Space.com just published a new NASA image . . . the picture of a tiny dot whose name is “Dragon.”
That little dot at the edge of the earth thrills a lot of us, folks who are in the space business, or are mere “space junkies” like me. It was a historic event according to the story:
The unmanned vehicle, called Dragon, is built by Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (SpaceX), and is the first commercial spacecraft ever launched toward the space station. During the rendezvous, the spacecraft approached within 1.6 miles (2.5 km) of the outpost. Dragon launched to orbit from Cape Canaveral, Fla., early Tuesday (May 22) atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and is due to arrive at the station on Friday (May 25).
This vehicle is a milestone, the first commercial cargo carrier to make it to the International Space Station (ISS). And that is a very big deal for several reasons.
- We are in an era of very tight budgetary times for the space program.
- NASA can no longer carry the entire financial load of the U.S. space program. In order to progress beyond low earth orbit, part of it needed to be spun off to the private sector.
- If Congress has been willing to attack the social safety net, legislators will surely disagree on space spending levels.
- For far too long, the United States has lacked its own way to transport items to the station, though we have excellent international cooperation within the ISS effort.
- International cooperation is essential to the success of big space projects, just as public –private partnerships have become essential.
- ISS is the premier scientific research platform for a whole host of space related projects.
You may also want to visit the site to view a photo series featuring the Space Station’s robotic fleet, of which Dragon is the latest. Space.com also lists the five most promising of the private spaceships.
There is progress but big challenges remain as we “Foodies” work to keep ourselves fed. Natural food sources are often in short supply. The people who grow our food sometimes need help to stay in business, particularly as they compete with the large industrial farmers and growers. In much of the world water and energy are in such short supply that people go hungry. Sometimes people even go hungry on purpose. Meanwhile we Americans continue to waste food. Following are a few pertinent news items you may find interesting.
Salmon runs are being restored. In the wilderness of Washington state’s Olympic National Park, hydraulic hammers chip away at the Glines Canyon Dam in the largest dam-removal project in U.S. history. According to a recent Reuters article,
. . . slowly removing the once-imposing 210-foot-tall (64-metre) structure, whose construction in 1927 on the Elwha River blocked one of the world’s most prolific salmon runs.
Nine miles downstream, workers last month removed the 108-foot-tall (33-metre) Elwha Dam, built in 1913, allowing the river channel there to flow freely for the first time in nearly a century.
The two dams . . . blocked migratory routes of salmon and steelhead trout to some 70 miles of tributary habitat, in the process robbing Native Americans of income by halting a treaty-guaranteed reservation fishery.
. . . Supporters of the dam’s destruction say the benefits to the environment of tearing it down outweigh the loss of its aging power-generating station.
The removal of the two dams – ordered by a 1992 law signed by then-President George H.W. Bush – is aimed at restoring the natural habitat of more than 300,000 salmon.
Earlier this year the U.S. Department of Agriculture provided much needed help to local food producers. In February, the USDA awarded $40 million in grants to boost local farm/food projects. Reuters reported that,
Recipients included Living Water Farms, a 3-year old family company located in Strawn, Illinois, two hours south of Chicago, which produces hydroponic greens for restaurants and grocers; Agriberry, a family-owned berry and fresh fruit operation near Mechanicsville, Virginia; and Green Mountain Organic Creamery of North Ferrisburgh, Vt., which markets certified organic, bottled pasteurized milk, butter, ice cream and other dairy products.
In 30 years the world will have to support 9 billion people. Last week scientists from 15 countries were calling for a better political response to the provision of water and energy to meet the challenge of feeding all those people in the future. According to a May 10 Reuters article,
For the first time, the scientists argue that looming shortages in water and energy supplies should be treated as a single issue.
“Major stresses on availability of energy and water are already being felt in many countries and regions and more are foreseeable,” the joint statement said.
. . . “Without considering water and energy together, inefficiencies will occur, increasing shortages of both,” the statement warns. Politicians should pursue policies that integrate the two and emphasize the need for conservation, efficiency and cooperation across national borders.
Palestinian prisoners on a hunger strike are making a difference. To quote Al Jazeera,
An agreement that would end the hunger strike of some 2,000 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails has been reached in Cairo, pending approval by a strikers’ committee, a senior Palestinian official told Al Jazeera.
. . . Israel’s prisons service says that 1,550 Palestinian prisoners are currently refusing food. Palestinian activists however say that as many as 2,500 of the 4,600 Palestinians held in Israeli prisons are currently on hunger strike.
The inmates launched their hunger strike on April 17 to demand improved conditions in Israeli custody. They have also challenged Israel’s policy of administrative detention.
In the meantime we Americans are wasting far too much food. In “Wasted Food No More,” David Biello reports for Scientific American that methane is a big contributor to an over abundance of greenhouse gasses. But we also know that it can also be utilized as a source of power. To quote,
Massachusetts may ban big institutions from discarding food in the trash in a bid to cut down on the methane from landfills. . . And Americans are . . . , wasting some 222 million metric tons of food a year. That’s a quarter of our food.
For Foodies in the classic sense of the word, here’s a great website to visit: Not Your Ordinary Recipes. Enjoy!
Since the turn of the century things have gotten worse for most Americans except the very rich. For the first time in history children are worse off economically than their parents were. What does it say about progress when we are not able to assure a better life for our children than for ourselves?
Income disparity — The gap between the very rich and those in poverty, which has now risen to a new high, is growing in severity, according to a recent census report. Yahoo! News noted:
The income gap between the richest and poorest Americans grew last year to its widest amount on record as young adults and children in particular struggled to stay afloat in the recession. The top-earning 20 percent of Americans — those making more than $100,000 each year — received 49.4 percent of all income generated in the U.S., compared with the 3.4 percent earned by those below the poverty line, according to newly released census figures. That ratio of 14.5-to-1 was an increase from 13.6 in 2008 and nearly double a low of 7.69 in 1968.
One would think that billionaires are mostly immune to recessions. America’s 400 wealthiest people hold fortune $1.37 trillion in total, according to English pravda.ru. (9/27/10). Summarized, “The combined worth of the 400 wealthiest citizens in America rose to $1.37 trillion this year, an 8 percent increase over 2009, though still shy of the $1.57 trillion total from 2008, according to Forbes’ annual rankings, released Wednesday night.” Bill gates tops the list, for the 17th year in a row. Mark Zuckerberg, of Facebook fame, is the biggest gainer on the list.
Sociological change on a larger scale — The recession is the worst downturn since the Great Depression in the 1930’s. Despite economists’ claims that the recession has been officially over since June of 2009, the effects of it are long lasting and even surprising. The unemployment rate is disheartening and persistent.
Fewer babies were born . . . Violent crime went down . . . Dead bodies piled up . . . Adulthood was delayed.
Health care reform spotlighted — Neither Democrats nor Republicans have been able to help jobless people very much. However, Democrats in Congress were able to help people lacking good health care. If the Republicans take control of either chamber of Congress, on the other hand, are talking about repeal of the health care legislation. The Republican plan is to dismantle Health Care Reform# headlines the (9/22/10) Yahoo! News. To quote,
Republicans will still have plenty of ways to inflict a thousand cuts on health reform if they win even a single chamber. They could gum up funding needed to enforce the law; they could try to strip out the requirement that employers offer employees insurance or pay a penalty for not doing so; they could go after the same thing the attorneys general of 20 states are seeking to overturn in the courts: the requirement that individuals obtain insurance or also pay a fine.
Scalia claimed late last week that women’s equality is entirely up to the political branches.
It is a strange view of the Constitution to say that when it says every “person” must have “equal protection,” it does not protect women, but that freedom of “speech” – something only humans were capable of in 1787 and today – guarantees corporations the right to spend unlimited amounts of money to influence elections.
- Senator John Ensign‘s poll ratings have plummeted since he disclosed his affair with a married staffer.
- Former Senator Norm Coleman still wants to help pay his legal expenses out of his Senate Campaign funds, but the FEC may deny part of his request.
- Senator Jeff Sessions, Ranking Member, got his feelings hurt when he heard that Senate Judiciary Committee Hearings on the confirmation of Judge Sotomayor had been scheduled without his knowledge. Senator Leahy tried to contact him ahead of time but was unsuccessful.
Under the heading of “The Party of No” — It looks like the Republican Party prefers that over 40 million people are without health insurance, program costs are skyrocketing and service quality is diminishing.
- Senators Pat Roberts and Tom Coburn brought Health, Education, Labor and Pension Committee debate on Medicare’s possible use of comparative effectiveness research to a halt recently, charging that it would lead to rationing of service.
- Senator Jon Kyle reminded C-SPAN listeners that Senator Chuck Grassley “is not negotiating with Max Baucus” on the health care bill. “Sen. Grassley has been given no authority to negotiate anything by all of us Republicans on that committee,” Kyl said. “The bill that [Baucus] comes up with . . . will not be a bipartisan product.”
Under the heading of “Geez, they still don’t get it!” — Bigotry is one thing and hypocrisy is another. We see too much of this from Republicans.
- Pat Buchanan, Standard Republican Television Pundit, admits that he “prefers the old bigotry” to affirmative action policies that benefited Sonia Sotomayor, saying “at least they were honest,” according to TPM Muckraker.
- Representative Pete Hoekstra may have leaked classified information regarding what was discussed in a closed committee hearing on enhanced interrogation techniques, says TPM Muckraker. What’s worse, he is on record criticizing leakers for giving information to the NYT in the Valerie Plame case.
Under the heading of “Now, who was it that won the election?” — The Change-Energy policy train has already left the station. But Republicans remain stuck in the environmental mistakes of the previous century.
- Senator Lisa Murkowski still wants to drill for oil in the Alaska Wildlife refuge. Representatives Eric Cantor, Joe Barton, John Boehner, Mike Pence, John Shimkus and others have presented their own energy bill which includes a title focusing on nuclear power. In congressional hearings, industry representatives are defending a federal loophole for drilling using hydraulic fracturing that causes water contamination, according to ProPublica.
Under the heading of Rants, I will try to hold these to a minimum, probably once a week or so.
[Post date – June 22, 2009]
See also Behind the Links, for further info on this subject.
Blogs: My general purpose/southwest focus blog is at Southwest Progressive. My creative website is at Making Good Mondays. And Carol Gee – Online Universe is the all-in-one home page for all my websites.
The Senate just passed HR 627, a credit card regulation bill, with 90 votes of yes and 5 voting no. Sponsored by Senator Chris Dodd (D-Conn) and Republican Senator Shelby, the bill mandates stiffer protections for consumers. Its provisions include a prohibition against raising card rates until after 60 days of delinquency, requiring 45 days notice before rates can be raised and prohibiting raising rates during the first year the card is issued.
The House had passed its own version of the bill April 30 by a vote of 357-70. The Senate, in an obvious compromise, included an amendment to allow guns in national parks and recreation areas. The Senate failed, however, to pass an amendment that would have given bankruptcy judges the authority to include mortgages in bankruptcy settlements.
Senators congratulated Senior Senator Carl Levin (D-Mich) just prior to the vote, for casting his 11,000 vote in a 30 year career. The Majority and Minority Leaders spoke in glowing terms about him as one of their most respected colleagues, whom one speaker characterized as “rumpled and unassuming, with a towering intellect, a good legal mind and an attention to detail.”
His brother Sander Levin came to the U.S. House of Representatives five years after Senator Levin. His Michigan colleague, Junior Senator Debbie Stabenow also spoke about her honor at serving in the Senate with Senator Levin. He grinned shyly, he spoke briefly, and with his eyes twinkling, he quickly got back to work, helping to pass the credit card reform legislation.
This post is a follow-up to an earlier post regarding “What’s to like about these legislators?” (cross posted at TPM Cafe). That earlier TPM post created a lively discussion sparked by KateO, who commented,
“I remember. I worked for a congressional agency in the 1980s-early 1990s. I’d say there was coequal status in the 1980s, despite Reagan’s popularity. In the 1990s, especially after 1994, it just became a battleground between the Executive and Legislative Branches–purely partisan. Then, in the 2000s, we had the Imperial Presidency with a totally subservient Congress. I would like Congress to be coequal, but we need smarter people in both Chambers, especially the House, for that to be something we actually want to happen.”
“Kate, I had that thought as I made my brash proposal re “coequal.” Several things have made the talent pool diminish: need for fundraising makes lots of the good ones retire in disgust; the self-marginalization of the Republican party towards religiosity, regionalism, and reactionary views; and jerry-mandered congressional districts that happened after the last census. Last, and I hate to say this, because I have always liked Bill Clinton, he gave the Republicans far too many excuses for partisanship with his personal foibles.
I still think the only answer is public financing of campaigns. The money has such a corrupting influence.
Thanks for such a thoughtful comment. You nudged my ideas towards another post, I think. :-)”
“Oh goody. Sometimes I feel like a dinosaur–I’ve lived and worked in DC for a LONG time (health and science policy). It helps to run things against someone who has a sense of history. So, please write that new blog. Although I am a lifelong Democrat, I very much miss the days when there were smart, honest Republicans in Congress, to provide a balance. I firmly believe in balance of power and it is a bit sad that the Republicans don’t understand that that means responsible and informed leadership. We need to get away from the politics of personal vendetta. I worked for the Clinton Administration, and have said many times on this site that I was personally hurt by his personal lapses. It undercut all the good things we were trying to do. You just can’t give your enemies that ammunition. I am hopeful that Obama realizes that. In fact, I am sure he does. So, here’s to the best of all branches of government. We sure as hell deserve it! There are good people in government trying to do good things. Thanks for acknowledging that.”
Now, back to C-SPAN.
[Post date – May 19, 2009]
My all-in-one Home Page of websites where I post regularly: Carol Gee – Online Universe
Health care reform failed to get passed during President Clinton’s administration. President Nixon also tried to reform the health care system. But here it 2009 and it looks like there is a chance to do something about the 40+ million people who lack health insurance. People in Washington have actually tackled the issue. I imagine even Hillary Clinton is optimistic and supportive of success. President Obama is working hard to sway moderate Republicans, inviting them to a White House meeting last week, Politico reports today.
However, “Swift Boat” ads have already been launched to defeat President Obama’s reform of the current health care system. The Democratic Strategist‘s J.P. Green wrote a good piece containing several effective arguments for countering the distortions in the ads. According to CQ Politics, message guru Frank Luntz says the GOP needs to “get away from markets and foscus on patients,” with the goal of killing Democrats’ reform plans. But I believe the train has already left the station in the direction of progress.
Despite the “watershed event” of companies offering $2 trillion in health care savings over 10 years, some reformers worry that it might allow “companies to stay at the table long enough to kill a government-run health insurance program,” according to Politico. The health insurance company lobby, in what CQPolitics calls “a strategic retreat,” is pushing for more comprehensive federal regulation of health insurance, hoping to avoid any proposal with a government public plan.
Real progress would include a “public” aspect to the plan, in my opinion. But we are not there yet. But bit by bit the President is trying to make it all happen. For example, his nominee to head the Center for Disease Control leads the New York City Health Department, Dr. Thomas Frieden, an activist who is willing to tackle even the toughest issues. We are in good hands.
[Post date – May 18, 09]
See also Behind the Links, for further info on this subject.
Carol Gee – Online Universe is the all-in-one home page for all my websites.