The hacking scandal that may drive Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp empire, owner of Fox News, out of its former base in Britain bubbled up again. Police have detained British Prime Minister David Cameron’s former spokesman on suspicion of perjury. Andy Coulson resigned from his post at Downing Street last year in the wake of the UK phone hacking scandal. Before joining Cameron’s team he’d been an editor at Murdoch’s News of the World, now shut down.
** QUICK HITS. SpaceX’s Dragon capsule will detach from the International Space Station very early on Thursday morning and return to the Earth to conclude its historic mission, with splashdown in the Pacific off the California coast tentatively set for 8:44 AM Pacific. … A member of California’s compensation commission will propose tomorrow that state constitutional officers and legislators take a 5% pay cut to mirror what Governor Jerry Brown is pushing with state workers. I doubt Brown will have a problem with that.
** NEW POLL: ONCE DEMONIZED MICHELLE OBAMA IS AN ASSET. Despite persistent efforts over the past several years by many on the far right to demonize her as an “anti-white” and “elitist” figure, First Lady Michelle Obama is quite popular according to a new Gallup Poll.
She’s not as popular as First Lady Laura Bush was, but she is more popular than First Lady Hillary Clinton was.
By an odd non-coincidence, Michelle Obama plays more of an overt political role than Laura Bush did, and less than Hillary Clinton did.
Sixty-six percent of Americans have a favorable view of first lady Michelle Obama, unchanged from nearly two years ago and in line with her ratings since Barack Obama was inaugurated as president. …
Michelle Obama’s current favorable rating is identical to her average 66% rating to date as first lady. Americans did not view her as positively during the 2008 presidential campaign, giving her favorable ratings no higher than 54%. Opinions of her became considerably more positive in January 2009, rising to 68%, just before the inauguration.
Americans also viewed each of the prior two first ladies positively, with Laura Bush averaging a 73% favorable rating and Hillary Clinton 56%. Clinton, now the U.S. secretary of state, currently receives favorable ratings from 66% of Americans. …
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney mathematically clinched the party nomination in Tuesday’s Texas primary. He accepted his victory last night in a speech in Las Vegas at Donald Trump’s Trump International Hotel on the Vegas Strip. Trump overshadowed things with more of his “birther” blather about President Barack Obama.
** NEW COLUMNS COMING UP … MAD MEN: CONTROVERSY AS JOAN LOWERS HERSELF TO RISE AND PEGGY EXITS ANTICLIMACTICALLY, and OBAMA AFTER THE IRAN NEGOTIATIONS AND THE NATO SUMMIT.
** OBAMA TODAY. President Barack Obama is in Washington.
He has received the daily intelligence and economic briefings in the Oval Office.
Obama then met with senior advisors in the Oval Office.
Following that, Obama attended an annual hurricane preparedness briefing in the Situation Room.
Obama then signed the reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank in the South Court Auditorium.
At 2 PM Pacific, Obama hosts a Jewish American Heritage Month reception in the East Room.
Obama’s Republican rival, former Massachusetts Governor and leveraged buyout artist Mitt Romney, mathematically clinched the party nomination yesterday with a win in the Texas primary.
But Romney’s victory was overshadowed by his supporter, Donald Trump.
Romney delivered his victory speech in Las Vegas, where he appeared at a big fundraiser at Trump’s casino on the Vegas Strip.
And, in yet another sign of his embrace of and by anti-Enlightenment forces, Romney’s day was dominated by Trump interviews in which the New York real estate billionaire again proclaimed his nonsensical opinion that Obama isn’t really an American citizen.
In an interview on CNN, host Wolf Blitzer told Trump that he was getting “a little ridiculous” with his continued pushing of birtherism.
To which Trump retorted: “I think you’re ridiculous.”
Did Romney denounce his host and patron’s vicious nonsense?
Of course not.
Meanwhile, serious doings for serious people …
Yesterday, eleven countries expelled Syrian ambassadors and diplomats following the massacre late last week in Houla of 108 people, including 49 children. The US, UK, France, and Germany all took part, as did Canada, but Syria’s patron Russia did not.
Former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan complained again that his ceasefire is not holding and UN monitors are in danger. The US says that military intervention is not in the works.
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange’s appeal against extradition to Sweden, where he is wanted on somewhat shadowy sex charges, has been dismissed by the UK’s Supreme Court on a majority verdict.
Obama is monitoring several geopolitical crises involving the Arab Awakening, Iran and Israel, Iraq, AfPak, and North Korea.
Military Crisis Zone Times: The Arabian Gulf is ten hours ahead of Pacific time, and Afghanistan is eleven and a half hours ahead of Pacific time.
** THE NEW SPACE ERA TAKES BIG STEPS FORWARD. A very important mission is about to wind up. The first private spacecraft to visit the International Space Station, from California’s SpaceX Corp., has already achieved very notable historical firsts, successfully matching orbits with the ISS at 17,500 miles per hour, performing a series of complex maneuvers in close proximity to the station in the course of that rendezvous, and at last docking with it, bringing the first supplies for the ISS carried aloft by a private vehicle.
Till now, only governments — US, Russia, Europe and Japan — have sent missions to the space station. All that is changing in the post-space shuttle era. The US is dependent on Russia for getting astronauts to the ISS. But private enterprise is beginning to pick up the slack for orbital missions, with LA-based SpaceX, more formally Space Exploration Technologies Corp., leading the way with other companies rushing to compete. As private enterprise emerges, NASA is turning its focus to deep space, continuing with unmanned missions run out of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, also in the LA area, and developing ambitious new manned missions to the asteroids and to Mars.
But that’s mostly in the future. On Thursday, the SpaceX Dragon capsule, which is slated to carry astronauts to the ISS in a few years but will perform re-supply missions in the meantime, will return to Earth, carrying the take from scientific experiments, splashing down in the Pacific Ocean off the California coast. Other supply vessels burn up in the atmosphere, but Dragon, designed from the outset for human orbital voyages in a few years, is reusable, like the old shuttles but without their complications and expense.
These accomplishments are building on existing technology developed for NASA. The success of their applications here in private enterprise form for missions around the Earth frees up NASA to focus on research and development for outward bound missions. And it paves the way for further development of a thriving space industry, with entrepreneurial applications that are not entirely foreseeable. Just as government-funded development of the semiconductor for government space and military programs in the 1960s paved the way for the private computer industry.
This is all in furtherance of Enlightenment ideals engrained in the fabric of American society by Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin: Curiosity, exploration, scientific advancement turned into ingenuity and know-how to accomplish practical goals and maintain a sense of vision for further advances in knowledge.
Some believe that we have too many problems here on Earth to concern ourselves with space. But problems are part of the human condition. I believe that humanity can and will improve, though there is plenty of evidence to the contrary. But improvement is not perfection. Which is all the more reason why we must continue to look beyond our own insularity and push outward and upward.
Back to what we are seeing with the SpaceX mission and what it may mean in the near future. What is still ongoing — returning the capsule to Earth is something that SpaceX has already done, albeit not from the ISS before — is a tremendous set of strides forward.
This was actually two missions in one. Originally, the culmination of this mission was to be the rendezvous without docking. The actual docking and carrying of cargo was to be another mission. …
From my new essay.
** FROM THE JERRY FILES. Governor Jerry Brown is in Northern California.
He has no scheduled public events as of this morning.
Brown got mostly good news today in the new USC/LA Times poll.
This poll, unlike last week’s Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) poll, was not taken in the midst of media coverage of the “surprise” increase in the state’s budget deficit.
Brown’s job approval was in notably better shape, with 49% of registered voters approving and 39% disapproving.
And his November revenue initiative is also in good shape, favored by 59% with 36% opposed.
But if voters think that the legislature, which they do not respect or trust, controls the increased funds, then support drops to 50%.
I’ll have more in a “Jerry-Rigging” coming up.
In other action yesterday, California’s high-speed rail board has picked a new executive director. He’s Jeff Morales, who served as head of the Department of Transportation during the Gray Davis Administration.
The California State Assembly took another big step toward implementing the cap and trade portion of the state’s landmark climate change program, setting up standards for how revenue generated by the program can be spent. The program was promoted by former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, who signed it into law in 2006, and former Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez. Under the bill passed today on a 47-26 vote, funds can only be spent on green energy, low-carbon transportation, protection of resources, and related R&D. $1 billion is expected in the first year, with more after that.
Brown has made a supportive statement, if not an endorsement per se, about Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher, the Republican-turned-independent candidate for mayor of San Diego: “Nathan Fletcher stands out from the pack, especially when he voted to close a big tax loophole that rewards companies that ship jobs out of California. In the face of partisan pressures, he maintains his independence and calls it like he sees it.”
** MAD MEN: A GREAT LEAPER FORWARD? JOAN, JAG, DON’S RETURN TO ADVERTISING (AND OTHER, ER, TREKS). … From my May 23rd review.
** A BUCKET OF WOE: JERRY BROWN’S UNSURPRISINGLY UNHAPPY BUDGET. … From my May 16th essay.
** MAD MEN: DANGER! SLIPPERY WHEN SOAPY (ESPECIALLY IN DARK SHADOWS). … From my May 15th review.
** NUCLEAR’S ONCE BRIGHT AND SHINY FUTURE BLINKS OUT. …From my May 12th essay.
** MAD MEN: REJECTING ADVERTISING, OR, DON DRAPER MEETS ACID ROCK, POP BUDDHISM, AND AN INDEPENDENT WIFE. … From my May 8th essay.
** THE CURIOUS CHEN CRISIS SPOTLIGHTS OUR BIG CHINA CONUNDRUM. … From my May 4th essay.
** FROM GOVERNATOR TO MOONBEAM. … From my January 3rd, 2011 feature.
** OBAMA: RIDING WITH HISTORY. (NOTE: As Barack Obama was inaugurated as the 44th president of the United States, this column was the featured column on the top of the front page of the Huffington Post.) … From my January 19th, 2009 Huffington Post column.
** 24/7 LIVE TV NEWS FEED FROM AL JAZEERA. With the US entangled in major military operations in the region, and the Arab awakening underway, it’s valuable to keep up with news and perspectives from the leading Middle Eastern-based TV news network. Click here for a live TV news feed on your computer. The NWN live link to AJ does not constitute an endorsement of the channel’s views. It’s presented as an otherwise unavailable new media window.
** 24/7 LIVE TV NEWS FEED FROM RUSSIA TODAY. Russia has re-emerged as one of the world’s great powers. Click here for a live TV news feed on your computer from the Russia Today channel. The NWN live link to RT does not constitute an endorsement of the state-run channel’s views. It’s presented as an otherwise unavailable new media window.
** TRACK GLOBAL AND NATIONAL ENERGY PRICES IN NEAR REAL TIME VIA BLOOMBERG ENERGY MARKET WATCH. Having crashed over $147 for yet another record on July 11th, 2008, crude oil is trading around $88 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
This is up about $54 from the low of $34 per barrel prior to enactment of the Obama economic recovery program, reflecting a low point in global economic activity, and down about $26 per barrel from the price at the time of the Osama bin Laden raid.
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