Space debris almost postponed the last flight of shuttle Atlantis yesterday. Space junk is getting to be a real problem. A single small screw at orbital velocity can hit with the force of an RPG. While space is big, certain orbits are more useful than others, and that's where the bits and pieces tend to congregate:
Space debris ... is the collection of objects in orbit around Earth that were created by humans but no longer serve any useful purpose.These objects consist of everything from spent rocket stages and defunct satellites to explosion and collision fragments. The debris can include slag and dust from solid rocket motors, surface degradation products such as paint flakes, clusters of small needles, and objects released due to the impact of micrometeoroids ... Left: Space debris populations seen from outside geosynchronous orbit (GEO). Note the two primary debris fields, the ring of objects in GEO, and the cloud of objects in low earth orbit (LEO).
Video: We are Lebron. Cleveland pols and celebs sing we are the world remix to keep Lebron James. Also NY Mayor Mike Bloomberg tells Lebron he’d love New York. Lebron’s elbow may have been hurt more tha we thought. Check out these stories here: http://www.lebronwatch.com/
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Every once in a while, when you least expect it, Congress manages to throw a bone to the little guys!
WASHINGTON ? Retailers have begged Congress for years, in vain, to limit the fees they must pay to banks when customers swipe credit or debit cards. Bills never reached a vote. Amendments were left on the table. The Senate did not even grant the courtesy of a committee hearing.
That long record of futility ended in a landslide Thursday night. Sixty-four senators, including 17 Republicans, agreed to impose price controls on debit transactions over the furious objections of the beleaguered banking industry.
The amendment to the Senate?s sweeping financial legislation could save billions of dollars for family restaurants and dry cleaners, Wal-Mart and Amazon.com, and every other business whose customers increasingly pay with debit cards. It does not address credit card fees directly.
Consumers also could save money, particularly at businesses like grocery stores that compete on price. But some experts warned that lower profit margins could lead banks to curtail bank card reward programs.
The Senate approved a series of amendments unfavorable to the banking industry over the last week, but this one was widely regarded as the most surprising. Meddling in dealings between businesses generally is anathema to Republicans and a relatively low priority for Democrats.
And this was not an easy vote. Lobbyists for the wounded but formidable banking industry made clear to some senators that this decision would affect future campaign donations, according to people who participated in those conversations.
But retailers mounted an unusually effective yearlong campaign to frame the issue as a chance for Congress to help small business. A leading trade group for chain retailers worked with small-business groups to make sure that every time a senator held a town hall meeting back home, a local business owner showed up to ask about card fees.
This past fortnight, I set out to write an article for Random Lengths News about the primary race[...]
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I snapped that picture of Erik yesterday. His dad's company sold me the equipment when I built a pool a few years ago and he recommended Erik help me with the maintenance. He was a great recommendation since Erik is very responsible, very skilled and very thorough. Most of Erik's income comes from building pools and from installing equipment to turn chlorine pools into saltwater pools and things like that. But when Bush's conservative economic vision for America tanked the economy, it tanked Erik's business too.
L.A.'s pool building industry just dried up. Worse yet for him, people shelved plans for upgrades and started stretching out servicing times. On top of that between a quarter and a third of his regular maintenance clients told him they had to stop using their pools or had to start learning how to do the maintenance work themselves.
Most of his work is in the northern end of the San Fernando Valley, in places like Valencia. Yesterday he painted an eerie picture for me of million dollar McMansions with emptied pools, or pools with algae growing in them, and with lawns that haven't seen a gardener in months. And these aren't the foreclosed on and abandoned homes!
OK, and now the good news: Erik's business has been creeping back up again. People who had postponed repairing and upgrading equipment feel either flush enough or secure enough to go for it. Old clients are calling back and new polls are being built again. I sure hope this doesn't mean he's going to be going on long vacations again!
Hearing this from Erik was more interesting-- and somehow more real-- than the report I read yesterday from Bloomberg about how both retail sales and industrial production are not just up, but up over forecasts, "indicating the economic recovery gained momentum at the start of the second quarter."
Sales increased 0.4 percent last month after a 2.1 percent gain in March that was larger than previously estimated, Commerce Department figures showed today in Washington. Production rose 0.8 percent, the most in three months, the Federal Reserve said.
Another report showed consumer sentiment improved in May following four straight months of payroll gains, suggesting Americans will keep shopping at retailers including Home Depot Inc. and J.C. Penney Co. Factories are cranking up assembly lines and hiring to meet rising demand at home and abroad, helping to sustain the expansion of the world?s largest economy.
?We?re seeing a broadening of the recovery,? said Brian Bethune, chief U.S. financial economist at IHS Global Insight in Lexington, Massachusetts, who correctly forecast the gain in industrial production. ?Consumers are still engaged. There is some pent-up demand out there.?
?We can say beyond a shadow of a doubt today we are headed in the right direction,? Mr. Obama told an audience of about 230 workers and local business leaders. ?All those tough steps we took, they?re working, despite all the naysayers who were predicting failure a year ago.?
Mr. Obama has typically been fairly cautious about heralding economic good times. With the national unemployment rate nearing 10 percent, the president typically says that while the nation is emerging from the recession, he knows that many Americans are still hurting and that there is still a long way to go.
He repeated that message here-- ?I won?t stand here and say we?ve climbed all the way out of the hole,? Mr. Obama said-- but his tone was decidedly optimistic.
With Congressional elections just six months away and Democrats expecting to lose seats, the president has political reasons for striking an upbeat note. He needs to convince voters that he and his fellow Democrats have gotten the nation back on track.
?Last month we had the strongest job growth we had seen in year, and by the way, almost all of it was in the private sector, and a bunch of it was manufacturing,? the president said, referring to last week?s report that found that the economy added 290,000 jobs in April. ?So this month was better than last month. Next month is going to be stronger than this month. And next year is going to be better than this year.?
The tenuous 45 percent to 40 percent preference for a Democratic Congress reverses the finding a month ago on the same question: 44 percent for Republicans and 41 percent for Democrats. The new readout came as the economy continued showing signs of improvement and the tumultuous battle over the health care law that President Barack Obama finally signed in March faded into the background.
"To the extent that Democrats can focus on job creation rather than health care, they tend to do better," said Jack Pitney, a political scientist at California's Claremont McKenna College.
The generic congressional ballot is now even, with 46 percent saying they will vote for a Democrat and 46 a Republican. Incumbents are falling from power in states ranging from Utah to West Virginia, but the common denominator is their incumbency, not their party. Despite worries about the Greek crisis and the wildly fluctuating Dow Jones industrial average, Gallup finds that "economic confidence remains at its best level of the year in early May, matching April. Americans' expectations about the economy going forward also remain at their highest since the recession began, with 41 percent of Americans saying U.S. economic conditions are getting better."
Well yes, hurricanes can of course hit Tampa and cause horrible destruction. The threat of hurricanes hurt Tampa's bid for the 2008 convention. But will a hurricane actually hit Tampa during convention week during 2012? The Hotline is very worried:
In choosing Tampa, FL, as the site of their '12 nominating convention, the RNC has selected a city that is among the most overdue for a major hurricane.
According to the National Hurricane Center in Miami, a hurricane passes within 65 nautical miles (about 75 miles) of Tampa every 6 years. For major hurricanes -- those with maximum sustained winds of 115 mph or greater -- it is one every 21 years.
Tampa has received a number of glancing blows, but Stacy Stewart, senior hurricane specialist at the National Hurricane Center, says it's only a matter of time before a major hurricane strikes the city.
"The Tampa Bay area, unfortunately, is one of those well-overdue places," Stewart said. "They're due for a hurricane. They're due for a major hurricane."
There is one mitigating factor for GOPers: While late Aug. is an active time for hurricanes and tropical storms, that isn't necessarily the case along FL's Gulf Coast. The most likely time for a landfalling hurricane along FL's Gulf Coast is later in the season, in late Sept. and Oct., according to Stewart.
OH GOP Chair Kevin DeWine was a member of the site-selection committee that chose Tampa. He said he didn't attend the site visit that some members did, but he also said the threat of tropical weather never came up during the committee's discussions."
"The things that we discussed and took into consideration were issues that were related to the business decision for the RNC," DeWine said.
Then again, proximity isn't even required for hurricanes to shut down a convention. In '08, the opening night of the GOP convo in St. Paul, MN, was scrapped while Hurricane Gustav made landfall near Cocodrie, LA, more than 1,200 miles south of the convention hall. Gustav was directly responsible for 7 deaths in LA and 4 in FL.
First, can someone explain to me how an area can become "overdue" for a hurricane? Sure, an earthquake or volcano builds up pressure over time, so the probability of the event increases over time. But a hurricane? I'm sure Dr. Stewart of the NHC is smarter than to actually imply that the odds of Tampa being hit by a hurricane actually increase the longer it's been since the last one.
So what are the odds Tampa is hit by a hurricane the week of the convention? The article says "a hurricane passes within 65 nautical miles (about 75 miles) of Tampa every 6 years". Lets define that as a "hurricane hitting Tampa", since the possibility of a hurricane can have a major impact, even if the hurricane ends up being minimal and 75 miles away. So once every 6 years.
But what are the odds that it hits during convention week. Looking at this chart, 28% of all hurricanes occur in August. Since the frequency of hurricanes is much greater at the end of August than at the beginning, lets say 12% of hurricanes occur the last week in August. But, again from the article:
The most likely time for a landfalling hurricane along FL's Gulf Coast is later in the season, in late Sept. and Oct., according to Stewart.
I've been unable to find specific monthly frequencies for the Tampa area (if anyone has a link, please provide), so lets just make an educated guess, and cut the 12% potential down to 3%. So 3% of all Tampa hurricanes hit the last week in August. A hurricane comes every 6 years. Which means a hurricane should hit Tampa the last week in August once every 200 years.
In 2006, the Tampa bid committee wrote:
The chance of a hurricane directly hitting the area while the convention is in town in early September 2008 is too small to affect the decision.
They were right. The Hotline should stop being Chicken Little.
Right here ... with Rachel Maddow.
Heard about the alleged grassroots "I Need A Freakin' Job" billboard? The one that two brothers, Scott and Jeff Baker, put up? They've got a really slick website, too. Guess what -- Jeff Baker works for known right-wing propaganda machine Andrew[...]
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Today's LiberalOasis Radio Show podcast features our interview with Grist's David Roberts about the prospects for the newly introduced Kerry-Lieberman clean energy jobs and climate protection bill. Plus, Traci Olsen and I discuss the Kagan nomination, the new Lib-Con British coalition and the end of "Lost."
By Manifesto Joe
Republicans either have a great sense of sick humor, or they think everybody else has amnesia, or they are brainwashed stoolheads -- or some of the above, or all of the above.
Some of us were paying attention to matters political and economic over the past 30-plus years. Deregulation was mainly a Republican idea, in all facets of the economy. The mantras were all very familiar: If you hamstring business to where it can't operate, everybody suffers; the free market is self-regulating anyway; competition will make the pie bigger for everyone. ...
There were Democrats, dating back to Jimmy Carter, who fell for all this and become accomplices. I can't blame them too much -- I'm all for leaving the market to do anything it can do better than the public sector, and that encompasses many things.
But recent evidence seems quite clear that finance and oil drilling are not strong suits for unfettered private sectors.
New Deal-era banking regulations (the Glass-Steagall Act of 1933) were rolled back by the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act of 1999. Yes, President Bill Clinton did sign that bill -- he now acknowledges that to have been a mistake. Please note that the three legislators whose names were attached to the latter act -- led by the former Senate solon of kleptocracy, Phil Gramm of Texas -- were all Republicans.
Listening to Republicans talk now reminds me somewhat of the 1970s, when you could actually hear some of them blame the Vietnam War on the Democratic Party. Remember Bob Dole's remark during his vice presidential debate with Walter Mondale in 1976, in which he talked about "Democrat wars"? I remember Barry Goldwater saying something to that effect as well.
Blaming Vietnam on Democrats is, historically, quite a stretch. Yes, they were in office during the 1965-68 escalation, and it was Cold War Democrats who crafted Vietnam policy. But was this against the opposition of Republicans?
Hardly. The main problem Republicans seemed to have with the Vietnam War was that, according to them, the U.S. wasn't fighting to win. They favored MORE aggressiveness, MORE escalation and MORE involvement, not less. With the lonely exceptions of Mark Hatfield in the Senate and Pete McClosky in the House, there were few high-profile Republican critics of the war -- only critics of its conduct. In 1964, Republican presidential candidate Goldwater even suggested that the use of "low-yield" nuclear weapons should be seriously considered. By 1968, it was the Democratic Party, not the Republicans, who were split up the middle over the war.
And, please recall that it was two Democratic senators, Wayne Morse of Oregon and Ernest Gruening of Alaska, who cast the only two votes in Congress against the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution in 1964. Neither man saw his political career survive the decade.
Yes, Wall Street and the Gulf of Mexico are both a long way from Vietnam. But what is recalled is the Republican propensity to rewrite history for their own political purposes. To hear some of these people tell it, Barack Obama, with his 16 months in office, is largely responsible for the Gulf spill, for the Wall Street/subprime mortgage crackup, and for the Tate-LaBianca murders. And whatever he didn't do, Clinton and Carter did.
Let's see: Who was in office in 2005, when BP's first big disaster, the explosion of the oil refinery at Texas City, Texas? Who didn't follow up with any advocacy of more stringent safety regulations of the oil industry, even after negligence on BP's part in the 2005 blast was so evident?
And, let's see: Who was in office when possible criminal prosecution of BP over a 2006 Alaska pipeline rupture was killed?
And, let's see again: Who was in office most of the time that the federal Minerals Management Service was supposed to be inspecting that Deepwater Horizon rig in the Gulf at least monthly, and failing to do it?
No, Republicans are not the exclusive owners of modern deregulation. But they were certainly the primary "architects" of it. And their anti-government rhetoric became a self-fulfilling prophesy: When you keep saying that government is the problem, that it can't do anything right, and then you put people of that philosophy in charge of what little regulation there is ... don't be surprised by the meltdowns. And, please don't blame it who sometimes just went along, in some cases reluctantly.
I'm reminded once more of something the late Molly Ivins wrote. It was something to the effect that when you deregulate something, you will often find out why it was regulated in the first place.
Republicans, enough revisionist history, please. At this time in history, we need to get busy cleaning up the messes. Obama seems willing to try, if you will let him. But so far, that hasn't seemed to be your inclination.
Manifesto Joe Is An Underground Writer Living In
Postscript: Please note that although this post is dated Saturday, May 15, it was not actually posted until Thursday, May 20. This discrepancy is the result of the saving of an earlier draft, and I don't think it will be worthwhile to go to the trouble of altering it.
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