Monthly Archives: June 2014

Another global warming computer model bites the dust.

The uncertainty of science: Despite predicting ten years ago that the global temperature would rise significantly, actual temperatures have dropped in the ensuing decade.

But don’t worry, these climate scientists really do know what’s going to happen. Just give them lots of money, silence their critics, and they guarantee they will fake the data to make sure their predictions are right!

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Supreme Court rejects abortion clinic free speech buffer zone.

In another victory against government overreach, the Supreme Court today ruled that a buffer zone protecting abortion clincs from protests violates the first amendment.

While the court was unanimous in the outcome, Roberts joined with the four liberal justices to strike down the buffer zone on narrow grounds. In a separate opinion, Justice Antonin Scalia criticized Roberts’ opinion for carrying forward “this court’s practice of giving abortion-rights advocates a pass when it comes to suppressing the free-speech rights of their opponents.”

I am once again gratified that the entire court recognized the unconstitutionality of this buffer zone. However, Scalia is right. That a majority of the court rejected the buffer on narrow grounds is unfortunate.

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Supreme Court rejects Obama’s recess appointments

The law is such an inconvenient thing: In a 9-0 ruling, the Supreme Court has decided that Barack Obama’s fake recess appointments were unconstitutional.

Two and one-half years ago in 2012, Obama tried to slip-in appointments to the National Labor Relations Board without the constitutionally required Senate approval, claiming he had the right to do so because the Senate was in recess. There’s only one problem. The Senate was not in formal recess when Obama made the dictatorial appointments.

Now the Supreme Court of the United States has ruled in a unanimous 9-0 decision that Obama doesn’t get to define when the U.S. Senate is in recess, the Senate does.

I am gratified that all the Democratic appointees to the court ruled against Obama, refusing to allow their partisan tendencies to overrule the plain language of the Constitution. More information about the ruling and its history here.

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Using bath salts to make solar cells

Engineers have discovered they can replace a toxic material used to manufacture one type of solar cell with simple bath salts.

The chemical used is also used to make tofu. It costs far less to buy, and its benign nature means it also costs far less to use as well. This could significantly lower the cost for making these solar cells, though two companies quoted in the article seemed skeptical.

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A trio of supermassive black holes

Astronomers have discovered a trinary of supermassive black holes at the center of a distant collision of multiple galaxies.

Astronomer Roger Deane of the University of Cape Town in South Africa and his colleagues have been watching a particular quasar, known as SDSS J1502+1115, in the constellation Boötes. Other astronomers had found that the object, located 4.3 billion light-years from Earth, possessed two supermassive black holes, each the center of a large galaxy smashing into another. The black holes are at least 24,000 light-years apart.

Deane wanted to confirm their existence, so he used an intercontinental array of radio dishes that yields even sharper views than the Hubble Space Telescope. Lo and behold, one of the black holes turned out to be two. “We were incredibly surprised,” says Deane, whose team reports its findings online today in Nature.

While the discovery of this system is incredibly cool, this article in the journal Science is surprisingly incorrect on some points, while also missing the main story.
» Read more

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Comparing the rocket vs balloon space tourism ride.

The competition heats up: Yahoo today published a 5 point comparison between a ride on Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo and Worldview’s Voyager balloon.

The winner, Virgin Galactic, but by a nose. As the story notes, Worldview is the better buy. “You can use the money you save for a nice vacation on Earth — where you can make new friends by telling stores about that time you went to space.”

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China heads for the Moon and Mars.

The competition heats up: In several different news stories today China touted its future plans in space.

The landing test described in the first story above will also be the first test flight of China’s new heavy lift rocket, Long March 5.

That China is both politically and culturally serious about this effort can be seen by the nationalistic enthusiasm for this space effort that permeates these stories. They also can’t help comparing their plans to U.S. efforts.
» Read more

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My Space Show appearance June 14, 2014.

For those who wish to listen to the podcast of my two hour appearance on the Space Show yesterday, you can get the podcast here. You can also comment on my discussion with David Livingston and his callers at the Space Show blog, or here.

The two major topics we discussed were first, Russia’s future in space in the context of that government’s effort to retake control of its entire aerospace industry, and second, the evidence that there is fraud and data manipulation going on in the climate research units of both NOAA and NASA. I also discussed some recent space science stories, such as Yutu on the Moon, Curiosity on Mars, and Cassini’s recent imagery of the lakes of Titan.

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Arianespace lowers its prices.

The competition heats up: In an effort to compete with SpaceX, Arianespace has lowered the price it charges for launching smaller satellites on its Ariane 5 rocket.

According to Stephen Israel, the company’s CEO, the lower prices have already produced some contracts. However, the company has not been able to institute comparable cost savings in its operations, which means it

…will force the European launch supplier to ask European governments this year for a 16 percent increase in annual support payments. In its 2013 annual report, Evry, France-based Arianespace said it will ask European Space Agency governments in December to allocate 116 million euros ($158 million) per year for the period between 2015 and 2018 to enable Arianespace to reach financial break-even. That figure compares to the current allocation of about 100 million euros per year for 2013 and 2014 that ESA governments approved in late 2012.

I wonder if the company will get these additional subsidies. In the past there were complaints from the European partners about the inability of Arianespace to make a profit. For it to lose even more money now will not make people happy.

I think, however, that Israel recognizes this. He has been pushing the organization to streamline its operation. Whether he can succeed against Arianespace’s entrenched pork-laden structure remains the big question.

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Report finds 6.9 million people registered to vote in multiple states.

A cross-check of the voter rolls from 28 states has found almost 7 million duplicate registrations.

Note that the head of the organization that issued this report was one of the conservative individuals harassed by the IRS as well as three other government agencies. I guess the Democrats consider it voter suppression (and maybe racist!) to prevent these 7 million people from voting twice.

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EPA “loses” emails like the IRS.

Transparency! Subpoenaed emails at the EPA have been lost because of a hard drive crash.

The hearing also included a bit of deja vu for the committee when members grilled [EPA Administrator Gina] McCarthy on lost emails from a hard-drive crash (the same issue that wiped out emails from IRS employee Lois Lerner). In this case, the emails in question were from retired EPA employee Philip North, who was involved in the agency’s decision to begin the process of preemptively vetoing the Pebble Mine project in Alaska.

North, who declined an interview request by the committee, is retired, and committee staff say they have been unable to track him down. According to a committee aide, North’s hard drive crashed in 2010—which was around the same time that the committee is investigating the agency’s discussions of a potential veto—and the emails were not backed up.

This is all crap. The only way these emails get lost is if the people involved intentionally “lost” them.

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Glaciers on Mars!

A geological study of orbital images of Gale Crater has led scientists to conclude that the crater was once covered in glaciers.

To carry out the study, the team has used images captured with the HiRISE and CTX cameras from NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, together with the HRSC onboard the Mars Express probe managed by the European Space Agency (ESA).

Analyses of the photographs have revealed the presence of concave basins, lobated structures, remains of moraines and fan-shaped deposits which point to the existence of ancient glaciers on Gale. In fact they seem to be very similar to some glacial systems observed on present-day Earth. “For example, there is a glacier on Iceland –known as Breiðamerkurjökull– which shows evident resemblances to what we see on Gale crater, and we suppose that is very similar to those which covered Gale’s central mound in the past,” says Fairén.

This is not the first place on Mars where scientists believe glaciers once flowed. The northwestern slopes of Arsia Mons, one of Mars’s giant volcanoes in the Tharsis Bulge, is also believed to have once harbored glaciers.

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Supreme Court forbids warrantless police searches of cell phones.

A victory for civil rights: The Supreme Court ruled today that police do not have the right to rummage through your cell phone data without a warrant.

As welcome as this decision is, I must point out the threat posed by this last sentence in the article:

The court did carve out exceptions for “exigencies” that arise, such as major security threats.

Since the Obama administration wanted the right to do warrantless searches, don’t be surprised if this exception grows so that everything possible can be made to fit it.

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A Russian military satellite fails.

A Russian military satellite fails.

What is significant about this event is not this particular failure in itself, but the context in which it occurs. As the article noted,

According to the newspaper, the satellite is worth more than 1.5 billion rubles, took about two years to create and had the expected service life of five-to-seven years. So far, of the eight early warning satellites launched by Russia since 1991, only two, Cosmos-2224 and Cosmos 2379, lasted longer than five years, the Kommersant says. The previous 71X6 satellite (Cosmos-2440), launched in June 2008, went wrong in February 2010, the newspaper recalls.

These premature failures once again suggest that Russia’s aerospace industry has a serious quality control problem.

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Another update on the reactivation of ISEE-3

The private effort to reactivate this 1970s science probe continues.

They attempted today to fire the thrusters to spin up the spacecraft as required, but were forced to abort. The information gained however tells them that they should be able to do what is necessary, including two major engine burns on June 30 and July 2, to put the spacecraft into its new orbit.

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Orbital to inspect Antares’ Russian engines.

It appears that yesterday’s delay in the next Cygnus/Antares launch was to allow engineers time to inspect the rocket’s Russian engines.

They want to make sure that these engines do not have the same problem that caused another Russian engine to blow up on a test stand in May.

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The VA scandal expands with new report

Coming to a hospital near you! A new report indicates that as many as 1,000 veterans might have died because of corruption and incompetence at the VA.

The report also alleges that the VA routinely performs unnecessary preventative care, cannot process claims in a timely fashion, employs health care providers who have lost their medical licenses, and – as has been widely reported – maintains secret waiting lists in order to create the impression that the department is meeting performance goals set in Washington.

The report further alleges that some VA staff have been implicated in criminal activities, including drug dealing, sexual abuse, attempted kidnapping, theft, and conspiracy. “Earlier this year, one former staffer at the Tampa, Florida, VA was sentenced to six years in federal prison for trading veterans’ personal information for crack cocaine,” CNN reported on Tuesday.

In spite of these failures, VA senior managers are still receiving bonuses.

I want to emphasize again that this is exactly the kind of mess we can expect to occur with our private healthcare system as Obamacare forces the government to interfere with it more and more.

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IRS admits it leaked confidential tax information

Working for the Democratic Party: The IRS has agreed to pay $50K to a political organization for leaking confidential tax information to its political enemies.

The Daily Signal has learned that, under a consent judgment today, the IRS agreed to pay $50,000 in damages to the National Organization for Marriage as a result of the unlawful release of the confidential information to a gay rights group, the Human Rights Campaign, that is NOM’s chief political rival. ,,,

In February 2012, the Human Rights Campaign posted on its web site NOM’s 2008 tax return and the names and contact information of the marriage group’s major donors, including soon-to-be Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney. That information then was published by the Huffington Post and other liberal-leaning news sites.

HRC’s president at the time, Joe Solmonese, was tapped that same month as a national co-chairman of President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign.

The information had been fed from the IRS to a gay rights activist who to this day refuses to reveal who his contact at the IRS was.

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What are the odds of seven hard drives failing at the IRS?

What are the odds of seven hard drives failing at the IRS? These are the odds: 78 billion to 1.

Of course, that number doesn’t include the fact that the seven failed hard drives just happened to belong to seven key figures in the IRS scandal and no one else, and that all seven failures apparently covered the key period of time when the harassment of conservative opponents to Obama and the Democrats was at its height.

But then, there’s “not a smidgeon of corruption” at the IRS or in Obama’s White House. Obama says so, and obviously we must believe everything he says.

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“They did not follow the law.”

“They did not follow the law.”

Guess who. Its initials are I-R-S, and the person making the accusation is the head of the National Archives. said during House hearings Tuesday on the IRS scandal.

Archivist of the U.S. David Ferriero, speaking before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, made clear that federal agencies are supposed to report whenever their records are destroyed or even accidentally deleted. But he said that after emails from embattled IRS official Lois Lerner vanished after a computer failure in 2011, nobody told the National Archives.

“They did not follow the law,” Ferriero said.

But hey, just try playing this game if the IRS calls you in for a tax audit.

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Sudanese Christian woman rearrested trying to leave country.

The religion of peace strikes again! The Sudanese Christian woman who had been sentenced to death for refusing to renounce her religion, then freed, has been rearrested as she and her husband tried to leave Sudan for the U.S.

Her American husband and their two children were also arrested or detained. No explanation was offered as to why. Some tidbits in the article give us a clue, however, as well as teach us something about the intolerant nature of Islam:

[The father] is not permitted to have custody of his son because the boy is considered Muslim and cannot be raised by a Christian man. … Sudan’s penal code criminalizes the conversion of Muslims to other religions, which is punishable by death. Muslim women in Sudan are further prohibited from marrying non-Muslims, although Muslim men are permitted to marry outside their faith. Children, by law, must follow their father’s religion.

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A new water supplier for SpaceX’s Texas spaceport.

A new water supplier has stepped forward to help fill SpaceX’s gigantic water needs at its proposed Texas spaceport.

An earlier news story had noted the insufficient water capacity in Brownsville compared to the amount of water SpaceX would need for its rocket launches. This new report illustrates how competition and the potential for profits always seems to solve these kinds of problems.

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Russia begins its withdrawal from Baikonur in Kazakhstan.

With the impending first test launch of its new Angara rocket and the construction of its new spaceport in Vostochny on-going, Russia has begun its withdrawal from Baikonur in Kazakhstan.

Zenit-M rocket launching complex will become Kazakhstan’s property on January 1, 2015, Tengrinews correspondent reported from yesterday’s government meeting in the lower chamber of the Parliament. The announcement was made by the Chairman of the National Space Agency KazCosmos Talgat Mussabayev. “We have already approved the list of facilities of Zenit-M launching site that will be excluded from the lease agreement with Russia, and have obtained the technical and administrative documents from Russia that Kazakhstan needs to operate Baiterek complex. Withdrawal of Zenit-M facilities from the Russian lease agreement and their transfer to Kazakhstan is scheduled for January 2015,” Musabayev said.

In order to ensure proper transfer of the facilities and continue their operation afterword, 49 Kazakh experts are undergoing a practical training in maintenance and operation of Zenit-M site facilities. Their training will be completed before the end of the year.

Originally financed and built as an Angara launchpad in a partnership between Russia and Kazakhstan, the Russians backed out, deciding instead to keep Angara launches entirely in Russia at Vostochny while ceasing its participation in the Ukrainian-built Zenit rocket. Moreover, when Angara goes into operation, both the story above as well as this story suggest they will then cease Proton launches at Baikonur as well.

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Embezzlement at British rocket company.

The former bookkeeper at a British suborbital rocket company has been jailed for stealing almost two hundred thousand pounds from the company.

The company presently makes its money flying large size model rockets in educational venues as it works to develop suborbital craft. The embezzlement, which lasted six years, apparently almost bankrupted it.

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