Friday, February 08, 2019

Another land rover soon to be on Mars

Curiosity is the land rover on Mars.  Opportunity is also up there though Opportunity appears to be out of commission currently (since the dust storm).  A third one will be going there.  Mary Griggs (THE VERGE) reports:

Europe’s next Mars rover, slated to launch next year, will be named after noted scientist Rosalind Franklin, whose work led to the discovery of the structure of DNA.
Last July, the UK’s space agency announced a competition to name the rover, which is scheduled to launch in 2020 as part of the ongoing ExoMars mission. People from across the European Union submitted 36,000 names for consideration and the winning name, Rosalind Franklin, was selected by a panel of experts. British astronaut Tim Peake announced the decision on Thursday.

Why her?  Mike Mcrae (SCIENCE ALERT) explains:

The new name of the European Space Agency (ESA) ExoMars rover was selected to honour a British chemist who contributed to the discovery of DNA's helical structure, yet never lived to see the recognition her work deserved.

A panel of experts dug through more than 36,000 entries submitted by citizens from the 22 states making up ESA membership before settling on Rosalind Franklin as the perfect name for a rover tasked with searching for complex organic chemicals.
"This name reminds us that it is in the human genes to explore. Science is in our DNA, and in everything we do at ESA," says ESA Director General Jan Woerner.
"Rosalind the rover captures this spirit and carries us all to the forefront of space exploration."

And BBC NEWS adds:

"In the last year of Rosalind's life, I remember visiting her in hospital on the day when she was excited by the news of the [Soviet Sputnik satellite] - the very beginning of space exploration," Franklin's sister, Jenifer Glynn, said on Thursday.
"She could never have imagined that over 60 years later there would be a rover sent to Mars bearing her name, but somehow that makes this project even more special."

So that's very amazing and very cool. 

The rover has been named after UK scientist and co-discoverer of the structure of DNA - Rosalind Franklin. , see you in 2021!

"Iraq snapshot" (THE COMMON ILLS):
Friday, February 8, 2019.  Joe Biden contemplates a run as the press attacks Tulsi Gabbard.

Starting with US politics, Aime Parnes (THE HILL) observes:

Former Vice President Joe Biden's words and policy positions on the Iraq War could come back to haunt him if he enters the race for the White House.
Biden is popular with Democrats, polls show he leads most of his competitors in the 2020 field and a survey this week found more than 60 percent want him in the race. He routinely leads polls of Democrats asked to pick their favored presidential candidate.
But his words on Iraq from nearly two decades ago sound out-of-step with the increasingly left-leaning party he would be seeking to lead. 
Biden backed the resolution giving President George W. Bush the authority to invade Iraq, and he also praised the president in a Senate floor speech at the time for his handling of the case for war.

Joe did not have the problems that Hillary Clinton or John Edwards had when it came to Iraq.  As the late Elizabeth Edwards noted, John Edwards came clean on Iraq and apologized for it but Hillary refused to take accountability for her support for the Iraq War (saying she was tricked by Bully Boy Bush is not taking accountability, it is saying "I"m so stupid even an idiot can fool me").

Parnes notes 2008 in one sentence but never addresses why it wasn't an issue for Joe when he last attempted to be the Democratic Party nominee.

There are several reasons.  First among them, the Iraq War wasn't his focus, he was focused on partitioning Iraq or creating a federalist system.  He repeatedly denied this was partitioning Iraq.  Many Iraqis disagreed.  During his brief 2007 and January 2008 campaign for the nomination, he was repeatedly on the defense about this issue.  Seeking votes in Iowa in the last stages of his campaign, he was still having to face the issue and clarify or expand on his previous remarks.

It is true that CODEPINK was bird-dogging Hillary Clinton over her vote and support for the Iraq War at this time (and only bird-dogging her) but Joe's mess at that time was being the face of US imperialism announcing that Iraq should be three different government under a federalist system.  This was not what Iraqis were calling for at the time and here was this non-Iraqi from a country that started the war now insisting what would be done next.

Beau Biden is another factor.  Beau served in Iraq.  Chelsea Clinton did not serve in Iraq (though she did support the Iraq War, a reality she tries to lie about today).  With a son in Iraq, the hypocrite label was a little harder to hang on Joe.

There's also the fact that no one really thought Joe Biden stood a chance at the nomination.  He was gaffe prone.  He infamously 'borrowed' from another for a big speech in a previous run.  He wasn't seen as a viable candidate by the press.

What's different now?

Sexism will be called out.  I'm not just referring to Anita Hill (Parnes covers that).  I'm also referring to the media itself.  In New Hampshire, speaking publicly, Hillary's eyes well.  She does not cry, she does not sob.  But Bill Moyers, Jesse Jackson Jr. and countless others mocked her for that, ridiculed her for that, etc.  Months later, Joe Biden, then on the ticket as Barack Obama's running mate, starts crying on stage in the middle of a speech.  It's not even one day's coverage, let alone the weeks of coverage Hillary endured.

Things have changed and they won't help Joe.  Most of all, his Iraq-free card won't exist this time, not after he shamed himself by publicly praising Bully Boy Bush at an awards ceremony last year.  Joe's popularity is as an idea.  As an actual person?  If he runs, his popularity will plummet.

We heard attacks from warmongers in politics/media before. Those opposed to Iraq/Libya/Syria regime change wars are called “dicatator-lovers” or “cozy” with evil regimes. Rather than defend their position, they resort to name-calling & smears. American people wont fall for this.

US House Rep Tulsi Gabbard is running for the 2020 Democratic Party nomination and you know she makes some tremble by the vicious media attacks she's already enduring.

Last Saturday, she officially launched her campaign.

Tulsi Gabbard officially announced her candidacy for President of the United States and kicked off her campaign on Saturday, Feb. 2, 2019, in Hawaii. She was introduced by Ryan Soon, a fellow member of the Hawaii National Guard who served with her in Iraq and Kuwait. Tulsi's friends, family, and supporters gathered to hear her vision for the future of our nation. More than 3,500 private and public watch parties across the country were coordinated by grassroots supporters to take part in the live-streamed event.
In her remarks, Tulsi Gabbard said, "When we raise our right hand and volunteer to serve, we set aside our own interests—to serve our country and to fight for ALL Americans. We serve as one—indivisible and unbreakable, united by this bond of  love for each other and love for our country. It is this principle of putting service above self, that is at the heart of every soldier, every service member. And it is in this spirit that today I announce my candidacy for President of the United States of America.

"I will bring a soldier's values and principles to the White House—restoring the values of dignity, honor, and respect to the presidency. And above all, love for our people and love of country. I ask you to join me, in this spirit of putting service before self, to stand up against the forces of greed and corruption."

Possibly some of the press attacks stem from the press fear that Tulsi will bring Iraq into the conversation.  Parnes, for example, is convinced that Iraq's not an issue in 2020.


Senator Elizabeth Warren's running for the nomination and she's contributed a major paper to COFR's FOREIGN AFFAIRS:

A foreign policy that works for all Americans must also be driven by honest assessments of the full costs and risks associated with going to war. All three of my brothers served in the military, and I know our service members and their families are smart, tough, and resourceful. But having a strong military doesn’t mean we need to constantly use it. An effective deterrent also means showing the good judgment to exercise appropriate restraint. 
Over the past two decades, the United States has been mired in a series of wars that have sapped its strength. The human cost of these wars has been staggering: more than 6,900 killed in Afghanistan and Iraq, another 52,000 wounded, and many more who live every day with the invisible scars of war. By financing these conflicts while cutting taxes, the country has essentially charged the costs of war to a collective credit card for future generations to pay, diverting money that could have been invested in critical domestic priorities. This burden will create a drag on the economy that will last for generations. 
The costs have been extraordinarily high, but these wars have not succeeded even on their own terms. We’ve “turned the corner” in Afghanistan so many times that it seems we’re now going in circles. After years of constant war, Afghanistan hardly resembles a functioning state, and both poppy production and the Taliban are again on the rise. The invasion of Iraq destabilized and fragmented the Middle East, creating enormous suffering and precipitating the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people. The region remains a tangled mess—the promise of the Arab Spring crushed, Iran emboldened, Syria devastated, the Islamic State (or ISIS) and its offshoots stubbornly resilient, and a massive refugee crisis threatening to destabilize Europe. Neither military nor civilian policymakers seem capable of defining success, but surely this is not it.
A singular focus on counterterrorism, meanwhile, has dangerously distorted U.S. policies. Here at home, we have allowed an imperial presidency to stretch the Constitution beyond recognition to justify the use of force, with little oversight from Congress. The government has at times defended tactics, such as torture, that are antithetical to American values. Washington has partnered with countries that share neither its goals nor its ideals. Counterterrorism efforts have often undermined other foreign policy priorities, such as reinforcing civilian governance, the rule of law, and human rights abroad. And in some cases, as with U.S. support for Saudi Arabia’s proxy war in Yemen, U.S. policies risk generating even more extremism.
As a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, I have seen up close how 17 years of conflict have degraded equipment, sapped forces’ readiness, and forced the postponement of investment in critical military capabilities. It has distracted Washington from growing dangers in other parts of the world: a long-term struggle for power in Asia, a revanchist Russia that threatens Europe, and looming unrest in the Western Hemisphere, including a collapsing state in Venezuela that threatens to disrupt its neighbors. Would-be rivals, for their part, have watched and learned, and they are hard at work developing technologies and tactics to leapfrog the United States, investing heavily in such areas as robotics, cybersecurity, artificial intelligence, synthetic biology, and quantum computing. China is making massive bets in these and other areas in an effort to surpass the United States as a global technological power. Whether the United States will maintain its edge and harness these technologies for good remains an open question. 
It is the job of the U.S. government to do what is necessary to protect Americans, but it is long past time to start asking what truly makes the country safer—and what does not. Military efforts alone will never fully succeed at ending terrorism, because it is not possible to fight one’s way out of extremism. Some challenges, such as cyberattacks and nuclear proliferation, require much more than a strong military to combat. And other dangers, such as climate change and the spread of infectious diseases, cannot be solved through military action at all. The United States will spend more than $700 billion on defense in the 2018–19 fiscal year alone. That is more in real terms than was spent under President Ronald Reagan during the Cold War and more than all the rest of the country’s discretionary budget put together. But even as Washington spends more and more, U.S. military leaders point out that funding a muscular military without robust diplomacy, economic statecraft, support for civil society, and development assistance only hamstrings American national power and undercuts any military gains. 
As a candidate, Trump promised to bring U.S. troops home. As president, he has sent more troops into Afghanistan. On the campaign trail, Trump claimed he did not want to police the world. As president, he has expanded the United States’ military footprint around the globe, from doubling the number of U.S. air strikes in Somalia to establishing a drone base in Niger. As a candidate, Trump promised to rebuild the military, but as president, he has gutted the diplomatic corps on which the Pentagon relies. He promised to reduce the threat of nuclear proliferation, but he has undermined a successful nuclear deal with Iran, has failed to roll back the North Korean nuclear program, and seems intent on spurring a new nuclear arms race with Russia. 

These actions do not make Americans safer. It’s time to seriously review the country’s military commitments overseas, and that includes bringing U.S. troops home from Afghanistan and Iraq. They have fought with honor, but additional American blood spilled will not halt the violence or result in a functioning democratic government in either place. 

We've noted that several times before.  We've also noted that foreign policy will be an issue in the 2020 election.  How much of an issue, I don't know.  Even I was shocked by (see Wednesday's snapshot) the "CBS NEWS poll showed that the most pressing topic on the mind of Americans was foreign policy and national security.  Respondents ranked that the number one issue (93%) with jobs and economy second (92%) and healthcare third (80%)."

In Iraq, a death continues to garner attention.

So sad, so tragic. The well-known and award-winning Iraqi novelist Alaa Mashthob Abboud was shot dead on 2 February. We strongly condemn this henious assasination.
: Writer and novelist Dr. Alaa Mashthob Abboud assassinated
activist and novelist, Alaa Mashthob, assassinated in Karbala
Writer and novelist Dr. Alaa Mashthob Abboud assassinated: Gulf Centre for Human Rights | More w/ RSS:
CIVICUS is saddened by the death of writer Dr. Alaa Mashthob Abboud, assassinated in last week. This is a violation on the rights to Freedom of Expression in . We call for greater protections for those who speak boldly for freedoms in Iraq.
Along with , PEN SA strongly condemns the murder of Prominent Iraqi Writer, Alaa Mashthob Abboud. Read the full statement here:

This morning, MIDDLE EAST MONITOR notes:

Leader of the Abu Al-Fadl Al-Abbas Forces of the Popular Mobilisation Forces, Aws al-Khafaji said on Wednesday that Iraqi renowned novelist Alaa Mashthob was assassinated because he had criticised Iran.
“My cousin, Alaa Mashthob wrote an article against Iran. Some men came and killed him in love of Iran,” he said, calling to reject all foreign presence and Iranian interventions in Iraq.

The remarks were too much and, apparently, had to be silenced.  KURDISTAN 24 reports:

 Iraq’s Iranian-backed Hashd al-Shaabi militia on Thursday arrested the leader of the Abu al-Fadhl al-Abbas Brigade, Aws al-Khafaji, after he repeatedly criticized policies of neighboring Iran in his country.
A group of Hashd al-Shaabi fighters, also known as the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), stormed the headquarters of the Abu al-Fadhl al-Abbas Brigade in Baghdad’s Karrada district and arrested Khafaji.

Khafaji has long criticized Iran’s policies in Iraq and has repeatedly expressed disapproval of local clerics and leaders “exaggerating” in their defense of Iran. He has also been vocal about Iraq’s sovereignty needing to be “preserved and respected.”

It was Barack's puppet Hayder al-Abadi that took these militias and made them part of the Iraqi military forces.  Even bowing to them repeatedly, however, could not garner their support in the 2018 election.

The new prime minister Adel Abdul Mahdi is not making any headway.  He still can't find a Minister of Defense or Minister of Interior all these months later.  He can't address the ongoing Basra protests in any significant way.

Despite months of protest by its residents ‘s remains polluted, while its funds much of the Iraqi state. Basra is not governed as a city for people to live in, but as a strategic extraction point for its resources. ‘s shame

I knew there were a good number; 7K seems like a lot but not improbable given that many were just for intimidation & not necessarily carried out to arrest. But from the way they've handled the Basra protests, its is clear that Iraqi personnel do not get "civil liberties."
  • Protests in ’s likely throughout 2019, but security force presence mitigates disruption risk to oil sites

    The following community sites -- plus Cindy Sheehan, ANTIWAR.COM and THE PACIFICA EVENING NEWS -- updated: