SpaceX CEO Elon Musk poses with the crew before launch on September 15, 2021.
John Kraus / Inspiration4
After SpaceX completed a historic, private spaceflight on Saturday, CEO Elon Musk took a pot shot at President Joe Biden who had yet to remark on the company’s and the civilian flight crew’s accomplishments.
One of Musk’s 60 million followers on the social networking platform Twitter asked him, “The President of the United States has refused to even acknowledge the 4 newest American astronauts who helped raise hundreds of millions of dollars for St. Jude. What’s your theory on why that is?”
Musk replied, “He’s still sleeping.”
As CNBC previously reported, SpaceX safely returned its Crew Dragon spacecraft from orbit yesterday. The capsule carried the four members of the Inspiration4 mission back to Earth after three days in space.
One major goal of the Inspiration4 mission was to raise $200 million for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. It had raised $160.2 million by Saturday. Celebrating after Inspiration4 splashed down, Musk pledged to contribute $50 million personally — pushing the campaign’s total raised to $210 million.
The White House and SpaceX did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Top NASA officials have congratulated Musk and SpaceX on the Inspiration4 mission. SpaceX competitors acknowledged it too, with accolades from Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Blue Origin and Musk’s peer and rival Jeff Bezos shared on social media.
This marked the first private SpaceX spaceflight, with a non-professional crew. Additionally, the mission involved the first Black woman to serve as a spacecraft pilot, the youngest American to become an astronaut to date, and the first person to fly in space with a prosthesis.
Although Musk recently stated that he “would prefer to stay out of politics,” his quip on Sunday indicated a willingness to needle the Democratic president and repeat a right-wing taunt about Biden.
During his 2020 campaign, former President Donald Trump frequently insulted then-candidate Biden by calling him “Sleepy Joe.”
More recently, Trump sent Biden sarcastic well-wishes ahead of a summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin in June. He said in an e-mailed statement at the time, “Good luck to Biden in dealing with President Putin— don’t fall asleep during the meeting, and please give him my warmest regards!”
SpaceX generally enjoys a good relationship with the federal government. For example, it won a $2.89 billion contract to build NASA’s next crewed lunar lander, beating out Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin and Leidos subsidiary Dynetics, and SpaceX has flown 10 astronauts to the ISS for NASA to date.
However, SpaceX is also under investigation by the Department of Justice after accusations that it discriminated against job applicants based on citizenship status — a probe that began during the Trump administration.
In addition to his responsibilities at SpaceX, Musk is concurrently the CEO of electric vehicle makers Tesla. (Tesla is also a supplier to SpaceX.)
In that capacity, he recently bemoaned a Biden administration proposal that would allocate an extra $4,500 in incentives to buyers of certain, new electric light-duty passenger vehicles. One stipulation of the proposal is that electric vehicles should be union-made, domestically.
While the company operates a battery factory in Nevada, and a vehicle assembly plant in California already, with another under construction outside of Austin, Texas, Tesla is the only major U.S. automaker whose production is not unionized here.
Musk said, on Twitter on September 12, of the proposal: “This is written by Ford/UAW lobbyists, as they make their electric car in Mexico. Not obvious how this serves American taxpayers.”
In Cars.com’s annual American Made Index for 2021, Tesla’s popular Model 3 electric sedan topped the rankings, and its crossover Model Y landed in third place.
Report: China Has Tested A Nuke That Can Dodge American Radars
China reportedly has tested an orbital vehicle that, fitted with a nuclear warhead, could strike the United States from the south, effectively evading many of the U.S. military’s early-warning radars.
Financial Times journalists Demetri Sevastopulo and Kathrin Hille first reported the August test of the potential fractional orbital bombardment system, or FOBS.
As its name implies, a FOBS launches like a traditional intercontinental ballistic missile then enters a brief but stable orbit before de-orbiting after just a fraction of a trip around Earth.
Where a traditional ICBM briefly escapes the atmosphere as it predictably arcs toward its target—over the North Pole, in the case of a Soviet or Chinese ICBM heading for the United States—a FOBS actually stays in orbit just long enough that, depending on its trajectory, it can streak toward a target from any of several directions.
As many of the most powerful strategic radars are fixed, and thus point in just one direction, a FOBS has great potential for an atomic sneak-attack. The less warning a target country has of an incoming nuclear strike, the less likely its anti-ballistic-missile defenses are to work.
Thus a FOBS is a kind of strategic remedy to ABM systems. And a daring one, at that. “Wow!” Hans Kristensen, a nuclear expert with the Federation of American Scientists in Washington, D.C., said of the Chinese. “They’re trying it all.”
The FOBS concept isn’t new. The Soviet Union briefly deployed a fractional, orbital nuke through the 1970s. FOBS was destabilizing then and still is destabilizing today. However, it also is a rational response to the United States’ own development of increasingly sophisticated missile-defense systems.
There were hints the Chinese Communist Party had tested something sensitive. The China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology, which oversees space launches on the Party’s behalf, on July 19 announced it had launched its 77th Long March rocket. On Aug. 24, the academy announced that it had launched the 79th rocket.
The unmentioned 78th launch apparently boosted into low orbit a hypersonic glide vehicle that “circled the globe” before gliding back down to Earth and missing its target by a couple dozen miles, according to Sevastopulo and Hille.
The reporters claimed the test “caught U.S. intelligence by surprise.” In fact, U.S. Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall in September warned that China might develop a FOBS.
“There is a potential for weapons to be launched into space, then go through this old concept from the Cold War called the fractional orbital bombardment system, which is a system that basically goes into orbit and then de-orbits to a target,” Kendall said.
FOBS has a long history. The Soviet Union starting in 1969 fielded a small number of these fractional, orbital missiles. Then, as now, the prospect of American missile-defense systems swatting away normal nuclear-tipped missiles motivated the FOBS deployment.
Early in the nuclear arms race, successive U.S. administrations worked on surface-launched missile systems that could shoot down incoming ICBMs. President Richard Nixon in 1969 finally approved the deployment of the Safeguard ABM system.
Safeguard included two types of nuclear-armed missile-interceptor cued, in succession, by satellites with infrared sensors then north-looking strategic radars and finally a pair of shorter-range radars.
American officials were aware that missile-defenses risked escalating the arms race. Strategic deterrence works when both combatants in a potential nuclear war understand neither side can win—so fighting isn’t really an option.
Deploying missile defenses signals that one side believes it can win and thus might risk a first strike. Why then wouldn’t the other side develop even better offensive missiles?
“Were we to deploy a heavy ABM system throughout the United States, the Soviets would clearly be strongly motivated to increase their offensive capability so as to cancel out our defensive advantage,” said Robert McNamara, secretary of defense for presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson.
“It is futile for each of us to spend $4 billion, $40 billion or $400 billion—and at the end of all the spending, and at the end of all the deployment, and at the end of all the effort, to be relatively at the same point of balance on the security scale that we are now.”
In 1975, the U.S. Congress voted to dismantle what was left of Safeguard. Eight years later, following the signing of the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks 2 agreement, Moscow withdrew its FOBS.
Like his predecessors did, President George W. Bush ignored McNamara’s warning when, in 2002, he unilaterally withdrew the United States from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, which had limited the scope and scale of missile-defenses and provided the foundation for further limits on nukes.
Since Bush’s move, the Pentagon has spent hundreds of billions of dollars developing increasingly sophisticated anti-missile systems, some of which could in theory intercept lower and slower ICBMs, albeit only in very small numbers.
The U.S. mostly deploys its ABM systems in Alaska and Eastern Europe in order to intercept Iranian and North Korean rockets. But the same systems, redeployed to different locations, in theory could slightly reduce the effectiveness of the Russian and Chinese nuclear arsenals as deterrents to America’s own nukes.
And that has motivated Russia and China to develop new nuclear delivery systems. Including, in China’s case, a hypersonic glider that could form the basis of a FOBS. A threat for which United States lacks extensive early-warning capability. “Man, that missile-defense system sure has created a lot of problems!” Kristensen quipped.
It’s an open question how the administration of President Joe Biden might respond to a Chinese FOBS. A rational response would be to end ABM development and negotiate a new treaty banning fractional, orbital nukes.
But the U.S. missile-defense establishment is huge and, for contractors and politicians, highly lucrative. Merely shrinking it would represent a profound, even unprecedented, act of political courage—assuming, that is, that Biden even could halt ABM developments on his own. That’s not at all a safe assumption.
Nor is it a safe assumption that Biden will or could negotiate a new treaty addressing the FOBS problem—and get the closely-divided U.S. Senate to ratify it.
Indeed, thanks in large part to a deep resentment toward any arms-controls on the part of ex-president Donald Trump and his Republican allies in Congress, the United States in recent years has been canceling treaties rather than writing them.
Which could mean that the United States’ only feasible response to a Chinese FOBS would be … to deter it. Possible with more and better nukes. “They’ll have to fall back on deterrence,” Kristensen said of the Americans.
There’s a term for that back-and-forth, escalatory weapons-development. “Arms race.”
U.S. Senator Manchin slams Bernie Sanders in battle over Biden spending plan By Reuters
© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) speaks to reporters outside the U.S. Capitol in Washington, U.S., September 30, 2021. REUTERS/Elizabeth Frantz
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Democratic Senator Joe Manchin from West Virginia slammed fellow lawmaker Bernie Sanders late Friday over his attempts to garner support for President Joe Biden’s multi-trillion-dollar spending package in the latest example of infighting among key lawmakers over the plan.
Manchin tweeted out his concern over the scope of the legislation in response to an editorial from Sanders, an independent senator from Vermont, advocating for it.
On Friday, West Virginia paper the Charleston Gazette-Mail published an editorial from Sanders urging support for the Democratic plan to address wealth inequity, soaring pharmaceutical costs, an increasingly expensive healthcare system and costly childcare.
“Senator Sanders’ answer is to throw more money on an already overheated economy while 52 other Senators have grave concerns about this approach,” Manchin said in a statement posted https://twitter.com/Sen_JoeManchin/status/1449148907032875015?s=20 on Friday on Twitter (NYSE:), slamming Sanders as an “out-of-stater.”
The bill is threatened by a lack of support among Senate Republicans and two Democratic moderates – Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema from Arizona. Sinema has told https://www.reuters.com/world/us/us-senator-sinema-rejects-vote-big-biden-package-before-infrastructure-source-2021-10-14 Democrats in the House of Representatives she will not vote for the package before Congress approves a separate, bipartisan $1 trillion infrastructure bill.
Sinema and Manchin have balked at the Biden plan’s initial $3.5 trillion price tag for a spending measure to fund social programs and fight climate change. As a result, the president faces a difficult balancing act in trying to bring down the cost but not alienate progressive Democrats who also are essential to passing the legislation.
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Hollywood’s Behind-the-Scenes Workers Reach Deal on New Contract
LOS ANGELES — You might say that the people behind the cameras have found their voices.
Late Saturday, a union representing Hollywood’s version of blue-collar workers — camera operators, makeup artists, prop makers, set dressers, lighting technicians, editors, script coordinators, hairstylists, cinematographers, writers’ assistants — reached a tentative agreement for a new three-year contract with film and television studios, according to officials from both sides.
The union, IATSE, which stands for the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, had said that its members would go on strike beginning on Monday, a move that would have resulted in a production shutdown at a particularly inopportune time for the entertainment industry.
The studios, which include stalwarts like Disney, NBCUniversal and WarnerMedia and insurgents like Amazon, Apple and Netflix, have been scrambling to make up for lost production time during the coronavirus pandemic. Another shutdown would have left content cupboards dangerously bare — particularly at streaming services, a business that has become crucial to the standing of some of the companies on Wall Street.
IATSE negotiators agreed to a deal after winning concessions on several fronts.
Crews will now receive a minimum of 54 hours of rest on weekends — on par, for the first time, with actors. (Studios were previously not required to give crews weekend rest time, although they were required to pay overtime.) Crews will also receive a minimum rest of 10 hours between leaving a set and being required to return, which IATSE had deemed the rest time essential to personal health, especially since shoots can routinely run as long as 18 hours. The proposed contract also includes pay increases and a commitment by the companies to fund a $400 million deficit in the IATSE pension and health plan without imposing premiums or increasing the cost of health coverage.
Studios will also give crews an extra day off by finally recognizing Martin Luther King’s Birthday, which has been a federal holiday since 1983.
“We went toe to toe with some of the richest and most powerful entertainment and tech companies in the world,” Matthew Loeb, IATSE’s president, said in a statement, calling the agreement “a Hollywood ending” for the union.
A spokesman for the studios, Jarryd Gonzales, confirmed the agreement but had no immediate comment.
IATSE has 150,000 members in the United States and Canada. The contract in contention, however, only covered about 60,000, with the majority in the Los Angeles area, followed by pockets of workers in production-hub states like Georgia and New Mexico. A large portion of the union’s remaining 90,000 members work in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. But they have a different contract that had not expired.
Still, solidarity within IATSE was remarkable, with members in New York making it clear on Twitter and Instagram that, should a partial strike be called, they would treat it as a full one. For their part, the 60,000 members with the expired contract voted two weeks ago — by a margin of 99 percent — to authorize a strike.
Crews have long felt underappreciated in Hollywood, where hierarchies are not subtle. Discontent became more palpable when crews returned to sets after the pandemic shutdown. As with workers in many professions, the down time had given crews a new perspective about work-life balance. Making the situation worse, studios and streaming services started to speed up content assembly lines to make up for lost time.
Anger turned to rage over the summer, when Ben Gottlieb, a young lighting technician in Brooklyn, started an Instagram page dedicated to work-related horror stories. More than 1,100 entertainment workers have since posted harrowing anecdotes on the page, which has 159,000 followers.
Oct. 16, 2021, 11:12 a.m. ET
Throughout negotiations, which started in May, the Hollywood companies insisted that it was taking IATSE’s demands seriously and negotiating in good faith. An organization called the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers negotiates union contracts for the studios. The organization has been led by Carol Lombardini since 2009 and no entertainment-related union has gone on national strike under her tenure. She has worked for the group since its founding in 1982.
But many studio executives privately greeted IATSE’s aggressive negotiating stance with a shrug, noting that the union had never mounted a significant strike in its 128-year history. Crews represented by any union had not walked a picket line since World War II. Back then, IATSE was controlled by the Chicago Mafia, which studios bribed to thwart labor unrest. (The crews that went on strike in 1945 were part of the now-defunct Conference of Studio Unions.)
Heightening the studios’ confidence that IATSE would blink in the current negotiations: Crew workers had just endured the financial hardship of a pandemic-related production shutdown, and IATSE does not have a strike fund.
Alarm bells did not start ringing across Hollywood’s corporate ranks until Wednesday. That is when Mr. Loeb said in a statement that “the pace of bargaining doesn’t reflect any sense of urgency” and set Monday as a strike date. Ominous comments from IATSE followed on Thursday. “If the studios want a fight, they poked the wrong bear,” the union said on Twitter. Another union post quoted J.R.R. Tolkien: “War must be, while we defend our lives against a destroyer who would devour all.”
Studios pushed to minimize IATSE gains for several reasons. Production costs have already soared because of coronavirus safety measures, and longer rest periods and higher pay endanger profitability even more. Costs associated with Covid-19 safety protocols can expand a project’s budget by as much as 20 percent, producers say.
To lure subscribers, streaming services have been offering exorbitant paydays to A-list actors, directors and producers. That means looking for cost savings in other areas, including crews, or what is known in the entertainment industry as below-the-line labor.
And the companies were concerned about reverberations: Notable contractual gains by crews will inevitably embolden other unions. The Writers Guild of America, the Directors Guild of America and the actors union, SAG-AFTRA, all have contract negotiations coming up, with streaming at their center.
- Report: China Has Tested A Nuke That Can Dodge American Radars
- Hollywood Workers Secure Deal With Studios, Averting Strike
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