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Charges Dropped Against All Durham, NC, Confederate-Statue Protesters

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There were 12 defendants charged in connection with the Aug. 14, 2017, toppling of a Confederate statue in Durham, N.C., and by Tuesday afternoon, the charges had been dropped against all of them, ending what one local attorney described as “a waste of taxpayer money in the name of the Confederacy of all things.”

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hannahdraper
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Marco Rubio Vanquished in Gun Control Town Hall Debate by Parents and Teens

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I cried actual tears of joy and clenched my fists in righteous fury while watching Marco Rubio get owned so hard in the CNN-broadcasted town hall debate tonight that he actually looked at times as if he were struggling to keep his NRA-backed eyeballs from popping out of his head from the mind-boggling shame of it all.

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hannahdraper
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Supreme Court Gets Moving, Issuing As Many Decisions In One Day As It Has In 5 Months

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A man walks up in the fog at the U.S. Supreme Court to attend arguments last month. Justices issued multiple opinions on Wednesday.

The high court put out rulings on everything from guns and whistleblower protections to plea deals and the damages someone could seek for a terrorist attack.

(Image credit: J. Scott Applewhite/AP)

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fxer
5 hours ago
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Elsevier’s profits swell to more than £900M

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The world’s largest academic publisher grew its profits to more than £900 million last year, although it warned that a move towards openly available research could hurt its business.

Elsevier, currently locked in a dispute with German research institutions that want it to move away from a paywalled subscription model towards pay-to-publish open access, had its financial results released last week as part of those of its parent company, RELX.

They show that the Amsterdam-based publisher made a profit of £913 million, up £60 million from 2016. The company’s profit margin in 2017 was 36.8 per cent, unchanged from the year before. RELX as a whole – of which Elsevier accounts for a third of revenue – paid out £762 million in dividends to shareholders.

The publisher has long been criticised by some campaigners for its profit margin, and there have been numerous attempts by academics to it shift towards an open-access rather than a subscription-based publishing model.

In a section disclosing the “principal risks” to Elsevier’s business, RELX notes in the results that its journals are “sold largely on a paid subscription basis”.

“There is continued debate in government, academic and library communities, which are the principal customers for our STM [scientific, technical and medical, the name for Elsevier within RELX] content, regarding to what extent such content should be funded instead through fees charged to authors or authors’ funders and/or made freely available in some form after a period following publication,” it says.

“Some of these methods, if widely adopted, could adversely affect our revenue from paid subscriptions,” the results add.

The beginning of the year brought no resolution to the stand-off between Germany and Elsevier, which has dragged on since 2016. German research institutions are now thought to be saving about €10 million (£8.8 million) a year after failing to agree a new deal with the publisher, which has nonetheless decided to maintain access to its content.

There is no direct mention of the Germany dispute in Elsevier’s latest results, although since the beginning of the year, RELX’s share price has tumbled by about 15 per cent. It is unclear to what extent this is due to the stand-off, but some analysts have warned that it raises questions over the publisher’s future growth.

david.matthews@timeshighereducation.com


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fxer
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Ex-Google engineer: I was fired for being too liberal

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Enlarge (credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

An ex-Google engineer has sued his former employer, claiming that he was wrongfully terminated as a result of expressing his politically liberal opinions—which included opposing harassment and white supremacy—on internal message boards.

According to his lawsuit, which was filed Wednesday in state court in San Francisco, Tim Chevalier served as a site reliability engineer from December 2015 until November 2017.

Chevalier, who identifies himself as a “disabled, queer, and transgender” man, routinely spoke out in favor of minority and traditionally underprivileged rights—in particular to counter the opinions offered up by another then-colleague, James Damore.

Last year, Damore argued that due to their biological differences, women may not be suited for leadership. In August 2017, Damore was fired from Google, and he recently lost his filing at the National Labor Relations Board.

By contrast, in September 2016, Chevalier wrote:

In a culture where it’s common to respond to diversity initiatives with ‘we can’t lower the bar’, implying a baseline assumption that women, non-binary people, and men of color are incompetent, it’s equally important that we don’t do the reverse: that we don’t insist on white male competence even in the face of clear evidence to the contrary.

Not long after, when Chevalier’s newly-assigned manager, Peter Dahl, criticized his subordinate for “too much ‘social activism,’” despite the fact that Chevalier was rewarded with multiple “peer bonuses” for his internal commentary.

However, as months passed and friction continued between himself and his superiors, Chevalier also believed that others, including a human resources official, were dismissive of his remarks and critiques, which ultimately lead to his dismissal.

As the lawsuit continues:

Through Chevalier’s conversations with his manager and Human Resources, he learned that Google defines appropriate workplace speech by the standard of what someone with a cisgender, heterosexual, white, male, upper-middle-class background would say. In truth, Google’s promise to allow its employees to freely speak their minds only applies to people who represent the majority viewpoint and use the majority’s rhetoric.

Google spokeswoman Gina Scigliano emailed Ars to say that "lively debate" is an "important part" of company culture.

"But like any workplace, that doesn't mean anything goes," she wrote. "All employees acknowledge our code of conduct and other workplace policies, under which promoting harmful stereotypes based on race or gender is prohibited. This is a very standard expectation that most employers have of their employees. The overwhelming majority of our employees communicate in a way that is consistent with our policies. But when an employee does not, it is something we must take seriously. We always make our decision without any regard to the employee’s political views.”

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fxer
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Here’s How SpaceX is Planning to Recover Rocket Fairings: a Boat With a Net Called Mr. Steven

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When visionary entrepreneur Elon Musk founded SpaceX in 2002, he did so with the intention of rekindling human space exploration and sending humans to Mars. Intrinsic to this vision was the reduction of costs associated with individual launches, which has so far been focused on the development of reusable first-stage rockets. However, the company recently announced that they are looking to make their rocket’s payload fairings reusable as well.

The payload fairing is basically the disposable shell at the top of the rocket that protects the cargo during launch. Once the rocket reaches orbit, the fairings falls away to release the payload to space and are lost. But if they could be retrieved, it would reduce launch cost by additional millions. Known as “Mr. Steven”, this new retrieval system consists of a platform ship, extended arms, and a net strung between them.

Mr. Steven is not unlike SpaceX’s Autonomous Spaceport Drone Ships (ASDS), which are used to retrieve first stage rocket boosters at sea. SpaceX has two operational drone ships, including Just Read the Instructions – which is stationed in the Pacific to retrieve launches from Vandenberg – and Of Course I Still Love You, which is stationed in the Atlantic to retrieve launches from Canaveral.

The first ten IridiumNEXT satellites are stacked and encapsulated in the Falcon 9 fairing for launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base, Ca., in early 2017. Credit: Iridium

Recently, Teslarati’s Pauline Acalin captured some photographs of Mr. Steven while it was docked on the California coast near Vandenberg Air Force Base, where it preparing to head out to sea in support of the latest Falcon 9 launch. Known as the PAZ Mission, this launch will place a series of Spanish imaging satellites in orbit, as well as test satellites that will be part of SpaceX’s plan to provide broadband internet service.

Originally scheduled for Wednesday, February 21st, the launch was scrubbed due to strong upper level winds. It is currently scheduled to take place at 6:17 a.m. PST (14:17 UTC) on Thursday, February 22nd, from Space Launch Complex 4 East (SLC-4E) at the Vandenburg Air Force Base. After the cargo is deployed to orbit, the fairings will fall back slowly to Earth thanks to a set of geotagged parachutes.

These chutes will guide the fairings down to the Pacific Ocean, where Mr. Steven will sail to meet them. The fairings, if all goes as planned, will touch down gently into the net and be recovered for later use. In March of 2017, SpaceX successfully recovered a fairing for the first time, which allowed them to recoup an estimated $6 million dollars from that launch.

At present, SpaceX indicates that the cost of an individual Falcon 9 launch is an estimated $62 million. If the payload fairings can be recovered regularly, that means that the company stands to recoup an additional 10% of every individual Falcon 9 launch.

This news comes on the heels of SpaceX having successfully launched their Falcon Heavy rocket, which carried a Tesla Roadster with “Spaceman” into orbit. The launch was made all the more impressive due to the fact that two of the three rocket boosters used were successfully recovered. The core booster unfortunately crashed while attempted to land on one of the ASDS at sea.

At this rate, SpaceX may even start trying to recover their rocket’s second stages in the not-too-distant future. If indeed all components of a rocket are reusable, the only costs associated with individual launches will be the one-time manufacturing cost of the rocket, the cost of fuel, plus any additional maintenance post-launch.

For fans of space exploration and commercial aerospace, this is certainly exciting news! With every cost-cutting measure, the possibilities for scientific research and crewed missions increase exponentially. Imagine a future where it costs roughly the same to deploy space habitats to orbit as it does to deploy commercial satellites, and sending space-based solar arrays to orbit (and maybe even building a space elevator) is financially feasible!

It might sound a bit fantastic, but when the costs are no longer prohibitive, a lot of things become possible.

Further Reading: Teslatari, TechCrunch

The post Here’s How SpaceX is Planning to Recover Rocket Fairings: a Boat With a Net Called Mr. Steven appeared first on Universe Today.

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fxer
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Lebanese Band “Mashrou’ Leila” Goes Back to School

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Lebanese group Mashrou’ Leila is not your run-of-the-mill rock band. Its uniqueness does not, however, begin and end with having an openly gay lead singer or a musical repertoire laced with “taboo” subjects – though some would have you believe it is. These are, of course, part of Mashrou’ Leila’s impact and importance inside and […]
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hannahdraper
6 hours ago
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