Monthly Archives: April 2014

The existence of a Kepler-found earth-sized planet in the habitable zone has been confirmed.

Worlds without end: The existence of a Kepler-found earth-sized planet in the habitable zone has been confirmed.

The newfound planet, called Kepler-186f, was first spotted by NASA’s Kepler space telescope and circles a dim red dwarf star about 490 light-years from Earth. While the host star is dimmer than Earth’s sun and the planet is slightly bigger than Earth, the positioning of the alien world coupled with its size suggests that Kepler-186f could have water on its surface, scientists say.

In this new work, the Keck and Gemini ground-based telescopes confirmed Kepler’s discovery.

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The new more sinister IRS scandal.

The new more sinister IRS scandal.

Yesterday was a significant day in the IRS abuse scandal. The scandal evolved from being about pesky delays in IRS exemption applications to a government conniving with outside interests to put political opponents in prison.

Emails obtained by Judicial Watch through the Freedom of Information Act reveal Lois Lerner cooking up plans with Justice Department officials to talk about ways to criminally charge conservative groups that are insufficiently quiet.

Larry Noble, a law professor now with the Soros-funded Campaign Legal Center, was cited in the emails as someone agitating to jail conservatives who “falsely” report on IRS forms that they are not engaged in political speech. Lerner talked about setting up meetings with Justice Department election lawyers who wanted to talk about making Noble’s dreams a reality — this after Senator Sheldon Whitehouse raised the idea of criminal charges for conservatives who are not sufficiently quiet, charges that they falsely completed an IRS tax exemption form. [emphasis mine]

It might be illegal to claim tax exemption for non-political activities and then use that tax exemption to do politics, but it has to be emphasized that this law was only going to be used against those who disagreed with Obama and the Democrats. In other words, the IRS and the Obama administration weren’t really enforcing the law, they were thinking of using the law to put their opponents in prison.

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Over two dozen widows in Alabama were dropped from their health care plans due to Obamacare.

Finding out what’s in it: Over two dozen widows in Alabama were dropped from their health care plans due to Obamacare.

Hey, no big deal. It’s only some southerners from a red state, and just a handful when you think about it. Moreover, we all know that the Democrats and Obama care about women, while the Republicans are evil haters who want women enslaved and helpless.

Then there’s this: No dentists available under Obamacare for children in California.

And we all know how much the Democrats care about children. It’s always for the children, y’know.

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Russia is accelerating construction of its new spaceport in Vostochny.

The competition heats up: Russia is accelerating construction of its new spaceport in Vostochny.

The schedule doesn’t appear to have been pushed up, with the first launch still set for 2015, but they are going to initiate a second shift, and will have monthly meeting with the government to monitor progress. Under the top-down Russian way of doing things, this is how they make sure their high priority projects get finished on time and successfully.

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Sierra Nevada is planning additional glide tests in the fall. using its Dream Chaser engineering test vehicle.

The competition heats up: Sierra Nevada is planning additional glide tests in the fall. using its Dream Chaser engineering test vehicle.

This is the same test vehicle that crashed last October during its first glide test when one landing gear failed to deploy properly. The glide test itself was a success however, as the vehicle did a controlled unmanned glide perfectly to the runway, and the failed landing gear was one that the spacecraft will not use once completed.

Note also that these announced flight tests will occur after NASA eliminates one of the companies competing for the final crew ferrying contract to ISS. This suggests that Sierra Nevada plans to continue development of Dream Chaser, regardless of whether they get the contract or not.

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The Obama administration’s culture of intimidation.

The Obama administration’s culture of intimidation.

Sending scores of armed agents along with helicopters and dogs to confront an elderly Nevada rancher over grazing fees may seem like overkill, but critics say it’s not inconsistent with the federal government’s recent approach to environmental enforcement.

The simmering truce between the Bundys and the Bureau of Land Management comes after high-profile raids last year by armed federal agents on small-time gold miners in tiny Chicken, Alaska, and guitar makers at the Gibson Guitar facilities in Tennessee.

I should also note that this behavior is not exclusive to the Obama administration. Under Bush the federal government was playing these same games, though somewhat less aggressively.

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Alaska is going to sue the Obama administration for blocking the construction of a 10 mile long road necessary to give people in a remote village access to emergency medical care.

Alaska is going to sue the Obama administration for blocking the construction of a 10 mile long road necessary to give people in a remote village access to emergency medical care.

The lack of a road has led to the deaths of 19 people. And why is the Obama administration allowing these people to die? Let me quote Interior Secretary Sally Jewell:

During an August visit to Alaska, Jewell was told that building a road that connects King Cove and Cold Bay was vital. But in December, Jewell rejected the road saying it would jeopardize waterfowl in the refuge. “She stood up in the gymnasium and told those kids, ‘I’ve listened to your stories, now I have to listen to the animals,” Democratic state Rep. Bob Herron told a local television station. “You could have heard a pin drop in that gymnasium.” [emphasis mine]

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A trail of wreckage left behind by the BLM in Nevada.

A trail of wreckage left behind by the BLM in Nevada.

The article describes how the BLM went out of its way to destroy property, well in excess to what was allowed by its court order. Such behavior does not serve to recommend this government agency, and helps to put them even more in the wrong morally.

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The IRS scandal spreads.

The IRS scandal spreads.

This article does an excellent job of connecting the dots, both in terms of who and when, based on what we now know, from solid evidence. The author’s conclusion:

We now have a sitting Democrat congressman, Elijah Cummings, a sitting Democrat senator, Sheldon Whitehouse, the Federal Elections Commission, the U.S. Department of Justice, and the Internal Revenue Service all implicated in the scandal. Flax’s involvement puts the abuse squarely into the IRS commissioner’s office. But it takes an entity above all of those agencies to coordinate their actions. That entity can only be the White House.

Flax worked for the head of the IRS at the time, proving once again that this harassment was not instigated by “low-level employees in Cincinnati”, as claimed by Lois Lerner.

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What I learned as a liberal talking head on Fox.

If only more liberals were this open-minded: What I learned as a liberal talking head on Fox.

Read it all. Her essay gives me hope. The key quote:

But if I want that viewpoint – and those who share it – to get more powerful, so that we can fix these systemic problems once and for all, then demonizing people who disagree with me won’t help. In fact, I need to persuade them. And no one will even listen to your argument, let alone agree with you, if they think you don’t like them.

If only the teachers at Brandeis and the fascists that got the CEO of Mozilla fired understood this.

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Newly released emails show that former IRS Official Lois Lerner discussed prosecution of conservative tax exempt groups with Eric Holder’s Justice Department even as she was publicly admitting that the harassment of conservatives was improper.

Working for the Democratic Party: Newly released emails show that former IRS Official Lois Lerner discussed prosecution of conservative tax exempt groups with Eric Holder’s Justice Department even as she was publicly admitting that the harassment of conservatives was improper.

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The slow death of free speech.

The slow death of free speech.

I heard a lot of that kind of talk during my battles with the Canadian ‘human rights’ commissions a few years ago: of course, we all believe in free speech, but it’s a question of how you ‘strike the balance’, where you ‘draw the line’… which all sounds terribly reasonable and Canadian, and apparently Australian, too. But in reality the point of free speech is for the stuff that’s over the line, and strikingly unbalanced. If free speech is only for polite persons of mild temperament within government-policed parameters, it isn’t free at all. So screw that.

But I don’t really think that many people these days are genuinely interested in ‘striking the balance’; they’ve drawn the line and they’re increasingly unashamed about which side of it they stand. What all the above stories have in common, whether nominally about Israel, gay marriage, climate change, Islam, or even freedom of the press, is that one side has cheerfully swapped that apocryphal Voltaire quote about disagreeing with what you say but defending to the death your right to say it for the pithier Ring Lardner line: ‘“Shut up,” he explained.’

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Scientists have verified that a large gold nugget is actually a gigantic single crystal, the largest known.

Scientists have verified that a large gold nugget is actually a gigantic single crystal, the largest known.

Gold found in the ground will generally have a polycrystalline structure, meaning it is made up of many crystallites, varying in shape and size. Gold of a mono-crystalline structure, where the material is unbroken, are rarer and of significantly higher value.

The nugget is now worth about 100 times more than its typical weight in gold.

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Crowd-funding the engineering and money to bring a 1970s NASA space probe back to life.

Crowd-funding the engineering and money to bring a 1970s NASA space probe back to life.

More here.

The idea is brilliant. The probe, ISEE-3, has functioning instruments. It just hasn’t been operated since the 1980s. If they can get the funds to pay for the effort, they will provide scientists a space probe for pennies.

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NASA has officially handed control of launchpad 39A to SpaceX, where the company intends to launch its Falcon Heavy.

NASA has officially handed control of launchpad 39A to SpaceX, where the company intends to launch its Falcon Heavy.

The agreement turns over control of Launch Complex 39A to the commercial space transportation firm, which plans to use the launch pad for the the initial flights of the Falcon Heavy, a mega-rocket featuring 27 first stage engines generating nearly 4 million pounds of thrust at liftoff.

Pad 39A was the starting point for many historic Apollo and space shuttle missions, including the Apollo 11 moon landing in 1969 and the first and last shuttle launches in 1981 and 2011.

“We’ll make great use of this pad, I promise,” said Gwynne Shotwell, president of SpaceX, in remarks to the media moments after signing the lease. “We’ve had architects and our launch site engineering [team] working for many months on the sidelines. We will launch the Falcon Heavy from here first — from this pad — early next year.” [emphasis mine]

The highlighted quote reveals a key fact. Until recently SpaceX had been claiming that it will do its first demo launch of Falcon Heavy in 2014. This quote confirms that this schedule is not happening.

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The EPA admits that it does not have the data to justify its environmental regulations.

The EPA admits that it does not have the data to justify its environmental regulations.

The EPA was subpoenaed by Congress for the data it uses, and they responded to say that what they have doesn’t really provide any proof that their regulations are necessary. But they then add that they are going to continue imposing their regulations anyway.

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China’s president calls for the increased military use of that country’s space assets.

China’s president calls for the increased military use of that country’s space assets.

The article itself is not very informative, other than noting these comments. In fact, it has some errors that suggest the writer knows very little about China’s space effort, both civilian or military.

Nonetheless, China’s president did make this statement, which tells us that it is definitely Chinese policy. Not good.

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Why we should be sympathetic to the Bundy family in Nevada.

Why we should be sympathetic to the Bundy family in Nevada.

The author notes that the Bundy’s don’t have a legal leg to stand on, but then explains why what is happening to them is still unjust. The best quote:

So let’s have some sympathy for Cliven Bundy and his family. They don’t have a chance on the law, because under the Endangered Species Act and many other federal statutes, the agencies are always in the right. And their way of life is one that, frankly, is on the outs. They don’t develop apps. They don’t ask for food stamps. It probably has never occurred to them to bribe a politician. They don’t subsist by virtue of government subsidies or regulations that hamstring competitors. They aren’t illegal immigrants. They have never even gone to law school. So what possible place is there for the Bundys in the Age of Obama?

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European satellite operators are pressing Arianespace to find ways to immediately reduce the cost of launching satellites on now Ariane 5 and in the future on Ariane 6.

European satellite operators are pressing Arianespace to find ways to immediately reduce the cost of launching satellites on now Ariane 5 and in the future on Ariane 6.

And why are they doing this? To quote them:

“What is sure is that Europe deserves and requires a [reorganized launcher sector] ahead of 2019, the letter says. “[C]onsiderable efforts to restore competitiveness in price of the existing European launcher need to be undertaken if Europe is [to] maintain its market situation.

“In the short term, a more favorable pricing policy for the small satellites currently being targeted by SpaceX seems indispensable to keeping the Ariane launch manifest strong and well-populated.” [emphasis mine]

It seems that they take very seriously the competitive challenge being presented by SpaceX.

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Another look at the BLM’s range war with the last remaining rancher in Nevada.

Another look at the BLM’s range war with the last remaining rancher in Nevada.

“Years ago, I used to have 52 neighboring ranchers,” [rancher Cliven Bundy] said. “I’m the last man standing. How come? Because BLM regulated these people off the land and out of business.” This is why the whole question of whether he “paid his fees” is a red herring. The government changed the rules in an effort to drive people like him out of business. Even if he had paid them, he’d still have had to break their rules to survive. That’s the position they put him in. Obey our silly, arbitrary rules designed to protect a desert tortoise that no one can show he’s hurting in any way or give up your way of life.

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New research suggests that, in general, Mars has always been too cold to harbor liquid water on its surface.

The uncertainty of science: New research suggests that, in general, Mars has always been too cold to harbor liquid water on its surface for long periods.

Mars’ atmosphere was probably never thick enough to keep temperatures on the planet’s surface above freezing for the long term, suggests research published today in Nature Geoscience1. Although the planet’s topography indicates that liquid water has flooded Mars in the distant past, evidence increasingly suggests that those episodes reflect occasional warm spells, not a consistently hospitable phase of the planet’s history.

The research does not say that liquid water never flowed on the Martian surface, only that such events were short-lived. They looked at craters and noted that the surface has impacts from meteorites that would not have survived to the surface had the atmosphere been thick enough for liquid water.

The research however did not address Mars’ relatively smooth northern hemisphere, where there are not a lot of craters and where some scientists think there might once have been a shallow ocean. If Mars never had liquid water for long periods, why does this area lack craters?

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The backup computer that helps operate ISS’s robot arms is not responding to commands.

The backup computer that helps operate ISS’s robot arms is not responding to commands.

The timing could not be worse.. Though the number one computer is functioning fine, this unit is essential for controlling the robot arm that will berth Dragon to ISS this week.

Side note: The article above described this problem in its headlines as a “glitch.” I despise this word, as it is generally used by government bureaucrats to minimize the seriousness of a failure. The Soviet era bureaucrats in Russia loved it. I have noticed it popping up in American news reports relating to space more and more, and it is never a very accurate description of the situation. This computer failure is not a “glitch,” it is a serious failure of an essential piece of hardware.

Update: Because a spacewalk will be required to fix the backup computer, NASA has okayed the launch of Dragon. They need it to arrive first because it carries a new spacesuit and other parts needed to replace the suit that almost drowned an astronaut during a spacewalk last summer.

Note: I was in the back country of Arizona this past weekend, caving, which is why I am only now getting up to speed on this weekend’s news.

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Finding out what’s in it: Endless waits on hold.

Finding out what’s in it: Endless waits on hold.

What astonishes me here is that anyone is surprised by the terrible customer service being provided by Obamacare. The Democrats were putting our healthcare industry in the hands of the motor vehicle department, and we all know how well that operates!

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A comprehensive list of Lois Lerner’s partisan effort to use the IRS to attack conservatives.

Working for the Democratic Party: A comprehensive list of Lois Lerner’s partisan effort to use the IRS to attack conservatives.

The Democrats in Congress, who have been circling the wagons to defend Lerner, really do remind me here of the Republicans in Congress in 1973. At that time, the Watergate scandal was unfolding, and Republicans were doing everything they could to defend Nixon, even though the evidence was very much against him. The consequence then for the Republican Party was election day 1974, when they experienced devastating losses.

In the end those loses forced reform in the Republican Party. The time has come for the Democratic Party to undergo the same reform process.

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Forecasters at Colorado State University are predicting the 2014 hurricane season will be quieter than normal.

Uh-oh: Forecasters at Colorado State University are predicting the 2014 hurricane season will be quieter than normal.

This is the same team that last year predicted 2013 would be one of the worst hurricane seasons in history. Instead, last year was one of the weakest in history, and as a result they lost their funding. That these same guys are now saying 2014 will be weak makes me fear for the American Atlantic coast. It could be wiped out this time!

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