Extreme weather derailed NASA’s launched dates for new spacecraft

WASHINGTON (Sinclair Broadcast Group)- Members of Congress held a hearing with NASA on Capitol Hill Thursday to discuss the future of human spaceflight and space exploration.

President Donald Trump signed the NASA Transition Authorization Act in March 2017. The act approves the proposed funding levels for Fiscal Year 2017 set at $19.5 billion.

According to the House Science, Space and TechnologyCommittee website the bill maintains “support for the James Webb Space Telescope, the Space Launch System, the Orion crew vehicle, the International Space Station, and the commercial crew and cargo programs.”

Thursday’s hearing held by the Subcommittee on Spaces focused primarily on the Space Launch System (SLS), the Orion crew vehicle, and improvements to ground infrastructure for these projects. Recent extreme weather like the tornadoes and hurricanes that affected Texas and Florida have led to some setbacks to NASA’s schedule for these programs.

NASA’s Space Launch System is a new advanced heavy lift rocket intended to become the next primary vehicle for space exploration and use in deep space. NASA’s website calls the rocket “the world’s most powerful rocket.”

“Offering the highest-ever payload mass and volume capability and energy to speed missions through space, SLS is designed to be flexible and evolvable, to meet a variety of crew and cargo mission needs,” according to NASA.

Engineers have already begun production on this rocket and NASA intends on making its first launch before 2020. The rocket will launch astronauts in the new Orion spacecraft. Orion was built with the similar expectation to transport astronauts into deep space and return them to earth.

NASA has two projected missions for Orion in the near future called exploration missions one and two. The first mission will last about 25 days, and no crew will ride in the crew capsule.

“Orion will make a large orbit around the moon. The spacecraft will go farther into space than people have traveled before. After Orion is tested on this mission, it will soon be time for the spacecraft to transport humans,” NASA states.

The second mission, also known as exploration mission two, will carry a crew and follow the same path as the first mission.

To finish reading the full article, click here.

Lawmakers call for improved TSA security by utilizing CT scan technology for carry-on bags

WASHINGTON (Sinclair Broadcast Group) – Recently confirmed Transportation Security Administrator David Pekoske appeared before the House Homeland Security Committee Tuesday to discuss the agency’s efforts to keep the nation’s transportation systems safe.

The TSA is responsible for more than 60,000 employees and approximately 440 airports nationwide, according to the Department of Homeland Security. Of those employees, nearly 44,000 act as transportation security officers for aviation and surface transportation services.

Before the start of the hearing, lawmakers serving on the committee met for a closed-door confidential briefing with the Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general. While the details of that briefing were not discussed during the hearing, Committee Chairman Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, did admit that specific vulnerabilities pertaining to the nation’s aviation security were mentioned. He called the information he received about that threat “disturbing.” His colleagues on both sides of the aisle agreed.

Lawmakers urged Pekoske, who has only been in office three months, to accelerate plans to implement new baggage screening technology, improve employee morale, reduce employee attrition rates, strengthen leadership and increase screening for cargo planes as well as ground transportation.

“If we are going to be successful in keeping our homeland safe, we must make sure TSA has the tools and resources it needs to carry out its mission,” McCaul said.

Ranking Member Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., called on President Donald Trump’s Administration to invest more in security innovation rather than the border wall.

“To address these threats the Trump administration must invest innovation security to strengthen TSA effectiveness,” Thompson said. “Instead the administration seems hell-bent on squandering billions on a boondoggle border wall that would do nothing to make the nation more secure.”

Thompson also suggested that the agency should travel to other airports successfully using computed tomography, also known as CT scans, for both checked and carry-on luggage. He advised that drawing inspiration from other successful programs could help expedite the implementation of this technology within the United States. Currently, The TSA scans roughly 4.9 million carry-on bags per day, but CT scans are principally used for checked baggage.

To finish reading the full article, click here.

Lawmakers debate how states should maintain voter registration rolls

WASHINGTON (Sinclair Broadcast Group) – On Capitol Hill Wednesday, lawmakers held a hearing to evaluate how states maintain accurate and up-to-date voter registration rolls.

Chairman of the House Administration Committee Rep. Gregg Harper, R-Miss., said it is paramount for elections to be conducted in a fair and open manner.

“Ensuring the accuracy of voter registration lists is the foundation to a successful election. Having accurate lists increases voter confidence, it eases the administration of elections, reduces wait times, and certainly helps prevent voter fraud and irregularity,” Harper said.

The hearing also questioned crosscheck programs and automatic voter registration practices.

“How can the federal government improve the information sharing between states concerning residents while recognizing that the states have already banded together and created programs to do so?” Harper questioned.

The National Voter Registration Act, also known as the Motor Voter Act, establishes requirements for how states maintain voter registration lists for federal elections. Section eight of the act clarifies that states must keep voter registration lists accurate and current. That includes identifying individuals who have become ineligible to vote because they are deceased or no longer living in a jurisdiction.

“At the same time, the Act requires list-maintenance programs to incorporate specific safeguards, e.g., that they be uniform, non-discriminatory, in compliance with the Voting Rights Act, and not be undertaken within 90 days of a federal election,” according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

States are also required to report election results through the Election Administration and Voting Survey distributed by the Election Assistance Commission. The survey is filled out by each state after an election takes place. However, not all states track voting information in the same way and it can vary from state to state. Lawmakers discussed what that means; some questions asked in the survey may not align with how the individual state can retrieve the data from its system.

Accurate data collection could inform states of important information. For example, if there are more registered voters than citizens of voting age.

Harper has introduced legislation to dissolve the Election Assistance Commission.

Ranking member Rep. Robert Brady, D-Pa., in partnership with Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., introduced the Automatic Voter Registration Act of 2017. During the hearing, Brady said the act would work to expand upon the Motor Voter Act and prompt citizens when they interact with government agencies if they would like to register or renew registration.

“In maintaining these lists, we need to have one principle, no one who has lawfully registered to vote should be kicked off the rolls to keep them from voting,” Brady said.

Hearing witness Illinois Secretary of State Connie Lawson said maintaining accurate voter rolls can be costly at the local level.

“Many counties do not have the money to do periodic and uniform mailings to their voters as required by federal law. Thus, the state has taken the lead,” Lawson remarked.

To finish reading the full article, click here.

Hurricane nursing home deaths cause a bipartisan gut-check in Congress

WASHINGTON (Sinclair Broadcast Group) – Senators in the nation’s capitol held a hearing Wednesday to evaluate the disaster preparedness and response for older Americans following natural disasters.

Hurricanes Harvey and Irma caused devastation along the gulf coast of Texas and the Florida peninsula, resulting in record flooding, fuel shortages, power outages and residential communities completely submerged in water. Authorities during both storms asked those living in the path of impact from the storms to evacuate.

But for many older and disabled residents of these areas, evacuations can be difficult logistically, mentally and physically. Nursing homes and assisted living facilities often face the difficult decision of when — if at all — to evacuate, and how to move less ambulatory patients or those suffering from dementia.

In Houston, a picture showing as many as 25 nursing home residents sitting waist-deep in rising water waiting to be rescued went viral.

In Beaumont, Texas, an anchor at FOX 4, Jasmine Styles, helped a reluctant elderly resident make the difficult decision to evacuate her home live on air. Port Arthur resident Dorothy Henley had called the station explaining she didn’t want to leave her home despite the rising floodwaters.

“But those belongings can be replaced. Miss Dorothy, we can’t replace you. So, I want you to get out of that house, because now is better than if you’ve got a foot of water raging into your house, because then you’re going to be in more of a panic,” the anchor pleaded with Henley. Styles asking Henley to “keep dialing 911 no matter what happens.”

Just a few short weeks later, a nursing home in Hollywood Florida, lost power after Hurricane Irma. Eight residents diedfrom heat exposure. More than 100 residents were evacuated from the home. Florida Governor Rick Scott said he had received many calls from nursing homes and assisted living facilities having problems with generators.

“We’re doing everything we can to help them get either generators, fuel, power back on. It’s one of the things we’re doing aggressively,” Scott said.

To finish reading the full article, click here.

Five things to know about the GOP budget proposal

WASHINGTON (Sinclair Broadcast Group) – The House Republicans unveiled “Building a Better America,” their budget plan for 2018, Tuesday. The bill and its estimates assume that the Congress fully repeals and replaces President Obama’s Affordable Care Act.

The House Budget Committee says their proposal will balance the budget within 10 years. Budget Committee Chairwoman Diane Black, R-Tenn., held a news conference summarizing the objectives of the bill.

“In past years, the Budget has only been a vision, but now, with a Republican Congress and a Republican White House, this budget is a plan for action,” Blacksaid. “This is a plan to balance the budget, spurs economic growth, it secures our national defense, it returns power to the states and it holds Washington accountable.”

Black has announced the committee will vote on the budget plan, Wednesday.

“It embraces the worst extremes of the Trump Budget, sacrificing nearly every investment that helps American families get ahead, in order to give huge tax breaks to millionaires and corporations,” Yarmuth said in a statement.The Ranking Member of the House Budget Committee, John Yarmuth, D-KY., called the plan disastrous in a tweet Tuesday.

Here are five things you should know about the GOP budget blueprint:

The budget sets spending for 2018 at $1.132 trillion

According to the budget document, spending allotments are divided into two parts. The first is defense discretionary spending, of which, $621 billion from the budget allotment is dedicated. The second is nondefense discretionary funding. The bill sets aside $511 billion for these costs.

$203 billion in mandatory savings

The bill aims to balance the budget in 10 years and asks 11 house committees to achieve $203 billion in mandatory savings and reforms. To accompany this request, the bill asks the House Ways and Means Committee to create deficit neutral tax reform, aimed at reducing tax rates and simplifying the tax code.

The bill also states it will achieve $6.5 trillion in deficit reduction and a surplus of $9 billion by 2027.

The projected deficit this year is $700 billion.

Proposes reforms to the tax code

The GOP plan proposes: simplifying the tax code, consolidating seven individual income tax brackets, repealing the alternative minimum tax, lowering corporate tax rates and transitioning the tax code to a “territorial” system.

The plan would then devote $300 billion from that estimated economic growth to tax reform efforts.

To finish reading the full article, click here.

Collins: GOP health care bill would lead to insurance that is “barely insurance at all”

WASHINGTON (Sinclair Broadcast Group) – On Sunday, lawmakers debated the Republican health care bill and its chances of passing a vote in the Senate. Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell said that the Senate will delay consideration of the bill due to Senator McCain’s absence net week due to eye surgery.

On ABC’s “This Week,” Senator Susan Collins, R-Maine, said that the Republican plan would lead to health insurance that is “barely insurance at all.”

She also expressed concern about the cuts to Medicaid.

Collins said that the Medicaid program has been on the books for more than 50 years “Insuring some of our most vulnerable citizens, disabled children, our low-income seniors, receive the health care they need.

Collins added “worst of all,” these changes would have been made without the Senate holding a single hearing to evaluate their impact.

Health and Human Services Secretary, Tom Price also appeared on “This Week” defending the bill.

Price said that he found the opposition from big name insurance companies “perplexing.”

When asked if the Senate has the votes to pass the bill, the secretary said, “I don’t know.”

But Price told Sinclair Broadcast Group that he was “confident we will get to a solution” on the bill.

To finish reading the full article, click here.

Lawmakers discuss possible Senate vote on GOP health care bill

WASHINGTON (Sinclair Broadcast Group)- Lawmakers in Washington are responding to President Trump’s remarks that the GOP health care bill is “not that far off” from a passing vote on Capitol Hill.

Speaking to “Fox and Friends” Sunday morning, the president said he felt the republicans are “going to get there” with the bill. Trump said it would be ideal if lawmakers could “come up something that everybody’s happy with.”

Although, Republican Senator Susan Collins, R- Maine, said getting the necessary votes to pass the American Health Care Act could be difficult, in an interview with ABC’s “This Week.”

While the senator has not taken an official stance on the bill she admitted to having “very serious concerns” about the legislation. Collins feels Medicaid could be cut more than the House bill but she will wait until the Congressional Budget Office releases its analysis of the bill before making her decision.

Five Republicans currently oppose the Senate health care bill as it is written. Those GOP lawmakers are Nevada Senator Dan Heller, Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson, Utah Senator Mike Lee, Kentucky Senator Rand Paul and Texas Senator Ted Cruz. If more than three of the 52 Republican Senators oppose the bill will not pass.

Johnson appeared on NBCs “Meet the Press” said the Senate should not vote on the bill next week.

“I would like to delay the thing. There’s no way we should be voting on this next week. No way,” Johnson said.

The Wisconsin Senator said that if the bill is voted on next week it is not enough time for he and his constituents to “properly evaluate” the bill.

Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer, D- NY, appeared on ABC’s “This Week,” and said the bill had “at best, a 50-50 chance.” The senator said that Democrats would be willing to work with Republicans if they agree to work to improve the Affordable Care Act rather than replace it.

To finish reading the full article, click here.

House Transportation Committee talks funding for modernizing US railways

WASHINGTON (Sinclair Broadcast Group) – The House Committee on Transportation subcommittee met Thursday to discuss modernizing railways in the United States. Specifically, the allocation of funds to make improvements to the Amtrak Northeast Corridor route and the construction of California’s high-speed rail project.

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and the 2010 Omnibus funding bill distributed funds for railroad infrastructure and an intercity and high-speed rail system.

House Transportation Subcommittee Chairman Rep. Jeff Denham, R-Calif., feels the dissemination of funds for rail improvements has been “scattershot.”

“Rather than investing these funds strategically to achieve specific outcomes, the Obama administration distributed the funds widely, making about 150 grants to 34 states, the District of Columbia and Amtrak. The result is that mostly incremental improvements were made across the country,” Denham said in his opening statement.

The congressman also stated that “$1 billion of the $8 billion in ARRA funds” will return to the U.S. Treasury if not spent by September.

Thursday’s hearing was an effort to hopefully prioritize projects that need an increase in funding.

Member of the subcommittee Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., said President Donald Trump’s budget cuts will take away from these existing projects.

“This is becoming absurd. So, I hope today we can begin to talk today about the real needs of Amtrak and where we are really going to find the investment money that Amtrak needs for the Northeast Corridor and the national system,” DeFazio said.

Amtrak states that more than half of its trains operate at a top speed of 100 miles per hour, according to President and Chief Executive Officer of Amtrak Charles “Wick” Moorman.

In comparison, the Eurostar that travels to the United Kingdom, France and Belgium operates at an average speed of 186 miles per hour, according to the publication Railway Technology. The Italian Frecciarossa 1000 reaches speeds of 248 miles per hour, Trenitalia states on its website.

During Thursday’s hearing, Moorman said Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor line accommodates roughly 820,000 passengers a day but needs vast improvements due to damage done by weather and wear and tear over time.

“We would not be good stewards of the assets entrusted to us if we’re not planning to rebuild and expand them as needed for the future,” Moorman remarked.

He emphasized that New York’s Penn Station needs vast improvements because it still operates on a 1934 vintage electric traction system within tunnels built in 1910. Those tunnels were closed when they flooded during Hurricane Sandy.

He continued that these infrastructure projects are “no longer nice to have, they have now [reached] the point of must have.”

Both parties in the committee worked together to reauthorize Amtrak funding for five years as part of the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act.

To finish reading the full article, click here.

‘Key member of ‘Five Eyes’ alliance questions trust in wake of intel leaks’ By: Erin Vogel-Fox

After the suicide bombing in Manchester, British Prime Minister Theresa May and Manchester Officials announced they would stop sharing intelligence with the United States about their ongoing investigation because of media leaks. The United States and the United Kingdom have shared intelligence as part of the UKUSA agreement forged after World War II. I wanted to do an article that talked about the history behind the agreement, second parties (Canada, Australia and New Zealand) and how recent events could shake intelligence alliances for the United States. To read the full story, click here.

‘Interactive: This week in political news’ By: Erin Vogel-Fox

The week of May 15-19, 2017 was a big news week. Both The Washington Post and The New York Times published stories about President Trump sharing confidential inteligence information with Russian officials. The news cycle was developing so quickly, I thought a recap story to revisit news events as they happened would help our readers stay abreast of recent news developments. I included video, tweets, quizzes and timelines to make the story as interactive as possible. To see the full story click here.