Waste of space? NASA’s $1bn mobile launch tower may work only once

By ethan / February 22, 2018

A flaw in the design of NASA’s new $ 1 billion mobile launch tower means the agency is unlikely to get too many proverbial bangs for its buck. Indeed, it may work just the once.

The 400ft Mobile Launcher (ML) had been designed for the now-defunct Ares I rocket but has since been re-purposed for NASA’s upcoming Space Launch System (SLS), a heavy-lift rocket for deep-space missions. With the conversion work now complete, officials have noticed the tower has twisted and developed a slight northwards “lean,” a fault that reportedly means it will only be good for one or two launches.

Speaking to the website NASA Space Flight, an agency spokesman confirmed the “deflections” but said they are not so dramatic to warrant any corrective action. However, the news does raise doubts about the tower’s longevity.

The agency initially spent $ 234million on the tower in preparation for the Ares I vehicle, which was subsequently scrapped. When the US Congress approved the SLS project in 2011, it was decided that the tower be retrofitted as its launchpad. Initial estimates for the work were costed at $ 54million but these figures proved to be wildly off the mark with NASA found to have overspent to the tune of $ 280million. According to the White House budget for 2019, the agency anticipates spending a further $ 400million on the project before the SLS launches in 2020.

The ML’s flaws add urgency to NASA’s plans to build a second launcher. After the initial launch of the SLS, the agency plans to launch a second, more powerful, version of the rocket to the outer reaches of the solar system. This second stage SLS will require a larger launcher, meaning NASA may scrap the current structure and start the whole process again.

It’s estimated that a second launcher would cost in the region of $ 300million. A decision on the future of the ML is expected next year.

READ MORE: ‘Mysterious’ Martian rocks captured by NASA on Red Planet

NASA has been criticized over its waste in the past. In 2013, the Office of the Inspector General released an audit report that said the agency had used a complex and disorganized calculation method that led to $ 66million in overpayments to contractors.

READ MORE: Mars Rover snaps selfie and takes stunning panorama of Red Planet (PHOTOS, VIDEOS)

More recently, conservative budget hawks have targeted NASA’s outlay as a potential source of savings. Earlier this month, the Washington Post reported that the Trump administration wants to hand over some of the operations of the International Space Station to private industry after 2024. The news followed reports in January that the US government was keen to cease funding the ISS to save around $ 4 billion a year.

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Russia pays $15mn for IOC membership reinstatement, may be allowed to wave flag at closing ceremony

By ethan / February 22, 2018

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has received a sizeable amount of money from the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC), which had to pay $ 15 million for reinstatement of its suspended membership.

On Thursday, the ROC paid the required sum to the Olympic governing body for the restoration of its membership, which might allow the national athletes to march under their national flag at the PyeongChang closing ceremony.

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© Kim Kyung-Hoon

In December, the IOC ruled to suspend the ROC and ban several top Russian officials, including former sports minister, Vitaly Mutko, as a penalty for alleged doping during the 2014 Sochi Olympics.

More than 50 Russian team members, who the Olympic body had suspected of doping, were slapped with life bans for any future Olympic Games and had their 2014 games results annulled by the IOC.

In addition to all the sanctions imposed, leading Russian athletes in several sports were not invited to the Games, despite never having been involved in doping. Those who were approved for the PyeongChang Games were obliged to perform under a neutral banner without the national flag and anthem, which were prohibited by the IOC.

The IOC emphasized, however, that the Russian delegation could be allowed to fly the national tricolor at the Games’ closing ceremony, if the criteria demanded by the IOC are met.

“On December 5, the IOC Executive Board set out a number of requirements which should be met by the ROC to be reinstated. One of the criteria outlined by the IOC was to pay $ 15 million for the development of the world anti-doping system to ensure coordination between the IOC, WADA and international sports federations,” the ROC said in a statement.

“As of today, this sum has been paid to the full extent. Therefore, all financial obligations stipulated by the IOC to lift provisional suspension have been observed.”

Russia’s chances of waving the national flag at the closing ceremony appeared to diminish after Olympic curling bronze medalist Alexander Krushelnitsky tested positive for the banned substance meldonium.

READ MORE: Russian curlers Krushelnitsky and Bryzgalova stripped of Olympic bronze medals

On Thursday, Krushelnitsky and his curling partner, Anastasia Bryzgalova, who is also his wife, were stripped of their Olympic medals. The decision regarding the Russian ban will be made on Saturday during an IOC Executive Board meeting in PyeongChang.

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13yo student sneaks rifle into Ohio school & fatally shoots himself in bathroom

By ethan / February 22, 2018

A 13-year-old student has died after shooting himself in the restroom of an Ohio middle school. The teen managed to take a large-caliber rifle unnoticed all the way to school just days after a horrific school shooting in Florida.

Seventh grade student Keith Simons died on Wednesday, the day after he had shot himself inside the bathroom of Jackson Memorial Middle School.

“I have a student who shot himself in the bathroom. He has a strong pulse but I need an ambulance,” a person seeming to be a school official told the 911 operator right after the incident, according to a recording circulating in local media. The 13-year-old took the 22-caliber long rifle from his mother’s house and smuggled it into school by concealing it beneath his clothes, according to police. The student took a school bus, but no one noticed the gun despite the boy having multiple conversations on the way.

“I think it’s important to know that he was in contact with numerous people on his way to school. He did ride the school bus to school, and nobody noticed that he had anything with him,” Jackson Township Police Chief Mark Brink told reporters. He added that the case is not being treated as a suicide so far and the police are waiting for the autopsy results.

Apart from the rifle, Simons had additional items in his backpack such as “bottle rockets” and batteries. However, nothing indicates that the student had a bomb, the police chief stressed. The police still have no clear picture of how the events unfolded before the boy came to school on Tuesday morning, according to Brink. The investigation is still ongoing with the officers trying to understand Simons’ motives.

We have found nothing through social media that would indicate that there was a danger for us yesterday from Keith, from friends that we have talked to, as well as people at the school. Brink said

The incident comes less than a week after a 19-year-old former student opened fire at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, killing 17 people and injuring over a dozen more. In the wake of that shooting an Ohio sheriff offered to organize conceal-and-carry classes for teachers hoping that it would prevent such tragedies in the future. 

On Wednesday, President Donald Trump echoed the proposal during a ‘listening session’ at the White House, where some Florida survivors were present. Trump believes that teachers “adept at firearms” could quickly “end the attack,” though the controversial proposal is still up for discussion.

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‘I almost died’: Serena Williams details how childbirth inspired her to support charities

By ethan / February 22, 2018

Serena Williams has given a heartfelt account of how she nearly died giving birth to her daughter Olympia. She says the experience inspired her to fundraise for charities supporting mothers who endure difficult childbirth.

The 36-year-old won the Australian Open while eight weeks pregnant but she detailed to CNN how she was bedridden for six weeks after Olympia was delivered by emergency C-section. Williams was then rocked by health problems stemming from the difficult birth, including a pulmonary embolism and a host of surgeries to prevent blood clots spreading to her lungs.

“I almost died after giving birth to my daughter, Olympia. Yet I consider myself fortunate,” the multiple Grand Slam winner said in the article published on the CNN website.

“I am so grateful I had access to such an incredible medical team of doctors and nurses at a hospital with state-of-the-art equipment. They knew exactly how to handle this complicated turn of events. If it weren’t for their professional care, I wouldn’t be here today.”

The tennis ace plans to work hard to help those less able to afford access to such care. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, black women in the United States are over three times more likely to die from pregnancy or childbirth-related causes than other races. But this is not just a challenge in the United States.

READ MORE: ‘Black women, be fearless!’ – Serena Williams pens essay on equal pay

“Around the world, thousands of women struggle to give birth in the poorest countries. When they have complications like mine, there are often no drugs, health facilities or doctors to save them. If they don’t want to give birth at home, they have to travel great distances at the height of pregnancy. Before they even bring a new life into this world, the cards are already stacked against them,” Williams said.

The star athlete urges people to donate to charities such as UNICEF to support new mothers and babies, adding: “Every mother, everywhere, regardless of race or background deserves to have a healthy pregnancy and birth. And you can help make this a reality.”

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PM ‘should do some jail time’: Stormzy gets political at the Brits

By ethan / February 22, 2018

Grime star Stormzy used his performance at the Brit awards to slam PM Theresa May over her response the Grenfell Tower tragedy. The rapper mused that the Tory leader’s house should be burnt down to “see if you can manage this.”

Stormzy hit out at May in a scathing rap verse during his memorable performance at the London O2 Arena on Wednesday night. He criticized May for failing to properly support the hundreds of residents left homeless following the inferno at the North Kensington 24-story tower block.

After performing his hit “Blinded By Your Grace” the rapper took a swipe at the PM saying: “Like yo Theresa May where’s the money for Grenfell…What, you thought we just forgot about Grenfell?” He went on: “You criminals, and you got the cheek to call us savages.

“You should do some jail time/ you should pay some damages… we should burn your house down and see if you can manage this.” He finished the performance to rapturous applause from the crowd.

Grime had a glorious night at the Arena, as Stormzy took home the “British Album of the Year” award for his acclaimed debut Gang Signs & Prayer. He also won the ”British Male Solo Artist” award.

Labour leader, Jeremy Corbny, praised Stormzy for his intervention. Following the event he tweeted: “Congratulations @Stormzy1 for winning your first #BRIT award, and what a powerful performance. #Grenfell.”

Stormzy fans, and some Labour MPs, flocked to Twitter to express their support for his political rant. Though there were others who were more critical of the grime star. 

It comes as the world’s most prestigious award ceremonies are becoming increasingly charged with politics. Just a few days ago at the Baftas, many female actors chose to dress in black to show allegiance with the Times Up #MeToo campaign. The movement was launched to raise awareness around sexual harassment following allegations against leading film producer Harvey Weinstein.

Many other attendees brought activists as their plus ones at the glamorous film ceremony. Feminist protest group Sisters Uncut also took the chance to protest May’s Domestic Violence and Abuse Bill as they stormed the red carpet; they say the bill will criminalize survivors.

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Doesn’t add up: Poster of all-male speakers takes away from ‘Women in Math’ campaign

By ethan / February 22, 2018

A Mormon university in Utah has sparked social media outcry after its math club printed a poster advertising a ‘Women in Math’ panel featuring only male professors.

An image of the poster was shared on social media by a Brigham Young University student questioning if the advertisement was intended as satire. The original tweet received more than 26,000 likes and some 10,000 retweets. A slew of criticism ensued as the image went viral, with the Twitterati quick to condemn the poster.

The creator of the poster –  a female student at the university – has since come forward to explain that the purpose of the event was to expose young math majors to fields of research in higher mathematics.

Bryn Balls-Barker said in a Facebook post that while the event was aimed at women men were also invited. “I chose to ask professors that weren’t already affiliated directly with the club so that members of the club would have more opportunity to meet other faculty members.”

“I’m sorry for any offense that was caused, this was in no way meant to be satirical or to make any kind of statement. The purpose was simply to help women in math be exposed to cool math.”   

Brigham Young University also issued a statement about the poster debacle, confirming that the poster wasn’t meant as satire and was created with good intentions. The posters have been replaced with a more appropriate message, according to the university.

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Ivanka Trump, top N. Korean general to come face-to-face at PyeongChang closing ceremony

By ethan / February 22, 2018

US President Donald Trump’s daughter Ivanka Trump will lead the US delegation at the closing ceremony of the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics in South Korea, which will be held on February 25.

Ivanka Trump, who is also a senior adviser to her father, will be joined by White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who will give particular support to the female athletes competing at the Games.

“Sarah’s going as a female to help cheer on all of the female athletes and highlight the women’s sports and success our female athletes have had at this year’s Olympic Games,” a White House official said.

Other members of the delegation include the junior US senator from Idaho, Jim Risch, and US Army National Guard soldier and Olympic medal-winning bobsledder Shauna Rohbock.

“I am honored to lead the US delegation to the closing ceremonies of the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympics,” Ivanka Trump said.

“We look forward to congratulating Team USA and celebrating all that our athletes have achieved. Their talent, drive, grit and spirit embodies American excellence, and inspire us all.”

The delegation’s main aim is to highlight American athletes’ achievements at the Olympics, and to reaffirm US cooperation with the Games’ host, South Korea.

The 36-year-old presidential adviser is set to have dinner with South Korean leader Jae-in Moon during her three-day visit to South Korea.

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© John Sibley

Much attention will be on the American delegation’s stance towards representatives of North Korea, with whom the US has consistently exchanged war threats.

The Games curtain-raiser, staged on February 9, saw US Vice President Mike Pence sitting next to North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s sister, Kim Yo-jong.

North Korea’s eight-member delegation for the closing ceremony will be headed by Kim Yong-chol, a senior general who is in charge of inter-Korean affairs. He is also believed to have masterminded several attacks on South Korea, including on the vessel ‘Cheonan’ in 2010 that killed 46 sailors.

South Korea had blacklisted Kim for supporting the country’s nuclear and missile programs, but decided to accept the North’s Olympics delegation amid the newly established thaw in relations between the two states.

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‘Crystal corridor’ on top of Chinese skyscrapers will blow your mind

By ethan / February 22, 2018

Another architectural marvel is set to appear in China with the construction of a 300-meter long corridor connecting four skyscrapers in Chongqing Raffles City.

The 250-meter-high “crystal corridor” will be located at Chongqing’s busiest port area, and will stretch across four tower blocks. It is expected to weigh 40,000 tons, including 12,000 tons of steel.

According to China Plus News, the first truss of the eye-catching aerial corridor was recently elevated. It will be joined together with two other trusses that are scheduled to be raised between May and June.

Once completed, the curved corridor will provide a 270-degree view and will feature a 50-meter infinity swimming pool. It is expected to beat world records for the tallest and widest glass building.

Two years ago, China unveiled the world’s longest and highest glass bridge in its picturesque Zhangjiajie mountains. The 430-meter-long (1,400ft) skywalk, which was designed by Israeli architect Haim Dotan, is suspended some 300 meters (985 feet) above the ground. It was made from 99 panels of clear glass, and hangs between two mountain cliffs in Zhangjiajie, Hunan province. The transparent skywalk allows visitors to enjoy exceptional scenery from a high vantage point, providing a tough test of one’s nerves.

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Ukrainian law on Donbass slammed by Duma as step towards new war

By ethan / February 22, 2018

Russian lawmakers have composed an address to major international groups in which they denounce a fresh Ukrainian law on the reintegration of Donbass. The law is seen as potentially leading to war and repression in the region.

The draft address, that the Russian MPs want to forward to the United Nations, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe and also to the US Congress and several European parliaments, states that the alleged motive, containment of Russia, cannot justify steps leading to the restart of a civil war in south-eastern Ukraine and to new political repression in the country.

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A destroyed convent near Donetsk airport © Valery Melnikov

The lawmakers also stated that the new Ukrainian law is directed against Russia and Russian speakers, that it is “filled with hatred” and that its sponsors must have been motivated by the desire “to clear land with several million residents of all people.”

The document has not a single mention of the Minsk accords and rules out any talks between Ukrainian authorities and representatives of the self-proclaimed republics of Donbass” the statement reads.

Russian MPs also noted that aggravating the situation in the south-eastern Ukraine was connected with Ukrainian authorities’ refusal to investigate the murder of people during the Maidan riots, the subsequent coup d’etat and other crimes, like the mass killing of protesters in Odessa in May 2014.

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In the same address the State Duma calls for the Ukrainian authorities to show responsibility and abandon the plans to impose new political repression upon its own citizens.

On Thursday the head of the Lower House Committee for CIS Affairs, Leonid Kalashnikov, told TASS that the State Duma will most likely vote on the address on March 21. He explained the delay by the fact that Russian lawmakers did not want to pass the address before the Ukrainian law is officially published and starting on Friday the State Duma will be in purdah until after the presidential election of March 18.

Earlier this week Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko signed into law the so-called Donbass Reintegration Law which describes the territories of the self-proclaimed republics of Donetsk and Lugansk as “temporarily occupied” and sanctions the use of military force inside the country by presidential order without parliamentary approval. The law does not mention the Minsk accords.

On Wednesday Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that the new Ukrainian law allowed for a military solution to the Donbass crisis, adding that it was obvious from this document that the Kiev authorities were not planning to implement the Minsk accords.

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Meghan Markle & Prince Harry in ‘anthrax’ terrorism scare

By ethan / February 22, 2018

Meghan Markle and Prince Harry were the targets of a suspected terrorist plot after an ‘anthrax’ letter was sent to the royal couple at their resident in Kensington Palace. The incident has sparked a police investigation.

Counter-terrorism officers are looking into who was behind the threat to the couple, who are due to marry on May 19, the Evening Standard revealed in an exclusive. Security around the Meghan and Harry has been significantly stepped up ahead of the wedding.

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Britain's Prince Harry and his fiancee Meghan Markle visiting Cardiff Castle © Ben Birchall

It has now been revealed that Met cops rushed in when Kensington Palace received a letter for Meghan, 36, and Harry, 33. The letter was intercepted before it reached the pair. The following day, another letter was sent to the Palace of Westminster for Home Secretary Amber Rudd.

Analysis taken from both letters found the powder they contained to be harmless. The investigation is ongoing, though there have been no arrests so far.

The royal couple will not downgrade their lavish wedding plans as a result of heightened security, however, and it will go ahead as planned on the same day as the FA Cup final.

“They hope this short journey [from Wembley to Windsor] will provide an opportunity for more people to come together around Windsor and to enjoy the atmosphere of this special day,” Kensington Palace has said.

However, it is rumored that a squad of elite soldiers will be drafted in to protect them on the day.
This is the first security incident involving Markle since the wedding was announced, although threats against the royal family are not uncommon.

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