Science Sunday

AURORA ROCKET LAUNCH: On Feb. 22nd, shortly after midnight, bright green auroras erupted over Alaska’s Poker Flat Research Range. Researchers from Dartmouth College promptly launched a rocket into the glowing maelstrom. Photographer Marketa Murray of Fairbanks captured the event in a perfectly-timed self-portrait:

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“We tuned into the Poker Flat Research Range radio for a heads-up that the rocket was about to launch,” explains Murray. “The picture shows both stages of the Black Brant IX sounding rocket burning for the ionosphere.”

The goal of the mission, named ISINGLASS (Ionospheric Structuring: In Situ and Groundbased Low Altitude Studies) is to decipher the mysterious shapes of the aurora borealis. Some auroras look like flames, others like swirls, ripples or curtains. The rocket was designed to scatter an array of sensors into the auroral zone, mapping the particles and fields underlying these forms.

@ SPACEWEATHER

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Saturday Injustice

Deadline Looms For Standing Rock Dakota Access Pipeline Protesters To Vacate Camp

Just north of the Standing Rock Sioux reservation, water protectors set their makeshift and traditional structures ablaze in a final act of prayer and defiance against Energy Transfer Partner’s Dakota Access Pipeline, sending columns of black smoke billowing into the winter sky above the Oceti Sakowin protest camp.

The majority of the few hundred remaining protesters marched out, arm in arm ahead of the North Dakota authorities’ Wednesday eviction deadline. An estimated one hundred others refused the state’s order, choosing to remain in camp and face certain arrest in order to defend land and water promised to the Oceti Sakowin, or Great Sioux Nation, in the long-broken Fort Laramie Treaty of 1851.

On these hallowed grounds, history tends to repeat itself. In 1890, police murdered Sitting Bull on the Standing Rock reservation out of suspicion that he was preparing to lead the Ghost Dance movement in an uprising. Two weeks later the United States Cavalry massacred more than three hundred Lakota at Wounded Knee. Over 126 years later, the characters and details of the stories that animate this landscape have changed, but the Cowboys and Indians remain locked in the same grim dance.

@ TG

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FREYEday FUNNies

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Treacherous Thursday

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Gen. John Kelly’s ramping up of deportation measures against undocumented residents of the US, in accordance with Donald Trump’s campaign promises, contains many hidden dangers.

The rational way to deal with long-term unauthorized immigrants would be to offer them a path to citizenship, not waste taxpayers’ money deporting 10.9 million people– the vast majority of whom do essential and backbreaking labor that the native-born eschew. Most people don’t realize that there is no way for someone brought up in the US without citizenship to apply for it. The US needs its immigrants if it is to remain a great power.

If the undocumented residents of the US who have not committed any other crime here become afraid that they will be arrested on sight, this fear will endanger the rest of us.

The undocumented will become less likely to seek drivers’ licenses and automobile insurance, which is a menace to other US residents. California, which has 3 million, convinced 800,000 undocumented residents to get drivers’ licences, a victory for public safety, which could now be undone.

Likewise, in California some 93% of the children of undocumented families are enrolled in school. Some proportion of these children were born in the US and we want them educated as future citizens. But will undocumented parents start avoiding all government facilities, including schools?

It is undesirable that this large population avoid getting vaccinations, or that battered women should fear to go to the authorities. Making law-abiding undocumented people go underground poses substantial health and other risks to the rest of us.

@ Juan Cole

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Waste Full Wednesday

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The Department of Energy, to the consternation of environmental groups, is preparing to transport 6,000 gallons of highly toxic liquid nuclear waste over American roadways.
The liquid waste will be transported in at least 100 to 150 truck trips over a three-year period.

The spent nuclear fuel is “target residue material” containing highly enriched uranyl nitrate—which after processing can be used as fuel. The DOE has spent years planning for the transfer of the waste from Canada’s Chalk River Laboratories in Ontario to the Savannah River Site, a reprocessing facility in South Carolina. It will be transported in at least 100 to 150 separate truck shipments over a period of about three years, encased in cannisters normally used to transport solids that have been retrofitted to handle liquids. For security reasons, DOE won’t reveal the exact timing or routes of the shipments. But elected officials in states it is likely to pass through are concerned about safety.

@ MOTHERJONES

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Espionage Tuesday

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The Russian hacking of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and members of Hillary Clinton’s campaign is being treated too much like a novelty and not enough as a serious and persistent security threat. The problem becomes more urgent as we see it spread to other countries.

WikiLeaks, which disseminated stolen DNC documents, announced last week that it would turn its attention to France, and has released material relating to presidential candidates François Fillon and Emmanuel Macron, opponents of Marine Le Pen.

US intelligence agencies found clear links between Wikileaks and the Russian state; we have to assume Russia will use these to undermine Vladimir Putin’s arch-nemesis, Angela Merkel, when she faces the far-right Alternative für Deutschland at the polls in September.

But there’s a deeper dimension to Russia’s actions, which deserves the free world’s urgent attention: its capacity to silently influence domestic legislation and policy-making between elections.

Leaders in the US and Europe must stop any attempt by Trump to ease sanctions on Russia

With his success in the US last year, Putin has put opponents on notice that there will be a price to pay for crossing him. Indeed, the complex infrastructure that Russia built to infect public discourse with false or stolen information isn’t going anywhere. It can be unleashed at any time, on any issue, domestic or international.

# TG

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Megalomania Monday

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Timothy Snyder, a Yale scholar and an authority on European political history, has spent decades studying the rise of fascist movements. With the ascension of Donald Trump to the U.S. presidency, Snyder sees echoes from history, and warns that the time to save America from autocracy is in short supply.

“I think things have tightened up very fast; we have at most a year to defend the republic, perhaps less,” Snyder stated in an interview with German outlet Süddeutsche Zeitung. “What happens in the next few weeks is very important.”

Snyder, whose multiple books include On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century, points out that Americans must dispense with wishful thinking about institutions helping to curb Trump’s power. In fact, that misguided notion is precisely what landed us in this situation.

@ ALTERNET

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