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Outer Space Gold Rush Has Wall Street Betting on the Moon

Elias Marat

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The new space race is fast beginning to resemble a gold rush, according to Wall Street analysts eager to exploit minerals in outer space.

According to a new note issued by Morgan Stanley, the moon is expected to be one among many extraterrestrial sources of riches in the coming years – and a potential field of contention in the struggle for resources among major terrestrial powers such as the United States, China and Russia. In the note, analysts describe the moon as a critical node for future space travel endeavors and a critical source of minerals and water:

The moon is seen as an important weigh station for the preparation and launch of deeper space missions,” analysts noted. “Water on the moon can be used to sustain life and create fuel.”

Continued speculation over the potentially massive profits to be found on the moon and other celestial objects are sure to fuel the ongoing militarization of space and its transformation into what U.S. Vice President Mike Pence has called a “war-fighting domain.” Indeed, the conquest and use of space for military purposes has been a trend the U.S. has pursued since the dawn of its space program – the Pentagon’s U.S. Space Command already operates under the motto “Masters of Space”– and this has only gained momentum in recent years, especially as President Donald Trump seeks to establish a Space Force as a new department of the U.S. military by the end of his administration.

Morgan Stanley’s analysts are keenly aware of the unfolding competition, noting that “the moon has long been viewed as the ‘ultimate high ground’ in a military sense.” The financial giant isn’t alone in viewing China’s landing of lunar rover Chang’e 4 on the dark side of the moon as a “Sputnik moment” for the U.S. that is sure to stoke a new space race and potentially new military wrangling between major world powers.

The landing “lifted the mysterious veil” from the far side of the moon and kicked off the start of “a new chapter in the human race’s lunar and space exploration,” according to China National Space Administration officials. And while the landing was described as a “step forward for human civilization” by Communist Party-run newspaper The Global Times and even earned the congratulations of NASA, the achievement is seen by most officials in Washington as more of a shot across the bow than as a lofty step toward exploring the final frontier for the benefit of humankind.

Just last August, Pentagon analysts warned that China’s new space program is a part of the country’s plans to make space “central to modern warfare.”

In October, Jeff Gossel, senior intelligence engineer at the Space and Missile Analysis Group of the National Air and Space Intelligence Center, argued that the Chinese government’s goal of building a moon base could allow the country to vastly increase its anti-satellite capabilities.

The Pentagon’s obsession with outer space’s role in military competitions between earthly powers has a long history in U.S. security circles, dating back to 1958, when then-U.S. Senate Majority Leader Lyndon B. Johnson described the need to secure U.S. control of space:

“[T]here is something more important than the ultimate weapon. That is the ultimate position – the position of total control over the Earth that lies somewhere out in space. That is … the distant future, though not so distant as we may have thought. Whoever gains that position gains control, total control, over Earth, for the purposes of tyranny or for the service of freedom.”

Yet investors are hoping to earn massive dividends from investments in space exploration, with the space economy is expected to swell to $1.1 trillion by 2040, according to Morgan Stanley’s earlier note – almost triple the current amount of $385 billion, according to the Space Foundation. The commercial sector is expected to gain the most from this massive swelling in the interplanetary economy as NASA’s role diminishes while the ambitions of private players, including billionaires Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos, increasingly take center stage in space exploration efforts.

Morgan Stanley’s analysts hope that such market competition between private actors as well as national entities will boost the capabilities of the space economy, noting:

“We believe more conspicuous lunar missions may highlight competing national security interests and accelerate the development of important adjacent technologies in AI, software,and cyber. The competitive dynamic may accelerate the development of the space economy in general.”

Yet critics have warned that the increasing role of space as a field of market competition – and by implication, military competition – will instead exacerbate the problems humans already face on a planet rife with war, inequality, social strife and ecological ruin.

In their 2007 book, Cosmic Society: Towards a Sociology of the Universe, Professors Peter Dickens and James S. Ormrod warn of the dangers in extending the property rights of transnational corporations and the military operations of imperialist powers to the cosmos:

“It has long been recognized that struggles over space on Earth are intimately connected to social struggles, to contests between classes and others. … Sadly now, those interests monopolizing and controlling the use of outer space are those attempting to monopolize and control social relations, social processes, and forms of subjectivity on Earth. It is possible to imagine the total militarization of the public sphere from space, civilians’ every move being watched and targeted.

In short, the current way of humanizing outer space is again about exerting the hegemony of the powerful.”

Corruption

Derek Chauvin Found GUILTY of Murdering George Floyd

Elias Marat

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Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin has been found guilty on all counts in the murder of George Floyd, the 46-year-old Black man whose death at Chauvin’s hands last May sparked a long period of unrest and major protests against policing and racism in America.

After deliberating for about 10 hours over two days, the jury found Chauvin guilty of second-degree murder, third-degree murder and manslaughter for the killing of Floyd on a street corner last year on Memorial Day.

The second-degree murder charge carries a maximum sentence of 40 years. The third-degree murder charge carries a maximum sentence of 25 years, and second-degree manslaughter can carry up to 10 years.

In harrowing video footage from the May 25, 2020, incident that has been seen billions of times across the globe, Chauvin could be seen kneeling on the neck of Floyd for over nine minutes while fellow Minneapolis officers Tou Thao, J Alexander Kueng, and Thomas Lane stood by. Meanwhile, a horrified crowd of bystanders filmed and pled with officers as the event transpired.

On Monday, the prosecution and defense presented their closing arguments to the jury.

Prosecutors argued that Chauvin’s actions directly led to Floyd dying from low oxygen, or asphyxia. Prosecutor Steve Schleicher said that Chauvin “chose pride over policing,” calling his actions “unnecessary, gratuitous and disproportionate.” He also reminded the jury that Chauvin’s hundreds of hours of training over the course of 19 years with the Minneapolis Police Department should have led to a different outcome than Floyd’s death during a crisis.

The prosecution also focused on the fact that Chauvin knee was on Floyd’s neck for nine minutes and 29 seconds.

The defense, however, argued that Floyd’s use of illegal drugs and a pre-existing heart condition were to blame and that “the totality of the circumstances,” including exposure to carbon monoxide, led to his death in police custody.

38 witnesses were called by prosecutors, including the teenager who recorded the widely seen video that has been played endlessly over the past year. She and other bystanders testified that they remain haunted by Floyd’s death. The defense called seven witnesses, including two experts.

Floyd’s death rekindled a long-seething anger over police brutality and racial oppression in the United States, with cities across the U.S. and the world rising up in protest over his killing and the killings of other victims of law enforcement.

President Joe Biden had expressed his wish for “the right verdict” without specifying explicitly whether the verdict would be guilty or not guilty. Biden had been careful not to comment on a potential outcome in Chauvin’s trial while urging calm.  

Residents, activists and journalists descended on the Hennepin County Courthouse in downtown Minneapolis when the announcement was made at 2:30 pm local time that the verdict has been reached. The crowd greeted the judge’s announcement of Chauvin’s guilty charges with applause and cheers.

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Good News

Cliffhanger: Mountain Biker Saved From “Imminent Death” After Falling Into Canyon

Elias Marat

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A Southern California mountain biker is likely counting his blessings after he was rescued from what authorities describe as “imminent death”” after falling from the side of a cliff in the Angeles National Forest.

The mountain biker, described as an older man, fell into the canyon at Mt. Wilson on Thursday morning and was dangling hundreds of feet above the ground before his fellow bikers, and eventually a special team from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, rescued him.

For some time the man dangled by a thin cord around his ankle that was tied to his bicycle while hanging on for dear life “like a cat,” Capt. Tom Giandomenico of the LASD special enforcement bureau told the Los Angeles Times.

“He knew he was in such a precarious situation. He was just scared to even rotate his head to look at us. He just didn’t want to move a muscle,” LASD Deputy Richard Thomsen told CBSLA.

Additionally, when the helicopter team arrived it wasn’t just a matter of simply hoisting the man to safety, as the air generated by the helicopter’s rotor would have sent the man plummeting to “imminent death,” Giandomenico added.

“Because he was head-down on the rock face there, that dropped probably a good 40 feet before it hit some soft dirt and a boulder,” Sheriff’s Deputy Scott Helbring said. “And beyond that was hundreds of feet down to the bottom of the canyon.”

Instead, one of the members of the special enforcement team composed of former SWAT officers devised a plan to rappel down to the man and move him to a ledge below, from which the two could be airlifted to safety.

However, due to a lack of boulders or trees, there was nothing to tie a rope to – and thus no way to rappel down to anything.

So instead, the special enforcement team used the man’s brother and another friend to be their anchor, a plan that ultimately succeeded.

Giandomenico called the rescue “one of the more significant, courageous maneuvers I’ve seen.”

“Heroic, in my opinion,” he added.

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Bizarre

Scientists Create First-Ever Embryos With Monkey and Human Cells

Elias Marat

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For the first time, scientists have created embryos in a lab that contain the cells of both humans and monkeys.

Scientists hope that by creating chimeric embryos – embryos containing cells from two distinct species – they might be able to create organs for people who desperately need transplants.

Over 100,000 people in the United States lone are currently on a waiting list for organ transplants crucial to saving their lives, but the supply of donor organs has dropped significantly since the pandemic began unfolding.

Researchers have attempted to inject human stem cells into the embryos of pigs and sheep in recent years in hopes of growing organs for transplants, but this hasn’t yielded positive results. Scientists are hoping that by turning to macaque monkeys, which share a greater genetic similarity to humans, they may have more success.

In a study published Thursday in the journal Cell, researchers in the U.S. and China injected 25  pluripotent stem cells from humans into embryos from macaque monkeys.

After one day, the researchers detected human cells beginning to grow in 132 of the embryos. They embryos ultimately survived for 19 days.

However, bioethicists have raised concerns about the potential for abusing medical regulations that currently govern the treatment of animal and human subjects, as well as the possibility that a rogue scientists might potentially spike living creatures with human cells.

“My first question is: Why?” Kirstin Matthews, a science and technology fellow at Rice University’s Baker Institute, told NPR. “I think the public is going to be concerned, and I am as well, that we’re just kind of pushing forward with science without having a proper conversation about what we should or should not do.”

Researchers insist that the study serves purely humanitarian goals that could save countless lives in the future.

“This work is an important step that provides very compelling evidence that someday when we understand fully what the process is we could make them develop into a heart or a kidney or lungs,” said University of Michigan professor Jeffrey Platt, who was not involved in the study.

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