Companies Look to Space As the Next Frontier

The Trump administration is trying to give private companies a boost in their efforts to capitalize on space as a business venture.

U.S. President Donald Trump Thursday signed a space policy directive aimed at streamlining regulations on commercial use of space.

Trump signed the directive just days after Space X launched another rocket from California carrying satellites into orbit.

WATCH: Trump space policy

The launch and several others planned for June are examples of private industries’ growing interests in space for commercial and scientific research.

“It’s a bit of a renaissance, a bit of a space 2.0. Finally, the commercial sector is starting to come back and do some really interesting things,” said Will Marshall, co-founder and chief executive officer of Planet, a leading provider of geospatial data.

The company has put up approximately 200 satellites that image Earth’s entire land mass each day. Marshall said prior to Planet, satellite imagery was only taken every year or several years. The regular images of Earth can be used in many different industries.

“You can use that data to improve crop yields so farmers can use it to decide when to add fertilizer, when to add water because we can tell crop yield from orbit. Or, it can be used by a commercial consumer mapping companies that are trying to improve their maps you see online, or it could be used by governments for a wide range of things from border security to disaster response,” Marshall said.

Satellites also orbit the planet for purposes of national security.

“We just launched a few months ago a satellite that was just like this, but also had laser communication. We were able to send at 200 megabits per second high data rates down to the ground and the ability for satellites to actually talk to each other. The same satellites that are put up to look at the Earth could be looking around the neighborhood and doing neighborhood watch for the benefit of national security and space situational awareness,” Steve Isakowitz, president and chief executive officer of the Aerospace Corporation, an organization that works with the U.S. Air Force and intelligence community.

Also orbiting Earth is the International Space Station, or ISS, an outpost of great interest to some major companies and research institutions. The ISS National Laboratory and astronauts inside conduct a wide range of experiments that would not be possible on Earth.

“When you remove the gravity vector out of the equation which is what we’re used to here on Earth, we see certain impacts and phenomena associated with that, such as lack of sedimentation, lack of convection, lack of buoyancy,” said Jennifer Lopez, commercial innovation technology lead at the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space, or CASIS, which manages the ISS National Laboratory.

The space station orbits Earth 16 times a day, with exposure to extreme temperatures and radiation, providing a unique environment for experiments.

Some experiments, including those geared to helping people with bone loss and injuries, may benefit life on Earth; however, the findings can also help with future human exploration into deep space. Lopez notes there is research is “looking at bone loss and muscle wasting in a space environment and the effects that a microgravity environment can have on our biological systems.”

“There is so much opportunity right now in space; Mars is one of those opportunities,” said Chad Anderson, chief executive officer of Space Angels, which invests in the space industry.

While NASA works on sending humans to the moon and Mars, the space near Earth and beyond will become busier as businesses explore this final frontier.

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Businesses Looking At Space as the Next Frontier

Space X recently launched another rocket from California carrying satellites into space – accelerating interest by more businesses and research facilities that now view space as an opportunity. At this year’s Milken Institute Global Conference, those in the space business describe why orbiting the Earth is so exciting. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee has details from Los Angeles.

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Businesses Looking At Space as the Next Frontier

Space X recently launched another rocket from California carrying satellites into space – accelerating interest by more businesses and research facilities that now view space as an opportunity. At this year’s Milken Institute Global Conference, those in the space business describe why orbiting the Earth is so exciting. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee has details from Los Angeles.

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Trump Lawyer Wary of Prosecutors’ Obstruction Questions in Russia Probe

U.S. President Donald Trump “adamantly’ wants to answer questions in the criminal investigation of his 2016 campaign’s links with Russia, but one of his lawyers says he remains skeptical about allowing Trump to face prosecutors’ queries about whether he obstructed justice by trying to thwart the probe.

Trump lawyer, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, told CNN on Sunday that special counsel Robert Mueller wants to question the president about two key topics: possible collusion with Russia in the months before the election and whether he sought as president to block the investigation by firing FBI director James Comey while he was heading the Russia probe before Mueller was appointed to take over.

“The collusion part we’re pretty comfortable about because there has been none,” Giuliani said. “The obstruction part I’m not as comfortable with. I’m not. The president’s fine with it. He’s innocent. I’m not comfortable because it’s a matter of interpretation, not just hard and fast, true and not true.”

Giuliani added that “if you interpret his comment about firing Comey … if you interpret that as obstructing the investigation, as opposed to removing a guy who’s doing a bad job …. if you see it as obstructing the investigation, then you can say it’s obstruction.”

Giuliani said the president’s legal team is worried that Trump could be trapped into perjury — the criminal offense of lying under oath — in answering prosecutors’ questions about his reasoning for firing Comey. Initially, the White House said Trump ousted Comey because he allegedly mishandled the FBI’s investigation into the use of a private email server by Trump’s 2016 opponent, Democrat Hillary Clinton, while she was the U.S. secretary of state from 2009 to 2013.

Within days, however, Trump told NBC that he was going to fire Comey in any event and was thinking of “this Russia thing” when he ousted him because he thought it was a phony investigation used by Democrats to explain Clinton’s upset loss.

Whatever the misgivings of Trump’s lawyers about letting him face prosecutors’ questions, Giuliani said, “He’s adamantly wanting to do it.”

But Giuliani said that ultimately the decision of whether Trump meets with Mueller’s team depends on “how comfortable we are in them being open-minded” and believing that prosecutors had not decided in advance that Trump was complicit in wrong-doing.

Asked how he was “so sure” there had not been any collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian interests, Giuliani, a one-time prosecutor, said, “Fifty years of investigative experience tells me they don’t have a darn thing.”

Giuliani said that when he was part of the campaign, “No one knew about Russia, nobody talked about Russia.”

Trump has often assailed the investigation and did so again Sunday, calling it a “phony Russia Collusion Wiitch Hunt,” and a “Rigged Investigation!”

Giuliani has said in recent days that ultimately there won’t be any criminal charges brought against Trump, in keeping with long-standing Justice Department guidelines that a sitting president cannot be charged. But Giuliani said, based on what Mueller concludes about Trump’s actions, Congress could eventually face a decision whether to impeach Trump, leading to a Senate trial on whether he should be removed from office.

The Trump lawyer said that any sit-down with Mueller’s prosecutors would not occur until after the still-possible June 12 summit between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Singapore.

 

 

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Trump Lawyer Wary of Prosecutors’ Obstruction Questions in Russia Probe

U.S. President Donald Trump “adamantly’ wants to answer questions in the criminal investigation of his 2016 campaign’s links with Russia, but one of his lawyers says he remains skeptical about allowing Trump to face prosecutors’ queries about whether he obstructed justice by trying to thwart the probe.

Trump lawyer, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, told CNN on Sunday that special counsel Robert Mueller wants to question the president about two key topics: possible collusion with Russia in the months before the election and whether he sought as president to block the investigation by firing FBI director James Comey while he was heading the Russia probe before Mueller was appointed to take over.

“The collusion part we’re pretty comfortable about because there has been none,” Giuliani said. “The obstruction part I’m not as comfortable with. I’m not. The president’s fine with it. He’s innocent. I’m not comfortable because it’s a matter of interpretation, not just hard and fast, true and not true.”

Giuliani added that “if you interpret his comment about firing Comey … if you interpret that as obstructing the investigation, as opposed to removing a guy who’s doing a bad job …. if you see it as obstructing the investigation, then you can say it’s obstruction.”

Giuliani said the president’s legal team is worried that Trump could be trapped into perjury — the criminal offense of lying under oath — in answering prosecutors’ questions about his reasoning for firing Comey. Initially, the White House said Trump ousted Comey because he allegedly mishandled the FBI’s investigation into the use of a private email server by Trump’s 2016 opponent, Democrat Hillary Clinton, while she was the U.S. secretary of state from 2009 to 2013.

Within days, however, Trump told NBC that he was going to fire Comey in any event and was thinking of “this Russia thing” when he ousted him because he thought it was a phony investigation used by Democrats to explain Clinton’s upset loss.

Whatever the misgivings of Trump’s lawyers about letting him face prosecutors’ questions, Giuliani said, “He’s adamantly wanting to do it.”

But Giuliani said that ultimately the decision of whether Trump meets with Mueller’s team depends on “how comfortable we are in them being open-minded” and believing that prosecutors had not decided in advance that Trump was complicit in wrong-doing.

Asked how he was “so sure” there had not been any collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian interests, Giuliani, a one-time prosecutor, said, “Fifty years of investigative experience tells me they don’t have a darn thing.”

Giuliani said that when he was part of the campaign, “No one knew about Russia, nobody talked about Russia.”

Trump has often assailed the investigation and did so again Sunday, calling it a “phony Russia Collusion Wiitch Hunt,” and a “Rigged Investigation!”

Giuliani has said in recent days that ultimately there won’t be any criminal charges brought against Trump, in keeping with long-standing Justice Department guidelines that a sitting president cannot be charged. But Giuliani said, based on what Mueller concludes about Trump’s actions, Congress could eventually face a decision whether to impeach Trump, leading to a Senate trial on whether he should be removed from office.

The Trump lawyer said that any sit-down with Mueller’s prosecutors would not occur until after the still-possible June 12 summit between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Singapore.

 

 

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Trump’s ‘Phony’ Source a White House Official

President Donald Trump accused The New York Times on Saturday of inventing a source for a story who, in fact, was a White House official conducting a briefing for reporters under the condition that the official not be named.

Trump tweeted that the Times quoted an official “who doesn’t exist” and referenced a line in the story about a possible summit with North Korea, which read: “a senior White House official told reporters that even if the meeting were reinstated, holding it on June 12 would be impossible, given the lack of time and the amount of planning needed.”

Said Trump: “WRONG AGAIN! Use real people, not phony sources.”

The Times reported in a story about the tweet that it had cited “a senior White House official speaking to a large group of reporters in the White House briefing room.”

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Trump has repeatedly criticized the use of unnamed sources and labeled information related by unnamed officials “fake news.” Still, his White House regularly arranges briefings with officials who demand anonymity before relaying information, a practice also used by previous administrations.

At the briefing, which was attended by The Associated Press, the official cast doubt on the feasibility of a June 12 summit.

“I think that the main point, I suppose, is that the ball is in North Korea’s court right now. There’s really not a lot of time,” the official said. “There’s a certain amount of actual dialogue that needs to take place at the working level with your counterparts to ensure that the agenda is clear in the minds of those two leaders when they sit down to actually meet and talk and negotiate and hopefully make a deal. And June 12 is in 10 minutes.”

The White House press office invited reporters to the background briefing, both to attend in person or to call-in and insisted that the official not be named. The AP reporter in attendance questioned why the briefing was not on the record, meaning that the official’s name could be used. The official said the president had been talking publicly during the day, as well as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and that the briefing was intended to provide “background context.”

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Trump’s ‘Phony’ Source a White House Official

President Donald Trump accused The New York Times on Saturday of inventing a source for a story who, in fact, was a White House official conducting a briefing for reporters under the condition that the official not be named.

Trump tweeted that the Times quoted an official “who doesn’t exist” and referenced a line in the story about a possible summit with North Korea, which read: “a senior White House official told reporters that even if the meeting were reinstated, holding it on June 12 would be impossible, given the lack of time and the amount of planning needed.”

Said Trump: “WRONG AGAIN! Use real people, not phony sources.”

The Times reported in a story about the tweet that it had cited “a senior White House official speaking to a large group of reporters in the White House briefing room.”

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Trump has repeatedly criticized the use of unnamed sources and labeled information related by unnamed officials “fake news.” Still, his White House regularly arranges briefings with officials who demand anonymity before relaying information, a practice also used by previous administrations.

At the briefing, which was attended by The Associated Press, the official cast doubt on the feasibility of a June 12 summit.

“I think that the main point, I suppose, is that the ball is in North Korea’s court right now. There’s really not a lot of time,” the official said. “There’s a certain amount of actual dialogue that needs to take place at the working level with your counterparts to ensure that the agenda is clear in the minds of those two leaders when they sit down to actually meet and talk and negotiate and hopefully make a deal. And June 12 is in 10 minutes.”

The White House press office invited reporters to the background briefing, both to attend in person or to call-in and insisted that the official not be named. The AP reporter in attendance questioned why the briefing was not on the record, meaning that the official’s name could be used. The official said the president had been talking publicly during the day, as well as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and that the briefing was intended to provide “background context.”

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Beyond Wedding Cake: LGBT Cases for Supreme Court

A flood of lawsuits over LGBT rights is making its way through courts and will continue, no matter the outcome in the Supreme Court’s highly anticipated decision in the case of a Colorado baker who would not create a wedding cake for a same-sex couple.

Courts are engaged in two broad types of cases on this issue, weighing whether sex discrimination laws apply to LGBT people and also whether businesses can assert religious objections to avoid complying with anti-discrimination measures in serving customers, hiring and firing employees, providing health care and placing children with foster or adoptive parents.

The outcome of baker Jack Phillips’ fight at the Supreme Court could indicate how willing the justices are to carve out exceptions to anti-discrimination laws; that’s something the court has refused to do in the areas of race and sex.

The result was hard to predict based on arguments in December. But however the justices rule, it won’t be their last word on the topic.

Boost from Trump

Religious conservatives have gotten a big boost from the Trump administration, which has taken a more restrictive view of LGBT rights and intervened on their side in several cases, including Phillips’.

“There is a constellation of hugely significant cases that are likely to be heard by the court in the near future and those are going to significantly shape the legal landscape going forward,” said Shannon Minter, legal director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights.

Several legal disputes are pending over wedding services, similar to the Phillips case. Video producers, graphic artists and florists are among business owners who say they oppose same-sex marriage on religious grounds and don’t want to participate in same-sex weddings. They live in the 21 states that have anti-discrimination laws that specifically include gay and lesbian people.

In California and Texas, courts are dealing with lawsuits over the refusal of hospitals, citing religious beliefs, to perform hysterectomies on people transitioning from female to male. In Michigan, the American Civil Liberties Union filed suit against the state’s practice of allowing faith-based child placement agencies to reject same-sex couples.

Stark differences

Advocates of both sides see the essence of these cases in starkly different terms.

“What the religious right is asking for is a new rule specific to same-sex couples that would not only affect same-sex couples but also carve a hole in nondiscrimination laws that could affect all communities,” said Camilla Taylor, director of constitutional litigation at Lambda Legal, which supports civil rights for LGBT people.

Jim Campbell of the Christian public interest law firm Alliance Defending Freedom said the cases will determine whether “people like Jack Phillips who believe marriage is the union of a man and a woman, that they too have a legitimate place in public life. Or does he have to hide or ignore those beliefs when he’s participating in the public square?” ADF represents Phillips at the Supreme Court.

Civil rights complaints

The other category of cases concerns protections for LGBT people under civil rights law. One case expected to reach the court this summer involves a Michigan funeral home that fired an employee who disclosed that she was transitioning from male to female and dressed as a woman.

The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the firing constituted sex discrimination under federal civil rights law. That court is one of several that have applied anti-sex discrimination provisions to transgender people, but the Supreme Court has yet to take up a case.

The funeral home argues in part that Congress was not thinking about transgender people when it included sex discrimination in Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. A trial judge had ruled for the funeral home, saying it was entitled to a religious exemption from the civil rights law.

“Congress has not weighed in to say sex includes gender identity. We should certainly make sure that’s a conscious choice of Congress and not just the overexpansion of the law by courts,” Campbell said. ADF also represents the funeral home.

In just the past week, two federal courts ruled in favor of transgender students who want to use school facilities that correspond to their sexual identity. Those cases turn on whether the prohibition on sex discrimination in education applies to transgender people. Appeals in both cases are possible.

In the past 13 months, federal appeals courts in Chicago and New York also have ruled that gay and lesbian employees are entitled to protection from discrimination under Title VII. Those courts overruled earlier decisions. Title VII does not specifically mention sexual orientation, but the courts said it was covered under the ban on sex bias.

Trump changes course

The Obama administration had supported treating LGBT discrimination claims as sex discrimination, but the Trump administration has changed course. In the New York case, for instance, the Trump administration filed a legal brief arguing that Title VII was not intended to provide protections to gay workers. It also withdrew Obama-era guidance to educators to treat claims of transgender students as sex discrimination.

There is no appeal pending or expected on the sexual orientation issue, and there is no guarantee that the court will take up the funeral home’s appeal over transgender discrimination.

Changes on the court

The trend in the lower courts has been in favor of extending civil rights protections to LGBT employees and students. Their prospects at the Supreme Court may be harder to discern, not least because it’s unclear whether the court’s composition will change soon.

Justice Anthony Kennedy, 81, has been the subject of retirement speculation, though he has not indicated he is planning to retire. When Justice Stephen Breyer turns 80 in August, he will join Kennedy and Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, 85, as octogenarians on the bench.

If President Donald Trump were to replace any of those justices, the court probably would be much less receptive to LGBT rights. Even the landmark gay marriage ruling in 2015 that Kennedy wrote was a 5-4 decision.

“We’re very concerned about the composition of the federal bench. Under the Trump administration, we’ve seen a number of federal nominees who have been ideologues, who have taken positions about the very right to exist of LGBT people that is simply inconsistent with fitness to serve as a federal judge,” Taylor of Lambda Legal said.

The ADF’s Campbell said even with the current justices, he holds out some hope that the court would not extend anti-discrimination protections. 

“Justice Kennedy has undoubtedly been the person who has decided the major LGBT cases, but to my knowledge he hasn’t weighed in some of these other issues,” he said.

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Beyond Wedding Cake: LGBT Cases for Supreme Court

A flood of lawsuits over LGBT rights is making its way through courts and will continue, no matter the outcome in the Supreme Court’s highly anticipated decision in the case of a Colorado baker who would not create a wedding cake for a same-sex couple.

Courts are engaged in two broad types of cases on this issue, weighing whether sex discrimination laws apply to LGBT people and also whether businesses can assert religious objections to avoid complying with anti-discrimination measures in serving customers, hiring and firing employees, providing health care and placing children with foster or adoptive parents.

The outcome of baker Jack Phillips’ fight at the Supreme Court could indicate how willing the justices are to carve out exceptions to anti-discrimination laws; that’s something the court has refused to do in the areas of race and sex.

The result was hard to predict based on arguments in December. But however the justices rule, it won’t be their last word on the topic.

Boost from Trump

Religious conservatives have gotten a big boost from the Trump administration, which has taken a more restrictive view of LGBT rights and intervened on their side in several cases, including Phillips’.

“There is a constellation of hugely significant cases that are likely to be heard by the court in the near future and those are going to significantly shape the legal landscape going forward,” said Shannon Minter, legal director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights.

Several legal disputes are pending over wedding services, similar to the Phillips case. Video producers, graphic artists and florists are among business owners who say they oppose same-sex marriage on religious grounds and don’t want to participate in same-sex weddings. They live in the 21 states that have anti-discrimination laws that specifically include gay and lesbian people.

In California and Texas, courts are dealing with lawsuits over the refusal of hospitals, citing religious beliefs, to perform hysterectomies on people transitioning from female to male. In Michigan, the American Civil Liberties Union filed suit against the state’s practice of allowing faith-based child placement agencies to reject same-sex couples.

Stark differences

Advocates of both sides see the essence of these cases in starkly different terms.

“What the religious right is asking for is a new rule specific to same-sex couples that would not only affect same-sex couples but also carve a hole in nondiscrimination laws that could affect all communities,” said Camilla Taylor, director of constitutional litigation at Lambda Legal, which supports civil rights for LGBT people.

Jim Campbell of the Christian public interest law firm Alliance Defending Freedom said the cases will determine whether “people like Jack Phillips who believe marriage is the union of a man and a woman, that they too have a legitimate place in public life. Or does he have to hide or ignore those beliefs when he’s participating in the public square?” ADF represents Phillips at the Supreme Court.

Civil rights complaints

The other category of cases concerns protections for LGBT people under civil rights law. One case expected to reach the court this summer involves a Michigan funeral home that fired an employee who disclosed that she was transitioning from male to female and dressed as a woman.

The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the firing constituted sex discrimination under federal civil rights law. That court is one of several that have applied anti-sex discrimination provisions to transgender people, but the Supreme Court has yet to take up a case.

The funeral home argues in part that Congress was not thinking about transgender people when it included sex discrimination in Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. A trial judge had ruled for the funeral home, saying it was entitled to a religious exemption from the civil rights law.

“Congress has not weighed in to say sex includes gender identity. We should certainly make sure that’s a conscious choice of Congress and not just the overexpansion of the law by courts,” Campbell said. ADF also represents the funeral home.

In just the past week, two federal courts ruled in favor of transgender students who want to use school facilities that correspond to their sexual identity. Those cases turn on whether the prohibition on sex discrimination in education applies to transgender people. Appeals in both cases are possible.

In the past 13 months, federal appeals courts in Chicago and New York also have ruled that gay and lesbian employees are entitled to protection from discrimination under Title VII. Those courts overruled earlier decisions. Title VII does not specifically mention sexual orientation, but the courts said it was covered under the ban on sex bias.

Trump changes course

The Obama administration had supported treating LGBT discrimination claims as sex discrimination, but the Trump administration has changed course. In the New York case, for instance, the Trump administration filed a legal brief arguing that Title VII was not intended to provide protections to gay workers. It also withdrew Obama-era guidance to educators to treat claims of transgender students as sex discrimination.

There is no appeal pending or expected on the sexual orientation issue, and there is no guarantee that the court will take up the funeral home’s appeal over transgender discrimination.

Changes on the court

The trend in the lower courts has been in favor of extending civil rights protections to LGBT employees and students. Their prospects at the Supreme Court may be harder to discern, not least because it’s unclear whether the court’s composition will change soon.

Justice Anthony Kennedy, 81, has been the subject of retirement speculation, though he has not indicated he is planning to retire. When Justice Stephen Breyer turns 80 in August, he will join Kennedy and Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, 85, as octogenarians on the bench.

If President Donald Trump were to replace any of those justices, the court probably would be much less receptive to LGBT rights. Even the landmark gay marriage ruling in 2015 that Kennedy wrote was a 5-4 decision.

“We’re very concerned about the composition of the federal bench. Under the Trump administration, we’ve seen a number of federal nominees who have been ideologues, who have taken positions about the very right to exist of LGBT people that is simply inconsistent with fitness to serve as a federal judge,” Taylor of Lambda Legal said.

The ADF’s Campbell said even with the current justices, he holds out some hope that the court would not extend anti-discrimination protections. 

“Justice Kennedy has undoubtedly been the person who has decided the major LGBT cases, but to my knowledge he hasn’t weighed in some of these other issues,” he said.

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New York Clothing Store Sells Gender Neutral Lifestyle

New shops appear in New York City every day, but Phluid Project, which recently opened its doors on Broadway, is different. One of the first gender-fluid boutiques in the world, Phluid Project sells clothing for men, women and everyone in between. Both the clothes and the mannequins here are gender-neutral, and as an added selling point, its store owners say the prices are more than affordable. Elena Wolf visited the one-of-a-kind store, where no one feels out of place.

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