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►  Voyager 1 leads pack of world’s most distant spacecraft

NASA’s Voyager 1 has traveled farther from Earth than any other spacecraft. It’s a mind-boggling 12.9 billion miles away, 40 years after its launch.

A list of the world’s most distant spacecraft, according to NASA. All flew from Cape Canaveral.

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1. Voyager 1 at 12.9 billion miles distant. Launched September 5, 1977. Only spacecraft to reach interstellar space.

2. Pioneer 10 no longer communicating at an estimated at 11.1 billion miles distant. Launched in 1972.

3. Voyager 2 at 10.6 billion miles distant. Launched August 20, 1977.

4. Pioneer 11 no longer communicating at an estimated at 8.9 billion miles distant. Launched in 1973.

5. New Horizons on post-Pluto mission at 3.6 billion miles distant. Launched in 2006.

6. Cassini orbiting Saturn at 0.89 billion miles distant. Launched in 1997.


►  NASA launches last of its longtime tracking satellites

NASA launched the last of its longtime tracking and communication satellites on Friday, a vital link to astronauts in orbit as well as the Hubble Space Telescope.

The end of the era came with a morning liftoff of TDRS-M, the 13th satellite in the Tracking and Data Relay Satellite network . It rode to orbit aboard an unmanned Atlas V rocket. There were handshakes all around two hours later, when the satellite successfully separated from the rocket’s upper stage.

“″We’re going to really celebrate this one,” said launch director Tim Dunn.

NASA has been launching TDRS satellites since 1983. The 22,300-mile-high constellation links ground controllers with the International Space Station and other low-orbiting craft including Hubble.

“It’s like our baby,” said NASA’s Badri Younes, deputy associate administrator for space communications and navigation.

“People have invested their soul and their sweat into making it happen” over the decades, Younes said on the eve of launch. “This spacecraft has served us so well.”

This latest flight from Cape Canaveral was delayed two weeks after a crane hit one of the satellite’s antennas last month. Satellite maker Boeing replaced the damaged antenna and took corrective action to prevent future accidents. Worker error was blamed.

The rocket and satellite cost $540 million.

Space shuttles hoisted the first-generation TDRS satellites. The second in the series was aboard Challenger’s doomed flight in 1986. It was the only loss in the entire TDRS series.

TDRS-M is third generation. NASA’s next-generation tracking network will rely on lasers. This more advanced and robust method of relaying data was demonstrated a few years ago during the moon-orbiting mission LADEE. NASA hopes to start launching these high-tech satellites by 2024. Until then, the space agency will rely on the current network.

NASA needs seven active TDRS satellites at any given time, six for real-time support and one as a spare. The newest one will remain in reserve, until needed to replace aging craft.

Besides serving other spacecraft, the satellites help provide communication to outposts at the South Pole. In 1998, the network provided critical medical help to a doctor diagnosed with breast cancer.

Science and Technology

The Free Press WV

►  Silicon Valley escalates its war on white supremacy

Silicon Valley significantly escalated its war on white supremacy this week, choking off the ability of hate groups to raise money online, removing them from Internet search engines, and preventing some sites from registering at all.

The new moves go beyond censoring individual stories or posts. Tech companies such as Google, GoDaddy and PayPal are now reversing their hands-off approach about content supported by their services and making it much more difficult for “alt-right” organizations to reach mass audiences.

But the actions are also heightening concerns over how tech companies are becoming the arbiters of free speech in America. And in response, right-wing technologists are building parallel digital services that cater to their own movement.

Gab.ai, a social network for promoting free speech, was founded in August 2016 by Silicon Valley engineers alienated by the region’s liberalism. Other conservatives have founded Infogalactic, a Wikipedia for the alt-right, as well as crowdfunding tools Hatreon and WeSearchr. The latter was used to raise money for James Damore, a white engineer who was fired after criticizing Google’s diversity policy.

“If there needs to be two versions of the Internet so be it,“ Gab.ai tweeted Wednesday morning. The company’s spokesman, Utsav Sanduja, later warned of a “revolt” in Silicon Valley against the way tech companies are trying control the national debate.

“There will another type of Internet who is run by people politically incorrect, populist, and conservative,“ Sanduja said.

Some adherents to the alt-right - a fractious coalition of neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and those opposed to feminism - said in interviews they will press for the federal government to step in and regulate Facebook and Google, an unexpected stance for a movement that is skeptical of government meddling.

“Doofuses in the conservative movement say it’s only censorship if the government does it,“ said Richard Spencer, an influential white nationalist. “YouTube and Twitter and Facebook have more power than the government. If you can’t host a website or tweet, then you effectively don’t have a right to free speech.“

He added “social networks need to be regulated in the way the broadcast networks are. I believe one has a right to a Google profile, a Twitter profile, an accurate search . . . We should start conceiving of these thing as utilities and not in terms of private companies.“

The censorship of hate speech by companies passes constitutional muster, according to First Amendment experts. But they said there is a downside of thrusting corporations into that role.

Silicon Valley firms may be ill-prepared to manage such a large societal role, they added. The companies have limited experience handling these issues. They must answer to shareholders and demonstrate growth in users or profits - weighing in on free speech matters risks alienating large groups of customers across the political spectrum.

These platforms are also so massive - Facebook, for example, counts a third of the world’s population in its monthly user base; GoDaddy hosts and registers 71 million websites - it may actually be impossible for them to enforce their policies consistently.

Still, tech companies are forging ahead. On Wednesday, Facebook said it canceled the page of white nationalist Christopher Cantwell, who was connected to the Charlottesville rally. The company has shut down eight other pages in recent days, citing violations of the company’s hate speech policies. Twitter has suspended several extremist accounts, including @Millennial_Matt, a Nazi-obsessed social media personality.

On Monday, GoDaddy delisted the Daily Stormer, a prominent neo-Nazi site, after its founder celebrated the death of a woman killed in Charlottesville, Virginia. The Daily Stormer then transferred its registration to Google, which also cut off the site. The site has since retreated to the “dark Web,“ making it inaccessible to most Internet users.

PayPal late Tuesday said it would bar nearly three dozen users from accepting donations on its online payment platform following revelations that the company played a key role in raising money for the white supremacist rally.

In a lengthy blog post, PayPal outlined its long-standing policy of not allowing its services to be used to accept payments or donations to organizations that advocate racist views. The payment processor singled out the KKK, white supremacist groups and Nazi groups - all three of which were involved in organizing last weekend’s rally.

The Southern Poverty Law Center, a left-leaning nonprofit anti-hate group, said until now, PayPal had ignored its complaints that the company was processing donations and payments to dozens of racist and white supremacist groups. The center said PayPal also allowed at least eight groups and individuals openly espousing racist views to raise money that was integral to orchestrating the Charlottesville rally.

“For the longest time, PayPal has essentially been the banking system for white nationalism,“ Keegan Hankes, analyst for the Southern Poverty Law Center, told The Washington Post. “It’s a shame it took Charlottesville for them to take it seriously.“

PayPal has agreed to removed at least 34 organizations, including Richard Spencer’s National Policy Institute, two companies that sell gun accessories explicitly for killing Muslims, as well as all accounts associated with Jason Kessler, the white nationalist blogger who organized the Charlottesville march, according to a list provided to the Post by Color of Change, a racial justice organization seeking to influence corporate decision-makers.

Spencer, whose site was blocked by major advertisers earlier this year and who previously told the Post “it would have no effect on my life whatsoever,“ said the PayPal move was more damaging. “I am getting this treatment because of things I say and not things I do,“ Spencer said. “I’ve never hurt anyone and I’m not going to.“

Other payment systems have made similar moves. Apple Wednesday dropped payment processing for hate groups. GoFundMe, one of the largest crowdfunding sites, shut down several campaigns to raise money for the Nazi sympathizer who allegedly crashed his car into a crowd of activists protesting the hate rally, killing one woman and injuring dozens.

Patreon, another payment processor, recently canceled the accounts for some “alt-right” figures. That inspired a new crowdfunding site, Hatreon, which markets itself as a company that does not police speech.

Technology companies have long relied on a 20-year-old law that shields them from responsibility for illegal content hosted on their platforms. The more they get into the business of policing speech - making subjective decisions about what is offensive and what isn’t - the more they are susceptible to undermining their own immunity and opening themselves to regulation, said Susan Benesch, director of the Dangerous Speech Project, a nonprofit group that researches the intersection of harmful online content and free speech.

Lee Rowland, senior staff attorney with the American Civil Liberty Union’s Speech, Privacy & Technology Project, cautioned consumers against being so quick to condemn companies that host even the “most vile white supremacist speech we have seen on display this week.“

“We rely on the Internet to hear each other,“ Rowland said. “We should all be very thoughtful before we demand that platforms for hateful speech disappear because it does impoverish our conversation and harm our ability to point to evidence for white supremacy and to counter it.“


►  Apple CEO makes $2 million pledge to fight hate

Apple is donating $2 million to two human rights groups as part of CEO Tim Cook’s pledge to help lead the fight against the hate that fueled the violence in Virginia during a white-nationalist rally last weekend.

Cook made the commitment late Wednesday in an internal memo obtained by The Associated Press.

Cook also says he strongly disagrees with Donald Trump’s comparison between the actions of white nationalists and protesters opposing them.

Cook believes equating the two “runs counter to our ideals as Americans,” making him the latest prominent CEO to distance himself from Trump.

Apple is giving $1 million apiece to Southern Poverty Law Center and the Anti-Defamation League. It will also match employee donations to those two groups and other human rights organizations on a two-for-one basis.

Science and Technology

The Free Press WV

►  Neutron beams, x-rays reveal more about T. rex relative

Researchers at a top U.S. laboratory announced Tuesday that they have produced the highest resolution scan ever done of the inner workings of a fossilized tyrannosaur skull using neutron beams and high-energy X-rays, resulting in new clues that could help paleontologists piece together the evolutionary puzzle of the monstrous T. rex.

Officials with Los Alamos National Laboratory and the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science said they were able to peer deep into the skull of a “Bisti Beast,” a T. rex relative that lived millions of years ago in what is now northwestern New Mexico.

The images detail the dinosaur’s brain and sinus cavities, the pathways of some nerves and blood vessels and teeth that formed but never emerged.

Thomas Williamson, the museum’s curator of paleontology and part of the team that originally collected the specimen in the 1990s, said the scans are helping paleontologists figure out how the different species within the T. rex family relate to each other and how they evolved.

“We’re unveiling the internal anatomy of the skull so we’re going to see things that nobody has ever seen before,” he said during a news conference Tuesday.

T. rex and other tyrannosaurs were huge, dominant predators, but they evolved from much smaller ancestors.

The fossilized remnants of the Bisti Beast, or Bistahieversor sealeyi, were found in the Bisti/De-Na-Zin Wilderness Area near Farmington, New Mexico. Dry, dusty badlands today, the area in the time of the tyrannosaur would have been a warmer, swampy environment with more trees.

The species lived about 10 million years before T. rex. Scientists have said it represents one of the early tyrannosaurs that had many of the advanced features — including big-headed, bone-crushing characteristics and small forelimbs — that were integral for the survival of T. rex.

Officials said the dinosaur’s skull is the largest object to date for which full, high-resolution neutron and X-ray CT scans have been done at Los Alamos. The technology is typically used for the lab’s work on defense and national security.

The thickness of the skull, which spans 40 inches (102 centimeters), required stronger X-rays than those typically available to penetrate the fossil. That’s where the lab’s electron and proton accelerators came in.

Sven Vogel, who works at the Los Alamos Neutron Science Center, said the three-dimensional scanning capabilities at the lab have produced images that allow paleontologists to see the dinosaur much as it would have been at the time of its death, rather than just the dense mineral outline of the fossil that was left behind after tens of millions of years.

The team, which included staff from the University of New Mexico and the University of Edinburgh, is scheduled to present its work at an international paleontology conference in Canada next week.

Kat Schroeder, a Ph.D. candidate at the University of New Mexico who has been working on the project for about a year, said the scanning technology has the ability to uncover detail absent in traditional X-rays and the resulting three-dimensional images can be shared with fellow researchers around the world without compromising the integrity the original fossil.

Schroeder’s work centers understanding the behavior of dinosaurs, so seeing the un-erupted teeth in the Bisti Beast’s upper jaw was exciting.

“Looking at how fast they’re replacing teeth tells us something about how fast they’re growing, which tells me something about how much energy they need and how active they were,” she said. “It’s those little things that enable us to understand more and more about prehistoric environments.”


►  SpaceX Dragon delivers scientific bounty to space station

A SpaceX shipment arrived at the International Space Station on Wednesday, delivering a bonanza of science experiments.

The SpaceX Dragon capsule pulled up following a two-day flight from Cape Canaveral. NASA astronaut Jack Fischer used the space station’s hefty robot arm to grab the Dragon 250 miles (400 kilometers) above the Pacific, near New Zealand.

The Dragon holds 3 tons of cargo, mostly research. The extra-large science load includes a cosmic ray monitor, a mini satellite with cheap, off-the-shelf scopes for potential military viewing, and 20 mice for an eye and brain study.

Lucky for the station’s six-person crew, a big variety of ice cream is also stashed away in freezers, including birthday cake flavor. U.S. astronaut Randolph Bresnik turns 50 next month.

“Congratulations on a job well done,” Mission Control radioed from Houston. “You guys have just won yourselves some fresh food.”

It was 13th supply shipment by SpaceX.

“The crew stands ready to rock the science like a boss,” Fischer said, giving a rundown on the research inside the Dragon’s “belly.”

It’s enough for more than 250 experiments in the coming months, he noted.

“Need to get back to work. We’ve got a Dragon to unload,” Fischer told Mission Control.

SpaceX is one of NASA’s two prime shippers for station supplies. Orbital ATK is the other; its next delivery is in November from Wallops Island, Virginia. The two companies have taken over the cargo hauls formerly handled by NASA’s now retired space shuttles.

Science and Technology

The Free Press WV

►  Google, GoDaddy boot neo-Nazi site that mocked rally victim

A leading neo-Nazi website was sporadically accessible Monday despite efforts by website registration companies Google and GoDaddy to oust it after it mocked the woman killed in a deadly attack at a white nationalist rally in Virginia.

Google said Monday that it was canceling the domain name registration of The Daily Stormer for violating its terms of service. The registration had moved there after GoDaddy tweeted late Sunday night that it had given The Daily Stormer 24 hours to move its domain to another provider, also because the site had violated the Scottsdale, Arizona-based company’s terms of service.

GoDaddy spokesman Dan Race said the move was prompted by a post on the site about Heather Heyer, who was killed Saturday when a car plowed into a group of demonstrators in Charlottesville. The post, written by The Daily Stormer’s publisher Andrew Anglin, called her “fat” and “childless” and said “most people are glad she is dead, as she is the definition of uselessness.”

“Given their latest article comes on the immediate heels of a violent act, we believe this type of article could incite additional violence, which violates our terms of service,” Race said in an emailed statement.

Shortly after GoDaddy tweeted its decision, the site posted an article claiming it had been taken over by hackers associated with “Anonymous” and would be shut down, and it was briefly down Monday before becoming accessible again.

One of The Daily Stormer’s contributors said the post about the site being taken over was just a prank.

“We’re a convivial publication. We have a lot of fun with it,” said Andrew Auernheimer, a notorious hacker and internet troll who writes for the site.

Auernheimer, known online as “weev,” said GoDaddy hadn’t contacted The Daily Stormer to explain its decision. He said the site has an alternate domain name that it can use if GoDaddy cancels its service.

“We’ll get it taken care of,” Auernheimer said. “If we need a new domain, we’ll get a new domain.”

GoDaddy isn’t The Daily Stormer’s host, which means the site’s content isn’t on the company’s servers, according to Race. “Only the domain is with GoDaddy,” Race added.

However, canceling a domain name has the effect of making a website unreachable, regardless of where it’s hosted.

Anglin’s site takes its name from Der Stürmer, a newspaper that published Nazi propaganda. The site includes sections called “Jewish Problem” and “Race War.”

The Daily Stormer is infamous for orchestrating internet harassment campaigns carried out by its “Troll Army” of readers. Its targets have included prominent journalists, a Jewish woman who was running for a California congressional seat and Alex Jones, a radio host and conspiracy theorist whom Anglin derided as a “Zionist Millionaire.”

In April, a Montana woman sued Anglin after her family became the target of another Daily Stormer trolling campaign. Tanya Gersh’s suit claims anonymous internet trolls bombarded Gersh’s family with hateful and threatening messages after Anglin published their personal information in a post accusing her and other Jewish residents of Whitefish, Montana, of engaging in an “extortion racket” against the mother of white nationalist Richard Spencer.

The Daily Stormer used a crowdfunding website, WeSearchr, to raise more than $152,000 in donations from nearly 2,000 contributors to help pay for Anglin’s legal expenses.

Other internet services have taken similar action against The Daily Stormer since Anglin founded it in 2013. In 2015, Anglin said PayPal had permanently banned him from using the service. And he complained in January that a Ukrainian advertising company had banned them, leaving an Australian electrician as the site’s only advertiser.


►  Netflix wins ‘Scandal’ creator Rhimes in blow to Disney, ABC

Netflix has lured Shonda Rhimes, the well-regarded creator of TV series “Scandal” and “Grey’s Anatomy,” from ABC, its latest big get as media companies old and new fight for viewers’ attention.

The streaming service’s announcement late Sunday comes just days after ABC owner Disney laid out plans to pull programming from Netflix.

Netflix said Rhimes’ Shondaland production company is moving to Netflix for a multi-year deal. New ideas and projects from Rhimes and her producing partner, Betsy Beers, will be available on the streaming service.

“Starting today, we are thrilled to begin creating new Shondaland stories with Netflix,” Rhimes wrote.

But her existing, well-known shows — “Grey’s Anatomy,” ?Scandal” and “How to Get Away With Murder” — will remain on the network. Upcoming Shondaland projects already in the works, like the drama “For the People” and a “Grey’s” spinoff, will also still stay with ABC. Rhimes has had exclusive deals with ABC Studios for nearly 15 years.

ABC Entertainment president Channing Dungey said “fans can rest assured” that the network’s Thursday night lineup of Rhimes-produced shows “remains intact and will be as buzzed about as ever.” Rhimes’ shows have been among ABC’s top-rated series.

“I’m proud to have given a home to what have become some of the most celebrated and talked about shows on television,” Dungey said in an emailed statement.

Financial terms of the Netflix deal weren’t disclosed, nor were details on how long Rhimes and her company will produce series for Netflix.

Disney, meanwhile, said last week that it was creating a new streaming service of its own for kids and launching an online-subscription version of ESPN.

Disney said it will pull Disney and Pixar movies and shows from Netflix for the new service aimed at kids, expected to launch in 2019. ABC shows won’t be included, but Disney has hinted that it could shift more content to this new moDelegate Disney is also launching an ESPN streaming service, without pro football and basketball, early next year. It has said it might also sell the full ESPN channel directly to viewers online if viewership disintegrates; currently, a cable or satellite subscription is required.

Disney is setting itself up for the future as ratings for traditional TV have suffered. Competition for viewers is increasing and attention is shifting online, where video can be watched on a viewer’s schedule — an option Netflix has taught viewers to love.

ABC ended the traditional TV season in May at the No. 3 slot among the big broadcasters and down 9 percent in the ratings, according to NielSenator It’s rebooting “Roseanne” and “American Idol” in the 2017-18 season and bringing back popular comedies “black-ish” and “Modern Family.”

Netflix continues to invest in more original programming to win those eyeballs. It’s not competing with just cable anymore. Traditional TV companies have launched or are planning a slew of streaming services , and tech companies like Amazon and Google’s YouTube have as well. In the past few weeks, Netflix has signed up David Letterman and bought a comic book publisher to turn its characters into movies and shows.

Rhimes wrote in a statement that she was grateful to ABC for giving her career a start, but she was looking forward to expanding her audience and “creative identity” with Netflix.

Rhimes’ shows are known for their diverse casts, cliffhangers and dramatic twists set in American institutions like universities, hospitals and the White House.

“Shonda Rhimes paved the way for a lot of the transformation that we are seeing in television today,” said UCLA professor Darnell Hunt, who studies diversity in the entertainment industry.

Hunt said television executives are beginning to understand that getting more minorities in top roles isn’t just marketable, but “demanded by increasingly diverse audiences.” He said digital platforms like Netflix have lagged traditional TV in diversity — and Rhimes could help change that.

Rhimes wrote that she and Netflix Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos had developed a plan for the next phase of her career. She said Netflix offered her and her team “limitless possibilities.”

“I’ve gotten the chance to know Shonda and she’s a true Netflixer at heart — she loves TV and films, she cares passionately about her work, and she delivers for her audience,” Sarandos wrote.

Rhimes, 47, has been nominated for three Emmy Awards, all for her work on “Grey’s Anatomy.” The long-running series begins its 14th season next month. “Scandal” will return for its seventh and final season in October.


►  Science Says: Lightning is zapping fewer Americans, not more

Lightning — once one of nature’s biggest killers —is claiming far fewer lives in the United States, mostly because we’ve learned to get out of the way.

In the 1940s, when there were fewer people, lightning killed more than 300 people annually. So far this year, 13 people have died after being struck, on pace for a record low of 17 deaths. Taking the growing population into account, the lightning death rate has shrunk more than forty-fold since record-keeping began in 1940.

People seem to be capturing the phenomenon more on camera than before, making it seem like something new and sizzling is going on in the air. Separate videos last month of a Florida lifeguard and an airport worker being hit by lightning went viral. Both survived.

Lightning strikes have not changed — they hit about the same amount as they used to, said Pennsylvania State University meteorology professor Paul Markowski.

A big difference: Fewer of us are outside during bad weather. If we’re not huddled indoors, we’re often in cars. Vehicles with metal roofs — not convertibles — are safe from lightning, experts say.

“As a society we spend less time outside,” said Harold Brooks, a scientist at the National Weather Service’s National Severe Storms Laboratory. “Especially farmers. There aren’t just many farmers around.”

Decades ago, farmers would be in fields and were the tallest object, making them most likely to get hit, said National Weather Service lightning safety specialist John Jensenius Jr.

That helps explain the drop in yearly lightning deaths from about 329 in the 1940s to about 98 in the 1970s. The numbers have kept plunging since. From 2007-2016, average yearly deaths dropped to 31.

Improved medical care also has played a key role, including wider use of defibrillators and more CPR-trained bystanders.

When Dr. Mary Ann Cooper started out in the emergency room in the 1970s, there was nothing in textbooks about how to treat lightning victims.

Now instead of treating lightning patients the same way as people who touch high-voltage wires and are burned, doctors focus more on the neurological damage, said Cooper, professor emerita of emergency medicine at the University of Illinois in Chicago.

Perhaps the biggest reason deaths are down is because of efforts to teach people not to get hit in the first place.

“We’ve equipped the public by saying, ‘When thunder roars, go indoors .’ Three-year-olds can remember that,” Cooper said.

Men are four times more likely to be killed by lightning in the U.S. than women, statistics show. Men do riskier things that get them in trouble in storms, Cooper and Jensenius said.

“Our victims are at the wrong place at the wrong time. The wrong place is anywhere outside. The wrong time is anywhere that you can hear thunder,” said Jensenius.

In July — the deadliest month for lightning in the U.S. — vacationers Andre Bauldock and Lamar Rayfield were on a beach in Florida when a thunderstorm rolled in.

“We ignored it. We were just thinking it was going to pass over soon,” recalled Bauldock. “We could see the sun in the distance. I was admiring the lightning out in the ocean and I thought it was far away.”

The next thing Bauldock remembers is waking up in a parking lot surrounded by people. He was told the lightning struck his friend’s stomach and then hit him. They both fell over. Rayfield eventually died.

An analysis of 352 U.S. lightning deaths from 2006 to 2016 found people were most often doing something near water — fishing, camping and beach activities— when they were hit. Golf doesn’t even crack the top dozen activities, but soccer does, said Jensenius.

James Church was hit earlier this year in Florida as his first cast of the day flew through the air.

“I woke up. I couldn’t move. It was like an elephant sitting on me, not a single muscle would work,” Church recalled. “My eyes were working, my brain was working ... I couldn’t feel anything.”

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