Citizen scientists hope to recapture, control, abandoned NASA satellite

The International Sun-Earth Explorer-3 — ISEE-3 for short — is a 35-year-old NASA space probe that’s been abandoned in space. Since 1981, the year in which it last executed a mission for the American space agency, the probe has been orbiting aimlessly.

Now, a group of citizen-scientists with Skycorp in Los Gatos, California want to recapture the spacecraft and put it back to work. And in signing a resent agreement with the group allowing them to at least try, NASA essentially said: “Hey, why not?”

To take on the mission, the group has raised some $143,000 on the crowd-funding site RocketHub. The attempt to contact and control ISEE-3 will be more than expensive; it will be extremely challenging. Scientists at Skycorp will need to develop retro software that can talk to technology from the 1970s.

At last check, the probe’s instruments were still functional, but there’s no guarantee the probe will be able to communicate with Earth. Still, Skycorp engineers are trying. The group has a team currently staked out at Arecibo Observatory, in Puerto Rico, attempting to reestablish contact with ISEE-3 as it makes its closest approach to Earth in the last 30 years…

If the probe responds to the scientists’ signal, the group will then attempt to control it — which they now have permission to do thanks to the agreement signed this week with NASA…

As part of the agreement, any new data collected by ISEE-3 with the help of Skycorp will be made public.

Go for it, gang!

Controlling the software on board ISEE-3 shouldn’t be anymore difficult than sorting the accounting practices of the Veterans Administration.

Hacking charges against China arrive the same time the U.S. is wooing more Chinese investment — WTF?

china buying pork

Max Baucus, the U.S. ambassador to China, started his workweek Monday by urging China’s state-owned enterprises to invest in American infrastructure projects. “There is a huge opportunity,” he told a forum at the U.S. Embassy in Beijing that was attended by scores of Chinese and U.S. executives.

While Baucus was looking for Chinese investment, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder was preparing to announce an indictment against five Chinese military officers. Holder would accuse them of hacking into U.S. companies’ computer systems on behalf of unnamed Chinese state-owned enterprises _ including possibly some that the United States is courting for investment.

To many analysts, the juxtaposition of the two events Monday reveals how bifurcated U.S. policy toward China has become. On any given day, it can swing between indictments and ceremonial toasts.

Some journalists try to be nice guys. Instead of “bifurcated” try “lying” and “hypocrites”.

Here in Beijing, Baucus’ efforts to court Chinese investment were quickly overshadowed by what China called “fabricated” accusations against its military officers. By Tuesday, China’s official Xinhua news agency was reporting that Baucus had been summoned to the Foreign Ministry to explain the U.S. position and make amends.

Adam Segal, a cyber security expert at the Council on Foreign Relations, said he was surprised that the Obama administration decided to issue the indictments, the first U.S. prosecution against a foreign country’s military for economic espionage. “The public ‘naming and shaming’ has been a big part of the picture since a year ago,” he said, but is unclear how effective it has been…

Unlike in the United States, China’s economy is dominated by more than 100 major state-owned enterprises. These include companies involved in steel manufacturing, nuclear power and solar power _ the sectors named in the indictment as targets for China’s U.S. hacking.

It’s long been known that China’s military has close ties to the enterprises. It’s been suspected for almost as long that the military uses its cyber warfare capabilities to give those industries a competitive advantage. That was backed up in 2013 by a detailed investigation by Mandiant, a private cyber security company. Mandiant revealed that a Shanghai-based espionage unit of the People’s Liberation Army had engaged in years of cyber attacks against U.S. companies and defense installations.

“This issue poses a serious threat to the stability of U.S.-Chinese codependency,” writes Stephen Roach, a senior fellow at Yale University’s Jackson Institute for Global Affairs, in his new book, “Unbalanced.” Unlike issues such as unfair trade practices, he writes, hacking doesn’t lend itself to a process of negotiation and adjudication.

Indeed, it now appears that the only avenue for negotiation has been suspended, if not permanently shut down. In response to Monday indictments, China said it would no longer attend a working group made up of senior officials from both countries to resolve complaints about cross-border hacking…

Some observers doubt the indictments will do anything but send a symbolic message to China, and even that isn’t likely to budge Beijing. As reflected in China’s state media, Chinese officials view the United States as a hypocrite on cyber spying in the wake of Edward Snowden NSA-spying revelations.

Yesterday, our DOJ revealed its shocking new revelations which led to the indictment in absentia of Chinese military for cybercrimes. It turns out to be the Mandiant Report which has been in the public domain for seventeen months. Our fearless leaders are not only hypocrites, they must presume most Americans to be stupid and/or ignorant.

The ignorant part of the equation is aided, of course, by national and local media which will not get off their dusty butts sufficiently to read back through previous articles or query an expert like Stephen Roach whose task for decades was to advise American finance on what was actually going on in distant Asia. As far as I’ve seen, only Bloomberg TV has asked Professor Roach about the indictment – and it was he that I saw on that business channel, this morning, taking appropriate umbrage at the hypocrisy of our government spoon-feeding NSA spooks while declaring outrage over “our” corporations being spied on – on the basis of a report from 2012.

China spies on companies and it’s not evil in their eyes. Our government spies on us – as well as spying on allies and other national corporations like Petrobras in Brazil – and it’s not evil in their eyes. Of course, we have a Supreme Court that worries about defending corporate “people” – so, there is that added extra layer of deceit we can take pride in.

Christians joined with Arabs in fear of violence in Israel

Christians in Israel and Palestine fear an escalation of violence against them after a spate of vandalism in Jerusalem churches by hardline Jewish nationalists ahead of Pope Francis’s visit this month.

Earlier this week vandals wrote “Death to Arabs and Christians” in Hebrew on the Vatican’s Notre Dame centre in Jerusalem’s Old City and on Thursday night offensive graffiti was written on a wall close to the Romanian Orthodox church…

Both incidents come just weeks after a spate of attacks against Christians in Galilee, where a place of worship was vandalised and stones thrown at pilgrims. A radical rabbi also sent a threatening letter to a priest in Nazareth.

“It is increasing daily because nobody is doing anything about it. The police must know who these people are,” said Jamal Khader, the head of the Latin Patriarchate seminary and spokesman for the pope’s visit to Palestine…

In a statement earlier this week the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem said that Christians in Israel felt neither safe nor protected and called on the government to take action against rightwing Jewish extremists.Acts of vandalism and violence against Palestinian Arabs in the West Bank are known as “price-tagging”, a campaign of intimidation that extremists claim is the price Palestinians should pay for Israeli government crackdowns or restrictions on settlement activity…

Recent attacks, however, have specifically targetted Christians and have taken place in the heart of the Old City…

A senior official with Palestinian Liberation Organisation said the attacks demonstrated that the extreme right considered Christians and Palestinians as one and the same.

Life in an apartheid nation.

Exploding targets banned in more national forests

The Northern Region of the U.S. Forest Service has banned exploding targets on public land under its jurisdiction, saying the targets have caused 16 wildfires across the West over the past two years at a cost of $33 million to taxpayers.

Regional Forester Faye Krueger announced the ban Tuesday, citing concerns over public safety and the wildfire threat. It covers all national forests in Montana, Idaho, North Dakota and the South Dakota grasslands…

The targets are popular among long-range shooters and can be legally purchased on the market. They consist of two separate compounds, including ammonium nitrate and aluminum powder, that become explosive when mixed.

While the powders are legal in their separate packets, they’re classified as an explosive by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives once mixed. The targets explode when struck by a high-impact device, such as a bullet…

Other Forest Service regions have already enacted the ban, including the Pacific Northwest Region and the Rocky Mountain Region…

Sammon said the Northern Region closure goes into effect immediately. Those who violate the order face a $5,000 fine and six months in prison.

“I don’t see where someone can argue against visitor or recreational shooting safety,” said Phil Sammon, a spokesman for the Northern Region. He probably is old enough to remember when the NRA taught gun safety and wilderness skills – instead of stupid.

Thanks, Mike