Doing Advance Work

News that doesn't receive the necessary attention.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Failed SpaceX launch puts billionaire Elon Musk company in a bind. His low ball bid was filled with delays on its way to flopping completely, Pentagon had already approved more US gov. contracts for SpaceX-Wall St. Journal

6/29/15, "Launch Failure Leaves SpaceX in a Longer-Term Bind," Wall St. Journal, Andy Pasztor

"Sunday’s failed Falcon 9 rocket launch poses more significant, longer-term business challenges for billionaire space entrepreneur Elon Musk’s company than simply identifying and fixing the underlying problem. 

Closely held Space Exploration Technology Corp. must convince commercial customers of the booster’s reliability—something that wasn’t such a pressing issue before—even as it juggles launch manifests and seeks to sharply ramp up its launch tempo as promised.

SpaceX, as the company is known, prides itself on engineering prowess, quick decisions and being nimble in solving launch problems. “I’m sure we’ll find [the cause] rapidly” and resume normal launch operations within a year, President and Chief Operating Officer Gwynne Shotwell was telling reporters within hours of Sunday’s mishap.

On Monday, company officials said the rocket’s second stage malfunctioned and investigators were examining some 3,000 different data sources, but they didn’t elaborate. They also said it was too early to predict the impact on future launches.

With a roughly $7 billion backlog of government, corporate and scientific launches, SpaceX management was fending off complaints from some commercial-satellite operators about launch delays long before Sunday. The operators like SpaceX’s price of $60 million or less to launch a big satellite into high-earth orbit, significantly below prices charged by U.S. and European rivals. But industry business plans depend on launch predictability above everything else.

Even if the Southern California company resolves the technical issues by the end of the year—as many industry officials predict—the pressures on its schedule are bound to increase.

A lot of these companies already have been backed up for a year or more” because of previous SpaceX schedule slips, according to consultant George Torres, a former satellite and rocket industry official who has written books about space.

SpaceX already has undergone some personnel shakeups, including a succession of press officials over the years and last month’s abrupt departure of Barry Matsumori, its de facto top salesman. 

On Monday, Mr. Matsumori said he left for personal reasons, and not over any clash with Mr. Musk or other executives. “There are no issues between me and SpaceX,” he said. 

“SpaceX and Barry parted amicably,” a company official said.

The launch failure’s impact on anticipated Pentagon and National Aeronautics and Space Administration launches will be hard to gauge for at least several weeks. 

A NASA competition to award the next phase of contracts to deliver cargo to the international space station was set be decided this summer, but industry officials said it may be pushed back. 

Meanwhile, congressional panels are preparing to hold hearings on incident, and Pentagon officials may reassess the impact of their recent green light for SpaceX to begin launching military and spy satellites

The botched launch, according to industry officials, is bound to complicate and could delay other important initiatives that had been gaining momentum. The initial test flight of the heavy-lift version of the Falcon rocket, postponed from its original 2013 date and more recently delayed from a revised 2015 schedule, could slip further, these officials said.

More broadly, Mr. Torres, like many industry and U.S. government space veterans, views Sunday’s mishap as underscoring the inherent dangers of space transportation.

Largely because SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket racked up a perfect record of 18 consecutive successful launches before Sunday, including demonstration flights, the company developed an aura of invincibility among many investors, industry analysts and the media. The traditional learning curve for new rockets, generally described as an average of one failure in the first three launches, didn’t seem to apply to Mr. Musk, the company’s chairman, founder and lead designer, or his cadre of young engineers.

Yet in the wake of Sunday’s rocket explosion, which occurred slightly more than two minutes after liftoff, perhaps “a sense of reality is setting in that this is not just a videogame,” according to Mr. Torres

Federal officials echoed those sentiments immediately after the mishap, with William Gerstenmaier, NASA’s top manned exploration official, telling reporters he and his staff always expected to lose some vehicles as part of the agency’s initiative to use unmanned commercial rockets and cargo capsules to supply the space station."


Pope Francis plans to chew coca leaves during upcoming visit to Bolivia-BBC

6/29/15, "Pope 'plans to chew coca leaves during Bolivia visit'," BBC

"Pope Francis has requested to chew coca leaves during his forthcoming visit to Bolivia, according to Bolivian Culture Minister Marko Machicao. 

Coca, the raw ingredient for cocaine, has been used in the Andes for thousands of years to combat altitude sickness and as a mild stimulant.

Mr Machicao said the government offered the Pope coca tea and the pontiff had "specifically requested" to chew coca.

The Vatican has not yet commented. The Pope travels to Bolivia on 8 July. 

Coca leaves were declared an illegal substance under the 1961 UN convention on narcotic drugs.

But the growing of coca leaves for religious and medicinal purposes is legal and licensed in Bolivia.
Many indigenous Bolivians consider the coca bush a sacred plant and chewing its leaves or brewing them into a tea is very popular.

Bolivia's 2009 constitution even declared the coca leaf "a cultural patrimony".

President Evo Morales, who used to be a coca grower, has long campaigned to decriminalise the consumption of coca leaves.

If the Pope were to chew coca leaves during his visit to the Andean country it would provide strong backing for Mr Morales's campaign
"We will be awaiting the Holy Father with the sacred coca leaf," Mr Machicao said.

The Pope's visit to Bolivia is part of a larger tour of Latin American countries which will also take him to Ecuador and Paraguay."


Unsettled science: Faulty science said white roofs atop any building would save energy and decrease CO2. New science finds white roofs in northern and central climates result in greater energy use, more CO2, and waste money. LEED program still uses false

6/29/2015, "'Green' roofs not always the most energy-efficient,", Craig A. Tyler

"Five years ago, Philadelphia City Council passed a green building code requiring that white roofs be used on certain buildings because they are more energy-efficient and help reduce air pollution.

New York and Chicago have similar codes. But the white-roof craze is based on old and faulty research that has promulgated two myths - that these roofs save energy atop any building and that they decrease global warming.

Philadelphians should be concerned that the city is wasting money on energy and possibly causing more, not less, global warming.

There is a significant heating penalty associated with using white roofs in central and northern climates, where owners use three to five times as much energy to heat their buildings than to cool them. In cities like Philly, white roofs consume more energy, which means they cause more cardon dioxide emissions.

A study by Arizona State University shows that white roofs can deflect sunlight into the atmosphere, changing cloud cover and reducing rain. A study by Stanford University simulated what would happen if all the roofs in the United States were converted to white and found that the sunlight reflected by white roofs causes heat to mix with black and brown soot particles to further warm the atmosphere.

Yet this green myth continues. Architects and builders started specifying white roofs 15 years ago, when the U.S. Green Building Council established a new green standard known as Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED). Today, more than 18,000 professionals nationwide hold LEED credentials, more than 1,000 of them in the Philadelphia region.

The LEED certification system has done a lot of good by recognizing building projects for their environmental quality. It also has influenced public policy, provided important educational opportunities, and generally made cost-efficient, energy-saving buildings a reality across the nation.

But as new studies like those mentioned emerged, architects, builders, and others involved in sustainable construction realized there is a flaw in the LEED point system. By using white roofing materials, they could earn a point for helping a city like Philly stay cooler and therefore lower air-conditioning demand and natural-resource consumption for electricity generation. But the fact that they would spend more on heating costs was not always factored into the equation.

At least the Environmental Protection Agency acknowledges that energy savings provided by white roofs are highly dependent on location and climate. The agency recommends using the Department of Energy's roof savings calculator to determine if the heating penalty exceeds the cooling benefit.

I used the calculator for a 75,000-square-foot building in Philadelphia to compare a white roof with a black roof. Given a certain level of insulation and energy pricing, a three-story building that size would lose $636 annually in energy costs. A one-story building would lose a whopping $2,200.

The LEED program would be strengthened by limiting the point for white roofs to urban settings in southern climates, where cooling demand outweighs heating demand, not in cities like Philadelphia.

Until such a change is made, architects and builders unfortunately will be encouraged to design and build facilities that use more energy than they should and that also may increase carbon dioxide emissions and global warming. Architects and building owners in Philadelphia can act on this new information to improve the environment by limiting the use of white roofs in northern climates while we wait for LEED to change." via Hockey Schtick



"Craig Tyler is a LEED-certified architect employed by Carlisle SynTec, a manufacturer of white, tan, gray, and black roofing in Carlisle, Pa."


Catholic Bishops have long history of almost unlimited access to federal funding, 67% of Catholic Charities' income is from federal government-Politico. Funding for state and national Catholic groups has increased under Obama-Catholic lobby

Nov. 2009 article: "The bishops have a long history of almost unlimited access to enormous quantities of federal funding....Sixty-seven percent of Catholic Charities’ income comes from government funding."

11/10/2009, "The Catholic bishops' double standard," Politico, by Nancy Keenan and Jon O'Brien

"The bishops have a long history of almost unlimited access to enormous quantities of federal funding. When it comes to funding for Catholic schools and hospitals or programs run by Catholic Charities, they accept federal funding with open arms. The bishops never question their own ability to lawfully manage funds from separate sources to ensure that tax dollars don’t finance religious practices. Yet they reject the idea that others could do the same. This is the very definition of hypocrisy.

For example, Catholic hospitals depend on federal funding. Indiana has 35 Catholic hospitals and 26 other Catholic health-care facilities. In 2007, 58 percent of patients who visited these facilities were covered by Medicaid or Medicare, a proportion reflected across the country. With well over half of their revenue coming from the government, it is safe to say that Catholic hospitals survive on government funding as well as contributions from private sources.

Catholic Charities, the domestic direct service arm of the bishops, also depends on state and federal dollars. Sixty-seven percent of Catholic Charities’ income comes from government funding. That represents over $2.6 billion in 2008— an amount that is more than three times as large as the next largest charitable recipient of federal funds, the YMCA. Just as Catholic hospitals do, Catholic Charities receives enormous quantities of government dollars while abiding by existing constitutional and statutory requirements that prevent government sponsorship of religion.

The bishops know that a vast majority of Americans, including Catholics, disagree with their hard-line dictates regarding reproductive-health care, including the bishops’ opposition to contraception."...

"Nancy Keenan is president of NARAL Pro-Choice America and Jon O’Brien is president of Catholics for Choice."


2012 press release from a Catholic lobby notes increased flow of US taxpayer dollars to state and national Catholic groups under Obama: 

1/31/2012, "Setting the Record Straight on Federal Funding for Catholic Organizations,"

"CONTACT: Stephanie Niedringhaus, 202-347-9797 x224, Washington DC: NETWORK today issued the following statement regarding federal funding of Catholic human needs programs:...

Catholic groups and members of the Obama administration have had some disagreements in recent weeks, but we at NETWORK believe that some Catholic complaints have been exaggerated or misinformed. 

One area of disagreement concerns the continuing level of government funding for vital Catholic programs. The truth of the matter is that the Obama administration has actually increased funding for Catholic nonprofit organizations and programs. In fact, more than $1.5 billion went to Catholic organizations over the past two years.[2010-2011]

Funding increases for Catholic organizations in recent years include the following: 
  •  An increase from $12.45 million (2008) to $57.89 million (2011) in USDA food assistance to Catholic Relief Services (CRS)
  • An increase from  just over $440 million (2008) to more than $554 million (2010) to Catholic Charities USA
  • Increases in Dept. of Labor grants to Catholic organizations such as Catholic Charities of Kansas for ex-offender reintegration and other programs from $300,000 (2009) to more than $5 million (2011)
  • An increase of HHS funding for Catholic Medical Mission Board global health activities from $500,000 (2008) to $7 million (2011)."...


Experts agree, Climate Refugees seek shelter during rain delay, Cubs at Cardinals in St. Louis, 6/28/15

6/28/15, "Earlier tonight, fans and fans alike took shelter inside the stadium to wait out the storm," ESPN Baseball Tonight. Final 4-1 Cardinals over Cubs in St. Louis. One hour 49 minute rain delay ("Game notes")


Sunday, June 28, 2015

Mafia has easy access to Australia politicians, donates to them via loopholes. Calabrian Mafia operates in legitimate businesses such as fruits and vegetables as well as illegitimate businesses like drugs-Australian Broadcasting

6/28/15, "Mafia in Australia: Major drug trafficking group linked to senior politicians, investigation reveals," (Australia)

"Links between the Calabrian Mafia and senior Australian politicians have been uncovered in a joint investigation by Four Corners and Fairfax newspapers.

The year-long investigation found the Calabrian Mafia, known as 'Ndrangheta, had used a number of well-known party donors to put a "legitimate public face" on its activities.

The 'Ndrangheta is one of the world's most powerful criminal groups and is thought to be one of the major players in the world of international drug trafficking.

In Australia it operates using threats and violence in both legitimate businesses, such as fruit and vegetables, and illegitimate businesses, such as drugs.

The investigation has revealed a series of contacts between known and suspected criminals and senior politicians.

On one occasion, a man with deep mafia associations met then prime minister John Howard and other top Liberal Party figures at a fundraising event. It is not suggested that Mr Howard knew of the connection.

The investigation has also revealed donors have lobbied on behalf of a mafia figure to a host of Liberal and Labor MPs over issues related to their businesses..............

Son of alleged mafia boss did work experience at embassy


Four Corners can reveal the son of another alleged mafia boss did work experience at the Australian embassy in Rome while former Liberal minister Amanda Vanstone was ambassador.

Prior to his placement, Italian authorities were sharing sensitive information about the alleged mafia boss through the embassy.

While there is no direct evidence the embassy placement — which involved the man's son working in a clerical role — led to any actual security breaches, security agencies have described it as a major lapse.

Ms Vanstone, who is now retired from politics, is also at the centre of another episode uncovered during the investigation.

When she was immigration minister in the Howard government, she granted a visa for a crime boss who was later jailed for drug trafficking and implicated in a murder plot.

The man, who is the brother of a well-known Melbourne businessman, has an extensive criminal history in Italy.

He was set to be deported, but his family used its money and influence to conduct a lobbying campaign with some of the country's most powerful Liberal politicians — including Ms Vanstone.
Eventually in 2005, the man was granted a visa to stay in Australia on humanitarian grounds.

There is no suggestion Ms Vanstone acted improperly in either case, though confidential police assessments suggest it indicates her South Australian Senate office had likely been ingratiated by mafia figures.

Just a couple of years later, the man was implicated in one of Australia's largest ever drug busts.

'Lack of checks' in donations system leading to 'loopholes'

The report also details how "loopholes" in the donations system, and the long-running failure to reform it, continue to expose Australian politicians to potential corruption.

Through Freedom of Information laws, the investigation obtained a 2009 AFP report that described a "lack of checks and oversight" in the Australian political donations system as "significant" failings.

"As it stands, political parties and candidates can receive significant support and financial contributions through avenues not covered by the statutory disclosure regime," the AFP report said.

"Loopholes" in the oversight system mean it is "difficult to identify any bribery in the form of political donations".

The report states the Australian Electoral Commission has attempted to address this on many occasions, but that many amendments have not been passed by the Federal Parliament.

The document was written after an investigation into the mafia's fundraising activities.

Who are the 'Ndrangheta?

  • A mafia group from Calabria in the south of Italy. There are thought to be roughly 6,000 members in the world today.
  • Whilst not as well-known as the Sicilian mafia, the 'Ndrangheta is the most powerful criminal organisation in the world.
  • The group earned the equivalent of around 3 per cent of Italy's gross domestic product in 2014, mostly from illegal drugs.
  • Instead of the pyramid structure of bosses used by other mafia groups, the 'Ndrangheta recruits members on the criterion of blood relationships and marriages.
  • The group's best-known crime was the 1973 kidnap of the grandson of oil tycoon John Paul Getty. His ear was chopped off to garner a ransom from his grandfather.
  • Known as "The Honoured Society" in Australia and reportedly involved in the Victoria Market murders in 1963."
"Watch Four Corners — The Mafia in Australia: Drugs, Murder and Politics tonight at 8:30 on ABC. The program will also be available on ABC iView.
Next week Four Corners will look at the inside story of the world's biggest ecstasy bust, the next crop of mafia leaders in Australia and one senior Mafioso's Labor connection."


Paraguay Catholic bishop quietly removed by Pope Francis without criminal charges after financial irregularities left impoverished diocese even poorer. $350,000 never made it to children awaiting surgery or women fleeing domestic abuse. Diocese tries to ease debt before Pope Francis visit by running bingo games and raffles-AP

6/27/15, "Paraguayan bishop ousted by pope scrutinized for spending," AP, Peter Prengaman, Ciudad Del Este, Paraguay

"Children awaiting surgery and women fleeing domestic violence never saw the $350,000 donated for their benefit. Then, there were the questionable property sales and the money for a cleaning business partially owned by a relative.

In the months since Pope Francis ousted the bishop of Paraguay's second-largest diocese, questions keep surfacing about the Rev. Rogelio Livieres Plano's management of church money.

As Paraguayan Catholics prepare to welcome Francis during his South American tour that starts July 5, new leaders of the diocese in this eastern border city are trying to erase the debt left by the controversial bishop, raising money through raffles and bingo games. Many parishioners are demanding answers.

"The former bishop ran things like a mafia," said Carlos Pereira, a humanities professor at the Catholic University in Ciudad del Este. "How did we end up in debt? What happened to the diocese's properties, to all its assets?"

The diocese is $800,000 in debt, a considerable sum in one of South America's poorest countries. The arrears have come to light since Livieres Plano, a member of the conservative Opus Dei movement, was pushed out in September.

The 69-year-old former bishop has denied any wrongdoing. Multiple attempts to locate Livieres Plano for comment, or find someone able to speak on his behalf, were not successful. Church officials and a spokesman for Opus Dei said he is hospitalized in Argentina with diabetes complications.

It is not clear what became of funds belonging to the diocese of nearly 1 million church members. Critics claim, but have not proven, the former bishop used church money to enrich his family, support a gambling habit and live lavishly. An Associated Press review found that during his decade as bishop, Livieres Plano did make several questionable spending decisions.

Property records show that, in 2013, Livieres Plano sold two parcels for $400,000 and $202,000. He did it without the Vatican council approval required for financial decisions in Paraguay worth more than $150,000.

Last year, the bishop defended the sales by saying the trigger for approval had been "recently increased to $500,000." But Bishop Adalberto Martinez, secretary general of the Paraguay Episcopal Conference, told the AP there had been no such increase.

A 2010 lawsuit filed by the president of an association of lay church members, Javier Miranda, accused the diocese of failing to use $350,000 in donations from the Itaipu Dam, one of the world's largest hydroelectric facilities, for their intended purpose: funding surgeries on children with cleft palates and helping domestic abuse survivors.

The suit was thrown out on the grounds that Miranda had no personal claim since he was not an injured party.
An audit conducted by Paraguay's Comptroller General, however, supported Miranda's allegations, noting in a scathing 2010 report that the church had failed to turn over documentation proving it funded cleft-palate surgeries, helped street children or worked with abused women.
"This audit underscores the weak and deficient conduct of the diocese in accounting," the report said. The Comptroller General, which oversees finances of the hydroelectric dam and other government institutions, ordered the diocese to be more transparent but did not bring forward criminal charges.

(p. 2) In 2013, Livieres Plano filed a defamation suit against Miranda after the lay leader told local press he had learned the bishop ran up a $1 million gambling debt in Uruguay.

Testifying in the case in June 2014, the bishop said he had never been in a casino. He also defended his property sales, saying the money was used for work on seminary buildings. He blasted detractors for making "accusation after accusation without any basis."

Documents reviewed by the AP also recorded at least $40,000 in payments made to the bishop's brother, Benjamin Livieres, for unspecified services. The diocese, under Livieres Plano, was listed on 2008 incorporation papers for a company named "Green Energy" that was partially owned by the bishop's brother. The stated business purpose was to clean "toxic residues" and generate revenue for the diocese, but there is no indication the company ever got off the ground.
Benjamin Livieres did not respond to several phone calls, texts or messages via social media.

As for the church's outstanding $800,000 debt, the majority was incurred in bank loans taken out by Livieres Plano, according to diocese statements. The church declined to release annual financial statements to the AP.
Pope Francis removed Livieres Plano without commenting on the unusual action. The ouster came soon after Francis sent Cardinal Santos Abril, a financial expert, to Paraguay to investigate.
"We are all a family," he said, sitting in the old office of Livieres Plano, which still has his picture on the wall. "We need to turn the page."

Livieres Plano has blamed his dismissal on a clash of ideology. He wrote in a blog post after his ouster that opposing bishops and liberal parishioners had "persecuted" him for his conservative orthodoxy. Supporters of the former bishop praise him for preserving traditional aspects of the church, such as celebrating the old Latin Mass. They also credit him with founding the successful San Jose seminary, which at one point had 200 seminarians, no small accomplishment at a time when most countries have a shortage of priests.
Claims of financial misconduct are "all inventions of people who don't like Livieres Plano," said Oscar Barreiro, a 27-year-old who sells books on Catholicism outside of Holy Spirit parish, where Livieres Plano often celebrated Mass.
Meanwhile, lay members have hired a lawyer to audit the diocese's finances. 

They also have submitted requests to the country's customs agency seeking information about 

at lest 18 vehicles puchased by the diocese that cannot be found.

"We want the diocese to be cleansed," said Miranda. "There has been a lot of damage, and we don't yet know how much.""



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