NASA’s first African-American Space Station crewmember is a total badass

NASA astronaut Jeanette Epps.
Image: NASA

NASA astronaut Jeanette Epps is set to become the first African-American crewmember on the International Space Station when she flies to space next year, the space agency announced Wednesday.

Epps’ months-long trip should begin in 2018, and it will mark the first time she has traveled to orbit, following in the footsteps of the women who inspired her to become an astronaut.

“It was about 1980, I was nine years old. My brother came home and he looked at my grades and my twin sisters’ grades and he said, ‘You know, you guys can probably become aerospace engineers or even astronauts,'” Epps said in a NASA video interview.

“And this was at the time that Sally Ride [the first American woman to fly in space] and a group of women were selected to become astronauts the first time in history. So, he made that comment and I said, ‘Wow, that would be so cool.'”

Not your typical resume

While other African-American astronauts have flown to the Space Station for brief stays during the outpost’s construction, Epps will be the first African-American crewmember to live and work on the station for an extended period of time.

“Robert Curbeam, Stephanie Wilson, Joan Higginbotham, Al Drew, Leland Melvin and Robert Satcher, along with their space shuttle crewmates, helped to complete the space station during its first 11 years,” space historian Robert Pearlman, who runs the website collectSPACE.com, told Mashable.

Melvin actually encouraged Epps to apply to become an astronaut when the space agency put out a call for their 2009 class, Epps said.

And that encouragement paid off.

Epps was selected as one of 14 astronaut candidates in NASA’s 2009 class. NASA received 3,500 astronaut applications that year.

The International Space Station.

Image: NASA

Her astronaut selection wasn’t the first time she worked with the space agency, however.

Epps was a NASA fellow while at the University of Maryland for graduate school in aerospace engineering and then worked in a lab at Ford Motor Company for more than two years, according to the space agency.

From there, Epps’ path to becoming an astronaut takes a decidedly atypical turn.

Most astronauts come to the Astronaut Corps either through training in science or as a military officer, but after Ford, Epps spent more than seven years at the Central Intelligence Agency as a technical intelligence officer.

“I did a lot of scientific stuff, but I also did a lot of operational stuff,” Epps said. “We worked in non-proliferation issues, which was great. It’s reverse engineering at its best.”

Epps also volunteered to go to Iraq with the CIA for four months to help search for weapons of mass destruction.

Life as an astronaut

Since being selected as an astronaut, Epps hasn’t simply waited for a flight assignment.

She worked in mission control, communicating with the astronauts on the Space Station, and has served in other roles supporting the program without ever getting off the ground.

Epps also worked as an “aquanaut” underwater with the NEEMO program for a nine-day mission in 2014.

Her crew of six the same number of people usually on the Space Station simulated what it would be like for astronauts to drill into an asteroid, a possible mission NASA could launch in the coming years.

“I always wanted to do NEEMO,” Epps said. “When I first saw it, I thought it was one of the best analogs to space. You can’t just leave, you’re kind of stuck with these people.”

BONUS: Here’s an important demonstration of how astronauts ‘go to the loo’ in space

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Politicians struggle to appear human. But Sanders and Clinton succeeded | Jeb Lund

The Democratic candidates demonstrated moments of warmth and intimacy in their Town Hall yet ultimately policy matters most

Both Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton hit their marks in the CNNs New Hampshire Town Hall, making sure to hammer home at the signature topics that have brought them here. Both also enjoyed genuinely amusing human moments that let voters feel like they know these candidates.

Clintons warmest moment of the evening, besides an anecdote about sneaking out of the White House incognito to be Civilian For A Day (including, apparently, being asked by tourists to take pictures of them and their families outside the White House), came in a quick reply to Town Hall moderator Anderson Cooper.

Cooper referred to a famous Clinton quote from the 1990s, asking: Do you still believe in a vast right-wing conspiracy? Without missing a beat, Clinton replied: Dont you? before going on to state that its only gotten bigger. Shes right. It got a laugh, and for the first time all night, she seemed to be enjoying herself.

Sanders entire debate approach was more humanizing than Clintons. Although he later ramped up to his standard intensity, he initially eschewed his default semi-shouty firebrand delivery. The quietness probably evoked something like intimacy, but his best candidate-as-person moments of the night came when talking about himself.

In addition to referring to his own folk music album as one of the worst albums of all time, people cant believe how bad it is, he answered Coopers question about his car with what eventually voters will probably start to think of as signature Berniness. The car is red, and it is American made. A Chevrolet. It is one of the smallest Chevys that they make.

The fun stuff aside, both candidates sought to refine their pitches to a divided Democratic base going into New Hampshire and, soon, South Carolina.

Sanders again emphasized that he has refused to take Super Pac money and has amassed the largest number of donations (to this point in a campaign) in history, at roughly $27 per donation. He hammered Clinton for accepting $15m in Wall Street donations and for accepting hundreds of thousands of dollars for speaking to Goldman Sachs.

Despite shaky answers on the issue of terrorism, where he will never be as broadly salable as the more hawkish Clinton, he was on sure footing criticizing Clintons endorsements of trade deals that offshore jobs and deplete opportunity for the American working class. He also enjoyed a really winning moment, for his campaign, when questioned about taxes.

A man named Chris, who said he earned $41,000 per year, asked Sanders to explain his middle-class tax hike. Sanders explained that, by adopting a Medicare For All approach to universal health care, Chris tax burden would increase by $500, but he would likely save $5,000 per year from no longer having to pay insurance premiums. Cooper followed up: Chris, does that work for you?

Chris replied: If it saves me on health insurance premiums, I will gladly pay more taxes. The Sanders campaign couldnt have hoped for a better soundbite to express the incentives of progressive healthcare policy and progressivism in general.

Clinton opened her night taking the fight to Sanders charges that she is not progressive, something that played out on Twitter earlier in the day. Cooper reiterated some of Sanders criticisms and asked for Clintons response. Its interesting that Senator Sanders is setting himself up to be the gatekeeper on who is and isnt progressive, she said. By those definitions, president Obama isnt a progressive, vice-president Biden isnt progressive.

Her framing was very shrewd. Clinton has made a point of leveraging her identity as a woman to harness a dedicated base of women voters, as well she should. Its very effective. And her casting Sanders as a gatekeeper telling her what she can and cant be works as an effective dog-whistle to those voters, who hear her regularly invoke the imagery of shattering the last great glass ceiling for women. It casts Sanders as a kind of anti-Obama for women: No You Cant.

The Obama connection doesnt end there. Clinton enjoys tremendous name recognition among African-American voters, who will be key to winning South Carolina, and namedropping the president doesnt hurt. Especially when she can do it in a way that makes Sanders appear critical of the nations first black president.

Clintons night got rougher when pressed on her millions in Wall Street donations and her speaking fees from Goldman Sachs. When asked why she took $300,000 from them, she replied, shrugging: Thats what they offered. Its nice to have such problems. In a campaign for the hearts and minds of Democratic voters, one which involves showing an understanding of everyday struggles, being offered $300,000 puts Clinton somewhere on another planet.

But Clinton has bigger problems than seeming relatable. She doesnt have a very persuasive explanation for any of her Wall Street money. Clinton is a very capable speaker, but she doesnt burn down the house with her talks, and shes not a quant. So its very natural to ask what Wall Street could possibly have been purchasing with that kind of money other than influence.

Clinton pointed to billionaire-funded Super Pacs running ads targeted at her, saying that the billionaire class knows she will go after them. But trade agreements that are very friendly to the investor class as well as an opposition to the reinstatement of Glass-Steagalls banking reforms dont sound like much of an attack. (Besides, finding Wall Street guys who hate Democrats isnt hard; theres always going to be a few.)

And $15m in donations prompts a pretty tough question: these guys know how to buy things with their money, so what are they buying? With Sanders leading substantially in New Hampshire and enjoying nearly home field advantage there, it looks like South Carolina will be the next test of whether Clinton has satisfactorily answered the question.

Read more: www.theguardian.com

Can ExxonMobil Be Found Liable for Misinforming the Public on Climate Change?

Last fall, ExxonMobil executives hurried along the hushed, art-filled halls of the companys Irving, Texas, headquarters, a 178-acre suburban complex some employees facetiously call the Death Star, to a series of emergency strategy meetings. The worlds largest oil explorer by market value had been hit by a pair of multipart investigations by InsideClimate News and the Los Angeles Times. Both reported that as early as the 1970s, the company understood more about climate change than it had let on and had deliberately misled the public about it. One of Exxons senior scientists noted in 197711 years before a NASA scientist sounded the alarm about global warming during congressional testimonythat the most likely manner in which mankind is influencing the global climate is through carbon dioxide release from the burning of fossil fuels.

The two exposs predictably sparked waves of internet outrage, some mainstream media moralizing, and the Twitter hashtag #ExxonKnew. The Washington Post editorial page, for one, chided Exxon for a discouraging example of corporate irresponsibility. Bill McKibben, the founder of the environmental group 350.org, which spearheaded protests against the Keystone XL pipeline, wrote an impassioned article in the Guardian accusing Exxon of having helped organize the most consequential lie in human history.

Kenneth Cohen, then the companys vice president for public and government affairs, convened near-daily meetings to form a response. We all sat around the table and said, This feels very orchestrated, says Suzanne McCarron, who succeeded Cohen when he retired at the end of last year. McCarron still seems shocked that her company could come under sustained attack. We wanted to know whos behind this thing, she says. While Exxon tried to identify its new nemesismade difficult, perhaps, by the release of the two reports being coincidentalthe executives also decided to nitpick the journalism and sent lobbyists to Capitol Hill to argue their side. That didnt go so well. I couldnt get any journalist to actually evaluate the coverage, Exxon spokesman Alan Jeffers says, with evident frustration.

The crisis might have died down, a week or two of bad PR and nothing more, but several politicians saw an opening. On Oct. 14, four weeks after the first InsideClimate report, Democratic Representatives Ted Lieu and Mark DeSaulnier, both from California, asked U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch to launch a federal racketeering investigation of Exxon. It occurred to me that this looks like what happened with the tobacco companies a decade ago, Lieu says. Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton added her support for a Department of Justice inquiry. Theres a lot of evidence that they [Exxon] misled people, she said two weeks later.

Stoked by 40 of the nations best-known environmental and liberal social-justice groupsincluding the Environmental Defense Fund, Sierra Club, and Natural Resources Defense Councilthe anti-Exxon animus only intensified. And if there wasnt a coordinated campaign before, now there was: The groups all signed an Oct. 30 letter to Lynch also demanding a racketeering probe. (Lynch has since asked the FBI to examine whether the federal government should undertake such an investigation.) The same day, Lieu and DeSaulnier tried to interest the Securities and Exchange Commission in a fraud probe against Exxon, a request thats pending. Five days later, on Nov. 4, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman opened a formal investigation into whether Exxon had misled investors and regulators about climate change.

We cannot continue to allow the fossil fuel industry to treat our atmosphere like an open sewer or mislead the public about the impact they have on the health of our people and the health of our planet, former Vice President Al Gore said at a subsequent news conference organized by Schneiderman. Compelled by the New York AGs subpoena, Exxon has so far turned over some 1 million pages of internal documents.

Hours after Schneiderman issued his subpoena, Exxon Chief Executive Officer Rex Tillerson went on Fox Business Network. The charges are pretty unfounded, without any substance at all, he said. And theyre dealing with a period of time that happened decades ago, so theres a lot I could say about it. Im not sure how helpful it would be for me to talk about it. These remarks themselves werent terribly helpfulcertainly not to Tillersons company.

McCarron and her colleagues can sound a tad overwrought when discussing all this. The goal of the coordinated campaign is to delegitimize the company by misrepresenting our history of climate research, she says. Tackling the risk of climate change is going to take a lot of smart people, and weve got some of the best minds in the business working on this challenge.

A company that has 73,500 employees and reported $269 billion in 2015 revenue would seem not to have much to fear from a bunch of tree-huggers and a grandstanding state AG. And yet the #ExxonKnew backlash comes at a financially perilous time for Big Oil. A glut-driven collapse in crude prices has rocked the entire industry. On July 29, Exxon announced second-quarter profit of $1.7 billion, its worst result in 17 years. That followed a rocky spring when ferocious wildfires reduced production in the oil-sands region of western Canada. (The frequency and intensity of such fires may be related to climate change, Exxons Jeffers acknowledges, adding, But we just dont know.)

Most important, though, #ExxonKnew comes as climate change, after being on a legislative back burner, has gotten hot again. Signs of this include President Obamas rejection last November of the Keystone pipeline from western Canada, the Paris summit in December that produced an international agreement to lower greenhouse gas emissions, and the U.S.-China plan, finalized on Sept. 3, committing the worlds two largest economies to implement the Paris accords. Its too soon to say how much of a danger Schneidermans investigation poses to Exxon or if the corporation will ever be charged billions of dollars for carbon pollution. But it cant ignore the risk of the sort of litigation storm that engulfed Big Tobacco in the 1990s. ExxonMobil doesnt want to become the Philip Morris of climate liability.
 

#ExxonKnew has taken shape over the past year, but Peter Frumhoff traces its roots to January 2007. Thats when the Union of Concerned Scientists, a Cambridge, Mass.-based nonprofit, published a 64-page report alleging that Exxon used the cigarette industrys tactics to manufacture uncertainty on climate change. Founded in 1969 by physicists worried about nuclear issues, the UCS has branched out over the years. Frumhoff, a 59-year-old Ph.D. ecologist, serves as its director for science and policy. He dresses in grad-school casual and seems highly amused by Exxons notion that hes a central player in a conspiracy against the company. For starters, Frumhoff is a snap to track down and operates quite openlyviolations of the conspirators imperative to plot in secret.

The 2007 report, which Frumhoff oversaw, compared Exxon to cigarette manufacturers that only five months earlier had been found liable by a U.S. district judge for violating the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO). ExxonMobil has underwritten the most sophisticated and successful disinformation campaign since Big Tobacco misled the public about the incontrovertible scientific evidence linking smoking to lung cancer and heart disease, the report asserted.

With a relatively modest expenditure of $16 million from 1998 to 2005, Exxon helped fund a network of some 40 advocacy organizations that raised doubts about the growing scientific consensus that global warming is caused by carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping emissions, the UCS found. Exxon, Frumhoff says, is sort of the poster child for combining a very large contribution to the [climate] problem with an arrogant organizational culture and a significant investment in disinformation to avoid regulation.

The idea of making oil the next tobacco percolated quietly for several years and reemerged in June 2012 in sunny La Jolla, Calif., Frumhoff says. It was there that he co-convened a meeting of scientists and lawyers who discussed not only the parallels between fossil fuels and cigarettes, but also the method used to wound tobacco: the amassing via litigation of internal corporate documents showing that cigarette companies concealed the hazards of smoking. Similar documents may well exist in the vaults of the fossil fuel industry and their trade associations and front groups, an online report summarizing the La Jolla meeting stated. Even a single sympathetic state attorney general might have substantial success in bringing key internal documents to light.

Several more years passed before a passel of climate documents surfaced, not courtesy of a prosecutors subpoena, but as a result of journalistic digging: those reports in InsideClimate (21,000 words in length) and the Los Angeles Times. The two organizations reported that after accumulating climate knowledge for a decade or so, Exxon changed course beginning in the late 1980s, just as public debate over greenhouse gas emissions heated up.

By the 1990s, top Exxon executives were publicly raising doubts about the sorts of findings the companys own scientists had made. In October 1997, Lee Raymond, then Exxons CEO, said in a speech in Beijing, Lets agree theres a lot we really dont know about how climate will change in the 21st century and beyond. Arguing against the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, an early attempt to forge an international agreement on emission reductions, he added, It is highly unlikely that the temperature in the middle of the next century will be significantly affected whether policies are enacted now or 20 years from now.

Working separately from InsideClimate, the Los Angeles Times showed how Exxon incorporated climate change projections into its Arctic exploration plans in the 1990s while publicly undermining such projections.

The overlapping investigative journalism efforts appeared as delegations from countries around the world were getting ready for the December climate talks in Paris. On the sidelines of the Paris summit, McKibben, the author-activist, co-hosted a mock trial of Exxon in which he served as a prosecutor. This is not just some run-of-the-mill, usual corporate malfeasance, McKibben said at the trial. Its hard to imagine a set of corporate practices that could have done more damage. Exxon, needless to say, was found guilty.
 
 
By its public-relations staffs own admission, Exxon spent last fall and winter in a largely reactive mode, scrambling to respond to each new revelation or congressional request for an investigationand never succeeding in offering an alternative narrative. It was like playing whack-a-mole, spokesman Jeffers says.

Seeking to illustrate how InsideClimate cherry-picked evidence, the companys communications team pointed Bloomberg Businessweek to a half-dozen alleged examples. One focused on the sites account of the late James Black, the Exxon scientist who told management in 1977 of the general scientific agreement about man-made global warming. Exxon accused the publication of failing to include qualifications feathered into Blacks work, such as his noting that a number of assumptions and uncertainties are involved in the predictions of the greenhouse effect. But InsideClimate did prominently note that Blacks presentations reflected uncertainty running through scientific circles about the details of climate change. Exxon also accused the organization of erroneously asserting that the company had stopped doing carbon research in the late 1980s. But InsideClimate had written, correctly, that the company curtailed its in-house research program during that period. (Curtail doesnt mean stop.)

Exxon has also accused InsideClimate and the Los Angeles Times of having financial conflicts of interest. The Times articles were researched and written in collaboration with an environmental-reporting project at Columbia Universitys Graduate School of Journalism, and that program has taken substantial grants from environmentally oriented foundations, such as those funded by the Rockefeller family. Despite the source of their original wealthin 1870, John D. Rockefeller created Standard Oil, the corporate forerunner of Exxonthe Rockefeller charities in recent years have taken strong stands against the fossil fuel industry. The Rockefeller Family Fund gave Columbia Journalism School $550,000 to help pay for its fossil fuel reporting project but exercised no editorial control, says Lee Wasserman, director of the fund. The Los Angeles Times initially failed to disclose the funding of the Columbia reporting project, though the newspaper eventually linked to the financial details online. Since 2013, the separate Rockefeller Brothers Fund has provided InsideClimate with $200,000 a year; that fund had no say over what the website published, according to David Sassoon, InsideClimates founder and publisher.

As its attacks on journalists fizzled, Exxon tried sending lobbyists to dozens of congressional offices to counter #ExxonKnew on Capitol Hill. Lieu, the California Democrat seeking federal investigations, is still shaking his head over a November visit from four Exxon emissaries. The lobbyists handed out a 10-page presentation titled Managing Climate Change Risks, which sought to underscore the companys carbon-reduction bona fides. It was a really surreal meeting, Lieu says. The lobbyists came in and said, We believe in climate change and that its being caused by humans, and we support a carbon tax. I thought to myself, Where is this coming from? Is this like some white-hat department that no one else at Exxon knows about?

Lieu hadnt been keeping up with the evolution of Exxons climate-related positions since Tillerson replaced the hard-nosed Raymond as CEO in 2006. In 2007, Exxon began cutting off funding for some nonprofits that deny widely accepted science on global warming. The company in 2009 for the first time endorsed a tax on carbon emissions, a stance vehemently opposed by Republicans in Congress and therefore dead on arrival on Capitol Hill. At the Exxon annual meeting in Dallas in May, the silver-haired Tillerson went out of his way to tell shareholders that the risks of climate change are serious and they do warrant thoughtful action.

Strictly speaking, though, #ExxonKnew isnt a campaign aimed at what the company is saying or doing today. #ExxonKnew focuses on discrepancies between past actions and past statements. That historical inquiry, Lieu says, deserves the authority and force of a government investigation. Exxons lobbyists didnt change his mind.
 
 

Exxon executives say their view of #ExxonKnew as a conspiracy was confirmed by the gathering of 15 state attorneys general and Gore in New York on March 29. Schneiderman, the host, says he organized the event simply to educate fellow state officials about his Exxon investigation. At the news conference, he sounded like hed already decided to take the company to court: With morally vacant forces blocking climate action in Washington, he said, states were obliged to devise creative ways to enforce laws being flouted by the fossil fuel industry.

Schneiderman also arranged for private briefings for the visiting AGs. These closed-door sessions featured a talk on climate science by Frumhoff and a legal backgrounder by Matt Pawa, a private plaintiffs attorney who in 2013 won a $236 million groundwater-pollution verdict against Exxon. The companys public-affairs representatives see great significance in Pawas also having attended Frumhoffs 2012 gathering in La Jolla. You see the same people showing up at planning meetings over the years, Jeffers says. Schneiderman says he doesnt know anything about the La Jolla session and that his office routinely consults with outside experts.

A more consequential aspect of the prosecutors conclave was the announcement by the attorney general of the U.S. Virgin Islands, Claude Walker, that his tiny Caribbean territory had launched a parallel investigation of Exxon. In theory, the Virgin Islands has ample reason to be anxious about climate change: Warming, rising ocean waters could swamp its homes and resorts in coming decades. But in practice, the territory proved itself inadequate to the task of confronting Exxon.

In March the Virgin Islands issued a sprawling, loosely worded subpoena that demanded the companys correspondence with scores of conservative and free-market organizations, including FreedomWorks, the Heartland Institute, and the Heritage Foundation. In a separate subpoena, it sought documents directly from the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a right-leaning group thats cast doubt on mainstream climate science and formerly received financial support from Exxon. This focus on communication opened the door for Exxons New York law firm, Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, to seek to kill the islands subpoenas on First Amendment grounds. Paul Weiss filed court papers in Texas on April 13 condemning the Virgin Islands attempt to deter ExxonMobil from participating in ongoing public deliberations about climate change. (The more precisely tailored New York subpoena didnt explicitly name nonprofits with which Exxon may have communicated.)

Finally, Exxon had its counterpunch: that hostile outsiders had attacked the companys free-speech rights. Theres a reason Theodore Wells, the Paul Weiss partner whos led Exxons legal defense (and has represented such clients as Philip Morris), is known as one of the craftiest people in his profession. However unlikely the image of Exxon as victim, thats how Wells decided to characterize his clientand it worked. On April 22, the Washington Post carried two opinion pieces on the topic: a column by George Will headlined Scientific Silencers on the Left Are Trying to Shut Down Climate Skepticism and one by Sam Kazman and Kent Lassman, respectively general counsel and president of the Competitive Enterprise Institute, condemning the environmental campaign that punishes free speech. In the following days, dozens of similar broadsides were issued from the Wall Street Journal editorial page, Fox News, the Heritage Foundation, and many others.

Once again, politicians followed. In mid-May, the House Committee on Science, Space, & Technology began investigating what it called a coordinated attempt to deprive companies, nonprofit organizations, and scientists of their First Amendment rights. The only company the panel mentioned by name was Exxon. Committee staff members and Exxons McCarron say that despite the companys widespread lobbying of Congress, it didnt ask the panel or its chairman, Lamar Smith (R-Texas), to begin the probe. First elected in 1986, Smith has received almost $685,000 in career campaign contributions from the oil and gas industry, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. By early July, the Virgin Islands had turned tail and withdrawn its subpoenas of Exxon and the Competitive Enterprise Institute. Trying to put the best spin on his humiliating retreat, Virgin Islands AG Walker said via e-mail that extricating itself from the subpoena imbroglio will allow his office to use our limited resources to address the many other issues that face the Virgin Islands and its residents. Wells didnt respond to requests for comment.

Schneiderman now finds himself under investigation, too. When the New York AGs office refused to cooperate with the science committee, Smith issued subpoenas to Schneiderman; Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey, whod launched her own investigation of Exxon; and eight nongovernmental organizations, including the Rockefeller funds, the Union of Concerned Scientists, and 350.org. Unfortunately, the attorneys general have refused to give the committee the information to which it is entitled, Smith told reporters on July 13. What are they hiding and why?

 

Not a thing, according to Schneiderman, who says Smiths inquiries evoke 1950s-era communist hunting by the House Un-American Activities Committee: They have no evidence of any cabal, no evidence of any misconduct. As for the science panels concern about Exxons First Amendment rights, Schneiderman says the federal governments successful RICO case against the tobacco companies made very clear that the First Amendment doesnt give you the right to commit fraud.

If Schneiderman continues to resist the House committees document demands, the confrontation could end up in courta fight the New York official sounds eager to have. Hed have an excellent chance of winning, too. Its unusual for a congressional panel to interfere with a pending state investigation, says Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), a former federal prosecutor who advocates putting Exxon under a microscope. Smith is trying to subvert the power of state government [and] do something he is not entitled to do under any kind of discovery rules, Whitehouse says. More succinctly, Peter Shane, a law professor at Ohio State University, says, Congress has no authority over the conduct of state law enforcement.

Exxon, for its part, has been cooperating with Schneidermans subpoena because the companys lawyers at Paul Weiss advised their client that it had no choice, according to a person familiar with the situation. Schneiderman is investigating under the broad provisions of a 1921 state law called the Martin Act, arguably the most potent securities-fraud statute in the country. Named for sponsor Louis Martin, an otherwise-forgotten state assemblyman, the law forbids any fraud, deception, concealment, suppression, [or] false pretense. Crucially, it doesnt require a prosecutor to demonstrate that a defendant consciously intended to defraud investors or regulators. New Yorks top court has interpreted it to cover all deceitful practices contrary to the plain rules of common honesty.

Schneiderman doesnt have a slam-dunk case. The New York attorney general has a plausible theory, but hell need more than the results of the journalistic investigations, says Michael Gerrard, a law professor at Columbia who directs the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law. Its not enough to show that Exxon had internal knowledge of climate change when external knowledge was widespread. The government would have to show that there were things that only Exxon knew and that were material to investors and that Exxon kept from investors. Such evidence might be there, but we dont know yet.

One potential defense that Exxon is floating: Since the 1970s its scientists have published climate findings in more than 50 peer-reviewed articles. What Exxon knew, the argument would go, the wider scientific world also knew. The company didnt keep secrets the way the tobacco industry did.

Few complicated securities-fraud cases go to trial; the risk of losing and the costs of extended litigation impel settlement. With those risks in mind, Exxon and New York may eventually look to a separate case resolved by Schneidermans office in November. The attorney general found after a two-year investigation that coal producer Peabody Energy provided incomplete information to investors by saying in public reports that it couldnt reasonably predict the risks it faced from climate-related regulations. St. Louis-based Peabody, which in April declared bankruptcy amid a collapsing coal market, neither admitted nor denied wrongdoing and didnt face pecuniary punishment. The company did agree to provide more forthcoming disclosures to investors.

Its really too soon to tell whether the Peabody settlement provides a model for the Exxon case, Schneiderman says. He expects to amass evidence in the Exxon investigation of a much more sophisticated ongoing policy of deception than what his office found inside Peabodywrongdoing that could warrant seeking substantial money damages. Exxon has kept that alleged policy in place through recent years, Schneiderman says, pointing to a 2014 company report claiming that international efforts to reduce climate change wouldnt oblige fossil fuel producers to leave enormous amounts of oil in the ground untouched.

Exxon denies any deception took place and isnt ready to talk settlement, McCarron says. She calls Schneidermans comments an attack on the integrity of the company and says Exxon will pursue all available legal options to defend ourselves.

Big Oil Should Fear Tesla Dead or Alive

Read more: www.bloomberg.com

Alphabet Launches the First Taxi Service With No Human Drivers

For almost a decade, self-driving cars have graced public roads — but always with a person behind the wheel. Now Waymo is yanking the driver.

The autonomous car unit of Google parent Alphabet Inc. said on Tuesday it will soon start chauffeuring people in minivans without “safety drivers,” staffers that man the steering wheel. Waymo is doing so in a limited region of Phoenix, where it is running a pilot program with volunteer passengers. The move, a first for any company, is a major milestone for the internet giant’s bid to lead the crowded pack trying to commercialize driverless technology.

“We want the experience of traveling with Waymo to be routine, so you want to use our driver for your everyday needs,” John Krafcik, Waymo’s chief executive officer, said at the Web Summit conference in Portugal. “Fully self-driving cars are here.”

 

Krafcik said a Waymo service will arrive soon, allowing people to hail the cars with a mobile app, similar to services like Uber and Lyft. Waymo has partnered with Lyft but hasn’t shared details on that deal.

Waymo’s cars have driven with an empty front seat on its 91-acre test site in central California, where the company recently hosted reporters. The Chrysler minivans have a small graphical interface in the back seat, which lets riders watch the driverless course, and buttons to call customer service or pull the car over.

The Alphabet arm has racked up more autonomous test miles on roads than others developing the tech, including Ford Motor Co. and Uber Technologies Inc. But those companies have existing manufacturing capabilities (like the automakers) and rider networks (like Uber) that Waymo lacks. 

Krafcik, a former Ford executive, said that an on-demand service would be the first commercial use case for Waymo. During his appearance at the summit in Lisbon, he also discussed how the vehicles may replace personal car ownership, an existential fear of the car industry.

“Because you’re accessing vehicles rather than owning, in the future, you could choose from an entire fleet of vehicle options that are tailored to each trip you want to make,” Krafcik said, according to a transcript of his remarks. People could claim the cars for a day, a week “or even longer,” he said. He ticked off the ways driverless cars could be redesigned if the vehicle didn’t need space for a driver: to ferry groceries, as a “personal dining room” or for naps.

Waymo’s driverless cars will role out in selected areas of Chandler, Arizona, a Phoenix suburb. Representatives for Waymo and the city of Chandler declined to specify the size of the test area. In his speech, Krafcik said the test without drivers will soon expand to the entire metropolitan Phoenix area.

For more on self-driving technology, check out the   podcast:

 

Some states have existing laws that require a human to be in the driver’s seat of a vehicle, although Waymo and other companies have lobbied against these. Last month, California regulators peeled back that rule in the state.

    Read more: www.bloomberg.com

    Man who survived Las Vegas shooting killed in hit-and-run, wife says

    (CNN)A man who survived the Las Vegas massacre in October died several weeks later in a hit-and-run in southern Nevada.

    Roy McClellan, 52, was killed Nov. 17 when he was hit by a car in Pahrump, about 60 miles west of Las Vegas.
    He was walking on the roadway when he got hit by a Chevrolet Camaro that fled the scene, according to the Nevada Highway Patrol.
      McClellan and his wife made it out safely when a gunman opened fire at the Route 91 Harvest music festival on October 1, killing 58 people, his widow said.
      The attack is the deadliest mass shooting in modern US history.
      Nearly seven weeks later, she’s facing another tragedy.
      “I don’t understand why he wasn’t taken at the shooting, but a month later he was taken this way,” McClellan’s widow, Denise, told CNN affilliate KSNV. “I hope my husband found peace and he’s safe now.”
      The shooting “was really messing” with McClellan’s head and “he was going to therapy,” she told the affiliate.
      Authorities found the car involved in the crash and charges against the driver are pending, KSNV reported.
      McClellan is not the only survivor of the Las Vegas massacre who has died in the past weeks.
      Dennis Carver, 52, and his wife, Lorraine, 53, died in a car crash on October less than a mile from their home in Riverside, California.
      The couple were killed when their Mercedes smashed into a metal gate and brick pillars outside their community.
      A massive fire erupted after the wreck, the California Highway Patrol said. It took firefighters nearly an hour to contain the blaze.
      The couple’s youngest daughter, Madison Carver, said she heard the crash from her bedroom. When she ran outside and down the street to find out what had happened, she recognized her family’s vehicle in flames.

      Read more: www.cnn.com

      7 Things You Need To Have If You Want To Live Your Life According To Batman

      After ensure “Batman v Superman: Dawning of Justice, ” I can’t stop thinking about whether or not someone could actually be Batman.

      I think we all assume that we at least have a chance. I entail, that’s what stimulates Batman so relatable. He’s human. As in he isn’t an alien, meta-human or mutant. Nor does he have superpowers. He’s simply a regular guy.

      Of course, there are other human heroes without powers of any kind. TakeTony Starkfor example. But Tony is still a billionaire inventor who created an element in his basement and construct his own Iron Man suit.Bruce Wayneis just rich. He’s not an discoverer and genuinely doesn’t have any kind of background that would give him an advantage over anyone else( other than a deep, deep thirst to avenge his parents’ demise ). Every skill Bruce Wayne has, he learned. I’m not sure exactly how rich he even is, thoughForbes estimated his Net Worth at $6.9 Billion.

      Quick note on the movie itself: Run see it. I thought it was great( the Batman part, that is ), which I’ve covered.

      So, you want to be a masked vigilante? Here’s what you’ll need.

      1. The skills.

      First, Batman is a master sleuth. He’s also a master in hand-to-hand combat and skilled in the use of handguns, explosives and all things tactical. He’s also one of the best spies in the world. All skills and attributes that can be learned.

      Bruce Wayne is also a very spiritual man, extensively trained in Far-East philosophies and practices. In fact, I’d say this is one of Batman’s greatest strengths and the reason why he is able to remain a beacon of hope for the person or persons of Gotham. He has the discipline and willpower to never let the power get at his head. In fact, he almost always stays loyal to his values as a human. While this isn’t something that just everyone can learn, it can be honed. I would call this attribute part genetic and partlearned.

      Here’s the thing, while Bruce Wayne wasn’t forced to learn these abilities, he was certainly nudged in the right direction by his experience with his parents’ demise. He then used it to build himself stronger and better. Depending on what storyline you’re reading, Bruce Wayne was either frightened of the darkness or thrived in it. Either way, it molded him into the man he became.

      Now look, when talking about the Dark Knight, you can’t overlook the benefits that his wealth has provided him. You simply can’t. And without a Kevlar suit and ultra-high-tech contraptions, there’s no way in hell a 5-foot, 7-inch, 160 -pound guy like myself could ever be the Caped Crusader. I entail actually, I wouldn’t stand a chance against Bane or Superman.

      But, and this is a big but, that doesn’t mean that any billionaire can achieve what Bruce was able to accomplish. You still have to be driven. You must be singularly focused on a life of anonymity and crime oppose. You can’t have a wife, you can’t have children, you can’t even have hobbies.

      Most people couldn’t do that. It takes a special person to put in the work required to be a professional athlete or successful entrepreneur. Batman is a hybrid of the two. Let’s be real, most of can’t leave our telephone off the table during dinner, let alone live a life of solidarity for Gotham’s greater good.

      Ben Affleck expertly portrays this in “Dawn of Justice.” Affleck’s character is Batman through and through. His world outlook is grim. He’s hardened by years of evil. He’s older, wiser and meaner. He understands the threats against our route of living and would do anything to destroy those menaces even kill.

      Christian Bale’s Batman was conflicted. He didn’t fully understand his place in Gotham, let alone the world. And his indecision virtually got him killed. In “Dawn of Justice, ” Batman is a professional. He knows EXACTLY what he is.


      2. The time.

      Sure, you can learn anything if you put your mind to it. But here’s the thing, if you want to retain that skill, or better yet, master that skill, you have to practice like a master. You must learn, apprentice and live and inhale the craft. Bruce Wayne didn’t become the man he is just by showing up.

      Some comics have claimed that Batman is an expert in every known martial art. That’s f* cking absurd. But here’s what is possible: Perhaps Bruce Wayne contacted the best MMA coach in the world and flew him to Gotham. Maybe he dedicated hours, every day for months, to earn a black belt. He likely rolls around with Anthony Bourdain and Joe Rogan on the weekends. He sits ringside at UCF and talks shop with Connor McGregor after the fights.

      Maybe you can do the same. Find the best coach-and-four in your area and get to work. Wayne likely replicated this plan for his yoga and meditation practise. And surely he contracted the best strength coach-and-four in America, maybe the world, to program his training.

      But that’s where things get complicated. Watch, as a man with an anonymous alter-ego, Bruce Wayne can’t let anyone get too close, as he runs of hazard of them putting two and two together.

      The problem’s that basically every time someone learns about Batman’s true identity, they end up dead. So it’s more about protecting them than it is about the risk of being uncovered. Batman knows and accepts the possibility of his own demise. In a way, he already died once when his parents were killed. But what Wayne could never accept is letting another man die for him.


      3. Alfred Pennyworth.

      One of the things I freaking loved about “Batman v Superman: Daybreak of Justice” is that they finally get Alfred right. Don’t get me wrong; Michael Caine was great as Alfred in the Christopher Nolan trilogy. But Batman still needed an inside man in Lucious Fox.But ideally, the fewer people who get close, the better. This leaves an enormous onu on Alfred.

      But his chore runs deeper. Insure, in order to stay up on the goings on in the world, the newest trends in health, fitness and combat, and to manage what would be one of the most grueling schedules imaginable, what Batman genuinely needs is a manager. Enter Alfred.

      He’s in charge of inducing sure Bruce is up at 5 am every morning to do cardio, develop and/ or practise yoga. After, maybe he’d prep thecryo-chamber so Bruce can get some cryotherapy or maybe a sauna session.

      In terms of training, in“Dawn of Justice , ” Wayne is shown doing chin-ups and squattings, pushing and rowing a Prowler weight sled, and smashing a tractor tire with a hammer. I think this is pretty much exactly the type of training Batman would need. But to stay honest, he still needs a coach-and-four, somebody to program his training.Batman’s best bet is for Alfred to serve in this role too.

      Alf would then brief him on what’s going on in Gotham and beyond over breakfast. At this phase, to go all in, Bruce couldn’t handle the working day to day of Wayne Enterprises, and that’s fine. His heart isn’t in it anyway. He would still be the chairman and have certain obligations as such, but Alfred would have to be razor sharp when it comes to business.


      4. Money.

      Our Batman simply doesn’t have hour for a day chore. Money is most certainly going to be a factor.

      After a nutritionist-planned breakfast, he would train in MMA, go to the firearm range, or maybe attend a business lunch or appearance. He’d ring the buzzer on Wall street. He’d have to regularly, as Batman, meet with the GCPD and might even need to go to Washington to meet with the President and with Homeland Security.

      He’d be a privatized weapon of the state. But he’d do it for free. If he got paid, his identity would be public knowledge. Unless he was able to obtain some CI-Alevel clearances. Our median Joe Batman would have some difficulty in this department. He would be a lot like Christian Bale’s Bruce Wayne: an amateur vigilante.

      Wayne would also need a style to travel, in private. Conflict doesn’t merely happen in Gotham, and if Batman is an elite sleuth, his services would be requested the world over.

      I’ve readarticlesthat say it would expense upwards of $600,000, 000 to be Batman. And while those numbers appear well-researched and make sense, the average Joe turned Caped Crusader can’t afford that kind of hardware. His basic and most important needs are to stay alive, be able to maintain an athletic advantage, and a few playthings like a grappling gun, smoke bombs, grenades and batarangs.

      Finally, Batman would need some guns. Let’s be real here. Would you don a mask and run full-on vigilante in sinister Gotham against the likes of the Joker and Bane without firepower? I wouldn’t. Batman would need a military-issue rifle, a shotgun, a few handguns and a high-powered sniper rifle plus some ammo.

      Now add in some espionage equipment, and I think you could effectively be a minimalist Batman for about$ 1 million. It’s a hefty price tag, but to stay alive and be worth a shit as a masked vigilante, it’s a necessary cost.


      5. Coaches.

      As I mentioned above, in order to stay sharp, Batman needs to train. A lot. If he wants to be the best in the world, he would needto train with the best in the world. And what’s the phase of being a vigilante if you aren’t going to be the best? There is no pointbecause you would get killed.

      In the first cinema of the Christopher Nolan Trilogy, “Batman Begins, ” Bruce Wayne trained with the League of Shadows and Ra’s al Ghul. In real life, we would need person a bit more qualified and up with periods of modern counter-terrorism warfare.

      I’d recommend that our Batman find an teacher that is well-trained in privacy, to teach him or her the deadly arts. Like most people that help in your quest, they would need to sign an NDA and wouldn’t be able to ask many questions. Guys likeMark Divine, Marcus Luttrell, andJocko Willinkcome to mind; all three men are SEALs, and all are badass.


      6. A Batmobile.

      Our Batman likely can’t afford a $18,000, 000 Tumbler, but I’m guessing a Humvee or Tesla would serve our purpose, as long as they are fit with bulletproof windows and other tactical accessories. TheHumveemakes sense because it’s military, and we know Wayne Industries has its hand in military contracting. But again, we’re talking about an average Joe here , not Bruce Wayne, so we don’t have those connections.

      I like the idea of theTesla because it’s electric, dedicating it the added benefit of being a non-explosive vehicle with great acceleration. And they appear legit. Let’s not forget that Bruce Wayne has a pretty baller social life, and he needs to look the part.


      7. A Batcave.

      I think it’s time to drop the old, lonely Wayne Manor narrative. Our Batman is a motivated human. Driven , not broken.

      In “Dawn of Justice, ” Wayne Manor and Batcave is the best I’ve insured to date. It’s a bachelor pad, and a freaking sweet one at that. But again, we’re not all Billionaires and Millionaires. We simply need a nice place outside Gotham to make our HQ. Then we need to fortify it and build a badass basement.

      And hey, our Batman is likely going to get laid, so we should make it looking modern, yet comfortable and warm. Again, “Dawn of Justice” nailed it.

      At this phase, I’m depleted thinking about the time, train, fund, and emotional commitment necessary to be the Dark Knight.

      So, young grasshopper, is it really possible to be Batman?

      Yes. It’s possible.

      Is it probable? No route in hell.

      It’s true that you have the same amount of hours in a day as Beyonc, but aside from a very, very small group of people, that doesn’t mean it’s feasible to accomplish the work required to become Batman.

      In conclusion, leave the crime fighting to our military, police, and three-letter government organizations.

      And go see “Batman v Superman.” # TeamBat


      Note: the writer strongly discourages anyone from being a masked vigilante .

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      True 3D projections are here–and they build holograms look prehistoric

      With talk of Mars colonization, Hyperloop transit systems, and hyper-realistic humanoids, it’s no astound that real 3D holograms aren’t as science fiction as we might think.

      Though to be clear, the holograms we see today aren’t holograms at all. They are actually just modern versions of the optical illusion known as “Pepper’s Ghost, ” which is done by reflecting a 2D image onto an angled piece of stretched plastic. The controversial technique, be included with computer-generated graphics, have allowed us to bring Tupac back to life at a 2012 Coachella performance and Michael Jackson at the 2014 Billboard Music Awards.

      That technique may soon become obsolete. Researchers at Brigham Young University( BYU) have created a true 3D hologram, or what they call a” volumetric image .” Some physicists say it comes closer than any technology to recreating the iconic Star Wars scene where R2-D2 transmits a hologram of Princess Leia to Luke Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi. The main advantage is that it offers a complete 3D-viewing experience, rather than something projected onto a 2D surface, which has limited viewing angles and is static.

      “Free-space volumetric showings, or showings that make luminous image phases in space, are the technology that most closely resembles the three-dimensional showings of popular fiction, ” the researchers wrote in the periodical Nature . “Such displays are capable of producing images in’ thin air’ that are visible from almost any direction and are not subject to clipping.”

      The technique works by taking a single particle of the plant fiber cellulose and heating it unequally with lasers. This allows it to be pushed and pulled in a track. Another set of lasers then projects visible red, green, and blue illuminates onto the particle. If it moves fast enough, it will appear to humen as a solid, animated line, since our eyes can’t discern images moving at a rate faster than 10 per second.

      “This is doing something that a hologram can never do–giving you an all-round opinion, a Princess Leia-style display–because it’s not a hologram, ” Miles Padgett, an optical physicist at the University of Glasgow, told Nature News.

      The researchers posted a video demonstrating some of the creations they’ve made, including a butterfly, prism, figure-eight loops-the-loops, and various other shapes. The quality of the holograms may not be the best, but the video is captivating nonetheless.

      There are some limitations to the technique. So far, they’ve only been able to create lines that are just millimeters across and merely simple drawings can be made at velocities needed to convince our eyes that what we’re ensure is solid. But this is just the beginning of volumetric images. It may not be long before we find life-sized holograms used to help physicians perform operations or amusement venues bringing celebrities back to life with more realism than ever.

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