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Why The Media Stopped Reporting The Russia Collusion Story

The press has played an active role in the Trump-Russia collusion story since its inception. It helped birth it. That’s why they’re done now.

 

The Media Stopped Reporting The Russia Collusion Story Because They Helped Create It

The press has played an active role in the Trump-Russia collusion story since its inception. It helped birth it.
Half the country wants to know why the press won’t cover the growing scandal now implicating the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Department of Justice, and threatening to reach the State Department, Central Intelligence Agency, and perhaps even the Obama White House.

After all, the release last week of a less-redacted version of Sens. Charles Grassley and Lindsey Graham’s January 4 letter showed that the FBI secured a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrant to search the communications of a Trump campaign adviser based on a piece of opposition research paid for by the Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee. The Fourth Amendment rights of an American citizen were violated to allow one political party to spy on another.

If the press did its job and reported the facts, the argument goes, then it wouldn’t just be Republicans and Trump supporters demanding accountability and justice. Americans across the political spectrum would understand the nature and extent of the abuses and crimes touching not just on one political party and its presidential candidate but the rights of every American.

That’s all true, but irrelevant. The reasons the press won’t cover the story are suggested in the Graham-Grassley letter itself.

Steele Was a Media Informant

The letter details how Christopher Steele, the former British spy who allegedly authored the documents claiming ties between the Trump campaign and Russia, told the FBI he wasn’t talking to the press about his investigation. In a British court, however, Steele acknowledged briefing several media organizations on the material in his dossier.

According to the British court documents, Steele briefed the New York TimesWashington Post, Yahoo! News, The New Yorker, and CNN. In October, he talked to Mother Jones reporter David Corn by Skype. It was Corn’s October 31 article anonymously sourced to Steele that alerted the FBI their informant was speaking to the press. Grassley and Graham referred Steele to the Department of Justice for a criminal investigation because he lied to the FBI.

The list of media outfits and journalists made aware of Steele’s investigations is extensive. Reuters reported that it, too, was briefedon the dossier, and while it refrained from reporting on it before the election, its national security reporter Mark Hosenball became an advocate of the dossier’s findings after November 2016.

BBC’s Paul Wood wrote in January 2017 that he was briefed on the dossier a week before the election. Newsweek’s Kurt Eichenwald likely saw Steele’s work around the same time, because he published an article days before the election based on a “Western intelligence” source (i.e., Steele) who cited names and data points that could only come from the DNC- and Clinton-funded opposition research.

A line from the Grassley-Graham letter points to an even larger circle of media outfits that appear to have been in contact with either Steele or Fusion GPS, the Washington DC firm that contracted him for the opposition research the Clinton campaign and Democratic National Committee commissioned. “During the summer of 2016,” the Grassley-Graham letter reads, “reports of some of the dossier allegations began circulating among reporters and people involved in Russian issues.”

Planting the Carter Page Story

Indeed, it looks like Steele and Fusion GPS founder Glenn Simpson may have persuaded a number of major foreign policy and national security writers in Washington and New York that Trump and his team were in league with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Those journalists include New Yorker editor David Remnick, Atlantic editor Jeffrey Goldberg, former New Republic editor Franklin Foer, and Washington Post columnist Anne Applebaum.

A Foer story published in Slate on July 4, 2016 appears to be central. Titled “Putin’s Puppet,” Foer’s piece argues the Trump campaign was overly Russia-friendly. Foer discusses Trump’s team, including campaign convention manager Paul Manafort, who worked with former Ukrainian president Victor Yanukovich, a Putin ally; and Carter Page, who, Foer wrote, “advised the state-controlled natural gas giant Gazprom and helped it attract Western investors.”

That’s how Page described himself in a March 2016 Bloomberg interview. But as Julia Ioffe reported in a September 23, 2016 Politico article, Page was a mid-level executive at Merrill Lynch in Moscow who played no role in any of the big deals he boasted about. As Ioffe shows, almost no one in Moscow remembered Page. Until Trump read his name off a piece of paper handed to him during a March interview with the Washington Post, almost no one in the Washington foreign policy world had heard of Page either.

So what got Foer interested in Page? Were Steele and Simpson already briefing reporters on their opposition research into the Trump campaign? (Another Foer story for Slate, an October 31, 2016 article about the Trump organization’s computer servers “pinging” a Russian bank, was reportedly “pushed” to him by Fusion GPS.) Page and Manafort are the protagonists of the Steele dossier, the former one of the latter’s intermediaries with Russian officials and associates of Putin. Page’s July 7 speech in Moscow attracted wide U.S. media coverage, but Foer’s article published several days earlier.

The Slate article, then, looks like the predicate for allegations against Page made in the dossier after his July Russia trip. For instance, according to Steele’s investigations, Page was offered a 19 percent stake in Rosneft, one of the world’s energy giants, in exchange for help repealing sanctions related to Russia’s 2014 incursion into Ukraine.

Building an Echo Chamber of Opposition Research

Many have noted the absurdity that the FISA warrant on Page was chiefly based, according to a House intelligence committee memo, on the dossier and Michael Isikoff’s September 23, 2016 news story also based on the dossier. But much of the Russiagate campaign was conducted in this circular manner. Steele and Simpson built an echo chamber with their opposition research, parts of the law enforcement and intelligence communities, and the press all reinforcing one another. Plant an item in the open air and watch it grow—like Page’s role in the Trump campaign.

Why else was Foer or anyone so interested in Page? Why was Page’s Moscow speech so closely watched and widely covered? According to the Washington Post, Page “chided” American policymakers for an “often-hypocritical focus on democratization, inequality, corruption and regime change” in its dealings with Russia, China, and Central Asia.

As peculiar as it may have sounded for a graduate of the Naval Academy to cast a skeptical eye on American exceptionalism, Page’s speech could hardly have struck the policy establishment as shocking, or even novel. They’d been hearing versions of it for the last eight years from the president of the United States.

In President Obama’s first speech before the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), on September 23, 2009, he insisted that no country, least of all America, has the right to tell other countries how to organize their political lives. “Democracy cannot be imposed on any nation from the outside,” said Obama. “Each society must search for its own path, and no path is perfect. Each country will pursue a path rooted in the culture of its people and in its past traditions.”

Obama sounded even more wary of American leadership on his way out of office eight years later. In his 2016 UNGA speech, the 2009 Nobel laureate said: “I do not think that America can — or should — impose our system of government on other countries.” Obama was addressing not just foreign nations but perhaps more pointedly his domestic political rivals.

In 2008 Obama campaigned against the Iraq War and the Republican policymakers who toppled Saddam Hussein to remake Iraq as a democracy. All during his presidency, Obama rebuffed critics who petitioned the administration to send arms or troops to advance U.S. interests and values abroad, most notably in Ukraine and Syria.

In 2016, it was Trump who ran against the Republican foreign policy establishment—which is why hundreds of GOP policymakers and foreign policy intellectuals signed two letters distancing themselves from the party’s candidate. The thin Republican bench of foreign policy experts available to Trump is a big reason why he named the virtually unknown Page to his team. So why was it any surprise that Page sounded like the Republican candidate, who sounded like the Democratic president?

Why Didn’t the Left Like Obama’s Ideas from a Republican?

On the Right, many national security and foreign policy writers like me heard and were worried by the clear echoes of Obama’s policies in the Trump campaign’s proposals. Did those writing from the left side of the political spectrum not see the continuities?

Writing in the Washington Post July 21, 2016, Applebaum explained how a “Trump presidency could destabilize Europe.” The issue, she explained, was Trump’s positive attitude toward Putin. “The extent of the Trump-Russia business connection has already been laid out, by Franklin Foer at Slate,” wrote Applebaum. She named Page and his “long-standing connections to Russian companies.”

Did Applebaum’s talking points come from Steele’s opposition research?

Even more suggestive to Applebaum is that just a few days before her article was published, “Trump’s campaign team helped alter the Republican party platform to remove support for Ukraine” from the Republican National Committee’s platform. Maybe, she hinted, that was because of Trump aide Manafort’s ties to Yanukovich.

Did those talking points come from Steele’s opposition research? Manafort’s relationship with Yanukovich had been widely reported in the U.S. press long before he signed on with the Trump campaign. In fact, in 2007 Glenn Simpson was one of the first to write about their shady dealings while he was still working at the Wall Street Journal. The corrupt nature of the Manafort-Yanukovich relationship is an important part of the dossier. So is the claim that in exchange for Russia releasing the DNC emails, “the TRUMP team had agreed to sideline Russian intervention in Ukraine as a campaign issue.”

The reality, however, is that the Trump campaign team never removed support for Ukraine from the party platform. In a March 18, 2017 Washington Examiner article, Byron York interviewed the convention delegate who pushed for tougher language on Russia, and got it.

“In the end, the platform, already fairly strong on the Russia-Ukraine issue,” wrote York, “was strengthened, not weakened.” Maybe Applebaum just picked it up from her own paper’s mis-reporting.

For Applebaum, it was hard to understand why Trump would express skepticism about the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, except to appease Putin. She referred to a recent interview in which Trump “cast doubt on the fundamental basis of transatlantic stability, NATO’s Article 5 guarantee: If Russia invades, he said, he’d have to think first before defending U.S. allies.”

The Echoes Pick Up

In an article published the very same day in the Atlantic, Jeffrey Goldberg made many of the very same observations. Titled “It’s Official: Hillary Clinton is Running Against Vladimir Putin,” the article opens: “The Republican nominee for president, Donald J. Trump, has chosen this week to unmask himself as a de facto agent of Russian President Vladimir Putin.” What was the evidence? Well, for one, Page’s business interests.

Trump’s expressed admiration for Putin and other “equivocating, mercenary statements,” wrote Goldberg, are “unprecedented in the history of Republican foreign policymaking.” However, insofar as Trump’s fundamental aim was to find some common ground with Putin, it’s a goal that, for better or worse, has been a 25-year U.S. policy constant, across party lines. Starting with George W.H. Bush, every American commander-in-chief since the end of the Cold War sought to “reset” relations with Russia.

Starting with George W.H. Bush, every American commander-in-chief since the end of the Cold War sought to ‘reset’ relations with Russia.

But Trump, according to Goldberg, was different. “Trump’s understanding of America’s role in the world aligns with Russia’s geostrategic interests.” Here Goldberg rang the same bells as Applebaum—the Trump campaign “watered down” the RNC’s platform on Ukraine; the GOP nominee “questioned whether the U.S., under his leadership, would keep its [NATO] commitments,” including Article 5. Thus, Goldberg concluded: “Donald Trump, should he be elected president, would bring an end to the postwar international order.”

That last bit sounds very bad. Coincidentally, it’s similar to a claim made in the very first paragraph of the Steele dossier — the “Russian regime,” claims one of Steele’s unnamed sources, has been cultivating Trump to “encourage splits and divisions in the western alliance.”

The West won the Cold War because the United States kept it unified. David Remnick saw it up close. Assigned to the Washington Post’s Moscow bureau in 1988, Remnick witnessed the end of the Soviet Union, which he documented in his award-winning book, “Lenin’s Tomb.” So it’s hardly surprising that in his August 3, 2016 New Yorker article, “Trump and Putin: A Love Story,” Remnick sounded alarms concerning the Republican presidential candidate’s manifest affection for the Russian president.

Citing the “original reporting” of Foer’s seminal Slate article, the New Yorker editor contended “that one reason for Trump’s attitude has to do with his business ambitions.” As Remnick elaborated, “one of Trump’s foreign-policy advisers, has longstanding ties to Gazprom, a pillar of Russia’s energy industry.” Who could that be? Right—Carter Page. With Applebaum and Goldberg, Remnick was worried about Trump’s lack of support for Ukraine and the fact that Trump “has declared NATO ‘obsolete’ and has suggested that he might do away with Article 5.”

Where Did All These Echoes Come From?

This brings us to the fundamental question: Is it possible that these top national security and foreign policy journalists were focused on something else during Obama’s two terms in office, something that had nothing to do with foreign policy or national security? It seems we must even entertain the possibility they slept for eight years because nearly everything that frightened them about the prospects of a Trump presidency had already transpired under Obama.

Whatever one thinks of Obama’s foreign policy, it is hardly arguable that he ceded American interests in Europe and the Middle East in an effort to avoid conflict with Russia.

The Trump team wanted to stop short of having the RNC platform promise lethal support to Ukraine—which was in keeping with official U.S. policy. Obama didn’t want to arm the Ukrainians. He ignored numerous congressional efforts to get him to change his mind. “There has been a strong bipartisan well of support for quite some time for providing lethal support,” said California Rep. Adam Schiff. But Obama refused.

As for the western alliance or international order or however you want to put it, it was under the Obama administration that Russia set up shop on NATO’s southern border. With the Syrian conflict, Moscow re-established its foothold in the Middle East after 40 years of American policy designed to keep it from meddling in U.S. spheres of influence. Under Obama, Russia’s enhanced regional position threatened three U.S. allies: Israel, Jordan, and NATO member Turkey.

In 2012, Moscow’s Syrian client brought down a Turkish air force reconnaissance plane. According to a 2013 Wall Street Journal article, “Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan raised alarms in the U.S. by suggesting that Turkey might invoke NATO’s Article V.” However, according to the Journal, “neither the U.S. nor NATO was interested in rushing to Article V… NATO was so wary of getting pulled into Syria that top alliance officials balked at even contingency planning for an intervention force to protect Syrian civilians. ‘For better or worse, [Syrian president Bashar al- Assad] feels he can count on NATO not to intervene right now,’ a senior Western official said.”

Whatever one thinks of Obama’s foreign policy, it is hardly arguable that he—wisely, cautiously, in the most educated and creative ways, or unwisely, stupidly, cravenly, the choice of adjectives is yours—ceded American interests and those of key allies in Europe and the Middle East in an effort to avoid conflict with Russia.

When Russia occupied Crimea and the eastern portion of Ukraine, there was little pushback from the White House. The Obama administration blinked even when Putin’s escalation of forces in Syria sent millions more refugees fleeing abroad, including Europe.

Was Anyone Paying Attention When This Happened?

Surely it couldn’t have escaped Applebaum’s notice that Obama’s posture toward Russia made Europe vulnerable. She’s a specialist in Europe and Russia—she’s written books on both. Her husband is the former foreign minister of Poland. So how, after eight years of Obama’s appeasement of a Russia that threatened to withhold natural gas supplies from the continent, did the Trump team pose a unique threat to European stability?

Is it possible that Goldberg never bothered to research the foreign policy priorities of a president he interviewed five times between 2008 and 2016?

What about Goldberg? Is it possible that he’d never bothered to research the foreign policy priorities of a president he interviewed five times between 2008 and 2016? In the last interview, from March 2016, Obama told him he was “very proud” of the moment in 2013 when he declined to attack Assad for deploying chemical weapons. As Obama put it, that’s when he broke with the “Washington playbook.” He chose diplomacy instead. He made a deal with Russia over Assad’s conventional arsenal—which Syria continued to use against civilians throughout Obama’s term.

Again, regardless of how you feel about Obama’s decisions, the fact is that he struck an agreement with Moscow that ensured the continued reign of its Syrian ally, who gassed little children. Yet only four months later, Goldberg worried that a Trump presidency would “liberate dictators, first and foremost his ally Vladimir Putin, to advance their own interests.”

Remnick wrote a 2010 biography of Obama, but did he, too, pay no attention to the policies of the man he interviewed frequently over nearly a decade? How is this possible? Did some of America’s top journalists really sleepwalk through Obama’s two terms in office, only to wake in 2016 and find Donald Trump and his campaign becoming dangerously cozy with a historical American adversary?

All’s Fair in War and Politics

Of course not. They enlisted their bylines in a political campaign on behalf of the Democratic candidate for president and rehearsed the talking points Steele later documented. But weren’t the authors of these articles, big-name journalists, embarrassed to be seen reading from a single script and publishing the same article with similar titles within the space of two weeks? Weren’t they worried it would look like they were taking opposition research, from the same source?

The stories were vessels built only to launch thousands of 140-character salvos to then sink into the memory hole.

No, not really. In a sense, these stories weren’t actually meant to be read. They existed for the purpose of validating the ensuing social media messaging. The stories were written around the headlines, which were written for Twitter: “Putin’s Puppet”; “It’s Official: Hillary Clinton is Running Against Vladimir Putin”; “Trump and Putin: A Love Story”; “The Kremlin’s Candidate.” The stories were vessels built only to launch thousands of 140-character salvos to then sink into the memory hole.

Since everyone took Clinton’s victory for granted, journalists assumed extravagant claims alleging an American presidential candidate’s illicit ties to an adversarial power would fade just as the fireworks punctuating Hillary’s acceptance speech would vanish in the cool November evening. And the sooner the stories were forgotten the better, since they frankly sounded kooky, conspiratorial, as if the heirs to the Algonquin round table sported tin-foil hats while tossing back martinis and trading saucy limericks.

Yes, the Trump-Russia collusion media campaign really was delusional and deranged; it really was a conspiracy theory. So after the unexpected happened, after Trump won the election, the Russiagate campaign morphed into something more urgent, something twisted and delirious.

Quick, Pin Our Garbage Story on Someone

When CNN broke the story—co-written by Evan Perez, a former colleague and friend of Fusion GPS principals—that the Obama administration’s intelligence chiefs had briefed Trump on the existence of the dossier, it not only cleared the way for BuzzFeed to publish the document, it also signaled the press that the intelligence community was on side. This completed the echo chamber, binding one American institution chartered to steal and keep secrets to another embodying our right to free speech. We know which ethic prevailed.

Now Russiagate was no longer part of a political campaign directed at Trump, it was a disinformation operation pointed at the American public.

Now Russiagate was no longer part of a political campaign directed at Trump, it was a disinformation operation pointed at the American public, as the pre-election media offensive resonated more fully with the dossier now in the open. You see, said the press: everything we published about Trump and Putin is really true—there’s a document proving it. What the press corps neglected to add is that they’d been reporting talking points from the same opposition research since before the election, and were now showcasing “evidence” to prove it was all true.

The reason the media will not report on the scandal now unfolding before the country, how the Obama administration and Clinton campaign used the resources of the federal government to spy on the party out of power, is not because the press is partisan. No, it is because the press has played an active role in the Trump-Russia collusion story since its inception. It helped birth it.

To report how the dossier was made and marketed, and how it was used to violate the privacy rights of an American citizen—Page—would require admitting complicity in manufacturing Russiagate. Against conventional Washington wisdom, the cover-up in this case is not worse than the crime: Both weigh equally in a scandal signaling that the institution where American citizens are supposed to discuss and debate the choices about how we live with each other has been turned against a large part of the public to delegitimize their political choices.

This Isn’t the 27-Year-Olds’ Fault

I’ve argued over the last year that the phony collusion narrative is a symptom of the structural problems with the press. The rise of the Internet, then social media, and gross corporate mismanagement damaged traditional media institutions. As newspapers and magazines around the country went bankrupt when ownership couldn’t figure out how to make money off the new digital advertising model, an entire generation of journalistic experience, expertise, and ethics was lost. It was replaced, as one Obama White House official famously explained, by 27-year-olds who “literally know nothing.”

But the first vehicles of the Russiagate campaign were not bloggers or recent J-school grads lacking wisdom or guidance to wave off a piece of patent nonsense. They were journalists at the top of their profession—editors-in-chief, columnists, specialists in precisely the subjects that the dossier alleges to treat: foreign policy and national security. They didn’t get fooled. They volunteered their reputations to perpetrate a hoax on the American public.

That’s why, after a year of thousands of furious allegations, all of which concerning Trump are unsubstantiated, the press will not report the real scandal, in which it plays a leading role. When the reckoning comes, Russiagate is likely to be seen not as a symptom of the collapse of the American press, but as one of the causes for it.

Lee Smith

By 

Lee Smith is the media columnist at Tablet and a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute.

 

Source: Why The Media Stopped Reporting The Russia Collusion Story

The Lunar Anthropic Principle | Daily Planet | Air & Space Magazine

The Lunar Anthropic Principle

Is humanity destined to live on the Moon?

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Humanity’s progress into air and space is dramatically illustrated by artist Bob McCall. Does the Moon exist to aid our progress into space? (NASA Armstrong Flight Research Center)

One of the most remarkable books of the last 30 years is The Anthropic Cosmological Principle by John Barrow and Frank Tipler. The “principle” is really nothing more than a statement that the laws governing how the universe operates seem to be arranged so as to require our existence and participation. In other words, the human race is not some accidental byproduct of creation, but an essential component of the way the universe is put together. This philosophical gem came up recently during a wide-ranging discussion of ideas at a post-lecture dinner with media/journalism honors students and their advisors at the University of Texas at Tyler. Though we discussed many things, the anthropic principle came up during questions regarding lunar development. And as good conversation always does, it made me think deeper.

I hadn’t previously connected the Barrow-Tipler principle with a quote (in the same vein) that I use in my lunar development talks. This quote comes from Krafft Ehricke, a member of Wernher von Braun’s original rocket design team from Peenemunde. Ehricke spent a lifetime thinking about the broader, philosophical aspects of space travel and the colonization of other worlds. Ehricke remarked in 1984 that, “If God wanted man to become a spacefaring species, He would have given man a Moon.” Ehricke’s quote distills down to its essence the truth about the Moon’s utility—its singular value in developing new spaceflight capabilities and our ability to travel throughout space. I’m tempted to call Ehricke’s statement “the lunar anthropic principle.”

I’ve detailed in previous writings the Moon’s value. The Moon’s proximity to Earth and its material and energy resources make possible the construction of a permanent spaceflight transportation infrastructure, thereby giving us the means to live and work on another world for extended periods of time. Because the Moon is close (in orbit around the Earth, 400,000 km away) we can travel to and from the Moon at will—launch windows are continuously open. There is no other extraterrestrial body for which this is true.

Our closeness to the Moon (three-second round-trip light travel time) also permits near-real-time control from Earth of machines located on the lunar surface—an amazing advantage in that much of the hard, repetitive or difficult work on the Moon can be accomplished using teleoperated robots. This capability positions humans for more creative pursuits, such as surface exploration, while limiting our exposure to harsh environments, as we build up our knowledge about our new surroundings—valuable information for those planning to venture further out into space.

The Moon’s resources come in two forms: energy and materials. The energy actually comes from the Sun—the Moon provides a place on its surface to collect solar photons nearly continuously. This illumination can be converted into electrical power via solar arrays. The poles offer multiple locations where the Sun can be seen for more than 80-90 percent of the year. The periods of darkness are short, from a few hours to a few tens of hours. We can bridge these dark periods with fuel cells that combine hydrogen and oxygen to generate electrical power, producing water as a byproduct. When the Sun is visible, the power generated by solar arrays can be used to crack stored water into its component hydrogen and oxygen gases. Thus, water becomes a medium of energy storage and permits the continuous generation of power, an essential condition for human habitation and productive work off the Earth.

Fortunately, the other side of the resource coin offers us the feedstock for this power system. The latest round of robotic spacecraft mapping the Moon have found significant quantities of water ice at both poles. The exact amounts and physical state of this water is still uncertain (we need to send robotic landers down to the surface to characterize the deposits in detail), but there is no doubt that the quantities of water present are significant, as much as 10 billion tons of water at each pole.

Thus, there are two areas of the Moon where resources (water and sun) are placed side-by-side: the poles, where the Moon’s axial tilt creates just the right conditions for light (solar energy) and darkness (water ice-traps). Before humans return to the Moon, we must send numerous small robotic probes to the poles to map and survey potential prospects. Such strategic knowledge is critical to selecting the optimum site for a permanent outpost.

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The illuminated rim crest of the crater Shackleton, located near the south pole of the Moon. Points on the rim of this crater are illuminated by the Sun for more than 90% of the year, permitting the generation of nearly continuous electrical power. (NASA/ASU LROC)

Considering all of these fortunate coincidences, Ehricke’s conjecture is not far off the mark. No other space destination brings together such enabling proximity and utility as does the Moon. So why is the idea of resource utilization on the Moon still met with resistance by some? Over my long career in lunar studies, I’ve learned that part of this resistance comes from the reluctance of some engineers to consider the use of extraterrestrial materials. We have used solar energy on spacecraft for almost 60 years—it is a proven and well-founded technology. Extracting materials from space-based sources and forming them into useful spaced-based products is another matter. Since this has never been done, it carries with it the undeserved suspicion of being excessively risky. In truth, processing lunar material requires technology no more advanced than 19th-century industrial chemistry. Melt the ice, fractionally distill it to remove impurities, crack it into its component hydrogen and oxygen, then cryogenically freeze those gases for use as rocket propellant.

The Moon is ideally placed and provisioned to provide us what we need to build a permanent transportation and habitation system in space. In that sense, it is a form of the anthropic principle, and it requires human ingenuity to take advantage of what the Moon has to offer. It is a body ideally placed for our use and benefit—a “stepping stone,” if you prefer to see it that way. Of course, all this is enabled by our ability to perceive and decipher the physical laws that make spaceflight possible, again circling back to the original cosmological anthropic principle—that how the universe operates seems to be arranged so as to require our existence and participation.

The ability to simply fly into space and back is somewhat miraculous in itself. What Don Pettit explains as the “Tyranny of the Rocket Equation,” describes how getting into orbit is not only extremely difficult, but barely possible—as most of the mass of a rocket is propellant (what he identifies as “dumb mass”), leaving only a small fraction (usually less than 10 percent) available for the deliverable (“smart mass”) payload. In fact, as Pettit explains, if the radius of the Earth were 50 percent greater, spaceflight would not be possible—there is simply not enough energy in the chemical bonds of known propellants to get a payload to orbit. Again, it appears that our universe is constructed in a way that allows us to venture off the planet, but only “just”—and even then, only with great difficulty.

We can break the Tyranny of the Rocket Equation once we learn how to use what we find in space—first on the Moon, using lunar resources to provision and fuel spacecraft and habitation systems. By utilizing the Moon and its assets over time, flights between Earth and Moon, and all points in between, will become affordable, profitable and routine. Through the development of this new system, we will finally move from an Earth-based to a space-based operational template, one holding huge economic and national security benefits. It’s as if the Moon was created for our use and benefit. To ignore its value and importance to our future would be extremely shortsighted.

Paul D. Spudis

Paul D. Spudis is a senior staff scientist at the Lunar and Planetary Institute in Houston, Texas. His website can be found at www.spudislunarresources.com. The opinions expressed here are his own and do not reflect the views of the Smithsonian Institution or his employer.

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Source: The Lunar Anthropic Principle | Daily Planet | Air & Space Magazine

Bill Nye Does Not Speak for Us and He Does Not Speak for Science 

 

 

 

 

Bill Nye Does Not Speak for Us and He Does Not Speak for Science

By attending the State of the Union with NASA administrator nominee Jim Bridenstine, the Science Guy tacitly endorses climate denial, intolerance and attacks on science

Tonight, Bill Nye “The Science Guy” will accompany Republican Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-OK), Trump’s nominee for NASA Administrator, to the State of the Union address. Nye has said that he’s accompanying the Congressman to help promote space exploration, since, he asserts, “NASA is the best brand the United States has” and that his attendance “should not be … seen as an acceptance of the recent attacks on science and the scientific community.

But by attending the SOTU as Rep. Bridenstine’s guest, Nye has tacitly endorsed those very policies, and put his own personal brand over the interests of the scientific community at large. Rep. Bridenstine is a controversial nominee who refuses to state that climate change is driven by human activity, and even introduced legislation to remove Earth sciences from NASA’s scientific mission. Further, he’s worked to undermine civil rights, including pushing for crackdowns on immigrants,ban on gay marriage, and abolishing the Department of Education.

As scientists, we cannot stand by while Nye lends our community’s credibility to a man who would undermine the United States’ most prominent science agency. And we cannot stand by while Nye uses his public persona as a science entertainer to support an administration that is expressly xenophobic, homophobic, misogynistic, racist, ableist, and anti-science.

Scientists are people, and in today’s society, it is impossible to separate science at major agencies like NASA from other pressing issues like racism, bigotry, and misogyny. Addressing these issues should be a priority, not only to strengthen our own scientific community, but to better serve the public that often funds our work. Rather than wield his public persona to bring attention to the need for science-informed policy, Bill Nye has chosen to excuse Rep. Bridenstine’s anti-science record and his stance on civil rights, and to implicitly support a stance that would diminish the agency’s work studying our own planet and its changing climate. Exploring other worlds and studying other planets, while dismissing the overwhelming scientific evidence of climate change and its damage to our own planet isn’t just dangerous, it’s foolish and self-defeating.

Further, from his position of privilege and public popularity, Bill Nye is acting on the scientific community’s behalf, but without our approval. No amount of funding for space exploration can undo the damage the Trump administration is causing to public health and welfare by censoring science. No number of shiny new satellites can undo the racist policies that make our Dreamer colleagues live in fear and prevent immigrants from pursuing scientific careers in the United States. And no new mission to the Moon can make our LGBTQ colleagues feel welcome at an agency run by someone who votes against their civil rights.

As women and scientists, we refuse to separate science from everyday life. We refuse to keep our heads down and our mouths shut. As someone with a show alleging to save the world, Bill Nye has a responsibility to acknowledge the importance of NASA’s vast mission, not just one aspect of it. He should use his celebrity to elevate the importance of science in NASA’s mission—not waste the opportunity to lobby for space exploration at a cost to everything else.

The true shame is that Bill Nye remains the popular face of science because he keeps himself in the public eye. To be sure, increasing the visibility of scientists in the popular media is important to strengthening public support for science, but Nye’s TV persona has perpetuated the harmful stereotype that scientists are nerdy, combative white men in lab coats—a stereotype that does not comport with our lived experience as women in STEM. And he continues to wield his power recklessly, even after his recent endeavors in debate and politics have backfired spectacularly.

In 2014, he attempted to debate creationist Ken Ham—against the judgment of evolution experts—which only served to allow Ham to raise the funds needed to build an evangelical theme park that spreads misinformation about human evolution. Similarly, Nye repeatedly agreed to televised debates with non-scientist climate deniers, contributing to the false perception that researchers still disagree about basic climate science. And when Bill Nye went on Tucker Carlson’s Fox News show to “debate” climate change in 2017, his appearance was used to spread misinformation to Fox viewers and fundraise for anti-climate initiatives.

Bill Nye does not speak for us or for the members of the scientific community who have to protect not only the integrity of their research, but also their basic right to do science. We stand with others who have asked Bill Nye to not attend the State of the Union. Nye’s complicity does not align him with the researchers who have a bold and progressive vision for the future of science and its role in society.

At a time when our ability to do science and our ability to live freely are both under threat, our public champions and our institutions must do better.

The views expressed are those of the author(s) and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.
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Source: Bill Nye Does Not Speak for Us and He Does Not Speak for Science – Scientific American Blog Network

Ravi Zacharias Ministry – God as Gardener

Ravi Z

I took up gardening a few years ago. (Well, actually gardening seemed to take me up.) It all started very innocently when a friend gave me a cutting from her jade plant. I knew nothing about plants. I had watched for years as my mother worked in her garden and I appreciated the interplay of color and texture created by the various flowers, trees, and shrubs. But I didn’t know the first thing about the process of cultivating or caring for a garden, and as far as I was concerned, the details involved in that process were best left up to my mother.

But all of that changed when I received my Jade cutting from my friend. She knew just how to initiate me into the wonders of gardening, without overwhelming me with the details. Jade plants are succulents; for those of you who do not know what a succulent plant is, it’s simply a plant that doesn’t need a great deal of water or attention. In other words, it’s the perfect kind of plant for a novice gardener! I was amazed by how quickly this one plant put down roots in my heart. Watching this little cutting grow tiny, threadlike roots, planting it in a pot filled with simulated desert soil, and experiencing the wonder as it grew into the small Jade tree that it is today—over 15 years later—amazed me at how something so small, so ordinary could become extraordinary.

I can tell you that it didn’t take long before I began to try my hand at plants that required more attention and care: african violets, cyclamen, gerbera daisies, iris, lilies, tulips, and a whole assortment of garden flora and fauna. I grew enchanted by the variety of color, texture, and arrangement each new species added to my garden. I learned about specific care regimens, their particular pests, the difference between a partial-sun and partial-shade plant, and how soil acidity impacts the color of certain types of plants.

More than all of this, gardening took me up because gardening quickly grew in me a sense of wonder. I suspect my friend knew this when she introduced me to my first, little jade plant. She knew that gardening would introduce me to the extraordinary in the ordinary. You cannot help but begin to pay attention to the tiniest details as you garden, and in turn, begin to notice all kinds of other awe-producing details all around you. The varieties of the color green in the trees, grasses, plants and shrubs, the nuances of blue and aqua hues that shimmer on lakes and oceans, and the little creatures that share the world with us—birds, rabbits, coyotes, skunk, deer, dogs, and cats.  Living now in the Pacific Northwest of the United States, where gardening is beloved and beauty envelopes us, this is all the more true for me.

The Christian Scriptures indicate that the natural response to wonder is worship. Indeed, the psalmist suggests that the very detailed elements of creation proclaim the glory and worship of God: The heavens are telling of the glory of God; and their expanse is declaring the work of his hands!  Whether we realize it or not, we are drawn into the very presence of God when we wonder in God’s creation. We affirm the beauty and the goodness of God as we wonder at and with and for creation. And as we wonder, we agree with God that all God made “was very good” (Genesis 1:31).

Have you lost your sense of wonder? Has your life gotten too busy, too laden with care or comfort or grief that you cannot see God’s extraordinary presence in the ordinary details of life? Or maybe God seems far off and unreachable, and you long for the tending and nurturing of a gardener yourself. I cannot explain away that longing any more than the psalmist, who expressed a similar lament when God felt far off to him. But I do know that nurturing my own garden and wondering aloud at the beauty of color and intricacy, I am comforted by the declarations of creation—of gardens and waters and heavens who seem confident, not only that there is a gardener, but one who is very good.

Margaret Manning Shull is a member of the speaking and writing team at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Bellingham, Washington.

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