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Budget crisis threatens future of US science

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WASHINGTON — American domination in science and technology is threatened by a budget crisis that could sap research investment just as competitors such as China are boosting spending, US experts say.

Republicans, who won a majority in the House of Representatives in November’s mid-term elections, have vowed to cut back federal spending in order to reduce the massive deficit that has ballooned to nearly 10 percent of US gross domestic product (GDP).

President Barack Obama, a Democrat, has also recognized the need to get spending under control and has proposed a five percent spending cut across many government agencies in 2011, while Republicans want a bigger, 10 percent cut.

Alan Leshner, chief executive officer of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, told AFP that those aims could translate to a five to 10 percent cut in research and development for fiscal years 2011 and 2012.

“One big fear is that one version of the Republican agenda suggested bringing funding back to 2008 levels and that for science would be catastrophic,” Leshner said.

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“These kinds of budget cuts work against the ultimate national goals of restoring the US economy and its international prowess,” he said.

Meanwhile, Leshner said “virtually all competitor countries, including India, China and Korea, are increasing investments in science and engineering research, development, and education.

“US funding looks like it could be heading the opposite direction.”

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And that trend is worrisome for scientists who want to encourage younger generations to enter the field, and who want to maintain a cutting edge in science and engineering which fuel economic growth, he said.

“This would have two consequences that are very grave,” he said.

“One, it will affect the making of discoveries and the pace of discoveries.

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“And two, it will send a message to young scientists, or potential scientists that this country is not committed to science, exactly at the time that our major competitor countries… are in fact investing in science.”

The National Academy of Sciences says China has over the past 15 years moved from 14th place in number of studies published to its current standing in second place behind the United States.

China has also become a leading exporter of high technology and aims to make more advances in environmentally friendly technologies.

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For instance, Leshner said China has begun a program to “buy back” native scientists who were trained in other countries.

“China’s commitment to science is very clear,” he added. “Certainly China is threatening American pre-eminence in many areas.”

According to Google chief executive Eric Schmidt, “almost all the science and technology research that we take from granted now came out of the Defense Department spending post World War II,” he told CNN in a recent interview.

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Among those inventions are semi-conductors, the creation of the Internet, Global Positioning Systems (GPS), all of which gave rise to multibillion dollar industries.

Such programs “are periodically under federal budget attack for one reason or another and yet they are literally the start of billion dollar industries. It’s important that that investment occur,” he said.

But other industries of the future, such as nanotechnology advances in medicine, energy and device production, require a level of specialization that the United States is not ready for yet, according to Lou Gerstner, former CEO of IBM.

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“The problem in America today is the next level of industries requires a level of skill, educational level, that we are not producing in this country,” he told CNN.

“We are not producing workers who have the skills to move up the next step. So we got a competition for high-paying jobs, high-return jobs, and we are not, in America, investing in the skills of our workers to allow us to compete globally in those industries.”


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CNN

Trump supporter blames Democrats for being targeted by the president: ‘Why is that racist?’

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CNN interviewed a supporter of President Donald Trump in Eau Claire, Wisconsin who refused to acknowledge the racism in the president's "Go Back" attacks on four women of color in Congress.

The network interviewed Kerri Krumenauer of Wiersgalla Plumbing & Heating Company about Trump's attacks.

"How is it racist?" she asked.

"If you don't like this country, get out," she demanded. "Leave!"

She then showed how misinformed she was about the incident.

"He didn't use any names -- they stood up," she falsely claimed. In fact, Trump did use names and the targets did not stand up as they were not at his North Carolina campaign rally.

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2020 Election

Here’s how Trump hopes to recreate his 2016 presidential win — and how Democrats can send him packing

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Writing for CNN on Saturday, election forecaster Harry Enten explained how President Donald Trump's recent, racist behavior lies in his desire to recreate the same electoral conditions that gave him a victory in 2016 in the presidential election next year.

"The Trump strategy is pretty simple: 1. Drive up the unfavorable ratings of his Democratic rival as he did in 2016 in order to compensate for his own low ratings. 2. Bank on an electoral college/popular vote split as he did in 2016. 3. Use a campaign of racial resentment to drive up turnout even more among groups favorable toward the President," wrote Enten. As he noted, Democrats have excellent odds to flip back Michigan and Pennsylvania, but they will have to work harder to win back any of the other states Trump flipped from the 2012 Obama camp — in particular Wisconsin, which was the closest state after those two.

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American, Italian and Russian blast off for ISS

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US, Italian and Russian astronauts blasted into space Saturday, headed for the International Space Station, in a launch coinciding with the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon landing.

Alexander Skvortsov of the Russian space agency Roscosmos, NASA's Andrew Morgan and Luca Parmitano of the European Space Agency set off on a six-hour journey to the orbiting science lab from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 1628 GMT.

A NASA TV commentator hailed a "textbook launch" minutes after blastoff in "sweltering" weather in Baikonur, where daytime temperatures reached 43 degrees Celsius on Saturday.

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