NASA Spacecraft Crashes Into Asteroid in Defense Test

A NASA spacecraft rammed an asteroid at blistering speed Monday in an unprecedented dress rehearsal for the day a killer rock menaces Earth. The galactic slam occurred at a harmless asteroid 9.6 million kilometers away, with the spacecraft named Dart plowing into the space rock at 22,500 kph. Scientists expected the impact to carve out a crater, hurl streams of rocks and dirt into space and, most importantly, alter the asteroid’s orbit. “We have impact!” Mission Control’s Elena Adams announced, jumping up and down and thrusting her arms skyward. Telescopes around the world and in space aimed at the same point in the sky to capture the spectacle. Though the impact was immediately obvious — Dart’s radio signal abruptly ceased — it will take days or even weeks to determine how much the asteroid’s path has changed. The $325 million mission was the first attempt to shift the position of an asteroid or any other natural object in space. “We’re embarking on a new era of humankind,” said NASA’s Lori Glaze, planetary science division director. Earlier in the day, NASA Administrator Bill Nelson reminded people via Twitter that, “No, this is not a movie plot.” He added in a prerecorded video: “We’ve all seen it on movies like ‘Armageddon,’ but the real-life stakes are high.” Monday’s target: a 160-meter asteroid named Dimorphos. It’s actually a moonlet of Didymos, Greek for twin, a fast-spinning asteroid five times bigger that flung off the material that formed the junior partner. The pair have been orbiting the sun for eons without threatening Earth, making them ideal save-the-world test candidates. Launched last November, the vending machine-size Dart — short for Double Asteroid Redirection Test — navigated to its target using new technology developed by Johns Hopkins University’s Applied Physics Laboratory, the spacecraft builder and mission manager. Dart’s onboard camera, a key part of this smart navigation system, caught sight of Dimorphos barely an hour before impact. “Woo-hoo!” exclaimed Adams, a mission systems engineer at Johns Hopkins. “We’re seeing Dimorphos, so wonderful, wonderful.” With an image beaming back to Earth every second, Adams and other ground controllers in Laurel, Maryland, watched with growing excitement as Dimorphos loomed larger and larger in the field of view alongside its bigger companion. Within minutes, Dimorphos was alone in the pictures; it looked like a giant gray lemon with boulders and rubble on the surface. The last image froze on … Continue reading “NASA Spacecraft Crashes Into Asteroid in Defense Test”

US Does Not Take a Position on Taiwan’s Sovereignty, State Department Says

The United States does not take a position on Taiwan’s sovereignty under Washington’s “One China” policy, the State Department said Monday. The remarks came days after U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi in New York on the sidelines of United Nations General Assembly where Blinken told Wang Washington’s “One China” policy has not changed. While Washington has not agreed to take any position regarding sovereignty over Taiwan, Monday’s statement from the State Department is a rare public comment. “We don’t take a position on sovereignty, but the policy that has been at the crux of our approach to Taiwan since 1979 remains in effect today,” said State Department spokesperson Ned Price during Monday’s briefing. He was asked if Taiwan is part of China under Washington’s “One China” policy. “What we want to see preserved is the status quo, precisely because the status quo since 1979, more than 40 years now, has undergirded peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait. We want to see that continue. Unfortunately, I don’t believe the same could be said of the PRC, which has become only more coercive and intimidating in its actions and its maneuvers across the Taiwan Strait,” said Price. The People’s Republic of China (PRC) claims sovereignty over Taiwan. The U.S. “acknowledges” but does not “endorse” PRC’s position. “Both sides of the Taiwan Strait belong to one & the same China. Taiwan is part of China’s territory. China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity has never been split. This is the status quo in the Taiwan Strait and one China is at the heart of this status quo,” a spokesperson from China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs wrote in a tweet. For decades, the U.S. has been clear that its decision to establish diplomatic relations with the PRC in 1979 rested on the expectation that “the future of Taiwan will be determined by peaceful means,” as stipulated in the Taiwan Relations Act. The U.S. also does not support Taiwan independence. Senior American officials have said Washington’s “One China” policy is “distinct” from Beijing’s “One China” principle. The U.S. said it remains committed to its long-standing, bipartisan “One China” policy, guided by the Taiwan Relations Act, the Three Joint Communiques and the Six Assurances. Chinese officials have rejected the Taiwan Relations Act, calling the U.S. law governing its relations with Taiwan “illegal and invalid.” On August 31, 2020, then-Assistant … Continue reading “US Does Not Take a Position on Taiwan’s Sovereignty, State Department Says”

US Sanctions Iranian Cargo Plane for Export Violation

The U.S. Department of Commerce Monday cited a fourth Iranian cargo plane for flying into Russia, adding it to a list of planes believed to be in violation of U.S. sanctions against Russia. The U.S. Department of Commerce said in a statement that the cargo plane belongs to Saha Airlines, which is owned by the Iranian Air Force. On Sept. 19, the department added three other Iranian cargo planes to a list of those in apparent violation of U.S. export controls, Reuters reported.    The fourth cargo plane flew to Russia without permission from the Department of Commerce, its statement said.  “Last Monday, we announced that three Iranian cargo planes have been backfilling items to Russia in an attempt to circumvent our hard-hitting export controls,” Matthew Axelrod, assistant secretary of commerce for export enforcement, said in a statement. “Today, we’ve identified a fourth Iranian cargo plane that has flown to Russia in violation of our controls, this one under the control of the Iranian Air Force. Given Iran’s support for Russia’s war machine, including the recent provisioning of unmanned aerial vehicles, we are alerting the global aviation community that support for such aircraft violates our controls and is subject to enforcement action.” According to reports, Iran has sent hundreds of drones to help Russia in its war with Ukraine. Iranian authorities have officially denied these reports.  But the Kayhan newspaper, which is close to the leader of the Islamic Republic, confirmed Saturday that “hundreds of Iranian combat drones” have been exported to Russia.  Some information for this article came from Reuters.  …

US Commits More Civilian Security Aid to Ukraine

The U.S. is committing another $457.5 million in law enforcement and civilian security assistance to Ukraine, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Monday.  The top U.S. diplomat said Washington expects the aid, along with $187 million sent to Kyiv earlier, will continue to help Ukraine fend off Russia’s seven-month invasion and sends money directly to the National Police of Ukraine and the State Border Guard Service.  “Our provision of personal protective equipment, medical supplies, and armored vehicles has significantly reduced casualties for Ukrainian civilians and their defenders,” Blinken said.  Some of the new money, he said, would help Ukraine to continue to investigate and prosecute Russian troops who have committed atrocities against Ukrainian forces and civilians, thousands of whom have been killed in the warfare.  “The United States stands side-by-side with the Ukrainian people and remains committed to supporting a democratic, independent and sovereign Ukraine,” Blinken said in announcing the aid package.  …

Ian Strengthens into Hurricane, Heads Toward Cuba, Florida

Forecasters say Tropical Storm Ian has strengthened into a hurricane as it moves closer to Cuba on a track expected to take it to Florida in the coming days. Ian was forecast to intensify rapidly and become a major hurricane as soon as late Monday. Authorities in Cuba suspended classes in Pinar del Rio province and said they will begin evacuations Monday as Ian was forecast to strengthen before reaching the western part of the island on its way to Florida. A hurricane warning was in effect for Grand Cayman and the Cuban provinces of Isla de Juventud, Pinar del Rio and Artemisa. The U.S. National Hurricane Center said Ian should reach the far-western part of Cuba late Monday or early Tuesday, hitting near the country’s most famed tobacco fields. It could become a major hurricane before a likely landfall in Florida around the middle of the week, possibly the state’s western coast or Panhandle Cuba state media outlet Granma said authorities would begin evacuating people from vulnerable areas early Monday in the far-western province of Pinar del Rio. At 5 a.m. EDT on Monday, Ian was moving northwest at 13 mph (20 kph), about 150 kilometers southwest of Grand Cayman, according to the center. It had maximum sustained winds of 120 kph. Meanwhile, residents in Florida were keeping a cautious eye on Ian as it rumbled ominously through the Caribbean on a path toward the state. Gov. Ron DeSantis has declared a state of emergency throughout Florida and urged residents to prepare for the storm to lash large swaths of the state with heavy rains, high winds and rising seas. “We’re going to keep monitoring the track of this storm. But it really is important to stress the degree of uncertainty that still exists,” DeSantis said at a news conference Sunday, cautioning that “even if you’re not necessarily right in the eye of the path of the storm, there’s going to be pretty broad impacts throughout the state.” Flash and urban flooding is possible in the Florida Keys and Florida peninsula through midweek, and then heavy rainfall was possible for north Florida, the Florida panhandle and the southeast United States later this week. The agency placed a tropical storm watch over the lower Florida Keys on Sunday evening and has advised Floridians to have hurricane plans in place and monitor updates of the storm’s evolving path. President Joe Biden … Continue reading “Ian Strengthens into Hurricane, Heads Toward Cuba, Florida”

NASA’s Asteroid-Deflecting DART Spacecraft Nears Planned Impact With Target 

Ten months after launch, NASA’s asteroid-deflecting DART spacecraft neared a planned impact with its target on Monday in a test of the world’s first planetary defense system, designed to prevent a doomsday collision with Earth. The cube-shaped “impactor” vehicle, roughly the size of a vending machine with two rectangular solar arrays, was on course to fly into the asteroid Dimorphos, about as large as a football stadium, and self-destruct around 7 p.m. EDT (2300 GMT) some 11 million kilometers from Earth. The mission’s finale will test the ability of a spacecraft to alter an asteroid’s trajectory with sheer kinetic force, plowing into the object at high speed to nudge it astray just enough to keep our planet out of harm’s way. It marks the world’s first attempt to change the motion of an asteroid, or any celestial body. DART, launched by a SpaceX rocket in November 2021, has made most of its voyage under the guidance of NASA’s flight directors, with control to be handed over to an autonomous on-board navigation system in the final hours of the journey. Monday evening’s planned impact is to be monitored in real time from the mission operations center at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Maryland. DART’s celestial target is an asteroid “moonlet” about 170 meters in diameter that orbits a parent asteroid five times larger called Didymos as part of a binary pair with the same name, the Greek word for twin. Neither object presents any actual threat to Earth, and NASA scientists said their DART test cannot create a new existential hazard by mistake. Dimorphos and Didymos are both tiny compared with the cataclysmic Chicxulub asteroid that struck Earth some 66 million years ago, wiping out about three-quarters of the world’s plant and animal species including the dinosaurs. Smaller asteroids are far more common and pose a greater theoretical concern in the near term, making the Didymos pair suitable test subjects for their size, according to NASA scientists and planetary defense experts. Also, their relative proximity to Earth and dual-asteroid configuration make them ideal for the first proof-of-concept mission of DART, short for Double Asteroid Redirection Test. Robotic suicide mission The mission represents a rare instance in which a NASA spacecraft must ultimately crash to succeed. The plan is for DART to fly directly into Dimorphos at 24,000 kilometers per hour, bumping it hard enough to shift … Continue reading “NASA’s Asteroid-Deflecting DART Spacecraft Nears Planned Impact With Target “

HOLD FOR PHOTO| US Welcomes Belarus Release of Journalist, Urges More

The United States on Sunday welcomed the release in Belarus of a journalist for a U.S.-backed outlet but urged freedom for hundreds of other prisoners rounded up in a crackdown on dissent. Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty had said days earlier that one of its reporters, Aleh Hruzdzilovich, was freed after nine months in prison. State Department spokesman Ned Price said the United States “welcomes” the release of Hruzdzilovich and several others. “While the release of these political prisoners is a step in the right direction, too many political prisoners remain behind bars in Belarus,” Price said in a statement. “We call for the immediate and unconditional release of all political prisoners.” The U.N. office on human rights on Friday said that nearly 1,300 people are in detention in Belarus on political grounds. Veteran strongman Alexander Lukashenko has tried to crush mass protests that erupted in 2020 after he was said to secure a sixth presidential term. Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya said she won the election and has fled Belarus for exile in neighboring Lithuania, from which she heads the opposition. Hruzdzilovich, 63, was arrested for allegedly taking part in the protests. He denies the charges and says he was there as a reporter. Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, which receives funding from the U.S. Congress but is editorially independent, said that two more of its journalists, Ihar Losik and Andrey Kuznechyk, remain imprisoned in Belarus. In a July interview with AFP, Lukashenko did not deny being “authoritarian” and accused protesters of acting “against the state and their own nation.” RFE/RL is a sister network of Voice of America. …

US Spy Satellite Launched into Orbit from California

A classified satellite for the U.S. National Reconnaissance Office launched into orbit aboard a United Launch Alliance Delta 4 Heavy rocket Saturday. The NROL-91 spy satellite lifted off at 3:25 p.m. from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California’s Santa Barbara County. It was the last launch of a Delta 4 from the West Coast. Additional launches are planned from Florida before the Deltas are replaced by ULA’s next-generation Vulcan Centaur rockets. The Delta IV Heavy configuration first launched in December 2004. This was the 387th flight of a Delta rocket since 1960 and the 95th and final launch from Vandenberg. The National Reconnaissance Office is the government agency in charge of developing, building, launching and maintaining U.S. spy satellites that provide intelligence data to policymakers, the intelligence community and Defense Department. …

US Warns Russia of ‘Catastrophic Consequences’ If It Launches Nuclear Attack in Ukraine 

The U.S. has warned Russia of “catastrophic consequences” if it launches a nuclear attack on Ukraine, President Joe Biden’s national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, said Sunday. Sullivan, speaking on ABC’s “This Week” show, said U.S. officials have told Russian officials privately that Biden “will respond decisively” if Russian President Vladimir Putin orders a nuclear strike but did not say how the U.S. would respond. Sullivan said the U.S. would “not engage in a game of rhetorical tit-for-tat” with Russia. The U.S. response came after Putin signaled the possibility of a nuclear attack last week as he called up 300,000 military reservists to help fight in its seven-month invasion of Ukraine. The troop augmentation came after Russian battlefield setbacks, with Kyiv’s forces recapturing large swaths of territory in northeast Ukraine that Russia had seized in the early weeks of the war. Widespread protests against Putin’s troop call-up have erupted in Russia, with police arresting hundreds of demonstrators participating in street protests in Moscow and elsewhere. Many men opposed to Putin’s war or fearful of being killed in the battlefront have abruptly fled Russia on flights to other countries, while others have joined long queues of cars on land routes headed to the Russian borders with Finland, Georgia and other countries. Russia is in the midst of staging five days of disputed referenda in four regions of Ukraine it either fully or partially controls, votes where it assumes the local residents will support Russian annexation, which would give Moscow a pretext to defend the newly claimed territory. In some instances, Russian soldiers have been going door to door at gunpoint to order Ukrainians to vote. But Ukraine, the U.S. and their Western allies are calling the referenda sham votes and of no legal consequence. Any Russian annexation of Ukrainian land would not be globally recognized. Sullivan said the votes were “definitely not signs of strength or competence” on Russia’s part. In an interview aired Sunday on CBS News’s “Face the Nation” show, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said that Ukrainians who refuse to vote in the referenda face significant retribution from Russian forces. “Russians can turn off their electricity and won’t give them an opportunity to live a normal human life,” Zelenskyy said. “They force people, they throw them in prisons. They force them to come to these pseudo-referenda. And also, they also announced mobilization [of 300,000 reservists.] They’re forcing people to fight, … Continue reading “US Warns Russia of ‘Catastrophic Consequences’ If It Launches Nuclear Attack in Ukraine “

Why is a NASA Spacecraft Crashing Into an Asteroid?

In the first-of-its kind, save-the-world experiment, NASA is about to clobber a small, harmless asteroid millions of miles away. A spacecraft named Dart will zero in on the asteroid Monday, intent on slamming it head-on at 14,000 mph (22,500 kph). The impact should be just enough to nudge the asteroid into a slightly tighter orbit around its companion space rock — demonstrating that if a killer asteroid ever heads our way, we’d stand a fighting chance of diverting it. “This is stuff of science-fiction books and really corny episodes of “StarTrek” from when I was a kid, and now it’s real,” NASA program scientist Tom Statler said Thursday. Cameras and telescopes will watch the crash, but it will take days or even weeks to find out if it actually changed the orbit. The $325 million planetary defense test began with Dart’s launch last fall. Asteroid target The asteroid with the bull’s-eye on it is Dimorphos, about 7 million miles (9.6 million kilometers) from Earth. It is actually the puny sidekick of a 2,500-foot (780-meter) asteroid named Didymos, Greek for twin. Discovered in 1996, Didymos is spinning so fast that scientists believe it flung off material that eventually formed a moonlet. Dimorphos — roughly 525 feet (160 meters) across — orbits its parent body at a distance of less than a mile (1.2 kilometers). “This really is about asteroid deflection, not disruption,” said Nancy Chabot, a planetary scientist and mission team leader at Johns Hopkins University’s Applied Physics Laboratory, which is managing the effort. “This isn’t going to blow up the asteroid. It isn’t going to put it into lots of pieces.” Rather, the impact will dig out a crater tens of yards (meters) in size and hurl some 2 million pounds (1 million kilograms) of rocks and dirt into space. NASA insists there’s a zero chance either asteroid will threaten Earth — now or in the future. That’s why the pair was picked. Dart, the impactor The Johns Hopkins lab took a minimalist approach in developing Dart — short for Double Asteroid Redirection Test — given that it’s essentially a battering ram and faces sure destruction. It has a single instrument: a camera used for navigating, targeting and chronicling the final action. Believed to be essentially a rubble pile, Dimorphos will emerge as a point of light an hour before impact, looming larger and larger in the camera images beamed … Continue reading “Why is a NASA Spacecraft Crashing Into an Asteroid?”

As Shelters Fill, New York City Weighs Tents to House Migrants 

New York City’s mayor says he plans to erect hangar-sized tents as temporary shelter for thousands of international migrants who have been bused into the Big Apple as part of a campaign by Republican governors to disrupt federal border policies.  The tents are among an array of options — from using cruise ships to summer camps — the city is considering as it struggles to find housing for an estimated 13,000 migrants who have wound up in New York after being bused north from border towns in Texas and Arizona.  “This is not an everyday homelessness crisis, but a humanitarian crisis that requires a different approach,” New York Mayor Eric Adams said in a statement Thursday.  New York City’s huge system of homeless shelters has been straining to accommodate the unexpected new flow of migrants seeking asylum in the United States.  In Arizona and Texas, officials have loading people on buses for free trips to Washington and New York City. More recently, Florida, which has a Republican governor running for reelection, flew migrants — at public cost — to Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts.  Adams said the city had opened 23 emergency shelters — and was considering 38 more — to handle the people bused into the city since May. The city also recently opened a new, multimillion-dollar intake center to help the newcomers quickly get settled.  A rendering of the likely design of the tent facility, released by the city, showed rows and rows of cots. Presumably, the tent would be heated, as autumn nights in the city can be quite cool, but the city released few details.  City officials said these facilities — which they call “humanitarian emergency response and relief centers — would house migrants for only up to four days while the city arranged other types of shelter.  Advocates for the homeless were unsure how to react.  “We just don’t have enough detail” to form an opinion, said Josh Goldfein, a staff attorney with the Legal Aid Society. “If the goal here is to sort of quickly assess what people need and get them connected to services that will help them, then that will be great.”  But he said the proposal has yet to be fleshed out.  “All we know is a location and a picture of a big tent,” he said.   In a joint statement, the Legal Aid Society and the Coalition for the Homeless said … Continue reading “As Shelters Fill, New York City Weighs Tents to House Migrants “

CIA Unveils Model of Al-Qaida Leader Al-Zawahiri’s Hideout

The CIA on Saturday revealed the model of a safe house used to brief President Joe Biden about the whereabouts of al-Qaida leader Ayman al-Zawahiri before it killed him in a drone strike in Afghanistan. Shortly after al-Zawahiri’s death, White House officials released a photo showing Biden talking to CIA Director William Burns with a closed wooden box on the table in front of them. Now, the contents of the box — a model depicting a white-walled home with at least five stories and three partially obscured balconies — are on display at the CIA Museum inside the agency’s Virginia headquarters. The museum is closed to the public and access is generally limited to the agency’s employees and guests. The CIA allowed journalists to tour the museum, newly refurbished in time for the agency’s 75th anniversary, as part of a broader effort to showcase its history and achievements. Most of the exhibits took years or decades to declassify. The al-Zawahiri model home is the rare artifact that had been used by intelligence officers just weeks beforehand. Al-Zawahiri was killed in late July, nearly a year after the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan ending a two-decade war in which the CIA had a central role. The agency sent the first American forces two weeks after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Two decades later, it pulled out intelligence assets and assisted in the chaotic evacuation of thousands of Americans and Afghan allies. The Biden administration has said the strike shows it retains what it calls an “over-the-horizon” counterterrorism capacity in Afghanistan. Opponents of the administration and some analysts question whether al-Zawahiri’s presence in a Kabul neighborhood suggests extremist groups like al-Qaida or the Islamic State are growing stronger under the Taliban, who now rule the country. The strike was particularly meaningful for the CIA, which lost seven employees in trying to find al-Zawahiri, a key plotter of the Sept. 11 attacks who was then al-Qaida’s second-in-command. They were killed when a Jordanian doctor who pretended to have information about al-Zawahiri carried out a 2009 suicide bombing at a base in the Khost province in Afghanistan. The doctor was working for al-Qaida. On display near the model of al-Zawahiri’s home are seven stars honoring the CIA employees slain in the Khost province. The stars were previously part of a memorial in Afghanistan that was taken down as the U.S. withdrew. Other newly revealed … Continue reading “CIA Unveils Model of Al-Qaida Leader Al-Zawahiri’s Hideout”

Republicans Quiet as Arizona Democrats Condemn Abortion Ruling

Arizona Democrats vowed Saturday to fight for women’s rights after a court reinstated a law first enacted during the Civil War that bans abortion in nearly all circumstances, looking to capitalize on an issue they hope will have a major impact on the midterm elections. Republican candidates were silent a day after the ruling, which said the state can prosecute doctors and others who assist with an abortion unless it’s necessary to save the mother’s life. Kari Lake, the Republican candidate for governor, and Blake Masters, the Senate candidate, did not comment. Katie Hobbs and Kris Mayes, the Democratic nominees for governor and attorney general, implored women not to sit on the sidelines this year, saying the ruling sets them back more than a century to an era when only men had the right to vote. “We cannot let (Lake) hold public office and have the power to enact extreme anti-choice policies that she’s spent her entire campaign touting,” Hobbs said during a news conference outside the attorney general’s office. “As Arizona’s governor I will do everything in my power and use every tool at my disposal to restore abortion rights in Arizona.” The ruling presents a new hurdle for Republicans who were already struggling to navigate abortion politics. It fires up Democrats and distracts attention from Republican attacks on President Joe Biden and his record on border security and inflation less than three weeks before the start of early and mail-in voting, which are overwhelmingly popular in Arizona. Abortion rights are particularly salient among suburban women, who play a decisive role in close elections in Arizona. “In Arizona, with a draconian abortion law in effect today, I think you will see suburban women take a real look at Democratic candidates who promise to do something even if it’s not in their power,” said Barrett Marson, a Republican consultant. Democrats have poured tens of millions of dollars into television advertising focused on abortion rights, and women have been registering to vote in greater numbers than men across the country. The old law was first enacted among a set of laws known as the “Howell Code” adopted by the first Arizona Territorial Legislature in 1864. It has been periodically re-adopted throughout the state’s history, including in 1901 and as recently as the 1970s. Lake has spoken positively of Arizona’s territorial ban on abortion, which she called “a great law that’s already … Continue reading “Republicans Quiet as Arizona Democrats Condemn Abortion Ruling”

NASA Scraps Tuesday Artemis Moon Launch Due to Storm

NASA has called off the scheduled Tuesday launch of its historic uncrewed mission to the moon due to a tropical storm that is forecast to strengthen as it approaches Florida. After two previously canceled launch attempts, NASA is weighing returning the Artemis 1 mission rocket to its assembly site under the threat of extreme weather. “NASA is forgoing a launch opportunity… and preparing for rollback (from the launchpad), while continuing to watch the weather forecast associated with Tropical Storm Ian,” it said Saturday. The U.S. National Hurricane Center (NHC) said Ian is due to “rapidly intensify” over the weekend as it moves toward Florida, home to the Kennedy Space Center, from which the rocket is set to launch. Currently south of Jamaica, the storm is expected to approach Florida’s west coast “at or near major hurricane strength” early next week, threatening storm surge, flooding and hurricane-force winds across much of the state, the NHC said. On the launchpad, the giant orange and white Space Launch System (SLS) rocket can withstand wind gusts of up to 137 kilometers (85 miles) per hour. But if it has to be sheltered, the current launch window, which runs until October 4, will be missed. A decision on whether to roll back the rocket to the Vehicle Assembly Building is due to be taken by the Artemis 1 team Sunday, “to allow for additional data gathering and analysis,” with the operation, if necessary, starting late Sunday or Monday morning, NASA said. Jim Free, associate administrator for the agency’s exploration systems development directorate, said on Twitter that a “step-wise approach” to the decision to roll back preserves “a launch opportunity if conditions improve,” indicating a launch date before October 5 was still on the table. If not, the next launch window will run from October 17 to 31, with one possibility of takeoff per day, except from October 24-26 and 28. The Artemis 1 space mission hopes to test the SLS as well as the unmanned Orion capsule that sits atop it, in preparation for future Moon-bound journeys with humans aboard. Artemis is named after the twin sister of the Greek god Apollo, after whom the first moon missions were named. Unlike the Apollo missions, which sent only white men to the moon between 1969 and 1972, Artemis missions will see the first person of color and the first woman step foot on the lunar surface. … Continue reading “NASA Scraps Tuesday Artemis Moon Launch Due to Storm”

Minnesota Ojibwe Harvest Sacred, Climate-Imperiled Wild Rice

Seated low in her canoe sliding through a rice bed on this vast lake, Kendra Haugen used one wooden stick to bend the stalks and another to knock the rice off, so gently the stalks sprung right back up. On a mid-September morning, no breeze ruffled the eagle feather gifted by her grandmother that Haugen wore on a baseball cap as she tried her hand at wild rice harvesting — a sacred process for her Ojibwe people. “A lot of reservations are struggling to keep rice beds, so it’s really important to keep these as pristine as we can. … It renews our rice beds for the future,” the 23-year-old college student said. Wild rice, or manoomin (good seed) in Ojibwe, is sacred to Indigenous peoples in the Great Lakes region, because it’s part of their creation story — and because for centuries it staved off starvation during harsh winters. “In our origin story, we were told to go where food grew on water,” said Elaine Fleming, a Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe elder whose manoomin class at Leech Lake Tribal College went harvesting last week. “It’s our sacred food.” But changing climate, invasive species and pollution are threatening the plant even as its cultivated sibling rises in popularity nationwide as an exceptionally nutritious food, though often priced out of reach of urban Indigenous communities. Those threats make it crucial to teach young band members to harvest wild rice respecting both rituals and the environment. That will help wild rice remain available as an essential element for ceremonies, but also as a much-needed income generator for the Leech Lake reservation, where nearly 40% of Native residents live in poverty. The basic instructions for newbies reflect that dual reality — respect the rice by not breaking the stems, and if you lose balance, jump out to avoid tipping the canoe with its precious cargo. Fleming gave everyone tobacco from a zip-close bag. Before scattering it on the calm water and setting out, the youths gathered around another elder praying in Ojibwe — to introduce the group to the natural elements around them, explain why it needed their help, ask for safe passage on the water and give thanks. “Any time you take something from the earth, you want to thank the earth for what she’s given us,” said Kelsey Burns, a student and first-time ricer. That reciprocity between humans and nature … Continue reading “Minnesota Ojibwe Harvest Sacred, Climate-Imperiled Wild Rice”

Amended Autopsy: Black Man Died Due to Sedative, Restraint

A Black man died after a police encounter in a Denver suburb in 2019 because he was injected with a powerful sedative after being forcibly restrained, according to an amended autopsy report publicly released Friday. Despite the finding, the death of Elijah McClain, a 23-year-old massage therapist, was still listed as undetermined, not a homicide, the report shows. McClain was put in a neck hold and injected with ketamine after being stopped by police in Aurora for “being suspicious.” He was unarmed. The original autopsy report that was written soon after his death in August 2019 did not reach a conclusion about how he died or what type of death it was, such as if it was natural, accidental or a homicide. That was a major reason why prosecutors initially decided not to pursue charges. But a state grand jury last year indicted three officers and two paramedics on manslaughter and reckless homicide charges in McClain’s death after the case drew renewed attention following the killing of George Floyd in 2020. It became a rallying cry during the national reckoning over racism and police brutality. The five accused have not yet entered pleas and their lawyers have not commented publicly on the charges. In the updated report, completed in July 2021, Dr. Stephen Cina, a pathologist, concluded that the ketamine dosage given to McClain, which was higher than recommended for someone his size, “was too much for this individual and it resulted in an overdose, even though his blood ketamine level was consistent with a ‘therapeutic’ blood concentration.” He said he could not rule out that changes in McClain’s blood chemistry, like an increase in lactic acid, due to his exertion while being restrained by police contributed to his death but concluded there was no evidence that injuries inflicted by police caused his death. “I believe that Mr. McClain would most likely be alive but for the administration of ketamine,” said Cina, who noted that body camera footage shows McClain becoming “extremely sedated” within a few minutes of being given the drug. Cina acknowledged that other reasonable pathologists with different experience and training may have labeled such a death, while in police custody, as a homicide or accident, but that he believes the appropriate classification is undetermined. Qusair Mohamedbhai, attorney for McClain’s mother, Sheneen McClain, declined a request for comment. Dr. Carl Wigren, a forensic pathologist in Washington state, questioned … Continue reading “Amended Autopsy: Black Man Died Due to Sedative, Restraint”