Tag Archives: government

NASA to extend use of private module on ISS

Capitalism in space: NASA has decided to extend the life of Bigelow’s module BEAM on ISS beyond its original two year test.

NASA’s original contract with Bigelow was to keep BEAM on ISS for two years and then jettison it, but NASA has concluded that BEAM has value as a storage compartment and wants to keep it there. NASA said the new contract would overlap the originally contracted test period, for a minimum of three years, with two options to extend for one additional year. A decision on whether to jettison it at that point or continue using it will be made thereafter.

The agency said that not only would NASA use it for stowage, but Bigelow will be allowed to use it “as a test-bed for new technology demonstrations.”

Using it makes a lot more sense than jettisoning it (the typical government way). This will also allow them to study the longevity in space of an expandable module.

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Democratic IT Awan sent money to Pakistani officials

The computer specialist, Imran Awan, who worked for many Democrats in Congress, including Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, and is now charged with bank fraud sent money and gifts to Pakistani officials.

A now-indicted IT aide to various House Democrats was sending money and gifts to government officials in Pakistan and received protection from the Pakistani police, multiple relatives claim.

A Democratic aide also said Imran Awan personally bragged to him that he could have people tortured in Pakistan. Awan’s lawyer acknowledged that he was sending money to a member of the Faisalabad police department, but said there was a good explanation.

The relatives said Awan and his brothers were also sending IT equipment, such as iPhones, to the country during the same period in which fraudulent purchase orders for that equipment were allegedly placed in the House, and in which congressional equipment apparently went missing. Awan’s stepmother, Samina Gilani, said the brothers were paying police officer Azhar Awan and that he is their cousin.

The article suggests that Awan was involved in a lot of shady deals, and was also somewhat of a thug in how he treated others. It also suggests that the money and equipment he obtained was obtained illegally. Whether he was funneling information to Islamic sources hostile to the U.S. remains unclear, though what has been released so far suggests that this remains a strong possibility.

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UAE announces manned spaceflight plans

The new colonial movement: The United Arab Emirates has announced their plans to establish an astronaut corps that would fly on the manned spacecraft of other nations.

The first of those astronauts would fly by the end of 2021, the 50th anniversary of the founding of the UAE. “We have not decided on who will be flying us yet,” he said. “We do envisage that we partner up with all of the major space agencies, somehow and in some structure.”

There would be several options for the UAE to choose from, including Soyuz flights by Russia to the International Space Station and Shenzhou flights to a Chinese space station slated to be completed by the early 2020s. Other options include flights on commercial crew vehicles being developed by Boeing and SpaceX.

To me, the really exciting aspect of this is that the UAE is now a new customer looking for a means to get its people into space, which makes all those manned programs, including the American private companies, competitors for that business.

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Testing underwater interplanetary robots on the cheap

This article describing a test of an underwater robot by JPL scientists in the interior of a glacier warmed the cockles of my heart when I read this paragraph:

Klesh and Leicty’s recent expedition relied on a commercial grade submersible and a “homemade” glacial probe. The latter was built using off-the-shelf and 3-D printed parts. They did all their own wiring and programming.

NASA test projects like this are often gold-plated. I like how these scientists took a more practical approach, getting their data without spending a fortune in time and money. Moreover, they gained some engineering knowledge that can be applied practically in future probes, both here on Earth and on other planets.

Hat tip Jim Mallamace.

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Sierra Nevada and German space center increase ties

Capitalism in space: Sierra Nevada and the German Aerospace Center have signed a new agreement increasing their partnership for using Dream Chaser in space.

The current MOU follows a 2013 Technical Understanding between the parties that initiated cooperation on space activities. This new agreement allows the two entities to establish goals and baseline objectives on future missions, scientific contributions and future space architecture for LEO, Cislunar and lunar operations, and deep space exploration.

It is clear once again that Sierra Nevada is trying to find partners who can pay to keep Dream Chaser flying as much as possible, between its cargo missions to ISS.

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Boeing delays first manned Starliner flight

Capitalism in space: It appears that Boeing has pushed back the first manned flight of its Starliner capsule from August 2018 to early 2019.

In an interview at the conference, Ferguson said that the company’s current schedule calls for a pad abort test at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico in the second quarter of 2018. That would be followed by an uncrewed orbital test flight of the vehicle, launched on an Atlas V, in the third quarter of 2018. “If the results of that are very favorable,” he said of the uncrewed flight test, “our crewed flight test is fourth quarter — perhaps, depending on the outcome, maybe the first quarter of the following year.”

This schedule appears to be an overall three to five month delay in their program.

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Egypt announces creation of space agency

The new colonial movement: The Egyptian government today voted to create an Egyptian space agency with the goal of encouraging the development of a home-based satellite industry.

The ruling by the Council of Ministers will now pass on to the Egyptian parliament for final agreement and made into law. Minister Abdel Ghaffar also said that Egypt intends create a satellite manufacturing centre in 2019, and then launch Egypt’s first indigenously made satellite in 2020.

This satellite is now dubbed Misr Sat 2, previously known as EgyptSat-2, and will be designed and manufactured at Space City, located in New Cairo. Space City is a one hundred acre plot of land where satellite manufacturing and other space facilities are being built. Misr Sat-2 is to be partly funded by China to the tune of U.S.$45 million after a Memorandum of Understanding was signed between Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi and China’s President Xi Jinping on the sidelines of the BRICS Summit held in Xiamen, China, earlier in September 2017.

This project is linked to larger aid from China, and appears to be prompted by this Chinese aid.

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Hawaii’s land board votes 5-2 in favor of TMT

After lengthy hearings, Hawaii’s land board has voted 5 to 2 to approve the construction permit for building the Thirty Meter Telescope on top of Mauna Kea.

The board placed 43 conditions on the permit, including a previously negotiated plan requiring the University of Hawaii to decommission three existing telescopes atop Mauna Kea, where the TMT is to be built, and barring any future telescopes on the mountain. In a statement, Suzanne Case, chair of the board, said: “This was one of the most difficult decisions this Board has ever made. The members greatly respected and considered the concerns raised by those opposed to the construction of the Thirty-Meter Telescope at the Mauna Kea Science Reserve.”

TMT opponents tell ScienceInsider that they will appeal the decision. Kealoha Pisciotta, a Hawaiian cultural practitioner and a plaintiff in the case against the TMT permit, said she believed the board had rubber-stamped the permit, and the decision seemed like a foregone conclusion. “They did not deliberate. They did not properly consider or take into account the evidence,” she said. [emphasis mine]

They did not deliberate? The decision was announced with a 345 page document [pdf] outlining the long history of this permit process, including a detailed description of the previous process that had given its approval before protests required a second hearing followed by the numerous and endless testimony since.

This “Hawaiian cultural practitioner” (or what I call a typical race hustler) is either lying or willfully ignorant, and actually could be a poster-boy for modern intellectualism, which always puts race and ethnicity above facts and reasoned debate. And if you don’t believe me, read the pdf at the link above. Search for Pisciotta’s name and read her testimony. It reeks of ignorance and dishonesty, all colored by a racist love of her native race and a hatred of all others.

I still do not expect TMT to be built in Hawaii. The race hustlers rule the Democratic Party, and the Democratic Party rules Hawaii. They will allow the stalling to continue until the consortium building TMT will be forced to go elsewhere.

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Lockheed Martin unveils concepts for Mars ship and lander

The boondoggle lobbying continues! Lockheed Martin today unveiled its concepts for a Mars interplanetary ship, built around its Orion capsule, as well as a fully reusable Mars lander.

The timing of this announcement fits perfectly with last week’s NASA announcement of its concepts for building a lunar space station, along with this week’s announcement to study doing it with the Russians. It also times perfectly with the announcement that the first public meeting of the National Space Council will take place on October 5. And tonight Elon Musk will give an update on his own proposals for getting to Mars.

All these public relations announcements suggest to me that the Trump administration is getting close to unveiling its own future space policy, and they all suggest that this policy will be to build a space station around the Moon. My guess is that Lockheed Martin and SpaceX are vying for a piece of that pie in their announcements today.

Let me also note that Lockheed Martin’s concept above illustrates nicely what a lie Orion is and has always been. They have been touting it for years as the vehicle that will get Americans to Mars, but now admit that it can only really be a small part of a much larger interplanetary ship, and will be there mostly to be the descent capsule when astronauts want to come home. They also admit in the video at the first link that their proposal for getting to Mars is only a concept. To build it would require many billions of dollars. I wonder will it cost as much as Orion and SLS ($43 billion plus) and take as long (18 years plus) to build? If so, it is a bad purchase. We can do this faster, and for less.

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Arianespace issues contract to build 10 more Vega rockets

Capitalism in space: Arianespace has awarded the Italian manufacturer a new contract to build ten more Vega rockets.

Of these ten rockets, three already have launch contracts for ESA satellites. I suspect Arianespace already knows of at least seven more government payloads are mandated to use its rockets to get into space, which would explain this rocket order now.

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Status of Arecibo radio observatory

It appears that, while Puerto Rico itself suffered devastating damage from Hurricane Maria, the Arecibo Observatory came through relatively unscathed.

The surface of the dish was largely unscathed, and the observatory’s most vulnerable component, the instrument platform suspended high above the dish by cables strung from three towers, each more than 80 meters tall, was still in place and seemed undamaged, says Schmelz. She is based at the Columbia, Maryland, headquarters of one of Arecibo’s operators, the Universities Space Research Association, and spoke with staff in Puerto Rico who first used a ham radio and then a single working satellite phone. But the roofs on some observatory buildings were blown off, the sinkhole under the dish was flooded, and other equipment was damaged by rain and fallen trees. Most significantly, a large portion of a 29-meter-long antenna—the 430-megahertz line feed used for studying the upper atmosphere—appears to have broken off and fallen from the platform into the dish. Mathews estimates a bill of several million dollars to replace the line feed alone.

Because of the significant infrastructure damage across the island, there will be significant delays in getting any of this fixed. Since the telescope is already being considered for shut down due to budget issues, these delays could lead to that shut down.

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Chinese government orders shutdown of all North Korean businesses

The Chinese government has ordered that all businesses run by North Koreans, whether singly or in a joint partnership, must shut down within the next four months.

The order applies to all such businesses in China, as well as any Chinese/North Korean joint ventures abroad. It will exempt nonprofits and “noncommercial infrastructure projects,” whatever that is, and will also allow individual businesses to request a waiver.

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NASA and Roscomos sign agreement to work together to build lunar orbiting station

Extending the pork: NASA and Roscosmos have signed an agreement agreeing to work together in the construction of what NASA calls a deep space gateway, a space station orbiting the Moon.

The goal here is to garner political support for getting funding to fly a third SLS/Orion mission, which would be its second manned flight. It is also to establish some long term justification for SLS/Orion, which presently has no mission and will disappear after its first manned test flight, presently scheduled for 2022. That single test flight will have taken 18 years and more than 40 billion dollars to build, an absurd timeframe and cost for a single mission that does not bode well for future SLS/Orion missions.

The Russian perspective can be found here. They claim that the station would be finished by 2024-2026, an absurd prediction based on the expected SLS launch rate of one launch every one to two years. For Russia, the hope is that they can use this project to get U.S. money, just like the big American space companies like Lockheed Martin (Orion) and Boeing (SLS).

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Republican tax plan unveiled

As expected, the Republican leadership has unveiled a new tax proposal that would consolidate the number of tax brackets while increasing the rate of the lowest bracket and increasing the standard deduction.

I admit that I have grown very cynical about these proposals. They never end up simplifying anything. Instead, each time Congress has done this in the past three decades they have only made the tax code more complicated. I see no evidence so far that this Congress and this Republican leadership will do anything different.

Moreover, Congress and Trump continue to make little effort to rein in spending, so I expect the result here will also be a significant increase in the crushing federal debt.

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Parts 2 and 3 of “A Niche in Time”

The second and third parts of Doug Messier’s series on the history of aviation and space are now available:

Part 2 describes how the Hindenberg crash ended the lighter-than-air airship industry, while Part 3 describes how the Columbia accident led to the end of the space shuttle. He then compares them both, noting their similarities.

Not surprising to me, the main common thread that sustained both of these failed concepts was the desire of a government to build and fly them, regardless of their cost and practicality. Messier’s comparison between airships and airplanes highlights this well. Airplanes were cost effective and could easily be made profitable. Airships were neither. They existed because Hitler wanted them.

The same can be said for the space shuttles, and for Constellation and SLS/Orion today.

Anyway, read both articles above. They are nicely written, very informative, and provide important lessons about history that we would be wise to educate ourselves about before we attempt to make our own history in the future.

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UN announces proposed Dream Chaser international mission

Capitalism in space: The Outer Space office of the United Nations has announced an opportunity for member nations to express their interest in doing a science mission using Sierra Nevada’s Dream Chaser reusable spaceship.

The UN announcement states that

The purpose of this Call for Interest (CFI) is to provide a summary of the proposed mission and to solicit information from Member States interested in providing experiments, payloads, or satellites that could be flown on this mission. The CFI also has the objective of gathering information on the interested countries so that UNOOSA may better understand the demand for this type of mission.

The actual call [pdf] roughly describes a mission lasting 2 to 3 weeks and carrying about 20 experiments. This call is designed to give them a better idea of what those experiments might be, what nations wish to participate, and where the funding for the mission might come from. The actual announcement to submit experiment proposals won’t come until March 2018.

Being a UN mission, it is not surprising that it wants to focus on a variety of leftwing “Sustainable Development Goals”:
» Read more

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First meeting of National Space Council announced

A Potemkin Village: The White House has announced the date of the first public meeting of the National Space Council, set for October 5 at the Air & Space Museum.

Today, Vice President Mike Pence announced the first meeting of the National Space Council is scheduled for October 5, 2017 at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Virginia. The meeting, titled “Leading the Next Frontier: An Event with the National Space Council,” will include testimonials from expert witnesses who represent the sectors of the space industry: Civil Space, Commercial Space, and National Security Space.

What this announcement tells me is that this council isn’t there to discuss and set space policy, but to sell that policy to the public. And right now, I am expecting that sales job will be trying to convince us that we must use SLS/Orion mission to build a new space station orbiting the Moon by 2023. They will use the council to pitch the idea, and then Trump will make the traditional Kennedy-like speech, with lots of astronauts standing behind him, committing this nation to putting a space station around the Moon by such-and-such a date. Whoopie!

Forgive me if I sound a bit cynical. I’ve seen this show many times before. For some reason, the opening act is great, but then it fades always away into nothingness before the second act begins.

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Senator Bob Corker (R-Tennessee) will not seek reelection

Good riddance! Senator Bob Corker (R-Tennessee), a major player among the Republican leadership and the man who engineered the acceptance of the Iran deal, announced today that he would not seek reelection.

I had expected Corker to make his decision after the results of today’s election in Georgia. That he announced before those results suggests the polls there made it clear to him that a RINO like him was in big trouble and would have faced a tough primary election.

These events indicate to me once again that, except for the bankrupt big urban areas and the coasts, the country continues to shift to the right. Corker was going to face a strong conservative primary challenger, running against Corker’s moderate “let’s work with the leftist Democrats” stance. His decision today indicates that he did not think such a position was a winnable one any longer.

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Republican leaders to introduce tax increase

Failure theater: The Republican leadership in Congress is about to introduce tax increase, increasing the tax rate for the lowest bracket from 10% to 12%, while making believe that it really is a tax cut.

The plan will also increase the tax deduction, which they will then claim means that the tax increase really doesn’t matter.

They really have an utter contempt for the people who voted for them, not unlike the utter contempt being shown right now by the NFL to its customer base. Well, if you spit on your supporters don’t expect them to support you much longer.

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Behemoths of the Sky

Link here. This article by Doug Messier, about the German attempt to create an industry around rigid lighter-than-air airships, is the first of a five part history series that he will use to illustrate some fundamentals about new industries.

Despite the differences in time periods and technologies, there are some fundamental things that are required for all major advances in flight regardless of when they are made: imagination, daring, physical courage and financial backing. And luck. No small amount of luck.

Today, Parabolic Arc begins a five-part series looking at three different periods in powered human flight. We will compare and contrast them to see what essential lessons can be drawn from them. If the first two installments appear to have little to do with spaceflight, please be patient. All will be revealed.

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First manned SLS/Orion flight officially delayed to 2022

Government in action! The first manned flight of SLS/Orion has now been officially delayed one year until 2022, and that date remains questionable.

In addition, the first unmanned test flight of SLS/Orion has now also been delayed until December 2019, something that had been under consideration but is now official. Even with this delay, there are doubts whether that flight can take place then, which is why the 2022 launch of the first manned flight is questionable.

The article outlines in detail the Byzantine scheduling issues that NASA must fulfill to meet these launch dates, including a long timeline of deliveries that seems absurd when compared to how private companies operate.

Assuming that these new dates occur as announced (something I sincerely doubt), the first unmanned launch of SLS/Orion will occur almost 16 years after President Bush first proposed it, with the first manned flight occurring more than 18 years after his proposal. In that time NASA will have spent about $43 billion for this one manned mission. Let me repeat: $43 billion and almost two decades to fly one manned mission. Quite absurd.

The article also details NASA’s proposal for a third SLS/Orion mission, the second manned, to occur in 2023, which would begin assembly of a space station in lunar orbit. I suspect that this mission is going to be announced in what will be President Trump’s version of the typical Kennedy-like speech that Reagan, Bush 1, Clinton, Bush 2, and Obama have all given, announcing big plans in space by such-and-such deadline.

Whether Congress funds it remains to me an open question. Right now I would predict they would, since they love the pork that SLS/Orion provides. In two years, when Falcon Heavy has flown several times and is likely becoming operational, and New Glenn is getting close to its first test launch, I am not so sure. Both will be flying before SLS’s first flight and both will have been developed for a tenth the cost with equal if not greater capabilities. And both will be able to fly more frequently for practically nothing, when compared to SLS.

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A detailed look at the new Republican Obamacare revision

Link here [pdf]. This is worth a read, as it provides the best most detailed look at the Senate’s proposed bill I have seen so far.

While the bill has many good things, overall it really is no different than Obamacare. It is a bureaucratic mess, it leaves many of Obamacare’s worst rules in place (such as the requirement that everyone, male or female, pay for maternity care), and it continues the inappropriate micromanaging of Congress in this private sector industry.

It might pass, but if it does, all it will accomplish is to stain the Republicans with this monstrosity of a law, as premiums will surely continue to rise, as will medical costs. Up until now, the Republican Party has been saying it had nothing to do with Obamacare and its consequences, and for one rare time, these politicians were not lying when they said that. If this bill becomes law, however, they will no longer be able to deny their part in Obamacare, unless they lie. And the public will know they are lying when they do.

Update: Heritage Foundation releases its own analysis which says this bill will encourage the growth of government.

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Scientists oppose changes to fishing ban around Pacific islands

Link here. The article, from the journal Science, is devoted entirely to pushing the perspective of the scientists, who do not want the size of the fishing ban around eight Pacific islands reduced in any way. They claim that it will be a disaster for science if any commercial fishing from Hawaiian fisherman is allowed within 200 miles of these islands.

Marine scientists are warning that if the Trump administration rescinds fishing protections around eight Pacific islands, the United States will lose one of its best laboratories for measuring how a warming climate affects marine life. “We need baselines,” says Alan Friedlander of the University of Hawaii at Mānoa in Honolulu. “We need pristine reefs to see what we’ve lost elsewhere, to better manage damaged reefs and to isolate the effects of climate change.”

To understand that this is really only a power play by these scientists is revealed by the following quote from the article:

In 2009, President George W. Bush designated the islands, lying south of the Hawaiian chain, as national monuments. All but Wake, which hosts a military base, were already National Wildlife Refuges before attaining that status. As refuges, commercial fishing is banned within 12 nautical miles, which preserved the health of the reefs even in the face of rising temperatures. In the rest of the islands’ Exclusive Economic Zone—waters out to 200 miles from shore—they were fished by long-line tuna boats from Hawaii.

Bush’s designation banned fishing within 50 nautical miles of shore; in 2014, President Barack Obama extended the ban to 200 miles for Wake, Johnston, and Jarvis. President Donald Trump is expected to try to change the rules by executive order or by a new Antiquities Act proclamation. Any such move will be challenged in court, says Michael Gravitz, director of policy and legislation at the nonprofit Marine Conservation Institute in Washington, D.C.

The real issue here is the expansion of the ban by Bush and Obama. It probably impacted the livelihood’s of Hawaiian fishermen, and this change being considered by the Trump administration is part of its overall effort to reconsider certain past presidential designations of national monuments that appear to have exceeded the intention of the law. The original intention was that any presidential declaration of a monument would be kept to “the smallest area compatible with proper care and management.” In recent decades presidents from both parties have made designations that far exceed this limitation.

Many scientists today however have become nothing more than petty dictators. They demand that everyone kowtow to them, even if that results in the loss of their jobs or property. This article illustrates this.

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UAE announces its second student space competition

The United Arab Emirates space center in charge of its Mars mission has announced its second student competition for designing future missions to Mars.

Explore Mars Competition targets university undergraduate students in science or engineering disciplines. The students will need to propose an innovative mission design to Mars and highlight a novel approach in either engineering design or in the science mission. The competition is geared towards identifying and solving a scientific or engineering challenge in planetary exploration.

The competition is divided into two categories, the first is focused on introducing a scientific project, and the second focuses on developing an idea to design a mission to Mars. Students who are interested in the first category about Mars Science can suggest a topic related to the Martian atmosphere or Mars geology. Furthermore, in Mars mission category, topics can address unique concepts and designs for space missions to Mars, new designs for scientific instruments for Mars science, or innovative spacecraft.

This is the second year in the row they have run such a contest. The winners for the first contest are supposed to be revealed at a science conference in late September.

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Soyuz launches Russian GPS satellite

A Russian Soyuz-2 rocket today successfully placed one of that country’s GPS satellites in orbit.

Russia now has the lead over SpaceX in the 2017 launch race, having completed 14 launches, one more than SpaceX. It however trails the U.S.’s total (19) by 5. That U.S. total did not rise yesterday because a scheduled Atlas 5 launch by ULA was delayed because of a battery problem. Its new launch date is tomorrow.

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In new Obamacare vote, Republican leaders offering bribes

Finding out what’s in it, part 2: The Senate Republican leadership is offering Senator Lisa Murkowsky (R-Alaska) specific rewrites favoring just Alaska in order to buy her vote on their new attempt to revise Obamacare.

The bribe includes three provisions, but this one I think is most corrupt:

Alaska (along with Hawaii) will continue to receive Obamacare’s premium tax credits while they are repealed for all other states. It appears this exemption will not affect Alaska receiving its state allotment under the new block grant in addition to the premium tax credits.

There are also some indications that this secret bill for which no text has been made public, as far as I can tell, also keeps the Obamacare requirement that insurance companies will not be allowed to deny anyone insurance no matter how sick they are. This is the provision that is essentially bankrupting the industry and forcing premiums to skyrocket. By keeping it, these Republicans reveal their overall support for Obamacare.

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Significant evidence found of double voting

voter fraud study

Testimony at one public meeting of Trump’s election fraud commission revealed significant evidence of several thousand individuals who have voted twice in elections.

Ken Block of Simpatico Software Systems gave a stunning report on the comparison that his company did of voter registration and voter history data from 21 states. He discussed how difficult and expensive it was to get voter data from many states—data that is supposed to be freely available to the public. According to Block, “the variability in access, quality, cost, and data provided impedes the ability to examine voter activity between states.”

Yet using an extremely conservative matching formula that included name, birthdate, and Social Security number, Block found approximately 8,500 voters who voted in two different states in the November 2016 election, including 200 couples who voted illegally together. He estimated that “there would be 40,000 duplicate votes if data from every state were available.”

Of those duplicate voters, 2,200 cast a ballot in Florida—four times George W. Bush’s margin of victory in 2000. His analysis “indicates a high likelihood [of] voter fraud” and that there is “likely much more to be found.”

The image on the right is one of the powerpoint slides used by Block during his presentation. which can be found here.

The public meeting included additional testimony from many other investigators, all of whom showed that if voter fraud is not widespread, the situation is such that it could easily become so. One recommendation that would prevent double voting as shown above would be to allow the states to more easily access each other’s databases in order to compare them.

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