Another Nuclear Weapons Era | A Second Space Race to Escape Earth | Literally Everybody’s Working For The Weekend

APRIL 5, 2019  /   SUBSCRIBE



“Ours is a world of nuclear giants and ethical infants. We know more about war than we know about peace, more about killing than we know about living. We have grasped the mystery of the atom and rejected the Sermon on the Mount.” – Omar N. Bradley




Nuclear Reactions to Saudi’s Nuclear Reactors: New satellite imagery shows Saudi Arabia’s first nuclear reactor, located on the outskirts of Riyadh, is close to being finished. Photos show that a 10-metre high steel tubular vessel has been erected to contain the nuclear fuel, and construction work is under way on the surrounding concrete building. Robert Kelley, a former director for nuclear inspections at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), said the main practical purpose of the research reactor would be to train nuclear technicians, but noted this was also the crossing of a nuclear threshold.

According to Kelley, before inserting nuclear fuel into the reactor, Saudi Arabia would have to implement a comprehensive set of rules and procedures, including IAEA inspections, designed to ensure no fissile material was diverted for use in weapons. So far, Riyadh has resisted the international watchdog’s requests for a strict inspection regime. Also resisting more oversight is the Trump administration. The energy department granted seven permits for the transfer of sensitive nuclear information by US businesses to the Saudi government. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and energy secretary Rick Perry both stonewalled congressional committees demanding to know what the authorizations were for, and which companies were involved.

Tuesday, the head of the independent Nuclear Regulatory Commission and her fellow commissioners remained silent despite being asked repeatedly by Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), whether the commission had been consulted on the nuclear permits. Last week Rep. Brad Sherman (D-CA) said the issuance of the seven permits represented an effort by Trump and his son-in-law Jared Kushner to bypass Congress, and spare the Saudi monarchy the need to accept a formal agreement that would put strict limits on its nuclear program.




An Actual Responsible Response to Disinformation Platforms: On Thursday Australia’s parliament passed bold new legislation in direct response to the domestic terror attack on two mosques in New Zealandwhich was live streamed by the gunman on Facebook. New laws criminalize Internet platforms for failing to remove violent videos and audio. Social media executives, and other online content or hosting providers, could be jailed for up to three years, and companies could face penalties of up to 10 percent of their annual revenue if violent content isn’t removed in an “expeditious” manner. Companies are required to notify Australian Federal Police “within a reasonable time after becoming aware of the existence” of video or audio of violent conduct occurring within Australia. Australia’s attorney general said the legislation was likely a “world first.” Critics of the bill contend it was rushed and will increase censorship. (NPR)

One Of These Days, Israel: Israel appears on its way to becoming only the sixth nation to have a spacecraft orbiting the moon. The robotic probe named Beresheet (meaning “Genesis” or “in the beginning” in Hebrew) was built by a small nonprofit Israeli company, SpaceIL; it is the first privately financed venture to send a spacecraft into orbit so far from Earth. SpaceIL was originally aiming to win a $20 million Google Lunar X Prize as the first robotic craft to set down on the moon, but the deadline passed last year. Regardless, with backing from an Israeli telecommunications billionaire and lots of volunteer effort Space IL forged ahead. Beresheet is scheduled to land on the moon’s surface on April 11. If that can be accomplished successfully, Space IL would join NASA, the former Soviet Union, and China in landing a spacecraft on the moon in one piece. (NYT)




Pushed Beyond Its Limits: Ethiopia’s Civil Aviation Authority’s Accident Prevention and Investigation Bureau released its preliminary report on the fatal Boeing 737 MAX 8 crash that happened just six minutes after takeoff from the Addis Ababa airport March 11 with 157 people onboard. Investigators did not specifically assign blame, but by ruling out pilot error, they implicitly pointed the finger at the world’s biggest airplane manufacturer. Ethiopia’s transport minister told reporters: “The crew performed all the procedures repeatedly provided by the manufacturer but was not able to control the aircraft.”

According to the report, an alarm indicating excess speed was heard on the cockpit voice reporter as the jet reached 500 knots (575 miles per hour) – well above operational limits. The captain was heard to yell “pull up” three times before crashing into an arid field. The plane had faulty “angle of attack” sensor readings and its nose was pushed down automatically. “Most of the wreckage was found buried in the ground,” the report said, indicating the strength of the impact. No bodies were recovered, only charred fragments among the debris in a crater. The report recommended the manufacturer review its aircraft control system “since repetitive uncommanded aircraft nose down conditions are noticed.”




Literally Everybody’s Working For The Weekend: Last week the number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits was the lowest it’s been in almost half a century. But other statements released Thursday showed job cuts announced in the first quarter by US-based companies were the highest since 2015. An economist explained: “We are at a point of inflection where the overall economic trend is changing. That would account for at least some of the volatility and contradictory nature of the data. It would also point to a slowdown not a crash.” Fading stimulus from a $1.5 trillion tax cut package, the US trade war with China, slowing global growth and uncertainty over Britain’s exit from the European Union are casting a shadow over the economy. Job growth has slowed from last year’s roughly 223,000 average monthly pace, but that remains more than sufficient to keep up with growth in the working age population, holding down the unemployment rate. (Reuters) Additional song (of course…): Loverboy – Working For The Weekend




An Internet Space Race: Amazon has entered the race, along with SpaceX, OneWeb, and Facebook, to create a network of low Earth-orbiting satellites that will provide high-speed terrestrial internet services to the remaining 3.8 billion people without internet access. The company filed paperwork with the government for approval to launch a network of 3,236 satellites through a subsidiary called Kuiper Systems LLC. As private companies look to commercialize space, high-speed internet is among the prospects that offer the highest profits in the short term. Amazon’s Kuiper satellite service complements the work that another Jeff Bezos company, Blue Origin, is conducting on the design, development and production of launch vehicles to take payloads into orbit. Blue Origin has already signed contracts for a multi-launch agreement with Telesat, yet another company that’s developing a low Earth orbit constellation of satellites that will deliver fiber-like broadband services across the globe. (TechCrunch)




“I have a foreboding of an America in my children’s or grandchildren’s time — when the United States is a service and information economy; when nearly all the manufacturing industries have slipped away to other countries; when awesome technological powers are in the hands of a very few, and no one representing the public interest can even grasp the issues; when the people have lost the ability to set their own agendas or knowledgeably question those in authority; when, clutching our crystals and nervously consulting our horoscopes, our critical faculties in decline, unable to distinguish between what feels good and what’s true, we slide, almost without noticing, back into superstition and darkness…

The dumbing down of American is most evident in the slow decay of substantive content in the enormously influential media, the 30 second sound bites (now down to 10 seconds or less), lowest common denominator programming, credulous presentations on pseudoscience and superstition, but especially a kind of celebration of ignorance”

– Carl Sagan, The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark

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