MIAMI — A South Florida lawyer who helped Republicans try to challenge the results of the presidential election in Georgia was among tens of thousands of Twitter users removed from the site in the aftermath of the riot in Washington after posting messages he said were given to him by one of former President Donald Trump’s most controversial allies. Before he was banned this month, Carlos E. Silva — whose Coral Gables firm, Silva & Silva, has represented clients in high-profile cases in Miami-Dade County — said on Twitter that he was tweeting messages on behalf of L. Lin Wood, an Atlanta attorn...
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American aerospace giant Boeing's Starliner capsule was heading for the International Space Station Thursday, in a critical uncrewed test flight that followed years of failures and false starts.
The spacecraft encountered some propulsion troubles early in its journey, with two thrusters responsible for orbital maneuvering failing for unclear reasons -- but NASA officials said the mission remained on track.
The Orbital Test Flight 2 (OFT-2) mission blasted off at 6:54 pm Eastern Time (2254 GMT) from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, with the spaceship fixed atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket.
Its success is key to repairing Boeing's frayed reputation after the first bid, back in 2019, failed to dock with the ISS due to software bugs -- one that led to it burning too much fuel to reach its destination, and another that could have destroyed the vehicle during re-entry.
A second try was scheduled in August of last year, but Starliner was rolled back from the launchpad to address sticky valves that weren't opening as they should, and the capsule was eventually sent back to the factory for fixes.
At a post-launch press conference, senior NASA official Steve Sitch said: "Overall, the spacecraft is doing really well," but he also flagged two anomalies that engineers were now working to understand.
The first was that two out of 12 orbital maneuvering and attitude control (OMAC) thrusters located on Starliner's aft side had initially fired but then shut down, forcing a third to take up their slack.
The second issue was that a device known as a sublimator responsible for cooling the spacecraft was initially slow to get started.
NASA is looking to certify Starliner as a second "taxi" service for its astronauts to the space station -- a role that Elon Musk's SpaceX has provided since succeeding in a test mission for its Dragon capsule in 2020.
Both companies were awarded fixed-price contracts -- $4.2 billion to Boeing, and $2.6 billion to SpaceX -- in 2014, shortly after the end of the Space Shuttle program, during a time when the United States was left reliant on Russian Soyuz rockets for rides to the orbital outpost.
Boeing, with its hundred-year history, was considered by many as the sure shot, while then-upstart SpaceX was less proven.
In reality, it was SpaceX that rocketed ahead, and recently sent its fourth routine crew to the research platform -- while Boeing's development delays have cost the company hundreds of millions of dollars.
Starliner should dock with the ISS about 24 hours after launch, and deliver more than 500 pounds (226 kilograms) of cargo, including food and provisions such as clothes and sleeping bags for the current crew on the station.
Its sole passenger is a mannequin named Rosie the Rocketeer -- a play on the World War II campaign icon Rosie the Riveter -- whose job is to collect flight data with her sensors in order to learn what human astronauts would experience.
"We are a little jealous of Rosie," said NASA astronaut Mike Fincke, who is expected to be among the first crew selected for a manned demonstration mission should OFT-2 succeed.
The gumdrop-shaped capsule will spend about five to ten days in space, then undock and return to Earth, using giant parachutes to land in the desert of the western United States.
NASA sees a second provider to low Earth orbit as a vital backup, should SpaceX encounter problems.
"It's a really critical step for us and moving towards having two routinely flying crewed vehicles who can bring our crew to and from ISS," Dana Weigel, deputy program manager for the ISS, told reporters this week.
Meatpacking companies knew early on in the pandemic that their facilities were hot spots for the coronavirus, but rather than take safeguards to protect their workers, they instead pushed the Trump administration to limit local health requirements and insulate themselves from legal accountability.
A congressional select committee recently issued a report on COVID outbreaks in the meatpacking industry, and their investigation found that industry lobbyists ginned up bogus fears of meat shortages to keep their plants open and force workers back onto the job, despite the health risks, reported MSNBC.
“Now to get rid of those pesky health departments!” one lobbyist told a Koch Foods executive, according to the report.
The companies probably could have kept their facilities open without turning them into COVID factories, according to MSNBC columnist Ryan Cooper, but rather than take countervailing steps to improve ventilation or provide masks to workers, the industry successfully lobbied the Trump administration to invoke the Defense Production Act to overrule local regulations and shield companies from legal liability for worker deaths.
"Sure enough," Cooper wrote, "meatpacking facilities, where workers are commonly immigrants and about 69 percent are nonwhite, have been some of the deadliest places during the pandemic, and workers also spread the virus around their communities. One study found that the presence of a meatpacking plant increased case numbers in U.S. counties by about 160 percent."
Some of the protective measures might have been difficult to implement, although grocery store chains successfully pulled them off, but Cooper said the episode shows that American executives view their workers as "lazy rabble" who must be coerced into work and then discarded, and "pseudo-populists" like Trump help them get away with it.
"It’s an illustration of the fundamentally fraudulent nature of Trump-style 'populism,'" Cooper wrote. "He and his party might rail against 'globalist' bankers, corporate fat cats or slanted trade deals and occasionally might even make some token policy gesture in that direction. But when corporate profits — or capitalists’ control of their workforces, especially diverse ones — are on the line, then Donald Trump and his goons have their backs, always."
According to information provided by one of the participants, conservative political gadfly Roger Stone was at the center of a group chat named after him that included now-indicted militia members who participated in the Jan 6th insurrection.
While there have been reports that the supporter of Donald Trump was seen in the company of Oath Keepers acting as his bodyguards, the existence of the so-called F.O.S. — or Friends of Stone -- group chat may shed more light on the planning and activities of the riot that forced lawmakers from both sides of the aisle to flee for their lives.
According to the report from the New York Times, members of the chat included a rogues gallery of right-wing figures, 47 in all, including, "Owen Shroyer, the right-hand man of the conspiracy theorist Alex Jones; Enrique Tarrio, the onetime chairman of the Proud Boys; and Stewart Rhodes, the leader of the Oath Keepers militia."
As the Times' Alan Feuer wrote, "While the origins of the group chat remain somewhat obscure, Friends of Stone has existed since at least 2019, when Mr. Stone was indicted in connection with the Russia investigation by the special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, said one of its participants, Pete Santilli, a veteran right-wing radio host. According to Mr. Santilli, the group chat — hosted on the encrypted app Signal — was a kind of safe space where pro-Stone figures in politics and media, many of whom were banned from social media, could get together and trade links and stories about their mutual friend."
According to Santilli, there was noting untoward about the chat group, telling the Times, "The primary reason for the chat was to have a place for supporters to share stuff. You drop a link and everyone shares it on their nontraditional channels.”
The report continues, "After Mr. Trump’s defeat, Friends of Stone seemed to assume another purpose as Mr. Stone found himself in the middle of the accelerating Stop the Steal movement devised to challenge the results of the election. The Washington Post, citing footage from a Danish documentary film crew that was following Mr. Stone, said that in early November 2020, he asked his aides to direct those involved in the effort to monitor the chat for developments," adding, "In recent weeks, the Justice Department has expanded its investigation of the riot from those who physically attacked the Capitol to those who were not at the building but may have helped to shape or guide the violence. Investigators appear to be interested in finding any links between organizers who planned pro-Trump rallies at the Capitol that day and right-wing militants who took part in the assault."
The Times Feuer added, "The group chat’s membership list includes several people who fit that description."
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