygard refused the pat-down, despite the fact that TSA agents claimed that he would be arrested if he did not comply, and exited the airport without incident. Nygard flew back to Minnesota yesterday without any complications.

Watch the video below the fold to see him successfully refuse to comply with these fascist thugs and leave the airport. They had no justification for detaining him, he had broken no laws, and so they could not force him to comply. He asks politely “Am I being detained? Is that an order or a request?” When it is clear that it is only a request he says he is leaving and walks away.

Had they tried to detain him at that point he would have easily won a court suit for false arrest and police abuse.

Note that this incident illustrates two things. First, TSA security is a joke. This man was on their so-called “no-fly” list (for no justifiable reason) but they still failed to screen him properly before his flight. Second, their attempt to screen him after his flight shows us that airport safety has nothing to do with the TSA’s reason for existing. The TSA serves as a tool of the government to destroy our freedoms and to establish the power of government over our lives. We should stop submitting to this abuse, and demand that it end.

» Read more

Philae’s mission at Comet 67P/C-G

With the decision to pick a landing site for their Philae lander coming up this weekend, the Rosetta science team today released a press announcement describing in detail the lander’s mission.

The details are fascinating. Not only will Philae take images from the surface as well as get data of the surface and its surrounding environment, the probe will also literally pound the surface to measure its temperature as well as get seismic readings.

The MUPUS hammer is released and embeds itself into the ground so that it can measure the temperature at various depths in the subsurface. The acoustic signals of the vibrations of the hammer action will be detected by acoustic sensors in the feet of SESAME/CASSE and will be used to measure the mechanical properties of the nucleus.

If all goes well, they hope that Philae will remain operational on the surface through March.

The competition in space continues to heat up

Two news stories today indicate that things are going to get increasingly interesting in the exploration of space in the coming years.

First there is this story from Joe Abbott of the Waco Tribune, who routinely reports on SpaceX news because their McGregor test facility is nearby. In it Abbott reports that SpaceX has scheduled its next Dragon supply mission to ISS for no early than September 20.

This news item however is not Abbott’s most interesting news. He also notes several twitter reports coming out a commercial satellite conference in Paris that indicate that SpaceX has closed 9 deals, including several more for its as yet unflown Falcon Heavy.

But even that is not the most interesting news. Abbott also reports that a replacement for the destroyed Falcon 9R test vehicle will be shipped to McGregor for testing in less than two months. Considering how long it takes governments to build and fly test vehicles, getting this replacement in shape for flight mere months after the failure a few weeks ago is quite impressive.

But even that was not Abbott’s most interesting SpaceX news item. » Read more

An update on the status of NASA manned commercial competition

Jason Davis at the Planetary Society blog has put together an excellent summary of the status for all three companies competing for NASA’s contract to ferry astronauts to and from ISS.

Key paragraph:

From a quantitative standpoint, Boeing is the leader. Since the first quarter of 2013, the company has been ahead in percentage of milestones completed and percentage of funding awarded. Plus, there’s the simple fact that they’ve finished all of their milestones, while SpaceX and Sierra Nevada asked for extensions. But from a qualitative standpoint, things are less straightforward. SpaceX has already proven they can fly missions to the ISS. And they’re the only CCiCap participant with a pad abort test and an in-flight abort test among their milestones.

It is very clear just looking at the actual milestones that what Boeing has done so far is not that impressive. Almost everything on their list is a paperwork review, not construction or testing of actual hardware. Meanwhile, SpaceX and Sierra Nevada are building and testing spacecraft. That they have not yet completed their milestones is hardly a big deal in this context.

Is your firearms training realistic?

Will the way you practice self-defense with your gun work in a real life situation?

Unfortunately, criminals rarely shout “threat!” as they attack, they don’t conveniently stand stock-still, and they’re incredibly uncooperative with their would-be victims. The sad fact of the matter is that even most “advanced” self-defense classes offered by reputable organizations and shooting schools only prepare us to deal with caricatures of threats, and generally in manners that won’t succeed in a real conflict.

Interesting article, and one that anyone who wants to carry a weapon, concealed or open, should read and think about.

Playing with today’s Rosetta image of Comet 67P/C-G

Adjusted comet image

In releasing Wednesday’s image of Comet 67P/C-G, the Rosetta science team suggested that readers download it and play with the brightness and contrast settings to bring out some interesting details.

[I]f you adjust the contrast of the image you will see that there is a lot of ‘noise’ in the background. Some of this is simply detector noise and cosmic rays, but there seem to be a few bright objects that may be dust/ice particles between Rosetta and the comet.

In previous NAVCAM and OSIRIS images, we’ve already seen jets of gas laced with dust streaming away from the comet, and the instruments COSIMA and GIADA have started detecting dust, so it would be no surprise if these objects were also found to originate from the comet. In any case, it is a phenomenon that will clearly be studied in great detail at 67P/C-G over the coming weeks and months.

Another nice observation you might like to make while playing around with the contrast settings is that faint details can be brought out in the ‘neck’ region of 67P/C-G, which on first look is seemingly obscured by shadows. It appears as though the neck is being illuminated by the reflection of sunlight off the main body of the comet below.

The image on the left above is the image as released. The image on the right I have brightened considerably to bring out additional details. As they noted, you can see topographical details in the shadowed neck area. Also, the entire nucleus seems to be surrounded by faint dust streaming away in all directions.

It is going to be a great deal of fun to watch this comet change over the next year as it makes its journey around the Sun.

The first of two coronal mass ejectors from a solar flare has arrived.

An alert has been issued so that the electrical grids can been properly prepared to avoid damage by the impact of these two coronal mass ejections (CME) against the Earth’s magnetic field.

The first of the two CMEs predicted to arrive today made its appearance right on time. G1 ((Minor) geomagnetic storming is expected to begin within the next few hours with a maximum projected level of G2 (Moderate) storms for September 12th. A G3 (Strong) Geomagnetic Storm Watch is still in effect for September 13th due to the combined influence of this CME and the one projected to arrive late on the 12th. G1 (Minor) storming is likely to continue into September 14th. In addition, the S1 (Minor) solar radiation storm that is in progress as a result of the eruption on September 10th is expected to persist for the next few days with a possible slight increase with the arrival of the CMEs. Keep in mind that the forecast periods listed are in Universal Time so aurora watchers in the northern U.S. should be looking for possible activity tonight through Saturday night.

While there has been a lot of fear-mongering about these two CMEs, I expect that the only consequences we will see from both, the biggest to hit the Earth during this solar maximum, will be the possibility that the northern lights might be visible in places farther south than normal.

Senate Republicans block Democrat attempt to repeal First Amendment

In a party line vote, Senate Republicans today blocked a Democratic amendment to the Constitution that would have partly repealed the first amendment to the Bill of Rights.

This paragraph summarizes well the goals of the modern fascist Democratic Party:

Holding the vote, even in defeat, was a major political goal for Democrats during the two-week session of Congress. They hope the fight will help them rally their base ahead of November’s elections, arguing that changing the Constitution is needed to prevent wealthy conservatives from improperly influencing elections. [emphasis mine]

The Democrats aren’t mincing words about this. To put it another way, they believe that conservatives shouldn’t have the right to express themselves, and thus they want to repeal the free speech rights of every American so they can squelch the freedom of their conservative opponents.

Russia to match SpaceX launch prices

The competition heats up: The head of Russia’s United Rocket and Space Corporation (URSC), which now controls that country’s entire space industry, said today that they intend to compete with SpaceX’s Falcon 9 much cheaper launch prices.

They intend to do it with both the Proton rocket as well as their new family of Angara rockets. The heavy version of Angara will allow them to compete with SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy, and in fact might even put more payload into orbit for less.

The fascist Senate Democrats who voted to repeal the first amendment

George Will, in an op-ed condemning the Democratic Party’s effort to partially repeal the first amendment of the Bill of Rights in order to limit free speech, also provides us a convenient list of the Democrats who voted for this amendment, also highlighting those senators who are up for reelection in November.

As Will notes,

The 48 senators proposing to give legislators speech-regulating powers describe their amendment in anodyne language, as “relating to contributions and expenditures intended to affect elections.” But what affects elections is speech, and the vast majority of contributions and expenditures are made to disseminate speech. The Democrats’ amendment says: “Congress and the states may regulate and set reasonable limits on the raising and spending of money by candidates and others to influence elections,” and may “prohibit” corporations — including nonprofit issue-advocacy corporations (such as the Sierra Club, NARAL Pro-Choice America and thousands of others across the political spectrum) from spending any money “to influence elections,” which is what most of them exist to do.

Because all limits will be set by incumbent legislators, the limits deemed “reasonable” will surely serve incumbents’ interests. The lower the limits, the more valuable will be the myriad (and unregulated) advantages of officeholders.

If you stand for freedom, you will stand to remove these fascists from office.

The solar maximum lingers on

On Monday NOAA posted its monthly update of the solar cycle, showing the sunspot activity for the Sun in August. As I do every month, I am posting it here, below the fold, with annotations to give it context.

The sunspot activity of the Sun in August hovered at the same levels seen in July. Though the month had seen periods of little activity, these were interspersed with many violent flaring sunspots, including one that only yesterday unleashed a powerful X-class flare that is expected to send a coronal mass ejection directly at the Earth and should impact the Earth’s magnetic field on September 12. Expect spectacular auroras!
» Read more

Curiosity to begin climbing

Scientists have decided to begin Curiosity’s climb of Mount Sharp immediately rather than continue a planned traverse along the base of the mountain prior to heading uphill.

Curiosity’s trek up the mountain will begin with an examination of the mountain’s lower slopes. The rover is starting this process at an entry point near an outcrop called Pahrump Hills, rather than continuing on to the previously-planned, further entry point known as Murray Buttes. Both entry points lay along a boundary where the southern base layer of the mountain meets crater-floor deposits washed down from the crater’s northern rim.

The issues with Curiosity’s wheels also played a part in this decision.

Obamacare forces cancellation of Virginian healthplans

Finding out what’s in it: A quarter of a million Virginians will lose their health plans this year because of Obamacare.

How many more lies will Obama and the Democrats have to tell before that 40% of the population that always votes Democratic to finally wakes up?

Putin threatens management at Vostochny with criminal prosecution

In a statement today in the Russian press Vladimir Putin proposed initiating a criminal investigation into the management of the new Vostochny spaceport.

[Putin] admitted that “although the project is in the focus of our special attention, problems abound. … I will have to hand over some issues to law enforcement agencies to get them sorted out and clarified,” Putin said. Funding is provided regularly but the funding procedure itself needs special attention, he said, referring to “quasi and semi-criminal schemes”.

It appears that funds have not been used as efficiently as he likes and his solution is to threaten prosecution of those involved. This is becoming a standard Putin technique. He used it to guarantee his control over the Russian aerospace company Energia, and now he is using it here to guarantee the Vostochny project moves forward fast and efficiently.

Its use also illustrates the limitations of Russia’s top down approach to everything. Such threats can prevent corruption in a specific project, but that such treats are necessary so frequently points out how easily such corruption grows in a government-run centralized bureaucracy. We see it here in the U.S. as well. Take away the profit motive and private ownership and there remains nothing to naturally focus the efforts of management towards success and efficiency.

The first chemical analysis of Comet 67P/C-G’s coma

The Rosetta science team today released their first analysis of the chemical make-up of Comet 67P/C-G’s coma, finding that not surprisingly it is made up mostly of water, carbon monoxide, and carbon dioxide.

However, ROSINA [the instrument on Rosetta for doing this analysis] has made the surprising observation that the ratio between these species varies quite significantly, depending on where in the coma Rosetta is. Sometimes carbon monoxide is almost as abundant as water; sometimes it’s only around 10%. In addition, ROSINA has not only detected these main species already, but many of the expected minor ones, such as ammonia, methane, and methanol.

Your neighbor the fascist

Horrifying: What happens to you in modern America if you have the nerve to let your child play outside.

But I was also warned: the neighbor can call [Child Protective Services] as many times as she wants. If she truly feels there’s neglect, she can’t be prosecuted for making false allegations. We could try to sue her for harassment. We could try to press charges for kidnapping if she approaches our son again and tries to get him to move from where he’s playing. But in all reality, when children are involved, the person who makes the complaint gets the benefit of the doubt. For parents, it is guilty until proven innocent. I understand why the system works this way, but it makes me feel like we are prisoners in our own home. It makes me feel helpless and at the mercy of someone I don’t even know.

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