A Tax Dollar$ Twofer

$13.3 billion aircraft carrier finally ready for action

After 14 years of development and delays, the most expensive and often troubled next-generation aircraft carrier, USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78) is finally ready for deployment. The aircraft carrier cost $13.3 billion in total, and was approved by the U.S. Navy in late 2021.

Initially, the aircraft carrier was expected to be deployed in 2017, eight years after the construction began in 2009, which is more than the usual aircraft carrier building timeframe of five years. But the difficulties in the development process and a series of delays due to reliability problems with multiple new technologies caused a five-year delay over the already longer than usual building timeframe…

Unfortunately, much of the new equipment ran into some serious technical problems including its propulsion system, aircraft-launching electromagnetic catapults, and the most pervasive of them; the advanced weapons elevators (AWEs) that lifted aircraft bombs and missiles to the flight deck. And it took five years to gradually solve all the problems.

An outstanding example of wasting tax dollars to maintain profits, power and jobs via politics within the military-industrial complex. It ain’t news and it ain’t new. Bureaucratic theft has long been a way of life within our government, The Feds just do it at the largest scale possible.


$21 billion moon rocket ready for first launch (maybe)

NASA/Joel Kowsky

An important test for NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) is slated to get underway (again)…NASA has been working on the SLS for more than a decade. The goal of the project was to create a launch vehicle that could lift heavy payloads and transport them farther out in the solar system. It’s also at the heart of NASA’s plans to return to the moon. Development was originally supposed to cost $18 billion with an initial launch in 2016. It has been delayed at least 16 times, and the cost has crept over $21 billion between 2011 and 2021…

In early April, the agency paused the test because of issues with the launch tower. Last week, NASA filled the core stage about halfway with liquid oxygen before discovering a manual vent valve was left in the wrong position. And then it spotted a stuck check valve in the upper stage. Due to the valve issue in the upper stage, known as the Cryogenic Propulsion Stage, NASA will skip fueling this part of the vehicle. Luckily, only two of those critical events are connected to the upper stage. The upper stage was completed by United Launch Alliance four years ago, far ahead of most of the vehicle. However, NASA does not believe the delays are to blame as the valve is rated to last for 20 years or more.

…Additional delays will most likely push back the latest June 2022 launch window. When it does launch, Artemis 1 will send an uncrewed Orion capsule around the moon and back to Earth. The Artemis missions won’t be cheap. NASA estimated about $2 billion per launch, but a government report said the true cost is probably closer to $4 billion.

The Wet Dress test scheduled for Thursday, the 14th, was canceled. When this will move forward is anybody’s guess. An outstanding example of wasting tax dollars to maintain profits, power and jobs via politics within the military-industrial complex. It ain’t news and it ain’t new. Bureaucratic theft has long been a way of life within our government, The Feds just do it at the largest scale possible.

Robot ATV carries firefighters’ gear

❝ In the fall of 2018, the Center of Excellence for Advanced Technology Aerial Firefighting, along with wildland firefighters from the Colorado Division of Fire Prevention and Control worked with Honda in testing their Autonomous Work Vehicle in wildland firefighting support scenarios.

Located at the site of the Lake Christine fire, a destructive wildfire that took place the summer of 2018 in Eagle County, Colorado- CoE, DFPC and Honda tested the work vehicles using realistic scenarios that occur during a wildfire. The team focused on utilizing the vehicle to support wildland operations with the goal of enhancing safety and effectiveness. Three missions were tested including initial attack support for dismounted firefighters, support of active fireline development, and autonomous deployment of a communications repeater to a remote site. This evaluation was performed at the Lake Christine fire site after the fire was fully contained and controlled. The initial results of the tests were promising and the CoE looks forward to working with Honda to further this mission.

Yeah, the language is a little stilted, press release-English. The concept is smart and realistic, useful. Certainly, folks here in the Rockies concerned with wildfires would be pleased to see critters like this in use.

A tiny USB drive will soon tell you if you have HIV — and how much


❝ Rapid, at-home HIV tests aren’t new: OraQuick, which was released with much fanfare in 2012, provides reasonably accurate results using an oral swab in just 20 minutes. That product allows those who might not otherwise get tested for HIV — because of stigma or lack of access to treatment — to have a better chance of detecting the disease early and getting to a doctor.

But a new at-home device promises to do one better: Using a drop of blood, the USB stick test can actually detect the amount of virus present in a patient’s bloodstream in just half an hour. While OraQuick helps individuals figure out their HIV status so that they can seek medical treatment, the new device described this week in Scientific Reports could show a patient how well their ongoing medical treatment is working — and how transmissible their HIV might be…

❝ Why is that important? The more HIV virus present in a patient’s blood, the more taxed their immune response. A patient with a higher viral load will have fewer of the white blood cells that protect them from other infections. If HIV is allowed to run rampant in the bloodstream, patients can develop AIDS. But if anti-retroviral medication is used to lower the viral count — these days, often to zero — a patient can live normally, in good health and with a typical lifespan…

❝ More research is needed to confirm the accuracy of the device, and making it widely available across HIV-ravaged regions would be no small task. But the idea that monitoring HIV status could soon be as simple as checking blood sugar levels is certainly appealing, and provides hope that researchers may one day be able to all but eradicate the virus.

Bravo! Hopefully, to be manufactured and distributed by a firm with as much heart as profit motive.

Testing the Navy’s unmanned sub chaser

❝ The 132-foot-long unmanned and unarmed prototype, dubbed Sea Hunter, is the naval equivalent of Google’s self-driving car, designed to cruise on the ocean’s surface for two or three months at a time – without a crew or anyone controlling it remotely.

❝ The Pentagon’s new unmanned submarine chaser is currently undergoing at-sea testing off the coast of California…The prototype vessel, known as Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) Continuous Trail Unmanned Vessel (ACTUV) or Sea Hunter for short, is built to track enemy submarines over thousands of miles of ocean for months at a time and without a single crew member on board.

❝ In the video below, the ACTUV is actually testing its Towed Airborne Lift of Naval Systems (TALONS) system, which could be towed behind boats or ships carry out intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance (ISR), and communications ops by extending the equipment range compared to a ship’s mast.

❝ DARPA signed a Memorandum of Agreement with the Office of Naval Research in September 2014 to jointly fund an extended test phase of an ACTUV prototype. The vessel was christened in 2016 in Portland, Oregon. Pending the results of those tests, the program could transition to the Navy by 2018.

To be followed by a Marvel movie released in the summer of 2019.

Trump’s test for immigrants is hogwash! Of course.

Click to enlarge

Donald Trump’s foreign-policy speech on Monday was more staid than some of his recent outings, but it didn’t necessarily make any more sense…In his speech, Donald Trump proposed an ideological test for immigrants, one that would allow in “only those who we expect to flourish in our country – and to embrace a tolerant American society.” Is it possible to implement a test like that, and would it be a good idea?

The practical reality is that you are dealing with people who, if they’re fairly sophisticated, are going to almost immediately learn what to say. So unless you intend to tie them to a polygraph, which is a notoriously uncertain device, you’re assuming that you are basically only going to catch the inexperienced or the stupid…

With groups like ISIS or al Qaeda or any of its offshoots, they’ve gotten very, very sophisticated in training. So you are essentially focusing in many ways on the innocent and ignoring the guilty.

Are there more effective ways to screen out people who might be terrorists?

Usually the only way you can really know is through background checks and by tying the data uncovered in intelligence efforts that track terrorists and terrorist training to the screening process. It’s not something where people can pass some kind of magic test of their ideology.

You also have to recognize that part of this is not confronting people who come to this country with intolerance and ignorance of their faith. If you are going to avoid alienating them, you are going to have to show some understanding of the fact that Islam is one of the major faiths of the world…

Mr. Trump mentioned shutting down ISIS’ internet access. Is that possible, and if so, is it wise?

It really is not possible. There are a virtually infinite number of ways that you can disguise who you are and where the message is coming from. There is no magic sign that says, “I’m from ISIS.” The problem you also are getting into here is that to some extent we use the internet to identify some of these people.

Lots more of this in the whole blog post. None of it unexpected. Like many topics considered controversial, support for unworkable solutions comes from the ignorant and the stupid. It’s become a defining question online. Are the people commenting stupid or ignorant?

As ignorant as Donald Trump often is – about anything other than American bankruptcy law – he knows his supporters generally fall into one of those camps. He doesn’t have to worry about whether or not his so-called solutions are legitimate or lawful. They just have to sound powerful to someone who is pissed-off and xenophobic.

Maersk trials drone delivery to ship at sea

Click to enlargePhoto/Maersk Tankers

Maersk Tankers says that it has completed the first drone delivery to a vessel at sea as part of a test to see whether or not drones can become a part of the supply chain.

The company says the test delivery took place near Kalundborg in Denmark and involved a drone dropping a small parcel to one of its tankers. Due to weather, the drone could not be launch from shore as planned, but rather was launched from a nearby tugboat, which dropped the package from a height of 5 meters above deck.

Maersk Tankers is hopeful that the by using drones it can significantly reduce the cost of delivery of small parcels filled with urgent spare parts, mail or medicine, when compared to using traditional methods of delivery

The usual CYA-statements are included, e.g., safety, security, blah, blah. Actually, there are beaucoup uses for these wee flying robots at sea. Surely a better way to carry a line from ship-to-ship than anything that uses gunpowder. 🙂

Harvard investigates cheating on exam about government

Harvard University is investigating 125 students accused of collaborating on a spring take-home final exam, in what could prove to be the largest Ivy League cheating scandal in recent memory.

Nearly half the students in an introductory government class are suspected of jointly coming up with answers or copying off one another. Groups of students appear to have worked together on responses to short questions and an essay assignment, violating a no-collaboration policy that was printed on the exam itself, said Jay Harris, Harvard’s dean of undergraduate education.

Although no students appear to have lifted text from outside sources, some apparently plagiarized their classmates’ work, submitting answers that were either identical or “too close for comfort,” Harris said Thursday…

The students whose tests were flagged as problematic — nearly 2 percent of the college’s approximately 6,700 undergraduates — have been notified and will appear before the board individually in the next few weeks, Harris said. Some may be exonerated, but those found guilty could face a range of punishments up to yearlong suspensions…

College officials declined to name the course or any students involved, citing federal privacy laws. But the Harvard Crimson identified the class late Thursday as Government 1310: Introduction to Congress, taught by assistant professor Matthew Platt…

How appropriate can the study of a corrupt body become?

When a democratic republic allows our law-making body to continue archaic practices like the electoral college and the filibuster, corruption becomes inevitable. When a body like the Senate incorporates self-serving rules allowing a single member to prevent voting on an issue, when that same body disables access to majority voting – democracy is subverted, representative leadership and responsibility to voters becomes impossible.

When ethics and economics are subservient to lobbying, real and apparent buying and selling of votes – I can only guess these students have learned their lessons well.

Medical study left patients riddled with tungsten particles

X-ray shows tiny particles of tungsten in breast tissue

Women participating in a study of patients with breast cancer have been inadvertently left with hundreds of tiny particles of the heavy metal tungsten in their breast tissue and chest muscles. The particles came from a device used during surgery. The device has since been recalled.

It is not known if the metal is dangerous to health because relatively little research has been done on its long-term effects in the body. But it shows up on mammograms, and may make them difficult to read, an especially troubling effect for women who have already had breast cancer and worry about recurrences. (The particles resemble calcium deposits, which can indicate cancer.)

About 30 women have been affected, according to the manufacturer of the device that caused the problem, the Axxent FlexiShield Mini. The women are in a quandary. At least one, fearing that the tungsten could cause cancer or another illness, is trying to decide whether to get rid of the particles by having her breast and its underlying tissue removed in a radical and disfiguring operation…

The episode casts doubt on the safeguards for people who participate in medical research and on the Food and Drug Administration’s ability to protect the public from flawed medical devices…

Karen Riley, FDA spokeswoman, said the 510(k) process was used to avoid “reinventing the wheel” for products that were essentially the same as others that had already passed muster with the agency.

RTFA as a cautionary tale. An accepted procedure for passing medical devices as safe – and has a fine track record – failed a number of women. They are left with years of wondering just what medical issues may follow the tests of the Flexishield.

One-minute test accurately detects concussion

By developing a simple one-minute sideline test, researchers at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine have tackled the issue of diagnosing concussion head on. Up until now, sideline tests for concussion have been vague and often miss a large spectrum of brain functions that may have been affected. It is a well-known fact that any concussion left untreated or ignored may lead to serious or potentially fatal consequences, thus the Pennsylvanian researchers are eager to get this simple and effective test into action.

This one-minute test, called the King-Devick (K-D) test, essentially comes down to the athlete’s ability to read numbers…By comparing results to the athlete’s baseline test, concussion can be confidently diagnosed if their response is more than five seconds slower…

In a study of 39 boxers and MMA fighters, post-fight test times on average for those who suffered head trauma worsened by 11.1 seconds, whilst those who had lost consciousness were on average 18 seconds slower. It is also worth noting that those who did not suffer any head trauma improved their times by more than a second on average…

Stoked with a bit more adrenalin than pre-game, I’d say.

A follow-up study at the University of Pennsylvania will examine the reliability of the K-D test and changes in athlete test scores over the course of a season.

Overdue. I helped with studies back when helmets were being introduced to ice hockey. Players and coaches quickly realized they served as excellent offensive weapons. Resulting in increased injuries which everyone tried to rationalize away.