Tag Archives: regulation

3D gun files still available to public despite judge’s ruling

Pushback: Despite a judge’s apparently unconstitutional ruling that banned the free give-away of the plans for printing 3D guns, the company that is producing them has instead made them available for purchase, at any price the buyer designates.

The ruling was intensely shaky and a jab to both the First and Second Amendment, so naturally Democrats were aroused.

But their celebration was premature.

Defense Distributed founder Cody Wilson crushed their short-lived happiness during a Tuesday press conference where he revealed that he actually won’t be stopped from sharing technical data; he will simply sell the files via his website, defcad.com. (Yes, he can do this.) “This judge’s order, stopping us from simply giving things away, was only an authorization that we could sell it, that we could mail it, that we could email it, that we could provide it by secure transfer. I will be doing all of those things, now,” announced Wilson.

“A lot of this to me was about principle,” he continued. “For many years, I just chose not to sell these files, because I’m an open-source activist. I believed in demonstrating that there was a right to commit this information to the public domain.”

“But, this is my opportunity to correct the media all in one place. To read headline after headline about how you can no longer 3D-print a gun, you can no longer have these files, this is not true. This has never been true. I now have to demonstrate this to you, forcefully, to deliver the point.”

There is no set price for the material; patrons are asked to give whatever they’d like in exchange. Wilson said the money would be used for further legal fees.

The judge’s ruling was completely bogus, especially since the Trump Justice Department had already settled the suit that the Obama Justice Department had brought. Moreover, since when can a judge ban the publication of any information the U.S.? His ruling appears to violate the First Amendment, and possibly the Second Amendment as well.

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Trump EPA proposes new power plant climate rules

The Trump administration has now proposed a revision to the climate rules established by the Obama administration to limit carbon dioxide releases at power plants.

President Donald Trump’s administration released a plan today to regulate carbon dioxide emissions at power plants, undercutting a much broader effort by former President Barack Obama to slash planet-warming gases.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposal would give states wide latitude for determining how to cut greenhouse gases from the power sector, a key contributor in the U.S. to climate change. The proposed rule is far narrower than the Obama plan, which sought to cut emissions across the power sector rather than only at individual plants.

On the campaign trail in 2016, Trump promised to repeal Obama’s rule, called the Clean Power Plan. His administration stopped short of that today and is instead offering a weakened alternative to avoid a potentially damaging defeat in court.

Based on the article and the actual proposal [pdf], I am far from convinced this change reduces regulation that much. It appears to shift the regulation to the states, but whether this simplifies things for power plant operators is very doubtful.

Not surprisingly, the Democrats and various leftist environmental groups oppose the change. Expect lawsuits, since it is absolutely forbidden for any subsequent president to ever change policies set by past Democratic presidents.

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Researchers say cubesats with propulsion systems must have encrypted software

Capitalism in space: Researchers from Yale University are recommending that the smallsat industry establish rules requiring all future cubesats that carry their own propulsion systems be encrypted to prevent them from being hacked.

That research by a team of graduate students, presented at the AIAA/Utah State University Conference on Small Satellites here Aug. 9, recommended the space industry take steps to prevent the launch of such satellites to avoid an incident that could lead to a “regulatory overreaction” by government agencies. “We would propose as a policy that, for those cubesats and smallsats that have propulsion, that the industry adopt a ‘no encryption, no fly’ rule,” said Andrew Kurzrok of Yale University.

That recommendation comes as cubesat developers, who once had few, if any, options for onboard propulsion, are now looking to make use of more advanced chemical and electric propulsion systems. Some of those technologies can provide smallsats with large changes in velocity, which can enable major orbital changes.

Kurzrok and colleagues at Stanford University and the University of Colorado modeled several different propulsion systems on a notional 10-kilogram nanosatellite, assuming the spacecraft was in a 300-kilometer orbit and that the propulsion systems accounted for half the spacecraft’s mass. The results ranged from the satellite reaching medium Earth orbit altitudes within two hours when using chemical propulsion to passing geostationary orbit in about a year with an electric propulsion system.

The scenario involving the nanosatellite with chemical propulsion is particularly troubling, he said. “What are the abilities within two hours to track that something isn’t where it’s supposed to be and then warn or take some sort of secondary action?” he said, concluding that the satellite reaching GEO in a year is a much less plausible threat.

The concern, then is a scenario where hackers are able to take control of a satellite and redirect it quickly.

Getting encryption for their software would raise costs, but it really is the cost of doing business. Better for the industry to create these rules than wait for the federal government to step in, as the government regulation will certainly end up being more odious and difficult to change.

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New York shuts down 7-year-old’s lemonade stand

Fascist New York: Because of complaints by commercial vendors, New York bureaucrats moved to shut down a 7-year-old’s lemonade stand.

Soon-to-be second-grader Brendan Mulvaney ran afoul of government regulators last Friday when vendors at the Saratoga County Fair in upstate Ballston Spa whined to a state health inspector that he had no permit to sell refreshments from his family’s front deck just outside the fairgrounds.

Being just a kid, he was also undercutting their pricey drinks by nearly 90 percent, selling lemonade for just 75 cents — a significant discount from the $7 cups inside the fair. He also peddled $1 snow cones and bottled waters. The vendors griped to a state health inspector doing a routine inspection of the fair, and his next visit was to the Mulvaneys’ home. He promptly ordered the stand shut down, leaving the family shocked.

Note that the stand is on the family’s porch, on private property. The boy has has also been operating it for three years, with no problems.

Essentially, the local vendors used the government as a hammer to smash the competition, even if it was something as innocuous as a child’s lemonade stand. And New York, being a fascist state run by fascist Democrats, immediately moved to do the bidding of those vendors.

The government, embarrassed by this, is now trying to fix it, but they still claim that a permit is required for the stand. How nice of them! In modern New York, no one is allowed to start a business without government permission!

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San Francisco legislators propose banning company cafeterias

Fascist California: Two San Francisco supervisors plan to introduce local legislation that will ban companies from having their own cafeterias for employees.

The measure, proposed by Supervisor Ahsha Safai and co-sponsored by Supervisor Aaron Peskin, would adjust zoning laws to ban workplace cafeterias moving forward, but would not be retroactive.

Peskin said the measure, was inspired by tech companies like Twitter and Airbnb, which are widely known to have access to dining in their own buildings, depriving nearby restaurants of the dollars usually spent by nearby workers. The measure has the support of Gwyneth Borden, executive director of the Golden Gate Restaurant Association and other local merchants.

Under the legislation which is expected to be introduced Tuesday, “you can’t have an industrial kitchen in your office building,” Peskin said. Peskin said the legislation sought to avoid the “Amazon effect that impacts retail and restaurants across the county,” he said. “This is forward thinking legislation.”

Isn’t it amazing how these leftists think that they not only have the right to dictate how everyone else lives their lives, they are also arrogantly convinced that they are anointed with the perfect wisdom necessary to impose their will.

As I have said, California is not a place you should consider moving to, at this time. It is heading for Venezuela, and should get there in about a decade.

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House committee approves new space weather bill

The House Science Committee yesterday approved new space weather bill that would shift responsibility for coordinating the government’s space weather observation capabilities to the National Space Council, while also creating a pilot commercial program for launch weather satellites.

It appears there was some heavy political maneuvering involved with this bill, as there was a late switch of language that changed its focus.

The new text has a strong focus on the private sector. In the policy section, for example, it explicitly states that “space weather observation and forecasting are not exclusive functions of the Federal Government” and the government “should, as practicable, obtain space weather data and services through contracts with the commercial sector, when the data and services are available, cost-effective, and add value.” The bill requires the Secretary of Commerce to establish a pilot program for obtaining space weather data from the private sector that appears analogous to NOAA’s commercial weather data pilot program.

The Senate will still have to review and approve this new bill.

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Changes to big August 3 commercial crew announcement do not bode well

On August 3 NASA is planning on making a big announcement concerning its commercial crew program. Yesterday the agency revealed that the NASA administrator, Jim Bridenstine, will reveal the names of the crew for the first commercial crew flight.

The changes in how that announcement will be made however suggest that they had hoped to make a bigger announcement and have been forced to back off. Initially, vice president Mike Pence was to have made the announcement. He has now canceled his participation. Also, there had previously been rumors that the announcement would have included the launch dates for both SpaceX’s and Boeing’s first flights. That the new press release makes no mention of dates suggests the dates have been delayed.

I hope I am wrong.

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Santa Barbara requires jail time for giving out plastic straws

Fascist California: The city of Santa Barbara has now passed a law that will impose jail time to any restaurant employee who hands out plastic straws.

The city of Santa Barbara has passed an ordinance that will allow restaurant employees to be punished with up to six months of jail time or a $1,000 fine for giving plastic straws to their customers.

The bill was passed unanimously last Tuesday, and covers bars, restaurants, and other food-service businesses. Establishments will still be allowed to hand out plastic stirrers, but only if customers request them.

This is always how fascist states begin, by passing what seems to be very innocuous laws that have golden and pure good intentions. They they pass more laws, and more laws, and impose stricter rules, and demand more and more from everyone, until the only individuals who are free are those in charge, since none of these rules are ever applied to them.

California has been traveling this road already for many years. They are right now about a decade behind Venezuela. I would not move there, at this time, if I were you. You will regret it.

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Trump administration proposes revisions to Endangered Species Act

The Trump administration has proposed some regulatory revisions to Endangered Species Act that would scale back somewhat its sometime draconian powers.

The proposed regulatory changes are both technical and consequential. One, for instance, bears the deceptively dull title of “elimination of blanket 4(d) rule” (E&E News PM, 4 April). The ESA prohibits the “take” of species designated as endangered, while Section 4(d) of the law allows the agency to establish special regulations for threatened species. In 1978, FWS used this authority to extend the prohibition of take to all threatened species. This is known as the “blanket 4(d) rule.”

Take covers a wide range of actions, including those that “harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, capture or collect” a threatened or endangered species. This blanket 4(d) rule for threatened species can be modified by a species-specific 4(d) rule.

Conservatives and private-property advocates have previously sought to scale back the blanket 4(d) rule, which they say erases what should be a meaningful distinction between threatened and endangered species. The proposal would cover only future listings. “Some of our regulations were promulgated back in 1986, and frankly, a great deal has been learned by the agencies administering the act and by the public,” Deputy Interior Secretary David Bernhardt told reporters today.

Another change would establish that the “foreseeable future” definition used in making ESA listing decisions extends only so far as officials “can reasonably determine that the conditions posing the potential danger of extinction are probable.”

A potentially key change involves critical habitats, which are areas important for recovery of a species. Sometimes an area can be considered important for recovery even when it is not currently occupied by the species in question. Under the new proposal, FWS and NOAA Fisheries will designate unoccupied critical habitat only when the occupied areas are inadequate to ensure the conservation of the species or if inclusion of unoccupied areas would yield certain other specified benefits.

In some “rare” cases, officials say, there may be no critical habitat designated.

The article above, from the journal Science, shocked me by its reasonable discussion of these proposed changes. I had expected an anti-Trump screed, similar to the original version of this Daily Mail article from yesterday. Today it reads more reasonably, but yesterday the article was far more devoted to airing opposition to the Trump proposals.

No matter. There is madness out there, it has taken possession of the entire anti-Trump community. It won’t make a difference how reasonable the administration’s proposals might be, there will be over-the-top declarations about the evils of these proposals and how they will destroy everything.

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SpaceX’s first test crew Dragon capsule arrives in Florida

Capitalism in space: The first man-rated Dragon capsule set to fly has arrived in Florida to be prepped for launch.

Even though the vehicle is called a “Crew Dragon,” this Dragon won’t carry crew on its first flight. Instead, it’s due to make an uncrewed practice run to the space station during what’s known as Demonstration Mission 1, or DM-1.

Before this week’s shipment to Florida, the Dragon underwent thermal vacuum tests as well as acoustic tests at NASA’s Plum Brook Station in Ohio. Today SpaceX showed off a picture of the Crew Dragon, which is a redesigned, beefed-up version of its robotic cargo-carrying Dragon, via Twitter and Instagram.

NASA’s current schedule calls for SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket to launch the DM-1 mission next month from Kennedy Space Center. However, that schedule is dependent not only on the pace of preparations, but also on the timetable for station arrivals and departures.

SpaceX is clearly on schedule to fly the first unmanned test flight in September, and the first manned flight in January 2019. And once that manned flight take place, I can see no reason why operational flights shouldn’t follow soon thereafter.

Yet, NASA said earlier this week that those operational flights will almost certainly be delayed until 2020, mainly because SpaceX might not be able to get the paperwork filled out fast enough.

Here’s my prediction: If SpaceX flies that manned mission in early 2019, expect their operational flights to begin soon thereafter, not in 2020. NASA will have no choice but to accept the capsule and begin flights.

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A science journal describes how evil Trump is destroying EPA

Link here.

If you have no idea why we have Trump, and why we are likely to get more of him, read this article from the science journal Nature. It is a carefully written screed, written entirely from the point of view of those hostile to Trump and his effort to rein in the EPA’s regulatory culture. No one is interviewed to give the Trump perspective, and even if some had been, the author is so certain that Trump is evil and wrong in his efforts that I am sure the Trump perspective would have been misinterpreted, or even slandered. (This I am sure is why the article says that EPA management did not “respond to requests to comment on the article’s allegations.” The allegations were already set. Nothing anyone said from the administration would change those conclusions.)

Still, I am certain the author could have gotten opinions from some of the skeptical scientists whom the Trump administration has brought in to advise EPA. None however were interviewed.

What is most embarrassing about the article is its description of two of the main changes the Trump administration has imposed on EPA to widen and make more transparent the scientific work it does. First,
» Read more

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Israel considers a loosening of its gun laws

The Israeli government is considering a relaxing of its gun laws in order to allow more ordinary citizens the ability to own and carry guns for self defense.

Israel is mulling relaxing gun rules that will allow up to 40,000 more people to get weapons, the local media reports. Gun-lobbying politicians hope the measure will help ordinary citizens to neutralize “terrorists.”

The Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan proposed to allow any Israeli citizen who passed rifle training in the IDF to apply for a gun license, Tel-Aviv-based daily Haartez reported on Sunday. According to the paper, the required level of training for the license will be equivalent to the one of an IDF combat infantry soldier. If introduced, the measure will be a win for Israel’s gun lobby that had been fighting to lower the bar for gun ownership in order to help regular citizens defend themselves during terror attacks.

“Sending the citizens of Israel to protect themselves with pizza trays, selfie sticks, guitars and umbrellas is a crime of the state against its citizens,” politician Amir Ohana, who leads the gun lobby caucus in the nation’s parliament told Haaretz. “A law abiding citizen, who has the basic skill required, is entitled to be able to defend himself and his surroundings.”

It is simple common sense. It is the same common sense the required all citizens in the American west to know how to use a gun or rifle, and to be armed. Unfortunately, Israel does not have a second amendment, so the right to bear arms is something that the government can give or take, depending on who wins elections.

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Billions to replace or decommission thousands of wind turbines

The unintended consequences of good intentions: The tens of thousands of wind turbines installed in the last two decades are wearing out, and no one has the billions it will cost to either replace them or decommission them.

The life span of a wind turbine, power companies say, is between 20 and 25 years. But in Europe, with a much longer history of wind power generation, the life of a turbine appears to be somewhat less. “We don’t know with certainty the life spans of current turbines,” said Lisa Linowes, executive director of WindAction Group, a nonprofit which studies landowner rights and the impact of the wind energy industry. Its funding, according to its website, comes from environmentalists, energy experts and public donations and not the fossil fuel industry.

Linowes said most of the wind turbines operating within the United States have been put in place within the past 10 years. In Texas, most have become operational since 2005. “So we’re coming in on 10 years of life and we’re seeing blades need to be replaced, cells need to be replaced, so it’s unlikely they’re going to get 20 years out of these turbines,” she said.

Estimates put the tear-down cost of a single modern wind turbine, which can rise from 250 to 500 feet above the ground, at $200,000. With more than 50,000 wind turbines spinning in the United States, decommissioning costs are estimated at around $10 billion.

In Texas, there are approximately 12,000 turbines operational in the state. Decommissioning these turbines could cost as much as $2.3 billion. Which means landowners and counties in Texas could be on the hook for tens or even hundreds of millions of dollars if officials determine non-functional wind turbines need to be removed.

Or if that proves to be too costly, as seems likely, some areas of the state could become post-apocalyptic wastelands steepled with teetering and fallen wind turbines, locked in a rigor mortis of obsolescence.

The key here is that wind power is simply not profitable. The turbines were built almost exclusively because of giant federal subsidies — increased significantly during the Obama administration — that are expected to cost taxpayers almost $24 billion from 2016 to 2020.

Those subsidies might disappear under the Trump administration, but even if they don’t, they aren’t there to remove turbines but to build them. The companies that built the turbines aren’t making enough to pay for their replacement.

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Trump replaces Obama’s oceans policy

President Trump yesterday issued an executive order replacing the oceans policy Obama had established with a policy that emphasizes “…the economy, security, global competitiveness, and well-being of the United States.”

The full executive order is here. The Science article at the link above not surprisingly provides quotes from a number of Trump opponents, including the head of NOAA during Obama’s administration, to express their opposition to this change.

One author of the Obama oceans policy is disappointed. The Trump policy “represents a significant step backward, a throwback to the 1960s when the primary focus was on aggressively expanding the use of the ocean with the assumption that it is so immense, so bountiful that it must be inexhaustible,” marine ecologist Jane Lubchenco, who led the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration under Obama, tells ScienceInsider. “We learned through painful experience that the ocean is indeed exhaustible, but we also learned that if we are smart about how we use the ocean, it can provide a wealth of benefits for decades and decades.”

Obama’s policy had emphasized “stewardship,” she notes—a word not used in the new order. Trump “blatantly rejects this all-important focus on stewardship,” Lubchenco says. “Put another way, the policy reflects a shift from ‘use it without using it up’ to a very short-sighted and cavalier ‘use it aggressively and irresponsibly.’”

Lubchenco is significantly overstating the negatives of Trump’s new policy. Its language is hardly “aggressive” or “irresponsible.” It does shift the focus from restricting the use of the oceans by regulation to encouraging their use for the “economic, security, and environmental benefits for present and future generations of Americans.” It that context the policy recognizes that “clean, healthy waters” are essential to provide those benefits.

I suspect that little will really change with this order. It will take years, if ever, to get the federal bureaucracy to shift its culture from controlling what Americans do to working with them. Nonetheless, this order demonstrates that Trump, unlike the past two Republican presidents, is serious about shifting federal policy in a conservative and less intrusive direction. The Bushes mouthed conservative ideas, but did little to stop the over-regulation imposed by the federal government. Bush Jr was especially worthless, as he did practically nothing to overturn the regulations that Clinton imposed, and in many ways supplemented or encouraged more regulation.

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S7 Space wants to build Soviet era rocket engines

The private Russian company S7 Space, which recently took over Sea Launch, wants to buy the blueprints and resume building the Soviet era rocket engines developed for the N1 heavy-lift rocket.

Russia’s S7 Space, part of the S7 Group, plans to build a plant in Samara to produce Soviet-designed NK-33 and NK-43 rocket engines for super heavy-lift launch vehicles and intends to purchase production capacities from the state-owned United Engine Corporation (UEC) for this purpose, S7 Space General Director Sergey Sopov said in an interview.

“We would like to buy from the state the well-known engines NK-33 and NK-43, produced earlier by the Samara-based Kuznetsov plant, as well as the documentation, equipment, technical backlog. In general, everything that has survived on this theme from the Soviet program. We intend to restore production and build our own rocket engine plant in Samara,” Sopov said in an interview to be published in the Vedomosti newspaper.

As with everything now in Russia, this company not only needs to buy the rights to these engines, it needs to get government permission to do this. Also, because it will take five to six years to get the new engine plant up and running, they plan in the interim to use the available engines left over from the 1960s. Considering the launch failure caused by one of these engines in an Orbital ATK Antares launch, I am not sure this is wise.

Overall, S7 Space has the right idea. The company wants to compete, and it wants to innovate. Whether it can do so in the top-down culture of Russia remains the unanswered question.

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Proposal to split California into three states makes ballot

A proposal to split California into three states has obtained sufficient signatures to be placed on the ballot in November.

Adding the proposal to the ballot is the first in a long number of steps that would be required to actually split the country’s largest state. Even if California voters supported the proposal in November, the California legislature would still have to vote in favor of it. The breakup would also likely be challenged in court and would need congressional approval, a tough get in today’s hyperpartisan Washington.

The initiative proposes the state to be split into three new states: California, Northern California and Southern California. Each state, though different in size, would have roughly the same population, according to the proposal.

I would not be surprised if the voters approve this proposal, as the state’s fascist and leftist urban areas along the coast have been making life miserable for the rest of the state. And when you treat people badly, they tend to vote against you.

Whether it can make it through the state legislature, dominated by the left, is more doubtful. It is likely the split would reduce the left’s power, and since the legislature is controlled by the left, I suspect they will not go along.

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California police raid home, confiscate guns, from man who tried to register AR-15

Fascist California: Police raided the home and confiscated the guns of a man who had made a sincere effort to follow new California laws requiring the registration of his AR-15.

The man also now faces a dozen felony charges.

Jeffrey Scott Kirschenmann attempted to register an AR-15 with the California Department of Justice last month but instead found himself in significant legal trouble. The California DOJ accused Kirschenmann of illegally modifying the rifle he attempted to register. Law enforcement officials raided his home in Bakersfield before ultimately confiscating a dozen firearms and a few hundred rounds of ammunition, then charging him with a dozen felonies, KGET reports. Kirschenmann was accused of possession of assault weapons, two silencers, and something referred to as a “multi-burst trigger activator.” He does not appear to have been charged with any violent crimes.

All this does is drive decent ordinary gun-owners underground. It makes them criminals for doing nothing morally wrong, and thus a target that the state can now oppress.

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China cracks down on corrupt science

The Chinese government has instituted new policies aimed at shutting down corrupt practices in journal peer review and funding that have previously encouraged scientific misconduct.

The country’s most powerful bodies, the Chinese Communist Party and the State Council, introduced a raft of reforms on 30 May aimed at improving integrity across the research spectrum, from funding and job applications to peer-review and publications.

Under the new policy, the Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST) will be responsible for managing investigations and ruling on cases of scientific misconduct, a role previously performed by individual institutions. And for the first time, misconduct cases will be logged in a national database that is currently being designed by MOST.

Inclusion in the list could disqualify researchers from future funding or research positions, and might also affect their ability to get jobs outside academia. The Chinese Academy of Social Sciences will oversee the same process for social scientists. The policy also states that MOST will establish a blacklist of ‘poor quality’ scientific journals, including domestic and international titles. Scientists who publish in these journals will receive a warning, and those papers will not be considered in assessments for promotions, jobs and grants. A couple of such blacklists already exist, but rarely are they run formally by a government agency.

In recent years China has been the source of many examples of blatant scientific misconduct, from faking data in papers to getting them peer reviewed by non-existent reviewers. This policy change is aimed at stopping this misconduct, and is likely happening because much of China’s leadership comes from its space industry, which requires honesty in its work or the rockets will crash.

At the same time, the policy gives the government great power over all scientific work, and we all know what happens eventually when you give the government great power. While the goals here are laudable, and will likely in the near future produce positive results, the long term consequences will likely end up stifling independent research.

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Northrop Grumman purchase of Orbital ATK approved

Capitalism in space: Northrop Grumman’s acquisition of Orbital ATK has been approved by the Federal Trade Commission.

With this purchase, the name Orbital ATK will recede into history. This division of Northrop Grumman will now be called Northrop Grumman Innovation Systems. Here at Behind the Black I will simple call it Northrop Grumman.

The FTC ruling carried with it one caveat:

As a condition for the approval of the merger, the company will have to supply solid rocket motors “on a non-discriminatory basis under specified circumstances,” the FTC ruled.

Ensuring competition in the solid rocket motors industry is a key issue for the Defense Department because only two manufacturers remain in the business, Orbital ATK and Aerojet Rocketdyne. The Air Force plans to acquire a new strategic intercontinental ballistic missile, the so-called Ground Based Strategic Deterrent, with Northrop Grumman and Boeing competing for the award. The intent was for both Orbital ATK and Aerojet to supply both prime contractors. The FTC decision requires Northrop Grumman to separate its solid rocket motors business with a firewall so it can continue to support Boeing.

It will be up to the Defense Department to ensure compliance with the firewall mandate.

It is unclear from the press report what this firewall accomplishes. It sounds like there was fear that Northrop Grumman would not have sold its solid rocket boosters to competitor Boeing, but I don’t see that happening. This acquisition was designed to put Northrop Grumman back in the rocket business just as that business is booming. Part of that business is selling solid rockets.

Either way, the company that David Thompson started in the early 1980s to challenge the big space companies, Orbital Sciences, has now completely vanished into one of those big space companies.

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California outlaws same day laundry and showers

Fascist California: A new draconian law in California makes it a crime to shower and do laundry on the same day.

Essentially, the law limits water use to levels that make it impossible to shower/bathe and do laundry on the same day. It also threatens fines of $1,000 and $10,000 per day, and requires water utilities to track customer use to find violators. And not surprisingly for a fascist state, it provides a method for allowing waivers to its inner circle:

Oh, and don’t worry, rich people. There will be “provisions for swimming pools, spas, and other water features.” So you can still have your pretty fountains and pools while the rest of the peons take 2 showers a week. One might wonder if ‘variances” will apply to the wealthy for their landscaping needs. “The State Water Resources Control Board, which will oversee local agencies’ progress, will also consider possible ‘variances’ for some districts that need additional allowances due to specific local circumstances.”

There’s more. Read it all. The author also makes the important point that this law will likely raise the cost of food nationwide, or cause some shortages because it will make life hell for California’s farmers.

More and more, it appears that the leftist Democrats in control in California are working to turn the Golden State into Venezuela.

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Customs steals $58K, a man’s life savings

Theft by government: U.S. Customs stole $58,000 from a man traveling to Albania, his life savings, though they charged him with no crime.

“This is to notify you that Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) seized the property described below at Cleveland, OH on October 24, 2017: $57,330 in U.S. Currency,” the notice states. “Enforcement activity indicates that the currency was involved in a smuggling/drug trafficking/money laundering operation.”

The first thing the Kazazis noticed was that the dollar amount listed was $770 less than the amount that Kazazi said he took with him. The family said that the cash was all in $100 bills, making it impossible for it to add up to $57,330.

Customs might claim this had to do with “smuggling/drug trafficking/money laundering” but they found no evidence of such when they strip-searched the man, and have followed up with no charges. And that $770 of the cash that appears missing suggests strongly that several Customs agents pocketed the difference, a nice illegal bonus for these despicable thieves.

Civil forfeiture on its face violates the Fifth Amendment of the Bill of Rights, which clearly states that citizens are not to “be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.” These Customs agents, the Custom managers, and everyone else involved with this crime should be fired immediately.

It won’t happen, unfortunately. Our corrupt federal government no longer follows the Constitution. It follows its own corrupt power games, for its own benefit. And the people who should act to stop this, our elected officials, are part of the game.

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Proposed new FCC regulations would shut out student cubesats

We’re here to help you! Proposed new FCC regulations on the licensing of smallsats would raise the licensing cost for student-built cubesats so much that universities would likely have to shut down the programs.

In a move that threatens U.S. education in science, technology, engineering and math, and could have repercussions throughout the country’s aerospace industry, the FCC is proposing regulations that may license some educational satellite programs as commercial enterprises. That could force schools to pay a US$135,350 annual fee – plus a $30,000 application fee for the first year – to get the federal license required for a U.S. organization to operate satellite communications.

It would be a dramatic increase in costs. The most common type of small satellite used in education is the U.S.-developed CubeSat. Each is about 10 inches on a side and weighs 2 or 3 pounds. A working CubeSat that can take pictures of the Earth can be developed for only $5,000 in parts. They’re assembled by volunteer students and launched by NASA at no charge to the school or college. Currently, most missions pay under $100 to the FCC for an experimental license, as well as several hundred dollars to the International Telecommunications Union, which coordinates satellite positions and frequencies. [emphasis mine]

If these new and very high licensing fees are correct I find them shocking. As noted in the quote, building a cubesat costs practically nothing, only about $5,000. The new fees thus add gigantic costs to the satellite’s development, and could literally wipe the market out entirely. They certainly will end most university programs that have students build cubesats as a first step towards learning how to build satellites.

These new regulations appear to be part of the Trump administration’s effort to streamline and update the regulatory process for commercial space. It also appears that the FCC has fumbled badly here in its part of this process.

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Chinese regulations sends recycling into the trash

New Chinese regulations on what is acceptable recycled trash is causing trash companies throughout the U.S. to send the recyclables into the trash heap.

In the past, the municipalities would have shipped much of their used paper, plastics and other scrap materials to China for processing. But as part of a broad antipollution campaign, China announced last summer that it no longer wanted to import “foreign garbage.” Since Jan. 1 it has banned imports of various types of plastic and paper, and tightened standards for materials it does accept.

While some waste managers already send their recyclable materials to be processed domestically, or are shipping more to other countries, others have been unable to find a substitute for the Chinese market. “All of a sudden, material being collected on the street doesn’t have a place to go,” said Pete Keller, vice president of recycling and sustainability at Republic Services, one of the largest waste managers in the country.

In other words, there is no market for recycled trash. It has no value. No one wants it. Thus, even though it sounds good and allows people to make believe they are saving the environment by recycling, it is an inefficient waste of resources, as the article notes:

Recycling companies “used to get paid” by selling off recyclable materials, said Peter Spendelow, a policy analyst for the Department of Environmental Quality in Oregon. “Now they’re paying to have someone take it away.”

In some places, including parts of Idaho, Maine and Pennsylvania, waste managers are continuing to recycle but are passing higher costs on to customers, or are considering doing so. “There are some states and some markets where mixed paper is at a negative value,” said Brent Bell, vice president of recycling at Waste Management, which handles 10 million tons of recycling per year. “We’ll let our customers make that decision, if they’d like to pay more and continue to recycle or to pay less and have it go to landfill.”

Economic realities always rule. The problem is when people create fantasies that have no connection with those rules.

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China, the Moon, and the Outer Space Treaty

Link here. The article speaks to the problems of sovereignty, ownership, and political borders created by the language of Outer Space Treaty, specifically illustrated now by China’s newest effort to put a lander on the far side of the Moon.

[This] pioneering space travel has raised concern that China is also interested in the tiny spots on the moon that never go dark, the polar peaks of eternal light. Those peaks are vanishingly small, occupying one-one hundred billionth of the lunar surface − roughly equivalent to three sheets of NHL ice on Earth. But their near-ceaseless sunshine gives them great value as a source of solar energy, to power everything from scientific experiments to mining operations.

Their small size could also, scientists have argued, allow one country to take sole occupancy of this unique real estate without falling afoul of the Outer Space Treaty. That agreement stipulates that no state can exert sovereignty in outer space. But it also calls on countries “to avoid interference” with equipment installed by others.

That provides a loophole of sorts, researchers say. The installation of very sensitive equipment on the peaks of eternal light, such as a radio telescope − a 100-metre long uncovered wire used to study transmissions from the sun, and deeper corners of the universe − could use up much of the available space while also providing a rationale to bar others from the area on the grounds that the telescope is too sensitive to be disturbed.

“Effectively a single wire could co-opt one of the most valuable pieces of territory on the moon into something approaching real estate, giving the occupant a good deal of leverage even if their primary objective was not scientific inquiry,” researchers from Harvard University, King’s College London and Georg-August Universitat Gottingen wrote in a 2015 paper.

Because the Outer Space Treaty outlaws any nation from claiming territory, it provides no method for any nation, or private company, to establish its borders or property rights. To protect what they own nations are therefore will be forced to create their own rules, willy-nilly, such as the one speculated above. And when they disagree, only the use of force will be available to either defend or defy these arbitrary rules.

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White House issues new policy statement to reduce space regulation

Don’t get too excited: President Trump yesterday signed a new policy statement that basically follows the recommendations of his National Space Council aimed at reducing regulation of space commerce.

One section of the policy addresses launch licensing, requiring the Secretary of Transportation, who oversees the Federal Aviation Administration, to “release a new regulatory system for managing launch and re-entry activity, targeting an industry that is undergoing incredible transformation with regulations that have failed to keep up,” according to a White House fact sheet.

A second section deals with commercial remote sensing regulatory reform. “The current regulatory system is woefully out of date and needs significant reform to ensure the United States remains the chosen jurisdiction for these high tech companies,” the fact sheet states.

A related section calls on the Secretary of Commerce to provide a plan to create a “one-stop shop” within his department “for administering and regulating commercial space flight activities.” The Commerce Department had previously announced plans to combine the Commercial Remote Sensing Regulatory Affairs office with the Office of Space Commerce, giving the latter office that regulatory role for issues other than launch and communications.

The policy directs several agencies, including Commerce, the Office of Science and Technology Policy and the Federal Communications Commission, to develop a plan for “improving global competitiveness” of policies, regulation and other activities dealing with the use of radiofrequency spectrum for space activities.

A final section of the policy directs the National Space Council to review export control regulations regarding commercial spaceflight activities and provide recommendations within 180 days.

The policy closely follows the recommendations from the February meeting of the National Space Council. However, White House officials, speaking on background, said they don’t expect immediate changes as a result of the policy since many of the changes, like changes to regulations, will take months to implement through standard rulemaking processes. Some changes, the officials acknowledge, will require legislation to enact, such as authority to license “non-traditional” commercial space activities. [emphasi mine]

The highlighted text illustrates this is really just public relations and lobbying to get new legislation through Congress. Without that, little will change.

This directive however does carry one certain action we should all celebrate. The changes at Commerce eliminate the Commercial Remote Sensing Regulatory Affairs Office, where bureaucrats earlier this year claimed they had the power to license all photography of any kind from space, a power that allowed them to block SpaceX from using cameras on their rocket when those cameras showed the Earth in the background.

At the time I said that “If Trump is serious about cutting back regulation, he should step it now to shut this down.” Apparently, he has done so.

As for the other proposed regulatory changes, there are bills weaving their way through the labyrinth of Congress to address these changes. The House bill repeats most of the recommended changes of this policy directive. We have not yet seen a Senate version.

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Boulder bans assault weapons, gun owners sue

Fascists: The city council in Boulder, Colorado, this week passed a local law banning “assault weapons” and other gun accessories.

Its city council unanimously passed an ordinance on Tuesday to ban the sale and possession of assault weapons, bump stocks and high-capacity magazines — becoming one of a handful of cities nationwide that has taken action to change its gun laws in the wake of the Parkland, Florida, shooting massacre.

…The new law requires people who own bump stock devices and magazines that hold 10 or more rounds of ammunition to dispose of or sell the firearm accessories by July 15, according to Colorado Public Radio.

A lawsuit against the law was immediately filed.

I think however that this quote by the city councilwoman who proposed the law illustrates best its stupidity.

“It felt like a no-brainer to propose this.”

That’s right, it is very clear that the council and this councilwoman used no brains at all in writing and approving the law. It not only is vague, unenforceable, and oppressive, it puts the blame for past murders on innocent law-abiding citizens.

The problem however is that this might very well be constitutional. As long as this local ordinance does not violate Colorado state law, it would be permissible under the Constitution, as the second amendment was designed to limit federal authority, not state or local authorities. As such, it illustrates the growing rise of fascism in some communities within the U.S., places where the majority sees nothing wrong with oppressing a minority, merely because they disagree about public policy. Expect more of this in the coming years. Expect also that these fascist localities to become havens of poverty, crime, oppression, and economic collapse.

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The cave dwellers of China

Even as China tries to make them move out, the ethnic Miao villagers that have built homes and lived inside a cave for the past century or so refuse to leave.

Why? This explains it:

A cottage industry has popped up in which the cave dwellers earn extra money by renting out rooms in their homes, which over time have clustered within Zhong cave, a limestone cavern big enough to hold four American football fields. The hangar-like cave is so large that their wooden or bamboo-made residences form a small, subterranean village built along its undulating walls.

…Officials say that residents have not taken care of the cave, leaving it unsuitable for inhabitation, and that the government should oversee the village as it is listed as a protected community by the Getu River Tourism Administration, a local agency. They have offered each resident 60,000 renminbi, or approximately $9,500, to leave.

Only five families have agreed to move. The remaining 18 families have held on stubbornly to their homes inside the cave. They say that the new homes are too small, that they fear losing access to their land, and that they alone, because of their historical connection to the cave, should have the right to independently control its small tourism economy.

The Chinese government is simply not offering them enough to leave. And should they leave, I would expect the villagers to come out on the raw end of the deal, while the cave itself, no longer protected by their presence and financial self-interest to preserve it, will also suffer.

Hat tip Willi Kusche.

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Australian government to create space agency

The new colonial movement: A news report in Australia today revealed that the Australian government plans to include $50 million in its next budget to create that country’s first space agency.

Next Tuesday, the Government will unveil “seed funding” to finally establish a dedicated Australian space agency to coordinate existing efforts in the aeronautical industry, with the aim of generating thousands of future jobs. Most developed nations, including New Zealand, already have a space agency and there are concerns Australia may be not be capitalising on a global industry believed to be worth $420 billion a year.

The Turnbull Government is yet to decide where the new space agency will be located, but the ABC understands Western Australia, South Australia, the Northern Territory and the ACT have all expressed interest in hosting the headquarters.

A senior Coalition source said the Government expected the private sector would contribute “the lion’s share” of funding for Australia’s space industry.

This desire of governments to create their own NASAs is not really the best way to garner new space business. All it really does is create bureaucracy and pork for politicians. Better they liberalize their laws and regulatory systems, as Luxembourg is doing, to encourage companies to come and establish their operations there.

What Australia plans to do, however, is somewhat unclear. The article suggests that they want to minimize government spending and leave most of the cost for their government space agency to the private sector. How they will do that I have no idea.

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House passes law reforming commercial space licensing rules

The House yesterday passed a new law to reform the commercial space licensing rules.

Essentially, the bill shifts a majority of commercial space regulation to the Department of Commerce, and matches somewhat closely the recommendations being put forth by the Trump administration.

The bill appears to be almost identical to the version I analyzed in great detail in an op-ed for The Federalist last year. It has the same positives and negatives. While it definitely aims at simplifying the licensing process for space (abolishing such agencies as NOAA’s Office of Commercial Remote Sensing Regulatory Affairs that recently tried to claim it had the right to license all photograph of Earth from space.), it does not appear to completely make Commerce that “one-stop shop” for all licensing, allowing the FAA and FCC to retain their space licensing responsibilities. Moreover, it appears, as I noted in my op-ed, to avoid the more essential legal problems, such as the Outer Space Treaty, that hamper private space today and will hamper private space even more in the future.

Regardless, it does appear that the turf war over licensing between Commerce and the FAA is over. Though the law still must get through the Senate, it does appear that Commerce has mostly won. It will get the majority of this bureaucratic bauble. What that bureaucracy will do with it, however, is the real question.

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Trump Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross puts his foot down

In a speech at a space conference this week, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross outlined the Trump administration’s plans to streamline the commercial space regulatory bureaucracy, noting that the absurd interference with normal operations by bureaucrats must stop.

He made specific reference to NOAA’s demand that it have the right to license all photography in space.

“This is silly and it will stop,” Ross told an audience of space industry executives, policymakers and military officers at the Space Symposium in Colorado Springs, Colorado, backing the view of SpaceX and other rocket companies that the cameras on its rockets aren’t the equivalent of satellites dedicated to Earth views.

He then noted that the regulatory framework is going to be consolidated into an “Office of Space Commerce” under his direct supervision, though the FCC (licensing radio spectrum) and the FAA (licensing rocket launches) will retain their responsibilities.

Will this streamline anything or save the taxpayer any money? Doesn’t look that way to me, as it seems to be adding a new layer of bureaucrats to the process without eliminating any existing departments. And then there is this additional quote from the article:

The question for space executives, who have clamored for more responsive government when it comes to licenses for launches and satellite operation, is whether increased funding will accompany the shifting responsibilities.

Speeding up bureaucracy means hiring more people, and projects like space traffic management demand investment in the technology to detect and track objects in orbit. While the Trump administration had adopted lofty rhetoric around its support for space business, it’s not yet clear that the White House has the needed clout to win congressional support—and federal dollars—for its proposals.

While it is a good thing that the Trump administration has apparently told the NOAA bureaucrats to take a flying leap, it appears they have also decided that building a new layer of bureaucracy to regulate space is a good thing. This is most unfortunate.

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